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The Intelligence Director
By Jessica Brody, Goñi Montes
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2013 Jessica Brody
All rights reserved.
The girl tasted like apathy and delusion. She lay perfectly still as he kissed her neck and lowered himself onto her.
Her stillness irritated him. He wanted a participant. Not a zombie.
"You like me," he whispered in her ear. "You want this."
Instantly her body responded. She wrapped her arms around him and pulled him closer. She opened her mouth to his kiss. She even moaned as his tongue slid between her teeth.
She felt amazing beneath him. Her slender frame inviting him into her. It had been far too long since he'd been with anyone. And he needed this. Needed it to stay focused. Needed it to do his job without feeling distracted every five seconds.
It was a stressful job. But this would help.
Plus, he told himself he was ultimately doing the scientists a favor. The persuasion serum was still in its early test phases. They hadn't irrefutably proved that it worked on humans yet. Well, now Raze had. This woman — a lab assistant from the Aerospace Sector — was clearly fully amenable to the power of his suggestion.
Not that he needed a woman to be completely mind-warped in order to be with her. He wasn't unattractive. But this was certainly cheaper than buying three rounds of drinks at some seedy bar. And decidedly faster.
Director Raze didn't have time for the chase. He had an entire research compound to watch over.
But a short break wouldn't hurt anyone. He was fairly certain the headquarters of Diotech Corporation would still be standing when he was done.
Which is why he'd had no qualms about deactivating all his comm devices before he slipped into the woman's room. Why he'd disconnected from the central network so he couldn't be tracked here. And, of course, why he'd temporarily cut the security feeds in the Residential Sector. If anyone were to investigate the gap in coverage, it could easily be blamed on a short-term systems malfunction.
In other words, he was alone.
He groaned into her mouth, running his hand down to her waist. He could feel her body stiffen at his touch but he quickly eased her softened mind with another suggestive whisper.
She instantly relaxed.
He pulled back long enough to study her features. It was a pretty face, framed by thin blonde hair. He wished her blue eyes didn't look quite so empty when they stared back at him, an unavoidable side effect of the serum, he supposed. But he was in no position to be choosy.
"Close your eyes," he commanded, and she did.
God, if only women in the real world were this easy. The last woman he'd been with had been a real piece of work. It was because of her Raze didn't do relationships anymore. Not that he had time for one. Intelligence Director and Head of Security at Diotech Headquarters was a full-time job. One that didn't come with much free time. If any.
Raze dipped his head to kiss the girl's neck, sighing at the supple feel of her skin.
Yes, he definitely deserved this.
The door beeped open just then and his chief operative, Agent Vas burst breathlessly into the room.
It clearly took a moment for Vas to make sense of what he had just interrupted, and once the comprehension registered, he blushed and turned his back to the scene.
"What the hell?" Raze bellowed. "What are you doing here? Get out! I'm busy!"
"I'm sorry, sir," Vas apologized, but he didn't leave. "There's been a situation. We've been trying to ping you but your comms are down."
"I went off-line," Raze growled. "Now get out before I throw your ass out."
But still Vas didn't move and Raze felt the familiar rage boil up inside of him. The same rage that had gotten him kicked out of the Army.
"You need to come back to the ICC with me now."
Raze balked at Vas's directive. Since when did he give Raze orders? Since never. Raze climbed off the woman's bed and started barreling toward his subordinate. "What did you say to me?"
Vas, still facing the door, cowered at the sound of Raze's angry footsteps but stayed firmly planted to the spot. "There's been a C9 breach," he shouted before Raze could reach him (and more than likely wring his neck).
This stopped Raze in his tracks. "A C9, you say?"
Vas nodded in the direction of the door. Raze could see the beads of sweat on the back of his agent's neck. He'd clearly been running around the sector looking for him. Most likely he'd followed him to the last spot the system had tracked him before he went off-line, and then had to resort to searching the old fashion way.
"Flux," Raze swore, grabbing his coat from a chair by the door. "Fine. Let's go."
He reluctantly followed Vas out of the room. But not before casting one final glance behind him at the woman lying on the bed, her eyes still closed, her breathing fast and shallow from their prematurely halted activities.
Now he supposed he'd just have to go back to buying women drinks in bars.
* * *
Agent Vas didn't want to lose his job. He liked it here. The hours were long but the pay was good. Plus, it came with free housing for his family, and free medical care for his eight-month-old daughter. If anyone was going to come up with a cure to the disease that warped her tiny bones, it was Diotech. And Vas would be right there when it happened.
Sure, the abundance of secrets around the compound was unnerving — and oftentimes insulting — but he knew if he just kept his head down and his nose clean, he'd have C9 clearance in no time. And then all of this confidentiality flux would be a thing of the past. He'd have full access to all the data. Including what went on in the Restricted Sector.
Vas knew it had to be something good if they went through so much trouble to keep it under wraps. Ninety-five percent of the employees here didn't even know it existed. And the ones who did probably thought it was just unused space. But Vas knew better.
You don't hire someone like Director Raze to protect unused space.
Vas had his guesses as to what they were hiding back there. Biological weapons for the government. A teleportation portal. Unicorns.
He admitted that some guesses were more likely than others.
There were very few C9 projects at Diotech. Which is why when the breach alarm came through his comm, he was fairly certain that it had something to do with the Restricted Sector.
And he knew that this was his big chance to prove himself worthy of a higher security clearance. If he could just stay quiet and follow orders, maybe Raze would throw him a bone. Maybe he'd need help resolving whatever the breach was. And maybe he'd ask Vas for assistance.
And Vas would be ready. He'd stay calm. He'd do as he was told. And whatever was revealed to him behind that security clearance, he would not react.
And he certainly wouldn't utter a word about what he'd just seen. What Raze did on his own time was his own business. An agent didn't get promoted around here by being a snitch.
He was deathly silent as he led Raze to the awaiting cart. The Director hopped in and gave the cart the order to bring him back to the ICC. Vas had to run and leap into the already-moving vehicle to avoid being left behind.
"Reactivate," Raze ordered his comms. "Sign on."
Vas stole glances of his director out of the corner of his eye, waiting for his reaction. As soon as he connected back to the network and received the download, he'd know what was happening. And his reaction would dictate how severe the breach was.
Vas could remember the last C9 breach they'd dealt with. A lone delivery boy had somehow managed to access the Restricted Sector. How? Vas hadn't a clue. Raze had taken the news uncharacteristically in stride. Calmly apprehending the harmless trespasser and transporting him directly to the memory labs.
The boy's memory was altered and it was as though the breach never happened.
The only evidence of the infringement was the two-hour lecture Raze got from the president of the company, and an increase in the amount of security surrounding the Restricted Sector.
It was never mentioned again.
"That mother glitching son of a bitch!" Raze bellowed beside him and Vas worried that the director's rage would fling him right out of the cart. He almost had the instinct to reach out and secure his arm around his boss. But he knew that would only irritate him further.
The cart glided to a stop in front of the Intelligence Command Center (known to its employees as simply the ICC), the base for all Diotech security, and Raze jumped out. "I'm going to kill that kid."
As Vas followed him into the building, he suddenly understood who Raze was talking about.
He'd been a thorn in Raze's side for months. The boy was only seventeen but somehow he'd managed to wreak more havoc on this compound than any other potential threat. He wasn't like the other "compound brats," as Raze liked to call them — sons and daughters of Diotech employees who had nothing better to do after school than run around the place causing trouble. Lyzender was the worst of them. So far he'd managed to break into seven different labs and destroy millions of dollars in research.
Raze had petitioned numerous times for a memory modification on the boy. Something that might help control him. But his requests were always denied. The boy's mother was just too far up the ladder. And had too much influence over the powers that be.
But what connection Lyzender Luman could possibly have to a C9 breach was beyond Vas. The boy had a history of breaking into C3 labs, or C5s at most. There was no way he'd ever be able to get access to a C9.
Vas was so caught up in his thoughts, he nearly slammed right into Raze's back. The director had halted mid-step. And when Vas glanced through the transparent walls of Raze's office, he understood why.
The president of Diotech was waiting for him. The tall, blonde man was sitting in one of the guest chairs, drumming his fingertips casually across the armrest. As though he were simply waiting for a regularly scheduled appointment.
Vas could feel Raze's body tense in front of him.
Raze ran a hand through his tousled hair and stood up a bit straighter before walking briskly toward the office.
"I assure you, everything is under control, Dr. Alixter," Vas could hear Raze say as he walked in.
"I'm afraid you've lost the ability to make such assurances," the cool-tempered man replied.
"We have measures built in for just this purpose," Raze argued. "We'll find her."
Vas's mind spun as he sat down at his desk alongside the dozens of other agents. He struggled to make sense of the snippet of conversation he'd had the unique privilege of overhearing.
He'd been certain Raze was talking about Lyzender Luman just a minute ago. Now he wasn't sure.
It wasn't until his gaze was met by the cold stare of Dr. Alixter's icy blue eyes that Vas realized he'd been gawking at the two men through the synthetic glass wall. He blinked and looked to the floor.
Dr. Alixter turned his flat gaze to the director, who understood. "Sorry," Raze mumbled, and swiped a fingertip along the surface of his desk. The door to the office sealed shut and the transparent dividers were no longer transparent.
When Vas looked up again, he found himself staring at the digital projection of a lifeless brick wall.
* * *
A single drop of sweat traveled a crooked path down Director Raze's back. Dr. Alixter always had a way of making him feel like a grain of sand. It was worse than any of his superiors in the Army. And that was saying a lot.
Alixter certainly didn't look happy to be here at two in the morning.
At least Raze could agree with him on that account.
Raze pressed his finger to the surface of his desk, accessing the primary tracking system. A map of the compound unfolded before him, taking up the entire surface of his desk. He moved his empty coffee cup, which was covering the Residential Sector, and for a flash of a moment, he thought about the lab assistant. The one he'd just paid a visit to. When this was all over he needed to make sure to clean up after himself there. He needed to make sure she didn't remember his face.
But he couldn't worry about that right now. He had higher priorities. Namely the missing girl.
His eyes scanned the length of the map, his chest tightening when he noted the absence of one very important blinking blue dot.
He pushed his finger against the intercom button. "VAS!"
He could see his subordinate jump on the other side of his office wall. The one-way transparency block had given him and Alixter privacy while still allowing Raze to keep an eye on his operatives.
"Vas," he repeated in a subtler voice. He reminded himself to remain calm. He couldn't let Alixter know just how panicked he was.
"Yes, sir?" his agent's shaky voice came back.
"Double-check all systems. Make sure there's been no signal interference. Or network disruption. Check all the backup systems as well. Report to me anything that looks unusual."
He watched his agent spin his chair toward his screens and get to work.
"Does this mean you think we've simply lost her signal?" Alixter asked, arching a single eyebrow.
God, Raze hated when he did that. On anyone else a simple eyebrow raise might look harmless. But on Alixter it was downright creepy.
"It means I'm exploring all options," Raze countered, wishing Alixter would get the glitch out of his office so he could actually figure this out. It was almost impossible to work with the president hovering over him like this.
"You're wasting valuable time," Alixter growled. "She's not inside compound walls. Will you just run the damn satellite search?"
Of course, Raze had thought to run the satellite search. The glowing orange button on his desk screen had been taunting him since he sat down. But he knew what would happen if he did run the sat search and it did reveal that she had somehow gotten outside of the compound walls.
It would mean his job.
Particularly if it was discovered why Raze hadn't found out about the breach until a good thirty minutes after it happened. If he hadn't been messing around in the Residential Sector with his comms off, the girl would still be here. He would have seen the alert the moment she stepped a single foot out of place.
So, no, he wasn't quite ready to run that search yet.
Raze lowered himself carefully into his chair. "It could be a systems failure, in which case she may not even be gone. Are you sure she's not just asleep?"
Well, that was the wrong thing to say.
Alixter's stare was like icicles raking across his skin.
"She's not asleep," he said, the words squashed between his clenched teeth. "Dr. Rio said he returned home to find her gone. He looked all over the Restricted Sector. There's no trace of her. And her tracking ID disappeared from all of our radars. What I want to know is how she managed to get past the outer security measures. The ones you swore were impenetrable."
"Luman," Raze spat under his breath.
"It's that damn Lyzender Luman. He's been a pain in my ass ever since he got here."
"Are you telling me a seventeen-year-old kid managed to break through a C9 security system? If that's the case, then I have sincere doubts about your methods."
Raze scoffed at this but didn't refute it. "Let me just finish running the system diagnostics and then we'll have a better idea of —"
"Oh, for glitch's sake," Alixter swore and before Raze could stop him, the president's pale white hand was launching toward his desk. His finger jabbed against the orange button.
Raze shut his eyes as the search engaged. Somewhere up in space, a satellite was beaming a tracking signal down to earth that would locate the girl's genetic implant and report her coordinates.
And any minute now it would reveal Raze's worst nightmare. That the girl really was gone.
That she had somehow managed to bypass his top-notch security system. The one he'd spent years developing and perfecting.
When he opened his eyes the surface of his desk had transformed. It now showed a much larger map, covering twenty square miles of barren desert. The compound had been reduced to a tiny, inconsequential square in the center.
And there was her blinking blue dot.
Traveling west along Route 72.
Raze could feel the walls of his office closing in on him. The room suddenly seemed no bigger than a nanoparticle. Alixter activated Raze's intercom. "Agent Vas. Get the director a hovercopter." Then he turned his cold, steely eyes on Raze. "It would appear you have some explaining to do."
Excerpted from The Intelligence Director by Jessica Brody, Goñi Montes. Copyright © 2013 Jessica Brody. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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