Deeper: Part Three
I smirked as I watched Buzz inspecting Nigel's men. Buzz barked orders, and in their nervous excitement, the soldiers continually cowered and messed up. Nigel stood near where I was lounging on a table. He was looking despondent and I was snickering. Nigel's men were not passing Buzz's inspection, I knew that. Whether they were actually sloppy, or just completely thrown off because of their nervousness at having the legendary Buzz watching them was anyone's guess. It was somewhat comical, even Kristy would have admitted that, even though she would have felt bad for them. Eva just thought it was hilarious that anyone could care so much about Buzz that they would mess up that badly.
"If you have any input to make, Eva, make it or shut up," Buzz barked.
"That's your department, old man," I replied.
He gave me a glare that would have convinced me I was about to die if we hadn't been undercover. Nigel threw me a worried glance, obviously wondering what was wrong with me; sure I was pushing it too far. I just kept smirking.
"Keep your tail up!" I shouted at one of the soldiers.
He turned back to look at me, sure enough, tripping over his own tail in his haste. I snickered again.
"There, old man, I helped," I said.
"If you weren't such a decent mercenary, I'd toss you out an air lock. Pray I never find anyone better than you," Buzz threatened.
"Never going to happen, Buzz. I'm the best merc you're ever going to meet," I shot back.
"You're far from that."
Eva fumed, enraged that Buzz refused to acknowledge her superior skills. Eva knew exactly who she was being compared to, and the constant comparisons infuriated her. "If Lynette was so good, why is she dead?"
Buzz gave an inarticulate cry of rage and turned on me. He grabbed me by the collar and slammed me into the wall. For half a second, I was sure he had forgotten this was ruse and was going to actually kill me.
"I apologize," I forced out, sounding reluctant.
He dropped me and stalked from the room. I stood up rubbing the back of my neck. Nigel came over, looking worried. I waived him away, not about to accept any help and look weak. From the doorway Buzz had just left through came Moire's voice.
"Have you got a death wish?" the Lenny asked.
"Probably," I replied. "But mostly, I just don't give a Borovan about what the old man thinks. If he wasn't the best stepping stone to accelerating my career I'd ditch the relic in a heartbeat."
I noticed Andrea and Nicola were standing behind Moire. I pushed past them and went to my quarters. Once in there I flopped down on my bed and tried to catch my breath. I wanted to cry now that the moment was over. The undercover work was becoming exhausting and I'd only been on the station for three days now.
My portable computer pinged and I picked it up. It was a message from Buzz.
"I didn't hurt you too badly, did I?"
"No," I typed back. "Sorry if I took that too far."
"No, that was good. You had quite the audience. Your friends are currently discussing your obvious distaste for me. Better that spreads around fast. Now we just have to up the ante, get in some showing of your skills and how much access you have around the Space Station. When the mole realizes that your access is on level with the generals and you are willing to sell your skills to the highest bidder, they will jump on the chance to recruit you."
"How do we do that?"
"Leave that to me," was Buzz's cryptic response.
I wished he would give me more direction, but I supposed that being forced to shoot from the hip made our charade look more believable. I sincerely hoped that he was being truthful about not being mad at me for the comment I'd made about Lynette. That had popped out without me thinking about it, which was probably a good thing since I would never have said it if I had.
My door chimed.
"Who's there?" I shouted over the com.
I put myself back into character, rolling my eyes as I answered. "And what do you want?"
"Wanna come shooting? I'm the best shot of the lieutenants, I wanna see how you measure up," Sharron called.
"That, or you've been informed about Buzz and my little spat and you want to giggle like an imbecile while you coyly question me about our relationship and why I don't revere the great and mighty Buzz," I replied accusatorily.
Sharron was silent for so long that I thought she had left so I was surprised when she suddenly spoke again. "Why don't you? You have an opportunity most people here would kill for, and you're squandering it. It isn't fair that someone like you should get such an opportunity."
"Poor little girl," I mocked. "You should have abandoned all notions of fairness and goodness when you decided to take up this life. If you want to get ahead, you fight and you claw for each inch you can take, no matter who you have to tear down to get it. That's why I'm where I am, and you're going nowhere."
This time I knew Sharron left, I heard running footsteps pounding down the hall. I laid back on my pillows and closed my eyes. Despite my best efforts, tears slipped out. There was a part of me that tried to remind myself that Sharron's nice girl act might be a ruse as much as my bad girl one was, but I still felt like a monster for what I had said.
What killed me inside was that every word I had said was true. That was how life was for the agents of Dr. Sloth, and yet people still chose this life. I couldn't wait until I could go home and forget this nightmare. I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn't doing any harm to Neopia, but hindering Iniquitous' plans would ultimately benefit it, to keep from ditching the mission and running home.
My computer pinged again. I picked it up and found a message from Buzz there.
"Keep a close eye on that girl in your future interactions, and try to discreetly dig up information on her when you talk with the others. Not saying she's the mole, but her personality is a good one for testing others to see their willingness to do anything to get ahead.
"Sweet Fyora, Buzz," I typed back. "How did you even know to be watching right at that moment?"
"There is a camera right outside of your room. A motion sensor went off alerting me someone had approached your door. Honestly, you'd think you'd have figured that one out yourself."
I blushed, feeling like an idiot. "Will do," I wrote back.
"Sharron seems a little too emotional to be a lieutenant. I can't believe she made it this far," I commented to Nicola.
We were in the shooting range, practicing. I had been there first and Nicola had come in with Sharron. Sharron had quickly turned and left when she saw me there.
"You told her some truths she didn't particularly care to hear, didn't you?" Nicola asked.
"She started it. I simply told her the way it was," I replied, adjusting the target.
"She makes a very good leader, but she doesn't have the ruthlessness to advance. She's not likely to make it any further than she has," Nicola admitted. "Obviously a problem you'd never have."
"Nope," I replied with a smug grin.
"Tell me something," Nicola said. "Would you sell out your partner to advance?"
"Oh, heck yes," I replied. "Why lie, I'd sell out Dr. Sloth if I got a better offer. He's just lucky there is no one out there who can compete."
Nicola shook his head. "You might go far, Starender. But, at the same time, your reckless ambition might be your undoing. Buzz and Lynette were great for a reason, because they had each other. Buzz on his own was like you, and that almost cost him his life. Lynette is the only reason he's still around, and in the same position, you would not have escaped her fate."
I simply snickered. "Buzz was softer than I ever was or will be. That was why he was sloppy and needed someone to watch his back. Buzz is a stepping stone for me, and that's all he ever will be."
Nicola shook his head at me. I wondered about him. He had asked a question that was certainly suspicious given what I was looking for. That was exactly the kind of thing that a mole would want to know, how willing I was to sell out those around me for power. However, Nicola seemed more disappointed by my responses. If he were the mole, he should be a approving. Then again, I told myself, he might be testing me by his reactions, to see if I really was that dedicated to my own quest for power.
Before I could try to continue the conversation, Buzz entered the target range.
"Come on, Eva. We've got a job to do," he barked.
"At last," I said with relish. "I was starting to wonder what we'd signed up for."
I hurriedly followed Buzz out, not even bothering to acknowledge Nicola's wishing us luck.
To be continued...