Meet Ms. Happy

The office Julian led Cylee into was light, airy, and spartan. A single light-wood desk stood in the middle of a natural wood floor. A row of white bookcases stood along one wall, empty save for an occasional vase or trinket. The opposite wall was painted white and had a single picture of a lily in a light colored frame as its sole adornment. Behind the desk the entire wall was a window out onto a park.

Behind the desk sat a woman who fit the room perfectly. She was slim, compact without being emaciated or unhealthy. Her slightly almond-shaped eyes were wide, clear, and light brown. She watched Cylee approach without any change in expression, neither smiling or frowning. With a slight nod she gestured Cylee into a chair. Cylee ignored the gesture until it was quite clear she would sit down because she felt like sitting down.

The lady's eyes flickered briefly up to Julian's face, and she dismissed him with a slight nod.

“So, you made it out of there.”

“I can't say it think much of your interview process.” Cylee responded. The lady shrugged, indifferent. Cylee decided she couldn't keep calling her “the Lady”, even internally.

“I'm Cylee, but you already know that. Who are you?” She was still flush with adrenalex, and Cylee's “fight or flight” was almost permanently set to “fight”.

“People who work for me call me 'The Lady'—”

“But I don't work for you. I may decide to work with you. I may not. But I'm not going to work with someone before I know their name.”

“I am Cassandra. Happy?”

Cylee nodded, and with a tight smile replied, “Good to meet you, Ms. Happy. Now, why did you kidnap me and bring me here?”

Cassandra blinked once, slowly. “We need someone to help us gain access to a business rival's latest R&D project. You have already experienced one of our products, the Augment Disruptor.”

“You built that little gun? Until I got hit with that thing I would have thought such a thing was impossible.”

“It's supposed to be. I won't bore you with the details of how it works, but we have something that can level the playing field between Augmented and non-Augmented armies. We've got a gold mine here, but we need to make sure it works on any Augment out there, and one of our competitors is working on a new Spine.”

“You want me to go after a prototype Spine? I’m sure Shiira or Initech will just let me see their latest models if I ask nice. Come on. There's no chance.”

“Please don't do me the discourtesy of underestimating us. We are the third of three makers of Augmentations, and we need to catch up. You won't be doing this alone. We've been setting this up for a long time. We have been slowly gaining control of the target's security forces. At present about eighty percent of their security personnel are actually on our payroll. We have been working to get full network access, and we're into almost every system they have. But we need someone to get in and get the prototype back out of the extraction zone. And we need them to look like they're working for Shiira.

“Ah, so you need a fall guy…girl.”

“You'll be no good to us if you get captured. If you can pull this off we would consider working with you again. And we think you'd be worth the fee we're willing to pay.”

“We'll get to that in a moment, but first: why do you believe that? What do you think you know about me?”

“We've been observing criminal activity in the area and seeing which jobs are completed and end up in police department’s “unsolved” pile. As I said, we've been at this a long time, and we've found that when people around Seattle need something acquired your name tends to come up. You seem to be adept at getting in and out without being noticed.”

Cylee just nodded. Her Augments were all back online again, and a small message appeared in the corner of her field of vision, totally legible despite being out of her foveal cone.

Agent: We know her, but we can’t place where we know her from. Most disturbing

Cylee ignored the message for a moment. “You’ve just described my most common job. Get in, get a thing, get out. Do you have a full crew, or are you expecting me to recruit one?”

“What kind of crew would you need?” Cassandra asked.

“I’d need to know more about the target. Where is the package? Do you have mapped out infiltration and exfiltration routes? How big is the package?”

Cassandra sat silent in the face of these questions, then pulled up a map on a screen.

“The package will be in motion, being shipped from a lab here in Portland—you’re in Portland, by the way— up to Seattle. We have a team that will disrupt the trucker gang that’s moving it, and our people on the inside will place a tracker on the actual package that you will be able to activate. Once you get the package you should be able to move away from the road and let our people take care of the truckers, or at least scare them off. You’ll have to fend for yourselves on the side of the road long enough for us to get an extraction team to your location, which should only be a couple of minutes.”

“Do you know which hauler gang they’re contracting with? Going up against some of those gangs would be almost as bad as going up against Initech themselves.”

“We’ve got our own people in contact with the local haulers. They’ve agreed to turn a blind eye to your activities provided you don’t damage their trucks too much. We’ve offered repair costs, of course, but time is money in their industry.”

“So I get in, get the package, which I’m guessing is an Initech spine prototype, since you didn’t correct me earlier, and then get picked up on the side of the road. Seems simple enough. Sounds like I’ll be alone for the actual extraction, which is also fine. Let’s talk terms.” Cylee said.

Agent: She’s connected to Pacifica, somehow, we are sure of it.

Cassandra nodded. “The rate is two hundred Crypto per day, plus expenses, room, and board. But we are also offering you one more perk that most jobs won’t. We want to outfit you with a new Spine.”

Cylee sat back, breathing slowly. “You have to understand that’s a very suspicious offer. Even a basic Spine is worth far more than a few hundred Crypto.”

Cassandra waved that away. “You’re right, your fees are barely worth a line item on the overall cost of this project for our company. We’d like to believe that the Spine will be a bit of a retainer, something convince you to think fondly of us when we ask for help on future jobs.”

“Retainer, or tracker? One of the things I like about my current Spine is that it’s not tied to anybody’s services. I really don’t need your organization watching my every move.”

“Then take it to someone you trust and have it checked for bugs in code or hardware. Look, please don’t take this the wrong way, but do understand me: Our organization is not all that concerned with you. I’m sure you’re very nice but we have bigger fish to fry, and I’m not just talking about Shiira. You’re probably a very good option for this job and we’d like to make sure the job gets done.”

Cylee sat back again, feeling the slight warm metal of her Spine pressing into her actual spine. A brand new Spine would mean more battery life, at the very least, and would also get rid of one more symbol of her former employer…

“Two hundred a day, a new Spine as a 'retainer', and room and board?”

Cassandra nodded.

“I’ll need some time to think about it. Time outside, not tied up in your store room.” Cylee said, watching for a reaction.

Cassandra matched her gaze for a moment. “That’s fair. We have some time, but not enough that we can waste a week waiting for your decision. Do you have a place to stay?”

Cylee checked her readouts. “In Portland? I can find a place.”

Cassandra nodded. “Very well. Contact our Doctor Patel if you decide you want to take us up on our offer. She’ll get your new Spine installed.” Cylee saw Dr. Patel’s contact information show up in her HUD. Cylee nodded and turned to leave.

Julian was waiting outside the door, the Augment Disrupter nowhere to be found. He smiled, still wearing his mirrored shades and gestured grandly to wards the door. “No hard feelings, I hope?” He said. Cylee ignored him.

Agent: He’s harmless, we think.

Cylee swept past, opened the door, and walked out into Portland.