.

.

Chapter 7

Posted by PURPLEYHAN STORIES on Saturday, June 11, 2016

***

I don't know how I managed to drive given the situation but after almost an hour, we reached a small house near an abandoned lot facing the river. Who would have thought that Nigel Grand lives in a place like this? No wonder, his own tribe and all of the organizations that are interested in him didn't find him for the last several years.

"Welcome to my hideout," he said while we're entering his house.

My reaction? I was actually fascinated. The outside might be shabby, but when you see what's inside, you'll immediately know that he's a spy.

Tons of electronic bugs, listening and tracking devices, photos of people, laptops, sensors, binoculars and telescopes were scattered in his house. I can't believe that he still has these devices even though he hasn't contacted the CIA for years.

Bigla namang nag-blink ang relo ko at nakita kong may message sa akin si Naia kaya naman umupo agad ako sa couch at binuksan ang laptop ko. Sumunod din sa akin sina Cliff at Jett.

Please see attached documents. I retrieved old logs from Ansel Choi, the specialist in your mother's team, and I think something happened between the four of them. Anyway, where are you? I can't find your coordinates.

Pagkatapos kong basahin 'yun ay napatingin ako kay Nigel Grand na kasalukuyang nakatingin sa amin. Bigla naman siyang ngumiti.

"Is that your Keeper?" he asked and I can see a glint in his eyes. Nagkatinginan kaming tatlo at hindi namin alam kung dapat na ba namin siyang pagkatiwalaan.

'Let me handle this,' Cliff said through his inner voice.

"Yes," sabi ni Cliff at tumango naman si Nigel.

Tumalikod siya sa amin at umupo sa desk niya sa gilid kung saan nakabukas ang isang laptop at may separate namang keyboard sa gilid. When he pressed several keys on the keyboard, a hologram appeared above it, and when we saw what's written, we were astounded.




After that, names and codenames were listed and all of them were either crossed out, struckthrough, encircled, or written in red color. According to CIA's standard protocol in listing our targets, those who were crossed out were already killed by the one who wrote it while names with lines through their center or struckthrough means they were killed by other person/s. In addition, encircled names denote that they are still alive and they are currently under observation while those written in red color indicate priority and emphasis since they usually have a big role or they are the primary target.

"After more than a decade, I finally got these information," sabi ni Nigel at inikot niya ang upuan niya para maging kaharap niya kami.

"How did you get these information, Sir?" tanong naman ni Cliff at ngumiti ulit siya sa amin.

"I managed to infiltrate the outermost circle for two years, however, I didn't notice that one of the inner members was observing me. Since I can't use my animus after that tragedy, they don't have any proof that I'm an Erityian."

Wow. Mukhang naging blessing-in-disguise pa ang nangyari sa animus niya. But I was actually impressed when he said that he infiltrated the Nox. That organization is known for its secrecy and its members are also shrouded in mystery. There are rumors that even them do not know who their comrades are and they only know them through their codenames.

"My infiltration was going smoothly until Olive showed up."

"You mean, that Olive?" tanong ulit ni Cliff at tumango si Nigel.

"He was recently promoted as dritte and his first mission is to observe my movements. I wasn't aware of his existence and during the time that I was putting my lenses, he confronted me. Luckily, I managed to escape from him and I went into hiding. However, I was caught on a photograph and they used that to track me."

"So that explains what happened earlier," dagdag ni Cliff.

"Yes. They found me but I willingly went with them."

"What?" Halos sabay-sabay kami ng reaksyon dahil sa sinabi niya. Sumama siya nang kusa sa kanila?

"I thought that if I go with Olive who's a dritte, I can get more valuable information about Nox."

"But you might die. You can't even use your animus until a while ago," I chided.

"But I might also uncover the secrets of that organization."

Natahimik kami after that dahil naramdaman namin ang tensyon na bumalot sa paligid. I know that we're about to touch some sensitive topics and thinking about those suffocated me.

"Are you really after that?" seryoso kong tanong. "Or are you doing this for revenge after what had happened to your team?"

He answered me with silence. His eyes reflected his sadness and the anger he kept for years. I understand him but what he’s doing right now can cause him his life.

“Even your words are the same,” sabay ngiti niya pero napalitan ‘yun ng nakakatakot na expression. “But I’m the only one who can save them.”

Tumayo naman siya at pumunta siya sa isang kwarto. Nagtinginan naman kaming tatlo noong nawala siya sa sala dahil sa sinabi niya. Save them? Who? His team? But I thought they died...unless...

Bigla naman akong inakbayan ni Cliff at naramdaman ko ang hininga niya sa tenga ko.

“Stop it,” he whispered. “Calm down.”

Huminga ako nang malalim dahil narealize kong nagpapanic na ako sa mga iniisip ko. Sinabay ko ang paghinga ko sa mabagal na pagtapik ni Cliff sa balikat ko.

“Calm down,” he repeated.

“I’m okay,” sabi ko naman nung medyo kumalma na ako.

Sakto namang lumabas si Nigel mula sa kwarto at may hawak siyang susi. Umupo ulit siya sa dati niyang pwesto at nilipat niya ang file na nakaproject.

“How’s Commander Priam?” tanong niya sa amin.

“He’s still in good shape,” sabi naman ni Cliff at saglit na napangiti si Nigel.

“That’s good.”

“Why didn’t you return to Cerebrum?”

Napatingin kaming tatlo kay Jett dahil ngayon lang siya nagsalita at seryoso siyang nakatingin kay Nigel. Of course, the three of us are curious about his reasons but I doubt he’ll share it with us.

“Maybe because of guilt,” he said and I was surprised that he’s telling it to us without any hesitation. “I’m the Keeper yet I let them die. I didn’t do my job properly and it cost me my comrades...my friends.”

Bigla ko namang naalala si Naia dahil sa sinabi niya.

“Listen, Nel. A Keeper’s job is to keep her team alive in every and any situation. That’s why the three of you should always listen to me because your lives rest in my hands. Are we clear?”

I’ve been listening to that line since our team was formed but I haven’t been taking it seriously. Maybe because I know that Naia’s a great tactician and she always guides us with the best possible ways. But hearing a Keeper who lost his comrades made me feel ashamed and sorry.

“I can’t and I don’t want to face the Commander because I let his wife and his people die. I want to punish myself for being weak. For being alive. For being a survivor.”

He looked down the floor and clenched the key on his hand. Every word he said felt heavy. Carrying the misery of losing someone alone must be so difficult and painful.

“Then, are you not yet done on punishing yourself?” tanong ko at napatingin siya sa akin.

“Not yet. I still have something to do.”

May pinindot ulit siya sa keyboard at may nagflash na series of images sa harapan namin. Noong una ay hindi ko maintindihan ang nasa mga litrato, pero nung nakita ko ang mga mata nila...

“What the hell is that?” tanong ni Jett.

“This is worse than the works of the Shinigamis,” dagdag naman ni Cliff.

“Before my cover blew up, I took these photos during one of their operations. I don’t know if they got the idea from the studies of Shinigamis or they came up with this by themselves but this is the main reason I can’t go back to the headquarters yet.”

Nanginig ang buong katawan ko at umikot ang kalamnan ko nung nakita ko ang mga litrato. Humdrums were taken and experimented. But what’s bone-chilling was the fact that Erityian eyes were implanted on them and the results were horrible. Some looked like they’ve lost their mental stability but most of them died after the surgery.

“I’m sure they caught several Erityians and extracted their eyes off them that’s why I’m going to get their eyes back. I won’t let them use our eyes and I don’t want humdrums to be involved.” Pagkatapos niyang sabihin ‘yun ay tumayo siya. “If you want to destroy the Nox Organization, you need to know about them first. Many Erityians fell in their hands because they underestimated them since they are just humdrums. However, they are strong, maybe even stronger than us.”

Nagsimula siyang maglakad kaya naman sumunod kami sa kanya. Binuksan niya ang isa pang pintuan at napunta kami sa likuran ng bahay at mukhang ito ang bakuran niya. Dahil walang kahit anong ilaw rito sa labas ay wala kaming ibang makita kundi ang mga mata ng isa’t isa.

“I built this place to study and observe the movements and researches of Nox Organization. With your current strength, you’re as good as fighting with them until the level of zweites.”

Zweites. If I remember correctly, that’s the second innermost circle.

“You mean we can’t win over the zuerst?” tanong ni Cliff.

Hindi naman siya sinagot ni Nigel. Lumuhod siya at hinawi niya ang lupa sa harapan niya. Pagkatapos nun ay may trap door na lumabas at binuksan niya ito gamit ang susing hawak niya. Isang hagdan ang sumalubong sa amin at bumaba kaming apat.

“The zuersts are on different level,” biglang sabi ni Nigel habang bumababa kami sa hagdan. “In the underground community, the zuersts are the most notorious Nox members and even their codenames aren’t known. I think even the Senshins had an encounter with one but they didn’t manage to get any information other than his black sun tattoo on his nape.”

Huminto naman kami nung makarating kami sa dulo at sumalubong sa amin ang isang pinto. Who would have thought that a basement exists in a place like this?

Pumunta siya sa gilid at may retina scanner na nakakabit doon.

“Besides their overwhelming strength, there’s another reason why we can’t fight with zuersts.”

He scanned his retina and the metal door opened. As the door reveals what’s inside, the three of us stood frozen. A huge room with a lot of computers, advanced technological devices and machineries was in front of us. But what surprised me the most is the young girl who marched towards us.

“Nigel! Thank God, you’re still alive! I told you not to be reckless, didn’t I?” sabi ng babae habang nakatingin kay Nigel pero napatigil siya nung nakita niya kami. “Um, who are these people?”

“Ah. These are Custos agents like me.”

The girl looks like Nigel’s daughter but their features are too different. I think she’s just on her early teenage years, maybe twelve or thirteen. I immediately noticed the huge scar that runs through her her whole body that made it looks like she’s cut in half. But what bothers me the most are her eyes. The colors of her eyes.

Her left eye is green while the right is red.

“The other reason is that zuersts are modified Erityians who survived the harsh experiments and surgeries,” Nigel said and he tapped the girl’s head. “Just like her.”

“Oh, so they’ve come to help you,” sabi ng babae. Tumingin siya sa amin at ngumiti. “Hi. I’m Kiyoko. It’s an honor to meet the three of you.”

Then she pulled us inside.



***