"Michael, are you still moping about that girl?" the brown haired man lifted his head slightly at the sound of his name, but he made no attempt to answer the question. He was leaning back on one of the couches in the lounge of the Government compound, his eyes blank as he stared at the wall across the room.
"You shouldn't be too hard on yourself," a younger, black haired male flopped down in the seat next to him, purposely jostling him in an attempt to get a reaction from his superior. He ran his hand through his hair, leaning his head back to relax.
"It's been three days," he murmured quietly after a few moments of silence, his lips barely moving.
"He speaks!" his fellow agent sat up in excitement, cracking a wide grin as he turned towards him eagerly. But Michael remained where he was, immobile and silent.
"Come on, Michael! This isn't like you!" the man let out a low whine before he could stop himself. Then he shook his head quickly and jumped off the couch till he was standing in front of the motionless man. "Let's have a sparring match, huh? You never did tell me how you were able to take down that vamp!"
"Ryan, leave Michael alone."
"Caleb!" he gasped and straightened up as quickly as he could, his hand shooting up to his forehead to give him a hasty salute as the second-in-command of the Government faction walked over to them.
"You aren't a child anymore, go and find someone else to spar with. I believe Gabriel just returned from an unsuccessful raid, he might need to release some of his anger out on someone," the shorter man gave him a cold look, his golden eyes darkening at the younger agent's presence.
Ryan quickly got his message and hurried away before he could be ordered twice. Once the door slammed shut behind him, leaving the two alone in the lounge, Caleb took a few steps closer, his arms crossed over his chest. He stopped right in front of him, his expression anything but concerned as he examined the man from a the limited distance.
"What are we going to do about you, Michael?" he scowled. "You've never done this before. So why now?" His questions didn't even seem to wake the man up from his thoughts, nor give him the incentive to look up at one of his leaders.
"It was the girl, wasn't it?" Nobody jumped when the voice came from behind Michael, the owner leaning over the back end of the couch. He leaned in closer, tilting his head slightly so he could get a better view of Michael's blank face. Three dogs slipped around the couch and paced in front of him before settling down at Caleb's feet, their golden eyes never leaving the man in front of them.
"You didn't even know the girl," the newcomer sighed. "You've known people for far less."
"She was special," he mumbled, lifting his chin up slightly.
"Special? How? Were you planning on recruiting her?" Caleb demanded. "She was fourteen—hardly old enough for us to even consider her for training."
"Did you like her?" the man's amused voice finally roused him out of his paralyzed silence.
"I-I didn't mean to kill her," he shook his head in defiance. "She was just supposed to…to..."
"Supposed to do what?" Caleb pounced on this weakness immediately, his dark eyes brightening in his anger.
"Do we really need to kill those that find out our secret?" Michael whispered thickly, his shoulders shaking as he forced himself to hide his pain. "People can live without telling anyone, right? Would anyone believe them?"
"Must I remind you about that time we let a family go free when they accidently found out?" Caleb asked sharply.
"It was a massacre," the other man whispered into his ear. "A whole coven of vampires after one small family. None of the four children even had a chance—we found their corpses nearly ripped to shreds in the backyard."
A shudder passed through the brunette as he leaned forward, burying his face in his hands. All he could see in his mind was the girl and the shocked spread over her face when she realized what he was going to do.
"She was innocent!" he shook his head, in disgust. "She was there at the wrong time!"
"So are many people when the parasites find them," the man added softly. "We can't save everyone from a certain fate."
"I saved her from the vampire and then turned around to deal her death out! What kind of system allows that!" he dropped his hands and looked up in exasperation at Caleb. "I only elongated her life by a day before I ended it! And I fooled her into thinking she was going to live!"
"Is that what you're worried about?" the man raised his eyebrows in curiosity. "Caleb and I thought it was all about your insatiable lust for this girl. She was quite pretty, I imagine."
"But you never mentioned her to anyone before, was she really that important to you?" Caleb asked sharply. "If she were really that important, Ferio and I would have—"
"Caleb, Caleb, you are much too insensitive to this issue," Ferio scolded, waving his hand in the air for him to stop talking. "If Michael insists, I will allow him to leave the compound and the terms of service of an Agent. If he continues like this, then he won't be of much use to us."
"You're letting me go?" he asked hoarsely.
"Of course," Ferio smiled and pushed himself upright, suddenly leaning back on his heels as he turned his gaze to Caleb.
"Letting him go would be a breach of security!" Caleb argued. "What if he were to spill everything to the public? There would be massive panic throughout the city!"
"Michael knows to keep his mouth shut about this matter," he chuckled threateningly, placing his hands on his shoulders. "He—like all of the other agents here—signed a document when they first entered. And we remind everyone on the consequences on a weekly basis."
"By the time we actually get notice of leaked information, it's already too late to do anything about it," Caleb scowled. One of the dogs looked up at him curiously as he shifted in his stance, dropping his arms to his sides.
"It doesn't matter. I trust Michael. He was one our best and he knew what happened the last time information was leaked. Regardless of how he leaves this compound, he will not give away any of our secrets to the public for them to worry. He knows how…painful it is to clean up the mess. We lost several of our senior agents back then."
"None of us want that to happen again," Caleb murmured, his hand brushing the dog's head carelessly.
"So I must ask you this, Michael," Ferio slowly walked around the couch, stopping right in front of the trio of dogs as he faced him finally. "Are you willing to leave the Government compound to become a normal citizen?"
"Yes," he replied dully, still looking at the carpet in front of him.
"Are you absolutely sure? We will not take you back if you leave and decide to return."
"Yes," his reply was the same, just as listless as his current expression.
"Maybe we shouldn't have given him a solo mission for this one. Infiltrating a high school isn't really one of our common jobs. Perhaps if Ryan would've gone with him," Ferio put his hand to his chin as he thought aloud. "We need to put this in mind in case of future cases."
"Ryan is much too energetic for his own good. He needs someone to balance him out," Caleb reminded him dryly. "He speaks out of turn sometimes."
"Hm…Michael? Would you do one more thing for me before you leave? It's really a simple task, you won't even have to leave the compound." Ferio dropped his hand to his side. One of the dogs stretched out to touch his fingertips, its golden eyes turning towards the silent man.
"What…what is…it?" he raised his head just slightly and looked up at Ferio wearily.
"Just takes the dogs out to the roof. They haven't really gotten any fresh air for some time. Caleb and I have been so busy we've forgotten that they need to go out once in a while. It shouldn't be too difficult of a task. They're well behaved dogs, so you shouldn't have that much difficulty getting them up there. They know their way back so you could just leave them up there."
As if on cue, the three dogs left their side and leapt to his side, nudging his knees and leaping up on the couch, begging for attention.
Michael hesitated as he watched them bounce around him joyfully. He didn't feel like doing anything more for Ferio and Caleb—not after…her murder. But after one of the dogs leapt up and nearly landed in his lap, he pulled himself up reluctantly, leading the way to the stairs, the dogs barking in excitement, their large tails striking his legs as he walked.
It was strange. He could remember the girl's name despite not knowing any of the other victims. Amanda Summers—or 'Mandy' as her parents called her. He tried thinking of something else as he started up the stairs, but every time he thought of something else—be it Ryan's insistence on a sparring match or his impending resignation, his mind was still drawn to her.
It wasn't that easy to wipe off the look of surprise and betrayal on her face from his mind.
The dogs shot up the last flight of stairs without him, scratching at the door in excitement as they looked back at him impatiently.
He didn't even know her that well. Neither was she familiar with him. They just happened to meet that one fateful day in class and it quickly spun out of control since then. He could have left her alone after she witness the execution, but he didn't let her. The security of the agency's secrets was the first thing on his mind when he broke into her apartment that morning.
And it was the last thing he thought when he snapped her spine with his fingers.
He could still see the life draining out of her eyes as her body struggled to remain conscious. He hadn't made as clean of a break as he first assumed.
He made her suffer through it.
He put his hand to his face at the memory, as if hoping the darkness would suddenly sweep away that memory. One of the dogs whined as it leapt up at him, pawing his shirt as he slowly ambled up the steps.
He opened the door slightly as he allowed the three dogs to force themselves through the small gap before following them. The cool wind from the top of the roof felt good against his face—he hadn't been outside since that day.
He walked over to the edge of the roof, looking down at the doings of some of his fellow agents. He could easily see Ryan, the most energetic of all the older agents, sparing with his friend Gabriel enthusiastically.
"Won't you miss being here?" Michael jumped back as a familiar voice startled him out of the silence. Ferio was sitting cross-legged on one of the air conditioning units located on the roof. He seemed quite amused at Michael's appearance on the roof, despite having ordered him there earlier.
"I will miss being here," he answered slowly, staring at Ferio with a frightened sense of foreboding. Ferio—the leader of the compound—was the one who ordered the murders of the people who were considered 'breaches of security'.
"I'm sure the other agents will miss you," he promised casually, leaning back on his palms as he stretched out his body. "Ryan especially, you were the only one who could keep him in line if it wasn't Caleb and myself."
"Tell them I said good-bye then," Michael murmured, turning away as he started back to the stairs.
He had barely gone a few feet when a deep snarl stopped him in his tracks and he turned back to Ferio questionably. But the man offered no answers to his unsaid question; only gave him a cruel smile and leaned back for the show.
Then one of the dogs leapt at him from behind, smashing its full weight on his back. His prior training as an agent honed his reflexes to perfection as he easily rolled out of it and scrambled to his knees in order to knock the attacking dog out of the way.
But the dog jumped on him again—this time teamed up with the second—and they both crushed him to the ground once again. They bared their canines at them and tore at his clothes, snarling like a pack of rabid wolves. He fought them desperately, fending off one with his elbows and kneeing the other. Neither dog seemed to be relenting in its attacks.
Then the third dog entered the fray.
It fastened its teeth around his right arm and pulled, drawing blood instantly. He twisted, kicked, and punched at every opportunity, gritting his teeth as he struggled to no avail. It was a losing battle—all three dogs were stronger than he was, and easily successful in their attack.
He threw his head back and let out a yell as one finally cut through his shirt and bit down around his abdomen and tore the skin away. Its partner immediately dug in, tearing at his skin until the gash reached his neck. He screamed as they started devouring his insides, eating anything within their reach, ignoring his steadily weakening attempts to fight them off.
"Leave his heart, darlings," Ferio's voice drifted over to them as he started strolling over to them, stopping right before the pooling blood on the rooftop.
"F-F-Ferio," Michael stammered, his hand clawing at nothing as his body contorted to spasms as more blood spurted out. "W-why?" It hurt to say those two words as he gasped for relief. He was already starting to lose consciousness—his vision blurring slowly.
"You're a loose end, Michael," he crouched down next to him. "You're too broken to be of any use to us, but you're broken enough you'll spill our secrets out to the public."
He shuddered, his lip trembling as he tried to process this information. He opened his mouth to form words, but was forced to weakened scream again as one of the canines found away around his ribs and tore through one of his lungs.
"And the dogs were hungry. They can't eat any of our enemies for fear of being poisoned—but they need fresh meat to sustain themselves. And I've got to admit, beef is getting quite boring," he tipped his head sideways to smile at him again. Michael could do nothing but watch as his golden eyes brightened and took an animalistic look.
Just like the dogs.
Ferio tipped his head back as he watched Michael drop his head, life ebbing out of his brown eyes. He knew the man was still conscious despite having no feeling left in his body.
"Finish him," he glanced at the third dog—had had stopped his assault once he came closer. It let out a soft yelp and shot forward, fastening his teeth around the man's neck and tearing out his windpipe in one motion. Michael's body went through one last spasm before going completely still.
"What a mess," he looked up as Caleb wandered over to them, his hands in his pockets as he turned his nose up, avoiding the bloody sight. "You couldn't have made them be neater?"
"They were excited," he shrugged.
"What are we going to tell the rest of them? They all heard the screams. They'll be coming up here soon."
"Tell them it was a breach of security," Ferio flashed him a quick smile. "They seem to accept that excuse."
"Are you hungry, Ferio?" the younger man narrowed his golden eyes. "You're going to lose your form if you don't eat."
"The dogs saved the best part. Did you want to share?"
"Someone clean has to tell the news," Caleb replied shortly, looking pointedly away as Ferio stood up and approached the mutilated remains. He didn't even flinch when he heard the squelch of blood and the snarling of a ravenous beast devouring its prey.
"There is still plenty, Caleb—if the smell bothers you," Ferio straightened up, wiping the blood off his face.
"I need to remain focused if you still want me to find Her."
"Oh, 'The One'?" he gave him a bloody smile that Caleb didn't return. "Are you making progress?"
"I'm sending agents to suspected areas. They are doing the job for us. Get yourself cleaned up—we're expecting company." The doorknob turned and Ferio turned around to hastily clean up any traces of his actions.
"What happened? We heard screams—"
"Michael!" Ryan wailed, throwing himself forward. His friend reached over and seized his shoulders, holding him back as he tried, unsuccessfully, to reach his former mentor. "What happened?"
"An attempt to attack us from within," Caleb replied smoothly. "He was in the middle of transforming when we caught him."
"B-but I never even—"
"It's hard to see an enemy—especially if they can easily assume human form," Caleb explained quietly. "I wish for you all to be on your guard—no matter who you are dealing with."
"Michael was just in the wrong place at the wrong time," he glanced at the agents on the rooftop. "We will not make the same mistake and send in only one agent for a task. From now one, we'll assign two for a mission. Our enemies will have a much more difficult time dealing with two instead of one. That is all." Caleb turned and walked away from them, Ferio stared at Ryan for a few moments before following his second-in-command, whistling for the dogs to return to his side.
"Clean up this mess," he ordered over his shoulder as they swept away.