Philo's Stories

cw: alcohol

the red phone on her bedside table rings in the middle of the night
she picks it up with a startled yawn

"это я."
"we're having some.. difficulties and need someone with your expertise"
she sighs
"usual place?"
"he'll find you at 7 sharp"

at the appointed time, she walks briskly down the center of the tunnel between Park Street and Downtown Crossing and collides with a man wearing sunglasses even in the darkness of the concourse
they exchange a knowing nod and as though nothing has happened, she walks off with his briefcase
this exchange has taken some practice to do nonchalantly, but she's a pro at it now

leaning against a pillar and waiting for a orange line train, she takes stock of the Zero Halliburton briefcase she's carrying
there's a passport, Irish this time with an eclectic collection of stamps and a confused-looking picture of her without glasses
in the middle of the passport is a pair of tickets for a flight leaving Logan to Charles de Gaulle in a couple of hours and a connecting flight to Bratislava
among the papers (something about a pending corporate aquisition) is a corporate ThinkPad with an asset tag that's just a barcode, a serial port, and a curled console cable
in the back corner, she finds a Blackberry, roaming on an Irish SIM

"I'm supposed to be a businesswoman, so I better act like one" she thinks to herself, standing up straighter against the pillar

her train arrives and she rides one stop north towards Oak Grove, then changes trains and rides a stop towards Wonderland
surfacing at Aquarium station, she breathes in the late spring air and sneezes

the ferry to Hull by way of the airport is on time for once and she doesn't even have time to take a seat on the bench at the dock

the name on the passport is one she's never heard before, but it feels somehow fitting as she mutters it to herself
she takes her notebook from her pocket and practices the signature on a page of her notebook, the tip of the fountain pen digging into the paper slightly
once she's satisfied with her efforts and her memorization of her new name, she tears the page out and holds it over the railing of the ferry
with a flick of her lighter (a zippo with "DON'T PANIC" engraved on it; one of the few things of hers she brings on work trips), the page is aflame and its ashes crumble into the harbor

once through security, she heads straight for the bar in the international terminal
the bartender recognizes her and starts pouring a gin and tonic before she even sits down
as she sips her drink, she opens the laptop and tries to figure out why she's going to Slovakia

the next few hours are a blur of mediocre beer (Air France really needs to pick better beers), a surprisingly in-depth conversation about «le TGV» with the frenchman sitting next to her, and pretending not to be lost in the Charles de Gaulle terminal
several hours later, hung over and jet lagged, she stumbles out of a taxi as the sun rises over Bratislava

bright and early the next morning, she rides a tram toward Astronomická
her target is a bank, one of the largest in the country
she walks in confidently, pretending she belongs there

she picks the lock on the server room door with ease and looks for the server she was sent here about
when she sees it, a 1U machine with the distinctive logo of Sun Microsystems on the front panel, she opens her briefcase and takes out the laptop
if she were paying close attention, she'd've noticed that the server wasn't connected to anything as she plugged her console cable in
but she isn't paying close attention to the server, because at that exact moment she hears a voice

"hello there~" a tall woman says as she steps out from behind the server rack, husky, yet distinctly feminine
Augusta isn't particularly short, but the other woman makes her feel positively tiny
something about her sets her heart fluttering and she tries not to blush

"hi.. uhh.. sorry, am I in the way?" Augusta asks, fingers closing around her knife
"yes. yes you are~" she replies, pulling a stiletto on her
she couldn't help but think about what good taste her adversary has in knives as her fingers wrap ever tighter around an identical handle
it was made by a master blacksmith in the Swiss Alps and was worth all 400 CHF she paid for it

with a sudden shove, Augusta is up against the wall of the small server room with a knife to her face
"two can play at that game" she says, squirming and raising her knife
"what makes you think you can even compete?" the tall woman replies, her voice dropping a fair bit at the end
Augusta pauses
"voice training's a bitch, eh?" she says, retreating with her knife slightly
"yeah, it is" her enemy replies, stepping back a bit
they fall silent above the roar of the server fans for a moment

the tall woman breaks the awkward standoff
"why are you here? who do you work for?"
"those are both good questions, and I don't have good answers to either of them" Augusta replies, trying to decide how truthful to be
"your employer's that secretive?" she asks, twirling the knife's handle with her fingers
"when you're paid as much as I am, you have a very good reason not to look into it. all I know is that the checks are from San Marino and my boss calls me from Iceland with a Dutch accent"
"I *think* I work for some Belgians, but I don't really know" she admits

the door to the server room swings open and a man walks in holding a Thinkpad of his own
he says something in Slovak that neither of them understand, but they both get the message
the tall woman grabs Augusta's hand and makes a run for it, shoving him out of the way
from the end of the hall heading into the stairwell, they look back at him and he just looks confused

"no radio.." she points out
"no cameras either; we're probably fine?"
they pause for a moment as both of them decide whether to tell each other the truth
"Shelby" the taller of the two introduces herself
"Augusta" the shorter woman replies
"it's a pretty name" she says, making Augusta blush a bit

they walk calmly downstairs and Augusta hops on a tram in front of the bank towards the castle on the hill at the center of town to do some tourism

after a day of seeing the sights, Augusta enjoys a glass of outstanding local beer in the hotel bar and Shelby walks in and asks the bartender for the same
"to lesbionage" she says quietly, raising her glass
"to getting pinned against a wall by a hot woman" Augusta replies, clinking glasses
"you liked that, didn't you~" Shelby blushes
"how couldn't I?"
they drink their beer, telling stories of espionage and flirting
"your room or mine?" Shelby asks as she finishes her glass
"yours, but I'm fine with either as long as you're there~"

they part ways in the morning, leaving Bratislava on separate flights
a week later, Augusta finds an unpainted bolt on the bridge she always crosses on her evening walk
she returns later with a wrench and discovers a handwritten note rolled up in its hollow center, giving the name of an excellent restaurant downtown and a time
she rushes home, puts on her nicest dress, and is only slightly late getting to the restaurant
Shelby is waiting for her there in a beautifully tailored suit and gives her a wink as she sits down
it's going to be an excellent night.