Chapter 1 - I Want Answers
THIRTEEN YEARS AGO
I waited for my parents to come and fetch me. They had never been late in coming to fetch me before. The kindergarten teacher was doing a terrible job in trying to convince me that they were probably just running late.
But then again, she couldn’t be blamed for thinking I was a normal five year old.
You see, I was born freakishly smart. I was already speaking fluent Greek and English by the age of three, and I was currently doing middle school math and science. My parents didn’t understand how I was born so intelligent, but they didn’t love me any less for it.
The teacher knelt before me. “I just spoke to your father. They’re coming ok?”
I played along and nodded and she sent me a sympathetic smile before moving to pack away the toys. I was the only one who hadn’t been fetched yet and again, I was too smart to know that there was something definitely wrong.
Nothing would ever prepare me for what was about to happen.
I watched my father’s expensive car roll around just as the rain started drizzling outside. He left the car and was about to come and fetch me when he was shot. My mother, out of panic, left the car to run over to him, only for the man in red to shoot her too.
I watched, numb, as the man approached the car, where I could hear my little sister crying. He walked up to her, caressed her cheek before putting a bullet in her head. I was yanked down before I could see anything else.
“Xander, I want you to listen to me ok? My real name is Silver Solano, and I know that what you just witnessed is the worst thing you can ever witness, but I promise that you will be taken care of ok? I’m going to get in touch with some important friends of mine who are going to help you. I know that you understand me better than all of the kids in this place, so I need you to be a big boy and do everything I say ok?” my kindergarten teacher told me.
Before I could respond, the glass door to the kindergarten smashed to pieces. She signaled for me to be quiet as I watched her take out a gun from her boot. She was waiting, seemingly listening out for something.
She’s definitely not a kindergarten teacher.
“Come out, come out wherever ye are Silver. I promise I won’t bite, much,” a deep voice spoke.
“Do you have any idea what you’ve just done?” she asked as she stood up.
“It was only fair that balance be restored,” the man replied.
“You just murdered two of the best agents that Cypher has ever seen. You can’t possibly think that you’ll get away with this,” she told him.
Best agents? My parents were agents? Like spies?
“Oh come on Silver. I’m sure your precious organization won’t miss them. Besides, I hear the son is the one who’s the real catch. Now, are ya going to hand him over, or am I going to have to take him from ya?” the man asked. I could hear more footsteps enter the place.
“Seven on one? You don’t fight fair,” Silver said, her voice wavering.
“They say the kid is a prodigy Sil. I’m not here to play fair,” the man replied.
From the sudden grunts and ruckus, I knew that a fight was occurring. I also knew that with Silver occupied with six people, the leader would probably come looking for me, and I needed to protect myself.
I was hidden in front of the cleaning materials cabinet. I opened it and found some cleaning fluids, as well as some other chemical related things. I could remember my father mixing some of these things and he told me that you could make a powerful mixture from these.
I quickly grabbed an empty metal beaker before I started mixing. My father had also mentioned that with most of these mixtures, you didn’t even need to have a lot of it to guarantee its effectiveness. I mixed what I could before I heard him coming.
“Come out kid! I won’t hurt ya! I want to give ya a new home,” he called out to me.
I knew that if I were to make it out of this alive, I would need more than the bubbling chemical mixture I’d just made. I looked around for anything else as I heard the man’s footsteps coming even closer. I was relieved when I found a tool box on the shelf just across from where I was.
“There ye are,” he said as he found me.
I didn’t give him any time to take a good look at me. Instead, I flung the acid at his face, and he screamed out, before I lodged a screwdriver into his foot. I didn’t give myself time to see where my plan worked or not.
Silver was still fighting three other guys, with the other three laying dead on the floor. I still had two screwdrivers in my hands, and I jumped onto the one of the guy’s backs before lodging the screwdrivers into his neck.
When he went tumbling down, one of the remaining two spotted me and tried to shoot me. Silver jumped for him, but the bullet still got me. It hit me right in the stomach, and I’d never felt anything as excruciating as that.
“Leave him! The boss is hurt!” the other remaining guy said as they rushed over to their boss. The guy who’d just shot me went to help get their boss out, while Silver rushed to me.
“You are such a brave boy Xander. I can’t believe you just did that,” she said as she kept pressure on my wound.
“I killed a man,” I managed to point out.
“He was a very bad man. It’s going to take you a long time before you can truly deal with what happened today, but know that I will be here the whole way,” she told me.
“Will you be my new mum?” I said breathlessly.
“Only if you promise to stay awake for me,” she said.
The pain was too much for me to take, but I managed to keep my eyes open. “I promise.”
I stormed into Headquarters and I immediately felt the atmosphere change in the place. All eyes turned to me as I angrily headed towards the main floor. Only the brave would dare to piss me off even further.
“Xander, think about what you’re about to do,” my best friend told me.
“I have thought long and hard about it Aziel. I need answers,” I replied as we arrived outside our boss’ office. She opened the door as I was about to.
“Six. Five. One. How may I help you?” she asked.
“What the hell happened to my girlfriend?” I asked.
She raised an eyebrow. “I’m sorry, but I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Bullshit Margaux! You know everything that goes on around here, and this isn’t a secret. Three days ago, we were on a romantic weekend away when Nadia called me to tell me to get out of the cabin. I just barely made it out,” I told her.
“And the same couldn’t be said for your girlfriend I presume?” she patronized.
I was seconds from throttling her.
“Margaux, I wouldn’t test him right now. He loves her, a lot, and at this point, he’s on the verge of killing everything and everyone,” Nigel told her.
She raised an eyebrow. “You make it sound like I’m terrified of him.”
“Please just tell him what he wants to know,” Aziel pleaded.
“Last I checked the forensics team is still trying to identify the body that was found at the scene. With it being so charred, identifying it is taking longer than you’d obviously like,” she replied as she walked into her office. We followed her in.
“What about all the tracking devices I linked to her?” I asked since I’d been shut out of my own command system.
She tapped her laptop screen. “It would seem that everything was wiped from the moment you answered that call from Two. I’m sorry but there is no tracking your girlfriend if she’s alive.”
“So that’s it? We have to wait on the forensics team?” Nigel asked since I was getting too angry to speak.
“That’s exactly what you’re going to do. I am banning you from any further activity until that report comes back,” she said sternly.
“You can’t do that!” Aziel protested.
“I run this show Five. What I say goes, and your little rebellious group would do well to remember that,” she replied stoically.
This woman despises my group’s existence because we don’t follow her stupid rules, but we always get the job done. If it were up to her, we’d all either be decommissioned or forced into following her way of doing things, except that’s not how we roll.
We wouldn’t be the best if we did.
Our way of doing things not only guarantees success, but it pisses her off because the Board of Cypher lets us off of the hook for as long as we keep producing results; something that isn’t even debatable with the amount of evidence there is to back up our work.
I knew I had to leave before I truly lost my cool. As I had told my girlfriend, there are only nine people I trust in this place. Five of them are in my group, and the other four are a responsible for other things. They are Jay, Karr, Cee and Silver.
My missing adoptive mother.
I last saw her three years ago, but I know that she’s still alive. She sends me coded messages in different forms every now and then, except I haven’t heard from her ever since blossom and I stayed at the island six months ago.
“I need to get in touch with Karr,” I told my best friends as we headed to our SUV.
“He’s gone dark since the BNK attacked his base in Tokyo,” Nigel informed me.
“You know that Karr is never really dark when it comes to us, so we need to let him know that we need his help somehow,” I suggested.
“Ok,” Aziel said before taking his gun out and shooting at me.
The bullet grazed my arm, but it still hurt a shitload.
“What the hell?” I said as I clutched my arm. He didn’t say anything and instead pointed to my pocket, where my phone was buzzing.
I took it out and answered, putting it on speaker. “Why the hell did Aziel just shoot at you?”
“I guess it was to draw you out,” I replied.
“And to get even. You shot me in the foot last year,” my best friend reminded.
Nigel chuckled. “I knew you hadn’t forgiven him.”
“Well, you’ve got my attention. What the hell do you want?” Karr asked.
“I need you to hack forensics and find out if they’re withholding any information regarding a charred body that they recently got a hold of,” I told him.
“And what is so important about this charred body?” he asked.
“We need to know if his girlfriend is still alive or not,” Aziel informed.
“What the fuck? When did you get a girlfriend?” Karr asked.
“It’s not relevant when I got her. Just find out if she’s still alive or not,” I replied.
“Fine, but this conversation is not over. Where are you heading now?” he asked.
“We’re all heading back to the States. If I’m correct, then a certain father is waiting to have my head on a chopping block,” I sighed.
“Dude, you pissed off a father?” Karr asked.
“Oh, not just any father. The Director of the FBI,” Nigel did the honor of informing.
Mr Solano received the promotion to Director just before Aziel, Nigel and I had to leave for Germany. Mrs Solano had us all pitch in to throw him a congratulatory party, something he wasn’t pleased about. After the Halloween party, he’s been put off of parties happening at his house.
“Your girlfriend is the daughter of the Director of the FBI?” Karr asked, disbelief dripping in his tone.
“That’s what Nigel just told you,” I said.
“That’s a mess on so many levels. Does he know what you do? Does she know what you do? Hell, do they know who you are?” Karr rapidly asked.
“Get back to me with those details by tomorrow Karr,” I told him before hanging up the phone.
“Just how deep has he gone this time if he doesn’t know about Elle?” Aziel asked as I headed to the first aid kit in the car.
“Well, he did go underground just after Sierra Leone, which was exactly a month before Xander met Elle. Also, Karr has never been one to keep up with everyone else’s business here,” Nigel pointed out.
“Alright! We need a plan of action here,” I said after wrapping my arm.
“Can I just say that you’re shocking me with your level headedness right now?” Aziel commented.
“I don’t have a choice. Just because I’m angry on the inside, doesn’t mean I can go around killing people just for the sake of it. I told my girlfriend that I only kill bad guys, and I meant that. She would kill me if I went around killing innocent people in her name. I need to remain level headed so that I can find her,” I explained.
“So that you can find her? You don’t think the charred body is hers?” Nigel asked.
“I’m certain that it isn’t. I don’t know what the hell is going on here, or who has her, but I will find her. If there’s even a single scratch on her, heads will roll,” I said in promise.
“We don’t doubt you, however we don’t really have any options in our corner right now. The only person who would figure this out, hates your very existence,” Aziel reminded.
“That may be so, but he’s built some sort of relationship with her. I have to trust that it will be enough for him to help us,” I sighed.
“You know we’re with you no matter what you choose to do, so if you think contacting Franco is the right thing to do, then so be it,” Aziel said.
We got into the car and headed to the private airport where the jet was waiting to take us back to the States. I sent Franco a coded message, knowing he’d figure it out. I was more than shocked when he agreed to meet me the moment we land.
On the entire flight back, I tried to keep my thoughts on all the happy memories I’ve had with my girlfriend. People use the phrase ‘you are my light’ often, and not many of them understand or really know what the phrase means and the impact it really has.
Noelle Blossom Solano is my light. I have seen and been through so much darkness in my life that I had already accepted it as my destiny. Hell, it’s what has made me the brilliant agent I am; I had nothing to live for, so becoming a killing machine didn’t sound like much of a burden.
But now I had everything to live for.
During our mission in Germany, I found myself going back to the conversation we had on the way to me introducing her to Aziel, when she mentioned how many kids she wanted. Before I met her, kids were a myth to me. I mean I know that they exist and all, but I never once saw myself being a family man.
“What are you thinking about?” I asked her as she ran her fingers through my hair.
We were chilling in her room, and I was laying so that my head was on her lap. She had been upset about something. It had been two days, and she was refusing to tell me what it was that upset her so much.
“Nothing,” she sighed.
“Blossom, it’s been two days. I hate that you’re keeping something that upset you so much from me,” I admitted.
“Why don’t you just ask your spy friends who I’m pretty sure are keeping tabs on me tell you?” she snapped.
I sat up and gently grabbed her face in my hands. “First of all, no one is keeping tabs on you except for tracking your location so that I always know where you are; nothing more and nothing less. Secondly, I want my girlfriend to be the one to tell me what’s bothering her.”
“He was crying so much D,” she whispered, tears rushing to her eyes.
I scowled. “Who?”
“The little boy at the kids’ home. They’d just brought him in from social services. Apparently his parents had died in a car accident, and he wasn’t even allowed to go to their funeral because they didn’t get one. He has no one left. He’s only two, and no one bothered to explain anything to him. I wanted to take him with me so badly,” she sniffed as I wiped her tears away.
I brought her to my chest so that she could cry. She and the cheerleading squad had gone on a charity outing to visit the kids at the home two days ago. She was so excited when she left, and now that she’d told me the story, her bad mood was understandable.
“What was his name?” I asked when her crying died down.
“Henry,” she replied.
“I know you want to save him blossom, but there’s nothing that you can do about it,” I sighed.
“Can’t you pull some strings at the organization?” she pouted.
“That’s not how it works. I’m a field agent, and together with my reputation, there’s only so much I can do,” I explained.
The person who would be able to help is missing.
She was quiet for the longest time before she spoke again. “When we have kids, we’ll make sure that they’re taken care of, even after we’re gone.”
“We?” I asked.
“What do you think Xander? You asked me to be your last girlfriend, and I can recall telling you that I want five kids. Did you think I was going to adopt them or get a sperm donor for all of them?” she huffed, arms crossed.
I couldn’t help but chuckle at the time. Only blossom could look so cute while ranting. I had never thought of kids in my future before, but looking at her basically telling me that I would be the only father of our kids made me want it more than anything else.
In fact, the moment I admitted to myself that I’m in love with her, and that no one would ever compare, I’ve been rethinking my future. I always thought that I would be serving Cypher for the rest of my life, but with blossom in the picture, everything changed.
I don’t want to be in the organization for longer than necessary. I’ve already given them ten years of service, which is more than enough repayment for what they did for me. However, my future, my home, is wherever my blossom is.
“How are we handling this?” Aziel asked once we’d landed in the States.
“We don’t have time to even think about it. Franco’s here,” Nigel said, pointing to the man. He was in the distance, standing outside his SUV.
We walked towards him, and I could tell that he was majorly pissed off. “YOU LOST HER?”
“I didn’t lose her,” I replied.
“Then where is she?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I said.
He rolled his eyes. “So, you lost her.”
“Look, can you find her or not?” I asked.
“I can try and find her, but what’s in it for me? Especially since you idiots thought you could play me,” he asked.
“What do you mean we played you?” Nigel asked.
“Did you really think I would be stupid enough to believe that she’s Zero? You clearly didn’t do your research on Zero, because if you had, then you would know that Zero would not have let me live,” he explained.
“If you didn’t believe that she was Zero, then why have you been meeting up with her and feeding her information?” I asked in confusion.
“She’s very likeable, and she must love you a hell of a lot if she’s willing to put her life in danger pretending to be someone who is wanted dead around the world. Those facts alone are why I want to keep her protected. She loves you, but she doesn’t deserve to die because of the life we all chose. She doesn’t deserve to be a pawn in this, so you’re going to need to tell me everything about the last time you saw her,” he replied.
“I last saw her at the cabin on the lake,” I started off.
He scowled. “Why the hell would you do something so stupid?”
“What are you talking about?” Aziel asked on my behalf.
“That cabin no longer belongs to the organization. Who told you that you could head there?” he asked.
“I received the standard response from Headquarters,” I said.
“Someone’s trying to take you out,” Nigel said what I was quickly piecing together.
“And the difficult part will be trying to figure out a number of things based on that statement alone. Firstly, who’s trying to kill him? Secondly, why are they trying to kill him? Thirdly, are they inside the organization, or infiltrating from outside? Fourthly, was Noelle a part of the plan? Lastly, are they the same person who has her?” Franco listed in suspicion.
“This is so fucked up!” I said, rubbing my face.
“Wait, you just referred to Elle as alive? How do you know she’s alive?” Aziel asked the genius before us.
“I hacked the forensic team’s data as soon as Six here said he needs my help. I knew it had to do with her. I tracked her last known location and that’s why I’m confused to find out about the cabin. I assumed that’s where she had been taken to be killed. I didn’t know that she’d actually gone there with him. I recognized the tampering at the scene as the sloppy work of Cypher’s Forensic Team, so I hacked their files to find out what they had on the scene. The corpse they found isn’t hers. Its three inches longer than she is, so whoever has her, put the body there to clearly send a message. However, we’re not completely disregarding the body since we need to know who it belonged to, and why they were left there,” he explained.
I was fuming. “I thought you said you could find her. Sounds to me like you don’t know where she is either!”
“Calm down! Yes, I have lost all connections to her, but that only means that I have a challenge on my hands. Believe it or not, she’s important to me too, so I will do everything I can to find her,” he said confidently.
“Why are you helping? Besides your obvious soft spot towards Elle that is. A person would think you’d want Six to suffer,” Nigel said in interest.
“Six can suffer a million other ways, but not at the expense of Noelle. She’s innocent in this. Her only mistake was falling in love with one of the most dangerous people on the face of the planet. She can’t be faulted for that,” Franco replied before turning to leave.
“Where are you going?” Aziel asked him.
“I would suggest you follow me and not ask any questions,” he replied.
We did as requested, but not after his mandatory body search to ensure that we weren’t bugged. While he’s helping us, I knew that he didn’t want the organization learning about his whereabouts or plans.
Especially since whatever he shared with my girlfriend is starting to look like it wasn’t credible information to begin with.
The entire ride to wherever it is we were headed, I couldn’t get his words out of my mind. I, myself, have thought them many times before. Blossom did make the mistake of falling in love with me, but I’m the one who made the bigger mistake of letting her.
As I mentioned before, the chemistry was there from the moment that we met, and I should’ve stopped it at that. She’s a civilian, one of the greatest at that, and I pulled her into my world, knowing all the possible dangers that would be facing her.
And now she’s missing because of me.
However, is it wrong that I want to be selfish when I think about being with her? Don’t I deserve my shot at love? Don’t I deserve a shot at having someone who will accept me unconditionally for everything that I am? I’d like to think that I do, and if it comes in the form of Noelle Solano, then so be it.
But the reality of the situation is can I keep her without her getting lost to my world?