Taylor shifted back into his office, and was immediately met with the unwelcome sight of Emma in his chair. His barely-contained urges to kill rose again, and automated calculations began to determine exactly how quickly he could retrieve one of his fae weapons, return, and cut the other agent’s heart out.
Emma simply smirked. ‘Well, if you don’t want people sitting in your chair, you should have more furniture in here.’
He turned to look at Magnolia, who had retreated from her unauthorised chair, to the corner near the door. Paperwork was spread all around her, and she was hurriedly highlighting sections.
‘I informed her that you were unavailable, sir,’ his recruit said as she put another highlighted piece of paper onto a growing stack, ‘she insisted on staying.’
‘You-’ he started.
‘I tried to evict her sir,’ she said as he looked up, the new bruise on her cheek darkening her pale skin, ‘she didn’t take kindly to it.’ After a moment, she looked away, and went back to the paperwork.
He stared at the bruise, curled his fist, and shifted across the office to give Emma a matching one. The force knocked her from his chair, but she shifted herself away before she hit the ground.
‘No-one,’ he growled, ‘hurts my recruit.’
He heard Magnolia drop her pen, then hurriedly pick it back up, and went back to annotating the paperwork.
‘She was giving me lip,’ Emma hissed.
He punched the agent again. ‘Get. Out.’
‘How could you do this? How could you of all people approve this?’
‘I was manipulated.’
‘You should have read the fucking paperwork!’
‘Out of this Agency, now.’
‘If you value your life so little as to let such a mistake be repeated, I’ll gladly end your life, you don’t need to wait to be torn apart again.’
He heard Magnolia stand to leave, but a thought locked the door, trapping her in the office.
‘This one,’ Emma continued, ‘is going to be a thousand times worse, because there’s mirror involved. I don’t know how Jones managed to convince them that she’s worth the risk, but we could all be in serious trouble.’
‘I realise that,’ he said, holding himself back from hitting her again.
Emma’s face contorted into one of anger. ‘That’s all you’ve got to say for yourself?’
‘No. Protocol ninety-six-dash-d.”
He almost smiled as the agent was forced-shifted from his Agency.
‘Sir?’
One thought cleared his desk, a second shifted all of Magnolia’s paperwork onto the large surface – still in their neat little piles, a third had her back in her unauthorised chair, a fourth had him in his upright-again chair, a fifth refreshed his rumpled clothes and a sixth placed an icepack in front of his recruit.
He watched her stare at the icepack for a moment, before lifting it to her face without comment and going back to the piles of paper.
‘Report,’ he ordered.
Slender fingers dug several tagged pieces of paper from their piles. ‘The extent of this experiment is that ex-Recruit Mimosa will be upgraded to an agent using a combination of Agent software and a piece of the Dajulveed mirror. Power levels are severely lower than that of a real agent, something akin to, and I quote “a recruit with advantages”.’
‘Reasons stated?’
‘A myriad of research purposes, only of interest to the techs; ethical reasoning including that it would contravene the directive not to kill the innocent; personal reasoning stating loyalty to-’
‘I’d assume O’Connor’s loyalty to the Agency is more than that.’
‘It’s not listing Agency loyalty,’ she said reproachfully, ‘it’s listing loyalty to Agent Ryan, as if that somehow means anything.’
‘It doesn’t,’ he said, ‘but it’s worth noting.’
She was silent for a moment. ‘There are also references to several locked files, and names that I don’t recognise sir. Some of the context for this information is dependent on those files, so I apologise, but I can’t provide you with all the information if I can’t-’
‘Twenty years ago,’ he said, ‘Recruit Carol Whitman became an agent.’
‘And she was from this Agency?’
He nodded, but she said nothing further. ‘Ask, recruit,’ he growled.
‘What happened?’
‘Jones screwed it up,’ he said, fighting back the patchy memories, ‘and a lot of a people died.’ He stared at her, watching a dozen emotions fighting across her face, a dozen unasked questions demanding to be asked and a dozen Eyes Only file requests forming. She, thankfully, and like he’d trained her, acted on none of these impulses and went back to being his calm, collected recruit.
‘Now,’ he said, ‘the limit testing.’
‘I haven’t viewed this in detail, sir,’ she said, ‘as a lot of is the discussion of particular methods to be used and individual limits to be tested. The basics, however, include physical – up to fourteen hours a day, including testing all ways in which the mirror interacts with injury and system shocks. Also, amongst the psychological, induced glitches up to level six have been approved.’
‘Time frame?’
‘The tech estimate is that she’ll be ready for testing in four days.’
‘Read the rest of the file, prepare a full report for me and report back at nineteen hundred.’
‘Yes sir,’ she said, and immediately stood and began to gather up all of the paperwork.
He silently watched her leave, then retreated to his gym and began a training program, hoping that routine would drown out the memories, his remembered screams, the image of the blonde woman covered in blood, and the sensation of dying.