AEGIS Field Office
New Hebron, California
Amy gritted her teeth and shook her head, fighting through the headache that seemed to grow worse by the second. She wasn’t certain she’d ever know for sure, but she suspected it must have been sensory feedback from her bond with Mr. Howard. Anytime she sensed his temper flare, her head pounded. Given the raging storm that was emanating through the bond, was it any wonder she felt as if the same tempest had beset her head?
“Agent, please come inside,” Deputy Assistant Director Andrew Steenburg of the Exemplar Crimes Division stood within the door frame and motioned inside the spacious office with an upraised arm and open palm. “I’m short on time, let’s make this quick.”
Amelia stepped inside, slipping past Steenburg and patting at her hair as she made eye contact with him. The Deputy Assistant Director seldom took time out of his schedule to meet with a field agent like Van den Broeke, but if there was anything she was certain of the situation with Everett Howard and Chemosh was anything but ordinary.
“Take a seat, agent.” Steenburg stepped behind the desk and held his hand out.
She did as was instructed, attempting to look composed as she looked across the desk at her superior. Steenburg seemed to gaze right through her as if he couldn’t be interested in dealing with someone so low within the agency’s hierarchy, but Amelia didn’t let it bother her. She’d dealt with worse, from him and others.
“Speak agent,” Steenburg said thrumming his hands across the desk.
“Sir, I wondered if you might reconsider your decision to remove me from active duty,” she replied wincing as a strong surge of anger flowed out through the bond and with it an excruciating stab of pain in her temple.
“Absolutely not,” he replied before the last syllable had left her lips. He looked angry at first, but then his features softened and he shook his head. “I respect your dedication, Agent, but until we’re certain your not being influenced by this bond, I can’t risk it might affect your judge–”
The door creaked open and both agent and deputy assistant director craned their necks to see who had intruded upon their meeting. Both leapt to their feet upon recognizing the lean and immaculately attired man who stood within the doorway. He looked around the room, eying the decor with a face devoid of expression before his eyes settled on the pair.
“Director Malcolm, this is a surprise,” Steenburg stated, a slight tremor to his voice, that most people would have never even picked up on, but to someone like Amelia, who’d received training to watch for such things, it was all too clear.
Malcolm nodded and his face creasing into a smile. “Deputy Assistant Director, why don’t you step outside for a moment?”
Steenburg’s eyebrows shot so high up his forehead, Amelia thought they’d become to his hairline, but they remained visible, if only just so. He nodded, brought a hand up to the collar of his shirt, and adjusted a tie that needed no adjustment and departed the room with quick, but furtive steps.
“Close the door on your way out,” Malcolm added without looking back and nodded once Steenburg had complied.
Amelia regarded the man as he approached, expecting him to address her, but instead he walked past stopping just in front of the exterior window and extended his thumb and index-finger pulling a section of blinds open to get a better look outside. When he said something, it was so quiet that Amelia didn’t, at first, register he had spoken.
“Agent Van den Broeke, I presume?”
“Yes, sir.” She said after a few seconds delay.
Director Brian Malcolm nodded and turned back to face her both hands behind his back. “You may sit, Agent.”
Amelia flushed, did as suggested and returned to her seat. It wasn’t every day a field agent found herself face to face with the director of AEGIS. Let alone, so far from the capitol. Malcolm was said to be a recluse, for him to travel clear across the country with no warning wasn’t just unusual it was unprecedented.
“Tell me, agent, why did you join AEGIS?” He asked, pacing back and forth in front of the desk.
“Sir?” Amelia blinked, confused by the question. What possible reason did he have to ask that question?
“Answer the question agent, I don’t like to repeat myself.”
Amelia swallowed hard, nodded and met his gaze. “Sir, I suppose I’d say I joined because I wanted to help people.”
“Help exemplars, you mean,” the director stopped pacing and leaned across the desk, both palms resting atop its surface.
“Not exclusively, sir. When my powers first surfaced, I was only thirteen. When I saw things, events for which I was not present. I knew things about people’s past by all right I should have no way of knowing, people met me with a lot of suspicion. When I came out as trans it got even worse. My parents kicked me out of the house and my whole life spiraled out of control. It wasn’t until social services and AEGIS intervened and I went to live with my aunt that my life turned around. If it wasn’t for that I have no doubt I would have wound up dead in a ditch somewhere,” Amelia stared up at the Director her mouth hanging open, unable to believe what she had just revealed to him.
The director didn’t speak and once again Amelia shocked herself as she continued to speak. “In AEGIS, I was an opportunity to help others. Plenty of people have been hurt by the acts of aberrants. In AEGIS I saw a chance to prove that not all Exemplars are criminals.”
“Good enough.” Malcolm nodded, emitted a loud sigh and seated himself behind the desk opposite Amy. “I understand that the deputy assistant direct has removed you from active duty.”
“That would seem to be the correct call. This bond you’ve developed with the old man might influence your judgment.”
Amelia blinked, just a little surprised that the director was already so well versed on the matter. He seemed to be taking an unusual interest in the whole thing. Which begged the question why was he even there to begin with?
“That being said, this Everett Howard may be the key to unraveling the mystery behind Chemosh. This bond may prove to be a beneficial investigative tool, but I can’t risk having you out in the field.”
The Agent felt her heart beating in her chest and she swallowed hard looking back at him. “Sir, what are you saying?”
Malcolm smirked and leaned forward. “Perhaps, you need not be out in the field.”
Amelia wasn’t sure what he meant, but the Director was quick to fill her in on the details, the prospect filled her with dread.