The Agency: Book One

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Cramped Thoughts

‘You can’t be serious,’ Apollo said, glancing at the vent. He could probably do it, but it was the sheer audacity of the plan that made him hate it.

‘Apollo, it has to be you,’ Anemoi began, walking over to the vent. ‘It takes time to remove this armor, and yours is already gone. You can fight, so anything in your way can be beaten. And finally-’

‘I get it!’

Apollo growled to himself, then knelt beside the vent. Enyo strode over and loosened the bolts with her omni-tool, and backed off. Apollo pushed the vent covering to the side, and shone his flashlight inside.

‘I hate you, Tartarus.’

Inside the vent were more of the little Klisk, but they could only come in a single file line. They’d have to get them out of the vent first.

Tartarus peered inside, then scoffed. ‘Good luck.’

Apollo snatched the grenade back from Tartarus, and looked through the door to see the Biomancer, still churning bile in it’s guts. He pulled the pin.

‘Apollo, that won’t work,’ Thanatos said quickly.

Apollo threw the grenade into the room. It arced over the Biomancer, bounced twice, then spun and rested at the vent on the other side. It exploded, shrapnel shredding through the metal.

‘You missed,’ Tartarus quipped.

The effect was instant. Every Klisk in the vent poured into the room to examine the source of the commotion. The Biomancer, despite having no face, also seemed interested in the explosion site.

As the Klisk pawed at the explosion point, Apollo slid into the vent and crawled through slowly. His gun was raised as he crawled, in case he needed to defend himself.

‘Don’t think about the smell,’ Apollo muttered to himself, and stopped at the turn in the vent. He flashed his light down to Anemoi. Despite no plan on Apollo’s part, Anemoi had pieced it together. The Klisk were still an issue, and needed to be moved for Apollo to start the vacuum.

Anemoi stood in the doorway, and fired his rifle into the Biomancer, popping a blister and sending a torrent of oozing acid to the floor. The Klisk barreled over the room to the source of noise, just as Anemoi closed the door. A talon sliced through the steel door, but otherwise they seemed fine.

Apollo rolled out of the vent, sparing a glance at the other side of the room. They were all busy trying to open a door. The Klisk were little more than beasts it seemed. Apollo walked over to the control panel, and started typing on the holographic interface.

A blue holographic woman in a crisp business suit appeared, with horn-rimmed spectacles and her hair tied into a bun.

‘It appears you are trying to access the station’s venting procedures.’

‘Crap, a pop-up,’ Apollo groaned.

‘My name is Belle, and I am the installation artificial intelligence interface.’

Apollo glanced over to the Klisk. They hadn’t heard the exchange.

‘Okay, lower your volume, computer thing,’ Apollo whispered. ‘I need you to start a venting thing for this room only as soon as the vent locks behind me, then un-vent it once the thing there is gone’

Belle processed what Apollo had said. ‘You wish for me to vent the room once you leave, then re-pressurize it once the Biomancer is gone?’

‘Yes, that. Do that’

‘Please enter your authorization code’

‘Dammit!’ Apollo yelled, then blanched. He glanced over to the Klisk, who had heard his exclamation. They were trying to decide if one man who was easier to get was better than a team through a door. It wouldn’t take long.

‘Okay, code, uh... Password?’

‘Incorrect.’

Several of the Klisk were starting to turn their attention to Apollo, getting ready to charge.

‘Access Code?!’

‘Incorrect’

The Klisk charged, venom dripping from their teeth, their claws scraping up sparks from the ground.

‘Guest!?’

‘Correct’

Apollo had no time to reel over how lucky he was, and he dived into the vent, then realized the mistake. The grenade had blown the hatch off. Apollo furiously shifted backwards, his gun ready.

He was ready, then a section of the vent closed off, just in front of Apollo, and he heard the “whoosh” outside, then nothing except his own frantic breathing and the pounding of his own heart.

The panel came up, and Apollo carefully went out of the vent. There were no Klisk, no Biomancer, just the artificial woman on the panel.

‘Task complete,’ she said calmly, as if she did this every day.

Anemoi and Tartarus opened the door, and marveled at the empty room. Enyo quickly ran in to examine whatever was left over, embedded into the metal.

‘Good work, Apollo,’ Anemoi said with a smile.

Apollo’s realization that he had just beaten aliens with the help of a space station hit him all at once, and he blurted out something no one had any context for.

‘The password was “Guest”!’

‘Are you listening to me?’

Maeve smirked, but kept her eyes closed. She felt fingers on her ribs and she started squirming, trying to hold in her laughter to continue to feign sleep.

‘I know what you’re doing, Maeve,’ Eddie said, continuing the assault on his girlfriend’s torso. Eventually, she could hold it in no more, and started giggling.

‘No, stop!’ Maeve cried, tears of laughter forming in her eyes.

Her eyes opened but Eddie wasn’t there. She was in a corridor made of metal, with bulbous flesh sacs hanging from the walls. There were people in front of her, arguing about a person in the next room, in front of a holographic woman on a computer. She looked down, saw the armor on her body, and she sighed.

Maeve was dead. She was Epione, now.

‘Enough,’ Anemoi said clearly, silencing his squad mates. ‘Whoever it is, they’re sentient, but they might not be hostile. Tartarus, Epione, I want you two to go in and confirm either way.’

Epione paled, a difficult thing for the Welsh woman to do. Tartarus opened the door carefully, and gestured to the paramedic to follow. Begrudgingly, Epione crept after Tartarus, and the door closed behind them.

This room had no signs of the aliens they were fighting previously. Had Epione not seen them shear through metal, she might have believed this to be a nightmare.

Ahead of them was a woman in a tan and orange jumpsuit, with brown, wavy hair down to the small of her back. But what caught Epione’s attention was the points jutting out from underneath the hair.

‘Pointed ears?’ Epione whispered to herself, earning a stern look from Tartarus.

Tartarus powered up his rifle, and stalked forward, until he was directly behind the woman. Epione noticed she was typing on a computer, and seemed oblivious to her situation.

It happened quite fast. Before Tartarus could move, the woman turned, hair twisting in the air dramatically, and she hit him with a claw hammer. Tartarus staggered back, and spat one of his teeth out in his helmet, then grabbed the woman’s arm and slammed it against the console. Epione winced when she heard the crack, knowing the woman’s wrist had been broken.

The woman fell to her knees, crying from the pain of her injury. Epione hurried over, and took her wrist.

‘What are you doing?’ Tartarus asked.

‘I’m resetting her wrist, you barbarian,’ Epione replied venomously. ‘For all you know, you just harmed a civilian.’

The shrug from Tartarus was enough to convince Epione that she hated him.

The door opened behind them, and Anemoi walked in with the others. He assessed the situation, then strode over to Epione.

‘What happened?’

‘Your attack dog happened.’

Epione tuned everything out, and focused on the woman. She was rather pretty, in an exotic way, with higher cheekbones and almond-shaped eyes of green. The front of her jumpsuit read “Minnie”.

‘Minnie?’ Epione said quietly, trying to establish a connection. When Minnie nodded, Epione continued. ‘My name is Epione. I have some medical training, and I’m going to re-set your wrist. It’s going to hurt, but once it’s re-set, I can splint this, and treat you after we get off the station. Do you understand?’

Minnie nodded, so Epione snapped the wrist back into position. Minnie cried out in pain, emerald eyes full of tears. Epione looked at Cerberus, who was carrying their belongings. He received the message, and tossed Epione’s medical bag over to her. Epione ripped it open.

‘Oh no.’

Epione had no idea how to use any of this equipment. It was all science fiction, future-y nonsense.

‘I don’t... I don’t... I’m sorry, Minnie, but I need your help,’ Epione showed her the inside of the bag. ‘Do you know which of these can act as an ice pack?’

Minnie looked through the bag, still weeping, and held up a piece of blue plastic. She gently rubbed it onto her wrist, and Epione felt the cold radiate off of it.

‘OK, good,’ Epione said quietly, ‘Now we need to keep your wrist in position. What could do that?’

Once again, Minnie pulled out a circular disc with a chip on it. She pushed it onto her wrist, and a field of purple energy enveloped the hand and wrist, immobilizing it.

Epione smiled at Minnie, the first genuine smile she had done since her resurrection.

Tartarus had noticed the healing was completed, so he lifted Minnie to her feet by the back of the jumpsuit, and held her up for Anemoi.

‘This isn’t Agency. The people on the ship wore blue.’

Minnie looked horrified, then stared at Epione.

‘How can someone so caring work for them?’ Minnie said quietly. Her voice sounded Irish, but she was definitely not.

Most of the squad shrugged off that comment, but it told Epione something. Minnie was afraid of the Agency.

Why?

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