In a white void, there was nothing around her but mist. She saw nothing but an inescapable void of white. An abyss. Surrounding her were plains of heavenly light. Why couldn't she see anything? Was she lost? Reaching out, her vision became hazy, almost causing her pain.
Her hand stung as she tried to reach out, closing her eyes, she felt a tough, burning sensation. Still trapped in the void, Martine stopped fighting it. Looking around, she saw the scope of the sea of light. It went on forever. Was she dreaming? The question had gone from her reality.
Soon, the abyss formed and took shape. Squinting, she was teleported to a street. A street? The concrete was covered by a thin layer of white, her feet making light crunching sounds as she stepped forwards. Snow.
The last thing that Martine remembered was being at the Exchange Place - a bomb. A bomb had gone off, burying her and Candice.
She remembered collapse, flame, but no pain. Perhaps she was in a coma, perhaps this was a dream. Standing alone on the snowy street, she saw the metal bollards, the light glowing from a nearby convenience store. So vivid, she could feel the cold on her skin.
Bloody, and her eyes seeing nothing but white, Martine's face was obscured by the explosion, pushing everything away with a blast of matter and rubble. The memories appeared like shockwaves, her eyes finally settling on the New York street. The sign couldn't be made out, but the distant cityscape and skyline proved that she was far away from Manhattan.
Martine went to step across the street as a classic yellow taxi-cab drove past her, kicking up water. It didn't honk, and Martine didn't hear the driver yell a curse - so she assumed something was off. Looking down at her face in a puddle on the sidewalk, she was older, mature, with blonde locks and smooth skin.
The door of a nearby corner-store opened with a ding. With a slow and swooping creak, it's satisfying bell-ringing sound accompanied it.
Coming out the store was a young girl, her face was typically rosy-cheeked. Sporting several cuts across her forehead, her hair was long and dirty. The muddy locks fell around her shoulders and down her back, exposing her dimple-covered face.
Walking shoulder-to-shoulder with the girl was a boy. He had a gentle smile but his face was thin, his black hair covered one eye with a fringe. Martine felt falling flakes of snow touch her head. The girl across the street outstretched her hand to feel them and the boy chuckled, rubbing his arm, which the girl noticed.
Martine was about to step closer as she heard a distant voice. "Hello there, Martine." A voice carried from next to her. Turning sharply, she instantly recognised the voice, but was stunned as she saw his face. Tommy Rousseau.
Her boyfriend, best friend and companion. He was older, with a slight stubble around his cheeks and lighter highlights in his hair. But his eyes still held the same compassion. "You never used to call me that name." Martine replied.
"I'm surprised you remember me so easily." Tommy gestured across the street, and Martine saw flashes - Tommy in a hospital bed, being fed by an IV, Martine's breath catching in her throat. The room was as devoid of beauty as she was of hope. She fought the emotion welling up in her body - "Men came to kill you, Tommy, I had to go." Martine reasoned.
His face showed a twinge of dismissal "You could have stayed with me! But you think you made the right choice, I guess that's all that's really mattered." Tommy sighed.
Martine touched her forehead in thought, as she looked up into the falling snow. "What I'm doing at Decima...it matters. They aren't forcing me to do anything, I'm finally doing real good." She justified to the vision of her boyfriend. He shrugged, frowning. Her time in the United Nations had made her forthright, brave, and determined.
"You always wanted to help, but you never cared how. You haven't changed a bit." Tommy said passionately. Martine was take aback slightly, her vision turning to the two kids across the street as she made the realisation.
"They're us, aren't they?" She realised. They were looking at themselves, on a snowy night in The Bronx. Faces becoming clearer now, it was Martine, nearly ten years old. Tommy was there too, dressed in a puffy outdoor coat. The older Tommy beside her nodded. "Back then, the world was very different," He said in a saddened voice.
Martine lowered her head, blinking, looking down at the growing snow underneath her feet. "But you haven't changed. You're still willing to help those that need it, you're striving for a better world. Such desires have equal costs, Martine." The older Tommy pointed out, watching their younger selves frolic through the snow.
Tommy ghostly form took more of a shape now, completely visible to her. His warm eyes shined when she glanced his way. "So, what about you? What happened to you?" Martine asked.
"Martine; I died."
Her world splitting, Martine's eyes grew wide, a torrent of bile almost spewing from her mouth.
She had risked everything for Tommy's safety. According to Decima's protocols, if Martine died or was killed in action, the payday would have gone to Tommy alone. Shocking her to her very core, the fear crept to the back of her throat. It was palpable.
She shook her head, eyes closing in sorrow. In utter denial, she couldn't believe it. Her mouth hung agape, covering it with her hand as she nearly doubled over. "What...how?" Martine lamented. Wracked with disbelief and guilt, there was nothing that could have saved him. Tommy's ghostly form became more and more realistic to her.
"I succumbed to my injuries, the Doctors tried to save me, they did all they could. But I'm afraid my condition was...too severe." Tommy said with a strange tone, almost a hint of acceptance.
Wanting to lash out, Martine couldn't touch anything while trapped in her own coma-induced dreamworld. "Why didn't they tell me? The hospital, I went there, Tommy. Why didn't they tell me about you?" She got closer to him, tears welling at the bottom of her eyelids. Linking his fingers, Tommy's lips formed a straight expression.
From thin air, a face began to materialise in front of her. Standing in the middle of the snowy road was a familiar man. Maybe mid-thirties or early forties, besuited, with a blue and black striped tie. He buttoned his blazer, his tanned skin turned pale by the falling snow. Tommy turned his head, as the figure had a neutral, well-meaning stance.
"I'm Special Agent Wade Bennett, FBI. Can I speak to you for a second?" The man whispered in a demanding tone. "Holloway..." Martine scorned, her voice laced with anger.
Suddenly the snowy street had disappeared, shifting in a haze to become a Hospital corridor. The same corridor where she first met Leighton Holloway. Tommy had gone, his visage blinking away. They were in the New York Presbyterian. The familiar smell of bleach surrounded them, tension grew in her face and limbs. Her mind replayed the last moment she felt like this, when she was ten years old.
A pair of shadows appeared at the end of the corridor, Holloway's men, obscured by a heavenly white light from the windows. Martine sank into her chair, her eyes burning with hatred. Leighton Holloway came forward from his slouch, bringing his head up to look menacingly into her face. "You're right, of course. I'm not FBI. You can call me Mr. Holloway." He repeated.
They'd had this conversation before, an older Martine taking the place of her past self. She was reliving memories. "You aren't real." She protested, fighting the control of the new vision.
Smirking, Holloway looked away from her into the distance "Real or not, that won't change your reality. Is empty servitude really the price for world peace?" He retorted.
Holloway's ghostly form looked more realistic than Tommy, but his eyes were unnerving, inhuman. "You remember how Mr. Rousseau ended up in that bed..." Holloway flicked his eyes to the other side of the hospital hallway.
A voice began to echo in Martine's mind as she saw the outline of another figure. "If I can speak to you about Thomas. He was involved in a very catastrophic collision, he's lucky," Doctor Nolan said cautiously. His visage was darkened, wearing a white lab-coat with a brown blazer and white shirt underneath.
"Mr. Rousseau has suffered a complete spinal injury, meaning that any effected bones in the spine below the injury will be completely paralysed. I'm sorry, but if he doesn't get through these next twenty-four hours...then he will die." Nolan's voice bounced around her head without the vision's lips ever moving. The Doctor's words resonated with her, as her mind continued to piece together the puzzle.
She stood up, Leighton's ghostly eyes following her. "I stayed with him...for months until you came back. I turned you away." Martine reasoned. When an unconscious Tommy was threatened by the two assassins, it was Decima who had stepped in.
"Bryant was under my orders. You really think we'd take no for an answer?" Holloway bickered.
A flash of Tommy's face entered her head. He had gotten paler and his hair more thin, confined to a hospital bed. Another dim and lowly beep of the heart-rate monitor kept her awake, with a ringing in her ears. Martine had suffered weeks alone, the days washing into one another. It was a painful existence alongside her crippled lover, if he was even that lucky.
The injury had taken a bigger toll on Tommy than Martine had first thought, a car crash was not something that would put someone out of commission for this long.
His condition improved and worsened without reason. "The assassins...were hired by you." Martine said, her anger building.
"Decima had nothing to do with it. I saw potential in you, Martine, all you needed was a little push. In fact, that's exactly what my men gave poor, unfortunate Tommy." Holloway smirked. His form rippling, he stood up as Martine clenched a fist. Seething, she stared at him intensely. "You son of a bitch, you did this!" She shouted.
"D-Crypt, Parnassus, Tommy's accident, the assassins. It was all me, it had always been me." Leighton's mocking tone enraged her. She lunged for his throat, passing through smoke, Martine coughed as Holloway's body floated away, disappearing. Her hands felt numb as she went through his body, like smoke, Holloway faded away.
Back when she worked for the United Nations, it had been D-Crypt who served as her contact, leading her to Georgia Newport and the former FSB Agent Tarasovich. Still trapped in the hospital, she looked around rapidly, as Martine saw the corridor begin to shift around her. Running, she raced towards the windows at the end of the hallway.
The light of the outdoors shining in her face, she glimpsed flashes of people from her past - Dolph Westergaard, Lucas Delaney, and finally Georgia Newport - Newport's scars and pale skin etching into Martine's head. Still running, she had almost worn out her boots as she came to an abrupt stop.
Cinder. Standing in front of her and wearing a slick, black suit. Cinder raised her hand and clicked her fingers.
They were instantly transported elsewhere. 55 Exchange Place. Martine's mind had become hazy, as if losing it's composure. Even Cinder's body was hard to see, like she was looking through a broken mirror. Her peer said nothing, as the walls of the Exchange Place began to close in on them. As the claustrophobic scenario was facing them, Cinder's body and face began to change.
Like she was shapeshifting, Cinder's face faded to reveal another woman, unknown to Martine. The woman was young, pretty of face with cute features and a peach skin tone. She was wearing a small jacket and shirt with long, cascading brown hair.
"Who are you?" Martine asked, as the woman's curly hair blew back around her face, obscuring her glossy, dark hazel eyes. Biting her lower lip, the mystery woman had black-painted nails and supple lips. Her voice was sensual, pleasant, and she spoke with a smile.
"Your overconfidence will be the death of you, Martine. Look to the root of your problems. Look into your heart..." The brunette woman said.
The walls of the Exchange Place closing in on them, Martine turned around, seeing the building nearly collapsing like the day the bomb went off. Rubble began to rain from the ceiling. As she glanced to the mystery woman, there was no one in sight.
No one but Bryant. Walking out from the misty, collapsing rubble, he had a strong stride. The dark-skinned man was tall and burly, but lean. As he got closer, his face began to morph. Martine was frozen, unable to move, helpless as the Exchange Place crumbled around her. As Bryant got closer, his stubbled chin burnt away, revealing the ripped and ravaged flesh underneath.
His left eye was missing, replaced by a tiny, fleshy stalk and an open socket. Half his face had been destroyed, replaced by bone, muscle and ash. Extending a burnt, purple hand, Bryant went to touch her, caress her.
A burnt finger left ash on her cheek, her lip quivering. "No..." Was all she could say, knowing the fate of her friend and mentor.
The bomb at the Exchange Place, the plot executed by Decima's spies to destroy their own base. Bryant impacted the C4-wearing man, the human explosive, and the explosion rocked the building. Martine had seen Karl the informant shred his waistcoat, revealing a vest of plastic explosives underneath.
"The fire, the blast...you saved us." Martine uttered. The walking, half-dead body of Bryant grunted, his suit tattered in ash and red, leaking flesh. His voice groaning, Bryant's hand stroked her chin, leaving brown and orange stains, blood, mixed with rubble and dust.
"Water." He said simply. Then Martine dropped.
Like a trap-door had opened beneath her, she was swallowed by an infinite ocean.
She was falling as if darkness had enveloped her. The water closed in around her, filling her thin and tired body with a deep dread. Martine held her breath as long as she could, too long. Red and black splotches danced in front of her and she couldn't even remember if her eyes were open or closed.
The coldness she had felt upon entering the water was completely gone. She could see more faces, partly, the dream-like visions of Connor Herring, her former partner and friend in the United Nations. Garrett, the Decima Supervisor that mentored her before Bryant did. Finally, she saw Christopher Virgil and his smirking face.
Her heart was beating rapidly in panic. The urgency for air was more apparent than ever. Then she opened her mouth. The water rushed in like it owned Martine. It entered cold and murky, flooding her throat. Her limbs were moving like a rag-doll and her mind was screaming for an end to the anguish. A drowning pressure compressed her chest, forcing her lungs to burn.
Martine's heart began hammering, increasing in intensity and speed, like a wild bird trapped in a cage. As her vision finally blurred out and her consciousness faltered, only one word was heard in her head, her own name.
"Martine, Martine, Martine!" Echoed around her. Slowly, her body became limp and she waited for the numbing skeletal hands of death to suck away every last piece of life. Martine had fought, and Martine had lost.
DATE: OCTOBER 27th 2009
LOCATION: Atlantic City, NEW JERSEY, USA
PRECISE LOCATION: 1925 Pacific Ave - [ACCESS RESTRICTED]
ICU WARD CAM 5 - 09:05:29
There was thumping in her head, her heart was in overdrive, like it was going to burst from her chest. She awoke from a bed in a sweat, a mask on her face. An oxygen mask, she tore it off, taking a few deep breaths of her own. Eyes wide, she had cords and tubes attached to her head and chest, her breasts held in by binders.
Grunting, she pushed herself up as a female Nurse was quick to inspect her. "She's up!" The Nurse announced, as Martine's eyes made our blurry figures in a white background. The nurse, an Asian woman, stuck a small flashlight in Martine's eyes. "Pulse one-twenty, pupils equally reactive to light," The nurse recapped.
Struggling in her bed, Martine began to swipe the tubes away from her. The nurse held up a container "I need you to urinate in this." The nurse said.
A familiar voice turned Martine's view clear as she recognised the man approaching. "Not this second, Kimberley. That'll be all." Agent Drake gestured away from Martine, and the nurse bowed politely.
Decima Agent Drake was dressed in a white shirt and jacket, with a hip-holster, cargo trousers and combat boots. Martine eye's adjusted slightly, coming around to the light.
Drake picked up a grey shoal, a blanket, and passed it to her. Covering herself up in a daze, she rubbed her eyes with her palms, shades of light passing across her vision. Slowly, Martine's sight came back to her.
They were in a hospital room, with white panels and a nurse's station not too far from her bed. She was in a large room in the Intensive Care ward, with guards stationed outside. "The bomb...there was an attack." Martine stated, rubbing her head.
Her blonde locks had grown unkempt and frizzy, falling past her shoulders and down her back. "I know, our informant's betrayed us. We believe that Mr. Price and Karl both had dealings with Holloway's insurgents, it was a calculated strike against the Director of Operations." Drake informed her, sitting on the edge of her bed.
After what felt like lasting nightmare, she gripped her arm, attempting to feel some kind of pressure.
Pain was good, at least to ensure feeling. "What happened? Is Bryant okay?" She asked, worried. A lack of a straight answer told her all she needed to know. Drake rubbed his nose with the back of his thumb "We lost a lot of people. Natalie Parker, Ray Garvin and four of Carlson's men. We would've lost more if Bryant didn't do what he did." Agent Drake spoke sorrowfully.
Even with the regret in his voice, Martine could tell that Drake was itching to get back at the man who did this. "Then we'll make sure that Bryant's death wasn't in vain." Martine told him, reaching out with a wince, she grabbed his forearm gently. Drake glanced down, sighed, then continued.
"You weren't the only one to survive. Carlson made it, as did Doctor Beecher, thanks to your quick-thinking," He smiled slightly. Martine relaxed in her bed, thinking of Candice. Candice Beecher had helped patch her up, to hear that she was safe made Martine feel a lot better.
She leant back, remembering shielding the Doctor from the debris. The explosion had been since contained, Drake let her know.
"One of the Director's Lieutenants sealed the area, our contacts in the FBI finally proving their worth." Agent Drake grumbled. He patted Martine's hand and stood back up, stuffing his hands into his shallow pockets. "And Cinder? She was there too, is she here?" Martine inquired. Martine had been connected to Cinder since they joined Decima's combat division.
She remembered Cinder being at the Exchange Place, bravely fighting the terrorists until she was neutralised by a stray bullet. Drake's lip twisted in a small frown "She was, but she had to be moved. I'm afraid her condition turned out to be more dire than yours, but she's stable." He assured.
ICU WARD CAM 3 - 09:10:17
He stepped away as another figure entered her room. Brushing past the partition, a bespectacled man with sagging cheekbones and a rounded chin walked closer to her bed.
"Martine, this is Dr. Carmichael. He'll be evaluating you, it's just a few questions, now that you're awake." Drake introduced, turning around, he was about to leave the room.
"How long have I been gone?" Martine spurted, sitting up from her bed and pushing herself up by her forearms. She assumed that she had been held in a medically-induced coma for her condition, as her body was still very sore. "You were in a coma...for nine months, this would have been your tenth." Agent Drake said, before walking away. He left Martine with her evaluator.
Carmichael had subdued, small eyes, with brown pupils and bushy eyebrows. He had a high ridged nose and folded ears. Wearing a blue sweater, buttoned-up shirt and tie, the doctor grabbed a chair from the side of the room and sat down with a clipboard in hand.
Martine folded her arms, plucking the tubes and patches off her body.
Pulling her blanket up, Martine looked the psychologist up and down. "Welcome back, Ms. Rousseau - and let me say that your actions have been an inspiration to us all." Carmichael smiled. He adjusted his glasses, crossing his legs as he sat down on his chair.
"You work for Decima?" She questioned instantly. The doctor paused, clicking his pen. "With. I'm what you'd call a contractor, my practice is funded by Decima's Executive Board," He corrected frankly. A high-ranking contractor, then. Martine thought that he was probably the company's go-to for psychological evaluations. He scribbled some notes down. "I've prepared a couple of questions." Carmichael stated. Flicking through a few papers, he had a copy of her medical records.
Clearing his throat, the doctor wrote down a few things as Martine's nurse, Kimberley, approached her with glass of water. "Here, there's some dissolved vitamins in there, should help with the aches." Kimberley told her. As she was slowly sipping the water, the psychologist began his evaluation.
"What's the last thing you remember?" He asked, noting down a few more points. Kimberley walked out the room, meeting with Drake outside.
She shook her head, trying to will her body to bring something back up. "Covering Candice's body. I thought she was dead, I tried to protect her." Martine gulped. Nodding steadily, Carmichael tapped his pen on his clipboard. He flipped over to the next page, having Candice's file right there, studying it. "And you want to protect people?" He questioned.
"Good people. People worth protecting, people who'll mean something." Martine replied.
"Good people...hmm, like this woman?" Carmichael presented a photograph. Taken from a CCTV camera, the image showed a brunette woman with dark, tanned skin. Her hair cut short, she wore a trench-coat and tight suit jacket. In the photo, she was accompanied by a familiar face, Franklin Kerrigan, Holloway's associate.
Martine swallowed a drink of her water. She raised an eyebrow, not understanding where this point was going.
"This woman was assigned to guard Mr. Kerrigan at his address. She was former Military Police, two tours of Iraq, serving as part of a crack SRT. Her codename was Nero, but her real name was Lacey Clements," The Doctor put the photograph on the edge of the bed.
"On December third, two-thousand and eight, you and a squad of other Parkhurst operatives apprehend Kerrigan in his home in Danbury, New York. Lacey Clements was present, apart of Kerrigan's security detail. You engaged her, as instructed. But do you know what happened to her?" Carmichael wrote without looking at his papers, his eyes fixed on Martine.
"Why should I care? I can barely remember her anyway." Martine spat back, sipping her water.
Carmichael hummed, jotting down some more comments on his clipboard. "After your altercation, she was left unconscious. Sometime later, she was executed via a shot to the head. This woman served her country, going into the private security business for work and this is what she got? Would you call her a 'good person' Ms. Rousseau?" Dr. Carmichael proposed.
But Martine didn't require long to answer. "A lot of people served, so did Bryant. He died protecting all of us at the Exchange Place. So, you're gonna need a lot more examples to try and change my ideals or psych me out, Dr. Carmichael." She eyed him directly.
The psychologist pursed his lips "You're smart, Martine. It's obvious I can't fool you into regretting your actions, you were simply following orders. But tell me, do you believe that when those orders are murder and assassination, they're justified?" Carmichael questioned. He began to write again, a few sentences this time. Martine tried to spy what he was writing, but couldn't make it out.
"Necessary, not always justified. Some things are only difficult if you make them." She rationalised.
"So, you don't have any problem killing? Ms. Clements didn't die on your watch, but several of her fellow guards did. As did the men and women in the Office of Special Counsel, the night you, Mr. Drake and Mr. Bryant attacked. Would you like their names?" He flicked over to another sheet of paper.
"For the record, I don't enjoy killing people. But I'm just so good at it." She raised her eyebrows, flaring her nostrils. Looking her over again, the doctor made an additional note.
Checking his clipboard, he flipped back to the page he started on. "Clearly there are signs of an emotional detachment. We'll have to work on that. But luckily, I think our dialogue has proved fruitful. I hope we can continue this after your procedure is completed." Carmichael uttered.
She blinked, her expression changing. "Procedure?" She repeated. The doctor hummed in agreement, tapping the end of his pen on his clipboard. "Mhmm, you lost a lot of blood in the explosion, shrapnel impacting your body. You'll be fitted for a transfusion and several metal plates in your shoulders, in order for a safe removal of the pieces, and your recovery," He glanced down, then up, observing her sweating forehead.
Processing all of that wasn't as hard as she thought. But going under the knife might be, as she hadn't had an operation for several years now. "I'm sure you'll be fine, your superiors appear to hold your life in high regard. A lot of people have to come to see you." Dr. Carmichael mentioned.
Martine didn't listen to him, simply gazing out the askew window next to her bed. She pulled the curtain back just a bit, to see the sidewalk below.
ENTR POST 18 - 09:26:39
At the entrance of the hospital, Drake walked out the sliding doors towards a line of SUVs. The convoy had just pulled up, like an army rolling into town. Drake had always hated hospitals, the corridors were stuffy and the air had a scent of bleach. The nearest SUV's doors opened and Agent Drake adjusted his jacket, getting inside. He slammed the door shut and was faced with two men - the enforcer Callahan and Bryant's former communications officer, Christopher Virgil.
Agent Drake was stocky and yet had a strange quickness, it added a sharpness to his voice when he spoke, matching his handsome looks "The hospital remains secure. I have men at every entrance and exit." He reported.
The bespectacled Virgil was dressed in a sweater and blazer, his finger touching an earpiece. He put his finger down and interlocked his hands. "Mr. Greer's team has uncovered no new revelations. Despite torture and blackmail, Kerrigan isn't talking and Holloway's escape continues to plague us." Virgil frowned.
"I had him in my sights in Belle Haven, it wasn't my fault he got away." Callahan grunted.
Drake's handsome, fox-faced smirk turned sour "No point dwelling on that now, obviously Price was feeding him our intel before he exploded himself," He scoffed. The bombing of the Exchange Place has been a setback, but since then, Greer's inner circle had tightened. Since the attack, Virgil had become the Director's communication and technology overseer and Callahan had been promoted to Security Manager.
Folding his arms, Drake relaxed in his seat. "We don't know how many of ours have been compromised. Rylatech is going through an entire staff reshuffle, Turndale's funds have been liquified for now. Whatever we do, Holloway can have no access to our records." Drake told them both. Checking his phone, Virgil leant to the window of the car. "How is she?" He asked, veering off topic.
"She's awake. Her mental activity has been spiking for the past week, according to Dr. Bruzzese. I've had Ronald evaluate her just in case." Drake rubbed two fingers on his temple. He wasn't so sure about the physiologist at all, but it was the Executive Board that hired him. Drake didn't have the rank to question their choices. "I see, that man unnerves me." Virgil opined.
"A team of nurses are watching her around the clock, I trust them. Mr. Crassus pays them well." Agent Drake said.
Typing on his phone, Virgil had a slim look of smugness on his face. "I believe our luck has turned, gentlemen. Our search is coming to a close, and Decima will soon be free to operate as we please once more." He smirked as he tapped the glass separating them and the driver. The driver, a man in sunglasses, started the engine in the SUV.
"What is it?" Drake asked, scratching the back of his neck. "Mr. Greer's team, they've got a call from our men in the CIA. Holloway's attempting to leave the country." Virgil said smugly.
After the failed trap in Belle Haven, where Virgil and Callahan failed to capture Holloway, they were both eager to prove themselves again. Opening the door, Drake needed to remain in the hospital to keep Martine safe "Thank you both, I trust you can pass on my regards to the Director?" He held the door open as he stepped out.
Callahan made a short exhale. "Oh, of course. He'll be very happy to know how loyal you've been, Drake." Virgil ran a hand through his hair as Drake closed the SUV's door. The convoy drove away, with at least four cars. Drake folded his hands behind his back and turned, walking back into the hospital through the glowing archway.
ACCESSING CURRENT FEEDS...
DATE: AUGUST 23rd 2014
LOCATION: MARYLAND, USA
PRECISE LOCATION: FORT MEADE [NSA HEADQUARTERS]
FTMD CAM 20 - 08:46:11
[NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY]
FORT MEADE, M
FTMD OFC CAM 3 - 08:46:17
In a large boardroom, a group of men and women flicked through a dossier, made up of information on recent events. Each of the twelve members of this group had been provided a copy of the full book-sized report of 'Northern Lights' a classified and leaked report of all the government's black-budget programs.
Named 'Operational support to counterterrorism activities' the huge file was a weight to pick up, with so many pages, it was handled carefully by everyone at the table.
At the head of the rectangular glass table was Mr. John Greer, his alias of Phillip Hayes displayed on a triangular metal sign in front of him. Turning the page of Decima's financial report, he checked the Zenith-Media business records, which were comprised of several documents.
"I'm on page one-twenty-two," Greer announced, putting his forearm on the table. At right of him was Mia Xavier, the dark-haired, beautiful CFO of the Zenith-Media Corporation and Greer's personal spy. On his left was Charles Norquist, the Deputy Secretary of Defence. Norquist was an educated bureaucrat, dressed in his tight suit and fitting glasses, he had a small cleft-lip scar and a sloped nose.
Both Xavier and Norquist had signs in front of them too. "Chain of command doesn't apply to other military contractors in the field, I don't see why it should apply to us, all things considered." Greer said, his wrinkled lips twisting. Surrounding the room were agents of the NSA and FBI, including Samaritan's operatives.
Clicking her pen, Mia quickly began to strike things off her dossier. Beside Mia was Jefferson Carver, the head of publication at the LHR News Group. Granted a visitor's pass which hung around his neck, Carver pushed his glasses up the rim of his nose. "But when they're in actual combat, whom exactly do your agents report to?" Norquist asked.
Greer turned, locking eyes with the Deputy Secretary. "Same person as always. Me." He resounded, flicking the page with a licked finger. Scanning the details on the next page, Mia was reading through the analysis of Zenith Media's fiscal year. In Decima's dossier, Greer's finger stopped on the picture of Alicia Corwin, the RFID Chip photographed alongside her.
"Let's move on to article seventeen, subsection five, please." Mr. Travers addressed, seated at the corner of the table, across from Greer. A Representative, Travers was assigned to The Pentagon, but Samaritan's Admin had requested him at this meeting filled with the powerful and influential. Wearing a charcoal grey suit and purple striped tie, Travers had deep brown eyes and a confident smile.
Nodding, Greer cleared his throat "Subsection five. We need a top-secret, Yankee White designation and clearance for Samaritan's code, operating system and access to the NSA feeds." He opened the Northern Lights dossier as he spoke, as if to prove a point. The US government didn't want another all-seeing AI to be discovered and leaked to the public again.
"Come on, Hayes, you know only one man clears that - you want to stroll into the Oval Office and start barking orders?" Norquist replied, raising an eyebrow. The three men beside him, Generals from the Marines, Army and Navy, all looked his way. "In fact, yes. Half of our operatives don't even know Samaritan even exists, would you like China finding out? Russia? North Korea?" Mr. Greer gestured to the documents detailing the last machine.
"Unless you want a repeat of the black-budget scandal, I suggest you set that meeting." Travers punctuated. Next to the dark-skinned Travers was Elijah DeMotto, the Senator for Baltimore, Maryland. DeMotto had been a key asset in working with Senator Garrison and accessing the government feeds for Samaritan's activation.
FTMD OFC CAM 2 - 08:58:04
Norquist scanned Decima's documents, then put down Samaritan's manual, detailing the specifics of their operative manual and combat strategies. "This one," Norquist highlighted a passage of the dossier "Best efforts to limit collateral damage? We'd prefer stronger wording." He scoffed.
"It's standard language for our New York operations, LA, Chicago, Atlanta." Greer explained.
The Deputy Secretary looked the besuited elderly man up and down, bemused. "Well, exactly what casualty allowance are we looking at here?" Norquist stressed. Greer leant his arm on the side of the table, moving in. On her side of the table, Mia Xavier clicked her pen and folded a blank page over on her notebook.
"Officially? Zero, of course. That's what all our records say. But cone of silence? Forty-three percent." Greer admitted with his wide-lipped smirk. His smile seemed to grow wider. How like the shark, whose lips would pull back, revealing teeth when nearer prey. A small murmur echoed around the room.
Senator DeMotto, however, had a scowl on his face. He was a round man, with a small grey beard and a receding hairline. He untucked a copy of the New York Journal from early August. Dropping the newspaper on the table. The sound caught the attention of the room. The front page was a photograph of a wrecked vehicle and beside the image was an official image of Congressman Roger McCourt.
"Forty-three percent? Your agents killed a bystander and two of the Congressmen's staff, with hundreds of dollars in property damage. You're lucky the firestorm in Congress didn't reach your doorstep." DeMotto pointed out. He touched the image of the wreck with his finger, the headline reading 'Illinois Congressman Murdered in Washington DC!'
The article on the front page, written by a woman called Maxine Angelis, detailed the description of events. Several cars of black-suited mercenaries, a car crash at 9PM, and Congressman McCourt found dead. Along with the death of Roger McCourt, his driver, James Duran and his assistant Leslie Lucas had died too.
Glancing down, Norquist folded his hands together on the table. "McCourt was gathering information on Senate hearings and the trial of Lars Rasmussen. Decima kept him quiet, but as soon as the Executive Board split, he lost his protection." Mr. Travers described. Decima had kept McCourt sweet, but once Greer and Samaritan had taken over, he saw his influence fading.
"The loss of Northern Lights created new opportunities for my superiors. Senator Garrison himself denied the existence of the Machine, as did the majority of the people at this table." Greer commented, flicking the next page of the dossier in front of him.
"Perhaps I was unclear, Mr. Hayes. You can't use us as the scapegoat for the whole damn Northern Lights scandal, shit. Research wasn't even stable, it was messy as hell." Senator DeMotto admitted. The three Generals at the table exchanged glances.
Greer adjusted the cuffs of his suit-jacket "Harold Finch's Machine served a purpose, to provide your government with an advantage for the war on terror. Samaritan will not only secure your victory, but also provide a clear vision for the the future. You needn't worry about scapegoats, Senator." He grumbled, in his English drawl.
"I've got enough of a fiasco brewing in Bethesda right now, I could use a little bit of that clear vision sometime soon." Senator DeMotto huffed and rolled his eyes, flicking over a page of Decima's dossier.
The Deputy Secretary filtered through several blurred images of a courthouse that was destroyed by Vigilance, the terrorist group that had captured a kangaroo court of men and women, holding them hostage last year. Including Senator Garrison, Control and the President's advisor.
The photos came accompanied by mugshots of the group's leaders. Peter Brandt, Niall Jacobs and Susan Jefferson were among the photographs. Including the deceased members, Norquist had about five to ten images and mugshots held under Vigilance's name and stamped with the word 'DECEASED' on top of them in bright red lettering.
FTMD OFC CAM 2 - 09:14:48
"We can compensate the man's family, at least, he died bravely in defence of his country." Hugh Western effused, the assistant of Jefferson Carver, Lars Rasmussen's publication chief. Western had a thin, rat-like face with slicked back black hair and a pointed chin. "He was gunned down by one of our operatives while protecting a corrupt Congressman, on a street in Washington DC nearly three week ago. If his family watch the news they know the story by now." Mr. Travers countered.
Turning the page of the nearest newspaper, Western scribbled a few words on the second page. "They know our story, what about his story," He put his finger on the blurred image of the passerby, the man that defended and helped McCourt against Samaritan's forces.
"The story of a proud American, defending a Congressman from a terror-hungry army of mercenaries. Russians? Chinese? It doesn't matter, this man is a hero. We control the narrative, we control the populous, drip-feed them, at first. Until we can ram a stoplight of bullshit up their ass and they'll thank us kindly. " Western smiled.
The man in question, a civilian, was still being analysed by Samaritan. "Mr. Western, please. Right now we have bigger issues overseas. Have you resolved the Goa Bank crisis?" Norquist asked, turning his head to glance at Greer. Rasmussen was Samaritan's public asset, controlling the vast infrastructure and development of new facilities.
When the seven billion dollars was taken from the National Goa Bank there was outcry, massive calls for Rasmussen's arrest and trial. After two failed Supreme Court hearings, Rasmussen used his political power to buy favour with Denmark's Prime Minister, Anders Olander.
Olander gave him corporate neutrality, and Decima became instrumental in covering up Rasmussen's theft. "The Executive Board have been dismantled and soon we will have wiped all influence of Decima's holdings, leadership and assets, including Mr. Rasmussen." Greer revealed. That's sparked a small discourse at the table.
"But the Goa Bank crisis was Rasmussen's idea, the seven billion dollars was to pay for-" One of the Generals was cut off by Mia Xavier, who placed a hand on the table, gripping her glass of water. She took a sip and swallowed with a sigh. "We're in the process of recovering the funds. Mr. Rasmussen's selfish actions nearly brought Samaritan into the public eye," Mia remarked, remembering the words that Gabriel Hayward had told her.
She spoke with a flat tone, repeating his words "Mr. Rasmussen has made several careless and unnecessary strikes against our interests, though he believes he was aiding us, his actions hinder the system's progress and almost exposed the entire network." Mia said with a long blink.
Greer watched with a silent gaze, on his face, pain, rage and joy looked much the same. He wasn't a man to joke with, Greer had more cruelty and ruthless intellect in his pinky finger than Hugh Western had in his entire body. "Thank you, Ms. Xavier. I understand that the embezzlement of seven billion dollars from Goa Bank was entirely Mr. Rasmussen's doing?" Norquist raised an eyebrow.
"It wasn't Kladivo, no matter what the Channel fifty-two news says. He hasn't transferred the money to anyone, it's just sitting there, in his account. Like he's waiting for something." Mia said hesitantly. Mr. Greer took his phone out from his pocket and opened it. His eyes scanned a message, and he huffed. "Thank you, Mia." He smiled warmly.
FTMD GARAGE POST 4 - 09:22:10
In Fort Meade's garage, lines of government-plated Sedans were arranged in rows in a dank garage below the building. Above, there were floors of computers and servers, sealed off from the lower-ranking Agents and only available to the highest ranking of staff. The garage was busy, even in the mornings.
The vehicles around Mia weren't exactly a perfect picture of Baltimore's automobile scene, or the type of car that could be bought by a man on a NSA salary. Surrounded by eerie blue and ambient green, the garage drained all shades of light from the outside world.
The meeting had gone into recess for half an hour, as several members of Samaritan's inner circle had other responsibilities. Deputy Secretary Norquist moaned about reporting to the President and his Chief of Staff, Mike Richelli. The session was halted to allow Norquist and his Generals to uphold their acts, as officials of the United States government.
Walking down to the steps to the garage, Mia took a packet of cigarettes out of her jacket, a thick bomber-style jacket, lined with fur. She wore it over her dress, which was jet-black silk. Walking in heels, Mia's shoes clicked on the shiny floor. She opened the packet and stood under one of the pillars in the dark garage.
Pulling out a cigarette, she stuck it between her teeth. Opening a square, golden lighter, she touched the end with the open flame. The flames danced around the end that was sticking out of Mia's mouth, she gripped the cigarette with her teeth and two fingers. The end lit up in orange embers and Mia took a brief breath. She inhaled, leaning against the back of the pillar.
She exhaled, a plume of grey smoke leaking from her mouth. Mia was barely through her second inhale when she heard footsteps approaching her. Reaching for her visitor's badge, the man in front of her beat her to it; drawing his badge instead. He unsheathed the FBI shield. "Mia Xavier? I'm Special Agent Rhett Stamford of the Federal Bureau of Investigation." He introduced.
Rhett Stamford was a tall, long-legged man with a trimmed beard and a side parting. Blonde, with dull blue eyes, he was dressed in a black trench-coat and navy turtleneck. He wasn't alone, followed by a woman with bleach-blonde hair and an angular face, she wore the FBI badge on her coat. "What can I do for you, Agent Stamford?" Mia raised a curved eyebrow.
She pulled the cigarette away from her mouth for a second. "We'd like to ask you a few questions about your employer and his affiliation with Triton-American, Rylatech and Goa Bank." Stamford began, and if looks could arrest someone, Mia would already be in handcuffs.
Taking in another inhale from her lit cigarette, Mia shrugged "I thought all of this was dealt with, Stephen Kladivo was arrested weeks ago." She stated. Despite her own words in the private meeting, she stuck to the public story when she was confronted by the Agents. Stamford eyed her up and down, as his partner touched the holster at her hip.
"We've reopened the investigation, something didn't add up. Arguably the biggest case of international embezzlement in history and the charges disappear without a hitch - as Rasmussen flunks the Supreme Court and the Senate - doesn't happen every day. You can see our curiosity, Ms. Xavier." Agent Stamford reasoned with striking charisma.
She could only nod "Uh-huh...and you're aware of the corporate immunity given to him?" Mia replied, trying her best to defuse his confrontational tone.
"Despite the falsified accounts the media gives, we're aware of his connection to Prime Minister Olander and the Danish Royal Family, yes." Stamford smiled. Putting his hands on his hips and giving her a thin smirk. His dark blonde brows lifted, expecting a reply when Mia gave him none.
Mia shrugged. She wasn't a talented liar, but she knew how to make it look like she was. "My office already put out a statement, I had nothing to do with it." She denied. The FBI Agent glanced her up and down, her tanned complexion from months abroad, her straight jet-black hair and enchanting eyes.
He spoke with a condescending voice, as if addressing a child "You're his CFO, Ms. Xavier. You don't think you'd notice when his books increase by seven billion?" Stamford responded. Mia shot him a look, a half-frown. Mia lifted the cigarette to her mouth, took an inhale, then puffed out the smoke in grey plumes.
"I manage his corporate holdings, from Denmark to Washington DC. I don't control what goes into his private accounts," Mia stated, putting her cigarette back between her teeth. She put her lips around it, breathed, then blew out the smoke again. "We have enough funding, despite devaluing our stock. Why would I be complicit in embezzlement when I have nothing to gain? So, like I told the NSA, Homeland Security and the IRS, Mr. Rasmussen's actions were all his own." She said with a smoke-filled sigh.
Special Agent Stamford gestured to his female partner, who pulled out a flip-phone. "And Tritak Energy? That wasn't your employer's brother? An immigrant, faking a job at the SEC?" Stamford stepped closer to her with every accusation. With eyes like lasers, the Agent's nose went up at the smell of the cigarette smoke.
As if to spite him, Mia took another puff. She even breathed a little longer, with a resentful exhale. "No way, that wasn't his brother. What? Are the FBI listening to conspiracy nuts now? You know, I know a radio show I think you'd really enjoy..." Mia rolled her eyes sarcastically. Stamford was momentarily taken aback. But he soon regained his confidence.
"Don't yank our tails, Ms. Xavier. Because you either cooperate...or-" He stopped, and his partner approached the smoking Mia with the open flip-phone. On the tiny, cracked screen was a strangely high-resolution image of Mia's fiancé, Lindsey.
Her blonde and pink-streaked hair was tied up in a ponytail behind her head and she wore a silky blouse and buttoned shirt. The picture looked like it was from her office in Midtown Manhattan, but taken from outside a window.
"- Or Lindsey here gets a visit. We might ask her, but I don't think she'll know anything." Stamford guessed sinisterly, nodding. His female partner put the phone away and went back to flanking the Special Agent. Mia was burning up now, her frown turning to a grimace.
She stabbed her cigarette into the pillar behind her like the blade of a knife. Carefully, she checked the area for cameras, none in her line of sight, or behind the pillars.
Turning around so she couldn't see the smirking face of Agent Stamford, Mia glanced down the garage, only one camera near the exit. "Rasmussen isn't who you think he is. He sees people like we see paper, a tool for his use. The Senate Hearings? The Supreme Court? A momentary distraction, it's a fucking game to him, do you understand? We're all mildly amusing, until we aren't. He plays with us and throws us away." Mia covered her body by folding her arms, glancing down.
"Oh, what has he done to you, Ms. Xavier. So, Stephen Kladivo, another plaything of his?" Agent Stamford questioned again.
FTMD GARAGE POST 12 - 09:26:48
Now she was hesitant, dropping the extinguished end of her cigarette to the floor. "You want an ashtray or something?" Stamford cringed. He was a clean man, with a well-kept face, and a sober attitude. Most likely he was straight-edged, a non-smoker and possibly a vegetarian, but Mia could only guess.
"I'm not talking about Kladivo...look, I need to get back to a meeting, can we skip this? Do you want my card?" She hurried, trying to shuffle past Stamford and pulling out a laminated business card. His pale fingers snatched the card from her, and briefly looked it over like a child's drawing.
"Thank you, Ms. Xavier. We'll take your comments under advisement. But I promise you, Lars Rasmussen isn't unlike anyone we've investigated. Trust me, we've dealt with his kind before." Stamford reassured. He turned on his heel, his female partner shooting Mia a last dirty look.
Before they left, Mia held her hand out desperately, calling them back. "Wait! Does this mean you won't kidnap Lindsey? Please..." She expressed passionately. She didn't want any leverage over her head, or to be blackmailed. Mia has been with Lindsey too long, trying to keep her secret from her work, even if that meant hiding things.
But that all changed when Gabriel Hayward visited her Manhattan apartment. Lindsey didn't talk to her for days, until she admitted it to her, that the boy was an NSA Asset, a spy tasked with observing her. Obviously he got too close and made demands of Mia, which she had to accept.
Lindsey, oblivious as a civilian could be, accepted the false story. Zenith-Media had been accused of sitting too close to the government, but Mia knew that she should have kept the FBI away from as many of their affairs as possible. "No, we won't touch her. But winds change for powerful people, soon Mr. Rasmussen will have nowhere to hide." Agent Stamford smiled.
The Zenith-Media Corporation was one of the most powerful businesses in America and the western world. Cutting off the head of the snake was far from easy. But if they could pin Rasmussen down on anything, it was the seven billion dollar theft.
Greer's and Gabriel's words didn't ease her mind either. Replacing Rasmussen would be more than a coup, it would be a power struggle. Men like Carver, Gale and their allies at Rylatech and Triton-American would stand in their way.
Mia reached for her phone as Stamford and his partner walked away, towards the nearest elevator in the garage. Unlocking her phone with a passcode, she immediately phoned her fiancé.
DATE: AUGUST 23rd 2014
- M.J, XAVIER
- L, BARNES
/ / / NLU ACTIVE
[M.J, XAVIER]: HEY, BABE. ARE YOU AT WORK?
[L, BARNES]: YEAH, JUST FINISHED MY ARTICLE. I'VE BEEN PROCRASTINATING ALL DAY, YOU?
[M.J, XAVIER]: I'M JUST IN A MEETING, WELL, I JUST HAD A MEETING. I'LL BE HOME SOON, OKAY?
[L, BARNES]: IN TIME FOR DINNER, LIKE YOU SAID. IT'S KANSAS BEEF.
[M.J, XAVIER]: LOOKING FORWARD TO IT. I LOVE YOU, LINDSEY.
[L, BARNES]: LOVE YOU TOO, MIA.
With a look of caution on her face, Mia had a momentary glance of hesitance. She hung up without another word to Lindsey, she wasn't sure who was tapping her phone. The FBI, NSA, or Samaritan. She was called a Public Asset, a persona, meant to be manipulated. But she had a life, a love, and a future.
With Samaritan, she had a job and a purpose. But was there more to her mission than she knew?
ACCESSING ARCHIVED FEEDS...
DATE: JANUARY 12th 2010
LOCATION: New Hampshire, MAINE, USA
T-1C E SEC CAM 4 - 21:53:15
In a restricted location in North Berwick, Decima's training complex was kept under constant guard. Used to train and house the next generation of operatives, Parkhurst's militia had closed operations for the time being. Decima's combat division were in the process of moving munitions and supplies across State borders.
Such activity left the base in New Hampshire, Maine, open for refurbishment. In one of the barracks, near the firing range, the underground cellar was home to a makeshift operating room. Lights blazed with a bright white hue, as the underground cellar remained closed. Inside, the operating theatre was vacant. The patient remained in the bed, dressed in a thin gown.
Behind the two-way mirror, Decima's Director of Operations stood with hands in his pockets. John Greer was wearing a grey pinstripe suit with a dull blue tie. A few years younger, he had less creases around his chin and cheeks and a few more hairs near his sideburns.
Observing the patient inside the operating room, he was soon joined by one of his informants, a spy for Decima and an employee of Rylatech and Turndale Technologies. The informant was accompanied by Greer's bodyguard, Zachary. A tall behemoth in a black suit, Zachary stalked silently onto the room. With a holster hidden under his jacket, Greer's bodyguard stood at the back of the room as the informant approached his superior.
In the operating room, a female's body was on the table. Her head propped up by a flat pillow, she had short, jet-black hair and pale skin. Ash-shaded hair covered her long face, she was skinny and athletic, with boyish features. She had a button-nose and deep, hollow eyes.
Cinder was transferred from Atlantic City by Greer's team within a couple of months of her admission. Selected by the Executive Board to be subject to the newest test. "Sir, Dr. Bruzzese has returned from New Jersey, Virgil is with him." Greer's informant said. The ginger-haired spy wore a sweater and dark jacket. He had patchy skin and a unique scar across his cheek.
Zachary folded his arms, looking into the operating room. "It doesn't look like much, all this came from the Exchange Place attack?" Zachary scoffed. The bombing at Greer's safe-house was attributed to Holloway's infiltrators. Leighton Holloway's spies had been undercover as Decima operatives, launching calculated strike on his staff.
"The failure at Belle Haven created oversights, and the Executive Board demanded changes. If Mr. Holloway could infiltrate our soldiers, who's to stop him from building an army inside our ranks," Greer replied. He glanced into the operating room, watching Cinder strapped down on the table.
The experiment was requested by Decima's Executive Board, therefore, Cinder's near-death condition provided the perfect trial of Turndale Technology's newest invention. "We cannot allow our security to be compromised with Mr. Holloway still on the run. This new chip will provide our operatives with security at all times, and a better assurance of their loyalty." Greer stated.
He didn't want to admit that they had been underestimating Holloway since his defection. The Executive Board had forgotten that it was Holloway who hired Nazarov Tarasovich, manipulated him under the alias 'Parnassus' and led him on a wild goose chase, removing their competitors one by one. He was Decima's top recruiter, resourceful and charismatic, but ruthless and intelligent.
Greer almost thought of Holloway as his equal. Especially after what happened in Belle Haven, his successful evasion of their trap brought shame down on Virgil and Callahan. The Director of Operations had promised the Executive Board that he would deliver results, communicating to them on a secure, secret phone-line.
The informant checked one of the computer screens "Readouts are coming back clear, no spikes in brainwaves, or blood pressure. She's stable, Sir." He tapped the keyboard with his finger.
"Ensure that Mr. Crassus and the Executive Board are notified, Zachary." Greer issued. His guard turned, opening the door and walking out. The redhead informant scanned the monitors again, typing on a keyboard. With a few button presses, he checked the readings on the screen.
"She's coming around, Sir. Should I call the doctors?" The informant asked, reaching for the phone as Greer put his aged, wrinkled fingers on the handset. He pushed it away, shaking his head "You'll do no such thing, Ayers." Greer cautioned, with a sly tone. The older man went to the door and pushed it open, walking into the operating room.
With the darkened lights, Greer walked among the shadows. He approached the bed, as Cinder tossed and turned, her lithe body shaking as her eyes opened. Crawling backwards, Cinder's head turned Greer's way. Her voice was hoarse, shaken by the explosion and the testing that had followed. Cinder had been used as Decima's lab rat, their guinea pig.
OR 026 G - 22:03:32
He stepped in front of the nearest lamp as Cinder became conscious. The girl awoke slowly, her hands balling into fists. "Where am I?" Cinder's eyes went wide.
Greer stepped forward, revealing his reptilian smile and weathered face. His boxy figure and wrinkled face made him look fake, an aged man made of melting plastic. Greer's shark-like smile revealed itself once again. "You're in the afterlife, my dear."
(Author's Epilogue: Just breaking in here at the end of this Chapter for a short thank you to my viewers, as always. Particularly those that are kind enough to leave reviews - I am listening! To honour you guys, I've placed a few Easter eggs in this Chapter as references to you! Let me know what you think, or if you've found them! All the best, to all, see you soon! Thank you all - Alongusername.)