Emily got to HQ early that morning. There was something special happening today. They were getting another member. Some guy who had been fighting in Area 4. Unlike the rest of them, his talent was unique. He was a shape-shifter. This man was transferred here because of what was happening with Winter’s Shadow. About fucking time, if you ask me.
Their efforts were getting them nowhere. Almost two months of pushing, and the public would not budge. Half of the ghetto was on fire, thanks to Inferno’s madness. Way he saw it, if they didn’t give them up, they were just as bad. The Empire was very much in agreement, for the most part. Then, someone in military intelligence remembered this guy. He had gotten them far in ways that they couldn’t believe in Area 4. The fighting was still fierce, but they now had huge increases in intel in that region. It was helping turn the tide. Her father remembered hearing this name, but never knew that he was in the Specials. It was an impressive roster, to say the least. So command figured, if he could do what he did there, maybe he could infiltrate Winter’s Shadow and see what he could do here. It was an exciting day, to say the least. All of her compatriots were buzzing. If this guy could get this job done, then she could leave the military. She told Quinn that she had. It broke her heart to lie to her girlfriend. She loved her, and now she was forced to lie to her to keep their relationship together. But once this was done, she would. Already had her letter of resignation and everything. She would ditch her title in the Aristocracy too. They would go off to Italy or somewhere like that. With the money she earned from this job, they could live a glamorous and happy life, together. Quinn was all she needed. All she would ever need.
The door to their lab in HQ opened and she saw someone sitting at the desk. He was a pale fellow, who didn’t look especially healthy. He had red eyes. Reminded her of Quinn, now that she thought about it. He had messy brown hair that was streaked blond. He had shades sitting on the table in front of him. The man was dressed very plain, looked very plain. A smile came to her face.
“You must be Doppelganger.”
He looked up at her, smiling a warm smile. “I am. The legendary Puppeteer. Your reputation precedes you. Feeling a little humbled right now. How often does one get to meet a legend in the service?”
A blush came to her face. “Oh, I don’t know about legend. I just do what I’m told. King and country and all that.”
The man chuckled. “Or Emperor and country, as the case may be.”
They shared a laugh as she sat down. He looked so unimposing, so innocent. His namesake was well-earned, and she could see why his reputation was as well.
“So, I read all about you. Man, the stuff you have on your resume is pretty damn impressive too.”
The man shrugged. “Like you, I just did what I’m told. When I got out of Lab 451, I didn’t really know what to do with myself. They gave me direction. But I did have one caveat to my service.”
“What’s that?” This man was so unlike her. He seemed gentle.
“I don’t kill people. My family was in the war in Mexico. We were in vacation in Cabo. When the war started, they got killed in the initial bombing. I get the military intel, but I don’t kill people. I know enough people die because of what I do. I don’t want to add to the bad dreams I already have. I’m not a soldier. I get the intelligence that can help them end the fighting. So no one else has to get hurt.”
Emily smiled. She liked him. “I can respect that. I wasn’t a soldier, either. Well, not as much as my father.”
“The Rear Admiral, am I right?”
She looked up suddenly. “How do you know that?”
He chuckled. “I’m a very good gatherer of information. It’s my job, after all. I did a little research before I came here. With your father’s service record, he must be proud.”
The blush came back. “Well, he wasn’t exactly thrilled about the kind of missions I would be doing, but he is proud that I am serving the Empire.”
“I can understand that. I also hear that you’re with a Number now. Quite the scandal, from what I’m told.”
That got an annoyed look. “Told from whom?”
“A very talkative fellow. Thick New York accent. I believe that he is called ‘Inferno.'”
Emily growled, “I’ll make him pay for that!”
He just shrugged. “No worries about this getting out. I’m better at keeping a secrets than some.” He stuck out his tongue, chuckling.
The mood got lighter. “Thanks for that. Lots of people are giving me looks around here about that. Like I committed a sin or something.”
The man put his shades on, seeming to relax. “I have no problem with it. I’m happy for you. I saw the two of you together at the Maplewood Academy this morning. You looked happy. That’s all that matters. The political bullshit of the Aristocracy aside, all that matters is if she makes you happy.”
Despite being spied on, she smiled. She knew that they were going to get along swimmingly. That’s when a sad look came to her face.
“I feel kind of bad, about something.”
He cocked an eyebrow. “About what?”
She paused for a moment, gathering her thoughts. “I had to lie to her. To tell her something that wasn’t true.”
He thought for a moment. “I see. I take it that this lie was about something important.”
“Very. She made me promise. Now, I can’t keep that promise. It’s killing me inside, because I don’t know when I can.”
“But you still mean to?”
She looked up. “Yes! More than anything! As soon as this garbage with Winter’s Shadow is over, the very second it is, I will! I don’t care what Command says.”
The man smiled at her. “Well then, you have nothing to worry about. Once all is said and done, you can tell her. Explain it to her, and I’m sure she’ll understand. If she loves you the same way you love her.”
She almost got up and hugged him. So pale, so unimposing, yet so wise. That is how the best people are. The two smiled at each other. In that moment, they understood one-another.
Just then, the intercom came on.
“Attention all Special Operations personnel, please report to the War Room for debriefing! All Special Operations personnel, please report to the War Room.”
“Guess our time is up,” the man said, standing. “But I would be happy to talk more later.”
Emily nodded. “I would like that.” They made their way toward the elevator, eager to see what the next mission would be.
The War Room was a unique place. Since they wired this place with the best tech, the table was an integrated display that could create holographic displays on it. It wasn’t showing anything at the moment, but it was the only light source in the room. The Specials weren’t the only ones in the room. There were also some base personnel that were involved in their work. Most of them were analysts for military intelligence, but there were also members of Lab 451 there as well, who kept an eye on the Specials and their operations.
At the front of the room was their commanding officer, Colonel Andrew Gibson. A stern man, he was very much down-to-earth. A very traditional military commander, he was not partial to the Specials. This relationship was getting more and more frayed as they were unsuccessful at getting the Winter’s Shadow problem under control. Doppelganger, Emily and the rest filed in, taking a seat at the table. Emily gave Inferno a mean look. He just shrugged, grinning his usual stupid grin. That douche bag takes nothing seriously.
“Alright, now that we’re all here, let’s get started.”
The table projected a new image. It was of the city.
“I’m sure I don’t need to remind any of you what a mess our efforts to uncover Winter’s Shadow have been lately. Hell, the news makes us out to be the biggest bunch of idiots that have ever walked the Earth. Now, normally putting our work in the hands of a single Special isn’t my go-to option, but we’ve got a new member who, from what I’ve been told from the people in Area 4, might be the perfect weapon to turn this around.”
Full-Crank sat forward. “I take it that this person is the new guy I’ve been hearing about. Who is he, anyway?”
The Colonel had seen him come in, pointing to where he saw him sit. “It’s the man sitting there. He is called…” His voice trailed off as he realized something – he wasn’t there! Everyone looked around.
“Where the hell is he?” He looked to his people, who looked just as confused.
Suddenly, standing right next to the Colonel was a man who looked just like him, except with red eyes that almost seemed to glow.
“Who the hell is this imposter?!” the other Colonel growled.
The Colonel stepped back, eyes wide. “What the fuck is this?!”
The other Colonel started laughing. As he did, his form started to change. He gradually became the man that Emily recognized. She was in awe.
“Just a little joke, Colonel. I acquired your DNA when we shook hands this morning. Sorry if it was in bad taste.”
The Colonel wanted to be mad, but he was impressed. For once, the brass weren’t blowing smoke. This kid is everything they said, and more.
He cleared his throat, getting more serious again. “Yes, well, this is our newest member. They call him, ‘Doppelganger.’ I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what his talent is.”
The man sat back down, winking at Emily. She couldn’t help giggling. Everyone in the room was impressed.
“He is going to be using his talent to get us a peek behind the curtain of Winter’s Shadow. The mission outlines for this are clear. Get him into the organization, get tight with the command, work your way in and then let the hammer fall when we can get a clear picture on where somebody important is.”
An aide stood up. “We have got some targets that we believe are possible recruiting centers-”
“I saw all your data on Winter’s Shadow. It’s horrifically inaccurate.” He didn’t even seem phased by this. Almost, bored.
He looked up. “Yeah, it’s bad intel. They don’t work like an army recruiting station. They are set up like a terrorist organization.”
“That’s because they are terrorists,” another staff member snarled.
“If you could keep the comments of your ignorant staff to a minimum, that’d be great.”
The staff member stood up. “Excuse me? Who the fuck are you to tell us to shut up?!”
The Colonel stepped forward. “I am in charge here, and I’m telling you to shut up.” He turned at Doppelganger. “Sorry about that. Continue.”
He cleared his throat. “As I was saying, your intel is bad. This organization is careful in the extreme. They do everything in cells.”
The aide smirked at him. “How could you possibly know that?”
He gave her a cold look. “Because I enlisted yesterday afternoon. I arrived here a bit sooner than I said. Had to get my lay of the land. Get to know what the area is like. I got an apartment in the ghetto, which keeps me safely in their radar. Not one bit of suspicion.”
Everyone in the room was impressed. The Colonel couldn’t help but smile.
“Now, here is where the tricky part comes in. If I am to rise up the ranks of this organization, I need to be able to give them something. I have to prove my worth. That means that you are going to have to sell some of your people up the river. The cost of victory. Am I wrong?”
Everyone looked to the Colonel, who nodded. “Yeah, I got ya. I don’t like it, but if you can get in tight with them, it’s worth the cost. How big is the intel you’re going to need?”
He thought for a moment. “I need someone who we can cut loose. Someone big. Big enough to get Wolf’s attention. Have anyone like that in mind?”
The Colonel thought, then smiled. “I think I might. Aristocrat’s son. Kid’s a fucking dumbass. He’s been put in charge of the city, but is using his power to put the people down hard. We’ve kept his location a secret, on every level. Trust me, not one person in this place will miss him.”
Emily sat forward. “Wait, we’re willing to throw one of our own to the dogs?! What the fuck, sir?!”
He looked over at her. “We do what must be done. This kid has been whoring and drinking half of his job here, while beating the hell out of the people with his other half. He needed to go anyway, so we might as well make it help our cause.”
Inferno laughed. “Nice! I bet that that will get Wolf’s mouth watering.”
Emily looked at him again, ice-cold. Of course he wouldn’t care if one of us died. This man is about as loyal as a rabid dog.
Doppelganger nodded. “I agree. Give me the info, but make it look like something that could have been jacked from a terminal at one of their places. Like some dumb-shit tech who didn’t do his job right.”
“You got it,” the Colonel replied. “Alright, it seems our newest member has laid the ground-work. I can tell that you are going to be quite the asset to us. Very nice work. I’ll get the information to you in a file in half an hour. Wait at the Specials Lab.”
Doppelganger saluted. “Yes sir!”
“Good. Everyone, dismissed!” The lights in the room came on and the aides started walking away. Doppelganger looked over at Emily, giving her a wink and a smile.
She caught up with him on the way back. “Hey, want to grab some lunch?”
“Sure, I just need to do a couple things before that. Meet you at the Mess Hall in 40?”
She nodded, smiling. “Definitely!”
“Alright, it’s a date!”
As she walked away, Emily felt good. This guy is a master! Another couple of months and we’ll be done, or at least on the way to being done. We get this sorted out, I ditch this job, go tell Quinn about it and then we leave! We can finally be together. As I want to be.
Doppelganger got to one of the private rooms that people bunked in and started to shift. There, in that place, Quinn was standing. She had a dark smile on her face. She started to laugh. A dark, maniacal laugh. I’ve done it! I’m in! Soon, I’ll have access to every single part of the Empire, and I can use it to destroy them, once and for all. After that, I’ll sort everything with Emily out. This is everything I could have wanted and then some! It is a very good day.
Until next time, a quote,
“The more they claim to be comrades of like mind, the easier it is to divide them with the thorns of suspicion.” -Lelouch vi Britannia, Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion