Strings of Retaliation – 19a – Escape

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Men never dealt well with hysterical women. In the Victorian era, they locked us up in insane asylum for the slightest fit. Fast high-pitched speech, shallow breaths combined with hands and arms fluttering remained a great tool to shorten unwanted discussion with men. I used them profusely and was kicked out of the facility within the hour of Saskia’s entrance in intensive care. Gabriel had been ordered to take me back home so I could “get my emotions under control before participating in the investigation.”
“It’s an act, isn’t it?” Gabriel barked as soon as we stepped into the safety of my basement. I answered him with my brightest smile. He grabbed my arm and shook. “You should have told me.”
“Tell you what? That I needed you to be genuinely surprised and handle me as they expected you to handle me.” I eyed his hand on my arm and he released his grip.
“They’ll pin it on you,” he mumbled.
“I wouldn’t be so sure.”
Right on cue, Gabriel made the ‘got a call’ sign, bringing his pinky close to his lips and his thumb to his ear with the other fingers folded.
“I gather it worked?” Vexx walked in, Frogster croaking some techno beat on his shoulder.
“So far —” I observed Gabriel’s reaction to his internal conversation. His jaw dropped and his eyes widened. “— so good.”
“Right on!” Vexx fired up his computer and fiddled with the main screen’s hologram. It brought up a pre-written encrypted message to let Djeb know step on was completed.
“Lorelei,” Gabriel murmured. He cleared his throat. “Saskia died.”
“After all I did to save her,” I faked a sniffle. “How could I be involved in this? Like I said to the warden, there must be a MerriTech mole involved!”
“Not funny!” Gabriel snapped, moving too close to me.
Maybe I was pushing it a little. “Look, I’m making it easy for you. You don’t need to act much and you have plausible deniability. Isn’t it what you want?”
Gabriel stepped back, giving me back my personal bubble. After a moment of hesitation, he propped himself on a stool. “So she’s not dead?”
“She’s built to fake it awesomely well,” Vexx replied from his work station.
Gabriel waited for a few seconds. “Care to elaborate?”
On my nod, Vexx turned to Gabriel. “Her nanobots are built to simulate the measurable symptoms of a variety of poisons and medical conditions. It’s one of the buried functionalities in G-7, a full mind-over-body feature in G-8.”
“Developed at the experimental stages but not fully integrated —”
“—English, please!” Gabriel massaged the bridge of his nose.
“Saskia’s nanobots can be ordered to fake an extreme allergic reaction to nightshade and maintain enough body functions to avoid irreversible damage.” My abrupt involvement surprised both men. “We’ve got other stuff to take care of.”
Gabriel took a deep breath and turned back to Vexx. “But how—”
“— Radio transmitter activated when she bit the bullet.” I cut them both off. Gabriel didn’t seem to realize he was going to trigger an hour-long monologue from Vexx. “Back door implanted when he hacked her days ago. The nanobots are equipped with advanced detection and shut off life support when under a medical scan.”
Gabriel opened his mouth again, but a slam of my fist against the table shut him up.
“Assumption: The prison has a basic morgue but isn’t properly equipped to do in-depth research on Saskia’s corpse. Since she doesn’t require as much surveillance now, she’ll be brought to the base.”
“Correct.” Gabriel replied. “You should have asked beforehand.”
I frowned. “Let it go. Vexx thinks they’ll want to study her fresh, so you need to get back at the base right now, and let me know the time of the transfer.”
Gabriel walked up to me and attempted a dominance-through-height stance. “You’ll get caught.”
I laughed. “My track record proves otherwise. And again, I’m doing my best to protect you too. So please, just play your part and let me worry about the details.”
“We’ll revisit this soon,” Gabriel said before leaving through the sewer door. At least, he understood bad timing could ruin my current efforts.
“Not that I don’t enjoy the way you took charge just there,” Vexx walked up to me and Frogster jumped from his shoulder to mine, “but do you think he’ll do what you asked.”
“Groundwork for the rest.” I shut off Frogster’s techno song. “If he can’t work without knowing every detail, we’re screwed before we get started.”
I had thought everything through and he had to trust that. The quirk of Saskia’s nanobots were in the insane quantity of files, but Vexx had missed it the first time around. Like the FBI researchers would have. He thought to look for the quirk because of his knowledge of MerriTech’s development processes. What happened to Saskia today would point the researchers toward the quirk.
In order to blame Vexx, the team of researchers would have to agree that he bested them on all things biotech. MerriTech would be a much likelier suspect. Egos and the rest of the break out would see to that.
I sighed. “I gotta go to work.”
“I’ll see you when everything’s set.” Vexx squeezed my frog-free shoulder. “She’s almost out.”
Only the beginning.
A bunch of messages waited for my arrival at MerriTech. Gail asked if my morning off-site meeting went well, but didn’t ask for details, too swamped with all the adjustments to my schedule.
“Your brother called again.” She said after confirming my scheduled training for the world tour. “He’s not responding well to our offer to pay him off. He insists on speaking to you.”
“Well, he’s out of luck.” I signed the birthday card MerriTech was sending to a politician. “Thank you, Gail.”
She closed the door behind her and, in the silence and relative intimacy of my office, I took a deep breath. I had to concentrate on work until Vexx stopped by.

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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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