“Agent Jonathan Webber?” The mustached man barked out, his eyes glued to his clipboard. Every inch of this guy’s appearance screamed ‘pencil-pusher’ right down to the pocket protector on his button-up shirt.
“Here,” I replied while throwing my gaze around the room. There usually weren’t this many people in the briefing room, at least not for my missions. The man continued his roll call, I didn’t recognize most of the names. Actually, I don’t recall finding any of them familiar, another red flag. There were eleven people altogether in that crammed briefing room and I was getting edgy. I didn’t know what Director Hanson had planned, all I knew is that I wasn’t going to like it one bit given this morning’s memo.
When roll call was over the pencil-pushing-mustache checked over his list again, nodded, and scurried out of the room quickly. We were all silent, few people looked around and when they did it seemed to be right at me. Maybe that’s because I was the only one with his feet kicked up onto the table, maybe it was my lack of a tie, or it was something else. Before I could surmise any other reasons for their gazes a woman walked in, an attractive woman. Her perfect blond hair was matched only by the sharpness of her crystal blue eyes, the puffiness of her lips, or her smooth, taught curves.
Either I passed out and was dreaming or this woman was built in a lab for the sole purpose of distracting every straight male within a hundred miles. The only women in the Company that looked like that specialized in Honey-Pot missions: seducing other spies, diplomats, or any person of interest in order to obtain assets.
This meant two things to me: for one, it meant that she was used to being gawked at, meaning she knew exactly how attractive she was and how to use every single curve on her body to get her way. It also meant she made a living using physical intimacy as a means to deceive, steal, and likely kill. I had only been an agent for two years when I met this woman, but even so every instinct I had developed in the CIA and in my career as an Army Ranger screamed at me not to trust this woman.
She took the podium and pointed her crystalline gaze right at me. I felt those warm blues pierce me and I made sure to stare back at her with nothing but stoic-impatience.
“Good morning Agents,” she almost cooed with her silky voice. Dammit, even her voice was attractive. Of course it was, it had to be. “I’m sure you have a lot of questions, but we have a lot to cover so I’m just going to dive right into it.” She flicked her blond hair slightly and turned her attention towards the display screen. The woman’s grey-dress-pants were very flattering and didn’t look at all comfortable given how constricted her behind seemed to be in them. Judging from the tilt in everyone’s head around me, I knew I wasn’t the only one who noticed.
The screen went from black to displaying a world-map with several blinking-red markers scattered across the globe. I took quick inventory: Pakistan, Russia, Brazil, Alaska, Germany, Japan, China, four in Africa, and three more in Iraq.
“Each of these markers,” the woman continued, “houses an underground facility that contains, what we believe to be, a variety of assets. Some of them house WMDs,” Pakistan, Japan, and two of the markers in Africa turned green, “terrorist training camps,” Germany, China, the last African marker, and Russia turned blue, “and the others are unknown.” Alaska, Brazil, and Iraq remained red.
“None of these are new, we’ve been gathering intelligence on these facilities for two years now.” I spoke up and was suddenly the victim of the not-so-kitten-like side of her gaze. She apparently did not like being interrupted.
“As Agent Webber just pointed out, these facilities have been tracked for the past couple of years. We’re here today because we just got the go ahead to infiltrate them and get a closer look at their creamy center.”
For the life of me I couldn’t tell if she was making a Twinkie joke or a euphemism, with the look on her face it could’ve easily been either.
“We’re here for recon?”
“Extraction.” The woman replied. An air of intrigue and confusion fell over the room, the men and women inside were looking at one another while I kept my eyes locked with hers. “Whatever these bases are doing, they all seem to be very adamant on protecting their true nature. We have reason to believe even the information we have was fed to us.”
I narrowed my eyes, more red flags were popping up, some of them I didn’t even think were rational. But my gut churned and this whole thing smelled wrong. She smelled wrong.
“Everyone here is from a different department, but you all have one thing in common: you’re Supers.” Now there was surprise. The Company kept a firm lid on who had abilities and who didn’t in their rankings. They made sure that even we didn’t know who was capable of what unless a mission called for us to know. Most Supers in the field worked alone in order to keep this façade, and this woman just spilled the beans all over the damned floor.
“The abilities that each of you possess,” she went on, “have been chosen specifically for the tasks ahead. You’ve been drafted, so to speak, because your powers will enable these missions to go off smoothly. You will also be working with another agent on your assignments.” Now she’d done it.
Several agents stood in protest and started voicing their concerns. I kept my seat, my eyes never left her form. I kept trying to read her body, her eyes, her motions, yet despite my own ability the only thing I was able to get from this woman was her insane sex-appeal that was really starting to piss me off. It wasn’t cute anymore, it was damn irritating.
After everything had calmed down she began assigning partners, and with each pair-up I was more and more sure of who I’d end up with. I could taste it.
The room was empty, save the two of us.
“That just leaves you and me, Agent Webber.” She smiled and made one last strike on her clipboard.
“So,” I said, standing and crossing my arms in defiance, “what can you do that warrants pairing with me?” I didn’t ask it out of pride or arrogance. Even my own distaste for this woman was not behind the bite in my voice.
I was good at my job, with a long list of successful extraction missions, assassinations, and infiltrations under my belt. More than ninety percent of these missions I had completed without even being seen, and the ones where I had been were purposeful. My abilities allowed me to crawl on walls, gave me heightened senses, strength and agility. There was a reason my call sign was “Wolfspider” and if this woman had anything less than the ability to vanish from the human eye, she’d compromise everything. She wouldn’t be able to keep up, and chances are I would end up having to save the damsel in distress.
Without speaking a word, she vanished with a brief red flash that encompassed where she used to be standing. I felt a tap on my shoulder. I slowly turned, relatively unimpressed but also significantly less irritable. The real questions now were her limits and her motivations.
“How far can you teleport?” I asked.
“What kind of silly question is tha-“
“Don’t.” I cut her off and raised my hand in protest before she could come up with some bland excuse. I was being rude, yes, and very blunt, but my life and hers was at stake and I needed to know the extent of her abilities. “Unless you’re a Paragon then your translocation has limits, and I need to know them if I’m going to be working with you.” Her face hardened, her fists clenched. She was clearly annoyed that her charm was lost on him, perhaps she was even regretting her decision to be paired with him. Was that her decision?
“The most I can travel is twenty-five feet… And I have to wait a little while before I can do it again.” She finally sneered.
“Usually, somewhere around two minutes,” she sighed. I scoffed, shook my head and turned to leave. “Where do you think you’re going?”
“To see the director, you’re going to get me killed.” I chuckled. My stride was quickly blocked when her form was suddenly standing in my path.
“Director Hanson is out for the moment, which is why I am in charge. I think you’ll be surprised at just how far twenty-five feet can be.” She smirked. I was glad she couldn’t read my mind, or so I figured. Hanson had been out for over a week to see the President, I knew that. I wanted to gauge her reaction.
I faked an excessive sigh and narrowed my eyes at her again.
“Which one is ours, then?” I asked in a defeated tone.
“Iraq.” Her tone was harsh, biting. She didn’t like me, I didn’t care.
“Naturally. One last thing: what’s your name?” I inquired.
“You can call me Blink, and no you don’t get to know more than that.”
“How original.” I quipped, walking around her and heading to my bunk to prepare.
That was the last she for several hours. It didn’t take us long to locate the facility’s entrance, which was actually rather surprising considering what we would eventually find.
A small, poorly guarded cave lead the two of them deep into a mountain. The rock eventually blended with metal tiles that lead into the facility they were tasked with infiltrating. Above the main door was the word “Sphinx.” The door itself was locked by a very bland lock-and-key system, which they were able to swipe off of one of the guards that had been incapacitated at the main entrance. When the doors opened, we found an open hallway with several more doors on each side.
I jumped, twisted my body, and adhered myself to the ceiling, which was thankfully very high and would be out of direct peripherals for anyone walking around. I crawled forward to the first intersection of hallways and checked each corridor: empty.
“Clear. What are we looking for?” I whispered. A speaker and microphone both functioned inside of a small, skin-colored ear-bud that connected me to Blink.
“We’ll know when we find it.” She responded and glided in surprising silence across the metal floors.
“Have I told you yet that your clichés are incredibly annoying?” I sneered and continued moving forward as opposed to choosing either of the lanes to my sides.
“And your insubordinate demeanor is starting to get on my nerves.” She replied and I could hear the sarcastic-smile that coated her delicate face.
I thought about prying, but decided against it for now. I cleared the next two hallways and started wondering why the place was so empty. Or was it? Maybe everyone was just busy?
I fell from the ceiling and landed on my feet and side-stepped to the nearest door.
“What are you doing?” Blink hissed.
“Getting a cat killed,” I whispered and ignored whatever the hell she said next. I grabbed the handle on the door and cracked it open just enough for me to be able to see. The door had been metal, and apparently sealed somehow because there was a hiss of air being released as I opened the door. The room I had chosen seemed to be a server room filled with wires, computers, and a network of panels that all looked very complex. There was one man inside with his eyes on the monitors. At first I thought they were cameras, but a closer glance showed me data tables, videos, and picture files being sorted through.
I slipped into the room and up behind the man, silently. He was completely unaware of my existence, and I was happy to keep it that way. I didn’t look at his face, I didn’t want to, it was harder to do what I did when you can see their faces. It’s much easier if it’s just the back of their head. With one quick motion I drew the nine inch KA-BAR knife from its leather sheath on my shoulder and across his neck. The man made a quick gasping sound, almost like a hiccup, and then fell to the ground gurgling.
I didn’t look at him, but I could hear him writhing. His seat was quite comfortable, still warm from the amount of time he had been parked there.
“What in the hell are you doing?!” Blink’s voice came out in a hushed shout, I imagined her foaming at the mouth but chose not to look at her.
“Recon, we need to know more about this place and walking around blindly isn’t going to work, and since you won’t tell me what we’re here for I’m going to look my way.”
“We’re not walking blind.” She hissed. I snapped my head to the side and stared at her. Her face looked like that of a comedian who had told the punchline before the actual joke. It was the look of “oops.”
“So you know where we’re going, but declined to tell me, or share any kind of map, intel, or dossier on what this place is?” I asked rhetorically.
“We had intel on the layout of this facility, and yes I know where the asset is.”
“The asset,” I scoffed and then turned the monitor I had been working on towards Blink, “you mean her?” The monitor displayed what looked like a 9-year-old girl in a circular cell, chained to the walls, and unconscious.
“How… How did you-“ Blink stuttered.
“The facility is called ‘Sphinx’ and the first file on this database is called ‘Project Sphinx’ and since you were kind enough to tell me ‘I’d know it when I sees it’ I figured a little girl chained to a wall with the same title as the facility she’s kept in would definitely be ‘it’.” Honestly, I was surprised she underestimated me this much. Had she even read my file? She couldn’t be this arrogant.
“Jon you don’t understand,” she started to explain.
“First off, you don’t get to use my first name. Secondly, you brought me in here blind as a bat and expected me not to try and figure anything out. Third, you let me get on a damned database knowing how good I am at my job, which is why, I imagine, you chose me to partner with you in the first place.”
There was silence for a moment. The man I had killed had stopped writhing and was now sufficiently dead, which added to the room’s cold-feeling.
“What can she do that’s got a bunch of terrorists locked her up like this?” I asked.
Blink’s face hardened again, she almost looked frenzied, panicked. She actually thought she had me under control, which was adorable in my opinion.
“Either you can tell me or this computer can, either way I’m finding out before I take her anywhere.” I said with stern conviction. For all I knew this girl was a walking time bomb that they were trying to weaponized. Perhaps she was powering something and taking her out could cause a meltdown. Maybe the girl was insane and would end up killing him. One way or another, I knew this little girl was capable of something these men wanted to harness, and that my government wanted for themselves. Why else would I be here?
“She’s a techno-path.” Blink finally said after such a long pause.
“There’s more than that. There’s thousands of techno-paths all over the country, why her?”
“She’s the only one we know of that can…” Blink paused, she didn’t want to tell me. Perhaps she was ordered not to. Why?
“We really don’t have time for this.” I said. She sighed.
“She’s a Paragon. Her abilities allow her to hack any database, any server, any connection with literally no effort across the glove. She’s even been able to communicate with alien technology.”
“She’s nine! How has she even been near-“ I stopped. The pieces came together, slowly. “This isn’t an extraction, it’s a rescue. She used to be in our ‘care’ and she got stolen and is being used by these wacksjobs. Also, alien technology? Don’t think I’m skimming over that.”
“Yes, we have alien technology in our hands. Yes, she’s able to talk to it. Yes, she used to be an asset for the United States Government and she was abducted.” Blink rattled on in a huff, her perfect face was turning red.
“Wonderful.” I turned the monitor back so that I could see and type and found where she was being held. “Always good to know who you can trust.” I shoved past her and left the room, returning to my crawling-position on the ceiling and made my way towards the little girl’s room. Her name was Clarissa Klement, say that five times fast.
This isn’t going to end well, I thought as I ran through the endless number of ways this mission could turn sour. Where are all the staff? There has to be more than just that one guard, especially considered what they’re guarding.
I also knew that there was more than just one little girl here. While I had Blink distracted I had slipped a USB port into the computer I was rifling through and downloading the database. Modern technology is such a wonder, and the stuff I had access to that wasn’t available to the public was simply astounding. Like a 10 terabyte portable hard-drive I could carry in my pocket. Not really useful for the average man, but very helpful when procuring an entire database of information.
I had slipped the drive in when I noticed one of the files had read “Draco Industries,” a file I didn’t have time to read but was very curious to look into. Why would the world’s largest weapon’s and technology manufacturer be on the list of files held by a terrorist cell? The answers would be juicy; I knew that much.
I stopped, something in the air changed. The previous scent of linoleum tiles and oxygen was replaced by the scent of wax candles and death. I dropped to the floor again and moved towards the source of the new smell.
“For god’s sake, Agent Webber, where are you going?” Blink whispered.
“You don’t smell that? It smells like rotting flesh and dried blood, even you must notice it.”
“Webber! Get back here now, we have to find the asset.”
“There’s more to this place than we knew…”
I opened a set of double doors and felt like I had fallen down the damned rabbit hole, but instead of wonderland I was in someone’s twisted horror-movie. The walls looked like the inside of a person’s body, with what looked like muscle and veins lining the sides of the room. The ground was still metal, but it was stained, and there were bodies, so many bodies. They littered the ground and each one looked like it had been drained of their blood due to their pasty white skin that seemed hollow. Their dead eyes screamed in protest of what had been done to them.
I had seen some sick shit in my life. I had seen mothers kill their own children with bombs. I had been stabbed by a child I had offered food to. This went on the list of the deranged memories I would never be able to forget.
“What is this place…” I whispered. I looked around and noticed that the bodies on the ground were all wearing uniforms similar to the guard whom I had killed earlier, and they were all middle-eastern of various descent. “Someone got here before we did…”
“Technically that is true,” a new voice chimed in. I spun to my side, drew my KA-BAR, and held it in a reverse grip with my other hand outstretched in front of me holding my side-arm, finger on the trigger. There was a figure dressed in a black robe and hood standing in front of me now. Of course it was black.
“What the fuck did you do to these people?” I barked.
“They were all willing, if that makes you feel any better,” the figure replied and removed his hood. It was a young man, barely old enough to drink by my recollection, but it was his eyes that signaled him as something different. They were black. Not just the iris, or the pupil; both of his eyes had neither whites, nor iris, nor pupil and were entirely black like obsidian stone. His stare was haunting, it made my skin crawl.
“It doesn’t,” I told him, keeping my finger on the trigger, ready to fire.
“Too bad.” The figure raised his hand and started to chant something I couldn’t understand. I felt like a steel-hand was grasping my organs as I was lifted off the ground by an unseen force. His chanting continued as his black eyes stared at me. I screamed, grunted in the most agonizing pain I had ever felt in my life. My knife and sidearm fell to the bloody ground that was now an easy six-feet below me.
I had never felt more helpless. My mind couldn’t tell if it wanted to be confused, in pain, suicidal, or defiant. I just wanted it to end and it wouldn’t.
The man walked forward and I found myself floating through the air towards a large pile of corpses.
Four gunshots sounded from the other side of the room just before I fell to the ground. I grabbed my sides as some of the pain stuck around to irritate me some more, though the majority of it had fled. The black-eyed man was face down on the ground with four well-grouped bullets in his back.
“You didn’t-“ I coughed and spat up blood, “tell me there was going to be Supers here.”
“He wasn’t a Super,” Blink told me, helping me up to my feet, “he was a mage.”
“A what now?” Now I was really confused.
“A mage. He uses magic to do what he does, not a power he received from genetics.”
“You’re telling me magic is real?”
“It’s more than real, it’s fucking dangerous now will you please not deviate from the path again? Someone would’ve heard those gunshots and we need to get the asset and leave, NOW.”
I didn’t argue, I didn’t present a snarky comeback. I just wanted to get out. We sped down the hallway, this time I followed her, until we found Clarissa’s room.
This time we met resistance. Four armed men stood guard in front of her room, but they hadn’t noticed us yet.
“How far are they?” I asked.
“Roughly forty-five feet.”
“Then you need to get closer. Can you close the distance before they gun me down?”
“Just take out the two on the left, I can handle my lane.” Blink seemed insulted at my question, I suppose she had earned that much. She had just saved my life after all.
Once again I got myself onto the ceiling and crawled forward until I was directly atop one of the men on the left.
“3… 2… 1…” I counted down, and then dropped, flipped, and landed on the target’s shoulders. My weight coupled with the impact of me kicking downward dropped the guard to his knees allowing me to grab the other one and ram my knife through his throat. The blade drove easily through his neck and came out the other end. I had to make a choice; did I trust Blink enough to cover her lane, or did I lone-wolf everything and risk getting one of us shot, likely myself?
Watch your lane, I told myself, remembering my Ranger training and decided to trust her ability. I drew the knife from the man’s throat, spun and stomped on the guard’s throat whose body I had pinned. I then dropped all my weight down with my knife, driving the blade through his skull and into the guard’s brain.
I paused for a moment, waiting for the sound of an automatic weapon to end my life but it didn’t come. I turned and saw the other two guards on the ground, one with a broken neck, the other with a gash in his neck. Blink was wiping a lady-like butterfly knife on her pant-leg and then flipped it back into its cozy, compacted form. She nodded at me. I returned the gesture.
The door’s locking mechanism was easy enough to hack, and soon the door was opened. The girl was unconscious: all four of her limbs were chained to the wall and she looked like she had been the victim of some severe punishment.
“What happens now?” I asked.
“Now we get her out of here and back into U.S. custody.”
“Sounds like another prison sentence.” I remarked, which stopped her in her stead.
“This young girl has already hacked every major government network just by putting her hand on a laptop in Seattle. She’s hacked the Russian satellite with a phone over a decade old, she opened the alien ship we’ve been trying to open and study for fifty years. She’s dangerous.” Blink hissed and started removing the girl’s shackles.
I was torn. On one hand she was right: this girl was incredibly dangerous with what she could do, and given that she had already spent time in government custody I figured she knew about her abilities too. But she was so young, she had such a long life ahead of her and Blink was going to sentence her to a life in a server room. Maybe it would be slightly more glamorous than that, but he knew the people in charge wouldn’t risk her getting abducted again. No, they’d lock her down tight.
She can’t port for another forty-five seconds… I had been counting since I had fallen on the first guard. Granted it was a guestimate, but I always was a good guesser.
I helped her remove the remaining shackles from the girl’s limbs and hoisted her over my shoulder. Blink looked relieved and the two of us started making our way out of Facility Sphinx. Once outside, she pulled a flare gun from her pocket and shot it straight up into the air.
“The hell are you doing?” I growled.
“Alerting our ride,” she said, paying me little to no mind.
“You’re giving away our position, you could’ve just radioed in!”
“I’m sorry Webber.” She said, and then she was gone. My senses kicked in and I knew she was behind me. I reacted quickly, throwing the little girl in one direction and diving down in the other. The sound of Blink’s sidearm echoed several times around us.
I landed, rolled, unsheathed my knife, and steadied myself in a low crouch. Blink was pointing her weapon at me and she had me dead to rights. Or so she thought.
“I knew you were a two-faced whore.” I spat. Before either of us could react a chopper came up over the mountain and dove towards us. The words “Draco Industries” were painted on the side. I didn’t know entirely what was going on at the time, but I knew it was bad and I needed to move quickly.
“You should’ve just followed orders, Jon. You could’ve come with us.”
“I’m not going anywhere, and neither are you.”
One minute, twenty seconds…
“That’s where you’re wrong.” Blink said and fired several more times. Again Jon’s senses reacted like a 6th-sense. He leapt, twisted his body, and rolled, easily evading every shot. She was dry now, as the weapon went click-click-click.
I regained my footing and sprinted towards her as fast as I could.
The two of us entered into a barrage of strikes and parries. She handled herself masterfully, but I noticed she was not going on the offensive with her strikes. She was making deliberate, precise thrusts that kept me from going fully on the attack. She was biding her time.
I jabbed, kicked, thrust and slashed my blade at her while trying to get a solid grip on her nimble frame.
She was still doing everything she could to bide her time. I could see her eyes twitching with strain, she was trying to use her ability.
Three… Two… One…
The red light flashed and she was gone, and I had won.
I felt the resistance of her clothes and skin against the edge of my KA-BAR as I spun and slashed behind me. I also felt the point of her butterfly knife poke my skin, and I was sure that if I had been even a hair slower I’d be dead. Her blade had penetrated my side only a little bit and she had aimed her shot with amazing precision. Directly between my ribs with a slight angle upward.
But I had been faster. Blink fell back with a gash in her neck deep enough to almost decapitate her. I spat on her corpse, the only thing fitting for a backstabber. I looked up, the chopper was landing and men were starting to pour out towards me.
“Shit, shit, shit!” I cursed and ran towards Clarissa, flinging her over my shoulder once more.
“DON’T MOVE!” The men yelled, and I could see they were sporting nullifiers: weapons designed to incapacitate Supers. I had never been on the receiving end of one, and I didn’t want to be. But I had nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and I was weighed down by this helpless little girl on my shoulder.
Their weapons were at low-ready as they moved towards me, they weren’t looking for a fight, but they had likely seen the spectacle and knew I was dangerous. They wouldn’t take chances.
At the moment when hope seemed lost, as I formulated every conceivable plan to make it out of here alive, one of the men was suddenly knocked a hundred yards away. I had barely seen a blur move across the desert floor when another flew by knocking another armed soldier into the rock that made up the mountainside. Within a matter of seconds all five of the men that had been moving towards me were gone or lying on the ground, dead or unconscious I couldn’t tell. A figure floated before me, his form became a silhouette in the sunlight that pierced my eyes.
“Take the chopper, get her somewhere safe.” A voice said. It was heavily modulated by the helmet the figure wore. A red cape billowed behind the figure in the wind.
“Who are you?” I called out as the figure started to fly away.
“There isn’t much time, Wolfspider. You need to leave now. Your department is dead, and the world thinks you the same, keep it that way.” In the blink of an eye he was gone, flying off into the sky at speeds I didn’t think possible of even a Super.
The cockpit of the helicopter was empty; the pilot lay on the ground besides the door with his neck broken to the point that his face was staring behind him.
“Holy shit…” I said, and thanked all of my lucky stars that I had learned to pilot one of these things in my early years. I wasn’t an ace, far from, but I could get it off the ground and back on it again without killing myself. I didn’t know where I would go from here, but I knew I had to find a safe place for Clarissa before I did anything with myself.
Maybe I would go to Alaska, never been and it’s the last place anyone would ever expect to find me…