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?”
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.