Action Force: The Annachurian Candidate
Livvie opened her eyes.
“Uhhhhnnn,” she groaned. Her face felt like someone had rubbed hot shards of glass into it. She reached her hands up to cradle her head, but they refused to move. Confused, she looked down. She was tied- strapped, really- to a chair with ring after ring of silver duct tape. She groaned again. “Where… where…”
“I knew it! I knew… KNEW it!” Sierra fumed. She paced back and forth across the office. “I knew they’d gotten to you, Livvie. Messed with you somehow while you were there. When you said you didn’t remember leaving that message, I knew it! And you tried to kill me! Your best friend!” She looked over at Livvie. “Hey. Hey! Liv. Look alive.” She snapped her fingers. “Wake up. We need to talk.”
“Sssssierra? Why am I… did you tie me up? Wha… what are you doing? Untie me.”
“Ooooh no, no way, Livvie. You’re staying right there and answering my questions. Listen, they brainwashed you. They sent you to kill me. They’ve done something to Max, too. And Anna. Maybe a lot of other people. I think they’re going to kill Senator Miller. Are you following this?”
“Sierra, the last thing I remember, you were telling me about the Russians. I didn’t try to kill you. I have no idea what you’re talking about! Look, just untie me and we can—“
Sierra placed the battered computer back onto the table. “You’re thinking about it right now, aren’t you? You’re seriously thinking about killing me right this very moment! I can’t believe you! I’m your partner! I’m on your side!”
“I don’t know what’s going on. I was talking to you, and then… everything’s fuzzy after that. Something about the time? I’d never hurt you, Sierra. You know that. We’re in this together. And I just blacked out, and I woke up tied to this chair!”
“Shhh. Okay, okay. It’s going to be okay,” said Sierra, placing her hands on Livvie’s duct tape-encased shoulders. “Where’s Max? That’s all I need to know right now, Livvie. Where is Max?”
“Continental Hotel ballroom. Mayor’s speech. She’s guarding Anna. Let me go, Sierra. Get me out of this chair, please.”
“Sorry, boss, but no deal. You’re going to sit here quietly and not murder anyone until I get back, understood?” Sierra picked up the handgun, freshly reloaded, from the table. “That’s if I even get back.”
She paused at the office doorway. “Oh, and Livvie? You owe me a new coffee mug.”
In her career as a jewel thief, Max had gotten herself into and out of the most impossible places. Banks. Mansions. Office buildings. A castle in Germany complete with walls and a moat. Every room had a way into it; every defense had a weak point. And almost every guard, it seemed, had a weakness for hot girls in tight clothes.
The guard currently standing in front of her was no different.
“Oh, hey,” she purred, leaning forward to give the guard a great view of her cleavage, and delivering her best bimbo impersonation. “I’m sorry, but I think I’ve gotten lost? There’s supposed to be a fundraiser here and I’ve been wandering around forever. I’m hoping that you can help me. Can you, please?”
“Miss, I have a job to do,” he said, eyes locked on her chest. “You could probably find an usher or an oooooffff.” Before he could raise his eyes back up to Max’s face, her fist was already swinging towards his jaw. He fell to the ground, moaning. A sharp kick later and he was motionless.
I will eliminate any threats to Anna.
She turned the unconscious guard onto his back and ran her hands over his upper body, her fingers closing around her prize- the electronic security badge that acted as a master key for the entire hotel. Taking her opponent’s arms into her own, she began to drag him across the room towards a suitable hiding place.
“Yes, the security code is seven-four-eight-three-alpha.”
“Thank you, miss. And what message would you like me to deliver to the Senator?”
“Please tell him that the briefing is running a little ahead of schedule, and to meet us in the Pine Room at the earliest possible time.”
A pause. “Miss, I’m afraid we don’t have a Pine Room here. Are you thinking of the Palm Room?”
“No, no, it’s just a little in-joke. He’ll get it, trust me. Please deliver the message as soon as the Mayor is done with his speech. Thank you.”
“My pleasure, Miss.”
Anna placed the receiver back in its cradle. Her hand fell limply to her side. She lay on top of the bedsheets, motionless except for the gentle rise and fall of her chest. Her eyes bored two soft holes into the ceiling.
Five minutes passed. Then ten, and fifteen.
The time is right.
She rose from the bed like a sleepwalker, and slowly removed her dress.
The woman at the desk furrowed her brow. “Well, I don’t see a Sierra Lorde on the guest list. I’ve already checked it over twice and… oh wait, here it is. You’re at the bottom of the alternates list. Funny, I don’t remember seeing it there this morning. Someone must have added you at the very last minute.”
“Ha ha, these things happen! I’m sure everything’s so busy, who’s keeping track, right?” Sierra snatched her plastic wristband from the woman’s hand. “I mean, look at me! I’m super late for the most important event of the year!”
The woman shot Sierra an annoyed glance.
“Thank you so, so much… um… Venus? Thank you, Venus. I gotta… is it this way? Oh, is there a bathroom? Gotta freshen up before I go in. I’m a mess!”
Venus pointed to her left. “Down there, just before you get to the hotel lobby.”
Sierra smiled. “Thank you so much! I… oh, can’t forget my purse! Hee hee! Sorry, I just… okay, bye!”
She turned and walked away, trying and failing not to look like a woefully-underdressed-for-the-occasion woman who had hastily thrown on some makeup before speeding like a maniac towards the Continental Hotel. By now her car was likely on the hook of a tow truck, being dragged away from the front entrance with a hefty traffic ticket on the windshield. She cringed. You owe me a coffee mug and two hundred bucks, Livvie. Casting a look back over her shoulder, she spotted Venus flipping through the pages of a magazine. There was no one else in sight. Ignoring the bathroom, Sierra headed straight for the hotel lobby.
Max stared at the screen. Her fingers danced over the keyboard, pulling up camera feeds one by one. Finally, she found the one she was looking for- the one watching the hallway outside of Anna’s hotel room. She hit a few more keys, until the display turned black. A few more taps, and the hallway appeared on the screen again. Only later, when it was too late, would the guards notice that this camera feed was now replaying footage taken four hours ago.
She reset the display to normal and quickly made her way out of the control room, taking refuge around the corner just as the careless post-abandoning guard returned from his trip to the bathroom.
I will ensure that no one is able to interfere with her mission.
Max watched the control room door, waiting to see if the guard would notice anything amiss. After a few minutes of inactivity, she headed for Anna’s hotel room.
“Come in. It’s unlocked,” said Anna. She watched as her lover cautiously opened the door and stepped inside.
“Anna? Are you crazy? I could barely get out of there with my skin intact. Why couldn’t we wait until… oh, wow.”
She sat on the edge of the bed, eyes burning into his with lust and desire. Her tongue slowly swept the edge of her full lips, curled into a sultry smile. A lacy, white-trimmed black bra barely held back her beautiful breasts. She slowly dangled her stocking-clad legs back and forth. “Hey baby,” she cooed, running a hand through her long blonde hair, letting it fall around her shoulders, framing her angelic face. “I missed you.”
Whatever annoyances Senator Miller carried into the room vanished. He pulled off his suit jacket and made his way to the bed, feeing her soft arms wrap around him.
Anna whispered into his ear. “Mmmmm. Alton, honey, let’s make tonight extra special.”
From her hiding place, Sierra cursed her bad luck. If she’d been able to hack into the computer’s reservation system just a little more quickly, she’d have been able to catch Senator Miller before he walked into Anna’s room. Instead, she arrived just in time to watch him duck inside, and to watch the door close behind him. Probably locked, now, too. When I get out of this, I’m going to have to have Max teach me some better lock picking skills. If I get out of this. IF. Me and a single gun against an army of Secret Service types and a bunch of brainwashed assassins.
She peered down the corridor. The Senator’s bodyguard waited at the elevator lobby, looking bored but alert. He knows to stay far enough away from her door to avoid giving them away. He began to pivot towards her, and she ducked back out of sight. “Okay,” she said softly to herself. “Breathe, Sierra. Breathe. What would Livvie do? I’ve gotten this far. Can I bluff my way in? Maybe I can disguise myself as a maid and… ugh, there’s no time! So stupid, Sierra! Think!”
From nearby came the sounds of a commotion. A sudden and brief shout. Then silence. Sierra steeled herself, then risked a second look.
The bodyguard was sprawled out on the floor. Max was standing above him. She stepped over his prone body and walked purposefully down the hallway, away from Sierra and towards Anna’s room. She looks… like a robot. And hot in that dress! But a robot. Dammit! She watched as Max stopped in front of Anna’s door. Like a programmable robot. An idea formed in Sierra’s head. A crazy, stupid, going to get me killed idea. But it was all she had. She rose to her feet and headed down the hallway.
Anna’s eyes slid closed as she drew in a slow, luxurious breath, a warm smile spreading across her face. She sank back into the softness of the bed and the fluffy pillows, enjoying the feel of the cool fabric against her skin. Below her waist, Alton’s tongue worked its magic over her swollen lips, and she moaned and spread her legs in response. He was gentle, slowly building her arousal, his face slowly approaching hers as he gradually moved up her body. She ran her fingers through his sandy hair as he kissed her stomach, his hands reaching up and squeezing her breasts. She moaned softly. Alton could make her feel as if she were floating on pink clouds, lost entirely in pleasure and desire. The thought brought back the memory of their first night together, in this very hotel room, in this very same bed.
Behind the memory, a deeper one stirred. I will seduce him. When the time is right, I will kill him.
Her eyes blinked open in confusion as the memory faded back into the shadows of her mind. Alton’s face was buried in her tits now, and she ran her hands across his broad, powerful back. Their lips met and merged into one, forming a passionate kiss that seemed to last forever. She felt his eyes gazing into hers, and she raised her legs as he entered her. It felt amazing. She rocked against him, driving him deeper into her, bringing them both closer to climax. She moaned again, loudly, as he began to increase the speed of his thrusts. This is perfect. Everything is perfect.
It’s almost time.
“Max, it’s me. Hey. You okay?” The redhead cautiously approached Anna’s room. One look at Max’s empty expression let her know that her friend was most assuredly not okay. She paused, expecting an attack at any moment.
“Sierra,” said Max. She remained motionless.
“Max, I know you can’t hear me, not really, but we need to get into that room. Anna’s in trouble.” From behind Max, she could just make out Anna’s passionate cries as she came. “Well, okay, at least Senator Miller’s in trouble. I don’t want to do this, but…” She reached for the gun.
In an instant, Max was spinning, kicking the gun out of her hand. Another kick hit Sierra in the stomach, and she doubled over just in time for a third kick to connect directly with her face. Before she knew it, she was on the floor, staring down the barrel of Max’s Beretta.
Max aimed the pistol at Sierra’s head. “I will eliminate any threats to Anna.”
“Oh, hey, Anna honey, hang on.” Alton rolled off of her glistening, glorious body and caught his breath. “Did… did you hear that? I think someone is outside.”
She leaned over and kissed him hard on the lips. “Maybe you should go check it out, just to be sure.”
He reached behind her neck and pulled her in for another passionate kiss. “Okay. Just wait a second.” He swung his legs over the edge of the bed and bent over, searching for his underwear.
Behind him, Anna’s hand slowly reached for the carbon wire stashed behind the headboard. “The time is right,” she whispered.
Max’s finger closed around the trigger. I will eliminate any threats to Anna.
“Max!” Sierra blurted out. “Beneath the ice, the stream runs deep! Beneath the ice, the stream runs deep!”
She closed her eyes, wondering if she would hear the gun go off before she died. Seconds passed. She opened her eyes again, half-expecting to stupidly look right into the gun as Max pulled the trigger. Instead, she found her partner staring straight at her, hands at her sides, the Beretta pointed at the floor.
“So very deep. I await my orders.”
Oh my God, that actually worked. Holy cow, it worked. It worked! Okay, okay, think, Sierra. What next? “Max, listen to me carefully. You don’t want to kill me. You won’t kill me.”
“I don’t want to kill you. I won’t kill you.”
Sierra exhaled. “Whew. Okay, Max. Help me to stop Anna.” She paused. “Wait wait! Without killing her! Okay? Understand?”
“Yes, I understand.” With her free hand, she reached down into her dress and retrieved the security card. She tapped the card to the door and, as soon as the lock beeped and clicked, gave it a forceful shove. Sierra pushed by her, ducking under Max’s arm and stumbling into the room off-balance.
She let out a yelp.
Senator Miller stood before her, clad only in his boxers, hands on his hips, looking absolutely dumbstruck by the scene unfolding in front of him- a disheveled redhead and a stone-faced brunette stampeding into his lover’s private room unannounced, his security detail nowhere to be seen. He found his voice. “What the holy hell is going on here? Stay back, Anna, I’ll handle gaakkkk.” His eyes bulged as the thin wire tightened across his throat, cutting his air supply. His arms flailed uselessly, rising up to his throat, his fingers trying unsuccessfully to dig between the garrote and his skin. “Kkkkkkikkk…”
“Anna, NO!” Sierra could only watch as the actress pulled tighter on the wire. She had the face of a woman zoning out to a late-night television program, but the muscles in her arms bulged, and her hands were turning white as they gripped the ends of the garrote with the strength of two industrial clamps. In front of her, the Senator was turning blue, his movements slowing and becoming weaker. It’s all happening so fast.
Max observed the entire scene with cold detachment. Suddenly, she stepped forward and spoke. “Anna, listen and obey. You will stop now.”
Anna’s hands opened as if spring-loaded. The wire fell to the ground, and with it went the Senator. “Yes, Max,” she said, almost casually. “I’m listening.”
“Your mission is complete.”
“Yes, Max. I will obey you now.”
A silence fell over the room, punctuated only by Alton’s ragged coughs and gasps for air. Both of the brainwashed drones remained still; Anna awaiting orders, Max not programmed to deliver any. Suddenly it occurred to Sierra that giving orders was now her job. “Max, have Anna sit quietly on the bed, and then do the same. And put that gun down before you get shot!”
“I understand. Anna, sit quietly on the bed.”
Sierra made her way over to the Senator, who had risen to his knees, his hands wrapped around his neck. The flesh was already beginning to form some deep and ugly bruises. For the second time, he looked at the redhead with utter bewilderment. “Who… who are… Anna!” He broke into another nasty coughing fit.
Without thinking, she gave him a pat on the back, quickly withdrawing her hand in embarrassment. He’s not choking on a piece of steak, dummy! You’re such a dork, Sierra. UGH. “It’s okay, you’re safe. I think it’s over.” She looked over at her mesmerized friends. “Yeah, it’s over.”
Alton fell back from his knees onto his ass, leaning against the wall for support. He looked wide-eyed at the two women on the bed. “Just… what… the HELL is going ON!”
Sierra rolled her eyes. “Well, you’re not dead, for one, so you’re welcome. And two? Let’s just say it’s a long story. Oh, and three? Max here is probably gonna need your help in beating a couple of assault charges. Actually, more than just a couple. Oh! And four, I think you’re really hot.”
He stared at her as the hallway filled with shouts and heavy footsteps. “Um, thank you?”
“Well, that wasn’t terrible, right guys?” Sierra tossed the remainder of her popcorn into the movie theater’s trash bin. “I mean, at least Anna was really good in it. I guess I’d probably see it again.”
“Pfft,” said Max, adding her soda cup to the bin. “I can’t believe that they made Andrew McGregor the brainwashed assassin and not Anna. I mean, come on, right? First hand experience, hello? And that ending was just dumb.”
Livvie gave Max an elbow to the ribs. “Here she comes. Try to act a least a little enthusiastic, okay? This is her big moment in the sun.”
“Eeeeeeeee! You guys!!” Anna swept towards them with her arms wide, trying to pull them all into a single embrace. “Did you like it? Wait, don’t tell me. No, tell me! Was it good?”
“It was good. It was… great,” said Sierra. “I think I have a girl crush on you now. That fight scene in the back of the cargo plane? That was amazing! Oh, and when you shot Colonel Evans with the spear gun?”
“STING THIS!” the four women shouted together, laughing.
Livvie hooked her arm around Anna’s waist. “So. How are things with Alton?”
Anna blushed. “We’re doing okay. He’s been very understanding, considering that I tried to murder him. The therapist wanted me to keep going to sessions after the deprogramming, but I told her no. It’s better to just have hazy memories for now, and to work on my future with Alton. The past can wait.”
“You two are just so cute!” Sierra squealed. “I’m so glad that it’s out in the open now. I smile every time I see you in the newspaper. A week on the beach in Bali to celebrate the arms summit success? Swoon!”
Max rolled her eyes. “New girl, what can you do?” She turned to Anna. “So as far as we know, Franz is on the run, probably Mexico. The Federales are trying to track him down as we speak. All I can say is that he’d better hope they get to him before I do! And the Russian government is already preparing to extradite Gregory Vassilov to the US for trial. It’s over for these guys.”
“It’s really real, that’s what’s crazy.” Anna shook her head. “Everyone coming out of this theater thinking that it’s just a movie, that brainwashing’s not real, but it is. People like me, walking around with a secret in their head, like a human time bomb. And then you guys come in and save the day.”
“We always do, Anna,” said Livvie. “We always do. Now how about that celebratory drink?”
Max laughed. “Just remember, Liv. You shot up the liquor cabinet, so the drinks are on you.”
They all left the theater arm-in-arm, smiling and laughing.
“Oh my God, Andrew McGregor is so hot.” Gwen sighed happily as she walked through the theater lobby, pausing to let her eyes linger over the movie poster for The Scorpion and the Frog. “Those muscles… mmm. I hope the other men in Glasgow are as hot as he is.”
Amanda smiled. “I can’t believe that you’re leaving in, like, a week. This is so exciting! Have you found a place to stay?”
“The bank is going to set me up with an apartment- I mean, a flat, they’re all called flats there- for a couple of months. Just enough time to get me settled in, hopefully with a hot guy and a couple of dogs. You know what they say, let MBS guide you to your dreams!”
Amanda’s purse buzzed. She reached in and pulled out her phone. “Oh, I gotta take this. See you for brunch tomorrow? I’m buying.”
“Okay, and I’ll pay you back when you visit me in Scotland. See you tomorrow!”
Amanda waved and sat down on a nearby bench. She raised the phone to her ear. “Hello, this is Amanda.”
“Beneath the ice, the stream runs deep.”
Her smile faded into nothingness. “I await my orders.”