Rose was sitting behind her desk, drawing on the computer's art program.
The scene unfolding in front of her was one that haunted her dreams. A fiery
sky was the background to burnt out husks of houses, dead men and women lay
around a crater.
"How is it pretty?" She asked, her eyes narrowing. "It's the
war. That's disgusting."
"Maybe... Still pretty though." Shadree smiled a toothy grin. He sobered up and cleared his throat, "And I have
"Oh?" Rose shut the program and looked up at him.
"Clarabelle said too much. She came to me and confessed. She knows that
you'll be disappointed..." He trailed off, looking up at her to gauge her reaction. "I could discipline her."
"Don't. Give her the pay we agreed and tell her it's
okay." Rose sighed, leaning her elbows on the desk and rubbing the palms
of her hands against her eyes. "He'd have to find out sooner or
"And promote her, she deserves it." Rose smiled weakly, fear and doubt lurked in her eyes.
"I will. Anyway, I'm going to sleep." Shadree smiled,
"Sweet dreams." Shadree said, his words had a slight sarcastic tint
to them. Rose watched him leave, her eyes narrowed and distrustful.
"F**k you too." She muttered, opening the drawing program again. Rose
looked at the picture, disgust filled her eyes and she deleted it. Her computer
beeped, confirming the deletion. "I need to sleep but I know I'm not going
to get any." She started doodling again, the same image sprung up from
under her fingers. She drew well into the night.
"Strip off then."
"Usually people don't want me to, so can I ask why?"
"Rose wants to see you, so I need to check your augs." Clarabelle
smiled, a warm, genuine smile. "Not that I wouldn't mind getting you naked."
"I think I'd enjoy it." Clarabelle blushed. "I think my
girlfriend would kill me though."
"Girlfriend... Well, that's not what I expected." Gabriel laughed.
"Well, best get to work." Gabriel pulled his tee-shirt up over his
head and sat down on the edge of the bed. Clarabelle unwrapped the bandages on
Gabriel's shoulder. The bruising had gone, the nanobots had done their work.
"You're fine." Clarabelle smiled, "Rose is in the One-Eight-One
building. I'll drive you there."
"We're not in One-Eight-One?" Gabriel grimaced. "And I wanna
"We're in Rose's house, it's not far away. And you can't drive yet, not
"Legally? Who cares?" Gabriel rolled his eyes. "I wanna drive."
"I care! It's my car!" She exclaimed. "And I'll be the one in trouble! I'm driving."
Gabriel raised an eyebrow, sighed and rolled his eyes again. "Fine. Lemmie get dressed into my new suit and I'll let you drive me there."
"Thank you, oh mighty master, for allowing me to drive you to work." Clarabelle stuck her tongue out at Gabriel and walked out of the room.
Gabriel pulled his sweats off. He dressed
quickly into another suit, this time it was a dark blue with a light grey
shirt. He had no tie, so he left his collar open, but there was a white handkerchief in his breast pocket.
"Typical." He muttered to himself.
He strode out of the room, feeling perfectly at ease with his new augs. The
help from the nanobots had healed his surgery, quite literally, overnight.
caught sight of himself in a mirror and smiled. His face was still
scarred, Rose must've told them not to fix it. And he was dressed rather well,
probably tailor made suits and shirts. At least Rose could afford to get him
dolled up, he wasn't going to bother.
"Let's go." He turned to Clarabelle. She was swinging a set of car
keys around her fingers and tapping her foot on the floor, counting a beat
inside her head.
"Sure." She spun around and led down the modern, minimalistic hallway
to the front door. Gabriel kept just behind her, looking around at Rose's
house. He was slightly disappointed in what he saw, the house wouldn't be called a home as there was nothing remotely homely about it.
Rose looked up as Shadree walked into the office again, this time flanked by
Natt and Tam. Each was carrying a briefcase; Tam also had a rucksack over his
shoulder. Shadree’s hair was pulled back into a sloppy ponytail and Natt was
wearing a white shirt instead of the black he usually wore.
"You are. Rio. We've got more weapons and some armor." Shadree
placed the briefcase he was holding on the desk.
"For you, m'lady," Shadree smiled showing his white teeth, unclasping
the case and showing the inside, a black vest, "body armor, bullet proof, stab proof
and bomb proof too." He took another case, this one from Tam, "And in
here is a small gun, small enough to be concealed easily and made of a
virtually undetectable and indestructible material."
"I won't need guns," Rose waved it away, "I'll have my
"Hm. And, for your bodyguard," he took the rucksack from Tam and
pulled out a body armor vest, "same as yours with more perks. It's also
got a camouflage aspect. Basically, it's a hologram projector that does holos
as you move. We're still working out all the last touches, but this should be
ready for Rio."
"Uhuh." Rose nodded, "Size wise?"
"Should fit him... We'll adjust it if needs be."
"And the augs he has?" Rose reached out and caught Shadree's wrist,
"Are they okay?"
"Exactly how he wanted them. He had a few new ideas we'd never even
"Sounds like him." Rose smiled, her hazel eyes softened, she let
Shadree's wrist drop. "And the last case?"
"This one's for Gabriel when he gets here. For him and him alone."
Rose pursed her lips and frowned slightly. She snorted and shook her head.
"He'll be here within the hour. We're leaving tomorrow."
"I know." Shadree turned to leave. He reached the door and was about to follow Tam and Natt out when Rose called him.
"You're coming too."
Gabriel walked into the circular glass walled room. The cocky grin on his face
was the first thing Rose noticed about him. He was completely at home in the lofty glass office. He cleared his throat, announcing his presence.
"Had fun?" She asked, not looking up from her desk. She continued tapping various spots on the glass screen on her desk. Her eyes were following text that darted across the desktop.
"Not even slightly." Gabriel sniffed melodramatically, trying to get Rose's attention. "It was horrible."
"I'm sorry." Rose mocked him, she looked up briefly, "it must have been awful."
"It was! I was prodded and poked."
"By a beautiful young nurse." Rose snorted; a cheeky glint filled her eyes. She bit her lip and looked back down at the screen.
"Yeah, she was hot." Gabriel grinned, leaning against the edge of her desk. He was trying to read what she was reading, but was having a hard time getting the screen in his sight. "Her girlfriend's
Rose stiffened suddenly, her fingers skidded to a halt. She shook her head and forced a
smile on her face. She tapped unsteadily on the screen, shutting the programs. "Quite."
"So, Rio, eh?"
"Yeah, Rio..." Rose nodded to the case on the floor in front of her
desk. "Yours, I believe. Shadree and Tam worked on it while you were
"What is it?" Gabriel raised an eyebrow.
"Hell if I know. I'm not allowed to open it. They said you'd know the code
"Code? I don't know any- Yeah, I know the code." Gabriel picked up the case and ran his hands over the soft Italian leather. "Quality briefcase."
He flicked the numbers on the lock into place and opened the lid. There, nestled in the grey foam inside the case, was a collection of knives.
One had a streak of blue running down one edge of the knife. The blade was the width of his hand and the blue edge was deadly sharp, the metallic side was serrated slightly. There was a tanto with a blue handle and a dull metallic blade, about half the length of Gabriel's forearm. It looked brutal. There were six electric blue throwing knives, tied together with a plastic tag.
"Ooh, toys." He grinned, looking up at Rose with childish smile of delight on his face. "Do I get a gun?"
"Yeah, it's somewhere."
"What is it?"
"No clue. Shad's in charge of that. I'm just there to make a deal."
"The Untouchables? They're pretty much the mafia." Gabriel frowned, "That's why I'm there though, isn't it? To keep you alive."
"They need our augs. That's all I care about." A heavy silence fell in the room. Rose rubbed her eyes and swallowed a yawn.
Gabriel picked up the tanto and inspected it closely. He pulled the Ray-Bans out of his pocket, looking at the colour on the inside. "They match."
Rose nodded and scratched her neck. "They should." She muffled another yawn, "I paid for the customizations."
"I'm gonna go try these out somewhere."
"Your office is off limits. I'm not paying for it to be fixed again. Ask Natt to show you to the training complex."
"You've got a training complex?" Gabriel asked, surprised.
"Of course, we've got to have some place for the patients to recover their full strength. The training complex is part of our recovery program." Rose waved the thought away, like having a training complex was a normal thing for international corporation headquarters.
"You have everything." Gabriel sighed, "This is weird."
"What'd you expect? My business." Rose smiled sleepily. Her eyes drifting shut. "F**k me, I'm tired."
Gabriel turned around and looked at Rose, suddenly noticing the dark rings under her eyes. She was falling asleep where she was sat. "How long have you been awake?"
"Two, three days? I can't remember."
"Rose," Gabriel placed the briefcase on the table and caught her chin, forcing her to look him in the eyes, "go to sleep, please."
"On the plane, I promise." Rose pulled away from him, "I have to work until then, I'm slacking on a lot of important things."
"I will knock you out if you don't go to sleep." Gabriel threatened.
"Please, give me another two hours before I sleep." Rose smiled, rubbing her eyes. The sheer exhaustion she was feeling was evident on her face. "I just gotta finish this report."
"Oh," Rose remembered. "There's a backpack somewhere with your body armor in it. Try it on and tell Shadree to fix anything that's wrong with it."
"Sure." Gabriel picked up the rucksack that was next to the other two briefcases. "I'll go to the training grounds. I'll be there if you need me."
"Kay." Rose yawned. Noticing the look on Gabriel's face she protested, "I'll sleep soon. I promise."
Gabriel padded to the door looked back at Rose, who was almost asleep,
and walked down the glass steps. His footsteps rang out until he reached
the carpeted floor. He walked past his office, not even bothering to
check that it was the same as he'd left it, and reached the elevators.
He pressed the down button and waited for the clang as the metal box
reached the floor he was on.
The doors slid open and Shadree stepped
out, a quick darting movement. He nodded at Gabriel and scurried past
him, towards the stairs Gabriel had just climbed down. Gabriel gave one
last glance over his shoulder before walking into the elevator. He
pressed -19 and let the doors shut.
He caught a glimpse of himself
in the reflective walls, he was scowling fiercely. Something about
Shadree made Gabriel slightly uneasy, especially how he acted around
Rose. There was something slimy about him. Something that Gabriel
couldn't put his finger on, but he knew it was there. And it disturbed
The doors rolled open and Gabriel stepped out, moving the bag
strap up his shoulder. He looked around for Natt, the broad shouldered
man that had the limp. He saw Kailie in the corner, looking worried and
Kailie started, looking up at him. There were tears forming in her eyes. "Y-yeah."
"So, um, what happened?"
She wiped her hand across her eyes, brushing away the tears. "I, I just
didn't want to do something and Shadree, well, Shad got mad."
Gabriel didn't push it, instead he looked around him and sighed. "Where's Natt?"
"He went to the training center to blow off some steam."
"Great." Gabriel snorted. "I was meant to get him to take me there. I don't know where it is."
"I'll take you." Kailie smiled, a pink flush coming to her cheeks. "It's just around the corner. We can walk, if you want."
"Sure, yeah." Gabriel smiled. "Doesn't it get a bit stuffy in here?"
yeah," Kailie smiled, pulling her hair out of it's ponytail. "But Rose
makes us take breaks. We have to leave every now and then."
"You know Rose?"
She was my little sister's friend when we were growing up. So, yeah, I
know Rose." Kailie smiled, grabbing a denim jacket. She walked to the
elevator while replacing her white lab coat with the jacket.
"What was she like?" Gabriel asked, curious about the Rose that Kailie knew as a kid.
"Quiet. Funny. Thoughtful. Nothing like the woman she is now."
"After the war. I think it was the fighting." Kailie smiled at him sadly, "I think she saw something that changed her."
"Yeah. We all did." Gabriel pointed to the scar on his face. Kailie nodded, the elevator was silent for a while.
wanted to be a part of the war," Kailie said wistfully, looking at
something that Gabriel couldn't see, "I wanted to help people. To do
something. But, I was 4-F. No one would let me do anything."
"You were 4F?"
I get Grand Mal fits under pressure. I'd never have made it in the
fighting." She muttered with a hint of bitterness in her voice. She
brushed a strand of hair behind her ear and licked her lips.
"I'm glad." Gabriel placed his hand on her shoulder.
"What?" She looked at him, confused.
you didn't make it to the front lines." Gabriel explained, "They
weren't as you'd have thought. Nine out of ten times, you wouldn't have
saved anyone at all. You'd just have lost people."
"I guess," Kailie
sighed, "I just wanted to have done more than be in this lab with
Richard. I wanted to do more than make prosthetic limbs."
made the prototypes?" They left the elevator and walked out of the metal
and glass entry of the One-Eight-One building. "They're impressive."
But yeah, me and Richard. That's Rose's dad. We worked on his already
designed ideas while the war was on. We got grants and we made this lab
and then, Rose came home. Richard was so happy that she was alive... But
then, suddenly, he became withdrawn and violent." She walked out into
the open air. A soft breeze swept her hair around her face. "It was
"Violent?" Gabriel followed her out, letting the wind cool his overly hot skin.
come in and find smashed glasses and plates, blood on the walls and
Richard wouldn't show up in the lab for another two or three hours."
"I don't know." Kailie sighed, "No use dwelling on it though, is there?"
danced down the road, darting on and off of the sidewalk. "Hey, look,
the daffodils are blooming." She pointed to the grass running alongside
the sidewalk, it was scrub at best. But a few yellow daffodils peeked
out of the dirt.
"They're pretty." Gabriel smiled. "Not so good with flowers myself..."
I could teach you, if you wanted." Kailie offered, "My mum taught me a
lot about the common flowers around here. She grew up in the
"Give me a crash course." Gabriel smiled, rolling his shoulder and swapping the bag to the other side.
"Well, they're daffodils, also named Narcissus because of the Greek myth."
"Vain guy. Drowns in a pool after falling in love with his perfection?"
him. And they make you numb." Kailie walked backwards, looking at
Gabriel. She seemed to be a lot younger than she was. It was a trait she
shared with Rose. "And they were used as medicine ages ago because of
"Handy little things, eh?"
"Yeah, pretty and dangerous."
like me." Gabriel joked, batting his eyelashes. "Pretty," he pointed to
his face, "and dangerous." He gestured at the rest of his body with a
sweep of his arm.
Kailie doubled over laughing, gasping for air.
"It wasn't that funny." Gabriel said, mock hurt.
"I'm sorry. It wasn't. You're right. It was just..." She paused, "Unexpected."
"Well, that's okay." Gabriel said, glad to have removed all traces of the upset, hurt girl she was less than ten minutes ago.
here." Kailie pointed to the building behind her, she turned around and
walked into the open door. The black haired receptionist nodded at her,
and continued painting her nails a disturbingly bright red.
"He's with me, Sal." Kailie grinned, "Where's Natt?"
"Top floor. He's working on his abs... Although, I don't think he needs to."
"You'd rather he was working on you." Kailie laughed, pulling Gabriel into a lift with her.
"I really would..."
tell him!" Kailie shouted back, slamming her hand down on the shut door
button. The doors rolled shut. "Oh, hell. She's terrible."
"Natt's popular." Gabriel nodded at the doors.
"He's not. Just her." Kailie rolled her eyes.
"So, why are you here?"
"I, I'm looking for Tam anyway." Kailie blushed.
"Oh?" Gabriel raised an eyebrow.
"Nothing like that. He's my friend." She protested.
"That's what they all say."
"Really, he is!"
"Methinks the lady doth protest too much." Gabriel laughed, "But if that's what you say... I'll believe you." He winked.
The lift doors slid open and Kailie darted out of the enclosed space. "C'mon."
followed Kailie out of the door and down a wood paneled hall. He heard
grunts and a few curses from down the hallway. The door at the end was
ajar and Kailie was peering in.
There were the two men, sparring.
Tam was completely covered in sweat, lunging forwards and attacking
Natt, who was defending himself almost with ease.
"Tam's having a hard time." Kailie laughed, "Tam can't fight for long times, he's better in an all out five minute attack."
"Hey, you already know what he'll be like in bed."
"You bugger!" Kailie squealed, smacking Gabriel's arm. "I don't!"
"The lady do-"
"Hey, Kailie, what are you doing here?" Tam asked, standing up straight and looking at her curiously.
bought Gabriel to see Natt... Rose told him that Natt would help him
out with the gear." She flushed a deep red and pushed Gabriel into the
room. Gabriel couldn't hide his smile, Kailie was head over heels for
Tam. And it seemed he felt the same back.
"Yeah," Gabriel turned to Natt, "I got all this and no idea how to use it."
limped over to Gabriel and pulled the backpack from his shoulder. He
opened it up and pulled out the briefcase and the body armor.
"Let's get started."
looked up, Shadree had been standing in the doorway for a while,
watching her work. She had found it odd at first, but soon she'd gotten
used to ignoring him. Now that her report was finished, tired and
irritable, she couldn't stand him there any longer.
"What?" She asked, her voice sharp.
"Nothing." Shadree laughed, a smile on his face.
"That's not an answer, a*****e." Rose snarled.
"Now now, behave." Shadree giggled to himself.
haven't slept in three days. I'm tired. Make this quick." She snapped,
glaring daggers at him. She ran her fingers through her hair and snorted
"Are you really going to treat me like that?" He teased her, knowing he was only making her angrier.
"What. Do. You. Want?" Rose spat out each word in it's own sentence.
"I wanted to tell you that I'm not coming with you, at all."
"Why not?" Rose said through gritted teeth.
"They've not been working as I expected them to. Any of them, I need to work on them."
"I don't care. You're coming." Rose sighed, standing up and leaning heavily on the table.
"But we'll fall behind." Shadree protested. "I won't have enough time to work on the prototypes of these suits properly!"
"And?" Rose growled. "I don't care. You're coming with us."
"I need you in case something goes wrong with him."
"What could go wrong?" Shadree almost shouted, confused and angry.
never seen him fight." Rose walked around her desk. "He'll kill
someone, I promise." She walked to the door, but Shadree stood blocking
it. He wouldn't let her past. He stood with his arms crossed and his
hair falling over his eyes.
"And?" Shadree asked, exasperated and frustrated at being taken away from his work for this seemingly pointless venture.
pushed past him and walked down the stairs. She ignored his
protestations and demands to answer her. Rose reached the middle of the
stairs and she looked up at him, "You're there to stop him dying."