17 May 2014
Citadel Central Branch, San Diego
Melody had spent the better part of nine years making her office suit her. She had a basic computer on her desk and a small filing cabinet beneath it. Everything else had come and gone. Eventually, she’d decided that the one thing she wanted was the one thing she couldn’t have, a window. It would have been good to see the outside world while she was trapped at work… but it wouldn’t have been necessary.
Melody’s new assistant brought in her first appointment of the day. She started to thank him but couldn’t remember his name. It seemed like each one quit or transferred faster than the last had these days.
“Mrs. Sanders, thank you for coming in today.” she greeted her guest instead.
“My pleasure, Director Shift. It seems like your program is the only thing Dan and I hear about these days. We haven’t seen Kelly so enthusiastic in longer than I can remember. If there’s anything I can do to make the application process run smoother then I’m happy to help.”
“I’m glad to hear it Mrs. Sanders.”
“Oh please, call me Donna.” The pleasant-seeming woman interrupted.
“Very well, Donna then.” Melody paused to consider her words carefully. The conversation might have turned awkward otherwise. “It appears most of your child’s preliminary paperwork is in order. We have your signature granting consent to proceed, pending Kelly’s eighteenth birthday. You’ve already scheduled an empowerment evaluation so the lack of previous registration won’t be an issue. If I remember correctly, the graduation day for Rosemont High is in four weeks and it doesn’t look as if academics will be an issue. Our only problem at the moment is that you neglected to fill in some of the personal information.” Donna’s brow furrowed and her eyes narrowed in confused concentration. Melody found it to be a surprisingly endearing look on the middle aged woman.
“I’m sure I remember entering our family background and medical history. You just mentioned Kelly’s high school and age so I know you have that. What did we forget?”
“We like to have a bit more than just our applicants’ age, Donna.” Melody smiled, not having to work at making it gentle. “Height, weight, gender and a picture for starters. It may not seem necessary in this case, since the registration physical is quite a bit more thorough, but that’s the nature of bureaucracy. Kelly’s application can’t proceed unless the forms are completed in full.” Donna’s confusion had vanished from her face by this point, replaced with a flush that Melody could only assume was embarrassment. She really did hate requiring an applicant to travel all the way out to Citadel grounds for something so trivial but the forms had to be filled out in person and Melody couldn’t justify traveling herself during the current training phase.
“Oh.” Donna hadn’t yet reached for the proffered papers and pen. “That. Could we talk about it first?”
02 August 2014
Motel 9, Vancouver
Director Shift considered the view before her. Her nose wrinkled as she took in the motel’s rundown appearance. Cracked paint, algae swamped pool and missing door lights combined to make her miss the view from her office. The last time the Director had been in a place like this she’d been wearing her uniform rather than a pantsuit. She wasn’t sure whether she would enjoy this visit any more than the previous but both occasions were necessary. Dismissing old memories, she located the appropriate room and knocked firmly.
“Can I help you?” The occupant was a handsome man in his mid-thirties. Short cropped kinky hair and several days’ worth of stubble framed a face that had seen recent hardship. That sense of loss and pain was unmistakable to her. So was the newfound sense of purpose.
“Mr. Wood? I’m here to conduct your admission’s interview.” She informed him.
“I’m sorry. I assumed that would be done over the phone.” If his skin had been lighter, she was sure that she’d have been able to see him blush.
“I’m afraid not Mr. Wood. Why don’t you put on a shirt? Then I’ll join you and we can go over your application.” Without another word the embarrassed man stepped away from the door, dressing hurriedly. Not quite hurriedly enough to hide his broad shoulders or the chest of a man who had clearly been an athlete. As she entered his room and began to question Isaac Woods about his desire to join the Citadel training program, Melody couldn’t help but consider that her first impression had been very much in error. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the view at this motel.
02 August 2014
Private Residence, Oceanside
The Director looked up from the evaluation results in her hands to consider the young man before her. They were seated at his family’s kitchen table. He wore his blond hair slicked back and a dark brown button-down shirt with black slacks. There was enough wear on the clothes to indicate that they were in regular use rather than only for special occasions. His posture was upright and alert, the very model of an upper-middle class, eager young student. The only contrast with this image were the dark sunglasses he was wearing indoors.
“Mr. Reed, why should I even consider allowing you to enter my program?” The boy rocked back slightly, his eyebrows raised and his mouth opened slightly in surprise. After only a moment’s pause, he leaned forward, his face and voice firm with determination.
“Ma’am, my academic history is well above average and my parents gave you a list of my extracurricular activities. I feel I should be well within the criteria of admittance.” There was a hint of anger in his otherwise controlled voice.
“Young man, your parents are no longer in the room. Anything disclosed during the course of these interviews is considered confidential. You and I both know that my concerns have nothing to do with your grades. You will cease this act and tell me why someone with an ability such as yours wishes to be a Citadel operative, or your application will be denied here and now.” The resulting change was subtle, but unmistakable to the Director. The boy still sat upright, but with a loose, relaxed manner rather than his previous pose of controlled eagerness. His face was smooth and she was sure it would have seemed unemotional even without the glasses. The most pronounced change was in the tone of his voice.
“There is no simple answer to that, Director Shift.” It was oddly monotone. “You know my family history. I desire to show that I can rise above it. Obviously, I also desire success and reward. Operatives earn both in sufficient quantity. I think, most of all, that my ability is the primary drive. There is no other socially acceptable avenue within which I can make full use of it. I realize restraint is necessary but I have considered this for most of my life and I believe this is to be the best path for me.”
“The best path for you, perhaps. What about my other trainees?” Another woman might have been disconcerted, knowing the potential danger she was in. Melody Shift was not.
“I am not my mother, ma’am. I can control myself.” He answered. She regarded him in silence, considering both his words and the change in persona.
“Fine. There may be a place for you in the Citadel, conditionally. You will not use your gift on any trainee, or staff member, without specific instructions to the contrary. Do otherwise and I’ll see you not only expelled, but executed. Understood?”
“Yes ma’am.” Despite the threat, his posture and tone remained unchanged.
“Then here’s your acceptance packet. Welcome to the Citadel, Jason.” The latter sentence was clearly delivered out of habit but she handed over the thick manila envelope she’d brought with her anyway. She gave the odd young man a polite, if distant, smile and left. The Director’s mind was already on her next appointment.
22 July 2014
Citadel Central Branch, San Diego
Melody sat in her office, attempting to relax. She didn’t know why travel seemed to leave her joints so sore these days but she was thankful that this was her last interview for the coming phase of the Citadel training program. Even more, that he had declined to meet at his home address despite being an out of state applicant.
“Thank you for coming in Mr. Reyes, would you like something to drink?” she asked the young man who’d just been shown in by her assistant.
“No thanks ma’am, and please call me Hector.” He was twenty years old, wore jeans, a t-shirt and a pleasant smile that went well with his brown eyes and straight black hair. “I can’t imagine the Director of Training has time to meet with every Citadel applicant on a personal basis. Was there something wrong with my application?”
“Actually, you might be surprised. However, the reason I wished to speak with you was about your financial assistance.”
“Huh? I didn’t ask for any. Ma’am.”
“No, you didn’t. However, you also stated that you were the current primary caregiver for your dependent mother and that you have no other family to assist in her care. Citadel funds are available to pay for a live in nurse or similar accommodations, under the circumstances.
“Uh, ma’am, that’s not needed. I’ve been caring for her since I was seventeen. I don’t really need any help.” The boy sat in front of her, honest confusion showing clearly.
“You did read the housing information included with your acceptance letter? Primary housing for Citadel employees are barracks, with dorm style apartments available for a fee. Your mother will not be able to stay with you and your starting pay will not be sufficient to maintain her current level of care.” Her voice was more dismissive than strictly appropriate but to be fair to the Director, her hands and feet were really beginning to bother her at this point.
“Oh, I see what you mean now. No ma’am, I hadn’t planned on moving her here. And I’m currently working five jobs so I shouldn’t have any difficulty paying for another place.” His clarification didn’t seem to help her much. “It didn’t seem right to ask for help when I can provide for us myself.”
“Mr. Reyes, I’m suddenly aware that your file failed to specify a few things about the nature of your ability. What, exactly, are your range and duration?”
“Well, I’ve had one of me up for about twelve years now. Usually there’s at least a dozen of me but I don’t think that’s the limit. I don’t know exactly how far away I can get but I went to China last year.” Director Shift just sighed rather than asking anything further.
“Welcome to the Citadel, Hector.”
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