The Operator Page 109

Something to make the next hour more tolerable. Shit, they’d laced her Evocane.

Peri took a step back, alarm pulling through her like a hot ribbon. Her muscles were beginning to feel warm even in the chill of the back room. A faint buzz sounded between her ears, and her fingertips were numb when she pressed them together. The tech had laced her Evocane with something to get her talking. Seeing as she didn’t have a reason not to, she would.

“She never will, you know,” she said. “Accelerate you?” she added when Michael’s eyebrows rose in a request for explanation. “Even if I hadn’t found that big old hole in her plans and blew myself through it. Want to know why?” Pulse fast, she carefully walked to the front of her cell and sat down on the discarded WEFT jacket before a wobble showed. “Because she wants the best. And you’re not it. I’m the better agent. Say it,” she mocked.

“You’re not as bulletproof as you think.” He stood so fast that the chair scraped backward.

Head resting against the fencing, she sighed, not needing to breathe again for at least four heartbeats. She couldn’t take her eyes off Jack, now spinning in a circle like a dog after his tail, watching himself go transparent under the effect of the drugs. “Hey, uh, babe? I don’t feel so good,” he murmured.

“I’m not surprised,” she whispered when he vanished with a tiny pop. Apparently she had no intuition under the influence of whatever drug Michael had forced on her. Curious. “Where are we? Newport?”

Michael ignored her, fiddling with his phone.

“Is Silas okay?” she asked, slurring to make him think she was deeper than she was. Three more minutes and it might be real. “If you hurt him, I’ll be pissed. You won’t like me when I’m pissed.”

He looked up, his dress shoes scraping on the old cement. “I don’t like you now.”

She chuckled, feeing the chemicals taking a stronger hold. Her obstinate nature gave her some resistance, but with no stake in the outcome, she was going to talk. She needed to talk now, before she lost all control.

“You want to know my secrets,” she said, letting her chuckle turn into a giggle-laced sigh. “It looks like you do.” Her head lolled, and she squinted up at him through one eye. “What’s your plan here, Major Delusion? I’m surprised you didn’t just let me slip into withdrawal. Force the truth out of me that way. Why all the drugs?”

Michael looked down at her with the keen sharpness of gauging her high. “Because anything gained under duress is not going to be the truth.” His legs folding gracefully, he sat down on the cement right before her, nothing but chain link between them. “You would tell me only what you think I want to hear so I will stop the pain. We proved that in the sixties. Torture is just an old white man’s need for revenge.” He picked a piece of gummed label off the wire between them and flicked it away. “I’m trying to be more forgiving to the people under me. You can’t help it if you’re ineffective. Besides, we have very good drugs these days.”

She blinked at him, hoping she wasn’t too far gone. “How big of you, Michael. Tell you what. Just for that, I’ll tell you what you want to know. For free.”

“I know you will.”

“But I want some assurance that Silas is okay first,” she said, eyes closed as she put her face against the fencing. “I want to talk to him.”

“No,” Michael said shortly. “Helen has Denier tucked into one of her labs. I don’t have easy access.”

Good to know. Peri lazily opened one eye. “Jack could do it,” she taunted. “You just don’t want to. Lazy ass.”

A jolt of adrenaline pulsed as she heard the fabric of his suit sliding as he eased closer, almost whispering, “Why did Helen suspend the program? How did you fail?”

She blinked slowly. “I didn’t fail. I succeeded. I’ve got a renewable source of Evocane that she can’t control, and I got it in a week while under fire.” His eyes narrowed and she added, “And that’s a problem, because if you take the anchor out of the equation, we are all loose cannons.” She smiled with half her face. “It makes for a very unsecure workforce. But you don’t plan on working for her, do you.”

“Now, why would you say that?” he said as he lifted his phone to take a picture of her.

“Because I don’t care,” she said, laughing sloppily and making a peace sign as the camera clicked. “You deserve it, Michael. If anyone does, it’s you. But you’ll never get it. She ended the program. Just like that. The thing is, I think you knew you’d never get it. That’s why you’re pissed all the time.” She squinted one eye shut. “Caught in her web. The bitch.”

“Where is the accelerator you stole from Bill?” he said tightly. “Does WEFT have it?”

“What, and have you kill me if I tell you?” she said, smiling cattily as the beginnings of a plan formed. She didn’t want out of her cage until keeping her alive was a priority for him. “Tell you what, though. I’ll take you to it. It gives me a fair shot. If you’re the best, then I won’t be able to slip you and you’ll deserve to be accelerated and I deserve to die.” Snuggling into Helen’s coat, she closed her eyes and leaned her head against the fencing again. “And if I escape, which I will, you’ll spend the rest of your life getting cats out of trees.”

Peri gasped at the sudden pain, never having seen the slap coming. Scooting back out of his reach, she put a hand to her face. The adrenaline cleared her mind for an instant. “Is that a no?” she said, thinking she’d won some points. Trying to hit her through the chain link had probably hurt his hand more than he’d hurt her face.

“I’m not letting you out. Tell me where it is, or that is the last Evocane you get.”

There was that, and she pulled the air into her, feeling it swirl in her lungs. Damn, I am so high right now. His threats meant little. She was a dead woman talking unless she could get herself out of here in the next twenty-four hours.

Seeing her pantomime zipping her lips shut, he stood, clearly confident things would be different when withdrawal set in. A fear born in self-preservation slid through her as Michael sauntered to the door, icing her mild buzz away. She had to keep him there, engaged. If that door shut, she was sure he wouldn’t open it until she was in withdrawal.

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