A landline phone rang shrilly on top of an empty desk, in the middle of a doorless, windowless room. A single-occupant sitting in the only chair provided stared harshly down at the noisy device, frustration evident in the intervening silence.
Finally, on the fifth ring, a hand reached out to snatch the phone off its cradle.
The first voice was quiet, the meaning clear. The response was quick and cold.
“Then I won’t waste our time. The Game the Three of us have been playing at has just been escalated. Something has changed, and no one can foresee how. A new timetable is in the works, and unique pawns are approaching the horizon. The goal is this: take control of the incoming HCP class at Sizemore Tech. Utilize whatever methods as best you can, and gain their trust and loyalty by any means. Whoever controls them most by their graduation will likely win the final conflict.”
“Rules of Engagement?”
“No deaths unless agreed upon. No face to face contact. No blackmail of the HCP instructors. Addendums may arise.”
“When do we begin?”
“We just did.”
The phone went dead. A moment later, it was carefully and gingerly placed back in its appropriate position. The lone individual stood, then lifted the chair and tucked it underneath the desk.
First, a straightening of their sleeves. Then, a crack of the neck. Lastly, the whisper of a device being removed from the foremost pocket of their suit jacket. A sigh, then the device was engaged, causing a flash of light and a crack of ozone being left to echo in the now empty room.
Holding the last remnant of his bloody uniform, the tired-looking man gazed across the flowing fields of grass.
This was the day. It would begin in the next few hours, as the Windy City lived up to its name, and the young students began to explore their new home.
They had no idea what awaited them. And somehow… someway… he would have to save them. He had no other choice.
His attention was caught by the blowing rags, and the faded writing across its surface. Only the letters W A R… were still visible, followed by the number 1. The patch above the letters had already been torn off, but he knew what belonged there. Acies. A good name. His name once. Well, one of them.
The last memories of a forgotten life. He let the rag blow away in the wind, following its wandering journey with weary eyes. When it finally dipped below another hill, he turned back towards the highway, gazing at the traffic winding into the sprawling city far distant.
The world didn’t need to know. Not yet. Hopefully never, but he was far too jaded to believe such a thing. This was the beginning of the end. Every action mattered.
Zipping up his new coat tighter, the man once known by many names, now only known by one, gave the barest of smiles. Acies was back.
After all, there were Heros to save.