Achilles Sangster / Serpentine / 1 “Serpentine” Just like in the spy movies, Sally hid behind fences, around corners

in alleyways, obscured by garbage cans. She sucked in her belly and stood bolt straight and stiff as a board behind telephone poles when she saw him suspiciously look back over his shoulder. Daddy's a secret agent, she told herself. I've always known. I've got to meet him beat-for-beat if I'm going to prove it. Suddenly he pulled something thin and narrow from his breast pocket. She could not see it properly, but it must be the pen. The pen! The dark blue, golden-embossed twisting pen. It was his covert communication device. This was not the first time she had seen him stare at it, though he only began doing so in the last week. How he would fidget with it, turning and clicking it. He would never let her mother borrow it when she needed a writing utensil: He would quickly pocket the pen and search arduously for another one in a messy desk drawer or cupboard and throw his hands in resignation when one could not be found. But Sally knew he had one. She mustn't tell, though, or his cover would be blown. He looked at the pen for a few seconds, eyes squinting under the sunlight gleaming from mirrored office windows overhead. He continued forward. Sally followed. Passersby took little notice. Just a child, they thought. Just a child. A child of a spy, she mouthed silently with a smirk. Made from the same stuff as Daddy, I'm just as swift and conniving. Not like that clumsy 007, loudly bumbling his way through otherwise covert operations in Her Majesty's honor, daddy was a real agent, taking out the enemy, getting him to talk with a determined glance and an empty (or was it?) threat. Like a samurai, winning a battle before it's even been declared. I have his eyes. Granddad always said so. The eyes of a cobra! Then those serpentine eyes saw odd movement. He looked at his pen (talking to his commander through it, no doubt) paused, and turned sharp to the right into a tall office building. She noticed that he didn't need a key, an access card, or even security clearance to enter. There were no guards, no snipers that she could see--and she ought to be able to see them all, if she had daddy's abilities--and she wondered if he was trying to fool her, having been alerted to her presence. Impossible, she told herself as she walked with cool confidence towards a free newsletter kiosk. There she removed an issue and held it high over her face before turning back to watch more closely. All but her eyes were hidden behind that open tabloid, and she encroached upon the front door to catch a closer look at her father.

Achilles Sangster / Serpentine / 2 She leaned against the glass, occasionally laying eyes upon the text of the newspaper out of superficial necessity. Her attention remained fixed on him, though, and he did not respond to her presence outside. The lobby inside was full of elevators on the left and right sides. She suspected that at any moment dozens or even hundreds of armed guards would emerge, guns blazing, and he would be left alone to dismantle the army single handedly with nothing but that pen. The pen was just one of the many common objects made deadly in the right hands. She held the newspaper tight and considered how she could make it a more efficient weapon. Paper cut to the carotid? Bundled into a bludgeon and stricken upon an enemy's temple? Or made into rope to stealthily strangle an unsuspecting foe? Her concentration wavered too long before she realized something had happened: Another man was taking him into one of the elevators. His skin was a pale pink and he smiled with forcibly bared teeth. He was much taller and probably stronger than Sally's daddy, which was made more disturbing because she could see his muscles bulging even through his finely pressed charcoal suit. His hand was on her daddy's back and the elevator doors closed as the man drew closer to him. She knew it: It was an ambush! She nearly fell into a panic but soon regathered her thoughts. I can't help him, she thought, if I don't know where he's going. So she waited outside until the elevator stopped. Soon the light stopped for a few seconds on the glowing number four and began to descend back to the ground floor. Sally rushed forward. She threw open the large glass door and entered, waiting for the elevator's door to open, but not directly in front of it so that if any assailants emerged she would have the first chance to attack. When she heard the sound, that gentle computerized bell, she waited a moment, then leapt out with a tightly rolled newspaper, ready to strike. Nobody was waiting. She looked back, suspicious that it was another trap, but saw nobody there. So she quickly entered the elevator and pressed the button for the fourth floor. It remained illuminated for only a second before going dark. She attempted again several times with the same results. The floor, she realized after seeing the card swiping mechanism next to the control panel, was locked to all but those with special secret access. Damn those bastards! she thought. Sally controlled her breathing, taking slow inhalations and even slower exhalations to calm herself while she thought of another plan. The stairs! She dashed towards the door for the stairwell, but it was sealed via a red-lit electronic security lock. It seemed there was no hope. She had no

Achilles Sangster / Serpentine / 3 grappling hook, nor hang glider, nor parachute, nor helicopter from which to rappel. This building, she saw, was too far and too tall for her to leap from the roof of any nearby structures. There was one option, though. She could go outside and warn him from the ground. It was a risky plan. It assumed he hadn't been attacked, that he would be near a window, and that he would be able to distinguish her from others on the street. With only this glimmer of hope, she took to the street with her newspaper in hand. She pulled two of the pages apart, creating large flags to catch his attention. After crossing the street she turned back, stood against the wall of that building, and looked up to the fourth floor to find him. It was difficult through those reflective windows, but she began to see emerging figures (bless you for these cobra eyes, Daddy!) moving, and those sizes, shapes, and figures became more discernible. But wait: who did she see there?

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