Teresa continued to stare in the direction “Mister Knight” walked before the crowd swallowed him. She glanced around the room for Candace, but she had likely already left with her target. A squawk in her ear indicated she had an incoming call.
She pressed the wireless device in her ear. “This is Teresa.”
“Teresa, it’s Lance.”
“Colonel?” she gasped. “Where have you been?”
“Indisposed.” There was finality in his one-word answer. Despite her reporter instincts, Teresa decided not to press. “What’s your status?”
“I was on assignment, but I think my target left with her sleeping partner.” A croupier watched from a card table. Teresa turned her back to the man and continued in a whisper. “I met someone calling himself ‘Mister Knight’.”
There was a pause while presumably, Colonel Bishop considered a response. “Tell me about it at headquarters. We’ll be there soon.” He disconnected the call.
We? Teresa thought as she headed for the door. This just gets more and more interesting.
* * *
Still in her evening gown, Teresa arrived at headquarters intent on getting to Bishop’s office. She paused when she passed through a room and a young girl her own age was sitting next to an older woman, deep in conversation. She tried to place either of them, but keeping track of who was who was a tedious job, even without the ability to switch bodies. She continued on her path to Bishop’s office.
Headquarters was arranged in a narrow row with the multi-purpose room near the hidden entrance, followed by living quarters, then the analysis room. In this room she stopped and watched for a moment as computer screens compared a photo of a college-aged girl to surveillance cameras around the city. Whoever this girl was, the team was expending enormous resources to locate her.
Teresa scowled, and wondered if they were using the same amount of resources to pursue John Michaels. She knew he had something to do with the president, and as such was nearly untouchable, but she wanted her revenge. A tech looked over his shoulder and pressed a button on his console, darkening all the screens. She rolled her eyes, and walked down the hall toward Bishop’s office.
When she arrived, she peeked in and saw Bishop examining himself in a mirror. His wrists were raw, and thee was caked blood on his face and shirt. “Mister Knight would like his tie pin back,” she said walking into the office.
Bishop spun and stared at Teresa. “I know why the caged bird kills.”
Teresa smiled and responded to the challenge phrase. “Thus always to tyrants.”
Bishop nodded and returned his attention to the mirror, using it to keep eye contact with Teresa. He fished something metallic out of his pants pocket and held it up for Teresa to see.
“I see,” she said when it became apparent Bishop held the tiepin in question. “I’d hoped this all ended with Doctor Mann’s capture.”
Bishop’s eyes darkened. “Remember Pithos Pandora?”
Teresa met his eyes reflected in the mirror and nodded.
“Danny Peterson told me that story.” He turned and walked to Teresa. “She’s brought us a story even more frightening.” Bishop walked past Teresa, back the way she came, and she had no choice but to follow.
* * *
Candace closed the door quietly and glanced down the hall, first in one direction than the other. She was dressed comfortably in jeans and a collared polo. The brand new designer shoes were the only thing that said she was anything other than a random person in a city of random people. Leaving the body in the hotel room seemed a waste, but he didn’t survive the transfer. Such was life in her chosen career. The information she gathered would be useful to fund future endeavors, but each transfer left her exhausted.
She wished she could leave these tasks to her underlings, but the nature of her business made sure she was directly involved. Perhaps she could take a break from field work and recover. She closed her eyes and shook her head. I’m the only one who can do it, she thought to herself.
She didn’t know what was different about her, but no one could deny what happened to her after Dr. Mann was captured by Bishop and the device hidden in some government facility. She counted down the days until insanity claimed her, but after four months, she continued living in her borrowed body. The fate that claimed the firefighter seemed disinclined to take her.
Everything she learned in the meantime, led to her encounter with Mr. Knight. His original name was unimportant, they all embraced their new monikers the same way they embraced the freedom of a rented body. Gender, ethnicity, and privilege – none of it mattered. She could be anyone she wanted to be. Body renting was the single greatest thing invented in the history of mankind.
Renting, she thought. They still used terms from Terrence Mann’s fictitious company, Body Rentals. Mann was a genius, but the loss of his son led him to carelessness. Candace smiled. Mann’s carelessness and capture led to her discovery. It had been almost a year before Knight found her, her body, and a device capable of performing the transfer.
Her rented body was a mess. He babbled incoherently, but the amazing thing, was she retained his memories. Well, not quite as amazing as surviving past the four-month rental, but her experiences were so different from what they knew, Knight and his cronies embraced Candace and her mission.
“Um… Candace?” The voice in her ear was hesitant, unsure how to refer to her. She spoke out loud. “I’ve got the information and am on my way to you.” She killed the connection before the voice could respond.
Candace walked into the elevator and punched the ‘lobby’ button. She saw her reflection in the polished plastic and frowned. She reached to her collar, and spun her pin so the enamel queen piece was properly oriented.