Chapter oo2;  criminal
word count: 1,124 

Ari sat, hunched over blue and white floor plans, her red hair a tangled mess around her face and neck.  The silence in her room stretched on for hours, broken up only by the soft scratchings of pencil on maps every few moments.  She had already gone through all the video footage her inside man had swiped from the location site, now she was marking the monitored areas of the building on her map.  Once she finished this, she would move onto deciphering the ghost path through the hallways - she avoided cameras wherever possible (and it was rarely impossible), as most in her line of work did, but she was a little more OCD about it than a lot of others.  Ari left no trace of her presence when she went out in the field; not a strand of hair, not a fingerprint, not even her shadow of her arm in the video footage.

Despite her routine habit of stealing all the security tapes, and sometimes even cutting power entirely, she held firm in her belief that a smart security system needs no physical copies, and so she refused to leave anything of herself in the videos - just in case they didn't need the tapes to access them.

She was exhausted, but nowhere near done - and she only had a few hours left before the plans had to be on Daddy's desk.  The minute hand ticked by above her head; somewhere in the back of her mind, she was keeping count.  It was 2:37 in the morning.  Dawn was in five hours.  There was one option, but she didn't want to think about it.  Coffee, she thought, I'll go make some espresso and I'll be wide awake again.  She tried to brush off the nagging pull, avoiding even a glance in her desk drawer despite the nearly animalistic urge to do so.  She knew what would happen, what always happened.  She reminded herself of the sterile white walls, of the violent spasms and night terrors.  No, she shook her head, coffee would do the job.  She didn't need to think about the bottle of Dextrostat.  Dextrostat, speed, crid, tweek.  Whatever you liked to call it, it was the same thing, essentially.  Legal speed, if you had the right strings to pull.  Of course she had the right strings to pull.  When you're in a high-security detox center but you're still snorting, you've clearly got pull.  

The espresso was bitter on her tongue, but she drank it down anyway.  It would do her no good to be on Daddy's bad side.  A deadline is a deadline.  Pouring herself a second cup of espresso, she made her way back upstairs.  Passing her father's office, she heard hushed voices.  She took two more steps, hoping if she got started she may just continue on and not succumb to the urge to eavesdrop.  It didn't work, and she carefully retraced her steps.  Behind the large oak door his voice was muffled, but she could make it out if she leaned in.

"I don't care what you have to do to get it done," her father growled into the phone.  She couldn't hear the person on the other end, but the venom in Daddy's voice seeped into her very bones and left her nervous and frightened.  She wasn't even the one being scolded.  She didn't want to know, she told herself, shaking off the fear that layed over her skin like an invisible blanket.  She took a swig of her espresso and finished the trip to her bedroom in silence.

The remaining planning took her four more hours.  At half after six in the morning, she rapped gently on her fathers office door.  Without waiting for him to answer, she slid the folder of plans through the slot he had cut into the door for such purposes.  Much like a mail slot on the front doors of old-fashioned houses.  She returned to her bedroom, changing into her comfortable pajama pants and crawling into bed to get a few hours worth of sleep before she had to get up to pack her suitcase for her flight.

Her alarm went off at nine forty-five and she rolled, literally, out of bed.  Instincts took over and she landed on her feet, crouched low and rubbing her eyes roughly to try to keep them open.  Three hours would have to be enough, she told herself.  She could sleep on the plane.

Rising slowly, her muscles tight from her sparring with father, she made her way into the bathroom and took a brief shower.  

She packed light; five black menswear "beaters," three pairs of jeans, two pairs of fitted black slacks that were easy to move in.  A pair of sneakers and a pair of boots.  Five long-sleeved thermal shirts, socks, panties, support bras.  

She threw in her pre-prepared mission bag:  gloves, hair nets, colored contacts, hair dye.

Waiting in her hotel room, she knew, were the rest of her supplies.  Things you couldn't get on a plane.

Emergency squirt bottles: of acid, bleach, gasoline.  
Emergency MedKit with the normal staples: cotton swabs, surgical needle + thread, packing tape, gauze and morphine pills.
Her personal MedKit: Four syringes filled with different, dangerous, substances.
Small explosives and body armor.
Her usual weapons catalog and corresponding ammunition, along with her tech gear.

At ten o'clock, exactly, she met her father at the front door.  His voice gruff, as if he'd gotten very little sleep also, he said "Are you packed?"  She nodded in response, choosing to keep her words to a minimum if possible.  He continued, his mood not appearing to be a fluke tonal miscommunication.  "Go get in the car and wait for me."

In the car, Ari pulled out her earbuds from her purse and stuffed them into her ears.  The music was low, soothing, but not loud enough that she couldn't hear someone approaching the car.  She didn't even notice the time pass, but by the time her father came outside and noisily got into the drivers seat, it was half past ten and he had gone from minorly irritated to nearly furious.  She kept her mouth shut and let him speed the entire way to the airport, which was actually good because traffic was worse than predicted and she already wound up ten minutes late for her flight.

Hoping to cheer him up a little, Ariel leaned up on her tiptoes and kissed her father affectionately on the mouth.  "Bye, Daddy!  I'll call you when I land."  He dismissed her and wasted no time making for the front of the airport.  She boarded and settled in, trying to ignore his strange cold shoulder, and stuffed a pillow behind her head, dozing off almost immediately.

The End

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