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A short story by

Matt Burns

After Sage canceled the mission, Pandora spent the next day creating false intel about the Simonson facility. All the while a voice inside her head poked and prodded her. How far are you willing to go in order to succeed?

“I thought I was clear about this. We’re pulling out,” Sage said as Pandora handed him a remote console containing the forged dossiers. The fake data underestimated the number of security personnel at the complex, the unknown that Sage feared most.

“You taught me never to pass up good intel. I thought maybe if you saw it, you’d reconsider.”

Sage scanned the data, his brow furrowed.

How far are you willing to go?

Pandora had crossed a line and broken the one rule that the shadowguards held above all others: never use the powers of deception to deceive your own. Pandora knew that she and her comrades were allowed a great deal of freedom, unlike the Dominion’s brain-panned ghosts. In return, the Umojan Protectorate expected its shadowguards to act with integrity.

But this was necessary. Pandora knew that when the mission was over, Sage would understand.

“Look at those security-payment allocations. They can’t have more than a dozen guards inside.”

Sage scratched his face and stared at the dossiers in silence. Pandora suddenly became aware of a slight change in his mind. A crack in his firm resolve to cancel the mission.

How far are you willing to go?

“It’s good… but I don’t know if it’s good enough.”

Almost unconsciously, Pandora focused on the faint whisper of confusion in Sage’s head. It was the opening that she had been trained to look for when preparing to manipulate a target.

How far?

Sage shook his head and smirked. “When you’ve got something on your mind, you don’t stop, do you?”

“I learned from the best,” Pandora said. But her thoughts were elsewhere, completely focused on the second-guessing going on in Sage’s head. She felt herself give in and feed it.

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