‘You want,’ Jones repeated, ‘a shark?’
Taylor simply grunted in return and waited for the scholar to meet his demand. It was a simple enough demand, and the creation of a sim was exactly the kind of thing that the scholars were designed to do. It was a simple request, yet Jones simply sat there, a dumbfounded and confused look on his face.
‘You want a shark?’
‘Don’t make me repeat myself.’
‘And don’t you treat me like Magnolia,’ Jones said, sipping from a green bottle. ‘You can’t intimidate me. What in seven hells do you need a shark for?’
He stared at the scholar. ‘Can you do it?’
The dumbfounded look remained. ‘Not without an explanation. What exactly-?’
‘What do you think?’ he snapped.
‘This is certainly one of the strangest requests I’ve gotten this year,’ Jones said as he scratched his head. ‘And considering my recruits, that’s saying something. You couldn’t use the tiger instead?’
‘Tigers aren’t as fun,’ Grigori said from across the room. ‘Plus, if she’s in a tank, we can get the drowning tests done at the same time.’
Jones looked past him, to Grigori. ‘You’re going to be in there as well?’
Grigori stood, patted Merlin on the head and joined them, his bare feet as loud on the floor as if he’d been wearing his combat boots. ‘No,’ he said as he joined them, spinning Jones toward his computer. ‘If you aren’t willing to make one, we’re going to go fishing.’
Jones looked across, eye-level with Grigori’s bare stomach. ‘You wou-’ He turned back to his computer. ‘Yeah, you would, wouldn’t you?’ With a resigned sigh, he brushed back his all-too-long hair and began to type.
‘Good, that settles that,’ Grigori said. ‘Now,’ he said as he stepped back, ‘the important question. How does my arse look in these?’
Taylor stared at the other agent’s severely abbreviated swimming trunks and the posterior they contained, and shrugged.
Grigori simply laughed and slapped him on the shoulder. ‘I think I might spend the rest of the day like this, think your recruit will approve?’
He simply grunted. ‘Your…advertising of yourself may draw in more suitors, though that wouldn’t bother you, would it?’
‘Give me a break,’ Grigori said, ‘been so busy helping you I haven’t had time to chase tail. I only got four phone numbers this week, I think that’s the lowest in ten years. You are cramping my style, my friend.’
Jones held a small card high. ‘There. Shark. Programmed to eat five foot tall hackers. Happy?’
Taylor snatched the card away, and stared at the code: BTTF-2-J19. ‘That isn’t a standard training code. You-’
‘It works just fine,’ Jones said. ‘That’s the program you need to access, no trick, just shark. Anything else?’
‘Not for now, Jonesy,’ Grigori said.
He looked away from the scholar, and shifted back to his gym, pleased to see that Magnolia was doing as he’d expected: keeping the experiment in check, and in a pool of her own blood. A plain, required knife dangled from Magnolia’s hand, her usual one sheathed in her boot, unable to be used since it would render the experiment permanently non-functional.
Watching her lithe, well-trained form gut the experiment, slit its throat, and stand victorious over it as it bled out for the last time would be…almost as satisfying as doing it himself. He wouldn’t even regret not doing it himself, so long as it was Magnolia doing it.
Magnolia looked up at him as he approached, a well-placed kick to the experiment’s head effectively silencing her for a few moments. He stood in the puddle of blood, waited for the experiment to disappear and regenerate, then grabbed her as soon as she appeared in her fresh training uniform.
He held her aloft by her neck, and as had become the custom, she simply hung in his hand like a limp corpse, not bothering to kick, not bothering to fight, not bothering to try and pry his hand away. It seemed to be the one thing she’d learned over the course of the limit tests.
Grigori reached over his shoulder and extracted the code-card from his free hand and called up the new holo-form program. A ten-metre long tank appeared, populated one by large, fierce shark. He shook the girl to get her attention, and watched as she slowly opened her eyes to take in the sight of the take, and stared, seemingly trying to comprehend the information presented to her.
He smiled as she opened her mouth to scream in terror.