Location: FBI Headquarters.
Warehouse District - FBI Safehouse.
Interactions: Sebastian and Vivian.
Time: 9:00 PM~ - Night.
Elaine Townsend looked at Alpha One, as he looked at Director Harkins, who, in turn, sat looking back at him. The Alpha Team leader had walked into the tactical operations center a few moments ago, dressed in civilian attire per the director’s orders. They were the only three in the silent room. The monitors were all off. All of them felt awkward for their own reasons: Alpha One because he knew he was in for some bad news, Director Harkins because he was the one who was making the call, and Elaine because she was the one who was going to give him the details.
And it was going to be painful.
“So, are you going to tell me why I’m sitting here in the TOC without my team, Sir?” Alpha One finally asked.
“How are you feeling, Sebastian?” the director asked. “Cam told me you started bleeding all over his car on his way to take you home. I’m not even going to get into why you thought it was a good idea to leave the hospital in your condition. You were lucky Davenport was willing to meet you there to put you back together.”
Elaine enjoyed the sound of Alpha One’s real name; most of her contact with the man was over a secure net, where she had to address him by his call sign.
“Davenport?” Sebastian said, addressing the tone and inflection of the director’s voice. It implied that she had been around a lot more since their mission a week ago.
“We needed a fourth man in the stack,” Harkins said. “And after what happened to you, it was obvious that having a medic on the team was actually a pretty good idea.”
“Well, you don’t need a fourth man now,” Sebastian replied. “But you didn’t call me in here for a routine check up, so what’s the situation? I’ll get the team kitted up and we’ll be ready to execute.”
Harkins ran a hand down his face and sighed. “Listen,” he began reluctantly. “You know I can’t medically clear you for combat right now. Not that I would, anyway, I mean you-“
“Sir,” Sebastian interrupted. “With respect-“
“Shut up and listen to me,” the director interrupted in return, and Alpha One complied. “I wouldn’t put you back out there even if I could. Those men can’t depend on you right now. If you get in the shit and go down again, one of them could get injured or worse. I’m suspending you from direct action operations effective immediately.”
He let that sink in for both of them. The last thing he wanted was to take his most valuable operator out of the fight, but it was the right call and everyone knew it.
Elaine swallowed hard as she watched the conflict happening in Sebastian’s green eyes, but he did not outwardly defy the director’s words.
“Now that that’s settled,” the director continued after the initial tension had subsided, “I also can’t just let you sit around and do nothing. You’re the most expensive weapon in this goddamn division, for fuck’s sake, never mind the entire New Haven branch altogether. I’d never hear the end of it.”
He remembered the fight he had had over the sheer percentage of the Department of Justice budget it had required to secure a Delta Force operator for the new Variant division, but Sebastian had proven to be worth every last one of their bureaucratic pennies.
“Luckily for us, we have a highly sensitive mission that I need you to personally oversee. This is a top priority coming from FBI proper, and they’re asking our division for help.”
He looked at Elaine, who had been so engrossed in watching Sebastian’s every little reaction to the director’s words that she had completely missed her cue. The way he set his jaw, the way his body tensed in his grey t-shirt when he wanted to say something but held himself back…
Then the man’s own intense gaze fell upon her as the two waited, and she was jolted back to reality.
“Right,” she stammered clearing her throat and pushing her glasses up with a finger. “For some time now, our intelligence branch has been secretly protecting a Variant asset. They’re using conventional special agents to keep her secure in a safe house but have recently expressed a need for personnel with a more appropriate skill set to get involved.”
Elaine pulled her shiny blonde hair over a shoulder and opened the file folder in front of her on the conference table. She forced herself to remain professional as she continued with the brief:
“Her name is Vivian Gregory. Twenty-one years old. N.O.V.A. Variant classification is a Class Three mentalist.” She rolled her eyes. “Whatever that means,” she said under her breath.
She composed herself and continued: “In any case, we intercepted her from N.O.V.A before they could get their hands on her. She seems to have the ability to discern Variant from human at a glance, which apparently had N.O.V.A all hot and bothered. She-“
Sebastian snatched the file from her impatiently, scaring her half to death.
He silently scrutinized the small stack of papers in the file for a few moments, memorizing all of the pertinent data and then stopping on the eight-by-eight photo of the girl. Piercings, bad haircut, defiant look on her otherwise pretty face; she looked like one of the punk kids around Midtown that only came out at night and were generally up to no good.
Elaine furrowed her brow at his perceived interest in the picture of the girl.
Sebastian closed the file and flicked it across the table back to the operations chief. “What’s this got to do with me?” he asked the director.
“Asset protection of the highest order,” Harkins answered. “Priority level one. Your mission is to-“
“You want me to babysit,” Sebastian almost spat. “Sir, with respect, I-“
“If you interrupt me again, I will punch you in the mouth. Do you understand me, soldier?” Harkins slapped a hand on the table. “Delta or not, this girl is now your responsibility until you are fit for the rigorous duty of leading my SRHRT. Alpha Romeo will assume command in your absence. Is any of this not getting through that thick head of yours? Am I clear on what your mission is?”
Sebastian glared at the man heatedly. “Roger fucking that.”
Harkins understood that Sebastian’s contempt and rare use of profanity was at the thought of being benched, and not in any way meant as disrespect toward him. His expression softened slightly as they stared each other down.
“It’s just until you’ve healed up,” the director offered. “You deserve some time off. Just take it. Hell, take that Heckler and Koch you love so much with you for when you get cold at night. Take all your shit with you, if you want. You’re still Alpha One.”
He looked at Chief Townsend. “Anything else you have to add before he packs the diaper bag and meets the parents?”
Many things, Elaine thought. Send someone else, maybe? Don’t send Sebastian Albright to go live with another girl, off the grid and his voice off her headquarters net for God knows how long? A monkey could do this job?
“Nothing, Sir,” she said looking at the table.
“Alright, then. You’ll be linking up with an FBI agent named Susan Taylor. She’s on the conventional side of the house and will contact you when she’s ready. And Sebastian, it would be great if you could please refrain from killing our asset.”
Sebastian stood up and left the TOC without a word.
She’d decided. Susan was the best one so far. Even though she’d jumped the gun on knowing her favourite hot drink before being told, it’d seem to have worked out in her favour. She caught the agent offering friendly smiles which was a smile more than she’d gotten from any of the rest of them. Maybe they’d picked her for that reason alone, a handler who was a bit more friendly to try and disarm her. Even with that thought in her head, she decided that Susan was one of the nicer ones. They were about halfway through the sheaf of different folders of Variants and interesting persons that the FBI were interested in. Though with today’s quota, it was much more ‘people’ and a lot less ‘freaks’.
She took a hard look at the fuzzy grain photo she’d been given. A street camera or something similar. Hoodie up and face covered - while she was exactly the same she resented the person for being so careful. It made her job harder, but it was still just as crackable. Hal Davis, Chimera Operative. Focused in network security and counter-intelligence. Part of several anti-Variant groups and ousted his brother from the family when he found out he was a Variant. Misses him. Hates him. Laying low since the recent raid on Chimera warehouses snatched up his friend-
It was like the grain from the photo entered her brain, and then her eyes. Everything went grey for a moment as her head felt like it had just been pulled into the table. Susan tried not to look concerned. She failed, but Vivian was too focused on her brain being put through the blender to notice. She pressed both of her palms into her forehead and pushed against it, a cathartic attempt at trying to push the migraine out of her head. It didn’t work, but she felt a little better as time went by. Another five minutes later and she looked to Susan sheepishly. It was embarrassing to be watched while you had a mini-meltdown every ten minutes. The fact that she liked this handler made that fact worse.
Susan gave her that look. “I can’t divulge any information about Chimera to you. The same as how I couldn’t tell you about N.O.V.A. and our relationship with them or anything regarding the Pariah Underground.”
Worth a shot, at least. “He’s with them.” She flicked the photo over to the agent. “Hal Davis. He’s clever with computers. Networks, staying hidden and all that. Laying low after someone raided something and picked up...someone.” She hated this. She wasn’t a professional, she didn’t even want this job and yet she still felt like the world’s biggest idiot when she got vague and nonspecific. Like she was doing a bad job. Like this was even a fucking job! It made her angry. It made her want to break shit, and go outside and get trashed and vandalise buildings.
She calmed down in a visible slump as her head rested against the desk.
“Let's take five.” Her handler said.
“Music?” Vivian asked.
“Not a chance.”
Worth a shot.
It was about twenty minutes into that five minute break that Susan’s phone started ringing. After checking the number, she gave an apologetic nod and look to the punk. As per usual, Vivian excused herself. It was an odd way to do it, but Vivian’s room was the only one that had thick enough walls to mute the sound of a possibly confidential call. She’d only just got comfortable before the knocks came to her door. She trundled to her feet and past the door.
Susan offered a hand. To shake. “It’s been nice working with you.”
Vivian looked at her with scrutiny. For a moment, Susan was scared she was reading her. But no, just suspicious. “Only two days?”
“New orders. Not my decision. I’ll be meeting up with them at the Bureau, passing over the information you’ve already helped with. I’ll leave the rest of the files with you in case you feel like working anymore today.” She could share that much, at least.
A little defeated, Vivian shook the hand. Susan saw the look, but didn’t say anything.
As soon as she was out of the door, Susan quickly rang the number of the replacement babysitter.
Sebastian rested his dark aviator sunglasses on his short brown hair as he walked through the lobby of the FBI main headquarters building, his black tactical boots creating a dull thud with every step across the tiled floor. His Kimber .45 was tucked into the small of his back under the waist of his jeans with no holster, concealed beneath his short-sleeved button down shirt. He drew eyes from the other agents in the building as he made his way to the elevators but he paid them no mind. Sebastian had made this walk before under more pressing circumstances.
Everyone recognized Alpha One when they saw him.
He stepped into the elevator and began the ride up to the operations office, ready to get the meeting with the special agent over with. A twinge in his left flank as he shifted his weight to that side reminded him he didn’t pick this assignment. The surgical site was healing nicely. By his estimation, he would be free falling onto a hot DZ in no time. The elevator doors opened onto the intelligence branch floor and he made a direct path to the agent’s desk.
Special Agent Susan Taylor stood as she saw the man making a determined approach toward her, suddenly a bit nervous. She tossed her long black ponytail behind her and smoothed her black cut away blazer against her body.
“Mr. Albright,” Susan said extending a hand when he was standing in front of her. “I’ve heard a lot about you; it’s nice to meet you in person.”
“Sebastian’s fine,” he replied flatly returning her handshake firmly but half-heartedly.
He eyed her rapidly and discretely. She looked like the typical special agent. Nice dress suit, white blouse tucked into black pants. 9-milimeter Sig Sauer P226 holstered on her hip in plain sight next to her badge. Thin and carried herself well. Young and pretty.
He’d done a little homework, too: “25 series,” he said referring to her Army background. “Shoe-in for this branch.”
She was taken aback slightly by his insight into her former occupation but recovered quickly. “Yes, well, I understand that your own background in the military made you quite a catch for the FBI, as well.”
Susan had been prepared for the intimidating, strong figure possessed by Sebastian Albright. She had seen surveillance footage of Alpha One in action a few times. He was dynamic and relentless. What she was not expecting was the serene and intelligent gaze of his green eyes that seemed to engulf her all-knowingly. Her experience with the FBI’s conventional special response team had left her less than impressed. Sebastian was different.
“So what do you got for me?” he asked her directly crossing his arms.
Susan could tell he was not looking forward to the job. It was evident in the impatient tone of his voice and showed in his body language.
“I won’t bore you with the details,” she replied and picked a couple items off her desk. “I’m sure you have been thoroughly briefed. You have her location. She is currently being monitored via an ankle alarm that will respond if she steps outside.”
She handed him a small PDA and a file folder held closed with a paperclip. “The alarm is linked to this device. It will generate a detailed report of any violations and track the ankle alarm by satellite. The file contains all the intel we have on her.”
“Thanks,” he said and turned to leave.
“Sebastian,” she said before he could take a step. “I know you’re only involved in this project as an alternative for medical leave. We were all on pins and needles waiting for news on your condition, and we’re -I’m- happy you’re back on your feet.”
She pursed her thin lips, feeling silly for speaking to the man as though he were a rookie agent. But Susan had a responsibility to make sure this operation remained successful.
“However you may feel about it, protecting this asset is a matter of national security. You may be in this for the long haul. She’s not a bad girl. Get to know her, and place her safety above all else.”
Sebastian regarded her expressionlessly for a few moments. He genuinely respected the level of commitment that Susan Taylor had invested into the project. There was clearly more to Vivian Gregory than what was written in any file. But he didn’t need any special agent to tell him what it meant to be a guardian of national security.
He turned again to leave without a word. So much for that free fall, after all.
Sebastian put his duffle bag full of tactical gear, extra clothes, and personal items in the back of his Jeep next to the rifle case that contained his HK416. The vehicle itself was an upgraded, tactical version of the civilian model. He got in, dropped his aviators down, and began the drive toward the safe house.
No sooner had he pulled onto Main Street heading toward the Warehouse District than the PDA Susan had given him started blinking and beeping. He snatched it off the passenger seat and clicked it on. The alert message scrolling across the top of the screen was telling him that the asset, Vivian, had left the building. Data and satellite images were being generated but Sebastian didn’t have time to worry about that.
“You have got to be kidding me,” he muttered to himself as he floored the gas pedal and began weaving through traffic. Five minutes on the job and he had already lost control of the situation. He looked at the encrypted GPS display on his dashboard and took the most direct route possible to the safe house.
The transition from Midtown to the Warehouse District was separated by one street, passing from the crowded business district and into the artsy atmosphere almost instantly. The trendy buildings soared past him until he slammed on the brakes and screeched into a parking space in front of the target location.
He couldn’t afford to blow his over by suiting up, nor did he have the time to pull it all out even if he could. He snatched the PDA and dashed up a set of stairs to the second story door, quickly turning the key to unlock it. His Kimber was out in a flash as he threw the door open and settled into tactically clearing the room.
The place was empty, but rock music was blaring from somewhere. Open living room and kitchen, nicely furnished. He saw two rooms on the opposite wall. With the .45 held at the high ready Sebastian smoothly crossed the carpeted space and threw open the first door.
The second room, then, obviously lived in by the asset, and the source of the deafening music, but clear.
He took a knee inside the girl’s room, against the wall at the door’s edge, and looked at the PDA. He scrolled through the text data quickly then accessed the satellite tracker. The blinking location icon placed the asset right on top of him, but she was nowhere to be seen.
Right on top of him.
He ran to the window at that thought, opened it and peered out. As he had guessed there was a fire escape that went all the way up to the rooftop of the building. He climbed out the window and made the assent in a few bounds.
And then he saw her, sitting calmly on an HVAC unit and facing away from him. He levelled his Kimber at her and slowly made his approach, ignoring the burning he felt in his side. His movement was ghostly and silent, perfected to be unnoticed even in the stillest of environments, although the music from her room provided cover enough. Then the barrel of the .45 APC was against the back of her head.
As soon as Susan was out the door, Vivian put on some music, and had a flick through the remaining photos. She only had a couple cursory glances before deciding to leave the folder on the table. It was future-Vivian’s problem now. She set the volume from loud to ground-shaking and decided it was time for some mischief.
While the locks on the door were extensively difficult to crack, the windows leading outward hadn’t had the same federal treatment yet. An oversight to be sure, though from what she’d gleaned by reading the last couple handlers, this place was mostly a new asset for them. She was just helping beef up security. And maybe freaking out the new handler a little bit. What were they gonna do, lock her up?
Heading to the kitchen, she poured herself what remained of the gin and mixed it with lemonade and then out the window and up the fire escape. She camped out on the tile roof. It was already dark outside and due to the lack of rain, it was nice and pleasant to just sit out and bask in the light-polluted air. She poured herself a drink and enjoyed the first real little freedom she’d had in months - until she sipped her drink. The freedom didn’t stop it tasting any less like paint thinner.
She closed her eyes let hands hang low as she laid out on the tiling. She had just enough time to get relaxed before feeling the metal of a gun push against her head with an accompanying...
Vivian wasn’t steely-nerved enough to stay where she was, her instinct was to immediately spin around. Her drink slipped out of her hand in the shock, ran down the tiles and smashing onto the street below. She turned, skidded down a tile or two in her panic and got a hard, albeit shaky look at the gunman.
Sebastian Albright, 33. Dutiful, lonely, cold. Special Operative working for the FBI as part of a rapid response team specialising in counter-terrorism, asset retrieval and hostage rescue. Recently took part in two raids, retrieving a Chimera-operative in the first and raiding a Chimera facility in the second leaving him injured and left unfit for active combat. He has a younger sister called Stephanie, and enjoys writing in his spare time, his favourite poet is Conrad Aiken, though he would never tell anyone and he’s afraid of-
She wasn’t trying to read him. She didn’t even mean to. The panic and shock set off the ‘Variant’ part of her brain and it wasn’t as soon as she’d looked at him that she let out a pained scream. Her hands clamped over her temples as she disregarded him, the gun, and the fact that she was now teetering on a rooftop as she scrunched up her eyes and tears rolled down her face as she assumed the fetal position and grit her teeth in the backlash of that sensory overload. She wasn’t crying anymore, at least - not audibly. The tears were rolling down her cheeks but she was sucking in air through her teeth to try and manage the pain.
Sebastian watched blankly as the girl proceeded to freak out. He had scared her, obviously. And guns were scary, he got it. But whatever was going on with the asset- his asset, now- seemed a lot less like gun shy and a little more like suicidal.
The kid’s about to ace herself.
In the same fluid motion Sebastian flicked the Kimber’s safety on, tucked it back in his pants, and dashed over to Vivian, taking hold of her wrist and guiding her fall to the tile of the rooftop instead of over its edge. The girl was crying quietly and had curled up in a ball, hyperventilating like she was having a panic attack. The first responder in him evaluated the situation. She was breathing. She was not bleeding.
And that was where he would usually hand this goddamn Variant off to someone else.
How he longed to be able to get on the net and request support from the TOC. But what would he ask for, a social worker? Twenty minutes into the operation and Sebastian was already drowning in the sea of unfamiliarity that surrounded his specialized area of expertise. Crying girls was not in his wheelhouse.
“Hey,” he said kneeling beside her. “Relax. You’re alright. You left the safe house. You know that’s a big no-no. The way you reacted I might have shot you myself, if you hadn’t tried to kill yourself first.”
He wasn’t going to tell her that there was nothing about her behaviour that had even allowed the thought of pulling the trigger to enter his mind. Right now she was a crying girl. But the FBI didn’t have her locked up in a safe house for no reason.
There is evil and there is innocent. In some cases it took a little time to decide which one he was dealing with.
She heard the talking but she couldn’t pick apart the sounds to make it make sense. It was just noise trying to get through the impenetrable grain and fuzziness of the ringing headache. The tone was soothing, in a gravelly kind of way. She knew she was fine, but she needed the minute or two before she even felt like taking her hands off her head. A minute or two of agonising waiting and she finally slowly removed them, triggering another numb ache that throbbed every other beat of her heart. Whenever she wasn’t using it, she kind of secretly liked her power. Just after using it, she wished she was normal.
She wasn’t sure what foot to put forward. She was embarrassed, sheepish - did she apologise? Thank him? She put enough pieces together to realise she was almost another statistic in the book of rooftop suicides, or however else it would get framed by federal agents. Another deep breath in, and another deep breath out later she finally looked at Sebastian again.
“I’m good, I’m fine - thanks. It’s just a -” She really didn’t want to explain it. “Did you read my file in the hospital or something?” Without looking she gestured right to his left flank, where the bullet had got under the plate and almost killed him. In almost the same motion she offered a hand out, still in pain quite obviously by the look on her face but managing enough for a conversation.
Sebastian sighed; he gets one little scratch and never hears the end of it.
“Does everyone in the bureau know about that, including Variant assets?”
He took her hand and helped her up, already beginning to deduce how Vivian knew of his injury. He had every detail of her file dedicated to memory, including her ‘Variant detector’ skill, and the recorded sessions she had had with other agents describing her ability to know intimate details about things and people just by looking at them. It also led him to realize that her breakdown was not because of him, but because she had been reading him. There was one glaring conflict between the operations file and what he now saw in front of him, however:
The eight-by-eight photo did not do her justice.
“I may have skimmed over it,” Sebastian answered her question in a low voice, locking eyes with the girl. “I guess you can tell by now that I’m no Variant. But keep digging around in there-“ he tapped his head with a finger- “and you might find out I’m something much worse.”
He took a step back and showed her his hands, letting the hostage negotiator in him take over.
“No guns, see? But you have to get back into the safe house now. Nice and easy. Can you do that for me?”
She opened her mouth to correct him, but considering how she didn’t really want to ostracise herself from the normal right away, she let him figure it out on his own. She gestured to the fire escape with a shrug of her shoulders. “Considering my drink is now coating the street in a fresh layer of broken glass and I was loud enough to elicit a 999 call, I’m all for getting inside.”
She climbed back in and once Sebastian followed, shut the window she’d jimmied open and walked over to the kitchen, shedding her patched hoodie in favour of the short-sleeved band shirt as she got two glasses and poured the pitiful remains of mixed alcohol into both. She offered him a glass. “It’s gin and lemonade. I’ll have it if you don’t want it.” She said with an indifference that showed she really wouldn’t mind if he refused.
The girl seemed content to return to the safe house. Sebastian followed her back down the fire escape and through the window. He watched Vivian close the window and ditch her jacket, then make her way out of the room. He followed, but on his way out Sebastian stopped at the girl’s stereo and shut down the ear-blasting music before walking into the living room.
He stood and watched her in the kitchen as she poured drinks and offered one to him. There wasn’t much left of the gin and he could tell she needed it more than he did after her breakdown on the roof. He couldn’t blame her, either.
“An alcoholic Variant,” he said as he observed the way she was eyeing the booze. “You go right on ahead. I’m all set.”
He laughed (or the closest thing to a laugh that he could muster) inside at the intentional irony of calling her an alcoholic. He once had those same eyes for the drink, but Sebastian had defeated that foe long ago, after it almost did him in. All the Delta guys loved to go out and drink, but most of them did not have the powerful propensity for alcoholism that he did. His commander had had enough and ordered him into rehab. It was probably the best thing that ever happened to him.
He regarded her choice in drink and, with memories of the poison he did once prefer, added, “Wouldn't drink that swill if you paid me.”
“Alcoholic?” She scoffed before downing the first drink in a practiced and perfunctory manner before sliding the empty glass onto the kitchen counter before slouching at the table where the folder still sat, her remaining workload for the week. She paid much more attention to nursing the mixture of that vile gin and fizzy bubbles. “And I’ve got a name, Sebastian.” She said. Maybe that was counterproductive to making friends, but she didn’t like being called Variant. It was the same as being called a freak. “Plus, I couldn’t pay you if I wanted. Not here by choice and all.”
She shut up a moment, looking at the folder, looking at her drink - then decidedly meeting the steely gaze of the operative in front of her. She looked a little too long - not intending to put across the idea that she was ‘reading’ something from him again, only trying to get his measure. She decided to open up first, level some of the ground a little. “I used to really idolise Chimera - y’know, back when they were an ethical group who hit big-money and government and weren’t so…-” She let the sentence run out before starting a new one. “Before they started doxxing and hurting regular people and running their anti-Variant propaganda.”
As odd as it was, she started laughing a little. “I- I uh, I wasn’t really expecting a GI. - Is that something you say here? I’ve only had people in intelligence or operations come look after me.” Another pause. She decided to lay another few cards on the table. “I know that N.O.V.A. have been after me is that getting worse, or are you just uh...next on the babysitting rota?” She indulged in another cringe-inducing sip of mixed paint-thinner. Smart wasn’t the best word to fit Vivian. But aware? There was a lot of knowing that backed those headaches, that was for certain.
He watched the girl down her drink like a pro and nodded his head at her in approval. When it seemed to him as though she were trying to read him again, he peered directly into her eyes, inviting her every attempt. This was a game he had prepared himself to play the entire time he was there if he had to. His expression darkened, though, as she told him of her fascination with Chimera before they become the corrupt terrorist organization they were today.
“My apologies, miss- Vivian, was it?” He had not forgotten, but was just being difficult. “And If by ‘doxxing’ you mean kidnapping, extortion, murder, and threatening national security, then sure; that’s them. Great role models for the disaffected youth.” His voice was harsh and intense as he expressed his disdain for the organization.
He leaned against the back of the couch and crossed his arms. Sebastian had taken notice of Vivian’s lilting accent. It reminded him of the many operations on which he had cooperated with the SAS. They were solid men, and great drinkers. But what could he tell her about his involvement in her security detail?
“First of all, I’m not a G.I.,” he stated. “Second, I’m not here by choice either. But apparently you’re too much to handle for the nerds the FBI has been using to change your diapers, and give you your binky when you start crying. So, now I get to do it.”
He had picked up on her eyeing a folder on the table and dispensed with all of the witty banter as he continued.
“As far as N.O.V.A. goes, I wouldn’t worry about it. I know about the work you’re doing here for the FBI. My real job is to keep you out of N.O.V.A.’s hands. If they, or anyone else looking for trouble, come knocking, I’ll be here waiting. And as long as I’m still standing, I’m not going to let anything happen to you.”
He may not have wanted the assignment, but we was here, and it was his now. He alone owned the responsibility. Success depended on his willingness to give himself completely to the mission. It was the only way he knew how to operate. While Sebastian remained within these walls with her, Vivian would be the only reason he drew breath.
But she didn’t need to know any of that, and Sebastian decided that he was wearing too much of his conviction to protect the punk Variant on his sleeve.
“You do your job, I’ll do mine,” he said in his normal flat demeanor once more. “It doesn’t have to get any more complicated than that.”
She didn’t seem comfortable, not really. Even though she was sure that he was honest and that all he was here to do was protect her, she was still the prisoner, and he was most definitely the jailer. Not to mention she was still a little shook up from the rooftop escapade almost becoming an impromptu base jumping session. She was honest, and blunt - which meant it was obvious that she didn’t like how he spoke to her, or maybe just didn’t like him or what he did, after all, while she’d had federal agents in a revolving door coming and going, she hadn’t had a true blue killer until now.
She pursed her lips, scared or not she didn’t like authority. “No need to get aggressive - just wanted to level the playing field. I know a bit more about you than is comfortable for me, so you get to know a little too much about me.” She gave a shrug of her shoulders. “But I appreciate the openness. Even if I could read it from you - I don’t want to. Not out of some sort of trust about you and yours keeping secrets from me for ‘my safety’ or whatever but because it really, really sucks to ‘do my job’.” She paused.
“Though I guess I’m preaching to the converted when it comes to not liking what I do.”
Aggressive? Maybe he had been a bit too direct in trying to appear completely detached from it all. But Sebastian was wired tight to execute tasks that required nothing less than aggression. He was still trying to navigate his way through how he was supposed to deal with his current assignment. At length, he was comfortable leaving things where they stood with Vivian. After all, he had nothing but time to deconstruct and evaluate his every move and make adjustments as necessary.
He did like what he did. The problem was that this was not what he did.
“I’m going to go get my gear,” he told Vivian after a few moments of silence. “Do me a favor and don’t try to leave town as soon as I walk out the door.” The punk rock girl gave the softest shrug of her shoulders in reply.
Sebastian left the safe house and returned to his Jeep, deciding that he would fix his hasty parking job later. He pulled his duffle bag and weapons case out and wondered when he would ever need any of it while working in the safe house. There was a buzzing in his pocket and he took out his civilian phone. Cameron had sent him a text.
[Don’t forget to burp after feeding.]
He shook his head and didn’t respond. It was going to be a long campaign.