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> [story]gunslinger Girl: America
Posted: Apr 17 2009, 06:10 AM
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“So have you made up your mind what you want?”

The speaker would be fairly unremarkable to look at for most. Thinner than average, he was otherwise lacking in distinction, his brown hair, eyes, and beard plain and ignorable, distinguished solely by the speckles of grey mixed in with the short whiskers. His clothing was scarcely more interesting. Simple blue jeans and cheap tennis shoes, a t-shirt with perfectly ignorable logo scrawled across the front. Richard Feldman was the epitome of unknown and unknowable.

“Kyo-Tenshi, I think.”

The girl next to him was slightly more memorable. Her body was just at that awkward state that hovered between child and woman, giving her that gangling look where limbs had lengthened, but not thickened. Her long brown hair had been pulled back into a simple pony tail, keeping it out of her cute, still slightly babyfat covered face. Her look of concentration would have drawn attention, had there been anyone there to notice her other than the man reaching over to pat her on the head affectionately.

“Which one?”

“The Byakuren version,” she replied, still concentrating.

“65,100 yen? That’s about $655. I think we can do that. You and your expensive dollfies.”

The girl giggled, but never lost her look of concentration.

It could have been, in many ways, a stereotypical conversation between a father and his just barely pubescent daughter. They might have been discussing her reward for getting good grades in school, or what she intended to spend her birthday money on. Many might have found it heartwarming and loving. They might have, had Clarice “Charlie” Feldman not been staring down the scope of a military sniper rifle, laying on top of a library annex as Richard Fledman, her handler, staring down a spotters scope beside her.


”It’s a straightforward mission.” The section chief in Seattle had been almost dismissive of the thought that things were never straightforward. Richard allowed him to simply continue. The man slid a photo across the desk sitting between them. “Kim Daeshim. President of Korea Consolidated Electronics. He’s been personally working with various Korean computer manufacturers and the South Korean Government to ensure that no one that sells to or buys from Korea so much as sneezes without the okay of KCE. Late last year he put the squeeze on Micron Technologies. They were attempting to head an international group manufacturing memory chips, and Kim convinced everyone involved with Korean companies to refuse to accept Micron control. Micron stock crashed, and they had to lay off almost 20% of their workers. We want you and Charlie to thank him properly.”

“In Korea?” Richard asked. His expression revealed how little he cared for the mission.

“No. He’s actually going to be touring Micron Technology in Boise in two weeks. Micron has been negotiating to try to get his backing in a renewed attempt to put together the international.”

Richard nodded. That did simplify things. “Is that all?”

“The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to discuss expansion of the DHS budget next month. It’d be nice if they had a little terrorist incident to encourage them to accept the proposal.”

“Yes sir.” Richard reached over and scooped the thick packet off the desk. The Seattle bureau chief was a politico, not someone who had ever been around real operations. Richard would learn more from the packet than from the slightly rotund man in the polo shirt. Tucking the packet under his arm, he walked out of the office.


“Target. Third head in line.”

All thoughts of ridiculously expensive dolls were dismissed. At Richard’s words, Charlie’s body tensed ever so slightly, but otherwise she remained seemingly unaffected. She adjusted ever so slightly, letting out a little breath, then closed her eye. She reopened it, confirming that her aim was naturally balanced where she wanted it.


“Send it.”

She held her breath, willed her heart to beat as gently as she could, and applied pressure to the trigger…


”What the hell are you on about, Skinner?”

The speaker was stereotypically scruffy looking. A ratty t-shirt advertising a particularly rancid brand of beer stretched over a pot belly. The jeans bore disreputable stains that should have been embarrassing for the wearer, but somehow failed to properly chasten him. The man looked thoroughly ratty.

“What do you mean?” Richard asked. “Is there something wrong, Barber?”

“Yeah there’s something wrong.” Tom Barber growled. “What the hell you doing bringing a kid to this?”

“Judith?” Richard laughed. “Don’t worry about her. She knows good gun safety.”

“I don’t care if she’s a prize shot. I don’t want some kid blabbing about me buying a gun under the table.”

“She won’t talk,” Richard smiled. Never the less, he turned to Charlie. “Judith, why don’t you go play outside?”

“Yes, papa!” Charlie stood and set aside the rag she’d been wiping down the M107 .50 caliber sniper rifle with. Smiling happily, she bounced out the door, headed out into the yard of the apartment complex.

“What was that she was messing with?” Barber asked once the girl had left.

“M107. .50 caliber. Standard sniper rifle for the Special Forces. Makes a hell of a hole.”

“Mind if I take a look?” Barber’s naked lust for the piece was clear.

“Sure. Help yourself while I get the Colt.”

As Richard unlocked a cabinet and pulled out a case labeled ‘Colt Model 1911 .45 caliber Auto’ the rough hewed man lifted the weapon off the table, hefting it. “Very nice!” He brought it to his shoulder, sighting through the scope, his finger tickling the trigger. “Looks a bit like some ray gun or something.”

“Good to about eighteen hundred meters. 10 rounds of BMG. Accurate, semi-auto. I’ve added a bipod to it, swapped out the standard issue scope.” Richard smiled. “$15,000 and it’s yours, no paper trail.”

With clear regret, Barber set the rifle back on the table top. “Like hell I have that kind of money. I was barely able to scrape together the $1250 for the .45.”

“Financial troubles?”

“Lost my job at Micron last year thanks to those South Korean dicks. I’ve been having to scrape by ever since.”

“South Koreans?”

“Yeah,” Barber scowled. “They pulled some sort of illegal trade shit, and made Micron unable to compete fairly in Korea. Next thing you know Micron had to lay off a bunch of us. I wrote my Congressman to complain, sent letters to the editor trying to get people to care and do something about those damn ingrates… nothing.”

“Pity,” Richard replied handing over the case with the 1911. “I’ve heard some Korean bigwig will be visiting in a couple days.”

“Yeah, that’s what the news said. Frankly, I think he’s an idiot. A lot of angry former Micron employees around here own guns. Takes a real idiot to show up here anyway.”

“Suppose so.”

After the man had left, Charlie slid back into the room. Richard smiled to her. “Pack the 107 up. Be careful to use gloves. We don’t want to mess up the prints.”

“Okay, Richard!”


The rifle roared. The slight girl behind it quavered under the recoil as the shock rolled through her. However, she was quite well trained and used to it, and so, in spite of the battering, she placed the shot precisely where she intended.

Kim Daeshim, President of Korea Consolidated Electronics, flew back against the doorway of the Cottonwood Grill, his head pulped by 700 grains of copper jacketed lead caught him between the eyes.

Minutes later the police found the abandoned rifle, covered in easily lifted prints, on the roof of the Boise Public Library Annex. They found the fact that the assassination had taken place only 50 yards from the Anne Frank Memorial particularly ironic. Tom Barber would insist he was innocent, but with the evidence against him, he was easily convicted.
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Posted: Apr 17 2009, 03:09 PM
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Here (in spirit).

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Somewhere around DC, three months ago...

"You still have doubts, Mr. Lozano?"

Alberto Lozano shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Had he really fallen this far? To be subjected to the condescending whim of some old pencil-pusher?

"I don't blame you for having doubts. All handlers in this section have doubts at first. But if it helps, you are doing a good thing for your country by signing up for this."

"Really?" Al snorted. "My country didn't seem to care when I was on the chopping block a couple years back."

"Not a fan of patriotism, are you?" The old man chuckled, though Al didn't see the humor. "That's one thing I like about you analyst geeks, you give out the truth because you have trouble knowing how to sugarcoat things."

"You're telling me that I'm supposed to use a 15-year-old girl like a swiss army knife whenever the need arises, how do you think I should feel?"

"How about I tell you a little story? I've got two sons, both in grad school now, and getting degrees in some bullshit field like Public Administration or Political Science. They're telling me about 'saving the environment' this and 'better government' that." The old man shook his head, "Everything works in their theoretical world because they'll never have to test their ideas against the grand force of nature that bastardizes all good ideas: human nature."

"What does this have to do with my question?" Al asked.

"Are you questioning my motives, Al?" Al's eyebrows shot up as he felt a brief shock run through his nervous system. His feeling wasn't quite relieved when the old man burst out laughing, "Oh man, you shoulda seen the look on your face!"

What have I gotten myself into? Al wondered.

"Sorry, I'm getting off track here." After the old man finished laughing, he continued, "You thought you were doing something good for your country during your work with the FBI, right? Worked your way from some desk clerk in the middle of nowhere to a top analyst position in DC, with a nice family and a house in the suburbs of Rockville to top it all off. But as luck would have it, human nature determined that you were obscure enough to be the perfect sacrificial lamb during 'that scandal.'"

"Did you bring me here to dredge up the past?" Al's mood had shifted from mere nervousness to simmering rage. "I've moved on. Just let me..."

"No, you haven't." The old man wagged his finger at Al, "That's the point I'm trying to make. The Bureau fucked with you, your work, and your family, all for the sake of making you a scapegoat. A lesser man would've simply put his neck through the guillotine and just ended it all, but you managed to hold your ground against the universal stupidity of human nature, and we need people like you here." The man stopped, as if expecting Al to respond to that comment. When he said nothing, the man continued, "Let me ask you this question, then: Why sign up with the Rehabilitation Branch, supposedly under the arm of a government agency that has become little more than a universal punchline?"

Al racked his brain for an answer that sounded suitable, then responded, "Because I wanted to do something useful with my life." The old man chuckled at that answer. "What's so funny?" Al growled.

"You know the funny thing about that scandal? It wasn't exactly a shocker that we spy on our own citizens. Our three-letter agencies have been doing that for years, regardless of who was running the show. You know why I volunteered to work in an organization like this? Because regardless of the shifting political winds and the ever-evolving force of human nature, we can control who recieves punishment for their crimes. That's why I think you joined up with us, because you wanted to find some consistency in your life. Some part of it that you could control regardless of whatever idiot is running FEMA now."

Al thought about it for a moment. "Okay, but where does the girl fit in?"

"That's not for you to know."

"Let's say I'm curious, then."

"A dangerous trait to have in a black-ops position, Mr. Lozano. All I can tell you is that she was completely off the grid. An illegal immigrant, probably Cuban or Mexican. She would've died if it wasn't for us, but instead of becoming an obscure statistic, we're giving her a new lease on life while protecting this country. We'll give you a supply of our new drug if you feel the need to keep her in line, but considering you had a daughter of your own you hopefully won't need to use it."

"What should I tell her, then?"

"Do what you want, Mr. Lozano. But keep this in mind: she's your weapon. She's not your daughter. We don't care how much you berate her or how much you love her. We're happy as long as you accomplish the tasks we set out for your fratello. However, if either of you do anything to expose us, or anything that will stop us from accomplishing our goals, then both of you are going to find out what Afghanistan is like this time of year." With that, the old man glanced at his watch, "Your plane to Tampa leaves in four hours. That should give you some time to get acquainted."


Tampa Bay, FL. Today

"...so a dissident died." Al spoke through his cell phone, "Every other Cubano in Miami would slit Castro's throat if they had a chance. What makes this one special?"

"You're real cold, you know that?"

"I think of myself as a realist."

Al heard the voice on the other end sigh. "A few of Hidalgo's friends claim that he had a tape that show some of Castro's friends using political prisoners as sex slaves. One man, Louis Medina, claims that he was going to give the tape to a reporter but he's afraid that the men who killed Hidalgo are going to come after him. He's gotten kind of paranoid and he won't budge unless we send someone to protect him."

"And we're the ones to do it?"

"Exactly. The Miami PD have their hands full with other issues, and the FBI would draw unwanted attention, so it's up to you and Cristina to deal with him."

"You're sure this isn't just someone trying to sell us porn and call it a protest?"

"That's what you need to find out, Alberto. Get the tape, find out if it's genuine, and if possible try to find out who killed Ernesto Hidalgo before they strike again."

Al accepted the new assignment and shut off his phone. After typing a few more things onto his document, he saved it and put the computer in sleep mode, then walked into the living room where Cristina was polishing her weaponry along with the saxophone that lay on its side. "Ay, Cristina, quieres ir a Miami hoy?"

This post has been edited by TracerBullet on Apr 17 2009, 03:12 PM
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Posted: Apr 20 2009, 01:12 PM
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Bassett Army Community Hospital - Fort Wainwright, Alaska, 6 years ago

“Look, Sergeant Major, I know you won’t take a desk job quietly, not after all the time you spent in the Rangers on undercover ops. What I’m offering is a chance to continue to do that but on American soil against those who use our laws to shield themselves from justice and oppose freedom.”

Sergeant Major Jason Kern frowned, his right hand clenching and unclenching in tempo with the IV drip. The nurse had just left after changing the wrapping on the stump of his left arm when his visitor had arrived. He thought about what the man had said, and damn it all to hell if he wasn’t speaking the truth.

“And the downside to this is?” he asked, knowing there was a catch. No matter what it was, bonuses, promotions, missions, life, there was always a catch.

‘Nothing different from those secret ops you’ve led in the past.” the man replied, pulling several files from his briefcase. “Only this time you‘ll be operating as a handler to the one who‘s actually to do the work.” He handed the files to Jason who looked at them. ”These are the ones just sent to us. Pick one and we’ll get started.”

Jason took the files and looked thru them, studying the pictures of the subjects in each of the profiles. “So, the newest urban warfare weapons are, children…”

Wichita, Kansas, today

Jason read the fax he had received for the third time, dropped it into his shredder, then turned his gaze back to the disassembled Mateba Magnum before him. With a sign, he reassembled the revolver with ease, his lack of a left arm hindering only his speed. Holstering the weapon in his shoulder harness, he pushed away from the heavy desk in his den.

Sakura was aware of his entrance before he had even turned the doorknob. She was currently finishing up her work on a NTW-20 anti-materiel rifle and was fitting it’s 14.5mm barrel back on. Her shoulder-length red hair was pulled back into a ponytail while two locks hung from either side of her face. Placing her tools down, she looked up at her handler while picking up the next component.

“Sakura, new mission. Local, so use Plan 24.” said Jason, nodding in approval of her work.

Locking the telescopic sights back on the weapon, she stood up, it’s 29 kilo weight nothing to her. “Yes sir.” she replied, taking the rifle over to it’s display case. It was simply one of several weapons in the basement-turned-armory of the mansion. Turning, she headed for her room, mentally retooling her personality and physical habits along the way.
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Posted: Apr 21 2009, 09:05 AM
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A woman jogged through the pre-dawn streets, feet going forward in an unheard rhythm, probably from the open-ear headphones on her ears. She occasionally paused to look into the windows of shops as if admiring a particular dress or a nice pair of sunglasses. Aside from the fact that she was jogging on a slightly earlier-than-normal hour of day, she was inconspicuous, dressed in a tank top and gym pants, checking her pulse every now and then, much like any other person jogging in the streets in the morning.

She reached her apartment, going in through a side gate and around the back, into the kitchen. There was the smell of last night’s dinner still lingering despite having cleaned it up almost ten hours ago. The phone rang, a ridiculously loud ringing that, in the early hours of the morning, would have made a lesser person curse and swear. Instead, Christine sighed, and taking the frying pan and breakfast off the stove for the moment, picked up the phone.
“Edgehart residence.”
“It’s me, umm… Christine.”
“Something up, Dreiswich?”
“Uh… the Harley kit you pulled into garage? We think there’s a kink somewhere. Something probably minor, but I just thought you’d want to know. Keep you posted, right?”
“Uh-huh, sure thing. Maybe I can drop by and check it out later?”
“No problem.”

Christine paused only for a moment before she put the phone back on the receiver, and went back to frying the eggs and bacon. Suddenly, Amita jumped down from the staircase, dressed in a large white fur coat that wrapped around her like some large wooly bedspread.
“You like?”
“I don’t remember seeing you buy that.” Christine glanced up momentarily at her, before turning back to put the eggs and bacon onto plates. It was one of the smaller pleasures when things were synchronized, and a strange stab of hidden joy struck her when the bread popped out of the toaster at that moment. “Beans?”
“Hah, no thanks. They do funny things to your insides.” Amita giggled as she twirled around three-sixty. “I got this – at like, a massive bargain – fifteen grand. Hidden in the back storeroom of the shop. Perfect condition. The dealer said something about it being an heirloom from before the Cold War. Probably Okhotsk northan fur seal from Russia, the way he described the make.”
Christine raised an eyebrow. “Then he probably had it in the storeroom for a reason. You tried putting that on the stock market yet?”
“Oh, come on, mother, this isn’t the fifties anymore. It’s not like 15 grand is anything these days.”
At the mention of “mother”, Christine’s expression softened. “I was kidding, of course. C’mon, breakfast.”

After breakfast, they took a taxi to the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport for a small private flight to Philadelphia, landing on an undisclosed airfield, taking another car trip, this time to the Region III Offices.

Amita sat next to Christine, a splitting image of her, right down to the sidearm on the right side of her belt. “So what now? Another big leak from high-up? And what’s with the massive love-in with the private charter and the chauffeur?”
“You noticed.” Christine took out a briefcase from under the seat in front of her, opening it to reveal a laptop. “All the orders were was that they want our professional hand to solve this matter. They only said something about some journalist asking all the right questions… which means they’re the wrong ones for us.”

They pulled over in front of the building, and they went straight to the Rehab Branch offices – as boring and as nondescript as the rest of them, only with better locks. They went straight to the end of the corridor, where a man introduced himself with the name “Abraham Henderson” and the phrase “Section 2 lackey.”

“I’m afraid we’re pretty understaffed on IA people, and you were the closest, so…” he leaned back in his chair, throwing Christine a manila folder of files. “We had these, these calls made to us, arranging interviews and asking questions about what we do in the Rehab Branch.”
“I can see where this is going already.” Christine gave the folder to Amita to flick through.

“Yeah, lemme finish.” Abraham gave her an expression of vague distaste, apparently aimed at nothing in particular, or more likely, at the situation at hand. “As you can imagine, these questions got a little too ‘knowy’, you could say, and obviously the Section 1 pencil-pushers aren’t too impressed by this sort of behaviour. Like the man has an inside source, you know.”
“And the reason why a Section 2 sub-head like you wanted the personal talk is that this inside source is probably somewhere in Section 2. Or Section 1.” Amita handed back the folder to Christine.

“Yeah, they said you were good.” The man behind the desk lit up a cigarette, coughing lightly after the drag. “You read up on our rosters much?”
“Well, it doesn’t take much to deduce that from the size of this office and the amount of space you don’t use, you’re someone much more important than John Doe several blocks down the corridor.”

“Well, save the smartass-ery for the case. I want you two to check this reporter out. You might have read up on him, a certain Richard Blakely. Does an op-ed on the Baltimore Sun or whatever the hell it is. Politics. Haven’t personally read them, but you should if you haven’t. Probably writes crap like the rest of them. You know how it works - go through his place, get a snitch into his workplace. We’ll get some operatives in Maryland to help you out with the second bit. Don’t give this turd any more reason to be suspicious, though – no muggings, kidnappings, interrogations, blah blah blah. It’s not on a tight schedule, although the more the guy digs, the closer he’ll be to finding out something he isn’t meant to.”
“Yessir.” Christine got up to leave.

“Oh, and er…” she stopped momentarily, as Abraham stubbed out the last of his cigarette, “If there’s a source and it’s within the Sections, try not to let the word out. I don’t know about Section 3 and 1, but Section 4 guys can disappear like nothing, and so can Section 2. Dreiswich should have rigged up your necessary documents for now. Your flight for BWI takes off tomorrow. Business-class, aren't you lucky.”
Christine nodded, and walked out of the office with Amita in tow.

This post has been edited by Project J on Apr 21 2009, 09:06 AM
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Posted: Apr 22 2009, 09:03 AM
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John sat behind his battleship grey government issue desk at the FBI academy’s Firearms Training section. He could hear muffled gunshots from the range on the other side of the wall behind him, FBI cadets being put through their paces. John looked at the letter on the center of his desk for the hundredth time. Written on Department of Homeland Security letterhead and apparently legit, the letter looked official.

“Mr. Barnett, we have reviewed your resume and at this time we are pleased to be able to offer you a position with our agency. Security concerns prevent us from disclosing the position in this letter but you have an appointment at our headquarters at 2100 on Friday May 5th. Please do not be late.”

That was all, no signature, no directions. It just ended. John had been long enough in the Air Force to recognize an order veiled as a request when he saw it. “Why me?” John muttered to himself as he checked his watch. He had about an hour before the meeting. Standing up he folded the letter and put it in his shirt pocket. The cadets were just finishing their last course of fire for the night as John stepped onto the firing range and waived to Jimmy, his assistant. “Hey Jimmy, I got that meeting, can you handle it here?” He said over the voices of the cadets.

“Yea I got it. Take off John. See you Monday.”

John walked out to his beautifully restored 1970 black Dodge Challenger, climbed behind the wheel, and turned the key. The big block 440 rumbled like a hungry lion as he put the gearshift into drive and made the 35 minute drive from Quantico to DC.


Alexis, call me Alex Grey knew she was meeting a new handler tonight and the thought made her nervous. Alex hated being nervous, but she was a little excited as well. A new handler meant a return to field work. It had been a little over a year since she retired from field work. When her old handler David passed away she took it hard, and as a result she was reassigned to light duty.

“Light duty,” she snorted, “just a euphemism for push prod and twist me till I break.”

The last year had not been kind. Alex was involved in all kind of tests, some of them merely tiring, others quite painful. She knew why the testing was done. She saw the doctors talking. They thought she was reaching the end of her lifespan and they wanted to see how far they could push her. Yea, she was ready to get back into the field. She slipped into her wine colored jacket, smoothed her skirt and as an afterthought clipped her Glock 26 to her belt.

“Now where is my watch?” she muttered to herself. “I just had it, where did I put it.” She turned, reached into the drawer and saw it was already on her wrist.

The intercom buzzed and she dismissed the thought and answered.

“Yes?” she said.

“Miss. Grey, your guest is here.”

“Thank you. I’m on my way.”


As John pulled into the parking lot at the Homeland Security building the first thing he saw was a pretty young lady in a wine colored suit standing at the front door, presumably waiting for him. He parked, got out and ran a hand through his short brown hair. He had read the encrypted file sent to him so he was up to speed, almost. The brown haired lady met him halfway across the parking lot. John offered his hand and she took it.

“Alexis Grey I presume?” John said by way of greeting.

“I am,” she said seizing him up. “And you must be Master Sergeant John Barnett.” She was a little skeptical, she had only had one handler and he was a little heavy with the conditioning. Alex was beginning to have second thoughts. Then he smiled. A goofy, lopsided grin that put her more at ease.

“Please, call me John. I’m retired. The Air Force has little use for a gimp.” he said jokingly. “Have you eaten?”

The change in topic took Alex off guard.

“Uh, I had dinner a couple hours ago but I could eat.” She said.

“Good. Why don’t you show me where we can get a sandwich and we’ll get to know each other.”

John followed Alex down the hall toward the cafeteria Alex spoke.

“I’m a little curious, how much conditioning do you plan to use?”

“If I have the final say, none.” John said matter of factly.

His answer brought her up short. “I don’t understand. Why not?”

“Well,” he started, “I really want to work with you, not own you so to speak. I read your file and I want you to know, I’m not here to replace David. Just to work with you now. I’m willing to give it a try if you are.” He held out his hand again.

Alex looked at John, trying to process what she just heard. In all honesty it sounded too good to be true. She became skeptical again.

“Look Alex, I’m not comfortable with the concept of children as assassins. There is just something fundamentally wrong with that. The only reason I agreed to wok here is because you were 18 and therefore an adult. Besides, conditioning is just like brainwashing, right? Why would I do that if I want you operating at your peak?”

It made sense to Alex, at least on the surface, besides what choice did she have. It was either work with John, or go back to ‘light duty.’

“Ok, I’ll try. That’s all I can offer.” Alex said as she took his offered hand.

“Well that’s all I can ask isn’t it.” John chuckled. “Now, where’s that cafeteria.”

Over the next few hours they sat and got to know each other and John found that he liked Alex. She reminded him of many of the Airmen that served under him. John didn’t return home until almost 3:00 AM.

“What have I gotten myself into?” he asked himself as he lay down not to sleep.


As Alex readied herself for bed she thought about John. She wanted to believe him. She hated the conditioning, it was fine when she was younger but as she got older it began to hurt. If she could avoid it she would like to. John seemed to want to work with her, not control her, but it just seems to good to be true.

“What choice do I have?” she asked the empty room as she drifted into a fitful and dreamless sleep.

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Posted: Apr 26 2009, 10:31 PM
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Here (in spirit).

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Miami, FL.

Cristina drummed her fingers on the window in tune with the 12-bar blues playing over the radio. Did she always like this kind of music? She couldn't remember, and honestly it wasn't that important to her. But still...why couldn't she remember? Some kind of accident? A condition? The way she was born? Every time she asked Al or the suited men who taught her lessons before, they always dodged the question. The past didn't matter, they said. What mattered was that there were bad people in the world, and it was her job to bring justice to their front door. Her and the other girls in this "program."

"Hey, papi?" She tugged on Alberto's sleeve as the light changed green.

Que es, mi hija? Al replied in Spanish while keeping his eyes on the road and putting his foot on the gas pedal.

"Are those bad people?" She pointed in front to a couple of hispanic men who ran across the street, dodging traffic and laughing as they reached the other side.

"Well, they did jaywalk, which is technically illegal."

"So why don't we stop and deal with them? Isn't it our job to deal with bad people?"

"Well, yes..."

"Then let's go." Cristina reached into the back for her saxophone case.

"Woah woah woah," Al turned slightly and grabbed Cristina's wrist, "Not here, not now."

"Why not? They are bad people, and it's our job to..."

"Yeah, it's our job, but we can't stop for a couple jaywalkers."

"So you're letting the bad people go free?"

"Look, Cristina..." Al suddenly slammed on the breaks as he noticed that he became pretty close to bumping the car in front of him. "Everyone jaywalks at some point or another. It's not really something you can shoot people over. Otherwise, there'd be no people left."

"So jaywalking is okay, then?"

"Well, not exactly. I mean, if the cars are going pretty fast, someone could get hurt."

"So which is it? Is jaywalking okay, or is it illegal?"

"I--well--it's sort of--" Al sighed as the traffic started moving again. She might have been 15 years old, but her mind seemed to have the common sense of someone half that age. Maybe they just wrote down "15" on whatever form because they couldn't figure out her real age. In any case, he didn't really want to get in an argument with a young girl. It was one he probably wouldn't win. Instead, he pointed to a nearby fast food resturant. "Oh hey, let's stop here and get something to eat."

Cristina agreed. She did feel a little hungry, though she was curious why he didn't answer her last question. Ah well, it could wait a little bit.

Al found a spot to park, then went inside with his "daughter." She sat down at a table as he placed an order for both of them. A brief thought then flashed across his mind when the young, white, pimply-faced cashier asked if that would be all.

"Oh, can we also get one steak quesadilla to go? My friend Louis will really appreciate it."


About 40 minutes later...

Al knocked on the door of the condo in Miami. It looked like a pretty nice place from the outside, not too far from the beach. The kind of place where Jewish seniors would retire and beach bums might go when on vacation. Maybe Louis was renting the place out until now. It would be a slightly more respectable way of making money.

After a slight pause, Al knocked again on the door. Finally, the door opened up a crack with a shiny new brass chain holding it in place. Al found himself staring at the barrel of a Smith & Wesson revolver. Probably a newer model, though it had a few visible signs of neglect.

"Taco Bell!" A heavily accented voice growled through the open door in English, "You bring Taco Bell to my doorstep? What kind of idiot do you think I am?"

"Louis Medina, put down the gun."

"No! Go away! I will not warn you again! I have the right to shoot you in self-defense if you take one more step forward!"

Al briefly thought about correcting him, in that he couldn't go forward any more without walking into the door. Instead, he spoke in Spanish <Senor Medina, put down the gun. I have come to help you.>

<Help? No, you're just trying to trick me!>

<Senor, I am unarmed. I have nothing more than some food for you, I did not know you do not like Taco Bell. And you wouldn't shoot a man in front of his daughter, would you?>

<Daughter? Why would you bring a little girl out here?>

Al sighed, <She sought refuge with me from Castro's thugs, and I helped her get her out of the country. She is like a daughter to me. Please, for her sake, put down the gun.>

Louis took a deep breath in and out, and then lowered his gun, but still kept clutched in his right hand. He slowly unlatched the chain from the door, then opened the door a little wider. He finally caught sight of Cristina, standing somewhere behind Al and carrying a saxophone case over her shoulder. She looked awfully young to be carrying such a big instrument without any visible emotion on her face. But those murderers wouldn't send a young girl, would they?

<My name is Alberto. She is Cristina. I come to offer you help.>

<Are you FBI?>

<No.> Al stated emphatically.

<Your face looks sort of familiar.> Louis looked at Al for a moment, trying to see if he could remember that look, <Ah, I'm sure it will come to me. Please, come inside and bring the food. I'm sure they are watching us as we speak.>


<I'll tell you later. Please, come in now, before I change my mind!>

Al complied, and motioned for Cristina to follow him.
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Posted: Apr 30 2009, 09:50 AM
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----2 weeks later----
Craig McCarrson yawned then looked at his watch. His daughter, Fern, was calmly leaning against a nearby wall drinking a Gatorade from one of the vending machines. They were inside the lobby of the Memorial Auditorium, in a small town called Wellington, waiting on a ‘lieutenant’ from the Sooner Free militia. The place was open late due to an arts and crafts expo that was in town, yet even that was starting to wind down. Somewhere, a church’s PA system rang out the hour, 10pm.

That’s when a fairly built man walked in, dressed in blue jeans and a light jacket. Craig smiled, waving the person over. “Fredrick, over here!” he called, as the man looked around.

Fredrick looked over at him and strode over, grinning. “McCarrson, damn it’s been four years!” The two embraced then headed up to the balcony seating area, Fern silently following. “When the boss said I had a new recruit to pick up down here I never would of dreamt it’d be you.” said Fredrick, as they found a secluded section of empty seats. Fern walked past them and sat down behind them, her long dark hair swinging back and forth from it’s clip.

“Craig, is that little Fern?” asked Fredrick, staring hard at her, evoking a chuckle of amusement from Craig. “Damn, she grew!!”

“Filled out didn’t she? But now’s not the time to reminisce about the old days Paul.” Craig’s face became still, his eyes now furrowed deeply into his brow.

“True enough.” said Paul, sitting down. Leaning close, he begun to whisper. “General’s been edgy about new people lately, but when he caught wind that you was back in the area he figured he’d try to get ahold of ya. That’s why he sent me, seeing how I know ya from way back.”

“True that,” said Craig, nodding. “That reminds me, they ever find the buggers that ratted us out to the feds back in Iowa?”

‘Nah, but after those military punks dropped that entire factory complex everyone figured they was dead.” Paul chewed on his thumbs, irritated about the event. “Best gun run ever and some bastard snitched. How‘s your arm doin? Still giving ya trouble?”

“Not as much nowadays, did hafta get a steel rod put in.“ Craig answered, flexing his left arm. “So about the militia? What could they want with me?”

Paul leaned back, shrugging. ”Not a clue, I was just told to come get ya. But word is we got somethin’ big happenin’ soon. What it is we don’t know yet, only the general.”

“Well, lets go then.” said Craig standing. ”No sense in making them wait now is there?

“None at all” replied Paul, standing as well and followed him downstairs. Fern trailing them like a ghost, her footsteps barely making a sound on the cement steps. “You still packin that Glock?” Paul asked as they exited the Memorial.

Craig grinned. ”Packin’ two of ‘em and a FN P90. Fern’s got a liking for a Beretta 92 and a FN F2000.” Reaching his Dodge Truck, Craig hauled a couple of black duffel bags out of the back, handing one to Fern.

Paul whistled. “For the silent type she sure likes loud guns.“ he said, catching a third bag from Craig.

“You outta see her around explosives. Like a kid in a candy store.“

They locked up the truck then headed down a few cars to a dark red Buick Century Wagon. Paul opened up the back hatch, helped Craig load up the duffel bags, then closed it’s lid. Getting in the car, Paul fired up the engine, pulled out of the parking slot, then drove off. Two right turns found them on Jefferson and they took this all the way to Highway 81. Turning right onto it, they went up to the 81/160 intersection, then continued to follow 81 north.

Leaning back in the passenger seat, Jason Kern smiled, ignoring the constant itching from his left arm where a temporary cybernetic linkup sleeve and arm was attached. So far, so good, and with a former contact from a previous op still on his side, infiltration would be a breeze. In the back seat, Sakura yawned and stretched out, feigning sleep. Hopefully nothing would go wrong but then again, if something did then it would be time for him to retire.
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Posted: May 17 2009, 06:36 AM
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"How long have these questions been being asked for?"
"Uhh... weeks. A month. Maybe two." Uploads appeared in the top-right-hand corner of Christine's laptop. Small voice recordings, opened and closed in quick succession as Amita sat next to her in the plane, staring at the screen, most likely placing all the sound files coming through their headphones in records.

"So these implants... do they simply replace the damaged organs, or do they perform individual specific functions?"
"The implants are simply replacements for non-functional organs and structures, yes."

"... Are the implants derived from military research, private research, or a mixture from the two?"
"The cybernetics that are used for these children are usually developed via private companies that delve into medical research. The research includes pharmaceuticals and therapeutics. The military does not have any specific relation to these developments apart from being funded by the same government."

"... Would the robotics and implants be capable of, say, enhancing certain abilities, like, for example, hand-eye coordination, or even just basic stamina and strength?"
"It can be suggested that in time, given enough resources, such enhancements could be used in this manner, but we have to keep in mind-"
"Could these implants be used for, say, military purposes if they are developed to that point?"

"That's just a taste, really. Some of it got really clue-y."
"How's the snitch work going?"
"Uhhh... we've got one of our guys at the head office as a young gun employee. We added in an overseas record as a journalist, nothing major. He's been in the head branch for about a week."
"When are we making the move?"
"As soon as our inside guy finds out all the details about our journo, we'll start to make our move."

"Keep us posted, Dreiswich." Placing the laptop on the foldable table in front of her, she closed her eyes, breathed in, breathed out. "Your thoughts, Amita?"
"Well, like Dreiswech said, we'll have to sit tight before we can do anything definitive."
"I didn't ask for Dreiswich's thoughts, Amita. I asked for yours."
"Well, for starters, the alcohol in this place isn't as expensive as they made it sound." Amita risked a crooked smile. "Secondly, if there's a Section 4 crew being the mole, then most likely they'll be dropping hints without leaving a trace."

"Well noticed. Section 3?"
"Some Section 3 people might not even know the real uses of our cybernetics, but main forms of communication would be through emails, discreet letters. Much easier to cover all exits."
"Section 2?"
"As tricky as Section 4... we'd need an insider to keep an eye on what goes out and into the place."
"Trickier, actually. Every member would probably have to be tracked. And even then, there's the possibility they'll know and already have countermeasures for that. How about Section 1?"
"Pencil pushers. Probably can afford to hire third-parties like gun-for-hires or even Section 4s. Gets complex, but we'd find the perpetrator in time. After all, we're IA, right? Access to everyone's file."

"Yes. Well, access to everyone as forseeable."
The plane started descending and Christine placed all the equipment back in her briefcase, at the same time adjusting her ears to the pressure. "We'll be picked up shortly and we'll set up better communications at the hotel."
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Posted: May 27 2009, 12:59 AM
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"Cristina, close the door." Alberto said, holding the plastic Taco Bell bag close to his chest as they stepped into the condominium. Cristina closed the door as her handler instructed, her flat heels clicking on the sandstone floor as she moved. "Keep a watch over this room. If you hear anything from outside, let us know before you take action." Cristina nodded.

Turning to Louis, Alberto switched to Spanish, <Now, perhaps you can help us out?>

<What do you mean by "us"?>

<I'm talking about the US government.>

<But you said you are not FBI?>


<Then what are you?>

<I cannot say.>

<Oh, I get it. I don't ask, you don't tell?>

Al was startled for a bit by Louis' choice of words. It meant something a little different in this country. <Look, if you want to call my employers, I can give you the number of an FBI field office. But we are wasting time. I want to help you find the men who killed your friend Ernesto.>

<You do?> Louis shook his head as he moved into the living room and plopped himself down in an old easy chair. <You cannot expect me to believe that Uncle Sam is doing this out of the goodness of his gigantic heart.>

<You're right.> Alberto didn't take a seat, but instead dropped the bag of Taco Bell on Louis's lap. <I have to see that tape, to find out if it is genuine.>

<The tape?>

<Yes, the tape. Now where is it?>

Madre de Dios, Louis thought as his eyes shifted from one side to another. He then ripped open the quesadilla in the bag and started scarfing it down, occasionally stopping to wipe his face with a paper napkin from the same bag. <Mi tia would have a heart attack if she saw me eating this junk, but every once in a while...>

<The tape, Louis?>

<I can't give that tape to you.>

<Why not?>

<Because I'm giving it to a news reporter very soon. A very pretty woman who got herself mixed up in all this.>

<Louis, this is an urgent-->

<Oh, don't give me that bullshit.> Louis growled as he threw the remains of the Taco Bell bag off of his lap, <You want to help? You want to be the hero? Then I ask you to do this for me: Find the reporter, escort her here, away from the watchful eyes of those murderers. Then I will show you the tape.>

<You're asking us to possibly endanger a reporter's life as well as our own.>

<Nos? What do you mean "our?" That girl with the musical instrument over her shoulder? Is she a Fed too? You can't be serious.>

Alberto ignored that statement. <You're going to give us that tape, Louis, even if we have to turn this entire condo upside down.>

<Search all you want, Fed. Only I know where it is hidden right now. You want the tape that badly? You want another notch on your belt? Then bring that reporter here.>
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Posted: May 31 2009, 04:36 AM
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A few weeks after his second lease on life Ishi was started when he was in his garage under his building tinkering on a HKS supercharger for a 350z, when the hell rang. Getting up and whiping his hands down on the oil rag he got up and walked to the elevator that would take him to his penthouse. When he got up there he washed his hands and checked his hair in the mirror and quickly stripped off his overalls for a light cream suit with a blue silk shirt and tie he opened the door.

“Sorry I was in the garage…” he was already saying when he found a girl and some guy in front of his front door.

“We know, and I am here in regard to your arrangement with the government. And I don’t think this is something to be discussed in a hallway even one as nice as this…”

“Ooh sure enter, can I get you anything?” Ishi said already dropping back into his Japanese hospitality and concearn for his guest’s wellfare.

“Well a glass of water would be nice…” The “Suit” said “I am here to deliver your new associate” he said making a wave for the girl “Concidering your personality and area’s of expertise we have set her up to what we expected for your specifications to be. You will of course need to do some training with her for how you expect to best utilise her skills if you intend to employ her in combat but she is fully trained in all other area’s. Well I’ll leave you two to get acquainted, No worries I can show my self out no problem.”

6 Monthes later

After an intense sparring session between Ishi and Rei. “Good, you are ready, I am better then most people with knives and your almost as good as me, the rest you can learn on the job.” After this they all got showered and just as they were all done getting dressed and stuff the doorbell rang. Rei opened the door and saw a UPS guy standing there, “Hello there Miss, I have a delivery for your father is he around?”

“ISHI, UPS is here for you! My brother will be here in a little while.” Rei said as she stepped aside to let Ishi pass.

“Do I need to sign somewhere or something?” her said as the guy handed him the plastic pen thing for the touch pad “well thanks man have a nice day” he said as he watched the UPS guy walk off after getting the package from his “uncle Isamu”. Walking to his kitchen he got a bottle of ice cold water from his fridge and opened it up inside there was a laptop and a phone. Booting up the laptop he couldn’t get it to work so he checked out the phone, it was new, seemingly never used and when he checked the contact list he found one single number which was labeled “call me”. Having nothing to loose he called up his “uncle” and heard a voice telling him the laptop was encoded with his fingerprints and where he could find the sensor.

Turns out he had his first set of orders, he would have to kill the connections to his “old life” which meant the local boss of the yamaguchi-yumi and his 2 closest associates, and he had until dawn.

Quickly grabbing his kit and spending only enough time to get Rei sorted in the car seat and to let his Skyline spool up enough that the engine was properly heated before he gunned the engine. He would probably have to sell the car after tonight but he had 3 infiltrations to do in less then 8 hours, so obeying the speed limit was the least of his worries.

Arriving at the first building a condo on the outskirts of town. He knocked on the door with Rei standing off to the side out of sight, he was quite sure the news of his dissention would have reached here by now but he’d need to be quick and methodical to make sure noone called anyone or did something like that. Normally he’d have cut the phone lines and used a cell jammer to make sure but he didn’t have time for the usual prep work.

When the door was answered he was greeted by the man in question, he had expected this because he lived alone. “Hey Hideto! Been a while man, mind if I come in? I don’t know what you have heard but I really need to get of the street if you catch my drift?” he said as he already was stepping into his house without beeing invited something that would have been SERIOUSLY not done if he had still been Yakuza.

“Eehm!? Yeah sure come in, I have to admit I really wasn’t expecting to see you here, I mean its been what? 6 monthes?” At this point the front door was closed and Hideto was walking to the living room, Or he had started to anyways because a quick and violent stab with a tanto between his ribs up into his heart, the following slice to the side (twisting the blade was impossible because off the the ribs) cut his heart almost in 2 distinct parts which resulted in his almost immediate death. The wound also resulted in little blood spatter and after a quick glance in the mirror and some minor cleaning he was good to go.

The second would be a little but not a lot harder, and would be a good way for rei to earn her stripes, the man was ‘lolicon’. Explaining to Rei what would be required on the drive over to his club in the downtown area he was pleased to know she immediately sorted her hair into two ponytails on the side of her head got a lolly from somewhere, how the hell did she get one of those anyways? He hated sweets so she didn’t get it from the car or something, well by the time they got the hour’s long drive out of the way he was down to about 6.5 hours.

“Okay remember the plan you go in tell whoever greets you your there to see Katsumoto, get him to take you to his office and then you kill him, His office is on the other side of the building, I’ll be below it in the car get out by the window, make sure noone disturbs you or the finds anything until we are long gone. Do not get remembered, You know all you need to know for this, if something goes wrong you know what to do.”

Having said this he dropped her off, still wondering where the hell she got the props for that sexy schoolgirl thing she had going on all of a sudden, and after watching her get skipped for the que and entering the club he drove off and would sit out back waiting…

A good 15 minutes later he saw a window opening on the second floor and saw someone beeing thrown down from it, followed by a smaller shape jumping down.

The little shape did some finicking and dropped the bigger shape into a thrashcan before the entire thing burst into flames with the characteristic roar of military grade incendiaries.

“So that should take care of that…” Said Rei as she got into the car and he drove off noticing that she was still functionally intact if a little worse for wear but nothing that wouldn’t be fixed by the time they got to the next target.

The 4 hour drive land in wards left them with about an hour to complete the last portion of the exercise. When they walked to the door of the villa in one of the richer suburbs of the area they made little impact since at these ours of the night most of the people would be sound asleep. The lights in the house of their target were certainly off. “It cant be this easy” Ishi muttered under his breath as they closed on the house. Taking a role of duct tape from his pocket he crossed over the window next to the door latch tapped the glass which made little sound as all the shards were kept together by the duck tape and yanking it out and ditching it off to the side only made a little more noise. He just hoped the info he got from “uncle iSAMu” would be accurate cause if he wasn’t here this could all end very quickly and very nastily. Well that was all irrelevant thoughts anyways.

Sneaking in the front with Rei close behind him he found the stairs and she went and secured the lower area’s of the house, she was actually proving to be quite usefull normally searching this house would have taken a lot longer and there would have been more chances of someone escaping or otherwise making a nuisance out of himself. Checking the floor he found it to be a thick carpet over a solid floor which should eliminate any creaks from him walking around checking a few doors. He found the entire upper floor empty, he had even found the master bedroom without anyone in it… this was problematic at this poin the could hear the roar of Rei’s silenced berreta’s and the other sounds of a lot less silenced big bore handguns.

Sprinting down he found her in the kitchen behind a counter exchanging fire with a few goons in the living room and most importantly their target. Quickly sneaking around to get to the side entrance to the living room he ran into a goon who was going for the same strategy asd he was to flank Rei, some knife work made quick work of him and then he was off to the side door of the living room just as some bullets imploded the tv. Suddenly the quantity of ammo Rei was bringing made a lot more sense. He draw two knives and tossed them into the mayhem killing two of the goons the last one pulled his head around and in so doing put his head up a little to far it was a mistake he would not make again. From there on it was a quick matter of Rei keeping the target pinned down so Ishi could walk up and carve him a nice Neck smile. The exchange had taken maybe 45 seconds but by the time they we’re exitting the building and walking to the car the cops sirens we’re audibly close just as they we’re rounding the corner they could just about hear the microwave finishing, of course the sound was drowned out by the fact the building had just exploded.

Driving home in the Skyline they called Uncle Isamu, who had again left his answering machine on telling them they had done good work. Payment had been forwarded to Ishi’s bank account in the Cayman islands and they would hear from him again soon.
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Posted: May 31 2009, 09:03 PM
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James started the scanner running on the postcard, processing the image and pulling out the imbeded message. I was a stand alone system, old to the point of practically being an antique, but it did the job, the only programs on it being the ones for rendering the mission cards. It also had a security system, a shaped charge of military grade explosives and a thermite grenade both in the case to destroy the system and any records on the hard drive or any other recoverable piece of hardware. The fact that it made an effective IED was simply a bonus. Finally the system made an audible ding of a noise to alert its user that it was finished and James looked over, reading the mission profile.

"This is sick," James murmered reading the mission and then looking at the postcard. Why they always chose "The Last Supper" for the postcard said something about his controllers mental stability and sense of humor. Suddenly somthing in the mission parameters clicked and James started rereading the mission. "Oh Drek," he said dropping the postcard into the shredder, "Gretchen," he called back through the barn slash shop. "Come here please."

"Jawhol?" she said from the old hayloft above him before fast roping down, "What's up?"

"Mission time." James answered pointing to the terminal.

Stepping past him the girl started studying the screen, "Frag," she said grimacing, "they never give us the easy stuff do they?"

"Nope," James said. "Standard fair for us, but I swear they are eiether doing this to tick me off or else because they're ticked at me for something."

"Could be both," Gretchen commenting as she read. "Drek they aint asking much are they?"

"They never do," James sighed. "Go get our gear ready while i arrange transport ok."

"Jawhol" she replied clicking the heels of her boots together before turning and at a jog moving toward the house and the armory door.
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Qugo sat impatiently on his chair. He glanced at his watch, it was now two o’clock.
‘Jaysis, what’s he doing in there? Tugging one off or something?’ Milly giggled,
‘You know if he hears you say that he’ll have you’ Milly said whilst playing her DS.
‘Nah, I’ve called him worse’ Qugo muttered. He felt the urge to light his cigar but he knew in GCHQ and fire would bring the house down on him. Qugo looked at Milly’s DS and sighed. ‘I don’t get it, I buy you a horse yet you’re more interested in a forty-year old plumber who still wears dungarees.’ But before Milly could rise to Qugo’s challenge Rothwell’s secretary entered. ‘Colonel Rothwell will see you now.’

Rothwell was in his fifties, but years of wet-work had worn away his Yorkshire looks and now he seemed more into his late sixties. He turned away from his office window as Qugo and Milly entered the room.
‘Qugo you old bastard, how ya doin’?’
‘Not bad Colin, You’re your looking old. Jaysis, how long has it been?’
‘Too long.’
Qugo smiled. He and Rothwell had been in the SAS at the same time and although Rothwell had been his superior, they’d developed a brotherly friendship.
‘Cut too it Colin, I doubt you invited us here for a cup of tea and a natter.’ Rothwell grinned,
‘You can read me like a book; yes I brought you here for a reason.’
Qugo reclined in his chair and Milly tensed, she always tensed in a debriefing for some reason. ‘Now, you know that Mr. Bin Laden is hiding in a cave somewhere with a hundred other blokes, and you wonder how these cave-dwellers can afford weapons to fight off two superpowers.’
‘Opium,’ Milly chimed in, ‘They sell opium to Russians in exchange for old Russian army equipment’ Rothwell looked at her sharply, he was rarely interrupted in a debriefing, but then his face broke into a smile,
‘Very good. Yes, Russian mafias exchange drugs for guns. And one of these gun barons is going to be in England this weekend.’ Qugo furrowed his brow,
‘England? Why’d he want to come here?’
‘He has a safe house in the Forest of Dean, which isn’t too far from here. He’s coming here because due to the world’s economy going down the crapper, it’s more difficult to get hold of arms for the Taliban, and I doubt they’ll be too happy about that.’ Qugo’s brow remained furrowed,
‘So why are you telling us this? Why not send in a bunch of SAS?’
‘Because we can’t have soldiers running around the countryside. And the yanks have decided that it’s in both countries’ interests to see this guy six-feet under.’ Qugo nodded and Milly was even more tensed, even now she was planning out weapons and tactics for the mission ahead.

Valisk walked slowly down the corridor, it was unusually quiet. He felt something move behind him and he turned, AK raised. He didn’t feel the morphine injection into his jugular as he drifted off to an eternal sleep. Milly drew the needle silently out of the Russian’s skin. Qugo lumbered behind her, his shotgun raised. One by one the guards fell, their blood full of morphine and then splattered over the walls. Milly raced ahead, knife shining in the moonlight. Qugo could see her outline, the movements to splay arteries and slash windpipes, and he contemplated on his time in Bosnia, where the children there also fought. The finally reached a door made of solid oak.
‘This looks like the place.’ Milly said.
‘How can you tell that, eh?’ Qugo replied.
‘Please, grandeur, biggest door in the house. It’s got all the signs of a man in power behind this.’ Qugo rolled his eyes; she was getting too good now, too cocksure of herself. Qugo loaded six shells into his shotgun and drew his sword and nodded,
‘Let’s show these Ruskie bastards what British steel tastes like’

Qugo rubbed his forehead; he’d drunk too much last night. His gut grumbled in agreement. Colin had phoned a few minutes earlier telling him to turn on the TV. He’d endured the end of a kid’s cartoon programme to see the news report.
And in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, a Russian drugs and arms baron was found brutally murdered along with seventeen of his guards. Police say it was the work of the Taliban, with AK-47 casings found strew throughout the mansion. Several known extremists have been arrested in connection with these murders. And in other news…’ Qugo smiled to himself, Colin knew how to make a good headline.
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Posted: Jun 6 2009, 01:11 PM
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(John and Alex Mission 1 Part 2, Getting Aquanted.)

Several days later John an Alex were sitting in leather chairs in one of the conference room at DHS Headquarters, going over some past mission data from the other teams, just the unclassified stuff.

“I don’t see why we have to study all this stuff.” Alex sighed as she put down a stack of papers.

“Think of it as a refresher course. You haven’t been out in the field for almost a year. You might need to ‘knock the rust off’ so to speak, and I could use a little familiarization as well.” John said with an amused smile on his face.

They had been at it all morning, Alex looked flustered and bored with the task. Her white blouse was open at the collar and she had her sleeves rolled up, John had loosened his tie and removed his jacket as a concession to the marginal air conditioning. John sat back in his chair and looked at his watch.

“Why don’t we break for lunch? Meet me in the parking lot in range clothes at…one o’clock?” he asked.

Alex got a funny look on her face, “What do you have planed?”

“I thought we’d drive up to Quantico, The FBI’s HRT (Hostage Rescue Team) is on the range today. Want to go play with the big boys?”


An hour later they were in John’s Challenger on the way to Quantico. “So what’s the plan?” Alex asked as John as he turned off the interstate.

John smiled, “Have you seen the movie SWAT?”

She just looked at him. “Yes I’ve seen it. You mean the scene where Street shows up the current SWAT team?”

“Yea, I thought it would be a little fun and would also give me a good idea where your tactical skills are.”

John stopped at the gate of Quantico Marine Station and showed his newly minted Department of Homeland Security Badge and ID to the Marine Corporal on watch.

The Corporal recognized the ID and straightened up. “Good afternoon Mr. Barnett. Anything I can help you with?”

“No thank you Corporal. Just going to the FBI range.”

“Very good sir. And she…”

“Is with me. Thank you Corporal.” John said and drove through.


As they parked in the gravel lot they could hear gunfire. Alex recognized the heavy ‘bang’ of an M-4 mixed in with the lighter ‘snap’ of pistol fire. She pulled her Glock ball cap down over her eyes letting her hair fall through the hole on the back and put on her aviator sunglasses.

“If you’ll start unloading I will go check in with the range master.” John said.

“Works for me.” Alex said and pulled her rifle case out of the trunk. As John walked away she noticed again that he walked with a limp. Not a bad one and he was trying to minimize it, but it was there. She knew that he was medically retired from the Air Force but she didn’t know why. She made a mental note to ask him some time.


John checked in with the range master, a no nonsense Marine Gunnery Sergeant named Hickok.

“Wild Bill, how the hell are you?” John called out as he approached.
A smile broke out on the Sergeant’s face when he saw who it was. “Well I’ll be damned. Jonnie the Chair Farce Cop. How they hanging?”

The two men shook hands and made small talk for a few minutes. “I heard you went over to one of those three letter agencies. Any truth to that?”

“Well, I do need to eat.” John said and left it at that. Bill took the hint and didn’t push.

“So, what brings you out here? Tired of riding a desk?” Bill chuckled.

“I’m breaking in a new partner.” John said and they both looked over at Alex. She had finished unloading the car and had begun breaking open boxes of ammunition to start loading magazines.

Bill opened his mouth to say something but thought better of it. He hadn’t made it 25 years in the Core by asking to many questions. He knew when to stay quiet.

“Stay as long as you like, if you need something let me know.” Bill said and walked off to check on the HRT team that was setting up their gear.


After a couple of hours of running drills John had a good idea of just how good Alex was. They started with some simple sanitary target shooting, slowly moving out to 75 yards. After that they moved into some CQC (close quarters combat) drills and weapons knowledge. This exercise did two things, first it gave John a real assessment of Alex’s skill, and two it served to get the HRT’s Captain’s attention. John looked over to the soda machine near the range office and saw the Captain and the range master talking and having a cool drink.

“Alex, would you like a soda?” John asked.

Alex looked over at the soda machine and saw the two men talking. She knew what John had planed and smiled.

“I’ll be over here looking sweet and innocent.” she purred and walked back to their station, flipping her pony tail as she turned.

“What’s up gentlemen?” John asked as he feed money into the machine.

“I can’t complain. What’s with the chippe?” the Captain asked.

“Breaking in a new partner. I need to get an assessment of her skills. Want to help?”

“Why make it my problem?”

“Well,” John smiled, “Let’s make it interesting.” John took out a roll of cash and began pealing off bills.

“I’ve got two hundred that says she kicks the ass of anyone you pick.”

“Are you serious?” The Captain asked incredulously.

“Ok. Make it three hundred.” John said.

“You’re on! Easy money.” the Captain said.

“I’ll take some of that.” the range master said as he pulled money out of his pocket.


Ten minutes later Alex and the HRT Captain were at the ready line for the standard assault course. Both were armed with their M-4 Rifles and their choice of sidearm. Alex had her Glock 26. The Captain had a Kimber Custom Combat 1911 in 45acp.

The range master explained the rules of this course.

“First you will take one shot from the 50 yard line. Then you will advance to cover at the 25 yard line and take another shot. Then you will transition to your side arms, advance to the 15 yard line, take cover and double tap. You will then reload, break cover and fire 5 rounds while advancing to the 7 yard line. You will have two minutes to complete the course. You both understand the rules?” The range master asked.

Alex and the Captain both nodded and readied their rifles.

“READY ON THE LEFT!” the range master called out and the Captain nodded.

“READY ON THE RIGHT!” Alex nodded.


Alex swung her M-4 up and snapped off her first shot. Before she even lowered it again she was on the move. She could see the HRT Captain in the corner of her eye, matching her step for step on speed, but he was flustered. His first shot had not gone where he wanted. She arrived at the second station, took a knee and fired. A half second later she heard the Captain’s rifle sound off, and she thought maybe she heard a swear escape his mouth. In spite of her self she smiled. She was beginning to feel a little of the old thrill creep back in and she liked it.

She drew her Glock and began to move toward the third station in a two handed shooters grip. The Captain had fallen about a step behind but was keeping an admirable pace.

John was watching the action out on the range and was impressed with Alex’s performance. He knew she was good but he never expected this. She moved with the speed and precision of a practiced pro. He heard the crack of her 9mil and then the heaver pop of the 45 the Captain carried. Alex dumped her mag, slapped in a fresh one and walked to the last station, firing from a two hand grip. The Captain was using a one hand approach and finished about two seconds after Alex.

The range master spoke from behind them, “SAFE ON THE LEFT!”

The Captain nodded.


Alex nodded.


The range master waited until the weapons were safely holstered before he walked up to the targets. He checked the Alex’s target first, counting the bullet holes and looked at the shot placement. Then he did the same to the Captain’s target. He walked back to the center and pointed to Alex’s target.

“Here’s your winner.” He said.

John walked up to the Captain who was already pulling out his money. Alex smiled sweetly as the Captain paid his bet. The range master paid up as well and John and Alex left the range 600 dollars richer.

“Now that was fun,” Alex said as they walked back to the Challenger. “I began to feel like my old self again.”

John smiled and was about to speak when his cell phone rang.
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Posted: Jun 7 2009, 02:58 AM
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l33t One

Group: Active Members
Posts: 1572
Member No.: 17462
Joined: 6-August 03

(Roughly a year before current events)

"Just about..."

An interruption by the ring of his phone sent the spring the man was trying to put into place flying off into a nearby pile of auto parts. With a muttered curse, he pulled his head out from under the hood of his car, and grabs for the cordless handset, taking a moment for a breath before answering the call.

"Sam, this is Will." Well, that put a little better face on the matter, anyway.

But not much of one. "Will, congrats on sending one puny little spring flying into the Black Hole of Calcutta."

"Oh shit, sorry. Still working on that beater Talon? There has to be something less problematic for you to own, you know..."

"Yeah, but it wouldn't truly be mine. Anyway, what's up? Your current old lady boot you out and you need a couch, again?" The number of times an argument resulted in his friend being kicked out of houses was truly staggering.

"Ha ha, no. Listen, I know you're sooooo enjoying sitting around the house with nothing to do, but how about we get together down at Five," their nickname for the MARTA station at Five Points, "and see about getting a drink somewhere? I have something you might find interesting, and you know I can't talk long without an adult beverage for lubrication."

"Sure. Gimme about half an hour to clean up and head down there, alright?"

"No problem. Meet you at the usual spot."

"Will do. Later." After killing the connection, he gathered up the parts he was working on, putting them under a big tarp marked "SAM'S TOYS - TOUCH ON PAIN OF DEATH", and slammed the hood shut. Being inside a garage, the tarp wasn't needed to protect against whe weather, but it did let his wife know what not to mess around with while he was out of the house.


About 45 minutes later, two men stepped through the door to a somewhat disreputable bar, on the southern outskirts of Atlanta.

The first, dressed in a t-shirt and jeans, wasn't particularly remarkable. Hair so darkly brown it's almost black is cut short, in the way of any corporate drone. Slightly less regulation than that is a matching mustache, but beyond that there was nothing particularly noteworthy of the man, looking vaguely of northern European ancestry. Compared to most of the bar denizens, many of whom have been well north of 'could stand to lose a few pounds' for years now, he's relatively athletic, in the manner of a decathaloner.

Other than a 'movie star' face, the other man is even less noteworthy, looking like any number of government office drones from one of the numerous federal agencies with an office in the city; overworked, underpaid, overstressed, and with something of a paunch from sitting at a desk all day.

A few minutes later, after the waitress was shooed away from their booth, the brown haired man took a sip of his beer. "So, Will, what's up?"

"Not much, Sam. How are you enjoying your retired life?"

"Better than you're enjoying your love life." Which wasn't saying much. The most likely reason Will and his current girlfriend were still together was some flavor of masochism.

A raised hand and a nod acknowledged the hit, with a wry grin on the government bureaucrat's face. "Touche. But seriously, you remember what you told me about why you retired? Y'know, the bit about caring more about the criminals than their victims?"

I smelled a sales pitch, and told him so... indirectly. "Not interested."

"But I haven't even said anything." Apparently too indirectly.

"You asked me here to throw out a sales pitch to work for Uncle Sam. I left one government job, I don't want to pick up another where the first left off. Especially not with the twit currently running Damn Hardcore Stupid." To say Samuel Williams wasn't a fan of the current administration would be an understatement of epic proportions.

"You wouldn't be, not really. It's under FEMA, and the odds of her sticking her head in the office are really low. Like just about nonexistant. Ignorance is bliss."

"Until some congresstwerp with a hair up his or her ass asks why she doesn't know what's going on in her department."

"Trust me, Sam, they won't."

Why, oh why, did he have to choose now to get into some silly "cloak and dagger" bullshit, and why drag me into it? Still, though, if nothing else it could make for an amusing story. "Okay, you bought the beer, you can make your pitch."

Over the next half hour, Will described the basics of the job. Caution warred with an urge to Do Something™ in Sam's head. Do Something™ won.

"Well, it sounds like an interesting tale, to say the least. If the extended version isn't 'burn before reading' material, complete with having to kill me if I don't go along after hearing the sales pitch, I think I can swing by just about any time next week. Have them drop me a line with the time details."

This post has been edited by nohbody on Jun 7 2009, 03:55 AM
Posted: Jun 7 2009, 03:29 PM
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Purveyor of High Class Weaponry

Group: Active Members
Posts: 3511
Member No.: 60230
Joined: 19-June 07

[Current timeline]
((THis is a little intro to try and round out the characters, give a little back story, have some fun. This is probably part one of two. It needs some action which is coming. Edit to add part two now. Part three still to come. I'll call that "Aftermath"))

Dead-Letter Drop

Rei looks up from her magazine and says “What we doing today then? More sun and fun on the beach?”
“Nope,” I reply “today is a dead-letter day.” She’s clearly not keen on that so I have to add “It’s down at the waterfront. It’s a nice drive, check the drop, then lunch and some therapeutic window shopping. Or we can head straight back here and go up into the hills for some target practice if you like?”

She pulls a face like I’ve offered her rice pudding.

“Rei,” I say, and this time I’m not joking so much, “we need to put the ballistics computer through its paces – they’ve shipped a new firmware for it and that’s been trouble before. You know that – we don’t mess around with the tools.”

Rei loves that gun like it’s her favourite teddy but she takes it for granted that I’m going to fix it up for her. Like I do with the laundry, the shopping, the cooking… No I take that back – Rei likes to cook if something’s caught her eye and she wants to try it out. Well, sometimes those recipes of hers are pretty weird, but hey – I come from the country that invented jellied eels so who am I to talk? Anyway, the point is I think I need to put my foot down and say we go up country for a bit – iron out the kinks in the firmware – and I think I may have to insist. Prepare for a minor row, folks.

“Look,” she says, “why don’t you go and check the drop on your own? You don’t need me with you – I can go for a mooch round here – pick up some lunch for us. Then when you get back we’ll go and set up the gun. Promise.” She bats her eyes at me, all big and blue. Clearly she’s Up To Something. I have no clue what it might be but maybe she wants to go and meet boys? Whatever. It’s not happening.

“Nuh-uh. This is an operation, like any other. You come with me and no more arguments.” She doesn’t like that much, but she can’t argue with ‘operation’. It’s one of those conditioned keyword things I think – it must be because that wouldn’t cut any ice with any other teenager I’ve ever met.

“Car or bike?” she asks, like she cares.
“It’s a nice day – we’ll go on the bike.” I reply. Her eyes light up a little. Our four wheels are eminently forgettable but the bike isn’t. We have fun on the bike.

I should explain a little here. Dead letter drops are about the most passive way for a controller to contact an agent that there’s ever been. Only a deep-cover sleeper might have something like that, so I hear you ask ‘what’s the story?’ I mean, we’re in the Agency, attached to it via MI6 and acting as an intra-governmental liaison. If the Agency wants us they don’t dead-letter us, they phone up or use the encrypted email or whatever. Call us in for some face time usually. Same with 6 – all their communications are routed through the Agency and we have these regular debrief sessions where Rei and me, we sit around and one of the Agency big-wigs and my handler in good old Blighty have a conference call and we tell them what we’ve been up to and my handler feeds in any intel he has that the Agency might find a use for and everyone feels jolly cosy.

No, the dead-letter drop is a series of rotas and drop locations with a calendar and we go and check the drop on the right day in the right location and there just might be a note. It’ll be from 6 and it’ll be something that they don’t want the Agency to know about. It might be something to do with her – a sighting or some more background. It might be some instructions to get them some intel on the Agency of the kind that the Agency don’t want fed back, special relationship or no. That’s the most frequent request, by the way – do we have any technical info for them? Can we get some? I gather from this that the Agency and 6 don’t share everything. Did you really think they would?

I was amazed that they accepted Rei in the program, pressure or not. I’m glad they did – well, I was glad when I thought that Rei was the kidnap victim, instead of how she turned out to be the boss’s daughter. Then we had that scene when all that came out and I really thought they would pull the plug on her then, too. But by that time they could see her potential and 6 didn’t see why I was making a fuss in the first place, so on we went. So I guess I’m still glad – Rei’s not the girl she was back then, not the girl she thought she was either, or me. And I think the Agency are pretty sure that even with the minimum of conditioning they can be confident that Rei isn’t going to betray any of their secrets to anyone off her own bat. They have her locked down nice and tight from that point of view.

So the other kind of drop I might get is the one I have the most mixed feelings about. One day they’ll stop being patient and the letter will be something like “Mother’s not well. Pop in and see her urgently and bring that lovely girl of yours. Mother really wants to meet her.” And then Rei and me will light out for the hills, some Black Ops pickup most likely and we’ll both be back in Blighty before you can whistle “God Save The Queen”. And they’ll probably take Rei to pieces in a lab, which she may or may not survive, because they’ve run out of patience with the dribs and drabs the Agency have been feeding them.

Two or three problems here – you can see them, same as I can, and Rei too, ‘cos they don’t keep the dim ones in the Program. First – the Agency have us on a short leash. You know it, I know it. There’s probably a tracker in her arse. Probably more than one – we’ve not found them, but then they aren’t turned on at the moment. That’s what we think, Rei and I. And if the tracker goes too far off the map? They’ll shut her off like you would your TV. Blip. Off. I don’t suppose she’ll survive that. I don’t suppose I will if I’m in the same plane.

Second problem: If we get back then how much can they actually learn from Rei? Not too bloody much I don’t think. And then they’ve screwed the pooch, as they say over here. So that’s a piss-poor waste of time from both our perspectives – Rei’s more than mine I dare say, but even so. A waste of time.

Third problem: Would she even go? Could she even go? I think she’d be mad to, honestly, even if her conditioning let her try. So I’d have to take her back, by force. To a death sentence as likely as not. Now I know she’s spent most of her life being what 6 call a “naughty girl”. She’s tortured kids, covered up murder, theft and extortion, when she wasn’t actually taking part. Sure, she was a kid for a lot of that, on paper. 6 have this chart they like to use, to assist with those sticky moral situations when a kid knows something they badly want to know. It lets them assess “moral culpability” and basically, lets them decide if the kid in question is clever and “adult” enough to be responsible for their actions – whatever the law says. If the man from Del Monte, he say “yes” then you, kiddo, can be tortured and executed as required. It’s an operational thing they don’t like to talk about. Quelle surprise.

And, of course, Rei scores a big fat “yes” because she knew what she was doing once she was about 7.

So she had no choice? Makes no odds – you can always say “no” even if it’s a death warrant to do so. So she never knew another life? Well, that’s trickier. If you say that the eyes get shifty and there’s lots of umming and ahhing. But it boils down to – everyone knows it’s wrong to kill. You just know, you know? Doesn’t really cut it in my book – you make a kid into a knife and then blame the kid for cutting? That sucks I think. But believing the opposite is expedient. So Rei has a death sentence hanging over her anyway, in a lot of countries. We don’t do death sentences in the UK but she could certainly be sent “back” to one of the countries that do and some of them want her bad. So I’d have to take her, unconscious, to be dismantled in a lab and then to be extradited and executed. Even if I could do it physically – and that’s a big ‘if’ – I’m not sure I could do it personally. And if I don't - or can't - then we’d both be on the run. The political shit-storm wouldn’t be any less for being totally off the radar. I guess the same Black Ops team that would extract us would just be re-purposed for termination. Or 6 would pressure the Agency to pull the plug by remote control.

Sucks to be us, doesn’t it? Let’s hope it never happens, eh? But every few days we go and check, just to make sure the world didn’t end for us today.

“I’m ready!” she says, interrupting this little train of thought. Ready my eye! She’s wearing this little mini skirt in white tartan, shiny black knee boots with lots of buckles, a vest top and a cut off leather jacket, again in the shiny black. If I put that on the back of a bike there’s going to be carnage on the highway. I say so and she tugs the skirt down by about a half inch. The lip is out at this point too. You know, the bottom lip. It’s completely fake but there’s a part of me would like to be in a car when a bike comes past with someone like Rei on the back and I think I should make some old perv’s day. So I say “OK, that’ll do” and get this look that says ‘I can read your mind and you’re a dirty old man’ but I’m used to it by now. I grab my bike jacket and tuck the Beretta into the hold-out in the small of my back, Rei pops a couple of throwing knives into her jacket (loops in the inside the pockets, which are steel mesh lined – those knives are sharp). I guess there’s a knife in each boot as well and maybe some elsewhere. I don’t ask any more. Not after she produced a knife from her swimsuit one time.

LOL, as they say over here.

On with the shades, piss-pot helmets (with comms in, naturally) and we light out for the marina. It’s a perfect day and the bike is nice. New tyres recently, suspension rebuilt with skill and love, tuned a wee bit, she’s a classic. Honda Blackbird, carb model – a vintage bike in some books but still kicking out 150BHP and 11,500 rpm, with some pipes that are probably not legal but aren’t loud enough to get us an instant tug by the cops. She’s just the toy for these canyon roads as we head down. We’re having fun, as promised.


You know that noise you get from a well-tuned four-stroke? It sounds like ripping silk, magnified by about a thousand. Well that’s the sound echoing back at us from the canyon wall as we rip around a long sweeping bend. Also, there’s this howl from the induction, the airbox, which has a ram-air feed when you’re going fast enough. We aren’t, really – it’s not the place for mad, mad speed. There’s traffic coming up the grade – holiday folks in camper vans or, whatdyacallem over here? – SUVs. A few of them, but you only need to go head-to-head with one to ruin your whole day so we’re cruising really, but the canyon wall on the right is not resistible and I drop down two gears and crack the throttle open just to hear that sound. Yeah – I’m a real wild one. Bite me. Rei thumps me in the back but not too hard ‘cos she likes the sound too, but she knows I’m just fooling around and since I dragged her out on this errand she’d rather I didn’t. I wind it up and shift up again, picking up some speed as we go.

If you’re a bike nut you’ll dig this stuff. If not, tough, skip forward a bit. I’m leaning forward a fair bit as we go – the ‘bird is a big bike and I lean over the controls to keep my arms loose, not too much tension in my shoulders. Otherwise she’ll wobble like a bitch on the long bends, suspension or no. This means Rei is up high on the pillion, one arm clamped to the grab rail behind her. I can picture it – that slender arm like a girder, holding her up in the breeze. Well, I say breeze but we’re touching 75 now so it’s more like a gale but Rei’s like a big dog like that – she loves the wind in her face. So she spots the car a fraction of a second before me, you know. I’m looking at the line through the bend and Rei’s scanning the horizon and there it is. Tap tap on my back. Wake up, sleepy head.

I scope it then – a big old soft top. I’d have ignored it as the usual lardy cruiser with a couple of old dears in it, out for a drive. But there’s two guys in it, one in front and one in back. Well it’s no taxi so WTF? We close up pretty fast and the guy in back is checking us out too as we come to a series of bends, mostly blind, and throttle off. He’s thinking ‘Couple on a bike. Easy target – he’s not gonna let his little angel get hurt. He’ll stop right off.’ I know this is what he’s thinking because as we get close enough he stands up, pulling an AK-47 from the footwell, turns round with one arm over the headrest and empties half a clip into the road in front of us.

Well, that spells STOP in any language doesn’t it? But I figure I’ve got a couple of seconds to think about it because, you know, I’m all surprised, like. Didn’t expect this on my nice drive out. And I don’t think he’ll actually shoot us until he’s sure he’s lost us, because otherwise it’s a wipe out for him so why bother? On the flip side of that – if it looks like we’re getting out of range he’ll open right up.

What to do, what to do?

I could just stop of course. We can take them once we’re not moving – he’ll have no idea who we are and what we could do. But the driver’ll have another gun on us by then which always increases the risk. Less guns is less risk and right now we have the advantage of surprise, if we do this exactly right.

I know I’m thinking right when I feel Rei’s hand inside my jacket, easing the 92FS from the holster. But she’s the one in the firing line and she knows it so she cocks it before she pulls it from the holster. Just her little way of saying ‘share the risk, old man’ which, in fact, I hear her murmur in my earpiece.

“Don’t miss then.” I reply. “On 3? 2 . . 3”

At which point I slam the brakes on just about as hard as I can. The ‘bird has linked brakes - back pedal works the front brake a bit, front lever works the back brake a bit. It’s supposed to be safer in the wet – well it is safer in the wet but today, right now, it’s a pain because as hard as I’m hacking the brakes the back wheel locks up and I have to whip in the clutch as well or it’ll stall. Safety system my arse – I’m gonna get that damn system unplumbed next thing I do. And the bike is now dead-stick as they say, and squirming down the concrete leaving a skid mark (much like the one I’m half expecting to find in my shreddies later on because I’d forgotten all about how the brakes were gonna react and I’m not best pleased) until the wheel comes up as the front tyre really bites.

Now the clowns in front have already realised that I’m trying something. Way to go boys – you were in the front of the queue for observation when they were handing stuff out. Sadly, they missed the queue for smarts because Einstein at the wheel sees us dropping back fast and susses that we are now out of reliable shooting range for an AK. Well, you might be lucky, but he’s only got half a clip and he’s standing in a moving vehicle. So anyway he helps his mate by standing on the brakes in turn. Umm, teamwork folks? Nope, not really. Clown 2 in the back goes flying backwards into the seat and the gun points skywards. It’s only for a second or two but, you know, that’s really all we need.

Rei is already getting a good scope of the car from her vantage point on the high bit of the nose-diving bike so, as soon as the gun is away for a second she’s up on her feet, Beretta in hand and taking the shot. It’d be impossible for a normal person, but Rei is anything but so her little arm is locked behind her like a girder (I mentioned that already, right?) and the gun is out, like it’s on a bench, in a vise. One shot, and the guy just explodes red all over the windscreen as his neck and the back of his head shred although I miss seeing the little entrance hole in his forehead. Luckily the gore is not going our way as the car has slowed right down. Now the driver is spotting his pal and realises he’s in deep trouble and floors it. The transmission kicks down and the tyres squeal.

OK, we can play this too. I get off the brakes and kick the bike back down two gears and crank it hard. We’re a lot] faster than he is and we’re up on them in seconds which is not enough time for Clown 1 to pull out his gun, which we can see him trying to do, tugging at in his holster. I close right up for a fraction of a second as it’s the riskiest thing to do on a bike when a car is trying to take you down. But I only need a second as there’s a wobble and then Rei is in the car with the guy. He looks round and he’s terrified and also (I’m betting) turned on too, because that’s really not what you expect but isn’t having a hot chick in boots land in your car everyone’s fantasy? No? OK just me then. Anyway, she puts the Beretta to his temple for a second then backs it off and he’s heading for the verge, or whatever you call the edge of the highway over here. And Rei dips into his holster and pulls out his gun – a Chinese knock-off of the old 1911 Colt. Good gun, bad copy. She crushes the grip and flings it out of the car. They pull up and stop and she lifts him from the seat and throws him out of the car where he slides face down in the dirt, before she leaps out to stand over him with the gun.

I pull up behind them, kick out the stand and hop over the bike. Damn – I hate how you have to get off a bike into traffic or go over the high side! But there’s no cars on our side and the trickle of SUVs swoosh by without stopping or probably even looking. I come over to the guy and kneel down to him. No point in questioning him as yet – if he was more than he seems he won’t just say so. A search shows only normal wallet, drivers permit, a few cards. If it’s fake I can’t tell so I hand it to Rei to check out. She gives it a once-over and then flicks it to the ground. “It’s real.” She says. Now Clown 1 knows he’s in the kind of trouble you don’t get to talk about down the pub – the kind of trouble that doesn’t make an amusing after-dinner story, ever. Clearly we aren’t going to rob him. We exchange glances. I shrug.

“Has he seen too much?” I ask.

“I should say so. But let’s ask him anyway.” she replies.

I kneel down and put a knee between his shoulders, a hand on his upper arm. He’s a big guy, but he’s pinned enough for now. She passes me the Beretta.

“So, what just happened here?” No answer.

“I’m talking to you, pal. What were you and the dead guy trying to do here? Robbery?” Still no answer.

“Shall I try?” asks Rei, sweetly.

“In a moment,” I say. “Pal, we’re not the cops. You talk to us or you talk to no-one. Now, what’s your name?” There’s a pause.


“OK, Mike. Here’s the problem I have. You’re in deep shit – you know that right? Just nod. OK, so I need you to come up with a good reason why I’m going to let you go. You have to help me here, Mike, or you’re a dead man. One last time, Mike. What happened here?”

“It was gonna be a robbery, that’s all, I swear! We wouldn’t have hurt you, just took the bike and your stuff! We had a buyer all lined up.” Mike stops talking all of a sudden, like he’s just realised he’s said too much. Rei is all twitchy now, feral eyes she gets, like a wild cat. I’d kind of like Mike to see it but . . .

“So you were looking out for us? That’s nice. That makes me feel special Mike. This buyer of yours, tell me about him.”

“He’s just this guy! Stewie and me, we met him in a bar in Albany. He said he was looking for a bike like yours, said he’d seen one round here. Said we could get it for him and he’d pay top dollar for it!”

“What did he look like?” Rei chimes in.

Mike tries to turn to look at her and I press the Beretta to his temple.

“Uh uh. Just talk, no look, Mike. Answer the lady.”

“Uh, about 5’10” not much hair. Old guy. White. Had a scar on his neck, like he’d tried to top himself.”

“Doesn’t ring any bells with me,” I say. “File it for later.”

I turn back to Mike.

“And this guy told you where to look, said not to rough us up or anything? Just take the bike? Why don’t I believe you Mike? Did he describe us? Your pal Stewie had a good look at us before he opened up.”

Mike squirms at this and stops talking. Now we know he really knows too much. I’m guessing he wishes he’d kept his mouth shut. Probably wishes he’d never gone to this bar either. Bit late for that, though.

“You have just one chance now,” I tell him, “which is to level with us all the way. This guy – he’s got a name? A number?”

“No,” says Mike. He’s not got much fight in him now. “We had to bring the bike to him so he’d know. .” He shuts up again, but now it’s out there.

“Know what, Mike? Know you’d killed us?” Mike starts to protest. I tell him to shut up. Someone out there knows a lot too much about us which is not good. But they’ve blown their element of surprise on this pair of clowns. Either they underestimated us very badly or they wanted to send us a warning. Or, I suppose, Mike just could be telling the truth and someone wants a twelve-year-old motorbike badly enough to kill for it. Nah.

“He’s seen way too much.” I begin, sadly, standing up again.

“I agree.” Rei says, with a hint of distaste. Mike begins to try and get up. I kick him in the small of the back. He subsides, his moment of fight over for now.

“Shut up and lie there.” I say, calmly, “We haven’t decided what to do with you yet.”

“Yes we have!” Rei protests. “There’s no way we’d be sanctioned to let him go and he’s not going to be any use in the project.” Good point, well made.

“Can we get a team to take him in and debrief him?” I wonder. Rei shakes her head.

“No time. A squad car could come by any time and then we have more trouble than we want.” Again, she’s right. I know the rules of engagement for us and this is a clear situation.

“Sorry pal.” I say, heavily - neither of us has much taste for cold killing, even for scum like this but he’s been set up against the Agency so he’s a dead man whatever happens. He leaps up now and starts to run. I give him about ten paces before I pull the trigger and the front of his head explodes outwards.

This post has been edited by mistersaxon on Jun 7 2009, 05:50 PM
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Posted: Jun 8 2009, 06:02 AM
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((OOC: Final part. I'm not especially familiar with the GSG series so if any of this is not proper procedure then do let me know, okay?))

Well then it’s routine. Rei grabs Mike and shoves him in the car and then runs up the road to fetch the mangled Colt clone. I guess that’ll teach her not to make grand gestures on a job. Meanwhile I swap out the Beretta mag and in goes the clean-up clip as I like to call it. Two tracer and three HE-tip, three sets in a 15-round clip. The HE tips are really just firecrackers but they work in a fuel tank, if the tracer doesn’t. We get on the bike and I gun her past the car as Rei does the honours – three rounds into the tank. Two phosphorus rounds will usually do the trick and they for sure let in a lot of fresh air and the HE is icing on the cake. We have three of those for diesel tanks – lorries and such - for fuel, diesel is a bitch to light. Rei says we need to add some armour piercing for LPG tanks and hydrogen and she’s got a point ‘cos this is California but do LPG tanks brew up? Will they take out a car like a regular fuel tank will? And what about true electric cars? I guess we need to do some testing and maybe add a napalm grenade to the clean up kit. There’s progress for you I suppose. One day some clever so-and-so will develop a really efficient fire suppressor for gas tanks and then we’ll have even more issues. Yeah, us and the whole of Hollywood too. In the mirror I see the back of the car in flames then there’s a ‘whoof’ and she’s properly on fire. It’s not much of a clean up because of Mike’s head being all over the ground but we don’t need much clean up on account of Rei not leaving any prints. Just need to add a little confusion to the mix so maybe a gang will get the blame. We’re busted anyway and I head back to our pad along a different route.
Rei taps me on the shoulder.

“Hey, you jerk!” she says, “What were you playing at with the 92?” Oh yeah. The first guy – Stewie? – and no hole in his forehead.

“What?” I reply, trying to sound innocent, “I thought you could handle it. You didn’t need a second shot even.”

“Yes, but,” she says and jabs me in the kidney to emphasise her point, “you say we don’t mess with the tools. I could’ve missed him completely plus I was the one he was going to shoot – you were down real low at that point as I recall.”

“OK, ok – I’m sorry Princess.” And I am. She knows that because I only use the P-word when I’m serious. “No more hollow-point without approval from the mission partner.” I wondered why she’d shot him in the mouth – now I recall that I loaded the 92 with HP because of wanting to use it for anti-personnel. But they’re a bad load for target shooting and Rei’s pissed with me because she missed her mark which she wouldn’t have done if I’d warned her what was loaded. So I screwed up and so did she because she assumed I had the normal rounds in. Now we’re mad at each other plus our day trip is cut short because we’re busted and we need to get in touch with the Agency, let them know what happened. And we need to ditch the bike, car and accommodation. I won’t miss the car or the pad but the bike? That’s going to be a wrench.

We park up the bike away from the house and clean it up with another couple of rounds to the tank then walk back, taking a covert route. There’s no sign that the house is occupied and none of the security has tripped and we don’t have any observation points overlooking us apart from the ones we check out before we go back in. But someone told someone where we were so we’re pretty edgy as we gather our stuff, unwire the security and head out in the car. All we’d need now is to get a tug from the local police and all hell would break loose on account of there being enough hardware in the boot to get serious questions asked. Luckily it doesn’t happen so we call in to the Agency en-route to downtown. They call us in for a debrief but we have to stop and get cleaned up in a drop-off garage. A guy we’ve never seen before takes the car and gives us new keys and we swap the kit over in silence and then drive to the office, with Rei watching the traffic around us and me wishing she’d worn something less noticeable today.

Section 2 are their usual charming selves and we get two agents for the debrief. Rei uploads pics from her micro-cam (good girl! I don’t usually wear one to protect Rei’s operational status so I’m on the cam but she isn’t.) The techs take the footage away for analysis but you can tell they are in the same place we were two or three hours ago. You can also tell they think we should have clubbed Mike unconscious and slung him over the tank to bring him in. Twats. If I was going to do that I’d have tied him to the grab rail by his feet! Anyway, the description of the mystery contact comes up dry but they say they’ll post it to the other teams along with a general alert. They offer to add an APB to the local plod as well but we say ‘no thanks’ - he’ll only be laughing at us if that happens. They say they’ve swept our kit for trackers and tracers and we’re clean so now it’s time to plot a move to a new location.

Oh and they want to cut and dye Rei’s hair. And mine. For a while I think ‘it’s going to kick off – they’ve asked one thing too far’ but then she’s all ‘Oh OK, I wanted a change anyway’ and sunny smiles. They whisk her off to a tech crew who give her a nice colour and cut and she’s away for an hour while I pick over the list of safe houses and so on. In the end I say ‘no thanks’ to any of them and say we’ll find our own spot. I tap them up for some cash at this point and also some new IDs.

Then Rei comes back and . . holy cow!! Did I say ‘cut’? Well it ain’t a cut. Now, through the magic of science she’s gone blonde. Not platinum or silver or white but a wheat blonde that matches her skin tone nicely – it’s unexpectedly tasteful, considering how she likes to shock usually. Oh and it’s half-way down her back. She’s got a new outfit, too with a dress and sandals with these straps that go halfway up her calves, like ancient Romans used to wear. I hardly recognise her – which is the point I suppose – and when I say so that gets a laugh out of her. I’m kidding – I’d know her anywhere but it pleases the Section 2 teams.

When it’s my turn I don’t get hair extensions or a wig. I do get to go white blonde and a crew cut. I say it makes me look old and I get this look from them. What? OK so maybe it’s a bit Rütger Hauer too. I’m going with the Bladerunner comparison then. I don’t dress to match. Some bright spark has found me some tennis whites which I reject swiftly in favour of a pair of jeans and a faded grey t-shirt. My jacket is also gone so for now I get a canvas jacket to cover the hold-out. Also they take the Beretta for a new barrel to be fitted and give me a Sig to have instead. Rei’s pleased but I’m not as keen. I know it’s a nice gun but I learned a lot of shooting with the 92FS so I’ll have some range time to put in. Might as well start now I figure so we go to the range which is where Rei tells me they gave her a Sig of her own.

How come she never asked me for her own pistol?

Anyway we do some static targets at 25 and 50 yards which is OK and then we do the police training range only because this is the Agency the “safe” targets are identical to the “live” ones and we get a 10-second verbal rundown of the ones we’re not to shoot. That’s OK too – in fact, it’s pretty good fun because we have a little contest and while Rei’s going to win I want to see how shabby my second place is. Answer: not too shabby. We complete the basic course in 22 seconds which is good enough and Rei gets 100 and I get 99. As we go through the difficulty goes up and Rei gets quicker and stays on 100 and I get slower and start to slip back. I’m annoyed by how useful the little Sig is and they’ve even got me a lefty grip so I guess Rei and I won’t be swapping around anymore. Ah! It’s a big day when someone you’ve cared for and trained gets their own gun – look at me getting all misty-eyed.

Eventually we get out the CheyTac and start setting up for some proper shooting. Looks like there’s no bugs or glitches in the ballistics hand-held – yay! a fix patch that doesn’t break something! – and the distance range at Section 2 is 900 yards which is not really long enough so Rei is putting shots through the same hole. Good enough for government work, as they say. We’ll go long tomorrow.

So off we go in a new car and Rei gets the local property up on her laptop and she’s scanning for somewhere nice and low key and central-ish. At least I hope she is – she keeps showing me photos of swimming pools. Meanwhile we head over to the Marina and park up, go for a coffee (Rei) and I try without success to explain that tea needs boiling water or it doesn’t work. In the end, herbal tea – yuck! I wander over to the railings and check the dead-letter drop, heart in my mouth. My fingers touch on a piece of paper.

I slip it out and palm it for later attention then whistle up Rei and we wander along the marina, wondering if we can get Section 1 to spring for a boat. Rei thinks she can persuade them but I’ve met these bone-dry mummies that pass for accountants and they’d need to suck blood to become undead. I ease out the note from 6 and look at it.

There’s a name – Sykes – and a description: 5’10”, Caucasian male, 60-ish, balding, grey eyes, large scar on neck. Previously unknown associate of a Name we’ve been investigating in connection with her and now he’s been observed digging for information about me and Rei, through a proxy in London. We should be on the alert for him.

No shit, Sherlock. So now she’s searching for us? Maybe. Or maybe we’ve spooked her. Let’s hope not, eh?

I light the paper which flares and vanishes. At least it’s not a request to meet mother so we get to live another day. Rei and I make some calls, fix an appointment to look at a flat. “Hey,” I say, looking at our new ID, “same names! Have they put us down as Mr. and Mrs.?” “No,” says Rei, “I’m your daughter.” Heads turn when she laughs – a happy innocent sound.

If only they knew.
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Posted: Jun 8 2009, 10:53 AM
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(( Holy cow! Am I spamming this place now? I'm just really really enjoying writing this stuff so sorry. Hope it's not too much in the way!

This is Mission 1 - part 1. This will take a bit longer to tell because the plot hasn't fully settled yet. Give it time, okay? Also, I'll be swapping between Rei and Sax during this one so I'd like some feedback about how that reads. I want to be sure they are coming across as two separate and plausible characters, however unreal the situation.))

Digging for Dirt

“Here, check it out.” Sax flips me the tablet he’s picked up with the latest mission specs on it. I give it a once-over and . . woah! Are they for real? The Dominican consulate? Those guys have, like, teletypes or something, don’t they? The NSA should have the place wide open and if they don’t GCHQ prob’ly do. WTF?

“This is so not our job! Why are we even looking at this?” I’m not in the mood to go out – or do anything really. Sometimes my implants ache and the pain meds we get for those days don’t really cut it. I told Sax but he won’t get me any real drugs so it’s Cocodamol or nothing and it makes me feel sick, and tired. I chuck the data tablet back at him but he just fields it like its nothing.

“Thought you’d like it,” he says, and he’s got this grin like it’s the funniest thing in the world, “on account of there being some of your old friends and associates working there. You can say ‘hi’ – leave them an email, maybe.” Yeah, ‘cos that’s really how we roll isn’t it? He’s yanking my chain which is something I only mind when I’m feeling like this. I’m snippy back – well, he asked for it, right?

“These are some of the guys who want me dead, remember?” I snap back. God! He is not funny! “Daddy’s little girl cost them big when she turned to the dark side. They can finger me in a line-up and they have diplomatic immunity. Tell the chief we’re compromised to do the job – they’ll just send someone else.” I shut my eyes and try to doze off again. That should be end of – but no.

“Rei, listen up.” He’s leaning forward, all serious now. I prop myself up on my elbows and try to focus. There’s an angle or he wouldn’t be bothered either – we both know it’s not a real job on this mission sheet. Lesson time – pay attention girl.

“Two things: first – you’re dead right. There’s nothing in this place that needs a covert squad and a data raid, not on paper. So it’s likely a test of some kind okay? It might not even be a test by the Agency: 6 play their little mind games with the Agency guys and we catch the flak. Trust me, 6 do this sort of thing all the time. If they’ve dropped a hint that there’s some intel in the consulate then asked for us to tackle it – well, the Agency won’t say no to that, right?”

Fair enough – assessment run. We’ve had a few of them and they’re generally simple stuff. No-one in 6 really knows what we can do. They know what Sax can do, but I’m a black box to them. They’ve been misunderestimating me for almost two years now. And yes, I know it’s not a real word but hey – he was your president.

And now, damnit, I’m awake and running. I can see the little wheels turning in their heads, generating this mission sheet. In spite of myself I can see an angle and I’m engaged as they say in training.

“Or,” I butt in, “there really is something there and they know it. But the NSA can’t get at it and they need deniable assets to access it.”

“You’re getting ahead of yourself.” he says, seriously. “If they needed deniable assets for a proper target they’d tell us. They don’t want us to fail, do they? No, the angle would be that they’ve heard that something is coming in, don’t know when, or what. They want us in place so they can retask us without waiting for an insertion.” He raises an eyebrow which makes him look really old – which I’ve told him, but he can’t help it poor thing – his memory’s not what it was.

“Third option is that we’re bait, of course. Always consider the third option when you’re a deniable asset. In this case, it’s not likely but. . .” He tails off and I know he’s thinking about his old brigade: the team that my dad had killed when he got a better offer. Oh, Sax doesn’t blame me – not any more – but I hate that empty look he gets. I hate knowing it’s my fault. Or my responsibility. Or both. Whichever – I hate thinking that I owe him for that. It’s there like a cloud sometimes, stopping us from really seeing each other: fifteen dead friends and comrades that I helped my dad kill. I was only fourteen then and a year after that I screwed up and got attached to the goods and Sax came back and killed my dad. I guess we helped to rip each other’s lives to bits didn’t we? And now? We’re all we’ve got. Shame what we’ve got has poison round the roots.

Sax shakes his head. Shaking out the past he says, but memory is like a snowglobe I think: the more you shake it the more you stir it up. If we don’t ever disturb it we can just tread through it and it’ll be there but not in our way, so we can just pretend it never happened and then after a while it’ll be packed down and covered with new memories, better ones. Sax thinks you need to shovel the memories out of the way to make room for new memories, to look at them and kind of melt them so they run away but I can’t do that in case the memories underneath are worse so I guess I’m a coward, aren’t I? Feel free to hate me for not knowing how to make things right if you like. Oh, and call me when you’ve figured it out ok? I could use a laugh.

“Tell you what,” he says, letting the memories swirl but acting like they aren’t there for now, “let’s pretend that the DR consulate have acquired a nuclear grade firewall and the NSA need our help. Let’s go and do the job we’ve been given, right? Just . . . really carefully.”

“Fine by me.” I say, and flop back onto the sofa. My head’s pounding now and there’s a hot prickly feeling behind my eyes. “Whatever.”
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Posted: Jun 9 2009, 04:36 PM
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((Me again! Enjoy, or not. Feedback received with glad cries.))

[Mission 1 - part 2]
[Time: the next day, mid- morning]
[Location: the new pad. There's a pool in the complex it turns out.]

So that was that for the day - when Rei gets in one of her moods I find it’s best to let her get on with it. I lit out to the local shops, picked up some good mood food: some ribs, piri-piri – we’d run out – lots of fresh salad and some nice deli stuff to round it out. Oh and a pint of Phish Food. Once I’d smoked out the apartment cooking the ribs the codeine was working and she perked right up. Those kids get a great deal from the Agency – most of them would have no life at all without the program – but it’s not all sunshine and roses. Growing pains mean trips in to the body shop to have more carbon matrix, bone growth acceleration, blood work, nerve tuning and a whole bunch of stuff that they don’t really explain – well, not to me anyway. Once the kids stop growing it calms right down but Rei kind of fooled ‘em – they figured she was pretty much done growing but the truth is a regular diet of coke can really stunt your growth and Rei had had plenty of that stuff. Beats putting them in front of the TV I guess.

That’s coke as in ‘aine’ not as in ‘acola’ in case you were wondering.

So once they cleaned her up and got her eating right she began to sprout like a weed and she’s not quite done yet. I predict a trip to the body shop fairly soon but first we have a mission to spec out. So today we plunder the files in Section 2 for data, plus good old Google of course – never underestimate the power of nosy folks who like to blab on the internet. Our mission packet has a lot of background and building plans and so on, so we don’t have too much grunt work to do but the maps of the good stuff – electrics, alarms, comms – stop at the door of the consulate, so to speak. It does say that the consulate firewall is military, not commercial. As close as the Agency (or whoever) can tell (us) it's bespoke hardware and code, probably Israeli. Not cheap.

“So what have we got?” I ask her – Rei’s been conditioned to synthesise this stuff with memory exercises, forced learning programs and a good dose of US know-how, but the fact is she’d be a cracker of some kind anyway. All her background is living and breathing this stuff since she was tiny. The Agency training? Icing on the big old cake.

Rei summarises on her fingers for me.

“One. No satellite comms in or on the building. Unusual but not the end of the world – we can take it there’s a big encrypted pipe back to the mothership and that it’s military-grade too. No big loss to us. We can’t get in there any more than we could hack a satellite. Unless you have a key of course.”

Another precisely painted nail extends for my benefit.

“Two. There’s a lot of public access to most of the building: all the corridors, other consulates, public kiosks, front-of-house phones and so on. None of it will have anything we can use and it won’t be plumbed in to the networks we want to access, but we can get pretty close, physically, without having to break in which is a help.”

“Three. There’s a secure room somewhere in here,” she gestures to a blank area on the floor plan, “with the firewall, servers, and any comms. The important stuff will be behind the firewall but on a separate network, probably running VPNs internally to stop sniffing. The servers should be headless and hardened to make sure no-one picks up any EM.”

She pauses and cocks her head to one side. I must have a look on my face because I get a “What? What’d I miss?”

“Nothing as far as this thought experiment goes,” I reply, “but we do only have a blank spot that you’re filling with high-tech security – we need real intel. Also, if it really is locked up tighter than a gnat’s chuff what do you plan to do? Ram-raid?”

She shakes her head but she knows I’m just throwing out easy questions as a test.

“If we wanted to scare them we could go in and take something but that’s random and very high profile. No, I say they have two weak spots.”

I raise an eyebrow in a question. It makes me look intelligent I think and also a tiny bit like Sean Connery. She carries on.

“First, the consulate staff do actually have to be able to work so their desktop kit must be vulnerable. It has encryption keys, head units, keyboards: all potentially hackable points of access. We have the technology” Hoo boy - do we ever! Getting it into place is the trick as we know.

Now she gives a fierce little grin which reaches her eyes: she really finds this last point funny.

“And there’s IBKAS. We can access IBKAS quite nicely if we need to – as you say, this place has history we can use.”

Well now she’s right. The Interface Between Keyboard And Screen is a good place to apply leverage if we can find the right person and said person has the information we need or the means to get it. But the biggest opportunity here is also the biggest risk – it’ll need to be someone Rei knows for maximum effect. She may think that’s a big joke but it’s not, not really. To most of her father’s old associates she’s dead. One or two think she could be in Gitmo. If word gets round that she’s strolling high and free her life won’t be worth jack.

I’d like to point out at length that this is a dumb option and a covert attack on the head units will be the smallest risk / return ratio, but she knows what I’m going to say and she knows I’m wrong because she also knows that a man on the inside can have this cleaned up super-quick and with little or no risk to the Agency. Plus, if there really is a big fish of some kind coming in that little factoid won’t be in the computers where we can get at it – it’ll be in someone’s head.

I feel a little like someone’s been in my head: this mission is just exactly tailored for us and it leads to one inescapable path.

Now how do we avoid it?
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Posted: Jun 9 2009, 09:51 PM
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Windows of the Soul

Timestamp: 10 months ago

Jean Street in Piedmont, California was pretty quiet, particularly because it was in the wee hours of the morning when most rational citizens of the town had been asleep in their beds for at least a couple of hours. A black Honda Fit quietly rolled down the street, pulling into the driveway of an average-looking grey ranch house. The driver stepped out, going around to the passenger side to open the door for the passenger. The passenger attempted to stand up as she got out of the car, but stumbled. She caught herself instantly however, barely drawing the attention of the driver. The door shut silently behind them, leaving no evidence that the pair had come home so late.

Once through the door, the teenager who had been the passenger sat in an overstuffed leather armchair, leaning back against the cushions and closing her eyes. She was very petite, no taller than five feet, and had Asian features, most predominate being her straight jet black hair that ended at the small of her back. She was wearing a knee-length black lacy skirt and a black top with a cherry blossom motif. The driver was in the kitchen, filling two large glasses with cold Perrier water.

“You alright Rhia?” the driver asked this as she came back into the den, carrying a tray with the glasses of water as well as two ripe peaches. Rhia nodded, opening her eyes to look over at her handler. Her handler, Anne, was in her 30s with shoulder length blond hair, and cool grey eyes. To some extent, Anne was pretty masculine, both in appearance and demeanor; however the cyborg knew that her handler was gentle and kind beyond that cold exterior.

“Anne, I did well, right?” the Vietnamese teen asked this, looking at her partner and friend with her piercing blue eyes. As she waited for Anne’s response, Rhia took a glass of water. She gulped it down, the cool carbonated water hydrating her parched lips, mouth, and throat.

Anne smiled, caressing the younger woman’s shoulder before she spoke. “We got the bad guys, didn’t we? Rhia, you did fine.” The handler said this, sitting down. The psychologist bit into her peach, savoring the sweet flavor the fruit had to offer. In a sense it was ironic that two women who killed and blackmailed people for a living could still sit around enjoying the pleasures of simple life.

“Thanks. Are all our missions gonna be that hard?” Rhia asked this, polishing off her drink and eyeing Anne’s glass. After a moment of silence, she picked up her peach and began nibbling on it.

“I don’t know for sure, but probably… Why? Do you not like fighting?” Anne asked this, genuinely curious. This had been the fratello’s first official mission together, and the psychologist wanted to learn at least a little more about the psyche of her partner. Despite having been a part of Section 3 and working on developing and monitoring the conditioning program for the cyborgs, this was the first time Anne had the chance to actually talk to a cyborg about her perspective on doing a mission.

Rhia paused at the question, clearly trying to determine the ‘right’ answer. “Well… If it pleases you that we do these sorts of missions, I certainly don’t mind. But, I feel as if your talent and my training are going to waste by just gunning down common criminals…” She said this frankly, her blue eyes making unwavering contact with Anne’s grey pair.

Anne smiled, “So you think we can do better than just simple drug busting and gang busting? I’ll talk to Agent Turner about it tomorrow after we report in, OK?” She said this, then yawning. She glanced at her watch. “We should probably get to bed if our meeting with Turner is at nine…”

Rhia nodded, standing up. Although her modified body could take far more stress and exertion than a natural human body, mentally she was exhausted. Seven hours of sleep would be excellent for her. “Good idea, I’ll see you in the morning then.” She said this as she headed off to her bedroom, placing her glass in the kitchen sink on her way.

“Good night…” Anne said this in reply, leaning back in her chair. Although she truly needed to sleep, she was too tired to get out of the comfortable armchair. Anyways, sleeping in a chair just this once wouldn’t be that terrible for her health…

Mission 1: School Days

Timestamp: Present Day

The Oakland office of the Disaster Relief Program’s Rehabilitation Branch looked like the average government bureaucracy office: squat beige cinder block building, cheap particle board furniture, grey carpet that hadn’t been vacuumed in years, if not decades. Most believed that the office’s meager furnishings were just a side effect of Uncle Sam’s stinginess, while the others believed that this lack luster appearance was a calculated measure to avoid drawing attention to the organization based within. One way or another, the building was so average, it simply was overlooked by most.

Anne pulled her car, a slate blue Mazda 3, into the office’s parking lot. Her Honda had gotten totaled in a car chase through the streets of San Francisco’s Little Saigon two months ago while on a mission, so the Branch had replaced it with yet another preppy hatchback. The woman didn’t mind, who could complain about a four year old car being replaced free of charge with a brand new one? That was a lot better than the insurance payment she would have gotten if the car had gotten totaled outside of work.

After parking, Anne and Rhia got out of the car and started heading up the walkway to the building’s entrance. The handler was wearing slim fitting black trousers, a grey button down shirt, and a black blazer. To one who wasn’t familiar with her style, Anne could be easily mistaken as a man in that outfit. Rhia walked alongside her, dressed in a flowing grey skirt that came to her ankles and a black cami.

A security guard glanced at the pair as they entered, but waved them through once he got a glimpse of their ID cards. The fratello entered one of the conference rooms where Agent Michael Turner was waiting for them. Turner was wearing the stereotypical federal agent’s attire; dark suit, white shirt, dark glasses, and a Bluetooth earpiece. His slightly graying hair was cut in a crew cut. Turner gave the impression of being a man who was efficient and reliable, even to those who didn’t know him.

“Dr. Carroll, Rhia, good morning,” Turner said this in his gravelly voice as he gestured for the pair to take their seats. “Given your specialties, this mission shouldn’t be too difficult for you.”

“Your mark is Nguyet Cam. He’s a drug kingpin, using his chain of Vietnamese restaurants in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, and Sacramento as a means of distributing drugs and laundering his profits from the sales of the cannabis, and opiates that he imports from Asia.” Turner began explaining this, handing both members of the fratello folders with information.

Rhia raised her hand, “So are you saying that you want us to assassinate him?” She asked this, blatantly ignoring the fact that Anne was giving her the tiniest hint of a sharp glare.

Turner smirked, “If it was that easy, do you think that Rehab Branch would be involved? We need him to turn state’s evidence on his colleagues and contacts. If we just killed him, someone else would step up and take over where he left off. This organization needs to be completely demolished…” Turner said this, expressing some scorn at Rhia’s question.

As Turner spoke, Anne placed her hand on Rhia’s knee, ready to calm the cyborg if necessary. The psychologist noticed the expression on her face that usually spelled trouble. “<Rhia, get a grip. Your question was a little foolish, but it’s no reason to get mad. Got it?>” This was said in a low cool voice, causing Rhia to snap to attention.

“<Gotcha. I’ll be good.>” Rhia replied, turning to smile at Turner. “Please do continue, I’m sorry for interrupting.” Her voice was sincerely contrite, but whether that was by her choice or as a reaction to Anne’s command was a matter up for debate.

Turner nodded, having not understood the interchange that had occurred in Vietnamese between the two women. “The rest of the information is in your briefing folders. But let me give you a tip; this mission requires delicacy, not speed. So don’t go rushing it.”

(OOC: First post, just setting the stage for the first part and then setting up for the mission in the second part.)

EDIT: Needed to fix some censoring and typos! Argh!

This post has been edited by Amastre on Jun 9 2009, 09:55 PM
Posted: Jun 10 2009, 10:11 AM
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Qugo cocked his LSW, two magazines left and the rifle was starting to overheat. Rothwell signalled with his two fingers, two hostiles either side of the doorway. Qugo first a twelve-round burst into the thin plaster wall and was rewarded with the sound of bodies falling to the floor. Rothwell nodded to Qugo,

‘Good work’ Rothwell said from behind his gasmask. The five other SAS ran forward, MP5s at the ready. Qugo smiled as he loaded spare rounds into his magazine, this raid was going better than expected. Bosnia had been going well; this raid would make it five aces in a row.

‘How many do you think are left?’ Qugo said to Rothwell. Rothwell shrugged
‘Depends how well dug in they are’ Rothwell replied, reloading his MP5. ‘Jesus it’s hot in these masks’ Rothwell muttered. Rothwell unclipped the two ties of his mask and removed it. Qugo screamed. Rothwell’s face was molten, flesh sloughing and blood flowing down his liquid face. White bone began to show as Rothwell’s face melted into a bloody mush which splattered on the floor. ‘What’s the matter soldier?’ Rothwell’s skull said, hell’s fury blazing in his eyes. ‘Fecking Jaysis!!’ Qugo yelled, opening fire with his LSW upon Rothwell. Chunks of meat flew from him, spattering the walls with blood. Rothwell fell to his knees, the last of his flesh clinging like maggots to his skeletal face and looked up at Qugo. Qugo stamped down, Rothwell’s corpse collapsed like wet cardboard under his boot.

The SAS who’d gone ahead appeared in the doorway, blood dripping out from beneath their masks. One tried to speak, but all that happened was a spray of pink mist from the mask’s mouthpiece. From between them walked a flaming baby. Its skin blistered and boiled as it walked between the men, past Rothwell’s melted corpse and stopped in front of Qugo. Qugo’s legs felt like lead, vomit crawling up his throat. The baby lifted its head, revealing two empty sockets. And it screamed. Qugo felt his head rip apart, splattering his brains over the small room. Blood poured in a shower as the baby fell to the floor and continued to smoulder.

Qugo woke up. He was sweating a lot, his bed sheets were soaking with sweat. He’d vomited during his sleep and he’d thrown the pillows and covers to the other side of the room. Tears were streaming down his cheeks. ‘Jaysis’ Qugo muttered. Qugo didn’t sleep again that night.

Mission 1, Part 1: Turning On The Water Works

Qugo? Wake up you daft bastard’ Qugo shook, he was back in his house. Jaysis, how long had he been out this time? ‘Qugo? You there?’ Rothwell called down the phone. Qugo blinked, trying to clear the sleep from his eyes,

‘Yeah, sorry I was…spaced out. It’s these new meds they’ve given me, must screwing with my head’ Qugo said, streching as much as the arm chair would let him.
‘Jesus, you should tell someone. I was shouting your name for half a minute.’
‘Me? Jaysis, I’m an old warhorse. The hospitals are to busy patching up today’s youth to worry about me’

‘God in his heaven, your forty, not a sodding warhorse, stop playing the hero. Anyway, I’m not calling to piss on your chips. I’ve been sent a mission from Rehab.’
Qugo sighed, the last thing he needed with these episodes was a fecking mission.
‘Alright, brief me’
‘Right then, have you ever heard of the Cascadia movement?’
‘Can’t say I have’
‘Well they’re pretty much the Ireland of North America, wanting to break away to form their own little country in north-wast America. But unlike you Paddy’s, these guys are going the wrong way around it. Earth First-‘
‘Tree hugging nut jobs to put it short. Anyway, two of their members, Bill Buckley and Robert Jackson just placed a big order for ammonium nitrate, the same kind of explosive used in the Oklahoma bombings in ’96.’
‘So how can we prove they want to blow shit up?’ Qugo asked, now fillind with the phone chord.
‘Because they’ve been spotted on both Arrowrock Dam with bloody laser pointers, mapping out weak points. If they blow that bugger up, Boise is going to be a whole lot wetter.’

‘Boise? You mean in Idaho?’
‘Yeah, right on your doorstep.’ Qugo stifled a laugh, bad descion by these guys.
‘So what would these guys get out of making Boise the new Atlantis?
‘Well, showing they’re serious about this Cascadia movement. And who knows what that would bring, maybe they hope to get money or power, I’ve got no idea.’
‘What kind of resistance are we expecting?’
‘We reckon the usual hunting rifles and SMGs, but we won’t know until they actually open fire.’
‘Right then, I’ll pack up and head for Staverton’ Rothwell hung up and Qugo exhaled heavily.

Milly appeared from the doorway, obviously eavesdropping on the conversation..
‘So we’re going to Boise then?’ she asked, tilting her head like a fox-terrier.
‘Yeah’ Qugo said, rubbing his eyes. Behind his eyelids he could see the burning baby screaming, blood welling in it's sockets.
‘Qugo? You okay?’ Milly asked again, tilting her head so far he thought her neck you snap.
‘I…yeah. Just the new meds making me drowsy, you go get packed. Remember, twenty kilo limit on luggage, not thirty’ Milly rolled her eyes as she walked upstairs. Qugo walked over to the bar and poured a large drink, too afraid to blink and see the baby again.

This post has been edited by qugopudding on Jun 10 2009, 10:14 AM
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((OOC: Lots of words here - Sax and Rei need to find some meat on their mission and it looks like there is some after all. Let me know how plausible you find this, technically / politically. Also, crits on characterisation and so on. I had trouble with Rei today but maybe because Sax was doing a lot of talking?))

[Time: Mission 1 Day 2]
[Location: Base (the new apartment), a data centre or two, base again]

So, yeah, it’s funny to me. It’s funny that my whole life might have been leading me to this point and now I’m here it’s just some funky little job, finding out nothing much for no reason in particular, but that might be the thing that kills me.

I can see Sax isn’t very keen on this idea – human intelligence acquisition, coercion, blackmail, temporary assets – he hates all of it. There’s nothing solid there, nothing you can rely on. No ones and noughts in humint just a big old cloud of doubt. But this time, it’s not me he’s thinking about, or the assets we might need.

“There’s things about this that bug me,” he says. Oh rilly? That’s so, like, obvious. Spit it out then.

“Such as . . ?” I prompt him eventually after he goes quiet for a long time.

“I’ll tell you on the way,” he says and then we’re off.

Hey! Did I say I chose our new base? It’s so cool! It has a pool and a car park underground and security gates and a guy in the lobby who calls me “Miss” and winks at me when I go to check the mail. Sax says there’s too many overlooks – places we can be watched from – and no sneaky little in-and-outs. All true but . . it has a pool! I love swimming so I’m there every morning doing lengths for an hour. Sax makes it down sometimes but he likes to lie in ‘til it’s nice and warm and then go cycling in the hills. But the base is in a nice part of town and we’re all cosy and suburban. Someone from the block came to invite us to a new residents’ party so that’ll be fun. I just know we’ll be moving soon so I’m milking it. smile.gif

Anyway, we’re not off to the pool – awww. We’re off to a data centre in Alameda which Sax and I have been into a few times. We’ve got ID from one of the main telecoms providers and Sax put in a change request through their system so we can be onsite and in the rack where the comms (some of it) from the consulate comes out. Our job is to add a patch into the router to let us collect the logs from the box into some of the Section 2 servers that live on another floor. Then we have to wait a while and do some crunching. This is different from our normal MO so I’m kinda curious to see what he’s up to.

Then we’re off to another DC to do the same thing for the other part of their resilient comms. I’m still curious but Sax is just humming to himself and saying not a whole lot. Okay – I can wait. I have more time than you old man.

In the end he’s so pleased with himself he just can’t keep it in any longer and once we get back to base he spills the beans. I have to admit – it’s clever.

“What we have is, basically, this firewall protecting all their traffic. It’s big and gnarly and we can’t touch it. 2 kbit keys, rotated very frequently – uncrackable without a BlueGene and a time machine to make the 2,000 years go by in a flash. Actually I don’t need to crack it. Don’t even want to right now. I want to know where it’s going.

I can’t resist this! “It’s going to the mothership in Santa Domingo! Umm, isn’t it?” Sure is, he replies, but look at this. I look.

He’s plotted the traffic on a nice big satellite map of the region. There’s the pipe home sure enough. But the map is covered in pips and dots. WTF? No mil-spec firewall would have that many mis-routed packets! Chaff, to make it harder to trace the VPN?

“Is that chaff?”

“Nope. Why would they bother with chaff? We know where the pipe is going – home. There’s nothing about that they need to hide. We’re supposed to think it’s chaff.”

“So what is it?”

“This noise is the other tunnels – the ones they don’t want us to see. The ones we’d hack if we could. So watch this.”

Sax adds traffic from other consulates into the chart. Most of it is super-clean. Nice tidy pipes. One or two have similar noise.

“Who are the others?” I ask. This is super-cute now. Like a giant puzzle and us pulling it apart and putting it back together the right way round. This is the bit of the job I’ve always loved.

“Well, some of them are hard to pin down and not all of the chaff is going back into these routers or any of the others the Section has data from. But this one is the biggie – the Venezuelan consulate.”

“So this is evidence? It doesn’t look like much. ”

“It’ll do for me plus it’s all we’re going to get. The software on the firewall is also a controller for a bot-net with compromised machines all over the world. Packets go to these machines, get re-encrypted and redirected and then go back to the Venezuelans. It’s an agile VPN. Take a good look – these are the future on the connected web. We can only see it at all because we have access to both endpoint routers – normally it’s invisible. Even if we had the keys, without the router data we’d only ever see a few packets out of millions. I’d love to have one to play with.”

Oh yes – that is just gorgeous. I want one too. I want to steal the Dominican one. I say so and Sax grins.

“Maybe later. Now there’s nothing in the mission packet about this and Section 2 didn’t have most of this data until we compromised the routers. I don’t think this is in the mission parameters. Do you want to ask them about this or shall we run with it for now?”

I think about it for a gazillionth of a second. “It’s ours! Mine, all mine! My precioussss!” I love that film, can you tell? Viggo Mortensen is hawt! – for an old guy. Now Sax is laughing and so I’m laughing too. We might be a little bit crazy.

Oh? You think? Who asked you?

Then Sax gets all serious again.

“I’ll tell you something, honeybunch, I kinda expected this. Here’s why. Our mission is to check that the DR are doing their bit to eliminate drug trafficking to the US. We pay them 2.5 million dollars a year to do that. You know how much we pay Colombia for the same thing? A billion dollars. So what does that tell you about how the US sees the drug threat in Dominica?”

“It doesn’t?”

“You got it. Give yourself a shiny. It doesn’t. But here’s the thing – they claim that Venezuela ships drugs to DR and then to the US but actually they believe most of it goes to Europe. So they spend 2.5 million dollars to stop the tiny part of it that really does go to the US. The traffic is worth over 7 billion dollars at street prices, maybe 10-15% of that to the shippers in DR who handle it. And DR takes the money and does jack to stop the drugs going anywhere. Now the GDP of the DR is, what, 40 billion. So the money from drug shipping is nearly 5% of their economic output. There is no way that that much money goes into the economy unmarked. In DR it’s huge business.”

Now I get this buzz – the one that says I’m on to something.

“So we’re looking at government sanctioned drug trafficking into Europe with a bribe on the side from our government to make sure it stays headed to Europe. Oh now that’s sweet! Eating gravy with a double-ended spoon! Awesome!”

“And no wonder they want the traffic kept quiet,” he adds, not looking quite so happy. “No-one’s ever been able to prove a government connection even if the evidence points to it, but if Oakland is a comms hub we might be able to do just exactly that. I’d love to know what the Agency is going to do with anything we dig up. And I’d love to know where some of those other pipes go.”

That’s my cue. I shove him aside and start pulling in data from other locations in the Section 2 files. And guess what? Those little fuzzy clouds of lost bits, encrypted to their little eyeballs. In the end I’ve got another half-dozen locations highlighted and our map covers Spain, Morocco, Florida, Colombia and a site in the middle east that I can’t get good co-ordinates for.

“That’ll be the Israelis,” says Sax. Of course it will – I slap my forehead for being so dense. "And if it's the military, not a commercial or criminal group then there's every chance that our government is involved in making this project work. That's one hell of a policy on drugs - helping to sell it to someone else instead." He points at the map.

“That’s more than lucky guessing – friends of yours?”

Oh yes. Old, old friends. In low, low places.

This post has been edited by mistersaxon on Jun 10 2009, 05:04 PM
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Alberto agonized over the decision for a bit. He didn't have time for this: play along and find the reporter, or should he simply tie Louis up and search the condo for it? Of course, if he chose the latter option and the tape was outside the condo, then Louis would probably be less than willing to divulge its location.

But if he brought the reporter into the situation, then what would happen? How would she react to himself and Cristina showing up on her doorstep out of the blue, let alone if he used the authority of the government to compel her to move? It could lead to more unpleasant things for the Rehabilitation Branch down the road, and Louis did not imagine Afghanistan would be particularly pleasant this time of year.

Of course, the fact still remained that Hidalgo's killer or killers were still out there somewhere. He had to make a decision fast.

"Are you alright, papi?" Alberto turned around as he saw Cristina's looking at him with concern. "You seem quiet. More quiet than..."

"Hey! This conversation is not for you!" Louis shouted from his easy chair. "Get back to the door and stay there, little girl!"

Alberto turned towards Louis and grabbed his shirt. <You do not talk to Cristina that way,> He snarled in Spanish. <Not if you value your life.>

<Calm down, Secret Agent Man.>

<I need that tape, Louis.>

<And I told you, find me the reporter.>

<Why does she matter so much to you?>

<Because I need to know if I can trust you!> Louis shouted, <All you've given me up to now is a bag of Taco Bell and spoken threats! For all I know, you might still be one of Castro's henchmen sent to finish the job!>

Both men glanced in the direction of Cristina, who had decided to take out a Baretta hidden in her saxophone case and point it in Louis's direction. <Don't talk to him that way! He is not a bad man like the ones who seek to hurt you!>

<You gave her a gun?> Louis asked.

<Yes I did.>

<Don't ignore me!> Cristina shouted, <Both of you! You are afraid that I would be hurt? I can take care of myself!>

Alberto somehow forgot to breathe during that moment, as he felt a lump in his throat. His own girl was pointing a gun at both himself and a civilian? If word of this got back to his superiors, his life was over. Hell, Cristina's life would be over.

She's a weapon. She's not your daughter.

<Cristina, put the gun down.> Alberto did not want to do this, but after Cristina's action it was the only way he would get back on his good side. <Okay, Louis, we will do what you what you want. Just tell me who this reporter is, and where I can find her.>

<Then...you will help me find out who killed my friend?>

<I will do what I can. But if you don't bring the tape then the deal is off.> Turning to Cristina, Alberto walked slowly towards her, "Mi hija, we have a new mission. Keep the weapon holstered for now."

<Her name is Olivia.> Louis got up from the easy chair and walked over to a nearby table littered with papers. He ripped off a sheet of paper from a notepad on top of the table and scribbled something down on it. <Olivia Vargas. She was the daughter of my neighbor ten years ago, now she works at the Miami Herald. Chances are that she has already heard of Ernesto's murder, so don't worry about that.> He finished scribbling on the paper and handed it to Alberto before he left. <If you call this number and go now, you can get to her office before it closes.>

Cristina snatched the number out of his hand with her unarmed hand and ran outside. Alberto soon followed her outside as she ran to the car. "Cristina! Cristina! Put the gun down and give me the paper!" He shouted in English, "Put the gun down!"

"No, Mr. Lozano! Let me do this! I can do this mission!"

Alberto gasped involuntarily. She didn't call him papi like she usually did.

She's a weapon. She's not your daughter.

"Cristina, you don't have to involve yourself in this. Let me take care of it."

"You never let me do anything!" She shouted.

"That's not true." Dammit, does she have to do this now? "I've taken you to Tampa, I got you that shiny new saxophone you carry around with you."

"But you never come to hear me practice!"

"I hear you practice in the house all the time, mi hija." Alberto kept forgetting that he couldn't reason with a child, let alone this kind of girl.

"But that's not the same thing!"

Alberto had to cut her off quickly. The longer they stayed here, the more they risked letting Olivia or the killers slip through their fingers. "Okay, you want to do this mission, then help me out here. You do remember what I've taught you about helping?"

Cristina let out a long "hmmmmmmmmm" as she thought. Most of what she remembered involved training from either the Rehabilitation Branch or Alberto. "Yeah, some of it..."

"Here's the problem I need your help on." Alberto unlocked the car as he walked over to the driver-side door. "Louis says he has the tape, and he won't give it to us unless we bring him Olivia."

"So I'll call her and tell her to come. What's wrong with that?"

"Aside from the fact that she's a reporter? If we do bring her, we may put her in danger. Plus, it's possible Louis will want something else from us."

"What if he felt grateful for our help?"

"Grateful?" Alberto scoffed. "You gotta be kidding."

"Come on, there's gotta be something he wants."

Alberto was about to handwave that suggestion, but then he thought about it for a moment. He really wanted Olivia to be present when he handed over the tape, maybe to the point that he would trust her over a random suit who showed up on his doorstep. Even one with a young, teenage girl in tow. It was a gamble, and she might be in danger from this act, but nothing would be accomplished by sitting here.

"Okay Cristina, you can use your cell phone. Give the reporter a call, tell her that an old friend says hello, and tell her that Louis wants to meet her at Bayfront Park and that he's got something really important to tell her about Ernesto?"

"Really? You want me to do this?"

"Of course. I trust you."

"Wow, thanks papi!" She gave him a hug. "I won't let you down!"

As Cristina dialed the number on the sheet of paper on her cell phone, Alberto silently prayed to God that he was taking the right course of action. Once they got her to come to the park, then he would call up Louis and have him come to the same meeting spot with the tape. If Louis's paranoia was justified and they had bugged his home, then he could draw the killers out and deal with them. If they weren't, then he would simply take the tape from him there. Otherwise, he would have to resort to Plan B, and the thought of personally using such tactics or asking Cristina to do the same quietly sickened him.

She's a weapon. She's not your daughter. He kept reminding himself, but his conscience would not accept that statement.

This post has been edited by TracerBullet on Jun 10 2009, 06:06 PM
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Posted: Jun 12 2009, 10:21 AM
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((OOC: Here's an interesting one for you - again not what I was planning to write - I thought this bit was shorter but Rei wanted to talk and we ARE moving forward, however slowly. I'm really not sure if I can actually do the next one as Rei, even though it's her turn. We'll see. Actually, I'll just ask her - it'll be faster. tongue.gif

She says she can do it. Good enough for me.))

[Time: Mission 1 Day 3]
[Location: Base (the new apartment), outside the Dominican Republic Consulate]

Overnight we’ve had a packet in from Section 2 with the profiles of the Consulate staff. There’s no commentary, not even to say ‘why did you wait so long before you asked for this, you muppets?’ or ‘how’s it going?’. It looks like we’re being given plenty of rope then.

Rei and I sit down and start to go over them and I have to say – they’re a shifty-looking bunch. We skim off the low level staff, high level staff, front of house and the FBI sleeper agent – if they could tell us anything we wouldn’t have been asked to do this job and if we wake up the sleeper for this and he doesn’t come up with anything we’ll be picking up more shit than a Parisian street-sweeper (go there and look, seriously. It’s foul!).

Pretty soon we have three faces: Raul Soto, Emanuel da Silva and César Arroyo. Rei says she knows all of them in a business capacity which is disturbing.

“Spill,” I say. “You know a lot of people here. I’m creeped out by that – it’s like they knew you were coming.”

“Know of,” she corrects me. “This guy,” she taps Emanuel, “he’d be my last choice. I met him two, three times at my father’s house and he was always a buyer.” Her face twists at the thought and she’s got a killer look in her eyes. Conditioning has given her some distance from this stuff and a lot of re-orientation but you can see it’s still fouling her up – I snap my fingers and she startles, shakes her head.

“So,” I say, trying to keep this as business, “the ambassador’s consular aide is what – a drug smuggler? Gun runner?” She shakes her head and her eyes are flat, cold and unreadable.

“Not a dealer. He . . came in to buy kids. . . . for himself. . . . girls. I was nine, I think.” She stops and tries to speak but she can’t. She tries again and this time she’s whispering “This one time . . . he tried to stroke my hair . . . but Papa saw and he said I could kill him if he ever did it again. He was so scared of Papa but I was just a joke to him. This one other time . . .he came into my room. I was asleep and I woke up and he was just standing there. Staring and staring at me. . . He p- p- put h- h- his hand over m- m- my mouth. He . . .” She stops speaking. She’s shivering now and her voice has gone so quiet I can hardly hear her. She tries again. “He . . . hurt me. H- h- he suh suh said he was going to buy me. T- t- take me away. He said Papa would sell me.” She lowers her head and her hair covers her eyes.

The conditioning helps her remember without emotion they said. Looks like that was bullshit. But anyway she’s so conflicted about this – I wonder if the body shop should have just wiped her memories Why did they leave this in her head? Just buried too deep? In Handler 101 they talk about “conditioning breakdown” and the first thing they say is ‘Do Not Approach The Cyborg’. Any physical contact can trigger a hostile auto-response, apparently. Otherwise you’d want to do what I want to do which is to give her a hug.

But I can’t – mustn’t. Daren’t. So I sit and watch while she stands and shivers, her head lowered and her shoulders shaking. She’s not making a sound but tears drip onto the files. She rests her hands on the table and shakes and shakes and the table shakes too while I watch and think how I hate this job sometimes.

There are four basic modes to your cyborg and, as a handler, you will recognise them. First is the normal girl you spend most of the time with. She’s generally a happy teenager, bit naïve usually. There’s something off about her, that doesn’t quite chime with how you think a kid should be. I call this mode ‘Fritzled’ after those kids in that Austrian dungeon – you know the ones. The dad - also the granddad - locked them all up, raped the mother, for about twenty years. There’s a story – true story - about the time the police came and got them all out. This one little boy, when the policeman carries him outside, points up at the sky and says ‘Is that the moon?’ He’s heard about it, but he’s never seen it in his whole life. These kids are like that – some of them are so conditioned they have no life from before the program. It’s all new to them – all of it. They walk round in a daze, wondering at everything. Rei’s not that bad, but her life was lived in a mix of a prison and a playground. There’s so much she doesn’t know.

‘Is that the moon, Mr. Handler?’ Yes, girly-girl, that’s the moon. Get used to it. Fritzled.

Then there’s the times when you’re nose-diving on a motorbike at 60mph while some punk is shooting at you with an AK from a moving car and your cyborg-girl stands up on the back of the bike and puts a single shot through the guy’s head, then leaps into the car and hijacks the driver while crushing his gun with one hand. At times like that, she doesn’t even seem human, you know? Scary. Strange. So outside anything you could consider normal that there aren’t words. Times like that the word ‘cyborg’ couldn’t apply more if she had chrome plating.

And there’s ‘step-times’. Those are the times when you’re talking to the Fritzl-girl and suddenly the conditioning kicks in and she’s just . . gone. There’s this machine talking to you like she’s been possessed. Step-times happen when the conditioning has a process and the Fritzl-girl doesn’t. Some of these girls are so conditioned, they’ve had such a shitty deal from life, attacked, family murdered in front of them, burned, beaten, raped, that it all goes, the conditioning takes it all away and then they spend half their life talking like robots. You ask for a cup of tea and – BAM – she’s gone, because Step-time girl knows how the kettle works and Fritzl-girl doesn’t. I call it Step-time because it’s like when you have a step in your kitchen. It always gives you this little jar when you cross it and one side is different from the other. Not very, but different.

And then there’s these times. I don’t have a cute name for them because I’ve not seen one before but these times are the ones when you suddenly realise that your ‘cyborg’ is really, basically, fundamentally just a scared little girl, who’s had things done to her that she can barely understand, let alone process. And she’s stuck there, trying to deal with it all on her own, because her training has made her so dangerous to approach that you can’t even give her a hug. All you can do is talk to her, try to bring her back to where you are – on the safe side of the conditioning fence. Music can help. Oh, and remove the stimulus – that’s important too.

Music’s easy – I grab the remote for the iPod dock. Rei’s nano is in there. Plumb – Damaged. Shit no! FFWD. Floyd – Comfortably Numb. Not helping! Again. Oh great – Hallelujah. Fucking hell - is this nano possessed? I’d slip into a psychotic fugue state if I listened to all that. Once more. OK – Girls Aloud – some club mix. I crank it a little.

Then I go to the table, take the file and turn it over. “Not him then.” Her head is still down and I can’t see her face, behind that curtain of hair. She’s still shaking but now she’s speaking again.

“No, not him. He’s like a snake – and careful with it. He’d know we have nothing on him and he’d also know I’m alive. He’d want . . me . . in one piece.” She flushes, down her neck and across her collar bones. Pure heat, pure rage. But wrapped in ice, which is her training and also the fear. “I’d kill him and then we’d have blown the Op. So not him.” She’s stopped shivering but she’s still focused on him, like a rabbit spotting a hawk. She looks up and her eyes are red, but dry now. She still has tear tracks on her face, but she’s oblivious.

Note to self: keep Rei away from this creep. Update his file. See if we can get someone to clean him up. It’s not professional I know, and they’d rather use the info as leverage if they can, but . .

But what, Sax? He scared the crap outta my cyborg? Boo-de-hoo. Deal with it. Move on. OK, but maybe he’s got another supplier now. That’s the but. That needs looking at.

And then, just like that, it’s over. She’s all business again, sniffs, wipes her face and she taps Raul. “Not him. He’s a mule. He worked for this guy as an odd-job man. Muscle, no brains. Far too stupid to use. I never met him but he was in Papa’s files. No, this is the guy we want.” She taps César.

I’m no expert but even I know you don’t just turn off an experience like the one she’s just had. Ambushed by the past, nearly broke your intensive brainwashing – and your mind, come to think of it – and it’s gone? Oh no – it’s still in there, eating her away. But you have to play the cards you’re given, don’t you? So I’m all business too.

“Why him?”

“He was my opposite number with our Colombian contact, Gomez – he ran their security. He came to Papa’s house too. Papa liked to play the big host, fly in the businessmen, party for days.”

“The house in Lanzarote?” I blurt. Yes, you prat – the big house with the guards where your little squad gunned down her father, the one where she met that psycho. That house. Now SHUT UP. But Rei’s smiling. She didn’t hear me, I think.

“He came a few times, with Gomez and this woman, Luisa – she was their chemist.” She stops and pauses for a long time, then taps the photo again. There’s a look in her eyes I’m not sure about. Soft? Hard? Or just a look that’s focused somewhere else entirely.

“Him,” she says. I’m not arguing. The nano is playing Kris Morris – Someone Sometime - she winds the volume back down and gives me a little smile, weak but there.

“Thanks” she says. Huh. I didn’t do anything, did I? “You just didn’t see it” she says.


Oh, hey! This happened too a bit later. Rei and me, we have this game, like Bullshit Bingo in meetings, where we try to make each other crack up. The more serious the briefing the better. But after that last little episode I’m not expecting anything so I’m blind-sided by this, plus it’s just us so nothing’s at stake.

“Sax,” she says, all innocent. She’s looking at the Google maps of the site.

“Mmhmm? ‘Sup?”

“This building. The consulate building. It’s not very nice looking is it?”

It isn’t, no. It’s a lumpy, dumpy little office block.

“What about it? You planning on redecorating?”

“No,” she says, “I was just wondering. Where do they hold all the official functions – receptions for other ambassadors and that stuff? I read about them – big parties and dances and stuff. I thought they sounded, y’know, posh, romantic. But this is just a dump.”

I’m not sure where she’s going with this but the kid has good instincts so I give it a little thought.

“I guess they share facilities with someone who has something a little grander. Maybe a diplomatic partner? Venezuela maybe. I can look into it if you want. Why?”

Only the little tiny twitch in the corner of her mouth gives me any warning at all.

“So,” she says, slowly, and, with hindsight I should have been more wary, “this isn’t where the Ambassador holds his balls then?”

She almost got me. Only the twitch saved me from giving her a knockout win. But now I have a chance to turn this around. Very carefully I reply,

“No, I don’t think this place is big enough for the Ambassador’s balls. I expect he has to hold them somewhere else. Maybe . . “ big effort now Sax “one of the other ambassadors holds them for him?”

She’s on the back foot now, biting her bottom lip to try and keep a straight face. But so am I and it’s her go.

“So what you’re saying is . . “ and her voice is quivering now since she can’t bite her lip and speak “the Venezuelan ambassador holds the DR ambassador’s balls for him?”

I have to wait a little while before I can speak now. If we were in school we’d both be on our way to see the head by now.

“Well,” I squeak, “the ambassador’s balls are noted in society. Not just anyone can come, you know.”

It’s my best shot, and it’s not quite enough. And, oh God – tactical error. Rei won’t pass that one up.

“So,” she says, and I can see her trembling with the effort of keeping a straight face “do you think the Venezuelan ambassador will come when he’s holding the DR ambassador’s balls for him?”

“Oh yes,” I squeak at last, “Everywhere.” and we both collapse into fits. We are so childish sometimes but it feels good. In the end we call it a draw.

And we’ll definitely use that line again in the mission debrief. Oh yes. Everywhere.

This post has been edited by mistersaxon on Jun 12 2009, 11:50 AM
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Posted: Jun 12 2009, 07:25 PM
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Mission 1: School Days - Part 2
Timestamp: 40 minutes later, approximately 1:30 p.m. local time

After the briefing, the fratello drove back to their home in Piedmont. Rhia was looking over the material given in the folder, particularly focusing on one of the pages about recommendations on how to complete the mission. “Anne, are we honestly getting paid to scare the junk out of a crime lord? This mission almost seems too easy…” the cyborg said this, yawning slightly as she turned on the car’s radio.

Anne took her eyes off the road for an instant to look over at Rhia. “Don’t get too confident over there. Nguyet is considered by most of the Vietnamese in this area to be a respectable citizen who had done a great service to the community by creating so many jobs through his markets and restaurants. If we don’t make it seem as if he’s turning state’s evidence of his own will, or if there’s any sense of foul play going on, then we can pretty much count on there being a ton of racial tension here in California, if not in the rest of the states as well…” The psychologist said this matter-of-factly, her attention fully back on driving. “Besides getting you clothing that will help you blend in for the infiltration, is there any other equipment you need for this mission? I’m going to lend you my M9 for this mission, although I highly doubt you’ll need it…”

Rhia grimaced at the question, “Why can’t I wear my normal clothing? It’s not like the school has a uniform or dress code…”

Anne pulled the Mazda into the driveway. “Rhia, on this mission you’re going to have to disguise yourself as a junior high student… Most chicks that age do not have assets like yours,” the handler gestured at Rhia’s breasts as she said this, “and your typical choice of clothing would cause question and curiosity among the group you are trying to infiltrate. The idea is to avoid drawing unnecessary attention to yourself. <Got it?>”

Rhia sighed as she stepped out of the car, “<Gotcha. Should I at least be grateful that you aren’t insisting on binding my chest?>” She asked the question sarcastically, daring Anne to react to her. She laughed and spun around, her skirt twirling around with her. Despite being a cyborg, Rhia was still a teenager who found enjoyment in teasing her friend.

Anne grinned as she watched Rhia’s antics. Even though she knew it would be better to act mature, the woman couldn’t resist taking the bait offered her. She slipped behind Rhia, hugging her partner from behind. “You know you wouldn’t be able to resist me if I wanted to do that or anything else to you… So don’t even bother trying to…” she said this in a whisper, her lips millimeters from the cyborg’s left ear.

Rhia’s muscles tensed for an instant when Anne initially hugged her, but she quickly relaxed and leaned back against the taller woman. “Damn you Anne… You know me far too well…” she muttered this, the slightest tremble running through her hands as she spoke. She could feel her face blushing bright red. “We should probably head inside before we arouse the entire neighborhood’s interest.”

Anne nodded, reluctantly letting the cyborg free from her embrace. After having lived in the house for going on two years, most of the neighbors had come to the conclusion that the two women living in 29 Jean Street were eccentric and nowhere near normal, but Anne didn’t want to give the local rumor mill more fuel than it already possessed. The pair entered the house, Rhia several steps in front of her older friend.


Timestamp: that evening, around 7 p. m. local time

The rest of that afternoon had been spent by the fratello shopping in the local mall, bantering, and teasing one another (and not necessarily in that order). Despite Rhia’s vehement protests against purchasing more conservative clothing, Anne won out in the end, purchasing a white polo shirt, a knee length pleated skirt, and a blazer. Now the pair was back home, working on preparing dinner. Anne was making a salad with a honey mustard vinaigrette while Rhia pan seared a steak. Both found the act of doing something as domestic as cooking to be relaxing and grounding. Although they were employed by the government as deniable assets; that their occupation required them to kill, kidnap, and coerce; and that Rhia wasn’t even fully human anymore, when it was just them cooking together they could at least pretend that their lives were somewhat normal.

Anne had changed out of her suit into a white wife beater and black sweat pants, tying her hair back in a ponytail so it stayed out of her face. She tossed the salad, putting it on the kitchen table when she was finished. “Steak almost ready Rhia? My mouth is watering for some good food.”

Rhia nodded in reply as she turned off the stove and put the steak on a carving board. “Yep, it’s medium, just the way we like it.” She brought it to the table, taking her seat. As the cyborg served the salad and steak, Anne uncorked a bottle of Pinot Noir and poured a small glass of wine each for both herself and Rhia.

After dinner they began to outline their plans for the next day’s mission. Due to the need for stealth and unobtrusiveness, Rhia would infiltrate the Julia Morgan School for Girls solo, with Anne staying on the Mills College campus to provide back up if necessary. As Rhia set up Anne’s Beretta, screwing on the suppressor and packing it in a flute case, the pair discussed the plans. “The one thing I find ironic is that this bastard Nguyet is just a big softie. He runs a huge drug syndicate here in California, but we can get at him through his daughter? This will be cake.” Rhia said this scornfully, unconsciously twirling the tip of her hair around her fingers.

Anne nodded. “According to the information I dug up, Nguyet’s bodyguards are forbidden from being on the campus of either the Julia Morgan School or Mills College, so that gives us plenty of space for what needs to be done. Of course, there’s no way of knowing whether or not there are undercover bodyguards disguised as teachers or staff at the school, but there probably aren’t many of those.” The psychologist said this, typing quickly in her laptop as she pulled up maps of both Mills College and the Julia Morgan School’s campuses.

Rhia stood behind Anne’s seat, her chin lightly resting on the handler’s shoulder. Her blue eyes scanned the screen, rapidly taking in information. “Cam’s daughter, her name is Hanh, right? Can you locate her class schedule by hacking the school’s computer system?”

Anne shook her head. “I can’t get at her schedule, but we do know that she participates in the after-school woodwinds ensemble… Anyhow, it’ll probably be easier for you to snatch her during after-school activities since there will be less likelihood of witnesses, which means there will be less collateral damage… Even though we do have the authority to eliminate any who compromise the mission, the concept of possibly having to kill children doesn’t sit well with me.” At this Anne sighed, “Would you be able to live with yourself if you killed someone’s daughter? I wouldn’t…”

“Why should I feel guilt or shame? The mission has to be completed; if people get hurt because they got in the way, then they had it coming…” Rhia said this coldly, automatically. Upon hearing this Anne felt a shiver run down her spine; until this moment, the psychologist hadn’t fully understood how deep Rhia’s conditioning went. Even with minor conditioning Rhia had lost some of her humanity, seeing nothing wrong with taking an innocent child’s life if it was necessary for the mission.

As Anne tried to recover from her shock at Rhia’s statement, a single tear surreptitiously rolled down her cheek. She had helped in creating this killer, this monster; did that make her an even greater monstrosity? “<Rhia, do you really mean that?>” Anne asked this, hiding the tremor in her voice with an authoritative tone. She didn’t want the cyborg to see how affected she was by her willingness to do almost anything to get the job done.

“<I have nothing to gain by lying. I am serious.>” Rhia said this, her voice losing a tad of the iciness that had startled Anne so much. Although Anne was doing her best to hide her emotional state from the teen, Rhia could still sense her agitation. “However, if you wish me to, I’ll do my best to avoid any collateral damage. I’ll do it for your sake…” the cyborg said this quietly, kneeling beside Anne’s seat.

“<Promise me that you won’t take any innocent life unless it is absolutely unavoidable. Please…>” Anne said this, pulling Rhia close to her in an embrace. The woman clung to Rhia; her colleague, daughter, sister, friend, partner. Now the tears came flowing, no longer obstructed by pride or fear.

Rhia held Anne gently but tightly. “<I promise…>” she said this as she cupped Anne’s chin in her hand, tilting the woman’s face so they made eye contact. “Anne, I give you my word.” The cyborg’s voice was gentle as she said this, leaving no trace of her robotic coldness.

After a moment of stillness, Anne kissed Rhia full on the lips. The teen froze in surprise for an instant, but then fervently returned and deepened the kiss. The salty-sweet taste of Anne’s tears was in both their mouths, reminding them both of the bittersweet truth. Despite their feelings for each other and the obvious chemistry, this newly discovered aspect of Anne and Rhia’s relationship would have to stay hidden.

Relations of this sort between the members of a fratello were highly discouraged and frowned upon, as it was believed that romance and love would weaken the handler’s resolve on missions and interfere with the cyborg’s conditioning. Who could forget what happened to Elsa de Sica and her handler Lauro over in Italy?

((OOC: I thinks that’s all I’ve got for now… For those not in the know, the last sentence is referring to the anime/manga of GSG. Couldn’t resist the ref!))
Posted: Jun 13 2009, 11:38 AM
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Part 1

"Have a seat, Feldman."

Richard nodded and sat in the chair across from the Section Chief. In some areas, the Section Chief tended to allow his staff to handle the assigned fratellos. In Seattle, though, the Section Chief, Tom Lackland, tended to take a very hands on approach, at least when it came to initial briefings. Richard suspected that the man wanted to be able to take credit for the success of the cyborgs when it came time for promotion. Regardless of the man's motive, it was he that always gave the first indications of a mission.

"You have something for us?" Richard asked. 'Us' of course meant he and Charlie. However, Charlie was not present. Lackland may have desired getting credit for using the cyborgs, but he didn't particularly seem to think much of the cyborgs themselves. Meetings rarely included anyone but himself and the handler. The cyborgs were generally unwelcome. Richard despised that, felling that Charlie, for all her youth, could use a first hand look at the mission. But regardless, the Chief did run things around here, and it wasn't worth bitching to D.C. about.

"I do. It may be nothing, but we've decided to have a cyborg team look." The man nodded, then reached out and spun a folder on the desk around to face Richard.

Richard slid the folder closer, then flipped the cover open. He found himself looking at the dossier of an attractive woman who appeared to be in her early forties. The name on the Dossier read 'Julia O'Toole.' "What's her story?"

"Irish. Used to be part of the PIRAs, until the cease fire put her out of work."

Richard nodded. The Provisional Irish Republican Army had made quite a mess of North Ireland for a couple of decades in their efforts to throw the British out. Their tactics had ranged from mere agitation up to large scale shootings and bombings. However, the Belfast Agreement, reached in 1998 and put into effect in 1999 had effectively ended the violence. Most of the PIRA had laid down their arms and engaged in attempting to build the new future laid down by the plan, but certain die hards had been unable to accept it, and thus had turned rogue, most of them selling their services as mercenaries. Apparently Miss O'Toole was one of them.

The Chief continued. "Since then she's taken her professional skills out onto the street. She's suspected of having been responsible for a series of bombings throughout Europe and the Middle East."

"Bomber, huh?" Richard nodded. "So why Charlie and I? We're not bomb specialists."

"No, but the other cyborgs are already tasked. You're what's available. Run on down to Section 2 and get a full brief on what we know. Like I say, it's probably not important. But we like to be sure about these things."

Richard nodded, rising and picking up the folder. "You got it."


Outside the door, Charlie was brushing the hair of one of her dolls. Richard had advised her not to bring it. The dolls were expensive, and there was worry about damage, or wear and tear when it was not being stored in a safe place like her room. But she insisted.

It certainly had the effect of making her looks more girly. Given that most of the DHS personnel in Seattle didn't have a clue about the cyborgs, that was probably a good thing. Several of the ladies on staff outside of Lackland's office were smiling and admiring the girl, clearly thinking that she was the daughter of a visitor or some such. The doll certainly did help reduce the chances of anyone guessing that Charlie was an assassin with more kills than most members of the military.

As Richard stepped out of the office, she smiled up at him. "We have a new mission?" she asked.

Richard nodded. "Yep. We just need to go down to Section 2 and see if we can get a briefing."

Charlie put the comb in her pocket and bounced up, cradling the doll like it was an infant. She was careful about the dolls, treating them with as much concern as she did her weapons. She smiled up at Richard. Missions meant being able to do what she'd been designed to do. It meant praise from Richard. And it meant rewards. "Can I have another dollfie?"

"We'll see." Richard smiled, patting her on the head.
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