The Agency: Book One

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White Squad

In chess, many people will tell you that pawns exist to go in front of the main, important pieces, a sacrifice to ensure victory. How surprising it must be for those that fight White Squad, when the Rook rushes forward.

Despite Agent Aquarius being the best agent under Nevada’s employ, White Squad was the best team, simply because they could work together.

Six individuals made up White Squad; King, Queen, Bishop, Rook, Knight and Pawn. These agents are the best of the best, the absolute elite, reserved for those situation where not just anyone will do.

So why did they just go rogue?

Rook dropped her hammer on the ground, where it whined for three seconds before switching itself off. She walked over to the mirror and glanced at her face briefly. Her jaw and nose were covered by a custom-made re-breather mask, and today would not be a day she removed it.

‘Rook, where are you?’ came the concerned voice of King over Rook’s comms.

‘I’m on my way, just...’

Rook look at her reflection once more.

‘Remembering.’

No reply came over the comms, but Rook took the meaning. She pushed herself away from the mirror, picked her hammer up again, and left the room.

As a vessel of the Agency’s specialist fleet, the King’s Gambit was probably the most powerful, barring the My Lady Elizabeth. Crewed by 90 men and women of various races, even a demon in Engineering. Armed with state-of-the-art weaponry built by the top Alliance Arms developers. Lined with nanoplate armour behind Vauxler Shielding. Not many could take on this ship and survive.

The ship shook violently.

‘The hell?’

Rook started running down the corridor, heavy thunk thunk thunks on the metal. Crew members knew not to get in her way, so they quickly jumped aside or were shoved down lest they be too slow.

The door to the bridge opened and Rook barrelled inside. She skidded to a halt in front of her console at the C.I.C. Only Bishop was present, his dexterous fingers dancing over the holographic panels.

’Seven contacts, Wight frigates targeting our critical systems. Multiple shield points, can’t compensate for all of them!”

The C.I.C exploded in a shower of sparks, setting the wires alight.

‘Get the fire out!’

Rook grabbed the air pressurizer and pointed the nozzle at the fire. Within seconds, the fire was extinguished as it’s oxygen was sucked away in the localized space.

‘Why the hell are the Wights out here? This is Klisk space’ Knight said, hurrying in and activating his station. ‘All weapons are already firing, but I need King’s go to fire the blink cannon.’

Pawn and Queen approached their stations and logged on.

‘Engineering reporting a hull breach.’ Pawn said.

‘Power is out for Science.’ Queen added.

There was another explosion below their feet, and the power flickered.

‘Hull breach on Deck 12. No survivors.’ Knight said promptly.

One more explosion, this one enveloping White Squad and the bridge. None of them reacted as the room disappeared and turned into the empty void of the holodeck. Agent King was standing by the entrance, looking disappointed.

Agent King, despite the name, was a tall woman with neatly cut, chestnut brown hair, eyes that glowed with a tangerine aura, and a freckles on her face. However, she was in the commander’s armor, and you don’t get to wear that without proving yourself.

‘That was pretty shoddy, White Squad. Rook showed up before half of you.’

Rook may have been annoyed she was being picked on, but it was correct. She was always late.

‘If that had been real, the ship and everyone on it would be dead. Is that what you want?’

‘No, King,’ said the squad in monotonous unison. Rook sighed. Something interesting needed to happen soon, she didn’t care what it was.

The training room failures was enough to make anyone feel bad for the day, but White Squad were the best of the best. If they couldn’t pass a simple module, what hope was there for anyone else?

Agent King was the leader of this squad. Her infinite patience was probably her best trait. Any agent under her could spend hours training and only improve a tiny bit, and King would still consider that a win. Sadly, her approach was not popular with other squad leaders, and Nevada. Every failure was remembered and held above her, but her eternal smile was hard to stay mad at.

King sat in the conference room alone. The mission she was receiving today was to be top priority, but her squad being late was unusual.

‘Where is everyone?’ King mused.

The door opened and Agent Queen walked in. Unlike King, Queen was as serious as they came. Hair tied back tightly in a ponytail of black, dressed with her suit zipped all the way up, always carrying her weapon and PDA. Ready for business on any day. Queen sat down, still typing on her PDA.

‘Queen, have you seen the others?’

‘Knight and Pawn are training, Bishop is in the cockpit and Rook is in her room.’

King sighed, and tapped the holographic panel on the table. The A.I for the King’s Gambit, Magnus, appeared in his checkered suit.

‘Yes, ma’am? How may I assist you?’

‘Cut off power to the training floor, flood Rook’s sink and stop arguing with Bishop. You are just encouraging him.’

‘I shall comply, ma’am’

Ten minutes later, every agent was sitting around the table. Rook’s hair was damp, but wrung out before she had arrived. Pawn was sporting a black eye and Knight had a dagger wedged in his chestplate. Bishop was fine, and was leaning back on his chair with his feet on the table.

‘So, boss lady, what’s the mission?’ Bishop asked.

‘That is what Captain Nevada will be telling us today.’

At the mention of their employer’s name, every agent straightened and sat professionally, all previous problems forgotten.

King smirked and pressed another button. Nevada’s hologram appeared on the table, looking directly at King.

‘Agent King, you’re late.’

‘I apologize, sir.’

Nevada glanced at the other agents, then sighed.

‘Very well. Agent, you will be sent to Dawkin 6. I have received a distress call from an Alliance outpost there that the Klisk have assaulted the planet. As Dawkin 6 is also one of our major research posts, I have made the decision to send you. Go in, retrieve our research, and if possible, rescue any personnel. Your main target for rescue, if possible, will be Dr. Linda Black, the lead of the project.’

‘Is there a Biomancer on the planet?’ Queen asked.

‘That is unknown at this time. However, satellite imagery have detected a large amount of lesser Klisk, meaning a Biomancer is entirely possible.’

‘How many personnel were working at the station?’ Knight asked solemnly.

‘My information states 400, so expect Infested.’

Knight looked saddened at the possibility of so much death. Pawn placed her hand on his reassuringly. Unlike most agents, Knight and Pawn were lucky enough to have joined the Agency together. Before, they were brother and sister in a forgotten war, but now their bond made them a fierce tag-team.

‘Back-up?’ King asked to the annoyance of Rook.

‘I will hold Olympus in reserve, but I expect you will not need it, Agent. This is a simple mission with simple parameters.’

‘Any other questions, White Squad?’ King asked the room. She received no answer, so she bowed her head to Nevada. ‘We will retrieve the information, and if possible, save Dr. Black. Bishop, go prep our largest shuttle in case there are multiple civilians. Pawn, Rook, go prepare weapons for anti-Klisk insertion. Knight, Queen, go plot our landing site based on the information we have.’

The other agents stood and left to go and perform their missions. King, however, stayed behind to ask one more question.

‘Sir?’

‘I know what you are going to ask, King, and the answer is no. I cannot reveal the mission parameters of other agents. If they wish to, by all means, but not me.’

King nodded, and stood up.

‘We will not let you down, sir.’

As usual, each task was performed as fast as possible, and before long, White Squad was sitting in the Ursa-class transport. Enough for 100 people, and enough weapons to defend them if a flyer attacked. Bishop was in the cockpit, using the thrust to safely eject from the ship. Once they were free of the King’s Gambit, Bishop opened the boost and tore towards Dawkin 6. King was strapped beside Bishop, checking the HUD in her vision. She had stats on all her agents. Oddly, Knight’s was not working, displayed as a black line, usually indicating heart failure.

‘Knight? Check HUD. My instruments think you are dead.’

In the back, Knight checked his HUD, and noticed the issue.

‘I’ve been severed from the network. Pawn, can you hook me back up?’

Pawn nodded and knelt beside her brother. She checked the HUD implant with still hands despite the turbulence, and re-wired it. Knight came back to life on the instruments.

‘Done.’

King closed her eyes, permitting herself a little relaxation before the mission. Below was a mission that would forever change how White Squad was seen, unbeknownst to the members of White.

Bishop activated the landing gear, and the ship crunched on the ground. Bishop grimaced, checking the ship’s instruments.

‘Oh no... a Tendril has us, boss lady. I don’t think anything else noticed us, but we can’t take off with that thing holding us down.’

‘Bishop, can you handle it? We’ll be going indoors, and having you far would be beneficial in a base with windows.’

Bishop nodded, grinning at the plan. He unstrapped himself and grabbed the intercom radio.

‘We have arrived at our destination. Please exit the vehicle in an orderly fashion. If you look to your right, you will see devastation caused by Klisk. If you look to your left, you will see a base surrounded by monsters. We hope you enjoy your trip to Dawkin 6. Please pack accordingly.’

King walked back into the passenger area, and grabbed her sword from the rack. She flourished it, and slid in into it’s sheathe. Queen fastened her gauntlets to her hands, and double-checked she had every chemical she required for their use. Pawn’s body was covered in knives, signalling that she was ready. Knight stood on his platform, and the armor was punched into the entry-points in his skin and nerves. Once he was ready, he picked up his giant beam cannon, and smiled at his squadmates. Rook kicked up her hammer, and grinned at King.

‘Ready!’ they all said. King pressed the open button, and the back of the ship opened. King and Rook went first, leaping out with pirouettes. Rook slammed her hammed onto the ground, sending out a shockwave that knocked over the Klisk ahead of them. King landed on Rook’s back, then kicked over, twirled, and thrust her blade through the face of a large Klisk.

Pawn followed next, somersaulting in the air and landing beside Rook. She grabbed knife after knife and hurled them into attacking Klisk, making them spasm and fall to the ground. Behind Pawn was another agent as Queen landed without the flourish. A Klisk pounced at her, and she caught it by the throat, held her gauntlet to it’s face and unleashed a blast of burning thermite, melting it’s skull. Queen dropped the Klisk, and walked towards her squadmates.

There was a roar and a large, four-armed Klisk charged at them, then crushed under the heel of Knight as he landed. He spun around, and burned the remaining Klisk with a white-hot beam of energy from his cannon.

‘Landing site secure!’ Knight barked.

‘Roger. Bishop, initiate automatic procedures for Tendril removal and cover us.’

‘I know the drill,’ came Bishop’s voice over the comms. ‘But, my scanner shows more Klisk heading towards you. You better hurry, boss lady.’

King nodded, and gestured to her squad to hurry to the base. The five members of White Squad arrived at the door, and Pawn knelt at the lock. Her fingers worked like spider legs, tapping into the holographic lock to force the door to open. Rook heard another snarl, and noticed a larger Klisk.

‘Uh, Pawn, you might wanna hurry. Got a Nightmare bearing down on us!’

The Nightmare was a monster of legs and teeth, writhing with the biomass of it’s kills. It whined and fell forward to the ground. From afar, Bishop pulled the bolt back, grinning to himself, from the roof of the transport.

‘What would you do without me?’

The Nightmare clawed it’s way back up, and Knight blasted it with energy. The Nightmare was slowed, but not stopped. Queen slammed her hands together and joined the assault with a twin stream of liquid nitrogen. The feet of the monster started to freeze, but still it clawed towards them, hungry eyes locked on the five.

‘Rook, Castle.’ King shouted. Rook nodded and knelt down. King kicked up off of her back, flipped, and fell towards Rook. Rook stood, then slammed a gravity blast at King, rocketing her towards the Nightmare. The blade sunk into it’s face and it was thrown back by the force of the attack. King let go, and landed behind it. The monster was dead, just as Pawn opened the door.

‘Inside, now,’ King ordered, walking back towards them. As she reached the door, she held her hand out, and her blade flew back into her grip.

‘We have civilians to save.’

Rook took point, and King lagged behind. Given the close quarters, it made sense to surround the others with the melee fighters. Pawn was trying to hack into the security station from afar, but something was messing with the wireless signal in the base. Knight was easily the slowest in his heavy power armor, but the others never complained. Simply having Knight present could defuse many situations. Queen was checking the levels of her gauntlets. She had used most of her liquid nitrogen against the Nightmare. So, ice attacks would have to be rationed.

Rook stopped, and held her hammer ready. Ahead, there was a gurgling from a humanoid shape on the ground.

‘Contact, possible infested.’

King nodded, and turned her back to the squad, watching behind them. Queen walked towards the contact with Rook, and knelt beside them. It was a woman, barely 20 years old, with purple tendrils on her face, worming out of her eyes and ears. Queen sighed, then stood up.

‘Infested. Rook.’

Rook nodded, and brought her hammer down on the woman’s head, putting her out of her misery. Knight looked away, blinking back tears at the woman’s misfortune.

‘Too young for this fate.’ he said quietly.

Rook turned to Knight and shot him a reassuring smile.

‘It’s okay, big guy,’ she said. ‘She died as who she was, not as what they wanted to make her.’

Knight nodded solemnly. That wasn’t the best news, but given she was infested, the only solace for her was to die with control of her thoughts.

‘White Squad, we still have a mission. We head to the command center, download the information, then search for signs of Dr. Black. And civilians we encounter, we protect.’

White Squad nodded, and continued down the hall at the same pace. Pawn was becoming frustrated at her inability to hack this system.

‘Stupid... f-’

‘Sister, don’t swear. What would Father think?’

Pawn grumbled, and continued her work. Then, success! She typed in, out of annoyance, “Guest”, and her wrist-comp had access to the entire base.

‘What the hell!?’ she cried out, prompting shushing from every member of her team. ‘The password was “Guest”?’

‘Really?’ King asked quizzically. ‘That seems... decisively trusting.’

‘Stupid is what you mean, ma’am.’

Rook snorted ahead of the group, and turned the corner to be met with the grizzly sight of dozens upon dozens of dead or dying civilians.

‘Knight, stay there. Guard with King.’

Knight understood, and turned to help King. Pawn and Queen went around and stopped. Despite her serious demeanor, Queen sighed sadly. Pawn frowned, and glanced at her brother’s back. This would crush Knight.

‘I’ll burn them,’ Queen said. ‘Only way to ensure they won’t come back.’

Queen walked ahead and slammed her hands together, unleashing her thermite again and charring the bodies in the room. Rook spun her hammer to keep the smell away from them as Queen worked. Pawn searched her new found databases for the map, and plotted their path.

‘That’s... odd,’ Pawn murmured, checking the pinned messages for the base. The top one was labelled “The Truth”. She decided to hold off on reading the 5000 word-long text, and returned to finding a path. Once plotted, she sent it to all the others. King smiled at the map in her view.

‘Good work, Pawn. Has the burn been completed?’

Queen’s gauntlets beeped, signalling she was out of thermite. She sighed.

‘Burned to ash, King.’

King and Knight turned the corner, and Knight was suddenly relieved he listened to Rook. The squad moved ahead, towards the command center. Sadly, when they arrived, they found the door, once again, locked. Each time Pawn tried to open the door, it closed back up again. King decided to knock.

‘Hello?’ she began, hoping someone could hear her. ‘I am Agent King of White Squad, Alliance. Are there any survivors in there?’

Pawn’s wrist-comp beeped, and she looked at it. It was a request to talk. She accepted, and held her arm up so everyone could see. A man with dark skin and hair buzzed back was in view, but King noticed the only thing that mattered. He was on the wanted list. Lee St. Benedict, a high-ranking member of the Realmic Concord.

‘Hello, White Squad,’ he said respectfully. ‘I am Lee St. Benedict, but, you likely already know that. I appreciate the offer of help, but these civilians will soon be rescued by the Realmic Concord. Had you arrived, say, two months ago, the attitude towards you may be better.’

‘Two months ago?’ Knight asked incredulously. ‘How long have they been under attack?!’

‘Two months, as I said. Once again, a squad was sent without all the information.’

‘Mr. St. Benedict,’ King said, ‘These men and women are citizens of the Alliance. As such, it is our duty to protect them. I can promise you that we only just found out Dawkin 6 was being attacked. It makes little sense for the Alliance to withhold information like this, when it could save so many.’

‘Unless these men and women planned on joining us anyway?’ Lee countered.

King went silent. It was true Nevada’s tactics could be cruel, but damning a planet to the Klisk seemed... demonic. Knight was fuming, and he punched the door with all his might. It buckled and fell, showing Lee holding his PDA, with ten others holding guns to White Squad.

Rook and Pawn stood back, and Queen rose her hands. King sheathed her sword, and walked inside with her hands open.

‘I am not your enemy, Mr. St. Benedict. I only want to help these people escape. I’m even willing to look the other way at their betrayal and simply report they stole a transport. Please, there has been enough death on this planet. Let’s not add to it.’

Lee nodded, then gestured to the others to lower their guns.

‘On one condition,’ Lee murmured.

‘Name it, and if it is within my power to grant, it will be done,’ King said soothingly.

‘In our network, there’s a note called “The Truth”. Read it. All of you, read it. Even the one you left at the ship. Then we will talk.’

‘I can only promise I will read it. The members of my squad can if they wish, but I will not force them to.’

‘Fair enough.’ Lee said quietly.

King walked to a terminal, and opened the pinned message. She read the words, her expression changing as she read the information on the screen. For minutes that seemed like hours, no one spoke as King read. Finally, she closed her eyes.

‘Well?’ Lee said.

‘Can you prove this?’ King said, her eyes still shut.

‘I can. Second file.’

King opened the second pinned message, and read the new documents. Evidence, un-fabricated and signed by those she trusted. King’s world changed in that instance, and she turned.

‘White Squad,’ she said quietly. ‘You have served alongside me for years, but now you have a decision to make. Read the document, please, because you either have to join me as I leave the Agency, or kill me as I rebel.’

King bowed her head solemnly, then focused her powers. It was intense pain, but she forced out the chip of death in her brain so hard it shattered against the wall behind her.

’I am Agent King no longer. I am Jacqueline Croix, as I was born. Make your choice, my friends.

Pawn was shocked. King had rebelled, simply by reading whatever was on the computer. It had to be compelling for King to make the decision so quickly. Pawn had only seen King as a big sister, full of love and caring for all life. Whatever was on the computer scared Pawn, but she opened her wrist comp and opened the file. Her eyes scanned the words, and her mouth hung agape. She quickly checked the evidence, and tears fell from her face.

It wasn’t true. It couldn’t be true, but... there it was, as clear as day. They just covered it up, like everything else. Pawn’s life as an agent was a lie. She wasn’t helping people. She was only hurting. Pawn bowed her head at Jacqueline, and her leader understood. Pawn grit her teeth as her head split open for a fraction to let the chip smash against the wall.

‘I’m with you, Jackie,’ she said, walking towards her and hugging her. ‘Sasha Mercer is with you.’

Knight removed his helmet and dropped it. He didn’t even need to see it to know it was serious. He bowed his head immediately.

‘Are you sure, Knight?’ Jacqueline said quietly.

‘I trust you, and my sister. Remove it.’

Jacqueline complied, and Knight made no sign he was in pain. He strode to his sister and picked her up.

‘Good to see you’re still you, Tai,’ Sasha said with a smile.

Rook looked at the terminal, then at Queen. She didn’t want to fight her teammates at all, so she’d have to try and understand. She walked to the computer, laid her hammer on the table, and read the words. Halfway through, Rook growled at the words, shaking in anger. They did that!? What!? She was told they knew nothing! She punched the monitor in anger, and fell to her knees, snarling in anger.

‘Get it out!’ Rook roared, and Jacqueline did so. Rook felt tears fall, mostly out of anger and hatred for having her trust abused so badly.

‘I hate them... so much...’ she seethed. ‘They thought they’d controlled me? Lillith Myles says no.’

Sasha, Tai and Jacqueline looked at Queen. Without a monitor, Queen walked over to Sasha, and read from the wrist-comp. She made no reactions, her eyes darting over the evidence and statement. She nodded once she was finished.

‘Remove it.’ she said simply. Jacqueline pulled the chip out, crushing it against the ceiling. Queen’s eyes closed, as she felt the freedom wash over her.

‘Felicia... That was my name. Felicia Arcaneau.’ she opened her eyes and received a hug from Jacqueline. She apprehensively hugged back, unsure how this worked.

‘Bishop?’ Jacqueline said over the radio. ‘I can’t remove the chip for you, so whatever you decide will have to be done when I return. If you want to leave us here, I understand.’

Blood dripped from his fingers as he dropped the knife and the chip. Bishop’s face was crimson as he smiled, using Medifoam to seal the wound up. He might have lost a few cells, but it was an easy decision. He hated the Agency, and the Alliance. He didn’t need evidence.

‘Kaiden Rose, reporting,’ he replied. ‘Firing up the engines for you, ma’am. White Squad is entirely yours.’

Jacqueline smiled at the loyalty of her squad, and blinked back happy tears.

‘Thank you.’

‘Still have to get the hell off the planet, ma’am,’ Lillith commented.

‘That’s easy, so long as we’re together,’ Sasha said happily.

‘Always,’ Tai said.

Jacqueline looked at Lee.

‘Are you ready to get off this planet?’

There was only one obstacle that mattered now.

‘Uh, boss lady?’ Kaiden said over the radio. ‘Kilsk bio signs coming in. You better hurry up!’

‘Lee, how many of your people can actually fight?’ Jacqueline asked.

Lee looked at the civilians, and shook his head.

‘Fine. Lillith, Felicia, you two are at the front. Smash us a path through. Tai, Sasha, you two are at the rear. Lee, your group will stay close to me. Does everybody understand?’

Lee and his group nodded. Tai cracked his mechanical knuckled together and Sasha grinned.

‘Just like BASIC, eh, big brother?’

‘Quite.’

‘Alright... Rook moves first.’

The exit exploded outward as Lillith smashed into it, barreling into Klisk and using her hammer to smash them into the metal walls. Felicia followed close behind, finishing off any the managed to survive the onslaught.

Next came the blue force shield that Jacqueline had erected. She stood in the middle, holding the shield up with her palms outstretched upwards. Green, acidic blood and the bodies of Klisk slammed into the magical bubble, but slid down sickeningly.

Bringing up the rear was Tai and Sasha, the sibling duo. Sasha and taken a place on Tai’s shoulders with a rifle, while Tai punched anything that came near the two with his cybernetic-enhanced fists. Then came the call over the radio from Kaiden, telling them all it had gotten invariably worse.

‘Oh, dammit, Dragon!’

‘Kaiden, don’t let it hit our shuttle. It’s the only way off the planet. Sasha, Felicia, stay with the civilians. Lillith, Tai, checkmate!’

Jacqueline dropped the shield and ran after Lillith. They had made it outside, and the terrifying roar that signaled a Klisk Dragon came, as if on cue. Jacqueline slammed her hands together,forcing magical energy into her palms, then enshrouded Lillith in a bubble. Tai barreled out of the base and Lillith started floating. Tai punched the shield with all his artificial might. Lillith went skyrocketing towards the dragon, as Jacqueline dropped the shield. Lillith slammed her hammer down into the monster’s head, and embedded it there so she could hang on.

‘Tai, I’m next. Knightfall!’

Tai picked Jacqueline up, and threw her towards the Dragon. She flipped in the air, and landed on the monster’s back.

‘Hey, boss!’ Lillith called cheerily.

Jacqueline smiled, then punched and stabbed into the Dragon with all her power.It roared ferociously as it flew after the shuttle, breathing a corrosive miasma after the shuttle’s engines.

‘Shuriken!’ Jacqueline called over the radio

Tai nodded, turned and picked his little sister up, and hurled her at the Dragon. Sasha spun in the air, dropped her rifle, and pulled her knives out, ready for the attack. She slammed into the wing of the best, and used her knives to tear through the fine sinew. The Dragon spun out of control, throwing Jacqueline off into the air. The mage landed on the ground by cushioning herself, and looked up at her team-mates in the sky.

Sasha hit the bone, acidic blood spurting out everywhere, and she kicked up, curled, then used her knives to climb up the remainder of the wing. As she did that, Lillith was punching the head of the Dragon, as she held on with her hammer still lodged in the creature’s brain. The Dragon was still trying to hit the shuttle, but Kaiden as a pilot meant it had no chance.

Sasha climbed up to Lillith’s position, and smiled.

‘Hammer and Nails?’

‘Yeah!’

Lillith dug her boots into the Dragon’s skin, then ripped her hammer free. Sasha stabbed ten of her blades into the points on the Dragon’s head that Felicia had taught them would sever all connection, then Lillith slammed down on all of them. The Dragon died immediately, falling through the sky towards the ground.

Sasha abandoned her weapons, then leapt off the Dragon. Lillith did the same, falling through the air with an almost maniacal giggle. Tai caught his sister, and Jacqueline caught Lillith as the Dragon landed on the old water tower in a shower of acid and froth.

‘That has to be the best thing we’ve ever killed!’

‘What about the Wight ship? That was pretty neat’

Jacqueline smiled as her team started up the banter, and watched the shuttle land. Felicia brought over the civilians, and everyone boarded quickly. No casualties. It was a good mission. But the next part was going to be difficult.

‘Kaiden, fly into the hangar but don’t answer any of the hails from the A.I. We need to pull it.’

Kaiden nodded. Their ship was still connected to the Agency, and it needed to be severed, or modified. It sounded like a mission for Felicia.

‘We can help with that’ came Lee’s voice, and White Squad turned (except Kaiden, who was flying). ‘The science team on that base was working on E.M.Ps. Once you land, we could take out the ship’s inner working and brute force to the command center.’

‘We?’ Lillith said.

‘With these people safe, I want to help you. So long as we’re only taking out an AI, and not innocent people.’

‘Trust me,’ Kaiden said from the cockpit, ‘We got friends on that ship. We’d rather they didn’t die, either.’

‘Felicia, subterfuge is your area. Plan.’ Jacqueline ordered.

Felicia nodded, then sat at the desk on the shuttle. She needed quiet.

Felicia stood, and everyone paid attention to her immediately.

’Our goal is three-fold, so we will need to divide. Lillith and Tai, you two are the heaviest hitters in our squad, so you will be team one. Once our intentions are known, Magnus will try to destroy the King’s Gambit. Go to Engineering, and delay or stop it until team 2 can get to the command deck. Kaiden and Sasha will do that. While this happens, team 3 will attack the core for Checkmate directly. Myself and Jacqueline.′

‘And me?’ Lee said quietly.

‘Go with team 2. As much time as you can buy Kaiden, but remember that you are not killing these people. They are our friends.’

Lee nodded, and looked around. This was the best team the Agency had for a reason. And here they were, threatening to rebel.

‘So,’ Lillith said with a smile. ‘Checkmate, Royal Family and Frontline?’

Felicia nodded, though refused to use the team names.

‘Lillith and Tai will go first. Do not answer anything Checkmate says, and don’t let the crew get in your way. We will come out later. Lee, if you have a civilian pilot, get them to take out the shuttle as soon as the mission starts failing.’

The shuttle door from the airlock opened a few minutes later, and Tai ran out, barreling over everything with Lillith on his shoulders. The crew moved aside as before, though this time a little concerned.

‘White Squad, I cannot register your chips. Please report to Medical’ Magnus’s voice came over the intercom. Lillith stood up and smashed an speaker as they ran past, cackling.

‘All crew, White Squad has gone rogue. Kill on sight.’

But no one moved. They were not going to take orders from a computer. King had saved them, not the Agency. When Tai and Lillith arrived in the Engineering Bay, everyone was already hard at work stopping the self-destruct system. Tai smiled.

’They have made their decision, it seems. Lillith, see if you can get access to the P.A, I will hold the door in case Magnus tries something else.

Lillith didn’t even have to try hard. The engineer had already done what she had been assigned to do, and he threw the microphone to Lillith.

‘You hear me, Magnus!?’ she said gleefully, resulting in a pained groan from Tai. ‘White Squad is back, and better than ever. Everyone who wants to help, listen. You see an agent on our squad, do whatever they say. If you want no part of this rebellion, go to the hangar. There’s still a few shuttles there. Now, Magnus, we’ve been waiting for a long time to do this, but finally, I’m resetting the board, and kicking your arse in three moves! Woo!’

At Lillith’s words, the entire crew emboldened, and sabotaged their own ship’s defenses as White Squad rushed past them on the way to their objectives. Jacqueline and Felicia ran into the A.I core, and stopped. Magnus had one hologram sitting there, waiting for them.

‘I have alerted the Alliance, Agent King,’ Checkmate said quietly. ‘I apologize, but it’s in my programming.’

‘I understand. Do you also understand why we must do this?’

Magnus nodded and Felicia activated her fast-eating acid in her gauntlets, then Jacqueline stopped her.

‘Magnus is a part of the crew as well, held hostage by the Agency. If we could reprogram-’

‘We would need to remove the black box, and neither of us are engineers, Jacqueline.’

Magnus pointed to their systems, and smiled.

‘Help me, please.’

Lee ripped out the black box as Magnus downloaded themselves onto it. Without a hardlink into ship systems, Magnus was trapped, and liberated, in the black box.

‘Kaiden, you better hurry up. Agency is on it’s way!’

‘We know!’

Kaiden slid into his chair in the bridge and swiveled around, typing faster than ever. The head injury was burning, but he ignored it, even more so when he saw another ship. The Cerberus. The Agency had sent Olympus Squad.

‘Sasha, no targeting without Magnus. You need to glance them so we can escape. Otherwise, we’ll just be running forever.’

Sasha sat in the gunner’s seat, and focused. She used the Laguna railgun, and lined up her shot with their engine. It would be enough to knock their ship out of whack, but no one would die. She grit her teeth, and fired.

The rail connected, and Zeus gripped the console. Had they gone insane? They were firing on allies.

‘Report!’

‘Engines damaged. Not critical, but we aren’t giving chase, sir,’ Junior’s voice came through.

Zeus tapped the talk button.

‘This is Agent Zeus. White Squad, cease fire. We are responding to a distress signal from your A.I.’

The monitor came on, and King’s face came into view. She was in a hallway, which Zeus found odd.

‘King, what’s going on?’

Zeus saw it, in her face. They had rebelled, and were taking their ship with them. The engine shot was so they couldn’t be followed. They didn’t want a fight anymore than Zeus did, but now the mission had changed.

‘Tartarus, fire.’

Tartarus nodded, and lined up every gun he could with Alice’s help.

‘Kaiden, now!’

As Olympus fired it’s Alcine cannons, the King’s Gambit jumped over the stars, then spun out of control. One of the shots had hit their engine, too, and now they were drifting, in unknown space.

‘Shit... sorry, boss lady, they got us. We aren’t in a bad way, but we need to fix it before we move.’

‘It doesn’t matter... We got away.’ Jacqueline said, leaning against the wall.

‘Checkmate, Agency,’ Lillith said with a giant grin.

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