Lonnigan held out the last part of her breakfast. She released it, letting it float an arm's length away. Just as the Jade Prince first taught her, she focused without focusing, letting the power flow from her. Her shield was pulled together into a tight disc, supporting the remains of the protein bar. After half a minute, she had to remind herself to blink. After two minutes, fresh sweat was beading and running down her face and bare chest. Her eyes closed with the effort of concentration, and the bar dipped, then fell to the floor.
I don't really give a shit if you are tired and distracted, she thought to herself, what the hell was that? Only two minutes?
She picked up the bar, blew off the dust and ate it. It might have been safe to get some hot food somewhere, but she didn't feel like taking the risk; the supplies in the storage room were good enough for now. She and Simon had anticipated that it might have to serve as a hideout bunker for a while, so they'd leased climate controlled spaces. In the ninety minutes since her watch alarm had awakened her, she'd had three protein bars and a liter of water for breakfast, done her daily workout, and exercised her Talent to the point of failure. She'd even brushed her teeth with some of the bottled water. Lonnigan shook her head at herself. This wasn't preparation; it was procrastination.
Oh, Simon. What the hell am I going to do?
All the planning had seemed straightforward last night. Now, the best course of action was anything but obvious. If she assumed Simon was dead and moved on the Mouse directly, she wouldn't survive. Exacting revenge was a given fact, not just a option, but if at all possible, she'd like to avoid paying the price of her own life for it.
Unfortunately, Lonnigan didn't think even the Mouse was stupid enough to be drawn out into the open where she could kill him and then fade away into the night. He wouldn't come out, she couldn't really go in. Not alone. As simple as it would be to launch a frontal attack, guns blazing, it was impractical; she would have to do it the hard way. That meant she'd have to take apart the Organization, piece by piece, patiently stripping away his layers of protection until she could get at him. The fact that it would take time didn't bother her. However, a lot of the people she had in mind as sequential targets in this scheme were friends.
Well, they were former colleagues, anyway. Lonnigan didn't have any friends, not anymore.
As targets, they varied in difficulty, but was it possible to peel people away without killing them? Convince them to step aside and stay out of it as she moved on the Mouse? There was certainly plenty of resentment over that bastard's inept management. She couldn't count on resentment against the boss trumping loyalty to the organization, though.
No, the Mouse could replace people faster than she could kill them. She hated to admit that a job was too big for her to tackle alone.
Alone. Oh, Simon, are you dead? I've got to act on the assumption that you are; if you're still alive...
Lonnigan scowled as she made up her mind. If you're still alive, she thought, you'd better be in good shape. She knew how much punishment Simon was capable of withstanding, even now, but if Meng-Shiu had decided to get ugly, then he was going to pay. She'd start with his molars and work backwards.
Decision made, she cleaned up and pulled on fresh clothes. From a lockbox, she took out a gray nylon shoulder bag and opened it. A holstered Sig-Sauer P250, 9mm, just like the one she was already wearing. Four extra clips, fully loaded. Boxes of ammo, 2000 rounds. A folding hunting knife, five inches with a lockback blade. Thirty thousand dollars in bundles of twenties. A box of caffeinated mints.
From another locker, she added a first-aid kit, three changes of socks and underwear and a hairbrush. She grabbed another three protein bars for the road and left the storage room, locking the door behind her. When she was a hundred feet away from her car, she heard a THUPP. Without hesitation, she dropped the bag and threw herself to the left.
It was the wrong direction. She grunted in stabbing agony as a long tether covered in barbed fish hooks slapped against her right thigh. The hooks dug through her jeans and buried themselves into her skin. The oblong cylinder at the end of the tether whipped around fast, five other tethers extending from it, swinging through individual arcs to land on her leg and dig in with their own hooks. Lonnigan drew her Sig and spun around, putting all her weight on her good leg.
Three men stood some distance away. The one in front started to say something. His smile was blown sideways as Lonnigan shot him in the face, a double tap. She refocused on the one on the left, the one with the gun. Then, too late, Lonnigan shifted her aim to the one on the right, the more dangerous one. His gaunt face, translucent and skeletal, seemed to twist as it suddenly occurred to her that there was no reason to fight these men. These men were her friends. They wanted to help her. There was no reason to fight them.
Lonnigan pushed up her shield to block the mind control and instantly felt a jagged shriek burn into the base of her brain. She fell, dropping the Sig as she grabbed at the feedback pod hooked to her leg, trying to tear it free. Hooks dug into her hands as the nanotech circuits amplified and scrambled her psionics before stabbing them back at her.
In less than three seconds, it was over.
She was unaware as the men approached, then bent over her limp body.
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