Things never slowed down in the base. Everything was constantly moving fast and Conner was finding it harder and harder to keep up. In all honesty, the only thing he really wanted to do was lock himself up in his room and think about what had happened. As scary as it was. He couldn’t get it out of his mind and it only continued to keep him up at night. It kept slipping his mind that he was still so young and so impressionable. At only twenty-one, he was out there doing the impossible and it was harming him.
The morning came again and Conner was the first one at the back of the building. Geared up and ready to board the helicopter. His mind kept racing despite his efforts to make it stop. Squeezing his eyes shut as he stood there alone. The moment they opened again, he quickly caught sight of Baker followed by Damian.
Usually, the sight of Damian would make things easier on Conner. But not this time. After his little breakdown a few days prior, Conner just felt tense and had the urge to run. He wasn’t sure where or even why, all he knew was he wanted to move his feet and not stop until he passed out or something.
Snapping out of it as he heard Baker’s voice ring out and allowed the agents to board the helicopter and get ready for the mission set in Maine. Conner heaved out a long breath and made sure his vest was secure before climbing in with the others and doing everything he could to get himself ready.
Not standing this time Conner sat on the floor and kept his eyes on his hands. Closely examining his fingers and knuckles over and over again. He just had to occupy his mind on something other than that last mission. So he was finding any kind of outlet he could. The more he tried the harder it became and before he knew it he was thinking about it all over again. Feeling the gun in his hand, hearing the shot and the body fall, repeating what he said, what he called himself. It wasn’t true, but it felt true. That god awful nickname they kept calling him felt true right then. Like he was doing exactly what it was they wanted him to do.
Once again Conner’s train of thought was interrupted when the copter had landed and they were set for the mission. Shaking his head Conner hopped out with the others and the rest was all just a blur.
All Conner remembered was the pain and soreness he felt when it was all over. For the first time in his life, Conner fought without focus and it resulted in disaster. Conner had got beaten so badly that he literally had to get carried away so he wouldn’t get himself killed. He was fading in and out of black and couldn’t stand upright on his own by the time the mission was over. Every inch of him hurt and he was sure something or a few things were broken or at the very least badly bruised internally. To top things off when Conner had to get carried back into the base, Jones was the first person he got lectured from.
“What the living hell is the matter with you?! You never are out of focus! You’re not supposed to get distracted, you’re supposed to get angry! You hear me McAlister get angry!”
The next couple of weeks went by as they usually did. Training continued to grow more intense and tiresome. Conner had spent a few late nights in the gym. Trying his best to get himself back into focus and into better shape and have better form. Whatever it took to better himself, Conner was going to do it and not stop for anything. Still losing countless nights of sleep, he didn’t have time. The rest would go off to their rooms and Conner stayed behind on his own and perfected his skillset.
He just had to.
After the last announcement to head to bed was called out. Conner turned to the back of the room and headed into the gym. Pushing open the doors, he looked around and found some padded gloved. Pulling them on he tightened the band and pressed together with the velcro. Making sure everything was secure he then went to the place that felt the most like home. Right in front of the heavy bag. Moving to have his footing correctly just like he always knew. Conner went right for it and wailed at the bag.
He was still trying to get his mind off of everything as well as perfecting his skillset. So he went at the heavy bag for a few rounds and didn’t stop anytime too soon. Not until he had thrown a punch so hard that the bag swung back and hit Conner right in the gut. Stumbling back Conner nearly felt back as the heavy bag hit him. Grunting out he shook his head.
“Son of a...”
Groaning out Conner huffed a breath and hit the bag hard one more time before moving over to one of the barbell benches.
Sitting at the end of it, he pulled off his gloves and let them hit the floor. Then he rolled his eyes and fell back, laying down on the bench. ‘Break time’ he mumbled to himself ad he heaved out a long breath and slowly closed his eyes.
A couple of hours had gone by and Baker was making the rounds throughout the base. Making sure the agents were asleep and the staff had done their jobs for the day. His last stop was the check on Conner after finding out that once again, he wasn’t in his room when he was supposed to be.
Entering the training room, Richard looked around before heading over to the gym. Catching the light still on, he pushed open the doors and called out for Conner. Scanning the room a moment, he entered fully and continued to look around. Stopping abruptly as he stumbled upon a pretty familiar sight and couldn’t help but quietly chuckle to himself. Looking down at the barbell bench, there he was. The young agent, fast asleep on the bench with his feet slightly dangling off the ends.
Shaking his head a little, Richard decided on letting the boy sleep as he stayed to keep watch for a bit. He knew that Conner went through hell the last couple of months now and it was about time the kid had a break. So Richard casually crossed his arms and checked over Conner once more before turning around to the back office. But just as he did, he stopped himself as he heard the doors open again.
“That’s quite the sight now isn’t it?”
Christina said as she entered the gym.
Richard uncrossed his arms and approached the Director as she entered the room. Glancing back to the agent a second before placing his brown eyes on her. Every time Christina was around, everyone instantly placed up a guard in her presence and that, of course, included Baker himself.
“What is this Baker? Why is the agent sleeping?”
“Uh, maybe because it’s the middle of the night. You’re working the kid to death Jones, I’m giving him a break.”
“That is no ordinary kid Richard, I’ve told you that before and even you’ve seen it in action.”
Christina ignored what Richard was trying to get at and crossed her arms.
“The Executives are almost finished with the project’s blueprints. The agent’s still too weak to handle it right now. It’s our turn now to get things ready. I want that agent up and working as soon as possible!”
With that Christina uncrossed her arms, turned around, and left the gym all at once.
As the doors slammed shut Richard looked back to check on Conner again. Luckily he found that he was still sound asleep. Huffing a short sigh of relief and shaking his head again.
It was so awful and Richard couldn’t even believe it. The more he looked to Conner as he slept the more he only saw just a kid. A kid who was exhausted and overworking himself. All because he felt like he had to in order to stay alive. On top of that, he wasn’t even seen as a kid. To the higher-ups, all Conner was, was some kind of human weapon project. They even had created blueprints, on a child. All of it was sad really. How could anyone with some amounts of a soul look at an exhausted kid asleep like that and only see him as some project?
Heaving out a long sigh, Richard let Conner sleep as he went over to the back office of the gym and remained there for the rest of the night.
The next morning Conner had woken up on the mats, which indicated that he had rolled off the bench in his sleep. Slowly pulling himself to sit up, he let out a yawn and stretched his arms forward. Dropping them again he looked around at the empty gym a moment and tried to recollect what had happened.
Shaking his head to wake himself up a little more he used the bench as support to get himself on his feet and stretch a little more. Clearing his throat he figured everyone was in the training room and that he overslept. So he quickly walked over to the doors but flinched a little as he heard the office door open behind him. Turning around he looked over to find Baker walk out of the office and Conner lightly furrowed in confusion. He /wasn’t/ in the training room yelling at everyone to haul their asses in gear. And that was, of course, strange to Conner.
“What are ya doin’ in here?”
“Babysittin’. Uh hey, I gotta speak with ya a second.”
Conner simply nodded in response and dropped his hands from the push-handles.
“You and Adler are goin’ out on a little special patrol mission... well not ‘mission’ but just a lil assignment.”
“Oh... alright sure thing. You’re the boss.”
“Okay... good. Go grab your buddy an’ I’ll see ya out there.”
Conner nodded once and turned back around and left the gym. After that, he went right over to Damian and told him about the assignment and everything. Damian was a little skeptical and asked questions but Conner couldn’t really reply so the two left it at that. Then they got their gear and suited up. Making sure they were hooked onto the electrical system and had their ear prices and body cameras on and working.
Damian was still curious and went to ask Baker what the whole thing was all about. But he still didn’t get much of a clear answer and was told to think of it as an “easy day”. Conner, on the other hand, was honestly a little excited. He was willing to have an easier mission and was getting the chance to go out into the city. The middle of New York was his home and he always loved being there and taking in the hustle and bustle of the city life around him. It was his city and he took pride in his home. So while Damian was still confused, Conner was practically bouncing all over the place.
As soon as the boys had everything ready and had gone through Baker’s instructions on the assignment. The boys were on the train heading into Times Square. Placing in their earpieces and switching on their body cameras. They were all set and once the train came to a stop, they rushed out with the crowd and made it into the heart of the city.
Right as they stepped up from the underground subway. Conner’s large hazel eyes lit up like the monitor signs around him. A big bright smile was plastered on his plump face as he looked around and ran through the streets. Stopping right in the middle and extending his arms out to his sides.
“Ah, Times Square! Hello ya, big beautiful son of a bitch!”
Dropping his arms he inhaled deeply and let out a happy sigh. Looking over his shoulder as Damian caught up to him, looking down at the tablet. Using his index he scrolled through the screen and read the assignment closely. Shaking his head a little he hit the sleep button and looked up again.
“I don’t get it. I mean why are we out on patrol when there hasn’t been any suspicious activity around here in weeks.”
Conner rolled his eyes and turned around to face Damian now.
“So what, we’re just out here t’keep an eye on things. C’mon it’s an easy mission. When’s the last time Baker has allowed ya t’have an easy mission?”
“Well... I’ve never been on an easy mission...”
“Neither have I. So can it an’ lighten up would ya.”
Damian heaved a sigh and looked back down at the tablet. Reading the assignment one last time before nodding his head.
“Alright fine. I guess you’re right. Just don’t goof off too much and get too carried away okay?
Damian shut off the tablet again and looked up to find Conner completely gone.
“Conner?! Ah damnit, Conner!”
Slipping the tablet in his belt Damian ran off in search of Conner and tried to get him back. The entire patrol mission was for them to stick together and keep a close eye on things in the city. That was literally all they had to do and not even ten minutes in, Damian had already lost Conner.
After about thirty minutes of running and searching all over the place. Damian needed to stop and take a short rest. Slowing his pace down to a stride, he looked over and found an empty bench and decided to take a seat. Catching his breath for a couple of moments, Damian looked down at his utility belt and took out his phone. Usually, they weren’t really meant to use them on missions in case an enemy could trace back their location. But Damian figured this wasn’t that serious of a mission anyway. However, just as he went to search for Conner’s name in his phone, he heard running footfalls rush up to him.
Blinking a second, Damian looked up and found just who he was looking for standing right before him. Conner was smiling to Damian but all he was doing was glaring.
“Where the hell did you go?!”
Damian scolded as he sprung back up on his feet and looked to Conner. Eyeing the kid a moment he noticed that he was holding something in his arms. It looked as if he was trying to hide the said item from Damian.
“What is that?”
Conner looked down at the box he was holding for a moment and then up to Damian. But as soon as he did, he averted his eyes and looked to the ground before speaking in a slight mumbled tone.
“Uh... it’s um... a shirt.”
Conner nodded and moved to place his eyes back on Damian.
“A nice shirt! It’s Ralph Lauren an’ everythin’!”
“Okay...Lemme get this straight we’re on a mission and you run off to buy yourself a Ralph Lauren shirt?”
“Yes... but ‘ey I earned it.”
“Oh my god.”
Damian shook his head at Conner and moved to put his phone back into his utility belt. Then he started walking further into the city again. Conner, on the other hand, stayed behind for a few moments and watched as Damian walked off.
“What?!... ah screw it, I regret nothin’.
Wait for me!”
Conner called out in Damian’s direction just before he ran off to catch up to him.
After that little debacle and a few rounds of bickering over who was right, Damian and Conner went back to work and patrolled the city. Wandering around and making sure they didn’t witness any alarming activity. Luckily enough nothing seemed too out of the ordinary. The city continued on as it normally did and the boys kept their distance and blended in as much as possible.
It was nice to that the opportunity to wear civilian clothing, minus their belts, ear prices, and body cameras. As well as get a chance to be put off the base for a while and explore the city. It was Conner’s home but Damian’s first time really in the city and whenever there was some time. Conner showed Damian around for a bit and told him a bunch of stories about his life in the city and was crazy shenanigans he got himself into growing up.
Things were so seemingly normal that for a little while, Conner had actually forgotten all about the CIA and everything that had happened. Mostly. That mission was still plaguing in the back of his mind. But other than that, he forgot all the annoyance and hardship that came with being in the CIA and cooped up inside the base all of the time. Minus having to go through missions only to come back in a world of pain afterword. There were, however, a few incidents where Conner stepped in and broke up a few fights. Resulting in Damian having to pull him off but that wasn’t anything out of the ordinary to Conner and he didn’t think much about it.
Before the boys knew it, the sun had set and they were called back to the base. They rode the subway train back to the base and scanned back in. Removing their gear, Baker came up to them and let them know that they had done a good job. Damian once again tried to ask what the whole thing was about but still wasn’t getting a clear answer. Regardless, he refused to let it go as it felt so off to him. He never even heard of a “patrol mission” and figured that it was made up or something.
Conner still had no questions or complaints about the mission and was telling Baker all about it. Baker was also from New York, he was from Queens and deep down Conner always felt like he could relate to him.
Going up to Baker, Conner held out the box that contained the nice shirt he had bought. Showing his trainer what he found while out in the city.
“‘Ey Baker! Did ya see m’new shirt yet? I got this nice designer shirt while we were out there. Was a pretty neat find.”
“Oh yeah? Y’ditched Adler an’ bought a shirt? How fascinatin’.”
Richard replied with a slight chuckle in his voice as he looked down at Conner and the box he was holding.
“Uh... yeah. But anyway. It’s nice, it’s black an’ it’s got these buttons on the front.”
“Looks nice Conner. Now, hows ‘bout you go an’ put that away an’ get yourself to bed. You’re back in training with the rest first thing in the morning.”
Conner playfully tossed around his box and saluted Baker before turning around and heading down the hallway to his room.
Damian, on the other hand, stayed behind and had watched the whole thing. It was then where it clicked in his mind and everything finally made sense. The easy mission, the no answer, everything. Damian couldn’t believe it right then but he knew for a fact that was what it was. Crossing his arms he shook his head fondly as he approached Baker himself.
Richard heaved a sigh and rolled his eyes.
“What now Adler?”
“There’s no such thing as a ‘patrol mission’. This was just a way so you could get rid of Conner for the day. You wanted him to go out in the city and have a nice day. You were going easy on him.”
“Figure that out all on your own did ya? I ain’t Jones, I got a heart an’ know how horrible he’s bein’ treated. Was the least I could do for the kid okay?”
“And the truth comes out! Richard C. Baker actually has a heart! Thanks by the way. I know he had a good day.”
With that Damian did the same as Conner did and saluted Baker before heading down the hall.
Richard stayed a moment and watched as the boys went down the hall before heading back into the training room and finishing up fie the day. Knowing very well that he was to get scolded by Jones later on. But if course for him it wasn’t at all anything he couldn’t handle. Not to mention this time it would be worth it. There a lot of things that he heard that Conner and Damian didn’t know. And he was to keep it that way in order to keep them safe and to keep Conner out of their hands for good. Despite what Jones had told him before, after meeting Conner Baker knew that he was a good kid and didn’t deserve to be some kind of project.
When Conner made it back to his room, he went straight for his closet and opened it up. Turning on the light he reached up and placed his new shirt box up on the top shelf. Stepping back he brushed off his hands switched off the light and closed it again. Then he went for his dresser and got everything he needed to head down to the shower room right off the side of the locker room. Just as he turned around and went for his door, it opened and Damian stepped inside. Leaning on the wall beside the door.
“So I gotta know. When are you ever gonna be able to wear that shirt?”
Conner blinked at Damian’s question. Having his eyes wander around as he thought of an answer. Then once one never came to mind he simply shrugged.
“I dunno. But it’s well made it’ll last. Plus I ain’t plannin’ on stayin’ here forever y’know.”
“Yeah, that’s true. Still don’t know why you are still here.”
“I told ya, you’re m’friend I gotta stay for you.”
Just then Damian was interrupted as the overhead went off and Conner was called into the Director’s office. Rolling his eyes he said he’d talk to Damian later before heading out of his room and heading over to the elevator.
Riding the lift up he made it to the top floor and over to Jones’s office. There he was told to enter and right off the bat got greeted with her yelling at him. Instantly and as always Conner tuned her out. Only getting a few words here and there, but mostly he didn’t want to listen to her so he refused to.
It made little sense. Usually she acted as she favored him. Telling others how impressed she was by him and that she was proud of him. But as of lately she was yelling and scolding him. Saying how he kept letting her down and not sticking to the “plan” whatever that meant. She either loved him or hated him and could never make up her damn mind. Now she was yelling at Conner and going on and on about how he was meant to get stronger and angrier. That was what kept sticking and something she kept repeating over and over again.
“Get angry! Get angry! Get angry!”
Conner wasn’t even sure what that meant but at that moment, it was working. The more he spoke to her the more he can to realize just how she viewed him. He was nothing to her or the other higher-ups. His anger and temper were what was most important to them and it drove him crazy. He also caught a few bits of some kind of “project” and how he was too weak and had to get stronger for it to work. That made the least sense to him.
As much as Conner did, in fact, want to lose it all and argue back he knew he couldn’t. It was exactly what she would have wanted and would have probably performed the “project” on him right then and there. Of course, he didn’t want that so he had to remain as still as possible. But deep down there was a flame of rage ignited in his core and it continued to rise the more he had to stay in her office.
Luckily, after a while, the door of the office had opened and Baker stepped inside. Asking what was going on and why the hell was Jones yelling so much. Jones, however, didn’t respond to Baker’s questioning and acted infantile. Which was something she tended to do quite often. The two argued back and forth for a little bit before Jones had enough and “put her foot down.” Crossing her arms she scoffed and huffed.
“Whatever Baker just get it out of here!”
Right in that very moment and hearing what he had been called. Conner had snapped and felt that rage boil straight to the surface. Clenching his hands into fists, he moved just one step before he felt Baker’s hand on his chest to hold him back. Then all of sudden he unclenched his hands and started feeling calmer. It was as if he was so angry, he was calm. Stepping back he heard Baker say ‘fine’ and then he turned himself and Conner to the door and walked out of the office.
Conner wanted to ignite that flame again but as soon as he looked over to Baker’s face it was put out completely. His brown eyes were hard and he looked even more enraged than Conner did. Which in truth was a pretty scary sight to witness. But he didn’t do anything but stand completely still. Conner’s anger was now completely faded and it was as of Baker absorbed the rage out of Conner for himself. Conner wanted to say something but stopped when Baker had told him to go back to his room. What threw Conner off was when Baker apologized to him. However, all Conner did was nod and ran off to the steps and went back to the hallway and to his room.
He felt like he had been kicked in the stomach after being called that and realizing that he really was nothing to any of them. He wasn’t even referred to as a human at all. But at the same time, Conner felt bad and a little worried about Baker as well. He could only imagine what Jones did or was doing to him. The longer he stayed, the more Conner was learning what this base was really about.