Chapter 1: Temptation
I wake up with my head spinning. I roll out of bed and I hit the floor, throwing up my guts into the bucket just next to my bedside table.
It was the vaccine handed out by the government making me feel woozy and dizzy. After emptying my guts, my hands search the floor for my clothes as I usually slept naked to reduce the number of outfits I ruined with my sharp as all hell nails and hair. Soft fabric meets my trembling palms and I pull up the already half shredded black pants in a swift jerk. I find my broken over sized blue shirt and chuck that on too.
Groaning, I stand up and wisp my tawny hair over my shoulders as I stumble to the mirror.
I smile at myself in the reflection, smugly. I give myself a wink.
“You did it,” I speak to myself, “You landed yourself a job, give yourself a pat on the back… carefully,” I chuckle as I do just that.
My morning daze only lasts so long before I’m in a rush to get out of my oh so accommodating bedroom. It was a small, tiny box. After my parents kicked me out, I was at least eligible for government care.
Heh. Well, I was only eligible if I had no where else to go. Since most of my relatives were all dead – um, yeah… I had no where else to go. And, of course, as long as I took the SD vaccine every night and trialled jobs until I found a permanent position – I could stay here.
I open the only window I have, about the size of my hand and I breathe in the burnt air from the forever dark clouded city.
Mmmm, yes, Frankincense City - FC for short. Or Frank. Whatever you preferred.
It was the only city in the New World – that was from the Old World.
Old World as in before the earth was bombed with Spanky Dust. Yes, Spanky Dust.
It gave people powers. Only problem was – it killed 85% of those who came into contact with it.
Those who weren’t caught in Spanky Dust stayed out of Frankincense. Those who were touched by it and survived, lived here.
Why Frankincense City? Well, it stunk here, usually of burning chemicals, burning buildings, and, wait for it… people who harboured the power to seep gas at will. There was a surprising amount of people who could do that. Not to mention, according to the rest of the world, we were all Frankensteins. Sometimes people didn’t mutate powers, sometimes they mutated extra body parts. Imagine having two assholes and taking two shits?
Frankincense was the perfect name.
Who really cared, anyway? None of the one million people living here had anywhere else to go. It didn’t matter what the city was called.
We were permanently stuck here, until one of the vaccines actually worked and cured us. So far 3 different vaccines had failed.
This was the 4th attempt at curing everyone. Most people just refused to take it now. Although if you openly refused you were at danger of being labelled a Misfit. Most people pretended to take it, just for legal checks.
No one wanted to be formally known as a Misfit. They weren’t just seen as a rebel – but an incurable, disgusting rat. If you refused to try and change, the government made a damn good point on how you were sacrificing the planet.
Already, pregnancy was rare. Even amongst the ‘healthy’ and rich who lived on the other side of the world. The world was damned. Everywhere you searched, scare campaigns terrified children, broke families, dashed hope.
Where I happened to land a job was damn lucky. The Five Reds were famous for being the very group that would save humanity.
First they were going to save Frank City. Then they were going to save the world.
At least the Government was attempting to fix things. The one group holding us back were a bunch of thugs called the Gang of Shadows. They were led by evil masterminds who assassinated government officials, dealt in drugs and labs to recreate Spanky Dust and built bombs to ruin the only untouched parts of the planet.
“You’re going to be famous, Alyssa,” I murmur to myself while wrapping up my lunch I’d take with me. I quickly follow that with a shower, which is opposite the bed. I get dressed in my work clothes, once again carefully and by that stage…
…I’m running late.
And I’m running out the door.
Red Headquarters. The coolest place on Earth. Ahem – at least in Frank City. It was a glorious, modern building, opposite a green park. Green was cool because anything green was rare these days.
“We have most rogue plans, operations and undercover spies handled. All the Gang of Shadow’s ‘little people’ are done and dusted after you five have been roaming and protecting the city,” Professor Hedgy claps his hands together in front of him while his fat lump of a stomach lies on the table before him.
“Of course we do,” Captain James was all eyebrows as far as I was concerned. He wasn’t the most interesting person. Typically handsome man with… no personality. Besides his super strength which gave him the label; James the Brains.
It was funny. He wasn’t the brains at all. Professor Hedgy was.
Ok, you have to get used to the humour here. Sometimes people in Frank City called you what you weren’t. Everything else about FC was backwards anyway.
Except, of course, the perfect shiny table we were all crowded around. Twenty of the Five Red’s best were constantly surrounding this damn perfectly polished table. Marble too.
I can’t help myself, I zone out of the briefing and reach out a hand to tap a nail on the table top. I do a small tap, and a scratch appears. I do a harder tap and – crack.
“Miss Alyssa O’Brien –!” Ah, oh, Prof. Hedgy.
“Sorry!” I squeak out and put my hand behind my back, clasping my other wrist, “I’m sorry.”
“Can you please confirm your status on your first infiltration?” he asks, choosing to ignore my damage of their perfect meeting table.
I even spot a serious eye-roll from Captain James the Brains himself. I blush, even though he isn’t my type and I shouldn’t care what he thinks.
“I got in successfully and retrieved the documents with the addresses of the ring leaders… of the… um… thugs,” I wasn’t usually one to trip on my words, but I was nervous with so many eyes on me.
“I wanted to congratulate you on your success,” Prof. Hedgy grins, “You’re being promoted to The Diamond Spy… you know why?”
Oh my gosh, that rhyme was cringe worthy.
“Why?” I ask, smiling awkwardly when he doesn’t answer straight away.
“Well, I spoke too soon. I just thought I’d give you some incentive not to fail your next assignment. You’re being promoted after you – if you, get in and get out of the Black Lair successfully, stealing Dale’s golden ring with the green emerald.”
I gape, speechless.
Everyone is already avoiding my gaze.
Because I was just sentenced to a suicide mission.
Everyone had joked about it before, when I started two days ago. They all told me I was lucky to be in such a low position. A spy like myself would not be asked to complete dangerous missions. We were usually handed smaller assignments and tasks deemed low-risk.
Prof. Hedgy also ignores my gaping jaw and continues with his little presentation.
“This is an image of Dale, it’s one of the only ones we have…” he is looking towards the screen, where-by I was completely ignoring anything but my level of shock at that point.
However, my adrenaline is soon accompanied with a nervous gut as I glance at the image of Dale they have presented on the screen.
He is in the shadows, with dark coloured hair, leaning on a counter. His hand is in a woman’s tawny hair, like mine. He is pulling this woman’s hair tightly back, looking down on her face with utter calm and superiority.
After Prof. Hedgy explains more details – stuff I already knew from the whispers that went around –I only have one question.
“Um... may I ask... why me?” I question, utterly confused.
“I have to remind you, you signed a contract and you’re liable to complete the mission or face incarceration… do you remember, Miss Alyssa O’Brien? You are obliged to –”
“I know. But why me?” I ask again, annoyed he won’t get to the point.
“The last lot of infiltrators have been killed on the property either by his hand or someone else’s… we believe you have a better chance. You’re his ‘type’… he is known to be quite interested in the BDSM lifestyle and all his Submissives… look like you… for lack of a better explanation. Don’t look at me like that, Alyssa, you wanted an answer. Now you have one,” Prof. Hedgy gives me a fake smile and then is instantly busy talking to the other members of the Five Reds.
A woman shoves me papers, staying out of harm’s way.
No one looks at me when I glance up, no one comforts me. All I see are my papers strewn across the table.
I pick them up, very tentatively while licking my dry lips.
It wasn’t so bad.
If I died, at least Dale was the most attractive face I’d ever see in my life, before I faced my death.
And if I survived? I’d have a cool nickname.
The Diamond Spy.