The Wild Hunt
Beatrix Kingsley gave Demetrio a wide berth when he would pump the free weights. MAJI employees were expected to maintain a high level of physical fitness. Quarterly physicals were quite the gauntlet. The September exam was a butcher of men; the January session would be even worse.
That wasn't the reason Demetrio lifted weights. Demetrio maintained his girlish figure with a mixture of low-impact calisthenics and prudent dieting. Weightlifting was his way of stress relief.
Demetrio could blow off all the steam he wanted. He wasn't going to blow her off. "You're a son of a bitch, you know that?" These days, their interactions had been a contest to see who could infuriate the other one the most. Beatrix had been the clear winner until all the bullshit in Mobile.
Administrator Asshole here sedated and benched her ass during the rescue mission. "I would put a dumbbell through your stomach and leave it there if I knew you would not switch off my power."
Bea was bluffing but she didn't give a damn if he knew that. As long as Demetrio also knew how much she wanted to see him in some form of suffering. "If you're looking for some sort of an apology, you're out of luck." Beatrix couldn't believe the size of the brass bells on this here bastard.
Beatrix wasn't expecting an apology but she had every reason to believe one was due. "I was just looking out for you. Believe it or not, I probably save your life with that syringe." Bea knew an imaginative number of ways to remove popular parts of his anatomy. "You're not easy to replace."
Beatrix shook her head. "Neither is Charlotte." Demetrio looked like a boxer taking a jab to his jaw. "What would have happened if Harrison's intel had been outdated?" There were what ifs up the wazoo. "You all would have arrive an actual abandoned truck stop, and Charlie would be dead."
Beatrix did not want to play the Charlie Card, whenever things went south in her aggressive negotiations with her boss. Demi had trusted Bea with a rare piece of intel, and did so, on the belief that it would be used against him as a trump card, in prolonged debates. Beatrix violated that trust.
"You're a hard-headed woman." Demetrio got up from the bench. "And that's the reason I hold you in such high regard." Bea gave Demi a crooked look. "It's true. Hesitation can be fatal out in the field. You pick your play, and execute it before our enemies even know what hit them, Bea."
It was a dirty trick trying to butter her up like that and worse yet it was working. "As much as I like your hard head in the field; I would prefer you leave it there." Beatrix was ejected from that temporary admiration of her boss. Time for Skeptical Beatrix to reassert dominion over the palaver.
"If you think you are going to sweet talk your way out of this, you are mental." Demetrio, the captain of this black-ops police unit, was quite the piece of work, but this was an all-time low.
"I wasn't trying to sweet talk you. I was being honest. And, honestly, Peter nearly died, and that could have been you." The wound that nearly bled him dry would have a quick fix if they had any embeds who knew the first thing about stitching a bruiser. It was quite the five-alarm slop job.
Superhuman strength meant superhuman muscles. Those muscles required flesh and bones, up to the challenge of anchoring their miraculous might. The lady doctor had found that chink in his organic armor and dug her scalpel into it. Pete made that worse by pulling it out when he did.
Peter was lucky to be alive. "All the more reason I should've came. It was a dangerous job. I can do dangerous. For God's sake, you were there and you are far less expendable than I am, Demi."
Demetrio shook his head. "You are not expendable, at all." Demetrio smirked. "Besides, Bea, you give the Dead Hand too much credit. They were good with theatrics but they weren't a threat to our greenest recruits. They were overworked and underfunded. In other words, total pushovers."
Beatrix crossed her arms. "Well, then if those blokes were such pushovers, why even worry?" Beatrix was playing games. If Demetrio didn't wish to give her a straight answer, neither would she.
Demetrio shook his head. "Do you think I let my agents talk to me like this?" That armor-piercing question took her down in one blow. "Do you think anybody with even an ounce of self-respect would let their own employees dress them down, like this?" Beatrix was still a bit speechless.
Demetrio sighed. "Of course, not. You're like a daughter to me, like a daughter, I love you, and I would never let anything happen to you." Where in the name of God was this coming from?
"I'm sorry I yelled at you," Beatrix said in a voice barely above a whisper. "I know your heart is in the right place. I just wish sometimes your head was too." Demetrio smiled at that. "All's well that ends well I guess." Everyone came back alive. Not all their missions ended so swimmingly.
Demetrio shrugged. "So, Demi, I have got a spin session that begins in twenty minutes. Care to join me?" Demetrio nodded. "Lovely." Beatrix nudged Demi in the ribs. "Speaking of daughters, I wonder, if you've given any thought, to my suggestion of telling Charlotte who her real father is."
Demetrio smiled, visibly amused by this. "William Sinclair is her real father. He raised her up and tucked in her at night; I'm just a glorified sperm donor." Beatrix laughed at that. It was a level of candor one could not reasonably expect from any leader of a clandestine secret police squadron.
"Are you familiar with the works of Landry Thomas, Administrator?" Demetrio did not know the sort of mind games the Board of Trustees were playing at but this felt like a trap question somehow.
"I can't say that I have. I do not know who this is." Usually, the Board of Trustees were hands-off when it came to dealing directly with Administrators. Demetrio only ever heard from them if he had somehow interfered with one of their spook shows. Demetrio hoped to God that was not the case.
It was their opinion that the Administrator was, for the most part, a harmless figurehead. He had the valuable function of diverting attention away from their actual machinations in their division.
As a result, the Administrator was always given free rein to run the show any which way they felt was necessary. The sole exception to this rule was if the Administrator interfered in a "black bag" mission.
This four-way teleconference was being bounced off a dozen spy satellites to keep a myriad of bad guys from figuring out where any of the participants were. The Board of Trustees was always careful to obfuscate their real-time locations. Their faces were darkened and voices were scrambled.
There were rumors that suggested there had been (or still was) a fourth Trustee. Demetrio tried not to speculate about these people. They were necessary evils. Their apparent money and ties kept the MAJI in wine and roses. Without them, they'd have no support from the government at all.
"Landry Thomas is a pseudonym for the author of a series of medical thrillers. Her Christian name was Irene Dobrenov. Irene based all of her fiction on her career as an accomplished surgeon."
Demetrio smirked. "This is very fascinating but I'm not sure how any of this relates to me." Demetrio knew rich people could be weird but these One Percenters were absolutely utterly bonkers.
The Trustee on the center screen leaned forward. "You went forward with a rescue op to recover one Charlotte Sinclair. During that unauthorized mission, a member of your squad, one Peter Sandow, killed Irene Dobrenov in self-defense during a botch infiltration of the Dead Hand."
Demetrio shook his head. "Botched is an inaccurate characterization. Peter was sent in, yes, but only as a distraction to aid a more direct assault on the Dead Hand's base of operations ... sir." Demetrio knew what they were gaming at. "My only regret's that the rest escaped with their lives."
The Trustee on this left screen shook her head. "Irene Dobrenov wasn't one of them, you fool. She was an undercover asset working directly with us to bring down the Dead Hand from within. Charlotte was about to be released, when your team forced Dobrenov back into character."
The Trustee on the right was in agreement with the other two. "Irene was an asset of the highest caliber. Thanks to your flagrant disregard for this chain of command, her years of loyal service have been rendered obsolete. If I were you, I'd chose your next words with great care ... sir."
In for a penny, in for a pound. "Well, you're not me. Because you were me, I'd be yo, and the feeling I'd be having right now would be nothing, save self-loathing. I'd do nothing except sit on my lofty perch and piss down on you all day. I'd lie to you and punish you for when I got caught."
Demetrio cracked his neck. "You on the other hand would be very satisfied. You'd place the safety of your team over the sanctity of my rules. You'd be too damn tired to care if I killed you."
Demetrio sighed. "So cut the crap. You're not me and I'm not you. The way I see this, it doesn't matter who I am if I'm part of an organization where one mistake can invalidate years of service."
The Dead Hand were an ambush of paper tigers. The undercover agent did help explain a lot of lucky breaks they had caught tracking them. From the sound of things, a sole undercover agent had been enough to neutralize this entire black-ops team of their organization. Not exactly elites.
The real issue here was pride. The Board of Trustees were embarrassed that a rival group like the Dead Hand had lasted so long under their watch, and they were looking to settle an old score now.
Another issue on the table was the supposed ornamental role of the Administrator. Demetrio did a lot of work expanding his powers as Administrator since he took office. It was getting harder to act like the Administrator was the puppet on a string when said puppet kept getting in the way of their business.
The Board of Trustees were fishing for an excuse to flush him and they could not find one. Maia, a criminal metahuman, had slipped through their fingers but her ill-gotten gains had been retrieved.
Demetrio had put a lot of money back in their coffers. This Dead Hand had parlayed a shot in the dark into the near loss of a rookie field agent. An outclassed crew of costumed crooks, there were better odds of them winning the lottery than ever enjoying a run of luck like that ever again.
The Board of Trustees likely knew all this and were hoping to put the fear of God in him. Of course, just because they were bluffing didn't mean he was out of the woods yet. The center fellow sighed. "I think I speak for everybody here when I say I find your compassion quite commendable."
The other two nodded in agreement. "Nonetheless, there's a limit to what compassion can accomplish under field conditions. My associates and I have agreed to these terms. If we do not see, at least, one unqualified success by year's end, you and your agents will be reassigned to our Alaska office."
The three screens switched off. It was one helluva ultimatum. Demetrio needed to whip his newbies into shape by New Year's Eve, or he would be making friends with caribou and polar bears.
He could feel the vein in his forehead throbbing. The Board of Trustees were playing hardball with him. Demetrio needed one solid home run before the Board of Trustees pulled the plug on his team.
Peter Sandow's father loved to share Fun Facts with him. He even announced them as such and they were always something else. "Fun Fact: A dime has a hundred eighteen ridges." "Fun Fact: Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar were both epileptic." "Fun Fact: Babies are born color blind."
His life was never improved by knowing that the Atlantic Ocean was saltier than the Pacific but his father was a good man and his love of knowledge was his best attribute. Dad had thousands of these facts. Peter Sandow had a few Fun Facts of his own, many he had discovered working here.
Fun Fact: Peter's Uncle Harry was his maternal grandfather. Fun Fact: There is a strange quasi-government unit that polices people with special abilities. Fun Fact: Peter nearly died of that abdominal wound last week. Fun Fact: He'd rather stick his dick in a blender than go on a mission.
"If that is a mission dossier in your hands, I think I have made it quite clear where Demetrio can shove it." Peter looked her over. This was low. Demetrio had sent Charlotte Sinclair as a canary in a mineshaft to judge the super-strong dissident's level of displeasure. "I'm done with him, okay?"
Of course, she was that one person who had it worse than he did. "And I hate to break it to you, but D-Man is using you. He sent you to butter me up, but you see, I can't be butter up. I am unbutterable." Charlie smirked. "And, yeah, I know that isn't a word, but 'hell' and 'no' are words."
Peter shrugged. "I would sooner reconsider letting a pit bull bite down on my junk than go on another damn mission with that lying bastard." Peter was not trying to set any distance records for vulgarity; he was a tad fed up with their insipid mind games, and all those wheels within wheels.
"What is it about the word 'no' around here anyways? It's like everyone here is deaf when it comes to that word. We would like to perform your weekly physical. Say no, you turn and cough, anyways. We have a mission for you. Say no, I'm sure he will find a way to force me into it, right?"
Charlie shook her head. "Do you have the slightest idea what these freaks do to the decoms around here?" Nope. Pete did not even what a decom was, though he had a feeling he would soon.
"Beatrix told me all about it. Field agents aren't regular wage slaves. You can't just sign a pink slip and hope they go away. They have to be decommissioned." Charlie sighed. "First thing they do is put your name in every criminal database in the country and they are only getting warmed up."
Peter wasn't liking the sound of this. "Then, there's finances to consider. A little coin could go a long way in a skilled operative's wallet. So, the next thing to do is freeze their bank accounts." Charlie smirked. "Too busy panhandling in McDonald's parking lot to cause any real trouble now."
It sounded like a living hell. "Then there are the plumbers, MAJI wet work techs sent in to execute any decoms desperate enough to throw their lot in with their enemies." Check and mate.
Peter suppressed that urge to launch into a brimstone diatribe about the moral bankruptcy of this agency. If anybody at the MAJI cared about such stuff, they were careful to keep that opinion to themselves. It was a pipe dream to hope anybody could undo the nasty bind they were stuck in.
"Well, I guess I'll be taking that mission, seeing they have me by the balls." Maybe, this was the aspect of working for the MAJI that had not sunken in until now. When Sandow was touring the lower forty-eight, looking for a good old-fashioned barroom brawl, he had the illusion of control.
A man who got into bar fights with complete strangers (on purpose) was no captain of his own destiny but, at least, Peter could believe he might be. Here, bureaucracy trumped sovereignty.
Peter laid down in his bed. He had to be extra careful. The hole Doll Face had punched into his stomach still hadn't healed up. One wrong move and the stitches could pop open. Peter looked over at this tan mission dossier at the foot of this bed. "I hate you so such; I hope you know that."
This dossier responded with indifferent as was the custom of inanimate objects. There must a dozen words for describe what he felt. None of them was positive. This was not what he'd signed up for. The Majority Agency For Joint Intelligence was supposed to be their good guys.
Yet, blackmailing their employees with hard time and financial ruin was standard operating procedure. It was Uncle Harry (or Grandpa Harry) who convinced Peter that shacking up with this crowd would be the solution to all their problems. Instead, it were the mother of several new ones.
Peter had a lot of pent-up aggression but, no matter how often he'd vented, The MAJI had a gift for aggravating him in ways he could not just sock in the face. He wasn't the kind to let things go.
He remembered this one time he was halfway to the door, when one thuggish biker flicked a peanut at the back of his head. His buddies got a good laugh out of it and no one of value would have thought the lesser of him for just walking away. Instead, he challenged him to arm wrestling.
They wrote down their deepest darkest secret on slips of paper and put it in a pot. Whoever won got the pot. His friends weren't pleased to learn that their chief entertained a few homosexual thoughts about them. Big deal. Peter Sandow had killed a fellow once and it gave him an erection.
There was a demon inside him and it needed some release, every now and then. Killing Doll Face had sated this beast for a long while to come but eventually it would be awake again, hungry.
It was at a Christmas Eve party in upstate New York. In other words, the last place on Earth anyone would have suspected the opening volleys of a war to occur. Well, almost anyone anyway.
Beatrix Kingsley assured Charlotte Sinclair that the intel on this op was solid. Frank Bacchus was the former head of the Patrons and was being forced out by young Turks tired of taking orders.
That new money herd was being thinned out by an unseen predator. Consensus among the nouveau riche was that Frankie wasn't taking early retirement with as much grace as he had let on.
Ergo, he was venting his rage on the faction that had driven him out of power. Frank had a mind to back the Patrons in a bloody coup. Or so the story went. Charlie couldn't imagine a coup occurring, at such a gala event, even a bloodless one. Then again, the Patrons did everything fancy.
Charlie never pictured a mutant-hating sniper or the mad doctors. The world she knew had the skin of hemophiliac. One scratch and it were blood everywhere. Charlie needed to stay focused.
Even the thoughts of the party-goes gave no intent as to any bloody conflagrations about to unfold. "Are you sure we have the right place?" Charlotte scanned the room. "I'm getting zilch. Brownbeard over there's embezzling company funds. He believes his wife might rat him out soon."
Charlotte pointed at the quartet of Nordic Blonde Nazis. "Those creepers placed a wager on who can bed the next woman to walk through this door. Which, by the way, happened to be me."
Charlie shivered. "I mean these folks aren't Boy Scouts but I am not sure if anyone here has the stomach for actual bloodshed." Barring the possibility of being gang raped by the Hitler Youth.
Beatrix laughed it up. "You know what your problem is?" Charlie got the bizarre feeling she was about to find out. "You are used to reading the minds of people with consciences." Charlie did not have the slightest clue what she meant by that. "Have you ever gone down on a bloke before?"
Charlie shook her head so hard she thought her eyebrows were going to fly off. "Guilt. You felt guilt just then. Whether you have or have not entertained a gentleman with oral sex, it makes you feel unclean. Well, I've known many a lass who have answered that question wearing a smile."
Beatrix shrugged. "These people aren't like us. Things like murder and betrayal don't matter so long as they get their cut. So, the only thing they care about is caviar and champagne, Charlie."
Brownbeard was paying for his son's surgery and those four Eurotrash Ken Dolls had daddy and mommy issues like it was nobody's business. "They don't seem so bad. Some are nice enough."
Beatrix sighed. "That's because they're well fed. Even a vicious dog can seem nice enough if it is well fed. You need to see them when they're hungry to get a real glimpse at their true nature."
Charlie couldn't help but laugh at Beatrix's somber doom-saying. Was it so hard to believe the Patrons were just a dumb country club for rich freaks? Those deaths could have been accidents?
"As I live and breath." There standing behind her was Frank Bacchus. He looked just like the countless pictures of him. "Miss Argento, I presume." How could he have standing behind her that whole time without her even noticing? Charlotte looked over at Beatrix; she just shrugged in reply.
"You look just like her, your mother, God rest her soul." Charlotte didn't have the slightest clue what he was going on about. "I'm Frank Bacchus." Bea's eyes lit up as he shook Charlie's hand and smiled. "I'm sure my reputation precedes me." Frank's hand felt like a massaging chair on high.
Frank waved at Peter and Harrison. "I'm pleased to see the MAJI replied to one of my invites." Panic washed over Charlie. The voices were gone. "I'm sorry. Usually, I get permission before I suck but I'm a bit sauced. Not to worry. You'll get it back, soon enough. Until then, enjoy the silence."
Beatrix shook her head. "Well, that is bloody fantastic." Charlie didn't understand what just had happened. "Frank's a psychic vampire. It keeps him young, psychic powers don't work on him, and, if you are a fellow freak, he gets your powers until you recover from being sucked on. Savvy?"
That would explain the uncanny resemblance to his own grandfather. It would explain why she did not detect his presence, earlier. And, finally, it would explain the wooziness she was having.
Charlie understood why Beatrix hated the Patrons so much. Their former head honcho had drained the life energies from her and they had treated it like he had double-tipped at the salsa bar.
Charlie wanted nothing more than to kick Bacchus in the balls. She wanted to, but, even if she didn't have the stamina of a wet kitten right now, bastard had her power and that was a game-changer. "Breath." Beatrix advised. "You're in no shape to be taking on psychic vampire right now."
Suddenly, everyone was a telepath except her. "We came here to stop him. The mission has not changed. We just need to find a different angle of attack." Charlie didn't need her power, right now, to tell that Beatrix was lying to her. Telepathy might be gone but her BS detector was intact.
"Put it there, old sport." Harrison Vaughn shook hands with Franklin Bacchus. Handshakes, any physical contact really, was his way of teasing Harry. "I hope you are not sore about last time."
Last time. Harry wanted to forget last time ever happened. In a fit of suicidal despair, Harry, in his infinite wisdom, had begged Frank to take this ability so he could end his own life. Frank said no on the grounds that he would need his company when he reached the ripe age of two hundred.
Harry was quite the miser when it came to his ability. "I am sorry I couldn't help you. Your friendship means a lot to me but I'm no Dr. Kevorkian. I'm not in the business of assisted suicide."
Frank smirked. "I wouldn't want to be, even if I could, I'm the sorta guy who benefits from repeat business." Frank laughed. "I actually celebrated my eleventy-first birthday last April, Harry."
Frank patted him on the back. "I am like a hobbit." More like Smaug, a fiery prick with too gold to look after. "I would choose your thoughts, more carefully around me, if I were you, for, at least, the next hour or so." Frank must have drained a telepathy. Ergo, he heard that Smaug zinger.
"Not just any telepath, your telepath. Strawberry blond about the age of wife number two, Charlotte Sinclair, was it?" Harrison's eyes dilated. "Being a mind reader is boffo. Ya don't even have to open your mouth, to have a conversation with me." Harrison Vaughn sought to clear his mind.
"You missed a spot." Frank was loving this. "So you and your friends were sent here, to keep me from taking my rightful place as leader of the Patrons." Harry couldn't believe this. The op was not even an hour old and Frank had defeated them in his own relentless way. "Take it easy, Harry."
Frank patted him on the back again. "That coup you were sent here to prevent went down, at my birthday party, months ago. I paid a couple of friend at Scotland Yard to keep it under wraps for me." Frank shrugged. "So why are you here on a mission with such outmoded intel, old sport?"
Frank shrugged. "It sounds to me like somebody screwed you and yours over." Frank sighed a bit. "Don't get me wrong, old sport. I would do the same thing, if the price was right. That is the beauty of doing business with confirmed capitalists. You can always know what they are thinking."
The room seemed to spin around as Frank circled Harry. "How so? Because there's only one subject in this entire world worth thinking about, profit. Qui bono? Who benefits? Simple as that."
Frank nodded. "You're a rich man. Not as rich as me but you are old money wisely invested and I salute you for it. Your trust fund could beat up my lawyer's trust fund, any day of the week."
Frank sighed. "The only problem is there's more to profit than just money." Frank gestured to this crowd. "I could hook you up. I could get you the best deals on everything. Keep your bank statement, nice and plump. There are folks here who might've never given you a second thought."
It was deja vu. No matter how much Frank and Harrison had this talk, Frank always tried it again. "I am sorry; the answer is still no." Hopefully, the nineteenth time was the charm. "I am not not what you call a people person." He did not have the resources to hide in plain sight, like Frank.
Frank rocked his shoulder back and forth. "I wish I could say the same thing." It was a small miracle to have gone this long into a conversation without him bragging about his ability. It was a neat trick, being able to metabolize psychic energies, a lot of fringe benefits, but that was all it was.
If it wasn't for the sumptuous banquet of metahuman donors at his beck and call, Franklin Bacchus would be nothing, but a filthy low-rent street demon with a gimmick. Wealth and status helped out a great deal when it came to a power that celebrated social parasites like Frank Bacchus.
Frank sauntered up onto the stage. "Hello, ladies and gentlemen." Everyone turned to their grand podium. "Now, this would be the part when I introduced myself, but if you got an invite to this soiree, I highly doubt you do not know who I am." That got a round of sycophantic laughter.
"For any party-crashers in attendance, I am Franklin Bacchus. My friends call me Frank and for those who actually crashed my party, you may soon be repeating this name to your attorney."
Frank bowed. "Indeed, we must always be vigilant against those who rob us of our privileges and would have us throw in with the common rabble." It got a few of uncomfortable laughs from the crowd. "Complacency is the curse of our privileged lives. There is no deadlier poison than that."
Frank wagged his finger at that crowd. "We must never stop competing with ourselves and with others." He shrugged. "Who has heard of the Majority Agency For Joint Intelligence?" A hand went up. "Do not be shy, my friends." Soon, all the hands had risen. "All of you."
Frank nodded. "Then, all of you know that we exist only at their behest. The MAJI waves their magic wand and take away everything we've worked for. Instead, they sought our cooperation. So imagine my surprise when the opportunity to improve that working relationship fell into my lap."
Three spotlights landed on Peter, Beatrix, and Charlotte. "These are MAJI agents. They are to be executed. Whoever kills the most agents will get the honor of being my Vice President." The team scattered. Harrison Vaughn bolted for the door. "Good luck, everyone, and happy hunting."
To Be Continued