Sovereign Knights

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  1. [BCOLOR=transparent]E[/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]lliot dropped his arms, latched both hands to his hips and squinted his eyes. Those pressured little azures shone like gems in bright bedrock, glaring forth with an astute anger as-told by the sharp inversions of his skinny, but lengthy, eyebrows. The young man was only one step out of his residence, that two-level cottage that housed not only he but the rest of the recently formed, [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]Unit A3. [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]Of the other seven members (himself making it eight), Elliot knew only one well, this being a skittish young fellow by the name of Rowan Nestler. Like Elliot himself, Rowan had been initially adopted into the ranks of Sovereign’s Technology and Surveillance division, but the boy proved to be more tinkerer than screen-watcher. He was given turn in the [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]Applied Technologies [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]division, which was little more than a vivacious substitute for “The Development and Application of Gadgetry”. When Rowan first came to him with word of the impossibilities the techs at Sovereign had conceived in this department, the ever-curious Elliot felt spurned by the decision to send Rowan instead of he. He viewed it as some manner of “promotion”, despite knowing truly that Rowan was transferred due only to his ineffectiveness within the surveillance cell. [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]He remembered the conversation well and kept it locked away, for the itinerary Rowan spoke on enlisted the need for remembrance, for it all sounded so fantastic, so deliciously queer and wondrous. “Everything is fitted with GPS, in the first-off,” he remembered Rowan saying in that usually furiously-rushed, overflowing manner; Elliot occasionally surrendered to an urge to retreat several steps, whenever Rowan began speaking, for fear that the very words themselves might leap out in clumps and bludgeon him to death. “Not terribly exciting, ‘eh, I know, but that’s only the beginning, Elle---But good lord man, everything from a---a---a simple inkpen to a cigarette case: it all transmits, it’s really spectacular.” But Elliot expressed neither excitement nor care for his friend’s mention of micro GPS devices, for not only was this not astounding news, Elliot knew that a reply devoid of emotion would push Rowan to divulge more in hopes of hooking a reaction. [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Elliot was rewarded later that evening. After a term with the rest of the surveillance team, Elliot left the room, hooked a left onto one of the many great, lengthy, well-lit and clean white halls of the Den with aims to pop above ground to snag a meal before the second half of his exercises (that particular day their division lead, [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]Owl, [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]was hosting a most rewarding course on obscure traffic patterns and identifying potential enemy vehicles by their driving habits alone). But as soon as Elliot was free in the hall, Rowan was there with a fierce, fiery grin roasting his bony cheeks. “Well?” Elliot had said flatly, his progress stunted. “Going to tell me I’m pretty or something, Rowan? I’ll have to tell you, mate, you aren’t exactly my type, so you’d better be thick in the wallet.”[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“I seen the most amazing thing today, Elle,” Rowan said. “Bossman takes out a pack of cards, pulls one out at random and---”[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“Let me guess,” interrupted Elliot. “GPS? Can sync the card to your watch so that one might cheat his way to some fantastic intelligence?”[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“Oh, can it, Elle, this is actually quite a thing, listen up. So Bossman places a card on the table, it was just a spade of some kind, then presses his thumb against it for [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]precisely [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]ten seconds. Bossman takes a few steps back, then the fireworks started. See, the cards have heat-activated phosphorus strips under the suit tags, also have some kind of seal that acts as a timer: it’s always precisely ten seconds. It’s something, Elle.”[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Elliot bit. Eyes wide and with his thumbnail between his teeth, the lips around coiling into a smile (a smile that was twisting up Rowan’s belly), Elliot plotted his advance. Snapping the hand away from his mouth, Elliot shot, “That’s it---I need to see those. Snag a pack for me, Rowe, and I’ll be in your debt.”[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Coercing Rowan into the theft of Sovereign property proved as difficult as Elliot expected, and yet he held inexplicable faith in his success. Had Rowan been a boy of more elaborate intellectual graces, Elliot would have plotted, planned and lied his way to victory. But Rowan was, despite being a talented machinist, a young man with a paper resolve and meager common sense. It took nothing more than constant hounding for him to agree. Which brought the young men here, to this day in which both young men (along with the rest of unit A3) had been summoned to council with none-other than General McGinest himself. Elliot was not fond of the timing, but he wouldn’t fret himself to wrinkles over it---the General had a reputation of astuteness, but possess x-ray vision he did not (or so Elliot could only logically conclude), meaning he (should) be none-the-wiser in regards to the stolen pack of phosphorous cards in Elliot's britches. [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Elliot’s glare made Rowan weak. Both young men were dressed-sharp in suits of black, ties of black and polished loafers; while Elliot stood, hands pocketed stoically in his trousers, Rowan, evading Elliot’s dissecting glare of blue, was manipulating his tie knot. “You going to fish them out?” Elliot asked coolly. “Or am I going to have to dig through your trousers for them? I’ll warn you that I’m comfortable enough in my sexuality to be seen doing as such, so don’t think this an empty threat, mate.”[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Broken down to a rangy bundle of sighs and eye-rolls, Rowan reached into the breech of his suit jacket and retrieved the pack. He tossed it up and Elliot snagged it out of the air with a grin. “I’ll never get you, ‘eh,” said Rowan. “Put both of our tails at risk for some prank. Because that’s it, isn’t it? You’re going to do something dreadful with those for a few laughs, yeah?”[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Elliot smiled and jerked his head to the right, indicating Cullworth, the estate above The Den that stood watch over Selborne’s main street. “C’mon, then,” Elliot said. “Going to worry your life away, Rowan. Today we’ve been bestowed the honor of council with General McGinest; ahh, what fun, yes? I’ve queried Owl a few times about him---every time I ask, she only smiles in that weird little way and looks away. What do you picture, mm? I see---a fat man in fatigues with enough service pins to fill a hall.”[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]In-stride with Elliot, Rowan, the taller of the two young men, kept his chin up as they approached the estate. It was morning, the dead-crack-of to be exact, and beside a few other meandering recruits filing towards Cullworth. the Selborne streets were clear. “Never really thought on it,” Rowan said. “But yeah---I can see that. The man must’ve seen his lot to be given jury over a place like this.” [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Both men entered the large, rustic doors of the estate and scuttled through it’s great, main room. A short trip through a series of thinner halls brought them to a door with a digital pad affixed to the wall beside a metal door that likened an elevator’s glide. Elliot pressed his thumb against it and the panel flashed green, but it was not until Rowan followed with the same action that the door did slide open: a security measure: a sensor above the door detected two figures, thusly two imprints were required to open the shaft. Elliot entered first and Rowan followed. The trip was quick as the elevator car descended almost soundlessly to the Den’s depths. When the chime sounded, the doors repealed and the Den and all it’s clean, blank glory stood before them. Elliot often remarked to Owl, “Would a few paintings really kill the mood? You can even pull it out of my salary if you’d like.” [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Owl was standing just beside the entrance to the meeting room where Elliot, Rowan and the rest of A3 had been summoned. She was a tall woman, older than thirty, less than forty, pretty in-face with a small mouth that was always a bit curled on the fringes, always a bit amused, a hooked nose and quiet brown eyes that were usually magnified by square-rimmed spectacles. Elliot (who walked ahead of Rowan) smirked and greeted her with a long, zealous windmill-like wave of his right arm. She did not speak. And when the young men tried to pass by, Owl reached out a hand of bright, pristine flesh and meticulously manicured nails of black, snagged Elliot’s necktie and tugged, refusing his entrance. Smiling cleverly, she said, “Mr. Singer---Mr Nestler---a word, mm?” [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Elliot’s eyes popped out. “A bit rough, huh? You know if I go in there with my tie all out of sorts they’re likely to put a bullet in my head, yeah?”[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“Enough,” Owl said, her tone short. “Tell me what they’d do to you were they to know you’ve got Sovereign property in your trousers, Mr. Singer.” [/BCOLOR]

    Without a beat, Rowan’s jaw dropped and his eyes, burst open, locked on Elliot. But the young man’s blue-eyed counterpart did not break. “Sorry, love,” Elliot said. “I’m a bit at a loss---what’s missing, and what does it have to do with me?”

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“What division do you work for?” Asked the amused Owl.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“Come aga--”[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]The bespectacled woman tugged a bit harder on Elliot’s tie, suffocating his quip. “What. Division, Mr. Singer?”[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“Sur---Surveillance and technology?”[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“And who might your superior be?”[/BCOLOR]


    [BCOLOR=transparent]“Am I terrible at my job?”[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“No. No, of course not.”[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“Then give them back, or so help me I’ll sentence you to three years in front of a terminal viewing old, raw, black-and-white security footage.”[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]When Owl released his necktie, Elliot, visibly shaken now (something that did not amuse Rowan right away, but would later on in the afternoon when he’d jab at Elliot over the incident), dug into his trousers and produced the pack of cards. Owl snatched it up, flashed a wicked squint then turned away and stormed off, her journey logged by the furious taps of her heels against the cold, hard tile of the Den’s floor. Both young men watched her exit in astonishment. It was Rowan that spoke first: “Good God, man. What do you think will happen? Why didn’t she turn us in?”[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“Couldn’t say,” Elliot said as he turned toward the doorway. “Probably because she’s in love with me. A tricky thing, love; makes you do senseless things.”[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Now inside the meeting room, a room that looked an awful lot like a classroom save the gigantic digital monitor on the far wall, the young men filed towards their desks where most of their unit had already taken seats (meaning they were late). Rowan whispered, “Come off it,” in his friend’s ear before taking a seat near the front row. [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Besides the students from unit A3, only one other person shared the space with them: an impeccably dressed (saying something considering the strict codes on attire at Sovereign) man in his late forties. He was of average height and build, square of jaw and thin of eye (Elliot thought them green from where he sat). His hair was dark but streaks of silver ran evenly through the precise, comb-stroked rows. He was staring down at a pocketwatch connected by a chain and it wasn’t until Elliot (the last remaining recruit still standing) took his seat, would he snap it closed. He smiled at all eight seated faces, then announced, “Good morning. My name is General McGinest, and today I am happy to announce that your unit has collectively achieved notice, notice enough to warrant fieldwork. Isn’t that exciting?”[/BCOLOR]
  2. Vivian sat a little taller, hoping to seem – what, exactly? Serious? Professional? Worthy of a task bestowed by the renowned General? It was uncommon to receive field orders so early in training. Unit G7 had been at Selborne for close to two years and, according to Lisa, their communications expert, there was no end in sight. Unit R10 was even worse off. They’d been waiting for a field assignment for over four years. Hardly anyone saw them around the village anymore. But when someone did, they often mistook R10 for superiors, which rather wounded their pride, or maintenance workers, which, understandably, mortified them. Grateful and secretly flattered that her unit had not been sentenced to the same purgatory as some less fortunate teams, Vivian hoped that her erect posture might somehow convince the General that he had not made a mistake.

    “This better not take long,” said a male voice behind her in a low whisper. “I have places to be.” Vivian turned and gave the speaker a withering look. Wes Miller reclined in his seat, one long arm stretched out on the desk before him, the other lazily draped over the back of his chair, as though he were posing for a spread in GQ. He had indisputably fine cheekbones and flawless skin the color of dark chocolate. Most of his peers in Internal Communication were thin, gaunt, and wore ill-fitting clothes, probably due to a disinterest in fashion and lack of vanity. Wes, on the other hand, was fit, smartly dressed, and possessed the sort of arrogance conceived only from a lifetime of never having heard the word no. As a consequence, he often said and did as he liked.

    The solid knock of General McGuinest’s heels on the wood floor drew Viv’s attention back to the front of the room. The General, now standing on the opposite side of a sturdy, richly-stained desk, raised his hands and began to tap various points on its surface, almost like typing on a very large keyboard. But there was no keyboard, none that Viv could see, at least. As the General’s fingers flew across the desk, the monitor behind him, which spanned the full width of the wall, lit up.

    An ultra-high-definition image popped up in the center of the wall. “Well?” His tone was flat and demanding. “Oh, don’t all speak at once,” he said when no one answered.

    “It’s Marcus Cartwright,” said Linus, a freckly blond boy with a childlike face and a beanpole frame. “The CEO of CB Pharmaceuticals.”

    “Five points to Gryffindor,” said McGuinest. He did a double-take when he saw Linus, and added, “I beg pardon. I meant Hufflepuff.”

    Wes snorted. Linus blushed and sunk down into his seat, which hardly made a difference as he was so tall. Vivian tried to catch Linus’ eye, but he wouldn’t look up.

    “CB Pharmaceuticals, as you all should know, has not long been established,” continued McGuinest. “For such a new company it seems to be doing spectacularly well, especially for one whose products all have pending approval from the MHRA. Mr. Cartwright apparently has taken particular interest in some fields up north in Upton Grey. That’s very close to us. Just under twenty kilometers, in fact. And that means Mr. Cartwright is of particular interest to us.

    “You must understand, Unit A3 of Cottage 6, that this is not a test,” the General said as images, documents, and maps dashed across the screen. “Your task is to surveil Mr. Cartwright and report his behavior to your unit leader. This is a reconnaissance mission. I repeat, this is a reconnaissance mission. Do not intervene. Mr. Cartwright is still a citizen of the United Kingdom, and his actions may be peaceful. But if they are not, and we have strong evidence to support this suspicion, then it will be my duty and privilege to confront the man.” The General removed a key from his breast pocket and opened a drawer in the desk. He removed eight sealed manila envelopes stamped with the seal of Sovereign, a lion and crown. After obtaining fingerprint signatures from each of the recruits with a portable scanner, he instructed them to open their dossiers, and then promptly left the room.

    Vivian quickly leafed through the contents of her folder. There were profiles for Cartwright, people within his ring of business and acquaintance, information detailing the history of CB Pharmaceuticals, more photographs – some promotional, others candid – and a simple memo stating their mission. Was that it?

    “Well, have fun in Upton Gray, kids,” said Wes. He stood up, dusted his jacket, and made for the door. He left his folder on his desk.

    “Where do ya fink you’re goin’?” asked a sly-eyed Iranian girl called Aria. She crossed her arms and fixed him with an icy glare.

    “Wouldn’t you like to know?” Wes responded with a wink. “Look, there’s no need for all of us to go. My division can serve this mission, if that’s what you want to call it, from right here. Not that I’ll have much to do. It sounds dreadfully dull, not to mention derivative.”

    Much to her distaste, Vivian found herself agreeing with Wes. She specialized in language and communication. Unless they were in need of a translator or interpreter, she strongly suspected her skills would be underutilized for this task. Unlike Wes, she was not one to disobey an order, especially from someone as senior as the General.

    “It’s your job, Wes,” Vivian said. “It’s all our job. And I’ll be damned if you screw it up for the rest of us.”

    “Then be damned,” he said.

    “Oh, sit down, you pretentious prig,” Vivian spat. “We’ve work to do.” She challenged his gaze with a steely one of her own. Vivian was not accustomed to hearing the word no either.

    Perhaps a minute passed as they stared in complete silence; perhaps it was only a few seconds. Eventually Wes rolled his eyes and plopped back into his seat.

    “As you wish, Your Grace,” he said sardonically. Vivian ignored him and looked around instead at the other six members of their team.

    “Let’s tuck in, shall we?” she said.

    • Love Love x 1
  3. Elliot couldn’t rightfully purchase The General’s account of this mission at face value. The man did not seem the type to stitch yarns for the sake of it, but to Elliot every facet of this sortie screamed ‘Audition’. Patronized, the young lad possessed even the stones to sigh when the thumb-scanner was slid his way, rolled up his eyes like shot-up curtains and pressed his thumb against the reader as if it were his signed acceptance of an egregiously rated loan. After McGinest left them to digest the details Elliot felt the urge to shove the folder off his desk, but a combat of voices over the dismission of the duty, by way of Mr. Wes (a young man Elliot had done well to stay away from since their unit sync), informed him that doing so would be a trendy exercise. Contempt without the proper mapping of a man was an idiotic practice that Elliot would have no part in. In Wes’ case, it was simply a matter of clashing personalities; young men like Elliot and he become either blood-bound or blood-bitter: Elliot decided the risk of the latter, when in consideration of the fact that not only were they flatmates to a degree, they, to the best of his understanding, were to be bound to A3 until death, promotion or expulsion, was certainly not worth it.

    Seated sideways in the desk, the knob of his right elbow knifed into the wooden top, Rowan took an account of A3 with wide, sweeping glances. Elliot was seated just behind him, his chum (despite being quite the ass). Of the quad of Wes, Vivian, Arya and Linus, Rowan had only been treated to features on Arya, their weapons and combat specialist, and this was only because word of her (terrifying) talents had waddled off the tongue of one of Rowan’s associates at Applied Technology. Although Elliot was unwilling or unable to view this task as a sign of immense progress and esteem for their unit, Rowan couldn’t have been more thrilled. This meant that, although he had not heard much on the talents of his comrades, they must all be extraordinarily proficient in their respective disciplines for General McGinest himself to call a summons, to actually issue them orders, to actually dispatch them into the field.

    A3’s final two members were Harriette and Quinn. Harriette was a poltergeist that spoke very little. Rowan (via a confession made to Elliot just a single day after A3's founding) found her exceedingly lovely: raven black hair, green eyes, ghostly flesh: traditional black Irish in every regard. Spurned by Sovereign’s codes on appearance, she was forced to remove her facial piercings, cover her ink and persist without the neon banded tones that had streaked her hair in the days preceding her enrollment. Reclusive in every regard, she had built a reputation without so much as speaking a word or lifting a finger. She was A3’s transporter, an expert in all things that move fast. Very fast. One of (among many) the rumors that sullied Sovereign’s halls regarding her stated that she had been an outlaw, a street racer that had been offered Sovereign’s graces due to her talent, in lieu of jail time. Even Elliot, the talented technophile, could neither confirm nor deny that this was the case, and she certainly did not appear the type of lass to speak on it. And as usual, as Wes, Vivian and Arya clashed words, the stoic Harriette did little beside study the docket McGinest had passed out.

    Quinn was much more the talker: Harriette's perfect antonym. The minute McGinest had left the room, he stood. He let Vivian and Wes’ quarrel subside before speaking; he was Counterintelligence after all, and if he was correct about Sovereign’s purpose, from all accounts despite their cretos on secrecy and the tidbits they fed even their most adept recruits, they were pioneers in the Counterintelligence world -- this, of course, made the blonde, slightly portly bloke feel as though his particular sect was head-and-shoulders above Sovereign’s splinter divisions: In Quinn’s mind, the other sects merely did the heavy lifting for his department. And because Quinn never shied away from speaking his mind, Elliot found him quite pompous.

    “Right, right, then,” Quinn began once the rest of the unit had hushed. “The lady’s quite right.” Quinn had taken residence at the head of the room. Half-seated upon McGinest’s desk, legs crossed, his portfolio stuffed under his right arm, smile sopping with a dreadful, self appointed power, he queried the room with perfectly round eyes of brown: even in the most routine of exercises, Quinn’s eyes were always wide, aghast, mindful, all under the jury of bright, bushy gold eyebrows. When no succeeding words jumped out of his throat, the young man tugged at the hem of his suit jacket; it was a tad small; his wide hips nudged at the fringes, defining less-than-manly curves. Finally: “I suppose it’s best to run a little tally before we jump into the thick. After all, not like we’ve all been thick as thieves since all this started, ‘eh? Maybe somefin’ like a -- oh --” Round cheeks swelled with delight. Those buggered eyes rolled queerly around the room. “ -- like a good ol’ Roll Call, yeah? Like we’re back in Primary, wouldn’t that be a delightful ‘fing, ‘eh? I’ll start.” Posture fixed, that jacket tugged on another seven times, the blonde young man cleared his throat with a groggy groan and hoisted his chin. “I’m Quinn Lister and I’m currently involved in Sovereign’s counter--,” so proud of the term, Quinn’s lips curled-up into a heinous smile as he spoke it, “--intelligence division. What we do, what we’re able to accomplish in our department is due solely,” again with prestigious pretentiousness, “to all of your effort---”

    Elliot fired his hand up into the air. Expression flat, eyes skinny and ventured straight ahead, locked on some insignificant nothing on the far end of the room, not at all regarding Quinn, he waited to be called on.

    Taken-back, Quinn badgered Elliot with a thin, scrutinizing leer. An awkward portion of seconds expired before Quinn finally noted him with a jut of his chin. Reserved: “Yeah? What is it, man?”

    That arm dropped like a hammer. The wrist hit the desktop with a sonorous thud that sounded rightfully painful from the bassy knock of bone-on-wood, but Elliot did not emote. Only did he move those lavishly unenthused eyes of blue, slowlike, slow like the chromatic lull of an ancient clock’s barely mobile pendulum, until they were safely locked in the buggering bounty of Quinn’s own. “Get on wif’ it, mate, for God’s sake,” Elliot complained. “The Man himself: The. Man. Was justs in ‘ere and gave us all a runnin’ already, so why’re you up there all trumps. We got a shifty bloke making more money than he ought; Big Man wants us to do a little pokin’, wants a look-see at our mettle. So can the ceremony and let’s get to plannin’, yeah? No need to get into the bits-and-bobs of our respective talents, all we need are a few pictures, maybe some video. The quicker we get to Upton Gray to lay eyes on this prick, the better.”

    Mirroring Quinn’s assumed mastership, taking command of a term that the busy would-be leader was certain to have used, Elliot glanced around the room with his eyes wide, his brows high and queried, “Objections? This ain’t exactly some high-ops stuff, we just need to be subtle and precise. Keep the Big Man updated as we go along, and when we find nuffin’, which I’m certain we won’t, we come back and get our chins scratched.”

  4. “Termite” was what some of the recruits in Vivian’s field called people like Elliot and Quinn. They worked in the tunnels under Selborne (collectively known as the Den – the tunnels, not the boys), and seemed to spend more time underground than above it. The Linguistics department’s facilities were largely spread out in the village, among the cottages, shops, and the one pub so many of them frequented. When Vivian did venture into the Den, it almost seemed as though new tunnels had been hollowed out, so vast and confusing they were to navigate. Jokingly, she thought once perhaps the departments “downstairs” did carve away at the earth, just as their nickname suggested.

    But as Viv listened to Quinn and Elliot, she wondered if perhaps the term was all too aptly chosen. Some of those “termites,” she decided, were absolute pests. Between Quinn’s condescension, Elliot’s impatience, and even Wes’ arrogance, Vivian couldn’t tell who might be the bigger fool.

    “I doubt the General is the type to scratch chins,” Vivian said. “At least he won’t he if we don’t get started.”

    “Then let’s begin.” Vivian turned toward the sound of the voice. It rung with such finality that she almost thought it was a superior speaking, and not her equal. Harriette, who often didn’t seem part of the group, was absorbed in the mess of papers scattered across her desk and her personal notebook which she had propped in her lap. She typed on the keyboard, clicked the mouse pad, and when she continued, spoke surely but softly: “Cartwright isn’t even here. He’s in Wales. We could leave for Upton Grey within the hour but there’d be nothing to see.”

    Vivian focused back on the mission too. They had wasted enough time as it was. “Oh, I think we might find something,” she said. Now where was that file? She flipped through her folder until she located the information she needed. “Cartwright historically looks for properties in secluded locations with preexisting infrastructure – warehouses and power plants, things of that nature,” she said, and stood to cross the room, paper still in hand. She scanned the map still projected on the monitor behind the desk. “Based on that information, there are three potential sites in Upton Grey, spread miles apart, that could be of interest to Cartwright.” She pointed to each in turn. “Even if he’s not in Hampshire, his people might be.”

    “We could split up,” offered Linus, “observe each site simultaneously and compare notes.”

    “Assuming one of those locations actually belongs to Cartwright,” said another voice – a high, raspy female voice. In the doorway stood a middle-aged woman, petite and hale. Her electric blue eyes were heavily lined, her hair cut short and gelled to one side, her clothes tailored but of a gentleman’s fit. She was unlike any middle-aged woman Vivian had ever known. “A3, I am Captain Morrison, your direct report. Any information you obtain gets passed straight to me. No exceptions. We’ll meet again in two days right here, just after your firearms training. Do not be late. Speaking of which,” She took out a pocket watch and studied its face, “I believe you have conditioning training in the Yard soon. Wouldn’t want to keep the Beast waiting, would you?” She giggled like a scheming child and left the room.

    The first thing that came to Vivian’s lips was, “Was that just me, or did anyone else find that odd?”

  5. If the enclave of termites, pale and rife with abysmal social skills were they, were to hold an electoral ballot to promote a certain, special pest among them, Elliot J. Singer would have been certain shoe-in. The sheer number of hours spent below ground a campaign platform for the ages, ran with the associating pledge of better representing these pariahs, these the unwashed and unloved technophiles who had certainly grown tired of such gross exaggerations and misnomers (contrary to the truth, of course). Regardless, the term had never been used around Elliot, therefore he could not submit to its agitations or the presumption that he and his peers were being subjected to the supposition of a sedentary lifestyle most fowl. Also, he was not a mind reader. This is why he felt not compelled to defend his station against Vivian, one of angels from the above-ground-world (no such nickname, thankfully, existed).

    And it was she, A3’s representative angel, whom had spoken-out against Elliot’s devaluation of the Upton Grey engagement. Although she cried ‘doubt’, in regard to her greater understanding of The General’s motives, Elliot thinned his eyes while examining her, cut her all up with them then smiled brilliantly (eyes yet unmoved). He said, “Is there an echo in here, Vivian?” Despite having virtually no interactions with the girl, save a passing on the street, the cottage or classroom, Elliot’s voice did not waiver when the boy chose to title her by name, spoke it with the unrelenting knowing one would expect to find off the tongue of a friend, colleague or instructor, rather than a pasty chap who could boast a relationship with the girl that sported little difference from the kind one might find amongst cellmates.

    While Elliot relished and grinned, Wes, seated just behind Vivian, slumped down in his desk so that his neck was fixed to the crest of the chair’s back, so that his torso was drawn almost completely beneath the tabletop, his legs now stuck-out so far out that he could have easily issued a friendly shove to the tiny little metal bumpers that propped up Vivian’s chair, a jar just for fun had he the desire. He did no such thing (despite not completely lacking 'the desire'), but his face, however, was filled with mirth. He smiled so sharply, so heartily that his face became alit with crests and strikes of handsome wrinkles.

    Before further commentary could manifest, Harriette, the ever-reserved, pensive and supposed ruffian, scolded the group with suggestion of initialization; the effortlessness of her empty command caught the attention of both Elliot and Rowan instantly, bludgeoned them into a unison of stupefied hanging jaws. Elliot cleaned up, cleared his throat and nodded (in no way seeking a verbal joust with Harriette); Rowan, however, did not amend his rapt, devouring glare.

    The lecture continued with additions from both Linius and their newest tutor, Vivian. Quinn, who had refused to yield from his station at the room’s head, duefully nodded (still leant against large desk) as both women explained the parameters of the region’s layout, giving turn, from what it appeared, to his lessers.

    Elliot’s face collapsed into his palm lackadaisically as they droned on, but in a day with no shortage of verbose personalities, Captain Morrison, a woman he was also unfamiliar with, stole the show with menacing proclamations of a command, firearms training and a spot in the Yard with the Beast herself; neither of the three appealed to Elliot: one more commander seemed to be encumbering, he couldn’t handle a rifle worth a damn, and the Beast was the literal product of a monitor-boy’s nightmare.

    Seconds after Morrison’s leave, Harriette, Wes and Arya were on their feet. Harriette was autonomous while Wes and Arya were of the rare (and insane, in Elliot’s eye) caste that enjoyed strenuous exercise under the guide of a booming, just-as-strenuous voice. The three left quickly; Harriette heading the pack, isolated, Wes and Arya side-by-side in conversation. Elliot glanced back to Vivian and smiled. “It is just you,” said the rangy Elliot as he slid out of his desk and stood. Following a wink built of all the bad things in the world: “Because I don’t find it odd, I find it utterly terrifying.”

    Quinn was the next to leave; he did so without a word and just after a quick reconcile with the mess of papers on his desk. Linus trooped after him, a bit apart and bumbling, wobbling through the door frame like the dismal waif he was. Rowan brushed by Elliot on his way out, saying only, “C’mon, then,” in rushed verse; Elliot figured his pal was in a hurry to catch up with Harriette: with proof that A3’s transporter did indeed possess vocal chords, Elliot could only conclude that Rowan was now under the assumption that she was born with both a fully-functional personality and human heart, both of which were great additions to the romantic gadgeteer’s cause.

    This left only Elliot and Vivian (most likely to neither’s delight). It wasn’t that Elliot was keen on prolonging the inevitable, for it was quite the contrary---the quicker, the better---he was just simply not in any rush to careen through the den’s corridors in tandem with A3 like some wildeyed youngling drunk on unit comradery and the silver promise of certain success. Looking down at his unopened dockett, he said, “You really think this is something, yeah?” A swift zip of glacier blue brought his eyes up where they’d settle over Vivian almost serenely. “That a place like this, stockpiled with talent and experience, would send a green unit out on a mission of actual importance? A mission of importance in our own backyard no less? Sorry, love,” he said, the serenity vanquished. Elliot moved towards the door and would not stop; should she follow, he would certainly accompany her through the Den had she desire to speak further. “I just can’t buy it yet.”

    #5 Val, Mar 15, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2015
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