The first time I met Bjørn Larsen was the day he nearly killed me.
I was working on a special assignment from the Special Activities Branch, which is a division of the government that works closely with the CIA and FBI but it generally has free-rein to work on the more dangerous assignments. I had been tracking down three men who had stolen a missile launcher straight from CIA headquarters.
I drove my motorbike after the van they were driving. It was probably about midnight; though there were still some cars on the road, there were nowhere near as many as there would have been had it been twelve hours earlier or later. The road was a winding road along the side of a mountain, with a sheer drop down into a ravine down the side.
My mind was focused on one thing and one thing only: retrieving that missile launcher. It was especially dangerous because it was specifically designed to create missiles inside of the launcher itself, essentially providing the holder with unlimited ammo. That was worrying.
I revved my Harley and managed to pull alongside them. Standing up on the seat of my motorbike, I leapt from the bike onto the top of the van. I was very quiet; they didn't hear me. Behind me, I watched the bike crash into the verge, hitting nothing else. Breathing a short sigh of relief, I flattened myself against the top of the van, holding on as tightly as I could. I estimated that we were probably going about seventy miles an hour, in a fifty zone. I could already feel myself tutting, but I had to focus on the bigger issue.
As I got out my laser cutter and started cutting a hole in the roof, I caught sight of a flying vehicle over my head. In the driver's seat was a younger man in an Archangel uniform. I recognised it because it was a white tracksuit with a black outline of angel wings on the front.
I was surprised and a little angry to see the Archangel agent; this was supposed to be my mission. The man leapt out of the driver's seat and landed next to me on the van, making a noise. It wasn't a terribly loud noise but it was still louder than I had landed. That was when I spotted that he was WAY younger than me. I was twenty but he looked to be about FOURTEEN.
I shot an angry glare at him, but I was too late. The criminals inside had already realised we were there. The driver swung the wheel of the van, sending me and the Archangel agent over the side. The agent hit the sidewalk but I reached out and managed to catch hold of the back left corner of the van. The two back doors opened and I found myself staring into the barrel of a gun. I kicked out with my foot and knocked the gun into its holder's head, sending him stumbling backwards. He hit the driver's seat and inadvertently knocked the driver out. The van immediately pitched sideways and tipped onto its side, coming to rest with its back over the side of the cliff.
That meant I was hanging over the side of the cliff too.
The back doors were hanging open, and I had managed to grab the handle of one of them. As the van tipped, I caught sight of one of the men, a younger and leaner one, slipping towards me. He was the one carrying the missile launcher. I reached out with one of my hands and caught his hand as he fell past me.
As I looked down at his terrified face, I realised with a jerk that this man was barely even a man. He seemed maybe seventeen years old, yet he was clutching the missile launcher with his other hand as if his life depended on it.
"Let go of the launcher and give me your other hand!" I shouted.
"I can't!" the man shouted back. "If anything happens to this, my parents will die!"
"You were being blackmailed?"
He nodded quickly. "I have experience breaking into places. The two men made me break in and steal it. I promise, I didn't want to."
"I believe you." I felt for this kid. That was all he really was: just a kid. "If you let go of the launcher and use your other hand, I can help you. I work for a secret organisation that can give you protection. For your parents too."
"I promise. And I don't say that lightly. Just drop the-."
The van jerked, making both of us gasp. He quickly looked down at the thing in his hand, apparently decided it wasn't worth it, and dropped it. His other hand came up to clutch mine.
"What's your name?" I asked him.
"Just hold onto me, okay?"
I turned to see if there was anything I could do to prevent the van from falling and taking us with it, when I saw a white shape move from in front of the van. I couldn't stop myself from cursing. All this was that Archangel agent's fault. If he hadn't shown up, I would have stopped the men from getting away without any of this happening.
The agent was obviously securing the front of the van, a feat that he achieved. Then he slid over the top of the van and held his hand out to me. I glared at him to let him know that I was not happy with him, before I swung Ben up until the Archangel agent was able to grab him. As the agent worked on helping Ben up, I leapt up and landed lightly on the roof beside them. Hauling Ben up, the three of us rushed off the van and landed on the road just as the van fell over the edge.
"That was close," the agent commented.
I turned my fury on him. "Exactly who do you think you are?" I snapped. "This was my opp. None of this would have happened if you hadn't shown up!"
"Oh, this is my fault?" he snapped back. "I'm Agent Bjørn Larsen. I was assigned to come here by Archangel."
"Typical." I threw my arms in the air. "Archangel has always thought they can just barge in on another organisation's mission."
"So who exactly are you?" Bjørn asked, sounding rather patronising.
I fished my badge out of my pocket and almost shoved it in his face. "Trudie Ellis," I snarled. "Special Activities Branch."
"Ah, that explains it," said Bjørn aggressively. "The S.A.B. have always needed other organisations to assist them in their operations."
I stepped closer to Bjørn. Even though he would be dead if looks could kill, he didn't seem intimidated.
"I didn't need any assistance," I snapped. "I was doing absolutely fine. I know a lot of agents say that and it's clear that they weren't, but I was doing everything right, and I was close to stopping them from getting away, but because of you, people could have been killed!"
"How exactly is this my fault?" snapped Bjørn. "Do tell."
"Oh, let me think." I adopted a mock-thoughtful pose. "Maybe it's because you alerted the bad guys to the fact that we were there, something that wouldn't have happened if you hadn't shown up, and then that led to the whole "high speed chase thing" which ended in the van nearly falling into a ravine!"
I ended up shouting extremely aggressively. It was lucky that there were no other cars around, or people might have heard me talking about things I shouldn't be.
"I was trying to help!" Bjørn shouted angrily. "But I guess the S.A.B. feels the need to try and reject the help it sorely needs."
"Listen, Larsen, there's something you've obviously failed to understand, so I'll say it in the plainest English I can: this was not an Archangel operation; therefore, this was not your operation; therefore, you should not have shown up. Is your tiny little child brain comprehending?"
"Don't patronise me!" Bjørn snarled. "I may only be fourteen but I'm every bit the agent you are!"
"Oh, really." I let out a bitter laugh. "Then why, do tell, did the mission go south the minute you appeared?"
Bjørn narrowed his eyes at me. "What are you insinuating?"
"I'm not insinuating, I'm stating outright: you messed up the operation."
Just as Bjørn was about to argue, his watch started beeping. He looked at it, clearly receiving some orders, and began to walk away.
"Yeah, go back to your organisation with your matching uniforms and lack of respect," I called after him, still very angry. "You can guarantee you'll be hearing from me very soon."
"Looking forward to it already," said Bjørn savagely, over his shoulder.
And that was how I began my long-standing hatred of a certain Archangel agent.