Chain of Betrayal

Chain of Betrayal

***

“I’m sorry, Alan. I wish I had better news for you. We’ve analyzed your symptoms and blood and were able to trace viral markers back to a source. Fifteen days ago when you were in Hamburg your work took you to a medical facility. You cut your hand on a test tube during an altercation with your target. That’s how we determined you were infected.”

“But I feel fine. Better than fine. I’m stronger than ever. I’ve gone to the gym all my life and I’ve never experienced the amount of muscle growth and performance gains that I have in the past weeks.”

“The facility in Hamburg was testing viruses targeting male-specific diseases; problems like male pattern baldness and prostate cancer. The virus latches onto the Y chromosome and triggers a chain reaction. While you feel great now, the virus initiates by stimulating growth but that growth will eventually burn your body resources until it has no energy left to fuel itself. For a while you’ll experience muscle growth, enhanced reflexes, speed, strength, and you might even notice your senses heightening but this is a precursor to the fall. You have just a few days before the virus starts feeding off your body. You’ll wither away to nothing in under a week.”

“What can be done?”

“The scientists at the facility said they were in early stages of developing the virus. They say there’s only one hope. I’ve been told they have another virus that was to be used as a delivery mechanism for genetic modifications. It targets the Y chromosomes and replaces them with X chromosomes. This would in effect stop the chain reaction of the other virus in its tracks.”

“I would have two X chromosomes then? Wouldn’t that make me a woman?”

Chuckling lightly the doctor shuffled some papers on his desk. “It doesn’t work that way. While your chromosomes would indicate you’re female, your body has already been fully formed under your specific DNA coding. It won’t turn you into a woman; it’s merely changing your chromosomes.”

“I won’t feel any different?”

“Not at all.”

“How long do I have before I need to decide?”

“Two days at the most. It would be best while you’re experiencing growth and not try to do this when the virus has entered the consumption phase. Here’s my number. Call me anytime.”

Staring dumbly at his business card I felt oddly disconnected. “Thank you.” I stood to leave when the doctor spoke again causing me to pause.

“Alan?”

“Yeah…”

“I’m really sorry about this. You’ve been a top agent at the CIA for years. To think you contracted this while working to protect our country is… Let me just say, don’t take too long to decide. It would be a terrible shame to lose someone of your caliber.”

“Thanks.”

***

Two days. It’s been two days since my conversation with, Doc Halloway, the CIA doctor. I feel amazing. My muscles are growing rapidly and my strength has doubled. I can bench press nearly six hundred pounds. I feel superhuman. My eyesight is better than perfect, my hearing outstanding, and no one can get close to touching me in my martial arts classes. But if what the doctor says is true then a week from now I’ll be dead.

Picking up my cell phone I dialed the number.

“Doctor Halloway speaking.”

“Doc, it’s me, Alan Archer. If you think this other virus might work then let’s give it a try.”

“There are no guarantees, Alan. Come on in. I’m glad you chose to try this. It’s your only hope.”

***

Beep, beep, beep.

The sound was annoying as I climbed up through the fog of the anesthetic. It’s so hard to open my eyes but when I did, they were covered in some kind of gauze. I tried lifting my hand to my face but it was strapped down. I feel good, but exhausted.

“Doctor Halloway? Alan is waking up.”

I could feel the doctor’s presence nearby. “Alan, can you hear me? Just nod. You have a tube down your throat to assist with your breathing and you won’t be able to talk yet.”

Nodding my head slightly made me dizzy.

“I want you to know the procedure was a success, although there were some complications. You’ve been unconscious for an entire month. We had to place you into a drug induced coma and strap you down as the pain of the treatment combined your enhanced strength would have risked the procedure and staff had you been thrashing about.”

Trying to speak all that came out was a gurgle. Complications? I’ve lost a month?

“Before I help you up, you need to understand that the treatment changed you. We weren’t expecting this. It appears that the facility in Hamburg sent us the wrong remediation virus. They accidentally sent us one with a DNA payload as opposed to a neutral virus. While the virus successfully stopped the other one in its tracks, it also altered your body in accordance with its DNA payload. There’s no easy way to say this Alan, but you no longer look like you used to.”

Oh my God! What did you do to me? Struggling briefly against the restraints I was no match for them in my exhausted state.

“Nurse, please prepare another sedative.”

Shaking my head back and forth I gurgled a ‘no’.

“I know you don’t want the sedatives. You need to calm down, Alan. While you’re weak from the procedure it’s possible you still retain some of your strength from before. I’m trying to put myself in your shoes and I would be worried about what I might look like. You look completely normal for a nineteen year old girl.”

What? A girl!

Feeling a sharp prick in my arm I quickly lapsed into a deep sleep.

***

As I woke I wondered if I merely had a bad dream. I feel incredible. My exhaustion was gone and there was no longer the irritation of the tube down my throat.

“Alan, this is Doctor Halloway. The restraints are removed as have all the medical devices. We had to sedate you a few more days to let your body heal more and rejuvenate itself. Go ahead and open your eyes and when you’re ready, sit up.”

There was no gauze covering my eyes this time as I opened them. The light was blinding and I immediately raised my arm to block the light. As my hand came into view it was slender and delicate. It’s a girl’s hand! It wasn’t a dream!

Sitting up quickly I looked down upon my body. A white sheet that had been covering me slipped away revealing what could only be two large breasts hidden by a green hospital gown.

“Breathe, Alan. Take several deep breaths.”

Taking a deep breath I glanced around the room. The doctor was on the other side of a glass window. Movement caught my eye near the foot of the bed and as I turned to see what it was I was stunned to see a beautiful young woman staring back at me. Her hair was stringy and disheveled and her skin flawless; looking slightly Mediterranean in its coloring. Her eyes were wide, bright, and the deepest blue I’d ever seen. She looks frightened.

“Are…” As I tried to speak I watched the woman looking back at me also trying to speak. It was the sound of my voice that caused me to pause; that and the realization that the woman looking at me was my own reflection. Bringing my hand to my face I watched in morbid fascination as the woman in the mirror did the same. My fingers traced my full lips.

“What? What did you do to me?” Even as I asked the question I was moving. My hand ripped away the rest of the sheet and I swung my legs over the bed and I moved to stand in front of the mirror. Staggering with my balance I placed my hands on either side of the mirror. I struggled to catch my breath.

“You might not remember everything, Alan. The Hamburg facility sent us the wrong virus. It was the right one to replace your Y chromosomes, but it also included a DNA payload. Instead of being a neutral payload this virus had an experimental DNA combination one of the scientists had been working on. Apparently, one of the scientists had been piecing together a DNA model of his perfect woman. He stored the sample next to the neutral virus and the person that shipped this one to us had no idea the two samples were different. I’m sorry, Alan.”

Tearing my eyes off the woman in the mirror I looked around the room. Aside from the mirror and the bed, the room was sterile and devoid of anything else. Doc Halloway spoke to me via a microphone on the other side of a thick reinforced window. The door to the room was heavy steel.

“You can reverse it?” My voice sounds silky and almost sensual.

“I’m afraid not, Alan. It’s a miracle you survived at all. The DNA payload virus consumes cells for energy in order to rewrite your DNA. Without the other virus that was actively in a growth mode, I fear that you would have wasted away before our eyes. What happened with the first virus, and the second one, is not something that can be replicated. Like it or not, Alan, you’re stuck like this. You’re a very fit, healthy, beautiful, nineteen year old girl.”

Turning back to the mirror my mind struggled to comprehend what I was seeing. Long brunette hair fell to the middle of my back. The gown did little to hide my breasts, trim waist, wide hips, and long legs.

“How do you know I’m nineteen?”

“It was the age the scientist had programmed into his DNA payload. When he realized he was about to be fired for misusing company property he became very forthcoming with the details of the DNA payload.”

“Why do you have me in this cell?”

“It was for our safety and yours. We didn’t know how you would react and it’s possible that you might retain some of the strength, speed, and reflexes you had gained just before the procedure. We won’t know for sure until you’ve had a chance to fully recover.”

“What happens now?”

“We have to keep you under surveillance for a little while. For now, and for your own good, we need to house you in secured areas of the building.”

“You think I’m a flight risk? I’ve no identification or money. If what you say is true, that I can’t go back to who I was, then I’m somewhat at your mercy. You don’t need to worry about me running. I’m as anxious to make sure I’m not going to melt into a pool of oatmeal as you are.”

I watched as Doc. Halloway vanished from view only to have the door open and him step inside. “That’s your CIA training kicking in. You’re still Alan Archer with all your knowledge and skills. You’ve assessed the situation and know it’s in your best interest to be cooperative. As long as there are no after effects you’ll have gained almost thirty years of your life back. Haven’t you ever wanted to do your life over?”

“Sure, just never as a girl.”

“Come along, Alan. Let’s get you settled into someplace more comfortable. Let me introduce you to Anne Banks. She will assist you with your transition. Anne, this is Alan Archer.”

“Hello, Alan. I’m here to help any way I can.”

Looking over Anne I could tell she was CIA by her crisp blue skirt and white blouse. Her shoulder-length hair was straight and graying and she wore a set of reading glasses on a fine gold chain around her neck.

“You think I need a psychiatrist, Doc?”

“I can see we’re not going to get much past you, Alan. Yes, Anne is a CIA psychiatrist. You’ve gone through a tremendous transition and we can only imagine what might be going on inside that head of yours. She can assist you with the transition and also help you understand your new body better.”

“I’ve been fully briefed, Miss Archer, and I’m trained in gender identity disorders.”

“Miss?”

“The sooner we start speaking to you as a woman the better off you’ll be. If there’s no going back then the only way to go is forward.”

“This is hardly a gender identity disorder. I’m a man inside a woman’s body.”

“That’s where your wrong, Miss Archer. You’re completely female. Your brain and body are one hundred percent female. Your memories, knowledge, and personality are the only male things about you. You’re very much like many of my patients in that they think they are female in a male body or male in a female body. I believe my experience helping people work through their unique situations will benefit you.”

I don’t see the point in arguing with her. “Great. Where can I get a shower and get out of this drafty gown? I’m very hungry.”

“We have a room down the hall that’s been set up for you.”

Walking to the room was disconcerting. My heavy breasts bounced and swayed under the gown and I could feel my wider hips causing a slight swing on my butt from side to side. Will I ever get used to this?

“Here you are, Alan. Anne will help you get settled. We can meet for dinner in two hours.”

Watching the doctor leave I had a momentary desire to run away somewhere. I need to stay focused on the next step and the next task at hand.

Anne opened the door and I found a windowless room that had been nicely appointed with a bed, television, computer, clothes, and everything I would need. “You should shower and take your time washing your hair. Use plenty of conditioner and as soon as you dry your hair a little brush it out. That will help it from getting into knots. I’ll be waiting outside as I believe you could use a little privacy.”

“Thanks.”

“Miss Archer, you have a new lease on life. I propose you think long and hard about what kind of woman you want to be.”

“What do you mean what kind of woman?”

“Think about women you have met. How proper they were, their posture, their words. Everything you say or do from here on out will begin setting up patterns in your brain and muscles. I suggest you want the right patterns to avoid being a woman you would prefer not to be. A polite, soft-spoken intelligent woman with good etiquette and posture will do far better in this world than one that mumbles ‘thanks’ and sits with her legs splayed open. Until you decide I will correct you. Put your shoulders back, your chin up, and your reply to me should have been thank you, Mrs. Banks.”

Feeling a lot like I just landed back in school I brushed away my irritation as I realized she was right. I don’t like being wrong, but I’m in no place to be prideful. Squaring my shoulders and lifting my chin I looked her straight in the eyes. “Thank you, Mrs. Banks.”

Stepping into my room I closed and locked the door behind me and sat on the bed; my long lean legs stuck out from under the hospital gown. A girl. Looking at my delicate hands and feeling the weight of my breasts I took a shaky breath. How can I live as a girl? At least I don’t have a wife or kids and my parents are both gone.

I sat there for several minutes feeling sorry for myself before my ingrained CIA training took hold. I’ve got to treat this like a mission. I need to learn and become someone new. Looking in the mirror I saw I was slumped over with my legs out wide. I look like a guy in a woman’s body. What attribute of women do I admire the most? Their hair. I love women with long hair. Subdued makeup. A regal bearing. Polite and caring. Feminine. Athletic. Certainly not a girl with stringy hair, slumped over on a bed and with her legs open for all to see.

Sitting up straight I then crossed my legs like I’ve seen other women do to protect their vanity. I could never cross my legs like this before and it feels comfortable. Perhaps my wider hips and longer, leaner legs make it easier. “Let’s get this over with.”

Standing, I pulled the strings to the hospital gown and watched it slowly slip over my new curves to the floor. My reflection caused me to pause. Breathe, Alan. Breathe. If I had to pick a female body it would be this one. My breasts were full and large but without any sag to them. My waist was so small in comparison to my hips that it created a nice hourglass shape. I could see my muscles lightly defined under my perfect skin. There wasn’t a single mole or freckle and my skin was a consistent smooth tone. My legs seemed long and shapely and my thighs left a noticeable gap where my new womanhood was.

There was no hint of belly fat or excess fat on my butt. There was also no hair below my head. Certainly after being in a coma for more than a month I should have hair. That’s a mystery I need to solve. Did someone shave me?

One thing at a time, Alan. Alan doesn’t sound right anymore. I need a new name. I need a shower first. My thoughts are all over the place. Do all women think like this? How do they get anything done? Shower. Open the door and step in.

Closing my eyes I tried to settle myself and my rogue thoughts before getting into the shower. Once I was in the shower I was much more focused as I washed myself thoroughly. The entire showering experience was much better than I could ever recall. This body seems to thrive on every touch and while my breasts seem to have a mind of their own my smaller size makes me feel like I got an upgrade to a first class seat from economy. The sensitivity of my skin and certain body parts is far more than I ever had before.

Recalling Anne’s suggestion I brushed my hair while it was still slightly wet. I could tell how much trouble having such long hair would be but, for now, I had no desire to get rid of it. I took another fifteen minutes staring at myself in the mirror before turning to find some clothes. Unfortunately all the clothes were extremely feminine. Dresses, lacey bras and panties, high-heel shoes. I had to remind myself if there was no going back what type of woman I wanted to be. I didn’t like it when women dressed as men in baggy pants that hid their figures. Still, I never thought I would be wearing a dress.

Sighing I slipped on a pair of panties and was grateful my flexibility was greater than before so that I could put a bra on. Choosing a red dress mainly because the matching shoes had the lowest heels I wiggled myself into it and admired how my hips made the dress flare beautifully. A blow dryer helped dry the last bits of moisture from my hair and another brushing made my long hair shiny and slightly curled. The net result was nothing less than stunning.

I feel beautiful. This is a new feeling for me and for the briefest of moments I reveled in my new self.

Unlocking the door I stepped out into the hallway feeling very self-conscious. Anne looked up from some papers and smiled knowingly.

“I gather the lack of pants is your doing, Mrs. Banks?”

“I’m not going to lie to you, Miss Archer. I’m under orders.”

“Orders to make me wear dresses?”

“When it was clear the transformation was complete the CIA realized they had something special in you. Of course it’s entirely up to you, but assuming your mentally and physically fit they’re going to try to recruit you back into the fold.”

“Why? For what purpose?”

“You have twenty-six years of training and field experience. The CIA often needs an experienced female in the field but most appealing young women don’t have the experience. You’re now completely unique, offering youth and beauty combined with all your experience. I shouldn’t even be talking about this, but it might provide some understanding as to why I’ve been asked to guide you in a certain direction.”

“The CIA thinks I could be a valuable asset as a woman? And the dresses?”

“Yes. Maybe even more valuable than as a man. The dresses are required to be asset in the field. A female agent needs to look both feminine and alluring. Besides, I believe you might already have the proclivity towards them.”

“What do you mean by proclivity?”

Anne handed me a stack of paper. “It’s all in here, Miss Archer. This was the complete genetic DNA payload that was in the virus. The scientist claims to have discovered several genetic markers for enhancing feminine behavior. Apparently his perfect woman would strongly desire to dress in feminine clothing.”

“You think that’s why my mind isn’t screaming at me right now? Aside from all the screaming that it’s doing.”

“A man in your position could completely rebel at the thought of wearing a dress so I do believe that perhaps these markers are working. When you say screaming, what do you mean?”

“My mind seems to be constantly churning with multiple random thoughts. I can’t tell you how much is running through my mind right now.”

“Are they rebellious thoughts? Anger? Pride? Other strong feelings? Or perhaps it’s just a lot of things that are fairly urgent but not evoking a lot of emotion?”

“Top ten things… I’d say… what am I going to do now? Why did this happen to me? What’s for dinner? How do I look? What will I do if a guy thinks I’m a woman? How am I going to react in public? What day and time is it? What about my house? Can I access my bank account? Where will I get more clothes? Was this a setup?”

“Walk with me, Miss Archer. Pay close attention to how I place my feet and try to mimic my movements.” Anne started moving down the hall and it was nice to focus on something else for a few moments. Her feet stayed fairly close to a center line of her body. As I emulated her walking I noticed my hips swaying a little more than before. “What you’re experiencing is normal for a woman.”

“Women think about multiple things at once?”

“All the time. You see it has to do with the way our brains are different than men’s. A male fetus in the womb is bombarded with testosterone. Testosterone severs the connections between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. This allows men to be very focused on one thing, one emotion. You can have much stronger emotions as a man but then you can turn it off. Women, however, have thousands of connections between the hemispheres of the brain. This connects the emotional and logical sides in such a way that senses trigger emotions and emotions trigger memories. It’s why women have a hard time letting go of things. They can remember an event because it was recorded in both hemispheres at the same time.”

“I had no idea.”

Anne laughed. “Most men don’t. Growing up female gives us women a lot more ability to cope with it. I suspect it will be hard to adjust for you suddenly being immersed by the onslaught. Try to focus on each item and work it through to a conclusion.”

“So this is normal?”

“I’m not sure ‘normal’ will have any bearing on this situation. This is new ground for all of us. You’re the first true male to female transformation the world has ever seen. What is normal has yet to be defined. Did you notice you continued to walk the same way after we started talking? This is a really good sign in that your body doesn’t have a lot of muscle memory. How you stand and walk now will set itself up as muscle memory moving forward. With conscious effort you’ll be moving just like any woman would.”

“I better learn well then so I don’t look like a butchy woman.”

“Is that what you want to be? Not butchy?”

“If I were going to be a woman then I would want to reflect the characteristics that I admire the most.”

“I’m going to stop you right there. You said if I were. You’re a woman so stop thinking like you’re not. Just like muscle memory you need to burn new neural pathways in your brain. Tell me you’re a woman.”

“That’s embarrassing.”

“What’s embarrassing is not believing what you really are.”

“I’m a woman.”

“That sounded lovely except you made it sound like you were dying. Say it again with a hint of joy and a smile on your lips.”

“But I’m not joyful about it.”

“You’re alive, Miss Archer. Are you joyful about that? Are you joyful that the scientist could have been playing with rat DNA but instead he chose DNA to form a perfect woman? Are you joyful that you can have multiple orgasms?”

Staring at Anne like she just slapped me it took a moment to register what she was doing. “You’re very good at what you do, aren’t you?”

“Think of something you’re happy about and say it with conviction.”

I’m happy I’m at least alive. I’m happy I’m not a rat. I hadn’t thought about orgasms… My mind is drifting. “I’m a woman.”

“Better. Work on it. Every time you realize something you’re grateful for, say that to yourself. You were going to tell me what kind of woman you are.”

“You said earlier that the genetic markers that were designed by the scientist gave me certain proclivities. Do I even have a choice?”

“Was the red dress the most feminine one in the closet?”

“No, it just matched the shoes with the smallest heels.”

“This proves my point. If the DNA marker tells you that you must wear the most feminine things you would have chosen the white dress. Proclivity is not the same as predetermination. Imagine a field of wheat with the wind blowing. The wheat all leans one direction with the wind. I believe while the DNA might cause you to lean one direction it doesn’t preclude you from going a different one. Predetermination would be that you have no choice. Now tell me what kind of woman you are.”

“This isn’t a form of brainwashing is it?” Anne frowned. “Fine. Feminine, sophisticated, articulate, athletic, poised, caring, and loving.”

“That wasn’t so hard, was it?”

“How can I be those things?”

“You choose this for yourself and then have confidence you made the right choice. Let’s return to the ten items you mentioned earlier. I think it’s healthy that none of your thoughts held strong emotions, but there’s one that gives me some concern. You asked if this was a setup. Why are you thinking this?”

“What date is it?”

“June 22.”

“I came in five weeks ago. Two days before that Doc Halloway told me about the virus I contracted a few weeks earlier in Hamburg. Perhaps I’ve been with the CIA too long, but I wake up as someone the CIA says they can use, the incident in Hamburg seems rather fuzzy to me, and what kind of virus kills a healthy person inside of a few weeks? My conspiracy alarms are going off.”

“Let’s unpack the whole thing bit by bit. You were at the facility in Hamburg. What was your mission?”

“I was there looking into a potential source for a viral terrorist threat.”

“And what happened when you were there?”

“I saw my target on the laboratory floor. He seemed to recognize me as a threat and ran. I ran after him and my hand hit some glass test tubes. They shattered.”

“Who broke the test tubes?”

“I did. It was an accident.”

“No one injected you; no one threw the test tube at you?”

“No. I ran into them. The Doc told me about a possible solution.”

“Did he force you to take the solution?”

“No. It was my choice to come in. You’re right. I’m reading too much into this.”

“You were going to die, Miss Archer. You gained a new body and lots of years added to your life as a result of a mistake, but, you’re alive. If you had the choice would you rather be rotting six feet under right now or alive as a stunningly beautiful woman?”

“You’re rather blunt, Mrs. Banks.”

“Reality is blunt, Miss Archer.”

“I get the feeling the moment I’m alone I’ll begin to question all of this good sense you’re talking right now. You make me feel almost normal.”

“That’s my job. I’m here to help you get to your new normal. Of course you’ll question things. A male mind can’t exist in a female body without yielding some things. I’m going to suggest something that you might find offensive. Don’t go to sleep tonight without having an orgasm.”

“Excuse me?”

“I know you heard me correctly. Billions of nerves and neurons are fired when a person has an orgasm. I believe this is critical to your understanding who you are now and it will be healthy for your mind and body to establish those pathways.”

“I never had a school teacher tell me to do that before.”

“I’m not a school teacher, I’m a shrink. Freud believed everything came back to sex. Maybe he was right after all. We’re here at the cafeteria. Go ahead and meet up with Doctor Halloway. I’ll see you at eight tomorrow morning. Make sure you review the DNA payload data. It’s part of who you are now and is as important to you as your previous ancestry.”

“You want me to go in there looking like this?”

“How else would you look, Miss Archer?”

With that she turned and left leaving me feeling a little awkward. There are all kinds of people in the cafeteria and they’re going to see right through me. I’m an imposter. No, you’re not. You’re a woman now. Steeling myself I closed my eyes and pushed open the door to the clamor of a busy room. Slowly the room went silent and I opened my eyes to see everyone staring at me. Maybe not everyone, but most of the men.

“Miss Archer. Come and join me.”

“Thank you for not calling me Alan, Doc. This is rather unnerving.”

“None of these people know anything about your situation.”

“Then why are they staring?”

“Obviously you’re not seeing yourself from the right perspective. You’re flawless and people are going to take notice. Grab a tray. I’m sure you’re hungry.”

Hungry is an understatement. I was starved and wanted to take far more than I knew I could possibly eat. How do I want to be perceived? Reluctantly I took a healthy portion but still less than I would have had I still been Alan.

Doc Halloway led us to a private area of the cafeteria. “How are you feeling?”

“Aside from being confused at waking up as a woman and hungry, I feel great.”

“How much did Anne fill you in?”

“A fair bit. Where did you find her? She’s like a walking psychoanalysis machine.” I carefully checked my posture and made sure my legs were crossed.

Doc Halloway laughed. “She’s a rare one for sure. I’ve worked with her for over twenty years. You’ll not find a better psychiatrist anywhere on the eastern seaboard.”

“You sure she’s a psychiatrist and not a metal worker? I swear she started out her life pounding round things through square holes.”

“You seem to be adapting well.”

“Mrs. Banks would remind me that it’s not a choice I have.”

The Doc seemed to be sizing me up a little. “I need to run some tests on you tomorrow and assuming everything is fine I’ve been authorized to offer you one of two choices. We can prepare an exit strategy for Alan and make sure you’re set where you can gain access to your old belongings. You’ll be free to do what you please and live out your life any way you choose. The CIA also has a vested interest in maintaining your career here. They actually have a mission for you should you choose to stay. Of course we would work on transferring everything you need into your new name.”

“They’re already talking about a mission for me? Don’t they know what I’ve just gone through?”

“They’re aware and the timing for the main mission is months away. The man you were tracking in Hamburg has surfaced again and we’re picking up intelligence that there may be an attempt of a worldwide release of a virus. You have the background and knowledge of the players and we believe your new situation will make it easier to infiltrate their group and get close to the leader. I’ll be honest with you, Miss Archer, there’s something not right about your mission in Hamburg.”

“What do you mean about not right? It was an accident.”

“Since you first came in with the virus I believed exposure to the test tube was the delivery method. As I’ve studied the virus I just discovered today that exposure to air oxidizes the virus very rapidly. The virus in a test tube would have been dead. In order for you to have been exposed you would have had to been injected. Was there a time when you could have been injected?”

“My memory of the entire event is a little muddled right now. Foggy might be a better description. You’re saying it wasn’t an accident?”

“I believe this was a deliberate attempt on your life.”

“If I sign up for the CIA I get my full status back and they’ll let me take down these people that did this to me?”

“That’s out of my pay grade to discuss, but I think so.”

“Then I’m in.”

“Not so fast. First you need to be cleared by me and, more importantly, Mrs. Banks. Then they’ll confirm your training and skills have transferred to the new you and test you out on a smaller mission prior to cutting you loose on the larger one.”

“Mrs. Banks is trying hard to get me to accept the real me. If what you say is true, then these people tried to kill me. I can accept who I am now and this just gives me a ton of incentive. It gives me purpose. As I said before, I’m in.”

***

Arriving back at my room I paused once again before the mirror. I took a moment to stop thinking of my predicament and try to picture myself as a woman I saw walking down the street. From that perspective I could now understand why the room went silent. With the realization of how I appear to others fear crept into my thinking. I’m a beautiful woman. What’s to stop any man from raping me? A shiver ran down my spine as I prepared for bed. I was still a little hungry after dinner but I was more exhausted than hungry. My mind has worn me out.

After carefully putting away my clothes I dug through the drawers to find a silk nightgown. I can almost hear Anne saying ‘when in Rome.’ I wore a dress today in public, how bad can this be? Slipping on the nightgown the cool silk felt incredible against my skin. I could get used to this. You don’t have a choice, Miss Archer. Choosing to use Anne’s name for me will help push me along.

Lying on the bed I found my mind racing too much for sleep. I pulled out the DNA payload document and began reading through it. The first few pages were a summary description of the scientist’s perfect woman with references to the specific genetic markers that were created.

Medium to medium-light colored skin. The DNA was formulated from middle eastern and Indian women. Dark brown brunette hair color. Not black, not dirty brown. He listed several dye types and actresses with natural hair this color. Five feet nine inches tall. D-cup breasts. Athletic build with tone muscles. Blue eyes. Full lips. Bisexual with a preference for men.

That last one caused me to stop and think. Putting the pages aside I wondered how many of these DNA markers are proclivities versus predeterminations. Certainly my physical characteristics like hair and eye color are predetermined. Glancing at the computer I decided a test was in order. By launching a virtual desktop on the Internet my activities wouldn’t be easily tracked by the CIA. From the browser I searched for pictures of women having sex with women and women having sex with men. It didn’t take long before I shut things down having realized that both types of images excited me, however the ones with men and women together I pictured myself as the woman and the more I saw the more excited I got.

Lying back on the bed the images ran through my mind but something was bothering me. It was as if I wanted what those women in the pictures were receiving too much. Grabbing the sheets I ran through the summary pages until I found it. An above normal sexual drive. Tossing the pages away I forced my eyes closed to try to sleep. I’m not a slut. That’s not what I want to be. What do I want? The images chased me into my dreams.

***

A firm knock on the door jolted me awake. “Miss Archer. You need to get yourself ready. I have some clothing for you.”

Swinging my legs out of bed I stood and rummaged through the closet finding a robe to cover myself up. My dreams were strange and I had a fitful sleep. After putting the robe on I opened the door to see Mrs. Banks standing there with a stack of exercise clothing.

“Did you sleep well, Miss Archer? Did you take my advice?”

“Did you read the DNA payload report?”

“What’s bothering you, Miss Archer?”

“It says the payload was designed to give me an increased sexual drive.”

“That’s entirely possible. Your genes dictate how you synthesize hormones and process minerals. By increasing your zinc absorption and your testosterone production slightly your libido could be elevated beyond a normal woman’s.”

“But I don’t want to be a slut throwing myself at every man and woman I meet.”

“Then don’t be. You can manage your sexual release on your own. Granted some women choose to be liberal with their bodies but that’s usually due to them trying to find fulfillment. They have a desire to be wanted so badly they give themselves away freely. You can certainly do that if you wish. It’s your life. What do you want?”

“I want to be faithful, loving, and pleasing for my partner. I don’t want to flaunt myself. I recognize that some people might gravitate towards me due to my looks and I don’t want any unnecessary attention.”

“Is that because you feel like an imposter?”

“You’re very astute, Mrs. Banks. I’m not totally comfortable yet and I can’t quite get over the feeling like someone will find out I was Alan and embarrass me.”

“Have you asked yourself why you would feel embarrassed?”

“Why is it whenever we’re talking I feel like we’re missing a couch for me to lie on.”

“I can find a couch if you think it’s necessary. What’s the worst thing that could happen should someone find out you’re Alan?”

“That they would make the knowledge public and everywhere I went people wouldn’t see me as who I am but some kind of freak.”

“How much more embarrassing or dangerous would it be if someone had publicly broadcast you were a CIA agent or the websites you perused last night?”

“I should have known the CIA would be able to track what I was looking at.”

“We have to track your activities closely so we can determine your mental fitness level. If you’re considering going back into the field we need assurance your stable. What you saw last night on the computer I suspect had everything to do with you verifying your own sexual orientation. Am I right?”

“The DNA payload document suggested I would be bisexual with a preference towards men. I wanted to see where I would visualize myself.”

“And?”

“I was excited by both men and women but the idea of being with a man was more enticing.”

“So based upon what you’ve already told me you’re looking to find a man, settle down, and have a family.”

“I know I didn’t say anything like that.”

“You said faithful and loving and if you prefer men over women that suggests you’re looking for a stable relationship. Those are hard to come by in the CIA. These are good and healthy thoughts, by the way.”

“It’s not gay?”

“There you go again. It’s only gay if you’re a man, which you’re not. We can debate this all day long and I’m getting tired of holding these clothes. Don’t bother showering. Just put your hair in a ponytail and meet me in the hallway. We can get some breakfast before you get put through the testing.”

Taking the exercise clothes from Anne I turned back to her once again. “Thank you, Mrs. Banks.”

“You’re welcome, Miss Archer.”

It didn’t take me long to change and put my hair into a ponytail. I had so many questions and feel like I could ask them all day long. Pausing before the mirror again my reflection suggested my exercise outfit would turn more than a few heads. “I’m a woman. I’m a very sexy woman.” My reflection offered a quick but dazzling smile before I met Anne back in the hallway.

“You’re going to give us women a bad name around here, Miss Archer.”

“Why is that?”

“Because most of us have lost that youthful beauty that you exude so well. Those clothes don’t leave a lot to the imagination. Spandex has a way of doing that.”

“Nonsense.”

“Never downplay the impact a pretty woman has on people. What you lose from having men solicit and drool over you, you gain in control and power. Men might do anything for you.”

Once again the cafeteria went silent as I entered. I felt I handled it better than last night. Luckily we found an out of the way table so we could talk more.

“What’s your biggest fear, Miss Archer?”

“I have three; that I’ll be publicly denounced as a man; that I’ll enjoy being a woman more than a man; and that I’ll be raped.”

“We all have to live with the reality of who we are. You were a man and now you’re a woman. No one knows what you’re going through but you. No one can put themselves in your shoes. Perhaps it’s best for you to not continue working for the CIA. You could have a new life where you would be free to be the new you without those concerns.”

“But Doc Halloway told me about the mission. He said it might not have been an accident and that I was likely targeted.”

“Don’t make your choices based upon revenge, Miss Archer.”

“It’s not revenge, its purpose.” Anne waited for my explanation. “To adapt to being a woman is a struggle enough but infiltrating the group that might have done this to me is a driving incentive. If I can pass as a woman and get close, I can take down their plot and get my revenge in the process.”

“It’s your choice but I won’t support it. It’s not a tenable decision. Revenge never is.”

“I thought you would be pleased I found something that makes me want to become the best female agent ever.”

“Let’s move on as I can see we’re at odds here. You mentioned you’re afraid of being raped. That fear keeps many of us women safe. Never lose that fear as otherwise it will happen to you. Today is all about getting to know your limits. Remember not to get frustrated with yourself or your new body. You have knowledge and skills but your body has never done some of the things you used to do. It won’t respond like you would like it to. Not until it develops muscle memory.”

“I understand.”

“I’m not sure you do. You were stronger and faster as a man. You may feel defeated today if you can’t perform at the same level.”

“Then I’ll try not to be disappointed in myself.”

***

Anne sat in the corner of the gym with a notepad and pen. Doc Halloway was overseeing things. Looking down on the gym were mirrored windows and I was positive other people were watching behind them.

“Miss Archer, I would like you to move through your normal weight routine.”

“I usually stretch before. Is that all right?”

“Yes. Please go ahead.”

Placing a few pads on the gym floor I began stretching my head and arms first. I’d already noticed my increased flexibility with my arms putting on a bra and wasn’t too surprised to find out just how flexible they were. What did surprise me was how flexible my hips and legs were. I could hug my chest to my knees while standing and I could also do the splits. Suddenly yoga didn’t seem such an obnoxious activity.

After stretching I moved to a treadmill to run for ten minutes as a further warm up however it was twenty minutes later that I got off the treadmill.

“Why are you smiling, Miss Archer?”

“I’ve never been a runner but this new body is very fit and light. It doesn’t hurt to run. I’ve never experienced that before. It’s invigorating.”

Moving onto the weights I started with an empty forty-five pound bench press bar. Remembering the walking scenario with Anne I focused on perfect form for twenty reps to make sure I had the motion down correctly. Being five foot nine and maybe one hundred and thirty-five pounds I estimated I could lift no more than eighty pounds. When I got to one hundred pounds and found it still easy I stopped my exercise as I was getting frightened.

Anne and the Doc had come over to watch. “What’s going on, Miss Archer?”

“I shouldn’t be able to lift a hundred pounds. My muscle mass isn’t large enough. I was two hundred and five pounds and could normally press two-fifty. With the virus induced growth and strength boost I lifted over five hundred.”

“I mentioned before that the effects of the virus might not have dissipated. That’s why we kept you strapped down.”

“Are there other people watching?”

“Of course.”

“Can you send them away?”

“Let me make a call.”

I stared at the weights on the bench press bar as the Doc left and came back a few minutes later.

“They’re gone.”

“Can you help me? Let’s add another ninety pounds. Spot me just in case.”

“You sure you want to increase that much?”

“One hundred felt light.”

“All right.”

One hundred and ninety pounds felt light. So did two-eighty. Things got tougher after that until I reached my max at three hundred and forty-two pounds.

The Doc had pulled out a calculator. “What was your max bench press under the virus?”

“Five hundred and twenty.”

“You weighed two hundred and five. That’s a ratio of just over two and a half times your body weight. At one hundred and thirty five pounds and using the same ratio, three hundred and forty-two pounds is exactly the same.”

“The effects of the previous virus stayed with me. Will I burn my body out? Did it not get eliminated?”

“When I conferred with other doctors, there was a chance this would be the case. You have no Y chromosomes left and the other virus is gone completely. This might explain your hunger. Your metabolism is likely higher. Can you read that sign on the door at the other end of the gym?”

“Printed by Archimedes Designs.”

“No, the sign on the door.”

“That is the sign on the door. On the bottom it says who printed it.”

We walked over to the door and Anne put on her glasses. “That’s incredible.”

“Do you mind if I run through a kata a few times slowly and then use the punching bag?”

“Go ahead.”

Moving through the kata at extra slow speed I focused on precise movements before speeding up. By the time I got to the punching bag my movements were rough, but smoother than when I had started. After trying dozens of attacks fifty times each I felt confident in my abilities. “I’m ready.”

“Ready for what?”

“To spar with someone.”

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”

“Doc, I can do this. I know I’m rough around the edges, but I’m positive I can handle it.”

“It’s not you I’m worried about. Let’s assume that before you hit with a reasonably high pounds per square inch of three times your body weight. That’s about right for a skilled fighter but still quite a ways below a professional. If you could lift over twice with the virus, then at your peak as Alan your hitting power would be close to fifteen hundred pounds per square inch. That’s heavyweight boxing level. Adjusting for your size and weight, it’s possible you could be hitting at one thousand pounds per square inch. Compare that to the five hundred and forty you might be fighting against…”

“But I have to know my limits.”

Anne chimed in. “I think it’s a good idea. She needs to know her limits and know she can protect herself. Being a man and then overnight becoming a woman is frightening enough. We need to remove her fear of being defenseless.”

“Everyone wears full protective gear. You’ll go easy on them, Miss Archer.”

“Can I get a new name? Miss Archer reminds me of my mom.”

“What name would you like?”

“I’ve thought about this. Do you think it’s best for me to keep my last name? Do I need continuity with my old life?”

Anne looked thoughtful a moment. “I think a brand new name is best. First, middle, and last name. It will help you create your own identity but it might make things more challenging moving your old belongings into your name.”

“Even if I was Alan Archer’s niece? Alan passes away and I’m left in his will.”

“We’re the CIA. We can handle the transfer of everything without leaving records.”

“What name are you thinking?”

“Adeline Elizabeth Brooke.”

“That’s an interesting name. Any reasoning behind it?”

“You’re always digging, Mrs. Banks; always looking for that inner thought behind the action. Adeline is a neutral name. It works in the United States but it could also be used globally. It’s pretty, feminine, and invokes a feeling of sophistication. Elizabeth was my mother’s name. Brooke is American enough that I wouldn’t appear to be a foreigner in my own country.”

“You have given this some thought. With your approval doctor I’ll start the paperwork and transition process. Stand up against a wall and I’ll take a few pictures of you for identification.”

“Just a second…” Pulling the tie that bound my hair I fluffed it out. Doc and Anne stared at me oddly. “What? I want to look good in my identification photos.”

Anne laughed. “Even with your ponytail you’re pretty enough to be on a magazine cover.”

Doc Halloway nodded. “Well then, Adeline, let’s take you to the training area. Just remember that there will be quite a few people there. In other words, don’t overdo just because you can as that might raise many more questions about you.”

I smiled. I really smiled. I feel so good and there’s a sense about my new name that rings of sweetness and strength. While the back of my mind registers this as weird I know this is what I want for myself. I keep picturing my new life and what I want it to be like. I get a mulligan on my life. I can avoid all my past mistakes.

Anne left us and the Doc led me to the training area. The place was bustling with activity. “Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce you to Adeline Brooke. She’s a recent recruit and needs to spar a few rounds. Do we have any volunteers?” A few women and all of the men eagerly volunteered. “Adeline, why don’t you get geared up while I sort through the volunteers?”

By the time I geared up with gloves, head, chest, arm, foot, and leg pads the Doc had things organized. I feel like a walking marshmallow but the others are similarly attired. A small group of onlookers made a space on the large padded floor. My first sparring partner was a larger woman that had some girth on her. She smiled ruthlessly. “Aren’t you a little too pretty to be fighting?”

Someone watching us yelled out. “Come on Rachel. Give her a chance.”

“I’ll try not to mess up your face in case you have a date tonight.”

“That’s very kind of you.”

Rachel moved forward with a good strong stance and took a swing which I easily ducked under. Sweeping her leg with my foot she fell heavily to the floor.

“Lucky shot.”

Someone shouted from the crowd. “You wish you could get lucky, Rachel!”

That only seemed to antagonize her more as she quickly threw kicks and hits that I blocked easily. Letting her get close I grabbed her chest pad, dropped low, and tossed her over me and onto her back.

“Nicely done, Adeline.”

“Thank you, Rachel.” I looked around the room and even though Doc had filtered through the volunteers I remembered one of the guys from before. He was a strong and talented fighter. Being six foot four I had to look up into his eyes. “Maybe you would like to spar?”

Rachel whispered in my ear. “Not a good choice, darling.”

The man grinned. “My name’s Brent. If you can take me down, I’ll buy you lunch.”

“That’s good incentive for me since I’m hungry.”

“What do I get if I put you down?”

“A date with Rachel.”

“Hey! That’s not funny!” Rachel smiled anyways.

Doc was standing to the side with him mouthing “Go easy” to me.

The group had become much larger around us as Brent stood casually. We tapped gloves and he rushed me. I dodged to the side, came up, and hit him in his kidney pads. I held back but he still felt it as I could see him wince. With a swiftness that I wasn’t counting on he grabbed my wrist with both hands and threw me across the floor. I learned something important in that moment before I crashed into the floor; I still weighed half as much as he did. Strength and speed is one thing but I shouldn’t let him toss me like that. Sliding to a stop at Rachel’s feet I caught my breath.

“Get back in there. You’re faster than he is.”

“Easy for you to say, you just won a date.”

“And it will be dinner. Now get up and go get your lunch.”

Brent was laughing as I closed back in on him. He swung a few punches and I blocked and threw a few light ones of my own. Aside from not wanting to get his hands on me this is easy. I let the fight go on for a while with neither of us gaining ground until my stomach growled. “Sorry, Brent. I’m really hungry.”

He swung at my face but I dropped into the splits and punched up into his solar plexus. I could hear the air leave his lungs. As he doubled over I grabbed each of his thighs and lifted him up and off the ground sending him crashing behind me. He was still winded by the time I bent over him and offered a hand to help him up.

“Damn you hit hard.”

“It’s all in the right form.”

“I guess I owe you lunch.”

“Save your money and treat Rachel to an extra special dinner tonight. Besides, I’m told my lunch is at the cafeteria and I’m not that cheap a date.”

Rachel pushed her way through the crowd and winked at me. “Steak. I want steak, Brent.”

“If I didn’t know any better I would say there was some sort of collusion going on. Steak it is, Rachel. You did well Adeline.”

“That’s probably enough for now, don’t you think Adeline?” The Doc stood by looking amused.

“Lunch then?”

***

I decided I needed to eat a little more than I have been as my metabolism must be faster than a normal woman’s. “You did really well, Adeline. What ever happened to starting out slow?”

“I’m on a mission and I feel great. I have much less fear of being raped now.”

“You can’t always rely on speed and strength to get you out of a bad situation. A gun can kill you and a gun to your head makes it hard to get away from unwelcome advances. After lunch we need to check your shooting skills and then I need you cleaned up as we report together to the department head. If all goes well you could be reinstated as early as Monday. You’ll have the weekend to yourself back in your old place.”

“What about clothing?”

“You can take everything from here and you can go shopping. Anne can go with you this weekend if you want the help.”

“Actually I sort of think it would be nice to do that myself. Nothing against Anne, but a weekend alone to think will really help me.”

***

Shooting practice went very well with my enhanced eyesight. Even long shots appeared close up to me and I did better than I ever had. Having just showered I put the more formal white dress on and took a chance on the two inch heels. At some point I’ll need to wear even taller ones. I still marveled that I had no need to shave so I read back through the DNA payload data. Sure enough the scientist didn’t ever want to feel his woman with rough legs so he reduced the hair follicles below the neck. I wasn’t looking forward to shaving so this was a huge bonus.

The day had gone by all too quickly and I was excited about being a woman for the first time. I was young, fit, beautiful, and I subtly enjoyed the commotion I caused when I stepped into a room. Even my conversations seemed deeper and more energetic. The only thing I wasn’t looking forward to was my first period.

A knock at the door encouraged me to stop staring in the mirror and open the door. Doc Halloway and Anne were there.

Anne raised her eyebrow at me. “You wore the white dress.”

“I want to make a good impression. I feel like I’m going to a parole hearing.”

“Just be yourself and you’ll be fine.”

We walked down long hallways and rode up an elevator until we came to the office of the department head. Doc knocked and we were told to enter. Inside the associate director, Samuel Ellison, stood with two of his other senior staff. The look one of them gave me was nothing short of lustful. Doc introduced me.

“You’re all aware that Alan Archer contracted a virus in Hamburg and the people in this room are the only people to know that the woman standing here today, Adeline Elizabeth Brooke, is Alan Archer. For her sake and for any future consideration this must all remain strictly confidential.”

Samuel Ellison looked me over. “Had I not seen the videos of the transformation and received reports on how you’re doing I would never believe you’re Alan.”

I smiled. “Was Alan. Anne has been pretty influential on my thinking.”

He took my hand in his and smiled. “Nice to meet you Adeline. Let me introduce you to Wayne Smith and Ted ColdIron.”

Ted shook my hand and Wayne walked around me like I was a cow at an auction. Feeling his hand on my backside I turned and grabbed his wrist bending it back towards his forearm. “Don’t touch me!” Wayne sneered as I let go and he held his wrist in obvious pain.

Samuel leaned forward and laughed a little. “That was a planned test, by the way. I wanted to see how you would react. What will happen when you need to get close to a man on a mission?”

“That’s different. Wayne isn’t a target nor is he a lover. His advances are unwelcome.”

Samuel looked at Anne. “And what do you say about Adeline’s readiness?”

“She’s adapted very quickly but I believe her motivation for returning to work isn’t a good one. She has a desire for revenge. I can’t agree to her reinstatement on that basis.”

“Good thing it’s not your decision to make then. What’s the status of her identification?”

“I have her driver’s license ready. The passport, birth certificate and other documents will be ready on Monday. I think it’s best that Adeline not live in her old apartment or drive her old car. I see no problem with her going through her old things and taking what is personal and important. Bank accounts and retirement funds are being transferred before Alan is declared dead. Any liquidation of his old assets can be transferred to Adeline at a later date.”

Anne’s sure efficient. Talking about Alan’s death gave me a slight shiver. “Where can I stay, how do I get around, and how can I get new clothing and food over the weekend? What’s my background story?”

Anne looked at Samuel and Doc who both nodded but she frowned nonetheless. “I’ll state again that Adeline’s motivation for rejoining the CIA is wrong but if you all insist on moving forward I have prepared a background history document. You’ll need to read through it, memorize it, and call me if there are changes needed before I ratify your records and make it permanent. I’ve tried to blend your real history with the new one. Places, locations, schools, are all going to be similar to Alan’s. That way your memory of those places will come through should you ever be questioned. I have a rental car, keys to your old apartment, and the address of a new apartment. Eventually you’ll need to find yourself a new place, but for now this will do. On behalf of your years of service and the trials you’ve overcome for your country, the CIA has authorized an initial amount of ten thousand dollars to help you get situated. Use this card like a prepaid Visa.”

Anne handed me a thick historical dossier on my new life and history. These were common when creating a new persona, but I’ve never seen one so detailed before. I was handed a cell phone, my driver’s license with the Visa card, and keys to the rental car and my new apartment with an address. I’m overwhelmed but anxious.

Samuel shook my hand. “Be back Monday morning first thing. We’ll be discussing your mission. Enjoy the weekend.”

“Thank you, Mr. Ellison.”

“Anne, why don’t you escort Adeline back to her room to help her gather what she needs? Doctor, please remain with us for a few minutes.”

Doc Halloway turned to me. “Rest up, eat well, and call me if anything comes up.”

“Thank you, Doc.”

Anne and I stepped into the hallway in silence. “You think I’m making the wrong choice.”

“It’s your life, Adeline.”

“Would it appease you a little to know revenge is less and less on my mind.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Every hour that goes by I feel better about my situation. Certainly I never would have picked this for my life, but what an opportunity to completely be different. Even if I was changed into another man I don’t think I would feel as free as I do now. You know as well as I do that the CIA values commitment, passion, drive, and a deep sense of justice. Do I still want justice? Yes, but it’s less now about revenge and more about knowing I can still contribute to society.”

“But why the CIA?”

“What other job could I walk into and have a career? I’m trained, skilled, and knowledgeable and know I can contribute right away. For anything else I would need to go back to school and start from scratch.”

“I can see that as a logical choice, just not a heart choice. Didn’t you ever want something different? A family? Children?”

“Of course. Even more so now than ever before.” That raised her eyebrow. “I’m nineteen years old. I can work for five years before shifting to a different role.”

“While you’re biologically nineteen, check your driver’s license. You’re twenty-one. You can’t do covert CIA missions when you can’t meet your target in a bar in some remote city in another country. You know that once you get started it’s hard to extricate yourself from the CIA.”

“I know.”

“There’s a suitcase in the closet. My advice to you is grab your things, spend the money to get yourself situated, and not come back here.”

“You know I can’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“I’ve given my word and breaking it just isn’t the kind of woman I am.”

That made her smile. “Call me anytime.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Banks.”

She turned to go but paused. “Adeline?”

“Yes?”

“You’re a fine woman. Don’t lose who you want to be. The car is out front. Enjoy your weekend.”

I watched her go before heading into my room. Gathering my things didn’t take long since I only had a handful of clothes. I continued to wear the white dress thinking it might be nice to wear for dinner. Finding the car was easy and after putting the address for my new place into the GPS I realized it was close to where I used to live. I took a moment to look down at my cleavage and long legs as the dress had pulled up when I sat in the car. Glancing in the mirror my blue eyes sparkled back at me. With a smile at my newfound freedom I pulled out of the CIA parking lot.

***

My new place was a two-story town house located only a mile from my old apartment. It gave me some comfort knowing I knew the area well. Carting my suitcase up the front steps I opened the door to find a very modern and spacious living area. I loved the clean lines of the furniture and could see myself living in a place like this long term.

Taking my clothing upstairs I unpacked them into the closet and chest of drawers grateful for the few items I had. Tomorrow I would do a lot of shopping but for now I needed some food. Halfway to my old place was a little Italian restaurant. I could walk there and go through my place and decide what needs to be done there.

This would be my first solo public exposure and I mentally prepared myself knowing that no one in the training earlier today called me out as an imposter. Looking in the mirror by the door I checked my posture and outfit to make sure I was presentable. Ever since the first encounter with Anne, I’ve stressed over how I stood, sat, and walked. Luckily it seems easy to make my new body learn what I want it to. Will I ever get used to the beautiful woman looking back at me?

The walk to the restaurant was refreshing but along the way I saw a yoga studio. What better way to meet new people and make sure this body remains flexible? Stepping inside a pretty young woman greeted me.

“Welcome to Yogastic.”

“Yogastic?”

“I know. Sorry. It’s a franchise name. How can I help you?”

“I’m new to the area and to yoga and wondered when you have classes and what the cost would be.”

“Welcome to the neighborhood. I can offer you a free week. Do you have your own mat or yoga clothing?”

“I have exercise clothing. I couldn’t tell you if that is the best for yoga though. I don’t have a mat.”

“We can provide a mat if you need one. You’re really new to yoga? You look very fit.”

“Completely new.”

“So you don’t know what a sphynx or a downward dog pose is?”

“This isn’t an oriental massage parlor is it? The kind that lure people in for sex in the back rooms?”

“Oh my!” She burst out laughing. “No. Nothing like that. We do have some strange pose names. Are you an early riser?”

“I tend to be.”

“Why don’t you join my class at six tomorrow morning?”

“You teach yoga?”

“I own the place. What’s your name?”

“Adeline.”

“That’s a very pretty name. I’m Courtney. I hope you can come by tomorrow.”

“You sure I won’t make a fool out of myself in front of everyone?”

“Not a chance.”

“All right. I’ll see you tomorrow morning then.” She offered a beautiful smile as I continued my walk to the restaurant.

A few minutes later I entered Gio’s Place. “Good evening, Miss. Dinner for two?”

“Just me.”

“Awww. Such a shame that a beautiful woman like yourself is alone. I have a spot by the window if you like.”

“Thank you.”

“Can I get you something to drink?”

“I’d like a glass of red wine, please.”

“Coming right up.”

Is it just me or am I treated better than I did when I was a man? I remember Anne’s words that a pretty woman will always find favor. In any event, the preferential treatment is a nice change.

***

Dinner was wonderful as was my remaining walk to my old place. As I unlocked my door and stepped inside I felt goosebumps rise on my arms. I was assaulted by my old life. All these things that were mine before now looked oddly foreign to me. There was a strange smell in the air but it wasn’t rotting garbage or food, something I would have expected. It was slightly musky.

Pausing in the entryway I immediately knew someone had been here. It looked like the CIA sent in their cleaners. It had been five weeks since I was last here. Maybe I’m getting paranoid but I don’t want to leave any trace I’ve been here. Grabbing a towel hanging on the oven handle I opened the cupboard under my sink and pulled out some dish washing gloves. Slipping those on I then went around the apartment checking on things.

The fridge had been emptied of food that could spoil. But there was some beer and frozen foods that were useful. My wine cupboard had a nice stock of good wines I collected from various regions of the world. Aside from the garbage being removed and food taken out everything seemed to be in order.

Grabbing some grocery bags I began collecting some things. I had two cameras that I kept hidden which recorded motion and sound. I can review these later. There was the odd personal item, photo, and the money in my safe that I took. I left my old identification in the safe. Behind a hidden wall in the closet I kept unregistered firearms. Taking a handgun and bullets I couldn’t shake the feeling I was intruding. This is another person’s world. Another person’s life. I have memories of everything and yet it no longer feels mine.

I packed up two bottles of my best wine, some beer, ice cream, and a few trinkets that once belonged to my parents and made a hasty retreat. Perhaps my old place will feel differently in the day? I was several blocks away when I stripped off the gloves and put them into a trash container. Is this female intuition or fear that by touching something somehow I would wake up to become the old me again or the scapegoat for Alan’s disappearance? As painful as that thought was I realized the truth that I am happier now; I don’t want to go back to who I was.

By the time I got back to my new place I was thankful for my enhanced strength. I hadn’t taken much but what I did take was heavy. It was too late to shop for anything new so I put everything away, got my exercise clothes ready for tomorrow morning, and swept the place for bugs and cameras before getting ready for bed.

I’m still a touch paranoid but I’ve seen the CIA frame people before. Why anyone would want to frame me is beyond my understanding. Feeling secure that the house was clean I changed into my nightgown and slipped into the cool sheets.

It took some effort but I managed to shut down my rampaging thoughts one by one. A lot had happened today. Rolling on my side I felt my nipples brush the silky fabric or my nightgown. I could feel them harden and that made them even more sensitive. I tried to ignore the sensations but they reminded me of having an erection as a man. My nipples were so sensitive and the slightest squeeze would cause me to moan. It wasn’t long before my hands slipped under my nightgown and were gently massaging my breasts.

This feels amazing! I felt my body tingle with warmth and I let one hand drift between my legs. I was already moist and my finger slid easily between my vaginal lips. Each slow stroke and squeeze made my breath catch. I focused on the intense feelings building within me and how my fingertip felt as it glided effortlessly over my clitoris.

My hips began to move in rhythm to my efforts and my own moans excited me further. A light squeeze on my nipple caused my back to arch and for the briefest of moments I imagined something long and hard slipping inside me. With a scream that was more of a whimper my first female orgasm exploded upon me. Rolling over on my side I felt my legs clamp down on my hand even as my other hand continued to massage my breast.

Wow! I’ve never experienced anything so powerful in my life. My orgasm seemed to go on and on. When my breathing normalized again I rolled back over, closed my eyes, and fell instantly asleep.

***

My stomach woke me before my alarm. The fridge was empty except for the beer and the ice cream. I promised to try to make it to yoga this morning and I didn’t have time to shop first. Ice cream it is. I ate just enough to curb my appetite before showering and changing into my exercise clothing. For a warmup I jogged the five minutes to the yoga place.

Courtney was there at the front again as I entered. “Adeline! I’m so glad you could make it. Come on back.”

We walked past a classroom that was packed with mostly women doing a class. Courtney led me to a smaller room with two mats. She closed the door behind her. “We’re not joining the others?”

“You can if you like. I thought since you were concerned about being embarrassed I could give you a private lesson. Is that all right?”

“Of course. This way I only have you laughing at me. Is what I’m wearing all right?”

“Mmmhmm. Go ahead and stand on your mat and face me. Try to mimic my movements. Stretch tall and raise your arms above your head. Perfect. Now I want you to slide your foot up your leg.” I began tipping slightly until Courtney’s hands held my hips. “There you go. That’s wonderful.”

Her warm hands reminded me of last night and I felt a little heat rise to my face. “You’re a very good instructor.”

She smiled and slipped her hand to the small of my back. “Put your foot back down and I want you to roll forward to try and put your hands on the floor. Keep your lower back straight. You’re very flexible, Adeline. Now walk your hands forward but keep your legs straight. Very nice.”

I felt my breasts tugging downward. Courtney’s hand let go of my back as she moved in front of me into the same position I was in. “Slowly, bring your hips down to the mat, arch your back and stare straight ahead.”

The room was small and our faces were close to each other. Her eyes were intense as she leaned forward and kissed me. “Oh God! I’m so sorry, Adeline. It’s just… You’re so…”

I felt my lips tingling and my excitement grow rapidly. She’s pretty and I can have her if I want. Is this the type of woman I want to be? I want her but I know this isn’t what I want long term. “It’s all right, Courtney. You’re a beautiful woman and I’m attracted to you but I need to make sure this is what I want. I want to only be with the person I plan to spend the rest of my life with.”

“You’re not offended?”

“No.” I smiled and tried to bring a little levity to the situation. “Just tempted. Being new to the area I could, however, really use a friend.”

Courtney looked relieved. “I’ve never done anything like that before.” She sat down next to me. “But you were tempted…”

“Tempted enough to go take a cold shower. I want to really know the person I give myself to.”

“I wish I’d done that. I’ve already had two failed marriages. I could use a good friend too. I promise I won’t try to kiss you again.”

I managed to read through my history and it was straight forward. The same high school and places growing up. The years were changed of course but it was easy enough to follow. My parents were different, mother being Lebanese and father being American, both deceased. Since I speak Arabic and six other languages this was a good story to explain my slightly darker than normal skin color. My recent history suggested I was just starting out again after a fire. The CIA had a safe house in Virginia Beach that burned down. All they needed to do was to tie me to the location and I had a very tenable story.

“I’m just starting over from scratch. I lost everything in a fire a few weeks back. Perhaps we can go shopping sometime.”

“What kind of things do you need?”

“I have three dresses, two sets of underthings, a nightgown, these exercise clothes, and some ice cream.”

“Oh my. What did you do for breakfast?”

“I had the ice cream.”

“You won’t believe how jealous I am of you right now. If I ate ice cream it would go straight to my hips. Can I at least take you to breakfast?”

“I’d like that. No more yoga?”

“Only in group settings where I can control myself.”

***

Courtney had been able to overcome her initial embarrassment and by the time breakfast was over it felt like we had been friends forever. I’ve never felt so free to talk before and found having deep conversations with another woman enriching. As a man I didn’t have the luxury of good friends. We always talked about superficial things and not what was heavy on our hearts.

I still needed a cold shower when I got home but I was thankful I didn’t give in to my desires. Now I needed to get out and go shopping so I headed out to a local mall. My first stop was a salon. There I got my hair trimmed and styled making sure to leave it as long as I could, got my nails done, and pierced my ears. I could see why women appreciate getting their nails done but the ear piercing wasn’t very fun. I just know that I’ll have to wear jewelry at some point on a mission so I might as well get it done now.

My next stop was one of the fancy women’s only lingerie stores. I never could understand why stores like this existed until now. It took me an hour to discover my proper sizes and choose half a dozen panties and a few assorted bra types. I bought some pantyhose as well as a new sexy nightgown.

I dropped these purchases off in the car before heading back into the mall to try on dresses, skirts, blouses, jeans, and I even found some yoga gear and a swimsuit. I was burning through the money fairly quickly with all these purchases even though I was being as frugal as I could.

“Excuse me? Would you like a free makeup application?”

I was in the middle of a department store when I was approached. I thought perhaps I could have a little fun with the sales clerk. “Are you saying I need makeup?”

“Oh no! I didn’t mean that.”

“I was just joking. What do you suggest?”

“Why don’t you sit down here? Your skin is amazing! You have no need of foundation or any masking layers. I might just suggest eyeliner, eye shadow, and lipstick.”

“Nothing too bold or outrageous, please. I’m looking for subtle and understated.”

“All right.”

Ten minutes later I looked in the mirror. My eyes looked fantastic. The eyeliner really added contrast and the eyeshadow brought out the blues. A light red lipstick made my fully lips glisten delectably. “Very nice.”

“It’s easy when you have a good starting point.”

“Can you point out a few items I should purchase?”

“Certainly!”

By the time I had wrapped up the makeup purchases I was getting hungry and needed to go to the bathroom. This was my first public women’s bathroom I ever had gone into before. It took a moment to build my courage but once inside I was dismally disappointed. Except for women touching up their makeup, the bathroom wasn’t much different than a man’s. No one called me out as an imposter which was also a relief.

The food court was not very exciting but I managed to find something somewhat healthy and sat down to people watch. I don’t ever want to take for granted that which I have. I’m enjoying every moment of being a woman.

“Hey, babe.”

Three large teenage boys surrounded my table.

“You do realize that saying, hey babe, isn’t the best way to win a girl’s affections?”

The largest leaned over the table. “What would you prefer me to say?”

“How about, would you mind some company?”

He smiled back at the other two boys. “Would you mind some company?”

“Thanks, but no thanks.”

He scowled and pulled out a knife making sure I saw it but no one else did. “See you around, babe.” I watched them leave but they kept looking back at me. I wasn’t too worried.

With lunch finished I headed to an upscale clothing store. I needed several high-end outfits that would come in handy for missions. I found a dress that hugged every inch of my body like it was painted on. The hem was very short and it exposed a little more leg than I wanted but I knew I could use it. I also found a sexy black dress that flowed like liquid silk. When I combined that with some jewelry I felt pretty well set.

Heading back to the car I had just put my purchases into the back seat when I felt hands push me inside the vehicle. Twisting around I came face to face with the three teens. One was partly into the back seat with me and he had his knife pointing menacingly at me.

“I told you I would see you around, babe. Why don’t you make this easy on yourself and lie back?”

I’ve never had much patience for thugs like this and for the briefest of moments I felt very vulnerable before I remembered my training and enhanced strength. Grabbing the wrist of the hand holding the knife I twisted violently while my other hand thrust out hitting the teen in his nose. With a knee to his crotch I shoved him out of the car and onto the pavement beyond.

His nose was definitely broken but the teens weren’t giving up. Infuriated they came at me but before they took more than a few steps a man stepped around the corner of my car. “There you are, honey. Did you need a hand with your bags?” Is his accent British?

I was surprised someone would willingly put themselves at risk for me and paused to formulate a response. Glaring at the teens I steadied my voice. “I was about to take some of this trash back to the dumpsters but now that you’re here I guess I can do that later.”

The boys hesitated briefly and considered their options before running back towards the mall.

“Are you all right?”

The man was tall, at least six foot two. He was brutally handsome and carried himself comfortably. I could see he was muscular under his rather tight-fitting shirt. I took a breath to calm myself not sure whether it was the man or the three teens that caused my blood to course through my body. “I’m fine. Thank you for putting yourself at risk for me.”

“It seems you’re very capable of protecting yourself. If you’re sure you’re all right then I’ll be on my way.”

He turned to go but something bothered me. I should be more grateful and thankful. “Please, let me do something to thank you.”

There was a glint in his eyes as he turned back towards me. “Perhaps you would care to join me Monday night at Oscar’s? We could meet for a drink around six?”

“Oscar’s pub?” He nodded. “I know it. Sure, I’d like that. I’m Adeline.” Extending my hand I felt his firm grip in mine.

“Weston. Would you like me to pick you up?”

“I’ll meet you there.” His hand lingered as it held mine.

“I’m looking forward to it.”

He smiled a smile that warmed my heart. “You don’t want my number?”

“If you don’t show up I’ll assume you’ve changed your mind and have an extra pint or two to wash away my tremendous grief.”

I smiled. “I’ll be there.” I wanted to flirt so badly but held myself in check.

“Until then, be well, Adeline.”

I watched him until he disappeared into the sea of cars. My heart was fluttering and I felt all warm inside. I could have stood there all day in the embrace of my feelings but my stomach growled and I reminded myself that I needed to pick up groceries yet.

***

Sunday morning I went for a long run and followed that with a hike in a park. I spent a lot of time contemplating my life. Staring at my hand as I sat on a rock I took note of my slender fingers and red-painted nails. Can I ever love someone and be true to them without telling them the truth? Would anyone ever believe me? I yearn for a relationship and yet I wonder if this is part of the DNA payload and yet deep down I feel the DNA payload has nothing to do with my yearnings. I’ve been feeling this way for years but the CIA doesn’t provide the right environment for stable relationships. I’ll do these missions and then decide. Let the CIA think I’m all in so that I can use their help to get my life back in order. Perhaps in a few months I’ll know better who I am and what my future should be.

Yesterday had been an interesting day. Not once was I called out for being an imposter even though I felt like one especially when I was asked my size or about anything any normal woman would know. Courtney was intriguing and I have to think I must have given off signals that I was interested in her. People just don’t go about and kiss a stranger do they?

Then there were the three teenagers. This was bothersome. Will I invite trouble wherever I go? I’ve been a woman a few days and I had another woman make a pass at me, three teenage boys try to rape me. And then there’s Weston… I still feel warm inside thinking about Weston. Do all women feel this way when someone protects them? He hadn’t asked me for a date. He didn’t impose himself on me. There is something about his cavalier attitude that I find attractive. He seems to have a lot of confidence in himself but then again I used to as well. Is that a male thing?

For the rest of Sunday I kept pretty much to myself. Courtney had called and hoped we could get together one night this week but I told her with my new job that I wasn’t sure what my schedule would be. I did want to get together with her but just as friends even though it would be every man’s fantasy… I’ve got to stop thinking like this.

***

I arrived at CIA headquarters dressed in a skirt and blouse with the traditional FBI-styled ponytail even though it was the CIA. A pony tail was also easier than figuring out how to put my hair up. Doc Halloway and Anne greeted me at the entrance and walked me up to the department head’s office. This time Samuel Ellison was alone.

“How was your weekend, Miss Brooke? I trust you got settled.”

“I did, thank you.”

“No problems?”

I could tell he was fishing for information. “Nothing I couldn’t handle.”

“Have you decided to stay on with the CIA?”

“I have.” For now.

“That’s good to hear.” Handing me an envelope he continued. “Inside you’ll find your badge, credentials, passport, and other documents assigning your assets into your name. You know the drill. Put your badge on while on premises. You’re to report to Ted Coldiron for your mission.”

“Thank you, sir.”

He turned back to his papers on his desk as an obvious dismissal. Turning towards the door I was almost outside when Samuel spoke again.

“Miss Brooke?”

“Yes?”

“Stay away from Weston Wright.”

“Excuse me? You had me followed?” How dare he! “What do you know of Weston?”

“Don’t act so surprised, Miss Brooke. Do you really think after what you’ve been through we wouldn’t keep tabs on you to make sure you were safe? Weston’s got a record and I’ll not have my agents getting involved with criminals. Dismissed.”

I was furious as I entered the hallway and closed the door behind me. “I can’t believe this!”

Anne took my arm in hers as we started walking down the hallway towards Ted’s office. “Tell me what you’re feeling, Miss Brooke.”

“I’m angry, furious!”

“Angry at whom?”

“At the CIA that they would spy on me and at myself for not picking up a tail.”

“Understand the intention and the motive. Their desire was to make sure you remained safe. Nothing else. As for not picking up the tail, your mind has been working overtime and I’m sure once you settle into your new life you’ll be less distracted.”

“How intrusive were they?”

Anne smiled. “You’re doing exceptionally well, Miss Brooke. You’re fears about your personal privacy and vanity are very much a feminine trait. The CIA agents were told to keep their distance and to not violate your personal space. Once you entered your apartment they removed themselves from the area.”

“Why don’t I feel all warm and fuzzy about this?”

“You feel your trust has been violated.”

“Yes! It was. All the CIA needed to say was, Adeline, we will have agents in the area monitoring you in case you need anything. There was no need to go behind my back.”

“Do you want to change your mind? I’m sure that can be arranged.”

I paused and put myself in the CIA’s shoes. A young woman with enhanced abilities and all the knowledge and skill craft of the CIA decides to go her own way. Would I ever be free of them? I would be monitored for years. I’m trapped whether I like it or not. Calming myself I softened my tone. “No. I’m not happy I wasn’t told but it isn’t enough to change my mind. I don’t need agents watching over me.”

We continued walking. “Tell me about Weston.”

I frowned. “There’s nothing to tell. He intervened when some teenage boys tried to take advantage of me. I was merely being polite and offered to buy him a drink to thank him. That’s who I want to be, Mrs. Banks. Thankful and kind. What does it make me if I don’t show up tonight?”

“It makes you wise, Miss Brooke. I saw the wheels turning in your mind back there. You know your situation at the CIA and what it would mean to try and live your life on your own terms.”

The CIA is multi-layered. There are missions and sub-missions. Cross missions and missions masking missions. It’s enough to make anyone’s head swim. I might never fully understand the part I play in all of this.

“There you are, Miss Brooke. Please sit. Doctor and Mrs. Banks, I’ll take over from here. Thank you.” As Anne and Doc Halloway left the room Ted turned a screen to face me. “Your target is Alexander Markov. He’s an underling in a fringe organization providing key components to Serge Sabinsky. Ultimately Sabinsky is the target but we feel it will be too difficult to get to Sabinsky directly.”

“Micha Gustoff was my target in Hamburg. He reports directly to Sabinsky.”

“That’s correct. These missions are linked. Markov supplies the base material for the virus using a specialized process he developed. Gustoff provides the payload for the virus. Sabinsky puts it all together with his virus. I need you to get close to Markov and find out when and where his next meeting with Sabinsky is.”

“How do I get close to Markov?”

“He’s in Alexandria, Virginia right now gathering his supplies. We have agents monitoring his movements and believe he will be at Malcom-Blythe tonight. Markov likes to live the high life even though he can’t afford his lifestyle. With your looks I think he could be persuaded to use you as a showcase. However, the goal is Sabinsky. You’re exactly Sabinsky’s type. If Markov brings you to Sabinsky I have complete faith that you can get into the inner circle to gather intelligence.”

“So Markov is just the access to Sabinsky. What do you mean by showcase?”

“While Markov is a lesser target we do need his plasma derivative process methodology. Finding that is critical to the mission. You look like a high-class model, Miss Brooke. Markov flaunts his lifestyle and you would be a trophy on his arm when he goes to Sabinsky. Sabinsky will certainly take note allowing you an opportunity to get close to him.”

“You want me to sleep with Markov?”

“The CIA doesn’t order our female agents to have sexual contact with targets. That said, you need to do what you think is best in the situation to achieve the goals of the mission.”

Plausible deniability. Do all female field agents get that line? I tried not to let my frustration show on my face. “I’ll need drugs.”

Ted’s steady smile faltered. “Drugs?”

“Ketamine will work well to induce sedation and memory loss. That and perhaps some selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.”

“What is the last one for?”

“While under the ketamine I can also give the SSRI to Markov to reduce his libido. I have no desire to get amorous with him.”

“That’s your job.”

“I thought you just told me the CIA doesn’t order its female agents to have sexual contact with targets.”

He frowned knowing he was caught. “Fine. I’ll get you the drugs. Anything else?”

“I’m assuming you’ve given me a credit card to use for expenses?”

“We just gave you ten thousand dollars.”

“I believe that was for getting my life established again. Malcom-Blythe if a very upscale lounge. I don’t have a formal dress for such a place.”

Ted smiled but he wasn’t really smiling. “I’ll put a requisition in for one right away. Anything else, Miss Brooke?”

“A gun, thigh holster, and a set of alias documents.”

***

I received a new office and spent time delving into the mission documents. Ted had agreed to a new alias for me; Sabina Costea from Romania. At least with the alias I can protect my real identity. Ted promised me my documents by three allowing me time to buy a dress and everything I would need. It bothered me I wouldn’t be able to meet Weston as by the time I shopped, had my hair styled, and got to Malcom-Blythe I would have no time to stop in at Oscar’s at six.

When my documents arrived I headed to the shops, found a dress and got my hair styled partly up but mostly flowing down my back in gentle waves. I spent some of the CIA’s money on some dangling diamond earrings, a necklace, and a bracelet. I even bought some matching three inch heels and a purse to go with the outfit.

On the way home from shopping I swung into Oscar’s and left a note at the bar for Weston thanking him again for helping me on Saturday and apologizing that I couldn’t meet him due to a work meeting. I thought long and hard about leaving my phone number but decided I didn’t need the hassle with the CIA breathing down my neck.

Once home I quickly removed my sales tags, ate a light dinner, then slipped into my dress. It was truly a spectacular work of art exposing my skin to the small of my back. The dress didn’t need a bra as it held things in fairly well on its own. With my hair done up, some makeup that took me several tries to get right, and my shoes on, I looked stunning. I’ve never felt this beautiful or powerful before.

***

A taxi delivered me to Malcom-Blythe at seven thirty. This place reminded me a little of Monte Carlo. Women looked gorgeous in their dresses and the men looked handsome and dapper in their suits. I found a place at the bar that allowed me to keep an eye on the entrance and ordered a white wine while fending off several men who wanted my company.

I stayed focused on the door but when I turned for a moment back to my drink I saw a note next to my glass. ‘Adeline, you look stunning tonight. Sorry we couldn’t meet earlier. I understand work can sometimes get in the way of life. Be careful tonight. W.’

I quickly scanned the room and felt a cold chill run down my spine. Is Weston stalking me? He must be. I didn’t have time to ponder the note as Alexander Markov strode confidently into the lounge. He wore an expensive gray suit with several large gold rings on his fingers. He had a slight paunch but looked strong nonetheless. His eyes caught mine right away. Turning back to the bar I used a makeup mirror to keep track of the man.

I looked down as he walked slowly behind me towards a booth. He paused slightly and turned to another gentleman speaking in Russian. Thankfully I know Russian and could translate. “Boris, have you ever seen anything finer than this woman sitting at the bar?”

“Would you like me to deliver her to your home later tonight?”

Boris is obviously the extra muscle. Turning around quickly I bumped into Alexander. “I’m so sorry!” I added a hint of Slavic accent to my words.

“Please don’t worry yourself about it.”

“Thank you.” I turned back towards the bar when Alexander squeezed his way next to me.

“If I may be so bold? You have an interesting accent. Where are you from?”

“Romania. I’ve been enjoying some time here in the United States but soon I must return home.”

“Romania? You don’t look Romanian.”

“Ah. Yes. I get that a lot. My mother was from Lebanon but my father is Romanian.”

“My work often takes me to Romania.”

“Really? What is it that you do?”

“I work in the biotech industry. You live in Bucharest then?”

“No. It’s far too busy there for me. Ploiesti is my home.”

“Then you must be familiar with Donuterie. Their bakery items are fabulous.”

He’s testing me. Luckily I lived in Ploiesti for a month on a mission and was well familiar with the area. “Yes! But I much prefer Cofeteria Narcisa as their cakes are much less sweet.”

“I’m Alexander Markov.”

“Sabina Costea.” His lips found the back of my hand and I was slightly repulsed by the action.

“Perhaps we can sit together, Sabina? That is unless you are already spoken for tonight.”

“I’ve been expecting someone, but I’ve waited more than an hour now. I’m afraid he’s not coming.”

“Then please, let me keep you company.”

His hand drifted to the small of my back as he guided me towards the booth. I tried to ignore the sensation as I really wanted to break his wrist. In Russian he told his guard to watch the door.

“You must be important to have someone protecting you. He’s a bodyguard, is he not?”

“I make very large business deals and he is my driver and assistant. He can become stifling at times but I appreciate the company perk. Tell me about yourself, Sabina.”

“There’s not much to tell. I was involved in modeling for a while but the hectic career was hard on my health. I came here to get away from it all for a while.”

“You seem in perfect health and form now. What are your plans for the future?”

I hate this fake flirting.

“Sabina?” Looking up I stared into Weston’s eyes. How does he know my alias? Something isn’t right here. “I’m sorry to interrupt but my cab got delayed in highway traffic.” He turned towards Alexander and offered his hand. Alexander glowered at him. “Mitch Johnson. Thank you for taking care of Sabina while I was otherwise occupied.” There’s no hint of British accent.

Something was up and this was no mere coincidence. My gut told me to go with ‘Mitch’. “Alexander, thank you. Now that my date has arrived I shouldn’t ignore him. It was a pleasure meeting you.”

“The pleasure was all mine, Miss Costea.”

I could see the anger smoldering in Alexander’s eyes. ‘Mitch’ extended a hand to me to help me from the booth. He slipped his arm around me and pulled me close. I was a mass of emotions and thoughts but inside I felt warmth rise within me. Weston pulled me through the crowd to a dark corner of the lounge.

“What’s going on? Who are you?” I whispered carefully.

“Shh. Not here.” He reached for my hand but I yanked it back.

“I’m not going anywhere with you.”

“You’re in grave danger, Alan Archer.” Fear flooded me and heat rushed through my body. He knows who I really am. How? My heart was beating so fast I was afraid it would simply stop. “Please.” He extended his hand towards mine.

I need answers. Clearly this man has been following me for some time. For a brief second I thought about pulling my gun.

“Don’t even think about it, Adeline. You’re not alone in what happened to you. Please, take my hand.”

Slipping my hand in his he pulled me through a dark back exit into the rear parking lot. Silently he opened a car door for me and we drove off into the night.

***

Every time I tried to speak he shushed me. We drove onward until we reached a gated mansion. Parking down the street he pulled out a narrow neoprene sleeve and slipped it onto my left forearm. Small lights lit up on the sleeve. I was about to pull it off when his hand rested on mine. He shook his head and continued driving on in silence. Ten minutes later we pulled into a park that overlooked the area. Opening the door for me we walked half a mile before he sat us both down on a bench.

“The CIA has embedded a tracking device in your arm. This band mimics the signal and will make it look like you’re still at Alexander Markov’s home.”

“His home?”

“I assume that’s the nature of your mission. To get close to Alexander Markov in an attempt to get to Sabinsky. The mansion we stopped at briefly is Markov’s residence while in the States.”

“I’m confused. Who are you? How do you know my real name? Why should I trust you? You’re a criminal.”

“All very good questions but let me start by saying I know what you’re going through. Two years ago I was working with the British Secret Service as a field agent. I contracted a disease and the fix turned me into what you see now. I was a thirty-six year old woman, named Natalie Wright. When I woke after the procedure I was Weston Wright, twenty-one years of age.”

“But… That’s not possible.” I stood to go but Weston grabbed my wrist. Like lightning I broke free of his grip and spun to attack but he was there for every strike and every move. He was just as fast as I was and at least as strong. Slowly I lowered my fists and backed away. My first instinct was to run.

“Adeline. Please. Hear me out. Come back and sit down.”

I was a whirlwind of emotions and I struggled to breathe. Weston tapped the seat bench next to him. Mindlessly I sat back down.

“A small team of British Secret Service and CIA worked together to find ways of enhancing their agents. There have been many attempts but I was the first successful one. You’re the first since me that I know of.”

“If they just wanted to enhance agents I’m sure people would line up for the chance.”

“It has everything to do with psychology. A volunteer wanting to be enhanced is harder to control. Several volunteers became violent and felt like they were gods. I believe they were put down. The entire ‘accidental’ disease and waking as someone entirely new throws the subject off balance. They need to rely on their agency for support and they hold themselves in check. Every word spoken, every action is a deliberate psychological manipulation of you to make you acquiesce.”

I had to think back about my conversations with Doc Halloway and Anne Banks. The accident, the urgency, the subtle words suggesting one thing but wanting you to do another. The quick, efficient documents on my new life and how to handle the transition… They gave me the freedom to choose when there was really no choice…

“I know it’s a lot to absorb. Ever since I realized I was manipulated I started following breadcrumbs. Doctor Halloway and Anne Banks were part of my transition two years ago. I began gathering intelligence on them both and discovering more and more about the program. When I saw they targeted you it was already too late for me to intervene.”

“What do you mean by targeted?”

“You were an excellent choice for their experiment with large amounts of experience in the field, your gifting with languages, and you have no relatives or loved ones. They could make you exactly as they wanted you to be; the perfect female agent.”

“But I was on a mission… In Hamburg…”

“You were never in Hamburg. I watched as they drugged you and took you from your apartment. You were gone four days before they brought you back. During that time they subjected you to a form of brainwashing; inducing memories of the Hamburg mission.”

I shook my head trying to get rid of the confusing thoughts. “I still don’t understand why.”

“Doctor Halloway and Anne Banks are dual agents. They’ve been utilizing the resources of the British and United States governments to perform their research. They report directly to a consortium of Russia, Iran, North Korea, and China. Their plan is to provide the technology to allow the consortium to form a new world order. They want to build compliant super soldier armies but the plan is even more sinister than that. You and I are long-term test subjects. They took two years to develop your DNA payload. By analyzing you they’re one step closer to identifying the DNA markers that will allow the next subject to be fully compliant and controlled.”

“Why put me on a mission to get close to Markov?”

“Markov is a real target. So is Sabinsky. Both offer critical resources to making what they did to you and me widespread. What Doctor Halloway and Anne Banks have accomplished is remarkable, but the reality is that their methodologies are limited to one person at a time. The information and resources Markov and Sabinsky both have could mass produce the unique process that was used on us.”

“But why use me? They could use any operatives.”

“Markov and Sabinsky are very elusive and wily. Both agencies have been trying to get close to them for years. You were designed specifically to infiltrate them. Your height, weight, eye color, hair. Everything was carefully crafted to give you an edge. They’re also using this mission to help you resolve what has happened to you; to give you incentive to go after them.”

“I’m a test subject and a tool.” Standing I took a few steps away and paced. “This is too implausible to be the truth.”

“You sound like you’re quoting from the theory of Occam’s razor.”

“Occam’s razor is exactly what I’m talking about. The solution with the fewest assumptions is most often the correct one. This is all too big; too elaborate. The story you’re telling me can’t be real.”

“How can you say that when I have enhanced strength and speed like you do? I have proof of my transition and that Anne and Doctor Halloway were involved.”

“Show me.”

“It’s in a safe place. I can show you tomorrow.”

“That’s not good enough!”

“You need time to process all of this. Let me take you back to the mansion. You can remove the band there and we can call a cab. That way it will look like you spent time with Alexander Markov at his home before you head back to yours. You have to stay one step ahead of the CIA.”

“Why?”

“If Doctor Halloway or Anne Banks suspect you’re going rogue, they will put you down; without hesitation and without mercy.”

“Take me back, please.”

“You need to believe me. Even being close to you is putting me in grave danger.”

“Just shut up!” I’ve been betrayed but I’m not sure by whom.

Silently he stood and I ignored the sadness in his eyes. He didn’t speak on the drive back to the mansion but he did get out and open the door for me. He was gone before I called a taxi to take me home.

***

It was nearly midnight when I arrived home and after changing into a nightgown and robe I found the cameras I had set up in my old apartment. Pulling the memory cards from them I disconnected my laptop from all networks and reviewed the footage. I shivered as I watched someone come into my apartment and inject something into my food in the fridge. Later that day after arriving home I had eaten a meal and shortly thereafter collapsed on the floor. Doc Halloway and Anne Banks were seen directing staff to take my old body away. Four days later I was placed back in my bed.

What if Weston is right? I looked down at my left forearm and wondered if there really is a tracking chip in there.

***

Needless to say I didn’t get much sleep last night. I need to speak with Weston but I arrived at work early to do more investigation. Ted Coldiron was at my door waiting for me.

“I need a status update, Adeline. What happened last night?”

“I contacted Markov. I sense he’s interested in me but I need to be careful as he was testing me. He’s very smart and well-traveled and I must be cautious in my approach.”

“Did you sleep with him?”

“No.” If they’re tracking me then they know I must have been at his house. “I went to his house and stayed for a little while.”

“When will you see him again?”

“Nothing was committed to.”

“Why not?”

Pulling Ted into my office I closed the door. “You try becoming a woman overnight and suddenly be thrown into a situation like this. I don’t have a complete sense of who I am yet and I’m not going to ruin my chances by demanding a phone number or a second meeting. I’ll go back to the lounge tonight as I’m sure he’ll be there.”

“Just get it done. We need to get his process methodology but more than that we need you to meet Sabinsky. Don’t mess this up.”

“I need another dress.” There was a hint of frustration from Ted so I continued. “Anyone going to Malcom-Blythe has enough money to have a few changes of clothing. We don’t want it to look suspicious that I’m in a place that’s out of my league.”

“Fine. Before you go shopping stop by and see Anne Banks and Doctor Halloway.”

“I will. There’s nothing more exciting than getting psychoanalyzed by Anne.”

***

“You both wanted to see me?”

“Come in, Adeline. Sit down. How did things go last night?”

“I think it went well.”

Anne focused on me. “That sounds suspiciously like you didn’t achieve the desired outcome. You’re holding back because you’re still confused about who you are.” Turning to Doc Halloway she continued in frustration. “I told you she’s not ready yet.”

“We don’t have an option. Markov is planning on leaving the country any day now.”

These two are liars. I saw the footage from my apartment. They’ve lied to me from the beginning. “I’m going back to Malcom-Blythe tonight. Last night was difficult. I’m not sure how to respond to Alexander’s advances. If I give in too easily what does that say about me? If I don’t respond at all I risk losing the target. I’ve been a woman for under a week. It’s one thing to become the person I want to be and a totally different thing to try to be someone I’m not. Does that make sense?”

Anne lightly touched my hand. “Perfectly. We can help you with that.”

“You can?”

Doc Halloway pulled a small electronic device from a locked drawer. He put in a sequence of numbers that I assumed was an unlocking code. With the press of a button I heard a series of beeps and chirps and the next thing I remember Doc Halloway was putting away the device and five minutes had passed. I was in a bit of a haze when they told me good luck tonight.

Heading to the car I drove home and changed before heading to the mall. I was becoming a regular shopper there but I loved it. I loved trying on new fashions and each new outfit exposed different parts of my body and personality. I never thought about how my clothes and personality went together when I was Alan. Alan… It seems like a lifetime ago now.

While trying on a white gown with a slit all the way up to my hip when I sensed someone behind me. Turning around I saw Weston. A feeling of relief washed over me and I fought my desire to throw my arms around him.

“You look gorgeous, Adeline.”

His words came across as very sincere.

“Weston. I really need to speak with you.”

“Do you have time to go to my place?”

“Yes. Just let me purchase this dress.”

As we walked to his car he slipped the neoprene band on my arm again.

“Just making sure they think you’re still at the mall.”

Five minutes later we were at his apartment. It was Spartan except for a table, chairs, bed, and couch. What was out of place was a wall full of photos and information. I took it all in often seeing references to Anne and the Doc. There was a backpack on the floor like Weston was getting ready for a trip.

“You were right, Weston. I was drugged. I never went to Hamburg. I had hidden cameras in my old apartment. I watched the footage last night. I can’t believe they did this to me. They must have drugged my food as I recall that all my food was missing when I returned a few days ago. They must have cleaned up the evidence of what they did to me.”

“I need to get you out of the country. We can be on a plane in a few hours. I can tell I’ve only got a limited amount of time before I’m found.”

Words suddenly burst forth from my lips. “No! I must complete the mission. I must get close to Markov.”

“Your safety is of the utmost importance. We need to leave.”

Again I had no control of my mouth. “No! I must complete the mission. I must get close to Markov.”

Weston’s hands cupped my face as he pressed his lips against mine igniting a fire within me. “Why did you do that?”

“Distraction.”

“It was definitely distracting.” Heat rose to my face as I wondered if he cared for me or it really was just a distraction.

“We need to get you home so you can pack your things. Let’s leave tonight.”

“No! I must complete the mission. I must get close to Markov.”

Another kiss from Weston was like a slap in my face waking me from a long sleep.

“As much as I like to keep doing that, Adeline, you’re in more danger than you realize.”

“Why?”

I watched as Weston rifled through some drawers. He handed me a small electronic device. “Have you ever seen anything like this before?”

“Yes. Just today. I was with Anne and Doc Halloway. We talked about last night and they said they could help me with my mixed feelings about getting close to Markov. The Doc pulled out a device that looked just like this one and pushed some keys. Then he put it away.”

“Damn it!”

“What?”

Weston was moving quickly around the room. He set up a tripod and put a camera on it. “I’m going to record this.”

“Record what?” Weston took the device and pressed a few keys on it. I heard the beep and chirp noises then saw him putting it away. “What are you going to record?”

Pulling the camera from the tripod he flipped open the screen, tapped rewind, and then play. I watched in fascination as the screen showed me standing with blank eyes. The audio kicked in as Weston had spoken.

“Adeline, tell me what Anne and Doctor Halloway said to you after you saw the device that looked like this one.”

“Anne Banks told me when I see Alexander Markov that I was to seduce him and sleep with him. Doctor Halloway then reminded me that I must complete the mission. I must get close to Markov.”

“Did they ask or say anything else?”

“No.”

“If you ever see Alexander Markov again you will not want to seduce him or sleep with him. It is your choice to complete the mission or not.”

“I don’t want to seduce or sleep with Alexander Markov and it is my choice to complete the mission or not.”

There was a chirping sound of the device and then the video ended. I stared at Weston. “What is that thing?”

“It’s merely a signal generator that can be locked with a numerical pin. I stole this from Doctor Halloway’s apartment last night. I’d seen prototypes in the past and when I found it I took it hoping to figure it out. I had no idea they had gone this far. Your DNA payload must have included a programming sequence. By using the device it triggers you to go into a trance where you become susceptible to suggestions and commands. They could tell you to jump off a building at five o’clock tomorrow and you would do it.”

“They programmed me to sleep with Markov and to complete the mission. Get rid of that thing!”

“No. We can’t. I was able to undo the programming and luckily it had the same programming sequence, but we can’t guarantee you won’t be programmed again. Without it I couldn’t get you back.”

“Use it one more time on me but change the signals I can respond to. Then we can destroy it.”

“You’re brilliant, Adeline.”

“Do it, please! Make the sequence very long as I don’t want to go into programming mode when someone’s cell phone goes off. Don’t record it either. We want no record anywhere.”

“I need to record it.”

“Why?”

“So I can prove to you I didn’t tell you to do anything else.”

“What would you possibly want to program me with?”

“That you’ll find me devilishly handsome, articulate, and that you would do anything I asked.”

“Yes… You better record it. I don’t want to become a Stepford wife.”

Weston paused. “Sorry, that image was rather idyllic. Ready?”

I nodded and blanked out again when the sound sequence finished. A moment later I asked when he would start.

“It’s already done. Watch the video.”

As before my eyes seemed to glass over. Weston spoke to me saying I will only respond to the new tone sequence he would generate. There were some beeps before Weston forwarded the clip a few seconds skipping over some of the sequence and then many more beeps and chirps. When he was done I replied I would only respond to the previous sound sequence and all previous programming had been cleared. Pulling the memory card he handed it back to me along with the device.

He looked a little sad. “I had you in the palm of my hand.”

I leaned over and kissed him. It felt so natural; so right.

“What’s that for?”

“For not taking advantage of me.”

Looking around the room I used a cross-cut shredder, garbage disposal, and a hammer to shred and pulverize the device and memory card into small fragments. I then collected the pieces and put them into ten separate plastic bags.

“It looks like you’re dealing drugs with those.”

“These go in ten different garbage cans around the city.”

“You ready to leave the country with me?”

I want to so badly. “I’m not sure that’s best. I appreciate the fact you want me safe and my mind is screaming to run like the wind, but there’s something larger going on here. If we vanish then they just repeat the process and give the consortium everything they need. What if I continued the mission? I could be on the inside looking for ways to dismantle the program.”

“They must have information everywhere.”

Walking over to the window I looked outside at nothing in particular. “Five people at the CIA are in the know about the program. At least that’s as many as I’ve been introduced to. Samuel Ellison, Ted Coldiron, Wayne Smith, Anne Banks, and Doc Halloway.”

“Where did you meet Wayne Smith?”

“He was with Samuel Ellison and Ted Coldiron. Samuel took the lead so I assumed Wayne reports to him. I know Ted from before and he does report to Samuel.”

“Samuel reports to Wayne per my notes and there is one more in the British Secret Service involved. The project codename is Bear Glen.”

“Can we assume only Anne and the Doc are dual agents?”

“No. I believe Wayne Smith and the member involved on the British Secret Service, Cam Waldon, are also dual agents. I doubt Ted or Samuel are involved at this point even though they have some knowledge of the transformation.”

“I never thought to ask you about your status. Are you still with the British Secret Service?”

“I’m in a challenging position. The director, Meg Simpson, has approached me privately. Officially I’m a rogue agent and have abandoned my position. Unofficially our director is supporting me to try and uncover the conspiracy. The problem is that ever since you came along I’ve been exposed and I now have the CIA and British Secret Service breathing down my back.”

“How did you do it? How did you overcome going from a woman to a man?”

“It wasn’t easy. I fought the change every step of the way. I loved being a woman but over the past two years I’ve slowly become accustomed to the new me and my DNA payload has worn my resistance down.”

“You’re still resisting? You still like men?”

Weston smiled. “My DNA payload forced me into wanting to be with women. My mind rebelled at first but there’s no denying what my body wants. I’ve had to yield to find any peace.”

Turning away from Weston I hid my face from him. I’m such a storm of confusing thoughts.

Warm, strong hands gripped my shoulders and turned me around. “Maybe I’ve been a man too long and am completely missing the mark here, but I want you to know I have never slept with a woman and the uniqueness of my situation has been challenging for me. Until I met you I’ve never felt the remotest tug on my heart. We share something that no other people in the world have ever shared, but it’s more than this. I understand if you don’t feel anything for me and that will not change my desire to support you and be there for you. I guess what I’m trying to say is I’m drawn to you, Adeline. I want to get to know you. I want…”

Standing there with his hands on my shoulders and my eyes lost in his I felt something deep inside me. This was different than the lustful feelings I had with Courtney. I shushed him with a kiss. “That’s for freeing me.” I gave him another light kiss. “That’s for risking yourself for me.” I gave him a third kiss. “That’s a kiss I’m putting on deposit. There’s nothing more that I want than to disappear with you and to get to know you better. We need to expose Doc Halloway, Anne Banks, Wayne Smith, and Cam Waldon.”

Weston’s hand caressed my cheek and I leaned into it. “Then I’ll stay.”

“You said it yourself that I’ve exposed you. You can’t risk it, especially since I have this damn chip in my arm. Go. Get out of harm’s way.”

“These are ruthless people, Adeline. Markov and Sabinsky are criminals, and we have four dual agents that will do anything to protect their lives and their futures. It’s too dangerous on your own.”

“And yet by doing nothing we allow the technology that did this to us be used to create an army of enhanced slaves. You’ve already put yourself at risk for me and I don’t want to see you in danger.”

“So what’s your plan?”

“I go to Markov tonight, I get to his place away from prying CIA eyes, and I convince him it is in his best interest to take me to see Sabinsky. You go ahead of me to track down Sabinsky. In the meantime, I’ll try to get some incriminating evidence on Doc Halloway and Anne.”

“How will you get evidence from them?”

“After tonight I report in and I express my misgivings about going to see Sabinsky. Since that wasn’t part of the programming they will need to reprogram me. I record the session and get that evidence to someone out of their sphere of influence at the CIA.”

“That might work but what happens if the doctor and Anne see through your faking the programming?”

“Then I’ll be on the run. I have two sets of identification. I’m sure I could get out of the country.”

“And your tracker?”

“I’ll borrow your blocker until I can safely remove the tracker.”

“That’s about the only good thing I can see about this plan. If you borrow something you need to give it back. I trust you know what you’re doing and I already programmed you to find Markov repulsive so I have no fears there.”

“I plan on saving myself for the one I want to be with long-term but it’s sweet to see you’re jealous.”

“I didn’t say I was jealous. If you’re positive this is what you want to do then I need to give you a few things.”

“You know I’d rather escape this whole situation. What do you need to give me?”

Weston dug through a drawer and handed me a pin. “This is a camera. It records only thirty minutes continuously overwriting. You can stop the recording by disconnecting the pin from the rear connector.”

“I’ve not seen one so small before.”

“It’s the latest spy tech.”

“Thank you. What’s the second thing?”

Weston closed the gap between us and kissed me passionately. I all but melted into his embrace and I had a hard time letting go when he pulled back.

“I really hope you wish we had an extra day right now as much as I do.”

Weston smiled. “I don’t think a day would be enough time. I’ll drop you back off at the mall. I’ll be out of the country in a few hours.”

Once back at the mall I slipped the neoprene sleeve off and hid it in my purse. We said our goodbyes quickly as I know a moment longer and I would have changed my mind.

Once home I realized I had a few hours so I headed down to see Courtney.

“Adeline! I’m so glad you could come by.”

“Hi, Courtney. I wanted to stop by in person. Things at work are getting busy and I’m heading out of the country.”

“When will you be back?”

“If all goes well a few weeks. I was looking forward to shopping with you.”

“Me too.” Courtney came out from behind the counter and gave me a hug. “Call me when you get back. Promise?”

“I promise.”

***

Stepping into Malcom-Blythe I was certain that the CIA were there. While I didn’t recognize anyone I could feel their presence. Markov was sitting in his booth and it took him only a moment to stand and walk over to me.

“Miss Costea. I didn’t expect you here tonight.”

“I was hoping for more conversation about my homeland.”

“Please, come sit with me.”

For the next hour I flirted with the man. I hated to do it, but if the CIA were here watching me then I needed to put on a good show.

“What are your plans, Miss Costea?”

“Please. Call me Sabina. I think we’ve moved beyond the formalities.” Markov nodded. “I need to head home and get back to work. I was planning on purchasing my flight for some time in the next few days.”

“I’m heading to Romania tomorrow night. Perhaps I could save you the expense and you could fly with me on my private jet.”

“That’s a generous offer.”

“I can offer much, Sabina. Come to my house. Stay with me tonight and tomorrow we can travel together.”

I gave Markov an appraising stare. “I’d like that.”

Markov stood and waved to Boris before extending his hand to help me from the booth. Once again his hand slipped to the small of my back. Against my will I leaned into his body slightly.

***

As soon as we stepped inside Markov’s mansion he pulled a gun and pointed it at me. “Who are you? FSB?”

I wasn’t overly shocked. Markov was known to be intelligent and cautious. “I assume we’re free to speak?”

“This house is free of listening devices and my windows are impervious to laser recording. You wouldn’t ask that if you were a model. Now tell me who you are before I end your life.”

“My real name is Adeline Brooke. I work for the CIA. I have important information for you.”

“Boris. Check her for weapons.”

Boris smiled but as soon as he placed his hands on my hips and reached for my breasts I spun, punched him in the solar plexus, and brought a knee up into his nose. I had him on the floor unconscious in seconds. Markov laughed. “You seem to be able to handle yourself, Miss Brooke. Boris doesn’t usually wind up on the floor. If what you say is true, why was the CIA monitoring you at Malcom-Blythe?”

“There is a faction within the CIA that has gone rogue. They’re trying to get information from you and Sabinsky and are using me to get it.”

“What information?”

“I’m sure you’re aware the CIA has been trying to get you in their hands for some time now. You’re the sole producer of a plasma derivative. Combining your process methodology with Sabinsky’s virus delivery system, this rogue faction can sell a mass produced weaponized version to China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran.”

“Why tell me this?”

“You may be involved in criminal and questionable behaviors, but I’ve seen your dossier. While you’re a patriot, you’re also a preservationist. This rogue faction will stop at nothing to get their hands on your process documentation and once they have it I can guarantee you that they will dispense with you.”

“What’s your motivation?”

“These people used a single sample of the virus on me.”

“Forgive me, but you hardly look like you’re dying.”

“They used a genetically specific virus to deliver a DNA altering payload on me. It’s not meant to kill, it’s meant to enhance strength and reflexes and to make me susceptible to programming. What they’re attempting to do is create an army of enhanced individuals that can be fully programmed and obedient. They need your plasma process and Sabinsky’s virus to allow this to work on a large scale without a specific virus per person.” Markov looked skeptical. Boris began to stir so I lifted him off the ground and placed him in a chair.

“No one your size could lift Boris like you did. That proves you’re enhanced. Why aren’t you programmed? Obviously you’re outside of their control.”

“I was freed by another and I can no longer be programmed. The rogue agents don’t know this yet. The agents following me tonight were no doubt under orders to make sure I accomplished my mission.”

“What mission was that?”

“To get close to you so that I could get your process and have you take me to Sabinsky.”

Markov lowered his gun slightly. “They sent you to get me to introduce you to Sabinsky and to steal my process information. Once you had accomplished that…”

“I would be ordered to kill you, collect Sabinsky’s virus, and kill him as well.”

“You’re correct, Miss Brooke, that I’m a patriot, but I’m not a lover of any country other than my own. What’s in it for me?”

“Your life.”

“Granted, but I’m the one with the gun.”

“You have me under your control, but even if I was gone the rogue faction of the CIA would stop at nothing to get to you. Working with me is your best chance at survival.”

“I could simply go dark. What are you proposing?”

“That we make it look like I’m accomplishing my mission. Take me with you to Sabinsky. We then create false information that I can hand over to the rogue agents. I use that opportunity to take them down and expose them. At that point you and Sabinsky are free to continue as you always have.”

“How do I know you’re not the rogue agent?”

“I won’t ask you for your information.”

“That’s hardly comforting or conclusive. Who was the man last night?”

“He’s my boyfriend.” At least I hope this is the case.

Markov eyed me suspiciously. “Lucky fellow. All right. I’m in with several conditions.”

“I’m not sleeping with you.”

That drew a smile. “As much as it would please me to have you grace my bed I would be a little worried that pieces of my body I’m rather fond of would go missing. The conditions are not negotiable. First, when you’re with me in public, you will appear to be my mistress. I have a reputation to uphold. You’re there to please me an no one else. Second, no weapons. Third, you must dress the part.”

“What exactly do you have in mind when you say dress the part?”

“You look stunning, but you’re wearing a dress that’s too conservative for my tastes. The hem should be no further down your legs than mid-thigh.”

Reaching under my dress I unstrapped my gun and slowly placed it on the table next to me. “I guess there would be no place for this then.”

“That’s entirely the point. If you double cross me I’ll not hesitate to put a bullet through your head. A dress that doesn’t leave a lot to the imagination is hard to hide weapons in. You’ll be at my mercy.”

“Understood.”

“Now that we’ve come to an arrangement I suspect you’ll be needing a ride home?”

“No. I need to stay the night to make my report look good in the morning. I can go in to work, let them know I’ve accomplished my goal and will be traveling with you tomorrow. When do I need to be back here?”

“No later than three in the afternoon.” Boris jolted awake and looked angrily at me. “Boris, escort Miss Brooke to the guest room. She’s to remain there until morning so lock the door.”

***

The next morning I went straight from Boris’ house to work in the outfit I wore the night before with the exception that I added the pin camera. I drew many stares on the way to my office. What would have concerned me days earlier I now derived a certain level of satisfaction from.

Wayne Smith was waiting for me at my office this time. “You’re late, Miss Brooke.”

“I wasn’t aware that I was supposed to arrive at a certain time today.”

“I need your mission update.”

“What happened to Ted?”

“He’s been reassigned to another mission. I’m taking over from here on out.”

“I made contact with Markov and he has invited me to fly with him to Romania tonight. He eluded to a dinner meeting he wants me to attend as his guest in Bucharest. I can’t be certain but I suspect that meeting will be with Sabinsky.”

“Did you sleep with Markov?”

I thought long and hard about how I might respond to this question if asked. I thought about doing something very naughty with Weston and blushed. “I… I’m not sure what came over me. It’s why I was a little late coming in today.”

“Come with me. If you’re leaving for Romania tonight we need to stop by and see Anne Banks and Doctor Halloway.”

Wayne led me into Doc’s office and closed the door leaving the four of us together. I was a little nervous. If they suspect anything I can be in a lot of trouble. Anne looked me over carefully.

“How did it go last night, Miss Brooke?”

“Everything went smoothly. Markov is hard to read. You never know what he’s thinking. He seemed quite paranoid for a while. There were CIA agents at Malcom-Blythe last night. Was the CIA checking up on me?”

Anne smiled. “You must be getting used to your situation to have picked up on them. Yes, there were agents there last night for your own safety. As you stated, Markov is a little paranoid and we wanted to make sure he didn’t harm you. What about last night?”

“I’m almost embarrassed to say this but I woke up in Markov’s bed. We… Why does this seem wrong to me?”

Doc Halloway pulled out the device and entered his code. Having watched the video of how I reacted I focused my eyes a foot in front of my face.

Wayne leaned over and stared at my face and looked down at my cleavage. “Amazing. Maybe you should program her to sleep with me.”

“Hush. Miss Brooke, did you sleep with Markov?”

“Yes.”

“Did you find out anything about where he stores his process information?”

“No.”

“When do you return to him?”

“Before three o’clock.”

“Miss Brooke, you will continue to find Markov desirable until such a time that you come into contact with Sabinsky. You will sleep with Sabinsky.”

“I will find Markov desirable until I contact Sabinsky. I will sleep with Sabinsky.”

“You will retrieve Markov’s process methodology and obtain a sample of Sabinsky’s virus by any means.”

“I will retrieve Markov’s process methodology and obtain a sample of Sabinsky’s virus.”

“You will place these items in locker 32 at Baba Novac train station.”

“I will place the items in locker 32 at Baba Novac train station.”

“After you have placed the items in the locker you will return to kill Markov and Sabinsky before killing yourself.”

“I will kill Markov and Sabinsky before killing myself.”

Wayne interjected. “Miss Brooke, you will kiss Wayne Smith when you hear the return signal.”

Anne hissed.

“I will kiss Wayne Smith.”

Doc Halloway pressed a button and a sound played. Blinking several times I looked around the room until my eyes rested on Wayne. Standing up I moved over to him and pressed my lips against his. Wayne smirked. “Please, Miss Brooke. Get a hold of yourself.”

“I… I’m sorry, Mr. Smith. I don’t know what came over me.”

“I’m sure it’s just your hormones that you’re getting used to.” Anne lied to cover up the fact I was supposed to be programmed.

“I’m so embarrassed.”

“You’ve gone through a lot, Miss Brooke. Think nothing more of it. Do you need anything from us?”

“Other than I need several more dresses. Markov has strict dress rules for his ladies in waiting.”

Doc laughed. “You’re going to cause the CIA to go broke.”

“Yes, but think of all the sales tax revenue I’m generating for the city.”

“Be safe, Miss Brooke.”

“I will.”

***

Breathing a sigh of relief I headed towards my office. When I was well away from Doc Halloway’s office I disconnected the camera pin to stop the recording.

My hand was on the door to my office when I heard someone behind me. Turning around I saw Henry Gracewood, acting director of the CIA.

“Miss Brooke. You do realize recording devices are strictly forbidden in CIA buildings.” My panic must have registered on my face as I looked towards the exit. “Don’t even think about running. Meet me at your apartment in thirty minutes.”

My heart sank.

***

I managed to get to my new apartment quickly. If the CIA director knew my name I was in a heap of trouble.

When the doorbell rang I opened the door to find Henry standing there. He let himself in and looked around before helping himself to a seat at the dining room table. “Have a seat, Miss Brooke.”

As I sat down Henry continued. “Perhaps you can shed some light on something for me. I received a call from my counterpart in the UK. Why would she tell me to keep tabs on you?”

“I assume you know about Bear Glen?”

“In an organization as large as the CIA there are many projects I only hear rumors of.”

“What rumors did you hear about Bear Glen?”

“I thought I was asking the questions. No matter, we’re heading in the direction I want to go. I always understood Bear Glen to be a project that was focused on taking great field agents and making them exceptional. That involvement was voluntary and results were beyond the project’s expectations.”

“It isn’t voluntary and the results are well beyond my expectations as well. Were you aware I used to be Alan Archer, a twenty-six year veteran of the CIA?”

***

We spoke for an hour and I played my old apartment recordings as well as the recording I made earlier in the day.

“I’ve been in the CIA for nearly forty years, Miss Brooke. I’ve seen a lot of good and bad. This is beyond anything I have ever encountered. There are no words I can speak to express the depth of my anger at what has been done to you or the scale of betrayal within our ranks.”

“I would not have chosen for this to happen to me, but in some ways I’m not entirely displeased with the outcome. I’m young, fit, beautiful, and have enhanced abilities. Of course these very traits will make me both an asset and a target for the rest of my life.”

“What are your plans?”

“Doc Halloway, Anne Banks, Wayne Smith, and Cam Waldon of the British Secret Service need to be brought to justice. Unless you’re willing to round them up right now then I’m going forward with my plans. I can’t say what my long-term plans are.”

“Rounding them up right now would do us all an injustice. We need to watch them, track their communications, verify if anyone else is involved, and use them to lead us to the consortium. You have my full support. What do you need? I can get rid of that tracker in your arm that you told me about.”

“The tracker needs to stay for the moment. If I’m to continue my course of action then our rogue agents need to know where I am. Weston Wright of the British Secret Service needs to be removed as a target by the CIA.”

“You’re not asking for much. I can’t remove Weston from our list without exposing that I know whose side he’s on. I’ll give you my personal cell number. Keep me updated.”

“I will.”

Henry stood and extended a hand. “I’m sorry I let you down and this happened to you, Miss Brooke.”

I had no words left to say as he left. All that’s happened to me has left me somewhat confused. Rehashing my story brought home a fresh reality of all that I’ve experienced. Checking the time I raced to pack my belongings, and headed to the mall.

***

“You certainly don’t disappoint, Adeline. That dress looks like it was painted on you.”

“It’s a little too revealing for my tastes. You need to call me Sabina as that’s the identification I’m traveling with.”

“Strange how our perspectives are so different. I think even more revealing would be better. Boris, take Sabina’s luggage to the car. We’ll be leaving shortly.” Markov extended his hand behind me to guide me further inside his home. I fought the instinct to break his fingers one by one as his hand dallied on my backside. “I trust all is well at the CIA?”

“Everything went as planned. May I use your restroom before we go?”

“Certainly.”

Staring at myself in the bathroom mirror I marveled at my sparkling blue eyes, long hair, and full lips. The dress I was wearing was so short I had to be careful bending over and sitting and there wasn’t an inch of excess material where I could hide anything. My three-inch heels would make it difficult to run.

I touched up my lipstick and stared again at my face in the mirror. No longer did it look like a stranger’s face but I still found my reflection hard to tear my eyes from. I was never that handsome before but now I question how I could be so beautiful.

Stepping out of the restroom Markov was waiting. He was staring at me. “What?”

“I must say, Sabina, that it’s a shame you’re CIA. I’m sure I could increase your salary significantly if you were willing to join me in my organization. I could even replace Boris with someone far better looking.”

I wonder what he would think if he knew I was already capable of retiring. “You wouldn’t want me on your payroll.”

“Why not?”

“I have very expensive taste in clothes.”

“I can never understand how the less material used in women’s clothes the more expensive they get. Are you ready?”

“As I’ll ever be.”

***

The private jet flight to Bucharest was uneventful with the exception that I needed to watch how I sat as the seats faced each other.

We arrived just in time for morning and Markov got us settled into a hotel. The suite had a second bedroom and bathroom making my stay somewhat private. Boris didn’t like me much and Markov’s eyes were always roving over my body.

For the rest of the day I worked with Markov to produce a set of data for a flash drive. This was a close variation of the process he used to manufacture his plasma. We included diagrams and test results to make the data package look authentic.

Stepping out into the main area of the suite Markov let out a low whistle. The red skin-tight dress was even more revealing than the last one. “I doubt that the CIA will be monitoring me closely, however, I’ve been directed to take an interest in Sabinksy.”

“As undoubtedly he will you.”

“I assume after dinner we will go someplace more private to discuss important matters?”

“He has an apartment nearby.”

“I’m ready to go when you are.”

“You’re the first woman that I’ve never had to wait on. That’s an endearing quality. Are you sure you won’t reconsider my offer for employment?”

Walking over to him I took his arm in mine. “I doubt the CIA would be overly pleased with me jumping ship. Knowing what I know they would be hounding you the rest of your life.”

“There is no justice in the world. I find the girl of my dreams only to find out I can’t have her.”

We walked to the restaurant and I was quite aware of the slight chill in the air with all my exposed flesh. The hostess scowled at me as we entered. I usually get such favorable reactions that this took me a little off guard. I guess my dress is a little sleazy looking. We were escorted to the table where Sabinsky sat. He had two guards sitting at a table next to him. Their eyes were constantly scanning the room.

Serge Sabinsky’s eyes disrobed me as soon as I was in view. This is a dangerous man.

Sabinsky stood and gripped both of Markov’s shoulders firmly. “Alexander! It is good to see you.”

“How’s business, Serge?”

“Couldn’t be better. Who is this with you?”

“Her name is Sabina.”

Serge didn’t wait but took my hand in his and kissed it. “Such a rare pleasure to meet someone as beautiful as you.”

“The pleasure is all mine.”

“Sit. Please.”

Markov sat first and I doted on him a little by massaging his shoulders before sitting down myself.

Serge couldn’t take his eyes off me as he spoke to Markov. “How was America?”

“The Americans never cease to amaze me. More money than brains. Business was good and as you can see by my new companion here, quite rewarding.”

***

Dinner was long and boring and feigning my affections for Markov was tiresome. Sabinsky was captivated with me and couldn’t keep his hands off me when Markov headed to the bathroom. It wasn’t until we arrived at Sabinsky’s apartment that things became more interesting.

I could see Markov wanting to talk business, but Sabinsky was only interested in one thing, me. He even ordered special drinks that I was positive he laced with something to make me relaxed and compliant. I avoided the drinks much to Sabinsky’s dismay. Finally in a moment of frustration Sabinsky grabbed me and pulled me down onto his lap. As his hand reached for my breast I grabbed his wrist and deftly powered my way out his arms.

“What is this, Markov? You obviously brought this young woman to me for a purpose for certainly she is too classy for the likes of you.”

Markov growled but before he could reply in anger I stepped in between the two men. “Enough. I’m not a gift to exchange, I’m a CIA agent.”

Two of Sabinsky’s guards immediately pulled their guns and pointed them at me. I raised my hands and stepped back a few feet.

“What have you done, Markov? You told me nothing about this and brought the CIA to my home? What kind of deal did you broker?”

“There is no deal. Miss Costea is my gift to you to celebrate our pending riches.”

What did Markov just say?

Markov smiled ruthlessly as he looked me over. “Don’t look so surprised, my dear. I know the value of our information and I’m quite sure someone will pay handsomely for it.”

A light finally dawned on Sabinsky and with a flick of his fingers his two guards moved to either side of me. “Lock her in my bedroom.”

The door closed behind me leaving the two guards and myself in the room. One stood with his gun ready while the other dragged me towards the bed. His intention was clear; he was going to tie me to the bed. Spinning free of his grasp I grabbed his wrist and pulled his arm behind his back. With his body between me and the guard at the door I threw my feet back against the wall and pushed off hard. The man was flung forward at incredible speed towards the guard at the door. A shot was fired and I felt my right arm burn just before the two of them crashed through the double doors to the bedroom. Wood and splinters flew outward into the living room.

Glancing down at my arm I saw it was bleeding near my shoulder but the bullet had only grazed me. The two guards were a tangled mass and the one on top was trying to extricate himself. I could hear commotion and yelling from the living room. This has all gone to hell.

Racing towards the bedroom’s balcony I opened the doors and stepped out into the cool night air. It was two stories down to the road below. Taking my high heels off I tossed them over the rail and carefully climbed over. Now on the outside of the railing I slid down and dangled before letting go. With a yell of pain I grabbed the railing of the balcony one floor below me. My shoulders almost popping out of their sockets from the jolt.

Looking up I could see Sabinsky looking down at me. He leveled a handgun at me just as I dropped the sidewalk below and rolled forward towards the building; a bullet ricocheted off the cement behind me. With a burst of speed I ran around the corner of the apartment and out of sight.

I didn’t dare go back to Markov’s hotel room. I’ve lost my purse with my identification, the flash drive, my shoes, and my clothes. Pausing in a cobblestone back alley I took a moment to get my bearings. I should head to the U.S. Consulate. From there I can try to reach Henry Gracewood.

Strong hands wrapped around my mouth from behind and pushed me up against a brick wall. I stared into Weston’s eyes as he smiled and uncovered my mouth. His lips found mine eagerly.

“How did you find me?”

“I knew you would contact Sabinsky so I was watching him. I take it from your hasty exit things didn’t go as planned?”

“No. I don’t think it’s safe here. Markov has been playing me all along. I think they’re going to sell out. Since I’ve gone off programming Doc Halloway, Anne, and Wayne probably all know by now I’m on the run and they will put out a notice I’ve gone rogue. Henry Gracewood could help, but he wants to catch Doc, Anne, and Wayne in the act. If he counters their assessment I’m now rogue he lets them know they’re potential targets. This is such a mess.”

Weston’s hand slipped down my bare shoulder and I winced slightly. Pulling his hand back he saw the blood. “You’re hurt.”

“It’s just a graze. I’m fine.”

“Put this band on to block your signal. Let me take you to my hotel room. You can clean up and I can get you something to change into.”

“My knight in shining armor.”

Weston extended his hand and I gladly placed mine in his. I kept glancing up at his handsome face and broad shoulders. I’m so much smaller than he is.

I felt a little strange walking into a five-star hotel in bare feet, a bleeding arm, and soiled dress. It wasn’t long before we were in Weston’s room and he started the oversize bathtub for me. “Take your time. I’ll be back in thirty minutes.”

I hung onto his hand as he turned to leave. “In all this betrayal, transformation, and trying to save the world stuff, there’s only one thing I’m sure of.”

“What’s that?”

“That it would break my heart if you don’t feel the same way about me as I feel about you.”

He offered a boyish grin. “How do you feel about me?”

Looking down as I was suddenly embarrassed when I felt his fingers lift my chin. “I’ve never felt this way about anyone before. I’m hoping it’s not part of the DNA payload but I’m falling in love with you, Weston. I know it’s crazy…”

His hands cupped my face and he kissed me shutting me up in the process. “I never thought I would be able to love anyone after what happened to me. I was always worried I would withhold this terrible secret. I’m not saying this because you’re the only one that knows what I’ve been through, but I know I’m falling for you as well.”

“Let’s just leave here. We’ve given our lives to protecting our countries. Let’s leave and make a life for ourselves.”

“We can talk about it but first you have your bath while I find you something to wear. Not that what you’re wearing isn’t spectacular.”

I pirouetted even though my damp feet stuck a little to the tile floor. I realize this was a very feminine thing to do and it didn’t bother me in the least. My maleness had dissolved away completely.

Weston stopped my spin and gave me another kiss. My heart is beating faster than when I was being shot at. “Relax, Adeline. I’ll be back soon.”

I watched him leave as I bit my lower lip thinking thoughts I shouldn’t be thinking. Stripping out of my clothes I dipped a toe into the hot sudsy water and moaned as I sank the rest of my body into the tub. My arm stung but it was more blood than anything. I spent a good thirty minutes soaking before getting into the shower and washing my hair. I had just wrapped a towel around me when a knock sounded at the bathroom door.

“Are you decent?”

“Mostly.”

I opened the door and on the bed there was a red nightgown and a white dress with a pair of matching shoes.

“How do you know my size?”

“You forget what I was for most of my life.”

“They’re beautiful.”

“And yet nothing could remotely make you look more beautiful than you already are.”

Is everything he says going to turn me into mush? “Do you have a preference as to which I wear first?”

“It’s after midnight and we’re in Bucharest. I’m tempted to take you out for a late-night date but I suspect getting some rest is probably the best.” Looking at the queen-sized bed I wondered what I was getting myself into. As if reading my mind Weston said he would be happy to sleep in the chair.

Picking up the red nightgown I headed back to the bathroom and slipped it on. Weston had a pillow and blanket in the chair already. Slipping under the sheets I turned off the light and the lights of the city cast the room with a romantic feel. After several minutes I heard Weston stir as the chair was obviously uncomfortable.

“Why don’t you come join me? There’s more than enough room for both of us.”

“I want you to feel safe.”

“I feel safest when you’re near.”

Weston stood and the light filtering through the window exposing his muscled chest and abs. He was wearing a pair of boxer briefs that left little to the imagination. There was a quick moment where the cool air of the room rushed over my body before the blankets were pulled back again. Resting on my side I stared into Weston’s eyes before he moved to his back and stared at the ceiling.

What am I doing? Scooting over I placed my head on his chest and his arm snaked around my shoulders. My leg draped over his and my arm wrapped around his chest.

“That’s better.” I felt immediately safe and secure and closed my eyes.

***

The sounds of car horns woke me. I’m on my side with Weston’s body wrapped around me. I can feel his… Pushing back against him I felt him stir.

“Good morning, Weston.”

“Mmmm.” With a sudden jerk Weston pulled away making me feel suddenly cold. “I’m sorry.”

Rolling over I faced Weston. “I wasn’t complaining.”

“I should have slept on the chair.”

“And you would have been uncomfortable all night.”

“It’s just that I don’t want to take advantage of you. I want you to feel comfortable with me. Safe.”

“Your gallantry isn’t going unnoticed by me. At some point we need to talk about us and our long-term goals.”

Weston’s phone chirped and as he went to answer it while I slipped out of bed and headed to the bathroom. Closing the door behind me I looked at myself in the mirror. I was flushed. Had I stayed in bed much longer I would have given in to my desires. Would that be wrong?

After doing my business and changing into the white dress I stepped back into the bedroom. Weston had already donned his clothes. “Wow. You look fantastic, Adeline. We have a breakfast meeting in twenty minutes.”

“A meeting with whom?”

“Meg Simpson and Henry Gracewood.”

“They’re in Buacharest? Together?”

“I don’t know the details, but this could be our ticket out of here.”

“I’m ready.”

“You know I might be the luckiest guy on Earth.”

“Why is that?”

“Because being a man before you were used to getting ready quickly. Men around the world would love a woman like you.” A sad thought flitted across my mind. “What’s the matter?”

“Did you ever get to the point where you didn’t want to be reminded about your past? I want to move forward and forget who I was before. I feel so much better as I am now than I ever did before.”

“Yeah. I did. Knowing I couldn’t move back I wanted to simply move forward. Every reminder made me feel guilty that I wasn’t fighting the change more. From here on out I’m Weston Wright and you’re Adeline Brooke. Who we were before is old news.”

“Why is it everything you say makes me want to be with you more and more?”

“Because everything I say and do is for one purpose and one purpose only; that’s to be there for you in every way.”

Slipping my arm into his I leaned into his strength. “Come on. Let’s not keep our bosses waiting.”

***

It was a dark, out of the way restaurant where we met Henry and Meg. I was a little in awe thinking that the two of them are some of the most powerful people in the world. Henry stood and pulled a chair for me. I found that a little odd but figure he must have moved on with my situation and he would do the same for any woman. “Adeline, Weston, please have a seat. I hope you’re not upset, Adeline. I followed you out here and ran into my distinguished counterpart. Obviously we’re keeping tabs on both of you. How did the rendezvous go with Sabinsky?”

“Not well. I believe I was being played. Sabinsky and Markov want to sell their information and virus to the highest bidder. I barely managed to escape with my life.”

“I see you have the chip masked with the band. We can assume that Wayne Smith and crew will wonder where you are. They’ve not put out an alert that you’ve gone rogue which makes me think they might believe you’re still of use to them. What if we stage that your forearm was hurt creating inconsistency with the signal. Wayne Smith and crew could find you and pick you up. You work things out with them and arrange the meeting between them and Sabinsky and Markov.”

Weston glared at Henry. “You want to use Adeline as bait?”

Meg spoke for the first time. “Clearly Markov and Sabinsky need to be taken down as well. This gets everyone in the same place at the same time. If we take everyone out the world becomes a safer place.”

“I’m not interested in cutting into my arm just yet. Here’s a slight variation on the idea. I ran from Sabinsky’s apartment with no shoes or identification. I’ve no place to go but I noticed several abandoned buildings that could easily have an old elevator. My signal vanished because that’s where I hid for the night. When my signal reappears that will allow Wayne Smith and crew to find me.”

Weston took my hand in his. “I don’t want you involved in this any further.”

Squeezing his hand, I considered my options quickly. “As far as I can see it, we only have two options. See this through or run away. If I let the CIA find me I can tell them how things went wrong and that Markov and Sabinsky want to broker a deal. I can express the fact that I want justice and suggest I could go back to Markov’s hotel to see if I could set up a meeting.”

“It’s too risky. Why would Markov not just put a bullet in you?”

“Because he’s greedy. He knows I have connections to people that might wish to pay handsomely for what he and Sabinsky are offering.”

“You’ve told Markov about your desire to see justice met on the rogue CIA agents. How will this reversal work to your advantage?”

“I’m young and naïve. Markov already asked me to join his organization several times. I see that the CIA has not protected me and since I’m alone with no identification this is a chance I could set myself up for life. I humbly go back to Markov with the express purpose of selling out the CIA.”

Henry smiled. “This will work. I have agents in the area ready to pounce once we know the rendezvous location and time. It’s getting late. I think it’s best if you both get going.”

That was the end of the conversation and Weston escorted me back to his hotel room.

“I don’t like it, Adeline. Maybe I’m just being selfish, but now that I’ve found someone I want to spend my life with I don’t want to see you get hurt or killed. This is a dangerous situation.”

Leaning into his strong shoulder as we walked I knew he was right. “If I put myself in your shoes I’d feel the same way. We signed up for this though; for risking ourselves and danger. I just don’t want to walk away when we can tie up all the loose ends all at once.”

“You don’t have to do this. Henry knows about his rogue agents. He probably has enough against them now for a rock-solid case. They can simply put a watch on Markov and Sabinsky and take them down at any time. You don’t have to continue this. Come away with me.”

We made it back to the hotel room and I glanced at ourselves together in the mirror. My face was flushed and my generous cleavage rose and fell with each breath. Weston had his hands on my shoulders as he stared at us in the reflection. “You’re right, Weston. It’s a huge risk to go back to Markov.” Spinning around I slipped my arms around Weston’s neck. “If I leave with you, where will we go? What will we do? What are your intentions towards me?”

Weston’s smile was huge. “I’ll start by answering the last question.” His hand slipped to the small of my back and pulled me firmly against him. “First, I’ll make an honest woman out of you.”

“And how will you do that, exactly?”

“I’ll not make love to you until we’re married.”

Even though I willing to say yes at this moment, I need to make him squirm a little. “Is that supposed to be a proposal? If it is, it’s a little lacking.”

“Certainly not a proposal.” I was crestfallen but tried not to show it. “I have something in mind though.”

“So, you’ve been thinking about it?”

“For quite a few days now.”

“Okay… no making love until you make an honest woman out of me. Where will we go?”

“How about Australia? I have a small beachfront home there.”

“I was traveling as Sabina Costea. My identification is probably still in Markov’s hotel.”

“I can talk to Meg about helping us get back to the States. She wants all of this taken care of, but she knows a little of what we’ve gone through and what it would mean for us to get away from it all.”

“All right. Let’s do this. I’ll go gather the remains of my red dress from last night. I think it’s salvageable.”

“I’ll call Meg and explain what we’re thinking.”

I was buoyantly happy as I headed into the bathroom. I could hear Weston on the phone speaking with Meg when his voice stopped suddenly. “Run, Adeline!”

There was no place for me to go but I heard the urgency in Weston’s voice. As I cautiously made my way back into the bedroom I saw my newest and worst fear. Weston was on his knees with a gun pressed into the back of his skull. There were six men with automatic weapons in the room and Henry Gracewood was the one holding the handgun on Weston.

“This was all too easy, Adeline. First you lead us to Markov and Sabinsky where my men rounded them up last night. Now you and Weston are still conveniently together. On your knees and put your hands behind your back or Weston does a faceplant.”

Stalling for time I decided to get Henry to talk more. “You’re in on the entire thing with Doc Halloway and Anne Banks?”

“Do you think I wouldn’t know more about Bear Glen? On your knees. It is best if we take you both, but you’re the one we can’t lose.”

“If you have Markov and Sabinsky you don’t need either of us.”

“I’m losing my patience with you, Miss Brooke. On your knees now.” I decided to obey and dropped lightly to my knees. “Markov and Sabinsky are being very cooperative but to prove our accomplishment we need you and Weston as proof it works. How did you manage to break the programming?”

Time to throw Doc Halloway under the bus. “You might want to ask the Doc why he had a duplicate signal generator in his home. With it we were able to give me a new programming sequence that could never be replicated.”

Henry looked angry. “Stupid fool. No loss as we have you both and the coalition will be happy to take you apart cell by cell if you’re not cooperative. Bind them both with multiple cuffs.”

Weston stared sorrowfully into my eyes. “I should have protected you.”

“It’s my own fault for not getting out of the CIA earlier.” Looking back to Henry as two pairs of steel handcuffs were bound to my wrists I had an urge to kick him in the balls. “What about Meg? Is she in on this too?”

“She’s painfully ignorant about these things. By the time she recognizes what’s happened here we will all be long gone. Take them to the van.”

We were roughly hauled to our feet and dragged down the back stairs and thrown unceremoniously into a van. Before we had a chance to even speak we were both injected with something that put us right to sleep.

***

The clanking of a steel door brought me to my senses. I still felt tired and foggy from whatever drugs they had given me but as I opened my eyes I could make out someone standing in the light of a doorway. I was chained to a bed and lying on a smelly mattress. Rough cement walls were all around me. I’m in a prison.

“Sit up!” He spoke in Russian. I’m in a Russian prison?

Looking over myself I saw I was still in my white dress. My right wrist was cuffed and chained to the bed as was my right leg. The angry Russian man raised his nightstick. Perhaps it was the drugs, but I wasn’t in a good mood and as the man approached I kicked with my left leg sending him twenty feet through the doorway into the room beyond.

Anne Banks stepped into my cell with an amused look on her face. “Is that the kind of woman you really want to be, Miss Brooke? The kind to not accept hospitality?”

“Hospitality? You’re a traitor. You did this to me and now your selling out to the Russians?”

“You’re so unthankful. Doctor Halloway and I took an over the hill agent and turned you into a beautiful, vivacious super-woman. People would kill for your enhanced abilities or your looks.”

“Where’s Weston?”

“This is a remarkable twist of fate. Who knew that our creation from a few years ago would fall madly in love with our newest creation. Weston is waiting for you. I’m here to take you to him now.” Anne waved two guards into the room that quickly double cuffed my wrists behind my back and unlocked me from the bed. “I expect your full cooperation or Weston dies.”

I was led through hallways and into a large industrial-like room. Weston was bound with heavy chains to a cement wall. “Adeline!”

I looked him over carefully and he didn’t seem any worse for wear. I smiled weakly at him as I looked around the room. Doc Halloway, Henry Gracewood, Wayne Smith, and whom I believed must be Cam Waldon stood behind some tables. Four additional people I could only assume to be the Russian, Chinese, Iranian, and North Korean coalition members looked reasonably disinterested. The Chinese man looked angrily towards Henry. “You bring us a man and a woman? Where are the super soldiers you promised us?”

Anne looked at me and smiled. “This is your time to shine, Miss Brooke. I don’t suggest you hold back.” Turning to one of the guards she told him to uncuff me while the rest indicated with their guns that I should stay where I was.

Anne waved again and four big Russian soldiers armed with nightsticks entered the room. They formed a rough circle around me. Weston growled angrily as one of the soldiers swung his stick towards my head. So this is it. I’m a demonstration. Not wanting to be hurt I caught the man’s arm stopping his swing dead in its tracks. With an elbow to his nose he dropped like a sack of potatoes. The other thee didn’t hesitate and all attacked at once. With my enhanced reflexes and strength I managed to take them down one by one easily.

The coalition members all began speaking excitedly. “How was this accomplished?”

Henry indicated with his hand for the coalition members to move to another room. “We will explain the entire process in detail. Guards, take Weston and Adeline back to their cells.” They all exited the room and closed the doors behind them.

Two guards quickly cuffed me again and another two moved towards Weston. As they unlocked Weston from the chains on the walls he erupted with force. Both guards were down within seconds and he had taken one of their handguns. My guards were so startled they hadn’t even raised their weapons yet but it didn’t take them long to move into action. Using my shoulder I slammed myself into them throwing them off balance long enough for Weston to wrestle them to the ground.

He made quick work of them and quickly uncuffed me and swept me up into his arms. “Are you all right, Adeline?”

“Much better now. What do you say we chain these fellows to the wall where you were? We can take a few weapons and their cuffs with us.”

“I don’t even know where we are.”

“I’m guessing Russia. All the guards speak Russian.”

Moving quickly we pulled the guards over to the wall and snapped the chains on their wrists. “Do we try to escape or go after everyone?”

“Let’s go after them if for no other reason to use them as bargaining chips to get out of here.”

A clank of a steel door sounded at the far end of the room. We both quickly moved to the wall that would hide us from the door. Doc Halloway and Anne Banks entered.

“That went very well, Anne. What should we do with Weston and Adeline?”

“We should… Are those the guards chained to the wall?”

Before Anne could sound the alarm Weston pulled Doc Halloway up and against the wall and I did the same with Anne. I was a seething ball of angry emotions. Anne looked unflustered. And squeaked out a few sentences.

“Miss Brooke… Surely this is not the type of woman you want to be. Full of violence and anger…”

“You know what, Mrs. Banks? This is exactly the type of woman I want to be.” I turned her around and pressed her face against the cement wall and cuffed her hands. “You did this to me! You lied, manipulated, played on my fears, put me in danger, kidnapped me, threatened me and Weston, and sold yourself out to the highest bidder. I would love to inject you with the DNA payload of a gerbil.”

Doc Halloway sneered at me. “We made you something special. You’ll not get out of here. There are hundreds of guards.”

I held back but it was clear his nose broke after I slugged him. Weston smiled at me. “I wanted to do that.”

“How about you get Wayne Smith and I’ll get Henry Gracewood. No wait a minute… Wayne gets a kick in the crotch for trying to program me into kissing him. You can have Henry and Cam.”

“Now that’s a deal.”

Spinning Anne around she looked at Doc’s bleeding face and decided cooperation was required. “They are through this door and upstairs in a conference room.”

With our guns drawn we forced Anne and Doc Halloway to lead us to the rest of their group. Anne opened the door and we shoved them inside to a room of astonished people.

Weston took command. “On your knees and work yourselves over to the corner of the room!”

Wayne Smith bolted for another door but I got there faster. “Trying to go somewhere?” Grabbing him by the shirt I slowly walked him back against the door. Using a soft and seductive voice I whispered into his ear. “I owe you something.” I brought my knee up into his groin. He doubled over in pain and I kicked him over towards the others.

Weston kept a close eye on the group as I dragged Henry Gracewood from them. I stripped him of his phone and gun. “Where is the package? The virus, the plasma process, and Doc and Anne’s information?”

“You get nothing from me!” He swung at me and I just managed to get my arm up for a block. He’s so strong and fast. I dodged another fist and backed up a step.

Weston shouted. “He’s enhanced!”

Henry was pushing me back around the room. Weston was trying to maintain his guard over the group that were looking for any opportunity to escape or retaliate. Things were deteriorating rapidly as I rolled behind a desk to avoid getting slammed by Henry’s fist. The desk flew upward and over my head shattering against the wall behind me. Luckily it left Henry’s leg exposed and I kicked hard at it hoping to either make him lose balance or injure his knee.

There was a bit of a crunch and Henry collapsed onto the floor right next to me. With the shattered remains of the desk behind me and him right there I had no place to go. Henry grimaced and grabbed me tightly.

Even though he was limping badly he lifted me up off the floor as he stood. “Drop the gun, Weston, or your little girlfriend dies.”

Things were looking bad for us when a bullet exploded the glass window behind me and hit Henry’s left shoulder. The room erupted into chaos as armed men entered the room from windows and doors.

Guns were trained on everyone and Weston was forced to drop his weapon and step away from it. “Get everyone locked up and out of here! Except for these two.” Meg Simpson walked in and pointed to Weston and me.

Weston reached down and pulled me up off the floor where Henry had dropped me after he was shot. He turned to Meg but not before making sure I was all right.

“That was very good timing. What are you doing in Russia?”

“Russia? We’re still in Romania. Granted this place reminds me of a Russian prison. I had agents in the area and they could track the van that Henry used when he took you from the hotel. We have Markov and Sabinsky in custody and I have confirmed that we have all source materials in hand.”

I watched them haul Henry out of the room. “He’s enhanced like us.”

Meg nodded. “I suspect he isn’t the real Henry Gracewood. I’ve uncovered plots to use the technology to infiltrate key positions around the world and the documentation recovered today might lead us to others like Henry.”

“This is so much bigger than I ever thought it was.”

“What happened to Doctor Halloway’s nose?”

I was a little embarrassed. “I could lie and say he fell, but my fist connected with his face.”

Meg laughed. “I’m sure it was well deserved. Let’s get you both debriefed and out of here. We have the hotel room Weston reserved still available and we have retrieved your clothing and identification from Markov’s suite. When the dust settles I’d like to talk to you both about working directly for me. Don’t answer right away. Just promise me you’ll think about it.”

Weston slipped his hand around my waist as he replied. “We will.”

***

It was very late that evening when we got back to Weston’s hotel room. I was bedraggled and dirty and my poor white dress soiled. Thankfully there were several dresses I still had available that Meg’s team rescued from Markov.

“In all the goings on I never asked you if staying here tonight with me was acceptable to you.”

“With all of the twists and betrayals I don’t want to be alone tonight. If you were serious about marrying me there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than here with you.”

“I do want that. I realized today that when Henry was threatening you I’d do anything to protect you. I’m in love with you Adeline.”

Sauntering over to Weston I wrapped my arms around his strong neck. My lips found his and my body pressed into him. “I initially fought the fluttering of my heart thinking it was just the DNA payload driving me towards you. What foolishness that I didn’t realize I was smitten with you right from the first moment I saw you. I love you, Weston.”

***

Six months had passed in a flurry of events. It took a while for Meg to convince us to go back to work for her but there was evidence that nearly a dozen people had swapped places as plants from Doc Halloway and Anne Bank’s handiwork. If what was found was true, only Henry Gracewood was enhanced like us. The others were mere genetic clones used to infiltrate positions of power. The real Henry Gracewood was never found and presumed dead.

The CIA had welcomed me back and at Meg’s assistance had me reassigned to the British Secret Service. Samuel Ellison and Ted Coldiron had been questioned and released as management decided they were not fully aware of the dual agents or Bear Glen.

Glancing in the mirror I paused to stare at myself. My hair was done up in a formal style and my vibrant blue eyes twinkled like someone deeply in love. I checked my makeup and touched up my lipstick with casual ease before adjusting my emerald green sequined gown and stepping back into the ballroom.

Weston stood patiently; his eyes roving my body as I overheard slow music begin playing. “Would you care to dance, Mrs. Wright?”

“It would be an honor, Mr. Wright.”

Weston’s hand slipped into mine as we found a spot on the dance floor. He pulled me close; my left hand resting lightly on his broad shoulder. My diamond ring sparkled in the lights and I smiled as my lips brushed Weston’s neck.

Weston spun me around and whispered into my ear. “Target acquired.”

“He’ll be here all night. I want at least one more dance.” Weston’s answer was to pull me closer to him. My hand moved to the back of Weston’s neck and my polished fingernails ran seductively through his hair. “I’ve never been happier. Let’s make sure we get to bed early tonight.”

“You’re insatiable. How could I ever say no to you?”

***

This story is very nearly a full novel in length. Writing stories of this length takes a great deal of time, research, and effort. Please leave a review to let me know you read the story.

Thank you.

Casey.



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