Chapter 7, Part 2

Upon leaving the administrative conference room, Zed swiftly made his way to his personal outfitting room. Though his position within the Peripheral Branch was that of a handler – one responsible for calibrating the sleep chambers of investigators and monitoring their neural readings – director Jones had set aside field equipment for him.

This equipment was kept in a room used exclusively by the handler, unlike the investigators who shared an outfitting room. This allowed the director to equip Zed with prototype apparatus and personally send him on missions that the rest of the Peripheral Branch, as well as authorities from the Central Government, did not need to know the exact details of.

In fact, it was likely that had director Jones’ superiors in the Central Government known the postulated danger rating of the individual known as Joshua Brooke, they would have never approved the branch director’s action of dispatching an investigative team to apprehend the potential metacognite.

Zed however, was loyal to the director. This was not out of sentiment, but was rather just a fact of his character. Many aspects about Zed seemed like they had been hardwired, set in stone during the same incident that had ultimately led to the agent soon abandoning the name of Zachary Zahn.

Virtually everyone that knew Zed, including the director, thought that his mind had been ripped completely asunder and that he had emerged devoid of all emotions. But this was a falsehood known only to the man himself. One very human instinct had survived the transformative incident of 9 years past: self-preservation.

Although completely lacking in hedonistic desires, needs for fulfillment, and all variety of petty wants, Zed retained an indomitable will to see his existence continued. It was this primal need that was likely responsible for him undergoing a dramatic mental metamorphosis, instead of simply shattering in response to an immense pressure.

His strong sense of self-preservation also was the cause for his extensive preparations for this mission. Upon reaching his outfitting room, Zed tapped on his forearm, and the internally wired computer interfaced with the room’s management system to extend the equipment shelves necessary. An array of cutting-edge technology, using frontier engineering techniques such as heavy lepton circuits, was soon displayed before him.

Even a reasonably rational individual would say that the preparations Zed was making were excessive. The difficult part of the mission, to secure Joshua Brooke for transport, had already been completed, or at least seemed to have reached a point nearing success when director Jones had dismissed him. All he was needed for was actual transport, since the metacognite was to be taken to a part of the facility agents Waller and Washington did not have access clearance to.

Zed approached matters from another angle entirely. For every piece of equipment in his arsenal, he estimated the probability that a scenario requiring it would develop, while factoring in its mass and overall volume. From there, he selected his loadout in an optimal fashion so that the sum of nonzero probability outcomes was maximized while keeping overall tool accessibility and weight below a certain threshold.

Despite not being weak by any stretch, Zed was rather thin. Even with multiple layers of utility vests and jackets carrying a veritable arsenal at his disposal, he still would not have looked to out of place on the streets of Durvell.

Four Bladed Spider Drones. One Subliminal Pain Inducer. Multiple externally-worn Network Veil Nodes.

These were among the devices that Peripheral Branch’s most feared handler had stored on his outermost vest, as he considered their accessibility to be the most important. Thus, absurdly over-prepared for his simple transport duties, Zed made his way to the sublevel containing the vehicles.

The standard grounded vehicle of the Peripheral Branch was an armored brand produced directly by the Central Branch of Military Transportation. Though at least two private companies produced similar vehicles with arguably superior specifications, there was not an ample discrepancy in quality to justify endorsing a non-government product.

Precisely 11 minutes after exiting the conference room, Zed had programmed the route and was on his way to the university.

Eric Reeves watched the heated exchange between the two government agents with mute fascination. If his arms had been free, he would have slapped himself in the face to confirm that he was, in fact, awake.

First a teenager had broken the physical laws Dr. Reeves had spent almost a decade of his life learning. Then that teenager had done something to the female agent that was causing her to behave in what the scientist surmised was an aberrant fashion. Judging by the tense and suddenly hostile posture of the male agent, she was breaking some form of important protocol.

“Faye…” James’ voice was sad. “I’m declaring you unfit to continue this mission. Stand down, and allow me to complete my duties unopposed. Please.”

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