Being Part of Chapter Four of TICKS.
TERMINAL ACTION, PART ONE
By James Robert Smith
“Team Alpha,” the woman said. Her voice was steady and calm. “Agent 67 in position.”
The director and his new field associate were housed safely in an office tower, third floor, with a perfect opposing view of the target building which was a similarly sized structure of residential flats for local young, upwardly mobile professionals. What were called ‘Yuppies’ in days of yore.
“Copy,” the director replied.
“Team Beta in position,” came the next response. That voice was old Carl Denby, one of Director Mills’ first recruits. He was a tested veteran approaching retirement—'six months' he’d told his bosses not a week earlier. Denby and his partner, a woman named Donna Weiss, were parked in a white, unmarked van that bristled with hidden spying devices and which was armored beyond the wildest wet dreams of any Asian warlord. The van was parked in close proximity to the target building, on the same side of the street, and within sight of Mills and Tanger. It would need that armor if anything went amiss.
“Agent 67 is on the beam” Mills said, examining the tablet placed carefully on the desktop of their makeshift headquarters. The room was close--not quite the dimensions of a jail cell, but nearly; and dark except for the sliver of light that they allowed between heavy, dark brown curtains. “Is Agent 42 at a safe distance?”
“Agent 42 is currently at rest, in domicile, more than 50 miles away.” That was from Elaine Drummond, that cool female voice from Team Alpha.
“Very good,” Mills responded. “Await my signal.”
Mills almost seemed to be hypnotized by the information he was constantly reading on the dark screen of his tablet. He had chosen to stand, and his fingertips were pinning the thin strip of flexible glass and malleable hard drive to the desktop. He was keeping a close eye on the dark blue dot that represented Agent 42.
“Why haven’t they changed the coding?” Tanger asked.
The question was uttered so unexpectedly that Mills flinched. He was always tense just before a strike of this magnitude, and he had not figured the young associate would do more than observe. Sighing, he didn’t know whether to be pissed off that the kid had startled him, or to score him points for being reasonably inquisitive. He decided the latter, and to reply with an answer rather than a reprimand.
“Agents are top-loaded with various social cues,” he replied, without turning to face Tanger. “When the Mutations appeared in our midst, and we were having such a horrible time dealing with their spread, the geneticists came up with the Agents. You know that much, as does everyone else,” he said before he allowed his young charge to feel as if he was being lectured.
“But we didn’t want a Frankenstein’s monster on our hands. The cure being worse than the disease and all that.” He sighed. “So when they were cooking up the genetic soup for these people, our saviors, they had to give them a heavy dose of both paternal and maternal instinct. You don’t even want to know the sources of those codes. I know some of them, and I wish I didn’t. They look upon us all as their brood, their children, their most precious of infants. All of us, no matter who we are or what they look like--as long as they're human.”
Mills wasn’t finished, and although he’d paused to check the tablet, Tanger waited patiently. He scored a few more points from his boss for that.
“And not only do they have that overwhelming maternal need to protect, they added in some totally bad-ass Alpha Male ‘tude. I’m talking lion rage. Wolf territorial integrity kind of thing. Imagine the worst ‘git off’n mah property’ Hatfields and McCoys craziness and multiply it by one hundred.”
“I see,” Tanger finally admitted.
Mills took a moment to turn toward the young hire. “No. You don’t see. Agent 67 down there. He pointed in the general direction of the street below them. “If he sensed another Agent within five miles of here…he’d go Billy Berserk bug-fuck crazy. He might wait until he’d finished his job. The one he’s getting ready to do in about” he looked at his tablet “two minutes. But after that. Shit. He’d haul ass after the other Agent stupid enough to get that close to his flock, his pack, his kids…and off he’d go. And if…if we couldn’t stop them from meeting up, one of them would kill the other. It would either be ours—Agent 67—or the other one; that one currently being Agent 42.”
“I suspected it was something like that.” Tanger mused, imagining it.
Mills turned his back and looked down at his tablet. Sixty seconds and counting.
“Ever seen it happen?” Tanger didn’t know why he said it, but it just popped out, and it was too late to take it back.
“Fuck, no,” Mills said. “And you better damned well hope it never does. But I saw a video of it. Long time back. Twenty years. Jesus,” he whispered.
Tanger nodded. Mills watched the countdown. Four. Three. Two. One.
“Get to it,” he said, finally addressing Agent 67.
|"And if...if we couldn't stop them..."|