Charlie Shayde was supposed to have a day off today. And while she's not normally one to spend a day doing nothing, it's a hard earned rest, given the challenge of her job, wrangling in the specially powered Anomalies who dot the landscape of the Capital and the world, and doing so with special abilities of her own. She deserves this break. So all of that being said...why is her boss calling her? What sort of situation could the agents of BEAM be in today that would require her lethal brand of efficiency?
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The contents of this episode were 100% written by me, MJ Dooney. I did use AI created voice filters, but any likeness to a real person was NOT intended. I would one day love to do this with proper voice acting, but currently lack the resources (and/or connections) to do that with fidelity.
“Charlie, we might need you on this bust.”
I was already watching what was happening. But I waited the appropriate amount of time to make it seem like I wasn’t already watching what was happening. Give him the impression of flippant disinterest or something, downplay his panic a bit. “Murphy, I got this week off, remember? It’s only Tuesday, so uh…I’ll help you in six days.”
“This guy is good, Shayde. Giving my team fits; they’ve been trying to apprehend him for a half hour and barely landed a punch.”
“Uh huh,” I lackadaisically grunted, but Murphy didn’t perceive my boredom or more likely ignored it.
“You know what? This right here is exactly why I hate it when Prophit makes us skip steps, abandon protocol. It all goes to shit!”
“Okay. Bye Murphy.”
“No, don’t go. I need you on standby, just in case he bolts; tune in and check it out.”
I sighed loud enough that the mic in my earpiece would pick it up, but he didn’t respond. Murphy was the kind of person who spent his weeks off on standby anyway, so didn’t see the problem with asking me to do the same. I suppose a guy with that much diligence was the appropriate person to head the department, but man. Sometimes I wondered if he slept.
In fairness to Murph, I was basically on standby anyway. One third out of curiosity how things were going without me, one third out of pure sadism, and one third because I really didn’t have much else to do with myself. I had already spent most of the day working out, so by the time I got back to my apartment on the eighth floor of HQ, the only thing I could think of to do was sit on the couch, kick my boots onto the coffee table, flick on the monitor and see what kind of idiot was getting bagged today. And there he was, this scrawny baby puppy of a man. Possibly eighteen or nineteen, white, tall, panicking in a corner as furniture flung around the room, knocking Equalizers to and fro. “This guy’s a total amateur,” I scoffed, gesturing at the monitor even though I was alone. “He’s telegraphing the shit out of everything with his hands. Look at him; he points to shit before he moves it. Tell them to just watch his hands. I’m getting paid double time for that advice, by the way.”
“Don’t you think I’ve already told them that?” Murphy was getting a little testy, but it’s not like his fuse was ever all that long, “This whole team is rooks, Charlie, they’re running on pure adrenaline right now. Anything I say, might as well say it in Korean. This is why I protested giving you, Squad Two, hell, every veteran Equalizer the week off, even in light of recent events. It’s damned irresponsible! Anomalies don’t take weeks off.”
“Vasquez isn’t a rookie.” I intentionally dismissed his diatribe.
“You said the whole team was new. But Vasquez has been here longer than me, and I see his name on the team roster.” I realized too late that having the roster meant I was looking at the pre-mission Evaluation report, which meant I was on standby before Murphy asked me to be. Luckily, he was too wrapped up in frustrated anger to recognize my blown cover.
“Yeah well, he was only ever there to run point. And Vasquez ain’t a rookie, but he is an idiot. He got tossed out a third story window five minutes into the scrap. Excellent veteran leadership there.”
“So, he’s legit then?”
“…Huh?” I always enjoyed asking Murphy vague questions and explaining them later. Drove the man up a tree when he didn’t immediately know what someone was talking about. “Who, Vasquez?”
“No, the Anomaly, Murphy. If he tossed Vasquez out the window, either he’s in cahoots with Vasquez or he can legitimately move stuff he hasn’t seen before. Meaning it’s not just an elaborate set-up, right? He’s actually moving things without touching them.”
“Well, yeah, obviously,” Murphy snorted.
“Any idea if he’s using tech or natural abilities?”
“All natural,” a different voice replied. “The Evaluatio—Oh, shit, Phyl here. Sorry, Murphy conferenced me in for support. Hi, Charlie!”
“Er…anyway, yeah. The Evaluations Department says no gizmos, no games, just pure, raw telekinesis. Manifested about a month ago, he’s barely left the house since it happened.”
“Smart guy,” I replied, as the telekinetic man on the screen threw open his utensil drawer and started whipping forks at our agents, cowering in fear. “Forks, wow. They don’t make Equalizers like they used to, eh Murph?”
He grumbled some obscenities I couldn’t make out as I flipped to the full report. Ugh, too long. “Phyl, how’s his nature?”
“Uh…well, Evaluations hasn’t made official contact yet, what with Prophit forcing the case through before they finished. But he’s human. If he’s not, he’s assimilating really well. Lives in a house, goes to college, answered the door speaking English, seems to have generally human reactions to things. Well, minus the moving shit with his mind bit but…Oh! My readings also indicate he ‘caught’ Vasquez before he hit the ground? Like telekinetically? So he seems like a pretty nice guy, I guess. Plus, he’s had his powers for a month, hasn’t…robbed a bank or tried to conquer America or anything like that. Evals is not exactly my department, but he seems okay.”
“I think it’s him, Charlie.” Murphy cut in with what had become his catch phrase before Phyl had even finished his sentence.
“Why am I not surprised, Murphy?” I replied with what I considered the perfect mix of dismissiveness and disdain to get him to shut up.
“Don’t be so glib! He matches the description to the letter!”
“Yeah, tall, white, nice guy. There’s lots of those in the world.”
“Powerful, too. And Prophit had a vision to push this case ahead; you know that means bigger things are at play here, fate and whatnot. I think it’s him, Shayde, I really do.”
“Murphy, you can’t just keep saying every single Anomaly is ‘him’ and then when inevitably one of them is, act like you predicted it. You can’t keep calling upsets and then act like some kind of guru when statistically one of them has to—”
“On the move!” Phyl interrupted (I was eager to change the subject anyway), as the boy flew out the window and darted out of the view of our Equalizers’ ear mounted telecom cameras. I flipped the monitor to the GPS tracking screen, assuming one of these newbies had the foresight to tag the guy, and luckily they had. Flashing dots on a map of the Capital streets were less fun than watching a guy whipping forks at rookie Equalizers, but more information than an empty house.
“About…thirty miles per hour.”
I scoffed, “What’s that you were saying about powerful, Murphy?”
“He can’t go much faster than that, Charlie; he’s only flying ten feet off the ground. He’d hit a building or something.”
“First of all, I can go a million times faster than that. Don’t ever hit squat.”
“We don’t all have six senses, Shayde.”
Ignored, “Second, ten feet of the ground? What, is the flying man scared of heights?”
“Charlie,” Murphy sighed, electing to give up and ask the question he’d obviously been avoiding, hoping I’d volunteer on my own, “can you just come down here and get him, for the love of God?”
“What do you mean no? Why the hell not?”
“You’re tracking him, and he’s not moving that fast. Chase him with a car. Or better yet, wait until he stops and ambush again. He’ll run out of stamina before you run out of Equalizers.”
“That’ll take hours. Days maybe.”
“What else you got to do?”
“Only a hundred other busts, and as we’ve established, I’m grossly understaffed! Charlie, it would take you ten minutes.”
“It’d take me ten seconds. Not the point. I’m off today, and on Howard Prophit’s authority, not yours. Close on this yourself or I’m telling Howie you tried to rope me into it.”
“You know what Howie will care about more than your stupid day off? If this is our guy.”
“Oh my GOD, Murphy! Shut the fuck up about ‘our guy,’ this is not ‘our guy’!”
“I will bet you a thousand bucks.”
I paused for a second, “A thousand bucks that it’s him?”
“Yep. I’m that confident. What do you say? …Charlie? You still there?”
“I’m here,” I grumbled as I walked over to my closet and threw on my trench coat, then snatched my gun off the bedside table, “Juuuust grabbing Guillermo. When I catch him, do I equalize him?”
“Well,” Phyl replied, “like I said he’s smart. Evaluations has been trying to get a good reading on his power, but it was hard without any direct contact. And like Murphy said, we rushed it because of Howie’s forecast and all. This is basically unevaluated, but it’s too crowded inside his house to measure anything accurately. We may be able to contain him, I guess. I doubt it, but just for the logistics and bureaucracy and whatnot, I’d like to get some solid numbers about what he can do. Think you can get him to throw something heavy at you so I can measure his output?”
I slung Guillermo into his holster, “Getting people to throw heavy things at me is kind of my specialty. Though I guess it’ll take me more than ten seconds now.”
“Alright, awesome. Have you been sensing for him, or do you need some vectors?”
“I know where he is. Got him all sixed up.”
The look on his face man, I wish I could’ve saved it forever. I intentionally regrouped like two feet in front of him just so I could catch a glimpse before he had a chance to swerve away from me. It was always funny to me how Anomalies responded to other Anomalies. You’d think a guy who spent the last month rearranging his furniture by thinking about it would hardly be phased by me appearing out of thin air right in front of him, arm extended, perfectly positioned for a clothesline in the next second or so. But alas, he was too stunned to avoid it. Not that he possessed the skills to do so anyway, given the limited video I’d seen of him in action.
I lost track of how many backward somersaults he turned before he hit the ground. The pavement managed to maintain full structural integrity, as did most of his bones according to my sixth sense, which meant he probably “caught” himself at the last second. Still, it had to hurt skidding across the concrete like that on his back, wind knocked out of him, still completely dumbfounded about where I came from, what I was. I stepped over to him, a foot on either side of his body, withdrawing Guillermo and aiming right between his eyes. Like a deer in headlights.
“Don’t move, please.” I smiled smugly, and hesitated long enough for him to retaliate, to get Phyl his power reading. This took longer than I expected; he was probably still dealing with the shock of getting flattened on his back so suddenly.
“S—sorry,” he stammered, lifting both of his hands to tumble the semi-truck behind me in our direction. Once he got it moving, he thrusted his arms down to his sides, rocketing off again down the same street. I couldn’t help but start laughing before I ungrouped, the semi harmlessly passing through the particle dust that was formerly my body.
Regrouped, “Okay, did he seriously apologize?”
“He’s heading north, Charlie,” Murphy ignored me making fun of his horse in our wager, “Think about what’s north of the Capital.”
“Um…nothing? Corn and cows and shit?”
“So what does that tell you about him?”
“Let’s see. Wide open spaces for me to group around freely in and a lack of heavy semi-trucks to contritely chuck at the back of my head. Advantage, Charlie, serving it to me on a platter. He’s a tactical moron.”
“He’s trying to get away from civilians,” Murphy ignored my witty, flawless analysis, “He’s trying to cut down on collateral damage. It’s not about tactics, Shayde; it’s about being a good guy.”
“Half of them are good guys, Murph,” I retorted, “Doesn’t mean anything anymore; we treat them all the same. Which reminds me, what do you guys think? Equalize?”
Phyl, who was not exactly qualified to think anything but was also young and obnoxious, piped in first, “Yeah, that semi was well over thirty-thousand pounds. Plus I don’t know if that was his full power output or what. I mean he was in distress, adrenaline and stuff, but he flicked it into you like it was a toothpick. We might be able to contain him? But I don’t know if it’s cost efficient, especially if he’s got more in the tank. Whatever, like I said, not my department, Evaluations. Anyway it’s a forecast case; these things are kind of play-by-ear-ish. Murphy?”
There was a labored pause as the head of the Equalizers determined this poor sucker’s fate. It wasn’t often that this sort of thing happened: a case bypassing the process, skipping Evaluations on the big boss’s orders and falling right into Murphy’s lap, the sole person to pass judgment. But during the rare occasions it did, I could always count on Murphy to make a quick, usually correct decision. Get us all on with our lives. “Yeah,” he finally sighed, “Yeah, alright, equalize him. But—unless it’s him, Charlie!” Murphy eagerly added, trying to catch me before I ungrouped, “Follow procedure! Make sure it’s not him before you kill him! I mean…equalize.”
We weren’t supposed to use the k-word.
Something about Phyl speculating this little shit was sandbagging against me irked me enough that I decided I’d give him a bit more flurry this time around. Just to show him what he was up against, so he wouldn’t try to run anymore. He did bolt off at least twice as fast as he was going before, so I guess I probably put the fear of God in him a little bit. Now it was time to smite.
My boot planted into his back, jettisoning him into a second date with the concrete. He wasn’t slutty enough to put out; I could already six him breaking the fall. It was alright. I wasn’t done.
I waited the fraction of a second for him to slide his belly right over top of my perfectly positioned foot and lifted it, springing him into the air.
I felt his nose shatter against my knee and his momentum instantaneously reversed. Telekinetic or not, can’t prevent an impact you didn’t see coming.
Ungrouped, but I waited until he hit the ground and slid to a stop, then regrouped gradually and dramatically, Guillermo withdrawn and aimed at his half-swollen face, right back where we were not five minutes ago. Only this time, I’d beaten him to a pulp in four seconds flat.
“Let’s try this again: don’t move, please. What’s your name?”
“Please,” he whimpered, raising his hands above his head in submission, “Please, don’t shoot. Don’t kill me. I’ll do whatever you want, I’ll go wherever. Please. Are you going to kill me?”
He gulped, fear dancing in his eyes as he stared down Guillermo’s throat. I felt that twinge of guilt I’d become so good at swallowing away. “D—depends on what?”
“Well, I did ask you a question.”
I didn’t flinch, “Look, I don’t like saying things twice.”
“Jaxon,” he sputtered, “Jaxon Teaque. My name is Jaxon Teaque.”
“Wait, what? What’d he say? What’d he say?!” Murphy, overexcited, bipolar Murphy. Funny how a thousand bucks cures the worst case of the grumpies, “Did he say Jaxon Teaque?! Is that our boy?!”
“Spell it,” I growled at the puny, sniveling worm, cowering under my gun, who couldn’t possibly be the hero of prophecy we’d all been hearing about for a year. I was still unwilling to yield in our wager.
“Uh…Jaxon is J-A-X-O-N. A—and Teaque, T-E-A-Q-U-E.”
“It’s a ‘K,’ right Phyl? The Teake we want, T-E-A-K-E?”
“No dice, Charlie. I got Prophit’s forecast right here in front of me, in his original handwriting. Shitty as that may be, there’s no denying: T-E-A-Q-U-E. This is him, Shayde. Sorry. This is our guy.”
“Nuh-uh, bullshit,” I said mostly to myself, “Bull ing shit. Who told you that name?” I interrogated my prisoner, just as he started to realize that perhaps his answer was the salvation he craved.
“Jaxon Teaque, where did you hear that from? Who told you that name?”
“I mean…my parents I guess, the first time. And then since then um…everyone I meet t—tells me that name because…because it’s my name? Am I…Do I get to go now? What’s exactly happening here?”
“Talk less,” I snarled in defeat, as Murphy hooted and hollered miles away through the telecom. “You just cost me a thousand bucks, JT.” I reached up, turned the dial of my com to Howard Prophit, mercifully disconnecting me from Murphy’s boasting, and flicked a switch on the side of my earpiece, paging him, this late at night. The head of the whole Bureau was the absolute last person I wanted to talk to, basically ever, but I put on my most emotionally neutered, monotone voice. The only voice I could use to talk to him anymore. “Howie? It’s Charlie. You awake?”
“Yes, my dear,” he responded, softly and promptly, “What can I do for you? Is Murphy trying to get you to work today?”
“Well yeah but…withhold judgment on that until you hear the rest. I got a kid here who says his name is Jaxon Teaque, spelled right and everything. Want me to bring him back to HQ? Or keep him still until you can get down here?”
“Oh, yes! Finally found the sneaky little bastard, eh? Yes please keep him there, and thank you kindly, Charlie. I’ll get your location from Phyl and be down shortly. Oh, how exciting! We finally got him; I’m just brimming with exuberance.”
I could six the guy behind me, the guy who was apparently Jaxon Teaque, gauging if he had the agility to slip away from me, inching and twitching toward making a break. Without looking, I lifted Guillermo over my shoulder and fired a shot right between his feet. He stopped cold as I grouped the bullet back into the gun.
“Don’t go anywhere, please,” I said, turning around and walking over to him, “My boss is coming to meet you. Actually my…boss’s boss, I guess. He’s been looking for you for a while, so he’d be pretty upset if he came down here and you were gone.” I slumped down next to him, exhaling audibly in defeat. We sat silently, side by side for a moment, as he stared at me, still trembling a little bit. I pulled my knees into my chest, wrapping my arms around them, lazily hanging Guillermo in my right hand, and resting my head on top. A lock or two flopped in front of my face, so I flicked my neck a little in an unsuccessful attempt to reposition them, then sighed, “You know, today was supposed to be my day off.”
He chuckled nervously, “Yeah? Uh…sorry about that.”
Chronic apologizer. Maybe it was just the anxiety of almost dying. “Eh, not your fault,” I brushed the stray locks back into the flock, “You didn’t ask to get chased by BEAM today.”
He gulped, like he knew deep down that we were BEAM all along, but hearing me say it, confirming it one-hundred percent, had sunk the last twinge of hope he had left. “Well, I guess that’s true. But I guess I could’ve stopped running earlier.”
I shrugged, “Again, not your fault. It was kind of a fun chase, even though I had you the whole time,” I shook Guillermo back and forth a bit, “I did kind of wanna shoot you, though. I’m pretty curious about whether or not you could stop a bullet.”
He smiled and shook his head, “Yeah, I cannot. I’ll save you the bullet.”
Actually, he had a pretty cute smile. This was true even considering that his face was all bulgy and bloody and swollen from me whipping his ass. I guess after all of Howie’s hullabaloo about Jaxon Teaque, I was kind of expecting him to be stacked, an Adonis type. This guy was scrawny as they come. But in an unaware, nerdy, nontraditional kind of way, sure, he was handsome. It’s weird how I didn’t notice until after someone told me I couldn’t kill him…
“Am uh…am I going to get arrested or something?” he asked after a lengthy silence.
He knew damn well that wasn’t our style because everyone did. But then Jaxon was destined for a more complex fate than the average Anomaly who ran in with BEAM. I thought about telling him some of the details. It was going to take an hour for Howie to get to us from HQ. Still, I may have been the worst person to tell this story. And I hated telling it.
“We don’t really arrest people. But let Howie fill in the gaps for you, JT. He’s more articulate than I am.”