Doctor Matthews sat back in his chair, sighing some and rubbing his eyes. Why the hell had they dragged him out of bed so early? He stifled a yawn and smiled as his field partner, an agent named Stimson, sat down next to him, leaning back in his own chair with a similar expression on his face.
"We shouldn't have been out drinking so late…" Stimson whispered.
Matthews laughed a little, looking at the slowly filling auditorium. "I know," he replied. "We should have just gone to bed and woken up ready to work," he said. "It's only our day off, after all…"
Stimson shook his head some. "God… Did you see those two research assistants from Site-11?" he asked. Matthews leaned forward a bit, nodding. "You get their numbers?" he asked. Stimson laughed. "Got more than that… You should have stuck around…"
Matthews grit his teeth for a moment in frustration. "Damnit, Stimson… Why the hell do you tell me these things?" he asked.
Stimson snickered as a finger struck a microphone, calling for attention. Matthews sat back in his chair, looking toward the stage as a man in an impeccable suit stepped out, looking at them all and nodding. "Hello," he said, his voice an odd mix of intonations. "I want to welcome you all this morning and apologize for getting you up so early…"
Stimson rolled his shoulder a little bit as Matthews leaned over, whispering in his ear. "Who is this guy?" he asked.
Stimson shrugged as the man on stage continued. "I wanted to talk with you all for a moment… about our mission. It's important, you know… very, very important…"
Matthews frowned. Why the hell was this guy speaking like that? he thought, rubbing the bridge of his nose for a moment. He shook his head, trying again to clear the haze of sleep and drink.
Stimson leaned close again. "Isn't he an O5?" he asked.
Matthews shook his head, squinting his eyes tightly, trying to concentrate on the words again. "… all of them must be collected. The plan must proceed as scheduled…"
Stimson nodded. "Yeah, he's an O5… I'm sure of it."
The other shook his head again. "No, he isn't…" Matthews said. "I've seen the O5's…" He sniffed at the air a little, wondering why he suddenly smelled popcorn.
"… and as soon as we've got them all collected, contained… Our work will have finally begun. We cannot let them stop us, slow us down…"
Matthews head ached for a sharp moment, blood running from a nostril as his temples throbbed. He brought his palms to his eyes, shocked to feel his heart beating through them. And then… a sudden pain just behind his right ear, and he slumped backwards.
"We will serve. Contain. Protect," the man intoned. "And then… We can begin."
Everyone started clapping their hands together as the speech ended. Everyone except Matthews and two or three others scattered throughout the crowd. Stimson rose, clapping hard, trying to make his own applause heard over the others. When he heard the chant, he cursed inwardly for not thinking of it himself first, but picked it up nonetheless:
"Thirteen! Thirteen! Thirteen! Thirteen!"