Strings of Retaliation – 12b – Change

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Tweaking Frogster’s programming was almost as painful as walking in MerriTech to conspire with Gail. Both seemed friendly at first, but getting them to do just what I needed wrecked my brain in no time.
Vexx coded clean and once I found the facial recognition and analysis module, I could tag Gabriel’s face as an additional trigger for the Double-O-Seven function and wedge a new geolocation-based “go to and stop” action to replace the default “hone in on vermouth”. I knew what to do. Execution was another story. The intricacies of Frogster program baffled me and the few bugs I created almost fried the frog. Even when I thought I had dealt with everything, I had no way to test it on the field before the meeting.
Dealing with Gail and the board of detractors turned out in pretty much the same way. I knew I had to keep Saskia’s “Special Project” status secret or the head of that department, Kim, might stop trying to befriend me and line up with Ben.
That’s if she isn’t the one who sent Saskia on my ass to begin with.
When I walked in my office —which showed no trace of the attack—, Gail followed, closed the door and shut off the camera.
“I haven’t written my incident report yet,” she announced after I took my first sip of coffee. “I am also withholding the surveillance footage of the event.”
Note to self: do not underestimate the reach of this woman.
“I want to confirm our official position first.”
Just like Vexx’s code, Gail proved compliant but as we worked out the semi-truth about Saskia’s attack, we hit a few kinks. If we made it sound too threatening and unexplained, the board would vote me off to a safe location until the case came to a close. If I said I took care of it and didn’t provide enough details about the ‘how’, some people would dig.
Then it hit me.
Nothing like the truth working your way.
“One of my projects was used against me. And she knew exactly when and how to strike to have a chance before security intervened.”
“You think one of us helped her.” Gail jumped right to the conclusion I wanted, which comforted her in the righteousness of her actions to conceal the real events. “We should reinforce your security. I’ll screen the team personally.”
“I don’t want to create a panic.” I made sure my smile didn’t show on my face. “But whoever did this might try to get me off the board in another way.”
The board gulped it too and the implied accusation kept anyone from trying to suggest my retirement. Unfortunately, I couldn’t know how many of them would investigate the matter further and try to hang me with it. I hoped they would be too busy investigating each other.
Either way, all I could do was roll with the punches.
On Wednesday, an FBI messenger left a note in my basement while I was at work: “You are expected at the base Saturday morning for a civilized conversation.”
That’s how a queen must feel when summoned by a conqueror.
Nevertheless, the note made me smile: Gabriel’s boss didn’t seem aware of our preset rendezvous, and the FBI’s show of patience betrayed my importance for them. Or, it was all a lie.
I skipped from second guessing my brain to this. Brilliant.
When in doubt, I planned for the worst.
When Thursday came around, my “Alice” contacts in the slums had received a coded message asking them to prep a few things. I had a cache of money they used to buy plane tickets in advance. If the FBI gave me no other choices, I had a few well-equipped apartments I could hide in. They had been a necessary investment so I could set up shop anywhere around the world to clean up tech bosses without the authorities linking Nightshade to this city and, eventually, to me. The FBI had no way to know about these hideouts.
If I hit the ground running, they would never catch me. I could regroup and figure out my next move.
Thursday started out as an awesome day: I called in sick at MerriTech.
At noon, I opened the basement door that led to the city’s abandoned sewer system. Frogster held on the shoulder of my skin-tight black extensible Kevlar suit, and my Desert Eagle and Taser were strapped to my hips. No one knew the sewers like I did. I had used that to my advantage on several occasion. Doing it again, in my Nightshade uniform and face, felt more natural than anything I did as Lorelei these days.
It took me an hour to run all the way to Subcut-W. When I reached the location, I pulled a proper jacket and pants out of my backpack, and put them over my suit. With Frogster stuffed into my purse, I climbed up to the street to survey the area. No one looked at me twice and I didn’t spot any undercover FBI agent. I planted a few micro-cameras around the block, just to be safe.
A few large items protruded from the alleyway’s dumpster near the meeting place. It made a perfect hiding place for Frogster, which I set to sleep mode until a certain recognizable face showed up. I was back down the manhole before the evening’s traffic started. A couple of hours passed as I watched the streets on my portable holograph and set up some explosives.
No sign of foul play but with all the two-faced asshats in my work environment, I couldn’t be too safe.
At sundown, I reopened the manhole for Gabriel, packed up my gear and walked further down the tunnel.

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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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