As a genetically enhanced assassin for a secret agency, Cal has one mission: to recapture the sultry rogue superspy who calls herself Trinity. Yet when he finds her, Cal will risk everything to keep her out of his superiors' deadly hands.
Despite a computerlike brain and the ability to heal herself, Trinity has no memory of her life before the agency. She's desperate to uncover her identity. Every bit of trust she places in gorgeous, sexy Cal seems to bring back a little of her humanity. But her secrets might destroy them both, before the agency even gets a chance.
|Product dimensions:||4.10(w) x 6.50(h) x 0.80(d)|
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Part One: Finding Trinity
Noah Caldwell had good news, for once, so he didn't wait to make the daily report. When the brief codescramble of encryption was over, its whine through the earpiece enough to make him wince, he didn't waste time on niceties, either. "Bingo, sir."
"What?" Control sounded irritated, but that was usual. The past few months had been one irritation after another, and even Gibraltar Two getting off the ground with flying colors hadn't sweetened the old man's temper.
Caldwell himself was of the opinion that you had to be prepared to overcome obstacles to get near anything worth having, and it had served him well.
It got him to his major's acorn, at least, before he'd been put at Control's disposal.
And he'd performed well. He was Control's fireman now, rushing around the front to patch up holes. The chance for further advancement was very goodif he didn't screw it up. "We have a security breach."
"Where?" Control didn't waste time getting angry. If it was bad news, Caldwell would own up to it soon enough.
Still, Caldwell reminded himself to step carefully. His heart hammered. He shifted his weight fractionally, looking out through the smoked glass of the office wall at the banks of computers, shuffling paper, glowing screens and uniformed people drinking overboiled coffee, collating, speaking into ugly but efficient headsets or phones. The only difference between this space and a telemarketer's call center were the guards at the two doors, side-arms on display and their expressions granite-stony. "Beta Four."
"Pocula Flats." Control caught on, but not as quickly as he usually did. The old man must be tiredor worried. "That's"
"It's our girl. The gamble paid offnow we have a location." Caldwell kept his tone even. The old man didn't like being interrupted, but would tolerate it in certain circumstances. If these didn't qualify, none did.
"If she hasn't already blown by now." The cigaretteroughened words rasped, even through encryption and auditory filters.
So Noah sprang his little surprise. "She hasn't. She didn't get everything she came for."
A long pause. Then careful, even and measured words. "How do you know?"
"Because that's how the trap was set, sir. I'm requesting on-site assets and full authorization."
Another short silence. There was a clickprobably a lighter. "You have both. Don't screw this up, Caldwell." Control sounded weary, but also mildly pleased, which was a banner occasion in and of itself.
Agent Three, the crown jewel of the Gibraltar I program, was a high-priority recapture. And she had, after months of keeping just ahead of the game, committed her first mistake. All Caldwell had to do was bring her in alive, and his promotion, not to mention survival, was assured.
There were other reasons to bring her in, too. More personal ones.
He still remembered her walking across a slick rooftop, gliding across ice like a panther, all fluid grace. Her wide dark eyes and her slim shoulders. He'd always liked blondes, and this one was a doozy.
"No, sir." Noah Caldwell hung up, smiling.
The cereal aisle was by far the best. Bright boxes soothed herall standardized sizes, arranged with a clear plan, bright sugary kids' breakfasts just below adult eye-level, healthful blandness up top, the very bottom reserved for generics and other alternatives. The bags of generics in their bins were a little troublesome, you couldn't quite get them perfect, but a little deviation was to be expected even in the most smoothly running system. Instead of overheating over a natural law, it was better to build some tolerances into every complex pattern.
Even, and especially, the ones inside your skull. It had taken her some time to arrive at that conclusion, but it worked wonderfully.
Trinity ran her finger down a line of General Mills productstheir finest corn-syrup-laden offeringstilted her blonde head and narrowed her dark eyes slightly. Constant Muzak, bland and inoffensive, seemed louder when the store was deserted; whether it was a function of selective attention or the absence of warm round human bodies to soak up stray sound waves was an open question, saved for when she needed calculations to stave off shutdown. Fluorescents buzzed overhead, outside a city slept or dozed, and inside this concrete cube a rogue United States government resource broke down cardboard with mechanical grace, slicing with a box knife then applying just the right amount of force to snap any remaining tape as the headache returned and her ribs ached.
She'd slightly miscalculated the fall onto the trailer of a passing semi to exit the Pocula Flats installation, and perhaps one of her ribs had cracked.
The Gibraltar virus's strengthening of her natural healing processes would soothe that pain in short order, but the headaches were growing more frequent and nothing eased them. With enhanced metabolism, pain medication was burned through extremely quickly unless she took a massive dose of opiates, and the concurrent risk of being incapacitated was unacceptable each time she ran the relevant equations inside her skull.
Trinity suppressed a useless sigh. You were supposed to work down the aisle and stock as you went, not break open boxes by size and waste time going back and forth, but Trinity had calculated any time lost backtracking was made up when she heaved the already-sorted cardboard into the binder, where it would be turned into a tightly wrapped brick of recyclable plant fiber. Perhaps the binder appreciated her thoroughness, and she was certain she had more in common with its metal jaws and brisk movements than she did with Tengermann, the night manager, or even with her fellow stockers.
Her hands moved without much conscious direction, making sure brightly colored cardboard blocks were brought flush to the edges, each shelf arranged for maximum aesthetic pleasure. It irritated her, to work slowly enough the other stockers wouldn't notice anything strange. East Felicitas, squatting like a surprise mushroom in the middle of parched heat-glimmering flats, drew from a labor pool large enough that a single woman with a disposable SSN could pass anonymously, and poor enough that most people were too exhausted to mind anyone else's business, too occupied with their own. This Sav-Mor Supermarket on the west side was the perfect cover.
Military employees and families from the Pocula Flats basean hour's drive away, behind its razor wire and its two visible gatehouseswere the only reason this burg had swelled to its present size. Anyone who had the proper identification shopped at the PX; anyone who could afford it shopped on the north side of town, rarely venturing past the railroad tracks into the southwest quadrant, where the ranchero music blared, the street vendors clustered and the fields beyond the pavement held coyotes both human and otherwise at night.
It was Pocula Flats that Trinity was interested in. Not the training ground or the labyrinthine medical buildings, though the latter probably held something useful and was on her secondary list of objectives. She didn't care for the historical markers scattered all through the area or the scars of past nuclear testing, either, beyond wondering if radioactive waste still lingered in the air and what the Gibraltar virus would do when faced with such a stressor.
No, it was the highly secure northern quadrant of the base she had fixed on, with its ancient brick buildings hosting basement warrens of ceiling-to-floor file cabinets. It was time for the second and last try; the process of elimination meant the files had to be here. If she wanted to answer any of the questions crowding her before they were rendered academic by her own demise, this was her only chance.
"Yo, Alice!" Eddie appeared at the end of the aisle, next to the instantsinstant oatmeal, instant breakfast, Pop-Tarts and other easy foods created for convenience. They were her least favorite, so she did them last before she dragged the cardboard back and returned to repair the damage done daily to the baking aisle. "Goin' on break."
Why tell me? I'm not a manager. She nodded, a single efficient bob of her head. Her hair, scraped back in a ponytail as usual, felt like strawshe'd stripped the black dye from the indifferently trimmed mane just prior to beginning this job. All dye eventually flaked free, her hair not accepting the color as a normal woman's would.
The patchy coverage such simple cosmetic applications afforded was protective coloration she may not need, since scrawny washed-out blondes were a dime a dozen. Camouflage was also afforded by the scratchy, stained red polyester vest and the jeans night stockers were allowed to wear. After all, nobody saw them except for blur-eyed insomniacs, addicts, or the occasional blinking, hair-mussed parent in desperate need of formula, diapers or an emergency bottle of baby Tylenol.
No customer took any notice of the muscle on Trinity's slim frame or the sloppiness of some of her coworkers. She was an invisible appliance, an anonymous drone, and that made it safe.
"It's cooling off out there," Eddie persisted. "You wanna catch a smoke with me?"
I don't smoke. Why is he asking? She spared him a single glance, from his shaggy head to his broad but softening shoulders, the top of his collared shirt undone and his sad, worn-down work sneakers splattered with rancid milk from the latest disaster back in the dairy section. He seemed to have more than a few problems with milk crates, racks and the eggs, as well.
His steady staring, his attention to herthey were both troubling. A surreptitious sniff gave her the news that he had showered before work and put on a dab of cologneboth unique occurrences. His pheromones held an edgeacrid maleness, nervous sweat, the metabolizing of the cigarettes he'd already smoked tonightand a faint whiff of the micro-waved turkey potpie he'd had before his shift warring with a cloud of burned coffee.
Every one of the stockers except Trinity drank gallons of boiled or sugar-laden, effervescent caffeine, and she had amused herself by calculating flow-through rates and uptake algorithms for a few days when she first started.
It helped keep her on track. Any calculation did. The deconstructing had slowed, or perhaps she was simply losing the acuity necessary to gauge its creeping progress. One more reason to hurry, but she wasn't finished planning yet. And if the past few months had taught her anything, it was that planning was indispensable, even if the plan had to be altered as soon as it engaged with reality.
It was a military cliché, but it had the advantage of being completely true.
"I have to finish this." She pitched it with carejust loud enough to be heard over the music, pleasant and neutral, her face stretching in the approximation of a smile most likely to seem unthreatening and regretful. "I'm behind."
"You? You're never behind." A little forced, nervous laughter. "You sure you don't want to? Just for a minute? It's a nice night."
His idea of a nice night was a hot, sterile breathlessness, with clouds of insects clustering street lamps and any mammal they could find in equal measure? The street lamps reminded them of the moon, probably, and the mammals were a rich food source, but understanding the insects did not manage to overcome the faintly sick unsteadiness Trinity was subject to when she thought of them.
Comprehension brought comfort, but no reduction of repugnance. The uneasiness was unwelcome and just another symptom of her decline.
"Gotta finish this." She took care to inject just enough of a drawl into the words to match the regional-local speech patterns. "Maybe later."
A rough raw pink of disappointment, like seeping, undercooked beef, spread through Eddie's scent. "Okay." He dawdled a little, but she went to work facing the instant oatmeals. He finally turned and plodded away. His chinos had a stain on the left side of the seat, shaped almost exactly like Florida.
Hopefully, it was coffee.
He was paying too much attention to her. She should quit here. But sitting in the apartment with nothing to calculate unless she turned the television on and began free-associating would only lead to disturbances, inside her head or the rest of her body. Ones she couldn't pinpoint, even with the viral load she carried giving her vastly heightened control over autonomics and a dose of high-grade neuroplasticity.
The virus. A strange sensation rippled down her back. She was coping, and she had tied off every loose end she could. She was hiding successfully and about to make her third and final run to find the records. Before she deteriorated completely, she would at least know who she was. Or had been, before the Gibraltar virus and the induction procedure erased everything but faint, misleading cortical ghosts.
For a moment white light filled her head, the raw scrape of a throat screamed dry, restraints at wrists, ankles, waist, elbows, knees
Stop. Remembering the induction was quite useless. Control yourself. Her sweat glands opened slightly. It took more effort than she liked to bring the various processes into harmony again. Homeo-stasis was such a delicate, difficult balance.
How did the uninfected handle such spikes in hormones, in internal activity, in sensation? How had she handled them before the induction? It was difficult to imagine when you had no memory for comparison.
Focus on the task at hand, Trinity. She redirected her attention, breathing deeply, and found she had placed a box of strawberry oatmeal in with the blueberry. The boxes were the same size, true, but it was a disturbing lapse, a bloodred blot in the middle of the blue.
She stood for a few moments, trembling in her serviceable hiking boots, before her hands moved to right it, placing the offending box with its own kind.
It was no use. She couldn't ignore the signs. De-construction was proceeding at its own insidious pace.
I am, she thought grimly, running out of time.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Good book that picks up where Agent Zero left off. Holly and Reese have escaped and are moving from place to place, trying to stay safe. Cal has also gone "off the grid", away from the agency that made him what he is. He is looking for the woman who saved their lives at the end of the last book. Trinity, or Agent Three as she was known, has also gone off on her own. In the previous book, she began as an apparent mindless drone, known for her intensely calculating brain but nothing else. The process that they all went through was supposed to have removed all emotion from them, and it appears to have succeeded with her. But as the book went on, kernels of self-will and flashes of emotion begin to appear. By the end, she has broken with her boss and has helped the rogues get away. Now Trinity has one mission. She wants to find her files and discover who she was before the process stole her memories. She has also been suffering from headaches and other strange symptoms and believes that the viral symbiosis is failing and tha she will soon die. She wants to find her answers before that happens. As determined as she is to remain free, the Division is even more determined to get her back. Caldwell has brought in another agent and also a computer hacker to track her down. Cal has also been looking for her ever since she saved them. Like Reese was to Holly, Cal is drawn to Trinity in ways he can't explain. All he knows is that he has to keep her safe. It's a tense time when the three groups collide, and things don't look good at all for Trinity. Cal's rescue of her was a relief, but they still had a long way to go. Trinity has a hard time believing that Cal wants to save her. All she can think of are the things she did as the boss man's assistant, things that resulted in peoples' deaths. She holds herself responsible for the death of the woman that Cal had been seeing, and believes that he would hate her if he knew. I loved Cal's protectiveness and how he is willing to do anything to keep her safe. He is puzzled over her belief that she is going to die, as all he sees is the way the ability to feel is returning to her. I especially loved the scene with the milkshake and how it increases his desire to give her everything. The final confrontation comes when Trinity slips away from Cal in order to continue her quest. Reese and Holly show up to support and help him in his search for her. Even the other agent and Fray the hacker get their chance to help. Trinity is caught by Caldwell, who has an agenda of his own. What he put her through before he was taken down was terrifying and it was amazing that she survived. I loved the ending and seeing Trinity and Cal together. There was an interesting twist at the end, as Trinity found out a little bit about her past and the identity of the brains behind the program was revealed. It was left a little openended because he is still loose to wreak his havoc.