Chapter 1

Alora Stari walked into the seemingly empty warehouse with an air of authority about her. Her dark brown hair fell just over the shoulders of her black leather jacket when she turned her head quickly to get a better look at her surroundings. The heels of her black boots clicked on the cold cement floor, echoing through the building's silence.

"Alright, Matt, I'm here!" Alora raised her arms and let them fall back against her sides. Her strict, feminine voice was intensified by the emptiness of the building. "You'd better not be leading me on a wild goose chase." She mumbled under her breath.

Her deep, brown eyes scanned the blackness of the warehouse, finally detecting movement in a far off corner.

A male form took shape as the shadowy figure moved slowly closer to Alora.

"Took you long enough to finally decide to show up. What's it been? Three weeks - three years?" The male voice chuckled.

Alora slid her slender hands into the pockets of her black leather coat and tilted her head slightly as she raised a brow. "I don't have time for your games, Matt. I just want my money."

"Of course you do. You always did." Matt's tone became serious as he pulled a roll of bills from his back pocket and placed it firmly in Alora's hand.

She quickly snatched the roll from him before he had a chance to reconsider. "Thanks." This word was used purely out of habit and there was no warmth in its presence.

Matt raised his hands in protest as she started to leave, causing Alora to instinctively reach for her gun, only to remember that she hadn't been allowed to bring it with her. She soon realized his intentions were harmless when he spoke. "You mean you're not going to stay for a cup of tea?"

Alora shook her head and spoke with dull sarcasm. "No thanks." She nodded a brief farewell and slipped out into the cool, fall afternoon. The warehouse was located in a mostly abandoned part of New York City, so the atmosphere was still somewhat gloomy, even outside. When Alora was a good distance from the warehouse she pulled a walkie-talkie from inside her leather jacket. "I got him." She spoke into the radio as she took a miniature recorder from one of her pockets. "Every word." She turned the recorder off before giving a final statement. "He's all yours."

After about five minutes, Alora heard a clear shot ring out from the direction of the warehouse. A smirk formed on her soft lips as she slid into her black convertible and drove away.

-

One hour later, Alora was walking into the Threat Matrix headquarters to turn in her evidence and receive a "job well done" from her superiors. John Kilmer was the first to greet her when she stepped boldly into the dim conference room.

"Well? Did it work?" Kilmer leaned forward in his black chair and folded his hands on top of the table.

Alora tossed the miniature recorder onto the table carelessly. "Listen for yourself." She tried to keep a solemn expression, but the excitement of having completed her mission was causing a proud smirk to tug at the corners of her mouth.

Kilmer pulled the recorder closer so that he could push the playback button. Right away Matt's distant voice could be heard over the small speaker. "I got him. Every word." Was the last statement the group heard before the device was shut down.

"Good work, Stari." Kilmer switched off the recorder and slid it back to the center of the table.

Alora Stari was beaming inside because of Kilmer's praise, but on the outside she simply gave a polite nod.

Frankie brushed a strand of blonde hair from her face as she raised a suspicious brow. "So where's the cash, Alora?" It had been three days since Alora had been hired by Home Land Security to be there inside "spy", but Frankie still spoke harshly to Alora as if she were an outsider and couldn't be trusted. Did Frankie even realize how many background checks Alora had to go through before she was even considered for the position.

"Don't worry. It's right here, Frankie." Alora replied stiffly as she pulled the large wad from her coat pocket. She placed it roughly into Frankie's hand and folded her arms, waiting to see an apologetic look cross Frankie's face. There was no such expression, however, and Frankie simply handed the money over to Colonel Roger Atkins.

Colonel Atkins heaved a sigh of relief as he felt the green paper between his fingers. "Mission accomplished!" He leaned back in his chair and laid the bills back on the dark wooden table. "Tomorrow I'll send in a few troops to pick up Mr. Matt Rollins. Thanks to this tape, we have solid proof that he's been passing along stolen cash. Good job, Alora. I knew that getting you a position in that gang would come in handy in the information department."

Frankie rolled her eyes before interrupting the outpour of praise. "Don't get too excited just yet. How do you know Matt will even be there tomorrow?" She crossed her legs beneath the table and watched Alora closely.

"Oh he'll be there." Alora leaned her back against on of the walls in the square room. "He's always getting some big cash deal in or waiting for someone to pay him off. This is one very rich man we're dealing with here."

Jelani laughed slightly. "Then you'd think he could afford better accommodations than a crummy, old warehouse."

Alora nodded, "He's probably got three or four summer houses in Florida and California both."

Jelani laughed again and rested his head against the back of his chair.

Alora pushed away from the wall and took a small step toward the table. "You want to-uh, give me back my gun now?" She had been slightly irritated when Colonel Atkins had made her complete this assignment without a gun. What if she'd needed it to defend herself? Oh well, as long as he gave it back now, she'd be happy.

"Can we trust you with it?" Frankie asked with a smart-alecky tone.

John Kilmer shot Frankie a warning glance. He had noticed the tension between to two females, and he also knew that Alora had done nothing to deserve Frankie's criticism as of yet. He'd have to have a talk with the blonde later on.

Alora ignored Frankie's comment and returned her attention to Colonel Atkins. "My gun?" She held out her hand in a somewhat demanding way. Frankie was rubbing Alora's fur the wrong way and it was causing her to be a little more on edge than usual.

Colonel Atkins cleared tapped his hand on the table in attempt to silence the group. He pulled the gun from his briefcase and placed the cold metal gently into Alora's hand.

Alora gave a small sigh, relieved to finally have her weapon back in her hands and not someone else's. "Now if you don't mind. I have a few errands to run." Her tone of voice was somewhat cold as she slipped the gun into the inside pocket of her leather jacket and exited the room somewhat dramatically.

Kilmer immediately turned on Frankie with a disappointed glare. "What was that all about?" He motioned to the spot where Alora had been standing with a quick wave of his hand.

"What?" Frankie pasted an innocent look on her face as she uncrossed her legs and stood casually from her chair. She folded her arms and waited for Kilmer to speak again, she knew he would.

"You know what. You treated her like a prisoner being interrogated." Kilmer became slightly irritated that Frankie was trying to avoid his questions. Everyone else in the room shifted uncomfortably. They weren't used to hearing John and Frankie argue, and they felt out of place in this situation.

"Yeah, so? I just don't trust her. I think we should look into her background a little more. It's been so long since we've had anyone new around here so I guess it just seems like she's invading." Frankie glanced out the conference room window. They were probably about seven stories up so she had to look quite a ways to be able to see the cars below.

Colonel Atkins butted into the situation, trying to cool it down somewhat. "She's been through so many background checks she probably feels like she doesn't have a secret left in the world. And mind you, she probably doesn't. There's no need to run anymore tests on her." He waited until Frankie was looking at him before he continued. "It's too late in the game to start having distrust for your coworkers, Frankie. The rest of us have accepted her, you should at least try to get along with her…in a dangerous situation, we can't afford any doubts."

Frankie knew the Colonel was right, but she didn't want to admit it, she still felt somewhat wary of Alora. She sighed and picked up her bag before moving toward the door. "You guys can trust her if you want…but I think you're doing it too soon." Frankie's irritated form slipped through the door and her footsteps finally died away in the outside hall.

Kilmer and Jelani exchanged wearied glances and Colonel Atkins motioned for them all to stand. "I just hope this doesn't effect our missions." He shoved his pale hands into the pockets of his suit coat, and with a wave of his hand, ended the meeting.

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