Strings of Retaliation – 22a – Prep

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Between work, the rehearsals and my now strictly enforced daily reports to Gabriel, my efficiency at tracking the board of detractors’ moods and behaviours decreased fast. I had no window to go see Saskia. That pissed me off the most. At least, Djeb had arranged for a secure video call line, so I gave Vexx a ring every other day while I had breakfast. Like him, I doubted Saskia’s initial reaction, and our next call was held from her room where she was still tied up.
“I heard that you want to keep the nanobots?” I asked after the initial welcome.
“And unless you want to go Merrilyn on me and dictate my every move, you’ll let me do it.”
I stifled my surprise at her harsh tone. Vexx had told me she understood the need to be tied up until I greenlit her release. I doubted she wanted to stay this way, but instead of playing the part she would think I would want to see, she let her hatred for me show without filter.
“You’re way off, girl,” I barked back.
“Then, who are you playing for?” Her voice shook at tiny bit at the end and her motives dawned on me. She trusted that Vexx was telling the truth, but thought I was manipulating him, pretending I trusted the FBI only to undermine their taskforce for my company’s interest. I had broken her out of their facility, after all. Even as she accepted what she was, she was scared to be used again.
I could relate.
“Us,” I replied. Her expression didn’t change, didn’t show anything but hatred. I should have died when she burst into my office and instead I blew her reality to smithereens. It would take her a while to get over it. “I’m fighting because you, me and others like us deserve freedom. Because the tech that made us is a threat to free will.” Still, her frown didn’t smooth. “MerriTech won’t go down without a fight. The government will want to keep the technology. I need help to prevent both.”
As soon as the last sentence passed my lips, her face lightened into a mischievous smile. “Good.” I didn’t like the sound of this at all. “Then you’ll let me be at full potential and allow me to recruit one more pair of arms.”
Damn it! She waited for me to open that door. ‘No’ made me a control freak who didn’t trust her. ‘Yes’ may bring much needed help or give her a chance to make me her bitch.
“The question isn’t whether or not I go on a vengeance quest,” she said, her expression more solemn. “The question is whether or not I do it your way.” She would only do it my way if she had some power — or so she implied.
“You don’t want to do it your way.”
She winced as my statement hit a nerve. “You didn’t take all these risks just to kill me if I don’t bend to your will.”
She was right and she hadn’t lied throughout the conversation. I had known since the moment I decided to break her out that this would be a leap of faith.
“Who’s the extra?” I asked.
“A guy I beat up in a cage fight,” she smirked at my surprise and exchanged a look with Vexx. “Stroke of luck. We’ve been working occasional jobs together ever since. He’ll come looking if he can’t reach me, so we might as well hire him.”
I didn’t like how we were getting further and further away from my usual solo operations, but we would need extra help. I might as well use that to secure Saskia’s involvement.
“Vexx, you can untie her.” With any luck, this wouldn’t bite me in the ass too much.
“What about the SCC?” It took me a moment to understand Vexx’s question. Self-Control Chip.
In for a penny… “Can you do it?” Vexx answered my question with a quick nod. His eyes sparkled at the challenge, and again, I got the feeling that all this might drag him back to old habits. Could I even afford to add that to my list of worries? “Then, yes.” I did my best to sound confident and in control, and Saskia’s face didn’t indicate if I had managed it or not.
I confirmed with Vexx that he would attend our CIA briefing tomorrow and ended the call, at least physically; my head kept replaying it over and over all day despite the crazy last minute details for my trip. I dreamt of plane explosions, killers in a crowd and betrayal. My father showed up for a poisonous picnic to top it all off. It had been a long time since I started my day with scotch on the rocks, but I spiked my coffee to survive the office and get to the base in one piece.
Gabriel pinched his brows when I walked up to him, waiting at the underground entrance of the base. “Are you ok?”
I knew I looked better than I felt — the professional hair, make-up and suit didn’t let a lot of me shine through — which meant that my poker face sucked. “Ok enough to get this over with.” I forced myself to smile.
The CIA was taking over the bulk of Operation Chimera on account of my tour since it would lead me abroad. The bosses of our joint taskforce felt that CIA operatives were the best resources available to protect their interest, aka me. Gabriel had been temporarily bumped down to consultant and messenger for all things directly-related to Vexx and me, and ordered to keep his hands off everything else unless asked otherwise.
I was rather eager to meet the man the CIA appointed to shield me or, as I preferred to put it, to monkey wrench my underground operations. With any luck, he would give me a legitimate reason to punch him and ask for Gabriel’s reinstatement.
“Would you still be ok enough if an IA person was watching our every move?”
Bigger monkey wrench wielder. Operation Chimera took the mole hunt seriously, which was absolutely swell except when they looked at me too close. If their suspicions pushed them to revoke my hard-earned privacy clause, life would get a lot dicier.
“It’s actually better,” I cheered. “My lack of concentration and energy will make it harder for me to analyze their stupidity and throw a fit.”

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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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