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  1. 1. 1 “The first is freedom of speech and expression-everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way- everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want-which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants-everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear…” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt Chapter I - Sorrow Michael Soarvi looked over his shoulder. Nothing. But, that was impossible, because he knew more of them were still in the house. And while they were still here, he couldn’t rest. He couldn’t retreat. And he couldn’t make assumptions. What he didn’t mind were mysteries, except for ones that threatened him. While questions were streaming through his brain at a speed faster than he could comprehend, Michael knew one thing: he had to leave the house alive. He had to live. He would find the animals that had done this and make them pay. It is a strange thing, the human emotion called anger. Anger empowers, drives, and motivates. Anger is the only thing keeping Michael Soarvi alive. Drawing strength from the wide spectrum of emotions running through his veins, Michael ducked catlike out of his hiding place. His keen vision sifted through the millions of dust motes created from the aftermath of the battle, and looked for them. Slowly, stepping over the wreckage of wood, concrete, and metal strewn about the house, Michael began to descend from his second-story perch down to the bottom level of his house. Seeing that the staircase had been entirely ripped to shreds from top to bottom, Michael used the banister to lower himself down. As he lowered himself, a flash of movement made his dexterous scaling of the banister pause. Another flash of movement sent adrenaline flowing through his system. They were here. This time, the movement was closer, and Michael saw the motes of dust floating in the air move, creating a rough silhouette of a person. A soldier, Michael noted. Michael released his grip on the banister and landed softly behind the soldier. He silently prayed thanks for the darkness that was enveloping the house, as the soldier had not seen him yet. As he crept up behind the soldier, who was investigating the torn wreckage of the staircase, something went click in his brain. His movements became more adroit and focused, his reflexes sharpened, and suddenly, he knew exactly what he wanted to do this soldier. The soldier was one of them. “They,” meaning the ones that had killed his entire family and destroyed his house. “They” were the ones who had to pay. Michael shook the contemplative thoughts from his consciousness and focused on the matter at hand. Slowly, he crept up behind the soldier, perspiration beginning to break from his brow. Once in range of the soldier, Michael inaudibly placed a hand over the soldier’s mouth and wrenched his neck backwards while twisting in a counter-clockwise motion. As the soldier went limp in his arms, Michael saw another flash of movement. His vision found a displacement of dust motes about twenty feet in front of him. His brain still in combat function, Michael’s hand instinctively went for the gun holstered on the soldier’s hip, and brought it up in a two-point stance, the dead soldier falling to the floor with a soft thump. He instantly squeezed off three rounds into the second soldier’s chest, forming a neat quarter-sized hole in his chest. The skirmish over, Michael’s brief period of combat focus had already started to fade, leaving him panting with rage and confusion. What had he just done? He had just killed two men with ruthless precision in a span of fifteen seconds. He looked at the pistol in his hand, recognizing it Kalashnikov design. Russian, he thought with contempt. How did he know that? The same way I came home from my last day of school to find my family murdered and the same way that I just killed two men in fifteen seconds, Michael thought. This day just wasn’t making any sense. Fatigued from the recent conflict, Michael walked through the house to the bathroom, avoiding the kitchen. The kitchen was where he had found his father, mother, and two brothers brutally murdered. He
  2. 2. 2 recalled the seen in vivid detail, both his brothers cut open by bullets, and both his parents stabbed, with knife wounds running through their necks. After stumbling into the bathroom, he splashed some cold water from the sink onto his face, rinsing the blood and dirt from his hands and arms as well. Looking into the mirror, Michael felt diminished. His 6’2, 195 pound fame felt deflated, and his normally chiseled face was drooping. Inside, he felt worse, as if a giant sack of bricks had crushed him. His whole family was dead. The very thought made him sick to the core. Just as his grief was beginning to take hold of him, what Michael saw in the mirror sent a shock of adrenaline pulsing through his veins, as he saw another soldier behind him. The soldier uttered some unintelligible words from an unknown tongue, and Michael felt a searing pain across the upper right side of his back. He tried to breathe, but found he could not. He tried to move, but discovered he was paralyzed. Darkness was clouding over him, beckoning him to just let go. Bright light pierced through the darkness, and Michael remembered something his mom had said about people seeing a bright light before they went to heaven. Well, he thought, at least I’ll see my family again. The pain he felt was gone. He was floating. Michael Soarvi was sure he was dead. **** “Do you have him, Number One?” “Yes, sir. He’s in pretty bad shape, but he’s alive. How did the bastards know we had selected him?” “We’ll address that later, Number One. Did you retrieve what you needed from the house?” “Yes, sir.” “Where are you headed?” “I’m piloting the Phoenix to the Alcove. I’ll be able to get him healed when we get there.” “Good. Make sure you get him to say yes when you speak to him. It’s imperative that he join us.” “Sir? The boy just lost his entire family. I would rather give him time to heal, both physically and emotionally.” “What you wish is irrelevant, Number One. We need the boy, and we need him now. Everything else is secondary. Do whatever you need to in order to get him to join us.” “I respect the encompassing nature of the Fifth Freedom sir, but would you have me lie to the boy in order to ensure his service. He might turn on us when he finds out we’ve lied.” “What happens in five years is irrelevant. What happens now is imperative. He has already died, in a sense. All the time he has now is borrowed and equally precious. Make sure you make the most of it – and don’t let your emotions get in the way, Number One.” “Yes, sir.” –- End Transmission. Chapter II - Questions Six hours later, Michael awoke to a searing pain located in the right side of his back. I’m not dead, he thought, both elated and perplexed at the thought. Michael pulled himself out of the soft, comfortable bed he had been lying in to a sink and mirror apparatus located on the opposite side of the room. He was only clothed in flannel pajama bottoms, leaving him free to run his hand along his back, where he had been shot. Another thing he found perplexing: there was no scar along his back. All he felt was the smooth and corded muscle that had been developed from serious athletics at St. Veronica’s. Thinking about St. Veronica’s reminded him of the past day’s events, and what had happened. He had arrived home to St. Catalina Island from St. Veronica High School, the most prestigious school in the state of California. It was a boarding school, so he hadn’t seen his family in four years. The shock of realizing that he had seen his family butchered like animals, after not seeing them for four years, was almost to great to handle. The images of his kid brothers filled with bullets made him spill what little was left in his stomach into the sink. The mental images of blood still oozing from his parent’s necks made him cry. It also gave him strength. As he looked in the mirror after washing his face with cold water, Michael Soarvi saw something strange in his eyes. His eyes had a sorrowful, deadened look in them. Yet, there was strength in his eyes as well. His contemplative mood was jarred back to reality when a wiry, gray-haired, and bespectacled man entered the room. He was wearing a white lab coat, and had a clipboard in his hand. A doctor. But,
  3. 3. 3 this wasn’t just any doctor. It was Dr. Lyle, Michael’s professor of the sciences at St. Veronica’s. At this point, after the strange occurrences he had seen previously, Michael didn’t even bother to ask a question. “Good, you’re awake,” the professor said. “Let me see your back.” Turning awkwardly, still slow from the apparition of his former professor, Michael obliged. The professor examined his back, muttering silently and indistinctly to himself all the while. Then, the professor commanded him to move his right arm in a series of awkward motions, checking to see if everything was working correctly. “A clean bill of health, Michael. You’re a very blessed man.” “Thank you, professor. Would you mind telling me where I am?” “You’re at the school, Michael. I can’t tell you much more than that, though I suspect you’ll find out soon enough.” With that, the professor turned on his heel and left Michael alone with more questions streaming through his brain. As Michael sat down to contemplate these questions the door flung open again, a taller and stronger man entering through the door. He wore a long, gray trench coat, and a matching hat. He had a certain dangerous look in his eyes, and Michael felt the “focus” he had been in during the fight at his house returning. When the man spoke, Michael was instantly put at ease. “How are you feeling?” the man asked. “Well enough,” Michael responded. “I feel like I’ve been to the edge of hell and back.” The mysterious man chuckled. “That’s understandable. Not many seventeen-year-old men can handle two adepts, let alone being shot.” An adept? The very word etched confusion into Michael’s brow. As if he had read his mind, the mysterious man said, “don’t worry, Michael. All will be revealed before the day is over.” He tossed Michael a clean bundle of clothes: pants, shirt, socks, shoes, and a stylish leather jacket. “When you’re done dressing, we can get started.” He left the room, allowing Michael privacy. After he had finished dressing, Michael exited the room and joined the mysterious man for some much needed answers to questions. Some questions are better left unanswered. Chapter III – Answers “By the way, my name’s John Thuner. You can call me John if you like,” said the mysterious man. Michael and Mr. Thuner had just reached an elevator located a few hall lengths down from the white room he had been sleeping in. “Is all of this part of the school?” Michael inquired. Mr. Thuner took a deep breath before answering, a visible weight-of-decision on his mind. “Yes, this all is an extension of the school,” he said as he pushed a button on a panel next to the elevator, making it glow white. “You see, Michael, the school is part of something much, much, larger. Something so large, important, and secret, that the very security of this nation depends upon it.” The elevator doors opened, and both men stepped inside. A faint hum was emitted from motors of the elevator as it began to descend down to the lower depths of the mysterious complex. Meanwhile, Michael’s intuitive mind was beginning to put the pieces of the puzzle together. “It makes sense now,” Michael said, his voice ringing with comprehension. “The advanced classes, the rigorous athletics, the marksmanship courses…I’ve been trained all my time at the school, haven’t I?” Mr. Thuner sighed again. “Yes, Michael. You have to understand what your development in particular means. My superiors say that you have the makings of becoming the best operative for our agency.” The elevator doors opened, revealing a sprawling complex that was more advanced than Michael had ever seen. “And what agency would that be?” Michael asked. Mr. Thuner led him out of the elevator and to a large metal door that blockaded the rest of the way into the complex. Placing his hand on a silver receptacle to the left of the giant door, Mr. Thuner said nothing. After about five seconds of odd humming and beeping, the door opened, and Mr. Thuner removed his hand from the receptacle. Michael’s mouth opened in sheer amazement. In front of him was an almost alien civilization, with odd mechanical instruments beeping and whirring constantly. Almost everything had a silver-metallic sheen to it, and there was an American flag with an elegantly embroidered number “12” stitched into its fabric hanging from the ceiling. “Welcome, my friend, to the Majestic Twelve.” **** Over the next hour, Mr. Thuner debriefed Michael extensively on clandestine government agency known as the Majestic Twelve. The agency, it turned out, had been existence since the end of World War I, and was legally protected by the National Security Act of 1947. It was an incredibly broad agency, with headquarters on the Pacific coast and Atlantic coast, as well as offices in Britain. As they toured the
  4. 4. 4 “Alcove,” as Mr. Thuner called it, Michael noticed the incredibly advanced technology inside of the complex. “And that’s the armory,” Mr. Thuner said, concluding the briefing. “Do you have any more questions?” “Yes,” said Michael. “Who attacked my family, and why?” “Your family members were supposed to be killed in the attack. It was you they came for. As for who attacked you, I do not know at this moment, but we do have some leads…” “How?” “I can’t tell you that right now. Just follow me and your questions will be answered.” Michael sighed in exasperation. Was he ever going to learn anything of importance? Mr. Thuner steered him through the armory to a circular briefing room that was well-shielded form the noise coming from the rest of the Alcove. Mr. Thuner gestured for him to sit down in one of futuristic leather chairs. Each chair had an odd assortment of buttons on it and Michael noticed that all the chairs had an American flag with a “12” emblazoned on them. After sitting down, another man entered the room, wearing the same style trench coat and hat as Mr. Thuner. But this man was taller, thinner, and commanded more authority than Mr. Thuner. He sat down at the head of the circular table and took off his hat, revealing black hair with dignified streaks of gray. His eyes held a certain sharp quality to them and suggested that he was the type of man who was well traveled and educated. As he spoke, the room seemed to shake with his deep, authoritative voice. “Greetings, Michael. My name is Thomas Keen. You may call me Mr. Keen if you like. I imagine you have a fair amount of questions.” “Yes, Mr. Keen, I have loads of them. Can you answer all of them?” “Yes. Though, some of them I suspect you may not like the answers I yield. Are you ready?” Michael nodded his head in assent and prepared himself for whatever shocking revelations would be revealed in his immediate future. Then, Mr. Keen began. “You may not like this Michael, but we – the Majestic Twelve – have been watching you since almost your birth. We have had a hand in your life at all times – whether through this very school or through indirect forces we have been with you. That is the first thing you must understand. “The second thing you must understand is the nature of this agency. Do you know of the four basic individual freedoms that we are granted?” Michael shook his head yes, remembering the speech he had studied by Franklin Delano Roosevelt earlier that year. “Well,” Mr. Keen continued, “our organization has a Fifth Freedom. The freedom to protect the four basic individual freedoms of the American people by whatever means necessary. It is said that sometimes evil must be done in the name of good in order to vanquish evil. That is the purpose of our agency. To stop the spread of evil in the world by whatever means necessary. “I’m sure you’re wondering what this has to do with you. The school you’ve been attending for the past four years – St. Veronica’s – is a “farming ground” of sorts for our future operatives. Everything you have learned at this school has been toward the honing of your skills in lieu of your serving us. Some of these skills you may remember, others have come from instinct.” Michael’s eyes flashed briefly as he remembered how he had killed the two intruders at his home. “You are, essentially, a weapon. A tool against the evil purported in this world by those who would stop at nothing to rid the world of peace. That is why our enemies have attempted to kill you, because you represent a great threat to their despicable way of life.” So, there it was. Almost everything had clicked into place for Michael Soarvi. His mysterious instincts, the top-notch education, it was all a part of a scheme to turn him into a weapon. It was because of this that his family was dead. He would never get to see his two brothers grow up. His parents wouldn’t see him graduate or go to college. Yet, if he hadn’t been turned into this…weapon, he wouldn’t have survived. He wouldn’t have a chance to avenge his parents. The thought of vengeance gave him a cool serenity that covered the rage boiling beneath his surface. Mr. Keen continued. “So, Michael, we must now discuss your future. You are to become an actual member of the Majestic Twelve. Not just an operative, but you will be part of an elite circle of twelve agents that will also exterminate evil wherever it rears its ugly head. Mr. Thuner here is Number One, captain of the Majestic Twelve.” “And if I refuse?” Michael asked, not liking the idea of becoming a lifelong agent. “I’m afraid you don’t have a choice.” Michael started to speak, but Mr. Keen cut him off, raising his voice slightly. “If you leave the Alcove alive, without our protection, you will most certainly perish. The organization that tried to kill you once will attempt to kill you again, and this time they won’t fail
  5. 5. 5 unless you’re properly trained. If you stay with the Majestic Twelve, you will be safe from harm and will be able to exact vengeance on those who’ve wronged you.” The thought of vengeance made Michael’s blood stir with rancorous zeal. While he would most certainly join the Majestic Twelve, Michael had also seen a deceptive side of this surreptitious organization. He made a mental note to keep his eyes and ears alert for the inner dealings of the agency. After shaking hands with Mr. Keen, Michael reflected on the events of the day. As a member of the Majestic Twelve, his vengeance would come soon. Vengeance, he decided, was a dish best served cold. Chapter IV – Fury Two days later, Michael was in the armory of the Alcove, being briefed on his very first mission as an MJ-12 officer. While he had at first been apprehensive about Mr. Keen sending him on his first mission so soon, the past two days had provided to be reassuring. The professor (who was apparently the resident genius at the Alcove), had subjected him to a series of odd experiments that were supposed to bring back memory of the tactical training he had received at St. Veronica’s. Sure enough, the memories of tactical and martial arts training had flooded back to Michael, making him feel confident enough about his mission. He now knew how he had known that the weapon at the house was a Soviet Kalashnikov design, and how he had been able to kill the adept’s with such savage precision. The professor had also told him how the serums and drugs given to him during his stay at St. Veronica’s would also enhance his already incredible battle skills. While Michael still didn’t like the idea of having been subjected to these experiments, he had to admit that the skills would definitely present themselves as useful. Breaking from his introspective state, Michael looked at the dossier laid out before him. It outlined his target, a Soviet dignitary close to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. The dignitary was believed to be responsible for the attack on Michael’s family and connected to the unknown organization that had ordered the hit on his family. Michael was thankful to Mr. Keen for allowing him this assignment and the opportunity to take a few cracks at those who had wronged him. The dossier also had the blueprints for a Soviet embassy in Leningrad, where the dignitary was believed to be staying. Also outlined in the dossier was a personal note from Mr. Keen, authorizing Michael to use the “Fifth Freedom” in order to gain the information necessary. While he did relish the opportunity of revenge, Michael did question this mysterious “Fifth Freedom.” Being given carte blanch in order to complete a mission sounded fairly unethical to Michael. St. Veronica’s, which was a Christian-Catholic school, had always taught him the sanctity of human life, no matter what the cost. Now, it seemed as if MJ-12 wanted him to go against this very doctrine. Michael pushed the thought from his mind, resigning to deal with it later, dressed himself for the mission. After finishing, the professor came in and handed Michael two silver-metallic pistols with a golden “9” engraved on them and a silver, custom-made Rolex watch. The “9,” the professor explained, meant that Michael was the ninth ranking officer in the ring of MJ-12 special agents. Michael placed the gun in his hand, knowing instantly the design of the gun. “A Browning design? It’s second-generation. I didn’t know they made those. The latest I’ve seen is the Hi-Power model from World War II.” “They don’t,” the professor said. “Browning Arms and Smith and Wesson Arms cooperatively made the pistols especially for MJ-12. You’ll find that the agency has a wide sphere of influence, especially in weapons dealing.” Michael accepted the comment at face value and tucked the pistols into holsters on either side of his hip and continued stocking his utility belt and bandolier full of gadgets, grenades, and weapons. For his hand-to-hand combat weapon, he sheathed a titanium rod about three-feet long on his back, imagining the damage it would do to the unlucky soul who attempted to stop him from completing his objective. Lastly, Michael strapped the sixty-function watch on his left wrist and headed to the hangar bay of the Alcove. **** The Phoenix was a sleek, next-generation jet that employed state-of the art technology. It could by far outstrip any aircraft that in existence, and was capable was incredibly stressful maneuvers. Inside of the Phoenix was a custom-modified Mercedes 300 SL, the fastest car of the 1950s. Michael had always wanted to drive one, and now his dream was coming true, though in a slightly different fashion. As Michael entered the cockpit of the plane, he noticed the futuristic controls and electronic displays that the pilots sat before. “We’re good to go, guys. Here’s the flight plan.” The co-pilot offered Michael a
  6. 6. 6 congenial smile as he took the flight plan and punched a series of coordinates into the Phoenix’s whirring displays. Michael headed back to the cabin of the Phoenix and strapped himself in. He didn’t even realize that it was his very first plane ride. All his mind was focused on was his mission. His revenge. He fell into a meditative trance as the jet engines roared to life, pushing the Phoenix from the Alcove, the ground falling behind him and becoming a simple backdrop on a canvas. **** Five hours after leaving the Alcove in Point Arena, California, the Phoenix touched down on an abandoned airfield seventy miles to the north of Leningrad, Russia. Michael stocked his weaponry one more time, bade the pilots goodbye, and stepped into his modified Mercedes 300 SL. As he drove down the ramp of the Phoenix, Michael tuned the long-ranged radio of the Mercedes to a Russian classical station, the wonderful tunes of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in G-sharp Minor flooding through his ears as he sped toward Leningrad. The Mercedes made the journey to Leningrad in almost no time at all, the V-8 engine that had been tweaked and modified by the professor hurtling the car at 140 miles per hour to the city. He pulled his Mercedes into an abandoned alley across from the embassy, and stepped out. The street was all dark except for a lone streetlight that cast eerie, ghoulish shadows from one end of the street. Quietly, Michael crept across the street, noting how few cars there were in the Soviet Union. It was a good thing he had parked his Mercedes in an alley, as it would look incredibly odd in this city. Michael deftly climbed the wall of the embassy, using the crags and holes in the decaying wall as footholds, and was soon on top of the embassy. The schematics he had memorized told him that a vent was nearby. What the schematics hadn’t told him was that a unit of soldiers would be guarding the vent. Upon closer inspection, Michael recognized the adepts as the same type of soldiers who had been at his house. Vengeance seized Michael as his brain clicked into combat “focus,” his senses and reflexes becoming heightened to a superhuman state. As he snuck up on the first adept, he noted the positions of the soldiers: two on the left, two on the right, and one smack in the middle of the vent. Luckily, they were facing the other way, and Michael’s hand went to the meter-long titanium staff that was on his back. Sliding the staff out into his right hand, Michael ‘s left hand went up to the adept’s mouth, making the inevitable scream barely audible. His right hand slammed the staff just behind the right ear of the soldier, a sickening crunch of cartilage, tissue, and bone resulting. Michael let the man drop to the ground with a thud, alerting the other soldiers of his presence. Before their weapons were up, Michael had his silver Smith and Wessons pointed at the first adept’s head, the .45 caliber ammunition exiting the barrels with a soft hiss. The adept was suddenly on the ground, sans his head, which had been blown clear off. Diving to his left, Michael unleashed a barrage of ammunition from the powerful guns, felling all of the adepts that remained with one swift stroke. Not a single shot fire on their part. Stepping over the gory mess of blood, bodies, and spent ammunition, Michael descended into the service vent. **** Michael checked his mesh-armored gloves, making sure they were still okay. While the gloves, which were made of a metal/cloth weave were very strong, they had taken a beating while he had descended through the service vent. The gloves were only one part of his continued awe of MJ-12. The organization was so technologically advanced that it seemed alien. The 300 SL, the Smith and Wessons, and the very suit he was wearing all were incredibly advanced. The combat suit was made of an extremely light on strong titanium-mesh weave that was combined with the elastic properties of nylon. Overall, it fit like a glove and allowed him a degree of combat agility that most outfits could not afford him. How the MJ-12 had acquired or developed such technology was a myth to him. Another mystery. Mysteries were fine with Michael, as long as they didn’t jeopardize his safety. And one mystery that did jeopardize his safety was who had attacked his family, and why. That was one mystery that would be solved before the end of the night. Nothing would stop him from that. Breaking from his brief mental respite, Michael began to move through the embassy, praying silent thanks that the lights were dimmed. Slowly, he crept through the large lobby to a set of spiral stairs that twisted and contorted to the top of the six-story building, noting how dank and dark the surroundings were. It was as if the very building was a veritable mirror of his soul, reflecting the dark and pestilent
  7. 7. 7 sorrows that were brooding under his surface. Settling into the mood, Michael crept through the shadows and up the staircase to the sixth floor, where the Soviet dignitary was located. By aligning himself with the dark shadows, he had been able to avoid most of the Soviet adepts patrolling the embassy, but now the time for surreptitiousness had passed. No less than four adepts were walking in a vanguard formation, taking up the length of the sixth floor hallway. A firefight. Michael’s lips parted in a malicious grin. Swinging out from the wall outcropping he had used as a hiding place, Michael drew both of his prized silver Smith and Wessons, his enhanced vision finding his targets easily in the low-light conditions. Red and white sparks escaped the muzzle ports of the weapons as high-velocity .45 caliber shells caught the first soldier, tearing incredible holes through his chest. Blood flowed freely, forming a gruesome puddle that surrounded chunks of flesh that had been blown out by the powerful weapons. Still befuddled, the second adept of the unit also fell prey to Michael’s deadly gaze, the sights of his modified pistols set firmly on the man’s chest. A second later, both index fingers had depressed the triggers, and the powerful blasts left him on the ground, minus the bulk of his trunk. The adepts finally caught onto what was happening, and their VZ-58 Assault Rifles bearing on Michael’s face. As he dove to his right -- away from the staircase – Michael recognized the rifles as Czechoslovakian in design, yet with modifications that subtly pointed towards a Kalashnikov design. He expected to find Russian-made weaponry, but there was something odd about the weapons the adepts were using. At any rate, he would deal with that later. Right now, 7.62 mm shells were blasting their way through the adjacent wall, sending plaster and dust everywhere, and narrowly missing him. Strafing to his right, shaking dust out of his eyes, Michael leveled the sight of his Smith and Wessons on the third adept, his powerful shells ripping through the man’s cranium, leaving chunks of blood, brains, and various tissues splattered about the room, leaving the walls stained with the gore. Adrenaline pumping through his veins, Michael’s hand went to the deadly titanium escrima staff on his back. Using his incredible speed to cross the distance between the two of them in a heartbeat, Michael slammed the titanium staff straight across the adept’s face in a perfect downward slash, knocking him to the ground. At this point, vengeance and anger took over Michael’s actions, and his rage dominated. As the adept struggled to raise himself from the floor of the hall, Michael landed a savage roundhouse kick across the adept’s face, the grotesque crunch of bunch shattering breaking through the hall. Michael stole a brief glance at his specialized military Rolex, noting that he was running slightly behind schedule. Taking his eyes from his watch, Michael flicked his eyes back to the soldier on the ground, who was coughing unhealthy amounts of blood. As he raised his heel for another savage attack, Michael stopped in the middle of the action. Was it really right to punish this man after he had already meted out more than enough to his body? Was the man really responsible for the actions taken against his family and self? At St. Veronica’s, he had been instructed to revere all life as sanctified and created by God. However, in the real world, life wasn’t in black and white, more like shades of gray. His right hand went to his belt, finding one of his Smith and Wessons. This man, in Michael’s eyes, was pure filth for serving an organization that had willfully committed evil. This man didn’t deserve more suffering in this world, but he sure as hell was going to get it where he was going. With inhuman apathy, Michael extended his right hand and pulled the trigger. The adept’s ragged breaths stopped instantly. Michael heard shouts coming from the lobby, signaling that the adept’s had finally caught on to the fact that there was an intruder in the embassy. His hand went to his belt, where he produced a silver- black cylinder with a timer on it’s top. Setting the timer for fifteen seconds, Michael adroitly placed in the middle of the staircase, and hurried back up to the main hall on the sixth floor. A rewarding boom and flash of red light split the air as the staircase was demolished, ensuring that he would have some quality “alone time” with the Soviet dignitary. Michael Soarvi couldn’t help but grin at what he planned to do to the man who had ordered his family to die. Chapter V – Punishment Michael stopped his trek through the labyrinth of halls at red-oak double doors with finely molded brass handles. By instinct, he knew that this was the office of the Soviet dignitary who had ordered his family murdered. He knew that his man had a treasure-mine of information that would most likely lead to the solving of one of the mysteries that jeopardized his safety. He was in “Fifth Freedom territory.” Ah, the power to do everything for the sake of good, even if it was evil. Michael didn’t like having this
  8. 8. 8 authority, but the quest of vengeance and his greater conscience prevailed. Michael turned the doorknob, only to find that it was locked. His hand instinctively flew to the second pouch on his wondrous utility belt, coming away with two sets of thin metal rods. Sometimes Michael still couldn’t believe that all of this training had been locked away inside of his brain and only a few harmless procedures had brought it back more potent than before. Almost involuntarily his hands worked the metal rods in the keyhole, jimmying the lock until all the pins had been unlocked and released. His hand again went to the door, this time not meeting any resistance. Flinging it open with his left while drawing his silver Smith and Wesson with his right, Michael panned the area over quickly and saw a person who fit the description of the Soviet dignitary frantically trying to do something in the far corner. A hidden door, Michael surmised, crossing the distance in a scant few seconds. Holstering his pistol, Michael grabbed the cowering man with one arm and pulled him up in one fluid motion. The look on the man’s face was priceless. In surprisingly clear English, he stammered, all the color fleeing from his face. “No…no…he’s…you’re…dead…” “No, buddy. I just took a nap.” Michael did have to admit that he had the look of a dead man. In the reflection of the well-polished mahogany bookcase, his eyes had a dead, haunted look lingering in them, and while he appeared to be in prime shape, there was a ghostly aura that clung to him. Even his normally red-blonde hair had taken on black streaks, lending an even more fearsome appearance. Michael didn’t look at it as being dead. Instead, he was reborn. Having been to the brink of death and back, he knew his purpose and why MJ-12 had made him into a weapon. His enemy was a faceless, pestilent, and virulent disease, and he was the cure. It was just his luck that his quiet yearning for vengeance coincided with his greater goals. His hand again went to his belt; this time touching a black tape recorder that the professor had told him was a mission recorder (MR). “What’s your name?” he asked, adding just a touch of a growl to let the man know he was in no mood to play games. When he didn’t receive an answer, Michael slammed his fist into the man’s gut, making sure that he hit the diaphragm. The man doubled over in pain, and Michael quickly slammed him back up against the bookcase. This time he re-asked the question in perfect Russian this time, brandishing his fist. “My name is Sergei Ivanovitch Mikhailhov. I am the consul at the Leningrad embassy.” That was a start. Michael shoved the man into a chair and moved the desk in front of it a few inches closer. “Whom do you work for?” was the next question. Again, “Sergei” was quiet. Michael grabbed the man’s arm and twisted it backwards so that his elbow could easily hyper extended. He also had access to various nerves that ran the length of the arm – he’d save those for later. “I said, whom do you work for?” Michael enunciated every word clearly, a trace of hatred spilling into his voice . Still no answer. Michael twisted the man’s elbow back even farther and snapped his elbow back the wrong way, breaking both the joint and the upper part of his arm, and was rewarded with a shriek of pain. “Do I have to ask the question a third time?” Michael himself was chilled at the calmness of his voice, as if this were an everyday occurrence. Still no answer. Very well, if Michael couldn’t end this without exercising extreme judgment on the one responsible for the attack on his family, he would just make sure that the bastard squealed like a pig before this was over. Mr. Keen had made explicitly clear that if the Sergei didn’t talk, he was authorized to “coerce” him into talking. Vengeance, anger, and sorrow would do the rest. Michael moved his attention to the man’s hand, still keeping the arm locked in it’s unnatural and gruesome position. His own hands locked Sergei’s hand and wrist in a painful position, and began to slowly twist. Michael could hear the bones of both the wrist and hand cracking with stress. Sergei was whimpering now, his lips moving wordlessly and tears forming in the corners of his eyes, spilling into neat and small puddles on the desk. Michael twisted even further, and an agonized scream of pain erupted, even louder than the first. Michael continued to twist until the wrist had been turned over 180 degrees, and began focusing on the hand now. “Do you know how many bones the human hand has?” Sergei shook his head no. “Twenty-seven. That’s a lot of bones you’ll be losing, but that’s nothing compared to what I’ve lost. If you don’t tell me whom you are working for, I promise that what you did to my family will look like a picnic.” No answer. Michael applied a trifle more pressure the palm of the hand and felt some of the bones start to shatter. The pain experienced now would be nothing once he hit the median nerve. Just before applying more pressure, Michael wondered what exactly he would accomplish if he did in fact get the answers he was looking for. What he was doing now may have pleased the lust for vengeance he had, but
  9. 9. 9 he knew it was empty. At St. Veronica’s he had always been taught that peace could only come from an ethereal, spiritual peace, not from revenge. Yet, as he remembered the bodies of his family and the bloody scene in his house, Michael realized that he wouldn’t be the only one to suffer the horrible tragedy unless something was done. Sometimes evil must be done in the name of good, he remembered. Pushing his hand into the base of Sergei’s palm, Michael heard a sickening crack as his hand broke skin, tissue, bone, and nerve, along with scream that sickened him to the very core. He didn’t like doing this, but he knew it had to be done. He wiped the blood from Sergei’s hand on the suit worn by Sergei and asked again: “Whom are you working for?” He released his grip on the hand, letting the entire disfigured arm and hand slump sickeningly to the side while he waited for a response. “We can do this all day, Mr. Mikhailov. Just let me know when you’re ready to stop.” Michael twisted him around in the chair, his patience beginning to wear thin. “Mr. Mikhailov,” he said, adopting a business-like tone. “Do you know how many bones are in the human face? Fourteen. That’s almost half the bones in your hand, but nerves run all throughout your face. Do you remember what it felt like when I hit the nerve in your hand? Would you like that same feeling to radiate throughout your face? Even then, your suffering will have just begun.” He saw Sergei’s face darken at the thought, yet the hardy Russian held firm, determined not to give up whatever valuable information was locked away in his brain. While he didn’t particularly enjoy beating the living hell out of this man, Michael did take some pleasure in letting his pent-up anger and sorrow spill out in droves onto the man. After tying the Russian’s hands to the desk, Michael delivered the first blow, knocking spittle, sweat, and blood out of Sergei’s mouth. Still, the Russian was steadfast. Michael didn’t even bother asking what was by now a rhetorical question and instead searched for a new tactic. What was something a man as horrible as this held dear? Two more punches to the face, and the man still had not compromised. Blood was everywhere by now, the powerful blows had definitely done some damage. Michael remembered how the man had screamed when the nerve in his hand had been damaged. Maybe he could strike a nerve, except a different, more emotional one. His eyes flicked to the desk, where he saw a black-and-white photo of the Sergei, his wife, and two sons, he assumed. There. If anything was going to get this bastard to talk, it was that. “You have a very nice family, Mr. Mikhailov. I’m sure you would be very sad if something happened to them.” Michael could visibly see Sergei’s eyes widen in horror as Michael’s dead eyes stared back at him coldly. “You know, Mr. Mikhailov, I had a family once. You ordered for them to be executed in order to find me. Perhaps I should return the favor.” That was it, he had done it. “The name of the organization I work for is called the Brotherhood.” “What are your aims?” Michael demanded, his harsh voice resonating in the chamber. It appeared that Sergey was reluctant to talk, which, Michael thought, was just too bad. After landing another punch to the man’s battered face, Michael added another threat. “I’m sure that your children will understand why you didn’t speak when they die. Just like my brothers understood why they were murdered.” Sergei’s already pallid face lost all color now, the thought of his sons unlocking more information. “The Brotherhood seeks to consolidate world power into one communistic state. Our goals reach past those of our former leader Stalin or our current leader Khrushchev. They were only pawns in our grand scheme. That is all I know.” “What if I don’t believe you?” Michael once more alarmed himself with the cold, business-like tone he was using. “I swear, that is all I know! I swear on my mother’s grave!” “Was your mother a liar, Mr. Mikhailov? I think she was. Tell me what else you know or you’ll be joining her soon.” “IT’S ALL I KNOW!” “Wrong answer, Mr. Mikhailov. Have you ever heard the phrase vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord? I think that God works to slowly. I think that you need to go to a place where you’ll never hurt anyone ever again. I think you need to die.” Michael trained his one of his silver Smith and Wessons on the man’s forehead, his finger a hair’s length from the trigger. The faces of his family flashed before his eyes, begging him to mete out punishment. He thought that he had exorcised his demons during his interrogation, but found that they still haunted him. Somewhere, deep inside, he knew that he would never fully be rid of these demons. His grief would never fully abate; it would never fully relinquish its hold on him. But, this man did need to die. He had ordered the execution of his family, and was probably responsible for many other acts that endangered the four freedoms of others. Michael Soarvi was going to kill this man, there was no doubt about it. But, he had to be sure that he was going to do it for the right reason. The Fifth Freedom.
  10. 10. 10 The freedom to protect others from monsters like this. The freedom to give other the chance my family didn’t have. Michael pulled the trigger, and the Sergey Ivanovitch Mikhailov was no more. **** “Operation complete, Mr. Keen.” “Excellent. Do you have the intel with you?” “On my MR, sir. I’ll give it to the professor as soon as I arrive at Point Arena.” “Good work, Number Nine. Are you alright?” “Yes, sir. I have successfully eliminated the source of my problems.” “Not really, Number Nine. In my long time in this line of work, I’ve found that your ghosts will ever fully stop haunting you. You just have to deal with them when they present themselves.” “I understand, sir. I think that those ghosts are something that we never fully learn to live with. The only way we can is by doing good so that we may honor the memories of those ghosts.” “Yes. That’s the key. We must do good, now matter what the cost, to ensure that others don’t feel the hurt and tragedy akin to what you have felt. You’re only seventeen, Michael. There’s no way you should experience what you have.” “I probably shouldn’t have, sir, but it’s made me stronger. It’s made me understand the nature of good and evil. Good and evil aren’t black and white, they’re in shades of gray. There’s only one thing we can be sure of, and that’s if what we do today will matter tomorrow. I know protecting others will last tomorrow. I know that the four freedoms must be protected at any cost. I know that I can use the Fifth Freedom to ensure freedom from evil.” “Yes, Number Nine. We can discuss this in more detail when you arrive back at the Alcove. Get some rest, you’ve had a hard week.” “Thank you, sir.” -- End Transmission.