His name was Albert Smith, and he was the Spirit of Peace. So, I killed him.
Well, that’s what he claimed anyways. Called himself Brother Earth, and said the hippies were his children, his idea. I’m not sure why anyone would want to claim that, so I’ve never really doubted him.
I was still an agent then, back in the Sixties. They called me the best of the best, though I like to think I didn’t have a swelled head. Like my Father before me, I fought against a horde of self-named terrors, people and creatures who had come into some modicum of power through freak accident, or sometimes, hard work, and sought to use those powers to subjugate the human race. It was before my younger brother died, but after we’d had to lock up the youngest.
It was an… interesting time. The Foundation had stopped trying to make deals, or live alongside these monstrosities, and started putting them away for good. No more seeing what we could use, now was the time to put things away, and put them away hard. If we couldn’t contain them, they had to go, for the safety of mankind.
I can remember some of them, when I stop and think about it. The ones that they sent me to… finish. I was the Foundation’s hired gun, their executioner, walking up and down in the world, and meting out justice to those who deserved it. The names of the dead read like a list of late night horror matinees. The Shrieking Sister. Crawling Mentality. Danny Devious, the Deadly Diva. The Winter Wolf. All of them had been powers and principalities in their own right. All of them brought low under the barrel of my gun.
I had a gimmick. I hate to admit it now, in a time when we strive to not stand out. When one agent needs to be as bland and unobservable as any other. Some days, I regret the need for it, the need to iron out the strident personalities, but it helps, you know? If it feels like you’re facing down a monolith of uniformity, you start feeling burnt out quicker, and find it harder to keep fighting. I understand why the Council did, but sometimes, I miss the quirky ones. Hell. They’ll take my hat from me when they pry it from my cold, dead hands, no matter how much they whine that it doesn’t fit the theme.
My gimmick was a whole southern theme. A long slow drawl, a tendency to slur my speech, and, of course, the proper accouterments. My deed name was known to show up in the most unusual of places, and very few people linked the Southerner who could wear a suit to the Foundation's terror. I could blend in damn near anywhere, and immediately make friends. Even if I had to kill them.
I got the order to take out Brother Peace on a day like any other. If I recall correctly, I was relaxing at the ranch, a hard won break after dismantling the Scarlet Ghoulade. I remember, I was surprised that I was being offered the mission by Six. Usually, I got orders from a handler, or occasionally, my father. Six was the second member of the Council I had met, and he didn’t impress.
Six was a big man. Fat. The kind of fat you get by never doing anything. He was dressed in a silk black suit, and sweating in the heat before the choppers rotors had even stopped moving. If it had been a normal agent, or my usual handler, I would have given him shit for landing so close to the cattle pens, scaring my stock, but one look at this guy was more than enough to tell he had no sense of humor.
“Agent Vivid?” he asked, like he would’ve disembarked without knowing exactly who I was. I nodded my assent.
“That’s one of the names they call me. Can I help you mistah…” Letting my voice trail off, for him to fill in the blank.
“Six.” He said it like he expected a reaction from me, like I was suddenly supposed to kowtow before his great and mighty self. I shrugged, and stuck a dogeared cigarette in my mouth, taking the time to strike a match and light it. When he saw I wasn’t going to respond, he continued. “I am here with a mission of, utmost importance. We have a rogue asset that we need you to remove, immediately.” Always with the double speak, and weasel words. I just nodded my head, ready for him to continue.
He shoved a manila folder into my hands, clearly uncomfortable under my gaze. “Everything you need to know is here. The target is unrecoverable. It is to be removed with extreme prejudice, do you understand?” He wrung his fat hands together, more nervous than a hen at a meeting of Coyotes Anonymous.
I flipped through the briefing, picking up the important bits, here and there. Absently, as I took a drag on my smoke, and mostly just to annoy this man who was grating on my nerves, I drawled. “He.”
“What?” He looked at me like I was a bit of dung on the bottom of his shoe. I wasn’t going to tell him he’d already stepped in a pile when he got off the bird.
“You said it.” I flipped up a picture of the soon to be deceased. “Target’s a he.”
"Ah, no, Policy change. We've found it allows our researchers to experiment with less sense of guilt."
I pondered taking a stand. Doing something brave and stupid, like shooting a hole in his stupid coat, or spitting in his face. It’s the type of thing my admirers will tell you I did do. Sadly, I’ve always been a Company man, so I just lazily saluted, and stalked off. I could hear him blustering behind me, like I should have given him more, but I didn’t really care that much. I heard the chopper take off as I was grabbing my to-go bag. Thank god. I was happy years later when the fat man got torn apart. Less happy when they picked me to replace him.
I didn’t pack much. I never do. I’ve always been a little impetuous. Not planning, that’s the plan. The paperwork said Smith had run away from Site 19. Well, walked away. His particular little reality twist was that no one could take violent actions in his presence. Guns didn’t fire. Bombs didn’t explode. People refused to wield knives. He’d been real good at keeping the D-class in line, until something made him run.
Repeated readings of the info packet gave me no reason behind why he should run. Guess it didn’t really matter, but I do like a little inside knowledge of who I’m working on. Info said he’d found himself a little commune in California, and quickly risen to Godhood, at least in the eyes of the hippies there. I don’t normally fit in to hippy culture, but that was easy enough to fix. Let my hair hang loose, don’t shave for a couple of days, switch my jean shirt for a leather vest, and bam, instant hippy. The cowboy hat may have been a bit off, but I never worked without it. And of course, my trusty ivory-handled six shooters. I never go anywhere without them.
Getting into the commune was easy too. Just a matter of walking up to the gates, and saying I wanted to study with the master. I wasn’t the only one. Hundreds of people had started flocking to this place, having heard that Brother Earth was the new Guru of True Peace, or some shit like that. The guys at the entrance just waved me in, not worried about guns, or anything else.
I listened to Smith preach for a while. It wasn’t anything new, or different. A couple of times it sounded like he was talking about the Foundation itself. The Walls of Ignorance, the Jailers, the usual tripe you hear from those bastards in the Hand. I figured some of them had slipped into his retinue. I didn’t care. It wasn’t my job to look into that stuff.
Instead, I walked the camp, finding all the ins and outs. His sleeping place, the gardens, the quickest path away. It looked pretty simple. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder. I knew I could kill him at any time, and walk away in the confusion, but…
So, I snuck into his tent that night. People were in and out all the time, asking his favor, kissing his ass, sucking his dick. All the girls wanted to screw him, and all the boys wanted… much the same. Everyone gets tired, and he was no exception. Round about the time his close people were sending everyone away, I was slipping into the back. So when the good Brother Earth finally got around to heading to sleep, I was already sitting in his bed.
“I’m sorry my child,” he said, with a sleepy smile. “I am already exhausted, I need no company tonight.”
“But the Foundation misses you, Albert,” I replied with cool aplomb.
He paused then, looking me over, really taking me in. The sleep left his eyes, but he didn’t seem worried. “So. The Hand Sinister of the Council Itself. Come to drag me back to your den of depravity and evil, hmm?”
I arched an eyebrow at him, smirking despite myself. “After watching you and your followers, I believe you have the market cornered on depravity, Albert.”
“Brother Earth!” he hissed. “I am Brother Earth. And I am not going back. I have seen what they have done to those poor, deluded fools, and I will not be part of it.” He strode towards me, glaring down at me in a poor attempt to intimidate me. “And you can’t make me go back.”
“I’m not here to make you go back, Al. They don’t want you back. They want you dead.” He waved me off, as if I was inconsequential. “I’m just curious as to why you ran in the first place. You must have known they’d kill you.”
“I ran because… Because I am the Spirit of Peace. I was born on this world to help mankind grow, to turn their back on their murderous ways. I am here as a promise, that the Earth has not forgotten her children, that we can live together. We do not need to kill each other to survive, we can work together!” He stabbed a finger at me, glaring imperiously. “And you can do nothing to stop me, Hand Sinister!”
I hated that name. Of all the code names I had, that one always struck me as the dumbest. Hell, just calling me Left Hand would’ve been better. I was frustrated, and bored, so I shot him in the foot.
He dropped to the ground, shock written on his face.
“How… how…” He gasped, unbelieving. I grinned, absently stroking the handle of my revolver. I could have told him the guns were special made, I could have let him know who the bone that was inset in the handle was actually from… But I don’t monologue. I simply lowered my gun to press against his forehead. He shivered, clearly afraid, his eyes crossed to look at the gun barrel.
I noticed some of his people pushing into the tent. They froze, staring dumbfounded at the scene, and I ignored them. The biggest one stepped forward, then stopped, the veins standing out on his neck.
“I know! I know what they do to the D-class, I saw what they fed them to! I would not be that thing, not anymore! Kill me if you must, but-” And I shot him. I’d heard enough, and he was just going to keep ranting, hoping someone would save him. Better to end it now, when I had what I needed. The big guy dropped to his knees, tears in his eyes. The rest of his followers ran in terror, expecting to be next. I couldn't help but pat the big man on the shoulder as I left. After all, he did his best.
I left the same way I came in. No one stopped me. I could hear the wailing rise as I passed through the front gate. My admirers would have said I smiled, but death is never something to smile about. I heard they enshrined him, hoping the peace effect would linger. Good luck, I say.
Six was grateful for my actions. Gave me a raise. And the standard admonition not to talk about it with anyone.
When I became O5 in his place they told me what they did to the D-class. I didn’t like it any more than old Albert had. The difference is, I didn’t run away. I did what I always do. I studied the problem. I set pieces in motion. Everything I’ve done since then, the increase in containments, the Keter breach in 19, the up scaling of the MTFs, and, yes, even Pandora’s Box, all of it has been towards the goal of removing something most of the Council still sees as a vital necessity.
And you are the last part, the very last piece I need. A very special blood flows in you, Miss Argent, my brothers blood, and, more importantly, you’ve had all the training you need. So tell me.
Will you take up my guns?