Chapter 3- First Impressions
Manhattan, New York City
James' Point of View:
Upon further questioning on the flight home, it was clear that the Charlie knew of my powers, my uncle, and my bank accounts. Brown has assured me that the DEO is willing to overlook my past and that they won't freeze my accounts or confiscating my passports. To be honest, I'm not sure if I was supposed to view that statement as the DEO extending an olive branch or a warning that they can make my life very uncomfortable. Odds are he probably meant both.
By the time I entered my apartment complex I knew what I needed to do. First, I picked up my mail from the front desk and checked it on the table. It was all spam, local gatherings in the community center, an invitation to the estate's country club (no thanks), free gospels from the church of blah blah blah, and a couple of charity marathons that already passed. I checked the emails on my laptop too, it was mostly ads again but this time I found a picture of my aunt Maggie and my cousin Erin. After that I ordered dinner from my Q phone, the Jade Lotus was one of the best restaurants in the city. Tonight I was actually glad to be put on hold; it gave me time to pace through my apartment. I counted slowly in my head: four, five, six, six bugs, eight if you counted my laptop and my phone. I ate dinner and watched The Newsroom, it was a great show but a little too theatrical. Most of the cast were a too self-righteous in some moments of the program; I don't even think that the actual Lois Lane is as psyched to be a journalist as half of these guys. I slept early that night, tomorrow was gonna be my first day working for the DEO.
The Next Morning:
It's been a day since I returned from Afghanistan but I've already gotten familiar with the new routine. I woke up at 05:00 and got ready for my morning jog around Central Park. By 07:00 I'd return home to lift some weights; I could never do this at a gym without attracting attention. After that I took a shower and prepared breakfast. Nothing beats some bacon and pancakes in the morning. Usually I would watch the news during breakfast by I had another goal in mind today, and I had to make sure it was completed before I left for work.
I needed to contact Kieran without alerting any surveillance. Fortunately, my uncle and I have spent years developing a system of communication specifically for these scenarios. I would start by going on www.crossfire.com, it was a political forum site that would select a controversial issue each week and allow its users to contest the validity of each argument presented. This week's topic was Senator Arthur Whitfield's comments that urged congress to pass more anti-meta legislation. Whitfield built his political career by convincing religious fundamentalists and the conservative majority that metahumans and aliens are the source of all of America's problems. Under his proposed bill metahumans would have to list their powers to the government and register their home addresses like sex offenders. The process was simple, all I had to do was enter the forum and check for Kieran's phony handle americafirst1776. He would start each week by immediately taking the side he knew I'd be against, in this case with the meta hate groups. After finding his comment I would find the nearest comment that supported my uncle's view and reply with a strong disagreement. Once Kieran viewed my comment he would know not to contact me until I gave him the signal to. The only way to reopen communications would be for me to repeat the process but respond positively to someone who had a similar view to my own.
Now that that was sorted I could leave for work. I picked up my motorcycle from the complex's garage. At first I almost flew back when I pushed down on the gas pedal. I had forgotten how much torque my bike had. After a few seconds I was in my old rhythm. I guess what they said about riding bike's was true after all.
Jackson Heights, Queens, New York City:
James and Agent Brown both entered an abandoned warehouse. The walls were covered in graffiti, the ground was littered with dust, syringes, and rat droppings, what was left of the ceiling was rotted by water damage from the upper floor, and almost all of the windows were shattered.
"You sure you have the right address?" James asked skeptically.
"Yeah, this is the place. It actually used to be a Comic Book Shop." Agent Brown affirmed, as he slowly walked towards the center of the floor.
He crouched down and began to brush away some dust revealing a thin, rectangular gap in the floor at his feet. Brown quickly removed what looked like a metrocard from his trench coat and entered the card into the gap. Suddenly a click was heard and a small door began to open as an elevator booth arose from the ground.
"Let's go James." Brown said as he held the elevator door.
James entered shaking his head, "I really should have seen that one coming."
The elevator lowered into a small passageway. James followed Brown down the corridor until they reached a large security door with a black orb at the top. Agent Brown placed his eyes into the retinal scanner, after a blue light quickly ran past his eyes a cylinder protruded from the door. Brown then put his arm into the cylinder as the same blue light scanned what appeared to be an ultraviolet bar code on Brown's arm. The cylinder retracted into the door and the black orb started to glow.
Charlie took a few steps back and said "This part always tingles, just try not to move."
"Sounds fun" James said.
A blue light projected from the orb slowly scanning up and down. James' body shivered as Agent Brown lightly twitched, it was clear that he has done this before many times. A robotic voice from the door proclaimed "Access level granted! Welcome A-Gent-Brown and Mis-Ter-Cav-An-Augh."
The security door opened revealing a massive operations center that was the size of Madison Square Garden. The entire facility looked like everything was made from industrial-strength metals and bulletproof glass. A large American flag and the D.E.O. logo covered the ceiling of the base. It was shaped into three rings (the middle one being the floor they just entered). Each ring had a central three dimensional structure unique to its floor, the top floor had a pyramid, the central floor had a sphere, and the bottom floor had a cube. The floors were connected to one another with two twisting staircases and six parallel elevators. James looked in amazement seeing hundreds of staff members walking by. Whether it was white coats, suits, body armor, mech-suits, or just black trench coats everyone looked like they had something important to do.
"Welcome to the Covert Operations and Risk Evaluation facility, but we like to call the place CORE." Are you ready for the tour Mis-Ter-Cav-An-Augh?" Charlie asked, imitating the robot voice.
"Yeah sure, where do we start?" James asked with a completely refocused expression.
"Top floor, let's take the stairs." Agent Brown replied. As both men began to slowly walk up the staircase, they began to interrogate one another. "What do you know about your parents?" Brown asked.
"Not much", James answered. "My father died just after I was born and my mother had to leave when I was five, she said she couldn't say why, but that she was doing it for me and she'll always love me."
"Is that why she left you with your uncle, the metahuman assassin?" Charlie asked, trying to press on a sore subject.
"Everyone in my family is a metahuman, but you already knew that didn't you?" James asked rhetorically, masking all emotion from his tone. Charlie was impressed to see that the boy could control his emotions so well. James continued, "My mother said I'd be safe with him, that he'd teach me how to survive. Oh, and Uncle Kieran prefers the term Life Termination Consultant, he says that assassin makes it sound too personal. So why are you so interested with my family?" James inquired.
"Only your mother's side," Agent Brown answered, "We already have a file your uncle but your mother's family have proven to be far more elusive." After a brief pause Charlie shifted the subject, "What do you know about Apex Incorporated?"
"It's some xenophobic wide spread conspiracy theory claiming that the wealthiest corporations outside of the U.S. are in cahoots with one another for the sole purpose of destroying the American economy. It sounds like a pretty idiotic concept from people who don't understand modern economics; if one of big pieces where to fall it would knock down the rest of the puzzle, sort of like a house of cards." James concluded.
"Nice analogy James, it's good to see that all of those prep school classes weren't wasted on you." Agent Brown mused. "Unfortunately, Apex is real, just not in the sense that conspiracy nuts believe it to be." Brown stopped at the top step of the staircase and continued, "Apex has no interest in bankrupting the U.S., they wish to conquer the world, and I believe you and your new team are the only ones that can stop them." Agent Brown said firmly. "Now, let's continue the tour, we'll take the elevator down when we're done."
The compound was composed of 9 sections every section having a specific set of goals and responsibilities. Each floor was divided in half and the central structures where counted as the last three sections. Section one was mainly used for bureaucracy, it held a vast ocean of case files, field reports, and the evidence room. It is also where James was processed as a DEO recruit and received a bar code and his id card. Section two was responsible for managing the containment centers and interrogation rooms. Brown remarked that it was occasionally used to train recruits how to resist methods of torture. On the middle floor, Section three was the Forensic Science lab; it conducted tests to salvage whatever evidence could later be used for future trials, it would also be used a medical center for emergency purposes. Section 4 was the tech wing, the star attraction of almost every DEO base which was conveniently placed by the front entrance. Brown claimed that visiting congressmen would always try to find something to cut from the budget, so the Overseer placed the fancy gadget show in front, and ever since the base has yet to lose a penny. Section 5 was the armory; it was filled with meticulously upgraded weapons, armor, and first aid kits. Section 6 served as both the storage garage, and the recreation center. The storage garage had several in house mechanics and an exit tunnel for all DEO land vehicles. The rec-center provided a gym, library and cafeteria for all off duty staff members. The Pyramid was reserved for only agents with the highest clearance level. It was run by the Overseer, an independent agent that answers only to the director. Whenever an Overseer resigns, the job is generally passed down to the next agent with the longest tenure. The Sphere was responsible for securing the entire base. It contained the guards' barracks as well as the camera and turret controls to the entire base. The cube is where all mission control is assigned for the field agents. It was also the home of the arena, where teammates would test their skills on one another. Though gambling on these bouts was prohibited, punishments on this rule are rarely enforced. After Agent Brown and James completed the tour they both entered the cube and proceeded into their control room.
James' Point of View
I walked into mission control with Agent Brown to see two other people sitting down. The first person I saw was a young, white man who was about 6'4" in height and just over 230 pounds (my uncle trained me to take physical descriptions of people in short periods of time). He had a very muscular build and short dirty blonde hair. Judging by the white coat and the book of biotechnology in his hands, he was probably pre-med. The second person in the back was a slightly younger Indian woman around 5'5" and about 130 pounds. She had wavy, black hair with split bangs in the front, and a braided ponytail in the back, but most of her hair was covered by a gray wool knit beanie hat. Her face piercings, combat boots, and Jack Skellington t-shirt gave me an impression that she was pretty goth. Her eyes were mesmerized by a large computer screen and her fingertips were typing at a speed that no normal human being should be able to type.
Agent Brown spoke up, "Hi guys, please welcome the newest member of our team James Cavanaugh."
The young man instantly jumped up from his seat with enthusiasm, he moved up to me extending his hand and said "Pleased, to meet you, I'm Scott Harlan!" He exclaimed in a southern accent.
The girl briefly paused "…Nasiha," she muttered, before gluing her eyes back to the screen.
"Um, Agent Brown, is this our full team?" I asked hesitantly.
"For now it is" Brown responded. "But don't worry about that too much, Nasiha is one of the world's greatest hackers and the young Dr. Harlan over here is an expert in nanotechnology. It's given him enough power to handle himself out in the field with you and his medical knowledge will be make him an essential part of our group."
"Thanks for those lovely words, Charlie" Harlan said with a grin. His over positive attitude was starting to get on my nerves.
"Do we meet your standards, Cavanaugh?" Nasiha growled back.
I could tell that I judged them too hastily so I tried to make things right. "Yes of course, I'm sorry if I offended either of you." I said.
"Don't worry James" Harlan waved an arm and grinned, "I'm sure we'll all going to become great friends."
Agent Brown's phone began to vibrate. He checked the text and his expression turned blank. "I'm needed at section seven", he said, "Scott please take over until I get back."
"It would be a pleasure, Charlie." Harlan said still oblivious to whatever was about to take place in the pyramid.
Agent Brown exited the room and started walking to the elevator.
"What was that all about?" Nasiha asked with a look of worry on her face.
"I don't know, but we'll probably find out soon." I replied.
Overseer's office, Section 7, CORE base, New York City:
Agent Brown urgently entered into the office. When he opened the door he saw Overseer Bellamy standing in front of his desk with Cameron Chase. Brown spoke up "Overseer Bellamy, I arrived as soon as I could, is something wrong?"
"Actually I wasn't the one who called you here." Bellamy affirmed while a small cloud of smoke rose from behind him and Agent Chase.
"I called you here Agent Brown" said a voice, behind the desk. The office chair spun around, revealing a dark skeleton in a suit taking a second puff from his freshly lit cigar.
"Director Bones! I thought you were still in D.C." Agent Brown said with a puzzled look upon his face.
"I had some loose ends to tie up." Bones explained briefly look over to Agent Chase, he was probably hinting about the Batwoman situation but his eyeless sockets shifted back to Brown. "We're here to talk about you Charlie, you and your team." Bones clarified.
"I'm worried that you've become too attached to this operation." Bellamy stated aversely.
Chase interjected, "It has only been six months since you lost your son in Pakistan, perhaps you should take more time to grieve."
"And just hand this Op over to you!--No thanks!" Brown objected, firing an intense glare at Chase. He breathed deeply then pleaded to the Overseer "I've grieved long enough and I am ready to lead field missions again. You've seen what I can do Fred, you know that I'm the right man for this job, and that this entire allegation is some passive aggressive coup for Chase to usurp my duties as a senior agent."
"Very well!" Bones said, putting out his cigar in an ashtray. "Agent Chase, Overseer Bellamy, please leave us."
"Hmm, Nice to see that you haven't lost your bite Charlie", the Overseer commented while heading for the door.
Chase briefly paused before saying "I understand how from your point of view I may seem cold, but every decision I make is in the best interest of the DEO, I hope you can say the same. "Just one last question," she asked, continuing once Brown nodded. "When you observe James, do you see an agent with the potential for greatness or do you just see a surrogate for your son?"
Agent Brown paused before rebutting "Chase, if you ever pull this stunt again you better hope I'm gone for good, cause if not I'll come back to destroy you and your prestigious career."
"I wouldn't have it any other way." Chase smirked slowly exiting the office with Bellamy.
"Sometimes I wish you'd just shake her hand and get it over with. I can't stand her," Brown asserted. "She's arrogant and overzealous."
"She's young and ambitious" Bones defended, "She just more of an acquired taste." Bones lit up another cigar, puffing again than asked "How's the team coming along Cyrus?"
"Cyrus?" Charlie chuckled, "No one's called me by my real name since the nineties." The relief gradually wore off Agent Brown's face, "We've still got a long way to go but the results look promising. I could still use a few more members though, preferably metas who can fight on the field."
"I have two new members in mind for this team, Mable Lowery and Elijah Carter." The Director affirmed.
"That's great news Director" Brown rejoiced. "Where do I find them?"
"Well Carter's a local we recruited straight from college he's being processed in Section One and Mable's currently located in Belle Reve." Bones said rising from his seat. Bones walked over the door to the next room gripping his handle "I have to fly back to D.C. Try to read the kid in while the two of you pick up Lowery."
"Director there's just one more thing I had to disclose before you leave." Brown said before Bones looked back "I believe Cavanaugh's rifle squad was murdered by Aaron White."
"The Boogeyman!?" Bones turned his head in amazement.
Charlie nodded in confirmation.
Cambridge Tower, London, U.K.:
Mr. White walked into the office of George and Richard Cambridge. Richard greeted him and said "Aaron, how is my favorite son-in-law?"
"I'm your only son-in-law." Aaron pointed out while grinding his teeth.
"Well a win by default is still a bloody win." Richard retorted.
George interrupted "Speaking of bloody how was your trip to Afghanistan? I hear that the weather's quite sunny this time of year."
"YOU NEVER TOLD ME THOSE WEAPONS WOULD BE TESTED ON US MARINES!" Aaron shouted ferociously.
Both twins stared back at him unphased. "My brother and I do not appreciate your tone Mr. White." Richard said.
"You seem to be taking this too personally." George added "We had to see how the weapons would perform on the field in a realistic combat environment. Now did you take care of the situation?"
Aaron looked at both of them with contempt. He was resentful by their actions and disgusted with his own. He hated his job but he knew how much of a necessity it truly was. "Yes, I cleaned up your mess, all of the evidence is gone and Edward erased each of the surviving witnesses' memories. The meta still has his memories but the Marine Corps has no interest in searching the desert for a man in a suit. They'll probably blame it on the insurgents and sweep it under the rug. In short, 6 marines are dead, 5 are injured and 2 are still missing."
Richard sighed, "Poor sods, we'll have to make sure that their sacrifices were not in vain, now let's move on to our next project. We'll have to arrange a meeting with the other executives."
George pulled out his Smartphone "I'll send out the invite."
"The meta I was mentioning before happens to be Melissa's son." Aaron highlighted.
George and Richard both glanced at each other then back at Aaron, now they were both irritated with the direction the conversation had taken. George spoke first saying "At this point the boy's relation to me is irrelevant." Before Aaron could object Richard used his telepathy to interrupt Aaron's thoughts "We both know where your allegiance lies, if the boy ever becomes a threat to Apex you will exterminate him, we expect nothing less from you."
For a moment it looked like Aaron had begun to give up on the conversation, but then he asked "How would you explain that out of all the soldiers in Afghanistan, I am forced to fight the one person we all swore never to hurt?"
"It must be poor luck" Richard responded.
"My thoughts exactly" Aaron said with a deep hatred burning in his eyes. He stormed out of the office nearly smashing the steel doors on his way out.
Richard grinned "Well he's in a bad mood. Think we pushed him too far?"
"No" George diverged, "He's just upset, he's always had a soft spot in his heart for my daughter. Just let him throw his tantrum, he'll come back, he always comes back."
More chapters can be found the Lucifer Grimm Library. Check it out when you have the time!