(Friday 15th, May)
"Failure!" A masculine voice yelled and a young-looking Tessa, no older than six, flinched backwards like she always did at her father's voice. The man sighed. "Again."
"Honestly, child! This is not difficult. Just read the words." Her mother insisted, tone hard, and Tessa gulped but nodded slightly. She then peered down at the book before her. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't make sense of the few words on the page. The pictures made it even worse, and Tessa was even less certain about what the book was about than before.
"I-I don't u-under-st-tand the w-ords-s." She whispered, not being able to control her quivering lips. Her father slammed his fist down on the table and Tessa whimpered in fear.
"Not good enough! I could read novels at your age!" He shouted, and Tessa curled into herself, trying to seem smaller. "That's it! Go to the Chamber." Tessa sat up straighter and swerved around.
"No! Not the Chamber! Anything but the Chamber." A large hand grabbed her arm, pulling her from the chair and towards the hallway. Tessa turned to see it was her mother, that uncaring tone still there.
"Do not question your father, child!" She yelled, and Tessa flinched backwards, but she couldn't help struggling against her mother's grip, fear controlling her actions.
"I don't want to go to the Chamber! Not again!" She begged. Her mother halted, turning and striking her across the face with the back of her hand. Tessa cried out at the pain and cowered into herself. She felt a trickle of blood run down her cheek but didn't dare raise her hand to wipe it away, afraid even to move in case it upset her mother further.
"Do not talk back!" She yelled, and Tessa offered a small nod. Then she was being dragged down by the hall again. "You couldn't complete the task so you will accept your punishment like a good little girl." Tessa didn't dare respond. Instead, she waited for the fear and pain that came with being in the Chamber to start once again-
"Tessa!" A voice yelled, and Tessa blinked, snapping out of the childhood memory. She was currently staring rather intensely at a photo of an old but expensive mansion. She turned, and notice Officer Lowe was standing next to her, hands on her hips, looking thoroughly pissed. "Back, are you?" She sarcastically asked, and Tessa shook out her head.
"Yeah, sorry I was..." She glanced back at the photo. "...Reminiscing."
"Remember your days of being a rich little girl later and help me move these boxes!" Officer Lowe scolded, and Tessa nodded. She moved away from the photo and towards the boxes, shaking the unpleasant memory off. It was all in the past anyway. She helped Officer Lowe moved the last of the old case file boxes to the storage room, making room for all the new ones to be transferred to the case file room. "I can't believe we got stuck with this job." Officer Lowe whined, and Tessa rolled her eyes, setting down two boxes stacked on top of each other. "Where's Gavin when you need him?"
"Away on a case." Technically, it was a mission, but Officer Lowe didn't need to know that. The woman huffed and scowled at her.
"Bet you love being his partner!" She sneered, and Tessa rolled her eyes, ignoring her. "To be able to wrap your arms around that fine stomach. I bet his scalped like a god..." She trailed off, sighing dreamily and Tessa had to hold in her scoff. She had no idea. Instead, she merely offered the lovestruck officer a bored look. Officer Lowe seemed lost in a daze, probably day-dreaming about Gavin's 'fine' stomach. Tessa took the chance to bail from the storage room. She'd already delivered all the boxes, and it was about time her shift was over.
After packing her bags, clocking out and bidding everyone goodbye, Tessa started walking home. It had been a long time since she'd thought about her childhood, rather the days before the orphanage. She couldn't help but wonder what her parents were doing. Had they been released from jail? Were they doing okay? Even if they had been horrible people, they were still her parents, and Tessa still cared for them deep in her heart. That didn't mean she wanted to see them again, though. No, they were two very different things. Sighing, Tessa stood at the pedestrian crossing and waited for the lights to turn to green. In the light of the setting sun, the sights of Loveland were even more beautiful.
Tessa took the chance to look around and take them in. It was then she noticed a young man, not too far away from her, with auburn brown hair and grey-blue eyes. But what made him stand out was that he was wearing that same white-jacket that Gavin always seemed to be wearing, though this man's lacked a hoodie. Tessa looked away before he could notice her looking. The light turned green, and she started crossing it and making her way the opposite direction of her house. As she'd assumed, the man turned to follow her down the path. Tessa inwardly groaned. She did not need a tail. And what did STF what with her that Gavin couldn't ask himself?
Tessa allowed the man to follow her for a while, taking him on the scenic route to an alley she knew had no cameras in or around it. She picked up her pace just enough that he wouldn't notice until she was able to enter the alley with a good distance between them. She hid in the shadows, and a minute later, he rounded the corner and went into the alley. He looked around, slightly confused and Tessa took her chance. She leapt out of the shadows, bending and sweeping his feet out from underneath him. She took out her gun, armed it and aimed it at the man's face, putting her boot against his private bits. "Who are you?!"
"Woah, Woah. Calm down! I mean you no harm, I swear!" He said, sounding slightly panicked.
"Then why were you following me?" Tessa questioned, and the man laughed nervously.
"What do you mean? I wasn't following you."
"You've been tailing me for the last six blocks. I'm a police officer, did you think I wouldn't notice?" She asked, and the man smiled awkwardly.
"I was kind of counting on it." Tessa didn't return the smile and instead moved her finger to the trigger of the gun.
"What do you want with me?" The man gulped nervously and started stuttering, probably trying to come up with a reasonable but phony excuse.
"Tessa!" Gavin's voice suddenly called, and Tessa quickly glanced upward to see Gavin descending into the alley before turning back to her follower. "Are you okay? I felt you pull out your gun." He said, landing next to her.
"Yeah, just dealing with a stalker." She said, and the man huffed.
"I was not stalking you." He muttered, and Tessa rolled her eyes dramatically.
"I sure hope not! I don't need two stalkers." She offered back, and both the man and Gavin looked at her strangely. "What?"
"You have a stalker?" Gavin asked, frowning, with concern and anger evident in his voice. "Who?"
"Um, you?" She said, and Gavin looked surprised.
"Yeah. I mean, the way you use the wind to locate me is kind of like stalking, right?" Tessa said, and Gavin flushed slightly, coughing.
"Aw, how cute." The man below Tessa said, and she applied more pressure on his crotch, making him shut up.
"Be quiet, Eli," Gavin muttered, and Tessa turned to him.
"Eli? You mean you know this guy?" Gavin nodded, arms crossed.
"He is apart of STF." Tessa blinked then looked down at Eli. He was smiling sheepishly.
"Oh." She said, withdrawing her foot and putting the gun away. Relief immediately flooded Eli's face, and he made to get up. "I guess that does make sense since you guys wear the same jacket." Eli nodded and held out his hand.
"It's nice to me-
"But that still doesn't explain why you were following me?" Tessa growled, and Eli dropped his hand.
"Why were you following her?" Gavin asked, and Eli looked between the two before sighing.
"The Commander wants to meet her." He said, and Gavin scowled.
"He could've asked me to bring her in." He said, and Eli offered Gavin a small smile.
"He said you would reject if he asked you." Gavin scoffed.
"More like he didn't want me to know," Gavin muttered, and Tessa blinked. It sounded like this Commander and Gavin had different opinions about her. She then released the implications of the conversation.
"Wait, your commander wants to meet me? Why?" Eli smiled at her.
"It's best he explain all that to you." Tessa frowned but didn't question further. From what Gavin had told her about STF, they were a very secretive organisation, a lot like Black Swan. And Jade flower for that matter.
"Fine but I'm taking her," Gavin said, before grabbing Tessa's wrist and dragging her out of the alley. "We'll meet you there." He called back before turning the corner and rushing down the road, not giving Eli time to answer. Gavin dragged Tessa for a few blocks, never easing his grip but Tessa didn't mind. It was tight but not painful. They reached his bike, which was parked on the corner. He let her go and grabbed her helmet, throwing it to her. "Sorry to dawn this on you." He suddenly said as Tessa was clipping the helmet on.
"What do you mean?"
"I wanted to take you to STF when you wanted to go." He said, before looking Tessa in the eye. "You never showed any interest, so I assumed you didn't want to see STF." Tessa blinked then smiled.
"Gavin, I didn't show any interest because you seemed so hesitant in telling me you were an Evol Agent, I assumed you would freak out if I asked to see STF." Gavin blinked then smiled at her.
"Guess we shouldn't assume things about each other then." He said, and Tessa laughed.
"No, probably not." With that, she climbed onto the motorbike and held onto Gavin tight as he started up the bike and headed down the road that led out of the city.
It was a long ride, and Tessa shifted a few times, her bum getting sore but otherwise didn't complain. Eventually, they reached what Tessa assumed was the STF headquarters. Gavin parked in a futuristic-looking garage that had pure white walls with blue lines along the edges. Tessa dismounted and gave Gavin back his helmet. "Stay close." He said before making his way to a door that automatically opened when he neared it. Tessa gulped but followed him. Now that she was here, her nerves were beginning to build. She was really going to meet the commander of STF, an organisation she'd only learned about a little over two weeks ago. She knew hardly anything about it, just what Brooke had told her which was the same amount Gavin had been willing to disclose.
She really hated going into a situation unprepared. At least she had her guns. Walking through what looked like a metal scanner, Tessa flinched as it went off. Great. "Evolver! Evolver!" A robotic voice called, and Tessa sighed. The agent at the desk looked up at her, surprised and a little fear written over his face. Then drew his gun.
"Stand up against the wall." He said, sounding slightly scared. Tessa put her hands behind her head and did as she was told.
"This is unnecessary. She's cleared. Commanders orders." Gavin said, sounding annoyed. Tessa was pretty annoyed as well. She hated being frisked.
"She set the scanner off, sir." The agent said, continuing to frisk her. He wandered a little to close to the 'girls' for Tessa's liking, and she had to hold back her instinct to deck the guy.
"So does everyone else that comes through here," Gavin said, and the agent stopped. He risked Gavin a glance before turning back to Tessa, that terrified look now more apparent.
"Okay." He said, taking a step back. "But she can't take the gun." Tessa sighed but withdrew her gun and placed it in the man's outstretched hand. She had a spare anyway.
"Happy?" She asked, and the man nodded, backing up and pressing a button on the desk. The next door opened up, and Gavin grabbed Tessa, dragging her through it, not bidding the agent goodbye. Tessa couldn't help but look back, that fearful look on his face concerning her. What was he afraid of? The door soon closed behind her, blocking the agent and his stare from her view. Gavin led her through a few more hallways until Tessa was completely and utterly lost. Finally, though, they reached what looked to be the commander's office. The doors were large and seemed 'commander' like. Gavin took in a deep breath before punching in a code and scanning his thumb. He was quickly let in.
Inside, Tessa's eyes immediately landed on the tall, serious man standing in front of his desk. His hair was greying, and he had a scowl on his lips. His eyes were thin and narrow, and he had sharp cheekbones—his aura scream of 'leader' and 'power'. Tessa instinctively stood taller. "Tessa Pace. I'm so glad you've finally arrived." He said, voice deep and authoritative.
"I'm guessing you're the commander I've heard so much about." The man nodded.
"Indeed. I'm Special Task Force Commander Leto." Tessa nodded.
"I'd say my name in return but you clearly already know it." Leto nodded and stood straighter if that was even possible.
"Yes. We have been monitoring you for some time." Tessa glanced at Gavin, but his expression had gone to that normal indifference he always used to show around her.
"Why? I may be an Evolver, but I'm just a police officer, nothing more." Leto frowned.
"We both know that's not true." So they did know. Tessa resisted the urge to glance at Gavin once again.
"What do you want?" She asked, her tone hard.
"Your help," Leto said, before standing up even straighter. "Specifically, your knowledge about Black Swan."
"It's an international crime syndicate with a focus on Evolvers, what else is there to know?"
"Their location, their plans," Leto said, and Tessa chuckled, though it possessed no humour.
"Don't you think if we knew that, we would have done something about it?"
"Who's 'we'?" Tessa glared at Leto.
"You know who 'we' is." Leto simply turned around, grabbing a file off his desk and turning back to Tessa.
"Jade Flower." He said, opening the file. "A secret organisation dedicated to maintaining peace between Evolvers and humans through peaceful and dull means." His tone was mocking, and Tessa resisted the urge to go over there and break his jaw. It would seem STF knew the image of Jade Flower they projected. Good. They didn't need to know the truth. "Despite this, you guys have been at war with Black Swan forever."
"We simply monitor them, sir. Like you said, war isn't our style." Tessa said, and for the first time, Leto smiled. It wasn't soothing at all.
"And yet you took down one of my agents with ease."
"I'm a police officer, sir. I have to able to defend myself." She justified, and Leto nodded.
"Is that really wh-"
"What do you want from me?!" She interrupted, getting fed up with this stupid game of cat and mouse they were playing. It was getting them nowhere. Leto dropped his smile, annoyed at being interrupted but he didn't address it.
"Your allegiance." He glanced towards Gavin and Tessa resisted the urge to look again. "You and Gavin make good partners. Work with us and help us take down Black Swan before this 'Queen' business becomes bigger than both of us." Work with STF? Tessa really wanted to say no, just to spite Leto. Their whole conversation had made her hate the guy. But it wasn't her call. It was Jade Flower's.
"I'll have to discuss it." She said, and Leto nodded.
"Very well. Give Gavin your answer." Tessa nodded before turning and following Gavin out of Leto's office, not wanting to stay around the guy for another second. If she did, she'd probably shoot him with her spare gun. Once her and Gavin were a safe distance, she asked the question that was burning her tongue.
"How do you put up with that guy?" She asked, and Gavin looked surprised.
"That's your question?!" He asked, and Tessa blinked. Had he expected her to ask something else? "Aren't you mad that I spied on you?"
"Why? You were just doing your job." Tessa looked off into the distance. "And I was kind of doing the same thing so it's not like I can talk. And, while I am a lot of things, a hypocrite is not one of them." Gavin nodded and looked away. Tessa looked back at him. "So, you knew, huh?"
"Yes." He answered, simple and straight. Tessa nodded.
"Well, that's a relief." She said, and Gavin blinked at her. "It saves me the drama of explaining it to you, you getting upset and storming off, you realising you're being stupid before running back to me and asking for my forgiveness," Tessa said, and Gavin blinked then smiled.
"You watch too many movies." Tessa laughed and followed Gavin back to the garage. She was ready to get out of this strange place and finally go home.
A knock sounded at Leto's door. "Come in." The agent from the scanner walked in, holding a stack of paper. "Did you get the information?" The agent nodded, walking up and putting the stack of paper on Leto's desk.
"And?" The agent took in a deep breath.
"Her power level is off the chart. She is far stronger than anyone in STF by far." Leto took the top paper off the stack and examined it. It had several Evol Agent's power levels, with Gavin's being one of the highest. Though, all of them failed in comparison with Tessa's. The agent was right. Her power levels were off the chart.
"And to think there are members of Jade Flower more powerful then she is," Leto said, that dark grin creeping onto his face once again...