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The Assassin Unaware

The Mind Probe

By Dennis HumphreysPublished 2 years ago 127 min read

by: Dennis R. Humphreys

“Is she alright?” Sergeant Turner Myers asked the others surrounding the young woman who had just taken a good fall off the ledge. They were all involved in the war game that was going on with a couple of the platoons from different military sites in the area.

The young woman was lying flat on her back and was disoriented. The wind was knocked out of her and there was a good blow to her head. Tori Alexander signed up for the service when she was seventeen and joined the army as soon as she turned eighteen, to fulfill her lifelong dream of serving her country. That was four years ago, and she had three months left when the mock war game was scheduled. She laid there thinking... asking herself 'was I given a slight push off that boulder while I was standing there?' She was disoriented but it just seemed like it. There were four of them that made it to the ledge and were surveying the area at the edge. She was standing still at the time when suddenly she fell over the side. It certainly seemed like she was helped over the edge.

“Listen we have a soldier down... fell about twenty feet onto hard ground, on her back. I'm taking the corporeal out of the game and sending her back to the infirmary to be checked out. Send the medics up here pronto,” he told the person on the other end of the radio. Then he gave the exact coordinates.

“I'll be fine, Sergeant Myers,” Tori told him.

“Just stay still. Let the doc decide,” her superior told her.

It wasn't long before a Humvee came over the hill and around to the spot Myers had given them. They immediately made her head and neck stationary, then slipped a hard litter under her and strapped her down.

“Come on guys, you're overdoing it here,” she complained but no one answered her or was listening.

Within minutes they slid Tori into the back of the Humvee and took off down the hill towards the fort.

“I hope I didn't overdo it,” one of her peers told the sergeant apologetically. “She's about the best soldier we have in the group. I don't understand why you wanted me to take her out.”

“I just do what I'm told, and I was told to do it from above... I don't question their motives, private. You don't say anything to anyone about this though,” Sergeant Myers told the soldier. “Get back to the game.”

“Let's do x rays and an MRI,” Colonel Doctor Paul Hardy told his staff.

“Really I feel fine,” Tori repeated her objections, but no one seemed to pay attention until the doctor spoke.

“This is just precautionary, private. You're getting out in a few months, and we want to make sure you're OK. Sometimes you feel fine and something underlying comes up. Just take it easy and let us worry about everything,” he assured her as two orderlies took her stretcher and her into the other room. The doctor followed them into the room with a syringe.

“What's that for?” Tori asked when she saw him getting ready to put it into her arm.

“It's just a small sedative to keep you relaxed. A lot of people get nervous in the MRI when they put you in there,” he explained as he gave her the needle. It wasn't long when she found herself more than relaxed, and she nodded off into a deep sleep.

“She looks fine. Nothing's broken so we can take her into surgery. Get the team together and let's begin. Both implants won't take too long,” Hardy told one of the people joining him in the operation.

“That's Tori Alexander is it?” asked the man in the suit as watched her taken out of the room headed for surgery. Grant Edwards, U.S. Senator, was the one asking, standing next to General CW Pierce who had engineered this whole thing for the senator and his money man footing the cash for the technology going into the hoodwinked volunteer.

“You sure she won't have any idea about this operation,” the general asked not wanting to be in the middle of an open can of worms.

“She'll have no idea,” Dr. Hardy answered. “The operation will only take about two hours. The implant in her ribs will be underneath her right breast with a very small incision she'll never notice. The one under her left eyebrow will be completely invisible. I'm putting her into an induced coma while she recuperates for two weeks but it's going to take probably another month for the new neural connections to grow from the implant to her brain and optic nerves,” the doctor filled both me in on the procedure. “She'll never know she's any different. The two-week coma will take care of any little residual pain she might have after we're done.”

“She's an attractive young woman... a good choice. With what she'll be able to do in a few weeks she'll be a great asset,” the senator relayed to the General. “I have to go now.”

“I'll catch you later then. Say hello to Mr. Bates when you talk to him again, for me,” the general called after the senator.

The general looked in on Tori Alexander then, after they took her to recovery. She would look this way for the next two weeks being in an induced comatose state.

“Young lady, you are going to be the biggest star in our arsenal, and you won't have the foggiest idea how or why,” the general told as he looked around and then took his attention and a hand under the sheet that covered the corporal.

“I hate to interrupt you getting to better know the patient there, but everything went well. The swelling around the rib will go down in about forty-eight hours and can be activated any time. The polymer chip implant with the stem cells are going to take around four to five weeks. The longest taking nerve growth is going to be the opposite optical nerve. This has never been done on a human before so that time is just an estimate. You can check on the computer from time to time, not over the next two weeks... her eyes will be closed, but after she's awake you can see if there's a connection. You'll see what she sees so when the connection's made you'll know it,” the doctor explained to the general.

“How does it feel doctor to be part of history,” the general commented.

“I'll tell you in twenty years after I read the history books,” the doctor replied, thinking this wasn't why he took the Hippocratic oath.

Dr. Hardy brought his patient out of her coma at the end of two weeks. You couldn't even tell anything at all had been done.

“Well corporal, you're looking well,” Hardy complimented the soldier.

“I'm sorry doctor. I must have dozed off in the MRI,” Tori apologized.

” Corporal, that was two weeks ago...you've been in a coma since then,” Hardy revealed.

“In a coma?” Tori could hardly believe what she heard.

“I told you sometimes you think everything is fine, when it isn't. You never know about these things. You had a hematoma on your brain which is what caused your coma. We were able to remove it without radical surgery using a hypodermic needle. You'll be just fine now. We'll keep you for observation the next few days, but then the army's going to release you early with an honorable discharge. They expect you to take it easy for a while, the doctor explained.

It wasn't something Tori was expecting but it wasn't a bad surprise. She'd be able to go home and spend time with her parents and friends before looking for a job. She couldn't believe she was actually in a coma for two weeks. She had never had anything worse than a bad cold. Tori hated calling her mother to tell her she was coming home early and why. Her reaction would be retroactive, like she just saw her daughter fall into a comatose state. She wanted to get a job and then use the money the government gave her to go to college... night school. She was twenty-two now and felt she'd handle the responsibility of college better at this age. She was in no hurry and felt if it took several years to get her college degree, so be it. In the meantime, with some of the training she had in the service, she hoped she could land a decent job as a computer programmer.

The first three days home was a constant barrage of people... friends, relatives, neighbors all welcoming her back. Most neighbors and relatives brought food filling the kitchen counters to the point it looked like a Sheraton Hotel smorgasbord. Finally, by the fourth day the stream seemed to dissipate a little.

“Honey, you have a call from a recruiter... something about a job,” her mother yelled into the living room while Tori was watching a game show.

“Hi, this is Tori Alexander. Can I help you?” Tori asked.

“Hi this is Bert Russel with HiTech Placement and Staffing. How are you?... your name was given to us by a Sergeant Turner Myers, who highly recommended you. We do a lot of work for military personnel just coming out of the service. We find them jobs in the private sector....” the man went on explaining to Tori. The job he described sounded like it might be fun and paid well. She couldn't imagine not having yet sent out one resume and already getting a call.

“Mom... this company wants to interview me for a job, and it sounds really good,” she told her mother while she was trying to read cooking instructions on the back of a package with cheater glasses that weren't strong enough, but she wouldn't admit it. She would rather squint and spend twenty minutes reading the small blurb, and still get something wrong.

“That's nice dear. What's the company... is it local?” her mother asked.

“It's Aerospace Controls in Wilmington, Delaware. I'd be a courier for top secret electronics to their subcontractors all over the country. They won't ship anything normally because of the sensitivity of the items,” Tori explained.

“Does that mean you'd have to move to Delaware, dear?” her mother asked, looking up from her package.

“Yeah, but that's only a couple of hours away,” Tori answered.

“Sounds like a lot of travel,” her mother commented a little negatively.

“But that's what I want, ideally. I haven't got the job yet, anyway,” Tori added.

“When do you interview with these people?” mother asked.

I'm going to drive up there Wednesday,” she told her mom.

“You'd better take my car then. That thing you used to drive might not make the trip after sitting most of the time for four years,” she warned her daughter.

“Thanks mom,” Tori answered her, wrapping her arms around her mother's neck.

“Aerospace Control isn't that one of the Bates' companies?” she asked.

“Yeah, I think so,” Tori replied as she shuffled to the refrigerator to get a glass of orange juice.

She knew T. Wilhelm Bates started the company and when he was killed, his only son, Dillon, took over. Some said he was a carbon copy of his father. Some believed with all the money there was and the ego of the father, the son was a clone.,

“Ms. Alexander? I'm Jeffrey Osborne. I'll be conducting your interview if you'd follow me,” the middle-aged man instructed her.

Tori noticed the man was really knock kneed. Following him was difficult without staring at his legs. He took her down a long corridor where offices were on one side and floor to ceiling windows, one after the other, on the other, He led her into a relatively small room and asked her to sit.

“You certainly came highly recommended by a Sergeant Myers and the base commander... General Pierce. It seems you were in the top three of you platoon and scored almost perfect in all their written tests. I hope this job is challenging for you, and you don't get bored,” the man mentioned looking at her.

“I like the idea of the responsibility of the position. That makes it important to me. I think your job should make you feel important. The fact I'll be traveling a lot and meeting lots of different people and interfacing with them excites me and would not be very indicative of boredom...” Tori went explained.

The interview lasted well over an hour and a half which was a good sign... a very good sign. When they were done in Osborne's office he took Tori around, to show her the place, and introduced her to several people. Tori felt really good.

“You don't have any problem moving here to Wilmington?” he asked, designating the end of the meeting.

“No, I don't,” she answered.

“If we were to make you an offer, when could you start?” he asked. There it was the trial close. She was certain she was going to get the offer now.

“I'd have to find an apartment and then move my things, so I'd say three weeks?” Tori thought maybe that was too long to tell him. Maybe that's not what he wanted to hear but she was being conservative and honest.

“The company owns an apartment building in town. It's fifteen minutes from here. If you get an offer and you accept, we could put you right into one of them,” he told her.

“If that's the case I can get all my things together and be here by this Monday if that works?” Tori responded trying to subdue her excitement.

She called the recruiter, as instructed right away after the interview but was put on hold for several minutes, waiting impatiently. Finally, Bert Russell answered.

“Hi Burt! This is Tori Alexander... you asked me to call as soon as I got out of the interview.”

“Sorry I made you wait. That was Jeffrey Osborne on the line, already ahead of you. They don't want to interview anyone else. They've made the decision they want you. What do you think about that?” asked the recruiter.

“I think that' incredible. I am so ready to go to work for that company. I told him I could start and be there by Monday. I don't even have to look for a place to live. They have an apartment building they're going to put me in,” Tori told him at a hundred miles an hour.

“So that's a 'yes' then, Tori?” the recruiter laughed. “I wish all my placements were this easy. Congratulations... I'll get them to send you a formal offer letter out overnight and a copy to your email. I'd respond to both of them and overnight the hard copy back. Listen if there's anything else you need from me let me know. I'll confirm with them right away of your start date. Good luck Tori,” the recruiter wished her.

Tori drove back to her home in Overlea, Maryland. She decided not to call first but wanted to tell the news to both of her parents at the same time. She was beyond excited getting a job like this, the kind she wanted, so easily.

“We won't send the woman on anything critical until we get an optical connection, hopefully in about three weeks. That'll be good. We can do a few trial runs and monitor her other neural connections as she comes online,” Phyllis Shoemaker, President of Aeronautical Controls told her associate Justin Harding, Vice President of Marketing.

“She has a lot of untried features now, she doesn't know she has, with that implant in her brow. I was thinking... as long as she has to use, for example, her martial arts expertise while she's under the influence of burandanga we release into her blood stream from our rib implant she won't remember anyway. What happens if she gets in an altercation of some sort normally. Won't she find it strange that she's suddenly a martial arts expert?” Harding asked.

“She's had hand to hand combat training in the army,” Shoemaker answered.

“Yeah, but not to that extent,” Harding reasoned. “I don't think she'd be expecting to react like Bruce Lee.

“Honey don't worry your head about that. Let her wonder,” the president shuffled it off.

Tori made the drive in her old car. As long as it got her there with her few precious possessions, she wouldn't be doing much driving after that. Getting to the airport would be probably less expensive and less worry, to Uber it.

The apartment was nice. Jeffrey Osborne met her there to show her around. She didn't expect to see him. She also didn't expect to see a fully furnished apartment when he opened the door. This job kept getting better and better.

“Let's see you signed everything you needed to sign and got it back to me a couple of days ago so you're all ready to start work in the morning. Here's your pass, it's your parking pass and your pass into the building and any other area you need a pass except where you aren't allowed without the proper clearance. It's color coded and your color will show up on any of the scanners were that pass will let you in. You're blue,” he told her. “Anything else you can think of?”

“No... nothing,” Tori responded.

“OK I'll see you in the morning for orientation... actually all week is orientation. We'll tour the place in more detail, and you're learn some basics about controls and that type of stuff. You get some lessons on how to handle some of these private contractors and military people you'll have to interface with, if they go beyond just taking what you hand over to them,” he told her and walked out the door.

Tori couldn't believe the place. It wasn't a real large three-bedroom place but it was nice and comfortable and it was nicely furnished with decent furniture. She couldn't believe someone had actually stocked the refrigerator with some basic foodstuffs. There was even her orange juice. She thought she died and went to heaven.

The entire week went well. It was a little boring but that was probably because she was so excited to start traveling. Tori met a lot of nice people there including her new boss, the one she would be answering to on a regular basis, Blake Hayden. She met him in the hall as she was headed to her office. It was a tiny thing but then she would probably be rarely there.

“Hi Tori. I'm Blake Hayden, your boss. I'm glad I finally met you. I tried to catch up to you a couple of times and missed you. Welcome to Aeronautical Controls,” he said, putting out his hand to greet her.

“Thank you so much for this opportunity,” Tori beamed. He seemed nice but she wondered why he hadn't interviewed her or why she hadn't even met him until now.

“You won't be seeing me much anyway. I'm always traveling. I have to leave things up to other people around in my absence, but it works. I have no complaints, and from the sounds of it you're going to be a great addition here,” he told her, pretty much answering her thoughts. “You'll be traveling a lot too delivering our prototypes in the next couple of weeks so our paths may never cross again except by phone and our bimonthly debriefings.”

“I appreciate your confidence in me,” Tori answered him.

It wasn't so much that, as her personality profile. She met their criteria, not for delivering sensitive prototype controls for their aerospace subcontractors for testing, but their real agenda, which was far more critical, as far as they were concerned.

“Phyllis! Could you come to my office and take a look? Something's going on with the optical connection,” Justin Harding alerted his boss through the door. They avoided intercoms, even phones or email when they could because of the impossibility of knowing who was around in hearing distance. It was back to the old way of communicating and leaving no record or taking the chance someone was listening.

He led her into his office and turned his monitor back on as he sat. The president looked at the view on the screen leaning over Harding's desk. There was definitely something happening. It wasn't clear yet. It was out of focus and dim, but you could see undefined objects, differentiated by shadows, and slight coloration.

“Where is she now?” Phyllis asked.

“In her office,” Harding responded.

“I was going to say it looked like her office. Good! It's happening a little faster than we thought. Is there anything on audio yet? Has her neurons connected to her audio nerves?” the executive asked him

“We don't want them connecting to the audio nerves. We'll just get gibberish getting what she does through her ears. The nerves have to be connected to the audio area of the brain to get the interpreted signals from her ears. The eyes deliver the actual items viewed; the brain interprets what the items are that it sees. Think of the audio patterns as encryptions that the brain has to translate,” Harding explained to his boss.

“Well, thank you Justin for that lesson in physiology. That wasn't my best subject in school,” she said as she walked back out the door without saying anything else.

“Neither was anything else, you dumb bitch. You probably flunked home economics too!” Harding replied under his breath. He disliked this woman immensely.

Everyone wondered how she made it to where she was, being so stupid, but then it was discovered she was hitting the bed sheets with T. Wilhelm Bates. Now that Bates was gone, shot in a restaurant by one of his other cronies, and his son Dillon Bates became heir to the fortune and to everything else, she was exposed to too much of the private things to let go. At least not in the normal way. He went to work for her five years ago and quickly lost respect for her having to cover her ass in a few major faux pas.

He pulled a throw away phone he carried in his pocket just for these interactions and went into his bathroom where he threw the fan on and took a seat on the toilet.

“Hello Sybil... yeah. Tell Tyler I have some interesting information for both of you. I didn't want to call until I thought things were working well, and it looks they are. I want to give it a few more days though. Maybe we can get together over the weekend and I can fill you in. Sure, the regular place is fine,” Harding told the woman on the other end of the phone.

He emerged from the bathroom feeling refreshed and in control, similar to having just relieved himself from constipation. Around Phyllis that's how she made him feel... constipated.

By Friday the images Harding was receiving via Tori were almost perfectly clear. The colors were good and felt comfortable reporting to the husband-and-wife agents, Sybil and Tyler. He met them a few years ago in a bar nearby one night. He realized it wasn't a chance meeting later, but had been orchestrated to solicit his ability to get sensitive information for their benefactors... the Chinese. When T. Wilhelm Bates was alive he sold sensitive information from his own company and anything he could get from other companies to sell to the Chinese and the Russians. Information was information and money was money as far as he was concerned. However, he was discriminatory with what he gave them. Even Dillon Bates, the image of his father, wouldn't probably release this information, which is why it was more valuable to Harding. Dillon Bates was as big a fake, a liar and a manipulator as his father. You probably couldn't roll more negative traits into a person unless it was the devil himself so Harding had no reason for doubt doing what he was doing. Phyllis was the icing on the cake.

Tori went into the weekend feeling good. Next week was going to be a busy week. He had made a few short, less distant trips this past week as part of her orientation, but she was completely on her own next week with a full schedule. She wanted to go out and let off some steam. She hadn't even done that since leaving the army. When she was younger, she partied somewhat, getting into her parent's liquor cabinet and mixing a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, to fill up a bottle without causing suspicion in the declining amount in her parent's bottles. Now that she was old enough she wanted to get out but she didn't know anyone here in Wilmington and she didn't want to go into a bar alone... she'd be the target of every pervert there.

“Hey Jeffrey,” she inquired sticking her head into the office of the human resource director. “I need to get out some tonight and was wondering about a good place to go for a drink. Any recommendations?” she asked him.

“I like 'Inspirations' a place near your apartment. In fact, you can walk there from where you live. There's always a place called 'No Names' that has good food as well. It's a little further out,” he told her.

“'Inspirations' sounds good in case I have one too many I can walk it. I don't want to make this sound anymore than it is, but would you like to join me after work? I really don't want to go alone and I don't know anyone here yet,” she invited him.

“Sure, that sounds good. The food's decent there too, so if you want to grab a bite while we're there, it'll save eating alone too,” he suggested.

“Cool. You want to just meet there then around five thirty. I'll plug it into my GPS.” she told him.

Jeffrey was already at the bar when Tori arrived. He had picked a booth at the end of the bar to one side. It was dark and very private. She hoped he hadn't gotten the wrong idea, though she really liked the guy, she had no interest in him personally. He stood as she approached, something you didn't see much of these days.

“Hi Jeff. You haven't been waiting long, have you?' Tori asked him, as he slid back into his seat.

“Long enough for one beer. It's been a long week and I needed this. I hope you don't mind being back here. It'll gets really busy and too noisy to talk up the at the bar on Fridays, in about half an hour,” he asked her.

“Not at all. I hate when you have to shout,” Tori replied as the waitress came over. “I'll have a Black Russian.”

“You don't hear them being ordered too much anymore,” he commented.

“I like vodka and I'm addicted to anything coffee, so it works for me,” she informed him.

They sat discussing things and how she was really happy to be with the company for about an hour. The crowd had grown at the bar and a lot of people were milling around with their drinks, making small talk with others that were milling around.

“Hey, don't look now but the vice president of marketing just walked in. He went to the bar,” Jeff mentioned looking over her shoulder.

“You mean Justin Harding?” Tori confirmed.

“Yeah. I think he hates his boss, Phyllis Shoemaker. Our weekly Monday morning meetings always seem to put him on edge especially if she gets into the conversation. I just feel the discontent when the two are in the same room,” Jeff explained. “I don't think she cares one way or the other about him. I'm halfway expecting his resignation one of these days soon... oh, please don't repeat any of this to anyone... it's just bar talk.'

“Don't worry, my lips are sealed,” Tori replied.

“He seems to be chummy with another couple up there I've never seen before,” Jeff told her.

“Maybe we should go say hello,” Tori suggested.

“No, I don't think so. He's making out with the woman now and I know it isn't his wife. The guy she's with seems to be into it though. I think we'd better just stay here,” Jeff recommended. It looked like they knew each other and maybe better than what he would like he and Tori to know. They were far enough in the back not to be noticed and they weren't near the bathrooms so there wasn't any reason for them to know they were there, unless they made themselves known.

Tori glanced over finally when she felt it safe to do so and saw Justin swallowing the woman's head practically the couple was probably ten years younger than Harding and very attractive. The woman was downright sexy and exotic, definitely the type every man in the bar would be trying to pick up if she were sitting alone. She wondered who they were. The guy too, was extremely handsome and definitely the alpha male in the place. She could see the couple together, they just seemed to fit. Tori felt herself a little turned on being the voyeur, watching the executive making out with the woman. Was it this guy's girlfriend or wife? Either way there was some kink going on there.

“Are you alright?” Jeff asked her, noticing she was a little flushed in the face when she turned back around to drink her Black Russian.

“I'm just fine. They put a lot of vodka in this drink,” she commented.

Driving back to her place, after leaving Jeff out front, escaping the notice of the vice president, when they left, she made it a conscious decision to buy a new car, or at least a newer car within six months. She was now embarrassed driving hers and wanted something nicer. At least she didn't have to drive it much, or it probably wouldn't last that much longer.

When the new hire got back, she started planning what clothes to take. Toni wasn't expected to dress so she could get away with casuals and jeans. They explained her first drop in Indianapolis would also be a pickup, like so many of her stops would be. She'd drop prototypes off there, and pick up others that might have been modified, to take to another subcontractor. She was carrying two cases with her as it was, and she'd be gone pretty much all week. By the time she was ready for bed, she was also ready to leave Monday morning. She had special passes for the airlines to let her bypass security and x ray equipment. She could also take both cases with her on board so neither would be out of possession. Tori went to bed looking forward to the following week.

Harding went to the office early afternoon on Saturday. He had put the system on record to see what was recorded, wanting to check if the quality of video was improved any. It was almost perfect for all intense and purposes. A success.

He sat at his desk and looked at the video timeline and moved it back to when she left work the day before. The image was excellent. It was odd looking at things through the eyes of someone else. In fact, he thought, if you put something like this on the Internet, you'd probably get a million viewers in no time flat. He left it play while he made a cup of coffee and came back to watch. He saw her as she parked the car and walked into 'Inspirations'. He immediately sat up and took notice. 'She was there yesterday?' he spoke aloud to himself. He watched as she walked into the place before he was there, and scan the area, when she saw their director of human resources sitting in a booth...Osborne. She was soon sitting across from him, drinking with him. The audio was coming through fairly well but there were some sound drops here and there but what he didn't like was, when she turned around to watch him making out with Sybil Dancing, Tyler Dancing's wife, sitting next to her. The three of them left later in the night and went to a hotel but it appeared both Tori and Osborne were already gone. The three of them spent the night together engaged in sexual activities on which Harding was hooked. He had met them a couple of years ago and began a relationship with both of them that left him compromised though willingly. He was pissed with the president and disillusioned just enough to be enticed by these two agents working for the Chinese. Even if he weren't completely sexually addicted to the two agents he had nowhere to go. They threatened early on, to go to his wife with videos that rivaled the best porn being produced, so he was stuck. He loved his wife but in that initial moment of weakness he had relinquished control completely into their hands. Harding couldn't afford the publicity of a divorce, losing his job and probably a jail sentence and fines for selling secrets to a foreign government though politicians seemed to be openly getting away with it.

Tori was a big investment for the company with a well-planned agenda. She was already being played and manipulated without knowing it and most likely could be controlled more as time went on. Jeffrey Osborn on the other hand was someone not privy to the inner circle and would never be. Harding didn't like him knowing this side of his life. He didn't want or need to be compromised... especially with Phyllis. If this inner circle knew he was playing ball with the Chinese and their agents, his wife wouldn't need a divorce... she'd be a widow.

Monday morning came and Uber driver was picking her up at nine to go to the airport to catch an eleven o'clock flight. Tori walked onto the floor at a little before 8am and it was a solemn place. A few of the secretaries were crying so she asked what the problem was.

“Mr. Osborne was killed last night by a hit and run driver. He was pronounced dead on the spot,” his secretary announced.

That was a shock to Tori since she was probably one of the last or the last one to see him alive when they parted company Friday afternoon. She didn't know him well, but he was likable and fair. He was well liked by the people interacting with him at the firm.

“They don't know who did it yet?” Tori asked.

“No, it happened early Sunday morning. He walks then in the country where there's no one, so there wasn't anyone to see the accident.

Tori went into Jeff's office and it had already been cleared, which seemed a little too efficient to her but she didn't think any further of it. She went pick up a file she needed for her trip that Jeff was supposed to give her, but the file cabinet was empty and she needed some hard copies of the specs on the items she carried.

His secretary was still sobbing when Tori went back to inquire about the files.

“Oh... everything is in boxes in Mr. Harding's office. You'll have to go see him,” she advised her.

She walked down the hall and then knocked on the frame of the open door where Harding was sitting, behind his desk.

“Hi Ms. Alexander... come in. What can I do for you?” he asked Tori as she approached his desk. “I guess you heard about Jeff... a terrible thing, and someone didn't have the conscience to stop after hitting him.”

“Yeah, you figure if it was an accident, you'd be up front about it. He might have still been alive after they hit him, and the medics could have saved him. I stopped to get some spec sheets I was supposed to take with me this week?” she told him.

“All his hard copies from his files are in these two boxes. They're in order if you want to go through them,” he offered.

So, Tori stooped down to weed through the manila folders as Harding watched her. She felt creepy after seeing him in the bar on Friday and realized he was free to look up her skirt in the position she was in, knowing that's exactly what he was doing. It took her a minute, but she found what she wanted and stood.

“You know you've been here for two weeks now, and we haven't really gotten a chance to talk and get to know each other better,” he announced.

“Yeah, well I need to keep moving. My driver is going to be here shortly to take me to the airport. Maybe another time,” she answered him, suddenly feeling a drawback to the job when there weren't any before.

“Sure, maybe when you get back on Friday we can visit or if you'd prefer, we can go get a couple of drinks some place and talk,” he suggested with kind of underlying plan he seemed to have, or she felt he might have, but she didn't want to judge him or assume anything, and she surely didn't want to jeopardize her position this soon.

The flight into Indianapolis was rough. The weather in the area was turbulent and the plane rocked and dropped in a few spots. She walked through the airport and went to the car rental place to get the car she rented for the day. Tori drove directly to the place she was dropping her first case off to and got there about forty-five minutes later. She was escorted into an office while the secretary there signed for the case she left. Tori was asked to wait while the case was checked, and some kind of verification was made. She waited for over an hour when another man by the name of Victor, who looked every bit the techie, brought in another identical case. It had some weight to it and was supposed to be delivered to her next stop in Phoenix, Arizona late the next day. She signed for it and left.

She headed for the hotel one of the secretary's booked for her figuring she'd be there by four and could relax in the hot tub, then take a leisurely dinner before heading back to the room and prepare to leave mid-morning on her flight to Phoenix. On the way back, near the hotel there was pandemonium. There were police blocking traffic and it appeared some kind of press conference was being readied outside. Cameras and lighting were getting set up and the police were redirecting traffic around the block.

“What's going on?” Tori asked the one officer as she hung her head out the window waiting for him to wave her on.

“Some congressman is having a press conference fighting a bill trying to suppress gun ownership and greater gun controls,” the police officer answered and then waved her on.

Tori signed in at the front desk and went to the top floor of the building. She wondered why they put her so high but assumed the hotel was well booked maybe because of the event outside and there were few rooms left. The gym and the hot tub were on the third floor. She began to undress but then the next thing she knew the alarm went off and woke her the next day.

That was strange. She was going to the hot tub and then planned on dinner but didn't remember doing any of that. All she remembered was beginning to get undressed and now waking up. She must have been more tired, then she thought and crawled into bed instead and fell asleep. Oh well, she had time for a leisurely breakfast and then she could go to the hot tub for about half an hour before she had to leave for the airport.

There was a lot of commotion in the hotel and right outside. The activity in the hotel lobby seemed heavy, so when she went into breakfast and sat down to order, she asked the waitress what was happening.

“Some congressman that was having a press conference yesterday outside, was shot and killed. They say the gun had to be fired from the roof of this hotel,” she told Tori.

“Really? That's scary being in the same building with some assassin,” she told the waitress. “I'll have the...”

Tori caught her flight out and landed in Phoenix at 1pm. She picked up her rental car and left, going directly to 'Henderson's Space Technologies' out-side the city where she dropped her case off and was given another to drop in Austin, Texas the following day. It would be close to five before she got to the hotel and hoped she could try for the hotel gym again.

“We're going to have problems if we don't instill some false memories in Tori as we go along,” Harding told Shoemaker. “We had her assassinate the congressman yesterday and she didn't remember doing anything between the time she got to her hotel room and the time she woke up. I'm sure she had things planned which never happened for her to remember. She'll end up going for a mental evaluation somewhere, thinking something is wrong,” Harding complained.

“How do we know what she has planned to give her those false memories unless we call her all the time and ask?” the president asked.

“I don't think that matters. She could have always changed her mind about what she planned but just to put memories of her eating dinner and taking a walk or going to the gym, watching some television, then falling asleep would be something which I don't think she'd question. We have to put something in her head besides... nothing.” he recommended.

“Don't bother me with such trivial details... just do it,” Phyllis told her cohort and walked back out of the room.

“Yeah, it's probably a little too much for your brain to handle,” Harding mumbled under his breath.

So, while she slept off the last of the burandanga that night Harding gave their pawn instructions prerecorded instructions for what she did for the evening ... an itinerary to not make her question why her memory was blank.

It was early evening in Phoenix. The mountains always seemed to turn a purplish mix of colors as the angle of the sun dropped towards setting. Traffic was normal in the city and nothing unusual was going on except there appeared one solitary figure, dressed in a skintight black leather outfit that covered what was definitely a woman's body, from neck too toe. A hood emerged from the collar and was pulled over her head with drawstrings that pulled it tight and closed around the face. The figure wore wrap-around sunglasses and carried a briefcase. It was in the end of an alley between two building that the figure disappeared underground. The woman had gone down a manhole there, replacing it overhead as she dropped out of sight.

A quarter of a mile away, just a short time later, if you looked closely, you might have seen movement in one of the storm drains, but who would spend time looking there, when all the activity was in front of the exclusive 'Pandora's', a restaurant, visited by the area's wealthy and higher middle class? Visiting actors and actresses went there often, so if you watched for a time, you would catch a celebrity of some sort. Tonight though, there were more than the usual celebrities. One in particular was of interest. It had been reported he was going there to present a ten million dollar donation, to support the next conservative run for governorship that promised to maintain more orthodox values. He could afford it, he was a billionaire who ascended the ladder towards wealth and fame from the ghettos of New York City. He was brought up by parents who worked hard their entire lives and amassed nothing. They were both murdered one night for the five dollars his father had in his pocket by illegal immigrants who were ravaging the streets in the area. They were never charged though their identities were known. What the deteriorating system didn't know was that Payden Dunlap, the billionaire, entrepreneur, inventor was also a killer. At seventeen, he tracked down his parents' two killers and rid the world of the amoral partners in crime. After that he promised himself and God he would never do that again, but instead would build his wealth to help plug the holes in the system that allowed things like that to happen, and to give the average citizen protection against people like those two muderers.

Everyone that was of importance rolled up to the restaurant that evening, as the solitary figure watched from the storm drain. The brief case sat opened with the lid back where a picture of the mark was propped. The figure took another look at it and continued watching. In the figure's arms was a Henry .223 caliber rifle with an elongated barrel. It was loaded with higher grain load bullets that were Teflon coated.

A stretch limo pulled up out front, escorted by two motorcycle cops, and left two occupants inside the limo, out... a man and a woman. The car pulled away to allow reporters and the like the photo opportunity they were all looking for. The figure became attentive seeing it was her mark, so she carefully pointed her rifle towards her focus. One shot is all she needed, and it would take hours for anyone to figure out from where the bullet came. The sound would be so muffled in the drain even two shots would probably be of no use locating the direction.

A single shot rang out and Payden dropped with a surprised look on his face in mid wave. His wife began screaming immediately before he hit the ground and everywhere reporters leaped for the award-winning picture, not even bothered with where the shot came from. Security went into action getting the people out of the way and looking everywhere for some clue. Their automatic reaction was to look up.

The woman in the drain calmly broke down her rifle and put it back into the case. She burned the picture while she did so. She left the way she came and climbed the metal ladder to the man hole she had opened. She looked out and there seemed to be no one around so she quickly climbed out and stooped to replace the cover.

“Hey, hold on right there,” a voice cried. It was cop with an attack dog patrolling the area most likely because of the activities happening.

The figure stood as the dog's interest seemed to be provoked, watching her intently. She was about thirty feet away from the policeman, too far to get him but far enough to possibly get away even if he fired his revolver. She would be hard to hit once he decided to pull the trigger because of the distance and her movement. As he got on his radio to ask for police backup she spun around and began running. He released the dog and gave it a command, then he opened fire, but missed with the two shots he made, glancing off the poured concrete walls. The assassin could hear the dog gaining ground behind her and knew if she didn't face the animal, he might bring her down to his advantage, so she stopped and turned to face the dog, as it leaped up at her. She leapt into the air as well and kicked the dog, causing it to fly through the air and land on the ground unconscious. Meanwhile, the back-up that was initiated, pulled to block the alley she was running down to exit. Their fast response time was obviously a result of her earlier activity. She began moving quickly back towards the other cop that letthe dog loose. She ran towards him haphazardly as he tried to draw a bead on her with his revolver, firing off three more shots that failed to hit their mark. As she got to him, she jumped in the air, her feet first, against his chest and pushed him six feet out of the way. He tumbled backwards, legs over his head but managed to jump back up to try and stop his assailant. She attacked him in a blur of motion he couldn't see. She struck him several times in the face, and then his chest, before pulling him back over her, as she fell down, rolling on her back to give him one last kick with her one leg into the air. When he fell he was quiet. By the time she was back on her feet there were two cops pointing guns at her and telling to stay still. She knew she couldn't be caught. One of her instructions was to not be caught or die trying. She just needed that one second, at this range, to use at her advantage.

The one cop told the other to cuff her as he alerted others for more help, he and his partner might have the shooter. She waited until he was straining to hear the answer, and was distracted, as the other cop was beginning to cuff her. Then she went into action, kicking the gun out of the one's hand that was on the radio. She hit the nerve in his hand between the index finger and his thumb. That guaranteed complete numbness for several seconds, rendering that hand useless for the time she needed. She turned on the other one behind her to give him some fast hand action, sending him on the ground. Meanwhile, a few people walking by the alley, stopped to watch. The cop the figure reattacked, was desperately trying to pick up his gun with his right hand without success. As he was stooped over, she gave him a single kick with her leg, pushing the sharp toe of her boot up under the soft spot of his chin. He flew back unconscious.

With that, the figure grabbed the case and ran out of the alley and down the street. Further down, a few blocks, the figure ran into another alley and quickly pulled off the leather jump suit. Underneath were slacks and a dress shirt. She slipped the jump suit into the case and pulled out a pair of high heels to wear. Added glasses to her face completed her change, as she closed the lid of the brief case and walked back out of the alley, in time for several cops running down the sidewalk to say something.

“Mam... did you see anyone odd pass by here a minute ago?” the one officer asked her, out of breath, while the others ran to a few of the other alley ways close by.

“I saw someone in black leather run past me down that way,” she indicated the alley from where she came.

“Thanks,” he responded, whistling at the others, and directing them to follow him.

'That was easy.' Tori told herself, smiling as she continued to walk down the street towards her hotel.

Morning came and Tori awoke to a narrow beam of light coming through the curtains where they weren't quite closed. She sat up in bed. “Man, I'm hungry but I don't how I could be after what I ate last night.' Then thinking about what she ate, she had an allergy to shellfish, one that made her swell all over and get blotchy. She remembered ordering shrimp and steak. Why would she have done that? Tori jumped out of the bed quickly and ran to the mirror on the credenza to look. Hmmmm... she was fine... no swelling, no discoloration. Could she have gotten over her allergy somehow?

“She took a quick shower and dried off ready for breakfast. Her flight was leaving in three hours to Austin, so she had a little time. She'd take her time eating and drive to the airport. Arrangements fro flights and rental vehicles were automatically made by the company to maintain a tight schedule getting to her meetings. Missing her flight was next to impossible..

This was an easy drop. Sanklusky Aerospace was right next to the airport. They could have just as easily scheduled the drop and have her move on to her next meeting, but this was up to them. She figured she might get out and do a little shopping while she was here, since she had some time.

When she went to breakfast, she heard the topic of conversation at the table next to her. There had been a murder in the early evening at some restaurant downtown.

“Excuse me... did I hear you say someone got killed last night?” Tori interrupted the older couple sitting next to her.

“Sure was... someone killed Paydon Dunlap... shot him just as he was going into the restaurant with his wife. He was going to support the next conservative run for governor,” the older man announced.

“And he was a billionaire, so he could have done quite a lot for this state,” the man's wife added.

Tori ordered her breakfast but as she sat there, she thought it was an odd coincidence there had been two murders of prominent people in the towns she was staying. The first one, a congress man shot from somewhere in her hotel. Now this guy, a wealthy businessman, probably twenty blocks away. As the waitress brought her coffee and poured it, the distraction took her mind elsewhere. She'd be back in Wilmington on Friday to file her reports and attend a meeting with Justin Harding and Blake Hayden for what was a debriefing. What was there to debrief? The only thing she was thinking that Harding wanted to 'debrief' was her, but he gave her a little bit of the creeps like he knew more about her than she did. Tori didn't want that image running though her head.

It wasn't quite noon when the plane landed in Austin. Tori's car was ready to go when she signed for it and left to drive the half mile next door to Sanklusky's. In five minutes, she was climbing out of the car and walking through security at the front door.

“Come this way,” the secretary asked Tori after meeting her in the lobby. She seemed very efficient and someone that didn't listen to nonsense. “Mr. Aster wants to see you, to turn over the case you're taking with you, and to sign for that one.”

Tori sat in the room for some time. She realized that maybe she was under scrutiny every time she was put into a room to wait for her contact. It seemed she had to wait close to an hour every time and there was either a large mirror on the wall in the room, or there were what appeared to be lenses protruding from the ceilings. These were secure areas, so maybe someone was watching. She laughed to herself wondering what they would do if she started digging in her nose for boogers and then pretending to wipe them under her chair seat. No... no, she couldn't think like that. She had to maintain some professional decorum.

“Hello Ms. Alexander? I'm Fred Aster... sorry I kept you waiting, said the nice-looking middle-aged man with graying temples. Tori suddenly found herself attracted to him and wondered if he were married. This day and age, what did that matter, though?

She watched as he placed the case for her on the floor next to the table where he was sitting.

“Do you want to give that case so I can sign for it? He asked getting right down to business. She thought to herself 'of all times to wear a pants suit, why didn't I wear my dress I brought with me, the one Harding was so intent on looking up the other day when I was looking through the files in his office?' She had extra time to kill she wouldn't have minded enticing him to suggest going somewhere. Tori didn't remember anything in the company guidelines about fraternization with clients, only that they frowned on personal associations with coworkers. But really, you know that wasn't something most people paid attention to anymore.

“Do you want to give me what you have... to sign for?” Tori asked the client a little suggestively.

“Sure, might as well get business out of the way... first,” he replied, and Tori knew then he was taking her bait.

She went back to her seat, and they made small talk... suggestive small talk that eventually led to his offer to go to an apartment he kept downtown for important visiting clients. Oddly enough it was only several blocks from her hotel room. They told her it was imperative she check into the hotels her company made reservations at, even if she ended up not staying there. It had to do with chain of possession.

It was early when Aster called his wife and told her he had a dinner meeting he had to attend, not to wait up, because it might be late before he got home. He gave Tori the address to head there thinking it better they do not leave together. He'd leave work in about half an hour and he gave her the key to the place so she could settle in there. He planned on getting to the room and exploring Tori from head to foot, then having dinner, and then her again for desert.

Tori left, feeling good and excited about her date, not knowing her nights were spoken for by her company. What kind of fly would this put into their ointment?

Harding was enjoying eavesdropping on everything Tori was doing. There was a sense of power he had knowing what she was doing and she not knowing what he was doing. He reviewed both of her assassinations so far and her most recent fight with the police in Phoenix. It was like watching some spy movie from Hollywood. She was so fast in her fighting, and it was coming from someone that had no idea she could fight like that. All the steps and knowledge came from the chip in her brow. As she used it she would become more proficient and deadly. The audio was perfect now so she was a walking talking killing machine he could monitor every detail. She was a human drone.

There were other things too they had implanted she could use as she needed, things she had no idea she knew.

“How's our little assassin doing?” Phyllis asked walking into Hardy's office to see.

“She's doing fine. She just made contact with our next mark. Tori made an advance to Fred Aster, and he swallowed the bait. I won't even have to use the burandanga right away. They're meeting at his company's apartment to spend the night together. She has the medication to get in him to make it look like he had a heart attack. It will clear out of his system within four hours so by the time an autopsy is done it'll look natural. I was thinking of having her deliver the dose at dinner,” Harding mentioned to Phyllis.

“No, let them have their fun. I want to watch. I'll come by in a little while to see their progress after they hook up and then we can watch the evening unfold after they go to dinner... if they go to dinner. It's in liquid format just have her smear it on her body parts for him to ingest later. Deliver it that way,” Phyllis suggested.

“I'm not sure that would be good. Too much of the medication could be absorbed by her and we'd have two dead people from heart attacks. That wouldn't be good,” Harding replied. “Later she'll deliver it when I give her the burandanga so she doesn't remember it. During that period, we'll have plenty of time to have her do whatever we want.

“Maybe some things she wouldn't ordinarily do,” Phyllis said smiling like a pervert.

“Well, I'm not sure what that would be... her personnel file doesn't go into that much detail,” Harding replied. Harding wasn't sure he wanted to share the x rated detail of the night sitting next to Phyllis. He disliked her enough to have to sit next to her too watching the sexual activities of two people.

“Oh, just used your imagination. This could be a lot of fun,” Phyllis countered.

It was then Harding had an idea. He had his spy friends Sybil and Tyler get rid of Osborne after he had seen the three of them together. He couldn't get rid of Tori at this point, although it would be easy to manipulate her into something she couldn't get out of under the influence, but he could manipulate her when she got back by having her meet the husband and wife at 'Inspirations' when she got back. That would be easy since he was her superior. She could drop something off to them, perhaps Friday night and give her a dose of burandanga. Then, he could put her in a compromising, sexual situation with them. He'd copy everything of the event and hold it over her, since they were agents of the Chinese. He'd have the upper hand then. 'All good things come to he who waits,” he said to himself.

Harding watched Tori as she went into the apartment Aster provided. She had already checked into her own hotel room, which is what the company insisted, and then she went to the apartment. He watched as she disrobed in front of the mirror to take a shower. That was the only thing about seeing through her eyes... she had to be in front of a mirror to really enjoy the view. He watched as she played with herself for awhile in expectation of her meeting. She was certainly fine to watch, and Harding found himself getting excited, when Phyllis walked in and everything went to hell.

“So has our mark gotten there yet?” Phyllis asked shutting and locking the door behind her as she pulled a chair around to the other side of the desk to watch the scene with Harding. She noticed he was excited.

“Not yet,” he told her.

“What's this then?” she asked as she glanced at the screen seeing Tori was busy with both of her hands. “Oh my... I see. She is nice to look at. I hadn't realized she had that nice of a body,”

Phyllis reached over and grabbed Harding's crotch and was smiling. Harding let her under the circumstances but hoped she didn't expect anything more from him.

“I see why you have such a hard on. Let's see what unfolds maybe we can do something about that later when things get really interesting,” she told him much to his consternation. That's exactly what he didn't want. Not with a woman he disliked so much and was partly the reason for his infidelity to the company. He thought he might be skating on thin ice here.

They both watched as she left the shower and dried off in front of the mirror, taking her time in the most erotic of ways. Then she applied some body lotion slowly and intentionally over her skin arousing her own desires as she did so, probably letting her imagination wander. When she was done, she pulled back the bed covers and put on a thong and a small top that covered little. She laid in bed then with pillows behind her to watch television. The two large mirrors over the piece of furniture at the end of the bed exposed her as she waited.

“I'll give her a dose at dinner so by the time they get back to the room she'll be under our direction. I'll have her take the medication and drip it on his lips, so he ingests it sometime later while he's asleep. He'll be dead in twenty minutes. I'll have her head back to her hotel then, so she doesn't know what happened when she wakes up in the morning. I'll give her a few false memories so it looks like they spent most of the night together,” Harding told Phyllis as she continued to play with him.

About that time Aster walked into the room. Seeing Tori there expecting him the way she was, he immediately joined her in the bed. It was a good view since she was still sitting against the headboard staring into the mirrors... both Phyllis and Justin could watch clearly what was happening. Hardy couldn't help but have an erection between watching the scene in front of him and Phyllis playing with him. As Tori went through here gyrations so did Phyllis. Harding couldn't say no as his attention was on the monitor.

“Why don't you give her some audio commands,” Phyllis suggested as she dropped to her knees.

“Not without the injection. I'm not sure how she would react to any audio I feed her,” Justin reported.

“Oh, she'll just think it's her inner voice making suggestions. Do it low so it's almost imperceptible. I'll bet her subconscious will move her in any direction we want,” Phyllis surmised wanting more visual and audio of her own.

“You do it then, A female voice might work better without the drug,” her voyeur partner suggested.

So, Phyllis opened the audio channel and started making suggestions which within seconds Tori enacted.

“Look at that. She's doing exactly what I told her to do, Phyllis gargled after turning the audio back off. I want you to do that to me too,” she demanded of Justin.

The two were really getting out of hand in the apartment. The audio feedback was absolutely filthy as Phyllis told her to talk dirt and be descriptive of a few things she demanded.

“I've never had a woman like you before,” Aster commented. “You act like a whore.”

“I want you to treat me like your whore,” Tori replied to her partner. She didn't know what came over her, but she was doing things she only imagined before and nothing she seriously thought of doing.

As they finished their first physical interaction, so did Phyllis and Justin. He had her bent over his desk, giving her what she had in her hand earlier. He could have cared less now that it was Phyllis, he only wanted relief. He wrapped his hand around her mouth trying to keep her silent so no one outside the office heard them, but she was just as vocal as what she ordered Tori to be in her love making. When they were done the room smelled like sex. He wasn't about to let anyone in there until it aired out.

“Well, that was nice. We'll have to do this again... soon,” Phyllis suggested but it sounded more like a command. “Call me when they get back from dinner or if they start up again, if they don't go to dinner. I want to be here again before our boy buys it. We'll really put her to the test with an injection.”

“I can't tell you the last time I had sex like that,” Aster told Tori as she got out of bed to clean up.

“Then don't,” she joked making him laugh as well. “I did a couple of things there I've never done before and never knew I had it in me. It must be the company.”

“Well, I certainly hope we can get together again sometime soon. I haven't had much time lately trying to forestall Dillon Bates' takeover he's trying to accomplish,” Aster told her.

“You mean he's trying to get your company?” Tori asked.

“Yeah for a few months now. It's all my people have been able to do to keep his teeth from sinking into us,” Aster told her.

“He owns my company,” Tori told him.

“Yeah, that's why I said something,” Aster replied, watching her get dressed to go to the dinner her lover had suggested earlier.

“Why does he want your place? I mean you're a subcontractor. I swear why do these super wealthy people want more all the time?” Tori commented.

“Who knows what's in his head. His father was just as bad. You could never quite figure what he was thinking. I swear the guy's a clone. You know there is a fine line between genius and insanity,” he commented, as he climbed out of bed and went to take a quick shower. “I made reservations for eight. I hope that's alright.”

“Who's going to argue after sex like that?” Tori laughed.

Dinner was nice at the restaurant they went to. They both had the lamb and both were full when done. They were too full just to go back to the apartment and jump back into bed for the night.

“You up for a walk... settle the food?” Aster asked his date.

“Yeah, I need to do something. I'm way too stuffed,” she told him.

“We'll I hope you don't complain about that later,” he replied, making Tori give him a double take

“Honey I won't complain about anything you do later,” she answered smiling.

They went down the street hand in hand in the dark. If it were daytime, he'd be a little more careful. Too many people in town knew who he was and his wife. He couldn't jeopardize being seen with a young woman hand in hand.

Phyllis had checked back with Harding a couple of times to see the status of things. They were the only two left in the office except the janitorial people cleaning.

“They're going for a walk now. They might not get back to the room until around eleven if you don't want to stay,” Harding told her, halfway hoping she would go, but earlier wasn't that bad and even though he still didn't like her, she seemed more palatable now that they had been intimate.

“Not on your life. I want a rematch, that was fun before,” she told Harding.

“I'll text you when they're back in the hotel. When they get there, I'll give her a partial dose, so he doesn't notice a big change. I'll give her more later before she gives him the other stuff,” Harding suggested which seemed to be fine with his boss.

The couple had walked several blocks when Aster realized they were being followed. There were two men across the street keeping up with them from behind. He didn't want to say anything to Tori to upset her, but he suggested they turn around to go back to the car. When the two men did the same, he thought it wise to tell her about them.

They both stepped up their pace a bit and a minute later, the two following, crossed the street quietly and maneuvered behind them.

“I'm not sure what our two friends are up to back there but if they confront us, I want you to run as fast as you can back to the first place you see open. We're several blocks from the apartment and that's too far. I'll try and keep them busy,” Aster recommended.

“No way. I'm staying with you,” she told him.

“Don't be playing around, this is serious,” he replied but about that time he felt a hand on his shoulder, so he turned.

“Hey buddy, what do you have in your wallet?” the one man asked while the other had his hand in his pocket appearing as if he had a gun.

“Not much... I do everything with a card,” Aster informed them but gave the man his wallet who was holding a large switch blade He grabbed the wallet greedily and opened it.

“What's this fucking shit... six bucks. You're dressed like you are and you only have fucking six bucks,” the man proclaimed, pissed off. The guy, both guys were druggies, you could tell, and he was displeased with the money he saw and went at Aster with his knife.

Tori reached over and diverted his knife as she swung behind and kicked the other man directly in the bridge of his nose pushing it into his brain. He dropped like he was dead instantly. She continued to swing around the first man and pulled him back over her as she rolled backwards and kicked him out of the way. She was immediately back on her feet as he was with his knife posed to attack her. As he stabbed at her, she diverted him again and swung her whole body into him and dropped, pushing his arm up with one hand while pushing him at his joint with the other, snapping his elbow in the process. She turned to face him and gave him a tremendous blow with her foot directly into his nose driving it into his brain. Both men were dead.

“Wow, I'm impressed. I've never had a woman defend me before like that,” he commented.

“Yeah, and if you don't want to make the news being in a business dinner meeting, I suggest we get out of here. I killed both of them,” she announced.

“Really? Oh well, two less junkies on the street robbing and killing local citizens. You had some pretty intense martial arts training in the army,” her date commented, as they began quickly to retreat.

“Honestly...I don't know where that came from. I had nothing like that in the army so I'm as surprised as you are,” she told him as they crossed the road where it was darker.

They crossed the road again at the restaurant and left in Aster's car. The apartment was not far away so they went directly there in just a few minutes.

Once inside the door, he grabbed her and swung her around, kissing her deeply.

By this time Phyllis had come into Harding's office to watch.

“I'm going to give her a partial dose. She just took two druggies out on the street that attacked them. She's wondering how she did it herself. I don't think Aster will notice anything funny in her personality change at this point without attributing it to that,” Harding told his boss.

She was looking a little subdued so Phyllis got on the audio connection and got he more up to things.

“Excuse me while I go freshen up in the bathroom,” she told Aster as she went and closed the door.

“That was impressive... what you did. It turned me on quite as bit actually the way you handled those two,” Aster spoke aloud to Tori.

“I'm glad you approve. Maybe I can impress you even more when I come in there,” she yelled to him as she washed.

Soon Harding and Phyllis were watching their own porno flick. Thanks to Phyllis it was as perverted as they come and both president and vice president were sharing the events as they came across the screen. When Aster and Tori were done and soon after Harding and Phyllis, the burandanga was administered. After a few minutes, Harding warned Tori not to fall asleep yet,k but to wait until her partner was asleep. Like most men that wouldn't be long after sex.

Tori awoke in her hotel room the next morning. At first, she didn't remember why she was there and not leaving from the apartment where she was with Aster. Then she remembered something about a client arriving there early, so she needed to leave. It was easier for him to drop her off at the hotel and then head home.

She couldn't remember a more incredible evening. She swore, when he dropped her off at the hotel, she'd get back soon.

She drove her rental back to the airport and was tempted to stop by Sanklusky's on the way but then thought he might begin to think of her as a stalker.

Her flight took off a few minutes earlier than expected and wasn't very full. She bought a book at the gift shop on the way into the airport, but she couldn't concentrate too well thinking about last night. She wondered when she'd be able to get back but maybe her company would send her back there soon.

She was sitting, staring out the window when one of the flight attendants, an attractive woman in her early thirties stopped and asked if she minded her sitting with her. The cabin light came on telling everyone to take their seats. The captain alerted everyone to the turbulence they would be experiencing and to remain seated until the light went off.

She and Tori began talking and Tori found the woman to be nice. But she looked at Tori with an intensity she found uncomfortable.

“Are you from Syracuse?” Lorna asked.

“No, I'm just there tonight for business,” Tori replied.

“That's a shame. I'm off for a few days and we could get together later for drinks. I'll buy. We still could you know,” the attendant offered. “I know this really out of the way place where women can get together. I'd love to show you off to my other girlfriends.”

“Ah... I'm really sorry but I don't go that way. I'm strictly into men,” Tori assured her, wondering how she ever got the impression otherwise.

“That's what I used to say too until I met this older woman that showed me things that made my head spin. I won't even look at a man anymore. I'd like to do the same for you,” Lorna offered.

“That's alright. I'm happy with the things the way they are,” Tori told her.

“Well, if you change your mind or just want a friend to go out with sometime when you're in Syracuse, here's my cell phone,” she told Tori giving her her card with her name and number. She smiled a broad smile and unbuckled her seat belt.

Meanwhile Harding thought he would have loved to be hooked into the optics on that one after a dose of burandanga but he might have a chance down the road, as he made a note, to utilize this flight attendant as a contact cover for Tori should she need it anytime in Syracuse.

She hadn't heard from Aster and thought she'd have a message on her phone when she landed, but nothing. Guys were like that. They get laid and then they take their time calling you again. Besides he may have been busy or got sidetracked with a problem, so she thought she'd give him an obscene phone call. She'd call him at the office, he'd be there by now.

“Hello, Mr. Aster's office,” the voice on the other end answered, sniffling a bit.

“May I speak to Mr. Aster?” Tori asked.

“Who is this I'm speaking to?” the woman requested.

“This is Tori Alexander with Aerospace Controls. I delivered a package yesterday and picked one up,” Tori told the woman.

“I'm very sorry to say that Mr. Aster passed away sometime during the night with what appears to be a heart attack,” the woman told her.

“I'm so sorry. Thank you...” Tori told her as she disconnected her phone.

She was shocked. It was just several hours ago she saw him when he dropped her off at her hotel and said goodbye. She didn't know him long, but she was stricken by the word of his death. She couldn't wait to hear his voice... to see him again. Tori fought back the tears as she went to get her car. The man at the counter looked at her.

“Are you alright Ms.?” he asked looking genuinely concerned.

“Yeah... I'm fine. Tori Alexander with Aerospace Controls... you have a car for me?” she asked, and the man went to his computer.

She went to the lot and found her car in the numbered space, and got in. It was there she began crying. Then she thought about it. Two murders and what appeared to be a natural death in all her destinations. That was odd. Was someone following her and setting her up? It was circumstantial but if anyone noticed the coincidence she would be targeted by the authorities.

She went directly then to her hotel and checked in. She called back to her office to check in to tell them she arrived like she always did and was told Blake Hayden wanted to talk to her. She was surprised he was in, though they had a scheduled meeting tomorrow afternoon.

“Hi Tori! How's it going? Any problems this week?” he asked.

“No, everything went smoothly. I'm surprised you're in today,” she noticed.

“Yeah, my one meeting I had today was canceled so I got back early. We're still on for tomorrow's debriefing though. I'm glad things are going smoothly. Keep up the good work. We'll see you then,” her boss told her.

'Yeah, if you consider three deaths in three days smooth, and one of them a guy whose brains I fucked out' she thought to herself. Rather than keep thinking about it, she left to drop off her package at Syracuse Dynamics a half hour away.

“HI Tori Alexander with Aerospace Controls. I have a package for Deborah Wallace,” Tori announced to the receptionist, who checked her list in front of her and then had her sign in.

Eventually a young woman came and got her. She led her to an office at the far end of the building where someone was in the bathroom just off the large, ultra-modern executive place of business.

She sat for a minute before an older woman came out smiling at her.

“Hi Tori, I'm Deborah Wallace, President of Syracuse Dynamics,” she announced holding out her hand. It was cold from having just washed them.

“Nice to meet you. This is it,” Tori said pulling up the case. Wallace took the case and carried it to the other side of the desk to put it down.

She signed the paperwork Tori handed her and kept a copy for herself. Tori wondered why everyone she dropped packages off to never opened the cases before signing her receipt. That was odd. They had no idea what they were signing for. For all they knew Tori could have sold the contents to a competitor and filled the thing with rocks.

Wallace stood back up and went into a closet behind her desk. She came back with another case that Tori signed for. Now she was beginning to feel funny not knowing what was inside, but the case was locked and all she was signing for was the case and not its contents. Still, it seemed a little odd thinking about it now.

“Can I get you coffee?” Wallace asked.

“I'd love some, Ms. Wallace,” Tori confirmed. She drank a ton of coffee each day. It was her one vice.

“Call me Deb, please,” she told Tori as she poured two cups from her Kuerig in the corner.

The hot tub felt good when Tori relaxed back at the hotel. She'd go back after dinner and do her workout which had been remiss this week. Right now, the heat felt good. There was another couple in the tub with her and they began some small talk. They were apparently left wingers and began bad mouthing the military. The same people would condemn the police too but the first time they needed their assistance, or something went wrong they'd be on the phone to them expecting them right away. She didn't say anything. It was best to avoid conversations with such people because they were always right. Their intelligence was based on inaccurate information if it was information at all, based on rumor and supposition handed down to them by even less informed people. Finally they left and Tori wished them well.

Back in her hotel room after dinner and a good workout, Tori thought she'd just watch a movie or two before retiring. Relaxing in her terry cloth robe she packed pillows behind her to watch the monitor.

The restaurant was nothing fancy, but it was a good place to eat with excellent food and service. Tod Spelling went there like clockwork every Thursday evening after his two-hour podcast. It was nine o'clock dinner but then he'd be up another few hours before going to bed. He was a late-night worker and a late riser. His podcast was designed to uncover corruption in government and industry. He had a hundred million plus followers and several whistle blowers he depended on. He was constantly being harangued by those wanting to know the identity of the whistle blowers. His podcasts even consisted of interviews with people from both sides. He didn't believe in any one sided approach to his time. However, you'd better be prepared to be annihilated on the show because Spelling was always ready and waiting. People either loved him or hated him but then it was polarized along political lines as expected. Recently he had uncovered a few things that stirred people. His numbers started increasing rapidly and suddenly. It appeared he was having a dramatic effect on his listeners, more so than normal. He was seated behind the table with his girlfriend at his normal booth when a single figure, people said later appeared to be a woman to the police, walked definitively through the restaurant with only a few looking up at her, pointed a revolver with a silencer on it at Tod Spelling, just as he became aware of the intruder, and fired two shots into his forehead. Some people in the room dropped behind their tables... others who were unaware of the person just looked incredulously at Spelling's body face down in his appetizer as the figure, dressed in black leather with some kind of hood. Walked away.

Tori climbed out of bed. She had slept all night sitting up where she positioned herself to watch a movie. The television was still on but with the screen depicting other movies to choose from, there. She switched to another channel to at least hear the news and went to the bathroom to pee and brush her teeth. She came back out when she heard the news announcement, with her tooth brush still in her mouth and stood there.

The announcer described how a popular Internet figure, Tod Spelling who had a popular right wing podcast was murdered in front of a restaurant full of diners... shot to death next to his girlfriend as they ate. Police described the assailant as a possible woman dressed in a tight fitting black leather outfit with a hood drawn over the head to protect the identity. One of the reports in Phoenix was the authorities were looking for someone like this, as a possible link to the assassination there and an altercation with the police that left the policemen badly injured.

Tori was getting more worried. She didn't have a leather outfit like they described but she didn't know what was in either of the leather cases she typically carried. She wasn't given any keys or combinations. Maybe she was overreacting. Still there was the death of Aster, supposedly from natural causes, but a heart attack at his age, forty five and in good condition. Yeah, it was possible but hard to imagine.

She landed in Wilmington at eleven thirty and got an Uber driver to take he to the office. She carried the return case. Tori got to her little office twenty minutes before her meeting with Harding and Hayden. She made sure she was wearing her pantsuit today to avoid distracting Harding but little did she know he was more aware about what she covered than she knew.

The meeting was non-eventful and really there was no reason for it other than a formality. Hayden told her there were only two cities for delivery scheduled next week but that could change before then or even change while she was on the road, just to be prepared. Harding kept staring at her during the short time she was there but she just ruled it off as a mid life crises he was experiencing.

“Tori, could you stay here,” Harding asked after the meeting.

'Great,' she thought' here it goes. I'll have to sue his ass for sexual harassment and there goes a nice job out the window.'

Harding closed the door after he came back from talking with Hayden out side the door a few minutes. Was something wrong? Tori was getting paranoid.

“We have a couple of representatives coming in early this evening, it's the earliest they could get here and they need to pick up a couple of prototypes to take back with them before Monday. I'd meet them myself but I've got prior commitments. Can you meet with them and drop them off?” Harding asked her, not quite what she expected.

“Sure. When and where?” she asked. Thankful she didn't have to fend off any advances.

“Great. I'm going to text them then, you can meet them around seven?” he suggested, looking for approval from Tori as to the time, and she shook her head 'yes'. I'll set the meeting up close to your apartment to make it convenient... a place called 'Inspirations'... are you familiar with it? They'll sign for it like anyone else, and you'll sign for the package they give you. Just bring it to me on Monday.”

“I'm familiar with the place,” Tori replied thinking Harding didn't know how much so, seeing him there with that other couple last week, before Osborne was killed. All these people dying around her. Was she just bad luck? Most people only know of one or two people that they knew or met around them in a lifetime, that were mudered. Her numbers were rising.

Harding texted while Tori waited in his office. A moment later he confirmed her meeting there with a Sybil and Tyler Dancing at seven.

“I'll have the case ready for you before you leave later. If I don't get it to you before, just stop back here and I'll give it you,” Harding said as he got up and held the door open for Tori to leave. She felt him brush up against her as she walked out the door. She didn't think it was an accident.

Tori went to her apartment first and took a shower. She had about a half hour to get to 'Inspirations' but it was only ten minutes away so she didn't rush. Then she thought about meeting the couple to deliver this case to... she wondered if it would be the same couple she saw Harding with last Friday evening.

When she got to the 'Inspirations' at seven she walked through the front door and looked towards the bar. She wasn't surprised... it was the same couple, and if not it was a coincidence that they happened to be there but maybe this was a weekly thing for them, like a lot of habits developed over time. Perhaps it was someone else she was waiting for, but she moved to the bar.

“Hi... are you Tori?” the woman asked. That confirmed it.

“Yes, I'm Tori Alexander from Aerospace.

“It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm Sybil Dancing and this is my husband, Tyler,” she introduced the man with her. Tyler grabbed her hand to shake but pulled her into him and kissed her on the side of her face near her ear sending a chill up her back.

“I'm so glad to meet you, Tori. Justin has told us so much about you. I hope you don't mind but I made plans for dinner here. We can go to one of the back booths where it's quieter to talk,” he suggested.

“Well, I'm not very hungry so I may not stay to eat anything but I'll have a Black Russian,” she suggested figuring it was her call, and she didn't need to stay.

So the three of them took their drinks and went to one of the booths.

Harding was beside himself in his office ready to record the evening. He'd probably be in his office all night for this as he transmitted the signal to dispense the release the dose of burandanga to Tori. He gave her the command to stay and do whatever the couple wanted to do. She was at their command. Her goal was to deliver complete satisfaction to both of them.

Sybil Dancing noticed the apparent change come over Tori. She seemed a little distant but excited in some way, Sybil sensed. She motioned to her husband, giving him an imperceptible look. He followed her direction.

“You know you're a very beautiful woman,” Tyler told Tori as he pushed a bit of her hair back from her face.

“Thank you,” she replied, while his wife smiled and reached over for Tori' s hand.

“And you're sexy too, way too much just to be a courier for some Aeronautics' company,” she told her squeezing her hand.

Meanwhile her husband breathed into her purposely masking Tori tingle as he whispered suggestive things in her ear. Tori was turned on, hopelessly so. All she could think of at that moment, was lying in bed with these two, completely naked and at their disposal.

Dinner came and Tori was beside herself. She was ready to go to their room, any room somewhere, but now they seemed to put it off. She ate her food as Tyler rubbed his hand up and down the inside of her leg, going up further each time. She had worn her dress, a short one, for their meeting. By the time she was finished eating he could have thrown her across the table in front of everyone and taken her.

“I think we should go now back to our room. We can always have desert later,” Sybil suggested, approving of the attention her husband was wielding on Tori.

The three went non-stop for four hours and Harding was as tired as they were, watching their antics. He had recorded everything and had enough to hold over Tori to get her to do anything he wanted. Satisfied in multiple ways he turned his computer off and went home. He didn't give a thought to Tori waking up in the morning in bed with the Dancings without a memory of what transpired. He had inadvertently put a fly into the ointment because she'd figure she was drugged somehow. She'd would most likely blame it on the couple. Maybe Harding didn't really care. He knew she was already beginning to question things but he had something concrete now on her and maybe he felt that was enough to keep her relationship with Aerospace Controls ongoing and begin one with him.

It was Saturday morning. Tori was laying in bed wondering what she would do today. She hated opening her eyes first thing to bright sunlight as it came through the window, so she kept her eyes shut. It seemed the light was filtering through from a different angle. The clearly she heard breathing so she opened them. There was Tyler Dancing lying on his back naked. She didn't remember anything beyond sitting down to dinner with him and his wife. His wife? She turned quickly over the other way and there was Sybil lying on her stomach asleep, just as naked as she and Tyler. How the hell did that happen without remembering anything? How did that happen? They had obviously done more than play Scrabble, which she was bad at... maybe Strip Scrabble but that would only explain her lack of clothes.

Quickly she scrambled out of bed, climbing over Sybil in the process when Sybil awoke and grabbed her, rolling over onto her and she began kissing her. Tori pushed her away.

“Oh no. I'm not sure what happened last night but I was obviously drugged. I don't remember anything past sitting down to dinner. You people drugged me with one of those date rape drugs and you're going to pay for it,” she yelled exasperated.

By this time Tyler had awakened and heard her last statement.

“Now hold on there. No one drugged you. Sybil and I don't have to drug anyone. You seemed to be really enjoying yourself last night and even commented you'd like to make it a regular thing. You seemed normal, not under the influence of anything. Now if you feel guilty about some of the things you did with us last night... some kind of morning after remorse... that's your problem not ours,” Tyler pronounced.

“Why don't you climb back into bed and let's discuss this like adults. Neither of us did anything to you last night that you didn't want us to do. We certainly didn't drug you,” Sybil told her as she tried grabbing her hand.

Tori pulled away and went to the bathroom to dress.

“You know, if you start something here you may not like what happens,” Tyler said as he went to the doorway of the bathroom.

“Is that a threat? Is that a fucking threat?” Tori shouted, leaving the room and pushing Tyler out of the way. “I'm not easily intimidated by a couple of assholes.”

“You weren't last night, honey,” Sybil responded inappropriately.

Tyler grabbed Tori's shoulder to stop her from leaving the hotel room in the state she was in, but as he did she swung on him and almost broke his arm at the elbow if he hadn't reacted as quickly as he did. She punched him then, and sent him stepping back but then he returned a few blows of his own that sent her reeling. Tyler had martial arts training as well and Tori could only maintain her position. They fought with each other as Sybil watched and enjoyed their bout. Finally Sybil stepped into the altercation and got Tori in a choke hold.

“That was so hot. Sybil don't you think that was hot?” Tyler asked his wife as he drug his tongue up Tori's face.

“It turned me on,” she said giving Tori a kiss on the neck and then letting her go. Tori tried to slap her but Sybil just redirected her hand. She tried several more times and failed. Sybil was trained as well. These two were more than a simple husband and wife team. Tori stormed quickly out the door to the elevator. She was fighting mad and drove directly to a clinic to have her blood tested.

“I want my blood drawn and tested. I believe I was drugged last night and I'd like to know what it was and get a report,” she told the girls out front. “I'm paying for this and not through my insurance.”

Tori sat in the room where they drew blood and waited for a doctor to speak with her. It seemed forever.

“Ms. Alexander... we have to send your blood to a lab for analysis. We aren't equipped here except for things like alcohol levels, and that sort of thing. Since tomorrow's Sunday we won't get the results back until Monday. You can call us then,” he told her.

“There's nothing you can tell me now? How about if I go to the hospital?” she asked the doctor.

“It's the same thing. Being the weekend, I'm afraid you won't get an answer until Monday. If you think you were drugged and raped I'd suggest you go to the police and have them send you to the hospital to start a paperwork trail. But I can also examine you here, while you're here to test for that,” he offered.

“No, that's alright. It'll just have to wait until Monday. What time should I call?” she asked.

Early Sunday morning Tori climbed out of bed with a partial plan in mind. She was going to the office and see what she could find in Harding's office, if she could get into it. She went directly there, got off the elevator, and looked around to make sure no one else was there. They'd know she was there because of her pass so she signed into her computer first, into a reading lesson so it appeared she was online while she was there.

From there she walked down the hall to Harding's office to get in but the door was locked. 'Damn,' she thought. 'what do I do?' Then she got it. The janitorial closet. They come in every day to clean after the slobs around here. There has to be a key or a pass key to the offices on the floor.

Tori went there and opened the door. It was packed with mops and cleansers, buckets and a myriad of things. Back in the corner between the wall and shelves was a ring of keys hanging from a nail. There they were, so she grabbed them. There had to be fifty keys here. There were numbers written with marker but that didn't make sense since there were no numbers on the doors. It must have been only for the janitor's sake.

She went back to Harding's office and began trying one key after another. Somewhere around the thirty fifth key the locked tumbled and she was in. Tori immediately went to his computer and turned on the monitor. A single frame was still up from something Harding had been watching when he turned it off and probably went home for the weekend on Friday. She was in the frame along with the Dancings.

She rolled back the video line to see what there was and there was everything she needed to confirm what she expected. The whole scene was from her eyes and showed things she was doing that embarrassed her, especially with a woman. She checked some of the other files on his system and found things associated with some of her other sexploits with Aster and the actual killing of several people. It was all there. She carefully rolled to the first tape, back to the frame she first saw entering his office, and turned off the monitor so Harding wouldn't suspect anything tomorrow.

Tori removed the door key and planned to stop at Walmart on the way home to have it duplicated. She'd return the original to the ring in the early morning before anyone got there. She went to Harding's file cabinet to see what she could find. He had mentioned before about not storing really sensitive information on the computer. It was too prone to hacking. To get hard copy someone would have to physically break into the building to get to it, making it much more difficult under the scrutiny of the security cameras. She knew they randomly reviewed the footage here every few days... it was boring stuff. She figured them seeing her in Harding's office on a Sunday would be too little too late for them to do anything by the time they saw it, if ever. The courier found her file. There wasn't much there but dates and places. The personality description of her along with a small picture stapled to the manila folder was there with several long strings of numbers she had no idea what they were for. Were they some kind of code, frequencies or an access number that tuned into her to view her on screen... perhaps any screen could tune in, not just Harding's computer. There was no way of telling, but everything had to be destroyed for her to escape their tentacles, and she planned to use Harding to accomplish that.

Shutting the door and turning off her computer she replaced the ring of keys , except Harding's door key, and left. On the way home she made two copies of the door key.

Tori stayed in the rest of the day. She wasn't scheduled for anything on Monday so it would be a day in the office not doing particularly anything. There were training classes on line she could take to acquaint herself more with what the company manufactured. She was expected to do so many hours per month doing that. Passing the technical courses she could move on to sales and marketing training to become either an outside sales person and still travel nationwide with the trade shows they had. She would have the option of moving to an inside job in marketing, putting together the trade shows and other material for them, and for the outside sales force. They didn't want her just sitting around doing nothing when she wasn't delivering sensitive items. Besides they felt her knowing more of the technology and other technical information was advantageous with the people she was talking to.

Tori kept wondering. There had to be an implant in her somewhere. They had the opportunity when she was in a coma for several weeks. Now, she assumed that was contrived to do the operation and get her by the recovery period without realizing what they had done. She began exploring places, not easily scene in a mirror. When she first came out of the coma she remembered having a lot of itching under her left breast. She glanced there at the hospital to see if she had a rash. She kept powder on it for relief.

She looked and thought she saw, the ever so slight evidence of a hairline scar. The more she looked the, more she was convinced it was there. If something was implanted, she wanted a doctor to remove it right away. She felt the rib under the scar but didn't feel anything out of the ordinary. Perhaps Tilman could look.

On Monday, she signed in to an on line class and worked on that until she called the doctor at eleven.

“Hi Doctor Tilman, this is Tori Alexander. You asked me to call today about my blood work,” she reminded him.

“”Yes, Ms. Alexander. I just reviewed your file a few minutes ago and your suspicions were right. You were drugged with some pretty serious stuff, the kind of stuff the CIA used back seventy years ago with their mind control studies. You had high levels of something called burandanga... really nasty stuff. It come from the burrachero shrub in the tropics. They called it the 'voodoo drug'. South American natives used is in their religious ceremonies before our intelligence people got hold of it,” he told her.

Tori was a little taken back, she was hoping there wouldn't be anything. It was beginning to sound more conspiratorial than just a date rape drug passed in her food or drink.

“What are the effects?” she asked him.

“Well, when ingested either in powder form through the nasal cavity, or consumed in food or drink, or even absorbed through the skin, it's quick acting and renders someone completely open to suggestion to do whatever they're told. It isn't like hypnosis where the person in a trance won't do anything they wouldn't do consciously. People under its influence, can be directed to do things against their will, without any memory of committing the act,” the doctor told her.

“Thanks doctor. Can I come in now and get a copy of that report?” she asked him.

“Sure... stop by anytime. I'll have it waiting for you,” Tilman told her.

“I also want you to check an area under my right breast. I think I found a scar but I've never had an operation there. I think they put something there,” she shared with him.

“Sure call in for an appointment. I can see you in a couple of days,” Tilman told her.

“You don't understand, this is literally a case of life or death. I'm headed out of town in the morning and will be gone the rest of the week. Something has to be done today or someone will die. I'll fill you in on the whole story when I get there,” she told him.

“Alright then. I'll see you when you get here,” the doctor promised.

Tori wasn't sure what to do. It probably wasn't the Dancings responsible for Friday night. Besides an accusation wouldn't go anywhere without proof, and she had none. She wasn't sure now it was them, after the events of the past week. What if she committed the murders that occurred in the cities she visited this week? She'd have to be able to prove what she suspected. Without proof, it might open up to accusations of her independently killing these people, even if without motive. If Harding was monitoring her now he would know she was on to them and would do something about it. Yet, be had no reason to be watching her now until injection time, and to watch her carry out her assignment.

“Hi Justin,” I have to take off a few hours for personal leave. I'll be back later,” she told Harding.

“Is everything OK?” he asked.

“Yeah my mother came up last night from Maryland to surprise me, and she's a terrible driver, especially when she goes someplace she's never been to before. Anyway she had an accident last night and was taken to the hospital with a mild concussion. I have to get her... take her to the apartment and get her situated,” Tori lied thinking she had to tell Harding something and directly or he might wonder where she was, and see what she wa transmitting.

“Sure take the rest of the day if you need to,” he suggested. “But first, here's the case you'll be taking with you tomorrow. You can sign for it now but you'll have to take it with you the rest of the day.”

“That's fine. In fact I'll make up the time and stay tonight to do some training on the computer. I'll sign for this now, in case something pops up,” she told him knowing he would probably stay as well. Maybe she could use him.”

“So what do you think Doc?” Tori asked as the doctor looked under her breast and felt around.

“I think you work for a bunch of evil people,” he commented. There's a fine scar there alright and it isn't that old. I can feel a very slight difference in your rib there too. About a three inch section. If you weren't looking for it, it would probably go unnoticed. Let's get an x ray and see.”

Tilman had his nurse take a couple of x rays of the area, and her upper quadrant to see the extent of what these people had done. Meanwhile Tori filled the doctor in on what she knew so far and how they were using her to assassinate certain people, on her courier trips. With no memory of what she did, she knew they were controlling her to do these things for them.

“You're right once again unless you had rib surgery in the past,” he pointed out, as she looked at her x ray he clipped on the back lit screen. “Here's the area. Clearly a piece of your rib was taken and replaced with what looks like a hollow cartridge fitted almost perfectly and filled with a liquid. My guess...burandanga. You also have some kind of implant over your right brow. I's interesting because there seems to be neural connections established between it an your brain...and your optic nerves.”

“Cut them out doctor. Right away!” Tori demanded.

“No... your rib would be major surgery and you'd be in the hospital at least a few days healing. I suggest that I go in with a large bore hypodermic needle and extract all that substance inside, that way you can't get a dose. They'd probably go in the same way to replenish the thing. I can give you a local to do that and you can be out of here. Any soreness will probably be gone by tomorrow,” he informed her. “I wouldn't touch the other implant, now that there are neural connections established. I'm not sure what that would do if I removed it.”

“Doc... let's do it then. I can't be a part of what they're doing,” Tori pleaded. The physician knew he had to do something, now that he was aware of what was happening.

Tori laid on the table as the doctor gave her a local. Then minutes later, stuck a large bore needle through her flesh and into the synthetic bone. She watched as he pulled the plunger out, and the syringe filled with a amber colored fluid.

“That's it. I got it all out,” he remarked, as he swabbed off the area and put a patch over it. “No more assassinations.”

“Doc... can I have that syringe? Tori asked. The doctor looked at it, then her, perplexed.

“What do you plan to do with it?” he asked. 'On second thought... don't tell me. I could get into serious trouble giving you this. I'll just lay it here and go out to check on something with my nurse. I'll come back in a minute.”

When he stepped back into the room, Tori was dressed and the syringe was gone.

“Anything else doc?” Tori asked him.

“No... but good luck,” he told her. “Oh... hypothetically, if I was going to administer that stuff to someone, I'd only inject down to the third line from the top. More than that could either result in toxic poisoning or even death.”

On the way back, Tori stopped and braided her hair into a single long French braid. The sight of the syringe filled with burandanga, gave her the idea where to hide the syringe so she could access it easily. When she was done with her hair, she carefully nestled the syringe between her braids and tucked it down underneath her hair where it was hidden. She pulled her short skirt out of the case in the back seat, and put it on.

“I'm back,” Tori announced to Harding when she stuck her head into his doorway. He was excited and already planning to stay late with Tori, using the video he had recorded of her with the two agents to his advantage. He expected by tomorrow he could be bragging about how good a lay he had last night.

“Is everything OK?” Harding asked not really caring.

“Everything is fine. She'll get to relax the rest of the day and watch television,” Tori told him.

“It's too bad you'll be out of town while she's recuperating,” Harding added.

“Well, that'll teach her to say something first before trying to surprise me,” Tori replied.

Tori went to her desk and began training on her system, She stayed there uninterrupted, until almost six o'clock. She was still going to pick up a rental car that night to drive to Rockville, Maryland for her breakfast meeting with Charles Mansing, of a company called Space Xplore at 8am.

She watched as Harding went up and down the hall several times, probably checking to see if everyone left. Tori made sure she was sitting away from her desk, sideways, so Harding could get a clear view when he looked. She found herself getting excited, not by the idea of having possible sex with Harding, because she wasn't attracted to him, but the idea she was turning a man on to take advantage of him. It was the whole control thing she realized was feeding the excitement.

Tori laughed to herself each time Harding went by. She pretended she didn't notice, as he almost stopped to look in her office. She thought he'd trip himself. Finally he came into her office. She figured he was letting her know, in a round about way, they were alone now. He grabbed the extra chair there, and placed it in front of her, so he could get a better look. The guy was so obvious being a Neanderthal.

“How are your on line classes going?” he asked her.

“Shit, there's a lot of reading,” Tori exclaimed.

“That's just the first three cells. They inundate you with information they talk about again later, step-by-step, before they start hitting you with questions. I think they figure you'll absorb a fair amount before you move on, increasing the retention...do you find it easier to take more in that way?” Harding asked, changing the tone of his voice for his insinuation.

“Sometimes it's easier to take it all at one time... but I usually like it slower. I think I get it a lot easier when I get it slower,” Tori responded smiling.

By the looks of his pants he liked her answer. 'Men.' she thought,' they're so easy'. What did that take... thirty seconds?

“Let's see how far in you are,” Harding suggested as he stood to look at the monitor. He placed one of legs squarely between hers and stood with his crotch directly in her face. It was laughable to her.

Tori made it quite visible she was staring at his pants.

“My Justin! You certainly live up to your last name,” she expressed, as she continued to stare.

His reaction was expected, as he pulled her to her feet and pushed her against the wall. He quickly unbuttoned her blouse and pulled one of her breasts from her bra. He began feeding on it like a starving baby, and she let him, breathing heavily and gyrating her body against his. It hid her movements as she reached into her braid and pulled out the syringe. She let him continue to smear her flesh with his stupid saliva as she uncapped the syringe and shot a bit out making sure she didn't accidentally kill the guy with an air bubble in the wrong place, even though she felt like it. She took hold of his neck with her left hand and pinched a bit of skin as she forced his head deeper into her breast. With that she plunged the needle into the spot she was pinching. Before he realized it, she stuck him and administered the burandanga. He pulled back surprised, slapping the back of his neck with his hand, and backed away from her.

“You fucking bitch. What did you do?” he cried.

“What you've been doing to me for a couple of weeks now. We'll see how you like it,” Tori ridiculed the vice president.

By that time he was already feeling the effects of the burandanga and was quieting.

“Sit,” Tori demanded as she straightened herself out and threw a pad of paper at him. “This is what I want from you. You will confess to everything that's been going on here, and name everyone involved in this company, all those military people and politicians involved, and any money men associated with this orchestration. I want you to say aloud, what you write, while I videotape you.”

When he was done, he just sat there while Tori went to his photo copier and ran a couple of hundred copies.

“Now I want you to destroy anything on your computer, or anyone else' s, that have evidence of me doing anything under your direction. If there are any addresses or ISP addresses or codes to access what you have put in me from any computer, I want it erased and destroyed. I don't care how you do it. Is that understood?” she questioned.

“Yes,” he acknowledged.

He went about first on his computer wiping the entire drive clean, three times. She watched as he pulled a hammer from his drawer and went to town smashing everything. Satisfied he was doing what she wanted, she left the stack of copies on his desk and placed the original confession in her pocket.

“That's good. Once you've destroyed everything you need to, you can distribute these copies to as many workers here as you can... none of the managers. Then when you're done, you can curl up and go to sleep in Shoemaker's office, on her couch,” she instructed finally, and left.

Tori picked up the car and began driving immediately with the case Harding gave her. She'd be too early getting to her rendezvous, but thought it better to do so under the circumstances. She'd catch a nap in the car and find an all night dinner to grab something to eat and suck down lots of coffee. She knew people would be getting in around eight at Aerospace Controls and it might be somewhere around eight thirty the shit would start hitting the fan. The powers that be, not knowing what was going on might try to stop her transfer at eight. They'd likely call her first, and then try to get Mansing. If they felt compromised, they'd probably try to stop him from giving her the case in his possession. Tori wanted to know exactly what was in it now.

She changed clothes and sponge bathed in a little dinner she found, just a few miles from her rendezvous. She's be oozing coffee from her pores by the time she ate something with Mansing but she'd eat something light anyway. Two breakfasts were a bit much in one day.

Eventually it was time to leave. She left early, hoping Mansing would at least be on time, and at best, early, so she'd be ahead of the pack at Aerospace.

“Hi Mr. Mansing? Tori Alexander, Aerospace Controls,” Tori introduced herself.

“Well they told me I'd be pleasantly surprised but they didn't say how much so,” he smiled charmingly as he shook Tori's hand.

“Well, thank you, Mr. Mansing,” she answered..

“Please call me, Chuck,” he asked her, as he called the woman with the coffee pot over to the table.

“Your waitress will be over in a minute,” the woman said solemnly, needing a couple of cups herself.

“If you could just get us started here. I live on caffeine,” he informed Tori.

“I know what you mean. Being in the army got me really hooked on it,” she told him.

“Somehow I can't imagine you in army boots. I know the mess tents always keep a huge pot going,” he answered.

“We might as well get business out of the way first while we wait for our waitress. Here's the case. I need your signature here,” she told him as she slipped the paper and pen in front of him, Then she pushed the brief case next to him.

He in turn, gave her papers and gave her the case he had been carrying. Tori wanted to take possession before any calls came in. That way it was now hers, and it was. It was none too soon when her phone began to ring. It was Shoemaker. She ignored it.

Meanwhile the waitress came to the table and they placed their orders,. Her phone rang again.

“Do you have to get that?” Mansing asked.

No, I'm in a meeting with you and I wouldn't be so rude as to interrupt that with another call,” she told him, hoping that if they tried calling him now, he would return the favor.

Sure enough, no sooner had the light on her cell phone subsided, there was a call on Mansing's phone. He didn't even bother to look but continued talking to Tori about what part his company played in all this new space frontier.

After breakfast Tori sat in her car looking at the brief case. No one ever gave her a key or the combination number for a case. That must have come later after her injection, so nothing was ever written down. Some cases with sensitive information, were booby trapped if you tried forcing them open without the correct combination or key. She wondered if this might be one of them here. She couldn't pick the lock so she'd have to stop at a hardware store to get something to pop the lid. Then she thought she'd give it a try... start moving the numbers, listening and feeling the movement of the little wheels, rotating them slowly. Within minutes she unlocked the case. 'Wow! I did it. Who knew?' she said to herself. Opening the lid to look inside, hinted at the contents of the other cases she traded for the ones she left. Inside was a black leather outfit, a couple of six by ten photos of her mark, and a pistol with a silencer plus two magazines. There was also an envelop of cash... two thousand dollars. It would come in handy but she wondered if it was for her in the past or someone else. Then she realized after today getting money out of her account might be tricky without revealing her whereabouts. She had no idea after three weeks of work how much money was in her account. She'd have to use ATMs to access money. Withdraws would be limited to a daily amount but it would also provide people, her location.

She looked at the picture. It was a man, maybe ten years older than herself... a good looking guy by the name of Everett Ambersole, who like the one guy last week, had a conservative podcast. The numbers following him were exploding since the assassination of Tod Spelling. He talked about the killing openly on his podcast. His belief was, it was an organized plot to kill his fellow pod caster. Most of the call-ins felt it was an organized assassination too, rather than an irate listener, as the authorities were attributing. There was a note on the back of the one six by ten that read, 'Shananigan's' six thirty. It would still be light out then. Tori didn't like that, but obviously that was his dinner arrangement. She looked at her phone as it began ringing again from Shoemaker. Over nine hours before her next rendezvous. She thought about it and decided to answer the call just to see what was said.

“Hello?” Tori answered.

“Thank God I finally got you. Your six thirty has been canceled until further notice. I wanted to stop you from picking up the case from Mansing but that's obviously not going to happen. I assume you have it?” she asked.

“It's right here with me in my car. I was just getting ready to go to the hotel to check in,” she lied. She didn't trust any of them now, and with what she instructed Hardy do, she wasn't about to go to the hotel.

“Alright, Tori, just drive back here with the case. You should be back here by early afternoon. I hate to have you do all that driving in one day, but we'll make it up to you,” Shoemaker told her.

'Yeah, she'd make it up to me. I'd probably end up in the same hole next to Harding,' she and Harding had both compromised their positions, and these deranged control freaks were the last to want that.

She decided to try and locate this Ambersole guy... and where his pod cast was. If she could locate him maybe she could get to him early and warn him. Even without her making the hit tonight, it might not be safe for him to go to the restaurant.

She spent several hours on her computer trying to find him. She could listen to back copies of his broadcasts but nothing else. Only email contact information. Even his mailing address was a post office box. Like Spelling he kept his location secret. Some would say these guy were paranoid but it wasn't paranoia that made them do what they did... it was self preservation.

By three o' clock Tori realized she wasn't going to find out where he lived or the site of his podcast, which was most probably the same. She went to a nearby mall to just window shop when her phone began ringing. It was Shoemaker, probably wondering where she was. She could answer and say she was tied up in traffic but that might buy her an hour. By five they'd know she went rogue on them. Not knowing exactly what happened with Harding, Tori may or may not have gotten the blame.

Tori was walking by an electronics store, where there was a wall display of flat screen televisions tuned in to different stations. A couple of them showed Aerospace Controls so she watched. Not able to hear any audio, she went in.

“Hello may I help you?” the young sales man asked as sexily as he could to Tori.

“Get that station on. That's my work I'm supposed to go back to . What's happening?” she questioned. The young man turned up the audio immediately.

They both stood there watching and listening to the report. There was tons of fire damage to her floor. The idiot Harding must of set fire, either to destroy everything like she commanded him to, or burn the hard copy records in his files, and accidentally set fire to the place. Then a picture of Harding appeared on the screen. It was announced he died of smoke inhalation, after being rushed to the hospital early Monday morning. 'Early Tuesday morning and she left him around eight Monday evening,' she remarked to herself. Either the fire smoldered all night and finally smothered him or they conveniently killed him when they realized he destroyed everything of consequence. 'Did any of the confession copies get out?' she wondered, hoping someone would at least contact the media, not that they would actually report anything going on here.

“Can I interest you in something?” the salesman asked.

“No thanks,” Tori answered walking out of the store. Her phone began ringing again and it was Shoemaker. She let it go.

'Meeting at six thirty with Ambersole might be pushing it. They still want him dead and they're going to want me dead,' Tori told herself. 'Sending someone in now to kill two birds with one stone would be a smart move. If I found out everything last night from Harding and went on the run, I wouldn't have kept the meeting this morning. No, I picked up the contact information so I'd likely try to warn the mark.'

A single solitary figure walked across 'Shenanigan's Restaurant' floor. It was a glorified pub with good food. A lot of locals in the D.C. Area went there to relieve the stress of the week on Fridays, but Ambersole went there every day. As a bachelor, and making decent money off his pod cast, it was an easy solution to cooking.

“Everette Ambersole? Mind if I sit down?” Tori asked as she took a seat before he answered.

“I was going to say anyone dressed liked that can sit anywhere she wants,” Ambersole commented.

“Listen, we may not have time to be cute, so just listen,” Tori warned, placing her brief case on the table and opening it up in front of him. He saw his picture and the revolver laying inside and immediately got nervous. “I was sent here to kill you... but I'm not going to...” she began.

“That's nice... can I relax now?” he asked sitting back some.

“I work for a company that had me on a mind control drug inducing me to assassinations over the past week. They've been in the news. Here's an original copy of a confession I got from Justin Harding from Aerospace Controls explaining it all, and the names involved. You'll see Dillon Bates is at the top. They've been eliminating people contrary to their cause and they've been using me. By now they know I've gone rogue on them. Since the hit was scheduled for six thirty, with you being here, they probably assume I'd be here too, to warn you. It's their best chance to kill both of us at the same time. They might put out another hit tonight,” she explained.

“Did Jeremy put you up to this?” Ambersole asked, suddenly becoming relaxed and laughing. Tori couldn't believe she heard him right.

“Listen, I am not joking, you'd better...” she began warning him when another more sinister looking figure walked quickly across the floor towards them. She noticed his mannerisms and became alerted. “Shit, I think he's here... in the black raincoat and hat wearing a surgical mask...”

She picked up the revolver in the case, and pointed towards him, blocked by the lid. No one in the restaurant could see the gun and neither could this guy. Maybe it was nothing, but if he took either of his hands out of his pockets holding something, he wouldn't get to use it. She pulled the hood out of her collar over her head and partly pulled the draw cord.

Without acknowledging his presence, he came to the table and lifted his right hand out of his pocket. It held an automatic hand gun. Before the tip of the gun came out of the pocket, she fired three shots into his chest. The momentum of his walk carried him further and his head crashed onto the table. Then he dropped to the floor, his right arm bent oddly, holding the gun. Ambersole soared into reality realizing Tori' s sincerity. Some tried to hide in the restaurant. Others ran for the door, while some just screamed.

“I have to go,” Tori announced as she dropped her gun in the case and closed it. She pulled the draw cord the rest of the way to hide her face.

“Meet me at 223 Lumen Road in two... make it three hours. The cops are slow asking questions. I will be there, even if I'm late,” he told her, as she quickly exited the place.

It was eight thirty when Tori got into place across the street from 223 Lumen Road. She waited under a tree at the end of a dark alley, not able to be seen. She got there early in case the meeting turned into some kind of setup. This way she could see it unfold. Nine thirty came and went. Ambersole hadn't shown yet. Maybe something happened, or maybe he got scared. She didn't blame him if he was. He was a marked man now. The ones behind all this weren't finished with him. Their kind were obsessive and they would be obsessive now to get rid of him. It's funny, others on their side seeing this kind of condition never seemed to realize it was a mental problem.

Finally, at almost ten o'clock a car pulled up and parked in front of 223 Lumen. Tori watched a few minutes and decided she was in the clear. so she crossed the street. It was Ambersole and he noticed her walking from the opposite way around to get into the other side of the car.

“Sorry I'm so late. I must have the same questions four times with the police. They figure you're the one that they've been looking for in those other cities, and you're some kind of professional hit man. I think they have their eye on me now since I'm still breathing. That other guy came in the restaurant ready to kill somebody, but that seemed to be lost in the questioning” Ambersole said.

“Take that paper I gave you, I'd keep the original, but get it on your podcast. Scan it and get digitals out to your listener base and tell them to forward it too as many people out there that they can. These people don't like publicity and the best thing you can do toprotect yourself, is expose them. You can't hide now,” she warned him.

“I agree but now you're the big problem with them. What are you going to do?” he asked.

“Fight them. I'll use their own means against them,” she told the pod caster thinking of the thirteen or so doses she still had in the syringe she carried.

“Listen, the whole town is looking for you. You can stay at my place, it's where I live and work, completely off grid. You need a place to stay, and you'll be safe. No one can contact me there, and it's close by. Stay as long as you like, until you're comfortable leaving. I owe you big time,” he told her.

“Alright. I'll take you up on that,” Tori answered.

Ambersole drove down the dark street. There were few lights there, so Tori could only imagine the crime in the area. D.C. Was known for it's crime, like Hawaii was known for pineapples. He turned then and went a few blocks to the end of the residential area of city row homes, bordering a warehouse district. The warehouses seemed to be in decay. No businesses appeared to exist there for years. The last home on the block was attached to a warehouse more recently.

“I own this row home and the one attached to it on the other side facing the other street. I also own this warehouse and the one next to it. I have mail go to my private P.O. Box and then forwarded to the address on the other side, of this place, where it's dropped through the front door mail slot. I go through a back door in this place, through the wall to pick up the mail. It takes a day or two longer to get my mail but it's safer with all the crazies out there,” he explained as they sat in the car a minute. Then he pushed a button and a garage door on the commercial building, opened. He pulled through, and parked as the door closed again.

“This is really cloak and dagger,” Tori commented.

“Just being safe. Even in this bad neighborhood I've never had a problem. I think sometimes it even helps keeping the anonymity. I don't even use the front door on the place. I use this side door I put in from this building,” he explained as he showed her how to open and close it and they entered.

“I'm really impressed. It's simple but ingenious. How could they find you?” Tori asked.

“They'd have to follow me. I'm still trying to figure out how they got that picture you have in your brief case. None of this stuff is in my name. But that's another secret,”

Tori looked around at the nicely furnished place. It was like the old time mafia guys living in ghettos where the building looked run down and ugly. Then when you got inside they were elegant with famous paitings hanging on the walls, and rare carved marble statues on pedestals in the corners.

“I can see why I'd be safer here than anywhere,” Tori commented.

“Come on upstairs. There are five bedrooms here so take your pick... three on the second floor and two on the third floor. Just to let you know there's an exit door in the closet on the third floor into the other place, if you need to exit quickly. I probably sound like some paranoid freak because I've over done it, but hey I'm still here after a hell of a lot of death threats,” he told her.

He took her directly to the third floor. Both bedrooms were huge. He showed her the closet and it's back door, which was all but invisible. Pull the hanger bar, it unlocks the door. Just shut it on the other side.

“I like this room I'll stay here,” she told him.

“Good choice, you'd get out of her before me if all hell breaks lose. The only problem is you have to use the bathroom on the second floor,” he told her.

“That's not a problem. I never go to the bathroom and I don't bathe,” she said seriously before she started laughing at the look on Ambersole's face.

“I was going to say, I assume you don't date either,” he commented. “The tub here is a big claw foot, cast iron thing. The water pressure' s great so you can fill it quickly, but I recommend putting a lot hotter water than you want in it, to warm it up. Once its hot though, you can probably go to sleep in there for two hours and the water will still be pretty warm,” he informed her.

“God... don't tell me that or I'll be taking over your bathroom,” Tori relayed to him.

“That's fine. There's another bathroom downstairs I can use, if you've taken over the tub. Enjoy it,” he told her.

“What do I call you?...Ambersole...Everette, what?” she asked.

“Friends just call me Ev. I assume we're friends now after all we have the same people after us,” he told her. “Usually I'm doing my pod cast now. I start it at nine to twelve live, but I have it set to air a rerun if I can't get to it in time. That's what' s airing now if you turn your television on upstairs. Tomorrow is going to be a lulu with everything I found out today.”

“Yeah a lot of people are going to be pissed, knowing you and I have hooked up,” Tori surmised.

“Good... they should be with the shit they do and try to force down the rest of our throats,” he announced angrily, ready to fight. “I'm going to bed. You'll find everything you need in the bathroom closet and the medicine cabinet including razors and a snakebite kit.”

Ev went down the hall to his bedroom and closed the door. Tori was ready for a nice hot bath and began the tub water, making it really hot. She looked in the closet and extracted a couple of fresh towels and a washcloth and set them by the tub. Then she went to the large medicine cabinet and the first thing to catch her eye was the snake bite kit.

'Oh my God... he actually has one in there,' she thought shaking her head. 'Maybe that's what I should have had, starting my job with Aerospace Controls with all the snakes slithering around that place.'

Even on the third floor, when she awakened, she smelled it... freshly made coffee, wafting up the stairwell and in through her door. This room on the third floor was completely private. She felt like she was there alone except she could hear the occasional rattle coming from Ev in the kitchen. She dressed and then stopped by the bathroom. Damn she didn't have a toothbrush. 'What are the chances?' she thought opening up the closet and looking in. Sure enough, there was a pile of unopened toothbrushes... after all anyone having a snake bite kit here in D.C. stood a good chance of having extra toothbrushes in their closet.

“Good morning, Tori!” Ev announced seeming to be a morning person. “Fresh ground Dark Sumatran in the pot. I hope you like it dark and strong.”

“Do I ever! Let me at it,” she said, grabbing the extra coffee cup sitting on the drain. She poured it and took a sip. “My God that is the best coffee, I swear I ever had. Where did you get it?”

“The secret is buying as good brand in whole bean. People make the mistake of refrigerating it, but that destroys the taste... more so if you grind it. I keep the beans in a dry, cool place and grind it fresh when I want it. And I refuse to make it weak,” he added.

“I'll drink the whole pot,” his house guest warned. “It's incredible.”

“OK, I'm cooking slices of country ham and frying green tomatoes. Biscuits are in the oven and in a few minutes, we'll have red eye gravy,” he announced.

“Holy crap, you don't cook like this all the time, do you?” Tori inquired.

“I'd be as big as a house if I did. I'm just doing this to show off because I like to cook, but only when I have company... which come to think of it... is never,” he commented lifting the ham out of the iron skillet he was cooking in.

“You're a serious cook if you're using iron to cook with,” Tori commented.

“Everything tastes better in it and it's a lot healthier than aluminum and that coated stuff,” Ev told her as he put the ham out and then a bowl of reddish gravy. Then he pulled out a tray of buttermilk biscuits from the oven and put them in a bowl and onto the table. He finished putting out a jar of molasses and one of honey before he sat down.

“What a meal. It looks like it's right out of the south,” Tori commented.

“Some years ago I lived with a black girl. We were supposed to get married. I liked to cook but she taught me about southern cooking, and I fell in love with it almost as much as her,” Ev commented suddenly going somber.

“What happened?” Tori asked wanting to know why a smart, good looking guy like Ev, was still single at his age.

“Well, let's just say some people don't like smart, conservative black girls that are involved with politically active white guys. She was murdered at a rally one night, but it was ruled as an accident. It wasn't an accident. The guy, a senator's son, got off free. That's when I started the pod cast,” he explained.

“I'm so sorry. Well, I plan on doing something about these people,” Tori responded eating a biscuit she soaked in red eye gravy and rolled her eyes.

“You know I was thinking about that. We have the same interests, but with different talents. Maybe we should join forces and change the world. I have plenty of room here and we can watch each other's backs. You can be my leg man. I make plenty of money with the pod cast and I'll pay you a salary as an employee,” he offered.

“That's an interesting proposition. There are some wealthy powerful people that would like to get both of us and that would make it nearly impossible for them to track me,” Tori guessed.

“Like me... they'd have to track you visually or somehow get a transmitter on one of us. If we're both careful we can keep them from doing that,” Ev told her. “I can get information from my whistle blowers out there and you can get it from your own sources for the podcast.

“I have this implant I told you about that's empty now, where they delivered that mind control drug. I have another one in my skull over the right brow. There are neural connections between it and different parts of my brain... and my optic nerves. They could see and hear what I did. I don't know exactly how they connected to me, but they did. I had all that information destroyed when I ran. I'd be willing to hook that part back up, so you can monitor me. It might come in handy. I trust you,” she told him, and that's usually what transpires in a person. There is either a feeling of immediate trust or not. Sometimes it takes a while for trust to develop but true unconditional trust... the feeling will be there almost immediately.

“I can get someone I know and trust, he's a whistle blower for one of the agencies, to take a look. It probably emits a frequency. He can measure it and probably set my computer up to search for that frequency and connect to it,” Ev recommended.

“Are you sure you can trust him?” Tori asked.

“Hey... he's been feeding me sensitive information for two years. If he screws up, I can just as easily rat him out. He has just as much to lose as I do” Ev explained to her. “I'll give him a call... meanwhile you sounded like you had something in mind. Can I ask what you're going to do?”

“I'm going to start at the top. You know the old adage about cutting the snake's head off, eventually the rest of the body dies? There's the money and power at the top that will stop most of this right away, once I cut the head off. The rest of the list is retribution for the people they had me kill and I'm sure many more under their authority.”

“Dillon Bates?” Ev inquired, knowing the answer before he asked.

“Dillon Bates...” Tori answered, taking another sip of that incredible coffee, but maybe only her taste buds were sharper.

“I'm with you all the way...”Ev promised.


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