It is long understood that Spectrum thwarted the Mysteron plan to destroy Futura City by sheer coincidence.
That same coincidence divulged the proverbial “chink in the armor” by way of the perceived inability of the Mysterons to distinguish between their re-created agent and the revived original.
Spectrum inferred that this inability was limited to the re-creation of organic matter in view of the efforts of Doctors Mitchell and Baxter in reviving the original at Slaton Hospital.
Biomechanical engineers as well as medical doctors, they had perfected a compact (and, since then, more portable) recovery unit with procedures for reviving victims of trauma that they referred to in total as “the Resuscitator”.
To the doctors’ credit they were quick to call their first test human subject a very lucky man.
Also to their credit was their full cooperation with Spectrum in not disclosing the results after Spectrum informed them of the pertinent ramifications.
Still, the results led some in Spectrum to openly ask whether, for purposes of confronting the Mysterons, the results could be duplicated and applied under conditions controlled by Spectrum to the extent practicable.
Logically, Spectrum’s ideal candidate for this controlled experiment would have been Captain Scarlet.
Personal note: I am certain he would have been eminently willing if not outright eager. But Colonel White understandably prevailed.
Instead, Spectrum proceeded with another volunteer…
I awoke on a side of a hill. I felt grass beneath my hands and the back of my neck.
It was quite dark, a moonless night and pleasantly cool after an “Indian summer” day.
I heard crickets and wondered what on earth had possessed me to get out of my car and lay down on the side of the road.
I sat up and realized the moisture from the early dew frost had saturated the back of my coat, shirt and trousers.
No sign of my car. No one else coming or going on the road.
No sign of my tablet, key fob, or anything else that I had carried on my person.
I remembered those, just as I had remembered my car. I similarly validated my attire.
A meeting—a briefing?
It had ended late, principally due to our having dined at the commissary, I suppose as an incentive to complete our business before adjourning and going our separate ways.
To do what?
I needed to prepare for travel.
The driver who later picked me up from the side of the road left me in front of the housing complex.
What did he say?
My handprint also let me into my residence. All within was as I had left it.
And there were my tablet, key fob and other items, neatly arranged upon the bed stand.
I changed my clothes and packed for a same-day business trip.
Both the airline ticket and boarding pass on the bed stand identified “PIT” as my one-way destination.
The next driver met me at the airline executive lounge after my flight.
That’s not me.
Outside the airport perimeter, Interstate and Route signs led to Monroeville and a large office building among many others.
“Did you have a good flight?”
“It was certainly a short one. That, or I slept through most of it.”
I entered the building’s front lobby and headed towards the security processing center.
“May I see your tablet?”
I handed it to the security agent who took it with her into a booth. She returned it to me within a minute.
“Thank you, Agent Harbinger. Please proceed to the second floor, Room 22. Your handprint should let you in. Your voice print will be required after admittance.”
“Harbinger, Michael Vincent, Supervising Agent for North America, Spectrum Intelligence.”
“Voice print identification confirmed.”
The man and woman on the opposite side of the table nodded in unison at the speakerphone that cleared me.
“Again, thank you for coming here at such short notice,” the man said. “We still have an hour. Can we do anything for you before your presentation?”
I reached for my tablet and keyed in its pass code. “I suppose I could use the time to review it, unless you’d like me to rehearse in front of both of you.”
They smiled. “And spoil the surprise?” the woman said. “We already have your viewgraphs with all supplemental materials ready for distribution. But I think you’ll need to field more questions than you’ve allotted time for.”
The man continued, “I can feel for you. I’ve conducted more than my share of training sessions. Blame that on longevity. How does half an hour sound?”
“Time enough and more,” I answered.
He pointed towards the tabletop. “Coffee and water are right in front of you. See you at ten-to.”
They stood and exited, closing the door behind them.
The presentation was formatted in true pecha kucha fashion with 20 images and 20 seconds (give or take) allotted for each image. It was organized among ten topics.
I could not figure if I had already memorized the presentation or came up with what I was supposed to say for each image then and there.
Topic Nine: This is Captain Black—
I heard this as clearly as if the speaker sat next to me.
—relaying instructions from the Mysterons.
I stopped, did not move, and heard nothing further until the man and woman returned for me.
I stood at the podium, my tablet set upon the dais top with an audience of similarly dressed and seated men and women before me. More were at either side of the stage, though none close, and at least one person stood at each entrance to the auditorium.
No personal introductions appeared necessary as I began the presentation.
“Good morning, everyone. I’m here on behalf of Spectrum Intelligence to help coordinate the investigative, capture and rendition activities among the participating United States federal agencies and instrumentalities. The purpose is not limited to the ongoing Mysteron threat, about which your agency was recently briefed at the highest level by Spectrum as part of a global effort. But this threat is at the forefront.”
My speech cued the projection of the viewgraph for Topic One onto the wall screen behind me: “Spectrum hopes that the participating agencies, chief amongst them your agency, will further disseminate Spectrum’s plan at the participating state level and help implement the plan in a manner that is consistent with established processes and procedures while remaining responsive to feedback from the field. This will impart an evolutionary yet dynamic quality to the methodologies resorted to by each participant.”
Topic Two: “Spectrum will remain an active participant at all levels. The goal is not so much standardization as the rapid synchronization of all available resources—”
Topic Nine: Kill Harbinger.
Again, the message was as clear as if its speaker stood at my side—or, behind me?
I reached for my gun. My shoulder holster was empty.
No one else I could see had moved, save for an audience member in the front row and near the center aisle, who quickly stood up, reached inside his suit jacket, then pitched forward onto the edge of the stage in front of the podium. I did not see him again.
My legs collapsed under me. I saw the upside-down viewgraph of Topic Ten projected onto the wall screen.
I lay on my back behind the podium. I could not move. I felt no pain.
The man and woman stood at my side and looked down at me.
“So what do we call it?” said the man.
The woman responded, “Well, we’d call the one in the front row rather seriously dead,” and looked over the podium. “I’d say he was well-targeted.”
The woman faced me. “I don’t know about this one.”
“Spectrum want to medevac him straight to their own lab.”
“Why do you suppose they wanted us to try only to knock him out? We weren’t sure we could. And they weren’t sure he’d even arrive.”
“A good thing he did, and when he did. We got Harbinger out of here as soon as this one was spotted at the airport.” He indicated the bottom of the podium. “And a good thing we mounted the Taser where we did and set it on Max Stun.
“If it had come to the worst, both he and that one,” the man pointed over the podium, “were very well-targeted indeed. I don’t know about the rest of the audience but I wasn’t going to wait all day for the ‘stare condition’ to resolve itself.”
“Is the original still around?”
“Here I am,” said another man from behind them. “And to think I heard someone I couldn’t see and definitely didn’t recognize clearly tell me to sit in the front row. I’d like to see this one.”
The first man and the woman parted to let the newcomer stand between them. The newcomer wore no suit jacket but a thick segmented vest with leg armor. He handed a helmet to the other man, then slowly knelt down and studied my face. He did not move for a long while.
“Next time you visit us,” the other man said, “we’ll let you drink on duty.”
The newcomer shook his head slowly. “Not as long as they think I’m still receiving. And who knows how long that will last?” The other man and the woman helped him stand. “I did sign up for this.”
The other man nodded, then said, “Think there will be others like you?”
The newcomer again shook his head. “If there are, I won’t envy them.”
“Then I hope we get better at this,” said the woman.
“For my sake, if for no one else’s,” the newcomer said.
That’s not me.
Spectrum Intelligence Special Agent Harbinger remains on active duty but effectively under full watch until further notice. The Mysterons may try to re-establish contact with him.
He remains receptive to, if not thankful for the compounded hypnotic anchor to “a safe place” that Spectrum specialists helped implant pre-trauma. We had thought that could only help him but frankly did not know how well that would work afterwards.
As for the subject, it remains in Spectrum’s care and custody. It is under full watch.
For all purposes the subject is alive and well, possessing all of Harbinger’s long-term memories that can be validated by the original.
The subject is cognizant of its condition and surroundings for only the preceding 12 hours. Memory degradation begins after two hours, almost precisely, and leads to as comprehensive a memory loss as can be verified or corroborated. Within those two hours the subject’s memory is nearly eidetic.
I say “nearly” for three reasons:
First, the subject calls itself Michael Vincent Harbinger but does not recognize any representation of Harbinger save for its own mirror reflection.
Second, we cannot explain the subject’s inability to recall, or perceived failure to recognize, the other Mysteron re-creation of Harbinger in the front row of the law enforcement agency training center auditorium.
Finally, we cannot conclusively establish whether the subject possesses the original’s hypnotic anchor, or if it does, whether it is capable of deriving the same benefit. We doubt we can ever be certain of this.
It is beyond dispute that the subject provides invaluable insight into the composition and workings of a Mysteron agent.
That is, we infer the subject is a Mysteron agent.
And we don’t know whether the subject is the only remaining re-creation of Harbinger.
Personal note: Whatever shall we do with him?
Fawn, Chief Medical Officer.
End Log Entry, Topic Nine.
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