17. Backup

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Dedicated to: namikella

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                        *           *           *

      September 12th
      Agent R. Harris and Agent A. Peterson consult Agent K. Masters.

            17: Backup
            Date: September 12th

At four o’clock in the morning I am standing in front of a plain brown door that looks out of place compared to the sleek and shiny hallway that surrounds it. I knock three times on the door and then tuck my hair behind an ear as I wait for a response.

       Moments later, the door opens.

       “Rachel?” he says. His voice comes out husky from just waking up, and he squints at me from where he stands in the doorway.

      It’s now that the actual meaning of my actions occurs to me. Now, when Alex is staring at me with messy blond hair sticking up from his head, and I am standing in front of him in nothing but shorts and an oversized sweater.

      I feel embarrassed now. This is the first time after our heated conversation that one of us has approached the other, and I feel exposed and defenseless even though there is a gun strapped around my waist. “He should be back by now,” I stammer, picking at my sweater.

      I don’t feel comfortable anymore. A feeling creeps into my veins now, slowly rising above the silence between us, reminding me of the way I used to feel before I became an agent.


      Alex continues to squint at me as my insides churn. “What?” he asks. I then notice that there is something pink and fuzzy on the floor.

      My gaze is drawn to his feet. “Are you wearing . . . frog slippers?”

      His face turns red for a moment, but he tries to hide it with a frown. “You’re right, he should be back by now.”

      I nod. “And we haven’t heard from anyone else. Something’s wrong.”

      Alex runs a hand through his messy hair and his eyes dart around the hallway quickly, checking for unseen faces. Then he pulls me into the room with him.

      I step inside before he closes the door and survey the room we stand in. Alex’s dorm is, more or less, the male version of my own. Here the walls are painted a navy blue rather than purple, and instead of make-up bags all over the place there are video-games littering the couches and tables.

      “Where are your roommates?” I ask, walking towards one of the couches.

      “Out,” is all he says. He runs a hand over his face and joins me on the couch. The lighting in the room is dim, glowing from a lamp on the far side of the room, but I can still see his face clearly.

      “I think,” I say, “that you were right. I mean I knew you were right from the moment Adrian said he didn’t know any solid information about the order. But it just seemed so . . . I don’t know.”

      Trying to find the words to continue, I bite my lip. “It’s weird, isn’t it? Adrian was certain that Kyle sent him an order. And I know Adrian. He’s not one to jump into things unless he’s sure he’s understood every angle. The order must have looked like it was practically signed by Kyle.”

      Alex leans forward so his elbows press against his knees. “But who would be able to send a text like that besides Kyle?”

      “Exactly. I think that was his point.”

      He thinks to himself for a while, and I stare at him, taking in the orange glow that the light casts on his face. He looks good when he’s just woken up. He always looks good.

      “We need to talk to him,” he eventually says.

     I blink at him. “Adrian? But—”

     “No,” Alex interrupts. “Kyle.”

     And I don’t know what to say to that. So I say nothing. Even as he hooks up the connection to Special Operations, and even when he hands me the trigger that will hide our connection from Smile Academy’s database, I don’t say anything.

     Then my mind gets the best of my actions. Again. “This is risky,” I warn. “If anything between our connections goes wrong—”

      “Nothing will go wrong,” he assures me, but I hear a hint of doubt in his voice.

      And then he sits back on the couch and there’s a laptop screen in front of me, much like the ones we used before in the computer lab. But the difference is that this time we are requesting a consultation with them. And if we don’t do it correctly it will lead to our exposure.

      The screen in front of us goes blank. Then a box appears for Alex to enter a code inside. He types the numbers for Special Operations into the space and presses the ‘enter’ key, and then the screen is blank again. I hold my breath for the verdict.

      It takes a while, but soon three white dots pop up on the black screen, and I breathe again.

      In a few seconds Kyle’s face replaces the black. He looks the same as last time. Olive skin-tone, brown eyes and short dark hair. And like last time, I wish I were looking at someone else’s face.

      “There had better be a good reason for this call,” Kyle’s voice says.

      If he couldn’t see me, I’d give him a face. But he can see me now.

      “Did you send Adrian an order?” I ask flatly. I can feel Alex’s gaze on my head after I say the words. I must have said them more harshly than intended.

      Kyle narrows his eyes. “And that’s your business because?”

      Alex leans closer to the camera. “Because we are his partners on this mission, and you didn’t send us a notice. Plus he hasn’t come back yet and you never even gave him a tracking address.”

      Kyle’s face twists in confusion as he stares at us, and a more serious look enters his expression. “Wait, he left?”

      I scowl at Kyle. “Well you sent him to a possible lead on Maxwell Thomas. What on earth did you think he was going to do? Sit around and play dress-up with his model friends?”

      At the mention of Adrian’s model friends, Alex glances at me again.

      On the screen, Kyle shakes his head. “I sent him the information electronically. By now his laptop should have gotten it.”

      “But he said you texted something to him,” I say. I feel as though a cold towel has been draped all over me. Something is wrong.

      “I didn’t,” Kyle says simply.

      “Then where did he go exactly?” Alex asks exasperatedly. “And why the hell didn’t he listen to me when I told him not to go anywhere?”

      Kyle doesn’t respond. My thoughts go wild, then. I am thinking too much too fast and I’m not processing the information. I blink, hard, and try to focus the way Alex does.

      Adrian is gone. Where? I don’t know. He’s an idiot.

      And then I realize something. If Adrian is gone, we are down one agent. And as I realize this, dread smashes into my gut.

      If we are down one agent, we will need a backup agent.

      “Continue the mission,” Kyle says. “I’ll be there soon.”

                        *           *           *

Okay, so I know it’s taken a while. But this story’s full plot is finally about to begin. Hope you’ve enjoyed this chapter! Commenters receive dedications! Impress me with your mad commenting skills and I will gladly grant you one.

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