- Alternate Universe
- Time Travel
They sat in the conference room, surrounded by what looked like an entire forest of paperwork. Wyatt knew that he’d have to sign some forms in order to register as an online Sentinel, but he felt like this might just be a bit much. Plus, the report stating when and how he’d come online was going to be classified six ways from Sunday. He wasn’t even sure his superiors with the Deltas would be able to look at it.
“Why do they even need to know that?” Lucy asked from her seat across the table.
Wyatt looked up. “Which part? Because I’ve found a few of those.”
“‘Did you, at any time, experience loss of sensation in your extremities during the online event?'” She looked up at him. “Why would I have lost feeling in my fingers and toes? I wasn’t the one coming online as a Sentinel.”
“I’ve actually seen something like that,” Wyatt said. “A buddy of mine came online during a mission. It was like a switch flipped, and he suddenly went from groping around in the dark to klieg lighting. One of the online Guides almost blacked out from the empathic backlash. They use it to baseline what sort of training you might need, based on which senses you had the most trouble with when you came online.”
“Then why didn’t they just say that?” she muttered as she went back to the paperwork.
“Because some people wouldn’t ask for help even if their guts were hanging out of an open wound.”
“Gross,” Lucy said, shaking her head.
“Stubborn,” Wyatt said as Agent Christopher walked into the room, followed by Connor Mason.
“Wyatt, Lucy,” she said as she stopped at the head of the table. “How’s the paperwork going?”
“Apart from some very inappropriate interest in how we bonded, pretty good,” Lucy said.
“How did it go with my CO?” Wyatt asked. He hadn’t had the chance to ask when they’d first arrived back at Mason Industries, but from the sour look on her face, he’d guess it didn’t go well.
“About how you’d expect,” she said, taking a seat. Mason sat to her left, on Lucy’s side of the table, settled back and appeared to just be listening. “They were going to recall you straight away, until I informed them that your Guide was a civilian. I think they would have done it anyway if my boss hadn’t gotten involved. Seems you’re more valuable to them than we were lead to believe.”
Wyatt shrugged. He dropped his pen onto the stack of papers he’d been working his way through, leaning back and turning toward Christopher and Mason. Lucy paused, watching him carefully, likely making sure he didn’t get too stressed out over the conversation. He winked at her, and watched as she relaxed infinitesimally.
“I was a good operative before my wife died,” he said without preamble. “When she died, I kind of fell apart. That’s why they sent me to you—well, part of it anyway. I think they figured a change of scenery would help me pull my shit together. They weren’t wrong, but I doubt this was the outcome they were looking for.”
“No, it wasn’t,” Christopher said. “They seemed to think that, even if your Guide was a civilian, they might be able to train him to operate in the field with you. I had to break it to them that your new Guide is a female historian. I didn’t realize that Generals were that… salty.”
Lucy burst out laughing. “Sorry. It’s just… salty?”
“Maybe ‘fucking stubborn’ would be a better description,” Mason said mildly.
“That sounds about right,” Wyatt said. He turned back to Christopher. “They invest a lot of time and money in training us. Knowing that he’s not going to get me back would have pissed him off, and there’s nothing worse than an old, pissed-off soldier.”
“Yes,” Christopher said. “At any rate, we’ve had to make some changes that will affect you both.”
“What kind of changes?” Lucy asked. She’d dropped her pen on the paperwork in front of her and was now fully engaged with the conversation.
“First, Wyatt,” Christopher said. She slid a packet over to him. “That’s your new Homeland Security ID and employment contract. The Army has agreed to put you on their Reserve-Inactive list for the foreseeable future. You’ll retain your rank and all the privileges associated with it, however, effective immediately, you’ll be a fully-vested agent with Homeland Security. We’ve waived the FLETC training requirement, because we can’t afford to have you out of the field for six weeks, but I’ll make sure you get all the training materials you need. I am, of course, available to you should you have any questions.”
“Wow,” Wyatt said. “Just like that.”
“I apologize if it seems heavy-handed, but it was the only way we could keep you and not risk the Army unilaterally recalling you, civilian Guide or not,” she said.
“No, I understand,” he said. “It’s just… not something I thought was coming for another twenty years.” When Christopher opened her mouth, Wyatt held up a hand to forestall whatever she was about to say. “I’ll get used to it; it’ll just take time.”
Christopher nodded. “Just don’t take too much time.”
“Noted,” Wyatt said softly as he flipped through the new paperwork.
“Now, Lucy,” Christopher said, turning to his Guide. “Not much will change for you. You’ll still have your consultant contract with Homeland, and you’ll continue to act as Chief Historian for the project. You’ll both be registered as a bonded pair with Homeland Security as well as the Army. That was their only stipulation, and we saw no need to refuse. Registering with the Army will, in fact, protect you from being deployed without training.”
“Could they recall Wyatt and put me through training so I could join him in the field?” Lucy asked.
“No, they can’t,” Wyatt said. “At least, not without both our consent, and I’m not about to consent to putting you in some of the situations I’ve been in over the last few years.”
“Seems to me that you’ve already been in some combat situations,” Mason said, seemingly offhanded.
Wyatt tipped his head a little, conceding the point. “I do what I can to keep them both out of the line of fire.”
“And to that end, we’d also like you to train Lucy and Rufus to handle a gun,” Christopher said.
“Well, I’m game, but I don’t know about Rufus,” Lucy said. “I’m not even sure he knows which end of the gun to point at the bad guys.”
“And if we’re out in the field and I’m incapacitated, that means you would be too,” Wyatt said to Lucy. It was the reality of being online, and he wasn’t going to sugar-coat it. “It’s my duty to protect you, and if I’m not able to, I want Rufus to be able to do it for me. My instincts aren’t going to allow for anything else.”
“I’ll talk to him, but you might consider bringing it up with him in those terms,” Christopher said. “He might feel differently if you explain how your instincts play into this.”
“Sure,” Wyatt said.
“Once you’ve finished filling out all this paperwork, we’ll send copies to Homeland and the Army, as well as the Sentinel and Guide Foundation,” Christopher said. “Let me know if you have any questions about the contract, Wyatt.”
“Thanks,” Wyatt said, smiling at her.
Lucy flashed a smile at her as she left the room.
“I hope you know that I’ll use all my considerable power and influence to keep you here, should you ever have need of it,” Mason said as he stood up. “You are both vital to this project, and I want to make sure you have whatever you need to make it a success.”
“Thank you,” Lucy said.
Wyatt merely nodded his head at the other man as he walked out of the room.
“Well, I did not expect that,” Lucy muttered.
“Which part?” Wyatt asked.
“All of it,” Lucy said, waving her hand to encompass the paperwork and Christopher and Mason. “Are you okay? This was all kind of unexpected.”
“Story of my life these days,” Wyatt said. He reached across the table and took Lucy’s hand. “It’s fine. I wasn’t planning to retire from the Deltas until they threw me out, but I’m not leaving you. This is where you are, so this is where I need to be. I’ll get used to it.”
“You’re kind of amazing, you know?”
“I don’t know about amazing,” Wyatt said, smiling. “Just really good at rolling with the punches. Now, what do you say we power through the rest of this paperwork and then call Rufus. Maybe we can do dinner tonight.”
“Sounds like a plan to me,” Lucy said. She squeezed his hand, then picked up her pen and got back to work.
Wyatt watched for a moment before he turned back to his own paperwork, thinking to himself that one of them was definitely amazing. His money was on Lucy.