The Editing Room Floor: And Billie’s a Crowd

And Billie's a crowdWe're back, and in celebration of The Libra Gambit's release, here's a scene that was cut somewhere during the second draft, after we realized there was no room for another spy on the Moth.

Side note: We love Billie, so much we even dream cast her (Lesley-Ann Brandt is a treasure!) and we fully expect to see more of her in the future.

Side-side note: You'll probably notice it's not a very polished scene. This is because it was cut before it could see a third draft or an editor. That said, we have had some far, far messier early scenes!

Until then, we hope you enjoy Billie in this scene from the editing room floor.

*Image courtesy of DCfandom.com

A Great Character in Less-than-Great Circumstances

(MINOR SPOILERS FOR THE LIBRA GAMBIT)


At the same time Ray and company were adjusting to the idea of their off-book mission becoming an authorized operation, Zodiac Agent Billie Flechette stepped into the silence to the Harpocretes bridge. 

“You know they’re not telling you everything,” she said, crossing to where Doyle stood, staring at the data Mollin had sent.

 “Flechette,” he greeted. “When did you come aboard?” 

“Docked twenty minutes ago,” she replied then, at his pointed look added, “Permission to enter the bridge?” 

“Now you’re asking?” he countered as she joined him.

She shrugged. “Your man, Harry?” She nodded to the space where the Gypsy Moth’s holographic lounge had been displayed. “Kind of got me in the mood for protocol.” 

Doyle’s lip twitched. “You’re saying he played me.” 

“I’m saying he’s subtle.” Billie leaned over his console, which still held the data on Libra before she met his speculative gaze. “And he played you.” 

“Maybe I let him,” Doyle replied, then flicked a gaze at the soft snort from navigation. “Something to say Diaz?”

“No, sir. Sorry, sir.”  

Billie rolled her eyes as Doyle turned from the flushing navigator. 

“I spent a good, long time assessing ex-Marshal Harry Finn before I was satisfied enough to recruit him,” Doyle explained as he turned and headed aft, with Billie following. “His personnel jacket; his case reports; case reports from the people he worked with; his military records and evaluations; even his school records — pre-school through university. I did the same with Slater.”

Billie’s eyes narrowed as considered that. “I’m guessing you did the same with me?”

“It’s part of the Zodiac vetting process so, yeah.” 

“And you hired me anyway,” she mused. “Man, you must be a masochist.” 

“I run Zodiac Division,” Doyle pointed out. “‘Masochist’ was one of the key requirements in the job description.”

Billie shook her head as he bent to offer his eye for the retinal scan set in the door.

[Retinal ID confirmed. Enter, Colonel Doyle] the ship’s AI announced as the door slid open.

He entered, and Billie followed. 

Instinct and training kicked-in automatically as she identified, in turn, a secondary avenue of potential egress; the probability and locations of surveillance systems; anything in the room that was, or could be used as, a weapon, and, lastly; the situation of the room’s furniture.

It was that kind of life, and those Doyle brought into Zodiac either figured it out, or didn’t live to regret it.

Doyle, meanwhile, walked around his desk and dropped into the high-back chair. He opened the bottom drawer on its left-hand side and extracted a pair of shot glasses and a bottle of Wallace Blue Label scotch. He poured, and slid a glass toward her, filled his own.

 She ignored the chairs in front of his desk, choosing instead to perch on the edge, facing him.

“Mud in your eye.” Doyle raised his glass.

“Better than a poke with a sharp stick,” Billie reciprocated. 

They downed their drinks in a gulp.

“Now, where was I?” Doyle resumed as he refilled both glasses. “Oh yes, I know the two SOB’s on the Moth—probably better than they know themselves. And they were both very suspiciously out-of-character. Slater?” He gestured with his glass, “He’s a three-fer. At any given time during one of our check-ins, he’s good for at least three smartass comments.” 

“Tell me something I don’t know,” Billie, who’d worked with Ray a few times. 

“Right, well, except for that predictable middle finger salute he shot me out there, he was a little too quiet. On the other hand, in most cases a corpse is more talkative than Finn. They’re up to something,” he muttered. “Not sure what, but something.” 

“You think they’ve turned?”

His eyes shot up. “Why would your mind go there?”

“Please,” she flicked her hand in what could only be read as a “pffft” gesture. “Three weeks ago they infiltrated a syndicate run by the Rasalkans—a female dominant, psionically gifted species—how come your mind didn’t go there?” 

“Because, and despite the common misconception, my kind don’t all think with our dicks.” 

“And my species don’t all think with our hoohas, but you put me in a room with that Jessyn gal for a couple weeks and I’d turn on my mother.” 

“You hate your mother.”

“True, but I respect her.” 

“Point taken,” Doyle said. Both took another drink before he spoke again. “Anyway, no, I don’t think they’ve turned. The seductive whiles of Jessyn Breeshandra notwithstanding, Slater’s no one’s patsy.” 

“Smarter than he looks,” she murmured.

“And Finn…” Doyle began. 

 “Finn what?” 

He shook his head and leaned back, letting the chair swing side to side.

From what she’d observed—and Billie spent her life observing—Doyle “relaxed” was actually Doyle calculating.

Calculating what? 

The vagaries of Harry Finn; how much he should share with Billie, herself; the hierarchy of the Black Rose; the rise of the Judon Synod, the chances of the Bradbury City Martians in the playoffs or; all of the above. 

Only Doyle could say.

“Finn,” he said at last, taking a contemplative sip of his scotch, “Finn is a twisty bastard, but he’s a twisty bastard who bleeds justice. Something I witnessed, personally,” he added, before Billie could comment. “Whatever they’ve got going, I don’t think it’s deliberately anti-Zodiac, or the Confed.” 

“But?” she prompted, before slugging back the scotch.

But is why you’re here.” He threw her a salute with his glass and downed it, immediately refilling both glasses. Again. “I need to know what they’re up to. And you’re going to be my way of finding that out.”

“Seriously?” Billie poised while reaching for her refreshed drink. “Is that where we are now? Running shadow on our own people?”

“I like to think of it more as Quality Assurance,” Doyle smiled and sipped. “Making sure my recently commissioned cell is…up to snuff?”

“And who gets to decide the appropriate level of snuff, in this circumstance.” 

“Flechette…”

“Doyle…”

“Just get your snarky ass out to the Shunto System and do what you do.” He left his own drink untouched and launched himself from the chair, the first sign of actual unease she’d noted. Assuming, that is, it was unease. As the master of all the spies, assassins, hackers and whatnotall Zodiac Division sent into the Known, Billie tried never to take anything Doyle said at face value. “I’ll want regular reports. And that means protocol regular, not Billie Flechette—or Slater—regular. Copy that?”

She mangled a salute with her glass. “Sir, yes sir!”

He stared. 

She took it down a step. “I copy.” 

“Good. Anything smells off with the Gypsy Moth’s entourage, contact me before you take any action.” 

“You’re the boss.” 

“I like to pretend that. Now get your ass outta here.” 

“I was hoping for at least a shower before I had to hit FTL again but…” With a resigned shrug she rose. “You know what they say.” 

“Enlighten me.” 

“Ain’t no rest for the wicked…” she crooned the ancient number and, grinning, backed away from the desk, spun on one heel and sauntered out to the bridge.

“Truer words,” he said, crossing to the desk and raising a toast of his own to the departed agent. 

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