Chapter 31: Caught
The jet touched down in a small airfield, authorized only because it was registered as transport for workers who were stationed at the embassy.
Long since having changed into jackets and slacks, the two agents and two students exited the jet and headed for the waiting car. Behind them, the pilot took off and left them in Russia.
As Makoto and Tadashi settled in the back seat, she glanced at him nervously. ‘Once you step off the jet, you are your cover.’ She couldn’t speak freely anymore. She hadn’t realized how difficult that would be.
She was worried that he would forget something. She was worried that she would forget something.
“Relax. This isn’t your first transfer.” Tadashi chastened.
The message was clear. She’d been undercover before. There was no reason to act like an amateur. She’d been kidnapped before, too. She was beyond qualified for that mission.
When they reached the embassy and passed around identification, Jered and Christina led them upstairs to an ‘employees only’ door – which he bypassed – that led them to an exit, putting them on a small street behind the embassy.
Jered had explained to them that it really didn’t matter how suspicious they acted, since their whole mission was to get caught. He had added, however, that they did need to get to their safe-house, because as soon as Makoto and Tadashi got grabbed, the Russians would go after the ENIGMA agents and they needed to be able to fortify themselves.
Nearly thirteen side streets and fourteen back-alleys later, Jered let them into a small suburban-type house.
They ran around for a good twenty minutes, checking their security systems and ensuring that any additional listening devices were located and destroyed.
“It’s cold in here.” Makoto muttered, dropping her bag on the couch.
“No one’s use this base for two months. It was resupplied yesterday, but it’s been cold for a while.” Christina responded. She was laying surveillance equipment out on the table. She and Jered would take most of it and set up their half of the mission.
Makoto and Tadashi would take the rest and wander around the institution like amateurs until they got caught.
Jered immediately began digging through the pantry and started dinner.
It was all staging.
He’d make enough food for four as though he expected them to come back and eat with them.
Tadashi was setting up his computer, even though he knew he wouldn’t be coming back to monitor his cameras on it.
Christina was already going to the trouble of making up four beds and connecting all four computers to her private server.
Even Makoto was busily unpacking her clothes and overnight kit.
“We’re all set.” Christina announced, dropping into a loveseat, folding her legs up under her. “We’ll start tomorrow. You know, when it’s warm enough to actually move joints properly. For the time being...” She plugged her tablet in and turned it on. “My show’s on.”
“We’re gonna start tonight.” Tadashi argued stiffly, gently placing the surveillance cameras in a bag. “You guys can slack off if you like, but I’d like to go home as soon as possible.” He turned and looked pointedly at Makoto.
She nodded and reached for her field bag.
Christina merely shrugged. “Good luck.”
“Don’t stay out late – we’re not holding dinner.” Jered called from the kitchen, glancing over his shoulder with a peculiar look on his face. It was a silent goodbye.
It almost scared Makoto.
“Don’t get killed out there, Chica,” Christina hummed. “You’re not too bad when you get past that wall of babble.”
And moment ruined.
Makoto rolled her eyes and followed Tadashi out.
She promptly tripped over her foot and nearly fell on her face. His hand gripped her shoulder and pulled her back up before she could become junior Detective Pancake.
“We’ll go straight to the institute.” Tadashi said without hesitation. “Set up the cameras as closely as we can.”
“Kinda risky, don’t you think?” She followed behind him as he shouldered his bag and marched resolutely down the sidewalk.
The moment – the precise instant – that they stepped within thirty-four feet of the wall that surrounded the campus, fourteen Russians emerged from both visible corners, weapons drawn and ready.
Tadashi froze, muscles tense and fists clenched. His arm went up, a protective bar against Makoto’s chest, pushing her backwards. It made no difference. The closest building was a mile away.
They were completely alone with the exception of people who wanted them dead.
“Don’t. Get. Shot.” Makoto hissed.
Tadashi glanced at her, and she prayed he’d resist the urge to go all feline-madman. She edged him toward a tree that stood roughly seven feet to their left.
That was all it took for all fourteen men to launch themselves forward. Only two of them utilized their weapons, but it was enough for Makoto to shove Tadashi the remaining five feet behind the tree.
“I told you it was risky.” She snapped, drawing her gun and leaning right to drop two men with two shots. “So do they want us because we’re trespassing? Or because they know us?”
“What, you mean because you’re Akari Hiroshida’s daughter? My money’s on both.” Tadashi shot back, felling three more men.
“You have no money.” Makoto turned just enough to watch him get nabbed by a single gunman who managed to sneak around behind them. Before Makoto could rise to his defense, a hand grabbed her throat and jerked her back.
Tadashi fought weakly against them, containing his strength to conceal his identity, especially since they were supposed to be captured.
Makoto spun her gun around her finger and buried a bullet in her captor’s hip just as her vision went black and she hit the ground like a dead body.
After that, everything went like Uriel had written it would. Based on the overpowering smell of antiseptic, Makoto knew she was in some kind of laboratory before she even opened her eyes.
Boots pounded around her, echoing in her aching brain.
Four men – one with a limp – and one woman.
Straps bit into the skin of her arms, waist, and legs, cinching her down to a flat surface. It was cold against her elbows – she hadn’t been there long.
Voices resounded quietly within the walls of a – wait, was that Vortex?
Vortex, smoke, and leather scented the air.
Her eyes snapped open, abandoning the pretense of sleep, and darted around until she found him. Past the four white-garbed scientists – one with a limp – and the female doctor, Makoto’s gaze at last came to rest on Hybrid.
He was in human form, strapped with steel to a stone chair.
Still, she had to hold her tongue.
Or, at least, she had to keep playing along. “Kido?” She muttered, reaching over and kicking him in the knee. “Kido – wake up.”
His eyes opened swiftly, glaring. “I’ve been awake. How do you feel?” His shoulders, once tense, immediately loosened when he saw her.
“A bit like I got hit in the head by a car, but otherwise fine.” She grunted. “How about you? Are you okay?” She wondered how long she’d been out. Enough time for Evil Incorporated to get her into Evil Headquarters.
There was a pause.
“They sprained my wrist.”
Makoto raised an eyebrow. “Do you want me to kill them?” She let her eyes stray back to the scientists and the—
She froze. Someone was breathing.
Someone right behind her.
Makoto jerked her head back, but she couldn’t see him, no matter how far back she rolled her eyes.
She knew she must have looked like a frothing idiot.
“Please, by all means, kill us, Makoto Akari.” A voice said, heavily accented. “But first, there’s one more thing I need you to know before we make you forget.” The man stepped out of the shadow of the doorway.
He was tall, broad-shouldered and gray-haired. His eyes were set deeply in his face, obscured by the shadow of his brow. Frown lines wrinkled his mouth and forehead, and callouses scarred his knuckles.
He was not a gentle teacher.
“Mr. Kido knows everything about you already. Daughter of foreign relations ambassador. In possession of the ability to open portals in space and the strangely useful ability to hide any physical damage. He knows your grades, good and bad, and your admittedly impressive career experience.” The man looked amused.
Makoto blinked. “I’ve never been flattered by a captor before. Thank you, but I don’t like compliments.” She gave him a smile that was not a bit cheerful.
“Relax, child.” The Russian-accented man soothed, about as comforting as a buck-toothed hillbilly running at you with a chainsaw.
Makoto watched through strained eyes as the Russian with the gray eyes walked around the table she was strapped to.
“I’ve as of yet harmed no one that you are in any way attached to.” The man promised, raising his hands in a calming gesture.
His captive only responded to his claim with a deadpan stare.
“I have two things to tell you, Makoto Akari. The first is, I need you—”
“Touched, but I’m not into older guys.”
“I need you on my side.” The man finished.
Makoto rolled her eyes again. “Friend, the only thing we have in common is that eventually we’re going to have to stop breathing. And if you’re so persistent on my inclusion in your venture in evil, you might as well pull my plug right now.”
A racket arose from Tadashi’s corner of the room. “Do I get a vote?” His voice wondered.
“If you got a vote, you wouldn’t be in that chair, now would you?” The man shot back smartly. He turned back to Makoto. “You are a woman of incredible skill and knowledge. Under the watch of some, you are a blossoming detective. Under the guidance of others, you are a spy.”
The Japanese girl’s eye twitched.
When the Russian turned his head, she thought she could hear screws rattling around inside.
“So what I’m going to do is reprogram the nonessential clutter in your head and set you up with your partner as a team to lead my frontal assault. And by frontal, I mean of course working from the shadows.”
Reprogram nonessential clutter?
What was he calling nonessential clutter?
“Frontal assault against whom?” She demanded, catching sight of a beaker of ugly white liquid in the hand of a scientist.
“The church of Christ, of course.”
Makoto stared at him. She knew it already. She knew, of course, it was in the mission briefing, but to hear him state it with such arrogance shocked her. “Excuse me?”
He must have been smoking something weird because his plan was more than a little nuts.
“What makes you feel the need to wage war with God?” She wondered, genuinely curious. After all, to track down the man’s brain, she had to know exactly how much of it had jumped ship.
“There’s a lot of good people in the world, doing a lot of good work. However, those people are not the hateful, judgmental, pompous Christians.” The Russian informed her lightly.
She quirked an eyebrow. “So...you want to kill them all because you got your feelings hurt?”
He smiled that awful smile. “Not at all. And you were familiar with Christina’s plan. I don’t want to kill them – not yet.” He half turned away. “Also, there’s some really annoying people who take up about 57% of VALOR, which happens to be a Christian organization.”
Makoto rolled her eyes, fed up with his stupid, misguided mission. “Yeah, okay. Many have tried and failed. And the second thing?”
The man moved on, despite her comment and the way Tadashi’s glare darkened to level black-hole. “But you don’t know everything about Mr. Kido. I love surprises, so I’ll let you in on the secret.” He winked at Makoto.
She glanced at Tadashi. She knew where the conversation was going. The Russian was trying to make her spend her last moments with her identity feeling betrayed. He wanted one last fair victory.
She was more than happy to deprive him of it.
“I’m sure you know his grades. You know he speaks Russian and Arabic, in addition to English and Japanese. You know his great grandfather isn’t from this dimension. But he’s lied to you. He’s been lying to you from the very beginning.” The man smiled toothily.
“Everyone lies.” Makoto responded, but she was watching Tadashi. He was tugging at his bonds, expression lethal.
“There is something that is very pivotal in your life that Tadashi is involved in. And here’s the thing—”
“If you’re trying to tell me that my friend is going around masquerading as a cat doing good in a bad world, I already know.” Makoto smirked at the Russian’s expression, and then cut her eyes over to Tadashi. His eyes were wide and unbelieving, staring at her.
“I’ve known for a while.” She admitted softly. She refocused on the Russian, despite the could-have-been tears that she saw in Tadashi’s eyes. “I’m a detective, comrade. Of course I know. Now if you don’t mind—” She fixed her gaze on the floor. “I’d like to forget about my problems.”
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