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I work 10 hours days 4 1/2 days of the week as a vet tech. Some days I come home and just fall straight to bed after a long day, but others I'll come on. I also compete in obedience competitions with my dog, so a lot of my time is spent training with him. The weekends and Mondays are my best days to be on.
Writing Levels
  1. Intermediate
  2. Adept
  3. Advanced
  4. Adaptable
Preferred Character Gender
  1. Male
  2. Female
  3. Primarily Prefer Female
Modern, Slice of Life, Medieval, Romance, Action, Adventure, Animal fiction (not anthros or furries), a little bit of Fantasy
Unsuspected, Nora has finds herself joining an organization called "Advanced Cell Regeneration for Incurable Diseases" - A.C.R.I.D who plays with the people's hearts by promising to find a cure for various terminal diseases, even having 'proven' that some of their cures have worked by putting together fake test results that, otherwise, have been unproven to be false. Their real objective, however, is to gain more money and power, essentially, to create the biological weapons of a potentially deadly virus that has been designed by them that are dangerous beyond comprehension.

She joins as the managing PR. Her role and job for the company is to manage articles, get their publicity out there, as well as talk to interested patrons who wish to do their part with the helping of funding, unknowingly only helping the organization get closer to their goal, along with the other few unsuspecting employees.

With her customer service, essentially, she suddenly gets an email from a man in England interested in wanting to help out and even wanting one of the first batches of the medicine once the cure has been completed and tested to the fullest extent, but, surprisingly and maybe a little oddly, the two bond and form a connection over emails. That soon leads to Nora giving Benjamin her personal email where they continue to talk back and forth as Benjamin, an agent, tries to get as much information out of Nora as possible while trying to sound like a friendly person.

But soon a connection forms between the two, breaking the bounds of just speaking as Benjamin slowly begins to realize that Nora actually knows nothing and that she really is clueless with what is going on. But it isn't until a few months later that Nora soon finds herself being threatened randomly in various ways, something that prompts Benjamin to hop on a plane to see her, as well as to investigate his own self.


This was strange, Nora told herself as she settled down on her bed for the night and pulled her laptop off of her nightstand to set it in her lap. She opened the upper lip of the machine and turned it on, watching as the screen sprung to life with a bright light that caused her to clenched her eyes a bit until they adjusted to it. Perhaps she should have kept her bedroom lights on. Oh well.

She shrugged the matter off as she put in her password and waited for everything on her desktop screen to load and come to life. A picture of her and her parents showed at the wallpaper of when they went on a trip to Hawaii a few years ago--large smiles stretched across their lips as they held various glasses of alcohol in their hands, cheering as they cheesed for the camera and leaned against the wooden counter of the bar they had been sitting at. She remembered that day, remembered that whole trip actually. She just wished that they could take trips like that more often with one another, of where they could just lie back and enjoy each other's company and actually have a good time while baking under the hot sun.

Unfortunately, they weren't lucky enough to do that very often. Once was enough, or at least all they could afford at the time, and while her parents had been telling her to save for an upcoming vacation just as they were, Nora knew better than to get her hopes up that that was ever going to come to the light of day. They were all too busy lately, and with her new job, Nora didn't think that she would be able to get any days off for a while. They needed her help, which she loved, but with that came a lot of work. Being a PR was not easy, no matter what anyone said about it.

Nevertheless, Nora's mind was averted from her thoughts of the years ago vacation and her longing to go back as she moved the courser on the screen and hit the Google Chrome icon which brought her up to her home page. She clicked a few more times and opened up her Gmail account, her top teeth biting into her bottom lip as she took a breath, smiled to herself, and then hit 'compose' in order to compose message.

It was odd, yes, she thought to herself as she typed in the, now, familiar email address of a man who lived on the other side of the world. Originally they had only spoken through her work email because he wanted to know more information about what the company she worked for was planning on doing and how they were going about achieving their goals. She answered his questions diligently and smoothly, just as her boss had told her to do. "Never reveal too much information to anyone; wouldn't want anyone trying to get a hold of our secrets," she had been told her first day, to which she nodded her head and told them that she wouldn't do so. But now she found herself having given him her personal email, telling him that if he wanted to speak more that he was more than willing to contact her or that she would even contact him first.

Which, in that moment, was exactly what she was doing.

TO: Benjamin Rahl

Subject: Getting Back to You


Greetings! Just as I said before in my last email from my work address, I would be giving you my personal email address and even sending you an email so that you know who it is and that it is actually me sending you an email. So, here I am, Nora Anderson.

You can continue to contact me through this if you would like unless is pertains to the company and the advancements of the development and studies going on with it, in which we will probably have to move this back into my work email just to be on the safer side. However, if there are any questions you have--questions that are not serious--you can constant me through here.

I hope all is well. Contact me as you wish!

- Nora Anderson
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Benjamin would have been lying if he'd said he wasn't bored. He was about ready to fall asleep his mind was so numb, but could he really be blamed for that? MI6 had recruited him for his skills in the field, so that was where he should have been - in the field. Not sitting at a desk in front of more screens, wires, technology and surveillance than you'd find in a sci-fi film. How he'd allowed them to talk him into this assignment was beyond him. Something about the fate of the human race, yada, yada, yada...nothing he'd not heard before, but this time he felt maybe he'd signed on that invisible dotted line just a bit too soon and without enough information. Like perhaps the detail about sitting behind a desk for two weeks on end doing nothing but emailing of all things. Oh, he had no complaints about the woman on the other end. All research on her had come back without red flags - not that such was a guarantee she wasn't guilty at this point - she was attractive, smart and charming enough, but that didn't curb his nerves.

He was a field agent for a reason and sitting in this room....gods, he'd go stir-crazy.

Orders were orders, though, and until he found a reason to give the go-ahead for pursuing this link to ACRID or a signal that Ms. Anderson was a dead end, he was stuck on the computer, facing a screen. Waiting. Carefully digging. Playing the part. No one could say he wasn't good at that, though, and even as a buzzing noise told him he had mail, Benjamin gave a sigh and cracked his neck with a quick rotating spin before clicking on his inbox and the mail within.

Reading over it, the agent sat back in the computer chair, hazel eyes narrowed and the left side of his bottom lip in his teeth. How to respond to that. To just start asking a great deal of personal questions would be seen as creepy to say the least, stalker-ish. The thought brought a grin to his mouth and Benjamin groaned to himself, pushing a hand back through his hair before he sighed, sitting forward again and quickly starting to type. Some would say it was wiser for him to wait, to let her think he got the email later, but if there was anything he knew about women, they liked to feel as if they were constantly on your mind, like they'd made an impression and if he responded now, it would surprise her, sure, but she'd be far more intrigued for it. Not that such wasn't actually true to some degree in this case....only, he wasn't interested for personal reasons. Then again, when was the last time he'd had any time for a personal life?

Annnnd on that note....what to write....

To: Nora Anderson

Subject: Getting Back to You

Nora ~

I must say, I am pleasantly surprised that you emailed me. I know that it is hard to trust people online these days. Thank you for keeping your word. That being said, I understand that work is strictly off-limits here. I can respect that, but I must point out that it seems incredibly forward of me to simply start asking about you directly.

Perhaps a middle ground will suffice for a first email? A question for a question? :)

I know you work in Public Relations for A.C.R.I.D and I have noted you are very good at your job, but might I ask what made you want to work that kind of job in the first place? Family business? Did you find yourself recruited or did you pursue this career? A curious mind is, well, curious.

I do hope your night is going well, Ms. Anderson, and if I seem too forward, please do let me know.

~ Benjamin Rahl
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Her phone buzzed to her right, pulling Nora away from the laptop screen shortly after she hit the send button on another email she had to take care of. She rose her brows and pursed her lips, reached over and grabbed her phone to see what was going on--nothing important. Just a friend of hers sending her a text on whether or not she would be able to come out to the downtown part of the city this weekend for a night out on the town. She had half a mind to decline the offer just as soon as she read the text, but deciding that she should, perhaps, give it a little more thought, Nora merely set her phone back down on the nightstand and lifted her laptop off her lap.

She stood from the bed and stretched, listening to her muscles pop as she winced at the feeling. She needed to exercise; maybe then she wouldn't feel so cramped and achy at the end of the day like she often found herself feeling after a day of work. Then again, sitting at a desk all day hunched over reading emails and responding to people while answering phone calls probably resulted in her achy body too, as well as the eye fatigue that she was now beginning to experience.

But, it was all with the job. And it was a good one; she had great benefits, and she made great pay. For this being the first big job for her career, she figured that she may have hit the jackpot. When her application for the company had been accepted and when she had been given an interview and shortly after had been told that she was hired, she actually almost had bought a lottery ticket to try her luck. Fortunately, she wasn't much of a gambler, and thinking against her better judgement she didn't want to try her luck with anything else, least it cancel out the luck that she had already been given.

Pushing the thought aside, however, Nora quickly made her way to her bathroom--tripping over a discarded shirt on the floor in the process that caused her to curse and grumble--to take care of her nightly rituals. A long day a work meant there was going to be another long day tomorrow at work, something she was looking forward too, yet beginning to dread all at the same time. Still, she had to do what she had to do. The demands were pouring in with the new ad campaign that had just released for the company--a new set of television commercials as well as new articles for magazines, journals, and newspapers--and more journalist were calling in, trying to get more information on the company so that they could publish it in their latest journals or websites. That in and of itself would be a day long project, but it was for the benefit of the company if the higher ups and her bosses decided to give her to go ahead to release certain information out, as well as press conferences that the company tended to make on a monthly basis to keep up with their research and development.

Sighing, when Nora emerged from her bathroom she yawned and shook her head, her eye lids threatening to close on her just as soon as her knees hit the bed. She crawled up the mattress and pulled at her laptop, turning it on again and then looking through her emails one last time. Except, she paused. Her brows furrowed and her lips pursed.

Talk about 'getting back to you' relatively quickly. It was a surprise to see a reply from Benjamin so quickly given their previous connections with one another through her work; their emails for the past two weeks had been sporadic at best, though nothing of that was a surprise to Nora given the amount of other emails and calls she had to handle throughout the day.

Still, looking at his email and reading through it--had it actually used a smiley face?--she couldn't help with the pressing feeling of curiosity, and it was something that kept her awake and it was what made her start taping away at her keys again, despite how her mind told her to shut the damn contraption so that she could get some sleep.

TO: Benjamin Rahl

Subject: Getting Back to You


Since you were so surprised to have received an email from me earlier, I must send back and say that I am very surprised to hear back from you so quickly. I'm not normally used to answering to one person so quickly in a single day, but I guess this is a bit of fresh air for me.

Nonetheless, I guess I should start by answering your question, despite how my answer may not be the most exciting thing in the world to read. It may seem strange to hear, but in college I double majored in Public Relations and Communications with the hopes of working in Public Relations professionally. I can't necessarily say why this was a career path that struck me as so interesting, but I think the ability to help companies get their products out there to the public, as well as being a main component for making sure the factual information gets out to people, has always been a passion of mine. I never wanted to be the one to sell anything tangible, but I loved the thought of managing what the public hears of a certain product while not handling the creativeness that comes with creating actual advertisements.

Of course, I never imagined that I would land a job like I do now with A.C.R.I.D, but I guess I can only say that I am lucky, and thankful, for the opportunity. I was actually told of the positioning for a Public Relations job for the company by an unknown source if you will--I was sent an email to check the company out--and after seeing what they were developing and creating, I jumped at the opportunity for this job. My aunt passed away from breast cancer a few years ago, actually, so seeing that A.C.R.I.D was close to finding a cure, I wanted to do anything I could to help out.

And then so it goes, I guess. I got the job, and I've been working here for a while now. I'm happy to see that, hopefully, my PR skills are good enough since someone like you--from England--gained information about the company.

Speaking of which, that begs a question from me to you if you don't think it's too pressing: How did you come to the decision to get in contact with the company to learn more about it? What made you curious about what A.C.R.I.D was doing?

I hope my answer wasn't too long winded for you.


Nora Anderson

Benjamin found himself tilting his head this way and that slowly, rereading the email for the third time, assessing far too many things to list, far too fast to want to list them and with a second-nature he barely thought about. Such as the style of writing belonging to the woman on the other side of the screen, her choice of words, the speed in which she'd replied, the probability of her story being true based on that speedy return and how well her explanation matched up with what MI6 had already learned about her. So far....everything fit, but that didn't mean it was legit and it certainly didn't mean she wasn't lying through her teeth right now.

Or fingers.

Time and a great deal more of sitting here for days on end building a 'trusting' relationship would tell whether this source was truly an innocent pawn for ACRID or a truly great actress protecting the companies darker agenda. Only way to figure it out was to write another damn email. The male pushed a hand back through his hair and yawned before sitting forward and starting to type. At least he could be grateful Nora knew how to spell and seemed willing enough to share some information. Not all sources were so easy to work with.

Then again, she could just be playing him.

Right, Benji, focus.

To: Nora Anderson

Subject: Getting Back to You

Nora ~

I found your answer very informative, not long-winded. I have plenty of co-workers that are exceptionally long-winded and you certainly do not fall into their crowd, rest assured. Thank you for answering my question. I know it might have been a bit forward, but it seemed a good place to start, a medium between the business we have been discussing and the personal. Thank you for indulging me. Let me return the favor.

I came to know about A.C.R.I.D. through my boss, actually. You company has branched out into my country, and the corporation I work for has become interested in investing in the products A.C.R.I.D. will soon have for purchase. I was tasked with contacting your company and came across you. Of course, the company interests me for personal reasons as well. I have people in my life fighting their own battles with illness and I would love to be a part of something that could bring hope and relief to them. I suppose that is something all people with loved ones wish for, isn't it?

It was here that Benjamin paused and sat back again, rereading what he'd written. It was close to the truth. Very close, but that was what made a good lie. Trying to fabricate something from thin air was how people got caught in untruths. Sowing lies within truth was far easier than inserting truths into a lie. His boss had put him on this assignment. He did have personal reasons for wanting to be on this case. He did know a few people who were less than healthy. Most of them agents in the line of duty, but still under the weather, so to speak. Truths seeded with untruths, most of them implied to make Nora think he was telling her one thing when in reality Benjamin meant something completely different.

He'd not said anything too revealing, nothing he wouldn't be able to recall later. But how to keep the email going? What else to say? Hazel eyes narrowed, a lip between teeth again before he sat forward and started, once more, to type.

I know I should stick to topic, perhaps ask you more about your job, but I find myself curious; you chose Public Relations as your major, but did you ever consider another path? I am sure you had many people who discouraged you from your choice, how did you handle that kind of adversity? If I am asking too much, too soon, please ignore all questions, but what is life without risks? I feel the potential of an answer from you is well worth the risk.

Do sleep well, Nora. I believe it is time for me to log off. It is nearly 6:00 A.M. here and I shall be heading to work soon. I do look forward to your future email, though.

~ Benjamin
Though she had told herself that she would wait for morning before she replied to another email, Nora found her eyes unwilling to close as she laid back in bed. Her fingers itched, her legs twitched, and eventually she got back out of bed to search for her laptop. With her bottom lip pressed in between her teeth, she rose her brows when she turned her laptop back on and went back to her email, surprised, again, to see that she had another email to look forward to all ready.

She read through the wording and blinked her eyes, a sudden sense of.... Wariness coming over the woman as she took a breath and slowly let it out. What was she doing? Again the question plagued her mind as the bright lights penetrated her eyes, forming a small headache as they grew ever more fatigued, just wishing that she would fall asleep. Why was she speaking to this man, and why had he been so eager to continue speaking with her outside of her work email? Of course, it had been her bringing up her personal email that possibly brought the conversations to mind, however there was nothing that the man had written to her that otherwise let her know that he was against doing it all.

So why was he? Why was he so curious about her, even so much as to ask her questions about her personal life?

Nora hummed to herself at the thought. Should she continue on, then, or leave him wondering what happened to her after never emailing him back? No, that would be terribly rude. Though she knew nothing of the man--or whom she assumed was a man--on the other side of the screen, and while they had never spoken to each other personally, it would still be against her nature to completely cut herself off from him. After all, how would she feel if the same happened to her in any situation? Terrible. Like she may be some sort of pest that the other person just wanted to get away from and instead of just telling her they just left, leaving her confused and feeling even more insecure about herself...

Perhaps she was thinking too hard about it. With the shake of her head, Nora straightened her back and started typing again.

TO: Benjamin Rahl

Subject: Getting Back to You


Well, it's good to know that I'm not a nuisance or being long winded with what I'm saying; I tend to get that often in the office, though I suppose that is because I work along side people who are generally more serious and are not used to speaking so longingly about pointless things. But, I guess that is something that I will just have to work on and get used to. The work place is busy, after all, so I suppose chatting about useless things would be a waste of time.

No matter, though. As I said before, I'm glad that the information of the company was able to reach your country and that you've grown an interest with it, as well as the company that you work for. I agree that everyone who has or has had a loved ones that have an illness wants nothing but for them to get better, so hopefully these products, once more refined and once they are well enough to be available to the public, will be able to change lives.

Again, I'm getting long winded with what I'm saying; I apologize for that in advance. But to answer your question, yes, there were a few people who wanted me to major in something else, namely my parents. They never believed that I would able to make a real career out of being a PR person and tried their best to get me to change my mind, but look at what I have now--a good job, so I was able to prove them wrong through hard work and a little bit of luck.

Regardless of that, there was a point in time when I thought about journalism; I never majored in it, but I did take a class on it and later decided that journalism was something that I could never see myself doing fully for a career. It seems nice and all, but it's not... Me, I suppose. So I continued on with communications and PR, knowing full well that I could, as my parents often said, be wasting money with a degree that I may never use in the future, but I never lost my spirit. Hard work and dedication can bring someone far, so I continued working on it.

But enough about me, I'm curious about you as well. Since you're asking questions about my career choice, could I ask the same of you? Did you attend college, and if so what did you major in and why? If not, why not if you don't mind me asking, and how did you acquire the job that you now have? I hope these aren't too personal for you, but I am curious.

-- Nora Anderson

After reading through her email three times over, Nora still hesitated to hit 'send', her mind questioning once again why she was doing this and what the man's reasoning could be for wanting to speak with her. She pursed her lips at the thought and sighed, leaning her head back and lightly tapping it against the headboard behind her. Ouch...

Just send it, she told herself, to which she quickly did. She could think more about it in the morning when she had more sleep and when she could think more rationally about the entire ordeal.

When the email was sent, Nora closed her laptop and put it away before she climbed back in the bed and tried to make herself fall to sleep, only to have her eyes stay open with constant worries and questions. Eventually, however, she found herself falling into a restless sleep, only to wake up a few hours later after listening to the consistent buzzing of her alarm clock. Time to start another day...

As had been the process over the last couple of days at work, Nora found her head cocked to the side with the phone pressed to her ear as she let her eyes scour over her emails and other websites she had on different tabs. Various, soft noises fluttered around her as people walked back and forth in front of the half opened door to her office as the quiet murmurs of said people penetrated through her other, free ear. "I understand," she started, sighing as she shook her head, "and I know you want the information, but it's not something that I can disclose at this time. Again, I apologize for the inconvenience, but I can't give any more information about it." She hung the phone up after that and leaned back against the chair. It wasn't unusual for the press to call, wondering where the lab that the 'cure' was being created at was located, yet every time Nora was met with the question she had to give the same answer: she couldn't disclose that information to the general public.

Even if she wanted to she would be unable to do so since she herself had no idea where the labs were located. The office that she worked in was separate from the labs, and whether or not they were close she had no idea. Nevertheless, even Nora was beginning to find herself wondering where exactly the labs were at but had yet to ever really ask the question since that seemed to be something that not even her bosses were willing to tell her. Still, that didn't help her wondering...

Oh well. She shook her head and pushed the thoughts off as she continued on with her work, only to stop when a familiar man walked past her door, catching Nora's attention. She quickly stood and rushed to the door, her hand reaching for the wood and pulling it open more. "Mr. Dawson. Sir!"

The large, broad shouldered man stopped at the woman's voice, allowing Nora enough time to catch up as she trotted over to the man. His dark eyes peered down at Nora, causing the woman to fumble for a slight second until she was able to piece her words together. "Good morning. I hope you're doing well this morning." She smiled, only to be met with a stoic look that the man generally carried which only made Nora's lips slip. Right, serious. She cleared her throat and ran a hand through her hair before she looked down at the folder tucked under her arm. She grabbed it and extended it out to the man, waiting for him to take it before she started again, "The latest press conference has just been released, and so far we've been getting good reviews. The public is seeming to gain more confidence with the product, and I just got word that the stocks are beginning to rise as well."

"Good," his voice, gruff and low, sounded as he nodded his head and looked down at the folder. Still he frowned as he opened it up, his eyes moving quickly over the papers until he closed the folder back up and looked back to Nora with his brows raised. "Is that all?"

"As of right now, yes. I'm sure we'll be getting more calls once the press conference goes around, but I'll let you know if anything arises."

The man nodded with a huff. "Just make sure that our images stays well." And with that he turned, leaving Nora be until she turned and headed back into her office. It wasn't very often that she saw Mr. Dawson wandering around, mostly because, just like the other higher ups of the company, they generally stuck to themselves in the other offices or even at the labs--where ever that was located. Nevertheless, he was the man that she saw most often and often called or referred to when she needed anything or when he ever needed any information relayed to him. He was a generally quiet man, one who took things seriously and one who didn't have time to listen to anyone's crap, apparently. He was an intimidating force, one that always made Nora shake and want to cower away from, yet she always stood her ground to keep herself well. No need in making herself look like she couldn't handle standing up to one man, right? Even if said man could just as easily fire her for making one little mistake.

She made it back to her office and closed the door halfway. Quickly, she sunk back into the chair and sighed, listening to the phone ring just as she got comfortable.
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"Ah, Agent Rahl, come in."

The words were polite, professional. Cold. But so was the woman who spoke them. Director Grey. What her right name was, no one knew, but regardless her current one fit her to a 'T'. Dressed in a gray pencil skirt, a matching gray jacket over that, her only accents being a white shirt, pearl earrings and a necklace and white shoes, she was as bland in facial appearance as her clothing. No one had ever seen her smile, heard her laugh or crack a joke. Boring would have been a good way to describe the woman if not for the sense of lethal power that she exuded. As Director of MI6, she was responsible for the lives of all who worked under her, the assignments given and the security of her country. It was little wonder the woman had no personality anymore. Most speculated she wasn't human at all, but a machine.

Benji didn't adhere to that conspiracy, but he would certainly agree the woman was far from pleasant and being able to leave her company as quickly as possible was considered a blessing. Unfortunately for him, until this whole thing with ACRID was cleared up, he was assigned to Director Grey just as much as he was to the mission itself. A debriefing of what he was learning was required at the end of every week - unless he learned something more pressing - and Benji held as much distaste for the process as he did for sitting at a computer desk for hours on end.

Still, orders were orders, and if he didn't have to break them, he wouldn't. Of course, what counted as necessary was all in the eye of the beholder...

Stepping into the expansive office, as simply decorated and dull as the woman who inhabited it, the male took a seat with easy familiarity in the action. Grey glanced up from her papers, taking note of it, but making no comment as she turned her focus back down to the desk. There was a routine of sorts between the two despite any personal distaste they might have for each other, a respect that was appropriate for the titles they held and the skills that defined them. Grey was sufficient at her job, having held the position of Director for nearly twenty-five years, a record in her line of work and her methods, while unethical at times, dark at others and outright questionable when she deemed it necessary, had made her country one of the safest in the world. That was nothing to snort at.

Especially when Benjamin Rahl, over the last five years, had been one of the prime agents helping her keep England that way. With a near flawless record at a 98% success rate for every mission he'd been involved in and being one of the youngest agents recruited by MI6, he'd risen in the ranks at a rapid pace, becoming something of an elite force to be reckoned with. Grey had seen it and chosen not to be threatened by such talent, but to utilize it to its fullest. There were rumors, even now, that she was grooming Benji to take her place when she retired. Such was only speculation at this point, though, whispered in the shadows of the lower levels and Agent Rahl ignored it.

He was here to defend his country from threat. That was all, and he was damn good at it, too. He couldn't help that right now he felt as he was wasting his time, though, waiting in silence to report...well, nothing. As if sensing his thoughts, Grey finally shuffled her papers and gave him attention, her pale blue eyes steady, emotionless. "You may report, Agent Rahl."

"There's not much to say." Benji gave a shrug, admittedly one of the few agents that would in Grey's presence, but the novelty of her powerful presence had worn off a while ago. "Ms. Anderson had given me her personal email and we are conversing that way now, but she seems as closed-lipped about ACRID now as she was when I started. I've learned nothing new, though, I suspect that might be because she doesn't have a clue what's going on."

"Are you sure of that?"

The male smirked. "I can't be sure of it anything. That's what keeps me alive, but if I had to weigh my gut on the matter, I'd say she's in way over her head and doesn't even realize it."

Grey seemed to ponder that for a moment, but it was hard to tell, her expression never changing. "That doesn't mean she can't be helpful to us. Gain her trust. See if she knows anything without being aware that she does. If she does not, terminate the contact. If she can't be of use to us, then we must pursue another lead."

"We don't have any." Benji pointed out flatly and Grey's brow might have twitched. Might have.

"All the more reason I trust you will find something of use to us, Agent Rahl."


To: Nora Anderson

Subject: Getting Back to You

Nora ~

I do not mind your 'long-windedness' as you put it. Most of my co-workers and friends are very to-the-point people. It is nice to meet someone who might actually have more than three or four sentences to say at a time before being ready to walk away. Please, feel free to talk as you will - or rather, write as you will. It does not bother me in the least.

I don't mind the questions, either. It is only fair that I answer yours if you are answering mine. Besides, how else do you get to know someone?

Like you, my parents wanted a far different career and life for me than the one I chose. While they are in politics and would have been far happier had I pursued that line of work, I was a bit of a rebellious brat as a teen and decided instead to enlist in the army at eighteen. I took two years of collage from sixteen to eighteen, but for the simple fact that it had been expected of me that I would do as my parents wanted since I could remember, I decided I wanted something different. I knew I was capable of doing more and could likely pursue any career I chose, but the thought didn't appeal so I did the one thing that guaranteed my parents disowned me. Once enlisted, I completed my training by nineteen and was deployed for my first tour in Iraq shortly after. I spent a year there before being approached by a company called Grey Incorporate and offered a job as a security detail for their deliveries. It was high-risk and most of their employees didn't last long, but I like a challenge. I said yes and not a week later my contract with the army had been paid off.

Over the last five years, I've gone from a security guard to being their Chief of Security and then out of the safety detail altogether. About two years ago they decided they liked the way I ran my division and transferred me to their shipments and books. About eight months ago I got moved up again to investigations and finances. That's where you'll find me now; keeping the books in order for my section of the corporation and searching for new companies and products to invest in.

It might all sound like a whirlwind, my life, but I promise it's a great deal simpler than it appears. I do like a challenge, though, as I have said and I don't tend to go about the simplest paths in the easiest ways. I suppose it's not in my nature.

And you? What interested you about Journalism? Now that you have your dream job, is it all you had hoped it would be? Do you ever wonder if you'll become disenchanted with it and what to do something else?

~ Benji

Sitting back, the male cracked his neck and then fingers before looking to another screen and rolling the chair to it. All right, now for the more interesting part of his evening. He was certainly glad he'd taken the day to work out in the gym, run a gauntlet meant for the newer trainees and then spent two hours in the track. It had certainly given his mind more focus now that his body wasn't jumping around demanding he do something. He might just have to keep that routine. For now, though, it was time to create the person he'd told Nora about.

Grey Incorporate was easy. It already existed....even as it didn't. The internet, public records, other companies, everyone would attest to its existence. Whether they actually knew about it being nothing more than a name and were paid off to say otherwise or just didn't know any better, Grey Incorporate was a big England name, a company that dabbled in all kinds of things from pharmaceutical distributions, weapons manufacturing, environmental movements and the list went on. Different 'branches' specialized in different things. Benjamin had chosen to say he was in pharmaceuticals, a logical place for him to be if he was contacting Nora.

Now to make it all 'real'.

He didn't have to fake his army records. That had all been true and Grey Corporate had paid off his contract. After that, though, it was careful that he not miss any details. It would take hours to get all the records out there, to make a trail that said exactly what he'd told Nora, but Benjamin wouldn't be the only agent working on it. By the time Ms. Anderson checked her email or even thought about checking up on his story - if she thought to at all - there would be 'solid' evidence to back up what he'd written.
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A Skinny Caesar salad was placed in front of Nora, causing the woman to leave her hands in her lap as she looked down at the leafy concoction with a strained smile on her lips. She lifted her head up to look at the woman in front of her, watching the blonde as a smile stretched across her own lips as she looked down at her own salad--a kale salad. God, why had she agreed to come to lunch with the woman again? Time after time, Nora was always forced to order something healthy under the scrutinizing gaze of the woman before her, looks of contempt always filling her eyes if Nora even so much as looked any other section of the menu that didn't hold any type of healthy salads written in their pages.

Nora took a breath as she smoothed the napkin against her lap. The waitress left the table and told them to enjoy their meals as Grace Hagginston--the woman sitting in front of her--grabbed a fork and started to poke at her salad.

"So, I've been hearing a lot about you around the office," the woman started as she took a bite of her salad. She looked up at Nora with her brows raised and with a smile still stretched out across her lips, the wrinkles in the corners of her eyes stretching out even more so.

"Oh?" Nora asked, her own self reaching for her fork, then, to start poking at her own salad. Well, at least there were bits of chicken in it, she told herself. "I hope they're good things."

"Oh, of course! I've heard Mr. Dawson and Mr. Johnson mumbling about the PR at the office and how well she's been doing; I mean, come on, even you have to admit that word has gotten around much quicker since you've joined the team. The last PRs we had at the company had never been able to get the publicity that you have."

Despite the doting on her work, Nora blushed. She shook her head and wiped her mouth down with her napkin before she let the cloth rest back against her lap. "I don't know about all of that," Nora answered with a light laugh. She tried to brush down the reddening of her cheeks but to no avail, her face heating up as a swell of pride rushed through her body. "I just came in at the right time when the company was beginning to really make moves with the products."

"Don't sell yourself so short, honey. Even I notice the changes that the company has gone through since you were hired."

"You're the accountant; I'm sure you're more than used to seeing changes in the company, especially with the money."

A snort came from Grace as she shook her head and took another bite out of her kale. The blonde--somewhere in her thirties--had a slim figure, obviously fit and Nora had much reason to suspect that was because the woman took such great care of her body. Grace had been one of the first people that Nora had become acquaintances with at ACRID, and she was, really, the only one that Nora talked to and communicated with on more of a friendly basis. The woman was nice, extremely smart, though there was just... Something about her that Nora didn't understand. Why had the woman become so fixated on her so quickly? Maybe she thought about it too much though, like she did with everyone at ACRID. Nora tried to push the thoughts aside when ever they appeared, such as they did now as a lull in the conversation swept over the two as they continued on with their lunch.

About once a week Grace asked Nora to lunch so that the two could talk, and while normally Nora had to decline the offer because of her busy schedule, there were times when she was able to take time out of her day to have lunch instead of staying cooped up in her office with a boxed lunch on her desk so that she could continue working.

"I just don't understand how you're able to do it--being a PR, I mean," Grace started back up. Nora took a sip of her water before she rose her brows in question at the comment. "I can't imagine that it's as simple of a job as so many people make it out to be. After all, everything falls on your shoulders with the company; if bad publicity comes out, you have to be the one to stop it. If the press want answers to something, you're the one who has to get the information out. It all just seems like so much work; I don't understand how you're able to do it. It must be a lot of pressure, right? Especially with Mr. Dawson and Mr. Johnson always expecting things to go right. But... They like you, or at least I think so. They trust you, and I think that's why they give you so much to do. They know you won't try and tear the company down."

With a pause, Nora let it all sink in. Yes, it was a lot of work, but she enjoyed it. Nevertheless, listening to Grace go on about their bosses caused her stomach to flip. It was a lot of pressure, especially to hear what she was saying. "Or, at least, they hope you won't. But we don't have to worry about that, right?"

Nora blinked her eyes, catching the glint of... Malice, was it, coming from Grace's eyes before it quickly disappeared, almost as if the look had never appeared at all. "Of course I won't. I wouldn't dare do something like that."

"Good. Then that just means you were the best pick for the job."

There was a general silence between the two throughout the rest of lunch until Grace spoke up, saying that she had to go to the restroom. The woman stood from her seat, and with Nora glancing down at her plate, she didn't notice the narrow eyed glance that Grace sent her was as she started walking off.

It wasn't long after Grace disappeared to the bathroom that Nora felt her phone vibrate in her purse. She turned and grabbed the device out and turned it on, watching as the phone came back to life only to show on the display screen that she had a new email, and not from work. She pursed her lips as the sight before she clicked on her phone to open the email, tilting her head when she noticed that it had come from Benjamin. What time was it over in England, she found herself wondering, as she let her eyes sweep over the email, her mind quickly becoming consumed with the words that were typed out.

Her eyes blinked as she let everything sink in, wondering if she could believe everything that she was reading. Oddly enough, she did believe him. If he was lying he sure as hell knew how to put together a good story at the very least, but she shook her head at the thought and re read the message again. "Nora?"

Flinching, Nora tucked her phone to her chest and looked up at Grace who stood over her with a questioning look. "Everything okay?"

"Ah, yes, of course. It's just an email from work." Giving off another strained smile, Nora turned the phone off and put it back in her purse.

There was a pause, Grace staring down at Nora until her lips turned up into a smalls smile. "Well, you should probably get going then, right? No need in keeping you any longer. Don't worry about the check; I'll take care of it."


TO: Benjamin Rahl

Subject: Getting Back to You


If you don't mind me saying, I have to say that I think it's odd that your parents would disown you after enlisting yourself into the army. Perhaps England's views on the military branches are much different from the normal American view on it, but I still can't help but think that it's strange. Though--to me anyway--enlisting into the army is a bit crazy, I would think that your parents would be proud of you nonetheless. You were doing your part to keep your country safe, whether or not you only did it to pester and bother your parents, but it's still something that I think would be a honor to do, and something that I think any parent would be proud to say that their child has done. I can understand being worried about your safety, especially during times of war, but the fact that your parents disowned you over that...

Maybe I should stop with those thoughts. I'm sure you don't want to read my thoughts on it all, so I'll keep my fingers shut on the matter and leave things be. It seems as if you've been able to make a good life for yourself anyway, and as long as you don't regret any decisions you've made, then I think you've made the best decisions for yourself. And that's all one can really do in their life, right? Lead a life with no regrets over what they could have done had they had the courage, or sense, to do or not do something.

Again, I think I'm rambling. Sorry about that.

But as for why I was interested in Journalism, I guess you can say that my interest in it was just about the same as my interest is in PR: I wanted to be able to get the word and news out there about things. But, as you probably already know, Journalism is a lot different than PR work. I didn't like the idea of going into Journalism with the ambition of taking stories and then twisting it into my own views like so many journalist do. I also didn't like the idea of getting in people's faces after a tragedy just so that I could be the first one to get the scoop on a story. So, I decided to just stick with PR; I could get the facts out about a product--the actual facts with my opinion never thrown in it in any way--and I think I work best in that.

It may sound like an incredibly boring job to many people, but I enjoy it. I do wonder if I'll ever become bored with it as you suggested, but with how things are going now with work I don't think I really have time to become bored with anything. Whether or not that's a good thing, I guess I'll figure that out later, but as of right now I'm not in the least bit disenchanted with it. A bit tired because of how much work it is, yes, but that just means that I'm doing it right, right?

She didn't dare mention that she worried about what could happen in the figure with her job; after all, who was to say that after the product was out there to the public that she would still have a job, or at least as big of a job as she had now? It was a worrying thought, one that often brought a sense of anxiety to the woman when ever she thought about it. Still, it was nothing that she wanted to admit to a stranger, even if she had to backspace the words that automatically flew from her fingers without her even knowing it.

Your job sounds much more interesting than what I do, however. It seems more... Exciting, in a way. How does it feel to work with book keeping and investing, though? I imagine that that must have been a large change from being a security detail. You must like to protect things then, right? I can certainly admire that about a person.


P.S. I couldn't help but wonder about the name 'Benji'. Is that a nickname of yours? I like it.
To: Nora Anderson

Subject: Getting Back to You

Nora ~

Haha! If you knew my parents you would understand just how they could be disappointed with such a decision to join the military. They are very important figures in the England Government. My father is George Rahl, Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury, & Minister for the Civil Service. He wanted me to take his place when he retired, to start off as a lower official of some kind, of course, but the goal would always be to work up to his status. My mother is Audrey Jones-Rahl, Secretary of State for the Home Department & Minister for Women & Equalities. You can only imagine how she and my father met. All they really wanted for me was to serve my country like they do. The military....I suppose you could say it doesn't get enough recognition. Commanders, Generals they are a dime a dozen as far as my parents are concerned. There's always another war hero forgotten in time, their names besides hundreds of others. They wanted me to be more known than that, I guess, but such a thing doesn't interest me. I don't care if I go down in history or if the entire world knows my face on sight. It was always important to them, just like their jobs, but not to me.

I know most parents wouldn't disown their kids for choosing another career, but this came in the wake of them both announcing I had been accepted into the University of Oxford in an interview on national television. When they found out I had declined, they were furious and felt I had embarrassed them. We had a fight and I left the next day. It wasn't the best parting and I regret it, but they don't want to speak to me and I've stopped trying.

Such is life sometimes, though.

I do thank you for your opinion on the matter, though! Sometimes it is good to be reminded that what I did wasn't crazy by everyone's standards - even if it is by yours ;) - and that it was my decision to make.

That being said, I shall say that it sounds like you made a wise decision in your own career choice, too. It seems to me that you gave it some deep thought, and I have to agree, I wouldn't want to be that person who brought up something a person was already shaken or grieving about just for a story. I suppose some people can do it and not get personal, but I don't think I would be able to, either. You, especially, seem far too nice for that kind of work.

Benji paused then, leaning back in his chair as he read the next two paragraphs of Nora's email, a frown pulling his brows downward. Grey had said to find a lead, to get something from the woman on the other side of the computer and he knew in time he might be able to, but that was the problem - no one knew how much time they really had before ACRID's formula would hit the market. Once that happened, it would be nearly impossible to stop the momentum the company would gain and that would be deadly....or it might not be. They were still trying to determine that, though, if Benji knew anything, it was that ACRID spelled no good. He'd been an agent far too long to not trust that twisting, unsettled feeling in his gut. It churned every time he heard anything new about ACRID.

They were not what they claimed to be. He'd bet his life on it.....and just might have to.

That in mind, how to use the opening Ms. Nora had just given him to his advantage without crossing an invisible line into a no-touch topic? Rahl rubbed the bridge of his nose with thumb and forefinger, really wishing he had some bullets flying at him right now. It would be easier....even if Nora did seem to be loosening up just a bit, even going so far as to compliment him at the end of her email there. The thought brought a slight smile before the male shook his head and himself, leaning forward again. All right, let's see...

No, I don't think your job would be boring at all, actually. Rather it seems you'd always have something new to do. It is up to you to make sure the company looks good, even if it doesn't always, right? That has to be a challenge, especially for such a high-profile company like ACRID. They have a lot of enemies and a lot of people who think they are not as truthful as they claim to be, not as helpful. It would take a strong mind, a rather creative one to combat bad publicity like that. You're doing a good job of it, too. Is it as hard as it sounds?

You would be right. I very much like protecting, but not things so much as people, though I had dabbled in both areas in my line of work. Book keeping and investing is a far cry from the military and security detail both, but not so far fetched as it sounds, at least not to me. I studied a lot of financing and such in those two years of collage. My parents thought it was important, and I suppose I can thank them for insisting on it because delving into this job wasn't as shocking as it could have been. Still, there are days, more now than there used to be, that I miss my first career. There is something about knowing you're on the front lines, protecting your country and people, making a tangible difference that I miss. When I was in the military, there was....a very simplistic kind of purpose to everything I did. It was nice. Maybe I'll return to it one day.

*chuckles* Benji is a nickname my sister, Sara, gave me. My parents weren't all that fond of it, but I was always partial to the name. It fits my personality better, I think, and it's certainly less of a mouthful than Benjamin.

What about you? Do you friends give you any nicknames?

~ Benji
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It wasn't until later that evening, after she returned to her apartment from work, that Nora had been able to check her personal emails again, and as soon as she looked at the email that had been sent hours ago from Benjamin, she quickly clicked on the message and read through it. At first she stopped after reading the message--her brows stuck in a furrowed state as her body hunched forward as her eyes peered down at the words written on the screen--until her mind processed all that had been written, leaving the young woman in a state of confusion as she, again, read through the message.

No way, she told herself as she snorted, a short chuckle coming past her lips as she shook her head. Son of the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for England? What kind of fool did he play her as? Though she knew nothing of the UK's politics (hell, she hardly knew anything of America's politics due to the general fuckery politicians posed on a day to day basis), she had enough knowledge to know that the Prime Minister was no laughing matter, nor was it a simple position taken up by anyone in the Government. Oh no, the man Benjamin spoke of, Nora reasoned with herself, was more than likely an important figure to England, someone who could be taken seriously or be taken as a joke depending on which side of the spectrum a person wanted to reside on with their political beliefs.

So... What business did someone born into the family that he had been born into--despite how he was now no longer a part of the family after being disowned--have with getting into contact with her? Of course, Nora knew that he had answered that question for her already--he was doing it because of his job and because of his own personal reasons for vying for the products of ACRID to work--but that still begged the question in her mind of how all of this made sense. Could the man behind the computer screen truly be telling her the truth, or was he trying to pull a ruse over her?

The hairs on the back of her neck stood. She rubbed the back of her neck and sighed, her curiosity too peaked, now, for her to sit and stare at the email any longer. Instead of responding in that next moment, Nora took the moment to open another tab on the browser, her fingers clicking away to the name of 'George Rahl'. Numerous articles surfaced after she hit enter, ranging from things that had been published recently to things that had been published years ago, articles that were left in the back burner as new 'scandals' and news appeared with the politician. Nora clicked on the most interesting link, a page surfacing of both articles of the past and of the present.

For the next twenty minutes her eyes scoured over the words, her upper teeth biting into the skin of her bottom lip. A picture appeared of the family, a caption below pointing out each member; George Paul, Audrey Jones-Rahl, Benjamin Rahl, and Sara Rahl. So far, everything that Benjamin had mentioned within his email was proving to be true; she saw an article that spoke of dysfunction within the family, a falling out of some sorts though, as per usual, they were all speculations on what could have possibly happened.

But her searches went deeper after that, onto Benjamin Rahl himself. While there wasn't as much information on him as his father and his mother, there was still information on him--something about him going to college and then even enlisting himself in the military...

So he wasn't lying, or perhaps the person behind the screen was. After all, if it was this easy for her to get this information, who was to say that someone else was not able to do the same? Ah, but it all seemed to make so much sense! While she wasn't taking the time to delve too deeply into the man's life, there was still something about the way he typed his words out onto the email that made her believe that what he was saying was the truth and that he was, in fact, the man he was painting himself out to be.

Nonetheless, it still made Nora feel none the better. She groaned and closed her eyes as she closed the tab and went back to the email, her eyes staring at it for another moment until she final poised her fingers at the keys and started to type.

To: Benjamin Rahl

Subject: Getting Back to You


Impressive that you come from such a well known family in England; I'm almost half tempted to believe that you may even be lying to me. I'll take your word for what you say instead, though. I get the feeling that you're not a bad person, one who wouldn't try to deceive me too much, or at least I hope not. But regardless of that, with you mentioning all of that it still blows my mind that your parents would disown you for enlisting into the military. With coming from a family of such upstanding, I figured that they would have jumped at the chance to mentioned to the country that their own son was going to do his part in keeping them all safe.

Of course, that may have put your life in even more danger, but I still feel like that would have been good publicity on their part. Who am I to say, though? They have their own minds, as you say, and they obviously had a life planned out for you that you wanted no part of, and I can't condemn you for that; I don't think anyone can, really. At least you were doing something worthwhile, rather than wasting your time with something frivolous that could have led you to being nothing but a failure and a nobody.

Still, I think being in the military and doing good for your country will always be better than being a politician; that is a career field that I do not, and probably will never, understand. No matter what type of recognition one can receive, I will always respect someone who is willing to lay their life down for the good of their country more rather than someone who only sits behind a desk not putting themselves in the line of duty.

But again, that may only be my opinion on the matter. I probably shouldn't be delving into such topics anyway since I have hardly any knowledge of politics. I couldn't imagine growing up with parents who do that for a living. As for Journalism, I guess some people are more nosy or willing to pry into people's lives no matter what to get a story; it's a bit unnerving to think that there are people like that out there who can completely block their mind out to pester people as such...

But, such is life, as you said.

And that was where Nora paused. Her fingers stopped as she tried to formulate a way to answer his questions about her work and the difficulty level with it. It wasn't difficult, but then again it was in the same right. Really, it was something that Nora had never really been able to describe to someone else, especially about ACRID with the controversy that swirled around the company on a daily basis. People had their speculations, she understood, but the hardest part was trying to get those people to believe that the company wasn't bad and that they were, really, for the good of the people. She had nothing to go on that said otherwise, after all, but that still did nothing to curve the views of those who were too skeptical.

That wasn't to say that Nora didn't have her own doubts, but with the evidence that she had been shown, she could do nothing but believe in what lie in front of her with the company. The science behind it she could never truly understand, but all that she had learned and heard about the company were things that were... Good. Was it true good to be true though? That was something that Nora couldn't answer.

It's always, and likely always will be, tough to work for a company like ACRID that dabbles with the topic of cancer and of finding a cure for it. People are skeptical, for good reasons, but with that skepticism comes people who will do everything in their power to demonize the company and make it out to be this terrible place that is only trying to take people's money, like so many companies probably do. So with that, I'm always, around the clock, doing my best to tear away those articles and prove to the people that the company is not bad and that they really, truly, are for the people, and not just because it's my job. They have a cure, as hard as that is to believe, but I've seen the evidence. I believe it, and I guess that's why I put so much of my energy into doing my job; I want the public to see the good of the company so that they'll believe in it.

It sounds far fetched, and I know it does, and maybe I'm a fool, but I believe that I'm doing the right thing.

As for you, though, I can imagine you feeling a bit cooped up in your current job given what you had done in the past, and I've heard often that when people leave the military that they're often left feeling that they have no purpose any longer. Is that really true? I imagine that's because of the rigorous schedules that you all are kept on, correct? Either way, I do hope that you, eventually, scratch that itch of yours to do something exciting.

For a change of subject--and again you are more than welcome to refuse to answer if it's too personal--what was it like having a sibling? How far apart are you two in age, and are you close?

Well, I imagine that you might be if she was the one to give you that nickname. Any nicknames for me, though? Well... Nothing worth sharing. In high school the names that were given to me weren't necessarily 'nicknames' in the most endearing terms, but I suppose that's only because I was considered a nerd, a goody two shoes who always listened to the teachers and always did her work no matter what. I won't let you suffer through some of the things they called me, but for a name like Nora, there aren't too many things I can be called in reference to it. It was different in college though; my friends called me 'Rah-Rah' at one point in reference to the last part of my name, even if it doesn't have a 'H' sound to it.

I quickly did away with that nickname and demanded that they stop calling me that. It made me think they were calling to a cat or something, to which I certainly am not.


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Guilt tempted at the first few lines of Nora's email, but Benji pushed it back with long years of practice behind the action and instead focused on the rest of the email. He'd known mentioning his parents had been risky, not only for his mission, but for the possibility that the woman on the other side of the screen would cry bullcrap and end the email exchange. It had paid off, though. He'd given her enough bait that she'd taken the hook. Now all that was left was to reel her in, slow enough that she moved where he wanted her, but not so fast that the hook pierced her badly enough to truly draw attention and make her struggle. Benjamin was good at his job, though. Very good.

Studying the email one more time, he rolled the chair forward and once more started to type, starting with his relief over her believing him and ending with information about his sister. That part was actually very easy. Sarah was turning eighteen this year and had chosen Cambridge as her collage of choice. She wanted to be a lawyer. Not quite as glamorous as their parents had wanted, but still in the political world of sorts and it satisfied them for now. His sister had always been the golden child, straight A's, involved in every kind of sport, every activity she could get her hands on. She'd been Prom Queen, Student President and was a part of at least six clubs at her high school. Benji knew how she sounded - stuck up, a bitch on wheels and the typical spoiled princess.....and his sister could be all those things at times, but it didn't describe her. Not truly.

To Benjamin, she'd been the sun, bright and happy, everything he'd never felt he was or could be, but he'd protected it in her fiercely, often putting him at odds with his parents. Sara had always been able to make him smile and he loved her dearly. He guessed he could say he'd been wrapped around her finger and the same was still true now. They didn't speak as often as he liked or wanted to, but his sister had kept contact with him and for that Benji was grateful.

He described all this freely in the email to Nora, having nothing to hide regarding it. He knew it would put Sara at risk with ACRID if he ever pissed them off, but in truth, he'd endangered his family many times before this and would likely do so many times after this. It was the hazard of the job. For now, speaking of his kid sister would give him a more 'human' appeal, more genuine and that was what he needed to win Nora's cooperation.

Never in a million years would he have anticipated truly earning her trust....and perhaps growing fond of the woman herself.


(One month later)

To: Nora Anderson

Subject: Getting Back to You

Nora ~

You know when we first started emailing and you said you hoped I could scratch the itch for excitement that I had? Well, I've come upon the solution to my problem! Don't worry, it's not anything crazy. I did that last week... All right, all right, in all seriousness, there is a new trainer in the city, teaching a form of martial arts I don't yet know. The spots for his class were filling up quickly, but I managed to snag a place! I start lessons on Monday and I have to say, I can't remember the last time I was excited to be in a gym getting thrown around on a mat until I don't want to stand anymore. LOL

Yes, I'll be careful, but I thought you should be the first to know. :)

So, how's work? I know I wasn't around yesterday. My own work-load has been insane this week and I found that I just couldn't get to a keyboard. Well, actually, that's not true. I DID get to a keyboard....and then I used it as a pillow. Guilty as charged! Still, I do hope this correspondence finds you in good spirits and health. Have you gotten over the cold yet? And what of your coworker? She still making you eat those awful salads? I swear, you should just eat a burger with all the trimmings around her and sit calmly by as she faints from stress.

I know, I'm evil. What can I say?

Let me know you still live! I'll be around most the day - short day at work, so I should be able to respond to you fairly quickly.

~ Benji

The male smiled at the screen as he pressed the send button and spun around in his chair, thinking over what he'd written. The first part had been more than true...sorta. The trainer was new and the style of fighting was definitely new, but Benji hadn't had to fight for a position to train with the man - he'd been assigned to the Agent (among a few others) and Benjamin really couldn't wait to start learning. He'd been staying in shape, but there was something about fighting, hand-to-hand with someone that was so much different than punching a bag or going through an obstacle course.

He missed the adrenaline and now more than ever having gotten a shot of it so unexpected yesterday. He'd fibbed about the work-load, of course. In reality they'd had a shooting outside their 'company building' and a manhunt had swiftly followed. He hadn't caught the guy, but the thrill of searching for him along with several other agents and getting back out into the city and bustling life had been...refreshing.

Still, sitting here, emailing Nora wasn't the chore it had once been and Benjamin knew he was getting far too invested in his lead, was just emailing. What true harm could that do? They weren't IMing, weren't Skyping, weren't even interested in meeting. It was just words on a screen and who knew what truly lay on the other side of it? Somehow that was supposed to matter, but just as he'd done for almost two weeks now, Benji found himself looking forward to seeing what those words would be.

And wishing, just for a moment, that Nora would truly reveal she knew nothing about ACRID and he could stop this charade and simply be her friend. No more fishing, no more digging, no more guilt.
To: Benjamin Rahl

Subject: Getting Back to You


Ah, it's good to see that you yourself are still alive! Not that I would have been able to get a reply out to you had you responded back yesterday anyway, but I suppose that I was stuck in the same position as you; work has been a killer, and it doesn't help that I still don't feel one hundred percent yet. But, at least I do feel better, thanks for asking. I'm not throwing up anymore, so I suppose that I don't really have anything to complain about. Maybe it is from all of those salads though, so I may have to take up your advice on eating a hamburger in front of Grace one day, even if she may blow a gasket after looking at it. Actually, I may just do that to see the reaction she'll have. I have a feeling she'll just glare daggers at me, or she may even scold me like my mother used to when I was younger. (:

I'll have to keep you updated for if I ever get the galls to actually get a hamburger for lunch when out with her one day.

But anyway, I won't bore you with any details with the past couple of days of work; it's just been a pain in the ass with me having to go in and do damage control with the things that have been going around. I've actually been forced to speak to the press myself in person, something that was certainly an experience. I've never had so many voice recorders and microphones shoved in my face, and the fact that it happened all in front of the office until they were forced off the property was even more stressful. Again, this only added to my happiness for my backing away from journalism since those people were more overbearing than I originally expected.

Hopefully things will be calming down after the press conference tomorrow. I'm sure hearing reassuring words from the actual owners of the company and project will be something that the people will latch more onto, rather than hearing things coming out of my mouth.

Back to you though, since your life seems much more interesting than my daily life of sitting behind a computer, taking phone calls, and answering the same questions over and over again while sporting a migraine! I'm glad to hear that you're going to be able to scratch that itch of yours. What type of martial arts are you going to be learning? Is it going to be something like MMA fighting, or is it more towards the traditional routes like Judo, Taekwando, or Karate?

Nonetheless, I think it all sounds exciting. I remember when I was younger I kept begging my parents to let me take Karate, but, now that I think about it, I'm kind of happy that I never did. I was, and still am, too clumsy for any of that, and if I couldn't even make it through soccer--or do you call it football?--without quitting because I kept getting hit in the face with the ball, I don't think I would have survived a martial arts.

I swear, I'm not a wimp or a quitter; I just know when my talents are better left for something that won't leave me with a red and bruised face and blistered feet.

I do hope you start to get more sleep if you're falling asleep at your keyboard; that's never a good thing! But other than the busyness of the work week, how has it been for you? And how is your sister, too? Didn't you mention before that her birthday is coming up within a few days? Do you have anything planned for her, or at least anything that you plan on getting her for a gift?

Hope things are all well for you! If I don't reply back right after you send a response, you can assume that I'm either busy doing something, or sleeping. God, I can't wait for the weekend so that I can actually sleep in without having to worry about anything, lol.


Nora hadn't been lying when she mentioned that the past couple of days at work had been hell, and it hadn't only been because of the lingering sickness that still refused to leave her body completely, causing her to run into coughing fits while in the middle of talking with someone or even sneezing fits that led her to holding a tissue over her face so that she didn't spread around any of her germs and infect anyone else. Over the weekend one of the employees, or former employee now--or at least those were the rumors that circulated. After all, the man, when going to the press, had done it all anonymously with no information about his person and who he was, probably for good reasons--had, in a sense, gone AWOL and reported some... Interesting things about the company and of what their 'true motives' really were for what they were doing.

When Nora stepped back into the office that Monday after being out of work for two days to get over her cold, she had been forced to deal with the repercussions that had surfaced over the word that had gotten out. The phones had been ringing off the hook as soon as she sat in her office, and her email had been littered with mail of varying questions from the press and just people in general who had, at one point, pledged their loyalty for the company and for what they were doing. Before she had even been able to get a full and complete run down of the situation, Mr. Anderson, and even Mr. Johnson, had come running to her, yelling to her about what happened and if she knew of anything about why it happened.

Of course she knew nothing, but even so, the spastic looks that the two generally put together men gave her caused an already sense of nerves to heighten within her body. After hearing what the disgruntled employee had spouted to the world, it did nothing to help her mood either. The company, the man had pronounced, was not what it seemed to be, and instead of trying to find a cure for cancer like they spouted they had, they had hidden motives, motives that could destroy the lives of millions of people with a deadly virus.

How in the hell the man had come up with a story like that was unfathomable to Nora; where had he come up with those ideas? It sounded like something right out of a sci-fi novel or movie, and Nora had half a mind to believe that the man had, in fact, watched something of the sort before going to the press to spout all of it out, especially since, after reading the initial reports, the man had no hard evidence to back up his claims other than his own words and his own insistence.

Of course, not all of the press had been focused on the words itself; many believed that this was a tactic on the company's part to get more attention drawn on them so that, after proving that none of this was true, they could gain more supporters. In a sense, the press weren't wrong with that; with the surge of words that had gotten out, the company website had been overloaded on more than a few occasions, and their videos had been viewed thousand, nearly millions, of times. It could have been the perfect marketing strategy to draw people into their ways, but whether or not the exposure had truly been good or bad would have to be figured out later. A few people had called and dropped their support, however there were still people calling in wanting to support, and there were people who wanted to continue their support.

Nevertheless, through the stubborn mess of the past couple of days, one of the calming things that Nora took were the emails that she continued to receive from Benjamin., someone who she was beginning to get less and less wary about as they days continued on with them typing words to each other. Of course, she still kept her suspicions in the back of her mind, yet the man had done nothing to send her in a panic with worry. More so, communicating with him over email was something that she found herself looking forward to, something that she nearly always smiled at now even if she tried to hide it herself with her not wanting to admit the effect that the emails were having on her. She finally felt like she had someone to talk to, someone who wouldn't judge her and someone who would actually listen to her, yet she made sure to keep most of her worries at bay so as not to throw so much at him and so that nothing accidentally slipped that wasn't supposed to--though there really was nothing she was hiding that badly. Still, he was an interesting person, and she found herself looking forward to seeing what he had typed to her.

It was still odd to her, and after hitting send it struck her as how odd it really was. Speaking with someone over email for about a month now and she had the strange urge to want to know more about this person. She shook her head and coughed again with that thought. No, just keep things where they were. It was good for now, and he was a good distraction, if only for a few moments, for the days that were ahead, and behind, her.
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"Agent Rahl."

Flashes of bright light, there one moment and gone the next.

"Agent Rahl, can you hear me?"

Loud. Everything was so damn loud. Of course he could hear them. They wouldn't shut up.

"He's going into shock."

Shock? No, no he was fine. He just wanted to sleep. They just needed to let him sleep. They wouldn't, though. He knew that and he knew he should be glad about that, but for the life of him, he couldn't remember why. Maybe sleep wasn't the best idea when he was so cold? He might never wake up if he fell asleep in the snow. But then, when did it start snowing inside and in his bed? His bed was moving. It didn't usually do that. And it was wet. Why was it wet? Had the snow melted?

"On the count of three. One. Two. Three!"

He was flying, falling, falling and landing. The light was back, in his eyes, blinding, painful and there was a sting in his arm, shapes moving around. People? The ceiling was checkered. That was wrong. His ceiling wasn't like that. It was white. Boring snow white. Like his walls. Like a snowstorm. Cold like snow. He was so cold. Why? He didn't understand. He didn't----


Benjamin opened his eyes to the view of a hospital room. It was a sight he'd seen often enough, but he usually knew how he'd gotten there. This time nothing wanted to jump out and explain itself to him, and that above anything worried the Agent. Anything disorienting or unexplainable was not greeted with open arms by Benjamin and never had been. The Agent fell back on what he knew to do in situations he didn't understand - gather information. The first thing to do was check his surroundings. The room was empty, but bugged. He was being watched and listened to. All right. What could his body tell him about what had happened?

Taking some notice of his own state, Benjamin quickly and efficiently discovered that he had three broken ribs on his right side, his left wrist was sprained badly, maybe cracked, his whole right torso was bruised black and blue as if he'd been slammed against something, his lip was split, he felt like he had two black eyes and there was a deep ache, bruises to match down his shoulder, chest and hip. Like belt?

A car.

He'd been driving.

Sara. He'd been going to see Sara, for her birthday, his first time seeing her in years. He'd been crossing a bridge and some driver had....had slammed into his car. Repeatedly. He'd been forced off the bridge....had hit cold water, his head and that....was the last thing he remembered. How he'd ended up here or how long it had been, Benjamin couldn't have said.....but was it odd that one of the first things he thought about - besides whether he was truly safe here or not - was Nora and the email he'd failed to write before going on his car trip? How long had she been waiting? Was she worried? Did she think he'd disappeared?

The questions were beyond him knowing the answer to at the moment, but they spun around his head and when the man saw Grey entering his room, it took a lot of effort to not blurt the questions, to get the information. No. He needed to focus, to process what had happened first. Grey provided that, greeting him in her usual cordially cold manner, acting for all the world as if they were in her office and not a hospital room. Benjamin took his cue from her, subtly straightening up just a little in her presence. If she noted it, she didn't give any indication expect perhaps a small flicker to his frame before focusing back on his face, not seeming to see the injuries there, only the man.

"Agent Rahl."

"Director Grey. I would appreciate a debriefing on my condition."

"You were involved in an attempted assassination. As far as our intel can see, it was made by C.O.B.A.L.T.. They seem rather displeased with your involvement with them earlier this year."

Benji grimaced with a slight shift of his body that sent dull pain through his ribs. Bless the narcotics being pumped into him right now. "Yeah, well the feeling is mutual. Was anyone else hurt?" That someone had tried to kill him passed over the male like unimportant wind, processed and acknowledged, but not important enough to pursue.

"Another car was struck, but the two passengers were released two days ago from the hospital. No critical injuries." Grey confirmed blandly and Benjamin finally asked the question he'd been silently dreading. "How long was I out?"

"Eight days. You will be allowed discharge in another week if all goes well."

Eight days?! Damn it. That would be long enough for anyone to worry. It was a strange feeling, the urgency that came over him then. It wasn't adrenaline like he was used to, but something different, something....caring? Benji shook the thought away, not ready to contemplate it yet, but he did know he had to act on the other urge he felt and hazel eyes leaning more toward green than brown met the pale blue of the woman in the room, waiting for his inevitable words, knowing they would come. Because it was her job to know.

"I need a laptop."


To: Nora Anderson

Subject: I'm Still Here!

Nora ~

Very sorry for the shortness of this email. I am mostly hunting and pecking for the letters. I got in a car accident on my way to see my sister and I ended up going over a bridge. I think it might even be in the paper, but I can't be sure. The doctors tell me I was in a medically induced coma for the last week. All I know is that I feel like....well, a rather unpleasant word.

I'm all right now, I think. I have some broken ribs and I cracked my wrist, but the rest of it is just a lot of bruising and minor cuts. They tell me I am lucky to be alive, though. I hit my head when my car hit the water and I blacked out. I don't remember much of anything.

I am very sorry for worrying you. It was never, ever my intent. Please tell me how things are with you. I have far too many people unwilling to talk about anything but my accident - though, of course, you are more than allowed to talk about it with me. Just, please, tell me how you are, too.

I need to go now. There are doctors coming in and typing one-handed is not the greatest thing. LOL I hope to hear from you soon.

~ Benji
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With her heart pounding, her fingers and toes twitching, Nora couldn't escape the feeling of sadness--dread--as her eyes scanned over the latest email that had, finally, arrived in her personal inbox after eight days of being silent. Before, all she had done was wonder; had Benjamin grown tired of her, found her boring and pointless with her utter rambles of her daily life with work and all, and had he wished to finally be rid of her, unwilling to even tell her goodbye? Or had something truly happened to him, something that left him away from the computer; a trip, perhaps? Something happening in the family that he was unwilling to discuss, something that was so dreadful that he couldn't bring himself to type anything, even to let her know that he was okay yet something had happened?

The first three days, she had been unconcerned; Benjamin had mentioned before that he was busy, so she expected nothing back from him for a while. She herself had been busy as well, only letting her thoughts float to the person on the other side of the screen occasionally when she wasn't busy with work, making sure that things had, finally, calmed from their hectic state after the enraged former employee--it had been announced--had done his best to, unsuccessfully, destroy the company and give them a bad name. But when things had finally calmed, when she no longer had to stand outside to talk to the press about the information that had been spread, the rumors that percolated about, she was finally left to the normal work that she was subject to, though she couldn't lie and say that the influx of calls and emails to her had been small. Oh, on the contrary; with some press believing that this was some sort of PR stunt to give the company more attention, it seemed to have worked. After Mr. Dawson and Mr. Johnson had spoken their pieces, proved in their own way that what had been said was false, the talk chattered down and now, nearly, it was all forgotten and the attention was focused, once more, on the cures that they were creating.

Still, Nora was met with much work, so it wasn't until the fourth and fifth day that she truly had been able to grow concerned, and even question, Benjamin's sudden disappearance of emailing her. She started checking her personal email every few hours, biting her lip and wondering where he was, when he was going to contact her, and if he ever was again. But how stupid--foolish--was she being for this hope she had in her body that he would respond? She shouldn't care, she continuously told herself, yet found herself unable to not care. She knew nothing of him, he knew nothing of her, and their time of talking together had only been short. So why did she care that he wasn't contacting her?

Because, she knew, she craved the conversations they shared with one another over emails. Was she really that lonely that she cared for the small conversations over a computer with a random somebody much more than she cared for having a face to face conversation with some of her friends?

Nevertheless, she tried to push the thoughts of out of her mind, yet as the rest of the days passed with nothing, she could only find her thoughts on him. Her coworkers began to stare at her as she stared off blankly at nothing, her eyes glazed and far off with worry, her fingers always held together as she hid herself away in her office. Over the phone, after speaking to her parents the other night, her mother asked if something was wrong from the way she spoke. Of course, Nora left them with no information, and merely ignored the coworkers that peered their heads around corners and looked her way, but still... Something wasn't right, and it bothered her to not know why, and it bothered her that he wasn't responding back.

Her worry grew to anger shortly after that; what if he really had just decided to stop emailing her and instead of saying anything to her just left her with nothing? If that was the case, how dare he! What kind of person did that? The least he could have done was mentioned something to her! She thought of emailing back to him, wondering where he was, but if he was unwilling to respond back to her last email, what made her think that he would respond to another one? No, she would leave it be and see what happened. She hated the whirring feelings that wandered through her body...

Except now, as she sat in her office with the door now closed, her mouth hanging open in gasping surprise, Nora grew angry with guilt over herself for her previous anger over Benjamin. He had been hurt; in a car wreck, and that was why he had been unable to respond! Against her better judgement, after reading his email, she took to the web to see if she could find anything on the accident, to which she had. Breaking News! Some read, others only citing a few quotes they had heard about the accident, and as Nora read the words, a bile rose to her throat. Someone rammed his car on a bridge, knocking him into the river, and involving a few others in the accident. No arrest had been made, yet an investigation was underway for the case. An accident? Of course, but... She wasn't sure At least, to her knowledge, he seemed okay, if him emailing her now was any indication.

To: Benjamin Rahl

Subject: I'm Still Here!


I'm so sorry to hear all that has happened to you! I can't imagine what that must have been like, especially after reading a few web articles that I have on it--I, of course, had been too curious to not look anything up after you mentioned that the accident may have been published somewhere, which it has been. Regardless, I hope you're doing well now. I was... Worried while you hadn't responded back to me. Why? Even I'm not really sure, though I can say that I worried that you either must have gotten tired of talking to me or that something happened to you. In a way, I wished that, if anything, you would have decided to stop speaking with me, rather than something actually happening to you like it did.

But, we can't change the past now, can we? I'm glad to hear back from you, though. As I said before I was worried, and while I'm still worried now over your health--even more so after hearing that you're lucky to be alive, seeing an email from you makes me feel a little better. I hope you're doing well; I won't ask you to talk about the accident since I'm sure other people will be pestering you about it, so you won't have to worry about that from me. Though I may be curious, I don't want to worry you or bother you with it. Think of me as the person who will try to take your mind away from the pain and accident, if you will, for being able to converse about other things. (:

As for me, I'm doing well. Busy still, but things have calmed considerably here at the office; no one, it seems, cares any longer about what happened last week with the bad word that had been spread, and all has been proven well with proof. Apparently the owners took the FBI (something that I had only been told of after the fact) to investigate the labs for their own self just to prove themselves all the more, and they had been given an all clear. Nothing of diseases could be seen, and nothing of mass destruction had been found. Still, the bosses seem more frazzled and more uptight than normal, but I can't say that I blame them; no one wants bad publicity, no matter if they know it's true or not.

I won't bore you with details though, but I think I'll leave this email as it is. Again, and I know I've said it before, I hope you're doing well, and I'm sorry that you were unable to see your sister on her birthday. Just be well, recuperate in the hospital, and don't bother the nurses too much by not listening to them or the doctors (I'm not sure if you're like that, but my grandpa certainly was as such his last time at the hospital recently, and we now make jokes about how difficult he had been even after a surgery).

If there's anything that I can do to help, though I'm not sure if there is given our distance, don't hesitate to ask. Ah, if only I could give you these grilled chocolate sweethearts that my mother taught me to make! It certainly isn't the most healthy thing, but that's not the point; it's a comfort food, one that I always make for myself when I'm feeling down or not my best. I'm sure it'd help you feel better, or at least it would be better than the regular hospital food--if you even like chocolate, of course. I know it sounds disgusting, because who grills chocolate, but it's really good! Think of it like a grilled cheese sandwich, except replace the cheese with chocolate and replace the sandwich with being something of smaller portion. Still bread that's used with chocolate melted in between on a skillet with butter melted on the bread, and something that I do myself to give it more flavour, I sprinkle sugar on the bread and after it's all cooked I put strawberry sauce on top lightly...

I think I'm making my own self hungry now. But like I said, even though it sounds bad, it's really good. Don't knock anything until you try it, right?

Again I'll say it, I hope you're well and I hope your recovery is swift! Take care!

She'd replied.

She'd replied and Benji had felt tension bleed out of his body, an anxious state he'd not been truly aware of holding on to, but the monitors beside him showed a decrease in his heart rate and a lowering of his blood pressure that was not enough to be alarming but certainly significant. It was watched, of course, filed away for later by those who watched him, but the Agent couldn't bring himself to care at the moment. No, he just clicked the respond button and started typing one-handed, the task at hand worth being a bit more slow and somewhat frustrated at his inability to just do as he wished at the speed he wished.

To: Nora Anderson

Subject: I'm Still Here!

Honestly, I don't remember much more than being startled, instantly scared and then just as quickly angry. I think that last came from a strict sense of 'really? This is how I'm going to die?'. I know that might sound strange, but when you've been a soldier, in danger from forces far more dangerous then a car, to see your death coming by something so normal is almost insulting in a way. I don't know if I am explaining that well enough, but it was how I felt. That's all I really recall before waking in the hospital and then I was just confused for a while, and relieved to be alive. You really can't put a price on that kind of relief, I can tell you that!

Damn, I just chuckled. It hurt. I have to remember not to do that, eh?

I am truly sorry for worrying you, Nora and I can fully understand why my absence would have angered you. No one likes to be abandoned, but I can assure that won't be the case with me....unless I fall off more bridges, but I don't plan on it.

Benjamin paused, looking at the words he'd typed. He wouldn't abandon her. He'd just written that, but was it true? He knew, crazy as it was, that he wanted it to be true. When had that really happened? When had he actually started to become friends with this woman on the other side of the world? A woman who might be the devil in disguise. He didn't think she was, though. She'd not slipped once, had never written anything that saw his hair raising on his neck, had no records to speak of that MI6 could find and they could find anything on anyone because anything they couldn't find, they hired someone better to find for them. There was nothing on Nora except for what she claimed to be her life. The Agent realized, in that moment, that he'd already decided she was innocent a while ago.....and that was likely the same time he'd started to actually care.

It was a disturbing truth if only because he knew what his life was like. He knew he'd be assigned to a new mission soon enough and then what kind of time would he have for a 'pen-pal'? None. And here he was promising that he wouldn't abandon Nora? He couldn't promise that!

But his fingers didn't erase the words.

I'm glad your life has quieted again, well as much as your life can doing what you do, but I do hope A.C.R.I.D. really is as clean as they would have the media believe. My own company is a bit nervous about the rumors that have gone around over the last week. I do what I can to assure them that everything appears fine, but I am not sure how convinced they are. I am certain it will blow over as most things like this do, but I thought it fair to give you a head's up. There might be another representative calling from Grey Incorporate for your office in the coming weeks.

I am sure you will handle them with just as much skill and confidence as you do all others. Do not worry. I know my bosses, they are merely overly cautious about where they do their business and they investigate all rumors, whether they be true or not, and I am sure A.C.R.I.D. is far above reproach or these scandalous lies.

The Agent hit the period and then leaned back, his eyes narrowed, thinking if there was anything more to say. Nora's emails were no doubt monitored and whoever was reading them would take his information and use it to cover the company's tracks. There WOULD be someone contacting ACRID, but it would be an Agent already prepared to disappear into hiding after he stirred the nest that was ACRID and planted seeds of doubt, most importantly into Nora's mind. Benji himself was making sure he was looked on with less suspicion, reinstating belief in ACRID and 'warning' his friend of a new interview, giving her plenty of time to come material to make her company's case to his own.

But also perhaps putting doubt into her mind already, even just a niggling feeling of it that would grow. Or expanding on some she already had.

As for Sara, I've been informed that she's actually here at the hospital. They're going to let her visit today, so I should likely wrap up this email for now. I will let you know how the visit goes, though. I haven't seen her in a few years now and this is not how I wanted to see her again, but at least I am alive to see her, yes? LOL

I shall have to try your delicious-sounding recipe. Perhaps one day you can make it for me. :)

Have a good day, Nora. I look forward to reading your reply.

~ Benji
Despite the calmness that had over swept her body as she leaned back against the chair after realizing in her mind that Benjamin was okay and that he was alive, Nora still couldn't shake the feeling of fear that crept into her body, causing her hands to still shake and causing her breathing to be slightly erratic. She ran a hand through her hair and shook her head, closing her eyes and then taking a deep breath, slowly letting it out. It's okay, she told herself. No need to be worked up over this since he's okay, and since, in reality, she would have been unable to do anything about it anyway. Actually, she still could do nothing about it, and while the thought troubled her, Nora pushed it to the back of her mind.

Though images of what the wreck could have looked liked--of a car falling off a bridge, breaking through the guardrail, and then spiraling down into the depths of the water that ran under the bridge--ran through her mind, they were instantly pushed aside as someone wrapped their fingers against the door, bringing the young woman out of her revere and causing her to sit up straighter in her chair. She brushed down the front of her shirt and quickly closed the window to her personal email on the computer and swiveled her chair to face the door. "Come in," she called, and in the next instant the door opened to reveal Mr. Anderson's secretary, Madison Kingsly, a young woman about her age with red hair that rested just above her shoulders and green eyes, poking her head into the doorway.

The woman gave Nora a gentle smile as she clutched onto a manila envelope in her hands. "Mr. Anderson and Mr. Dawson are conducting a meeting in fifteen minutes in the conference room, and they want you to be present," she said, causing Nora to stop and raise her brows. After a moment of musing, she nodded her head, thanked the woman, and when the door was closed back she leaned back against her chair and blew out a sigh, wisp of her hair floating up and then back down. A meeting, with her? Why? She frowned at the thought and turned back to her computer, pleasantly surprised to see another email flashing on her screen.

Despite herself, she smiled, and she couldn't help the pleasant buzz that ran through her body, tingles really, after she read the assurance that Benjamin wouldn't abandon her without notice. She relaxed at those words and, surprisingly, found herself grinning at them, happy. Relieved. But why? Why should she be relieved by that? Why should she be happy to know that he wasn't going to leave her without saying anything to her?

She didn't know, and, personally, she didn't care at the moment. She decided to let the feeling overtake her body as she looked at the clock. Five more minutes before the meeting... She should be able to type something up before then.

To: Benjamin Rahl

Subject: I'm Still Here!


I can't imagine how any of that must feel, and, hopefully, I won't ever have to have that feeling of relief over not being dead. Of course, it may happen once in my life before I actually die, much like it happens to most people in life, but I think I would be happy going through life, or most of it, without knowing that feeling. I hope you won't have to have that feeling again either, nor do I hope you have the feeling of your death being pointless and small compared to what could have happened to you. It almost seems like a scary thought.

But don't apologize for worrying me; I tend to worry about most things, but it wasn't your fault. It's not like you asked to be pushed off a bridge in your car and put in a coma for over a week. Unless, of course, you did, then I would certainly demand an apology over worrying for you. :P I'm just glad to be back speaking with you, and to know that you're doing okay enough to respond back to me. I hope you can keep it up, and I hope that you get back to normal soon. I doubt it's fun being cooped up in a hospital, and if how active you make yourself out to be with what you've done in life, I can only imagine how easily stir crazy you'll be with sitting in a bed all day.

Hope I didn't just make that worse for you by mentioning that, lol.

As for the company and your representatives wanting to talk with me, feel free to give them my contact information in the company if they don't have it. I'll be more than happy to talk to them about anything they have questions or worries about. I can understand many people being worried over the rumor that began to circulate, and I wouldn't blame them from backing out even if things have been cleared, but I do hope that they decide to stay with us. It would be a shame if they didn't, but I would understand.

Thanks for the heads up though; I appreciate it, and I'll be happy to talk to them about everything that's been happening just so that they can be more at ease if they're worried.

Would she, however, be able to convince them? Nora wanted to believe so, but as she let her fingers stay poised over the keys, she couldn't help but purse her lips and furrow her brows. Could they be thinking about backing out and was that why Benjamin had told her that? It wouldn't be surprising, yet it was saddening all the same. Would she still have a reason to talk with Benjamin if his company wanted nothing to do with ACRID any longer?

No, what was she thinking? They hardly talked of ACRID over their emails, only in passing, so would that be a reason to stop talking with one another? Why should that even be a thought in her mind? Scoffing out a breath, Nora squared her shoulders and started typing again, even if a lingering sense of doubt and unease began to crawl through her body again.

Oh really? Well, I hope you're able to enjoy your time with your sister since you were unable to on her birthday. Though letting her see you in your current situation is unlikely ideal, at least you're able to see her, and at least she's being allowed to see you. Can't be upset over that, right? Just make the best of any situation!

Ha! Maybe I just will one day, if you ever come to America, of course. We'll just have to see, I guess. (:

Take care!



Letting the footsteps of her and the nurse echo in her ears as they bounced off the walls as they walked down the brightly lit hall, the strong, sterile smell of the hospital seeping into her nose and causing her to scrunch her nose up and twist her lips up in disgust, Sara kept her eyes dead set in the direction that they were heading in, them poised with a seriousness that only came to her in dire situations. Her bother in a car accident, fallen off a bridge, and nearly dead? How the hell had that happened? Why would anyone do that to him?

Of course, it could have been an accident; someone's car could have lost traction and ran into him, but the chances of that happening in this weather when it was, surprisingly, warm and dry for once? That seemed unlikely unless there had been some sort of malfunction in the other car. But... Again, that seemed unlikely, especially since there were no other cars at the scene other than the ones whom had been stopped in the traffic and the one who had been injured in the accident as well. No, someone did it on purpose, and Sara had no doubt in her mind that it had something to do with Benji's job, something that always left a bad taste in her mouth since she never knew when the last time she was ever going to see him, or when she was ever going to receive that one phone call that let her know that her only brother had passed away because someone killed him.

Sweat began to dot her forehead at the thought. She raised the back of her hand and wiped at her skin, closing her eyes, finally, and relaxing her shoulders as best as she could. Great, now she was beginning to get uptight, her nerves becoming frazzled and in disarray, and her own appearance probably hinted at her own inability to think clearly as well. Though she applied her make up precisely, there was no doubt in her mind that Benji would be able to take notice of her lack of sleep these past couple of days, leaving dark circles under her eyes that she tried to conceal with concealer and eyeliner to make her eyes pop more and seem more lively than she actually felt.

"All right, here's his room. Now, before we go in there, I want to let you know-"

But before the blonde nurse was able to get the words out of her mouth, Sara quickly went to the door and opened it. Her eyes scanned the room, taking in the equipment that stood around the bed with wires stringing from them, all of which stuck to Benji's skin as he laid in the bed, bruised and beaten, his skin paler than she had last seen in him. She stayed at the door frame for what seemed like hours but was only minutes, her hands trembling as she took a look at her older brother, remembering, then, the words that their parents spoke after she called them as soon as she heard about the accident. They hadn't cared; their voices held no remorse for what happened to their son, and Sara wasn't sure if she could hate them more for the way they sounded.

No, she couldn't hate her parents. She loved them with all her heart, yet she couldn't lie and say she didn't grow furious with them every time she tried to bring Benjamin up in a conversation, only to have them turn their heads away and act as if she hadn't mentioned him at all and as if he didn't even exist.

"Benji..." Her voice broke as she spoke, and no matter how strong she tried to be in that moment, to be strong for her older brother so that he wouldn't have to worry, she couldn't do it. Tears welled in her eyes as she took a long, shuddering breath, as she finally stepped into the room quickly and went to his bedside. She wanted to hug him, oh God how she wanted to, yet she was afraid to do so for fear that she would hurt him more than he already was. "Bloody hell... Why did you have to go and get yourself hurt again?" Her lips quivered as she spoke, her hands balling into fist as she looked down at her brother and frowned. Angry, sad, happy to see that he was alive... So many emotions going through her body that she didn't know how to handle it all! "And on my birthday no less?"

Sighing, she knew that wasn't important. She scooted a chair over to the bedside and sat down, ignoring the nurse as she stepped into the room and looked at the machines and monitors, the heart monitor steadily beeping with Benji's heartbeat. "Are you okay? How are you feeling? I wanted to come see you before, but they wouldn't let me in until you woke up, and even then they still didn't want to let me in until I yelled at them and demanded that they brought me to you." In the background, she could hear the nurse snort after Sara spoke that, probably remembering the scene she caused at the front desk as the eighteen year old pounded her hands on the counter top, yelling at them to tell her where her brother was and that she wanted to see him after being told that he was awake. "How long have you been awake for? Do you need me to bring you anything, or should I have brought you something?" Her words were spoken quickly, almost altogether, though this was a habit of hers when ever she was nervous or upset about something; her mouth moved too quickly, sometimes. Then again, she had always been known to be a quick talker, one who let the words out before they fully processed through her mind, or even after they processed through her mind quickly. Perhaps that was why, she reasoned with herself, she would be a good lawyer. Quick thinking, and quick talking, things that would work well in her favor.

"I swear, once we find out who did this to you, they're going to be put in jail and never see the light of day again."
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(( Pssst! I think you mean Mr. Johnson. Not Mr. Anderson. :D ))

To: Nora Anderson

Subject: I'm Still Here!

Oh! You've just made it infinitely worse! I hadn't dared to let myself think of how long I might be in recovery! Thanks a lot, Nora! LOL I suppose to make up for this you shall have to tell me stories to entertain me, and certainly make sure I hear all about your day. It is now your job to keep my mind occupied lest I end up sneaking out a hospital window and getting all the of hospital into a frenzy searching for me. Don't think I won't do it. Desperate times...

Even as he wrote the words, Benji couldn't help but grin, the slight tightening of stomach muscles that went along with suppressed laughter hurting something terrible, but still he didn't release the smile, nor let his one-handed typing bring frustration to his thoughts. No, he couldn't think of much else but the possibility this his words might make Nora giggle and for the life of him, the man wasn't sure why that was so important at the moment. It just was.

I will be sure to pass on your contact information. I am sure he will find your assurance just as satisfying as I did. After all, if there is nothing to be worried about those worries should be easily assuaged, correct? I think you would know if you were working for an evil organization. LOL No, in all seriousness, I am sure it's nothing more than a few follow-up questions from someone higher up in the company than me. They just want to make sure everything is still going to plan and that there haven't been any changes to the product they are interested in. Rumors will freak people out, but logic soothes it out soon enough. I trust you'll do your job well.

It was all Benjamin was able to get out before there was a knock on the door and he was given a message that his sister was on her way. Nodding and feeling inexplicably nervous for the first time in a very long time, the Agent set the laptop aside, saving the email and then sat up a bit, ignoring the pain of it in favor of not looking like a complete invalid when Sara showed up. Though, in all truth she wasn't really going to care about that. That he was injured, yes, but she wasn't going to look at him and see weakness. She never had.

Sara had been eleven when he'd gone into the army, thirteen when MI6 had recruited him. The last time he'd truly see her had been a fifteen and it was only then that he'd let her in on what he was doing, his work, who he was. She'd kept his secret from their parents, as Benji had wanted and the male hadn't see her for three years from that point onward. She was an adult now, eighteen! He'd missed her growing up, but she'd never resented him for it. They'd kept in touch sporadically with emails, some phone calls when he could manage a secure line, Skype during the holidays, but he'd not touched her, seen her, truly spoken to her for three years. To think of seeing her now was...nerve wracking. Exciting. Long overdue. And the circumstances sucked. He would have much rather been there to surprise her on her birthday, but oh well. The universe had never really been a kind thing, had it?

When she came into the room, he felt his heart freeze and yet he knew it still beat because the monitor told him so. He didn't feel it, though. She was so beautiful! So grown up! He'd not expected that somehow, but there she was, not his little sister anymore but a young woman coming into her own. It was such a startling change that for a moment he wondered if she wasn't Sara at all, if she was someone lost, stumbling into the wrong room. And then she spoke and he knew. She said his name like she always had, despite the tears in her eyes and the quiver in her voice, and Benji found himself transported back to their childhood, to happier times and simpler days, and he smiled, unable to help it even as she scolded him. Especially because she scolded him.

Sara sat and hazel eyes watched her, studying every new thing, every old thing and the smile grew to a grin at hearing she had yelled at highly qualified doctors, nurses and Agents in order to get to him. Only his sister.

He let her speak, ramble because he knew she needed to. She'd always needed to and he'd usually let her, only sometimes having a 'boy moment' and teasing her until she shut up or went off tattling to their parents. Not this time, not for anything. She was here and worried and it was so good to see her. He didn't care if she spoke until her face turned blue. He'd listen. All too soon she went quiet, though, and he knew it was his turn to speak things he didn't even have answers to, or at least it felt like he didn't. And then he did as his brain kicked into gear and reminded him that some of those difficult questions, those life-changing things, hadn't been that out of the ordinary at all. In fact, they'd been rather simple.

"I...I'm all right, Sara." His hand reached out then, stirred into action as he found her own and gave the much smaller, more slender, certainly softer digits a gentle bit of pressure. "Sis, I'm all right and I'm just glad you're here. I didn't mean to worry you." He gave a slight chuckle that admittedly hurt his ribs and forced a smile anyway. "You didn't have to bring anything. To be honest, I'm upset that I didn't get your present to you. I was on my way to see you. Didn't work very well, I must say."

He had to shake his head at her last words, though, he said nothing about it. The truth was that the assassin would be hunted down and perhaps caught, but if he was, he wouldn't be facing a trial. He'd be facing MI6 and that was far worse, especially after trying to take out one of their higher ranking Agents. Benji almost pitied the assassin....and then he tried to take a deep breath and the sympathy vanished like smoke.
((Oops! My mistake. I'll have to change that at some point, haha. Thanks for pointing that out! Too many names to keep track of sometimes that I mix them up. XD))

Sighing heavily, Sara found a small bit of solace in herself as Benjamin took her hand, squeezing the digits gently which she reciprocated back, getting the feel of his rough hand, a hand that had been put through work that she would only ever be able to imagine. Her hazel eyes turned to look at him, quiet just as he finished speaking and took a look at her brother, remembering the last time she had seen him, trying to figure out what was different to him other than the fact that he was laying in a hospital bed with bruises and scrapes on him, near death he could have been. At least he hadn't gotten to that point. At least he had woken up and not let the world without being able to say his goodbyes...

No, Sara believed that her brother had a lot of life to live still, which, in her mind, was why she believed that he had been able to survive this accident when, in all honesty, he should have been dead. While she had not been given the full details of what had happened--not that she really wanted to know--she had enough information to conjure up what should have happened to Benjamin: he should have never made it out of the car in the river, and likely that was what the assailant had been going for. To have him dead in the water, likely to be un-found for a while depending on how murky the water would be and how quickly the car would submerge in it, his body trapped in the seat belt, his lungs filling with water until he could no longer breath. Dead.

She shivered at that, her hand tightening on his, afraid to let him go, afraid to walk out of the hospital room for fear that she would never see or hear from him again. It had already been three years since she had last seen him, and the circumstances that she was now seeing him in? She would rather not, no matter how happy it made her feel to finally see him, to see the similarity in appearances that the two still had with one another. Same hair color, though hers was longer, falling down her back in slight waves. Same eye color, though her eyes were wider set. Their skin was, generally, the same shade, though because of the paleness that overtook Benji's in the moments she couldn't discern whether or not he had grown darker or paler throughout the time that they had not seen each other. Her face was softer than his, more feminine to go along with their mother's.

"Having seen you there would have been a present well worth anything you could have given me. No offense, if you bought me anything expensive." Laughing despite the tears that still filled her eyes, Sara used the back of her free hand to wipe under her eyes. If only he would have made it. If only she would have known that he would have been there... In that moment, a sense of guilt came to the young woman, a sense that caused her eyes to veer away from her brother as the weight of what he said finally registered in her mind. He was coming to her party to surprise her, to finally show up after three years of not being in each other's presence, and on the way there he had been in an accident. Had he not been coming, he wouldn't be here in the hospital; they likely would have had only a phone call with one another on her birthday, but that sure as hell would have been a more enjoyable phone call then she had on her birthday about his accident. But could she really blame it on that? Could she really blame her brother being here on her birthday when on any day this could have happened to him? Her lips slipped to a frown at the thought.

She sighed at that, reached her other hand up, and cupped the one that held onto her other hand. She closed her eyes and calmed her nerves before she looked back up at Benji. "Don't apologize; this isn't your fault. I just wish that you would have been able to make it and that you weren't here. You'll just have to find a way to make it up to me when you're able to get out of here." And at that, she finally smiled back at him. A pause settled in between them for a moment until Sara took another look around them. The nurse had disappeared, more than likely standing outside the door or tending to other patients. The machines were still beeping, allowing them to know that Benjamin was still alive and breathing. Sara had half a mind to ask him if any other agents were here, or had been here, but she decided against it; she didn't care about them, to be honest. Instead she let her eyes fall onto the laptop that sat on the bed, still open yet the screen had gone dark since she had been there. Her brows furrowed at the sight until her eyes went back to Benjamin. "Benji... You're not doing any work, are you? Don't you know you're supposed to be resting, not on a laptop doing any work? Is your boss making you still work, even in your condition?" She huffed at that, scolding him a bit. "You need to put that away. You don't need to be worrying about any of that."
Benji watched the myriad of emotions flit across his sister's face and remained quiet, only observing, letting Sara come to a place of stability before engaging her again. His sister had always been quick to sort through her own feelings and reactions if she was given a minute, uninterrupted, to categorize them and he could respect that. It would make her a good lawyer, being able to sort through herself that way because soon enough she'd be able to do it with others just as easily. Fortunately for him, right now she was a bit too close to the situation at hand to be sorting him out as well as she did herself and Benji could only see that has a good thing for the moment.

His life was far too complicated for his sister to be getting intimately involved in.

Though, he wouldn't tell Sara that outright because she'd argue him into the ground and even now the male only smiled back at his sibling at the mention of seeing her again, making things up to her. Yes, he'd have to do that. A reunion in a hospital certainly hadn't been what he was going for the first time around and it certainly wouldn't be a habit he'd want to repeat or make a tradition between them. "Well, I do think giving you your present before you leave might be a start at making up for this, right?" It was teasing more than anything and quickly moved on from as his sister's attention directed itself toward the laptop still on the bed by his side. His eyes flickered to it as she started speaking and the male winced just slightly at Sara's tone, knowing that to tell her the truth would irritate her further, but he hardly wanted to lie. He hated lying as it was, but especially to her and over the years they'd gotten good at subtle communication, his sister understanding that if he evaded a subject at least twice then it was one that needed to be dropped, that he couldn't talk about it or wouldn't. It was a good system over the phone or skype, but face to face...somehow those boundaries seemed less concrete and more abstract, able to be bent a little.

It wasn't something Benjamin was sure was wise, but he found himself giving a sigh, fingers running back through his hair, only a slight grimace showing he'd hit one of the small cuts on his forehead with the action. Actually, it was the act of lifting his arm, stirring his ribcage that made him feel like cursing, sucking in air sharply, which one exasperated the problem, before he forced himself to relax, to breathe past the spots that floated up before his vision.

Damn, he wouldn't be doing that again anytime soon.

Blinking, refocusing on the conversation at hand and lifting a few fingers in silent reassurance that he was all right, Benji addressed Sara's concerns. "It's just a bit of light work, Sara-bear. It's an assignment I've had for a few weeks now, just emails for now. Typing is hardly going to harm me at this point." he stated reasonably before reaching over and closing the laptop as if that might make its presence less obvious. "Besides, my boss didn't demand this, I requested the laptop after I found out I'd been out of it for a week. I really couldn't let the woman I'm talking to think I'd disappeared. I'd have to find a new contact and she's our best bet right now."

He knew he was saying a bit too much, but Benji could also acknowledge that he was on some very good painkillers - that worked if he didn't strain his body with stupid movements - and they were making everything a bit fuzzy around the edges, and Sara had always been his confidante, someone he'd trusted with everything when they were younger. Having her back was nice, even if he wasn't allowed to share everything with her and the male smiled, giving her hand a gentle squeeze.

"Heard you graduated. Congratulations. You figure out which college you wanted?" He knew she'd been sent many invitations, but the last time they'd talked she'd still been debating between three different ones.
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