The Cassidy Chronicles – CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

Cass got to drive my car!

Okay, I shouldn’t feel badly about it; after all, if she didn’t have the Bugatti, she wouldn’t have had a chance at getting in and out of HLC and rescuing her friend. And talking with Cass afterwards, she made a damn good plan for someone who didn’t know the business!

Adam really needs your help – he’s got an entry in the October Cover Contest, and he’s looking for votes. You can vote every round (they reset on Friday), and it doesn’t cost you anything to register on the site. It’s easy to do from the computer, not so much from the phone just so you’re aware. He knows you don’t have to do this, so he’s sweetened the pot. Everyone who votes gets their name into the list of redshirts to be included in upcoming Cassidverse stories, AND you also have a chance to win a $100 Gift Card from Restaurant.com! So click one button to vote, and the other to enter the rafflecopter!


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Chapter 21: Hit the Road Jack

“This is your car?”

“Well, technically, it’s my wife’s car, but yeah, it’s mine.”

“Doc, I am impressed.” Montana’s voice carried the conviction behind her words. She and Mac were staring at the Veyron, admiring the lines.

“I told you, Aiyana. Not Doc.”

“Sorry, Doc, but you’re running this show, and I’m not gonna call you Aiyana.”

Cass sighed. “Fine. Stop gawking and give me your bags.” Cass put all the luggage in the boot, then opened the doors. “Like I said, Mac, you’re going to have to sit on Christina’s lap.”

Mac didn’t look too pleased, there was definitely some bad blood between the two, but she was in this far; it was way too late to back out now.

Packed into the cabin, it was time. Cass fired up the willing engine, responding with a roar and spraying gravel behind as she floored her way back onto the battered road. Mac, despite her best efforts to stay upright, was pushed back against Montana. “Sorry,” she muttered.

Deciding to address the elephant in the car, Cass asked, “What gives? I mean, I don’t know you all that well Mac, but you don’t seem to have a harsh word for anyone. Why does being next to Christina make you look like I’m asking you to suck on a lemon?”

Mac and Montana actually exchanged a glance before Mac answered.

“Well, it was back when I was coming out of training, this was basic training and I was probably the smallest person to actually make it through, not that that has anything to do with my story, it’s just funny how things like that work sometimes, you remember all the -”

“Mac, let me tell it or we’ll be in Houston before you finish!” interrupted Montana.

Mac pouted but shrugged agreement.

“Like Mac was saying, it was after she came out of training. She didn’t do anything wrong, you know? My issues with her have never been professional. She’s capable enough.”

“You never said that!” exclaimed Mac.

“You never asked me – hell, we never talk.”

“Oh, yeah.”

“So there she is, fresh out of training, and I’d been in for, oh, two years or so, and she’s doing all these things with the computer systems I couldn’t even begin to dream of. Just making it look completely effortless.” Now Montana shrugged. “I got pissed. No good reason, just jealous, I guess, maybe. I wasn’t good with computers, always just getting by, but that wasn’t what I needed for my career track.”

“Which is what, by the way?” asked Cass.

“Just what I said to Talbott: hurting people and breaking things. I never had the skills like Kendra. She’s absolutely legendary, you know? In any case, assassin was right out. No, I was more your run-of-the-mill bodyguard disguised as eye candy.” A hint of a grin appeared.

“Hey, Doc, you know something else that used to really bug me?”

“Nooo…” answered Cass.

The grin got more visible. “You know how fast Mac talks now. Would you believe that she used to talk even faster?”

“No way!” exclaimed Cass. Mac looked acutely uncomfortable, though whether that was from the story or her precarious perch was debatable.

Now the grin threatened to take over Montana’s face. “Yup. If you think she’s hard to follow now, you never would have been able to cope with her then. It was so bad, you practically had to record the conversation and play it back later to make sure you didn’t miss anything.” She looked right at Mac. “Since we’re, ah, so close now, I guess it’s as good a time as any to tell you I’m sorry. I was a bitch to you, and you didn’t deserve it. Pax?”

Mac was speechless for a moment. Only a moment. “Well, um, okay, I think that’s good, I never did understand what happened, we never really had a chance to connect, or even talk, before you started, well I guess that’s not important any more, since you’re sorry about it and we do have another job to do, and oh my God, what about our jobs?”

“I’m hoping our driver has an idea about that. Doc?”

Cass thought before answering. “There’s something rotten going on. Your director is playing some kind of game. I haven’t been able to figure out what it is, and I doubt I could. She’s on her home turf and I don’t have any real connections, outside you, Mac, and Kendra, once she gets back.” She stopped and gathered for a moment. “As I said, there was something wrong there, and I knew I needed to get out. I’m sorry that you two got dragged along, but I don’t think it would be safe there for you. Maybe not right away, but that woman… There’s something poisonous about her.”

“You know, Doc, there’s something to that. Ever since she got the Director’s post a couple months ago, she’s been, well, tetchy. Same old Talbott one minute, bitch of the world the next. Most of us at the Complex just figured that she was having a ton laid on her shoulders, but, you know, maybe there’s something else going on.”

The road was flying past beneath their wheels. Cass was holding them at a reasonably sedate two hundred KPH, but that was probably faster than any other vehicle had traversed the tarmac in decades.

“Can you think of anything in particular that may have set her off? Any missions you heard of? Rumors, gossip, anything?”

Montana fell silent. Mac filled the gap.

“I know that she had a tracking program on Kendra for months and months; she had me write it.”

“Tracking program? Tracking what?”

“Everything, from location, movements, activity, you name it, every time Kendra hit the net, we’d get a ping here and we’d compile it, then once a day the Director, though she wasn’t the director then, she was just the Agent Administrator, she’d get the whole list of what she did, she never said why she wanted the list, I just wrote it up and sometimes I would deliver it, though come to think of it there was one day she was really really upset.”

“When?” said Cass with urgency.

“I don’t remember, but maybe I can hack into the Complex’s network, I remember an entry on there was about quantum something, though maybe that was on your records -”

“What records?” demanded Cass.

“Well, once you and Kendra were living together your name was added to the reports, you know, even though it’s not against the rules we’re really not supposed to form emotional attachments while we’re in the field, even if we’re on inactive status like Kendra was, because you never know when you’re going to be recalled to active status and having someone you love at home would be leverage that could get used against you.”

“This is too much. You’re telling me that Kendra was inactive, while we were together? And you were still tracking her? And me?”

Mac misinterpreted. “It’s not against the law, you know, since the Complex is in an extra-legal territory of three countries we’re effectively outside any controls, and we have a duty actually to monitor all our agents in the field, you could even say especially the inactive ones since it’s possible for them to come back to duty and we need to know what entanglements they’re in so we can provide them with the proper excuses to get out of them.”

“Not what I meant, Mac,” ground out Cass, white-knuckled with anger. “I meant, she wasn’t on active duty when she and I – that is, when we started dating? I wasn’t her assignment?”

“Oh, no! Her last assignment was before she moved out there, something down in the Valley, and she really burned some bridges when she did it because there was a death warrant out on her for months and months and come to think of it I don’t know if it ever expired.”

“Death warrant?” Montana sat up straighter, dislodging Mac. “And she went back in?”

“I don’t think she ever knew about it,” said Mac. “I mean, she knew she pissed off a bunch of people, but the official warrant never really hit the light before she cleared out.”

A dreadful certainty came over Cass. “Oh, shit. She’s walking into a trap.”

“We can’t be sure of that,” argued Montana. “Her mission could be legit, you know.”

“No way. Dammit! That makes this – damn!” Cass pounded the wheel in frustration.

“Talk to me, Doc. What’re you thinking, we get in and save her ass?” Montana shook her head. “You’re crazy.”

“I’m telling you, it’s a trap!”

“Doc, I’m telling you, if it’s a trap, then there’s no way that Kendra’s gonna fall for it. She might have been off the books for a while now, but there is nobody I would rather have in a tight corner. I told you, she is legendary in the Complex. She’s gotten out of more trouble than any other three agents combined. And it’s not like she’s all by herself. She does have a couple agents with her as backups. They might not be the best and brightest, but there’s no such thing as a “sub-par” agent in the Complex. They don’t last.”

“Still, what if she needs me? Us?”

“Not friggin’ likely! I’ll bet you a double dixie that, by the time we’re done with our little sneak, she’s back in Talbott’s office, going up one side and down the other?”

Cass had to smile. “No bet; you’re probably right. I just worry, you know?”

Montana’s expression softened. “I know. But all we can do is our end, and hope that she can get our asses out of the crack when we return. Or arrange for somewhere safe to meet us, “cause I don’t think even Kendra Foster-Briggs, the Assassin’s Assassin, could talk Talbott out of taking a strip out of our hides!”

“Okay, okay. We need a plan.”

“What do you mean, we need a plan? Didn’t you have a plan?”

“Well, yes, I did, and it was a neat plan.”

“And…?”

“And, it rather involved us being on the right side of Talbott, not fugitives.”

“Oh.”

“I’m open to ideas.” She looked at the SatNav. “We have about three hours at this speed to come up with something. Mac, there’s a computer on your side if that’ll help.” She flashed a dizzying smile at the two agents. “So?”

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