The doctors inform her the only way she’ll be walking at their graduation is on crutches. X-Rays confirm what she was afraid of. The snapping sound she heard was her ACL tearing. Thankfully they’re already starting on a treatment plan. Tara never leaves her side. She’s the one who has to call their parents who promise they’ll be there as soon as they can be. They just have to wait until Frank gets off school. She tells them there’s no hurry, Melissa’s on a lot of pain killers and probably won’t even know they’re there. Their mother insists that it isn’t negotiable and starts asking for nearby hotel recommendations. Tara doesn’t know what to tell her, she hasn’t been staying in hotels.
During her brief bouts of consciousness Melissa insists her sister should go back to the barracks and get some rest but she won’t have it. She sits there reading an old entertainment magazine and passing the time. Melissa’s snoring away when a knock at the door grabs Tara’s attention. A middle aged man in a black suit and black sunglasses stands in the opening. His wavy silver hair and huge silver mustache look older than the rest of him. A smile sits on his face but the glasses do a great job hiding any other emotion. “Evening ma’am, I’m here to see Melissa Chance. That her laying in the bed?”
Nodding tentatively, Tara prepares for the worst. Did the sergeant overstep in saying Melissa passed her test? If so she’ll need to wake her now. She’s not going to be the one to break the news. Even with a bad leg she might decide to tackle her. “How can I help you tonight sir? I’m her sister.”
He claps his hands together and moves forward to offer a handshake. His grip’s strong but not so much that it’s uncomfortable. “Great to meet you. I’m Captain Snow. I actually wanted to speak with you too so it’s great you’re here.”
His mood puts Tara at ease. She smiles at him and crosses her legs. “Snow huh? That what’s going on with the mustache?”
Turning solemn immediately, Snow pulls his hand back. “That’s not the kind of comment you make to a superior officer. What’s your problem?”
Mortified, Tara tries to apologize but then the smile creeps back onto his face and he bursts out laughing. “Not bad, not bad at all. Not the most original joke if I’m being honest but I like that you’re not too hung up on all that stuff. That’s what we need. Anyway, I’m here to talk to your sister about an opportunity I think she’d be perfect for. I actually want to talk to you about it as well so we can knock it all out at once. Do you mind if we wake her?”
Explaining she’s under fairly heavy sedation, Tara feels uncomfortable doing so but Snow keeps pushing. “Listen, I don’t make a lot of trips out here and I need to talk to her about this before I leave. She’ll be alright, I’ve seen her charts. There’s nothing that heavy in her system.” Tara’s concerned that he has that kind of access but steps aside.
Moving to her side, Snow starts to shake Melissa’s shoulder lightly. Her face tightens and she looks desperate to stay asleep. Finally her eyes start to twitch and they stay open, focused on Snow’s face. “I know you, you were at the track earlier.”
Removing his hand, the man smiles down at her. “Guilty as charged, nice memory you have there. That’s part of why I want you. I have an opportunity for both of you, one I think you’re both uniquely suited for. It will be dangerous but you’d get the chance to serve your country in a way that would be absolutely essential. How does that sound?”
The sisters exchange a look before Tara stands and moves closer to the man. “Excuse me if I’m mistaken, but we just signed up for the military. We can’t quit now.”
He shrugs. “Actually you can, but it’d be a dishonorable discharge and we don’t want that. No, this will be legitimate. We’re technically a branch of the military so you’d still be soldiers. We’d get it all taken care of, though it’d all be sealed. The next steps won’t be that different from what you have planned. You’ll come with me instead of going to Georgia but that’s all. You even still get your leave, though I need your answer before that.”
Trying to sit up in bed, Melissa gestures for a hand. Tara moves to her side and stuffs a pillow behind her back for support. She looks at the man with confusion. “Accept what? You haven’t told us anything about this project.”
He points at her before shoving his hands in his pockets. “Perceptive. That’s part of what we see in you. You both pick up on the little stuff. Before we go any further, I need you both to understand that what I’m about to tell you is highly classified. Any disclosure of it will at minimum result in a dishonorable discharge and may result in federal charges. Is that okay with both of you? If not I can walk away right now.”
Tara looks to Melissa but she just shrugs. She turns back to the man, studying his face for any sign of what they should do. His glasses are still hiding too much for her to make anything out. Tara says, “I don’t have a problem with classified and you’ve got me curious. Let’s hear your pitch.” Melissa nods in agreement.
The man starts pacing as he talks. “It’s a good one. I think you’ll both find it highly interesting. Let me start by saying that I can’t go into all the details. You can ask questions but if I’m not saying it and it seems obvious you can probably assume I can’t say. You can still ask but if I don’t answer, it’s not an insult. Do we understand each other?” The two sisters nod and he continues. “I work for a classified branch of the military that deals with very big threats to our nation. Only the high end stuff. We’re not going to be deployed in a general fight or sent to some random country. Our targets are specific, people we know are guilty but for whatever reason can’t get another way.”
Melissa’s touching her nose and staring down at her lips but this gets her attention. “Wait, targets? We’re not going to go murdering a bunch of people are we?”
“I can confirm we’re not Ms. Chance. Some people may get hurt from time to time but our goal is to bring people in alive and get information from them. That’s a job I think you’ll both be great at if needed, but not the job I have in mind for at least one of you.”
None of this is enough. He’s not explaining anything. Tara wants to throw a pillow at him but his rank stops her. “Can you give us anything beyond that?”
Rocking back on his heels he says, “Oh my yes, that was just a start. I’m not that locked down I assure you. We have highly specific targets and try to bring them in so we can learn more about them. As a result we’ve been developing some highly useful but potentially highly dangerous chemicals. The one we’re dealing with now’s remarkable. Do you both remember when you enlisted you agreed to potentially be part of a special project?”
Closing her eyes again, it looks like Melissa’s asleep until she speaks. “We never got a phone call on that.”
“Not exactly how we work I’m afraid. We ran your tests though and we were highly interested in both of you. We’ve been studying, doing background checks, that’s why we were at the track today. We were trying to get all the information we could about a pair of girls who might be the next members of our team.”
“How big’s the team.” Tara closes in on the man, not so much that it’s uncomfortable but enough to show she’s not passive.
“We’ve got around twenty agents at any one time. They’re mostly field agents but they need to have some sort of other skill as well. Something that makes them unique and necessary. You two have a few great traits but until recently you didn’t have enough to qualify for our group. That’s changed because of our new project.”
They pause, waiting for him to continue. Tara says, “What changed and makes us special? What’s this project?”
It’s not Tara’s place to speak for Melissa but she can hardly be angry when she has so many drugs coursing through her. Snow seems to be tired of standing and makes his way into the chair she vacated. “That’s one of the parts I can’t talk too much about. Not until you’re officially on board. It’s a sort of enhancement though which we think will be very effective. Do you both remember that DNA test that was ordered last month?”
Melissa’s arm shoots straight up in the air. “I remember. They said it was standard for all new recruits.”
Laughing, he wipes his forehead. “That level of testing isn’t close to standard but we needed it to see if you’re a fit. You see, for this to succeed we need a strong genetic match to the formula. You both possess that. There’s no guarantee and we’re recruiting a good ten candidates for three slots. If you’re not ultimately chosen after some additional tests, you’d stay within our group and work in our office and likely in the field. You might say we have a backup plan for you.”
Almost snorting at that, Tara walks toward him and leans against a wall. “So to be clear, you want to recruit us to take some serum you have which will enhance us somehow. You can’t tell us more until we’re officially in. If we aren’t picked or it doesn’t work, we’ll join your normal crew.”
“Right to the point again. Our scientists have mixed opinions on the likelihood of your success but I believe in you. I think you’re at minimum going to be an amazing field agent if you’re not chosen for the experiment.”
Melissa starts to tear up. She can’t help it, the medicine’s starting to wear off and she’s been fighting this all day. Even before she got hurt she wanted to cry. Now it feels like she could flood the room. “I can’t imagine you have a use for me with my leg.” She turns her head toward Tara. “You should take it if you want sis.”
The idea of being separated from her family completely like she was during her one year of college fills Tara with dread. She dropped out for a reason and while it’s not what she told her family it wasn’t the classes. She needs Melissa with her if she’s going to do this.
Snow pulls himself up by the chair’s arm rests and walks to her bed. He rests a hand on her shoulder. “Your consideration is beautiful young lady but we want you for sure. We have some tests and procedures which might make you effective for now while that leg heals. Our serum might even help with that. You can be a huge asset to us. Have the surgeons decided on their plan of attack yet? Do they want to do a repair or try to heal without it?”
Overwhelmed from all that’s happened today, Melissa can’t recall any plans. Her sister saves her. “They’re leaning toward a repair. She’s a soldier. There’s a good chance if they don’t go in and fix it she’ll have to wear a knee brace the rest of her life. Hard physical work’s out of the question. Her career’s over if we don’t do it.”
Squeezing her shoulder, Snow takes off his glasses for the first time revealing a pair of striking ice blue eyes. There’s a small scar under the left one. When he smiles his lips don’t move much but his eyes transform before her. “That’s the right move. If you’re going to join us that’s definitely what we’d need. It’ll take time but I do hope you’re chosen for the experiment. Either way, I’d like for you to seriously consider my offer.”
“Where would we be based out of and when do you need to know?” Tara takes the chance to grab her chair back.
“I can’t really reveal the first part I’m afraid. Matters of national security and all that. It’s not any further from home than your original assignment in Georgia though. As for graduation, you have that in five days. I’d need to know then. I’ll attend, not just to get an answer but because I like celebrating new recruits. I’ll check in with you then and you can answer me.” He slips his glasses back on and starts heading for the door. Melissa’s already starting to drift off again. “One last thing. With your sister’s leg there, some people in the agency are going to be nervous about us bringing her in. If she comes, I need you to come too. If she doesn’t want in we can still consider you but not the other way around. Sorry.” With a final nod of his head, he exits the room, leaving the door open behind him.