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43 - Discussions
Don't tell them how bad your nightmares really are.
Don't tell them about killing that guy in Helena.
Don't tell them about Finch.
Don't tell them that I've been training you.
Don't rush into answering their questions. Give things some thought.
Don't sign anything.
If you have the option to back out, do it.
They can't pressure you into doing anything. Don't let them try.
Chad's words were spinning through her head. She looked from her hands to him - he was staring at her with a concerned expression -, then closed her eyes and leaned back in her chair.
She was in a conference room - a huge, brightly-lit room, with a large, long table, surrounded by chairs covered in leather. Everything she'd seen, or otherwise sensed, in the building she was in, was ranging from big to enormous. The echo she'd picked up, the buzz of voices she'd heard in the distance while walking through the building, and the long elevator ride, all told her that the space the Agency had was huge. Apparently they liked big things - probably to intimidate, to show others how big they are. As far as she was concerned, they had achieved that objective. She felt small, and vulnerable, and terrified. To top it all, her brother's presence was no longer soothing. It was the exact opposite of soothing. She wished he'd leave her alone.
She sensed his gaze on her, and kept her eyes obstinately closed. He was sitting across the table from her, not saying a word. If she weren't so distrustful about her ability to read her brother, she would have been certain that he was nervous.
He hadn't said much to her since they had gotten out of the car. He'd signed her in, fastened a badge to her shirt, and led her to the room they were currently in. Then he'd removed her blindfold and she'd sat in the huge chair, and tried to make her mind shut up.
It was too much. Far too much. She'd suppressed tears and tremors several times, each time thinking that she wouldn't be able to do it again one more time. Instead of being given time to process all she'd heard, she'd been whisked off to meet some people who were probably even scarier than Chad was.
She knew she was being watched by more than Chad's pair of eyes. There was no way there would be no surveillance there. She wanted nothing more than to break down and cry - there was no better method of releasing some of the fear, confusion, and pressure she was feeling, but if she'd cry then and there, she knew she would lose in front of the men in suits.
'Would you like anything to drink?' asked Chad.
'No,' she replied, without opening her eyes.
'They'll be along in a minute.'
It was all but OK. She was terrified out of her mind. Who exactly were they? And what did they want?
The door opened, and she and Chad turned in their chairs to take a look at the people who walked in.
There were a man and a woman. She seemed to be in her late fourties, and wore glasses and a very stern expression. He looked about as old as her brother was, and seemed a little less intimidating than the woman.
'Hello, Agent. Miss Hall,' said the woman. Chad stood, and she followed his lead.
The woman gave Jubilee a small, polite smile, and shook her hand.
'Cara Greene, Regional Chief of Recruiting. Nice to meet you,' she said. 'And this is Agent Benjamin Tanner.'
The younger agent shook her hand too, giving her the same standard-issue smile.
'Nice to finally meet you, miss Hall,' he said. She released his hand, feeling her palm starting to sweat. What did he know that had made him look forward to meeting her?
Cara Greene and Agent Tanner took their seats at the table - Greene sat at the end of the table, and Tanner took the seat to her right, next to Chad. All three looked at her - her brother was concerned, Tanner tried a benign smile, and Greene scrutinized her, making her wish she could disappear into thin air.
'Well, let's get this started, shall we?' said the latter. 'Agent Dalton must have told you why you're here today.'
'Agent Dalton?' she asked, confused. Greene and Tanner both looked at her brother.
'I haven't had time to get to that,' said Chad.
'Agent Tanner, please cover that with Miss Hall,' said Greene simply. Tanner nodded, and she opened the file she'd brought in.
'Miss Hall,' she said. 'Though it is... unexpected that you come to us under these circumstances, we are glad to have you here. Your brother must have told you that we've been expecting you.'
Jubilee nodded. Cara Greene spoke with a monotonous voice, but her eyes compensated for it. They spoke volumes more than the mere string of words that everybody heard. She was surely a no-nonsense woman with an agenda, and judging by her brother's expression, she was a feared person in the Agency.
'We'd be happy if you joined us,' continued Greene. 'Not on the same terms as your brother did, assuming he did tell you that.' She paused, and shot a glance at Chad, who gave a short nod.
Jubilee understood what she was really saying. Her not joining them was not an option in Greene's book.
'Given your civilian background,' she continued, 'we expect that you will take some time to adjust to the Agency. We are happy to provide you with all the time you need.'
Translation - you had better get your act together soon.
The more Jubilee stood there, facing that woman, the more she felt like she was losing any power she had - if she'd had any to begin with. Sitting there, and passively waiting for things to unfold, gave Greene and Tanner power over her. She needed to feel like she had a say in things. She needed not to be a piece of driftwood tossed around by the waves.
The mental image of an angry sea gave Jubilee chills, and she was grateful that she was wearing a long-sleeved shirt.
'What are the terms you are proposing?' she asked suddenly.
Cara Greene blinked twice - it didn't look like a natural blink. The woman looked like she never blinked at all. It was more of a surprised reaction, suppressed almost perfectly by the composed mask she was wearing.
Chad's look was the same as when she was speaking in front of a person she was in trouble with. It meant to tell her to shut up. She wondered for a moment why he wanted her to be quiet and submissive.
'We were considering offering you a position similar to that of a consultant,' replied Greene.
'On what matters?' asked Jubilee, hoping her composure would not falter. A strange buzz coursed through her, the kind of adrenaline that pushed her on for just a little longer at the end of a routine, just enough to get her to the end. She needed to keep that buzz going, otherwise she'd crumple into a heap and start crying in front of people who probably ate weaklings like her for breakfast every day. And the only way to keep it going was to receive pressure from outside - to feel like she was treading on thin ice, that she was likely to make a mistake.
'On strange occurrences that do not exclude you coming into existence.'
Greene's eyes were hard. Her tone had stayed monotonous, but Jubilee felt that the woman would have thrown a knife at her, if given the possibility. Jubilee almost felt too intimidated to speak again, but what she'd just heard was too important to let go of.
'Do you mean that there are more people like me? That more strange things had happened?'
Her heart was pounding in her throat, and Jubilee rested her hands on her lap, out of sight, where she could ball her hands into fists for a little extra composure.
'Yes,' replied Greene. 'You will find that the world holds many more strange things than a child from Montana.'
Jubilee squeezed her hands tighter, and suppressed a glare.
'What will that involve on my part?' she asked.
'Cooperation,' replied Greene. 'There are things that we feel someone with your background would decipher better than someone who has just been studying the case.'
'I don't know what my background is,' protested Jubilee. 'I know I came from an unknown place, but that's all. I have no memories, and I can't remember ever doing anything special.'
Chad's account of her allegedly killing a man at age six rushed through her head, and she didn't look at him, lest her resolve would falter.
'Don't play that card, Miss Hall,' said Greene. 'Your file says you're a genius. There must be other interesting things in your brain apart from a big IQ. Now, we will want to run a full battery of tests on you, to know what we are dealing with.'
'Medical, psychological, physical - all there is. You are an unknown variable, and we need to see what you are made of.'
'Why hasn't this been done so far?' asked Jubilee. 'There would have been plenty of opportunities to submit me to tests.'
Her words were pointed at Chad, who never took his eyes off her.
'Some of those tests are very invasive,' he said. 'It would have been unethical.'
'Unethical,' repeated Jubilee. 'As if anybody had ethics in mind when they thought of creating a freak.'
'I see that Agent Dalton has shared some theories with you already,' said Greene, shooting a pointed look at Chad. He nodded.
'I saw no reason for her not to know,' he said, and his voice was defying, and sure of himself.
'Myes,' muttered Greene disapprovingly.
'She is capable enough to understand,' he continued. 'Besides, it was already a theory of her own.'
'Agent Dalton, I disagree with your willingness to share this kind of information with someone outside this Agency. In other circumstances, this would have been treason.'
Chad glared at the woman, his chin high in defiance.
'We were on our way here,' he said. 'And I couldn't keep my sister in the dark any more. She needed answers, and she is more than capable of processing them, Agency or not-'
'Enough, Agent,' said Greene calmly, and Chad's mouth closed itself in an instant. 'This is not why we're here.'
A moment of silence passed. Chad glared, Greene looked glacial, and Tanner seemed very uncomfortable between the two of them.
'So, bottom line,' spoke Jubilee, breaking the tensioned silence, 'I would be staying on the sidelines?'
'That is what we had in mind, indeed,' replied Greene, turning her icy attention to Jubilee.
'Does anything guarantee that I will have the full picture?' Jubilee pressed on. 'Will I hear the full truth?'
'This is the Agency, Miss Hall,' replied Greene, and her eyes were mocking. 'The full picture, as you put it, is not something everybody sees.'
Jubilee opened her fists and wiped her hands on her trousers in brief motions. They wanted her there as a puppet, and they'd feed her some information, as much as they'd think would keep her happy and passive, acceptant of their ways. Then they'd discover something, something big, and probably never tell her. They'd probably dispose of her. The sidelines, she decided, were useless to her. The only way she'd get anything, any information on what she needed to know, would be if she went all in - if she demanded the full deal, if she went out there and made things happen, and secrets come to light.
The thought of it made her sick to her stomach.
Was she really about to say it? She'd just told Agent Nelson that she wanted nothing to do with that world, and there she was, about to dive in head-first.
She felt dizzy, and she gripped her knees with her hands until she felt pain.
If her gut feeling - her sickening, terrifying gut feeling - was right, then there was just one way of getting what she wanted. She was sure of it, just like she'd always been sure that she wasn't human. And she was just as sure that there was no way of backing out of the Agency, not then. It was either their way, where she was a ragdoll, waiting to be tossed around, and to answer to their every whim, all the while receiving scraps in return, or her way, where she felt endangered and insecure, but where at least she attempted to have some control over her life and over what happened.
Either way would not let her get out of the Agency too soon.
She looked at her hands, and briefly recalled the time she'd spent in bed with her back injury. She hadn't been allowed to move around for a long time. She had been forced to ask for things, instead of making them happen. She couldn't even get herself a glass of water. She'd had no control over anything then, and it had been horrible. Taking Greene's way would be worse than that. There was no way she was letting them turn her into their dummy.
She breathed in, then out, and looked Greene in the eyes again.
'Does what I want also matter?'
Greene shot her a look that could have been surprised.
'Of course,' she replied, but her eyes demanded that Jubilee said what was on her mind.
Across the table, Chad was not breathing. He kept a steady gaze on his sister.
Careful, he seemed to say.
'I want to go on the whole ride.' There was a sharp intake of breath from Chad, and he stared surprised and panicked, but said nothing. Jubilee ignored him.
'I want to join on full terms, like my brother did. I want to be involved in all that concerns me, my origins, anything - any strange occurrences that could be related to whatever it was that caused me to exist. If I join you, I want to have full access to these kinds of things.'
She glanced from Greene, who was cold as ice, to Tanner, who was surprised, to Chad, whose eyes were begging. He shook his head once, but Jubilee looked at Greene again.
'I don't want to stand on the sidelines and just give my opinion on things, Ms. Greene, while your people poke and prod me' she said, standing a bit straighter in her seat. 'I want to take part in the process that will give me some answers on what I am and why I exist. If something is out there, I want to be the one going after it. I know it involves danger and guns and running around hoping it's not the day that I die at someone else's hands, and I acknowledge these risks, and I still want to become an operative. I do not believe that I am making any unreasonable requests.'
'I do not believe, Miss Hall,' said the woman, 'that you know what you are asking for.'
'I want to be like him,' said Jubilee, nodding in the direction of her brother. 'And if Agent Nelson is right, then I have all chances of becoming like him.'
Cara Greene stared icily at Jubilee, waiting for her resolve to falter. Jubilee pressed her nails into her palms and stared back at the woman with all the defiance she could muster.
'We need to discuss this,' said Greene eventually. She stood sharply, and so did Agent Tanner and Chad. Jubilee followed suit, but the woman glared at her.
'You will stay here,' she said to Jubilee. 'We will be back shortly.'
Jubilee sat in her chair again and watched Greene, Tanner, and her brother leave the room. Right before he reached the door though, Chad turned around suddenly and leaned close to her ear. His hand gripped her shoulder hard enough for her to be sure there would be bruising.
'Don't do this,' he hissed into her ear, and his voice was panicked. 'Change your mind now, while you still can. You're making a grave mistake.'
With that, he released her shoulder, and he was gone.