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Thorn felt her heart pound in her chest, faster than her feet pounding on the concrete. The rucksack
banged against her back as she ran, the evidence inside it was heavy and it pulled at her shoulders.
But Thorn was trained to ignore pain. She was trained to keep running on and on. To keep her heart
beating.

The parking lot was surprisingly large. Too much open space could be dangerous on a mission like
this, so Thorn sprinted as fast as she could to the other side. Not fast enough. The bullets began to
rain down on her and she zigzagged between the odd car which had been left in the lot over night.
Change your route constantly to confuse your enemy. One of the golden rules of a chase. Something
that was always in Thorn's mind.

"Keep going Thorn, you're nearly there!" Vida's voice was encouraging in Thorn's ear and she picked
up the pace. The trees at the edge of the car park were only 5 paces away. 3...2...1...

BANG!

The building behind her exploded. The bullets were replaced by flying shrapnel as Thorn threw herself
into the bushes. For a few seconds there was silence. Then the screams began. The screams of the
wounded and the dying, screaming for things that were now lost. All Thorn could do was lie there
and breath, listening to the buzzing of a now broken earpiece in her ear.

"Oh My God! Where were you, we've been so worried!" Vida threw herself on Thorn as soon as she
pushed the door open, filling her world with deep auburn curls. That was her, Diva Vida. But despite
the girl's tendency to over react, she made an amazing one man surveillance team, Thorn's eye in the
sky. And everywhere else too.

"You're late Thorn." Seth didn't look worried. Thorn could bet he'd been back for hours, sipping at the
gin and tonic in his hand. As if he could read her mind Seth spun his chair around to face her, his cool
ice blue eyes fixed on hers and said; "I wasn't worried. And yes, I've been back for hours now" Urgh.
Seth could always read her too well. It was one of the things that made him so annoying. At least he
made up for it in the field.

Blizzard looked worried though Thorn was pretty sure it was to do with the large amount of numbers
scrolling across his computer screen. Blizzard, the kid genius, had only been ten when he'd chosen his
new name - hence the fact it was ridiculous. "Actually Seth, statistically you were early and Thorn
was only 1 minute and 22 seconds late. " Blizzard pushed his glasses higher up the bridge of his nose
and squinted at the screen. He may be a dork but sometimes having a dork behind you was a good
thing when it came to getting information.
"Shut up, geek!" Seth scowled at Blizzard and Blizzard scowled back. Soon the insults were flying.
Honestly, sometimes you'd think the pair of them were 5 not 25. Just as Thorn was beginning to think
she couldn't take anymore, Caleb wandered into the room, his hair still damp from the shower.

"Hey, you're back!" Thorn smiled as her gorgeous boyfriend wandered over and kissed her. The final
piece of one of the best teams on the planet and Thorn's ultimate back-up. The life of a spy may be
dangerous, but it was her life. And she loved every minute of it.

^ ?£  £ 

Thorn woke up to find Caleb gently shaking her awake. It was still dark through the broken window
above her bed, but the eastern sky showed hints of the new day.

"Come on darling, Blizzard's found something. Something you might want to see." Thorn sat up
groggily, the world spinning. Caleb caught her before she fell, laughing his sweet, sweet laugh. She
changed quickly and they walked down to the control room hand in hand.

The hallways of the abandoned hotel passed them quickly, the smell of must and times long gone
filling the air. Although the building looked fragile, the walls were in fact bulletproof and the
structure could withstand even a bomb attack. The government treated their top agents well,
providing them with the securest headquarters in existence.

They stepped down into the basement and found the others already there, sat around Blizzard'smain
computer, a monster of a thing with a screen that took up one whole wall. It was his prize possession.

"Good, you guys are here, we can get started" Blizzard began pushing buttons on a keyboard about
three times the size of your average one. Vida's large bright eyes followed his every move, probably
memorizing the keystrokes. It could get annoying when everyone around you was amazing at what
they did. But if you were good too it didn't really matter.

Thorn looked around the room, which was warm with the power of live technology. Ten years ago
she hadn't even imagined any of this could possibly exist. But one call from the government and a
group of men in suits had changed everything.

She had been chosen. For various reasons, reasons not even the man in the White House could
explain as she had stood there, a very confused and scared fifteen year old. But that hadn't stopped
her accepting his offer.

Now she didn't even know where her family was. She had had no contact with them in all that time.
'For security reasons' had been the only answer whenever she asked. Thorn still missed her old
friends and her family, her life back when she had been... whoever that girl had been. Because that
girl was dead now.

"Done!" Blizzard announced happily. The screen hummed into life and a picture appeared on its
surface in perfect detail, so much so that Thorn could see the individual blades of grass of... a field.
"Dude, that's a field" Seth said out loud what they were all thinking. The field in question wasn't
particularly interesting, it was green and empty, with the odd cow here and there and an overgrown
hedgerow all the way round it. Like most fields in the country.

"I hate to agree with Seth, but Blizzard, what the hell has this go to do with anything?" Caleb looked
just as confused as Thorn felt.

"Oh this isn't just a field, its The Organization's headquarters." That got their attention. Surely not
THE Organization. Not the one they had been chasing for the last five years, trying to find their
secret. The secret that could change the entire world.

For a few seconds there was a shocked silence. Blizzard had a look of triumph on his face. Then...
pandemonium. Seth whopped with happiness. Vida let out a squeal of delight and hugged Blizzard,
making them both blush. Caleb laughed with pure joy, a laugh that set Thorn's heart racing. He
pulled her close and kissed her on the cheek.

Thorn felt a smile creep across her face as the pure realisation of what it all meant hit her. They were
nearly there. All the weeks of crouching in the rain doing surveillance, all the hours and hours of
hacking, the years of putting up with Seth... it was nearly over.

Maybe, just maybe they would let her go home now. Or she could send a letter to her family, just to
let them know she was alive, she was okay. Or maybe she and Caleb could finally settle down and
have a family, something they'd wanted to do for a while now. Just maybe.

Just maybe, they were nearly there.

G ?  

The helicopter whirred around another huge skyscraper as the five of them flew to The Organizations
HQ. The rising sun shone through the tinted screens as Thorn co-piloted Vida and they flew over the
city in silence. Well sort of.

BANG! "You idiot be careful with that!" yelled Seth. Thorn knew Seth was precious about the
weaponry, but there was no need to yell at poor Blizzard like that. He was a genius in theory but a bit
of a klutz in practice. He was one of those things that was better on paper. Her trained ears also
picked out Caleb's laughter and Blizzard's muttered apologies from the back room of the helicopter.
Then the door slid shut and the cockpit descended into silence. Thorn looked at Vida in confusion.
Why had she shut the door?

" Yeah, I know it's not protocol, but I really needed to talk to you before we get there." Oh dear, she
had her serious face on, this could take a while. "Thorn this isn't going to be like anything we've faced
before. So don't go taking any risks."

"I don't-" But Vida cut her off before she could even begin to argue.

" Don't you dare give me that, Sarah Jones" Thorn winced as Vida used her real name. She shouldn't
be surprised, in a group of spies there were no secrets. But Sarah Jones was too average. Too boring
for an international agent.
"You're always taking risks." Vida continued "Remember, the Eiffel Tower, or the Mount Rushmore
thing, or that nasty event in Nepal..."

"In my defence it was a really cute kitten" God, why did Vida always have to be right?

"My point is, you need to be careful Thorn. I know you can face up to the fact you could die, but I
don't think any of us want to lose you, not even Seth. And Caleb would be crushed. You don't want to
leave him behind do you? You don't want to see him hurt?" Thorn felt her heart swell with pain just
thinking about her lover alone. No, she wouldn't do that to him. For Caleb, she would do anything
and everything.

Vida turned away from her as they left the city. Switching on the intercom she called back to the boys
: "We should be arriving in a minute guys. You nearly ready?" They were getting very close to the
landing site now, which was five miles away from the target. Vida had judged this a suitable distance
for them to stay off any enemy radar.

"Yeah V, we're about ready" Caleb's voice crackled through the machine. Vida touched down in a
field and they all clambered out. They got into a circle and Seth described the plan. He wasn't in
charge, Thorn had made sure of that years ago, but he was very good at strategy.

"Okay people here's the plan. Vida, you fly yourself and Blizzard up above the target, and do some
surveillance. Report to us anything you see on the ground and Blizzard, you take some heat scans, I
want to know how many people we're up against. You'll also act as a distraction, keep their eyes in
the sky so they won't notice us sneaking in round the back. From what we know of the plans, there
are two main buildings. Caleb you search one and Thorn you take the other. You're looking for
information, but you'll both need one of these in case you run into trouble. I'll be the lookout and the
back up for both of you." Thorn smiled as he handed her a small gun, knowing it could easily kill a
man stood 100m away. Although he was super annoying, Seth's plans were always good.

"Just one question- how do we get in?" But she really enjoyed ruining them. The look on his face was
usually priceless, but she wasn't seeing it today. In fact he had a smug grin on his face. She didn't like
the sound of this...

Thorn looked down at herself. Wellington boots, overalls and an old raggedy jumper, covered up her
normally slim frame, making her look more like a scarecrow than a secret agent. They smelt of
animals and poo.

"You have got to be kidding me" She cried. How on earth was she supposed to fight off henchmen in
overalls? Seth was beginning to lose it, she was sure now.

Caleb looked up from stuffing the farmer and his wife (now unconscious) into a broom cupboard. "I
think you look amazing" he said finishing his task and coming over to kiss her forehead. Thorn smiled
as she pulled herself close and kissed his lips, his gorgeous smell still coming through the musty
farmer's clothes.

"Really you two? We're on a mission." She scowled at Seth and pulled away from her boyfriend
slowly, knowing she was probably the luckiest girl on the planet. God, she loved that boy.
Now they were ready, they set off across the fields, buckets in their hands, towards the cow shed,
ready for milking. Of course they wouldn't actually be milking the cows, but it made for a very good
disguise. Three farm hands wandering around on their daily chores, the enemy wouldn't spare them
a second glance, not with Vida and Blizzard whirring around as a perfect distraction. It was even
better when the entrance to The Organization's secret lair was just behind the milking parlour.

Cracking the lock was easy. Thorn had done it many times before; it was as natural as breathing by
now. It had never felt wrong to her all the stealing, the lying, the criminal activity that was part of
being a spy. But she knew it was wrong. Even if it was in the name of all things good and right in the
world.

Once inside they encountered the four guards that Blizzard had warned them about. They were soon
disposed of. They quickly changed into the guards͛ uniform and hurried off down the corridor. The
hallways were well lit and airy; Thorn knew they were in the right place. They were here, in the centre
of an organisation that could mean the end of all that humanity had ever worked for. Freedom.
Hope. Life itself.

They soon came to a junction that was also guarded. The guards were down before the warning left
their lips. No-one must know that they were here. Seth stayed at the junction and Thorn said
goodbye to Caleb. This was where they must part.

"Whatever happens now, I will always love you" Caleb whispered in her ear. Thorn shuddered with
delight- he'd told her before, before every mission, but it still felt so special. Because she knew each
time, one of them might not come back. She kissed him one last time then slowly turned and began
to walk off down yet another corridor. When she looked back, Caleb had reached the corner. He
smiled a perfect smile, the man that meant the world and more to her, than he continued round the
corner and out of sight. This was it.

She continued into the labyrinth of endless corridors, with Blizzard occasionally giving her directions
through her newly fixed earpiece. Every now and again she saw a guard, but she dispatched them
silently. Doors flicked past her on both sides but from the plans they knew that they were just
storerooms and dormitories. The labs and the computer system were further down. Stairs, secrets
and silence, this place was full of them all. And room that held the key to victory.

Then suddenly she was there.

Round a corner and she was face to face with eight, no twelve guards that Blizzard had missed on the
heat scan.

Because they were robots.

She ducked as the first one swung a metal punch at her and then kicked out a leg sending it flying.
The next two came fast, their hands now a whirring mess of chainsaws. Thorn pulled out the gun and
fired two shots at each one, one in the chest another in the head. The saws stopped and for a second
the robots just stood there smoke and sparks fizzing out of the bullet holes

Then they exploded. Thorn covered her head and ducked as shrapnel flew in all directions. One piece
scarred her arm and she bit her lip as blood dripped onto her face. Three seconds later it was over
and more of the robots were coming at her, though the explosion had taken out six. For ten minutes
Thorn ducked, dodged and decapitated the enemy until finally the corridor fell silent. But she didn't
have time to celebrate her victory; more guards would soon be on the way.
The lock on the door was easy and Thorn was soon pulling the door shut behind her. The room was
full of computers, whirring away, their screens flashing all different colours. One showed the battle
scene from the corridor outside, another, endless lists of numbers. Sitting down at one she quickly
began hacking in. And what she found blew her mind.

A plot. A plot to assassinate. And not just one person.

BOOM!

She felt the ground shake beneath her feet. What the hell was that?

Looking up she saw that the wall on the far side of the room was moving up, the glass behind it
showing a huge hangar. On the other side was another wall of glass similar to one she now stood
behind. Beyond that she could see a man running fast towards the window, a set of robot- guards in
hot pursuit. Thorn gasped.

Caleb.

Suddenly Thorn found herself pressed up against the glass, screaming at him to run. But run where?
He was surrounded. She knew it was only a matter of time as he dived under another row of
computers, scrambling round, trying to avoid a million bullets. And only one could end everything.

She could hear Blizzard and Seth yelling in her ear, plus Vida's voice in the background. But she
wasn't listening. Because now he was up against the window and there was nowhere to run,
nowhere to hide. Her heart seemed to slow as the every gun in the room focused in on the man she
loved.

And fired.

The glass shattered, along with her heart. Pain filled her world. This was the end.

He'd been with her since the beginning. From the first day when they'd taken her into training, all
alone and oh so scared. But he'd been there. From that day on they'd come as a package. No-one
could separate them, not even Seth. And he'd tried, when she had met him a year later. But Caleb
had been there, protecting her. When their team had been created, neither would have gone without
the other. And when he'd asked her out two years ago, why wouldn't she have said yes?

She loved him.

And she always would.

But now there was nothing.

She had to do something. She should. But she couldn't she stood there staring at the hole in the glass,
which mirrored the hole in her heart. A hole that would never ever heal. She should have moved
when the door opened behind her. But she didn't. She knew that the guards where filing into the
room. And aiming their guns at her. But she didn't care. She wanted it to happen. She wanted to die.

Time to die.
And hand came down on her shoulder. She gasped, but it was only Seth.

"Thorn" he whispered quietly. He knew. Nothing he could say would make it better. "Thorn we need
to go. Have you got what we came for?" The information? The plan? The safety of the world? None
of it mattered anymore. In her eyes the world had already ended.

"Thorn? Thorn we have to go, the guards are on their way." His voice was full of gentle urgency. Who
knew it would have taken the death of her boyfriend for him to finally be nice to her. Oh the painful
irony. He wanted her to come with him now. But she wouldn't. Not ever. This was her last stand.

"No"

"What?" Seth looked surprised. Just like when she had turned him down the first time

"I'm not going anywhere"

"Thorn we need to-"

"I don't care!" she screamed in his face. Her pain, her anger, her bottomless sadness, they all burst
out with those words. He would never know, he would never understand. And so she ran.

Across the room. Out the door. Into the corridor.

Straight into the sights of the armed guard.

They saw her.

Thorn saw them.

Time to die.

A bullet made the imaginary hole in her heart real.

Seth yelled out as he ran through the door in time to see it.

In time to see dark arms wrap around her. Not the arms of a lover.

Death

Time to

Die.
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