Carrot and Stick
rating: 0+x

"I don't like this," muttered Okonek, scuffing at the ground with his shoe. He always did that when he was nervous. When we were first posted together, he'd almost worn a hole in the floor outside 747's containment suite whenever he knew Linley was about to show up. That was a long time ago, though, before we were all recruited to Omicron-44.

"I don't like it either. Three of them is exactly enough of them to cause us a problem here- they've been too good at this." I sighed. We'd been lucky with this one, really. We'd had no intelligence about conspirators until Jacobs had finally made the jump and smuggled a tube of the slime out of the testing area; we'd been ready to take him then and there until he met up with Big Dan Wrexham in his car and they started talking about their plan.

The third member of their clique was supposed to meet them here, outside the morgue. They'd arrived some time ago and we had a sniper covering the car in case they spooked and made a break for it. Okonek and I were nestled in the shadows near the morgue, ready to move as soon as we got visual, and Linley was playing our Dead Girl today, lying under a sheet of breathable plastic on one of the autopsy tables.

"I don't mean the situation. I mean- I mean all this. It's not right." Okonek scuffed at the ground again. "We hire them to be curious, for God's sake. And they might be right! How do we know-"

"No. Petar, we are not having this discussion. Do you understand? You're starting to sound like Jacobs."

"How do we know it doesn't do something?" Okonek murmured. I looked at him incredulously- surely this was a badly timed joke- but he was as serious as always.

Damn.

"Our two rabbits are on the move. No sign of the carrot juice. Looks like they'll be using the side entrance- get ready to put your big boy pants on, fellas." Jackson's voice crackled across our in-ear radios and there was no more time for discussion.

It was a good job I was behind Okonek. He's a better hand-to-hand combatant than I am, but a sleeper hold is one hell of a leveller. The only problem was that by the time I'd put him to bed, our conspirators had met their third member- a woman in a lab coat, turned away from me- and were about to move into the morgue. They were unarmed, a fact for which I silently thanked anything listening.

"Freeze!" I shouted, moving out of the shadows and training my G3 on Jacobs. He was the one who'd stolen the slime in the first place- I figured he'd be the one who still had it.

They didn't freeze, of course. They never do. They never wonder why the corridors around the morgue on site 76 are so thoroughly reinforced, either. Two squeezes of the trigger and Jacobs and Big Dan were down but the woman yanked the morgue door open and hid behind it. Those doors are reinforced, but they don't look reinforced. They look flimsy as hell. Certainly not the sort of thing you'd guess could stop bullets. It's possible that she just panicked and got lucky but that didn't feel right. That felt like the sort of move that only a member of Omicron-44 should have thought to do.

"I think we've got a Stickman!" I screamed into my comms, and heard Jackson swear under her breath as she ditched the rifle and scrambled to join me inside. I ducked round the corridor corner and hunkered down as fast as I could manage, and was proved right moments later as a couple of bullets thudded into the opposite wall.

"Wait!" a voice shouted, and I recognised it.

"Linley?" I shouted back, and for a moment I thought it was all over. "Did you get her?"

"Not really. You're right, okay? You're right. You've got a Stickman. It's me. I'm dropping my gun." There was a sound that could have been a gun dropping- incredulous, I used my mirrorstick to take a glance around the corner and there she was, bold as brass, hands up in the middle of the corridor. I turned the corner, gun raised, and it was only then I saw it.

She'd got the slime smeared over half her face.

"Linley?" I said as calmly as I could manage. "What the hell are you doing?"

"It's okay," she said, smiling too wide. "It's okay. It's got to do something, right? That's why you're not supposed to shoot me when I'm like this. We aren't allowed to know, right? That means it's got to do something!"

She pulled another vial of the slime out of her pocket.

"Let me put some on one of these guys. We can find out together. Petar was supposed to get you on board before this went down- you believe me, right? There's too much-"

"It's a damn carrot! You're supposed to be a Stickman- it doesn't do anything, you idiot! That's the point!" I was shouting, almost angry enough to fire.

"Then why aren't we allowed to prove that?"

"You know why! In places like this delving too deep doesn't just get you dead. It gets everyone dead."

I took a deep, calming breath and shot her in the temple.

Jackson showed up a moment after that, and she took care of Okonek. We double-checked the bodies and it turned out Jacobs did still have a tube of the slime on him; he'd cracked it when I'd shot him and it had leaked through his shirt. Jackson and I rolled our eyes at each other, trying to find it funny. Here was their proof- it doesn't do a damn thing. We incinerated the bodies and Jackson called central command. They told us to go back to the car, record our debriefs and then take our "emergency amnestics". The ones we joke are really suicide pills. Here's hoping, eh?