Joe was a little confused. Why was he bothering to tell him all this? He was just a normal child; there was nothing special about him that could make him worth being told this information. Or at least, so he thought.
"You're wondering why I'm telling you this, huh kiddo?" Agent Jolensen continued. "I want you to sign up. What I saw you do in that bank there, without any training? You could've put some of my adult agents to shame. You're what, seven, am I right?"
Joe nodded silently.
"You got a lot more bravery than your average seven year old. The ability to stay calm in situations where your life is being threatened and at the same time, maintain enough courage to do something which saves the lives of others? Well, that my friend, is exactly what I'm looking for in an agent, no doubt about it."
Joe looked at Agent Jolensen in astonishment. Was this a wind up or something? Here he was, at seven years old, being asked to sign up for training in the CIA. This could not be real. It just couldn't.
"I would just have to clear it all up with your mom, of course, then we could-"
Joe interrupted him suddenly.
"Eh, that won't be needed Sir. I haven't seen my mum since I was two. She didn't want me. I don't even remember what she looks like to be honest. It was always just me and dad, and well-" Joe paused, a tear spilling onto his cheek. "-I guess it's just me now."
Agent Jolensen nodded, not saying anything. He stood up and put his glasses back on, before holding his hand out to Joe. Joe wiped the tears from his cheek with the blanket, before tipping it off his back onto the seat and taking Agent Jolensen's hand. He helped Joe hop down from the high step of the SUV then simply said "follow me."
Agent Robert and Joe walked towards the police officers who were stood in a huddle. Joe had to practically run to keep up with Agent Jolensen's huge steps. The Police Officers turned when they saw him, and stared as Agent Jolensen, in one graceful motion, unfolded a shiny badge from the inside pocket of his suit and held it up so they could see. He spoke to them briefly, and nodded as one of them asked if he could just check some details. The Officer disappeared behind the van and spoke to someone on a radio. He paused, listening to the response before nodding and walking back round to join the others.
"He checks out." said the officer, tilting his head towards Agent Jolensen.
Agent Robert gave the officers his thanks, before turning and briskly walking away, Joe half walking, half running to keep up. They turned the corner, and Joe saw a long black car with dark windows parked on the pavement. Agent Jolensen strode along the side of the car, tapping the driver side window as he passed. The door of the car popped open with a click and Joe was told to "hop on in kiddo." He climbed in, and slid across the beige leather seats. Agent Jolensen stepped in and sat down opposite him.
"So kid. Agent Jolensen's a bit of a mouthful, ain't it? Not to worry, most of my students just call me Agent J. Heaps easier" said Agent J, winking at Joe as he tapped the glass screen that divided them from the driver. The driver obviously knew what this meant, as soon they were driving down the road at a much higher speed than Joe was used to. Agent J made a few phone calls during the car journey, but Joe hadn't really been paying much attention, he was too busy thinking about his dad.
They drove for what seemed an eternity before the car finally pulled to a stop beside a large rock next to the sea. Joe had just begun to wonder if they would be walking the rest of the way, when the car slowly started moving straight downwards, like it was in a lift. It turned as it moved down until they were deep underground and the car was pointing into a large tunnel. Lights flickered on along the tunnel and they drove once more, before coming to a stop beside a large set of steel double doors.
"This is us." said Agent J, sensing Joe's excitement.
They hopped out of the car and the steel doors swung open to reveal a huge, modern looking foyer.
Marble walls held by shining steel framework towered above them and glass windows, which were just as high, revealed that what had appeared to be just an average looking rock that they had stopped beside earlier was actually a high cliff on the other side, which held the enormous glass panes. They were so far down that the building went underwater slightly, so while the sun brightly lit the foyer and the horizon could be seen in the distance, water lapped up at the bottom of the windows and fish swam right up next to the glass. It suddenly occurred to Joe that the building must stretch for hundreds and hundreds of metres under the rocks and the road above floor, which seemed to stretch out for an eternity in all directions consisted of huge black marble tiles and was mostly empty, apart from a reception-style desk and a huge winding staircase at the side. Various abstract sculptures sat in the corners of the foyer, which strangely, was completely silent. Joe stood staring around him in awe. Agent J waited for a moment, almost like he too was in complete awe, before striding across the black tiles towards the desk. The hard soles of his shiny black shoes broke the silence as they clicked against the marble. Joe walked quickly beside him, his tattered sneakers making no sound when they struck the floor.
When they reached the desk, a petite woman looked up from her computer and peered at them through thick glasses.
"Oh. Didn't expect to see you today Robert. Who's this then?" she said, nodding towards Joe, who was standing on his tiptoes and could just about see over the desk.
"This is Joe, my latest recruit."
The woman nodded, pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose and tapped something into her computer.
"Alrighty then, what's your full name Joe?"
Once Joe had been all signed up, Agent J made his way towards the long winding staircase in the corner of the foyer, beckoning for him to follow. At the top of the staircase, there was another foyer, slightly smaller, but just as grand looking, that split off into three wide, winding corridors. The corridors were lined with doors, and along two of the corridors, the doors had small metal numbers. The third corridor however, held shiny metal signs, with important looking black writing on them, naming various rooms and offices. Joe wandered along at Agent J's side, down the second of the three corridors, until he stopped at a door marked "18." He unlocked it, using a key which was just as shiny as the lock that matched it, and the door swung open to reveal a surprisingly spacious apartment. Agent J strode to a door at the side of the room and gave it a quick, sharp double-tap. After a moment, three young people piled out of the room, two girls and one boy. The boy looked around nineteen or twenty, he was tall and muscular, with a well defined face, friendly blue eyes and messy brown, almost black hair. One of the girls looked a little younger than the boy, possibly twelve or thirteen. She had short blonde hair, brown eyes and freckles. Joe could instantly see from her eyes that she was angry and upset about something. The other girl was obviously the youngest of the trio, she looked to be around Joe's age, seven or eight, and had long, fair hair pulled back into a ponytail. The tall boy strode past the other two, crouched down slightly and stuck out his hand to Joe.
"I'm Henry." he said, smiling warmly. "This is Kaylie …" he said, gently placing a hand on the back of the youngest girl. "And this is-"
"I can speak for myself, thanks." said the girl with short, blonde hair, cutting him off. "I'm Zyra. Yes, it's a name. And no, we can't be friends. Enjoy your stay."
She turned abruptly and disappeared back through the door. Joe and Agent J stared, while Henry and Kaylie just looked embarrassed.
"Sorry about Zyra." said Henry. "She got a letter from her mum this morning and has been in a foul mood since breakfast." Upon seeing Joe's confused face, Henry continued. "Zyra was, let's say... a problem child. Her mum couldn't cope, and put her into foster care. The foster care couldn't cope either. We, on the other hand, can. She still resents her mum for everything, and every so often she gets letters from her. And, well, you can see the effect..." He trailed off, then smiled warmly. "Don't worry, she'll be right as rain again in a day or two. Then you'll see that she's actually not so bad."
Kaylie was still staring at the ground. Joe still hadn't heard her talk since they got there, and they stood in silence for a moment, before Agent J suddenly seemed to snap out of a trance and clapped his hands together.
"Joe, this is where you'll be staying while you're here. You'll spend most of your time elsewhere in the building, but this is where you'll sleep, have breakfast and do some schoolwork." He saw Joe's grimace and chuckled. "Yeah, unfortunately you still have to go to school while you're here, we wouldn't want you being illiterate, would we now? Don't worry, it's not like regular school. No uniforms, small classes, it won't be too bad I promise." He smiled at Joe. "Right, this is where I leave you for now. I'll be seeing you at dinner but for now, Henry will show you around. As for your things, I've sent someone to your house to collect them, they should be here within a couple of hours. Have fun!"
The door slammed behind him, and Joe suddenly felt a little lost. Agent J was so sure of what he was doing, and since he had met him, Joe had just followed his lead. Until now. He took a deep breath then turned to Henry, who steered him and Kaylie towards the door to give Joe a tour. It was odd, he had only been there for a little while, but already this strange, shiny place was feeling more and more like home.