"Mister Hoover, your two o' clock is ready for you."
It was the usual thing. J. Edgar Hoover's people took him down to one of the lower levels, in a rickety old elevator. They had a few re-purposed basements like these. Places where Hoover, or an aide, or some random agent who happened to look tough, could take anyone new to the power and show them how to behave. Today, though, there was somebody waiting for him. A smallish man, with an ill-fitting suit and sunglasses. His hair was a short flat-top, with perky ears poking from either side. He held a briefcase, and stood behind a small card table.
"Hello, Mister Director, sir. My name is… Agent Fredericks, and I'm with the Unusual Incidents Unit."
Hoover smiled genially at the man, and nodded for him to continue.
"Uhm…" he clicked a briefcase, and reached inside. "I have… a few things to show you, sir. We've recently had an incident, out in Utah. A crash site. I can show you some photos…"
"Please." Hoover took a seat at the table.
Fredericks reached inside, and spread three large photos on the table. Hoover smiled at him, then peered at the thin sheets of information.
One, the first one, the biggest one, was a crater. A hot, fresh crater, out from Utah, if the boy was being honest. Inside of it was some sort of capsule. With antennae and a small, probably Red, hammer and sickle embossed in the metal. There was a heck of a lot of smoke coming out of it.
Second photo was men in radiation suits pulling a small animal out of it. It was a dog, or maybe something like a wolf. Hoover sighed. It was a shame, really, that such a wonderful creature would have such messy origins. It almost looked like a dog, like one of the ones he'd loved throughout his life. But it wasn't. It was a hair spreading, flea carrying, vomit on the carpet disease of an animal that Hoover paid a nice woman to deal with for him.
The third one was all the men melting out of their masks.
He tapped it with his cane. “What is this?”
"I… well… we're not, uh, sure, sir, but…”
Hoover touched Frederick's arm in an almost motherly way. "Just relax, and tell me what I need to know."
Fredericks took a breath, closed his eyes, and nodded. "That was the last photo we recovered. At the site. The dog was gone."
“Beg your pardon?”
“I'm sorry… but, what happened is, the crater became extremely radioactive… once we removed the dog. When another team could be sent out, it was gone.”
“Who did we lose?” Hoover tensed, squaring his face at the young man before him.
“Contractors. We couldn't get any of our men out there in time, so we had to hire some, uh locals.” Fredericks winced as he said it.
Hoover leaned back. "Well, thank the lord for small favors."
Fredericks shrugged with one shoulder. "There's another thing…"
Hoover stopped reclining. "Yes?"
"Well… well, if you'll look at these papers, you can see for yourself. Some, well, everyone who's see it thinks it's a pretty significant… event."
Hoover looked up from the sheaf of papers, to Fredericks, then back to the papers, and frowned loudly.
On the paper, there was a photo, burnt but not destroyed. It had been taken automatically, from proximity, after the men in the crater had melted. It showed three men in long, black coats. They were lifting the dog up and holding it aloft.
"This is a hell of a thing, isn't it?"
"Yes, it is."
"Are they GRU-P men?"
"We don't know, sir, but it's a possibility."
Hoover nodded, and stood up. "I'll get you booked for a flight home today. You've got a lot of work to do."
Above them, a camera slowly slithered out of a freshly drilled hole, and back up to two dirty Americans sitting in a damp, dripping and very humid storage room. The scrawnier of the two, the man, pulled the wire up out of the hole before wrapping it in a bandana and stuffing it in his jacket.
The woman got up from the wet ground and patted her knees with a dry rag. She hissed at her companion. "Well? How did it go?"
Jules patted his jacket down and wiped his brow. "I got him, images and audio, but we might have a… difficulty. Either someone is onto us, or we're not the first ones here."
His wife looked at him, frowning quietly.
"Someone else, uh, they drilled through this first. When I tried the hand crank, it went through like butter. Somebody filled this in with… something. Looks like concrete, but a lot softer."
Ethel's eyes took an an intense glare, as she dropped back to the ground and pored over the recently re-covered hole. "Are you serious?"
Julius, glancing anxiously at the door, spat his words at her. "You're looking at it, aren't you?!"
Ethel rose, and shot him an angry glance. "What do we do now?"
Julius glanced out the door. "We're going to walk out and pretend nothing happened. I don't think we've been compromised. Just… we're not as original as we thought."
As she walked towards him, Ethel crossed her arms. "So… do we tell Semenov?"
"I think we're going to keep this to ourselves, for now. We're going to walk out, and we can discuss this over tea later. Okay?"
She nodded. "There weren't any problems taping it, though?"
Jules chuckled. "Don't forget that I'm a professional."
He pushed open the door, and with that, they scurried out, quietly as they'd arrived. They had a lot of work to do.
The flight was uneventful, save for the fact that the Director of the FBI rode with a junior agent to a top secret facility. If that was eventful, then this flight was definitely unusual. But they arrived without incident, and an unremarkable secret black car drove them to an unremarkable warehouse that held a secret government facility.
As they got out of the car, Hoover's entourage crowded around the man, walking in step with him as he followed Agent Fredericks into the warehouse. The inside was a pure, sterile white, with a ceiling stretching high enough for clouds to form, if they allowed the weather to get in. Around them, men in suits sat at oak desks, scratching down notes with number two pencils. It was like any other office, save for the huge steel cages scattered on wheels around the facility.
"So, are you going to be showing me what you've all been working on?"
Fredericks, his eyes pointed straight ahead, nodded.
"Good. I've not been this way in a while, so it'll be nice to catch up with the boys. Have you been working on much, besides this dog case?"
Hoover reached up and tapped his shoulder. "Are you alright, son?"
"Oh, what? Yeah, yeah… it's just, I didn't think you'd want to come see things personally. People are going to be surprised."
Hoover chuckled. "Hopefully a pleasant surprise, yes?"
Fredericks nodded, and led them all to the closest steel cage. "This is… something we've recovered from Florida… it's a snail-person, and if, uh, you talk to it, it makes you into a snail."
Inside the cage, there was indeed a man, dripping with snot with a hard carapace nailed to his back with great granite nails. His eyes, stuck on stalks, swiveled and peered at the assembled audience. Fortunately, it couldn't speak. They'd taken off the mouth.
Hoover wrinkled his nose. "It's disgusting."
Fredericks nodded. "It's a damnable thing. Everyone who we talked to, who'd been affected, they could still talk. They were all really happy about it."
"Well, we did a background check on some of them. Nothing suspicious, but we thought we ought to anyways. I'm sure you, uh, agree, sir."
“You can never be too careful in this day and age. There's reds, and fairies, and they're everywhere. You know, just the other day, they implicated some men I used to work with? I'd called them 'colleagues', and they turned out to be… deviant."
"I hear that, sir."
"Have you seen the hearings? It’s much, much worse than we thought. That’s why your mission is so, so important, both to me on a personal level, and to this nation.”
Fredericks blinked. "Thank you, sir. Shall we go on?"
"Please. We've got to get started. They've already got started, and we've got to get the jump on Them before they get the jump on us. Again."
Ian Walsh sat next to Fredericks as the latter drove the same old black Ford back up to Zion. They had a Geiger counter between them, and nothing else of note. It was at least a hundred degrees outside the car, so he hoped that they could find this mutt quick.
They pulled to a crunching stop, right at the precipice. Walsh got out first and peered into the hole. It still looked like a pile of dirt at the bottom of a dirt hole, with some metal chunks tossed in for show. The boys had carted out most everything else.
Fredericks came up behind him holding a sack of their equipment. "Nice to be back, huh? Especially since it's real now. Not a wild goose chase."
"Yeah, sure. Nice." Walsh could already feel himself sweating like a pig. "So, you want to do the Geiger counter, or the cage?"
Fredericks hefted the sack, and placed it onto the ashy ground. "Geiger counter, I guess…"
"Alright. So when we see the thing, wave the treat around, and try to get it in the cage. Hopefully it doesn't melt us. Don't touch it, though. We're just here to bag it. No need for anyone to get touchy."
"Whatever you say." Fredericks said disinterestedly, as held the counter aloft, and squinted at it. "Uh…"
"Do you know how to use a Geiger counter?"
"Just give me a minute."
Walsh tapped his foot on the ground as the junior agent angled the counter around. He was animated, shimmying and swaying his arms. Through the haze, Ian thought he might be seeing double.
It's too damned hot out here.
Fredericks pointed towards some brush. "Okay… counter says it's maybe this way?"
Without a word, Walsh began trudging towards it. He peered through the heat haze, looking for movement. If the dog was in there, it didn't have too many places to hide.
As soon as he'd taken his next step, it ambled out of the bushes. Panting like crazy, dirty as hell, but looking happy to see them.
The dog froze.
Fredericks waved his geiger counter.
"Don't make any sudden moves," hissed Walsh. "It's right here."
Slowly, he set the trap down, treat and water inside. He backed up, crouching and ready to sprint if the dog so much as sneezed.
It went into the kennel, and began lapping up water. The door snapped shut, but it didn't seem to notice. Water was more important than snappy noises, anyways.
Fredericks grinned. "Nice work!"
Walsh wiped his brow, his face turning up in a worried grimace. "Didn't think it'd be that easy… you have the radio, right?"
"It's in the car."
"Call the baggers up. We're done here."
There was only one thing Hoover was interested in today.
He'd been waiting around the UIU offices to get a look at this beast for the better part of four days, and he'd been up all night for three of them. He wasn't in any mood for a sightseeing tour.
He marched through the offices, going straight past the Lamprey-skinned man, whose slippery flesh might've otherwise occupied his attention all day.
Hoover went stomping past the endless waterfall, which occasionally disgorged whole catfish, fish, and cats. They even came with their shots.
He even ignored the mirror of a thousand bodies, which showed every dead body you'd come within one mile of in your lifetime. They'd all ask about your day and made very genial conversation.
It posed no interest to him today.
Hoover walked up besides Agent Fredericks and peered into the cage. "This here is the Red dog?"
Fredericks nodded. "Yes sir! Special Agent Walsh and I captured it this morning."
"Good… Very good work. Have you got it all processed?"
"We couldn't really touch it. At least… not till we studied it. So we had to corral it into a weighing room to get its measurements, among other things, like checking for mites, and such. But, it's all done now."
"Was it a tough catch?"
"… Yes, sir, but we got it in the end." Fredericks smiled.
"You'll be hearing from my office soon, Agent. I'm very interested in this case."
"We know, Director."
"Good night to you, son."
With that, Hoover donned his hat. His entourage worked quickly, packing up their things and getting the contact information from their agents. But before too long, they were through, and Hoover boarded a plane heading for headquarters. Work had been done.
J. Edgar had restless dreams that night.
As he floated in the violet void, the elementary school teachers casually circled through the childhood pets, all mashed together into a single mass of paws, ears, and one compiled face embodying cute friendliness. It was panting at him, and the pants were asking for his math homework.
A floating tongue manifested itself, slobbering all over the loose leaf. "Did you catch them, Daddy? Did you catch the bad guys?"
Hoover groaned. "I'm working on it, honey. I'm working on it."
Then, he woke up.