Disclaimer: I do not own anything Twilight. This was written as an original story and converted to a Twilight Fan fiction piece to garner interest in the story. I will release the original version at the end of each book.
I send word through official channels (Garrett) that I need to meet with my father. I know he keeps tabs on me and that he has been keeping his distance since our last meeting. I appreciate that he is not smothering me, especially after my ordeal. I feel that if I want to keep this freedom he has allowed me to have, I have to at least make an effort to keep him as much in the loop as I can. Since the number of people I can trust is in short supply, I figure it can't hurt to bounce some of my ideas off of my father's keen analytical mind.
I expect my father to arrive within a few days of getting the message, but am surprised to learn he will be available to meet a few hours after I send the message. I guess he has been waiting to hear from me. We arrange to meet in the library, where I first met him face to face.
I arrive a few minutes early for our meeting and am only slightly surprised to find my father and Garrett already there. They stop talking and look slightly uncomfortable as I cross the room and address them both.
"You know, I'm starting to develop a complex from the way people stop talking when I enter a room." I remark dryly.
My father smiles and turns to Garrett, "We can finish this later old friend." Garrett nods and leaves us alone, though I know we are never truly alone in this house. Someone is always listening, waiting for a piece of information that can be traded or used to their own advantage.
I motion to the chessboard, "Has your game improved?" I have been able to beat him fairly steadily the last few times we've played, but I still enjoy the challenge.
He smiles and sits down "Not really; you are the only one I play against anymore." We open with classic positioning moves and the game is on.
"I wanted to bring you up to speed on what I have planned for the next few months." I jump right in, my aggressive style of play matching my words.
"I got the basics from Emily, I'm glad you chose to include Garrett." He moves a piece to negate my chosen tactic, forcing me to rethink my strategy. "Though I don't think he is thrilled about his new look." He grins at me.
"A necessary alteration, one that Edward and I will have to make too." I choose another avenue of attack and move a piece into position.
"I know, I just want you to be careful, I just got you back and I don't want to lose you again." Moving another piece he thwarts my attack again. Frustrated I glare at him and he smiles. "I'm not going to try and talk you out of it. In fact I had my guys come up with a few things to help your new persona." He nods at the desk where a black attaché case is sitting. "I hope they help."
"Thank you, I'm sure they will be very useful." I hide my delight as I find a hole in my father's defenses and surreptitiously move my pieces to take advantage.
"I do have a condition though …" My father closes his ranks and blocks me again. "Just a little something, in exchange for me not trying to stop you from your chosen course of action."
I am getting frustrated, with the game and this conversation. I make a reckless move and it pays off. I have his bishop cornered. "What condition is that?" I ask warily.
"Immersion training." He says, like I'm supposed to know what it means. "I have taken the liberty of setting it up for the three of you." He makes a benign move and I press my attack.
"I don't need any more training. I have wasted too much time already. Do you think our enemies are waiting around training, or do you think they are plotting their next move?" I am getting angry and force myself to keep my tone even and my temper in check. "When I hit them next, they will know they have been hit." I finish with a deadly edge to my voice.
"True," my father says amiably. "You are quite the warrior now. However, as any true warrior knows, sometimes you have to abandon the attack and observe the entire battlefield, otherwise…" He moves his queen "details can be overlooked that exact a harsh penalty." He leans back in his chair. "I believe that is checkmate."
I stare at the board dumbfounded. I had been concentrating too much on my attack strategy, so much that I had left myself wide open for the subtle manipulations of my father. As he slowly let his pieces fall into place he let me think I had been controlling the game before waiting for the perfect time to strike. I look up at him slowly, "This lesson would have blown up in your face if I had noticed what you were up to and beaten you," I say with a bitter tone.
He regards me sternly and then cracks a smile. "You're telling me, I have been sweating it out since your third move."
I sigh as I tip my king over. "Fine, tell me about this immersion training."
"It is just what it sounds like. It is training designed to make you completely comfortable in your new personas. It also is designed to make your reactions to your teammate's personas more fluid and natural. It takes about three months but when you are done you will BE your personas, you will not be just pretending to be someone else." He walks to the desk and picks up the case. "And you can use that time to familiarize yourself with these."
I take the case and open it. I feel a little bit like the spy in the movies who always visits the gadget guy before the big mission. "Okay, you want to give me a rundown on this stuff?"
"Happy to," My father picks up a couple of small objects, one black and one silver. These can double as belt buckles or pendants, with the press of the center button here…" Three blades pop out, he presses it again and they fold back in. "The blades are treated with a liquid repelling compound in case there is a lot of blood." He finishes.
Oh there will be blood. I think to myself but just nod.
"Now these are really nice. Polycarbonate retractable blades… strap them to the inside of your forearm and they will shoot out at about five hundred PSI, and then retract immediately. They are completely undetectable by metal detectors and coated with the same liquid repelling compound." He demonstrates the mechanism, I am impressed. I will make good use of this weapon, I am sure of it.
"Lastly, I have an old favorite." He hands me a tube of lipstick. "Don't apply your makeup with this one though. It fires a single .30 caliber round." He shows me how to load it and how it fires. *The CIA and KGB loved these back in the Cold War era. They were putting guns in everything back then. I once heard of an agent that got shot by a booby trapped roll of toilet paper." He chuckled at the memory.
"Thank you for these. I know they will come in handy on this mission." I start to close the case.
"Hang on a second. I saved the best for last." He flips open a compartment on the case and it opens to reveal two ornate .45 Colt 1911's; one silver, one black, both embossed with gold. "They will expect you to be armed. This gives them something to find, and they are real nail drivers to boot."
"They are beautiful." I lift them from the case, they fit easily in my hands; the weight is comforting and conveys a feeling of power. They are perfectly balanced and easy to aim. "Thank you, this is not the typical father/daughter gift but it is perfect."
"Well I got you a little something along the more traditional route too." He pulls a box from his pocket. "I hope you like it; you are not exactly easy to shop for these days."
I open the box and find silver earrings, each in the shape of a single wing. "Angel wings?" I ask him.
"Egyptian silver; they are called the wings of Horus." He looks up at me to see if I understand.
"God of the moon which is represented as a falcon or winged man with a falcon head; battled the serpent-god Set for control of the underworld and is mostly associated with revenge and the all-seeing eye." I recite from memory. "All very appropriate for my new persona; they are beautiful, thank you."
"Keep them together. If they are separated by more than 50 feet they will send a signal that will alert me you are in danger." He kisses my forehead. "Sometimes a father needs an all-seeing eye of his own."
I hug him and we have a short moment where things were just like they were before. It didn't last, but it was nice while it did.
"I have to tell you something before I go." My father becomes serious again.
"Okay, what is it?"
"Special Projects, I want you to be very careful in your dealings with them. Ms. Epperson is very ruthless and always will do what is in the best interests of the organization's survival as it exists today. She enjoys an abundance of power right now with very little accountability; she will throw you to the wolves to keep things as they are. When the 'New Management' faction started to attempt their hostile takeover she didn't help them, but it is widely believed she had a non-interference deal with Hector. She hedged her bets so no matter which side won, she came out on top." He looks around like he knows someone is likely listening. "All I'm saying is this, know what your worth is to her at all times; don't ever overestimate your value to her."
I hug him again "Thanks Dad, I won't forget." I put the earrings on and kiss him on the cheek. We were a loving father and daughter again for a moment before I turn and leave the room.
Garrett is waiting for me outside the room and sees the case in my hand. "Care package?" he asks.
"The very best kind," I reply with a sinister grin.
"So what's the plan then Bella?" Garrett asks, always ready to help with my next big idea.
"Immersion training," I answer flatly. "And call me Ash."
"Sure kid, whatever you say." He looks at me "Do I really have to shave my head?"
Immersion training is tough but I welcome it. Emily's team goes to work on us, completely disguising our appearances. Edward and I are made to look older but Garrett has the most dramatic change. Head shaved; bushy long goatee and chinstrap beard. A fake scar through his left eyebrow and down his cheek give him a sinister appearance, and his new trademark dark glasses complete the transformation.
Edward grows his hair out and increases his weight gain through physical training. His face takes on a chiseled look that is unlike the person I knew before.
My transformation includes heavier makeup than I am used to. A hairstyle change and outfits that encourage people to look anywhere but my face are the prime focus on my transformation. Looking in the mirror and seeing a stranger staring back can be a very liberating experience. I remember a line from the classic story of the invisible man … It's amazing what you can do when you don't have to look at yourself in the mirror. I'm not quite invisible, but being someone else is close enough.
We start by going out to clubs as our new personas. Referring to each other by our new names, Ash, X and King make new contacts and start telling stories of things they have done until they flow easily and effortlessly. X and Ash give off an air of mystery to outsiders, no one knows if they are lovers or related. No women approach X for fear of being rebuked by Ash. Similarly no men approach Ash, her two companions make it clear that she is under their protection.
Before long we are ready to begin to bait the trap. To do that, we need to start becoming fixtures on the underground fight circuit. We select a small town in southern Ontario called Cargill. We visit local bars and "find out" there is an underground fight circuit among the ranchers and meat packers in the area.
We visit the fights a few times and size up the competition. The local champion is a large ranch hand named Zane 'the insane' Phelps. He is big and strong but lacks any real skill or competitive edge. We begin executing Emily's plan of distributing copies of Zane's poster with a big red X drawn through it. In the arena there is a giant mural with Zane's picture and we break in and X it out too. Before long we start hearing people whispering of the mysterious undefeated fighter that has decided to challenge the local champion. People start taking notice of strangers and it isn't long before speculation begins coming our way.
It is time to announce our presence. Fight night is Friday and I decide it is time to put our training into practice. I start loudly referring to Edward as 'X' in public and I take note of the people overhearing as they start to spread the word. Before long, we are sitting in a local watering hole when Zane enters with his entourage. It is obvious he is looking for us and when he sees us in the booth in the corner he walks over.
"So you're the hotshot who's been fucking up my posters with these X's?" It's not really a question but Edward, in his new persona just looks at him with a bored expression and then, ignoring Zane addresses me.
"I thought you said he couldn't read." He says to me in a bored tone "I figured since X was at the end of the alphabet it would take him at least a couple of weeks before his spelling lessons got that far." King (Garrett) snorts in amusement and takes a drink from his glass.
"The Canadian education system is much more efficient than the American one," I reply back, "Or, maybe one of the rocket scientists he brought with him told him what it was. Is that what happened boys? Did you let him copy off of your paper?" I am goading them I know, but we are in no real danger.
"Look who's got jokes." Zane is red in the face, "I figured I'd make it easy for you to find me since you seem to have something to prove." He flexes his chest muscles, "Are we going to do this or what?"
X (Edward) drains his glass and then stands up. "Sure, I have nothing pressing for the next five minutes. Am I beating all of you down or just you slugger?" He yawns as they look at each other.
"Hang on X." I stand up and chide him like a patient teacher. "You know my rules, if they want to get beat; they need to pay to play." I address them like I am noticing them for the first time. "Tell your booking agent he can contact me at the fight on Friday. We'll be there and I doubt we will be hard to find."
"My agent?" Zane is bewildered for a moment. "Um yeah, well Willie here is my agent so you can work out a deal now." He claps the older one of the group on the shoulder and ushers him forward.
"I am?" He looks confused for a moment then straightens and takes off his battered ball cap and finds his confidence. "I mean… I am. If you want to make a deal you make it with me."
"Of course." I switch to being all business, "King, please get a drink for Mister…"
"Nelson," he volunteers readily, we all stare at him.
"Wait a minute; your name is Willie Nelson?" X is incredulous.
"Yeah I know, but I'll let you in on a secret. I ain't the country singer." He grins at us revealing a bunch of tobacco stained teeth.
"Well then, Mr. Nelson. Since your client is the defending champion, I will defer to you to name the terms." I lean back in my seat and a regard him coolly.
"R-right, the um, terms." It is obvious he is hopelessly out of his depth. "As an, um, visiting fighter I am, ah, that is, open to extending you the courtesy of um…." He looks at me pleadingly for help.
"How kind." I lean forward and his eyes drop to take in the view. "I was thinking this Friday, as the final bout of the night. Your fighter would get top billing of course as the defending champion. I would like to introduce my own fighter though as part of our agreement." King (Garrett) returns and places a drink in front of Mr. Nelson, he takes a sip without seeming to taste it. "What is your fighter's standard winning share of the house profits here?"
"Zane?" Willie looks at the larger man for the answer.
"Twenny-five percent of the gate and house winnings on the bettin'," Zane proclaims proudly.
"How quaint..." I respond dryly. "Very well, in light of the fact that there is no real risk to my fighter I suppose we can be convinced to take a pay cut. Once he is champion I will negotiate a new deal with the arena or move the fights elsewhere. Is there anything else before we drink on it Mr. Nelson?"
"Ummm no that will about do it little Miss..." He raises his glass, "To your fighter's continued good health."
"To yours as well." I raise my glass and regard him with narrowed eyes. "Until Friday at least."