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.

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So. The keypad at the door. No one gave me the code to get in. I could see Raymond smirking down the hallway, hands in his pockets, watching. I threw my hands up in a WTF expression. He dispensed hand sanitizer from his dispenser mounted by his office door and headed my direction.
True to form, before he reached the door he turned around and used his butt to push the bar so I could get in.

“Thank you,” I told him as I walked past, careful not to touch him. God forbid I touch him. God forbid I mentioned God even in my thoughts. Would he assume my God was the same as his? After what I’d seen on my first jaunt out into the ‘real’ world, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be associated with anyone else’s notion of god.

Oddly enough, I could remember details about that part of my recent past. Too much else remained obscure. Out of paranoia I glanced up at him to see if he had noticed. And I laughed a little to myself when I noticed I had done it. Raymond wasn’t likely to have gotten any enhancements.

And even if he could tolerate the time spent unconscious while someone else touched his body, I doubt he’d be able to tolerate the filth of other people’s thoughts running rampant through his head.

“What’s with all the barriers to entry?” I asked as I followed him down the hallway. We stopped in front of his door.

“As if you don’t know,” he answered with mock indignation.

“Seriously. I don’t.”

“Rogue agents have a tendency to return to the nest.”

“You mean Asshole?” I asked.

Raymond rolled his eyes and lifted his head toward the ceiling. I took that as an affirmative nod.

And with that, he opened his door, lab coat butt first, and kicked it shut. I snorted silently to myself. If they thought that would keep DRSS at bay, they were sadly underestimating him. And before I could feel too proud of my mentor, the anger flooded back. And I hoped he would try to get in because they’d surely with all that tech, they’d catch him.

I had other things on my list of things to do at the moment, though, so I pushed the anger aside and went through the double doors to the reception hall that still looked more like a huge cave dome. Light streamed in from the huge floating glass wall facing the street. And at the podium there was the little woman who reminded me of a praying mantis. Her hair, perched in a tight, round coif, tugged at the corners of her eyes.

As usual, she didn’t look up when I approached the desk. She seemed forever poised with her fingers on the hologram keyboard displayed on her podium surface. Once I slid my identification lanyard into her line of view, disrupting the keyboard pattern, she raised her eyes. But she never did this in a sort of recognition. Rather, it was more of an assessment, assuring herself that the being who stood before her was actually the one reflected on the identification.

She snatched the card with her perfectly manicured hands and pulled it closer to her chest. So much like a preying mantis, I swear.

“Can I help you?” she asked, in a surprisingly sweet tone that threw me off for a moment. I shook off the moment.

“Yes. Thank you. I need gasoline for the Jeep.”

Her fingers tapped the hologram. “How many gallons do you have on hand?”

“In the tank, or auxillary cans?”

“Both,” she answered.

I shifted on my feet. Somehow, I didn’t think I could lie effectively here.

“None in the can and under five in the vehicle,” I said. It was the truth.


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First Hunt by Ima Erthwitch

Second book in my ARSA series.

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