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Day One Hundred and Eighty: Away From the Green

November 17, 2011 3 comments

As my cast list grows, every now and then I’ll randomly choose two or three characters and see what happens when I put them together. Insofar as there is a canon to any of these stories, these are not canon. Or maybe they are. We’ll see.

When I got to the “Earth” section of this month’s project, I knew I wanted to revisit Evelyn Pierce – first seen as a minor character in Interviews on Day 36, and later as a main character in A Friend in Need, which was Day 38. Her ability to talk to and – one day – control plants made her a natural for this section.

Tanner Quan wasn’t going to be in this story at all – I had come up with a different government agent when I realized that I already had one. And a pretty entertaining one at that. Tanner showed up in the three-part series Special Agent Khrys Ferro on days 133-135. The bagpipes were definitely his idea.

———–

The desert was empty and vicious and bright. The sun hung in the sky, a tiny, brilliant point in a cloudless expanse of blue. Heat rose from the hard-packed floor in waves, and the air itself did everything it could to suck the water from the bones of any creature lucky enough to try and traverse it. There was no wind, no sound at all. Just an endless, dry, hot silence.

A wheezing pickup truck trundled around the hard pack and shrubbery, sending up a plume of dust behind it. It was filthy, covered in road grime from a trip of hundreds of miles, and it looked tiny in the vast emptiness of the desert.

The house it was driving to was weatherbeaten and small, but solid, built up against a cliff face where the sun wouldn’t touch it. An array of solar panels soaked in the sunlight about fifty feet away, and the house had its own filthy truck parked in front of it. A dirt road stretched from its front door all the way to the nearest state road, a good ten miles away. The pickup pulled in, sat for a moment, and then the engine shuddered to a stop.

The driver was small and slight, a man of Asian descent who had dressed wisely for the desert. He had on dark glasses and carried a briefcase, and took a deep breath before he walked up to the faded, sand-blown front door and knocked.

A minute later, the door opened into darkness. A young woman stepped out, dressed in a tank-top and shorts, with a bandanna holding back green hair. She looked the man up and down. “Yeah?” she said.

The man put on a bright smile. “Ms. Evelyn Pierce?” he said.

She slammed the door, nearly crushing his foot.

He nodded to himself. He’d expected this, or at least something very much like it. He went back to the truck, opened the passenger side door, and took out a battery-powered CD player, a folding chair, and a large hardcover book. He brought them closer to the house, in the shade of the cliff, opened the chair and sat down. He put the CD player on the ground, turned on the power and set the volume as high as it could go. He hit the “repeat” button and then “play,” and settled down to read his book.

A moment later, the brash, weedy sound of bagpipes filled the formerly quiet desert afternoon. A bone-chilling rendition of “Amazing Grace” was the first track, and to Evelyn’s credit she made it all the way through the “Skye Boat Song” and halfway to the end of “The Blue Bells of Scotland” before she burst out of her front door with a large handgun.

“Get the hell off my land!” she growled.

The man didn’t look up from his book, but casually paused the CD player and then turned a page. “Sorry, Ms. Pierce,” he said. “No can do.”

She lifted the gun and pointed it at him. “You do know that Arizona has some pretty loose castle laws, mister? I don’t think it would be too hard for me to convince a judge you were a threat to a young girl living out here by herself.”

The man turned another page. “Probably not,” he said. He reached into his shirt and pulled out a gleaming golden badge on a chain. “Shoot a federal agent, though, and no one will give a damn about your…” He glanced over at her house and then up at her. “Castle.”

Evelyn’s eyes narrowed, and she held the gun up a heartbeat longer. Then she let it drop. “You have a warrant?” she said with a sigh.

The man closed his book and put it on the chair when he stood up. “That’s not what I’m here for,” he said. “I’m here to talk to you, and ask if you would be willing to do your country a favor.” He spread his arms wide in a show of innocence. “That’s it.”

She thought for a moment. “What’s in it for me?” she asked.

“Ms. Pierce,” he said. “What ever happened to ‘Ask not what your country can do for you’?”

“Before my time,” she said. “Make your pitch and get the hell out of here.”

He shrugged and picked up the briefcase. “Mind if we do this inside?” he asked. “It’s a little toasty out here.”

She stared at him and then shrugged. “What the hell,” she said. She started to turn, but then stopped. “Is that shirt cotton?” she asked.

His face passed through a moment of puzzlement, but then he smiled. “No,” he said. “Linen. Will that be a problem?”

Evelyn shrugged. “We’ll see. Come on in.”

The inside of the house was cool and dark, and stretched back into the cliff face. It was sparsely decorated, with some throw rugs and bookshelves, and the occasional bit of bric-a-brac wherever she could fit it. He peered back as far as he could see, but she stepped in front of him. “Are we going to do this?” she asked.

“Sure,” he said. He put the briefcase down on the coffee table and took a place on the sofa. “For starters,” he said, “my name is Tanner Quan. I’m an agent with the Department of National Security.” She didn’t say anything, but just crossed one leg over the other and gripped the arms of her chair. “I followed a very long and tangled investigation to find you, Ms. Pierce.” He popped open the briefcase and noticed that she flinched a little. He started taking out manila folders and laying them on the table. “We don’t know a whole lot about you, I’ll be honest,” he said, “but what we do know is very interesting indeed.”

“Like what?” she asked quietly through a clenched jaw.

“Well…” He picked up a folder and began to flip through it. “We know that you dropped off the grid about a year ago and moved out here. Prior to that you were living with your folks in Scottsdale.” He turned a page. “Before that, you were living in Ravensbrook, Illinois of all places.” He glanced up. “Interesting little town, that.”

“I didn’t think so,” she said.

Tanner shrugged. “You were sixteen. No one’s hometown is interesting when they’re sixteen.” He put down the folder and leaned forward. “We found out, of course, why you had to leave Ravensbrook.” He arched an eyebrow. “Rachael Decker?”

Evelyn stood up and grabbed her head. “I want you out,” she said. She flung a hand to the door. “Out. NOW!”

He stood with her. “Ms. Pierce, please. I’m sorry if you’re upset, but -” Tanner stopped talking as his shirt began to writhe and twist on him. It bunched up, wrapping itself around his chest, and started to squeeze. As it did, thin green shoots emerged, which blossomed into pale blue flowers. He grabbed at it, pulling and trying to get it off.

Evelyn was on her knees, holding her head in her hands and muttering to herself. “No, no, no,” she said. “Not this again, no…”

“Please. Evelyn,” Tanner wheezed. “You can stop this.” He tried to cough, but the linen pulled tighter around his chest and began to creep up to his throat. “You can stop this,” he said again, his last word ending in a gurgle.

Evelyn picked up her head, and her eyes had gone a bright emerald green. She looked over at his shirt, and it fell away in pieces, dropping to the floor. The shoots it had produced dried and withered, and Evelyn whimpered a bit as they did. Tanner pushed the shirt away with his foot and stared at Evelyn. “Are you… Are you okay?” he asked once he’d caught his breath.

She looked up at him and nodded. Her eyes were a normal green now, matching the hair that was coming out of her ponytail. “That was close,” Tanner said as she got up and went back to the chair. “Good thing the underwear’s silk.” He grinned, but she didn’t even notice. He sat down again.

“Ms. Pierce, I know what you can do.” He glanced down at the shirt and rubbed his bare arms. “I mean, I knew it before I came here. And I’m sorry that it’s difficult to live with.”

“Difficult?” she asked. “Why do you think I live out here, where there’s almost no plants?” She looked up at him, eyes shining. “I can hear them,” she said. “All the time, I can hear them. And they know that I hear them and they want to… to help me.” A laugh escaped her, almost a sob. “Help,” she said.

“We have people, Ms. Pierce. People who can help you.” He took a breath. “If you help us.”

“And why should I help you?” she asked. “What do you know?”

“You’d be surprised, Ms. Pierce,” he said. He took another folder from the briefcase, this one marked with a red stripe down one side. “Have you heard of Papaver demensum?” He dropped a glossy photograph on the table. It showed a flower, like a poppy but bigger. Its petals were dead black, with a corpse-white center, all perched atop a slender, pale stem.

She picked it up, looked at it for a moment and then shrugged. “No,” she said. “Should I have?”

“It was worth a shot,” he said. “This is the Madness Poppy. It’s a whole new cultivar out of Peru, just starting to reach the U.S. and it’s a nasty piece of work.”

Evelyn sat back in her chair. “How nasty?” she said.

“Well over five hundred beds filled with coma patients up and down the border.” He shuddered. “They just lie there,” he said, “with their eyes open, looking at… something. No idea what it is, but when the screaming starts…” He rubbed his arms again. “It’s not like anything you’ve ever heard before.”

Evelyn looked at him for a while and then got up. She came back a minute later with a sweatshirt. “Here,” she says. “You look about my size.”

He looked at it and shrugged. “Maybe so,” he said. He pulled it on, and it was a little short in the sleeves. He smiled at her and slid them up before he went on. “We’re intercepting the plants as they come across the border, but they’re like no poppy we’ve ever seen. They grow fast, they’re ridiculously low-maintenance, and the profit margin is enormous.” He looked up at her again. “Better than meth, and that’s without all the explosion hazard.”

Evelyn picked up the picture again and then looked back at Tanner. “I still don’t know what you expect me to do,” she said. “I mean, if you wanted them to grow faster, I think I could manage that. But I’m pretty sure that’s not what you want.”

He smiled and shook his head. “They grow plenty fast on their own,” he said. “What we need you to do is to… change them. See if you can convince them to produce less of whatever it is that makes them so potent. Tweak the DNA and just…” He waved a hand about aimlessly. “Out-evolve them.”

Evelyn stared at him for a moment. “Are you kidding me?” she said. She stood up and grabbed a scrap of his shirt from the floor. “I can barely control what I do with those things!” She flung it at him and shook her head. “No,” she said. “I’m not what you think I am.” She opened the door to blazing sunlight and stood by it. “You need to find somebody else. I can’t do this.”

Tanner stood up. “Ms. Pierce,” he said. “Like I said, we have people who’ve got some experience helping people… like you.”

“There are no people like me,” she said.

“Oh, but there are,” he replied, that bright smile working its way out again. “You’d be surprised.” He stood up and put his hands in his pockets. “Some with more troubles than you, believe me.”

She glanced at him for a moment and then looked away.

Tanner waited.

“You really think they can help me?” she said softly after a while.

He went to her and put a hand on her shoulder. “I know they can,” he said. “With a little work, you can live a normal life again. Somewhere that isn’t…” He looked around. “That isn’t here.”

They stood there for a moment, the breeze from the desert bringing sand in over the threshold. Finally she nodded. “Okay,” she said. “But if I get everyone killed, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

Tanner took his hand back. “Don’t worry,” he said. “We do this sort of thing all the time.”

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Day One Hundred and Thirty-five: Special Agent Khrys Ferro, part 3

October 3, 2011 3 comments

Dion Prospero lit a cigar and took a long, slow draw. He exhaled through his nose and chuckled. “You thought you could just walk in here, Ferro, and I would what? Break down and make a full confession? Beg your forgiveness?” He pulled the slide back on his pistol. “You thought I’d give up on my dreams to make the United States a pure and perfect place just because you said so?”

Tanner Quan forced himself to watch as Prospero jammed the barrel of his gun against Khrys Ferro’s forehead. They had found Prospero’s lair, nestled in a rich suburb of Sylvania City. The Corvette had seemed too conspicuous, so Tanner suggested approaching on foot.

Khrys shook his head. “Won’t matter if we do or not. By now, Prospero knows we’re onto him and he’ll be expecting us.” He slid his sunglasses down from his forehead. “If we don’t hit him now, we’ll lose him forever.” He grinned and unfastened his seatbelt. “Besides, I have a little present in the trunk that ought to help.” He reached across Tanner’s lap and removed a small remote control from the glove compartment. He looked up at Tanner and winked. “When I give the word, jump out.”

He floored the Corvette and started to fly down the shady, tree-lined street until Prospero’s vast mansion came into view. There was a gate in front, and as soon as the gate guards saw them coming they stared shooting. Somehow, however, the car was able to get past them and slam through the gates, blowing them off the hinges. They flew into the air behind them, throwing off sparks.

“Not yet!” Khrys yelled, yanking the steering wheel and pointing the Corvette at the house. The car leapt onto the immaculate lawn, throwing up great divots of sod. The car fought for traction, but was making its way at speed towards the house, bullets jumping off the car’s body.

“NOW!” Khrys yelled, and Tanner launched himself out of the car, rolling as he hit. He glanced around for cover and was thrown forward as the Corvette jumped into the side of the house and exploded in a massive fireball behind him. The pressure wave shoved him into the air and he landed hard on the driveway. For a moment, he couldn’t move. He could barely breathe, and he couldn’t hear anything other than a high ringing in his ears.

Which is why he didn’t hear the black-suited bodyguard come up behind him and hit him in the head, plunging Tanner Quan into darkness.

When he came to, he was handcuffed to a chair in a basement. The room smelled of must and metal and was dimly lit. His vision was blurry, but he could see Khrys in a chair nearby, his chin resting on his chest. He seemed to be breathing, and Tanner let out a sigh of relief. He looked to his other side, however, and let out a low moan of despair. The other agents, the ones they had been sent to rescue, were slumped against a wall. Blood fanned out on the wall behind where their heads had been.

That low moan had been enough. Tanner heard a door behind him open, and twisted around to see Dion Prospero enter the room.

He was a powerful man, an athlete gone to seed. If they met on the street, Tanner would have thought he was a football coach, or just another suburban dad. But the look of cruelty in his eyes, the malice on his face, marked him as a very dangerous man indeed.

And now he had Khrys Ferro at gunpoint. The other agent was awake, but still looked groggy. Tanner saw some movement and glanced at Khrys’ hands. He tried not to smile as he saw what his partner was doing. Instead, he did what he could to buy some time.

“Herro, Dion,” he said. He called to mind his grandfather, who had come to America from China and had an accent that made him sound like he had come straight out of a bad movie. “Oh, you so scary! But we gonna mess you up, Dion!”

Prospero glanced over at him and sneered. “Shut up, rice,” he said.

“Oh, I shut up,” he said. Tanner’s cracked lips stung as he smiled. “I shut up you wife,” He winked. “You know how?” He forced out a laugh. “Oh, she loved it long time!”

Dion Prospero sighed. “All right, rice. You want to die first? Fine.” He swung the gun around. “Maybe this way, Ferro can see just how bad he failed.”

Tanner’s stomach clenched, and he couldn’t take his eyes off the gun. Somehow, he heard himself saying, “Oh, Mistah Fello no like that,” he said. “You kill me, there no one to warm up your daughters for him.”

Prosperous face darkened, and Tanner could see his finger squeeze the trigger.

At that moment, Khrys jumped out of his chair and slammed into Prospero’s side. The gun fired, and Tanner felt the bullet slam into his shoulder. He fell to the floor and rolled onto his good arm. He looked up and saw Khrys pick Prospero up from behind, the chain of the picked handcuffs digging into the soft flesh of the Nazi crime lord’s throat.

Khrys’ face was calm and grim as he strangled the man. Prospero gurgled and tried to reach around to beat his attacker’s arms away, but he just wasn’t strong enough. His face went red and then purple as Khrys’ arms started to shake. A few moments later, Prospero’s body went limp. Khrys held on a minute longer and then let him slump to the floor.

He stood up, staring at the body. Then he looked over at Tanner and rushed over in a flash. “Oh, God, Tanner,” he said gently pulling apart Tanner’s shirt to find the wound. He was whispering, and Tanner couldn’t quite make out what he was saying. When he found the bullet wound in his shoulder, Tanner moaned in pain and Khrys’ face brightened.

“You’re okay?” he asked.

Tanner tried to say that he was fine, but that was when Khrys lifted him up, wrapped an arm around him and kissed him passionately on the lips.

All thoughts fled from Tanner’s mind. It seemed like all his awareness was concentrated on one spot, in one moment that seemed to go on forever. He felt his heart stir in his chest and beat faster, and he didn’t want the moment to end, wrapped in Khrys’ strong arms.

But the moment did end. Khrys pulled away with a smile that seemed to come from his bright green eyes. “You’re going to be fine,” he whispered. “I promise.”

The last thing at Tanner heard before darkness took him was shouting and more gunshots. Then… Nothing.

*************

He awoke in a hospital bed. The room was dim and quiet and smelled of the flowers that were set on the bedside table. He struggled to sit up, and felt a dull ache in his shoulder. He took a moment and searched his memories – there was fire, an explosion, pain. And…?

The door opened and Khrys Ferro turned on the light. It was bright and harsh and made Tanner squint. “You’re awake,” Khrys said. “Good.” He pulled a chair over and sat next to Tanner. “How do you feel?” he asked. His hand reached out and took Tanner’s

“I feel…” The memory of Khrys’ lips on his sprung to mind, and it was like he could still feel their pressure. He pulled his hand away. “A little uncomfortable,” he finished.

Khrys nodded. “Yeah,” he said. “Sorry about that. It just seemed like…” He shrugged. “It seemed like the thing to do.”

They sat there like that for a while, not looking at each other. “Thank you,” Tanner said finally. “For saving my life.” He reached over and patted Khrys’ hand, but did not take it. “Really.”

“Couldn’t let you die on your first field mission,” Khrys said. He stood up. “Just wanted to make sure you were okay.” This time, his smile was small, and flickered across his face. “I’ll… I’ll be seeing you at the office,” he said. He turned to leave.

“Khrys, wait,” Tanner said.

He turned around slowly.

Tanner tried to sit up straighter and winced. “I don’t even remember how we got out,” he said. “I’d really love to hear that.”

Khrys stood there for a moment and then shrugged and slowly returned to his chair. “Well,” he said, “It really was something.” He sat back and leaned the chair on two legs. “After you passed out, about a dozen thugs came in. So I grabbed Prospero’s gun and just started shooting…”

As he told the story, Tanner relaxed. Whatever had passed between him and Khrys, it would be a while to work itself out. He knew, though, that as long as they were in the Department together, he would never have to sit behind a desk again.

And maybe that was just the beginning…

Day One Hundred and Thirty-four: Special Agent Khrys Ferro, part 2

October 2, 2011 1 comment

The bright red Corvette tore through the streets, weaving and dodging other, slower cars. Behind it, three black SUVs were being far less careful. They pushed cars out of the way, slamming them onto the sidewalks and into citizens walking on the sidewalks. And that was before the shooting started. Men in black ski masks leaned out the windows and fired short bursts at the Corvette as they drove through the city, taking sharp turns in great clouds of burning rubber.

Tanner Quan squeezed his eyes shut as the car flew through the city, barely missing streetlamps, other cars and people. “Are you sure this is necessary?!” he yelled.

The driver looked utterly casual. He was wearing sunglasses and barely using two hands to control the precision sports car. A slight flick of his wrist, a gentle turn, and the car did whatever he wanted it to. It was like watching a master musician play an instrument or an artist carve a sculpture. “Don’t worry,” Khrys Ferro said with a smile. “I’ve got them exactly where I want them.” He glanced over at the clock. “Three minutes.”

Tanner looked over at him. “Three minutes to what?”

He chuckled. “You’ll see.” Khrys gripped the wheel and yanked it to the left, and the car spun around once before taking off like a shot down a narrow alley. A moment later and Tanner could see the SUVs behind him in the mirror.

“You know, you didn’t have to blow up their headquarters like that!” Tanner yelled. “We probably could have gotten off with a light maiming!”

They had gone to pay a visit to the local headquarters of the Sons of Nazis in the morning. Khrys was able to look the part with ease – he was tall and athletic, with the kind of masculine aura that any man would respond to. He looked healthy and strong and, most importantly, white. The plan was for him to start talking to the group, get some information from them and hopefully finesse the location of the Department of National Security agents that were being held hostage. Tanner’s job was to be the lookout, a job that he was none too happy with.

True, his Chinese ancestry would have made him a less than ideal candidate for the Sons of Nazis, but he had hoped to be a little more involved than just sitting in the car.

And that’s when he saw the guys with guns heading in the back. They were a couple of well-known criminals that had gotten themselves on the DNS’ radar in the past. Tanner knew their plan the moment he saw them, and he grabbed his phone to call Khrys. When he didn’t answer, there was only one option left. Tanner jumped from the car and bolted into the building, sliding past a couple of guards in the process. He had his gun out before anyone knew what was happening and was ready to use it.

Khrys, however, was already in the process of interrogating the leader of the cell. He was doing so by slamming his head into a wall. Bloody and battered, the man was weeping and offering to tell Khrys whatever he wanted to know. And that was when all hell broke loose.

The men came in the back and started shooting. The two guys nearest Tanner both went got hit by flying bullets, but he managed to find cover. “Khrys!” he yelled. “Talk to me!”

“I’m all right,” Khrys yelled back, and Tanner’s heart swelled in relief. “When I give the word, run like hell!”

“What? Khrys, what are you -”

“GO!” the other man bellowed. Tanner turned around and bolted out the door he’d come in. When he got to the Corvette, he turned around just in time to see Khrys leap out the door, followed only moments later by a massive explosion. He hit the ground, rolled with the impact, and came up running. “In the car!” he yelled. “Go!”

They got in the Corvette and started to drive. The black SUVs had showed up soon after.

Now, threading their way through narrower and narrower streets, Tanner had some time to try and figure out what Khrys was up to. The man was brave, that was certain. But he nearly got them both killed with that stunt, and there was no way of knowing if he’d do it again.

The car spun to the right again, and Khrys was counting under his breath. About a hundred feet ahead of them, a train crossing gate had come down, and the red lights were flashing to warn people off. The car accelerated, and Tanner covered his head just as they blew through the wooden arm.

The Corvette caught air as it flew across the tracks, and it jumped a bit as the train clipped the car’s tail. Khrys slammed on the brakes and spun the car around, just in time to see one of the boxcars leap off the tracks and come tumbling towards them, followed by the crumpled remains of a black SUV. The rest of the train, which had been slowing down, started to follow the derailed car in a cacophony of screaming, twisted metal. Huge boxcars jumped the tracks, cracking open their contents and spilling them all along the roadside. Ten, twenty – countless cars rolled onto their sides and slid to a halt, throwing off showers of sparks and smoke as they did so. When the last one ground to a halt, Khrys got out of the car and walked over to the remains of the SUV. Tanner got out and just looked at the utter carnage they had just caused.

“We’re dead,” he said.

Khrys was reaching into the driver’s side for something and eventually came back with a bloody wallet. “No we’re not,” he said. He started tossing cards on the ground. After a few, he grinned and looked up at Tanner. “But someone will be.” He held up a hand-written business card with the name Dion Prospero scrawled across it. Underneath was an address.

Tanner took it and a grin broke across his face. The smoke from the train wreck tickled his nose, and sirens were coming in from the distance, but he had what the Department had been looking for: the location of the Sons of Nazis’ founder and leader, Dion Prospero. Tanner looked up at Khrys, who nodded and said, “Back in the car.” He cracked his knuckles. “Time to finish this.”

TO! BE! CONTINUED!!

Day One Hundred and Thirty-three: Special Agent Khrys Ferro, part 1

October 1, 2011 5 comments

“DAMMIT!” Tanner Quan heard bureau Chief Jerrold Mire yell and then something that sounded a lot like his cell phone being flung against the wall. Again.

Carefully, he opened the office door and poked his head in. “Something wrong, Chief?” Tanner was the newest agent to work in the anti-terrorist division of the Department of National Security, and while he wasn’t the youngest, he certainly looked like it. He had graduated in the top of his class, had aced every test to get into the agency, but still looked like he was a freshman in college at best. Jerrold often reminded him that he had asked for someone he could send out on field work, not someone who looked like he should still be in the Boy Scouts. While he tried to be as professional as possible, Tanner loved his job, and the thought that he might one day end up going on a field mission was what got him out of bed in the morning.

The closest he had come so far was posing as a teenager to catch sexual predators. But he knew that persistence was the key, and he suspected that his youthful enthusiasm was wearing the Chief down.

Jerrold glared up at him. “Get in here, kid. Shut the door.” Tanner walked in and unbuttoned his suit jacket before he sat down. He heard a buzzing noise and glanced up. Somehow a fly had gotten into the office and couldn’t find its way out.

“I’m twenty-six, Chief,” Tanner said as he sat down. “Hardly a kid.”

“Two of our agents,” Jerrold said, apparently ignoring the remark, “have been captured by the group they were infiltrating.” He cracked his knuckles and leaned back in his chair. Chief Mire had been a fit man in his youth, and one of the Department’s best agents. Then he had been promoted, and he’d never really gotten over it. “Somehow they managed to blow their cover or maybe something about them just didn’t sit right.” He shifted files around on his cluttered desk until he found the one he wanted. “Either way, the Sons of Nazis are holding them and they want a bunch of their guys released from prison before they even think about letting ours go.” He sighed and stared at the ceiling. “The brass are gonna have my balls for this.”

Tanner sat quietly for a moment, staring at the framed hunting print on the Chief’s wall and trying to ignore that fly. The Sons of Nazis were a nasty domestic terrorist group. They had blown up a dozen churches across the South, and were probably responsible for at least two dozen murders. The Department had been hunting them for years, but their insular membership made it hard to get anyone in, and they were tech-savvy enough not to leave an obvious electronic trail to follow. And if these agents had been captured? It would seem that the Department was well and truly out of options.

Or at least, nearly out of options. There was still one chance.

After a moment, he said, “You know. We really ought to call -”

“NO!” Jerrold sat up straight.

“But he’s the best! You know he could -”

“No, no, and NO!” Jerrold stood up and grabbed at his shirt pocket. Smoking had been banned in their offices years ago, but Chief Mire had been there a lot longer than that, and tended to forget when he was stressed. “The last time we sent him on a mission, he blew up a busload of nuns.”

“Yeah, but…” Tanner shrugged. “They were terrorist nuns. I mean, he found their hard disks and everything…”

“And do you think the press got on and said, ‘Don’t worry, everybody – these were terrorist nuns’? Of course not!” He circled the desk and stood right in front of Tanner, drilling his bloodshot eyes into Tanner’s. “All I heard, for months, was how my agent blew up a busload of nuns.” He started at Tanner for a long, uncomfortable moment before turning away. “I’m not calling him!”

“You don’t have to,” a new voice said from the doorway. They both turned around to see a tall man who filled the doorway.

Special Agent Khrys Ferro stood there, leaning against the doorjamb and chewing on a toothpick. He looked casual, in cargo shorts and a Hawaiian shirt that did little to hide his lean, athletic frame. He lifted his sunglasses up to his forehead, and bright green eyes flickered between Tanner and Chief Mire. “Sounds like you need my help,” he said in a strong baritone.

Tanner was too awed to speak. He’d heard a lot about Khrys, but had never been in the same room with him, much less spoken to him. The other man seemed to draw his attention like a magnet. The sheer force of his personality was too much to resist.

Chief Mire, on the other hand, was unmoved. “Not a chance, Ferro,” he yelled. “You’re too risky for this mission!”

Khrys crossed to the desk and grabbed an open file before Mire could stop him. He flipped through it, scanning the pages of reports and photographs. He glanced over at Tanner. “Nazis, eh?”

Tanner swallowed and nodded, not trusting himself to speak.

“All right, then,” Khrys said. “Here’s what I’m gonna do.” He dropped the file back on the desk. “I’m gonna solve your little Nazi problem for you and bring back your agents.” Chief Mire started to build up a good yell again, but Khrys cut him off. “And I’m bringing him with me.” He jerked his thumb over his shoulder, right at Tanner.

“Me?” Tanner squeaked.

“Him?” Mire yelled. “You out of your mind? You’re bringing a babyfaced Asian kid to go fight Nazis?” Chief Mire dropped into his chair. “Not a chance, Ferro! You’ll both get killed!”

Khrys’ hand whipped out and grabbed a paperclip from the Chief’s desk. In a flash, he unfolded it and threw it against the wall. Then he put his sunglasses down and said to Tanner, “I’ll be outside when you’re ready.” He grinned, flashing impossibly white teeth, and left the office.

Tanner and Chief Mire looked at each other for a moment, and then at the wall. There, writhing on the thin wire that impaled it on the fake wood paneling, was the fly.

Tanner and the Chief exchanged glances again, and then Tanner hurried out of the office.

TO BE CONTINUED!