In the Company of Shadows

This site is..

Based on an original story and alternate future by Sonny & Ais called In the Company of Shadows.

The story contains..

Slash (M/M), het (M/F) and graphic language, violence and sexual situations. Not intended for anyone under 18!


Book One: Evenfall See Evenfall chapter list.

Book Two: Afterimage
See Afterimage chapter list.

Interludes list

Book Three: Fade
See Fade chapter list.


Our AFFN profile

Site hosted by 1&1

Evenfall Prologue

The Fourth Floor Detainment Center would look innocuous enough to an outsider, were any ever allowed inside. The Fourth was large and sprawling with winding halls leading off into separate holding areas. The sections looked exactly the same despite the fact that they served very different purposes. Each corridor was silent and sterile with fluorescent lights glaring down. The overall appearance was very much like an institution or a hospital.

There was no way of knowing that deep within the Interrogation Center in the northern wing, blood-curdling screams were silenced by soundproof cells. Or that the walls and floors weren't made of tile for aesthetics but rather because it was easier to wash away the blood that often stained them. There were no indications that within those halls, people were dragged back to their cells or sometimes carried to the freight elevator-- an area that typically had one destination: the incinerator in the basement of the Tower.

The staff were just as deceptive. Psychiatric doctors on Fourth existed for the sole purpose of reading the inmates; figuring out what made them tick and what the best tactics would be before proceeding with appropriate interrogation and punishment. Medical doctors on Fourth were entrusted with the duty of keeping the inmates alive until the Agency was ready to dispose of them.

In reality, the Fourth Floor Detainment Center held a variety of inmates that ranged from enemy captives who were ruthlessly interrogated before their fate was decided, to employees of the Agency who had committed a severe enough infraction to warrant torture-interrogation or a stint in isolation in the Holding Wing. For others, the Fourth was a final destination as they awaited their termination.

And for one infamous man, the Fourth was a holding area between his uses.

That man was at the forefront of everyone's minds today. Several guards were huddled inside a cell in the Maximum Security Wing and two were lingering outside in the hallway.

Officer Luke Gerant had seen several cells in Maximum Security but none of them were quite like this, which had been built specifically for the highly unpredictable man inside.

The entire wall between the cell and the hallway was made from bulletproof, high-grade reinforced glass, allowing no place for the prisoner to hide from the watchful guards. Even if the guards missed something in person, the guards monitoring the cameras would notice and raise an alarm. The entire Agency was watched by cameras but Luke had been in the monitoring room before. He knew that there was an entire wall of screens specifically for the Maximum Security Wing, which, unlike even the rest of Fourth, had cameras in the cells as well as the hallways. This area had more cameras than even some of the lesser-used buildings on compound had on all their floors.

"They're letting him out again?" Luke stared into the cell with an expression that was a mix of disgust and fear. His youthful features made him appear far younger than his peers, his wide-set eyes emphasizing the horror in his expression. "Captain Stevens was killed trying to detain him and now they're reinstating him? After everything that's happened?"

Office Travis Randazzo just shrugged and didn't seem particularly surprised by the information. He watched the guards inside the cell, large men who were outfitted in riot gear, surrounding a structure that could only be described as a box. It was six feet by five feet and appeared to be made of metal, although it was entirely white. The structure functioned as a cell within a cell-- an extreme punishment for a man who was known for performing extreme acts of violence.

"I know you're the new kid but you need to learn that asking questions in this place is a good way to find yourself in your own little cell," Travis muttered softly. He shifted and crossed his arms over the black and grey uniform that all Agency guards were required to wear. "Even though we ain't agents, that still goes for us."

Luke glared at him for a moment, indignation clear in his dark brown eyes. "Don't call me kid, Travis. I'm not new anymore. My first day on the job was when we escorted this nutcase up here six months ago. I was backup security for his escort just like we are now and he fucking ripped my commanding officer's throat out with his teeth and the cowards I was with were too afraid to intervene."

Luke couldn't help grimacing at the memory as he watched the guards enter the box to extract the Monster. The events of that fateful day played through his mind like a movie; he vividly recalled the look in the Monster's pale green eyes as he'd dragged Captain Stevens backwards into the cell.

"He should not be allowed out of that cell," Luke said emphatically, gaze sharpening.

Travis arched an eyebrow and gave him a flat look, not appearing very impressed by the declaration. "You're preaching to the choir, kid. None of us guards like it but it ain't up to us. Not much is. We're just here to secure the base, turn a blind eye to the weird shit we see up here, and not ask too many questions." Travis gave a one shouldered shrug. "But if you want my opinion... It's fucking insane that they even let this crazy bastard work for the Agency."

Luke nodded seriously. "Exactly."

"You know his story, right?" Travis looked at Luke sidelong.

"Just rumors."

Travis looked into the cell again, his eyes narrowed slightly. "He's the son of some bad ass agent that used to work for the Agency. The Monster was maybe fourteen or fifteen when he started working here and he was so pro at the job that they instated him as an agent. He fucking made level 10 when he wasn't even sixteen, man. Do you know how rare that is?"

Luke raised his eyebrows in surprise at that. Level 10 was the highest rank a field agent could achieve and as far as he knew, it was very rare for anyone to make it that far at all. The fact that the Monster had done it as a teenager was shocking.

Travis moved closer to the cell as the guards inside began backing out of the box. "But even though he's like super assassin, he was always fuckin' up. Killing the wrong people, sometimes killing everyone. I mean, honestly, I don't give a shit about that if that's what he's assigned to do but it's the other stuff that bothers me..."

The guards pulled a tall, lanky man out of the box and dropped him unceremoniously.

Slumping against the sterile floor, the man appeared to be in his twenties and was heavily restrained. He wore only close-fitting black shorts so his body was completely displayed to the heavily armored men that surrounded him. He was sleekly muscular and incredibly well-toned despite his slender build. His light olive-toned skin was marred by horrific-looking scars, gashes, what had obviously been bullet holes, and a tattoo.

Hsin Liu Vega, or Sin as he was widely referred to in the Agency, was emaciated and had a wild look about him. His untended hair had grown long during his time on the Fourth and was hanging limply about his face. The jet-black strands were dyed a deep red at the tips, the color having otherwise grown out.

Despite his reputation and the fact that Luke had almost expected Sin to burst out of the box growling and snarling like an animal, the man had a naked, vulnerable look on his face and he was shuddering uncontrollably. Almond-shaped eyes of a startling light green flitted around quickly and, in his half-alert state, made him appear very much like a caged animal looking for a means to escape.

Even then, it didn't seem as though Sin was entirely lucid. His face morphed into an expression of terror and his full lips were twisted into a grimace, dark eyebrows drawn together as the guards hauled him around without care.

"What's his problem?" Luke couldn't help feeling almost annoyed that the notorious Monster who had haunted his dreams for almost a year looked like nothing more than a frightened boy at the moment.

"Oh, he's claustrophobic. That's why they keep him in that box. Pretty fucked up, but he deserves it. He'll liven up when the drugs wear off."

Luke stared at the Monster for a long moment before looking away. Despite his strong convictions that the man should be kept locked up, it seemed almost inhumane to keep him that way. "Anyway, what's the other stuff that bothers you?"

Travis gave Luke a distracted look before he seemed to realize he'd never finished the story. He reached up to idly toy with a pendant on the pocket of his uniform and looked into the cell again.

"Well, after he started taking assignments-- This is all based on what I heard, by the way. The people around here think we're fucking deaf and stupid just because we're not field agents." Travis snorted.

"Anyway, after he started taking assignments they realized there was something wrong with him. Like no shit, he's a fourteen-year-old running around killing motherfuckers left and right, but they noticed that he was real strange. He'd flip out sometimes, just go completely nuts and turn on people. They ignored it at first-- maybe 'cause of the work he does, killing a few guards seemed inconsequential," Travis spat that part out bitterly. "But then, he went nuts in public one time. I don't know what happened but the bastard went on a rampage and ended up getting picked up by local cops."

"Oh, shit." Luke looked into the cell again and raised his eyebrows high. He was surprised that the Agency had allowed Sin to live after such a lapse. The Agency existed in the shadows, conducting its business covertly and doing anything to maintain the integrity of its cover and the cover identities of the people who worked there. As far as the public knew, and even most of the government as far as that went, the Agency didn't even exist.

Luke shook his head in dismay. "And they still used him after that? Wasn't his cover blown?"

"Yup. He was all over the news and everything too." Travis shrugged and walked a few steps closer to the glass, watching the activities on the other side. His gaze traced Sin absently, a slight frown marring the guard's face.

"It was nuts. The local cops tried to pin him with all kinds of murders and rapes and shit. I don't know how much of it is true, but that's when everyone started calling him the Monster. Then in county jail, what the fuck does this crazy bastard do? Decapitates the Chief of Police's son."

"Good God." Suddenly the fact that Sin was kept in the box was starting to seem understandable. "Why his son?"

"He was one of the cops," Travis said, gaze on the Monster as the man twitched against the floor. "There was some big manhunt after he escaped but the Agency got involved and took custody of him. They put him up here for fuckin'..." He looked over at Luke with a small frown, seeming more thoughtful than disturbed. "I don't even know how long, man. Years. When he got out the bastard was crazier than ever-- he just killed the partners they tried giving him and tortured his psychiatrist. That's why they got that." He tilted his head toward the box. "I thought they'd given up on him for good but guess not."

"That's crazy." Luke stared at Travis incredulously. He knew the Agency would do anything to achieve their goals but he couldn't entirely understand the thought process behind employing a mass-murderer to stop terrorists. "How can they trust someone like that?"

"I dunno man, but it's better if you don't go around asking too many people. I knew a guy who asked too many questions and let's just say that guy ain't around no more."

Luke looked at Travis in alarm but before he could get a word out, he realized that General Carhart was striding down the hall. His short blond hair shone under the fluorescent lights and Luke couldn't help noticing how surprisingly young the General looked up close. He was tall and well-built and his expression was darkly serious at the moment. Still, his face had a youthful quality that took away some of the intimidation that would have otherwise been there.

Luke nudged Travis and they both stood at attention, saluting the General when he approached. "Sir!"

"His status?" Carhart stared into the cell with hooded cerulean eyes; he didn't seem pleased by what he saw.

"They just removed him from the box, sir. The drugs are not out of his system yet."

Carhart nodded and looked at Luke, eyes narrowing slightly. "Have him taken to the medical unit and have the collar installed before he wakes up. I expect him to be ready at 1200 hours."

Without another word, the General turned and walked back in the direction from which he'd appeared. Luke watched him go, unable to help feeling a mote of pride that General Carhart, the third most powerful person at the Agency, had pretty much entrusted such an important task with him specifically. Luke couldn't help idly wondering why Carhart hadn't given the order to Travis but after the 'kid' commentary, Luke felt vindicated.

Still, he didn't say any of that. All he did was ask, "What collar?"

Travis rolled his eyes. "I guess they came up with a new way to control him. Let's do this before the freak wakes up and rips our throats out."

Luke shook his head and followed Travis into the cell.

They transported the Monster from the floor to a gurney and secured his wrists and ankles. Luke couldn't help sneaking glances at the Monster's face, marveling at the fact that someone so vicious could look so helpless. "What do they have him on?"

"Who knows," Officer Dennis McNichols rumbled. He smirked and smacked the prisoner in the face; the Monster didn't even blink. "Whatever it is, sure turns him into a docile little faggot, eh?"

"Hell yeah, it does," Officer Harry Truman commented with a guffaw. "We used to have fun with him up here before Carhart installed the window."

Harry reached down and let one of his large hands slide down the Monster's bare skin, extending a finger to trace the well-defined chest before sliding it down his stomach. His gaze sharpened on the Monster in self-satisfaction. "Imagine how pissed off he'll be when he wakes up. If he even knew what was going on anyway..."

Luke and Travis looked at each other and then at Harry in disgust. Luke glanced at the other guards, expecting them to share the sentiment, but to his surprise none of the other men seemed to mind. Then again, he and Travis were fairly new to Maximum Security. Harry and his crew were the typical guards so the information likely wasn't surprising. It was even possible that they all got in on it together.

"You should probably keep that to yourself," Luke snapped.

"Oh? Feeling defensive over this sick fuck?" Harry looked at Luke and sneered. His fingers clenched around one of Sin's nipples and he twisted it violently. It should have been painful but the Monster didn't even flinch.

"Why should you care after all he's done? He deserves everything I give him." Harry's eyebrows rose.

Luke scoffed and ignored the warning look that Travis was giving him. "Yeah whatever, but that kind of behavior doesn't make you any better than him. No wonder he's a fucking monster if he's treated like that. I'm not going to report you or anything but for the record, you probably should be locked up too."

"Fuck you, fairy boy," Harry snapped.

"Real intelligent," Luke retorted and began to wheel the gurney out of the room. They were halfway down the hall when he happened to glance down at the Monster's face.

Luke felt his heart plummet.

The pale green eyes were no longer vacant and despite the fact that they still had the medicated glaze, they were alert. And, for the second time in Luke's life, they were focused on him. He stopped in his tracks and held eye contact as he struggled to tell Travis that the Monster was waking up.

He'd almost found the words when one of the prisoner's dark eyebrows rose slightly and a ghost of a smirk whispered across his full lips. Luke blinked incredulously even as the expression disappeared and the Monster was staring blankly once again.

"What's wrong?" Travis looked down at the Monster and then up at Luke with a puzzled expression. "Come on, man. I don't want to be around those creepy fucks anymore," he said impatiently.

"N-nothing," Luke stammered. He shook his head, told himself that he'd imagined it, and they continued on their way.

Vivienne Beaulieu strode through the Fourth Floor Detainment Center, eyes scanning the corridor indifferently despite the fact that there were any number of dangerous individuals behind the locked doors that lined the hall. Her pale blond hair was pulled tightly into a French twist at the base of her neck, and her light grey pencil skirt suit combined with her dark blue blouse gave little color to her otherwise pale complexion. The stiff way she held herself and the unattainable quality of her demeanor made her appear older than her late thirties.

There was nothing but disinterest in her ice blue eyes, even when she glanced at the man to her right.

"One would expect the creature to be prowling the room judging by what I have heard of him. Are you quite certain it is properly restrained, General?"

General Zachary Carhart strode down the corridor with his hands behind his back; he was dressed in faded military fatigues, although it was known on the compound that it was more of a clothing preference than a way of showcasing his rank. Despite the fact that the Agency had a hierarchy structured much like the military, the similarities ended there.

"The men exaggerate. Sin is just as human as you are," he said calmly, and although there was a touch of reproach in his voice, his face remained mostly expressionless.

Vivienne did not bother answering and silence fell between them as her high-heeled footsteps echoed down the hall ahead of them. When Carhart and Vivienne turned the corner into the maximum security wing, Carhart saw that Officers Luke Gerant and Travis Randazzo were once again standing side by side in front of Sin's cell along with Dennis McNichols and Harry Truman.

"General. Inspector," they said smartly, saluting to Carhart and Vivienne respectively.

"What is his status?" Vivienne asked coolly.

She directed her gaze through the bulletproof glass and into the room that the men guarded.

"Secured, Inspector," Travis said immediately.

Sin lay slumped against the wall inside the cell. He was clad only in black shorts, a sleeveless shirt and a slim metal band that encircled his neck. The collar was an innocuous device that was capable of producing high-voltage shocks that could incapacitate or kill, depending on how long it was activated.

Sin appeared to be alert although his pale green eyes were still glazed over from aftereffects of the tranquilizers. He tested his restraints almost absently, likely struggling to fully regain coherent thought after months of existing in a drugged stupor. After a moment he gave in to the strength of the chains binding him to the wall. He collapsed back against the cold metal and resigned himself to staring out at them through the window.

"I realize that you haven't had any interaction with him in the past but I know you're aware of his history and his father. Although I'm not sure how much you know, considering Emilio worked here before your time," Carhart said, studying Sin through the glass.

A slight frown marred Carhart's youthful features but it was faint and fleeting before he replaced it with his previous stoicism.

Vivienne scrutinized Sin with an expression of distaste. "I recall hearing about a vulgar man who was quite skilled at assassination, yes. I suppose it is unsurprising that this is his offspring. The previous Inspector's files indicated that the man was completely incapable of remaining discreet in or out of the Agency."

Carhart paused and stared at her for a long moment, blue eyes narrowing slightly before he looked away. "Despite his behavior, Emilio was the best assassin the Agency's ever had. Until his son, of course."

He watched as Sin's calculating gaze shifted between the two of them slowly as if he were trying to figure out what they were saying and what they wanted from him. What their plans were now.

"I am aware of the man's reputation," Vivienne replied with little inflection. "Although I remain unclear as to how he met his demise."

Carhart pressed his lips together briefly, still not turning away from the glass as he explained, "As far as we know, Agent Vega was killed during the course of an assignment. Later we found out that Sin took over the assignments after his father's death. He carried them out so efficiently that for a long time we didn't know what to make of the change."

Vivienne didn't respond so Carhart continued the story. "As I'm sure you know, it wasn't until Sin responded to a recall for his father that we found out. Nobody knew until the day he arrived that Emilio even had a son. Sin's origins are murky and we still aren't sure who his mother was or how he came to be trained, but he was only fourteen when we first came in contact with him and he was already a lethal killer."

The Inspector raised a slim eyebrow and she scrutinized Sin as though she were inspecting a tool that she was planning to purchase. "To my knowledge, even as a boy he was determined to be certifiably insane. And despite his incompetent mental state, the Marshal insists on using him again."

It wasn't a question so much as an obvious judgment call.

Carhart sighed and shrugged his broad shoulders. "Yes, he can appear quite insane at times. Attempted psychiatric evaluations have ended disastrously; the last doctor who saw him is now in a vegetative state in a nursing home. However, common consensus is that he suffered severe abuse as a child which is what led to his current unstable and unpredictable mental state."

Vivienne appeared to be unmoved by this explanation. After a moment in which she did not respond and Carhart stared at Sin, Carhart continued. "He has difficulty sticking to mission parameters, he's wild and impulsive, doing what he pleases most of the time. But it's when his mental instability rears up that he is known to snap completely, turning into a totally ruthless killer who will not stop until all threats in the vicinity have been neutralized. Despite this, he is an efficient agent and as I already said, the best assassin we have. Most difficulties he has with missions tend to be staying within parameters and negotiating successfully. Because of this we began attempting to assign him partners six months ago but he killed them all within a week of their perspective trials. Despite his insistence that it was 'self-defense,' he was put into the box indefinitely."

"Charming," Vivienne said evenly, then looked at the General briskly. "I will see him in person. Those chains will hold if I walk in, correct." The question was said as a statement and she was already moving toward the door to enter without waiting for confirmation. She glanced over her shoulder just in time to see Carhart pause; her eyebrow quirked, as if finding fault in his hesitation.

Carhart shook his head slightly, returning her gaze steadily. There had been a reason why, despite the fact that she was higher up in the chain of command than he was, she had been kept out of mostly all dealings with Sin. Her role as Inspector of the Agency was to make sure the organization remained underground, covert, and basically invisible to the outside world.

She was a direct liaison to the people who orchestrated the Agency but despite that, she was not agent-trained, had no military background and was mostly regarded as a civilian employee by the staff because of this. The official story was that the Marshal had felt it imperative to keep her interaction with such a dangerous individual as Sin at the minimum as a form of protection for his second-in-command. The real reason was more likely to be that Marshal Connors knew the higher-ups would not appreciate if Vivienne was killed by a well-known security risk that he insisted upon keeping as an agent.

The General looked at Sin again and set his jaw slightly. He had the utmost respect for Vivienne and though he was sure that any concern he may show for her would only be taken as an insult, he couldn't help hesitating before nodding to give his approval to let the slender blond woman into Sin's cell. "They should hold. If they don't, the guards have a remote to activate his collar."

Vivienne's gaze dropped to the metal collar around Sin's neck. "The prototype worked according to plan?"

"Yes. It's capable of very high voltage and is an improvement from the stun belt." The words dropped from Carhart's mouth in a toneless voice although a distinct look of discomfort briefly shadowed his face.

"Have you tested it?" Vivienne asked.

Carhart glanced at her briefly. "Yes but not on him."

Vivienne looked over at the guards who were standing at attention near the door. "Who has the remote?" she inquired, looking between them.

Luke hesitated briefly then stepped forward. "I do, Inspector."

"Hand it to me." She held her hand out and the guard immediately gave her a small metal remote with two buttons. She studied the remote briefly and its straightforward design, seeming to understand without needing to ask how to use it. She met Sin's glazed eyes as, without a hint of hesitation, she pressed the button.

Carhart's eyes automatically turned to Sin and he watched as a shudder went through him. A normal man would have immediately crumbled to the floor as the collar sent volts of electricity into his body. Sin merely tensed up, his teeth clenching together and eyes narrowing as he held out a slightly shaking hand to support his weight against the wall.

Beside them, Luke and Travis exchanged subtle glances but none of the guards commented. Carhart couldn't help noticing the slight glimmer of glee in Harry's eyes as they narrowed on Sin.

Carhart's mouth curled slightly and he looked at Sin again. The longer Vivienne activated the collar, the more the electricity overpowered him and his senses.

"His pain tolerance is unparalleled," Carhart said unnecessarily, maintaining an even tone despite the uncomfortable feeling that grew inside him.

Vivienne watched Sin with a clinical air as she steadily increased the power; Sin's eyes narrowed further and his olive complexion turned paler as sweat broke out on his skin. The tension grew considerably in his body and a stronger shudder went through him but he managed to maintain a relatively unaffected disposition until Vivienne put the remote at maximum power. Sin slid down the wall and fell onto the floor, trembling violently with his teeth gritted and eyes squeezed shut, yet through it all he didn't make a noise.

Once it was clear Sin was incapacitated by pain, Vivienne immediately turned the collar off and looked at Carhart with narrowed eyes. "The collar should be recalibrated before he is released. He should be incapacitated long before the highest setting."

"Like I said," Carhart replied stiffly, looking away from her and focusing instead on Sin. Even after maximum voltage had been used on him, the man was still struggling to get upright and was still lucid. The other subjects had suffered severe convulsions before falling unconscious after the same amount of voltage had swept through them. "He has amazing pain tolerance. I'm sure the techs weren't aware of how strong it is but they will be informed."

Vivienne nodded curtly in acknowledgment and held the remote in her hand. She strode to the door, looking expectantly at the guards. After a brief hesitation, Travis input a series of codes into the keypad beside the door. There was a low beep and a green light indicated that it had unlocked. Travis stepped inside immediately, a few other guards ringing her as she entered.

She walked directly into the room and did not comment on the guards, instead watching Sin with detachment.

"Can you understand me?" she asked him clearly.

Sin's head rolled to the side and he stared up at her through his hair, his face set in a grimace even though he didn't give any indication that he was still in pain. He opened his mouth, closed it, wet his lips, and opened it again. "I've been fluent in English for some time," he slurred, his voice low and deep. "Although this beautiful necklace you've gifted me with seems to have put me out of sorts momentarily."

"A useful excuse, no doubt," Vivienne said shortly. She surveyed Sin's restraints with a clinical air and strode closer, stopping just far enough away that he would not be able to reach her even if he surged to the ends of the chains. She kept the remote in her hand but made no move to use it again. "I should hope that you are intelligent enough to understand that you are a tool to the Agency, nothing more."

"And all this time I thought I was Carhart's lovetoy," Sin smirked mockingly, appearing relatively unaffected by her cool disdain. He stared at Vivienne through narrowed green eyes that glinted dangerously and with a calculating quality that caused the guards to glance at each other uneasily. "I'm fully aware of my situation, woman. Though I'm not aware of why you're in here reiterating it."

"You will address me with no term or Inspector, nothing else," she informed him.She stared at Sin with an expression that brooked no argument. Even though she was a woman of average height and strength, she seemed entirely unaffected by the fact that she was standing in the presence of a man who utterly terrified so many of the staff; a man who could kill a person in seconds. A man who was making even the guards nervous.

"I maintain the secrecy of the Agency and as such I find it necessary to invest a minimal amount of interest in you." She watched Sin closely. "I do not appreciate misunderstandings so I will make myself clear. I do not take kindly to dealing with fallout from preventable mistakes, particularly in high profile situations. Do not make the assumption that you are ever out of my view, whether on compound or elsewhere. I will be watching you and I deal with all infractions swiftly and without sympathy." She paused just long enough to let the point sink in. "If you find yourself capable of remembering that simple rule, I anticipate few issues between us."

Sin struggled to right himself, managing to crouch in front of her. He raised his eyebrows, his humorless smile firmly intact. "Keep me out of that box and I'll do whatever you want, woman."

"Clearly not," Vivienne said with obvious disdain at the usage of the word 'woman.' She looked down at him with cold blue eyes. "Do not disappoint me. You would not appreciate the situation you found yourself in if you did."

He stared up at her silently for a very long moment, although it was unclear what was happening behind his pale green stare. "Why specifically are you here?"

Her face was like a mask, her eyes completely unreadable as she watched him. There was a beat of silence in which it seemed she would not answer but then she said with mild contempt, "Your intelligence is grossly exaggerated if you honestly expected me to answer that question."

Sin's eyes remained trained on her in the same narrow-eyed, hawk-like manner. The average person would probably turn away from such an expression, would shudder at what appeared to be a genuine ability to promise violence simply by the slightest narrowing of his eyes. Yet Vivienne watched him evenly, expressionlessly, and after a moment Sin just shrugged. He allowed himself to fall back against the wall gracelessly as he gave up on whatever enjoyment he gained from attempting to intimidate her.

"It's been a pleasure," he said blandly after a moment.

Vivienne scrutinized him for a breath longer before she turned and strode back into the hallway without further comment. Once the guards followed her out and the door was locked once more, she said to them firmly, "Give him another dose of the drugs you are using to control him. If he has the energy to be disrespectful, he has the energy to escape. Remember that."

Turning to General Carhart, she said simply, "He will do."

The General looked at Sin and frowned at Vivienne's instructions although he didn't disagree out loud. "What did you conclude?"

She strode further away from the guards and out of their hearing range before she stopped where she had a better view of Sin. Her ice blue eyes were narrowed and the faint reflection of her expression in the window was as unreadable as ever.

She didn't speak until Carhart was standing next to her again, staring into the cell as well.

"Despite his attitude, he gives the impression of reasonable intelligence," she said calmly. "I would not hesitate to have him terminated should he once again become a liability; however, he may prove useful. I have decided to go through with my recommendation for his newest trial partner."

Carhart's eyebrows shot up in surprise. He'd previously thought that this visit had been solely for the purpose of Vivienne determining whether or not Sin would be a public risk if he were reinstated as an agent. "Oh?"

Vivienne's nod was curt and her gaze never left Sin. "I will notify the party tomorrow."

"Who do you have in mind?"

"My son."

Carhart tried to hide his shock and stared at Sin intently. "What makes you think he would be a good candidate?" he asked with forced professionalism.

"He would be unaffected by such mannerisms," she responded calmly. "And he is intelligent enough to avoid playing games."

There was another beat of silence and this one was wrought with tension. Carhart turned away from the window, away from Sin. "We'll see how it turns out, then," he answered finally.

Yet as they began their walk back to the entrance to the Fourth, Carhart could only marvel at the fact that Vivienne had basically just given her son a death sentence.

Continue to Chapter 1