***

"Nigel Grand? You mean, that Nigel Grand? How did you know it was him?" I asked, still in disbelief.
"He looked at me,” he answered, his eyes now in the form of a hawk. “Seems like he knows that I'm a Custos."
"But after all these years, how come that they just got him now?" Cliff asked and we went silent.

He was right. He has been hiding from all of us for several years. How did the Nox Organization find him and why wasn't he fighting back even if he was strong enough to attack them? After all, he was one of Mom's agents and I know that their team was one of the best.

Nagkatinginan kami ni Cliff at mukhang pareho kami ng iniisip. He opened his laptop and went to our database. When he found Nigel Grand's updated profile, he projected it in front of us.

Nigel Grand
Male
49 years old
CIA agent Class A (demoted from Class S)
Went missing in the Philippines 12 years ago during the Nox Organization case

Walang pagbabago mula noong huli naming tinignan ang profile niya.

"Wait," biglang sabi ni Cliff. "There's a hidden text here." Cliff highlighted the section below Nigel Grand's current status and words suddenly appeared. May pinindot siyang kung anu-ano and then after a few seconds ay napunta siya sa section ng database na hindi ko pa nakikita kahit kailan. Different kinds of codes were written and I think this specific section is encrypted. Cliff spent several minutes to convert all encrypted files into understandable text.

After a while, a folder named Mission Incognito appeared and Cliff clicked it.

Mission Incognito Phase 3
Nox Organization members hunt
Team: Magnus
Members:
Lace Andal-Hudson (Captain)
Zeno Heather (Vice Captain)
Ansel Choi (Specialist)
Nigel Grand (Keeper)

04-23-****
After Phase 2, we immediately proceeded to the next phase. However, the Black that was caught by Arken's team escaped and we had no choice but to follow him.

04-30-****
According to the underground community, this Black is called Onyx and he is in the innermost circle of the organization. We failed to tail him when he reached Asia.

05-03-****
Zeno managed to locate Onyx in Japan but we crossed paths with Shinigamis. We need to plan our next actions.

05-07-****
Due to some complications, Captain Lace insisted to stay for a few days in Japan to observe the Shinigamis since our back-up team assigned to observe this tribe was reported to be annihilated. Zeno and Nigel flew to the Philippines and I stayed with Captain Lace.

The entries ended after that, as if something happened before they could even record their observations. I couldn’t speak after reading the journal because I didn’t expect to get this kind of big information. However, the silence was broken when the car suddenly swerved to the right.

"Shit!" I cursed as I tried to maintain our speed and course. When I looked at the side mirror, a black car was bumping us from behind while the cars we were following accelerated.

"We're surrounded," sabi ni Cliff habang nakatingin sa likuran. "Nel, just this time," dagdag niya at pagkarinig ko no’n ay napangiti ako nang malawak.
"Don't take back your words, Clifford. I'm really going to do it."
"Just make sure we'll survive—"
"Roger!" sigaw ko.

Without any second thoughts, I stepped on the gas.

I screamed out of excitement as this was the first time I could drive in the Philippines with my almost-normal speed. The roads were relatively wider than the ones earlier so this would suffice. After all, I am confident with my driving skills.

"Acceleration: 15 m/s2, current velocity: 140 m/s...150...160..." sabi ni Cliff habang nakatingin sa laptop niya. "The car behind us is also accelerating."
"Leave it to me," I said as I stepped hard on the pedal. "And Jett. You can do the honor."
"Roger."

As our car accelerated, I swerved to the left, causing it to tilt momentarily. Jett opened the window and sat on the frame to balance our weights while holding his two guns.

"Stay away," he whispered as he pulled the triggers simultaneously. The wheels of the car behind us exploded and it spun uncontrollably until it hit a post. He also shot one of the cars in front, causing its engine to explode.
"Nigel Grand is in the third car. Lucky. Their cars are one of the advanced models that have security codes," Cliff explained.
"Well, time to use your animus, guys," I suggested and they both nodded.

They both removed their lenses, revealing their red eyes that blazed like the rose-colored sunset.

"Unlock system. Password: Umbra," Cliff said in a much lower voice and his retina changed. Besides mine, his animus helped us a lot when it comes to espionage. "Scan retina." He could change his DNA structure and other identity markers to someone's as long as he saw and locked eyes with them once.

"Target locked." This time, Jett's pupils changed size according to the distance he needed to cover. I think he’s changed into a falcon’s eyes again. After all, those were his favorites.

The two remaining cars in front of us suddenly halted, which meant Cliff successfully controlled its system. While maintaining our velocity, I got through between the cars and in that instantaeneous time, Jett shot both of the drivers while Cliff swiftly adjusted my seat so I wouldn’t be in Jett’s line of vision.

I saw how their blood splattered on their windows as I passed by them and I cursed when I heard a screeching sound. I think I need new tires.

When my car’s engine died, Jett returned to his seat and I finally had a good look at this place. The roads were sloped in risky directions and beyond was nothing but menacing cliffs. It was already dark so I didn’t see the road clearly but one of the Blacks’ cars from behind was dangling on the side of the road, and any movement of someone from the inside could cost them their lives.

Sabay-sabay kaming bumaba at nakita kong patay na ang drivers ng dalawang kotse nila. Bumukas naman ang pinto ng parehong kotse at may lumabas na dalawang lalaki. Must be Olive’s minions. Napatigil ako nang lumabas din si Olive habang hawak si Nigel Grand. When he saw us, a cunning smile appeared on his lips.

“Well, well, I guess I shouldn’t have underestimated you, Reds,” he said in mocking tone.
‘What are we going to do?’ Cliff asked.

Hindi agad ako nakapagsalita. My eyes were glued to Nigel’s. No. More like he was trying to get my attention using his intense red eyes.

‘I thought I saw Lace. You look so much like her,’ he said and I was surprised when his voice reached my head. As far as I know, I only opened a portion to Jett and Cliff but he managed to get inside my head.

‘Jett, Cliff, distract him. I need some time,’ I immediately ordered.
‘Roger.’

“So you really knew that we’re Reds the moment you saw us in that hotel,” sabi ni Cliff at ngumiti ulit si Olive.
“Of course. It’s funny how you masked yourself with all the disguise but I still know your kind.”

Ginamit ko naman ang panahon na ‘yon para kausapin si Nigel.

‘We’ve been searching for you, Mr. Nigel Grand,’ I started but his expression and eyes remained grim and dull. ‘I’m from Class S, Pene—’
‘Penelope Hudson,’ he continued, leaving me stunned. ‘I know you. I know you very well.’
‘W-wha . . .’
‘Seems like this is Captain’s way of telling me that I still have an unfinished fight.’ His lips suddenly trembled. ‘Thank you for finding me,’ he added and then he smiled which caused all of us, including Olive, to stop in our tracks. Suddenly, all eyes were on him.

“I’m Nigel Grand of Team Magnus,” sabi niya at biglang kumidlat. Tumindig ang balahibo ko nang sumunod ang kulog. It was as if the heavens were acknowledging his presence . . . his power.
“I told you not to speak, didn’t I?” sabi naman ni Olive at bigla niyang tinutukan ng baril sa sentido si Nigel. Tinutok din ni Jett ang baril niya kay Olive.
“Don’t!” sigaw ko at ngumiti sa akin si Olive habang idiniin niya ang dulo ng baril sa ulo ni Nigel.
“I know that you need this person but we found him first,” sabay hatak niya sa buhok ni Nigel. “Couldn’t believe that this useless piece of shit is one of yours.”

Pagkatapos kong marinig ‘yon ay agad nagpantig ang tenga ko.

“Useless?” I asked, suppressing my annoyance.
“Didn’t you know? This guy can’t use his power anymore.”
“So what?” I should’ve been shocked about what he just said but I chose to ignore it.
“Are you serious, kid? You still want this guy?” Lalo niyang hinatak ang buhok ni Nigel at idiniin ang baril sa kanya.

I was silent for a few seconds as I tried to contain my anger. This guy was with my mother and he’s one of our people. I have and need to save him, for the sake of our tribe, and for the sake of Mom.

“Let him go,” I growled and I saw them flinched.
“Don’t order me around, fucking Red. You’re—”
“I said let him go, lowly humdrum.”

I was about to activate that ability but Nigel suddenly laughed out loud, as if he was turning into a madman. When I looked at him, the glint had returned on his dull eyes.

“You are really her daughter,” he said and the next thing he did left my mouth wide open.
“What the f—!”

Nigel pulled the trigger of Olive’s gun and his body slumped to the ground.

“No!” I shouted as Cliff and Nel kept me from running to him. “Why! Nigel!”

Why? Why did he do that? What happened? Why did he—

“Don’t worry, child. I’m still alive.”

Napatingin naman agad ako sa likuran namin nang narinig ko ang boses niya at nang nakita ko si Nigel doon ay bigla akong naguluhan. Nilingon ko ulit ang katawan niyang wala nang buhay at bumalik ang tingin ko sa taong nasa likuran namin.

H-How in the world did that happen?

“What the hell?” Olive said, confused, while looking at the two Nigels.
“My animus had been sealed after my comrades’ death. Must be because of the trauma. But after seeing the three of you, I realized that I couldn’t use my abilities because I was scared to face the truth.” He looked at us and smiled. “Thank you for returning my power.”

He looked at Olive’s direction. The guy was trembling uncontrollably and his face was turning pale, as if he had seen a ghost.

“Now, let me show you how this useless piece of shit works,” sabi ni Nigel.

Sa sobrang bilis ng pangyayari ay hindi ako nakagalaw. The next thing I knew, Nigel was already in front of Olive, pointing a gun inside his mouth. Olive’s face was a mix of horror and confusion but Nigel didn’t show any ounce of mercy.

“See you in hell,” He said as he pulled the trigger and I had to close my eyes to save myself from seeing a messy murder. Luckily, the sound of the shot was masked by the clap of thunder.

Olive’s motionless body fell to the ground and Nigel looked at us with a cold expression, as the streak of lightning illuminated his face that was covered with blood.

We finally got Nigel Grand, and we got to see how scarily strong he was.



***