4-1

Exposure: 4-1

The sound of taps clacked from the room as Impetus strummed his fingers on the table, hand coated in the kinetic barrier he could conjure. The noise sounded akin to glass against glass, four strikes that blended seamlessly into the next four as his fingers rolled. As he scanned the television in front of him, he watched curiously as Grandmaster and Michael Burnham exchanged words and gestures.

He stopped with his index finger to the glass and dismissed the barrier, and his raw finger covered the distance of the gap and touched against the glass. His head tilted as he watched Grandmaster lean forward, and Burnham grinning widely as he leaned backwards.

“I’ll tell you his name, alright. You might have heard of him. Goes by the name of Anthony Barnes.”

Grandmaster paused. Was Impetus seeing hesitation, disbelief, or something else? The mask obfuscated his face, and with it, any trace of trying to gauge his colleague faded away. Impetus knew exactly why he did so; to take away that advantage from his enemies, or people he interviewed or interrogated. To remove the human aspect was a great advantage in itself, as it masked away any emotions or expressions that may give away any information.

So Grandmaster has told him once or twice. Impetus watched as that pause in the conversation spoke more about what was going on with him, than any contorted expression could convey.

“Anthony Barnes.” He repeated, with no part of his body moving. Not even a flex of a finger or a tilt of the head.

“What, did I fuckin’ stutter or somethin’?”

“The politician Anthony Barnes. Leader of the Union of Britain party.”

“The one and the very same-”

Grandmaster snipped off the last bit of his sentence by slamming his fist down into the table abruptly. Such a reaction wasn’t what Impetus had known of Grandmaster.

Bullshit.

“You think I’m lyin’?”

“I think you’re full of shit.” Grandmaster said, now raising his hand and pointing a finger right at Michael’s face. “Anthony fuckin’ Barnes, Burnham? Really?”

Michael lowered his shoulders, as if to show he was defenceless. With his hands already behind his back, he showed how incapable he was to physically react. That grin somehow managed to pull itself wider. “Not very professional of yer’. But I’m not lying.”

The grin dropped from his face abruptly. “I’ve got no fuckin’ reason to lie to you. It might be out there, ain’t easy to believe, but I’ve got evidence.”

“Evidence.” Grandmaster said, slowly curling his finger back into his fist.

“Evidence, is there a fuckin’ parrot in this room? Evidence, you daft cunt!” Michael struggled lightly against his handcuffs. “Weeks of recorded phone calls, back an’ forth emails, names of places where all the stuff he’s asked me to do for him.”

Michael stood up as he spoke, raising his voice to a pitch that made Impetus flinch. Once calm, now his voice echoed with a conceited fury behind it.

“What fuckin’ more do you want from me, you fuckin’ idiot cunt?! You’re getting’ everything you want and all I’m askin’ for is less years for all I’ve done. Is that so hard for your piece of shit brain to handle?”

Grandmaster paused again.

“And you’d be willing to testify this evidence in an official interview as well as pleading guilty in the subsequent trial.”

Michael lowered himself down to his chair and sat down. As if the emotion had never washed over him, he goes back to his unusually calm demeanour. “That’s right.”

“Got a bit of a temper there, Burnham. Might wanna watch yourself with that.”

“I find it hard to keep me hat on when yer’ not cooperating, when I’m tryin’ to do you a solid. It’s fuckin’ ungrateful, that’s what it is.”

Impetus leaned back in his chair with a curious expression on his face. He watched as Grandmaster took the file he had on the table back into his hands, a sign that he was due to leave shortly. Grandmaster sat up, with his posture improved.

“You throw out the name for one of the guys gunning for Prime Minister and you expect me to believe you right away. I’ve got every reason to be suspicious of you and whatever you say.”

This time, Michael was the one who paused.

“I dunno what else you want me to say. You’ve got the name, I’ll give you the evidence.” Michael stoppe, then tapped his finger on the table three times, each harder than the last. “We done here then?”

Grandmaster stood up, taking the file with him. He pointed it to Michael as he spoke. “We’ll be conducting an official interview in an hour where you can testify all this information. Once you’ve done that, we’ll process you as normal.” He lowered the file down. “Thank you for your cooperation.”

Grandmaster turned and walked out of the room, turning a head to the guards outside. Giles could barely make out what he relayed to him before the door closed.

“…earned his breakfast.”

The guards came in afterwards. They stood up Michael and held him by the shoulders from behind and escorted him out of the room. He took one last look around before he was out of sight, the doors locked and the room returning to inactivity.

Impetus stopped the feedback.

He didn’t have to wait long before Grandmaster walked into the room and took a seat beside him, turning it around to face him. He brought one leg up and rested it on the other.

“Anthony Barnes.” Impetus said, with a slight tinge of whimsy to his voice.

“Anthony fucking Barnes.” Grandmaster repeated with more vulgarity. “Anthony Barnes is apparently the great mastermind behind all of this. The robberies, the kidnapping of animals. A politician who’se doing bad shit behind the scenes.”

“We are in one of those cartoons, the Saturday ones.” Impetus repeated. “If this is a joke, we are the fools here. If this isn’t, there are more implications. Bad ones.”

“Mmm.” Grandmaster said, rolling his head back. “Came outta left field. What the hell do we even do now?”

“I thought you knew how to do your job. Now you need me to tell you what you have to do?” Impetus said, showing a slight smile.

“My mood for wise cracks has gone, give it a few hours.”

A few moments passed before Impetus spoke. “You’re taking this quite seriously.”

Grandmaster looked off to the side. “Too many things here that don’t add up. How would we have known that Anthony fucking Barnes had anything to do with this, if it wasn’t for Burnham squealing? Is somebody behind Barned as well? What the hell is even going on that we don’t know about?”

Impetus nodded. “You’re over thinking. Calm yourself a little.”

Grandmaster turned to Impetus, bringing his leg down to the floor. “It’s my job to over think. That’s how I operate, and I work best when I’m under duress. Let me have some stress for once.”

Impetus grinned slightly. “You’ll burn yourself out like that.”

“Doubt it.” Grandmaster leaned back a little. “I ain’t dead yet, and I doubt this’ll be the end of me.”

“I think what you want to be asked is, where do you go from here, Grandmaster?”

Grandmaster leaned forward, holding his hands together, forearms on his knees.

“We take the interview with Burnham, he tells us where to find what we need, we gather the evidence. The phone calls, emails, anything else, enough that we have irrefutable evidence. Then-” Grandmaster sits upright, putting his hands on the arm of his chair. “-we kick down Barnes’ door and arrest him, and this whole thing is finally over.”

Impetus smiled again and stood up this time, stretching his hands upwards. The prolonged stretch made him groan slightly, and as he walked past Grandmaster he put a hand on his shoulder.

“It is going to be a big day for you, Grandmaster. You’d best get some coffee.”

Impetus walked out of the room, and Grandmaster waited until he was just closing the door before he spoke.

“Yeah, I’m gonna need a shit-ton of coffee for this.”

Grandmaster glances at the screen for a second, watching the blank room for a few seconds before he hauls himself out of the chair. He shakes his head before he turns off the monitor, and finally leaves the stillness of the observation room, mirroring how lifeless the interview room had started to become.

…final time of interview, concluded at 11:34am.”

Taking another long sip, Grandmaster swirled the contents of the empty paper cup in his hand before throwing it into the stack forming on his table. Now two cups high, he contemplated asking somebody to get him a third.

He had returned to his office after talking with Michael, leaving the interview process to the other Grandmaster requested a live feed to watch it in its entirety and it was obliged, and he was watching it all unfold on his laptop whilst taking notes. To the right of him sat his helmet on the table, which he gave a single glance to every so often whilst scrawling down notes. A full sheet of A4 paper later, he let the pen finally come to rest on top of the paper, flexing the fingers in his hand to relieve him of the strain they’d been under.

His helmet was on a type of sleep mode where though it was still active, all but a few processes were shut down, and were easier to start up at the cost of some power draining away. This would mean that if the helmet’s internal phone went off, he’d be able to know. Whilst it was shut around his head, it made a more discrete noise into his ear that only he could hear, but the volume was amplified through the speakers of the helmet to alert him if somebody was calling him.

In this such instance, his helmet’s phone was ringing like this.

With a bit of an inquisitive look, he grabbed his helmet and slid it over his head, speaking a vocal command before it had even shut tight around him.

“Answer.”

The comm on the phone became active, as he noticed by the slight difference in noise. The display came alive as well, showing details of where the call was coming from.

GREATER MANCHESTER POLICE HQ. DIRECT LINE.

“Hello, you’re speaking to Grandmaster, AKA Agent Kai Rhodes of the National Farside Unit.”

Good morning, Agent Rhodes. This is Sergeant Paul Anderson of the Greater Manchester Police. I hope I’m not interrupting anything.”

Grandmaster leaned back on his chair, watching as the interviewers began to leave the room. Two other people came inside the room to escort Michael Burnham out, who was starting to grow irritated by being handcuffed so much and pulling on the bindings with clenched fists.

“Morning, Sergeant Anderson. We don’t normally get a lot of phone calls from the boys in blue. You’re not interrupting anything. How’s your day been?”

A bit up, a bit down, otherwise fine. I was directed to yourself after enquiring about the case with Michael Burnham.”

“Oh?” Grandmaster replied, sitting back upright in his chair. “Word travels fast. I’m currently leading the on-going investigation, so I’m the right man to talk to. What can I help you with?”

“I’d like to know the current status of Mr. Burnham himself.”

Grandmaster paused for a moment before responding, pondering. “The official report will be done within the next few days if you fancy a read yourself, but I can tell you that he’s been interviewed. He’s going to be processed and sent over to prison in a very short time, once we’ve confirmed what he’s told us on the interview.”

I see. That’s good news then. I do have a question though, if you don’t mind me asking. Michael Burnham is a rather ‘mundane’ criminal, as far as we’re aware. The NFU are normally on cases involving more ‘alien’ things, so why is the NFU interviewing him?”

“He’s directly involved in a case regarding the theft of MAGI-Tech and Fartouched animals. The case itself was sent over to us from the Police.”

But he himself isn’t Fargraced or directly responsible for these allegations of theft or kidnapping of Fartouched animals?”

Grandmaster paused again, to contemplate. He leaned forward, resting from hand to elbow on the table.

“Sergeant, I’m not a fan of doing this dance all day, so if you wouldn’t mind getting to the point of this all, I’d appreciate that.”

“What I’m trying to say, is that this man isn’t under the jurisdiction of the NFU.”

“He kinda is. He’s directly involved in our investigation-”

-and I’m aware of that, Agent Rhodes.” Paul interrupted, just at the end of the word. “But let me explain the situation. We’ve been hunting for Michael Burnham for a long time, and weren’t aware at the time that he was involved in this case. Michael Burnham needs to stand trial for the many ‘normal’ crimes he’s committed, not just the alleged cases you’re trying to find evidence for.”

“Just speaking between you and me, off the record. One could assume that there might be some resentment in this matter because we managed to bring him into custody first.”

Speaking between yourself and I, that’s not only incorrect, but quite a childish and unprofessional accusation to make.”

Grandmaster paused again. “I apologise if it could have been seen that way, sergeant.”

This is about correct protocol, ‘Grandmaster’. Regardless of whether the agents of the NFU used their Farside powers to capture a wanted black market dealer or not before we could, all cases that don’t have a direct link to the Farside, Eldritch or Fargraced individuals need to be handled by the Police force.”

“I can appreciate that, but I’m not quite sure where you want to go with this. To be perfectly honest, I can’t just un-arrest him.”

Burnham needs to be taken into proper police custody and dealt with in a proper manner.”

“That can be arranged. Once we’ve clarified the evidence that he’s testified in this case, we’ll be happy to give him over to you.”

Sooner than that. He’s going into police custody today.”

“Today?” Grandmaster said, in a perplexed tone. “We’ve got some interesting Fargraced here but we’re not miracle workers . How quick do you expect us to check what he’s told us in that time frame?”

We don’t.” He replied. “You can carry on your investigation without him. We’re going to send some of our boys down to your headquarters to retrieve him.”

“You’re going to-” Before he could respond by repeating what Paul had just said, Grandmaster stopped himself. “He’s part of an on-going investigation. How do you expect us to deal with that when he’s in a police cell somewhere?”

You can come to our headquarters and arrange an interview with him. I’m sure you and your Fargraced agents can figure something out.”

“With all due respect, you know damn well that’s going to be a problem for us. Who on the Police force has the authority to do this, exactly?”

“I do. You don’t have the power over non-Farside matters, Michael Burnham included.”

“We have as much power as the police do with regards to any individuals in a case that link them directly to the-”

-this isn’t a debate Agent Rhodes, and I don’t intend it to be. We’re going to be retrieving Michael Burnham and putting him on trial for the many crimes that don’t involve the Farside, within the next few hours Is that understood?”

Grandmaster refused to answer initially, restraining himself and his tone of voice. “Loud and clear, Sergeant.

Good. I’m glad we’ve come to a resolution. That’s all I needed to speak to you to.”

“I think we’ve discussed all we can on the subject. Have a good day, Sergeant.”

Goodbye, Agent Rhodes.”

As tempted as he was to cut him off before he could say goodbye, Grandmaster put the phone down the moment he heard the final syllable escape from the other end of the line.

The first thing he did was remove his helmet. The second thing he did was stand up and take in a deep breath, exhaling it out slowly. In moments where he felt tense, angry or about to head into conflict, he could feel his powers trickle more into his senses than normal, spiking with fight or flight or his survival instincts. The room slowly became an arrangement of objects ready to arm himself with, a maze of implements that made him aware of every possible avenue.

He put his hands behind his head and tried to relax himself, pacing from left to right. They were like lights or illuminated notes that drew his attention to them, and though he never felt an urge to use them or act out in violence based on this, he was startlingly aware of how many things he could do with what he had on hand, and how distracting it was to a regular train of thought.

A few seconds later and he could feel himself focusing clearer. He turned to the table and took the pen he was writing with into his hand, and could only feel the regular prompts his powers gave him for using it as a weapon, as opposed to his normal thoughts being over saturated in violent images.

He balanced the pen perfectly on the tip of his finger, watching it sway slightly as it balanced itself. Satisfied, he lowered his hand down and let it roll onto his desk. He smiled, though he wasn’t entirely sure why. The closest he could guess would be that he was relieved that he could control his powers, or that they hadn’t consumed him yet.

He was drawn into looking up by his helmet alerting him to the presence of something. Letters came onto his visor.

FARSIDE PRESENCE DETECTED.

The image he saw showed only the presence of Farside energy, a halo of static around an orb shifting with purple and navy blue wisps of energy within.

Grandmaster sighed deeply and removed his helmet, putting in on the desk.

“Messenger.”

Without his visor, he could see it for what it really was; an mote of glowing light hovering in the air within arms reach, sometimes looking glassy with how the way the room’s light reflected off it. Regardless of what angle he looked at it, it would always be visible to him.

He reached up and took the orb in his hands, and a voice called out to him, all around with no specific point of origin. The voice of Messenger.

Grandmaster, if you would please see me in my office, immediately.

He felt the mote slip through his fingertips as it vanished into nothing, left with his fist gently closed together. With a slight grunt, he rubbed up the side of his face.

“Gonna need so much coffee.”

He made sure his helmet was fully closed around his head before he took in a deep breath, then made his way to the Head Director’s office post-haste.

“Director Messenger will see you now.”

Victoria called out as Grandmaster sat on his chair, one leg folded over the other and his arm along the back of the chairs to his side. He stood up and nods, giving Victoria a finger point before walking over to the opening door. It was reminiscent of the door leading to Sage’s office, a vault of a room that seemed impenetrable from the outside.

As he walked inside the room, he noticed a certain modesty to it. There was no carpet or fancy colours, staying the same aesthetic as the rest of the building. Messenger’s black wooden desk was in the centre of the room, so he could face the door. A pair of chairs sat opposite him, with his computer to the side so it wouldn’t obscure his view of them. Behind him were drawers and a filing cabinet in the far corner. On the wall opposite to him was a single painting; his own, a memorial to all the Head Directors of the National Farside unit. Beyond that, the room was pleasantly spacious, not wonting for much else.

Messenger nodded as he entered, and Grandmaster closed the door behind him. Messenger gestured with an open hand to the chair in front of him. “Grandmaster. Have a seat. Please remove your helmet.”

Obliging, Grandmaster made sure to remove his helmet first and took a seat on the chair. He conservatively put his helmet on his lap, allowing them to speak face to face.

“Good afternoon, Messenger. Doesn’t Director Sage normally cover the personal side of things, as far as the higher-ups are concerned?”

“Normally she does, yes. Director Sage is on holiday for a fortnight, which has left me to pick up the responsibility. Nothing I mind, I assure you.” Messenger said, watching Grandmaster sternly.

“Makes sense. It’s not normally an everyday thing for me to be summoned by a Director, either.”

Messenger nodded in response. “Circumstances permit it, occasionally. I don’t like to waste time though. I’ve asked you to come here regarding the current investigation you’re in charge of.”

Grandmaster paused for a second, then nodded.

“It’s been brought to light that recently, some of your actions regarding this investigation have been somewhat brash and overzealous, to use the term.” Messenger continued. “You’ve been rushing the standard procedures, as far as I’m aware. You of all people are more than aware of the necessary steps to take when it comes to being the head of an operation like this.”

“I understand, sir.” Grandmaster said. Though he was going to continue, he saw Messenger was going to speak and held his tongue.

“I know you do, Grandmaster. This is why it looks like you’ve been acting on impulse over acting rationally. I’m well aware that you have a habit to bend certain rules or procedures to complete your work, but this is almost going too far.”

“With all due respect, sir. Everything I’ve done has been with the best interests of the NFU in mind. I’ve never once done what I’ve done with any bad intentions in mind.”

“And I appreciate that. Before Sage went on holiday, she made me quite aware of that.” Messenger said. “I’m aware that you’ve not done anything that would constitute an abuse of power. What I’m trying to say is, you’re coming close. It could be perceived as such. As one of the higher ranking agents we have, we need you to set a good impression. Which means less bending the rules because you know you can, and working within them to show that you don’t need to do that.”

Grandmaster sat there silently.

“Is anything troubling you that would drive you to be a little more impulsive like this? Do you feel a need to prove something? You don’t need to prove anything, Grandmaster. Everyone at the NFU already knows of your devotion to your work.”

Grandmaster shook his head slowly, taking in the words. “If there was a problem, I’m sure Sage would have already let you know.”

“If she knew of the reason, she neglected to tell me. And if that was the case, she hasn’t told me for a good reason.” Messenger brought his hands onto the table, steepling his fingers. “That’s irrelevant though. Here’s what I propose happens next.”

Messenger brought his fingers down, interlocking them gently. “After the current investigation is done, we’ll arrange for you to have a review of your current job. A one to one to see how you’re coping and if there’s room for improvement. Director Sage informed me that whatever you’re doing is important and that I shouldn’t burden you with this until you’re done. Once the investigation is done and you’ve finished your work, we’ll conduct the review when the time is right.”

“A review.” Grandmaster said, both worried and relieved.

“Your position is in no danger, Grandmaster. I’ve no reason to fire you, no gross misconducts of note, and you continue to perform to your job role with dedication and skill. We will, however, have to look into how you’ve been acting regarding this latest investigation and see if there’s any external factors at play. Perhaps stress, or some desire to push yourself harder, or even if it’s how you feel you should act.”

“Up until that time, Director Sage informed me that you’re to continue with your investigation. I’ll keep an eye out for the reports that are going to follow, and I hope that there’s no issues in future. If there are any issues or any problems you’re facing, the NFU has the support you need. Don’t be afraid to ask.”

Grandmaster nodded once. “I will.”

“If you have nothing further to ask, this meeting is adjourned.”

Grandmaster stood up and nodded, taking his helmet off his lap and putting it on his head. He bowed his head politely and walked out, whilst Messenger kept an eye on him until the door closed behind him.

When he was outside, he began to roll his shoulders. To the side of him, the female voice of Victoria called out to him.

“Everything go alright?”

“As well as it could be.” Grandmaster said. “Can’t talk to my boss that well. I always lock up a little. Must be something about higher authority.”

Victoria smirked slightly. “It’s not like you to be quiet.”

“I have my moments.” Grandmaster said, turning to her. The gleam of his helmet’s lights stared back at her, the lack of an expression on that helmet made it hard to judge his intent. “Not all the time, but sometimes. Y’know, I kinda liked today when it started. Now it’s starting to peck at my head.”

“One of those days?” Victoria said, turning on her chair to face Grandmaster.

He nodded to her. “Let’s hope it stays today.”

Grandmaster looked up to the lift doors, then turned back to Victoria. “Good chat.” That’s all he said as he walked away and pressed the button, and the doors opened nearly instantly. He walked inside and turned on his heels, and as the lift doors began to close, he gave Victoria one last flick point before he was sealed inside, and being hurried down below. Victoria giggled slightly, rolling her eyes before she took her phone from her lap and put it back on her desk, checking Facebook once again for new status updates.

Once out of view, Grandmaster sighed and leaned against the back wall of the lift, tapping into the side of his helmet.

MENU.

“Call Visionary.”

CALLING Agent Visionary (mobile).

A few rings later, Grandmaster was accosted by the sound of Visionary’s voice. He walked out of the elevator, making his way back to his office.

Hello?”

“Hey. Just me. Just a quick one. What are you and your team doing today?”

Hello, Grandmaster. We’re going to be the recon squad for the Eldritch capture today. Why do you ask?”

“Damnit. I needed a free pair of hands. Nothing to worry about, on a tight schedule. Take care out there.”

Of course. Speak to you later.”

Despite the abruptness of his call, Visionary spoke with a pleasant and polite tone. The phone call ended as Grandmaster walked past a hot drinks machine in the corridor.

MENU.

“Call Impetus.”

CALLING Agent Impetus (mobile).

The phone rang for half a minute before somebody answered.

My office is a short walk from yours, you know. There is no need for a phone call, Grandmaster”

“I’m not at my office, that’s why I’m calling you. Common sense, Impetus.”

That’s fair. You sound in a rush. Things have gotten busier for you?”

“I’m always in a rush. Listen, as much as I’d like to do this whole chit-chat and back and forth we normally have going on, I need less banter and more professionalism right now. What are you doing today?”

“Paperwork now and training later. You are about to ask me to do something for you, aren’t you?”

“I am, and i’ll owe you if you do.” Grandmaster stated.

Impetus considered. “You are a man of your word. What do you need?”

“Here’s the scoop. In the Burnham case, he mentioned the location of where the Fartouched animals were being held, as well as the computers that were stolen. Burnham said they were being tested on but he didn’t know why. Poor little bastards, can’t stand to think that animals have been hurt. I need you to get a Containment Squad and get out there today, in the next few hours. I want some eyes on the scene, and once you’ve found something, I need you to tell me what’s going on. I’d just rather have a voice I know at the scene, and I don’t have time to wait for reports.”

Impetus listened carefully. “I can do that. I’ll be honest with you, I could do with a change of pace. I feel restless.”

“That’s what we call a win-win. I can trust you to take care of this, so keep me updated.”

“I shall. You make it almost sound exciting. I’ll be in touch.”

Impetus dropped the line.

“We’re getting there. Getting closer now, I can feel it.”

Grandmaster finally made his way to his office and closed the door behind him. He removed his helmet again and left it sleeping on his desk as he sat in his chair. He ran his hands over his face, feeling the material of his armour against his skin.

“Let’s see if he was bluffing.” Grandmaster said, leaning back in his chair. “Your move, Burnham. Ball’s in your court.”

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