Jonas escaped the BONE agents; what kind of hot water does he have himself in now? Who is Babe, and what does she have to do with Quirk and Dagger?
The door swung open with a loud POP! and a creaking of twisted metal. Somewhere along the line, a dent had appeared in the driver’s door of the Vega. In all probability it happened some night when I was at a LAN party with friends or maybe at the local game store picking up a new set of dice. I’d been meaning to fix it, of course, but like most things in my life it had gone unattended. Besides, dents and stuff give a car like George personality.
Snooker opened the other door, which was more quiet, and we stepped out at the same time. Or at least I think it was the same time, but with all the lights off there was no guarantee. Besides, Snook takes a bit more effort to get out of my tiny wagon, so in all likelihood I was standing up first.
“Okay,” I said. “I’m out of the car.”
A flood lamp switched on overhead, bathing us in light so bright and focused it only illuminated Snooker, George, and I. My hand went up to shield my eyes or it might have blinded me, even without me looking up into whatever million-watt bulb it used.
“Poopsicles, man,” Snook whispered over the roof of the Vega. “This is a little freaky.”
“Stop being a whiner,” I said, then raised my voice. “You there, babe?”
I felt something cold against the back of my neck; it didn’t take many neurons firing to realize it was not ice.
“I told you to stop calling me ‘babe’.”
Okay, time out here, because something needs to be said about this situation. First off, when you feel a razor sharp knife pressing against the back of your neck, your first reaction should be to pinch off your bladder so you don’t wet yourself. But when you’re a geeky hetero guy raised on The Avengers comics and episodes of Veronica Mars and the cool steel is accompanied by a voice that sounds like Scarlet Johansson by way of Kristen Bell’s snark, that area of the body does something else entirely.
We won’t talk about that any further.
“Y-yeah, well,” I stammered. “Force of habit.”
The blade slipped away. “Whatever. Turn around.”
One foot shuffled after the other until I made an about-face in the least military manner possible. Shoulders slumped, over-sized windbreaker, rumpled shirt unbuttoned, t-shirt stained with something – grape jelly? BBQ sauce? I don’t know – shoes untied. Yeah, they’d see quick enough Jonas Book was no spy. Then we could get this over with and I could get back to some Call of Duty.
“Amazing,” she said. “F’n amazing.”
She stood almost a head shorter than me. Of course, I’m six two with my shoes off, so that still put her a couple inches above average. She had plum hair – a real deep purple dye job – sculpted into what (I think) girls call a pixie cut. She was dusted with freckles across her cheeks and nose, but somehow managed to still have color in her skin. She wore a forest green jumpsuit that clung to her curves so tight it made my navel pucker. She represented every nerd fantasy I ever had.
She punched me in the nose.
“Ow!” I shouted as I staggered back. “What was that for?”
On the other side of George, Snooker chuckled for a half a moment before I heard him gulp and say, in a stage whisper, “Sorry.” I glanced his direction. Someone dressed in tactical gear stood behind the big guy, assault rifle poking his ribs.
“Monaco,” she huffed, then turned and marched out of the circle of light. When I didn’t follow, she called back, “Coming?”
Dumbfounded, I followed. Monaco? Um. This was about a video game? I mean, I’d played the game on Live, but couldn’t remember offending anyone so much they’d want to pop me one in the schnoz. Maybe she had me confused with someone who had a similar gamertag.
“I don’t get it,” I said. “Is this all some kind of big prank?”
Stumbling forward, my eyes made the gradual adjustment to the darkness. I could make out her figure and a wall just beyond. Some kind of keypad on the wall. Her, pressing buttons. A soft hissss then–
–for the second time in five minutes, even, as a door-shaped rectangle of blazing light manifested itself before me. Her silhouette cut through the middle, but the light blared around out, diminishing her shape until she looked like little more than the shadow of a Who from Whoville. Or one of the aliens from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
A hand went up again, shielding my eyes, and I swore under my breath. She entered, and my feet carried me through the door after her.
My pupils contracted and everything came into focus. A long conference table took up most of the center of the of the room, the kind with a long strip of black leather down the center. Comfy-looking chairs, big overstuffed office types, surrounded the table. On the table in front of each chair, a tablet hybrid – like one of those Surface things Microsoft’s been pushing – sat, landscape style, leaning against a kickstand. A stylized eye with a cocked brow next to the silhouette of a knife decorated the far wall. Some kind of logo, maybe.
Beneath the eye-and-knife logo, reclining in one of the comfy office chairs and dressed in a business suit, was the largest Asian woman I’d ever seen.
There went that stereotype.
Babe stood behind her and a little to the left.
“Welcome back to Quirk and Dagger Enterprises, Agent,” the large woman said. “We have quite a lot to discuss.”