Chapter 2: Don't let me get me
Do you ever get the feeling that you are being followed? Perhaps it's because you know that something you are doing is not acceptable to the world around you. It makes you hide and cower; guiltily covering tracks on any, and every thing you touch. Right now, I feel like that. I feel like what I've stumbled upon is much more off limits then anything I've encountered before. It's not so much that I'm overly cautious as much as I am starting to see suspicious activity probing back to my Morph persona. I've been careful believe me. I've used every means of obfuscation that I could think of, but part of me knows that I've overstepped the line.
I shake my head to move my unruly bangs out of my eyes. I spot someone in my peripheral vision. Someone I've never seen before. Believe me, I know I don't know everyone in this town, but something about her stands out to me. She doesn't quite fit here among the hustle and bustle. Her eyes hide behind a pair of reflective sunglasses that are pointing in the direction of my building. Wearing a dark pantsuit, she seems to exude authority. She nonchalantly leans against the coffee kiosk. I force my eyes to focus on her features, trying to memorize them. Her face is thin and long, her hair is dirty blond, tied tightly into a bun. Her cheekbones stand out beautifully in stark contrast to her thin dark pink lips. I plant this memory of her in the annals of my mind, because if I see her again, it's a good chance that I'm being followed.
I stow it away in the back of my mind as I weave through the sea of professionally dressed men and women funneling into our building like drones. Pushing open the doors, I find myself in the safety of my building away from peering eyes; or so I thought. As soon as I rest my cross dressing self onto my Herman Miller, scan my thumb print, and type in my password; my name is yelled from across the room from the project manager, John's office.
"Thane! I need to see you in my office." John calls.
I wince at this. The only times you get called into the PM's office is when you have scope creep or you have screwed up royally. Let's hope it's not the latter.
I lock out my machine and pull my earphones from my ears and walk toward his office. I take a deep breath as I enter. I am caught by surprise by a familiar ghost of a figure sitting at John's desk. For a moment, I am bewildered by the woman I saw leaning on the kiosk outside.
"How..Who?" I ask under my breath as my eyebrows crinkle in confusion.
There is no way she could have darted in here and found this office before me! John gestures to the open chair that sits across his desk. I have a seat in it, trying to pick my jaw off the floor.
"Thane, this is Ms. Callie Smith. She tells me that Metacortex is extremely pleased with your recent projects and would like a word with you for a possible side project."
Her eyes focus on me, sizing me up from my head to my toes. Perhaps in another situation, I'd be tickled by the fact that a beautiful woman was giving me attention, but at the moment I sense that a roll in the hay is not something she wants me for.
"I'll leave you two to it." John says as he backs away out of his office and closes the door.
"Mr. Everton." she begins.
Her voice is syrupy and feminine with a slight touch of innate malevolence.
"It has come to our attention that your programming and networking abilities exceed even the most gifted of our individuals."
I freeze in my chair. Shit! They know something. Perhaps it's the tunneling I've been doing through our servers and proxies.
"Thane." she repeats, eager to gain my undivided attention by standing up and situating herself in front of me.
She bends over, as she is quite a few inches taller than me. She places a slender finger underneath my chin. Lifting my face, she uses her other hand to drop her sunglasses so that her brown eyes paralyze me.
"We need you to find some people that have been a bit of an irritating rash in our systems."
I smile awkwardly and let out a nervous chuckle. Could it be me that they are talking about? It's entirely possible, and they are probably trying to pin me down. In the silence, I struggle for something to say.
"What do you need me to do?" I dig for any clues.
She turns abruptly back to behind the desk and continues her discussion.
"What I want you to do is track these people down for me." she says, as she drops a plain manila folder onto John's desk and slides it noisily over to me.
"They have no proper names, just handles; Morph, Avalon, Morrigan, and many others."
She prattles off and I almost feel like she is seeing right through me. I feel a shock of mild fear tear through me. I hope it's all in my mind.
"Track them. Watch them. Anytime you find locations, report back to me, immediately." she demands.
"I, I" All I can manage to stutter out.
"You are wondering what you will get for doing this." she sing songs. "Well Thane. What would you like?"
Her wicked smile scares me into submission.
"A raise?" I croak out uncertainly. I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place. I might as well ride the wave into the hard place.
"Done." She stands up quickly and approaches me. She pats me on the shoulder, glances back at me, and waltzes out the door.
What in the hell do I do now?
"You fucking meat head!" I yell as my jack is fully detached.
I push myself off the dental chair that is basically our home while in the matrix. I stand up and head straight for Zero; who sits his dumb ass still in front of the monitor. He is typing away like nothing extraordinary has happened.
"You could've gotten me killed!" I yell at him and pull his collar to me, burying my knuckles into his pulse points with abandon.
I see a flash of the man that I once dated, his well muscled build, and his dark good looks. If I knew then what I knew now, I would snap his damn neck if we didn't need all the people we could get. He grins his charming mustached grin and shows his bright teeth to me. Oh how I'd love to knock out a few of them for fun. I pull back my fist and aim for his two front teeth. I'm going to enjoy this.
My wrists are taken hostage effortlessly by a soft pair of slender hands, and the voice of Morrigan calming me from my dark place.
"Avalon." she calls me, "I'm glad you made it back. It was a close call. But we've got bigger problems."
"What?" I exclaim tersely, my heart still racing from wanting to pound Zero's head in.
"They got a hold of Morph. Agents are all over him right now." she reveals.
Her blue-gray eyes pained from the knowledge. Her blond natural curls betray her feelings with lightness and bounce, despite its greasy and unkempt state.
"We need to indoctrinate him now. They'll dig their claws into him and he'll be lost to us forever."
My jaw clenches in the trouble of the truth, my teeth grind at the action. He's an asset we'd rather not lose. Turned against us, we'd have no choice but to eliminate him.
"Prep the dental chariots and calculate an entrance, and get Zero out of here! I will not do this important operation with him holding the reigns." I demand.
Morrigan sighs loudly and reluctantly pushes Zero out of the operator chair.
"Get on the dental highway Zero." she orders him.
"Captain?" Zero attempts to protest, but she turns and drags him by the ear to a free chair.
She calls Javelin out to replace Zero. He comes running down the gangway, but trips over wires going across the bridge where he had been doing repairs to our ship.
"I got it. I got it." He announces excitedly as he runs toward the operator equipment, recovering from his fall. His tall awkward body his obvious reason for the stumble.
I give him a pep talk, "Screw this up and I'll twist your arm so far behind you that you'll.."
Unfortunately, I'm interrupted by Morrigan, also snapping her fingers and ordering me to my own chair. I sincerely hope this guy is worth it, because all of this extra stress is definitely not what I signed up for. I signed up for blowing the brains out of some agent scum.
I sit back onto the chair and Morrigan jacks me into the system. I really shouldn't, but I revel in the blackness that explodes through my brains, shocking me into instant immersion of the matrix. The rush that it provides me can only be rivaled by the feeling that engulfs me each time I run for an exit, or am placed in the matrix. Packet for packet is like a veritable explosion of power flowing through me.
"I'm putting you in two blocks from Morph's apartment." Morrigan says, focusing on the screen in front of Javelin.
He types away loudly, and away I go. Euphoria takes hold of me and I materialize in a shoddy bar bathroom. I wish that someday, they'll plant me somewhere beautiful, but what can you expect from a place still dependent on a land line. I mean, who still keeps land lines when cell phones, voice over ip, and instant messaging is all the rage? If there was a nice place, I've yet to be placed there. I burst out the doors of the seedy bar bathroom and ignore the looks of the bystanders. Pitiful sleepers. I fling my hair behind me and hit the pavement with a purpose. I'm going to track down Morph and turn his world upside down. I shouldn't find glee in it, but honestly, I welcome another sufferer. Misery sure does love company.
**Author's notes: Thane=Gabrielle, Avalon=Xena, Callisto=Agent Smith, Morrigan = Aphrodite, Zero = Ares, Javelin = Joxer **
To be continued in Chapter 3