12/02/2011

Rad Munday - Beginnings: Act III


"This really better be worth all of this trouble," Rad said nervously as he switched the Fat Lady to its crossbow function and followed Gloria down the hallway of the precinct.  "Although attacking police officers doesn't really strengthen my faith that it will be.  For either of us."

 "You don't have to worry about that," Gloria said, sprinting her way ahead of him.  "I'm a lawyer and P.U.L.S.E has the legal obligation to override local authority at any time."

"So why are we fighting our way out of here?" Rad asked, just as Gloria shot down another officer coming around a corner at the end of the hallway.

"I never said local authority had to play nice."

Gloria turned the corner with Rad behind her.  This hall forked into two directions, Gloria taking the left one.  As Rad followed her, he saw an officer running up in the opposite direction, reaching for the gun at his holster.  He raised the crossbow and fired a bolt full of tranquilizer fluid into his arm.  Its effects were instant, causing his knees to buckle as he collapse onto the floor.

"So Gloria," Rad said, trying to strike up a conversation in the heat of the moment.  "Are you of supernatural decent?"

"Yeah," she said, splitting into another direction through the maze of hallways.  "I'm half-alien."

"Not exactly supernatural by my books."

"Politically we're counted among the supernatural community."

"What species?"

"Xylian."

"Never heard of them.  And you don't exactly look like you exhibit any traits either."

"That's because I'm hiding behind my human form," Gloria said, flooring another two officers that came into view as they pressed on.  "I have a bracelet on my leg that keeps my Xylian form at bay, since its too dangerous to use out in the open."

"So what can you do in your alien form?"

"I actually don't know.  I haven't been seen in my alien form since I was a toddler."

"Ah.  So how'd you get mixed up with P.U.L.S.E?"

"My mother was a human who worked for P.U.L.S.E.  She died when I was ten, so I went without knowing about it until I was 22, after I'd spent four years in law school.  They recruited me as one of their legal representatives."

"Do you always see action like this as a lawyer?" Rad said, as a few cops that crept up from behind were struck in the face with the edge of the Fat Lady as Rad swung around with it.  "'Cause this is actually pretty fun."

"Not usually.  I'm not a Field Agent.  Like I said, I'm usually handling the recruitment and legal stuff for my branch of the organization.  We're only seeing action now because this is the first time I've recruited a felon and had to break him out of a precinct.  I think I'm doing pretty well though, don't you think?"

"Yeah, whatever you say."

The two proceeded through a narrow corridor, the end of which led into the offices of the precinct where there were bound to be more officers.  Gloria came out of the corridor with her gun at the ready, diving out into the open and flipping into an offensive stance, firing in whatever direction she spotted an individual.  Rad followed her out, but was instantly struck in the face, clotheslining him into a flip that had him laying on his back.

He looked up in pain and saw the officer standing over him ready for another strike.  Rad's reflexes kicked in and he shot his leg into the air, hitting the officer on the side of the head, which briefly incapacitated him.  Rad quickly hopped to his feet and struck the officer in the face with the Fat Lady, knocking him to the floor.  As he turned to follow Gloria through the office area, he activated the maglight.

"Gloria, squint your eyes," he said, switching the Fat Lady to maximum power and shining it around the room.  The officers that populated it were temporarily blinded as he ran through, providing a temporary distraction for the two of them.  Gloria continued on and burst through the back door with Rad right behind her.  Right down this corridor was the exit to the building.  As Gloria tried to shove her way through the door, it didn't budge.  She turned back to Rad as he began to approach her and motioned toward a staircase right beside the exit.  She walked up and disappeared.  Rad turned back to the officers that were rushing after him with guns drawn.  He fired several bolts down the corridor aimlessly before breaking for the stairs.

When he reached the top, he spotted Gloria running towards a window.  All of a sudden, a large explosion threw him backwards, nearly causing him to roll back down the stairs.  Rad staggered to his feet to see her jump through a hole that had just been formed out of the wall.  She must have used some type of explosive, he thought.  Where was all of this coming from?  Rad picked up the Fat Lady, which had flown out of his hands after the explosion and ran towards the hole in the wall.  The police were right behind him at this point and were firing in his direction.  It was a miracle that none of the bullets hit their target.  When he reached the opening, he ducked down into a sprint and vaulted through the hole, screaming as he flipped frontwards and landed on his feet hard.  The shockwave caused him to collapse momentarily but he regained his composure and ran away from the scene.

"Where did she go?" Rad said aloud, scoping the area around him for any sign of Gloria.  Morning was on the horizon above him, as he'd been kept in his cell through the night in the hours before the interrogation.  He continued down the sidewalk and noticed an alleyway behind the police station.  He walked into it and saw what he was looking for, only it wasn't particularly what he was expecting to find at all.

A large gust of wind blew dust and debris past Rad and he was forced to hold on to his toboggan down as he looked up towards the sky.  Swooping down into the alleyway was a silver aircraft with a purple glow on either side of it.  It was relatively large but small enough to wedge itself into alleyway.  It landed directly in front of him and the side door slid back, inviting him in.  He ran for it and dove inside just as it lifted from the ground and began to ascend above the buildings.  Police officers discovered it as they ran into the alleyway, completely taken aback by the sight, but not hesitating to fire their weapons in its direction.  The bullets had no effect and ricocheted off of their target.  Before departing, the aircraft dropped a small red orb from a compartment on its bottom, falling down into the center of the alleyway.  Rad could see out of the window by the door and watched the orb explode weakly with the intensity of a powerful firecracker, although it was still enough to throw the hesistant officers to the ground.  With the diversion in place, the aircraft shot across the skies and high into the atmosphere.

Rad took a heavy breath of relief as he surveyed the ship from the inside.  It was large enough to hold a group of five people and resembled the interior of a military jet or helicopter.  There were seats in front of him and he could see Gloria in the pilot's chair in the front.  He walked past them all and sat in the passenger seat beside her, letting out a deep sigh before relaxing in it.

"That was insane," he said, turning to her.

"You're telling me," Gloria said with a smile, not taking her eyes off the skies as they ascended higher into the clouds.  "The red orb I dropped erased everyone's memory within a mile radius of there, so they shouldn't bother you again."

"You say you don't see any action yet you seem to be a bit 007-ish, if you ask me."

"If you think that's impressive, you should see the rest of the team."

"Team?" Rad repeated with worry.  "You didn't say anything about being on a team.  I don't work well in groups.  The Grim Searchers were the latest in a long line of failed attempts at that."

"This'll be different, trust me.  P.U.L.S.E. is organized into Units of six or seven Operatives.  You'll be assigned to your unit based on what you see in your Lucidation."

"Lucidation?  What's that?"

"This." Gloria reached by her side and swiftly pulled out a large needle with a transparent fluid in its tube.  She aimed it for his left forearm, right by his tattoo.  As soon as it made contact, Rad screamed in a high-pitched voice before holding the spot when she ejected the needle.

"What the hell did you," Rad started, before he felt an instant lightheadedness and the images around him blurred beyond cognition, "do to me?"  His speech was slurred and he was losing consciousness quickly.  In an instant, everything around him went dark.

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Rad found himself lying in an open field, straw covering the ground.  It was night, but the sky was bright enough to illuminate himself and his surroundings.  Billions of stars and colorful patterns populated the horizon and he felt as if he could see the entire universe from where he was lying.  He lifted himself to his feet and gazed up at the magnificent sight that stretched across the horizon of the field.

"Nice to see that you're awake," came a voice from right over his shoulder in a scottish accent.  Rad spun around in shock and backed away quickly.  He was looking at a living, breathing scarecrow that smiled at him charismatically through a paper bag that was used as his face.  "Even though you truly aren't."

"You're not going to eat out my brains, are you?" Rad asked cautiously, putting both hands over his head.  "Cause I know how you scarecrows can get.  I've seen Wizard of Oz."

The scarecrow chuckled genuinely.  "No no, I am simply a manifestation of your subconcious.  After this dream, I doubt that you will ever see me again."

"Okay," Rad said in a bit of confusion.  "Never knew that a dream figure could tell me that I'm in a dream.  At least not without me waking up immediately."

"It's actually an elaborate experiment to determine"- the scarecrow started, but stalled abruptly.  A sour look appeared on its peculiarly-animated face.

"What's wrong?" Rad asked with sudden worry.

"Something....has just entered your mind," the scarecrow said in deep thought.  "Something foreign."

"What're you talking about?" Rad asked suspiciously.

"He's talking about me," said a voice a few feet behind him.  Rad turned to see where it came from and was instantly hit with a barrage of memories that he'd long since forgotten.  Memories that changed his life and would have sent it spiralling out of control, had he not desperately tried to repress the majority of it and move on with his life.  Until now, whenever the event was brought up, it had no effect on him because no matter how much it was mentioned, he was never able to recall it in full detail.  Now a relic from the past stood right before him, bringing the vivid images back into his head in all its horror.  The dark man named Robin Goodfellow stood just a few feet away from him.  "Nice to see you again, my friend."

"You," Rad whispered coldly.

"You didn't think I forgot about you, did you?" he said, displaying his yellow teeth as he smirked at him.  Chills were racing down Rad's spine.  His right eye began to irritate him and he reached up to wipe it.  It stung even more at the touch.  He looked down at his hand.  It was blood.  He was crying blood but only from that eye.  The eye that Jerry's blood dripped into fifteen years ago.  He looked up at Robin in shock.

Robin lifted his hand and snapped a finger.  At the cue, the field surrounding them sprouted trees from under the straw on the ground, which erected high into the air, blocking out the beautiful sky above.  Rad was suddenly overwhelmed with fear.  He fell to one knee and began to hyperventilate, just as he did when he witnessed the mutilated bodies of that terrible morning.  He was losing himself.

"It's time I end this, Radcliffe," Robin said, strolling toward him.

The scarecrow placed a gloved hand on Rad's shoulder.  "Don't worry yourself.  He's not going to get to you."  He turned to Robin and entered an offensive state, before charging toward the dark being.  As the two clashed, a bright light erupted from them, nearly blinding Rad as it overhwelmed the forest around him.

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"Radcliffe!" Gloria yelled, shaking Rad awake.  "Radcliffe, wake up!"

As Rad began to regain conciousness, he jumped quickly.  "Don't slap me!" he yelled back, believing her to be Erica.  He calmed down at the sight of Gloria, realizing that he was far beyond that point in his life now.  He was sitting in a small vacant room with Gloria standing over him as he lay back on a lounge chair in the center of the room.  He rubbed his forehead and felt sweat, wiping it away quickly.

"Uh, didn't plan on it," Gloria replied awkwardly.  She was holding a clipboard in her hand.  "Now, I've finished the majority of your application for you.  I've just got to fill in one last section.  Can you describe what you saw in that dream?"

"Um," Rad said, closing his eyes as he struggled to remember.  "There was this scarecrow with a scottish accent-"

"Ah, that's just what I thought," Gloria said enthusiastically, writing it down on her clipboard.  "That settles it all.  You'll be placed in the Scarecrow Unit, which is where I operate.  It's one of the most prestigeous Units in P.U.L.S.E.  Come on, follow me."

She turned and headed for the door, picking up her case on the way, but Rad called out to her as he got to his feet.  "Gloria."

She turned back to him curiously.  "Yes?"

"There was more."

"Oh that's all right, you gave me all I needed.  That serum I injected you with was a tranquilizer mixed with an hallucinogen that determines people's placement in our organization based on the vision that they see.  Its sort of like the kind of thing the Native Americans did to determine their tribal name.  Depending on an individual's personality, they will see one of seven things.  Any other hallucinations are irrelevant."

"Are you sure?  Because I saw some stuff that kind of....I don't know....disturbed me."

"It's probably just subconscious back-up, nothing to worry yourself about.  But if you really feel strongly about it, talk to Barnes, our Unit Supervisor.   He'll know how to help you.  For now, you should come with me."

"Okay," Rad responded, following Gloria out of the room and down a corridor where the wall beside him was made entirely out of glass.  Outside of it, Rad's vision was briefly obscured by white clouds until they dissipated momentarily, long enough for him to see the world, millions of miles below him.  "Um, where are we?"

We're in the W.H.A.L.E," she replied.

"The Whale?"

"Wind and Helium-powered Aeronautically Levitated Engine.  It's like a cross between a blimp and a cruise ship, if you look from the outside.  It's the official headquarters for all of P.U.L.S.E.  It's one of the reasons why it's so difficult to join us or meet us in person.  In order to get here, you have to be brought here by one of our Operatives in an Aircraft."

"I'm honored," Rad said, surveying the area, which was more visibly futuristic than anything he'd seen in person in his years as a paranormal investigator.  "So where are we headed now?"

"To the Scarecrow Unit's Quarters," Gloria said walking around a corner, where four elevators were located, two together on either side of the corridor.  She walked to the elevator on her far right and pressed the button beside it, waiting for it to arrive.  "You're going to meet the rest of the team."

Where are all the other units and members of this place?" Rad asked curiously, looking around.

"It's still early in the morning, so they're probably in their quarters.  Possibly getting briefed on new missions or something."

"I hope they're friendly," Rad said with a bit of worry.  "No, I'm just kidding, I don't care how they act.  As long as they're good at what they do, I don't give a damn."

"That's the spirit," Gloria said with a wink, just as the elevator door opened.  She motioned for Rad to enter it.

"You're not going with me?"

"No, I've got to go turn these files in," she said, holding up her attache` case.  "Record your temporary employment to the organization in our official database to make sure you get paid.  And I have to settle the legal issues that are bound to arise after our debacle back at the precinct.  I'm sure I'll be seeing you around though."

"Alright," Rad shrugged, walking into the elevator.

"It's on the Fifth Floor.  Oh, and when you get down there, they're going to ask you for the passphrase.  Just say 'If I only had a brain'."

"Ah, that's funny," Rad said with a smile.  "Oz reference.  I get it."

"It's not funny," Gloria said with a straight face.  "They'll kill you if you don't know it."

Rad's smile quickly disappeared.  "Oh okay."

Gloria smiled and chuckled.  "I'm just kidding, it's just to let them know you've been recruited."

"HA!" Rad shouted with sarcasm before pressing the five button, closing the door on her.  He rolled his eyes and waited for the elevator to descend.  Rad rocked back and forth on his heels with his hands behind his back like an anxious child.  He had no idea what to expect from his new co-workers, though he didn't care, based on what he knew he was going to be paid for his services.  It was a better salary than he'd ever obtained as a freelance investigator.  For the first few cases he took before he started joining teams, he wasn't even paid and was forced to live off of scraps, sleeping in cheap hotels, subways, and sometimes park benches just to get by.  He solved them solely for moral purposes that would satisfy him emotionally.  It wasn't until he realized that he had no money to support himself that he knew he needed to get paid, and even then, he was living off of $100 per case, each case taking from a week to a month to solve.  Now he was going to be living the good life and solving cases that would actually make a difference.  Or so Gloria said.  He still had a Single Case Free Trial to make up his mind about a permanent spot in the organization and as long as he was getting paid for it, even if he changed his mind, he was content.

In the midst of his thought, Rad was completely caught off-guard when the cage above the elevator flew open and a figure fell through, landing right behind him.  The figure put him in a headlock that Rad was instantly caught in and couldn't escape from.

"What's the passphrase?" the figure growled in an austrailian accent.

"If I only had a brain," Rad muttered in a strained voice.

"Wrong," the figure said, increasing his grip.  Rad could feel his windpipe closing off.  He reached behind him and struck the figure in the face, knocking him back.  Rad turned around and pinned him to the wall.

"What do you mean 'wrong'?" Rad said through gritted teeth.  "Gloria told me that was the right passphrase!"

"I know, I just wanted to mess with you," the man said, chuckling.  Rad got a better look at him from this angle.  He looked to be around the same age as Rad, but with long black hair to his shoulders and a thin goatee growing on his face.  His skin was pale and his pupils were bright red.  When the man smiled, fangs were displayed freely from his canines.  Vampire.  He was clad in dark punk clothing: a black shirt with an abstract skull design, a thin grey flanel shirt covering it, black jeans with a chain wallet hooked to the side, two spikey wrist bands on each arm, and large ear gauges in both earlobes.  But the thing that stood out the most about him was the scar over his face.  A jagged laceration ran from the top of his cheek bone right by his nose down to the corner of his mouth..  That doesn't make any sense, Rad thought to himself.  Vampires are supposed to regenerate from regular wounds and have near flawless features.  This was a rather large contradiction.

The elevator binged and the door opened behind them.  Immediately, the man lifted his leg and kicked Rad through it, sending him flying down a long corridor that led to an atrium.  When he tumbled to a stop, he turned onto his back, holding his stomach in pain as he looked up at the vampire that was walking toward him.  He had nothing to defend himself with.  He'd lost the Fat Lady when he woke up in that room.  He hadn't even bothered to check to see where it was before leaving.  Now he was in deep.

"See, its guys like you," the vampire started, strolling closer to Rad, who was scooting down the corridor slowly, trying to get away from him.  "Who recieve a great deal of working up by us, if you know I mean.  I like to call it 'tenderizing'.  We take newbs and we rough 'em up a bit to get their feet wet, since frankly, nobody else here at P.U.L.S.E is going to do it.  That's the one thing I don't like about this place, there's no discipline.  If you're good, you join, if you suck, you don't.  There's no kind of training protocol, no way to separate the boys from the men.  But hey, it's not my right to judge, I mean, the Enterprise has done well so far, eh?  Almost a hundred years into it, I believe."

The vampire was drawing in closer to Rad, who was bracing himself but showing no signs of fear.  He was ready to take whatever this guy was about to dish out.  Hopefully, it wouldn't be too much.

"I apologize if I seem rude, but that's just how it's got to be done.  I love this place too much to see it being overrun by a bunch of no-nut blokes that don't know what they're doing.  You're going to hate me with all your heart, but I feel it's my obligation to expose the weakinglings in this place and make sure it has the best of the best at all times."

As the vampire closed in on him, Rad squinted his eyes for impact.  The vampire reached behind him and grabbed hold of something.  Rad braced himself but relaxed when he saw him pull out the Fat Lady, which was clipped behind his back, and handed it to Rad.  Rad looked the vampire in the eye and he smirked down at him invitingly.  Rad grabbed the Fat Lady with caution and was even more surprised to see the vampire reach out to help him up.  Rad grabbed his hand and was pulled to his feet, sizing up the vampire suspiciously.

"Where'd you get this?" Rad asked doubtingly.

"Had it sent here by Gloria a little while ago.  It was one of the only posessions you had on you, so I decided to hand it to you in person."

"What're you playing at?" Rad said in annoyance, clipping the Fat Lady's loop to the side of his khakis.  "You kick my ass and now all of a sudden you're my friend?"

The vampire took a deep breath and put a hand on Rad's shoulder.  "You've got a strong spirit, my friend.  I could feel it back when you pinned me to that wall.  That's one of the things that can help you survive here at P.U.L.S.E.  I like you already."

"Uh, thanks," Rad said, still feeling skeptical about the vampire.  He held out a hand to shake and introduced himself.  "Radcliffe Munday."

"Interesting name," the vampire said, shaking his hand.  "My name is Reuben Howell, vampire."

"Yeah, Gloria mentioned you when she told me about this place.  The guy who said"-

"P.U.L.S.E is where your balls drop', yes that was me," Reuben chuckled.  "Gloria and I don't get along much anymore but we're on neutral terms for business sake.  Glad to hear she's not talking about me behind my back at least."

"So you must really like this place, huh?"

"Love, mate," Reuben said, stepping up to Rad.  "With a passion.  And I meant what I said earlier.  This isn't over.  I will be testing you for all that you're worth.  You have to prove to me that you belong here.  Trust me, I'm going to make your life a living hell, I don't care if you hate me for the rest of your employment.  Because I care about the Enterprise much more than I care about you and that means only the best make it here by my account."

"How old are you exactly?" Rad asked curiously.

"I'm 82 years young," Reuben said with a smirk.

"I thought so.  You sounded pretty old-fashioned, I figured I was talking to somebody's grandfather or something.  You're pretty young for your species though."

"Yeah I got turned fairly recently, but what're you gonna do?" Reuben said with a shrug.  "Come on let's walk."

Reuben escorted Rad into the atrium, which dipped down into a plaza that overlooked a stage with a large projection shining over it from a machine at the bottom.  The projection was of a circular symbol with a frequency line in the center that zigzagged from one side of the circle to the other: P.U.L.S.E's official insignia.  On either sides of the stage were two very large windows that looked out onto the clear blue sky as the W.H.A.L.E passed through another set of clouds.  The two of them walked down the steps that led to the bottom plaza.

"So you said your name is Radcliffe, right?" Reuben asked, tying back his long hair with a rubberband from his pocket.  "I'll call you Cliff for short, is that all right with you?"

"No, I hate going by that," Rad said plainly.

"Good, that's your official title then."

Rad didn't like this guy too much, but his dislike for him was limited because he knew the purpose for his obnoxiousness.  It wasn't anything personal.  But that didn't stop it from being aggrivating.

There were gunshots that could be heard in the background.  Rad looked at Reuben cautiously and saw that he didn't react to them, so he must have expected it.

"So uh, where is everybody?" Rad asked curiously.

"Off doing their own thing, I guess," Reuben said, leading Rad up to the stage, where he spotted a keypad in the center of it.  "Barnes said he'd call us in for a meeting when the new recruit arrived."

"How'd you know I'd get assigned to this Unit?"

"You'll find out in a bit."  Reuben typed a code on the keypad and a drawer slid out, displaying several keyholes facing upward, three of which had the keys still inside them.  Reuben pulled one of them out, closed the drawer, and turned, handing the key to Rad.  "This is the key to your room.  You lose it, you're shit out of luck, mate."

"Gotcha," Rad said, taking the key and putting it in his pocket.

"You don't have any bags or other possessions?" Reuben asked as he walked back up the Plaza stairs and began to diverge into a hallway right beside the stage.

"Not really," Rad shrugged.  "I tend to travel a lot, so I like to travel light."

"You don't change clothes?"

"I usually wash the ones I wear at a laundromat this time every day.  I'm guessing you guys'll provide me with that luxury?"

Reuben snorted.  "Yeah, whatever you say."  He proceeded down the hallway with Rad behind him.  On either side of him, there were doors to rooms with numbers on them a few feet apart from each other.  "What's the number on your key?"

Rad pulled the key back out of his pocket and looked at the number engraved on it.  "Uh, 6."

"That's it right there," Reuben said, pointing it out.  It was the last room on the right, down the hall.  Rad diverged from Reuben and went to the door, unlocked it, and walked in, surveying the area.  The place was gleaming with light from the window by his blue-sheeted twin bed with a closet right across from it and a table beside the closet. 

"Nice and homey, I like it."

"Yeah, but I wouldn't get used to it, if I were you," Reuben said threateningly.  "This is one of the things I planned to screw you out of first."

Rad turned and chuckled at Reuben, not taking him seriously.  Reuben smiled back but as soon as Rad turned away, the smile disappeared.  Reuben was very serious.

"Alright, hurry up," he said, walking away from the room.  "We need to let Barnes know you're here."

"Alright," Rad said, leaving the room behind and following Reuben back into the hallway, which eventually led up a flight of stairs.  As they drew closer, the gunshots grew louder.  When they emerged at the top, they turned a corner and Rad saw the source of the gunfire.  It was a young petite woman, standing at about five foot or more, with short scene hair to her shoulders, dressed in all black.  Her hair was jet black as well, only there were streaks in it that were highlighted bleach blonde.  She was holding a rifle and firing down a shooting range with maximum precision.  Rad was immediately impressed.

As they walked in, Reuben walked to the side of a wall, where several shooting range headphones hung on a row of hooks.  He grabbed two of them, handing one to Rad, then slid them on.  The two of them walked over to her slowly, as she stood at the very end of the range in the last cubicle.  Suddenly, she turned with the rifle pointed directly at Rad.  He stopped in his tracks.

"What's the passphrase?" she asked with force.

"If I only had a brain!" Rad said quickly and efficiently.

The girl lowered her gun and sized Rad up before turning back to the shooting range to fire.

"Do I have to fear for my life and say that every time I meet a new member?" Rad asked with a bit of frustration.  "Because it's getting pretty tedious."

"Depends on how the rest react," Reuben said with a smile.  "There's only two more of us.  This, however, is Brooklyn West.  She's pretty lethal if you hadn't already noticed."

"Man, and she seemed like such a sweet girl," Rad said with sarcasm, just as Brooke looked back up at him menacingly.  He had been smirking but it disappeared when she gave him a dirty look and Rad found himself a bit intimidated.  Well more than intimidated.  Much more. 

"Brooke is also a 12th year Werewolf.  Sort of explains how much of a bitch she can be at times."

Without any warning at all, Brooke turned the rifle directly at Reuben and fired at his head.  The shot blew a hole in his forehead, the blood of which flew out of the back, and knocked him to the ground.  Rad was taken aback.

"Holy shit!" he exclaimed in utter shock.

Reuben grabbed his cranium aggressively, screaming in pain.  "Blimey, that freaking hurts!" he shouted, his eyes shut tightly as the hole began to regenerate.  "Damn it, Brooke, you need to learn how to take a joke."

Brooke shrugged.  "Sorry," she said in an apathetic voice, going back to the shooting range.

Reuben got to his feet and turned to Rad, whispering low enough for only them to hear.  "For your information, you should never EVER call her a bitch.  She's already got canine qualities, being a werewolf and all, so it makes it sort of true.  That kind of thing sets her off quickly.  That was just a demonstration."

"Wait, you knew what she'd do if you said that?" Rad asked in confusion.  "Why didn't you just tell me?"

"Because words are easier to forget than a traumatic demonstration.  You forget something as important as that, you won't get the chance to regret it, human.”

Rad turned back to look at Brooke.  A strange feeling was washing over him.  Then he realized what it was.  Oh crap, he thought.  He was finding Brooke’s toughness to be an extreme turn on.  She was already stunningly beautiful, but Rad couldn’t help but notice the way she held the rifle so firmly, admiring her form and every inch of her body.  There was something about a dangerous woman that Rad was attracted to.  Maybe it was because of his equally dangerous lifestyle.  After being exposed to it for the majority of his life, Rad had found danger to be his one true solace; the adrenaline that came with it was equivalent to a drug.  If she enjoyed the ride as much as he did, he was sure he’d get along with her, no matter how abrasive she may seem.

Brooke turned back and looked at Rad, who had been staring at her.  “What’re you looking at?” she asked aggressively.

“Oh, uh, nothing,” Rad said, turning away.  Well maybe I won't get along with her, he thought to himself.  Reuben snorted with laughter, patting Rad on the shoulder.

“You seen Barnes, Brooke?” Reuben asked.

“In his office,” she said with a raspy voice that was almost intoxicating for Rad at this point.

“Alright, have fun,” Reuben said, heading out of the shooting range.  Rad stood there, admiring Brooke, but hoping she wouldn’t turn around and shoot him in the face any time soon.  Reuben walked back over to him and pulled him by the shoulder out of the room.

“I’d stay away from her if I were you,” Reuben said, putting an arm around Rad.

“I can handle a dangerous girl, Reuben.  That’s no problem.”

“It’s not just that,” Reuben said cautiously.  “She’s apparently gay too.”

“Really?” Rad said, his heart sinking.

“Yeah, at least that's what Laser tells me.”

“Who’s Laser?”

“You'll meet him in a bit.”

The two of them walked to the end of the hall, where there was a single door that Rad figured was Barnes’ office.  The famous leader of the Scarecrow Unit.  As they approached the door, it opened and someone exited.  He was a tall, skinny kid with ginger hair, bright blue eyes, and acne covering his face.  He walked with a hunch and smiled when he saw them.

“That’s him,” Reuben muttered to Rad.  “Morning, Laser!”

“Reuben, Radcliffe,” the kid greeted, nervously walking up to them.  He couldn’t have been more than 18 years old.

Rad looked confused.  “How do you know my name?”

“He’s the reason why we knew you'd been assigned here and how I found out that Brooke was gay.  He has ESP.  Full-blown psychic.”

Rad raised his eyebrows in surprise.  Laser walked up to him with his hand out.  “Leonard Barnes.  Everybody calls me' Laser'.  And yes, I can read minds, see the future, look into the past by touching certain objects, and move things with my mind.  Comes with the whole package."

"Cool," Rad said vibrantly, shaking his hand.  "Guess I don't need to introduce myself after all-"

As Laser grasped Rad's hand, his bright blue pupils turned completely black and he spaced out.  Rad looked at Reuben questionably, but he shrugged in response.  Seconds later, Laser came back to his senses, letting go of Rad's hand and shaking his head.

"Whoa," he said, looking Rad in the eyes.

"Did you....just have a vision?" Rad asked cautiously.

"Boy, did I," he said with wide eyes.  "Um....you're here to see my father, Lyro right?  I'll go tell him you're here."

Laser accompanied them as they walked to the office and opened the door, allowing them to enter.

"Dad, Radcliffe is here," he said, still a bit dazed by the psychic vision he'd just experienced.

"Thanks, son," said a british voice, out of Rad's view.  "I'll tell the others to meet us here."

Rad entered at the time that Barnes pressed the button on his desk, initiating the intercom to notify the others of the meeting.  He was astounded.  Lyro Barnes, the Supervisor of the Scarecrow Unit, was even younger than Laser.  And this was Laser's father?  This didn't make any sense.  Barnes resembled that of a 13 or 14 year old with dark brown hair and a small scar by the corner of his nose.

Barnes looked up at Rad.  "Surprised?" the boy said with a smirk.

"Um, yeah, you're the leader of this establishment?"

"Well no, I'm actually just the Commander and Unit Supervisor of the Scarecrow Unit, but yes, that does make me the leader of this team in particular."

"So, uh, how exactly did you get this job?" Rad said, very eager to hear this answer.

Barnes chuckled.  "I'll go ahead and simplify this for you.  I suffer from Homunculus Syndrome.  It's an extremely rare condition that causes me to age four times slower than that of a normal human.  It developed from my increased exposure to carbon as a child."

"Wow," Rad said with surprise.  "Is that considered a supernatural disease?  Because I've studied paranormal biology for like a year, and I've never heard of that."

"Not necessarily," Barnes said, with his hands together, looking so professional.  If Rad had been closed-minded, he would have believed that the child was pretending to be a business man, dressed in formal attire and acting intelligent.  He might have even humored him.  But Rad knew better and had seen weirder.  "Although it is one of the prime factors for why I'm here in the first place.  It allowed my mind, as well as my body, to stay young and absorb as much knowledge as I could.  I decided to use this and invesedt my time in paranormal investigation, excelling in my studies with the help of the condition's effects on my brain, keeping it young and eager for information."

"So how old are you exactly?"

"I'm 56 years old.  I was diagnosed at the age of 10, so I have the appearance of a 14 year old."

"Interesting," Rad said, rubbing his thin beard, just noticing that he was now joined by Gloria, who nodded at him with a smile, and Brooke, who leaned against the wall beside the door, out of view.  The whole team was there.  "So, we've got an Austrailian vampire, a dangerous female werewolf, a teenage psychic, a half-alien lawyer, and an old man in a young boy's body.  And then a comedic black guy.  You guys are like an occult motley crew, huh?  Like a supernatural A-Team.  'If you have a paranormal problem, if the dumb ass government won't help, and if you can somehow, by the grace of God, find them or at least get their attention, maybe you can hire'....I'm sorry, what's the name of this team again?"

"The Scarecrow Unit," muttered an electronic voice from Barnes's desk.

"Whoa," Rad said, with raised eyebrows.  "Let me guess.  A.I?"

"Yep," Barnes said with a nod.  "Turquoise 4.0 is our personal tech support A.I.  At times, she can manifest herself into a believable humanoid android to provide some Field Support for the team during investigations."

Rad nodded his head in approval.  "Flying aircrafts, floating headquarters, and android A.I.s.  I have to admit, I'm impressed so far."

"So," Barnes started, standing from his seat, revealing that he was the shortest of all of them at five foot even.  "Now that you've met the whole team, it's time we talk about your involvement here.  I'm aware that your employment is, for the moment, temporary.  But you'll be staying here with us until we get word of our next assignment."

"Um dad," Laser spoke up, which made Rad cringe a bit at the absurdity of the statement alone.  "If I could say something for a minute.  I actually never saw this coming and it wasn't in Rad's official records but....Rad, you were the sole survivor of the Passion Massacre, weren't you?"

Everyone reacted to the news as if none of them knew it.  Rad looked around curiously.

"The cold case of the century," Barnes said in a bit of amazement.

"Yeah, you guys didn't know?  I mean, even the police in Camden had that on file and I'm from North Carolina.  You guys didn't?"

Barnes exchanged looks with Laser before speaking.  "Sometimes information from federal investigations get lost and because there was so little evidence presented from the Passion Massacre as it is, that's a strategic possibility.  However, the goverment has had an extensive history of....withholding evidence from us."

Rad raised an eyebrow as he studied Barnes' mannerisms.  "You guys hate the government, don't you?"

Barnes sighed.  "The United Nations and the American Government like to make our jobs a lot harder on us.  They believe that P.U.L.S.E is a waste of time.  The thing about the supernatural community is that its reclusiveness has caused the government to doubt their existence, since they haven't dealt with supernatural affairs for over 100 years after P.U.L.S.E's founding.  We keep reiterating that the supernatural community can't make themselves known to the public or otherwise risk ridicule and hatred; several hundred years of oppression on minorities has proved that.  They refuse to listen.  I wouldn't say that we hate the government, so much as we have a strained relationship with them.  We lost their funding in the 1960's and we've been invested in by an outside source ever since.  It's the only reason why P.U.L.S.E is still functioning."

Rad raised his eyebrows in surprise.  "Wow....yeah I don't care much for the government either.  Or authority really.  Or anyone not involved in my profession.  Everybody in the world is too damned closed-minded.  Nobody wants to take a break from the gossip and the nonsense and take a look at what's right under their noses.  It wasn't hard for me to find out about this lifestyle, I was practically invited into it.  As far as I know, this is everything the world has to offer and the government is the center of it all, because they're the ones keeping the public asleep, while we do all of the dirty work.  I'd go so far as to say, if it wasn't for people like us, the world would've ended a long time ago."

"I agree wholeheartedly," Barnes said with a smile.  "What about the rest of you?"

"Oh, you know I agree, Barnes," Reuben said, walking up to put his arm around Rad's shoulders, which Rad returned with a forced smile.  "The man knows what he's talking about.  However, we've yet to see if he knows what he's doing."

"That's correct," Barnes said confidently.  "Which is why I look forward to seeing what Mr. Munday has to offer for this team.  Oh and that reminds me."

Barnes turned to a closet by the side of his office, opened it, and pulled out a short black peacoat, identical to the one he'd lost at the warehouse in Camden.  Barnes walked over and handed it to him.  "I believe this belongs to you.  It's not the same one, but because of your prestigeous reputation, everyone is aware of your attire.  It's become iconic.  There are enchanted space rings placed in the pockets as well."

"Oh thank Ghost," Rad said, grabbing the coat and putting it on.  "I was afraid you guys had a uniform policy or something.  That would have been the ultimate deal breaker, no strings attached.  Thanks for getting me this.  So are there any rules I need to abide by or something?"

"This is all you need right here," Barnes said, turning back to his desk and picking up a medium-sized dark blue manual.  He handed it to him.  "200+ pages of all you need to know in order to survive in this organization."

"Well," Reuben said, putting his arm around Rad's shoulder again, shaking him, which made Rad visibly annoyed.  "It's not ALL you need to know.  I'll be the teacher for the rest."

"Yeah yeah," Rad said, slowly lifting his shoulders to get Reuben's arm to fall off them.  "I-I gotcha."

"Good," Barnes said proudly.  He reached his hand out to which Rad shook.  "Welcome to P.U.L.S.E."

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