There were moments when all anyone could think about was the blood on their hands, their fallen team members—something not quite family but beyond mere friends—and their own willingness to go bloody themselves again.
“We could always say no,” somebody whispered, soft and wistful, which put into doubt the speaker. None of them, Ice Queen thought, were still wistful.
It had shaken up more than the team it happened to when War killed her own leader for letting their team members die. It wasn’t Ice Queen’s team mourning both leader and their seventh alike. And yet, here they were, gathered in the dark, quiet and whispering because once again it was the teams against the administration and the dark lives the teams led.
“What happened?” Was that Arc’s voice, so soft in the stillness?
It was Wolf that answered, “Team admin wanted the job done, knowing there would be casualties. Team 52’s leader accepted.”
It was unthinkable, horrible. It was the leader’s job to ensure their team members’ safety and compliance if that’s what brought it. War should never have had to kill him: father, brother, something not quite family but beyond mere friends.
Stream swore low under his breath, feelingly, in a tongue none of their team adminstrators spoke.
“He,” Ice Queen returned. Truth.
There were moments where loyalties broke, for what loyalty had ever been demanded of the teams that held, except their loyalty to each other?
“What the tiakan dagachiet—”
“Ice Queen,” Wolf said lightly, stopping her before she really got swearing.
“They’ve made more of us.” Ice Queen hissed between her teeth. “It’s against the viriiset rules, and they made more.”
Two more. Team 8’s new operative, named for their own, Red Wolf, and Shift’s new protégé, who supposedly remembered everything he was before. The Thorn Republic had made the original teams long before they put laws on the books forbidding the kind of human genetic experimentation that created team operatives with their special abilities, and there was no missing that Red Wolf had displayed the exact same ability that Wolf had: the ability to effectively and painfully halt someone else’s.
“They said it was over,” Ice Queen went on, able to stop swearing but not able to stop venting it between her gritted teeth. She swore anyway before Wolf’s look turned them back to objections. “There’s an entire team devoted to stopping this!”
“I know,” Wolf answered. “But we’re not that team.”
It wasn’t just Ice Queen that hissed anger between her teeth, not just Ice Queen that looked cold and vicious.
“One day, they’re going to go a bridge too far,” Agument added.
Nobody said, they already had.
It was a fact that the teams were never going to stay. Everyone with a lick of sense in their brain knew it, administration and teams alike. But they were children, and it would take a long time for all their long-made plans to come to fruition. Time and a breaking point.
One bridge too far.
They weren’t children anymore.
Wolf’s team specialized in intelligence. For some reason, their own administration chose to turn a blind eye to how much intelligence they gathered among their own Department’s ranks, but they always seemed to know quickly when major developments occurred.
Wolf was their leader and quietly encouraged the unauthorized intel gathering. Augment was second in command and certainly never spoke against it. Arc was third and was the worst offender. Ice Queen was fifth, and she had made friends with the tracers in administration a long time ago because maintaining the kind of deep long covers she did demanded a lot of cooperation from them.
Not all tracers were administration, and Whisper, the second of team 8 and home of the forbidden new operative Red Wolf, was calling in all her favors.
They’re going to kill him.
Someone in the hospital recognized their John Doe as a missing person, and the Department and the administration—them—had written him off.
“Dagachiet biriset!” Ice Queen swore and Wolf didn’t bother to quell her.
They were in the middle of a mission, and the last thing they needed to do was pull out now.
“Skylight?” Wolf asked.
Skylight was their fourth. She tossed her dark braid and looked grim as she calculated her way through all their plans. “If we finish, the Department will have an intelligence network in this region.”
If they didn’t…
Skylight turned dark eyes on their leader and asked calmly, “What do you want to do?”
There were moments where loyalties broke, for what loyalty had ever been demanded of the teams that held, except their loyalty to each other? There were moments when all anyone could think about was the blood on their hands, their fallen team members, and their own willingness to go bloody themselves again.
Wolf considered, took a deep breath. “One more?” she asked.
One more mission. There was only ever one that could be their last.
As one, her team agreed.0