Probationers: Part 8

Agent Spitz stopped talking, “Do you two have something to say? We’re trying to decide the group’s next focus and as the most experienced members of the group, your input should be useful.”

The Atoner gave a wide and innocent smile, “Doc and I were just agreeing that the Devil Coven might be too big for this group, but investigating their activity in Pittsburgh would be worth a try. Doc at least has enough experience with magic to match them. Well, he can  match the groups they normally send out–not the entire coven.”

“Exactly,” Vladislav hoped Spitz wouldn’t ask him for details because he hadn’t been listening.

Spitz’ lips curled and Vladislav suppressed a smirk. Spitz had been modified enough that he didn’t know a trigger word had been used. So all he was responding to was a perceived lack of attention.

That was good.

Now the challenge was to figure out how to handle it. The Nine’s agents had triggers implanted for what to do when they were found out. He’d heard of ones that were little more than suicide bombers, but that was on the low end. He’d also heard of supers that had been mind controlled to only use their powers under certain circumstances. That was the better possibility.

He’d also heard of normal humans that had been modified with superpowers that they could only use once—because after that they died. He kicked himself for not thinking of the possibility when he’d talked to Florin. He’d fixated on the cross when he should have been sending his spawn after the Nine’s engineers.

If he had to bet on what sort of agent Spitz was, he’d bet on the last. Getting assigned to be the liaison to the Probationers was the kind of job that made an FBI agent’s reputation or set back their career for years and it wasn’t in their hands. All that mattered was which random selection of superpowered convicts came together.

If the Nine knew Spitz would be assigned to them, they’d know that Spitz wouldn’t have access to much beyond the Probationers. Plus, the Nine likely held a grudge against him, Ape Nasty, and might want to keep Morgan silent if she’d somehow managed to work for Rook and not get reprogrammed herself.

She’d shown no evidence of it in any case.

Vladislav’s comm vibrated. The message appeared on his watch as coming from Mistress Madness, “What did you do?”

He typed, “Later,” keeping his arm on the table, hopefully in Ape Nasty’s sight. A small grunt from the giant ape gave him hope that they’d be able to make it through the meeting without violence.

The next message came from Morgan and had been sent to both him and the Atoner. It was simply, “Now?”

Vladislav met her eyes from across the table. She was expressionless and watching Spitz out of the corner of her eye. A drop of sweat fell from her cheek to the table. He gave a small shake of his head and she nodded, but this didn’t bode well. She’d recognized what he’d done and unless he guessed wrong, she was terrified.

Well, she had a reason for it. Rook was on the Nine’s inner council—the nine that the organization was named after. Now, though, he had to keep the situation from getting worse.

At Morgan’s nod, Spitz stopped again, “I’m beginning to feel like there’s another conversation going on in the room without me. What’s going on?”

The Atoner stood up and began to walk around the table, passing Morgan and Lindsay, “Phil, Doc, and I have something we need to talk about in my office. It’s related to the reason everyone’s distracted, but it’s not something that we’re ready to talk about as a group.”

Spitz looked from the Atoner to Vladislav, “Am I supposed to believe you or am I supposed to believe the evidence before my own eyes? You’re all looking down at your comms or over at each other. I know I shouldn’t expect respect from a bunch of criminals, but I’d think that you’d recognize what will keep you out of jail. That’s why you’re here. You betrayed your friends to the government. All of them want to kill you now. You know who doesn’t? The government. And you know who the government is when I’m here? Me.

“The only thing keeping you on this team and out of prison and away from death row is my reports on how conscientious you are, how compliant and helpful you are… That’s me. I’m your leader, your advocate, and a man with literal life and death power over your future. Tell me what’s really going on.”

On the other side of the table, Morgan’s eyes followed Spitz, turning as the Atoner passed her, but keeping her hands under the table where she’d put them after he’d demonstrated what the man was.

Knowing that she’d worked for Rook, she could have anything under there.

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