Sitting in the Providence police station’s interrogation room gave me some time to reflect. My big question was where was the gruff detective telling me to cooperate. After all, I had just been involved in a shoot-out in a highly public place, involved never-before-seen technology, and resulted in the deaths of two (supposedly) former British special forces operators, two or three dozen terrorists from an unknown group, and a lot of TSA agents and civilians. There may have been some Providence cops dead as well, but I hadn’t seen them go down. Even so, people were going to have questions and I was one of the few people left alive who could conceivably answer them.
In a slightly unrelated note, I was extremely curious as to what Valkyrie’s powers were. She claimed to be a Champion, a kind of para with super-strength, increased durability, and flight, but that did not explain her ability to knock out those remaining attackers with a swing of her ax. I wanted to say she might be a rare Psychic/Champion hybrid, but she had waved her ax. That meant her ax might have been the source.
Further evidence pointed to the fact that several bullets had hit that and her helmet, leaving them unscathed. If they had hit her, I could believe it. After all, weak champions take .50 caliber bullets like a normal human takes a particularly hard punch. However, metal as thin as what she was wearing, especially the kind that you could get that shiny, would probably at least dent when hit with the kind of bullet our attackers had shot her with. But they hadn’t, meaning that Valkyrie had some form of advanced tech.
My musings were interrupted when my interrogator came in carrying a folder and a single earbud in his ear. He was a tall, muscular man with his greying hair in a short military cut, but I’d seen more imposing. “So,” I said, noting his visitor lanyard, “you’re not with the PPD, are you?” He nodded, so I asked, “Where are you from, then? FBI? Rhode Island state police?” I hesitated a bit before mentioning my employer. “UNIX?”
“FBI,” he said, “but UNIX is trying to get you bailed for some reason.” Something about the way he said that made me think he knew I worked for them. “Your lawyer’s also trying to get to you, too.”
“I have a lawyer?” I asked dumbly. How did I have a lawyer? I hadn’t even made my phone call yet, and my parents hadn’t even known my flight was landing here.
“Yeah,” my interrogator said, handing me some papers from his folder. “Ken Watanabe. He’s a defense and tax attorney located in Worcester, Massachusetts. You may have heard of him, he was involved in City of Worcester vs. Mark Kagemoto.” I remembered that case. Mark Kagemoto was alleged to be a gangster of some sort, somehow involved in fifteen gangland killings in Worcester and five more in Boston. One of my friends at NIU, Cross Castellan, knew of the Kagemotos, due to his family being heavily involved in the New York underworld, and had hinted that the attorney general had lowballed the number of bodies.
My interrogator noticed I was staring at the picture. On it, a short, fat Asian man was walking down the courthouse steps arm in arm with a taller, more muscular one. “Does one of them look familiar?” he asked.
“Familiar how?” I asked. “These guys were on a lot of newspapers back in the day.” It was a bit of a lie, though. First off, I had been nine during the trial. Secondly, my interrogator was right. The taller, more muscular one did look familiar. There was something familiar about his brown eyes. They were so light they were almost yellow.
It hit me a second before my interrogator put down the next file. “Do you know this person?” I picked up the file. Jennifer Kagemoto. I knew her name had been Jennifer. I knew she had been from Massachusetts. I hadn’t known her last name or that she had been a mob princess. I suppose I didn’t have a chance to ask, given that I had only talked to her once in periods of lucidity between being completely drugged up on pain meds. The picture on the file was her mugshot. She was dressed in a red suit coat and blue blouse (it was from the chest up,) her hair framing her high cheekbones. Her red lips were turned up in a vicious smirk.
I set it down and began to consider what I was going to say. “Need your cheat sheet?” my interrogator asked. He placed a small pleather-bound book on the table. It was my diary. In it, I had recorded as much as I could about NIU into it without the University suspecting me of being a spy for UNIX or UNIX suspecting I was holding out on them. That criteria, unfortunately, left me confessing to a murder count approaching the double digits and consorting with suspected criminals and potential enemies of the state.
I looked from that to my interrogator’s unreadable face. Until a person puts down evidence like this in front of you, you never really understand how an interrogator can break someone without waterboarding. In under ten minutes, he had almost broken me. I had one option left.
“I’d like to see my lawyer,” I said.
“Sure,” my interrogator said, taking out his cell phone, “but I’m not sure your UNIX handlers would appreciate discussing Operation Rider in front of a lawyer suspected of working for the Yakuza.” He then began to dial.
“Wait,” I said, “what do you know about Operation Rider?” Shit. Operation Rider was what UNIX called this little mission I was on. How the fuck did he know about that?
“I know you either have to sign this,” he said, handing me a form, “or have a lawyer present while we discuss it.”
I sighed. “Got a pen?” He handed me one, and I inspected the form. It was pretty much entirely legalese for saying I didn’t want a lawyer with me. “So,” I asked, “if I sign this form, can I decide at a later date that I want to have a lawyer in here with me?”
“Sure,” my interrogator said.
I considered this for a minute, then signed. “Ok,” I said, “what do you know?”
“From what we know,” my interrogator said, “the plan was to recruit four teenager and infiltrate this place called Nowhere Island University.”
My interrogator instantly clammed up. He stared at me, as if waiting for something.
“They told me three,” I said after a long pause. “Three people would be sent to Nowhere Island University.”
My interrogator opened a notebook and began writing. “Lied… to… recruit… one…” he looked up. “Sorry,” he said, looking up from the notebook, “just taking notes. Did they ever mention any way to escape? Or a way to protect your family from retribution if you were discovered?”
“None was mentioned…” I said.
My interrogator went back to writing. “No… exfiltration… no… protection… for… immediate… family. Huh”
“What do you mean, ‘huh?’” I asked.
“Either UNIX is getting sloppy,” he said, closing his notebook with a snap, “or you were bait. I do know that the accounts they’re paying you and a Mr. John Marshall with are very poorly disguised.”
Charlotte, or one of her support team, had apparently found that account and had the same reaction. I hadn’t completely trusted her at the time, but it now looked like I could trust her a bit more, at least on this. However, I didn’t want him to know about Charlotte.
As if he had read my mind, the interrogator then asked, “So, what do you know about the British people you flew in with?”
I shrugged. “You read my diary.” Which was thankfully missing a lot of key information. For example, I hadn’t written down anything about being a UNIX spy or Charlotte figuring that out, and had expunged any mention of a student group Eliza had founded (and talked me into joining) called the Seven Supreme. “You tell me.”
My interrogator seemed to consider pressing the issue. “Ok,” he said, “but if you change your mind, here’s my card.” It suddenly occurred to me that, while he knew about the Kagemotos, UNIX, Operation Rider, and NIU, he knew nothing about Eliza and Charlotte. The only source of information he had on them was Google, my highly abridged diary, the British embassy, and me. Feeling satisfied that someone else had no clue what was going on, I took the card. It claimed his name was C. George Hicks.
I looked at him in surprise. “You’re letting me go?”
“As your lawyer would say,” Agent Hicks said, handing me my journal back, “I can’t prove you did anything illegal.” As I got to the door, he said, “Also, I kind of like the idea of Mr. Watanabe driving all the way down here just for you to go home with some UNIX agents.”
“If we’re doing last words,” I said, “if you’re gunning for NIU, don’t underestimate them. Seriously,” I held up my diary, “you read this. Between the advanced tech and the scarily competent soldiers, I’d be scared out of my mind.”
I then exited. Standing outside was a man in a PPD uniform. “Your friend will be out soon,” he said. As he was saying that, the door opposite mine opened up and John walked out. “Never mind,” the officer said. “This way.” He led us down a maze of elevators and hallways, finally got to a conference room. After giving us a bag with our stuff (such as wallets and electronics,) he said, “Mr. Craig and Mr. Takeda will be here to escort you home shortly.”
As soon as he left, I turned to John and asked, “So, what are we going to tell them?”
John sighed. “Nate,” he said, “we’re going to tell them the truth. The shit you’ve been up to with the Seven? They’re going to want to hear that. Besides, how do we know the FBI guy was telling the truth?”
“Remember the thing they said about the bank accounts?” I asked. John nodded. “Well, Charlotte said that when her home team did a background check on me, they were able to tell Charlotte about my account in seven hours.”
“Can we trust Charlotte?” John asked.
“Honestly?” I said, “I think that’s a question for another time. Right now, UNIX seems to have fucked us over. They sent us, two inexperienced teenagers, on a mission with no backup, no intel, no way to contact them, no escape plan, and a good chance we’d have to kill someone or be killed. We need to address this before we can even think about who to trust.”
John sighed. “Fine,” he said. “What do you think we should tell them?”
“Personally,” I said, “I don’t want to tell them about the Seven, that we’ve been talking to the FBI, or that Charlotte told me about the diary. We hand in this,” I held up the diary, “then we try to turn it back on them. Go on the offensive. Emphasize we risked our lives to get the information, tell them all about Fight Night and the Chamber of Horrors.”
John shuddered. “Can we please mention the Chamber of Horrors? You were barfing for a frigging week. It was awful. I had to run you out of the mess hall for a week to hold your hair up so you could vomit vomit twice.”
“Actually,” I said, “if you could describe that to them in great detail, that would be nice. Also, ask what they’re doing to keep our families safe. Keep asking them that until we get a fucking answer. If they give us a satisfactory answer, then we can consider trusting them again.”
John nodded. “Yeah,” he said, “there’s that. At least my parents keep their gun safe in their room.”
“My dad,” I said, “would quite literally rather die than keep guns in his house. If some of the people I’ve pissed off decide to pay my family a visit, they’re fucked.” I didn’t add and it’ll be my fault, but I definitely thought it.
Halfway through speaking, two familiar faces walked in. They were our recruiters. “Takashi and Brosnan,” I said, “we need to talk.”
“Yes,” Takashi said, “we do.” His Japanese accent was more pronounced, due to how pissed off he was and his suit was rumpled like it had been slept in. Again, despite their different ethnicities, I was struck by how much like brothers the two agents looked. Same hair, same facial structure (except for the eyes of course, but they were hidden by sunglasses,) and same suits.
Brosnan cut him off. “We’ve been led on quite the merry chase,” he said. While his suit was just as rumpled, he seemed more alert and much less agitated than Takashi. “On one of our many stops, we met a lovely Japanese lawyer by the name of Mr. Watanabe. He said he was hired as your lawyer. Care to explain that?”
Takashi scoffed. “Watanabe is about as Japanese as a cowboy hat.”
Brosnan sighed. “I thought you said he was Yakuza.”
So they had met our lawyer. I might actually be able to use that. “Apparently,” I said coldly, “a random person from Massachusetts cares more about me than you guys. Jennifer Kagemoto met me once and somehow talked her mob lawyer into coming to bail me out. It might not be in here,” I tossed my diary onto the table to punctuate this, “because I was on some pretty heavy painkillers.” I turned to John. “How many pieces of shrapnel did they have to pull out of my leg?” I asked him.
“Ten or twelve,” he said. “I counted.”
Agent Brosnan cocked his head. “Is there anything you want to tell us?”
“I don’t know,” I said, “is there anything you’d like to tell us? Like why you sent us into the fucking Hunger Games with no back-up or resources. Or how you set us up with our real names to go into a place crawling with Al-Qaeda and the Goddamned KKK!” I slammed the table for emphasis. “I somehow managed to piss both groups off within my first month. Can you explain how you’re gonna protect our families, huh?”
Takashi looked affronted, but Brosnan silenced him. “Now is not the time for this discussion, I think,” he said, taking my diary. “We’ll escort you to Mr. Watanabe, then we’ll return back to our headquarters. We’ll contact you near the end of your vacation.” He got up. “Come along,” he said, motioning for us to follow.
As we had been talking, for some reason I thought I had been faking anger. When Brosnan decided to talk to me like I was a fucking child, I realized I hadn’t been faking being angry. Both John and I stood up. “We’d better,” I said.
We were led by a cop down to a lobby on the first floor. There, reading an old issue of Forbes magazine was Ken Watanabe. Looking at him, I remembered how Takashi had described him as being “Japanese as a cowboy hat.” It definitely fit him. He wore a casual business suit, bolo tie, large cow skull belt buckle and reptile-skin cowboy boots and his hair was slicked back.
“Mr. Watanabe?” Brosnan asked. “We’ve found your charges.”
Mr. Watanabe looked up, a look of relief on his face. “Oh thank God,” he said, an obvious twang in his voice. “First, when my team gets here, we find out that there were more clients than expected. Then, the cops here give me the run-around. Also, my batteries in my iPad died, so when they make me wait, I’m bored out of my skull.” He turned to look at John and me pleadingly. “Please,” he begged, “sue these assholes. I’ll do this pro bono.” A few of the cops in the room both burst into coughing fits that sounded suspiciously like laughing.
“I’m sorry,” I said, sitting down opposite Mr. Watanabe, “but we’ve had enough of the justice system for the time being.”
“God yes,” John said, flopping into a chair next to mine. “At this point, I just want to go home, flop on my couch, and watch stupid movies.”
“Listen,” I said, “we kind of want to get home. Can we talk about this later?”
Mr. Watanabe sighed. “Sure. Y’all can call your folks. I gotta see about getting my other clients out of jail.” He made to get up, then asked, “So, were those guys… business partners of some sort?”
“Of a sort,” I said.
“Maybe not for much longer,” John said. “They kind of screwed us over.” I looked over at him. He seemed just as pissed off at the situation as I was. Good. I needed an ally who didn’t have some kind of world-changing end game.
I took out my phone and scrolled to the contacts until I found my home number. I pressed the call button and waited as the phone rang. After two rings, Dad answered. “Nate?” he asked, “Is that you?” I could hear the hope in his voice.
“Yeah Dad,” I said, suddenly choking up, “it’s been a while, hasn’t it?”