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Rita

“Hey, guys!” Rita knocks on the silver door with her silver hand. “It’s me. Mary? Sandra?” She shivers a little; she’ll get used to that. Surely. “I think I figured out that tape. You’re not gonna believe–”

The blast pillows from under the door so slow that at first, she doesn’t realize she’s already grounded. The concussion rolls out like boulders. She leans back, streams it around, lets the ley take the heat.

Did it kill them? Did they set it? Does it matter? Rita grits into the bomb, eyes streaming, getting colder. Shrapnel falls sharp into orbits around her fists.

Rita

He can’t see her when she opens the door, but he doesn’t need to.

“Y-y-you came,” he says.

“Why not Sandra?” she asks. “Why not Mary, why not–”

“You b-b-bel-beb believed in t-t-t-rust,” he whispers. “In-n s-s-acrif-f-fice. Like I d-did.”

“It costs too much.” She shakes her head. “It costs too much.”

“Then y-you’re sm-m-marter about it-t-t,” he says, “th-th-n I was.”

“Stand up,” she whispers, but he can’t, so she empties the Glock into him there on the floor.

Rita

“You’re sure there’s nothing else?” asks Rita.

“We checked the rest of the tape through everything we’ve got,” sighs Mary, rubbing her eyes. “Virgin white noise. No encryption, no watermark. Whoever left this wanted us to see only this fifteen seconds of… nothing.”

“Not nothing,” says Tina. “The inside of a security center where every instrument shows nothing.”

Rita watches as they rewind and play it again, until it cuts to static.

“Guys?” she says slowly. “What kind of person doesn’t show up on any instrument?”

“A dead one,” says Sandra.

“Right,” says Rita. “So who do we know that’s dead?”

Rita

The Great Zaganza furrows his brow, stretches out one hand and says “Nothing’s jumping out at me,” and then something does. It gives an impression of mostly teeth.

Rita tackles him hard as Sandra pivots in, hammering the thing down with one arm. It bounds up, snarling, high-pitched. Rita throws Zaganza aside and scrambles for her holster, too slow–

Zip. Zip. Mary’s silencer jerks twice; it hits the floor with a wet thud.

“Corticophore,” she says. “Smells psychoactivity. Guess you’re the real deal, Z.”

Zaganza’s cheek twitches. He’s very pale. Rita has difficulty getting an exact count of the creature’s mouths.

Lou

His hat’s a Borsalino, silk-trimmed, just like on TV. He dons it smoothly.

“Yes,” he says. His voice is different, though: clipped, calm, professional. “It was necessary to temporarily achieve a measure of protection against agencies desperate to conceal their existence. Fame served admirably.”

She hesitates. He smiles.

“Your skills will prove invaluable, Ms. Fairfields, in completing my squad.” He gestures, and three of the most dangerous women on earth step forward. “Rita: Tina, Sandra, Mary. You see,” and there’s a ghost of a laugh there, “those who joked about Numbers One through Four were more right than they knew.”

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