Strings of Retaliation – 18b – Bullet

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Vexx’s reaction to my plan worried me. He was… giddy? Maybe my feelings regarding Saskia’s situation skewed my perception or at least worsened them. But he was excited, and I couldn’t tell if that was because we were flipping a finger to the FBI and MerriTech in one fell swoop, or because he got to fiddle with Saskia’s brain some more. His recent interactions with bleeding edge biotech could have driven him back to old habits and I had no time to monitor him.
A successful break out had to include a plan for relocation to ensure the FBI couldn’t grab Saskia back. As an assassin, she probably had a few under the radar escape routes. She would stay and hear me out if I provided a viable alternative to her own resources. Then, with any luck, I could talk here into helping me.
I overcame my discomfort and took Djeb up on his offer to help. He could keep a secret and his loyalty wasn’t blind. If it came to it, he would protect the slums over me. Alice’s work would be safe even if Lorelei and Nightshade weren’t.
When the day came, Gabriel stopped by to pick up one of the six nightshade-filled bullets I had kept from my old days. “The FBI insists on me carrying the bullet from here on out. You can’t touch it after it is scanned.”
I expected as much. It was the best way for Gabriel’s bosses to make sure the bullet wasn’t a trick and to prevent me from switching an approved bullet for another that wouldn’t have passed the scan. Gabriel had warned me that he wouldn’t fight them on that point for fear of sparking suspicion. He knew this was a golden opportunity for me, even though he didn’t ask how I planned to exploit it.
Plausible deniability.
For the occasion, the facility tightened their whole security process. I went through two thorough searches and scans while Gabriel carried on through the bullet’s specific inspection.
“What’s the liquid?” The guard held the bullet under the 3D scan with a pair of pliers. He moved with extreme caution as if he manipulated an explosive. Finally, someone accounted for my reputation with the proper balance of fear and respect.
“Nightshade extract,” I replied.
“It’s been approved,” Gabriel added. It had been a hell of an argument, but I had convinced Gabriel’s bosses that tampering with the bullet in any way would cause Saskia to dismiss it as a fake. They valued Saskia’s cooperation too much to oppose.
The guard double-checked his orders with a supervisor before allowing Gabriel to pick up the bullet.
Dr Emmerson met us on the other side of the scans. “You’ll be happy to hear she’s almost a hundred percent.” He babbled on about Saskia’s recovery while leading us to an interrogation room. “We transfered her to our division’s Gen Pop two days ago.”
A couple of chairs were set on each side of a plasmaproof glass wall dividing the interrogation room in half. Good and evil. A tiny trapdoor in the middle of the glass enable us to pass objects back and forth.
Saskia followed us with her eyes when we walked in. She sat straight in a bare, metallic chair, her hands cuffed and her feet chained to a hook on the floor. She was out of her hospital gown and in the typical bright orange convict uniform.
Not her color.
Saskia lifted her chin up when I sat opposite her. “Don’t you have some paparazzi to entertain, Miss Tech?” She made aerial quotation marks to frame “entertain” into a double-entendre and slightly mispronounced “tech” so it sounded closer to “take”.
I looked her straight in the eyes. Cheap attempt, girly girl.
To my right, Gabriel put the bullet on the little tray to pass it over to Saskia’s side. I waved toward it. A moment passed before Saskia broke contact with me and picked up the bullet to examine it. She squinted to see the details etched in the rim and sniffed the container at the end. Her eyes widened. She sniffed again.
“Few people would know about this,” she muttered, her surprise morphing into a defiant frown.
“I know.”
“And apparently so do they.” She smiled to Gabriel, teeth showing, eyes squinting like the nice little predator that she was. “So whatcha doing on that side of the glass?”
“Enlightening you.”
“Ah… Does that mean you’ll cross over here for a hug?”
Gabriel chuckled. “You two definitely came out of the same mold.” He leaned against the wall and shrugged to answer my glare. He could have picked a more elegant way to put the conversation back on track.
“Right.” Saskia absentmindedly flipped the bullet and caught it only to flip it again. “We’re assassins.”
“It’s more complicated than that, actually.”
Saskia stilled. “That nonsense about me being a Merrilyn special project.”
“You have nightmares right? The recurring kind that never lets you rest and drive you rid the world of technology.” As I talked Saskia resumed flipping the bullet, but her movements were jerkier, not as much about derision as they were about appearances. But her right eyebrow had the tiniest lift in it.
Saskia flipped the bullet, caught it between her teeth and gave it a good bite. I jumped to my feet.
“Guards!” Gabriel and I yelled at once.
Saskia’s pupil were already dilating. She leaned back in her chair, sucking on the bullet as her face warmed up in sweat. Two guards and Dr Emmerson rushed into her side of the room. Beside spitting the bullet out to the doctor’s face, she didn’t resist them at all.
On my side of the glass, I breathed fast, and looked back and forth between Saskia and Gabriel. “It’s just trace amounts,” I rambled. “This shouldn’t happen. Not this much and not this fast. I don’t understand.”
The guards rushed Saskia out of the room on a gurney. She jerked and mumbled, already overtaken by the hallucinations.
I grabbed Gabriel’s collar. “What didn’t you tell me? Who screwed up? Who tampered with my bullet?”

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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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