Chapter 19: Desperate Situation
“AGENT CROSS!” An agent screamed as he ran into the room.
Alex rolled his eyes and sighed loudly as he looked up from a nearby screen, surrounded by technicians and operators who were busy doing their jobs. Hearing his name screamed out where everyone in the building, and the entire neighborhood, could hear it was certainly not what he wanted to hear at that point in time. After starring at the screens and discussing leads all day, the one of the last things he wanted to hear was his name called out. Still, Alex took a deep breath to calm his nerves before turning around to not be surprised by the sight of one of the youngest agents on his team running frantically towards him. Though it was almost comical to watch the young agent run past, and almost trip over, other agents, he was not in the mood it laugh, and being the Lead Agent laughing was not an option.
It being near the end of the day, a somewhat unproductive one, Alex was in a bit of an irritable mood. One of the last things he wanted to experience that moment was hearing the loud, squeaky voice of a young agent running directly towards him. The expression on the young man’s face told him that whatever reason he had to behave in such a manner was important, and almost certainly bad news, only served to irritate him even more than he already was. From quickly looking at the others nearby as the agents, technicians, operators, and investigators, most seemed to be just as annoyed as Alex was but kept their mouths shut. More than a few glared daggers at the young agent but he moved so quickly, and seemed to be so oblivious, that he didn’t notice. Instead, he practically sprinted straight to Alex who just stood there and waited for him.
Much to Alex’s surprise nearly everyone in the building dropped what they were doing and made their way towards him and the agent who stopped just in front of him. He half suspected them to just ignore the noise so to see them invested, or at least heading towards him. It was probably a mix of curiosity and being used to running and screaming agents carrying important news or information. Alex guessed it probably the third of fourth time such a thing had happened since they arrived, resulting in them reluctantly gathering around to hear whatever news Command had for them. To him the reasons didn’t really matter, he just wanted to hear whatever news the agent had for them and get it over with so they could get back to work.
“What is it this time?” Alex hesitantly stated. “More on the Xulons?”
“Yes, sir and it is very bad news.” The young agent shouted as he caught his breath and all work around them came to a halt.
Alex rolled his eyes internally, not allowing his annoyance to be visible, instead keeping his calm composure. “What is it this time? Unless they are causing problems that directly affect us, I don’t want to hear it.” Alex raised his hand to silence the surprised gasps of those around him before continuing. “But if it comes from Command, I don’t have a choice. So, what is it? What have the Xulons done this time?”
The agent nervously fidgeted as Alex and those around gave him through attention. “Uh . . . they have . . . well, they.”
“Spit it out already!” A couple of agents nearby shouted.
“I AM TRYING TO!” The agent angrily shouted, taking a deep breath, and then continued. “The Xulons have landed . . . In the city of Fort Nelson . . . and destroyed it.”
The room fell completely silent at the agent’s words. Even Alex’s jaw dropped and from what he could see from his peripheral vision several others did as well, including Frank Tulse. Every agent in the room seemed to be focused on the agent who was certainly uncomfortable being the center of attention. Alex couldn’t help but feel sorry for him and decided to try and alleviate some of the attention to get things moving forward.
“Is that report correct, the Xulons actually landed?” Alex spoke.
Yes sir, and completely destroyed the city in the process. It is believed all of the city’s residents are either dead or in hiding but that can it be confirmed till recon and search rescue can be sent out and that will probably not be happening any time soon.”
“And why is that?” A nearby agent blurted out.
“Because the response force that was dispatched to respond to their presence was wiped out.” The agent reluctantly answered. “Nearly as soon as the Xulons landed the governor sent in the National Guard to intercept them. I do not recall the exact size of the force, but it numbered well over five hundred with dozens of tanks and anti-air vehicles.”
Alex shook his head in annoyance. “Of course, they were wiped out but damn that is . . . just insane.” Alex stared at the young agent. “Do we have any specifics into the response or what exactly happened at Fort Nelson?”
The agent shook his head. “Not much sir other than the Xulons appear to be setting up a base in the city’s sports arena. No one knows why or what is going on exactly as PDF personnel are still monitoring the system.”
Alex softly mumbled. “Great, so that means we don’t really know what is going on and probably won’t for a while. Though the PDF is almost certainly closely monitoring the situation they are probably lacking details.” Alex cleared his throat and spoke confidently to the young agent before anyone started asking questions no one would know the answer to. “Do we have any more orders from command?”
“Yes sir, there has been quite a bit of instructions coming from high command.” A technician immediately answered. “Ever since the Xulons landed Command has been issuing orders and warning, especially to those near the threat.”
Alex waited a moment for the technician to continue but when he didn’t speak Alex got a little frustrated and spoke loudly. “AND? . . . What are is Command say?”
Alex’s outburst caught every off guard, and the technician was clearly nervous but eventually replied. “Uh, well sir, the most important order is they are warning everyone to avoid the Xulons. They are VERY strict on NOT engaging them, at all costs.”
Alex that for a moment as the order only slightly surprised him. “Hm, after they wiped out a large squadron AND a massive, armored unit with ease Command giving that kind of order makes sense. With our limited knowledge and interaction with them of course we are going to get decimated and avoiding them from the time is just smart.” Alex crossed his arms and thought out loud. “However, I imagine Command is planning something but as to what it could be is beyond me.” Alex looked back at the technician. “What is did Command say beyond avoiding the Xulons?”
“Unfortunately, sir, Command hasn’t said much beyond that. They want it to be VERY clear to avoid the Xulons. In my opinion, they have certainly made that clear.” The technician stated. “They are ordering those within the vicinity to stay put and stay safe.”
“Huh, sounds like they are asking us to hide.” Alex said.
“That was in the order sir.” The technician responded. “I highly recommend doing that sir.”
Alex let out a loud grumble and sarcastically stated. “I will take that into consideration agent.”
Alex crossed his arms and tried to think for a moment, but the constant chatter made it seem impossible. Being in the middle of the arena sound echoed and vibrated, allowing him to overhear nearly every word that was being said. Since he was the Lead Agent on the assignment making the decisions was his primary job and with all the noise around him, he was not making it any easier. Since he was usually a silent thinker he preferred having as much silence, and information, as possible before making any important decision. Given the situation at hand, Alex needed everything he could get to make the best decision possible, not just for his fellow agents but also for their assignment.
“So, what do we do sir?” Someone called out from behind Alex, snapping him out of his trance.
Alex turned around slowly to see more than a few technicians standing behind him, awaiting an answer. Their confused expressions, all directed at him, only served to make him feel even more uncomfortable and uneasy then he already was. Having that level of responsibility, where everyone looked to him for answers for a such a crazy and dangerous situation certainly was not ideal for Alex. A quick look around made the moment even worse for him as he saw nearly every agent under his command was looking at him; no doubt awaiting his response. As if he didn’t believe it was possible to feel even more uncomfortable than he already was, having all the attention certainly proved him wrong. Combined with the anger and confusion he felt, Alex wasn’t sure how he could answer them. His mind was more focused on why the Xulons were there as well as his current assignment, feeling like there was connection. Having all the attention certainly wasn’t making coming up with an answer for either any easier. Alex knew he needed a moment to himself to think and he certainly wasn’t going to get it being the center of attention.
Alex sighed loudly as his addressed his agents. “Give me a moment to think of something. I will be right back with an answer.”
Alex turned around and walked out of the room hiding his rage very little, preventing his agents from asking any questions. He mumbled loudly, most of his men overhearing what he said but unable to make it out. At that point Alex didn’t care if they heard him, he was too frustrated to care. The only thing on Alex’s mind was getting some place away from his men to think things out. Thankfully, his men were too distracted to spot Alex or bother him. They were too busy trying to comprehend what was going on with the Xulons to pester Alex, allowing him to walk right past them without anyone saying a word to him. Though a couple looked his way as he headed for the second floor none stopped him, apparently realizing even he need a moment to think and contemplate.
Fortunately, Alex exited the main room quickly enough to avoid questions and the attention of his subordinates as he walked up the stairs to the second floor. Once he was on the second floor, and out of the view of everyone else, he nearly ran to the exit door, practically punching it open. He found himself standing outside on the balcony embracing the much-needed fresh air. The first thing Alex did, being alone and out in the open air, was take a deep breath to calm down but it did little. It wasn’t that he just felt angry, but the confusion combined with the complications the Xulons caused him no end of grief. Though he’d been hiding it well, for the sake of the those under his command, Alex felt the urge to lash out at something and currently being outside, away from prying eyes, he was in the perfect place to do so.
“No way this is coincidence.” Alex exclaimed to himself. “Xulons showing up shortly after a Zordon ship crash lands?”
Alex slammed his fist aggressively onto the wall, leaving two big indents. The frustration he expressed no longer being in the presence of others did little to ease him. Though it felt good to be able to release his anger without having to worry about his men seeing him the confusion clouding his mind overwhelmed him. He needed a clear mind to think things out thoroughly and certainly couldn’t do that in the presence of his men; hence why he had to be alone. It took Alex quite some time, and lots of meditative breathing, to calm down enough to where he could think clearly. Though by the time his mind was clear he feels any better, not when he had to concentrate on the issue at hand.
“Come on Alex, think, what the heck is going on?” Alex muttered. “There has to be a reason the Xulons are here, and it must involve those Zordons in some way.”
Alex pondered as he stared out over the rural area before him. Since interactions with the Xulons were quite rare their motives were unknown; the only thing that was certain about them was they liked causing destruction everywhere they went. Having heard the stories, and read the reports, Alex was aware of the fear and unease their presence caused. It didn’t help that they attacked seemingly at random, without reason; at least that is what was believed about them.
However, Alex was certain that Xulon presence nearby was more than just a random impulse given their rivalry with the Zordons. The fact that the Xulons stopped so close to the where the Zordons crashed proved it to him as he didn’t believe in coincidence. Plus, Xulons had never been recorded setting up shop anywhere for anything beyond temporarily resting, and even than it was only for a few hours. They moved around quickly, without pausing, to destroy as much as they could. The fact that the current Xulons were setting up a base made it obvious to Alex that they were up to something beyond their typical carving destructive path, and he was certain it involved the Zordons in some way. What it could have been was beyond Alex and he was certain he wouldn’t find out without catching the Zordons he was assigned to.
Alex tapped the edge of the balcony as his irritation grew. “Hm, why would the Xulons even want with Zordons to begin with? Sending such a powerful force just to take out two Zordons, one of them a child, is a bit excessive and in all honesty doesn’t even make sense.” Alex closed his eyes and muttered. “The Zordons must have done something to really irritate the Xulons to make them come here, let alone cause such destruction.”
Alex couldn’t help but growl as his tried to comprehend why it was happening. As much as he pondered, he was certain the answer would never be revealed; at least not till he had captured the Zordons he was after. No matter how long he pondered he would never figure it out without questioning the people involved for only they knew. That complicated thing but at the same time Alex saw things from a different perspective than most probably would. The way things were starting to turn he suspected there may be an opportunity to two while others would turn and run or only do the bare minimum to accomplish their assignments.
“Huh, I can imagine the Zordons know quite a bit about the Xulons if the stories about their rivalry are true.” Alex mumbled. “Though it has never been confirmed the Zordons definitely know something about them.”
Alex crossed his arms across his chest and pondered over the Xulon and Zordon connection. The connection between the two races had never been clear beyond them hating and constantly fighting each other. Though to Alex, clearly the two Xulons from the crash clearly had some deeper connections to the Xulons current claiming residence at the nearby city. If Alex had to guess the two Zordons did something to tick those Xulons off; otherwise, there wouldn’t be a reason for them to act very differently from their previous recorded behavior.
As Alex continued to think, another thought entered his mind. Since the Zordons had extensive history with the Xulons, even though it was currently known to the PDF, it was clear to him they knew quite a bit about each other. The way Alex saw it, capturing the two Zordons presented an opportunity for the PDF. They no doubt knew quite a bit about the Xulons, and that information could be helpful in dealing with them in the future and present.
“Hm, perhaps capturing the Zordons would benefit us against the Xulons.” Alex confidently stated with a devious smile. “Yes, if we capture the Zordons then we can learn why the Xulons are here AND learn more about them as well.” Alex chuckled loudly. “I can just imagine the reward for capturing them. The promotion would be quite generous, not just for me but with my agents.”
Alex smiled for a moment as thoughts of promotions and benefits flooded his mind but didn’t last long. As much as he adored the thought of being promoted, and finally being done with field work, he knew that wouldn’t happen unless they completed their assignment. If they didn’t bring back the Zordons from the crash than they wouldn’t get much of anything other than a pat on the back. Though they had managed to bring in a nearly fully intact Zordon starship, minus some important parts, without the two Zordon occupants their goal was only partially complete. Though many Planetary Defense Force agent teams would just call it a day at that, Alex was not one of them. He always fully completed an assignment and was determined his current one would be no different.
“But first, I got to catch them.” Alex sighed loudly as he mentally switched to the task at hand. “I guess I’ve kept them waiting long enough.” Alex turned towards the door. “They are probably waiting on me to return.”
Alex stretched and took a deep breath before heading towards the door. His body tensed up a little, but he just shrugged it off and reluctantly headed back inside. Being the lead agent on the assignment he had no choice but to head back in and address the issue. Though he felt somewhat at ease he hated to admit that his anxiety was quite high. It took several deep breaths for Alex as he entered the building and walked through the second floor to regain his composure and be presentable enough to his subordinates. However, much to his surprise he found the building to be strangely quiet, he couldn’t hear a single word. It almost caused Alex to pause for a moment as he expected to hear nonstop chattering and people running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Instead, there was no sound whatsoever and it left him puzzled. But he didn’t hesitate or slow his pace as he headed towards the stairs, knowing he would find the answer once he was able to look down the stairs.
Alex turned onto the stairs and stopped when he saw what was waiting for him. At the foot of the stairs, was every individual under his command gathered in a semi-circle awaiting his return. Every one of them had the same confused and worried expression and it was all directed at him. It was the burden of leadership and the only part of being the lead agent that he didn’t enjoy. It was the sheer volume of the attention he received that made him feel uncomfortable and sent shivers down his spine, but he was able to prevent it from being noticeable. Given the state of the individuals before him the last thing they needed was to see their superior in a frightened state as that would only make things worse. Alex was certain if they saw him show even a once of fear they would start freaking out and possibly even start rioting.
Okay, that is a . . . unusual. Alex thought as he looked down at his agents. Like a bunch of sheep awaiting the shepherd.
Alex chuckled on the inside and put on a smile as he began walking down the stairs. He did so casually as to present himself with confidence to ease the fear and concern of his subordinates. From his military and PDF experience a commanding officer always needed to be casual and professional in the presence of his men, and Alex had worked hard to keep that composure. In the situation they were facing Alex certainly believed that to be true to keep things calm. It seemed to work as far as Alex could tell as those, he could see appeared to be relax a little but not much. Though for what he was about to say he was certain that wouldn’t last.
Once he came to the bottom of the stairs he stopped and stood before his men, clearing his throat before speaking. “Alright, now that is out of the way we can get back to business.” Alex exclaimed loudly for all to hear. “Where are we on the satellites?”
Everyone in the room looked questionably at Alex for being so blunt. It shocked him a little at first that was caught off guard by his question till he realized how poorly and suddenly he had stated it. To have blurted it out the way he did, as if completely out of the blue, it shouldn’t have surprised him that everyone just stared at him blankly. He suspected it probably didn’t help that his response was the exact opposite of what they wanted to hear. They were probably assuming he would have given the order to evacuate as many of them clearly wanted to. A quick glance in the far corner confirmed that as he spotted several personal suitcases already packed and stacked together. As a result, Alex was certain his order both confused and probably infuriated some of the agents, especially the younger ones. The looks they gave him was proof of that as he just stood there and stared sternly back at them, causing a few to avert his gaze.
“Uh, sir, what about the Xulons?” A technician asked.
“Yeah sir, should we not be addressing the Xulon problem?” Another technician added. “We are within a hundred miles of their current location, which is always EXTREMELY dangerous. We cannot just ignore them.”
Alex hung his head low before replying. “Indeed, it is dangerous, anything involving the Xulons is dangerous. But you are forgetting we still have a job to do, and they have made no move against us. They clearly have a reason to be here and that doesn’t seem to involve us.” Alex raised his head and looked around the room at everyone. “If we are silent and careful than we should be able to operate under their radar, we have been doing so successfully so far.”
Alex didn’t need to look around for even an instant to know that his words raised the already high concern his agents were experiencing. Just from the mumbling he overheard he could tell they were certainly not happy about his orders. He didn’t blame them in the slightest, given the circumstances he nearly agreed with them. The brutality of the Xulons was well known even though interactions with them, more like slaughtered by them, were very few. They had certainly left their brutal impression on humanity, or would if the PDF hadn’t covered it up, and that was clearly making everyone around Alex nervous. The fact that they had destroyed an entire city and were within a hundred miles of their current location only increased their concern. His orders were not helping in the slightest, but Alex kept his composure and stern expression, so his men knew he was serious.
“So, we are staying here sir?” One of the younger technicians asked.
Alex gave the technician a confirming nod. “Of course, you all know that once a PDF team is given an assignment we do not retreat, we succeed or keep trying till we do. So, until we find the crashed Zordons we are not going anywhere.” Alex paused momentarily, allowing his words to sink in. “For now, just ignore the Xulon presence and focus on the task at hand.”
Every eye in the room was on Alex and many jaws were dropped. The expressions on everyone’s faces would have made Alex laugh if it wasn’t for the seriousness of the matter. The younger individuals appeared to be having trouble if it was serious or not while the people that had served under him for some time knew he was. One thing that was clear, and unanimous, was everyone staring to question his orders; and Alex suspected his sanity as well. No one said a word for speaking against a superior officer, especially one as highly ranked as Alex, was heavily frowned upon. However, Alex knew that it was not going to last as someone was bound to speak up at some point.
“But sir, with the Xulon presence so close we cannot just . . .“Frank began speaking only for Alex to interrupt him.
“I know what you are going to say and that most of you here feel the same, but I am ordering you to ignore them.” Alex nearly shouted. “Right now, they have not appeared to notice us and if they have than they are ignoring us. That means that for the time being we are free to operate but VERY carefully.”
Alex remained quiet, looking around the room at the individuals in front of him. His words certainly appeared to be divisive as some agreed and others didn’t. Despite the disagreement there wasn’t a single word being said. It was so quiet that Alex could hear the beeping from the monitors. The silence began making him feel uncomfortable as he got the feeling the longer it went on the more the others were questioning his leadership and motivations. He knew that he had to steer them in the right direction, or at least distract them with an order to get their assignment rolling as they were wasting valuable time, putting themselves in danger.
Alex cleared his throat and spoke loudly. “So, once again, where are we with the satellites?”
The technicians seated at the terminals quickly resume their work to give an answer and within moments one of them does. “Best answer I can give is some time tomorrow sir and even that is a best-case scenario. With the PDF and many governments focusing their attention on the Xulons we are extremely limited in our resources.”
Alex shook his head in disappointment but wasn’t surprised. “Given the circumstances I wouldn’t expect anything more. But you make it sound like it’ll be tomorrow AT THE EARLIEST, meaning it’ll most likely be longer till we have any satellites for our job?”
“That is correct, sir. We are on a wait list, one that happens to be quite long.” The technician replied. “That is why it is impossible to predict when we will have access to one.”
“I see.” Alex replied with a huff. “But can we work to make it go faster? Time is unbelievably valuable right now and we need as much as we can get.”
The technicians looked around at each other nervously before the oldest one responded. “Not really sir, though hacking is something we can do it would not give us much time . . . and result in some dire consequences if we are caught.”
“The man speaks the truth.” Frank added sternly. “Though the PDF is an international agency hacking into a country’s satellites is a punishable offense. We could get into serious trouble, like imprisonment, if the wrong person catches us.”
Alex reluctantly nodded internally, knowing that what Frank said was true. Even a PDF agent was not immune to some laws and hacking into satellites was a serious offense, one that the PDF frowned upon. He had heard stories of PDF agents being sent to gulags or work camps for violating that rule without having the proper authorization. Given they certainly didn’t have it on their assignment since it was a low-ranked during an aggressive invasion incident that left very little option. However, Alex was not about to let that slow them down; he had yet to fail an assignment and he certainly was not about to it let it happen on his current one.
Alex stood up to his full height and addressed his men confidently. “Do not worry about being punished, I will accept any responsibility and punishment IF we are caught. So, you have my permission to do whatever is necessary to get us access to a satellite.”
The room was filled with gasps as Frank spoke for everyone. “But sir, that is . . .”
Alex held up his hand to silence the room. “We do not have the luxury to waste time so do WHATEVER you can to complete your tasks.” Alex saw that his words had stopped the technicians from speaking, they seemed to understand his orders and urgency of the situation, allowing him to address everyone else. “For the time, everyone who is not working on the satellites needs to be preparing or conducting maintenance. We need to be ready for two highly likely outcomes.” Alex took a deep breath and addressed his men as seriously as possible. “Either the Xulons find us and attack, or we get command of the satellites and find our target. One of those two is going to happen and we need to be ready for both.”
Alex took the time to glance from individual to individual standing around him, making sure to look at each person to judge how they felt. From what he could see there appeared to be a unanimous agreement with only a few individuals looking nervous. Nearly every individual was exuding determination to complete their assignment, making Alex smile. Though he could clearly see the fear in each of them as they were certainly determined professionals, most with extensive experience within the PDF. Danger was nothing new to PDF agents and even new agents experience it whether quickly after joining. Granted, none of them had experience with the Xulons but from Alex’s eyes not one personnel appeared to be on the verge of leaving. Instead, they stood firm and awaited his orders, even though some looked quite nervous as to what they would be.
“Alright everyone, then get back to work so we can get out of here as soon as possible.” Alex confidently ordered, giving everyone around him passion. “The sooner we are done here the sooner we can leave.”
Much to Alex’s surprise many of those around him cheered, nearly causing him to take a step back from his sudden and loud it was. Thankfully, no one except Frank and a couple others noticed, and none said a word. The cheering only lasted a moment before everyone took off to complete their assigned tasks. Alex didn’t need to say another word, he just had to watch as the technicians began working on whatever terminal was available while everyone else went about preparing. With the passion and determination, he saw displayed there was a certainty they would have access to the satellites soon and prepared for whatever lied ahead soon. Though Alex was certainly worried about the Xulon threats seeing his agents carry out their tasks filled him with confidence that they would succeed, along with some pride.
Once again, their determination impresses me, even the younger ones seem to be determined to get the job done. Alex chuckled internally, thinking. Maybe I should just start preparing for the worst or the unthinkable. At this point I highly doubt anything would surprise me on this assignment.