Monday, November 10, 2008

Chapter Two

I slip into my chair beside Shane, smiling at Devon and Stephen, two of my colleagues who will be traveling to the site as backup on the mission – we often work together, and all have an easy relationship with one another. We are all assembled at “Pruitt Industries”, which by all outward appearance is a typical office on the eleventh floor of an innocuous office building in London. Pruitt, on the surface, deals with art and antiquities, as well as some investment and accounting services. I’m with the “art department”, and Shane, my handler, is an “accountant”.

Behind the cubicles and water cooler, though, there is an inner sanctum filled to the brim with counter-intelligence equipment, computers, weapons, and enough technology to run a second world country. We do nothing by halves, and have only the best equipment, and staff, at our disposal.

We have to, as our lives depend on it.

Settling into my seat, Shane slides his laptop across to me, so that I can peruse the file on our target – both the makeup of the virus and the perpetrators who will be pawning it off to the highest bidder.

Though I have already reviewed most of the material on my way here on the train, I scan it to make sure there are no updates or changes to the mission profile.

Seeing none, I slide the laptop back to Shane a few seconds later and nod. “Got it.”

Shane snaps the laptop shut and hands me my earpiece, which I dutifully place behind my ear, testing it for volume. “Remember, two pulses if things go wrong,” Shane says, just as he does before every mission. I nod in agreement, waiting for official word to go as the four of us exchange a few words, testing our earpieces for working levels.

Shane Croft as been my handler since I joined Leukos – he was the one who first approached me in Paris, and who shepherded me through the training process as I morphed from shy, timid Emme to asskicking, confident operative Emme.

I often wonder what the powers that be saw in me that might make me an asset, but questions of that nature have always been discouraged, and are rarely answered, even if they are asked.

Besides, it hardly matters now.

In any case, Shane has been my “first” for years – first contact on missions, first boss I report to, and first person to serve as my partner when we go out. Shane has been a part of Leukos for almost a decade, though he is only a couple of years older than I am. He’s highly skilled, and as a result, highly respected in the executive structure of the organization. He has a lot of say, and a lot of pull with both those that report to him, and to the “higher ups” that most regular operatives like me never see. He is most often the one who crafts the details of our missions, deciding the best approach to reach our endgame, and he’s extremely good at what he does. If it is Shane’s mission, they chances of all of us returning alive tend to be much higher, for which I’m always grateful.

He is also the closest person in my life – partner, friend and colleague rolled into one. Though many within the organization have speculated in the past that we have a romantic relationship as well, I can report that that’s never been a factor. Instead, we have a true friendship built on mutual trust and respect. Any romantic entanglements would endanger that, and so, has never been an issue.

Shane, with his shaggy blond hair, chiseled cheekbones, piercing eyes and tall frame, has been known to have a few “conquests” of his own, though, which gives me fodder for teasing on a pretty much continual basis.

Which is good, especially while holding position doing surveillance on a target for upwards of eight hours, which we’ve certainly had our fair share of in the past.

Shane stands and addresses us all after clearing his throat. “Right. Emme will go in first to scope the location of guards and of the buy before removing herself from the situation. Stephen and Devon, you’ll launch in through the windows after securing your harnesses to the roof, take out the perps by any means necessary while Emme secures the virus. Extraction will be via the street, where a van will be waiting for your signal. Perps are expendable, the virus is not. We absolutely have to get this off the street, now that we have ascertained the manufacturer of it, and put a stop to any other buys. A containment team will be on standby if there is any wet work on the mission. Questions?”

I close my eyes briefly, visualizing the mission in my head, as a coach reviews film before an important sporting match. Seeing no flaws, and no problems, I nod my agreement.

I thought my job was tough, but I can’t imagine being on the containment team - they are solely employed to mop up our messes: dispose of bodies, sanitize locations of blood or gunshot slugs, and generally return the areas to normal.


I’ll stick with my own job description, I think.

Minutes later, we are in an unmarked van, heading towards an abandoned warehouse near the edge of London where intel has indicated the buy is going to go down on the fourth floor. Security around the perimeter will be tight, but we are trained to be silent, and to be unseen, and we’re damned good at what we do.

Stealing into the building through a side entrance and quickly making their way to the roof high above, Devon and Stephen take up positions while I change into my “costume” – tightly fit jeans, neon top that hugs my curves, pink extensions in my hair, and glittery makeup all over my face. With a single pulse in the earpiece, I signal that I’m ready to take the stairs to the fourth floor, and Stephen and Devon pulse that they are in position above, harnesses ready to swing through the windows on the south end of the building, guns at the ready for whatever will meet them there.

I slink up the stairs, then, taking a deep breath, shove open the door to the fourth floor, where I hear a murmur of voices within. With a broad smile on my face, I burst through the door, and am immediately met by guards who brandish guns and angry expressions. “Who’re you?” one demands, and I back up a step, my eyes darting from side to side, and expression of terror on my face as he wields his Glock only inches from my nose.

“I… I’m Delia. I thought this was where the instructions said the rave was gonna be…” I trail off, looking confused. “Did Bill get the instructions wrong? I told ‘im to double check with Alan before we got in the car. That little shit…”

“There’s no rave here, miss. We’re going to have to ask you to leave.”

I look around again, confused, my eyes absorbing details of the room and those in it. “Do you guys know where the rave is, then?” I ask, my voice thick and Cockney. “Or, eh, have you got any E?” I ask, with a small smile. “I do love me a bit of E…it’s the best part of raves, really, since the music half the time is shit.”

“No miss. You’re going to have to leave,” the larger of the two men insists again with no change in expression. “Now.”

“Why the guns, fellas?” I ask, backing up, my hands out in front of my in a defensive gesture, making it clear I’m on my way out of their domain.

“Security, miss. We’re sweeping the building,” the smaller man says, his voice a bit more accommodating. “There have been some break ins recently.”

“Right you are, then,” I say, pushing open the door to the stairs. “Erm, sorry to disturb. Listen, if Bill arrives, can you tell ‘im I’ve gone to Sissy’s flat, yeah?”

“We’ll do that,” the larger one says in a voice that says that’s the last thing he’ll be doing for me. “Leave immediately, using the stairs, miss.”

“Right. G’night, fellas…” And with a wave of my fingers, I bound back down the stairs to our safe location. I whip off my clothes to reveal tight-fitting black clothes designed for maximum movement as I whisper to my partners through our comm. units the final plan for our interception of the buy.

“Two men stationed at the north door by the stairs, and another two stationed by the west windows. The buyers and sellers were out of my line of sight, but voices indicate at least two buyers, one seller, and at least one guard near the east wall. I would shift your breakthrough about two windows down, and be sure to drop straight to the floor, as the north guards may have a line of sight on you before the others. I’ll re-enter from the north stairs, and take them out if they haven’t already been dropped. Copy?”

After hearing their acknowledgements, I creep stealthily back up the stairs, regulating my breathing and readying my sidearm as I may need it before the night is out, though hopefully not.

Suddenly, I hear a crash of glass and the telltale pop, pop, pop of silenced guns, then the thud of bodies falling to the floor. I burst through the door, and sprint to the table where three shocked men are sitting, guns trained on their heads by Devon and Stephen. Around them lay their guards – all but the one who was stationed by the table, who now had his arms above his head and his gun lying at his feet, an angry expression on his otherwise stony face. I glanced at him cursorily, making sure he didn’t have any other weapons in easy sight, noting a thin scar bisecting his otherwise handsome face. After that, I looked at the buyer, and the two sellers, who have equally stormy expressions on their faces.

“The virus, please,” I demand in my most polite voice. “Leave it on the table there, and keep your hands where we can see them.” I can see the anger and confusion on their faces – are we government? Robbers? Spies? None of the above? Naturally, they aren’t going to find out from us. Leukos gets in, gets out, and rarely leaves a calling card when the mission is over.

The men nod their acquiescence, and I reach over to pick up a small box, flipping open the cover to reveal a tiny vial, no bigger than a pack of gum, filled with a clear liquid, already equipped with a spray nozzle for easy mass decimation. One spritz into the water supply, one spritz into a food source…

And to think this tiny vial could annihilate the population of a small country. I shudder as I close the box and put it into my shoulder bag carefully, my gun still trained on the North Koreans sitting across from me while Devon and Stephen train their weapons on the nondescript seller. “Thank you,” I say politely, and then nod to Stephen and Devon. “I’m going to dispose of that while these nice men escort you on your way. Thanks for your cooperation,” I can’t help adding as I back away from the table until Devon moves around, taking over my weapon cover.

And with that, I walk back out the door and down the stairs to the waiting van. I haven’t been told the requested resolution of the mission – whether the buyers and sellers will be allowed go to free (after telling us what we need to know, of course) or whether they will simply “disappear”. If it’s not my part of the mission profile, I simply don’t get to know.

Which does sometimes help me sleep at night. Sometimes.

I slide into the van and carefully extract the deadly virus, handing it to Shane with a proud smile. “Worked like a charm,” I say, pleased. “The dumb Cockney rave goer works every time, I swear.”

Shane grinned as he opened the box, and then closed it again. “Keep it up, and people really will believe you’re a dumb bimbo.”

“Aww, thanks,” I say, pretending to look flattered. “You really know how to sweet talk a girl.”

Minutes later, Stephen and Devon climb aboard the van, and we slide through the abandoned London streets, no one the wiser for our presence there, all of us smiling at a job well done.

Within the hour, I’ve been returned to headquarters, debriefed, told to remain within touch for a potential mission going live by the week’s end, and I’m on the train home to Eastbourne, my gun safely stowed in my holster and my head nodding as I drift off to sleep on the rocking train.


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