Chapter 16: A Maternal Sight

The Assassin led us to an unoccupied space that seemed to have once been an old conference room. At the moment, it was reserved for our sensitive meeting.

Agent Fear gestured all of us to take a seat which we did rather quickly as we all dreaded the topic at hand. The Assassin did not sit for he preferred to stand at the front where explaining would have been straightforward. "Shortly after your mission briefing with Pete, he contacted Predator and I to be put on standby should any situation that could compromise your mission arise. However, as an Assassin, I prefer to be fully part of the mission rather than used as back up."

Predator snorted. "Yeah, that's because he practically lives off of the adrenaline rush."

A light echo of chuckles ruptured the uneasy silence of the room. The Assassin seemed to have smiled, but otherwise ignored the comment. He continued. "I gathered any information I could off of my contacts, and I've discovered something truly remarkable."

I think the other agents and I literally leaned forward on our seats as we prepared to hear whatever news the Assassin could have possibly had. For a dramatic effect, (not sure if he did that purposely or not), Fear looked at each and every one of us intensely. "This base is undoubtedly a cloning facility. We have had reports throughout the years of several captured civilians and Seeker agents going into that base and coming out changed." Fear put a gloved hand into his back pocket and drew out a data pad. "According to my sources, not all of the people who come out of the lab are clones."

I raised an eyebrow, doubt evident on my face. "So let me get this straight. You're saying that the Phantoms also indoctrinate the people they've captured? This completely changes everything we thought we knew of them."

The Assassin regarded me with a dry look. "Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying. This is one of several reasons why it's vital to complete our mission. However, there's one detail you must all know before we can truly trust each other." Fear turned to face…Predator?

I glanced at the Demolitions Expert in surprise. He looked back at me, and gave me a small smile that didn't quite meet his eyes.

I turned back to the Assassin as I expectedly waited for an answer. He regarded me with a serious look, but didn't speak.

The other agents murmured quietly as they waited for an explanation. Randomly, I momentarily glanced at Delta who was staring off into space with an unreadable expression. I turned back to the Assassin. "Well, what's going on?" I asked.

The Assassin crossed his arms in a matter-of-fact way. "I'll allow Predator to speak for himself."

Said person stood up which attracted the attention of everyone in the room. At first, his face flushed slightly at the audience he received, but then he calmed to a serious, business-like expression. I couldn't believe that this was the same person from earlier who was all about smiles and jokes. He coughed. "I'll warn you all; you will be shocked at what I have to say. Believe me, it was quite a slap to the face for me when I was first told about it, but this is reality. A couple of months after the rise of the Phantoms, I was sent to an evacuated warehouse where there were reports of a bomb. So as a Demolitions Expert, I was in charge of diffusing it." He paused, and allowed us to absorb the information before he continued. "The bomb was easily shut off which surprised me because all of my past experiences with Phantom tech always had me thinking hard in order to crack their systems. As I thought, it was a trap and I was captured and sent to a facility similar to the one we'll investigate."

"Damn mate." commented Gizmo. "That's quite the shock."

Predator nodded. "When I woke up, I found myself tied to an operation table where several of the Phantoms' surgeons were getting ready for the procedure."

"What happened?" Asked Elvira.

Predator stared hard at the Combat Specialist. "They sawed off my arm and used its tissue cells to produce a clone. Once I was back in Seeker hands, I replaced it with an artificial arm that was coated in titanium alloys to give me some extra strength."

More gasps were heard as the shocking detail came to light. My god, for a man who went through all that torture, he really was quite a cheerful guy. Had I not known about his experience, I would have never in a million years thought about the possibility of his horrific past.

Regardless of our slight hysteria, the Demolitions Expert went on. "I don't know how or even why it happened, but one of the Phantoms' surgeons nursed me back to health and eventually helped me escape. She said that with my experience at the facility, I would be a symbol of hope in this dark battle."

A strained silence suddenly overtook the room as we all reflected about the situation. Damn it, the Phantoms were monsters.

Eventually Olsen, who had been quiet the entire time, gathered courage to ask the question we all wanted to ask. "What happened to your clone?" His blue eyes analyzed Predator's brown ones.

"I don't know." Predator replied, and sighed heavily. "All I know is that he's still out there, somewhere, and I plan on stopping him before he can allow the same thing to happen to someone else."

Despite my usual coldness towards human contact, I didn't attempt to stop myself when I walked over to the Demolitions Expert and hugged him. He let out a gasp of surprise before he relaxed into the hug. Ever the awkward type, I pulled away not long afterwards. Hey, I have to be given some credit for actually hugging a person willingly.

I looked at the group of agents, and took my time to carefully read their expressions. All of them, more or less, had shock written all over their faces, with the exceptions of Delta and Fear, (damn their masks!), yet mixed with an unbounded determination. Despite the unexpected turn of events, I knew that I could rely on the others to get the job done.

With a new purpose to defeat the Phantoms fresh in my mind, I walked over to the Assassin and stopped in front of him. "We're ready to start this operation." I said as I looked at him seriously.

The Assassin studied me thoroughly as he looked for any signs of incertitude or reluctance. When he found none, he finally nodded his head and gestured his head towards the door we came from. "I'll drive." He said.

With that, my team and I made our way back to the van, each deep in our own train of thought. Once we got inside the vehicle, the Assassin immediately set out to the main road. For the first time since we've arrived, I finally took the time to take in the magnificent view of Rome. It was indeed a very beautiful city that held centuries' worth of human accomplishments and traditions. I found myself smiling as for a moment I allowed myself to imagine that I was merely a tourist taking a drive around the city.

Out of habit, I stole a glance at the Guardian and saw him staring out the window too, though his attitude to the view was more of sorrow and loss. A pang of guilt stabbed me as I remembered my rather bitchy reaction towards his outburst. Inwardly, I sighed as I made a mental note to apologize to him later.

All too soon, we arrived at the rough location of the Phantom lab. Fear parked the van in an abandoned alleyway, (what was it with us Seeker agents and alleyways?), and stopped the car. With the hum of the engine gone, we all got out and studied our surroundings.

"Alright." I said which brought everyone's attention on me. "We know our mission parameters, so we will execute them with no delays and no hesitation. If any one of you encounters any hostiles, do not face them alone. Gizmo will stay on the surface to maintain communications, so use his skill to your advantage. We are not alone in this."

The nodding of my teammates brought me a sense of confidence. I rolled my shoulders subconsciously. "As we saw on the map, there was a large area twenty levels down. We can now safely assume that that is the cloning facility. We will go down the ventilation shafts and then split up into small groups to investigate. If you find anything worthwhile, contact me. Any questions?"

When no one spoke up, I took that as an initiative and had the Assassin lead us to a side door. He expertly undid the lock and opened it wide. "Ladies first," he said in a joking manner.

I gave him a dry look before I stepped into the compact darkness within.

Inside there was no light as the electricity was shut off from an external location. From the looks of it, the place seemed deserted, but I knew better than to assume that. Fear was next to come in and he made his way towards the access elevators. One by one, we all filed in and eventually made our way to the Assassin. Said person took out one sharp blade and sliced at a piece of the wall right beside the elevator. Not long afterwards, a decent portion of material fell to the ground and revealed a tight passageway. A feeling of unease filled me. "We're supposed to go through that?" I asked uneasily.

The Assassin nodded as he secured his blade around his leather belt. "The power is down, so we can't use the elevator. Even if it wasn't, we don't want to go through the front door. It's better to sneak from behind by using the ventilation ducts."

I sighed as I knew that we had no other way of getting down. I looked up at the Assassin. "You owe me a drink." I said sarcastically.

He chuckled as I got down to my knees and began crawling through the tight hole. Once I was securely on the other side, I was able to stand in the low ceiling and saw a service ladder leading downwards. I shook away all remaining thoughts of doubt, and I positioned myself correctly. I then expertly slid all the way down.

At the bottom, I was met with an incredibly thick darkness that I wasn't sure if even my flashlight could penetrate through it. I cautiously walked through the abyss and felt my hand connect to a wall. I took out my flashlight and it illuminated the area to reveal an operating room. The fact had me thinking about Predator's experience and I had to suppress the urge to vomit.

Delta was the next person down. He seemed a bit disoriented at first, but adjusted his vision to the dominating darkness despite our combined flashlights. Eventually, the other agents came down, followed by Fear who brought out a data pad and began looking through it. "I've got a map of the facility. Apparently, we're in the south end of it. If we go out that door, we will be in the main area."

We made our way towards the door and went into a large area that had posters of humanity's purification. I snarled quietly as I thought of the stupidity and arrogance of the very implication.

I shook my head, and I focused my flashlight on my group which illuminated their pale faces. They all blinked as they adapted to the sudden light.

"All right, this is the part where we split up. I want to run a sweep of this place, find any valuable data, and then blow this place out of existence. Remember to stay in constant communication. Move out!"

We all split up as we headed our own separate ways through the narrow lined up hallways. I ventured into the farther one where there was a dim light that illuminated the otherwise dark room.

In my area, there were two rows of wide containers that were filed along the walls. When I walked through, I shivered as a tight knot formed in my gut. Whatever happened here, it was not pretty at all.

I placed my finger over my earpiece and activated it. "Testing out the comm. channel; can anyone read me?"

"Loud and clear boss." Gizmo replied.

"Seconded." Elvira stated.

"I hear you alright." Predator answered. "I'm with Fear in one section, can't tell which one. There's a lot of containers here."

"I'm seeing them here too. What about you Elvira; do you see any containers?" I asked.

"Affirmative." She replied. "What do you want us to do?"

"Don't touch them." I ordered. "We have no idea what, or who is in there."

"Roger that." She confirmed.

I continued with my inspection of the area when I heard particularly loud breathing coming from Predator's mic. "Are you alright Pred?" I asked with slight concern.

"Yeah, sorry boss. It's just like a déjà-vu, you know?" He answered.

A feeling of sympathy filled me. "Do you need to go back to the surface?"

"No, no, I'm good. I'm not gonna let some bad nightmares get the best of me." He replied with conviction.

I was a bit hesitant at allowing him to stay, but I needed the manpower. "Alright then." I simply said.

With that, I shut off my mic and resumed my inspection. I got shivers from a combination of the cold air, and the thought of what happened in here. This was a place of suffering.

"Agent Moore, do you read me?" Elvira asked.

I snapped myself into attention. "Go ahead Elvira."

"I found some particularly interesting documents regarding the tests that were done here. I believe that our scientists will find them worthwhile to study."

I momentarily contemplated on the information. "Excellent work Agent Elvira; make a copy of it."

"Will do." She replied.

I once again shut off my mic and continued to walk down the row of containers. A certain container caught my attention as there was a red note posted on it. Curious, I lifted it to my view, but only saw numbers that held no comprehension for me. I looked up and began to study the structure. Through the thick frost that coated the glass, I could faintly pick out the details of what appeared to be a woman with dark hair flowing through the vital water.

I heard a slight gasp from behind me which was then overpowered by a deep growl. I turned around and saw Delta looking at the same container as me with an air of confusion. I cautiously spoke. "Delta, what's wrong?"

The Guardian continued to stare unblinkingly at the wide container for several more minutes. "That's…that's my mother." He finally replied in complete disbelief.