Strings of Retaliation – 4b – Argument

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The electronics sparked back to life while we followed Gabriel downstairs. The lack of EMP didn’t matter since Frogster had already de-bugged the basement.
As it turned out, one of the room had been reworked to welcome a selection of medical instruments, including those Vexx used months ago to get my father’s nanobots out of my system. Vexx didn’t have much medical knowledge outside of tech-related surgeries, but between him and me, we covered basic cares. We spread out to search the cabinets.
“Foresight?” I smiled to Gabriel, taking the first aid kit off its shelf. Our little dispute reset our relationship nicely. After all, between the Taser and the knife, we had been at each other’s throat since the day we met.
“Contingencies,” he replied. “Can’t sneak you into a hospital without dealing with media fallouts.”
For years, my father attracted most of the medias attention which spread to me when I hit the red carpet for a special event. I carefully behaved in public so paparazzi perceived me as “boring” and didn’t follow me home.
Now that I replaced my father…
I snorted. “Better hire a beautician to cover up the bruises and cuts that the ointment can’t heal overnight.”
Gabriel tensed. My eyebrow creased. Vexx sat me on the over-sized examination chair to clean off my cheek.
“We got a room for that too,” Gabriel said, standing out of reach.
This Emergency Room used to be a spare bedroom — one I spent a lot of time in, fighting withdrawal when my body’s chemicals stopped being regulated by machines. All the other rooms of the basement had a purpose.
“My bosses converted a part of Vexx’s apartment into a conference room,” Gabriel explained.
Though I had a light blasting in my face, I couldn’t miss Vexx’s cringe.
Good thing I agreed to let him live upstairs.
“And since you can’t be an assassin anymore and all the flowers had died…”
I jerked up. “You threw my nightshades out!”
“I picked my battles.” Gabriel’s tone left no room for arguments.
Vexx pushed me back down, and gently patted fast-healing ointment where needed. I couldn’t talk while he worked on my face. It gave me time to remember Gabriel calling me a brat.
The FBI agent had been wrong about one thing when he called me on my behaviour. My attitude hadn’t change much. The game board, however, had. And my body. I had to revise my problem-solving tactics or I would thwart all my chances at actual freedom. Not that I had a clue what that meant.
Okay, maybe I did pick up the self-pity thing, but that’s a fully justifiable funk!
“How are your bosses?” I said when Gabriel and I switched places.
Vexx was a little less gentle in his treatment of the man and I liked to think Gabriel needed more than I did. On the other hand, I now realized he hadn’t fought with all the offencive power he had to avoid damaging me in a way that couldn’t be healed before my first day of work.
“They’re freaked,” Gabriel replied between two winces. “Your existence is quite the left hook. More of you only proves Merrilyn Tech completely blind-sided everyone.“
“Panic mode,” I summarized while Vexx worked on Gabriel’s split lip.
“Tied to the problem, Most Wanted and within their reach,” Vexx said. “They’re scapegoat-ing you.”
“Doesn’t matter that I was programmed to assassinate people or how much I’m helping them now, huh?”
Gabriel resumed breathing once Vexx released his lip. “Just enough for me to argue against the reinstatement of your ‘Shoot on Sight’ status.” Gabriel grunted when the hacker poked his ribs.
“Strip,” Vexx ordered.
Gabriel obeyed without the slightest hesitation — not that a man so beautifully ripped should ever have any. Vexx’s face was darkened by a flash of jealousy. I wished he’d stop underestimating himself. And I wished Gabriel was more ‘black muscle tank’ and less ‘cheap FBI suit.’
Post-fight libido be damned!
“So —” a lopsided smile stretched my lips; Vexx’s inspection revealed that I had bruised Gabriel’s ribs. Nothing broken though. “— How do I get the surveillance to stop?”
Before Gabriel answered, agents stormed our room. All plasma guns aimed at me. I should have seen that coming; they heard a snippet of the fight.
“We’re good!” Gabriel repeated three times before the guns lowered. “We’ve almost come to an agreement.”
We have?
“Orders are to bring her in, sir.”
“Not gonna happen,” I snapped.
“For a heated argument?” Gabriel chuckled and buttoned his shirt to hide some of the damage I inflicted. “Let’s not. I’ll be back in an hour. You’re dismissed.”
For a moment, I thought Good Little Soldier would argue. If the lines on his forehead were any indication, he thought about that too, which gave me a measure of Gabriel’s decisional power in Operation Chimera — spiteful codename. After what I suspected to be a brain-to-brain conversation with an off-site supervisor, GLS signalled the retreat.
So Gabriel wasn’t worth a last ditch effort to contact him before barging in, but his on-site authority superseded the other agents. Gabriel had a nemesis, someone close to his rank who wanted his job or, at the very least, wanted him off the case.
No wonder he got pissed.
“You’ll be expected for debrief in an hour, sir,” GLS added before leaving.
“Don’t let the sewer door crush you on the way out,” I taunted.
Gabriel smiled. “Nice.”
“Figured we’d get more out of the situation if it sounded like the boys ruined a part of your negotiation efforts.”
“How political of you!”
Gabriel chuckled. I grinned to hide the shiver running down my spine. Vexx rolled his eyes.
“So —” I half-expected a bomb to blow or something “— any chance you’ll answer my 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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