Megan had expected quite a number of reactions from her question: shock, denial, deflection, even old-fashioned honesty. But those weren't any of what she got.
Minutes after Megan had put forward the question, all Dennis did was stare at her; and the expression on his face was neutral, like he hadn’t even heard a single word she said. She began to feel a little uneasy.
Thing is, it was starting to dawn on Megan that perhaps the man in front of her was someone she would never be able to read. One moment he was friendly, the next he was fierce; one moment open and ready to share, the next sealed off like a crypt hidden down in the very deep levels of the secret mountain base that was Olympus.
Dennis jumped from one demeanour to the other like none of them was existentially who he was and that made her very apprehensive of whom he might truly be underneath it all.
But out of nowhere, he suddenly smiled. “That’s two questions, Miss Months,” he said like the technicality was what he had been trying to figure out for the past few minutes.
“Take it as two parts of one then,” she returned evenly; at least, as evenly as she could be given the circumstance.
He seemed to think about it for a while again; his expression just as neutral as before. “Alright,” he finally replied, “I’ll let you know what you want.”
Dennis sat up in his chair and straightened his suit, not because it was wrinkled though- Megan suspected it was more an habit with him whenever he wanted to say something serious.
“Like I told you earlier," he began soon after, "Olympus is the United Nation’s Covert Affairs Department on Threat Assessment and Response’s paramilitary division. We’re an autonomous unit that monitors the activities of the world for anything that can put it in danger, and respond when such threat arises with every resource at our disposal.”
“Resources which also happens to include three superpowered teenagers,” she completed for him.
He nodded affirmative, smiling presumably at the way her mind worked. “We call them Homo supernus," he explained. "The Supermen.”
Dennis placed his right hand on the top of his desk and immediately, a green light ran through the glass and his palm. “Clearance approved,” the AI announced and a section of the top slid open to bring up a black manila folder. He passed it to Megan.
Project Olympus. That was the title on the folder.
Opening it, Megan discovered that it was a collection of detailed information on Jay, Adolf and Kei: their physiological stats, power description and stats, even their medical history. Everything had been documented in details.
Whoever compiled this must have really dug deep into the teenagers' life, she realised.
However, even with the many things Megan discovered about the trio and their superpowers from the folder, she realised that none of it gave her an insight into how they got it in the first place; purposely too, she suspected.
Dennis must have anticipated that she would be curious for it as he passed her a smaller folder from behind his desk just as she looked over the last document in the big one. “I wanted to be sure you wanted know before I showed you,” he said.
Megan didn't understand why he would need to say that, but then she opened the second black manila folder and did.
Thing is, the second folder contained documents detailing test results and charts that, if her deduction was right, depicted procedures that shouldn’t have been possible in today's world; and a lot of them not even allowed by the research ethics committee. But they were claimed to have been carried out on the teenagers.
“Intricate human gene manipulation,” she said, looking up at Dennis whose expression confirmed all her assumptions.
“Yes,” he replied. “The procedures were a lot more complex than depicted in the report but basically, what was achieved was genetic manipulation focusing on protein translation and expression. The rest of it is classified for obvious reasons.”
Megan started to feel sick. The whole thing sounded like something straight out of a mad scientist’s lab; and she considered it a great miracle that it even achieved the results they wanted.
“Did the kids volunteer for this?” she forced herself to ask.
“They don’t even know what this is,” he replied and her confusion deepened. “Miss Months," he explained, "those kids themselves are part of the project.” He motioned for her to read further and she did.
The latter pages in the folder reported how sperm and egg cells were collected from various individuals all over the world; the cells separated into categories based on various physiological and medical factors observed in the involved individuals. That's how they were able to get the medical history so detailed, Megan realised.
“The donors,” she said after she was through and passed the folders quickly back to Dennis like they contained the plague. “What became of them?”
“They were well-compensated and unaware of the service they rendered to the world,” he replied and she shot him another confused look.
"None of the donors knew what their sperms and eggs were going to be used for," he expatiated. "We only told them it was for reproductive research and they were fine with it. They signed a non-disclosure agreement and we in turn signed a privacy protection one; and we’ve both kept our ends of the bargain up till now.”
And they really had, Megan noted. In the reports, no name of any of the donors was mentioned, or any fact about them for that matter besides those fundamental to the project.
But Megan couldn't exactly bring herself to believe that spoke of Olympus's good nature.
Thing is, all day long, she had been wondering what kind of an organization it was; and now she knew. It was the kind whose operatives were capable of crossing any boundary to see its objective achieved; and even if that objective was supposedly a better way to ensure world peace, she still wasn’t motivated to support the means they went to do it.
There's still one more thing to know though, her mind reminded her. "How much of this do the kids know?" she asked.
Dennis gave a small smile. It was almost like he had been expecting to ask the question from the start and was impressed that she did.
"They know enough to not wonder about their identity," he replied. "They know that they were conceived through some special, almost sci-fi procedures, and that their parents don't know of their existence, but not because they don't care but because we arranged for it to be so from the start; and most importantly, they know that they're here to help keep the world safe and at peace."
It can't be that simple, Megan said to herself; nothing ever was.
However, whether Dennis was telling a lie or not, the truth that she couldn't deny was that she saw the kids looking happy to be in Olympus, and they seemed eager to use their powers to further its objectives.
Anyway, it's not my problem, she concluded and stood up. “Look, Director,” she faced the exit, “I appreciate the tour and the eventual honesty, but obviously, whatever job you’re offering isn’t suited for me. I’m not a geneticist or any of the other bigwigs you have here.” She proceeded towards the door.
“But the job we're offering doesn't concern a geneticist or any of those other bigwigs, Miss Months,” he said just as she put her hand to the door. "It concerns you as a leader for the Supermen."
Megan stopped mid-action. “Excuse me?” She turned back to face the dead serious look on Dennis's face even as he was still seated just like he was since the conversation began; back up, hands folded, legs crossed.
“I said, we want you to lead the Supermen,” he repeated casually like it was an invitation to dinner.
Megan blinked once; and then she burst into a long laughter.
To be honest, she wasn’t sure exactly what part of the conversation she found amusing. Maybe the part I'm being offered a job to be in charge of a bunch of superpowered kids, she thought, or perhaps even the fact that there are superpowered kids to begin with.
But whatever the reason it might be, it tickled her mind and she just let the laughter flow out uncontrolled.
“All due respect, Director," she said after a while, "I’m a psychologist, not Professor X. I don’t have any superpower or leadership skills to match up to your X-men.”
“They’re the Supermen and you do have what it takes to match up,” he corrected.
Dennis stood up and circumvented his desk to come face her squarely- a movement that told Megan that the next part of his words were going to downright honest- “Megan, you know people like no other person does," he said. "You know what they’re thinking and how they’re going to behave in half the time it takes for any other person to figure it out. These kids need that. They need a guide that knows exactly what they’re doing.”
“But I don’t know what I'm doing!” she returned, the weirdness of the whole situation that just didn't seem to want to let up causing her to practically scream her words out. “I don’t even know why I came here today.”
“But I think you do,” he replied, his tone calm and assured just like always.
Megan looked up into Dennis's eyes and she found nothing there but genuineness. Whatever the case might turn out to be later, he really wanted her for the kids in that moment; perhaps even needed her for them, she suspected.
And if nothing else, he was right that she knew exactly why she had come to Olympus that day. That why was Arthur Dean. She didn't need superpowers to tell her that if she left Olympus with the offer declined, he would return to her apartment; and that return wasn't going to be a pleasant one for her.
“Alright, Director,” she finally said after a while, sighing, “I’ll be your Professor X.”