Part the Fifth: Sark

Ms. Bristow's next assignment came in quickly-a prototype of advanced missile targeting software, kept at the headquarters of Peter Hassel, a Danish arms dealer with a taste for excess. In all things. Not the easiest lock to pick, so to speak.

My briefing is done and Agent Vaughn is acting strangely. I'm aware that he hates me, indeed I encourage it, but today I might go as far as to say that he looks afraid of me. He's jumpy, fidgeting with his tie and making himself look me in the eye. He wants to break and run, it's palpable. It's just a little exciting.

"Is that all?" he says "I do have other work to do."

His forehead is smooth for once and it's the most forced thing I've seen yet.

"Did I say that we were done?" I reach across the desk to take a case file from a stack of them. Brush my palm across his bare forearm. He jerks away. Oh yes. This is good. I flip the file open, circle the desk to stand behind him, plant an arm deliberately on either side of his frame, reading aloud over his shoulder, by his ear.

"Two armed guards at each of five entrances. Rotating parameter patrols in four teams of thee. Visual ID checks at two unavoidable points. fail-safes," he's staring straight ahead "Does that make you nervous, Agent Vaughn?" he's breath is hard and matching my own in pace "Are you nervous about the position I've put you in? Would you like more" his fists are clenched "breathing room?"

"I'm not going to ask you for any favors, Sark." A tight voice.

"Please do! That is what this is all about-doing each other favors," leaning in until I feel his back beneath me, feel his shoulders, feel him wanting to kill me, every second more "Don't you want me to keep up my end of the bargain?"

"What would you give me?" he's shaking with it.

"What is it you want?" in his ear. Almost too easy, this.

A rumbling in his throat "Control."

I laugh, let him feel it hum around him, push off with my hands to move back in front of the desk, see him try to look at me "I'm afraid that's one wish even I cannot grant you. If you do require anything a little less abstract, though, do let me know. I'm sure I could accommodate your needs."

The door clicks behind me, but he follows me in my mind's eye, glowering at my neck, considering the best snapping angle.

I do love my job.

I'd known before then that my influence on Sydney made Agent Vaughn uncomfortable, but that was the first time that it became evident that my very presence unnerved him. It was a heady feeling, that kind of power over another man. Something I'd be sure to quickly exploit.