Strings of Retaliation – 11a – Poker

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With Gabriel’s “What Would Nightshade Do?” program, Eliot had a definite advantage the last time we played this game. I still managed to grab some of his chips. Nevertheless, as I sat on the van’s bench, I hoped he didn’t have a copy of WWND archived in his brains. I could only bargain for so long before Gail-Male started looking for me and risked blowing my cover.
“I don’t appreciate the intrusion,” Eliot said with a leveled tone, a surprising feat. Plugged straight into the neurones, a communication chip ruined most people’s poker face.
So much for taking advantage of that!
“You should have left me another choice, then.” I replied while Gabriel stiffly sat by my side. A small crease between his eyebrows betrayed the analysis racing through his mind. He had worn this expression often in the first few months of our collaborative effort to take down MerriTech. The other men chit chatted outside the van, close enough to intervene if I turned violent but far enough not to eavesdrop on the conversation.
“Onto the heart of the matter.” I listened in for a fritz of annoyance on the line. Nothing.
“No use wasting our time,” Eliot said, still unwavering. “Accept that you’re a criminal and that my good grace depends on your obedience.” The steadiness of his speech only added to the insult.
“Really?” I feared I might lose my cool too soon. I couldn’t afford it: Eliot wasn’t within fist range. “First, look up the definition of ‘pardon’. Second, your career depends on my obedience.”
I expected Gabriel to cringe at my boldness, but his eyes widened instead. I smiled to him, like the good little political animal the FBI trained me to be.
“What was your ops’ budget before I signed up?” My question sparked the long-awaited fritz of annoyance. “That’s what I thought.”
“Your value decreased significantly when you delivered the information you had and killed your father.” Eliot was back in control of his thoughts. “We can keep afloat without you.”
“He’s bluffing,” Vexx whispered through my music chip.
“You can’t replace me at Merrilyn’s head. You can’t apprehend my siblings alone.” Gabriel seemed to shrink every time I completed a sentence. “And the whole op could tank if the wrong person heard about it.”
Companies like MerriTech had a pocketful of politicians and spies. Their very powerful allies was part of their strength and part of the reason why Operation Chimera was so secret and limited. Even then, there could be spies within our ranks.
“You won’t.” An affirmation, not an apprehension. “The very reason you contacted us was because we could make sure no one else suffered your faith.”
“Sir,” Gabriel interrupted for the first time, “as I have mentioned before, it is my belief that given the level of deception in her life, the asset will snap if we keep her in the dark. Her priorities would be severely affected.”
I glared at Gabriel. He lifted his palm and motioned for me to back off.
“Punch him again,” Vexx encouraged.
“The asset will snap?” I mouthed. Gabriel shrugged.
“I’m well aware of your reports and recommendations, Agent Walker.” There was a new edge to Eliot’s voice. I may not have liked Gabriel’s ‘help’, but neither did his director. So maybe Gabriel was working for me under the very limited range he could.
Not good enough.
“You’re both right and wrong. I am with the FBI for the sake of others like me. Your lies keep me from helping them. That’s what forfeits our relationship.”
“You’re right!” Eliot exclaimed. “We have information you desperately want.”
I took a second to recover from the bitch slap. I had walked right into that one. “You can only dangle that carrot for so long before it rots.”
“We’re interdependent.” Gabriel and his moral high ground were grating. “Sir, may I suggest the implementation of the first five items on my list of recommendations.”
“We will not reward insubordination.” There was no moving these leaden words. “As you said, Miss Beyer, long time no quid pro quo.” I cringed. “Your life will be much easier if you comply.”
I glanced at Saskia, still asleep and helpless in the corner of the van. The seventh generation of me was a remote-controlled killing human.
“Poorly played, Eli,” was the only reply that seeped through the rage. I wanted his head. And the heads of my board of detractors. I suddenly thought of Ben, maneuvering me into situations I despised. They all wanted me to be a pawn.
But I’m a queen.
“Need an ace up your sleeve?” Vexx asked.
“You could have been a friend with all the answers,” I continued for Gabriel and Eliot. “You chose to be a tyrant.”
“Think we can find the servers where they have the additional MerriTech information,” Vexx said in my head.
“You forgot, Eli, that I have my ways.” My words drew colors from Gabriel’s face. I shrugged. “You should have listened to your agent.”
Disconnect it.
Before Eliot could retort, the line went dead.
“Did you just threaten and hung up on the Director after hacking into his brain?” The biotech consultant was peering into the van. He wasn’t as professional as Gabriel’s colleague still hanging out a few feet away.
I cocked an eyebrow. “Hell hath no fury.”
In the corner of the van, Saskia moaned.
“Speaking of fury.” I looked at Gabriel and he carefully moved so I could pass him by and reach my SSW. “No sudden movement?”
“You tell me.” His voice was controlled, as if he had rehearsed a version of this several times.
Maybe I pushed them too far.
“They’ll have to recover fast. Gail-Male is out of the bunker.”
Before I could reply to Vexx, Saskia started convulsing.
“Move.” The biotech consultant opened a suitcase full of plugs and a portable computer. I stepped aside.
I don’t know her. I don’t know her. No amount of reasoning could break the lump in my throat.
Then the consultant gave a name to what my fear perceived.
“Failsafe!” He yelled and all the agents cocked their guns.
Except Gabriel.

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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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