Jensen turned in bed and stared up at the unfamiliar ceiling, pale white light illuminating the room through the open door. Freya must have already gotten up – he couldn’t sense her beside him. He rolled over on the mattress and his feet fell flat onto the slightly uneven concrete, the artificial soles clacking unnaturally on the surface. Even though they were augments, he still felt an uncomfortable chill from the cold floor shoot up his calves. Down the hall he could hear a faint murmur of voices and headed in that direction, stopping just outside the kitchen beyond their view.
“…so you see, Freya, this bastard here completely reconfigured their security systems, so when they lifted off in their helicopter, the anti-aircraft turrets immediately started firing on them! It was beautiful,” a woman laughed triumphantly. He recognized the Trinidadian accent immediately, with its subtle British influences but distinctly Caribbean twang.
“It was risky,” continued a thick Russian voice, not Anton’s. “Shiv had to make it look like we didn’t know they were running after us, so they would walk right into it. She had to let a couple explosions go off a bit closer to her than was really safe…”
“Yeah, I had to get my augs completely reconfigured after that… but it was worth it to get out from under that leash. After the mission in Sydney, when I first started learning about the Hyron project, I just felt sick to my stomach,” Shivana continued, revulsion audible in her voice.
“How did you find out about it?” Adam heard Freya’s voice finally join the conversation.
“Oh,” Shivana started, “we, the Tyrants I mean, had to assassinate an investigator who was getting too close to the Indian Ocean installation. I was tapping the lines in and out, including over the network, and saw all the information she had uncovered about the project. About the kidnapped women being used as drones. Also, it seemed like a lot of it what we were doing was just to make money, not to steer the world along a better course. That’s why I joined in the first place, because the Illuminati had promised to be the guiding hand for human kind and had the audacity to want to be part of that.”
Adam heard footsteps behind him and saw his graying friend Anton extending a cup of coffee. The man smiled gently, the corners of his brown eyes crinkling warmly even with the circular augment scars.
“There’s no need to cling to the shadows,” he said softly, “though I don’t really blame you, bratan.”
Jensen brought the cup to his lips, enjoying the nutty aroma steaming from it. Whenever he spoke, he still half-expected an Irish tone of voice, since that had been Anton’s persona while infiltrating the Rifleman Bank Station. “When does Janus want us to convene?” Adam asked, taking a leisurely sip of the hot liquid.
“Soon. Jie has already sent him everything to review. I was just coming to fetch you.”
He followed Anton around into the other room, meeting Freya’s eyes as they headed past the table. The others got up with them and together they went to the main server room where Jie was waiting for them. Behind Jie on the enormous screen was a blurred electric blue humanoid face. Freya came up next to Adam, standing between him and Shivana. The light from the monitors beamed down on them, giving their faces an unearthly glow. On Adam’s left stood Anton and Dmitri. To his surprise, behind them was another familiar face – Dr. Kavanaugh, the meek brunette scientist he had helped rescue from the Rifleman Bank station laboratory. She smiled nervously at him and kept the same worried look on her face that he remembered from before. I wonder how she feels about being deceived about Interpol, or whether she even knows about that, Jensen pondered to himself.
“I see you have all arrived,” said the deep toned, heavily disguised voice booming from speakers on either side of the display. The face flickered slightly as he spoke. “It is time I introduced myself to our guests. I am Janus. I have finished assessing the new information from Page’s hard drive, as well as what Freya obtained earlier about White Helix.”
Adam folded his arms and shifted his weight toward Freya in anticipation, but maintained a skeptical look on his face. His eyes stayed concealed by the black lenses of his optics display and he had background processes continually monitoring everyone in the room.
“Thanks to this new information, we now know that the Illuminati wish to eliminate the threat of augmented human beings. Since control failed, they will seek to eradicate augmented people, while at the same time developing an alternative in the form of nanotechnology. Currently, that is in the form of a virus, which Adam saw proof of at Versalife.”
Everyone glanced in his direction and Jensen nodded barely, keeping his shades down. After a brief pause, Janus continued.
“Our mission is to get the message out to the world – about the Illuminati’s plan to control augmented people with the kill switch, their new plan to eliminate them entirely with a lethal virus, and the worldwide kidnappings and experiments at the Rifleman Bank Station. Now, we have an ally through Adam and Freya – namely Eliza Cassan. Unfortunately she cannot act freely while the Illuminati still have their controls in place. The last one is hidden by the current leader of the Illuminati, who we have not been able to identify. Eliza suggested that Page may be willing to share that information. It seems he has always been more progressive –White Helix was his project years ago, separate from the Illuminati, and when it was destroyed from within, they did not seek to rebuild much to his frustration. If we could get to him, we may be able to find out where that last control is.”
“Any bright ideas for how to do that?” asked Shivana, her dark features a mixture of skepticism and excitement.
“The information Adam and Freya obtained included Page’s entire schedule – tomorrow he will be leaving Japan for San Francisco. I believe if we intercept him en route, we will have the advantage since he will be isolated without backup. I can interrupt all communication to and from the plane. I believe Adam would be the ideal operative for this task.”
Shivana stamped angrily, her silver augment almost tearing through her boot as she dashed it into the concrete. Smirking knowingly, Anton nudged Jensen who still had a stony expression on his face.
“I’m not saying I’m unhappy you have such confidence in me, but why do you think I’d be right for this?” Adam asked, his head tilting just slightly more up toward the screen.
The blue avatar, though pixelated, had a subtle change in expression, “You were part of Page’s personal project, White Helix - his mission to advance himself. The rest of humanity was just along for the ride. You may be able to use your connection to obtain that information, since you also want to know more about your past. It might also keep him from killing you on the spot, thus giving you an advantage.”
All those ‘might’s and ‘may’s. It was starting to sound like another plan that required more luck than Adam liked. He glanced at Freya, who was avoiding his eyes but he saw the rise of apprehension in her shoulders. Pursing his lips, he turned his gaze slowly back to the blank, emotionless voice ahead of them.
“Okay, how am I supposed to get to him mid-air?” Adam asked.
As he thought, Janus already had a plan figured out. “Dmitri will fly you and Anton to intercept the plane. I’ll take down their sensors and communications and sync up the planes’ trajectories so you can deploy a cable that would land you at the luggage hatch on the rear. It’s separately pressurized from the cabin, so you should be able to enter the hatch, seal it, and then enter the main cabin from there. As for an escape plan, you have the Icarus Landing system and the ocean below you. We’ll fish you out.”
Dmitri let out a hearty laugh and looked at Anton for some sign that it was just a joke. When Anton didn’t join in, he turned wide eyed back at Janus.
“Obaldet, you really want us to hook up to Page’s plane and have Jensen swing down to it on a string?” Dmitri asked incredulously.
“I will take control of the planes and pilot them to a safe speed and altitude. His augments will keep him from suffering oxygen deprivation, freezing, or limb damage,” Janus explained.
“Oh, well that’s reassuring,” Freya muttered, but she had seen him in such dangerous situations that this hardly seemed worse. Heck, he had relied on his augments to land him safely on Panchaea when his low earth orbit shuttle was coming in fast with no braking system.
“I’m up for this if you are,” Anton said encouragingly.
Adam nodded and Janus set the departure time for 0400 the next morning. That would give them time to intercept Page when he was about five hours off shore, and at least an hour away from any potential backup. Janus’ image blinked a few times then disappeared, ending the communication. Dmitri still looked uneasy, but busied himself examining the plane and getting the equipment needed for the next day. Not wanting to let worry set in, Freya pulled up a chair besides Jie, who was busy identifying all the variables that would be at play the next day. Adam smiled a little as her eyes fixed on his keystrokes and protocols, trying to absorb every bit of information she could. It was rather impressive how serious she could be when it came to technology and hacking. She would ask a question here and there and one of Jie’s red optical lenses would swivel to look at her as he answered, the other still focused on the screens. It almost reminded Adam of a chameleon.
Jensen felt a tap on his shoulder and followed after Anton, who downed the rest of his own cup of coffee, rinsed it, and left it beside the sink in the kitchen. The rest of the day passed in a blur as Adam and Anton went over the schematics for the plane and various contingency plans. What they would do if the cable partially detached. If either plane went down. If Page called for backup. By the time evening came around, Adam was really starting to miss his apartment and that bottle of whiskey.
“Tired, bratan?” asked Anton, rolling up several blueprints that Jie had printed for them earlier of the jet streams over the Pacific. They had been examining the various locations that Janus had picked as possible intercept points where turbulence would be the lowest.
“You could say that,” he said, pulling a cyberboost bar out of his left pocket and tearing it open, biting off half of it. Anton took the other half out of Adam’s hand and set it on the table dismissively.
“Please, save that shit for tomorrow. You might need it. Dmitri’ll cook us all up something nice. In the meantime…” he started, reaching into the back of a file cabinet drawers behind the folders and withdrawing a bottle of Russian vodka and two shot glasses, “…let’s toast to the end of the day.”
Adam grinned and took one of the thick glasses into his hand, noticing the numerous scratches that made the once completely clear material nearly opaque. Anton filled each glass with precisely one and a half ounces and set the vodka bottle aside.
“Pojexali!” he shouted triumphantly, hoisting the small glass high without spilling a drop.
Adam lifted his drink, "Pojexali." He wasn't sure what it meant, but he presumed something good spirited. As they emptied their glasses, Anton gestured for the two of them to move to the kitchen from which delicious savory aromas were beginning to emanate. Anton made sure not to leave the vodka or the shot glasses behind – he clearly meant the night to be a celebration. Upon entering the room, Jensen saw Freya and Shivana seated around the table, closely followed by Jie who had just started several tracers running on orbiting satellites. There was a free seat beside Freya which Adam took while Anton grabbed another handful of shot glasses and set them in front of each person at the table. He left one sitting in the last open spot for Dmitri, who was busy sautéing Kielbasa and onions on the stove.
"Everything going alright?" Adam commed Freya silently. As he retracted his sunglasses, he looked in her direction, letting her see his eyes clearly.
"Yeah, just trying to pick up some tricks from Jie. I doubt I'll be much use tomorrow but I'll be right beside him here watching the show," she answered, anxiously rotating the shot glass in front of her back and forth between her fingers. Freya felt the gentle pressure of his hand on her knee, squeezing reassuringly. His thumb gently massaged back and forth and he smiled slightly, "I'm glad to know you'll still be my guardian angel."
She paused in rotating the glass and caught her breath as he started sliding his palm up along the inside of her thigh over her loose slacks. Freya tried not to let her excitement reflect in her face and ducked her chin down shyly. She'd been craving his touch all day but with everything that was going on, it seemed like a silly thing to think about. They were all fugitives from the most dangerous, influential people on the planet and in the midst of planning an attack. Like they had said last night, this had become bigger than Adam, or the two of them. Even so, she thought to herself, her hand gripping around his bicep as he teased her, what's the point of fighting if you don't have someone to fight for? The moment ended when he abruptly withdrew upon Anton coming over to pour everyone a round, but not without Adam casting her a playful smirk.
"To Dmitri's cooking!" Anton said cheerfully, oblivious to them.
Freya smiled and tried to drink her glass as fast as everyone else at the table but, it took her two swallows to get the burning liquid down her throat. She was used to leisurely sipping on her alcohol. With that, Dmitri brought over some fresh borscht, kielbasa and onions for their meal. Before eating, Anton poured a second round for everyone, which Freya again politely accepted and drank down more easily this time.
"Russians," Adam commed her silently, sitting closer to her on the bench.
She chuckled at his comment and felt her cheeks reddening already from the alcohol. The meal was surprisingly good, and filled with more toasts later on. By the time she had finished the soup, her head was swimming and she tried to follow the conversation going on between Shivana and Anton. By now, Adam's arm had dropped down around her waist and his fingers were playing with the hem of her pants. After a few drinks, he was a lot less concerned about concealing signs of affection.
"I still can't believe I have to stay here, while you get to ride along for all the glory," Shivana said, disgruntled.
"Hey, Janus makes the rules, not me," Anton said, holding his hands up.
Shivana rolled her eyes and stuffed a piece of sausage into her mouth, "It's all a big boy's club." She chewed noisily, nudging Freya. "I'm glad we have another woman, finally. No offense, guys."
"None taken," Jie chimed in. "Let me say it is a pleasure to have you here, Freya Pritchard. Someone else besides Janus who can appreciate the beauty of my bits."
Freya felt her face grow even more crimson as everyone cheered again. Laughing, Anton poured the remainder of that bottle of vodka evenly among the glasses on the table and they shared a final toast. With that, it seemed the group was at last ready to disperse for the night. It wouldn't be long before morning came and they would have to prepare for the mission.
As they walked back to their room, Adam helped keep Freya upright with his arm around her waist. She was brimming with contentedness, leaning against him as they rounded the hall and entered their doorway. One of her arms was around him and the other was holding onto the fabric over his chest, swinging slightly as they moved forward. Once they were out of sight in the room, she closed the door behind them and pulled herself up towards him. Her fingers found their way up his neck, into his short brown hair, and surprised him when she brought him down into a deep kiss. Adam hadn't yet activated his alcohol detoxification nanites so his reflexes were a little delayed.
"I've been waiting hours to do that," she whispered, her lips dancing against his mouth as she spoke. It only made him pause for a second – his hands quickly slid up along her hips and over the smooth skin of her lower back. He savored the seductive curve of her spine as he brought her a few paces over to the mattress, lips still locked on hers. The covers were in disarray from the morning but he threw her down nonetheless. He trailed his kisses along her shoulder, sliding her shirt over her head and cupping her bare breasts in his hands. In the alcohol-induced delirium, Adam felt like he could easily just melt into her – her velvety warm flesh, the intensely feminine aroma as he buried his face in her neck and hair, the faint sweet smell of vodka.
As he touched her, her amorous moans and body quivers heightened his desire. Driven onward by her hands trailing desirously along his back and chest, he pulled her clothing away, not stopping until he was immersed completely inside her. He heard her gasp close to his ear and felt her arms and legs pull him tightly to her. As he caressed her, he felt her hips rhythmically moving against him and matched her, thrusting until he fell against her in their final climax. Her body folded around him as they savored the last moments, connected in bliss. Sleepiness was rapidly setting in and, spent, Adam rested his head against her round supple breasts. Freya smiled and cradled his head in her arms, still dizzy from ecstasy and drowsiness. His last thought as he drifted asleep with her was of how much he did not want to leave those arms. He didn't want to think about tomorrow, or Bob Page, or the Illuminati. Was such a simple wish, to remain in the throes of happiness with a woman he adored, too much to ask of the world?