The night was bitter. Standing in the shadows of the stinking alley, she waited for her back-up and her mark. Three months she had been working undercover as a low-grade drug smuggler to take down the leader of the largest drug operation in Onateria. Finally, she had gotten the information, contacts and suspects she needed to cut off the head of the snake.
It didn’t take her as long as some other agents because she was an Ensullian with the ability to read minds.
Victra, who they all called Vic, waited in the cold alley wondering why these types of deals had to go down at night in a dark stinking alley every time. Can no one be more original? She had gotten acquainted with enough of the members to know some of them eventually would try to start the business up again, but it would never be the same once Carma Haverian was either arrested or killed. Even his sons didn’t have the fortitude and experience of their father. Carma was truly a ruthless, evil man.
The stench of the alley was almost overwhelming. There was only a light from an apartment window that fell ominously upon the building across from it.
The rats ran along the edge, scurrying to the trash heaps and dumpsters that lined the walls. They would run across her boots, occasionally stopping as they recognized her as flesh. She kicked them away, listening to them squeak as they continued on their way.
The planet Insurla, where she had been living for the past three months, was remote. It was on the edge of the galaxy, probably the reason Carma used it for his operations. It had minimal technology and the inhabitants of Insurla were naïve, trusting, and overly emotional. Most of them were what Vic called saplings; naïve people who saw only good and wanted to change the galaxy by spreading the good, being kind and teaching those with less understanding the true meaning of life. They had no clue how evil, the universe could be, or they refused to accept it. Victra honestly wished the entire galaxy were like them, without all the emotional baggage, but if it was, she wouldn’t have a job. She shrugged. I can do other things besides chase scum bags and run stings on creeps like Carma.
As she waited, getting colder by the minute, she knew that even though she was hiding in the shadows, there were eyes on her. Her team was watching, waiting for a sign from her to come in. Carma’s men watched her from one of the dark windows across from where she stood waiting for Carma to meet her. They were watching for trouble, ready to protect their leader.
Her team was at the other end of the alley, ready for the takedown.
Just then a lone figure walked toward her from the main street into the alley. She couldn’t make him out as the light from the street barely crawled into the alley. What she saw was someone tall and lean. His hood was up, and he was whistling an old Valian folk song.
She recognized the whistling; it was Leland Holland. What the hell was he doing? Carma would get spooked if some odd person walked down the alley whistling. It made little sense. The whistling stopped and Leland had disappeared into the darkness.
As she reached out to read Leland’s mind, she heard. It's ok babe, we got you, Gravis sent me to let you know.
She heard men scuttling in the dark. A couple of Carma’s men had gone after the whistling man. Leland was funny, witty, personable and sometimes he acted like he was clueless, but he could take down two men and blaster rifles with his bare hands in a matter of seconds and his assailants wouldn’t know what hit them.
She heard some commotion, and some grunting, then all was silent. She reached out to Leland’s mind again.
I’m good she heard, but you should see these guys.
She and Leland had been on enough missions together that he knew how she thought and what to expect from her. He had learned early on that he could communicate to her in his thoughts when they were apart. She and Leland had made a great team until recently the agency had split them up and put Leland working with Monique.
Eventually three men strolled into the alley. One man was strategically set-in front of the middle man and the other behind him. She knew immediately it was not Carma but a setup, a decoy. It was a trap. She pulled the brim of her hat down over her face and walked away, staying in the shadows. It was a signal to her team, but before she left, she had read the center man’s mind and gotten the location of Carma.
Noise, yelling and blaster fire were suddenly heard in the top apartment where Carma’s men were watching the alley. The three men who had swaggered into the meeting point turned to run drawing their blasters but were stopped in their tracks by GSM agents who worked with Vic. A body came crashing down out of the window far above her and fell broken onto the cement at her feet, blood splattering her pant legs.
Immediately, Gravis Denaley was standing beside her. “Why are you still here?” He said coldly, his voice filled with anger. “Get out of here, we have it under control now. Casper is waiting with transport around the corner. Go back to Valia and get ready for your Crizian assignment. You are done here. Go!” He said intensely. She disappeared out of the alley to find her transportation waiting for her just as Gravis had said.
“You ok?” Casper asked as she crawled into the back seat of the vehicle.
“Yes, thanks, but what the hell is going on?” She asked, angry at Gravis for talking to her the way he did.
“Everything you sent in was so valuable we could hack into Carma’s operation and have plenty of evidence to lock him away for a very long time, him and all his men, every one of them. Gravis wants you taken out of here and told me to personally make sure you are safe, or he would kill me himself,” Casper laughed nervously, knowing Gravis would actually do it.
Vic rolled her eyes. Gravis Denaley hated her why would he care if she lived or died, unless he just wanted to look like the outstanding leader who cared about his agents. She knew he cared about his agents; she had seen it with others but never with her. She didn’t know why he hated her, but she felt it was very personal. If he were not a Pendellan Wizard, she could read his mind and know. This tension between them made her job more difficult than it already was. She was considering leaving the agency and had been for a long time. If she wasn’t already invested in the Crizian mission, she would leave tonight and Gravis Denaley could go fuck himself. In the meantime, she would go home and get her head into her new mission, thankfully, it would not start for a few more weeks and she longed for the time alone to unwind.
A warm breeze blew across her face as she sat in her soft lounge chair outside the high-rise apartment. On the large patio, the potted trees swayed back and forth in the breeze as she sipped her excellent wine and relaxed. She had missed this, her home on Valia, her sanctuary. This would be the last night for a long time before she could enjoy herself like this. In the morning a new mission as head of the C2I, which is a criminal investigation service but not part of GSM, waited for her. She had barely been able to de-stress from the Insurla mission. Three months under cover was not a long time, but it was for her and she felt like she needed more time to get her head together before she went in again undercover.
Gravis Denaley filled her mind. She knew she was in love with him, but there wasn’t anything she could do about it. A loneliness crept over her. It happened every time she thought of him. Being used to it, and recognizing what it was, she ignored it.
As Vic enjoyed her time alone, ridding her thoughts of Gravis and her insane situation. She decided to take a bath, knowing it would probably be the last relaxing one she would have time for, for quite a while.
She filled her big deep tub full of steaming hot water and looked for some scent. Mmm, Pechouli and Bertolí, sensual No, that would make me horny. She took her time looking through her oil collection. Lilac, that’s it.
Pulling the Lilac essence bottle off the shelf, she poured a little into the water, enjoying the floral aroma as it wafted through the air. Lilac was her favorite flower. The essence was rare because they distilled it differently than most flowers to get the oil, and there were only a few planets in Onateria where the lilac bushes would grow. Adding a sudsing agent to make lots of soft bubbles, she then re-filled her wineglass and slid into the large tub.
As she relaxed, letting the warmth of the water surround her, breathing deeply and commanding each muscle in her body to let go, a female voice interrupted her peacefulness.
It was the AI she had installed from the agency. “Miss Victra, Barnabas Loomis is on the communicator. Would you like me to tell him you are occupied and to call again later?”
“No, I can talk to him,” she said, her eyes still closed.
The room filled with a blue glow and the image of Barnabas sitting behind his desk in ethereal tones of blue and white loomed beside her.
“Vic, hello, did I catch you at a bad time,” he asked concerned.
“No, I’m merely relaxing before my mission starts in the morning,” she said, taking a sip of her wine.
“That’s why I’m calling,” he said.
“What’s going on?” she wondered.
“Something has come up and I need you on a different mission, one more pressing,” he said.
“Are you serious? Couldn’t you have called me a couple weeks ago and told me?” she sounded irritated.
“Until the last minute, which was a minute ago, I was trying to find someone else besides you to take this, but apparently you are the only one capable of doing it the right way,” he said. “I don't like it any more than you do.”
“What about Monique or Harry?” she questioned.
“Monique is winding down another mission, I still have to look into her availability, but she can’t do what you do. Harry is undercover somewhere only Gravis knows, and we can't pull him out. I considered Sisillee, Renee, Barla, even Ray, but Gravis said I should get you to do it. He thought you were perfect. He is aware they already set you for another mission, but he wasn't able to think of anyone else as good as you with this kind of thing. There was nothing I could do,” he said.
“You should have told the fucker, no,” she spit back.
“Yes, if he hadn’t been right.”
“What is it, that’s so important I’m taken off the Crizian mission?” She said taking a sip of her wine and setting the glass down on the side of the tub.
“There is an up-and-coming tech company on Astua. Someone is smuggling high-tech weapons to Groteria and using this company as a front. You will go in as the new administrative support for the owner and see what you can find, dig up evidence, find out who is behind it,” he said.
“When do I start?” she asked, lifting her other leg and washing it.
“In the morning.”
“Barnabas, damn it!” She exclaimed, sitting up in the tub, staring at him. The bubbles barely able to cover her breast.
“I know, if you had a couple days to get ready, it would be better. Like I said, it's the last minute. I didn’t want you on this mission, but it needs your unique skill set,” he said. “There is nothing I can do; my hands are tied.”
She leaned back watching the blue glowing Barnabas as the older man moved around his office talking to her.
“The owner's name is Oliver Garr. He is the one you will work for. He is about 35, wealthy, handsome and the rumors are he is mean to his administrators. He abuses them mercilessly until he wears them down emotionally and they agree to sleep with him. Then, after he has sadistic sex with them, he fires them.”
“The guy is an asshole,” she said, noticing Barnabas' smile.
“Be yourself and don’t put up with his crap. He can’t fire you. We made a special employment contract for this situation, but you still must be careful,” he said.
“He won’t get his slimy hands on me,” she said, her bubbles fading away.
“That’s my girl. Don’t expose yourself accidentally,” he cautioned.
“I know what you mean, I won't expose myself in any way, shape or form,” she said giggling.
Barnabas smiled again.
“You’re going in as Victoria Lennon from Astua,” he told her.
“That’s too close to my actual name,” she said, concerned.
“I know, but that’s the identity the agency set up for you,” he said. “I’ll send you the information and the file but don’t stay up too late mulling it over. Start in the morning. You can look at the information as you go along. The first few days, settle in and claim your territory, letting him know you are in control.” He said smiling again.
“What are you doing about the C2I issue?”
“I’m keeping them on hold until you finish this mission, you have put too much into it to be taken out all together,” he said.
She heard her communicator making noises. “The files are coming through now.”
“Be careful, sweetheart, I want nothing to happen to you,” he hesitated. “We need you.”
“Thanks Barn, hey, who is my handler.”
“Monique,” he said.
“Monique?” she said, surprised. “I thought she was on a mission.”
“It’s winding down, you will report directly to her. I told the company I didn’t want it any other way, or I wasn’t sending you in, I know Monique will take care of you,” he said.
“I will want you to send her a full report when you get home tomorrow night. There is an apartment already set up waiting for you, you should have everything you need to start the mission early tomorrow morning. Good night.” His image disappeared.
There was too much on her mind now to finish relaxing. Hopping out of the tub, she threw a robe around her and took the files Barnabas sent to the living room. She pulled a pint of ice cream out of the freezer and sat on the couch to get ready for tomorrow.