Strings of Retaliation – 12a – Change

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Based on Naomi’s retelling, this was what prepping for interview felt like. One could guess what the interviewer would ask and try to formulate answers in advance, but one was forced to inaction until they faced the potential employer. Then, a few minutes could make or break the opportunity.
I had never interviewed for a job, but the three days I spent in the MerriTech bunker felt just like that.
Even planning an assassination didn’t hinge on so many unknowns. Sure, people sometimes reacted differently than I anticipated, but I always had the upper hand. I was the interviewer.
Unfortunately, MerriTech, the FBI and I were equally matched at best.
I really wanted to shoot my way out, find where the FBI kept Vexx, and raise some hell in the intelligence community, but if I wanted an optimal outcome, I couldn’t act until Gail-Male let me go and the FBI called me in.
First, there was the chance that Saskia survived. Vexx and her wouldn’t be at the same location and extracting one would make it that much harder to get the other. Even if she was still programmed to kill me, I couldn’t leave Saskia behind. I put her in this mess. I made all the SSW’s life worst.
Failsafe.
And the FBI —Gabriel!— knew. By the flow of discussion, it wasn’t just a theoretical knowledge either. Maybe Eliot was right and I had overestimated my value for Operation Chimera. Or maybe this whole situation concealed something else.
There came the second reason helping me bide my time; I couldn’t fight them all. Pretending otherwise would turn my confidence into deadly arrogance. Too many enemies stacked up against me; Merrilyn in its own right and the SSW still under its control, the FBI and the other agencies supporting Operation Chimera from the shadows, they amounted to an army I had no way of spotting in a crowd. I would have a chance if I ran, but never if I wanted to overthrow them all and avenge my siblings.
Unless I pitted them one against the other.
I rode the ‘mulling-go-round’ until Gail-Male escorted me home. The forced time-out hadn’t brought a satisfying plan of attack, but I had a better grip on my rage.
“Welcome back, Miss Beyer,” my house system said. “You have one new message. Three calls were forwarded to your spam box. All from your brother.”
I did a quick tour of the manor and found it human-free. It would have been way better for that filthy son of a bitch Gabriel to be here and fess up.
A big bouquet of flowers sat on the kitchen table. The majority of them were ‘nightshade’ purple, but there was no actual nightshade in there.
Maybe I’m reading too much into this.
“Play voice mail message.” I headed downstairs to fetch Vexx’s BluePrinter; I wasn’t touching these flowers without the assurance they wouldn’t blow up in my face. I didn’t trust MerriTech’s search one bit.
Speaking on which…
I found Frogster and set it on a bug hunt. After someone at the office tried to have me killed, I couldn’t put it past them to plant surveillance while pretending to do the opposite.
“Now playing new message from Gail Hopkins, Head of the personal assistants to the President of Merrilyn Technologies.” There was a beep and the automated voice was replaced by Gail’s: “Hello Lorelei, I’m pleased to announce that I’m back to full efficiency and that it is safe for you to return at the office. Your official incident report to the board is scheduled tomorrow morning at 10. If it’s agreeable to you, I would like us to discuss which information of that night’s event are classified. Thank you.”
There was another beep and my house system offered the classic options for voice mail management. I deleted Gail’s message and the content of the spam folder as I scanned the bouquet.
“Let’s see what you’re made of.”
I plugged the BluePrinter in my computer downstairs and it analyzed the blue print. Most of it was organic material. The vase was plastic and didn’t have the typical in-built holographic message function. However, a small dot rested at the bottom of the vase. The computer labeled it: “Generic Information Storage Device.”
Safe enough.
I set up a computer off my network in case the information stored turned out to be a virus. A run up and down the stairs to fetch the bouquet, and the strike of a hammer later, I placed the small rectangular chip in the computer’s reader. The holographic message was three word-long: “Our first meeting.”
I smiled. If nothing else, Gabriel was clever. Provided someone found the chip, they wouldn’t know what to make of it. MerriTech would think it came from Vexx’s alter ego, Vincent. The FBI would think Gabriel meant Tuesday night, 10 o’clock on top of the Millennium Tower. But that was when Gabriel and the real me officially met. The purple flowers hinted at a different encounter.
“Thursday, just after dark, in the alleyway behind Subcutaneous Wonders.”
The delivery of the message meant he wanted to see me alone, off the record. My trust in his words had run out, though.
MerriTech had purchased Subcut-W when its shares plummeted after I murdered its CEO. It would be easy for me to gain access and lay some groundwork for an escape route. Given the recent attack, I doubted unusual activities would be welcomed by Gail. Not for the next three days, at least.
And the board of detractors would be suspicious if I didn’t provide a good reason for my sudden interest for a small subsidiary.
Damn it!
Frogster hopped on the closest workspace and croaked. His paws were plaster-free.
Small favors.
“Wanna help?”
He croaked again. I picked him up and planted a kiss on its metallic forehead.
“Good plan, Frogster.”

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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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