Compliments of the Presidents
I throw my head against my pillow, hating myself.
A life I wanted gone, was now back to haunt me. I had done everything to escape it, yet it still crawled back like a snake.
And the President was asking-NO! He put me in this Task Force! And there was nothing to stop it!
“Fatima, could you at least tell us what these men are doing here? Mama tried calling the police but they stopped her.” I could hear my brother’s voice from out side the door.
“Let’s just say it’s compliments of my new job. I have to carry around 2 men to protect me.” I groan as I open the door.
The two bodyguards followed all the way here and never left my side. I was frankly kind of annoyed yet thrilled that I was important enough to have someone protect me.
“YOu got a new job?” His face lightens, “Are you serious? It isn’t with the army?”
“NO, but it’s a governmental job.”
He curses, “Let me guess, Werin?”
I sigh, “Yeah.”
“I’m not surprised.” He runs his fingers through his hair, “They contacted you about BlueBird980?”
I bite my lip.
“Oh god.” Karim throws his arms around me, apologizing every second, “If I didn’t want to go to Werin so much you would be fine…this wouldn’t be happening.”
I hug him back, lost.
“Out of the 7 who knew about this, 3 are now dead. Leaving four of you out there for potential suspects.”
When Madison said that, I didn’t think of myself.
I thought of Karim.
Who was with me the day we took back the item.
And the leader of the it.
“I can’t do this Director Jules. It goes…it goes against all my morals.” Sitting in front of the Director and denying something she asked you to do where both terrifying beyond imagination.
“Fatima, I’m not asking you. I’m ordering you. When you took the pledge to become an agent you knew the risks.” She looks at me with her dead, cold eyes. Sending chills down my back.
“I did…but…I can’t leave my mother.” One excuse. I tried coming up with a better one but that was what came to my mind. I didn’t take the pledge, I was forced to.
“She’ll be safe.”
“No, you don’t understand. She’ll call the police. She’ll go crazy. It’ll be the first time I went somewhere out of DC without her.” More importantly, they could do something to her. They knew she was my weakness, and they utilized it well.
Director Jules rubs her temple, “Agent Shriki, how long have you been in Werin Academy? Just tell me, how long?”
“About 8 years.” I knew where this was going. And I did not like it.
“And during those 8 years, have you not left the country?”
She got me there.
“How many times?”
I don’t want to answer, “Multiple times.”
“And your mother was ok. We took care of her. We made sure that she had no doubt about you and even offered to pay her rent. You must know we take care of our agents like family. We are family. And now you must do the same as we have done to you. All you have to do is drive them from the hotel to the plaza. You won’t have to do any real work. Just sit in the car. Now, does that sound bad?” I knew beneath those words, hidden behind a velvet curtain, was a threat.
They could take care of my mother all right. One wrong move and she’ll definitely be a part of the family.
I sigh, exhausted of trying to wiggle out of this, “Fine. I”ll go. Just please, make sure my mother stays safe.”
Director Jules gives me a smile, “Of course Agent Shriki. We’re family.”
I pull myself from the memory, hating myself. Hating my mother a little.
If she wasn’t so desperate to keep me safe I wouldn’t be here. Everything would be ok. If she didn’t find public schools so dangerous I could have an actual job. Like a doctor. Or an engineer.
Or even an actress. Going in front of the camera and shifting into a new character. I would love that. Maybe even release an EP. Show off my vocals a little.
But that would never happen. Not in this universe.
“Well, anyways, Uncle Jihan wants to take all of us out to dinner in Falls Church. Apparently one of his friends just opened a restuatrant and reserved seats for us.” Karim tells me whilst sitting on my bed.
“Oh shit. Now I have to find out what to wear.” I groan as I go for my closet, “And have those damn camera’s follow me if they still are around.” I was glad actually. I could take today’s events and push them to the back of my mind.
Leila then barges into my room, “SAM HENNINGS TWEETED ME BACK! HE’S IN FUCKING DC AND WANTS TO MEET YOU!”
THANK YOU ALLAH! YOU LISTENED TO MY PRAYERS!
“WHAT DID HE SAY?”
“Well he said he’s been following your Instagram for a while and likes your mini snippets of your covers of TENNAX’s songs and wants to see if you two could collab along with UNICEF TO HELP RAISE MONEY TO SUPPORT TO STOP HUMAN TRAFFICKING AND GAHHH!! He messaged me the details!”
You see , I always knew God cared and he existed and he listened, I just never knew how much he listened.
Not until now.
I can’t move. This was the best thing to hit me today. Right after seeing Mary.
“SAY YES! YES!”
“Y’all are crazy. What is so special about Sam Hennings?” My brother just uttered words worse than the pedge for being agent.
“Oh no you didn’t.” I turn to him, “Sam Hennings is firstly Moroccan. His real name is Sami Amrad. Born in Tanja but moved to Canada when he was 5. He took his grandmother’s maiden name upon stage because no one would hire because well…stereotypes. He not only has an angelic voice and can act beyond any man, he raised money for children in Africa, especially Magrib, our Native land, to go to school and get supplies. He’s created his own charity to help people in Gaza and Syria and abused women and children. He’s helped thosunds of people, giving them his money but not taking any of it. He lives in a normal apartment with two bedrooms with his sister because she goes to college at UCLA. He’s an amazing person and muslim who’s making it look a little for us out there! He’s also the first Moroccan/Muslim to ever win a Grammy! That boy deserves all the Mashallah’s out there!” I take moment to catch up with my breath.
Karim looks a little impressed, “Well then. I uhh, have nothing to say except Mashallah. He’s done more good than any of us have.” He gets off my bed, “Now I must go get dressed. Or else mama is going to us for being late.”
I missed Falafel.
I didn’t miss DC. Falls church was a cute town and had an amazing Mediterranean restaurant.
“Ah Jihan, you’re niece is all over the news. She’s done good, mahallah.” His friend tells him as we order.
“ Of course. She’s a Shriki, Mohammed, she’s bound to do good.” My uncle wraps an around me as I grin.
“Well Sanna raised her. Don’t they say children take after whoever raises them?” Uncle Hakim laughs.
“True. She’s raised them well mashallah.” My uncle agrees.
My mother shakes her head, “I’ll take the salad and my mother will also take just a salad.”
“Are you sure? You can order whatever you want.”
“Get her a gyro. The girl doesn’t eat anything. Don’t listen to her.” My grandmother barks.
“Mama, please.” My mother shakes her head again, “No, I’ll take a salad.”
“Get her the gyro please, With meat.” I pipe in, “Make it spicy.” My mother pinches me, in a playful way.
That night was almost perfect. It was almost normal. For a while I could forget the actual shitstorm brewing around me.
For a while, I could pretend to be happy.
I purposefully tried to get away from guards the next morning to go my café spot in National Mall.
“We have orders to take you to the white house.” The largely built men said as they filled up my living room.
Scaring my family.
“White house?” Uncle Hakim looks at me, “What are you doing in the white house?”
Right…I still haven’t told them.
My mother tilts her head, “Is that where you were yesterday?”
“It’s where my new job is.” HOORAY! I now work in the same building as the people who want to deport immigrants.
I could hear a different row of responses.
My cousins starts to ask me question.
My uncles try to wake themselves up.
My mother starts to yell at me.(even though I told her yesterday. Maybe she forgot due to shock.)
“Anyways, I have to go. President Hunt is pretty strict when it comes to punctuality.” It felt so weird saying that.
I was escorted to a black car.(because that doesn’t draw attention). My mother was too shocked to even try to stop me as I quickly ran out of the house.
The ride to the White House was awkward.
“So…how y’all doing?” No response.
The agent next to me hands me a laminated card, “This will be your entrance key to the White House, and it’s what will be used to identify you as. Don’t loose it.”
Well gee, so much for a conversation.
I clip it to my pants, shivering a bit.
I wasn’t ready to be an agent again, but they were giving me no choice.
“Hey, Hi, Do you want a job? Here’s one! Come tomorrow or we’ll kill you! Have a lovely day!”
Everyone gave me odd looks as I walked down to the White House.
I wonder why. It’s not like my headscarf has anything to do with it.
“Again, why do you two have to be with me? I’m perfectly capable of handling myself.” I mutter as we reach the Oval Office.
Damn. I still can’t believe this is becoming a regular thing.
Sure I’ve been on missions, I escaped near to death scenarios, and drove across ledges, but stuff like this still amazed me.
The press was just coming out, recording President Hunt on signing a new bill for some policy or something.
“We’re here for your protection Ms.Shriki. The president ordered it.” I couldn’t tell who this one was. Man I needed to learn their names.
“Oh that Mary girl was such a sweetheart. I wonder who she is.” I heard a press member speak. Suddenly one of the guards pulls me back from the Press’s view.
I smile to myself before I’m interrupted by her ladiness.
“Ah there you are.” Marie inspects me, “Oh well it’s better than yesterday. Just remember I’m taking you shopping this afternoon.” I jump at the sound of her voice.
My god she needs to stop!
“Well sorry I’m not your average rich DC girl.” I roll my eyes as I look into the hallway.
Looks like the press is gone.
“You can come in now.” A voice form inside the office speaks.
I go inside the office to meet the same people from yesterday, all sitting on the couches.
“You’ve made it!” Madison grins as he hands me a glass of what I believe is to be scotch.
“No thanks. I don’t drink.”
“It isn’t alcohol. It’s Monster Energy in a fancy glass. I promise.” I smell the cup and indeed it is Monster Energy. I look at Madison.
“I’m forced to be sober for the next 3 months. I’m desperate.”
I shrug and drink it.
“So…what is going on now?”
“We’re her to discuss your role in the Task Force.” Madison informs me.
“And you trust everyone else in this room?” I eye the president.
“I’m not as stupid as I portray myself to be Ms.Shriki.” He coughs, eyeing me back.
“They’ve all taken an oath. You already took yours.” Madison leans against the desk and I could tell President Hunt was getting annoyed.
“Now, this task force is to be kept under wraps. Not a single word is said to anyone else outside the task force and this room. I’m sure that part is understable.”
“So the next part?”
Jacobi pulls out a file, “For as long as this task force is running, you will be working both here in the US and oversea's. You will receive missions whenever we believe we have found a link to the item” I look at the file, “The entire purpose of the task force is to retrieve the lost item. You will be working with 5 other individuals.”
“You can come out now.” Suddenly, from the other door, 5 still looking indivuiduals walk into the room, looking sharp as hell.
My eyes land on the one the middle.
My throat is stuck, unable to form a sentence.
It was my cousin. Nidal Shriki.
His eyes widen as they stare back at me.
I was so pre-occupied with my cousin that I missed the other big elephant in the room.
“Nice to meet you again Nina.” My head snaps to the end of the end of the line.
Oh come on.
You couldn’t miss it. Red hair and me down robe.
He must be a Weasely.
About the Weasley part.
Patrick still had his waving blob of red hair and piercing green eyes that you would mistake him for a witch’s assistant.
“Hello Patrick. Lovely to meet you again.” I give him a little wave, clearly showing my disinterest in him.
“I see you recognize some of these recruits.” President Hunt says as he stands next to me.
Well I mean not being able to recignioze your own cousin would be concerning.
“I do.” I eye Nidal, “Some very well.” I couldn’t believe it. Weren’t they still lost? And if he came back why hasn’t there been any word?
“Well they will be your teammates. They have already been informed about their duties and mission. “
“What is mine?”
“You’ll be working underneath Director Madison as his assistant. It’ll clear up a lot of suspicions and will give you a good excuse to be around him.” Marie says.
“Great.” I intertwine my hands together, “Now what?”
“Now you split up. I have a meeting in 10 minutes.” President Hunt shoos out like children.
As I get a few seconds to rcoil my thoughts I turn to NIdal.
“You piece of shit!” I grab his shirt and press him against the wall. His eyes widen in fear.
“I’m sorry…I never got time to expla-“
“Explain? What is there to explain? I though…we all though you were dead? And you come unannounced?” My fingers curl around his collar, trying to disipitate my anger.
“ Can you just listen to me?”
“You should Nina. His story is quite interesting.” I turn to Patrick who is grinning at me. Seriously? Right now?
I let go of my cousin, giving him some room.
“I think I should introduce you to these people first.” I sigh. I turn to the other agents.
“That’s Agent Patel, Agent Nyguen, Agent Carter, you know that ass, and me.” They all shake my hand and greet me.
Nidal takes in a deep breath, “Lets go to another room. I’m tired.”
I don’t protest because I make myself believe it’s worth it to not kill him a second time.
The six of us go to an office, don’t know who’s, I’m surprised we haven’t been thrown out yet.
“A year and a half ago I was on a cruise with Soukaiyna, Nadia, and Leo. There was a storm and next thing you know I’m shipwrecked on an Island. I was with Leo. Nadia and Soukaiyna weren’t on the same Island as we were. Leo and I somehow ended up on an Island in the Pacific ocean near Japan. An abandoned one. For months we traveled across the Island trying to find a way off. Suddenly we discovered that someone else was on the Island. Soldiers. American soldiers.” He looks at me, “That’s where things got dark. They realized who we were and took us in. At first they treated us well and all but suddenly things got ugly when the Israeli soldiers got there.” He takes out a water bottle and takes a sip. I sit there frozen.
“We were brought in for question. Whenever they didn’t get an answer they wanted I was…whipped.”
I’m sitting there as my cousin tells me of the horrendous torture he went through.
I couldn’t believe it at first, but then I did. The world was like this. I noted however, he said I. Not we.
As if Leo wasn’t there.
“They took Leo away after a few weeks. I still don’t know where he is. But one thing I noticed was that….” His eyebrows furrow, “It seemed like they knew him. They…” Nidal laughs, “Treated him well.”
What the fuck?
“He knew…hebrew. He spoke to them in Hebrew. I didn’t understand at first…not until I saw a news channel the Israeli soldiers were watching.” Nidal squeezes the bottle, “Leo is the grandson of the Israeli Prime Minister. He isn’t French. He’s Israeli. Born there. Only raised in France as a cover-up. ” He chokes on his words.
My body goes numb. I can’t really tell how I reacted. Tears were slipping out. My mind was doing a re-check on the words that I just heard.
It couldn’t be correct.
My cousin…my cousin…
“He’s been lying to us. The entire time.” Nidal cracks his fingers, “ He played our family. His mother played our family.He played Soukaiyna.”
I felt betrayed.
More than betrayed. I felt as if everything was a lie.
“That’s where these guys come in. I knew them from an internship I did in Houston. Turns out they were recruiting for a special unit known as PARADIGM. Essentially, good old grandfather had some powerful connections therefore every one of his descendants is qualified to be in any organization they seem fit for. They were able to talk with the soldiers and release me. Since then they've helped me get back to civilization.”
“We found him weighing 95 pounds, basically skin and bones, he could barely talk or move, he had dried blood all over him. He was a mess.” Agent Patel says, “I hate to think what would have happened if we didn’t discover him on time.”
I felt some bile go up at the image of my cousin being tortured. I go up to him and hug him.
“Thank you. For rescuing him I mean.” I pause as I turn to the other Agents, “Are you guys also Werin?”
They nod, “Class of ’10. You were too young to remember us. Except Patrick.” Agent Carter tells me.
I turn to Nidal, “So why can’t you tell anyone you’re here?”
“National security. I made a deal too. Until this is over, no one can know I am alive. It’s why my job restricts me from going anywhere.”
“What’s your job?”
Patrick grins as he locks an arm around Nidal, “Secret Service.”