Mme. Cartier squirmed in my grip, then gave up and tried a different tactic. Going very still, she seemed to be entering meditation of some sort. Apparently she wasn't aware of the protections I had woven into my aura through my own inner abilities to defend against magic. She looked shocked for the second time that afternoon when I shrugged off the effects of her knock-out spell and tightened my grip, cutting off her blood flow and rendering her unconscious.
As she slumped into unconsciousness and I slung her over my shoulder, I engaged my commlink to relay the information to the rest of the team. "Target is subdued, heading to safehouse two. Proceed with cleanup and meet me there for debriefing."
"Acknowledged, team leader. Over and out."
I moved as fast and as discreetly as I could, dodging through alleyways and even one burned-out wreck of a building on my way to the small, underground apartment we had rented with our Aztlan system identification numbers. They were well done forgeries, but absolutely required in this sector of Denver to move around, rent an apartment, or even shop using credit. Having the backing of a megacorporation had many benefits, the least of which was getting plausible cover identities.
She woke up once along the way, though I didn't realize it until I felt the effects of a mind-control spell trying to grasp my conscious mind. I ended the contest of wills by slapping a tranquilizer patch on the underside of her thigh. Too bad about the nice pair of pants I had to rip a hole in to get to bare skin.
Jumping over the sleeping vagrants that had claimed the portion of the alley nearest the abandoned warehouse I had chosen for a little "alone time" with my target, I slipped into the back window that was partially hidden by a dumpster and quickly slid the window closed. The cavernous room had old equipment once used for spooling industrial paper taking up a good portion of one side and smelled of disuse; faint scents of corrosion, dust and machine oil cloyed with my senses. The meager air conditioning kicked in, though it probably was more efficient at heating the outside than cooling the inside at this point in its life cycle. At least it was a slight improvement and I was glad I had taken the time to hook it back up to the power grid during my initial scouting run.
As soon as I had scanned the room to make sure it was still secured and nothing had changed since we had left it earlier, I unceremoniously flopped her into a chair and bound her into place with hemp twine. She was starting to come to her senses now; the drug in the patch had been nearly consumed during the long trip across town. I quickly grabbed a syringe from the kit and injected a dose of sodium pentathol into her – it should both encourage her to tell the truth as well as keep her disoriented enough to try another spell.
Then, I sat back to wait for the drug to take its effect.
She groaned, then opened her eyes. I noted the glossed-over look of someone unable to focus on any one thing, and then moved closer. She looked frightened, the world appearing muffled in deep, distorted sounds and indistinct shapes. She whimpered, all of her fight lost... and began to cry. Her symphony of emotion fell on deaf ears, and my patience wore thin.
I moved in closely to her face, watching as she flinched. Putting my mouth near her ear, I spoke in calm, assuring tones, "Mademoiselle Cartier, I want to let you go home to your friends, but I need to know where you took him."
"Took who? I…"
"The scientist. His name was Jean. Do you remember Jean?"
"Jean?" She appeared on the verge of remembering what had happened. I tried prodding her a bit, as the corporation she worked for may have used brainwashing to give her a better "deep cover" personality. A useful tactic, but barbaric.
"You both worked at NeuroTech Labs… You were his assistant, newly hired. You received a message that called you away, and told you to take him."
"Yes, I … I remember Dr. Kaylar… He didn't want to come with me, to Seattle. I… I had to make him come, I had to convince him…"
I frowned at this newest revelation. "Convince him? How?"
Just then, my commlink crackled to life. "Team leader, Gabriel is down! I am taking heavy…" the transmission had the sound of a helicopter and a strange, high-pitched whirring noise. In a heart-stopping moment, I recognized the sound – it was the noise of a rotary barrel on an autocannon. The subsequent, rapid staccato of bullets landing heavily, getting louder, ripped through my senses. The last few tore into something meatier than the tar of a roof, and there was a wet, ripping noise before the commlink crackled and went silent.
We had been discovered, and my team – perhaps the whole mission – had been compromised! There was a sudden tingling on the back of my neck, and trusting instinct, I dove behind an old metal desk that had been turned on its side and was lying nearby. Moments after I reached cover, my captive's head exploded in a shower of gore: a cranial bomb, implanted to both force compliance as well as protect theft of information. It was a corporation's greatest asset.
I rolled to my side before the ringing in my ears had stopped, grabbed the essentials, and bolted out the back window. I landed on one of the squatters, who groaned with the impact, but I didn't slow. Whoever had tagged my team and detonated my captive's bomb may have implanted a tracer beacon as well. Sure enough, buy the time I had gotten three blocks away, I heard the rotorblades of a helicopter swinging the way of the safehouse. I melted into the shadows and made myself as invisible as possible.
I had a lead, but a slim one. Seattle: a seemingly unending metroplex stretching from old Tacoma almost to the old Canadian border, and the last outpost of the United Canadian and American States on the west coast; a city of almost 7 million people; at least, those that have legal System Identification Numbers; The last known location of Jean Kaylar. It will be the proverbial needle in the haystack.
Regardless, it was my next destination.