It was one week after the Las Vegas case and Kayla still wasn't any closer to the truth. "Primor" and "Umbra" simply meant "first" and "shadow" in English and they both made sense considering the context. Mythical creatures, or Primors, were the first beings to walk the Earth and Warren's team walked in the shadow, hidden from the rest of the world. Even the use of Latin made sense as one of the earliest written languages. It wouldn't have surprised Kayla if Primors had actually been the ones to invent the language itself. But that was all Kayla could find about either phrase, just their meanings. There were no other mentions, even within her own circles.
What Kayla also couldn't figure out was the word "Dimidium", or at least what it referred to. She knew that the English translation meant "half", but half of what? And why had Drake called her a Dimidium? She had asked around her colleagues without being overly obvious, but without the proper context no one really had any clue what she was talking about. None of the phrases were common in folklore.
Kayla was currently sitting on her sofa in her RV, her legs curled under a blanket as she searched through various blogs for potentially new cases, in the middle of one of the many woods of Montana. Someone had mistaken an abnormally large grizzly for Bigfoot and it had taken nearly a week for Kayla to find it and prove them wrong. Now she was hoping to find something new, anything, even if it had something to do with Drake. She certainly didn't expect a completely different party to show up.
Kayla was on her third blog of the morning, and was scoffing at the ridiculous notion of aliens landing in Nebraska, when there was a heavy pounding on her door. She frowned before placing her laptop on the couch and going to answer it. No one should be out this deep in the woods, not even campers or hunters, and certainly not in mid-March. Kayla opened her door cautiously and stared at the two figures that were standing there. There was a man and a woman dressed in all black suits and dark sunglasses, as if they should be heading to an old Men in Black convention. Kayla looked around the door but refused to open it any further. "Can I help you?"
"Kayla Nicole Clark?" the woman asked. Kayla merely raised an eyebrow as if to answer 'yes'. The woman and her partner pulled out identical gold badges and displayed them to her. "Agents Smith and Jones, US government. We'd like to ask you a few questions about an incident in Las Vegas last week."
Without letting on that she knew exactly what incident they were talking about, Kayla made a skeptical sound under her breath. "You seriously expect me to buy this? You could've at least used better names than Smith and Jones. And the US government? What department are you guys supposed to be in anyways?"
They were quiet for a few seconds before the man, 'Agent Jones', answered, "We report directly to the President."
"Ms. Clark, may we come in?" Agent Smith asked.
Kayla stepped out of the RV completely and closed the door behind her. She wrapped her arms around herself to stave off the cold and said, "I'd rather you didn't."
Agent Smith sighed and stepped closer, causing Kayla to tense up. "Ms. Clark, we really need to speak to you about what happened in Las Vegas last week."
"Which incident are you referring to?" Kayla asked sweetly.
They frowned. "You do know that it is a federal offense to lie to government agents?" Agent Jones said.
"I didn't lie," Kayla retorted. "There are plenty of incidents in Las Vegas every day. I was just asking you to clarify which one."
"You know damn well which one," Agent Smith said in frustration.
Kayla backed up as Agent Smith took another step towards her. "How did you guys even find me?" Kayla asked. "How do you know if I was even in Las Vegas last week?"
"You assisted the Las Vegas police in finding a dozen kidnappers and murderers and you don't think we didn't hear?" Agent Smith scoffed. "Your friends can only keep your name out of reports for so long."
"We've been keeping an eye on you for a while Ms. Clark," Agent Jones said. "Your expertise is of great interest to us and might…come in handy in the future." Kayla frowned at the cryptic answer. Her area of expertise? Mythology and cryptozoology? How could the US government possibly use it, and why would they want to? "We are not the enemy, unless we need to be. Now, will you answer our questions or will we have to arrest you for obstruction of justice and failure to cooperate? We can always force the answers out of you," he threatened.
Kayla opened her mouth to tell them exactly what they could do when a familiar, and most welcomed, voice broke through the trees. "She won't be going with you." After a second Warren and Tarak stepped into the clearing. "She's actually coming with us." Warren walked over to Kayla to stand next to her with Tarak standing behind the agents. Warren looked over Kayla discreetly before handing Agent Smith a piece of paper. "As I just said, Ms. Clark will be coming with us."
"Under whose authority?" Agent Jones demanded.
"The President of the United States," Agent Smith said as she read over the piece of paper.
"That's impossible! No one told us."
Warren smiled at the agents in a cordial, and yet somehow still condescending, manner. He gripped Kayla's bicep and pulled her down the steps and passed the agents. "Play along," he whispered to Kayla. "Perhaps you should take it up with the President himself. Come along Ms. Clark," he said aloud. Tarak followed without a word.
They walked out of the clearing and were several yards away when Kayla pulled away from Warren and put her hands on her hips. "Thank you. While it's great to see you again, what's going on? Why are you here? How did you know that I was in trouble?" Her eyes widened and she suddenly became excited. "Is there another case? What happened this time? Is it Drake again? What did he do?"
"Slow down!" Warren said with a chuckle. "There's no new case and Drake has been surprisingly…inactive. We really are here to get you though."
"Was that sheet of paper really signed by the President of the United States?" Kayla asked.
"Yes," Warren answered.
"But he doesn't know anything about you guys, does he?"
"No, he doesn't."
"Then how did you get him to sign it? I thought faes couldn't lie."
"We can't," Warren confirmed, "but Umbra has access to the best resources in the Primor world, including other Primors, Primors with the powers of persuasion."
"Who have access to the President of the United States?" Kayla asked in shock. Warren just grinned. Kayla tried to process that new fact and the enormous implications before asking, "So what do you need me for?"
"You haven't told anyone about us, right?" Tarak asked.
"Of course not!" Even though she had desperately wanted to.
"We didn't think you would," Warren said glaring at his second-in-command who simply shrugged. "We wanted to ask you to join Umbra."
Kayla was speechless. Join Umbra? She would have access to all of their secrets, the knowledge of the Primors. She would get to help solve cases and travel. She had so many questions; the academic world had so many questions. But she had started on this path for a reason and she couldn't stop now. With a sigh she reluctantly said, "I can't."
Both Warren and Tarak looked shocked. They had been so sure that Kayla would've jumped at the change to join the team. "Why not?" Warren asked.
Kayla winced. "I'm sorry. Normally I would love to join your team, but I got into this field for a reason and I haven't completed what I set out to do yet."
"What is that?" Tarak asked.
When Kayla hesitated Warren said, "Why don't you come see our headquarters before you make your final decision? Maybe we can even help you with this…goal."
"Your headquarters?" Kayla eyed him. "Where are your headquarters?"
Kayla stood shaking in front of the airport. "DC? Your headquarters are in Washington DC?" she exclaimed. She turned to where Tarak was pulling their bags out of the cab and Warren was paying the driver. "I've changed my mind. I want to go back!"
"Too late," Warren said. "We already bought your plane ticket."
"What about my RV?" Kayla asked. "I can't just leave it in the middle of the woods!"
"I already sent someone to get it," Warren assured her as he led her into the airport.
Kayla attempted to pull away from him. "What about my plants? They'll die!"
"I'll personally call a nymph friend of mine to take care of them while you're gone. There's no one better."
But Kayla's struggling didn't cease. Her shaking worsened, her breathing quickened, and just before Kayla started to make a scene Warren stopped and pulled her to the side. "Alright, what's really going on Kayla? You're nearly hyperventilating."
Kayla hesitated and bit her lip. She looked around for a few seconds before answering in a low voice, "I don't do well on planes."
Tarak and Warren stared at her. "Kayla, are you afraid of flying?" Tarak asked finally.
Kayla blushed so hard that the two faes were able to make out a brushing of pink against her milk chocolate skin. "I've just always had this thing about planes!" she exclaimed defensively.
"That's why you travel in your RV." Kayla nodded. Warren looked at her sympathetically. "Sorry kid but we have to fly. We get cases when they're an emergency. We just don't have the time to drive everywhere." He started to pull her back towards security. "Kayla, you'll be fine. We'll be right here with you," he promised.
Kayla managed to control her trembling as they made their way through security; the last thing that she needed was for airport security to get suspicious of their little group, but as soon as she saw the planes through the large windows the trembling started up again. The men quickly got Kayla to their gate and tried to calm her down but all Kayla could hear were the sounds of the airplanes.
Kayla jumped when Warren touched her elbow to get her attention. She didn't even remember when she had stopped paying attention to them. "We're about the board. Here, take these." He held out two white pills. Kayla merely eyed them suspiciously. Warren chuckled. "Don't worry. They'll make you just drowsy enough for you to stay relaxed during the flight but not enough to knock you out. And they wear off in a couple of hours, perfect for a plane flight."
Kayla continued to eye the pills before slowly taking them out of Warren's hand and gulping them down without water. She followed Tarak and Warren onto the plane and her trembling began again. Her mouth grew dry as she sat in her seat. She nervously picked at her shirt as kept her eyes on Warren who was stowing their carry-ons, and not on the window and what lay outside of the plane. Tarak gently gripped her hand and offered a comforting smile. Kayla tried to smile back but she was sure that she only ended up with a grimace.
Once everyone was seated and the plane started to move, Kayla's heart began racing. Just when she thought she was going to have a full-blown panic attack, her heart rate started to slow and she felt inexplicably calm. She let out a long breath that she hadn't realized that she had been holding and finally settled in for the flight.
A few hours later the trio was walking off of the plane. "I don't know what you gave me but they really worked," Kayla said. "Thank you."
Warren nodded as they walked out of the airport. "Welcome to Washington DC!"
Before Kayla could really look around, she was hit by a slim but firm body. "It's good to see you again Kayla!" Csilla said. "I'm so happy you'll be joining our team. It'll be nice to have another girl around."
Kayla laughed and hugged Csilla back. "Thank you but I'm not joining."
Csilla blinked her brilliant green eyes. "Really? But why? This team is perfect for you."
Kayla shrugged nonchalantly. "I have something else that I need to do first. Warren at least wanted me to see your headquarters."
"Well let's get going then," Ranger said. Kayla jumped slightly. She hadn't even realized that Ranger and Asim were there as well but she silently scolded herself for not realizing that if Csilla was here, so would Ranger and Asim. Even if she could join Umbra, she would be no help at all if she couldn't even notice her surroundings.
Kayla sat in the back of the van with Tarak and Warren sitting up front. Despite all of her traveling, Kayla had never been to Washington DC. Primors has a tendency to avoid the capital because of the security and dominant government presence, which reminded her... "Why are you guys based in DC?"
"The government keeps track of the most unusual cases in the country and it's easier to intercept information when you're nearby," Warren explained. "Or hack into their databases."
"You hack into government databases? What if you get caught?"
"Csilla is the best there is. She can hack into anything."
Kayla looked at the grinning woman. "Is that how you guys found me?" Csilla nodded.
They left the main section of the city and entered a more run down area, passing large boarded up buildings and abandoned warehouses. Tarak drove up to one warehouse in particular and pulled in. Although thoroughly confused, Kayla was about to get out when the car jolted and the floor began to move. A large rectangular section of the floor started to lower until they were in a large elevator, and then it began to drop. The elevator dropped for a few minutes and Kayla wondered just how far down they were going when they stopped and the doors opened up. Tarak pulled them off of the ramp and parked.
Kayla got out with the rest of the team and looked around. They were in a large garage that was filled with at least six other cars of varying styles. Kayla barely had a chance to study the room before she was being led away.
Although Kayla knew that they had to be deep underground, it certainly didn't look like it. Walking out the garage and into the next room was like walking into a mansion. The ceilings were high, the rooms spacious, and from what Kayla could see, there were at least three stories if not more. The garage led into what looked like what would've been the foyer in a regular house. They walked past the grand staircase and down the hall. Kayla managed to catch a glimpse of what looked like a beautiful kitchen before walking into another large room. She couldn't prevent the gasp that escaped. The room was covered wall-to-wall with computers and TV monitors, which were all connected to a large holographic console in the middle of the room. The monitors were displaying various news channels but also maps and what looked like live video feeds.
"There are Primors in law enforcement all over the country, like Micah and Ethan," Csilla started to explain. "Usually they can handle small cases without arousing too much suspicion but they call us for bigger ones. All other cases we try to catch from new reports and government reports before humans become too suspicious."
Kayla was watching a siren that was eyeing an incoming ship. "This is amazing."
"You would have access to all of this," Warren said.
Kayla looked thoughtful. It really was tempting. This kind of access could actually help her, even with the occasional distraction of cases, and taking down Primor criminals might lead her to the one that she was looking for. This would also satisfy her academic desire to learn more about Primors directly from the source.
Kayla was about to give her answer when one of the phones began to ring. Csilla jumped into business mode and answered the phone at the console. "Umbra," she answered. She listened. "You're sure?" A pause. "Okay, we'll been on the next flight out." She hung up and turned in her chair. "There's an incident in Manhattan that they need help with. They're sending us all of the information now."
Ranger sat in the chair next to Csilla and started typing on the computer. "The next flight is in forty-five minutes," he reported.
"Csilla, gather all of the information. We'll brief on the plane. Ranger, book six tickets. Tarak, Asim, put the bags in the car," Warren ordered.
Ranger's typing paused. "Six?" he questioned.
Warren nodded. "Kayla's coming with us."
"I am? Wait a minute!" Kayla stuttered. "Who says I'm going with you?"
"It'll be a good experience for you. And we were able to use your help on the last case. We might need you again."
"That was a fluke!" Ranger argued. Kayla opened her mouth to say something but closed it again when she realized that for once they were on the same side.
"Look, we don't have time to argue," Warren said with a slight frown. He turned to Kayla. "Kayla, come with us on this one mission and then you can decide whether or not you want to join us."
Kayla thought about it for a second. "Alright, one mission." Warren smiled brightly and led them out of the control room and back to the garage. "But do we have to fly?"