Simon slipped in between the closely packed bodies, careful not to mess up his suit. He murmured an apology as he cut through the middle of a group of ladies who were chattering with full mouths and brushing crumbs off of their dresses. They insisted that it was no problem at all, and complimented him on the party, and the cookies, and his suit. He nodded awkwardly before they could continue, and excusing himself, found his way to a clear spot by a wall.
¨Better grab a cookie.”
Simon started as a girl appeared by his side. She flicked a pastry fragment off his shoulder.
¨What are you talking about, Izzy? The cookies are-”
“I know the cookies are laced, idiot.” Izzy waved half a cookie at him. “But it’s pretty weird you’re not eating anything in general, let alone at your own party. I grabbed one and broke it in half. Just carry it around and say you haven’t finished it yet because you’re too full or something.”
Simon glanced up, then leaned down and whispered in her ear. “Target at 2.”
Izzy’s demeanor changed in an instant. A bright smile splashed across her face as she laughed loudly and playfully shoved him away. “Real mature, Simon.” She shook her head and turned away. After a furtive glance around the room, she walked off, heels clicking against the floor. A woman took her place almost immediately, much to Simon’s chagrin. He gritted his teeth and smiled politely.
“Which did you bring?” Simon said, indicating the long table filled with plates of pastries that ran along one side of the ballroom.
“The chocolate chip. Have you tried it yet?” She asked, flipping her hair over your shoulder.
“No, actually. I’ll go try it right now.” Simon strode off, leaving the slightly disgruntled woman standing behind him.
He stood in front of the long table. It was littered with dozens of cookies, including about fifteen varieties of chocolate chips. Simon grabbed one and leaned against the table. He glanced around the room, anticipation building in his stomach. This was his favorite part of the mission, the calm before the storm. He inhaled deeply and then exhaled. His fingers twitched towards the third button on his suit, and then thought better of it and touched his earpiece.
“Target update?” He asked.
“Hasn’t eaten anything yet,” Seth answered. “I’ve been watching her since the beginning of the party but she has yet to go towards the table.”
“Weird.” Simon mused.
Izzy’s voice broke in over the com, hushed and static but triumphant. “See?”
Simon shook his head. “Alright, I admit it. You’re right.”
“Would you two stop? Get a room or something.”
“Seth!” Simon and Izzy hissed.
“Okay, but I’m serious. Don’t use your coms too much.” Seth said, then the muffled sounds of party-goers abruptly stopped in Simon’s ear as he turned their com off.
Simon scanned the room, his gaze landing briefly on the various agents littered around the scene. Andrea, her curly hair bouncing as she animated a story with her hands. She had the attention of almost everyone around her, and she was the distraction in case they needed one. His gaze lit on Seth, who was smirking slightly as he leaned against the wall. He had earbuds in, a disguise for his listening gear. Izzy was standing a distance away from him, fuming slightly.
Suddenly, static hissed in Simon’s ear.
“Target has consumed a cookie,” Seth announced in a hushed tone. “Ready?”
The corner of Simon’s mouth lifted. He reached up, ready to push the button on his suit that would activate the chemical that his team had injected into all the cookies. His finger brushed the glossy black surface…
And agonizing pain erupted in his hand. His arm fell, hanging useless at his side as the numbing pain spread throughout his body and he dropped to the floor. Faintly he heard Seth yelling in his ear and the faint sounds of a scuffle, and everything slowly faded out.
Simon woke up in a bright room, the lights burning into his retinas. Groggily he shook his head, trying to clear away any remnants of sleep that still lingered. Before he could process his surroundings, the door opened.
“Emmet?” A young girl entered and softly closed the door behind her.
“Who are you? Why am I here?” Simon demanded, although his voice came out rather slurred and clumsy due to whatever was coursing through him.
The girl looked at him beseechingly. “Emmet, don’t you recognize me?”
“Who on earth is Emmet?" Simon struggled against his bonds, metal loops that held him to a chair.
The girl’s eyes hardened. She turned around and left, leaving Simon to slump, exhausted, against the chair.
Simon must have slept, because when he woke he was in a different room. His head was fuzzy, and he was still in the chair. His eyesight was blurry, but he could make out the shapes of people sitting in front of him.
“Emmet?” A mane of frizzy hair slowly came into focus.
“Andrea?” He asked.
“It’s true. Why hasn’t he recovered yet?” Andrea addressed another person in the room.
“Alissa’s like this too. We don’t know why.” The girl’s voice from earlier rasped. It sounded like she had been crying a lot.
“Andrea? What’s happening?”
“Maybe he’ll remember you?” The unknown girl asked.
“Hey, Emmet.” Andrea crouched down in front of Simon, a blurred outline against the brightness of the room.
“Why do people keep calling me that?” Simon asked, his voice straining.
“It’s your name.”
Simon frowned. “What are you talking about, Andrea?”
“My name is Imani. Your name is Emmet.”
“My name is Simon. Your name is Andrea.” Simon’s head started hurting. He had a hazy twinge when he heard the names like he had heard them before. He shook his head.
“You don’t remember anything, Emmet?” The pounding in Simon’s head was getting worse every time he heard that name.
“I’m Simon.” He said with an effort.
“Don’t push him too hard. Alissa had to be sedated again because she got so worked up.” The girl stood up. “I’m going to have to look into memory blocks.”
“You think that…” Not-Andrea trailed off.
“Seth must have looked into some more unique methods of controlling Alissa and Emmet.”
“Seth!” Simon struggled against his bonds. “Where’s Seth?” He was confused, and most of the conversation didn’t make sense to him. His headache got worse every time the name “Emmet” was mentioned. “Where’s Izzy? Andrea, what’s happening?”
“I’m not Emmet!” Simon shouted.
The two of them left the room, casting nervous glances behind them. Simon shook his head in frustration, but eventually dozed off again.
When he woke up again, Izzy was standing in front of him.
“Izzy?” He asked.
“Sh. I’m here to get us out. She hit the side of the restraining bars that kept Simon in the chair. They popped apart, and he stood up. She opened the door and glanced around.
“Come on.” She crept down the hallway.
“What’s happening, Izzy?” Simon whispered.
“These crazy people think we’re someone else.”
“They kept calling me... “ Simon stopped as he remembered the headache that had come with the name. “A different name.”
“They kept calling me Alissa.” Izzy grimaced as the wave of pain hit her. She turned the corner. “They infiltrated the party, shot you with a tranquilizer dart before you could initiate the blackout, and captured you, me, and Andrea.”
“Seth got away?”
“Yeah, he’s the one who freed me. He told me to meet him near the front of the building. Did you see Andrea?”
“She was acting weird.” Simon ducked into a room with Izzy as a door opened somewhere behind them. They slipped through a back door and continued towards their destination.
“Seth said she’s brainwashed. We need to-”
Izzy was cut off as an alarm started blaring above them. They bolted towards a large set of double doors. Seth was waiting there, tapping his foot impatiently.
“Come on!” Seth said, and they dashed out the door and slid into a van that was idling by the entrance.
As they peeled away, Simon saw Andrea and the strange girl from before run out of the building. He couldn’t help but wonder who she was, and why she seemed like she knew him.
“You guys good?” Seth called, hitting the autopilot button on the van.
“Who were those people?” Simon asked.
Seth paused for a moment. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about them before. There’s a briefing in the back.
“Ugh, I hate the briefings,” Izzy complained. “They always give me terrible headaches. Couldn’t we switch to a different method?”
“I’ll get onto that.” Seth promised.