The ACSO Effect

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic


A teenage spy who can change her appearance at a moment's notice, and play games with governments, finds herself in the middle of deadly corporate coup.

Submitted: June 14, 2018

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Submitted: June 14, 2018

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The ACSO Effect

Based on characters developed by E. Isaiah

 

There I am, Ashii Miu. The girl in the background. Right there, in the news clip showing police evacuating London’s Parliament building. I’m one of the faces in the crowd, that teenage girl with spiked hair and colorful tats, watching the police jump out of their armored personnel vehicles and rope off everything. The cops are wearing blast proof vests and flash proof, gas proof full face helmets invented by my Mom’s company. The personnel vehicles are also Mom’s, as are those mean looking assault rifles. Everything, except for the men and dogs, are from ASCO. Mom’s company.

But hey. I can tell you, there was never a bomb. Just a series of convincing clues and false electric and radioactive signals I setup to lure police and security away. It was fun. I had a voice scrambler and fake IPs talking to each other to make it look like I was three people running a network of 20 terrorists, hoping to strike a blow for world peace and equity by blowing up the Prime Minister.

I didn’t give them a lot of time to get her out of there, because I needed them to leave the juicy files and strings of information Mom and her crew could pour over and decide who to sell which parts to.

Security moved the good Lady and her colleagues out so fast that few of them remembered to lock their drawers and cabinet doors. I snuck in, way too easy, took snapshots of what I needed, loaded up three flash drives with information and got out just as security and MI5 were sweeping the area to make sure all was clear. They found out the threat was a fake a few minutes longer than I thought they would.

That was because they were overly careful. Never, ever underestimate the thoroughness of those guys. They’ll DNA the hair on the back of a fly for information. If they could they would build portable walls around each member of Parliament, complete with working toilets and phones. Mom would probably invent it for them.

It doesn’t matter to me though. I always use every second. Every little opportunity. That’s why I like when people are diligent, it gives me time. Besides, I had already scrubbed the members’ computers before I left home and flew over. I’m just here stripping the bones bare and giving Parliament reason to dump the security devices and software they have and start buying from ACSO. There were alot cell phones left behind. I got into them and stole whole lives. Mom sells an expensive app that would had prevented that, maybe these guys’ll buy it now.

Dad’ll give them a call tomorrow. “Hello. Heard what happened. I told you before, so-n-so company is cheaper, but doesn’t give you what ACSO does. Peace of mind. Yes. Look we supply your local police, your military, most of your millionaires. Why not your executive branch, the people running the country?”

That’s how he is. He used to be a Secret Service guy. A man almost at the top. It’s how I got my job. He left government to work for the American Crime and Spy Organization or ACSO. He likes to say he did it because working for an independent firm was less stressful than working with politics.

I think he did it because he simply fell in love with mom, and she ran ACSO. It was her invention. Mom is a genius type, multiple degrees, a couple of them Doctorates, and a stack of patents about 6 inches high. Maybe 5 and an half. Her main thing is bioengineering.

He joined. They married. They had me, Ashii, the girl that never looks the same mission to mission. For the Parliament job I had short spiky red hair and lots of faux body tats. Almost every one of them a Japanese character representing love and happiness. I looked kinda boyish but still cute enough to be asked to a prom if one was around. That’s what you see in the news clip. Me amongst the crowd looking worried and scared. Really good ad libbing. About four minutes later, I was dressed as one of the bomb guys. I was 5’ll, totally male looking and muscular. Far more built than most of those guys actually were. I got the information, got out, and changed again.

When I walked through the airport to get home, I was auburn, nearly four inches shorter, very pretty in the face and had skin the color of milk. My Passport said I was 23, with the spiked hair and tats I looked a good 17, with straight hair and makeup I easily passed for ten years older. I also spoke with a Spanish not British accent. Not bad for a girl whose mom’s German and father’s American-Japanese.

I’m laughing thinking about it, my job is to fancy dress and I become whoever I want.

Most of it is acting and organic prosthetics made on a 3D printer that sculpts body parts. The skin coloring comes from charged melanin cells activated by concentration. I think I’m a expert in Zen. Real Zen, not the strip mall kind. I focus on my body, hear the roar of blood through my veins. Focus more, feel my body move within itself and those special pigment cells flattening and squeezing into the color I want them to be.

So I’m everyone. One of mom’s gift to me and the 99 other agents working for her. I’m 17. But none of them really knows my age, like I don’t really know theirs. We are a family of strangers and it has to be that way in case any of us are caught. Luckily that has never happened.

I arrived in New York like I was suppose to. Went through the gates without incident or any suspicious second stares. Had to wait a bit at the carousel for my bags. I overheard a girl as

young as me tell a girl younger than her that I smelled nice. I smiled at her and she smiled back, then both of them turned to the traveling bags on the carousel and spoke to each other about buying stuff online.

Luggage retrieved and I’m outside waiting for my Uber. The temperature was over 90 degrees, but felt like 112 or some asinine number like that. I was covered in sweat just from standing there. That’s why I gave my driver a big tip for blasting the AC, even though he was scared it would eat up his gas. I don’t think it was customer service that finally made him do it. No, I think he wanted a date because he talked all during the trip about his day job as a stockbroker. I wondered how successful could he be if he was driving for change. My thoughts must had been telepathetic or something because towards the end he said, “I only do this to meet interesting people like yourself.”

His hair was gray at the temples. He was sorta handsome, in a for-mom-if-there-was -no-dad-kind-of-way. I tipped him at the hotel, a large amount but I told him it was for the AC so he wouldn’t think I was liking him for being anything other than a nice cabbie.

Giggles. I was thinking, thank you for the cool, bye, thanks, I’m gone.

I was thinking that, but wasn’t mean enough to say it.

The short distance it took to walk from the Uber to the lobby was enough to drench me in sweat. Mr. Uber didn’t offer to help with my bags, I guess I must have hurt his feelings a little. It wasn’t a luxury hotel, so there was no nice doorman waiting with a trolley. I had to do everything myself. Not that I minded, but I’m not into the hot and cold treatment. Like going from airport heat, to Uber cool, to sidewalk heat, to lobby cool. That’s how people get sick. The hot, cold, hot, cold.

After missions, you never go straight home. Always spend a few days in a decompression room, usually a pleasant extended stay hotel with Wi Fi I never use (too unsecured), and a flat screen tv I hate watching since the Cartoon Network went all kid friendly.

After about a week you’ll know whether it’s safe to go home or not.

This time, when I opened the door I gave a short gasp. A fellow agent, Nico, was sitting on the edge of the bed all puffy eyed. She had a custom .45 pistol on her lap and her finger was hugged up on the trigger. I approached gently and asked what was wrong, because agents aren’t supposed to meet unless green lit.

Her face was red and her lower lip trembled. In movies tough girls don’t ever cry. We beat up a bunch of bad guys, save the world or the terrorized family and walk off like no big deal. That’s so much bull! We cry. Sometimes I get so scared I throw up. Nothing about our training or enhancements make us less human.

Nico had been crying. I needed to know why. It was funny, me taking charge because she always seemed older than me, and is my best friend. She likes to wear short skirts and knee high stockings like a Japanese schoolgirl. She’s pretty enough to pull it off, and has enough emo attitude to keep it from being laughable.

Her voice shook when she said. “It’s gone Ashii.”

I could see how bad she was shaking the closer I got. She had tear stains on her shirt and had been rubbing her nose on her sleeve, I could tell by how discolored the cuffs were. She wasn’t supposed to be here, that’s against all sort of protocols and scared me to the core. I felt like throwing up.

Instead, I kept asking, “What’s wrong? What happened?”

She stuttered what few words finally came out, I guess it was because she was having such a hard time holding back tears. She kept saying “It’s gone. All gone.”

Nico was changing all sorts of colors, all her turmoil shaded her like crazy. She looked like a lava lamp. I held her hands and kept my face in front of hers so she was forced her to look me in the eyes. “What is gone?”

I had never seen her so unwound. It was like she had been shattered and put back together haphazard. I held her hands tighter. I was tearing up now, because her pain was such a force. Her lips trembled, and I trembled. Her voice came out as a whine and my stomach choked. “ACSO is gone. The campus was destroyed. My god, I think we’re the only two left.”

My hands clenched her’s. Now I was the one shaking, with tears running down my cheeks and seeing everything underwater blurry. “Sshh. Tell me what happened. Do it slow. I have to understand you. Alright?”

She shook her head. Her skin color was settling to its normal looking pink. I always admired her skin, it wasn’t flawless but it was an attractive, smooth color. I always thought it was prettiest when she turned it sunset bronze. “It was Nomo. He turned on us. You know he’s been doubting all along.”

“What did he do? You have to tell me. Talk so I can understand you.” I tried to brush her tears, but she held my hands too tight and wouldn’t let go.

“He said the ACSO had the intel, and muscle. He said spies that can change color and voice tones could play the world with a precision no army could match.” She nodded. “He would know. Nomo was one of the first recruits. He always said hate flags. He said flags and the governments they flew over, weren’t right. We could do better.” She licked her lips. Blinked her wet eyes. “He should know. Before he joined ACSO he was a United States CIA consultant, before that he was MI 6. Rumors are that before that he worked loosely with the KGB. So he would know.”

Mom never talked much about Nomo’s background. Neither did dad. Then again, they never said much about anybody’s background. Remember we were a family of strangers. I would know more about the guy on a metrolink, then I would my own teammate. Much of what I did know came from rumors, and rumors came from a lot of personal profiling and guessing.

Nico clenched my hands. It hurt. The trembling we shared was becoming too much. I had to sit beside her on the edge of the bed because all her pain was overwhelming me and I was seeing her lovely face through double vision.

I tried shaking it off. She was so pretty. Her hair flowing in big looping curls on the sides of her face like waterfalls of strawberry and vanilla. “He turned on us?” I heard my voice, but didn’t feel it like it was coming from me. I looked at Nico. Her eyes were brown, shining, dazzling, her skin was its normal color, the mutant melanin were being calm.

“It had been his plan all along. Getting sympathies from within. Collecting blackmail from missions. Getting information that turned into cash that turned into power. All along, he played us. All of us. This morning he made himself leader. There was no way to have stopped it. “

I had to let go of Nico’s hands but couldn’t. Not that she was so strong as I was too weak. I needed to hold on to her to steady myself. Funny, how you can look into someone’s face and not know them. “Mom. . .the commander.”

“She’s dead. She was the first.”

I was screaming but from deep inside, the sound had too far to go to get out, when it reached my mouth it was like a heavy sigh.

“She’s gone. She was at her desk. But where else would she be? She was always at her desk working on something. Looking at better ways to curb crime and keep international order.”

Nico wasn’t crying anymore. My best friend’s voice was different. Just a tinge. Almost unnoticeable unless you knew Nico as well a I know Nico, which isn’t much, but if you know inflexitions and tonal qualities as well. Even when you’re buzzed. “Where’s my father? . .I mean the . . .father?”

Nico had the most sympathetic frown. She wasn’t crying anymore. “He’s gone too. It’s just you.” 

“You and me?” I tasted garlic every time I spoke.

“No. Just you.”

Nico’s hands gripped mine’s. That pretty face so placid after crying. She had a far away stillness in her eyes. I couldn’t let go even though I tried. The taste of garlic was too strong on my tongue. It reminded me of those rare nights when Mom was like the mothers on the family dramas. She would cook and we would sit around the table enjoying what she brought from the kitchen. She loved lots of gravies and cream sauces. I suppose we should have been fat. But I think it was all the seasonings that kept us slim. All the paprika and garlic, and cajun spices that filled us up and made us think we had eaten more than we really did.

“You’re not my Nico.”

The voice wasn’t right, the tones, the notes, the way her lower lip didn’t fold when she looked me straight in the eyes, minor things that were off.

“You’re not my Nico.”

The garlic sat like a ton in my mouth. Not even saliva could wash it away. There was just too much. It was making everything blurry, had my heart racing. I peered down at my hands. They were so far away. Down in a tunnel made of bended light that used to be the hotel room. “You poisoned me.” I squeezed her hands, stretching my fingers, until I felt her wrists. I felt wrinkles on each arm that weren’t wrinkles. Both circling the middle of the wrists and were tell-tale signs of how I was given the Camtrax. “You’re wearing second skin.”

Nico nodded. My Nico would never poison me. This one finally let go and carefully pulled off the thin gloves like a surgeon getting ready to wash after a successful operation. They were placed in scanner proof slim box and tossed in her purse. More and more of the room drained down a funnel. I could make out Nico disassembling the gun into parts that looked like a calculator, coin purse, and three tubes of lipstick.

“Which one are you?”

The voice tried to comfort me. “Go to sleep.”

I knew that voice. I muttered the name of its owner “Aki.” I’ve heard her enough times calling into central.

She gave a nod and nothing more.

I kept wasting away in front of her, seeing her through a closing funnel of lights. It was kind of her to tell me my parents were dead, because now I didn’t have to worry about leaving them. I thought about that and garlic cooking as I grew weaker. A lot of things came into my head that I thought I had lost. Old memories reasserted themselves and I gathered them with some comfort. It would be horrible leaving everything behind.

Things came in and out, Mom. Dad. Nico. Aki. Childhood fun. The training that made me a woman at 15. How could you do that to me Mom? Strap me down and inject melanin specific viruses into my veins. It hurt Mom, Much worse than the Camtrex. Camtrex is soothing and garlically. The viruses made me sweat and cry. You remember Mom, how much I cried? A good two days because of the pain.

Don’t worry about the pain, she said. Never push against anything bigger than you, go with it, she said. Move in the same direction, that’s how you find your way through it. Yes Mom.

I couldn’t lift my arms or legs. I was shrinking into the center of myself. Camtrex works that way. It paralyzes from the farthest body parts down to the nearest. Arms, legs, heart, till the brain quits. It isn’t painful but it’s scary as hell. You know you’re dying, because you feel yourself leaving, and you see your world become a pinprick.

But Mom said go with the flow, don’t fight the inevitable. Use it, let it take you where you want to go.

My heavy head wanted to to rest. I didn’t fight it. I let it fall because that was the natural thing to do. It made a pillow for itself by crashing into Aki’s nose. She fell back growling with mouth and eyes closed. The prosthetic rounding my forehead rammed through her prosthetic bridge and went down to break the bones in her real nose.

She fell away and didn’t stop. I landed face down on the floor and tried to make my body move. We were both too well trained to out right scream. We huddled our hurts inside ourselves. I could feel the floor vibrating from it. Aki rolled and thrashed on the lemon scent carpet. I watched. She was still mostly silent, even with her face paper plate white and scrunched in a bloody knot.

Her specialty was being small. She was always the sirens and fashionistas, or small boys, or European indie rocker on the supposed way up. Being small meant I hurt her real bad. She reeled and staggered to her feet, using the complimentary desk and chair for leverage. I guess I hit her harder than I thought. I felt nothing myself. The prosthetic, and numbness caused by the camtrex made me invincible.

Except I couldn’t move and was finding it increasingly hard to breathe or swallow. The tunnel of lights was closing on itself. Collapsing to a dot.

Aki, wasn’t as pretty as Nico. She was calling me dirty, filthy names. She had pulled the calculator part of the gun from her purse. It was the chamber and push button trigger. She stuck the exit end on my mouth and cussed.

I watched her get smaller and smaller and farther away. My lips tasted the gun’s ceramic casing. I figured it was a good time to give her some advice. “It’ll be too loud.”

 

*********************************

 

My Mom is not a tall. My Dad is. He’s very tall, 6’4, and lean. I’m in between when I’m not contorting to fit a disguise. I’m still in between, Mom comes up to my shoulder and I’m at Dad’s. It’s just hard to prove it when I’m laying in bed with tubes in my arm.

I say still because they are alive in front of me. Mom is watching a machine with my heart rate and blood pressure on its many monitors. There’s other vital markers on display, my whole body is on the main screen as an outline and inside the outline are flashing colored lights showing how well my organs are doing. None are danger red. All are the blue of a postcard sky.  

Dad sits beside me. I know they are alive because if I was in heaven Mom would be sitting beside him, and not asking the doctor about my vitals. And Dad would be smiling not looking like he wanted to press a nuclear button.

I’m covered in a fluid filled blanket that leaks meds into my pores. The ivs are circulating my blood through a cleansing pump to get rid of the Camtrex. I look at Dad. “Where’s Aki?”

“We’ll find her.”

“She said you were dead. That the ACSO was destroyed.”

Mom came over. She stood behind Dad. I never realized I looked nothing like her and every bit like him, except for my short darkish, blonde hair of course. That I got mostly from her. “You didn’t call in so we traced you. Found you almost dead.”

I tried to get down a gulp of air, and couldn’t do it until the third try. “ACSO is still good?”

She and Dad answered together. “No. “

“It’s destroyed?”

“It’s complicated.” That’s what Mom said.

I looked around. We were in one of the emergency bunkers. Things must be very complicated. I was on a medivac table covered in a medication blanket. Everything was portable. If there was the wrong knock on the door, we would be gone. “Is this all that’s left?” Mom didn’t answer, and she’s usually the one that does. Dad leaves all the answering to her. “Where’s Nico?”

“She’s gone. She washed up on a shore in Cannes.” That was Mom, direct, to the point.

“What was her disguise? Was she pretty?”

“She was always pretty.” Dad said.

“Good. They take such ugly pictures of bodies. She shouldn’t be remembered as anything but beautiful.”

“I’m sorry baby.” Dad was always the sympathetic one.

Mom was back at the monitors. She nodded to the doctor then turned back to me. “We’ve eight confirmed deceased, 12 unknowns and 22 still with us.”

“Can I have a robe?”

Dad told me to just rest. I had been out for two days. Mom got the white terry robe hanging on a wall mount behind the monitor. She gave it to me. “She’s not going to stay in bed.”

That was true, I was going to try and get up and look around the second I had the room to myself. Dad turned his head as I slid from under the mediblank and struggled into my robe. The few seconds I was up felt good. The cool recirculated air stimulated my skin. It wasn’t healing like the hormones, medicines and aesthetic in the blanket, but it felt fresh and had me smiling even though I knew standing was a mistake.

I couldn’t get the robe entirely over my right arm because of all the iv tubes. Mom and the doctor had to help me arrange it in way that was comfortable but concealing. I put a hand through a grip of the cleansing machine and wheeled it in front of me into the hall.

The folks followed, Mom then Dad. She always leading, him always a few steps behind looking over us both. Like either of us really needed him. Mom, I assumed, still commanded a sizeable portion of the organization. While I, even in my weakened condition, could kill a man thrice my size with the cords hanging out of my arm. We both were safe, but Dad followed and made sure I didn’t fall and Mom didn’t say anything that would hurt.

We were underground. In one of the fortified Cold War bomb bunkers ACSO purchased from the United States, Russia, Brits, and Central Europeans. They’re all over the civilized part of the world as Mom says. Each reinforced with steel beams crossing and connecting in hashtags along the walls and ceiling. Metal mesh filled the gaps, thin as a thread of a spider’s web but hundred times stronger than anything you could think of. ACSO made most of its income from selling surveillance and death tech. Spying and assassinations grew out a need to test what was created. Best way to fund R&D.

Dad said we did it to keep order, and learn what we had to for the sake of peace.

I never believed that but I went with it. I’ve never killed anyone yet, but having that kind of justification could come in handy for soothing the conscience.

Mom and Dad were still following behind me, as I pushed the machine keeping me alive. It hummed and gave soft whirls. It was almost like some kind of companion. The whirl and humming, were it’s unique heartbeat and breathing. It was our shared rhythm.

I came from the hall and stood on a balcony overlooking the mission center. It was nothing like the command hub at our old headquarters. Just about 30 people here, and only two main large screens. All the world was still ours, the Northern and Southern halves, the north on the top screen, south on the lower one. On some of the many smaller screens were various news clips of the burning ACSO compound in rural New Jersey. Two of our best weapons men were sitting in front of another small screen that kept showing the same group of buildings falling under a swarm of drones and smoke, then rising as gigant orange blooms of fire and thunder rushed into the sky. That video never got to the news and never will. The ACSO building was always advertised and presented as a high tech factory for military and police arms and vehicles. Now it was touted as a factory that had a massive plant explosion.

There was a larg screen far to my left. It was sectioned with the real faces of every agent. Some were marked Wanted, some Deceased or missing. Niko’s had Deceased over it. Nomo’s had wanted.

When I want answers I always turne to Mom first. “What are we going to do?”

My Mom hated waste. When I was a young girl I loved to draw. But Mom would make me use the same paper until there was no room. I hated it at first, then I started to have fun with it. I started drawing pictures within pictures. At first crude then competent and on and on till I was making puzzles. You could look at a one of my pictures and see almost fifty things going on in single spot, fifty more in another, and fifty more just a half inch over. It was that packed.

Mom taught me how make possibilities not waste.

So I waited on her wisdom, and she finally gave it as clear and to the point as ever. No riddles, or fables, just the bullet hard truth. “Nomo is our enemy. We kill him and everyone with him.”

Dad agreed and so did I.

 

 

 

 


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