Place: An unspecified city done on Barbary
Sometimes the agency liked to challenge him with the impossible, Julian was absolutely certain. Since rumors floated through the halls of the ISE that he could accomplish six impossible things before breakfast, sometimes the jerks sorting assignments thought it would be hilarious to test those rumors.
Actinide Morose would be his first target tonight on Barbary. Then somehow he was supposed to catch up to and eliminate Serafina Cataclysm on one of the orbiting stations before the night was over. This might be the first time Agent Parallax failed to carry out his orders to the letter. Perhaps. He still hoped to find a way. Improvisation was one of his best things, after all.
It was a strange universe where the most ruthless crime lords took on the most ridiculous names. Julian shifted his cramping foot on the metal framework that held up the ceiling plates, oh so carefully so he wouldn't make a sound.
Come on now, Morose. I don't have all night while you shillyshally.
His micro camera showed the minions in place, but no Morose yet. The boss had set the meeting for eight. It was twenty minutes past the hour. Terribly rude. Finally, Morose made his grand entrance with a bit of arm candy plastered to his side and a monitor lizard tucked under his arm. So much drama. Julian was beginning to prefer the quiet hits on other operatives—that single muffled shot in the night, the subtle untraceable poison, the well-timed accident—to all this circus. So. Three minions. One boss. One bit of fluff who might escape becoming collateral damage if Julian did this efficiently. Boss first. Minions in quick succession according to their respective observed competence. He just had to wait until they were seated and--
The double doors to the posh conference room flew open with a crash. A tall slender figure stood silhouetted by the chandeliers in the hallway and shadowed by two crate-sized blocks of bodyguards.
"Serafina Cataclysm, it's been far too long," Morose intoned, eyes hooded as he stroked his lizard. "To what do we owe the pleasure?"
Cataclysm tossed her beautifully coifed purple hair and slunk into the room. "Actinide, darling, you look positively awful. I've come to pay my respects, of course, since I was in the vicinity."
What were the odds? Julian found himself grinning, despite the fact that he usually hated coincidences. But this was too good to pass up, if he could somehow avoid becoming ill from the cheesy dialogue. He eased a concussion grenade from his thigh pocket. That first. Then he could pick off the stunned roomful of awful below.
"I thought you were sulking up on station, my dear. Nasty rumors say you don't respect my authority," Morose purred.
Cataclysm let out a wordless snarl and flicked her nails in some coded gesture. Violent rustles of cloth and shouts followed as every single person in the room, including the supposedly harmless pretty, pulled guns. Invective flew, everyone covering everyone else.
One of Cataclysm's bodyguards shoved her behind him. She tripped on her long faux ermine coat. Her gun went off and took out the back of her guard's head. The other bodyguard, nervous and trigger happy, got off two shots and somehow managed to take down all three of Morose's goons. One of them fired as he hit the floor and hit the pretty in the chest, who flailed and shot Serafina, who managed to shoot her second bodyguard, whose gun flew out of his hand, hit the table and fired, putting a bullet between Morose's eyes.
The whole fiasco had taken no more than twelve seconds. Everyone in the room below was dead except the monitor lizard who sat on the table flicking his tongue in an unconcerned way. Julian lay on his ceiling girders, completely stunned. He'd barely been able to keep up with the epic levels of incompetence he'd just witnessed. How in the world was he supposed to report this?
With painstaking care, Julian retraced his steps, sliding back across the girders and through the duct system out to his waiting hoverbike beside a large drainage pipe. He was still so flabbergasted by the whole thing that he hadn't sent a status by the time HQ called him.
"Heading for the drop zone."
Julian hesitated long enough that HQ repeated the question. "The packages, ah, delivered each other."
"Full report on arrival. Let’s just say for now it's done." Julian shifted to take a hard left around a warehouse on the outskirts of the spaceport, trying to get his jumbled brain in order. "I'd like a counseling debrief with the usual round of meetings when I come in, please."
He could almost hear the puzzled frowns through his comm. "You never request voluntary counseling, Forty-two."
"Yes. I'm aware, thank you. This one…I'm not sure why I'm so disturbed except that it shouldn't have happened."
"Very good. Room twelve when you come in." Again, HQ hesitated. "You have vids?"
"Yes." Julian couldn't speak to the quality yet but he had been recording the entire time. "Good thing, too, or no one would believe me. I couldn't make this up if I tried."