Halo Gillingham had never seen anything that bright before. It was bright, brighter than the sun, almost as bright the interrogation lights back at headquarters. She blinked, and tried to rub her eyes. She was restrained – as expected – and her shoulder ached in pain. A sticky band bound the spy to a platform, set at an angle. Halo waited calmly for her pupils to adjust to the radiant light, then examined her shoulder. A small mark, the size of a pinpoint, was there. So that was how she had fallen asleep. Not some crushing blow to the head, or a smothering wave of heat, but an injection of some sleeping drug. Halo hoped it wasn’t one of those deadly street drugs. But hey, she was alive! The spy astutely determined that it would be best to examine her surroundings.
The bright light came from two lamps, aimed directly at Halo’s face. In the corner, a short man in a white hood and stained lab coat was working.
“Hey!” Halo called. She was shocked at how low her voice was. It was the hoarse whisper of a teenage boy, not the cool, collected voice of a woman spy. Halo tried again. “You! Turn this instant!”
The short figure, off guard, turned slightly. Halo gasped at who she thought she saw. Her dehydrated mind must be playing tricks on her. After all, she didn’t know how long she had been unconscious – or what chemicals were in that injection. That figure, swarthy, short, and sneering in that lab coat – it looked like Darren!
Darren – if it was him – quickly looked the other way. In a gravelly voice that just dripped disguise, Lab Coat Man growled, “So, you think you can fight PactKV? Why, we don’t just produce helpful – i mean hacking – software at PartTech, we produce new sleeper groups of Kill Vicious-lians.”
“If that isn’t a dumb name, I don’t know what is.” Halo croaked boldly. So that’s what the KV in PactKV stood for!
“Talk about dumb.” Lab Coat Man said. His shoulders shook, possibly with silent laughter.
A clink. He was mixing something.
“Why, Officer Twelve, you must be the dumb one here. I mean, only an utter fool – meaning you – would go off on a mission designed to kill her – viciously.”
“Well, if you think you’re so smart, tell me why you’re hiding behind that dorky little coat of yours, Darren Barcelona.”
Click! A pistol barrel was instantly aimed at Halo’s head. “See, I guess you’re smarter than I thought. I’m not just an expert in code. After all, while spying on you lousy spies I wrote that threat message you were texted, and stole some of your weapons cases; I’m what you might call a “mad scientist.” An experimenter of sorts. And tonight, at ten o clock sharp, you’ll die, Halo Gillingham, you weak little excuse for a spy!” Darren slid the gun back into his pocket and began fiddling with whatever mixture he was doing. Ignoring her.
Halo sank back against the restraint board. The SU had boards like that. Halo had never expected to be trapped on a restraint board, all alone. On her own. She winced with pain as she shifted more in her seat. Her eyes fluttered, once again looking over her weak body. Halo noticed carelessly that her faded work clothes were torn, revealing her black spysuit underneath. A memory tugged at her mind, fading fast…Oh yes! The SU made spysuits out of a tight material resistant to weather and the touch of any but her own. That was good. At least she still had comfortable clothes.
For the first time, the thought that Halo had probably been unconscious and without water or food for days occurred to Halo. After her argument with Darren, all Halo’s bold energy had escaped her, leaving the spy as helpless as a balloon that had been pricked with a needle. In fact, Halo had been pricked by a needle…a formerly robust balloon, now losing air…she was dying. Oh well, at least she had lived her life well. She had stood up to Darren, at least. Oh, but how Halo wished that she had seen through his dorky manner, seen Darren’s cruel heart and malicioius intent beneath! He had threatened to kill her…at least her pain would end that night…Halo had had plenty of threats before. Mart, during the briefing before Halo had left for training, had reminded Halo to be brave…
“You’re a strong woman, Halo Gillingham. The bravest I know. Listen – no matter what happens, no matter what you undergo, know that you are brave, you have courage. Know, Halo that you are a spy. You will do whatever it takes to get the job done. But, also, Hae, you have a soft side. The side only I seem to know. I’ll be rooting for you Hae…I’ll miss you while you’re at your new job.”
“Goodbye, Mart.” Halo’s first time hugging Mart. A little longer than necessary.
“I’ll be waiting for you, Hae.”
“I’ll be waiting for you, Marty.”
Tears came to Halo remembered a saying of Mart’s. She heard Mart’s voice in her head, comfortingly: “Keep calm, Hae. Be the intimidator, not the intimidated.”
Halo tried not to cry. But still, the tears came, slowly ayt first, than a quick stream. Silent tears, silent sobs racking Halo’s sick body. Darren must have been unable to focus. He left the room while Halo wept. All alone, strapped to a board, about to die or be killed…Halo could endure that. But to know for sure that she would never, ever see her best friend again, the friend with whom she had always worked with, the one who had always been able to comfort her when she was stressed or sick – Halo’s heart was breaking, and a heart like Halo’s was hard to break. And a courageous heart that is being destroyed is enough to move the most wicked man imaginable. That is why Darren left the room.
Halo had wept every tear in her body, something which had not happened since her father had died. That’s when Halo, at age nine, hardened herself, set herself at her work, and determined to avenge his death by becoming a spy. A spy – because PactKV, that underground organization, had murdered her father and hacked the information to everything that had ever mattered to Halo. Later in Halo’s life, Halo had discovered that a PactKV branch under a man called “Marin” was the group responsible for her father’s brutal murder.