||Assault Rifle/Mental Manipulation
The man strode into the conference room, tall and confident, apparently undisturbed by the two Vanguard soldiers standing behind him. Each had a weapon, one a flame thrower and one a sub-machine gun, trained on him. His hands were cuffed in front of him, but he still moved with a balance that suggested he was more than he appeared.
The cuffed man was dressed in a white costume of sorts. A full mask, decorated as to suggest a skull, covered his head. His well-kept combat boots thudded with each step.
One of the "honor guard" that accompanied him pulled a utility belt draped from over his shoulder and slid it across the table towards the man seated there. The belt came to a stop when it collided with the stack of folders and paperwork the man had in front of him. A young girl picked it up and studied it before quickly losing interest and tossing it back onto the table.
The soldier with the flamethrower saluted the seated man. The sub-machine gun wielder poked the barrel of his weapon into the small of the masked man's back, almost daring him to try something.
"Colonel Pentecost, sir," flamethrower started, "This is the man you wished to see. We had to confiscate that," he gestured at the belt, "from him."
Sub-machine gun spoke up, "Watch him, sir. He's... slippery."
The girl squinted at the costumed mercenary. In a tone completely out of character for such a young girl, she said coldly, "Let him try something."
"Squeak," the seated man said without looking up from the paperwork, "that won't be necessary."
The masked man turned to look at sub-machine gun. Although they couldn't see his face, they could hear his soft chuckle as he gazed at the soldier.
"Let's see," Pentecost said, looking over some papers in front of him, "John Smith, aka Psycannon..." Pentecost lowered his glasses and peered over the top of them at the handcuffed man. "John Smith? Seriously? Either you have no imagination or your parents hated you."
The masked man shrugged.
Pentecost stared at the man briefly, then took a draw from the cigar in his mouth. He went back to studying his papers for a moment, then looked back up at Psycannon. "You can stop with that stuff right now, Smith," Jack said. "Whatever mind trick you're trying to use to influence our thoughts isn't going to work in here. And by 'in here,' I mean this entire base. You're our guest for now."
The masked man shrugged, although it appeared he was smiling broadly under the mask.
"Not much for small talk, are you," Jack said. "Are you going to talk at all?"
Again, the masked man just shrugged. Jack was starting to notice a pattern.
"I don't think we've heard a word out of him since we captured him, sir," sub-machine gun said.
Pentecost removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Why is it I always get the difficult ones?" he asked no one in particular.
With a sigh, Jack simply said, "Look, your weapons have been confiscated. Your mind games neutralized. You've been escorted here so that I can have a discussion with you, and discussions usually involve both parties TALKING. If you're not going to talk, that makes this whole exercise difficult."
Flamethrower held the barrel of his weapon next to Psycannon's head. "You're going to talk to the Colonel."
At this point, the mercenary threw back his head let loose a rolling belly laugh.
Pentecost sighed. "OK, Psycannon, what's it going to take to get you to talk? Obviously, we want something from you, so you're expecting something from us."
The costumed man held his hands up.
"Unlock him," Pentacost told flamethrower.
"I said unlock him. I need to talk to him, and if that's all it takes..."
The costumed man rubbed his wrists for a second, then crossed his arms.
"Ready to talk yet?" Pentecost asked him.
The masked man shook his head.
Pipsqueak started towards him, rolling up a sleeve, "I'll loosen his tongue, sir."
"Squeak, stand down. That's an order," Pentecost told her.
"Aw.... sir..." the girl whined, but retreated back to stand behind Pentecost.
"So, Smith, what's it going to take to get you to have a conversation?"
The masked man looked around the room at each of the three vanguard operatives in the room, then gestured to the door.
"Uh, sir," sub-machine gun said, "I really don't think..."
"I really don't think that it's your say in this matter," Pentecost said. "I need to talk to Mr. Smith here, and if that's what it takes... You, Caruthers, and Pipsqueak are all dismissed."
"Even me?" the girl asked incredulously.
"Even you, Squeak," Pentecost said. "I have an offer to make Mr. Smith here. One I'm sure he'll be interested in. He won't hurt me until he hears why he's been brought to see me. And afterward, well, there's nothing in it for him to kill me. After all, if he declines the offer, he's free to go."
The masked man whipped his head around to stare at Pentecost.
"Yes Mr. Smith, if you decline my offer, you'll simply be returned to Africa where you were captured. All your items will be returned to you. I give you my word."
The masked man made a grand sweeping bow towards Jack, then again motioned for the other three to leave the room.
"You heard... er, saw the man," Jack said. "You can wait outside now."
The three vanguard operatives slowly walked out of the conference room. Sub-machine gun looked daggers at the mercenary. Psycannon simply held his hand up and mimed a pistol shot at the man as the door was closed behind him.
"Are the theatrics really necessary?" Pentecost asked Psycannon.
"Helps with the whole, 'Man of Mystery' thing. Keeps clients off balance, which in my line of work is helpful. In fact, I think you're the first person I've actually spoken to in about 9 months."
"I'm flattered," Jack said flatly, returning his gaze to the paperwork. "According to our files on you, you're pretty much a gun for hire... Some would say assassin..."
"And some would say hero," Psycannon replied. "I'm not in this to save the world, my talents go to the highest bidder."
"You wouldn't call yourself a murderer?" Jack asked, peering again over the top of his glasses.
"Oh, I'm sure some would. I prefer to think of myself as an opportunist."
"Then I have an opportunity for you, Mr. Smith. And since we're talking now, is that really your name?" Jack asked.
Psycannon laughed again. "That's a discussion for another time. Right now, you were saying you had a job?"
"I don't think 'job' is the right term for this proposal..." Jack said, smoking on his cigar. "This is more of a..." he searched for the word. "...Well... a chance to save the world."
Psycannon started to back up. "Uh uh. No. No way. I'm not a cape. I'm not about to face Arachnos. I'm in it for the money."
"Relax," Jack told him. "This isn't Archnos. Or Statesman. Or anyone else you actually know. Or probably have even heard of."
The mercenary folded his arms across his chest again. "OK, then what's the gig?" he asked warily.
Jack leaned back in his chair. "Well, it's an intelligence gathering mission mostly. We need some firepower to help ensure that our people make it out safely. That's where you come in."
"OK. What's your payment offer, and where's the mish?" Psycannon asked bluntly.
"It's not that simple, Smith," Jack told him. "Ever hear of Portal Corporation? And all the worlds they've discovered?"
"I have enough work on this world to keep me occupied," Psycannon said, a severe frown in his voice. "I don't worry about others."
"Well, you're about to." Jack said, grinning a wolfish grin. "There's a world that closely parallels our own. One that is ruled by the 'capes,' as you put it. One where Statesman is a tyrant and rules with an iron fist.
"Rumor has it that that this... tyrant is plotting something against our reality. We need to know what that is. That's where you come in. You see," and Jack gestured to his stack of paperwork, "It's a mirror image reality to ours. People here - Statesman, Manticore, me - all have doubles there. 'Capes' are all drafted to work for Tyrant. It's too much effort to replace someone there. And if we did, there's too much that could go wrong that would endanger our operatives.
"There's a handful of people in this reality, though, that don't have counterparts in that one. You're one of them."
Jack could see the face under the mask curl into a smile. "OK, so you NEED me. Your options are limited and you NEED me to be your spy. Got it. So what's in it for me? What's stopping me from leaving here right now and spilling what I know to the highest bidder?"
"What's stopping you is the dimensional barrier. Even if you leave, and you still can, you won't be able to sell your knowledge to anyone able to do anything. It's another goddamn dimension. It's not like you'll be able to go to South America and fly there. As for helping, you're not going to do this to just to save your own dimension?"
"If your dossier has all that info on me, surely you know..."
"That I'm an opportunist," both men said in unison, Jack rolling his eyes.
Jack sighed. Heavily. "OK, I was hoping that it wasn't going to come to this." He paused. "If you accept the assignment, you'll become a full fledged member of Vanguard, with all the rights, privileges, etc. You know the drill."
Psycannon thought for a moment. "So besides being a soldier, and I'm not good at following orders, just so you know... I'll get a pardon for any misdeeds," the apparent grin beneath the mask showed itself again, "and access to all the spiffy gadgets and tech that Vanguard has."
Jack rubbed the bridge of his nose again. He felt like he was making a deal with the devil and hoped it didn't come back to bite him in the ass. "Yes, goddammit. We need your help."
Psycannon shrugged. "It may be good to lie low for a while, anyway. Take some time off of this world. Have a few drinks, entertain some ladies, see the sights, and save up for a new assault rifle. Maybe one of those shiny flamethrowers Vanguard has." He jerked a thumb towards the door that the guards had walked out of.
"So you're in? I just want to make sure..." Jack gestured to his paper stack, "You have a reputation for keeping your word."
The mercenary grabbed his belt and began refastening it around his waist. "I'm in."