I saw Bjørn Larsen much too frequently over the next five years. During that time, despite our rivalry, I grew to become a popular and highly valued agent of the S.A.B.. I never let my emotions get the better of me during an operation, something which affected many stronger agents than me. However, I always remained focused. This earned me a reputation around the S.A.B. for being quite heartless and so, because of this, I was alienated. Not that it mattered to me. I was married to the job; I cared neither for a partner nor friends.
The closest people I had to friends were Mallory Curtis, Cameron Hunt, and Trista Spellman.
Mallory was a former field agent who became paralysed from the waist down in a bomb incident several years ago. Nowadays she was in a wheelchair, and she worked as admin; delivering messages, missions, summonses, and notices to people. That only took up half of her day, however, so she was often in my office, offering her help. I had to admit that her advice was sometimes fairly valuable—she often spotted things I didn't when working a case—so I tolerated her presence.
Cameron and Trista were my partners in the field. I didn't often need a partner, but when I did, Cameron and Trista would be there. They were what was known as field technicians; i.e. a medical doctor or an engineer who was trained in certain skills to allow for them to qualify for the field, but their area of expertise stayed what they had trained in. Trista was my doctor and Cameron was my engineer. They were both very loyal to me; when a few of my colleagues tried to goad me into starting fights, Cameron and Trista shut them down quickly. They also liked hanging around my office when I was working. I tolerated them too, though that was only because they were my partners and I couldn't exactly tell them to go away.
The day after my twenty-sixth birthday, I came into work and sat down at my desk. Since I always came in early, there was barely anyone around. As I began looking through my emails, there was a knock on my office door. I looked up and spotted my blonde-haired friend in a typical floral dress. She wheeled her wheelchair into my office and parked it in front of my desk.
"Hi, Mallory," I said with no enthusiasm at all.
"Is it okay if we close the windows and blinds?" Mallory asked with a worried look at my three open windows, as if she was expecting birds to come flying through them. "I get this fear sometimes that someone's watching me."
"You're being paranoid," I stated boredly.
There was a slightly awkward pause following this, before Mallory asked, "How's life?"
"Life is exactly the same as it was yesterday," I replied. "Still no boyfriend, still living in the same apartment, still hating that idiotic…BOY."
"Ah." Mallory had heard of my feud with Bjørn Larsen, making her the only one apart from my partners to know of it. "Seen him recently?"
"Nope," I replied, popping the 'p' sound. "Not since two months ago when he completely destroyed my raid on that arms factory. I swear, Mallory, he is deliberately choosing to wreck all the operations he knows I'm going on. He probably has a hacker who's checking which missions I'm going on and then destroying them."
"Now who's being paranoid?" sniped Mallory with a grin.
I ignored her and continued to scroll through my emails. "So have you got a message for me or did you just come to make small talk?"
"I came to see if you're all right."
"Well…I heard about your Mum, and I thought-."
My hand slipped and the mouse flew off my desk. I turned to glare at Mallory, who wheeled her chair back a few paces. "I said I'm fine," I said rather aggressively.
Mallory nodded, her face contorted with sympathy. "It's okay. I understand completely what you're going through. I lost my uncle to cancer too."
"If you ever say the 'c' word again, I will personally put you back in hospital."
Mallory recoiled like she'd been slapped. She looked down at the ground and nodded again. "I'm sorry. I know you're grieving in your own way. I'll just leave this here." She put the file she was holding on my desk. "And…I'll just get out of your way now."
She turned herself around and wheeled her chair out of the office. I sighed. Mallory had always been nice to me, and I didn't like to upset her. I supposed she was right; I was grieving in my own way. But that didn't really give me the right to threaten her like that. I knew that going through those months in that hospital was traumatic for her, and I shouldn't have said it.
I retrieved my mouse and went back to scrolling through my emails. I found an unopened one from a familiar face. I opened both the email and the attachment, bringing a photo onscreen. I couldn't help a small smile as I looked at the now-five-years-older Ben Thorne, smiling outside a courthouse. I felt proud of the lawyer my young friend had become. And to think: he was nearly robbed of that chance by some interfering Archangel agent five years ago.
Every time I walked away from an encounter with Bjørn Larsen, I always hoped it would be the last. However, every time I walked away from an encounter with Bjørn Larsen, I always knew it wouldn't be. I knew he hated me as much as I hated him.
I didn't understand it. My operations seemed to be the only ones that were getting upstaged by Archangel and their annoying agents. Once, I had actually had to deal with two OTHER Archangel agents trying to capture my bad guys. I couldn't believe how arrogant Archangel was: they would interfere in S.A.B. missions even if the assigned officer (usually me) was completely competent (which I was) and doing the job right (which I always was).
In all honesty, after Bjørn Larsen showed up at that raid two months ago, I almost did the cliché villain thing to pin up a picture of my enemy and use it as a dartboard. I was so close to doing that, but I kept my cool. Trudie Ellis was focused and calm. Another agent might have lost their temper, but outside of my heated arguments with Bjørn Larsen, I was always a very unemotional person, and I liked to keep it that way.
Guilt gnawing away at me from the inside, I got up off my chair and left my office, intending to go and apologise to Mallory. Considering she was one of the only friends I had, despite my lack of interest in friendships, I knew apologising was the right thing to do.
But before I could reach the end of the office floor, something caught my eye out the massive window, and I stopped dead to look down into the front courtyard.
There, walking across the concrete as if he had every right in the world to be there, was Bjørn Larsen.