"You're actually telling me that's the way the world works. Monsters, aliens, androids, they're all real."
"You seem quick to forget what you saw just this morning."
"Oh so NOW you agree that what I saw was what I saw!"
"Technically I never didn't. "
At this point all Danny wanted was answers, and this guy who called himself The Middleman was just frustrating him more. He felt like his head was spinning at a million miles a minute.
He still didn't quite know where he was or who these people were. He still didn't know what the hell happened with his apartment. Now he was being told by several practical strangers that the world actually does run like any comic book he grew up his entire life reading.
"Forgive me for any frustrations, Danny, but we never told you what you saw was wrong, we simply attempted to offer you a persuasion that would allow you to accept a more rational belief than what actually happened."
As the four of them walked down a long hallway made out of shining brown mahogany wood like everything else seemed to be, Danny squinted at The Middleman for what felt like the millionth time and shook his head.
"Soooooo….you tried to Jedi Mind Trick me."
Wendy exhaled happily.
"Thank you! That's exactly what I said!"
The Middleman thought briefly of casting another scornful look at his young protégé, but immediately thought better of it in order to preserve the progress of the moment at hand.
"Believe me, Mr. Dixon. It's far from a mind 'trick'. After all, the mind picks and chooses what it wants to accept as reality or fantasy. Fortunately, for us and our organization, the majority of the world chooses to accept a way of life apart from the one we see, keeping the peace."
Now Danny was outright curious.
"And what exactly is your way of life?"
The Middleman smiled knowingly as they neared an open doorway.
"Allow us to show rather than tell."
At that, the four of them stepped into a larger room and Danny cast a look around, his eyes shooting open in fascination.
It would have looked like any other room in this building, with mahogany walls and the like, if it weren't for the glowing and pulsating machines all around him. There stood a panel of television screens in front of him with various metal contraptions perched atop them. What appeared to be a large wooden cabinet housing metallic armor and weaponry stood behind him when he looked back.
What looked like a cross between a space suit and a robot stood still to his left, and to his right sat a reading desk with a small lamp and a telephone. The Middleman quickly strode to the television panel and began typing. Wendy had already crossed her arms and began leaning against the wall across from Danny.
He spun slowly, taking it all in, not even knowing that his mouth was slightly agape.
"What…IS all this?"
"It's machinery dedicated to our constant watchful presence over the world. It was how we were able to observe what happened to you this morning. Here, take a look for yourself."
Danny turned and walked over to the one screen The Middleman was standing beside. It was somehow showing a real-time video recording of his fight with Monster Amy.
Of course, Danny had called it a fight in his mind, but the images of him hanging upside-down and thrashing around sure made the fight look pretty one-sided.
"Do I even want to know how you got video of this?"
"You were thrashing around really good. Like a fish out of water."
Danny turned to see Wendy snickering, watching the video of him failing, badly.
"I was….just trying to get my bearings," he said.
"What holds more relevance is what happens….right here." The Middleman pointed at the screen.
Danny turned back in time to see the moment he splashed his coffee all over Monster Amy and she dropped him. He then witnessed himself making a break for it before he was caught by her tentacle again.
"Tell me what you did right there, Mr. Dixon."
"I…..splashed hot coffee on Monster Amy before running?"
"It does appear that the coffee was still warm enough….even though our diagnostics confirmed you had been partaking of it all night. Strange."
"Yeah, special thermos my parents got me after graduation."
Danny turned toward the Middleman and cocked another eyebrow.
"So, WHAT exactly does watching this video have to do with anything?"
"My, you're an impatient one."
The Middleman cast a quick glance over at Wendy, who shook her head, smiling right back at him. In many ways, this young man reminded him a lot of his current protégé. For his own sake, and the sake of the organization, he hoped Danny would be just as plucky and strong-willed.
"The point is even in the midst of certain dismemberment, you found the will inside of you to fight back against the Terractula," The Middleman continued. "While so many others would have cried or frightened themselves into a temporary coma, or defecated in their pants out of sheer terror, you chose the path of living and chose to do something about it."
The Middleman stood a little taller and smiled down at him.
"That puts you at a cut above the rest of the population."
Danny paused, and turned to look at the screen again. The frozen image of him staring up in terror as Monster Amy was about to smash him with the studio cameras sure didn't seem like the kind of photo he'd want on any sort of resume.
"I….thought that was just standard self-preservation," Danny said. "Fight or flight."
The Middleman clapped a hand on Danny's shoulder and startled him a bit.
"In that choice, you chose to fight, despite not knowing the creature you were up against, and despite not fully comprehending your world anymore. You didn't bat an eye, you just acted. Like Wyatt Earp never backed down from Johnny Ringo."
Danny was confused.
"Erm…did you just make a "Tombstone" reference?"
"Schyeah. Hope you like Westerns!"
That brought yet another dubious look from the The Middleman, but Wendy still laughed and walked over to stand beside her mentor, smiling over at Danny.
"That kind of bravery in the midst of certain death is exactly what we need in our organization, Mr. Dixon. We believe you have what it takes to join us."
Danny raised his eyebrows.
"Wait, join you? In exotic contracting?"
"In saving the world every day, Danny. We want you to be a part of something much bigger than yourself. A chance for your eyes to be opened to a far bigger world than the one you're in now. A chance for you to make a great difference to your fellow man."
"OK, boss, we're borderline quoting "The Matrix" now."
The Middleman, in true Morpheus fashion, never moved, remaining perfectly zen as he and his apprentice stood in front of Danny.
"What do you say, Mr. Dixon? Will you join us?"
Danny literally couldn't think of his next words. His world was indeed crashing down all around him. He was still wrapping his mind around what this place was and who these people were. He didn't even know exactly what it is they did, only that it had something to do with "stopping evil" and "saving the world".
The Middleman stood, watching Danny expectantly, waiting for his answer. Admittedly, he had never intended something like this to be so rushed and sudden, but there were circumstances afoot. Deadly ones. Ones that would be placing him and anyone involved in the Middle-organization in great danger. He wanted this protection for Danny, and deep-down, The Middleman wanted to believe that maybe he could be the one that they'd been waiting for.
Wendy crossed her arms, smiling over at the new kid. In the short time they'd come to know him, Danny reminded her a lot of when she was first approached by The Middleman to join him in their never-ending quest. The confusion and shock in his eyes was so familiar to her it was almost creepy. She guessed that was why, as they were standing there waiting for his answer, she felt for him.
Even Ida paused her indifference and looked at the little squat, wanting to see how far this went.
Danny took a breath, exhaled, and faced the two of them.
That answer left Wendy and The Middleman silent for a few moments. Ida turned back to her solitaire on the desk.
"Excuse me, Mr. Dixon?" The Middleman couldn't hide the small squeak in his voice with the question.
"I said no. I don't know where I am. I don't know who you are. I don't know what it is you do, and you're asking me to sign on to your cause? One I'm not even sure is completely legal? Is this how you get all your recruits?"
Wendy bit her lip and looked down awkwardly, kicking at a small piece of lint on the floor before looking back up at him.
"You could say that."
"Mr. Dixon," The Middleman stepped in. "I do apologize for the way things have transpired so quickly, but I assure we did it in the best interest of…"
"Protecting me?" Danny cut him off. "You call this protection? From what, even?"
Danny held out his hands, but no one answered that. He continued.
"I want you to get me out of here, and get me my apartment back."
The Middleman pressed his lips together and hung his head for a moment, then slowly looked back up at the young man he thought they could place their hopes in. Maybe he was wrong after all.
Then an old memory returned to him, and he recalled when Wendy first came here, how she had initially refused this task too. He remembered how she came around eventually, and proved to be the most valuable partner he could ask for.
Maybe, just maybe, Danny might be the same.
"Very well, Mr. Dixon, you need not make your decision right this moment. You can have some time to think on it."
Danny crossed his arms.
"I don't want to think on anything. I believe I already gave you my answer."
The Middleman held up a hand.
"That's all I ask. You take a night or two to think about where your life is right now, if you're truly satisfied with it. I want you to understand that incidents like the one you went through happen every day, and most of the time they're far worse, and people's lives are endangered."
The Middleman paused and took a few more steps toward Danny.
"I want you to think about just how much you wanted to be saved from that Terractula, and how you never wanted to feel that powerless again."
Danny paused. He saw such earnestness in The Middleman's eyes as he looked at him. It was the kind of truth that never drew suspicion, the kind that was completely meaningful.
Even The Middleman was surprised at his own words. He didn't often show such emotion in a request. He realized he had begun drawing upon his own personal experiences in this organization. He quickly calmed himself.
Danny shrugged. "Alright, alright. I'll think about it, if you really want me to."
The Middleman closed his eyes and a smile came to his face.
"That's all I ask. Now, Wendy will be escorting you to your new, safer apartment."
With that, The Middleman turned on a heel and began walking back to the television screens to stop and consider them thoughtfully. He never turned back around as Wendy walked toward Danny, grabbing him by the shoulder and twirling him around to follow her.