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[secured TOS channel outbound]

Sir,

I am sorry to inform you that Operation Decapitate has completely failed. A series of events which happened yesterday has compromised my security at this time. As a result of said events, I had to abort the mission. Since the advantage has now turned completely to the MISL, I have no choice but to terminate, when discovered, both Dillon and Lillie.

Here is a summary of the events whcih led to this disasterous failure.

As Chief Strike Ops I had summoned both Dillon and Lillie to meet me at a secure location, known as the "Bubble" in the Forgotten City. They never showed.

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What had happened is not clear, but an attack was all over the public news later that day. Wether or not M was eliminated during that attack is not certain. I do not even know who performed it. When I returned to investigate, the Bubble had been destroyed. Since only Dillon and Lillie were aware of this location by secure transmission, I deduct that Dillon has changed team dragging Lillie along.

Rest assured that I will spare no effort to track down both of them and bring them before you.

[secured TOS channel closing]

 

 

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EVENT REPORT

From:   Q

To:        M
Filed:    06 May 2011

<begin classified report>

The explosion and its aftermath went more or less as planned. The reporter almost ruined it, though. It's unfortunate what I had to do to her car, but it couldn't be helped. She's an unknown, and we couldn't risk her nosing around the neighborhood until after our explosives techs were long gone. That she had knowledge of the bomb ahead of time is a serious concern and signals a possible leak within our ranks. We must work on discovering her sources.

On the TOS front, I can confidently report that we have successfully confused the enemy, and intelligence suggests that the sniper known as Lillie mistakenly believes TOS not only was responsible for the bombing, but also that they intentionally withheld that plan from her. This could work to our advantage. She has recruit potential, if we can keep her angry enough at TOS to cease contact with them.

The only real glitch was Agent Levenque's flight from Forgotten City in the aftermath of yesterday's events, before we could debrief her. She is now believed to be on the run with the sniper; whether the sniper went willingly is unclear. Levenque couldn't have known—because she wasn't supposed to know—that the bomb was ordered directly by you in part as a test of her loyalty. I expect you will be pleased to hear that she passed the test with flying colors, showing her true allegiance to be to MISL. But Agent Levenque is still unaware of this, having fled unexpectedly. If she believes she's botched things, she could try to disappear permanently.

She won't be so difficult to locate, however. She has in her possession the communications kit that I prepared for her mission. Although she has not yet used it to contact MISL HQ, it contains an independent GPS tracking device—a safeguard to find and rescue her in cases of extreme danger, but as so often happens in the field, not every tool ends up being used for its intended purpose—and we've pinpointed her exact whereabouts. Her last known land coordinates were a location called La Citta' Perduta, but her current coordinates clearly show that she is at sea. Aboard what type of vessel is unknown.

I recommend putting agents in La Citta' Perduta to gather intelligence on ships that have left that port and their intended destinations, so that we can intercept her at debarkation at the earliest possible opportunity. Until we accomplish this, there is the risk that she could make a wrong decision based on mistaken understanding of yesterday's events.

</end classified report>

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Unbelievable!  I take deep breaths to maintain my calm, but inside I'm screaming, raging!  It was bad enough to trick me into doing his dirty work, but then to leave me in the dark!  What did he hope to accomplish?  Mind games?  Trying to make me feel helpless so I would lean on him for support?  Oooooh did he figure me wrong.  You would think after so many years of working together, he would have learned me well enough to know I don't take kindly to games like that.  Not to mention that his eagerness to blow things up has put both myself and Dillon in danger, unnecessarily drawing attention to us.  What were we, decoys? 

*takes a deep breath and gazes out at the water*

 

So here I am once again hiding, running, for sure both TOS and MISL are after me, us!  Dillon gave me her word to help me in any way she can, and I gave my word in return.   Now I have two backs to watch. 

 

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Things are changing rapidly here in the Forgotten City since Dillon's attack on the Bubble and subsequent flight with the sniper. M has called an emergency meeting with Miss Caxton and me. I always have admired her calm under pressure. She is not easily rattled by unexpected events.

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Shortly after we gather, an unexpected visitor arrives. M's second in command. Someone I have rarely seen; someone who is even more elusive than M.

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As day turns into evening and our discussions and strategizing continue, M invites in our top explosives expert; the one responsible for carrying out the orders for the recent bomb. Secrecy demands that her name not be revealed. M is counting on her disarmingly innocent looks to deter suspicion from her pyrotechnics.

meeting4.png

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The meeting continues for hours.

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M has certainly put a lot of thought and coordination into the next phase of the operation. Not surprisingly, she ensures that each of us are well aware of what the next few days may bring.

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M dismisses the pyrotechnician and the conversation continues into the night.

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The rising sun calls to an end the not so brief briefing. M returns to the piano, her calm steady demeanor never betrays what surely must be a tumult of thought and emotion. M's choice of song sounds eerily like a dirge. Q and I exchange a look. We know all too well what the success or failure of this operation could cost us.

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Finally as the night once more becomes the day, I am left with M. My employer says nothing. There is nothing left to say.

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The piano strings still hum and the morning sun warms the room. I am left alone to ponder all that I have learned. I think of Agent Levenque and I hope that she is well. It would be a shame if she thought she was alone in all of this.

Ponder.jpg  

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We'd been at sea two days and had travelled into and beyond the area most likely to hold pirates. It was Lillie's watch; I was on the bridge playing gin with the Captain. I heard the sound of a wrench hitting deckplates—bong....bong-bong. Delta: our agreed signal for pirates. I motioned the Captain to silence and he ducked into his hidey hole while I slipped out. I could hear shouting forward and slowly made my way along the crates stacked on the deck.

About halfway forward I spotted them. Six in all, all armed. They were pointing guns in a relatively casual manner and backing the crew into a small circle. Lillie and I had agree beforehand that we would not shoot (unless we thought the crew was in mortal danger) but instead try to disarm and capture any pirates we encountered. I stole a quick glance up and saw Lillie perched amid some crates farther forward. Looked to me as if she had a clear field of fire. Just at that moment one of the pirates shoved the barrel of his gun into the throat of the First Mate. I heard a cough and the pirate spun backwards and fell to the deck, his chest blossoming red. Almost before he stopped falling a second cough, and a pirate who had been starting to turn my way pitched forward and landed face down and still.

By now they'd realized where the shots were coming from and I saw one turn toward Lillie raising his weapon. I fired twice; the first shot I think hit him in the arm—the second was true. At the same time I yelled "FREEZE!".For a wonder, they did. I suppose even the stupidest pirate understands that having to turn your back on one shooter to aim at the other is probably not a winner. I told them to drop their weapons and lie down; they did so. I kept the Beretta aimed as I started toward them. Suddenly I heard that loud mosquito sound, followed by a smack and the thump and clatter of someone falling to the deck behind me. I looked up at Lillie and caught a quick grin. Seven pirates?

I backed up until I could feel the railing and walked backwards aft, feeling for a rope. When I felt it I gave Lillie a 'cover me' nod and took a quick look down. The pirate's boat was bumping our hull, apparently empty. There was nobody climbing the rope. Seven pirates.

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Once the three living pirates had been locked away Lillie and I had a quick conversation. We decided that their boat shouldn't go to waste. We checked out the boat for additional weapons and found a few grenades, which we kept, and a lot of 7.62 ammo which we surreptitously dropped over the side. I talked to the Captain and despite his protests convinced him he no longer needed us as Pirate Suppression. I got him to give me a quick chart update, although I had a pretty good idea where we were.

Lillie and I donated the captured AK-47's to the crew with whatever rounds were left in the magazines. I have always preferred the one-bullet-at-a-time method, and she takes that even further: with her, it's usually just one bullet. The crew was sorry to see us leave but wished us well. I think they were sorry primarily because they wouldn't get to enjoy watching Lillie take target practice every morning (that always drew a crowd of them sitting behind her and elbowing each other as she moved around to change the angles).

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For some reason the pirates had boarded up the markings on the boat (did they think that would make them look less menacing?) but whoever it really belonged to had at least kept the engine in decent shape. It fired up on Lillie's first attempt.

Pirate Boat.jpg

We steered north by northwest; my copies of the charts showed we'd sight a chain of islands soon, one of which was known to me. I think we were both just happy to be off the freighter even if we were in the middle of nowhere. We smelled of bilge, rust, and old metal; the wind in our face was refreshing.

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The journey with just Dillon and myself has been pleasantly quiet and uneventful.  It's seems like so long ago I was able to relax and let my guard down.  The tension of being on the run seems to fade between us as we continue on.  The danger is still there, and the anticipation of what may come if we aren't careful, but the atmosphere is a bit more relaxed, well, as relaxed as a couple of girls like us can get. 

 

I decided the morning we docked on the little island that a swim might do me some good.  The sun was just rising and the contrast of the cool water and the warm sun on my body was a welcome feeling indeed. 

 

Morning swim_001.png

I know we'll be here only briefly, but the feeling of being clean again is heavenly.  I can't help but think as I float silently, listening to the sounds around me as the world begins to awaken, what is next?  How close is G?  I know he won't give up easily.  This time it's not just a matter of a missed mark, but hurt pride as well.  I give a soft chuckle to myself as I imagine his conversation with O.  It must have gone something like "I can get Lill back working for us, I have her wrapped around my finger." Cocky man that he is.  I catch myself laughing out loud now.  I wonder how O took the news that I had walked away from him yet again. 

I close my eyes and relish the sun's increasing warmth, but my minds eye is open wide... We have to move on again soon, but a moment of reflection is always a thing to treasure when you live like I do.

 

Morning swim 2_001.png

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The captain's charting was good; we found landfall just where we expected to do so. Lillie managed to convince the harbormaster that we were entitled to tie up for a couple of days; I'm not sure how. I think it's something she does with her eyelashes. Anyway, we're here. I cannot tell you how good a hot shower and a change of clothes felt.

I am going to try to get through to MISL with the comm kit Q'ute gave me before everything turned upside down. I need to talk to M and this is the only way I can. I want to get rid of the kit because I know it has a GPS sender. In a perfect world that would be terrific; I could just wave my hand and yell, "Come get me!". Alas, this is not a perfect world. I don't mind, in fact I like, having MISL know where I am, but I have reason to believe that information is compromised.

I'd like to keep the communications part of the 'briefcase' and just remove the GPS locator. But I know that Q'ute's predecessor just loved setting things up so that if a bad guy tried to move or de-activate anything the whole thing would blow up in his face. I've no reason to believe Q'ute is doing things any differently. I'll use the briefcase this one time, but after that it must go.

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I click on the Start Message button and the message window opens, with a really dumb looking little animated icon at the bottom saying, "Hi! Welcome to Measly Chat! Please click on me for help!" I delete it. Whoever wrote this crap better hope M never needs to use a field IM unit: he'll be out the door so fast he won't even hear it close behind him.

P requests communication
C here
See here? Are you reprimanding me?
*sigh*
Re-identify, please.
:-P
You do know all messages are logged, yeah?

As they should be. I need to speak to M.

M is unavailable at this time.

I know that. I don't mean via this medium. I need a connection on a secure landline. I want
access to a station's phone room. M can pick the station and the time; I will be available
in approximately 36 hours.

The location can be forwarded to me at my next stop: tell M I will be revisiting the lair of the jungle cat.
I request that the information be delivered by courier. I have reason to believe that all other forms of communication,this one included, are subject to interception.

I further request that someone known to me be onsite at the station of choice. If that doesn't happen
I will not come in. M will know someone I can trust, I'm sure.

Message understood?

Message understood.

P out.

P? It's a jungle out there. Watch your back.

C? You do know all messages are logged, yeah?

:-P

I click the Exit box and close the session. It appears our Miss Caxton has a sense of humor. She'll need it if she's to survive working as M's assistant.

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The things this briefcase will do are top secret. I want our 'trace' to stop here but I don't want TOS or anyone else to find this, so I can't just walk off and leave it here. I put rocks I picked up on the beach inside, then arm one of the grenades, stuff it in with the rocks and slam the case closed, With apologies to any fish in the area I hurl it as far out into the ocean as I can.

After a few seconds I feel, more than hear, a muffled 'whump' and see a small bubble of white water break the surface and then subside.

From now on they'll have to track us the old-fashioned way. I did rinse out my dye job so if they are still asking about two brunettes we have a small advantage.

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Agent Levenque has destroyed Q's communication device, just as we had anticipated she would. Now I must inform M of the demands she has made.

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Its a cold dark night. It will be a while before daylight.

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As the sun begins to warm the streets, I put out the call through secure channels.

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In the early morning light, before the rest of the city awakens, we conduct a brief informal session. If I didn't know her better, I would have imagined the faintest glimmer of a smirk play across M's lips as I relay to her Levenque's demands.

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We part ways before anyone has a chance to detect us. I make my way into the museum and spend the rest of the daylight hours contemplating what is to come. Miss Levenque's demands will be met, M will see to that, but they will be on her terms. M will not allow any agent, no matter how skilled, dictate to her how operations will be conducted.

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Finally, under cover of night, I go forth to make preparations.

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I meet up with Rusty and tell him of our needs.

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He has the audacity to become argumentative with me. I remind him of my rank and see to it that he fully understands exactly what is expected of him and exactly where his orders come from.

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He tones down and I make my way to the dock.

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The fogs are thick tonight. There is no chance of any ship making it out tonight. Q must manage to develop some kind of craft, the Zephyrs are out of the question.

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Its time to make one last call before I can retire for the night. Its a call even I hesitate to make, but I have never shirked my duties nor failed to carry out an order, I will not let my personal prejudices tarnish my reputation of good conduct.

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Once again I employ secure means of communication, this time I encrypt the encryption. I wind it up and send it on its way.

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I return to speak with the Mayor. I hope he understands and believes that what we are doing is for the good of his city and for the welfare and safety of all its inhabitants. I hope he believes us, and I hope he can forgive us.

City.jpg

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Fortunately for me I still had my scuba gear on when the bubble exploded. After being flung into the ocean a rip tide carried me out to sea.

Kelinda21.JPG
How long I was out there I have no way of telling. Eventually I saw the light from a lighthouse and followed to shore, where I am I do not know.

KelindaShore_001.jpg

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These past few days I have been roaming the streets of the Forgotten City in stealth.. Nothing.. I am absolutely positive that atop in that tower things are buzzing with activity though.. But so far I have been unable to gather any significant intel on the whereabouts of my two former agents..

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I have only heard some rumours about a placec called the Lost City.. or something in that nature.. I have yet to find that place.. It's a long shot, but that's all I have to go on. I will see if I can extract any information there tonight. Here, I am outnumbered and outgunned. There is nothing I can do on my own. For now, M has played her cards well.

AAargh! Damn you Lillie! OK, I was a little bit smug dragging her into this, but I still do not understand why she turned her back on me completely. Well.. Maybe time will tell..

 

 

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Coming back from the place where I destroyed the briefcase I saw the Inter-Island ferry approaching the harbor. I ran to get Lillie and we made our way down to the docks and bought our tickets—we'd been packed and ready. A few hops up the chain we'll reach the main island and can arrange passage to our next destination. My 'jungle cat' reference will I am sure be understood by M. There's a place called the Jaguar; it was used as a message drop by the station chief on one of my missions in my previous MISL incarnation and presumably is still active.

I am also sure M understands my reasons for requesting a courier and, in fact, my reasons for destroying the briefcase and its GPS locator. M has believed for some years that there is a mole at MISL, and a very highly placed mole at that. Even though mission information is compartmentalized it's possible for people high enough up in the pyramid to find information they aren't necessarily entitled to know. Any wireless or radio transmission is subject to interception and decryption. A hand carried message is secure as long as the carrier is secure, and M will be certain to select someone who is both capable and beyond suspicion.

I myself have no ideas on who the mole could be. When M first became suspicious I was asked to accept the role I now have. I 'retired' from MISL and began my new life as a TOS operative with the hope that I would eventually learn from inside TOS who their MISL informer was. That hadn't happened and M eventually formed the plan of having me 're-enlist'. The whole capture/recruitment scenario was staged to allow that to happen with the hope being that I would be contacted from within MISL by the mole.

Before that theory could be tested M's supposed residence was bombed, setting off the chain of events that has brought me to this point. Because I must assume that the mole is able to see the information regarding my location, I had to destroy the sender. At the cost of losing my one link to safety I've made myself harder for the enemy to find.

My ally of circumstance and I are on our own. Our only chance of security is to get back to MISL HQ, and for Lillie that can only happen if she is guaranteed her freedom should she wish it. If I can't extract that promise from M I'll not bring Lillie in; she and I will have to fend for ourselves.

Enough. All that is still to be seen. For now, we will concentrate on our next destination.

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The sun is rising and my Q-pod is charging. I prepare to face a day I would rather just didn't come.

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I am not looking forward to this next phase of the operation. I know full well what the objective is and I am well aware of the risks and potential for disaster involved should this whole thing come crumbling down around us. This has gone beyond carrying out an assignment, this has gone far past the operational level. More than ever, this has become personal.

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At roof level, the thick fog still hangs oppressively over the city.

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By the time I make it to the Armory, the sun has managed to burn off the haze.

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It has been awhile since I have had to draw my assigned service pistol, but if I am going to be exposed to whatever clock tower crazies TOS decides to send our way, I'm not going down without a fight. Scratch that, I'm not going down.

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The Major issues me my V9 and I make my way to the piers. The sky has taken on a strange gunmetal hue.

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I am not a huge fan of having dead leather and cold metal strapped to my thigh, but then again, I'm even less a fan of being murdered in the streets.

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That Dillon is a brilliant agent with a rebellious streak a mile wide. Destroying her only reliable method of communicating with MISL HQ and dictating to M—to M!—what the next steps would be. She's extremely fortunate she is so well trusted.

And now I know just how well trusted she really is. During last night's marathon meeting, M revealed to me details of Dillon's former stint as a MISL agent and her subsequent assignment to infiltrate TOS. I was worried that Dillon had fled based on a mistaken understanding of events, but it's clear now that I too had an incomplete understanding.

To say I was shocked to learn Dillon's full MISL history would be an understatement. I thought I was the epitome of secrecy and discretion, but Dillon has me trumped. I don't know whether to congratulate her for her job very well done, or strangle her for letting me, her friend, believe a lie. Of course, she'll say I did the same to her. Until she stumbled into my workshop that fateful day, I had never revealed the existence of MISL or my connection to such an organization. But the circumstances were different. I believed Dillon to be an innocent citizen with some ninja training. I had no idea she was one of us!

But I do know the importance of secrets around here. It can mean the difference between life and death. I'll forgive Dillon—she is on the right side, after all—but she can be sure I'll also give her some heat about it at my first opportunity.

Meanwhile, M is preparing her response for Dillon. We discussed the plan in detail, and a courier has been selected to deliver the message. Barring unforeseen circumstances, the courier sets out tonight.

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It has been decided. Zeke is to courier M's message to Dillon at the Jaguar. My Zeke. I am not happy at this turn of events. Danger lurks everywhere on this mission, and I don't want to see him harmed, or worse. But the decision is out of my hands. As a relatively unknown agent, it is thought that Zeke is the least likely to arouse TOS suspicion or be followed. It is left to Miss Caxton and me to summon him.

courier1.pngAt the MISL HQ, Miss Caxton relays the assignment to Zeke, and entrusts him with M's message to Dillon. I look on, angry and helpless. Zeke knows how to take care of himself; he's done this before. He thrives on danger. He would say it's what he lives for. But TOS is a lethal breed of enemy unlike any MISL has ever faced. If they discover him, it could spell a violent end.

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As Zeke prepares to leave under the cover of night, we exchange parting words at the dock. There is peril ahead for both of us, but we don't say goodbye. We are determined to see each other again after this is all over. It WILL be over soon, if M's plan succeeds. I hope she's made the right choices. And above all, I hope Dillon knows what she is doing.

courier3.pngAfter Zeke departs, I steal a few moments alone, which inexplicably turns into hours as a foggy morning dawns once again, to contemplate what lies ahead for Zeke, for me, for Dillon, for all of us. I'm afraid.

courier4.png

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It was nice just traveling. Once we boarded the transporter we knew that for at least the time we were aboard, we were safe from detection. Now that we've arrived at our destination that feeling evaporates and we are back to knowing we are safe not at all. Even though my message to M didn't include a place name, someone who intercepted the message and had the ability to sort through past mission logs might deduce the location. It would take some cleverness but I have to assume the mole is clever.

We book rooms at the hotel I've used before. We'll need to dress in something a bit better than fatigues for this errand, and that alone is enough to lift our spirits a little. I call Lillie on the house phone to let her know I'm going to check with the station and to be ready to go. She is astonished that I'm dressed before she is. I feel very proud.

I stop at the first likely looking store I come to and find a 'throwaway' cell phone. Stepping outside I dial a number. After the usual clicking and popping, a pleasant female voice answers in slightly accented English, "Universal Export". I ask the right questions and give the right repsonses as we dance through the sign/countersign routine until she is ready to hear my message.

"I believe you have received a message for P. It can be delivered at the usual place between 20:00 and 21:00 tonight. Look for a blonde in a black and white dress."

"Understood. Affirmative on message received."

"Thank you".

I break the connection, remove the battery (a Measly is always earth-conscious), and dispose of the phone.

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I am roused from my reverie by M's arrival. It's time. Still, I seize an opportunity for one last try at dissuading M from her decision. I create and build; I am not a field agent. I'm not properly trained for this assignment! This is most definitely NOT what I signed up for when I was recruited to MISL. But M will not relent. Dillon requested that someone trusted meet her at the station M has selected. Because of our friendship independent of MISL, M feels I'm the most trusted resource that can be sent. The most trusted by Dillon, but also the most trusted by M. The news relayed by M of a mole within the organization is not entirely unexpected after my experience with the reporter, but it is a surprise to learn how elusive the mole's identity has been. My life may be in jeopardy, but at least I can take comfort in knowing that I've earned M's unconditional trust.

To ensure that I'm prepared, M brings in Sylvia, one of our top agents just returning from a field mission. Before I set out for my rendezvous with Dillon, Sylvia will give me a crash course in what I need to know to survive. Sylvia takes one long, skeptical look at me, and I think she knows I'm toast.

Just as M is giving her last instructions, a strange woman in scuba gear washes up on shore claiming to be an archeologist, with a fantastical story that The Other Side tried to blow her up.

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I leave the others to deal with the scuba diver while I try to get comfortable with some of the arsenal of weapons that will be my traveling companions on my imminent journey. I'm used to building them, not wielding them.

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Sometimes, it is nice to see things staying the same. I see the Jaguar is still just as modest and understated as I remembered.

Jaguar.jpg

It's a quiet night, apparently,  I'm not sure I like that; I'd prefer distractions. Nevertheless I find a barstool and perch. Lillie is outside watching the door from a place where she can also see me. She has one of my nines in her purse, I have my .25 in a thigh holster, this dress being full enough to hide it.

Jaguar.jpg

The ceiling still carries the motif for which the club was named. I feel a bit as if I've stepped back in my life, but I shake that off and concentrate upon who comes in. Time passes. Too much time. I have managed to stretch three Suntory and waters over a period of over an hour but the bartender must be wondering what I'm doing here, and I don't like it when people wonder. Perhaps nobody from the station could get here.  I will leave and try again tomorrow.

I pay my tab, and with my change I see a folded slip of paper. I glance up and the bartender says, "For later". We make eye contact and he dips his head slightly. I return the gesture, and walk out, window-shopping within range while waiting for Lillie to join me.

 

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So I had to be the one to tell Q and Z.

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I made my way to meet up with Q'ute with a heavy heart, we had to locate Agent Zeke.

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On my way I thought of the gravity of the situation. M was willing to endanger a vital asset to MISL, and for what?

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As we made our way to Z's lair I could feel the anger emanating from Q. I couldn't blame her, but I had orders to carry out.

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Of course Z was expecting us. M hadn't chosen him for this mission because he was a dolt. Quite the contrary, he was one of MISL's finest.

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Q went ahead and told him right then and there what her involvement in the mission entailed. Needless to say, Z was infuriated.

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Back at the office I proceeded to give Agent Zeke his instructions. The entire time Q was unable to stop glaring at my mouth as I spoke the words that was to send her loved one into harms way.

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With the Head of the Quartermaster Branch and MISL's most off the radar operative seething at my existence, I try not to take it personally. I understand they knew it might someday come to this. I just don't think they ever thought it would come about in quite this manner.

Part.jpg 

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We met up with M. M, an Agent, the Head of Q branch, myself, and an alleged archaeologist.

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The diver has happened to show up just as M is about to execute one of MISL's most daring operations. She claims to have been nearly obliterated by TOS's blast of the Bubble. She wants retribution.

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Agent Sylvia is to train up Q on field survival techniques. I gather M will have S declassify the archaeologist and use what intel she can get from her to use in the operation.

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For being a woman of few words, the strategy and planning sessions that M conducts last throughout the night more often than not.

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Q has managed to modify the weapons to her specifications. Undoubtedly, the weapons now have a life of their own.

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With the plans in order and our assignments well rehearsed, we gather together for what in all actuality may very well be one last time. M looks each one of us in the eye.

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"We face a nefarious enemy," she says in a cool calm voice. "In this city, we have forgotten more about being nefarious than most will ever know." This time, the smile I see play across her face is not imagined.

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I have been able to find the lost city, La Citta’ Perduta, and it didn’t take me long to track down the Station’s Chief. Luckily, that intel provided by our MISL insider was correct. However, she must keep a low profile she said to me because the entire MISL is buzzing with plans for a counter attack and everyone is being carefully watched. I was not able to extract much information from the Station Chief before I had to “retire” that measly. The only thing I learned was that Dillon and Lillie boarded a ship that soon thereafter returned here because it was attacked by pirates.

 

I dispose of the body and plant some false traces carefully. When MISL agents come to investigate the disappearance of the Station Chief they’ll be led to believe he was leaking intel to TOS and hopefully that will divert the attention away from the real infiltrator.

 

I search for higher grounds to recon the ship at the docks, and soon enough the captain of the vessel appears, apparently inspecting the hull of his rusty old barge. I don’t care very much for putting a gun to outsider’s heads, but in this particular case I will have to be very persuasive'.

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Just to make sure I was being absolutely clear that I was seriously interested in the true story, I put a bullet through his foot. Choosing for dear life he spilled it all, about them two boarding the bucket of bolts he calls his ship, the attack of the pirates and how Dillon and Lillie disposed of them before they knew what hit them –which, I admit, put a grin to my face, then took their ship and made course for the Islands.

 

Damnit! I’m a day behind and of course they won’t just sit still on the main island. I have no choice but to contact our insider and have her find me some answers quick, at the risk of exposing her and putting her in considerable danger.

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This place has an exquisite beauty that makes me long for home.  Home.  That was a word that was foreign to me not so long ago.  I had been in the process of rebuilding a normal life, a life that felt right to me.  I just wonder now if that is all gone. 

As I sit in silence and wait for Dillon to complete her task I allow my mind to wander.  Part of me is relishing in the thrill of once again doing what comes so naturally for me.  The other part is longing for what is left behind, what I didn't even know I wanted until I found it...  

I shake those thoughts out of my head and refocus my attention on the quiet little bar.  We've been here an hour and nothing worth noting has occurred.  I begin to wonder if her contacts will refuse to show.  I sense more than see the disappointment in her as she pays her bill.  My keen eye catches the addition of something other than change that the bartender passes to her and I watch him mouth the words "for later".  Things are just never as they seem.  I finger the metal beneath the fabric of my purse as I watch her walk from the bar, keeping keenly aware for any movement to follow.  I am silent as I make my way to meet her near the shops, but inside my heart sighs deeply.

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As I take my first step toward Dillon, a breeze swirls around me and stir something inside, like the sudden rush when a door is opened in a sealed room.  A sense of deja vu washes over me and I chill from the inside out.  I feel the little hairs stand on end starting from the back of my neck and working across my entire body.  I pause just momentarily in my step, a slight miss, an imperceivable hesitation as a face flashes across my mind. 

 From the beginning I took note of details, even before I was recruited to TOS.  My mind drifts back so long ago when I was young and full of misguided ambition.  I was going though training at TOS HQ and was waiting for my instructions in the Transit Lounge when the door burst open and chaos entered along with the rush of wind.  I shrunk back in my seat willing myself invisible while I took it all in.  A man, heavily armed strode past me without a glace, I soaked in every detail of his face, the color of his eyes, the shape of his nose, the set of his jaw, his body shape, the length of his stride and the way his foot hit the floor with each step.  He was surrounded by security, all chattering at the same time about breaches and consequences, and O.  But this man, he was the point of interest.  He was the center of attention.  He could have been anyone, but I put together later that he must have been a defector of MISL.  

 

I'd filed that bit of information away in the "not really useful" bin until this very moment.     Could it possibly be that he was not a defector?  His arrogance in his stride, the way he held himself as if he owned the place, could that confidence be derived from inside knowledge.  He had no fear of consequences.  A double agent, a mole, would be valuable to O.  He would have no need to fear breaking security protocol by bursting into O's office.  I wonder if I had better mention this information to Dillon.  I glance in the bar as I walk past the door soaking up the bartenders features.  No information is unimportant.

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