Authors: Lily Worthington
Tags: #Poseidon DPG
One fucking problem at a time.
Rei steadied his mind. His immediate one was the two growling hulks in front of him.
Neither Knox nor Butch acknowledged his pleasantry. They continued fixing their submachine guns precisely at his head and his heart. One false move from him, and he would find a few unpleasant holes in his body. The injuries would not kill him, but they would certainly hurt like hell.
He turned back to the director and arched his eyebrow, basically asking her whether she would be calling off her men or if he should dispose of them himself. She remained stoic, making no move. For a few heartbeats, he thought he might actually have to fight his way out after all.
“Stand down.” The director finally gave her men a barely visible nod. “Please station yourselves outside the door. And please ask Curtis to bring in some coffee. Thank you.”
Butch and Knox exchanged a look with each other before Knox spoke up, “Ma’am. If it’s all right with you, I’d like to stay here while Butch stands by outside.”
An uncomfortable silence hovered between the director and her men for a few seconds. If his men challenged Rei’s direct order, he’d be giving the offender a severe dressing down. So he remained quiet, wanting to see how the lady would handle such insubordination.
“Director, this is our intruder protocol. An armed agent must guard the head of the Agency until the threat is eliminated.” Butch stepped forward, backing up his teammate. His deadly gaze went straight to Rei with the word “eliminated.” Rei only shrugged his shoulders and paid no mind to the hostility. He had been living in hostile environments for so long that it had become his life; he breathed in it, he reveled in it. What interested him more was the unity Team M exhibited, even in front of their commander. These two men had courage and guts. They were definitely not people he could overlook, not if he wanted to get Elizabeth back as quickly as possible.
After another tense moment, Director Jensen nodded her consent. When Butch opened her office door to leave, a pale man stood right outside the door. Unlike the agents, this guy looked more like a Southern gentlemen with his perfectly combined hair, luxurious sweater over his shirt and tie, and his perfectly tailored trousers. This must be Curtis, the right hand man for the director. For some reasons, Rei’s instincts went on another high alert. Here was another player he must not underestimate.
She turned her attention back to him and said tersely, “This will be the last time I ask. What do you want from Agent Gray?”
“What I want from Skyla is not important. I have information on a threat that your government cannot afford to ignore, and my men and I can help you neutralize it.”
“What information do you have?”
Gotcha. Rei smiled and shook his head slightly. “Not until we have a deal on Skyla.”
As soon as his demand left his mouth, a blast of intense energy hit him. It lasted a mere second, but it felt almost like the surge of electricity before his masters, the gods, unleashed their malice. No, it could not be, could it?
He subtly glanced to the direction where his right arm felt the most singed. Knox stood right there glaring back at him; he hadn’t moved an inch nor shifted his stance. Unfortunately, the energy force was already gone. He couldn’t really be certain where the hair-raising blast came from, but he was certain he didn’t imagine it.
Damnation. One fucking problem at a time.
Director Jensen remained silent about his demand. Well hell, he guessed he had to give the iron lady some breadcrumbs at least. Rei focused his attention back to the negotiation. “All right. Here is what I can share for now. In about a month, a known terrorist cell in the early twentieth century will assassinate Carter Glass and Henry B. Steagalls.”
“Son of a…” Butch spoke up first. “The two congressmen who sponsored the Banking Act of 1933, the Glass-Steagalls Act?”
Rei simply nodded. The two agents exchanged a doomsday look with the director. He knew the severity of this intel wasn’t lost on them. “Yes. It was the Banking Act of 1933 that created your FDIC during the Great Depression. Needless to say, if the two congressmen were assassinated, the FDIC would never come into existence, and your 2008 Wall Street implosion would have likely resulted in another Great Depression. And this time, bank runs and investors’ flight to safety will not be contained in the United States but will spread worldwide.”
He let the next logical conclusion sink in a bit before continuing. “When that happens, the global geopolitical power will be changed drastically. The U.S. and its western allies will be too busy trying to dig themselves out of the financial shit hole, and you all will be too vulnerable to fend off any attack, physical or economical, by your enemies.”
Three of them were now looking at him as if he had lost his mind. He knew he had them hooked, so he deepened his smile. “You can go check with your folks in the Treasury Department or Federal Reserve. They and your allies have already been looking at a set of complicated probabilistic simulations, gauging the potential damages and impacts of a total global financial meltdown. None of the possible outcomes is short of catastrophic.”
It was a pleasure to see the otherwise in-control director’s expression turn from troubled to shocked on hearing him narrate the secret probabilistic study her government had done. If word of the study got out to the general public, panic would erupt.
He held up his hand before she could demand to know where he got his information. “I have my sources.” And he continued:
“After the collapses of Bear Sterns, Lehman Brothers, and Washington Mutual in 2008, and the subsequent government bailouts of AIG, Merrill Lynch, and Citigroup, the only reason that people remained calm was because of the FDIC guarantee of bank deposits. So, if the FDIC had never been created, the bank run scenario would spill from the U.S. to Europe and to the rest of the world. The only countries that might escape the ripple effects will be China and some of the oil-rich Middle Eastern countries. China is already the largest bondholder of the U.S. Treasury debts. With the world economy plunged into chaos, China will wage a war with your government, using the global bank runs as the excuse to sell off its U.S. debt holdings. That alone will bankrupt your government overnight and set off an irreversible worldwide panic. World War III would not be a farfetched possibility, with Russia, China, and a few other dictator-led countries aligning with each other against the democratic western world. Payback would be easy and drastic.”
“What proof do you have?” The director’s voice was strained by his revelation.
“None that you could quantify with all your scientific gadgets.”
After a long heartbeat of silence, the director signaled her agents to lower their weapons and motioned him to the small conference table in the middle of her office. As if on cue, the same pale, well-dressed man came through the door with a tray of cups and a teapot. He was right. That was Curtis James, the director’s personal assistant who had the same security clearance as the director. He was eyeing Rei with a glint of unease and wariness.
“Sugar, milk?” Mr. James looked in his direction.
“No, thank you.”
While the director’s personal assistant was preparing the coffee, the room was stone silent. The predator was watching his prey, but who was the predator and who was the prey? Rei smiled inwardly and took a big swallow of the coffee.
What the f—
He barely managed to politely spit it back into the cup. The extremely sweetened coffee was undrinkable and would likely give him a lethal dose of insulin.
Mr. James jumped into action quickly, almost too quickly. “Oh, dear, I must’ve given you the director’s cup. She is addicted to sugar.” He immediately took away Rei’s cup and went back to the side table for a fresh one.
“My apologies. Here you go again. One hundred percent black coffee.”
While Mr. James was leaving him a new cup of coffee, he simultaneously handed Director Jensen the sugar jar. “Thank you, Curtis. That’ll be all.” She calmly added an impressive amount of sugar to her cup.
Rei shot out his arm and stopped Mr. James in his tracks. “Wait.”
“Yes, is there something else I can get for you?”
“For starters, you could return my first cup of coffee. Don’t think I do not know about your DNA technology. If you want a sample of my DNA, all you need is to ask.” With lightning speed, Rei jerked a small blade out from his boot.
A small chaos erupted. Butch now stood between Rei and the director, and Knox pressed his submachine gun between Rei’s eyes.
Damn he had underestimated them. They were better than good.
Rei smiled easily. “I’m impressed. For a mild-mannered doctor, you are fast and precise.” But he was faster. In less than a blink of the eye, he sliced a small puncture wound on his thumb and held the swelling blood to the director’s assistant. “Take this along with the coffee. The answer you seek will be in your DNA test, just like the results from the tests done on Skyla twelve years ago.”
Knox’s face frowned in confusion. Interesting. The good doctor didn’t know about the test nor what had happened twelve years ago.
“Take them and compare them with the same tests done on Skyla. Let me know as soon as the results are available and verified.” The director nodded her consent.
Mr. James efficiently wiped off his blood with a tissue and swiftly left the room—along with his coffee cup.
“Now, Mr. Dusan, what other proof do you have of this assassination plot?”
“None whatsoever. You can choose not to believe me, and I’ll take Skyla by force. Or you can choose to assign Skyla, and Skyla only, to work with me to stop the assassination. Either way, I will not be leaving here without her.” He answered simply, matter-of-factly, brooking no argument.
Director Jensen’s expression remained neutral. He could feel Knox’s body subtly shifting into an offensive combat mode. After witnessing Knox and Skyla’s intimate interaction in the lab earlier, Rei knew there was more than friendship between the two. But he would not allow anything or anyone to stand between him and Elizabeth again. Ready to do battle, Rei slid his folded saber down his sleeve and extended it in to its full lethal length with lightning speed. “Mr. Sittler, I suggest you listen to your director and put your weapon down. You don’t want to accidentally shoot yourself.”
Knox’s eyes narrowed, coolly assessing him and his quiet threat. Just as fast as he was with his saber, Knox set down his submachine gun and charged at him. His speed was almost a blur. Rei barely ducked the coming blows in time. Knox was a worthy adversary, strong and agile. He kept a cool head, methodically attacking Rei without giving himself any undue disadvantage. Rei respected that a lot. He had no intention of harming anyone here yet, so he chose to fight defensively without pursuing any offensive move.
“Stop. That’s enough.” Somehow the petite director saw an opening and managed to step between them. She turned to him first. “We’ll discuss this further after the test results are back.” Then she turned to Knox. “Stand down, Agent Sittler.” Her voice was low but firm, expecting absolute obedience. Rei still held his saber at his side and didn’t relax his stand until the good agent took a step away. Knox’s tight expression clearly showed that he was still mad as hell and wouldn’t hesitate to tear Rei limb from limb. If he’d been a wise man, he would just let that go, but instead, Rei snarled at him. “She’s mine. No one will stand between us again.”
Unexpectedly, a blast of searing energy hit him again. He stifled a hiss from the singing, fiery sensation and looked squarely into Knox’s eyes. Gone was the shade of crystal blue. They were now flashing with a swirl of dark, stormy blue. What the hell was that? Rei knew the good doctor was more than what everyone thought he was. And he so didn’t need any sideshow right now. He made a mental note to have his men check out Knox Sittler in detail.
The director literally pushed her arms wide to keep Knox and him apart. She called out to her assistant who had been hovering outside her door, just as protocol dictated in the event of unauthorized visitor. “Curtis, please prepare a guest suite for Mr. Dusan.”
Skyla stayed at her parents’ the entire afternoon before heading back to the city in the evening. They couldn’t give her any more information than they already had. They didn’t know more than what she had guessed from the two encounters with the man who called himself Rei Dusan and from the images she had seen in her mind’s eye before she passed out in his study. All her parents could confirm was that she was not their natural child and that the government heavily guarded all other details about her. Part of her felt angry at her parents for not telling her the truth sooner. The other part of her couldn’t help but love her parents even more for taking in a stranger and loving her with no reservations, even when they did not know where she came from or what kinds of danger might have come with her from the past.
As soon as she got back inside TSCCA, she went straight to see the director, who she had thought until this morning was her aunt. Skyla was prepared to knock Curtis out of the way if necessary. Surprisingly, Curtis didn’t cut off her path as usual but instead let her into the director’s office quietly.
Guess Mom and Dad called the director already.
“Director.” She forced herself to relax, but the tension didn’t seem to want to leave her. She walked stiffly toward the desk.
“Sit down, Skyla.” The director waved her to the conference table. She sounded just as agitated as Skyla felt.
As soon as she sat down, she got straight to the point, “Director, I demand to know what’s—”
The director pushed a thick manila file toward her. “Here is your file. Take a look at the photos and the first few pages inside the folder first. Then I’ll explain.”
She looked down at the cover of the folder. It had a standard “Top Secret” stamp from a joint taskforce she had never heard of, despite her high security clearance level. Pressing her lips tightly together to avoid saying anything she would regret later, she opened the folder expecting the worst. The first twenty or so photos showed something like a crime scene investigation, except military personnel and plainclothes agents surrounded it. Their standard dark suits, dark ties, and crisp white shirts always gave them away.