Strings of Retaliation – 24a – Spin

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The body fell an inch from me and I cursed myself for trusting Saskia. She had missed my rope and hit a technician, either by design or by mistake. Knowing her reputation, ‘mistake’ was a very hard sell. I should have kept to my habits and work alone. On the off chance that she was still behind her scope, I shot a dark glance at the huge stage management window at the back of the auditorium.
Everyone was yelling and I did my best to appear suitably rattled but in control of my emotions. Too cold would draw suspicion but then, me panicking while I dangled twenty feet in the air wouldn’t look good on tomorrow’s front page.
The lights were still going on with the show, but the orchestra and acrobats skedaddled off the stage, some of them darting behind the stages’ curtains to hide. A handful stayed under me, stunned still by the blood splatters on their costumes. Then, my eyes fell on the plasma pistol a few feet away from the man’s body.
Oh crap. I suddenly felt like bait at the end of a hook line and didn’t mind at all that Saskia blew the man’s head clean off.
“Lorelei,” came Gail’s authoritative voice above me. How the hell did she get up there so fast? Was she in on it? “Make your way up to me.”
I knew I had nothing to fear from Saskia, but Gail would suspect something if I didn’t obey and got out of the line of fire. I couldn’t pretend I was too weak to do it either; she’d seen me climb twice this in seconds during training.
“Now!” Gail yelled at me, probably thinking I was in shock and needed a little kick to get moving. I didn’t have much of a choice. If I didn’t go out with her and protected my cover, the CIA would be the one escorting me to ‘safety’.
An explosion shook the catwalk and me along with it. Though I knew it was Dom’s handy work to clear Saskia’s escape and amp up the fear factor, I pulled myself to Gail in three seconds flat.
“This way.” Gun in hand, she started at a quick pace, curving an arm behind her to make sure I was following. She didn’t stopped when I lifted her jacket to grab the gun on the small of her back. She just gave me a nod of approbation when we paused at the door leading to the stairs. She’d seen me shoot before.
We furtively made our way down the staircase and met four of my assistants backstage. As her back-up formed a tight square around me, Gail tried to pluck the gun out of my hands. “You’re already enough of a target without seeming dangerous as well,” she hammered.
“Someone slipped your defences and tried to kill me. Again!”
Gail paled then shook it off and spun on her heel. Sure, attempted assassination was the point of this whole evening from the get-go, but that man had been here to kill me for real. I would be damned if I got caught off guard again tonight.
My assistants hurriedly escorted me out the back door. A bang startled me. The body of another ‘technician’ fell away from the corner he had been using for cover. I hadn’t even seen him, but my tech-enhanced bodyguard had neither hesitated nor slowed down. They almost shoved me into the limo waiting outside. Gail climbed in after me and the others packed themselves in a SUV behind us. We tore off the parking lot and weaved into the light traffic at a frightening speed, even for me.
“What aren’t you telling me?” Gail shocked the hell out of any decent excuses so I went with the truth.
“After the first attempt, I hired some people to do what you can’t.” My stab hit right where her sense of failure simmered. “Someone knew exactly how to get to me tonight. And the primary escape route.” I saw the glint of her guilt turn into understanding and harden into anger, not fear of discovery. “Who else knew about my security detail?” I added without missing a beat.
“The people in the executive shuttle, the assistants on duty and the head of security at the venue because we coordinated with them.” Her eyes fixed the city zooming past us, but her focus was on her thoughts. “And your CSO, of course.”
Chief Security Officer. The squat, bald man always took the chair at the middle of the table on the side opposite to the door during the board of detractors’ meetings. He was the silent type, which suddenly made him look very suspicious instead of guarded and calculating. I bumped him up my list of potential traitors, but I couldn’t discard the possibility of someone completely different paying to get the information from any of the people Gail listed.
“How many people knew about your extra security?” Gail failed at hiding her bitterness. At least, she tried.
“Only the three doing the actual job.” Even Gabriel didn’t know something was happening tonight. Out of concern for him as much as for me, Vexx and I carefully compartmented the information. “Please make sure to communicate with the CEO of the Lotus once the dust settles.”
The initial idea had been to blame my attacker for the hole in the window and the stunned guard, but seeing as Saskia saved my life, I had to find another story. I hoped she grabbed her beads back so no one could track the event back to her specifically. Explaining why my secondary team did what they did would be very tricky.
Why hadn’t they informed me of the attempt if they knew beforehand? And if they didn’t, how did they have all the necessary material stashed and ready to save me? But then, maybe I was thinking too much like a common people and not enough like the head of MerriTech. If my father and his faked identity were any indication, “I have my ways and a wad a cash” could be explanation enough.
My silence drew Gail’s eyes back to me. ““I’m not paying for the damage my team caused to protect me from his incompetence.”
“Am I to convey that exact message?” she asked. A half-smile appeared on her lips. She would enjoy stripping that man of any self-confidence he ever thought he had.
“You can paraphrase.”

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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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