Sunday, March 11, 2007

Part 24: Codename-Pox, In her words (Part 4)

The mysterious woman removed her coat and hat and I was repelled at first sight. Battle torn, she was nothing short of Frankenstein’s Monster: Codename-Strike. Her face bore three long scars: pink and raised ruining the landscape of a once beautiful face. Her left arm was prosthetic from the elbow down and she walked with a decided limp. She wore a set of plain black tights with a white band around her right bicep. She handed us each a similar set of tights. Mine had a green band and Glimpse’s band was pink. We trained 6 days a weeks for three months on hand to hand combat (Glimpse was surprisingly good, but not a threat) and defensive techniques. When we weren’t doing physical training we were in a classroom learning about world politics, justice, and law. We also were taught demolition, first aid and even taught some basic skills in various languages.

We had been selected to be part of a covert government unit. We would deal with really bad people that the government couldn’t get to either politically or logistically. In our young age even after weeks of training we really didn’t realize what it was they wanted us to do: Assassination. Glimpse was not a strong or valuable fighter as would be obvious but she could protect herself. Her abilities were vital to our future operations and I was amazed by them. She was what they called a seeker/locator. She could sense the location of any human being on the planet and locate them simply by pointing and giving precise distances to the person. If you gave her a map or globe and traced the mileage conversion key with her finger she could point to the person’s exact location on the map/globe. And all she needed to do this was prior contact with the person or an item that the person had handled or wore. The more contact she had with someone the stronger her abilities were. She was not psychic but she could pick up sensory input of the target. If she had enough physical contact with the person she could literally hear what they heard and could mimic those sounds to the point of fooling even sophisticated audio software. She was a human bug and GPS rolled into one. It was her job to find our targets, track their movements and make sure we had the right person. It was my job to “pass on” to them. We were the perfect assassins. Young girls who could literally walk up to someone in a public setting and I could touch them and in a few days or weeks the person would die of an exotic communicable disease that doctors wouldn’t be able to cure and no one would ever know how, when or who. We attended a victory parade after a military coup put a socialist dictator into power in a Central American country. He was a known drug trafficker and sold homeless children to the drug cartels for slave labor. He was so proud as he shook my hand and took Glimpse’s victory bouquet. He died of Cholera within a week. An arms dealer in Thailand died mysteriously of Swine Flu. A pederast pornographer was so glad to meet me in a fast food restaurant but didn’t know that he would die from tertiary syphilis after I left the building as he went to the restroom. An African dictator and committer of the genocide of 300,000 people died of Dengue Fever after visiting Germany; very unpleasant. A CIA agent selling arms secrets to China passed away from small pox.

We worked as a duo for three years and were very effective. Each mission presented a different hurdle that we could usually handle but some missions were scrubbed when we couldn’t make contact. Luckily they brought in another to our group. He was a skinny pimply faced boy with jet black hair. He wasn’t cute in the traditional sense but he was mercurial and charming and a constant flirt and practical joker. He was Codename-Figment. Father lit up when he explained his powers to us. He was able to warp reality. If a door was locked he could unlock it. If something was broken he could “unbreak” it. His powers were impressive but limited to relatively small objects. What he was very useful at doing was making someone invisible for a few minutes. (The only thing he seemed to be able to do to living objects) While mine and Glimpse’s powers seemed more natural to us his seemed to be grounded in a small ritual. He would have to concentrate (usually with eyes closed) and touch his palms together as if in prayer. He would usually site a change he wanted, “The door is locked” open his palms which produced a brilliant yellow flash “The door is unlocked”. He made missions much easier as we could get to much harder to reach people. We loved our jobs and performed above Codename-Strike’s and Father’s expectations. We worked together for three more years as a trio. They moved us in together in a renovated section of the lab complex called the Dorm. We each had our own suite and a common dining hall. We enjoyed each others company and while it was not my nature I made two friends. The twins were thriving in their environment and coming into their own. Soon they would begin their training and joining the team.

Our record of mission completions was impressive and it seems the government was interested in giving us more funding and training. Strike was joined by Codename-Blaze and Codename-Amp both retired heroes. They began training us in more advanced combat techniques. I learned that I had range abilities as well as my “passing on” skills. While they weren’t full on diseases they were effective at making the targets weaker and dealing decent damage. They may not have had the same end result they were instant and could be needed if we were ambushed or attacked. They also brought in an empathy to help me improve my healing skills. Glimpse began honing her bugging skills and even had success in tracking multiple targets. Figment grew exponentially more powerful. He learned to teleport objects and the object his powers could work on became much larger. He really no longer needed to unlock doors. He would just create one in a solid wall. While we were more effective the jobs became much more difficult. I usually had to engage the occasional security guard and at times we’d come back a bit bruised and battered. It was time to bring in some firepower. Just after my 18th birthday I met Codename-Shrapnel.

He had to leave college and the prospect of an NFL career when he discovered he could make solid objects explode by making their particles expand quickly. He had great control over his abilities with just a short time having them. He could be in contact with a piece of stone and just by touching it turn it into a devastating weapon and not have a scratch on him. It seemed he innately expanded the air around himself in such a way his explosions couldn’t cause himself harm. He could also delay the explosion of an object for a few seconds which allowed him to turn anything he could throw into a grenade. He was the firepower we needed and did his job well. It seems the government was becoming more interested in instant results compared to my techniques and Shrapnel was very helpful in those aspects. He was brash, obnoxious and cocky. The stereotypical jock and I instantly hated him but could not deny a burning physical attraction to his Adonis like appearance. While the team was made much better with his addition we usually spent trips home arguing with each other, which fueled a growing sexual tension between the two of us. Luckily Figment was always on hand to quell my desires with his typical hi jinx. After a year of teaming together and fighting constantly in the Dorm and on the job we gave in to our passions. Neither of us was interested in anything more than the physical and did not share any intimate time with each other. No one knew of the relationship although there were times I worried that Glimpse would figure it out as she had grown a bit of a crush on Shrapnel. But she never used her spying skills on anyone but a target. She was ethical that way……I wasn’t. Then again I was a bit of a sociopath anyway. You had to be to kill people with diseases. I had no real regard for humanity with the exception of my sisters and my surrogate father. I did have somewhat of an affection for Glimpse and Figment but I would deny it if you asked me. The three of us became quite close and usually stuck together while Shrapnel usually spent time watching his jock-sports or working out. He had a penchant for bully like behavior and giving demeaning nicknames. He was especially tough on Figment often questioning his manhood but always in typical jock fashion hugging the skinny boy’s neck and saying “just kidding.” Figment eventually admitted to me that he “liked” me and it actually hurt me to turn him down. But he continued to joke and flirt and be himself asking me every few months if I’d changed my mind and every few months I’d turn him down yet again.

Our missions became much more difficult and we became battle hardened and even my antisocial heart grew quite close to the unit. Figment and Shrapnel began to become close friends and would spend more time together. I felt a tinge of jealousy on nights when he would rather stay up with Figment and play video games instead of our usual “games.” But I wouldn’t admit it to anyone even myself. After a near disaster of a mission, one that almost seriously injured Glimpse, we were given orders to get permanent identification in case we were ever captured by other unknowing, friendly government agencies or police forces. At the base of our necks a red barcode would be tattooed that would give us amnesty if ever captured by friendly forces. We were a covert group: black ops we existed but didn’t exist. This was our only get out of jail free card. And damn it…… involved another freaking needle.

On our way to a target in the Philippines Figment told us to look out the window. He had a new trick to show us. The landscape was tropical and beautiful palm trees lined the roads. He made his prayer motion and filled the van with his bright yellow light and almost as if made of spaghetti five palm trees went limp. Later, down the road he turned a dog into a bright orange turkey. (The first thing I’d seen him do to a living object outside invisibility) After we’d filed the report of the operation we were met by our trainers and Father and lectured for several hours regarding proper protocol on a black mission. Figment was devastated and apologized to us for days. We next went to a former Soviet State to take care of a potential threat to a US ally. It was cold and Figment wanted to get the mission over with quickly. Instead of going by our carefully practiced plans he merely teleported the target to our location for me to “pass on” to him. He also teleported the prostitute in bed with the man who naturally began screaming when she awoke in a bank of snow. Shrapnel told us all to run as he dropped three solid iron balls (his weapon of choice) between the two. The woman died instantly but the General was only wounded and produced a revolver and shot Shrapnel in the leg before a carefully thrown iron ball exploded next to his head. When it seemed clear I ran to Shrapnel and helped heal his wound enough until we could get back home. We all fought on the way home but it was nothing compared to what we received when we returned to the Dorm. Again Figment apologized profusely to us and our superiors explaining he was merely cold and wanted to get the mission over with. Shrapnel ended the session dressing Figment down not for getting him shot but for disobeying orders. He then went on to give a speech about teamwork and obeying the orders of superiors. For a brainless jock, he was a fierce, loyal soldier.

Missions went off without a hitch and around my 20th birthday my sisters began their training. I taught a few of their classes and was promoted within the organization and given the title of team leader. I was busy but almost happy for the first time in my life. My relationship with Shrapnel continued without anyone knowing. Glimpse and Figment at this point gave up their crushes and began their own little fling. One I wasn’t to approve of as team leader but one I allowed without acknowledging. I never liked hypocrisy. Shrapnel and Figment became very close friends enjoying the rough housing and idiot play that male friends are prone to partake in. One day as they engaged in a food fight in the Cafeteria. (Shrapnel had the edge since all the food became edible yet safe grenades in his hands) Figment made his motions and turned himself into a polar bear and swatted Shrapnel across the room. True to his jockboy nature he laughed haughtily after Figment changed back and threw an exploding cherry pie perfectly in Figments face.

We were sent on a mission to Afghanistan where the conditions were terrible and extremely dangerous. We were to simply take out a terrorist cell leader and come home. The mountain compound was heavily guarded and booby trapped. We staked out the area for days but had a difficult game plan. Stealthing it would be difficult because of the mines and IEDs. The target was deep in the compound and based on what we could translate from Glimpse’s bugging/mimicry heavily guarded. We spent days trying to decide a game plan to no avail. Finally Figment put his hands together and said “This compound exists.” FLASH “This compound doe not exist” Everything on the mountain disappeared: the buildings, fortifications, machinery, artillery and even the people. Pulling this trick severely weakened Figment. I had to speed up his metabolism and even heal him as he went into seizures. On the way home when asked where everything went, he merely replied, “To unreality.” We didn’t’ know what it meant. Expecting a verbal lashing when returning instead we found a very nervous staff when we arrived at the Dorm. We were told by Blaze that a very dangerous arch villain was in the area and Strike and Amp need us immediately. Before we left the Doctor wanted to brief each of us individually. This mission was different, much more difficult. I went in first and was told to keep the team together, we would meet up with Amp and Strike and to follow their orders to the letter. The villain would be in a long grey cloak and must be stopped. Shrapnel went in next and came out nervous. Figment was given his orders next and came out laughing as he and the Doctor often liked to tell each other dirty jokes. Glimpse was told she needed to stay in the Dorm that the mission was too dangerous and we already had confirmation of the location since Amp and Strike were serving recon. We all wore our black uniforms. (Something we never did outside of training) Me with the green band, Figment with royal blue and Shrapnel with silver. Blaze was taking us to the location. When we arrived he looked at us and told us to be careful and efficient and obey all given orders. Figment would approach with invisibility on himself and Shrapnel and release it only when they were ready to engage. (His invisibility tended to knock your perception down and make any attacks completely inaccurate.)

We arrived at an abandoned warehouse in a decaying part of town. We entered the building and saw the mysterious cloaked figure standing alone in the middle of the enormous main room. It appeared that the figure was performing some type or rite or spell unaware of our presence. We were told to stop what they were doing that it could potentially bring on great devastation to the world. I hid behind a support column as told and Figment and Shrapnel approached unseen until their designated location. Although the plans were last minute we were a seasoned team. I thought back to the words of encouragement Father had given me and felt the excitement of the mission. As Figment dropped the stealth and Shrapnel prepared for his attack the figure turned to their direction. A familiar voice shouted, “Now!” as their cloak fell to the ground and I saw a black figure with a white armband on the right arm.

“Oh my God, it’s Strike, Strike is the target!” Figment exclaimed as he began to put his hands together.

“I’m afraid not, Figment. .” She said as Shrapnel grabbed the skinny boy’s right arm in a hammerlock and placed his left hand on Figment's raven black hair. "You are."

“I’m sorry buddy,” Shrapnel whispered. Figment was helpless. I stepped out from the column and screamed just as Figment was vaporized by his best friend and my lover. A warm spray of crimson liquid washed across my face even though I was 10 yards away.

I ran towards Shrapnel ready to strike. What had just happened? A blood soaked Strike looked my direction. “Stand down Pox. Stand down. He had his orders.” Amp came out from the shadows and positioned himself between me and Shrapnel. I stood shaking as they lead me to our van. The ride back to the Dorm was dead silent. Father was waiting in the briefing room looking very concerned. I sat in my seat completely mute for a few minutes until my shock boiled over into rage. I exploded with a barrage of epithets and curses overtaken by hysterics. The Doctor let me finish. When I was done and had exhausted myself he spoke very calmly.

“Figment was becoming too powerful. He was a danger to the team, to himself and to the world. We don’t know the potential of what he could do but we couldn’t risk it. We completely underestimated his powers and what he was able to do in Afghanistan quite frankly bordered on god-like potential. We had to stop him before something terrible could happen. We feared he could gain the power to stop reality globally maybe universally and that kind of power can corrupt someone’s judgment. You all were at risk………..we all were……humanity was. And we had to stop him from getting more powerful. I am sorry but it was my decision and one I take full credit for. Do not be angry at Shrapnel, Pox, he did as he was ordered.”

“And what if he didn’t do as planned, Father? What then?”

“Well Shrapnel has always proven a faithful soldier and I knew that he would do as asked”

“How could you!” I screamed at Shrapnel tears filling my eyes.

“He’s right Pox and you know it.”

“It didn’t have to be this way.”

“It had to.”

“No it didn’t!” he then stood up with his own tears flowing and looked at me.

“Yes I did! They said that if I didn’t finish Figment, that they would kill you. Amp was there to kill you if I didn’t comply.” I lost my breath and almost fainted when my train of though was broken from a voice at the doorway. A sweet mouse-like voice: Glimpse.

“Where’s Figment, I can’t find him.” And then I watched as her innocent face saw the world for what it truly was. Ugly and black stained with the presence of humanity. She couldn’t find his trace out in the world anymore. She fell to her knees. I left the room for the med lab. The sounds of her cries echoed down the halls as I walked but they didn't seem to lessen even with distance. I still hear them in my nightmares.

I locked the door behind me. I looked in the mirror and saw the slash of coagulating blood on face. I reached into a drawer and pulled out the tattoo needle and the red ink and permanently marked my face where the remains of my friend landed. It was my Scarlett Letter, my self punishment, my protest, and my resignation letter. I heard Father and the staff consoling Glimpse and saw that Shrapnel was in his room staring blankly at the wall. His innate power made it so he didn’t have blood on his hands. He was clean. And while I know he would have done it without the threat on my life it stopped him from hesitating.

“You will do one last thing for me. I demand it.” I stated. His head shook while staring at the floor; afraid to look me in the eyes.

I went to the older section grabbed the twins from their beds and met him at the locked entrance to the facility. I knew they would put us in lockdown. Still looking at the ground he touched the door as we hid around the corner and he blew it open. Holding my sisters hands I walked past him without looking and stopped. “Stay here” I told them.

I turned back to him and he raised his head and our eyes met for the last time. I saw the sorrow in them. I could see the regret in them. I could feel the love in them. I reached up and touched his cheek. A tear went down his face and he told me he loved me. I said nothing and walked away with my sisters into the world. A new start. Some day we would return to kill our father.

She finished talking and stared at me for a moment then reached for something on the table in front of her.

She threw down a series of surveillance photos of the Doctor dated the week I lost time and my powers. "They are accurate I assure you. There isn't a person alive I hate more than that man but I assure you he had nothing to do with what is happening to you. I'm afraid you followed a cold lead. And he told me to tell you something before I killed him. He said to tell Mental Maden it wasn't her. He was sure it wasn't her. So he was just a confused old man when he first met you." She looked at me with cold eyes. "Don't come back here, don't pursue me for the death of that man, my father. "

"It doesn't have to be this way. You don't have to be this way." I said.

"I am who I am, Maden. I'm the daughter of a dead drug dealer and a common whore and I was adopted by a complete monster and used as a weapon for his and others political agendas. Which I did with faithful loyalty and commitment until they betrayed me and my team proving at that moment that they were no different than the people we were fighting. Good and bad don't exist. Humanity does not know good anymore. I tried the 'hero thing' and it just didn't take. This is my destiny." she paused in careful thought " I hope my willingness to help you with your quest (although you didn't get the answers you wanted) and my providing proof and giving you priveleged information is enough to insure a level of trust and respect between us. I do like you, but if I see you again and you compromise that respect by trying to 'take me down' or apprehend me or my associates, I will kill you."

With that she escorted me out and I left the Rogue Islands.

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