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  • Writer's pictureK.C. Roy

The Grey Cell

Updated: Apr 9

A bead of sweat trickled down his neck and ran down his back leaving an uncomfortable trail. He ignored it while he stared out the dirt stained second-story window at the building across the street. The woman next to him sat back quickly rubbing her back against the chair she sat in. He wasn’t the only one sweating his ass off in the hot room. He couldn’t help but smile a little at her discomfort.

They’d been staked out for three days watching the warehouse across from them for any signs of activity. The building they were in had been vacant for over two years. The utilities had long since been disconnected. Unfortunately, the building took up the entire block meaning it was the only way for them to watch the warehouse. It wasn’t the worst stakeout he’d had, however.

“Jesus!” The woman stood up quickly, startling one of the other men in the room. His hand involuntarily reached for the weapon on his hip. He froze before his hand touched the weapon and the two stared at each other.

The man’s eyes flicked from the woman to him and back again. Asfar waited to see what the man would do. He was new to his squad and Asfar hadn’t gotten a feel for him yet. Would he panic? Two of the other three men in the room tensed, unsure. The remaining agent glanced up from his magazine briefly, then kept reading, unconcerned. He was the only original member on the team right now. Two of the others had been killed during the last mission and the other two were on medical for mental health. These two were transfers from another team but the man staring Jack down was green.

“Boo!” Jack jerked forward slightly and the agent’s hand made it the rest of the way to his weapon as he stumbled and fell backwards over the chair behind him. Jack chuckled as she walked to the ice chest and pulled out cold mineral water. She hovered over the open cooler while she pressed the ice-cold glass bottle against her neck.

“Jack… It’s just going to melt faster.” Agent Daniels scorned, looking up from his magazine again. Of all the agents Asfar had worked with, Agent Daniels was the only one who didn’t seem to have any fear for the elementals that worked with their group.

Jack click her tongue against her teeth at him and closed the cooler. She turned and faced Agent Ortiz who’d just picked himself up off the floor. “Water?” She held the bottle out toward him only to have him shake his head. Asfar grimaced. The man’s pride was going to get him hurt. She popped the cap off of the bottle with her thumb sending it shooting across the room. The metal cap hit Ortiz’s chest with a soft thump and fell to the floor. Jack chuckled and moved to sit in front of the window again.

“Enough Jack. Don’t tease them too much. They’re jumpy enough as it is.” He hid his annoyance with her antics. Honestly, he hated working with her. She was a huge pain in the ass. He’d actually requested “The Owl” for this case but he’d been unavailable. Unfortunately, Jack was the only other element he could use for this case.

“He’s not going to make it if he keeps up like that.” She looked directly at agent Ortiz as she made the comment.

“Damn it!” Asfar swore under his breath. She was one of the few people that could get a rise out of him. The worst part was, she wasn’t trying to. What she said wasn’t wrong it just didn’t need to be said. He’d worked with Jack enough times to know she was just an extremely blunt person. She got a rise out of everyone. It was truly a talent. “Jack, I can still cancel your pay and find someone else.” A genuinely amused laugh answered him.

“Aww, come on Asfar. We both know that isn’t true.”

“Try me. One phone call and your check is canceled.” Asfar finally turned away from the dirty window to glare at the young woman.

“Oh, I wasn’t talking about the pay. There isn’t anyone else for this mission. My…. The owl is busy. I read the notes. I’m it.”

“MY!… My what? What was she about to say?” He hated working with her because she tended to ruffle feathers. On missions, once the action started, there was no stopping her. She did things how she wanted, when she wanted. Asfar couldn’t deny her fighting prowess or her intelligence, though. He only knew of three others that could stand toe to toe with her in a fight and that was only without abilities. Once she started using her abilities, no one stood a chance. There was always a huge mess to clean up after the dust settled.

The elementals could use the life essence around them to do things. Move rock, grow trees, control water or even alter their bodies. Most of Jack’s file was redacted. The only thing not blacked out was her sex and callsign. Asfar had already figured out she was a body elemental. Her hair was currently green, but he’d watched her change its color on the spot just by thinking about it. He’d also witnessed her throw a man twice her size across a room before. It was funny, though. All the others, a group of nine, had call signs that related to their ability. Why had they decided to call her Jack? There were others they worked with that used call signs but none of them had redacted files. The special nine were the only ones. The one time he’d requested further information, he’d been told in no uncertain terms to never ask again.

He was going to file her slip of the tongue away for later but decided to forget it instead. The nine were highly valued by the agency and heavily protected. The security level on their files allowed only the president and the agency head to view them fully. If there was a suspicion that he was even thinking about them outside of mission requirements, he’d be lucky to just lose his job. Hopefully, none of the others caught it. Agent Daniels most certainly had but the man rarely spoke and almost never to ask questions. A quick glance at the others didn’t reveal anything other than an unhealthy curiosity in the current argument.

“Enough. Just knock it off Jack. I’d hate to dock your pay.”

“Ohhh. Can’t cut into my wardrobe money, can we?” The comment got a small bark of laughter from Asfar. She was currently wearing a wife beater with a mustard stain and jeans that looked like a bear had gotten a hold of them. There was more skin showing than they covered.

Asfar bit back a reply and went back to focusing on the building across the street. Some shuffling from the others and grumbling from agent Ortiz and the room went quiet again. They waited in silence like they had for most of the three days prior. In the late afternoon, Asfar sent Ortiz and one other to change out with the two agents they had watching from the street.

“Are you sure you aren’t wrong about this?” Jack’s voice broke the silence.

“Yes.”

“Huh. Did you let the bad guys know?” She pointed at the warehouse across the street. No one had been in or out since they’d started watching it. “I mean, we both get paid no matter what but I don’t have a performance review…” She leaned forward with her elbows on the windowsill.

“Look, I’m about…” A ragged brown van stopped on the street in front of the huge roll-up door to the warehouse. Jack sat up straight and watched eagerly. Asfar quickly clicked the shutter button on the camera getting as many shots as he could.

An individual got out of the passenger seat and ran up to the roll-up door to knock on it. After a short wait, the door rose, and the van inched its way into the building. One man looked up and down the street carefully while quickly lowering the door back into place. They waited a few more minutes but nothing else happened.

“So…” Jack kept her eyes glued to the building across the street. Asfar knew she wanted him to give her the go ahead. He knew once he did, the fate of everyone down there was sealed. If his information was correct, and he knew it was, this group was a cell of grey essence users. He didn’t know what that color could do but every mission file always contained the words “execute with extreme prejudice”. While part of him wanted to tell her “GO!” He had to be sure. The mission that had killed a part of his team involved an unexpected grey. He couldn’t let his recent tragedy cloud his judgment. Despite the danger, he needed to confirm they were dealing with greys.

“We need confirmation. You know better. Guys….”

“You have it. The man that got out of the van was a grey.”

“What?” He was about to tell his men to head down and get in position. Her comment stopped him. “How do you know that?”

“I can see it.”

“See it? How the hell? No one has ever mentioned this before.” Damn it! He hated working with her. “Explain.”

“Really? I… Can... See… It. Let’s go.” Jack strode toward the door.

“HOLD IT! I said explain Jack. You know damn well what I meant.” He was about to crack a tooth from grinding his teeth so hard. The others in the room, except Daniels, glance back and forth between the two worriedly.

“I can see everyone’s essence. How do you think we find them all?” She jerked the door open and hurried out of the room.

“Fuck me! Daniels! Get the other two outside rounded up and meet us at the….” Where was she going? Front door? Back? Through the roof? “God damn it, just meet us. You idiots stop standing there and get after her. RUN!” Daniels was already out the door. The other three ran for the door, two of them slamming into each other and almost falling on their way out. “Oh my god, please help me.” Asfar ran after them praying he’d catch up to Jack before she started destroying everything. He wasn’t sure what her deal was but she went after greys like it was personal. He wondered about that…. Asfar shook his head as he raced down the stairs. “Don’t think about it, Asfar.”

He caught up to them at the front door to the building. He let out a sigh of relief when he rushed from his building and saw the group waiting outside for them. Jack included. He slowed to a walk while crossing the street instead of running. He got the distinct impression jack was messing with him. The smile on her face when he walked up confirmed his suspicion.

“You move pretty fast for an old man, Asfar.”

“Uh, huh.”

“Should I knock?”

“Do I have a choice? Never mind. Ortiz, force the door.”

“Sir.” Ortiz examined the top of the door then kneeled and inspected the bottom before retrieving something from his pocket. He inserted two metal picks into the door and started fiddling with them. Jacks grabbed the knob and turned. The door swung open leaving Ortiz kneeling in the doorway holding his picks up for nothing. Asfar let his head drop. He wanted to scream. “Uhhh…” Ortiz scrambled to his feet embarrassed. “I knew that.” He sounded like he didn’t even believe the lie.

“Just…Just go. Move, damn it.” It was all Asfar could do not to raise his voice. Ortiz started to step through the opening, but Jack shoved him to the side and entered first. Ortiz noticed the young man’s hand go to his weapon. At this point, he was tempted to let the idiot try. One of the other agents, a smarter one, beat Asfar to it and placed a hand on Ortiz’s while shaking his head no.

They filed into the building and Asfar stopped looking up and down the street. Where were Agent Daniels and the other two? All three were experienced agents, Asfar would have to trust that they were where they needed to be. He turned into the building and carefully swung the door closed behind him.

The building was one giant room with a thirty-foot ceiling and the front third of the building empty. All the lights were off and the skylights provided the only light inside the building. Directly to their right, Asfar could make out the silhouette of the van they’d seen earlier. Twenty feet further into the building, row upon row of shelving led to the back wall opposite them. There was a staircase at the back that led to a lone office in the back. There were no people, only the faint sounds of movement in the dark.

“Spread out!” Asfar whispered quietly. The others started moving away from him on either side. He was nervous. The room was dark and they had no cover. What had happened to the people he’d seen enter?

A hand grabbed his collar roughly and jerked. The lights cut on blinding him briefly. The room spun past him. He jerked to a stop and immediately snapped back in the other direction. His feet never touched the floor. The next he knew he was sliding across the floor slamming into the legs of his fellow agents one after the other. Gun fire erupted in the room and he could hear the bullets zing as they passed overhead. They hit the front wall and little rays of light spilled into the room from the holes they made. Every agent was on the ground and under the path of the bullets.

“What the hell?!” Asfar tried to orient himself. Ortiz was on him. The other two were scrambling on their bellies for some kind of cover. Jack was gone. He searched the room but didn’t see her. His eyes’s locked onto the three gunmen across from them who were casually reloading their weapons. They weren’t in a hurry. While they had cover, He and his agents did not. “Crap.” Jack dropped into his line-of-sight landing directly on top of the middle gunmen crushing him to the floor. He could hear bones break from where he was. The man died without making a sound. She’d jumped across the room.

The remaining men, no longer calm, jerked their guns up toward her. Jack dropped flat on the floor. Both men fired killing each other. One kept pulling the trigger as he fell back firing into the ceiling and shattering a skylight showering the floor with glass.

“It is so hard to find good help these days.” Everyone followed the sound of the voice to a man standing at the top of the stairs in back. He wore a navy three-piece suit and held a cane at his side. It was hard to tell how old he was from this distance.

“Could you be any cheesier?!” Jack stood and faced the man across the room. The man hesitated with his mouth partway open. He’d been about to speak again. “Go ahead. Tell us your evil plan. It will give you something to do while I kill you.” Jack’s arm snapped forward and something blurred across the room. The fancy man on the stairs jerked to the side avoiding the projectile. Whatever jack threw punched a hole in the wall behind him and kept going.

“So, it isn’t just agency men. This should be fun. We were just going to kill…” Jack snatched a gun from the floor and hurled at the man. He started to move out of the way, but it was too late. She had aimed for the floor he was standing on not him. She threw the rifle with such force that it tore through the structure of the landing. The landing gave out and collapsed. The cane flew from his hand as he fell.

“Moron…” Jack hesitated. She was about to charge the man when three more joined from the back while the man picked himself up and dusted off his suit. There was a tear in one of the legs and a sleeve had separated at the shoulder. The man himself seemed unharmed.

Asfar shoved Ortiz off of him and motioned to the other two agents to move. They moved to the side where the van was while he and Ortiz moved to a stack of boxes further forward on the other side. Asfar wasn’t sure what was going on but if he and his agents could stay out of the way, it would give Jack room to do whatever she needed to do. Looking at the group she was facing down, Asfar had an idea. He glanced back at the door they’d come in wondering if they should have escaped instead. This was obviously an ambush. Coming in through the door behind them were three more men and they were Daniels and the other two agents.

“Jack! Behind you!” Asfar raised his weapon and fired. The men coming through the door blurred and disappeared. He turned his weapon frantically one way then the other looking for where they’d gone. One man appeared right next to him and grabbed his arm. Before Asfar could react, the man jerked sideways. There was a loud snap and Asfar screamed as the world swirled around him. His body slammed into the side of the van stopping his scream.

He was still conscious although he could hardly think through the pain. He couldn’t breathe and his arm was on fire. He had tunnel vision and tears of pain were blurring his vision further. He tried to raise his gun but part of his arm just dangled uselessly. He wasn’t even holding his gun anymore. Another scream sounded and he saw the same man bring his foot down on Ortiz. Asfar almost threw up from the pain in his arm and the sight of Ortiz’s head exploding like a ripe melon. The man turned and locked eyes on him.

Asfar was an experienced agent and prided himself on keeping a calm head in stressful situations. He witnessed death many times. As the man stalked toward him, Asfar saw death in the man’s eyes and lost his composure. He frantically looked for somewhere to run and hide. In his current condition, the resulting effort was him flopping around on the ground in futility. He couldn’t get to his feet so he settled for squirming his way under the van behind him. Something slammed into the van on the other side rocking it back and forth. He jerked his head that way in time to see one of the other agents drop to the ground with a sickening splotching sound. Half of the agent was missing. “What the fuck!” A face came into view with a sick smile on it.

“Awww, he’s hiding.”

Asfar scoot a little further away from the man. Another voice stopped him. He turned his head to the other side to see another man looking at him under the van.

“Poor guy looks scared. Wanna help him?”

“Sure. You grab one arm and I’ll grab the other?”

“YEAH!”

“NO!” Asfar’s felt his bladder let go. He didn’t care. The sight of the hand reaching for him and the idea of what was about to happen was too much.

An ear-splitting howl rang through the building. It was so loud Asfar tried to cover his ears while watched the man in front of him fall forward covering his own ears. The noise seemed to last forever while everyone in the room screamed in agony. Silence followed in the room. For a heartbeat, a pin drop could be heard. The man’s face had a puzzled expression, then surprise before it suddenly disappeared from view. Snarling and screaming could be heard behind the van. Asfar tried to turn his head and see what new terror was coming for him but he was in too much pain to contort his body that far.

The noise close to him wasn’t the only violence he heard. Crashing and screaming could be heard from the other side of the building. A loud bark pulled his attention to the side of the van with the half agent. A pair of legs danced with a set of four… dog legs? Asfar closed his eyes and opened them again. The legs were a dark orange, almost red in color. The fur on them rippled and swayed more like fire than fur. The claws on the end of the legs were longer than most pocket knives. They left deep furrows in the concrete as they chased the human legs around. A scream sounded and blood splatter on the floor followed by half an arm. Screams of pain and gurgling followed and the dog bore the man to the ground. A shake of its head ripped the head nearly in half stopping the screams. The body twitched as the dog sniffed at it.

Asfar had never seen a dog like this. The head was massive with pointy ears that swept back slightly and a jaw that seemed almost too big. The teeth in the mouth were larger than any he’d ever seen before. The animal turned its head and looked directly at him. Glowing green eyes stared back at him with wisps of green trailing out of the corners of them. The blood dripping from its face and coating its chest completed the nightmare fuel image. Asfar shit himself then passed out.

Something was slapping his face sharply and it stung. His nose wrinkled at the smell and he gagged, waking up instantly. “WHA!” He tried to sit up but something pressed him back.

“Easy… Nice and slow. You’ve taken a beating.”

He recognized that voice. It took his eyes a moment to adjust to the blinding light. A head leaning over him blocking some of it out helped. Green hair and a smartass smile were the first things he saw. For a brief second, he’d thought he gazed upon an angel in heaven. It turned out to be a Jack. Hell, it was.

“Gods, what the hell happened?” He wrinkled his nose and blew out. Why wouldn’t the smell go away? “What…”

“You shit yourself. Don’t worry, it’ll be our secret.” Jack winked at him for emphasis, then her face grew serious. “I fixed your arm. The rest of your injuries will have to heal on their own. Listen…”

“My injuries…” He mumbled while she spoke. He couldn’t think clearly. What the hell was happening?

“Daniels is the only other one to survive. They ambushed them before they could join us. I’m sorry Asfar. I fucked up on this one.” Her hand rested on her shoulder. The shock of her statement scattered the thoughts he’d been trying to collect.

“Dead?” They were all dead. He’d just replaced most of his team.

“I’m truly sorry Asfar. This was my mistake. I should’ve…” She paused and glanced over her shoulder for a second. Was that a tear he saw? He’d never seen her serious before now. “Look, I have to go. If you ever need anything…” She left the statement hanging there. In his current state, all he could do was nod his head. “You’ll need to rest. I’m going to help you sleep. You should wake up feeling much better.” Jack placed a hand on the side of his face that felt way warmer than it should have.

“Wait…” His vision started going black and someone else started speaking.

“Is he ready to… Oh my god! What is that smell?!”

“He shit himself.”

“Damn it! She said she wouldn’t say anything. Damn you, Jack!”

“Okay, lift him up. Christ, he stinks!”

“Did you see inside? I couldn’t blame…”

Asfar’s world went black. At least he was alive.


Jack watched the medics load Jack into the ambulance. She didn’t envy them the ride to the hospital. She turned her attention back to the building that just hours ago had been quiet. It was now blocked off with police tape and full of holes. The inside was torn to shreds with blood and body parts everywhere. Concern and doubt roiled inside her. That had been seven very powerful greys. To date, none of them had encountered even one with the strength that these had. Worse than the agents dying, they hadn’t found out what the greys were doing here. The agents had died for nothing.

Poor Asfar would never be the same. His mind was muddled right now but he’d remember eventually. She’d walked his mind briefly hiding the bad things from him. It would help him heal in the short term, but the memories would eventually surface. Hopefully, he’d come out the other end stronger for it. Her phone rang interrupting her thoughts.

“Hey baby. Yeah, it was rough here. Talk about it later?” She waited for the answer.

“Love you too. See you at home.”

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