Risby slammed a file filled to bursting with notes and papers on the table in front of the boss of the Fanged Wolves gang. He pulled the chair out from the table with a loud screech and sat, immediately leaning forward. Nikki entered a bit more sedately, taking a seat on the other open chair against the wall, resting her laptop on her legs and opening it. She pretended to type away while Risby stared at Jud, his eyes hard and unforgiving. Jud stared back, determined to remain quiet in spite of Risby’s threat earlier that night. Nikki bit back a grin. Jud had no chance against the head of the International Defence Agency; he would be the first to cave. They just had to wait.
Jud was beginning to sweat under the weight of Thomas Risby’s glare. The man had been staring straight at him for three minutes now, barely blinking. The typing of the girl was driving him insane, it being the only sound in the otherwise silent interrogation room.
It was also hot, he realized. He growled in the back of his throat. They had turned the temperature up to try and break him. And it was working. He felt a drop of sweat roll down the back of his neck and soak into his shirt, just as countless other had done in the three minutes Risby had been staring at him. He fought back the shiver that the uncomfortable feeling gave him, but despite his best efforts, Jud shifted, rubbing his back slightly against the chair to remove his shirt from where it was sticking to his skin. He had lost.
Risby smirked and sat up a bit straighter, finally looking away from the gang boss. He opened the file and pulled out four papers, laying them out in front of the gang boss. Jud glanced at them casually and looked back up. He shrugged. “I’ve never seen them.”
Jud jumped as Risby slammed his fist on the table between them, causing it to rattle. He shrunk further into himself as Risby’s barely restrained wrath flowed over him.
“You were contacted by an outside source and told to kidnap these four people. Where are they?”
Jud shook his head. He couldn’t answer that question. He didn’t know where they were. Risby’s eyes narrowed and he placed eight more papers with photos on them in front of the prisoner.
“These are eight kids who went missing from the streets of Chicago. They were known to be highly intelligent and capable. Do you know what happened to them?”
Jud pulled one of the photos closer to him, studying it carefully. He finally looked up at Risby.
“I know this kid. We were scouting him for the gang but he just disappeared one day. We figured some other gang got him or something. The others I don’t recognize.”
Risby held up the photo for Nikki to see which one it was. She opened up a file and recorded the name of the boy. They would look into him later. She nodded at Risby to signify she was done. Risby turned back to the man sitting in front of him.
“What do you know of James Putter?”
Jud frowned in confusion. “The politician who was murdered a year ago? We didn’t have anything to do with that.” At Risby’s unconvinced expression, Jud continued hurriedly. “He was smart enough to not tangle with the Fanged Wolves while he did his whole ‘peace and justice’ campaign. He knew that if he wanted to make a difference he had to be alive. He didn’t try to hurt us, we didn’t try to hurt him. I already questioned my gang to see if any of them had gone behind my back, but no one had.”
Risby shuffled some papers, putting some to the side and placing others back into the file.
“I believe you.”
Jud stared at him in bewilderment. “You do?”
“Yes. You see, I’ve been looking into a secret organization called the Institution. I believe they were the ones who hired you to kidnap those four people. I also believe that they have something to do with hundreds of children who have gone missing in the last three years, most of them previously living on the streets where they wouldn’t be missed. I believe that they silenced James Putter to keep control of the chaos that Putter was trying to alleviate, as well as countless other politicians and activists trying to achieve the same goal. I believe they have sabotaged innumerable events designed to bring people together in order to achieve peace and order. I believe they hold major influence over every significant gang and terrorist group in the world. ”
Agent 24 stared at Risby. What? Had she heard him correctly? Had the Institution really done all of that? She shook her head. No, it couldn’t be true. The Institution worked to bring balance and harmony to the world. But there was a lingering doubt in the back of her mind.
Risby pulled out a blank sheet of paper and gave it to a stunned Jud. “I need you to write down everything you remember about who hired you to kidnap my agents. I don’t care if it’s even just the way the person’s voice sounded or the way they worded something. I want every little bit of information.”
Jud hesitated, defiance flaring up to push him to protest, but another glare from Risby had him meekly taking the pen and paper.
Risby beckoned for Nikki to follow him out to the hall and down to the conference room as Jud began writing. Adrian joined them as they walked past the door to the observation room, putting his phone back in his pocket as he nodded to them in greeting. “That seemed to go well.”
Risby smiled, relieved that Jud had played his part perfectly, of course not having known that it was all an act. “Yes, he seemed a bit freaked out at the thought that someone in his gang might be a spy for a larger organization that makes his gang look like ants in comparison.”
Nikki muttered a quiet thanks to Risby who held the door open and put the laptop on the table. “Is what you said about the Institution true?” she asked. Risby gazed at her sympathetically.
“Yes. It’s actually worse than what I told Jud. Detective M sent me videos taken of the missing children being brainwashed into utterly loyal soldiers. Some of the footage…” He shuddered at the memory. “There was also evidence of the bombs that were used in eighteen different bombings being made by workers of the Institution. This organization doesn’t want peace- they want control. That’s why I work with Detective M. I believe he is the only one capable of stopping them.”
Nikki was quiet after that.
Adrian turned to Risby who had his laptop out and was pulling up the videos for Nikki. “By the way, sir, Kost asked you to meet them in Conference Room B when you get the chance. It’s a bit closer to where they are and they have a few things set up to show you. Nikki and I will follow soon. I need to talk to her for a few minutes.”
Risby stood up, turning his laptop toward Nikki for her to see the evidence of the Institution’s crimes. “I suppose I need a break. Let me know if you need anything.” He and Adrian shared a meaningful look as he walked out the door. It clanged shut behind him.
48 took a seat next to 24, knowing the turmoil she was going through as she watched the scenes on the screen. The same thing had happened to him. He had been about to kill one of his targets when the man had boldly stared him down, revealing the real reason the Institution had sent the Agent after him.
48 hadn’t killed him. Instead, he knocked the man out until he had seen what his target had found. He had gone to the location the man had described and was horrified to see the children going through the pain and brainwashing that would remake them into efficient worker bees for the Institution.
He had pulled out a camera that he had bought at a convenience store, not wanting any evidence of his newfound knowledge getting back to the Tops like it would if he used Institution tech. He videotaped the area and fled.
Similar to 24, he had believed that by working for the Institution, he was making a difference in the world. And he had- just not the kind of difference he had been hoping for.
48 leaned closer to 24 and put a hand on her back, rubbing soothing circles into the stiff muscles. She looked up, her expression lost and confused, unnatural on the Agent’s face.
“I know how you feel,” Agent 48 told her.
“Yes. I found out a few years ago and could never forget what I saw. The more I searched, the more I found, although nothing was ever as bad as what I saw happening to those children. I had to do something so I contacted Risby for his help.”
24 tensed as the pieces clicked into place. She turned to stare at 48 with horrified eyes. “You’re Detective M,” she said numbly. 48 nodded, not even flinching as 24 pulled out one of her knives and held it to his throat.
“You’re Detective M,” she said again as though to convince herself that this wasn’t just a nightmare brought on from the pressure of the mission.
“Yes, I am. I used what I learned from the Institution to set up a network of spies and informants throughout the world to keep track of their actions. Risby helped me get involved in the detective work, suggesting cases and contacts that could help me, as well as lending his own support in finding evidence. We have compiled quite a bit, as you have seen.”
24 flinched, the images from the laptop having been burned into her mind. 48 used this as a chance to continue.
“I need your help, 24. I can’t take down the Institution on my own- it’s too powerful. I know you want the same thing I do- peace, justice, balance- but that’s not what they are trying to create. They are using us to kill the very people who could make our dream come true, creating the very bombs that hurt innocent people just to create a situation that will pave the way to more control.”
“I don’t believe you.” Agent 24’s hands wavered as she removed the knife from 48’s throat. Still he didn’t move, but his eyes were so full of passion and determination that he no longer seemed like the Agent that was known to stare death in the face and overcome it. She herself could feel all of her training unravelling with every word 48 spoke. She needed to get away, needed time to think things through and put herself back together the way the Institution had trained her to. 24 had given her life to the Institution. She couldn’t abandon it now. Maybe there was a reason they had done all those terrible things. There must have been! But those children…
She shook her head and backed away from 48. “Run,” she told him. “Run far away. I won’t try and stop you, but I am going back to the Institution to tell them everything you just told me. I trust them, have always trusted them. They will make the decision of what to do about you.” She sheathed the knife and stepped away, her eyes never leaving her fellow, no, former, Agent.
48 sighed in frustration and concern for a woman he considered his friend. “24, now that you know what they have done, they will try to silence you too. They will kill you, best Agent or not. You have been compromised, and thus, you are a liability.”
She simply glared at him, feeling behind her for the handle to the door. She found it and pulled the door open, backing into the corridor and letting the door slam shut.