Author: Comp Ninja PM
Culper Ring Agent Alice "Ace" McCoy must seek out the greatest heroes in all of existence. Together, this eclectic band of misfits must pull together and confront the terror of Tiwaz, a Germanic war god raised from the Beyond by the Thule Society during the Second World War. The cost of failure? The wholesale extinction of the human race at the hands of an apocalyptic abomination.Rated: Fiction T - English - Sci-Fi/Fantasy - Chapters: 15 - Words: 86,105 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 1 - Updated: 10-31-12 - Published: 10-01-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3062277
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"Guilt is the price we pay willingly for doing what we are going to do anyway." - Isabelle Holland
Ace of Spades
We belong dead. This was the unacceptable thought. The one she kept even from her closest friends. Not that she had any of those. Life had robbed her of the chance to make friends and death often stole the ones she had made by some miracle of God.
The other agents called Alice McCoy the Ace of Spades. Why? Because she always managed to bury her partners. Alice didn't blame them for hating her. She hated herself sometimes. She couldn't help it. In a job defined by its high turnover, she was the exception that proved the rule. Alice, known only as Ace to her fellow agents, had a terrible gift for getting other people killed for her mistakes. Her own suicidal tendencies somehow visited upon them.
Alice could only hope that her pitiful lack of a life was penance for the sin of survival. Then, again, all of her fellow agents were people forced to leave behind their old lives by faking their deaths. It was standard procedure at this level. Nonetheless, Death always had a way of stalking her even before she had joined up with these accursed patriots. Alice lived her whole life in the shadow of death.
The cold breeze passing through this lonely street corner in Empire City brushed beside her like a rake against the sidewalk. It was Christmas Eve. If there was any justice in the world, Alice would be huddled around a gigantic Evergreen strewn with holiday ornaments, reading to grandchildren next to the fire as they drifted off to sleep while Santa Claus made his way around the world.
It was a gooey sentimental Norman Rockwell kind of Christmas she envisioned and one she would never have. Instead, she waited in a broken part of a broken town, hoping an urban legend might walk into her trap. Against all common sense, her awareness of her environment waned as memories of a past Christmas filled her mind's eyes.
It was 1929, the year before her parents moved to Nebraska. She couldn't have been much older than ten. Her mother had lost her sister to the flu and her own father to the war. The mission statement of Mary Conroy McCoy's life was bittersweet, a grim determination to overcome what the past had taken away and look forward to what the future might bring. Never was this spirit more evident than during the holidays. Alice still remembered the Christmas tree. It couldn't have been very tall. Their house wasn't that big but to a child her age, it looked like a Medieval castle.
Alice had inherited her mother's determination but all other resemblance to her was moot. Mary was a creature that thrived on tradition. Mary made the same recipes every year as if to remind her family and herself what they still had left.
Alice's job required her to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. Tradition could get an agent killed. Routine was as deadly as cyanide. The game could change very quickly and Alice needed to change with it. Them's the rules. It was this ability to think on her feet that allowed her superiors to ignore the body bags she needed at the end of "successful" missions.
Alice often wondered if her apparent lack of emotion fanned the flames of hatred against her. She wanted to cry. She wanted to cry every day since she "died." When she thought of indulging a good cry, the same question would pop up in her mind.
Then what? Once she cried all the tears she needed to cry, what would she do then? Alice would still be living this surreal nightmare of a life and no amount of tears could resurrect the dead or give her back her old life.
So she never cried. Ever. She didn't cry for her parents. She didn't cry for Billy. So why start such a filthy habit now? Alice had reread the intelligence files a dozen times. Their target, if she existed, had a subtle yet predictable pattern. She tended to hit the same places. Like a cop, she preferred to patrol the same neighborhoods.
If she existed. She could be nothing more than a hoax, propaganda concocted by the Empire City elites to keep the common crooks in line. The Empire City elites were crooks too but they were anything but common. A dragon guards its horde, Alice reminded herself as a clock tower three miles away chimed twelve times in rapid succession.
Alice sighed. Alice pressed the button on her collar. "I'm calling it. We're done here." As if she had said the magic words, the rabbit popped out of the magician's hat. "Scratch that." Alice went for her sidearm. "All agents mobilize to the northeast corner." Alice pointed her flashlight into the dark. "We have movement." Alice raced into the shadows.
Reckless. The other agents called her reckless. A cheap label to explain their unease with her tactics. Alice didn't believe in waiting for an easy fight. Time was the enemy. The more time spent covering their asses, the harder it would be to nail their target. Alice pointed her pistol and flashlight at the target. The ease of her capture seemed to vindicate her "reckless" ways. "I'm Agent Amy McAvoy from the FBI."
The target turned around slowly. The target was a beautiful woman. Alice had been about her age when she "died." Dressed in a red leather skirt, the target raised her empty hands in the air. Dead eyes reached out for her from the holes in her red leather mask. The target had the stench of blood on her. "You're under arrest."
The target smirked. "No, I'm not." Alice blinked. Thunder and lightning exploded from her hands as twin pistols filled them. The two blasts knocked her down.
"Catch you later." One of the leads, a gray-haired man about her age, code-named Ray, bent down to help her up. Alice would have kicked his ass for that if she had the strength to.
"I'm fine, I'm fine," Alice growled as she pushed him away. "I'm wearing a vest." Ray finally took the hint and joined the pursuit of the target. "Damn, damn, damn," Alice cursed as she climbed up onto her feet. "Damn."
Alice had turned a simple bag-and-tag into a pooch screw of epic proportions. Alice needed to salvage this mission before the target vanished into the wind forever. It'd take more than a couple cracked ribs to keep her down.
Impossible. Diana Adams watched in horror as Agent Amy McAvoy got to her feet. Diana had aimed for the ballistics vest peeking out through her suit. The fact that she had lived didn't surprise her. The fact that she could walk so soon after taking two 9 mm slugs to the chest at point blank range did. Amy should be laid up in a hospital from those injuries. Walking should be impossible.
Instead, Agent McAvoy got up and staggered after her like some unkillable slasher in a horror flick. Diana could hear the words of her father in her head. She needed to escape before something happened that would force her to use lethal force on the police. A cop would expect her to run as far as her feet could carry her.
Every instinct in her body told her to run. She still had some blood left on her from the yuppie two blocks over she had killed. Captain Corporate America had been in the process of getting his rape on with his sauced executive assistant (read: secretary) while walking home from the office party in this neighborhood at midnight on Christmas Eve. Pants were around his ankles when she saw him.
It had been a sloppy kill. Not her usual fashion. If it had been a garden-variety mugger in which his penis had played no part in his crimes, Diana wouldn't have opted to get so close. Diana shook it off. Diana needed a plan and fast. Plans were hard to come by when there were so many unknown factors at work. How was that woman still standing and did her friends have equally impressive tolerances to broken ribs and other forms of severe blunt trauma.
Diana got out her nightstick and bashed in a window of an abandoned warehouse. This part of town had a lot of abandoned things. Abandoned warehouses. Abandoned streets. Abandoned people. It was a small miracle to find anything or anyone who had not been abandoned out here. One blocks over lived a mentally disturbed vagrant who called himself the Fighting Yank. Keeping his crazy ass alive had become something of a pet project of Diana's.
Crawling in through the window, the leather blunting the serrated edges of the broken glass, Diana went about the business of misdirection. These FBI agents would form a perimeter. It was second nature to them. Diana needed to convince them that she had ran far far away.
"Oh, crap." The interior of the warehouse looked like the dungeon of Wile E. Coyote. A half-dozen traps had been set with the purpose of snaring her. These weren't FBI agents. FBI wouldn't have been allowed to do something this interesting.
"Stupid." Diana should have killed "Amy" when she had the chance to. Except now, she didn't want to kill her. Diana wanted to know who she was dealing with. Were they even cops? If not … well, too bad for them. "Amy!" Shots rang out.
The shots went wide. They didn't have to. The idea now was to hunt the hunter. Startle her a bit. Maybe even get her to walk into one of her own traps. Diana could only hope.
Plus, the shots gave "Amy" the false belief she could pinpoint her location. Now, Diana could sneak up behind her from the opposite direction and take her by surprise.
Which she did. Diana pointed a pistol to the back of her head. "Drop the gun." The lady dropped the gun. "You're not FBI." "Amy" nodded without turning around to face her. "Who are you?" "Amy" shook her head in defiance.
"I'm not at liberty to divulge my true identity. I'll give you this much. My name's not Amy McAvoy. Satisfied?" Diana cocked the hammer. "Guess not." Not Amy finally turned around to face her. "Still, I'm guessing this is one of those situations where you could have killed me already. Am I right?" Diana nodded grimly. "So why didn't you?"
Diana gritted her teeth. "Two slugs to the chest at point blank range. That's why." Diana pawed her second pistol. "I don't like it when things I shoot at don't have the good sense to stay down." The woman laughed. "What's so funny?"
The lady wiped away a tear. "What I do for a living, sense and reason have nothing to do with it." The lady returned to a neutral expression. "And what you like or don't like is immaterial. We're bringing you in whether you like it or not." Diana screamed as bright white pain coursed through her body. Diana had walked right into an ambush.
Diana turned around to see a silver-haired old man, bent over in agony and and sucking wind. With her last ounce of strength, Diana raised her guns to his head, one for each eye. "No!" The lady's cry was the last thing she heard before she pulled the triggers and lost all consciousness.
The Ace of Spades strikes again. That was the word around the base anyways. Worse yet, it hadn't been an extinction-level event scenario like the thing in Haiti back in 2010. Ray shouldn't have died on a milk run against a paragon with no super-normal attributes. It just didn't happen. Yet it did because of her.
Alice wondered if she could improve morale if she gave them a clue how much Ray's death would haunt her. Ray shouldn't have even been out in the field in the first place. In his prime, he had worn those rubber gloves of his for fear of accidentally shocking someone to death. Nowadays, it damn near killed him just to work up enough voltage to incapacitate human-sized target.
To make matters even thornier, Ray was venerated by his fellow agents. Ray was the big brother everyone had wanted as kids. He stood up for them when their parents yelled at them. He kept the bullies from picking on them. He taught them all the cool tricks to impress the other kids at school with. He was one of them.
Alice couldn't have been anymore screwed if she had gotten Jesus Christ himself killed on that last mission. Alice filled out the paperwork for her transfer request. Nobody here would work with her now. Another bridge burned. Time to move on.
Well, almost time. Alice needed some time alone with their new guest, identified as Diana Eleanor Adams, age 27, the only child of the late Russell "Rusty" Adams, a detective with the Empire City Police Department. An impressive pedigree for a vigilante killer. It explained some of her skills. Especially her proficiency with firearms.
It was Christmas morning. Alice hoped that waking up in a cell had taken some of the fight out of here. Alice was in no hurry. Diana was a mile beneath King Street with some of the finest security in the free world between her and the surface.
Star had recently convened with her superiors during the last summit meeting. The vote wasn't unanimous but Alice had received the go-ahead for the SHADOW Initiative, a project Alice had been peddling for a few decades now.
Alice should have been thrilled but she wasn't. Her ship had finally come in but The SHADOW Initiative was a bandage on a bullet wound. The idea of enlisting non-agent supernormals seemed like such a monumental game-changer until Prisoner D had surrendered himself to the authorities. Now, it seemed like too little and too late. Something Bad with a capital B was on the horizon.
Prisoner D (an anime reference Alice was too old to catch) had been robbed of his collection in Prague. A proud rugged individualist, Prisoner D feared for his life. It was the only reason he would surrender himself to those who had every reason to kill him. The agency had been hunting him since before her time. For him to suddenly demand their protection was beyond belief.
Guarding that particular prisoner was a balancing act. Alice didn't want to spend too much around him. He had a presence that ate away at even the toughest of souls. On the other hand, Alice had to be close enough to watch out for any "accidents" that might befall this most hated prisoner.
Despite all that, Alice often found herself making excuses to go down and see him. He was a fascinating gentleman. Well-read and highly educated, he was a fount of obscure wisdom, some of it useful, some of it not, all of it intriguing in its own way. Thanks to his words of advice, Alice had leveraged Star's support of the SHADOW Initiative. Star, in turn, managed to convince her superiors of its merit.
Alice sighed. Diana had killed an agent. If she picked her, the guillotine from on high would come down on her neck and nobody else's. No one would back her up on this one. Yes or no, she was her choice and her choice alone.
Diana Adams felt strange being in this dry aquarium without her wig and mask. It was like she was on stage and out of costume. Diana should be her penthouse apartment right now, polishing her firearms and working on the socialite persona she needed to mingle with the cream of the Empire City crop.
Diana grimaced into the surveillance camera, hoping that whoever was watching on the other side would get the message. If they did, they didn't care or couldn't do anything about it. Diana had been captured and not a single soul had offered her anything remotely resembling an explanation or an apology yet.
Diana could feel her father's undead disapproval. Sure, he had been died for nine years but he was still with her from beyond the grave, giving her his two cents every now and then whether she wanted to hear it or not. Dad was in full lecture mode right now.
"Relax," Dad said, a little disappointed by his daughter. "It's called sweating the perp." Dad paced around the confines of what passed for the living room in this human zoo. "It's an old trick we cops use. We figure if we hang the perp out to dry long enough, he'll get sloppy and make a mistake." She nodded as if paying attention.
Dad grabbed her shoulders. "Except you're not going to get sloppy and you're not going to make a mistake, are you?" Diana shook her head. "That's my girl." Door opened. "Give them Hell." Dad vanished as the FBI impersonator walked in.
The woman smiled at Diana. "Talking to your father again?" Diana's eyes widened. "Don't look so shocked. National security is more important than client confidentiality." The woman smirked. "Besides, I honestly don't care if you have a few screws loose. I've worked with nuttier squirrels than you."
Diana gritted her teeth. Steam ensued from her nostrils like she were a bull seeing red. She hated being compared her to other crazies. She might not have all her ducks in a row but was a far cry from the Fighting Yank. She still understood the basics of reality.
Diana sighed. "You have a name? A real one, perhaps?" The woman asked her why she wanted to know her name. "If you're going to be judging me, I'd like to know who exactly I'm being judged by." Diana took a seat at the dinner table. "So?"
The woman took the remaining seat across from her. "We don't use names around here." Diana shook her head. Un-freaking-believable. "Like you, we have a lot of enemies. If they found out who we are or, worse, who we were, a lot of innocent people could get hurt that way. Just call me Ace."
A chuckle erupted from inside of him. The woman asked what Diana found so funny. "Ace?" Diana kept snickering. "What'd you do, Ace? Fly planes during World War Two?"
Ace nodded. "As matter of fact, I did." That statement, whether true or false, brought the conversation to a standstill. "That's not important though. What is important is finding out why you thought it was so necessary to kill one of my men."
Ace looked through the one-way mirror making up the fourth wall of the enclosure, taking her eyes off Diana for a moment. The thought of attacking her crossed her mind but then what? There was a guard posted in a room on the other side of that door. A mountain of a man with meaty pythons wrapped around a military-grade assault rifle. Nobody she wanted to mess with.
Diana took a deep breath. "If I remember correctly, I was being electrocuted at the time." Diana locked eyes with Ace. "I didn't mean to kill your friend. My reflexes just kicked in and he was dead before I realized what had happened. That's it."
Ace nodded. "Very well." Ace produced a manila folder. It contained photos of past targets, all their eyes hollowed out by gunshot wounds. "You seem to always aim for the eyes. Yet, you chose to shoot me in the chest." Ace paused. "Why?"
Diana smirked. "You said you were FBI." Diana uncrossed her legs. "That makes you a cop and I'm not a cop killer, get it?" Diana leaned forward. "If I had known you were lying to me …" Diana pointed at a picture. "That'd be you right now."
Ace shook her head. "You had plenty of chances to kill me after that." Ace put her elbows on the table. "Why didn't you kill me then? I mean, you said so yourself, I lied to you."
Diana smiled. "Vest or no vest, two shots in the chest should have put you down." Diana grimaced. "Now, look at you. Less than a day later, you can't even tell that you'd been shot." Diana sighed. "You must be a freak or something?"
Ace smiled. "Or something." Ace shook her head. "This isn't about me. It's about the last eight years you spent gunning down criminals and posing as a wealthy socialite."
Diana wagged her finger at Ace. "I wasn't posing as anything. I am wealthy. You'd be surprised how much cash crooks carry on them. You'd think they of all people would know better." Diana leaned back. "Any more questions?"
Ace nodded. "Just one." Ace produced another manila folder. Diana recognized the photo. It was her father. Or, rather, what was left of him when Sotero's men were done with him. "Pablo Sotero tortured your father for two weeks before killing him. You started killing criminals a year later and yet you waited five more years before attacking his operation. Why?"
Diana let out a deep breath. "Gee, let me think." Diana placed her index finger under her chin. "I supposed the smart thing to do would have been to kill them all on my first night out, get arrested as the chief suspect in their murders and end up sharing a cell with a bunkmate named Big Bertha." Diana nodded. "Yeah, that would have been the smart thing to do."
Diana rolled her eyes. "Not getting caught was half the battle." Diana pointed at her short black hair. "You think I like leather and blond wigs. Leather chafes like Hell and even pretending to be a blond makes you stupider. I put on the act because I'm not going to jail for doing what I think is right."
Diana sighed. "Thanks to you, my cover probably blown by now." Ace looked askance at her. "Oh, you want to explain it to you. Here goes. A mysterious vigilante decides to take a break from crime-fighting while a wealthy socialite disappears without a trace. They'll put two and two together in no time."
Ace nodded. "Indeed, they would have but Diana Adams isn't missing." Ace slid a newspaper clipping across the table. Diana saw herself on the front page handing over one of those huge novelty checks. "In fact, she recently donated about ninety percent of her liquid assets to charity."
Diana locked eyes with Ace. "You bitch." Diana knocked over the table. "I needed that money!" Diana lunged at her. The guard choked her out from behind. Darkness ensued.
That went well, Alice thought as she left the containment area of Diana Adams. So far, the two of them had yet to have a conversation that had ended with both of them still conscious. The fact that the other agents hated Diana was a given. The fact that Diana hated her should have been a given too. Hard to imagine anyone getting cozy with someone who kidnapped them, stole their lives and donated a huge chunk of their ill-gotten gains to charity.
Knight, the guard posted outside the elevator shaft leading down to Hostile Containment Ward, performed a cavity search. By the time it was over, Alice felt like he should have brought her a drink first. Knight handed her the remote and rattled off protocol. The usual song-and-dance about not being stupid.
Easier said than done. If her interrogation of Diana taught her anything, it was this. Slipping into stupid was easier than she thought. Telling Diana about the body double currently living her life for her was the kind of stupid that deserved a pointy dunce cap. Alice had gotten too caught up in the moment to realize her mistake. The idea of downvoting her got more and more tempting with every minute.
"No," Alice said.
"What was that?" Knight asked.
"Nothing." Alice couldn't do it. Downvoting was a death sentence. The other agents wanted her head for killing Ray. Still, she might have preferred enlisting someone who didn't hate her guts.
Knight punched up the code for the elevator shaft. The door opened. "By the way," Knight said as he returned to his post. "Tell Zookee down there her hour was up ten minutes ago." Ace nodded.
Zookee, short for Zookeeper, was the one in charge of feeding and caring for all the non-humans in captivity here. Zookee thought that meant animals. It really meant anything that wasn't strictly human. She should have read the fine print on her job description.
Alice hummed to the music as the elevator car descended two hundred feet straight down. Even hardened agents puked on their way down to Hostile Containment Wards. Almost every base within the agency had one. A place to put the worst of the worst in.
Alice yawned and checked her watch as the elevator doors opened. Alice had seen her share of Hostile Containment Wards. The inmates must have read from the same script. They had used the same cat-calls, the same animal noises, the same threats.
The claustrophobic environment and deliberately inhumane living conditions must have sucked up all of their creative juices. The inmates had their fun. Alice pulled out a remote and shut off the intercom system. Soundproofing in the cell walls swallowed up their continued rudeness. Alice's eyes looked down at the last cell on the right. Zookee was standing right in front of it.
"Knight says your time's up."
Without warning, Zookee fell over backwards. "Knight is right," Prisoner D said through the intercom as Alice beheld his handiwork. "Melissa's time is most definitely up." Prisoner D pressed himself up against the glass. "How do you suppose she got a crucifix down here anyways?" That was the thing sticking out of her throat?
Alice still got shivers whenever he used an agent's real name. Even bathed in white-hot light of high-intensity UV lamps, Prisoner D could still extract information out of people's heads as easily as picking apples off a tree. "Speak, child." The prisoner flashed his fangs. "We're still friends and Melissa is in a better place now."
As soon as she left the Hostile Containment Ward, Alice would need to file a new report on Prisoner D. His psychic abilities, once thought to be limited to mild telepathy under UV lamps, were clearly building up a resistance to them. He could push people now.
"Look at you," D taunted as he stepped away from the glass. "All work and no play make Jane a dull girl." D stared at the earthly remains of Zookee (apparently named Melissa) as a red puddle widened around him. "What a waste of perfectly good blood."
Alice shook it off. "I'm having trouble enlisting the help of a possible candidate." D nodded attentively. "Perhaps, if you gave us some more details about the exact nature of the items stolen, it would help me convey the immense gravity of the situation to her."
D looked down at Zookee. "You know, our friend Melissa tried to bless the water herself." D made a tsk-tsk noise. "I was really curious to see if that would have worked."
D smirked. "Now, I guess we'll never know." D loved gloating over a kill. Especially a challenging one. Killing came easy for a vampire with his stats. Killing someone from behind a plate of bulletproof glass had added a much needed obstacle to keep it interesting. D was too busy congratulating himself to notice he had forgotten about the subject under discussion.
Alice sighed. "Oh, right, your problem, yes." D tilted his head. "You don't need more details from me. You need more details from her." D licked his lips. "Figure out what makes her tick. What she desires the most. Then offer it to her with grand hyperbole."
Alice smirked. "You want me to lie to her?"
D shook his head. "No, I want you to thrive."
D spread his arms in a theatrical gesture. "Assert yourself, Alice. Just like you did before. You didn't win over your boss' approval with details. You won her over because you were willing to risk everything on what you believed in. Fortune favors the bold. Never forget that."
Alice pressed the emergency call button on the remote and walked back to the elevator. "Please come again soon, Alice," D said. "I enjoy these visits very much." D looked down at George. "Tell them to bring a mop bucket with them; he's making an awful mess."
Diana Adams felt like she had taken a sledgehammer to the forehead. Diana's surroundings looked like a hotel room. Diana looked down to find herself stripped down to her panties and bra. I gotta get outta here. Diana scrambled onto her feet. Diana hated feeling like the mouse in someone else's maze. Diana saw what looked like the pearl handles of her Colt .45s sticking out the drawer of the nightstand. "Sleep well?" the stranger in the room asked.
Diana's hands grabbed the gun and pointed it at the intruder. The intruder stepped into light. "Ace," Diana said, the very word dipped in acid. "Come to watch me sleep?" Ace shook her head.
"Come to say goodbye." Ace gestured to the chair with her clothes on it. Ace turned around as Diana got dressed. "You're free to go. I think you've been about as helpful as you're ever going to be. So, I'd rather you didn't waste anymore of my time."
Diana shook her head in disbelief. "That's it." Ace raised an eyebrow. "You put in a hamster wheel for a day and then you decide to let me go." Diana smiled. "What makes you think I won't just call the cops and have you arrested for violating my rights?"
Ace shrugged it like it were an inane question. "We both know you're not going to call anyone. Just as we both know you won't gun me down because you find me far too interesting to kill."
Diana holstered her gun, then grabbed the other one and holstered that one as well. "Fair enough." Diana laughed. "I'm not saying it's not a good deal. I'm just wondering what the catch is."
Ace smirked. "What makes you think there's a catch?"
Diana rolled her eyes. "Because there's always a catch."
Ace nodded. "Fair enough." Ace walked to the door. "You're right; there is a catch." Ace sighed. "The catch is simple. If you walk away now, you'll never hear from us again. Ever. You'll spend the rest of your life wondering who we were and what we were about."
Ace turned the knob. "On the other hand, if you stick around a little bit longer, I'll tell you what you want to know." Ace opened the door. "Then, you could decide for yourself for we're the good guys or not." Ace gestured to the open door. "Mind if we step outside?"
Diana nodded absently. It was the punchline to a joke really. Back when she was in their cage, Diana had been looking for any means of escape. Now that she was out, she wanted back in the cage. Fighting Yank aside, Diana must be crazier than she thought.
As with all difficult decisions in her life, Dad weighed in on the subject. Dad hated these people. If he still had his badge (and wasn't dead in the ground), he'd have arrested every one of them.
Diana found it funny that Dad had no problem with cops pretending to be crooks but went absolutely berserk from the idea of crooks pretending to be cops. As much as she loved her father, this wasn't his decision to make. Why spend years infiltrating high society if she planned on letting its creepy Men In Black disappear into the night without a fight. Diana nodded weakly. "Good."
Diana put on her wig and mask. King Street was a bad neighborhood. The kind of place where the recent recession had produced a rich supply of cinematically appropriate abandoned warehouses. It was the kind of place where the lines between muggers, conmen and panhandlers blurred into oblivion.
Ace cleared her throat. "Long time ago, there was a man who fought for a country that didn't exist yet." Ace gestured to the street. "This country." Diana nodded. "And he was afraid that its enemies would kill his beloved country before it was even born yet."
Diana and Ace crossed the street. "So he ordered the formation of a group of spies. Their job was to seek hidden threats to our country. Thus the Culper Ring was born." Ace smiled. "Since women were practically invisible back there, they excelled as spies. Benedict Arnold might have succeeded in selling out West Point to the British if he hadn't had such loose lips around the fairer sex."
The two shared a laugh. "Indeed, the Culper Ring is the reason the American Revolution ended with independence instead of repatriation. Alas, it was not meant to last. George Washington felt that the existence of a shadowy spy ring of nameless agents went contrary to the idea of democracy he had sought to defend."
Ace stopped at a crosswalk. "So we did the only thing we think of." The walk sign appeared. "We went underground." The two crossed the intersection. "We employed from the legally dead and continued seeking out hidden threats to national security in secret."
Diana smirked. "Is that what I am to you people? A hidden threat to national security?" Diana let out a long annoyed groan.
Ace shrugged. "Yes and no. You are a threat in the sense you could be a threat. When you've been in my job for as long as I have, you've seen it all. Good guys gone bad. Bad guys gone good. Doomsday devices that save lives. Good intentions that kill millions."
Ace and Diana stood in front of a window peeking into a dining room. A Hispanic family had gathered around their turkey dinner. The youngest child, a ten-year-old boy with a gap in his front teeth, led the saying of grace. The moment passed and the family began eating the sumptuous banquet. "It's beautiful, isn't it?"
Diana nodded. "Everytime I start to think that I'm through with this. That this world isn't worth mortgaging my soul until I'm dead and deep-fried into the Ninth Circle of Hell ... I go for a little walk and do whatever it takes to remind myself just what it is I'm fighting for."
Ace sighed. "How old do you think I am?"
Diana shrugged. "I dunno. Thirty-five. Forty."
Ace smiled. "I'm ninety-two." Diana raised an eyebrow. "It's a long story and some of it is still classified. Suffice to say, I have a very old soul. There's a storm coming and I can't weather it alone anymore." Ace fell to her knees. "If I have to go down on my knees and beg you to join, I will. Ego is forfeit in times of extreme crisis."
Diana sighed. "Get up." Ace looked confused. "I said get up!" Diana dragged Ace up onto her feet. "I'll join your little club if it means that much to you but let's get one thing straight." A Colt .45 under Ace's chin. "If you ever put me in a cell again ..." Diana pulled the trigger. Click. "I won't be only one who loses her head."