Time went by like nothing, and guests had phoned in telling of their arrival at the Aspen airport. Media outlets, scientists, development tycoons, lawyers, celebrities, and corporate geniuses were among the crowd invited. The exact kind of people Juliet liked to surround herself with. She was one of them, wasn’t she? She still felt like helping Juliana set up the perimeter though, instead of parading setup crewmen in and out the front door with an endless list of objects, and constant glares at her breasts and backside. This wasn’t her calling, but she was needed here- this is what Dave had assigned to her. He could have changed the preset ring volume on her wireless headset to “low” though, for f**k’s sake.
Juliet had two hours to look presentable, and with her job, that was mandatory. She went back to the resort with Dave and worked with surgical precision in her room. She hadn’t slept for nearly 28 hours and she had started to look like the Spears and Lohans of the 21st century. Shower, makeup, a lock of the door (Dave precaution), and an elegant holiday themed dress similar to the former, but white. She stepped into the hallways and started walking until she saw Juliana’s door open. She was caught off guard- she was expecting her to come out in her CASE armor, and loaded to the teeth, but really, that wouldn’t have made much sense at all; they were in a public area after all. No- she was dressed in a glistening gown, from her shoulders to her heels, showing off her athletic figure, and had her infamous large ponytail let down, hair laying gently over her right arm. In simple terms, she looked beautiful. “I hardly see the point in standing around, Miss Turner,” Juliana smiled, which caused Juliet to do the same, “let’s go be professional- whatever the profession may be.”. And in that moment, they shared a mutual happiness.
Dave was calm as always. This was not the largest concern for him, he had full confidence in Juliana’s abilities, as he should. When he entered the Hall, which was already filled with guests he had Juliet’s arm tied with his. They walked right under the mistletoe again.. damn. That would have been a nice publicity shot. When both Juliana and Juliet where inside, heads turned and MediaBots hovered into their positions snapping photos of the trio, nudging each other as the actual photographers would have done anyways. Dave made his way through the crowd and bumped into none other than the Manifest City Police Department’s Lieutenant Matthews.
“Well now, Lieutenant! I’m so glad you could make the trip.” Dave said with a people-pleasing smile. “Yes, well, this is really quite the extravagant event you’ve got going here Dave. Happy I could join in.” he replied. Robert Matthews was a mild-mannered man, and he genuinely enjoyed Dave’s company, as Dave did his. He was also a great source opportunity for Dave, Quote Un-Quote as a whole and Juliana as a result. Sergeant Alyssa Jansen brushed by them. “Hey Dave, cool you could set this up.” She said quickly. Sergeant Jansen was the rising pride of the MCPD- quick on her feet, tough, and had an unflinching eye for trouble. This sometimes could worry Dave in his calmest of states. And her seemingly permanent scowl was worn over a perfectly good face, so there was no such thing as a “good” publicity shot- unless you were posing for SRSLY Weekly, and even that title shouldn’t be taken so literally. Dave would have to keep her occupied tonight- he didn’t know how suspicious she was, but he couldn’t risk her finding the storage locker.
The night went on, and at 10:30 AM on the dot, Juliana caught message of an audio alert to get to the storage room. She slipped away from the Media Base College Grads and entered the storage room under the radar- something that their latest guest on the premises was not. The scanners sent out a search every five seconds, and there was only one recorded reading- that was not good. She ran to the elevator and shot up toward the rooftop. The second she hit a stop, she ran and slid toward the sniper that was resting upon the perch. Her hands were immediately fitted to it, and she fixed her aim toward the last known location. Nothing, and she had still received null reports on the wireless. “f**k!” she swore under her breath.
Dave turned around to see Zairian Hannek… the CEO of Nucleus, a bio and technological engineering corporation, notorious for pin-point accuracy in it’s developments, and lesser known only by few higher-ups (such as Dave), it’s mercenaries. “Hello, David Karrington.” The imposing figure said.
Juliana checked the scanners again- nothing. The situation was growing sour, she needed to track down the source- and quickly. Suddenly the rooftop scanner blared; she was just up there! It was on the opposite side of the roof, she still had time. Again she shot up to the roof, but this time she caught a glimpse of the assassin- he dove into the ventilation shaft- he was within the perimeter.. there was a breach.
“Hey, Zairian..” Dave said, stretching out his words, “how’s it going?”. “If business is what you mean, then it is going downright fantastic.” He replied with a cold tone. “Well.. that’s, that sounds well, good!”- Dave was growing intense, he noticed Juliana’s suppressed alert hum in his earlobe. “Quite. Many breakthroughs this year.. made many deals.. made many.. friends.”.
Juliana opened the case holding the two suppressed handguns, and dove into the ventilation after the assassin. She didn’t have time to position a landing, she bumped against the side of the vent during the drop and hit the bottom flat on her back. She didn’t have time to feel the pain, she just had to find this son of a bitch before he could cause a serious problem.
Juliet now felt sick. She wasn’t sure what it was, she only had one glass of wine and she had made sure she had eaten before doing anything. Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was the people- it didn’t matter. She just needed to get to the washroom. She moved effortlessly through the crowd, with the calm surface look she had began to be known for- but then she came across Sergeant Jansen. “Juliana’s been in that room a long time.” Jansen said as she pointed to the storage room, “She alright?”.
Juliana rushed through the vents, trying to get Dave’s signal “Son of a bitch!” she cursed as a high-pitched whine cut through her ear as she tried to switch frequencies. She dropped to a knee clutching her head.
“Oh, I’m sure she’s fine.” Juliet responded quickly. She couldn’t do this- not now. “Well, see, I’m just curious as to what has got her so occupied in there- I mean, the party is out here.” Jansen said in an intimidating tone. Really wasn’t intimidating to Juliet though, she just wanted to throw up and be done with it. “Oh well you know Julie, always finding SOMETHING to do! Ha-ha! I’m sorry, Sergeant, would you excuse me?” Juliet said, now less subtle and brushing by Jansen. The Sergeant saw her enter the women’s restroom and didn’t attempt to follow. Of all of the people at QUQ, Juliet Turner was the least of her concerns. She’d rather watch that storage room door for Emerson’s eventual exit.
“Well, that’s good for you, Zairian.” Dave had been getting subtly knocked around this whole conversation, he had to end it on his own terms. “I’ll look forward to doing a couple stories on your work.”. Dave had just crossed the line, but you would never be able to tell judging by Zairian or his companion with an arm sling behind him’s collected expression. “Now, if you would excuse me, I’m going to go find my leading ladies.” Dave smiled and nudged gently past the man with the sling.
Juliet hung over the bowl of the toilet, dizzy. She realized that the problem was not so much her stomach now, but a sharp pain in the side of her neck. Okay- dizzier now, losing balance, going numb, losing sight… The Assassin caught Juliet as she fell to the floor, and put his syringe in it’s holster, landing the cap perfectly over the tip.
Juliet woke up five minutes later strapped to an inverted table in the walk-in fridge. And it was cold. She realized what she should have a couple hours ago- she had been drugged. But what did whoever this was want with her? The Christmas Killer walked up to her when he noticed she was awake. “I don’t think I’ll have to worry about anybody trying to get in here- the main courses have already been served; I figure we’ll be done before the masses demand dessert.” He said in a joking manner. “Who are you supposed to be exactly, Hans Gruber?” she said in an attempt to humor him. “What?” he asked confused with her seemingly random name-drop. “Don’t know your 20th century movies, huh?”
Juliana dropped down where the grate had been smashed in and replaced. He had taken somebody. The opening was to the Women’s washroom, and the stall was the only one left open. A woman? Obviously. A corporate? Media? No, not just any. Quote Un-Quote? Definitely. Not her, then- Juliet.
Dave sat back as he watched one of the science company’s recorded presentations that played through the massive view screen at the front of the Hall. The awakening of Walt Disney from cryogenic sleep did not interest him a great deal. Walt was shown shaking the hands of the scientists, and asked the project lead’s name. “Eddie Longowivich, sir.” Said the scientist. “Longowivich you say? Would that happen to be Jewish?” Disney asked back. Longowivich then stared into the camera nervously and the presentation ended, causing the Hall to erupt into cheers and claps. Applauding the rebirth of the most influential anti-Semite behind Adolf Hitler. Dave then prayed that Mel Gibson had not been put in cryogenic sleep as well. A Wayne Newton impersonator than jumped up on stage and began to sing “Blue Moon”. Dave’s interest level had now dropped below zero.
“I can tell you’re not afraid because you’re a killer. Like me.” The Assassin said looking at Juliet. Juliet then did a long blink and said “Excuse me? I’m sorry, friend, but you seem to have me confused with somebody else.”. “Oh, do I, Miss Emerson?”.
Juliana rushed through the air ducts until she heard two voices: one male, the other female- Juliet.
“Oh, yes- I’m sorry, I’m still a bit dizzy from the drugging.” Juliet said sarcastically. “Yes, I am Juliana Emerson.”. “Glad to see we’re cooperating” he responded. “Now see, when Mister Tarhn gave me orders, he wanted me to send a clear message to both you and David Karrington, who I be getting to momentarily by the way- he has many eyes, and he asks all not to doubt his gaze, for he is all seeing. I personally think he’s batshit crazy, but hey, never turn down such orders..” he said as he reached for his sidearm. “Wait,” Juliet cut in, “I have a message for “Pool Hand” Luke as well.” Juliana closed in on the scene from above. “I want you to tell him that he should probably get more information on who his targets are exactly. I’m not Juliana Emerson, you dumb son of a bitch.” She said in such a cold tone that she could turn the fridge into a freezer. “Then who are you?” the Assassin asked with a slight infliction of fear in his voice. “I’m the motherf**king secretary- Juliet Turner. And I want you to tell Tarhn, and this is from me: I will-” Juliana dropped in behind The Christmas Killer and he snapped around quicker than she had predicted. He swung at her with his sidearm, and hit her sideways. She recovered quickly and kicked the gun out of his hand, then tackled him to the ground.
She activated the iron cutter she had attached crudely to her unarmored wrist with surgical tape and struggled to push them down on the Christmas Killer with all of her strength- a battle she was winning until he caught her off guard with a knee to the gut. She tumbled and he leapt for his sidearm. It gave Juliana enough time to draw both of her suppressed handguns and fire at his back, which allowed two rounds to pass through the weaker part of his armor around his shoulder and the others deflected off his back. He held back a yell, and grunted in pain. He had enough- he spun around with his wrist-blade drawn and met Juliana’s iron cutter head-on. The cutter went under his jaw and into his head. They stood there in place for a split second, and Juliana slammed him to the ground, her cutter still in his neck. The blue flame disappeared, and with it, the threat of the night.
She brought Juliet to the washroom unnoticed to get her cleaned up. Little words were spoken between the two, and Juliet went back into the Hall as if nothing had happened. Juliana had started walking toward the front entrance, which to her was and exit. She could feel the soothing cool breeze on her skin until she heard a voice from behind her with a message that was just cold: “You should work on your exit and entrance continuity.”. Juliana spun around, but could not find the speaker amongst the crowd. That didn’t matter though- she knew it was Sergeant Jansen.
Juliet sat down beside Dave who was fiddling around with a holographic aesthetic in his drink, putting his finger through it and waving. “Oh, where were you?” he said in a downed voice. Juliet smirked and said “Threat of the night has been neutralized.”, then looked toward Dave with a full enthusiastic smile and raised eyebrows. “Oh? What happened?” he said briefly before Juliet reached over and started kissing him right on the lips. Heads turned, and cheers began. The MediaBots rushed in once again, but this time, Dave didn’t have a publicity shot in mind. He was sitting right under a wall-mounted mistletoe, and he didn’t even know it. Tis’ the season…
The group from the Nucleus table were walking past Juliana as they exited. One of them stopped- it was the man in the arm sling. He turned around and stared at Juliana, then called to her, “Juliana Emerson, am I correct?”. She didn’t feel like talking, but she had to be a good host “Yes, I sure am.” She said with a smile. “Just making sure- I’m bad with names and faces. Don’t want to cause any future identity confusions
.” The tall older man responded as he clutched his sling and walked away with the rest of the Nucleus crew.
Juliana closed her eyes as the snow gently touched and fell off of her face. She arched her head toward the sky and let the snow fall with no objections to the feeling of the moment. Christmas music played over loudspeakers in the distance, and she became lost in the moment. Such perfection in the life of Juliana Emerson was rare- but like all other things in her life, it would never last.