Psyren’s Redemption | Ch 10 Pt 1


Official Report
AEGIS Field Office
New Hebron, California

Amy folded her arms across her chest and stared out through the two-way glass to get a better read on Everett Howard. The former old man didn’t budge a muscle. He sat there, bubbling and brewing under the surface and wearing clothes at least two or three sizes too large, both arms folded across his chest and staring down at the ground, not noticing the people all around him.

The Agent had seen it before, an exemplar transformed by his or her abilities, who withdrew into themselves unable to cope with what happened. The key was helping them adjust to their new predicament and draw them out before they got stuck in a rut.

As she watched an agent and several other exemplars approached him, attempting to strike up a conversation. Everett answered, but in short grunts and scowls and they abandoned their efforts.

She bit her lip and sighed as the new woman slunk further into his seat. Everett sat along the outer perimeter of what was known as the Green Room by the AEGIS personnel, but was officially named the Athletic Center.

Like any athletic center, it was a place where Agents could come to work out, but unlike other such facilities, the Green Room, above anything else was a place for Exemplars, agents or not, to practice and learn control over their abilities. They’d given it its nickname because the specialized material that helped neutralize certain Exemplar abilities and coated the walls was green.
Everett would have been waiting at the medical facilities, another exemplar seated beside him offering a sympathetic ear, but the recent attack made that all but impossible. The deputy assistant put most of the medical staff on paid leave and the only person available who might have been available had a large workload already. Not surprising considering the state of the medical facility.

So, Amelia settled for the next best thing and Everett sat there like a lump refusing to interact with other human beings. She shook her head, dropped her hands, then slipped out of the door, just to the right of the mirror and stepped out into the green room.

Everett didn’t glance up, or speak, not even when she sat beside him. She studied his features, once again, startled by the contrast between his new face and the old. The young woman, who sat beside her looked only a few years out of high school perhaps no older than twenty one. The young woman’s skin was smooth and flawless, a healthy dark ebony that contrasted with the pale and pasty pallor of someone who seldom went outside. She couldn’t conceive that two people, who differed so drastically in appearance, were, in fact, be the same person.

“Mr. Howard, how are we doing today?” Amelia said placing a hand on Everett’s slender shoulder.

He looked up and met her gaze, revealing a startling set of sapphire-blue eyes. “How the hell do you think I am, Agent?”

He spat out the last word, undisguised contempt on his feminine face. If that had been the full brunt, she might have an easier time dealing with his attitude, but the accompanying surge of anger and resentment that came slamming at her through their empathic bond left her breathless. She messaged her temples, a stab of pain cascade across her head at this pronouncement. A flash of white distorted her vision as she attempted to force her way through the pain.

Amelia, paused, gritted her teeth as her vision cleared and withdrew her hand from his shoulder. “Mr. Howard, you should know, I’ve been chosen to serve as your transition specialist. That means I’ll be the one to–”

“To help me adjust to my new predicament,” Everett finished and scowled at her as a second wave of anger, this one much easier for the agent to bear, flowed through the bond. “I’ve already heard the spiel, so place spare me the bullshit.”

The whole thing had been director Malcolm’s idea. She was qualified, after all, and had joined AEGIS intending to serve that role, but her abilities had seemed to lend themselves more toward a more investigative role within the Agency. It had taken some convincing, but Matthews had persuaded her to take the Agent’s Exam and from there she hadn’t looked back.

“Okay,” Amelia paused attempting to compose herself as she stared back at the facade of the fresh-face young woman who concealed the angry old man behind her lovely features. “I’ll be upfront with you. If you keep this attitude up, you will land yourself in trouble. AEGIS is here to help people like you and me, but we can only do so much when you sit and wallow in self-pity and bite the head off of everyone who tries to help you. My superiors worry you might end up on the wrong side of the law. They’ve seen it dozens of times before. If you don’t want to find yourself labeled a potential-aberrant, you need to play ball.”

Everett surprised, Amelia instead of shooting off some angry retort, he smiled, and she experienced an odd relief through the bond. “That’s the first honest thing anyone has said since I got caught up in the middle of this mess.”

The pain dissipated and Amelia smiled back at him, confused by the sudden turnabout, but also relieved. “You should know, that to get your new life underway, you need to pick a name. We can give you one, but most people prefer picking their own out.”

“Figures,” Everett grunted glancing down at his hands and back up to the agent. “There’s no going back, is there?”

“I’m sorry, no. Why don’t we go get something to eat, and we can talk about it someplace else?”

“You paying?”

She smirked and met his gaze. “I believe AEGIS will flip the bill.”

“Good, I’m famished.”

Without further word the Agent lead the soon to be former Mr. Howard out of the green room and toward the promised meal.

Psyren’s Redemption | Ch 10 Pt 2


Official Report
AEGIS Field Office
New Hebron, California

“Should have figured,” Everett muttered upon stepping through the double doors and looking about.

There was nothing remarkable about the cafeteria, in fact, it wouldn’t have seemed out of place in a small school or a private business. Everett had expected something more. He’d eat almost anything, given how hungry he was, but he’d been envisioning a nice juicy steak at a private restaurant and it was doubtful he’d find anything so satisfying in a government-run commissary.

Close to a dozen AEGIS employees, all wearing identity badges around their necks and dressed in dull grays, whites and blacks you would expect occupied the room, either waiting in line for food or already seated around a table. Here or there there was a splash of color, but the woman in the sundress and the man in the blue button-down shirt were the exception rather than the rule.

“Close, but no cigar,” he mumbled under his breath glancing at the counter with a sigh and receiving an odd glance from the agent as he followed her through the room.

Amelia hadn’t lied when she’d suggested that AEGIS would flip the bill for the food, once they’d dished up and reached the register she produced a payment voucher from inside her jacket. Everett couldn’t help feel as if she’d misled him.

Old age had robbed him of the ability to taste, and he had hoped that his first meal in his new youthful body would be something, just a tad more appealing than the greasy Salisbury steak, instant mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables that now adorned his tray. There had to be perk to getting stuck in this new goddamned body, didn’t there?

He glared at Van den Broeke and took a seat across from her at a small two-person table, wedged into a back corner of the room. “You call this food?”

Amelia sighed, glanced up at the counter and shrugged. “Well, the term loosely applies. It’s not a good idea to eat out given the sensitive nature of the matters we’ll be discussing.”

Everett scowled at the lump of food like substance he would describe as eat in the broadest sense of the word and shook his head. “You have a point. I wanted my first meal I’ve had in decades where I could taste what I was eating to be something a little more appealing than this regurgitated crap.”

Amelia snorted and stared down at her salad and nodded in understanding. “It’s edible, but that’s about all I can say for it. How about I make a deal with you, if you cooperate now and later when I take you shopping, so long as we keep the price within reason, I’ll treat you to the meal of your choice.

“Deal!” Everett beamed back at her, but a frown creased his face as a sense of dread settled in at the prospect of shopping. He didn’t ask what the goal of such an excursion might be. There was a real and practical purpose that any idiot could reason out. At minimum, he needed clothing, not to mention all the feminine accessories and hygiene items the agent might throw into the mix.

There was another prospect he wasn’t too thrilled about, but one which he was sure as hell not going to voice around the agent. He would go out into the world as a black woman for the first time. No matter what they saw on the surface, he didn’t want people to see a black broad. He was white dammit and a man to boot.

“So, have you thought about a name, yet?” the Agent asked holding her fork over her plate.

“It’s only been, what, ten minutes? The prospect of food was just a little more pressing,” he replied still staring at his meal his nose crinkled up in disgust.

“Well, why don’t we eat and you can think about it, the sooner you pick a name, the sooner I can file the right paper work and you can get your new life on track.”

Everett nodded, but didn’t say a word, not thrilled by the prospect of a new life. As he got older the more appealing death seemed. He was a widower of over thirty years, he had no family left, save for a granddaughter you wouldn’t have been able to pick him out of a crowd, and the few friends who were still alive never talked to him or else were so far gone that they couldn’t even form a coherent sentence half of the damn time. He wasn’t a religious man, but he believed in an afterlife and the prospect of seeing his long departed wife and daughter once again was very appealing.

Now, he’d been throw into a new younger body and told he must adapt. Being a woman was bad enough, and he’d even given that much attention. The worst part was the change in skin color. He’d been thinking about suicide a lot in the hours since his change, but even if his increased healing abilities allowed it, he somehow knew he could never end his own existence. To Everett it was a coward’s act and say what you would about him, but he was no coward.

He looked at the agent watching her eat, taking dainty little bites and staring off into space with a look of disinterest. He found her striking, an attractive young woman who lacked much in the way of figure, but more than made up for it in other ways. As he watched her, he realized something that made him more than just a little uncomfortable. He was attracted to her, in a very big way.

Everett swallowed and forced himself to turn his attention back to his meal, wolfing down the almost flavorless animal byproduct. He forced himself to look elsewhere, the metallic side of a napkin holder that sat on the table between the two. For the first time, he gave his new brilliant blue eyes more than a cursory glance. If he allowed himself, he would have become lost in them. He studied them, piling food into his mouth without paying much mind to what he was doing.

They were brilliant, like sapphires, almost unnaturally blue, and as he stared into those eyes a name struck him, remembered so long ago, from his days of bible studies. He shook his head and glanced at his plate, realizing with a start, that other than a few kernels of corn, a couple chunks of carrots and some gravy, his plate was empty.

Amelia, who had finished her meal, stared at him smiling, her eyes studying him, her emotions an ocean of calm.

“I think I got a name,” he said looking up at the young woman with a smile of his own.

It felt so satisfying. He wasn’t even sure why, but the name resonated with him. It felt right, like a puzzle piece fitting into place. Deep down, it made a part of him uneasy that this new moniker would bring about such a reaction within him, but he squashed that part of himself.

The Agent leaned back in her chair and folded her arms across her chest waiting for Everett to tell her what moniker he had chosen. When he did, Van den Broeke’s eyebrows shot up and stared at him a moment without a word.

“Well, if you’re certain. I’ll get the paper work filed as soon as I can,” she said a smile stretching across her face.

As he looked back at her and nodded. A pit form at the bottom of his stomach at the prospect. Whatever satisfaction he’d gotten from choosing a new name had evaporated. What the hell had he been thinking?