Killing Time OST – 22b – Numbers

<< 22a – Numbers

An awkward pause, to say the least, followed the Gabriel’s relatively light-hearted intervention. Information had to sink in before the proper questions came to my mind and, apparently, my ‘allies’ allowed me to take that time.
That they expected me to kill my dad wasn’t an issue; I wanted to kill my dad. That they pushed my buttons so I would know my breaking points kind of made sense though it pissed me off. One major thing didn’t make sense though.
“Why invest so much time in me?” They did research, ran analysis and decided that I was worthy of their effort. Until now, I thought I’d have to fight to get any support. “If you want my father dead, you could send one of your men.”
“If push comes to shove, we might,” Middle Man said. It bugged me that I didn’t know their names or real faces. I’d work my way down the list of annoying things and eventually get to that question. “We need the information you fished in the mainframe, of course, but you also have a major quality.”
I cocked an eyebrow; this was black ops so my quality certainly wasn’t that I operated outside of the law. “I’m replaceable?”
“You don’t want just any assassin, do you?” Vexx offered. By the look on the faces lined up in front of us, he was right.
“This operation isn’t just about killing the head of Merrilyn Tech. We want every single person who dreams about programming people to shit in their pants.”
Gabriel looked positively shocked and so did Vexx. I smiled. “So it’s my reputation you need.”
“Yes.” I could work with that. “A crash of Merrilyn Tech shakes everyone involved. They’ll make mistakes. We’ll catch them. Then we’ll set up filters on the routes we discovered.”
“And collar anyone who tries to unearth the monster. Nifty plan!”
It made perfect sense and felt reassuring; any assassin could kill a few managers but none would leave the mark Nightshade bore. My reputation already frightened most tech cartels and industry officials. A little bit of intel manipulation and people would be convinced the destruction of Merrilyn Tech and all my murders were the unfortunate result of an experiment gone wrong. The law against human programming would pass in no time. Low-level investors would pull out of such projects instantaneously, knowing that I was still out there and hunting. The rest would, at the very least, pause.
“What about my pardon?” From my standpoint, this was the only deal-breaker left.
“Full pardon upon completion of your mission,” Middle Man said, “dependent on your continuous collaboration.” I cocked an eyebrow. “We’ll alter your father’s will.”
I blanched. Oh hell no!
“You want her to inherit Merrilyn Tech!” Vexx almost leaped out of his seat.
“Lorelei,” Gabriel turned to me. It was his plan? “Merrilyn Tech isn’t all bad. Its investments in medical domain led to a better life for millions.”
“Exterminate the vermin and maintain a clean house. It’s both my identities you need.” Contract for life or electric chair. I didn’t like this meeting anymore. “I want out of this.”
Middle Man inhaled, ready to launch himself into another high and mighty explanation.
“You can,” Gabriel blurted. “Hold the company together until the media storm passes then we can buy your shares through a shell company and put someone else in your chair.”
The faces on the other side of the table told me Gabriel ad lib on that part. And that they would listen. He passed his test; proving to me that I was predictable and proving to them that he predicted me efficiently. Did his prediction say that I would agree to this if he offered a way out? Or did he know I knew this was the best offer I would get?
Freedom was what I would have fought for.
“What about me?” Vexx’s question struck everyone by surprise. Not that I would have forgotten him, but because it implied my agreement to my part of the deal.
“I’m not getting into this without him.”
Gabriel seemed somewhat hurt. I decided to ignore it. I wasn’t sure I trusted him anymore. He knew exactly how I worked and that couldn’t sound reassuring no matter how I put it.
In a sexual context, maybe, but not in a meeting room.
“Fine.” Middle Man added. “Same deal for you.”
“Hold on!” They gave away freedom a tad too fast for my taste. “I don’t deal with people whose face I can’t see.”
“You’re joking, right?” One of the suits said. His fright was genuine. “We’d only have one more reason to kill you.”
“Sure,” I grinned, “but you only get to miss me once, champ. Quid pro quo.”
Gabriel’s crooked smile was back again, the one that meant I stuck a good one to his bosses. The one I found charming.
I trusted my skills; if they came after me using the knowledge they had of my identity, I would reciprocate. Same thing if my identities were leaked. And vice versa. The gamble might be enough to keep everyone on their best behavior.
Middle Man slid his fingers under the edge of his mask. After a nervous look at each other, the rest of the suits imitated their boss.
“Eliot Winchester, Director of National Intelligence,” former Middle Man said as if his face wasn’t recognizable enough.
The rest of them identified themselves in turn. Though unknown to me, I could have guessed their roles; most of them were highly ranked officers of the various intelligence agencies. I was pretty sure their directors knew about the task force but didn’t take active part in it as they were too obvious targets.
“Look at us,” I teased, “a real circle of trust.” My sarcasm didn’t escape anyone; we had a fragile balance of power and that was all. “So where’s my office, boss?”

22c – Numbers >>

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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