Chapter 1: Monarch
The sky was a dusty pink as the sun barely began to rise. James Conrad stepped out the door of his flat as the chill of the autumn air raised goosebumps on his skin. He breathed in the crisp air, mentally preparing for his morning ritual.
And then he took off.
His feet hit the pavement at a steady rythym as he ran, the normally crowded streets of London mostly empty in the early morning hours. It was quiet, peaceful. So peaceful, in fact, that one could actually hear himself think.
Which was the plan all along.
It had been a month since the expedition to Skull Island. To say the experience had been life-changing would have been an understatement. When Conrad had arrived on the island, he had been a cynical decommissioned soldier just looking for a payday. But the man who left that island...
He had a newfound purpose, something to work toward, for the first time in years.
When the survivors of Skull Island had made it to the mainland, Conrad and Mason Weaver, a photojournalist who had been recruited for the expedition, were held in an interrogation room, anticipating that whoever had endorsed the expedition to Skull Island was looking to intimidate them into silence.
Not that they needed to try very hard. Weaver had already confided to Conrad that she didn't plan on telling anyone, despite her empty threat to tell the Russians.
But rather than an interrogation, Houston Brooks and San Lin, two scientists who had also survived the island, debriefed Conrad and Weaver about Monarch, the secret organization behind the exploration of Skull Island. They revealed that Kong, the 90 foot ape that they found on the island, was part of a class of beings called Titans. Several different species of Titans had been discovered throughout history, and Monarch was dedicated to the study and preservation of these creatures.
And now they were looking to recruit Conrad and Weaver for the cause.
It had been a lot of information to process, the idea that there were more creatures like Kong on this earth. Conrad had stood mere feet from the giant ape, and had been in awe of his presence. He had seen the protective and non-threatening nature of Kong, and knew that if there were others like him, these creatures needed to be protected from the general public.
Which led to what he was doing back in England after so many years.
Brooks had told Conrad of an excavation that took place in Japan that unearthed fossils of Mothra, a Titan with the appearance of a giant moth. They had found what appeared to be skeletal remains and a fossilized egg. These findings were sent to a secure warehouse, where they would be flown to a research lab in California.
They never even made it on the plane.
The artifacts had been stolen from the warehouse the night before they were to be shipped out, and the description of the suspected thieves were very generic: Male, medium build, Asian. Not a lot to go on.
But the tracker was determined.
Conrad flew out to Japan to look around the dig site, hoping to find some clue as to whether the thieves had been lying in wait, preparing to make their move. This search, however, turned up little to nothing.
His next step was back to England, where he discreetly spoke to some of his old contacts. Again, this turned up nothing. No sign of the artifacts going through customs, or being confiscated at the borders. Most of the people he spoke to were just shocked to see him.
Thought you were dead.
In a way.
He went over all of this in his mind as he reached the bank of the Thames, stopping to look out over the water and the city.
What are we missing? Is there something we overlooked?
At that moment, a black town car pulled up to the street closest to the bank.
Conrad, although his thoughts were elsewhere, was a man who was constantly on alert. He heard the car pull up, then the cut of the engine, and the opening and shutting of the doors. The footsteps on the pavement were barely audible over the waves.
“Captain Conrad” he heard a voice call from behind him.
With a twinge of annoyance in his voice, he replied “It's just Conrad”
He turned around to see two government agents walking towards him.
“Mr. Conrad, you're going to have to come with us, please” the first man spoke.
Conrad knitted his brows. “What's this about?”
Both men pulled out their ID badges.
“MI6. We need to ask you some questions back at headquarters.” the second man answered.
Conrad seemed to weigh his options for a moment, then nodded.
This is either really good or really bad.
He walked towards the town car, the agents flanking him on either side. Climbing into the back seat, his mind raced with questions as the car pulled away from the curb.
Chapter 2: MI6
Conrad's patience was starting to wear. Judging from the clock on the wall, he had been here for about 2 hours. The two agents- Perkins and Garrett were their names, he had learned- had put him in this interrogation room, and he hadn't seen them since.
A few questions, my ass.
He went through all the logical reasons as to why he was in this room. Did he ruffle a few too many feathers with his questions about the artifacts? His contacts had been told that he was simply doing a favor for a friend. He was certain that if he started tossing the name “Monarch” around, the consensus would be that he had gone completely mental.
And that's before you mention the giant ape.
At that moment, Agent Garrett walked in, holding files in his hands. Garrett looked to be around Conrad's age, with dark hair and eyes and an olive complexion. He sat on the opposite side of the table, the files splayed out in front of him.
“Mr. Conrad….” Garrett began as he opened a file in front of him. “You have made quite a name for yourself.”
Conrad remained still in his seat, silent as he waited for Garrett to continue.
“Exemplary service to the British SAS…. glowing letters of recommendation from your commanding officers when you were promoted to Captain...hold on.”
Conrad tensed. His service file. He knew what was coming next.
Garrett continued “...it says here that your last mission resulted in the deaths of two of your men, and that you resigned shortly after.”
Conrad's voice was flat. “Ambush. The civilian we were sent to recover was also killed.”
“Hmmm.” Garrett continued to study the file.
Conrad place his elbows on the table and leaned forward. “As much as I'm enjoying this trip down memory lane,” he remarked sarcastically. “You want to tell me what I'm really doing here?”
Garrett closed the file lazily and reached for another. “Do you recognize anything on this document?” He placed the file in front of Conrad, rotating it to face him. The document appeared to be a shipping roster with several items on it.
Case of M-16s....1000 rounds of ammunition....Bulletproof vests....
Conrad looked up at Garrett, who was waiting for Conrad's reaction.
“Word about town is that you, Mr. Conrad, have been inquiring about items very similar to these dinosaur fossils.”
Conrad narrowed his eyes slightly. “I'm not in the mood for games, Mr. Garrett. If you know where these artifacts are, it's in your best interest to tell me.”
Garrett leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms smugly. “Actually Mr. Conrad, it's in my best interest to know why a former soldier such as yourself is somehow involved with an international MI6 investigation.”
Conrad's face was one of confusion. “Beg your pardon?”
Garrett pointed at the file open on the table. “Not only do you apparently have access to classified information on the case, but the subject of this investigation seems to know who you are.”
Garrett held Conrad’s service file in his hand. “This file was flagged by our government for a background check in the Philippines two days ago. It was ordered by a Mr. Manuel Yu. Ever heard of him?”
Conrad was absolutely dumbstruck. “Manuel Yu? As in the Filipino Mafia? Of course I've heard of him. And before you ask, no. I have no earthly idea why he is running a check on me.”
“Well let me ask a simpler question. Where did you get the information about the fossils?” Garrett asked.
Conrad contemplated what to say, when the door opened. In the doorway stood Perkins, a lean young man with red hair and green eyes, with an apologetic look on his face. “Erm...Garrett, a word please.”
Garrett glanced at Conrad before stepping outside to speak with Perkins, shutting the door behind him. Conrad sighed.
Then he heard shouting.
“What do you mean he's level 6??”
“Keep your voice down! It just came down on the wire.”
The door opened again, and Garrett stood in the doorway, looking rather red in the face, but mostly composed.
“If you will kindly follow me to the conference room, Mr. Conrad. There's apparently been a miscommunication.”
- - - - - - -
10 minutes later, Conrad sat at the conference room table, as Garrett brought in a box, from which he pulled several files to lay on the table. Perkins stood in the corner, pouring coffee. Once both men were seated across from him, the door was locked, and coffee was distributed around the table, Garrett spoke.
“Mr. Conrad, I'm afraid there's been a misunderstanding. We were not aware of your status with Monarch.”
Conrad's eyebrows shot up. “I was under the impression that no one knew of Monarch’s existence.”
Garrett and Perkins shared a look, and Perkins spoke. “A few people in our agency are aware it exists, but only on a need-to-know basis. Once these fossils came into the picture, we were put in contact with Monarch.”
Conrad sat with his arms crossed. “I'm assuming they didn't tell you they had someone looking into it from their end?”
Garrett pursed his lips. “They did….however they were not forthcoming with the details.”
Perkins added, “Monarch didn't confirm your status as one of their agents until moments ago. Based on your mercenary background in Southeast Asia, we were cautious. We weren't certain if you were Monarch... or a spy for Mr. Yu.”
Conrad wore a look of annoyance. “Well I can assure you, I'm not spying for a Filipino crime boss. In fact, Mr. Yu and I have never crossed paths that I'm aware of.”
Garrett nodded. “We know that now. Our apologies.”
Conrad shrugged. “No harm done.” He paused for a moment. “I guess that leads to my next question.”
Garrett responded, “Ask away.”
“Since when does MI6 have an active investigation on Manuel Yu?” Conrad asked. “Last I heard, every government agency from here to Hong Kong has been trying to gain solid evidence against him with no success.”
Garrett opened a file. “A few months ago, our agency started receiving these.” He laid out documents on the table. “They’re journal entries of some sort. They detail meetings with Manuel Yu and several of his associates, most of them suspected mafia members. There's also mention of secret meetings between Yu and the president of the Philippines.”
Conrad looked up from the document. “Ferdinand Marcos? There's a match made in hell.”
Perkins smirked. “Got that right. A tyrant and an international criminal in the same room together? It reeks of disaster.”
Garrett moved to another file, opening it and displaying it on the table. “These are detailed shipping invoices, much like the ones I showed you earlier. You can see that there are some...interesting items listed.”
Conrad leaned forward to look at the invoices, glancing at what was listed. Guns and ammo, just like the first, but then…
He looked up at Garrett. “This number has to be incorrect.”
Garrett shook his head. “We’re going off the assumption that it's not.”
Conrad was shocked. “10 tons. Of cocaine.”
Garrett nodded. “Correct.”
Conrad shook his head, chuckling darkly. “Well boys, I'd say you've got enough to lock our boy Yu up for, oh, at least three decades.”
Garrett and Perkins shared a look.
“Actually…” Perkins spoke up. “This alone isn't enough to indict him.”
Conrad narrowed his eyes. “What do you mean?”
“This information we showed you…” Garrett said. “It came from a source within Yu’s compound. However, in order to charge him, we have to have physical proof.”
Conrad raised a brow. “In other words, this source of yours has to lead you right to where he keeps his drugs and guns. Oh, and somehow catch Yu, Marcos and all these other blokes in the same room together.”
“That would be the dream scenario, yes.” Perkins said.
Conrad glanced at the box that Garrett had pulled files from. “I gather that this is just the tip of the iceberg?”
Perkins chuckled. “If everything the source has sent is true, we've got him on a myriad of charges.” He started counting off on his finger. “Grand theft, possession with intent to distribute, money laundering, extortion, conspiracy to commit murder…”
Conrad nodded. He had encountered some pretty corrupt people in the last few years as a mercenary, but the stories he had heard about Manuel Yu were really horrendous. The man was cruel and merciless- there were rumors that the people of Manila and the surrounding communities of the main island were bullied into accepting Yu’s “protection” for a very steep price.
And anyone who didn't pay the fine? Mysteriously drowned in the ocean, or found with a bullet between the eyes.
Add in the evidence in front of him, and it was safe to say that Yu was a major player in the drug running business in Southeast Asia.
The man was a cold-blooded criminal, and Conrad only had one question nagging his brain.
“So what does he want with me?” Conrad asked the two men sitting across the table.
Garrett responded. “Well, considering he ran a background check on you, we're assuming that he is... looking to hire your services.”
Conrad raised an eyebrow. “That seems a little odd. Yu seems to be the type of man to keep his employees of the local variety, shall we say.”
Perkins nodded. “Agreed. However there's a possibility that Yu is aware that someone is leaking this information and is suspicious of his own people. He might be looking to outside sources. Combine that with your experience in that part of the world and he might see you as a viable candidate.”
Conrad sat back in his chair. “So, what do we do now?”
Garrett drank his coffee. “We wait for Yu to make his move. Then we go from there.”
Conrad sighed. “Can't wait.”
Chapter 3: Manuel
Author's Note: Just in case anyone gets confused in this chapter because there was a lot of formatting:
Dialogue inside parentheses <()> indicates a 2nd person's dialogue on a phone call. Italics indicate thoughts.
Hope this clears up confusion since this chapter has a lot going on.
Thanks for reading!
The television played the morning news in the background. Conrad, freshly showered and changed into a flannel shirt and jeans, stood at the stove, frying eggs and sausage in the pan.The morning had been odd to say the least, and so normalcy, or as much as he could muster, was in order. He grabbed a banana off the counter, and transferred the eggs and sausage to a plate, and sat down at the table to absently watch the news as he ate.
After all, what does one do when a mafia crime boss could phone you at any moment?
The revelation that Manuel Yu was inquiring about him still unnerved him. He wondered where Yu had even gotten his name from, or whom rather.
And more importantly, for what purpose was Yu looking to hire him?
He dreaded to find out, but the possibility of retrieving the artifacts he had been looking for was of greater importance.
The news continued on the television as Conrad brough his plate to the sink.
And the phone began to ring.
Conrad froze for a moment, gently placing the plate in the sink as he turned the water off. He dried his hands and reached for the receiver on the 4th ring.
"Hello" he answered.
A female operator spoke. ("Please hold.")
("Mr. James Conrad?") A deep male voice with an Asian accent came on the line.
"Yes, to whom am I speaking please?"
("Mr. Conrad, my name is Manuel Yu. Have I caught you at a bad time?")
Conrad drew a breath before speaking. "Not at all, Mr. Yu. How can I help you?"
("Mr. Conrad, I won't take up too much of your time. I'm calling with a business proposition for you.")
"What sort of proposition?"
("I would like to hire your services, Mr. Conrad.")
His interest was piqued. "I see. May I ask in what capacity?"
("I am looking to hire a personal bodyguard.")
A bodyguard? That's...not what I was expecting.
"For yourself, I presume?"
("No. Actually, Mr. Conrad, it's for my daughter.")
He...has a daughter?
"I beg your pardon?"
("Perhaps I should explain. I am a wealthy business man, Mr. Conrad. But amidst that wealth and success, I have acquired a few enemies. Most of them are relatively harmless. Some however, as I have recently discovered, would seek to do significant harm to me and my family.")
Conrad fought not to roll his eyes. You say "signifcant harm", I say "throw you in prison for the rest of your life".
"I see. And you believe your daughter is potentially at risk?"
("Correct. My daughter is the only family I have, which makes her an easy target. With the proper protection, I would like to eliminate any chance of her becoming collateral damage.")
Translation: The daughter might be an innocent.
"And you believe that I have the ability to provide this proper protection, as you say?"
("I had heard rumors about you, Mr. Conrad- a highly skilled English soldier turned mercenary, bouncing around Asia the last few years. So, naturally I was curious. I was most impressed by your military background.")
Well that explains how he knew who I was. I didn't exactly hide my profession.
("I would be most pleased if you would consider my offer, Mr. Conrad. A man with your experience and training is just what I'm looking for. You will be well compensated for your time.") He rambled off a salary that made Conrad's eyes widen.
"That...is a very generous offer, Mr. Yu. I will need some time to think it over, if that's alright."
("Certainly. When you're ready, call this number.") Yu rattled off a phone number that Conrad wrote down. ("I await your response.")
"Thank you. Goodbye, Mr. Yu."
("Goodbye, Mr. Conrad.")
Conrad gently placed the receiver back on the cradle, and exhaled.
He sat back in the chair, his brain processing the conversation that had just taken place.
And then the phone rang again.
He raised a brow.
I'm bloody popular today.
He picked up the receiver again.
("Its Garrett. Can we meet?")
"I take it you heard?"
Of course you did.
("Come back to headquarters. We can discuss it there.")
Conrad hung up the phone, sighing in exasperation. He grabbed his coat off the hook in the closet, and locked the door on his way out.
"And here I thought you trusted me, Garrett. A phone tap. Really?" Conrad smirked ironically as he sat in the same chair from a few hours ago.
Garrett shrugged, his hands raised in defeat. "To be fair, that phone tap was put in place yesterday. Since it was already there...we thought we might as well use it."
Conrad chuckled, shaking his head. "How bloody convenient."
Perkins walked over, coffee in hand. "No complaining from us. Now we know why Yu is so damn interested in you."
Conrad scoffed. "A bodyguard. I must admit, that was a curveball."
Garrett nodded. "But it's better than nothing."
Conrad's eyes narrowed slightly. "Meaning?"
"We want you in on this Conrad. As our inside man." Garrett stated.
Conrad leaned forward, his tone cynical. "You want me to go undercover in Yu's organization, posing as his daughter's bodyguard?"
Garrett and Perkins looked at each other, and then they both nodded. "This might be our best shot to bring him down. If we can get you on the inside, there's a good chance you'll find whoever our anonymous source is." Perkins explained, bringing his coffee to his lips.
Conrad thought it over for a moment. The assignment wasn't optimal. If he was assigned to Yu's daughter, it would be a challenge to track down the source. Although, judging from the conversation with Yu, he might be suspicious of someone already.
"When was the last time the informant contact you?"
Garrett looked up at the ceiling for a moment, thinking. "About a week ago. The transmissions have become more sproadic, which leads us to believe that Yu could be hot on their tail."
Conrad nodded. "Then we don't have much time."
Perkins' eyebrows shot up. "We? You'll do it?"
Conrad smirked. "Gladly."
24 hours later
Manuel Yu stepped into his private office just as his phone rang. He smirked as he picked up the phone, knowing exactly who it was.
The person on the other end spoke to Yu as his second in command, Chua, stood in the doorway.
Yu smiled as he spoke. "That is wonderful, Mr. Conrad. I am pleased to hear it. How soon should we expect you?"
Chua smirked as Yu wrote down a quick note on a small piece of paper.
"Excellent. We will see you in a week, Mr. Conrad. I will have my driver meet you at the airport when you arrive. Thank you for calling. Goodbye."
He replaced the receiver in the cradle and looked up at Chua.
"So? It worked?" Chua asked.
Yu smiled evilly. "Indeed. Everything is going according to plan."