Tondzaosha Regional Airport
Agent Carter Rathdrum of AEGIS looked out across the horizon and pressed his lips together. He stood at the end of the ramp and shook his head.
“What a shit hole.” He said under his breath.
The clatter and clank of feet on the metal ramp sounded behind him and he shuffled out of the way to allow those still exiting the plane free passage. He peered back, eying the walkway and those descending it. At last, Van den Broeke stepped into view, and he turned to make eye contact, looking into a pair of brilliant emerald-green eyes.
Though Amelia van den Broeke’s name was Dutch, he suspected she may have some Mediterranean ancestry as evidence by her olive skin and shock of raven-black hair. Tall and voluptuous, the special agent in charge was one of the most beautiful women he’d ever met. He might have wondered why someone with her looks worked for AEGIS if he didn’t know a little about her past.
“So,” he said slipping both hands back into his pockets and peering from side to side. “How’s it feel to be home after all this time?”
She regarded him, a faint trace of a frown touching her lips and shook her head. “Tondzaosha hasn’t been home for a long time.”
She slipped past him without another word. Rathdrum sighed. He followed her, his lips creased in a frown, but remained silent. Though not lose to Van den Broeke, he’d known her for a few years and was on good speaking terms with her. He’d never seen her so uncommunicative. He didn’t know what put her into her current mood, but he believed it must have something to do with her homecoming.
Though he knew little of her history before she’d come to AEGIS, she was said to have faced a lot of heat for being both a transwoman and an exemplar. He saw no reason to doubt it, he’d worked in law enforcement for more than a decade both as an officer for the Los Angeles Police Department and with the agency, and saw a lot of hostility directed at both groups.
He studied her face, allowing himself to marvel at how much she’d changed since he’d first become aquainted with her. Not so much her personality, but in the physical sense. He would have been surprised learning, even before the change, that she was a transwoman. Back then she was tall and skinny, but pretty nonetheless. Since that business with Chemosh in New Hebron several months back things changed. She lost a few inches in height, but gained a figure that would make any man do a double-take. Amelia possessed the kind of beauty you only saw on the big screen or in the center-fold of dirty magazines, even if she didn’t quite seem to be aware of that fact.
He couldn’t say what had invoked the change, but he damn well noticed it. As with all things her change had gotten the rumor mill whirling, but he’d taken little stock in the gossip save for one aspect. A few folks had put it forward that because of her change that she was no longer a transwoman and capable of bearing a child. The term being bandied about the office was ciswoman, but he wasn’t sure if it was the right one.
“Rathdrum, you read the report. What do you think?” Van den Broeke asked glancing back at him arching an eyebrow.
Rathdrum moved forward stepping in sync with her and glanced about making sure none of the disembarked passengers were in earshot. “Sounds like a wild goose chase if you ask me. A sword that burns anyone who touches it? Sounds like somebody’s idea of a bad practical joke.”
Amelia pursed her lips. “What about the girl?”
He shrugged. “Probably, another nut job. ”
“Still, it’s a little odd the witness’s name was redacted on the copy of the report sent to AEGIS, don’t you think?” Amy asked her lips pursed.
“Weird, but I don’t see how that changes anything.” He shrugged.
Van den Broeke nodded, but didn’t say a word. She was the Special Agent in Charge of their unit. New to the job, Amelia was the youngest SAC in AEGIS history. He had no idea what had prompted her promotion, but it had something to do with the Chemosh debacle. Whatever she’d done it impressed Director Malcolm enough to elevate her on the spot. She was inexperienced, but already seemed to have a better handle on the job than most in her position would have.
If Rathdrum had been a more ambitious man, he might have resented her advancement, but he’d spent too much time in the field to be doing anything else. Leadership came with too many headaches, and as a Special Agent he already had enough of those with which to contend. Better to let those better suited to the demands of leadership fill that need.
Despite her youth Rathdrum thought Van den Broeke a good fit. She still needed to grow into the position a bit, but he had no doubt she’d be fine. She possessed enough smarts to make use of her underlings knowledge and experience which was more than he could say for some other SACs he’d worked under and… as a bonus was a fair bit easier on the eyes.
It was unusual as it was seeing a SAC out in the field, let alone in a out of the way town like Tondzaosha. Why they’d sent Van den Broeke at all was a question, he was still trying to puzzle out. One thing was certain, she didn’t seem too happy about it.
“Tell me if you spot any of the local PD,” Van den Broeke muttered as they made their way across the tarmac.
Rathdrum nodded. “Little surprised a town like this has an airport, doesn’t seem to be much here.”
Amelia glanced back at him. “The airport is part of an industrial park. It’s used for business for the most part.”
Rathdrum nodded peering about the tarmac one final time. He’d visited a fair number of smaller airports and there wasn’t usually much to them. This one was no exception. It didn’t even seem to possess a jetway.
When they stepped inside the main building, Rathdrum swore he’d stepped back in time. The airport’s interior hadn’t been updated since the seventies. He took one glance at the orange-padded chairs and let out a soft chuckle. Despite their age, they seemed to be in good shape. If nothing else, the place was clean and well maintained. There were large sections of the airport that were unlit, probably to conserve power, and save for the passengers who’d disembarked and the airport staff there didn’t seem to be anyone around.
“Van den Broeke?” A voice asked from out of the darkness, and a slender young deputy stepped out from an unlit portion of the building almost seeming to materialize from nowhere.
He focused all his attention on Rathdrum and the agent bit back a response. Van den Broeke needed to be the one to correct the officer. She did so, glancing at Rathdrum out of the corner of her eyes, then stepped forward and held her hand out. “I am Special Agent In Charge Amelia van den Broeke.”
The officer lurched forward accepting her hand and smiling. “Sorry, ’bout that. The chief only told me your last name. Figured since your friend was a little older that he’d be the one running the show.”
His eyes grew wide and he eyed Rathdrum throwing his hands out. “Not that I think your old or anything, I just—”
Rathdrum laughed and shook his head. Small-town police. “Forget about it. My name’s Special Agent Carter Rathdrum.”
“Right, right nice to meet you both. I’m Deputy Thomas Shanderly at your service,” he said grabbing Rathdrum’s hand and shaking it vigorously. “Kinda surprised you folks flew in from Cali, the Chief said the closest field office is in Salt Lake.”
“We’re part of a specialized unit, dealing with very specific cases,” Amelia offered in explanation. “We operate out of New Hebron, California, but the nature of our work takes us all over the country.”
“What sort of work would that be, agent?” Shanderly asked tilting his head like a dog.
“That’s not something I’m at liberty to discuss,” Van den Broeke answered frowning at the officer. “Suffice it to say, we have very specific expertise that may be beneficial in this case.”
Though Shanderly hid it well, Rathdrum could see his confusion mirrored in his eyes and why wouldn’t he be confused? The Agent would feel the same way if he’d just had that bullshit explanation doled out to him. Specific expertise? For a nut job with a sword? Still, there was no help for it, Van den Broeke hadn’t been lying when she’d said she wasn’t at liberty to discuss their unit’s purpose.
Shanderly didn’t press the matter, but Rathdrum sensed that she hadn’t put the matter to rest. They needed the local PD to cooperate, if they didn’t want to be bumping heads with them everywhere, they went sooner or later she’d have to throw them a bone.
“Right,” Shanderly smiled and threw a thumb over his shoulder. “I got a squad car waiting out front with all the materials you requested, if you want to get underway.”
Van den Broeke frowned, glanced at Rathdrum before letting out a long breath of air and nodded.