Killing Time OST – 19b – Inception

<< 19a – Inception

The first thing I did when I got out of the bath was to pick up the secure phone Vexx set up for my conversations with Gabriel. I expected him to call to check up on me or, at the very least, keep me posted on the evolution of my case but he had done neither. Quite frankly, two weeks had passed since our face-to-face meeting and the lack of follow-up made me cranky. Plus, I had some big news to break now. These were all good reasons to pick up the phone.
The clock rang seven, reminding me not everyone came home from a mission at dawn. I dried my hair and did some yoga stretching while Julia prepared my breakfast. That would hopefully guarantee me half a day of sleep without mid-nap hunger attack or post-nap muscle cramps. My body demanded its love and care.
I didn’t dial before I sat in front of a cup of coffee, my eggs Benedict all lapped up. Eight o’clock had to be late enough because Gabriel picked up on the second ring.
“Hello Alice.” He didn’t slip on my name and sounded fully awake, be it from an early start at the office or the jolt caused by my call. I half-expected him to ask me what was up or apologize for not calling but the silence told me that the conversation was mine to lead.
“Conjectures are over. My father’s responsible.” How else could I drop the news, really?
“Alice. I’m sorry.” His sincerity surprised me. We weren’t old time friends –  we weren’t even that friendly – but he cared more than Naomi probably would if she knew what I was going through. “If you need to meet and talk –”
“Oh please, don’t ‘asset handling 101’ me.”
He chuckled. “What can I say? There are protocols.”
As if the hint wasn’t good enough for me, my phone beeped. He would probably get a little reprimand for tipping me off but it was too subtle for anyone to actually hold it against him. No love lost between him and his higher-ups.
“You’re trying to track this call, aren’t you? Let me spare you the awkward negation and just put them on speaker.”
“There’s no one with me, Alice. Relax.”
Oh! I see.
The bosses allowed Gabriel to keep his secrets regarding my identity only to bug his phone. Sneaky maneuver. Either they warned him they would do it – and all cards were on the table within the FBI team – or they didn’t – and Gabriel figured it out or another higher-up told him. Whether there was an internal war over my case was yet to be seen but at least, I knew I should watch what I was saying.
“Huh huh. My phone is just glitching then.” The harshness of my sarcasm should get both my annoyance and my lack of worry across. “Any other updates about your people’s attitude toward me?”
“Depends. How solid are the proofs against your father?”
“A mix of personal memories and illegally acquired zeros and ones.”
“That solid, huh?” I could hear his smirk where other would have sighed. I liked this man. “It’s Merrilyn Tech, isn’t it?” And good at his job too.
“Yes.” I could afford to tell him that much. In and of itself, the accusation wasn’t enough to do anything. The only way to tear apart an empire like that was from the inside.
“Good.”
I relaxed in my chair; he was about to share some insider information. I could feel my curiosity awaken and my brain readying itself to record every detail. At the same time, my heart sank because I recognized the reflex for what it was: another leftover from the nanobots. A useful one but still…
“There’s a secret inter-agency task force keeping the tech mega-corporations in check.”
I laughed. “I knew it! Let me guess: very limited number of commanding officers parceling missions across the board so the general operation is hard to figure out.” It wouldn’t have remained a secret long if they worked any other way.
“The analysis of your nanobots blipped on their radar.”
“I bet it did. And ‘trying to keep’ was the correct statement.” They ought to be the guys listening in and deserved every bit of my bile. If they had done their jobs right, we wouldn’t be in such a worldwide mess. I didn’t even want to think about what my life would be like if they had the proper dosage of wits and balls.
“They’re the only ones with the resources, leeway and interest to help you. They want to assess your value.”
Assess my value?” What an odd way to phrase it! “They want me to strip and submit to tests before they decide if they’ll help.” Gabriel didn’t say a word. “Not happening.”
“They’re unsure they want to risk meeting you.”
I choked on my sip of coffee. “They don’t want to risk it?”
“You could be a spy.”
The shock froze my face and mind alike. I should have seen it coming, of course, but the idea sounded so silly I never thought anyone could entertain it. On the other hand, they had only managed to keep their existence a secret by being security freaks.
“I’ll agree to a face-to-face meeting with at least one member of their association.”
“They won’t.”
“My olive branch will be twenty-five percent of Merrilyn Technologies’ mainframe.” I smiled when silence answered me.
Gabriel cleaned his throat. “They might. How did you –”
“– Illegally acquired zeroes and ones, remember?”
“I’ll see what I can do. You stay put, okay?”
“Yeah… sure.
I hung up and gulped the last of my coffee. After a quick nap, I’d be ready to plan the next step, which I wouldn’t refrain from planning because A, I wanted this mess cleaned so I could attempt to get back on my feet, and B, he meant “don’t do anything drastic.”
Or I would say he meant that.

19c – Inception >>

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About Aheïla

Somewhere in Quebec City, Aheïla works as a Game Design Director by day and writes by night. Known for her blue hair, unyielding dynamism and tasty cooking (quails, anyone?), she’s convinced “prose is the new crack”. She satisfies her addiction daily on The Writeaholic’s Blog and weekly on Games' Bustles View all posts by Aheïla

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