TMA: Agent Moon Ch. 01

byslyc_willie©

Eventually, he brought the sizzling pan over to the table and poured generous portions of scrambled eggs and dark, minced sausage onto both their plates. From the fifties-style oven, he took an earthenware pot, and opened it before Corinna to reveal steaming tortillas. He set Tabasco, red pepper flakes, butter, and a dish of shredded Monterey Jack cheese on the table between their place settings, then sat down.

"Dig in," he said with a glowing look upon his smiling face.

For several minutes, they ate in silence. Corinna was famished, she realized. She stuffed as much as she could into her first tortilla and devoured it almost desperately, in between gulps of bitter, yet fresh, iced tea. Dylan watched her with a smile as he tended more laboriously to his meal.

"Do you like it here?" he asked after Corinna had finished her first tortilla and was loading up the second.

She paused, made an effort to slow her movements. She felt her cheeks blushing, which she knew would be translated through the synthflesh. "I really do, Mr. Moon," she said. Her eyes flashed up and met his. "I'd really like to work under you . . . I mean, for you."

Dylan pushed the last of his tortilla into his mouth, chewed slowly as Corinna waited. He wiped his fingers on a napkin, then dabbed at his mouth. Finally, he gave Corinna a direct look.

"Riding and grooming the horses is only a part of the job," he said. "There's feeding them, and keeping the stalls clean. Letting them out and keeping an eye on them while they play. Not to mention that Hal's getting up there in years, and he sometimes needs a little help relieving his bowels."


Corinna held down her revulsion at the images that last statement brought to mind. "I been around, Mr. Moon," she said confidently. "There ain't been nothin' a horse could do – good or bad – that I ain't seen." She held Dylan's gaze, hoping her ruse – and her stomach – could convince the man.

Dylan's face became stoic and unreadable then as he leaned back, regarding the 'young woman' with a clinical eye. Corinna stayed silent, letting the man make up his mind. She understood that anything she said at that point would be seen as being either desperate or hyperbole.

Finally, he smiled, and relaxed. "There's something about you, Cori," he said. "Something I can't quite figure out. But at the same time, I trust you. So, here's the deal: two-fifty a week; you stay here, rent-free. I have a spare room upstairs. Up at five every morning, you take care of the horses, ride them, watch them, groom and feed them. You're done by three every day. You don't have to worry about the house; I'll take care of that. Deal?"

Corinna grinned and offered her hand. "Deal, Mr. Moon," she said.

He took her hand, and they shook. "Call me Dylan," he said, then winked. "'Mr. Moon' makes me feel old."

Corinna laughed softly. "You got it."

***

The room was pretty basic; a simple, queen-sized bed, an old dresser and matching vanity that had obviously been made at least a good three or four decades before. There was a musty smell of age in the room that was not unpleasant, but neither did it do anything for the sexual fantasies Corinna had been harboring all day for her 'employer.'

Just as well, she thought, taking up her phone once she returned from the shower down the hall. She let the clean white towel that she had wrapped around her body drop as soon as she closed the bedroom door, and paced back and forth in the nude, peripherally watching shafts of moonlight as they lit up her bare legs, hips and abdomen.

"Agent Bellew," she said, then gave her security code. There was silence on the other end for a few moments before a voice filled her ear.

"Have you made contact?" came the Director.

Corinna was momentarily surprised at the sound of Col. Naveen's voice. On every other mission, whenever she'd called Command, it had been a case worker or mission specialist she had spoken with. Never the Director herself.

"Eh . . . yes, ma'am," Corinna said, composing herself quickly and falling into 'debriefing' mode. She forgot about the phonetic implant as she continued: "But I think y'all got yer information a bit screwed up, y'know?"

"How's that?" asked the Director, not bothered in the least by her agent's speech patterns.

"Well, the guy I met sure ain't no old fart," Corinna prattled. "He can't be more'n thirty or so. He told me he's the junior to his daddy, and that papa kicked the bucket 'bout ten years back."

There was a pause on the other end. "We have no records of Dylan Moon's death," the Director finally said. "Can you verify that the man you met is Moon's son?"

Corinna sighed. "I suppose I could get a DNA sample somehow," she said. "Might be tricky, though. But there's no way in hay-ell that this dude's seventy-three years old. Plastic surgery can do wonders, sure, but Dylan's got a bod that no old man could have."

"Perhaps he was lying about his father's death? To protect him?"

"That's what I been thinking," said Corinna. "'Course, now I gotta get Junior to fess up 'bout the old man's whereabouts, and soon."

"You only have eighteen hours, Agent Bellew," the Director reminded.

"I'll find Dylan Moon," vowed Corinna. "Agent out." She ended the call, regarding the device in her hand. More than merely a cell-phone that could call the future (well, only TMA headquarters), it was also a temporal tracker, able to find people and objects that have traveled through the past . . . or people whose DNA profiles were on file with the TMA. The only problem, of course, was that Moon's DNA was not yet on file. Still . . . .

She activated the tracker, and the tiny screen transformed to a grid with a red line sweeping around a central point. The range of the tracker was only about thirty meters, and as Corinna had expected, it showed nothing. With a sigh, she snapped it closed, then regarded the bed dubiously. The sheets looked clean, but the blanket was obviously old and a little musty.

Corinna had long before gotten into the habit of sleeping in the nude, but eyeing the bed, images of spiders and roaches entered her mind. Retrieving her shirt and panties, she slipped them back on and tentatively pulled back the covers. Surprisingly, the bed was comfortable and snug, a good thing given the dropping temperature that was making its chilly way through the old house's walls.

Still, despite the comfort, it took a while before Corinna fell asleep.

***

Years as a soldier had made Corinna used to rising early in the morning. During basic training, she had gotten up at 4:30 every a.m., and that had become habit. Corinna's idea of 'sleeping in' was to slip from bed at seven.

Dylan was waiting in the kitchen, toast in the oven and bologna in a pan. Fried bologna was not Corinna's idea of a good breakfast, but she neither wanted to insult her host nor give away that she was not a local Texas girl. So she devoured the two sandwiches Dylan made for her, finding them surprisingly tasty, and washed the meal down with milk.

"Ready for work?" he asked once the plates were cleared away.

Corinna winked, admiring her employer in his rugged jeans and white T-shirt that hugged his muscular chest and arms. Nope, definitely not a seventy-three-year-old man, she thought.

"You bet'cha!" she exclaimed enthusiastically.

***

The vagaries of a day's work on a farm were frustrating and strenuous, but Corinna found it to be a challenge. Never one to back down from anything presented to her, Corinna jumped feet-first into her new job. She found the horses easy to work with, and sensed that they liked her. She had to admit that she started to become attached to them almost right away, especially Rusty and Stardust.

However, as the morning waned and the afternoon waxed, Corinna became anxious. A quick glance to her cell told her she had less than four hours before Dylan Moon, Sr., was to be killed. And she still did not know where the old man was. And 'Junior' was not making it easy for her to spend time with him, not even for just a minute or two. He was busy repairing the corral fence, then the well water pump, then he was chopping wood . . . all while Corinna had her hands full with the horses.

Just after one o'clock in the afternoon, Corinna was antsy. She was prepared to go for broke and tell Dylan the truth, just to get him to tell her where his father was. But before she could take such a desperate leap, Dylan approached her as she was grooming Milky Way in the barn.

"Care to take a ride?" he asked, startling her.

Corinna spun around, reflexes kicking in instantly. But she refrained from adopting her practiced defensive stance once she realized who it was that addressed her. "Dylan," she said, breathing in as her eyes wandered once more. Sweat had soaked through his T-shirt, molding the cotton to the contours of his body. His dark, curly hair was wet as well, and he exuded a sweet aroma composed of natural musk and the shower gel he had used that morning. The scent inflamed Corinna's senses, sending a static charge directly to her sex. She actually felt her nipples bulging, and knew that her own skimpy top, made almost transparent by sweat, did little to hide them.

He arched an eyebrow, his own gaze drifting as well. "Expecting someone else?" he asked casually. He stepped closer, wiping his brow with the back of his hand. The sweaty sheen on his face was outrageously sexy to Corinna. For a moment, all thoughts of her mission were cast aside, replaced by fantasies of two sweaty bodies rolling in the fields behind the barn . . . .

"Of course not, Dylan," she said. "Um . . . did'ya say 'ride?'"

He smiled and nodded. "I did, indeed," he answered, and indicated the horses in their stalls. "Pick one."

***

Despite the fact that she felt her backside bruising, Corinna was grateful for the ride that took them out into the fields. The wind felt delicious, cooling the sweat on her body, and the aromas of the countryside were rich and sweet. She was beginning to understand the allure of living such a simple life, without offices and cars and paved city streets. Just a simple dwelling, a strong horse, and the sounds and offerings of nature.

When I retire . . . . she mused with a smile.

"Cop, or government?" asked Dylan, shifting comfortably in Rusty's saddle.

Corinna's smile vanished instantly, as a spike of anxiety stabbed through her chest. She tightened her grip on Milky Way's reigns, casting her eyes down. "Am I that obvious?" she asked.

She heard a soft chuckle coming from him. "The accent and the clothes fooled me at first," he said. "You're pretty good. So . . . FBI? Come to check on me?"

Corinna frowned slightly at his words, thinking. Slowly, she looked in his direction, settling her eyes upon him. "Why would the FBI check on you? It was your father that was an agent, right?"

He pursed his lips, which were curled slightly in a smile that now seemed less cocky and more forced. "The sins of the father, and all that," he said.

Corinna turned in the saddle to face him. "Dylan, where is your father?"

His gaze bore into hers. "I told you; he's dead. I can even show you his grave, if you'd like."

She nodded. "I'd like."

***

The grave lay over a mile away, across acres of rolling hills, near the edge of a grove of dogwoods. A simple carved headstone sat before a slight mound of earth grown over with grass and weeds. Obviously, it had been there for quite some time.

Corinna stooped as she read the inscription on the tombstone. "'Dylan Gabriel Moon. 1934-1997. A patriot out of time.'" She straightened and gave the man beside her a quizzical look. "Interesting thing to inscribe on one's headstone."

Dylan worked his lips. "He always thought he'd been born in the wrong era," he said dismissively. "Fancied himself a cowboy."

"How did he die?"

Dylan shrugged casually. "He'd been wounded a few times in the line of duty. They finally caught up to him. Liver failure, dialysis. It all eventually took it's toll."

Corinna studied Dylan's face as she said, "I'm sorry."

He shrugged. "That's life," he said, then smiled thinly. "I think sixty-three years is enough for one life." Dylan took a breath, then faced Corinna fully. "You still haven't answered my question. Are you with the FBI, or someone else?"

Corinna smiled in admonishment, shaking her head a little. "It'd take a damn sight time to explain, Dylan," she said.

He chuckled at her words. "Look, you can drop the fake East Texas accent, doll," he remarked.

Corinna arched an eyebrow. "'Doll?'" she asked. "Funny thing for a young man like you to . . . say . . . ." her words trailed off as she noticed a glowing red dot make its way up Dylan's shoulder, to his neck, then to his temple. Instincts kicked in instantly, and she grabbed a fistful of his shirt. "Down!"

The younger man reacted more quickly than Corinna would have expected, flattening himself to the ground just as a deep, muffled report echoed across the Texas prairie. A good forty or fifty meters beyond the tombstone, a twisted dogwood tree exploded under the impact of a powerful shell. Shredded bark flew in all directions as the upper half of the tree tumbled to the ground.

"Shit!" exclaimed Corinna as she and Dylan scrambled against each other behind the tombstone. "They're early!"

Dylan shot the woman an alarmed look. "'Early?'" he echoed.

Her eyes bore into his. "Is your father really dead?" she asked hurriedly.

He frowned. "Aren't we laying on his grave right now?"

"Are we?"

There came a ringing sound as a chunk of stone was torn from the top of the headstone. A millisecond later, another explosive burst shattered high amongst the trees in the grove, raining down scorched leaves and powdered wood.

"This isn't the best cover," remarked Corinna, chancing a look around the edge of the tombstone. She spied a dark-clothed figure approaching over the rise of a hill, a good hundred or so meters distant. Its arms cradled an imposing rifle, looking more like a small piece of artillery than anything else. "Damn it! Come on!"

Dylan nodded quickly. "The horses!"

Quickly, the two of them darted from the safety of the tombstone, just as a third shot transformed it and some of the ground around it into an explosion of dirt, dust and pulverized stone. Corinna winced as she felt something bite into the back of her left leg, but she stumbled only slightly.

"Stay ahead of me, and head back to the barn!" Dylan shouted. "It'll make you a smaller target!"

"Me?!" shouted Corinna as she sprinted across the field. "It's you they're after!"

"What!"

But just as Corinna was about to respond, as they were mere paces from the two tethered – and now startled – horses, Milky Way was suddenly knocked aside, an explosion of blood erupting from its left flank. With a hideous cry, the horse tumbled to the ground, spilling entrails onto the grass. Screaming in pain, the horse's legs thrashed in the air. Its eyes were wide with fear and pain and lack of comprehension.

"Oh, Jesus!" exclaimed Corinna, faltering slightly at the gruesome sight.

"Run now, cry later!" barked Dylan, grabbing Corinna's arm and dragging her toward Rusty. Smoothly, he leapt over the stallion's rump and into the saddle, then reached for Corinna. Despite the horror she felt at seeing an animal slaughtered so callously, she kept her wits and focused on the moment.

With Corinna seated behind him in the saddle, her arms tight around his waist, Dylan slapped the reigns and dug his heels into Rusty's flanks, spurring the powerful steed into motion. Behind them, Milky Way thrashed through its last few moments of life, emitting painful cries that would be forevermore burned into Corinna's mind.

***

Rusty's charge carried them swiftly away from their attacker, despite a few more shots lobbed in their direction. The ground exploded in their wake as Dylan guided the horse home. They were miles from the house; it would take a lone man on foot an hour to reach them.

At the barn, Dylan barked orders, sounding like a combat sergeant or tactical officer. "Get Rusty inside, and lock the doors!" he shouted, slipping from the saddle and jogging toward the aged truck parked before the house.

Corinna did not hesitate; a lifetime of following orders compelled her to obey, and there was something about Dylan Moon, Jr., that exuded command and confidence. So she leapt to the ground, grabbing Rusty's reigns. The horse trotted readily into its stall, perhaps understanding that it would be safer within. She gave the steed a quick pat and a smile of thanks, then ran back outside.

"Come on!" yelled Dylan, snapping down the hood of the truck. He ushered Corinna on until she ran around the passenger side of the truck, then jerked open the driver-side door and got behind the wheel.

"I sure hope you feel like talking, doll," growled Dylan as he turned the key. The engine roared to life; tires spun, kicking up dirt and gravel. "'Cause I want to know what the hell's going on!"

Corinna slammed the door closed and hung on as the truck surged forward. "Okay, look; the whole 'doll' thing is so outdated, got it?" she hissed through her teeth.

Dylan grimaced as he drove. "Fine," he snapped. "I don't care what you want me to call you—"

"How 'bout Corinna?"

He shot her a fierce look. "How about 'bitch who won't tell me what's going on!'"

Corinna glared back, ready to unleash a verbal tirade, but both her and Dylan's attentions were abruptly focused behind them, as a large, black, late-model four-by-four burst through the fields and onto the road, engine howling like the roar of a predatory lion. Dirt and dust flew behind its spinning wheels as it fought to catch up. Only the silhouette of the driver could be discerned behind the wheel, yet neither Corinna nor Dylan doubted that the man within was the same one who had fired upon them.

"Floor it!" barked Corinna.

"Who is he!" shot Dylan, even as he pressed the accelerator all the way into the floor.

"Not 'he,'" spat Corinna, turning in her seat to look out the back window. "'It!'"

Dylan frowned. "What are you talking about?" he shouted.

But before Corinna could answer, there came rapid-fire reports from the vehicle behind them. The rear window shattered; bullets impacted against the strong steel frame of the truck. Dylan glanced to the rear-view window, seeing the figure within the SUV behind them with its hand extended out the driver-side window, clutching a pistol.

Dylan cursed under his breath and jerked the wheel slightly, making the truck veer back and forth. Bullets whizzed by, sometimes glancing off the body of the truck, but often missing their mark.

"It's called a Rectifier!" yelled Corinna. "It ain't human! It's a synthetic organism! There're five different grades, but I really don't think you want me to go into that right now!"

"'Synthetic?'" asked Dylan as he guided the truck in a zig-zag pattern upon the road. "You mean, a robot?"

"More'n that!" cried Corinna, watching over her shoulder. Her eyes widened suddenly. "Get down!"

Reacting to instinct, Dylan doubled over, just as his windshield exploded. Shards of glass rained all around, cutting into his scalp, his back, his right hand. Abruptly, he jerked up, shifted gears, and poured on the speed. A cloud of dirt was cast behind him, momentarily hiding their adversary.

"What the fuck was that!" he cried, oblivious to a trickle of blood running down the side of his face.

"Explosive round!" explained Corinna. "The last bullet in a fifteen-round mag—" she ducked down as more bullets shattered glass and ricocheted off steel. The mirror outside her door exploded dramatically, showering her with tiny shards. She brushed plastic dust off her arm as she continued. "Look, this thing means business, darlin', but I can get you outta here. We just gotta get away from that thing!"

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