Author: Brian C. Mahon

Maurice yells in capitalized white letters across her left eye’s field of vision: [DO NOT MOVE.]

Target confirmed – ten feet away, closing.

Shiori’s training keeps excitement in check; the suit keeps her mute. The target, Meng Mei, born to the wrong rich man, is strapped to an oak chair. Shiori creeps closer, toes gently padding the floor and her eye on a digital decibel meter.

[Blue Endeavor pan right. Audio and video are clear. Need to identify him.]

A Sino-Russian Cooperative guard chomps on a cigar, sitting on the desk opposite Meng Mei, scrolling on his phone. Sixty-eight percent left in the suit’s flex-strip batteries, meaning only twenty-three minutes of light-bending active camouflage remaining.

[Stay slow. Tile is engineered sound reflective. Don’t shuffle. Strike team ETA twelve minutes. Monitor and remain.]

*Monitor and remain?* Shiori jerks her head, *no*. She is here, now, and she can strike before the Cooperative kill another hostage.

[Blue Endeavor, monitor and remain.]

Shiori shakes her head quickly. *NO.*

She’s almost breathing on her – Meng Mei is a beautiful girl, ten years old in a pink dress and pink ribbon in her hair but bearing a bruised, swollen eye socket and split lower lip.

[You are reconnaissance. MONITOR AND REMAIN.]

Shiori reaches behind the chair, eyes on the decibel meter, the girl, the stooge, the room, slipping her fingertips around strapping binding the girl’s ankles. *Reconnaissance. Wasted potential. Act now, save now!*

“Shénme?” The girl licks a clot of blood from her lips, looks down at her right ankle. As the strap loosens, the Russian bald and burly spits his cigar onto the tile.

[BLUE ENDEAVOR! YOU WILL BE COMPROMISED!]

Just as the words fill her field of vision, she pulls the emergency knife from her hip pocket and lunges at the Russian. Her blade cleanly whisks across his throat; a soundless execution save his gurgles.

[BLUE ENDEAVOR! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?]

She whispers, “What we needed to. No arrests, no plea bargains, no more little girls. He dies. She is saved. We leave.”

Maurice’s disappointment buzzes in her ear, “Blue Endeavor. You *can’t* leave. The strike team isn’t there yet.”

Shiori ignores him and concentrates on untying the girl’s wrists.

“Nǐ shì shàngdì ma?” The girl’s dark eyes moisten with hope and confusion. Shiori never learned Chinese, barely knew Japanese, but she knows a look of fear.

*Only one way to build confidence.* Shiori presses two sensor points behind her jaw, unveiling the white-striped azure catsuit, Blue Endeavor.

“Shh. We are getting out of here. I am Shiori.”

“BLUE ENDEAVOR, EXIT, EXIT, EXIT!”

Two faceless, visored brown body suits appear from the corners to charge Shiori. She spins away from one, knife in hand, but a strong embrace inverts the world and delivers tile quickly.

“BLUE ENDEA-R!” Maurice screams as her nose bounces off the floor.

“Meng Mei, you serve your father well. I’ll ask him to get you ice cream,” rolls a heavy Russian accent from the suit sitting on her back.

Shiori picks her chin up in disbelief just to have her head smashed back to the tile. Served?

“How long, Misha? Six months we try to get their technology?”

“Six? Seven? Who cares? It was a good plan. With her suit, we’ll be able to move while invisible. We get promotion this time.”

Shiori relaxes, the ceiling spins. The strike team will be here, full of flash bangs and bullet holes to save the day.

“First, we must get rid of girl. Shame.”

“Shame.”

A crack precedes the white flash from behind her eyes.

Blue Endeavor, mission end.

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