Categories > TV > Dark Angel > Early Days0 Reviews
Caught in a lie, X5-494 has no choice but to follow Renfro's orders.
He drew stiffly to attention. "Ma'am. X5-494 reporting as ordered."
Renfro gave no indication she had heard, or even realized his presence; her eyes never left the thick report she held in her hands. She turned to a new page every few minutes, the soft rustle of paper the only sound to break the monotony of the air-conditioning's low hum.
Without moving, merely shifting his eyes, 494 chanced a quick look around her office. The windowless room was rather bare, sparsely decorated with a few pieces of practical furniture in smooth, gray steel, its starkness befitting the rest of the Manticore compound. Neat stacks of file folders lay on one side of her desk while a computer occupied the other half. There was nothing on the walls except a large video screen opposite her desk.
Renfro kept reading, and 494 held his rigid stance. Though his muscles started to cramp, he did not dare relax. He wasn't sure why he had been ordered to the director's office, but could take a few wild guesses. Top of the list was that his days were numbered, that she had decided to take Psy Ops up on their recommendation after all. So if she prolonged his life with a few short hours while finishing the report, he wasn't going to complain about a sore musculature. And if he was wrong, if she were just playing mind games, well, he had seen better, and lived through worse.
At last she dropped the file on her desk and looked up; her dark eyes glittered, strangely at odds with the platinum of her bleached hair. A chill ran down his spine at the cold amusement in her gaze. She cocked a neatly groomed eyebrow.
"Twice, 494?" Her tone was mild.
He blinked. "Yes, ma'am." He offered a small smirk to hide his uncertainty and stress the truth behind his words.
"So you say." Renfro toyed with a pencil, tapping the butt end against her palm, studying him with a calculating look that would have made him squirm if not for years of Manticore training. Even so, it took an effort to keep his posture. She wasn't fooled, he could tell.
She threw the pencil down and it clattered onto the desk, the noise loud in the silence of the room. Renfro reached for a small remote control and pointed it at the television screen.
"Have a look at this, 494."
The screen sprang to life, showing the familiar bare cement walls of a Manticore cell, the camera angled so that it pointed at the door. The cell door swung open and he saw himself saunter in.
"Ben." Her voice, soft and startled. His breeding partner's dark head appeared in the lower right corner of the screen. Her face was invisible because her back was turned to the camera, but he recalled clearly how she had paled.
"What?" 494 heard his screen-self say.
This was bad. Really bad. Why the fuck had he covered for her, and with such a blatant lie at that? He should have guessed they were watching. Especially with their reputations: she, one of the '09 runaways, and he still on probation. He could have told the truth, blamed 452. It was not like he owed her anything. When had he turned into such a sucker for large brown eyes and dark, silky hair? Last he remembered, he liked his women blond.
He watched, mind busy devising excuses while the entire scene played out. The sight of her foot connecting with his stomach made him wince; she'd had quite a kick. He forced himself to stand stiff and straight-backed, though every instinct told him to bolt and take his chances with the X7s on the perimeter.
Finally the screen went blank and Director Renfro returned her cold gaze to him. "It seems to me you have a problem counting, wouldn't you say so, 494? Or perhaps you failed to understand the concept of copulation?" Oddly, her voice still held more amusement than anger.
"Ma'am, I-- " He stopped. With the damning evidence of his lie right there on tape, what possible justification could he come up with that she would accept? Though why he was here, and not down in solitary awaiting the firing squad, he had no clue.
She chuckled. "You got yourself in quite a pickle there, soldier. Not the kind of situation you, with your reputation for insubordination, can afford." She pushed the black leather chair away from the desk and went to stand right before him, shoving a piece of paper under his nose. "This," she said, "is an order for your termination. And that," she gestured at the television screen, "does nothing to convince me not to sign it."
He did not reply. He was frantically scouring his brain for something he could offer her, something that would postpone what seemed inevitable. Yet he was careful that none of his thoughts showed on his face, keeping his eyes firmly on a point somewhere over her shoulder. Renfro chuckled.
"Oh, you're good, 494. I'll hand you that."
She turned away from him before she continued speaking. "Lucky for you, I have a problem too. One that you might help me with."
Hope flared. He shifted his eyes to her. "Ma'am?"
"452," Renfro said. "She has been on the outside too long, tasted too much of sweet freedom. I'll never be able to bring her back into the fold. Oh, she might talk the talk and walk the walk but she's not fooling me one bit. She's unreliable, and will remain so. By rights, /her /designation ought to be on this termination order right alongside yours. Still, I believe I can utilize her one last time. Have you ever heard of Eyes Only?"
For an instant the apparent change of subject threw 494. He quickly recovered, masking his confusion with a calm tone. "Yes, ma'am. Subversive element who hacks into cable television to spout false propaganda." He could repeat the party line as well as anybody if the situation required it. "Nobody knows his identity, or how to find the man."
"Well put, 494. And I have reason to believe 452 might know more. She could lead us to him. That's where you come in."
"Your job, 494, is to make her trust you. You should have gained some rapport already, with that display of consideration last night, then lying about it this morning. Built on it." She had begun pacing. "I've seen your file, 494. Persuasion is your forte. Help her escape when the chance comes. Then follow her and take down Eyes Only for me. If you succeed, I might-- just might-- rescind your termination order." She held up the page for emphasis. "Clear, 494?"
"Crystal, ma'am. I won't fail."
She laughed softly. "I had a feeling you'd say that. See that you don't. Remember, this is your last chance. Dismissed, soldier."
He snapped her a salute, turned sharply on his heels and strode out of her office. Once he was alone in the hallway, the door firmly shut behind him, he sagged with relief. He had managed to dodge the bullet one more time.