Strings of Retaliation – 14b – Contract

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Gabriel took full advantage of his measured and pleasant voice to calm everyone with a round of presentation. It was all part of my choreography. Apparently, the unknown men around the table — starring as The Fools — were ‘the proper chain of command’, Gabriel’s direct bosses. The very ones I trumped by calling their Director.
“We need to work on our relationship,” Fifty said —whatever his name was. “It would be best if you were here.”
I glanced at the upper corner of the holographic display. A red icon confirmed my suspicions. “It would be best if you respected my privacy.”
With a frown, Fifty nodded to someone behind my field of view. The tracking alert stopped.
“Thank you,” I said. “I don’t mean to be coy but every time I played ball with you, you cheated. I can’t use my talents, connections and resources to help you take down Merrilyn Technologies if you conceal vital information. I’m done putting my ass on a line I can’t see.”
“You’ve made that clear,” Fifty replied. The others nodded. “However, you do not have the clearance to know everything.”
“Agreed. But I can hardly protect myself if I don’t know Merrilyn’s arsenal. You should at least have briefed me on Generation 7.”
“In light of the recent events,” Fifty took a deep breath, “yes.”
That was the signal I had been waiting for: though it hurt them, Gabriel’s bosses had decided to follow his recommendations — aka the cheat sheet I provided. I hadn’t overestimated my value.
“You’ll be cleared to see a selection of files,” Gabriel chimed in, as the Hero Handler.
“Who’s selection? Yours?”
“No.” Fifty’s answer should have been ‘yes’. He was going off-course. “He doesn’t have the clearance.”
“As my handler, he is the most attune to my needs and best equipped to judge the information I require.” Hopefully, this sounded like a gentle nudge. “He still has some of my trust. Upgrade his clearance.”
Fifty’s face reddened slightly, letting another one reply a generic: “We’ll take it under consideration.”
If we closed this conversation on a happy note, Gabriel should gain enough respect to get the motion green lit.
“We will allow you to visit subject G7-001. I believe you call her Saskia.” The numbered case file made me cringe, but the rest was what I asked Gabriel to feed his superior. “Visits will happen at our facility and you will be thoroughly searched coming in and out of there. Your discussions with the subject may only include per-approved topics. Deviate and you forfeit your visiting rights.”
I took a big ‘I accept the inevitable’ breath. Oh, the blessed moment when they would choke on their restrictions.
“What about Vexx?” I couldn’t just let them walk all over me. The scenario was to keep a careful balance between concessions they would hate, and restrictions they would be happy to see enforced. They didn’t need to know I wouldn’t follow a single one of them. They just needed an excuse to pat themselves on the back.
“Agent Walker made a compelling argument as to his usefulness.” Fifty paused. “He will comply with all of our requests for assistance within the objectives of Operation Chimera. He will not be allowed direct contact with our network or any of our agents unless otherwise noted. Neither will you, except for the guards at the facility where Saskia resides and your handler.”
“You mean, Gabriel, right?” My interruption sent a flash of annoyance across Fifty’s face. Good. “His involvement is non-negotiable.”
“Yes,” Fifty answered between his teeth. “Deviate —”
“— And mucho problemo will ensue. Be it known that I will have direct contact with any agent tailing me. You know, stop by their car to say ‘hi’, stuff like that. It’s common courtesy.”
Fifty reddened again. Adding long-distance killing by heart attack would propel me straight to Assassin Legend. The same man as before jumped in: “We’ll pull the surveillance.”
“You will hand over all of your weapons,” Fifty off-scripted again.
My jaw dropped open, then snapped close on a heartfelt chuckle. “Did you acknowledge the threat on my life, pull my surveillance and order me to surrender my guns all in the same five minutes?”
Fifty’s tomato-looking face didn’t help me settle down at all.
“It may have been a little excessive,” Gabriel soothed, looking at Fifty and me in turn.
“It may have been an attempt to get me killed.”
I finally managed to catch my breath and Fifty regained a more natural glow. “I withdraw that clause.”
The conversation ended after fifteen more minutes of little things. They wanted to implement a tracker on me, but withdrew because of the detection technology in MerriTech’s offices. I insisted on getting all Vexx’s personal stuff off the base, and they complied after imposing a scan of all said items. Pretty much a ‘win some, leave some’ run-through of the small characters. Gabriel and I improvised along the same line, and everyone else stuck pretty close to their best behavior.
In the end, we were all comfortably bound.
I was still smiling when I left the room with my Alice face. Djeb met on my way to the garage and accompanied me without a word. But the something that had been different when I walked in was gone when I walked out.
Now, it would be much harder for the FBI mole to manipulate my situation. If he tried, the new virtual clearing around Gabriel and I would make it hard for him to hide.
Next step: create a wind of panic at MerriTech.

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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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