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The "I Love Karen Daniels" fanfic

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I just recently found this Writers' section. Wow, there's a lot to learn. Without having any knowledge of the useful writers' resources in this topic, I naively started writing a little fanfic in the "The Unofficial I Love Karen Daniels" thread, in response to a flippant request. Our muse, dear Karen, just kind of got on a roll, resulting in several chapters of ... something.


A knowledge of GTAV, GTA Online, and the GTAV Forum help in making sense of some of the references and plot points in this short story.





A sense of humor will help, as well :)













Chapter 1: The Housesitting Gig


Chapter 2: Dangerous Business


Chapter 3: Lonely Nights


Chapter 4: Yeah, I'm a Badass


Chapter 5: Ineseno Road


Chapter 6: The World according to Karen Daniels


Chapter 7: Life with Karen, Part 1 (Living Happily Ever After)


Chapter 8: The Big Picture


Chapter 9: The Intern


Chapter 10: Legal Entendre


Chapter 11: Pain from the Past (Part 1): Karen’s Liberty City Blues


Chapter 12: Pain from the Past (Part 2): A Mission Goes South

Chapter 13: Pain from the Past (Part 3): What the F*ck is this?


Chapter 16. Pain from the Past (Part 6): Somewhere in the Distance, a Dog Barked


Chapter 17. Pain from the Past (Part 7): End of the Line


Chapter 18: Pain from the Past (Part 8): Bullet Time


Chapter 19: Pain from the Past (Part 9): Brazilian Getaway Special / Hitting the Road


Chapter 20: Pain from the Past (Part 10): Brazilian Getaway Special / Fire in the Hole




For context, here is the link to the original first chapter in the Karen Daniels thread:

CHAPTER 1: The Housesitting Gig

The chapters are chain-linked there as well, in order to skip all the intervening discussion

Edited by saintsrow
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Mokrie Dela

Yeah this is the right place but not for linking to other threads please. Any works or writing should be posted entirely in this section, so when you get time just copy and paste the chapters to a reply in this topic


I don't want to start a precedent of having empty topics linking to others

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I just recently found this Writers' section. Wow, there's a lot to learn. Without having any knowledge of the useful writers' resources in this topic, I naively started writing a little fanfic in the "The Unofficial I Love Karen Daniels" thread, in response to a flippant request. Our muse, dear Karen, just kind of got on a roll, resulting in several chapters of ... something.


A knowledge of GTAV, GTA Online, and the GTAV Forum help in making sense of some of the references and plot points in this short story.


Since this Writers' section of the Forum looks like the right place for this kind of thing, I'm going to link here to the posts I wrote, that comprise the chapters of ...



The Karen Daniels Saga


CHAPTER 1: The Housesitting Gig


CHAPTER 2: Dangerous Business


CHAPTER 3: Lonely Nights


CHAPTER 4: Yeah, I'm a Badass


CHAPTER 5: Ineseno Road


Chapter 6: The World according to Karen Daniels


CHAPTER 7: Life with Karen, Part 1 (Living Happily Ever After)


CHAPTER 8: The Big Picture


CHAPTER 9: The Intern


CHAPTER 10: Legal Entendre


I'm afraid if you want any sort of feedback, you need to put the chapters here, as opposed to linking them. Otherwise I, Mokrie, or anybody else cannot help you.

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Mokrie Dela

2 weeks and a edit 16 hours ago; no posted chapters so I'm going to lock this. If you want to add to it, PM me and I can re-open it. As said, I don't want empty topics so as Ziggy said too, if you want us to read and feedback, you need to post it in this section.


<Reopened in request, on condition that content will be posted.>

Edited by Mokrie Dela

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The Karen Saga begins …





Starring Karen Daniels

Narrated by O. P. Lovelorn



CHAPTER 1: The Housesitting Gig


My name is O. P. Lovelorn, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is my story, the story of my brief encounter with the girl of my dreams. I don’t know her real name, but she told me to call her Karen.

It was two months ago. I was down on my luck. For a while, I was working a decent job as a stagehand at Richards Majestic studios. Long hours, but it paid well. Then one day, some asshole named Michael somebody shows up on set, acting like he owns the place, and I made the mistake of not kissing his ass. He punched me in the gut and told me he was my f*ckin’ boss, and to make sure I remember it. Well, I forgot it, and next day, I was on the street with no job, and my name at the top of the blacklist – the list titled, “You’ll never work in this town again.” :*(

So I needed a place to crash, and to figure out how to get back on the gravy train. In this town, it’s all about the almighty dollar. I didn’t want to end up turning tricks in the restroom stalls at Cockatoo’s. :/

I logged onto LifeInvader and started looking for ads for roommates. I found one pretty quick, some hot-looking 30-something chick with the screen name StraightOuttaLibertyCity (man, you should see her bikini pix on her LifeInvader page – holy sh*t – I was already in love!!). Anyway, it was an even better deal than I expected – she just needed somebody to house-sit her place, since she did a lot of field work and only stopped in at the house once a week or so.



Karen's housesitting ad:



I met her there, that afternoon. It was a little bungalow on the canals at Vespucci Beach. She told me her name was Karen, but she said that it didn’t matter – it’s just a name. Anyway, she said all I had to do was get the groceries, take in the mail, keep a low profile, don’t make waves, don’t bring over any guests, and I could chill there. Score! And her voice, her demeanor, giving me orders with that clipped, authoritarian speech – damn! What a woman – talk about a ballbreaker – just the kind of woman I like. :^:


The Vespucci canals bungalow:




Something about the way she described the job made me think this was some kind of safehouse or something; just that veiled hint of potential danger, but it didn’t matter to me. No way I was gonna lose this gig. I was hooked like a fish being reeled in at Pleasure Pier.

It almost went sideways. While she was handing me the key to the place, she saw me ogling her tits, my pupils fully dilated with unrestrained lust. Suddenly the full force was right there in my face. With a look that could crush granite, and a tone of voice that goosed my gonads like they’ve never been goosed before, she said, “Don’t get any ideas, you little prick. You think you’ve got a shot at me, you’ll find out the hard way that you’re sadly mistaken. You’ve got one job – keep this place ready for me, because when I get here, I don’t want any surprises, and I don’t want any lame-ass horn-dog jizzing on my sheets, or sniffing my panties in the dirty laundry basket.”

At this point I was so smitten, I was almost speechless. Karen was the woman of my dreams! :colgate::colgate:

She reached over to the kitchen counter and grabbed a huge-ass cop-style flashlight standing there. She continued, “I’ll use this little toy to make you sorry you ever had a horny thought coursing through your involuntary nervous system. Don’t f*ck up on me, or you’ll end up in a wheelchair, sucking soup through a soda straw, for the rest of your life.”

Whoa. What a woman!

“Hey, no problemo,” I stammered. “I’m cool, got it covered. Keep the fridge filled, bring in the mail. I got it.” I gave her a big stupid smile, and accepted the house key with my shivering hand, and she put the flashlight in a tote bag on her shoulder. It took every ounce of willpower I had, not to fall to my knees and blurt out, right then, “I love you, Karen!!!” :happy:



Things went along fine for a couple of months. She only stopped in about four times, stayed a couple of nights each time, straight to her room with hardly a word, muffled conversations on radios and her cell phone, and then she was gone again, no word on where, or how long. Those nights when she was there, in her bed, mere feet away from me, through a closed (and locked) door, were torturous, as I tried unsuccessfully to sleep on the sofa, while I imagined her there in her bed sleeping, breathing, sweating into the sheets. I kept hoping, hoping, that housesitting would somehow turn into face-sitting. But no such luck.... Sighhhhh…

As soon as she was gone, of course, I slept in her bed, snuggled my face into her pillows and her sheets all night, fantasizing about her and whacking off, until I was exhausted. The next morning, I rubbed her dirty laundry all over my naked body in a paroxysm of love. But I took everything down to the laundromat and made it like new, as part of my housesitting routine, so she never gave me the flashlight treatment. :p


So now it’s another beautiful, warm afternoon in Los Santos, I’m just sitting here on the deck of her bungalow, lazily looking toward the bright sand of Vespucci Beach, dreaming lustfully and lovingly about Karen, and wondering when she will stop by again, and will I ever get a chance to see her in that bikini, down on the beach... :)

O. P.'s daydream of Karen... sigh ...



Suddenly, I hear tires screeching outside in the alley behind the bungalow. Karen comes running in, sweaty and in a big hurry, obviously having just run from some kind of dangerous situation. She’s wearing a brown leather jacket and some ass-hugging white jeans. Yeeeeeowww! And I’m thinking, she must have been running a while -- can you imagine how sexy her feet would be after running away like that? Whoa. I’m in love…

I get up to say, “Do you need some help?” but she ignores me completely and hauls ass into her bedroom, pulling a huge locked gun case from behind some fake drawers in the closet. I just stand there in the kitchen. I just want to help. She doesn’t even look at me. As she is wrestling around the gun case, she just mutters, “Those f*cking FIB clowns…I’ll deal with them later…I hope those fools got away with the key codes. Sh*t!”

Karen hauls the gun case out to the kitchen, and then she suddenly stops and opens the fridge, reaching for a beer. As she bends down, I notice her beautiful tight ass in those jeans, and I think about pounding her like a pile driver, as she cries out in ecstasy, one of the many thoughts that has obsessed me for the two months since I first saw and heard her. My heart flutters!! :p

By this time, my jaw has dropped to the floor, as she turns around to me and quickly chugs half the bottle of beer. "Ahhhhhhh..," she sighs. She hands the bottle to me, [to me !!!!] and I don’t waste a second – I take a swig, from the bottle that just touched her sweet, sweet lips – gasp – tasting her… I’m so in looooove!!!

Karen turns and opens a kitchen drawer, and grabs the keys to an SUV she has parked in the garage downstairs. Then, as she is headed out the door, lugging her gun case, she turns around to me and says, “You see that Panto in the alley? I had to jack it. All there were on the street were f*cking Pantos. God damn this town."

She goes on, “So now you’ve got a job to do. You can’t stay here. F*cking FIB will be closing in. I want you to drive that piece of sh*t Panto to Paleto Bay and ditch it. Drive it into the ocean, tonight, after dark. No lights. And then get out of it.” She pauses, “Obviously.”



The Panto that had to be ditched:



I can hardly speak, things are moving so fast. I don’t want her to go. A dry croak from my throat...I stammer, “But, but, where are you going? W-will I ever see you again?”

“Maybe. I’ll call you. I have another safehouse in Paleto Bay, but you can’t go there yet. We’ve got to lose the heat.” [she said “we !!!” She said “we !!!” Ahhhhhhhhh!!! I’m in looooove!!!] “Later, I’ll let you know where it is. I’m gonna have to use that Paleto safehouse soon, now that this one’s blown, so I still need your housesitting expertise. It’s hard to find good help these days.”

I’m overwhelmed. I’m dazed. She turns back to the door, her momentum building, and then she abruptly stops one more time. She turns, and everything stops, sudden silence, only the sound of seagulls cawing and squawking from the beach. We’re standing there in the sunlit kitchen, with the atmosphere between us pulled tight by her adrenaline and my white hot lust and love … and for just one short, fateful moment, her ice cold ballbreaker demeanor goes soft, and she looks me in the eye and says, “O.P., you’re OK." The words my heart has longed to hear.... :inlove:

She continues, "Good luck getting to Paleto. Be careful.” Then she tilts her head slightly and actually smiles, a beautiful, confident kind of a smirk, that lets me know that she is completely in charge, back on top, and she has it all figured out. She says softly, “Be seeing you, O. P.“




Stay tuned for CHAPTER 2 !

Edited by saintsrow
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CHAPTER 2: Dangerous Business


Note: These events follow from CHAPTER 1


So, after I submerged the Panto, around midnight, I spent a couple nights living under the bushes with the squirrels, near the beach in Paleto Bay. [ All night, I was wishing I could get under Karen’s bush… :p ] I was beginning to wonder if she had ditched me, but I wanted to be with her so bad, I stuck with the gig, hoping that she would call. Not that I had anywhere else to go…
Then Karen called me, and got me set up in her safehouse on Procopio Drive in Paleto. Not nearly as nice as the Vespucci Beach place – it was down-market, older and completely un-hip, just like the neighborhood – and just like the neighbors. :) But I thought to myself, be lucky you’re not in a trailer in f*cking Sandy Shores. So in a few days, I got the place stocked up, and kept a low profile.

The Procopio Drive safehouse:




Right away, I needed a car to get groceries and do the errands, so when Karen stopped by in her SUV, she dropped off a wad of cash, and told me to find something that wouldn’t stand out. I walked up the street to Beeker’s garage to see if they had any repos or trade-ins, and I found a sweet Sabre Turbo. With the extra cash Karen gave me, I got the Turbo performance modded on the inside, but I decided that getting hot pink pearlescent paint, chrome stripe job, turquoise dollar-sign rims with off-road tires and a hemi air scoop poking through the hood, would probably not be a good way to keep a low profile, so I kept the stock paint job and rims on the outside.
Karen came around a couple of times in the first two weeks, moving in her guns and who knows what else, setting up some electronic sh*t that she didn’t bother to explain to me, and then she was gone again, back to the field, with hardly a word, just like in Vespucci. I wanted her like crazy, but I told myself, this is a real nice gig – be happy with what you have; don’t f*ck it up.
After a couple more weeks, Karen came by after dark, and I assumed it would just be another quick overnight in-and-out, as usual, but not the kind of in-and-out that I wanted soooo much ;) . Instead, she got a beer from the fridge, sat down at the dining room table, and told me that she wanted to talk to me. I thought, uh-oh, this is probably the end of it. I’ve heard the “we need to talk” speech before. And with Karen, I never even got to first base; not even to the dugout. :( Thinking that, I needed a beer as well, so I got one, and sat down at the table with her.



The fateful dining room table:




The evening was not too warm, feeling just about right, and
, coming through the open window. The incandescent ceiling light above the dining table lent a beautiful, warm glow to Karen’s lovely, lightly tanned skin. I could tell that being in the field sometimes kept her outside in the sunshine (doing recon, surveillance, sabotage, sunbathing, who knows?). I imagined again how she would look in her bikini. Sighhhhhh. :p
So I planted my butt on the chair and waited to hear the bad news. She looked me in the eye, and the look was soft, not the usual hardass-on-a-mission glare that she always seemed to have going on. Then suddenly she broke off the look, the glare came back, and she seemed to be aware of the crickets. She got up and closed the window, and the crickets were gone. Everything silent, still, just Karen and I in the room.
Still moving, she hadn’t sat back down. I followed her every movement with my eyes and my full rapt attention. She reached into her tote bag and fished out one of those new age wave-sound gadgets that people use to put themselves to sleep at night. She turned it on, set it to
, almost like white noise, cranked up the volume, and set the box on the kitchen bar next to the radio.
Then Karen sat back down at the dining table, and took her smartphone out of the tote. The focused, all-business glare was still there on her face. She touched the screen a few times, held up the phone and looked closely at it, then set it down on the table in front of her, with the screen still turned on.
At that point, she lost the hardass glare, and her look went soft again. Karen exhaled a small sigh and looked at me. I realized that I had probably not taken a breath since I sat down at the table. I tried to relax. Ironically, even though I expected that this was the end of the gig, my love and lust for Karen were rising within me, and I just wanted to look at her and hear her voice, even it if was going to be for the last time. She began to talk.
“O.P., first I want to say, you’re doing a good job here. You managed the transition from the Vespucci safehouse pretty well. Sorry about the bushes and the squirrels, but I had to be sure, before we set up this place.” [she said “we” again. Ahhhhhh… could there be hope for me yet??]
“What I want to tell you is that, obviously, I’m in a dangerous business. Because you’re an acquaintance of mine [an acquaintance…sob :*( … I want to be so much more…], that puts you in danger. I want to give you some insight regarding what you're getting into if you keep working for me, even if you’re just housesitting.”
Karen went on, “You see what I just did a minute ago? I closed the window to keep our voices from carrying out into the Paleto night. I turned on that noisemaker to cover up our conversation, in case somebody planted a bug in here that I can’t detect, or has a long-range mic aimed at us. On this phone,” she pushed the phone over to me, “I’ve got an app that communicates by Bluetooth to an array of Doppler sensors outside the house here, so I’ll know if somebody is getting too near. When I say ‘somebody’ I mean somebody bad.”
I was intrigued, but not too surprised. I watch the spy movies, too. I looked at the phone and saw a little set of green dots that looked like they outlined the safehouse and garage. I supposed that the phone would make some alert sound, and one of the dots would flare red, if one of these sensors triggered.
So what Karen was saying, made sense. As I moved the phone a bit closer to me to see the screen better, I made a noise like, “Yeah, I kinda understand,” and took a swig of beer to loosen up my throat, which was dry with mounting tension. I met her gaze and she acknowledged. She continued, “I set this stuff up, last time I was here. It’s not easy, but it has to be done. These are the kinds of things you have to do, every day, just to stay alive in this business. You can never trust anyone, or any situation. You can never have an exposed flank.” [ I thought, man, I would love to see Karen’s exposed flanks ] :sigh:
“So now we come to you. Here you are, an innocent, lame-ass-horn-dog, suddenly in the middle of a whole different ballgame, my friend.” [WTF, I thought; lame-ass horn-dog? :*( That’s what she said to me the first time we met – yeah it was true, but being told this again by Karen – it was a shock]
“W-What do you mean?” I asked, my eyes wide.
Karen smiled. It was a nice smile, not a mean smile like she probably has when she’s about to work somebody over with a flashlight. She replied, “What I mean is, you can’t turn your back on somebody in this business, unless you *really* trust them. Otherwise, you’re dead. Or worse.”
She paused. Her look got a bit more hardened, as she drifted back into her business mindset. Then she continued, “So, how do I trust you? By the time you showed up at Vespucci answering the LifeInvader ad, I already had you background-checked and cross-checked, and you looked authentic – just another normal nobody. But a background check means almost nothing anymore. You could still be an FIB mole, or a pathetic screwup being squeezed by the cartel or the Russian mob, or paid off by some rich f*ck like Devin Weston, who meddles too much in the affairs of legitimate federal agents.”
“Even worse, some rogue FIB asshole like Steven f*cking Haines could be putting the screws to you, like he’s doing with his three stooges down in Los Santos. He’s got some washed-up bank robber from the snow country who’s strutting around at Richards Majestic – I know you briefly met him – making like he’s f*cking Tarantino, plus some drugged-up ex-military psycho hilljack from Sandy Shores, and they roped in a young black guy from Davis, who had a life, until he sniped a couple of my co-workers. They’ve already caused me enough problems.”
Karen was on a roll. She went on, “If I had one of Haines’ lapdogs this close to me,” and she momentarily brushed her fingertips on my hand, where I had still been touching the edge of her phone in front of me, so rapt that I hadn’t moved. [she touched my haaaaannnndddddd… yeeeessssss!!!!], “I’d put a bullet through their eye so fast, they wouldn’t even have time to think ‘Wait a minute…’ before their brains would be splattered all over the living room wall.”
I was just starting to think, “Wait a minute…” when I realized that so far, my brains were not all splattered over the living room wall … yet. Everything stood still for what seemed like a few seconds. I was looking straight into Karen’s eyes, still reeling from the dual shock of her gentle touch, and the wave of sudden building panic that I was about to be fired, literally, from this job, and this life, by my employer and my crush, dear Karen.
But the sudden panic was over – it happened so quick that the feeling was fading before the full adrenaline pulse got hold of me. I was already calming down. But she clearly saw my eyes go wide, and her look instantly softened. She smiled again and said, “Hey, O.P., chill, I didn’t mean that I think you’re a plant. Just the opposite, I was going to say, I do trust you. Don’t worry. Be happy.”
She smiled, “You know why I trust you? I don’t take any chances. The Vespucci safehouse had hidden cameras, besides bug detectors and other toys. If you had any visitors, or planted any bugs, or went snooping around my room, I would have known, and you’d already be floating face down in the canal with a broken neck.”
[Whoa, I thought. This kind of talk was fun the first time I heard it, but now it’s getting a little too close to home…] Then she smiled a bit more, almost like she was laughing internally, recalling a humorous situation. But I still didn’t connect with what was coming.
Karen continued, “If you would have rubbed my panties all over your dick and jazzed on my pillowcases five times in one night, with those cameras, I would have known.” Then she broke into a full smile, a wonderful, beautiful, knowing look, directed at me, that made me so happy, even in the dawning awareness of where she was going with this. She added, “Oh, that’s right, you *did* jizz all over my pillows and my panties, and you *did* roll around apesh*t in my bed all night, like a ferret in heat.” She paused for a second, “The cameras have night vision. Plus, your morning show was pretty good, too.”
She paused and looked at me pointedly, with that confident smirk, but her eyes were soft and met mine, waiting to see my reaction. I felt hollow inside. It’s a sudden empty feeling, to be caught like that with your pants down … literally. I didn’t know what to say, and I broke off my gaze and looked down at the table.
Karen went on, obviously enjoying the humor in all this, “I could post that video to my LifeInvader page, with the title, ‘One of my Secret Admirers.’ That’d be a hoot!”
I was trying to form some words in my mind, to tell Karen that yes, I made a fool of myself, but it’s because I really love her and want her. But she continued talking, “So O.P., I have you pretty well sussed out. Background checks don’t tell me anything about a person, the way those videos did. I do understand you, now, and I do trust you. You’re just a lame-ass horn-dog. But you’re not a dangerous mole that needs to be put down.”
She waited for me to look back up at her. She said, “Don’t feel bad, O. P. You’re kind of sexy when you’re horny; so cute, actually,” and she smiled widely again. “…and you’ve got stamina. I like that.”
I finally found my voice. I choked up for a second, but then I said, “Karen, I’m just gonna say it, since it’s obvious, I declare it now: ‘I officially love Karen Daniels.’ Since day one. I want to be with you, emotionally, mentally, carnally, and … all the stuff like that. ”
So it was all out. I was shocked, embarrassed, and dazed, but relieved. It couldn’t get any worse. It had to be uphill from here. She said I was cute…
Karen reached across the table again and took my hand, which was still near her phone. This was a whole different side of her, the real woman, not the hardass cop or whatever she was. She said, “So let me continue. I was starting to tell you that you’ll be getting into a dangerous kind of life if you stay associated with me. Even though I like you,” and she squeezed my hand [whoa, OK, I’m starting to get horny, now :) ], “or actually, *because* I like you … the best thing you can do is get out of town, out of Los Santos, out of Paleto, away from me, far away, where you won’t have any connection to me, and live a quiet life, before you get in any deeper.” [ I thought, all I want to do, is get in deeper ] ;)
My fingers intertwined with Karen’s. I brought my other hand over to enclose hers on the table. She said, “The things I do are dangerous, exotic, undercover activities [ I thought, that’s what I want to do with her – dangerous, exotic activities under the covers… ]. The people I’m up against are dangerous people [ I wanted to be up against her, and I’m not even dangerous :) ]. You don’t know all the tricks that they know, or that I know, so you could easily be trapped by these types, and very bad things would happen to you.”
Karen was in full speechmaking mode now, clearly voicing the topics she wanted to say to me when she told me to sit down for a talk. There was an actual edge of concern in her voice. She continued, “O.P., I don’t want you to get caught by these assholes. F*cking Haines got that psycho trailer-dwelling pervert to torture a suspect they liberated from us, but the worst part was his bullsh*t moralizing after he tortured the guy – what a mind f*ck. You wouldn’t be able stand it, and I couldn’t stand by and let it happen to you. What I’m saying is that these dangerous people are dangerous, and what’s worse, they have stupid people working for them, and the only things more dangerous than dangerous people are stupid people.”
I was mostly getting the gist of it, maybe losing track of some of the finer points, but all I knew is that my body was ready. I pushed back my chair and stood up, still holding onto Karen’s hand, as I moved around to her side of the table and kind of pulled her up, toward me, as she rose from her chair by her own intent, as well. Our eyes were locked, standing face to face, with her hand in mine. Emotion was welling up inside me like a tsunami. Karen’s eyes looked over my face, up and down, evaluating my expression, which was perfectly clear with my amorous intent [read: horn-dog incoming…]. I moved to put my arm around the small of her back. Karen’s lips began to part …
Suddenly, a loud buzzing sound blared out from her tote bag, which was lying on the table, the buzzing amplified by the tabletop as a soundboard. It broke the mood like a thunderclap. Karen’s expression changed instantly, like brainstem reflex, to a hyperfocused glare, all business. She yanked away from me and grabbed the top of the bag to open it, and quickly pulled out a pager, still buzzing, but muted now by her hand. She looked at the number on the pager, and her expression returned completely to her hardass-supercop-on-a-mission. The moment was totally blown. My heart sank, back into the sea. The tsunami was gone. AAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHH........
In the same motion as she raised the tote bag onto her shoulder, Karen pushed me away, and scanned the room quickly for anything she needed to pick up, her eyes not even seeing me, like I wasn't even there. She spied her phone on the table and immediately grabbed it, and then she was on the move toward the front door, just like that day when she darted out of the bungalow in Vespucci.
I started to say, “Wait!!” but the words caught in my throat because I knew it wouldn’t matter. But then I thought, I should say something useful, so I quickly exclaimed, “Is there anything I need to do?”
That stopped her in her tracks – apparently saying something which may be relevant to her mission was enough to get through, to remind her that I was actually still there. With her hand on the door handle, she turned back to me, and said “For now, just keep doing what you’re doing, housesitting, low profile. No changes here. I’ll be back in a couple of days. I’ve got a project going on, and I need to take care of something, right now. If I need you to do anything different, I’ll call.”
Then, I think, a tiny bit of the memory what just *almost* happened between us, emerged in her consciousness for a second, displacing the reflexive mission focus that had clicked on in her mind as soon as the pager went off. Her look softened a bit and she added, “Everything’s under control. But this kind of stuff happens. Sorry, but in this business, I gotta be a hardass. Actually, in almost any business, you gotta be a hardass. No room for fun. But sometimes it’s nice to have a little company, someone you can trust, when things calm down.”
With that prescient observation, she turned and rushed out the door, swinging it shut as she ran outside. I heard the SUV ignition kick in, the motor gunned, and then I heard a brief chirp of the tires on the driveway as she punched the SUV in reverse and out into the street, and she was gone.
Wow. What a rollercoaster. I remembered every second of what just transpired, I hung onto Karen’s every word, and, knowing now how she felt about me, and what she was really like, and anticipating her return, my emotions were high as a kite. I was feeling emotionally warm, but mentally numb. Awareness of the surroundings was creeping back into my consciousness. The white noise that she turned on was now like a roaring in my ears. I reached over to the box and shut it off. Sudden, blissful silence… ahhhhh…
I took a deep breath and finally, fully returned to the here and now. I remembered how the night started, with the sound of the crickets. I walked over and opened the window, so I could hear them again. The world felt real again. Then I slumped into my chair at the table, and I was about to take a big swig of my beer, but then I noticed Karen’s bottle across the table, and instead, I took a swig from it, tasting her once more. It would be a microscopic reminder of the first kiss we almost shared, and I could only hope that the attractive force that rose between us, the magic moment, will descend upon us again, the next time she visits.




Stay tuned for CHAPTER 3 !

Edited by saintsrow
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CHAPTER 3: Lonely Nights
These events follow from CHAPTER 2
The next morning, in the Paleto Bay safehouse, I was still feeling a bit vexed, but generally warm and happy, after Karen had to rush out abruptly the night before, :cry: just as things were getting hot between us.
[i hoped that] I knew where I stood with her, and I was keeping the fridge stocked with beer and other essentials, as I waited with great anticipation for her return. I had some fun driving around Paleto and the nearby mountain roads in my Sabre Turbo. Running on the beach in the early morning, doing some swimming, staying in shape for Karen. Pretty nice life … for now. :)
In a couple of days, Karen called me. I was just walking back into the house from the beach, unlocking the front door, wondering how many of Karen’s Doppler alarms I had triggered as I came up into the front yard; it was a warm, beautiful morning, birds chirping in the trees, and the usual laid-back Paleto Bay denizens doing their usual daytime business.
Inside the house, our call continued. She told me to mostly listen, not repeat anything she said on the call, and don’t ask any specific questions. I know she was still worried about bugs. “Just good opsec,” she said. Without being specific, she said she was going to stay in the field for another couple of weeks, to finish the big project she had been working.
“Too many moving parts,” Karen said. “A lot of things happening in parallel. I tried doing this as an ‘on call’ operation, and you saw how that turned out, last time we were together.” I sensed that she smiled as she said that. I hoped so … I smiled, too. :)
“Before we go any further here on the phone, I’m going to send you a link to an app. It’s a secure IP voice-video channel, over my VPN. Any normal conversation that goes through Whiz Wireless gets recorded, decoded, analyzed, tagged, flagged and sent to servers at all of your favorite three letter agencies, in less than 5 minutes. Hang up now; I’ll send you a text.” I didn’t have any favorite three letter agencies, but I knew what she meant. If you say any of the keywords in their bad words database, you might end up on a Merriweather to-do list.
She sent me a link and I installed the app. In a few minutes, she called me on that new secure app. It was a video call. She was all business. I was so happy to see her face and hear her voice, but she seemed so stern and focused, like the times before at the Vespucci safehouse, so I knew it was not the time to try to flirt. I played it cool. Besides, I like her when she’s stern ;)
She was, literally, somewhere out in the field. I could see that she was under the shade of a tree, and mountains in the background. [ I wished so much I could be with her, out there. ] She told me to turn on the white noise wave-sound box again, where it was still sitting on the kitchen bar, and to stay close to the noise while we were talking. ”Good opsec.”
Karen said that she left a black duffel bag in the garage, and she wanted me to get it; and don’t talk on the phone until I get back into the dining room. I quickly found the bag in the garage and brought it in. She told me to open it. I sat down at the dining room table, opened the bag, and I found a micro SMG in a case, with about 30 ammo magazines wrapped in a colorful parrot-print scarf. I said, “Whoa, this is some serious sh*t!” and then I added, “Nice scarf…” :)
“A little souvenir from a mission a couple of years ago,” she quickly said. “The scarf, not the gun,” she added. I quickly sniffed the scarf for a hint of her scent, but I only smelled gun oil. :dontgetit:
Karen continued, “Compared to typical Los Santos weaponry, that micro SMG is hardly more than a noisemaker,” Karen replied, “but it’s easy to use, and I want to get you some minimal protection while you’re there. I don’t think there’s any problem with the safehouse, but it’s just irresponsible not to be ready to show some teeth, if some troublemakers come around.”
“I was going to set you up with this last time I was there, but, you know, we didn’t get the time,“ and on the little video screen, she really did smile this time, [ Yaaaaayyyyyyy!! She smiled at meeeeeee! ] and I smiled back. Then her smile was gone, back down to business. :cry:
I told Karen I’ve fired a few guns before, but I need to practice with this one, get checked out. I was really hoping I could entice her to come by and show me how to load it, how to hold and aim it, [ Karen standing behind me, steadying my nervous hands in hers as I aim, her warm breath on my neck, her sweet voice in my ear…. sighhhhh ]
But she quickly replied, “No, I can’t come there right now; you’re gonna have to do it on your own.” She smiled widely. “I know you’re good at that,” and she gave me a look. “But let me show you now, how to load the magazines and how to operate the safeties and set the automatic fire mode. It’s not hard, but do it just like I tell you. Don’t do anything before I show you here on the phone. I don’t want you shooting your nuts off.”
Karen turned the camera around and I saw a micro SMG on a blanket on the grass, with a couple of magazines next to it. She first showed me how to make sure the gun was completely unloaded, with nothing in the chamber. Then she showed me where the grip safety was, and made me practice releasing it a few times; same with setting the automatic fire / safety switch. Then she told me to find one of the magazines that was loaded with bright orange plastic bullets– a dummy magazine – and practice inserting it in the gun several times, until I was good at it. She told me to practice it more later, after dark, so I could take the magazines in and out quickly and surely, by feel.
Karen turned the camera back toward her. [Nice. Her beautiful face …. It made me smile.] Without a pause, she went on, “OK, now you’ve got to practice firing it, this afternoon. Take it out to one of the remote canyons southeast of Paleto to practice with live ammo. Make sure nobody’s around. Stay away from Fort Zancudo, and don’t go anywhere near those Altruist f*cks up on the hill in Chiliad Mountain State Park.”
“For targets, take along some of those empty beer bottles you’re probably accumulating in the recycling bin. But first thing, when you get there, pop in the magazine, set it to semi-auto and then – carefully – fire a few rounds into soft ground to get a feel for the kick, and to make sure you know how to release the grip safety. And don’t shoot yourself in the goddamned foot.”
Karen continued, “Then set up the beer bottles and try plinking them. Both semi-auto and automatic. You probably won’t hit anything; these guns don’t aim themselves, you know. I just want you to see how hard it is to put the shots where you want them to go, especially on automatic, so you won’t get overconfident with the gun and start thinking you’re some kind of badass. It’s basically spray and pray. Like I said, it’s mostly just a noisemaker to keep bad guys from advancing on you, or to provide covering fire.”
“After you’ve got some practice out in the canyon, go back into Paleto and go to Ammu-Nation. Get the magazines refilled and have them clean the gun. If they ask where you’ve been shooting, just tell them you were getting rid of some rats in the barn. They’ll understand that, out in Paleto.”
That was it. Karen cut off the phone call with a quick smile, but no other pleasantries, and I just sat there for a minute to get it together. It was about noon. I drank a beer while I planned a trip out to the wilderness to practice. I found a secluded spot on the hillside above and to the east of the sawmill. I drove my Sabre out there, using the GPS, ending up on a really steep, crappy dirt road, which hadn’t looked that bad on the map. I hiked down from the road to a suitable spot to practice.
Learning to use the micro SMG was pretty easy. You had to hold the gun firmly to release the grip safety. I put a few bullets into the ground on semi-auto, and I didn’t shoot off my foot or anything else. Then I set up the beer bottles. She was right about the aiming on automatic fire – it’s basically random, shooting all over the place. Most of the beer bottles survived. I could empty the whole magazine and not even hit a tree in the forest – at least, not the one I was aiming at. The hardest part of the whole day was hiking back up to the car, but it was good exercise … and I remembered that Karen said she liked my stamina :) So I thought that any extra exercise helps. :^:
I got back to Paleto, visited Ammu-Nation, just about closing time, to get the gun cleaned and the magazines reloaded, and I would pick it up tomorrow. That was the end of that little episode for the evening. I could smell the gunpowder on my hands, and my ears were still ringing a little bit. But I did feel a little bit safer now, and I saw how I could maybe get the hang of this dangerous business, over time. Feeling badass. Yeah, right. Now I know what a rank zero noob feels like.
Karen called me late the next afternoon on the secure app, to check up on my progress and health.
I assured her I was unscathed, and I was pretty good at spraying bullets in a random pattern. I just wished the gun had larger magazines. She told me no, they would just jam. “If you want to fire longer without reloading, dual wield is a better approach,” she said.
Once again, it sounded like the call was going to be all business, no fun :(
I told her I had the gun cleaned, all mags reloaded, and I was keeping it on the nightstand, waiting for action :)
She said, “Right … what a disaster that would be …” and she smiled, sweetly.
But she didn’t hang up – she wanted to talk for a few minutes, just to let me know a little bit about what was going on with her, so I would not be completely out of the loop, the way I had always been up until now. I really felt like, this is a major breakthrough; even though it’s all business, Karen feels the need to share a part of her life, and coordinate with me a little, that I was on her mind, someone to talk to, not just a tool to be activated on demand. I was feeling pretty damn good about that.
She said that her big project was on track, with all the pieces coming together, just another couple of setups and the big play would go down. The reason it was taking so long is that, for the dirty work, where there was a lot of petty, chaotic violence, they were using a crew consisting of four overconfident, nouveau riche, former street thugs, living way above their lot in life in luxury apartments down in Los Santos.
“What a bunch of tools,” she complained, “And they all want a bigger cut. They’re barely worth what they’re getting paid now.” She said the frustrating part is that they keep dropping out before the operation can start, and then her team has to get them lined up all over again.
In that regard, she also mentioned that, the other main professional that got hired for the operation, who was the one actually responsible for recruiting these street losers, was this wisecracking, motor-mouth asshole who’s calling himself ‘Agent 14’ at the moment. Karen said the worst thing is getting stuck on a surveillance job with the guy. “Even if you ignore him, he’s still prattling on about something, for half the night. He likes to hear the sound of his own voice, and he thinks everybody else should, too.”
I suddenly felt a little jealous, thinking that this ‘Agent 14’ dickhead was getting to spend time with Karen , but she could tell by the way I was listening, a bit too intently, that this concern was on my mind, so she reassured me, “This guy’s just a co-conspirator, part of the team, a free agent that I was not consulted about. He’s effective at planning detailed ops, but that’s about it. He’s a friggin’ nerd.” [ I thought, I’m glad I’m not a friggin’ nerd.] :)
“And a borderline asshole,” she added, "if you don't laugh at his jokes."
I could tell she was busy, and before I could start to steer the conversation to something more personal about us, the phone call was over, in less than a minute. :cry:
I thought about what had happened the last couple of days. I still didn’t get to see Karen, but the good news is that, I could tell, she was warming up, she cared about my safety, she actually chose to talk to me as a confidant, and I think she got some benefit from letting me into her life a bit. After another couple of beers, I went to bed happy. :)
Stay tuned for CHAPTER 4 !


Edited by saintsrow
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CHAPTER 4: Yeah, I'm a Badass

These events follow from CHAPTER 3

Over the next couple of days, I did a little fix-up around the safehouse, just some minor stuff to incrementally make it a little more livable, over time. Settling in, hoping to hear from Karen, but it looked like it was going back to the routine, just marking time, waiting for her call. Then tonight, a little after midnight, I had just finished watching “The Bourne Identity” on TV and I was thinking, “I can be as badass as that guy.”

I was just heading for bed [ alone … sob … still, no Karen ] when she called me on the secure app, voice only. She was tense, very sharp, like giving orders, in the middle of a tactical situation, I could tell. Serious stuff going on.

“O.P., I never wanted to involve you in any of the dangerous business that I do, but right now, I need to make an exception. I’m so sorry,” she paused. “Listen to me closely. Something has come up over here.” [ I thought, whenever I hear her voice, something comes up over here, too ] :pp

I asked her what was going on, and she took a minute to fill me in, so I would possibly be more useful than if I was totally ignorant of the situation. She said, “That prick, Agent 14, just called me. I have to take quick action, to keep our project on track. Those four dumbsh*ts he recruited for our job went off-script tonight, and got themselves in trouble. They’re doing a moonlighting job – literally, in the moonlight – for that crack-dealing psycho hilljack in Sandy Shores. He promised them big money to run a quick night raid to steal a couple of vans from the Lost bikers’ trailer park out by Alamo Sea. These jackasses went for it, like flies on sh*t.”

‘Agent 14’ and his four dumbsh*ts


“Now these screw-ups are pinned down out there, because one of them was stupid enough to fire a non-silenced weapon in a night raid. They called Agent 14, asking him to save their asses, but just like always, when something difficult needs to be done, he’s all talk. So I’ve gotta go in and bail them out. I’m going to do it from a distance, up on the hill. So I need my sniper rifle. It’s there at the safehouse.”

“But I thought you had all those guns with you, like, always prepared?” I asked.

Karen replied, “Hey, you think I go around carrying all this sh*t in my back pocket? She continued, “I’m sending you GPS coordinates now. It’s over by the west end of Alamo Sea. You can get here in 10 minutes. Go to my closet and grab the long gun case and bring it here, right now. And bring your micro SMG too, just as a contingency.”

She broke off the call. I was thinking, man this is so cool! Action, just like the big time! And I’m helping Karen on a shootout! I’m gonna spray bullets at some bad guys! Yeah! I’m a badass!! I *am* as cool as Bourne! :)

I lugged the sniper rifle case into the trunk of the Sabre Turbo, put my micro SMG and the duffel bag containing the magazines on the passenger seat, and set my phone GPS to the link she sent. I hauled ass, and got there in about 8 minutes, and I didn’t even hit anything or spin out once. ;) Damn, I love the way that Sabre Turbo drives. :^:

The location was on the hill to the southwest of the trailer park. I was smart enough to turn off the headlights as I got close, but I could still see by moonlight, which was surprisingly bright. As I came up to the site, I could hear sporadic automatic fire over at the trailer park, along with some indistinct yelling, something that sounded like, “I’m a f*ckin’ Marine!”

The last 200 feet were up the hill, off-road – geez, what a rough ride that was – the Sabre Turbo bottomed out a few times. The grass on the hill was wet and slippery, so the tires spun, and the car fishtailed on the way up. I was glad I had gotten the transmission mods.

Near the top of the hill, I saw a light waving back and forth – it was Karen waving her smartphone in my direction, to flag me down. I got out of the car and popped the trunk, and without a word and without even looking at me, she popped open the gun case, did a few things to set up the rifle, screwed on a long silencer and muzzle flash suppressor, then grabbed several magazines and stuffed them in both of her jacket pockets.

She said, "Stay down in cover, behind the car. Don't put your head up. I'm going to fire from here - there's no other good vantage point up here, with cover."

The Lost trailer park in the moonlight, from our vantage point on the hill


We were both in cover, behind the Sabre Turbo, with the trailer park down the hill in front of us, maybe a hundred yards away. I was behind the trunk of the car, and Karen was behind the hood. Karen was only about 12 feet away from me, and we both had guns. [ I was thinking, this is so cool! ] I said, enthusiastically, “Hey, I’m ready! I got my street sweeper with me,” and I held up the micro SMG and clicked in one of the magazines.

“Jesus f*cking christ!” she hissed. “Be careful with that thing. I am *not* gonna be a victim of friendly fire out here tonight! Keep the safety on. Just stay low, and absolutely, don’t fire that thing unless I tell you. Now be quiet and don’t move, while I line up these shots.”

I did as she told me. I know when things are serious. She laid the rifle with her elbow resting on the hood, carefully aimed it and did a recon through the scope, then methodically and evenly, squeezed off about 6 silenced shots. Then she was already back in cover, reloading the rifle. Down below, there was a lull in the firing. From the trailer park, some biker yelled, “Mendoza’s been hit! Mendoza’s been f*ckin’ hit!”

I was curious to see what was going on out there, so I slowly rose up to look over the trunk of the car and down the hill toward the trailers. Karen saw me and almost growled at me, “Keep your head down! Stay in cover, dammit! There’s no reason for you to get hurt out here, O.P.” I could hear the essence of a pure, tactical leader in her voice, but also, I was sure, I heard actual, genuine concern in her voice as well, the real Karen coming through, wanting me to stay safe. It made me feel warm, and a wave of joy washed over me. But she continued, in the Karen hardass voice, “If you take a bullet to center mass out here in this sh*thole, I’ll f*cking put out of your misery, myself!” Well, that kinda killed the mood ...

At that moment, there was a sudden burst of automatic fire, closer and louder than the firing from the trailer park; it sounded like, coming from partway up the hill. One of those biker assholes must have come across the road, up the hill toward us. It was almost like he spawned out of nowhere, somehow. I heard the whistle of a couple of shots go overhead. I realized that she was right – we’re still in a dangerous firefight. Wow! This is the big time!

Karen had finished loading the rifle and whispered to me, “OK, now you’re gonna get your chance. Do exactly what I say. Get ready to fire your gun in the air, upward, but sort of in the direction of the trailers. Stay low and don’t break cover. I’ll tell you when to fire. Don’t even try to hit anything, just use it as a noisemaker.”

“First, aim it up; now, click the safety over to auto fire. OK? Now don’t point that gun anywhere except in the air. You hear me? All we have to do is scare that biker sh*t into going back down the hill. We’re defensive, we have the cover. This’ll go well if you don’t f*ck up. You have the rest of your magazines within reach? Did you practice nighttime loading, like I told you?”

“Hell, yeah,” I said. “I’m good at it! I’m ready to kick some ass!”

“Psssh!” she said. “Right. OK, get ready, when I tell you, spray the full mag in the air, stay in cover, and immediately reload, keeping the gun aimed upward. And keep your finger outside the trigger guard until the moment you want to shoot. You got it?”

“I got it!” I smiled, ready for action. Karen carefully and quietly leaned the sniper rifle against the car, and in the moonlight, I could see her taking her pistol out of her belt holster.

Karen whispered, “OK, it’s gonna happen fast. I’m gonna stand up, and immediately, you fire that full mag into the air, pop in another mag, and do the same thing, fire it all into the air. You ready?”

“Hey, I’m always ready,” I said with a big stupid grin, which Karen probably did not see, but I’m sure she could tell by the way I said it.

“Friggin’ horn-dog,” Karen snarled in a mock exasperated tone. Then she suddenly stood up, aiming the pistol down the hill as she snapped on the xenon light under the barrel, and started firing rapidly. That was my cue – I fired my first clip in the air, and then popped out the magazine and clicked in a new one. But by the time I had it ready to go, she was already back in cover, with the light extinguished.

She reported, “There are two of them. The first one's down, but he was so f*cking fat, he took all the hits. The second dickhead was basically shielded. Now he’s cowering behind that fat f*ck lying there, with a sawed-off shotgun, probably wondering how he’s gonna get back down the hill.”

At that moment, the dumbsh*t down the hill yelled, "Suck my leeeaaad!" and two blasts from the shotgun came from down the hill. I heard the buckshot hit my car :( Damn, I thought, all those dings to my sweet Sabre Turbo :( I’m gonna need another trip to Beeker’s. I’ll tell the mechanic it was a drunken hunting accident. I’m sure he’s heard that before, around here.

Karen said, “That dipsh*t’s more stone-cold stupid than I thought. Got a real death wish. Well, he’s in luck, because I’m his f*cking fairy godmother, and he’s gonna get his wish, in just a minute. Too bad for him, that he didn’t run when he had the chance.”

She continued, “OK, you ready to go again?”

“Always,” I said with another big grin. :)

Karen ignored my little joke this time. She said, “Almost the same as last time. You spray the covering fire, and I’m gonna run out to the side, far enough that I can see that sh*thead and put him down. Start shooting on auto as soon as I move, reload and do it again. In the air. Got it?”

She rushed out, and I fired the first magazine in the air. After about 3 seconds, she had sprinted about 40 feet away from the car, and she had turned on the xenon light under the gun again. I had already clicked in another magazine and was ready to fire. But I was still curious and I wanted to see what was happening, and I wanted to see her and see that she was OK, so as I started firing again into the air, I raised up to look over the car. In the stark bright light of her gun, about 60 feet down the hill, I saw the biker crouching behind his dead fat buddy, as he swung his sawed-off around toward Karen. As he was doing so, I faintly heard 3 or 4 quick silenced shots, in less than a second, from Karen’s pistol.

In an instant, a cloud of red blood spray burst out the back of the biker's head, bright in the light against the dark night background, while at the same time, his torso jerked backward from two more shots, and the light went out. Meanwhile, my micro SMG was out of bullets, my finger still squeezing the trigger, aiming in the air. I released the trigger and rested my finger back on the trigger guard, and rapidly went back into cover behind the car. At the same time, in the sudden moonlit darkness, I saw Karen make a quick return to the cover of the car, crouching beside me. I could feel her close, and hear her breathing. Wow! What a woman! What a badass! I’m in looooooovvvve!

Karen immediately said to me, "Your gun is empty. Reload, right now!" [ "Wow! " I thought, "She's got enough situational awareness for both of us!" ] I popped out the empty mag and clicked in a new one.

While still looking around and listening, she went on, "You never want to be holding an unloaded gun. Always reload immediately." She listened for another couple of seconds and then added, "I was out here in the hills one time with a goddamned amateur like you. Broad daylight, no bad guys around. He was out of my sight, obscured by a couple of trees, the only two trees on the hill. Out of the blue, a mountain lion came from behind and leaped at the guy. He had his gun in hand; aimed at the cat in plenty of time, but the damn gun was empty. Just, click, click, click. The cat took a chunk out of his leg, and by the time I got there, the cat was starting to drag him down the hill. I dropped the cat with one shot to the heart, but the damage was done. End of his agency career – the guy was lame after that. Now he's a manager at Burger Shot. That’s about all a degree in poly sci gets you these days."

I was still crouching, both of us behind my Sabre Turbo. As Karen was telling her story, I carefully moved a couple of steps closer to her, almost within kissing distance. She could tell, in the moonlight, that my eyes were locked on her face, with my one goal in mind -- a bear hug and a long passionate kiss, to celebrate the badass teamwork we just shared.

"Back off, horn-dog!" She snapped, "We're not out of this yet. Be quiet, and be still! Those dumbasses are just getting to the vans, and we've still got more biker f*cks waking up, and stumbling out to mount their hogs."

Karen stopped talking and continued to listen intently, using audio cues to give her an idea of where the bikers were, both of us still in cover behind the car. She cautiously rose up far enough to get a good look at the Lost’s trailer park. Then she said, “The vans are on the move, but they’ve got bikers on their ass. We’re going to escort them, or they’ll probably get their asses shot up. Get in your car, now, and drive us to my SUV. I’ll point in the direction. Bring your gun and ammo.”

Karen pointed where to go, and I had to drive over a couple hundred more feet of bumpy offroad, back down the hill. My Sabre Turbo, bottoming out again, hard. Damn, … more work for Beeker’s. We reached her SUV, which was parked just off the road behind the hill. We got out of my car, and she quickly opened the SUV's hatchback and pulled out what looked like a high-powered pistol and a short but meaty-looking machine gun, and a case of ammo. “You drive,” she ordered, and tossed the keys to me. “I’ll tell you where. Go!”

We quickly got in the SUV, and I floored it, out onto the road. Karen pointed down the road where I could barely see some taillights and a lot of dust. “Catch up to those f*cks!” she shouted. I punched it, and we were on them in about 60 seconds. The bikers were firing at the vans. Karen leaned out her passenger side window, and sprayed the machine gun toward the bike taillights. Two of them went down in the dust, only two more left.

As I collided with one of the downed bikes and knocked it flying out of the way, Karen reloaded the machine gun, and laid it between the console and the edge of her seat. Then she leaned out her window again, aimed with her high-powered pistol and fired about 8 shots, bringing down the last two bikes. As we passed them, I saw in the headlights, one of the bikers, who was trying to get out from under his wrecked bike. Karen put a couple of rounds into him as we drove by. While still looking out ahead, she said to me, just a casual observation, “If you would’ve just run over that asshole, I could have saved a couple of bullets.”

The vans were about 80 feet ahead of us. They weren’t going very fast, but I guess that was the max speed they had – Lost vans – real crappy vehicles.

I stayed with the vans, following closely, and Karen was fully alert, looking ahead, to the sides, and behind for more bikers. In a minute, three more bikers were coming up behind us, fast. With the machine gun in hand, she instantly turned around in her seat and fired a full magazine at them, right through the rear window, which shattered. Holy sh*t! Whoa, that was loud, right in my ear, damn! I looked in the rearview mirror and saw two bikes go down, just one headlight still following, coming up on us, fast.

Karen said, “He’s gonna try to come around for a shot on the side. You want to have some fun? Watch which side he comes around, and turn sharp, right into him.” I watched in the mirrors. This was intense! He started quickly passing us on the passenger side. “Hard right. Now! ” Karen said calmly, like this is something she does every day (and maybe she does...)

I jerked the wheel to the right, and there was an immediate, loud, satisfying ‘ka-thunk’ right into her door, and then a couple more miscellaneous bumps further back on the side of the SUV, as the biker lost it and went down hard. I had to straighten up the wheels immediately to stay on the road. Since we weren’t going too fast, following the slow vans, there was no danger of a rollover.

Karen looked back. “Turn around, now. I don’t think the vans will have any more trouble. If any more bikers are coming after the vans, we’ll take ‘em out on the way back. Stay alert. We’ll head back to your car.” I slowed and made a U-turn, heading back. Down the road, appearing in the headlights, was the biker we had just pitted. He was dazed, but was getting up, and he had a sawed-off shotgun in his hand. She put a couple of rounds into him, with her high powered pistol, before we got close enough for him to think about taking a shot at us. We cruised right on by. A bit further on, we passed the other bikers that we had downed, all unmoving, bleeding out in the dust. Just another night drive on the road, for my dear Karen. :)

We didn’t see any more bikes, driving back. Karen was still looking around alertly, while multitasking, sending texts with her phone, probably [hopefully] telling that Agent 14 dickhead to keep a tighter leash on his untrained monkeys. She was all focused on business, not looking at or talking to me :cry: I didn’t quite know what to say, anyway. But, for a second, I had a chance to think. Wow! What badass excitement! She’s great! :sigh: And I’m like a pro now, I thought, :) This is the big time! Driving, shooting, all kinds of action. The only thing I still have to practice is the badass attitude. Right.

But then I thought, hmmm, if I could find a place to pull off, we could talk, and maybe …. make out …. But she read my mind. “Keep driving, horn-dog” she said sternly, without looking at me, still busy with her phone, while still looking up in all directions for any more threats.

We got back to my car, and I stopped, foot on the brake. I looked over at Karen. She finished sending a text on her phone, and then she looked up again, looked around, and listened. “Shhhh, wait,” she whispered. “Kill the lights. Stop the engine. Take your foot off the brake. Take the key out of the ignition.” I did all that. Everything was dark and quiet. What a contrast from the crazy action, just a few minutes ago ... Karen held up her hand to indicate continued silence, and she moved her head around, listening very carefully for sounds through her open window, and through the shattered rear window. All I heard were crickets. My eyes were adjusting to the darkness. I was still looking at her, now thinking, this is the time to make my move... ;) I was kind of overwhelmed, but I was … this … close … to her …

Suddenly she turned away and opened her door – or tried to. It stuck, because it got punched in by the impact of the biker. “Damn,” she cursed. “Get out. I’ll go through your door. ”

Karen was already turned around toward me, with her momentum building, ready to move, to get out of the car on my side, with her pistol in hand. I was almost reflexively going to do as she said, but my basic male instincts finally kicked in, full-male-stupid. I was looking right in her eyes, in the moonlight coming through the windshield. I could smell her scent. I could feel her presence, so close. Emotion, lust, love, overwhelmed me. My left hand moved up, to touch the right side of her face. My rational mind was warning me that if I made any sudden moves like this, Karen would crush my windpipe without even thinking about it. But I was so in love, I took the chance, the way the male spider goes for the black widow, in the final mating dance.

I think she had to actively suppress her immediate instinct to kill me. But she got what I was doing. She let me hold the side of her head, as I moved in toward her. Her hand came up, over mine. So warm, so soft ... Karen parted her lips, looked me in the eye with a warm, beautiful look that grabbed me, all the way down into the depths of my being. We both closed our eyes and kissed then, a beautiful, long, passionate kiss, first so soft, so yielding, then our lips locked … that first kiss, the greatest feeling in the world ... :inlove: A woman’s lips can be so soft, so sensual, beyond words ...

Then Karen broke it off. Warmly, she looked into my eyes, as her hand gently pulled mine down away from her face, and she said softly, “O.P., this isn’t the time or the place.” She paused, then whispered, “Hang in there. Things are coming together. We’ll have our time,” as she squeezed my hand, and then let it go. Then she said, in the hardass Karen voice, “Now get the f*ck out of the car. I’ve got secure this site.” And then one more look, at me, as she added, again with her nice Karen voice, “And you have to get back home. Safely.“

I reached back and opened my door, still looking at Karen. There was a tightness in my pants. I was still basking in the warm, ethereal glow of love. Somehow, I got out of the SUV, and Karen followed, with her guns and ammo case in hand. She grabbed the keys from my other hand and immediately went to the back of the SUV, and slammed opened the hatch, showering the bumper and the pavement with a cascade of the remaining glass chips from the shattered rear window. I was watching her intently, in a daze of love, slowly starting to fade back to reality now. She put the guns away, and she immediately pulled out a night vision rig, turned it on, put it up to her eyes, and did a slow scan across the hillside, and across the road.

Then Karen turned back to me, saying, “It looks quiet, but I’ve got to do a quick recon here before I go.” Her voice got softer. “You go back to the safehouse, now.” Then she took my hand again, but she stayed far enough away that I couldn’t gracefully move in for another kiss. I opened my mouth to start to ask, “Will you come by the house afterward?” but she interrupted, saying, “I’ve got some things going. I think you’ll like it. Just be patient.” She let go of my hand.

Continuing, Karen said, “I need to finish this big project, first. And, apparently, clean up sh*t like this.” She waved her arm across the horizon in the general direction of the hill and the Lost trailer park, still holding the night vision glasses. Then she added, “You did good tonight. Really good, for a first-timer. I’m so glad you didn’t get hurt. I’ll call you tomorrow for an after-action debrief. Now go ... Go ... Please!” She gently pushed me in the chest, toward my car.

Whew! My head was spinning. I got back in my Sabre Turbo, which was slightly worse for the wear tonight, and I headed back to the safehouse, heading back “home.” All was quiet. The world was different, for me anyway, so much better, no matter how crazy it was. As I was driving, all the way back, I was fully basking in the memory of the beautiful kiss I shared with Karen, still tasting her on my lips, smelling her scent on my hand. Thinking about her, about being accepted by her, and wondering what she meant about having something ‘going on’ that I would like. Wow ... What a woman! What a badass!


Stay tuned for Chapter 5 !

Edited by saintsrow
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CHAPTER 5: Ineseno Road
These events follow from CHAPTER 4
Last night, after getting back home to the Paleto Bay safehouse, my mind was swirling wildly with thoughts of Karen, but I was also exhausted with the afterglow, and the adrenaline surge from the incredible action at the Lost trailer park. I chugged a bottle of beer [ ...ahhhhhh... ] and quickly fell asleep, flopping down on the couch in my clothes, dusty but wet with night dew, and smelling of gunpowder.
The next morning, I woke up to the sun shining brightly into the living room, just peeking over Mt Chiliad, to the east. If I dreamed of anything, I didn’t remember it at all. I stretched, and then I decided to run over to the beach for a quick swim, to get myself back to reality, to clear my mind, and to use the bright light of day to check myself over for any stray buckshot lodged in my flesh.
My right ear still felt a little stopped up, from the firing of Karen's machine gun the night before, just a few inches from the side of my head. It's a sound I will never forget – actually more than a sound, more like a physical insult – feeling the blowback on the side of my face, the percussive impact hitting my eardrum like a hammer, and that unique, too-close gun sound, consisting of high-powered, almost ultrasonic impulses of steel-on-steel-on-brass, from the chamber action of each deafening shot. It would be a vivid memory for a long time.
Other than that, it was just another beautiful day in San Andreas. I was splashing around in the surf, swimming and diving to build up my lung capacity, all the while remembering the whole interlude with Karen last night. It was some amazingly cool badassery we pulled off. Real badass, like Bourne, yeah :) I was replaying the whole night in my mind, doing my own ‘after-action review,’ to gain more insight into how to handle myself in a situation like we were in, each of the events, every gunshot, every turn, every observation, every decision.
But my thoughts kept returning to Karen, that first incredible kiss ... and especially, all the deep feelings that built up to it, and the future bliss that I hoped it portended ... sighhhhhhhh ... going through the days of my desired future with her, playing them through in my mind, again and again.
One of the insights I already had, about Karen, from all my previous interactions, and which was fully confirmed in this intense episode with her, was that, clearly, there is the hard Karen, and the soft Karen. It’s like two different personalities in the same mind, and she can transition from one to the other instantly, like flipping a switch, something as practiced and instinctive, to her, as shifting her gaze and her attention from one scene to another. I wondered how a woman, like Karen, could get so into her job, that she would transform from her beautiful, soft, warm, loving self, into a freaking terminator.
Maybe it’s the nature of the job – maybe if she were not like that, she would not have survived. I looked forward to times, in the near future [ I hoped so much ], when I could hear more of her stories, and get more insight into her life, if last night was any indication of her typical ‘night on the job.’ And I wanted to learn how I could reliably invoke the soft Karen, and how to avoid triggering the hard Karen – unless I was beside her in the middle of a firefight.
When I walked back up to the safehouse from the beach, I got a good look at my poor Sabre Turbo, parked in front of the house. I had forgotten about the buckshot. In the light of day, I could see that the driver’s side of the car had a bunch of dings and a scattering of tiny holes, and there were pits and cracks in the drivers’ side windows. I walked around the front, and saw where the bumper was a little skewed, and the passenger side fender was wrinkled, from the hard impacts of the quick race down the hill. I supposed the muffler and the bottom of the car looked pretty beat up as well, maybe some bent tie rods. I thought, I’ll take it to Beeker’s in a while.
Then I remembered, sh*t, the high-tech sniper rifle was still in the trunk, lying partly in its open case, with the silencer still installed, where Karen had left it when we scrambled to drive down the hill last night. I better take that thing out of there – it would be hard to explain that rifle as being needed for just a casual day out deer hunting. I popped the trunk and figured out how to get the silencer off, so I could put the rifle back in the case, then I took the case back inside, and set it next to the bed in Karen’s room, where, as far as I knew, she had never slept. :(
So, after a shower, I was feeling pretty much normal, except for my right ear, but I hoped that the ear will get better in a couple of days. I went outside to take a quick look at the Sabre Turbo, and to briefly run through my ‘hunting accident’ anecdote in my mind, in case I needed it. :)
Before I got into the car, I did one more look-over, to see if there were any incriminating clues on the car (like blood or brains or powdered cocaine, for example) that be difficult to explain. I saw that my micro SMG was still in the front seat as well, in the duffel bag with the unused magazines (still wrapped in Karen's parrot-print scarf), so I brought everything into the safehouse and put them on the dining room table. I left a few empty magazines out in the wet grass on the hill, last night, but not a problem.
I thought I probably should look under the car to see if it was clean as well, but I decided not to take the trouble to do so, since I was pretty sure that the only thing to see there might be big chunks of dirt and grass from the hillside. I could probably make them sound like part of the drunken hunting story, if I needed to. Well, except maybe if there were any body parts lodged in the underside ... might be harder to explain that. But I figured I would be alright.
It was a little before noon. I drove the Sabre Turbo up the street to Beeker’s, and asked them to fix it up. Also, I thought, well hey, as long as I have to get the body work done, maybe instead of the generic gray, I would treat the car with a little more respect, and add just a little more flash. No, not coloring it like a f*cking watermelon, but just making it look like the decent muscle car that it is. Even out here in Paleto, you see some nice classic muscle on the road sometimes, so I didn’t think it would draw much attention. Driving around in it would feel so much better :^:
In mid-afternoon, Karen called me on the secure app. I sat at the dining room table in the Paleto safehouse, and turned on the white noise, as usual. I was already starting to understand now, how a job like this pervades your unconscious thoughts, and you start doing these things automatically in your life.
On the call, with the little video window on my phone screen, I could see that Karen was in a van or RV with racks of electronic equipment behind her. He face was lit from the side by some kind of a high tech gooseneck LED lamp at the edge of the frame. She smiled, and you can bet I smiled back at her. :)
Then she was all business again. She said, “I have to make this quick; we’re on a time-critical op. The others just left the trailer here for a few minutes, to install some antennas.” Her expression softened, and she asked, “How are you doing?” In the little video window, I could see her intently watching her screen, probably analyzing my expression and my body language so she could *really* see how I was doing, regardless of what I might tell her.
“Hey, I’m fine,” I said. “It’s all seeming pretty normal now.” I paused. “Actually, though, I’m kinda glad I didn’t have to shoot anybody out there – I don’t think I’m ready for that.”
Karen responded, with a relieved smile, “O.P. that’s exactly how I hoped you would feel. Real violence isn’t something you can just casually walk away from, or walk into. Seriously, you have to have already bought in to all the consequences and implications of how such violence can affect the rest of your life, and really internalize it, well before you need to deal with it."
She went on, "It has to be rational. It’s a discipline. It’s a practice that takes, literally years, so you not only can execute properly without getting yourself killed, but also, in order to be able control your feelings and your decisions, both before and after an incident, whatever happens.”
I interjected, “Yeah, I’m seeing that now. Funny thing is that, primetime TV, action movies, and dumbass video game shooters make violence look so trivial, so easy, so casual and without consequence. And pulling a trigger really is physically easy. But I can see now, it’s deeper than that. The real life consequences could drive a person crazy ... assuming they’re still alive, or even have any brains left in their head, afterward.”
Karen continued, “Exactly. I never meant to put you in a situation like we had last night. I regretted it when I decided to call you in the first place, and I’m still regretting it. But it would have very difficult, and risky, to go into that situation without the rifle. It would have been outside the guidelines, even for a rogue op. Besides the potential injuries, the op could have been blown. It would have been a big setback."
She paused briefly, then continued, "The whole thing was a f*ckup, because people didn’t follow procedure. After our big project is over, I’m going to kick Agent f*cking 14’s ass out of the state.”
Karen paused to quickly suppress her rising anger. She recovered her neutral expression, and went on, “The good news is that, I don’t think there will be any repercussions from this, because those bikers are such bonehead losers. They have no idea what happened, or who was involved.”
Then she warned, "But if we had tangled with some real pros, you might never be able to hide from them. It could seriously be your worst nightmare, for the rest of your life, which might be very short and very terrible. That’s why I talked to you that night in Paleto. It’s still a relevant discussion.”
I was thinking and absorbing it all, as she was telling me this. If I were a participant by choice in illegal business like the fracas last night, I'd deserve whatever I got, and Karen could just fold me into her disciplined view, just another statistic, a nameless casualty added to the body count on a report. But she truly regrets my unintended exposure to her world - that could lead to collateral damage, which she would want to avoid. Even more, I actually mean something to her. It made me incredibly happy, and yet concerned at the same time. I really do have to decide, should I stay or should I go?
I’m gonna stay.
Then I decided to have some fun. I’d had enough of this downer talk. I said enthusiastically, “Hey, I thought you were calling me for an after-action debrief!”
Karen replied, “Definitely, it’s important – but not now, not enough time. I’ll call you and we’ll walk through it. There’s a lot to be learned.”
I was on a roll. I said, “Well here’s my version. That kiss? That was incredible! But we should have done it for the rest of the night.” :pp
Karen got my joke immediately, and laughed, quickly but genuinely. “Hah!! That’s good!” she replied with a big smile. “Yes, O.P., it was wonderful. But your timing sucks. Just wait, please. Be patient, like I told you.”
Then she said, with a stern look, “One more minute; then I gotta go. This is important, so listen. The big project is coming down to the final, very critical ops. I’m keeping a tight leash on everything, especially after last night. I can’t let my attention slip on this. I’m going to go quiet until this is over, another couple of weeks, both to avoid distractions, as well as for opsec, so there are no incidental compromises."
Without a break, she continued her serious message to me, "You won’t hear from me until it’s wrapped up – period – no matter how it goes. I'll be unreachable. So don’t worry, don’t try to contact me, and don’t do anything to attract attention – keep the usual low profile. Things will be fine. Just settle into your easy life in Paleto. When it’s all clear, I’ll call you and ... ”she paused and then smiled, “we'll take care of that after-action debrief...”
With her comment at the end, I was smiling widely, and I am sure she saw it on her little video screen, but that was all I was able to do. She smiled warmly and killed the link as soon as she finished talking, before I could reply.
My Sabre Turbo was going to be in Beeker's shop for a few days, and Karen said she would be out of touch, so I decided to settle into a routine, a life of ease, in good old Paleto Bay. I could get used to this. :)
About an hour after Karen's call, I was out in the front yard to get some fresh air, still thinking about what she had said on the phone. The sun looked beautiful, bright on the ocean. To clear my mind and do something useful, I walked over to Ammu-Nation to get the micro SMG cleaned and to get a few replacement magazines for the ones I left on the hill. "More barn rats," I told the guy.
When I got back, I saw that Karen had sent five texts to my phone. An impulse of alarm hit me, because I didn't expect any contact from her. I wondered what had happened. With growing worry, I picked up the phone to read the texts.
1: "O.P. i decided 2 send u the Doppler sensor app for your phone. its good opsec, evn tho u should not need thm at all"
2: " heres the link to the app ***************. but i dont want u 2 go out there shooting up the raccoons whenevr a sensor goes off. be cool, think b4 u shoot - always"
3: "or if u hear multiple grangers drive up & all the sensors lite up at once, youre probly dead meat anyway - best not to shoot - maybe u liv"
4: "only 4 that contingency, heres my pager ########## put it on ur speed dial. if smthng bad like that hapns -ONLY THEN- use it. my phone will be off"
5: "its more than opsec. if u get in trouble, i want a shot at getting u out. OK? XXXXX"
The shot of adrenaline that hit me when I first saw the text notifications on my phone, had already primed me. I was actually scared now; I felt hollow in the center of my chest. As I read the texts, my adrenaline rose higher than it was last night.
"youre probly dead meat anyway" Wow. It hit me like a punch to the gut. This *is* serious, dangerous business. It’s not just fooling around.
"maybe u liv" I looked up, blankly, not even seeing the room. I visualized the words in the text, and said the words in my mind again, then again. "maybe u liv" Goddammit, this really brought it home. Even though her message was just a remote contingency, it hit me, dead center, that I really was in a whole different ballgame.
It had been about a week since Karen's text, and it was truly radio silence, like she said it would be. I was exercising, swimming, doing some more small improvements on the safehouse ... it's a real joy, to live free, to make one's own decisions. I was liking this. :^:
I got my Sabre Turbo back. Whoa, what a beauty! :) They did an excellent job on the body work - real miracle workers, they are, and the price was right.
My sweet Sabre Turbo, all fixed up and looking great :)
The performance mods at Beeker's – well, they're a little more expensive, but the mechanical performance was fantastic! Fully modded acceleration, racing suspension and brakes, and the steering was tuned tight. Handling was great! I opened it up, out on Senora Freeway and Route 68, and whipped it through some tight turns on Union Road in Grapeseed. Very nice. :)
I was thinking now, I don't want to be bashing up my sweet Sabre Turbo out in the styx, on any more off-road adventures. Maybe I should get a cheap beater, an old Rebel or something, in case I ever need to do an unscheduled offroad drive again ...
The first time I heard the Doppler audio alarm beeping on the phone, indicating that a sensor went off, it woke me up with a start. I was ready to reach for my micro SMG on the nightstand. But I thought first, like Karen said. I looked out the window with a flashlight (a small LED model, not like Karen's favorite supersized maglite) and as Karen had foretold, I just saw three fat raccoons ambling through the yard, making their rounds looking for trash cans. So after that, I didn't worry about the occasional false alarms. Everything was peaceful, no Grangers surrounding the safehouse, just me going to sleep with the sound of crickets at night, and waking to the chirping of birds in the morning.
As each day and night went by without incident, I was starting to feel badass again, carefree, and cool. I lost the visceral worry that her texts had generated in me, as well as the seriousness of the issues we discussed on the video call. What remained was my understanding that Karen had real concern for me, that she really cares. Damn, I felt good about that.
As the time came up to 12 days, I had a growing anticipation for Karen's call. It was like waiting for Christmas morning, but not knowing just which day it would be. I wanted to see her again, so much, and to have actual leisure time for us, not this mission craziness, that seemed to consume all of her time and concentration up to now.
Finally, finally, finally! After 15 days in limbo, on a sunny morning, a little before noon, I was running on the beach in Paleto, when Karen sent me a couple of texts:
1: “proj is done. success. amazing, after all the prep and near disasters”
2: “meet me in 2 hours, at this GPS: ###.#### ###.#### . pack 4 overnite”
Pack for overnight? Wow! What did that mean, I wondered?
My original, vague plan for our reunion was going to be, as soon as Karen walked in the front door of the safehouse, I would sweep her off her feet, carry her straight to her bed, lavish her with a thousand kisses, as she squirms with giggling delight, and see where things go from there. :)
I guess she had different plans.
I ran back to the Paleto safehouse, showered, and packed my bag with some clothes. I already had it pretty much ready to go, from when I first started living at the Vespucci Beach safehouse. At the time, I felt like a temporary resident, just housesitting, and so I was living light.
I looked around to see if there was anything I was going to need. Besides the overnight bag, I decided to take the duffel bag with the micro SMG and ammo, and I stashed it in the trunk of my Sabre Turbo, being badass and all. :)
I set the GPS into my phone and headed out. It was taking me south on GOH. The distance was a little more than 2 miles. As the distance dropped to zero, I could see that the destination was a fruit stand at the side of the road, just north of Fort Zancudo. I pulled in and parked, and got out of the car. It was just about an hour after noon. Another fantastic, sunny day. I could hear the surf, and the ocean looked beautiful.
Karen was standing there at the fruit stand, in the shade, buying some oranges. She was wearing her same typical outfit - the tight [ oh, yeah! ] white cargo pants, and her brown leather jacket. My heart soared! My knees got weak! I had missed her so much, and now finally, she’s right here! :inlove:
I headed straight for Karen, with the look of love in my eyes. She saw me coming and smiled. As I got close to her, she stiff-armed me with the bag of oranges and said, "Here, take these. No public displays of affection, O.P. Be patient." Even with her stern words, her look and her smile were warm.
Without breaking her momentum, Karen walked around me and headed for my Sabre Turbo, which was parked in the sun about 30 feet away. I naturally followed, and she glanced over to see that I was keeping up. She went to the passenger side, and as she came close to the car, she looked at me, smiled again and said, with a nice, meaningful inflection in her voice, "Nice car, O.P." It made me happy.
She opened the car door, and it was pretty clear that she was going to immediately get into the passenger seat, so I headed for the driver's door, and opened it. But before she ducked to get into the car, she looked across the roof at me. We locked eyes, and I could tell that we were both happy.
Then we both got in the car. I put the bag of oranges on the console between the seats, out of the way of the shift lever. I looked over at Karen, hoping, at least, for a quick kiss. Instead, she looked out the windshield and pointed to the road. "Start the car and head south on GOH," she said. All business :(
Once we were out on the road, and I was driving, I wanted to say something, to start a conversation, but suddenly, I was tongue-tied and couldn't think of anything. I glanced over at Karen, a bit awkardly. She glanced back at me, and then she reached up and took hold of my right hand, which was on the steering wheel, and lowered it to the console, giving it a warm squeeze :)
I squeezed back. That made me happier than any conversation could have. We held hands as I drove. I never wanted to let go of her hand again. I was feeling warm, deep down, and so happy. :)
Then Karen said, "We're only going a couple of miles down the road. We're going to turn right onto Ineseno Road, past Bahnam Canyon. Do you know where that is?"
I replied that I knew about where Banham Canyon is, down by that country club in Pacific Bluffs, but I didn't recognize the name of the road.
When we got close to the turn, Karen released my hand and said, "Here, turn right here."
From GOH, I turned onto Ineseno Road, a little side road off GOH. I'd been past here before. It was like the other high-dollar CEO / celeb colonies along GOH - bespoke but expensive beach houses, 180 degree views of the beautiful ocean - a really nice, laid-back San Andreas lifestyle, for the people who have it made.
I continued driving south on Ineseno Road. After we passed several upscale houses, Karen said, "Slow down. See the 24/7 coming up? Go just past it, then stop." I slowed as we drove by the front of the 24/7. "Here," Karen said. "Pull over right here." She directed me to stop the car in front of the garage door of a gray beach house with a purple tile roof, neighboring the 24/7.
Karen turned to me. She looked so soft, so beautiful. Then she smiled, that closed-lip, Karen-in-control smirk, with a twinkle in her eye, that I was coming to truly love. :)
I looked at her and asked, "What are we going to do here?"
Karen replied, "You'll find out..."
The Ineseno Road beach house, next to the 24/7
Stay tuned for CHAPTER 6:


Edited by saintsrow
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CHAPTER 6: The World according to Karen Daniels

These events follow from CHAPTER 5

We were parked in front of the Ineseno beach house. Karen opened her door and got out of my Sabre Turbo, grabbing the bag of oranges from the console. It was obvious to me now that we had arrived at her intended destination, so I killed the ignition and got out of the car also. Across the top of the car, I looked again at Karen (since I can hardly take my eyes off of her anyway) and then, out of curiosity, I naturally scanned the front of the two-story beach house we were standing in front of, and then back to Karen. She had already turned away from me, toward the house.

Front of the Ineseno Road beach house


Karen had a key in her hand, and she was moving to unlock the front door of the beach house. She motioned for me to come with her. I was a step behind her as she opened the door. It was natural to follow her in.

As we entered, Karen said, with a happy, light tone of voice, "O.P, welcome to our new home."

Long, silent pause .....

Wow. Whew... I didn't know what to say. I tried to play back, in my mind, what I thought I had heard. She had said 'our' new home [ **OUR**, as in, Karen and I !!! OUR !! ] Then I was thinking, there's gotta be a catch.

But Karen just continued in, walking into the kitchen, and she dumped the bag of oranges into a fruit basket on the kitchen counter. She continued walking, scanning the kitchen with her eyes, as she moved through an open doorway to the end of the house, toward the beach. She stopped in the middle of what looked like the family room or living room, with double glass doors, overlooking the beach and the ocean. I was right behind her.

By this time, my male instincts were fully recovered and my lust for Karen was rising quickly. Just hearing her voice, and seeing her move, had activated all of my senses, all focused on Karen. (Plus, she said ‘our.’ !!!)

In the bright, perfect light of the sun, reflecting off the ocean and the beach, shining through the glass doors, my unconscious male animal brain was making a plan, with horny thoughts coursing through my involuntary nervous system. ;) Moving around from behind her, I laid my hand on the shoulder of her jacket and moved directly in front of her, where I could hug her and continue that beautiful, incredible kiss we started, in the midnight moonlight at the base of the hill, to the east of the Alamo Sea.

She stopped me quickly, her arm and hand effortlessly coming up to my chest to completely block my forward motion, so I could not get close enough to her, and she turned gracefully, to distance her shoulder from my hand, which I had to lower back to my side. :cry:

With a seriously stern Karen look, and the hard Karen talking, she said, "Hold up, horn-dog. It's not just going to be 'wham-bam-bam, thank you ma'am,' go around again, and then you get to roll over and fall asleep, wake up to the sound of the seagulls in the morning, go for a nice swim in the ocean, and come back in here for a nooner. It's a little more complicated than that." I just stood there, looking in her eyes, but my lust was receding with every second. I could tell that a speech was incoming...

Karen indeed went off on a long speech. She continued, "When you go into a relationship with a woman, a real relationship, not a one-night, f*ck-and-forget, drunken lay, you also adopt her whole backstory, her life - you can't decouple from it. You know what I mean?" I started to say something like, yeah, I guess so … but she immediately went on without stopping, before I could utter a syllable.

“You get the awkward family dinners, with the drunken uncle, the perverted delinquent little pothead brother who plays video games all day and fails his classes, the overbearing racist father, the meddling, helicopter mother who wants to change everything about you, the loser brother-in-law that always needs money, or needs help out of a jam. And so on. You just want the girl, but all this sh*t comes along with her."

"Well, my 'family,' my backstory, is a little different, as you know, but you'll be getting coupled into it. You don't have a choice; you're going to see completely what you're getting into. It's heavy. You know that.”

She motioned toward the glass doors with her hand. “So, we're going to talk for a while, just sit out there on the deck, side-by-side in the lounge chairs, feel the cool sea breeze, drink some beers, hold hands, flirt, and enjoy each other’s company, and you're going to get to know me, to know my life, and decide if you want to accept it. You understand?"

Wow. Well, that didn't sound so bad, actually. As long as I had some confidence that Karen wasn't going to get a sudden pager call and ditch me again, I thought, yeah, what she just described sounds like a really nice way to spend the afternoon with her -- actually, kind of like my early daydreams of being with her on a first date that never happened, when I first started living in the Vespucci Beach safehouse. Seemed like a long time ago. I said, “I understand, Karen. It’ll be fun!”


Karen already had beers in the refrigerator, a cooler on top of the refrigerator, and crushed ice in the freezer. She said, “I’m going upstairs for a minute. Bring those beers out to the deck, and move the two lounge chairs side by side. Set them so we can look out over the ocean.” She paused, “Obviously.”

I set up things on the deck as Karen had instructed. I guessed that, rather than going back inside and following Karen around like a lovesick puppy dog as soon as she comes downstairs, it would probably better for me to sit down in one of the lounge chairs, take a deep breath, act cool, relax and plan on a nice [ hopefully lighthearted ] conversation with her, on this beautiful sunny afternoon, overlooking the beach and the ocean. I plunked down in the lounge chair on the right, popped open a beer from the cooler, and after some minutes passed, I settled in and was really enjoying this, forgetting temporarily about how this came to be ‘our new home.’


When Karen came downstairs and walked out onto the deck, she had changed clothes. Holy ... mother of god !! I almost fell over in the lounge chair! She was wearing black bikini bottoms with a tight, sports-bra kind of tank top, which had a black background with a colorful parrot print across the breast area, and over that minimal attire, she was loosely wearing an unbuttoned, oversized, long-sleeved man’s dress shirt, light blue in color. The open shirt flowed in the breeze as she walked out to the deck, and so it hid nothing, except her shoulders and arms – my eyes took in her beautiful, athletic shape, her perfect skin, her warm smile, her hair in the sea breeze. I told my involuntary nervous system to calm down, dammit. It didn’t calm down... :)

The parrot print on her top was familiar –it was the same design as the scarf in which she had wrapped the micro SMG magazines. Her legs were bare. Her feet were bare ... whoa ... o my god ... My eyes scanned her, toe to head to toe to head, several times, focusing on every beautiful bit – and she has a lot of beautiful bits :) I was aware of Karen watching me, watching my gaze, with amusement, as indicated by a wry, knowing, happy smile, and a warm look in her eyes, every time my gaze returned to her face. I just couldn’t get enough of the beautiful vision that I was seeing.

I finally recovered my voice. Almost. “K ... Karen,” I stammered. “You look so beautiful … I’m outta words…” She smiled again, as her eyes met mine, and I paused to think for a second. Since she had changed her clothes to beach casual, I probably could assume that she’s in a casual lifestyle mode, maybe actually being the real woman, the real Karen, for now. “So ... is this like a ... first date?” I asked, tentatively.

Karen answered, still with a warm smile for me, "Yes, that’s a nice way to think of it.” She luxuriously slinked her way into the lounge chair on the left, and she lifted a beer from the cooler and popped it open. The light blue dress shirt pretty much fell over the edges of the lounge chair, leaving Karen’s beautiful figure fully visible, beside me. Her collarbones, her stomach, her hips and her curves, her legs ... it just got better. :inlove:

Even though the tank top was tight, it couldn’t compress her amazing breasts, which filled out the top quite well. Those parrots should be damn happy, I thought. I was probably staring, but I didn’t care. Karen didn’t seem to care, either :) I thought to myself, well, this is a pretty good way to start a conversation ... :^: I just hope I can remember to listen.

Karen looked out over the ocean. She started, “OK, I’m going to give you the big picture. As you can tell, I’m in an agency. It doesn't matter which one. They're all the same."

As she started talking, it occurred to me – now that I was becoming an automatic, hardcore badass spy myself, what about bugs? As soon as she paused, I asked, ”Do we need the white noise for this?”

She looked me with a bright expression, and said, “O.P., that’s’ great. You really are learning.” Then she added, “It’s good practice, but for several reasons, we’re not going to need it. First, this place has a full spectrum bug detection system, including detection of store-and-forward, frequency-hopping and burst modes. I’ll tell you later why that’s here.”

“Second, for about the same reasons, this location is not ‘on the ‘grid,’ not yet, anyway – it’s not a target for the typical measures and countermeasures that we have to deal with for our safehouses. Third, you can see that there’s only a couple of places, out on the beach, where a long-range mic could be placed, and it’s not looking like there is anything out there. We’re blocked to the left by this house, and to the right by the 24/7, which, for different reasons, is one of our own assets.”

"Finally, I don’t plan to talk about any project work – and you, don’t ask any questions about it – most of what I am going to say is already standard knowledge for any of the usual listeners. If I have anything sensitive to say, I’ll whisper it in your ear,” and she looked at me with a sly smile, as I responded as she knew I would.

“Hey, that sounds great!” I said, enthusiastically. “Got any secrets you want to tell me now?” I took advantage of the lightness of the moment to reach over and take Karen’s hand in mine, and she accepted it. We intertwined fingers, and I felt so good, as I squeezed her hand and she squeezed back, our hands resting on the armrests of the two lounge chairs.

I paused, then asked, “Are we talking personal secrets, too?” and I smiled widely.

Karen briefly rolled her eyes with sublime subtlety, and continued with her speech, “You know, you really have to take calculated risks, optimally and rationally. We’re sitting here in the sunlight, in the ocean breeze, not a care in the world. But there could be a sniper out on the Chumash Pier, lying prone on top of the restaurant roof – see out there a few hundred yards away? Your head could be in the crosshairs right now, the wind all compensated, just a few ounces of force on a trigger, and ... splat! You could get it anywhere, anytime, and you’d never see it coming.”

She lightened up and added, “But for now, with the last project, a lot of loose ends got tied up, and the people who are left want to bury the incident without any more interagency gossip, so the general risk level of revenge assassinations for this one is low. That’s the desired outcome of a well-planned op. So at this moment, I’m not worried about it, so you don’t need to be worried, either.”

She said, “More generally, the realistic countermeasures, that I take, are for certain kinds of surveillance threats, mostly symmetric threats. I’m not worried about the cartel or the Russian mob or the pervasive criminal gang element in Los Santos. Those guys stick to their own business. They show up on our radar as potential interferers, assets, targets, or facilitators, or sometimes partners. Just depends. But they don’t follow me around with long range mics or night vision scopes.”

Then Karen got a serious look, and she went on, “The real threats are the FIB and other agencies. Everybody’s trying to get the goods on everybody else, bulk surveillance everywhere, even spying on themselves. It’s just a practice that evolved, and the technology keeps supporting it better and better all the time. There’s hardly any purely legitimate work done anymore – the info we get on the bad guys, that results in the occasional high-profile crackdown – sometimes that's just collateral. That's why I normally have to be so careful, why we practice good opsec – most of the time. Our ‘friends’ are the ones trying hardest to dig up the dirt on us."

I asked, “But can’t you get in trouble for telling me all this? Isn’t this stuff you’re telling me classified?”

Karen replied, “It’s only officially classified if it’s a legit op.” She smiled and continued, “I haven’t done one of those for a few years now – it’s almost all rogue these days.” Then she paused a second and added, "Actually, legit, rogue, whatever ... it's getting harder to tell the difference. It's not a symmetric fight any more, not so much sovereign state, spy-vs-spy, like it used to be. The adversaries now are just criminals – cynical, opportunistic, organized criminal organizations, at all scales up to and including foreign governments, corporations, religious sects, all kinds of players out for themselves while trying to claim the moral high ground with some ideology, or theology, or ‘putting shareholder interests first’ – everybody hustling, scheming, making alliances, subcontracting out the dirty work to corporate mercs like Merryweather, or free agents like that so-called ‘Agent 14’ and his bozos.”

With only the slightest pause, Karen went on, “Loyalty is bought and sold. Everybody weighs risks versus benefits, with ethics and morality only appearing in the form of possible repercussions to be mitigated or scapegoated, or sometimes, just plain ignored. There are no rules, just results – and blown ops, or painful deaths, for the ones who screw up. Slowly, the agencies have evolved to mirror the threat, both in structure and in methods, with former threats sometimes temporarily becoming frenemies, to achieve an advantage over some other group of assholes with competing interests, before the inevitable double-crosses start. And then the cycle goes around again. Ironically, this is how we stay safe."

"This isn't just the world according to Karen Daniels,” she added. “This is the agency view, the reality of the world today, just business as usual. Actually, it’s probably always been like this, before the Romans, before the Pharaohs, as long there have been humans, and hierarchies, and the core, essential, basal drive of greed and lust for power. And assholes. Assholes everywhere."

Karen paused, kind of realizing the extent of the long-winded dissertation she just voiced, which sounded like a chapter out of a John le Carré novel, being read on Audible. She smiled, "Well, that was a hell of an exposition, wasn't it? That speech is almost automatic. I've observed this worldview myself, for some years now; it's just an objective description of the business. But it's basically the same speech I would hear -- actually, I *have heard* -- from my boss, and from the graybeards, professors and instructors in our agency. And all the agencies have the same reality. Bottom line is, you can't be a nice guy, can't be trusting, and still be a player in this business. No matter which side you're on, even if it's the same side. Sucks, doesn't it?"

Then Karen's demeanor changed. She looked at me warmly, squeezed my hand, and I squeezed back. My lust level rose again. I felt so warm. I raised her hand up and kissed it, taking in her scent, savoring every second. I cupped my other hand around hers as well, and gently kissed her fingers again, before lowering her hand back to the armrest of the lounge chair. She smiled sweetly and continued, "So now, it comes around to us, sitting here, soaking up the sunset and the sea breeze. I’ll tell you what we’re doing here.”

“We have a lot of surveillance resources, as you can imagine. No matter what these resources were originally developed to do, we routinely discover all kinds of sleazebags and criminals that were never original targets, not on the radar. Some of them are mid-level drug lords who like the Los Santos lifestyle, or they sometimes have business up here, so they want to have a comfy base of operations, when they visit the big city.”

“Don’t you turn them in to the FIB?” I asked. It seemed like an intelligent question.

“Are you kidding?? We don’t turn these assholes in to the FIB. That would be a waste, on all levels. Instead, we keep them in reserve for future use, most of the time without them even knowing we already own them, so when the time comes, we can squeeze them, to use their assets or their network, or maybe trace back to a big fish, so that some senior director in the agency can get a promotion.”

"O.P., when I said I was putting full concentration on the project I just finished, that was mostly true, but I was also continuing to manage the processes that I had put in place to secure this house for us. You remember, I told you I had something in the works that you would like? I want to explain to you why we’re here."

“A minor drug lord is coming into town tomorrow night. This is his place. Last week, we cleared his crap out of here, shoveled it all into agency burn bags, and carted it away.

“Wait a minute,” I said. “You mean we’re living in a drug lord’s beach house, you burned all his stuff, and he’s coming here tomorrow night??!” I started to feel a bit concerned.

“Well, we only burned his personal stuff. Did you see all the nice furniture, the high-end stereo system, and the security system? He’s got a first-rate bug detection system, and infrared cameras aimed out at the beach, and other toys, also. That’s pretty good stuff, so I kept it,” she smiled, that in-control Karen smile that made me feel a little more at ease. “I thought we would keep the same scheme he has – frumpy little beach house on the outside, but modern, state of the art tech, inside.”

“This particular drug lord has been fully exploited. We got to his supply chain, and we’ve turned key people, so they can be used as future assets. It’s a healthy new network, with mostly friendlies running the show. Meanwhile, this asshole, who’s coming up here tomorrow, is not only a risky liability, but his time has come. He was already on the hit list, so he’s going down. He won’t be needing this place anymore.”

“You just have to understand that he deserves it, big time. He’ll just be reaping the seeds that he has sown for the last 15 years. I'm not gonna describe his crimes right now - it would really kill the mood. If you knew, I think you'd be glad he's finally getting taken out. He's caused way more than his fair share of pain. It's time for the scales of justice to balance."

Karen let it sink for me, for a minute, then continued, “So, I saw that hit coming up, and decided to use the opportunity to convert his assets – this house, mainly, and his sailboat – at the same time he gets taken out. When you convert an asset like this in the agency, it’s not too easy, and it has to be handled with finesse. We have to be strategic, and the conversion has to make sense with our other operations and the bigger picture.”

“Out of context, it might sound like some kind of corruption, but our property management system actually allows agents do it, since it holds the assets in a sort of protective storage, until they are needed for an op, or to be bartered for other assets or resources we need. It’s kind of rare, but agents tend to use it as kind of a ‘summer home,’ or a ‘retirement plan,’ knowing that after a few years, it might get put in play again. For now, the cover story for this place won’t change. Assets like this typically are not used as safehouses – that’s a different system – so we’re off the grid, here, as I said.”

“We can’t just go in like the FIB does, and take things. When some asshole department manager in the FIB wants a beach house like this, they check their list for the usual suspects, they get a bit of targeted surveillance, enough to charge the target with something – and confiscate the asset under drug or racketeering laws. After a while the asset is put up for auction at pennies on the dollar, or typically less, *after* the insider has already arranged to be the sole bidder, before the public ever sees the auction. It’s an outright sale, no longer available as a government asset. If there’s any blowback from the original asset owner – and there rarely is – Merryweather gets a discreet call from the FIB, a little rogue op takes place, and the troublemakers are neutralized. “

Meanwhile, I had been thinking it through, and it didn’t sound so good to me. “So you’re just gonna let him walk in here, with some of his hired muscle, and try to take him out? I mean, that thing with the Lost took some balls, but this sounds literally, way too close to home."

Karen replied, “Shhh, don’t mention them. Remember, I told you, no project or ops talk? Actually, though, I was going to mention something,” and she drew closer to me, and lowered her voice. I moved my head toward her a bit, wishing I could kiss her, but the timing just didn’t seem right, and I knew I would get in trouble with her.

Karen said, quietly, “Since you were a little concerned, or ‘jealous,’ about that Agent 14 prick, I just want to let you know, he’s out of the picture. After that screwup at Alamo Sea, I was able to get him blacklisted from agency work.”

I remembered my concern, and I was glad to hear that Karen would never be spending any overnight surveillance jobs with the guy again.

She continued, “He was just lazy – he should have taken care to recruit more professional muscle for the op. There’s just too many undisciplined amateurs in this town – a dime a dozen, because life is a lot easier, here in Los Santos. In other countries, in other towns, I would have to entrap, cajole, threaten; you wouldn’t believe what I had to do. The people that we usually get to help us out in those places have more to lose, due to situations they were already in, but they also have a lot more to gain, if things work out.”

Karen leaned back, away from me, and took a drink of her beer. “The muscle available to hire in this town is mostly lazy and stupid, apathetic, with nothing to lose. They don’t give a f*ck, and they’re bored sh*tless – just aimless, over-muscled, undisciplined sacks of male hormones running around, looking for an opportunity to hurt somebody. But that also makes them easy to recruit for violent, low-skill jobs. Now, all you need to do is give them a couple of bucks and few kind words. Insincere words, I can assure you. I was so glad to be done with those fools.”

Then Karen got back on track, “Anyway, to answer your question, we’re not going to just let our drug lord walk in here and find us wrapped up in our blankies on the couch, watching reruns of MacGyver.”

Karen smiled, with building enthusiasm, "Here's the fun part -- I'll explain how the op is going to go down, just so you'll know, like I said, what you're getting into, when you start sharing my lifestyle."

“Our target’s going to have a horrible accident involving a hit-and-run Speedophile tomorrow night, as his sailboat is motoring up to the Chumash Pier. He’ll never set foot on land. Well, actually a foot, or some other parts, might wash up on shore, if the sharks don’t get everything...”

“OK, that sounds novel,” I said. “But, do we have to be ready to shoot up anything? A drive-by boat chase? I’m thinking, I’m not quite up for that lifestyle, yet.”

Karen replied, “No, O.P., relax. I don’t expect to have to do anything. There ‘s a kid in our department, who wants to earn one of the agency’s ‘merit badges,’ which in this case, consists of planning and executing an op to take out a target on our agency’s to-do list.”

“This kid’s a Los Santos native and he’s been around the ocean all his life. He used to be a surfer, then got into sailboats and scuba. So when I told him that I had a target coming in by boat, he was all over it.” She added, "I call him a 'kid' because he's the young, new guy in the department, but he has a degree in economics, and a year of agency training."

“The target will be coming in to Chumash Pier, right over there,” and Karen pointed up the coast at the long pier extending to the deep water. “He’ll be on a sailboat that he likes to take out from the pier when he’s up here. When he comes in to town, a couple of times per year, his local bodyguards motor his sailboat south of the Port of Los Santos, to rendezvous with his ocean-going yacht, coming from the home country, down on the equator.”

“So here’s the kid’s plan: When the target comes in tomorrow night, only two bodyguards will be with him, nobody else. On his yacht down on his home coast, he always has a couple of bikini bimbos with him, but when he comes to Los Santos, he likes to grab a handful of the local booty, so he doesn’t bring any girls along. No innocents are going to be on board.”

“The local bodyguards on the sailboat are already paid off, and have been working for the agency for the last 18 months or so. As they get close to the Chumash Pier, one of them is going to rap the target on the head with a suitable blunt object, and push him into the water, and then they’ll yell ‘man overboard!’ like it’s an accident. Previously, if possible, they will have made a point of getting the target to wear a new overstuffed life jacket, as a “precaution” against a possible overboard accident. It’ll keep his head well above water.”

“As the bodyguards are making a big show of trying to circle back in the boat to get their boss out of the water, a terrible accident will happen, when our kid, on a Speedophile doing about 45 miles per hour in the dark, comes blasting out from between the pilings under the pier, cracks open the target’s head, and keeps on going – a seagoing hit and run. One of the bodyguards will empty a couple of clips from his pistol, shooting over the head of the kid as he is jetting away. From a distance, it’s going to look like he hits the kid, who will fall off into the water.”

“What’s really happening is that there is a kink inside the throttle cable, to jam it so it doesn’t return to idle with just the throttle spring force. So the Speedophile goes on out to sea, until it runs out of gas, and meanwhile, our kid has a couple of rebreathers, so after he jumps off, he quickly swims underwater, back to the target, and pulls the target under, to make sure that he’s not coming back, if he’s not dead already. He’ll unhook the overstuffed life vest, so the target’s clothes and gun will probably weigh him down, below the waterline. Then, if the bodyguards don’t fish him out of the water, the sharks should take care of the rest.”

“And, the good news is, we'll be able to watch! I'm going to be up on the roof of this place tomorrow night, with the sniper rifle and a high-powered spotting scope. If anything goes wrong with the hit-and-run, our target will get a sniper bullet through the chest, a little supersonic surprise from my trusty sniper rifle, and if needed, we'll execute some contingencies to make sure that the end result comes out the same. But I think the kid will do alright. He's pretty sharp.”

“We’ll be in the ‘balcony seats,’ on the roof. It’ll be great to see a little op like this come together, after seeing the concept on PowerPoint slides last month.”

Holy sh*t. I guess that having a talk like this is what women like Karen do for casual first date banter. It’s … different. That’s for sure.

The sun was starting to go down now. The sunset over the ocean was becoming more beautiful by the second. I had held and played with Karen's hand for so long, it felt like a part of me now, the best part. It was so sensual. I loved every minute of it. I was seeing the benefit of a man and a woman taking time to really connect, before the wham-bam part. Regardless of what it was she had just said for the past couple of hours, just hearing her voice and seeing her move, seeing her smile, was slow motion foreplay for me.

Karen didn’t continue talking. The silence suddenly seemed strange. But then she squeezed my hand, and she said, “O.P., It’s been a wonderful evening. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

At that point, she decoupled from my hand, and gracefully stood up from her lounge chair, and so I followed her lead, and did the same, rising to my feet (but not as gracefully, for sure). We were standing there, with the lounge chairs between us.

She turned her back to me and took a step toward the open double glass doors, to go back into the house. I reflexively started to follow her, assuming, as a man would naturally do, that it was time to get down. My body was ready. :) I walked around the lounge chairs, to catch up with her.

But she knew, just instinctively, that I was following her, and she suddenly turned her head partly back toward me, with a glance so stern, and she ordered, in no uncertain terms, "You stay there." I stopped, still standing on the deck, just outside the open glass doors. The warm red light of Pacific sunset flooded the room. She walked in about five more steps, and stopped, but did not turn around.

With her back to me, she carefully, so slowly, so precisely, lifted the dress shirt she was wearing, spread it out with her hands and opened it, like angel's wings unfolding, and then her hands moved downward, to let the shirt start to slide off her arms, revealing her beautiful, perfect shoulders and her back, covered by the black back panel of the tank top. She caught the shirt with her left hand, before it fell to the floor, and reached out to drape it over the chair next to her, in the room. She moved in a fantastically slow, exaggerated pantomime of the act of disrobing, a timeless act of pure female sensuality. The seconds seemed like minutes.

Then she gracefully raised both arms behind the back of her head, slipping her thumbs under the black straps of the tank top. She started pulling the tank top up, slowly. My jaw was emotionally and mentally on the floor, by this time.

Even with Karen’s back to me, I could discern the moment that her breasts popped free of the constraint of the tank top, free from the colorful parrots who had guarded them from me, for the entire evening. It was driving me nuts with lust and love. This whole slinky dance made me think that maybe Karen was once an artist’s model, or a pole dancer. Almost every instant was a beautiful, sexy pose, in itself. She pulled the tank top over her head, and shook her head for a couple of seconds, to un-muss her hair.

Still with her back to me, Karen continued to stretch, like a cat waking up in the sun, standing with one foot slightly in front of the other, raising up on her tiptoes, while stretching the tips of her fingers as high as they could possibly reach, as her right hand dropped the tank top to the floor. She continued to stretch her hands upward, slightly offset, fingers pointing straight up, and she slowly raised her head to look up at the ceiling, wearing only the black bikini bottoms, with her back naked and beautiful, her bare legs so long, her arms so perfect.

Karen held the pose for a few seconds. She looked like a statue by Auguste Rodin, a statue that, if Rodin had ever witnessed this scene, he would have disowned every statue he had ever made, and he would have created his life’s masterwork, “Karen Stripping off her Tank Top” or, maybe more likely, a title like 'Woman, Touching the Sky’ or ‘Femme, Toucher le ciel’ as he would probably say it. I always wondered how artists dream up the names for their works.

Her warm silhouette, bathed in the light of the waning red sun, appeared as the most perfect, hourglass shape of woman, the classic scene imagined in the mind of man, burned into the ‘love and lust’ neurons in our male brain stem.

I was mesmerized, transfixed, dazed to my core, with love pervading every fiber of my being. The realization that Karen was doing this for me, O.P. Lovelorn, at this moment in time, in this room, in this house, on this beach, at the edge of this ocean, on this planet, lit by this sun, orbiting in this galaxy, floating in this universe – I felt overcome with the transcendence of existence, infinitely deep, throughout all time. What’s more, I was turned on.

Karen slowly lowered her arms, but continued to stand with her back to me. As her arms came down, and she lowered off her tiptoes, she looked to the left, toward the chair where she had draped the light blue dress shirt. I intently watched her profile, seeing the side of her face, combined with the rest of the pose she was striking, and more waves of love rolled over me.

She slowly raised the shirt from the chair, reached her right hand behind her back and took one lapel, while the other lapel was still in her left hand, so that she was able to raise the shirt up, and put it back over her arms as she raised them, as gracefully and magnificently as she had taken off the shirt a minute before. Now she looked like she had, when she walked into the room, except her parrot-print tank top was on the floor.

Then, to my infinite delight, Karen slowly turned back around to me, and gracefully, with one deliberate step at time, she began to walk toward me. The light blue dress shirt barely covered her nipples. Her breasts moved softly, under the shirt, with every step.

As Karen moved toward me, my eyes once again scanned every inch of her – her legs, breasts, stomach, face, everything. I could see her watching me, in my rapture, knowing just what she was doing to me. In six steps, she had returned to me, standing less than a foot away. We were looking in each other’s eyes, warmly, oblivious to the rest of the world. I could feel an involuntary impulse, an instinct as deep as the dawn of man, wanting my hands to rise up to her breasts.

At that moment, she looked down at her breasts, and said to me, “I believe you’ve been wanting to get your hands on these, since we first met.”

I was speechless, and I knew I would be incoherent if I tried to say anything. Then I, too, looked at her breasts, and I let my male impulse be free, bringing my hands up under her shirt, to cup her breasts, my fingers and palms brushing her nipples. I squeezed and fondled her breasts, played with her nipples between my fingers, and Karen began to purr and moan. After a while, I was aware that she was looking at my face, looking with some amusement at the classic expression of ecstasy and total male lust that I surely had.

Then Karen said, suddenly, “Alright, it’s time for that after-action debrief, now.”

My hands froze in mid-squeeze. I looked up at her, surprised. I tried to form words, “You mean … where we ... did ...“

She finished the sentence for me, “the kiss,” and smiled. We looked in each other’s eyes again, and my hands slowly moved down, from her breasts, to her hips. Karen tilted her head slightly and parted her lips. I did the same. We closed our eyes, and continued the kiss we had started at the Alamo Sea, as though it had never ended. Her lips, so incredibly soft, brushing against mine.

My hands came around, under her shirt, up to the middle of her back, and I squeezed Karen tight against me, with just the right amount of gentle male force, pushing her beautiful breasts full against my chest. Karen’s hands moved up my arms, to my shoulders, and gripped my shoulders tightly. We continued to brush our lips together, and then she started with her tongue, and we got sloppy, French kissing and alternately feeling each other’s lips, soft and yet moving deliberately, with the forces of love.

After a few minutes, we both sort of pulled away a bit, just to recover, to start another round. I opened my eyes. Then Karen smiled the most fetching smile I have ever seen, and the look in her eyes was warm with love. She whispered, “O.P., come with me to bed, now.”

Beautiful sunset on the ocean, as Karen and O.P. kissed with passion unbound


-- THE END --


TL;DR: O.P. got the girl. They lived happily ever after.


Well, that’s it, dear readers. Thanks so much for sticking with it. I’m sorry that Karen’s story didn’t end with a bang, or a big climax ... well, not in the action story sense, anyway, but maybe in the creepy sense ...

I kind of regret, and apologize, that instead of being full of badass Karen action, it’s turned into a ‘cheap romance novel,’ but that’s the premise of the thread. O.P. is smitten with Karen Daniels. Romance is certainly out of place in the nasty world of GTA, but the thread and the story were meant to show that even an iron bitch can have a soft, sexy side.

I also wanted to stop on the ‘happily ever after’ note, because that’s the high point. Life can only go downhill from there.

Another way that Karen fanfic could go, is “The Badass Karen Story of the Week” but then it just becomes one arbitrary battle after another, an episodic treadmill, full of tactical detail of Karen, along with her lovesick sidekick, O.P., providing the sexual tension, as they kick ass on the scumbag of the week, like prime-time TV. After a while, there’s nowhere new to go.

Unfortunately, our muse, dear Karen, compelled me to write CHAPTER 7 :)

Edited by saintsrow
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CHAPTER 7: Life with Karen, Part 1 (Living Happily Ever After)

Note: These events follow from CHAPTER 6

The next night after Karen and I arrived here at Ineseno Road, when the drug lord owner of our beach house was coming up to Chumash Pier in his sailboat, with his two turncoat bodyguards, we watched the whole thing from the roof, as Karen had told me we would. It was a little before midnight. Karen and I lay prone on the roof, side by side on a comfy quilt, looking out toward the pier. She was observing the whole operation through her sniper scope, with the rifle resting on a small bipod, and its silencer and muzzle flash suppressor adding even more length to what was already an extremely long gun barrel. I was using the spotting scope, while she quietly narrated the action for me.

The last party on the beach below us was still huddling around the remains of their campfire, the partiers having pretty much quieted down and turned to making out with each other, or for the third wheels in the group, just slumping in their beach chairs, in a drunken doze. The sparse traffic on Ineseno Road went past, oblivious. We couldn’t be easily seen from GOH. So overall, our roof was a pretty good place for a night op.

Karen had positioned the sniper rifle so it was mostly hidden behind the roof air conditioner unit next to her. She had an app on her phone that was being fed by a night vision camera aimed behind us, at the one house on the other side of GOH that was able to see our rooftop, and at the hill behind that house. Karen told me that the app had a motion sensing algorithm, so if anything moved or changed in the nighttime scene behind us, it would alert her.

Another couple of apps on her phone were tied into the high tech security system in the beach house, which would send alerts if there were any sensor alarms or camera movement in or near the house. The phone could receive the all the external and internal camera feeds from the house's security system, as well. She had it all covered.

The op went down just like she said, exactly according to plan. The sailboat motored toward the pier, in the moonlight. When it got maybe 100 yards from the pier, through the scopes, we saw the drug lord get whacked on the head and pushed out by one of the bodyguards, followed by the resulting ‘man overboard’ commotion, and the scrambling attempt to start circling back in the boat. The target was in the water, maybe 80 feet from the boat, as they were bringing it about.

Then, right on cue, the young agent in the Speedophile suddenly appeared, blasting through the pilings from the north side of the pier at full speed, no lights, and in an extremely unfortunate accident :p , the hull of the Speedophile collided with the skull of the still groggy drug lord, who was bobbing in the water with the help of his life vest. Crrraaaack!!!!

A few seconds later, through the scopes, we saw multiple muzzle flashes from one of the bodyguard’s pistols, appearing to shoot at the Speedophile rider, and heard the distant shots about half a second later. The rider tumbled off into the water, as planned, and the unmanned, kinked Speedophile headed on out to sea. Piloted by the other bodyguard, the sailboat kept circling around, with the bodyguards apparently making a good faith effort to find their dead boss, but somehow, after a while, it seemed he was not floating on the surface anymore. :p

Nothing else appeared to happen, but Karen stayed silent and kept intently viewing the scene through her sniper scope. After about 10 minutes, her phone, lying on the quilt between us, buzzed as it received a text message, just one word, ‘done.’ “Just like the PowerPoint,” Karen smiled.

She said the kid had swum back to the Chumash Pier underwater, using the rebreather, and then surfaced to send the text message using an old-school flip phone in a clear plastic watertight electronics bag, that he had previously lashed to one of the pilings, below the low tide line.

Karen set the stock of the sniper rifle aside, against the air conditioner unit, and then she turned toward me, and smiled at me in the moonlight. “Like I said, O.P., welcome to our new home,” she purred, quietly and happily. Karen was genuinely happy, and I could tell that she was in the mood to celebrate. I'm guessing that this kind of action gets her hot. She pulled me close, and we did some beautifully sensual, sloppy kissing, hugging, squeezing, grinding and groping on the quilt, so wonderful in the moonlight and the cool night air, with the sound of the ocean waves in the background. Then Karen pulled back just a tiny bit, looked in my eyes warmly, stroked my cheek and whispered, “O. P. let’s take this downstairs to bed.” I’m soooo in looooovvvve


Karen and I have been living at the beach house on Ineseno Road for about three weeks now. We're getting kind of a routine or a lifestyle rhythm going. Karen still goes off to do field work, or to her office work in downtown Los Santos, but she has been back to the house, most nights; no big project at the moment. She still does some computer work and tactical comms stuff from a high-tech desk in her bedroom, when she is here in the evening. And after her work is done …. it’s time to get down. :)

This has been the most wonderful time of my life! We've made love so wonderfully ... sigh ... It's been ecstasy ... I'm just beyond words ... I officially love Karen Daniels ... and what a lover she is!!! A real Cosmo woman. She knows all the tricks, and she likes being so soft and sexy, knowing just what she wants in love, all while being the same Karen-in-charge -- a perfect storm of sensual femininity and confident feminism. She lets me know that I satisfy her, and as she told me at the Paleto safehouse, how nice it is to spend time with someone she can trust, in her real life. Wow! My impressions of Karen at our first meeting in Vespucci Beach were right on! Sighhhhh .... :inlove:

Sometimes, as part of the pillow talk, I have learned more about Karen's work. It's ... interesting ... to say the least. Keeping the world safe for the good guys. Karen clearly loves her work.

I've been getting the groceries and keeping everything in order, still in my "housesitting" role here on Ineseno Road, but sometimes we do the cooking together --though Karen is better at it than I am – damn, she's good at everything! She has some worldly tastes in food, so I make the rounds to the international markets in Los Santos sometimes, to get some exotic or gourmet ingredients. We don’t go out together to the many restaurants in the Pacific Bluffs and Banham Canyon area, like other couples would, because Karen wants to keep me off the radar of any surveillance that may be tracking her, just avoiding unnecessary public association. But by myself, I can stop at some of these restaurants, to take out for us.

I still go up to the Paleto Bay safehouse a couple of times a week, to keep it fresh and make sure everything is stable, uncluttered and untouched, and to make it look a bit lived-in. Also, I fit in better up there, than Karen does. As part of the opsec routine, I bought a rusty old Rebel that I keep outside the garage there at Paleto, so it’s less easy to determine casually if no one is at the house, and I drive the Rebel around Paleto for errands when I’m up there, since it allows me to avoid using my Sabre Turbo in the Paleto neighborhood – just less exposure connecting a car from out of town, with my activity there.

My Rusty Rebel at the Procopio Drive safehouse


Karen told me not to simply drive straight up GOH to Paleto, but instead to take the long way to get there and back, using a variety of routes, opsec to further avoid casual connection between our new home and the safehouse. So, my detour routes to Paleto sometimes include heading south on GOH, to Los Santos, which I do as part of the shopping routine. It's great for me, since I use this as an excuse to open up my sweet Sabre Turbo out on the mountain roads and Route 68. What a blast! I'm also using the opportunity to pick up an occasional bottle of wine from the Marlowe Vineyards reserve, when I drive by.

Last Thursday, after dinner, as kind of a date, Karen and I headed northeast across the map in my Sabre Turbo, planning to do a day hike on Mt Gordo the next day. It’s a long drive over there, so we took her tent, and camped overnight on the cliffside meadow at the Mt Gordo trailhead, some distance past the lighthouse. We made sweet love under the stars, and spooned and squirmed together the rest of the night in our zip-together sleeping bags, inside the tent. :inlove:

The campground at Mt Gordo trailhead


Starting at dawn, Karen and I hiked the Mt Gordo Trail, all the way to the peak and back down – whew, that was a good day’s activity, both cardio and total exertion, more than 20,000 steps, and plenty of elevation gain. I’m in pretty good shape, but Karen is even better. Wow, what a woman!


On Saturday morning, I got up a little late, since I didn’t think that Karen was going to go to work downtown. Karen wasn’t in bed, so I figured that she was already up and doing something. But she wasn’t at her bedroom desk. I walked down the stairs to see if she was there and ... Mother. of. god. (gasp) ... what a sight!!! Karen was doing naked yoga [ naked !!!! :O ] on a yoga mat in the middle of the living room, with the beautiful view out to the ocean, through the glass double doors. She was facing the ocean, but she had bent over forward, holding some kind of pose, with her hands and her toes on the mat, her beautiful ass in the air, her breasts round and firm. Holy mother of god ... and she was *naked*.

Karen's yoga pose when I walked downstairs:


Her yoga explained a lot, in retrospect, because Karen was amazingly limber in bed. I thought it was just stretching exercises. But now I see where Karen gets her strength, as well. O my god …. Wow!! Did I mention that she was **naked**???? Her breasts, her legs, her ass, her curves, her face, her hair, her feet perfectly on pointe, the exquisite arch of her back -- Aaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!!! I’m in looooooovvvvveeee :)

I wasn’t wearing shoes when I descended the stairs, so it was possible Karen had not heard me, though I know her hearing is excellent. For a couple of seconds, my jaw was on the floor mentally, if not physically, as I stood there, utterly transfixed. Time was simultaneously instant, and infinite. Then, she transitioned to a handstand, on her forearms and elbows, slowly and totally gracefully, with amazing strength and balance, as she uncurled, to raise her legs up in the air, over her head. This scene was heaven on earth, gorgeousness and gorgeousity made flesh. Did I remember to mention that she was naked?? o my god ...

Karen's forearm handstand pose:


I went into full male reflex, with absolutely no conscious thought, and within another two seconds, without even being aware I had moved, I was right there, on my knees, with my hands cupped around Karen’s butt cheeks, and my mouth locked on her vagina, my tongue trying to thrust its way into her. O god, Karen’s taste, her scent, her warmth, the mind-blowing sensuality of her flesh, her slight reflex of apparent surprise, when I touched her!!!! Ecstasy!!!! Still in her perfectly balanced forearm handstand, Karen spread her legs. I sucked her clitoris, then sucked her vagina, with all my force.

My tongue was deep into her, thrusting and exploring, as I continued to suck her vagina, her wetness mixing with my saliva. Karen bucked ever so slightly, in response to my ministrations of love. She made the tiniest gasping sound, a restrained female expression of the pleasure of love, the most poignant sound I have ever heard. I wanted to use my fingers to strum her G-spot, which I know drives her wild, but both of my hands were full, tightly squeezing her ass cheeks, to push her vagina hard against my mouth and lips. With my tongue, I could feel her contracting her vagina , stimulating herself inside, taking on the role of my fingers should have had.

I was turned on like crazy, but all that mattered to me at this moment was Karen's absolute pleasure. I felt the deepest and most profound sense of wanting to give everything, every moment, every thought, everything I had ever wanted in life, to Karen, deriving from the privilege and the pleasure that had ascended in me, to love her in this way.

I kept licking her, and pulled at her labia with my lips, knowing every single fold of her vagina. My tongue thrust deeply, again. I’m good at this. From the way she was subtly bucking, and flexing her pelvic muscles, and the sound of her breathing, I could tell that she was close. I put more pressure on her pubic mound with my chin, as I sucked her clit rhythmically, at the same rate she was contracting her vaginal muscles. I could feel her starting to shiver, straining with ecstasy. My tongue continued to lap and tickle her erect, straining, pulsating clit, as I sucked her, hard.

Then I felt Karen let go, unleashing her orgasm, as goosebumps immediately rose on her inner thighs. Karen's vagina contracted, again and again, as she made that sweet, quiet, beautiful little female gasp of orgasmic ecstasy with each breath. Karen's buttocks tightened and thrust with all of her power, in the tight grip of my hands, extreme isometrics of her toned muscle against muscle, giving herself over completely to la petite mort.

I continued to suck her and lick her rhythmically, until her orgasmic contractions finally subsided, and then I kissed her vagina, her clit, her pubic mound and her inner thighs, again and again, barely beginning to reduce the strength of my grip on her ass cheeks, as her muscles began to relax with her afterglow. I never wanted to leave this moment, this totally immersive sensory overload of my dear Karen, her incredibly intimate taste, touch, scent, sound, and sight.

"O god," Karen sighed, as she caught a breath. It finally occurred to me that breathing was probably not the easiest thing for her to do, upside down in a handstand on her elbows, with her neck arched fully back, in a yoga stress pose like this. But I think the pose actually made it more intense for her. "F*****ckkkkk," she whispered, in a drawn-out, exhaling breath.

After another 20 or 30 seconds, as Karen recovered a bit more, she started to curl her legs back toward me, again with sublime, controlled grace and strength. Letting go of her ass, I moved back about 4 feet, and she further arched her back, more than I thought was even possible, to maintain her balance on her forearms as she curled her thighs and pelvis toward me, descending. Her feet and her toes, arching with graceful, perfect curves, lowered to touch the yoga mat, on pointe, just like she began, so she ended the pose with her unbelievably beautiful ass in the air again [ oh. my. f*cking. god. ], just her toes and her hands touching the mat, in an exceedingly beautiful and superior variation on the downward dog (I learned this yoga term from some dipsh*t video game, the Sims, or something).

Then Karen broke the pose, and her beautiful breasts bounced and moved, as she quickly flipped over, to gracefully sit down on the yoga mat, cross-legged. Did I mention that she was naked?? Naked???? My god, I could not take my eyes off her.

"Oh, that was a good one," Karen sighed, as she exhaled a full breath of air. She paused to catch another breath, then said, "Dammit, O. P., ... you completely ruined my concentration ... whewwww," she exhaled, " ... don't do that again ... *unless* I ask you to ..." She paused, still recovering and regaining her composure. "And I probably will," she added, with an intimate and purposeful look at me, flashing her beautiful, Karen-in-control smile, full of love in her eyes, that made me feel warm all over. :p

Now that the supercharged orgasmic atmosphere in the room was starting to dissipate a bit, returning to something resembling normal life, Karen looked down at herself, and kind of realized that she was butt-naked, sitting cross-legged on the yoga mat, as her horn-dog lover, O. P. Lovelorn, stood there in the bright living room, gaping open-mouthed at her, totally dumbfounded, with a rock hard boner pushing his boxer shorts outward like the nose of a nuclear submarine. Quite a scene, out of context. Karen smiled, wryly.

Then she looked up to me and asked, "You want me to do you? Looks like you need it." She smiled with a most mischievous and sexy look. She was ready to drive me crazy. To get her revenge. :p

I was horny as hell, but I was so overwhelmed with the immersive, erotic experience I had just shared with Karen, it somehow felt to me, that for her to get me off now, would actually detract from the memory of this incredible, magic moment, for both of us. I had been plenty horny before, with my unrequited thoughts of Karen, blue balls in the Paleto house for days, hoping she would be back, after we kissed the first time. So I knew well, what it’s like to abstain for a while.

Even though my body was ready, and it would probably be half an hour before my dick could fit back in my pants, I decided to savor this memory, and experience this powerful, potent feeling of pulling back from the edge. This kind of post-tantric, emotional, erotic high can last all day. Plus, I’ll nail her tonight, my primitive male brain told me. :)

Without saying anything, I walked over to Karen, held out both my hands, and she reached up and took them. Karen rose gracefully from her cross-legged position, as I pulled her up to me, and we looked in each other’s eyes, with pure happiness and love. I wrapped my arms around the small of her bare back, so perfect, so sexy, and hugged her tightly, my dick pressing hard against her stomach, through my shorts, while she brought her hands up to both of my biceps, and squeezed. I just wanted to hold her so tight, so dear.

I moved to kiss her neck. She did the same, and then she whispered in my ear, “O. P., that was beautiful,” and she brushed her lips on my ear and neck, in the gentlest possible kiss. “But your timing sucks, as usual,” she added.

Then, she surprised me, by dropping her right hand down, and suddenly she cupped my balls with her hand, through the thin cotton material of my boxer shorts, like -- whooooaaaa!! Then she gently, slowly, pulled her hand up the entire length of my dick, squeezing it through the cotton, driving me completely crazy! She moved her hand on around and squeezed my ass cheek, and spoke into my ear, “I’ve got to go into work at noon, downtown. Just a quick, scheduled remote sensing op in the SCIF, that I can’t do from here. I’m going upstairs to get ready; make us some breakfast.”

Karen then stepped back, away from me, totally conscious that she was still beautifully naked and I was still watching her every move, my eyes darting from sexy bit to sexy bit, all over her body. Still facing me, she gracefully reached over to pick up her oversized, light blue dress shirt, draped over the back of the chair beside her.

She had apparently worn the shirt downstairs, before starting her yoga. I watched her breasts rise as she raised her arms, to let her hands slide through the sleeves of the shirt, and I was struck, deeply, with the memory of when she made that same move, with that shirt, our first night here at the beach house. I could tell, at that moment, that she intended that little flash of déjà vu for me. Then she walked around me and went upstairs, flashing a quick, confident smile at me, without saying another word. O my god, what a woman!!!

Just another Saturday morning with Karen. :)


So, life’s good. But living this life of relative ease, doing my errands, basically housesitting two places, has started to seem just a little funny, in the back of my mind. Back when I was just housesitting the Vespucci Beach bungalow, when it was just a job, basically for free room and board and not much else, I could understand the arrangement – kind of typical, for a Los Santos resident with no other visible means of support.

The Paleto Bay safehouse seemed about the same – just an extension of the housesitting gig, except, of course, it got a little more interesting :p But now, here I am, more than just a housesitter. I’m Karen’s lover, and she is mine, and it’s the greatest feeling in the whole world. I never want it to change. But in a vague way, I’m starting to feel more like a kept man, a live-in man-maid with benefits, a househusband, or living the lifestyle of a trust fund hipster, without even being hip. I don’t resent or regret a second of it, not at all, and I am fascinated by all the things I am learning from Karen [ all kinds of things;

Up to now, I’ve never lived the leisure life. It seems a little strange, since it looks like this may become an actual lifestyle. And, there’s no way that something this good can last – just like when Karen first told me that we had ourselves a beach house, I just had a sense that sometimes, things are too good to be true. They just don’t stay this way. So I’m thinking, instead of letting random events determine what happens next in my life, I’ll be a little proactive, and try to make my own future (with Karen, always, of course).

So I’m starting to think, what can I do for an actual job? A fun job? What can I do that’s not too hard, pays OK, is legal, part time, and flexible, so I can keep doing the housesitting stuff, and of course, so I can keep living with Karen until the end of my days? It kind of took me back to the same place I was, when I got thrown out of Richards Majestic Studios, except that life is good now, and I can be a lot choosier. I figure, in all of Los Santos, there must be some pretty fun jobs. Only trouble is, somebody already has them, so there’s always going to be competition. I decided to keep my eyes open, and discuss it with Karen. I figure she’d be happy if I find a way to be more self-sufficient.

Well, even before I could bring it up to Karen, my intuition was right, because things were about to change ...


Here we are again, dear readers. I am so glad you made it this far. And I hope you had some fun with this chapter, a glimpse at the “happily ever after” part of the life of Karen and O. P.

Obviously it was enjoyable writing this chapter. Now the bad news. In trying to get to the next potentially interesting chapter in the Karen and O. P. saga, I felt that the story needed a bit of a transition. Unfortunately, this transition is growing into two boring, talky chapters. Hell, I’m getting bored just writing them.

But if you can get through Chapters 8 and 9, then Chapter 10 should have a little more going on. Be warned. :)

Stay tuned for CHAPTER 8, now in print!

Edited by saintsrow
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CHAPTER 8: The Big Picture

Note: These events follow from CHAPTER 7


Monday afternoon, Karen called me on the secure video app and told me we would be having a dinner guest at the beach house on Ineseno Road that evening. She told me what to get for take-out dinner, for three, from a good little Italian restaurant (certainly *not* Al Dente’s) down in Morningwood. We had several bottles of various wines from Marlowe Vineyards, but Karen said, no, don’t use any of those, get what the restaurant recommends, which turned out to be a Verdicchio.

Karen arrived at the beach house a little before 7 PM, just before sunset, and she said that the guest should arrive soon. After a while, through the open north window of our beach house, I heard an SUV pull up. I peeked out the window to confirm, but I saw that the SUV (a long black Granger) had parked at the 24/7 next door, and two big guys in black business suits got out and went inside the 24/7.

Then the rear driver’s side door opened, and an old guy got out. He was wearing a grey business suit, glasses, and based on the haircut and the generally taut body language, he looked like retired military. He came over to the front door of our beach house and walked in, no knock.

Karen was already moving to the front door when she first heard the SUV. As the guy walked in, she basically said hello, no hugs or handshakes or anything, and she closed the door behind him. She turned around to the room to make introductions.

Karen looked at me with her professional, neutral expression and said, “O. P., this is my boss.” Then she turned back toward the old guy and said, smiling, “Meet O. P. Lovelorn.”

Without moving toward me to shake hands, but just the slightest nod, the old guy said, “Hello, Mr. Lovelorn, it’s good to finally meet you in person. I’ve heard a bit about you,” and he glanced for a tiny instant at Karen, then back to me. “I’m U. L. Paperman, but the name doesn’t matter. You can call me ‘Mr. Paperman,’ or ‘U. L.,’ whatever you prefer.”

“Hi,” I said, “Glad to meetcha.” Then I added, for fun, “What’s it like being Karen’s boss, Mr. ... uh ... Paperman?” :p

He didn’t respond directly to the question, but just flashed a quick, closed-lip smile. Then he turned back to Karen and said, “The car will be coming back this way at 11, so let’s talk.”

Then he added, “Actually, I need to talk to Mr. Lovelorn, here.” He started right in, “We’re going to talk about some things, Mr. Lovelorn. Things you need to understand.”

He glanced over at me, and then started walking toward the glass double doors facing the beach. He looked back at me and expected me to follow. We walked over and looked out at the sunset and the ocean. U. L. Paperman remarked, “Beautiful, isn’t it?” I was a little surprised, since I didn’t expect that Karen’s boss dropped by just to admire the ocean view.

Then he continued, “Nature .... you know .... people look at these scenes, like this ocean view and the sunset, and they see the beauty and wonder of Nature, so much more noble and pure than the base works of man. But it’s just wishful thinking. Out there in the 50 million square miles of ocean, out of sight below the waterline, hundreds of trillions of organisms have struggled to survive, in vain, for billions of years.

As he started to go off on this monologue, I was thinking, “Millions, trillions, billions? Who the f*ck is this guy,

?” :whuh:

U. L. Paperman continued, “The vast, vast majority of those lives are filled constantly with fully justified mortal fear, until the moment they’re eaten alive. And the competition at any level in the food chain, for prey, for mates, for territory, is unrelenting, vicious, with few winners and many losers.”

“Same thing in other beautiful scenes of Nature, in majestic sunlit vistas, meadows rich with amber waves of grain, lush green jungles. A hawk soars on the thermals over Banham Canyon, a scene that reminds us of the beauty and perfection of Nature – except it’s not so beautiful, for the field mice and the squirrels that the hawk snatches out of their busy little wanderings that night, ripping them to shreds with beak and talons. Out of sight, under the surface, every organism is in a continuous, desperate dance of life and death, and most don’t make it. That’s what Nature really is.”

He shifted gears for a minute. “You know about thermodynamics, right? In any system that operates in opposition to entropy, there must be gradients, differentiation of parameters such as temperature, pressure, stability, order, forces, velocity, structure, and so on. Creating order in one place necessarily creates a lot more disorder in other places. There’s an efficiency factor, and it’s not very high. A lot of heat gets generated to do a little useful work."

While U. L. Paperman was philosophizing as we were taking in the ocean view, Karen had brought out the dinner. We all sat down at the small dining table, in the dining area opening to the living room, looking out to the ocean through the glass double doors and the large picture window of our beach house. The last warm red light of the sunset filled the view. The planet Venus shone brightly in the evening sky. Another wonderful evening in Los Santos. Life seemed pretty good.

As we ate a nice Italian dinner at the table, the guy continued the long monologue about his view of the world, kind of a hyperextended version of what Karen had told me on our ‘first date,’ but more comprehensive, abstract and philosophical. It all had a purpose, which eventually became clear.

U. L. Paperman went on, "Now here’s an analogy to what I was saying earlier: Nature is like a thermodynamic system. Nature has a lot of order, and so there has to be an efficiency factor. Again, it’s not very high – in fact, the efficiency of Nature is a hell of a lot worse than any simple thermodynamic system. The nature of Nature is that most living things suffer, and most die before their time. Disease, predation, starvation, continual competition for scarce resources -- it’s just Nature. In the aggregate, life goes on, thrives and adapts, but individuals pay the price. Only a miniscule fraction of the individuals in any species experience a halfway comfortable, fulfilled life. There's no rhyme or reason, no justice, no political correctness to it. Nature’s a bitch.”

“Now here’s the key point. Humans somehow think they're above all this, but they're not. Humans and human societies are just part of the natural order, subject to the same influences. It logically follows that life is pretty crappy for a large fraction of the human population. It’s an inexorable, immutable, mathematical reality. It’s been this way, century after century of human history, even though technology, and stable governments, have gradually made things more bearable for a small subset of the population.”

“Although this is a sad fact to contemplate, it should relieve responsibility, or a sense of guilt otherwise felt by a person -- such as yourself, perhaps -- who happens to be living on the nice, modern, comfy side of the otherwise miserable human condition, wondering why everyone can’t just be happy and have a nice life. They can’t, because that’s not the nature of Nature.”

“Sounds pretty bleak,” I interjected. I couldn’t think of much else to say. Karen flashed me a brief, small smile, glanced quickly at her boss, and then scooped up a bite of shrimp conchigliette. She wasn’t too engaged, just enjoying dinner and the sunset.

U. L. Paperman replied, "Let me give you a concrete, modern example, so you really understand, and then we'll get back on track. You like your iFruit, right? Great design, great tech, great value, yes? Without giving it any thought, you have this feeling that, ‘Man, that iFruit Computers company is pretty damn cool; I’m lovin' their swag; they know how to do things right. I’m down with iFruit.’ “ U. L. Paperman seemed to enjoy momentarily imitating a typical hipster.

Then he returned to character. "Well, the fact is, that behind a company that pleases the consumer, that really gives the consumer the value that makes them say, ‘Yeah, man, that company is cool!’ is a hellhole of exploitation and misery. I’ll explain.”

“First, the CEO is a total asshole tyrant who will crush the career of any engineer that disagrees with his sense of design, or his vision that a new high-tech, high-fashion product design, based on technology so new it’s still nearly impossible to implement, can be accomplished in less time, less cost and less space than last year, and the laws of physics be damned.”

“He calls 6 AM daily meetings, and screams at the design team, ‘Figure it out, you slackers, that’s why we f*ckin' pay you! There’s thirty qualified green card engineers that’ll be glad to take each one of your jobs, for a third of your salary, and I can have them in here by tomorrow f*cking afternoon! You’ll get your two weeks notice, and you can train up your replacements, until the minute we lock you out. And remember, a short day on the job here, is when you leave your cube on the same date you came in. Now get the f*ck to work!’”

"The employees live in fear, busting their asses to meet the CEO’s vision, working overnights, trying to find components that can be sacrificed or made cheaper. It’s a career that they thought was going to be fun, but instead, it’s hell.”

“Then it gets to the supply chain, where the negotiators working for iFruit Computers squeeze their domestic and foreign suppliers to the bone, destroying whole domestic industries for the sake of a printed circuit board that they can get for 10 cents cheaper in some hellhole industrial park on the other side of the Pacific rim. And in the foreign factories that do get the contract, the children of peasant farmers, who have migrated by the millions to the big city from their tiny mudhole of a farm in the hinterlands, are working 14-hour days, 29-day months, to crank out these beautiful iFruits, on production floors measured in acres, to be delivered to the rapidly declining western world, where the displaced workers from all those closed domestic factories are mowing lawns for a subsistence living if they’re lucky, or just spiraling down the drain of jobless meth addiction if they're not so lucky.”

“Third, just to describe one more travesty of many, most of the precious metals and rare earths used to make the exotic, ultra-miniature, high-performance iFruit components needed to satisfy the CEO’s vision for his shareholders and consumers, come from mines in some of the poorest, sh*ttiest, most tyrannical states on the face of the planet. Actually, calling them states is an overstatement – in reality, the company negotiates with heartless foreign middlemen who make the actual deals with the warlords who have control of the mines at the moment. These mines are hellholes of toxic atmosphere and daily fatal accidents, worked by exploited, enslaved men and boys taken from the local villages, who waste away in a few years, until the next warlord kidnaps the next generation for the next dig.”

“In other words, making consumers happy, just satisfying that one group of people – well, actually two groups, consumers, and of course, the shareholders, who are truly the soulless root of all evil – is accomplished at great expense to employees, suppliers, the environment, the hopes and dreams of generations of families, entire populations of huge, massively polluted industrial cities, the tribes in the deepest jungles, non-unionized workers in sh*thole countries – basically about two thirds of the rest of the world, who can’t afford iFruits, but who have a hand – or more specifically, their physical health, and their entire miserable future – in putting this marvel into your back pocket. That’s the kind of ratio, the kind of efficiency, that exists in the aggregate of human society, to create the appearance of order and a wonderful life in a wonderful society. Yes, it sucks. That’s Nature at work.”

“But, as I said, this isn’t your problem. Keep using your iFruit. Keep upgrading it. The forces that create the situations I just described are bigger than you, bigger than the government, bigger than the history of man – it’s the raw efficiency of Nature. It's thermodynamics. Not your problem.”

I was wondering how much longer this was going to go on. But I understood the iFruit analogy, and so I chimed in, “Wow, man, I didn’t realize I was destroying the world with my iFruit, but yeah, I get it.”

U. L. Paperman continued, “In other words, whether it's compressed gas atoms in a steam engine, animals competing in the natural world, or people competing in human society, doesn't matter -- the same distribution applies, few winners and many losers, and the efficiency is low. It's just the math of big systems.”

“Now just because it’s a fact of Nature that life will be bad for most people, that doesn’t mean you can be nihilistic, or apathetic, or lack empathy or a sense of justice and righteousness. In other words, you’ve got to avoid being intellectually lazy, amoral, or just plain mean, doing arbitrary harm, thinking that ‘everything is sh*t, so what’s it matter?’. It does matter – you’d know immediately that it matters, when you're on the wrong end of it. Take, for example, that bullsh*t cliché, 'Life's not fair.' It’s a cheap cop-out, morally and intellectually. If some dickhead ever says that to you as a way to justify their antisocial behavior, you could just kneecap them for the hell of it, and say, 'Hey man, you're right!' Well, they're not right.'”

"In a modern world of plenty, of high technology and bountiful harvests, you might think that everyone should be living at least as well as the royalty of old, comfortable and fulfilled, in control of their lives. But that’s obviously not the case. By accident of birth, or bad luck, people just trying to live their lives find themselves in the middle of a war, or living under a completely corrupt and ineffective government, or in some brand of asinine communist ideology that dooms their society to declining mediocrity, or in some brand of equally asinine capitalist ideology that offshores all their jobs to slave states with an endless supply of exploitable labor.

"It’s just part of the competition within the human species, the competition for resources, and the struggle to create order from chaos. With good intentions and hard work, you can apply the thermodynamic analogy, to try to make the whole system as efficient as possible, so that the largest possible fraction of people have the best possible life, but the limits are real. Highly ordered systems are just not very efficient. In the artificial, protected world of large, civilized cities like Los Santos, it’s easy to lose track of that sad reality.”

Meanwhile, as the speech continued, the three of us were working our way through the great Italian take-out. I kind of wished I could just enjoy dinner without the philosophical lecture, but it didn’t look like that was going to happen. I glanced over at Karen. She had been casually keeping an eye on me as the monologue proceeded, to gauge my degree of engagement or understanding of it, I guess. She had not paid any direct attention to what Mr. Paperman was saying – I had the strong impression that she has heard this whole speech before. Unfortunately for us, Mr. U. L. Paperman was just getting started.

“Even though humans are subject to Nature, just like all the rest of the living things, the difference is that we can conceive of abstractions – that is, we can act on voluntary, intellectual concepts, as opposed to hardwired instinct. We can conceive of taking actions to make the future a better place for us. As a general rule – as you can imagine – individuals, institutions, corporations, and governments try to accomplish this."

"In terms of thermodynamics, we can plan and act to increase the efficiency of the natural order that we find ourselves in, by increasing the good things, or reducing the bad things. To put it in terms that you might understand, Mr. Lovelorn, it’s a ratio, like the K/D ratio in some piece-of-sh*t video game, for example. You can die less, or kill more." :turn:

"Similarly, in the human world, you can increase the good, like Oxfam does, one bean plant at a time, or you can take out the bad, one troublemaker at a time, which is mostly what we do. In either case, it’s a target-rich environment. Given all the miserable situations in the world, Oxfam has to decide who to help, to result in the largest good. In our case, there are so many bad guys in the world, or even in Los Santos, that we do the return-on-investment analysis, to decide which scumbags to put down, to best improve the good-to-bad ratio relative to the cost and risk of the mission.”

"So in principle, we have the same goal as Oxfam, to make life better for more people – that’s what drives us, drives the Agency. It’s because we care.”

“Whoa, wait a minute. What a crapload of BS,” I said. “You’re telling me that an organization that does dirty tricks for a living, as a central core mission and the essence of its existence, is actually concerned with the well-being of mankind??”

U. L. Paperman replied, “See, this kind of superficial thinking is exactly why we’re having this conversation. Now keep following what I’m saying, because you need to understand the whole logical flow.”

“After rejecting nihilism, the next concept you need to absorb is that, when things need to be done – and when I say ‘things’ in context of our Agency work, I generally mean missions or ops where some nefarious individual, organization or system is going to get betrayed, extorted, damaged, destroyed, killed, neutralized, hacked, rendered ineffective, or just plain f’ed up. One still has to work hard to minimize the area effects, the collateral damage, to achieve just the intended result, with no messy ethical issues or immoral, unintended consequences. The analogy is ‘surgical strike’ versus ‘carpet bombing.’ Even though you’re doing a ‘good thing,’ it doesn’t justify the careless causing of suffering to non-targets. You get it?” he asked.

“Yes, I get it, of course,” I answered. “First, don’t do evil, in general – it’s not right. Second, when you have to do something, plan to hit the bad guys, and not hurt the good guys.”

Based on my response, U. L. Paperman continued, “OK, that’s kind of getting the idea. So, how do you plan? How do you know, or research, or decide what you want to do, to achieve the intended result?”

I thought for a second, but it seemed obvious to me. I said, “Well, you’ve got a lot of spy resources, right? So you know who the bad guys are, what they plan to do, and how they’re gonna do it. So, you think smart, and figure out the lowest effort, most efficient way to hit their critical assets to screw them up, using your resources at hand, without doing anything unintended or bad.” I got what he was saying, and I thought I sounded pretty smart. :colgate:

U.L. Paperman replied, “What you said is nothing but a tautology, a crude regurgitation of the general principles I just put forth. Don’t feel bad. That’s the answer you would be expected to give, since you don’t yet have any idea of how or why we do these things.” He paused and looked to see my expression, or to wait to see if I wanted to mount a defense, but then he continued, “It’s hard to imagine how complex these situations are. It’s like a chess game, with moves and countermoves and a calculated balance between what you have to gain, and what you have to give up.”

"You have to think 3 moves ahead. It’s very difficult, but essential, since our most motivated enemies have always been the best chess players. It makes sense -- if you don't have brute power, you use strategy. You scheme to make the adversary’s strengths become his weaknesses, make his board position work for yourself, and against him.”

“Here in the West, with our consensus type of open political structure and top-heavy management, we’re collectively terrible at chess-like thinking when applied to international game-playing, or sometimes even when applied to surgical ops against asymmetric enemies. So at the high level, as a sovereign state, we do the most ham-handed things, like big military operations, big state-scale political moves – sometimes totally the wrong moves relative to the threats, and we look like fools on the global stage.”

“Besides, big government likes to play the big game. Everybody likes a good Desert Stomp now and again – it gives the Forces an opportunity to try out their new toys, that they’ve been itching to use anyway, and it sends a big symbolic message to the world, that we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore. Not particularly effective, usually, but it looks good on shaky, ‘you-are-there’ video war zone reports, narrated by breathless, airheaded cable news anchors.”

“Furthermore, we’re so predictable in our ham-handedness, that our chess-playing adversaries can easily manipulate our decisions and lead us into one political, diplomatic or strategic faceplant after another, with nothing but tiny, mostly symbolic provocations. And we just keep falling for it, again and again. I should add, it’s not just ‘us’ – it’s any large, progressive sovereign state. Only the rogue states can get away with the kind of amoral calculus needed for openly playing this cynical but necessary chess game, against the kind of enemies that force the situation into these realms.”

"So it comes down to the agencies, and to motivated individuals in the agencies, to take the initiative, to think above their pay grade, to try to make decisions and take actions that will lead to better board positions for us, after the enemy makes his next move, and the one after that, while staying aligned with the larger intent of the state. Political systems are just incapable of such thinking. Not only is the Agency more cost effective than military force, we work at a scale better matched to our asymmetric foes, and so we can strike surgically. If the stakes are big, of course there's a lot of peer review and vetting within the Agency, but it's done by managers, tacticians or directors who understand the complexities, not by puddingheaded politicians, and not by gung-ho generals who simply need to justify their multibillion-dollar war budgets."

Dinner had pretty much wrapped up. As I mentioned, Karen was kind of watching to see how I was absorbing this lecture (or not), but I could tell that she had heard it all before, probably many times. Without interrupting, she got up from the table and took some of the plates away, put them in the sink to soak, and went upstairs, presumably to fight some bad guys from her high-tech bedroom desk, with its computers, databases, radios, intel feeds, and who knows what else. Meanwhile, U. L. Paperman droned on ...

“You can’t have the luxury of selective angst or regret -- this is war; this is conflict; this is nature – it's unavoidable. This is real world life and death, here and now. Not everybody is going to win. You have to look at the end result, the board position in relation to the next battle to be fought."

"And by the way, I'm not just talking about conflicts with the various enemies of freedom. Here in Los Santos and San Andreas, we have our hands full with local miscreants -- unmitigated greed masquerading as business enterprises, technology-savvy criminal organizations, street and rural drugrunners and gunrunners, lone wolf hackers, corruption in the government and within other agencies, and all kinds of underground financing. The legitimate elements of the FIB can handle the criminal aspects of these bad actors, but often the river of underground money they touch has branches into financing or enabling of the bad guys in our sights. So we have to work across the whole range.”

“Here’s the next concept: ambiguity and uncertainty. Given that you’re playing a dirty, deadly chess game with a bunch of amoral, opportunistic, *just plain evil* assholes, how do you figure out the best moves? In pure chess, both sides know the complete state of the game, and the rules are fixed. But in the real world, the game isn’t pure, for several reasons.”

“First, everybody on all sides is practicing deception, diversion, disinformation, misdirection, spoofing – the whole portfolio of ways to throw off the correct analysis and response by an adversary. And beyond that, sensor systems and surveillance are far from omniscient, and humint is wrong much more often than it’s right, usually intentionally. You don’t know some truths, you think you know things that are not true, and so on. You don’t even know what you don’t know, as they say.”

“So that’s your informational problem – situational uncertainty. In addition, you think you know the rules of the game. In pure chess, yes, you do. Both sides have the same knowledge and the same rules. You know how the knight or a rook can move, and how a piece can be taken, or threatened. There is no mystery, except your own ability, and that of your adversary, to think far enough ahead. But in the real world, you don’t have perfect knowledge, and the enemy is always breaching the existing 'rules of engagement.' Third, you don’t have a perfect model of the situation, so you don’t know for sure, when you take an action with some intent, if that intent will be realized. There are so many opportunities for unforseen consequences.”

“So once again, the best you can do is to perceive what you can, apply a priori speculation to the unknowns, make the assumption that you've modeled the situation correctly enough to predict what will result from your actions, plan the op, and execute. That’s it. Even if the outcome is bad, due to lack of knowledge or due to adversarial action, you have to look at it as part of a long term average, and learn from mistakes, so your hypothesis and your plan is better the next time.”

U. L. Paperman paused for just a second, and it sounded like maybe he had come to the end of the lecture, and so I took the opportunity to interject my thoughts. “Holy sh*t, you spies sure are long-winded,” I said. "But yeah, I get what you’re saying. This is transformational, this is the big picture, the reasons that things are like they are, even if they don't make sense in a local context. In this game, one has to operate with this big picture in mind."

U.L. Paperman replied, "No matter how big the picture is that you try to see, it's still not big enough. But this is a start. All these things I have told you tonight -- it's just the executive summary. The people in the Agency have learned this, taught this, practiced this, written dissertations in this field, built on philosophical foundations stretching back in history hundreds of years, literally tens of centuries, in fact, in response to the lessons learned of how societies have succeeded and failed in keeping themselves safe, secure and stable."

"This is a way of working and living that is as consistent as we can reasonably make it, given our mission and the hellhole that human nature has always been. It's pragmatic, practical, balanced, and optimized over all those centuries, continually adapting to new technologies, new cultures and the new ways that generation after generation find to f*ck up even the best discoveries and developments and good deeds of humankind. It only makes sense in the big picture."

"If you look at human events on the historical scale, you see the patterns, the large-scale ebb and flow of power, stability and decline. Many battles are lost decades or even centuries before they’re fought. You see states that are doomed almost from the start, just by their nature. Even if an external enemy didn't bring them down, they were doing it to themselves, based on flawed economic models or corrupt governance, or they were doomed by their geography, or their culture.”

“You’re fortunate that you’ve been born into a place and time where you have the intellectual climate, and the life leisure, to sit back in your lounge chair with your Marlow Merlot, enjoying the cool ocean breeze, as you contemplate these concepts philosophically. Most people don’t have that luxury, because they‘re completely engulfed in the living hell of daily survival."

I can’t say that I typically contemplate these concepts while enjoying the ocean breeze on the deck of our beach house, but I guess he was just making a wry, cynical observation. U. L. Paperman got up from the table and walked out toward the double doors, looking out over the ocean and the beach, though it was complete darkness outside now, with distant lights visible down along the coast, and brighter lights twinkling from the Chumash pier and the buoys and late-night boaters out on the dark water. I had also gotten up from the dining table and walked over to look out the double doors at the dark ocean view, waiting for U. L. Paperman to finish making his point.

He continued, “Just to make sure you get it, I’m going to repeat the core concepts here. These are the take-aways that you need to internalize. If you actually think about and understand these points, you’ll understand the context in which we operate. This is like the summary slide, if I were showing you the PowerPoint version of this little talk, which, in fact we do have at the Agency.”

“First, life is bad for most people, and it’s nobody’s fault – it’s just the way things are; it’s Nature. Conflict and suffering are intrinsic to human society.”

“Second, people and organizations who care – like us – are working to make things better for more people, overall. At the micro scale, it sometimes doesn’t seem that way, but selective complaining about certain bad outcomes, outside of the larger context, is invalid and nonproductive.”

“Third, the actions we take are based on our best understanding of ambiguous situations. That’s the best we can do, short of total omniscience, and we’re not at that point quite yet. We’re working on it.”

“Fourth, In the middle of the action, after you’re committed to a goal, things sometimes get dicey due to all the uncertainties, and it’s not pretty. You have to make instant decisions that have lasting consequences, outside of the plan. These decisions must be nearly reflexive, and must be driven by the big picture, balancing the local collateral damage versus the board position of the long term chess game, with its necessary sacrifices of pawns and bishops, and sometimes even queens.”

“That’s it. Short and sweet.”

Whew ..... It didn’t seem so short to me. Or sweet. But finally, it sounded like he was wrapping up the long monologue. “OK, OK,” I replied, “it sounds like a load of propaganda, but I’m able to look past my ‘superficial thinking’ at this point. I’m actually willing to accept that your Agency is trying to do the right thing. I’ll consider your summary points. But,” I added, “why'd you give me this whole lecture? Why do I need to know this? I’m basically just Karen's housesitter. I'm just a normal nobody -- that's what she said. But it sounds like you're trying to convince me of something, for some reason.” :/

U. L. Paperman smiled, and said, “Ah, now we're getting to the heart of it. The lecture is over for now. [ I thought, Yayyyy!!! ] There’s more to it, but Karen can give you a refresher course, and more examples, as needed. I'm sure she will."

I decided not to reply that in fact, during pillow talk, Karen has given me some sense of things, some examples, that fit into the kind of big picture that U. L. Paperman had just dropped on me during an otherwise enjoyable Italian dinner. The things Karen has told me are all fascinating, and in fact, I was already starting to see that I need to evolve to the mindset that Karen had started to explain to me, after our rescue of Agent 14's chuckleheads at that midnight fiasco at the Lost trailer park -- that if you play this deadly game, you have to already have bought in to the consequences of this life, to avoid 'selective angst and regret,' no matter what happens. As long as I’m with Karen, I can’t just be an oblivious, normal schmo. I’m in a whole different ballgame. I’m a player.


U. L. Paperman added, "And indeed, I wouldn't be wasting a few hours here giving you a philosophy lesson, when I could have been running missions tonight, and doing my part to save the world for one more day. This lecture represents an opportunity cost of tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars. There needs to be a return on that investment."

"The reason you've just gotten this privileged view of the world is because, as you've already experienced, it's possible for you to be involved in Karen's work life. It’s inevitable. Without being properly educated and prepared, you're a liability. We can’t and won’t take that risk."

About that time, almost on cue, Karen had come down the stairs and joined us, as we stood in the dim light of the living room, the distant lights of Vespucci Beach and the Los Santos Airport glimmering from on down the coast. She smiled at both of us and asked, "Is he up to speed now?" She was referring to me, and then I further realized then that she knew what this whole talk was about, and where it was going. Now, I was about to find out...


Sorry about all the talk. It should pick up a bit from here. Please stay tuned for CHAPTER 9 ...

Edited by saintsrow
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CHAPTER 9: The Intern

Note: These events follow immediately from CHAPTER 8

Following a nice Italian dinner, during which I had just gotten one of the most long-winded lectures of my life, Mr. U. L. Paperman was standing with Karen and I in the living room of our Ineseno Road beach house, in the dim light from the dining room, with the rhythm of the waves washing up on the beach providing a faint ambiance from without, through the double glass doors.

Karen and Mr. Paperman had just exchanged a simple glance that portended a big change in my lifestyle, and I was just barely starting to realize the depth of it. They had planned this dinner to 'bring me up to speed' as Karen had just said, and I guess that the big lecture that had just been dropped on me was the first step. U. L. Paperman had said that I couldn't be allowed to be a liability or a risk to Karen, or to the Agency's work. So I wondered what was coming next.

U. L. Paperman turned to Karen and asked, “Karen, what does your scan show? Give me a security assessment.”

Karen replied, “No changes in electromagnetic profiles, no new unidentified currents or near-field, no ULF detections, no wideband, and no record of burst emissions. No WiFi traffic anomalies. No changes to the infrared beach reference images. No hits on the Doppler sensor logs. No correlations or feedback from acoustic scans. I assess that we’re still clean here.” I was confused at first, with all the jargon, but then I realized that while Karen was upstairs, she had run through her routine with the security system in the beach house, plus some enhancements she had installed, controlled from her high-tech bedroom desk, to confirm that we were still bug-free in the house and the surroundings.

Karen often does this sensor log check, almost nightly, but I had never heard the technical report, before. She always just told me that the house was secure, so we could talk without worrying about remote eavesdroppers. One time, last week, in order to impress me with the sensitivity and completeness of the system in detecting induced electrical currents and electronic emissions throughout the house, she told me it showed that I had been playing Righteous Slaughter for 5 hours and 14 minutes straight, earlier that day, and she just shook her head at the pointlessness of such a trivial waste of valuable time. “Don’t you even get up to take a piss?” she asked me, then. She also mentioned that she knew that I had gotten a new cordless electric shaver, because the induced current emanation profiles were different, whatever that meant.

Then U. L. Paperman started in with the rest of his spiel, aimed at me. "So, Mr. Lovelorn, since you've set up a nice little nest here with Karen, you've gotten into a simple routine as an errand boy, and as a housesitter who works out, runs on the beach, and plays mindless video game shooters when Karen is off at work. Karen has a solid cover working downtown, but you need to display to the world a more conventional routine, so when one of the neighbors here, or anyone else, engages you in casual conversation, you'll have a normal boring story to give them, about your daily, mundane life.”

He continued, “You could possibly get away with appearing to be a trust fund baby -- as you know, that’s a sizable demographic here in Los Santos -- young, beautiful people, living above their means in an expensive beach house, with no visible means of support, except an endless allowance from a huge bank account somewhere, often offshore. I'll leave aside the irony that this scenario sounds too much like the premise for yet another brainless, innuendo-laden, Los Santos based TV sitcom, or a faux-retro beach blanket movie. We need you to be more useful. So, as a cover, and a better use of your time, our office has arranged to put you back to work at Richards Majestic Studios."

I was surprised. I replied, "But that dickhead, Michael what’s-his-face, fired me. If I go back there, he's gonna punch me in the gut and fire me again!"

“Townley. His name is Townley." U. L. Paperman answered. "And we have the problem covered. Our Agency has evidence that we hacked from the FIB, as part of our ongoing bulk misappropriation of all of their Bureau files, implicating him in an old bank job which resulted in numerous deaths. There’s no statute of limitations for that, so we can squeeze him anytime we want, just like that FIB sh*thead Haines is doing to him, quite successfully. We’re a bit more civilized than Haines, however. We hired a lawyer on retainer, to effectively represent Townley as a client, so the lawyer can relay our instructions to him and give him advice, such as, for example, telling Townley to leave you alone.”

Karen took over the conversation at this point. She said, “Townley actually goes by the alias ‘Michael de Santa’ now, you should know, and that's what you would call him, if there's anyone else around when you're at the studio. But if he happens to pass you on the lot when it’s just you and him, you can say something like ‘Hi, Townley, how's tricks?’ just to remind him that we’ve got him by the balls.” She smiled subtly, with a wicked twinkle in her eye. I think she likes the idea of squeezing guys by the balls. :)

She continued, “Townley’s job as a producer at Richards Majestic gets to the point of having you work at the studio. We know he’s still involved in some shenanigans with that serial f*ckup out in Sandy Shores. We can’t be blindsided again by that meth-dealing dipsh*t, like we were when I called you that night to bring me the sniper rifle. The Agency normally wouldn't take an interest in it, but these losers keep getting involved in rogue ops that are upsetting a lot of power players in Los Santos, including the FIB, Merryweather, that repulsive meddling f*ckwad Devin Weston, numerous gangsters, and our own Agency. It'll be easier to keep an eye and ear on what Townley’s up to, and to find out when he’s scheming on something with his hilljack cohort, with you working at the studio.”

She went on, “I worked it with the planners in our office, to set up the job for you. You'll still be a stagehand at the studio, like before, but now you’re only part time, handling small jobs as needed, without the obligation to work on a set for 10 to 12 hours a day, so you can come and go -- and snoop around -- without direct accountability or supervision. Your boss at the studio understands the arrangement, but not the reasons for it, of course. He thinks you're a part time intern, with classes to attend offsite. Just look busy and do some actual work, when you're there."

Then U. L. Paperman hit me with the coup de grâce, "In fact, Mr. Lovelorn, you will be an intern, but not for Richards Majestic. You're working for us, now. Welcome to the Agency."

Stunned silence ....

I guess I was expected to say something, to show that I understood what I just heard. But I wasn't quite sure what it was that I just heard. I tentatively replied, just echoing back the words, "I'm ... working for you? I'm an intern in the Agency?"

"Sounds like you heard it right," U. L. Paperman said with a calculated smile. "We'll start your training this week."

"Training?" I asked. "What kind of training?" Now I was starting to wonder what I was getting into. It didn't sound like I had any choice in the matter.

U. L. Paperman continued, “Don't worry. We're not going to drop you in the jungle to survive for two weeks on nothing but cockroaches, pond slime, and your own urine. You'll be on the ‘metrosexual urban survival’ training regime -- living off lattes, sushi and nouveau cuisine, attending pretentious art openings, shopping for the season's latest understated, casual but obscenely overpriced fashions at Ponsonby's, and keeping your iFruit charged."

I looked at him with a confused, WTF expression. He paused, and then smiled. "I'm kidding." But then he added, “However, we’ll surprise you a few times, just to remind you how easy it is to get blindsided, so you’ll start to learn.”

Karen came back into the conversation at this point, "To facilitate your surveillance of Townley, I’ll send you an app for your phone. It's a client that works with Agency equipment connected through our backdoor to the Wiz Wireless cell network maintenance servers. The app has numerous modes, but for your purposes, you’ll use it to dial through to Townley's – or anyone’s – mobile, without their knowledge. Their phone answers automatically but doesn’t ring, and shows no indication that a call is active. In the passive mode, it only listens, so it becomes the perfect realtime bug."

She continued, "Our backdoor also downloads an undetectable sound recorder onto their phone, a store-and-forward bug that requires much less power from the phone's battery, so it's more discrete, and it will still work as a bug when the phone is out of coverage, or being monitored for realtime transmissions. The download also optionally takes and stores snapshots from the phone's camera, all of this without the phone owner's knowledge, and it will also tap and record his calls. We don’t want to listen to this guy 24/7, so we’ll leave it to you to check in on the bug, or Townley’s phone calls, when you think there might be something interesting to hear. Surveillance of Townley will be one aspect of your on-the-job training.”

I hesitated, and then asked them, “But ... about this app? You just dial it up and use it? Don’t you need a judge to give you a wiretap order, first?”

U. L. Paperman literally laughed out loud, and Karen also smiled with amusement at my naiveté. “Hah, a judge! That’s good!” U. L. Paperman replied cheerfully, and they both laughed. He added, “So this is a good lesson in practicalities for you, Mr. Lovelorn. Remember, I told you that the Agency, and individuals in the Agency, decide when and how to take action, in alignment with the larger intent of the state? We use our own judgement, on the spot, to get the information we need. We don’t have the time or the inclination to wait for bureaucratic frippery, or to stroke the legal system’s overblown sense of self-importance, deluding themselves that they actually matter – not at this scale of casual observation of potential mischief, anyway.”

He continued, clarifying, “Actually, to be less flip about it, there are several active counterterrorism directives in place, that give us this authority, if it appears that the target may be connected, however indirectly, to any foreign cash flows that supply terrorists. In this town, with the large percentage of foreign players involved in every legitimate and illegitimate enterprise, almost all of the underground money meets that criterion. Bottom line – you’re covered. Don’t worry about it, just get the job done, and don’t hurt anybody ... unless you need to. That’s the operating principle for an agent.“

“I should add, just to be clear, not all Agency work is dangerous, violent or confrontational, so you shouldn’t expect to be getting into firefights every other week; it’s nothing like that. Actually, much of our work is mundane passive surveillance, like spying on Townley, for example. Surveillance and electronic snooping have their own technical and logistics challenges, to be sure, and sometimes even dangers, but it’s a far cry from the bogus gunplay you’ve experienced in those mind-numbing video shooters you’ve been addicted to, for two-thirds of your simple, normal life.”

I started to open my mouth to object to U. L. Paperman’s characterization of my ‘simple’ life, but then, after giving it a moment’s thought, I realized that he’s actually pretty much right on, so I held off on any indignant retort.

He continued, “More specifically, only if things go terribly wrong will you see the kind of action that you were party to, during that night raid at the Lost’s sh*thole of a trailer park a couple of months ago.”

Then he added, “Actually, that incident brings up a couple of examples of the kind of surveillance ops we engage in, that should help you understand the realities of your future employment with us. I’ll elaborate: We have a crew of smart technical whiz kids in our sensors lab, who work on novel approaches for surveillance of hard targets and other challenging scenarios. For example, we know that Karen has had her Agency-standard secure video app modified – most likely by one of the hotshots in our software / cyber division, yes? – to use a new, undocumented routing algorithm through our Agency Tor net, which is normally used to spoof the traffic analysis from her phone, and from yours, Mr. Lovelorn, when you’re in contact with her. In that mod, she also had the encryption keys in the app changed to new ones, not in our Agency database. A very tricky piece of work.”

“Those Tor mods keep me alive,” Karen interjected. “They prevent the FIB, iFruit, LifeInvader, and all the other corporate internet parasites from remotely geotracking me using the cell network, and logging everything I do on the phone, which is basically the same info as the bad guys get with their targeted surveillance – actually, I can’t honestly say which of these pantheon of scum is the worse threat. And using my own crypto keys keeps my cleartext off the Agency servers, by tunneling through the Agency VPN."

She continued, "I did this to protect myself against any moles in the sysadmin pool. Those dicks know everything about our cyber ops and our standard Tor algorithms, and they can download our entire security database onto a pocketful of micro SD cards. They’ve all got full access, even though it’s supposed to be need-to-know. I’m not going to take a bullet in the back sometime, somewhere, when one of those command-line neckbeards goes over to the other side with all of our data, in exchange for a couple of Mollis stiffy pills and a sensual night of 3-way romance with Natasha and Natalya.”

Mr. Paperman made a slight nod of approval at Karen, and continued, “Of course, Karen, I completely understand. Yours is the kind of initiative we encourage at the Agency, as you know. But the reason I mention this, for Mr. Lovelorn’s sake, is that your modified app represents a hard target that the techs have been trying to break, unsuccessfully so far. It’s excellent practice for them, to try to crack a target who uses sophisticated methods, and they’re improving their cyber tools in the process.”

Then, speaking to both of us, U. L. Paperman went on, “More to the point, although we can’t remotely track the packet traffic from Karen’s phone, due to her app and the Tor routing, we can use old-school sigint resources to fingerprint the emitters in any phone, including hers, so the tech kids use that type of signal identification information to try to keep a lock on her known physical location. It provides a locational and timing reference for disassembling and trying to correlate parts of her modified Tor routing.”

“Using her phone emitter signature, with our Agency receivers on the top of Maze Bank and a couple of other tall buildings in Los Santos, the lab usually can triangulate Karen’s phone when she’s in the southern San Andreas region. On the night of that little trailer park adventure, the techs saw her phone making a late-night trip up north, out of Los Santos.”

“They wanted to keep tracking her phone’s signal over the Vinewood Hills, so they fired up another new toy they had recently built in the lab, using several new ideas for dynamic, close-in hard target surveillance with long range standoff. It’s a difficult problem, to get highly localized, persistent surveillance out of theatre.”

“They’ve been putting together a long-duration, fixed-wing drone that they modified from the parts in a couple of oversized commercial R/C planes. They extended the wingspan and converted it to a glider airfoil, cut the cruising speed in half, drastically changed the prop pitch and diameter, and tripled the high density LiPo battery load. They can launch the drone off the roof of our Agency building downtown. The drone descends about 20 floors to gain airspeed and lift, and then it levels off for remote-controlled, powered flight.”

“I just happen to know these details, since the builder in the lab emailed me the design review package for these drones in a PowerPoint brief a couple of weeks ago, in prep for an op we’re going to be running next month."

"The bottom line is that the airframe is amazingly efficient, so it can remain on station for a few hours – a huge improvement over the stock design. The drone payloads of interest to our techs were the miniaturized signal receivers they installed, and the digital backhaul transmitter, which sends the sigint back to their lab, in this case via a relay on the comm tower on Mt. Haan, above the Vinewood sign, giving them coverage all the way to Mt. Chilliad.”

“Previously, some other techs in the imaging lab received this drone before our sigint kids got it. They had already installed a night vision camera with low-mass telescopic sights, on a carbon-fiber, gyro-stabilized gimbal with high-speed servos that can compensate even for the extreme turbulence that aircraft seem to experience in San Andreas."

"So, for fun, our techs tested the camera as they were circling around up there by the Alamo Sea, and they happened to capture quite a show, as you two happily engaged those Lost bumblers for a quick bit of adversarial target practice. In the bargain, we also got an opportunity for checkout of the operational drone procedures, payload burn-in, and a tech validation flight for the drone equipment. Win-win, all around. To summarize, Mr. Lovelorn, this little anecdote provides a couple of examples of the means and methods we use to conduct some of our business, how things get done. Just getting you up to speed.”

U. L. Paperman paused for a second, then said, “This leads, finally, to the other point I wanted to make, while we’re all here, discussing Mr. Lovelorn’s new internship. When you two returned to the hill after taking out the bikers who had been chasing down the vans, we got a little encore. Through the windshield of your SUV, due to the bright moonlight and the telescopic night-vision intensifiers on the drone, we got a nice video of Mr. Horn-dog here, making his moves on our dear Karen, ... "

I suddenly felt so warm and happy inside, recalling that first kiss [sigh]. I'm sure I smilled. I chose not to glance at Karen, because I was afraid I would start uncontrollably grinning like a fool. U. L. Paperman continued, "... and then we pretty much had confirmation that Mr. Lovelorn’s housesitting role had the potential to become more ... full-service, I guess you might say. It enabled us to assess the new risk profile for Karen, and act to protect our interests. Hence, the germ of the process that led to tonight’s pleasant dinner party.”

“But of equal relevance, we also got an unplanned, opportune assessment of Mr. Lovelorn’s true character under fire.” Mr. Paperman turned and addressed me directly, “In contrast the clueless first-timers that we usually get from the colleges, Mr. Lovelorn, you did a good job out there during that Lost op that night on the hill, and on the road. Even though you’ve had no Agency training, you demonstrated that you can potentially be an asset, rather than a f*ckup. Frankly, we were impressed, given the complete lack of prior exposure you’ve had to situations such as you encountered out there."

“You’d be surprised how many junior agents, or interns, go Rambo in our training exercises, ignoring their instructors, and demonstrating a complete lack of understanding of even the most basic concepts of cover and tactics, so they get themselves paintballed or lasertagged in the first ten seconds. If they don’t learn quickly, they’re washouts.”

“But even worse, once in a while, a latent failure makes it through training, and gets out into a field op, with live fire, and they either panic, or they try to play the big hero, and they unnecessarily get wounded and sometimes compromise the op. We’ve had several instances of that, over the years. In a couple of cases, they were put out of their misery on the spot, rather than leave open the possibility of future mistakes.” I looked over at Karen, remembering that she basically warned me of that, when we were out there on the hill, taking fire from those biker sh*theads. She glanced back, and gave me a knowing smile.

“In your case, Mr. Lovelorn, you knew how to follow orders, correctly and quickly. You shot your weapon when and where you were told to, and you mostly stayed in cover as instructed, so you weren’t a liability to the op. You kept your head, and you didn’t panic or screw up, while you were driving, in the heat of the action. Bottom line, you were definitely a benefit to Karen in that situation. Karen's after-action assessment supported this conclusion.” As I heard this, I again flashed a smile at Karen, and she smiled back. :inlove:

I was actually feeling good about being complimented by Mr. Paperman, and it reminded me of what I felt like, being a badass out there, on that crazy operation. U. L. Paperman continued, “To be honest, I will suggest, for general consideration, that your two lost decades of saturation in the virtual worlds of video game shooters may actually have helped develop your mindset and your reflexes, so that you externalized your inadvertent lifetime of mental conditioning, instinctively executing the smart moves at the appropriate time, inured to the physical reality of it all, in the moment.” :^:

“In that regard, the Agency training group has an ongoing experiment, pre-screening applicants for their video game experience, and correlating that to their later training outcomes. Preliminary indications are that we see a definite benefit in certain scenarios, but a severe deficit in others.”

“They've been experimenting with virtualizing some entire missions for trainees to rehearse and perfect, in the form of 3D shooters, since it’s cheaper than physical training, and the trainees just keep playing addictively, night after night, all the while improving their situational reflexes, virtually killing each other mercilessly, over and over, and gloating about it. It’s one big LAN party. They all keep track of their holy K/D ratios – it’s an incredible motivator. We could never get them to study our other training materials so assiduously.”

"The only downside, so far, is that some of the trainees begin to care more about their own stats than about the core goal of mental conditioning, and so they try to exploit idiosyncrasies of the gameplay to pad their K/D. They’re penalized severely for this, of course, but we note their psychological profile for future training."

"Compared to the desired one sigma model we need for agent behavior, these outliers are significantly less skilled and less trustworthy, being more loyal to their own interests than to the mission and to the Agency's core values. Their slippery ethics still make these future agents useful for certain kinds of missions, but those ops tend to be less structured, more crude, and are initiated against less sophisticated adversaries that tend to have the same slimy, expedient characteristics. The risks in such ops are high, and so the agents (these defective trainees) are designated as expendable."

Finally, getting back on track, U. L. Paperman switched gears again, saying, "So much for your spin-up. Now let’s discuss next steps. Since you’re now an Agency intern, we'll be doing a full security background investigation on you. For the simple safehouse job, Karen already did the original background checks on you, based on existing records. But for Agency personnel, an official background investigation is different. These are carried out by a different government organization. In practice, if our Agency were doing the investigation, it would be more thorough, and it would be under the radar, but we don’t use our scarce resources for such day-to-day bureaucratic routine, unless the initial investigation turns up something interesting or exploitable for us.”

"For this background investigation, first, you’ll have to fill out the government SF-69 form, telling us about every place you’ve ever lived, traveled, worked, or attended school, everyone who ever knew you, and every shameful and illegal thing you’ve ever done.”

“Then the active background check begins. An official-looking federal investigator in a suit, flashing an official-looking government ID, will be going around to your former neighborhoods, schools and social haunts, asking all kinds of suspicious questions. He'll be talking to your former teachers, schoolyard friends, neighbors, police, doctors, relatives, friends and neighbors of your parents, babysitters, girls you stalked in high school, parole officers, scout leaders, grumpy old guys who chased you off their lawn, basically everybody, to dig up the dirt on you, to determine if you’re loyal enough and psychologically stable enough to violate international law in the service of protecting the common good.

The investigator will be asking everybody about all your deepest, darkest secrets as you were growing up, like what drugs you used as a kid, pot and prescription pill abuse, your experiences with shrooms and LSD, glue-sniffing, rave drugs, what violent and subversive video games you played, your displayed interest or proficiency with guns, knives and medieval melee weapons, misuse of fireworks, threatening behavior to strangers, peers and teachers, bullying and intimidation, vandalism, psychotic episodes, violent tendencies, odd behavior in general, sexual deviancy, personality deficits, intimate relations with your friends’ mothers, unhealthy obsessions or fetishes, public masturbation, problems with authority, gang affiliations, un-American activities, memberships in subversive organizations, foreign-born or communist social contacts, shameful past activities that could be used against you for extortion or blackmail, chronic financial problems, petty theft, homosexual inclinations or activities, cyberbullying, weird hobbies, snarky or antisocial rants on internet forums ... the list goes on and on. Not all of these characteristics are necessarily negatives, for our Agency business, you understand."

"By the time he’s done with his background investigation, the whole community will be gossiping about you, and speculating if you’ve become a traitor/terrorist, an international drug mule, or an internet pedophile and human trafficker that the feds and Interpol are trying to run to ground, before you do any more damage to society. They'll be asking themselves, 'What did O.P. Lovelorn say he wanted to be when he grows up? Damn, he sure went off the rails. I always knew that kid was weird,' and they'll shudder with disgust."

Then he added, “Meanwhile, you’ll be saving the world, so it doesn’t matter what they think.” U. L. Paperman smiled, hoping that he got his point across to me. This is a different kind of world, and this background investigation is a real Judgment Day, way beyond just pissing in a cup so an employer can test you for pot, before letting you operate power tools, or bag their groceries.

As I had been hearing all this, I was starting to absorb a vague understanding of what my new role was about, and from that, I was naturally starting to imagine how I would settle into it. With a broad smile, I said, "Well, hey, this sounds cool! Is Karen going to be my boss? She can be a real ballbreaker, you know. I'm down for that!" I saw Karen shake her head and smile; I could tell she was doing a mental facepalm.

“No, you can’t work directly for Karen,” Mr. Paperman answered, ignoring my new enthusiasm for my internship. “It’s ironic that as part of our agency charter, we can carry out assassinations, extort individuals or corporations, foment revolutions against foreign governments, routinely violate international law, and generally make a mockery of the conventional rules of civilization, but if we have a personnel situation where a supervisor and a worker in the same unit become intimately involved, it triggers a cascade of federal statutes regarding fraternization, cohabitation, and sexual harassment, and we all get jammed up in a sh*tstorm of bureaucratic f*ckery.” He paused, then continued, “So, you’re working for me now. I guess you can start calling me ‘boss.’ But Karen is assigned as your mentor / trainer.”

As I was continuing to absorb the whole new context that suddenly seemed to be my new life, I noticed my 'boss’ check his watch. He looked up and said, “The car is here. Thanks for dinner. I’ll be seeing you, Karen, Mr. Lovelorn.” Mr. U. L. Paperman nodded very slightly at us, as a departing gesture, then turned on his heel and headed to the front door. I looked at Karen, and she smiled at me, as we heard the front door open and shut, followed quickly by the sound of the Granger’s door slamming, and the SUV accelerating out onto Ineseno Road. Karen and I were standing there, in the dim light of the living room, together.

“Wow,” I exclaimed. "That was quite a dinner conversation. Actually, I guess it was more than that."

Karen responded, "I knew it would come to this point, if you stuck around. This kind of involvement with me can't be causal. There's too much long term risk. So we have to bring you up, gradually, within reason, so you can hold up your end, and understand how to avoid bad situations and how to survive, how to make decisions based on this bigger context, how to remain rational and handle the emotions that you would need to control, if things go south."

"But first and foremost, training is about keeping situations under control, even when they get chaotic, so you can avoid injury, failure, capture, compromise or death. All those things set back the progress of an operation, not to mention being extremely unpleasant."

Karen continued, "You can still get out now, leave and give up this new life. Actually, you can probably still get out for a while, until it comes to the point that you may start doing violent, unlawful things that eventually are part of the Agency modus operandi. Then it gets harder to walk away clean, plus you could become the target of revenge. When a person is part of the agency, there's an implied level of protection, since we can come down hard on any organization that f*cks with one of us. But out there, on your own, if someone we’ve pissed off wants to get payback on you, and they know we won't retaliate, you're screwed. You see how that can work?"

I replied, "Karen, I don't want to leave. I want to be with you." I said it again, because I really, really meant it, “I want to be with you.” I moved in and hugged her tight, really tight, and kissed her neck again and again, smelling her scent and her wonderful skin, just wanting to lose myself completely into her presence, to not think about anything in the world but her, as though nothing else existed. Karen brought her hand up, ran her fingers through my hair, to put her hand firmly on the back of my head, and pulled me in tight to her, nuzzling into my kisses, without saying anything.


Hi, guys! Well, thanks again for slogging through this chapter of talk-talk-talk. :) I hope it’s picking up a bit. Now it looks like O. P. Lovelorn is going to be Karen’s sidekick / trainee, with the potential for adventures ahead, if anything interesting comes to mind. The next chapter will indeed have an example of this, but after that, I don’t know ... it could easily get stuck in a rut.

Meanwhile, stay tuned for CHAPTER 10! Possibly, some action, finally ... :)

Edited by saintsrow
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Sorry about the last two boring, talky chapters. Or maybe the last 5 boring chapters, depending on what you expected to see in Karen fanfic :p


CHAPTER 10: Legal Entendre


These events follow from CHAPTER 9

Now that I’m ‘with the Agency,’ Karen texted me a patch to her secure video app, to install on my phone. It’s the modded version that she uses, an upgrade to the secure video app that she gave me back at the Procopio safehouse. This patch runs all of my smartphone traffic through the Agency Tor network. She said it also spoofs and constantly hops the cell signaling, to appear as a number of separate ongoing calls, preventing Wiz Wireless (or anyone piggybacking on the Wiz servers – like the Agency, for example) from locating the phone or reconstructing the traffic. Having the app on my phone protects her as well as me, since both ends of our conversations go through the Tor net, so that she can’t be tracked or compromised by my phone, if I call her. An iFruit is basically Big Brother in your hip pocket, unless you take the necessary precautions, she warned.


On Thursday, a few days after my rather interesting dinner meeting with Mr. U. L. Paperman (who was now my new boss), I was settling back into my part time job as a stagehand at Richards Majestic. I felt normal again, going to work in the morning like an ordinary guy, like I was being useful and employed, and I didn't have to feel funny about being in some kind of weird Los Santos gigolo limbo, being Karen's housesitter and lover. :inlove: And the kicker is, I'm now an intern in the Agency; man; I'm as badass as Bourne now! Woohoo!

Even though I had some trepidation regarding the “training” that I was told was coming – simple fear of the unknown, since I had no idea what it would be – I was actually looking forward to getting into it. In the meantime, I was doing my own spin-up, starting to practice spying on Townley, by periodically wandering over to the studio’s main building where he has an office, and watching for his car coming and going.

I was also trying out the smartphone surveillance app that Karen had sent to me, so I would be ready to use it when I really needed to. Townley had stopped in at the studio twice so far, since I had been back. When he did that, I used the app to tap into his phone as a realtime bug, being careful to use it for only a few minutes at a time, so I wouldn’t run down his battery. In both cases, he was just having a quick meeting in the studio headquarters building, with old Richards, the studio boss, about the release strategy for some movie that Townley had just produced. It was boring and didn’t sound like a threat to national security.

Playing with the app some more, I figured out that it had a number of functions and options to make things more efficient for me. For example, I found out that I could see Townley's call log in the app. It also had an option that will buzz my phone in real time when Townley makes a call, and I could listen in to the call at that point, through the Wiz Wireless servers, so it didn’t draw any extra battery power from his phone.

When I turned on the secret recorder in Townley’s phone, it would later upload the recording through Wiz Wireless to our agency servers, whenever Townley recharged his phone, made a call, or when the battery was above 70%, so it wouldn’t noticeably run down the battery. But I could force it to upload, on demand, if I wanted to. Compared to data usage by typical commercial apps, the voice recording generated fairly small files, so it wasn't a problem, anyway. The recordings would be processed by Agency serves, and then the app on my phone would show me a timeline of the audio envelope in the recordings, with some flags that showed specifically when people were talking, as opposed to just car noise or music.

It even had a function in which I could populate a table of keywords (like ‘Trev’ or ‘FIB’ or ‘yayo’ or ‘heist,’ for example) that would be detected and shown as icons on the timeline, or on a clickable list, so I could easily listen to just those interesting parts, and another function that would recognize and display icons for the voices of various speakers on the bug or phone call recordings, if I previously had marked a sample snippet of their voice.

I scanned through a few recordings and phone calls in the first couple of days, but I only heard mundane domestic chatter, and a few disagreements between Townley and his wife or his kids.

Not only was it inefficient trying to find something interesting that I could report as useful intel, it felt creepy, intruding into Townley's normal personal life like that. In one of the recordings, as I was fast-forwarding to try to find something relevant, I heard him apparently walk in on his wife while she was pleasuring herself.

In another recording, during one of the arguments with his wife, I was actually thinking, ‘C’mon, guys, there’s no reason for this fight; ramp it down; you’re both right; why can’t you see each other’s point of view? Why can’t you respect each other and just get along?’

I realized then, holy sh*t, I don’t wanna be this guy’s marriage counselor. After all of those experiences, I decided to use the keyword and voice recognition functions to flag possible segments of importance, rather than scan any more recorded audio.


The following Monday morning, Karen and I had a few minutes to eat breakfast together, before we both had to leave for work. As I mentioned, I was glad to have the job at Richards Majestic again. It felt like a normal day, and a familiar lifestyle, almost perfect, since the job was part time, and so I could still do all the housesitting and errands for Karen.

I asked Karen when my training was going to start, and what it was going to be like. She just smiled, and said, “You’ll see.” But then she added, “Before you can start specialized training, we need to give you some briefings at the Agency building downtown, in a couple of days. We’ll set up an appointment, and we’ll get you microchipped at the same time.”

“What?” I asked. “Microchipped? Like a dog at the ASPCA? What for?” I looked at Karen, expecting to see her smile and tell me it was a joke, but she didn’t smile.

She replied, “Well, several reasons. It’s useful to positively identify an agent in person, to verify he’s not an imposter. And there are some devices we use that have a chip reader, which can only be unlocked or enabled by an agent’s chip – it’s more secure than a card, and better suited to field ops."

Then Karen added, "Plus, it’s one more way to identify a deceased agent, if you can’t get DNA, like if the body is decomposed in a pool of acid, or a lye pit, or burned up, which often happens.” She paused, and I looked at her, with some confusion, let alone concern – ‘which often happens’ – holy sh*t... I didn’t know interns had to worry about ending up in a lye pit. She continued, “But if possible, you don’t want the microchip’s glass envelope to melt, so it’s placed where there’s a lot of water and fat to boil off first, to protect the chip. That means putting it in the butt cheek.”

"Wait a minute - what the fuu----?? Are you saying they're gonna put a chip in my butt???" I asked, incredulous. “Those conspiracy theories are real??”

“Mark of the beast,” Karen replied, smiling with obvious amusement. “It’s the best way. It doesn’t hurt. Much.”

I was still trying to understand if this were true, whether to believe it, or whether Karen was punking me. I asked, “So, do you have a chip in your butt?”

Still smiling, almost laughing now, Karen said, “Of course. It’s standard issue. Don’t worry, it hardly leaves a scar.” Then she got a knowing, mischievous expression on her face, chuckled and added, “Next time we’re playing around in the morning sunlight up in my bedroom, why don’t you see if you can find my scar?”

That brought me back to reality. “Oh, yeah,” I said enthusiastically, with a horny grin on my face. “I’m gonna *love* doing that!” Then I added, “I’ll kiss it and make it all better.” :p

Karen smiled wryly, shook her head with an expression of faux resignation, and said, “Horn-dog forever...”


On the next Wednesday around noon, I was making my rounds near the studio headquarters, pretending to be on break at the food truck, to watch for Townley, since his car was in the lot. My phone buzzed, indicating Townley was getting a phone call. The call was from old Richards. I decided to listen in, and Richards sounded like he was agitated. He told Michael to meet him in his office. It turned out that Townley was headed there anyway for a standing meeting, and I saw him go into the building just after he got the call. Since Richards’ tone of voice seemed a little urgent, I thought it might be a more interesting meeting than usual, so I turned on the realtime bug in Townley’s phone.

Through Townley’s bug, I heard that Devin Weston and his attorney were in Richards’ office, shaking him down for the master copy of the film that Townley had been producing. Weston sounds like a totally disgusting prick. The gist of it was something about Weston making a pile of dough on an insurance scam, and tearing down the studio. When Townley responded, he sounded pretty well pissed off. Then I heard old Richards say to the female attorney, in response for her demand for the film, “Were you ever a human being?”

Within seconds, I saw the woman attorney run out of the front door of the headquarters, with a film can under her arm, and she jumped in her car, flooring it out of the main gate. A few seconds after that, I saw Townley do the same thing, chasing after her, smoking the tires, and he looked pissed.

I stopped the phone bug and thought for a second. This looked like some kind of situation with Townley, but I didn’t know if it was anything that would be of interest to the Agency. Nonetheless, I decided that it was pretty much out of control, and Devin Weston was involved, so it’s better to phone it in, rather than get yelled at later for missing something. New interns have to be alert. So I called Karen on the secure voice app to tell her what was happening.

I said, “I’m at Richards Majestic. I just saw Townley chasing Devin Weston’s attorney out of the studio, in a high speed chase. He looked pissed.” I paused for a reaction from Karen, then I thought to add, “and the attorney looked panicked.”

Karen replied, seemingly interested. “Does it look like he plans to kill someone? Like the attorney? Did you see a gun?” she asked.

I replied, “Well, he sounded plenty mad on the bug. And he’s probably going to catch her pretty quickly, the way he stomped on the gas, blasting out of here. I don’t know if he had a gun or not. It seems like people in this town can hide an arsenal in their pants pocket. Good tailors, I guess.”

Karen agreed that the dynamics of the situation seemed alarming. “Plus,” she added, “It sounds like Weston is up to some trouble. Anything that involves that meddling f*ck needs to be mitigated. Hold on ...” She put me on hold for about 20 seconds, and then she said, with the clipped, full-hardass Karen voice, “I’m coming to get you at the studio. Where are you?”

“I’m near the main gate,” I replied, “but by the time you come here, Townley will probably have caught her already.”

Karen said, “It’s not a problem. My app is tracking Townley’s phone now, and Weston’s lawyer’s phone as well. I can see where they are.” I guessed that she had gotten their track info from the Agency database while she had me on hold. Karen went on, “I’m piloting a helicopter over downtown. I’ll be at your location in less than two minutes. As a contingency, get your micro SMG from your car, right now. We’ll count this toward your training. I’ll land at that wave tank near the studio gate, and as soon as I touch down, you jump in the co-pilot’s seat. Got it?”

I said, “Yeah, I’ve got it! This is gonna be fun!” I was feeling badass already. :) I started heading for my car at a fast walking pace.

“Sh*t!” Karen replied, with a bit of smile for me, I could sense, through the phone. “There’s nothing worse than an over-enthusiastic amateur with a loaded gun. Keep that SMG in the bag until I tell you we need to use it. Hear me?”

“Got it!” I said enthusiastically, and she hung up the call. I quickly scooped up the duffle bag containing my micro SMG and magazines from the trunk of my Sabre Turbo, and I ran back to the wave tank. As I got there, I could hear a helicopter somewhere above, and when I looked up, I saw the copter’s silhouette against the blue sky, rapidly descending toward me. I stayed at the edge of the wave tank area, as she brought it down.

She landed, and I was looking at the most ostentatious excuse for a helicopter (or anything else) that I had ever seen. Later, she told me it was a Swift Deluxe. The helicopter looked completely extravagant, ridiculously over-the-top opulent, satin-finish gold and mirror black. If tasteless pimps had helicopters, they’d be flying the Swift Deluxe.

Some of my co-workers, who had been taking a long break at the food truck, were watching all this and I saw them trying to make eye contact with me, wondering why I’m so special, as I ran for the chopper. I guess I’ll have to come up with some kind of excuse. Maybe I’ll say that some A-list starlet called and said she needed a script she left in a trailer at the studio. Yeah, that’s the ticket. In the back of my mind, I realized that ever since I met Karen, I’ve had to make up lies to tell people. I guess that’s how a person knows he’s become a spy.

“Whoa, nice chopper,” I said brightly, as I ran around to the co-pilot’s door and opened it. As I climbed in and latched the door, Karen replied, “Leftover from a recent mission. Not a drug lord, this time. A Rockford Hills Arab terror financier.” I could guess what she meant. A Rockford Hills Arab terror financier that didn’t need his gold-plated worldly assets any more. :)

The Swift Deluxe was nice and quiet and luxurious inside. It hardly even seemed like a helicopter – more like an airborne limo. You can pretty much hold a normal conversation inside, and you don’t need to wear the usual aviation headphone cans over your ears. I could get used to flying around and training with this. :)

As I clicked in the seat harness, Karen punched the copter’s engines full-throttle, causing the chopper to shudder as she cranked the blade pitch for max lift, and we zipped upwards like an extra-fast elevator – whoa, what a thrill! She had her phone stuck to the windshield with a suction cup mount, and I could see the tracking map with the dots for Townley and the lawyer at the left edge of the screen. Karen banked hard left and leaned on the stick, pushing it forward, still at full throttle, sending the copter blasting toward a southeast bearing, as the tracking dots rolled up to the top of the phone’s screen.

After another minute, the dots were more clearly heading south, toward the Los Santos International Airport, with us rapidly gaining on them, since the chopper was significantly faster than cars on the ground. As we got in sight of the airport, with its iconic central futurist UFO-type restaurant structure, Karen dropped the altitude of the chopper to stay below the LSIA flight path, and to get a visual on the cars. The attorney’s car, partly surrounded with a chaotic halo of cop cars trying to escort her, was speeding directly toward the gate into the hanger area of the airport, and Townley was only about 2 seconds behind the pack.

Karen rapidly descended even further, almost to the rooftop level of Weston’s big hanger, while maintaining forward speed and coming down about 100 feet behind Townley’s speeding car. But she had to suddenly pull up again and pull away, as both cars ducked under a section of the international terminal. When they emerged, she again dropped the chopper right down behind Townley, matching his speed. Wow, Karen is a hell of a pilot! Once more, I’m super impressed! I’m in looooovvvvve ... :sigh:

The chase moved out into the open runway area of the airport, with no more building hazards to worry about. A couple of cop cars were still weaving around the attorney’s car, and she still had her car floored, in a panic. Townley was closing on her. Karen turned to me, all business, and yelled, “Get out your SMG and load it, now! You’re going to spray the rear of Townley’s car with bullets. Slide open your vent window and aim and shoot!” She turned back to concentrate on flying, and while looking out ahead, she added, “I’ll hold position for you, relative to his car. Just keep loading magazines and peppering the back of his car until he gets discouraged and cuts off the chase.”

“You want me to shoot? In the airport?? Are you sure?” I asked.

She replied, quickly and sternly, “I’m trying to pilot this chopper 10 feet off the deck at 85 miles per hour in a crosswind, without T-boning a 747. Unless you think your chopper flight hours in Righteous Slaughter qualify you to fly this thing, you do the shooting and I’ll do the flying, OK???”

I happily yelled back, “Got it, boss!!” I had already unzipped the duffle bag and was popping one of the mags into the micro SMG. I slid open my vent window as she instructed, and I was just able to get the gun through the window. I clicked off the safety, aimed roughly at Townley’s car and squeezed the trigger. The bullets sprayed over a wide angle, as expected, but we were so close to Townley’s car, a lot of them hit. I saw him swerve a bit to try to make it more difficult.

I quickly brought the gun back in, being careful not to drop it outside the chopper as I worked it in through the vent opening. I popped in another mag and peppered Townley’s car again. I saw the rear windows of his car blow out this time. Karen was keeping the chopper locked almost rock solid to the car’s path. I repeated the SMG load/aim/shoot process two more times, starting to get really good at it. At the end of my fourth magazine, Townley’s left rear tire popped and shredded, and he started fishtailing for a couple of seconds before he eased back a bit on the pedal and got the car stable again, still going about 85 to 90 miles per hour.

We were almost past the end of the runway, with some low service buildings coming up ahead. The attorney’s car started bearing to the left, to steer away from the buildings and the airport fence ahead, and to try to make her way back to Weston’s hanger. As Townley tried to make the same turn, he lost it, going into a sideways skid, due to the popped tire, now running on the rim. Karen eased up and pulled the chopper away from Townley’s car, as he slammed sideways into the concrete base of a light pole in the parking lot near the service buildings.

As we pulled away, I looked back and saw Townley still trying to drive the car, though it was visibly bent and starting to smoke. He was limping along behind us, now at only about one third of our speed. Karen was pulling the chopper up toward the attorney’s car. The attorney was still pretty much standing on it, in a panic, with a couple of cop cars still tracking her, and they weren’t helping her state of mind.

I saw Karen punching the screen on her smartphone, still stuck to the windshield of the chopper with the suction cup. She said to me, “I’m calling Molly – that’s Weston’s lawyer – in the car. But I’m pretty sure she’s not gonna answer, given the present circumstances. Doesn’t matter – the app we use to jack into Wiz Wireless phones makes them answer automatically, and it can also turn on their speakerphone. Watch this!” Karen smiled, then shouted into her smartphone, "Molly, answer your goddamned phone!!!"

In a couple of seconds, I heard the reply from Molly come back over Karen's smartphone speaker, with a lot of car noise. The phone was probably still in her pocket. Molly replied, with a bit of hysteria in her voice, "What?? How’d you do that? Who is this??? I'm kind of busy right now!"

Karen said, "Molly, this is Karen Daniels. We talked at the Power Women of Los Santos 2013 Conference this spring, at the Arcadius Business Center. I told you I was an executive at Maze Bank. I also told you then that Devin Weston was going to be trouble for you. You remember?"

Molly replied, "Oh, yes, Karen, I remember you. That was a nice talk. But I’m kind of tied up right now….”

Karen quickly replied, “Molly, that’s why I’m calling you. This chase is pointless. Look in your mirror. I’m behind you in the gold-plated helicopter. De Santa backed off. Stop your car and get out. You’ll just get yourself hurt. Toss the film can on the ground and let De Santa have it, the prick. You don’t need it. That fool Weston has no idea about the modern film business, nor does De Santa. That film is not the master copy, so you’re not accomplishing what Weston wants, anyway.”

Molly asked, “Are you sure? Weston’s my client. I shouldn’t act contrary his instructions,” and then she paused, “even if they’re wrong.”

Karen shouted, “What are you, a trained seal?? I’m giving you new information! Think for yourself!” Karen continued, “You’re a big girl. You’ve made plenty of decisions in your career -- big decisions. On the basis of your judgment alone, you’ve wrecked whole companies using just your signature, without a shred of doubt ... or remorse.”

Meanwhile, Molly was visibly slowing down, as the phone conversation captured more of her attention. The cop cars backed off a bit, starting to eye us in the chopper now, and they stopped concentrating on the attorney. The cops didn’t know where we came from, but the Swift Deluxe looked so extravagant and tasteless, I think they were convincing themselves that Devin Weston was probably in it, and they didn’t want to get yelled at (or fired on the spot) by that overbearing piece of sh*t, so they veered away from us.

After a short pause, Molly replied, “Yes, that’s true. I’m pulling over.” She braked and steered her car over toward the side of a small service building and stopped. Karen quickly pulled back on the stick to bring the helicopter to a hover, then gently set it down, about 40 feet from Molly’s car.

A few hundred feet behind us, I saw Townley stumbling out of his smoking, crumpled wreck of a car, which had finally stalled. He started heading in our direction, on foot, still pursuing Molly, reminding me of a zombie or a terminator that just wouldn’t stop. Meanwhile, police sirens from hordes of backup cop cars, who were just arriving at the airport, were Dopplering in from all directions, getting closer, louder and more urgent. They were looking for some action.

Karen spoke into her phone again, “Molly, come over here and get in the chopper. We’ll get you out of here before this situation gets any more random. There’s too many trigger-happy idiots with guns running apesh*t around here, looking to get a department commendation for shooting somebody.”

Molly opened her driver’s door and quickly got out, but then she leaned back into the car to get the film reel from the passenger seat. As she did so, the tight grey pant suit she was wearing hugged her ass like a second skin [ but I didn’t notice; not consciously... ]. Molly rolled the film can across the tarmac, and then she ran over toward us in the chopper, leaving the film reel zigzagging away from her car.

Karen turned to me and ordered, “Open your door and help her in – she’s wearing heels and that’s a high step.” I unbuckled my seat harness and got out of the co-pilot’s side door on the helicopter. I opened the rear passenger door of the Swift, and held out my hand as Molly came up to the door. Molly didn’t take my hand, but put her right hand on my shoulder and her other hand on the doorframe handle, as she pulled herself up, stepped in, and got in the rear seat. [ I didn’t consciously notice her ass as she climbed in. ]

Molly settled into the rear seat on the co-pilot’s side, and I got back in the co-pilot’s seat. Karen shouted to us, ”Buckle up!” as she gunned the engines and the helicopter shuddered again, as it rapidly gained altitude, seemingly even faster than when she picked me up from the studio. Then she slammed the stick forward and turned us to head north from the Los Santos Airport.


By this time, all the late-arriving police cars were screeching to a stop all around the area below us, and I heard a few pistol shots ping off the bottom of the Swift. They didn’t know who we were, but it didn’t matter to them. All that mattered is that somebody was getting away, so they needed to be shot at. I hoped the cops didn’t have any military surplus homing missiles...

After a few minutes, we had ascended to a fair altitude above the city, and Karen had set us on a more leisurely cruising speed, going north. All the action was over.


Molly leaned forward in her seat (to the extent possible with her seat harness fastened) and put her hand on the edge of Karen’s seat back. “Thanks,” she said. “That was too intense, too dangerous. I didn’t sign up for this. I really appreciate your help, Karen.” She paused for a second, and then asked, “Is this the kind of thing you do for Maze Bank?”

Karen laughed and replied, “Ha, no, Molly, I’m not a Maze Bank executive. Obviously. I’m in one of the federal agencies downtown. Doesn’t matter which one. But for public interaction, like that conference, I generally use a cover, like Maze Bank or Dynasty 8.”

Then Molly asked, “Who’s the dork in the co-pilot’s seat?”

I turned around to say, “Hey, who are you calling a dork?” but Karen put her right hand on my arm, to keep me quiet.

“This is O. P., my able assistant,” Karen replied. “He’s helping me on this little impromptu job.”

Molly replied, “I just wondered. The way he was staring at my ass when I got in the ‘copter, I thought he was just some lame-ass horn-dog.”

I started to sputter with indignation and denial. Karen looked sideways at me, but it wasn’t a stern or accusatory look. Still looking sideways at me, she said to Molly, “You know men – friggin’ Cro-Magnon brutes. Always thinking with their dick.” As Karen was looking at me, pointedly but not in a mean way, I actually got the sense that she was directing her comment to me, rather than to Molly.

Molly added, “Yes, Neanderthals, that’s what I notice, when I see typical male behavior. Always trying to pick up the receptionist, or making innuendo comments to the hottest female in a business meeting, or talking to her tits instead of her face. These men never stop. They never get it.”

I interjected, “Hey, it’s just male reflex, completely involuntary. Hardwired into our brain stem. I apologize, Molly, my eyes just moved by themselves. I didn’t even realize I was looking at your ass. Really.”

Molly briefly turned to me and said, “I doubt that, but I’ll accept your apology. Try taking control of your eyes, sometime.” She didn’t smile – she really meant it. I could tell that she was a cold bitch.

Karen turned back toward Molly and continued, “Well, I’m gonna let it slide, this time. Fact is, you looked pretty good from behind, when you were getting that film can out of your car.” My eyes widened a bit. I wondered where Karen was going with this.

Molly responded, “You like the pants suit? I have a great tailor at Ponsonby’s. He knows my measurements perfectly!” At that point, I thought, typical women ... we just got out of a chaotic, dangerous chase, and now they’re talking about clothes. Next, it’ll be shoes ...

Karen continued, “Well, I can tell he has an appreciation for a fine ass.” At this point, I was looking at both of the women, as they were talking about Molly’s ass, and I thought, [ what the f*ck??? ] I was starting to wonder if maybe some girl-on-girl seduction was going on here.

Molly smiled a coy smile, and said, “Karen, it’s so nice of you to notice. Really. I don’t get much attention from men, these days. I think they feel threatened by a powerful female presence.”

[ Powerful female presence, my ass, I thought – it’s just because you’re a bitch. ]

But by now, I could tell what was going on, and I was getting left out of an interesting conversation. So, being a typical stupid male, I decided to interject a little joke. “Hey, what’s the deal here?” I asked. “If I say, ‘Yo, girl, nice ass!’ I’m a creep. But if she says it,” and I nodded toward Karen, “suddenly it’s all, ‘Hey, baby, let’s make sexy time.’” Then, digging myself in even deeper, I added, “Has this ‘copter got an autopilot? I’m thinking, how ‘bout a three-way initiation to the Mile High Club? I'm down for that!” I had a big stupid grin on my face.

That caused Karen to glare at me, saying sternly, “Keep it in your pants, horn-dog. You got a pass on this one. Don’t f*ck it up.” She paused, looked pointedly at me, then added, “And, no, we’re not gonna let you watch,” and she flashed a quick, subtle smile, with a glance at Molly. Molly smiled, too. I could tell they both got it. I couldn’t tell if it was a joke between them, or if they were serious. Maybe even they didn’t know. I thought, [ Geez. And people call me a horn-dog. Just one coy look between them, and these girls are making like teenagers after the prom. Lesbo teenagers, that is. It’s a modern prom ... :p ]

Then, while still flying the chopper with her left hand on the stick, Karen turned back and put her right hand on Molly’s knee and squeezed , saying, “Molly, You really have to disconnect from Devin Weston. He’s bad for you. He almost got you seriously injured in this pointless film theft. This isn’t the kind of thing you should be doing; you’re better than this. And more professional.”

Molly thought for a second before responding. “Well, I understand that, Karen, and I really appreciate your concern. But I consider my loyalty to be one of my key strengths and values, when I associate with a firm.”

Karen said, “Look at the bigger picture. Our Agency can use a hard-ass lawyer like you, who can get things done via obscure and dubious legal technicalities. It’s a great opportunity to work for the Feds, with legal powers way beyond what you can wield in the private sector. You know – eminent domain, patriot act, corporate infiltration and extortion, that kind of stuff. You’d love it. You should talk to our director and see if you can be a consultant to the Agency. I’ll get you an interview.”

Karen continued her recruiting speech, “Don’t worry about loyalty issues, especially in regard to that overconfident, narcissistic boor you’re working for now. Weston wouldn’t know true loyalty even if it handed him 50 million bucks. He’d just put it in his pocket and ask, ‘Is that all you got for me?’.”

Molly said, “Actually, yes, that’s been my experience. He takes my skills for granted. He doesn’t appreciate that sometimes I have to really pull some magic tricks, to close the half-assed deals he comes up with.”

Karen continued, “We can get you out of his sphere of influence, with no strings. We’ve got enough on Weston to squeeze him where it hurts, in some of his more leveraged and shady investments. We know how to make him listen to reason. In fact, you might have some fun putting the screws to him, especially given what you know about his operations. Weston isn’t the only alpha ape in town. Maybe I have to use a silver bullet to bring you in on retainer, but personally, I think you’re worth it.”

Molly responded, “That’s so nice of you, Karen. Yes, I’m thinking now, that it sounds really good. Thanks.”

Karen replied to Molly, “I’m going to land the ‘copter downtown. Then we can drop in on the director at our Agency building; I’ll call him in a minute. I expect you can convince him of your value to the work we’re doing here in Los Santos.”

At that point, Karen turned back to me. “But first, O. P., I’m going to detour to Richards Majestic and drop you off at the wave tank, where I picked you up. Good work today, great work! Thanks for keeping your eyes open. You used good judgment, alerting me to this potential screwup. It turned out well."

Karen continued talking to me, "And you can log some training hours today, not to mention actual practical experience. Don’t forget to take your micro SMG with you, and those empty magazines there by your feet, when we touch down.”

Karen smiled at me. She still had her left hand on the stick, from when she had turned around to Molly. She moved her right hand to take my hand and squeezed it, and beamed happily at me for a second, before she turned back to look forward out of the chopper windshield, to start banking west, heading toward the studio. I realized that she didn’t have any resentment about my involuntary distraction with Molly’s ass, or my bonehead jokes about the girl-on-girl situation. She’s sophisticated, worldly, rational ... and sensual. :p Karen made me feel good, and feel happy, yet again. :) What a woman!!


Please stay tuned for Chapter 11
Edited by saintsrow
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Continued from Chapter 10

Chapter 11. Pain from the Past (Part 1): Karen’s Liberty City Blues

As Karen had promised, my Agency intern training finally started, and I was spending time at the IAA building downtown, taking various classes. They showed me the whole training curriculum going in. Unfortunately, the fun stuff – like martial arts, spycraft , and firearms training – were only about half of the total course work, and much of the good stuff didn’t start until several months out. :(

However, some elements that they put in the curriculum, right at the beginning, were opsec concepts and practices. It wasn’t so much of a ‘how-to,’ but rather, a collection of info, anecdotes and tips to raise our basic awareness of the spectrum of real world threats, targeted threats as well as the general background level of the usual troublemakers, and just developing a mindset to avoid carelessness in numerous areas.

It was all consistent with the advice that Karen had already given me, including good practices like being aware of and evaluating the risk of objects, situations, or elements of the environment that might contain bugs or cameras, cyber countermeasures, being aware of sightlines in terms of closed circuit cameras, long range audio surveillance or physical threats, taking diverse long routes, and even doubling back, if you are going somewhere to which you don’t want to accidentally establish an association or a pattern, and so on.

The instructor pointed out that active opsec is a two-way street – meaning that if some adversary really is targeting you, it becomes a game of countermeasures and counter-countermeasures –you can try to spoof or misdirect the adversary, and they can anticipate your moves, perhaps even intentionally causing you to slip up, by doing their own misdirection. And there are very clever countermeasures out there, always being evolved and adapted, so it’s a continuous learning process.

He said that this first level of opsec awareness was basic, mostly ineffective against typical state-sponsored electronic surveillance and tracking; plus it would typically be effective only the most amateurish or ham-handed threats – it’s more like just good practice. But he said that these principles had to become second nature for us, since sometimes the adversary does make mistakes, and sometimes expendable amateurs are indeed recruited for surveillance; in any case, the opsec mindset and the principles were still applicable and should be honed for our entire career.

The rest of the first wave of classes were prerequisites – in geopolitics, economics, an introduction to electronics, radio, computer and cyber principles, and some poly sci related to the structure of foreign intel organizations and the non-state actors they support. Actually, on first impression, this spy stuff seemed mostly (but not completely) boring, and I was glad it was only a part-time courseload – I couldn’t have stayed awake for those kind of classes all day. I remembered then why I dropped out of junior college after the first year :p

Mercifully, there was no homework, which I realized makes sense, since we couldn’t take course materials home, due to their classified content. Instead, between short lectures, most of the work consisted of exercises in class or on computers, like a combination of interactive drills, quizzes, reviews, and real-time research to answer questions or write essays in a fixed time limit. The interactive engagement and repetition were actually a good way to learn the material.

On my initial visits, the Agency headquarters mostly just looked like an ordinary office building full of ordinary office people doing ordinary office activities, plus a couple of floors consisting of huge computing centers. It was not what I expected– I was hoping for a SPECTRE or THRUSH supervillain headquarters, sleek futuristic architecture with holographic war rooms, armories crammed with racks of exotic superweapons, jetpacks, underwater infiltration gunships, miniaturized intricate spy equipment, weaponized supercars, a wide selection of tuxedos, and dress shoes with retractable poison-tipped blades. Sadly, no. :(

Actually, though, in the third week of training, Karen took me to the floors which housed the Agency labs, and sure enough, they did have some really cool gadgets and equipment, and techniques to apply them. Wow! That refreshed my interest :) She also told me that there were indeed some high-tech op centers in the building, but only accessible for project personnel with need-to-know. Someday, I’ll get to use them, she said ...

And the worst thing is, the Agency *did* inject a goddamned microchip in my butt cheek, the first week I was there. I couldn’t believe it. :*( But that night, I got Karen to kiss it to make it better :) And the next morning, in her bed, by the sunlight reflecting off the ocean and the bright sky, I found the microchip scar on her butt, and I kissed it. A bunch of times. :) I think she liked it.


About a month after the excitement where we chased Townley across the airport in a Swift Deluxe, while I sprayed his car with bullets from my micro SMG, Karen told me that Devin Weston’s lawyer – former lawyer, that is – Molly Schultz, was now a consultant to the Agency.

Karen said that some of the tacticians and economics experts at the Agency were already working with Molly, scheming on the optimal ways to leverage Weston’s global connections, and his web of financial assets, to provide access and influence to various high level targets that the Agency had in their sights. Karen said that the only thing more effective and satisfying than being a powerful global dealmaking sleazebag, is squeezing a powerful global dealmaking sleazebag by the balls. She said Molly was really enjoying her new work. And I bet that asshole Weston was squirming. :^:

I didn’t ask Karen if she had hooked up with Molly – that was her business. I couldn’t even tell if they were serious, in that little sexy talk they shared in the helicopter. Even if they did get together, I wasn’t jealous or anything – heck, I was still the one spending almost every night with my dear Karen, so I couldn’t complain :) – and actually, I thought that a girl-on-girl tryst made Karen more sophisticated and sensual, in my eyes. But it would have been fun to watch :p


One night, a week or so ago, Karen and I were pillow-talking after making sweet love in her bed, in our beach house. We were talking about my classwork at the Agency, and the conversation was coming around to the same kind of subject that Karen had introduced me to before, about how agents develop the worldview and the mental discipline to survive and manage the consequences of the kind of violence or methodologies that are sometimes part of the Agency’s work. I specifically asked, then, the question that had long been on my mind, “Karen, how’d you become the professional agent that you are now? How did you make the transition from your sweet self, the beautiful woman that I love so much, into an Agency terminator?”

In the dark, Karen sighed and didn’t answer immediately. Then she replied to me, “O. P., this isn’t the right time.” Her voice seemed suddenly sad. There was a long silence. Then she sighed again, kissed my ear and my cheek, and rolled over to go to sleep. I could tell that the subject was closed ...


A few days later, Karen called me on the secure voice app and said that the following morning, I should put on my tailored Ponsonby’s suit and tie, and she would drive us downtown to the Arcadius Business Center. She said it’s another training opportunity for me, plus she needed me for her cover story.

Karen described the setup for me. She said that the Global Conference for NPC Rights and Justice was being held at the Arcadius Business Center for the next two days, and the Agency needed to assess and mitigate threats at the conference that were popping up in various surveillance feeds and intel alerts. She said that several other agents would be present at the center during the conference, but they would be out of sight, setting up and operating various electronic surveillance rigs, bugs, cameras, radio links – and most importantly – countermeasures in case anything went sideways while the conference was taking place.

Karen said that she was going in as a conference participant, to initiate conversations intended to clarify if certain participants or their minions were attending the conference for legitimate reasons, versus potentially nefarious intent. The longer-term result of the Agency efforts at the conference would be to develop improved profiles of many of the participants, who are attending for reasons both noble and base. She said it’s an opportunity to observe and listen to them in a more exposed environment, outside of their normal home operations.

Karen elaborated, “I’m using my Maze Bank cover again. I’m pretending to be an ambitious, high-powered Maze Bank exec, and you’re going to be my boy toy executive assistant.” She smiled as she said that, and continued, “Our cover reason for attending this conference is to coordinate with some of the organizations from countries where Maze Bank has investments intended to lead to better economic conditions for NPC farmers and laborers, who typically get exploited, or much worse, decade after decade, in the hellhole countries where they live.” She added, “If you think NPCs have it bad in San Andreas, you should see the other places.”

To give me more insight, Karen added, “Maze Bank actually does make such benign investments, and in fact, so does that cretin, Devin Weston. But these typically amoral corporate entities only make these side investments as part of a larger scheme of political access, to gain influence for their own projects in those countries. And it probably wouldn’t surprise you to know that, underneath a couple of layers of corrupt local contractors in those countries, those Maze and Weston projects are sometimes exploiting some of the same workers and indentured farmers that their high profile, progressive investments are claiming to help.”


The next morning, Karen and I got suited up as Los Santos financial district highrise biz weenies, representing Maze Bank, with her as the power female exec, and me as her dedicated, sycophantic assistant (an easy role for me to play, being in loooooovvvve with her :inlove: , such as I am :p ).

We arrived and registered for the conference, and went through security. At the registration desk, they gave us each a conference-labeled tote bag with a conference program and a book of proceedings. A couple of minutes after we got through the security screening, Karen walked (and I followed her) to one of the several interior elevators in the tall vertical central open space inside the Arcadius center. As we were waiting for the elevator, a young clean-cut college kid in a suit, carrying a slim briefcase, walked up and stood beside us. Karen glanced at him. We all got in the elevator and Karen punched the third floor button, while the kid punched the second floor.

As soon as the elevator door closed, Karen moved close to me and the kid moved in toward us also, so that we were all standing close, face-to-face. Karen immediately slipped her tote bag off her shoulder. As she did so, the kid quickly popped open the briefcase, and Karen smoothly dropped her original tote bag into it. Without missing a beat, she snapped up a seemingly identical tote bag from the case, and the kid snapped the lid shut. Continuing the same motion, Karen slipped the new bag strap over her shoulder, just like it appeared when she entered the elevator.

It took only about 5 seconds, and our huddled bodies shielded the quick exchange from any surveillance sightlines. “My arsenal is in here,” she whispered to me with a smile. “Both ballistic and electronic. I couldn’t bring it in through security. The others on the team brought it in with their equipment, a couple of days ago.” The kid nodded very slightly and flashed a small, quick smile. Then the elevator reached the second floor, the door opened, and the kid exited. Karen and I rode on up to the third floor, and we strolled from the elevator to the railing, to look out over the crowd, two floors down below in the reception area, as they were eating breakfast and mingling, before heading to the morning conference sessions.

As we were standing there for a minute, watching the crowd, Karen reminded me of the role I was supposed to play. “You know the drill, right?” she asked me.

“I got it,” I replied with a happy smile. It was great, doing something spy-like and sophisticated like this. :) I had already reviewed the setup with her last night. Karen told me to always follow her or stay by her side, like I was on a tether, emulating the practiced way that a dedicated assistant would always move to be within easy earshot of their boss, to receive tasks or assignments without fumbling or looking unprofessional.

She told me to nod and smile as she was engaging people in conversation, acting like I was familiar with whatever jargon or context was happening, but not to speak (except for introductions) unless she addressed me with an obvious question, or gave me an assignment, such as, ‘Let’s set up a telecon with his people for next week,’ or whatever. I was just supposed to say something generic and professional in reply, in the affirmative, and don’t try to elaborate in any way, or address any of the people directly. I had seen the attendee list, consisting of 80% foreign names that I had no idea how to pronounce, so I was already well prepared to keep my mouth shut and play a minimal professional assistant role.

After Karen surveyed the crowd below for a couple of minutes and scoped out who was where, and who was talking with whom, we took the elevator back down. We had about 30 minutes before the morning sessions would start, and she immediately went through the crowd to zero in on certain attendees, introducing herself as a Maze Bank exec, and she started schmoozing. I got into the rhythm as her assistant, and it was working pretty well.

We got through that first wave of glad-handling, and the morning agenda started. The crowd thinned out considerably, as most participants headed into the various panel sessions. Karen and I ditched the sessions, as she continued to seek out targets with whom she could engage in conversation. She reasoned that the people with ulterior motives at the conference (like us) were less likely to attend the panels, and so it was a filtering process that she used to identify potential outliers and troublemakers.

Karen told me that she was making statements or asking questions in some cases that would test the veracity of a person she was talking to, while recording all the audio in the conversations, for later voice-stress analysis. In her tote bag, she also had a short-range electronic scanner that was logging all the emanations from Bluetooth, near-field comms, signaling beacons and incidental RF and magnetic emissions from people’s phones and other devices, for future exploitation, identification, tracking, discovery of anomalous signals, and detection of surveillance devices. Given the short range of the scanner, the log would be correlated to the people with whom she was conversing.

So we continued throughout the morning, striking up conversations with people and groups that Karen was clearly targeting, as well as some random encounters. As far as I could tell, she played her role perfectly. Using her same professional demeanor, she exuded confidence and competence, as though she had a career in finance. Without saying much in terms of substance or specifics, just dropping a bit of jargon and asking questions, Karen easily moved through the sparse crowd and collected her data. Everybody was glad to talk to the female power exec with the big Maze Bank money.

The morning went by fairly quickly, as I continued tagging alongside Karen, really getting into my role as her exec assistant. Around lunchtime, the morning sessions were breaking up, and participants were drifting back into the main floor reception area, so things were getting crowded. Karen had pretty well completed her intended tag-ups with all the attendees and potential outsiders that were not in the sessions. But the large crowd presented more new interview targets for her, during the break for lunch, before the afternoon sessions. So I anticipated another 90 fairly intense minutes of lunchtime schmoozing.

Karen was scanning the crowd emerging from one of the sessions on African NPC issues. Suddenly, she got a look on her face that I had never seen before, a momentary combination of surprise and indecision, nothing like I ever imagined seeing on her, since she’s always in control. I had the fleeting but distinct impression that for just a moment, a Karen from the past had emerged in her, a more innocent and more human Karen, from a time before she became a hardass terminator for the Agency. But she covered it immediately, regaining her professional, confident, Karen-in-control expression.

Then I saw the cause of her odd behavior. She had made eye contact with a big, well-built guy in the crowd, about 15 feet away, coming out of the session. He was kind of out of place, compared to all the foreigners, activists and dressed-up political wonks that comprised the core of the conference attendee population.

The guy was wearing a gray suit, and a dress shirt, but no tie. He was probably more than 10 years older than Karen and I, and it showed in the line and the width of his jaw, and the slightest dusting of gray beginning to show on his temples. But his face was set hard, clean-shaven, chin strong, eyes sharp, posture taut, no hint of the kind of lazy middle manager slouch and weak face you sometimes see developing in guys that age. He was alert, scanning the crowd with his eyes, not dwelling on any single conversation or person.

Karen moved toward the guy. He didn’t come toward us, but as we started toward him, I realized that he was continuing to casually glance around the crowd, assessing the situation around him, as a natural habit. I followed one step behind her. As we got close, I could tell that he was going to acknowledge us.

When Karen got within speaking distance of the guy, she opened her mouth to talk, but paused for a second, as if trying to decide what to say. Then she smiled, a bit tentatively, and said, “... Max, ... hello ... you’re looking great!” She paused again, and then added, “What are you doing here in Los Santos?”

The big guy looked at her with obvious recognition, mostly keeping a poker face, just out of a lifetime force of habit, I assumed. I noted in his eyes, though, a hint of the inherent warmth of seeing an old friend. Then he replied, “Bodyguard job. Wouldn’t you know it?” and he briefly cracked a slight smile.

“Oh, Max,” Karen said, in her professional voice, “Don’t you ever learn?”

Karen had lowered her voice to the minimum level needed to communicate in the surrounding crowd noise. Meanwhile, both of them were continuing to scan the nearby situation, as they talked. ‘Good opsec,’ I guessed. Without appearing too sneaky or shifty, I tried to do my part to be a third pair of eyes, but I didn’t know what they were looking for. [ I thought, when I get a chance, I’ll ask Karen, and later my opsec instructor, for some insight into this kind of situation. ]

The guy, apparently named Max, said, “It’s not what you think. Not involved with any Los Santos sleazebags. I’m just in town during this conference – on a team protecting Gudguya Wagtali’s delegation. The Sub-Saharan NPC Rights Coalition.”

Karen nodded slightly, recognizing the name. She said, without emotion, “Well, at least we’re on the same side. That’s a relief.” She paused, then added, “Given your purpose here, we have some specific threat alerts that you should know about. When you get a chance, let’s talk in private. Can you break away for 15 minutes, during the afternoon session?”

Max thought for a second, and said, “Yes, it’s possible. Wagtali will be up on the panel platform in the afternoon, so there’ll be a natural buffer zone that the rest of the team can cover. I can check out the room at the beginning of the session and coordinate with my team to fill in, but I don’t want to be gone long. Is your intel worth it?”

Karen replied, “Yes, if you can manage the risk for that interval, we need to coordinate. But we’ll have to go upstairs to our temporary op center.”

“OK,” Max replied. “I’ll see you here when I come out of the session, probably about 30 minutes after it starts. Will that work?”

Karen said “Yes, that will be good. About two hours from now. See you then.” Then she suddenly remembered that I was there, by her side, and she added, “Before I go, let me make a quick introduction.” She looked at Max, but put her hand lightly on my shoulder, and said, “This is my assistant, O. P. Lovelorn.” Then she turned back to me and said, “O. P., meet Max Payne.”

Then Karen said, “You two, shake hands now,” with her professional Karen-in-control smile, but a warm look in her eyes. I shook hands with Max, we made eye contact and nodded to each other professionally, and then Karen turned to walk away, and I was ready to step in behind her, already reflexively conditioned by playing my assistant role all morning.

But Karen stopped and turned suddenly back toward Max, and added, “It’s really good to see you again, Max. We have to catch up.” Then she turned and continued walking back into the crowd, and I followed. At the same time, I saw Max turn away also, heading back to protect his delegation.

I assumed that this guy Max was some free agent that Karen and the Agency had worked with before. The only thing that was a little funny was Karen’s initial reaction to seeing him here. I figured that she would tell me about it later, but for now, I expected that she was going to continue the lunchtime schmoozing. I was psychologically preparing myself for more executive assistant boy toy role-playing. :) And scooping up a few effete appetizers that were being brought out :^:

Instead, Karen said, curtly, “We’re going out for lunch. Let’s go to the garage.”

As we reached the elevator to go to the garage, the same college kid who had met us at the elevator at beginning of the conference came up beside us again, with his briefcase in hand, as before. Either Karen had some means of signaling him, which I had not seen, or else he was already watching her. These spies are tricky. As soon as we got in the elevator, Karen and the kid pressed buttons for different garage levels, and when the door closed, they immediately executed the same smooth exchange of conference tote bags from the briefcase as they had done before, so Karen would leave the conference security perimeter, and could return, with the same generic tote bag as she had gotten at registration.


Karen drove us in her SUV, toward the coast, ending the trip by driving onto Pleasure Pier, and parking there on the pier’s wooden plank lot, near the Leviathan roller coaster. It took significantly less than 10 minutes to get to the pier, much faster than I expected – I guess Los Santos isn’t as big as I thought. Karen didn’t talk during the drive. She seemed intense, and had something on her mind.

We got out of the car, and Karen took my hand as we started walking. I was liking this :) She seemed to lighten up a bit, showing a more relaxed expression on her face, and she seemed to enjoy pretending to be a tourist, looking at the sights. But I quickly realized, she was also doing her usual survey of everyone around, looking for anyone out of place. I figured it must be second nature to her, since, as far as I knew, we randomly decided to come to the pier, and so it seemed unlikely to be any threats here.

I did want to ask her, later, what kind of tells she looks for, and how I can get practiced at this art of crowd-survey opsec. It occurred to me that this was a rare occasion when we were out in public together, so I had not seen her do this kind of crowd scanning before. It was a little different than what she was doing this morning at the conference, when she was looking for definite targets.

Karen still wasn’t saying anything. We kept walking, all the way out to the end of the pier, then we took the steps down to the lower tier at the very end, where there were a few local fishermen, and no tourists. She steered us to a spot, standing at the pier railing near the corner, furthest away from the fishermen, with no one around, no one within earshot, and a low likelihood of people walking past us. I got the impression that she had already assessed whatever risk there was, or wasn’t, of longer range audio surveillance at this location. The waves breaking on the pier pilings kind of provided a natural noise background.

She leaned on the railing on her elbows, her hands clasped, looking out at the ocean and the sailboats, and she sighed. I did the same, but without the sigh. Everything was peaceful, sunny, perfect, with the sound of the waves breaking on the pilings and on the beach behind us, and the seagulls swooping gracefully and squawking above, as they looked for a way to grab some bait scraps from the fishermen’s buckets on the wooden pier.

Karen moved close to me, shoulder-to-shoulder, which I was instantly enjoying. :) Then she decided to speak, quietly, but I could easily hear her, because we were so close. While still looking out over the bright ocean, she began, “O. P., you remember a few nights ago, when you asked me how I got to be … like I am? A professional agent, a ... ‘terminator,’ is what you said.” She smiled and glanced at me. “I know what you meant – what we’ve talked about – how to do what we need to do in this business, without doubt, without hesitation, without remorse? How can we achieve that state of mind?”

“Yeah,” I answered, “exactly. I know you said it takes years, but ... there’s gotta be more to it, not just the time ... it must be the mission experience.”

“Yes,” Karen said, and then paused again. I could tell this subject seems to be challenging for her to talk about, or she’s trying to find the words, or something. Then she started, “O. P., I’m going to dump a story on you. Just listen, don’t try to make it interactive. You won’t absorb it all right now … but I want you to think about it – think about it over time, and play it back in your mind. Use it as a surrogate for experience that you haven’t had yet.” She paused again. ”Experience that I hope you’ll never have ... Maybe it will help you to understand.”

She started right in, “Back in Liberty City, a number of years ago – seems like two lifetimes ago – I had a real life, just a normal nobody. I was going to college; I had plans, and I had optimism for the future. Up until then, I had lived my life right, as if there were any other way... But then I got into some big trouble, a mistake I made by mixing with the wrong kind of people.”

“Lesson learned – sadly too late – is to choose your boyfriends carefully, and to run, fast, and far away, at the first hint of a red flag. Instead, I bought in, thinking that I was doing something conspiratorial, dangerous and ‘important;’ really living life for the first time, on what I thought was ‘the edge,’ like the cool people. It’s easy to get taken up in that.”

“Anyway... I had never been in legal trouble before, but even with the best plea bargain, I was looking at federal jail time, a long time. Serious federal laws had been broken, and innocent people had gotten hurt – though it wasn’t my fault directly – I contributed to the crime, helped it succeed – well, if you can call a crime a ‘success.’ Actually, in the end it failed anyway, which is why we all got caught.”

“At any rate, I felt really down, I especially felt guilty about the people who got hurt, and I was profoundly depressed, because I was looking ahead at my totally failed life. None of my childhood dreams would ever be realized – no future; the prime years of my life to be spent in the hellhole of a woman’s federal prison; I imagined that it would be even worse than what they show in the movies.”

“In the context of the innocent life I had led up until then, I had absolutely no hope; no way out. I felt that I had failed everyone who had ever encouraged me, believed in me, and cared about me. I was suicidal. If I could have jumped out of a window, or off a rooftop, I would have. But I was stuck in a cell, monitored constantly.”

“I’m going to simplify this story, since we only have an hour here. It’s more complicated, but the details don’t really matter. What matters is, at that point, I was contacted by the Agency. At the time, I had no idea who they were, or how they knew about my situation. Of course, I know now how they find out about such things. Anyway, the Agency coerced me into doing some extended undercover work for them – work that required an innocent, normal young female, with the college background and life history that I had. It gave me a new path, a way out of the trap. I took their ‘offer,’ but I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty.”

“I say “coerced” because it was a trade between the jail time or doing that Agency undercover work, which, as it progressed, turned out to be even worse that what I had already gotten into, associating with even worse people than the ones who got me into trouble in the first place. I had to totally integrate into the lifestyle of some real scum, and it was dangerous, dirty, degrading, shameful. There are some really bad people in the world, really bad ways of living. You can’t imagine.”

“But the Agency trained and conditioned me on how to operate undercover, how to completely get into my cover roles, how to almost subconsciously believe the lies I was telling. It’s fascinating, how one can get so immersed in living a total lie, a false identity that becomes more real than their original life, to the point where thoughts of their old life don’t even come into their head – in fact, it can be fatal if you dwell for even a minute on your old life, because it can lead to mistakes, lapses.”

The Agency did have my back, to the extent possible when you’re working in deep cover. I could discretely call on other resources potentially close at hand, and they showed me how to get out, or to call for help, if things really went south.”

“But still, it was dangerous, terrifying sometimes. It involved more betrayal, more guilt, and selling out of any remaining principles I might have had, as a normal human being. And again, it involved activities that could result in innocent people getting hurt if things went wrong – but this time, I could at least deflect the responsibility to the Agency, since I wasn’t acting on my own volition.”

“The mitigating factor, at a higher level, was the knowledge they gave me going into it, that some really bad people would get what’s coming to them, and justice would be served for past wrongs done to innocent people, plus preventing future injustice and misery, on a scale much bigger than the betrayal and suffering that I had partly caused in the first place – a kind of atonement, which helped me.”

“Not only did it give me a direction and a motivation to keep on going, clawing myself up out of the dead end situation where I had landed, it was a big part of the mental conditioning going in, so that no matter what I had to do, it was in context of that greater good.”

“Beyond atonement, my real light at the end of the tunnel was the hope that I could get back out, to a free life, if I could avoid being physically hurt or killed, or psychologically ruined. Then ‘all I would have to do’ is to claw my way back out of the moral and deeply self-deceptive psychological hole that was left, after it was all over.”

Karen paused for just a second to collect her thoughts, I guess, and decide what to tell me next. Then she continued, “When I finally got through it all, relatively unscathed, I was already changed, hardened, and I had grown conditioned to Agency methods and principles, as amoral as they were. And actually, I was coming to understand more deeply the context in which the Agency operates.”

“I was relieved to be done with my obligations, but I had lost the anchor of my former life. The plans and dreams that I had – they all seemed so shallow, so meaningless, after what I had been through. I was older and wiser – or at least more jaded and more cynical.”

“Furthermore, I also knew then, all too well, how regret can bury you. At the same time, I saw how the Agency can give you a context that can dissipate that regret. I was actually starting to see the big picture worldview, like the one that my boss – our boss, ‘U. L. Paperman’ – dropped on you a couple of months ago. It’s the only way this kind of work makes sense. Actually, it’s the only way the world makes sense.”

“I was free to go, but our boss saw that I had developed the sense of the Agency’s mission, that I knew instinctively how to operate in that context. He knew, and I knew, that I was a better learner, much more in tune with the deeper principles being taught in the Agency, relative to many of the trainee recruits, who are nothing but college fresh-outs just expecting a professional government career path. They have no life experience and no deep motivation to internalize the principles; they just study and take the tests.”

“And we both knew I didn’t really have a clear direction in life, at that point. He told me I was a promising candidate, actually well-suited for Agency work – that I had learned and adapted well, that I had the right stuff. Bottom line, he said that I should stay with the Agency; that I could make a real difference in the balance of good and evil, during my time here on earth. Yes, he said it just like that.”

“We both understood that if I did future Agency work, it wouldn’t be anything like the coerced, miserable undercover assignments that they gave me when I was paying off my debt to the Agency. Agents don’t do that. That kind of hell is reserved for people with no way out, like I had been before.”

“The world is full of people in those kinds of dead-end, hopeless life situations – that kind of human misery is basically a commodity to be exploited by the Agency, and of course, by their adversaries and by every other amoral, unscrupulous organization that exists. In return for some miserable and highly risky undercover or infiltration work, the Agency promises a way out for them, assuming they make it out alive. And the Agency delivers on their promise.”

At this point, Karen apparently realized that she had obviously been talking for quite a while, and she did a time check. She looked quickly her phone and she noted, “We have 35 minutes left here before we have to go back.”

I responded, just to say something, trying to be sensitive and to indicate understanding of the long tale of woe that Karen had just laid on me. I said, “Wow, Karen, I’m really sorry to hear what you went through. I understand now, the transformation you made from a normal, innocent human being, to the hardass termin-, I mean, agent, you are now.”

Karen replied, with a sharp note of seriousness in her voice, “No, O. P., you don’t understand, ... not yet.” It was her personal voice, not some professional intonation.

So I then tried to lighten things up, but of course it came out wrong, the way I said it. I knew I should have kept my mouth shut. I said, lightheartedly, “Well, like I told our boss that night, you spies sure are long-winded. Maybe I need to think on it some more. Where we going for lunch?” I looked at her, and smiled, to indicate that I was trying to be light and funny.

Karen replied, tersely, “Don’t try to make jokes, O. P. I’m not in the mood. Seriously.”

I immediately realized then that this whole thing was deeper and more meaningful for Karen than I initially thought. I felt that ‘oh, sh*t’ pang of embarrassment and adrenaline pulse that comes with realizing that you’ve pulled a stupid faux pas, and there’s no way to finesse it. I f*cked up.

I should have realized that something was going on, from the moment I saw her look strangely at that guy Max, and the subsequent sudden decision that she made to head out here to the pier, out to the bright, clear, open air, away from the stifling crowd.

And beyond that, I should have realized, as Karen was telling me this important story of her life, that she really did have something heavy on her mind that she wanted to impart to me. But if you haven’t had these kinds of bad experiences in life, episodes of deep despair like that, it’s an abstraction, really not possible to properly absorb or empathize, not immediately, anyway.

So I tried to at least let her know that I did now realize, even if I couldn’t fully feel it, the depth of what she was telling me. I sighed, and I meant it. I said, “Oh, Karen,... what you’re telling me is touching, poignant, sad. I’m sorry that I asked a sort of flippant question, when I wasn’t ready to understand the seriousness of the answer. I should have realized that it had to be heavy, but I didn’t.”

Karen continued looking out toward the ocean, and said, with a flat affect meant to purposely understate the seriousness of her words, “O. P., you haven’t even heard the heavy part, yet.”


Whoa. That’s all I can include in this chapter, dear readers. We’re starting to get a slight sense of the depth of Karen’s life, some insight into what transpired to change her from the young, exploited, innocent girl in Liberty City, to the shapelyMaglite Terminator” in Los Santos. As you can see, it’s not a pretty picture.

Please stay tuned for Chapter 12.

Edited by saintsrow
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This scene follows immediately after Chapter 11
This is the second part of Karen's story about her time with the Agency, describing to O. P. the transition from her first painful years in Liberty City, to her new life as a hardass IAA agent in the virtual paradise of Los Santos.




CHAPTER 12. Pain from the Past (Part 2): A Mission Goes South
In the middle of our schmoozing and surveillance op at the Global NPC Rights Conference, Karen had suddenly decided to break away and answer my long-wondering question about her background, about how she became a tough-as-nails female agent and full-time ballbreaker.
It clearly meant a lot to Karen, to tell me her story. It seemed that the trigger for it had to do with her meeting that guy Max at the conference. As her story went on, I was reminded of the old saying, ‘Don’t ask the question if you aren’t going to like the answer.’ But I was in the middle of it now, and it was getting heavy.
Overview of the bright ocean view from Pleasure Pier, as Karen tells her story to O. P.
We were still shoulder-to-shoulder, our elbows on the railing at the end of Pleasure Pier, looking out over the bright ocean, as Karen spoke and I listened. In a quiet voice, Karen continued, “In my old life, I could never have imagined a career with an organization like the Agency. But at that point, after almost losing everything, and then going through that terrible, extended, immersive undercover work, my context for normality was completely gone.”
“So it didn’t take too much additional convincing, or deep thought, for me to decide to take the one clear life path that was offered to me. I joined the Agency, full time, as an agent trainee. I was actually feeling like it was a good decision. I was clearly getting it much better than the generic recruits, because I had lived the principles for so long, just to survive undercover. As I got into the training and the internal workings of the Agency, I fully got into the zone.”
“Because I stood out as an exceptional trainee, I was able to skip or audit parts of some classes, and instead I got special instruction from some of the experts. They also told me anecdotes that I never would have heard in class, about situations and ops where things had either gone right or gone wrong, and the lessons they learned from those unique experiences.”
“The wildest stories I heard were from this graybeard – he was a former mission chief, or something, I don’t know what he was supposed to be – he didn’t seem to be on the org chart, but he came and went whenever he wanted. He said his name was Mike Toreno, but he said it didn’t matter, it was just a name. My boss confirmed that in his field ops days, the guy played really loose, sometimes taking initiative way beyond the comfort zone of the Agency – which is saying a lot.”
“Early on, in my classes, I met a guy taking the same sequences that I was doing, and he was also a standout. I’ll call him ‘David,’ but it doesn’t matter – it’s just a name. He had gotten into the Agency along the same kind of route as I had, except that he had made his own trouble, and he wasn’t even apologetic about it. But his obvious initiative and talent had been easily recognized by the agency as an asset, and he joined.”
“David and I had immediate chemistry, both personal as well as professional. It just happens like that sometimes. Plus, we were both a few years older than the raw recruits, and we both had intense life experiences that enabled us to progress in our training, and to know that we were getting it right, in tune with the Agency mindset.”
“After my early terrible experience getting close to a guy and having it all go wrong, I was hyper-attuned to look for the red flags, but there were none. Because we were both in the same intense training cycle, we shared almost all our experiences. We just totally clicked, and we felt like equals, since we both respected and learned from each other’s experience and abilities. Day by day, we made each other stronger, both professionally and personally.”
“I admired David’s life confidence, and his natural tendency to play by his own rules, without even being aware that he was doing so. He admired my unique combination of starting out with a normal, innocent, uneventful upbringing, in the same package as the gut-level, hardcore life that I had adapted to, in order to survive and succeed in my undercover roles. With him, on a personal level, I started to get caught up in that trusted kind of best friend relationship, conspiratorial, us against the world kind of thing, because the dynamics between us pushed us to think that we were so clever and cool. And we were.”
“We were always thinking of things to challenge ourselves, or prank something, like getting backdoor access to the labs, armories, databases, vehicles, and so on, that we weren’t authorized for, just so we could improve our skills while getting an even better picture of the way things worked. Our successes made us both feel even more like hotshots.”
“This wasn’t just another case of a woman needing a man to make her life complete. I was creating a new life, built on the framework of Agency training and the solid, substantial, important career that I was headed toward. It gave my life meaning. But if it had just been me, taking the classes, I think it would have eventually felt sterile, robotic, just a heartless accomplishment. I would have felt smug, superior and all alone, an iron bitch. By sharing and greatly enhancing that process with David, as best friends, we created an entirely larger kind of life.”
“I was really getting momentum into my new life, and I could feel that I was in the zone, as I said. Of course, we were just taking classes, and acing them, so it wasn’t much of a stretch to feel like things were going well. I found out, eventually, that life in the real world is a whole different ballgame.”
“My boss – Mr. ULP, as you know – quickly learned that I had become close with David, but he saw the benefits and had no problem with it. In fact, he saw how it helped me get my mojo back, really helping me grow out of the despair that had been my former life. And David and I were in different units, so it wasn’t technically a fraternization problem, either. David was going into the humint, infil and psyops unit, and I was in surveillance ops. Besides our natural inclination toward those areas, Agency aptitude tests that we took supported our specializations.”
“Eventually, we got to the hands-on courses in our Agency careers, where we started to be assigned to simple ops, run by experienced people who were doing most of the heavy lifting, leaving the grunt work for the trainees. David and I mostly had different assignments, due to our different specialties.”
“Even though, as the surveillance trainee, I got the simple jobs, like setting up the radios, cameras and computers, dragging fiber optic cables through the sewer, or climbing trees to install antennas, I was learning a lot of practical stuff in those ops, because I got to use all the equipment in real-world conditions. I did well, and I continued to feel like I was on the path to being a real agent.”
“Then there were a couple more classes, intensely focusing on the details of real operations. They included psychological exercises to evaluate our stability and reliability in the field. Both David and I easily passed those, due to our past undercover experience.”
“Finally, about 18 months after I joined the Agency, I got to the next step up the chain – we got an assignment to go on a small extended op, in Bahia, Brazil. It happened that this op required specialties in both humint and surveillance, and both David and I got the assignments on this op as the junior members of the team in our respective areas of expertise. My boss – again, your boss and mine – was OK with David and I on the same op – maybe he even suggested it – as he knew that we would probably learn and perform better together, rather than on separate ops. I don’t know if David’s boss knew our situation, but I had a feeling that David could finesse it, even if the guy had doubts.”
“The team was small – just a mission chief, two experienced mentor agents (one from David’s unit and one from mine), and David and I. This was supposed to be a simple data gathering op, no special challenges, so they put a fresh Agency graduate in place as the mission chief. He was one of those hotshot college recruits who had aced all the tests, one of those academic overachievers who was determined to be on the fast track, ticking off the requirements on his way up the ladder.”
“Trouble is, besides having no practical life experience in true adversarial operations, he had an asshole personality, obvious from the first 10 seconds of meeting him. However, my boss, and the two senior agents, reassured us that this op was so simple that the guy couldn’t f*ck it up.”
“We found out later, on site, that this mission chief, being a full-monty, egotistic dickhead, was not about to listen to anyone else’s ideas or concerns, and worse, he was sure that he was a natural born leader, so he was ignoring the advice from the two seasoned agents on the team. With zero social skills, I couldn’t imagine how he had gotten through the psychological screenings, but I eventually assumed that he was a psychopathological mimic, able to fool even the agency experts. Here, on his own, in charge of a mission, he was a delusional wannabe junior tyrant.”
“I didn’t have a good feeling about it, and the red flags wouldn’t go away, but I needed this op to rank up my experience, and I didn’t have the clout to refuse an assignment, especially after it was underway.”
“Just to paint you the whole picture, we were infiltrating a chemical research center located in an industrial park in a large town – more like a small city – in Bahia, since we knew from previous intel that, in addition to their legitimate government contracts, the research company was making small scale chemical weapons for a nasty group of insurgents, and cooking designer drugs to provide income for that group.”
“Wherever you have insurgents or revolutionaries, you have drugs – it’s the standard currency. The chemical weapons were a bit of new wrinkle, however. That’s what got the Agency’s attention in the first place. We didn’t want that kind of threat to become the new normal.”
“The owners of the company were being extorted by the insurgents, and it was obvious that the government knew about the whole illegal operation, but chose to let it continue, because of bribes and other connections, of course. So we couldn’t cooperate with the police; we had to do it as a covert op. We went down there to develop a couple of human assets inside the company, so we could get eyes and hands inside, and to plant bugs in their computers, phones and offices, enabling the Agency to accumulate a full dossier on the projects and the dealings with the insurgents.”
“Based on the reliable intel that our op was to provide, an Agency ‘special activities’ counterinsurgency unit could later be deployed to the field, further inland where the insurgency was located, to execute the appropriate countermeasures – that is, the enforcement action – and shut down the whole extortion operation and discourage any resurgence of it.”
“Just in case it’s not clear, the term ‘countermeasures’ in this kind of case pretty much means obliteration of all of the insurgency leadership and their assets. Almost all of the hands-on rough stuff is outsourced to the usual brutes for hire, like Merryweather or their in-country equivalents. The Agency does the planning and information ops to guide the ‘enforcement action.’”
“Our op center was set up in a rented concrete block, single-story building out in the farmland bordering the forest, outside of town, several miles from the industrial park where the research center was located. Our building, which we quickly started calling ‘the blockhouse,’ was situated on a dirt road, a few hundred feet off the two-lane highway into town."
“In the past, somebody had built a ramshackle porch in front of the blockhouse, and it was actually kind of nice sitting there on the porch, on those cheap white plastic chairs, in the clear warm night air, under the stars, when we took turns doing the watch. Sometimes David would come out to join me for a while :) and we’d compare notes for the day.”
The senior guys both expressed immediate misgivings about the location, however, since it was too close to the main road, and because the dirt road out in front was not a dead end – it had an access from both directions. Both of those were vulnerabilities, they told us. The place had already been rented by Agency planners before we got there, so we had to start using it until we found something better.”
“But the seniors had no luck convincing the asshole mission chief to authorize a search for an alternate location. It wasn’t a simple job to find a new location, which had to be out in the local countryside, not too far from town. A local office in the industrial park would have made a great op center, but because it was a small op, the Agency hadn’t created a full cover story with a fake business front, so we needed to stay outside of town, to avoid the incongruous presence of a group of new gringos snooping around, coming and going with no obvious business purpose.”
“As long as we were in that exposed road location, my mentor, the senior surveillance agent, planned to use two of our infrared wireless cameras to cover the road a couple hundred feet out in each direction, where we could have advance alert of a vehicle or foot traffic coming our way. But he was arguing about it with the mission chief, who was absolutely hard over about keeping the total deployed assets to a minimum, in order to maximize one of his f*cking cost-saving management metrics. We needed to use the IR cameras, because the Bluetooth on the Doppler sensors didn’t have enough range to give us a sufficient perimeter buffer, plus there were too many false alarms from the wildlife out there.”
“Except for the road proximity concerns, in terms of opsec, we were doing good practices all around. We used a couple of satellite data sets with flat roof antennas, which gave us covert encrypted voice and medium bandwidth data back to headquarters. We had two old Canis Mesas that we used randomly to go into town via various routes, and we traded them off with a locally rented sedan stored in town, in a back alley garage that David’s mentor had rented through a local contact, separate from our main mission. That garage car was our ‘official’ car, which could be associated with a couple of new gringos in town who were making overt contacts, or getting groceries.”
“As the op progressed in the first few weeks, it was in fact going really smoothly, and the senior guys were satisfied, just doing their thing and ignoring the dickhead mission chief, the way he ignored them. The only times they interacted with him were to contribute to reports back to headquarters that would let the managers know what progress was really happening, in spite of the self-aggrandizing spin that the mission chief was sending home.”
“David and his mentor were developing local sources to turn a few select employees already working at the research center, and they were also handling moles in outside services, like janitorial, electrical, plumbing, and non-escorted trusted vendors, who would have free access to the building. They were also exploiting a phishing effort started before we even got in country, that had already gotten a trojan with a keylogger and screen capture onto a couple of administrative computers in the company. So they were on track.”
“Meanwhile, my mentor and I had set up wireless relay links for use when we would soon get the electronic bugs in place, and we placed two hidden day-night IR cameras covering the company’s parking lot and lobby entrance, that captured cars and personnel coming and going. The parking lot camera was able to resolve license plates on the cars as they turned into the lot, and the lobby entrance camera had a moderate telephoto in order to get decent resolution of individuals. We could upload the camera logs wirelessly while parked in a nearby in a lot associated with a commercial building that had a lot of traffic all day, to cover us.”
“Every night, back at the blockhouse, we transferred all the video to our servers. The goal was correlating the subjects on camera to the employee list for numerous reasons, for example, to note if any of the people entering the plant seemed like they were not typically associated with a chemical research company, and to identify which cars we would want to put trackers on. The vehicle trackers, which blipped out their GPS location to a secure satellite network when they were on the move, were the same specialized Agency-designed low power locator beacons that we used on the Mesas.”
“I was getting great experience and insight when I was on shift. And for David and I, when we were off our shifts, together, it felt like a wonderful tropical vacation. My life seemed great, and it was only getting better. I had forgotten my past miseries.”
“Nice story so far, right? Successful Agency training, career path development right on track, everything according to plan, and a beautiful friendship. But we hadn’t imagined the utterly toxic effect of that overconfident asshole mission chief, to screw up this straightforward mission in a new and innovate way.”
“After another couple of weeks, the mission chief was getting really irked that the senior agents weren’t keeping him in the loop. He didn’t want any sense of that to propagate to his management, so he started trying to micromanage, to show that he was hands-on. For the surveillance ops, it wasn’t too onerous, since my mentor and I were able to explain and justify most of our decisions, or just give him a line of bullsh*t, but of course we had to spin it so it looked like we were doing everything in the cheapest possible way.”
“However, the mission chief started really meddling with the humint and infil part of the op. He distrusted anyone with real competence in humint and psyops, like David and his mentor, since he couldn’t fully understand what they were telling him – he just didn’t have the requisite social understanding – it wasn’t his nature, being a smug, self-centered asshole all his life. What’s worse, much worse, is that in spite of that blind spot, he fancied himself to be an ‘excellent judge of character’ and so he wanted to meet the sources and handlers that David and his mentor were recruiting, so he could tell them directly how to do their jobs.”
“Without a doubt, that would be a disaster, so they refused. He threatened to write up David and the senior agent for hindering the operation, and he implied that the next report would be insubordination. The senior agent knew the reports could be refuted and purged later when everyone was back at headquarters for after-action review, plus he didn’t care anyway, so he told the mission chief to pound sand. David also was not intimidated, just by his nature.”
“The mission chief saw that he was in danger of losing respect of the team – this disphit was about a month late in realizing it – and more importantly, he started to worry that he could lose control of the op, and risk getting a bad review, if he kept confronting the senior agents directly, so he backed off.”
“But true dickheads like this mission chief can’t change, can’t suddenly become reasonable people who can have a rational dialog with their charges to work out the issues. Instead, he went back to the early reports, where David and the senior humint agent had disclosed some of the preliminary contacts they had made, before they realized how much damage the mission chief could do.”
“Now it comes to the tale of truly innovative stupidity. The next morning, while we were all engaged on our various tasks in the field, this mission chief thought up some half-assed cover story, totally on his own, and called a taxi to take him into town to meet with those early contacts, with the idea of moving up the chain, the way that David and the senior agent were doing, to get himself back in the loop. We found all this out, later, much too late.”
“In just a couple of hours, he had blown several critical opsec practices. His naively overconfident mentality easily glossed over the violations, because, of course, those guidelines are just for agents who are not as smart as he is. Petty rules don’t apply to him. He had important work to do – in his mind. He was probably smugly proud of himself for taking such initiative. ”
“Furthermore, this overconfident prick had no true appreciation for the delicacy, discretion and indirectness of dealing with contacts and sources. He clumsily rounded up a random translator in town, claimed he wanted to do some business with the research center that we were targeting, and he went straight to those early contacts and started asking about projects and personnel in the lab.”
“These early contacts, who were not even involved in our present work, apparently realized that something didn’t seem right. They probably also asked the translator how this new gringo happened to know them. And like in every town, every social circle, they talked to their acquaintances who might know what’s going on, or who might be interested in somebody asking suspicious, overly-direct questions about the lab. The operation was blown at that point, though none of us knew it, yet.”
“The mission chief was back at the blockhouse by the afternoon, before we got back, and we didn’t know anything had even happened, until David got a call early in the evening from a lab tech that he was grooming with promises of a better job in the U. S., if she could tell us about her work at the local research center. The lab tech said that her bosses had locked everything down this afternoon and confiscated everyone’s cell phones. She added that three rough-looking investigators had come into the plant and were interviewing everyone to find out who had been talking to foreigners.”
“The lab tech was really worried. David told her to just tell the truth – as she knew it – that she was talking to an American about an opportunity in the U. S. That’s all she knew anyway. Although that admission itself could be trouble for her with her bosses, he hoped that the story was benign and believable enough that she wouldn’t get in trouble for the real reasons. But realistically, when these kinds of things start falling apart, even the benign stuff looks suspicious, usually rightly so.”
“To confirm, David’s mentor called one of his new contacts, a lab supplies vendor who had been visiting the research center in the afternoon. As a going-in cover, we had simply told the vendor that we were an equipment manufacturer, just trying to find out what competitors’ products were being used at the lab, and he would get a cut of our sales. The vendor confirmed that the lab had suddenly gone on lockdown, but he was not under suspicion, so he was signed out.”
“Although we didn’t immediately ask about the lockdown, but rather just presumably making a social call, it seemed like the vendor was suspicious of the timing of our call, at night, just a few hours after the problems at the lab, and so he was able to quickly guess that we might have gotten him caught in some bigger, more nefarious operation – which was in fact true. Then he got nervous, too. These humint ops are incredibly delicate. One tiny correlation can completely wreck them.”
“We were sure then that something had gone wrong, but we didn’t know what, or how. My mentor and I were mentally tracing through all of our actions, wondering if any of our equipment had been discovered, or if we were tailed when we were in town. David and his mentor were trying to figure out where they had made a mistake, to give away the op. They had been lining up a number of people in all kinds of services, and so there was a large exposure that they now had to analyze.”
“Our two senior agents knew that the only course of action would be to shut down the operation quickly but gracefully, pulling out our equipment, and trying to mitigate the humint damage. Then we’d leave town with some kind of quick excuse. They made that recommendation to the mission chief, but that brain-dead idiot wouldn’t hear of it. It was a setback. The op would have to be replanned for months down the road, with a new crew. He didn’t want a failed op on his watch.”
“I’m pretty sure that the mission chief realized at this point that his little junior G-man mission might have been the cause of this breach, but he was telling himself that it wasn’t going to be a big deal, and the op should proceed as planned. He didn’t say anything to us about his screwup, so we didn’t even know. He just ordered the senior agents to hold course and work out the problems; that’s their job. That’s the kind of ‘leadership’ this guy displayed. He didn’t even want to report a problem up to headquarters, counting on the professionals to get it back on track.”
“In spite of the mission chief’s direction, the senior agents started discussing how they were going to get this thing shut down gracefully, while at the same time figuring out the cause and extent of the compromise, best case and worst case mitigation, damage control, and how to salvage some, if any, of the original mission objectives.”
“We had practiced good opsec in terms of traveling back and forth to our blockhouse, taking various routes, switching vehicles and so on, so we assumed that we didn’t have to change our physical security posture at our blockhouse op center – or even worse, abandon the op center, which would have limited our ability to clean up this mess.”
“That night, then, to start fixing the problem, both senior agents and I were set up in the conference room in the rear of the blockhouse, walking through our checklist of things that we would need to do the next day. It was an intense bit of work, since we had to prioritize a number of urgent mitigation tasks. It was a depressing turn from the positive feeling we had up until then, about the op.”
“Meanwhile, David had the first night shift watch, out on the porch. I gave him a scanner with the local police, taxi and utility frequencies, so if there were any radio traffic that could possibly be connected to our situation, he would hear it in real time.”
“We had our third day-night IR camera above the porch, looking out toward the dirt road. It had been sending video to the server ever since we set up operations, but we never had a reason to look at it. Just as an instinct and good practice, I had the live feed from that camera up on my laptop on the conference table, as we worked. It looked like another quiet night outside. Around 11 PM, a car passed by, and then later, a motorcycle. We were used to that kind of traffic, though we would not have had to deal with it, if we had been on a dedicated dead-end drive as the seniors had advised.”
“But 10 minutes later, the motorcycle came back, and right behind it was a second motorcycle, no lights, with two riders. As soon as the second motorcycle entered the field of view, it skidded to a stop, and the passenger quickly dismounted. Both of the senior agents said, ‘Oh, sh*t!’ at the same instant. They knew this action was a threat. They both leapt out of their chairs.”
“I saw the back of David’s head come into the bottom of the video frame as he quickly stood up, as soon as he saw the bike stopping. He knew it was trouble. The dismounted rider lifted an apparently heavy rucksack off his shoulder, and with some effort, swung it at our porch, about a 30-foot toss from the road. The rucksack landed on the porch, somewhere below the camera. The passenger had already jumped back on the motorcycle, and they were starting to take off.”
“BAMMMM!! A sharp, deafening explosion, so close! We could feel the pressure pulse blow all the way through to the back of the building where we were, and I felt the sharp physical impulse through the floor. It seemed like every surface around us reflected the thundercrack sound of the blast in that instant. For a couple of seconds, we could hear the clatter of falling debris and broken glass from the front of the building.“
“It didn’t knock out the inside power, which we had on a UPS. But the video image had frozen, with a view of David’s back, maybe 10 feet from the camera, as he had started to run outward toward the road, with his gun in hand. I was dazed, but I knew, I already knew, at that instant, the most terrible thing I could have imagined had just happened, and there was no taking it back.”
Stay tuned for CHAPTER 13!
Edited by saintsrow
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CHAPTER 13. Pain from the Past (Part 3): What the F*ck is this?

This scene follows immediately after Chapter 12

Even though I was hearing this story from Karen as ancient history, the sudden violent turn shocked me. I felt a sudden pulse of adrenaline in my gut, empathizing with her, as I started to realize where Karen was going with this. And I could tell it wasn’t going anywhere good.

Karen continued, “The senior agents already had their guns out, and we were all running to the front of the building. We got to the front room, where the front door was blown inward across the room, with flames spreading all over the floor, blocking our way. I turned and ran into the kitchen, which had a window on the side of the building. I slammed open the window above the sink and I sliced out the window screen, using a knife from the kitchen drawer. I climbed onto the sink and lunged out, tumbling into the wet grass. I looked toward the front of the building as I started to run in that direction, and I could see that the entire area in front of our blockhouse was lit brightly with fire.”

“I made it to the front of the building, and I saw that the porch was obliterated, scattered all over the ground all the way out to the road, just broken planks and panels of wood, twisted in grotesque shapes due to the various pieces being still partly nailed together, almost every piece burning with orange flame, and pools of flame on the ground. The only light was from the fires all around. In the flickering light, I tried to see where David was. I called his name. I didn’t see him. Then, out in front, toward the road, about 20 feet from the front door, I saw some of the twisted, burning pieces of wood move, and I realized that David was among them!”

“I ran to him, and I could see that he was face down, covered with flaming debris, and his hair was smoking. He was just barely trying to crawl forward, with almost no strength. I kicked away the burning boards, and I could see that his shirt had been blown off, and his back was glistening with blood. My horror was increasing by the instant.”

“Then as I kicked away the last jumble of tangled, flaming plywood, covering his lower back, I saw that his back had been blown open, his spine, splintered ribs, his pelvis and thighbone completely exposed, his guts torn to bloody shreds and spilled out on the ground, his blood already pooling and glistening in the grass. I screamed David’s name, with all the emotion in me, all the terror that I had ever known, all in that one instant.”

“I fell to my knees beside him, and with his last bit of effort, he turned his head to me, with the side of his face laying flat against the ground, not even enough strength to hold his head up, his will fading by the second. When I saw his face, I was even more horrified – his eyes were wide, and mouth fully open as if in a silent scream. I realized it was because he wanted to breathe, but nothing was happening, since both of his lungs were probably punctured. Then, even with that agony, mortal terror and shock overtaking him, I saw him move his eyes up to make eye contact with me, to see my face, lit by the flames all around him.”

“Then, suddenly, there was no more movement. David was instantly as still as a snapshot. I know now, too well, that the moment of death is exactly like this, but at the time I had never seen anyone die before my eyes. I sat stunned for a few more seconds, waiting for him to move again, but he didn’t. I wanted this to not be real, but it was ...”

“I wailed at the sky, in despair and rage, kneeling in the grass, David dead at my knee. After I had screamed all the air out of my lungs, I looked back down at David’s broken body. I was emotionally crushed, profoundly sad, beyond anything I could ever have imagined. I couldn’t stand to see his face like that. I closed his eyelids, and then I touched his chin and closed his mouth, resting my hand there, as every moment of our shared life played through my mind at once.”

“Then I heard David’s mentor come running out of the front door with a fire extinguisher. He had cleared a path inside, and rushed outside to help David. He saw the look on my face, then saw David, and he knew. There would be no recovery, no resuscitation possible, from these injuries. With no blood left in his body, and no oxygen to his brain, David was gone.”

“He stepped over and extinguished the flames on the burning debris around David and me. I could tell that he wanted to say something appropriate, but didn’t know the words. He asked if I was OK. I automatically nodded yes, and he said he was going back inside to put out the rest of the flames in the front room, before the smoke got any thicker in there. I numbly nodded acknowledgement.”

“For a minute, kneeling on the wet grass, I felt empty. I felt like I didn’t exist. I didn’t see anything, didn’t hear anything. I didn’t think anything. It was like I wasn’t part of this universe any more. Then I realized that it was just my strong empathy for David, a momentary, imagined, mental displacement.”

“But there was no time to dwell on my sadness at that moment. I snapped back to the reality around me, and I heard the voices from the direction of the blockhouse. Both of the senior agents were shouting their status, efficient, professional coordination as they evaluated and secured the situation. In the background was the voice of the mission chief, shouting some worthless directions that were being ignored.”

“I had such a lump in my throat, a completely hollow feeling in my chest. Looking down at David once again, it was like all my energy had been sucked out of me. I didn’t want to move, or think, but I knew I had to. My Agency training and conditioning were strong, instinctive, even in the midst of this ... life-changing horror. My conditioning was more necessary than ever, now.”

“I got to my senses, stood up, and I ran to the front door, to assess and assist the situation. The smell of burning wood was pervasive, strong. The front room was filled with smoke, with no lights, so I didn’t try to just bumble in. There were no more flames or hotspots that I could see.”

“I decided to run around to the back door of the building. I heard one of the seniors call out that the flames were put down inside, all clear. As I started around the side of the building, I saw a flashlight beam arcing around, hitting the trunks of the trees, then aiming toward me. It was my mentor, who had come from the back of the building. He told me that only the front room of the building was damaged – the servers, satphones and everything else were still online.”

“My mentor and I stood there facing each other for a second, in the dark shadows along the side of the blockhouse, just diffuse illumination from his flashlight reflecting from the grass at our feet. Then he said that we should bring David’s body to the back of the building. I visualized, just for an instant, going back and seeing David like that again, and carrying his destroyed body. I choked up, I couldn’t do it.”

“He said it was OK, that he would take care of it. He said he would get a nylon tent from one of the Mesas and wrap David in it, and bring him back. The reality of it was too much for me; I just couldn’t even think about it, yet.”

“I continued along the side of the building, heading for the back. As I came up to the corner, I thought for just one second, about David being rolled over onto the tent fabric, his insides being scooped up with him, and the tent being pulled over him – the true ritual recognition and acceptance of his death. The lump in my throat came back instantly, my shock and horror immediately expanding into my chest and my gut, and I bent over uncontrollably and wretched.”

“I stopped and stood still, bent over, throwing up acid and bile, holding on to the corner of the building, for maybe 30 seconds, and then the crying came, full force. I stumbled forward and fell to my knees, my face locked in a rictus of pure emotional agony. I let it all out. I felt like the crying would never stop. After a minute or more, still on my knees, I looked up at the night sky through my tears, and I beat my fists against my thighs. Finally, I fell weak and descended into pathetic sobs, as I had to start breathing again.”

“I gathered a lungful of air, and knelt there, very still, for what seemed like another minute, recovering my composure and letting my guts settle, so I could move again. I wiped my tears and my mouth on my sleeve, and got up. I stood there for a few more seconds to make sure I could keep my balance, and then I headed for the back door.”

“I went into the restroom, and splashed water on my face. As I did so, I noticed David’s blood on my hand, where I had touched his chin. I looked down at myself and saw his blood all over my legs and shoes, from when I had been kneeling beside him, his blood pooling in the grass all around him. A new wave of loss and sadness washed over me, but I was already accepting the reality of it. That’s how my life would be now, waves of sadness alternating with the hard mental conditioning of my training. I knew I would never let it go. Happiness could never be possible again.”

“I forced myself back to a rational state, and stepped into the shower to wash David’s blood off my legs with a water-soaked towel. I looked down numbly at the swirling patterns, as his blood flowed with the water, down the drain. I left the blood-soaked towel lying in the shower and exited the restroom, as I suppressed my emotions and returned to hardcore Agency conditioning.”

“In another few minutes, the senior agents had secured the site, relatively speaking, having blocked the door to the burned-out front room, and David's body taken to the back. My mentor had staked a couple of Doppler sensors out in front, to alert us to any more traffic on the road, or anyone arriving."

"Both of the senior agents and the mission chief, and myself, had all regrouped in the conference room, where we had been, when the bomb hit. We all smelled like smoke. Back in the familiar environment, my full sense of being had returned to me. My mind was working now. Then I saw my laptop on the conference table, with the last frozen image of David, when he was alive, still on the screen. What a terrible, terrible difference in life, a few minutes can make :(

“Seeing the image triggered me again. I slammed the conference table, and screamed that I wanted to chase down the scum that did this, and kill them, right now! I knew what I had to do. I was driven by clear procedural thinking, combined with rage and an overpowering wish for immediate revenge for David. I was already planning my actions in the next minute – I would grab a machine gun and ammo from our small weapon stash, and jump in one of the Mesas. I would chase down the bike, with the two riders, and empty the gun into them. I was visualizing which way I would turn, at the main road.”

“The senior agents both immediately said no, that chasing them now wasn’t practical – even though it had only been a few minutes, they would have reached the main road in less than 30 seconds and they would have turned off on any number of little side roads like the one our building was on, and I knew this. There were backroads all through the farmland and forests. We’d never find them in a linear chase. ‘At this point,’ my mentor said, with intended irony, ‘the adversary’s opsec is probably better than ours.’”

“They told me that the best course of immediate action would be to review the porch camera IR video from the servers, note the identifying characteristics of the riders and the bikes in the attack, and then go back to the past few days of video from the porch camera, in daylight when the images were better, to see if the same bikes had come by earlier to survey the building. We could possibly try to identify the riders as well. We could also check our video logs from the research center parking lot, to see if and when any of the cars at the research lab had driven by our porch camera, which would imply a connection.”

“From these earlier videos, there was a chance we could get a better vehicle picture and description, possible identification of individuals, and a timeline, so we could make intelligent guesses about how long we had been compromised, or who had been coming by to check us out. That was our best approach, at this moment, to determine how this happened and what we were up against.”

“Left unspoken was the forbidden topic of simple retaliation. No matter how desirable it sometimes is, in our dangerous business, to mete out emotional, unplanned, undisciplined revenge, it would clearly be outside all of our guidelines. But I’m sure that the seniors both knew that blind revenge was the first thing on my mind, and that finding any leads on the perps would give me something to work with.”

“More generally, identifying the perpetrators could help us understand the situation on the ground, and assess our new, obviously much more vulnerable, threat situation, to decide how we would need to shut down the mission and clear out. Our little op wasn’t prepared – or authorized – for an undercover gang war in this tropical paradise. We had only a tiny weapons cache, and hardly any explosives. We didn’t even have a body bag for David.”

“The dipsh*t mission chief was babbling something about proper procedure, incident reporting forms, and other administrative bullsh*t, already thinking out loud about what he would be writing to make this seem like something less than the absolute disaster that it was. All of us were in no mood to listen to it. David’s mentor moved aggressively toward the mission chief and said, in his face, ‘We’re working here. Why don’t you go back to your computer and fill out your f*cking forms? We’ll let you know when we have something concrete.’”

Then my mentor turned to the mission chief and added, with growing rage in his voice, ‘We would’ve had a chance to get ahead of this attack, if you had signed off on two goddamned cameras, you stupid little f*ck! Get the hell out of here!’ I could tell that, in retrospect, he was deeply regretting that he hadn’t bypassed the mission chief and gone with his gut. He felt partly responsible.”

“The mission chief started to open his mouth to make some kind of excuse or retort. Both seniors turned back around to the conference table and ignored him. David’s mentor reached for my laptop to start the porch video playback. The mission chief finally got the message and returned to his office.”

“First we captured a series of stills from the video of the two bikes on the second pass. Then we captured the car and the bike on their first passes. The images were not too sharp, being moving video in nighttime IR, but we ran all three scenes through an Agency-specialized Registax clone, to register and integrate the multiple video images to sharpen them, which helped a lot.”

“The integrated image of the second motorcycle, for the 5 seconds when it was stopped, turned out very clear – it was a Sanchez with Sprunk livery, the logo sharp but barely distinguishable in the monochrome IR image. In every country, kids like cool Western branding on their swag, whether they care about the product or not. The other bike was an old dented Enduro, with modified aftermarket forks, which might help us identify it later.”

“The images of the rucksack thrower were not too clear, but the driver was sitting still, turned toward the camera, for a few seconds, so we had a fairly good processed image of him, both his clothes and his face. They were probably just dumb punks hired to do this job, not pros, since they didn’t wear balaclavas or visored helmets to hide their faces, stupidly not thinking about the possibility of being captured by an IR camera out here in the country.”

“The seniors studied the sharpened images, and were making more notes of the specifics of the vehicles and the riders. Meanwhile, I was looking over their shoulder as they worked, thinking about how I would blindside attack and kill the motorcycle riders, if and when we found them.”

“My mentor turned to me and suggested that I should organize our video logs from the parking lot and lobby entrance of the research center, and start reviewing them in reverse chronological order, on the other computer here in the conference room. I knew that would be tedious, but I think they wanted me to focus my mind on something, and cool down.”

“I had been skimming those downtown videos each day, just to make sure the cameras were capturing good detail, but we weren’t doing detailed analytic review of them here in country, so I didn’t have a comprehensive vehicle list yet. The seniors told me that they would let me know the make and model of the cars that had come by the blockhouse during the day, as they reviewed their porch video stream.”

“David’s mentor was playing today’s porch camera video in fast reverse, going backward form the time of the attack, and he had gotten to the late afternoon, when some daylight was starting to show. He had only seen one other car after dark, and he had noted the make and model, for me to search on my video. He noted the arrival of our two Mesas, as we returned from the field work in the afternoon. We always parked the Mesas behind the blockhouse, and so they hadn’t been damaged by the bomb.”

“Continuing to review, moving backward in the video file, he noted only two additional cars passing by in the afternoon, and a beat-up rusty Rebel driven by an old farmer, who we knew passes by a couple of times per week. For the daylight images, he could tell me the color of the cars also, which was useful.”

“I was scanning through the research center video we had captured and uploaded to the servers earlier today. I started reviewing the videos at early morning, 6 AM, when cars were starting to arrive. Thankfully, since the cameras were aimed at a parking lot and the building lobby entrance, there was not a lot of activity, unlike videos of crowds or airport terminals. For now, I was only looking at cars that entered the parking lot, not the traffic passing by on the street, which would have been much more work. As they told me the few vehicles to look for, I was not seeing any matches, and I would not have expected to, this quickly. That would be too lucky.”

“Our tedious video review was continuing. I expected that we would be at it for the next couple of hours. I wished I could be out chasing down David’s killers, rather than squinting at a video stream. Suddenly, David’s mentor said, ‘What the f*ck is this??’”

“My mentor and I turned to see what had surprised him. On my laptop, he had reached about 1 PM in the porch camera video. He showed us what he was seeing. It was a local taxi, which has pulled up and stopped on the dirt road out in front, dropping off our mission chief, who walked toward the porch and the front door, under the camera. Why didn’t he tell us about this break in protocol?”

“Having a local taxi driver being aware of our location here was a big opsec violation. We had worked hard, using circuitous routing, and using the separate sedan in town, to keep a low profile and not associate this location with any of us. This new info immediately changed our understanding of our security situation.”

“And what’s worse, we didn’t have any idea why the mission chief had done this. It made no sense – why would he be coming here in a taxi? Where had he been? What was he doing? Did he nip into town to grab some of the local poontang? That’s something you expect from the knuckledraggers in Secret Service, not the Agency. But something was way off profile.”

“The senior agents exchanged an apparently meaningful glance. Then both of them turned and looked at the closed door to the mission chief’s office. I had a sense that the mentors, being professional paranoid spies, were even considering the possibility of mission sabotage or double-dealing, at this point. Their body language had changed, turned tense, purposeful, like they had after the explosion.”

“They both walked quickly to the office door, and I had the feeling they were about to kick it down, if they had to. They could hear the mission chief talking, through the door. Rather than filling out forms, that preening, vacuous jackass was already on the satellite phone with Agency headquarters, trying to spin this mess as a failure of his two seasoned agents to keep him informed about local conditions.”

“The door wasn’t locked, so they barged in and confronted the mission chief. They told him to keep the satcom line open, and put it in on speakerphone. They slammed the door shut, but I could hear plenty of raised voices, including irate voices from the headquarters side of the call. I was just a junior agent, so I knew this wasn’t my business unless the seniors chose to involve me, but I was certainly interested, since I was already realizing that this may have been the breach that brought death to our doorstep.”

“I was trying to concentrate on my task to review my parking lot video, and I couldn’t hear all the words behind the door, but I could understand that the mission chief had gone into town in the morning, in a taxi, and had talked to our contacts. Even I knew how wrong and how stupid this all was. Now it made sense that the research company had been alerted to our operation, leading to the lockdown. The voices in the office were getting louder.“

“Then some furniture hit the wall, and hit again, in the closed office, and then louder, even angrier yelling. David’s name was mentioned. Then someone shouted from the speakerphone, and things went quiet. It was mostly the speakerphone talking now, and the voices were hushed.”

“Then the call was over, and the door opened. My mentor came out, looking angry. David’s mentor also was coming through the door, and halfway through, he turned around and said to the mission chief, in a measured, serious voice, “You stay right there, and don’t f*ck up anything else. I’ll f*cking ziptie you to the plumbing, if I need to.’ I didn’t hear any reply from the mission chief.”

“David’s mentor let out a heavy, exasperated sigh through clenched teeth, and headed to the kitchen to get coffee, or a beer. My mentor sat down at the conference table. He told me that they had figured out, with near certainty, the root cause of the breach – the idiot mission chief trying to go around them – and we knew now that it had just happened this morning, so there wasn’t a need to keep searching past days of the porch video. There wouldn’t be any previous passes of vehicles surveying us.”

“He noted that the taxi driver had to have been the tipoff to our location, so somebody, somewhere, put two plus two plus two together with the local gossip that surely started this morning, after our f*ckup of a mission chief blew the op. It showed how quickly compromising information can circulate and become correlated.”

“Two or more independent compromises had been made by the mission chief – the taxi, maybe two different taxis, the translator, the contacts he had talked to. Then a lot of connections were made in just a few hours in the afternoon, with the conclusion being that somebody surely associated with the insurgents’ illegal activities at the research center must have decided that their best course of action was to disrupt our operation out here immediately, and scare us away, in their characteristically blunt force way.”

“My mentor told me that I should keep reviewing the downtown video files, especially today’s video, just a chance that we might see something useful. Look for the motorcycles, and the people coming and going on the lobby entrance camera. It’s unlikely that the bikes are associated with the research center directly, but now that we know the timeline, we should see if anything out of the routine happened at the place, after our know-it-all junior jackass compromised the contacts.”

“So I went back to fast-forwarding the parking lot video. I was also running the captured video of the company entrance in parallel with the parking lot video, to get a better view of the people coming into the building from the cars. Meanwhile, David’s mentor had come back from the kitchen, and both of the senior agents went to David’s mentor’s office, to make another satphone call to headquarters.”

“I fast-forwarded up to noon on the research center videos, only stopping to check out three bikes that had pulled into the parking lot, but no match to the attackers. No one entering the building looked out of place relative to the patterns we had seen since we started monitoring the research center. I continued to review the video streams of the parking lot and the entrance.”

“At about 2:30 PM, a car arrived with three guys who didn’t look like the typical scientists, businessmen or suppliers who normally visit the lab. Two of them looked more like thugs or enforcers. I realized that this correlated with the approximate time of the lockdown, and the appearance of the interrogators, that the lab tech had told David about. ”

“Since the parking lot camera was positioned so that we could make out the license plate numbers as the cars entered or left from the street, I got screenshots and the license number of the car. On the lobby camera, I captured the best views that I could, of the three of them going into the lab. All of it was good quality daylight video.”

“Then I got lucky. At about 4:30 PM, two motorcycles showed up and turned into the lab’s parking lot. Jackpot! They were the ones in the attack – both the Sprunk-liveried Sanchez and the Enduro with aftermarket forks. I could see them fairly clearly in the daylight. Now I had their license numbers. We could track down these little sh*ts, and I would make them pay. I felt a surge of anger, combined with deep, visceral anticipation of the revenge I would wreak on them, with this key new observation.”

“I captured screenshots of the bikes, the license plates and their riders. There was no passenger at this time. The two riders walked up to the lab front door, and I got better images of them from the camera pointed at the lobby entrance. I clearly could see that the rider of the Sprunk bike was the same one, same face and clothes, as the one sitting on the stopped bike during the attack. I wanted to make sure I had unmistakable identification, so I would be killing the vile scum responsible for David’s death, and not someone else. After a minute, one of the three goons opened the lab door, and the motorcycle riders walked in.”

“I continued reviewing the video and noted that most cars in the parking lot had not yet left by the normal quitting time, consistent with the lockdown and the questioning of employees. At that point, late afternoon, the video file ended, because that was when we had uploaded it from the cameras and brought it back here. I knew that the additional video, after our upload, would still be stored on the cameras, and I wondered if it would show more. I thought that maybe we could drive into town and discretely upload that video wirelessly, later tonight, for more clues.”

“I concluded that the insurgent’s local bosses only thought that some dumb gringo (the mission chief) was doing clumsy human snooping, so they probably did not suspect that the Agency was onto them in a big way. That would have implied the use of our electronic surveillance, and the insurgents would have been on much more of an alert.”

“In any case, we didn’t yet have any bugs or other discoverable hardware in the lab. Our only electronic footprints in the research center were the trojans on a couple of the lab’s computers. Even if those trojans were discovered in a cyber sweep, it wouldn’t tie to us. They were generic, Agency-modded password scrapers that originated in Serbia, which should misdirect suspicion away from our op.”

“Bottom line, it was reasonable for us to assume that the adversary would not be aware of our electronic surveillance, as long as they didn’t find the two hidden cameras outside the lab, which were located off their premises, across the street. And they obviously did not expect the IR camera at our blockhouse. That was their mistake. I was going to make them regret it.”

“Now that I had seen all the video we had so far, and captured the best images I could, I was starting to plan in my mind how I would proceed to take out the motorcycle riders, after we tracked down their addresses from the license plates. I brought up their image in a daylight freeze-frame image from the lobby camera, as they stood waiting at the door to the lab. I stared at it.”

“Hate for these murderers was growing within me, and I was glad for it. I wanted to hate them, with every fiber of my being, as I put them down. I tried to imagine where I would find them, and what the dynamics of the situation would be. I’d have to make sure that I could catch them off balance, with no defenses. Would I shoot them in the back as they tried to run away? Of course.”

“Would they beg for their lives? Would they try to negotiate? Would they try to sell out their bosses? Would I be able to let them know that their impending death was vengeance for David? Would they even understand me, if I screamed at them, as I was filling them full of lead? I seriously thought, maybe I should practice screaming ‘You little sh*ts, this is for David!’ in Portuguese.”

“I was also thinking that my revenge should extend to the three ‘investigators’ that had arrived at the lab, since they were surely responsible for the decision to attack us. But I also knew that such an undertaking would be more complicated, and much riskier, so I was thinking of that course of action just as an option.”

“Of course, I already knew that if and when I take out the motorcyclists, hopefully and especially including the bomb-throwing passenger, that it would completely violate our opsec, expose our larger presence here to the police and the insurgents, and get me terminated from the Agency. I’d be completely off the reservation, having f*cked things up even worse than the mission chief.”

“The Agency might decide to cut all ties, and just leave me here in Bahia to be worked over by the local police. Or by the goons. I resigned myself to the conclusion that there was no way this was going to end well. Maybe I would get killed while trying to get my revenge. Maybe that would be the best outcome – I didn’t care.”

“After losing David on the job like this, I lost my entire momentum for Agency work. It wasn’t just losing him. It was the realization that, due to all of our shared happiness and enthusiasm for our new careers, I had deluded myself into thinking that this job mattered, that it was important, that it was real. But now, I knew that no abstract goal, like ‘saving the world, or changing the balance of good and evil,’ was worth this pain, this sacrifice, on David’s part, or mine.”

“I wondered how I could have talked myself into this Agency sh*t. It all seemed so easy and natural, when we were just taking the classes, or joining simple, low risk ops. But I knew now that I would be facing this kind of emotional dilemma for my entire career as a future agent. It seemed pointless, if not insane.”

“I didn’t care anymore. For me, this life was over. I decided then, f*ck it. I decided to plan, from the outset, to execute the optional attack on the interrogators, as a suicide attack. That’s the emotional state that I was in.”

“As I was spiraling deeper into my thoughts of revenge and nihilism, the two senior agents came back to the conference room, so I flipped my mind back to the immediate reality, back to fully rational Agency conditioning. I noticed how easy it was to do that. I wondered what I had become.”

“The seniors said they had just discussed our next steps with the planners at headquarters. We were going to stay in country for another week, at least, until the Agency analysts could review all the information that we had already collected. We would help them sort out what we could salvage from the op, and determine what kind of exposure the blown op had created, so the planners could figure out a new approach to implement the surveillance needed to continue the original goal, to sabotage the insurgents’ resources and plans.”

“David’s mentor would drive the mission chief to the airport in the morning, to be put on a plane back to the US, before he could do any more damage. The ticket was already bought. That arrogant f*ckup was the biggest risk we had on the op, besides being worse than worthless, even when he was attempting to do his job.”

“Not to mention, he had gotten David killed. He had to go. Back then, I didn’t know enough, or have the confidence or experience that I have now. Had I known what I know now, he may never have made it to the airport in the morning. Overnight, I just might have set the motherf*cker on fire in a back alley downtown, and made it look like local justice.”

“Anyway ... the new op center plan was to rent an office in the next medium sized town inland, about 20 kilometers away, and set up our operation there, temporarily. The planners at the Agency would take care of the logistics of arranging the rental the next day. It probably would not be accomplished until tomorrow evening, at which point we could move in.”

“They told me I had to shut down the video review now (they didn’t know I had finished it, and I was already plotting my revenge), since we needed to call the police soon, and report this as a crime, as it obviously was, and get David’s body taken into the morgue in town. Only David’s mentor would meet the police here, to keep things uncomplicated, and he would indicate that only two Americans, himself and David, were in country staying at this location.

“But before we could call the police, a lot of things had to be done. Since the police would be investigating the blockhouse for clues about the explosion, we needed to load the weapons, servers, satphones and other obviously suspicious Agency contraband into both of the Mesas and stay away for a few hours, until we got a call that the cops had left, or stay out all night, if necessary, if it appeared that the police would leave somebody behind to watch the blockhouse. We’d leave everything packed in the Mesas so we could move it into the new location the next day.”

“For contingencies like this, we already had a simple, benign cover story that would explain the presence of a couple of gringos out here in the farmland – just two Americans who were in the area for a while, to scope out local agriculture conditions, looking for opportunities for some new crops for specialty American markets and urban whole food hipster restaurants.”

“The cover story wasn’t seriously intended to fool the police at this point, since we could be pretty sure they knew by now that some kind of a spy living here at the blockhouse was causing problems to the insurgents paying their bribes. But the cops would listen to our story, and nod their heads as though they believed it, else they would give away their collusion with the local criminal network.”

“For example, they couldn’t logically confront us with their likely knowledge that some dipsh*t gringo (the mission chief), from our blockhouse, had bumbled into town asking suspicious questions about the research center. If they asked about a third person staying here, David’s mentor could just shrug his shoulders and say, ‘Who? I don’t know who you’re talking about.’”

“Furthermore, he would plead complete ignorance of why anyone would throw a bomb at his rented blockhouse. ‘They must have gotten the wrong address. We’re no threat to anybody; we were just out here doing an ag survey.’ So it was to be an ironic, formal, scripted game, with each side playing their roles. Such is the spy business.”

“We had to do some quick shuttling of the vehicles. We wanted only the rented sedan to be present at the blockhouse when the police arrived, which would support the cover story, since the sedan was the only vehicle potentially associated with David and his mentor, in town.”

“After loading up the first Mesa, my mentor and I would drive it into town and exchange it for the sedan from the hired garage. The Mesa would stay in the downtown garage overnight, and we would drive the sedan back to the blockhouse. Meanwhile, as we were making the vehicle exchange, David’s mentor and the mission chief would load the second Mesa, so it was ready to disappear into the night, with us in it.”

“Up until now, the sedan had never been associated with our presence there. It didn’t matter now, since the bad guys already knew where we lived, anyway, and David’s mentor would surely turn in the rented sedan tomorrow, before we left town.”

“Then we got to work. In the first Mesa, we put the computers, satphones and our other miscellaneous spy contraband. There actually was not that much equipment, since computers and servers have gotten so small. Except for one hard-case server rack, the display monitors were the biggest items. I cleaned up my room, jamming everything into a duffel bag, and threw it in the Mesa, so there would be no evidence of a woman living at the blockhouse. That would have conflicted with the cover story.”

The second Mesa would carry all the weapons and our few explosives, and a few duffel bags of typical Agency surveillance electronics that we had not planted yet. We pulled up the Doppler sensors that we had staked in front of the building after the attack, and put them back in one of the duffel bags.”

“On the way driving into town to get the sedan, I told my mentor that I had gotten good images and license plates of the motorcyclists and the thugs who came to the plant to interrogate the employees. He was glad to hear it, and he noted that it would make it much easier for us and the Agency planners to determine our exposure.”

“I said that since we were going into town anyway, we should upload the last six hours of video from the two cameras, with the hope of getting more identifying info. It should only take 5 minutes or so. I brought my laptop to do the wireless upload. He agreed, and advised that we could swing by the research center and if it looked clear, we would park out of sight long enough to do the upload, and then go to the garage. He didn’t want to stay long, however.”

“We parked on the shadowed side of the commercial building where we usually did the wireless uploads. It was about 1 AM in the morning; no one was around, and the upload went quickly. As we drove to the garage, just a few minutes away, I suggested to my mentor that I would be willing to stay with the Mesa, locked in the garage, so I could review the video, and incidentally, avoid having to ride around half the night in the same car as the mission chief.”

“He said that he couldn’t and wouldn’t take the risk of leaving a junior agent isolated, given the uncertain security situation we were in. And I think he knew it would not be good to leave me alone with my thoughts. He was right about that. We drove on to the garage, no one around there either, and made the vehicle exchange without incident. We quickly drove the sedan back to the blockhouse, where the second Mesa was loaded and ready to go.”

“David’s mentor made the call to the police, putting an appropriately distressed intonation in his voice, reporting a terrible explosion and the death of his young colleague. Then my mentor, myself and the asshole mission chief got in the Mesa. My mentor was driving. I got in the back seat. We headed inland to drive around and stay out of sight, until we would get the all-clear call from David’s mentor.”

“I didn’t want to be in the same car as the mission chief, since I hated his guts at this point, but it wasn’t a choice. I didn’t want to hear his voice or his rationalizations. He was sitting in the front passenger seat, mostly sulking, and I sincerely hoped that he was painfully regretting the biggest f*ckup of his career. None of us in the car wanted to make any conversation anyway. It was an uncomfortable silence.”

“As we started driving, I had time to start reviewing the files from both cameras. All I had on the laptop was a basic video player – all the video processing tools were on the servers, so I couldn’t integrate and sharpen the images, but I could still capture the raw frames and the time tags for analysis, after we got set up in the next town.”

At this point, Karen suddenly broke off her long narrative, and glanced at her phone, seeing that we were clearly out of time and should have already headed back to the Arcadius Business Center. She said to me, “O.P., I’ve still got a long way to go. After I started, I decided to give you the long version of this story. I want you to hear it all, before we go back.” She pulled up the secure voice app and made a call.

The person being called picked up almost immediately. Karen didn’t waste any words. She said, “Ryan? Hi. You know that big guy I talked to at noon, the gray suit? ... Yes. Max Payne, on Wagtali’s security team. He’ll be coming out of the Sub-Saharan session at about 1:30. I’m supposed to meet him, but plans changed. Meet him and let him know you’re there in Karen’s place, and take him up to the op center to brief him on relevant threats ... Quick, just 15 minutes. Tell him that I’ll see him after the session lets out. Give him an unlabeled card with my Maze Bank cell number. Get his number and text it to me. ... Good. Thanks.”

Karen let out a sigh, kind of resetting, after the terribly sad story she had been telling me, and then she leaned again on the pier railing, close to me like before, and continued. “Now, where was I?” she asked rhetorically.


Edited by saintsrow
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This chapter follows immediately from the events of CHAPTER 13.



I am sorry; this chapter is going to be all talky-talk and tradecraft again. The next chapter will be better.
And also, it’s unfortunate that these chapters are kind of a downer, not much humor, just serious challenges for Karen, to explain her past to O. P. Lovelorn, while the beautiful couple experiences the afternoon sun and surf at the far end of Pleasure Pier. I’m trying to get back to the present, but it’s taking some time.
Also sorry for the big delay in the middle of Karen’s story, and thanks to everyone who still has an interest. :^:
CHAPTER 14. Pain from the Past (Part 4): A Visit to the Secondhand Store


Karen continued the story of her derailed mission in Bahia. This ‘long version’ of her story had a lot of impact. Even though this happened several years ago, I felt like I was living it along with her, due to the detail she included. This must have been like some of the stories she heard from the graybeards at the Agency, except that this was so sad for Karen. I still didn’t know why she had chosen to tell me this now, but my insight into her life, and my feelings for her, were becoming deeper by the hour.
Karen drew a breath, to continue from where she left off before her brief call. She said, “I started reviewing the last hours of research center video on my laptop, bouncing along in the back seat of the Mesa, in the dark, as we drove the back roads which ran through the Bahia forests and farmlands.”
“At the beginning of the videos, a bit after 5 PM, I saw the two motorcyclists come out of the lobby, only about 30 minutes after they had gone in. They left the lab, riding away on their bikes, but they didn’t have anything with them – no rucksack or any other package. I noted the time tags of the frames which contained the clearest images of them, for later video processing. And though I hadn’t seen a good view of his face on the porch video, I got a high confidence confirmation of the Enduro biker, based on his clothes, in the daylight video.”
I fast-forwarded through the next few hours of video, showing the research lab employees gradually drifting out of the lobby, and leaving in their cars, or walking to the bus stop, apparently as the thugs finished questioning them. It looked like almost everyone was gone by 8 PM, with only second shift workers’ and some manager’s cars still in the parking lot. Also, the thugs’ car was still in the lot – they hadn’t left.”
“By this time, the street was mostly deserted, and dark. It was an industrial park without much nighttime traffic or lighting. I didn’t see anything interesting until about 10:30 PM, when both motorcycles came back to the lab again, this time with the passenger. They parked the bikes near the company entrance.”
“On the lobby entrance video camera, even though it was IR night vision, I knew I could get fairly good images of all of them as they stood near the lobby, after video processing. From this and the earlier daylight video, the faces and clothes of the Sanchez biker and his passenger were sufficiently recognizable to me, matching the smaller and fuzzier images from our porch video camera, so that now I was certain that these two were the ones who attacked us and killed David. I would also be able to process a much clearer image of the bomb thrower.”
“This time, the motorcyclists did not enter the plant, but one of the thugs came out, and they all stood at the entrance, in a group, talking. The Sanchez passenger pulled an empty rucksack off his shoulder and showed it to the thug. There was no doubt, now. I hoped so much that I could track them down and kill them.”
“I told my mentor, who was driving the Mesa, what I was seeing on the video. He said our care in this operation, up until now, had paid off – these fools did not suspect the actual scope of our surveillance operation, and were therefore so careless.”
“About 10 minutes after the motorcycles arrived, the lobby door opened again, and three people came out. Two of them looked like lab techs or chemists. The older of the two, probably the chemist, was wheeling out a lab cart, transporting a four-liter glass chemical jug, and some other objects. The lab tech was carrying some kind of a lab glassware rack, with three or four small glass bottles. The third person, behind them, was one of the other goons.”
“It looked like the chemist was being really careful, rolling the cart slowly over the rough surface of the parking lot. The rest of the group followed, everyone slowly walking to the side edge of the lot, far away from the building. Although they were out of view of the lobby camera, they still happened to be in the field of view of the camera we used for watching the cars enter the lot, and I actually had a good view of what they were doing. This was a lucky break, for us.”
“I guessed that the chemicals in the bottles were dangerously reactive, and would be used to make the explosive that they attacked us with, when they mixed. We had studied chemical reactions like this in Agency training, for improvised explosives. I figured that the chemist had rolled the cart far out in the lot, to get the whole potentially explosive, incendiary mess as far from the building as possible, so if anything went wrong, at least they wouldn’t blow the place up, or burn it down.”
“The lab tech took the small glass bottles from their holder, and carefully set them on the cart. Both of the lab men then worked with the large jug on the cart, setting the small bottles in contact with the jug, glass against glass, and very carefully wrapped the collection of bottles, several times around, with some wide adhesive tape, so the bottles were tightly bound to the large jug. Then they held some of the other objects from the cart around the top half of the jug, and wrapped the whole thing with a lot more tape, so it was a solid assembly. I assumed that the other objects, some kind of boxes or plastic containers, must have had shrapnel or more incendiary material in them.”
“I could see the chemist gesturing with his hands and lecturing the group, probably warning them how fragile and dangerous the package was at this point. It surely violated every sense of lab safety he had lived by for his whole career, to put this together. I could guess at the extortionate power of the insurgents, to force their will on the people working at the lab, in ordering this high risk undertaking that no civilized person would want to be part of.”
“At this point, I hated these scum, and I hated all the evil on earth, that required us to play this deadly, futile game. Some of the regret and hopelessness that I had lived with for so long while I was working undercover – the feelings I had back then that the human race was intrinsically, inexorably evil – were starting to flash through me again. I was watching the inception of David’s death. A sharp, strong wave of sadness rose in my chest, but I suppressed it, as I continued to watch the video for more detail.”
“At this point, the chemist made one more cautionary gesture to the bikers, pantomiming the way that they should handle the fragile, explosive assembly. He handed them a towel or padding that he had picked up from the cart, and indicated that it should go underneath the assembly, to cushion it.”
“Then the chemist and the lab tech backed away, and kept backing. The two thugs caught their drift, and also backed up with them. Two of the bikers then took the rucksack and held it open, on the ground, while the third kid placed the padding in it. Then he lifted the explosive assembly from the cart and slowly, carefully, placed it in the rucksack. By this time, the chemists and the thugs were about 30 feet away, continuing to shuffle discretely back toward the lobby entrance.”
“The kid buckled the rucksack shut and lifted it by the straps, putting it over his shoulders. He was the bomb thrower – I could tell by his clothes, matching our porch video of him in those few seconds. He remained standing at the edge of the parking lot while the two motorcyclists headed for their Sanchez and Enduro, parked near the lobby entrance. They kicked the engines to life, and clicked on their headlights. The thugs and the chemists re-entered the lobby, closing the door, and they were out of the picture.”
“It was clear that the chemist had obviously told the bikers not to bring the rucksack near the building, for good reason. The Sanchez driver rode over to the rucksack wearer, who got on the back of the bike. Then both bikes motored out of the parking lot, out of the video frame. That was that. In another 30 minutes, David would be dying in a ring of fire, his body destroyed ... ”
“I suddenly had the impulse to smash the laptop against the window of the Mesa, and curse these bastards with every ounce of rage and hate in my heart. But I quickly suppressed it, again. I had to act like I had myself completely under control.”
“I already knew that I would need to play a flawless double game, to exact my revenge here in Bahia, without being detected and thwarted, or ‘protected from myself,’ by the two mentors. I expected that they would suggest soon that I should get on a plane back to the states. I needed to make myself useful, and seem rational, while still planning and successfully executing my aggressive agenda, as I became a rogue agent on a final mission of revenge.”
“If only those little sh*theads on the bikes had hit a pothole and wrecked before they reached our blockhouse ... by morning, they would have been nothing but a heap of ashes in the dust, and David would still be alive ... damn ... dammit ... Those kids were so ignorant of the magnitude of the deadly risk they were taking, but they got lucky – at our great expense.”
“It’s like I told you some time ago, O. P., the only thing more dangerous than dangerous people are stupid people, and these kids were seriously stupid. Now I was ready to put myself in more danger, to rain vengeance down on them, making sure that their stupidity finally caught up with them.”
“I finished typing my notes about the events on the video, and turned off the laptop while it still had some battery life left. No one had been talking in the Mesa, during the time that I was deeply absorbed in watching the video. The mission chief had nodded off in the passenger seat, as we continued to drive along the dark backroads. I sighed very softly, took a breath, and then I quickly summarized the action of the bombmaking that took place at the lab, for my mentor, as he was driving.”
“He took it in, and told me ‘good work’ in observing the detail. The whole documented incident would be useful for profiling the actors in this local insurgent connection. I expected that when we got ourselves set up in the new office, we would be on the satphone with the analysts and planners, on and off for a couple of days, as we figured out what we knew, what we didn’t, and what to do next. My only interest was in getting the names and addresses registered to the license plates of the bikes and the thugs’ car.”
“My mentor suggested that I should get some sleep, if I could. We would probably have a late night tomorrow, setting up our new op center in the evening, and buying some essentials during the day, like bedding and cots, since we were going to be living in an office suite temporarily. We also had some driving to do, to return the rented sedan at the airport and shuttle back and forth between towns in the Mesas. We might also collect the next day‘s video files from the cameras at the lab, to look for further information related to the attack. So it could be a busy day without time to nap.”
“I had not even considered sleeping, since I was still mentally in a mode of thinking that I would be working continuously to avenge David. But rationally, I realized that we wouldn’t even get the bikers’ addresses or other info from headquarters, until we were set up in the new place and engaged in the satphone planning calls.”
“So I thought about the timeline for both doing my regular work with the team, while also working on my plan for revenge. It was going to take a couple of days, perhaps, and so I would probably have to get in at least two nights of sleep before I acted. That complicated things, since I was afraid after a day or so, the mentors would want me to get out of country – before I did anything rash, which was, of course, the first thing on my mind.”
“I lay down on the back seat and closed my eyes. I didn’t feel sleepy, due to all my adrenaline and stress and grief, and I knew that thoughts of my life with David would start flooding in, as soon as I stopped concentrating on my external tasks. But I’d give it a try.”
“I guess the stress had actually exhausted me, and the continual rocking of the Mesa, as we drove, had lulled me to sleep, like it had the mission chief in the front seat. I was asleep before I knew it. After a while, I don’t know how long, I woke to what I thought was an alarm clock, but it was my mentor receiving the phone call from David’s mentor, giving us the all-clear to head back to the blockhouse. We were still driving in the Mesa, as I was lying in the back seat, and I could start to see dim dawn light in the sky.”
“My sleepy dreams were suffused with thoughts of David, of course, running through my head. When the phone rang, I realized that I had woken from a looping fever dream, where I’m surrounded by fire, hearing a voice scream for David, and then suddenly the scene is grey monochrome, like a night vision camera, with my point of view shifted out-of-body, behind me, just like the perspective of the porch camera scene froze behind David, as he drew his gun and headed toward the bikers in his final act as an agent trainee.”
“But in my dream, the monochrome IR camera was moving with me, behind me, over my shoulder as I aimed my gun, and I’m running, jumping over obstacles, chasing the bikers on foot, in some kind of dense, unreal midnight forest, pivoting as they changed direction, rounding corners, trying to escape. It seemed like I could never get close enough to see their faces and shoot them. The scene just kept replaying, over and over, and I felt like I was getting closer each time. The dream loop was in my mind, as my subconscious strove for a resolution to my emotional pain.”
“Awake now, I remembered that David and I had never let a challenge stop us, not without at least trying to change the rules of the game. I saw now that achieving my goal for revenge in the next couple of days was just such a challenge, and this realization changed the way I was thinking about it. My approach became more active, more determined, more calculating, like I felt when David and I were trying to hack or jack something.”
“So I started thinking. I would volunteer to do the shopping we needed to do tomorrow to get set up I the new office, an offer which I expected would be welcomed by the two mentors. They knew that women are better shoppers :p and they had more important things to do. Then, on my own, I could use my laptop and VPN, no need for the satphone, when I was in town near an open WiFi hotspot at a Globe Oil station, or a 24/7 or a Burger Shot – they’re in every big town in Bahia.”
“I planned to use secure Agency chat or email to ask a friend I had at headquarters to do the license plate lookup for me, first thing tomorrow, outside of the loop of our team’s activities. With those addresses, I could quickly start on my own deadly agenda. David was still inspiring me, even in death.”
“With this bit of momentum, from my memory of my shared confidence and initiative with David, I now gained new energy and focus, and I was sure that I could play the rational agent, taking advantage of the mentors’ trust in my stability, to give me enough freedom tomorrow and the next day, to carry through my plan, even if I didn’t know yet just how I would do it. The plan was almost starting to form itself in my mind, effortlessly.”
“Once again, I started to wonder what I had become, but I was also starting to realize that I already knew. The Agency had trained me well. I knew I was going to be in the zone, at peak performance, for my final performance. I closed my eyes again and pretended to sleep, and maybe did sleep, as we drove back to the blockhouse.”
“The next day was *relatively* uneventful – of course it’s hard to be more eventful than the previous day – dealing with a blown operation, getting bombed, and helplessly watching your best friend die in agony, for example.”
“First, when we got back to the blockhouse around sunrise, David’s mentor reported that the interaction with the local police went about as expected. He could tell by their indirect questions that they indeed suspected a spy nest at our blockhouse, but they didn’t know the extent of it – they only pressed on the issue of trying to indirectly ask about ‘another person’ who might be there, but they were easily put off.”
“The agricultural research cover story was duly accepted by the police without challenge. David’s mentor indicated to the police that he intended to vacate the blockhouse shortly, with the intention of leaving the country within the next couple of days, after arranging for David’s body to be flown home. That way, it wouldn’t be suspicious when he disappeared.”
“The police called on their radio and an ambulance came by to pick up David's body, and then they also did some cursory investigation of the bombing, as they would be obligated to do. A few pieces of unmelted broken glassware were found in front of the building, which matched my observation of the construction of the device at the chemical lab.”
“The police said, ‘Hmmm, this is most strange; we have no idea who could have made such a device,’ probably knowing full well how and why it was made, at the research center, for the criminal insurgents. But they went away with their notes and didn’t stick around – it was o-dark-thirty, with dawn approaching, and they could see that they weren’t going to make any progress on finding more dirt on us, to report to their criminal bosses, so they were just anxious to get home.”
“The mission chief was driven to the small local airport in the morning and seen off by my mentor, without incident. Having my mentor drive him, rather than David’s mentor, was a slight change of plans, but it was decided that David’s mentor should not be accidentally seen with the mission chief, since that would have contradicted his ag research cover story. More generally, David’s mentor would have to visit town a few more times, in the sedan, to attend to the business of taking care of David’s body, while keeping his cover story consistent.”
“As I expected, I was asked if I wanted – or more accurately, I was advised – to head back to the States the next day. But I fairly easily convinced the mentors that I could be useful to the team here. They were impressed that I was keeping it together after losing my best friend. I had them fooled. I felt a little bad about that, but it had to be done.”
“We shuttled the cars again to retrieve the Mesa from the downtown garage. The rented sedan was still needed to load some more things from the blockhouse to move to the new office. I got the shopping duties, as planned, and we made up a list. I would do the shopping in the new town, since we wanted to minimize any further exposure in the town with the research center, to avoid both the police and any chance meetings with the thugs.”
“We loaded a few more things from the blockhouse into the Mesas, but they were already pretty full of our spy stuff, so we knew we would have to make another trip the next day. That was OK, since we had to still come back to town daily, but probably late at night, to upload the video files from the cameras at the chem lab.”
“David’s mentor planned to spend most of the day, and probably the next, talking to some of the people they had been grooming for unsuspecting infil to the lab, both on the phone and in person, to keep these assets active, or shut them down, as appropriate, until we could assess whether to keep continuity on this op, or have a later Agency team take another approach.”
“My mentor and I got a chance to catch naps at the blockhouse, while David’s mentor, who hadn’t slept overnight, had to continue his various humint errands in town. It was very delicate, since he had to judge whether the people he was contacting would also be incidentally contacted by the police or the insurgents’ thugs, which could tie his association to the errant mission chief. He abandoned any further contact with the couple of people David had been talking to inside the lab, like the female tech that David was interviewing, to avoid further association with us.”
“After noon, my mentor and I drove to the next town, where the new office was to be rented, and we did a bit of shopping for essentials, for the first night. Since he was with me the whole time, I couldn’t make contact with my friend at headquarters, and there wasn’t a lot of room left in the Mesa, so I couldn’t shop for most of the things on our list. But we had a chance to drive around and scope out the new town a bit.”
“By late afternoon, the Agency planners had arranged, via phone with a local commercial real estate company, to procure the new rented office location for us, so my mentor and I went there to pick up the keys and start moving our stuff from the Mesa into the new place.”
“The first Mesa, which we were driving, had the servers and satphones, among other things, which we unloaded fairly quickly. I stayed at the new office, alone – I volunteered – to get the electronics set up and get us back online, while my mentor drove back to the blockhouse to load up again. The hardest part was mounting the satphone antennas on roof, and being stealthy while dropping their cables down to the windows in our office suite. The sun had set and it was getting dark, so that made it easier to install without being obviously suspicious.”
“Having the opportunity to set up our network by myself made it even easier than I expected to contact my friend at headquarters to ask her to look up the license plates for me. I wouldn’t have to wait until my shopping trips the next day to start that process. So that was the first thing I did after I got the satphones back online.”
“Our chat session only took about 10 minutes, and I just told her it was part of the mission; I didn’t mention a word about the whole disaster that it turned into. And more importantly, I didn’t want to get her tangled up in this, so I made the request seem as innocuous and innocent as I could. I told her that I would be in the field the next day, and so I asked her to send the results by encrypted email. I’d get email through VPN tomorrow, from a local WiFi hotspot.”
“In addition to the two bikes and the thugs’ car, I gave her a larger list including 8 random license plate numbers that I noted from the parking lot video files, to make it look like I was asking for a more general search, just in case, for example, the thugs’ car might already pop up in an Agency database of targets. It would have been a red flag, if I was asking specifically for a vehicle that was already tagged for something nefarious.”
“I asked her to keep my request compartmentalized, and I gave her a different, older project code than the one for our operation down here, so there would be no correlation between my request and the later request by the mentors for the same info. I was a little concerned that my satphone data traffic was logged, but I had put it through a separate layer of VPN to hide the content and the nature of it. If the subject came up, I’d just say that I was testing the satphone link.”
“With the servers back up, I was able to process and sharpen the images from the lab cameras of the thugs, their car, and the bikers. That was legitimate work for our mission recovery. The data included the license plates, but I didn’t expect immediate action on them from the mentors or the Agency planners – they were going to be looking at the bigger picture, which could take some days to digest the data, and I might never get the addresses I wanted. So I was glad that I had started my own query.”
“The processed video it was also for my own benefit, so I would surely recognize the perps, as I killed them point blank, as an avenging angel for David – at least, that’s how I vaguely envisioned it would go, though in retrospect, it’s probably not realistic to expect the bad guys to just stand there gawking at you, as you empty your gun into them at point blank range. But that was only my emotional, fanciful expectation – I knew that my Agency combat training would kick in when the action started, and I would know what to do.”
“Both of the mentors arrived at the new office later in the evening, and we finished moving in and setting up everything else that we could. After a couple of hours, things were in pretty good shape, so that an hour or so of real work could begin.”
“In a fairly short tag-up, we did a quick review of reports for the day. The mentors briefly reviewed my report and theirs, including the report from David’s mentor regarding the humint contacts of the day. They noted my professionalism in continuing to do good work for the team. There wasn’t time to walk through the processed video, tonight, so it would be reviewed tomorrow.
“The mentors then got on a satphone call with headquarters for the first of what I assumed would be fairly regular telecons and data exchanges. I didn’t get invited to this first one, but I expected that I would be included soon enough, if for no other reason than to have some Agency psychologist evaluate my state of mind. I also expected that I might be asked to help set up some new surveillance, as the recovery plan started to gel.”
“Nothing else happened for the rest of the evening. It was late. We shut down the servers, and we were going to have to sleep in chairs or sleeping bags for the night. Tomorrow, I would go shopping in one of the Mesas to get cots and bedding, and other things on our live-in office list. And hopefully I would be able to download the names and addresses for my kill list, so I could start recon for my mission of retribution.”
“It was too hot for a sleeping bag. In one of the offices, that was going to be my room, I opened the duffle bag that I had hastily stuffed my things into last night. There was a thin blanket in the bag, that had been on my bed, back at the blockhouse. Absent-mindedly, I fluffed it out and laid it on top of the sleeping bag, so I could fold it over to make a sort of a minimal bed.”
“I closed the office door, and lay down in the near-dark, pulling the blanket over me. As I did so, the feeling, the smell of the blanket was suddenly so familiar, and at that moment, I remembered, and I knew, that David and I had lain together under this blanket, so happy, so confident, so powerful, feeling good about our future, our careers, and our lives.”
“Now it was all gone, and the sudden emptiness violently sucked the air from my lungs, as I choked up, barely suppressing an involuntary yelp of crushing despair, that I would not have wanted the seniors to hear. I quickly pulled the blanket up to my face, bunching it up, and I cried deeply into it, uncontrollably, while I lay curled up and lost in grief, for minutes, my body heaving with sorrow, reliving David’s final agony, wishing it had been me rather than David, who had suffered and died.”



“The next morning started out as I hoped. I offered to go get breakfast for the team, at a nice little café and padaria close by, in walking distance. It was next to an apartment with an unsecured WiFi access point inside, that I had found the previous night in a half an hour of local WiFi warwalking around our building, which I was doing just for good practices, so we would know the local wireless environment.”
“I had slipped my laptop into a bag that I planned to use to carry the food back to our office, and when I got to the café, I quickly logged on via the WiFi plus my VPN, while sitting at a table there, before I picked up the breakfast I had ordered. I saw that my friend had already sent me an email with all the addresses that she could find, associated with my list of license plates.” :^:
“She also included the phone numbers associated with the individuals to whom the plates were registered – all mobile numbers, it appeared, and as a bonus, images of their drivers’ licenses. I quickly glanced at the driver’s licenses for the three vehicle owners that I cared about, and it was a home run – I recognized both the Sanchez owner and Enduro owner, and one of the thugs, from our lab video surveillance and the porch video. Excellent!”
“After breakfast and a quick tag-up with the two mentors, I was free to go shopping – and stalk my prey. David’s mentor planned to drive back to the previous town in our rented sedan, and spend most of the daylight hours continuing his humint damage control, preserving the sources that he could, and meeting with the coroner again to finalize the paperwork and payment to get David’s body flown home.”
“My mentor would be planning future surveillance recommendations for lower profile exfil from the lab, while developing further understanding of the network of local insurgent collaborators, and considering ways to surveil them.”
“Given the high cost of being blindsided by the attack on our blockhouse, we renewed our early, but difficult, goal of getting audio surveillance into the executive offices of the lab. Inside audio would be some of the highest value intel we could get, but it was already tricky business, even before the insurgents were alerted to our interest. So now we were going have to go higher tech. New surveillance equipment had been identified, which would have to be PostOP’d down to us. I figured that by tomorrow, my mentor might already have some electronic surveillance tasks planned for me, so I wanted to make best use of the rest of the day today.”
“Ironically, the attack that killed David served to significantly advance our insight to the local insurgents' network, since the thugs and their car were new confirmed information for the Agency – those assholes were now a new trio of relevant surveillance targets, which could and would be used to associate and track to additional baddies. But doubly ironically, I knew that it wouldn’t matter, if my plan to ambush and kill them in the next couple of days went well.”
“Our rented office came with three parking spaces behind the building, which was a relative luxury. Most of the small businesses run by the locals only had parking on the street in front of their building, but that was because they couldn’t afford the rent for an actual office suite. As soon as the tag-up ended, I went out back and got in one of the Mesas to start the shopping expedition. First, though, I sat there for a few minutes while I loaded the three targets’ addresses in my phone’s GPS. After doing that priority-one work, then I loaded the addresses of the stores I planned to visit.”
“Of course, the biggest problem with my recon plans was that the addresses of the bikers and thugs were back in the first town, so I had to efficiently drive there, check them out, and get back here to the new town, and still have time to do all the shopping. Accordingly, I planned the routes and my approximate timeline so I was sure it would work out. Then I was off on my dual mission of shopping and vengeance.”
“Without traffic, it would only be a 20-minute trip one way between towns, but I also had to hope that I would not pass David’s mentor on the main road. If that happened, I could claim I was going to the research lab to upload our video camera files, but that was a weak excuse. Later, well after dark, I could justify going back to upload the files for a full day of logs, but it would not make good sense to do so this early in the day, with only about 6 hours of new video, so that didn’t help my immediate story.
“For close-in recon of my targets, and general stealth ahead of my attacks, I would have to be able to walk around the neighborhoods incognito. A female gringo strolling around and loitering on the narrow street, in these close-in, working-class neighborhoods where the bikers lived, would stand out. So before I started going around getting the cots and other sundries, I stopped at a secondhand thrift store I found in town.”
“I bought an oversized, nondescript gray hoodie that would help hide my hair and face, and a pair of dark brown work pants with cargo pockets. I also found a pair of oversized, cheap plastic Kim-Jong Il sunglasses with gradient lenses, and a locally made, colorful cloth tote bag that would fit in well with the local scene. I needed the tote for weaponry and ammo.”
“With these baggy clothes and my face partly hidden by the hoodie and cheap sunglasses, I thought I might look like a local teen construction worker or day laborer, walking home from work. The only downside to this unisex disguise was that it covered a lot more than most pedestrians were wearing – most people wore shorts or summer dresses in the warm Bahia weather – so I might still stand out a bit, but it was going to be the best I could do.”
“Then I found an old, cheap BMX bike, with two good tires, in the back of the store, and I thought it would be great for keeping me mobile, so it didn’t look like I was loitering, and so I could dart away quickly and avoid answering questions. The bike fit in the back of the Mesa. Things were coming together.”
“The visit to the thrift store was actually consistent with our cover story, since I found a couple of vases and a wall tapestry for the office, some nice throw pillows, and some lamps that we needed. I’m a natural born shopper – what can I say? Maybe it was a little bit of retail therapy, as well. :p Besides, I wanted to bring some extra things back to the new office, to make it look like I was going to a variety of places to shop, to justify the extra time out in the field that I was going to need for my recon.”
“I still had to get cots, bedding, some storage boxes, and groceries. Furthermore, we needed some electrical stuff like surge protectors and a few UPS’s, since we didn’t have an enterprise UPS at this new place, and we didn’t want the servers to get whacked if the local power grid glitched. So I had a full day of shopping to do. I’d zip over to the other town in mid-afternoon, do my recon, take some pictures, and still get groceries on the way back, before dark.”
“A couple of hours later, I had gotten all the things on my shopping list, except groceries. Everything fit in the Mesa, even with the BMX in the back. I stopped at a Globe Oil station and pumped up the tires on the BMX. It was mid-afternoon by now. I paused to decide whether I should pull the power plug on the GPS tracker in the Mesa, before heading out of town. I doubted if the senior agents were looking at the tracker each night, or checking it in real time, but if they were, the question was whether it was better for them to see that I had left town, or to see a mysterious gap in the track. I decided to leave the tracker on.”
“Then I headed out on the highway, to the address registered to the Sanchez license plate. I got to the other town in less than 20 minutes, with no problems. I drove in on the main road that passed by the dirt road going to our blockhouse, and I thought about making a quick side trip there, so it would show up on the tracker as a possible justification for my trip to the old town. But my gut told me that there was no way I would want to drive by there again, and see the terrible scene in the front yard, the debris and the scorched building façade. So I passed by without stopping, and used the GPS to point me to the first address.”
“Most of the residential backstreets in these gridded, downscale neighborhoods are narrow, one lane, basically just alleys, and virtually every house has a wall or a garage gate right on the edge of the street, which would make it awkward to try to maneuver the Mesa in those close quarters. So when I got close, I parked the Mesa on a berm of the main street in front of an empty lot, a couple of blocks from the Sanchez owner’s neighborhood. Inside the Mesa, I slipped into my obscuring hoodie and work pants, and the cheap sunglasses, and then I got the BMX out of the back.”
“I rode to the Sanchez address. It was a small house, packed side to side with other small houses, comprising a visual riot of bright, mismatched colors and styles along the street, typical of South American neighborhoods. There was a tall fence in front, so I couldn’t see if the Sanchez was inside. I doubted if it would be inside – bikes are usually parked outside the walls, during the day.”
“I realized that if I wanted to see over these walls, I would need to put a selfie stick on the phone, raise it in the air, and take video over the wall as I rode by. But I didn’t have that with me at the time. I discretely took a few pictures of the alley and the front of the house, and the neighboring houses, as I rode by and doubled back.”
“Next, I headed to the address for the Enduro. It was only a couple of streets away, so I just stayed on the BMX and rode over there. This street was similar, tightly packed houses on a narrow alley, on a slight grade. When I came up to the address, I got lucky. Both the Sanchez and the Enduro were parked outside! So I knew I was in the right place. But I wasn’t ready to act yet, with no weapons, and no idea who might be inside the house, with my targets. I didn’t want to get caught in situation where I had to injure anyone but the perps. I again took pictures of the area as I rode by, and left it at that.”
“As I was pedaling back to the Mesa, the irony of this situation dawned on me. When we got hit in our blockhouse, we automatically assumed that we should be looking for evidence of the perps doing recon on us, a day or two in advance. Now here I was, doing exactly that, for my targets. I figured that I wouldn’t have to worry about security cameras, but there were plenty of pedestrians and neighbors hanging around outside, in these neighborhoods, who had seen me. Even so, I wasn’t too worried, since no one would know why I was there, and they had no way to know that I was specifically checking out the bikers’ addresses as I rode down the alley.”
“I got back to the Mesa and loaded the BMX in the back. Then I drove to the address registered to the thugs’ car, from the research center parking lot video. This was a nicer, newer, planned development, a large neighborhood of standalone condos, where people with some money would live. The streets here were wider, two lanes, so I was able to drive the Mesa through the neighborhood slowly, so I could get a phone video record, as I passed the address.”
“It wasn’t surprising to find that these gangster scum lived the upscale lifestyle – ironically, the insurgents and their stooges skimmed off the first layer of finance for themselves, just like the corrupt government that they were opposing, so they could live much better than the peasants that they claim to be fighting for. Basically, it’s ‘meet the new boss, same as the old boss.’ Nothing ever changes. The governments in these third-world countries are basically just the gang of thugs who eventually manage to consolidate enough force to dominate their rivals.”
“Most of the fancy developments in Bahia are enclaves, with a wall around the perimeter, and a main gate, which would have been a problem for my recon mission. But here, they were trying to make this neighborhood look even more snobby, emulating medium-upscale American neighborhoods, opening it up to give the false impression of a safe, serene neighborhood with estates and individual McMansions, with a variety of designs. These condos were not that grand, for sure, but that pretentious openness was going to cost them, since it gave me easy access.”
“In reality, the lack of enclave walls did indicate real wealth or connections, here. In these kinds of countries, the locals know what could happen to them if they come into these rich areas and try something stupid, like jacking a nice car. Assholes like these gangsters, or local politicians, are so tight with the cops, and with the network of eyes and ears on the street, that they *will* find the perps, and an example will be made. A very unpleasant example. I knew this too, in the abstract, but I implicitly assumed it didn’t apply to me, thinking that after I had doled out my revenge, I planned to be long gone, out of town and out of country. I didn’t have any local community ties that would trap me here, like the locals do.”
“When I passed the address, I recognized the thugs’ car in the carport – same one, same license plate, as the one in the chem lab parking lot. So I was able to confirm that this location would be the target. I figured that when I was ready to attack, maybe as early as tomorrow, in this more open neighborhood, I could park the Mesa down the street and watch the place for a while, to see if they leave. I was starting to realize that just knowing where they lived is not quite enough – I was going to have to catch them out in the open. That was going to take more planning.”
“Having done all the recon that I could, I got back out on the main road, stopped for a minute at a commercial building with a small parking area bordering the road, and I slipped out of my hoodie and work pants. I set the GPS for the grocery store back in our new town, and headed back out on the road. I was still holding to my intended timeline. I bought all the groceries on our list, plus a few extras, and headed back to our new office.”
“First thing I did when I parked the Mesa, was to pull out the BMX and wedge it in behind a small trash bin that was pushed up against the back of our office building, so the bike was mostly out of sight. I didn’t have a security chain for the bike, but I hoped that it wouldn’t get nicked overnight.”
“My mentor was in the office when I starting bringing in the haul I had collected today. It took us four trips to bring everything in, with the heavy UPS units and the cots. He didn’t make any comment about where I might have been, so I assumed that I had covered my recon side trip sufficiently. We got the groceries into the refrigerator, which had come with the office, and then we installed the UPS units on our equipment, and powered up everything. Now that we had time, I showed him the uploaded and processed video from the chem lab, so he could see the bomb-making operation and the thugs and the bikers as clearly as I had seen them, after I processed the video last night.”
“He took it all in, made notes, and then we started a satphone call with the Agency planners. I was glad to be included in the call. One of the analysts took some interest in the bomb-making decision by the adversary. He noted that we were probably lucky that they used a reactive incendiary on us, instead of trying out their chemical weapons. He added that it was probably because they didn’t have anything immediately available at the lab to adapt into a suitable delivery mechanism, or maybe they didn’t want to expose that part of their operation.”
“The analyst suggested that if we could collect a few samples of burned residue from the explosive device itself, we should seal it in a plastic bag, and send it to them for analysis – the choice of chemicals and materials used could be informative. At that point, I had a flashback of going back to the blockhouse and scraping through the ruins to get samples, so close to where David died, and it gave me a deep jolt of grief and hopelessness, of the shock and loss I felt in the aftermath, and I momentarily felt sick. I hoped that the mentors would not ask me to do that task. I didn’t even want to think about it.”
“We marked all the video files for upload to headquarters, along with our notes and recollections of the previous day. So far there was no new direction from headquarters, except to settle into our new location and chill, until they had digested all the info and decided next steps. That was the end of the call. David’s mentor came back to the office later, and he held a separate satphone call with headquarters. I didn’t hear any of the details.”
“My mentor agreed with the planners that we should lay low for a couple of days before trying to get any more electronic surveillance footprint near the lab, and pending the arrival of the high tech audio equipment. He said that the two video cameras already there should be adequate to pick up any new faces that showed up at the lab, following the actions of the previous night. He added that today’s video logs would be valuable for this. I offered to drive over there to upload them later tonight, well after dark, and he OK’d that suggestion.”
“It occurred to me, at that instant, that I should take one of our battery-powered GPS trackers with me, when I go over to the town tonight to upload the video. My intent was to quickly and stealthily attach it to the thugs’ car in their carport. Of course, I couldn’t tell my mentor I was doing that, since he didn’t know I had their address already. But it would be a great help to me, for my ambush plans, to know when they were on the move. It’s incidental that it would also be valuable to our surveillance goals, except for the small wrinkle that I intended to shoot the thugs full of lead before they could lead us anywhere operationally useful.”
“At about 10 PM, I surreptitiously grabbed one of the trackers from our stash, and then I left the office, as planned, and drove the Mesa over to the other town to collect our video for the day. The operation went quickly and without incident. I parked in the shadows across the street and uploaded everything in about 10 minutes.”
“Then I headed to the thugs’ condo development to plant the GPS tracker. Unfortunately, the thugs’ car was gone, dammit, when I came by to attach the tracker around 11 PM, so I missed that opportunity. I didn’t want to risk any more time loitering around there, so I drove back to our new office. It would have been a calculated risk anyway, with an uncomfortable probability of discovery, potentially blowing my little rogue op, so I wasn’t too upset. You go with the flow, and adapt.”
“When I got back, I uploaded the video files to our servers and then set the satphone to send the raw data on to headquarters overnight. I didn’t bother to look at the video tonight – it was late – I would check it tomorrow.”
“The mentors had both turned in for the night. I was free to work on my plan for vengeance. I reviewed the photos and video on my phone, that I had taken today at all three of my target locations, so I could plan and imagine the approaches, shooting distances, sightlines, exits, contingencies, etc. The half-assed ideas that I already had for the approaches and scenarios didn’t clean up any better as I studied the pictures, but reviewing the images helped my mental walkthrough of the imagined attacks.”
“Though the plans were half-baked, I gave some detailed thought to how I could coax the bikers out of their house and on to the road, so I would have a clean shot at them. I also thought about how to get the thugs out of their fancy condo, since I couldn’t get the tracker on their car. These first ideas were stupid and reckless, but I honestly wasn’t coming up with anything better.”
“Before I went to sleep, I raided our weapons cache and quietly grabbed the guns and ordnance I would need for my rogue mission. I got one of our micro SMGs, several ammo magazines, two grenades, and two sticky bombs. I also got three extra clips for my personal Combat Pistol, which was standard issue. That was about all I would be able to fit practically in my secondhand tote bag, which I hid under the covers of my cot. I was hoping I could carry out the mission tomorrow, even though I didn’t have a complete plan yet. I was getting impatient, and David *must* be avenged.”
Stay tuned for CHAPTER 15: Vengeance is Mine. You say you’re tired of talk? You want more action? Yeah, we got some action :) coming right up!
Edited by saintsrow
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Now, finally, it’s time ...

Karen is kicking ass ... :^:

... and taking names :p


This chapter follows from CHAPTER 14.

CHAPTER 15. Pain from the Past (Part 5): Vengeance is Mine

“The next morning, I couldn’t get away from the office. We continued some fairly mundane planning and review, including another satphone call to Agency headquarters. Neither the planners nor the mentors had anything special for me to do, yet, today. I could tell that headquarters planners were going to take their time regrouping and recovering our operation, and it might not be a full pullout, just change and enhance surveillance tactics, and install a new mission chief. Not a f*ckup like the last one, but an experienced agent, since this operation suddenly had a much higher risk profile. We’d keep this office longer.”

“There was some talk on the headquarters telecon about setting up a surreptitious WiFi bridge near the lab, maybe a mesh network, in order to exfil our video, and the data from additional sensors to be planted there, so we could get the feeds and uploads, encrypted, of course, onto cellular data or an unsuspecting WiFi access point. The same architecture could later be used at other surveillance locations as the operation expanded. Then we could run everything over encrypted internet links, from here in our new office, without driving there every day, and we could get near real time surveillance. That was a somewhat challenging equipment installation task, which I would have a big part in setting up – *if* I were still around to do it, and I didn’t expect to be.”

“With nothing else going on, I reviewed the previous day’s video files from the research lab, hoping to uncover some more info that could help me improve my plans for taking out David’s killers, but there was nothing new – just the usual cars arriving in the morning, and leaving in late afternoon. It looked like an ordinary day there – no visits from any thugs, and no other arrivals out of the usual profile. I made annotations and time tags, but there was nothing interesting to report or to alert the mentors about. For the rest of the world, it was like the whole incident, in which David was killed, had never happened. But I would never forget, for as long as I lived, however long – or short – that may be.”

A little before noon, to get out, clear my mind, and mentally walk through my plans for vengeance, I volunteered to get lunch for us at the café again, rather than try to make something from the groceries. I waited until the two mentors were occupied with a conversation, so I could quietly sneak my tote bag full of weaponry from under the covers of my cot without being seen, and then I quickly ran downstairs to the Mesa and loaded the tote bag in the back, under a heavy blanket that was also hiding my hoodie outfit. One step closer to vengeance. From there, I walked to the café, like yesterday.”

“When I got to the café, I opened my laptop and checked my secure email to see if my friend at headquarters had gotten any repercussions from my request for a sneaky, rogue license plate search. She hadn’t sent anything else to me, so I assumed everything was good.”

“While I had the laptop open, I took another look at the driver’s licenses, and the captured video frames, of the two kids and the thugs, whom I was going to kill. I had lived with my silent vow of revenge for the past 60 hours – it was part of me, now. This was going to be straightforward – an eye for an eye. I had lost my whole reason for being. Now they were going to lose everything, too.”

“Then I looked up several translations, that I planned to use to try to flush out the bikers and get them to leave their house. It was a stupid idea, but it was the best I had so far. I already had knowledge of basic Portuguese vocabulary and pronunciation, as part of our preparation to travel down here for this mission, but I wanted to double-check. Finally, I was ready to do this. I wanted to hit them in daylight, so I could maintain the best possible situational awareness during my revenge ops. I needed to think of some reason why I would need to go out on the road again this afternoon, so I could head for my targets.”

“Or, I could just go AWOL, now.”

“Maybe this was the moment. An impulse of initiative ran through me, a feeling like I had when David and I would suddenly decide to undertake some risky adventure that we had been contemplating, not even seriously planning – the ‘just do it’ impulse. You need that emotional kicker to force you to commit. Your adrenaline spikes. This was it!”

“I quickly abandoned my lunch errand, and I ran back to the office parking lot. I grabbed the BMX from behind the trash bin, and loaded it into the back of the Mesa, and I stuffed the laptop, in its bag, tightly behind the back seat. This time, I pulled the power wires from the Mesa’s GPS tracker, and I turned my phone to airplane mode, so I couldn’t be located by cell tower pings.”

“Then I drove the Mesa out onto the street, with my phone GPS set for the thugs’ condo, like yesterday. I had decided that I should take out the thugs first, since their street layout was much less claustrophobic than the bikers’ neighborhood. Besides, I remembered, ‘Start at the top,’ which is generic good advice, in a lot of situations, including assassinations – especially assassinations.” :p

“After dealing death to the thugs, I would try to flush the bikers out of their house in the narrow alley. It just seemed completely wrong to try to walk into their house and start shooting. I wanted to kill them on neutral ground. So I needed to get them out in the open, which would give me more options – more sightlines and more escape routes. But I realized it was going to be really tricky to catch them by themselves, without innocents in the way.”

“During the 20 minute trip, as I drove the highway to the other town, I was subconsciously steeling myself for the action I was about to undertake, getting psychologically into the mindset, and running through all the contingencies and unknowns, of which there were many. Now that I was committed, I realized that there was no safety net any more – this time, it was for all the chips, in a hand that I had chosen to deal to myself. I felt the extra adrenaline of being rogue.”

“Procedurally, I could handle my rogue mission itself, but now I suddenly had a big hole in my psyche, due to my abandonment of the Agency and all that it meant to me, in the past few years. The Agency was my rock; it let me absolve myself of responsibility, it always had my back, it gave me a framework and a context for everything that I conceived, planned, decided, and executed. I knew the guidelines and I lived them. I didn’t have to second guess my training. But now, whatever I did, whatever the consequences, it was all on me.”

“I thought about everything that I was giving up, but it didn’t matter anymore. My commitment to vengeance had been made, at the moment I knelt next to David as he died. I would not waver.”

“It was a beautiful sunny morning, as I drove. If not for my fatalistic mission, it would have been an upbeat, wonderful new day. I felt a pang of irony, as I realized I was about to go kill a number of people in cold blood, but the concern scratching at the back of my mind was that I had left a good lunch go to waste, and the two mentors were going to wonder what happened. When they realized that I had flaked on them, and stolen the Mesa, it would surely ruin their afternoon. That actually mattered to me. They were good guys. One can’t just blow off a strong sense of bonding and team loyalty, without some second thoughts, or regret.”

“Before I got into town, I pulled over onto a wide berm beside the road, and got my tote bag of weaponry from the back of the Mesa. I brought everything, including my hoodie disguise, into the cab with me.”

I donned the hoodie and slipped my legs into the work pants, put on the sunglasses, and then I loaded the weapons, clipping the holster for my combat pistol into my waistband, under the hoodie. I put three extra magazines for the SMG and two clips for my pistol in the belly pocket of the hoodie. I put a grenade in each of the cargo pockets of the pants. I laid the two sticky bombs, unarmed, on the passenger seat beside me, and carefully dropped their remote detonator transmitter into my shirt pocket, under the hoodie. I wedged the SMG tightly in between the driver’s seat and the console. I was ready.”

“I steered back onto the main road, with purpose pervading me, with full mental and emotional awareness peaking, my every thought and action now being taken in David’s name, his essence living in me, with every breath I took. I was consumed by only one focus, one goal, remaining in my life – to take the lives of David’s killers, and to hear their cries of fear, anguish, and death. At that moment, with nothing left to lose, I felt like I was as powerful as the whole world, unstoppable, implacable, the shadow of doom moving over the landscape in the End of Days.”

“In five more minutes, I was turning into the thugs’ neighborhood. I made a recon pass, and I saw that their car was in the carport again, as I had hoped. I drove to the end of the block, and made a U-turn, and stopped for a minute, my foot on the brake. I set both stickies, still disarmed, carefully down into the center console compartment, where they would be confined, so they wouldn’t be flying around in the cab as I executed my next move. Cue the music. I was about to go full Sarah Conner.”

“I jammed my foot on the accelerator of the Mesa and blasted down the street. As I got near the thug’s carport, I swerved a wide arc with the Mesa, from the opposite side of the street, accelerating into a barely-controlled drift, and I plowed the Mesa into the rear of the thugs’ car, hard, at full speed, without braking. It was a hell of a jolt, but I expected it.”

“The Mesa had a heavy duty front end cage and winch, plus its oversized front bumper, so I knew it would crush the thugs’ car without taking damage itself, but the Mesa’s windshield had cracked and buckled across its width, from the impact. The thugs’ car slammed hard into the wall of the house, the impact sending a wave of flying stucco and glass splashing out across the driveway and lawn, and across the hood of the Mesa. Their car was alarm blaring now. I’m sure the whole house shook. It may have almost felt like an explosion, inside.”

“Without hesitation, I grabbed one of the sticky bombs from the center console, armed it, held it out my side window, and lightly tossed it through the gaping, broken rear window of the thugs’ car. Then I slammed the Mesa in reverse and floored it backward, meanwhile grabbing the second sticky. The thug’s car started to move with me, caught on the winch, but it only moved about 6 feet before coming unstuck. I clicked the sticky to armed mode as I reached out the window again, and underhanded it, so it bounced underneath their car.”

“In 5 seconds, I was already screeching tires, careening backward into the yard of the condo across the street. The Mesa bounced over the curb and through a flower bed, its rear bumper then slamming against the front porch of that house, bringing me to an abrupt stop, about 50 feet across the street from the thugs’ condo. My expectation was that the thugs would rush outside to see what had happened. I needed to verify that there were no innocents on the scene, and I needed to see the car-owning thug, and to hopefully see his thug buddies with him, to verify that they all looked like the kind of scum who deserved to die.”

“In just another 15 seconds, sure enough, four assholes piled out of the front door of the condo, guns in hand. I recognized three of them from the lab video. These were the ones. They looked around, and then looked across the street, their eyes wide, and saw me, a shadowed figure in a hoodie, looking like some cheap cosplay version of Assassin’s Creed, through the buckled windshield of my Mesa.”

“I had already grabbed the micro SMG from its wedged-in location beside my seat, and I had clicked off the safety. I sprayed the area of the thugs’ condo with a full clip from the micro SMG, right through the Mesa’s cracked windshield, turning it into a nearly opaque web of fractured safety glass, full of bullet holes. I had to immediately knock out the driver’s side of the buckled windshield with the heel of my hand, folding it over on the hood of the Mesa, in order to see out.”

“I did a quick scan of the area around the thugs’ condo, and I didn’t see anyone who looked innocent. The nearest movement I saw was well down the street, just a woman holding a parasol and walking a dog. In the hot noonday sun, most residents in this moneyed neighborhood were inside, enjoying their air conditioning, unlike most of the population of the town, who had no such luxury.”

“With the wild burst of SMG fire, I hadn’t expected to hit any of the thugs, but I just hoped to make them hesitate and duck for cover for a couple of seconds, before they started shooting at me. More specifically, I was hoping they would duck behind their car for cover, and indeed, a couple of them did.”

“Then, with the detonator for the stickies still in my breast pocket, I put my hand over my heart, and pushed it, with a mental vision of my beautiful David, smiling at me, on a perfect sunny day, filling my imagination. I said his name softly, ‘David, this is for you.’ Tears suddenly welled in my eyes.”

“Both stickies blew immediately. The blast was enormously loud. I heard pieces of shrapnel hitting the Mesa all around me. In the immediate aftermath, I saw two bodies, smoking, flying and tumbling out onto the manicured lawn, one of them still flailing, as he landed.

“The carport cover had blown upward and split, and part of it was collapsing back down on the ruined scene of destruction, as I watched. Their car was blown wide open, blackened, flaming, and was barely recognizable as a car. The fuel tank had breached, and gasoline had sprayed everywhere. There was fire all over the floor of the carport, with flames starting to spread up the carport wall of the house, out onto the lawn, and down the driveway toward the street. The collapsed carport roof was already starting to burn. The whole condo would probably go up in flames, before they could be put down. All the windows in the front of the condo had been blown out.”

“I quickly reloaded the micro SMG and watched for a few seconds, for any more movement. Another asshole came stumbling out from the side of the condo, also with a gun in hand, looking around, cluelessly. Although I was too far away, across the street, for a sure shot, I quickly re-wedged the SMG beside the driver’s seat, snapped out my combat pistol from its holster, and took careful aim through the now-open windshield, squeezing off one shot, hitting him somewhere in center mass, putting him down temporarily.”

“At this point, I slammed the Mesa into forward gear and punched it, lunging back toward the thugs’ condo. I screeched to a stop in the middle of the street, and using my combat pistol, shooting through the knocked-out windshield, I put three shots into the downed thug, and two shots each into the two other smoking bodies on the lawn, just to be sure. I didn’t see any others; I hoped they had been blown to pieces, or were burning in the flaming debris. This was poetic justice, for what they did to David.”

“I snapped in a new clip, holstered my pistol, and burned rubber down the street, fleeing the scene. This upscale neighborhood had seen its share of excitement, this afternoon. If the thugs’ condo didn’t burn down, at least it was going to need a new paint job and a few screen doors. And some Miracle-Gro, for the scorched turf. :) I headed for my next appointment, with the motorcyclists, about 15 minutes away.”

“With most of the Mesa’s windshield knocked out, it was an open-air drive. My oversized sunglasses did a perfect job of keeping the wind out of my eyes. I turned back toward the main road, so I could come into the bikers’ neighborhood from outside of town, to avoid getting bogged down by traffic on the downtown streets.”

“As I drove, I had a few minutes to reflect on things. Even though, back in the café, I needed the adrenaline to trigger me to commit, by the time that I had clicked into action at the condo, except for my brief thought of David, I hadn’t even felt any kind of visceral emotion. The whole operation seemed like it was playing out automatically, instinctively, by the numbers. My training, my planning, had kicked in, full auto. It felt satisfying, successful, exquisitely executed.”

“As I continued driving, I remember saying to myself, sardonically, ‘Payback’s a bitch, motherf*ckers,’ just a tired cliché that randomly bubbled up in my mind, from some piece of sh*t action movie, something like that washed-up dickhead Jack Howitzer would say, after blowing up a boatload of generic foreign baddies. It just seemed like the right time to say that. We’re so pickled in pop media, throughout our lives, that their stupid throwaway one-liners become the narrative of the moments of our life. It’s pretty sad. We barely have an original thought in our heads, anymore.”

“The realization also flashed through my mind, finally, that this was real – that I had really done this, and now there was no turning back. It hadn’t hit me while I was running on autopilot, taking out those scum with extreme prejudice, but I couldn’t deny it now.”

“This rogue op would be a disaster for our surveillance operation, a potential diplomatic mess, that the mentors and the Agency planners would have to clean up – and, of course, it signaled the destruction of my Agency career and my future. I was now a murderer in a foreign country, and nothing more. I couldn’t hide behind any excuses, any rationalization, any authorization. Now I knew what going rogue really meant.”

“Plus, you can’t just blow up a house in the suburbs, and drive away like you’re taking a Sunday trip to the market. These criminals have eyes everywhere in this town, a network of contacts – that’s how they so quickly connected our dipsh*t mission director’s questions about the research lab, back to the taxi driver, and to our blockhouse.”

“So I was on a tight timeline, now. I had to get this done quickly, and get the hell out of town. To where, I didn’t know. But I knew I couldn’t and wouldn’t lead the police, or anybody else, back to my mentors. It didn’t matter, though, since the Mesa would probably connect my crime spree to them, in any case. Things were plenty f*cked up, at this point.”

“I quickly banished that line of thinking from my mind. I still needed to operate on autopilot, until my mission of revenge was complete. I’d save the doubt, regret, and panic for later.”

“I soon arrived at the bikers’ neighborhood. I parked the Mesa at the end of the long alley where the Sanchez owner’s house was, since, like before, it would have been unwieldy to drive down the narrow alley, unable to turn around.”

“I had to do recon again, to see which address the bikes were parked, if they were there at all. I wished I had a better way to find out for sure where the bikers were – especially the bomb-thrower. The problem was, I was pretty sure that he wasn’t even one of the two bike owners, whose names I had, from the license plate search. I could only hope that he was a brother or cousin or something, and he would be hanging with them. But that was a long shot. This whole part of the operation was suddenly feeling even more flakey, less solid, with no good plan, and plenty of ways for the bottom to drop out.”

“I got out of the Mesa and pulled the BMX out of the back. I rode down the alley, past the Sanchez owner’s address. It was like a replay of yesterday – no bikes at that address, and no indication that any of my targets were there. So it was on to the other address, like before. I pedaled a couple of blocks over to the other street, to the Enduro owner’s address, and luckily, both the Sanchez and the Enduro were there, parked in front, just like yesterday afternoon.”

“So now, I would start my half-baked plan for the bikers. I rode the BMX past the parked bikes, down to the far end of the alley, still in line of sight of the house and the bikes. I needed to draw them out. I was going to call the phone number associated with the address of the Enduro owner. I got out my cell phone, turned it from airplane mode to normal, and I started up an Agency app that spoofs the calling number, so the call itself couldn’t be traced to my phone. For the spoof, I used the phone number of the address associated with the thugs. If that number showed up on the kid’s phone, it might give some credibility to the call.”

“First, I sent an ambiguous text to the Enduro owner’s phone, in Portuguese, to start the deception. I texted, ‘Eles estão vindo para você!! [ They are coming for you!! ] Saia agora! [ Get out, now! ]’ I hoped that they would recognize the spoofed number and think that the text came from the thugs. Then I wanted to turn up the sense of urgency. I dialed the Enduro owner’s number, and after a couple of rings, a girl’s voice answered, ‘Olá?’”

“I was about to recite the Portuguese translations I had checked this morning. I would repeat the phrases a few times, and I expected that she would relay the message to the bikers, whom I hoped were in the house. In the background, I heard a cheap, tinny TV speaker with the sound of someone playing a mindless video game shooter, so it was promising that the boys were inside. I heard a macho voice in the game yell, ‘Kiiilllll Streeeeeak!’ and I thought, yeah, that’s appropriate.”

“When the girl answered the phone, a thought flashed through my mind. I figured, this is probably a typical household in this working-class, tightly packed neighborhood. The kids are all at home, brothers and sisters. The girl’s probably babysitting her youngest siblings. The teenage sons and cousins can’t get any paying work, they’re not going to school, and the mother is probably out all day, from dawn to dusk, working some miserable, low-paying service job, trying to earn enough to hold onto the house, and keep her family off the streets. It’s no wonder the sons get involved with the criminals in town – for many of them, it’s their only hope for a career, their only real income.”

“Then I snapped back to the present reality, and I repeated these phrases, into the phone, with a feigned tone of urgency and fear in my voice: ‘Eles sabem que você jogou a bomba! [ They know you threw the bomb! ] Eles te vi no laboratório! [ They saw you at the lab! ] Eles sabem onde você mora! [ They know where you live! ] Eles estão vindo! [ They are coming! ] Saia agora! [ Get out, now! ] Saia! [ Get out! ] Corre! [ Run! ] Eles estão vindo para você!! [ They are coming for you!! ]’”

“Of course, the girl asked, ‘O que? [ What? ] O que??’ and, ‘Quem é?? [ Who is this?? ]’ a couple of times, but I ignored her, and continued. As I was repeating the phrases for the second time, I heard her call someone else to the phone, a kid, probably her brother, maybe the Enduro owner. As she was handing the phone to him, she asked him about throwing a bomb at a lab. 'Você fez uma bomba? [ You made a bomb? ],' she asked him. She surely had no idea what it was about, but she sounded alarmed.”

“The boy on the phone started yelling something at me that I mostly didn’t catch, but I clearly caught the word ‘we,’ and its conjugation, as opposed to ‘I’ a couple of times, and a name that he said, the name of the research lab – probably denying they were there or had anything to do with any bomb, ironically giving away himself and his friends. There’s no other reason a teenage street kid would know the name of that lab. So I knew now, for sure, that the kid was really associated with the bomb-making, that terrible night. I definitely had the perps. Now it was payback time!”

“I just kept repeating the urgent warning, louder, to make sure he heard and understood. He was repeating some of my words to someone else in the room. I heard more commotion and indistinct replies in the background, and then the sound of another teenage boy, yelling something. The girl, still near the phone, was asking her brother something again, and she sounded hysterical. A door slammed. I heard a baby start crying. The phone was hung up on their end. I turned off my phone, to keep it from being tracked, and to save the battery for later, if I needed it.”

“I patted my combat pistol, holstered on my hip, under the baggy hoodie. I was ready. I hopped on the BMX and started pedaling down the alley, toward the two bikes. I hoped my targets would be running out into the street. I needed to be close enough to see their faces, to make no mistake that they were the bikers that I would recognize from the video surveillance. I didn’t want to shoot any innocents.”

“As I got to within about 100 or so feet of the bikes, right on cue, two boys ran out of the gate in front of the house. I kept riding slowly toward them – I hoped they would not immediately suspect me as being their assailant, but just some random resident in a hoodie. Both of them got on the Sanchez, as driver and passenger, and the driver kick-started the engine, and revved it. Their bike was already facing in my direction, and they started down the alley, coming toward me.”

“Then the girl emerged from the gate, momentarily slowing to a stop in the middle of the alley, before deciding to haltingly run after them. She was probably the girl who answered the phone, the sister of the Enduro owner, I suspected. Just from her body language, I could tell she was distressed, flustered, concerned, and crying, but she started to try to catch up to them, while shouting the boys’ names, as the fleeing pair sped away from her, still accelerating in my direction.”

“I felt bad for scaring the girl, but her brother had brought this upon himself, had brought this trouble to their home. His family was probably already destined for tragedy, from the moment he had gotten involved with the criminal scum that I had just obliterated, a few miles away.”

“Ironically, my killing those bastards might actually have temporarily severed the link these kids had to the local criminal class, perhaps giving them a second chance in life. But that seemed kind of moot, considering what I was about to do. The girl was right to be distressed. I was about to kill her brother in front of her.”

“As the Sanchez came closer, I easily recognized both of the boys as the two bikers, from our video files and the driver’s license images. The driver was the Sanchez owner, and the rider was the Enduro owner. They were only three seconds away from me, and accelerating. This was it…”

“When you’re in a dynamic situation like this, Agency training and mental conditioning compels you to go with your gut, trust your instincts, don’t try to overthink the situation in real time, or you’ll be dead before you know it.”

“The dynamics of this particular attack had started out just like I imagined they would, except for the presence of the girl. In my attack, formulated in the instant, I had intended to snap my combat pistol from its holster, while still riding my BMX, and put 3 or 4 quick rounds right though center mass of both bikers, a total surprise ambush, at point blank range, the bullets going through both of them. Then, if either of them were still conscious as they lay on the ground, I was going to scream my message of revenge for David as I emptied the rest of the clip into their faces.”

“But the girl’s position, right in the line of fire behind the bikers, inhibited my immediate momentum to draw my pistol and target them. Things were happening too fast; the Sanchez was still accelerating; they would be past me in less than two seconds, now.”

“In the moment of that hesitation, that fraction of a second, something else kicked in, rushing up from my deepest moral core, flipping the whole situational baseline away from my unassailable plan of blind revenge for David, to a completely different context. Something fundamental, absolute, from my true self, before my life went wrong.”

“I suddenly felt, and knew in my gut, that what I was about to do in the next half-second was unprovoked murder, gunning down two unarmed boys in a hail of bullets, like I was some deranged monster killing kids in a schoolyard. It was just too wrong – even my sacred vow of revenge couldn’t justify this. At that instant, I didn’t have the time to think it through, but I felt and I knew, that drawing my gun, and firing, was not going to happen.”

“Less than 30 minutes ago, when I had taken out the adult thugs, who surely were strongarm scum who had lived a criminal career of violence and intimidation, and furthermore being gofers for the dangerous insurgents who had ordered the hit on our blockhouse, I had no regrets whatsoever – they needed killing. Plus, that was a fair fight, since they all had guns drawn. But shooting these unarmed kids point blank, in cold blood, would be a whole different ballgame. Even though they were immediately responsible for David’s death, I intrinsically knew that I couldn’t cross that line, not this way, not now.”

“However, I was still primed to attack these two, and to carry through on my vow to avenge David. That basic intent was still there, in my mind. I couldn’t let the moment pass. In another second, they would be past me, still flooring their Sanchez, too fast and too far away for me to ever catch up to them, even if all I was going to do was yell at them and stomp my foot.”

“Without thinking about it consciously, I purposely veered my BMX right into their path, pushed hard on the BMX pedal to get a burst of acceleration, and I jerked my handlebars upward with all my strength, at the last possible moment, bringing the BMX’s front wheel up so that it snagged the throttle handgrip and brake lever of the Sanchez, immediately jackknifing the motorcycle, and the bikers went down fast and hard, into the dust, on the hard-packed surface of the alley.”

“Since I was ready for the collision, I was able to push off from the BMX at the same instant, out of the path of the motorcycle, to barely retain my balance, running and stumbling forward, about 10 steps, before I could stop and turn back around toward the wreck, still on my feet. The two bikers, on the other hand, were completely taken by surprise. The driver had done a proper faceplant, and the rider had only reacted in time to get his hands out in front of him, as he hit the ground hard, on his knee and the palm of one hand, and part of his weight coming down on the driver. The Sanchez was on its side, right beside the two boys, still sputtering, in gear, with the rear wheel off the ground, spinning at the speed of the engine idle.”

“I saw them both starting to move, stunned on the hard surface of the alley, slowly trying to recover from the fall, a natural reaction. I knew then what I wanted to do. The remaining thing that had been bothering me, was that I really wanted to know the name of the kid who actually threw the bomb, so I could deal with him later, somehow. If any of these kids should get their ass kicked over David’s death, it should be the one who actually heaved the rucksack.”

“The two kids, half-stunned on the ground in front of me, were just the two bikers. They must know the thrower’s name. I didn’t have a lead on him, and no way that I would ever get it, without the resources of the Agency. As long as I had come this far, I decided to take a few more seconds, and try to get these two to give me the name of the bomb thrower.”

“First, though, I had to maintain complete control, and to create a sense of intimidation to dominate the scene. I did a quick visual scan around me, to make sure nobody else on the street was going to come from behind me, and try to be a hero. Already, down the alley, I started seeing faces poke out from the gates and fences in front of the houses, as I would have expected. Neighbors had heard the commotion and wanted to see what was going on. They were all women and girls, no cholos so far, and so I wasn’t too concerned at this moment. I looked behind me, and saw two more women’s faces looking out at us, from the gates of the houses next to the bikers’ house.”

“No one was near me, except the girl – presumably the Enduro owner’s sister – who had run up to us. I pointed directly at her, and growled, ‘Pare! [ Stop! ],’ with a tone of authority. I hoped that with my hoodie and dictator sunglasses, I looked enough like some kind of gangbanger sh*thead – the impression that I actually wanted to convey, this time – that she would be sufficiently intimidated. It seemed to work. She stopped in her tracks, open-mouthed, scared.”

“The Sanchez driver was still stunned and hurting, but the rider was starting to get up, and I knew I would have a fight on my hands if I let him get to his senses. I had to keep control of the situation, so before he could get to his feet, I whirled around and kicked him hard in the head, with a sharp karate move, a solid hit from my heel, to keep him stunned, and to dampen his drive to cause me any trouble. He wailed, and crumpled back down on the hard alley beside the sputtering bike.”

“The girl screamed his name, with fear and sisterly love in her voice, with true concern for him. I turned around and glared at her, to the extent that you can glare at someone while wearing gradient sunglasses – it kind of works. Then, through a new wave of tears, she yelled, ‘Pare!! [ Stop!! ]’ back at me, with a pathetic expression of helpless anguish building on her face. She pled, again, ‘Por favor , pare, por favor!! [ Please, stop, please!! ], her voice choking.’ Her brother was hunched over on the ground, holding his head with both hands and grunting in pain through clenched teeth, so I didn’t have to worry about him for a minute. I said to her, simply, ‘OK.’”

The driver, who had road rash all over the side of his face, and a bloody nose, probably a broken nose along with other broken bones and torn tissue in his sinuses, was still sitting on the ground, confused, gently touching his facial wounds with his hand, looking at the blood on his fingers, dripping down onto his shirt. His eye was squinted partly shut. It looked like he wasn’t ready to cause trouble, yet. He was probably going into shock.”

“Now I needed the bomb-thrower’s name. I screamed at both bikers, my voice full of fury, ‘Quem jogou a bomba? [Who threw the bomb? ] Quem jogou a bomba?? [ Who threw the bomb?? ]’

“Through his pain and bloody nose, the Sanchez driver looked up at me, grimacing, and he spit a spray of blood as he yelled something at me, probably a string of obscenities, ending with ‘Cadela! [ Bitch! ]’ Well, I suppose I deserved that. With his good eye, the kid glared at me with pure hate. For him, I was already the incarnation of evil, at this point, so it couldn’t get any worse.”

“I kept up the pressure. In English, I screamed at him, ‘I’m not f*cking around!!!’ and then, again in Portuguese, ‘Quem jogou a bomba? [Who threw the bomb? ].’ Then I screamed louder, more hysterically, at both of them, ‘You little sh*ts!! ‘Quem jogou a bomba?? [Who threw the bomb?? ] Qual é o nome dele? [ What is his name? ] O nome dele!!! [ His name!!! ], GODDAMMITT, YOU LITTLE F*CKS!!!’ I punctuated the question with furious, spitting expletives, in English. At the same time, for more emphasis, I kicked the rear fender of the bike, bumping it into the leg of the passenger, still hunched over, holding his aching head.”

“Vicious, vindictive cursing generally sounds menacing in any language, even if the literal translation isn’t understood, so I think they were getting the gist of it. I was trying to indicate, none too subtly, that I was f*cking pissed off, by this time. But the driver was again distracted with his injured face, and still had not given me an answer. The other kid was still bent over and moaning, lost in his pain, not engaged in our little ‘conversation.’ Maybe I had kicked him a little too hard.”

“Time was getting very short now. I had to go, before this situation got out of my control. Against all of my training and instincts, I reached under the hoodie and unsnapped the holster, and I slipped the combat pistol out in the open, for dramatic effect. I screamed, 'Agora!!! [ Now!!! ],' causing the kid with the bloody nose to look up at me again. When he saw the gun, a new expression of terror crossed his face. His good eye went wide. I heard the girl gasp, behind me. It worked. I had taken it to a new level.”

“’O nome dele!!! [ His name!!! ],’ I screamed again! I pointed the pistol at the boys, and then without hesitation, I aimed off to the side, and fired a shot into the dirt of the alley, far enough away to avoid a ricochet or fragmentation of the bullet hitting the boys, or myself, and hopefully no one further down the street.”

“It seemed like everyone in the vicinity screamed at once, mixing with the echoes of the shot. The girl, behind me, thinking that I had just killed her brother, screamed his name again, in horror, trailing off into a hoarse, choking cry, ‘Aaaaaagggggghhhhhh!!!’ of pure hopelessness and despair. She probably felt like I did, when I saw David die. I felt really bad for her, but I couldn't break the momentum now. I had only seconds left to do this. I had already overstayed my welcome here."

“Using the gun felt like such a cheap cinematic cliché – it’s nothing like the way we were taught to use a gun in Agency training – it just escalates the unpredictability of the situation, makes you look like a weak fool, and gets you killed. But I didn’t have any other leverage, and I was out of time.”

“The Sanchez owner got my message, this time. He yelled out a first and last name. I screamed back at him, ‘O que?? [ What?? ]’ I wanted to make sure I heard it right, and that he had said it right. He recited the name again, more clearly, ending in a ragged, bloody cough, and then he sneezed blood, causing him to wail with pain, from the sudden pressure on his cracked sinuses. He was gripping the side of his face now, with white knuckles, trying to stop the agony. I had gotten what I needed.”

“I holstered the gun. With the sound of that gunshot ringing up and down the alley, I knew I really had to get out of there, fast. The entire neighborhood was out in the street now, gawking at the scene I had created. The voices of the neighbors were getting louder, accusatory in tone. Understandably. The use of the gun had really made this situation degenerate further, as expected.”

“I had to move, but I was a long way from the Mesa. Riding the BMX back to the Mesa, up that long alley, would take forever, even if the bike were still operable after the wreck, and surely someone would try to intercept me, and I’d have to fight. I didn’t want to have to shoot anybody out here in this neighborhood. ‘F*ck!,’ I thought, ‘I should have thought things through. This situation sure went to hell!!’”

“I looked down and noted that the Sanchez, lying on its side, between me and the driver, was idling, still running – it hadn’t flooded yet. My instinct kicked in that I should hop on it, and drive it back to the Mesa, fast. After that, I had no idea – I hadn’t even thought about how things would play out, after I had gotten my revenge. But I knew damn well that I didn’t want the local police to catch me here.”

“I quickly grabbed the handlebars of the sputtering Sanchez, squeezed the clutch lever and pulled the bike upright, toward me and away from the driver, who was still sitting on the ground, holding the side of his bloody face. Neither kid had any inclination to try to stop me, with their injuries, especially after I had fired the gun. They were hurting bad, and scared sh*tless. ‘That’s enough revenge for today,’ I thought.”

“I mounted the bike and toed the gearshift back to first gear, gunned the throttle and popped the clutch, digging my left heel into the hard dirt so I could whip around the Sanchez in a cloud of dust, to head back up the alley in the direction I had originally come from. I blasted past the girl, who didn’t even look at me, her focus being solely on her brother, as she ran, sobbing, to comfort him. I felt like an asshole.”

“I gunned it up the alley with the Sanchez at nearly full throttle, but only in second gear, just like the kids had been doing, in their panic. I felt that in this tight situation, I needed the bike’s responsiveness, more than the speed, so shifting to a higher gear would have been the wrong move. I was already halfway up to the end of the alley.”

“I was watching everyone on both sides of the street, to make sure nobody was going to try to be a hero and jump out to knock me off the bike. In the back of my mind, I noticed that it’s interesting and ironic, how quickly situations can turn around, and you find yourself in the same situation as your victims. But in fact, at that instant, I had no idea how true that random thought was going to turn out to be. In a few minutes, I was about to find out.”


Stay tuned for CHAPTER 16. Pain from the Past (Part 6): Somewhere in the Distance, a Dog Barked

Edited by saintsrow
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OK, feedback post time because I figure this thing right about deserves some already. I haven't actually read it all yet, so I'm just basing this "review" of sorts off the first 6 chapters. I can only assume the story has gone on similarly since then though.


You've got a diverse vocabulary, a good asset to have because it prevents our poor lovesick protagonist's narration from becoming repetitive. For that, I applaud you - hell, it may have crucially contributed to me sticking around to faithfully binge read. :p


Another thing I like is the general feeling of the story not taking itself too seriously. It's a shame not everyone got the joke on the GTAO forums, but then, judging by the popularity, this story clearly proves that there's no such thing as negative publicity.


So then, with all that said, what exactly is my opinion of the titular character? After all, she's the center of attention and all.


The answer is simple: Wow! What a woman! What a badass! :p



Also 10/10 for the opening meme


Edited by Carbonox
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:) ^ Thanks so much for the good reading of the story. :^: You have commented on all of the elements that I tried to apply in the story, and I really appreciate it.


The first 6 chapters were supposed to be the end of it (ending 'happily ever after'), but then against better judgment, I went further. The theme diverges somewhat, and the humor is less, in these later chapters.


EDIT: And yes, I agree, no publicity is bad publicity. This keeps getting proven over and over again, in real life, in GTAV, and on the GTAF :p





So then, with all that said, what exactly is my opinion of the titular character? After all, she's the center of attention and all.


The answer is simple: Wow! What a woman! What a badass! :p

:):) This makes me smile

Edited by saintsrow
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Alright, Carbon already did a review, and I have to say, that you can write pretty well, so take my advice, write something serious.


I have but one complaint. Max Payne...the alert eyes, the straight posture, the cleanliness, the lack of a haggard face...these things don't do Max justice. One major part of Max's likeability is his morbidity, his pessimism, being a world where everything has changed while he locked that door and drank himself to oblivion and beyond.


Hell, Max Payne 3 was probably the best part of the trilogy for me, because the game both pushed you and Max to extremes, it was like being sucked into his spiral of insanity. That Rodrigo's office mission and that finale at the airport are two of gaming's best set-pieces.


I hope you get what I'm trying to say.



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Alright, Carbon already did a review, and I have to say, that you can write pretty well, so take my advice, write something serious.


I have but one complaint. Max Payne...the alert eyes, the straight posture, the cleanliness, the lack of a haggard face...these things don't do Max justice. One major part of Max's likeability is his morbidity, his pessimism, being a world where everything has changed while he locked that door and drank himself to oblivion and beyond.


Hell, Max Payne 3 was probably the best part of the trilogy for me, because the game both pushed you and Max to extremes, it was like being sucked into his spiral of insanity. That Rodrigo's office mission and that finale at the airport are two of gaming's best set-pieces.


I hope you get what I'm trying to say.



:^::^: Thanks so much for the read and review! I agree with everything you say above. :turn:


I'm also thinking that if I put such effort into writing, yes, it should be for something more serious and less flippant. I hadn't ever done this before, i.e., no writing of fiction like this. The events and characters of GTAV gave me a good (and necessary) framework, and from that, I found the process of writing and trying to make it flow, to be an educational and interesting exercise. I also partly channeled the tone of a writer that I like and re-read often.


So I've been doing this now, until the Karen muse leaves me (soon, I hope), just because it has given me great insight into the way writers have to think and work and revise. I now look at novels, TV and movies in a whole different light, just from this exercise -- I see how artificial and constructed the stories and the dialog are, how they grow out of a process, and how they warp and mutate with the slightest thought or decision or random experience of the writer. Bottom line, I'm really just doing it now for the writer's educational value (but I'm glad, of course, if any readers are entertained). It's become a burden to keep this story in my mind for 6 months. I look forward to a satisfying conclusion.


I think one of the real challenges in writing is to maintain a consistent theme that pervades the structure, reaching from the the entire point of the story, down to the motivations of the characters, down to the pacing and the vocabulary, and right down to the choice of words ands structure in individual sentences. A great challenge, indeed, and I'm only dabbling.



Now, about Max: The more I watch the Max Payne 3 playthroughs and cutscenes, the more impressed I am at the consistency and the theme. Originally I thought it was kind of heavy-handed, formulaic, forced noir, but by definition, that's the life of Max. On repeated viewing, I did empathize more with the character, with his failures and his downward emotions. And, (also by design) he's got some great cynical lines. :)


I especially hear what you say about Max versus my description. Very good reading, and I appreciate it! My point of view comes out of the apparently happier and free Max in the final scene of MP3. I wanted to extrapolate from that moment, that he has finally gotten beyond some of his demons, and maybe he stops feeling so down in general, and starts caring more about himself or at least cares about living, without being so down on himself. That's what was going on here, and that's actually what made me want to put him in the story. Maybe it's sacrilege, but I felt that Max has suffered enough. :p


If I can just get through another one or two overly-detailed, divergent chapters that I'm trying to slog through, that I wish I hadn't gotten myself into, I plan to get back to Max, and spend a bit of time on why I put him in the the story in the first place.


Thanks again for your insight!!

Edited by saintsrow
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Congratulations on making it this far, faithful fans of Karen!

In this chapter, Karen finds out that exterminating gangsters has its complications. Her exciting day continues ...

This chapter follows immediately from CHAPTER 15.

CHAPTER 16. Pain from the Past (Part 6): Somewhere in the Distance, a Dog Barked

Karen and I stood shoulder to shoulder, our elbows leaning on the railing at the end of Pleasure Pier, as the bright Los Santos sun had moved lower in the sky, and the temperate afternoon wind off the ocean was picking up. Karen’s long story had developed far beyond what I expected, when she began to tell it. The sound of the waves lapping against the pier pilings was a pervasive background soundtrack, subconsciously lulling me into another time and place, years ago, with Karen.

By this time, I was so engaged in Karen’s story, with all of its violence, and the unrelenting sense of tension, that I felt a pit of adrenaline and fear building in my own gut. I was really starting to understand, now, what she had implied to me, that my simple question, asking how she had come to be like she is, had no simple answer.

Karen continued, “I reached the end of the alley and leaned into a hard turn, on the Sanchez, to head two blocks over, to where I had parked the Mesa. But as I got to the final block, in the distance, I saw that two cars were parked in front of the Mesa, along with about six idiotas, a few of whom were poking around inside the Mesa, and the others standing around, on well-practiced lookout duty, scanning both directions up and down the road. My micro SMG was still in the Mesa, wedged down beside the driver’s seat. Damn.”

“I could tell by their cars, their clothes, and their bearing, that they were not police, but instead were the same kind of scum as the gang I had just rained vengeance upon. Under my breath, I growled, ‘Sh*t, sh*t, SH*T!!!’ Then I thought, man, what I wouldn’t give to have an RPG launcher in my back pocket, right about now. But that’s not how things work.”

“They saw me at the same moment as I saw them, and since I was still wearing the same hoodie as when I blew up their buddies’ condo, I knew they immediately recognized me, even from that distance. Surely a number of witnesses in the neighborhood had given them descriptions of the Mesa and the hoodie-wearing attacker – that’d be me. :*(

“The adrenaline hit me in the chest like a hammer. I hadn’t counted on another fight, beyond my revenge ambush attacks, where I had the edge. This was a clusterf*ck – the odds were 6 to 1 against me, and I had no tactical advantage.”

“The irony was rich – staring down six dirtbag locals, at the end of a long, dusty street in an obscure South American town, the bright, white afternoon sun beating down. It was like I had just ridden into a scene from of one of those old John Marston video games, turned a corner into Armadillo, and suddenly I’m facing down six of the local boss’s tobacco-spitting, whore-mongering, saloon-soused capangas. And here I was, with no Dead Eye. ‘F*ck,’ I thought, ‘I’m toast!’”

“Now I was the one who was scared sh*tless. All the worst-case scenarios swirled in my gut at once, compounding my fear. First and foremost, of course, was the basic one – just getting riddled with bullets by these sh*theads, turning me and my hoodie into Swiss cheese, as I either tried to get away, or stayed to fight. If I was going to go down by their hand, I wanted it to be in a full-out tactical battle, in cover, where I could take as many of them with me as possible – not getting gunned down, like a fool, in the middle of the street. I felt the weight of hopeless defeat suddenly settling in. Goddammitt, what a f*ckup!!!”

“Then I thought, that’s not the worst case. The alternative scenarios were that they knock me off the bike and I get knocked out, or they taser me, or they just chase me down on foot, so that even if I manage to take out a couple of them, I can’t escape, and they grab me, alive. The Agency had already briefed us about these insurgent-affiliated criminal gangs, prior to our mission, so I knew how bad it could be. For the trouble I’d caused them today, they’d make a proper example of me.“

“They’d beat me soundly, and maybe violate me with some foreign objects from the trunk of their car, like the flashlight and the flare gun, for example – just to add an extra dose of male-on-female humiliation, when they find out that it was a woman who had kicked their macho asses earlier today.”

“Then they’d take me back to their boss’s place, to get down to the real thing. They’d drag me to his game room, push aside the foosball table, and roll out a plastic painter’s tarp on the floor. Then I’d be hung up and stripped naked, for an extended torture session, as their evening’s entertainment.”

“After it was over, they’d cut the wires, so that what’s left of me would splat down onto the bloody tarp with the rest of my bits. Then, a couple of the goons would be assigned to wrap up the mess inside the tarp, being careful not to spill any blood, slices of flesh, or fingers, eyeballs or teeth, on the hardwood floor.”

“They’d lug the bloody package out and toss it into the trunk of their car. In the dead hours of the night, they’d drive it out to the local landfill, where they routinely dispose of their post-torture biohazard. When the trashpickers find me there the next morning, the gossip can spread around town about what happens to a stupid cadela who f*cked with the homies.”

“My fear started to overwhelm me, making me feel like I was going to throw up. Then I thought, a comforting thought under the circumstances, when they’re closing in on me, when there’s no more hope, I’ll save my last bullet for myself, or if I’m out of bullets, a grenade.”

“For one brief instant, for the tiniest moment of time, as I was still rolling toward them on the Sanchez, I emotionally re-considered the plan I had thought of, when I originally conceived my revenge – a suicide attack, which would solve all my problems at once. I still had the two grenades, one in each cargo pocket of my pants. If I could pull one of the pins, I could blast straight into the midst of these f*cks. I’d surely take a fatal load of bullets on the way in, but if I timed it right, I’d get posthumous revenge, courtesy of the grenade.”

“However, I dismissed it in an instant, mostly because I realized that I couldn’t easily pull either of the pins, deep down in the cargo pockets, while keeping my track and my speed toward the scumbags, and without taking my hand off the throttle and slowing down, probably stopping completely. It wouldn’t work, and the timing wouldn’t be right. They’d see what I was doing, and I’d be fumbling, sitting there on the bike with a dumb look on my face, like bad AI in some piece of sh*t video game, and I’d be shot down before even I got close. Even if I decided not to suicide it, the grenades still wouldn’t help – long before I got nearly close enough to toss the grenades at them, I’d already be gunned down. F*ck!!”

“They hadn’t started shooting yet. I was still almost a block away, too far for anything but a lucky shot. Instead, they were starting to run for their cars, to chase me down. Immediately, I pulled in the clutch and braked hard, whipping the bike around in the opposite direction, so I could run like hell. I twisted full throttle for the main road, just four or five blocks away, so I could open up the bike and try to get far enough ahead of the goons, and find someplace to duck in, where the cars couldn’t follow. That was as deep as my plan went. I didn’t have anything better. I was so f*cked!”

“As I blasted toward the main road, I wished now that I had left an armed sticky bomb in the Mesa – at that moment, with all those thugs right there, it would have been soooo sweet, to push the detonator button. But I had already used both of my stickies at the condo, dammit, and anyway, such a clever contingency hadn’t occurred to me at the time. Also, I didn’t expect to be engaged for so long with the bikers, and I didn’t think the thugs could find me so quickly. Wrong on all counts. Such are the penalties for poor planning.”

“I was regretting now that I hadn’t done a better recon the first time I visited the bikers’ neighborhood. Though it would have taken a lot of time, that I didn’t have then, I should have had the sense to look for a place to park the Mesa that was out of sight, not sitting on the main street like a giant billboard, screaming, ‘Looking for your killer? She’s right here! Come and get her! First shot free!!’ More poor planning and preparation ... I guessed that this is what it’s like to learn on the job – not very damn satisfying, for sure.”

“Five blocks away, I hit the main road out of town, banked deep into the turn, scraping the footpeg on the asphalt, and then I leaned forward into the wind, quickly clicking to top gear, getting near top speed on the Sanchez, and hoping to hell that no car or truck would suddenly pull into my path at a blind intersection. Once in top gear, I took my hand off the clutch so I could pull the hoodie strings tight around my face; otherwise, the hood was catching the wind and slowing me down. I headed toward the coast, away from town.”

“I wasn’t running the professional script anymore, not running pure, fearless, flawless, well-planned training and instinct. Now I was just running for my life, and the adrenaline and fear were making me feel weak in the knees, and sick to my stomach, as I continued to gun the bike, no longer in control of anything, expect a straight-line trajectory to what was likely going to be a very bad end. This sh*t was out of control, with no backup, and I was fully aware that I had put myself here.”

“I had known this feeling of full adrenaline shock years before, back when I was undercover, and things were going to hell. There are two kinds of adrenaline – the good adrenaline, that makes you insanely strong and fearless, brainstem reflex, running on pure will without even being aware of your body’s limitations, and then there’s the other kind, which is just raw, debilitating fear.”

That’s the kind of adrenaline hit I had now – raw fear. It makes you feel like jelly, hollow and sick inside, helpless but reckless, desperate, irrational, just the opposite of the cool, methodical mindset of the super-planned ops undertaken by the Agency, which are as precise and as tight as a well-oiled SMG – well, at least until some adversary f*cks them up – but even then, there are layers of planned contingencies, and you always feel in control. But not now.”

“In the warm, secure nest of the Agency – with their methods, their training, their pure philosophy, their ways of executing operations that almost always seemed to go as smooth as silk, with the supreme confidence the Agency instills in you – I had developed a robust, subconscious layer of mental armor, so that the bad adrenaline never kicked in. I had never expected the raw fear to come back, but here it was, because I had gone completely outside the guidelines, I was careless and rash, and I had let emotion set my path.”

“I had to fight the panic. I had to get my mind back to disciplined situational thinking, to focus on the bigger context. Now I thought of David, and it immediately made me feel better, knowing that I had, in fact, mostly executed my plan for vengeance that I had vowed, when I was screaming into the sky two nights ago, as I knelt in his blood, next to him. I hardened my jaw. I felt my purpose coming back.”

“Thinking of that final scene renewed my focus on my mission of revenge, reminding me of the single-minded intent that put me here, and helped give me the mental strength to follow this through, not to give up halfway. Remembering our work in the blockhouse, and everything that came before, brought back the whole context of my Agency work, of the discipline that’s inherent in it, of the reason that I was here.”

“It worked so well. I felt my mind switch, from the panicked haze of my raw fear, back to the rational, focused, willful mindset that lets an agent act with confidence, with grace, with fearlessness, with professional skill, unblemished by emotion. You don’t think consciously about the outcome, no matter how bad it could be – you can’t do that, or you *will* die – usually horribly. If you’ve properly absorbed all your training, all your conditioning, then you just feel the Force and go with it; it’s almost exactly like that.”

“I felt back in control now. I concentrated on the dynamics of the immediate situation. First, I needed to know how much of a lead I had. The Sanchez’s rear view mirror vibrated so much at high revs, even on this paved road, that it was useless for checking for the thugs’ cars tailing me, so I had to occasionally glance quickly backward, not an easy trick under these conditions. At 130 kilometers per hour, on a bike in traffic, taking one’s eyes off the road ahead is a free ticket to a closed-casket funeral.”

“After about 30 seconds, I saw them in the distance, tiny dots on the main road far behind me, passing a slower car, and I knew they would be catching up – my Sanchez would not be as fast as their cars, on the highway. Soon, I needed to start looking for side road exits that would not trap me. Many of these side roads just ended in the forest, a few hundred feet in. It’s like somebody decided to build a road, and then they just got tired of working on it after a few days.”

“One thing I had going for me was that I knew this highway, that we were on. It led to the coast, only about 8 kilometers away. Our team had come into town on this road, at the beginning, the start of our mission. We initially arrived in country at the larger, international airport, in Salvador, Bahia, because we had to collect our spy cargo at that airport, and we drove up from there. I remember being so happy and enthusiastic, with David and the mentors, as we anticipated this new project, in this tropical locale. I was looking forward to driving to the coast with David, when we had the time.”

“However, David and I had gotten only one road trip to the coast, driving the Mesa out this way, one beautiful day. We visited a couple of little resort spots on the beach, and drove a few of the backroads branching off from this highway. It hadn’t been that long ago. I remembered that one of the backroads went past a small lake, with a narrow access lane going to lakeside cabins, bordering the lake for most of its perimeter. I remembered that the map showed the cabin lane looping back around to the main road again, though we hadn’t driven it the whole way.”

“The intersection for that lake road was coming up shortly. I figured that a good strategy would be getting off the main road, into the woods and dirt roads where I could possibly outmaneuver the thugs’ cars, on a road that I sort of knew.”

“The thugs were slowly closing on me, seeming to be only about 15 or 20 seconds behind me, now. I had to stay out of their weapons range – or it would be the end of my little escapade. I was hoping that I could either lose them on the back road, or make it all the way to the beach, where I envisioned riding the Sanchez out onto the sand, getting far enough away from the passable roads and streets, that they couldn’t follow me in their cars, so I could get a couple of miles up the coast to the north and disappear. I knew what parts of the beach looked like, down there, and I had a sort of a plan in mind, on which way I would go, if and when I got there.”

“I was still more than 5 kilometers from the coast. So far, I had been damn lucky and only had to pass wide around two slow-moving trucks on the road, with no traffic coming the other way at those moments. It helped that the thugs’ cars had been slowed by these trucks, as well.”

“I was coming up to the turn I wanted to make. It was going to be on the left. Once more, I leaned deeply into the turn, but I had to slow down enough that I wouldn’t slide, when the bike transitioned to the loose, gritty surface of the side road. I’ve laid down a bike on a sandy hardpack before, so I knew how easy it was to screw up. But I made the turn easily, with the Sanchez tires gripping the road tightly, and then I opened up the throttle to try to create more distance from the thugs. It was an empty wish that the thugs would not have seen my brakelight, and seen me make the turn. I knew they would be following me this way.”

“About 1 kilometer in, I was getting close to the segment of the road that passed the lake, and close to the fork that turned off toward the cabins. I had to reach the fork, before they saw me turn to the cabin lane. I put on as much speed as I could, hoping that I wouldn’t hit a hole or a rut, which would be disastrous.”

“I got to the fork, and I turned onto the narrow lane leading toward the cabins around the lake, which would clearly be a less desirable route, for the high speed chase we were in, so I was hoping that they would think I continued on the wider road. This lane led into a dense stand of trees that had only been cleared around the cabins. The woods here were dense enough to hopefully obscure my sightline, from a distance, so the thugs would not know that I had turned."

“I had an idea, in case they came down this lane, but it was risky, a last stand. I hoped I wouldn’t need it. The good news is that I was back in my rational mindset now. Taking a last stand was just another choice, a calculated risk, with a contingency tree. I was already into this mess, at this point, so the initial odds were set, and the only thing I could do now is use tactics to improve my immediate odds. As long as I had cover, and the advantage of ambush, the fighting odds were as good as I was going to get. I was ready now for whatever played out. I knew I could make the best choices, in the moment.”

“But first, it depended on my getting out of their line of sight, well before they arrived at the fork. I headed the Sanchez into the front yard of the first cabin on the right, and quickly rode around to the far side of the cabin, hidden. I had to slow way down – the yard was rough, with tree roots, and soft, dirt-filled holes where stumps had been dug out. I hoped that I had gotten out of sight in time. It seemed like I had made it – I didn’t hear the cars behind me, yet.”

“The cabin appeared to be unoccupied, no cars around, which suited my contingency plan – otherwise, I’d have to worry about collateral damage – some hapless resident walking out of his cabin to see what all the commotion was about. The thugs would cap anybody who moved, out of pure reflex. I didn’t want that. I skidded to a stop in the dirt and leaned the Sanchez against a tree at the edge of the clearing on the far side of the cabin, out of sight of the fork in the road a couple hundred feet away, and I ran on behind the cabin, as I heard the cars come up to the intersection.”

“They slowed down, and I heard some yelling between the two cars. I peeked out, conveniently hidden behind a bush at the cabin’s corner nearest the fork, and I could see in the distance that one of the cars quickly accelerated on down the wide branch of the fork, continuing on the side road as I hoped they would, but unfortunately, the other car turned down my lane, picking up speed.”

“The contingency was in play, then. I had to do this right. Thank goodness there was only one car. By trying to cover both routes, they had divided their forces, and thus giving me a much better advantage than I would have had – well, less of a disadvantage, to be more accurate about it.”

“There were only a few seconds to do this. I fished out the grenade from the cargo pocket on the right leg of my pants. I pulled the pin, still holding tightly onto the clip, and holding tightly onto the pin as well, just in case I needed to re-pin the grenade. But from this corner of the cabin, I saw that my throw angle relative to the car’s path was not going to be good – the bush I was behind, and the front porch, were both in my way. The car would be too far past, by the time I would be able to run out and throw.”

“I was going to have to run fast, back to the far side of the cabin, near the Sanchez, to throw the grenade. In case it’s not obvious – it’s stupid to run like a fool with an unpinned grenade. If you trip on a tree root or a rock or a hole, you can kiss your sorry ass goodbye, as well as the rest of your treasured anatomy. But I needed the better angle. By the time I got there, the car would also be past the cabin, and they would see the Sanchez. I was committed, now.”

“As I was heading back toward the far side of the cabin, I realized that if they saw the Sanchez and slowed down, that could actually work for me, though it would expose me to the risk of gunfire. So I had to time this just right. As I got to the far corner of the cabin, in cover, I heard the brakes squeak as the car slowed to a stop. They must have seen the bike. They knew I was here, maybe thinking that I had run into the woods. This was it.”

“I released the clip on the grenade. I knew it had a 3 second fuse. I held it for just one second, and then I popped out from behind the corner of the cabin, where I could see the car, so I would know where to toss the grenade, but they could also see me. One more second. I gave the grenade a fastball toss toward the car, and ducked back behind the corner of the cabin as I heard an SMG let loose, peppering the side of the cabin with a hail of bullets. These guys were trigger-happy f*cks, shooting as soon as they saw any kind of movement.”

“My grenade hit the passenger side of their car with a ‘thunk,’ fell to the ground, and then immediately exploded. Perfect timing. :^: I heard the shrapnel whistling and ripping through the tree leaves and branches above me, hitting the windows of the cabin, and pinging the ground in front of my feet. I was just inside the blast shadow created by the corner of the cabin.”

“At the same time, I also heard car body panels bouncing off the road surface or the front porch of the cabin. A few birds, chilling in the shade in the tops of the trees above the cabin, chirped with alarm as they instantly took flight, in a chaotic flutter of wings. The sharp pulse of the explosion echoed off the trees, deep into the forest, for three or four seconds, until it died out.”

“Then all was quiet. Somewhere in the distance, a dog barked.”

“In those few seconds as the echoes died, I had snapped out my pistol from its holster. The clip was still almost full, down only one shot, that I had used to scare the kids. This was the riskiest part. I had to assess the situation, but if any of those thugs weren’t stunned, it would be a matter of luck whether I could target them before they targeted me. And they had SMGs. In case I needed the cover, I headed at full sprint for the tree that I had leaned the Sanchez against, surveying the damaged car while I was running.”

“I got lucky on this one. The two thugs on the passenger side, nearest me, where the grenade had hit, weren’t moving. The rear passenger side door and rear fender had been blown off. But the driver was kicking open his door, facing away from me, trying to get out, and get to cover. He was partly obscured by the unconscious thug in the front passenger seat. I had less than a second to target the driver, through the blown-out passenger window of the car. I stopped mid-stride, and aimed, taking one shot, hitting him in the right shoulder blade. I heard him curse.”

“He momentarily gave up trying to get his door open, and quickly turned back toward me, to assess what he was up against. I was running toward him, toward the front of the car, to get the best shot I could. He didn’t seem to have a gun in his hand, so I had the luxury of a good couple of seconds, to stop again, and aim carefully, putting my iron sights right on the center of his face.”

“While I was aiming, he was fumbling inside his jacket, probably trying to get to a pistol he had holstered in there, but his right arm was lame now, from the shoulder shot, so he couldn’t reach over to the concealed holster under his left arm. He wasn’t going to make it. I saw his eyes go wide, looking right into mine, down my sights, as he realized he was screwed. I didn’t waste even a half second. Headshot!”

“That took care of the driver. I sprinted the last few steps to the car, and put one bullet each, point blank, into the heads of the two unconscious, unmoving thugs, just to be sure. I was starting to get used to the carnage, now. It had been quite a day – several dead goons, a couple of beat-up kids, and it was only an hour or so past siesta time.”

“So I had three thugs yet to fight, with 7 rounds left in this clip, a grenade in my left cargo pocket, and one more full pistol clip in my hoodie pocket. I switched clips, putting the full clip in the pistol and placing the partial clip back in my hoodie. The situation was still out of control, but my odds were improving...”


Karen’s holding her own, but she's taking big risks! How long can this go on?

Stay tuned for CHAPTER 17. Pain from the Past (Part 7): End of the Line

Edited by saintsrow
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Karen is only partly out of the woods, now, literally and figuratively. Her skills have gotten her this far, but she’s generated a lot of ill will today ... :p

By the way, as Karen tells her story, you should have been reading these last several chapters in Karen / Michelle / Rebecca voice. Seriously. It’s beautiful that way. :D

CHAPTER 17. Pain from the Past (Part 7): End of the Line

This chapter follows immediately from Chapter 16.


“Now I had to move, fast. The sound of the grenade echoing through the trees would surely have been heard by the thugs in the other car, so I had to get back on the Sanchez and head down the lane toward the rest of the cabins, going most of the way around the lake. I couldn’t stay here and count on another ambush advantage, now that they knew my tactics, and I couldn’t head back to the fork in the road, where the thugs’ car would be coming from.”

“I hoped I could go around the lake to reach the road again, where David and I had partly driven before. If there were a gate or a chain somewhere across the lane since I’d been here last, I’d be sh*t out of luck.”

“As a contingency, I rustled my last grenade out of the cargo pocket, and put it in the belly pocket of my hoodie, so I’d be able to reach the grenade, if I had a chance to use it while I was riding. It would still be really awkward to pull the pin while riding the bike at speed, but at least it might be possible. And if they managed to get so close that they were only three seconds behind me, I’d *have* to use it, because I’d already be getting shot at.”

“I hopped back on the Sanchez and kickstarted the engine to life, hoping that it had plenty of gas. It’d be a right bitch if the bike ran out of gas in the middle of this little episode of the
that I had inadvertently set in motion. I gunned the Sanchez back onto the narrow lane, blasting past the thugs’ grenade-kissed car. I wondered, for just a moment, if I would have a better chance of escape by jacking the car, but the rear passenger side tire was flat, and I didn’t know what other hidden damage it had taken underneath, from the grenade.”

“I didn’t wait to see if the remaining thugs had made the turn toward the cabins. I knew they would. I blasted on down the lane at the fastest speed that I could safely make the turns. I didn’t look back.”

“As I was in the zone now, taking the corners quickly, but carefully, I took a moment to actually appreciate and enjoy the fun of riding this motorcycle. Riding a bike hard, whipping it through the turns, shifting your weight, and feeling like it’s part of you, is a singular thrill, nothing else like it. It really feels like you’re flying low, over the surface of the road, like you’ve got automatic, bionic super-legs. I thought, if I get out of this alive, and manage to stay out of a Brazilian jail, maybe I’ll get myself a dirt bike.” :)

“But that kind of hopeful, optimistic thinking, is almost as bad as panicking – it distracts you, gets you out of your zone. I had to save it for later. Now, I had to feel the bike, feel the dynamics of the situation, and not lose a second, in this deadly chase. It was still a long, winding path back to the highway, and I had to stay focused. There were still plenty of things to go wrong.”

“I figured I had gained some distance from the thugs, on this winding, narrow lane. Finally, I was coming back to the highway now, and I would be only about 3 kilometers from the coast. In spite of my training, I started to feel a bit more hopeful. I refocused my concentration on the task at hand, shifting my weight on the footpegs, to be ready to lean into the turn onto the highway.”

“As I got to the main road, there was visual blockage in both directions, due to dense trees and brush, so I had to slow, to see the oncoming traffic. I didn’t want to end up under the wheels of some farmer’s haywagon. Sure enough, Murphy’s f*cking Law being in full effect, there was traffic in both directions at that moment. As I reached the road, trying to maintain my momentum without hitting anything, I had to swerve into the traffic in the wrong direction for a few seconds, before I could slow down and make a drifting, skidding U-turn, to continue toward the coast. That was precious time lost, dammit.”

“Now I opened it up, toward the coast road. I had no illusions that the thugs would fail to follow me. They could tell already that I was headed toward the coast, making a straight-line escape from town. I couldn’t take the risk of trying to fool them by heading back – if they saw me, I would really be screwed, with no good place to turn for several kilometers, and they would be on me by then. Back on the asphalt, they would have the speed advantage, no matter which way I turned. Everything had to go right, when I got to the coast road, because they would be on my ass by that time, for sure.”

“Thinking ahead, I recalled the coast highway, a two-lane road, which was still several hundred feet from the beach, or more, and I was mentally envisioning where I would make the turn onto one of the few little side roads in the direction that leads to the sand. When I turn onto the coast road, I would already be north of the main cluster of the beach community here; this part of the beach was pretty sparsely developed. It would be a disaster if the street I chose were a dead end. At best, there were only a few more access points cut through the trees and brush leading to the sand, which were generally there so people could reach the few field crops, resorts or cantinas out there at the end of the populated area.

“The chase was going relatively well now. I was maintaining almost max speed, passing a few cars and trucks right on the centerline of the road, sometimes within a foot or two of oncoming traffic. It was risky as hell, but I was almost there, less than 1 kilometer to the coast road. I stayed on the centerline, as I took the risk of looking behind me while maintaining this dangerous speed, to try to see if the thugs were closing on me. They were. I saw them passing a car maybe 10 seconds back. They must have been standing on the gas pedal, and making crazy passes into the opposing lane. Dammit. There was going to be no margin on this.”

“I was coming up to the T-intersection to the coast highway. Luckily, I was able to see some of the road in both directions , and the traffic was sparse, no cars too close to the intersection, just a bus heading toward me on the right, still several hundred feet away. I only had to slow down enough to keep from sliding. I made the left turn safely, and accelerated.”

“The goons’ car was closer now, however. I heard screeching tires and the bus horn, as those sh*theads pulled out right in front it, without stopping. I knew they would be gaining on me now, on this road. In another couple of seconds, I took a chance to turn around to see how far back they were. I saw them still maybe 10 seconds behind me, and a cloud of dust where they apparently overshot the intersection and had to slow down and correct, on the dirt berm, to get back on the asphalt.”

“I passed one of the side roads on my right, going way too fast. It might have been a good choice, but it was too late now. I had to seriously watch for the next one, and be ready to slow down to decide if I wanted to take it. It would be a gamble, because I’d lose more ground to those assholes behind me. I saw the next one coming up. It looked wide enough to be one of the paths that could go all the way, maybe even the last clear beach access road before a long empty stretch. I had to go for this one.”

I took the chance and slowed down, making the turn fast but wide, so I could recover if I felt the wheels slip on the hardpack surface. I was lucky again, with no cars on the highway in the path of my wide arc, and no cars on the road toward the coast. The turn was easy, and I accelerated again. There were too many trees, and the road wasn’t quite straight, so I couldn’t see the water. I hoped, with all the hope I had left, that this road would get me all the way to the beach, or to some kind of off-road terrain or trail that I could traverse, but that would cause the car to get stuck, or have to stop. I was starting to feel the fear, again.”

“I didn’t bother to look back. It’s risky to take your eyes off the ball, on an uneven road with ruts like this one had. And it didn’t matter anyway – the only thing I could do now is maintain max possible speed, and concentrate on keeping the bike on the best track on the road. This was the only chance, and the only choice, I had. Luckily, there were no cars on this road. This area was deserted. But that started to worry me – this could be a dead end.”

“I was finally coming to what should be the last gentle bend before the beach. I felt I was close, now. It looked like it was going to go all the way. But as I got there, I saw that the road turned to the left, with dense brush, and small trees in front of me, that hadn’t been cleared all the way to the beach. Sh*t!! I slowed to make the sharp turn, totally aware that the car was going to get a couple of seconds closer to me. I leaned into it, carefully, taking it as wide as I could, and I made it. I had to find an opening to the beach, right now! F*ck!!!”

“The road continued, in the new direction, with dense brush and trees on both sides, no place to turn off. Without having to look back, I knew that those sh*tbags were still closing on me. And it wasn’t looking good – the road kept very slightly bearing to the right, with the same continuous trees and dense vegetation on the right, so there must be kind of a bay out there. I tried to remember the map. I wished I knew the detail in this area, but I had only paid attention to the roads, not the coast; I only knew the Bahia coast at a coarser, larger scale. The road just kept going ...”

“This wasn’t going like I expected. But that’s what happens, when you’re desperate, and you don’t know what you’re doing. It was frustrating knowing that the beach must be close, on the other side of these trees. But if it were a bay, there might not be another way out of here, almost as bad as a dead end. Dammit!!”

“There was no one else around, no cars. This must have been an isolated area, far beyond the end of the thriving coastal communities and resort areas. That was the good news – no moving obstacles and no people for me to run into.”

“I didn’t know how close the thugs were, but it seemed like they had not shot at me yet – at least, I supposed that I would have heard a shot, if they had. And no bullets exiting my chest so far, which would have been another clue. The only sound filling my ears was the constant buzz of the Sanchez’s engine, at high revs. I probably couldn’t hear the thugs’ car, even if they were only two seconds behind me, at this point.”

“The road’s continuing curve to the right was very gentle, so I was running the bike at the max speed I could, on this hardpacked dirt surface, just trying to make sure I didn’t hit a hole. I was starting to think, why the hell did somebody carve this road way out here? It wouldn’t make sense to route it way out this far without going to something related to the coast – a pier, an orchard, or a coastal aquaculture pen, which would work in a bay, where the open ocean waves would be damped. I had to eventually reach the sand, so I could change the dynamics of this interminable chase.”

“Then I saw it, on the right. Suddenly, the brush was clear along the road, replaced with the back of a corrugated steel shack, followed by a cleared area, edged with a ramshackle, weathered wooden fence, about 15 feet back from the edge of the road, the last barrier between me and the beach! There were some empty plastic crates, and a plastic trash can, stacked against the metal wall of the shack. About 25 feet further down, I saw a narrow gap in the fence, with access to the beach. Through the gap, I could see the sand and the water. This was it, my escape route!!”

“I braked hard, going wide, preparing to make the turn through the gap in the fence carefully but fast, without the risk of catching the handlebars on either side of it. Then I’d downshift a couple of gears, and max out the throttle on the sand. I envisioned that the thugs might stop and park their car at the fence, and get out on foot, to try to get some parting shots at me as I was pulling away on the sand. That would give me several good seconds to make some distance from them. I was gonna need every single one.”

“I hadn’t ever ridden a dirt bike on deep sand, but I expected it to be squirrely. I planned to stand on the pegs and wiggle through it, until I got to the tideline or a dirt surface of some kind, where I could get hard traction and make my getaway.”

“But this was where my dirt bike luck – or skills – finally ran out. I had just pulled in the clutch and was downshifting, when I hit the deep sand. Don’t ever do that. I know now, that you want to already be accelerating, hard, so the front wheel is lightly loaded. I missed the timing by less than half a second. The front wheel dug immediately deep into the sand, and the back end of the bike flipped up like a catapult, sending me flying over the handlebars.”

“Everything happened at once, it seemed like. I didn’t have time to consciously react, before I was flying through the air, head first toward the sand. These bike flops usually happen too fast for you to do anything except just watch yourself fly ballistically toward whatever it is you’re going to hit, and you only remember it in past tense. When I landed, pretty much on my head, maybe 15 feet from the bike, I remember the sound, like when you get a really hard hit – that sound inside your head, of a whole mass of muscle fibers and ligaments, all getting scrunched at once.”

“But thank goodness, because I was in an ass-over-head tumble, I didn’t just jam my neck straight, with all my body weight and momentum, which would have been the end of it, but instead I continued to roll over, landing and sliding on my back. I had only pivoted on my head and shoulder blades. Also luckily, the impact didn’t knock the wind out of me. That would have been a hell of a disaster.”

“For me, diving into the sand was something I was actually good at – I used to play a lot of beach volleyball in college back in Liberty City, so this was a good landing, under the circumstances, although at a much higher speed and energy than any volleyball game, ever.

“I had probably tucked my chin down, reflexively, which saved me from a broken neck and total paralysis – not that being paralyzed for life would matter, if the thugs were going to kill me in another 15 seconds, but it would have been unimaginable horror, to be laying there paralyzed, looking up at them as they walked around me, deciding how they were going to make me suffer.”

“I was stunned for I don’t know how long, but it was probably just a few seconds. For those few seconds, everything was surreal. The weirdest thing was, I thought I heard a cheerful woman’s voice saying, in English, ‘

“It made no sense, but that external stimulus helped bring me back to reality. I immediately realized what had happened, and remembered that I was being chased by a car. Lying on my back, sprawled in the sand, I quickly looked up and out ahead of me, but all I saw was the beach and the water. I was confused for a fraction of a second, until I realized that they must be behind me!”

“I planted my hand in the sand and started to whip myself around, hoping that I didn’t have any broken or dislocated bones that would suddenly flare in agony, to arrest my motion. Guarding against that possibility slowed me down somewhat.”

“As I was turning around and getting up to a sitting posture, I heard the sound of tires braking on the dirt road surface, as the thugs had slowed where I had made the turn and disappeared, and then the sound of splintering wood, loud, as they blindly crashed their car though the gap in the rickety wooden fence, bending it down flat on one side, and they were bearing down on me! Holy sh*t – I thought that was the end, right there!”

“However, the car had rolled up over the Sanchez, as the bike dug itself into the sand, catching on the frame of the car, making an obscene sound of bending, rending metal, and raising the front bumper of the car slightly, as the bike rolled and folded under the car’s engine and further back, catching on the firewall.”

“Sorry, Sanchez... you had served me well ... I felt a pulse of sadness – I had bonded with the bike, in the short time I rode it. That bike had saved my ass up to this point, and even now it was trying to save me one last time, all the way to its terrible end. I felt like the bike was part of me; and suddenly, I wanted more revenge, just for what they did to the bike.”

“It looked like the driver had hit the brakes anyway, as soon as he saw the bike in his path, so with the combination of braking and the bike digging in, the car lurched to a stop, just about 5 feet from me, as I got myself to a stable sitting position. Oh god, what a scare! But I already knew what was coming next.”

“They saw that I was down, so I think they were now hoping to take me alive, instead of opening fire instantly. That gave me a couple of seconds to think. This was it – really it, the End with a capital E. There was no way out, now. Less than ten feet away, point blank, three of them, with SMG’s. And me, with my combat pistol – if I even still had it on my waist, after the wreck – holstered under my hoodie. If I drew my gun, I might get off one or two shots, and they’d spray me with 60.”

“So, it was over. I knew what I had to do. I was psychologically ready, now, in this moment. I reached my left hand into the belly pocket of my hoodie, and the grenade was still there. I grabbed it firmly and took it out of the pocket – I couldn’t afford to fumble this – and I immediately looped my right finger through the ring, ready to pull the pin, ending this whole sh*tshow, once and for all. I’d release the clip, count off two seconds, and then hold the grenade up in the air and just smile, as those f*ckwads, less than 10 feet away from me, would have one final second to realize what was going to happen to them.”

“It had been a hell of a ride. If you have to go out – and we all do – this is probably one of the best ways to do it, instant oblivion, taking your tormentors with you.”

“In that instant, in those few seconds, as the thugs were getting out of their car, looking at me, and I looking at them, as I knew I was going to pull the pin, I had a revelation.”

“All the moments of my life were suddenly alive in me at once, all my memorable moments from elementary school, the love and warmth of my parents at home, all the happy holidays, the wonderful trips I had taken, emotions of excitement and anticipation and tenderness and love, all the beautiful happy memories of my childhood and teen years – before my life went to sh*t in my fourth year of college – and then my wonderful, empowering time and love with David. These experiences were all there, so poignant, so vivid, so meaningful. These beautiful moments of my life suddenly seemed perfect, destined, absolute.”

“And at that instant, I suddenly felt like I had grokked simultaneously the insignificant and yet unimaginably complex nature of our finite little lives, our brief existence in this universe, and the infinite value of each minute of life, relative to the eternity of non-existence. It’s only when you’re counting down your last few seconds, then your last second, and then your last half-second, like a Zeno’s Paradox on the final trajectory to the endless darkness of your death, that the whole of your life expands in inverse proportion, and you really see how complex, how beautiful, how unknowably magical it all was, way too late to benefit from that singular insight. But I was ready.”

“The thugs had seen the grenade, and now they were moving faster. I had no time to try to get to my feet, so I just stayed there, sitting on the sand, five feet from the front bumper, grenade in hand, ready to pull the pin.”

“The two thugs on the passenger side were out of the car, only 10 feet away from me, or even less, having slammed their doors and now moving forward to get a clear shot at me. They were starting to raise their SMGs, intending to point them at me to fire – knowing it might be their last willful act, if they didn’t ventilate me before I pulled the pin. The driver was a little slower. He had his pistol out, leading with it, as he opened his door, still getting out of the car.”

“I don’t know why I hadn’t already pulled the pin. I think I was just momentarily fascinated, and confused, with the all of the movement in front of me, so many things happening at once. I felt frozen, just watching, suddenly no longer a part of this world.”

“Your mind goes to a weird place, a place you’ve never been, when you truly decide and commit to end it all. Plus, it may have been a combination of the lingering effect of being stunned when I hit the ground, the impulse of fear I felt, when it seemed like my face was about to be impressed on the grill of the thugs’ car, and the flood of my life’s memories and my true realization that this was the end of the line.”

“Whatever, it was surreally surreal. I idly wondered if I were already dead, and this was just the last conscious, dying memory, imprinted on my brain as it ran out of oxygen, and began its descent into final oblivion, as is the way of all flesh. I decided that I probably already lay splayed in the sand, in a bloody heap, from the thugs’ gunshots. I wondered if I had actually pulled the pin, and released the clip as my dead hand let go of the grenade. I hoped I had, so that those bastards were dead or dying, too. But now, I’d never know...”


Oh noes, fans of Karen!! I didn’t want it to end like this ...

Karen has accepted her fate. She has gotten her revenge, played out her rogue hand to the end, and now, what? Is it really the end for her, the final sigh, the big sleep, game over? Has Karen gone off to kick ass with the angels, leaving O. P. all alone on this mortal coil?

Edited by saintsrow
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Dun dun DUuuuuh?


Fricking talented ass saints, i cant read anymore of your sh*t. You reveal too much about yourself and i do remember the note you gave me.



Saints is kd, runs to awaiting cab, "airport!"


(Arrives in brasil, has plastic surgery, changes name. Joins the priesthood.)




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What I meant at the end of Chapter 17 was, I hate to end a chapter on a cheap cliffhanger, but the rest of the scene required a new chapter. And, it took a bit of time to write. Here it is. Remember, read this in Karen voice :)

This chapter follows immediately, less than 100 milliseconds, from Chapter 17.

CHAPTER 18: Pain from the Past (Part 8): Bullet Time

O. P. Lovelorn here. My mind was almost blown. My heart was pounding in my ears, drowning out the sound of the surf and the seagulls. I was empathizing with Karen, as she described to me what seemed to be the moment of her death. I loved Karen so much, it was unbearable. I had almost forgotten where I was, who I was. Karen’s plight was making tears well in my eyes. I wanted to hug her, hold her, but she just continued her story:

“Then something happened.”

“I heard two really loud shots, like a double-tap, from a powerful handgun, and then third and fourth shots, just as fast. In the pre-attentive interval before I could process what had happened, my brain started to catch up, and it was dawning on me that the thugs must have shot me, and I just hadn’t registered the impacts yet. But I was back to real time.”

“My reflex was, it’s now or never – I haven’t got time to think, just pull the pin, before I black out, if I want to take those criminal bastards out, and reach the peace of total oblivion that I was ready for. I had the grenade in my hand, just one twitch away from pulling the pin."

"But the gunshots didn’t sound like the SMGs, or the pistol that the driver had. Tactically, I wondered who had shot me, or shot at me. I hadn’t seen any muzzle flash. I instinctively felt like I had to understand the tactical situation.”

“What I saw, wasn’t making sense. No guns were actually pointed at me, quite yet. On the passenger side of the car, I saw the two SMGs still rising upward, as the arms holding them swung an arc toward me. The arms belonged to the two thugs who had just gotten out of the car.”

“At the same time, both of the thugs’ brains were spraying out the side of their heads, all over the windshield and the hood of the car. Their arms kept rising, just from the momentum they already had, past the point where a conscious mind would have corrected, to aim at me. I knew then, that there were no conscious minds controlling those arms, anymore.”

“By this time, the driver was standing on the other side of the car, having just slammed his door, with his pistol also moving to point at me, less than a second from firing. But he had suddenly frozen, arrested with surprise and confusion, like I was."

"Hearing the shots, he had turned his gaze to his right, where he was seeing his two thug buddies in a whole new way, as dual waves of blood, and fragments of their brains and skulls, were flying toward him in
. He had the dumbest, wide-eyed, open-mouthed look on his face, that you can imagine.”

“The only dumber look, at that moment, was on my face, watching this three-ring circus, as I held a grenade in my left hand, with my right middle finger looped through the ring, a fateful millisecond away from turning myself into a bloody mandala of body parts in the sand. What a scene, a farce, a total, fatal farce. Words don’t begin to describe it.”

“As everything seemed completely surreal, another second ticked by, and another. I was starting to process. I followed the gaze of the driver, and I saw some big guy standing there, near the wooden fence, holding a DE .50 aimed at the two thugs, or what was left of them, as their lifeless bodies slowly began to slump to the sand.”

“The big guy was wearing cargo shorts and flip flops, a baseball cap and aviator shades, and carrying a heavy duffel bag on a shoulder strap. He looked Caucasian, maybe American, with a beard. Poised for action, in an alert crouch, he still had his massive semiauto handgun pointed in the direction of the driver, in line with where the other two thugs had been.”

“Now that my brain had clicked back to real time, working again, my training kicked in. All I knew is that a gun was now pointing at me – the driver’s – and it didn’t matter if he was looking at me or not, it was a deadly threat. I drew my finger out of the grenade pin ring, carefully, so I didn’t accidentally yank it out, and I reached over with my right hand to pat my waist, feeling my holster and gun still on my waistband, under the hoodie. With my left hand, I kept a tight grip on the grenade and its clip, just as a safety reflex in the midst of the action, even though it was still pinned.”

“As fast as I could, I unsnapped my gun, got it firmly in my hand, and brought it up toward the driver, who by now was tentatively turning his gaze back toward me, as he was just starting to realize the depth of sh*t that he was in. Now he was in a vacuum of indecision, staring down two barrels, threats from two angles."

"His gun had been pointing toward me, but he had already started to swing it back toward the big guy, where the obviously loud and deadly threat had come from, while trying to decide which way he should look.”

“Without hesitating, I fired, going for an easy one-handed headshot, up through his chin, at that close range. Simultaneously, I heard a much louder retort than the sound of my own combat pistol. Both the big guy and I had fired at the same time. Both headshots. You can imagine what happened to the driver’s head. What a mess ...”

“When I revealed and fired my gun, it changed the situational assessment that the big guy had made, of the crazy scene that had just unfolded before him. I supposed that he had not expected that a Sanchez-riding, hoodied teenager, scrambling to escape from a carload of thugs, was going to be a crack shot assassin.”

“Of course, he might have already been re-assessing, if he had seen me come within a bug’s breath of pulling the pin on a grenade, 15 feet away from him. I hadn’t noticed – or had time to think about – anyone else being near, when I was about to play the suicide grenade card.”

“Now, all the threats having been neutralized, the driver a collapsing, bloody mess, and my gun still aimed where the driver’s head used to be, the situational dynamics changed. In the blink of an eye, the big guy had trained his cannon on me, as I was still sitting on the sand, starting to look toward him, about 15 feet between us. I already knew how well he could shoot.”

“’Whoa, whoa, whoa, WHOA, I’M A FRIENDLY!!’ I shouted, looking straight at the guy and trying to read him, while raising my hands quickly, high and wide, still tightly holding the grenade in my left hand and my pistol, now pointed upward, in my right hand. Then I added, tentatively, ‘... to ..... *whoever* it is you’re working for.’”

“Then I shouted, ‘I’m not a threat!’ Right. That was a pretty empty statement, considering that I was holding lethal weapons in both hands, and the obvious skill I displayed in the one-shot kill that I would have made, had he not made it also. I momentarily wondered who should get the credit for the kill. Maybe we can split it...” :)

“Nonetheless, I tried to look nonthreatening. If I could get his gun out of my face, and stow my weapons, maybe I could clear things up. But at this moment, it was still a delicate situation. My face and hair were still hidden by the hoodie and the sunglasses, but I was hoping that he would not have expected a woman’s voice. It must have seemed like an incongruous scene.”

“It was enough, apparently, that I didn’t immediately get a double-tap headshot. But the big guy’s big gun was still on me. Deadpan, he said, ‘Tell me those weren’t the good guys.’”

“’They’re sure as hell not!’ I yelled, ‘They killed my best friend!’ I paused, trying to think of what to say to make me sound more like a good guy, myself. More professionally, I added, “I’m IAA. American. I’m on a covert op.’ Well, that last part was a little white lie – I *was* on an op, and it *was* covert, but that was pretty much shot to sh*t, now.”

“The guy smiled a tiny bit – I could see that he had a chuckle at my reply. ‘This is your idea of covert?’ he asked. ‘I’d hate to see you, when you really want to f*ck things up.’”

Then he continued, “Why don’t you put those things down? For some reason, they’re making me nervous.’ He paused, and then added, wryly, ‘You won’t like me when I’m nervous.’”

“I looked at the weapon in my left hand, and the weapon in my right hand, and thought, yeah, that’d be a good idea. I slowly lowered both hands, way out wide, and laid my gun in the sand, as carefully as I could, trying to keep sand out of the slide, and I triple-checked that the grenade’s pin was properly in place, and its clip not trying to spring loose, before laying it down gently, as well.

“Then, as I released the grenade, knowing that it was properly safed, and with the last few thugs of the hour now turned into bloody lumps, I started to feel the first moment of relief and release that I had known, since I decided to go rogue, at noon. I felt like I could take a normal breath, for the first time today, even with the specter of large caliber, hollow point, imminent death aiming right at my face.”

“I didn’t know who this guy was, but he had just saved me from a death that I richly deserved, and he could just as easily give it back to me again, in a loud and bloody split second. I sensed, though, that there was something fundamentally good about this guy, something that made me feel like I would be able to get along with him, if he didn’t splatter my brains all over the sand in the next 10 seconds.”

“He had only said a few words, but they were subtle and dark with cynical humor, especially for a situation where he just killed two and a half scumbags. It’s almost like he was running an internal monologue, consisting of wry, cynical thoughts, and when he had to speak, one of those thoughts would get voiced. Weird guy, but cool. Introspective, maybe in a good way, but maybe not. I wanted to know.”

“And without any other choices anyway, I was in a trusting mood, and I was getting curious about who he really was, out here on a deserted beach with the kind of firepower, and the skill to use it, that would be cause for concern, in normal circumstances. But these circumstances weren’t normal. :p

“I said, ‘Everything’s safe. Everything’s cool. I’m going to back up, away from the ordnance, and stand up, keeping my hands up, OK?’”

“’That sounds like a good idea,’ he said. Then he paused, had a thought, and asked, ‘You got any more friends like this, coming to your little beach party?’ as he made a quick nod toward the dead, bloody gangsters and their car.”

“I replied, ‘Not immediately, but there will be, maybe soon, and we need to be clean out of here, before they come driving down this road.’”

“Then, thinking back to the past hour or two, where I had just blown up a carport and killed several people in an upscale condo enclave, then gone on to make a violent scene in a dense working class neighborhood with a streetful of witnesses, bullying the heck out of some kids, and stealing their bike, I added, ‘Not to mention the police – the legitimate police, I mean, as opposed to the ones owned by these assholes.’ After coming this close to death, and having survived, I was starting to think tactically again.”

“Before I tried to move from my sitting position, my hands now empty, and still extended far out to both sides, I continued, ‘Listen to me. We’ve got to move. I’m sorry you got caught up in this little operation. But it’s done, now, and the best outcome is that these assholes’ sh*tbag associates never even know that you exist. You don’t want to tangle with them. They’re mindless, sadistic killers, and there’s always another wave of them coming after you.’”

“With a smirk, the big guy replied, ‘Yeah, I know the type.’”

“I said, ‘OK, now, cut me a little slack here. I’m going to try to stand up, but I don’t know what I might have sprained, broken or dislocated. So I’d appreciate it if you don’t shoot me if I lose my balance and have to make a sudden move to recover.’”

“He replied, ‘I’ll try, but sudden moves make me nervous.’ Another witty remark – I think. He smiled a subtle, sly smile. I hoped that he didn’t really mean it.”

“I began pushing myself away from the weapons, my hands far removed from them, my shoes jamming into the sand as I scooted backward on my butt. Then I started cautiously bending forward, to clumsily begin getting to my feet, while guarding against unknown injuries. As I did so, I asked, ‘Who the hell *are* you?’”

He didn’t say anything for just a second, considering how to respond, and then answered, ‘I’m the dumb gringo who’s always in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with a dumb look on his face.’ And then he added, ’... though, you had me beat for dumb looks, on this one,’ and he smiled.”

“I liked the way he talked. He seemed to be in a surprisingly light, cynical mood, considering all the killing in the last minute, the lingering smell of gunpowder still wafting in the air. This situation didn’t seem out-of-place for him. And another self-depreciating one-liner. Even if you’re going around killing people with headshots, it seemed to me that you still have to be pretty well balanced – ironically – to have that kind of a sense of humor. I was starting to read this guy, and I was liking the story, as it unfolded.”

“I got fully to my feet and nothing hurt – exceptionally – yet. Amazing. Maybe I got lucky, and I wouldn’t feel the real aches until tomorrow. I figured that, after landing in sand like I had, I’d be aching all over, and stiff as a wicker basket, by tomorrow morning, if I lived that long. For sure, I knew I would feel it in my neck and my shoulders.”

“Recovering my general composure, I took off my dictator sunglasses and pulled down my hood, shaking out my hair, which probably looked pretty bad. No woman wants to be seen with hoodie hair. I hooked the stem of my sunglasses over the top of the hoodie zipper.”

“Then I said, ‘My name’s Daniels. Agent Daniels. Karen. But it doesn’t matter, it’s just a name. What I meant was, what are you doing out here, working for whom? But let’s hold onto that, for later. Right now, what do I call you? You got a name?’”

“Again, he didn’t say anything for a second. No witty reply came to mind, I guess. It seemed like he couldn’t say anything, unless it was witty or cynical or self-depreciating.

“Then he said, ’Daniels, Karen? But it doesn’t matter? Hmmm, OK, sure.’ He smiled slightly, and continued, ‘Yeah, maybe I got a name, around here, somewhere. Now where did I put it? Oh, yeah, here it is – Payne, Max Payne.’ Then he imitated me, ‘But it doesn’t matter, it’s just a name.’ After skipping just a tiny beat, he added, “Are we even now?’”

“’Huh,’ I smiled. ‘Yeah, we’re even. Max Payne? OK. That’s some kind of name, Max. I’m not even gonna ask how you got it. Not now, anyway.’”

"In the process, as I was getting on my feet and speaking, I had almost forgotten about his DE .50, which, I now noticed thankfully, he had dropped down a bit, pointing at the sand rather than at my head. I just naturally shook some of the sand off my clothes, and without thinking, I reached back behind to brush the sand off my butt.”

“’Whoa, whoa, whoa!’ he suddenly said, ‘What’ve you got, going on back there?’ He quickly raised his gun up toward me. ‘I’ve heard of places where a guy can almost seem to pull a Combat Machine Gun out of his ass. Talk about concealed weapons. I don’t take any chances with that.”

“I replied, quickly, “Hey, I’m just brushing off the sand.’ I turned around, so he could see that I didn’t have another holster on my waistband in the small of my back, and continued brushing the sand off my butt. In retrospect, it probably looked like I was spanking myself in front of him, and I momentarily felt embarrassed.”

“Then I turned back to him, and I got fully back into tactical thinking and started to automatically plan my next steps to escape, even before I knew if he was going to lower his gun again. It was like, I don’t even have time for this.”

“I said, ‘Hey, Max can you put that cannon away? Now you’re making *me* nervous. We’ve got to get out of here. Unless you’re just planning to stand around and have a nice chat with more of these asshole’s buddies, or the legit or illegitimate police. I’m thinking that conversation might not be such a good thing.’”

“At that moment, an old, weathered, local guy, gray hair and gray mustache, came slowly walking around from the front of the steel shed behind Max. I looked at the guy, and then at the front of the shed, and I realized now that the place was a little cantina, out here by itself on the bay, and he must be the owner. I quickly looked past him, on down the beach, and I didn’t see anybody else, just a few run-down plastic beach chairs, and tatty umbrellas staked in the sand. A forlorn place.”

“The old guy didn’t say anything at first, but just walked up beside Max, stopped, and looked down at Max’s DE .50, then at the bloody car, the dead thugs, and then at me, standing there in my hoodie and cargo pants, a confused American woman on the wrong beach, in the wrong hemisphere, with the wrong kind of fan club following her around.”

“He just shook his head, and I heard him sigh quietly. After a couple of seconds, he said, in English, just as a casual observation to nobody in particular, ‘I’ve seen worse.’”

“I replied to him directly, “You don’t want to be around here when more of these assholes show up asking questions. You got a place to go, now? ... like, *right* now?’”

“He said, with a kind of a resigned inflection in his voice, ‘No more customers, today. Think I close up.’”

“It sounded to me like the old guy knew how the local game is played, and he could avoid any future interaction with the criminal gang who would surely come by, or their paid-off cops. I was thinking of pressing the issue, to make sure that he would understand that he had to lay low. But as a junior nobody, a naïve foreigner, I reconsidered and decided it wasn’t my place to try to give advice to a grizzled old local, who seemed like he knew the score around here, a lot better than I did.”

“Almost like the guy had read my mind, he continued, ‘I got a place to stay, down the coast, for a couple days.’ Then he added, with a sparkle in his kind old eyes and a subtle, wry smile, ‘Been here, done this.’ That reassured me.”

“Max had lowered his gun again, having apparently decided either that I was OK, or that he could still shoot me before I pulled any tricks. I was only thinking about how I could move the topic of conversation quickly again to getting our asses out of there.”

“It occurred to me naturally that I would take the thugs’ car to drive out of there, get back to the coast road, and then take some random turns inland, a little further up the coast, until I could lose this car and find a new and anonymous means of transportation, to shake my scent, from both the thugs’ and insurgents’ organizations, as well as the police that they buy.”

“The corrupt police may honestly be the harder problem. I was already evaluating the risk of making a beeline up the coast to the next Brazilian state, Sergipe or Alagoas, where the insurgents might not have the influence with the local law, but it would increase the chance of getting the license plate checked by Bahia police before I got there. I thought, if I move quick, I might be able to get 100 kilometers, before the license plate got sent out to the cops. But I had already gotten screwed today, bad, by not assuming the worst, so I thought, I better learn my lesson and go inland on the obscure roads.”

“As I was thinking this, the cell phone in one of the dead thug’s pockets rang, startling me, and reminding me of the urgency of getting out of here. If none of the six dead thugs are answering their phones, I could expect worse scum to be dispatched even more quickly, to hunt me down. So now, I just wanted to get moving, fast. The clock was still ticking. No time for breathing easy, not yet.”

“I planned to take Max along with me, until I felt like we both had gotten away clean. I didn’t see that he had a ride here, and I didn’t want him to end up getting caught up in this f*cked up situation that I had created – although ... I had the feeling that if some more thugs came along and tangled with Max, it would be a one-sided fight, and afterward, a world with a few less thugs in it. But it wasn’t his fight. It appeared, once again, that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, when I dropped in. I felt responsible.”

"So it was time to go, past time. But first, we had to clean the blood and brains off the windshield , the hood, and the side of the car. Otherwise, it was going to look a little suspicious, driving around like that. Tends to stand out. I saw a hose connected to a faucet at the side of the cantina. The faucet was connected to a narrow steel pipe that ran up to the top of the cantina, where there was a big blue fresh water tank mounted on the roof. All the restaurants and cantinas here along the coast had the same setup.”

"By his time, the old guy who owned the place had gone back and was lowering a rusty metal roll-down cover mounted up behind the old wooden awning, down to the bar. I basically ignored any further threat that Max’s gun might mean to me, and I walked past Max, over close enough to the old guy, to ask, “Senhor, we need to use some of your fresh water to wash off the car. Then we’re getting out of here. Do you want to come with us?’”

“As he continued securing the cover, he answered, noncommittally, ‘Fresh água costs more than cerveja. I don’t know...’”

“I knew where he was coming from – wisely negotiating the cost of the water, getting the tank refilled, out here in the styx. I lifted the hem of my hoodie a little and reached down inside the waistband of my cargo pants, to a back pocket of my jeans underneath, to get my wallet, where I kept about R$2000 in local currency. All the agents in the field had that kind of cash on hand, or more, for anonymous transactions when needed. It had come in handy, when I bought my revenge supplies at the secondhand store.”

“I pulled out maybe 15 bills, in a mix of R$20 and R$50 notes, probably equivalent to about US$250. I spread it out in my hand so he could see about how much I was offering, and I said, “How’s this? Maybe covers a couple of days to stay away from here, too?’”

“The old local had finished securing the roll-down cover and snapped a padlock in place. He smiled, and waved his hand to push the money back toward me. ‘Too much!’ he replied.”

“’Take it, really,’ I insisted. ‘If it means you can keep your place closed and take a vacation for a couple more days, that’s even better.’ Pointing over my shoulder toward the dead thugs, I continued, ‘These bastards are bad stock. I don’t want them bringing trouble to you. But we need to wash the car, right now. And, are you coming with us? We can drop you off.’”

“’Não!’ he said with a laugh. ‘You guys, problemas! I walk down the coast, a couple quilômetros. To the bus stop. You go the *other* way!’

“I pushed the spread of bills at him again and he waved both palms up, in a ‘whatever’ gesture, and he accepted them. Then he said, ‘You need rags. Um minute...’ He went around the other side of the cantina and came back with a handful of old tattered bar towels, that looked like they were used for dirtier tasks than wiping the bar – at least, I hoped they were.”

“He handed the stack of folded rags to me and said, with an upward nod toward the road, ‘Vá com Deus. [ Go with God. ]’ Then he added, with a sly smile, ‘E não voltar. [ And don't come back. ] Por favor.’”

“I got his joke (if it *was* a joke), laughed lightly, and replied, ‘Obrigado! [ Thank you! ] Stay safe ... please,’ and I quickly turned around to run back and clean off the car, as the old guy also turned and headed up the beach, toward the lonely umbrellas, blowing lightly in the breeze.”

"As I started to run, I looked toward Max, to make sure he wasn’t still pointing his semiautomatic firestick at me. He had just reloaded his clip with bullets from an ammo box in his duffel bag, and he was stuffing the gun and the box back in the bag, still on his shoulder. I guess he decided that I didn’t seem like the type who would shoot him in the back when he turned away, or else it was because he knew that my weapons were still lying in the sand. Anyway, now I could get on with my escape plans...”

“I slowed my pace to a fast stride as I walked past Max, holding out half of the stack of rags as I passed, for him to take. ‘Here,’ I said. ‘We need to get the gangster sauce off the car.’ He reluctantly took them, looking at me with a quizzical ‘What am I supposed to do with these?’ kind of expression, but he knew what to do. Without breaking stride, I continued to the faucet, and started uncoiling the old hose attached to it.”

“Holding the end of the hose in my hand, I turned on the spigot. The water flow was weak, but it was enough. Stepping over the two dead thugs, who looked like they had fully bled out into the sand by now, I brought the hose to the passenger side of the car. Luckily, the hose reached, just barely, to the windshield and the hood, where the bloody splatter was concentrated. I noticed that the engine was still idling, and the keys still in the ignition, so I was grateful that we wouldn’t have to search the dead, bloody driver to find them.

“I started dribbling water all over the mess, and as Max came up to the car, I motioned him around to the other side and I told him, ‘Use the rags to push the water toward me, so it doesn’t spread over the hood. I don’t want to make this any worse.’”

“As Max walked on around to the driver’s side of the car, opposite me, to start using the rags on the hood, he smiled and said, ‘What *is* this? I’m already taking orders from a woman I just got introduced to, five minutes ago? And I don’t think it was even a proper introduction ...’”

“I replied, ‘Sorry, Max, I don’t mean it like that, really. We’ve got to get moving. I’ve had my fill of tangling with these assholes today, and I don’t wanna meet any more.’ To elaborate, I added, ‘I blew up four of these f*cks in their condo a couple of hours ago, and killed three more in the woods just now. Maybe this little surprise party was fun for you, but it’s getting old for me, at this point.’”

“’Holy sh*t,’ Max replied flatly, as he arched one of his eyebrows, making a nodding gesture of approval, while pushing the bloody water on the hood toward me, with the rags I had forced on him. ‘OK, I get the idea. Then he asked me, mock-seriously, ‘Are you some kind of professional badass? Or just a serial killer?’”

“I was concentrating on cleaning the thug sludge off my side of the hood. I had taken the wet, bloody rags Max had pushed my way across the hood, and I was putting more water into them so I could do a second coat of clean over the residue of bloody brain matter remaining on the windshield, and dripping down my side of the car.”

"After a couple of seconds, I replied to him, ‘I think the Agency has a merit badge for Badass, but I’m surely not gonna get it now. I’ll tell you about it later. This isn’t the time.’ Then I added, ‘Is there any more blood on your side of the car?’ I tossed a couple of well-soaked rags over to max’s side of the hood.”

“‘Here,’ I continued, ‘if there is, wipe it down with these. Then wring them out well, and wipe the rest of the water off.’ I knew that men are generally slobs, who don’t have a clue about clean, so they have to be micromanaged if you want the job done right.”

“I wrung out the rags that I had been using, draining the bloody water into the sand, and I wetted them again for a final pass over the car. It cleaned up pretty well, but took a little scrubbing where the blood had already started to dry, around the small blood spatter drops and the outer edges of the bloody lumps. I wiped off all the excess water with a couple of wrung-out rags, and dropped them on the sand between the dead thugs.”

“It was a half-assed cleanup job, obviously appearing as a big clean area, surrounded by the dust on the hood, from the little backroad chase I had just led. But at least it didn’t look like a couple of heads had just exploded. Finally, I was ready to go. With the hose still in my hand, I ran over and turned off the water, dropping the hose without taking the time to coil it up.”

“As I ran back toward the car, I yelled to Max, ‘Let’s go!!’ Since Max was on the driver’s side of the car, I naturally assumed that he would get my meaning, that he should get in the car to drive. I was headed for the passenger side of the car, about to step over the dead thugs again, to open the passenger door, when I remembered my weapons on the sand in front of the thugs’ car, and I detoured around to pick them up.”

“As I retrieved them and I was rising up in front of the car, stuffing the grenade back into my hoodie pocket, and starting to blow the sand off of my pistol, I looked over and saw that Max hadn’t yet opened his car door.”

“Instead, he replied, ‘Hey, I’m not going anywhere. At least, not with some crazy woman in the middle of a man-killing spree, with hand grenades in her pockets.’ He smiled, but he wasn’t entirely joking, as he was taking a closer look at my hoodie, to try to guess if I had yet more unknown weapons under it.”

“I sighed. Why can’t men and women get along? I just met this guy five minutes ago, and he’s already disagreeing with me. Doesn’t he see that we need to go? I thought, OK, f*ck it, I’ll drive; it’s my neck if any more of these thugs catch us, and it’s my responsibility to get us out of this. I’ll tell Max, all he has to do is ride, but we have to go.”

“I quickly continued on around to the driver’s side of the car, thinking about how I would step over the dead driver and jump in, behind the wheel. I hoped there wasn’t blood splatter inside, on the driver’s seat. But as I got close, Max didn’t move out of the way.”

“He had slipped off his aviator shades, and I realized he was still looking at me intently, looking at my eyes, my expression, my body language, trying to read me, weighing the risks versus benefits of leaving with me, or ignoring me, or shooting me in self-defense.”

“I had to rapidly come to a stop, only about a foot away from Max at this point, having expected him to yield my right-of-way in my rapid trajectory to the car door, but he still hadn’t moved. I couldn’t go any further. With his height, plus the upward slope of the sand away from the waters’ edge, he was a head taller than me.”

“Looking up, I locked eyes with him. I could see his questioning look, probably thinking something like, ’What the hell is going on in this woman’s mind? Should I deck her right now, before she slides a shiv under my rib cage?’ I wanted to look serious and sincere, so Max would listen to me, so we could just get out of there, but I didn’t think I was succeeding at that.”

“This whole scenario was rapidly turning into a bad dream, a living nightmare – the lines keep repeating in my mind: ‘We’ve got to get out of here! We have to move! I have to get going! Let’s go!’ But it just wasn’t happening. I almost couldn’t believe it. Things were getting more unreal by the second.”

“After all the violent physical events of the day, I didn’t expect to be stonewalled by a psychological barrier like this. I suddenly had no leverage. I just wanted to get going. At this point, I honestly didn’t know what kind of impression I was projecting, except maybe a crazy woman on the verge of hysteria. Maybe Max was right.”

“Standing in front of Max, looking up at him, at his inquiring expression, I was suddenly blindsided by a long-overdue wave of uncertainty, doubt, and retrospection. Reality had finally hit me. I had been overclocking my mental autopilot for the past 60-plus hours, on a blind course for stone cold vengeance, but now that the action was over, my autopilot had shut down, and here I was, on my own.”

“Now I had to think and feel like an actual human being, again. I realized that I had no idea how to do that, at this moment, in this context. I didn’t even know what I was really thinking, or feeling, or why.”

“In an instant, the whole weight of the last few days just crashed down on me, mentally and emotionally, everything rushing at once, though my mind and my heart – my horror at David’s misery and death, my inevitable, irreversible, all-consuming vow of revenge, my operational planning and execution, my literal execution, of David’s killers – the moral distortion, the uncivilized brutality of it all, outside of any rational process.”

“In my undercover work and internship with the Agency, I had seen violence, and I had been part of both legal and illegal ops where bad people had gotten hurt – deservedly – so I had an Agency-sanctioned model in my mind, of the protocols and the consequences of violence. But before today, I had never killed anyone, not even close. All my life and death decisions were simulated, hypothetical. All my targets in training were cardboard or metal.”

“Now, I had just killed seven or more people, and messed up a couple of unarmed kids. At the time, I wanted to hurt them all, bad, for what they did to David. But what further, lasting distress had I caused to their innocent family members, like the motorcyclist’s young sister? I hadn’t properly considered the collateral damage, in my blind, careening rush for revenge.”

“What the f*ck had I done today, really??? My past sins, which caused me so much regret after I had bungled my first life, waking me night after night, in the lonely, dark hours before dawn, suddenly seemed trivial in comparison. My god!!!”

“My emotions were racing. My Agency discipline, which I had thought was so real and so powerful, started to unspool, along with the foundation, the moral fabric, of my life. What was real? What was right? What was wrong? What mattered? Goddammit!!!”

“In my confused emotional state, I suddenly also realized that, here and now, I had no long-term plan, nowhere to go; I was just running away, blindly, into ... what? The underground, flophouse lifestyle of a fugitive in a foreign land?"

"I realized then, how far away I was from home, from my ruined career, from any kind of normalcy or peace. All I knew is that, once again, I had thrown away everything that mattered in my life, and again, I had put myself in some kind of desperate limbo, with no way out.”

“From the depths of my mind, I was overcome by a rush of supercharged déjà vu, taking me back to my hopeless life in the federal prison cell, before U. L. Paperman ‘rescued’ me. Max must have been seeing the emotions playing out on my face, as I descended into sudden despair."

"I had really lost it all, today. My emotional state was regressing to the innocent young girl I used to be, overwhelmed by events, and by emotional trauma completely out of her range of experience.”

“Falling through my emotional past was like free-falling physically. I was losing it, millisecond by millisecond. I didn’t know how far down into despair I could go. I felt like I would collapse, right there, on the bloodstained sand."

"I reflexively reached out to Max, the only other living human near me, my arm looping through the strap of his duffel bag, my hands thrust behind his back, then my fingers digging into his shoulder blades, as I pulled myself close, my face hard against his chest.”

“I felt hopeless. The innocent Karen was in way over her head, now. I cried, ‘I don’t want to be alone, now. Please, stay with me!! My best friend and lover is dead, and I just threw away my career, to rain retribution and death on the scum who killed him. I’ve got no future, no past, and nowhere to go!’”

“Max replied, quietly and without irony, ‘I know how that is,’ and he hugged me tight. I could sense that he had lifted his gaze, to take in the scene in front of him – the beach, the shining water, and the sun, low in the sky across the bay – rather than look down at my misery.”

“With my face buried in the fabric of his shirt, I sobbed, crying pitiably, letting out a tiny fraction of the flood of grief and loss and helpless rage in me, that I had barely yet begun to confront, since David’s death. Momentarily, I was human again. And it wasn’t pretty.”

“After about 30 seconds into my unexpected, involuntary emotional meltdown, I snapped back to my senses, back to the present, back to discipline. I lifted my head from Max’s shirt, released my tight embrace, and moved to back away, blinking the tears out of my eyes.”

“I looked up at him again, to try to read what he was thinking, now, after my unintended display of female hysterics. Max released his grip on me, and looked down at my salty tears, wet on my cheeks, and staining his shirt. ‘Let’s go,’ he said, as he put his aviator shades back on. ‘You drive.’”


Wow. That’s it for now. Karen told O. P. that her story was going to be heavy. Apparently, you don’t become an Agency terminator just by spending your adolescence reading comic books or playing mindless video game twitch shooters. It looks like there’s a bit more life experience involved.

And finally, Karen has met Max, so it’s starting to make sense, now, how she knew him at the Arcadius Business Center in Chapter 11.

Next chapter? I don’t know when. I don’t know how. I don’t know why. But the Pain from the Past story arc has to close. Karen will probably come through. She always does :)

Edited by saintsrow
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Finally, faithful readers, so many months late, it’s time to rescue our dear Karen from dark limbo, her fate hanging in the balance, as she continues her headlong escape from the bad guys, just minutes after she almost lost it all, in a potential suicide gambit. O. P. continues to listen, rapt, to her tale of woe. Will the cops get her? Will the insurgents get her? Will Max ditch her?

This chapter continues immediately from CHAPTER 18


CHAPTER 19: Pain from the Past (Part 9): Brazilian Getaway Special / Hitting the Road

The hours since noon had passed like minutes. Karen and I leaned on the pier railing as she told me her story. The Pacific sun had set, the western sky fading from a brilliant yellow and orange sunset, to skyglow in a deepening purple hue.

The tide had gone out, the ocean serene. Points of light on the horizon gradually brightened, from the sailboats and party boats ranging northwest from Del Perro Pier, lost in the distance, toward Chumash. I hardly noticed that my elbows were numb.

Karen’s story had turned into an epic, it seemed. While it was sad and full of tension, it was really giving me insight to her life, more than I could have imagined, and I was completely fascinated with every new turn she described. I was knowing her like I never had before.

I knew, now, how she had to tell me this story in detail, for me to understand the depth and stress inherent in her career, so my simple question could begin to be answered, about how she had come to transform herself into the hardass terminator that I knew.

It sounded like her tale was still a long way from over. At this point, Karen had told me that she feared that the insurgents’ thugs, whose nest she had just kicked, were very likely still in hot pursuit, madder than ever, with some very bad plans for her. Meanwhile, her new friend, Max, was being difficult.


Karen continued, “Max stepped back, so I finally could get past him and jump into the driver’s seat. The driver’s side window was open, but I noted that, luckily, there were no brains or blood on the seat – the gore had apparently sprayed away from the car, in the coup de grâce, dual-headshot that Max and I had shared.”

“Sitting in the driver’s seat, I looked up and told Max, ‘Stand back, while I back the car out onto the road.’ I slammed it into reverse and revved the engine. The car rocked a little, but it didn’t lurch backward, like I expected it to – the wheels were slipping in the sand. The car must have been hung up on the Sanchez after running up over it. I couldn’t move. Damn! This was like a bad dream that just wouldn’t end!”

“I slapped it into forward and rocked the car again, then reverse, but it was still stuck. By the way the car was trapped, I knew now that the Sanchez had really snagged it, and saved my life – or at least, the Sanchez had saved me from getting my face smashed flat like a bug, on the front bumper.” :p

“I looked at Max, and I was about to tell him to push the car. But I could see by his expression that he already knew I was going to ask exactly that, and he turned, shaking his head and flashing a knowing smile followed by (hopefully mock) exasperation, while heading to the front corner of the car.”

“’Just make sure it’s in reverse, OK?’ Max asked, both cynically and seriously. I checked; it was.”

“’OK, here goes,’ I said, loudly enough for him to hear. I gave it some gas, but carefully. Max was pushing, but the wheels were still spinning.

“‘C’mon, Max, put some back into it!’ I yelled out the window. I was trying to inject a little humor, following Max’s example, while still being deadly serious, but I don’t think it worked either way… He didn’t look up, or react. I felt I was losing even more goodwill with Max, and I had already started deep in negative territory. Dammit!”

“I let up on the gas and applied it again, a couple of times, to rock the car a little more. Max pushed harder when I gave it gas each time, but I was still hung up.”

“I poked my head out the car window and yelled, ‘Max, lift up when you push!’ God, I thought, I feel like a f*cking fool, now, in all ways. My nonexistent escape plan was turning into the real world Keystone goddamned Kops. I could almost hear the soundtrack of comical, tinny piano music. Max was surely regretting, already, that my hysterics had convinced him to help me.”

“But suddenly, as Max lifted the front corner of the car, it started to move. I could feel and hear the bike unrolling, clunking underneath the floor of the car, as it unstuck itself from the firewall. I felt that it was a sad sound, knowing that the Sanchez had been a fine motorcycle, up until 10 minutes ago.”

“On the other hand, the Sanchez had also been one of the instruments of David’s death, a thought that suddenly flashed into my mind, unbidden, manifesting as my mental vision of its faint monochrome Sprunk logo, the ghostly gray image emerging as I processed the video frames from the infrared camera in front of our blockhouse, in those terrible minutes after David was horribly killed.”

“A blast wave of immense, visceral sadness washed over me as I suddenly relived all those moments of pure horror. Seeing David dying, the terrible reality, out there in the darkness, the wet grass, and the fire, almost made me reflexively break down and scream, right then, even as I was gunning the car engine.”

“I instantly felt like slamming my fists on the steering wheel and banging my head against headrest, to try to knock this pain out of my mind, but I quickly clawed myself out of that emotional rabbit hole – I had to – there was no time for this, now. I had to put my full concentration on escaping; plus, I didn’t want to lose my focus and run over Max. That would put a damper on things.”

“Then the car was free, the tires still spinning, spraying sand out in front, and all over Max’s bare legs, but I had increasing momentum, now. My nearly paralyzing wave of post-traumatic stress quickly dissipated, as I finally had some success. Max pushed off, out of the way. The front bumper of the car dragged the Sanchez through the sand for about 10 feet, but then it unhooked, with a final ‘ka-clunk.’”

“At the same moment, the rear bumper of the car reached the partly collapsed fence, causing a loud, complex crunch, bending the fence over toward the road, the car’s wheels folding it down flat. A couple of loud wooden cracks reverberated off the cantina and the trees, indicating that the fence posts were completely broken down, now, beyond repair.”

“I had stomped the gas to the floor to keep momentum when the car started to move. I continued backing onto the dirt berm and onto the hard dirt road, with too much speed, almost spinning out in a reverse donut, while turning in the direction so that we could drive back to the coast road.”

“After slamming on the brakes to stop the front of the car from spinning all the way around, I momentarily considered, but immediately dismissed, going back and looting the dead thugs of their guns and ammo. I just wanted to keep moving now, and not stop. Anyway, their dropped guns might have been jammed with sand, and I didn’t feel like rooting around in their blood-soaked pockets for ammo.”

“Furthermore, I decided I didn’t want to be party to any more firefights, today – this last one was just too close. Thinking about more guns and more gunfights made me feel depressed, overwhelmed. I’d take my chances running, now, rather than fighting.”

“’C’mon, Max,’ I yelled, ‘let’s go!’ He was already following me out to the road, as I was backing. He came at a fast walking pace, stepping over the broken fence, and continuing around the rear of the car.”

“Max opened the rear passenger door and lifted his duffel bag onto the back seat. As he did so, he made a remark intended for me to hear, in the context of his helping to lift and push the car, about being ‘too old for this sh*t,’ but I could tell by his inflection that he meant it as a joke. At least he still had a sense of humor about this mess. That made me feel a little better.”

“Finally transitioning back to tactical thinking, I suggested, “Hey Max, maybe you should bring your cannon and ammo up front with you, just in case we run into some more of these assholes on the way out of here.’ Even though I didn’t feel like another firefight, I had confidence that Max could handle it for both of us, if needed – and I hoped to hell it would not be needed.”

“Max replied, ‘Ahead of you,’ as he brought the gun up for me to see, in the rearview mirror, while fishing around in his bag for the ammo box. He got it, and came around to the front passenger seat and got in, with the DE .50 on his lap, and the ammo box on the floor between his flip-flops.”

“As Max was doing that, it occurred to me that I needed to ditch my hoodie disguise, since by now it will have been described by all the eyewitnesses today, no longer serving its purpose as a disguise – more like the opposite, ironically – a dead ringer identifying me as the crazy woman blowing up and beating up people on a quiet, sunny weekday afternoon.”

“I pulled the two pistol clips out of my hoodie pocket and laid them on the floor of the car at the front of my seat, snapped the pistol in its holster off my waistband and laid it on the floor with the clips, then quickly pulled the hoodie off, over my head, and tossed it over my shoulder into the back seat, the dictator sunglasses still hooked over the zipper. The grenade was still in the belly pocket. I then remembered the sticky bomb detonator in my shirt pocket, and I tossed it back as well.”

“I pushed back and straightened up, raising my butt off the car seat, to unsnap my cargo pants and pull them down. I could tell, in my peripheral vision, that Max started to do a double take, wondering if and why this lunatic woman was going to strip off her clothes, right in the driver’s seat.”

“But then he saw that I was wearing jeans under the pants, and he understood. I wiggled the cargo pants off my legs and tossed them over my shoulder into the back seat, with the rest of my secondhand disguise.”

“’Buckle up,’ I said to Max, as I clicked my seat belt / shoulder harness into place. I heard Max do the same. If we got into a desperate chase with more bad guys or the police, I didn’t want to be fumbling with the belt, then.”

“Finally, I started driving, heading back toward the coast road, with my only plan being to head north, opposite the direction I had come from, continuing my course away from the scene of my crimes. The only thing that would make me feel safer now was to get far, far away from this whole mess.”

“I knew I should ditch the car before I passed any traffic cams or license plate readers, but that was probably not my most urgent concern. I expected no cameras before we got to the next decent-sized city, Aracaju, in Sergipe, which was at least 160 kilometers north of here. In between, there were just a few sparse Bahia towns, if they could even be called towns.”

“Nonetheless, I couldn’t imagine staying on the main coast road all the way to Sergipe – too much potential exposure. It occurred to me that some good citizen could have reported the thugs’ crazy driving during the little chase out of town, which would be associated with this car and its license plates. So the cops could be alerted to the car for that reason, if not already by the gangsters.”

As I turned north and gathered speed onto the main coast road, I settled into my thoughts and started to concentrate on my driving. But before I could start to focus on my swirl of concerns and the many known unknowns, I was interrupted.”

“’I was having a nice relaxing day back there,’ Max mused, looking straight ahead, as we blasted down the coast road, with no traffic in our way. That broke my failing attempt at concentration, but it was welcome. I felt better, knowing that he was still willing to engage with me, rather than being lost in thoughts of how he could ditch me before I got us both arrested, or killed.”

“I tried for humor again. ‘You mean before, or after, I showed up?’ I asked with a smile and a quick sideways glance at him.”

“’Funny girl,” he said, and laughed a bit. He was silent for a few seconds, and then asked me, ’So, did you have a plan for this ... whatever it was you were doing ... when you spoiled my afternoon? Where are we going?’”

“I sighed. ‘I didn’t have a plan, Max, no; not an escape plan. I just had a revenge plan. I hadn’t expected a hot pursuit.’ At that moment, the full realization kicked in, that I hadn’t even thought through how I was actually going to get away clean, even if everything had gone well. What a f*ckup I am, I thought.”

“I continued my rambling answer to Max, ‘Other than to get several steps ahead of those assholes, and lose them completely, get up the coast to the next state north, way beyond Aracaju, and find a quick way out of Brazil, eventually back to the US. That’s all I can come up with.’”

“I thought a second, and added, ‘Well, I guess that’s more of a goal, than a plan. The closest thing I have to a plan, for now, is just reacting to all the contingencies, like more goons on our tail, or bent cops, or even honest cops. We can’t afford to meet any of them, and we’ve got to lose this car, as soon as we can get a new means of transport north.’ Even as I was saying it, I could tell it wasn’t very convincing to Max, nor to myself.”

“’If we get stopped, I’m going to claim that you kidnapped me,’ Max said, without trying hard to make an obvious joke out of it, and without offering any helpful suggestions. He didn’t say anything else, and I didn’t have a good comeback. I hoped he was just making a droll joke, but things still weren’t looking good.”

“So far, on the coast road, the traffic was sparse, no cars ahead of us, and only one car had come the other way. And no police lights behind us – yet. But I was feeling the adrenaline build up again, knowing that I wasn’t out of this thing yet, by a long shot, and there were so many ways I could still trip up, so many unknowns.”

“I kept driving, and I was making good time, though I didn’t know toward what. In the silence, I again tried to form coherent thoughts, to define the variables in my situation, to come up with a strategy, but it was all a fog. I was still too uptight, running on adrenaline, to calm down and think things through logically.”

“Worst of all, I had no concrete information about my situation – my pursuers – the gangsters and the police, where they were, and what they knew about me at this point, which made it difficult to plan anything. The only thing I knew is that as long as I was going forward, I was at least doing something positive.”

“Then Max broke the silence again, ‘I think we should lose the car out in the brush and woods around here, within walking distance of one of the bus stops up ahead. The buses are a good, mostly anonymous way to move around. That’s how I’ve been traveling north from São Paulo, taking the bus lines.’”

“He went on, ‘I was going to continue my little vacation and get back on the bus, at the same autocarro stop as the old guy at the cantina. That was my plan, anyway, before you did your Sanchez-powered headplant in the sand, in front of me, with your funny friends hot on your ass. Plan’s apparently changed ...’”

“It suddenly made so happy that Max had a suggestion to help our situation, and it lined up with what I was roughly thinking, though I didn’t know the bus schedules or where the bus stops were.”

“Max continued, ‘I’ve got the bus map. It’s the Linha Verde [ Green Line ]. It goes up to the border, and then you change to a new bus line at the Sergipe station. Red eye express. I don’t have a schedule for the Sergipe line, but we should be able to get to Aracaju by late morning. That where I was heading, anyway – but I wasn’t in as big a hurry as you probably are.’”

“Max went on, ‘There should be one more non-local, Linha Verde bus coming through here yet today, if we can lose this car and get back to the road in time, for a nice healthy little walk.’

“I happily replied, ‘Max, thank you! Since I didn’t know what I was going to do, in any detail, this is a really big help! Thanks, by the way, for saving my life back there, too.’ I paused, and added, ‘And thanks also for not blowing my brains out with that thing,’ as I nodded toward the DE .50 laying on his lap. Meanwhile, he was getting his bus map and schedule out of one of the pockets in his cargo shorts.”

“I glanced at the Linha Verde map. It was too basic to show the small side roads, but I could tell how far it would be to the next couple of bus stops – about 14 km and 26 km from here. I figured that we could probably have time to ditch the car if everything went right. My confidence level increased a bit.”

“Max was alternately contemplating the map and doing lookout duty ahead and behind us, as I continued driving. We saw a couple of turnoff possibilities – little dirt roads that looked like they might lead into the tall scrubby brush, mixed with trees further in, kind of like the lake road that I took to get an ambush on the thugs. There should be time to check out a couple of them.”

“But I wanted to get a lot closer to the bus stop, or we’d be stuck having to walk / run too far in the late afternoon heat and humidity, to reach the bus stop in time.”

“As we continued driving for another 10 or so minutes, Max said, ‘I think we should turn around here; we’re getting close to the first stop, and they’ll see us turn around and double back. We’re close enough now, to walk.’”

“I agreed. I looked behind me for police lights and for any traffic that I might cut off with a U-turn, and it was all clear. Even so, as soon as I turned and started heading back, my guts twitched a little, since it conflicted with my instincts to keep moving forward and escape. I was still too close to the frenzied action of the past hour, not near far enough away.”

“We came up quickly on the first potentially suitable dirt road, which we had passed just a minute ago. It had looked like a possibility. I turned into the road and accelerated, while looking at the density of woods along the sides, hoping that I wouldn’t have to go too far in, to find a place where I could drive the car hard and fast into the deep brush or trees to hide it.”

“But the land on the sides of the road was too open, and there were some small houses on small cleared farm lots on both sides, so it wasn’t looking good, not as unpopulated as I had expected it to be. Then we passed a bicyclist, probably from some house further in, who surely got a good look at the car, plus, we were already getting too far away from the main road.”

“I was worried now that the bicyclist had seen us, but it couldn’t be helped. I didn’t want to make it worse, by also being seen by the residents of those farmhouses, wondering why two gringos were walking on the road past their house, especially if they had seen us drive in.”

“Then Max suggested, ‘Let’s go back out on the main road and turn right, continue back toward your beach party. I saw a place that might work.’”

“I didn’t know what he had in mind, but I agreed; it had to be better than this road. I slowed and turned around, and we were back on the main road in just about 90 seconds. The bicyclist saw us again as we come out, but hopefully he just thought we were lost tourists.”

“We got back out on the coast road, and I turned to drive in the direction further away from the bus stop, as Max had indicated. But my hope wasn’t as high now, about ditching this car; my fear was starting to rise. I was also thinking about the extra distance we would have to walk, on a tight timeline.”

“In just another 30 seconds, Max said, ‘It’s coming up. See the bridge we crossed a couple of minutes ago?’”

“I remembered the bridge, but it didn’t mean anything to me at the time. It spanned a wide, forested gully with a small stream, running under the road. Though I didn’t think there was much water in the stream, I remembered that the bridge was pretty long, and the gully fairly wide and deep, probably because the stream ran much higher, and flooded, in the rainy season.”

“Max said, ‘The guard rail ends about 100 feet from the bridge. Drive off the road on the right, around the guard rail, and ditch the car down in the gully. Then steer it underneath the bridge, where it can’t be seen from the road.’”

“I thought about it, but I was worried about getting the car stuck in the dirt and grass and tall brush behind the guard rail, where we would be in plain sight, or maybe rolling the car over as it plunged down into the gully, if I tried to steer it under the bridge while on the slope. And also, I was worried that a passing car might see us pulling this stunt. It didn’t seem like such a sure thing to me. I told Max my concerns.”

“Max replied that we’re going to run out of time, if we keep screwing around looking for a better place to hide this thing. We’d still have to walk more than two kilometers to the bus stop from here, and it was only about 50 minutes until the bus would arrive, if it were on time. I could see the benefit of staying on the timeline.”

“Max turned around in his seat and looked behind us. ‘It’s all clear back there,’ he said. I didn’t see any cars ahead, either. Max said, ‘Get ready to drive off the road, behind the rail.”

“’Max, I don’t know...,’ I replied, worried. I was also thinking of my experience, not that many minutes ago, where I plunged the dirt bike into the sand, thinking I knew what I was doing, and it almost got me killed. It was like, did I even learn anything from that?”

“’Just do it,’ he said. “Keep the momentum up, so we don’t get stuck. I’m countin’ on you, kid.’ Now Max sounded like he was channeling Bogart, but it made me smile, a little.”

“I didn’t like it, but I either had to commit, or continue to gamble on the decreasing probability of finding a suitable side road further down, which would cut our schedule even tighter. Neither option seemed good. So, just going with my gut, or more accurately, going against it, I whipped the car to the right, off the road and behind the guardrail.”

“The car hit the ground hard, since the dirt and the weeds and brush were lower than the road surface. That impact alone almost gave me whiplash. Now I knew why they put the guardrail there, to stop stupid people like me from doing stupid sh*t like this.”

“After recovering from that impact, I eased back on the gas pedal, but kept it depressed enough to keep up the speed, to power through the bushes and the rough ground, like Max said. The ride was terribly bumpy, and loud with impacts of the brush and ground under the floorboards. A continuous cloud of grasshoppers and flying bugs burst up from the grass and the brush, as we plowed through.”

“As we were coming up even with the bridge structure, beyond which I expected the ground to start sloping down into the stream, I moved my foot to the brake, getting ready for the ride down. I was planning to brake as soon as I saw the edge of the gully coming up.”

“Then suddenly, the ground dropped out from under the car! Nearer to the source of the stream water, the growth of tall, healthy brush and saplings had hidden the true edge of the downslope, and I wasn’t ready. It was instantly like the scariest roller coaster I had ever ridden!”

“Even though, due to the rough ground, I wasn’t going at road speed at that point, the front of the car was in freefall, surprising me, and not in a good way. I had expected to just head down the slope smoothly, my foot on the brake, under control, but that plan was out the window.”

“‘Holy SHIIIIIIIT!!’ I yelled, grimacing with the anticipation of a full-on car crash, my eyes averted, with sudden panic. I was gripping the steering wheel with all my force, instinctively in the moment, hoping it could somehow save me from the falling sensation, but of course, that was useless.”

“In the middle of this craziness, as we were flying through the f*cking air, Max just calmly said, ‘Use your brakes.’ Well, that sounded like good advice, but I could hardly even get myself oriented in the seat, in the freefall, to find the floor pedals at all, let alone figure out whether I was going to step on the brake or the gas.”

“Then the front wheels slammed down hard, making a hell of a loud ‘WHUMP’ throughout the whole car frame and body, combined with the rich sound of crunching vegetation, all around me, the car now blasting downslope at a steep angle, rolling faster than ever.”

“When the wheels hit the ground after the momentary freefall, I was slammed down hard, on the seat, jerked violently by the shoulder harness locking in, and my hands and wrists were painfully jammed into the wheel. Both of my knees whacked up against the underside of the dash. I thought that surely the car was going to nose in, and flip over forward. But just barely, the car stayed on its wheels, most likely because I *hadn’t* hit the brakes, ironically.”

“In addition to the almost deafening and seemingly endless woody crunch of breaking saplings, as the car kept rolling, I heard and felt hundreds of impacts and scrapes of the vegetation on all the surfaces of the car, so close all around me, which just added to the terrifying ambience. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. It sounded like total chaos, because it was.”

“Careening toward what I assumed would be a high-impact crash in the floor of the gully, I thought, with overwhelming regret, ‘Goddammit! This is worse than the motorcycle wreck; what a f*cking fool I am!’ As we bounced wildly down the slope, I felt and heard Max’s heavy duffel bag hit the back of his seat. My gun and clips, originally on the floor at my feet, were now banging around wildly, hitting my shins. God, I was scared!”

“Then as the dense vegetation started to drag down the car’s momentum, it felt like all my weight was being held by the shoulder harness, the gravity vector pointing more toward the windshield than the floor, like the spacecraft re-entry simulation in one of those 3D Space Monkey adventure park rides.”

“I was panicked, senseless and useless, for a few seconds, by which time we had plunged into the dense brush and a thicket of reeds along the stream, slowing the car to a stop, relatively gently, after that uncontrolled descent. Thank goodness it was a gradual stop, so the airbags didn’t blow. The engine had stopped, due to the hard downward impact, and all was suddenly quiet.”

“This seemed like another fine mess I’d gotten myself into. But I’ll give some of the credit to Max, for this one. I still hadn’t relaxed my grip on the wheel, and all I could hear now was the growing sound of my heart, pounding in my ears.”


Well, dear readers, Karen’s had a busy day so far. And it’s probably not over, yet.

Edited by saintsrow
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CHAPTER 20: Pain from the Past (Part 10): Brazilian Getaway Special / Fire in the Hole

Continues immediately from CHAPTER 19


Karen continued, “Whew. With the car finally motionless, after a few more seconds, I assessed that I was not feeling any immediate agony from broken bones or torn tendons, except for the aches still shimmering through my hands, wrists and forearms. My eyes were open now, but I was dazed, and I sat quietly for another 10 seconds or so, just recovering and trying to get some sense of our situation. It seemed dark outside. I blinked to see if my eyes were working.”

“I sensed that Max was active and looking around, fumbling on the floor between his feet, for his ammo box. I heard him unbuckle his seat belt and harness. He seemed to have managed this barely-controlled wreck better than I had.”

“’You OK?’ he asked. I could tell, by the sound of his voice, that he had looked over at me, my hands still gripping the wheel with white knuckles, as I stared ahead, blankly.”

“I heard him say the words, and I knew what they meant, but my mind wasn’t working well enough to formulate an answer, just yet. I felt hollow, breathless, with the fear borne of this latest spine-rattling debacle, chained with all the rest of my self-made disasters today.”

“I took another couple of ragged, shivering breaths. Finally, I was coming back to sensory processing in the real world. In front of the car, all I saw were green leaves and vines, all around the hood, and drooping in front of the windshield. I looked out my side window, and saw more of the leaves, plastered against the glass.” It was getting dark and shady down here in the gully, but it was even darker inside the car, due to the vegetation covering the windows.”

“My blank stare dissipating, I looked over at Max, who was visually assessing me for obvious injuries, let alone my even more obvious mental distress, while waiting for me to answer. I tried to find some words. ‘Ummm, yeah ... I ... guess ...,’ I managed. ‘My arms hurt ... ,’ I added, still feeling the dull pain.”

“In the dim light, Max looked no worse for the wear. He already had his DE .50 and ammo box in his hands. Assessing myself again as I tried to move, I could tell that, luckily, I probably had just experienced a hard impact to my arms, no dislocations, and my legs felt OK.”

“Max replied, ‘Sorry, kid, that was a little rougher than I expected.’”

“’No sh*t,’ I replied.”

“Besides being weak all over from my lingering fear, and the incidental fact that we were still aimed downward at probably a 30-degree angle or more, I had a hell of a time getting out of the car. There were small trees, bushes and other dense plants, all pushing up against the doors. Both Max and I had to force our respective doors open, just barely enough to squeeze our way out.”

“We eventually wiggled out of the car, though I could still barely move, in the thick brush and vines. I could hear running water, and see, in the fading late afternoon light, shaded by the bridge, that the front bumper of the car was only a few feet from the edge of the flowing water. Broken down saplings and the dense brush were compressed and piled up, between the car and the water.”

The deep, thick vegetation, all around, kind of concealed the car on the sides, but I expected that it could still be visible from overhead, if a pedestrian or a bicyclist, or the cops, happened to look over the bridge railing.”

“Then Max forcefully tried to trample down some of the lush, green tangled brush on his side of the car, so he could wrestle the rear door open enough to reach his duffel bag. But the brush was too thick, and I could tell he was getting impatient to leave. We still had to climb our way out of the gully, and get back to the road. The minutes were ticking by.”

“’F*ck it,’ Max said, and he slammed the butt of his DE .50 into the window of the rear passenger door, shattering it. He leaned in through the window, grabbed his bag off the rear floor, shook the broken glass fragments off of it, and hoisted the bag onto the rear window of the car, laying his gun and ammo beside it. The rear window was almost a level surface now, with the car at this steep angle.”

“But then he leaned back in through the window again, deeper. He rummaged around, in the back seat, and came back out with my cargo pants and hoodie, from which he also shook out the glass. He found the grenade, still in the belly pocket, and tossed it in the water, way downstream, almost to the other side of the bridge. ‘So you won’t use it on me,’ he said, a wry tone in his voice.”

“Max said that we shouldn’t leave my clothes in the car – it’s better to let searchers think that I was still wearing that outfit, so they’d still be looking for the crazy killer woman in the hoodie, in case there was a Bahia-wide APB going out. Except for re-igniting my fear when he mentioned the APB, I liked that suggestion.”

“He unzipped his duffel bag, and shoved his hand cannon and the ammo box deep down on one side of the bag, then stuffed my hoodrat assassin disguise in after them. He said, ‘We’ll get rid of these later, up the road somewhere.”

“We were standing on opposite sides of the car, and the next order of business was to climb back up the slope and get to the bus stop down the road. But at that point, I remembered my pistol and clips, which were still scattered somewhere on the front floor of the car. I told Max, and I started try to pry my door back open to get them.”

“Max said, ‘You should just leave the gun here. You’d get in plenty of trouble, if some cop finds you carrying it. You aren’t planning on killing anybody else today, are you?’

“I thought for a second, more intuitively rather than logically, and I knew it felt right, now, to leave the gun. I just wanted to leave the events of this day behind me, now. I just wanted to leave my whole Agency life behind me, forever.”

“I realized that this could be a symbolic break; no more weapons, no more solving problems with lethal force. Besides, I had gotten my revenge for David, and some unplanned bonus kills, besides. I told Max I agreed. Now the challenge was to fight my way out of this thick brush.”

Max said, ‘Crawl up on the hood, and climb over the top of the car to the back. The brush is smashed down a little behind the car, so it’ll be easier to climb up the hill there.’”

“That was great advice. The lush greengrowth on the slope was flattened in the tire tracks, where the car had torn through it, though it was already starting to spring up again. It was still better than hacking through the undisturbed brush. I got to the back of the car and jumped off, and I was about to scramble up the hill, when I realized that my body had other ideas.”

“’Max,’ I said, ‘this is as embarrassing as hell, but I’m just gonna say it – I’ve gotta take a sh*t. Right now! My insides have been mush, from fear, all afternoon, ever since I started killing people, and this thrillride down the hill was the last straw. Being scared sh*tless isn’t just an empty figure of speech.’”

“My guts were churning. I was going to lose it, in another few minutes, no matter what. I was only about 6 feet from the sparser vegetation in the shade under the bridge. In my desperation, I figured I could push a path through it, and I was going to go for it.”

“I elaborated, ‘I’m going under the bridge over here, where the trees stop because of the shade. I’ll be just a minute, sorry. I know we’re on a tight timeline.’”

“Max replied, quickly, “What the hell? Don’t take a sh*t beside the stream! Weren’t you ever a Girl Scout?’”

“I was confused at his reaction. I thought he’d be impatient about my need to lose a few more precious minutes for this diversion, before we could get on the move. But what did the Girl Scouts have to do with anything?”

“Max continued, ‘Good wilderness practice. You’ll pollute the stream. Hold it in, until we get up the slope, then go behind a bush up there.’”

“Jesus, I thought, he’s serious. ’That’s easy for you to say,’ I replied, both humorously and seriously. I was really concerned that I wouldn’t be able to get up there in time.”

“Max quickly climbed onto the trunk of the car, and slung his duffel bag over his shoulder. He said, ‘Start climbing up the hill. I’ll help you up.’ I leaned forward and planted my foot to get a start on climbing. I took a step up, needing my hands to help climb the steep hill. Max jumped off the trunk of the car, right behind and below me on the hill, and slapped both of his hands on my butt cheeks. ‘Go!’, he said.”

“Good grief! I was doubly embarrassed now, but it really worked. Max got me up the hill, fast, pushing me up by my ass, and it took almost no effort on my part, almost like I floated up the hill. He had enough strength for both of us, and somehow he was able to get traction on the slope, stepping on the small trunks and clumps of the bushes, even while he was wearing flip flops.”

“In just about 15 seconds, as soon as I got to the level ground at the top of the slope, I lurched ahead, away from Max, and I desperately looked around for the nearest bush. That little butt push didn’t help my intestinal situation; that was for sure.”

“I quickly saw a suitable small tree, overgrown with vines and flanked by some bushes, and I went running for it, sort of hopping over the weeds and low brush to get there. More grasshoppers and small flying bugs lept out of the grass in front of me. I hoped I wouldn’t land on a snake.”

“As I ducked behind my little vine-covered modesty tree, I rapidly unbuttoned and slid down my jeans and panties to my knees, spread my feet apart and squatted, without a second to spare. As I relaxed my straining sphincter, I said to myself, ‘Fire in the hole !!’ BLUUURRRCCCCHHHH!”

“’Wheeeeeewwwww,’ I whistled. That was just too close. As all the sh*t exploded out, I felt so much better, instantly, and then I just squatted there for a minute, recovering. God, what a mess! Then I realized, what the f*ck am I going to use to wipe my ass?”

“I remembered my wallet. While still squatting with my jeans around my knees, I clumsily rustled them around, until I found my wallet in the back pocket. I took out three R$5 notes and used them, as best I could, to wipe up. That cleanup was about the price of a mocha grande latte at Bean Machine. It was worth it.”

“As I stood up, feeling the late afternoon Atlantic breeze on my bare ass, I thought, what a goddamned farce this has been. Here’s your hardass IAA agent, out in the field, saving the world. Heroic. Powerful. Resourceful. Right. Pathetic jackass, is what I was. And my Agency future was blown to hell– all that training and all that career-building, worth no more now, than the steaming mess on the ground behind me.”

“I pulled up my jeans and panties, buttoned up, and quickly ran back out from behind my newly-fertilized tree, expecting to tell Max that I was ready to hit the road. But he wasn’t there. I looked around 360 degrees, and he was gone! WTF! I suddenly felt another pulse of panic. I yelled out, ‘Maaaaxxxx!’ but with my natural pessimism, my fear of abandonment at this critical moment, I actually didn’t expect to find him. I suddenly felt so alone, so doomed.”

“But to my great relief, I heard him answer, faintly. ‘Down here!’ Max yelled. The sound came from the direction of the gully, under the bridge.”

“I ran through the brush, over to the edge of the slope, where I saw that Max had left his duffel bag. He had gone back down to the car, with a knife, and he was cutting the branches off some of the small trees and brush under the bridge, and kind of tangling them together to make a camouflage mat to lay over the car, hopefully without sliding off.”

“‘I’m covering the car with a bunch of brush and leafy branches.’ Max said, as he continued to work. ‘They’ll turn brown and dead soon enough, but maybe it’ll help keep the car from being casually discovered from the bridge, for another day or two, so you’ll be further up the coast.’”

“Still working, he continued, ‘I assume you would want that. Since this little offramp was my idea, I thought I should try to make it work out better.’”

“I started to come down the hill to help, but Max said, ‘Stay there. I’ve got this; it’s OK.’”

“I yelled back, ‘Thanks, Max!’ I took advantage of my unexpected downtime to look around, toward the road, where it seemed that, thankfully, there had been no traffic at the time we plunged the car over the bank, and no one had pulled over so far, to try to help us. Maybe this nutty idea worked.”

“But then I thought, being visible here is bad tactics – it would be an obvious clue to the location of the car. I don’t want to be seen by passerby, while I’m standing out in the weeds and brush, with a stupid look on my face. It might make them wonder what I’m doing, or if I need help, or something. They probably won’t believe me if I tell them I’m just out here in the middle of this green scrub, looking for a dropped contact lens."

“So I quickly took cover, just a few feet down the slope, out of sight. While sitting there, momentarily quiet for the first time since I went into full revenge mode at noon, starting to feel the exhaustion of this day, my mind wandered back to what was happening as a result of all my actions.”

"I wondered, of most immediate concern, what the insurgent gangsters and the police were doing right now to identify me, and track me down. Were they already headed this way? Had the last three thugs phoned home with their location, before our little confrontation on the beach? The gangsters and police both were surely feverish to find me, after what I had done.”

“Many witnesses in the condo neighborhood must have seen the Mesa, and the thugs had gone over every inch of it, surely. Did the eyewitnesses in the kids’ neighborhood identify me well enough to make it easy for any cop out here in Bahia to recognize me from their description – the crazy, raging American woman, who came out of nowhere and kicked everybody’s ass?”

“There were clues in the Mesa, that the gangsters and police would surely have by now, such as its fake registration, the encrypted laptop that I had stuffed down behind the seat, my micro SMG and secondhand tote bag, maybe fingerprints – but I felt that our standard Agency precautions would keep everything fairly well dissociated from our op, and from me.”

“I wondered if the Mesa had already been traced back to my mentors, or when it would be, and what the consequences of that might be. I wondered if the mentors already had found out the full extent of what I had done today, or if they didn’t even yet know about any of it, and were just trying to track me down. I wondered if they had had any inkling of what I planned.”

“Had the police or more thugs found the dead gangsters at the cabin, or at the beach? If so, they could be close, could be driving up this road right now. I was remembering what a trail of destruction I had left.”

“After a couple more minutes of Max’s intense work, the assembled cluster of greenery was doing a pretty good job of hiding the top of the car, at least from my view near the top of the slope. Max used a couple of long branches to tie the thick green mat to the rear bumper, to keep it from sliding down, and then he headed back up the hill toward me.”

“Lost in thought and exhaustion, increasingly worried about contingencies and consequences, I was still crouching at the edge, watching him but not really seeing, as he reached the top of the slope and passed me, continuing his momentum up the hill. In the same motion, he grabbed his bag, slung it over his shoulder, and just kept walking, toward the road.”

“I was still in a daze, but then I sort of realized, hey, he’s leaving. He glanced back toward me and said, “You coming?’”

“Back to reality, I yelled, ‘Let’s go!!’ and I ran to catch up with him.”


Edited by saintsrow
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