Mike Castillo sat at his desk in the New York City Counterterrorism Division of the FBI watching a group of agents file into his boss’s office, led by Branko Renner, the senior vampire of the department and the agent with the highest record of arrests. He was followed by four agents Mike didn’t know but had seen around the division. The buzz around the office was that there would be a big announcement today.
Mike’s boss, Senior Special Agent (SSA) Zoe Francis, stepped out of her office into the bull pen and scanned the room. Her eyes focused on Mike and with a nod of her head, she motioned for him to come into her office. Mike was surprised. He was the newest rookie in the Division and didn’t expect to ever be included in any conferences in her office. Mike walked in and looked around. Branko was leaning on the window sill while the others sat in chairs around the room. There were no other chairs, so Mike just stood by the door.
Francis sat down at her desk and opened a thick file. “You may or may not know why I’ve called you together this morning, so let me start by saying we are forming a new task force to investigate the Jägerregiment and the VFF terrorist organizations. Our intelligence tells us both groups have cells operating here in the City, and we need one or more teams to work full time on rooting them out. You five will make up the first task force. If this works, we’ll form more as needed. Your territory will be all of New York City.” She let that sink in for a few seconds. “You may not know each other so, I’ll make introductions.” She pointed at Branko who was standing by the window with his arms crossed. “You may all know Branko Renner. He’ll be your team leader.” Mike could never tell whom a vamp was, except he knew they tended to be older and somewhat bigger than sapiens. He guessed Branko was a vamp.
Mike didn’t know how old Branko was, but judging from his weathered face, he guessed he was at least one hundred. Then again, it was hard to tell which were wrinkles and which were scars. He stood at least 6 feet 2 inches, tall for a sapiens but average for a vamp. His hair was grey around the temples, and he wore it in a short ponytail. He wore a black shirt with matching trousers. A pair of leather gloves was tucked into his belt.
Pointing to a man seated next to Branko, Francis said. “Burke Tucker, commo.” Burke was a thin man. Mike thought he had the thinnest fingers for a man he had ever seen. He looked as if he was always nervous. He wore the traditional grey suit with a power red tie. Francis continued around the room. “Marty Robards, driver.” Marty was short with a barrel chest. He reminded Mike of a guerrilla. He was born and raised in New York City and learned his trade on the streets. He had a reputation for driving like a stunt man but with the nerves and daring of Evil Knievel. His grey suit was ill fitting.
Pointing next to one of the women, Francis said, “Alessandra Vermillion, computers.” Mike guessed Alessandra was a vamp only because she was dressed like Branko except she wore her hair even shorter. He wondered if they were a couple. Mike knew very few women vamps. Alessandra fit the stereotype: tall, strong, confident, and arrogant.
“Call me Alex, please,” she said.
Francis continued the introductions. “Judy Harring, liaison. Judy’ll be your link to any other agencies outside of the FBI.” Mike had seen Judy going in and out of Francis’ office, and he always marveled how she had no butt. Her pants hung straight from her waist down to her ankles without a break. She was also flat chested. Except for a hint of lipstick, she looked like every other guy in the department. She wore a grey suit like the men. Francis smiled. “And the kid by the door looking like a scared rabbit is Michael Castillo, our newest agent.”
“Oh, he’s so cute,” Alex said. “Can we keep him?”
“He’ll make a good mascot,” Marty said.
Everyone, including Mike, snickered for a moment. Mike straightened his tie. He felt out of place. “Call me Mike. Ma’am, I’m not sure what skills I have that qualify me for this team. Are you sure you want me?”
Francis smiled at Mike. “Branko requested you, but it might have something to do with you graduating number one from the FBI Academy. The fact that you were on Notre Dame’s marksmanship team and still hold two national records didn’t hurt either.” Branko just nodded in agreement. Francis closed the file and folded her hands. “Here’s the thing. We’re thinking outside the box on this one. You’ll be working out of a large van. That’s why you have the best driver in the division. Marty’s the best. I don’t want you hanging around the office drinking coffee. You’ll be on the streets. This is also the first team I know of where vamps and sapiens are working together on the same team. It will give us an advantage against these terrorists. Look around and pardon me if this sounds racist, but it is.” She pointed with her finger at Branko with her elbow on her desk. “Experienced male vamp.” She pointed at each agent in turn, “female vamp, inexperienced male rookie sapien, male sapien, female sapien, and whatever Marty is.” Everyone chuckled. “We’ll get results. In fact, I’m counting on it. Branko, you take over.”
Branko straightened up and took two steps forward. “I will go into more detail once we are in zhe van. This division has so many leaks, it is like sieve. Zhe van is secure. Alex and Burke have been working euth Marty on zhe van. Marty, tell Mike and Judy about zhe van and then lead zhe way there.”
Mike thought he distinguished an Eastern European accent. Branko’s accent wasn’t too bad, indicating he had been speaking English for a while. Mike smiled when he detected a New York accent mixed in.
Marty stood up. “Calling it a van is an insult. It’s a Heavy Armored Mobile Command and Control Center – HAMC3 for short. If it had any more armor, we’d have to classify it as a tank. It’s shielded against any type of ease dropping equipment. Follow me and I’ll give you the grand tour.” Everyone stood and followed Marty out the door. Branko brought up the rear.
As the team left, Francis shouted, “Good luck, team.”
The HAMC3 was parked outside in the main parking garage. Most federal agencies stopped using underground parking after several suicide bombers drove explosive loaded vehicles inside and detonated them. Branko and Alex stopped inside the exit to open small umbrellas before stepping into the daylight. Both dashed through the sunlight and ducked inside the HAMC3. The inside of the HAMC3 looked a lot better than the outside. While the outside looked like a dumpster with wheels, the inside resembled the main deck of a Star Ship. There were five captain chairs fastened to the floor, each with its own console and monitor. Two chairs were arranged on either side facing the fifth chair in front behind the driver’s compartment and facing the rear. Each side of the HAMC3 had a small bench for additional seating. There were no windows. The walls were lined with computer monitors, TV monitors and communication equipment—all on and muted.
Marty beamed. “Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the HAMC3, the most technologically advanced command center in the FBI. I have only two rules: no smoking, no eating and no sex inside the HAMC3.” Everyone looked at Alex.
Alex shook her head in disbelief. “Why is everyone looking at me? That happened only one time. Give me a break.”
“That’s three rules,” Mike pointed out. Marty glared at the rookie.
“Grab a seat everyone,” Branko said. “Zhe chairs are configured zhe same so it does not matter where you sit.” Everyone sat down. “Before you start fiddling euth zhe controls, let Alex and Burke explain what is what. First, I want to give you zhe big picture. I will be brief.” Everyone turned their chair to face Branko’s chair. Branko sighed. “It is good to have you on board. As you know, our primary targets are zhe extreme militant terrorist groups: zhe Jägerregiment made up of sapiens, and zhe Vampire Freedom Fighters made up of vampires. Zhe CIA has informed us that both groups have active cells operating in Neu York City. They have similar objectives -- both need money and weapons. Both are recruiting neu members. Of zhe two groups, our first priority is zhe VFF. They are more experienced and better organized. Headquarters believes they are behind recent robberies at gun shops and banks. They will be tougher to crack and difficult to infiltrate.
Zhe Jägerregiment makes a lot of mistakes. We will bring zem down quickly. They seem to be concentrating on recruiting. They send zhe neu recruits to a boot camp in Montana for basic training. We have informants who tell us zhe names of every recruit. However, at some point they disappear and weeks later show up in Bucharest. From zere it is a short trip to zhe Jägerregiment headquarters which we still have not located. Zhe CIA believes their point of departure is here in Neu York City. We need to shut it down. Okay, enough for now. Burke, you first. Show everyone how things work.”
Mike held up his hand. Branko nodded toward him. “Why the van?” asked Mike. “The computers and equipment in the office are pretty advanced.”
“Not a van!” erupted Marty. “A HAMC3.”
Everyone chuckled except Branko. “We have a mole,” he said. “Or at least a sympathizer. All zhe phone lines are bugged. Zhe computers may be hacked or, at least, zhe data has been leaked. Everything up to six months ago has been compromise. We have not had a major arrest for nearly a year. Zhe terrorists know all of our names.”
“Except mine?” Mike asked.
“Except yours,” Branko agreed. “That is one reason you are on the team.”
“This HAMC3 is independent of the FBI mainframe,” interrupted Alex. “We have access, but we have firewalls. The phone lines are encrypted. Don’t use the computers in the building. Don’t use the phones. Conduct your investigations and reports strictly in this HAMC3. Understood?”
Mike nodded his head. “Do we know whom the mole is?”
“Could be more than one,” answered Branko. “We are not sure if he or she is euth the Jägerregiment or the VFF.”
“Shouldn’t we find this mole first?” Mike asked.
Branko shook his head. “Not our mission. Others are looking for zhe mole. They will catch him sooner or later. As far as we know, zhe mole does not communicate from within zhe department.”
Burke and Alex spent the next hour explaining how the equipment in the HAMC3 worked. The computers were the most advanced in the FBI. There were no visible key boards. Each work station had a small head set with a microphone on a small boom and a set of goggles. Once on an agent’s head, the headset activated virtual reality (VR). Augmented reality replaced the keyboards with holograms. Everything was controlled by brain waves. It took a couple of hours for each agent to learn to use the VR headset and to program the system. Several tutorials on the software were available.
Around one p.m., the team broke for lunch. Alex and Marty took their sack lunches out of the refrigerator in the break room as they passed by. The group sat together in the cafeteria at a table as far from other people as possible. Alex poured red liquid from a thermos into a paper cup. She looked up to notice the others watching her. “Relax. It’s tomato juice.” Everyone chuckled.
Marty removed his sandwich from a small blue plastic bag and started to eat it. “Marty, is that a doggie bag?” Judy asked. “The kind pet owners use to pick up dog poop?”
“Yeah,” Marty answered. “It’s okay, they’re sanitary.”
“But why not use a regular sandwich bag?” Judy asked.
“People were stealing my sandwiches. Since I stated using these doggy bags, no one steals them.”
Branko was pleased to see the team come together. They returned to the HAMC3 and spent the rest of the afternoon configuring their computers, testing the communications and studying the files of the Jägerregiment and VFF. Around five p.m., Branko told everyone to go home.