Coming Aboard

Revenant Games

SAGE

Crafty Games

Coming Aboard

By Loren Dean

June twelfth, 2003. Brogan reached his hotel room at last, shrugging off the day and looking forward to some sleep. His desire for little more than some mindless television followed by a good snore was probably why he was so annoyed to find the older man sitting alone in the darkened suite, waiting for him.

"Can I help you?" Brogan asked, mentally cataloging his assets. The door was a sturdy hotel model, his badge was in his jacket pocket, his .45 was sitting comfortably in his armpit, and he could conceivably use them all if he had to.

"Eventually," the older man replied, "but for now I'm the one who can help you." He spoke with an accent--southern, the sort of molasses drawl one expects to find in old-money Gulf Coast scions. He was dressed that way as well, so far as Brogan could tell from the light slicing into the room through the blinds. A suit, with a neatly knotted tie and a pocket square. A hint of gold at the left wrist and right ring finger.

"Do you even know who I am?" Brogan asked, feeling just a touch underdressed in his favorite jeans and beloved leather jacket.

He could hear the smile in the older mans voice. "Cheyenne Brogan. Born Panama City, Florida, Seven December, Nineteen Seventy-Five. Father Ralph, Mother Caroline, no siblings. Deputy United States Marshal. Six years in, following up an undergraduate degree at Florida State, double-majored in Criminology and Political Science. Current member of the Marshals Service Special Operations Group. Commended for attention to duty on two occasions, never reprimanded."

Brogan remained calm, though his mind whirled at the idea that a complete stranger with a full dossier could just be sitting in his hotel room. "Fair enough," he said, as there was little else to say just now, "and who are you?"

"My name is irrelevant, but if you must, call me Gentry."

"Cute," Brogan replied, nonplussed. "And to whom do I owe the pleasure of this visit?"

"I am currently functioning as a recruiter of sorts," Gentry shrugged.

"I'm not for sale," Brogan growled, very conscious of his sidearm now.

Gentry chuckled dryly in the dark. "Few men have the strength to resist the highest bidder."

"George Washington," Brogan stated.

"Very good."

"Maybe," Brogan was quickly losing patience. "Tell me what it is you want, mister Gentry."

"Just Gentry, please," the older man nodded, absently scratching his temple. "I want to help you do what you do best, Deputy."

"And what is that?"

"Six months ago you had a conversation with your supervisor in which you stated that you wished there was more that could be done to secure the safety of the United States."

"How do you know that?" Brogan interrupted.

"All in good time, Deputy," Gentry held up a hand momentarily, and then continued. "I'm here at the behest of a group of people who share your wish. Theyd like to offer you the chance to do some real good. To make a real difference."

Brogan sighed. "I'm no spook. If you're NSA, or FBI, or something--"

Gentry cut him off with a derisive snort. "Please. The NSA is filled with infantile voyeurs incapable of enforcing the law, and the FBI cant stop an asthma attack. The CIA has been useless as anything more than a smokescreen since Vietnam. No, Deputy. None of the agencies youre familiar with has the capacity to do what you want to see done. And they cannot do what you wish because they are known entities, existing in the realm of government oversight and congressional investigation, endless politicking resulting only in the neutering of those who could do the most good. None of the publicly acknowledged agencies of the U.S. government exist in the place where the rubber meets the road."

"There's a world out there, Deputy," said Gentry, adding only, "A world where things actually get done. And that world needs your help."

"Why me?" Brogan asked, not buying any of it. "I'm just a guy."

"Why did you become a Marshal?" Gentry asked plainly.

"Because ... " Brogan trailed off a moment. In fact, it had been because he had been disgusted with the state of his hometown. Panama City was a spring break and summer vacation party destination for freewheeling college students all over the eastern United States. The local economy geared up annually to serve the binge drinking, drug induced, sexually experimenting crowd, and had a reputation within the state as a locale where a good number of illicit activities and substances were widely available. Brogan had grown up in the shadow of all that activity. He saw the seamy side of Panama City destroy numerous lives, and never could understand how something so damaging could also be so tempting.

His parents, permissive hippie beachcombers, certainly hadn't been any sort of positive example. Maybe that had been part of it, he thought. A little rebellion mixed with a significant feeling of duty to those who Panama City had cut down.

"Because someone needs to protect the people who can't protect themselves," he finished.

"An admirable motivation, Deputy. And a motivation considered extremely valuable by my employers."

"And who are they?" Brogan asked, entering the room finally and turning on a nearby lamp without taking his eyes away from Gentry.

"May I speak to you in confidence, Deputy?"

Brogan held out his arms for a moment, "by all means."

Gentry did not respond directly, instead launching into a story or sorts. "Shortly after it's inception, the United Nations quietly retained a group of duty-minded men and women who fell into an agency called the International Tactical Advisory Service. They were the proto-spies of this modern age, building on the lessons learned by intelligence services worldwide while avoiding most of the pitfalls. As the UN is not directly chartered to retain such a service, it does not publicly exist."

"Publicly?" Brogan arched an eyebrow.

"Publicly known intelligence services cannot function effectively. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a lobbyist."

Gentry smiled. Brogan chuckled himself at that, and thought a moment before saying, "so you're saying that you're recruiting me into some secret international government agency that no-one knows exists, and is in fact illegal under the UN charter?"

"Yes."

Brogan studied Gentry carefully. The man felt confident, secure in what he was saying. He gave away nothing that would indicate a lie, practical joke, or other subterfuge.

"So suppose I just arrest you?" he ventured, looking for reaction.

Gentry smiled again, turning it feral. Competitive. "You could take me in, Deputy. I have, after all, broken into your room. But that's hardly something that falls under your jurisdiction. You'd have to turn me over to the local police, and if you do that, I'll walk out of their station in fifteen minutes or less. But that just reinforces my point, and yours, unless I miss my mark. Ultimately, publicly known enforcement agencies cannot function as effectively as those that operate without public scrutiny, without regard to jurisdiction, without the spectral hand of the ridiculous mass media grasping blindly at things they do not or will not understand. Arresting me renders your desire to do some real good meaningless, just apple-polishing in your supervisors office. But you're no apple-polisher, Deputy. I know that, perhaps better than you do. And that's why you won't arrest me. In fact, that's why you'll let me put you in touch with people who can do the real explaining."

"What's to keep me from arresting the whole lot of you crazy bastards once I've had this meeting you want me to have?"

"Deputy, the offer I'm extending to you isn't extended if the recipient is going to say no."

"Is that a threat?" It was odd, but Brogan found himself feeling an odd sort of respect for this Gentry character. The gentleman was either a tremendous salesman, or totally on the level. Of course, neither was necessarily good.

"I dont make threats, Deputy. I just know you wont refuse."

"I have no choice?"

"Did you feel you had a choice when you joined the Marshals Service?"

" ... no," Brogan admitted.

"Then ultimately you have no choice now but to hear what my people have to say."

Brogan thought for a time, staring alternately at Gentry, the furniture, the carpet. Gentry let him think, saying nothing further, simply sitting impassively in the rooms chair. It didn't take long.

"Okay," Brogan replied. "Set it up."

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