“Carlos…it is still Carlos right?”
After a startled pause, he said curtly, “You knew my father.”
This was a complication he hadn’t foreseen. Carlos wasn’t here out of choice. He had been ordered by Munster to collect the man named Xenos, though considering it meant ‘stranger,’ Carlos wondered just who or what this man was. All that Carlos knew was that the man was a legend.
“Indeed I did. He spoke very fondly of you,” said the man sitting on a chair with a glass in his hand.
The liquid was clear. Carlos couldn’t even begin to guess what it contained. But at the mention of this – kind was perhaps the word, or loving – side of his father, Carlos felt his back stiffen. His inner child’s need for any hint that his father loved him irritated him so much that he chose to focus on Xenos instead.
The old man looked calm…too calm in Carlos’ opinion. Any man would be shitting his pants right about now seeing the eight Enforcers in black leather jackets standing behind him, making a human wall to ensure Xenos couldn’t escape. But not him.
It was rather much, the eight Cerz. Yes he had heard of Xenos’ prowess with the agōn and he knew Munster was simply being cautious in sending eight but Xenos looked like a reasonable man. And getting reasonable men to do your bidding was easy – you just needed a reasonable argument. And Carlos had the best.
“We found your daughter Xenos and…”
“…you need my help to bring her in?” Xenos did not sound impressed. “Tell me; did Iridium send you or Farooq?”
Carlos laughed. When Munster had said Xenos had been out of commission for a decade, Munster hadn’t lied. “Iridium is dead and Munster took over from Farooq about three years ago.”
Xenos whistled. “How did Farooq let go of the chair? Hadn’t he vowed he’d never give up his seat of the mighty Kalypso Consortium?”
Carlos shrugged. He did not care for the politics of the Kalium. “Whenever you’re ready,” said Carlos.
“Tell me about my daughter. Why do you need my help?”
“We don’t need your help. We already have her…”
“…inside the Kalium HQ and she is more than eager to be recruited. She just has a request.”
Carlos nodded. He was quite adept at the agōn himself which was tingling, a sure sign of trouble. The Cerz, by default, didn’t have the agōn so better control could be kept over them. If it came down to it, Carlos would be alone in a fight. He couldn’t let it come to that. “Why don’t you just come up to HQ and Munster can answer all your questions.”
“My dear boy, do you take me for a fool? I know my reputation but eight? Even I know I would be a dead man if I step out with you. I am comfortable here, thank you very much.” Seeing the confused look on Carlos’ face, Xenos laughed – not a nervous titter but a full blown bellow. “You didn’t know?”
Now Carlos was nervous. Munster had told him this would be an easy job. Go in, get Xenos, get out, drop him to HQ, and job done – easy. What was this talk of dying?
“How long have you been with Kalium? What are they teaching you young recruits?”
“Kalium is one of the few organizations that is working tirelessly for bettering our lives. You, Xenos, are a bitter old man who has lost his faith. And what do unfaithful people do? They lash out at the very organization they had sworn to serve.”
Xenos was shaking his head by the end of Carlos’ impassioned speech. “You, boy, sound like a loyal soldier who cannot differentiate his arse from his brain. Kalium…bettering lives,” he snorted.
“We are wasting time.”
Xenos gulped down the liquid from the glass in one go. Carlos was definitely a rookie. Either that or Kalium was really going to the dogs under the reign of this Munster person. Anyone recruited by Farooq would have taken his glass first. Farooq had been brutal but effective. But this Munster hadn’t gotten the memo it seemed; who was raising loyal, passionate recruits instead of soldiers.
He carefully placed the glass on the counter to his right. If Munster thought eight would be enough to contain him, Munster was mistaken. Xenos was both proud and miffed seeing the eight Cerz. He cracked his knuckles, gearing up for the next, inevitable stage, of this polite hustle.
“If my daughter wants to speak to me, she can do that in a café or in my house. Why the HQ?”
“Come on, you know she’s unstable. We cannot let her out. We need to take you to her.” Carlos’ nervousness was making him sweaty. He had done this many times; this wasn’t his first rodeo. But the calmer Xenos was the more nervous Carlos became. He cursed Munster for not sharing or preparing him for Xenos’ agōn. He didn’t even know what it was! Carlos refused to believe that Xenos’ file contained only his picture, the tenure of his service for Kalium and his address, which was surprisingly up-to-date. There was more to this than met the eye and Munster hadn’t thought to share.
“Will you help up an old man Carlos?”
Again Carlos felt his back stiffen, hesitant to approach. Surely if Xenos was any good at hand-to-hand combat, it would have been on the file? Xenos did not come across as the type of person to ask for help. Also the ‘old man’ was simply an epithet Carlos was using. It in no way meant Xenos was old.
Then what was the meaning of the request? He looked at the Enforcers behind him and considered asking one of them to help Xenos. But would they laugh at this apparent cowardice? The Cerz hadn’t moved a muscle since the conversation had started. They stood there, like robots, awaiting instructions. They wouldn’t even move a muscle to help Carlos unless commanded to do so.
“Come now boy, it is a simple request. No need to overthink it. If you want, I’ll promise not to hit you while you’re lending me your arm. There, how does that sound?”
Now incensed, Carlos marched forward to take Xenos’ hand. But as soon as his hand touched Xenos’ a cool tickle crept up his arm, through his body and brain, freezing him in place.
Xenos looked at the Enforcers, still standing there, unconcerned, lifeless, and emotionless. There was a grotesque beauty to the scene.
Xenos patted Carlos on the cheek and murmured, “Munster should have sent someone intelligent with you rather than eight Cerz. Doesn’t he know if you touch me, it erases the last twenty-four hours of your memory? Sure it doesn’t affect you physically…unless you count the five minutes it’ll take you to wake up…lesser for you since you use the agōn too…but…tell Munster he needs smarter underdogs if he wants me to step anywhere near the HQ. My daughter…such a feeble excuse…”
Xenos winked at Carlos, smiled at the frozen Cerz and left the house. The only downside to the encounter was he’d have to find a new house.