The Use of Spies

Calliope Cervantes: The Art of War begins with Know Thy Enemy, or you can see the full list of Calliope Cervantes stories.

* * * * *

“Calliope Cervantes!” a deep, raspy voice shouted across the crowded IRS field office. Calliope stopped mid-stride to see the division chief barreling toward her, his exolegs clanking against the floor with every step.

“Agent Friendly,” she said when he reached her. “I’m on assignment. Just leaving, actually.”

“That’s what I want to talk to you about,” he growled. “I hear you’re hot on the trail of Titus Lynch.”

“What of it?”

“What of it?” He raised his metal fist and shook a finger at her. “You’re a loose cannon! I want you off that case or you’ll spend the rest of your IRS career teaching citizenship classes to five-year-olds!”

Calliope stared into his gun-barrel eyes and he stared right back, unflinching. His nostrils flared and beads of sweat formed on his upper lip. Her eyes narrowed. His widened.

Both of them burst out laughing.

“Hah! Citizenship classes,” Calliope said. “Seriously, Mack, can you picture me teaching a five-year-old anything?”

“How to disassemble a plasma rifle for cleaning, maybe,” Mack replied. “God, that loose cannon joke never gets old.”

“Not like you, eh?”

“Hey, all my parts still work,” he said, flexing his arm. “Not the parts I came with, of course, but they work. So what’s the plan for Lynch?”

“I just finished interrogating one of his people. Got a name that I was about to look up: Lorenzo Pratt.”

Mack chuckled. “I know that guy. Mid-level accountant. Ladies’ man. He won’t tell you a thing.”

“Really? I can be pretty persuasive.”

“Nah, he couldn’t if he wanted to. It’s all locked up in his wetware. Passwords, firewalls, you name it.”

“That’s what my source said.” She grinned like a shark at a fish buffet. “Luckily, I know someone who can get under a guy’s skin.”

* * * * *

The party at Club 42 was in full swing, lights pulsing in time with the rhythmic bass beat that boomed through the half-naked bodies writhing in erratic harmony. Both real and holographic dancers gyrated and spun in midair in the zero-G room while less adventurous people stuck to the regular lounge. Lorenzo was sitting at one of the bars when the two women walked in, holding hands and giggling. They were both short, but where the Eurasian one was lean and long-legged and supple, the other was some brand of Carib or New African, curvy in all the right places but muscular as well. He’d been about to take a turn in one of the VR rooms but he decided to put that on hold. The women sauntered over to the dance floor and proceeded to justify his decision with a delightfully provocative performance. Eventually they wandered up to the bar and ordered drinks, the Eurasian one making eyes at him and favoring him with a saucy smile.

He motioned for the bartender. “Give the ladies another of what they’re having, on me,” he said. This first effort was met with giggles and more smiling, as was the second; the third round of drinks brought the women over, tipsy and thankful.

“You’re such a gentleman,” the darker one gushed.

“I couldn’t be otherwise with two such beautiful ladies,” he replied, grinning. “May I ask your names?”

“I am Uzume,” the Eurasian one purred, her accent like Old Japanese. “This is Oshun.”

“Lorenzo. I was actually about to head for a classier place, if you’d like to join me? My treat.”

They exchanged a glance and again giggled. “Sure,” Uzume said. “Sounds fun.”

* * * * *

“And this is the bedroom,” Lorenzo slurred. A set of dimmed lights slowly faded to life, illuminating a huge four poster bed with strategically placed ropes and other accouterments. He couldn’t believe he’d gotten both of them back here, but then again, he’d spent enough credits to get a whale drunk.

“Are you trying to seduce me,” Uzume said, her voice husky. She ran a hand down the length of her thin chest, arching her back and smiling.

Lorenzo decided this was an invitation and promptly RSVP’d. They were both mostly undressed when he realized the curvy girl was missing.

“Where’s your friend?”

“She was not feeling so good,” Uzume murmured. “She will be here in a minute.” With a flip of her straight black hair, she slid onto the bed and gave him a show that was worth the price of admission. “Perhaps we can begin without her?”

He was more than happy to comply.

* * * * *

Calliope waited in the living room for what felt like an eternity, scouting the perimeter to be sure no unexpected guests were incoming. She’d had to leave most of her equipment at home, risking only the barest civilian tech on the off chance his apartment was wired with detectors. In the other room, low moans had signaled when Okame began her work; now, there was only silence.

Okame staggered out of the room, clutching her head. “We must leave.”


“Brain-dead. Nothing we can do.”

They scurried out the door and down the hall to the elevator lobby. “What happened?” Calliope asked. “And use small words so I can understand.”

“Later, please?”

“Now.” Calliope pushed the call button.

Okame’s eyes glazed over for a moment. “I penetrated his security–a challenge, but I am the Great Persuader. I downloaded many files before I noticed the virus, wiping everything I touched, coming for me. It was also sending out a signal–I could not see to whom.”

“Distress call.”

Okame inclined her head.

“How long until we’re up to our eyeballs?”

“That depends on how far away the–”

A soft chime signaled the arrival of the elevator. The doors opened and they nearly walked into a pair of burly men in flight suits, who eyed them suspiciously. Calliope almost unconsciously stepped back into a fighting stance.

“Well, hello there,” Okame said with a low whistle. “Are you fine men in a hurry?”

The beefier of the two grinned while the other rolled his eyes and elbowed his friend. Without a word, they rushed toward Lorenzo’s pad, leaving the women to step into the car and punch the number for the transport level.

“Have you ever met a guy who didn’t fall for that act?” Calliope asked.

Okame smirked. “Only the ones who prefer the company of men.”

“Of course.” The elevator chimed as it reached their destination. “Come on, then, let’s see what you’ve got floating around in your pretty little head.”

* * * * *

Next: Maneuvering

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5 Responses to “The Use of Spies”

  1. Very nice dialogue for this serial installment!

  2. Nicely done, and glad to see more of Calliope.

  3. Wow, I’m hooked! I’ll have to go back and read from the start. Calliope is a strong MC, I like her already. 😉

  4. Valerie says:

    Thanks for the comments! Glad you liked it. More to come next Tuesday.

  5. Amalia T says:

    You do a great job of giving us just enough description and imagery of her surroundings to paint a great picture of the world without overwhelming the story and dialogue with the setting. It is the perfect balance for me!

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