Sanity Is Relative
Tartarus was on the roof of the hotel, his rifle resting against the vent. He had the most boring part of the assignment, but equally the most important. Sure, Zeus and Apollo needed to get this “Junior” out of the plant, but without Tartarus watching over them like a God, they weren’t going to get far.
Tartarus smirked as Alice appeared in his vision. She seemed more energetic, but he didn’t want to break her. In truth, Tartarus was becoming a little attached to his A.I. She was useful, far more useful than an ordinary spotter.
‘What’s happening to you, Alice?’
Alice frowned, her ears drooping. ‘It’s an Agency protocol. Captain Nevada wants his Agents to be the best they can be, so he puts limiting code into the artificial intelligence. If we get used to much, the code locks us until we dock with our assigned ship.’
‘Seems like a design flaw,’ Tartarus said, picking his rifle up. ‘I could never do math as well as you can.’
Alice checked Tartarus’s rifle, and she immediately grew more tired again. She sat on the vent in a huff, her tail swishing in annoyance.
‘It’s not fair!’ she exclaimed. ‘I just want to help!’
Tartarus looked through his scope, searching for Zeus and Apollo.
‘You are, Alice. I’m not alone.’
Zeus and Apollo walked up the main driveway to the security booth in front of the power plant. The plant was sleek in it’s design, with few windows and many supports and reinforcements around the building, likely to protect the precious machinery within. The security guard in the booth barely glanced up from his magazine when Zeus approached the window.
‘Pass?’ the guard said. Zeus placed his hand on the DNA reader and waited. After a series of beeps, the guard checked the monitor.
‘Is there a problem?’ Zeus asked politely.
‘No problem, sir,’ the guard said. ‘Computer says you have clearance from President Frost. What’s she like?’
‘Oh, President Frost?’ Zeus said, thinking on his feet. ‘Interesting woman. Little known fact about her... she likes toffee.’
The guard seemed satisfied with this information, and buzzed the two Agents in. Zeus and Apollo walked as quickly as they could without drawing attention to themselves.
‘So, where is Junior?’ Apollo asked under his breath. Thankfully, his comms still picked up his words.
‘Junior told us he’d lead us to him when we arrive. I guess we just have to wait.’
Zeus looked at the guide by the entrance. It fizzled slightly, then showed a green dot by the reactor floor.
‘I think this is our direction, Apollo,’ Zeus said, tapping the dot. ‘What’s your weapon status?’
’I had a cannon, but Tartarus drained it. So, a handgun and an assault rifle. You?′
‘Handgun. But don’t forget we have Tartarus on overwatch.’
Apollo glanced out the window at the hotel. Somehow, the hotel seemed darker than it did before.
The two Agents made their way through the building, not stopping to take in the sights of people working and machinery whirring. When they arrived at the reactor, they were presented with a new problem.
The door was locked with a high-end security pad, and neither of them had the code.
‘Junior?’ Zeus asked hopefully, but there were no cameras in this hall. They had to figure this out on their own.
‘Any ideas, Apollo?’
Apollo checked the pad, as if he had any idea how it worked.
‘We could do what we did on Set Station?’
Zeus considered it, but shook his head. ‘No, that’s leaving a trace. I’d prefer people to think this was a simple malfunction, not a terrorist attack.’
Apollo nodded, and typed 0-0-0-0-0 into the pad. It blinked red.
‘What are you doing?’ Zeus asked, checking over his shoulder.
‘Look, no one changes codes,’ Apollo said. ‘I just have to figure out what the base code is.’
9-9-9-9-9. It blinked red.
‘Titan City has a five-number postcode.’
Zeus typed in 1-5-6-2-4. It blinked red.
‘No, think simpler,’ Apollo said, then stopped. It couldn’t be... could it?
Apollo typed in 4-8-3-7-8. It blinked green, and the door opened.
‘You have got to be kidding me!’ Apollo shouted as he walked into the reactor.
‘What was the code?’ Zeus asked.
‘It was “Guest”. Again!’
Zeus held in his laughter at Apollo’s outburst. The two walked towards the reactor. It thrummed mightily, growing louder the closer they walked towards it.
‘So, where’s Junior?’ Apollo wondered allowed.
A utility cupboard opened, and Apollo drew his handgun, aiming at it’s occupant. He quickly lowered the gun upon realising it was a child.
‘That’s me,’ the child said, closing the cupboard behind him. He walked up to Zeus, and held his hand out. ‘My name’s Junior. And you are Agent Zeus.’
Impressed, Zeus shook the boy’s hand.
‘You hacked into the city grid yourself?’
Junior nodded, pulling his tablet out of his backpack.
‘They really don’t make it hard, sir,’ Junior said. His fingers danced over the tablet, touching the touchscreen faster than Apollo’s eyes could track. Then they stopped.
‘Shutdown sequence has been programmed,’ Junior said proudly, but Zeus cut him off.
‘I’m sorry, Junior,’ he said seriously. ‘Your skills are amazing, but I really can’t hire you. I’d need permission from your parents, and even then, the types of missions we’d be performing are quite dangerous.’
Junior looked sad, his eyes lowering towards his feet.
‘Firstly, my parents are in jail. Io prison, to be exact, so by Alliance law, I am considered to be independent.’
‘You’re not even a teenager!’ Apollo said incredulously. ‘Who is running this government!?’
‘Secondly,’ Junior continued. ‘I can’t think of anywhere safer than an Alliance black ops cruiser. With the cloaking, the plating and the weaponry on that thing, I’d be safer than money in a bank.’
Zeus tapped his comms, logging everyone into the conversation.
‘I need a consensus, Olympus.’
‘He’s a kid,’ Tartarus said from the rooftop, ‘But so was I when I started this kind of work. We could give him a trial run, and if he fails, dump him back here.’
‘You want to hire a boy?’ Epione said from the medical bay on the ship. ‘Imagine if we had him on Set Station, Zeus!’
‘I assume his parents aren’t a factor,’ Thanatos said from the airlock. ‘Otherwise, you’d never be considering this. Are we really going to leave an orphan on the streets?’
Everyone made a good point. So Zeus mixed up every suggestion.
‘Junior, here’s what I propose. We give you a trial run of two missions. You can’t leave the ship, and you’ll be helping with engineering and computer expertise remotely. After the trial, if we’re satisfied, we’ll take you on.’
‘Awesome!’ Junior said, but Zeus held his hand up.
‘However,’ he continued. ‘If we aren’t, we’ll be giving you to an orphanage. We can’t afford to take on anyone that doesn’t prove useful. Alright?’
Junior looked crestfallen for a moment, then nodded glumly. He handed the tablet over to Zeus.
‘Press the button when you are ready.’
Zeus tapped his comm again. ‘Enyo, how’s our exit coming?’
The glass shattered, the shards showering the driver’s seat of the car. Enyo reached her arm in, unlocked the door, and moved the glass out the door. Normally, she’d be a little more stealthy about this, but the sirens coming from the power plant told her to hurry up. She sat in the driver’s seat, and smiled.
‘Let’s see if Merlin was telling the truth.’
Enyo pressed the yellow button on her wrist-comp, and her index finger shot a spike out. Enyo jammed the spike into the ignition and turned it. The car thrummed to life, and Enyo stepped on the accelerator. The car did not have a steering wheel, but instead plane-like controls. Enyo pulled the steering back, and the car shot up into the air in a completely vertical line.
Enyo was cut off by the pressure of the car, then she pushed and made the car dive. Through her screaming, she made the car pirouette through the air towards the power plant
Zeus and Apollo kicked through the door together, and faced the squad of robotic security blocking the entrance. Every mechanical menace aimed their gun at them. Zeus knew diplomacy wasn’t going to work on them. Apollo, however...
‘We mean you no harm!’ Apollo said, still aiming his rifle at the robots. Zeus sighed.
Every robot opened fire, and Zeus pushed Apollo to the side, taking three shots in his chest armour, then dived into cover as well.
‘Junior, stay inside. We have company.’
Junior glanced out of the window, then turned his tablet on. The kid’s fingers played like spider’s legs on the screen, then every robot stopped moving. Before Junior could take credit, though, Enyo smashed into the horde with her car.
‘Woo!’ Enyo shouted, her hair all over the place.
Zeus grinned, then pushed Apollo towards the car. Junior ran outside and got into the backseat. Zeus did the same, and Enyo sped into the sky.
‘Did you steal this car, Enyo,’ Zeus asked.
‘Of course! I heard sirens. Besides, illegal is faster.’
Knowing it was best not to argue, Zeus turned his attention to the police cruisers behind them. Four cars were keeping pace with Enyo’s insane driving, though they lacked the manical cackle from the driver’s seat.
Apollo leaned out the window, but Zeus pulled him back inside.
‘They’ve done nothing wrong!’ Zeus cried over Enyo’s laughter. Apollo nodded, and kept his eye on the mirror. Zeus pressed the comm in his ear.
‘Tartarus, open the hangar and tell Phil to fire it up. Once we’re inside, we’re leaving the planet. Junior, now!’
Junior nodded, and pressed his screen once. The entire city went black without electricity, then flashed up as the emergency power of the hospitals and prisons clanged to life. As if on cue, a colossal space craft lifted off from the space port, being fired upon from unseen sources in the city.
Enyo jammed the accelerator and giggled happily. The passengers, however, started screaming as the car went straight through the particle field, and Enyo smashed the car into the wall.
‘They’re on, hit it!’ Tartarus ordered. Phil grinned, and pushed the throttle forward. The ship’s engine fired up, destroying the space post beneath them, and the ship shot out of the atmosphere with the mother of all sonic booms.
‘Hang on to your butts!’ Phil called over the intercom. Tartarus held onto her chair, activating his mag-boots for good measure.
Once Phil noticed they were in vacuum, she punched the calculations into the drive computer. The fire in the engine’s disappeared, replaced with a bright blue energy, then the ship disappeared.
‘What did you do?’ Tartarus asked.
‘We jumped. I punched in the coordinates for Jinkai, hope you don’t mind.’
Tartarus smiled, and patted Phil’s back. He strode back through the cockpit, and touched the A.I screen by the door.
‘How’s the away team?’
The form of Belle appeared on the screen.
‘Vitals are normal. Highly elevated dopamine levels from Agent Enyo, however. I have already alerted the medical team.’
Tartarus nodded. He was still in charge until Zeus relieved him. Phil called over her shoulder.
‘You never said how you got back before them.’
Tartarus grinned darkly, his reflection showing in the A.I screen. It was likely he was never going to tell her, but the grin spoke of something that made feel shiver.
Ian’s eyes flew open and he sat upright, sweat rolling from his hairline. That dream had been... amazing and terrifying, all at once. He knew it, but he could barely remember it. Who had he been it that dream? Agent... something...
‘Are you alright, dear?’ a familiar voice spoke behind Ian. He turned and saw a vision of perfection in the doorway. Summer dress of sunflower yellow, straight, perfect teeth behind her smile that made Ian melt every time he saw it.
‘I was having a dream. I was in the future,’ Ian said, realising how silly this sounded. His wife smiled, walking over and sitting beside him.
‘It wasn’t a dream, dear,’ she said, her hand cupping the side of his face. ‘It’s the 23rd century. Tell me your name?’
This wasn’t right! Ian opened his mouth to say his name, and a blinding pain shot through his brain. He fell back, holding his head to try and stabilise the pain.
‘What happened? Zeus?’
No, he was Ian. He was Ian. He was Ian...
‘Zeus, wake up!’
Zeus sat upright and swung a punch. He felt a hand enclose over it, and looked up to see Tartarus standing over him, holding the fist as if it had been nothing.
‘Are you trying to hurt these nice doctors, Zeus?’
Tartarus let go, and Zeus shook his head, trying to reassert himself into reality. He tried to remember his wife’s face, but all he could garner was her smile. It would have to be enough for now.
‘When you tried to say your name, you went a little crazy, Zeus,’ Dr. Kailey Refik said, checking Zeus’s vitals as she spoke. ‘What was that?’
‘I don’t know,’ Zeus said. ‘I tried to say my birth name, and... my brain felt like it was on fire.’
‘Interesting,’ Kailey said, moving her finger back and forth in front of Zeus’s eyes. ‘It might be conditioning from your position in a black ops organization. I’d test it, but I don’t want to kill you. From now on, just avoid saying it, alright? I’ll send a memo to the others on your team to do the same.’
Tartarus did not seem phased by this news. It wasn’t as if he had left anything behind in his previous life. But Zeus and Epione had left families, he was sure of that. Even to Tartarus, it seemed cruel to deny them their identity.
‘Zeus,’ Tartarus said, breaking his reverie. ‘Phil has jumped to another part of space and we await your orders.’
Zeus nodded and stood, ignoring the sharp pain in his leg.
‘Set up a conference with Captain Nevada. We should tell him about Titan.’
With Dionysus still in the medbay, and Epione overseeing her care, Olympus Squad was slightly smaller than usual as they sat in the conference room aboard their ship. Zeus sat at the head, as he was the squad’s leader. Beside him on his left was Tartarus, looking rather bored, his closed fist propping his face up by the cheek. On Zeus’s right was Enyo, who had been calmed with a large sedative, and thus her tendency to giggle had been quelled for the meeting. Apollo was sitting beside Tartarus, the armory list in hand, reading over it to ensure there was another cannon in storage. Beside Enyo was Thanatos, reading what was very clearly a Bible, though whenever pressed, he reminded the asker that reading it did not mean faith in it.
On the table was a hologram of Belle, who was connecting the call. Zeus was worried. Technically, they had damaged infrastructure of a major human world. Nevada might not like that. It was good that Epione was not here to further infuriate him. Zeus would need to summon up as much charisma as he could muster.
The hologram changed to Captain Nevada, looking down on Zeus with a scowl. The agents sat up straight, abandoning what they were doing previously.
‘Olympus Squad, report’
‘We have finished on Titan,’ Zeus began, ‘and have acquired the services of a pilot, a doctor, a scientist, a communications officer, an engineer and an entertainer.’
Nevada’s eyebrow rose at the mention of an entertainer, but other squads had one too. He would allow it.
‘Where are Agents Epione and Dionysus?’
‘Agent Dionysus was severely wounded on mission, and Agent Epione is overseeing her care.’
‘Very well. Continue.’
Zeus breathed in, then told the story of recruiting Phil. When he was done, Enyo told of recruiting Kailey and Eliza. Then Tartarus spoke up about Isaac and Allyra. Finally, Zeus finished the report by explaining the recruitment of Junior.
Nevada listened through the entire thing, never once opening his mouth. The multiple mentions of Lorcan Callaghan was interesting, as was the acquisition of a minor as engineer. When the report was done, Nevada spoke.
‘So you instigated an underground war with one of the most dangerous criminals in Alliance space for some untested and unproven people? Not only that, but you damaged Titan’s infrastructure, caused property damage, got several people killed, and stole several items, including a car, to get to where you are now?’
The room was silent. Zeus was only now acutely aware of how many laws they had broken, and he didn’t like it.
‘As far as a first mission goes... this is average,’ Nevada continued. ‘However, given that you caused only minor damage to Titan’s power plant, I will be transferring pay to your accounts, with twenty percent taken off to pay for the chaos you caused.’
Though Tartarus did not like losing money, he remained silent. Speaking up could only make him lose more.
‘Furthermore, I have three items for your attention, Agent Zeus. Firstly, I notice you do not have a security expert among your number. I will transfer one to you via cryopod.’
Zeus nodded. They had neglected that on the assumption one of the squad would be on board if they were attacked. Nevada liked to be safe.
‘Second, after much deliberation, we have decided to allow a work release for the one you captured on Set Station. Miss Warsaw will also be transferred to your ship via cryopod.’
Thanatos grinned. He liked the strange humanoid.
‘Finally, as you were pushed into action before we had a chance, your cruiser is not yet named. Do you have a name for you ship?’
Zeus went quiet. A name? For the ship of Olympus Squad? It was an interesting choice to make. Thanatos cleared his throat, and Zeus glanced at him.
‘What about naming it after one of our fallen comrades?’ Thanatos suggested. ‘Were it not for a certain someone, none of us would be here.’
It made sense. Tartarus found himself nodding, and Apollo gave a thumps up. Zeus smiled at the suggestion, then turned to Nevada.
‘This ship will be known as the Cerberus.’