Strings of Retaliation – 3b – Back

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“Welcome to Cyber Radio,” my music chip said in my head.
The computer blared a warning behind me and my song choice changed.
“Now playing Breathe by Prodigy.”
While Vexx stumbled to shut the off, I forced myself to keep walking toward the training room and the peaceful sight of my vintage gun collection. Like everything else I had seen so far, the shelves looked identical to the way I left them.
But they smelled cleaner; like someone messed with them and tried to cover their tracks.
“Dumbasses,” I muttered to myself.
Very few of the old metal-bullet guns still existed and fewer still were used to commit crimes. Most sat under heavy surveillance in museums since everyone switched to plasma.
Why violate my privacy to register my guns with ballistics? To assert dominance? To amass more evidence against me after I had theoretically been pardoned?
Frogster jumped on the guns’ display case and scanned the wall for a second. Its tongue punched through the plaster and came out wrapped around a bug. After a quick celebratory hop, Frogster headed out with his prize.
My eyes followed him as molten fury steeled my muscles. It rumbled in the back of my throat and teased my tongue with the coppery taste of blood. Through a red haze, my hand reached for my Desert Eagle and loaded it.
I walked back to the main room where Frogster was adding his new find on his pile of government-issued listening devices next to Vexx. Not missing a beat, the frog jumped off the workspace to resume its bug hunt.
A deep breath levelled the boils in my veins and steadied my hand.
I shot the listening devices.
Vexx fell off his chair. “Shit!”
“Hasn’t my integrity been raped enough?” I yelled to the bugs left in my walls — wherever they may be. I fired again. Unsatisfied, I picked up a hammer from a shelf to powder Frogster’s stash.
“Lorelei,” Gabriel’s voice came over the PA system I typically used to play the soundtrack of an assassination while I planned it.
I threw the hammer to the closest speaker and smiled at the resulting fireworks.
“Stop this!” Gabriel ordered.
I jumped on a counter and kicked off the next speaker.
“Lorelei!” Gabriel’s voice came from the training room.
“They also froze your accounts,” Vexx said, stopping me dead in my track.
“Alice’s account?”
He nodded.
I spun on my heel and grabbed Frogster mid-hop. “Handling 101, Gabriel. Don’t piss off your murder-inclined asset.” I murmured in the plaster-covered microphone the frog held. “Get your ass here. Right now.”
Back on his chair at a safe distance from my tantrum, Vexx clapped. “It’s about time!”
“Don’t press your luck,” I snarled. “Thaw the accounts. And if whoever’s still listening interferes and Operation Chimera dies.” I skipped half the steps on my way upstairs. “Julia!” I yelled.
I had to calm down or I would rip Gabriel’s head off. Punching away the anger wouldn’t cut it because anger wasn’t all there was to my sour mood. Alcohol came with nasty side-effects so only one cure remained.
“Yes, Miss Beyer,” the robotic cook said, rolling to a stop in front of me.
“Brownies.”
Her irises flashed for a beat as she processed the request. “Recipe compromised. Retrieving —”
“— Override!” Like hell she would switch Vexx’s ‘too chocolaty’ brownies for the healthy, default alternative!
“Yes, Miss.” She rolled off to the kitchen.
“Coffee too!” I added. She beeped to confirm the command.
In preparation for the upcoming argument, I sat in the dining room and closed my eyes.
Pachelbel Canon by the Swingle Singers.
“Confirmed,” the chip in my head replied.
I slowed my breathing. Music mixed with the growing smells of coffee and chocolate to lull me into meditation. I was almost able to ignore the sound of metal against the marble floors when Frogster left the basement to go bug hunting in the manor.
Almost.
Unfortunately for Gabriel, the brownies were still in the oven when he rang the doorbell.
“Your attitude is unacceptable!” was his opening statement.
I slammed the door in his face.
Live on the run? No. FBI-sanctioned enslavement? No. What’s left?
I reopened the door. “Scold me again and neither of us will be happy with the outcome.” My tone was almost friendly, even if the threat was everything but. “Brownies?”
Gabriel brushed past me without a word. A whiff of pizza, coffee and closed space tickled my nose.
We sat in the kitchen, waiting for Julia to serve the coffee and brownies in a tensed, awkward silence that did both our tempers some good. When the plates hit the table, I walked up to the secret doorway leading to the basement.
“Vexx?” A muffled agreement confirmed I had his attention. “EMP, please.” A muffled disagreement answered me this time, but a few seconds later, Cook Julia squeaked to a stop.
So did Frogster and all the remaining bugs in the house.
I walked back to the kitchen to see Gabriel smiling. “What took you so long?”
A part of me wanted to unhinge his jaw while the other could burst into a happy dance. “Why didn’t you find another way to talk to me alone?”
“It couldn’t come from me without creating suspicion.” He motioned for me to sit.
I bit into the brownies. The chocolaty goodness, combined with Gabriel’s attitude — which better not be just a way to manipulate me — levelled my spirits. “How do I get the surveillance to stop? Van included.”
He coughed up a sip of coffee. “How did you know?”
“Your speedy arrival and bunch-of-men-munching-on-take-out perfume.”
He chuckled. I shrugged and took a sip of coffee, giving him plenty of time to pick up the subject he left hanging.
He didn’t.
My cup clanged when I put it down. “Answer the question.”

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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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