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I also would rather that Q did not have to take this assignment. I am also in agreement with her that Agent Zeke should not have to be put into such danger, but it is too late. The decisions have been made and by now Z is so deeply immersed that extraction at  this point would be implausible and irresponsible. Q is sorely mistaken if she thinks I can in any way dissuade or alter M's decision. While I may have exclusive access to M at times and for reasons others may not, it does not suggest  that I in any way am an influencer of her strategy or decisions.

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M, I am not one to question, but you do know what these choices mean for us, right? All of us?

That is correct, Miss Caxton, you are not one to question me. Ensure you keep it that way. Now go, carry out your assignment and make well and sure that you are not the reason why my decisions fail.

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Red faced, both from anger and being chastised by my superior officer, I seek some comfort from the lighthouse fire. It was never supposed to come to this.

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I grow weary of this all. 

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I make my way to higher ground. I don't mind wandering this city seemingly alone. For the time being, I can appreciate the necessity of appearing vulnerable.

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  I can look out over this city, this Forgotten City, and appreciate everything that is at stake.

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I am fiercely loyal to MISL, to the Mayor, to M and to anyone I have pledged my loyalty to. I will not let anything, or anyone destroy what I so passionately hold dear. I will not fail myself, I will not fail them. I will not fail this City.

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You Only Live Twice Cast, in order of appearance Dillon Levenque                  MISL/TOS Double agent Mags Indigo                         Woman at the dark end of the street Charolotte Caxton   

My heartfelt thanks to all of you who conrtibuted. And if by any chance anyone has actually read this interminable nonsense from start to finish (something I seriously doubt), my heartfelt thanks and

As night falls on the city once more, the guardians make their rounds to illuminate the street lamps and patrol the waterways. I feel safe knowing they are here. Out there, where I am headed, it could be a different story. If Zeke arrived at the Jaguar safely, then Dillon will have received her message by now. Tomorrow, I begin my journey toward the place where we are to meet. I still don't know what will happen once I arrive, but based on all I have learned in the last 24 hours, I know I can trust Dillon. Whatever lies ahead, we're in it together.

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I continue toward Dillon with my new found suspicion of a mole fresh in my mind.  I feel the vibration of my cell phone buried in the bottom of my purse.  I pause and quickly pull it out, having forgotten even of it's existence until this point.  The battery indicator is at the low end as I hesitantly open the phone. I can't believe my eyes:

 

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[incoming secure TOS transmission]
Hello, miss Woodells
   Who the hell are you?
I am referred to as Big O and you will show me the respect I have earned young lady!
   Oh I guess you didn't get the memo "O"  I quit!
Well.. I'm sorry.. but at TOS people don't quit.. They get retired
    I've  tried that already didn't seem to work out so well. I guess I'm allergic to retirement
I guess you don't know MY meaning of "retirement"
    I think I do, but as I said.. I'm allergic to it.

I'm gonna cut the red tape Lill.. G was smug.. and I know he is as smug as he is stupid
      mmmhmmm
We do not have enough Intel.. but I can tell you this.. it was NOT us who bombed M's supposed residence
       I think you are missing an important point
Being?
         I did not ask, nor want  to be part of this

But you are, Lill.. and honestly.. I'm afraid you are getting yourself into a web out of which there is no escape.  I must close this channel soon.. MISL is intercepting it as we speak
    Just so you know, I always find an escape.  I guess you don't know your former agents all that well.\

I know that you are one of the finest.. Send me an SOS when you need help with that.. You still have our channel.. and believe me.. you WILL need help!
 [secure TOS channel closing]

I close my phone and pull the battery quickly and increase my pace to catch up to Dillon.

"Dillon, there are a couple of things I think you need to know about...."

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A few steps away from the Jaguar I see Lillie waiting. I stop to unfold the note I got from the bartender. As I'd hoped, it's a printout with the destination M has picked for my 'phone home'. I smile; it is a good choice, I think. One of our oldest stations and one where I have always felt very much at home. But in the bottom half is something written by hand. A haiku, occidental style:

you only live twice
once in the life you think real
once in Second Life

I wonder who wrote it. I decide it must have been the bartender. He had a poetic look.

On our way back to the hotel we wander into a district that looks as if it has not changed for a generation, possibly two.  In a way we're separated from reality; I feel as though the problems behind us and ahead of us are somehow not real. I think perhaps Lillie is feeling the same thing, as we chatter and look at all the things in the shops.

Walking Home.jpg

Japan Dream

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In as little time as it takes to tell about it, my life is complicated beyond comprehension. I thought I'd heard a cell phone; it was Lillie's. Even though I couldn't hear what she was saying it was obvious she was giving the caller an earful. She closed the phone and actually stopped to pull the battery. I figured it must have been an old boyfriend or something. She yelled at me to stop and told me there were things she had to tell me.

The first thing was that the phone call was from O, head of TOS. He was telling her she needed to connect back in with TOS to save herself. She told him pretty much where he could place that idea (not sure if she suggested he fold it three ways first). She was flabbergasted that someone at that level would contact her. She didn't think much of O, and having heard her side of the conversation I'm not all that impressed myself. For one thing, he told her Guido was stupid. I've seen Guido in action. He is my enemy, but stupid he ain't. If TOS doesn't evaluate their people any better than that, we're better off than I thought we were.

Then Lillie related a story from her TOS past that she had never thought mattered much. Just an odd incident at TOS HQ where she'd been more or less accidentally in the same place as someone from MISL. I may have stopped breathing for a bit. There's a very good chance Lillie has actually seen the Mole. If so, she'll be able to recognize him. Her vision and pattern recognition skills are what singled her out for sniper training, and a lot of that training had to do with memorizing faces. It's an important part of a sniper's job to be able to select the correct person to shoot.
I ask, and Lillie doesn't think she ever told Guido about the incident, which happened before she was assigned to his team. But she isn't sure.

I'm in the company of someone who may be able to identify the TOS mole working for MISL. TOS may be aware of that knowledge. Our danger level has just gone through the stratosphere. So much for spending a pleasant night luxuriating in the Tokyo Hilton. We need to move, just as fast as we can. I hail a cab.

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For the past day, I have been roaming the Islands in search of any clues as to the whereabouts of the renegades. Nothing. It's like searching for a needle in a haystack. I have not heard anything from the MISL insider either. I am sure its just silence before the storm...

[incoming secure TOS transmission]

G, meet me at the following coordinates. Now.
Big O

4651198454154

[secure channel closed]

I quickly decrypt the given code into coordinates... What!? He's here?? When Big O himself is getting involved, something is coming down. I'm actually nervous meerting him, because we never had face to face contact. I make haste to get on my way. Big O does not like to be kept waiting. The coordinates indicate that he is at the next Island.

BigO.PNG

What the hell!?.. Are you!?.. OOOOOOooooh!?

   Yes, agent, it IS me.. Now you know why they call me Big O.. That's usually the kind of reaction I get.. And close your mouth please.

   Let's get down to business shall we? Because of your apparent lack of progress I took it upon myself to contact Lillie. I knew she would still have the TOS encryptor app on her cell. Threatening her didn't work and I don't think she'll use my bait for contacting me when she needs help. However, I got a fix on her location. The fix immeadiately died after the call, so I presume she has destroyed her cell or killed the TOS encryptor app.

  You have little time. I don't think they will remain in the same spot for long. Get over there. Now. Retire both of them at sight. I hope you are better at taking aim then you are at thinking about placing a simple call.

 

 

 

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Sylvia's attempts to train me as a sharpshooter failed miserably. I warned M that I wasn't cut out for this, that handling weapons was not my forte. But M refused to allow my lack of skill to excuse me from the mission. Instead, she sent me with reinforcements. Turns out that mysterious scuba diver knows a thing or two about gunslinging and has her own personal vendetta against TOS. I don't know if I can trust Kelinda, but I have no choice. And I'm oddly comforted to not be alone.

We spend an entire day traveling to our first stop, La Citta' Perduta. It's night when we arrive, and our first order of business is to locate the barge that Dillon and Lillie set out on, to see if we can uncover any information that may have been left behind. The freighter is empty; we find nothing.

perduta1.pngJust as we prepare to move on, a solitary figure approaches. Kelinda acts instinctively, training her pistols at him. He gets belligerent, shouting about how he's already been shot once this week and once is more than enough. When he calms down enough to make sense, we understand that we are not the first to arrive here. It seems TOS is ahead of us. Kelinda and I exchange a fearful look. We know we must be cautious.

perduta2.pngArmed with the knowledge that TOS has beat us here, we start digging for intelligence and clues. It's a dirty job, but we're the only ones here to do it. We find not-very-carefully discarded documents suggesting the local Station Chief may have been leaking intelligence to TOS. It looks like a frame-up because of the careless way the information was disposed of (ALL discarded MISL documents are shredded and incinerated, never tossed in the garbage), but we can't be sure. We pocket the information and move on.

perduta4.pngExhausted from our day's journey, Kelinda and I decide to find a bite to eat and plan our next movements before going in search of sleeping accommodations. We find a rather rough looking bar, but at least it's a place to sit, which is really the only thing we care about.

perduta3.pngFinally, the day catches up with us and we seek out a place to lay low for the night. We find the perfect unassuming spot. It will be tight quarters, but if TOS is still lingering, they won't think to look for us in this nondescript little shack. Kelinda and I agree to sleep in shifts. A good strategy, since there is only one... well, it's not even a bed. One hammock. But we decide that sleeping in shifts would have been a good idea anyway so that someone can keep watch throughout the night. Before I take the first sleeping shift, I hook up our portable MISL mini-computer to a monitor and keyboard we "borrowed" from a local electronics store. After testing for a secure satellite link, I jam all unknown signals and turn the computer over to Kelinda to see what she can discover about TOS agents who may be hiding in this city or nearby. Meanwhile I pray for sweet dreams, but I know they won't come. We have another long journey ahead tomorrow fraught with uncertainly. My mind is reeling.

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I make my way to the coordinates that Big O provided by calling Lill and getting a fix on her. I can't help but smile thinking she must have immediately deactivated it so as not to allow us to trace her any longer.

While roaming the area of the fix, I think back on my meeting with Big O. I still have a hard time thinking of Big O as a she. But it's Big O alright. Although she is a beautiful woman, the offensive contemptuous and patronizing way she spoke is typical. The fact that she felt it necessary to take the initiative will not look good on my service record. I had better get back to her with some results or there will be hell to pay.

Night falls.. still nothing. I keep high ground to have a clear overview. I don't want to get ambushed and become a target myself. I have never retired anyone directly, back in those days my bombs would go off long after I'm gone. I'm not looking forward to completing this mission.

Suddenly, a familiar silhouette appears out of the shadows...

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It's Lill alright, but she's alone. She cautiously moves about, unaware... I'll follow her and see if she is on her way to Dillon.

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After a while, it becomes clear that Lill apparently is alone here. I wonder where Dillon is. I draw a bead on Lill once I get a clear line of fire...

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I Can't.

This is not what I signed up for! Not for killing friends. Years of operations together makes people grow on ya... I don't care if Big O will decommission me.. or maybe retire me personally. I'm not doing this, period.

 

 

 

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After I'd told Dillon what I knew, and watched her blanch momentarily, we headed quickly back to the hotel to pack up and acquire  transportation.  Dillon placed some calls with no luck.  Any transportation out of here would have to wait for hours and possibly until morning.  After carefully discussing our options, I suggested I could scout out surrounding area and see if I could something to get us out in a more timely manner.  Two hours had already passed, and that was far too long. 

Dillon reluctantly agreed, I sensed the hesitation in her more than heard or saw it.  I only hope that she knows without a doubt she can trust me.  She MUST trust me, because she I started out the door,  snatch up the purse with her borrowed nine in it and tossed it to me.  I promised to be back within the hour and closed the door behind me.

I head out into streets that are mainly deserted.  The fresh ocean air feels good against my skin as I walk cautiously down the street.  I can't help but think about all that has happened, and wonder in what direction I'll be spun this time.  I have no doubt in my mind that I am now on the right side of things.  Dillon has proved to me to be a trustworthy and honest companion.  Being on the run with someone tends to make you closer to that person.  I hope and pray she knows her allies as well as she thinks she does. 

I make my way closer to the harbor area looking for a watercraft that may have been a bit carelessly moored.  It's easy at times to lose your way in this place.  I slink from boat to boat, checking carefully for one that is worthy of a good beating.  I spot one that looks promising and check it out carefully, I think this one will do. 

 

I quickly begin heading back toward the hotel when the hairs on my neck stand on for the second time tonight.  This time is different.  Everything seems brighter suddenly, I can hear the sound of people laughing in the distance, I hadn't noticed that before.  The sound of the seagulls circling near the fisheries is almost deafening.  I freeze, my heart pounding, instinctively I reach for Bess... Dammit!!! She is still in the room.  I wait what feels like hours but couldn't have been more than a minute, bracing myself for what ever is to come.  The feeling passes almost as quickly as it came upon me.  I duck quickly into the booth nearest me and glance nonchalantly over my shoulder.  In the window of a building down the street, something catches my eye.  A brief flash of a street light reflecting off of glass. 

 

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I quickly cut through the vendor's booth and shove open the door of the building next to it.  I rush though the building silently my senses still heightened.  I cautiously open the back door and make my way back outside and find myself at the back of the building where I saw the glint of light.  I pull Dillon's nine from my bag and toss the nearly empty purse into a bush nearby.  There is nothing in it I can't replace or really care for, I don't need my lipstick if I'm going to be in a fight. 

I notice the back door is slightly ajar and carefully enter the building.  It seems to be some kind of vacant store, empty display cases line the slowly decaying walls.  The building smells of mildew and sweat.   I spy a staircase and my skin goes cold as a chill travels up my spin.  I tentatively place my foot on the bottom step testing for any noise or give, then slowly proceed to the next step, my back against the wall, trying to watch two places at once.  It takes me forever to reach the top of the stairs that open into a mid sized empty room, well, empty except for two things.  On the window sill are two objects, I recognize both immediately.  One is an unspent 7mm round, the other a still burning Marlboro.  I spin around quickly to look at the empty staircase.  He knew I'd come here and was leaving me a clear message. 

I check decide not to take any chances and climb out on the tiny balcony and make my way down the rickety fire escape.  I stay low, ducking behind buildings and zig zagging my way back to the hotel.  I don't enter via traditional means, carefully observant to everything around me, I slip into the room of a young couple too engrossed in each other to notice me slip in their open window.  Despite my desperate mission, I grin to myself and resist the urge to tell him "She's faking it, nobody says THAT!" and instead slip unnoticed out the door and rush to the room to meet Dillon.  I'm 20 minutes late, and she is pacing near the door when I burst in. 

I'm sure I look a mess, having been for a swim at one point to keep the trail clear.  I stand in front of her my hair dripping.  "We have to move, right now!"

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We have survived the night. Although it's clear TOS tracked Dillon and the sniper at least this far, there was no hint of their presence as Kelinda and I took turns at watch. It seems they have moved on. I can only hope that it's not closer to Dillon. With any luck, they lost the trail at the same time we did, when Dillon disabled her communication kit.

After a mostly restless night, I leave Kelinda to a last chance at sleep while I step out to see what I can discover in daylight. Almost immediately I spot the rusty remnants of a plane wreck. What IS this place where Dillon stopped, I wonder? Why would this wreckage just be left here to decay like this? In any case, we must have passed right by this site last night in our search for accommodations, but either because of the dark or my exhaustion, I didn't notice it. I must be more observant if I am to have any chance at staying alive.

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Closer to the dock, I locate the secured Station phone, hidden in plain sight in hope that the enemy would never suspect anything so obvious. For a brief moment I wonder if it's safe to jam unsecured signals and place an untraceable call to MISL HQ. I'm desperate to know if there has been any news from Dillon or from Zeke. But I decide it's too risky. There is no knowing what information TOS might have gained from the Station Chief, whom I have been unable to locate. It's possible the security of this phone has been compromised.

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Discovering nothing more of use, there is nothing left to do but return to our luxurious shack and collect Kelinda. It's time we got moving. We have a long day of travel ahead.

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With a few well-placed bribes we managed to find transport. I got at least a catnap while we were travelling but I've not really slept since we left the Islands, and I think Lillie is in the same condition. I'm not sure how long we can stay sharp, and where we're going now even a minor oversight could prove deadly. I love Berlin but it is and always has been the focus for nearly every agency in the metaverse. Everyone watches everyone else. There is not the slightest chance that I will not be observed going to our station; the same is true for Lillie. For that reason I've had her stay out of sight; if I can convince M to agree, I will bring her in; if not—we will have to go our way in the world.

Just stepping off the train takes me back. I have an urge to walk Unter den Linden and find a warm Kaffeehaus. I can almost see Bernd sitting across from me again, waiting for me to finally stop making small talk and tell him what he needed to know about what TOS was doing. I wonder if he ever realized how much I loved him. I hope he didn't.

I make my way to our station and am astonished to see Quinn waiting at the doorway. I'd hoped that M would send someone I could trust, and clearly Quinn is that and more, but Quinn is no field agent. She shouldn't be here at all. I can only guess that M wanted to make sure I knew I was being taken seriously. I'm glad of that but I wish there was a way to do that without putting Quinn so far into harm's way

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There's someone else here as well, and I think she must be acting as Quinn's bodyguard. I've not seen her before. I'd remember. Imagine a petite girl in a pretty blue dress. Now imagine her waving a couple of pistols. She looks like she might be the offspring of a mating between Pollyanna and Billy the Kid.

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I've learned that Kelinda makes a fine traveling companion, but boy does she get grouchy if I don't feed her. I've had us on the move constantly since leaving La Citta' Perduta, stopping only when Kelinda reminds me that it's mealtime. I know it must be time for food again when Kelinda pleads, "maybe we could stop to get something to eat somewhere." As soon as she says it, I realize that I am, in fact, starving.

I make Kelinda stand watch outside while I poke my head into the nearest pub to make sure all looks safe. And also to make sure they serve something other than beer, like actual food that will satisfy both of our growling stomachs.

pub1.png

The coast seems clear and there is a decent menu, so I signal to Kelinda to join me inside. We take a seat in the corner on a comfy looking couch and immediately go about the important task of quenching our thirst with a pint of Guinness. But we stop at a pint and order dinner because I don't want to hole up here for the night, inebriated. We have to keep moving.

While we're waiting for our fish and chips, Kelinda points out the poster on the wall behind us—an ancient advertisement for a concert in Berlin. A chill runs through me. I can't decide if the unexpected reminder of our destination is auspicious or ominous.

pub2.png

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Finally, we arrive at our destination via the most conventional means of transportation we can find. Before leaving the train, Kelinda and I make a quick change of clothes, following M's instruction to blend in with the locals. Berlin, of all the locations M could have chosen for our rendezvous with Dillon, would be the worst possible place to stand out and arouse suspicion. There are too many secrets here, and too many prying eyes.

berlin1.png

Kelinda and I meander through the city streets rather than taking a direct route to our ultimate destination, in the event we need to throw anyone off our trail. When we finally reach the appointed meeting spot, we don't have to wait long for Dillon, who looks shocked to see me. But she should have known M would have a surprise up her sleeve. Miss Caxton was right; M operates on her own terms and no one else's.

Meanwhile I am overjoyed to finally lay eyes on Dillon again and know that she has made it here safely. I'm so relieved to see her that I almost think I might forgive her for keeping her Measly history a secret even after she learned that I was a part of the same organization. While professional decorum and the severity of the mission at hand prevent me from throwing my arms around Dillon in a welcoming hug, I can't help letting a small smile escape when I see her attire. Looks like she got the same message from M about blending in.

berlin2.png

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After a much too brief reunion with Quinn I went inside and was introduced to the local Chief of Station, someone I'd never met. He guided me to the soundproof room where I would make my call to M. I noticed something new had been added since my last visit here, so long ago. I asked what the box next to the phone was all about.

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"I'm not entirely sure. I think it somehow 'breaks up' the signal from the phone and mixes it up so that even if someone does find a way to tap into the line all they'll hear is unintelligible noise. Supposedly a similar machine at the other end puts everything back together. Someone from HQ comes once a month to change the settings and I am under orders never to alter them. To be honest, it's something of an enigma."

He leaves me to make my call in complete privacy.

I think about what I'm going to say. What I'm going to ask. There will be no going back from this. I've made my committment.

Calling M.jpg

I pick up the phone, and after a few seconds I hear the slightly tinny sound of a reconstructed voice.


"Talk to me."

"Thank you for agreeing to this. I had something I could not talk about any other way. Since I made my request I've found something else even more important. I'll start with that".

"Go on."

"You know that I'm travelling with a former TOS operative. You probably don't use the word 'former' but I'll let that go for now. I learned less than a day ago that she may have actually seen the Mole. While on a brief visit to TOS HQ—the old one—she  stumbled into a security breach which involved someone supposedly an MISL Officer being escorted as an honored guest. At the time she thought it might have been a defector. There haven't been any high level defectors, have there?"

"None."

"I didn't think so. It's very likely the man she saw was the Mole. She's a sniper. She knows how to recognize faces. She's here, or near here. I know we can't let her look at pictures of MISL officers, but if there's an artist available to the Station perhaps she can describe who she saw well enough to make an image that is recognizable. I've asked and she is more than willing to do that, provided she isn't taken into custody while she's here".

"It should be possible to let her inside long enough to do what you suggest without compromising security. It's not as if TOS doesn't know our Berlin location. I'll put things in motion. Wait."

The line goes silent. I wait.

"Arrangements have been made. But you haven't asked what you really wanted to ask, have you?"

I know she knows. I don't know how she does that, but I know she knows.

"No. I haven't. Lillie wants out of TOS. She may even want to join us, and I know she would be a welcome recruit. But there's a chance she'll want out altogether. I want to know that she'll be allowed to walk free if that's her decision. I've promised her I'll protect her, and I can't bring her in if she'll be imprisoned for her past activities. I won't bring her in. I'm asking you for your word that she can leave Forgotten City a free person if she wishes."

Silence.

"Please, M. I've never asked you for anything. I owe her. She saved my life."

"You've asked me for things times without number, Dillon. Although I don't believe I've ever heard you say 'please'

If she does leave her safety will not be our concern. She'll be a TOS target for her betrayal. She'll be on our watch list and subject to immediate action should we even suspect she's betraying us. She needs to understand that."

"She's quite aware of that."

"Go. See if she can describe our Mole. Get her here. And Quinn. Protect them. We need them here."

"Thank you."
The line drops. I turn away, draw my first full breath in what seems like hours, and move to the door.
It is time to go into action.

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Connecting to secure satellite....
Connecting to Godmother's remote location....
Connected:
Godmother things are going as predicted. I should have the coordinators on our next communication. I think both sides will be surprised when they see your ultimate plan. Some of the MISL are still worried that I might cause them harm,  if they only knew who I really work for. Still trying to contact G...... Oops here comes Q. GTG!
Disconnected............................

GodMother.JPG

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Kelinda has been acting odd since we have arrived in Berlin, nervously watchful and stealing away whenever she thinks she won't be missed. Maybe it's just her lack of MISL training but I'm starting to grow a little suspicious of her behavior. I think it wise to investigate, so I follow her the next time she sneaks away. I was more than shocked to see her typing at a computer I had never seen! I only got the briefest of looks before Kelinda spotted me from afar and hurriedly collapsed and stowed the computer in her bag. But even with that short glimpse, one thing is for sure. That's not MISL issued equipment; at least not like any I've ever seen. I don't know how she could have carried that with us unnoticed from Forgotten City to Berlin. I can't rule it out, of course, but neither can I rule out the possibility that she made contact with an associate (friend or foe?) to take possession of it here after we arrived.

Who is Kelinda communicating with and why? The fact that she is secretive about it doesn't bode well. We need to know what's on that computer. If she's in contact with the enemy, we have to move NOW. I don't want to harm Kelinda unprovoked, so I resort to the next best method of incapacitating her long enough to get my hands on her computer. I hate to do it, but I spike her drink with a sedative. The effect will be temporary and unharmful, but it will buy me a little time to figure out what is going on. When I'm certain she is out cold, I rummage through her bag and locate the computer. Then I seek out Dillon. I want to be sure someone else trusted sees whatever, if anything, I find.

kelindascomputer.png

It's a simple enough matter for me to get past the rather routine security on this computer, and what I find stuns me. Kelinda has been making secure communications to someone she calls the Godmother. Who is the Godmother? Just who is Kelinda working for and what is her objective here?

I turn to Dillon for her expert field opinion. It's clear we must be cautious about trusting Kelinda. I'm relieved, at least, that she hasn't been privy to any of our discussion about a MISL mole. But I'm not certain what to do next. Soon we'll need to make our way back to M in Forgotten City. Do we keep the gunslinger close and bring her along? Do we confront her? We cannot simply leave her behind.

I do not return Kelinda's computer, but neither am I prepared to destroy it yet. I jam the transmission frequencies, disable the satellite modem, remove the battery (which I hand over to Dillon for safekeeping), and stow the computer in a secure location. It may become useful later.

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I have made my way back to the new TOS HQ.. Although it's a high tech place beyond belief, I always get a feeling of cold running down my back when I pass the secured gates. I'm NOT going to enjoy the meeting I'm about to have...

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I try to calm myself when I step into Big O's office. Automatically notified of my arrival, she is awaiting me...

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Her eyes are piercing me. This woman can make a field hardened man shrink on the spot.

Well? Report, Agent G!

     I went to the coordinates you have provided by the fix you got from calling Lillie. They never showed.

WHAT!? And you have wasted two whole days traveling here to tell me that!!? You incompetent fool!

     No Sir, I roamed the stated coordinates' surroundings for two days, not a hint of either of them back there!

Yes, well.. If you would have been smart enough to contact TOS, you would have learned that by now they have made their way to Berlin! But, that is NOT where you are going. You will make your way back to the Forgotten City and find safe refuge there. I will join you soon. I am personally leading the next phase of this debacle you call an operation and try to salvage what can be. I am starting to doubt your resolve in this matter. You need not know more at this time. Go and prepare my arrival. That is all, Agent.

Cold as ice, this woman, she turns her back on me staring through the window as if I never was there. I don't mind being sent away, I can't get as far from Big O as I can soon enough. The fact that she has taken over is worse. She probably suspects me from warning off Lill and Dillon, which I did. Leaving my cig and a bullet was ample warning for Lill.

I wonder why Big O didn't decommission me on the spot. Whatever is going to happen in Forgotten City, I am almost sure I will be the canon fodder....

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Dillon returned from placing her call with M and seemed quite relieved.  She asked me again if I would be willing to sit with a sketch artist to help them determine if who I saw at TOS HQ was truly a mole.  I agreed. 

 

We agreed that we should arrive separately at the meeting point with the artist from MISL.  I arrived first, at the grand hotel and took a seat near a window with a cup of hot coffee.  The door is propped open and there is a lovely breeze blowing in, the scents of spring blossoms mingling with the mechanical smells or coal and oil of the nearby train station.  I sit patiently, trying to imagine what it would be like to sit in a place like this and now wonder if someone was waiting to blow your head off the moment you stepped through the door.  I take my eyes off the door momentarily to glace out the window, it's not easy to keep your eyes trained on two spots at once. 

A movement catches my attention and I look to see a petite young brunette standing before me.  She smiles at me sweetly, almost too sweetly.  "May I have a seat?"  She gestures to the open chair at my table.  I look around at the plethora of empty chairs, but nod.  I don't want to seem impolite.  She sits and orders a coffee and we wait in silence.  My senses are heightened once again and I listen to the sounds of the trains in the distance, and the click clack of a woman's heels on tile floor above me.  I sip my coffee and regard this girl over the top of my cup.  After some time she speaks:

"So, shall we get started with the sketch?"  My surprise does not show through, only dismay. "Excuse me?  What?"

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Her surprise is not so well hidden.  "Oh, um, I am the sketch artist.  I'm here to make the sketch.  Are you ready?" 

I blink a few times for effect:  "Sketch?  Oh!  Do you do portraits!  Oh my husband would love a portrait of me!  How much do you charge?"  My voice rises with excitement. 

She looks baffled.  As she leans down to reach into her bag, my right hand reaches under the hem of my skirt and my fingers touch the cold metal near my thigh.  She comes up with a sketch pad and pencil.  I smile and make a big production of fluffing my hair and sitting up straight in the seat.  "Should I turn to one side or the other?" 

She blinks at me and closes the sketch pad.  "I think you misunderstood."  

I had never seen this girl before.  I memorize her face and can see her growing uncomfortable.  She gulps the last of her coffee and stands.  "I'm sorry, I must have gotten the wrong hotel."  She mumbles as she drops some change on the table and walks out the door.  I lean back in my seat and watch her leave.  She walks like she's packing something. 


A few minutes later Dillon walks into the hotel lobby and sits in the same chair.  I look up at her then down at the change on the table. 
"I had an unexpected visitor, a young brunette who wanted to make a sketch for me.  I think she had something more than pencils up her sleeve though."  I sip my coffee and watch Dillon's face.  We wait a bit longer, both on edge but not showing it. The sketch artist must have been detained. 

Stranger for coffee 4_001.png

We decide it's time for another plan and return to our rooms for a conference.

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After leaving the phone room I had a short meeting with Quinn and the Chief of Station. M had already sent him a radio message advising him to locate a sketch artist and to let him know I might bring someone in. While he was looking through his contact list I asked Quinn if I could 'borrow' her bodyguard; I'd no idea who or what might be out there waiting but the mission had reached a point at which I wanted to be as well prepared as possible. She readily agreed, but when we looked in the waiting room we found it empty. A quick search of the open parts of the station revealed nothing. To say I was surprised that a bodyguard would be absent from her protectee would be a severe understatement.

On my way to meet with Lillie I stopped for just a moment in a little park off Unter den Linden. It seems I'm forever doomed to visit places of beauty, all the while looking over my shoulder. A drake and his mate paddled through the pond. I envied them their serenity.

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 I made my way to our pre-arranged rendezvous to meet with Lillie. It was a very public place but since none of us could count on going unnoticed here, a public place was as good a rendezvous point as any. At least it had the bonus of allowing us to see who else was watching. I was dismayed to learn she'd been approached by Quinn's bodyguard, who must have been eavesdropping at the door when I talked to Quinn and the Chief of Station. There's no question now that whoever this girl is, she has her own agenda.

 Lillie and I made our way back to the station (still no sign of Annie Oakley) where the sketch artist was set up and ready to go. Lillie sat back, closed her eyes, and started to describe who she saw. From time to time the artist would ask a question about chin length or cheekbones, but mostly he just drew while she talked. After a bit he asked her to take a look.

 "No. It looks a little like him, but no. His face was thinner. And I think he had a straighter nose. Something about the eyes is wrong, too, but I can't quite tell what."

 The artist went back to work, and asked Lillie to look again.

 "That's much closer. Still not right with the eyes. I think it might be the eyebrows; I remember he had sort of peaked eyebrows, very unusual looking."

 After more tries, Lillie was asked to take another look.

 "Yes!. That's him, or his closest relative. I'd know him anywhere."

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I look at the sketch but see nobody I recognize. Whoever he is he's someone who never had direct access to agents. I take Lillie into the other room and ask Quinn to come back with me. Quinn takes one look at the sketch and gasps, loud enough to startle the artist. I make a mental note to beg M not to put Quinn in the field again, ever. Duplicity is just not her style. I thank the artist and escort him out, where he is paid and thanked by the Chief of Station and sent on his way.

 "He's big, isn't he?", I ask Quinn.

 She nods. "Very. We've got to contact M as soon as possible."

 "We can't. The scrambler phone connections have to be pre-arranged and there's no way we can put whatever you know on the air, no matter how well encrypted. We have to go. NOW."

 "What about Kelinda?", Quinn asks. I recall that's the name of the erstwhile bodyguard.

 "Let her catch up with us if she can. I think Lillie and I can keep you safe."

 I go into the other room to talk to Lillie and let her know we're on the run once more. Quinn gathers her things and we leave through the 'secret' exit that probably less than half of our enemies know about. Next stop, the Forgotten City.

The Berlin Project

 

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After a day of letting the sketch sink in, I still can't believe what I have seen. Can it really be possible that one of the most trusted people within M's inner circle is the mole? I know M suspected someone high level, but I don't think even she suspected this. What could have ever motivated one of the most loyal Measlies to turn on us so traitorously?

Dillon was right. This needed to be communicated to M at once. We're en route back to the Forgotten City to deliver the sketch to M. There's about to be a serious shake-up within MISL.

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Information is starting to come in.

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I make my way to the waterfront even as more messages are being delivered.

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Even more intel is being gathered on the nets, the MMA's are all abuzz.

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I speak with Agent Tollhouse, he always has an ear to the ground.

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Even Agent K is busy sending and receiving Eyes Only information.

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I am brought up to speed with the actions and events of our agents. M will be acting soon.

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The time of action is near.

Unforgiven.jpg

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I made my way back to the Forgotten City. As always, it just seems deserted. I know better. I can almost feel the tension rising. Soon.. It will be very soon now.

I found a secure place off the coast which will do just fine for whatever Big O has planned. She said she would arrive shortly after I confirmed to have found a good hideout. As ordered, I await her arrival. No use getting my head blown off before the end stage.

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Dillon, Lillie, and I finally arrive back in the Forgotten City after a manic haul from Berlin—without Kelinda, who is surely close behind. I think we've managed to set a speed record in getting here. All I can think of is sleep, but Dillon insists that we must report to M at once. 

We are greeted upon our arrival by both Miss Caxton and the Rangemistress, Keli, but Dillon has no patience for gatekeepers just now. She demands an immediate audience with M so we can deliver the sketch.

fc2.png

 

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I made my way through.. What a place this is! *dusts off her clothes*    Typical! This is exactly the kind of place M would choose. I'd prefer the concrete and glass of TOS HQ anytime over this.

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I hope G picks me up an bring me to his secure place real soon, or he's gonna get it!

I swear, if that smug twit messes up again this time, I'll retire him personally! *taps her foot*.... c'mon G!! I hate to be out in the open like this!

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