May 5, 2020
“What do we have Bobby?”
“Doctor Evangelina Smith, thirty-four, Professor of Microbiology and Toxicology at FSU.”
“Genius, her IQ is a verified one-five-one.”
“Verified how? A private Psychologists’ results are meaningless.”
“The school system Sir, Smith tested in elementary, middle and high school, always coming within three points of the one-five-one mean. Her highest and latest at one five four, was observed by Department of Education Administrators from across the State and a representative of MENSA.”
“What about her physicality, aside from what we see here?” the old man held a photograph before his face. It was an attractive woman with straight shoulder-length red hair, sparkling hazel eyes and the body of a model.
“Smith is five eight, one hundred and twenty pounds. She’s been practicing Taekwondo since age twelve—sixth degree black belt. She coordinates kick-boxing competitions and assists with belt testing for a local studio—very amenable for training Sir.”
“We pursue aggressively. Smith has been working with pheromone transport and neurotoxins found in nature. This has military applications. Such compounds could be weaponized as virtually untraceable pathogens for target eliminations. Some of these substances are downright evil, things we cannot artificially recreate like box-jelly nematocyst venom, and tree frog curare so pure it doesn’t just paralyze, it seizes the heart within seconds upon casual skin contact. Her Doctorate Thesis has been published and is up for nomination.”
“That will need to be stopped. Fame does not an Agent make. Very well, send in a Level One Recruiter. Is she married?”
“Yes Sir, Gerald Smith, married three years. He is an Adjunct Professor at the university. They have no children.”
“Okay, eliminate the husband as collateral damage from a terrorist attack. Make it on campus. Have a baby-faced Field Analyst taking one of her lectures on that day—we need to gauge her reactions during the crisis. Give it six months before our Level One enters and begins the grooming process. We need to determine if she even likes the U.S. Government. We need loyals Bobby. The geek kick-boxing girl is wonderful icing, but not if it’s on a shit cake.”
“Good metaphor Sir,” Bobby gathered his materials and stuffed his briefcase.
“Here’s another. If she’s not a tree hugger I give you full authority to close that deal yourself.”
“On it Sir.”
Florida State University, June 15, 2020.
“It is here within the mitochondria, where highly energetic proteins such as Adenosine Tri-Phosphate are synthesized. The physical mechanics of that molecular synthesis would solve Earth’s energy problems if we could only recreate the process on a macro scale. This is yet another example of science beyond our reach. If we could produce spider web chemically, steel and aluminum would become obsolete—”
Doctor Smith paused for a long moment, observing a student in the front row eating a candy bar and crinkling the cellophane wrapper. The girl had short black hair with purple streaks, tattoos everywhere and a thick leather jacket on in June—one of those. Eva cleared her throat brusquely and the young woman looked up.
“Is this lecture disturbing your munchie-time Jones?”
“No Ma’am,” the girl replied, a graduate student named Tippy. The stark white tattoo canvas shoved the half-eaten candy into her coat pocket and tapped the space bar on her laptop to clear the screensaver. “Sorry Doc.”
“As I have said so many times people, food and cell phones are for between classes. NOW! Where was I? Yes, the nuts and bolts of mitochondriatic production of highly charged atomic compounds—”
Her oration was cut-off abruptly by the fire alarm—three tones repeating. There was a shooter on campus!
“EVERYONE! Calmly rise and follow me right now into the supply room. Jimmy lock the hall doors! Tyrese help him please? Quickly everyone, bring all of your electronics, through here,” Smith ushered her students into the large safe room with a reinforced steel door that bolted from the inside. Several of the students were already becoming frantic, half frozen with fear.
“Everything will be fine—Genevieve be quiet honey—Tippy calm her down!”
The goth-girl placed an arm around the neck of the cheerleader-girl and squeezed, whispering in her ear that she’d kick her big round ass if she didn’t shut up. It worked.
“LISTEN TO ME!” Eva took charge with a confidence that helped soothe the others. “I want utter quiet from this point forward, turn your ringers off now—do it! We have two inches of solid metal here, nothing is getting past this door. You know, it’s most likely a drill,” Doctor Smith bolted the top and bottom, took a quick head count, and then looked at her phone.
Holy shit Gerald’s coming back from lunch right now, she thought as her adrenaline surged—no signal. Evangelina placed an ear to the door. Aside her, Tippy did the same and Eva saw the grip of a gun beneath the girl’s leather jacket—she said nothing, suddenly glad the introvert vampire with purple hair was there.
One week later
Something changed in Evangelina on the day of the funeral for the lone victim of a radicalized student gone insane. The young shooter was subdued immediately following the first shot by several off-duty Marines, who by chance were on campus that day passing out flyers in plain clothes and recruiting not twenty feet away. The prisoner was in the custody of the federal government—his name withheld for national security reasons. Gerald was simply in the worst place at the worst of all possible times.
She stood solemnly beneath a black umbrella in a light sprinkle of rain as the Minister delivered her husband’s eulogy, wishing to be anywhere else on the planet—save maybe in a locked room with Gerald’s murderer. Her sterile consciousness slapped her in the face hard when she realized she was not frightened at all on that day. To the contrary, she was excited.
Dead is dead asshole. There’s no God for him to go see, her mind was hardening as Eva stared a hole through the Methodist Preacher. I never loved him, she added with a crack in her silent speech, cursing herself for projecting those words into her brain. Eva forced that coldness inside her heart, rather, she opened a small door and allowed the ice inside a chance to come out. Gerald was a kind man who lived a happy life helping others, but nothing anyone said or did at that point could bring him home. The Sun rises regardless. Crying is a waste of time.
Like an electric snap of awareness, before the reverent speech was finished, Evangelina Smith turned and walked away, closing her umbrella and tossing it to the grass as the light drizzle turned to rain. She walked away from the small crowd of family, friends and colleagues—standing there in utter shock.
I have work to do, her final numb thought as she started her car and got the hell out of there, pressing the gas too hard, unwittingly flinging streaks of mud over the hearse.
She laughed—thrusting her palm over her lips in wide-eyed surprise, shocked at her overt response to the small scene playing out in her rear-view mirror, the Driver cursing and thrusting an airborne fist her way, slipping in the mud and falling.
She returned to work the following day, apologized to the people who mattered and moved forward with living, teaching, researching and kicking a bag three nights a week.
Office of Evangelina Smith, ten months later
“Are you sure I cannot change your mind? Tippy, you are going to be a brilliant Biologist. I can hold the internship but only for so long. The Caribbean Sea? I mean, sweetie this isn’t the time for a barefoot cruise. You should be projecting resumes and fielding offers, or moving onward to your Doctorate.”
“I understand. Thank you, really, but I have other things at the front of the line before beginning my career with a Masters in Biology,” Tippy Jones stood and extended a tattooed hand over the broad desk. They shook vigorously, like men.
“What if I offer a salaried position for you?” Smith wasn’t giving it up. “I will move funding to get you on board here. My grants are lavish, more than enough to accommodate someone of your talent.”
Jones smiled past a thin lip ring and shook her head.
“I know what you are doing and I can’t Angela. I just can’t,” Tippy alone addressed her as Angela—it wasn’t her name! “I have pending obligations on the Islands.”
Since the death of her husband, Eva had become fast friends with Tippy. The strange young woman had profound strength and the bravery of a gladiator, yet seemed to share a solemn somberness that Evangelina needed to be around. They had quiet coffee every morning like clockwork, quiet lunch, and often studied together in Eva’s office—silently.
Eva was about to invite her to the Taekwondo studio—see if she was interested, when one evening, the two women were attacked by a creep with a knife in the parking lot of the Language Arts Building. Before Eva could react, Tippy smacked the blade away and twisted the arm cruelly in a bar bouncer takedown move, riding his torso to the concrete with a knee in his back. She held him that way, cruelly, straining his elbow to the point of breaking. He whimpered in turmoil and begged for mercy while Eva called the police. Tippy never pulled her gun, even though Eva could see it clearly beneath the leather as her friend pinned the man face down on the pavement. She kept her cool and said nothing when the cops arrived.
After that, Eva gave up on asking if her purple haired bestie could handle herself.
The graduate cleared her throat and Eva realized she was daydreaming. The girl continued.
“I’ll be back in a month and give you a call—my offer still stands. I’ll definitely create a position just for you,” Tippy slid the tip of her tongue across her upper lip and winked. Eva gulped like a teenage nerd. Tippy had never made the move, no, but once after several beers, she did state in alarming detail what she would do to Evangelina, if ever given a no-strings opportunity and a locked room. Tippy quickly said she was ‘just kidding’ and laughed it off—not a word of it since.
Eva faithfully replayed the descriptive over and again in her imagination every single night before falling asleep, wholly unaware that she had fallen in love with the girl.
“Don’t say it Angela. I will come back I promise,” she said the last as if she might not and Eva felt an anxious pull in her heart. Tippy tossed a business card on the papered desk and turned to leave.
As her former student and good friend sauntered to the door, Eva read the words:
Biological Problem Solver
What the hell does that mean? Eva thought.
“Come back,” she whispered to the promiscuous girl’s slender back as the glass door swung wide, staring at Tippy’s perfect tattered-jean butt. Eva sighed, allowing herself to experience the sweet thoughts for a brief moment. A wide grin found its way across her face after the strangest ten months of her life—she had no idea.
Tallahassee suburbs, June 1, 2021.
Evangelina set the specifications on the mass spectrometer and flipped the switches, sitting back in her home laboratory, opening a can of cherry soda with a pssst! and examining her tablet screen, attempting to glean revelation from the numbers. Today, her experiment was in safely isolating a curare-based neuro-paralyzer for use in anesthetics. The compound was too volatile for open syringes but she was nearing her Archimedes moment.
Her phone rang. It was the Dean of Admissions, at dinner time?
“Eva Smith,” she stated plain.
“Doctor Smith! It’s Jerry Matheson.”
“What can I do for you this evening?” she placed her emphasis boldly.
“I am so sorry to bother you, but I have a new faculty member and I need a tour for him of the Biology Department. His name is David Booker.”
“My office, seven AM, I have—“
“An eight o’ clock lecture, I know. Thank you Evangelina, I owe you several,” said Matheson.
“Not a problem, good evening Sir,” Eva set her cell on the tabletop and scrunched her nose at the device. She knew what Jerry was doing. Ten-to-one the new teacher was single.
The next day did not go as expected. Booker was good looking, sweet and humble, but he was very married indeed and mentioned his wife, Audra, frequently enough to place Evangelina at ease. She answered his questions offering few of her own. He was politically charged and seemed to droll on until she expressed her own hardening views regarding radicalized assholes like the one who shot her husband. This shut Booker up for several long moments but the awkwardness faded quickly.
She did not like the man at first, but softened her perspective when she discovered Booker was a former Navy Pilot, having spent many years overseas in the Persian Gulf. That’s also when he said his Masters was in Geology.
Rocks—this guy was in the wrong department altogether.
Pilots don’t study rocks, she thought as the terms avionics, physics, geometry and algebra blasted through her mind—the real disciplines pilots need master.
“Physical Sciences, building ten,” she commented after an hour of unwanted political discussion and a perfunctory tour of the biology labs.
“I am so sorry,” Booker had obviously allowed the tour to continue. He knew he was in the wrong place. Was this married man attempting to charm her?
“I’ll double check with Doctor Jenkins. If it means a flip, I enjoyed the tour!” Booker excused himself and left quickly, embarrassed. Evangelina took it in stride, hoisting the strap of her laptop case over her shoulder, picking up her files, and pausing.
He knows who Jenkins is. He knew exactly where he was. Dammit Matheson, she thought. Dr. Jenkins was the Department Head of Physical Sciences, which meant her boss was surely matchmaking. Maybe they didn’t know Booker was married. She shrugged it off, checked her phone and dashed through the door—late for her eight o’ clock.
“Dammit Matheson!” she said aloud.
That night, Eva entered her dojo, bowing quick and sharp within the archway, fists down, she whispered a sharp “hi!” tossing the air from her lungs down low with her diaphragm. Tai Falbo waived with two fingers from his office beyond the wide glass wall separating the studio and the lobby. She moved past several students with her back straight, holding the stature of her rank.
She watched one of the students, a middle-aged white-belt with a bad back having chosen the wrong hobby for fitness, sweat pouring from his face, his pain quite evident. Damned if he wasn’t trying though.
“Good evening Steve,” Eva stopped. “Listen, you need to spend eighty percent of your time in the weight room doing crunches and stretching on the mat. I can show you some good exercises that will strengthen your lumbar muscles as well. Until you have tightened your core, the pain will not stop and you will be forced to quit,” she was right.
“Yes Ma’am,” Steve was exhausted.
“Take a day. Begin slow, baby steps at home until you get the feel. If you get with Tai, next week I’ll spend a session with you and get you back on track.”
“Master Falbo said I need to strengthen my arms?” asked Steve.
“Definitely, but even throwing punches will task your abdomen and back, so we start there, next week, Tai knows my schedule,” Eva smiled warmly.
“Thank You!” Steve’s face filled with the thrill Eva had seen so many times, the real felling of pride, knowing he was getting somewhere.
She continued to the back door of the dojo and entered the private room for Tai, his staff and other black belts needing a quiet workout. Evangelina set her gym bag down and sighed, when a tap came on the door and a woman appeared.
“Hello? Mister Falbo said I could work out here?”
“Come in!” Eva shouted, about ready to leave and work out at home.
“My name is Audra,” said the pretty woman with short brown hair and an outstretched hand.
Audra, couldn’t be, Eva thought.
“We have a new Adjunct at the University—“
“David Booker! That’s my husband!” she interrupted with a smile. “You are not Doctor Smith—are you?”
“Eva Smith, yes,” she replied with a bow of her head.
“Wow, and you study martial arts too? That is so cool,” Audra was clearly impressed. Booker must have said good things about her, which was a surprise to Angela.
“And you?” Eva inquired, suddenly piqued by the woman with sparkling brown eyes and a welcoming smile.
“Well, when David first went overseas, I had an incident, and—“Audra paused and took a deep breath. “My Father enrolled me in Taekwondo the next day, that was eight years ago and I haven’t looked back.”
“Um, would you like to spar?” Eva asked nervously, anxious like a school kid. She sat and opened her gym bag, removing the belt first with the six golden stripes embroidered at each end. Across from her, Audra raised her brows, removing her own belt with three silver stripes.
“Don’t kick my ass too bad?” Audra grinned wickedly and Eva immediately liked her.
“They worked out for hours, until Tai poked his head through the door announcing he was about to lock up. The girls nodded, and gathered their things.
“When do you come back?” Audra asked.
“I’m here three nights a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, same time.”
“Of course you can, I recently lost someone and could use the company, though I warn you, sometimes I just enjoy the workout in silence. It helps me think.”
“I’m sorry for your loss,” Audra grew timid and Eva realized she was talking about Gerald.
“She moved,” Eva clarified emotionlessly, “my best friend moved.”
“Oh, okay, so I’ll see you in a couple of days?”
“Give me your phone,” Eva accepted the device and entered her number, closing the call when her gym bag rang. “That’s me,” she handed the phone back. They hoisted their bags and scurried to the door before Tai locked them in.
“Good workout?” Falbo asked.
“Damn good—Audra here is skilled,” Eva smiled and Audra blushed.
“Let me know if you are interested in judging competitions and testing.”
“I will, and I will!” Audra replied halfway to her car, a white jeep.
Eva walked to her car, a modest sedan, and thought about the evening. Audra really was skilled and quickly acclimated to Eva’s style. It was the best workout she’d had in months. She suddenly missed Tippy again—bad. Her former student and fast friend never returned from the Caribbean. Eva was afraid to call.
I hope you’re all right sweetie, she thought as she keyed the ignition, reached back for the seat belt, looked at it for a second and then let it go.
August 4, 2021
“What do we have Bobby?”
“Evangelina Smith, Sir.”
“She is progressing slowly. Our Level One Recruiter is Thompson. If you remember—“
“I remember, what is Thompson’s cover?”
“Sorry Sir. She is the wife of a former Navy pilot. She’s been working out with Smith at the same Karate studio.”
“Taekwondo is more akin to Korean kickboxing—not technically Karate, continue please.”
“Yes Sir. Doctor Smith is a social introvert. She spends the majority of her off time at home alone, and has not allowed visitors. She likes Thompson, or rather Mrs. Booker and really seems to enjoy their friendship, yet Booker has failed to glean much personally. Smith has blocked out any discussions of her husband’s death, though she does react with anger to the mention of radicalized terrorists here in America, and—”
“Thompson says she is, and I quote, a fucking beast on the sparring mat.”
“Now there is something I can chew on. Bobby, give the Level One another thirty days, and advance Smith to Level Two.”
“So soon Sir?”
“Yes, there is an evolving case in Norway with her name all over it and I need her skillset yesterday. In three weeks I want her ready to sign the papers and begin the real training.”
“At Level Two?”
“Oh yes, now Bobby, listen to me. I see something in Smith, do you?”
“I see a heartless sociopath bursting with pent-up rage, physically honed, dangerous, and possessing intimate knowledge of Earth’s deadliest poisons Sir.”
The Director smiled like a kid, eyes glistening wide and sparkling with wonder.
“I know Bobby—isn’t it exciting?”
You are one sick puppy, Bobby thought, remembering his Level Two nightmare.
“Yes it is Sir, yes it is,” he said aloud.
“I remember your Level Two Bobby,” it was as if the old man was reading his mind. “We accelerated the process in your case for the same reason, a pending situation needed your special—” the Director made fists and shadowboxed the air. “I’d like you to conduct Smith’s Level Two personally at Eglin.”
“Yes Sir,” Bobby blushed, tossing eyes to the carpet.
Tallahassee suburbs, October 7, 2021
Eva sat at her desk, chewing on the tip of her pen, watching the centrifuge slow down with a high-pitched whine. She was thinking.
Eva’s mind did not work in traditional ways. An ‘all at once’ learner, she was accustomed to bringing in vast amounts of information, often frustrated with her inabilities to read fast enough to maintain her focus of thought. Once, a teacher told her to continue reading when confronted with a confusing text, (regardless of the subject). Plowing through the chapters, the brain does indeed take in the information. It is in how each individual organizes all those facts and categorizes them for future use that counts.
Born with a near-photographic memory, Eva learned to absorb whatever material she needed to study, reading straight through the first time, and then reviewing over any areas of confusion. In this way, things began to stick and Eva advanced rapidly in the academic world.
She leaned back in her chair and remembered the advanced placement and gifted classes in grade school. Many of the high IQ kids seemed to have emotional drawbacks.
“Everything comes with a price,” her Father once told her. “High intelligence is indeed a gift Evangelina, but some people must relinquish their mastery of other things to keep those talents.” It was a nice way of saying that genius and spectral tendencies often went hand in hand.
Odd, how something could lie so broken at someone’s feet, yet that person is simply blind to it. Eva Smith was a highly functional sociopath. She had never been on a couch across from a Psychologist, because she simply never experienced any problems in school, home or otherwise.
Eva never thought twice about death, horror and suffering. She knew the world was cruel—she knew the semantics. It’s just that, nothing really moved her, in fact the only time Evangelina ever experienced an emotional rush of what she deemed anticipatory excitement, was months after the death of her husband when her favorite student told her that she would…Eva smiled. Then she frowned, realizing those feelings never happened with Gerald. She had boyfriends in her youth, sure, but she never really cared much for any of them, always immersed in her studies. Eva was mentally acknowledging the existence of an anomaly and yet ignoring it completely. To her, the new feelings of Sapphic angst were just that, new, and her past relationships were not out of the ordinary. What is normal anyway?
The centrifuge came to a stop and Eva sighed, removing her tube of precious venom and holding the substance to the light. As she gazed at the layers of material, she had an unusual idea. She returned the tube to the device, knowing she would need to repeat the separations after—
Minutes later, Eva was rummaging through a closet, searching for…there, her Mother’s old sewing kit. She opened the case, carefully took the needles, and shot back to her office.
“There you are,” Eva held the one of the needles from the set her Mom thought she had kept hidden. It was for piercing ears, hollow, as a syringe is. Suddenly, her mind exploded into action, passing constructs, sketches, and diagrams across an imaginary view-field. Sure it was possible.
What about delivery? Eva’s self-question. Compression, like a nematocyst, her cunning intellect responded to itself and a wicked grin spread across Evangelina’s face. Her eyes moved to a bookshelf, narrowed on one of the texts and read the spine.
“It always comes down to you doesn’t it?” she spoke aloud to the book. Another grin and Eva retracted that book with reverence, settling in for a long night, completely forgetting to meet Audra for coffee at six.
The knock on the front door was a pronounced surprise. Eva checked her phone. Ten o’ clock—crap it must be Audra! She set the Chemistry textbook down and jogged for her front door, overlooking the fact she had never told the woman where she lived.
“I am so sorry Audra, I never blow things off, but I’m on to something, um,” Eva backed into her home slowly, something she never did, inviting Audra to enter.
“I was worried, your phone goes straight to—“
“Yeah, I turn the ringer off when I’m busy sometimes.”
Audra shut the door behind her and Evangelina suddenly realized she had a houseguest. Yikes!
“Um, would you like coffee now?” she raised her brows and shoulders ever so slight and Audra smiled, all forgiven.
In the spotless kitchen, Eva fumbled to find coffee grounds for the percolator with the price tag still on it, clearly never used. She opened the fridge to an eerie crimson glow.
“Jesus,” Audra’s eyes sparked wide, she pointed to the shelves of bottled cherry soda—several cases.
“Yeah, it’s all I drink at home,” Eva looked back to her friend. “Okay, I don’t have any coffee,” she admitted.
“Then give me one of those, are they good?”
“Cherry, the best,” Eva answered, as Audra accepted the bottle, allowing the fingers to touch on purpose.
“So, what’cha working on?” Audra asked coyly and Eva snapped back to reality.
“Oh, nothing really, projectile delivery of curare.”
“You mean like blowguns, voodoo natives, cannibals?”
“Well, yeah, kind of,” Eva motioned Audra to follow, another thing she had never done before, allowing someone into her office. Even Gerald would only poke his head through the door and nothing more. It was her one true sanctum.
Evangelina Smith’s house was a throwback to the eighties, left much as her parents had kept it over the years with some interesting add-ons. Her office and Lab was a garage conversion, designed and contracted for by Eva after her parents passed.
“Wow, this is, scientific,” Audra belied her lack of knowledge with wandering eyes and glances of confusion.
“Here, check this out,” Eva sat, immediately removing the stacks of books from her only other chair and nodding her head for Audra after patting the cushion a couple of times.
“What is it?” Audra sat down. It was a leather glove with a long cuff.
“It’s for handling venomous reptiles. Put it on.”
Audra slid her hand in. On the back of the wrist were three metal tubes.
“What are these for?” she asked.
“It is still in the conceptual stage, but these are canisters of compressed carbon monoxide,” Eva touched them and then flashed her eyes up to meet Audra’s. “When I’m finished, the gas will propel this,” she held up a two-inch long needle before an evil grin.
“Looks like some spider-man shit to me. Eva I came for a reason. There is someone I’d like you to meet.”
“Once the cartridge is completed—“
“It’s a small tranquilizer gun, I get it,” Audra interrupted. “Listen Eva, there is someone I want you to meet. His name is Bobby and he is a good friend of my family.”
Eva stopped cold, realizing what Audra was doing.
“Friend, why?” her response was decidedly apprehensive.
“Bobby works for the Government Eva. He is a man with amazing talent and endless resources.”
“Audra, I have been made overtures by the military since I first isolated and purified spider venom. They are always—wait, is this?”
“No,” Audra sat tall and returned the glove. “No, I’m sorry. Bobby can get things done—big things Eva. He speaks your language is all,” she motioned with a hand to the instruments, computers and assorted apparatuses that comprised the home lab.
“I get plenty of that at work,” Eva was erecting her defenses and Audra knew she had to work fast. On a long shot, she leaned in and kissed Eva passionately.
“Sorry, I just wanted to do that before—“
“Before what?” Eva whispered.
“Before you meet Bobby.”
“I’m not meeting Bobby or anyone Audra.”
“Yeah you are,” she winked and stood to leave, her entire countenance changed, becoming intense, almost angry, “because he’s in my fucking car.”
“Excuse me?” Eva rose and followed. On the move, Audra tapped her left earlobe.
“We are wasting our time on this one—not what we are looking for Sir—too soft around the edges.”
“Who are you talking to?” Eva asked Audra, three paces ahead and nearly to the front door. “AUDRA WAIT!” she found herself shouting across the living room.
Her Level One Recruiter stopped with a hand on the knob. She turned and gazed harshly at Doctor Evangelina Smith.
“My name is Thompson. I work for the Government. I apologize for intruding into your boring life, but I have incredibly important work to do, keeping people safe from tyrants and radicals. Shame too, I could’ve been your friend. You are very likeable Eva.”
“What are you talking about? You have been spying on me, within my life?” the anger was rising in Eva’s voice but clearly, Audra—Thompson did not seem to care.
“Don’t flatter yourself,” Thompson opened the door to a tall man in a suit. “Not what we’re looking for Bobby,” Thompson shot Eva a fast glance and brushed past the suit, jumping the steps down.
“Audra?” she looked around the imposing man on her porch.
“Grow some fucking balls Smith,” she answered from across the lawn with her back turned. Eva shook her head and nonchalantly gathered her attentions to the man before her—handsome, six-foot easy, biceps clearly visible beneath the sleeves of the blazer—a wolf with a tie in a two-piece.
“You Bobby?” she said.
“May I come in Ms. Smith?”
“No—what do you want?”
“I’ll make it simple. Seventy percent of your grants are from the VESA Corporation. VESA is actually a systemic research branch of the Department of Defense Ms. Smith, not a pharmaceutical company. You already work for us. What we offer you at this time, is unhindered access to anything you need. You want time with the Large Hadron Collider—we will have you there tomorrow. You need a seat at Mount Palomar—I’ll push Mister Hawking out of the chair myself. We offer you a salary several times what you currently make with a very large signing bonus. You can assemble a team and retain the freedom to direct your lab, hire additional staff, and call all of your shots.”
“What will you want me to do, weaponize neurotoxins?” she asked, crossing her arms in defiant pose.
“Whatever you wish,” Bobby replied, placing hands to hips in his own gesture of permanence.
“What’s the catch?”
“You will be required to train with me and my team at Eglin. Security clearances are earned—this is physical training Smith.”
“I can handle myself,” Eva retorted.
“Yes, I know about the kickboxing. Look, any little girl can put pads on and punch a bag. You’re one step ahead of cross-fit and spin-class. Give me three weeks of basic and we will see if Thompson is correct and you are just too weak for a real job making a difference.”
“My work already makes a difference.”