Target Acquired

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The Institution

Agent 24 walked briskly through the hallways, her mind a whirling mess. 48 was Detective M? She felt a distinct sense of betrayal that, despite her best efforts, she could not push away.

All around her, agents working for the IDA moved to the side to allow her room to walk past. She smiled cheerfully as she knew Nikki would but didn’t stop. She needed to get out quickly so she could contact her handler. The Institution needed to know as soon as possible.

A hundred different escape routes for a hundred different scenarios ran through her head. At any moment Agent 48 could pull the alarm and put the base on lockdown, or she might be stopped as she headed toward one of the base’s many vehicles. Any situation that came up would require immediate action so she needed to be ready.

She made it to the garage without any mishaps. It seemed 48 was going to let her go without any problems, for which she was grateful but also confused about. She was an undercover Agent surrounded by many skilled agents loyal to Risby. They may not be a match for her abilities, but they might be enough to slow her down until 48 arrived to stop her from revealing his identity. In a battle between the two of them, 24 could honestly say that she didn’t know who would win. 48’s face as he watched her leave flashed through her mind and she shivered. If he felt that strongly when he fought her, he might be able to win.

24 scanned the garage as she entered and found the perfect car. It was deceptively small, but she her trained eyes saw the power and speed that it was capable of. GPS tracking would not be an issue; she could disable it in seconds.

A man came toward her, suspicion written on his face. “Ma’am, you shouldn’t be here,” he told her. Nikki stood up a little straighter and looked the agent in the eyes. “Agent Risby himself has sent me on an errand. I demand you let me through.”

The man hesitated, not wanting to get on the bad side of the head of the IDA. Nikki dealt the final blow. She shrugged indifferently and said, “You are free to contact him, but I believe he is currently in interrogation, and my mission is time sensitive.”

24 saw him wince and knew she had won. Detaining a high-ranking agent on an urgent mission that was assigned by the boss would almost certainly lead to a demotion. He stepped back and waved her through, even going so far as to order one of the workers to get her the key and open the garage door. She smiled. This was too easy.

In no time at all, she was on her way. As soon as the base faded into the background, she pulled out her phone and punched in the number of her handler from memory.

“Hello?”

“Sir, this is Agent 24 reporting. Agent 48 is Detective M. He has evidence of some of the Institution’s work. I request an immediate meeting.”

“Granted. What is your location?”

24 told him and her handler gave her directions to a small-town café a few hours east. That being done, she put her phone to the side and thought back through her conversation with 48. He had shown her what the Institution was doing, and what she saw disturbed her. How could she ignore that? And what about Sarah, Kost, and Jack? How much did they know? Risby had said that they didn’t know anything, but there was no doubt that 48 had told him her status as an Agent so it could have just been a misdirection, a way to protect his agents.

It was hard to believe that all of this had happened in only a few days’ time. The infiltration of the group, finding the evidence of the Fanged Wolves’ involvement in the agents’ disappearance, the attack on the warehouse, and now completing her mission for the Institution. How much of it was fake? How much had 48 manipulated?

And what about what he had said before she left, that she was compromised? She trusted the Institution, was loyal to the organization that raised her and trained her. There was no way they would betray her! But still his voice echoed in her mind. 24 turned the radio on in attempt to drown it out. It didn’t silence the voice completely, but it distracted her enough to finish the drive to the meeting point.

She got out of the car, mentally checking the location of her knives and gun, just in case. They were all within easy reach. As she walked to the café her handler had ordered her to meet up at, she surreptitiously checked her surroundings for any ambush points. If she couldn’t ignore 48’s warning, at least she could prove him wrong. The Institution wouldn’t turn on her.

Agent 24 took a seat at an outside table, ordering a peach tea when the waitress came to her table. She wouldn’t drink it, of course. There was always the risk of poisoning. It would be easy and quiet, and she wouldn’t be able to fight back. She stopped that train of thought, scolding herself for her paranoia. But it didn’t work. When her tea came, she just stirred the drink without taking a sip.

It was only a few minutes later that her handler arrived, his black suit out of place in the small town. He took a seat opposite her, waving the waitress away as he did so. He eyed her drink.

“It’ll get cold,” he commented casually. She shrugged.

“I’m not thirsty.”

The handler sat perched on the edge of his seat, now all business.

“Tell me everything.”

So Agent 24 did. She reported everything that had happened the past few days, not leaving out anything. When she had finished, the handler nodded to himself, mentally filing the information away even though he had a recorder hidden in his suit jacket. His next question caught 24 by surprise.

“What is your impression of the situation?”

“My impression, sir?”

He waved his hand idly, sitting back and losing his professional air.

“What you personally think of the situation. You were given full permission which means you were allowed to take any action you deemed necessary. You must have had some thoughts about what happened.”

Agent 24 considered his words, on edge now. This wasn’t a question that was ever asked of Agents. It wasn’t their place to think about the mission, only complete it.

“I believe Risby when he said that his agents don’t know about the situation. I believe that if we take out Detective M, Risby loses his influence over anything to do with taking down the Institution. I believe that those recordings were real.”

“The recordings, yes.” The handler leaned forward again. “Tell me, Agent 24. Are you loyal to the Institution?”

“Yes sir!” 24’s eyes flashed, tired of having her devotion doubted. In her distraction, she almost ignored her instincts screaming at her, but just in time she threw herself out of her chair as a gunshot echoed through the streets of the town. People began screaming and running for shelter. Her handler just sat calmly in his chair, looking at 24 with blank eyes.

“Pity. I might actually feel sorry about your elimination.”

Another gunshot, from a different direction this time. Agent 24 rolled to the side, the concrete where her head had been a moment before exploding from a heavy-powered bullet.

“Keep moving,” she muttered to herself. She got up, zigzagging through the street to make it harder to hit her. Three Agents who she recognized from the social room back at the Institution stood guarding her bullet-proof car. She would have to make it through them to escape. 24 grinned a bit at the challenge. She wasn’t the best Agent for nothing!

She rolled to dodge the bullets the two men and one woman shot at her, sweeping her legs to take down one of the men. He fell to the ground and 24 kicked him as she got back up, knocking him out. One Agent down, two to go.

Now that they were in close quarters, the two Agents threw their guns to the side. 24 already had her knives out, having pulled them from their sheathes as she had rolled, and slashed at the woman before she could react. One Agent left.

This Agent was a bit more skilled than his two companions, but he was still no match for 24. With two blocks and a thrust, 24 dispatched the man. More gunshots rang out now that there was no danger of hitting their own Agents and 24 dove into the car. She was now supremely grateful for the abilities of the little car. In a few seconds, the car was roaring down the street.

There were two cars following her. She cursed under her breath and swerved to round a corner, needing to get out of the town so she could fight back. A car in front of her was blocking the road, an Agent standing to the side with a sniper rifle pointed right at her. 24 was acting fully on instinct as she spun the car in a dramatic U-turn, causing the bullet to hit one of the cars behind her. It crashed into the car blocking the road.

It took the other car a little longer to turn and follow her, but it was still matching her pace as 24 turned onto the highway leading away from the town. It was straight road for several miles with no turns or foliage to hide in or use for an ambush. Normally, this would be a difficult situation for anyone to get out of, but it was exactly what Agent 24 wanted.

She tore off her jacket, tying it around the steering wheel to keep the car going straight. It wouldn’t work perfectly, but she didn’t need it to. She just needed it stiff so that it would be easier for her feet to control it.

Shoes and socks came off next, thrown to the side carelessly. They would only get in her way. 24 lowered the window and climbed out to sit on the sill, gun in one hand and knife in her other. It would be difficult to pull off, she knew, but if she could distract the Agent following her with the gun, she could throw the knife to get tangled in its tire as it swerved. The speed of the tire would make the knife cut into it, effectively puncturing and tearing the thick rubber.

There were six bullets in her gun. Agent 24 would need every one of them. Her first shot went straight at the driver’s side windshield. He swerved to the right, the bullet missing. The next bullet shot toward the passenger’s side. The car swerved to the left, a little more intensely. A shot to the driver’s side. Another swerve. And another. The last bullet went flying, and the car following her swerved heavily to the left, the vehicle sliding as the car went almost sideways across the road. That was her opportunity.

Agent 24 threw the knife in her hand with all the power she could muster, her own car swerving a bit as her feet lost control, but the knife was already on its way. It struck true, hitting just above the tire handle first. As the car turned significantly to get back on the road, the knife caught on the tire, shredding it to ribbons. 24 watched in satisfaction as her last pursuer spun off the road. She was free.

There was a side road up ahead that would lead her to a busier highway, allowing her to hide in the crowd. She took it, turning onto the road while slowing her speed to match the other vehicles, finally able to breathe. Agent 48 had been right. The Institution had betrayed her.

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