This is the rough draft of Grub Stage, book 3 in Renegade Agents of A.R.S.A. Click here to get the first two books in this series.

I dismissed that thought nearly as soon as it entered my head. Normalcy was a state of being that felt more unrealistic than my reality. And in my reality, I was standing in a dark alcove in the office of a doctor that wanted to implant me with devices to make my ‘normal’ self a lot more lethal. That would make me even less normal than I am now.

Footsteps approached from the other side of the next door. I figured I’d better decide now what I wanted to do about that prospect.

The door opened and an older gentleman squinted as he looked me over.

“Treya Noname?” he asked.

I nodded. Headquarters must have let him know I’d be here, because I hadn’t given my name to the receptionist. I rubbed the spot in my pants leg where the envelope was hidden, but didn’t pull it out of my pocket. My mind raced. What should I do? DRSS said to never get the implants…

Fuck Dersuss. I had another card I wanted to play with that envelope.

I put out my hand and doc took it in a firm grasp.

“That’s me,” I said.

“Come in. We have matters to discuss.”

I stepped through the doorway. “Yes, we do,” I agreed.

The doctor worked on his own, apparently. He took my vitals by himself and I never saw the receptionist again. After he scribbled the numbers down on a pad he pushed his spectacles down farther on the bridge of his nose and looked over the rims at me.

“So have you decided which enhancements you’d like to receive?” he asked.

I took a deep breath. I had, in fact.

“You know,” I began, “I’m a little jealous of how well the asshole is able to hear heartbeats. I’ve tried, but it just doesn’t work well for me. I want the one that enhances that. And I’d like to be able to walk miles without tiring, jump from high points without breaking my legs, and deflect bullets with a flick of the wrist.”

Doc screwed his lips around a little while as he scribbled notes on the pad.

“Hmmm. Sounds like your first mission influenced your choices,” he mused. He was right. It had. But that reminded me of one more.

“Oh, and I want to be able to breath in low oxygen environments.”

He chuckled and marked that one down too.

“Okay. Here’s the thing.”

I sensed he was about to bring me down from the high.

“You can only get one in this first session. We have to see how your body handles the changes, first.”

And there it was. I had to choose only one. Nothing in the brochure mentioned that and it pissed me off a little that they’d omitted that important detail.

My hand brushed against the pocket holding the envelope. I unbuttoned the flap holding that pocket secure and pulled out the manilla package. I’d folded it lengthwise to make it fit in there and so I straighted it out and thought about what it might contain. I had no idea. It was sealed when Cory had given it to me, and he asked that I not open it. So I hadn’t. Now I wished I would have.

I passed him the envelope.

“What’s this?” he asked.

I tucked stray hairs back behind my ear. He turned it over and examined the envelope.

“I think it’s insurance,” I said. A friend asked me to pass it on to you. A look of consternation came over his features, drawing his brows into furrows between his eyes as he opened the envelope and pulled out the contents.

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