Nanowrimo – FS Vigilance Prologue
Hi Everyone! I’m going to post my Nanowrimo entries on a regular basis as I try to fight my way to 50,000 words in one month. Here’s the start (and you choose the concept, Bill Kahn!):
Agent Erica Sampson felt her stomach twist. Although she’d been on plenty of dangerous assignments even to parts of the world where just being a woman put you in jeopardy, meetings made her nervous. The fact that her meeting was in a top secret bunker buried beneath Washington, DC only made it worse. She reminded herself that her invitation was a compliment.
A couple of guards, tough-looking men that stood at attention stiffly enough to proclaim themselves as ex-military, stood in front of what looked to Erica to be a vault door. They checked her badge, before letting her step over to the computerized handprint and retina scanners on the wall next to the door. Something about the men reassured her. Computers could be hacked; humans couldn’t. Or at least, far fewer people could hack them.
She placed her hand against the cool surface of the handprint scanner. Her hand seemed small compared to the large outline. After a second, it beeped, and a blue word displayed over her hand. “Authorized.”
She peered into the retina scanner and saw flashing lights. “Authorized.”
With a metallic clang and a whoosh of air, the door swung partially open. She stepped inside to find herself not in a meeting room, but in something that resembled an airlock or decontamination chamber. She faced another metal door, sealed shut in front of her. After the door behind her closed, the hair on the back of her neck rose slightly.
She was trapped.
Erica could feel eyes watching her, and she knew that if anything was amiss, she’d be dead with the touch of a button and no one would know a thing. There was nothing to be done but wait.
Two heartbeats later, the door in front of her silently slid open. She walked as casually as she could muster into a room with a large table surrounded by chairs. A monitor screen took up most of one wall. Displayed on it was a frozen image of a news broadcast showing Dr. Quantum, leader of the Guardsmen, speaking.
Glancing around the room, she recognized two senators, the CIA Assistant Director, and a lieutenant colonel but most of the others in attendance weren’t people she knew. She was still much more of a field agent. She also decided that she was the youngest person present. One of the senators indicated a chair. Erica sat down.
“Now that everyone’s here,” said an older man with white hair and a square jaw, “let’s bring everyone up to speed. I’m Doctor Jennings for those of you who don’t know, and for the past three administrations, I’ve been tasked with coordinating scientific research on ultra-humans, paranormals, metahumans, whatever term you care to use – people with abilities outside the normal range. This includes the majority of superheroes and supervillains.”
“I won’t bore you with most of the history. Suffice to say that groups like the Victory Squad certainly aided this country during World War II, and superheroes have prevented a number of disasters and saved countless lives. They inspire our youth and help citizens sleep better at night. Supervillains have proven to be the opposite, threatening us in ways that terrify governments and make even our military leaders feel impotent.”
A man at the opposite end of the table stood up. He had short dark hair, hard eyes and a musculature that she could see even beneath his suit jacket. She didn’t know who he was, but he had to be someone important because all eyes turned to him and everyone gave him their full attention.
“For those who don’t know me, I’m Martin Lieber, Special Director in Charge of Metahuman Defense. The point here is that all of these individuals pose a threat. The threat posed by the villains is obvious, but even among the heroes, we’ve seen some go rogue, such as Defiance, while others, such as Dr. Quantum of the Guardsmen… observe for yourselves.”
The monitor began to play an interview with Dr. Quantum. Erica recognized the scene. The Guardsmen had saved people from a collapsing bridge a few weeks ago.
Dr. Quantum spoke, “This disaster didn’t have to happen. It’s time to hold our leaders accountable. My team has information that we have given to the authorities that show rampant corruption where leaders gave building contracts to their friends, who then ripped off taxpayers with shoddy work and equipment. Sometimes the worst supervillains are the ones without powers.”
The video stopped, and Director Lieber spoke again.
“No one is going to question Dr. Quantum’s character, but he’s obviously angry, and a man with nuclear powers could level a city. What would we do if Dr. Quantum decided to remove politicians that he’s decided are corrupt? How would we stop him?”
The room was silent.
“Other superheroes,” answered Erica.
The Director nodded. “Agent Sampson is correct. We’d rely on other superheroes, Team Justice, Vanguard, the other Guardsmen, New Citadel and the like.” He cleared his throat. “And that’s completely unacceptable.”
“Director Lieber, what other options do we have?” she asked.
The CIA assistant director cleared his throat. “The CIA has a program. Originally it was designed for foreign super-powered threats. However, we feel certain of its efficacy once it is running. Unfortunately, we are still in the prototype stage.”
Dr. Jennings said quietly, “Yes, Project: CAIN.”
One of the senators spoke up. “We’ve also begun assembling our own heroes. Defiance is currently in government custody, and we can find other recruits – ones we can trust. I see us founding a government team, like a division of the military.”
There was some chatter in the room about ramifications and moral issues, but Director Lieber took control once more. “In other words, we all have potential solutions, but none of them are ready. The current situation poses a clear and present danger to this government. The administration has empowered me to serve as its ‘superhuman czar.’ While we continue to work on other options, I am moving forward with Project: Vigilance, a program designed to target a specific group of metahumans and assess their reactions to threats will the aim of determining how best to handle such a group if it were to go rogue.”
Dr. Jennings adjusted his glasses. “So, Director Lieber, do we have a target for the testing? The Guardsmen certainly wouldn’t take well to having the government attempt to dissolve their team.”
“No. We wouldn’t want to antagonize the Guardsmen. Dr. Quantum alone is a level 5 superhuman. Instead, we’ve chosen a relatively weak and low level team as our target, one that if it disbanded would hardly be noticed by the superhuman community. Currently, we only evaluate one of them as deserving a level 3 power ranking, no 4s or 5s. If things go wrong, it should be easy enough to cover up.”
The video monitor changed its display. A blonde woman in a blue skintight costume covered in stars with a white cape, gloves and boots appeared, flanked by a walking pile of rubble on one side, and a woman in a red costume with a yellow sun symbol on her chest on the other.
“Freedom Squad,” said Director Lieber, “and that’s Rigel in the center, the sole level 3. Nightstar, who isn’t pictured, but I’m sure you are all familiar with, has been downgraded to a 2 since he left New Citadel. Regardless of the success or failure of this effort, the information we collect will assist us with all of your efforts. Thank you all, and everything else is on a need to know basis. Everyone except for Dr. Jennings and Agent Sampson may leave.”
Erica shuffled in her seat as the others filed out. Once the room was empty except for Director Lieber and Dr. Jennings, she fought the urge to immediately ask questions.
The Director looked over at her with his hard eyes. “Congratulations. As you have certainly surmised, you’ve been reassigned. You now work for me. You will coordinate our tests on Freedom Squad. Here is a file, all paper, nothing electronic that you’ll use to get started. Take a look.”
Dr. Jennings cleared his throat. “My dear, you will also note that you were specially selected for this because of the trauma you suffered as a child.”
Erica looked over at him. “I was struck by a lightning bolt, but it didn’t give me superpowers.”
“No, not exactly, but it did change the way your brain functions. Your brainwave activity is outside of the norms.”
“I’m okay. I was cleared years ago by neurologists.”
Director Lieber raised his hand slightly. “Agent Sampson, what Dr. Jennings is saying is that your brain functions differently. Based on research, you should be immune to telepathy. That means that we won’t have to worry about you being compromised by Rigel or our asset.”
“What asset? Please don’t tell me that you have some villain in the basement that you want me to visit.”
Director Lieber smiled. “We do have a villain in the basement, as you put it, and he’s the one who gave us the information that you are going to use, but we don’t plan on having you visit him on a regular basis. He’s far too dangerous for that, even if you are immune to telepathy.”
“Are you talking about…?”
“Yes,” said the Director. “The plans that you have been given are based on information provided by the former hero, Psionicist, also known as the Ace of Spades.”
“And with this, you want me to destroy Freedom Squad?”
Posted on November 1, 2014, in Freedom Squad, NaNoWriMo and tagged #longreads, #Nanowrimo, Freedom Squad, Nanowrimo, National Novel Writing Month, Novel in a month, superhero, Superhero novel. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.