Gunslinger Girl Fan Fiction ❯ The Alpha Effect: Inizio-Encounter ❯ Chapter 3

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

“This is bad,” Bianci said. “The carbon replacements in her arm and leg aren't just damaged, they're destroyed.”
“I concur, “Gilliani added. “The artificial ligaments, muscle tissue, even the optic fiber nerve substitute. They all need replacing. I need to know Bianci. Is it really…him?”
Quiet,” Bianchi said in a hushed voice. “Nobody else is supposed to know. Rico's condition is the only reason you haven't been sent away with the others.”
Henrietta, Triela, and Claes stood in front of Rico's infirmary window. The respirator helping her breath had just completed its rhythmic hiss while the machines measuring her body functions made their steady sounds. Turning to the doctors leaving Rico's room, they used their cybernetic hearing to eavesdrop on the conversation.
After dropping the metal folder into the door compartment, Bianci and Gilliani stepped into another room. Upon hearing the door click shut, Triela walked over to the door grabbing the metal folder.
“Claes, come here,” Triela said after opening the folder. “I can't understand any of this.”
Taking the folder she flipped though the pages for a minute before closing it.
“What does it say, Claes?” Henrietta asked.
Claes with her eyes closed answered, “She has a severe concussion, multiple contusions, four ribs with compound fractures, and a bruised sternum.”
Henrietta gasped at the laundry list of injuries, while Triela clenched her fists looking away.
“Those are pin-pricks compared the damaged cartilage in her vertebrae and she's suffering from a punctured lung. Bianci's observation shows these two injuries arose from continued stress as a result of the others.”
Triela looked through the window with a strong look of worry, “It's like she got hit by a train…twice. Who can be strong enough to do this? We're better than human aren't we?”
Henrietta turned her gaze away from Triela, tears forming in her eyes. `What if I can't protect José?” The image of being in Rico's place let those tears free.
Claes stood at the window again arms folded, her heavy breaths raising and lowering them. Triela saw the two of them and did an about-face. `I need more information,' she thought. `I need to know who this…him is and why he's after us.'
“I'm sorry to call you here so soon,” Lorenzo said citing the black neck-brace Jean wore. “How does that thing feel?”
“Uncomfortable…and it itches,” Jean answered.
The director nodded, “You know why I called you here?”
“I believe so.”
“Then I'll digress with formalities. Was it him?”
“So he continues to steal our targets.”
“I'm not so sure.”
“If you recall, the first subject harbored no resentment of his tasks. We didn't use conditioning back then. When psychoanalyzed, he stated that it was his job; his profession or his trade as he preferred.”
“So you think he was hired, by whom?”
“The first target had many enemies with rival businessmen and the Mafiosi. The second target, enemies within multiple government agencies and rival factions he hadn't favored.
“True enough. So he might have been a hired gun for an opposing government?”
“In full, I believe he might have been hired by our own. With the old office dissolved and his personnel file buried, there would be no way of knowing when he reentered the country.”
“Interesting, that would explain his supposed knowledge of the agency. It's fortunate for us he's getting careless.”
“I thought that at first.”
“He left behind a Springfield V-10 didn't he?”
“Yes, but read further. I saw him release his magazines. When retrieved, that Springfield Armory had one round left in the chamber. I wouldn't be surprised if the other was the same.”
“Could he have forgotten?”
“Highly doubtful, that boy was…was trained by the best. He doesn't make mistakes…he eliminates them. I believe it was a challenge. He had both guns point-blank, dead center on Rico's eyes. Had he wished, he could have killed her.”
“Are you positive he could have killed Rico?” Lorenzo said after a long silence.
“Without a doubt,” Jean answered
“But he didn't; or you for that matter. Why?”
“I'm still trying to figure that one myself, sir.”
“I'm not going to take any chances. All currently active fratello's are to leave the compound. Mark it down as assigned vacation. Instruct the handlers to remain within immediate contact range. Dr. Bianci reports that Rico's repairs will be completed within the week. However, Rico will need an additional week of rehabilitation due to the extent of her injuries and the replacements she requires.”
“Yes, sir.”
“Soon as Rico's rehabilitation is complete all fratello's are to return here. We'll fix this mistake of the past.”
“Yes, sir. It will be done.”
Jean headed to the door when Lorenzo spoke again.
“-Ahem-. I wouldn't make any arrangements just yet. Since Rico can't leave here at the present time, neither can you. “
“Of course,” Jean said through gritted teeth before leaving.
Lorenzo was left alone with his thoughts. Memories of the old days; before the forming of the Social Welfare Agency resurfaced .Back then, they were a mere experimental project. The old compound in the countryside, which later became their shooting range and training facility. The first few personnel they had acquired, most of them still remained. An always smiling American child and a strong-willed Roma woman stood out most in his mind.
`Jean, had I known your past then. I would never have made you their commander. Your secret is safe with me, but it may cost us more than you know. José, Hilshire; for what I must show you, I can only imagine ways of apology.'
Pulling a piece of paper out of his top-left drawer, Lorenzo scanned it over a minute before dialing the number written on it. After a few ring tones, a subtle beep and a familiar voice emerged
“Marco, how are you?”
“As good as can be expected. You?”
“Not bad, but not good either. How are your cadets?”
“Lazy and imprudent. The other officers say their exceptional, but I may have gotten spoiled working for Section 2.”
“I have a problem,” Lorenzo said in haste.
“What kind of problem?” Marco answered now irritated.
“The concerned kind, I need someone to train Claes and it's too soon to brief one of the candidates.”
“I thought I told you!” Marco yelled into the receiver slamming his palm on his desk. “I'm not coming back! After Angelica…that was it for me! If you think…”
“It's Alpha, he's back!”, the director's voice rose cutting off Marco.
Marco slumped back in his chair, staring forward trying to find safety from the wall before him. The director's rising voice brought him out of shock.
“You remember, no?”
“Only what was in the file Bianci gave me. After I met Angie, he said it would prepare me for what was to come. I saw him only once during a training exercise, but I was part of the NOCS clean-up team after… We found hair, blood, and…skin. It's impossible.”
“Come back to the compound and see for yourself. Jean and Rico had an encounter with him. You can see his work firsthand.”
Still in shock, Marco managed to utter an acceptance.
“Thank you, Marco. You have no idea how much I appreciate this.”
Marco kept hold of the receiver until the busy signal prompted him to hang up. Standing up, he walked to his personal washroom. Turning on the water, Marco put his hands under the faucet before bringing himself some relief. Patting his face one more time with the refreshing fluid; he then dried his face before noticing himself in the mirror. Marco had shaved his goatee and his hair was in crew cut fashion. `Funny,' he thought. `I look now, more like I did back then.'
“Vacation!!” Henrietta squealed; futile to hold her excitement and nearly dropping her tea.
“Yes, vacation,” José answered delighted by her reaction. “The director believes after that last mission, we all need some time off to get refocused.”
“Yes, all.”
Looking away; Henrietta asked, “So; does that mean Triela, Hillshire, and Claes will be coming too?”
“No sweetheart, “Jose said; charmed by her possessive affection. “Not all together. We're going back to Sicily. Triela and Hillshire are going to Naples. Claes is staying here and the others are going elsewhere.
“Just you and me?” Henrietta smiled.
“Of course, only this time you have to leave your violin case.”
“Like last time?”
“But you may bring your sidearm.”
“Just a precaution.”
“Oh, okay.”
Henrietta turned away wearing a worried expression. `Why would José allow me to bring a 9mm, but not my automatic? Why are the fratello's being sent away in the first place? I'll talk to Claes and Triela about it later. Right now, I want to enjoy being with José.'
“Maybe this time we can try some famous Sicilian coffee houses,” José said. “These are becoming too common”
“But first can we go to the balcony and watch the ocean.”
“Of course, dearest.”
“First you come into my room without knocking, and then you tell me to pack a week's worth of clothes without telling me why. Could you be any ruder Hillshire?”
“Yes, I could order you,” Hillshire said with a smug smile.
Triela instantly sat abrupt looking at Hillshire wide-eyed, “You are so wrong.”
“I know,” said Hilshire; his smile widening. “We leave tomorrow morning, please be ready.”
Triela slumped in her seat with a grunt and her arms crossed. Normally Claes would play the cynic and say something sarcastic at this point, but Dr. Bianci had already called her away. Alone to ponder the how's and why's of her position, Triela was deep in thought when Henrietta walked up to the door.
“Triela?” Henrietta called. Triela didn't respond still sitting trancelike. “Triela?!” Henrietta called again, this time startling Triela.
“Oh, Henrietta,” Triela smiled at the cute, brown-haired girl in front of her. “Sorry, I didn't notice you there.”
Henrietta stood in the doorway maintaining a solemn demeanor.
“What's wrong sweetie?”
“Um, can I talk to you…alone?”
“Yes, of course. Claes got called away, so just close the door.”
“Oh, okay.”
Henrietta nearly tiptoed into the room before closing the door. All this was not lost on Triela.
“What's on your mind?” Triela asked resting her face within cupped hands.
“Re…remember when we were sent away?” Henrietta stammered.
“Yes, during the Elsa Di Sica incident.”
“Well… have they told you?”
“Yeah, Hillshire was just here giving me his two lira.”
“I…I was wondering if…if this time…”
“…If we were in danger again,” Triela interrupted.
`Stupid girl,' Triela thought. `Sometimes you really are a blonde.'
After shaking her head, Triela spoke again, “Henrietta, you just gave me an answer to a question that's been nagging me.”
“Nothing, but was that what you were going to ask me?”
“Well, something like that.”
“You know I can't lie to you Henrietta, I don't know. All I do know is that someone defeated us and hurt Rico bad enough to keep her in bed. This someone seems to know our strengths and weaknesses. So it would be safe to assume that they know about this place as well. So they'll split us up in an attempt to flush him or her out. Divide and conquer; as they say.”
“So them sending us away, is just their way of keeping us safe?”
“Yup, I wouldn't worry about it too much.”
“Okay, Triela. Thank you so much.”
Henrietta bounded out of the room giving Claes a greeting as she passed by. Upon hearing Henrietta's greeting, Triela sat up waiting for her to walk in. Claes walked slowly into the room staring at Triela with blank indifference. Claes stood statuesque breathing heavy as she walked.
“Claes, are you okay?” Triela asked.
Her words poured from her mouth like smooth water, “I'm receiving another handler.”