Agent X pressed the CALL button again and again, hoping Janelle or one of the frantic guards would let them into Sebastian’s office. The tight-strung police officer– Chase, she reminded herself– drummed his feet on the hardwood floor behind her. She knocked on the door. It was made of chrome metal, solid enough that no agent in their right mind would risk kicking it in. She could break an ankle, or worse, one of her high heels.
She pressed the CALL button again, and grew frustrated by the sound of static. Chase coughed behind her. “What?” she whirled around.
“If you’d let me try, I have the access code.”
Agent X paused and heat flooded into her cheeks. She suddenly felt very small. Part of her wanted to shout at him that he could have told her sooner, and another part wanted to curl up in shame. She stepped aside silently, which was no easy feat.
Chase muttered something about Janelle as he punched in the access code and strolled through the door. Agent X walked behind him, staring at the crisp line of his fresh haircut. They passed by Janelle’s empty desk, and Agent X couldn’t blame Janelle for going home. Leave this to the professionals.
The alarms finally shut off, creating an eerie ringing as they entered Sebastian's office. In his office was a bookcase with a secret door, which had been propped open with a coat rack. Agent X took in the crime scene. Along the far side of Sebastian’s secret office, a bunch of his TV screens were black or filled with static. The ones that were still working showed Heathrow Heights from a dozen angles. Security personnel were taping off the area in the middle of the room. A chair and a small desk had been knocked over, with batteries and miscellaneous items scattered everywhere, showing there’d been a fight. One of the ceiling skylights had been smashed in. Agent X noticed the glass had shattered outward, which meant someone had the brains and brawn and technology to blow bulletproof glass sky-high.
As she connected the dots, a security guard ran toward them, and Chase flashed his badge quickly. “Detective Chalmers, CCPD.” He said it with such authority that Agent X was reluctantly impressed. The security guard, who had been ready to tase them, dropped his arm with relief.
“We’re so glad you’re here,” said the guard. “I have no idea who could have done this!”
“I do,” Agent X said grimly, adjusting her fake glasses. It was obvious. Who else had the power and motive to capture Sebastian from his penthouse? Who else had the technology to sneak in, break bulletproof glass, and abduct him from underneath her nose?
Her stomach became a sickening mixture of rage and betrayal. Triumphia had sent another agent, other than her, to retrieve Sebastian, and the agent had completed the mission in the time it took her to find out where Sebastian lived. Why would they sabotage her mission like that? Would she have to return to the Citadel, tail between her legs, and reveal to everyone she’d failed? This was her first mission outside of Triumphia, and it was bound to be her last.
“You know who kidnapped Sebastian?” Chase asked.
But Agent X could barely hear him. She’d been so excited to become Braya, to put on a costume and live a normal life like she’d always wanted, and now the tablecloth had been ripped out from underneath her. The mission was ruined. Sebastian was a bad guy, but it didn’t make sense why they wanted him so badly. There were plenty of bad guys out there. Why couldn’t they let her have this one? Why her?
Chase asked the question again. Agent X took a deep breath and closed her eyes. “I’ve heard of this place called Triumphia where they have the technology to do this. Create magnetic fields to make Sebastian’s drones malfunction. Blow bulletproof glass sky-high. This is Malum's work, I can feel it.”
“Huh,” Chase said. “I’ve never heard of Triumphia before.”
“That’s because they don’t want anyone to know they exist.”
“And how do YOU know about them?” His eyes were piercing, and she wished he were a common citizen, not a police officer who was trained in interrogations and observation.
“I work in Goliath’s upper management,” Agent X lied smoothly. “We have a couple manufacturing deals with Triumphia’s ruler.”
Chase narrowed his eyes, but he seemed to accept this as a logical explanation. Agent X was glad she’d planned her cover story ahead of time. Who knows what Sebastian’s huge network of friends and business partners would do if they found out Agent X was from the very same army that kidnapped him? She could be tortured or imprisoned. They could even force her into the Memory Maker and turn her into a whole different person. Agent X liked who she was. She had worked for everything she had, and she had the power to finish this mission. This was a minor setback. She would deliver Sebastian to Triumphia’s ruler herself. She just needed a plan.