The door of the limousine clicked shut, and Heinrich took his seat opposite Zoe, his eyes devouring her. Zoe did her best to smile as the car pulled off noiselessly.
They were alone in the back of the car—all senior Party officials rode in driverless, electric vehicles. For now, Heinrich was content to look at her. As a senior party official, he must have great need for the Public Service, and use it often. That’s what all the propaganda said—that men like Heinrich had difficult, stressful jobs, and that the welfare of the people and the defeat of counter-revolutionary forces weighed heavy on their shoulders. It was only logical that they would receive benefits of food, housing, and intimate companionship in excess of that required by workers with less responsibility. Satisfying the urges of these officials was, well, a Public Service.
For her part, Zoe was unsure how to act. She had some experience with men, but no experience as a Public Service girl—volunteering for such a thing repulsed her. Remembering Yvain’s exhortation not to cover up, she tried to sit neutrally, with her arms at her sides and her legs slightly parted. She made occasional eye contact with Heinrich, trying her best to smile in a way that seemed inviting.
On one side of the limousine interior sat a small table with a tall bottle of yellowy-white and two conical glasses on long stems. Heinrich reached for the bottle, opened it, and poured out a small measure into each of the glasses. He picked one up and presented it to Zoe.
<I’m gonna need olfactory,> Yvain said. <Your sense of smell. So we can check there’s nothing funny in this wine.>
<Wine?> asked Zoe. <I’ve never had wine before.> In her cannery worker residence, it was a good day when the water was clean. She opened her senses of smell and taste to Yvain as she took the glass by its stem.
Zoe held the glass up to her nose and took a subtle sniff while Heinrich was preoccupied with his own glass.
<Analyzing…> thought Yvain. <Okay, it’s clean. Just don’t have too much, we need you to stay focused.>
<You don’t need to tell me twice,> Zoe thought back. She knew enough about the effects of alcohol to know she shouldn’t have too much of it while sitting naked in the back of a strange man’s car. She smiled at Heinrich, who was holding his glass towards her, and brought hers up. The glasses clinked.
“To a delightful evening,” said Heinrich, winking at her.
Zoe giggled in her most girlish fashion and took a careful sip of the wine. It burned slightly as it went down, and she had to force herself not to cough.
There was barely time for two more sips before the limousine stopped and Heinrich bade her to place her glass back on the table. “We’ve arrived, my dear,” he said, taking her once again by the hand.
Heinrich ushered Zoe out of the limousine. They were in front of a tall, sleek building made of glass and chrome. Zoe suppressed a shudder at once again exposing her body to the night air, and glanced around anxiously for spectators. But again, no-one was around. Heinrich led Zoe up the stone steps in front of the building and through the dark glass doors, which opened automatically as they stepped in front of them.
Inside the building, Zoe immediately locked eyes with a blonde receptionist behind a large desk. “Hello, Comrade Sylvia,” boomed Heinrich’s voice at her side, “is my room in order?”
“Yes, Comrade Heinrich, all is as you wish it,” the lady behind the desk replied. “It has just been cleaned, and we have brought up your computer as requested.” If she was in any way surprised at Zoe’s state of undress, there was nothing in her expression that betrayed it. She didn’t even acknowledge her presence.
“Excellent, excellent, I will be able to continue our work with no delays, once my mind and body have been refreshed by Public Service,” boomed Heinrich. “I hope the clean-up after last night’s entertainment was not too onerous.” He winked at Zoe. “You would not care to join us, Sylvia?” At this, Heinrich’s hand, which was against Zoe’s upper back, pushed her forward slightly, as if displaying her to Sylvia.
“I must continue my work at this post, Comrade,” Sylvia said bluntly, keeping her eyes firmly averted from Zoe’s body. She was maybe a decade older than Zoe, but still in fine shape, though she had faint lines around her eyes and mouth.
Heinrich laughed. “One day, Comrade, perhaps you will change your mind. Public Service is a great honor.”
“From each according to her ability,” said Sylvia.
“To each according to his need,” finished Heinrich, squeezing Zoe’s shoulder forcefully. “Thank you, Sylvia, I will let you know if we need anything.”
Heinrich turned and led Zoe towards an elevator. She glanced back at Sylvia, who was still averting her gaze, and silently thanked her for that.
The elevator went all the way to the top floor. Throughout the ride, Zoe could feel Heinrich was becoming more eager and ready for her Public Service—he held her tight to him, his hand moving vigorously up and down her arm. It took all her willpower not to test her new martial arts skills on him. Indeed, it was all she could do to keep her body relaxed and avoid stiffening up at the unwanted touch. The wine helped, a little.
“You’re a little tense, my dear,” Heinrich purred.
Zoe gulped. Clearly, she was still giving off some negative signals, despite her attempts not to.
Heinrich slipped his arm around her waist as the elevator doors opened, and Zoe forced herself to put her arm around his. As they stepped from the elevator, he glanced down and frowned. “Romondo should have given you some heels, your feet are filthy.”
Zoe looked down and blushed, as Heinrich was quite correct. A relatively short time out on the streets had dirtied her feet considerably.
“No matter,” continued Heinrich, giving Zoe’s waist a reassuring squeeze. “You can take a shower before we begin. I am a patient man.”
With this statement, they had reached the door of Heinrich’s hotel room. He placed a hand against the palm-print reader, the door clicked open, and Zoe was quickly ushered inside.
The room that awaited them was far, far bigger than any living space Zoe had been in before. Her eyes widened taking it all in. It was at least twice the size of the cannery quarters she had shared with nine other women. That room had been jam-packed with bunk beds, but this one contained merely one, very large bed with fluffy pink sheets and a heart-shaped headboard.
The room also had a large screen on the wall, three leather couches arranged around a glass table near the window, which was opened a crack to let the air in. There was a polished mahogany writing desk against a wall, with a computer on top. Zoe’s feet sunk into the carpet, which was softer than any mattress she’d ever slept on. Smooth jazz played softly from an unseen source.
“The shower is right through there,” said Heinrich, pointing Zoe towards an ajar door she hadn’t previously noticed.
“Thank you,” she said, slowly walking towards the door. Conscious of Heinrich’s expectant eyes on her, she exaggerated the movement of her hips slightly. For the mission to succeed, it was critical that he never doubted her Public Service experience.
The bathroom was about the same size as her old living quarters, and was bedecked with gleaming porcelain. Zoe had never seen such sparkle. She reached back to pull the door shut, but then thought better of it. Heinrich had already seen her naked body, so what use was hiding, except to make him suspicious? Still, she shut it most of the way, leaving the door ajar.
Unlike everything else here, the shower was fairly small, small enough that Zoe felt reasonably well assured that Heinrich would not be able to follow her in. Breathing a sigh of relief, she stepped inside and turned on the tap.
Zoe gasped as the water hit her skin. It was so warm! At the cannery, Zoe was used to cold showers, carefully time-limited, though she had had the relative privilege of being able to shower alone. On the brief occasions were there had been hot water, it had scalded her. But this water was just perfect, from the moment she turned on the tap, and she had a feeling that Heinrich, unlike her building manager, would not begrudge her a shower of longer than thirty seconds.
As the water cascaded down her body, Zoe turned to the array of soaps and lotions on the wide shelf behind her. She grabbed one of the pink bottles and unscrewed the lid. It smelled divine. Zoe squirted a large dollop out onto her palm and started rubbing it on her skin.
She started with her shoulders, and soaped down each of her arms. Then she got some of the soap on her back, down and around to her stomach, then up to her breasts… the smell was intoxicating. Zoe soaped down her legs and cleaned her feet thoroughly. She felt really good.
As she massaged the lotion all over her skin, taking in its delightful aroma, she felt a shudder go through her mind. An external shudder.
<Z-Zoe, I…> came the mental voice of Yvain, stuttering and stammering, accompanied with mixed feelings of embarrassment, shame, regret, self-reproach, and deep longing.
For Zoe had forgotten that her senses of sight, hearing and smell were still shared with Yvain. He had clearly also been enjoying the luxury of Zoe’s shower. Mortified, she immediately shut him out of all three. <Why didn’t you say anything?!> she screamed at him.
<I… I was going to, b-but then… uh, I waited too long… and… well, I have to keep visibility, you know, for the mission… but, uh, well, maybe not of everything… I was going to say something, honest… but it was too late, and I didn’t want you to feel embarrassed…>
Zoe felt like her whole body was burning up. Yvain had just sat quietly while she inadvertently gave him a front-row seat to a private and highly sensual shower. That pervert! Who was also her handler! How was she supposed to look him in the eye, let alone have a professional relationship after… after this!
<I’m really sorry, Zoe,> thought Yvain. <You trusted me with access to your senses, and I’ve abused that trust. I’ll understand if you want me to hand over to someone else. Another woman, yes, that might be best… I can introduce you to Violet…>
<No!> The force of Zoe’s response surprised her, especially because she was still thoroughly angry with Yvain. But she didn’t want to change handlers now, not in the middle of an important and dangerous mission. Whatever Yvain’s faults, at least she kind of knew him. <Let’s continue the mission.>
<Okay,> Yvain thought back, his words devoid of emotion.
Zoe returned to cleaning herself, though now she moved mechanically, and the joy and luxury of the experience was gone. She scrubbed the rest of her body and then closed the tap and stepped out of the shower in a cloud of steam. She grabbed a fluffy white towel from the towel rail and wrapped it around herself, sighing pleasurably at how it felt against her long-exposed skin, and picked up the hairdryer, a device she was excited to use for the first time. She gave a start as it whirred to life.
<Yvain,> Zoe thought, as she experimentally held the hairdryer at different angles to her head, <do they put tracker chips in towels?> She glanced down again at her covered body.
<Unlikely, but… possible.>
Zoe sighed. <Thought you might say that. I’d like a more definitive answer, though, if you can find one.> Walking from the hotel to her rendezvous with the Resistance in a towel would be far preferable to doing it naked. She couldn’t feel any trackers, just silky fabric. Not that they were ever big enough to feel.
Zoe stepped out of the bathroom to find Heinrich seated on the edge of the bed, facing her. He had changed into a red silk robe, which hung open, exposing copious body hair, and smiled toothily at her appearance.
“You smell divine, my dear,” he said, “but please, dispense with that thing and let me have a proper look at you.”
By “that thing” he of course meant Zoe’s towel, and so, mere minutes after finding covering, she was forced to dispense it. Trying not to show displeasure in her expression, Zoe loosened the towel and let it fall to her feet.
Heinrich’s smile rose with the towel’s fall. “You’re glowing, my dear,” he said, opening his arms. “Romondo clearly thought that no clothes could enhance your beauty, and he was correct. Come to me.”
Steeling herself, Zoe stepped out of the towel and towards the bed. She walked slowly, partly as an attempt to look sexy and seductive, to play the part of the Public Service Girl, but mostly to put off the inevitable. But, even in a large room like this, there just wasn’t that much space between the bathroom door and the bed, and soon she was in embracing distance.
Heinrich stood up from the bed, his robe falling further open still, and his arms wrapped around Zoe. He was starting to moan.
Zoe reached up her own hand and caressed Heinrich’s face, smiling at him sweetly. Her other hand rubbed the top of his head. She slowly slid her fingers up his chin, and then all the way past his right ear, so that her thumb rested against the slight bump where his CMR was implanted.
<Now,> she thought at Yvain.
There was a tingling sensation in Zoe’s hand, like she’d been sitting on it. <Please hurry! I don’t like where his hands are going!> Zoe suppressed a squeal as she felt a pinch on her left buttock.
<Okay, it’s done. Remove your thumb, and disengage.>
Zoe pulled her hand away from Heinrich’s ear. There was a zap of electricity, and she felt a sharp pain in her thumb. She cried out, then stopped herself, putting the hurt thumb in her mouth.
But Heinrich didn’t notice anything. His eyes had rolled up into his head, and his whole body spasmed and fell back onto the bed, releasing Zoe. His arms hung in the air above him, still making caressing movements, and his breathing became heavier.
<That’ll occupy him for a while. And once he’s done, he’ll fall asleep. Just stay quiet, and you should have more than enough time to get the information we need.>
Zoe glanced at the computer sitting on top of the mahogany desk. It was a large, slender plate of glass with a matte-black back, remarkably scratch-free. Beneath the screen, a second piece of plastic was attached to it at an angle—this plastic surface was uneven, and had an array of letters, numbers and symbols drawn on it.
<There’s no finger interface,> Zoe thought, after studying every side of the smooth plastic. <And what’s this other part for?>
<I… can’t see what you’re talking about,> Yvain replied.
<Oh, right. Guess you need that back again.> Zoe granted access to her eyes, keeping them focused on the computer. She was looking for the feature most computers had, a small hole on the side, big enough for a finger, that would allow the user to control it with their CMR.
<Thank you,> Yvain thought back. <This is old tech. You have to use it with your hands,> Yvain replied. <That thing’s called a keyboard. You press the keys to make things happen on the screen. Old guys like Heinrich tend to like this kind of stuff more than CMR interfaces.>
Zoe knew a few older workers at the cannery who refused to use their CMRs for anything. She hadn’t realized older people at higher levels were the same.
<You’ll have to press a key to wake it up,> Yvain thought at her.
Zoe pushed down the letter A, and the screen turned from reflective black to bright white. Letters across the white surface read, “Authorization required.”
<It’ll be wanting Heinrich’s retina scan,> Yvain told Zoe. <Quick, pick it up and wave it in front of his eyes before he finishes and falls asleep.>
Zoe bit her lip as she gingerly picked up the computer, which was very light, and tip-toed back to the bed. Heinrich was still writhing around, an enormous smile plastered across his face, and had begun thrusting up and down. Holding the screen at arm’s length, Zoe maneuvered it over his eyes until the screen turned green, and then brought it back to the desk. The text “Access granted. Welcome, Heinrich,” flashed across the screen, and she was in.
As she took in the long list of filenames on screen, Heinrich began to grunt behind her. <The thought of the simulation you fed him is kind of disturbing,> Zoe thought. <I mean, he’s seeing and feeling me… do all kinds of…>
<I just copied your likeness onto a standard, uh, routine,> Yvain said quickly. <There’s nothing of you in it, really, beyond superficial appearances.>
<I hope you deleted it afterwards.>
<Cut and paste, no backups, I swear! I’m a professional.>
<Says the guy who keeps “standard routines” around. Was that from your personal collection?>
<Keep this up, and you’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way next time.>
<Only joking! Though you do have experience now…>
The grunting became more forceful, and then there was a sight of relief, followed by silence. A few minutes later, Heinrich was snoring loudly.
<What am I looking at?> asked Zoe. Yvain was guiding her through using the computer, something she hadn’t done with her hands since her schooldays, when she was still too young for a CMR.
<These are the files he keeps on his agents. The City has them all over to keep tabs on its enemies. Especially us. Take a look at that one, just below the one we just read.>
Zoe tapped her finger on the screen, and another profile came up. Like all the others they’d seen, it contained a photograph, a name and a bunch of biographic and mission details. She felt a shock of recognition at the photo, a scowling woman with smokey eyes and shoulder-length blonde hair, though she’d never her before. It wasn’t her shock of recognition.
<Holy shit, that’s Violet!> Yvain’s thoughtwaves carried along a frantic sense of panic. <She’s—she’s one of our top agents!>
Zoe took a moment to realize what Yvain meant. <There are spies in the Resistance?>
<I didn’t want to believe it, but there it is. That’s definitely Violet. Real name Kirsten Kisin. Deep undercover, multi-year operation. Objective: destroy the Resistance from the inside. This is insane, Zoe. I would have trusted Violet with my life. Hell, I almost handed you over to her earlier.> This last thoughtwave was accompanied by a shudder of regret.
<It’s okay, you couldn’t have known.> Zoe glanced behind her, at the slumbering hulk of a man lying on the bed. His snoring was getting louder, and he was starting to drool. His gargantuan stomach rose and fell obscenely as he slept, serene and completely oblivious to what was happening right under his nose. This man had a high-placed spy in the Resistance, who had been sabotaging it for years.
Yvain’s shock flooded Zoe’s mind and she glared hatefully at Heinrich. He was disgusting, a representation of the City that worked her to the bone and bled her dry. The City, and Heinrich, took everything, while destroying any chance of resistance. So secure was he in his power, so arrogant, that he would bring a new strange woman off the street to this room every night and fall asleep with her, fearing nothing.
Woah there Zoe, she thought privately to herself. You’re not some kind of super-spy, at least not yet. Right now you’re just a naked girl with a line to the Resistance. But maybe that’s enough.
<Let’s keep going through these files,> thought Yvain, returning to a neutral tone. <If they’ve got anyone else of ours working for them, we need to know.>
Zoe turned back to the computer and tapped the next file. It was an agent neither of them recognized, carrying out a mission in a foreign country. Many others were the same. They did find one more Resistance spy, but it was a new recruit who had been caught by a drone and jailed on his way to join.
<I heard about that guy,> thought Yvain. <Pretty lousy of the City to keep him in jail for doing their dirty work. But I guess it made for good press.>
<On the news they said he was a major Resistance kingpin.>
After going through a few more files on the computer, Yvain decided that they’d got everything they could out of it. As there wasn’t anything of Heinrich’s in the hotel room besides the computer and the pile of his clothes on the floor by the bed, there wasn’t anything more to do.
<Shouldn’t we install a virus or something?> Zoe asked. <Like, a tracker?>
<Good thinking. Having backdoor access to a major official’s computer would be a massive boon for the Resistance, maybe even more useful in the long run than the info we’ve gotten.>
Under Yvain’s direction, Zoe opened a few more windows and typed in some arcane sequences of commands on the thing that Yvain had called a keyboard.
<…and Enter… Awesome, I’m seeing the connection on my side. Mission accomplished, Fighter Zoe.>
Zoe allowed herself a moment to bask in the adulation before her thoughts turned to question of completing her next mission. The original mission, of meeting with the Resistance, which had turned into a midnight streak, and then a honeypot. Now it was time to return to the midnight streak. Unless…
She glanced down at her body. Yep, still naked. Behind her, Heinrich slept soundly, and the towel she’d used was lying where she’d dropped it.
Zoe approached the towel and picked it up hopefully. <Did you ever find out whether towels have trackers in them?>
<You’re in luck, they don’t,> Yvain thought back. <But they do have monograms. That one’s instantly identifiable as property of this hotel.>
<What are you trying to say?>
<Anyone could see you with it, and if you brought it back to HQ…>
<Yes, seriously. This is not a game, Zoe.>
<You’re saying that people will be suspicious of a towel, but not a naked woman running around?!> Zoe looked longingly at the fluffy white towel, caressing it with her fingers.
Yvain’s thoughtwaves were exasperated. <Look, I know that you think I’m just a big old pervert at this point, but we have to be careful. You’ve already gotten into trouble with one covering tonight.>
<That cop wouldn’t exactly have shown less interest if I hadn’t had the poster…>
<How about this: keep the towel for as long as it takes to get out of the hotel, but don’t take it out of the building. I’m sure we can figure something out.>
<Okay, that sounds reasonable,> Zoe thought back. <And after that… well, I guess if I have to streak again… for the Resistance!>
<Just don’t turn off your sight sharing again, or I won’t be able to guide you.>
<Lucky you.> Zoe tightened the towel around herself as she thought this.
<I am lucky. Shall we go?>
A wry smile played across Zoe’s features as she reached for the hotel room’s door handle. <Glad you admitted it.>
Closing the door softly behind her, Zoe now found herself in the middle of a deserted hallway, with just a white fluffy towel for cover. She wondered what a normal Public Service girl would do at this point. Not even the most brainwashed and devoted girl would sleep beside Heinrich until morning, surely, so maybe they got fetched by this Romondo person and taken home. Obviously that wouldn’t happen in her case, but if she just went down to reception and walked out, the receptionist probably wouldn’t think it out of the ordinary.
Well, unless she tried to take the hotel’s towel with her. Yvain had a point, there. She would have to leave it in the elevator. And considering how deserted this hallway was, she probably wouldn’t even be seen by anyone until then.
Perhaps it was more in character for the naked Public Service girl Heinrich had picked up if she put the towel back. Zoe twisted the handle of Heinrich’s room door, but the door had locked from the inside. She would keep it then, at least for a short while.
<Someone’s coming!> Zoe thought, hearing footsteps around the corner. Not wanting to be caught wandering around in just a towel, Zoe darted to the other side of the hallway and ducked around the far corner. Fortunately, the hotel was not laid out in a straight line.
The footsteps grew closer. Out of curiosity, Zoe peered out of her corner. The footsteps belonged to a blonde woman, who appeared to be heading for the room adjacent to Heinrich’s. It was the same blonde woman she’d seen on Heinrich’s computer minutes earlier.
<The traitor is here,> Yvain thought darkly. <Probably planning to divulge more of our secrets.>
<Why would she need to do that in person?>
<It’s got to be a meeting with someone high up, and old. You saw how Heinrich’s computer didn’t even have a CMR port. Old people don’t know how to use these things. Some of the real high ups don’t even have them implanted.>
Zoe was dumbfounded. <Not having a CMR? But, how do they do anything? You can’t ride trains, or fetch rations, or get work orders without a CMR.>
<You don’t really think the Secretary-General rides the metro or orders his own food, do you?>
The blonde woman, Violet, real name Kirsten, rapped her knuckles sharply against the polished wooden door. There was a click as the door unlocked, and she quickly disappeared inside, without affording Zoe the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the room’s occupant.
<Let’s see if we can hear what they’re talking about in there.>
Ignoring the butterflies in her stomach, Zoe crept towards the door, her bare feet totally silent against the hallway’s lush carpet. She pressed an ear against it and granted hearing access to Yvain, but could make out only indistinct murmurs. <Maybe if I had a glass…> she thought.
<No good. They’re probably on the other side of the room, near the window.>
<How do you know?>
<That’s where the sitting area was in Heinrich’s room. I’m sure they’re all the same.>
<Damn. I guess it’s time to end the mission then. At least we got the dirt on Violet.>
<Not so fast, Zoe, I’ve got an idea.>
There was a sinking feeling in Zoe’s stomach. <Oh?>
<Look, do you see that window to your left?>
<Yes.> Zoe glanced at the tall window, showing the night sky.
<I’ve pulled up the blueprints for this building, as well as some aerial photographs, and we’re in luck. The room they’re meeting in is right on the corner, and there’s a ledge that goes around from that window to the outside of the room. You might be able to hear better from there.>
Zoe took another glance at the tall window to her left, and the impressive vista of the city that unfolded beneath it. <I… don’t know if I like your ideas, Yvain.> She gingerly stepped towards the window and looked at the ledge beneath it. It was wider than she had been expecting, but not by much. <That’s a lot of ifs and maybes for me to climb out a top floor window for…>
<I wouldn’t ask you to do this if it wasn’t important to the Resistance,> thought Yvain, utter emotionless professionalism. <If she’s meeting with someone who stays on the same hotel floor as Heinrich Jorgenson, it must be about something big. She’s got to be their most highly placed spy—I still can’t believe she’s a spy! We have to know what they’re talking about. It could be the end of the Resistance otherwise—woah, what was that?>
<I just shared my sense of touch with you,> Zoe thought. <Felt like you should get to feel some of this wind as well.> For she was now standing on the ledge outside the hotel window, her towel-covered back pressed against the rough brick wall, the wind whipping her long hair across her face.
<I knew I could count on you, Fighter Zoe.>
As she inched sideways across the ledge, Zoe knew she had never felt this terrified before. She’d forced herself out of the window and onto the ledge by avoiding thinking too hard about what she was doing, but the slow process of her movement gave her plenty of time to dwell on it now. <Don’t look down, don’t look down, don’t look down!> she thought furiously, wanting Yvain to feel a bit of her panic.
<You’ll be fine, Zoe, just go slowly,> Yvain thought, his thoughtwaves buttressed with a deep calm. <The wind’s dying down a bit.>
And indeed it was. Zoe inched slowly towards, and then around, the corner of the wall. The bricks of the wall were rough against her tightly pressed hands, and the stone of the ledge was cold against her feet. Her towel seemed to be shifting slightly as she dragged it across the wall. The fold on the right side of her chest that held it together appeared to be loosening.
<Stop here. We’re right near the window, and it appears to be open,> Yvain thought at Zoe, describing what they both could see perfectly well out of her own eyes. <Good thing we’re having this heatwave. I am surprised the hotel isn’t air-conditioned though.>
<It’s broken,> Zoe replied, remembering a sign she’d spotted behind the receptionist’s desk.
<A place like this, that’s surprising. Encouraging though. Another crack in the regime!>
<A shame though. I’ve always wondered what air-conditioning felt like. We had the units at school, but they never worked. Whenever I asked the teachers about them, they would say that the air-conditioning was going to get fixed in a few weeks. It never did.>
<My school said that about the leaks in the roof.>
A self-impressed female voice reached Zoe’s ears. “… I’ve arranged to meet Manuel tonight at the location we discussed earlier. He’s very eager.”
Zoe knew the significance of the name. Manuel Silva was the leader of Resistance and a symbol to all dissidents within the City and beyond. <If she’s not lying, this is massive,> thought Yvain.
“Really? That’s quite impressive. Will he be accompanied?” The other voice was male, deep and gravelly from a lifetime of smoking.
“His bodyguards will be around of course, but not too close. I shouldn’t have any trouble getting him alone.”
“Are you quite sure? This is the leader of the counter-revolutionary forces, a man who has evaded our grasp for years. Most of the City believes him to be a myth, such is his slipperiness.”
<Even we have difficulty contacting him. I’m recording this audio right now and streaming it directly to the closest contact I have to Manuel.> Zoe’s heart soared at the thought, and she couldn’t help but squirm a little with delight. On her first night as a Resistance member, she was already foiling a plot against Manuel’s life. The thought was almost good enough to take her mind off the way her towel continued to loosen.
The woman, Violet, chuckled softly. “Oh, he’s a flesh-and-blood man, just like you. And men have needs. Not all men are as ravenous as Comrade Jorgenson, some can control themselves a little better, but for the right woman, a man will do anything.”
“And you tell me that you have convinced this Manuel, a legend among our enemies, who could no doubt have his pick of traitorous capitalist women, that the right woman for him is yourself?”
“We have a connection. Perhaps, deep down, he can sense that my heart is purer than the counter-revolutionary whores he has dabbled with before.”
<Surely Manuel could not be fooled like this!> thought Yvain.
<Men can be pretty dumb about some stuff,> Zoe replied. The wind picked up, and her towel billowed in front of her. She felt a jolt of anticipation from Yvain. <Case in point,> she snapped. <Keep your mind off my towel and on the mission!>
“Are you saying he suspects you?” asked the man in the hotel room.
“Not at all, I speak metaphorically,” Violet replied. “He trusts me absolutely. You will give me until twenty-seven minutes past three to disarm him. Have your men in place around the location. As the clock strikes that time, give the order, and they will apprehend Manuel and his lover, cutting the head off of the reactionary forces.”
There was a long pause before the man spoke next. “Comrade Kirsten, if you did not come highly recommended by Jorgenson himself, I would send you away and have your superior discipline you for wasting time. But as you have this recommendation, I will do as you say. That you are young and beautiful undoubtedly tinges Jorgenson’s judgement somewhat, but I have never known him yet to place faith in an inferior agent. Go now. My men will be proceed you to your destination.”
“Thank you, Comrade Umbert. I will add one last wrinkle to the plan. If your men do not witness me entering the room we have spoken of, the operation is off. I am not so arrogant as to assume my own infallibility.”
“You know the consequences for failure.”
“Yes, Comrade. Good night.”
There came the sound of rustling clothes and footsteps fading away, and then the creak of a door opening. After the door had creaked closed again, Zoe waited some time to make sure she didn’t re-enter the hallway window while Violet was still present. Without the conversation to focus on, the only sounds she heard were the wind and her own heavy breathing. So far, she hadn’t looked down once.
<Okay, the coast should be clear. I’m still waiting for a reply from Manuel’s guy, but we’ve done all we can here. Awesome work, Zoe.>
Zoe forced herself to smile and focus on Yvain’s praise as she began to inch sideways again. Her towel had gotten very loose at the top, and had slipped down to reveal a lot of cleavage. She could feel it sticking to the brick wall, and tried to pull at it with her fingers to keep it on course.
As she turned the corner, the fold at the top finally came fully apart, and the wind whipped it open. Her naked front was immediately exposed to a strong gust of wind.
<Woah!> thought Yvain. <I might have to turn off this sense of touch thing.>
<How do you think I feel!> Zoe blasted him. <The least you can do is show some solidarity from your comfy office!>
<It’s not that comfy,> Yvain retorted. <This chair is murder on my back, y’know.>
It was at precisely that moment that Zoe’s quick sideshuffle coincided with another strong gust of wind. The towel, momentarily loosened from its position between the rough brick wall and Zoe’s back by her movement, was caught at once.
Zoe yelped as the towel vanished from sight. She pressed her back, butt and legs hard against the wall, hoping to catch it, but felt only rough brick.
<Don’t do that again, someone might hear you!> Yvain thought frantically.
<S-sorry.> Zoe sheepishly continued sidestepping, all too aware of the cold wind on every part of her body.
<I’m sorry about the towel,> thought Yvain.
After what felt like a lifetime, Zoe’s hand traded rough brick for the smooth metal frame of the tall hallway window. She inched the last little way, and then dropped in a heap on the lush carpeting, her body shaking all over.
<That was a really good job,> thought Yvain. <I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone in our movement doing this much good on their first mission. Now for the easy part. Let’s go you to the rendezvous. I’ve got a big coat with your name on it.>
Shaking, Zoe picked herself up from the carpet. <That sounds great.>
To be continued…