And now we’re back to Cass’s side of the events of August, 2113.
That was a busy month!
Looking back, you know what amazes me most?
Cass proposed to us on Shakesday of that year. Somehow she – and make no mistake, it was all her! – planned and organized a formal wedding for only four months later.
The assassination attempt and running for our lives was bonus content.
Adam’s got a new collection; isn’t the cover cool? He’s gathered the four volumes which contain the Artemis War, the prequel (telling how Cass and I got started on this crazy road), plus an exclusive novelette, The Martian Gambit, all in one place and then slapped a price of $9.99 on it all.
Personally I think he’s nuts, but hey, I just lived it.
If you want to order, click the cover image or the button below.
As usual, the audio for this installment is at the bottom, and you can also buy the book in any format by clicking the other button or any of the cover images.
Chapter 17: Beware of Greeks…
“You think we can?” asked Cass, taking a wide, sweeping kick at Mac’s torso.
“I know we can, it’s just a matter of pulling it all together and getting the right people and right equipment, we can’t do it ourselves, we’re going to need at least one and maybe two more agents to help get us in and out even with the best IDs we can – oof!” Mac rocked sideways to avoid the kick and collided solidly with Cass’s follow-up elbow strike.
The women were in the dojang, getting in an early morning workout. Cass was trying to teach Mac basic capoeira moves and was astonished at how well the much-slighter woman was picking them up. The unusual martial art – and her skill at it – had begun to draw a group to the gallery to observe them.
“Does that happen much?” Cass nodded towards the people above them.
“Not often but sometimes, lots of the agents here do martial arts, and there’s always an interest in learning a new move or two, I guess they heard about your session with Master Cordova, you know the only thing faster than light is gossip, and they wanted to see for themselves.”
“I don’t usually perform for crowds,” muttered Cass.
Mac stopped, faced the gallery, and yelled, “HEY! You guys are making Cass uncomfortable! You want to watch, you have to be down here on the floor not up there where it’s safe!”
“What the frak are you doing?” demanded Cass.
“Emptying the gallery, isn’t that what you wanted, see, it’s emptier already!”
The seats were nearly empty, Cass realized. “As long as they’re gone, I guess it’s okay. I just hope they don’t all take you up on your offer.”
“Offer what offer I didn’t make an offer all I said is they had to come down here where – oh!”
“Yeah, oh,” said Cass grimly as the dojang door opened and the first person stepped in. “You’d better get ready.”
“If I’m going to give a demonstration, I’m going to need a sparring partner, and looks like you’re it.” Determination creased her brow, while Mac’s brow was furrowed in worry. “Defend yourself.”
Mac was black-and-blue from her shoulders to her ankles.
“Did you really have to hit me that hard?”
Keeping her back turned so Mac couldn’t see the smile, Cass answered, “I got you good? Sorry. Just trying to make it as realistic as possible. Don’t worry, I have my share of bruises. See?” She pulled up the gi to reveal a single bruise just above her hip. “You tagged me there. Not bad at all, Mac, not bad at all.”
The PA system announced, “Dr. Foster-Briggs and Agent McAllister, report to the Director’s office immediately.”
Cass stood. “That’s us. Let’s go, Mac, you keep telling me the Director doesn’t like to wait.” She set off, her long legs making for a quick walk. Mac hobbled after, wincing.
“Me and my big mouth.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, did I interrupt?” The insincerity in Talbott’s voice was obvious.
“Not at all,” replied Cass, genuinely ingenuous and sitting down. The glare from Talbott at the gi-clad scientist not waiting for permission could have peeled paint. “Just finished. Right, Mac?”
“Right,” agreed Mac, also settling into a chair, her aches making her oblivious to Talbott’s evident ire.
Barely restraining a growl, Talbott asked, “So, no luck on the remote access?”
“Not at all, Director. In fact, Mac got us in without any issues. The problem is, we’re at a dead end. The information we need doesn’t seem to be in their server. We think it’s in a paper file, somewhere in the security offices.”
“Or possibly in a standalone computer,” added Mac.
“Or in a standalone computer,” amended Cass. “Either way, there’s nothing more we can get out of the system from here. We’re going to have to go in.”
“Out of the question!” barked Talbott. “Forget it! Whose harebrained idea was this?”
Mac raised her hand a few inches.
“I thought you had more sense, McAllister! Do you know how difficult it is to set up an infiltration? Let alone on short notice!”
“Short notice? Who said anything like that?” responded Cass. “I didn’t. Mac didn’t.”
“It’s obvious,” said Talbott. “You two gung ho half-wits want to charge into the industrial headquarters of a multi-national company and search for a few files that might not exist; you know that Agent Cassidy would object; so the only option to get your little “job” done is do it before Kendra comes back, because you’ll listen to her and you sure as hell won’t listen to me! Am I wrong?”
Cass and Mac exchanged a glance. “I might not phrase it like that,” dissented Cass, “But you may have a point. At least, about the urgency, but not for the reasons you think.”
Talbot visibly reined in her temper. “Go ahead. Convince me.”
“The timing is critical if they’ve taken Dr. Mantchev and are holding her. We don’t know how long she can hold out, or what information she can tell them. We do know that neither she nor her husband Kevin have any kind of training in that sort of thing. And then there’s the question of, what if they’ve already broken her? How long will they keep her alive?” Cass shook her head. “I don’t want more blood on my hands.” She looked down. “I couldn’t – it would be too much.”
Talbott changed stripes again. “I understand. Well, let’s see.” She punched a few keys at her workstation. “McAllister, you can get back into their system and insert the proper personnel files. Dr. Foster-Briggs, I’ve heard about your prowess with capoeira, but I’d feel better if I sent along another agent for protection. I think, though, you should be in charge, overall. You might not be a proper agent, but you know the objective and certainly have the motivation.”
“Me?” Cass blurted. “In charge?”
“Second thoughts?” said Talbott nastily. Then, in a more reassuring voice, she continued, “It’s no different than running a lab, I would imagine. You simply have to know what the end goal is, and the others are there to help support you. I do want to send along another agent, strictly as support.” She considered the options in front of her. “McAllister?”
“Montana, Hansen, or Williams. All are available. Which should be assigned with you? Who have you worked with?”
“Which Williams, ma’am?”
“Oh, Kat’s a good agent, I’ve liked working with her before, and I don’t know Hansen,” temporized Mac. “How long has he been with us?”
“She’s been an agent for eight months,” answered Talbott with a hint of emphasis.
“My mistake,” said Mac. “I suppose Williams, then.”
“Montana it is,” decided Talbott, keying in the choice. “You and Dr. Foster-Briggs are entirely too friendly as it is. This will be a dangerous mission, not a girls” night out. Besides. Williams broke her wrist last week, remember?” Talbott busied herself with something, letting Mac and Cass sit and stew for the next few minutes.
The door signal sounded, then the door opened.
“Agent Montana. Very prompt.”
The woman standing in the doorway was nearly Cass’s height but much more strongly built. She was solid, was the only way Cass could think of her. Not freakishly muscular, but well-defined and exuding an air of confidence. Her straight brown hair was cut sensibly short, and she wore no makeup that Cass could see. The only thing that detracted from her image was the pair of old-fashioned eyeglasses with square black frames.
“Agent Montana, this is Dr. Aiyana Foster-Briggs. And I believe you know Agent McAllister?”
The look Montana gave Mac was hardly friendly; in fact, it barely acknowledged her presence at all. “Dr. Foster-Briggs,” she said instead with a rich soprano, extending her hand.
Cass took the offered hand. “Agent Montana. Please, call me Cass. Or Aiyana.”
“Christina,” answered Montana with the slight hint of a smile. “My pleasure.”
“Dr. Foster-Briggs is leading an infiltration, Agent McAllister is providing technical support, and you, Agent Montana, are there -”
“To hurt people and break things. Yes, ma’am.”
Talbott couldn’t quite smother her smile. “Something like that. Now, I’m sure you have a great deal of planning to do, Doctor. Please let me know if there’s anything we can provide?”
Cass’s inner alarms were rattling her skull, but she silenced them, thinking, I don’t care what her motives are, this gives me a chance to save Lisa. And Kevin. “Of course, Director.”