Author's note: This action-adventure novel was written to explore the far reaches of moral ambiguity and power of corruption.
Victimless CrimesBy the time Friday rolled around, I was looking forward to a vacation that would never happen rather than training a new recruit. Despite the fact that Westfield was still for all intents and purposes a-wall, Morty had taken the liberty of checking out the rookie’s psych file from the Department of Operatives and we were learning what we could about our new squad mate. Should our superior not join us for the day’s mission, Morty would be the de facto leader in his stead, and he was enjoying the idea of a little power.
“So, let’s hear about the new guy—does he have a name?” I asked as we suited up for the mission. Civilian Missions required a slightly less classical approach to uniforms; the usual black suits and white ties were swapped out for more inconspicuous clothing. In my case that meant a casual jacket, aviator sunglasses, and a Yankees baseball cap.
“Nikolas Karrigan the Third, age twenty-three. Native of the Florida Keyes, the Project picked him up after a very successful string of Miami bank robberies,” Morty read as he thumbed through Karrigan’s files. Morty was wearing a button down shirt with the sleeves rolled up and slacks, very much looking the part of a middle class businessman.
“The Project picked up a petty thief? What’s the rest of Karrigan’s story; what am I missing?”
“He’s more than just a bank robber, John. It says here that our friend Nikolas used the bank’s security systems to wire more than three million dollars in government assets to various accounts. The government lost all trace of him, but Project NOVA scooped him up.”
“And today we’ve got a heist to pull off; how fitting. Ah, this must be young Agent Karrigan now.”
The young man standing before Morty and I didn’t look a day over eighteen, despite what his profile may have indicated. Buzzed blonde hair, with blue eyes and a freckled face; Nikolas had an almost eternally youthful look about him.
“Agents Mortimer and Lange I presume? It’s a pleasure to be serving with you, sirs.” The slightest hint of a southern accent crept into his voice, and the youth looked slightly downtrodden upon seeing my bemused crooked grin.”
“You can call me John, Nikolas. This here’s Morty,” I introduced my partner to the new recruit, who eagerly shook our hands.
“On that note, you can call me Niko. ‘Agent Karrigan’ was my father,” he said, laughing nervously. I had to hand it to him; Niko had a sense of humor.
We filled the rookie in on the details of the mission as we got ready for deployment. The plan was simple – we just had to accidentally run into a famous inventor on the streets of Los Angeles, swap briefcases with him, and make our escape. The briefcase left with our target would be filled with enough cold, hard cash to keep him quiet, and the Project would have enough information on the Sanford Corporation’s next fiscal year and elusive product blueprints to fund the next year’s worth of missions.
Our target was Liam Sanford, the youngest acting CEO and President SanCorp had ever seen; owed in part to the questionable circumstances surrounding his father’s death. According to Morty, putting Louis Sanford out of his misery was his first Class-Two Operation for Project NOVA, nearly two years earlier.
No one said a word on our helicopter flight to Los Angeles, which surprisingly enough took no longer than our flight to New York the week before. West had predictably remained off the grid for our final pre-mission checkpoint and Morty assumed control of the squad.
Morty and I would be wearing radio-communications sunglasses, albeit in aviator fashion to blend in on the L.A. streets, but Niko would be wearing unnecessary prescription glasses. Project NOVA went all out to avoid tipping off the target and that meant our heist man wasn’t allowed to hide his eyes. Niko fidgeted in his seat, looking uncomfortable with his three piece suit and matching briefcase.
“Niko, relax. This is a Civ Mission – nothing’s going to happen to us. Trust me,” I added, “we are going to be fine.”
“It’s not the mission I’m worried about,” Niko said quietly. “Project NOVA Headquarters is allegedly the most secure place on the planet. If that’s true, how did Agent Westfield go missing? And why isn’t anyone doing anything about it?”
“Are you suggesting that it’s some kind of set up, Karrigan?” Morty asked inquisitively. At first I thought he was testing the rookie, but Sam seemed genuinely interested.
“No, I just don’t think we’re anywhere near as safe as they tell us we are.” Niko’s words rang out loud and clear, and the silence that followed was unsettling as we all chewed on those thoughts.
If Project NOVA was as secure and all-knowing as they claim, how was I abducted in the middle of a Class-Two Operation? How did Westfield just disappear out of the blue? Maybe I was overanalyzing, but what if they did know the truth about both of those incidents? I wouldn’t put it past the Project to let its operatives think they had the upper hand.
I cleared my mind of its conspiracy theories and prepped myself for landing. There was no sense asking questions I couldn’t answer, and paranoia would be the death of me if I let it take hold.
Upon our arrival just outside of Los Angeles, Morty and I got into our black sedan. Niko would have to ride separately; Morty and I were strictly to make sure things run smoothly. It would be up to the rookie to ensure the bump and swipe went as planned.
“So, Johnny,” Sam asked as we approached the drop off point, “what do you make of the recruit?” I thought it over for a minute or two, not keen on the idea of judging Niko before I could properly assess his skill in the field.
“From what I can tell, Karrigan has a good eye for danger, Mort,” I declared to my partner. “And maybe it’s just me, but I get the feeling we’re going to need that talent sooner or later.”
Apparently satisfied with my response, Mortimer twiddled his thumbs and gazed out the tinted windows of the Sedan. It was not as if I didn’t feel nervous as well, but after the strange circumstances our previous mission fell under, a Civilian Mission would be a cake walk.
The driver tapped the glass window separating the two sections of the car as he pulled into a Los Angeles parking garage. Morty, as the de facto leader of our squad, gave the starting signal. Niko buzzed in his confirmation over the communications link, and just like that it was time for a good old fashioned highway robbery.