I veered onto a ramp going up the side of a building facing MechLeon Street at the northern end of the Merrilyn plants.
“You’ll kill yourself,” Vexx complained.
Just gimme my song.
I reached the roof as the lights of the FBI van appeared in the distance. Timing would be tight. My pod skidded to a stop on the ledge and I left it hovering there.
Let’s hit the road.
The first notes of Kill Everybody by Skrillex took over my brain while I slid down the fire escape ladder. I sprinted down the road and stopped in the middle of the lane, right under a spotlight. With the FBI-issued eye enhancer and pre-programmed database, the driver was more than close enough to identify me.
He didn’t slow down which told me his bosses actively wanted to keep me out of this. They should have known better, and my respect for Gabriel could only give them so many freebies.
Five… four… three —
Under Vexx’s remote command, the pod sped off the building and hit the van’s windshield. Swerving, the vehicle slowed and came closer to my position. Not missing a beat, I knelt and aimed at the headlights. My plasma bullets ripped them right off and the airbags blew up in the driver’s face.
I rolled out of the van’s way and it zoomed past me, stopping a hundred meters further. Survival instinct had a way of shifting someone’s priorities.
I holstered my pistol and started walking toward the vehicle. Its side door slammed open.
“You shot an FBI convoy!” Gabriel bellowed, marching toward me with a mean look creasing his brow.
“I shot an unmarked van speeding past my company’s property.” I shrugged. “Honest mistake.”
Three men followed Gabriel, guns at the ready. Another one, unarmed and fragile-looking, pressed his back against the van and bent forward.
“Not going to fly. We had an understanding,” Gabriel barked.
“We had a lie!”
Gabriel tried to grab me by the jacket. I slammed his wrists, reversed the grip, and pulled him an inch from my face. Because I knew about his precarious situation, I was tempted to chalk his roughness up to showmanship for the colleagues. I could chalk up my scolding to the same excuse.
“I’m sick of your games.” The warmth of my breath bounced off his face and back to me.
“I’m sick of you ruining my attempts to help.” He slammed his palm into my solar plexus. The pain weakened my grip. I landed a punch on his jaw while he pulled back.
“You should do that again,” Vexx cheered in my head.
“You know how much this means to me.”
“You’re too emotionally-driven.” Gabriel motioned to his men and they lowered their guns.
“The very fabric of a double agent.”
“You’re not. You’re a spy.”
“Then how come you hold all the secrets?”
Gabriel sighed and looked me straight in the eyes. “I would have arranged some time between you two in a couple of weeks.”
Either a lie or a naive promise.
“Given his track record…” Vexx chimed in my brain.
I cocked an eyebrow. “Would you have told me she was a seventh generation?”
Gabriel paled and shifted his weight.
“See? I would have trusted you if you weren’t a traitor.”
“I have to follow orders.” Gabriel murmured, his voice heavy with rage.
An awkward silence crept over the street, broken only by the nervous breathing of the civilian.
Must be a biogenetics consultant.
I let them hang for a good minute.
“Everyone good and calm?” I readjusted Gabriel’s tie and collar. “Let’s take care of those orders before I blow my cover.”
“Lorelei…” Gabriel growled.
Think you can ring the head office?
Vexx giggled. “Sure.”
“I tried following protocol and going through you, Gab.” With a wave, I designated the broken pod and the mildly damaged van. “Fail.”
One of the guards dove back into the van.
“Connexion established,” Vexx said a second before the guard came back out with a: “Hmmmm, Gabriel… Someone forced a connection between our computer and the Director’s communication chip.”
Gabriel’s shoulder barely rose toward his ears, but it still said a lot.
“Breathe, darling.” I patted his chest twice. “No matter the outcome, your life will be simpler after tonight.”
I headed toward the van. The consultant’s eyes widened and his tremors doubled. I couldn’t help but smile which didn’t help him at all. As Nightshade, I used to scare the wits out of people on a monthly basis.
“Don’t worry, doc! There’s stuff I need to ask you.” I winked, fully conscious I hadn’t helped at all.
I climbed inside the van where an holographic screen showed sound waves within a recording interface. In the corner, Saskia was tied and sound asleep.
“Have the five others change?” Vexx was saying, “I’ll conference them,”
“You better not,” a voice barked back.
Eliot Winchester, Director of National Intelligence. One of the six secret ops people with whom I bargained my current hell.
“Hey Eli! Long time no quid pro quo,” I said as Gabriel joined me.
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