Tommy stood at Wells’ side, his mind reeling and rejecting what he saw before him.
They were on a solid platform surrounded by a study wrought iron railing, approximately fifteen feet above an open plan office space. The work area was divided into smaller pentagonal areas, each with four inward facing desks along its sides and a large monitor bank along the fifth. At least a dozen men and women were in the office space, moving between the desks or sat at them, the soft hum of their conversations mingling together to blur their words to unintelligible by the time they reached Tommy’s ears.
Above that office space, set back and just higher than Tommy and Wells stood now, was a white walled box of a room, one window set into it. The window was a half circle, the curve pointing towards the ceiling that Tommy was trying hard to ignore, though whatever was inside that room, overlooking the workers below, was hidden behind frosted glass.
To the left and right of the large office spaces were two more rooms, each one rising as high as the base of the platform they stood one. Each one was plain white, devoid of window or decoration, and each room ran deeper into the larger room they stood in until they passed the field of his vision.
His mind roiled at that.
Finally, his eyes crossed to the section of this room that he had tried hardest of all not to look too closely at. Behind the overlooking room with the half-moon window stood what could only be described as a tower block, scores of plain square windows dotting its face. It went up, and up, and up, and up, high towards the domed roof that stretched so high above Tommy’s head.
And behind even that tower block was a long blank wall that ran from one side of the room to the other, hinting at even more depth that lay beyond that.
It shouldn’t fit, the rational part of his mind complained. He knew that when he and Wells had entered the elevator shaft, it had lain roughly in the centre of Huntington Tower. But the level he now stood in appeared as large as a warehouse, blown up to gigantic proportions. It went up, it went out, and it went back, far higher and wider and deeper than his mind told him the entire building should be. This floor, it should stick out of the tower that housed it like a sore thumb.
He licked dry lips, before tentatively testing his words. “How is this possible?”
“Don’t you have Doctor Who in America?”
“I’m Canadian,” he corrected, “and that’s a TV show. This is real life.”
Wells did not respond, instead descending a metal staircase that led down from their platform to the office space below, and he scrambled to keep up with her. He knew his eyes were wide from surprise, just as he knew there would be no way he could alter that. The place he was in now, it was just too fantastical to make sense.
Wells nodded familiarly to a passing couple, two women dressed in black military fatigues and carrying enough firepower to storm a small fortress. He stared at that too, as they began to make the ascent up the stairs he had just descended. They’d reached the top before Tommy realised that Wells had continued on her way, and he rushed after her again as she weaved through the pentagonal work spaces.
“M.I.16,” she said, still walking, as Tommy caught up with her, “was formed by the War Office in the height of World War II, to handle scientific intelligence. Wikipedia lists us as defunct, but you hopefully know by now how reliable that can be.”
They passed a desk and Tommy stop short as something new caught his eye. A small cage, a cloth draped over it, floated – FLOATED – off the desk. Only a few bare centimetres, to be true, but definitely not suspended by anything that Tommy could see. The office worker, dressed in jeans, a button up blazer and a thin red tie, gave Tommy a small smile when he saw him looking.
Something moved in the cage.
Tommy became faintly aware that Wells was still talking, but he leaned in closer to the cage. “When it became clear that Hitler’s scientific interests were, perhaps in a fit of desperation, taking a more supernatural edge, we followed suit.”
Yes, there was something in the cage. A cat, maybe? It would be about the right size. But then a hand gripped the bars, slipping through a gap in the cloth, a mottled grey hand with thin fingers, and he knew it was no cat. A head followed into the gap, bulbous, with a barely existent nose, large black eyes, and dropping ears that hung like flaps on either side of that head. It eyed Tommy with a soulful look of mourning, reminding Tommy of the puppy his family had adopted after it had been abandoned by its owner. He inched his hand forwards, fingers reaching towards the creature.
“Don’t touch that, Mr Brogan.”
Tommy gave a start, jerking his hand back, and turned to see Wells had returned to his side.
“It can shred the flesh off your finger in less than a second,” she added, before turning a withering glare at the man by the desk. The other man shrugged, before grabbing the cage and heading deeper into the mind melting office space.
“Uh, it’s Tommy,” Tommy said almost automatically, but Wells had already continued with her walk and talk lecture.
“It was during this time that we first became truly aware of not only the existence of magic-wielding people, thought to belong only in the pages of fiction and the tellings of religions, but also of creatures long believed to be little more than myths; werewolves, vampires, zombies, and the like.”
Tommy’s thoughts, already beaten and bruised into submission by the mind boggling place around them, skipped. Did she just…? No. No, he was hearing things, for sure. He rushed ahead, rounding in front of her, blocking her path with an upraised hand.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” he cried, his voice holding an edge of hysteria. “Magic and vampires? This is a joke, right? Who put you up to this, was it Donnie? He always was a practical joker, but he’s never gone this far before.”
Wells’ eyes locked on his, showing no hint of emotion beyond the cool dislike she had held since the very moment she had met him. Then she slowly turned on the spot, looking all about her, arching her eyebrow as she did. “Does this look like a joke to you, Mr Brogan,” she said as she finally faced him again. “Do I look like I’m trying to wind you up? Did you think that the fact that this Bullpen is too big for the building that houses it is all some sort of special effect, and the Imp in the cage was a mere elaborate puppet?”
It couldn’t be true. He refused to believe it, despite the evidence of his own eyes. It was too… too fantastical. Monsters, witches, beasts of legend. But Wells did have a point; it was too much to be a joke, to be a con.
His face felt. “So what you’re saying is…”
“What I’m saying,” she said, over the top of him, “is that practically everything you thought you knew about the working of the world you live in is little more than a mask over the truth. And it has been M.I.16’s task, for the last fifty years or so, to ensure that mask does not slip for a population who, quite frankly, couldn’t handle the truth even if they wanted to know it.” It was the most words Tommy had heard from the woman all night.
“And that is where you come in,” said a fresh voice. A tall man was striding across the Bullpen towards them, a pair of what appeared to be aides scurrying to keep up. The man was strongly built, with short cut pebbledash hair, and a straight stance. His face, lined with age, still held a poise and a set that Tommy recognised as a military man. His suit, well-tailored and clearly expensive, was charcoal grey, over a stark white shirt that made his blue and yellow striped tie stand out. The man held out a hand for Tommy to shake; his grip was firm. “Weston Caine,” the man said. “Director, M.I.16.”
“Tommy Brogan,” Tommy replied. Then, for wont of anything better to say, he added, “Nice setup you’ve got here.”
Caine smiled, glancing about him. “We’re proud of it, Mr Brogan.” He took a tablet from one of his aides, glanced at the screen, before hastily scribbling his signature with a stylus. The aide took the tablet back, then scampered away into the heart of Level 51.
“Please,” said Tommy. “Call me Tommy.”
“Mr Brogan will be fine,” Caine replied, his smile tight. “I like to keep a certain degree of professionalism with my employees.”
“Your choice, but…” Tommy trailed off as the words sank in. “I’m not one of your—”
“M.I.16 has always had close ties with the various agencies around the world who deal with the same things we deal with,” Caine said, rolling over the top of Tommy. “Our Canadian counterparts have had their eye on you for quite some time it seems.”
“We don’t have thing like that in Canada,” Tommy protested.
Wells snorted in derision. “Of course you don’t.” Her tone left little doubt what she thought of his statement. Caine cast her a quick look, and Wells returned to silence.
“We’ve recently had a… well, I guess you could call it an opening in our ranks,” Cain continued. “Due to our unique relationship with your Canadian Supernatural Agency, it was agreed for you to come here. On a trial basis only, I must add; see how you fit with us. Naturally, we offered them suitable remuneration. As I said, they had high hopes for you themselves.”
“Naturally,” breathed Tommy. His mind still swirled, more and more with each revelation. There was a Canadian agency specifically to hunt monsters? And they’d had their eye on me? Nothing made sense.
Except, it did. There had been the… the event, that lad led to the deaths of his entire unit, while he himself had been injured enough to be put on Injured Reserve until the transfer notice had come through. And for years even before that, there had been government types visit his base, always sequestered with his CO, and each time they had visited, they had insisted on speaking directly to Tommy afterwards. Only, the questions they had asked did not make any kind of sense, at least not any he could fathom. Things like, “If you were trapped in a desert, what item would you take with you? A red pencil, a green calculator, or a blue ruler?” What did that even mean? Had they been from this, this CSA? He had the feeling that he was little more than prize beef, being paraded before butchers.
“I’m afraid the rest of the tour will have to wait,” Caine said, passing another signed tablet to another aide. “Foxtrot is out in the field, and they’re going to need your support. Take Mr Brogan with you.”
“You put my team in the field without me?” Wells exclaimed. The glare she gave her boss would have wilted a lesser man, but Weston Caine took it in his stride.
“Yours is not the place to question my decisions, Agents Wells,” he replied, and before his cool and focused demeanour, it was Wells who looked cowed. “Everyone else has assignments; Alpha are hunting a worm in the Leicester sewers, Charlie are investigating reports of a vampire in Chelsea. Foxtrot are the only team with no active assignment, but don’t worry; Agent Chase and Agent Rawl have instructions to secure the area and await your arrival.” He glanced briefly at Tommy. “Yours, and Mr Brogan’s.”
“You can’t do this,” Wells protested again. “Foxtrot is my team; I decide who is a part of it.”
“And you’ve not done that for the past two months,” Caine responded smoothly. “I gave you some leeway because I know how personal this was to you, but two months is two months too long for Foxtrot to be short a member, so I made the choice for you. Now, get Mr Brogan some gear from the armoury, and then meet Agents Chase and Rawl. You have a possible werewolf sighting to investigate.”
With that, Caine turned smoothly on his heels and marched off back into the far reaches of the building, cutting off any more argument from Wells. Not that Tommy actually noticed any of this. His mind was still like jelly. Leaden jelly, that’s what it felt like. But one thing was floating through the mire of his thoughts. One word.
“Did he…” he began, then licked lips that were suddenly dry and parched. “Did he say werewolf?”
But Wells was no longer at his side either. He scanned the crowd for her, then spotted her departing back heading towards the room that stood to the far left of the Bullpen. He moved after her, as if through mist, as if through a dream, meeting her just as she reached a doorway. The red door had a single glass sheet taking up the top half, frosted like every other piece he’d seen so far, with the words Armoury written on a small brass plaque beneath.
“Keep up, Brogan,” Wells said as she pushed the door open. “I don’t have all day.”
“Tommy,” he muttered, half under his breath. Don’t even ask me if I want to be part of their super-secret fight against the supernatural, he thought bitterly. Just take it as read that I’m going to do it. And damn me, but I’m going to.
The inside opened up to a room as big as the Bullpen, with a flat roof that stood fifteen feet above Tommy’s head. Inside were row upon row of shelves, running deep towards the far end of the room, each filled with enough armaments to put a military base to shame; assault rifles, sniper rifles, handguns, body armour, helmets, camo fatigues, and everything that lay in between.
In front of those stacks stood a long solid counter, of a deeply varnished timber, plain and undecorated. A woman stood behind that counter. She was a large woman, the bulk of her being muscle rather than fat, straining the fabric of her sharply creased black fatigues. She had grey hair, buzzed close to her dark skin, and piercing brown eyes that flicked from Wells to him, then looked him up and down as if appraising.
“So this is the new kid, huh?” she said, her thick arms crossing beneath her breasts.
“We’ll see,” replied Wells tartly. The look she gave Tommy had moved on from the casual distain she had held since first meeting him, into personal dislike.
“Yeah, Weston said you’d be stopping by,” the woman said, addressing Tommy now. “I’m Quartermaster Young, and it’s my job to make sure you get the kit you need. It’s also my job to make sure you give it back in the same condition. And believe me when I say, if you do not, I will make your life a living hell for so long that even after I die, I’m gonna haunt you.”
Tommy blinked slowly. He was almost sure she was joking about that last, but given everything that had happened in the last few minutes, he wouldn’t have put money on it.
“Right then…” She turned away from the pair, grabbing a large grey tub, reminiscent of those used at airport security, from one of the small cupboards behind her, and placing it in front of Tommy. It has a long grey piece of masking tape along one of the narrow sides, with BROGAN written in thick permanent marker. Inside it was a small leather wallet, a set of brass keys, a pair of solid steel handcuffs, a sleek black smart phone, a rather thick and intimidating book, and a holstered SIG Saur with two spare magazines. She placed a hard wooden clipboard, worn with use and heavily doodled, atop the tray. The clipboard was stuffed with several sheets of official looking paper, and a thin blue pen hung from a length of frayed cord tied around the clip. “Let’s get started,” Young continued, as she passed him the clipboard.
He took the clipboard. The top sheet had a logo on it, a large circle with the letters M.I.16 in the centre. Around the circumference of the circle was more script; it read A Lucerna Adversum Tenebris. Tommy recognises Latin when he saw it, but not enough to know what it said. His name was also on that top sheet, below that logo, with a clear space for a signature.
“We have your ID,” Young was saying, holding the wallet in her hands. She opened it, the clip popping as she did so, and handed him an ID card from inside. His own face looked back at him, the picture younger than now, his hair cut almost as short as the quartermaster’s. From a few years ago, he thought. The ID card also listed his name, but the logo beside it was not the same M.I.16 one.
“What’s D.S.I?” he said, reading the letters, then giving Wells and Young quizzical looks. One that was returned by Young, but aimed solely at Wells.
“We didn’t have time for the full briefing,” Wells said to the quartermaster. Then, to Tommy, she added, “Department of Special Investigations. It’s the name we use when dealing with other branches of the military and police forces. Like I said, M.I.16 was supposed to have been disbanded decades ago, but sometimes we need to assert our authority. D.S.I is how we do it.”
“Like a cover?” Tommy asked, and she nodded.
“The wallet also has a badge that matches the ID card,” Young said. “Most of this is in the book,” she tapped the large tome with a solid finger. “Guess you’re gonna have to sink or swim until you manage to read all of that.”
Tommy eyed the book. It looked a daunting task. He could just imagine that the text inside the book was minute, and probably written in a language that only a lawyer could follow.
Another ID card was pressed into his hands. This one also had his picture, but the name read Adam Mellow.
“That’s your cover,” Young answered his unasked question. “Don’t worry…”
“That’s in the book too?” he finished, and she gave him a grin.
“Smart boy,” she said. Then she gave him another card. This one was a blank white, save for a magnetic strip on one side. “That’s your card for the elevator. You lose that, you tell someone ASAP, no excuses. We take the security here very seriously, for reasons that will become readily apparent.”
He took the wallet from her, slipping the cards back into the thin slits, then shoved the wallet into his back pocket.
“The rest is pretty self-explanatory,” Young said, gesturing at each one. “Cuffs; Phone – we’re the only people that have this number. I don’t care how cute the girl or guy you meet might be, you don’t give anyone else this number; keys to your locker and desk – Agent Wells can show you where those are when she gets a moment; and, of course, your service weapon.”
Tommy picked the SIG up out of the tub, aware that both women were watching his hands. He slipped it from its holster, popped the magazine out and checked the rounds inside, and carried out the other tests on a new weapon he’d done a thousand times before.
“Now I just need your signature,” Young said, gesturing to the clipboard.
Tommy took his time, reading through the paperwork. This definitely had been prepared with a legal eye in mind, but everything seemed to be okay; it was just about him taking responsibility for the items in the tub. He scrawled his name where indicated, then again on the duplicate that was for his own records. Young gave him a warm smile as she took the clipboard back.
“We’re all done then,” she said, the clipboard vanishing back behind the counter. “Anything else?”
“Yes,” said Tommy. “Some sort of bag?”
Young grinned again, and placed a plain black messenger bag before him.
Tommy followed Wells back into the Bullpen, stuffing the items from the grey tub into the messenger bag. She led him up the staircase, to the small platform they had initially entered. Then she gestured to the card reader.
“You may as well make sure it works,” she said, a touch too reluctantly for his tastes. Burn you woman, he thought, you don’t have to treat me like crap. But he held his tongue, instead swiping the card. The elevator doors pinged open.
They rode down again in silence. When the elevator finally reached its destination, Tommy was surprised to discover the doors opening not to the lobby of the building, but to a low ceilinged underground carpark.
He was even more surprised to see Wells’ red Audi parked in a space not far from them. It didn’t appear to affect Wells, though, and she strode to it with a purpose. Tommy barely had time to close to passenger door and clip his belt into place before she was revving the engine into deep, rumbling, roars. He could have sworn the tyres squealed as she gunned the car out of the parking space, and towards the ramp that led to the surface.
The journey, much like the one into London, was carried out in silence, but this one had the soft voice of the car’s GPS directing Wells’ movements. Tommy attempted to read through the thick book Young had given him, but he had been right in his assumption; the text was far too cramped to make out in the dark of the car. After only a minute’s attempt, he slipped the book back into his bag, and concentrated in staring out the window again.
It took them only twenty minutes or so to reach their destination, a multi-story parking structure, all grey concrete and dark open sides. Police tape, and a couple of cars with lights flashing atop them, kept civilians from getting too close to the structure. Wells flashed her fake DSI badge at one of the police officers, who lifted the tape high enough for her to slip the Audi underneath.
There was only one other vehicle parked outside the structure, a plain white van, panels on the sides and rear doors that prevented anyone seeing inside. Wells stopped the Audi behind the van, killing the engine. They both exited, into the chilly winter night air.
Tommy slung the strap of the bag over one shoulder so it hung across his chest, glancing around them, peering into every darkened recess and shadowy corner. If Caine’s words had been right, there was a werewolf here. Possibly. A werewolf, Tommy thought, his mind spinning again. A real life werewolf. If you’re going to live a life fighting the supernatural, what better way to start than with one of the classics?
There was another man here, just stepping out from the driver’s side of the van. He was shorter than Tommy, but not by much, with black hair shaved close to his skull, and skin a few shades darker than Quartermaster Young’s. He wore a thick coat of a deep navy blue, long enough to cover his knees and buttoned up high under his chin, and below that a pair of dark pants and black shoes. He clutched a Styrofoam cup in one hand, soft trails of steam rising from the lid. He smiled broadly at Wells.
“About time you got here,” he said, then looked at Tommy. “So this is him then?”
“This is him,” Wells replied. “Thomas Brogan, Agent Dale Chase. Agent Dale Chase, Thomas Brogan.”
Tommy extended his hand. “Call me Tommy,” he said, as he and Chase shook hands. Close up, he could see that the other man’s hair was peppered with fine grey specks at the temples, though he did not appear to be any more than five years Tommy’s senior.
“Yeah, okay,” was all Chase said, then turned his attention back to Wells. “So we’re just waiting on you, Mon’, cause apparently me and Zeke can’t do anything without you here to hold our hands.”
“Where is Zeke?” Wells asked, her eyes narrowing towards the van.
Chase jerked a thumb a little way down the street. “Just making sure the perimeter is secure,” he said. “You know how he doesn’t like being cooped up in the back of the van.”
“It’s like he doesn’t complain about anything else,” Wells replied, but her voice had a hint of fondness, a hint of friendliness that Tommy had not heard in it before.
From the corner of his eyes, Tommy saw movement. There was a large hedge a little ways down the street, running parallel to the parking structure, so wrapped in shadow now that it appeared almost black. And something was coming out of it. Something large. No, something huge. Bipedal, with stark white fur, a small pink triangle for a nose, eyes that seemed to glow, tufted ears that sat atop its head, and claws that looked like they could rip a man in half.
“Look out!” Tommy cried, already raising his SIG from the bag, finger going for the trigger.