TEN YEARS AGO
“What d’ya think would happen?” Fiearius asked.
Dez glanced at him sidelong. “If we used the main elevator?” His eyes trailed down to the gun hanging on Fiearius’ hip, the blood that caked his hands and splattered over his arms, the dark circle that was starting to form around his eye as Fiearius grinned mischievously. “Looking like that?”
“Yeah,” Fiearius chimed. “What would happen if we used the main one instead of this shitty old thing?” He gestured around them at the cold metallic walls of the freight elevator that was currently taking them up to the fifteenth floor of Society Headquarters. The elevator that, as Internal agents fresh off a job, with a fresh coat of blood and a fresh set of injuries, they were temporarily restricted to in order to keep them out of the sights of other departments. And perhaps for good reason.
“I think we’d incite a panic amongst the menial office workers,” Dez replied simply. “And possibly get fired.”
Fiearius scoffed. “They wouldn’t fire us.”
“For blatantly exposing Internal’s agenda to the general public?” Dez eyed him with a dull frown. “Pretty sure they would.”
“No way,” he argued, “They’d never fire their Primes.”
Dez just chuckled humorlessly and rolled his eyes. “In case you’ve forgotten, we’re not the Primes yet. The last ones aren’t even dead. We’re only next in line.”
But frankly, Fiearius was too high off that last job to see the logic. Or care about it anyway. As the elevator dinged their arrival and the doors slid open, he strolled out onto the platform and remarked, “Close enough.”
If Dez was going to argue again, he didn’t get the chance. As soon as the two of them shoved open the double doors from the elevator passage into Internal’s staging area, all thoughts of breaking protocol were lost to the clammer.
“Can I get your gun, Mr. Soliveré?” someone asked as a swarm of uniformed assistants descended upon them, blocking their way. “Would you like some water?” asked another. “Was the solution a success, sir?”
The staging area was a wide, concrete room set apart from the department’s offices. As the main base of operations for 1st and 2nd division Solution agents, it was lined with weaponry, consoles and maps of the city. It would have felt cold if it was not also constantly brimming with rookies ready to pounce on any poor sap returning from a job. Certainly they meant well, but Fiearius found himself having to yank his arm away from someone who had taken it upon themselves to start wiping the blood from it as another began reading off questions he’d need to answer for the official report.
Fortunately, there was a savior in all this mess.
“Alright, back off, back off, give them some space,” called a familiar voice over the din of noise and slowly, reluctantly, the crowd began to disperse, making way for the matching familiar face that cast them a wide grin. “Good to see you boys are still alive.”
Fiearius returned the grin and moved forward to clap a greeting hand on the man’s shoulders. Atlan Rue had been the Lead Staging Supervisor since long before Fiearius had joined the Society, but his seniority hadn’t stopped him from becoming friendly with nearly every agent that walked in through the doors.
“Right back atcha, mate,” said Fiearius as the three of them made their way across the room. “We missed ya around here. How was Ellegy?”
“Think the kids enjoyed it more than we did,” Atlan muttered as he approached a console against the wall. “Their grandparents spoil them rotten. The wife can’t take more than a few days around her folks and as for me? Well you know how–” He stopped himself and glanced at Fiearius and Dez curiously. “Well I guess you two don’t actually know how mothers-in-law can be.” He chuckled knowingly and turned back to the screen. “One day.”
Dez made a noise with his nose. “Rather not.”
“So!” Atlan said, finally getting down to business. The screen before him displayed the standard report procedure. Fiearius had done this probably over a hundred times by now. Atlan probably over a few thousand. “Let’s talk — who was this? — Larra Vieson? 1st Division, threat level 5, yada yada, since it’s you two, I’m guessing the solution was successful?”
“Of course,” was Dez’s immediate response.
“And by the looks of you,” he glanced briefly at Fiearius’ bloody arm, “it was Final. Run into any trouble?”
“No,” Fiearius answered, right as Dez replied, “He did,” nodding towards his partner.
Atlan looked between the two of them with an expression Fiearius had never been fond of. That authoritarian ‘now one of you better tell me the truth or I’ll send you to your rooms’ kind of stare. His arms crossed over his chest, his foot tapped impatiently and though Fiearius was busy glaring at Dez for bringing it up, it was clear he wasn’t getting out of this.
He sighed. “She was a little feisty is all. Fought back a bit.” As subtly as he could manage, he tried to cover the deep gash in his arm.
“He deliberately put himself in harm’s way,” Dez corrected, the better-than-thou attitude practically seeping from his voice. “We had a clean shot from the balcony, but he insisted on interacting with the target.”
“It just seems wrong,” Fiearius argued. “Offing someone without even talking to ‘em. Seems wrong to smudge out a life before you ever have a chance to know it.”
“It’s not wrong, it’s our job,” Dez corrected, glaring at Fiearius indignantly.
“Our job is just to kill ‘em. No one ever said anything about how.”
“Well putting yourself in a situation to get in a knife fight with your mark certainly isn’t recommended.”
Fiearius glowered. “I finished it, didn’t I?”
Dez let out a ‘hmph’. “Only after she stabbed you.”
“Excuse me?” Perhaps it was still the adrenaline coming off the job or maybe the slow build of animosity between them ever since they were promoted to 1st Division, but suddenly Fiearius had a very strong urge to knock a few of his friend’s teeth out. “Y’know what, Dez, you wanna–” he began to snap back, but finally Atlan stepped in, raising his hands between them and shaking his head.
“That’s enough,” he said, with an uncharacteristic bite to his tone. “You want to fight it out, do it somewhere else. This is a place of business in case you’ve forgotten.” The tension between them loosened somewhat, but Fiearius still kept his glare trained on his partner and Dez’s on him.
“Why don’t we finish this later?” Atlan suggested through a sigh, closing the report on the console. “I’ve got a new recruit I need to brief coming in any minute. Varisian or something. Go clean yourselves up and maybe you can lend a hand with her.” He gave them a pointed glance. “Unprofessional you may be, but you’re obviously doing something right. Somehow…”
“At least one of us is,” Dez grumbled under his breath and this time, Fiearius didn’t stop himself from punching him in the arm. Before Dez was able to decide whether or not to punch him back, though, Atlan pointed dramatically to the agent locker rooms.
“Now. Go,” he ordered. Well it would be nice to take a shower and change into some clean clothes. Probably more nice than getting into a fight with Dez he had a fifty fifty shot of losing. So he decided to let it go for now and instead did as he was told, turning away for the locker rooms. As he walked away, he heard Atlan add, “Ah and I’ll alert the med team of your injury, Fiearius. They’ll be in shortly.”
At once, Fiearius let out a groan and stopped in the doorway. “Oh please don’t,” he pleaded.
Atlan laughed in disbelief. “Your arm’s got a three inch gash through it!”
“I’ll just take some extra Flush, it’ll be alright.”
Shaking his head as he passed him, Dez added, “Don’t you remember what happened last time you didn’t get a wound treated?”
Well, he tried not to. Though now that Dez brought it up, his mind’s eye filled with images of gnarly white, green and red. It was an image he had to admit he didn’t want to see in reality again. “Fine, call them in,” he relented at last before turning back into the locker room and stripping off his blood-stained shirt. “I just hate doctors…”