The Wolves at the Door
rating: +156+x

Iris was trying to solve a crossword puzzle when there was a knock on her door. It wasn't a scheduled knock, which was a bit worrying, but at least there weren't any explosions this time.

Two women in suits came in, followed by guards. The women appeared to be twins, though there was a subtle difference that Iris couldn't quite pick up. They were darker-skinned, with curly hair, wearing matching grey suits with pink pinstripes. One carried a tablet like she was carrying a weapon.

"Good morning, Miss Thompson," one of the women said. She wasn't used to being called "Miss Thompson." It was always either Iris or 105.

"Good morning," Iris said.

"This is Miss Salt," she said, indicating the woman who was almost, but not quite, identical to her. "You may refer to me as O5-10."

"I—Hello," Iris said, caught off-guard. Was this a trick? She'd heard of the O5 Council, but they weren't ever supposed to actually meet skips.

"I wanted to thank you personally for the actions you undertook last week." The woman smiled broadly.

"Oh, well, I just—" Iris began, but the woman waved her off.

"You did what you had to do, I understand, but the fact that you were able to do it? That was remarkable, Miss Thompson. And it's caused no little amount of talk."

"Talk?" Iris wondered where this was headed, and what this woman's game was.

"You were a great help. And it occurs to us that you could be even more help. You and others like you. We've been reviewing the files on MTF Omega-Seven, and we'd like to—"

"No," Iris said, horrified and appalled. "You can't be serious."

"I'm perfectly serious," the O5 said. "You haven't seen how things have gone the last nine years. There are more anomalies every year, and we're stretched thin. We're guarding the doors as best we can, but the howls are growing louder. We can't ignore the resources we already have. We're making a new Task Force. As an anomalous person with field experience, we'd like you in charge of one of the field teams."

"Didn't you people learn anything from last time?" Iris put one hand to her temple, trying to calm down. Just thinking about him made her heart race.

"Yes. And we've learned a lot since, too. That's why we can make it work this time." She smiled.

"You're crazy. He killed the entire team. His own people. And you want to try again?"

The woman shook her head. "We have no intention of using 076-2 again. That was obviously a mistake."

"You don't?" Iris's eyes narrowed. She didn't trust the woman. She was too eager. Trying too hard to convince her. For a woman who claimed to be an O5, that suggested the situation wasn't quite how she presented it. Someone that high up should be dictating, not negotiating.

"We want you and others like you. Agents with anomalous abilities who can be trusted. People who serve because they want to, not because they have an explosive collar or other coercion." The woman had the glow of sincerity on her face.

Of course, she wasn't telling the full truth, either. She wasn't nearly as sure about not using Able as she wanted Iris to think. She was a terrible liar, and the guilt of that omission bubbled to the surface of her eyes, but she was still sincere. If she didn't believe in everything she was telling Iris, she believed in the idea of it, of this new team. That was what made Iris distrust her. The woman in green, who'd convinced her to join Omega-7, she'd never been sincere. It was a toss-up if she believed anything that came out of her mouth.

"Do you remember what it was like to use your camera?" the O5 continued. "To explore your abilities? I have some experience with… things like that. There's nothing like it."

And it did strike home, because Iris missed the photographs. She missed learning the new things she could do with it. She missed being able to just play with it. It had been such a fun game. No, more than a game. It had been magic. Magic that she could touch, magic that was a part of her. It was what the woman in green had held out to get her to cooperate…

Well, Iris had been fourteen at the time. Young, gullible, and stupid. The years had taught her better.

"No," she told the woman. "I'm sorry, but I can't do this again. You weren't there. I lost friends. All of them."

"Well, it's your choice, of course," the woman said. "But we're going forward regardless. We have to. Things are getting more desperate every day. If it's not you, it will be someone else. Someone who's just a child, maybe. Someone who doesn't know what they're getting into."

Iris felt a chill come over her. "You can't do that. You don't—You don't understand what it was like, you don't know what it would do to them."

"You're right," she said. "I don't know. There's really only one person who does. One person who can help them."

Iris wanted to strangle the woman. To break her neck. It would be so easy, before the guard could even draw his pistol, she could probably have the woman dead. He had taught her well.

She pushed the anger down instead. Coldly, she said, "You bitch. You absolute bitch."

The woman didn't say anything for a moment, then smiled. "You'll join, then?"

Iris nodded, not trusting herself to speak.

"Very good. The head of your security detail will visit you soon, and give you further instructions. Welcome aboard, Miss Thompson."

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