Magnolia looked down at the agent in her lap. An agent that had been asleep for an hour now, barely moving, barely twitching, sleeping calm, despite the storm of emotions that had been in the conversation beforehand.
A week ago, she would have taken the opportunity to slit the woman’s throat.
Clarke stood by the windows of the conference room, a thin trail of smoke leading up from his cigarette as he tapped on his phone.
‘Um,’ Stef said as she closed the door. ‘You wanted to see me?’
Clarke lifted his head, tilted it to the left, then turned halfway towards her. ‘You’re not even going to throw a “sir” on the end of that question? Interesting. Sit.’
Taylor wiped his hand against the leg of his pants. Behind him, a circle of Grigori’s combat-capable children loaded a Solstice prisoner into a van. The man had struggled, necessitating violence.
The blood was freezing on his fingers. He held onto the sensation. It was something different. Something new. Something to distract from-
Grigori was a fixture. A constant. He would not die.
Whatever the situation, Grigori would not die. He had been the one weak enough to die.
Without even thinking, without considering the consequences, Ryan shifted.
He forced himself to flip onto his back, his legs protesting with another wave of nauseating pain.
He planted his hands in the earthy floor and pulled himself back against the bloodstained table – there was no use in spending energy and processing power on keeping himself level, when bracing himself was relatively easy.
T-shirt. Uniform pants. Most of Jones’ tricks and fixes resided in his lab coat – he didn’t take it off enough to set things up any other way.
Magnolia felt herself wavering – hesitating – in the section of hall that lead to Taylor’s office.
In the five years she had been at the agency, she’s walked in the holding pattern that trapped her feet a hundred times – but never for this reason. Never for something that could potentially lead to a happy ending.
In the beginning – it had been a lack of Duty, a lack of devotion – a sick a little thrill of making the brute wait. She’d never wanted to be his recruit, hadn’t desired the life in the suit, or of being managed by someone who couldn’t see beyond the tenants of his raison d’etre.
Later, when she had grown accustomed to her new position, and had come to grow some measure of Duty herself, it had been for fearful reasons – when Taylor had gone on a non-linear rage over something Ryan or Jones had done, and she’d been unsure of her ability to control him.
Magnolia stepped off the lift and onto the primary tech floor. Screen stood twenty feet down the hall, lazily swiping her finger across one of the touchscreens that lined the wall. ‘You’re late,’ the tech chided gently.
Magnolia walked down the hall, and gave her best friend a kiss on the cheek. ‘I had to rescue a nerd, I think you’ll accept that as an excuse.’
‘Of course,’ she said. ‘Were we going out for coffee, or staying in?’
‘Out,’ she said, dragging Screen towards the lift. ‘I need to get out. Breathe some different air for five minutes.’
Stef blinked, forcing herself back into the real world as the elevator stopped. The doors slid open, and one of the pet peeves took form. There were a cluster of recruits standing in the hall near the elevator. Too many to easily slip past.
For a moment, she considered shifting past them, but that would draw just as much attention to herself.
Brian – someone who was rising towards the ranks of Taylor and Mags in terms of people she hated in the agency – stood, holding a newspaper, surrounded by people best described as his cronies. Minions. Tools.
He lifted his head and looked directly at her, a triumphant look on his face. ‘Agent,’ he said, rolling the word around his mouth. ‘We had a question for you.’