Chapter 1, Part 1

North 31st street was rather plain when compared with the bustling transitways of the inner city. It was flanked on each side by simple geometric houses with an almost monotonous periodicity. A more homogeneous residential could not be found anywhere else in the capital city of Durvell. Not even a convenience store to rake up spare credits could be found among the stark outcropping of homes.

The folk that lived on this street tended to do their credit-earning activities from the comfort of their assorted armchairs, sofas, and other varieties of reclining aides. As a result, they would seldom be seen coming or going, and vehicles were something of a rare sight on the street.

Hence, when the inhabitants of North 31st street heard the sound of an electric motor outside, more than a couple of them poked their heads through their windows like turtles emerging from their shells to see what was going on. What they saw was a black van with tinted windows bearing the insignia of an unfamiliar branch of the Central Government.

With a simultaneity that was almost intimidating, the front doors of the van splayed open and two pairs of boots hit the the surface of the road. That was where the symmetry ended, for as those stealing peeks from their windows would attest, the two government agents could hardly be any more different.

The driver had been a tall, broad-shouldered man whose lack of hair only added to the illusion that his head was another muscle bulging out of his large body. Despite his impressive build, the dark-skinned agent seemed approachable, and had kind eyes.

His partner was a woman of average height, who looked fit in a scrappy way, but would strike some as being a little too skinny to be considered in ideal health. She was the sort of person the average citizen would be uncomfortable making eye contact with. Her brow was furrowed as if she were plagued by a sort of chronic mild discomfort.

Faye had cut her hair just above the shoulder, and dyed it black. It had been dark brown to begin with, but she had been encouraged to indulge in such acts of whimsy by her legal benefactor, the one who had adopted her five years ago. Uncle Derrick as she called him. She hadn’t felt any desire to change her hair color to anything special so it had just emerged darker and more even.

She also had no particular interest in collecting trinkets, wearing jewelry, or engaging in any other one of the peculiar activities uncle Derrick occasionally prompted her to do. Apparently it was a way to “counteract possible permanent side-effects of the treatment,” but Faye found it all bothersome nonetheless.

Besides, she didn’t mind the things she needed to go through regularly in order to help her do her job effectively. Working for her benefactor’s government division was the way she expressed her loyalty and gratitude for the support she received. As a stray animal rescued from the streets and given purpose as a member of a family would stay diligently faithful to that purpose, so did Faye Waller accept her place in the system and strive to fulfill her duties without fail.

As usual, James – the personal protection unit assigned to Faye from the moment she had completed her training – was the first to speak up. His partner might be content to prepare for every assignment in silence, but he felt he needed to know how she was doing in case that information allowed him to anticipate a developing situation even seconds faster than he would be able to otherwise.

“You look tired soldier. Everything alright?”

Faye sighed, a rare deliberate use of body language to convey emotion for her. “I wish you wouldn’t call me that, agent Washington. You know I’ve been a soldier on a few nights. Those have been some of the worst.”

For the briefest of moments, James’ usual warmth was replaced with a sober feeling of genuine apology. It was the regret any veteran of war would have if they accidentally reminded a compatriot of an unsavory memory. Though Faye was not a veteran in the traditional sense, the feeling was still completely appropriate.

“Sorry Faye. On days like this when the sun’s hitting your face you look brighter, and I forget what you are for a moment.”

“At least I’m bright enough to multitask. Look at your hands, they stopped configuring the HFP the moment you opened your mouth!”

James stared at the hemispherical force projector in his hands abashedly, like a child caught with a forbidden cookie. Then, he grinned mischievously. Chuckling deeply, his rich baritone voice hummed pleasantly as he delivered a mock warning.

“Careful who you choose to tease, agent. After all, who watches your back every day?”

“Just try to keep up,” Faye said, smirking gently.

“You can count on that, agent.”

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