Prologue: What I Thought I Knew

I’ve always considered myself as a sharp individual; that I was always able to catch the implications that were hidden in between the well elaborated words. I was so sure that my skill would have been able to pin out the numerous lies from the so few truths. However, as I laid there on the cold floor completely exhausted after the numerous beatings I received in who knew how long, I began to doubt myself. It felt like my whole world and all of the knowledge I thought of as true were just swirling down a dirty drain in quiet shame. My past was laid out bare in front of me, and it overwhelmed me; memories that I’ve worked hard on for the past seven years to repress assaulted me in huge forces from the simple provocation of carefully chosen words.

Hmm words, what powerful tools they are. They are the power a writer possesses to impose rules upon his/her story. They are essentially gods and their characters are completely at their mercy. I felt like my life reached the climax where the hero would normally realize what needed to be done and set the records straight; in my story, however, there would be no happy ending.

In the room with me was the leader of this despicable organization; the one cause of so much death and terror inflicted in the modern world. I couldn’t see his face that was covered in the dark, but I would always remember his body language; the way he seemed relaxed, despite the fact that I had alerted the Seekers of our current location.

The man was casually smoking a cigarette, and seemed oblivious to the fact that I was even there. I felt anger and a hint of offence curl in my stomach; it was bad enough that I was kidnapped by his organization, but to be ignored as if you were just a speck of dirt was the ultimate insult one could impose on their enemy.

The man released a few puffs of the smoke and directed one of them at my general area. The leader then flicked the cigarette aside and focused his attention on me. Despite all of my training with the Seekers, I still couldn’t resist shivering in wariness as the leader of the Phantoms looked me over. No indication of his intentions were given, and that was dangerous for me.

He stepped closer until his whole figure blocked out the light from the bulb on the high ceiling. I narrowed my eyes as I tried to adjust to the blaring light that shimmered past the Phantom leader.

Said man dropped to his knees, his glowing electric blue eyes observed me like a lab rat. I glared at him with all of my might. I refused to allow him to see me as weak. He, however, merely chuckled. “I can see why he is interested in a strong-willed woman such as yourself.” He commented. I had no idea who he was referring to though. “It’s a shame that you oppose my organization; you would have made an excellent agent.”

I clenched my teeth in anger; how dare he suggest such a preposterous idea? “I would never work for you, not after you took everything away from me!”

It seemed that my hatred for the man only amused him. “You allow your emotions to control you too much. If you were to let go of them, imagine the potential you could gain. You would truly bring peace to this world.”

I snarled at his ridiculous statement. “So you believe that by losing the one thing that makes us human, a person could bring peace? Look at your organization; look at all the lives it has taken. That’s not peace; that’s genocide!”

The Phantom leader didn’t even flinch at my outburst. Instead, he reached for my neck and swiftly ripped off the simple silver necklace. He twirled it in his hands and studied it under the glaring light. All the while, I was getting more and more pissed and ready to burst at any moment.

“This is a worthless responsibility that you have put upon yourself. Even after all of these years, you still carry your mother’s necklace?”

I didn’t say anything; I merely glared at him fiercely. If looks could have killed, he would have been a pitiful puddle of liquefied human on the cold ground.

The Phantom leader shook his head. “The sense of finding comfort in material goods is a waste of time. Instead of mourning the past, you have to focus on the future. ‘Never let anything stand between you and your mission’s goal’; isn’t that what the Seekers have taught you?”

I once again stayed silent. The leader of the Phantoms shook his head in disapproval. “And here I was so sure that you of all people would have understood that moral.”

At that remark, I snapped. “What do you know about morals? All you care about is gaining power, even if it means subjecting humanity to horrendous experiements to get it. You know nothing about being human, even if the answer was right in your face.” I paused as I took the time to observe the leader’s reaction. When he showed none, I continued. “You would never understand what it’s like to be free; to show love for the ones you care about. You can’t be human.”

Silence filled the room and enveloped it in an eerie atmosphere. Sweat dripped down my face and made an unusually loud drop sound as it crashed to the ground. I swallowed self-consciously, but I refused to give in to fear.

“Is that so?” The Phantom leader finally replied after a tense moment.

I shuffled nervously as he knelt in front of me. He placed his cool mouth by my ear and began whispering. Again, his choice of words were weapons upon my frail spirit; the blood in my veins felt like it turned to ice, my vision became red with fury, and my heart accelerated like a train speeding down its tracks. The combined reactions caused my entire body to shake uncontrollably to the point where I would have fallen over if I wasn’t already on the ground. I wanted to scream, to claw at the monster’s face in front of me for daring to commit such an inhumane and horrific crime.

I practically felt my captor smile as he leaned back and harshly grabbed my face. For the first time ever, I finally had a good look at his face, although what I saw took me completely by surprise, more so than his cruel words that continued to bite at me like eager hyenas going for a kill.

The man regarded me with a knowing smirk. I stared back in silent shock; he had his eyes!  

2: Chapter 1: Countdown to Disaster
Chapter 1: Countdown to Disaster

Chapter 1: Countdown to Disaster

6 months earlier

I woke up to the sound of my alarm clock as it played the tune of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”. Out of habit, I pressed the snooze button, and rolled onto my other side as I thought that I could sleep in. About a minute later, the alarm clock went off again, that time louder. Annoyed, I slammed my palm against the button which shut it off once more. I hovered over the clock for a few seconds as I anticipated the device to go off again at any moment. Satisfied when it remained quiet, I rolled back into my bed and dozed off for a bit. Unbelievably, my alarm clock went off for a third time.

I felt really perturbed, so I grabbed the stupid thing and smashed it against the wall. Its cover broke off, but the little bugger was still making noise. Desperate, I took out my .40 caliber Glock and shot a well-aimed bullet at the device’s internal mechanics.

Finally, the much wanted state of silence came forth, and I sighed out in relief. I carefully put the hand gun back in my drawer, and pulled the covers over my head, determined to get more sleep.

Unfortunately, it seemed like the universe didn’t want me to return to the dream world, and hence sent another annoyance, that time through my pager.

I shot out of my bed, enraged that I couldn’t get even five more minutes of sleep. I roughly took out my bloody pager and grumpily checked the message as I hoped for the well-being of the sender that it was damn well worth the lack of sleep.

An audio recording loaded onto the narrow screen and played the following message: Yo Moore, we have a possible sighting at Madison Square Garden; you and Agent Michaels are to check it out ASAP.

I sighed. Well, that was the start of another busy day.

With a purpose, I hastily made my bed sheets, though I did attempt to fold them nicely. I then proceeded to my closet where I took out a pair of dark blue jeans, complimented with a simple black t-shirt. I also grabbed a plain white towel, and went into the small bathroom.

Fifteen minutes later, I was fully dressed; a sleek leather jacket and a pair of running boots were added to the mix. I quickly made a piece of toast, and ate it straight out of the toaster. I ignored the burning sensation, and carefully slid my gun into my safety harness that was hidden inside my jacket. Satisfied that I was prepared, I stepped out of my one bedroom apartment, and made sure to lock the door before I made my way into the new world.

The date was March 21st, 2020. It has been fifteen years since the start of the conflict known as the Silent War. The name may have seemed unusual, but it was used for good reasons.

Nearly two decades ago, an organization known as the Phantoms vowed to acclaim supreme rule over the planet. What they didn’t anticipate was that people with a sense of justice like me would come together to form an opposing organization known as the Seekers. Our job was to hunt down Phantom agents and eliminate them before they could snatch more victims and submit them to their horrific experiments.

In 2012, we managed to kill off most of the Phantom agents; we were so certain that their organization would fall with the loss of agents. What we didn’t expect, however, was that their ingenious, sick son of a bitch of a leader had gone underground to recover from the organization’s initial losses.

Inconspicuously, there have been reports of people mysteriously vanishing. At first, the reports weren’t taken into consideration as they happened randomly and were not targeting a single group. However, once the number of missing people hit the thousands, the Seekers became nervous.

I was just a high school senior at the time. Coming home from school one day and having your life switch around 180° can really be a traumatic impact on a teenager; on anyone, really. My home, my one place of true sanctuary and peace had become a bloody battlefield. There were signs of a struggle; the fact that my family went down fighting was the only thing that gave me a small sense of comfort. That was why I joined the Seekers as soon as I turned eighteen; to live up to my family’s image and show that I too was a fighter. I trained hard to get where I was; at twenty-four, I was finally one of the top Scout agents the Seekers had. No one, not even the Phantoms, would ever break my spirit.

Dealing with death was one thing; having to confront your worst nightmare, however, was another ordeal. It wasn’t enough that the Phantoms killed your loved ones. No, those sick bastards had the nerve to taunt you with the faces of the ones they killed. Believe me, it was like ripping my own heart out and throwing it against a concrete wall when that exact situation was thrown at me.

I was barely past twenty when I was on my first recon mission as a Seeker Scout. It seemed simple at first; go in, scout out the area to investigate the parameters, and then report back to HQ so that the Warriors could come in and wipe out any Phantom agents. Right, it was all plain and simple until I saw my family planting a bomb in the abandoned warehouse.

For a moment, I felt like I was seventeen again; just coming home after a typical day at school. I was almost tempted to call out their names, but once they turned their faces towards me, my blood ran cold. Those people were not my family; they may have had their bodies, but those clones’ eyes were the typical electric blue color; completely lifeless. I nearly died that day as I completely forgot the basic training that the Seekers taught me: “never let your guard down, even when you think it’s your loved ones.”

I shook my head to get rid of the unwanted memories, and focused on making sure that I arrived at the suspected area. Madison Square Garden was the place as my pager stated.

When I arrived, I saw another Scout agent with a data pad in his hand. Must be Agent Michaels. “Agent Michaels?” I stated.

The man glanced up at me, and nodded in acknowledgement.

“What have we got?” I then asked monotonously.

“A minor disturbance.” The agent replied back just as emotionless. “We got a call from a witness claiming to have seen glowing eye stare back at him as he was cleaning the second floor. It’s not much, but we can’t take any risks.”

“Agreed.” I stated.

With that, the other agent and I made our way inside the dome building. As we walked in, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I was being watched. Instinctively, my hand pressed against the form of my gun, always ready in case it needed to be used. Damn, I thought, I really hope that I don’t need to use it.

3: Chapter 2: Knocking on Death's Door
Chapter 2: Knocking on Death's Door

Agent Michaels and I made our way up the stairs to the second floor where the report was made. The entire building was completely dark as it hadn’t been used in over a decade. With Seeker HQ hosted in New York, the majority of the city’s taxes were diverted towards Seeker interest, hence less to public funding. As a result, Madison Square Garden was soon abandoned as funds to maintain it were cut. Still, there were some private donors who were generous enough to leave a small tip in order to keep the building maintained enough that it wouldn’t collapse. 

I couldn’t imagine what it must have been like though; being able to fit at least twenty thousand people inside its immense dome all at once. The intensity of when the crowd was cheering on the teams. The simple fact that the world was more or less free; a world without Phantoms.

When my partner and I arrived at the sighting’s approximate location, we were greeted by the janitor’s cleaning supplies that were splattered all over the floor. Whatever the poor old man saw, it must have really scared the shit outta him.

We stopped in front of the mess, and silently inspected it before us. The sound of a small crash brought my attention to the double doors that led into the stadium. Agent Michaels looked up as well, then at me as we contemplated on what to do. I gestured my head towards the area of the noise, and he nodded in agreement. We took out our guns and walked as silently as possible towards the source.

We stopped just in front of the double doors, and positioned ourselves on either side. I quickly made sure that my ammo round was full, and then signaled Michaels. Expertly, he pushed the door open, the object gave an audible moan, while I went inside with my pistol held out. Immediately, my momentary partner closed the door behind us before he followed me, and guarded our rears in case of an ambush.

I was briefly stunned by the actual size of the stadium. I knew that it was big, but damn, it sure looked a lot more enormous once seen in person. A nostalgic feeling warmed me up, and I shivered from the cool temperature difference of the vast stadium.

I shook off my distraction, and resumed my focus on our task at hand. I was pretty sure that the noise came from inside, though I was a bit unnerved at the fact that if a Phantom agent was inside, they would have had the advantage of the playing field.

Agent Michaels and I carefully walked down the steep steps, all the while we observed our surroundings from top to bottom. Damn it, I thought, I’m really starting to hate this place.

Once we reached the bottom of the steps, Michaels looked at me. “We should split up, we’ll cover more ground quicker.” He suggested.

“Yeah,” I replied. “Be careful though, there are plenty of places for Phantoms to hide. If you suspect something, page me.”

He nodded, and we proceeded to move in opposite directions.

I was right by the ice rink when the feeling of being watched invaded my senses. I aimed my gun upwards, and checked out the dim ceiling lights. When I saw nothing, I slowly brought my gun-occupied hand to my chest. My eyes narrowed as I suspected that someone was up there, but I couldn’t see to be certain.

I turned away, but the ceiling remained in my peripheral view. I continued to walk around the rink, and slightly shivered at the chilly air it still released. When I reached the other side from where I started, another crash-like noise interrupted the once still silence.

Rapidly, I turned towards the source of the disturbance, and saw that the double doors were slightly open. I narrowed my eyes, and aimed the gun forward as I tactfully made my way to the doors. Once there, I pushed them just wide enough for me to fit through, and went on with my investigation.

I found myself walking down a dimly lit hallway, fully aware that I could have been walking into a trap. I, however, was prepared to take that risk. Halfway down the hall, I felt my pager vibrate and took it out. “What is it?” I asked.

“I found some suspicious activities going on down in the boiler room. I’ll contact you when I know more,” Agent Micheals reported.

“Alright, keep me posted.” I said, and ended the conversation.

Just as I put my pager away, a blur of movement caught the corner of my eye. I turned around only to see nothing. I focused on my surroundings, and slowly walked in the direction of the movement. My senses seemed to have heightened as I was able to experience the environment on a more superior level. Good ole fashion adrenalin, I mused.

I absentmindedly pondered about how the name “Phantom” actually described the agents rather accurately. People would get the feeling that they are being watched, they then investigate the area and would find nothing. Despite that, chances are that the Phantoms were always there. They are hardly seen, but they most definitely can see us.

Don’t get me wrong, the Phantoms weren’t super beings or anything, it’s just that their agents were trained in being pretty much like ninjas, for a lack of a better term. They tended to avoid conflict; instead they preferred to observe from the sidelines, and plan one major attack.

On top of their ability to “vanish” into thin air, if one did manage to see them, they’d be freaked out of their wits. The Phantoms’ glowing eyes made them resemble more like cyborgs rather than clones or brainwashed individuals. The hairs on the back of one’s would surely stand on end just by staring into those lifeless eyes.

Instinctively, my torso spun around only to come into contact with another figure. The unexpected collision pushed me down hard, and I struggled to catch my breath. The mysterious figure didn’t seem affected; instead, it ran down the hall.

I cursed under my breath, and briskly jumped up as I went after the figure. Whoever it was led me to the building’s back entrance, and rushed out the door. I gathered speed and bolted through the door before I jumped down the five meter high staircase.

I landed smoothly on the ground, but when I looked around there was no one in the abandoned parking lot.

I felt pissed, and I swore again at my bad luck as I restlessly paced around. A minute later, I felt my pager vibrate, and once again I took it out. “Yes?” I asked.

“There’s definitely something weird going on in here. I could have sworn I heard footsteps leading away from a storage closet. When I went by it, it sounds like a ticker going off.” There was a slight pause followed by an audible gasp. “Oh my God…” he trailed off.

My eyes widened in realization as I knew what it was. “Get out of there! It’s a…”

I didn’t get time to finish as a strong rumbling erupted. The entire parking lot and surrounding buildings shook. Madison Square Garden itself flamed up, the numerous windows shattered, and I had to run to escape their sharp fall.

Another explosion caught me off guard, and I was thrown backwards. My back collided painfully against the good of a random car, and my body slid down onto the concrete pavement.

My vision was dizzy and blurry. My mind scrambled all over the place as I thought that the mission was a trap. I weakly cursed in my breath just before everything went dark.

4: Chapter 3: Unexpected Visitor
Chapter 3: Unexpected Visitor

My whole body felt like it had been trampled on by a herd of raging elephants. The sound of murmuring and an annoying beep overpowered the deafening silence that was in my head. I tried to move, but all of my limbs just gave out. I lay there helplessly like a newborn deer desperate to learn how to walk before a predator killed it.

I waited for a few minutes as I allowed my brain to regain senses over my body. Little by little, I was able to move some part; whether it was a timid roll of the shoulders, or a small jerk of the elbows, to the tingling in my fingers. Once that was completed, I attempted to open my eyes. That was easier said than done as my eyelids felt like they weighed at least a hundred pounds each. Again, I played the game of patience as I allowed my eyelids to regain strength. After a couple of minutes, I tried again.

Immediately, my eyelids shut as they were met by the glare of an incredibly bright light. Slowly, I opened them anew, and winced as they attempted to adjust. Eventually, they were fully opened, and I saw a plain white ceiling above me.

I stared at the ceiling for a bit, before I diverted my attention to the rest of the room. To my left was an open window that brought in the special scents that came only during the spring. A cool breeze blew at my face and comforted me for a moment. I turned my head to my right and saw equipment by my bed, one of them was hooked into my arm. I then realized that I was in a hospital. Memories from the stadium ventured back into my conscious and attacked it in waves.

The heart rate monitor escalated as I had a brief panic attack. The annoying beeping sound intensified in volume and speed, and caught the attention of a nurse. She hurriedly came in, grabbed a needle, and filled it with some sort of clear fluid. She called other people over, and before I knew it I was surrounded by doctors and other staff in white lab coats.

My breathing became faster as I struggled to calm down. The nurse from earlier knew that I couldn’t calm down on my own, and injected the fluid into my IV. I briefly felt a cool sensation pass through my veins that were attached to the device, before I steadily felt the effects of the drug.

My breathing slowed down, my heart rate went back to normal, and my thoughts were no longer swirling. Exhausted, the back of my head hit the pillow with a loud thump and I was out again.


It must have been several hours later when I woke up again, if the setting sun was proof enough. That time, I focused on remaining at ease to prevent another situation like that morning to occur. Seriously, it was not pleasant; the drug left me feeling woozy.

Carefully, I raised my upper body slightly so that I could adjust my posture to a sitting position. I couldn’t believe how much effort was needed to do such a simple task.

Once comfortable, I gazed around the plain room, bored to death for having to just sit tightly. I contemplated getting out of my bed, but with the effects of the drug still in me, I wasn’t prepared to take that risk. Someone would eventually come.

As if reading my thoughts, a different nurse from the morning came in, and seemed surprised to see me awake. “Oh, you’re up already? Well then, I’ll go get the Head Warrior; he’s been wishing to speak to you.”

With that, she was out the door and I was left wondering what a Warrior, and the Head one at that, would have wanted with me? They only focused on the huge cases that involved Phantom Assassins, or other serious situations. But then, there was the fact that my location was practically blown up with the other Seeker Scout still inside. I winced as I hoped that he somehow escaped, but really knew that it was unlikely he survived the blast.

I was pulled from my thoughts by the arrival of the Seeker Head Warrior. He was a tall man with dark features, and had a lot of scars covering his worn face. He must have been in his thirties, but the scars only made him look older.

He nodded at me in acknowledgment. “Good to see that you’re awake, Agent Moore.” He started. Casually, he pulled up a chair and sat down beside my bed. “How are you feeling?” He finally asked after staring at me for a moment.

“I’m good I guess, considering that the building I was in blew up and killed my partner.” I replied bluntly.

“Yes, I’m sorry about the death of the Agent Michaels. He was an invaluable member of our organization.” The Head Warrior replied, hardly passionate.

A small frown appeared on my face as I took in the tone of his rough voice. There seemed to have been some concern hidden in it.

“I take it that there’s more to your visit than patting me on the back, and kissing my wounds.” I commented.

The Head Warrior raised his thick eyebrows slightly at my weird remark, but didn’t comment on it. “You’re right; I did come here for a reason.” He then leaned towards me, and slipped a small piece of paper into my bandaged hand.

Curious, I unraveled it and discovered a short, but direct message. Can’t talk here. When you’re released, come by the Frog’s Leg pub.

I looked up at the Head Warrior, and nodded my understanding. He got up, and pushed the chair away from my bed, before he walked out of the room.

The nurse from before came in and checked the status of the machinery. I slid back into my bed as I pondered upon various explanations as to why the Head Warrior needed me to see him.

5: Chapter 4: A Head's Warning
Chapter 4: A Head's Warning

Chapter 4: A Head’s Warning

After many physical exams and simple questionings, I was finally released from the hospital three days later. Good, otherwise I would have gone insane.

As I was walking down the crowded street, my hand felt for the small note in my pocket. Can’t talk here. When you’re released, come by the Frog’s Leg pub.

I had made arrangements with the Head Warrior to meet with him immediately after my release. Since I was able to walk on my own, my curiosity was getting the best of me. What was so important that the Head Warrior couldn’t tell me back at the hospital? Was there some sort of conspiracy at work among the Seekers?

I shook my head, and proceeded towards my destination. There was only way one to find out.


Ten minutes later, I arrived at the infamous Frog’s Leg pub. It was mostly occupied by civilians, although some Seeker agents did come on occasion due to its proximity to Seeker HQ. I personally had never been at the pub before, so I didn’t have a valid opinion of it.

As I stepped inside, I started to get a picture as to why the Head Warrior had chosen to meet here. Despite it being packed, there were a line of separate booths along the walls which offered some privacy from the public. Whatever the Head Warrior wanted to tell me, it must have been extremely sensitive.

At the far corner, I saw the outline of the aged Head Warrior. I casually made my way over as I didn’t want to attract unnecessary attention. The man looked up at me, and silently invited me to take a seat. As I was about to sit down, I abruptly had the sensation of being watched. I scanned the room through the veil of my hair, but didn’t see anything suspicious. Finally, I turned my attention to the Head Warrior who was looking at me with a questionable glance.

“I thought someone was watching me.” I stated.

The Head Warrior nodded as he understood my precaution. “I wouldn’t be surprised; there are Phantom agents everywhere.” With that, he briefly stood up to pull the cover over our booth. He sat back down, copied by me, and went straight to business. “I know you must be wondering why I asked you to come here, Agent Moore.” He began.

I nodded my head in confirmation, and allowed him to go on.

“There have been many cases in which reports were made to Seeker Headquarters about sightings of Phantom agents. The dispatched Seeker agents were either killed or M.I.A.” He paused, and took a brief sip of what I assumed was beer.

He set the glass down, and continued. “After your experience with your last mission, Seeker Headquarters made some inquiries into these situations. It turns out that your ‘partner’ was not actually who he claimed to have been.” The older man stopped again as he waited for my reaction. My face remained blank, so he took that as a cue to carry on. “The real Agent Michaels was found strangulated in a neighboring building’s bathroom. You were set up.” That time, my eyes widened.

After a few minutes of taking in what the Head Warrior said, I finally spoke. “So, what you’re saying is that my partner was actually a Phantom agent sent to kill me?

The Head Warrior nodded. “That is what Seeker HQ believes. He is dead now, however, so we cannot explain as to why the Phantoms bothered killing him when you were their supposed target. Perhaps it was a plan gone wrong, or maybe there is more to their intentions than we know.”

I frowned as confusion filled me. “That really makes no sense; why bother killing their agent? And what proof does Seeker HQ have about the Phantoms’ intentions of eliminating me?”

The Head Warrior gave a small shrug. “I honestly don’t know, Agent Moore. I’m merely telling you what Seeker HQ told me. There are many reasons why the Phantoms would want to eliminate you; perhaps they see you as a threat. You and I both know just how deep your roots with the Seekers go.”

I stared blankly at the Head Warrior, a bit of annoyance boiled beneath my skin. I didn’t need any more reminders of my past than were necessary. “That was a long time ago.” I mused quietly. Luckily, the Head Warrior didn’t seem to have heard me.

I remained quiet as I reflected on what I was told. I then took a deep breath, and willed myself to maintain control. “What do you suggest me to do?” I asked quietly.

The Head Warrior gave me a look of pity. “I would advise you to return to Seeker HQ and receive your next round of orders. After that, go home and rest. It has been a long day for you.”

I didn’t bother to say anything so I stood up, and was about to leave when the Head Warrior called me. “One last thing, Agent Moore. Beware of your surroundings; you will be exposed to people you will assume can be trusted. However, you never know who they really work for. Trust no one.” He simply said.

I glanced at him momentarily, and then nodded. With that, I left the older man to finish his drink in silence.

As I opened the main door, the feeling of being watched crept onto me again. Instinctively, I turned, and scanned the entire bar. Once again, I didn’t see anything that was out of the ordinary. I stepped outside, and closed the door behind me. Even as I walked away, I couldn’t stop the shivers as the hair on the back of my neck stood on end.

6: Chapter 5: Unwanted Guardian
Chapter 5: Unwanted Guardian

Immediately after I left the pub, I took the Head Warrior’s advice and went straight to Seeker HQ. They would surely have the answers to all of my questions.

The walk was a brief ten minutes south of where I was. I shivered again, although that time it was from the cold as the early spring sun had already set beyond the horizon.

I pulled my signature leather jacket closer to me as I tried to prevent the warmth from being swept away by the chilly breeze. I distracted myself by humming the tune of “Superstition” as it was my favorite song of all time. As usual, it helped me block out the cold, and time seemed to have gone by faster; before I knew it I was at my destination.

Seeker HQ resided in the building that was once known as the World Trade Center. Why did the Seekers choose this building? I wasn’t quite sure. It probably had something to do about proving to the Phantoms that they were not afraid of a few bomb threats. However, the Seekers were cautious for they set up anti-missile guns on the roofs of the main building as well as several neighboring ones. Security ground forces were constantly patrolling the area. They even set up motion detectors and heat sensors in the sewers that came out from the main building. All in all, it was impressive.

I went up the steps two at a time, and made my way to the security checkpoint. I took out my ID and swept it through the slot. Once the scan confirmed that I was really who I claimed to be, the security guard acknowledged my rank, and unlocked the electric door for me. I nodded in thanks, and proceeded inside.

Coming from the excited city outside, the interior of the main hall of Seeker HQ was rather dull-looking. The walls were all the same shade of grey, fogged up glass covered the offices, and everything looked clean. Too clean, I thought with certain distaste.

I sat down by the artificial waterfall, the sound of rushing water did wonders on calming my nerves. I definitely needed more than that though, but it would have to do. I was still trying to process everything that the Head Warrior told me. I attempted to reassure myself that it was simply a bad joke, but I knew far too well that it was the truth. Still, that didn’t explain the sudden feelings I got as if someone was watching me.

Thankfully, I didn’t get that feeling where I was at the moment as I sat in one of the most secured places in North America. There were other stationary Seeker bases throughout the country, Canada, and they even extended as far as Eastern Europe and South Africa. The Middle East and Asia publicly announced their neutrality as they considered the Silent War as an “occidental conflict”. The Australians, New Zealanders, and Japanese, however, preferred to handle the Phantoms their own way; the reported justification being that they were isolated islands who suffered little to no effect from the war.

I snorted. That was a foolish move on their part. They may not have had much Phantom activity compared to other regions, but they failed to realize that the Phantoms were everywhere, and they didn’t care about who they targeted or why. The war may have been centralized in America and parts of Europe, but sooner or later, the rest of the world would feel the full impact of this invisible battle.

The sound of my pager snapped me from my internal reflections. I took it out, and played the audio recording of the message as it addressed me to go to the Directors’ room. I stood up and made my way to the designated area.

I had to take a heavily plated elevator down multiple levels. The Directors’ room was moved underground after several bomb threats plagued the original one. Since then, it was decided that the room must be held in an area where it would be difficult for Phantom agents to infiltrate. There was even a camera right at my face; it obviously showed that it was watching my every move.

The armored elevator finally arrived at the intended level, and I was more than relieved to get out of that annoying camera’s view. There were several pairs of armed guards with rather big guns stationed along the hall leading to the Directors’ room. They hardly glanced at me as I walked towards my destination.

At the door, I was met by a short secretary who gave me the folder which outlined the mission debriefing and the Directors’ view of it. I nodded in thanks, and stepped around the small woman into the dim room.

The sound of the door shutting left an eerie echo in the hushed room. I could see the silhouettes of the five Seeker Directors that led our organization. It was forbidden to ever see their faces, unless they allowed you to. It was a necessary precaution in order to prevent Phantom agents from attempting to assassinate or clone any of the Directors when they were out of protective territory.

All five heads turned towards me; I could practically feel their intense stares focused solely on me. Even the dim light seemed to have put me in the spotlight. The figure in the middle gestured for me to sit. “Please take a seat, Agent Moore.” A masculine voice instructed.

I promptly sat down, and placed the folder on the glass table. The main figure continued. “As you undoubtedly already know, your last mission was a well fabricated attempt of killing you. It is obvious that the Phantoms are aware of your capabilities and your value to the Seekers, given your personal record.” I was rather bored as I listened to what the Head Warrior already told me, but I maintained my respect and continued to pay attention.

“Your partner was a Phantom spy; we discovered that he disappeared over three months ago for a short duration of time. He was presumed M.I.A until he returned, stating that he was following some leads. Now, however, we know what his fate was.” The speaker paused as he took a sip of clear fluid; must have been water. The figure put the glass down and cocked his head. “Your facial expression clearly portrays your discomfort; tell us what’s on your mind.”

The Directors’ stares seemed to have intensified. I gulped silently before I started. “I find all of this to be very strange. If the Phantoms wanted to kill me, as you believe, why bother killing their own agent? I wasn’t even near him to say that they took a calculated risk by blowing up Madison Square Garden with both of us inside.” I paused a bit as I breathed deeply. “Someone led me outside, as if to save me from the blast. That doesn’t exactly fit the MO of the Phantoms. It’s either the Phantoms had a change of heart and no longer desire to kill Seeker agents, or there is a separate party involved.”

A prolonged pause occupied the small room as the Directors took my opinion into consideration. Finally, the figure in the middle leaned forward. “If that is what you believe, Agent Moore, then what are you suggesting?”

“I’m not suggesting anything,” I started, “but I believe that there’s more to this than meets the eye.”

A brief hum went through the row of Directors. Finally, silence took over once more and the main figure spoke again. “Well, these are just assumptions. Now we must press at the matter at hand.” The speaker leaned back. “We called you here because we have a proposition for you.”

“Your scouting skills are of most importance to the Seekers, therefore we cannot afford to lose you.” A female voice spoke.

“Not to mention your deep and personal ties with the Seekers.” Another voice added. I stiffened a bit at his comment, but continued to listen.

“There is one course of action we must put in place in order to keep you safe.” The first figure added.

I glanced between the Directors as I tried to decipher their body languages. I mentally cursed when their bodies were as still as statues. Instead, I took a deep breath and focused on the first figure. “What are you suggesting Director?” I asked politely.

“We are ordering you to be put under the protection of a Guardian until the threat has subsided. I’m afraid that there’s no other alternative.”

I stared at their dark figures blankly as my brain processed the information; deep down though, I was just about ready to explode. The Directors were basically telling me that I had no choice but to remain under constant surveillance by some random Guardian who would be watching every single thing I did. They might even have to relocate me. I couldn’t believe it.

My leg twitched which caused a squeaking sound on the tiled floor.

“Are you alright Agent Moore?” The main figure asked.

I nodded, but internally I felt like I was trapped in a cage that was slowly pressing against me.

The main figure sighed. “I know that this news troubles you, Agent Moore, but you must understand that this is for your own good. We’ll be damned in the Phantoms got you right under our noses.”

I stood up abruptly, the chatter among the other Directors halted as they all anticipated my next move. I merely glanced at what I assumed to be their eye level one by one until I stopped at the main Director. “With your permission, I would like to get my things together.” I asked monotonously.  

The main Director shook his head. “You won’t need to, Agent Moore. You won’t be relocated.”

I mentally let out a breath of relief. At least I would be in a comfortable environment.

The main Director pushed a button. The secretary came in and awaited her instructions.

“Thank you for coming in, Agent Moore. You may leave now.” The main Director said.

A little too enthusiastically, I nodded and quickly left the room.


About an hour later, I was back home at my cozy apartment. I threw myself onto my inviting bed, and didn’t bother to change. With the day’s events pressing on my mind, I found it hard to fall asleep, but eventually exhaustion won, and I drifted into a dreamless state.


7: Chapter 6: Encounters of a Phantom Degree
Chapter 6: Encounters of a Phantom Degree

Chapter 6: Encounters of a Phantom Degree

It seemed like days later when I finally managed to get up from my bed. A glance at the clock told me that I’ve been asleep for twelve hours. I found it curious because normally I would have gotten pages as early as five in the morning. I assumed that the Directors must have sent out an order to leave me in peace until I saw it fit.

I was still upset about last night. The fact that they assigned a Guardian to protect me annoyed the hell out of me, for a lack of nicer words. I wasn’t a damsel in distress who couldn’t protect herself. I kicked ass since an early age when the pre-school bullies thought it was funny to put earthworms in my hair.

Despite my annoyance, it also triggered my curiosity. Why were the Phantoms so invested in “supposedly” trying to take my life? Surely there were far more talented Seeker agents other than myself whom would be more worthwhile to focus on. I also wasn’t sure when I was supposed to meet this Guardian, or if I’d even get the chance to meet him or her.

I sighed and rubbed my temples as I started to get a headache from all of my rushing thoughts. At least the Directors allowed me to stay in my apartment; it may not have been special, but it was still my home.

Eventually, restlessness caught up with me, and I found myself stripping off the previous day’s clothes for newer, cleaner ones. I didn’t bother with a shower because I didn’t stink; instead, I opted to take one that night. With that thought in mind I, out of habit, attached the straps that held my gun onto my blouse and covered it with a simple black sweater. I may have been going out as a “civilian”, but it was better to be safe than sorry.

And so I was outside, walking among the dense crowd rather than observing it like I normally would have. It was an interesting transition from being the observer to being observed. That fact, however, left me feeling a bit suspicious about the drone-like individuals that went on by, completely oblivious to the prospect of a war going on. They were more than happy to believe that the war ended with the “death” of the Phantom leader.

I forced myself to get rid of the thought of the person I hated most. Instead, I told myself to just enjoy the moment without the burden of Seeker responsibilities.

As I was walking down the street, I realized that I had no idea where I was going. Normally the idea would have had me worried, especially on a mission, but at that moment I simply allowed the current of the crowd to guide me to wherever they chose.

Ironically, I was led to the site of where my mission was held just a few days ago. Knowing that the whole thing was meant as a trap left me shivering in acknowledgment. That was a real bullet I had just dodged.

The entire area was sealed off, and warning signs were placed all around. There had been a brief announcement of it on the local news during my stay at the hospital; the media’s interpretation was that the explosion was caused by a gas leak. Another example of the Seekers’ influence over the information released to the public.

I didn’t know why, but something within me compelled me to check out the ruins and as such, my feet moved on their own accord towards the center of the destruction. I vaguely remembered reading an article that discussed the psychological need for one to visit the very place where they had suffered, or nearly died. The reason for me, however, seemed to have been more complex than any explanation the article gave.

I reached the center of the ruins and stopped as I was unsure of what to do next. Alright
Rachel, I thought, you wanted to come here, so do something.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something metallic shine under the bright spring sun. Curious, I stepped towards it, and bent down to get a better look.

It was a plain silver ring with symbols that engraved it around the entire circumference. Upon closer inspection, I realized that the symbols were actually Latin words, though I couldn’t understand what they meant. Pfft, who would have thought that I would have needed to learn Latin?

After a moment of debating, I decided to keep the ring and slid it into my pant pocket. Who knows, it may have been valuable.

I snorted at the mere thought, and walked towards the main road.


I spent the next couple of hours wondering around the block, not really paying attention to the details. Before I knew it, the sun had already set, but the city lights became brighter and more numerous. That was exactly what was expected from the city that never slept.

Abruptly, the hair on the back of my neck stood on end, and I shivered involuntarily. I turned around as I looked all over for the source of the feeling.

As if on cue, dark figures began to surround me. I pulled out my gun, and made sure that it had full ammo, before I placed it in a defensive position. Their faces were covered, but I was able to make out the signature glowing eyes that not even the darkness could have hidden; Phantoms.

I narrowed my eyes as I allowed my Seeker training instincts to kick in, and waited for the first move. I caught movement from the corner of my eye, and I immediately reacted.

I swirled around and caught the knife that was aimed at my throat. I pulled violently at the arm, and firmly grabbed the knife before it flew through the air. I kicked the Phantom on the stomach, which pushed him back. Rapidly, I threw the knife and it hit the chest of an oncoming Phantom. Immediately, he crashed to the ground. There were still more, however.

Strong arms trapped me from behind, which caused me to drop my gun, and I was pushed against a brick wall. As I twisted my waist, I managed to put my feet in the air, and climbed up the wall. I used the momentum to make a back flip, while I sent my captor falling to the dirty ground. I landed on my feet gracefully, and anticipated the next wave of attack.

I grabbed my gun that was flung earlier, and fired a couple of rounds into some of the incoming Phantom agents. At the same time, I was dodging some of their own return fire. I slightly grinned as the rush of adrenalin coursed through my veins, and ran towards the nearest Phantom agent. I slid under his legs, and kicked him where it really hurt. The figured dropped to his knees, holding onto his private area, before he finally fell to the ground in a fetal position. I smirked, but quickly regained my focus as I felt a bullet scrape my arm. Nothing serious, but damn it had stung like a bitch.

I narrowed my eyes, and I ran in between whatever cover I could find. All the while, I was heading towards the last two Phantom agents. I managed to surprise one of them as I jumped onto his back, and cracked his neck. The last survivor turned around, and threw me onto the ground.

I landed painfully on the arm that was grazed by the bullet, and I hissed as the discomfort got worse. The sound of a gun cocking, however, momentarily made me forget the pain as it caught my attention. I looked up to see the last Phantom agent aim my gun at me. I couldn’t even move up try to defend myself, so I covered my face with my uninjured arm.

Amazingly, the Phantom agent let out a sharp breath, and I saw blood soak through his grey shirt. He dropped to his knees and fell over, his blank eyes stared at me.

I couldn’t hold back a shiver as I tried to avoid looking at the dead Phantom. Through the pitch black, I saw a red-stained knife being flung against the opposite wall. Damn, I thought, I really wish I had my gun!

From the darkness came a hooded figure covered in various decors of cloaks that gave him the appearance of a Renaissance-themed nobleman. He was wearing a simple, yet elegant black mask that seemed to have covered his entire face. He came towards me, the sound of his heeled boots sliced through the thick silence. I shifted backwards until I hit a wall. The figure stopped exactly in front of my feet. Despite his situational advantage over me, I could sense that whoever he was, he didn’t wish any harm to befall on me.

“Who are you?” I finally asked after a few minutes of just observing the man.

The sound of his deep breathing, slightly muffled by his mask, was all that he made. “I’m your Guardian.”   

8: Chapter 7: Unfamiliar Feelings
Chapter 7: Unfamiliar Feelings

I merely blinked as I processed the information given to me. This man was my Guardian? Huh, I guess it made sense considering he did just save my ass.

"How did you know I was here?" I asked.

The cloaked figure chuckled lightly. "As your Guardian, I always know where you are."

I didn't know whether to have found that charming, or just downright creepy. Either way, his knowledge of my whereabouts saved my life.

"I do, however, have a question for you." The figure, or I should say my Guardian, took a step closer to me and bent down, his eyes leveled with mine. "What on Earth brought you back to the very place where you almost died?"

I couldn't help but stare at his eyes that appeared grey underneath his hood. He too was staring at me, but much more intensely, as if he was trying to peer into my inner thoughts. I felt my face heat up, and I rapidly blinked to drive away the unexpected emotions. "I don't know." I replied honestly. "I just felt drawn to this area."

The Guardian nodded his head. "I see." He simply stated. "Well, regardless of your reasons, I must get you out of here. I'm afraid that those Phantom agents were not the only ones after you."

With that, the Guardian stood up, and held his gloved hand in front of me. Cautiously, I took a hold of his hand, and he effortlessly brought me back onto my feet. I self-consciously rubbed my clothes as I wiped off imaginary dust. I desperately tried to look away from the Guardian's increasingly uncomfortable stare.

Reflecting on his earlier remark, I turned around and narrowed my eyes at the Guardian. "Wait a minute." I started. "How did you know I was sent here? This was a classified mission."

The man just stood there, and met my suspicious gaze with one of careful consideration. "When the Seeker Directors assigned me to protect you, they also informed me of the events that had occurred in the days previous to meeting you. I understand your suspicion of me, Agent Moore, however I assure you that I'm not here to harm you."

The Guardian turned away from me, and picked up my gun. He then walked towards me and placed the object in my cold hand. He seemed to have noticed my inconspicuous shivers for he took off one of his cloaks, and gently placed it around my thin shoulders.

His considerate gesture caught me by surprise. I never knew Guardians were so concerned about their subjects' wellbeing. Or perhaps, my Guardian was an exception?

The man merely continued to observe me carefully, and I found myself staring back. His eyes were grey, as I mentioned, yet there seemed to have been a hint of blue in them; the color almost swirled in the lighter background.

I blinked, and pressed the cloak closer to me as I used it as an excuse to look away. The shivers I attempted to hold back invaded my body more aggressively.

The Guardian's eyes narrowed slightly, and he turned around. "Come on." He said.

I merely blinked. "What?" I replied dumbly.

I could have sworn that I saw the look of amusement pass on his face, even under the mask.

"You prefer to stand here in the cold?" He asked teasingly.

I mentally debated on whether or not I should go with the Guardian. He did just save my life, yet I knew nothing about him. He seemed friendly and honorable enough, but I would keep an eye on him just in case.

With my mind made up, I followed the Guardian to a secondary street where a sleek black sedan was parked. As a gentleman, the Guardian opened the door for me. I raised an eyebrow at his increasingly weird behavior, but got in nonetheless. He jogged around the car, and got in as well. He placed the key into the slot and the car bolted to life with a quiet purr. Hmm, sexy, I randomly thought.

The Guardian drove smoothly and avoided the congested New York traffic. Within twenty minutes, we arrived at my apartment building. As he pulled to a stop, I glanced at the Guardian. "Thanks for the ride." I said.

"Any time." He replied.

I nodded, and got out of the car. As I closed the door, a thought passed through my mind.

The Guardian was about to set the gear to drive when I leaned on the passenger side's open window. "Wait!"

The Guardian stopped what he was doing and turned towards me.

A slight flush passed over my face as I opened my mouth to speak, yet nothing came out. Way to go Rachel; you just couldn't keep your damn mouth shut, huh?

Defeated, I merely bit my lip and shook my head. Finally, I looked up at him. "Thanks for saving my life."

The man nodded his head, waited me for to lean back, and accelerated down the street.

I stood there for a few minutes as I took in everything that just happened. I scolded myself for having these mixed feelings whenever the Guardian looked at me. For God's sake Rachel, get a hold of yourself!

I shook my head as I found my resolve. With that, I made my way inside the building and arrived at my apartment. God, I could really use a shower!

9: Chapter 8: May I Know Your Name?
Chapter 8: May I Know Your Name?

It has been a long and uneventful month since the encounter with my "Guardian". Ever since I was ambushed by those Phantom agents, most likely Assassins, I haven't had even one incident that involved them. Maybe it had something to do with the cloaked man? Hmm.

Over the last four weeks, I've occasionally thought about the Guardian as I've wondered what exactly he was doing to "protect" me. I haven't seen nor heard any mention of him at all since he saved my life. It was like he was just a figment of my imagination, but I knew all too well that the emotions I felt were very real.

With not much to do, I spent most of my time working out at the Seeker's training gym. It distracted me from the cruel reality that enveloped me, as well as prevented me from dying of boredom. After spending at least six hours at the gym, I normally would have gone to a small jazz café I found to enjoy the various groups that came and performed. And every night when I came home, I would sit on the chair by the balcony and take out my mother's necklace.

It was a simple silver necklace with my mother's name written on it; Katherine. My eyes softened as I remembered her wearing it all the time, even while she slept. She said it provided her with a sense of comfort for it was a gift from her father who died when she was just a child. My mother was a very spiritual woman, though she wasn't exactly very forthcoming with her faith. She preferred to have kept it private, but her beliefs were very influential on my brother and I.

My brother's name was Timothy. He was four years younger than me, but boy did he try to act like the older sibling. He would always come into my room, without my permission may I add, and steal something of mine. Every time I chased him, he would just lead me to his room, and force me to talk to him before he gave my stuff back. Years later, I realized that was simply his way of getting attention from me. Not that I was a bad sister, it was just that I was focused solely on my studies as I tried to get into the university of my choice.

My father was a reserved man; not at all cold, just shy in his own way. He didn't talk much outside, but once in the security of our home, man he couldn't shut up. He used to always tell my brother and I stories about his time in the Air Force. He described the various training he had to go through before actually becoming a pilot. For a time, he was even an instructor, and he passed on his knowledge to the next line of pilots. My father used to collect several models of both airplanes and helicopters. When asked why, he said that they reminded him of the brief freedom he experienced while in the air.

The memories brought a sad smile to my face, and I clutched my mother's necklace close to my chest. My eyes snapped shut as I tried to hold back the old, lingering emotions. A rebellious lone tear slipped past my defenses, and a wet trail slithered down my cheek.

A barely audible tap resounded on my balcony door. I swiftly brushed the tear stain away, and grabbed my gun instinctively. Who in the hell was tapping at my door?

Cautiously, I grabbed the handle, and opened it slowly. The warm breeze of the mid-spring air encompassed my apartment. The sun had set about an hour ago, the moon took over as the light source. Its sheer brilliance lit me up, while in the meantime everything else was shrouded in black. I narrowed my eyes in annoyance since I was at a disadvantage should this have been an ambush.

The sound of footsteps came from behind me. I whipped my body around, and aimed my gun at the general direction. A dark figure walked towards me, appearing like a supernatural being when illuminated in the moonlight. I lowered my gun when I realized that it was the Guardian. "It's you." I said. "What are you doing here?"

The Guardian cocked his head back. "I'm your Guardian, Agent Moore. It's my duty to keep an eye on you."

I raised an eyebrow. "It certainly didn't seem that way when you disappeared for a whole month."

My comment seemed to have caught the Guardian off guard for he stumbled a bit, obviously at a lost. "I was merely studying your regular activities, Agent Moore. I didn't abandon you if that's what you're suggesting. I had to learn your schedule to ensure that you wouldn't be alone at any time." He replied almost embarrassed.

I blinked. "So," I started, "you're saying that you never left at all? That you were always there?"

The Guardian nodded, the movement covered even more of his face in the shadows.

I self-consciously rubbed my hair; it was a habit I developed whenever I was embarrassed or felt bad.

My gesture must have snapped the Guardian out of his momentary embarrassment. "Your hair is down." He simply stated.

My hand froze in its place as I took in what he said. I looked up at him to find him staring at me with that same intensity he seemed to have reserved for me. "Yes," I said, "it is."

The Guardian diverted his glance from my face to my hair. "Why do you keep it up?" He asked. It was an innocent question, but since it came from him it seemed more like an interrogation.

I placed my hands behind my back, and rubbed my arm. "It gets in my way whenever I'm on missions. It would be easier to just cut it, but I made a promise not to." I realized that I said too much, and quickly snapped my mouth shut.

The Guardian cocked his head at me once more; he probably even raised an eyebrow in question, though it was hard to tell underneath his hood. I cursed myself for saying too much. I couldn't believe that by being in the presence of this man, it made me openly say things that I normally wouldn't have in front of other people.

The Guardian ignored my earlier reaction, and walked towards me until he was directly in front of me. I looked up at him, and stared directly into his grey eyes. He too was looking at me as he observed me like a specimen under a microscope. Boldly, the Guardian delicately took a strand of my hair and rubbed it in his gloved hand. My eyes narrowed in discomfort.

The Guardian realized that his action was too close to comfort. He let go of my hair, and took a few steps back. He coughed as he tried to push away the uneasy tension in the air. "Do you like music Agent Moore?" He asked after a moment.

I gave him a confused look. "Yes I do. Why?"

The Guardian ruffled through one of his numerous pockets, and took out a piece of paper. He gave it to me, and showed me the front side. It stated that "Salute to Vienna" would be playing at the grand theater on May 16th. In accordance with the date today, that was about five weeks away.

I glanced up at him. "Why are you showing me this?" I asked, skepticism clear in my voice.

My question didn't faze the Guardian.

"I've had time to study what you like. I was just trying to make you more comfortable during this phase." He replied smoothly.

Annoyance took a hold of me once more. He knew everything that was mentioned in my file and out, yet I still knew absolutely nothing about him.

Seeming to take his cue, the Guardian turned his back towards me, and gave me one last glance. "I shall leave you to decide whether you would wish to attend or not. We will meet again."

He started to walk away when once again my damn mouth went off on its own accord. "Wait!"

The Guardian looked back at me. I spoke. "You seem to know a lot about me, it's only fair that I know at least your name."

For a moment, there was just silence as the Guardian debated on my question. Finally, he turned his head towards me. "Very well. You may refer to me as Agent Delta." With that, he jumped down the building's fire escape onto the dark ground below.

As I looked down at the ticket, I noticed that I missed a very important detail. The sight almost made me groan in annoyance. "Great," I said, "it's a masquerade theme."

Not wanting to stand outside anymore, I went back into my apartment, and double checked that my balcony door was locked.

10: Chapter 9: Corruption within the Incorruptible
Chapter 9: Corruption within the Incorruptible

After another prolonged week of filling out paperwork on my mission reports, and undergoing a psych evaluation, I was officially back in business. Seeker HQ never looked more inviting than it did the moment I received a page stating that I would be given a mission. Speaking of, I had to read the mission briefing that was provided.

And so I found myself sitting in a rather comfortable leather chair in one of the Seeker lounges devoted specifically for us agents to indulge in some R&R. I opened the file and briefly skimmed through the mission details.

Apparently there was a wanted dealer who was suspected of having some "transactions" with Phantom agents. For what purpose, it wasn't specified. All I knew was that my job was to arrest the man so that we could interrogate him. To do that, though, I had to meet with an anonymous contact who only provided us with the location of a meeting place. I hated going into situations with no clue of what was going on, but I had no choice. I just hoped that there would be no gun waiting to put a bullet in head, or worse, an explosion; that would have really ruined my day.

I got up from my mini throne, (not really, I just felt poetic), and made my way down to the main hall. Prior to my mission briefing, I made a stop to the Seeker armory, and carefully selected a better pistol. Now don't get me wrong, the .40 caliber Glock was adequate, however I needed something that could really pack a punch, especially after my little run in with the Phantom Assassins. As such, I chose the .50 caliber Magnum gun. I could just see my name planted on its side.

Back to the current situation, I took the elevator down to the underground parking lot where my ride was waiting for me. The meeting place was further away than I was used to, so that gave me the excuse to test out my new baby; the Kawasaki Ninja 500R, 2019 edition. It cost nearly thirty grand due to all of the modifications that were put into it to ensure that it had high mileage capacity, yet didn't burn fuel quickly, among other advantages. Putting in our own tech equipment also added to the bill, but it was a worthy investment. I also customized it to my liking; a sleek black color with purple hues and spikes on the sides of each tire in case I am ever rammed by another vehicle.

Afterwards my momentary admiration of the mechanical beauty, I easily slid myself on top, and placed my legs in the right position while my hands settled on the handle. I rubbed the one that controlled the gas, and appreciated the fine sound of my girl's strong engine. I settled my helmet on my head, secured the claps, and I was on my way out to the very peculiar world.

As soon as the cool breeze hit my body, I allowed myself to close my eyes temporary, and savored the sense of freedom I experienced. For a moment, I forgot about the war, about my devastating adolescence, and just focused on the sensation at hand. In that brief amount of time, I was free from all of the obstacles and duties that were placed upon me. There, I was simply Rachel Moore, an average woman with a taste for adventure, instead of a devoted Seeker agent. Moments like that, all I wanted to do was say "to hell with this", and go far away to make my own life. But no, that was not possible in present times; not until the Phantoms were stopped once and for all.

With a new found motivation, I sped up my bike, and zoomed past the countless cars on the busy streets of New York; just one out of millions of people aiming towards a goal.


Forty minutes later, I arrived at the contact's location. It was in a quiet suburban neighborhood with not many people out. I guess the contact chose this location due to the lack of eyes and ears that could have potentially spied on us.

I dropped off my bike in a well-lit area as I didn't want it to get stolen by some punk. I walked aimlessly towards the local strip mall. There were only a few individuals out, most likely doing some last minute errands before heading home for the night. As I looked at my watch, I saw that it was already 7pm. I stood there, and looked around for any sign of the contact.

As if reading my mind, a whistle caught my attention. I turned around and saw a young man with a baseball cap leaning against the opposite wall. Once he realized that I noticed him, he gestured for me to follow him, and disappeared behind the building. I looked around in alert, before I cautiously made my way over to where he went. One could never be too careful in life, especially with my luck.

Once around the other side of the building, the whistle came again. I saw whom I assumed to have been the contact leaning once more on the wall. His cap shaded his face, but I was able to make out a faint scar over his nose.

"You a Seeker agent?" He asked in his gruff voice.

I automatically snapped to attention as I put on my professional air. "That's correct." I answered. "You must be our contact. According to the file, you have information about a dealer who had contact with Phantom agents."

"I've got information alright, but first, I'll ask you a question." The contact slightly leaned forward. "How willing are you to get rid of the Phantoms?"

His question surprised me.

"The Seekers will do anything to stop the Phantoms. They have to be stopped." I answered confidently.

"I didn't ask what the Seekers would do; I asked how far are you willing to go?"

I couldn't help but blink repeatedly as his question caught me off guard. Where was he getting at with it?

I spent about a minute carefully coming up with an appropriate answer. "I'd say that I would be prepared to do whatever it takes to stop the Phantoms, even if it costs me my life."

"Even if there's collateral damage?"

I became increasingly bothered by the man's questions. I was supposed to interrogate him, not the other way around.

I took in a deep breath as I willed myself to not snap at him. "Collateral damage can never be avoided, but I will do everything I can to minimize it."

My answer seemed to have satisfied the contact for he leaned back into a relaxed position. "Alright Seeker, ask away." He stated casually.

I got straight to the point. "Who is this dealer, and what is done during his transactions with the Phantoms?"

The contact chuckled at my directness. "His name is Martin Hill; he runs the local bar in this area, though you'll never see him there. Thinks he's some big shot ever since he started winning money in online poker events. Normally, his activities wouldn't have bothered anyone; that is until he started mixing with the wrong people."

"The Phantoms." I mumbled.

"Exactly." The contact confirmed. "About six months ago, he started engaging in transactions with them, just the occasional trade, but now there's a rumor going around saying that he's actively feeding these Phantoms information on your organization; weaknesses, security codes, current missions, personal records on agents, etc…"

"My God." I said. "Is he a spy?"

The man shrugged carelessly. "I don't know Seeker, you tell me. If you think your pitiful organization is incorruptible, then you're in for a rude awakening."

I fought the urge to snap at the man. "Where can I find him?" I asked as I anticipated the answer.

"You won't find him at all." The contact replied. "He learned how to hide, although, there is one event you can catch him at."

"What's that?" I asked.

"On May 16th, there's gonna be some kind of musical event that he'll be attending."

"Salute to Vienna." I stated.

The contact nodded. "Yeah, that one. That's your best bet of catching him so that you Seekers can question him yourselves." The man then removed his weight from the wall. "I told you everything that I know. So now that we're done, I'll just be on my way." Before I had a chance to stop him, the contact disappeared into the alleyway.

I didn't bother to follow him. Instead, I walked back to my bike, and processed all the information the contact told me. Salute to Vienna? That was the same musical event that the Guardian invited me to. Was it possible that he knew about this? There was only one way to find out.

I quickly made my way back to my bike only to see some heavily pierced punk leaning against it far too close for my taste. My eyes narrowed as I locked in on the intruder. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" I demanded.

The guy merely looked up at me with a bored expression. "I'm admiring the bike. What's it to you?"

"That's my bike you're spreading your unwanted odor on."

With that remark, the guy fully turned his body towards me, and gave me a slight glare. "Who do you think you are, bitch?" He hissed.

Before he could react, I tackled him to the cement ground, and twisted his hands over his head. I pressed my legs on top of his to prevent him from kicking me. "I believe that the badge says it all." Was all I said as I pulled out said object that revealed my rank.

Upon seeing it, the man visibly paled, and abruptly stopped struggling. "Shit, umm, I didn't mean what I said." He stuttered.

I smiled innocently. "Oh really? You've said some pretty hurtful things to me. You don't say such words to a lady." I then leaned forward so that my lips were close to his ear. "Try that again, and I promise that something will be ripped off of your body, and I'm not talking about your piercings."

The punk audibly gulped. "I'm sorry miss, it won't happen again." He whined.

"You bet your ass it won't." With that, I got off of him. With no restriction holding him down, the punk quickly got up and ran as if his life depended on it. I chuckled in amusement, and got on my bike. Well, at least I had some humor mixed in today, I thought.

11: Chapter 10: Newly Gained Partner
Chapter 10: Newly Gained Partner

I reported back to Seeker HQ immediately after my meeting with the mysterious contact. As strange as he was, he did provide me with very useful information that was so vital to our mission, I couldn't afford to delay.

And so I arrived within forty minutes. I dropped off my bike at the parking lot, and took the elevator down to the same conference room I was in before. I couldn't say that I was particularly happy about coming back, but orders were orders.

Once the elevator doors opened on my level, I gingerly stepped out, and hardly gave a glance to the stationed guards. I was met by the same secretary from before who seemingly out of habit just gave me a curt nod before she returned to her paperwork. I took a quiet breath before I opened the door to my least favorite room in the entire Seeker building.

I felt a sense of déjà vu as once again the entire room was dark, minus the narrow part I was in. Somehow, I felt like there were more people in here than last time, but whatever, that detail was not important at the time.

The shadowed figures stopped whatever they were doing, and focused on me.

"Agent Moore, a pleasure seeing you again." A voice said. I recognized him as the main figure for the Directors.

"What do you have for us?" A female voice added.

I pushed aside all inappropriate comments that I so wished to have voiced, and resumed a professional attitude. "I met with the contact from my mission file. He gave me some very interesting information."

"Oh?" I could have practically felt the main Director's eyebrows rise. "And what would that be?"

I took out the data pad, and set it on the table. The Director on the end took it, scanned it, and then passed it on to the next member. This process continued until the figure in the middle got it. He too scanned through it, though much more attentively. "These are some very serious accusations, Agent Moore." He commented. "Are you sure that we can trust this contact?"

I could feel the stares of all the Directors pointed at me as they expectantly waited for my answer. "While I can't give credit to the contact's mentality, all I can say is that we need to take his information seriously. We can't afford to slip up, otherwise we're screwed. The Phantoms will do anything to destroy, so yes, I do believe that the contact's information is viable."

My answer gave the Directors pause as they murmured between themselves. I crossed my arms as I waited for their reaction.

All at once, the murmuring stopped, and the leader spoke again. "Given your service record and your loyalty to the Seekers, we trust your judgment. However, we have our doubts about this Martin Hill's involvement in providing the Phantoms confidential information on the Seekers. Do you have any absolute proof about this?"

"Not yet." I replied. "But I will be able to in less than a month."

"Explain." The figure stated.

I scrambled into my coat pocket, and took out the ticket for the Salute to Vienna concert. "According to the contact, Mr. Hill will be attending this event. This will be our only chance of catching him out in the open, and asking him ourselves."

The female Director spoke. "Where did you get that ticket?"

I shuffled uneasily in my position. "My Guardian gave it to me."

The main Director nodded his head. "Of course; Agent Delta has done his research." He stated as if it were obvious. "What do you think our course of action should be?"

"I think we need to attend this event, and catch him; exactly like what Agent Moore suggested."

I turned towards the source of the voice, and narrowed my eyes. So he was the extra person; the one I should have been the least surprised to see. "Agent Delta." I simply said.

"Agent Moore," he greeted.

"You knew about all of this, didn't you?"

"Yes I did." He replied. "I did my own research on Phantom activities. You'd be amazed at the sheer number of Phantom transactions that occur within our own cities. Needless to say, I'm dedicated to stopping them."

He finally stepped out of the shadows, and revealed to me his newly familiar form. I stared blankly at him. I only met him over a month ago, and already I was used to him. Figures.

"What are your plans now, Agent Delta?" The main Director asked.

Delta turned to face the Directors. "Agent Moore and I will be tracking any Phantom transactions until the concert."

I stared at him slightly shocked. "Wait, 'we'. Since when was there a 'we'?"

Delta titled his head towards me, and I was able to see the outline of a smile form beneath his mask. "Like it or not Agent Moore, but this mission is mine just as much as it's yours. You'll have to get used to working with me."

I held back a snort, and instead mumbled to myself for having to get used to him pop up at the most odd moments. I could have sworn I heard a light chuckle come from him.

"Do you require any additional Seeker support, Agent Delta?" The female member asked.

Said person shook his head. "That won't be necessary, Madame Director. I believe that Agent Moore and I are more than capable of handling this on our own."

I raised an eyebrow at his remark. Since when was he so eager to suddenly work with me? Either way, it didn't matter. I was able to continue with my investigation, and his answer satisfied the Directors that we were dismissed from the creepy room.

I let out a sigh of relief once in the hallway as I walked with Agent Delta by my side back to the armored elevator. Once inside, the Guardian let out a breath of his own.

I glanced at him in curiosity.

"What?" He asked when he finally noticed me looking at him."

"Are you stalking me or something?" I asked bluntly.

He blinked. "I'm not. I'm merely doing my duty as your Guardian, while indirectly helping you with your investigation."

I raised an eyebrow. "Why would you want to help me? You just met me."

My comment seemed to have hit a touchy subject for the Guardian bent his head, and looked away. I was mildly concerned about his behavior, but since when was I his babysitter?

After a moment in an unwanted tense silence, he spoke. "The Phantoms have affected so many people, and not in good ways. I'm here to stop the pain they have inflicted on innocent people."

His fists were balled up, and I could practically feel the fury radiating off of him in waves. I was caught in between whether I should try to comfort Agent Delta, or simply say nothing.

Mercifully, the elevator door opened to expose the main area of the Seeker building. We both stepped out, though Agent Delta seemed to have wanted to speed away from me. I felt a feeling of hurt before I quickly squashed it. I turned towards him. "I'm sorry if I made you uncomfortable." I finally said. "We all lost someone, and I can relate to being desperate in wanting to stop the Phantoms."

That seemed to have caught his attention. "Lost someone? What?" His eyes widened before he whipped his head away, and practically ran towards the main entrance.

I was left there staring at his retreating back in confusion. Was it something I said?

12: Chapter 11: Take My Breath Away
Chapter 11: Take My Breath Away

I spent the next few weeks going through some leads about this Martin Hill. To my minor dislike, my "bossy" Guardian, for a nicer term, kept insisting on working together on the investigation. Not exactly what I had in mind, but I got tired of arguing with him.

Speaking of, my Guardian disappeared once again. Where to? Who knew, but he did remind me about our "appointment" with Mr. Hill. I assumed that Delta went off to do whatever it was that Guardians did before missions.

It was the night of the Salute to Vienna concert, and I was more than eager to take in Martin Hill to bring the Seekers one step closer to stopping the Phantoms.

I arrived back at my apartment at a quarter after four. As soon as the door was shut, I proceeded to strip off my comfortable clothes to prepare for my shower. I discarded the various pieces of clothing on the ground, and walked straight to the bathroom. I started the shower and adjusted the temperature so that the water was pleasant. Once I deemed it ok, I stepped inside, and automatically moaned in appreciation as the warm water dripped down my skin and soothed my aching muscles.

I took my time in the shower as I spread the soap over my body, and cleaned off any filth I may have had. Working on field missions tended to make one dirty. God, I wanted to stay in the shower forever, but current duties pulled me away from my brief paradise. Pfft, figures.

Grumpily, I turned off the water, and wrapped a lavender towel around me before I stepped out of the shower. Liquid droplets fell onto the tiled floor and created a dripping sound effect. I found comfort in the sound, and I breathed in deeply before I went out to my room.

The cooler air caused goose bumps to form all over my skin. I ignored them as I fetched out my evening attire. I carefully put on the delicate dress and observed myself in the mirror.

My dress was black and skin tight, and ended at my feet. It fit perfectly, the fabric was pulled delicately over my chest, waist, and hips. The neckline was low, which formed a sloping curve to expose an acceptable amount of cleavage. There was another low cut on the back which showed of my slim back. I added a simple back shawl to compliment the dress, as well as to shelter me from the cool spring breeze.

Impressed with what I had so far, I went back to the bathroom to arrange my make-up. I opted to use a bit of mascara and a smoky eye shadow to allow my dark eyes to pop out. I also applied a clear lip-gloss to my naturally plump lips. For my hair style, I booked an appointment with the hair stylist earlier that day to put in soft, elegant curls. The whole thing was probably the most dramatic make-over I have ever done to myself since my High School prom. Currently, I slightly felt like I over-exaggerated my appearance.

I shrugged in indifference as I walked towards my door, and slowly put on a pair of simple black heels. I made sure that the clasps were put in correctly since I didn't want to trip while I walked. Lying on the desk nearby was the mask I picked out for my outfit. It was again simple and black, yet it was also covered in some diamond dust that sparkled in the light. I put it on, and adjusted it over my nose. I looked back at my reflection and gasped audibly; I hardly recognized the woman in the mirror.

A dark-haired beauty shrouded in mystery looked back at me. I smiled, and I felt my breath abandon me as the woman in the mirror smiled back, her perfectly white teeth shimmered like pearls.

I shook my head, and double checked that my shawl was wrapped securely around my slim shoulders before I went out the door. Once outside, I was pleased to discover that the shawl protected me from the cool breeze as I stood outside my apartment building, and waited for the taxi I had booked hours prior.

Minutes later, the typical sight of a yellow cab pulled up in front of me. I stepped inside, and instructed the driver of my destination. I leaned into my seat, and allowed myself to relax for a bit.

The musical event was taking place at the New York Grand Theatre. I've never been there before, but I could imagine just how spectacular it would be.


I arrived at my destination twenty minutes later. I paid the driver, and stepped out into the brightly lit entrance. I was in awe as I stared at all of the art that was portrayed; obviously the owner of the building spared no expense in decorating the place. All around me were people in elegant clothing, each of them were wearing a unique mask to hide their identities.

For a moment, I felt like I was a princess attending her first ball. Now all I needed was a Prince Charming, I thought in amusement.

A butler in traditional uniform approached me with champagne. I took one just for the hell of it; I needed to fit in after all. As I carried my glass, I continued to walk around, and silently admired the decorations.

Clearly distracted, I bumped into someone, which caused me to drop my barely touched champagne. I nearly fell over as well if it wasn't for the person holding onto my waist to keep me balanced.

Embarrassed, I immediately regained my posture, and apologized. "I'm so sorry! I wasn't looking."

The person chuckled. I looked up, and couldn't help but allow my jaw to drop slightly. Handsome couldn't even be used to describe him properly; he was drop dead gorgeous!

I snapped my mouth shut, and reprimanded myself internally. I was about to politely walk away when the man placed a firm hold on my arm. "It's no problem, Miss?" He trailed off in a rich voice.

"Moore." I answered breathlessly.

His smile made my heart accelerate. "Would you like to dance?"

13: Chapter 12: I Know You from another Place
Chapter 12: I Know You from another Place

The request came as a surprise to me, but it also left me a bit tense. I was never a good dancer, yet the gorgeous man was asking me to dance with him: in front of other people. Normally I wouldn't have given a damn, however the people in attendance were of a sophisticated class; I didn't want to embarrass myself in front of the elites of society.

After a careful debate with my inner conscious, I decided to risk it. I took the man's still waiting hand, and I was guided to the area that made up the dance floor. Great, he led us right in the middle.

As if on cue, the dozen musicians began their symphony of notes. I recognized the tune as Waltz 2 by Dmitri Shostakovich. I remembered being obsessed with the song when I was a child. I would have danced with the air as I pretended that it was my partner that only I could see or feel. We would have danced all night, just like I was dancing now, although my current partner was very real, and to be honest quite attractive.

Even under the mask, I could tell that the man had strong, masculine features. His silver mask gave him the appearance of a royal knight. Now where's his mighty steed? I thought humorously.

He led the dance gracefully, and surprisingly I managed to follow along with no incident. I subdivided the off beats in my head as I calculatingly placed my feet at the intended spots at the right time. The man even spun me, and dipped me low.

Just as quickly, I was pulled back up, and my face was right up to the masked man's.

We continued to dance as he spoke. "What is your plan for your assignment, Agent Moore?"

I gave him a look of confusion. "How did you know?"

He gave a breath-taking smile. "I'm a Seeker agent myself; a Tracker. I'm after the same man as you are, and I believe that we can help each other." He said fluidly.

I nodded at him. "I'm listening."

"The concert starts in half an hour. From what I've heard, Mr. Hill likes to show off his new wealth, especially to young, attractive women such as yourself."

I felt a small blush creep on my face, and was thankful for my mask. He couldn't have been suggesting that I go in and seduce Martin Hill, right?

"Luckily you're here, so I was thinking that you could go in and see what he's up to?"

Yep, he was suggesting just that very thing, just more subtle.

I involuntarily sighed, but quickly caught myself. The masked man simply gave me an amused expression. Huh, now that I observed his face closely, he looked awfully familiar.

Abruptly, he pulled away from me. I hadn't even realized that we were right by the doors that led to the private rooms. The Tracker must have slowly led us here during our dance.

"We have to act fast Agent Moore. It's vital that we execute this perfectly, which is why you'll be going in now."

Once again, I gave him a confused look. "You don't really expect me to seduce Hill, do you?" I couldn't help but place my hands on my hips.

The Tracker stared at me with a serious expression. "That's exactly what I expect you to do."

I blinked at his bluntness.

He then pointed to one of the doors. "Martin Hill is in there. You've got to go in, and act like you are interested in him. He won't be able to resist you. Mind you, I can certainly see why." He chuckled as he visibly gave me a look over.

I was proud of myself for not ducking my head from the attention. Wow, guess that if the Tracker considered me as attractive, then surely seducing Hill would have been a piece of cake. Yeah right.

Inconspicuously, I took a deep breath, and slowly made my way to the double doors. God, I really dreaded what I had to do.

I felt a hand on my shoulder, and turned around to see the Tracker. "I know that you don't like this plan. Believe me, I hate it just as much as you do, however this is our only chance at catching Hill." His voice was calm, but his eyes gave away his discomfort of the plan.

My own eyes narrowed as warning bells in the back of my mind kept telling me that I knew the man. The Tracker only met me less than fifteen minutes ago, yet he acted like we were close partners. And those eyes; they were so familiar, yet I couldn't place the answer.

The double doors collided with my back as they opened. A woman in a questionable cocktail dress came out looking like she could barely stand on her own. I raised an eyebrow as I took in her appearance. This was an orchestration performance lady, not a strip club.

I shook my head, and looked around me only to see that the Tracker was gone. What the hell; where did he go?

The doors opened again, that time they let out a balding man who appeared to be in his late thirties. He was dressed in a very expensive suit, and nearly all of his fingers had thick gold rings on them. My eyes narrowed in on my prey; he was the one.

He caught me looking at him, and then gave me a really creepy smile. "Hello there gorgeous, want to come in? I've got a lot of cash." He smiled crookedly.

Damn, even his voice annoyed me.

Inwardly, I rolled my eyes at his cockiness. I almost said a rude remark, but the urge vanished as the Tracker's plan attacked my mind like vultures.

I inconspicuously took a deep breath before I smiled sweetly at me. "Why, I'd love to go in with you." I replied as seductively as I could. I even gave him a look that I assumed was "sexy".

Apparently it worked because Martin Hill automatically wrapped his arm around me. I had to suppress the urge to slap it off, and boy was it hard. Absently listening to him, I allowed myself to be led into the private rooms. I remembered going in hoping that whatever would have happened that Martin Hill would not touch me sexually.

14: Chapter 13: Seducing the Masquerade King
Chapter 13: Seducing the Masquerade King

The room inside certainly took my breath away as it made the lounge décor look like child's play. The colors were arranged in gorgeous shades of blue and silver; the rich colors of aristocracy. I found myself staring at the walls as there were plenty of Renaissance-themed paintings with painstaking details that would have made Picasso make a run for his money. No wonder women were willing to put up with this scum bag; not only did he have money, but he also had an exquisite taste in antiques.

Speaking of which, Martin Hill was leading me towards a sitting area, his grip on my hand increasingly got tighter as if he didn't want me to "escape". Pfft, no wonder he did it; if it wasn't for his money, no woman would have even looked at him.

There were little to no people inside the room. The few that were inside occupied the bar on the far side of the room. Grudgingly, I allowed myself to be led to a sitting area where there were several leather couches, and oh God I couldn't believe it, love seats. Please don't let him take me there.

Of course, the universe once again did something that went against me: Hill picked a simple black love seat that faced the solitary fireplace. I could have felt the vein on my forehead throb in annoyance due to my horrible karma.

Martin Hill jumped onto the left side, and eagerly patted the seat next to him. He smiled crookedly at me.

A wave of disgust threatened to overwhelm me before I forcibly took deep breaths, and sat down on the seat as far from Hill as possible without being rude. Luckily he didn't seem to notice as he waved a butler over, and took two sleek glasses of champagne.

Oh God, this was going to be tough to get through. He better not try to woo me.

After giving the butler a rather generous tip, Hill turned around, and focused his attention on me. His crooked smile was still glued to his face as he passed me my champagne. I all too eagerly gulped it down; if I was to get information out of this man by seducing him, I'd need some alcohol to "set the mood". Maybe I would get woozy enough to not remember what I did.

Feeling bold, (and wanting a death wish, may I add), Hill placed a heavily ringed hand on my knee, and slowly messaged the bone. "What brings a gorgeous woman like you here?" He asked, still smiling. I swear his teeth just shined like those in cartoons.

I shrugged a bit. "Oh, I came for the music; I heard that Salute to Vienna is a lovely performance." I answered lightly, though on the inside, I was just dying to smack that grin off of Hill's face.

I placed my empty glass on the table in front of my seat. I wished then more than ever that I had brought my gun. If I did, all I would have had to do was point it at Hill, and he would have started babbling out all the information I wanted.

Unfortunately, I had to come unarmed. And then came along that mysterious Seeker agent who told me to seduce Hill. Well, apparently I was successful if the bulge in Hill's pants was any indication.

Apparently, my physical reaction didn't betray my dark thoughts for Hill shuffled closer, still smiling. "You like music, huh?" He asked.

I hummed my agreement. "Yes I do; it really allows one to portray their inner thoughts without the need or the uneasiness of expressing words."

Hill's light eyebrow rose in interest. "That's so true. I take it that you're a woman of few words."

A genuine small smile appeared on my face. "Something like that." I replied softly.

Hill proceeded to study my face in interest as he evaluated my personality. "You are a remarkable woman. I've met only a few other women who were like you; most of the ladies these days are just too superficial for my tastes."

My eyebrow delicately rose in amusement. "Well, I'm not exactly what one would consider a 'superficial' woman."

Hill chuckled in reply. "Indeed not. I'd say you're a more sophisticated woman who likes to follow her own rules. I admire that in a woman; it shows that she is her own person."

Despite the situation and who I was with, I couldn't help but feel flattered by Hill's compliments. So he's a man with smooth words; interesting.

I crossed my legs to expose more skin. Hill seemed to have gotten the message for he daringly rubbed his hand across my thigh. I wasn't sure if it was the alcohol, his charm, or even a combination of both, but I felt a tiny flash of heat travel over my skin. I had to suppress a shudder of pleasure as I forced myself to stay still.

"I love music too," Hill replied, "but mostly I come here for the view."

I cocked an eyebrow in mock interest. "Oh? You have an appreciation for art as well?"

Hill glanced at me, and then chuckled while looking away. "Yeah, you could say that."

The way he chuckled gave me the creeps as I put two and two together to what he meant. Shockingly, it also gave me a hint of excitement too. What in the hell was wrong with me? It seemed like Hill was seducing me instead of the other way around.

I mentally slapped myself, and quickly pointed at a random painting. "Oh look, that's such a lovely painting!" I remarked too eagerly.

Hill glanced at the painting in interest, and leaned back into his seat. "Yes indeed it is." He replied. "It's a copy of 'The Annunciation' by Leonardo da Vinci. It was painted during 1472 and 1475. The amazing detail about this specific painting is that when it is observed under x-ray, Gabriel the angel disappears." He finished, a sense of pride accounted in his explanation.

I nodded, both as an excuse to keep him talking, but also in true interest. da Vinci certainly was the most talented artist of his time.

"What's your explanation behind the angel disappearing?" I asked curiously.

From the corner of my eye, I saw Hill regard me in interest before he turned back to the painting. "I would have thought that was a complete accident on da Vinci's part. However, after years of studying the painting more thoroughly, I think that da Vinci did it on purpose."

I turned to Hill at a loss. "What makes you say that?"

Hill smiled slightly, and seemed amused at my question. "There's always a force at work that is greater than man. We're all just puppets for the grand masters that decide on how to rule the world." With that said, Hill turned his head towards me, a faraway look in his eyes.

What he described was sickeningly similar to our current state. If there was any doubt in my mind that this man was not affiliated with the Phantoms, this was definitely hard evidence.

Still, I decided to play it cool, and kept up the conversation. "You're very knowledgeable; I've never known many men who have expressed interest in much aside from food, sports, and you know the last."

Hill chuckled slightly, and shrugged. "Anyone can pass of as 'intelligent'; being cultured, however, is an entire separate thing."

"So true. I can see that you're a man with fine taste." I replied in the same manner as Hill did earlier.

Hill glanced at me slightly, his green eyes darkened with what I assumed was desire. His eyes ventured down to my cleavage as he gave the area a look-over. "Indeed I am." He said lowly.

I barely managed to suppress another shiver. Warmth spread through me, and the room suddenly got very warm. My God, I was turned on.

I was momentarily shaken from my chaotic thoughts by the movement of Hill gesturing the butler to come by. Once he did, Hill whispered something in his ear. The butler nodded in understanding, and walked towards the few occupants at the bar. After a brief talk, they all made their way towards the double doors. A few moments later, the sound of the door closing was the only thing that interrupted the now still silence.

I shifted my view to Hill who placed his champagne glass on the table. "You know," he started, "I've been coming to social events like this for a while, and never have I met a woman as extraordinary as you. You intrigue me."

I met Hill's intense gaze with my own slightly blurred vision. My lips parted as I found myself breathing in more deeply. Hill leaned forward until his nose barely touched mine. Even though my mind was screaming at me that this man was the enemy, I found that I couldn't move away. It was as if I didn't want to move way; as if I was ready to give in and let Hill take my body and mind to inexplicable places.

After a moment of just staring at each other, Hill finally pressed his lips against mine. I thought that I would have been repulsed by the kiss, but strangely I found it enjoyable. His lips were rough, and smooth. I found myself kissing back, and Hill took that as an encouragement to go further. He wrapped his arms around me like a snake, and lazily trailed them over my back. Eventually, they rested on my zipper and absently played with it. Slowly, Hill gently pushed me back onto the sofa, and pressed his body flat against mine.

Immediately, I was pulled from my spell, and panicked at my position disadvantage. Oh crap, I thought, how am I supposed to get him off of me?

I struggled, and Hill quickly leaned up. "What's wrong?" He asked breathlessly. "You do want this, don't you?"

I opened my mouth, but then shut it once more. What was the truth? Honestly, I didn't want to know.

"Get off of her!" A voice cried out.

Both Hill and I whipped our heads toward the source of the burst. Was that who I think it was?

Suddenly, a swishing noise ripped through the silence. Hill abruptly yelped as something metallic collided with his hand. Blood gushed out, and Hill grabbed a hold of it with his other hand. He then glanced down at me, and glared. "You don't happen to have a psychotic boyfriend, do you?"

I blinked dumbly. Oh yeah, by the way Mr. Hill I was sent here to arrest you and bring you in to Seeker custody. If you were lucky, the sex would have been an added bonus.

Hill yelped again as another metallic object hit him on the shoulder. He shuffled off of me, and took out a thug's pistol. "Show yourself coward!"

"Let the lady go." The person answered threateningly.

Hill immediately turned his head towards me, and pointed his gun at me. "Just who the hell are you?" He hissed at me.

The last details were a blur for me. One minute Hill had a gun pointed at me, the next I was pushed against the ground. A single gunshot was released as my mask came off, and my flushed face was exposed to the cooler air. From where I laid on the floor, I could hear the sound of struggling as kicks and punches were exchanged. Finally, after a nasty sounding punch, the vibration of someone dropping to their knees and falling over radiated across the floor.

Someone took out a phone, and briefly talked about sending a team in to arrest the now unconscious Martin Hill. I then heard footsteps come towards me, and I tensed until I looked up to see who it was: Agent Delta. "Need help there, or are you just enjoying the view?" He joked.

I scowled at him before I pushed myself up. As soon as I got on my feet, I began to lose my balance. Luckily Agent Delta reacted quickly and held onto me. Oh, not good; not good!

"Are you alright Agent Moore?" He asked, concern was evident in his voice. "You seemed awfully… close to Hill." His tone almost sounded… hurt. What the; it wasn't like he was jealous or anything, right?

Still, I felt ashamed at myself for allowing Hill to affect me that much.

I mumbled in Delta's shirt, but found myself pressed against his chest… his muscled chest. Had it been any other day, I would have blushed at the discovery. At the moment, however, I was simply too tired to care. I pulled away when he couldn't understand me. "I'm fine." I replied tiredly. "I just want to go home."

Agent Delta nodded. Courteously, he picked me up bridal style, and brought me to his sleek black sedan. He gently placed me inside, and stiffly got in.

The car ride was… awkward, needless to say. Delta kept a vice-like grip on the steering wheel, and never once did he glance at me. I bit my lip as I desperately wanted to say something, anything to prove to Delta that I wasn't some cheap whore who was ready to get it on with Hill. Instead, I stayed quiet, and suffered in silence.

Before I knew it we were back at my place. Agent Delta was even kind enough to carry me to my apartment.

Once we reached my door, he pulled out a set of keys, and inserted one of them inside the key hole. It opened, which disturbed me. Now he had a copy of my key? I was too stunned to do anything other than blink in amazement.

Agent Delta walked over to the living room, and set me down gently. He then turned me around to face him. "Are you sure that you're alright?" He repeated, his silver eyes unusually dark.

I nodded as I was too tired to talk.

Agent Delta sighed, and glanced at me with an unreadable look before he stood up. With that, he turned away, and left my apartment, promptly shutting the door.

When I glanced at the clock, I realized that it was just past ten. I carelessly slammed my balcony door shut, and made my way to my bedroom. As soon as I was inside, I flopped down on my bed. I was completely exhausted that I didn't bother to take off my dress… nor did I notice the fresh red rose that was resting on my night stand.

15: Chapter 14: A Little Birdie Told Me
Chapter 14: A Little Birdie Told Me

I woke up the next morning with a killer hang-over. I had hoped that I would have no recollection of the previous night's events, but even my dreams acted as a reminder of what I had done. I was so ashamed and embarrassed that for once in my career as a Seeker agent, I actually cared about what people thought of me; and when I mean people, I meant Agent Delta.

God, I couldn't face him; not after what I did, no, almost did.

I grudgingly got out of bed, and carefully slipped out of my dress. I hastily took a shower as I imagined scrubbing off the filth that Hill contaminated me with. Once I was done, I dressed in my usual attire, and downed a cup of black coffee with an aspirin pill.

I sighed as I went out of my apartment. I went straight to Seeker HQ where Martin Hill was being held and interrogated. The thought of him made me flustered.

Despite my discomfort, I made my way to the interrogation hallway a few levels underground. It was in the more isolated area of the building as the subjects tended to get…talkative.

I snorted. Yeah, that was a "nicer" way of describing them. The prisoners we brought back were usually scum taken off the streets that enjoyed yelling out profanities of bringing down the Seekers, and other inappropriate comments I rather not mention. They were completely ruthless in their everyday handlings, but were surprisingly very knowledgeable on the Phantoms. Martin Hill was no exception.

I continued walking until I stood right outside the interrogation room. Inside was the one and only Martin Hill. He was unbound, however various Warriors surrounded the walls on the inside. Sitting in front of him with their back towards me was who I presumed was the interrogator. From the look on Hill's face, he was scared shitless despite his best attempts at not appearing bothered. I let out a brief chuckle as I could have only imagined how the interrogator threatened Hill to get him to sweat like that.

I caught movement from the corner of my eye. I turned around, and saw Agent Delta in his "almighty" glory walk towards me. I mentally raised an eyebrow at my random observation.

"Good morning Agent Moore." He said politely.

"Morning," I replied back half-heartedly. I was cautious of how to act in front of him; I didn't want to bring up any reminders from last night.

Delta didn't seem to show any indication of his remembrance of last night, and instead stopped beside me and faced the observation window. Truth be told, I was really edgy around him. Aside from my embarrassing situation last night, Delta's always been arriving at the most convenient moments, and seemed to have known an awful lot about me. Too much, even for being my Guardian. I narrowed my eyes as I mentally reminded myself to do some background research on him.

"He seems to have a lot of knowledge on the Phantoms." Agent Delta finally commented after an awkward moment in silence. "Your contact was well informed."

I continued to examine Delta's face as I looked for any give away of his thoughts. With no success, I answered back. "Indeed; he was very well informed." I emphasized the word "very".

Agent Delta merely glanced at me with what I assumed to be a cocked eyebrow. I could hardly tell with the mask on and the heavy hood he always seemed fond of wearing.

Breaking us out of our tense stare-off was the sound of a door opening. We both looked away from each other, and focused on the door. Coming out was surprisingly, (not really: it was his job after all), the Head Warrior who visited me at the hospital.

"It's you," I stated in surprise.

The man smiled gently. "It's nice to see you again Agent Moore, though I wish it were under better circumstances." All too abruptly, the strong appearance of the Head Warrior broke down to reveal a very tired man.

I gave a look of concern. "Are you alright?"

The man sighed heavily. "I wish that I was better, that's for sure." He answered, exhaustion was evident in his voice. "This man that you captured is indeed affiliated with the Phantoms, and it's much direr than we initially feared."

"What happened?" I asked.

"Your contact was correct about one thing: Martin Hill has indeed been in contact with the Phantoms. What we didn't anticipate was the degree to which he has had these transactions with them." For a moment, the Head Warrior, a person who has received the toughest and longest training out of all the Seeker agents, looked downright frightened.

The fact that a Warrior was scared had me concerned as well. "What did we come up with?" I asked, though I dreaded the answer.

The Head Warrior's brown eyes met my own, and in a brief exchange of eye contact, he exchanged the information that we as Seekers feared the most: the Phantoms were planning on attacking us.

I didn't even bother to hide my shiver as I thought of all the worst possible scenarios that could occur if the Phantoms won.

I was pulled out of my thoughts as the Head Warrior placed a gloved hand on my shoulder, and smiled reassuringly. I sighed as I accepted the situation. No matter what happened, it was up to us to stop the Phantoms. It was all in a day's work after all.

The Head Warrior seemed to have noticed Agent Delta's presence for he narrowed his eyes. "Who are you?" He asked.

"I'm Agent Moore's Guardian. The Directors assigned me to protect her." Delta replied back coolly.

The Head Warrior grunted in response, but continued to stare at Agent Delta like a specimen under the microscope. I was amazed at how Delta didn't cower under the Head Warrior's intense stare. Personally, I probably would have pissed my pants.

The sound of the door opening once more interrupted the extreme macho show-off between the two men. That time, a woman around her mid to late twenties came out of the room. I couldn't help but gasp as I took in the sight of her.

To say that she was pretty would have been an understatement; she was absolutely gorgeous. Wrapped around her very curvy body was a dress-like robe that had slits running down its sides where weapons could have been holstered. As I looked down, I noticed that she had a pair of long, high-heeled boots that came up to her knees. I glanced at her face, and was met with a very attractive smile that made her blue eyes gleam. Her long brown hair flowed past her shoulders. All in all, it made me very self-conscious of my appearance as I was just wearing a pair of jeans and a simple blouse.

The Head Warrior cleared his throat. "Agent Moore, this is Agent Elvira; she is our top hand-to-hand Combat Specialist and will aid you in your next mission."

I glanced at the Head Warrior in curiosity. "Another mission?" I asked.

The man nodded. "Indeed." He replied simply. "Your mission objective is to go to Rome, Italy to infiltrate a supposed Phantom lab, gather any Intel you can, and destroy it."

I raised an eyebrow. "You managed to get all of that information out of Hill?" I asked in slight disbelief.

Amusingly, the Head Warrior seemed to have turned red as he turned away. "Well actually, it was her who found that out." He answered as he pointed to Elvira.

I glanced at the woman in curiosity. "How did you manage to coax him to talk?" I asked.

She smiled. "Well there are certain tricks in dealing with uncooperative men." She replied, and winked.

Her comment brought a smile to my face; I had a feeling that we would get along just fine.

The Head Warrior coughed again. "Alright, the mission briefing is this way. Follow me agents."

The three of us followed the more experienced agent into another room two hallways down from where we were. We arrived outside of a door, and the Head Warrior opened it. He stepped aside, and allowed us to go in first. Once we were inside, the sound of chatter paused abruptly.

Inside were two men playing cards. Once they noticed our presence, they hurriedly placed the cards away, the one with brown hair chuckled sheepishly.

I raised an eyebrow at their childlike behavior, but didn't comment on it. The Head Warrior came in, and gestured us to sit. I took a seat on the side closest to the door, while Agent Delta sat beside me and Agent Elvira was on the other side of the two men.

The Head Warrior coughed to get our attention. "Alright ladies and gentlemen, let's begin this briefing." He pointed a remote at smart screen, and it lit up. On the screen projected several images of men whom were assumed to be Phantom agents. "Less than twenty four hours ago, agents Moore and Delta captured a man named Martin Hill. He is a scum bag, however he has had contact with the Phantoms on several occasion. During our interrogation with him, we uncovered serious Phantom Intel." He paused as he looked around for our reactions. We were all tense as we waited for the last bit of information. "You will be deploying to Rome to infiltrate a Phantom lab where there rumors of cloning experiments performed there. You are to gather any intelligence you can, and destroy the lab. There's no need for more abominations on this planet. He finished, a look of disgust planted on his scarred face.

Soft murmuring sliced through the thick silence like a knife through hot butter. The Head Warrior straightened his posture. "All right everyone, it's time to get associated with each other." He looked at me." Agent Moore, these are agents Gizmo and Olsen. Gizmo will be your tech expert and will update you on any detail involving communications and intelligence."

The man who put the cards away waved at me, a grin was plastered on his face.

The Head Warrior continued. "Agent Olsen is a Scout like you, however he is more experienced in reconnaissance." The man with shoulder-length curly hair smiled and waved at me.

"Agent Delta here is Agent Moore's assigned Guardian; he should be more than enough for muscle power. And you've already met Agent Elvira. She will handle any interrogations should you manage to capture a Phantom agent alive, as well as be your hand-to-hand Combat Specialist. Agents, you will be reporting to Agent Moore; she will be running this operation."

My eyes widened as I stared at the Head Warrior to look for any signs of a bluff. He looked back at me, and I was inclined to believe that he was serious.

A feeling of nausea threatened to overwhelm me as I took in the fact that I would be commanding this operation. Me: the loner Scout who preferred to hang around in the morgue than lead a team of specialists.

The Head Warrior nodded once more. "Alright everyone, you have your orders. Move out!"

With that, the three strangers packed up, and left the room. It was just me, the Head Warrior, and Agent Delta. I hesitated, but finally mustered up some courage and approached the older man. He looked up. "Yes Agent Moore?"

I swallowed before I spoke. "Why did you pick me to lead? Any of them seem very capable to be leading this mission."

The Head Warrior smiled. "I choose you Agent Moore because you are by far the most capable agent of this group. Whether you realize this or not, you are truly talented, Rachel."

The use of my first name snapped me into attention. I was momentarily at a loss of speech, unsure of how to react. "Thank you, uh…" I trailed on as I wasn't sure of the Head Warrior's name.

Said person smiled again. "My name is Pete." He replied.

With that, he left the room as well, and left me to reflect on what had just happened. I must have been deep in thought for Agent Delta waved a hand in front of my face. "Are you coming?" He asked.

I nodded my head as I didn't trust my voice to relay my opinion.

16: Chapter 15: Additional Support
Chapter 15: Additional Support

About six hours after the mission briefing, my "team" and I were on our way to Europe. I still couldn't believe that the Head Warrior, err Pete, had put me in charge. I didn't have much experience with shared missions, never mind actually leading an operation. His decision still astonished me.

And so we found ourselves on a specialized Seeker plane headed to Rome. If I was guessing properly, it was going to be a ten hour flight which would have given us plenty of time to go over the briefing again, as well as any last minute detail that we needed to cover. Speaking of which, our tech expert, Gizmo, was currently going through the floor plans of the supposed Phantom lab. "Alright lads," he started with his clear British accent, "according to the schematics, there are several levels that are below ground. About twenty levels down, there seems to be a main area where it is suspected the Phantoms performed their experiments. Pete wants us to investigate these experiments, and collect any valuable information that we can find."

"And then we blow the place sky high." I added.

Gizmo looked up from his laptop and gave me a wary look before he turned his attention back to the tool.

I stood up from my huddled position. "Alright everyone, you all know the mission details. Once we arrive in Rome, we will meet with two additional agents. Elvira, can you give us the details?"

Said person nodded, and took out a data pad. "We will be meeting with agents Predator who is a Demolitions Expert, and Fear who is a skilled Assassin. According to the data pad, they will be meeting with us at the assigned rendezvous point."

I nodded in understanding as I found some relief in our new recruits. The Demolitions Expert would really make my day once he blew up the lab. As for the Assassin, given his ranking, he should be a huge asset to our team.

"I've got the all clear from flight control." Our pilot stated. "ETA to Rome: 8 hours 56 minutes."

Huh, guess I overestimated the flight time.

With that new information, I sat down in one of the leather seats, and adjusted it to a sleeping position. I leaned back, and allowed the exhaustion from the day to overcome me as I drifted to sleep.


I woke up during the last two hours of the flight. I used that time to triple check all of the mission parameters as well as ensure that all of our weapons and gadgets were fully functional. I gave Elvira the task of contacting our onsite agents to confirm that they would meet us at the rendezvous point.

The men were all doing their own tasks. Gizmo was installing an anti-hacking program into all of our gear. Olsen helped me with the inspection of our weapons. Delta, on the other hand, spent his time at the back corner of the plane… sulking?

I raised an eyebrow as I wondered if I misjudged his facial features, yet the look on his face seemed indeed that of sadness.

After a careful moment of debate, I decided to go over to him. "Hey," I greeted softly.

For a Guardian, Delta certainly was caught off guard. He literally jumped a bit as I spoke. He then relaxed once he realized that it was me. "Hello Agent Moore." He replied, not really focused.

I raised an eyebrow at his attitude. "Are you alright?" I asked.

Delta sighed. "I'm not actually. It's just that I never thought I'd be back here. "He said, but he wasn't looking at me.

"You mean Rome?" I clarified.

Delta nodded his head. "I lived there for quite some time with my mother, before the war started. Those were the best years of my life."

My eyes softened as he began to reveal personal facts about him. I was surprised that he was comfortable enough to tell me.

For a moment, Delta seemed tense as he probably debated on whether he should continue or not, but then decided that he trusted me enough. "I know that you don't trust me Agent Moore, and I don't blame you. I haven't been entirely honest with you." The Guardian adjusted his position, and focused his attention on me. He gestured to the seat in front of him.

I sat down, and crossed my legs. Delta leaned forward, and crossed his hands together in a meditation position. "I suppose I should start at the beginning. I was originally born in America in 1993, but my mother wanted to start a new life, so we moved to Rome. Like I said earlier, those were the best years of my life."

"But then the war started." I added in.

Delta nodded, his eyes were dark with an emotion I was not used to seeing him with. "Europe took the first hit of attacks; a lot of cities were badly damaged, including Rome. For the first year, my mother and I were always on the move, moving from one evac center to another. I was never more terrified than I was back then. I was certain that we would get caught."

"What happened?" I asked as I wanted to know more.

Delta's foul mood seemed to have increased. "We finally found a plane that was heading to America, but the position was compromised. Phantom agents had stormed the area; they started killing everyone in their sights. I managed to get on the plane, but my mother…" He trailed off as he looked blankly into space.

I wanted to comfort the Guardian, but I held back as I wasn't sure of how he would have taken my physical contact.

Delta sighed heavily. "The plane took off with the few survivors that managed to make it on board. As for my mother, I never saw her again."

I couldn't believe it, but it felt like my heart was actually breaking for him. We only knew each other for a few months, yet I already felt so attached to him. "I'm so sorry." I genuinely expressed. "I know what it's like to lose a parent."

Delta looked at me with understanding. "In your case, you lost both."

I nodded as I stared blankly out the window.

Delta sighed loudly and rubbed his head. "Shit, I didn't mean to bring that up."

I shrugged half-heartedly. "It's fine; I've had seven years to get over it."

I caught movement from the corner of my eye. I focused my gaze on the source and saw Delta look at me intensely. "Seven years, one hundred years, it doesn't matter. There's never enough time in a life to get over a devastation such as that. You're hurting Agent Moore; you don't need to shove that aside because you think it makes you weak."

I was slightly stunned at Delta's open display of his concern for my well-being. Pretty much every Seeker agent knew of my past, yet none were so passionate about it such as Delta.

I opened and closed my mouth a few times as I didn't know what to say. Finally, I decided for something simple. "Umm, thanks, I guess."

Delta nodded. "No need to thank me, Agent Moore."

He regarded me with such an intense look that I felt like I might be set on fire if I was under it for too long. A strange feeling gripped my insides, and made my heart beat slightly quicker. I suddenly felt timid and very self-conscious of how I looked like to Delta.

That happened for quite a while as we just stared at each other. Delta's eyes swirled continuously, and I felt like I could get lost in them forever. He has lovely eyes, I remarked mentally.

The pilot's announcement informing us that there was only one hour left in the flight roused both of us from whatever trance we were under. I automatically straightened my posture, and coughed. "So umm, that was quite the heart-to-heart we just had. I suppose that makes us friends now, huh?"

Delta looked at me with an amused expression, and ruffles formed on his mask. I assumed he was smiling. "I guess so, friend." He agreed.

I found myself smiling back as a light feeling filled me. I actually felt happy, and somewhat giddy. I guess this was the good path to travel on with my Guardian.

The memory of the Salute to Vienna event attacked me yet again, and I found myself wincing. A look of concern passed over Delta's face. "Are you alright?" He asked.

"Yeah," I replied, "it's just that I still can't believe I allowed myself to be affected so much by Hill. I never act that way, and there I was about to go rumpy pumpy[1] with him." I turned away to hide the blush that appeared on my face.

I expected to be in an awkward silence, or even for Delta to yell at me, but instead he chuckled. I mustered courage to look at him in curiosity. "What's so funny?" I asked incredulously.

Delta calmed down, and looked at me. "I apologize Agent Moore. I shouldn't be laughing at such a serious topic. The thing is, I had our Seeker labs perform some tests on your champagne glass, and they found traces of Rohyphenol; you were drugged."

My eyes widened at his statement. So, I thought, I wasn't willingly about to get it on with Hill? Well that's a relief! "Oh thank God!" I exclaimed.

Delta raised an eyebrow at my outburst. I smiled sheepishly. "Sorry, I was relieved that I didn't want to go along with Hill willingly. I, however, am quite pissed at him. Next time I see him, so help me, I will cut off his manhood and sell it to the black market!"

My Guardian's shoulders shook as he chuckled before he outright laughed. I stared at him in slight embarrassment before I too joined in on the laughter. We both calmed down eventually, but the smiles were still plastered on our faces.

We sat in an enjoyable silence for a while, simply just enjoying the light atmosphere before the seriousness of reality would require our full attention.

A random thought popped into my mind, and as an impulsive talker, I just had to speak my mind. "Hey Delta, you never mentioned your father." I stated.

My question really seemed to have caught his attention for he tensed, and looked up at me abruptly. I was about to speak, but the look on his face made me shut my mouth. There was pure anger and hatred on his face, yet they weren't directed at me. "Never mention my father again." He whispered venomously.

My eyes widened as I didn't know how to react around him. I've never seen him so angry. I decided that it was best to leave. With that intent, I stood up, but was quickly held back.

"No, please wait!" Delta slightly exclaimed. He sighed. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have snapped at you like that."

I looked at him warily. "Maybe you need to get me a manual on how to deal with Guardians." I said sarcastically, but with a slightly offended tone to it. Well, so much for the heart-to-heart, I thought bitterly.

Delta looked at me as he apologized through his eyes. I glanced at his hand that was still on my arm. He too looked at it, and then pulled back. I gave a look of annoyance. "We have a mission to do; I suggest that you keep a clear head and don't let old ghosts get the best of you." I said in a stern tone.

"Of course Agent Moore." Delta replied professionally, though the look on his face made it seem like he was hurt by my change of attitude. Pfft, like I cared. I wasn't here to get all touchy feely with anyone's emotions.

I tried again to leave, and the second time I wasn't met with resistance. I made my way to the front of the plane where the other agents occupied. I sat down, and sighed. Too much emotional drama for one day.

Elvira noticed my mood, and walked towards me. "Are you alright Agent Moore?" She asked.

I nodded as I didn't feel like talking. Luckily, my answer seemed satisfactory enough, that or Elvira knew when a person wanted to be left alone. She joined the other men, and left me in a comfortable solitude.

A whirlpool of emotions battled inside me. I've never felt this out of control before, and it both scared me as well as pissed me off. All because of that stupid Guardian who seemed to have been on his man period.

I clenched my teeth together as I furiously struggled to maintain my outer cool. I couldn't afford to let my teammates see me like this.

Fortunately for me, the pilot announced that we would be landing shortly, thus putting a stop to my inner turmoil. I clipped on my seat-belt and spent the duration of the flight in silence.


Soon enough, we landed at Rome's international airport. Another hour later, after we offloaded all of our equipment and piled them into a large van, we were on our way to the rendezvous point. For the entire car ride, I made it my personal mission to avoid being near Delta as much as possible. Thankfully Gizmo was seated in between us, and was typing away at his laptop.

We arrived at the destination. The van, driven by Agent Olsen, was parked at an alleyway. As soon as the car turned off, we all got out and stretched our cramped muscles. According to Elvira, our two new recruits should have already been here.

"We have been expecting you." An accented voice said, as if on cue.

Out from the darkness came two figures; they were the onsite agents.

The one in the cameo patterned army overalls waved at us. "Hi I'm Predator, but you can call me Pred. I specialize in demolitions." He grinned, his brown eyes were wide with excitement. I wasn't sure whether I should have found that hilarious or have been worried about his mental state.

He then gestured to the other agent. "This here is Fear; he don't talk much, but he's awesome at using his hands!"

I turned towards the Assassin. He was dressed in black and silver armor, complimented with black dual blades. He had his arms crossed in a relaxed position, yet I couldn't really tell since he was wearing a mask. I vaguely wondered was it was with men and masks.

"It has been a while my friend." A voice said behind me.

I turned around, and saw Delta hold his arms up in a friendly gesture. I looked at his line of sight and saw the Assassin looking at him with a sense of familiarity. "It's been far too long." He agreed. "You left me here all alone to deal with the Phantoms." He said in a teasing tone.

Delta laughed, the first one I've ever heard. "Weren't you the one who preferred working alone?" He replied.

The Assassin merely chuckled, then glanced at me. Confusion was evident on my face, and he flashed me a grin. I gave a look of annoyance. "Mind telling me how you two know each other?"

It was Delta who answered. "Fear and I have known each other since we were kids. We went through Seeker Basic together."

"Until you left me here all alone." Fear retorted. "Evidently, I'm more responsible than you."

Delta chuckled in reply.

I coughed to get everyone's attention. "I know we've already had our mission briefing back in New York, but I'm certain that our onsite agents have additional information to tell us."

Predator's signature smile was immediately wiped off his face as the atmosphere was thick with tension.

The Assassin finally broke the silence. "Yes," he said, "we have much to discuss."

With that, he turned around and walked through the empty building's back door, followed by all of us.

[1] I got this idea after watching LaBelleCascate's video. Nice one.

17: Chapter 16: A Maternal Sight
Chapter 16: A Maternal Sight

The Assassin led us to an unoccupied space that seemed to have once been an old conference room. At the moment, it was reserved for our sensitive meeting.

Agent Fear gestured all of us to take a seat which we did rather quickly as we all dreaded the topic at hand. The Assassin did not sit for he preferred to stand at the front where explaining would have been straightforward. "Shortly after your mission briefing with Pete, he contacted Predator and I to be put on standby should any situation that could compromise your mission arise. However, as an Assassin, I prefer to be fully part of the mission rather than used as back up."

Predator snorted. "Yeah, that's because he practically lives off of the adrenaline rush."

A light echo of chuckles ruptured the uneasy silence of the room. The Assassin seemed to have smiled, but otherwise ignored the comment. He continued. "I gathered any information I could off of my contacts, and I've discovered something truly remarkable."

I think the other agents and I literally leaned forward on our seats as we prepared to hear whatever news the Assassin could have possibly had. For a dramatic effect, (not sure if he did that purposely or not), Fear looked at each and every one of us intensely. "This base is undoubtedly a cloning facility. We have had reports throughout the years of several captured civilians and Seeker agents going into that base and coming out changed." Fear put a gloved hand into his back pocket and drew out a data pad. "According to my sources, not all of the people who come out of the lab are clones."

I raised an eyebrow, doubt evident on my face. "So let me get this straight. You're saying that the Phantoms also indoctrinate the people they've captured? This completely changes everything we thought we knew of them."

The Assassin regarded me with a dry look. "Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying. This is one of several reasons why it's vital to complete our mission. However, there's one detail you must all know before we can truly trust each other." Fear turned to face…Predator?

I glanced at the Demolitions Expert in surprise. He looked back at me, and gave me a small smile that didn't quite meet his eyes.

I turned back to the Assassin as I expectedly waited for an answer. He regarded me with a serious look, but didn't speak.

The other agents murmured quietly as they waited for an explanation. Randomly, I momentarily glanced at Delta who was staring off into space with an unreadable expression. I turned back to the Assassin. "Well, what's going on?" I asked.

The Assassin crossed his arms in a matter-of-fact way. "I'll allow Predator to speak for himself."

Said person stood up which attracted the attention of everyone in the room. At first, his face flushed slightly at the audience he received, but then he calmed to a serious, business-like expression. I couldn't believe that this was the same person from earlier who was all about smiles and jokes. He coughed. "I'll warn you all; you will be shocked at what I have to say. Believe me, it was quite a slap to the face for me when I was first told about it, but this is reality. A couple of months after the rise of the Phantoms, I was sent to an evacuated warehouse where there were reports of a bomb. So as a Demolitions Expert, I was in charge of diffusing it." He paused, and allowed us to absorb the information before he continued. "The bomb was easily shut off which surprised me because all of my past experiences with Phantom tech always had me thinking hard in order to crack their systems. As I thought, it was a trap and I was captured and sent to a facility similar to the one we'll investigate."

"Damn mate." commented Gizmo. "That's quite the shock."

Predator nodded. "When I woke up, I found myself tied to an operation table where several of the Phantoms' surgeons were getting ready for the procedure."

"What happened?" Asked Elvira.

Predator stared hard at the Combat Specialist. "They sawed off my arm and used its tissue cells to produce a clone. Once I was back in Seeker hands, I replaced it with an artificial arm that was coated in titanium alloys to give me some extra strength."

More gasps were heard as the shocking detail came to light. My god, for a man who went through all that torture, he really was quite a cheerful guy. Had I not known about his experience, I would have never in a million years thought about the possibility of his horrific past.

Regardless of our slight hysteria, the Demolitions Expert went on. "I don't know how or even why it happened, but one of the Phantoms' surgeons nursed me back to health and eventually helped me escape. She said that with my experience at the facility, I would be a symbol of hope in this dark battle."

A strained silence suddenly overtook the room as we all reflected about the situation. Damn it, the Phantoms were monsters.

Eventually Olsen, who had been quiet the entire time, gathered courage to ask the question we all wanted to ask. "What happened to your clone?" His blue eyes analyzed Predator's brown ones.

"I don't know." Predator replied, and sighed heavily. "All I know is that he's still out there, somewhere, and I plan on stopping him before he can allow the same thing to happen to someone else."

Despite my usual coldness towards human contact, I didn't attempt to stop myself when I walked over to the Demolitions Expert and hugged him. He let out a gasp of surprise before he relaxed into the hug. Ever the awkward type, I pulled away not long afterwards. Hey, I have to be given some credit for actually hugging a person willingly.

I looked at the group of agents, and took my time to carefully read their expressions. All of them, more or less, had shock written all over their faces, with the exceptions of Delta and Fear, (damn their masks!), yet mixed with an unbounded determination. Despite the unexpected turn of events, I knew that I could rely on the others to get the job done.

With a new purpose to defeat the Phantoms fresh in my mind, I walked over to the Assassin and stopped in front of him. "We're ready to start this operation." I said as I looked at him seriously.

The Assassin studied me thoroughly as he looked for any signs of incertitude or reluctance. When he found none, he finally nodded his head and gestured his head towards the door we came from. "I'll drive." He said.

With that, my team and I made our way back to the van, each deep in our own train of thought. Once we got inside the vehicle, the Assassin immediately set out to the main road. For the first time since we've arrived, I finally took the time to take in the magnificent view of Rome. It was indeed a very beautiful city that held centuries' worth of human accomplishments and traditions. I found myself smiling as for a moment I allowed myself to imagine that I was merely a tourist taking a drive around the city.

Out of habit, I stole a glance at the Guardian and saw him staring out the window too, though his attitude to the view was more of sorrow and loss. A pang of guilt stabbed me as I remembered my rather bitchy reaction towards his outburst. Inwardly, I sighed as I made a mental note to apologize to him later.

All too soon, we arrived at the rough location of the Phantom lab. Fear parked the van in an abandoned alleyway, (what was it with us Seeker agents and alleyways?), and stopped the car. With the hum of the engine gone, we all got out and studied our surroundings.

"Alright." I said which brought everyone's attention on me. "We know our mission parameters, so we will execute them with no delays and no hesitation. If any one of you encounters any hostiles, do not face them alone. Gizmo will stay on the surface to maintain communications, so use his skill to your advantage. We are not alone in this."

The nodding of my teammates brought me a sense of confidence. I rolled my shoulders subconsciously. "As we saw on the map, there was a large area twenty levels down. We can now safely assume that that is the cloning facility. We will go down the ventilation shafts and then split up into small groups to investigate. If you find anything worthwhile, contact me. Any questions?"

When no one spoke up, I took that as an initiative and had the Assassin lead us to a side door. He expertly undid the lock and opened it wide. "Ladies first," he said in a joking manner.

I gave him a dry look before I stepped into the compact darkness within.

Inside there was no light as the electricity was shut off from an external location. From the looks of it, the place seemed deserted, but I knew better than to assume that. Fear was next to come in and he made his way towards the access elevators. One by one, we all filed in and eventually made our way to the Assassin. Said person took out one sharp blade and sliced at a piece of the wall right beside the elevator. Not long afterwards, a decent portion of material fell to the ground and revealed a tight passageway. A feeling of unease filled me. "We're supposed to go through that?" I asked uneasily.

The Assassin nodded as he secured his blade around his leather belt. "The power is down, so we can't use the elevator. Even if it wasn't, we don't want to go through the front door. It's better to sneak from behind by using the ventilation ducts."

I sighed as I knew that we had no other way of getting down. I looked up at the Assassin. "You owe me a drink." I said sarcastically.

He chuckled as I got down to my knees and began crawling through the tight hole. Once I was securely on the other side, I was able to stand in the low ceiling and saw a service ladder leading downwards. I shook away all remaining thoughts of doubt, and I positioned myself correctly. I then expertly slid all the way down.

At the bottom, I was met with an incredibly thick darkness that I wasn't sure if even my flashlight could penetrate through it. I cautiously walked through the abyss and felt my hand connect to a wall. I took out my flashlight and it illuminated the area to reveal an operating room. The fact had me thinking about Predator's experience and I had to suppress the urge to vomit.

Delta was the next person down. He seemed a bit disoriented at first, but adjusted his vision to the dominating darkness despite our combined flashlights. Eventually, the other agents came down, followed by Fear who brought out a data pad and began looking through it. "I've got a map of the facility. Apparently, we're in the south end of it. If we go out that door, we will be in the main area."

We made our way towards the door and went into a large area that had posters of humanity's purification. I snarled quietly as I thought of the stupidity and arrogance of the very implication.

I shook my head, and I focused my flashlight on my group which illuminated their pale faces. They all blinked as they adapted to the sudden light.

"All right, this is the part where we split up. I want to run a sweep of this place, find any valuable data, and then blow this place out of existence. Remember to stay in constant communication. Move out!"

We all split up as we headed our own separate ways through the narrow lined up hallways. I ventured into the farther one where there was a dim light that illuminated the otherwise dark room.

In my area, there were two rows of wide containers that were filed along the walls. When I walked through, I shivered as a tight knot formed in my gut. Whatever happened here, it was not pretty at all.

I placed my finger over my earpiece and activated it. "Testing out the comm. channel; can anyone read me?"

"Loud and clear boss." Gizmo replied.

"Seconded." Elvira stated.

"I hear you alright." Predator answered. "I'm with Fear in one section, can't tell which one. There's a lot of containers here."

"I'm seeing them here too. What about you Elvira; do you see any containers?" I asked.

"Affirmative." She replied. "What do you want us to do?"

"Don't touch them." I ordered. "We have no idea what, or who is in there."

"Roger that." She confirmed.

I continued with my inspection of the area when I heard particularly loud breathing coming from Predator's mic. "Are you alright Pred?" I asked with slight concern.

"Yeah, sorry boss. It's just like a déjà-vu, you know?" He answered.

A feeling of sympathy filled me. "Do you need to go back to the surface?"

"No, no, I'm good. I'm not gonna let some bad nightmares get the best of me." He replied with conviction.

I was a bit hesitant at allowing him to stay, but I needed the manpower. "Alright then." I simply said.

With that, I shut off my mic and resumed my inspection. I got shivers from a combination of the cold air, and the thought of what happened in here. This was a place of suffering.

"Agent Moore, do you read me?" Elvira asked.

I snapped myself into attention. "Go ahead Elvira."

"I found some particularly interesting documents regarding the tests that were done here. I believe that our scientists will find them worthwhile to study."

I momentarily contemplated on the information. "Excellent work Agent Elvira; make a copy of it."

"Will do." She replied.

I once again shut off my mic and continued to walk down the row of containers. A certain container caught my attention as there was a red note posted on it. Curious, I lifted it to my view, but only saw numbers that held no comprehension for me. I looked up and began to study the structure. Through the thick frost that coated the glass, I could faintly pick out the details of what appeared to be a woman with dark hair flowing through the vital water.

I heard a slight gasp from behind me which was then overpowered by a deep growl. I turned around and saw Delta looking at the same container as me with an air of confusion. I cautiously spoke. "Delta, what's wrong?"

The Guardian continued to stare unblinkingly at the wide container for several more minutes. "That's…that's my mother." He finally replied in complete disbelief.

18: Chapter 17: Unwelcomed Guest
Chapter 17: Unwelcomed Guest

I could only stare at Delta in shock as I took in what he said. "What?" I said as I finally managed to use my voice. "What do you mean that's your mother?"

Delta turned towards me, and gave me a 'what do you think?' look. I'll admit that my question was stupid, but the possibility of the woman in the tube being his mother was completely absurd.

I turned my attention back to the woman inside. Randomly, I wondered whether Delta looked like his mother…

I blinked rapidly, and harshly shook my head. It was not the time to contemplate on the mysterious looks of the Guardian. God, I sounded like a school girl having her first crush.

I was interrupted from my ridiculous thoughts by Delta who made a disarray of the various tools on the lined up tables. What in the world was he doing?

"Delta, what are you doing?" I asked after I observed him for a few extra seconds.

It seemed like the Guardian did not hear me for he continued on with whatever he was doing, and occasionally knocked over some tools. I got annoyed at him ignoring me, so I placed a hand on his shoulder and turned him around roughly. "Just what in the hell do you think you're doing?" I asked again, that time harsher.

The Guardian glared at me. "Agent Moore, I have to free my mother. She's still alive!" With that, he went right back to making a complete mess of the area.

"What exactly are you doing?" I inquired.

"There's a hatch on the front of the tube, but the power is out so I'll have to break it open." By that point Delta was on his knees as he crouched on the floor and picked up a thick hammer.

I raised an eyebrow. "You expect a hammer will get your mother out?"

Delta simply looked at me with a serious expression. I felt my eyebrow twitch in annoyance as I realized that not only did he genuinely believe that a hammer would get the tube open, but that the woman inside was actually his mother.

The whole situation seemed too unrealistic: first, we infiltrated an enemy base that was surprisingly empty, then we found Delta's supposed lost mother. That spelt out suspicion to me. How could we have been certain that it really was her? Predator was a victim of this type of lab himself, and he told us the stories about the clones. For all we knew, the woman in the tube could have been a clone of Delta's mother. I had to react fast. "Delta you need to put that down." I said as I pointed to the hammer.

The Guardian did not pay attention to me. Instead, he positioned himself in front of the tube and raised his arms up. I acted immediately and tackled him to the cold ground. I pinned him down with my knees and he looked up at me, his eyes narrowed in frustration. "Get off of me Agent Moore!" He hissed through clenched teeth.

I narrowed my eyes at him. "And let you do a stupid mistake that could put our lives at risk? No thanks." I replied.

Delta started to struggle, and his movements became more violent and aggressive: one of his legs managed to free itself and kicked me in the guts which caused me to grunt in brief pain, but I kept my firm hold on him.

Eventually, he realized that I would not budge from our position; our rather intimate position… It only occurred to me at that moment just how close we were: the tips of our noses barely touched, and I straddled him in a rather provocative way. I didn't mean to accidentally slip my hand onto his thigh, I swear. It was Delta's fault: damn him and his stubborn personality.

Thankfully, my inner turmoil was not visible on my collected and reserved face. I stared down at the Guardian as I breathed heavily after the intense "exercise" he put me through earlier. After what seemed like an eternity, I spoke. "Put that hammer down. I won't allow you to put our lives and our mission in jeopardy."

The Guardian looked at me with desperation evident in his grey eyes. "I need to know whether that woman is my mother or not. I've spent the last seven years believing that she was dead, and now she's here. I have to free her." His eyes visibly molted into a lighter shade. "Please Rachel." He whispered tenderly.

My eyes widened. I did not expect him to call me by my first name, nor with such a soft tone.

The past few months have been a strange roller coaster ride. My relationship with Delta had dramatically changed: we had come a long way from me being annoyed by his very presence to what we were then, yet I had no bloody idea what it was that "we" were. We already established that we were friends back on the plane, yet for some reason I felt like that wasn't right. It was like I wanted more, but wasn't sure if that would have been appropriate. I barely knew anything about the Guardian, however that only seemed to draw me in. I wanted to know everything there was to know about him, but at the moment, I had to focus on the task at hand.

I was still on top of Delta as I straddled him. I glanced at his face. As I looked at him, I saw the eyes of a man who was desperate to hold on to the one thing that made him whole in an otherwise empty world. My eyes softened. It was a huge risk to let him carry out his wish, but I knew that I already cared about him too much to see him suffer like that.

I carefully got off of him, and awkwardly stretched my upper body. Delta immediately got up, and wiped off some imaginary dust from his cloaks. A stiff silence took over as we both momentarily tried to avoid looking at one another, but luckily Delta grew some balls and spoke out first. "Thank you Agent Moore."

I turned my head towards him, and was met with the intense gaze of the Guardian. I felt heat creep up my neck and face, so I nodded and quickly looked away to avoid further embarrassment.

Delta's footsteps echoed in the abandoned hallway, the noise was amplified by the stillness of the atmosphere. I shivered slightly at the spooky effect, but pushed the feeling away and activated my ear piece. "Fear, are you there?"

"Yeah, what's the situation?" He replied.

"I want you to scout the entire lab perimeter. Look for any secret entry ways that may have been overlooked."

"And what accomplishment do you have in mind by me doing that?" He asked dryly.

I had to fight the urge to roll my eyes at the Assassin's attitude. "Because Agent Fear, we are in a location where we have no idea what to expect, so I want you to investigate. I don't want to be caught by surprise if we end up being ambushed." I answered just as dryly.

There was a brief silence as the Assassin realized the need for my order. "Of course, I'll get on it right away." He replied almost embarrassed.

"Contact Gizmo for an infrared scan of the building. Also, tell him to scan for any activity around the neighboring areas. Get Elvira, Olsen and Predator to help you out as well."

"Yes ma'am." He replied, and the line was cut.

I sighed quietly before I turned my attention back to Delta. The Guardian had managed to leave a long crack on the hard glass, but nothing of significant damage. Irritated, he dropped the useless hammer to the ground and kicked the glass.

I stared in shock at his continually careless behavior. I debated on whether or not I should have scolded his actions, but knew that it would have been useless as he had proved earlier.

After a few kicks, he delivered a powerful blow that shattered the glass which caused bits to fly up and the liquid to pour down. I covered my head and face with my arms as some of the pieces had hit me. When the glass shards all fell to the ground, I looked up. The lack of the material caused the woman to tilt forward, her upper body stuck out. Instantly, Delta caught the woman before she could fall any further. He grabbed her by the waist and lifted the rest of her body from the tube before he set her down on the ground.

The dark haired woman was still out cold, therefore her body completely relied on Delta for balance. Gently, he set the woman in a sitting position. He placed some of her hair strands behind her ear, and studied every detail of her face as if he were confirming his belief. He let out a small sigh, and turned his attention towards me.

I stared back at him as I waited for his move. Delta got up and walked over until he was in front of me. I leaned my head back to stare directly at his face. Abruptly, I was overwhelmed with the need to pull off his mask and hood and see for myself the man who had succeeded in making me into an emotional wreck. Hell, the way he was looking at me with those intense eyes of his made me want to jump him. I wanted to press my lips against his and see just how soft they would be….

I blinked, the action was considerably lazy compared to my rapidly beating heart. My god, I couldn't believe it: I actually liked him!

I continued to look at Delta with a growing uncertainty. I've already established how I felt, but what was the chance in him feeling the same way for me? He was a Guardian after all: they rarely got involved with "outsiders", the term used by them for non-Guardian people, never mind a romantic relationship. My heart deflated as I acknowledged the most likely outcome.

"Thank you again Agent Moore." Came the soft and rich voice of the Guardian. Gah, when was I ever that aware of how he sounded?

I smiled slightly. "Don't worry about it. I'm sorry that I was harsh at first." I stopped and hesitated, but continued on. "I'm glad that I could help." I said as I looked at him tenderly.

Surprise came to life on his face and he looked like he was about to say something but quickly shut his mouth when the line went live.

"Hey boss, we've got some strange activities going on here." Predator stated.

I pushed aside all of my rushing emotions, and focused on the situation. "What is it?"

"Gizmo detected a signal that was set out just a few minutes ago. The room I'm in seems warmer than the rest; this is strange for a supposedly abandoned place."

"Don't go in alone." I said. "Take Agent Elvira with you, and make sure that you two keep an eye out for anything suspicious. It looks like we're not alone here."

"Roger that boss. Predator out."

I dropped my hand to my side and glanced at Delta who was staring at me with wide eyes. I winced in discomfort. He nodded in understanding, and stepped closer to me. I refused to admit to myself that I felt safe in his presence.

A few minutes later, Predator's voice came back on the line. "Status report; so far nothing seems out of the ordinary. Elvira used an infra-red scanner and didn't pick anything up. I think we should… Hold on a sec."

My heart skipped a beat as I anticipated Predator's answer. He came back on a moment later. "Scanner's picking up a hot spot; we're going in to investigate."

"Do you want me to send in Fear or Olsen for back-up?" I asked.

"No, I think Elvira and I can handle this. I'll contact you when we get there."

The line was cut, and I was left there anxiously waiting for his update. In the meantime, Delta was checking on his mom to ensure that she was physically alright.

I nearly jumped when the comm line was activated again. "Boss, Elvira and I arrived at the hot spot. There's definitely a heat tracing here, yet whoever was here is gone. We're going to…" A crash-like noise interrupted him as the sound of struggling followed suit. I panicked. "Predator! What's going on?"

"We... argh!"

My slight hysteria caught Delta's attention for he swiftly turned his head towards mine and gave me a concerned look.

"Predator, answer me!" I exclaimed.

"We're not alone boss!" He yelled. "Elvira's trying to make the guy submit. We've got to get out of here boss; the signal is actually broadcasting our coordinates."

My eyes widened as I took in the news. "Predator, get Olsen and Fear to your location now! Try to help out Elvira, and capture that man!"

"Yes ma'am!" Predator replied before he cut off the line.

I whipped my head to face Delta. "Get her ready, we're leaving." I ordered.

Without any question, Delta immediately as I instructed. I took out my signature gun just in case as I waited for Delta to be ready. We were about to leave when the Assassin came in; his eyes were hard and serious. "We've got company." He stated.

19: Chapter 18: An Unexpected Reunion
Chapter 18: An Unexpected Reunion

I clenched my teeth together as I took in what the Assassin stated. I knew that there was something wrong about the mission ever since we arrived in Rome. Seriously, an empty enemy lab just spelt out an obvious trap.

I sighed loudly as I looked at the Assassin in agitation. "I told you to check the damn lab." I knew that my behavior was totally immature, but so help me, I will haunt Fear for the rest of his life if I died because of his cockiness.

Smug bastard didn’t react at all. "We've got to get out of here." He said. "Gizmo's scans identified a unit of Phantom agents heading to our position."

"What type of agents?" I asked, though I dreaded the answer.

Fear gave me a dire look. "From the way they're moving, and the speed at which they're coming towards us, it's got to be Assassins and Warriors." He replied.

I felt a vein on my temple throb in irritation. Wow, how could this possibly get any worse?

The Assassin gestured towards the way he came from which pulled me out of my dark thoughts. "We've got to go," he stated. "If we move now, we can most likely get out before the Phantoms arrive."

I nodded in agreement, and turned to face Delta. He was already prepared; the dark haired woman was placed securely on his back. Fear looked at the pair in surprise. "Who's she?"

Before Delta could have had any chance to speak, I interrupted. "It's a long story," I said. "We'll explain everything once we get the hell out of here."

The Assassin gave me a look of confusion but nodded as he accepted my answer.

I glanced at Delta who met my gaze and nodded. With the confirmation, I gestured to Fear to lead us, and we hurriedly made our back to where we came from. Waiting at the "entrance" were agents Predator, Elvira, and Olsen. All three were on high alert; their bodies were tense, ready for any fight that would occur. A brief look of relief came across their faces at my arrival before they went serious once more. It was then that I noticed a tied-up individual observing the situation quietly. I narrowed my eyes at the sight. “Is this the person?”

Predator nodded, though he regarded the individual with a hint of recognition. “Yeah, it’s her alright. I’m surprised you’re still here after all this time.”

“You know as well as I that I have nowhere else to go.” The woman replied.

I raised an eyebrow in confusion. How did Predator know this woman?

Said person looked at me in the eye; I shoved aside the need to shiver as the cold glowing eyes regarded me with slight interest. She then turned to face Predator again. “I don’t mean to be rude, but Phantom agents are coming here to kill you. I would hate for them to slaughter you cruelly.”

I narrowed my eyes once more. “That’s no thanks to you; you’re the one who summoned them here!”

The Phantom turned her attention back to me. “It wasn’t me.” She replied with a bored tone. “This is a Phantom lab after all; you should expect that its security systems are well defined, even in an abandoned facility.”

I barely suppressed the need to slap the woman. “Whatever; we’re still bringing you into custody.”

The Phantom shrugged. “Go right ahead; it’s not like I have anywhere else to go.”

Her disinterest in the situation pissed me off. Just who did this bitch think she was?    

Fear stepped beside me. “I hate to agree with the enemy, but she’s right. We’ve got to get out of here, now.” He hissed.

I immediately went to business mode. "All right guys, we've got a couple of minutes before the Phantoms show up and slaughter us all. We'll go up the ladder one by one in an organized fashion, and rendezvous with Gizmo back in the van. Then it's hasta la vista. Move out!"

Just as I gave the order, a violent rumble shook the entire lab. The other agents and I struggled to maintain our balance as dust and pebbles flew in the air. Once the tremors stopped, we all stood shakily on our feet.

"What the hell was that?!" Elvira exclaimed.

I glanced at her briefly before I reached for my ear piece and activated it. "Gizmo: status report."

"Things are going to hell boss," was his reply. "You've got Phantom agents surrounding the entire building, and they just detonated simple dynamite to seal off your entrance, but not to destroy the building itself."

“How typical.” The tied-up Phantom agent replied.

I ignored her remark. Well, that explained the tremors. "What do you suggest we do?" I asked as I tried my best to stay calm. Things were getting shittier by the minute, and I desperately hoped that Gizmo found a way out for us.

"In the scan I performed, I saw what appeared to be underground tunnels. Fear found one. If you go out through one of them, you'll end up in various parts of Rome. Sneaky sons of bitches knew just how to take people and not get caught." He commented. "There's a problem though: once you're in the tunnel, there will be no way to have communication unless you're physically with each other."

The last detail worried me beyond normal, however our situation at hand required my full attention. "Alright, we'll go through one of the tunnels and see where it leads us. What is your situation; is your position compromised?"

"I was shot on the arm, bloody Phantoms, but otherwise than that I'm alright. I had to move to a safer location. I will meet up with you once you cross the other side."

"Roger that, be careful."

"Always boss." He replied.

I cut off the line and looked at the Assassin. "Well looks like we won't be going up. Fear, lead the way."

He nodded and turned around. He ran in the opposite direction and the rest of the agents and I, along with the Phantom bitch followed him. He led us to a ventilation shaft that was covered by numerous cartons of empty containers. The Assassin got on his knees, and placed his hands on the metal covering. He pulled it off with a strong yank, and tossed it aside before he faced us. "It's a tight squeeze, but you'll have room to move once you reach the other side. Just keep going forward, and remember to not look back no matter what. You do that, and you're as good as dead. Now move!"

He gestured to Elvira to go first. The Combat Specialist hesitated momentarily, but went in anyways, and squeezed through the narrow vent. Olsen was next to go, and was quickly followed by Delta who had to place his unconscious mother on her belly and pull her by her arms. I waited for Predator to go in next, but instead I saw him further along the wall setting up something.

"What are you doing?" I called after him. "We've got to move now!"

Predator glanced back at me before he quickly turned back to his work. "This place is an abomination boss; I'm gonna do us all a favor."

He stood up and turned to face me. In his hand was a detonator. I glanced at Predator in slight surprise, but the serious look on his face made me stay quiet. After suffering the same experience as every other test subject that had been here, I could understand his reasons for wanting to blow the place sky high. Besides, it was one of our mission objectives.

I nodded at him. A look of relief came across Predator's face. He smiled at me slightly.

“You’re doing the right thing.” The Phantom commented quietly.

I turned to face her in surprise. Since when did Phantoms know anything about right and wrong?

Predator merely nodded in her direction, and then he guided both of them through the shaft. Lastly, it was just the Assassin and I. I was about to go in when a horrible screeching noise erupted, followed by footsteps that got louder. My heart began to beat fast as I tried to figure out what to do. Fear immediately stood in front of me. "Get out of here Agent Moore." He said.

I stared at him in shock. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

The Assassin did not answer, instead he took out his dual blades and hoisted them in a defensive position as the footsteps got even closer.

I didn't think it was physically possible for eyes to be able to widen so much, but that's what happened in my case. I couldn't believe at what he planned to do. "Fear, don't try to be a hero and let's go!"

The Assassin just glanced at me, his expression was unreadable due to the shadows that hid his face. "The Phantoms are too quick; they'll slaughter us both at the rate we're going. You still have a chance to escape; I'll buy you some time."

I shook my head in disbelief. "Don't be stupid Fear, they'll kill you! We can still make it!" I cried out.

The Assassin merely smiled as his blue eyes shined with dreadful acceptance. "Tell John that he still owes me a fighting match." He grinned.

I wanted to laugh, to find some humor in his joke, but I couldn't. I couldn't, no I wouldn't allow him to throw his life away just like that. Delta would have never forgiven me if I allowed his one friend to die like that.

With newfound determination, I narrowed my eyes as I roughly pulled Fear by the back of his armor and pushed him head first into the vent. He hit it rather hard which caused me to wince, but at least that was better than having him get shredded to pieces by the Phantoms. Speaking of which, I had to hurry.

The Assassin let out a curse and attempted to move back, but I kicked his legs, and urged him to go on. "Don't argue with me Fear. Now move your ass or I will kick it until you move!"

The Assassin grunted, but followed my orders. As soon as he was through, I got on my belly, and took Fear's dual blades. I began to crawl through when something grabbed a hold of my right leg. I attempted to kick at my attacker, but the hold just got tighter, and began to pull me towards the source.

I yelped as the tight grip pinched my leg rather painfully, and I desperately tried to grab a hold onto something, anything to keep me still!

Something else grabbed a hold of my hands. I looked in front of me and saw Fear trying to pull me back with all of his might. For a moment, I imagined myself getting dragged towards the Phantoms only to be slaughtered in the most painful and inhumane way possible. That was how the Phantoms rolled...

Luckily for me, Fear was a hell of a lot stronger than he looked and managed to pull me all the way through the vent. We both crashed to the ground, with me lying on top of him. I was stunned for a moment, and when I looked down Fear was as well.

Abruptly, a rolling sound interrupted the tense silence. I looked over to my right and saw a lit dynamite stop just a few feet beside us. My eyes widened, and I quickly got off of Fear and pulled him up. We then literally ran for our lives, away from the ticking time bomb, (no pun intended).

Eventually, the dynamite went off and a surprisingly forceful explosion rapidly made its way down the dark tunnel towards us. I flinched at the incoming heat, but then suddenly hit the ground hard. I didn't even have time to groan as Fear leaned his body over mine and covered us with some thick cloak. The raging fire passed over us with no interruption and quickly disappeared through the narrow darkness.

We stayed in that position for a few extra minutes to make sure that we were in the clear. Fear then decided that we were safe, and stood up. I was still stunned at the fact that we nearly died, but I was brought out of my trance by Fear who placed a hand in front of me. "You alright, Agent Moore?" He asked.

I merely nodded and took his offered hand and stood up. I then stared at the cloak in his hands. "Is that made from wool?" I asked in slight awe mixed with disbelief.

Fear merely grinned. "Yeah, layered with some synthetic polyester. I borrowed it from Agent Elvira. Hopefully, she won't mind."

I stared at Fear in stunned silence for several moments. Abruptly, a chuckle made its way through my throat, and then I burst out laughing. Fear looked at me as if I was mentally insane, but I didn't care. I almost died two times today, yet there I was laughing my ass off.

I managed to stop just as abruptly, and then turned the other way. "Let's get the hell out of here." I said, and ran forward without waiting for a reply.

Immediately, I heard footsteps behind me as Fear wordlessly followed me. Eventually my foreign burst of energy went away, and I stopped as I allowed us to catch our breaths. I leaned my back against the wall, and breathed heavily as I willed my rapidly beating heart to calm down.

As I looked over at Fear, he was bent forward, and was catching his breath as well. Fear sensed that he was being watched, and he glanced over at me and laughed. "You crazy lady; you could have been killed!"

I grinned. "Sounds like someone I know, though he's more of a show off about it than I am."

Fear merely chuckled as his eyes twinkled in amusement. "You're not bad after all."

I chuckled in return as I felt somewhat happy that the normally moody Assassin found me bearable.

It wasn't until a couple of minutes passed that I decided that it was best to leave, so I stood up. "I think we've had a sufficient break. We better go before the others assume we're dead, or worse, the Phantoms find us and finish the job."

The Assassin nodded, and stood up as well. We then continued our walk through the tunnel that seemed to have gone on forever.

Our blind walk went on for a while, but eventually we found our salvation. Meters away was the exit. I allowed myself to laugh in relief as we finally reached the light at the end of the tunnel.

20: Chapter 19: Momentous Victory
Chapter 19: Momentous Victory

The need to go on my knees and kiss the ground overwhelmed me as I smiled wildly at the sight of nature. I never thought that I'd feel so much happiness and relief just by seeing the sun. Fear apparently felt the same way; his normally stiff posture was relaxed, and completely at ease with our newly found safety.

"We made it." I exhaled a sigh of relief.

"We sure did." Fear replied.

As I closed my eyes, I subconsciously spread my arms out, and welcomed the much wanted sunlight. After a nice stretch, I placed my arms back at my side, and opened my eyes. Movement in the corner of my vision caught my attention, and I turned to the source. The movement came from the Assassin who placed his hand over his lower face. His action made me raise an eyebrow. "Looking to see if you've got a zit?" I teased as I gave him a sly look.

Fear raised his own eyebrow, but otherwise did not appear annoyed by my comment. "No, I've just got a rip in my mask. No point of wearing one that shows some skin."

The Assassin swiftly took off his sleek mask to reveal an attractive face that was surprisingly void of scars. He caught me staring and smirked at me as he titled his head in a way that made blond strands of his hair fall over his eyes. "Like what you see Agent Moore?" He said in a teasing tone.

I snorted. "More like I'm surprised that you have such a feminine face. Let me guess, you kept it clean by going to the spa regularly?"

The Assassin glared at me, and I couldn't help but laugh. Not long afterwards, he chuckled as well. For a moment, we both allowed ourselves to enjoy the light atmosphere. As Seeker agents, we both knew just what was at stake and the high cost if we failed. With such a heavy burden on our shoulders, it was quite rare for Seeker agents to find any humor in the present world.

Unfortunately, even the smallest of good things must have come to an end as the Assassin and I had to remain focused on our task at hand.

"We better find the others," Fear said.

I nodded in agreement and was about to step onto the small terrain when a random inquiry popped into my head. "Hey Fear, who's John?" I asked curiously.

The Assassin merely blinked at me and opened his mouth to speak, but was cut off by the sound of static coming through our ear pieces. "..oss … you ther.?" Those were the only syllables that came from the overpowering static.

"Barely, there's too much static. Repeat?" I replied as I covered my ears in an attempt to better hear the message.

"What's your …sition?"

I let out a loud breath in annoyance. "Change the channel, there's too much interference in this one."

I did what I said, and I turned the dial on my ear piece to a supposedly free channel. "Can you repeat please?" I said again.

"Can you hear me now boss?" Came Gizmo's voice.

"Yes!" I exclaimed.

"About bloody time," Gizmo murmured, though the static-free ear piece allowed me to hear his comment. I stifled a chuckle.

"What's your position? Is anyone else with you?" I asked.

"I'm two clicks south of where you are actually. Just climb up the hill and you should see the van parked there. As for who's with me, everyone managed to find me."

It felt like a huge weight had risen from my shoulders as I thanked whatever God that was up there for keeping my team alive.

"Alright." I said. "Fear and I will meet you in about five minutes. See you then." I cut the line and faced the Assassin. "Time to go on an adventure." I said sarcastically.

The Assassin quickly placed a new mask over his face, (why in the hell did he have another mask?!), and placed his dual blades back into his belt. "Lead the way, boss." He replied as he emphasized the last word.

I rolled my eyes, and proceeded to climb up the steep hill.

The tunnel led out to a ditch of sorts which would have been completely easy to miss, unless you were in my situation. It was a pain in the ass climbing up the small hill; the climb consisted of me either tripping forward due to a hole in the ground, or slipping on the wet grass. Needless to say, I was annoyed.

Finally, Fear and I reached the top. I literally jumped onto the pavement, but paid no attention to the Assassin's questioning gaze. I may have been a Seeker agent, but that didn't mean that I couldn't have fun when I could. Fear looked at me like I was a sugar crazed child. Seriously, Assassins could have sure used training in the humor department.

Surely enough, the van was parked on the cement as Gizmo waved at us through the window. I allowed a grin to come across my face, and I sped walk towards the van. The back door slid open, and indeed the others were there, and they all shouted at me in relief.

"You finally made it!" Predator shouted as he waved his hands wildly.

"I'm so glad you two are ok!" Elvira said, and laughed in relief.

"Glad to see you're not dead," Olsen commented as he smiled at us gently.

I laughed briefly before I answered them. "Oh come on guys. You should know by now that I am immortal." I raised my arms in a godlike way, and bowed slightly.

Fear snorted, but the way his eyes beamed gave away his amusement. The other agents stepped out of the van and walked towards us. Predator clapped Fear on the shoulder, and grinned at him. Elvira came towards me and hugged me, while Olsen stood aside, and watched all of us with a soft expression. I hugged Elvira back, and grinned at the shy, blond agent. Elvira let go of me, and gave me a soft smile when she suddenly noticed the object in question in Fear's arms. "Is that my cloak?" She asked sharply.

I stifled a chuckle as Fear's eyes widened. Hah, and just a few moments earlier he was so confident that Elvira would understand.

Said person gave Fear a look that relayed the message: "I'm going to make a certain part of your anatomy disappear."

Luckily for the Assassin, a very special person made his appearance and interrupted the show down.

"Agent Moore?"

Elvira looked away from Fear and stepped back which allowed me the view of the Guardian as he came towards me. His hood was bent down all the way to his nose which blocked his eyes from me. I was a bit nervous as I didn't know what to expect.

Delta did something not at all like his normal self: he stepped towards me and enveloped me in a tight embrace. I gasped as I was completely shocked by his action. The other agents seemed just as surprised as I was, though they were more discreet about it, and actually gave us space. Bah, what the hell?

I didn't care about the crowd around us, so I allowed myself to lean my head against his shoulder, and pretended that we were simply a regular couple who were enjoying each other's presence. Oh God: a couple? No, that was not possible. Not for us. Nothing like that would ever happen; not with the war going on.

Unwillingly, I forced myself to let my weight off of Delta's inviting warmth. He looked at me, confusion and ….hurt? were evident in his eyes. I smiled at him gently as I assured him that I was not repulsed by the hug. Relieved, he let go of me and I politely took a step back.

I just realized that we were not alone when I quickly looked around me in embarrassment. Olsen was still smiling softly, Elvira was winking at me, Predator gave me the thumbs up while Fear crossed his arms in his signature pose, and smirked at us both. I could feel the blush creep on my face as the air felt way too warm. Delta seemed embarrassed as well, although he was more professional about it, and merely coughed while he looked at the ground in mock interest.

"So, what's our plan now boss?" Fear asked, and enjoyed the way that I tensed up and glared at him.

I mentally pictured myself lighting his mask on fire, but quickly shoved that thought out. "We go back to the hotel and give Pete our reports. He'll definitely want to know what was going on here."

Everyone nodded in agreement; the events that occurred at the lab not at all forgotten by any of us.

"Wait!" Predator exclaimed. "We're not done yet."

He took out the detonator from earlier and pressed the button. A light rumble occurred below our feet, and we all stared at Predator. Said person merely grinned at us, and then threw away the detonator. "Ok, all done now." He said.

If we were in an anime show, I'm pretty sure that giant sweat drops would have formed behind each of our heads and dripped down.

All at once, we made our way back to the van, and secured ourselves in our respected seats. That time though, Delta purposely sat beside me. I looked away quickly to hide my blush, and only turned to face the front when I deemed it safe.

As Gizmo drove us through the busy streets of Rome, I couldn't help but feel victorious in some ways. We blew up that damned laboratory, taking away one of the Phantoms' resources, and we also captured a Phantom agent and found some Intel. Those were huge bonuses for me. Also, it seemed like Delta may have felt the same way for me. If my suspicions weren't enough, then surely the fact that he took my hand and squeezed it gently must have been solid proof. I turned my head to face him, and saw him looking at me, his grey eyes were incredibly bright. I gave him a small smile, and lightly squeezed back. Despite all the difficulties that we would have to face, I knew that my team and I would make it.

21: Chapter 20: Interrogation and Emotional Sparks
Chapter 20: Interrogation and Emotional Sparks

We arrived back at our temporary residence by nightfall. With all the events that had happened, and the spike in our adrenalin, I hadn't realized that it actually took several hours to complete our mission. Sometime during the ride, I had crossed my arms as I mentally prepared myself for the mission debrief I'd have to give to the Head Warrior. Delta noticed my distress, and rubbed my arm in comfort. I smiled at him, but quickly looked away as the butterflies in my stomach made me feel nauseated.

Unwillingly, I got out of the van. The action was mimicked by Elvira and Fear who followed me. Gizmo, however, was led away by Olsen while Predator "escorted" the mysterious Phantom agent to a separate room, and Delta carried his mother elsewhere. I made my way inside to the conference room from earlier. Surely enough, things were left exactly the way they were, including our projector. I walked over to the tool, and punched in the code for Seeker HQ. I took in a deep breath, and exhaled sharply. I hoped to God that HQ had a plan.

After a couple seconds of processing, the familiar face of Pete came into view. "Agent Moore, what is the situation?" He asked.

"I've come to give you our mission debriefing." I answered calmly.

"Good." He simply said. "What happened?"

I turned to look behind me; all of my team members looked back at me with solemn eyes. I felt my professional facade crack a bit, but quickly put it back in place, and turned towards the Head Warrior. "We did exactly what the mission parameters instructed us to do; investigate the lab for any relevant data, and destroy it. None of us, however, anticipated what was found there."

The Head Warrior leaned forward against his screen. "What did you find?"

My lips formed into a tight line. "We've discovered that the victims sent there were not all cloned; some of them were indoctrinated against their will. We also managed to capture a Phantom agent."

"Is that so?" The Head Warrior leaned forward in interest. "Have you performed an interrogation yet?"

"Not yet, but Agent Elvira and I will immediately after we finish our debriefing."

"I see." Pete replied. "Be cautious around the Phantom though; he may be alone, but Phantom agents are nasty people to deal with."

"It's a she, actually. Predator can tell you more about her." I turned to face said person.

Pete stared at the Demolitions Expert expectantly. "Well, what is it?"

Predator stepped forward. "I know her personally sir; she was the nurse that healed me when I was subjected to the Phantoms' experiments."

Pete's eyebrow rose. "That is bizarre; Phantom agents are not exactly known for being merciful. What was she doing at the lab?"

"I have no idea." Predator replied honestly. I, however, had a feeling that he really did.

"Whatever you do, I don't want you to start feeling any sympathy for her. She may have saved your life once, but you have no idea what her real motives were." Pete said.

"Yes sir." Predator confirmed.

The Head Warrior then turned to face me once more. "Were there any survivors?" He asked after careful consideration.

"Just one." I replied. "It's…it's the Guardian's mother."

A look of surprise passed over Pete's face. "His mother?" He asked, skepticism was obvious in his tone. "Are you absolutely sure that it really is her?"

"The Guardian is convinced that it is her. He's currently attending to her, trying to see if she'll wake up I suppose." I replied.

"I see." Pete said, though he was clearly unhappy about our situation. "Very well then, I will present your findings to the Directors. Until then, stay on guard. This war is going to get a lot worse before it will get better." He sighed as he rubbed his forehead.

"Yes sir." I replied.

"Good," he stated. "Take care agents. Pete out."

The Head Warrior's image faded into black, and we were left processing the given information. Olsen eventually came in, and took in the tense atmosphere. After a moment of silence, Elvira finally spoke. "The Head Warrior is right: things will get worse, won't they?"

I met her weary glance, and nodded. She sighed and looked away, her morale deflated. My eyes softened at the rare sight of vulnerability in the normally strong woman. As I looked at the other agents, I noticed that they too were feeling down. Even Fear, the smartass Assassin who was always stiff as a statue, stood with his shoulders slightly slumped, a clear sign of his dislike of the circumstances.

I turned my attention back to Elvira and placed a hand on her shoulder in an attempt to comfort her. Her dull blue eyes met mine, and showed her deep sadness.

"When you joined the Seekers, what did you wish to accomplish?" I asked.

She blinked at me in surprise, but answered nonetheless. "I wanted to make a difference in a chaotic time. I wanted to be able to protect the weak."

I nodded. "So what are you fighting for?"

The Combat Specialist didn't hesitate in her answer. "I am fighting for my daughter. I want to offer her a world free of Phantoms; a world where she will live her life free from their threat."

I smiled softly. "Then use your daughter as a means to make sure that the Phantoms are wiped out for good. You can't give up."

Elvira was speechless for a few minutes, but then her eyes lit up in renewed hope as she smiled. I returned the gesture, and then turned towards Olsen. "Hey there fellow Scout member; what is your reason to fight?"

The shy agent smiled at my words. "I'm fighting for justice; the world has lost its order, and it's up to us to restore it."

I nodded, and then turned to Predator.

I didn't bother repeating the question, as I was sure he knew what I would ask him.

"I joined the Seekers to make sure that no one would have to go through the same thing as me. What the Phantoms did was despicable, and they need to be stopped." He stated.

My eyes softened as I recalled his traumatic experience, but I was glad that despite how much he suffered, Predator turned out alright.

Last, but not least, was the Assassin. I glanced at him with a raised eyebrow as he had his arms crossed, and gave me a stubborn look.

"And you Fear: what are you fighting for?"

The Assassin continued to hold his ground; apparently he was too good to answer my question. I felt a bit annoyed, but decided that whatever Fear's reasons were, they were too personal for him to openly say.

Just when I thought he wouldn't speak, the Assassin surprised me once again. "I joined the Seekers because I enjoy the fight. As an Assassin, I was trained to kill; it is my life. There is nothing else."

I was momentarily stunned at his bluntness. I didn't believe that was truly his reason for joining the Seekers, but I decided to let him be.

I turned my attention towards the other agents and stared at all of them equally. "There you go. Whatever the reason, we've all joined the Seekers because of one common goal: to destroy the Phantoms. We must accomplish this mission if humanity has any chance to have a safe, and free future. The people need us, and we owe it to them to make sure that the Phantoms go down permanently."

My team members were deep in thought as they took in what I said. I nodded at them, and walked to the door. "Agents Elvira and Predator, you two will assist me with the interrogation. Agents Olsen and Fear, consider this a momentary shore-leave."

The first two agents stepped into line behind me as I made my way to the room where the Phantom woman was kept. I stepped aside to allow Predator to unlock the door, and finally stepped in. It was a fairly small room; the three of us made it seem even tinier as I began to feel a hint of claustrophobia. I ignored the sensation, and focused my sights on the Phantom.

Now that I had a better look at her, I finally realized just how frail and exhausted she looked. She was dangerously skinny, almost to the point of anorexia. Her cheek bones were hollow and gave her the appearance of a walking skeleton. Her glowing eyes only made her seem even less human. I nearly felt pity for her.

"My God," Predator said quietly, "what happened to you?"

The frail woman looked up at him. "More like what didn't happen to me? The Phantoms don't really take care of their own." She replied bitterly.

I never would have guessed, I thought sarcastically.

I stepped in front of the woman. "As I'm sure you can tell, you're under an interrogation. My friend here has many ways of making people talk. "I said as I gestured to Elvira. She nodded in my direction, and stepped to the other side of the Phantom.

The woman looked at Elvira with a slight scowl. "Oh calm down Seeker, I'm not going to make this interrogation hard for you. I'll tell you whatever I know."

Well that's a first, I thought.

I pulled out a foldable chair that was leaning against the wall, and sat right in front of the Phantom. "I suppose we should start at the beginning. How did you get involved with the Phantoms?"

The woman snorted, much to my annoyance. "It's obvious isn't it? I'm a clone."

"Maybe, maybe not." I replied. "We know that not all of the people sent to the Phantoms were cloned. Some were indoctrinated against their will."

"You're right." The woman confirmed. "The ones who weren't cloned were considered too valuable to be altered in any way. Now what exactly qualified them as "special", I have no idea. That knowledge was way above my ranking."

"Do you know who you were cloned off of?" I asked.

The woman shook her head. "Nah, we clones don't have any memories. That's what makes us so useful to the Phantoms; they program us to do their tasks with no questions."

I hummed in agreement. "You certainly seem different than other agents; for one, you're not trying to escape."

The Phantom nearly smirked. "I've got nowhere to go Seeker. Besides, I'm not stupid to try to escape when you've got a Guardian and an Assassin with you."

I was secretly impressed at her knowledge about my teammates. "You're very observant." I commented.

The woman chuckled. "I'm on my own; I've got enemies on both sides, so of course I've learned to be vigilant. Besides, your ranking system is very similar to that of the Phantoms."

I leaned forward in interest. "Do tell."

The woman crossed her legs. "We've got the same hierarchy system as you do. The only difference is that instead of answering to one main authority, the rankings are divided into their own sections. Makes keeping an eye on the progress of the individual agents much simpler."

Interesting, I thought.

Elvira used that moment as an opportunity to take out a data pad. "We found some Intel on the tests that were done here; care to elaborate?"

The Phantom rolled her shoulders. "I was head surgeon, so I know everything that's on that file. Our superiors ordered us to experiment on captured Seeker agents to see whether or not we could bring them over to our side without the need to clone them. That turned out to be a complete failure though."

"Explain." I said expectantly.

The woman glanced at me. "I'm not sure if you realize this, but every Seeker agent has a computer chip implanted in their bodies that releases Nano-bots whenever the body is affected, whether it be for reparation, or as the result from our experiment, create a brain hemorrhage."

My eyebrows shot up all the way, both for the fact that we had tiny robots within us, as well as what the Phantom stated. "So cloning the individuals removed the risk of death."

The woman nodded. "Correct. It was ruthless, I'll admit, but my superiors wanted results."

I nodded as what the Phantom told me made sense; I figured that the Phantoms cloned people to have mindless slaves, but I never realized to what extent that decision was made.

"So that's how you met Predator." Elvira stated.

The Phantom nodded. "Indeed. He was brought in by Warriors, and he was one of the first we experimented on. It was a miracle that he didn't die from a brain hemorrhage."

I glanced at Predator who stared blankly at the woman. "Guess I was lucky." He replied quietly.

He exchanged an indecipherable message with the woman, and I was left wondering what it was. The woman nodded. "Indeed you were." She said.

I raised an eyebrow. "Why the change of heart? Why did you save Predator?"

The woman sighed. "Not every Phantom agent is evil as you believe. It's just that we have no choice but to follow our orders. I'm not proud of who I am, and what I have done. I participated in the creation of Predator's clone. I was in charge of his particular experiment, so I took the risk to fake Austin's death and nursed him back to health."

"Austin? You mean Predator?" I asked.

The Phantom nodded. "Yes." She then turned to face Predator. "You've got to find him. The Phantoms have great plans in store for him."

Predator, or Austin I suppose, nodded and stared back gravely.

"Did the Phantoms ever found out about what you did?" I asked.

A sad smile appeared on the Phantom's face. "Of course they did, and I paid the price for it. I, however, don't regret it one bit." She then regarded me with a serious look. "I sincerely hope that you and your organization beat the Phantoms. They've caused enough suffering as it is."

I blinked in surprise. I never expected a former Phantom agent to display that much emotion.

Predator then stepped forward, and knelt down to her level. "Come with us; we can protect you, and you'd be a great asset to the Seekers."

The woman smiled gently. "I bet they would, but my situation's more complicated than you know."

Predator stared at her in confusion. I decided that we interrogated her for enough, so I stood up and placed an arm on Predator's shoulder. "We've got enough information for now. Let's go take a break."

Predator nodded wordlessly, and followed Elvira out the door. I was about to join them when the woman spoke once more. "Beware Seeker; some of your so called "fellow agents" might not be who you think they are." She warned.

I turned back and stared blankly at her for a moment. Beneath the haze of her cold eyes was an emotion that I couldn't quite pinpoint. It almost appeared like… regret.

Just as quickly, it was wiped off, and a scowl appeared on her face. "Oh for God's sake, just leave me in peace!"

Her outburst snapped me from my thoughts, and I glared at her. I then slammed the door shut, and made sure that it was locked properly. Didn't need that grumpy old woman to escape.

I leaned against the nearby wall and sighed. Just when I thought things couldn't have gotten any worse.

I realized Elvira and Predator looking at me expectantly. I sighed again. "Go get some rest guys."

Wordlessly, they went their own ways down the hall.

I kicked myself off the wall, and walked in the direction they took. As if by fate, I arrived just outside the door to the room where Delta and his mother were occupying. I decided to go in. "Hey." I greeted softly. "How's she doing?"

Delta turned his head toward me. "Well, her vitals are strong, but she's still out cold. I don't know when, if she'll wake up." He sighed at the last part, his body language displayed his hidden helplessness.

I walked over to him and pressed a hand against his cheek. "She'll wake up, I know it. We did just take her from a Phantom lab, so she probably needs more time to regain consciousness." I bit my lip as I tried to formulate what I would say next. "Just have faith. She will come around, John." I whispered the last part.

The Guardian's eyes widened as I called him by his real name for the first time. "How did you…" he trailed off.

"Fear told me. A slip of the tongue, I suppose." I said, and smiled slightly while I withdrew my hand from his cheek.

Delta, or should I say John, still had a dazed look on his face, but he recovered and looked at me with the same intensity that made my stomach do backflips. "What else did he tell you?"

I shrugged, and leaned on the nearby counter. "That was all. We were running for our lives after all."

That seemed to have gotten John out of his trance as he shook his head and looked at me normally. "I see." He finally replied. "So what's the verdict?" He asked as he stood beside me, and crossed his arms.

"We're free agents now, so-to-speak. We're basically on standby until the Directors give us our next orders."

"Ahh." He simply stated.

A long, yet comfortable silence overcame the room as the two of us enjoyed each other's company. I absentmindedly kicked at my boots as I paid unnecessarily close attention to the specks of dirt on them. As I slipped my hands into my coat pocket, a foreign weight grazed my fingers. Curious, I grabbed the object and brought it out.

Exposed, I realized that it was the ring I had found at the ruins of what was once Madison Square Garden. I twirled it in my hands, and studied it under the bright light. John noticed my actions and peered in curiosity at my hands. "What's that?" He asked.

"It's a ring I found during my last mission. Not sure who it belongs to, but there's some Latin inscriptions on it. I can't read it though." I replied.

"May I see it?"

I saw no harm in doing that, so I placed the ring in his open palm and watched him study it under the light as well. His eyes narrowed as he focused on the tiny writing.

"Can you read it?" I asked.

"I believe I can." He replied. "If I'm reading this properly, it says: 'The day personal identity is lost is the day when man no longer lives.'"

I raised an eyebrow as I felt a déjà-vu coming about. "That's a weird saying." I commented.

John nodded, and continued to twirl the ring in his gloved hand. Apparently satisfied, he then gave it back to me. I slid the ring back into the black hole that was my pocket.

"Things are going to get a lot tougher." John finally said. "After our latest mission, it just makes me sick as I think about what other experiments the Phantoms must have done. I just want this war to be over."

I glanced at him. "I do too." I agreed. "After spending six years hunting down possible leads that might have brought us one step closer to stopping the Phantoms, I've had just about enough." I sighed. "This isn't how I pictured spending my young, single years."

At that, John chuckled. "Single years huh? Haven't you ever gone out or something?"

I pouted my lips at him playfully. "I've had one boyfriend in high school, but that was too immature to be considered something real. I want to be in a committed relationship with the right guy; not be forced to do whatever he wants."

John raised a delicate eyebrow. "Is that so? Maybe the right guy has been with you all along."

His statement made me stare at him intently as I looked for any signs of what were his thoughts. Slowly, John lowered his face to my level, and steadily brought his face closer to mine. I carefully placed a hand on the edge of his mask, and looked at him for permission. John nodded, and I slowly began to peel the mask off.

Just as I almost had it off his nose, the sound of my pager going off ruined the moment. I jumped as a result and swiftly took it out. "I should probably go; I've got some things to check on."

John's eyes widened slightly, and he leaned back while he looked away and adjusted his mask. "Yes, of course." He replied, and sounded a bit abashed.

"I'll see you later." I said as I lightly brushed my hand against his.

The Guardian finally turned around to look at our touching hands before he focused his gaze on me, a strange, yet welcoming look in his eyes.

After a moment of inner debate, I leaned my face toward him and lightly kissed his cheek. His breath halted abruptly, even though his mask prevented him from feeling the sensation. I felt my own heart speed up from the simple gesture. I quickly leaned back, gave John a small smile, and sped walked out of the room.

When I walked out, an unfamiliar, yet strong emotion took place within me. As I turned around to look back at a still dazed John, reality slapped me across the face as I realized that I was in love with him.

22: Chapter 21: A Solemn Goodbye
Chapter 21: A Solemn Goodbye


Chapter 21: A Solemn Goodbye

I checked the pager, and was all too aware of my rapidly beating heart. I was in love with my Guardian, and there was nothing I could have done about it. I didn't know how it happened, but it just did. I willed myself to push the thought aside, and instead focused on the audio recording from my pager. It was sent by Gizmo who asked me to meet up with him about something. Curious as to what he wanted to discuss, I placed the simple device in my pocket and walked down the hall.

A million thoughts sped through my mind like cars driving down a highway. With all of the difficulties from the present mission and my inner turmoil that pressed down on me, I was surprised that I was still able to hold my shit together.

I stepped inside what was the make-shift medical bay. Gizmo was lying on a bed, and busily typed away on his laptop. I couldn't help but chuckle at his frantic movement.

As I paid close attention to his movement, I noticed that his right arm was bandaged up in thick white cloths. A slight ping in my chest reminded me of our close encounter with the Phantoms. "Hey." I said in greeting. "How are you feeling?"

The Tech Expert didn't even look up when he replied. "The wound is just superficial. Bloody Phantoms shot me as I drove away."

I winced a bit, but otherwise didn’t react. "Well, what have you got for me Gizmo?" I asked as I wanted to change the subject.

It snapped him out of his frantic haze for he looked up at me solemnly. "I was just checking out our camera feeds, and something interesting came up. Here." He turned his laptop screen to face me.

As I knelt down, Gizmo pressed play, and various camera footages played simultaneously. One particular video caught my attention, just like what Gizmo had said, and I leaned forward to get a better view.

The footage showed a cloaked figure going over to where Predator placed his bomb. My eyes narrowed as I tried to figure out what that Phantom agent did.

"There's more." Gizmo stated.

Another video appeared on the screen of what I assumed to have been the same agent, that time just outside the van. A loud bang went off; that must have been when Gizmo was shot, and then the figure got smaller as the van drove off.

"That's the bugger who shot me." Gizmo commented bitterly.

I nodded, and glanced through each footage that was shown. As I replayed the videos, I noticed that the figure from the second video seemed to have touched the van before it drove off.

"Look!" I exclaimed. "Did he place something there?"

Gizmo re-winded the clip and the same thing was shown. "Hmm," he murmured. "He could have possibly placed a tracking bug on the van, but it wouldn't work now."

"How so?" I asked.

Gizmo turned to face me completely, and looked at me as if I grew another head. "I'm a Tech Expert boss. It's my job to make sure no damn Phantom gets the best of us like that."

I stared at him blankly, but didn't say anything. I diverted my attention back to the laptop. "In that first video, the Phantom was doing something to Predator's bomb. Did he diffuse it?"

Gizmo shook his head. "No, he couldn't have. The bomb still went off. That's what has me confused though. I think he was tracing the code back to Predator's detonator; essentially tracing it back to us."

I stared at Gizmo gravely as I carefully processed what he just told me. "So, does your tech expertise cover this type of a threat?"

Gizmo just stared at me, and then turned his attention back to the laptop. "I already took every necessary precaution ever since we arrived here. The Phantoms can't trace us now, though Predator's detonator is no longer usable. I suggest you tell him to get rid of it."

"Noted," I replied.

The familiar beep of my pager snapped me out of my focus, and I took it out. My blood ran cold as I read the message. "Gizmo, tell everyone to meet in the conference room."

I was already out the door before the tech expert could reply.

About ten minutes later, all of my team, except for John, and I were gathered in the conference room. The video image of the Head Warrior was already on display. "Agent Moore, the Directors just finished their evaluation of your findings. They relayed to me your new orders."

"What are they?" I asked.

“It is extremely rare for a Phantom agent to be caught alive, and apparently willingly from what you’ve told me. I’m sure you can imagine just how much the Seekers can gain by having this agent in our hands.”

“Of course.” I agreed. “When do you want us to hand her over?”

“Actually, the Directors have already sent a team of Warriors to come pick her up. Also, please notify Agent Delta that a medical squad will be coming by as well to pick up his mother.” Pete answered.

“Yes sir.” I said. “What are we to do in the meantime?”

“Our interrogators are still busy with Mr. Hill, but we’re certain that he’ll crack soon enough. Until then, enjoy your brief time off-duty.”

“Thank you sir.” I replied respectively.

The Head Warrior nodded. “I’ll contact you when I have more information. Pete out.”

I leaned back as the screen went black. I turned to face my teammates and saw mixed reactions. Olsen seemed like he didn’t know what to do with his free time, Elvira was more than pleased if the smile on her face could be trusted, Fear looked bored out of his mind, and Predator… he appeared distressed. I looked at him in curiosity. “Austin, what’s wrong?”

Said person seemed surprised at my usage of his real name, but didn’t comment on it. “It’s nothing Agent Moore. It’s just that… I don’t think that the Seekers should take Diana.”

So that’s the Phantom’s name, I thought.

I raised an eyebrow. “On a first-name basis, huh? You do realize that she’s a Phantom agent, therefore she’s our enemy.”

Predator gave a look of annoyance. “Yeah, yeah I know that. Everywhere I go, I’m reminded of the war. It’s just that… she’s not like them. You’ve seen her yourself. She was forced to do what she did.”

I looked at him in confusion. “Austin, this is the woman that subjected you to horrific experiments. Against her will or not, she still tortured you, and she still belongs to the Phantoms. How can you try to justify what she did?”

Predator sighed. “You don’t understand Agent Moore. I’m more than aware of what she did to me. She still saved my life, though. I at least owe that to her.” He then stepped forward. “Agent Moore, if the Seekers take her, she’ll be treated as a prisoner of war. Nothing good will happen to her.”

I quietly reflected on what he said. True, this Diana person was different than other Phantom agents, but she still was a Phantom. I had to make a decision. “I’m sorry Pred; it’s not my call to make. We’ve got our orders, and we have to follow them.” I then gave him a stern look. “Let me remind you of something though; we are in the middle of a war. Prisoners of war are a given, and there’s nothing you can do about that. This woman is a Phantom agent through and through. I don’t care that she had a change of heart, she’s still the enemy. I won’t allow your pity for her to cloud your judgment. You are a Seeker agent; you know where your loyalty lies.”

For a moment, Predator stood speechless at my directness. His mouth opened and closed several times before his brown eyes darkened with acceptance. He nodded tensely. “I understand Agent Moore.”

I hummed in acceptance. “Good. Now, go get some rest. This war won’t be stopped in a day.”

Predator nodded wordlessly, and brushed past me. I watched him walk by before I turned my attention back to the others. Fear snorted. “He always wore his heart on his sleeve; that’s going to get him killed someday.”

I sighed. “Austin’s got a good heart; we can’t blame him.”

The Assassin shrugged. “Maybe not, but as you said, we’re in a war. Pity and compassion isn’t going to bring the Phantoms to their knees. Instead, it’ll just make it easier for them to screw us over.”

That’s some positive thinking right there! I thought in bitter sarcasm.

I rubbed my eyes. “Well, I’m going to get some rest. Stay alert for those two Seeker teams we’re expecting.”

Elvira and Fear both nodded, and I took that as my cue to find a nice quiet place to take a nap.


True to Pete’s word, a team of four Warriors arrived within an hour. The leader of the group approached me. “Agent Moore? We’ve come to escort your Phantom prisoner to a secure location.”

I nodded, and led him to the room where Diana was kept. It was so weird associating a name with a Phantom agent.

We arrived at the door, and Olsen unlocked it for us. The Warriors and I stepped inside the cramped room. The Phantom woman looked up blankly, apparently not at all intimidated by the muscular Warriors that surrounded her.

I spoke out. “Diana, you are to be sent to a secure location where you will assist the Seekers in any way they need. I’ll pass on the message for you to be treated well.”

The older woman merely raised a thin eyebrow, but didn’t say anything. The lead Warrior then stepped forward. “Please come with us.” He all but ordered.

Wordlessly, the Phantom woman stood up, and allowed the Warriors to put on another set of hand-cuffs to her slender wrists. I mentally made a note to remind the Seekers to feed her properly.

I stepped out of the room to allow the Warriors some space as they handled the frail woman. As they walked out of the room, the Phantom woman turned to glance at me. “I wish you luck on your mission, Seeker.” She said hoarsely.  

With that, the Warriors escorted her down the narrow hallway. That was the last time I ever saw her.

I felt a bit confused as mixed emotions swirled within me. I almost felt… sad that she was gone. Now don’t get me wrong, she was a Phantom and that changed nothing, yet I could understand Predator’s reservations. Diana was indeed different than the others of her kind. It was a pity that things turned out the way they did.

I shook my head. There was no point in feeling upset about something that I couldn’t control.

I turned around, and made my way to my “quarters”. It was about time that I caught up on some sleep.

23: Chapter 22: A Bittersweet Connection
Chapter 22: A Bittersweet Connection

It was well past 10pm when I woke up again. I yawned, and rubbed the sleepiness from my eyes. I got up, and stretched my rather stiff muscles. Once I was awake enough, I walked out of the room, and made my way down the hallway. I was still feeling sleepy, and I nearly bumped into Delta's firm chest. I stumbled back slightly. "Delta." I said. "What's up?"

Delta stepped back slightly. "The medical team came in; they took my mother to a secure location."

My eyes softened. "John, I'm so sorry." I said sincerely.

He nodded, though his eyes portrayed his sadness of the situation. "Yeah… It's ironic; for seven years I believed she was dead, and now that I actually found her, she's taken away from me again."

I snorted, and crossed my arms. "Yeah. Life can be quite a bitch."

John hummed in agreement. "Simple, yet that pretty much sums it up."

I laughed a bit. "That's me; I like to get straight to the point."

John chuckled in return, before his face turned serious. "I hate to be such a kill-joy, but the Head Warrior is on, and he's requesting your audience."

Automatically I woke up 100%, and stared at John in wonder. "What is it?" I asked.

John shrugged. "I don't know Rachel, he simply requested your presence before he would say anything."

My eyebrows furrowed in concern. Whatever Pete had to say, it was probably not good news.

"Alright, let's go." I said.

Wordlessly, I followed John to the conference room where everyone else were already waiting. They all had solemn looks on their faces which only deepened the tightening in my gut. I stepped to the middle where Pete's face was portrayed. He watched me approach grimly. "Hello Agent Moore. Now that you're here, I can get started with HQ's update."

The room was thick in anticipation.

"Mr. Hill informed us with more information while you were away." Pete started. "He has revealed that the organization is after the Shroud."

Gasps were heard all around as we took in the given information. My own eyes widened at the seriousness of the situation.

The Shard was the official capital of the Seeker organization. It was built in Switzerland as a symbol of peace. However, it seemed that it was in grave danger.

I breathed deeply, and urged myself to be calm.

The Head Warrior continued. "The Directors have made up their decision of what the next course of action will be: agents Fear and Delta are to meet at the rendezvous point in Switzerland along with every other high-ranked Seeker agent. The rest of you will regroup back in America."

My eyes widened in shock. "But sir…" I started.

"The decision is final Agent Moore. I'm sorry, but we all have our orders." Pete replied, and looked at me with a pitying gaze.

I could only nod back slightly as I felt a heavy weight pit in my gut. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. I turned around and saw John staring at me, his eyes portrayed the same dislike of the situation as I felt. I only gave him a small smile before I turned my head to face the Head Warrior.

I bit my lip as I contemplated on whether or not I really wanted to ask. Finally, I made up my mind. "If the Phantoms do manage to take control of the Shroud…then what will be our outcome?" I asked carefully, dreading the answer.

Pete stared at me very hard, his brown eyes molted in contained fury. "Then God forbid, the whole world will be in a full scale war. There are a lot of sensitive documents in there that will only lead to disaster if they fall into the Phantoms' hands."

I felt my face go white as I swallowed hard while I tried to control my shaking. The Head Warrior leaned back into his chair and sighed heavily. He rubbed his head as if soothing an oncoming headache. He stopped the gesture and looked at me again. "You have twelve hours to get yourselves prepared. Agent Moore; I expect to see you and the others back in New York completely ready in 36 hours."

I nodded. "Yes sir."

"Good." He replied simply. The Head Warrior then focused his attention on all of us again. "Be careful agents. These are dark days ahead of us. Keep each other safe. Pete out."

With that, the connection was cut.

I let out a long breath I hadn't realized I was holding. There was a couple of light gasps, and heaving breathing. Predator let out a loud exhale, and paced around the room as he tried to wrap his head around the situation. I turned to face him as I was slightly annoyed by his movement. He looked at me, and stopped when he saw my face. He let out an aggravated sound, and then stood in the middle of the room. "Alright, I'll be the one to say this: this is all a bunch of bullshit."

My right eye twitched, but I realized that despite his insubordination, Predator was right. And he was not done yet. "I mean come on! They send you guys all the way out here for a critical mission, and then they just send you back home? And even better, they're relocating every high ranked Seeker agent to the Shroud all on a hunch from some gambler who can't even get a score with a hooker?!" He shouted the last part. We all stared at him in stunned silence; he stared back in challenge.

As he was the one who knew the Demolitions Expert best, Fear moved to Predator's side and placed a hand on his shoulder in comfort. Immediately, Predator flinched, and moved away. The Assassin stared at him in momentary shock before he regained his composure. Predator stared back at Fear, and realized what he did. He looked away in shame, and walked towards the door. As he was almost out of the room, he turned towards us. "I'll be packing my stuff," he said quietly, and then left the room.

A heavy silence fell upon us like a thick blanket. None of us knew what to say. Movement from the corner of my eye caught my attention, and I saw Fear make his way towards the door. I sped walk to him which caught his attention in return. He turned around slightly, and waited for me to say whatever I needed to say.

"He's stressed." I eventually said. "We all are."

The Assassin merely nodded. "Yes, I know that."

He then turned around completely, sadness was hidden deep in his eyes. I gave Fear a sympathetic look, and rubbed his shoulder in reassurance. The outline in his mask ruffled slightly which allowed me to assume that he was slightly smiling.

I smiled back, and surprised everyone, even myself, by hugging him tightly. He let out a quick gasp as he obviously didn't expect my gesture. As usual, he got over his initial shock and wrapped his arms around me, and shook slightly. I pulled away and stepped back to give the Assassin some room. Said person crossed his arms, and acted like nothing happen, but I knew that my gesture touched him.

I smiled again, and winked, as if I said that what happened in this room would stay in this room. He caught the hint, and chuckled.

I coughed as I attempted to get rid of any awkwardness. "You take care out there Fear; better live up to your name's meaning." I grinned.

He smirked. "Oh please Agent Moore; that is hardly a challenge." He then took on a more serious tone. "You take care as well. I don't want to have to save your ass again."

I raised an eyebrow and placed my hands on my hips. "Is that so?" I replied as I dared him to contradict me. "As I recall, you were trying to play hero and I had to use my wits to not get you killed."

The Assassin just rolled his eyes, but his eyes twinkled in amusement.

After a moment, he turned towards the door and waved at me. "Until we meet again, Agent Moore." With that, he was out the door.

I shook my head as I was unable to keep the smile off of my face. I turned around and saw John who was staring at me in confusion. I merely grinned and lip spoke that I would tell him later. He shook his head, but seemed to have accepted my answer.

The other agents stood in the middle of the room, unsure of what to do. I sighed and gave them a reassuring smile. "You guys should probably pack your things; we'll be leaving in the morning."

Both Elvira and Olsen nodded, and politely made their way past me. It was just me and John…

"John." I said.

"Yeah Rachel?" He answered as he turned towards me.

"I…uh…" The words died out in my throat. I couldn't tell him.

Said person quirked his head, curious as to what I had to say. I looked down, took a deep breath and looked back at him as I smiled sadly. "I wish you all the best." I said softly.

John's eyes dimmed slightly, as if his hope was extinguished. The slight hurt on his face made me feel like a part of me died on the inside. I wanted to tell him how I felt so much, but I couldn't, and I cursed myself for that.

John rubbed his head, and let out a loud sigh. He then turned to face me. "Care to join me for a drink?" He asked almost timidly.

I smiled gently at his shyness. I was also relieved at the dissipation of the awkwardness. "Sure, friend, if you're buying."

My Guardian seemed to have felt relieved as well for he regarded me in amusement. "Well it'll be free, but sure thing, my lady."

I huffed in indignation, and flipped him the finger. He merely laughed in response. I smiled again, and followed John to wherever the booze was kept. He took us to an isolated room near the back door. It resembled a mini-bar with some high stools leaning against the wall where there were cabinets with various bottles inside. There was even a double-sized bed on the far wall. I mused quietly as I imagined a drunkard stumbling their way to the bed.

John went behind the counter, and rummaged through the cabinets. He took out two clean glasses, and pulled out two sleek bottles. He placed them on the wooden counter, and filled both glasses with the amber liquid. "In times like these, I like to call upon a dear friend of mine: beer." He said as he placed the filled glass in front of me.

I snorted in amusement. "You're a man of fine taste." I mocked as I held the glass.

John smirked. "And you're a woman with a smart mouth. I'm surprised that you haven't killed anyone yet with just an appropriate choice of words."

"Pfft," I replied. I then brought my glass up. "Cheers," I started, "to the end of the world."

John raised his own glass. "May you be in heaven for half an hour before the devil knows you're dead."

We clinked our glasses together after our bizarre toast, and took generous swings of the cool alcohol. When I was done, I set my glass on the counter. "Well, talk about being positive." I remarked sarcastically.

John snorted at my remark. "We're in the middle of a war; if you were acting positive, I'd suspect that you were on drugs."

I chuckled lowly. "I'd think the same thing."

John shook his head in amusement, and brought out two more beer bottles. He filled our glasses again, and downed all of his in one go. He sighed loudly. "I can't believe Fear and I are being sent to go babysit some luxurious building."

I raised an eyebrow. "At least you're doing something. The rest of us are being called back to New York as if we have a curfew." I paused to drink my beer. "I can only imagine what sort of mission they could give to us 'low-leveled' agents."

At that, John stilled, and regarded me with a serious look. "Come on Rachel, you know that HQ doesn't see you as inferior. You're a Scout; reconnaissance is just as hard as going in head first. It's probably even harder." He then rested his arms on the counter. "Your rank is a great asset to Warriors; you go in and search the area to ensure the safety of the Warriors. You're practically like their Guardian."

I smiled slightly at his attempt to make me feel useful. "Thanks John." I said quietly.

Said person nodded in return.

I downed the rest of my drink, and then grinned. "Since we're parting ways, does that still make you my Guardian?" I joked.

John's eyes widened at my question. He then relaxed as he saw my smile. "I believe so." He replied. "After all, the Directors never gave me the order to let you go."

I then stared at John intently. "Let me go, huh?"

John noticed my change of mood, and stared at me with an unfamiliar expression. His grey eyes seemed to have turned into molten silver, and my breath hitched. It was just like the night at Salute to Vienna, although this time it was definitely willingly on my part.

John stepped around the counter, and pulled me up. I looked at him expectantly. He looked back. "Rachel, what were you really going to say back in the conference room?" He asked.

I opened my mouth, but shut it quickly. I gave him a sad smile as I hoped that my eyes would have somehow been able to tell him what I could not say. "You know that I'm bad with words." I tried to joke.

John nodded, and slightly chuckled.

I then placed my hands on his chest, and looked at him through a slightly hazed vision. "But perhaps I could show you."

John's eyes widened momentarily, before they closed shut as I trailed my hands all over his muscular chest. I reached behind his back, and swiftly removed his main cloak. It fell to the ground in a thick pile. John's well-toned body was at last revealed to me, and I couldn't help but stare in appreciation. I looked up, and realized that John's hood was gone. Huh, he has jet black hair just like his mother.

I also realized that his mask was off as well. I felt stupid as I didn't realize him taking off his mask in order to drink his beer. Great, I thought sarcastically, I'm drunk and oblivious to what goes on around me.

Another part of me retorted back. It's not my fault! His damn hood covered his entire face.

Despite the lack of "clothing" on his face, his features were covered by the shadows. Only his eyes were visible; they shined brightly even in the dim light. I stared at him wordlessly. His face then curved into a smile. "You like what you see?" He asked teasingly.

I let out a shudder. "It would be even better if I could actually see your face." I replied breathlessly.

John's eyes twinkled in excitement before he stepped into the light. I could hardly help myself as I gasped at what I saw.

John had a very masculine face; his nose was perfectly straight, his jaw was well defined, his cheekbones were at a good elevation, and his lips… God, they were perfect! I couldn't take my eyes off of them.

In return, John took off his gloves and gently removed my ponytail. My hair came down in long, thick waves. I shook my head a bit to adjust their position. The Guardian caressed my hair, and trailed lightly over my skull and down to the ends. I stifled a shiver at the intimate gesture, and focused on just enjoying the moment.

John then took both of my hands and kissed them softly. His eyes glimmered like molten silver shining under a light. He smiled at me tenderly as his eyes examined every aspect of my face. I smiled shyly as a result. I once again trailed my hands over his broad chest until they reached the lining of his shirt. I looked up at him as I voicelessly asked for permission. John nodded, and swiftly took off his shirt.

I blushed hard as I took in the sight of his naked chest. It was like a sculptor made him; he was practically flawless.

"You're… beautiful." I said quietly.

John chuckled slightly, though there was a hint bashfulness in his manner. John then grabbed me by my hips, and brought me closer. Boldly, he brought his face close to mine which caused my heart to accelerate like a race car.

As he leaned forward, I parted my lips slightly, though I could hardly have kept myself together. Finally, he pressed his lips against mine and I closed my eyes.

The sensation was amazing: his rough, yet soft lips fit perfectly against mine which allowed all of my nerves to become electrified in pleasure. I wrapped my arms around his neck as his hold on me tightened.

With precision, John slid his tongue through my parted mouth and began teasing my own. Not one to give up so easily, my tongue met his and they engaged in a minor battle. I giggled slightly, the movement caused me to lick John's bottom lip.

He growled slightly which aroused a mixture of feelings within me. Finally, I pulled away, completely flushed, and rested my head on his shoulders just like all those hours ago. He wrapped his strong arms around me in an embrace. We stood in that position for who knew how long as we just enjoyed each other's company. After all, it was possibly the last time we would have ever seen each other.

The frightening thought made me tense up which caused John to pull away slightly to look at me. "Are you alright Rachel?" He asked in concern.

I shook my head. "No, I'm not ok John. We have no idea what will happen, and the Directors are sending us off to probably our deaths. Predator was right; this whole situation is a bunch of bullshit."

John tensed up himself, but quickly relaxed, and ran his fingers through my hair. His gesture soothed me a bit, but I kept on talking. "It's bad enough that we're not 100% sure of what the Phantoms are up to, but the one good thing in my damn life since my family is now being taken away from me!" I automatically shut up, though I didn't dare to look up at John.

His chest vibrated, and when I mustered the courage to look at his face, I realized that he was laughing. He looked down at me and smiled. "So, I'm the best thing in your life after your family?" He grinned.

I scowled, and slapped his chest lightly. That only made him laugh louder. Eventually, I joined in on the laughter, and was happy that we were able to find a momentary distraction from the cruel reality. We stopped after a few minutes, and John took my face in his hands. "Don't be sad Rachel; this won't be the last time we'll see each other. I give you my word. Once this is all over, I will come back; after all I am your Guardian." I chuckled slightly at his comment. He continued on, and looked deep into my eyes. "And know that you too are the best thing that has happened to me since this damn war started."

My heart skipped a beat as I could only stare at him in disbelief. So he does feel the same way…

"You better come back." I said.

John leaned down, and kissed me desperately. I responded back right away, and wrapped my legs around his waist. He held onto them as he led us to the double-bed on the other side of the room. He gently placed me on the bed, but I pulled him down with me. The fall caused our lower regions to rub against each other, and we both groaned as a result. John leaned back momentarily, and looked deep into my eyes. "Rachel," he said tenderly, "are you sure you want this?"

I smiled, and pecked him softly on the lips. "I've never been surer in all my life." I replied breathlessly.

John's eyes softened which caused the blue in them to pop out more. He smiled, and then kissed me softly. I wrapped my arms around his neck, and lightly trailed my fingers around the area. John broke the kiss to nib at my neck. I moaned quietly, and caressed John's strong shoulders. He continued to leave a trail of kisses down my collar bone before he slid a hand inside my shirt, and rubbed my firm stomach. I held a breath in anticipation as I waited for him to make the next move. He grabbed the end of my shirt, and looked at me expectantly. I nodded, and he immediately pulled my shirt over my head to reveal my simple black bra. He untangled the piece of clothing, and threw it on the ground.

I couldn't help but blush as John gave my chest an appreciative look-over. He pressed his lips against my skin and kissed the area. I moaned in pleasure, and arched my chest upwards. John took that as encouragement, and continued with his "task".

Eventually, the rest of our clothing came off, and we fell into a harmonious pattern. I never felt more alive and whole than I did with John at that moment. He made me complete, and I knew that I wanted to be with him.

John collapsed beside me, and brought me in his arms. I shuffled closer, and rested my head under his chin. He kissed my hair, and rubbed my shoulder affectionately.

"That was… amazing." I said breathlessly.

John laughed momentarily. "Yeah, it certainly was." He said.

I lifted my head up to meet his gaze. "You better come back. I'm looking forward to next time." I smiled slyly.

John smiled at me sleepily. "I am too." He whispered.

My eyes softened at his appearance, and my heart curled in adoration. I kissed him softly, and resumed my resting position. John's embrace slightly tightened, and I've never felt safer than in his arms. I then closed my eyes, and fell into a blissful sleep.

24: Chapter 23: The War Begins
Chapter 23: The War Begins

I woke up feeling much more rested than I have since I became a Seeker agent. I tilted my head up, and my eyes softened at the sight of my sleeping Guardian. He looked so peaceful in that moment. I leaned forward to place a kiss on his cheek. My gesture roused him a bit, and a moment later one of his precious eyes opened. "Do we have to wake up yet?" He asked cutely.

I giggled slightly. "Well, we could always just say 'to hell with this' and stay in bed… alone… where we're naked." I said slyly as I raised an eyebrow suggestively.

That automatically got John's attention for he opened his other eye, and looked at me with lust. He then pinned me to the bed, and kissed me all over. I laughed, and flipped our positions so that John was pinned to the bed. I grinned. "How about you and I just walk out, and go travel the world."

John mocked contemplating on my suggestion. "Hmm, that's a tempting offer, though our journey will most likely be cut short by Phantom agents trying to kill us."

I huffed in annoyance. "You're such a kill-joy." I pretended to be upset.

It was John's turn to grin. "Yeah, but you love that about me!"

You have no idea how much I love you, I thought.

Thankfully John couldn't read my mind. I sighed, and grudgingly got out of the warm bed. "We better get dressed." I suggested.

I grabbed my pieces of clothing from their various locations, (I blushed a bit as I found my underwear hanging on the ceiling fan), and proceeded to put them on. I caught John staring at me. I raised an eyebrow in question, but he merely smirked. "What? I'm just enjoying the show." He joked.

I flipped him the finger which caused him to laugh. I muttered to myself about men being perverts, and waited for John to get dressed. Once he did so, John took out his pager to check for any messages. His face blanched momentarily. I looked at him in concern. "What's wrong?" I asked.

He looked at me sadly. "It's time." He simply said.

I right away knew what he meant, and struggled to not get too emotional. You knew this was coming Rachel; be happy that you had at least one night with him.

John noticed the hurt on my face, and approached me. He then hugged me tightly too which I gladly returned the gesture. We stayed in that position for as long as we could; simply feeling each other in order to last until the next time we met. Yes Rachel, I thought reassuringly, you will see him again.

Against my wishes, John pulled away completely, and looked at me regretfully. "I should get ready…" He said.

I nodded, unable to say anything else. John only added more to my misery as he came forward and kissed me softly on my forehead before he left the room.

Once he was gone, I pressed myself roughly against the wall and slid down as I covered my face with my arms. For the first time in seven years, I cried.

After my brief crying session, I took my time to compose myself; I didn't want the other agents to see me in my current state. Out of habit, I decided to put on some light pink lipstick just to add more color to my unusually pale skin. When I deemed myself presentable, I took a deep breath and walked out of the room.

I made my way to the garage where Elvira and Olsen were placing various boxes in the van. They turned towards me, each looked at me with a questioning gaze. I nodded at them in greeting. "Morning." I said.

"Good morning." They replied simultaneously.

I walked over to the steadily lessening pile of boxes, and proceeded to help them finish packing. Not long afterwards, Predator and Gizmo came in with their personal belongings. They added their last details to the van, and with the closing of the truck, we all got in and made our way to the airport.

Our flight was at 8am; I absentmindedly looked at my watch and saw that it was 7:05am. We had time. Randomly, the conversation with Gizmo came into mind. "Predator, did you get rid of your detonator?" I asked.

Said person looked at me through the rear view mirror. "It's all right boss. Gizmo explained everything to me. No way will any Phantom bastards get us." He grinned at the last remark.

I leaned back into my chair, somewhat relieved at the news and at the fact that Predator seemed back to normal. Or as normal as a crazed Demolitions Expert could be, hehe…


The drive to the airport was quiet, and within twenty minutes we arrived at the runway. We carefully loaded our expensive equipment onto the plane. To distract myself, I helped out with the loading by purposely taking the heavier articles. What could I say? Lifting weights, carrying heavy articles, same thing; just an excellent way of blowing off some steam.

Together, we managed to load the plane in just under fifteen minutes. As I looked at my watch, I noticed that we were ahead of schedule. The ground crew was exceptionally generous and cleared the area of any unwanted materials. They also moved the van out of the way. With that done, we just had to get on the plane.

The remainder of my team and I boarded the plane and sat down in various parts of the sitting area. As usual, Gizmo was busily typing away at his laptop, and allowed Olsen to glance curiously at the screen. Predator sat down awkwardly, as if unsure whether he should have been here or not.

I decided to find out. "You all right Pred?"

Said person glanced at me in surprise, but relaxed into his seat. "I'm fine boss," he replied. "It's just weird because I haven't been home in three years. I've spent that time here in Europe moving from site to site, occasionally working with Fear…"

I nodded, and he turned his attention to staring out the window.

"Fasten your seat belts as we will commence take off." The pilot announced which shook us all out of our thoughts.

I did what was instructed and leaned back in my chair. I inhaled deeply in an attempt to calm myself.

Within minutes, the plane sped down the runaway and was up in the air, the city of Rome steadily disappeared below us the higher we went.

I exhaled hard through my nose as I did my best to not think about John and I's painful goodbye. Unfortunately, John continued to plague my mind, and at that point I was willing to do just distract myself from him.

I opted for taking a nap in hopes of allowing my mind to go blank, as well as to make the eight hour flight back home to pass by quicker. I adjusted my position in my seat and not too long afterwards I began to doze off.


The sound of low murmur woke me up from my nap. I saw the figures of Elvira and Predator huddled together; they were the source of the noise. I checked my watch and saw that I have been asleep for around three hours.

I decided that I wouldn't have been able to fall back asleep any time soon, so I stretched my stiff neck, and stood up. I made my way to the agents, though they stiffened as I approached them. "What's going on?" I asked.

"Something's really weird boss." Gizmo replied. "Around forty minutes ago, a signal was launched from our systems, though I can't trace how it's being done, or where it's been sent."

I furrowed my eyebrows in worry. An unsettling feeling took place in my gut. "Can this affect us in a bad way?"

Gizmo shrugged. "I can't tell boss. This isn't normal for our systems. I should know; I designed them."

The fact that Gizmo was worried only fueled my unease. Something was definitely wrong.

The appearance of Olsen startled me from my worries. He too looked concerned. "Agent Moore, the pilot is requesting to speak with you."

I gave a look of confusion, but did what the Scout told me. Jesus Christ, it was like things were only getting worse.

I stepped out of the sitting area and proceeded up the stairs to the cockpit. The door was opened which exposed the many complex mechanisms within. The pilot turned around and gestured me to come in. I did so, and awkwardly sat down in the co-pilot's seat. "You wanted to see me." I said.

The pilot nodded. "I'm receiving a strange signal from Seeker HQ ma'am." He answered. "I tried making contact with HQ, but I got no reply. I even contacted other Seeker installments in the area, yet I got no answer from them either."

My heart began to beat faster, though my inner turmoil didn't show on the outside, thankfully.

"Is there any threat to us?" I asked.

The pilot looked back at the screen, and contemplated. "I honestly have no idea. What do you want me to do?"

I leaned back into my chair, and rubbed my forehead. The fact that Seeker HQ wasn't answering our calls made me uneasy; this wasn't normal for them.

I looked back at the pilot. "Stay on track for now, but keep on trying to contact HQ."

The pilot nodded, and turned back to his instruments.

I got up and left the cockpit. I sighed loudly as I leaned against a wall. I closed my eyes momentarily as I willed myself to calm down and take the necessary actions.

Olsen came up the stairs, a questioning look plastered on his face. "What's happening?" he asked.

I glanced at him; my inner worries came to the surface. "I'm honestly not sure. Something's wrong with Seeker HQ's communication. It could be a mechanical error, or it could be something else. Be prepared for anything."

The Scout tensed up but relaxed somewhat, and nodded. I decided to take my leave and went back downstairs.

Gizmo was still on his laptop while Elvira checked some of our equipment.

"Any news on that signal?" I asked.

The Tech Expert shook his head, still busy typing away. "I'm still trying to find out what that signal was. I even got Elvira checking our equipment for any bugs." He replied.

My eyebrows furrowed as I bit my lip. "Just keep an eye on that thing." I ordered.

Gizmo nodded, and continued to work on his task.

I sat down on my seat, and rubbed my temples. I tried to calm myself down for the good of my team; I wouldn't be helping them if I freaked out.

I leaned back, and exhaled sharply. I knew that something bad was going to happen, I just didn't know what. I didn't consider myself as a religious person after my mother died, but at that moment I silently sent a prayer to keep my team safe.

25: Chapter 24: A New Perspective
Chapter 24: A New Perspective

~ Guardian's point of view ~

A million thoughts whirled around in my mind like a remote control car spinning out of control. As I left Rachel behind, I felt a pang of guilt as I knew that it would have been the last time I'd see her for who knew how long.

That fact only made me more determined to see the mission through as quickly as possible so that I could see her again. Rachel… She didn't have the faintest clue of how she made me felt.

I admit that when I was first assigned to her as her Guardian, I felt a hint of excitement. I looked forward to "acting as her bodyguard"; the notorious Seeker Scout known for her ruthless acts. Yeah, she was definitely an interesting specimen. When I first started working with her, I was attracted to her; well who wouldn't be? With her charisma, her beauty and her wicked sense of humor, I'm surprised that she wasn't propositioned before. Or maybe she was it's just that she scared the hell out of male co-workers? Heh; good for me then.

I was pulled out of my thoughts by the appearance of my good friend Fear. He was leaning against a wall, his arms were crossed in his signature pose. I walked over to him and stood beside him. I sighed as I placed a hand over my temple.

"Having problems with the wife?" He teased.

I snorted, and ignored his remark, though it did give me momentary butterflies in my stomach. I shoved both of my hands into my pockets and just stared out in front of me. "This isn't right." I said. "We shouldn't be leaving them like this."

Fear inhaled deeply, a sign that he was reflecting. "Are you referring to the team, or just Agent Moore?"

Smartass, I thought, though I wasn't surprised. Fear was exceptionally sharp.

I replied. "I just can't believe that I have to leave her behind. I was assigned as her Guardian to protect her, yet now I'm being sent away. I feel like I'm abandoning her!"

Fear said nothing; he merely allowed me to let out my thoughts. I continued. "I hate this goddamn war; it's been nothing but trouble, and the Phantoms are always one step ahead of us. I just wish that I could protect Rachel during the hard times."

There was a shuffle of movement as Fear adjusted his position. "Agent Moore is more than capable of taking care of herself, John. You should know that."

"I know," I sighed. "Guess I should place more faith in her, huh?" I shrugged my shoulders halfheartedly.

Fear shrugged as well, which annoyed me slightly.

I crossed my arms as well and focused on the floor as if it were the most fascinating thing in the world.

A comfortable silence settled between us, something that I could have never experienced with anyone else.

"Do you love her?" Fear asked after some time.

I turned my head to look at him, his eyes were already in my direction. I was about to answer when a loud ping noise interrupted. I took out my pager and realized that our ride had arrived. I winced, not at all pleased with the order, though I had no choice.

I looked up at Fear. "It's time." I said.

He nodded, and pushed himself off the wall. We both walked down the hallway, and into the opening of the garage. Fear opened the garage door, and revealed a black SUV that was parked outside with its engine running on low. A man who wore simple black shades stood by it. He was leaning against the car in a relaxed manner, though he immediately straightened his posture once he saw us coming. "We've been expecting you." He said. "Please come inside."

Fear and I walked towards the car and opened the doors. As Fear went inside, I took one last glance at the hotel we were at.

I'll come for you, I thought, and entered the black SUV.

We sped through the city, the sun barely started to come out. I looked out the window absentmindedly, not really focused on the scenery. My mind kept on going over the mission parameters, but mostly about last night.

Last night was amazing; I couldn't have asked for a better one. The feeling of Rachel's body beneath mine was instant ecstasy; she was like a drug that I was addicted to. Still, the guilt of leaving Rachel attacked me like tsunami waves. No matter how much I tried to push it to the back of my mind, Rachel always plagued my thoughts.

The motion of the van hitting a bump on the road brought me back from my thoughts. I mentally shook myself, and composed myself once more. I placed a finger on my temple and glanced at my right. Fear regarded me with an amused expression, and I glared at him. He merely chuckled softly, and then looked out the window. I too looked away, and returned my focus on the scenery.

I had forgotten how beautiful Rome was in that time of year. My mother and I used to walk around our neighborhood every sunset as we took in the many ancient structures lying about. I would have sometimes walked on my own to enjoy the time to myself. There were plenty of nice views to see… heh, yeah. Nice views, with nice long legs…

I blinked rapidly and mentally scorned myself for getting distracted. I curled my fingers into a fist, my gloves tightened as I held on.

Thankfully, the airport came into sight and the van pulled in, and slid past the line of cars. The van drove through the terminals and made a turn just before the exit. Finally, it stopped just behind our plane. Fear, the man with shades and I all got out. The third fellow turned his attention to us. "Alright agents, your orders are to rendezvous with other higher ranked Seeker agents in Switzerland. The details will be given to you upon your arrival." With that, the man saluted us and walked off to the side.

Fear and I glanced at each other, and then made our way to the plane. As we stepped inside, we were greeted by a few other Seeker agents, each preoccupied with their own personal task. Fear and I decided to isolate ourselves by sitting at the back. The privacy would have been much appreciated.

As I clasped my seat-belt in and leaned back in my chair, the feeling of apprehension developed within me. I turned to my Assassin friend, but his eyes were closed and his breathing was even. I had no idea how he managed to fall asleep that quickly; maybe he didn't sleep at all the night before?

With no one to talk to, I shuffled in my seat and stared out the window, the belly door closed as the last of the equipment was packed on.

Within fifteen minutes, the plane's engines powered up and we were moving down the tarmac. Another couple of minutes later, the plane sped down the runway, and gained enough force and power to take off. With the plane in the air, I knew that one part of our mission was completed, but we still had several other points to cover.

Our 1 hour and 40 minute flight was to Zurich, the largest city in Switzerland. I've never been there before, but I've been told that it was beautiful. From what we've been taught back in Seeker Basic, the Shroud was built there as a symbol of peace, though in my opinion, I thought it was really because Zurich was among the world's largest financial centers; something had to fund the Shroud's construction. Just one more landmark among the many museums and art galleries found in the city.

I cracked my neck in an attempt to soothe out the tense muscles. My body was on alert, though I had no idea why. Great, I was on edge. During the flight, I kept on squirming around in my seat as I desperately tried to find a comfortable position. Nothing worked, so I chose to stand up and walked around.

I decided to make my way into the more occupied space of the plane where the rest of the Seeker agents were. There were a dozen of them about, each minded their own business. Only two of them were talking, so I joined them.

They both nodded at me as they acknowledged my arrival. I sat beside the one with simple black armor. "What do you think this is all about?" He asked.

The other agent replied. "I think it's just a piss poor excuse to get us to provoke them. It's been like the god damn cold war for over a decade, and now our superiors are getting restless. They'll jump at any suspicious activity just to have an excuse to attack the Phantoms."

"Perhaps, but you do know who we are dealing with right? The Phantoms have been our enemy for years."

The other man snorted. "Yeah, and since when have humans ever gotten along with each other? I say that if we had just put them in their place in the beginning, none of their atrocities would have happened." He said, his thick Irish accent put emphasis on his words.

The first man shook his head. "I don't know about that. When someone, or in this case an organization, is power-hungry, there's no way to change their minds. We should have exterminated them all years ago."

The Irish agent laughed dryly. "Hah! And you think we didn't try? Those slippery bastards knew how to hide. And then there's the fact that their leader came into power when we were least expecting it."

My body went rigid momentarily at the mention of the Phantom leader. Luckily, the other agents were too engrossed in their conversations to have noticed. "How could we have missed those rogue agents? Why are we called Seekers then if we can't find them?"

The Irish man shrugged. "I don't know about that, however what I do know is that this mission we're going on is complete bullshit."

I raised an eyebrow in curiosity. "Why is that?" I finally asked.

The Irish man turned his head towards me. "Who are you?" He asked gruffly.

"I'm Agent Delta; a Seeker Guardian." I replied automatically.

He grunted, and then placed his hand out in greeting. "I'm Agent Cian, the best Warrior the Seekers have." He winked.

I took his hand and shook it. I silently chuckled at his humor.

The man in the black armor rolled his eyes, but smiled none the less. "I'm Agent Arrow; Seeker Infiltrator."

I shook his hand, and turned my attention to agent Cian. Said person spoke. "I find this mission to be complete bullshit because of the situation in general. What good, tactical wise, would it do for the Phantoms to attack the Shroud? If they wanted to incapacitate our offensive forces, it'd do them well to attack Seeker Headquarters; that way, we'd be completely disorganized, and the Phantoms could then attack us as we're vulnerable."

I took in what he said and analyzed it. He did have a point, though a part of me was skeptical about his opinion. "Tactical wise it's sound, I agree with you, but Seeker HQ is perhaps the most secured place in the world. How do you suppose Phantoms would overrun it?

The Warrior leaned forward and counted off points from his hand. "Deceit, distraction, and a big fucking army. They've got all of those, but it's because of our paranoia that they haven't made a move just yet."

I stared at the man in slight awe. He was strong, that I could tell, but he wasn't cocky enough to believe that he was invincible. Not to mention that he was intelligent. That was enough to earn my respect for him.

His friend, however, seemed to have thought otherwise. "Ahh Cian, there you go again with your conspiracy talk. How about you just wrap your head around reality, instead of fantasy?"

That part got me confused. "What conspiracy?"

The Infiltrator looked at me in annoyance, while the Warrior's eyes gleamed in excitement. "I'm glad you asked boy!" He exclaimed which caught the attention of the other Seeker agents. He paid them no attention though. "You see lad, Phantom agents are damn good at what they do: kidnapping, and cloning. They did that to thousands of people back when the war first escalated. What's to say that those victims are not in our own organization? Every day, we catch some punk off the streets doing deals with the bastards. How could they have gotten such sensitive information without help from the inside? I'm telling you, the bastards have spies among the Seekers!" He hissed at the end.

I could only stare at the Warrior in amazement as Agent Arrow shook his head and placed a hand over his face.

"It's true I tell you!" Cian continued. "You never know where they are. They might even be here!"

I shuffled nervously as his hawk-like eyes studied me like an amoeba under a microscope. His serious expression then melted into that of amusement. "Oh, hold onto your panties lad, I was just kidding around." He said, and laughed hard.

I gave him an annoyed look, but that just amused him more.

"You better go before he dissects you." Agent Arrow commented.

I couldn't have agreed with him more.

I rose and said my goodbyes to them before I made my way back to my seat.

Fear was half awake when I got back. "Where have you been?" he asked.

I shook my head. "Nowhere." I stated simply.

My friend shrugged carelessly before he closed his eyes again.

I spent the rest of the flight reflecting over what Agent Cian had said. I was all too aware of just how right he was.

26: Chapter 25: Unwanted Responsibilities
Chapter 25: Unwanted Responsibilities

I managed to doze off for a bit just before the plane began its decent into the Zurich area. The abrupt change in pressure combined with the drop in my stomach woke me up from my light slumber. I shook off my fatigue and adjusted my seat belt. Out of curiosity, I glanced out the window and saw fantastic scenery which seemed to have come from a painting.

Slowly, but steadily, the plane descended through the thin layers of clouds, and eventually the airport's runway came into view. Before I knew it, the plane landed effortlessly and soon made its way down the tarmac towards the gates.

After ten minutes, our plane was parked along one side of the already busy terminal, and every occupant inside, myself included, immediately began to unpack the cargo and organize it. Since we worked efficiently, we managed to finish within thirty minutes, and so we all grouped together on the tarmac.

As we organized ourselves, a line of sleek, black armored vehicles made their way towards our direction. The other agents and I automatically straightened into attention as the cars pulled up to our group. One of the doors from the head car opened, and out came a muscled man with a cameo suit on. "Ladies and gentlemen, I'm Agent Zero, and you will be having your mission briefing on site at the Shroud. I've been assigned with you folks to make sure that the mission is successful and to ensure the continued security of the Shroud. Any questions?"

No one voiced any concerns, so the man took that cue and continued. "Alright then. Occupy the vehicles not taken up. Move!"

Not needing to be told twice, the agents and I quickly filed into a line and filled up the numerous vehicles. Fear and I got into one near the middle and hastily sat down. We put on our safety belts and leaned back.

There were only seven other occupants with us, though they weren't paying any attention to anyone. Except for one agent who sat at the opposite end from where we were. She was covered in a cloth-like material that resembled strong silk. Multiple slots adorned her pants; I suspected that they held bullets as she did have two harnesses on each side of her waist. What caught my eye, however, was the fact that she was staring at Fear intently.

I grinned as I had the perfect blackmail to tease him with. I looked at Fear and saw that he noticed the staring as well. "She's checking you out." I said slyly.

Fear rolled his eyes. "Yeah, good for her." He replied dryly.

I chuckled lightly in amusement. I turned my head away, but as I glanced back for a moment, I saw that Fear was still looking at the agent.

I elbowed him in the rib which instantly caught his attention. He glared at me, but quickly turned away and crossed his arms, though I could have sworn I saw a tinge of red on the part of his cheeks that wasn't covered.

I couldn't hold back my grin as I leaned towards Fear's ear. "She does have a pretty face."

Fear's shoulder tensed up and he whipped his head to face me. "If you don't shut up right now, I'm going to kick your ass."

I shrugged aside his empty threat. "Yeah, yeah, whatever. Why don't you talk to her when we get some free time?"

Fear snorted. "Right, as if I'm the most talkative person out there, never mind talking to women."

I contemplated on pouting, but then I realized that it would have been useless underneath my mask. So instead, I chose to give him "puppy eyes." "Oh come on bro, we could die at any moment. Don't you want to make the most of this moment?"

Fear looked at me as if I grew an extra head. "To start, get rid of that look; it's really disturbing. Second, you know that I don't start conversations. Hell, I barely talk to people; I hardly enjoy talking to them."

"But you enjoy talking to me, right?" I grinned.

My friend mock glared at me. "That ass whooping is really starting to look far more attractive than any woman."

I rolled my eyes, but leaned back in my seat. "Fine then, but don't come crying to me when your testosterone levels go spiking up and you've got no chick to find and release it with."

Fear literally bolted up from his seat, but was quickly pushed back down as the armored vehicle began to move. The compartment shook a bit, but otherwise was stable.

Fear then leaned towards my ear and hissed. "I'm going to kill you!"

I cracked a smile. "Hah, you go do that, though it'll be you who will pay for my funeral."

The Assassin merely glared at me before he punched me rather hard on the arm and looked away. I grunted and rubbed my arm. I winced a bit at the slight pain, but it was so worth it just to get him to react.

The rest of the drive went by in silence. I had no idea how much time had passed, though to me it seemed like an eternity. Throughout the ride, Fear and the other agent shared timid looks with each other. I shook my head. Fear was very skilled as an Assassin, but when it came to women, my poor friend was helpless.

Finally, we arrived at our destination and the sliding doors opened from the outside. As we were closest to the exit, Fear and I got out first and observed our surroundings. I looked up and was met by the sight of an extremely tall, yet elegant building. My breath hitched in my mouth; it was the Shroud.

It was my first time ever at the Shroud, so I was taken aback by its stunning appearance. Damn, I took back all of my remarks about the Swiss; they certainly knew a lot about architecture. The Shroud had a cylindrical base that rose up to over 4000 feet; it was even bigger than the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and that was just less than 3000 feet. All of the thousands of perfectly cut windows were tinted a nice navy color which sparkled like sapphires in the early autumn sun. Equally tall tower like structures extended out from its four sides; those were probably observation posts on the lookout for potentially hostile aircraft. All in all, it was extremely impressive and I was not disappointed.

Apparently I wasn't the only one who was impressed as several of the other agents gathered around to observe the building in awe. The Irish agent stepped out of his vehicle and whistled in appreciation at the sight. "Damn, she's a beauty."

There was murmuring among the agents as they agreed with the statement. The man in the cameo suit got out of his car and walked towards the front of the gathering. "Alright agents make your way inside and follow the signs; they will guide you to the briefing room."

With that said, our significantly large group made our way inside the spectacular building. Seriously, I've never seen so many Seeker agents, high ranked should I mention, all assigned on the same mission. The only other time that was done was during the initial extermination of the Phantoms.

We did as we were told and followed the very helpful signs. They led us through the main area which was just as stunning as the outside, with a forestry of greens planted all around, and a nice canal ran underneath our steps. An elegant waterfall ran along the walls and met in the center where it poured down into the canal. The more we saw, the more I wanted to just stay here and not leave. Honestly, it was that nice.

But as usual, business was business and we passed by towards the briefing room. We turned into a corner and walked all the way down the hall to a pair of double doors plated with steel. The man in the cameo suit squeezed through the crowd and slid a security clearance card through a slot by the doors. Instantly, they both opened to reveal a large, well-furnished conference room.

We stepped inside and seated ourselves among the three rows there were placed there. Fear sat beside me, while agents Cian and Arrow sat on my other side.

"God damn it. I hate briefings." Agent Cian commented.

His partner gestured him to be quiet, which earned a swear from the Irish man. I turned to my other side to face Fear only to see him stare at the female agent who sat on the opposite side of the room. I grinned. "You sure you don't want to talk to her?"

Fear whipped around and glared at me. "Shut up!" He hissed.

I rolled my eyes but chuckled in amusement. For an Assassin, he sure made his interest painfully obvious. Oh how I loved my friend!

The man in the cameo suit stood at the front and automatically the murmuring stopped. The room was then enveloped in an apprehensive silence. He observed every person in sight with those intense eyes of his before he spoke. "Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming on such a short notice, however we are in dire times. We're all aware of just how real the Phantom threat really is." He paused as he took in the general reaction. He then continued. "The Directors have place an order that all high ranked Seeker agents be sent to the Shroud and protect it at all cost. There have been rumors going around that this is a possible Phantom target. As such, we can't take any chances with this severe threat."

Agent Cian snorted quietly. "Severe threat my arse." He murmured.

Thankfully we were too far back for Agent Zero to have heard that.

"As a precaution, you will be divided into small groups to efficiently cover all parts of the Shroud and the surrounding areas. Each group will be assigned a team leader who will give you the specific orders and will report back to me. Any questions?"

No one answered. Agent Zero nodded his head. "You all have your assigned posts where you will be stationed at until this issue is resolved. Now that can range from a mere couple of hours, to perhaps months, if not more. If you have any loved ones out there, I suggest you say your goodbyes A.S.A.P. Dismissed!"

We all left the room and scattered about our own ways. Me, Fear, and a couple of other agents, including the female from the armored vehicle, made our way towards the rooftops where we were stationed. I summoned an elevator, and tapped my foot lightly as I waited for it. It came quickly and we all squeezed inside. None of us knew what we would encounter during the mission and as we took the elevator to our designated post, I couldn't help but feel like something bad was going to happen.

27: Chapter 26: A Secret Admirer
Chapter 26: A Secret Admirer

The elevator doors opened to reveal a breath taking scenery. As we stepped outside, we were hit by the fresh scent of cut grass, falling water and the sorts. I looked around me in amazement. The Shroud was officially the most beautiful building I've ever visited.

Fear walked beside me, though he didn't pay attention to the surroundings. I huffed inwardly at his lack of appreciation for the design.

All too soon, our group stopped in the main area of the garden like place and another muscled man came up. "All right group D listen up. This will be your post for the duration of this mission. Things for you to know are the following: there are anti-aircraft weapons on each corner of this level, and several more are placed on other levels, as well as neighboring buildings. Next, you are not to leave your post unless instructed or once your shift is completed. Third, do not engage any enemy that has been dropped by parachute or any other means until reinforcements arrive. You'll have no idea how many friends the enemy brought, especially at night. So unless you want to meet your maker sooner than you should, you are to obey these orders, no exceptions. Any questions?"

Given that the instructions were pretty straight forward, no one spoke.

"All right then; at least your group have god damn ears and know how to use them. Get to your posts!"

With that, the group dispersed and went to their respective areas. My area was toward the south where the city center was visible. I signed as I walked over to my post. It was going to be a long day…


Three days have passed since my reassignment, and nothing happened. After twelve long and boring hours of standing at my post, my shift finally came to an end as the next group of agents took over. Needing to unwind, I asked an information officer where the nearest bar was and left. It turned out that the bar, which I didn't even bother to try to pronounce, was just down the street from the Shroud. From what the officer told me, it was decent and there was even a disco mixed in with it. I didn't care about the last part, I only wanted a drink.

And so I found myself at the bar around 8pm drinking a very nice brandy while checking out the scene. Young people danced on the floor, while some of the older individuals sat in the booths, and were laughing away.

Wanting a companion, I took out my pager and sent a message to Fear inviting him to come over, before I placed it back in my pocket.

As I had my mask off, I noticed that several women stared at me with lust visible in their eyes. I wanted to shiver as I could only imagine what they were visualizing in their sick minds. One woman in a cocktail dress mustered enough courage to come and sit beside me. She smiled seductively as she crossed her legs to expose more skin. "Hello there." She said in a low, accented voice. "You are a Seeker agent aren't you?"

Oh wow, I thought. How much brain power did it take for you to figure that out?

As much as I wanted to speak my thoughts, I decided to play it cool. "I am." I confirmed.

"What brings a Seeker agent here?" She smiled.

"That is strictly confidential." I replied calmly.

"Oh, I see." She attempted to give me a sexy look as her light green eyes shined in the low light. "Well, I have a situation that could sure use your help." She leaned forward, which gave me a better view of her cleavage. "It can only be fixed by the best."

By that point, I was really close to rolling my eyes. "Sorry ma'am, I'm off duty."

The slut, err woman, pouted. "Oh come now, it will not take long." She said as she rubbed her thigh against mine.

I sighed. "Look, I'm not interested. Even if I were, I don't have the money to pay for you."

My comment caught the blonde woman's attention for she leaned away and stared at me in shock. "I am not a hooker!" She said rather loud which caught the attention of people around us.

"You might as well be." I replied back.

That seemed to have pissed her off for she stood up abruptly and glared at me. "I am not a hooker." She replied fiercely.

It was then that a group of five hot blooded young males came in and stood behind the woman. "What is going on?" The leader said with his thick accent.

"This man called me a slut." The slut, err woman, replied.

The leader of the group looked at me with a cocked eyebrow. "Is that true?"

I stared back at him carelessly. "Well considering the way that she's dressed, and how she was practically throwing herself at me, I don't see why any of you are surprised at her title."

The woman's glare intensified and she was about to slap me when the leader grabbed her hand and held it down. "Now sweetie, let the men handle this." He cooed at her.

I wanted to throw up then and there.

The blonde woman smiled at him seductively before she focused her death glare on me again. The leader of the group turned to face me as well. "Apologize now." He simply said.

I shook my head. "Why should I when it's true?" I asked.

The other four men cracked their knuckles in hopes of intimidating me. I inwardly rolled my eyes. Ah, to be horny and stupid.

"If you don't apologize, then we will beat you until you do."

"I don't mind seeing some blood." The woman commented as she smirked.

I snorted. "Well if it means that you're not pregnant, then I suppose it is a good thing for you." I retorted back.

My remark caused her mouth to drop as she stared at me in disbelief before she looked away in frustration. I chuckled, but I was cut off by the group leader as he grabbed me by my collar. He snarled at my face. "You do not talk to our women like that!" He shouted.

I cocked an eyebrow arrogantly. "Your women, huh? So what, are you all sex buddies or something?"

A vein visibly throbbed on the leader's bald head. His grip on me tightened. "That is it. We are going to teach you a lesson!"

I sighed before I rolled backwards and used my weight to push the leader over me and into the area behind the bar. He crashed into numerous bottles, and swore in whatever his language was as he staggered up while he tried to regain his balance. I slid over the counter and kicked him where it really hurt, and rammed his head through the glass cover where the other bottles were. He cried out in pain, before he slid down, and curled in a fetal position on the floor.

I straightened my back and saw the other men in a fighting position, each of them had a knife out. I sighed again and pressed one hand against my forehead. "Guys, do you really want to continue with this? All you'll get is pain."

The men ignored me and continued to stay in their position. One actually threw himself at me, however, I stepped to the side, and punched him hard on the nose which caused him to pass out. I stared at the others. "Alright guys, is this what you really want to mess with?" I asked as I pulled back my numerous cloaks to revel several sharp combat knives.

The remaining gang members froze and visibly gulped. One was actually smart enough to drop his knife and run. The other two glanced at each other, then at me, before they too ran out of the bar.

Satisfied, I relaxed my position. I then turned to face the blonde woman who was looking at me with her mouth open and shock evident in her eyes. I slightly smirked. "There's more where that came from babe." I mocked.

Without a word, the blonde woman took her coat from a nearby hanger, and stomped out of the bar. I couldn't help but grin at the situation. As I looked around, I finally noticed the crowd of bystanders staring at me in shock. I stared back at them almost embarrassed, though I remained cool on the surface. "It's ok." I said after some silence. "I'm a Seeker agent."

With that, the crowd murmured amongst themselves, and nodded their heads in acceptance. They went back to their own business, and the earlier fight was forgotten.

I sat back in my original seat and massaged my temples. I gestured the bar tender to give me another drink. The man gave it to me and smiled. "On the house." He said, before he turned his attention to other customers.

I blinked as I didn't see how the fight was worthy enough, but I didn't press the matter. Instead, I drank generously and set the glass back down. I wasn't sure how much time had passed before I saw Fear walk in, without his mask may I add, and stand in the middle of the dance floor awkwardly.

Not wanting to leave him there like an idiot, I waved my half empty glass to Fear in invitation. He saw my cue, and made his way towards me. Unknown to him, Fear walked right by the female agent from earlier who whipped her head around to look at him. I made eye contact with her and slightly smirked; in response, she just stared at me blankly before she turned away. I looked up and Fear had already sat down. He looked around with a raised eyebrow. "What the hell happened here?" He asked as he took in the sights of the bodies and of the broken glass.

I shrugged. "Oh, just the usual; a gang of horny males trying to pick a fight."

"Pfft," was the only response from Fear as he rolled his eyes at the implication.

I drank a bit more from my glass and changed the subject. "So, what do Assassins like you do in their spare time?" I asked purposely loud.

Fear didn't comment on my voice volume; he must have disregarded it as there was loud music playing all around us. "If you hadn't invited me down here, I would have been cleaning my weapons, or planning possible new strategies for the mission. If I were really bored, I might have also sparred a bit."

The last part seemed to have gotten the woman's attention for she turned around to look at us. To appear inconspicuous, she leaned on the wall and crossed her arms in a relaxed position. I did my best to hold back a chuckle at her obvious attempt of not appearing like she was eavesdropping. Alright then, I'd play her game.

I leaned my weight against the bar and adjusted my position to something more casual. "Spar huh? You're restless Fear?"

My friend shrugged halfheartedly. "From time to time I am, though you're usually around for me to kick your ass." He chuckled.

Inwardly, I huffed in indignation, though on the outside I retained my cool. "Well, there are other ways of blowing off steam, you know." I said as I tried to cover up the innuendo meaning behind it.

Thankfully, Fear didn't pay attention to the true meaning of my phrase, and just continued on. "Of course there are, though sparring is one of the few things that I enjoy." With that, he finally waved the bar tender over and ordered a simple, cool beer.

When his drink came, Fear took a rather large gulp of it and set it down on the table. It was just over a quarter full.

"Crap," he said abruptly, "I forgot how much I missed alcohol."

I stifled back laughter as I took in my friend's strange new behavior. "Is alcohol the only thing that you miss? Nothing else?" I asked slyly.

As oblivious as ever, Fear went along with it. "I miss being a kid, where I all cared about was going home after school to play video games. Those were the best times of my life. I fucking hate this war; I hate being an Assassin."

I stared at Fear in confusion, then at his drink as I wondered why he was opening up so much. Just what was in that drink?

All of a sudden, Fear seemed to have sobered up and stared at me as if he wondered the exact same thing that I did. I could only blink as I didn't know how to react. After a moment of just staring at each other, Fear finally looked away and stared at his drink. He pushed it back as far from him as he could. He then turned to face me again. "This is exactly why I stopped drinking long ago." He said seriously.

I couldn't help but lean my head back and laugh. When I calmed down, I was met by the sight of a confused and slightly annoyed Assassin. "What's so funny?" He asked.

I chuckled a bit before I answered. "Don't you remember the good ole' days when we used to raid your father's liquor cabinet after Seeker Basic and just drink the night away? Those days were a blast."

Fear's expression softened slightly as he remembered the memories. For a brief moment, we both traveled back in time to a place before the threat of the Phantoms became out of control, to better days. I didn't bother hiding the smile that appeared on my face as I basked in the nostalgia that overwhelmed me.

As usual, all good things had to come to an end as I was pulled from my thoughts by the female agent leaning against the bar and ordering a drink. I smirked as an idea popped into my head. "You know what you need Fear?" I asked.

My friend raised an eyebrow. "That new Devil's bow with heat detection features I saw in the Seeker market?" He answered.

I shook my head and chuckled softly. I pushed back against the bar and stood up straight. "No," I said. That time I allowed myself to grin widely. "What you need is a date." With that, I walked past a confused Fear, towards the female agent. I coughed to get her attention. "Excuse me, I couldn't help but notice you checking out my friend. How about I introduce you to him?"

The red head woman merely blinked as I turned to face Fear. Said person visibly tensed, something that he normally never did, once he saw her. I grabbed him firmly by the back of his light armor, and guided him to the woman. The few meters there seemed to have been longer as Fear did his best to resist my pull without making it obvious.

Fortunately for me, I was stronger and I literally shoved him pretty close to the woman's face. "This here is my friend, Agent Fear. He would like to buy you a drink, wouldn't he?" I gave Fear a face that relayed the message 'disagree with me, and you'll be breathing through a new hole somewhere.'

Luckily, Fear was smart enough to keep his mouth shut, and merely nodded. I smiled at the female agent. "So, what would you like to drink?"

The woman blinked in confusion. "I'll just have an apple martini. I'm not much of a heavy drinker." She answered in her smooth voice.

I purposely widened my eyes in excitement. "Really? Oh wow, Fear's not much of a heavy drinker too! You guys have only just met, and already you have one thing in common." I pressed an uncomfortable Fear beside the female agent. "Who knows, maybe you two have more in common than you think."

Right on time, the bar tender set the female agent's drink in front of her. Said person took the drink and slowly downed it all before she set the empty glass on the counter.

I leaned against the bar on Fear's other side and nudged him. He looked at me with a glare, though his cheeks were red.

Inwardly, I smirked as I enjoyed tormenting him. "Tell her that she looks nice." I whispered.

My friend stared at me in shock, but quickly looked away and grumbled in his breath.

"I'm sorry, what was that?" The female agent asked.

Fear grunted. "I said that you look like a nice person." He repeated.

"Oh, thank you, I think." The woman replied.

"Ask her what her name is." I whispered again.

Fear cleared his throat quietly. "Uh, what's your name?" He asked.

The woman turned to face him, her hazel eyes studied him intensely. "I'm Agent Claire; Combat Specialist, though I do participate in recon missions from time to time."

"A Combat Specialist, huh? Maybe you two could spar sometime?" I suggested.

Agent Claire shrugged. "Sure, if Agent Fear is up to it." She replied smoothly.

I grinned. "Oh, Fear is up to it all right. He enjoys sparring in his free time."

"Really?" Claire asked, though I was aware that she already knew that due to her eavesdropping on us. "Maybe we can spar when we're both free?"

"I'm sure you can; Fear's been itching to put his far-out reach to the test, though he's never found a sparring partner with enough flexibility." I put in all my effort to stifle my laughter.

"Oh? I'm pretty flexible." Agent Claire replied.

Haha, oh how gullible she was!

Fear turned to face me and glared as he knew what I meant by my statement. I gave him an innocent look and focused my attention on the woman. "I couldn't help but notice your accent. Where are you from?" I asked curiously.

Agent Claire replied. "I'm from Ireland; I joined the Seekers because of my uncle. He's actually on this mission with us."

A light bulb went off in my head. "Your uncle doesn't happen to be agent Cian, is he?"

The woman smiled. "That's him all right. Old son of a bitch won't quit for all he's worth. I worry that his conspiracy talk will get him in trouble with the Seeker high power, though." She sighed.

I smiled in reassurance. "Your uncle is a very capable man; I'm sure that even he's smart enough to not piss off the council."

Agent Claire shrugged. "Eh, I guess we'll see."

I nodded and stood up. "Well Agent Claire, it's been a pleasure meeting you, but I'm afraid I must retire to my quarters; I'm pretty exhausted. Have fun you two." I winked at them which caused a mixture of reactions from both of them; Agent Claire blinked at me repeatedly while Fear looked like he was about to murder me. I blew him a mock kiss, and quickly went out the door before he could follow me.

The outside air was a lot cooler than the bar, and I shivered despite the layers of cloak I had on me. I brought the cloaks closer to me, and walked back to the Shroud. Even at night, the view was just as spectacular as it was during the day with all of the lights it had on.

With the amount of alcohol in my system and no work to keep me focused, my thoughts automatically trailed to Rachel. My heart curled as a result. I sighed as I stopped, and looked up at the sky. There were no clouds, so I had a great view of the beautiful stars. My eyes softened as I imagined finishing the mission and seeing Rachel again. "Soon Rachel." I said softly. "Soon."

28: Chapter 27: Order's Collapse; Chaos' Rise
Chapter 27: Order's Collapse; Chaos' Rise

I woke up abruptly the next morning at around 5am; great, just over four hours of sleep. I was covered in sweat, yet I shivered. I pressed a hand to my chest in an attempt to slow down my rapidly beating heart. I had no idea why I had woken up that way.

Once I finally calmed down, I sat in bed for a few minutes to catch my breath. My gut told me that something was terribly wrong, though I wasn't sure what. Maybe it was because of the long shift and the alcohol…

Restless, I finally got out of bed, and made my way to the bathroom. I turned on the tap and generously wiped my face and chest with cold water. After I took a couple of deep breaths, I looked up at my hazy reflection. My eyes were bloodshot from the alcohol combined with the lack of sleep, my hair was sticking up all over the place, and sweat was slowing dripping down my chest.

I figured that I wouldn't have been able to go back to sleep, so I stripped off my remaining clothes and took a shower. The cold water automatically woke me up even more and once I was done, I felt more refreshed.

Satisfied, I turned off the water, and stepped out to dry myself. Once that was done, I wrapped the towel around my waist, and walked to the mirror. I wiped away the condensation, and proceeded to shave my growing beard. I then continued on with my hygiene care, and after ten minutes, I left the bathroom.

I shivered slightly at the drop in temperature once I entered my rather large bedroom. The accommodations were quite generous with us; they should be, after all we were risking our lives for the Shroud.

I dropped my towel to the tiled floor, and put on a simple pair of dark jeans and a tight black t-shirt. Once I was dressed, I fell down onto my bed and stared at the ceiling blankly. Well John, now what? I asked myself.

After a couple of minutes of pointless staring, I got up again and a thought came into my mind. Rachel's probably back home by now, maybe I should call her?

Doing exactly what I thought, I walked over to the phone and dialed the general number for Seeker HQ. They would have been able to connect me directly to Rachel, wherever she happened to be.

The phone ringed continuously, but then it had the noise that suggested that the line was not connected before the ringing stopped all together. Puzzled, I hung up and tried again. The same thing happened, although that time the ringing didn't go on for as long.

Confused, I hung up for good and stood there as I stared at the phone. What was that all about? I wondered.

I shrugged as I thought that it was just a mechanical issue, however my insides twisted uncomfortably. I then decided to go try Fear's phone.

I left my quarters, and went next door to where Fear was staying. I pressed the doorbell and waited. I heard shuffling from the other side of the door, as well as a thud sound followed by some swearing. I bit my lip to prevent myself from laughing.

Alas, Fear in all his half naked glory opened the door, and glared once he realized that it was me. "What the hell do you want at this time?" He asked roughly.

I shrugged carelessly. "I couldn't sleep; thought that I might as well use my time wisely to come bother you."

Fear's glare got more intense. "Yeah, well in case you hadn't notice, some of us actually sleep at this hour. So fuck off." He was about to close the door when I pressed my foot against it.

"Now now sunshine, don't be like that." I teased.

One of Fear's eyebrows twitched at my use of the nickname, but then proceeded to glare at me once more. "What do you want?" He asked again.

That time, I decided to get straight to the point. "I tried to call Rachel, but for some reason the line with Seeker HQ never went through. I thought that I could use your phone to see if it'll make any difference."

For a moment, Fear contemplated on my favor, before he grumbled and opened the door wider to let me through. I stepped in and immediately Fear closed the door. "So you woke me up at almost 6am just so you could call your girlfriend?" He stated.

I shoved my hands into my jeans pockets, and looked around his quarters lazily. "Yeah well my 'girlfriend' also happens to be your friend too. Wouldn't you like to hear from her, see how she's doing?"

Fear gave me a "what do you think?" look. "Sure, I guess, but not at this hour. What's wrong with you?"

Fear stared at me intensely and I stared back. After a moment, I gave in and sighed. "I don't know Fear; ever since we started this mission, I've kept getting the feeling that something bad was going to happen. I just want to know that Rachel is alright."

My friend was quiet as he took in what I said. He then brought out his cell phone, and threw it to me. I caught it effortlessly.

"Just dial 1; it'll connect you automatically to Seeker HQ." He said simply, before he went to his bed, and rested on it.

I nodded to him in thanks, and did exactly what he said. The ringing came again, so I decided to pass the time. "So how was your date?" I asked. "Did you two finally test your strengths in sparring?" I grinned at the last part.

"Ha ha," Fear replied dryly. "I prefer to get to know the girl before I sleep with her."

"How noble of you," I commented.

Fear was about to retort when the line went through and I held a hand up to silence him. What happened next though amazed me.

"Thank you for calling Seeker Headquarters. Unfortunately, no one is available to take your call; in fact, no one ever will be," came the recorded message, followed by some laughter. Gunshots also rang in the background as people screamed.

I held the phone in front of me, and stared at it in confusion. Fear noticed my reaction and gave me a questioning look. I passed him the phone, and he held it to his ear. He too stared at the phone in confusion after he heard the message. "What the hell was that all about?" He questioned.

I shook my head as I had no idea what happened.

Suddenly, an explosion erupted which caused the windows in the quarters to shatter. Fear and I took cover under his bed, and we waited until the initial rumbling faded away. Various sirens immediately went off, and the once peaceful quiet was dominated by loud, chaotic noises.

I grunted as I pulled myself from under the bed. Fear swore as he accidentally cut himself on a glass shard, and held the wound with his other hand. I coughed a bit as dust particles flew freely in the air. I carefully walked towards the shattered windows, and looked down. I was met by the sight of numerous fires occurring on several levels; the nearest one was just three levels below us.

I coughed harder as I inhaled some smoke, so I turned away before I could inhale more. By that time, Fear wrapped his cut in thick bandages and was fully dressed in a pair of jeans a shade or so lighter than my own, and a simple grey shirt. "What the hell just happened?" He blurted out.

"I have no idea." I replied back honestly. "One thing's for sure, we've got to get out of here."

The Assassin nodded. The sirens then got louder, and a voice spoke over the intercoms. "This is a class four emergency. All Seeker agents are to report to the main hall." The voice announced.

Fear and I both glanced at each other and nodded. Fear quickly took out a black case from under his bed. He placed it on top and opened it to reveal his signature swords. He wrapped a leather belt around his waist, and slid the swords through their respective harnesses. He then looked up and noticed my puzzled look. "Hey, I'm a first time father; I don't leave my babies behind." He joked.

I rolled my eyes, but quickly went straight to business. "Let's go." I stated.

He nodded, and we made our way out the door.

There were several pieces of glass and various materials scattered about, so we had to carefully step over them. A couple of fellow Seeker agents literally ran out in their pajamas towards the fire escape. Fear and I decided to follow them.

We went down the steps three at a time to quicken the pace. We went down about fifteen levels, which was a lot even for us, and went out the door. Once on the other side, we were met by the sight of fires burning all over, and the ground was littered with glass and other materials. My nostrils flared in irritation from the smoke and the heat. "Where is everyone?" I asked.

"Hell if I'd know." Fear replied. "This is where we're supposed to be. Something must have happened."

As if on cue, gunshots sprang all around us, a couple of them nearly grazed us. We quickly fell into cover and assessed our situation.

"Ok." I started. "An explosion just occurred, we've got fires everywhere, and we're being shot at. Did I miss anything?"

Fear gave me an amused glance. "Yeah, I think you forgot your mask." He teased.

I huffed and punched him on the shoulder. He rubbed it, but immediately went still as a bullet skimmed past his cheek. "Holy shit!" He exclaimed. "That was close."

I gritted my teeth together as I attempted to uncover the location of the mysterious shooters. "Well, I'm at a lost." I said bluntly. "I don't suppose you could somehow throw your swords far enough to hit them?"

Fear gave me a 'what the hell?' glance. "No." He said. "In case you didn't notice, these are swords not boomerangs."

"Thanks Captain Obvious." I replied sarcastically.

He was about to retort, but we were sprayed with more bullets. Another set of gunshots went off, however, and then it was quiet. Fear and I looked at each other before carefully we peaked out of our hiding spots as we heard footsteps. Once our heads were out of cover, we saw Agent Claire walk towards us. "Morning ladies," she said. "I don't suppose you could offer me a cup of coffee?"

My friend and I looked at each other again, before we fully exposed our bodies. We carefully climbed over the rubble and walked towards Agent Claire.

"Thanks for saving our asses." I said. "Do you know what's going on?" I asked.

Agent Claire took on a more serious tone. "As you noticed, there was an explosion earlier. A small bomb detonated on one of the observation towers." She paused and looked at both of us gravely. "It's the Phantoms." She whispered.

My eyes widened and then narrowed as I took in the information. I should have known it was them.

I inconspicuously took a deep breath before I spoke again. "So what do we do now? The main area is on fire, and we're probably overrun by Phantom agents."

Agent Claire nodded in agreement. "We have to evacuate the Shroud; I saw other Seeker agents doing just that. There's nothing that we can do here. However, we can't go anywhere until you both get appropriate weapons."

With that, Agent Claire turned around, and hastily crossed the main area. Immediately, Fear and I fell into step behind her. It turned out that she led us to the weapons storage area. She went into the back and took out two black cases and set them in front of us. "This one's yours." She said as she looked at me. "And this is for you." She said rather shyly as she addressed Fear.

Fear opened the case and his eyes widened as he stared at the content in shock. "The new Devil's bow. How did you…?"

"Let's just say a little birdie told me." Agent Claire replied and winked.

Fear stared at her in slight amazement before he regained his focus and set up the weapon. In the meantime, I opened my own case and whistled at the sight of a beautiful katana that was made of titanium reinforced with steel. I brought it close to my face, and admired the shine that the metal caught from the distant fires.

"I don't mean to interrupt your personal fantasies, gentlemen, but we are running on a tight schedule." Agent Claire said, which pulled Fear and I out of our thoughts.

I secured the katana in its safety harness, and wrapped it around my waist. I turned towards Fear and saw that he too was ready; his hands were at his bow, and he carried a bag of arrows on his back. We made eye contact and then we looked back at Agent Claire and nodded. She too nodded in confirmation, and turned around and sped walked out the door.

Fear and I followed behind her, each of us kept an eye on our six. Agent Claire walked forwards carefully as she looked around for any enemies. The sound of a struggle caught all of our attentions, and we may our way towards the source.

We came around a pile of more rubble and saw some Seeker agents battling with Phantom agents. Horrifyingly, each Seeker agent was slaughtered with no mercy. I gritted my teeth in anger as rage boiled within me. The desire to kill the Phantoms itched all over.

As if sensing the change in atmosphere, one of the Phantom agents turned around and looked right at us. He then signaled his buddies and gestured to us.

"They've seen us!" Agent Claire cried out.

Right away, Fear took a defensive position in front of the Combat Specialist and held out his bow. "Come and get me bitches!" He challenged as he stretched the bow to its limit.

The Phantom agents sped towards us, yet Fear showed no sign of, well, fear. Instead, he lined the arrow's sight to face the Phantom in the middle and with a sharp breath, he released the weapon.

It was a bull's eye; it hit the Phantom right in the chest, yet the other two still kept on running. Not one to be distracted by a kill, Fear turned his attention to the agent on the right and fired another arrow. Like the first one, that agent was also hit, however the last one was awfully close to us. Fear would not have had enough time to take him out too.

In a last minute effort, I took out my katana and rammed it into the Phantom's abdomen. He went down without uttering a single sound. I then ripped the katana out and secured it back in my harness.

I looked up and realized that Fear was looking at me in confusion. "What?" I asked. "Can't let you have all the fun."

He snapped himself out of his confusion and gave me an indifferent look. I smiled at him sheepishly, but another explosion caught our attention, that time from above.

We all looked up and saw dozens of Phantom agents sliding down ropes. Essentially, we were surrounded.

"Aww crap." I commented.

All three of us formed a triangle with our backs to one another. I took out my katana once more, Fear had his bow ready, and Claire took out her duo pistols. This was it; we would fight to the death.

"Hey Fear," I started. "Just so you know, it was me who stole your computer's CPU; that's why it never worked."

Fear glanced at me in shock. "What the hell John?" He cried out. "Why are you telling me this now?"

I huffed in exasperation. "I don't fricken know!" I shouted back. "Maybe it's because we're about to die, so I wanted to be cleared of anything that was on my conscious?"

"Would you guys just shut the hell up?!" Agent Claire yelled, which caused both Fear and I to stop talking.

We resumed our focus on the coming Phantoms. They consisted of Warriors, Assassins, and some other ranks that I couldn't identify. I gritted my teeth as the Phantoms continued to get closer.

All of a sudden, a loud beeping noise arose and one of the armored vans came crashing through the front glass. The three of us got down as we covered our faces from the flying glass. The beeping noise turned out to be the van's horn blaring to catch our attention.

We realized that the Phantoms were momentarily stunned, so we ceased that opportunity to run to safety. The doors automatically opened, and we quickly got inside. Immediately, the driver put the van to reverse, and as soon as we were outside, the driver hit the gas and the van sped away.

Once I regained my bearings, I crawled towards the front and finally saw who the driver was. "Pete?" I asked. "What are you doing here?"

The Head Warrior glanced at me. "I'm here because of the Phantoms." He replied.

He sped through the dark streets, and expertly dodged any obstacles in our way. I crawled into the front passenger street and put on my seat belt.

"Jesus Christ Pete, what the hell is going on?" I demanded.

The Head Warrior ignored me, too focused on driving us to safety. Fear and Claire were in the back; they kept on bouncing around as neither of them had their seat-belt on.

"The Phantoms attacked Seeker HQ. Seeker agents that were there are either dead or have been taken hostage." Pete finally said as he cursed in his breath.

My eyes widened at his news. "I thought they were after the Shroud?"

The Head Warrior shook his head. "No, it was all just a well-executed plan; Seeker HQ was their main target. They drew all high operative Seeker agents away from it so that they could move in. There's word that the Directors are dead."

I gritted my teeth as the van hit a rather nasty looking hole, but the Head Warrior still kept on driving.

"What does this mean for us?" I asked; my heart was beating like mad.

"It means that we're in a full scale war. The whole world is now involved." The Head Warrior replied. At last, he looked at me dead in the eye.

I felt my blood go cold at the horrifying reality. This was exactly what Rachel feared for… Rachel!

"Sir, what happened to Rachel and her team?"

If I hadn't been paying attention, I would have missed the Nano-second time frame in which the Head Warrior's body went rigid. I immediately knew that something was wrong.

"We lost contact with Agent Moore and her team shortly after they arrived in New York. We suspect that the Phantoms have captured them."

My heart skipped a beat as I took in what Pete said. "What?!" I shouted. "How the hell did that happen?! Where is she?!"

The Head Warrior didn't even wince. Instead, he turned sharply into a dark alley and stopped the van. He then turned to look at me. "I mean that she is MIA. The only bodies we found onboard the plane were those of the pilot and Agent Elvira." The Head Warrior looked away, his grip on the steering wheel increased in pressure.

I narrowed my eyes and snarled. "So what, the others just vanished? For God's sake, we're the Seekers! Are we really that pathetic that we can't properly find people?"

The Head Warrior slapped the steering wheel in frustration and whipped his head around, his eyes were wild with hatred and loss. "Hey! Don't you start acting like you're the only one who lost someone! I just lost a friend, and I have no idea what happened to the others."

I was about to retort, but a hand gripped my shoulder. I turned around and saw Fear looking at me sadly while Claire was at a loss.

"John, not like this." Fear said gently.

I looked at my childhood friend; he too was worried for Rachel and the others, though he was calmer about it than I was. Pfft. How could I have been calm?

I looked away, and gripped the car seat tightly as I struggled to find my inner balance. For a moment, there was a tense, awkward silence in the van, neither of us knew what to say or do. Thankfully, Pete cleared his throat, started the van and drove once more. The silence continued on for a bit longer, until I got tired of it. "What's our next move?" I asked, wary of not pissing off the Head Warrior any more than I already had.

Luckily, he was a professional and went along with it. "We'll have to regroup at a secure location. Gather as many surviving Seeker agents as we can, and strike back at the Phantoms."

I raised an eyebrow. "And how exactly are we going to do that?" I asked.

The Head Warrior ignored my tone, and took out something that looked like a detonator. I looked at him in confusion.

"Do you remember all those medical tests you underwent when you first joined the Seekers?" Pete asked.

All three of us nodded our heads.

"Whether you were aware of this or not, every Seeker agent was implanted with a tracking device that would only be activated in case of an emergency. Frankly, now seems to be the perfect moment." With that, he pushed the button, and suddenly all of our veins started to glow.

I looked at my arms in awe, completely shocked that something like that was hidden inside of me for all of these years. I looked back at Fear and Claire and saw that they too were looking at their bodies in curiosity about this fact. I turned my attention to the Head Warrior. "So, where to?" I asked.

He turned around, and gave me a slight smirk. "To the place where you least expected."

29: Chapter 28: New Playing Field
Chapter 28: New Playing Field

~ Rachel's POV ~

Drip, drip, drop. Those sounds were what woke me up from my slumber. I carefully opened my eyes as a burning sensation passed through them briefly. Once that went away, I saw nothing but darkness. At first, I thought that I had gone blind, but then I was able to make out some detail of the cold, brick floor. The next thing I noticed was the intense headache that pounded in my head. I was about to rub my temples, but I realized that both of my hands and legs were bounded behind me.

I struggled to free them, but the movement caused the pounding in my head to increase and I was suddenly overwhelmed with the need to vomit. I actually did for a matter of fact. I wrinkled my nose in distaste as the smell bothered me, yet there was nothing I could have done. I had no idea where I was, or how I even got there. Even with all of those questions swirling in my mind, I knew that something was terribly wrong, though I couldn't tell what given that I was stuck in who knew where.

I abruptly tensed as the sound of a door opening echoed in the quiet. I hushed my breathing in an attempt to remain hidden, however the disturber of the silence opened the door to my cell, (I assumed it was a cell), and stood at the entrance.

My eyes winced as light came into the cell and illuminated me. Unfortunately for me, the figure was covered by darkness.

I wasn't sure whether I should have been grateful that the figure closed the door to shield my eyes from the glaring light, or to feel panicked, but the figure did just that and took a step towards me. Despite how hard I tried to push myself away from the figure, my bounds were too tight, so I didn't get more than a good centimeter away from my initial position. The figure made a noise of disgust, and I instantly froze.

"Ugh, disgusting." The figure commented in a foreign accent.

I figured that he was referring to the vomit on the floor.

The figure made a sniffling noise, before he shuddered and made a "heh" sound. "You're a spunky little one, aren't you?" The figure said.

I didn't reply; instead I stared at the ground and focused on calming down my breathing.

I heard shuffling above me, and when I lifted my head up a bit, I was staring eye to eye with the figure. His eyes were an electric blue color, and they were glowing. I felt my face pale at the sight. He was a Phantom!

The figure chuckled, though it was muffled due to the thin mask that he was wearing. "I suppose you now realize who I am?" He asked.

I didn't reply. Instead, I found it hard to do anything but stare at his eyes. This was the first time I had ever seen a Phantom's eye so close without the threat of being killed. Pfft, that threat was most likely still there; it was probably just a matter of time before he got rid of me permanently. I self-consciously gulped at the thought.

The Phantom stared back at me, not blinking even once. Eventually, the staring got too much for me, so I ended up looking down and rested my head against the cold floor. Apparently the Phantom agent wanted to continue staring at me, as he pressed two fingers under my chin and forced me to look up again. "That was rude of you." He commented. "Didn't your mother ever teach you to not stare at a person for too long?"

Once again, I didn't answer. The Phantom then squeezed my cheeks slightly. "Oh wait that's right, you don't have a mother." He said as he grinned maliciously.

I narrowed my eyes and spat at him.

For a moment, the Phantom agent tensed before he slowly wiped my saliva from his cheek. It seemed like an eternity had gone by before the Phantom reacted. I didn't anticipate the strength of the blow as he slapped me with incredible force across my cheek. The blow knocked me down so hard that I saw stars in my blurry vision. My face rested against the ground and I saw the Phantom get up and wipe imaginary dust from his cloak. "That was also rude." He finally said. "Looks like I'll have to teach you manners, young lady. Luckily, I know just the trick."

His tone of voice caused shivers to crawl down my spine. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end in apprehension. The Phantom agent chuckled quietly. "Well, there's nothing that I can't do once I set my mind to it. Don't worry darling, I'll have you back to good in no time."

I could practically hear the smirk in his tone. Abruptly, the Phantom knelt down again and forced me to look at him. "Do you want to know why our eyes glow?" He asked almost excitedly. "You see, once a person is taken in by us, their eyes are retrofitted to allow them to have night vision, hence the 'glow' that you see. Why is it that you think that no one sees us, yet we always see them?" He grinned at the last part.

I didn't answer as I struggled to control my vision and the dizzy feeling that I experienced. The Phantom huffed in disappointment. "Agent Moore, why must you continue to rebel? Don't you see that we only want your cooperation? No harm will be done to you if you do as we say."

I inhaled sharply. "Over my dead body." I quietly, but firmly said.

The Phantom agent looked at me for a moment before he shook his head. "You leave me with no choice, Agent Moore." He replied.

I tensed as he got up and shuffled through his pocket. He then took out a thick collar with spikes on them. He started to approach me and I instinctively tried to move away. The agent laughed briefly. "There's nowhere to go Agent Moore. You're stuck here until you decide to cooperate. Until then, we'll be keeping an eye on you with this."

To emphasize his point, the Phantom agent knelt down, and pushed me to the wall. I gritted my teeth as the movement caused the bounds to tighten and peel into my skin. The Phantom agent dismissed my hiss of pain, and proceeded to put on the collar around my neck. I winced as the short spikes pierced into my skin to firmly attach the collar. The Phantom then leaned back. "There, all good." He said. "Now we can keep an eye on your vitals, among other things." He smirked.

I glared at him weakly as I spat out blood to the side. The Phantom agent took out a device with a small handle on it. "This here will control the amount of voltage that will course through your body. Allow me to demonstrate."

As he said, the Phantom raised the handle slightly and a pleasant surge of electricity coursed through my body. All of my nerves came alive, and my senses heightened, but so did the pain. The Phantom then smirked. "Does that feel good?" He asked. "Don't get used to it. If you are disobedient, expect a world of pain from this." He pointed at the device to enforce his point. He then raised the handle higher and immediately the pleasant hum of electricity turned to sharp pain. I gritted my teeth to prevent a yelp from escaping my mouth.

Thankfully the Phantom agent lowered the handle all the way down, and I gasped in relief. The Phantom stood up and glanced down at me. "You don't have to go through this Agent Moore." He repeated. "Just follow our instructions, and nothing will happen to you."

For the next few minutes, the only sound in the small room was my hard breathing. I coughed up a bit, and immediately the Phantom pulled a small water bottle from inside his cloak. He opened the lid and carefully pressed the bottle to my lips. I drank gratefully from the bottle, though I didn't take into consideration of what was in it. At the time though I didn't care as my thirst was quenched.

After a couple of swallows, I finished the entire bottle. The Phantom agent placed the empty bottle back inside his cloak.

A couple of more minutes passed before I finally spoke. "What happened?" I asked, though my voice croaked.

The Phantom agent grinned. "I'm glad you asked." He said. "You see, after your plane landed in New York, we had our people come and greet you personally. Unfortunately, they didn't have much manners, and nearly killed you all. Luckily, I was there to save you and I brought you here for treatment. Our doctors are truly amazing." He smiled, though the glint in his eyes gave it a more malicious appearance.

I fought the urge to shiver. "What about the others?" I asked.

The Phantom agent dismissed the question with a movement from his right hand. "Forget about them; we were only after you." He said as he stared at me intensely.

That time, I didn't bother hiding the shiver that ran through my body. "Why?" I asked once I had gathered the courage. "Why are you after me?"

The Phantom smiled once more. "Because you would make a valuable asset to our organization. The Seekers have been putting your talent to useless work, which greatly lowers your standards and expectations. We are simply doing this for your own benefit."

I huffed in disagreement. "Right, you think that I'll join you right off the bat? Don't think that I have forgotten what your organization has done to me in the past."

The Phantom agent gave me a look of disapproval. "The past is the past; times have changed now, whether you like it or not." He then leaned closer. "You will join us, one way or another."

My teeth shivered, not from fear, but from exhaustion. The Phantom noticed my current state, and stood up. "You're in a shitty state right now." He said. "I'll be back later to start your 'treatment.'" He commented.

I shivered once more as I imagined what his 'treatment' may have included.

The Phantom agent turned around, and made his way to the door. Just as he opened the door, he turned around and looked at me. "By the way, you're a horrible dancer." He then smirked.

My eyes widened at his statement. My God…

I eventually found my voice again and spoke. "Who are you?" I asked weakly.

The Phantom agent cocked his head to the side. "My name is Andresov," he started, "and if you think that this has a happy ending, then you really haven't been paying close attention." With that, the Phantom laughed which echoed in the small room and seemed louder than reality. He then smirked at me once more, and closed the door, which enveloped me in the thick darkness.

30: Chapter 29: Real Intentions
Chapter 29: Real Intentions


I dozed off some time after the Phantom agent known as Andresov left. My dreams, unfortunately, consisted of memories of the day I found the bodies of my family, and of the day that I had to kill their clones. Needless to say, I didn't sleep well.

I was woken up by the sound of the door creaking as it opened and revealed the all too familiar sight of my captor. I chose to ignore him in hopes of being left alone, however that didn't happen as he walked over towards me. "Morning sleeping beauty." The Phantom said as he kicked me in the gut, which caused me to groan and curl into a fetal position. "It's time for your first round of treatment." He said humorously.

My eyes winced as they opened and were met by the sight of the glaring light from outside my cell. The Phantom stepped out of the room, and in his place came two buff looking figures who cut the bounds which held my feet together, and rose me up. I lost my balance and would have fallen down if it weren't for the other two Phantom agents who held onto both of my arms. Agent Andresov came back into my view. "Bring her to the interrogation room." He instructed.

The Phantom agents obeyed his order, and pushed me forward. I wobbled a bit as my legs were half asleep due to being tied up for so long. An ache then spread through them as the blood finally returned to give me sensation. Despite the discomfort, I limped down the brightly lit hallways with the two Phantom agents by my side. At the same time, I did my best to memorize the route from my cell to wherever the interrogation room was in hopes of finding a possible way out. My eyes bothered me the entire time as the incredibly bright lights were too much for my sensitive eyes, so I couldn't make out any specific detail about the area.

Finally, we stopped in front of a barred door. Andresov placed his eye in the retina scanner and the door opened. He proceeded inside and my "escorts" pushed me in as well. They brought me to the middle of the dimly lit room, and sat me down in the chair. They then freed my sore hands only to press both of my arms down, and pin them with a metal slit, along with my legs. I mentally sighed. Great, I've gone from one form of bounds to another.

The two companion Phantoms stepped aside and looked at their superior in expectation.

"Leave us." He said simply.

As obedient as ever, the two Phantom agents left the room without saying a word, and closed the door behind them. It was just me and the remaining Phantom agent.

Said person stood in front of me. "We're going to play a game." He said as he grinned, his mask wrinkled with the movement.

I stared at him blankly, though I was slightly shaking. Whatever this guy had in mind, it wasn't good.

He then leaned his face so close to mine that our noses were barely touching. "Here are the rules." He started. "If you properly guess why you are here, then you win and I'll let you go. If you don't have the correct answer, then you'll be begging me to cut off your finger and I'd be the winner."

Not at all the one to bluff, the Phantom took out a Swiss Army knife, and trailed it lightly over my right pinky. I self-consciously gulped, but I retained my strong demeanor. The Phantom then removed his knife from my pinky and took a step back. "Round one." He said.

I glanced at his knife then at his face. His chilling eyes stared back at me with an intense focus that I had to fight the urge to shiver subconsciously. I shuddered out a breath. "You brought me here so that you could kill me." I said.

For a moment, the Phantom was quiet as he took in my answer, but then he regained his concentration. "Wrong." He said simply.

He came towards me, grabbed my hand roughly, and began to carve his knife into the flesh of my pinky. I yelped at the sudden pain, and bit my tongue as I tried to not scream. Mercifully, he stopped once he reached the growth of my nail and stepped back. "Try again." He said and waved the bloody knife in the air.

I shuddered violently and found my voice. "You brought me here to interrogate me about the Seekers." I said warily.

The Phantom agent shook his head and sighed. "Wrong again." He said.

He brought the knife forward and stepped towards me. I shuffled in my seat as I desperately tried to get away, but the hold on me was too strong. The Phantom agent once again grabbed my hand and carved the knife through the other side of my pinky.

This time I was not able to hold back as I screamed loudly from the intense pain. I continued to thrash about, but that only made the knife jiggle inside my flesh which caused even more pain. I kept on screaming, and eventually tears poured down my face. The Phantom agent looked like he wouldn't stop any time soon. "Oh come on Agent Moore!" He exclaimed. "I just gave you the answer yesterday. Why did I kidnap you?"

I gasped out in pain. "Because you view me as a valuable asset to your organization!" I cried out.

I had finally guessed correctly for he removed the knife from my finger and took a couple of steps back. When I finally had regained my breath, I looked up and saw that the Phantom agent was looking at me bitterly. "You win." He said quietly.

He then turned around and walked slowly towards the wall. He leaned against it and crossed his arms. I just stared at him as I breathed heavily. My pinky throbbed like mad, and blood droplets poured onto the grey floor.

After a few minutes of silence, the Phantom finally looked up at me with an unreadable expression. "You win." He repeated. "But you forgot something important about me."

He got off the wall and walked back towards me. My body convulsed violently and my heart began to race. What was he going to do?

He stopped in front of me and leaned his weight on one hip. "You should know something about me; something that is very common in humanity."

He knelt down to my level and took my hand in his gloved one. I stared at him widely. He smirked. "I lied." He said.

He then pressed the knife in between the fresh openings in my pinky and cut through it as if it were barbeque waiting to be eaten. I leaned my head back and thrashed about as I screamed so loud that my throat felt raw and I was pretty sure that the other side of the world could have heard it. Eventually, all I could have done was sob as the Phantom agent sliced through my pinky and lifted the flesh up. Blood sprayed in the air and I cried out once more. "Stop!" I screamed. "Please, stop!"

"I'm sorry what? What did you say?" The Phantom teased.

I gritted my teeth together, in both pain and anger. "AGGH, just cut my off finger!" I finally shouted out.

Apparently satisfied, the Phantom did as I asked and swiftly cut the remains of the finger off. I shrieked out incredibly loud, and lowered my head as I felt nauseous. The Phantom placed his knife away and placed two fingers under my chin as he forced me to look at him. "I win." He said and then smirked.

My teeth clattered together as I breathed in rapidly and stared at him through tear stained eyes. The Phantom agent looked down and let go of my chin. He then stood up and wiped the blood from his knife with a handkerchief he pulled from his cloak. Once that was done, he placed both items back into his cloak and turned his back towards me.

"Why?" I sobbed as I panted heavily.

"Hmm?" The Phantom replied as he looked back at me.

I stared at him with as much hatred as I could muster as I was shaking. "Why are you doing this?" I repeated my question.

The Phantom agent merely cocked his head. "I think the better question is 'why not?'"

I stared at him in shock and confusion. I then narrowed my eyes and snarled at him. "Go to hell." I said venomously.

The Phantom agent chuckled. "My dear, we're already in hell." He replied. "Besides," he continued, "I'd worry more about your friends. Perhaps in time, with their suffering, you will be able to see our point of view more clearly."

My eyes widened in panic. "What did you do to them? Where are they?!" I demanded.

The Phantom agent chuckled. "After some persuasion, your friend Gizmo was so helpful in giving up vital Shroud and HQ codes as well as electronic security measures. We really owe him a lot." He then smirked. "The others, well, let's just say they've seen better days."

My eyes narrowed once more. "What happened to them?"

The Phantom stared at me in disinterest. "Agent Elvira died in the initial raiding of your plane. As for your Demolitions Expert, I was told that his clone wanted to settle a score with him.”

I stared at the Phantom in horror. "What… what do you mean by that?" I asked as I sincerely prayed that Predator was safe.

A look of amusement passed over the Phantom's face. "Let's just say he went out with a bang." He then winked.

I gasped out loud, and then gritted my teeth together. "You bastard!" I yelled.

Unaffected by my reaction, the Phantom merely shrugged. "He was useless to us. Besides, we have his clone who is much more manageable." He smirked once more.

I gritted my teeth together once more as I stared at the Phantom with pure hatred. This person was a monster!

"How could you do such traitorous things and not feel any remorse?" I then huffed. "Do you even have any emotions?" I asked skeptically.

The Phantom grinned. "Of course I have emotions. I use a knife." He replied as he laughed and held the deadly tool out in front of me.

I shivered as I remembered all too well the excruciating pain that the item had put me through. Thankfully, the Phantom put it away, and then stared at me carefully. "You really want to know why I'm doing this?" He asked, his tone took on a serious tone for once.

I didn't reply. I merely stared at his eyes. The man then leaned forward. "I'm doing this to spread a message to you and the rest of your little friends: you and your organization full of wannabes are not as powerful or as influential as you think. People will always follow the ones with the most money, the most popularity, or in our case, the ones who know how to manipulate information. The majority of the population are idiots. ‘No intelligent idea can gain general acceptance unless some stupidity is mixed in with it.’ Why do you think we do transactions with regular folks? We do it because they are the ones who are willing to follow the social hierarchy that our organizations have imposed on society due to our 'differences.' They are the ones that the idiots look up to. In turn, they follow what we impose during these transactions." He paused to look at my reaction. When I didn't react, he continued. "Humanity has always been submissive to those who are smart and resourceful enough to seize that opportunity. We're merely doing what nature has intended: to put humanity in its rightful place."

I gasped in disbelief. "That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard! This is why we're so different: the Seekers are trying to protect humanity's freedom while you and the rest of the Phantoms are trying to enslave them."

The Phantom stared at me, though his facial expression was hidden by the darkness. "Indeed we are different," he started, "because you Seekers fail to realize just how much humanity has fallen. Because of the war that your organization started, humanity has metaphorically degraded back to the barbarian ages. Crime and suicide rates have gone up, depression and anxiety has become more common in the average Joe, and ethnic tensions are at a record high. Do you really think that by defying us you're helping humanity? You're actually doing the complete opposite!"

His statement was like a blow to my ego, however I didn't allow myself to be visibly phased by it. Agent Andresov leaned forward once more. "What is your biggest fear?" He asked.

I didn't answer for a couple of minutes as I stared at the Phantom's covered face. Yet again, I felt myself drawn to his glowing eyes that seemed to have molted into plasma that flowed through the iris. My eyes narrowed as something inside me was trying to tell me something about this particular agent, yet I couldn't figure out what. "My biggest fear is becoming the same thing that hurt me in the first place." I finally said carefully. "If I become like you, then I am no better, and all of my work and dedication would have been for nothing." My eyes narrowed. "I'll die before I ever work for you. Remember that."

For a moment, the Phantom was quiet as he reflected over what I said. He then sighed dramatically. “That’s such a shame.” He replied almost genuinely. “After all the trouble I went through to keep you alive, this is how you repay me?”

I narrowed my eyes in confusion. “Keeping me alive? Hell, you just tortured me!”

Andresov chuckled. “No I didn’t ‘torture’ you; that is simply part of your treatment.” He then paced around the room. “Do you remember all those months ago when you were sent to Madison Square Garden? It blew up with your partner still inside; he died, yet you lived.”

“My partner was a Phantom agent.” I replied coldly.

Andresov hummed in acknowledgment. “Indeed he was.” He stopped his pacing, and turned to face me. “Have you ever wondered how you survived? It was almost as if someone wanted to keep you alive.”

My eyes widened as I felt a flashback from my first meeting with the Directors.


I was in the small room with all of the Directors looking at me. I took a deep breath before I answered. “I find all of this to be very strange. If the Phantoms wanted to kill me, as you believe, why bother killing their own agent? I wasn’t even near him to say that they took a calculated risk by blowing up Madison Square Garden with both of us inside.” I paused a bit as I breathed deeply. “Someone led me outside, as if to save me from the blast. That doesn’t exactly fit the MO of the Phantoms. It’s either the Phantoms had a change of heart and no longer desire to kill Seeker agents, or there is a separate party involved.”


I shook my head in disbelief. “You can’t possibly be suggesting that your organization purposely saved me that day. I almost got killed by a team of Assassin the next day!”

The Phantom agent regarded me with a calculating look. “That was a result of a mix-up of orders. Don’t you understand by now Agent Moore? We have no desire to kill you.”

I huffed. “Why the change of heart? Your agents have always killed Seeker agents in the past.”

Andresov made a gesture of impatience. “Forget about the other Seeker agents; you’re the only one who’s… an exception.”

Even through the pain, I managed to snort in indignation. “An exception huh? Why, because of my history with your organization? Shouldn’t that make me even more of a priority to eliminate?”

The Phantom agent cocked his head almost in confusion. “That would make no sense tactical wise.” He then stepped forward until he was exactly in front of me. He grabbed a hold of my chin again, and forced me to look up. “You’re the golden girl of the Seekers. What better way to shatter their morale then by taking you away from them?”

I glared at him. “So I’m just a damsel in distress being used for an ego stand-off. I think I rather just be executed.”

Andresov’s shoulders shook as he chuckled. “You certainly have quite the sadistic sense of humor. There’s more to your use than you know, but that’s none of your concern.” With that, he got up and made his way towards the door. He opened it, and stepped outside. The other Phantom agents from earlier got in, and unshackled me. It was then that I noticed a familiar ring on Andresov’s left finger. My eyes widened slightly at the discovery. “You lured me there, didn’t you?” I stated.

The Phantom agent looked at me in approval. “Ahh, for once you used that dim-witted brain of yours. I told you that we didn’t want to kill you.”

I narrowed my eyes in displeasure as the two guards then tied my hands behind my back with thick rope and waited for their next orders.

"Take her back to her cell." Agent Andresov said. "We'll continue with her treatment another time." With that, he turned around and walked away.

My 'escorts' guided me back to my cell, and shoved me inside. They then bounded my legs together once more, and left the tiny room. All that was heard was my loud breathing. The area where my pinky used to be still hurt like a bitch and my muscles ached all over.

I concentrated on slowing down my breathing. Well, at least I'm alive. I thought.


31: Chapter 30: Risky SOS
Chapter 30: Risky SOS

Exhaustion and the overwhelming amount of pain made me pass out. Good thing for me because I didn't want to suffer during my momentary "free" time. My dreams were more like nightmares though as they replayed my torture. I still felt the pain as the Phantom agent cut off my pinky and laughed sadistically while I screamed with all of my might. The worst part was that he proceeded to cut off the rest of my fingers, each then became a bloody stub…

I instantly woke up and breathed fast. My eyes were met with the same darkness that dominated my cramped cell. Once I realized that I was still more or less in one piece, I focused on slowing down my breathing. After a few minutes, I accomplished my small goal and proceeded to stare blankly at the door. I was still tied up, so there wasn't much I could have done. Aside from my cramped muscles and the slight throb at where my pinky used to be, I felt relatively ok physically. Mentally, however, was a whole other issue.

After all that I have been through, I was surprised that I didn't have a total mental breakdown. There I was, trapped in god knew where with a sadistic Phantom agent who cuts off fingers for fun. There was also the fact that two of my team members were dead, the surviving one was probably held in another cell being tortured just like I was. Maybe he too was dead…

I shook my head fiercely in an attempt to block out all negative thoughts. If there is a God up there, please keep Gizmo safe, I somewhat prayed.

I sighed as I stared at the door once more. I had no idea how much time had passed. Sometime during it, my thoughts trailed to John. I was scared to death about him; where was he? Was he alright? I sincerely hoped that he was safe, wherever he was. If what Andresov told me was true, then the Seekers must have been in grave danger.

The sound of multiple footsteps pulled me from my thoughts as the door opened, and invited in the aggravating bright lights. My eyes winced in response as two figures came into my cell and cut my leg bounds and rose me up. Wordlessly, they pushed me forward which caused me to almost fall face down onto the dusty ground, however they were fast and pulled me by the back of my shirt. With my balance regained, the two figures guided me out into the narrow hallway and we walked. Where? I had no idea. To be honest, I wasn't sure whether I wanted to know or not. Considering what I had been through earlier, I rather have just been oblivious to everything that went on around me.

As we continued to walk, several thoughts were running rampage in my mind which nearly gave me a headache. I closed my eyes to ease the tension, however my eyes right away opened as a particular thought made itself known. Andresov never mentioned what had happened to Olsen. Was he dead too, or did he somehow escape? Deep down, I had hoped that the latter was true, though I tried not to have much hope. Surely, there must have been a reason for Andresov to not have mentioned Olsen unless… No way…

I almost laughed in relief as it clicked what the most likely outcome was. Olsen must have avoided detection when the Phantoms arrived at the airport. There was no other explanation. Andresov was a heartless son of a bitch, and he always slapped the information right at your face.

My teeth were exposed as I grinned widely. Way to go Olsen! I thought triumphantly.

I knew that I chose to be a Scout for a reason. Aside from scouting areas, we were also trained in some forms of infiltration. I let out a breath I hadn't realized that I was holding. I really hoped that my conclusion was the case. The only question that remained was where was he? Most likely, he'd try to contact Seeker HQ, and warn any survivors about the Phantoms' plans.

With the new-found hope, I stood up straighter, and walked with much more confidence. Wherever I was headed, I would walk in with my head held high.

After what seemed like an eternally, my "escorts" and I arrived at a med bay. A look of confusion passed over my face as I wondered what we were doing there. A tugging sensation pulled me back to my senses as one of the guards cut through the tough cord and at last freed my hands. I rubbed them vigorously as I attempted to bring back the blood flow to the area, as well as sooth the sore muscles.

Once again, the guards pushed me towards the center of the room and immediately I was surrounded by various medical staff members as they pushed me onto a simple bed. Instinctively, I tried to fight them off, however there were too many of them and I was pressed against the mattress. One doctor took out a rather long needle, and filled it three quarters full with a clear fluid. As I studied her closely, she looked an awful lot like Diana…

My eyes widened, and I resumed my struggle to escape. My effort was futile as I was held down by the other staff members while the one with the needle stuck the needle in my left arm and injected the fluid.

Immediately, I felt the effects of the drug course through my veins and my whole body went slack. My vision became blurry, and whatever speech I wanted to let out was slurred and barely comprehensible. I felt very drowsy, like I was light years away from my body.

The doctors realized that I would not have been able to fight, so they brought out a tray of various tools and placed my right arm on a support. I leaned my head to the right to try to see what they were going to do, yet the doctors had set up one of those blue sleets over my head to block my view. I cursed weakly.

The doctors ignored my comment, and focused on their task. At the time, I couldn't tell what they were doing, however I later realized that they were fixing my injury. I wasn't sure how long it took. Despite my drowsiness, I still forced myself to look around wherever I could to evaluate a, (hopefully successful), escape plan.

A sharp stinging sensation snapped me out of my dilemma, and caused me to turn towards the source. The person whom I assumed was the chief doctor stuck another needle into my flesh from the feeling of it. I suppose it was to numb the area and do whatever they had to do.

I paid the medical staff no further attention, and instead focused on the two guards. They were the same ones from before, still big and buff as usual, yet this time they had guns on them. Oh shit; it was gonna be tough to escape from them, especially since I was out of it.

Even with the reality pressed against me, I still refused to give into the hopelessness. A bonus for me was that Andresov wasn't there, so that would have only left me with the two guards. The issue was that the medical team was still there, and they outnumbered me; they also had knives, and I wasn't willing to go up against them. If I wanted to go up against just the two guards, then I'd have to take them out on the way back to my cell, preferably before they tied me up again.

Pfft, that was easier said than done. My mind may have been rolling the dice, but my body was useless at that point. The damn drug had handicapped me so much that I'd be as slow as a snail. I cursed inwardly once more. Just how was I going to do this?

An abrupt murmuring sound interrupted my chaotic screams within, and brought me back to reality. I realized that the medical team was done patching me up, and were cleaning up their tools. One nurse took another needle filled with, (guess what?), yet another clear fluid. She effortlessly took my arm and injected the substance.

Within a couple of minutes, I started to feel like I had regained some motor control over my body. I experimented with flexing some joints, and was satisfied when they reacted. All too soon, the two guards lifted me off the bed and guided me towards the door. The fact that they didn't bother to tie my hands worked in my favor though. I supposed they assumed that I was too weak to do much.

That time, I started to walk forward before the guards could push me again. I smirked inwardly at my mini victory, but sobered immediately as I prepared myself for my task. Silently, we went down the hall, and my body tensed up in alertness. We then approached what I recognized to be the door to my cell. Butterflies flew all around in my stomach and I had to fight back the urge to puke. Dreadfully, we arrived at my cell door and one the guards unlocked it. At that point, my eyes were wide, and my heartbeat accelerated. It was now or never.

Just as the door fully opened, I stomped on the toes of the guard beside me, and with a grunt I kicked the one closest to the door into the cell. The guard who remained howled loudly which made me wary of it possibly attracting more of his friends, so I kicked him where it really hurt, grabbed one of his guns, and shoved him into the cell as well. I slammed the door shut and locked it all the way. Once that was done, I pressed my back against the metal and slid down. I panted heavily, and sighed in a momentary relief. Guess not every Phantom agent was bright.

I laughed briefly, but was startled as the two guards pounded on the door, and screamed for me to release them. I stood up and stepped away, but then I smirked and placed my hands on my hips in a mocking way. "Eat my dust, you shit face." I said as I stuck my tongue out at them, and gave them the finger.

Yeah, I knew my behavior wasn't the most mature as it could have been, but so help me, I was tortured there, and I wanted some revenge. Besides, for the record, I blamed it on the drugs.

I ignored the ever persistent guards, and carefully walked down the corridor. My balance was not at 100%, so I guided myself by placing a hand against the wall while I held the gun in the other. I passed by the empty med lab, and continued on my way. At every sound, I froze and attempted to find its source, but then shook my head and continued forward.

Surprisingly, there was no activity going on. I narrowed my eyes in suspicion; were the Phantoms that oblivious to what went on inside their bases, or were they setting me up? I had no idea, so I continued on with caution.

I accidentally tripped over a small pebble, and cursed in my breath, but quickly shut up as I heard footsteps coming towards me. I looked around me vigorously, and found a simple door a couple of meters behind me. I backtracked and opened it, (thankfully it wasn't locked), and hid inside. The footsteps intensified as it walked by the door and then faded away. I waited for a few minutes before I allowed myself to somewhat relax and take in my situation.

As I stepped back, I collided with something and immediately jumped away. Once I realized that it wasn't something dangerous, I took a better look at it. It was a standard computer that was used by pretty much everybody, including the Seekers. I looked at the machinery in curiosity. I pressed the start button and the machine came to life. The keys illuminated, and the numerous fans hummed in harmony. I timidly sat in the sole chair, placed my gun on the far edge of the counter, and leaned my elbows near the center as I studied the machine. I punched in the command to take me to the main control panel. A browser popped up, and a list of numerous programs appeared. I skimmed through the list until one in particular caught my attention. I pressed it, and a series of codes appeared. I recognized this as a tracking system, and studied it briefly. After scrolling through some lines of coding, I realized that the tracking system was Seeker property.

"Son of a bitch." I murmured. "They've got access to our files."

I shook my head to get rid of my slight distraction, and proceeded to try to send a message, along with my coordinates, to any Seeker agent that would pick it up.

Abruptly, my whole body began to glow yellow. I stopped my work and stared at my body in shock/amazement. What the hell was it?

Suddenly, a beep sound came from the computer as well as a message stating that I didn't have the authority to proceed with my request. I ignored the warning, and continued with my task. Another message popped up, and stated that the server analyst would be informed if I continued with my task. Hesitantly, I ignored the message again, and continued to type in specific codes.

A tight knot curled in my stomach as I continued with my code. At that point, I knew that my cover was blown, so all that had mattered was getting my coordinates to any Seeker agent that would have been able to retrieve it.

An alarm went off, and I winced as I heard doors open and slam shut as well as numerous voices barking at each other. Despite my nervousness, I still kept on typing the coordinates of the base from what the computer's original codes provided. The voices got louder, and eventually were right outside my door. It then slammed open, and revealed several Phantom agents entering the room. I looked back in desperation and fear as I attempted to fill in the last of my codes.

"No!" I screamed as a pair of strong arms grabbed me from behind, and dragged me away from the computer. I was about to fight back, until I felt something hit the back of my head and the world went dark.

32: Chapter 31: A Long Awaited Meeting
Chapter 31: A Long Awaited Meeting

The sound of low murmuring was what freed me from the dream world. The more awake I became, the more aware I was of the fact that all of my muscles felt like they were on fire. I could barely move without having a sharp sting go up my spine that left me momentarily paralyzed. The damn collar was pulsing electricity through me. I gritted my teeth to prevent a hiss of pain from escaping.

Once the uncomfortable sensation passed, I concentrated my energy that remained on opening my eyes. It took a lot more effort than it should have as each eyelid felt like they weighed a hundred pounds each. After a few minutes of trial and error, I was finally able to open my eyes, yet it was incredibly bright. I realized that there was a strong light source directly on top of me that illuminated the place, wherever I was. I huffed in exasperation. The Phantoms really ought to get more sun, I thought.

I immediately froze as the murmuring sound from earlier made itself known again. It came from right outside my door, and if the shadows from underneath the door were reliable, then there were two people outside. I grunted as I slowly pushed myself back against the corner furthest from the door. I had absolutely no intention of making myself so easily visible to an intruder.

The murmuring stopped, and the door creaked open. I remained as still as I could. A figure stepped inside as the door closed, and took the short steps to the center. "You've been a bad girl, Agent Moore." The figure commented.

I nearly rolled my eyes at my incredibly bad luck. Of course it had to have been Andresov of all people. "Why did you have to make our lives more complicated than they should be?" He asked.

I snorted. "You know me, always happy to help."

The Phantom agent turned towards me. "Now that's just plain rude, Agent Moore. Do you remember how I said I'd fix that trait of yours?"

Andresov took a few steps towards me, yet there was nowhere for me to go. He grabbed me roughly by the hair and forced me to look up at him. "Your little scheme earlier put our operation at risk. Do you really enjoy pissing me off?"

I spat at his face. "Go to hell you piece of shit." I snarled.

I inwardly smirked at my move, but my confidence quickly turned to fear as the Phantom agent's plasma-like eyes stared at me venomously. What happened next caught me in a daze.

One minute I was face to face with the man, the next I was thrown onto the ground so hard that my nose began to bleed. The pain didn't stop there; the Phantom continued to kick me all over, repeatedly on my stomach and legs. I groaned as I gestured to cover my face, but realized that my hands were tied up once more. I swore at my disadvantage.

"I'm getting extremely tired of your lack of cooperation. The more you disobey, the more unnecessary pain you put yourself through." To emphasize his point, the Phantom kicked my head which caused me to black out for a moment before I regained consciousness. Tiny stars orbited in my vision.

Mercifully, the Phantom stopped his attack and took a step back. "You've forced me to take drastic action Agent Moore. The outcome will not be so good for you."

I snarled once more. "You think a petty threat like that is gonna scare me? The Seekers will stop you, and I'll be there to put the much deserved bullet in your head."

"Oh really?" The Phantom replied mockingly. He then leaned down at my level, and looked into my eyes. "The Seekers won't be saving you any time soon, I'm afraid. They've got bigger problems of their own."

My eyes narrowed at the Phantom's statement. "What are you talking about?" I asked.

The Phantom merely chuckled and ignored my question. "Oh, you don't have to worry about that. Besides, you're popular right now, Agent Moore. You have a guest." With that, he stood up and walked towards the door. As he opened it, he looked back at me and smirked before he walked out. I half expected the door to close, however it was held open as a new figure stepped inside.

My whole body shivered subconsciously as the figure stared back at me. I was able to distinguish the signature electric blue eyes even in the darkness that surrounded the figure. I guess Andresov wasn't kidding when he said that Phantom agents could see in the dark.

"Agent Moore." The figured started. "It's a pleasure to finally meet you."

I snorted. "Can't say the same thing for you."

Unlike the violent Andresov, this man was calmer and actually chuckled at my statement. "No, I suppose it isn't for you." He replied.

Carelessly, the man took something out. I noticed that it was a cigarette as he lit it up and took a deep inhale. After a few puffs, the man finally spoke. "Do you know who I am?" He asked.

Despite my situation, I decided to be sassy. "If I did, you'd already be dead."

I could practically hear the amusement in the man's voice. "Many people want me dead; they have tried to kill me in the past, yet none of them were successful. You'll be no better." He replied calmly.

"We'll see about that." I whispered.

Whether the man heard me or not, I couldn't tell nor did he suggest that he had. Instead, he continued to smoke his cigarette.

From what I could have seen in the faint light, the man seemed to have been leaning against the door casually. He appeared oblivious to the fact that I was even there as I laid on the cold floor completely exhausted after the numerous beatings I received in who knew how long. He also seemed awfully at ease despite the fact that I had alerted the Seekers to the Phantoms' base of operations. It was then that an idea clicked.

"You're the leader, aren't you?" I stated.

The man released a few puffs, one of them was directed at my general area, and then flicked the cigarette away. He then focused his attention on me. Despite all of my training with the Seekers, I still shivered in wariness as the man looked me over. The man dropped to his knees, his glowing eyes observed me like a lab rat. I glared at him with all of my might, but the man merely chuckled. "You certainly are intelligent, Ms. Moore. I can see why he is interested in you." He commented, though I had no idea who he was referring to. "It's a shame that you oppose my organization; you would have made an excellent agent."

I clenched my teeth in anger. "Yeah, right. I would never work for you, not after you took everything away from me!"

It seemed that my hatred for the man only amused him. "You allow your emotions to control you too much. If you were to let go of them, imagine the potential you could gain. You would truly bring peace to this world."

I snarled at his ridiculous statement. "Your pal, Andresov, is the one who cuts off fingers at the slight hint of disobedience, and you say that I'm the one with emotional issues? And you really think that by losing the one thing that makes us human, a person could bring peace? Look at your organization; look at all the lives it has taken. That's not peace; that's genocide!"

The Phantom leader didn't even flinch at my outburst. Instead, he reached for my neck, and swiftly ripped off the simple silver necklace. He twirled it in his hands as he studied it under the glaring light. All the while, it just pissed me off even more.

"This is a worthless responsibility that you have put on yourself. Even after all these years, you still carry your mother's necklace?" The Phantom leader started. He then shook his head and proceeded. "I remember your parents. Nothing significant about them, but they were hard working civilians; at least, that's what strangers would think. However, you and I both know the truth behind their facades."

I didn't respond to his statement. Instead, I merely glared at him with all of my might.

"All those years ago, at the height of the war, your parents certainly took on a dangerous pass time. They became very active in the politics of the time; didn't they even, dare I say it, help sponsor the Seekers?"

Once again, I didn't say anything. Apparently, the Phantom leader didn't mind, for he continued. "They certainly became very busy after that. They didn't have much time for you or your brother. Isn't that why your brother always did whatever he could just to get your attention?" He paused as he stared at me expectantly.

I felt an eye twitch as the man started to hit sensitive nerves. Either he was oblivious or just didn't care, but the man continued. "As your parents rose in power and popularity, so did their ambition to take us down. With their inspiring words, the Seekers were born and my organization faced several assaults from them. They were like a pest that would never go away." He dryly said.

I took my chances and made another sassy remark. "I'm sorry they didn't kick your ass to the next century."

"Oh, but they did." The Phantom leader bluntly said. "However, I wasn't down for long. You know what I'm talking about. It was a year later on that faithful day that I personally gave the order for their assassination. You were just a teenager at the time. We never did anticipate your brother's presence, however. Shame that he had to die along with them."

All I saw was red as my nerves finally snapped and I yelled out in anger. I tried to move towards the man, but unfortunately, my bounds prevented me from moving more than a centimeter from where I was. "I'LL KILL YOU!" I screamed. "I'LL FUCKING KILL YOU!"

"Hate me all you want Agent Moore, but they got in my way. Individuals who do that all share the same fate. However, you too share the guilt of their deaths. Remember your first mission with the Seekers? Do you remember what it felt like to have to kill your own family members?"

"They weren't my family!" I shouted. "You turned them into monsters!"

"Hardly." He replied. "They were improved for our purposes."

"The purpose of what? Gaining world domination at the expense of human freedom?" I said.

"Each society has a built-in hierarchy. Those who are smart enough to extract it will succeed. We're merely doing what nature had intended. Even your Seeker organization has one; the higher ranked agents are considered to be Warriors, Guardians, Infiltrators, Hunters, etc… The rest, just like yourself, are considered to be of the lower ranks. You're not important to the Seekers; they found you so weak that they assigned a Guardian to look after you."

My eyes narrowed in suspicion. "What do you know about my Guardian?" I asked.

He chuckled. "Oh, I know a lot more about him than you do."

I was about to ask him how, but the man got up and shined my mother's necklace in the light. He then shook his head. "The sense of finding comfort in material goods is a waste of time. Instead of mourning the past, you have to focus on the future. 'Never let anything stand between you and your mission's goal'; isn't that what the Seekers taught you?"

I stayed silent. The Phantom leader shook his head again in disapproval. "And here I was so sure that you of all people would understand that moral."

At that remark, I snapped. "What do you know about morals? All you care about is gaining power, even if it means subjecting humanity to horrendous experiments to get it. You know nothing about being human, even if the answer was right in your face." I paused as I took the time to observe his reaction. When he showed none, I continued. "You would never understand what it's like to be free; to show love for the ones you care about. You can't be human."

Silence filled the room as it enveloped it in an eerie atmosphere. "Is that so?"

I shuffled nervously as he knelt in front of me. “I believe it’s time that I’ve let you in on a little secret.”

He then pressed his lips against my ear and whispered. My eyes widened in shock; the blood in my veins felt like it turned to ice, my vision became red with fury and my heart accelerated like a running train speeding down its tracks. The combined reactions caused my entire body to shake uncontrollably to the point where I would have fallen over if I wasn't already on the ground. I wanted to scream, to claw at the monster's face in front of me for daring to commit such an inhumane and horrific crime. He’s alive, I thought in disbelief. He’s alive…

The Phantom leader smirked in amusement. That smug bastard. He then cocked his head. "Do you really know who I am, Agent Moore?" The leader asked again.

Before I could reply, the man harshly grabbed my face and forced me to look at him. For the first time ever, I finally had a good look at his illuminated face, although what I saw took me completely by surprise. The man regarded me with a knowing smirk. I stared back in shock. He had his eyes!

33: Chapter 32: Like Father, Like Son
Chapter 32: Like Father, Like Son

"NO!" I screamed. "IT CAN'T BE!"

"Oh, but it is." The Phantom leader replied calmly.

"No." I repeated. "He's not like you; he's different!"

"I made him; he is my own flesh and blood." The Phantom leader said. "He may work for the Seekers, but as the expression goes: 'like father, like son.'"

I shook my head in defiance. "You may be his father, but he is most certainly not like you. He actually values human life, unlike you. Whenever you were mentioned, he always cringed at the thought."

The Phantom leader tossed his cigarette to the side. "Not surprised about that." He simply replied. "However, I hold more control over his life than even HE knows. He will do as I say, or else."

"Or else what?" I said, though I dreaded the answer.

The man chuckled briefly. "Oh, you don't need to worry about that. His problems will 'cool' over if he does exactly what I say."

It took a moment for my brain to connect the dots, and when it did, my eyes widened as I realized what he was talking about. "You're a monster!" I shouted.

The man chuckled once more, as if amused by my anger. "It seems that you know about my former wife. She never did agree with my ideologies about the future. Hell, she even reacted the way you are now."

I huffed. "For good reason you psychopath. You're the one who wants to bring Armageddon!"

The Phantom leader stared at me, his glowing eyes swirled as if deep in contemplation. "No…" he trailed. "I'm bringing peace." He then leaned against the wall to get comfortable. "I believe that if humans didn't exist, than this world would be close to perfect. This matter has no true right or wrong answer because everyone has their own point of view of what is perfect and not."

The man pushed himself off the ground, and started pacing carelessly around the tiny cell. "Without a doubt, humans allow their better judgment to be clouded by their emotions. Their only concerns are for themselves; every human being has evil within their hearts, but there still is something pure. That's why I'm here; to put an end to the corruption of mankind in order to release the true serenity that this world deserves."

My face scrunched up in confusion as I wondered if I heard his speech correctly. "Peace?" I asked in disbelief. "This is not peace. What you and your organization have done is further reinforce the corruption. As humans, we are all different. If people learned to accept the differences, then there would be fewer wars over money, religion, and power. There would be a unity of understanding and equal ground." My eyes then softened slightly. "Humans are born with free will and the ability to be who we can be. You don't need to kill in order to restore order."

The Phantom leader was silent for a few minutes as he carefully reflected on my words. At last, he answered. "I agree that humans are born with free will. However, it's because of this free will that misguided choices have been followed which often lead to unnecessary bloodshed. I admire your faith in humanity, however that ideology is completely naive. Humans will never stop their corrupted ways. A higher force needs to put them in their place; that is why the Phantoms exist."

The man knelt down and looked directly into my eyes. I still couldn't get over the fact of his resemblance with him…

The man then sighed. "I'm afraid that there's no other solution to this dire problem. Domination is the only solution."

"I don't believe that!" I said firmly. "There's got to be another way; one without bloodshed."

"And that is exactly why your parents died." The Phantom leader replied bluntly. "They paid the ultimate price for trying to defend such a disgusting species. Andresov will ensure that my son accepts our offer. If he refuses to cooperate, then I'll kill him."

I sneered at the Phantom leader in disgust. "Jeesh, most parents just ground their kids." I said.

The Phantom merely raised an eyebrow at me. "Indeed, however by now you should realize that I'm not exactly a 'normal' father. Andresov is a far more faithful agent, however he's not natural. I want my son."

Both of my eyebrows rose up to my forehead. "What do you mean by not natural? He was ripped out from his mother or something?" Ok, I admit that the Macbeth reference was weird, but the hell with it!

Apparently it didn't bother the Phantom leader for he hummed in amusement. "No he was not 'ripped out from his mother.' In fact, he doesn't have any parents. He was engineered by our scientists in an attempt to produce an agent that would always remain loyal to the Phantoms. He's my, how should I say it, replacement of a son until my real one joins."

My eyes widened. "Yikes, no wonder Andresov is a sadistic bastard. You're just using him to get your son back. Why the hell is he still working for you?"

"Who says that he's aware of that?" The leader replied. "It's a need-to-know basis. I want the real deal, not a shadow replicate."

I snorted. "Yeah, good luck with that. He won't be taken down that easily. And the Seekers are always prepared for an attack by your organization."

"Quite true." He said. He then took out a pocket watch to check the time. He then placed it back in his pocket and turned to me. "It has been a pleasure talking with you, Agent Moore. Perhaps we can continue this conversation another time." The leader said. He then bowed, (not sure whether he meant it as a gesture of politeness or of mocking), and then left the cell.

The door shut behind him with a loud slam, and I was alone in the darkness once more…


An undistinguished murmur interrupted the dense silence. "Rachel?" A voice whispered clearly.

I opened my eyes a bit as I tried to pinpoint where the sound came from.

"Rachel?" The voice said again slightly louder.

The door then opened and I was once again blinded by the glaring light from outside. A figure covered in numerous cloaks came in. Once my vision adjusted to the increased light, I looked up to observe it.

"Rachel? Are you alright?" The figure said.

My eyes widened as I couldn't believe who it was. "John?" I whispered as I tried to keep my excitement at bay.

"It's all right Rachel, I'm going to get you out of here." John leaned down and cut the bounds that held my hands together.

I let out a half gasp, half laugh as I was overcome with joy at the sight of John. He must have received my signal. Not being able to help myself, I threw my arms around John and hugged him tightly. He grunted a bit at the added weight, but then he rubbed my back in comfort.

"How were you able to get in?" I asked.

John pulled back to look at me. "It was simple really; when you're the son of the enemy, you tend to have seen and know many things. Besides, for you, I'd do anything." He replied as he caressed my face.

I smiled and then kissed him hard. He kissed back, though there was something off about him. His taste was… different. I pulled back to have a closer look at him, though I was shocked at what I saw. John stared back at me, but his eyes were glowing!

"No." I whispered.

He then threw his head back, and laughed loudly. "I can't believe you fell for that!" He said as he laughed hard. "It's me; Andresov!"

I was frozen to my spot as I took in what just happened. Andresov merely laughed again. "You're so naive Agent Moore. He'll never come for you."

I just stared at him in shock as tears silently ran down my cheeks.

Upon seeing my tears, the Phantom agent faked a look of sympathy. "Aww, did I break your heart? So sorry Rachel, how could I have been so blind to your feelings!" He then leaned forward so that our faces were leveled with each other's. "You should forget about him Rachel; he's not man enough to come and save you."

By that point, my initial shock had worn off and in its place, numbness took over. With nothing left to lose, I chose to speak my mind. "You think you're more of a man than John is? You've just been living in his shadow for your entire life. Dear daddy doesn't care about you; he just wants his 'real' son back. You're strong and resourceful, I'll give you that…" I paused to look at the Phantom's shaded face. I then continued. "But in the end, you're still just a clone. No matter how hard you try, you'll never be the real deal." I said as I smirked weakly.

The Phantom agent stared at me blankly before he slapped me pretty hard on the cheek. I spat out blood, and I could have sworn that some teeth felt looser than earlier.

"I don't need to be the real deal." He replied quietly. "I just need to get rid of him." With that said, he stared at me venomously, and for a moment, I thought that he was going to kill me.

The next few minutes were tense and silent, however the Phantom agent breathed in deeply and let out a long exhale. He then got up and looked at me in indifference. "Not even your 'demanding' Seeker training will save you from this hell hole. You'll die here Agent Moore. Mark my words." With that, he turned towards the door, and slammed it shut.

Once I was back in the safety of the darkness, I allowed the tears to pour out of my eyes. I sobbed in hopelessness as I yearned to be back with John then more than ever. It was during my crying session that I noticed that my hands were still free.

With my small advantage, I reached over to my boots and pulled one off. I held it to my chest, and opened a secret compartment that released one clear pill. I took the object in question and pressed it against my lips. I'm sorry John, but I have no choice.

With my last thought, I popped the pill inside and swallowed it. My thoughts drifted to John as I waited for the pill's effects to claim my life…

34: Chapter 33: Regrouping and One More Surprise
Chapter 33: Regrouping and One More Surprise

~ John's POV ~

The rest of the drive went by in relative silence. I knew that if I spoke, then I would have been yelling at everyone, so I chose to stare out the window. My eyes, however, didn't register the scenery as my thoughts collided with each other violently. I was worried to death about Rachel; I didn't even know if she was dead, or worse, if she was captured by the Phantoms.

Randomly, I looked at the rear view mirror and saw the reflections of Fear and Claire. They too were staring off into space, however I noticed that their fingers were interlocked with each other's. My heart gave a brief pang and I had to look away as I snapped my eyes shut. Damn it, I thought.

Luckily for me, Pete interrupted the silence. "We're almost there." He simply said.

I nodded in confirmation as I didn't want to… no, I couldn't speak. I once again stared blankly out the window.

About fifteen minutes later, we arrived at our destination. As I got out of the car, I immediately thought that we were at the wrong place, yet Pete walked confidently towards the door. Confused, I followed him, along with Fear and Claire. As I glanced at them, (their hands were to themselves then), confusion was evident on their faces as they looked around. When Pete had the door open, he stepped aside to let us in first. Once we did, we were met by more confusing, not to mention provocative sights. All three of us looked around awkwardly, especially Claire. The poor girl looked around as if she expected to get tackled, and forced into one of the outfits. She went ahead of us near the back. Pete came in behind us.

Fear was the first one to break the silence. "Ok, I'll be the one to say this; why the hell are we in a lingerie store?" He asked bluntly as he looked around with narrowed eyes at the questionable clothing.

I let out a sharp breath. "You don't like it Fear? I'm pretty sure Agent Claire would look sexy in some of these outfits." I teased as I wiggled my eyebrows suggestively.

Both of Fear's cheeks turned visibly pink and he glared at me. Luckily for him, the woman in question wasn't close enough to hear.

"Gentlemen, this isn't the time to quarrel like school boys. We're in a state of war, so it's extremely important that you two pay close attention." The Head Warrior said in a strict tone.

Both Fear and I automatically straightened our backs in apprehension. "Yes sir!" We said.

The Head Warrior gave us a smug look, and walked over to where Claire waited. She stepped aside to let him unlock the door that led to the back. Pete once again allowed us to step in first. Inside, was a large warehouse with numerous boxes on the sides, along with two familiar people.

"Uncle Cian!" Claire exclaimed.

The Irish Warrior turned around at the mention of his name. "Alannah! Glad to see your pretty face again."

Agent Claire, or I guess Alannah, smiled softly. "Yeah, it's all because of these two." She gestured to me and Fear.

We both straightened our postures once more as the eagle-like eyes of Agent Cian observed us carefully. He then grunted. "Guess I owe you two a beer for looking after my niece."

I allowed myself to smile. "No need to owe us anything sir. We don't leave any fellow agents behind."

Agent Cian nodded at us curtly, but nevertheless smiled widely. "Good thing you showed up when you did; I was getting tired of trying to get our dear Agent Arrow to admit just how right I was about conspiracy within the Seekers."

Said person rolled his eyes. "Getting me to confess that you were right won't help our situation." He then glanced at Pete. "I sincerely hope that you have a plan."

The Head Warrior made his way to the center of the room, and looked at each of us carefully. The atmosphere abruptly went tense.

"About six hours ago, Seeker Headquarters was attacked by numerous groups of Phantom agents. We determined that they got in with the help of a spy who deactivated all security measures that were in place. Unfortunately for us, the Phantoms killed the son of a bitch before we could get our hands on him." Pete commented venomously. The rest of the occupants, including me, shuffled nervously as none of us had ever seen Pete so angry. He continued. "The spy was working in coalition with Mr. Martin Hill, the man that agents Moore and Delta brought in all those weeks ago. His current whereabouts are unknown, but it seems that his involvement with the Phantoms is much deeper than we initially thought."

I tensed as Pete brought up Rachel, but I held my tongue. From the corner of my eye, I saw that Fear was staring at me, but I refused to look at him.

"In our current situation, the Phantoms have us nailed right to the wall. They've taken over our weapons system, they have access to every single Seeker agent record, including yours." We all tensed as he shared that rather alarming news. "The Phantoms have also stolen vital documents from our computers; defense and missile codes, and basically any other Intel that could start wars between countries."

Shock was an understatement to how we all felt then. The news that Pete threw at our faces was almost too much to take. Finally, I've grown the balls to ask Pete the question that I'm sure was on everyone's mind. "What are they doing with the information?" I asked.

Pete glanced at me with an indecipherable look. "We're not sure. For all we know, they could be keeping the information to themselves. Another possibility is that they are planning on selling our information to the top bidder in order to put us in a vulnerable state. This is no child's game lady and gentlemen; this is an act of war." Pete stated seriously.

"What was the point of attacking the Shroud if the Phantoms were after Seeker HQ?" I asked.

"It was an ambush to try to eliminate as many Seeker agents as possible all at once. Since only higher leveled Seeker agents were stationed at the Shroud, the Phantoms were essentially able to kill two birds with one stone." Pete said solemnly.

Agent Cian cursed rather openly, while the rest of us couldn't even form words. I was at such a loss that it took me a moment to regain my composure.

"Sir," Claire finally started, "you said that Agent Moore and her team were attacked at the airport in New York: what proof do you have that any of them are still alive?"

I knew that it was an innocent question, but inside I wanted to strangle the life out of the woman.

"There was one survivor that managed to evade the Phantoms." Pete said.

I looked at the Head Warrior in curiosity. "Who?" I asked.

On cue, footsteps echoed in the vast room which made them sound like tiny explosions in the shallow silence. We all turned towards the source and from the shadows came the familiar form of Agent Olsen.

"Olsen, how did you get here?" I asked in amazement.

The Scout stepped forward. "When the plane was attacked, I managed to get out through the window escape. My vision was limited from where I was, but I definitely heard the sounds of a fight. I tried to remain as inconspicuous as possible, and it worked, for the Phantoms didn't see me." His face then took on a more sober expression. "Unfortunately, they took agents Predator, Gizmo… and Moore."

My expression darkened as I curled my hands into tight fists. Fortunately, I was able to keep my cool for the most part. "Do you know where they were taken?" I asked.

Surprisingly, the Scout nodded. "As a matter of fact, I do. May I?" He asked Pete.

The Head Warrior nodded and allowed Agent Olsen to pass by him towards the laptop that was situated on the side.

The Scout took out a small computer chip and inserted it into the laptop. I stared over his shoulder in curiosity.

"About an hour ago, I received a transmission from an unknown source providing specific coordinates. I recognized the signal pattern to be that of Agent Moore. When Pete activated the tracking implants, I was finally able to pinpoint the approximate location of Agent Moore. According to her coordinates, she's being held at Seeker HQ…" The Scout trailed off.

My eyes narrowed at the news, but inwardly I was relieved at the fact that Rachel was still alive.

Pete nodded his head in acceptance. "She's probably being held in one of the interrogation rooms." He said.

Agent Olsen gave a look of confirmation. "If that's the case, then she's probably of some use to the Phantoms, hence why they captured her instead of killing her on the spot."

I clenched my teeth at the mere thought of the implication. "What do they want with her?" I asked through my teeth.

The Scout gave me a sympathetic look. "I have no idea." He replied honestly.

I nodded my head as I didn't trust my barely contained rage from not revealing itself through my voice. I looked at everyone in the room and took in their various emotions. Agents Arrow's and Claire's faces were blank, Agent Cian was clearly agitated as he was pacing on his spot restlessly, Pete and Olsen were relatively cool, while Fear looked at me with concern. I finally glanced back at him before I turned to face the front. "So what now?" I asked.

Everyone then looked at Pete who had his hand perched under his chin. "It's settled then; we'll round up the remaining Seeker agents here and head back to America." He stated.

Deep down, I felt satisfied with the conclusion, and apparently so did everyone else if the lifted looks on their faces were any indication. Pete smiled slightly, but it quickly fell as his pager beeped and caught his attention. He took out the device and read the message. His brown eyes widened immediately.

"What it is?" I asked warily.

"Your mother, she's awake." Pete said astonished.

35: Chapter 34: Heart-to-Heart and a Mother's Wish
Chapter 34: Heart-to-Heart and a Mother's Wish

For a couple of minutes, all I did was stare at Pete in shock. Hell, I think even my jaw dropped. My mother was awake? Jesus, so many events had happened one after another that it was hard for my mind to wrap around them.

"Are you alright?" Pete asked.

I blinked severe times before I focused my attention on him. The Head Warrior looked at me unsurely; his mouth opened, yet closed as if he wasn't comfortable with what he wanted to say. When I glanced at Fear, my friend looked at me with concern. That immediately snapped me out of my daze, and I looked at Pete with certainty. "I want to talk to her." I said firmly.

Gratefully the Head Warrior didn't question my earlier reaction, and merely gave me the access code for the pager that I assumed connected to my mom.

"Here you go." He said. "There's a room down there if you want some privacy." He then gestured behind him.

I nodded, and made my way to the room. I walked inside, though I didn't bother closing the door. There was a lone chair on the corner by the window. I sat down, and uploaded the code to my pager. I turned on the option for video imaging and took a deep breath. I then activated the connection and sure enough, the image of the woman who gave birth to me appeared. "Hello?" The familiar and welcoming voice of my mother came through.

I gasped quietly at how genuine her voice sounded, but I regained my focus. "Hey mom," I replied rather timidly.

"Oh honey, it's so good to hear from you!" She exclaimed happily.

I laughed briefly. "Same goes for you mom. It's been seven years since I've last seen you. I thought you were dead…" I trailed off.

My mother took on a grim expression as her brown eyes focused on me intently. "I know dear. Most of the time I was out of it, so even I don't know much of what was done to me. Never mind that, all that matters is that I'm back."

I looked away in shame at her positive outlook despite the ordeal that she must have been through. "It's my fault mom; when we got separated, I should have gone back for you. You wouldn't have suffered so much."

My mother then leaned closed to the camera as her magnificent eyes zeroed in on me. "Now you listen to me young man; you did not abandon me. If you went after me, then you would have been captured as well, and there was no way in hell that I would have let you fall into the Phantoms' hands." Her eyes then softened as she took on a softer tone. "Honey, you know firsthand the pain that the Phantoms have put people through, starting with our family first of all. Your bastard of a father has put us through enough misery as it is; you and the other Seekers have to stop him and his organization once and for all!"

I nodded. "I know mom, but things got complicated. You see, I met a girl…"

That automatically caught my mother's attention as she leaned even closer to the screen if there were possible. "A girl, huh? What's her name? What's she like?"

A smile plastered itself on my face as I thought of Rachel. "Her name is Rachel, and she looks somewhat like you; with the brownish/black hair and brown eyes. She's an extraordinarily strong willed woman and isn't afraid of kicking ass."

My mother chuckled. "I like her already. So where is she?"

The smile was automatically wiped off of my face as dark thoughts invaded my mind. "The Phantoms have her, mom. They took control of Seeker HQ and they're holding several hostages over there, including Rachel."

My mother gave me a sympathetic look. "I'm so sorry John." She said.

My body shook with a barely controlled rage, and my hands formed into fists. "I hate this god damn war. If it weren't for him, then none of this would have happened. We might have been a normal family."

My mother pressed a hand against the screen as if visualizing that it was my face. "I know honey. I wish that could have been the case, but unfortunately it was not. You have to be strong John. Your father may be a monster, but you're still half me. Luckily for you, my half is the dominant one." She chuckled.

I found myself laughing at her attempt of humor. "Well, it's no wonder that I'm such a badass." I mocked.

My mother laughed briefly. "Yes indeed. But really sweetie, you'll be faced with many obstacles, however, don't let them stop you from achieving your goal. You will win son. And you've also got that girl to fight for. From how you've described Rachel, it seems that she means a whole lot to you."

"More than my own life." I said quietly.

"Then use it to fuel your will to stop your father and the Phantoms. As Anais Nin once said: 'Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage.' The question is whether or not you're willing to go as far as you can in order to save Rachel."

Without hesitation, I answered. "I'd give my own life just to make sure that she's safe."

My mother looked at me with such love that it nearly overwhelmed me. "I'm so proud of you son. So very proud"

"Thanks mom…" I said as I slightly blushed. "Are you in a safe place?"

She smiled. "Yes. The Seeker medical team transferred me to some location in England. I'm afraid I can't tell you where exactly because even I don't know."

Inwardly, I let out a sigh of relief. "Glad to hear."

"I have to go now." She said regretfully.

"I know." I replied.

"Say hello to Fear for me. I still hate calling him that, however he has always refused to have me, well anyone really, call him by his real name."

I smiled genuinely. "Will do mom. Take care."

She smiled back. "You too dear." And with that, the connection was cut.

The chat with my mom left me filled with more hope than before. As short as the conversation was, it was still good to hear her voice again. She was the only stable rock I had after my father went full on evil.

I got up from the chair and stretched my slightly sore back. It was then that I realized that Fear was standing at the doorway. "John." He said.

I raised an eyebrow in question. "What's up?" I asked.

He shrugged as he stepped inside and then leaned against the wall. "Just wanted to check up on how you're doing. How's your mom?"

I turned to face him. "She's doing well. She says hi by the way. Oh, and she also mentioned that she still hates calling you 'Fear'."

The Assassin's lips curled slightly at the edges. "I'm still going to force everyone to call me that."

"Even your girlfriend?" I said as I wiggled my eyebrows suggestively.

Fear rolled his eyes. "Ha ha, she's not my girlfriend."

I rested a hand on my hip. "Is that so? Then I suppose that you two holding hands on the drive here meant nothing?"

That automatically made his eyes widened as I assumed that he didn't expect me to have known that. "She grabbed my hand. I just sat there."

"But you didn't slap her hand away." I said. "You like her." I then grinned.

Fear held his ground. "We're in a war; there's no time for petty things like love. Besides, if I get myself involved in a relationship, then that'd just be one visible weakness that the Phantoms would easily exploit. I wouldn't put Alannah in danger purposely."

I raised an eyebrow. "So it's Alannah now, huh? You're calling her by her real name, yet you refuse to tell her yours?"

The Assassin glared at me. "Shut up!" He replied rather childishly. "I don't go around teasing you about Rachel."

The mention of her name washed off my humorous mood. Fear noticed the abrupt change in my attitude and struggled for words. "John, I…"

"Forget it." I replied. "It's not like I can avoid any mention of her, not when our mission is partially revolved around her." I then walked over to the window and stared at the illuminated city. "I made a promise that I'd do everything I possibly could to save her, even if it meant sacrificing my own life. I won't let her go through the same torture that has marked me for life."

Fear walked to my side. "We'll get her, John. And when we do, we'll make the Phantom bastards pay for everything that they've done."

I smirked slightly. "Damn right we will."

Fear then regarded me with an intense, yet soft look. "You really do love her." He said quietly.

I turned my face towards his and nodded. "Very much." I replied.

Fear continued to look at me for a few minutes. "In that case, I've got your back to the end."

I smiled softly. "Thanks… Ricardo."

Instead of the usual annoyance at the use of his real name, Fear merely smiled. "Any time John." He replied.

"How are your sisters?" I randomly asked.

At the mention of them, Fear smiled genuinely. "They're good. I talked to them before we left Rome. It's funny, Catarina wants to join the Seekers when she's of age. I don't want her to though."

I chuckled. "She's sixteen Fear; she's at that age where you can't actually tell her what to do and expect her to listen."

Fear shook his head. "She's still young; she's got her whole life ahead of her. I don't want her to go off joining our war; not if I can help it."

My eyes softened. "She just wants to follow in her big brother's footsteps." I replied.

Fear sighed, and smiled softly. "Yeah, she does. She always was that way."

I smiled in agreement, and turned to face the window. We spent a good hour after that just looking out the window in a comfortable silence. Various memories reintroduced themselves in my head, and for once, I welcomed them with open arms. For the first time since this damned war started, I felt at peace and had a sense that things would work out for the best. Someday, this would all be just a distant memory…

36: Chapter 35: And He Went Out with a Bang!
Chapter 35: And He Went Out with a Bang!

Fear and I made our way back to the main area. The others will still there. I assumed that they went over a briefing of sorts as they were huddled over a blue print of what must have been Seeker HQ. Pete was the first one to acknowledge our return. "Welcome back agents. Is your mother alright?" Pete asked as he looked at me.

I nodded. "She's doing fine." I replied.

Out of respect, Pete didn't inquire further about the conversation with my mother. Instead, he turned his attention back to the blue print. "Now that you're here, we can continue with the planning."

Fear and I walked over to the group, and observed the blue print. The others were focused on the schematics that divided into the sewage system, the main level, and the rooftop. I looked up at Pete for some clarification. He got the hint, and spoke. "While you were gone, we've been discussing the best strategy for our rescue operation. As you can see, we've focused our attention on three main areas; our plan is to split into three teams to divert the Phantoms' attention to various locations, keeping them off balance. The infiltration team will go through the sewage system and get into the interrogation rooms. If we're lucky, that's where they'll be keeping Agent Moore and any other survivors."

I swallowed hard as I took in the information.

Pete then looked at me. "You, along with agents Claire, Fear, and Arrow will make up the infiltration team; Agent Arrow will be in charge."

Said person nodded in understanding.

"The next team will be in charge of setting up explosives; they'll be coming in from the roof and will make their way to the rooftops and set up explosives along the way. We'll have to find more volunteers for that. As for the last team, it'll be for distraction on the main level. The team will consist of me, Agent Cian, and other capable Seeker agents we find. Are there any questions?"

Agent Claire spoke out. "Sir, if the Phantoms have taken control of HQ, then wouldn't that mean that they have full access to our security measures and will easily detect us?"

A hint of a smile tugged on the Head Warrior's face. "That is a good reason for concern, however the Phantoms don't know all of our secrets. Agent Gizmo left us a schematic of all of the accessible circuit breakers in the building that will temporarily disable the measures that the Seeker systems have in place. There is a time limit though; we'll only have thirty minutes before the back-up generator goes out and the Phantoms realize that something is up."

Silence filled the room as each of us was absorbed in our own thoughts. Abruptly, an alert pinged from Olsen's pager and he took it out. His eyes widened in disbelief. "Pete, I'm getting an incoming transmission from surviving Seeker agents. They'll holding out in an abandoned storage warehouse, however it seems like they're being attacked by Phantom forces. I'm sending all of you the coordinates."

Pete automatically turned to me, Fear, and Agent Cian. "You three, go over and assist them. We need as many survivors as we can get. The rest of you, secure this location; I don't want us getting ambushed by the Phantoms."

All of us nodded our heads, and Fear, Agent Cian and I ran out of the room. We got into the van from earlier, and sped away.

According to the coordinates, the surviving Seeker agents were just south of the Linmat River that spread through the city. Agent Cian was a mean driver as he scared the other drivers with his insane skills. What normally would have been a half hour drive took just over ten minutes.

We arrived at the abandoned warehouse, however it was suspiciously quiet. There was no sound at all; no evidence to suggest that there was a struggle. Then, a lone figure came running out of the warehouse and as soon as he saw our small group, he booked it towards us. "Get down!" He yelled.

Just as he finished speaking, the whole warehouse exploded as glass shards and other materials flew everywhere. The man got caught in the explosion, and was thrown several feet forward. As he landed, a nasty sounding crunch resonated from his spot and he went absolutely still.

Fear, Agent Cian and I took cover behind the van as some of the materials flew past us. Once the rumbling passed, I exposed myself from the safety of the van, and ran towards the still body.

I ran to his body, and flipped him on his back. Blood dripped down his forehead, and his eyes stared blankly at the sky. To be certain, I pressed a finger on his neck and counted up to ten seconds. When no heartbeat made itself present, I dropped my hand to the side and sighed sadly. Dammit, I thought.

My other partners ran over to my position. I glanced up at them, and shook my head. They looked back at me, and nodded their understanding. Agent Cian went towards the debris, while Fear stayed behind with me. The rough and distinguishable voice of Agent Cian then broke through the thick smoke. "I found a survivor!" He yelled.

Both Fear and I ran over to where he was, and surely enough, there was a body half buried underneath some rubble. All three of us worked quickly to remove the debris, and pulled the Seeker agent out. I checked his neck, and was relieved to find a faint pulse. I looked over the dirt stained face; he was unconscious, but alive.

"Fear, get the van ready. Agent Cian, grab him and let's move!" I ordered.

Both men did as they were told and I sped walked back to the van. I opened the door wide enough for Agent Cian to place the limp body of the Seeker agent into the back seat. We both got in, and Fear drove us back to our momentary base of operations.

As soon as we arrived, we hurriedly brought the unconscious survivor to the back. When the others saw us, they were, needless to say, surprised. However, they didn't waste time on questions, and instead focused on evaluating the well-being of the survivor.

Agent Arrow scanned him effectively from head to toe with a biometric scanner. The tension in his shoulders dissipated as he put away the device. "Just a mild concussion; nothing that bed rest won't cure."

It seemed that the tension in the atmosphere was driven away with the good news. As if remembering our initial reason for going to the warehouse, Pete turned his attention to us. "What happened?" He simply asked.

Agent Cian and Fear looked at me. Inwardly, I sighed, but on the outside I remained professional. "As soon as we arrived, we saw a Seeker agent run out of the building. Immediately after that, the whole place went up in flames. Unfortunately he didn't make it." I hung my head down momentarily in respect.

The Head Warrior's eyes went soft. "I'm sorry to hear." He said.

I nodded and continued. "We found him in the rubble. Hopefully he'll be of use to us when he wakes up." I pointed to the unconscious Seeker agent. "In all honesty, it seems like this was a set-up.

Pete's eyes hardened at the possibility. "We've wasted enough time as it is. We leave for New York within the hour!"

37: Chapter 36: A Son to be Proud of
Chapter 36: A Son to be Proud of

~ Fear's POV. ~

It was settled: we were going back to New York. We hurriedly packed up whatever belongings we had, and got into the van. It was slightly cramped with the three new additions, one of them unconscious. As for him, he was looked over briefly to insure that he really didn't have anything serious. Luckily for the injured agent he was fine, just out cold. He was also given a drug to help him wake up, though it wasn't clear how long it would take for the effects to kick in.

On our way to an abandoned airstrip, we met up with several other Seeker agents who got our message. Inwardly, I was relieved with the increase in our numbers, however, I was still unsure of whether it'd be enough to regain control of HQ. Pete was right: the Phantoms had us nailed right to the wall. Who's to say that they weren't already aware of our intentions? Anything was possible after all.

I took a deep breath and let out a long, but quiet exhale. It was not the time to second guess our plans. Our intentions were set, and there was no turning back.

I glanced at John a couple of times while we packed. He was silent and seemed focused on his task, though his eyes told another story when they finally met mine. They told a story of the fear and frustration he felt, yet desperately tried to hide. A stranger may have dismissed his unusual behavior as stress about current events, but he was my friend, and I knew him pretty damn well.

After a couple of minutes of just staring at each other, John winced and turned away sharply. My eyes narrowed as I stared at John's retreating back: I was correct. My greatest concern was that if Rachel was indeed dead, John would not handle the news well, and his judgment might be affected badly. Nevertheless, I had decided to let him be, and resumed my work.

As the van drove towards the airport, I looked outside, though I didn't pay much attention to the landscape. For an Assassin, my behavior was unacceptable, though at the moment I could have cared less. If I was being honest with myself, I doubted that my abilities would have been able to help the Seekers drive out the Phantoms permanently. It was one thing to kill, but to save a hostage that was considered MIA, that was a whole other ballgame.

I turned my head in the opposite direction, and was met by the sight of Agent Claire. I had no idea what to think of that woman, but her interest in me was painfully obvious. Unfortunately for me, John had also caught on since the beginning, and has made my life a living hell with his constant teasing about me and her. That reminded me, there was a call for me to arrange a date with my foot and his ass.

As I had nothing better to do, my eyes scanned the profile of Agent Claire, or Alannah I suppose. I'll admit that she was attractive and she seemed nice enough, however, I wasn't interested in a serious relationship. My actions may have seemed otherwise, but it was John's damn fault for pushing me towards her in the first place. I would have been perfectly happy if I was left alone. It's been two years since I was in a serious relationship, and well, that didn't end well. Needless to say, relationships and I did not go well together. Despite that, I was still a man and I still had my needs…

At that, I inwardly scowled. Maybe I do need to get laid, I thought.

I was pulled from my thoughts by the abrupt stop of the van. On cue, we all got out and started to pack the belongings onto the simple white plane. With the additional Seeker agents that met us there, the task only took ten minutes. As such, we boarded the plane, and each of us went into our own subconscious.

Once again, I observed John. His face was pale, and there were bangs under his eyes. A pang of concern tore at my insides. John was not sleeping; if so, then his reaction time would be severely handicapped during the mission.

I walked to where John was and sat down in the seat beside him. He didn't even notice my approach, which further showed his distraction. I kicked his leg and that automatically got his attention. "What?" He asked.

I decided to get straight to the point. "You haven't been sleeping." I answered.

John blinked several times, as if he was trying to regain his focus. "It's just stress, that's all." He mumbled.

I narrowed my eyes. "Bullshit." I simply said. "You're worried about Rachel. We all are John, but a lack of sleep is not going to bring her back. In fact, it'll lessen your chances of success."

It was John's turn to narrow his eyes at me. "I'm fine!" He snapped. "I don't need you to babysit me."

Not one to take offense so seriously, I merely shrugged and got up. "I'm just trying to warn you as a friend. If you want to save Rachel, then you've got to calm down and start taking better care of yourself." With that, I left and made my way to the less crowded part of the plane.

I sat down and settled into my seat. I closed my eyes momentarily and relaxed my tense muscles. I heard shuffling from my left side and cracked open my left eye. Unsurprisingly, Agent Claire sat beside me. "Hey." She said.

I nodded my head in greeting.

A few minutes of silence passed between us. As I glanced at Agent Claire, she seemed to be struggling for words. "Do you think we'll survive this?" She asked softly.

I shrugged half-heartedly. "To be honest, I'm not sure. We're a strong group, but the Phantoms have us at a disadvantage. We might succeed, but that success will come at a high price."

More shuffling noises were made, and that time I turned my head to the side. Agent Claire had positioned her body so that she faced me. I raised an eyebrow at her intentions.

"I'll be blunt; I like you, a lot, but I know that you're not interested in me as I am in you. So I'll give you a choice; I won't make approaches on you anymore, but if you do change your mind, I'll still be here." She said as she stared at me intensely.

I merely blinked as I couldn't form words. Even if I was able to, I had no idea what to say. Agent Claire nodded. "I see." She said. She looked down momentarily, but then she looked back up and her normally bright hazel eyes were hardened with an unfamiliar emotion that I've never seen in her before. She then stood up and nodded at me once more. "Good luck Agent Fear." With that, she walked away.

A strange, yet well-known feeling swirled in my gut, and it left me uncomfortable: it was guilt. I gritted my teeth together. Damn women and their ability to manipulate emotions.

Thankfully, the plane began its procedure for take-off, and it distracted me from the confrontation. I let out a sharp exhale. This was exactly why I stopped messing with women.

We were about three hours into the flight when the unconscious Seeker agent began to groan as he stretched his stiff muscles. He then opened his eyes and looked around as he blinked repeatedly. "Where am I?" He asked.

I rolled my eyes, and looked away. From the corner of my vision, I saw Pete approach the newly conscious agent. "Let's just say a lot has happened while you were out." He simply said.


It has been five days since we've arrived at New York. There were Phantom agents at the airport, but we were able to avoid their detection. It made me suspicious though, as the Phantoms were normally thorough in their searches. Agent Moore and her team were attacked when they returned, so how did we manage to evade them so easily?

John was clearly agitated as he paced back and forth in his spot in our make-shift command post. I knew that he was anxious about Rachel; hell we all were, but it seemed that he was the only one who refused to believe the most likely outcome: that Rachel was already dead. John may not have acknowledged it externally, but I knew that deep down, he was scared to death about that being a possibility.

I sighed as I turned my attention back to my task. I was debating on how to upgrade my newly claimed Devil's bow; the one that Agent Claire gave to me.

I blinked several times as I willed all thoughts of her out of my head. I had better things to worry about than her feelings, such as making sure that my weapons were in perfect condition. I decided to start with my swords as I made sure that they were delicately sharp. Once I deemed them ready, I slid them in their safety harnesses, and wrapped the belt around me. Next was my Devil's bow. Since it came with an infra-red seeking program, I set it up to a visor that I placed over my left eye. I tested it out by scanning the room I was in. Sure enough, I was able to detect the heat signatures from behind the brick wall. I slightly smirked and placed the bow along with the bag of various types of arrows on my back. Afterwards, I put on any remaining piece of armor, and slid a mask on. I crossed the room, and stood in front of a body sized mirror.

A sense of pride filled me as I observed myself. It has been a long journey for me, and it would continue on until my end. When I first told my parents of my intentions to join the Seekers, they were absolutely furious. My father didn't trust any sort of military power, and my mother begged me to stay as she didn't want to lose her only son. Of course, as the rebel eighteen year old, I disregarded their worries and joined nonetheless. To say that Seeker Basic was hard would have been an understatement; it was a living hell! The intense pressure caused many people to crack and quit, which left only a handful to ever make it through.

When I did graduate from Basic, I was surprised to find my parents in the audience. They approached me and my mother hugged me tightly. My father looked at me with such pride, that I swore I saw tears in his eyes. Their reactions overwhelmed me, and I was at a loss. For the first time, my parents realized that I was becoming a man and that I had the power to choose my own life. They said that they were proud of me for doing something that I wanted to do.

For a time, life was good; I continued with my Seeker training, and I had John with me. But all too soon, that brief happiness was taken away from me in the form of a serious car accident. My parents didn't survive, and I was left with the huge responsibility of taking care of my two younger sisters.

Despite my pain and my young age, I manned up and provided as best as I could for my sisters. John and his mother helped me a lot, but that too changed when John left Europe and his mother disappeared.

A small smile came to my face. John and I were so different, yet so similar as well. He was like the brother I never had; the one person I knew I could always trust without a doubt. For that reason, I made the promise to help him in his personal quest, even if it costs me my life.

I adjusted my armor once more, and then made my way out of the room.

I walked to the main command center where everyone else was. I was assigned a recon mission where I had to scout out the areas of interests and evaluate the environment, the patrols, and any weaknesses that I could detect. As if the universe was out to get me, Agent Claire was assigned as my partner as she was quick on her feet and could easily avoid detection.

As I was about to walk to the center, John came in and blocked my way. His eyes bore in mine with such intensity that it nearly took me aback. I stared back at him as I waited for him to make a move. After a couple of minutes, John finally cracked. "You better take care of yourself Fear, I mean it." He said sharply, though I knew that there was genuine concern in his voice.

I nodded and held out my hand. John seemed puzzled at first as he stared at it, then at my face. I offered a smile to reassure him. It did the trick, for John took my hand and shook it tightly.

"Try not to get lost without me." I winked.

John snorted. "Even when you're being sent on a high risk mission, you're still as cocky as ever." Nonetheless, he smiled.

I smirked. "Can't let you have all the fun now, can I?" I replied in a teasing manner.

Instead of retorting as he normally would, John took me in for a "man hug." It took me by surprise as I awkwardly patted his back, before I let go of my embarrassment and returned the gesture fully. He was the first one to let go and took a step back. He coughed. "You should get to it." He said.

I nodded and pushed past him gently. I made my way over to Pete, and stood directly behind. The Head Warrior sensed my presence, and turned to face me. "Are you ready Agent Fear?" He asked.

I nodded. "Let's go." I replied confidently.

38: Chapter 37: The Plan
Chapter 37: The Plan

~ John's POV ~

I was well aware of Fear's constant observations of me. I knew that I couldn't fool him, no matter how much I avoided him or hid my true feelings. As such, I made it my personal mission to keep myself as occupied as I could. It especially distracted me from any horrific thoughts of what may have happened to Rachel. The one time Fear and I made eye contact, I knew what his honest belief was; that Rachel was already dead. I absolutely refused to believe that, so I ignored all reactions from him.

However, it didn't change the fact that I couldn't sleep well for my dreams, (more like nightmares), consisted of Rachel being taken away from me in several forms. I ended up trying to avoid sleep as much by working on whatever I could.

Things have certainly changed since we arrived in New York. We set up a command center of sorts in an old mechanic shop in the southern part of the city. It didn't take a genius to figure that things were definitely not the same. First off, there was a mandatory curfew at 9pm in effect, something that only the Phantoms would have done. Second, there were Phantom agents patrolling the entire city every hour which made it extremely difficult to move from one place to another without getting caught. And lastly, the brief glance we had of the Seeker HQ building showed that it was almost unrecognizable. Several of the windows were either shattered or covered in a dark film. The Phantoms had also set up a video screen on both sides of the building that continuously replayed a message listing out their new rules. It was like the entire damn city was under Marshall Law. I wondered where in the hell was the military?

Presently, I was once again pacing back and forth as I literally had nothing else to do. Pete refused to send anyone else on missions for the risk of being caught, so essentially we were sitting ducks until Fear and Claire came back from their recon mission. Speaking of, they set out nearly eighteen hours ago. What was taking them so long?

I whipped my head around to face Pete as I couldn't take it anymore. "How long is it going to be? It's been almost an entire day since they've left."

Pete didn't glance up from his screen. "You know that radio silence is imperative. The Phantoms could use our own tracking tech against us. Agents Fear and Claire are well trained for this and you know that. They'll get the job done."

I bit my lip to prevent a retort from escaping. I couldn't argue with the fact that Pete was right. Despite that, it still didn't quell my worries.

I resumed my pacing state as I battled my inner demons. Several thoughts swirled in my mind, and it was increasingly difficult to focus on just one idea. Pete seemed to have grown tired of my restless nature for he looked up from his screen and stared at me. "Would you please stop doing that? If you've really got nothing better to do, than go somewhere isolated. Or better yet, why don't you go check up on the newcomer?" The Head Warrior suggested as he referred to the recently conscious agent.

I froze in my tracks momentarily before I turned around and left the room. I decided to do what Pete suggested, and made my way to the surveillance room. It wasn't much of a surveillance room, though, as we only had access to the security cameras that were spread all over the mechanic shop. As I stood at the doorway, the agent looked up from his work. "Oh, it's you." He said as he blinked in surprise.

I nodded my head in confirmation. "Agent Evans was it?"

Said person nodded in return. "Is everything alright?" He asked in concern.

I fully entered the room and leaned against the wall. I crossed my arms and sighed softly. "I'm restless; I just want to get this mission started already."

The agent made a noise of agreement. "Yeah, I hear ya. The only reason why I haven't bounced off the walls yet is because Pete gave me some blueprints of HQ's rooftops."

I raised an eyebrow in curiosity. "Why would he give you those?" I asked.

A small smile appeared on his face. "Because I'll be the one to place explosives around."

My eyes widened slightly. "That's practically a suicide mission. Are you sure you're up for it?"

The smile was then replaced by a more serious look. "I may be no commando, but I'm still a Seeker agent regardless. Those Phantom bastards made things personal when they killed my colleagues. This is a perfect opportunity for some payback. Besides, you guys saved my life; this is the least I could do."

I was left momentarily stunned at this young man's resolve and acceptance of possible death. His courage gave me a feeling of respect for him.

"Glad to hear it." I finally said. "We need all the help we can get."

"Oh absolutely." Agent Evans replied in his clear Australian accent. "From what I've heard, you and Agent Fear are great additions to the Seekers."

"You know our history?" I asked surprised.

Agent Evans shrugged. "Just from what I was told; I had a friend whose older sister was in your Seeker Basic class. Let's just say that she was very interested in yours and Agent Fear's activities." He then winked.

I could only blink as I wasn't sure how to respond to that. Luckily, Agent Cian came into the doorway. "Sorry to interrupt your flirting session, ladies, but my niece and her anti-social boyfriend are back." With that, the Irish brute left.

Agent Evans and I looked at each other briefly before we left the room for the command post. True to Agent Cian's word, Agent Claire and Fear were back and looked exhausted. A feeling of relief spread through me, and I felt better than I did before. Their appearances, however, had me concerned. The cloth material that covered Agent Claire was torn all over, and there were blood stains on it. I sincerely hoped that it wasn't her blood. There were a few cuts on her arms and face, yet otherwise than that, she seemed physically fine. Fear, on the other hand, looked worse. His normally shinny armor was covered in mud, and there were scorch marks all over. Fear was leaning against the table, and had a hand pressed against his side. I narrowed my eyes; I'd have to question him about that later.

Pete nodded in our direction as we arrived. "Now that everyone is here, agents Claire and Fear can begin their debriefing."

Everyone's attention was honed in on the two tired agents. They shared eye contact to which Agent Claire nodded and looked back at the rest of us. "We ran into some trouble as you can see, but we made it back. When we started out, Agent Fear and I observed the rooftops of Seeker HQ and surrounding buildings. From what we could tell, it seemed that the Phantoms have full control over the anti-missile guns on each rooftop, so an air strike is out of the question. They've also placed snipers with infrared gear to patrol the area. I'm not sure how we can send someone to set explosives up there without being detected."

"That won't be a problem," Agent Arrow replied. "The Seeker laboratories developed a suit that would absorb the wearer's body heat, thus rendering him or her practically invisible, as long as the Phantoms are wearing the infrared goggles."

Pete nodded his head, and a look of relief passed over Agent Claire's face. "Well, that's one issue addressed. Agent Fear and I then checked the Sewage lines. The Phantoms have set up automated turret guns in each tunnel; there's absolutely no way to get passed them. Hell, they shot at us; Agent Fear got hit…"

I whipped my head to face Fear. "You were shot by a turret, and you didn't bother to fall back for medical attention?"

My friend didn't look at me when he answered. "It was just a scratch. The mission was more important than a bullet wound. Besides, I cauterized it."

My eyes widened even more, if that were possible. "Are you crazy?!" I exclaimed. "You could have tissue damage, or maybe even something more serious!"

"I agree." Pete added in. "I strongly advise that you have that wound checked before we set out again."

Fear didn't argue back, which really worried me. Normally, he would have refused to be checked out by a doctor, but the fact that he didn't suggested that his wound bothered him more than he had let on. Goddamn it Fear, why did you do this to yourself? I thought worriedly.

Agent Claire coughed uncomfortably. "May I continue?" She asked.

Pete nodded, and I shoved my hands in my pockets to shut me up. The woman let out a quiet sigh of relief. "As I was saying, the sewers are a no go. Same with the main entrance; there's just too many Phantom agents patrolling the area for us to have a chance against them. This mission is suicide."

I slammed my hands on the table which caused everyone to jump. "We are going, no matter what. There's got to be another way. I'm not leaving Rachel behind."

Agent Claire narrowed her eyes at me. "Is the life of one person more important than the lives of the rest of the surviving Seeker agents?" She asked. "We can't risk losing more Seeker lives. If we went ahead with this mission, we'd all die. What good would you be to Agent Moore if you were dead?"

A silent agreement passed through the room, which made me feel abandoned. We came all this way only to just give up? No, there was absolutely no way I would have allowed that.

I gritted my teeth in frustration as I glared at the woman. Said person stared back at me evenly, not at all intimidated by my reaction. I flicked my eyes to Fear and saw that he was looking at me warily. Essentially, he relayed the message that if I went out of line, he would put me down.

I glared at Fear for a bit, before I looked down and pushed back from the table abruptly. "All right then." I finally said. "If you're all such cowards that you won't go on this mission, then I'll do it my damn self. I made a promise to Rachel that I'd find her, and I intend on keeping it."

"Now wait just a minute." Pete said. "No one said anything about leaving. We just need to find an alternate pathway inside the building."

"Maybe not you Pete, but Agent Claire certainly seems to not want to participate in this mission. Maybe we should just leave her behind." I said as I narrowed my eyes at the woman.

Fear caught my eye and narrowed his eyes at me in warning while Agent Cian took a step towards me. "You watch your tongue boy because that's my niece you're talking about." He practically growled. "This may be a difficult time for you, but remember that it's a difficult time for all of us. We all lost someone, but you're the only one who has a chance to possibly save a loved one. You should be grateful that we're risking our lives to save your girlfriend. Take this as a warning kid; if you're disrespectful to my niece again, I'll shove my foot so high up your arse that your nose will bleed out shit." He literally spat the words at me.

I just stared at Agent Cian's angry face blankly. After a few minutes, I looked away and crossed my arms. The Irish man's initial anger faded away, and he too looked away and grunted at Pete's direction. "So what do we do now boss?" He asked.

Everyone turned their attention to the Head Warrior as he placed a hand under his chin in a thinking position. He remained in that stance for several minutes before a light bulb went off in his head and his eyes widened in slight thrill. "We go in through the river. Deep underneath the building's foundation is an underwater entrance that was used for submarines. Due to the bombing of one of the subs six years ago, the entrance has been decommissioned as unsafe. Today, though, it might work to our favor."

"Excellent idea!" Agent Arrow replied enthusiastically. "The remaining two teams enter Seeker HQ using that entrance, and then they split up once they reach solid ground."

"Great plan, just one flaw; how do we get there?" I asked.

It was Agent Evan's turn to look excited. "We've got some scuba diving equipment in the back. The tanks have enough oxygen to last for five hours. Hopefully, that'll be more than enough for you to swim down and find the entrance. There's only enough for a small team though; the rest will have to go by foot. That could be left to the Distraction team."

Pete gave Agent Evans a look of approval before he looked at all of us. "Indeed." He replied. "Alright then; you've all got your assignments. I suggest you all rest as we will be commencing at night fall. Dismissed!"

39: Chapter 38: A Traitor Among Us
Chapter 38: A Traitor Among Us

All too soon, the day turned into dusk, and we were preparing for our risky operation. It was fairly appropriate to call it a suicide mission as we were so few compared to the Phantoms that had so many disposable agents and had the advantage. Nevertheless, my fellow Seeker agents and I were prepared for such a burden.

I was sharpening my katana when Fear limped his way over to me. I looked up and slightly narrowed my eyes. "I can't believe that you're still coming even after that injury."

As usual, my friend didn't care much about the fact that he could have died, and instead shrugged carelessly. "You know that nothing will keep me back from this mission. We've come so far that I'll be damned if I allow a bullet wound to put me down."

Despite the unease of bringing an injured Assassin along, I knew that there was no chance of making Fear stay behind. He was too stubborn for his own good.

Instead, I opted to sigh and nodded at Fear. As frustrating as it was, his stubbornness was a trait I had to respect.

Fear was already set to go as he replenished the amount of arrows in his pack, and replaced his scorched armor with a lighter version. It would not have offered him as much protection from bullets and explosions as the other set, but it would allow to be lighter on his toes, something that was absolutely vital for an infiltration mission.

Said person gestured his head towards the door. "We should get going." He stated simply.

I nodded in agreement, and together we left the room for perhaps the last time. After all, there was no guarantee that we wouldn't die.

We arrived at the command post where the agents other than the Distraction team were already waiting. There was just one person missing though.

I walked over to Pete who was busy typing on a miniature laptop, probably making some last minute arrangements.

"Where's Agent Cian?" I asked. "Isn't he supposed to be with you in the distraction team?"

Surprisingly, the Head Warrior merely shrugged. "He said he had some business to attend to." With that, he straightened his posture and walked over to Agent Arrow and engaged in a quiet conversation.

I was left completely confused. Why wasn't Pete more concerned about the absence of Agent Cian? Were they planning something that the rest of us weren't informed of?

The arrival of Agent Evans pulled me out of my speculation. The young agent was already in his specialized suit, and was looking through a simple brown pack, probably filled with the explosives he needed. I decided to approach him. "You ready for this?" I asked.

The agent nodded eagerly. "Absolutely. I can't wait to show those Phantom bastards what us Seekers are made of!"

Despite the gravity of the situation, I couldn't help but smile at the agent's enthusiasm. At least one of us felt invincible.

"You and me both, kid." I commented.

We were then interrupted by the strong voice of Pete. "Alright everyone, we're moving out."

Without any question, all of us gathered our tools which consisted of thermal lances, (among other things), which would only be used if we failed to hack a terminal to open a shielded door. As for our diving equipment, we deemed the oxygen tanks too heavy to carry with us during the swim; (try to carry 30kg on the back during a swim.) Luckily, Agent Arrow still had some contacts in New York who delivered us re-breathers which were a much better option; they could last up to eight and a half hours theoretically, and they didn't release bubbles which could have potentially given away our location. Alas, we made our way out of the temporary haven.

Outside was dark, with the exception of the dim light posts that were littered all over the streets. To minimize our chance of detection, we stayed in the darkness as much as we could, and whenever we had to cross an exposed road, we always went in pairs and only went once the Phantom patrols walked by.

It took quite a bit of effort, but all of us managed to reach the river suffering only from an adrenalin rush. It was the spot where Agent Evans would split up from the rest of us.

Pete walked over to him and clapped a hand on his shoulder. "You be careful, alright? Don't make any stupid mistakes just to be a hero."

The young agent nodded his head. "I won't." He said. "I promise to not let you guys down."

Agent Arrows walked over to him as well and inspected the suit one more time. He then gave a nod of approval. "The suit's systems are operational. Just try not to get it ripped or anything; your body heat will leak out if that happens."

The young agent nodded once more. "Roger that." He simply said. "Sir, I do have an idea though."

"Oh?" Agent Arrow replied with a raised eyebrow. Pete looked at the young agent in curiosity as well.

Agent Evans appeared momentarily flustered with the amount of attention he received from the high operative agents, but he quickly composed himself. "Well, with the suit that Agent Arrow gave me, I figured that I could manage to sneak some explosives on the anti-missile guns as well. Might work to our advantage."

Both lead agents contemplated on the suggestion for several minutes. I as well reflected on Agent Evan's idea; it was extremely risky, but if he could manage to pull it off, then we might be able to call in air support.

Finally, Pete nodded his head. "Alright, you may proceed with your plan, but we strongly advise you to exercise extreme caution. One slip up, and you're as good as dead."

Agent Evans nodded feverishly. "Of course sir, I'll be carefully." He then looked down and chuckled a bit. "You know, ever since I joined the Seekers, I always dreamed of doing something for the good of the organization, and in turn the world. This seems to be the best opportunity."

Pete smiled gently and held out his hand. "It's been an honor working with you."

Agent Evans seemed taken aback for he stared at the hand and Pete's face before he snapped back to reality and shook hands. They released the grip after a good shake, and Agent Evans hung his pack over his shoulder. "I should get going." He said.

Pete nodded and with that, the young agent left for his destiny.

The Head Warrior then turned around to face us. "Alright everyone, get out your equipment and get ready. You'll have five minutes to do so."

We did as we were told, and stripped off any unnecessary articles of clothing. Rather hesitantly, I took off my mask and numerous cloaks, and placed them neatly into my sack. I then placed the set of goggles on my forehead, and adjusted the re-breather over my face.

Once I deemed it usable, I glanced up and was met with the sight of Fear who was looking at the diving equipment in his hands, and then at his attire.

I grinned. "Guess you'll have to abandon the armor pretty boy." I teased.

Fear rolled his eyes at my immaturity, but nonetheless removed his armor. He stripped down until he was in his under-suit. I glanced at Agent Claire and saw that she was staring at Fear with a slight blush on her face. I looked back at my friend and smirked. As an Assassin, Fear underwent intense training that put a lot of strain on his body; his well-toned body if the way the Irish women stared at him was any indication.

I shook my head, but a smile was still plastered on my face.

We were all ready before the given time, and we all gingerly stepped closer to the water banks. One of my eyes twitched involuntarily as I dreaded what would happen next. Agents Arrow and Pete were already halfway in the water when the two temporarily leaders looked back at us.

"Don't just stand there; the mission isn't going to complete itself." Pete said.

That snapped me back to attention, and apparently Fear and Agent Claire as well, for we carefully stepped into the water as it reached higher up our bodies. I placed the goggles over my eyes, and with one last look at the Seeker Headquarters building, I stuck my head down and swam towards the deeper end.

The water was… extremely dirty. That was the only way I could describe it. I was hardly able to see around me, but luckily Pete and Agent Arrow attached light rods on their backs to prevent us from wondering off. We swam for a few meters before the environment abruptly became darker than it was before. I assumed that was the moment we entered the underground channel.

It was a good thing that Seeker training made us physically fit otherwise I would have gotten tired long ago. I had no idea how long we swam for, but it certainly seemed like an eternity. Eventually, we hit an area where there were various pieces of metal floating aimlessly through the dirty abyss. Hmm, they must have been the remains of the sub that was bombed all those years ago.

We then arrived at what seemed to be a damaged utility elevator. We all took out our ropes and attached it to the weight that was down. Agent Arrow then took out a device of sorts and sent an electrical current through the wiring. The elevator activated and rapidly lifted us up.

At last, we entered a shallow area and immediately disconnected ourselves from the cord. When Pete and Agent Arrow began to swim upwards, I knew that we finally arrived at our destination.

Just as I thought, we all emerged in a cave like entrance. It was dark and a bit creepy, but there were no Phantoms which spelt safety to me. We all got out, and stretched our cramped muscles. All too eagerly, I removed the goggles from my face and tossed it aside, along with my re-breather. Fear sat down on a smooth rock with one hand pressed against his side. Concern passed through me as I made my way over to my friend. I sat beside him and looked at his side. "How's your wound?" I asked.

"It's fine." Fear replied all too fast, but then he exhaled sharply in pain. "Dammit." He said.

My eyebrows furrowed as I took in his reaction. "You're hurt Fear, you should have stayed back."

Fear then looked at me with an unfamiliar fire in his eyes. "The hell with that!" He said. "I made a promise to help you save Rachel, and I refuse to let a bullet wound stop me. I just need to rest."

I was upset about his circumstance, but I just nodded in acceptance. "Alright, but don't strain yourself anymore. The real mission hasn't even started yet."

Before my friend could reply, Pete caught our attention as he waved us over. Gingerly, Fear got up and winced, but otherwise didn't react at all. I gestured to help him, but he lightly slapped my hand away, so I held my hands up in surrender and walked beside him. We all stood in front of Pete and Agent Arrow.

"Alright everyone, part one of our mission ended. Now part two will commence shortly. That was about a thirty minute swim that we all endured, so I'm proud of all of you for resisting. However, we've got more work to do. Hopefully Agent Evans was able to set up numerous explosives within that time." Pete than activated his pager. "Agent Evans, this is Pete, what is your status?"

Agent Evan's voice came through, though it was a bit distorted due to our depth within the base. "Agent Evans here; I finished placing the explosives around the anti-missile guns and I just started making my way down the levels. The suit is working perfectly. I'm actually surprised at the sloppiness of the Phantoms though; aren't they usually thorough?"

"Very good Evans." Pete replied. "Keep up the good work, but don't let your guard down."

"Well do sir; Evans out." With that, the line was cut.

Pete placed his pager back into his pocket and looked at us. "Now comes the next step; we've got to head to higher ground, just under where the interrogation rooms are. There, we will split into the two teams we discussed about. Watch each other's' backs."

We all nodded in understanding, however, a nagging feeling started to develop in my gut when I heard the news of Agent Evans. Ever since we came back, there were many instances where we narrowly avoided detection by the Phantoms. As Agent Evans said so himself, they were normally thorough in their work, and hardly anybody escaped their notice. Something was definitely wrong.

I didn't have time to dwell on my concern as my partners wrapped themselves with some cooled silver paper. I snapped myself back to attention and did the same thing. If the plan went exactly how we wanted it, then Pete would successfully disable the electric board with the virus that Gizmo left us, which would activate the backup generator. As a result, the surveillance cameras would switch to thermal imagery, hence why we brought the cooled silver paper.

Once we were fully covered, we all assembled into a single line, and climbed up some steep rocks in order to reach the lowest level of Seeker HQ. We succeeded with minimal strain and we quickly moved to the power source for the entire building. Expertly, Pete accessed the power system and shut it all down. The lights automatically went out, and a low groaning sound filled the area as the backup generator kicked in. Pete got up and took out a simple, yet elegant silver knife. "Well, that's my cue. I've got to join the rest of the Distraction team. You guys have to go now while the Phantoms are unaware." Pete said.

We all nodded, and with that the team was divided once more. I would have been lying if I said I wasn't worried about Pete. The Distraction team was a dangerous position to be in. I just hoped that he, along with the other volunteer Seeker agents, would be alright. Where the hell did Agent Cian go anyways?

"This way agents." Agent Arrow said.

Without question, we followed him down the dimly lit hallway, careful to make sure to avoid any Phantoms. We then arrived at an intersection of sorts that relayed several identical hallways. Agent Arrows then turned to face us. "We should split up; we'll cover more ground that way." He suggested.

As dangerous as it was, there was no other way to find Rachel faster. My teammates and I understood as we nodded and all headed off in our own direction.

The normally dimmed hallways seemed even darker, if that were possible. Despite the fact that the paper that covered me would have rendered me practically invisible to the cameras, I still didn't want to take any chances, so I clung to the wall for dear life. I did that until I reached the end of the hallway and arrived at an armored door. Curious, I attempted to open it, however the locks were bolted shut, yet there was an access panel beside it.

I decided to test out my tech skills, and I opened the covering from the panel. I then accessed it and I was just about through the door's firewalls when a voice resonated through the unsettling quiet from behind me. "I'm afraid I can't let you do that."

As soon as the words were spoken, a hard object was pressed on the back of my head.

"You bitch." I murmured to myself as I turned around to face the gun pointed at my face.

40: Chapter 39: A Painful Departure
Chapter 39: A Painful Departure

I narrowed my eyes as I came face to face with the gun wielder. Her eyes morphed to the traditional color of the Phantoms.

"So, which side gave you more sexual pleasure?" I said mockingly.

The woman merely glared at me. "Shut up Agent Delta." She said as she emphasized her threat by pressing the gun harder against my chest.

I grunted slightly at the force. "I take it that you were the reason why our return to New York went smoothly?"

The Phantom agent raised an eyebrow. "Wow, did you have to think hard to come to that conclusion?" She asked sarcastically.

I too glared in response. "How could you have betrayed us? After everything we've been through. Did you ever care about Fear? What about your uncle?"

The woman merely stared at me blankly. "You fail to realize that the Seekers have lost. Your little rescue operation won't work. As for Fear; he would be a great asset to the Phantoms. My uncle, however, is an old man; he is past due for death."

I narrowed my eyes even further and snarled. "You bitch!" I hissed. "You turned your back against everything the Seekers have ever stood for! You've been manipulated, can't you see that?"

"Hardly." She replied. "I've been greatly improved. You see, I've always felt that the Seekers have been pulling me back from my true potential. When the Phantoms expressed their interest in me, how could I have refused such an opportunity?"

If it weren't for the gun, I would have grabbed Agent Claire by the neck and snapped it. Instead, I willed myself to remain as calm as I possibly could. "Whoever you used to be, that person is dead. You're a traitor, and I will stop you." I said.

Agent Claire snorted. "Don't be so sure Agent Delta. There are more enemies here than friends."

As if to prove her point, footsteps echoed in the hallway. Immerging from the darkness was no other than Martin Hill. "Well, well. Look who's here." The balding man commented as he smiled crookedly. "You know, I've been itching to get some payback ever since you've arrested me."

He then grabbed me roughly by my collar and slammed me hard against the stone wall. "I'm going to enjoy cutting you up." Hill then took out a sharp razor blade.

I stared at it anxiously, and when I looked back at the man, he grinned sadistically at me as his eyes were of the same color as Agent Claire's. "Let this be a lesson for you on never messing with me."

Just before he could aim the knife at my face, Agent Claire grabbed Hill by his arm, and pushed him to the side. "I wouldn't do that if I were you, Hill." She simply said. She then looked at me blankly, her glowing eyes no longer held the same warmth that I have associated with her during the length of our former mission. "The boss wants us to bring him in; probably for some long deserved father-son time." The last part sounded sarcastic.

I narrowed my eyes at her and bit my lip to prevent myself from making a retort that I might have regretted. I had to escape their grasp somehow.

Martin Hill reluctantly pulled away, obviously disappointed that he couldn't hurt me. To be honest, though, I wasn't sure what was worse; to get mutilated by Hill, or having to come face to face with the monster that made me.

I was pulled from my thoughts by Hill as he grabbed me roughly by the shoulder, and began to lead me back to the darkness from which he came. Claire followed alongside us. All the while, I looked around me hastily for any way of escape. I groaned as I was hit on the back of the head. I looked behind me and saw Hill smile at me. "There'll be no plans of escape coming from you. Don't want daddy to ground you, do ya?" He laughed hard.

I glared at the balding man as he continued to laugh, however, it was cut off abruptly. A thud sound soon followed as I turned around and saw Hill lying on the ground with an arrow in his neck. A pool of blood began to form. Claire tensed up automatically, and grabbed me as a human shield while she pressed her gun against my temple. "Agent Fear, I assume. Don't do anything stupid, otherwise I'll blow your friend's brain clean out of his skull."

As expected, there was only silence as an answer. Despite Claire's outward wariness, her heartbeat was surprisingly calm. Jeesh, just what did the Phantoms do to their agents to make them practically fearless?

A whizzing noise interrupted the tense atmosphere as an arrow narrowly missed Claire's cheek. Said person turned around, and a body collided with both of us and we all fell to the ground. The wind was knocked out of me, and my vision was momentarily blurry as I saw two figures struggle to gain the upper hand. One of them pushed the other back, and fired a shot in the direction. Then, there was silence that was only interrupted by loud breathing.

My clear eyesight came back, and I saw both Claire and Fear stare at each other in a defensive stance. Claire then smirked. "Well then, I guess this'll be the sparring match that we so wanted."

Fear's face was blank, however, as he dropped his bow to the ground, along with his pack of arrows. In return, Claire placed her dual pistols and all of their bullets on the ground. Immediately, she launched herself at Fear who quickly rolled to the side and side kicked her. The woman fell, but caught her balance by pressing both of her hands on the ground. At the same time, she managed to slide one foot through Fear's belt, and threw him over as she stretched her leg back. Like Claire, Fear regained his balance, and narrowly missed a punch to his face. The next little bit was them exchanging blows and blocks until Claire got tired of the repetitiveness, and jumped back.

She breathed hard, however, there was a look of amusement on her face. "Not bad. However, I don't play by the rules." She smirked.

Suddenly, she threw several small pebbles at Fear who turned away to cover his eyes. Thick smoke enveloped the area, and I coughed at the compound. The sound of a gun cocking forced me to turn my head to the right as I saw Claire slowly walk towards me with the gun pointed at me. "Come on Agent Delta. I've got a delivery to make."

Just as she bent over, a gunshot went off and a small amount of blood splattered across my face. Claire's glowing eyes were completely wide as she stared at me in shock. She then looked down and saw the mass of blood that stained her blouse and continued to spread. She then looked back up at me before she fell over on her side.

Immediately, I shuffled away from her, but went still when footsteps came towards me. Luckily, it was just Fear as he threw Claire's second pistol to the side and adjusted his visor on his eye. I stared at Fear in slight shock. He merely looked at me blankly. "Oh wait, did that hit her? It was supposed to be just a warning shot. Oh well." He shrugged carelessly. "I was never into redheads anyways; I prefer brunettes."

For a moment, all I did was blink repeatedly as I had no idea how to react. Apparently tired of my behavior, Fear bent down and snapped his fingers in front of my eyes. "Hello, earth to John. Is anyone in there?" He asked.

My eyes snapped to attention and I glared at him before I stood up. Fear followed my example and stood up as well. "Once again, I saved your ass. Next time, you'll owe me a medal." He joked.

I snorted. "Yeah, well, how about you make this time on the house?"

Fear chuckled before he turned his attention to the figure of Claire. From my angle, I could see her chest rise and fall, although it was very weak. I then walked over towards her and leaned down so that I could see her face.

Her eye color was back to hazel, and through the haze of pain, I saw sorrow expressed as well. "I'm so sorry." She whispered, before she shuddered and relaxed into the pavement.

I continued to stare at her for several minutes as I reflected that the girl always had the best intentions, however, the Phantoms were master manipulators. I sighed in pity for the dead body and stood up. I didn't realize that Fear was already beside me.

I gave him a questioning gaze, which he ignored. Instead, he too leaned down and gently ran his fingers through Claire's short hair. He then held his hand over her blank eyes before he closed the eyelids.

He then stood up and stared at me with an unrecognizable look.

"Are you alright?" I asked softly.

My friend continued to stare at me for several minutes, before he looked away and grabbed his weapons. He then looked back at me. "Come on, we've got a mission to complete." He said.

I knew that I wouldn't get any answer out of him, so I nodded and together we hurriedly made our way down the hallway.

41: Chapter 40: Goodbye My Friend
Chapter 40: Goodbye My Friend

Fear and I spent a good couple of minutes sneaking down numerous hallways once we got the armored door open. We were in the prison cell block. I anxiously, and rather impatiently, slammed each cell door open, only to be disappointed by the lack of occupants. With Fear's help, we divided the side of the walls and the task went by faster. I was immensely disappointed when we reached the end of the hallway with still no sign of Rachel. "Where is she?" I asked frantically.

"I don't know John." Fear replied. "She should be close by; maybe they're keeping her in an interrogation room?"

That news gave me a new sliver of hope as I nodded in agreement. Suddenly, the echo of barely muted footsteps reached us and we tensed up in anticipation. To my relief, the Infiltrator's figure quickly made its way towards us. "Where the hell have you two been?" He started once he reached us. He then looked at both of us, and a questioning look appeared on his face. "Where's Agent Claire?"

I glanced at Fear and saw that he too was looking at me. I gave him a sympathetic look before I turned to face Agent Arrow. "She was a Phantom agent; she didn't leave us any choice." I answered as I slightly bent my head down.

The Infiltrator's eyes widened slightly as he understood my meaning. He then swore as he paced around. "Agent Cian is not going to be happy." He commented.

"He'll have to understand." I said.

Agent Arrow stopped in his track and turned to face me. "Easier said than done kid. Who's going to tell him that his only niece was a traitor to our organization?"

Fear stepped forward. "I will."

Both Agent Arrow and I looked at him in disbelief. He merely looked back at us blankly.

"Fear," I started, "you don't have to do this. You don't owe her anything."

"I'm not asking for your permission, John. He replied. "I was aware of Agent Claire's 'feelings' for me. Despite her betrayal, she still had a good heart. I owe that to her, at least."

I was about to retort when each of our pagers abruptly beeped simultaneously. Curious, I took my pager out, and noticed that it was an ongoing transmission that our pagers picked up. I activated it.

A muffled voice came through. "Hello there Seeker agents!" It said excitedly. "I'm so glad that you answered my call; no one likes being ignored." The voice then snickered.

In the background, there were noises that sounded like there was a struggle.

"So sorry about that, my guest is not at all well-mannered."

"Yeah? Screw you!" Came the second voice. I recognized it as Gizmo's.

"Yikes, no need to be sassy lad! I'm going to have to teach you manners." The first voice replied. For a moment, there was silence, and then the voice returned. "I've got a question for you Seeker agents. What do you reckon will happen if I place a grenade in his hand?"

At first, there was nothing, but then Gizmo's agonizing screams echoed like thunder through the pager's speakers. I winced at the intensity of his reaction.

"Oh what do you know? His whole bloody hand explodes! Hah, get it? Bloody." The dominant voice laughed.

I narrowed my eyes in fury, but the voice resumed speaking before I could have taken any course of action. "Alright, I've had my fun. Now, it's time to get to business. I know all about your little rescue operation, so I'll make you a deal: surrender yourselves over to the Phantoms, and Agent Rachel Moore will be given back unharmed. However, if you fail to cooperate, we will not hesitate to kill her. You've got one hour." With that, the connection was cut.

I placed the pager back in my pocket, and looked up at Fear and Agent Arrow. Both had a serious look on their faces as they reflected over the demand. Alas, Fear spoke. "John, there's no way we're doing what they asked."

I stared at Fear in confusion. "What are you talking about? That's the only way to get Rachel back!"

Fear shook his head. "What if it's a trap to kill us all in one spot? We have to assess the situation before we make a move."

"I agree." Agent Arrow added in. "We can't make a move until Pete and the rest of his team draw the attention of the bulk of the Phantom forces. Once we have a safe passage, then we'll focus on getting Agent Moore."

I stubbornly refused their answers. "You two heard what the voice said; if we don't surrender ourselves in one hour, they'll kill Rachel!"

Fear placed his hands on my shoulders and shook me. "Get a hold of yourself John! We're not suggesting to abandon the mission. We just need a better alternative."

I stared at Fear wide-eyed before I willed myself to snap out of my slight hysteria. I nodded my head in agreement. Fear appeared satisfied for he removed his hands from my shoulders and leaned back.

"So, what's the plan?" I asked.

It was Agent Arrow who answered. "We'll 'surrender' ourselves, but only once Pete and the rest of the Distraction team do their job. When that's done, we eliminate Agent Moore's captors, and free her. Then, as the French expression goes, we'll 'foutons le camp.'"

Fear nodded in approval. "I like it; it'll give us a chance to get back at the bastards."

I nodded as well, as I didn't feel like talking. My only thoughts revolved around Rachel.

With a mutual agreement, Agent Arrow activated his pager. "Pete, are you there?"

"I'm here." He replied. "What's your position?"

"We're in the cell block; there's no sign of Agent Moore, however, there is a chance that the Phantoms are using her as bait in order to lure us out."

"I see." Pete said. "What do you need from me?"

"Just do your job well Pete. Also, tell Agent Cian to hurry up with his support; it should be clear for them since Agent Evans completed his task."

"Understood. We'll draw their fire from you. Good luck."

"You too." Agent Arrow replied before he ended the connection. He then looked at Fear and I carefully. "Alright, this is it. Pete will draw their attention, and we'll head up to the interrogation rooms. Hopefully, there won't be too many Phantom agents for us to take out."

Both Fear and I nodded, and with the conclusion of our brainstorming, we hurriedly made our way up through the layers of HQ's underground section. As we arrived on the interrogation level, Agent Arrow's pager hummed to live, and the Infiltrator activated it. "Agent Arrow here."

"It's Pete; the other agents and I compromised one of the Phantoms delivery trucks, and now the entire base is on alert. You should be cleared of any resistance down below." An explosion cut off Pete's voice as he grunted and breathed hard. "We'll try to keep them focused on us for as long as we can. But we will pull out when it becomes too much. Just don't take too long." Numerous gunshots boomed in the connection.

"Understood Pete. Arrow out." He placed the pager back in his pocket and looked up at us. "We better hurry." He said.

Without a second thought, we quickly, but carefully, proceeded through the interrogation level. We briefly looked through each door until we reached the end of the hallway that lead to an open area. Up ahead was a lone, hooded figure with its back towards us. All three of us cautiously walked over until we were at the opening of the hall.

"Seeker agents, glad to see that you've listened to my message." The figure then turned around to face us.

"Where's Agent Moore?" I asked as calmly as I could.

The figured appeared uninterested for he shifted his weight onto one hip and crossed his arms. "She took her own life." He said plainly. "Cyanide pill."

My eyes widened in shock as the horrifying news slapped me across the face. "No," I finally managed to say. "You're lying!"

The man raised an eyebrow in a mocking manner. "Am I? Agent Moore was so devastated to find out that the man she loved was the son of the man responsible for the death of her family."

My heart skipped a beat, and the blood in my veins turned to ice. Either the Phantom agent was blind or didn't care, but he laughed nonetheless. "So shocking, isn't it? And who better to tell her that than the one person who is more like you than even you know?" As he spoke, the Phantom agent proceeded to remove his mask, and with one last dramatic look at me, he took off his hood.

Instinctively, I stepped back as I was literally taken by surprise. It was like looking at my own reflection, although he had a distinguishable scar over his nose. His eyes, my deformed eyes, stared back at me with amusement, yet with a hint of hatred as well. I barely heard Agent Arrow gasp in shock, nor did I notice the disturbed look that Fear gave me.

My look-alike laughed briefly. "Your reactions amuse me. Especially yours Agent Delta; or should I call you Jonathan Mayor?"

I just stared in shock as I couldn't find my voice. I knew that my father was ruthless in his ambitions, but I never suspected that he have used me to make this abomination! "How?" I finally managed to voice.

My… clone shrugged carelessly. "You're his son; I imagine it must have been incredibly simple to get a sample of your DNA. The rest of the details are too scientific for me to care about."

My entire body went slack and it felt like I was paralyzed. Rachel was…dead? No, that couldn't have been true; he was lying.

"What do you want?" I asked after a few tense moments in silence.

The Phantom agent cocked his head. "What are you, drunk? I already said that we want to you surrender yourself over to us."

Fear automatically stepped forward. "That's not going to happen." He said.

"Not you idiots, just him." The Phantom replied as he pointed at me. "Come now, Johnny. Daddy wants to see his little boy again." My clone snickered.

I narrowed my eyes at my look-alike and we just stared at each other intensely. I analyzed all of his details that were exactly like mine; from the color of our hair, to the streak that came across his face when he frowned. I figured that he did the same thing to me.

Alas, I spoke. "If my father wants me to join his side, he'll just toss you aside like garbage. Don't you realize that?"

"Of course I do. Do you really think I'm blind to his goals?" My clone shook his head. "No, I have much grander plans for the Phantoms. However, In order for them to work, I need to get rid of you."

Before I could have reacted, the Phantom agent swiftly brought out a shotgun and fired straight at me. For a moment, the entire world went into slow motion; one minute the Phantom agent was in my sights, the next, another figure was in front of me and then fell down. As it collapsed to the ground, I finally snapped out of my haze and looked down in horror. "Fear!" I cried out.

I dropped to my knees, and gently brought Fear's head onto my lap. He grunted in pain and coughed out a rather large pulp of blood. My eyes widened at the amount of blood he was losing, and I desperately applied pressure to his wound. I then looked up at the bastard of my clone and glared at him fiercely. "You son of a bitch!" I yelled. "You'll pay for this!"

The freak of nature merely snorted. "Promises, promises." He replied.

Abruptly, an explosion rattled the area. Pieces of the wall flew at us, and I immediately covered Fear's face with my body. When the rumbling stopped, I looked back up and saw my clone roll his hands into fists as his glowing eyes flared up even more. "We'll continue this later." He growled before he disappeared into the darkness.

I looked at the area where he used to be, before another terrible cough from Fear brought my attention back to him. Desperate, I looked up at Agent Arrow. "He needs medical attention!" I stated.

The Infiltrator looked at me sadly. "Indeed he does, but that is something we don't have here."

I narrowed my eyes at the older man. "We can't just leave him down here; he'll die!"

"He'll die either way, whether we take him with us or not. His wound is too severe to treat here, and he already lost too much blood to move properly. I'm sorry son, but there's no hope for him."

I looked at the man in disbelief before I snarled at him. "I'm not leaving him behind!"

Suddenly, a hand grabbed my arm, and pulled me slightly down. I looked in surprise.

Fear looked back at me in desperation. "He's right John; there's nothing you can do for me." He shivered violently, and my heart beat escalated. Fear then regained his composure, and looked at me once more. "Take care of my sisters, and make sure that you beat the Phantoms, otherwise I'll come back from the grave and kick your ass!" He then coughed harshly as more blood spurted from his mouth.

Right away, I held his head up higher to prevent him from chocking on his blood. To my surprise, Fear did something I never thought I'd see him do. For the first time ever since I've known him, my friend cried. Not just one tear, but thick wet steaks that went down both of his cheeks. I froze as I had no idea what to do.

"They were wrong." He finally whispered. "There's absolutely….nothing…" And just like that, I lost my best friend.

At first, I remained frozen for I refused to accept what had happened. His normally clear blue eyes were dull with the lack of life and energy.

I winched violently as Agent Arrow placed a hand on my shoulder. I looked at the man's rare green eyes that portrayed his sympathy. I stared at them blankly, before I looked back at the body in my lap that was rapidly getting colder.

"We have to go." Agent Arrow said gently.

Without a word, I tenderly rolled Fear's eyelids over his eyes and placed his head carefully on the ground. To allow his body to have some form of dignity, I took out one of his swords and placed it in his slack hands before I positioned his hands in the same posture as that of a dead king. I leaned my head down slightly as I took one last look at my friend. "I'll see you later." I whispered.

Once I paid my respect, I got up and nodded at Agent Arrow for us to move on. Gratefully the Infiltrator led the way to the back area where there were boxes that spewed out tons of paper. I looked at the scene in confusion. "How will we reach the main level? The armored elevator is slow, not to mention that it has a camera right in front which can easily alert the Phantoms."

Agent Arrow nodded his head in agreement. "Indeed." He replied. "Which is exactly why we're taking the service elevator; it was only used for transporting materials, so hopefully the Phantoms won't suspect us to use them."

Not at all in the mood to argue, I helped the Infiltrator open the metal door and stepped inside. The elevator's power was cut, however, Agent Arrow brought out the same device that he used underwater, and gave the circuit an electrical charge.

The machinery came to life, and we took the one functioning service elevator back to the surface. The ride was relatively quick, and all too soon the door opened. We were met by the sight of smoke, debris, and bodies; some those of Phantom agents, others of Seeker agents.

Cautiously, Agent Arrow and I got out of the elevator that was located behind the main lobby area of HQ. Out of respect, we stepped over the bodies that were sprawled over the floor all the while keeping an eye out for any enemies. So far, the coast was clear.

As such, Agent Arrow took out his pager. "Pete? My team and I are at the back; meet us at my location."

"Roger that. I'm the only survivor in my team. Pete out." Came the curt reply.

As always, Agent Arrow and I carefully made our way outside the building, and hid behind the walls that provided some cover. Not long afterwards, Pete ran over to us. His eyes widened as he took in all the blood that I was covered in. "Where's the rest of your team?" The Head Warrior asked.

My throat tightened up on the indirect mention of my dead friend. I self-consciously swallowed and answered. "Agent Fear died protecting me. As for Rachel, there's a rumor that she's dead as well." I said quietly.

Pete gave me a sympathetic look. "I'm so sorry. For both of them" He replied softly. "We'll make sure that their sacrifices won't be in vain."

The Irish Warrior then came forward. "What about my niece?" He asked roughly.

I looked down and clenched my fists together. I knew that if I told her the truth of Agent Claire, then he'd go mad, so I opted to mildly modify the events. "The Phantoms killed her too." I replied quietly.

For a moment, there was a tense silence as the information was taken in, before the Irish brute yelled out in anger and punched the nearest wall which created a deep indent.

I got the feeling that I was being watched, so I turned to my side, and saw Agent Arrow look at me in slight confusion, but also in relief. I simply nodded before I focused my attention on Pete. "What do we do?" I ask.

It wasn't Pete who answered my question as we all turned to face Agent Cian. "We kill every single one of those Phantom bastards." The Irish man then turned to face us, his hawk-like eyes flashed with a barely contained fury. "They just made this personal." He growled ferociously.

42: Chapter 41: Torn Apart Once More
Chapter 41: Torn Apart Once More

~ Rachel's POV ~

I huffed exasperatedly to myself for perhaps the millionth time ever since that dick Andresov locked me up in one of the conference rooms in the higher levels of Seeker HQ with those two grunts from the cell block. I swore that they still held a grudge against me after I locked them up in my old cell. The mere memory brought a brief smile to my face, but it was quickly wiped off when my thoughts traced back to Andresov.

I couldn't believe that the sly bastard managed to take control of Seeker HQ. All throughout Seeker Basic, we trainees were constantly told that HQ was the most protected place in the world. How in the hell did the Phantoms successfully take it as if it were a candy bar freely laying around just waiting for a kid to pick it up?

I let out a dramatic sigh, which caused a twitch from one of my "guards." I smirked as my simple action irritated the man. Hey, if I were to be held against my will, then I may as well have attempted to have some fun with it; at the expense of my captors, of course.

I cursed myself at my incredible bad luck. How did I get here after I presumably committed suicide? Well, it was simple, and painful, really. Because of the damn collar Andresov put on me, three Phantom agents came in not even a second after I swallowed the pill, and literally punched my stomach repeatedly until I eventually spat out it. I also puked, but I won't go into the detail.

A fierce rumbling interrupted my line of thought as the room shook violently, and some of the windows shattered. I instinctively took cover under the long and elegant wooden table and waited until the rumbling stopped. My guards were surprised as well, which led me to believe that there was a resistance. Hopefully, it's the Seekers fighting back, I thought.

The rumbling stopped quickly, however, from what I could have seen, the damage was extensive. As I stood from my hiding place, I cautiously walked towards the cool breeze that freely came in from the broken windows, and looked down. I immediately regretted my decision for it was then that I realized just how high we were. Oh God, I thought, I hope those brutes don't push me out!

For my safety, I stepped away from the exposed area, and casually sat on the conference table. The two Phantom agents' initial confusion was replaced with their usual stoic expressions. A thought came into mind and I smiled at the implication.

I stuck two fingers in my mouth, and stretched the skin so that it looked like the Cheshire Cat. Of course, they ignored me, however, I was persistent! I then stuck my tongue out and rolled my eyeballs inward. One of the agents shivered slightly at the sight, which caused me to smirk in return.

The door then opened, which ended my childish scheme, and at the doorway stood no other than the Phantom leader himself. "Hello Agent Moore, a pleasure to see you again."

I snorted. "Whatever, just skip the pleasantries." I replied.

The Phantom leader chuckled in response. Instead of entering the room, he stood outside and gestured to the two guards. "Bring her out." He simply said.

As obedient as ever, the two brutes approached me, and attempted to grab my arms. I felt like a child who had to be guided by adults because I couldn't find my way around. I crossed my arms, and looked at them in defiance. Unsure, they looked over to the Phantom leader who merely chuckled at my reaction. "Leave her." He replied. "I don't think our guest will be any trouble whatsoever, will she?"

"That depends on you." I answered as I leaned back.

"No," Andresov then said as he peaked from behind, "it depends on this." He then took out a serrated shotgun, and pointed it at me. He looked me in the eye, and then gestured towards the open door.

I merely blinked as I took in the sight of the shotgun before I glanced up at the agent's covered face. "You're a self-absorbed bastard, you know that?"

Andresov grinned. "Why thank you; I'll take that as a compliment."

I rolled my eyes.

Not wanting to have a new hole put into me, I walked towards the door, and was followed by the four men. We walked down the grey hallway until we reached the elevators. Andresov stepped in front of me, and pressed the call button. A minute later, the elevator door opened, and we all stepped inside.

The ride down was awkward for me; it wasn't everyday where one was in a confined space with their worst enemy without some type of violence occurring. I breathed in deeply to calm my increasing nerves.

"So Agent Moore," Andresov casually started, "have you finally accepted to join us?"

I looked at the man in annoyance. "Hell no. I'd rather die for what I believe in, than live a life without meaning. Your organization is a waste." I said defiantly as I placed my hands on my hips.

Andresov merely raised an eyebrow at my behavior. "How poetic." He replied mockingly.

Just as I was about to reply, the elevator door then opened, and revealed a chaotic sight. I quietly gasped at the number of bodies, both belonging to the Seekers and the Phantoms, which were all over the place. Andresov coughed, which snapped me out of my distraction. "Ladies first." He said almost politely, while he kicked me forward.

I stumbled a bit, but once I regained my balance, I glared at the Phantom agent in indignation. He ignored my look, and proceeded to walk forward. The Phantom leader chuckled, that smug bastard. "Be polite, Andresov. This is no way to treat a guest."

More like a prisoner, I thought bitterly.

The two guards pushed me again, and I directed my glare to them. I then grumbled in my breath, but followed Andresov and his 'father' nonetheless. Not that I had a choice anyways.

We made our way towards the center of the lobby when the Phantom leader stopped and turned to face his guards. "Put her in the van. We'll then recall high ranked agents, and head off to Site B. We've got some work to do."

I rose an eyebrow at him "You're saying all this in front of me?"

The man looked back at me. "Oh? Are you aware of where Site B is? Or what it is?"

I blinked in response. The bastard then laughed briefly. "So naive." He commented.

I glared at him. Suddenly, a loud pang erupted as a great flash of light appeared which momentarily blinded us. To add to that, numerous smoke grenades were released all around us. I coughed as I inhaled some of the substance. Once my eye sight recovered from the initial flash bang, I saw the form of Andresov leaning against a wall that provided some cover from the exposed area. "Oh great." I heard him mutter to himself.

I then heard multiple footsteps rapidly make their way over to our general direction. I took cautious steps forward until I was out of the density of the smoke. One figure in the middle aimed a gun at me. "Stay where you!" The voice said.

The figure then came into view as I recognized the voice. I felt my heart flutter. "John?" I asked unsure.

The man turned his head towards me and his eyes widened. "Rachel?" He asked hoarsely.

I smiled widely. In that moment, a deep connection passed through us; relief, joy, love, but also anxiety. I wanted to approach him, but then the sound of a gun cocking caused my face to pale dramatically.

"No one moves, or I pump this chick full of lead." Andresov warned as he stepped out from his cover and aimed his vicious shotgun at me.

John turned to face my attacker and his eyes darkened immensely. "You." He said venomously.

Andresov calmly walked over towards me. "Indeed." He replied. "It seems that life can't keep us apart. And what do you know, it's like a big, happy family reunion!"

John's eye widened slightly, but then narrowed once more. "The old bastard is here?"

"Now now, is that the proper way of addressing your father?" Came the calm reply.

The Phantom leader's glowing eyes were the first thing I saw as he stepped out from the cloud of smoke. It still disturbed me how identical he was to John, or should I have said that the other way around? Apparently, the other Seeker agents felt the same way as I did for their eyes widened, and some of them tensed up. John, on the other hand, remained outwardly cool. "What do you want?" He asked plainly.

The Phantom leader stepped forward until he was beside me. "I can't check up on my one and only son?" He asked almost sincerely. "It's been almost eight years since I've last seen you; I've missed you very much."

John raised an eyebrow. "I'm surprised you can feel anything other than lust for power. You never were big in the emotion department."

His father hummed thoughtfully. "No, I suppose I wasn't." He replied honestly. "However, I do have priorities. You, my son, are number one on my list."

John's face scrunched in disgust. "Like hell I'll work for you. I refuse to become a monster like you."

A look of disappointment passed through the Phantom leader's face. "It's a shame to hear that. Look at all I have done for you. Why is it that you think you were able to bypass my agents so easily? Certainly not because they were sloppy." He then took a step forward. "Like it or not, you don't have a choice. After all, it would be a pity for this young woman to get hurt." He said as he took a lock of my hair, and curled it randomly in his finger.

I shivered at the implication, but I retained my strong ground. John's hands shook slightly as he aimed his gun at his father.

Despite my nervousness, I remained calm as John's eyes glanced at us in a calculating manner, as if he was devising a plan. "My loyalty lies with the Seekers." My Guardian replied fiercely.

It was the Phantom leader's turn to raise an eyebrow. "Is that so?" He then turned to face John's clone. "Andresov, kill them." He ordered.

"With pleasure daddio." Came the response, however, what happened next didn't go according to the leader's plans.

The clone aimed the shotgun at his master's abdomen, and fired. The man was thrown backwards from the force of the blow, and left behind a thick streak of blood. Andresov calmly walked over to the dying man, and smiled smugly at him. "Give my regards to hell." He said, before he aimed the shotgun at his master's head and fired, which killed him instantly.

A mixture of emotions swirled within me. The murderer of my family, and of so many other innocent people, was dead at last. I felt satisfaction at the monster's death, yet there were bigger problems as long as Andresov remained alive.

Said person huffed. "Never liked the self-concerned bastard." His face then beamed as he smiled widely. "I feel like I just accomplished an important goal; after all, isn't it every child's dream to have their parents dead?"

I looked at Andresov and narrowed my eyes at him. "It sure as hell wasn't mine." I replied.

"As usual Agent Moore, you are an exception." Was his only response.

I glared at Andresov, but immediately straightened my posture as he sped walked over to me and placed his shotgun on my spine.

"Here's what's going to happen." Andresov started. "I'm taking Agent Moore with me. If any of you does anything stupid, I'll blow this place sky high." To emphasize his point, the Phantom took out a detonator and popped open the lid. He then held his thumb over the button.

The Seekers immediately tensed at the notion, but John retained his ground. Andresov cocked his head at John's reaction. "You've got some balls." He remarked.

John didn't reply; instead, he stared at me intensely, as if he was trying to relay a message to me. I looked back at him, and nodded in understanding.

I gathered my inner strength, and head-butted Andresov hard which caught him off guard. Despite my own dizziness, I managed to shove Andresov back which gave John the perfect opportunity. He lined his gun to the still figure and fired well-aimed shots at both of the legs while two other Seeker agents shot the guards behind me. They fell down wordlessly, while Andresov screamed in pain, and pressed his hands onto both wounds.

I felt relief, but the feeling was short-lived as the remaining Phantom agent grabbed the detonator. "To hell with this!" He yelled just as he pushed the button.

Immediately, the area around us exploded all around, and I fell down from the force. The Seeker agents all shouted at one another to get out of the way. I ignored the danger all around me as I tried to reach John. I saw that John also struggled to get to me, but unfortunately, he fell down as a large boulder knocked him from behind. He tried to move, but he was pinned down. He looked up at me in desperation. "Rachel!" He cried out.

I sensed that that moment was probably the end, so I stared back at him in the eyes and finally said what I've been meaning to for a while. "I love you."

John's eyes widened as he stared at me, his eyes portrayed the pain he felt, as well as the mutual feeling for me.

For a moment, the life that I could have had with John glanced before my eyes, and a tear managed to escape. The building shook violently, and once I looked up, everything became dark.

43: Epilogue: The End?
Epilogue: The End?

~ John's POV ~

I couldn't believe it. Before my eyes was Rachel. After spending so much time searching for her, it seemed that she was the one to have found me. It was ironic considering that I flew halfway around the world to rescue her.

A huge and costly weight was released from my shoulders as we made eye contact. When Rachel smiled, I couldn't help but feel relieved as that was the moment I've been waiting for some time. All too soon, that relief turned into alarm as my clone pointed a vicious looking shotgun at her. To add on top of that, my bastard of a father made his dreadful appearance after almost eight years.

I was amazed that I managed to keep my cool in front of the monster responsible for so much pain. I was tempted to just shoot him on the spot, but I knew that wouldn't have been good for Rachel.

I was startled, but not completely taken by surprise, when my clone killed my father in cold blood. To be honest, I was glad that it was him who did the deed. That way, I didn't have to get my hands dirty. However, there were more serious problems at hand, such as my clone who took Rachel as a hostage.

Despite the threat of execution, I refused to back down from the challenge and instead stared at Rachel. She caught my glance, and through the stare, I relayed a message that hopefully she understood. It appeared that she had for she nodded, and delivered a pretty nasty head-butt to my clone.

That's my girl, I thought with pride.

Immediately, I aimed my gun at the abomination, and shot two rounds into both of his legs. A hidden blood lust was satisfied as my clone screamed. Relief washed through Rachel's soft features, but then movement from my clone forced my attention away. "To hell with this!" He yelled, and pushed the button.

Multiple explosions went off, and suddenly the once quiet and stable environment turned into a chaotic arena as the lobby shook vigorously, and caused various pieces of material to come down on us. My fellow teammates shouted out in anxiety, but I paid them no attention as I stumbled over to Rachel.

I was so close to her that I could smell her fragrance, when a large boulder tumbled on my back, and caused me to collapse. I tried to get move, but the god forsaken rock had pinned me down as it trapped my leg. I whipped my head back to Rachel frantically. "Rachel!" I cried out.

Her eyes glistened as she took in my vulnerable state. What she said next, though, took my breath away. "I love you." She gently said.

My eyes widened as I stared at her intensely. A horrible sensation passed through me like nails digging through bare flesh. A lone tear slid through Rachel's cheek before a large piece of the wall landed in front of us, and blocked access from either side.

No, no no no no NO!

Frantic thoughts invaded my mind as I desperately tried to claw my way out of the rubble that pinned me down. Another huge piece of material nearly missed my body as it shattered on the ground nearby. I turned my head the other way to protect my face from the tiny pieces that flew over.

I yelled out in frustration since I was basically a sitting duck. Luckily, my noise attracted the attention of Pete who stumbled his way towards me. With surprising strength, he managed to roll the large boulder off of me, and freed my injured leg. I hissed in pain as the object was removed. Pete carefully brought me up, and leaned my weight against him as I stood. "Come on, we've got to get out of here!" He exclaimed.

I refused to listen. "No! We can't go!"

Unfortunately for me, the Head Warrior was stronger than I was. The fact that the leg that the boulder fell on was crushed didn't help my cause. Pete wrapped my arm around his neck, and supported the bulk of my weight as he hurriedly guided us away from the debris that kept falling down.

The rest of our team were outside, and were shouting at us to hurry up. As I took a last look at HQ, the once grand building of the Seeker organization crumpled to the ground in a pitiful defeat. It symbolically reflected the state of the Seekers as we lost our global influence.

Internally defeated, I tore my gaze away from the destruction, and allowed Pete to place me inside the armored truck that waited for us. He swiftly shut the door behind him, and the vehicle sped away from the scene.

I let out an agitated breath from both frustration, and the pain of my crushed leg. The other agents remained silent for the entire ride as we all mentally relived the last moments. So many friends died, and it seemed that their deaths were in vain. The Phantoms had complete control, and their new leader was a sadistic son of a bitch whose long-term goal remained a mystery.

The first part of the drive was bumpy and the momentary jumps that the truck performed had me gritting my teeth in discomfort. Eventually, that part passed, and the rest of the journey went by surprisingly smooth.


I must have dozed off because someone shook my shoulder gently, and informed me that we arrived at our destination. Rachel's image faded into a blur, and the figure of Agent Evans came into view. He helped me out of the vehicle, and guided me towards the abandoned farm. It was well into the night, and the crickets were out chirping which gave the farm a fake sensation of security. We, however, knew better.

Wearily, we entered the building, and settled in the spacious kitchen. Agent Evans carefully sat me down on a chair that has seen better days, and placed my injured leg on another seat. The young agent looked through various cabinets until he found what he was looking for. He then came back with a glass of water and some pain killers.

Grateful, I nodded my thanks, and popped the pills in and downed all the water. Thanks to modern medicine, the pill's effects took place right away, and the pain transformed into a deep numbness that resided within my soul. I placed the empty glass on the table, and gestured Agent Evans to sit beside me. He got my cue and pulled up another chair and sat down.

The three older agents stood around another table as they did a mission debriefing of sorts.

"The cities are no longer safe for us." Agent Arrow stated. "I suggest we lay low for a while in order to resupply, and gather our strength. We then attack in guerrilla warfare style, until we've regained enough forces to kick the Phantoms out permanently."

Agent Cian slammed his fists against the wooden detail. "Fuck that!" He shouted. "We're going back and we're gonna make those Phantom bastards pay!"

His partner stared at him in defiance. "Are you blind to what has happened? We lost three quarters of our agents, and most of our resources are gone. It's suicide to go back there!"

The Irish brute shot back abruptly and stomped over to the Infiltrator until they were face to face. "No one's gonna stop me." He said venomously.

"Quiet!" Pete yelled overtop of them. "Listen to this."

He turned up the volume on the simple TV screen and the room immediately went quiet aside from our breathing. The phrase “breaking news” was flashing on the bottom part of the screen as a male reporter had a disturbed expression on his face. “Good evening, I’m Mark Jordan, and welcome to CBS news New York. This just in: as many New Yorkers have undoubtedly witnessed, the Seeker Headquarters building has collapsed to the ground at approximately 8:33pm local time, barely a week after the attack on the Shroud. Many are horrified at the sight as they are reminded of the 9-11 terrorist attacks from 2001. The building’s destruction is apparently the direct result of a Special Ops containment operation ordered following the crisis lived in Seeker controlled areas these past few days. The crisis originated after a statement from the Seeker Directors was released to the media just a few days ago, declaring Martial Law in New York and other Seeker-controlled regions around the globe. The public responded in outrage as they demanded the Seeker Directors to lift the Martial Law. This resulted in a clash between protestors and Seeker agents, who illegally arrested numerous participants. This abusive display of Seeker authority left many civilians around the world questioning the organization’s true motives.” The image switched to a recorded feed that showed hundreds of protestors throwing rocks and other debris at Seeker agents.

My eyes widen at the sight. “What the..?” I start.

“What the fuck is the meaning of this?” Agent Cian growls out.

“Those are not our people,” Agent Evans added in.

Pete gasped in disbelief. “Some of them are, unfortunately.” He said. “But the rest…you can tell by their eyes.”

The reporter came back on, and then turned his head to the left side. “General Howard of the US military has made his own stern statement about the international community’s need to join forces, and overthrow the Seeker occupation.”

The scene then switched to a middle-aged balding man who regarded the press with a hardened gaze. “In light of recent events from the past few hours, the military will not sit back quietly as the rogue Seeker organization continues to impose their unjustified authority on the international community. Our reliable contacts within the Offices of Intelligence has confirmed that the Seekers have used the Phantom threat as an excuse to secretly stage a coup to overthrow most, if not all, world powers to gain control over the distribution of resources. The Phantom organization has been euthanized back during the Silent War, nearly nine years ago, yet the Seekers still claimed their existence. I assure you that every necessary measure is being taken to make sure the Seekers are brought to justice and pay for their crimes. That being said, any active member of the remnants of this organization is now considered an enemy of the state, and will be charged with crimes against humanity. Use of deadly force is authorized in case of resisting detainment.” He ended by scanning the crowd with his hawk-like eyes.

The image switches back to the reporter, Jordan. “It is confirmed that an emergency meeting between the members of the United Nations Security Council took place in order to properly respond to the Seekers’ betrayal. Their message is clear; the Seekers have been outcast as terrorists, and anyone caught or suspected of aiding them will be charged with treason.” The reporter then shuffled his papers. “This is CBS news reporter Mark Jordan. Thank you for joining us. Goodnight, and stay safe.”   

The room was quiet once the broadcast was shut off. We all remained quiet and reflected on the events.

“Jesus Christ; we’ve been framed,” Agent Cian commented hoarsely.

That was the thought on everyone else's mind for they all had a grave expression on their faces. It was another couple of tense minutes before one of us spoke. "What do we do now?" Agent Evans asked almost timidly.

Pete stared at each and every one of us intensely as he took in our current states. He then walked over to the window as he stared out at the unknown. The Head Warrior took a deep breath before he turned to face us, and pointed at the TV. "It's obvious isn't it? We fight, or we die…"

~ ~Thank you to all of my readers for your support throughout the writing process. There will be a sequel coming out, though I'm not sure when I'll be able to get to it. Until then, peace out.~