“Mum, watch out!”
A blinding white light followed by the sound of glass breaking were the last things Megan recalled before her eyes jerked open and she shot up in bed, panting and heaving. A nightmare, Megan, she told herself. It was only a nightmare.
Ten… Nine… Eight… She counted down the seconds till her heart calmed down and she looked at the digital clock on her bedside table. 4am, it read; right on cue as always.
Thing is, nightmares- the particular one she just woke up from, in fact- were an eventful part of Megan's night for a very long time now. The scream, the light, the sound; they were as familiar to her as the bed she slept on; as familiar as the very incident which changed her life and brought them on to begin with.
But I’ll not be going down that path today, she said to herself and quickly put away the thought before it persisted, just like she did every time she woke from the nightmare.
Megan grabbed a bottle of water next to the clock and took a sip from it. “It’s not your fault,” she spoke her mantra. “You were just a child. You couldn’t have known that it would end like that.”
Truth be told, the words didn’t really mean much to her, at least not as much as they did when she started saying them those many years ago. Of course, it’s my fault, she criticized herself. Being a child doesn’t change what I did and its consequences because I failed to rectify it in time.
However, hearing herself speak the mantra even though she didn't believe a word of it somehow managed to her calm down so she kept it up. Guess that's the extent of your self-delusion, Megan, she mocked.
Just then, her phone rang on the table and she picked it. “Megan Months,” she said into the receiver. “What?” Her face took on a serious expression. “Alright, I’ll be there in a minute.”
Olympus was a surprising bustle of activities especially for that time of the morning when Megan stepped out of the elevator. 5:30, she looked at her watch and confirmed, very surprised. She had actually thought it was much later with the amount of people already at their posts going about their duties in the building.
Perhaps they never left, she reasoned and found herself in awe again of the environment she was in. Whatever Olympus was at its core, its employees took it very seriously.
Megan reached Dennis’s office and found that he was just as busy as the operatives, typing away furiously on his tablet with the major part of the top portion of the monitor-map behind him in bright red.
“Hello, Director, I heard-”
“That we’ve got a very serious situation up here?” He looked up briefly to acknowledge her presence but didn't stop his activity. “That’s correct. One of Olympus’s secret storage facilities located in the Arctic was just attacked.”
So, that’s why the top part of the map is practically glowing, Megan realized. Dennis must have every operative in the region on high alert.
“Wait, how can the facility be attacked if it’s supposed to be secret?” it suddenly dawned on her.
“Good question, Miss Months.” Dennis pressed something on his tablet and the map on the monitor’s screen was replaced by a footage from the facility. “How about you tell me?”
Megan looked and saw four men on the screen. They were dressed in heavy combat gears, rifles in their hands as they went through each section of the building in two groups of two without any bother for the guards, whom they shot dead on sight, the cameras, or anything else for that matter.
“Brazen and confident," she read off from what she was looking at, "but cautious and organised. I reckon that whoever these guys are, they had a very deep knowledge of the facility’s layout before they came. They knew exactly where to go and how to go about it.”
The footage ended and Megan faced Dennis again. “Tell me, Director," she said, "how many people know about the existence and location of the storage facility?”
“Olympus is an autonomous unit, Miss Months," he replied, "the UN’s most guarded secret. We don’t tell anyone anything unless it’s absolutely necessary; and the storage facility had never been on the “absolutely necessary” list.”
“Well, someone knew enough about it to know how to hit it,” she returned, shrugging in a matter-of-fact expression.
Dennis seemed to think about for some seconds, very concerned. Just then, his tablet buzzed and he groaned.
“The team from the facility just confirmed that something was taken,” he said. “Item 13.” A picture of a large, black, seemly plastic containment box marked Item 13 on the side popped up on the screen alongside some strings of letters and numbers Megan couldn't interprete.
"What is it exactly?” she asked.
“Unfortunately, that information is above your clearance, Miss Months,” he replied, “but what I can tell you is that Item 13 out of Olympus’s hands is a very, very bad development.” He groaned again.
It was in that moment that Megan finally caught on to an aura around Dennis that she had missed when she entered the office. “You knew about this all along, didn't you, Director?” she said.
“Excuse me?” He shot her a confused, almost offended expression.
“Item 13,” she returned. “You knew that was what the intruders were after from the start; at least, you suspected it. That’s why you had me called in the very moment you were notified of the incident.” She looked genuinely intrigued now. “Seriously now, what really is this Item 13?”
“Bad news,” he reiterated, “and one we must deal with very quickly; and since you’re obviously so good at picking up on people's psychological trails, how about I let you run point on the retrieval?”
Now, Megan was stumped. “Excuse me?” she said. “What exactly do you mean by "run point on it?"”
“Take charge, oversee, deal with.” Dennis looked like he would have loved to keep on doling out synonyms but the look on Megan’s face stopped him. She was completely pale. “Miss Months, are you okay?”
“Of course not!” she returned. “I was told that I’m here to help your kids, the Supermen, with whatever psychology issue they may have. No one said anything about active operations.”
“Actually, what we discussed was you leading them in their assigned duties,” he corrected, “which, last I checked, included active operations.”
“But look at these men.” She picked up his tablet to replay him the footage in case he had forgotten. “They’re pros, like Special Forces or something. I don’t think you want a rookie team on this.”
Dennis sighed, seeming to think about it for a while.
"The truth, Miss Months, is that what I actually need you for at the moment is something more subtle,” he said finally. “You see, there’s already a suspect that I believe is involved in the theft of Item 13. Os Buscadores.”
“Os Buscadores,” Megan repeated, “as in the international activist group.”
“More like hacktivist, actually. The group has been credited with several attacks on countries across the world from South Africa, to Russia, North and South Korea; even the United States. They mainly concentrate on releasing embarrassing information about the government on social media which, according to them, said government is trying to cover up.”
“But?” Megan felt one was coming.
“But recently, ever since the leadership of the group fell to this man, Ricardo DiSanto-” the picture of a man in his mid-thirties, brown-skinned, with a full brown curly hair and rough stubble popped up on the screen “- a renowned tech billionaire and software developer in Latin America, they’ve graduated to more aggressive attacks like hacking and defrauding allegedly corrupt politicians, sponsoring riots; and maybe now, attacks on covert facilities.”
Thing is, she understood why Dennis would see Ricardo DiSanto as capable of orchestrating an attack on Olympus’s storage facility. His “rap sheet” supported that theory; and her thought of his personality- she extrapolated it from his leadership of Os Buscadores, which were renowned for their campaign against secrecy- made her feel that he was someone who would be more than willing to take on Olympus, although she couldn’t put it out as a certainty without meeting him in person first.
However, she just couldn’t see why he would choose to steal one particular thing out of the many others supposedly kept in the facility.
It probably has a lot to do with what Item 13 really is then, she realised, which obviously Dennis wasn’t going to tell her as he had made abundantly clear.
“So, where do I come in?” she decided to ask instead.
“Ricardo DiSanto is a very difficult man to pin down,” he said. “Try as they could, no intelligence agency in the world has been able to collect any useful intel on him besides what’s already known by the general public.
"But if Os Buscadores really has Item 13, we need to get something on him and fast, which luckily for us, can be done during an open house party at his residence in Rio tonight.”
“So, you want me to infiltrate the party with the Supermen, get to DiSanto, and find proof that he knows the whereabouts of the mysterious Item 13,” Megan said. “Is that correct?”
“Come on, Director!” Her eyes were practically livid now. “This is a mission for an experienced tact team, can’t you see?”
“I can,” he returned, very calm, “but I want you.
"So, Miss Months-” he took her hands in his as his face took on a very serious expression “-make a plan, gather the kids, and get me results. You’re wheels up in fifteen.”