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by John L. Morgan III
Part 1 of 4
The sunlight shining through the window of Jamie Gatling's office was so bright it appeared to be solid. It reflected off the white of the table where Jamie was staring at a layout for Inside Magazine. The executive editor, she was enjoying a quiet moment in her usually hectic workday. Satisfied with the composition of graphics and text on her computer screen, she sent her graphics editor the OK over email. Then she activated the screen saver on her computer and turned to look out the window at the street, forty stories below. It was a warm day in New York, and being so far above the people on Madison Avenue, Jamie could imagine they all looked content.
The phone rang, cutting through her reverie.
Jamie pushed her chair from the window and reached out to answer it.
"Hello?" Jamie asked again, but her gut tightened as she realized who, and what, it was.
A low, gnashing voice spoke one word on the other line: "Surge."
The line went dead, and Jamie hung up the phone, stared at it for a moment, and took a deep breath. She picked it up again and dialed her secretary.
"Linda? It's me. I'm feeling kind of under the weather." She paused for a moment, and then said "Yeah, it's that bug again. I think I'm going to leave, I may be out of commission for a few days." Another pause. "All of a sudden, I know. Oh, I'll be fine." Jamie listened for a moment, and then finished, "Thanks. Take a few days off, OK? See you."
She hung up the phone, stood up, sighed heavily, and began to gather her things. Time to go home and wait for SIRECOM to pick her up.
Mike Rueben had just grabbed some carrots from the fridge when the phone rang. He walked into his study, where he had been working on a filing program for his company, Digital Currents, and answered it.
"Hello," he said, and took a bite out of a carrot.
There was no answer, and thinking he might have missed the response because of the loudness of his chewing, Mike asked "Hello?"
A low, gnashing voice said, "Tracker."
The line went dead.
Mike held the phone to his ear for a moment. Then, annoyed by the dial tone, he hung it up. He took a bite of his carrot and, realizing he didn't feel like eating it anymore, spat it into the trash can. He sat down at his computer, wondering if three hours would be enough time to finish the program. That was about how long SIRECOM usually took to arrive.
Jamie was staring at herself in the mirror. She'd taken a shower, changed into a dark, long sleeved t-shirt and jeans, and packed the bare minimum of things to take with her. Missions usually lasted only a couple of days, and she was taking less and less with her each time.
Jamie frowned at her reflection's wavy, golden-brown hair and finely boned face. Jamie's friends told her she was beautiful, but she felt her looks were too harsh, and dreaded the time when the lines on her face would deepen.
The phone rang in her apartment, startling her. It was Ed on the other line, telling her he was downstairs and the car was ready. She grabbed her bag and went out the door, bolting it behind her.
Ed was sitting on a bench in the park across the street from her apartment. A tall and well built blonde, Jamie guessed that he was Dutch and mid-twenties. He and Mike's attache, Teresa, were the only SIRECOM employee she used her real name with, although she was sure that others at the agency, and probably their supervisor Gerald, knew her identity. Although she never talked to Ed very much, always being preoccupied with anticipation of the next few days as he ferried her to the sites of her missions, she felt a shared understanding with him. It was as if, by using her name, he was telling her he could be trusted.
Ed smiled lightly at her, and held the door open to a black Chrysler with darkened windows, the car he would drive her to the Connecticut base in.
Mike looked out at the countryside, and saw that they were nearing the base. Waiting there was the plane that would be to take them to wherever the mission was. He glanced over at Teresa, the SIRECOM employee who used his real name and traveled with him to his assignments. She was a young hispanic woman with short black hair and large brown eyes. She sensed he was looking at her and asked, "Everything all right, Mike?"
Mike sighed and sunk down into his seat.
"Sure, Teresa. Everything's great," he said emptily.
Up ahead of the car, the military airbase came into view.
Jamie checked her seat belt for the fifth time. Then she turned to her side, expecting to see a window and finding a solid wall. She had forgotten that the SIRECOM plane they took to their missions only had windows in the cockpit.
Jamie was sitting in the spacious two-person compartment that Ed had left her in, facing a large, inactivated monitor. She had changed into a standard, dark blue SIRECOM jumpsuit.
"They're late," she thought, just as the door to the left of the monitor opened and Mike and Teresa appeared.
Teresa smiled and said to Mike, "There you go," as he walked into the room and sat down next to Jamie. Jamie glanced at him. He looked as she had remembered him; lean build, dark hair, round wireframe glasses. Tediously handsome in a thin way. He was also wearing a jumpsuit.
Teresa said, "Gerald will be on in a moment," and left them alone.
Mike buckled his seat belt as he said, "Ready for another mission?"
"Hello to you, too, Mike."
Mike smiled. "Only trying to be friendly."
Jamie sighed. "I just don't want to be here."
"Well, neither do I, but it's certainly better than the alternative."
Jamie turned to him, deciding to ask a question she'd been forming since their last operation. "You know, I've been thinking about that," she said. "Certainly, being an omega all the time would be an enormous burden on me, considering what would happen if I accidentally used my power, but you? Heightened senses, clairvoyance... Why is that so bad?"
Mike looked at her for a moment. "I guess... I guess I'm just a private person."
Jamie laughed. "Why am I not surprised to hear you say that?"
Mike glared at her and continued, "What I mean is, when SIRECOM turns our powers back on, which they're about to do, it's like I'm not... not able to be alone. Ever. I can hear everyone around me, all the time, whether I want to or not."
"It doesn't seem to bother you on our missions."
Mike nodded. "Oh, sure, it's fine in small doses. But all the time? I'd go nuts."
Jamie looked wistfully at her partner. "Still, I'd rather have your omega."
"I don't know, I think your power suits you," Mike said. Jamie raised an eyebrow at him. He smiled. "Come on! Every movement, energized. I'm sure that in the real world you act like you can wham people, even though your omega's turned off."
Jamie, pleased despite herself, was about to respond when the monitor in front of her and Mike chimed.
They both turned to it as the image of their supervisor, Gerald Rainier, materialized. He was in his forties, with a lined face and curly brown hair. He didn't bother Mike or Jamie, but they both felt he had a cunning about him that made him trustworthy.
"Hello, Surge," Gerald said, nodding at Jamie. "And Tracker." He nodded at Mike. They both stared at him, slightly resentful.
"What's it this time, Gerald?" Jamie asked.
Gerald smiled at her forwardness. He began in the condescending voice of a game show host, "You're heading out to Rhode Island, a small town named Cadence on the Pawcatuck river."
Mike felt Jamie flinch when Gerald mentioned Rhode Island, and he glanced at her face, but it was unreadable.
Gerald went on, "The town is the site of two murders in a killing spree across southern Rhode Island that has left eight dead. The FBI strongly believes these murders to fit the serial pattern, even though there are some strange details relating to the deaths." He paused dramatically.
"Something out of the norm?" Mike asked.
"Nothing is ever normal with a serial killer, but yes, this one is farther out there than most. I don't have information yet on the latest killing, as it happened right before you were called in, but so far his victims have been white women, twenties to thirties, sexually assaulted and then electrocuted."
Jamie winced. "Great, just what I wanted to get involved with on my vacation."
Gerald continued smiling, unperturbed by her reaction.
"Electrocuted?" Mike asked. "I've never heard of that."
Jamie turned to him. "Do you do a lot of research into serial killings? Or is it something you have yet to try out on your own?"
Suddenly she realized she was jumping on him without cause, and his look of confusion upset her.
Gerald's voice commanded their attention. "Concentrate, chasers."
He pushed buttons offscreen and said, "I'm going to profile the victims for you." As he finished, his image was replaced with a photograph of a young blond woman and a paragraph of statistics next to it.
"First victim: Erin Marek, 26, a dock worker. Lived alone, Cadence, Rhode Island, found in her apartment by a friend. Tied to bed, electrocuted until her body was seriously burnt. Seminal fluid found on bed, possibly from two separate ejaculations."
Another face appeared on the screen, this time a brunette, and Gerald continued with more disturbing descriptions of death scenes. Jamie listened to the next four; a twenty-seven year old waitress named Kelly Hughes from Newport, a thirty-one year old named Leslie Burton from Bristol, an artist named Susan Schley, and another waitress named Jane. Then Jamie just stared, repulsed by the crimes and by her own indifference to them. She didn't like this. But she noticed that Mike was listening intently.
When Gerald reached the seventh death he said, "Now this is the last one I know anything about, as we're getting you two to the scene of the eighth before the FBI's report is finished. It's also the reason you've been called in."
"Something has made you think the killer's an omega," Mike said.
Gerald looked at him from the screen. "What makes you say that?"
"That's what Surge and I are for, right? We're chasers, we bring down omegas that have gone bad. Why else would we be here unless you thought this guy was an omega?"
"We do a lot more than think he's an omega. We know."
"How?" Jamie asked.
Gerald touched a console off-screen, and again his image was replaced, this time with photographs of blackened bodies, burnt beyond recognition. "His first six victims were burned to the point that medical examiners couldn't identify the contact points for the electrical current that killed them, but he's been leaving the bodies less and less destroyed. His last one, a day and a half ago, was relatively unharmed, and we could identify where the electrical connection on the body was. It was a rather unique shape, as you can see."
The body on the screen was replaced by a close-up of a woman's thigh, with a black mark burned into it in a shape that Jamie and Mike instantly recognized. They gasped.
"You got it," Gerald said, instantly back on the screen. "Now you can see why there's no doubt our killer is an omega. No normal person could keep from getting electrocuted."
Jamie was glad the monitor had switched back to Gerald, but she knew that she would never be able to forget the image she had seen, the shape of the horrible burn mark that had killed a young woman not too different from herself.
The blackened burn had been in the shape of a human hand.
"You OK?" Mike asked Jamie.
Gerald had finished briefing them and they now had a few minutes to themselves before their omegas would be activated and Gerald would reappear for his final communication.
Jamie glanced at her partner but didn't make eye contact. "Sure, I'm fine," she said.
They were silent for a moment, and then Jamie asked, "Why wouldn't I be?"
Mike, seeing this as a sign she wanted to talk about it, said, "I noticed you reacted when Gerald told us we're heading to Rhode Island. Do you have an aversion to extremely small states?"
Jamie smirked, and then said, "It's just... I have a lot of memories of Rhode Island."
"You lived there before you went out to New York City?"
Jamie shook her head. "No, actually I grew up mostly in Maryland, where my Mom still lives. But we lived in Rhode Island until I was seven. When my dad died, from a heart attack."
Mike said softly, "I didn't know your dad died when you were a kid."
Jamie's stare was piercing. "We don't know a lot about each other, Mike. The only reason we see each other at all is because we're both omegas who made a deal with SIRECOM; we do the occasional mission for them, stopping evil omegas and bringing them in, and they turn off our powers for the rest of the time so we can live ordinary lives."
Mike frowned. Once Jamie's defenses were up, she could completely close herself off if he said the wrong thing. He looked over at the monitor, gazing at the blank screen.
Jamie's tension lifted. Mike was only trying to be kind. And she liked him, even if he was a wimp sometimes.
"I used to think that my father kept watching me after he died. That he lived on as a ghost," she said, wanting to talk to Mike to let him know it was OK, but a little upset that she was speaking so personally. He turned back to her, paying close attention to what she was saying. "I know it sounds stupid, but sometimes, I thought I could sense him. Just sort of feel his presence. And then I'd play little games, make up things, pretend I'd seen things move and little signs telling me what to do. It was all subconscious, of course. I was just showing myself things I already knew. But it made me feel better to think that it was my dad, watching over me."
Jamie paused. Mike's face was impassive. She continued, "Then, five years ago my omega kicked in. I blamed my dad, thinking I might have inherited it from him, and whenever I was lost or lonely, which was a lot of the time because I was so worried about my powers, and I'd "feel" him, I'd just take a nap or leave or do anything to get rid of the feeling. I hated him for a while." Jamie sighed. "I guess eventually those feelings kind of faded away, and now I'm all right with it." She looked Mike in the eye, and then said lightly, "And then SIRECOM picked me up a year ago and made the two of us chasers, and now I don't need to worry about my power anymore at all."
There was a knock on the door. Mike frowned and said, "Except for moments like now."
The door opened and Teresa and Ed appeared.
"Hey, you two," Teresa said. "You know what time it is."
She walked into the room and Ed followed her, carrying a medical case and a cylinder the size of a small stereo, covered with blinking lights and a control panel.
Jamie sighed as Teresa opened the case and took out two syringes filled with a clear liquid. She injected one into Jamie's arm and the other into Mike's. Then Ed pushed a button on the cylinder and it let out a low humming noise. It went on for a few moments, everyone silent and listening to it. Then the sound stopped.
Ed looked at Jamie. "Time to see if it worked."
Jamie unbuckled her seat belt and stood up. She was still for a moment, and then she punched the empty air in front of her. As large blue current sparked from nowhere, surrounding and outlining her moving fist. It made a loud whooshing sound, and Mike could feel the wind and heat from it.
Ed smiled, and turned to Mike. "Now you," he said.
Mike slowly took his glasses off and put them in his shirt pocket. Then he turned and looked at Teresa.
"You wash with Lever 2000," he said to her. "I can smell it on you." Mike turned back to Ed, who was smiling at his success. "And you," Mike said, "You visited someone important to you today. Your mother?"
Ed frowned. Clearly there were some things Mike wasn't supposed to be able to sense with his omega. Teresa broke the tension by snapping the case shut and saying, "OK, well, now that your powers are reinstated, Gerald should call back." As she was leaving with Ed she turned and said, "And we'll be landing in a few minutes."
Jamie sat back down and buckled herself in slowly, careful not to move too quickly so she wouldn't activate the electrical field that surrounded her. She and Mike sat silently for a few moments, readjusting to having their omegas.
The monitor chimed, and Gerald reappeared. "Hello, chasers. Surge, you're surging?" Jamie scowled at him, and Gerald turned to Mike. "And Tracker, you're ready to track?"
"Yes, Gerald," Mike answered in a weary tone of voice.
"Well, I should warn you both that there may be some problems with the FBI. They're not convinced yet that SIRECOM's assistance is necessary, and they're used to fighting out turf wars. I'm seeing if I can do anything about that, and if you keep me up-to-date on what's going on I should be able to get them out of your face. Ed and Teresa will be kept in the area in case you need backup from us. So keep in touch, OK?"
"Yes, sir," Mike said.
Gerald smiled sardonically. "Signing off," he said, and the screen went blank.
Almost immediately Ed stuck his head in. "We land in five," he said.
The door of the plane opened and Mike and Jamie walked through it and down the waiting steps. Jamie's hair picked up in the winds of the overcast day, and in the distance she heard the low rumble of thunder. 'Out of the sky just in time,' she thought.
She could smell something in the air, a river smell, and the turning of the trees at the edge of the runway, earlier here than in New York, brought her childhood back to her with shocking vividness. Mike noticed her discomfort as she thought grimly, 'This is going to be harder than I thought.'
Next: Jamie and Mike bump into two FBI agents who are definitely not Scully and Mulder...
Copyright 1996 John L. Morgan III
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