“You’ll get used to the blindfold, kid, don’t worry,” Captain Black reassures the latest recruit—well, potential recruit—as he steers him into the Section 13 headquarters. “It’s just a precaution. We do this to everyone.”
The new recruit nods, a wry smile on his face. “At some point, I am actually going to see how to get here, right?”
“Of course!” Captain Black exclaims. “But as long as you’re not technically a member of Section 13—the blindfold stays on.”
The rookie nods in agreement and Captain Black doesn’t take off the blindfold until they’re well inside the building.
“So what’s the hardest part of this job?” He asks, his voice light and eyes laughing.
He laughs like Captain Black is joking. Poor kid. He’ll find out if he stays long enough.
“C’mon, I’ll give you the tour.”
In retrospect, he should have told the rookie not to touch anything.
Captain Black is not entirely sure what happened.
This is what he knows: he turned his back while he was showing the new recruit the lab. It was only for a minute (which is honestly more time than it usually takes for Jade to get in trouble), but he heard something go boom in the background.
When he turns back around, the new recruit is covered in some kind of golden powder, coughing. For that matter, so is Captain Black. And the room.
“What just happened?” Captain Black asks cautiously.
“I don’t know,” the new recruit says. “I just touched this piece of paper and—”
That’s when things get bad.
He’s dueling a skeleton. An animated skeleton—because an inanimate one would just be weird, of course. Captain Black has no clue where it came from; it quite literally just appeared out of thin air. For that matter, he isn’t entirely sure where he got the sword as well.
But still—dueling a skeleton; weird, troublesome but, well, kind of cool. He’s pretty sure Jackie never did this—but he wouldn’t want to make erroneous assumptions.
“I didn’t know you could sword fight, sir!” The rookie shouts. “Do they teach you that here?”
“Not really. It’s more like on-the-job training,” he says, dodging the skeleton’s surprisingly good aiming skills. How does he even see, Captain Black wants to ask, but enough time with Jackie has taught him not to question such matters. “Trust me, this really isn’t that bad. Days here aren’t usually this lively.”
The rookie keeps shouting stuff as the skeleton’s sword grazes Captain Black’s arm.
“Do you think you can tell me this when I’m not in a battle of life or death with Bones here?”
After, the rookie starts apologizing profusely, for the distraction and touching the piece of paper—which he somehow got into his head caused the animated skeleton.
“Don’t worry about it, kid,” Captain Blacks says gently, smiling at him. “One time I touched something I shouldn’t have and got turned into a frog.”
The rookie just stares at him, wide-eyed and unblinking (that look will become familiar in time).
“That kind of stuff happens around here,” he responds, not unkindly. “We don’t really talk about it much, but…you get used to it.” He shrugs, as calm and laid-back as he can so the kid doesn’t start to freak out.
He keeps staring.
And then they’re both distracted by another miniature explosion down the hall. A quick glance reveals what looks like hundreds of tiny, green creatures converging on the floor. They’re tittering and making unsettling chirping noises as they start crawling up the walls and hiding in the ceiling.
“Whoa, Nelly,” Captain Black mutters. Now that is weird. What are the odds of two clearly mystical occurrences in Section 13 on the same day?
“Are those…what are those?” The poor rookie asks. He looks like he’s had enough for the day.
Captain Black shrugs. “Goblins? Doesn’t matter, we got work to do.”
Captain Black wonders what heathen god he angered that the events of today have gone downhill so quickly. What had he done to earn this kind of karmic retribution? Was he unfairly strict to an agent? Did he inflame the ire of his superiors (entirely possible, with all the shady reports he turns in)? Perhaps it was drinking the last of the coffee before Uncle got to have any the other day.
“Is that it?” The rookie asks, panting as he traps the last of the goblins—or whatever they are—in a spare room. “Are we done?”
“There could be more, but I think we got most of them.”
“How do we get rid of them?”
“I don’t know,” he says. “We need to call Jackie.”
“Jackie?” The rookie asks, but Captain Black is already on the move.
They exit the room, and run into his agents battling a giant scorpion.
“This just keeps getting stranger,” Captain Black says, head tilted to the side in suspicion.
“Oh? I hadn’t realized,” the rookie replies in what’s probably intended to be sarcasm, but he doesn’t have the bite for it and it comes out more breathless and dazed than anything else.
Fifteen minutes and one unconscious mutant scorpion later, Captain Black finally manages to call Jackie.
“What is it, Jackie? Shendu? More demons? A mischief spirit? Some kind of trickster? Or—”
“Sorryfightingdemonstalklater!” he says very quickly, and hangs up.
That was supremely not helpful.
“I thought you said he could help,” the rookie says, and then quiets down when Captain Black shoots him a narrowed-eye stare.
He calls again and this time, Jade picks up.
“Hi, Captain Black!” she says cheerfully, and not all panicked by the demons Jackie was fighting. Then again, Jackie battling monsters is something Jade would watch with a smile on her face while she chewed popcorn and waved pom-poms.
“What’s going on, Jade? Section 13 is being overrun by—well, I don’t know by what, everything. Is it demons or spirits or—”
“Yeah, it’s happening here, too, Jackie just fought an evil clown,” she says in that same cheerful tone. “Don’t worry, Jackie will take care of it.”
“Yes, but what is going—”
There’s rustling sound and someone snatches the phone away. Captain Black is greeted by the not-so-dulcet tones of Uncle’s voice. “Captain, there is no time to talk! I must prepare a spell!”
Despite the shouting, there is no panic or worry in Uncle’s voice. Just annoyance.
“But what is happening?” Captain Black asks. “Section 13 has gone completely haywire and—”
“Spirits, obviously!” Uncle goes on. “What else? Evil spirits out to cause mischief!”
“But how do we stop it?”
“How can I stop it when you won’t stop bothering me? I need to prepare the spell!”
“Just wait! Stay where you are!” he interrupts. “I will fix it, as soon as I find the right spell!”
“So what, I’m supposed to hole up in a room with my agents and wait for it to blow over?”
“Yes!” he shouts, and hangs up without a goodbye.
Well. Alright, then.
Corralling Section 13’s agents in one single room is a lot more difficult than it sounds. It took fighting more giant bugs, outrunning a tornado, trying to calm several agents (many of which who were in denial over Section 13’s weirder cases) and then chasing down and locking up what appeared to be his giggling, evil doppelganger (now, that was unsettling) before they finally managed the feat.
“At least this doppelganger was easier to handle than last time,” he says, stepping into the elevator.
The poor rookie’s eyes are in a permanent state of shock, pupils wide and dilated. “Last time?” he asks, voice shaking.
“It doesn’t happen often. Really, just that one time. And well, this one.”
The elevator gives a sudden lurch before it stops completely. Both of them stare at the doors in disbelief.
“Did that just happen?” The rookie asks. “That didn’t just happen, right?”
“That must be the universe’s way of telling us we should have taken the stairs,” Captain Black says with a sigh. He sits down on the floor, cross-legged and resigned. “I suppose we’re safer in here, anyway.”
“Because being trapped in a hovering steel box is always a good thing,” the rookie responds. His voice is no longer shaking, but it holds a slight maniac edge now.
“You know, it could be a lot worse,” Captain Black says, trying to reassure him. “At least it’s not like that time everyone got turned into rats.”
The rookie does not reply. He does not seem to find this reassuring in the slightest, but nonetheless, he sits down on the floor with Captain Black anyway.
Then he says, “I have to go to the bathroom.”
It takes hours, but at last, the elevators start working again. When they finally get out of elevator, they’re both stiff from sitting too still and relieved to be out. That is, until a small, transparent dragon attacks them both.
“It’s not that bad!” Captain Black repeats, as they dodge the flames shooting from its mouth.
“You keep saying that!” The recruit shouts. “I don’t think it means what you think it means!”
“You know, this is just a bad day. It’s not always like this,” Captain Black says.
The rookie is covered in a viscous, green substance, with an expression of perpetual shock glued to his face. Captain Black is covered in a similar substance, but purple instead and much less stunned.
The dragon sort of just…disappeared. Faded out of existence. Captain Black takes that to mean that Uncle’s spell was successful.
How lucky for them both, because Captain Black wasn’t sure if he could handle a dragon, even a small one. But there’s no need to tell that to the already-alarmed rookie.
“Really,” he continues. “I promise.”
The rookie nods, his eyes distant and not truly present. He still doesn’t say anything.
“Hey, consider yourself lucky. You don’t have to deal with the paperwork. Can you imagine how I’m going to have to spin this report to my bosses?”
“The paperwork is the hardest part of the job,” the rookie says, nodding in a disturbingly numb fashion.
Captain Black winces. “Why don’t you take the rest of the week off?” Then he pauses, reconsiders. “But when you’re come back, I’d say you’re officially part of the team.”
That brings a shaky smile to the rookie’s face, but he still walks away like his legs are about to give out from under him, swaying as he moves. Captain Black doesn’t bother to blindfold him and lead him out—he’s seen enough.
He turns back around takes in the mess of Section 13: the broken doors and shattered glass and countless and countless of tax payer dollars that would go into repairing all of this. He can just picture explaining this to his superiors; it’s not a pretty picture. It makes him want to crawl into his bed and pretend this never happened.
The kid is lucky, really. He gets to go home.
Captain Black sighs and goes to fill out the massive amount of paperwork necessary.