I’ll never get used to this…the waking up without knowledge of where I am or how I got here. While I don’t remember anything, the feeling is so familiar I know that I have been in this exact situation before. I pick myself up off the floor and try to shake the throbbing pain from my head.
As I take stock in my surroundings, a frown crosses my face. This is different somehow. The room isn’t sterile and white, but rather looks like an office that is still used on a regular basis. I circle the desk and find a plain white envelope on the desk with the words OPEN ME scrawled across it in red.
I open it and unfold the paper I find within. A photo of a man is tucked within, and I have the details of his face memorized in less time than it takes to slip it back into the envelope. The type on the paper minces no words.
Report directly to the kitchen. In your pocket is a vial. Sprinkle the contents on the plate of food the chef passes you, and serve it to this man. Pareo utrum abeo.
I set the papers down on the desk and step out of the room, feeling an overwhelming need to comply. The office adjoins a large commercial kitchen directly. Stainless steel appliances and shelves gleam in the fluorescent lights, and I’m surprised that it’s relatively empty. There’s only one other person in the kitchen—a large man working by the stove.
“Order’s up,” he states, sliding a plate onto the shelf under the heat lamps. I only see his face for a moment, but it seems more familiar than the one staring back at me from the reflections in the pots and pans hanging above the center island.
Without knowing why except that I must, I pull a small vial out of my apron pocket and sprinkle the contents on the food, and wait for the particles to melt into the glaze coating the salmon. I push the door open to the dining area, seeing the man from the photograph at a dimly lit booth along the left wall, far away from the only two other diners. He doesn’t even look up from his phone when I place it in front of him. “Will there be anything else, sir?”
“Hmmm? No, you can go.” Condescension rolls off his tongue so fluently that I know it’s his primary language.
I turn on my heel and return to the kitchen, just to find it empty. “What the….” Another envelope sits on the counter beside the vial I left there, and I tear it open with a rising sense of alarm. I can hear the blood in my ears with every heartbeat, and it gets progressively louder as I read the words on the page. I drop the paper and rush back out to the dining room and push the plate I just served off the table.
Rage overtakes the man’s face. “What do you think you’re doing? All I have to do is say the word and you’ll lose your job so fast your—”
“I doubt that, Ambassador,” I interrupt. “You only have six minutes until you die. Quite possibly less.”
His rage gives way to disbelief, the two emotions warring with each other to win control of his expression. They both lose to pain and dismay as his airway closes and he gasps for breath. His mouth opens and closes as he struggles for air while his eyes bulge, making him look very much like a human rendition of a largemouth bass.
A large hand grabs my arm before I can reach for him, jerking me away from the man I just poisoned, and another secures my other wrist simultaneously. I look over my shoulder as they begin to drag me away, seeing that it’s the cook from the kitchen. His face is void of any emotions and his grip impossibly strong. The more I struggle, the tighter his grip becomes.
Fight…you have to fight!
I push my own panic down and pull from my instincts. I pick up my legs to drop my weight, kick the behemoth’s knees. A grunt is the only admission of his that I’m causing him any distress. He stops walking as his grip begins to slip, and I take the opportunity.
I brace my feet on the floor, and when he leans forward while reaching an arm around me, I surge upward. I feel the bones in his nose crumple and pain explodes in my head. I clench my jaw against the ringing in my ears. I step between his feet, grab his arm, and with a shift in my weight I’m able disrupt his balance. I manage to dodge him as he falls, evading his grasp.
I look over to the Ambassador, and I can tell from the way he’s slumped and the shade of blue he’s turned that he’s already dead. I pivot at the sound of footsteps behind me, and before me is a man I’m certain I’ve seen before. His stance and demeanor exude authority. I take a step backward for every one he takes toward me, all the while searching for an exit. The only two doors in my field of vision are blocked by his lackeys. With no more than a glance, he signals them to get me.
One pulls a pistol out from under his jacket, and my adrenaline kicks into high gear. I take off toward the kitchen in a sprint, but not fast enough. I feel a sharp prick in my back the same time I hear a pop behind me, and a feeling of déjà vu overcomes me as my limbs feel weighed down. I stumble as my feet quit obeying, and much as I try to push myself back up, I can’t get my muscles to work.
“Take her back to the lab. Tell them she’s not fully covert complaint, but the mission was still accomplished. Ensure they reinforce her behavioral conditioning.” His voice sounds farther and farther away as darkness crowds my vision. “She needs to be ready in two weeks. We have another mission…” I can feel myself being picked up and carried away, the man’s voice fading behind us as the world ceases to exist.