Prologue: The Recruit
Disclaimer: Standard lack of ownership for anything that anybody else owns. No profit made and all that.
Author's Note: May be developed, depending on the response. Think of it as a pilot.
A few months ago…
He held his breath, craning his neck as he heard the sound of footsteps on concrete. The rhythmic sounds echoed against the thick walls of the room, mixing with the hum of computers and gurgle of chemical tanks. Reaching his hand down slowly, the man in black grasped the grip of his handgun, pulling it silently from the holster strapped to his upper thigh.
Drawing the weapon, the man in black steadied it and waited for the security guard to walk towards the left row of tanks. As soon as he came into view, the man fired the gun, the silenced bullet making its way through air in less than a second and mushrooming in the guard's skull. The corpse fell with a thud, his flashlight clattering as it fell and rolled, while the man in black listened to see if anybody had heard the commotion. The guard had never seen it coming.
Without anybody else coming in, the man holstered the gun, and then leaned down to drag the body out of sight of the door. He pulled the radio from the guard's belt and attached it to one of the straps on his web gear, turning the volume down low. He stood up and surveyed the scene, the light overhead reflecting off of the pool of blood that smeared off to the left, but it couldn't be helped.
The man in black made his way stealthily up the short flight of stairs, peeking through the small safety window to ensure that nobody was waiting in the corridor. Glancing over his shoulder, he took one last look at the twin rows of glass medical tanks that lined the room. Though it was dark, the overhead light above the door still gave off enough illumination to make visible the grotesque forms that were lying in stasis in their chemical baths. He wasn't exactly sure what abominations lay within, both visible and not, or how many of what were once people were still alive, but he knew that they had to be destroyed. And the whole place burned to the ground. Ignoring the though, the man exited the laboratory.
It didn't take long before he was out of the building, his stealthy exit uneventful as he retraced his steps and made his way out of the main hallway and back into the underground parking garage. The grate that he had removed and only lightly replaced was still untouched, and it didn't take long before he dropped down inside into the access tunnels that ran underneath the building.
As he reached the right point, he pulled out a small remote and pressed the trigger three times. The only evidence of its activation signal was the rumbling that made him sway a little in the corridor. A small amount of dust drifted down from the ceiling, disturbed by the movement. There were no smiles as he placed the remote back in a pouch on his belt, nor a prayer for the damned. He just turned and left. The only evidence of his presence was the rapidly fading echoes of his footsteps as he jogged his way out.
The man glanced at the TV as he sat down, sticking the spoon in his mouth absently as he looked around for the remote. He was only half listening to the set as he chewed on his cereal, not really tasting it as he rooted around between the seat cushions.
"-flug Airlines Flight 627, enroute from Hamburg to Boston, is still being held on the tarmac at Logan International Airport in Boston," the reporter stated towards the viewers on the other side of the set, "There are unconfirmed reports that an inter-agency taskforce has been assembled, drawing representatives from the FBI, CDC, and the NTSB to investigate the matter. There has been no official statement from the officials in charge, citing national security concerns. Mo-"
The man muted the TV set in mid-word as he tossed the remote control onto the seat cushion beside him and picked up his cell phone from the coffee table. He put down his bowl of cereal as he turned the phone on. Scrolling through the numbers, he pushed the talk button when he reached the right name. The time of night briefly crossed his mind, but he knew that it didn't matter.
It didn't take long for the phone to be answered, and the man spoke as soon as the person picked up. "Ms. Sharp. It's done."
He furrowed his eyebrows as he read the closed captions on the TV set, ending the call on his end as he was hung up on. The man couldn't be sure of course, but he was guessing that it was related to the same pattern of events that he had been tasked with investigating, and stopping. Almost three years, and he still wasn't sure the exact nature of the threat, only that it was very big, and very real.
"Hmm," the man said, leaning down and turning off the television set. Leaning back, he just stared at the black screen, his reflection staring back at him. It was hard to imagine that this was where he would end up after so long. He had ended up merely trading one war for another.
Xander just sniffed, wondering what his next assignment was going to be. He thought back to the plane incident, wondering what the exact cause of it was. "Not good."
"So what are waiting for?" Peter Bishop asked, idly shuffling his feet as he stood on the sidewalk. He ignored the small crowd that had gathered at the yellow tape that cordoned off the area, a few cops were there to ensure that the line of demarcation was not crossed. They likely weren't that necessary, the CDC personnel and equipment that sealed off the building made the curious rather cautious. More than that, 9/11 had changed things, even seven years after the fact.
His FBI partner said nothing for a moment, staring intently at the apartment building that they had been called to investigate. From the outside, there was no evidence that it was any different from its neighbors, but the calls that the police had received had been horrific. The first of the first responders had become victims as well, and the rest had had to don full hazmat suits and respirators, though their chemical sniffers had not picked up any toxins. Still, it seemed clear that whatever had been reasonable, it was airborne. The fact that they had not been able to detect any pathogens made it all the more terrifying, the sight of the bodies only adding to the horror.
There had been no survivors, calls for help cut off mid-scream, neighbors in the adjacent buildings could only watch in despair at the few bodies that gave off their last death throes in front of windows. Nobody had dared venture out to see if they could help.
By the time that Fringe Division had been called in, the situation had already appeared on the morning news. Damage control had been done, but it hadn't been enough. The public nature of the incident meant that everything had been sped up. Nobody wanted to have to deal with the public panic of a viral outbreak in the middle of Westchester.
"Olivia," Peter called out, trying to catch her attention. He looked over to where she was looking, watching as a rather unremarkable black van got waved through by a couple of uniformed police officers.
Olivia Dunham didn't bother looking over, instead simply saying, "him."
The man got out of the front seat of the van, walking around to the back. Opening up the rear doors, he typed in the passcode for the electronic lock that was embedded in the large silver case that rested in the storage area. The mock three dimensional multi-M logo revealed the manufacturer of the case and its contents.
He turned as he heard footsteps approaching, taking in the sight of a pretty blonde woman in her late twenties or early thirties. She looked serious, in a way that told him that she often looked like that, though current circumstances definitely called for it. Her partner was about the same age, with brown hair and a five o'clock shadow bordering on the scruffy. The man didn't look FBI, but then again, he knew that the man wasn't.
"Agent Dunham, I presume," the man said, as the pair stopped in front of him.
Olivia nodded as she sized the man up. He looked to be a little younger than she was, dark brown hair, and rather unremarkable in his black suit. The only distinguishing feature was a small scar over his left eye. "Olivia. And you are?"
"Harris. Xander," the man said, looking over to her partner as he shook her hand. "I brought the scanner."
"Peter," the other man said, glancing at the opened case. He couldn't identify the disassembled pieces of machinery, but he recognized the logo emblazoned on one of the pieces.
"It's good to meet you, ignoring present circumstances," Xander said, smiling a little at the man. He quickly turned back to the pieces, feeling the pair crowd around him. Assembling it, he glanced over at the woman. "You understand that I have to go in with you. I understand that Ms. Sharp informed you of the conditions of its use."
"Yes," Agent Dunham said, nodding absently as she saw the man quickly and expertly assemble the device. It was larger than she would have expected, without the smooth and efficient design that was common in the more sophisticated pieces of Massive Dynamic technology. She would have argued about his presence, but there was little that she could do.
Nina Sharp, executive director of the company, had been quite adamant, and she was in no position to argue. Olivia idly wondered how much of the request was security for the requested device, and how much was it that Sharp wanted a man on the scene. She made a mental note to look into the man from Massive Dynamic.
"Right," Xander said, feeling Peter trying to figure out how the machine worked. He didn't exactly understand how it worked, but he knew how to operate it. Understanding how things worked wasn't his job. "You should probably suit up."
"What is that?" Peter asked, playing his flashlight over the fitted suit that Xander was wearing. It was sharp contrast to the bulky hazmat suits that they were wearing, and seemed to be made of a different material. It looked thicker, but seemed much less cumbersome. On the other hand, he was already starting to sweat, the power having been cut in order to stop the ventilation. A small amount of light drifted in from the windows above the front door, but it wasn't much. He ignored the eerie atmosphere that it caused, while he studied the man.
Smiling behind his built-in respirator, Xander answered, "about five million dollars."
Xander bent down, ignoring the grotesqueness of the image that lay before him. The smile left his face, noting the odd flesh growths and grimace of pain that could just be made out on the victim's face. It looked familiar, and connected to the incident that had led him to that research facility so many months ago. It looked like he hadn't destroyed all of it in time. As it was, they still had no clear idea what type of disease was being researched in that laboratory.
Playing the sensor over the corpse, he examined the readout, ignoring the other people that were now bustling around, taking samples and other readings.
"Anything?" Olivia asked, watching where she stepped. She had to hold in the grimace, as she took in the ghastly sight. There were only a few bodies in the hallway, and she easily recognized the uniforms of the medical personnel that had been first on the scene. She knew that there would be many more bodies in the apartments that made up the building. Whatever the incident was, it had happened in the early morning, when most of the inhabitants were still inside.
It didn't take long for an answer, though Xander didn't know everything that the readout was telling him. But, he knew enough. He also knew that it was more than likely a field test for the weaponized form of whatever disease was responsible. The victims were no more than test subjects to the people that were behind the outbreak. "As suspected. Airborne pathogen of unknown type. New, not something that your scanners would pick up. Can't quite tell if it's a virus or some sort of bacterial agent. I understand that you have someone that can analyze the readings?"
"Yeah," Olivia said, nodding reflexively.
Xander knew that it was simply another step in biowarfare. It seemed that as soon as they were able to come up with some type of countermeasure, the other side found a way to defeat it. Metal detectors were defeated by carbon fiber guns firing plastic flechettes. And airport detectors were being defeated by increasingly sophisticated and harder to detect explosives. He had his theories on why it was happening, and he wondered, as he sometimes did, whether the ends justified the means. And if he was even qualified to make the call.
"You ever see anything like it before?" Peter asked, silently glad that his father wasn't there with them. The danger was too great considering the need for hazmat suits and the mysterious and deadly nature of whatever the agent was. Any tests that they needed to perform could be done back at their laboratory in the Harvard University basement, where it was safe.
Xander shifted his feet and looked up at the man. "No."