Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
With the growl of asphalt under its tires, the midnight-blue Mustang turns into the isolated parking lot from the tree-lined road. The worn, black lot is big enough for only a couple dozen vehicles and stands out oddly against the jade field that surrounds it. The half moon hangs low over the trees, giving the world a surreal, painted tint.
Two other vehicles sit in the parking lot: a dirty, white government sedan and an older foreign pickup. The sports car cuts across the marked spots before jolting to a crooked halt.
Edward Masen switches off the ignition, causing the dome light to cast harsh shadows that accentuate his youthful but worn face. His auburn hair is freshly shaved around the sides of his head, leaving an inch meticulously spiked on top. He wears the near-black dress uniform jacket. His awards, wings and combat badge glint in the dim light.
With wary eyes, he stares at the small structure at the front of the lot. Resembling a bus shelter, it consists of little more than dark steel supports, glass walls and metal roof reflecting the moonlight. The shadowed outline of a door can just be made out in the transparent walls.
The dome light fades leaving Edward in the dark. He focuses on his breathing as he continues to watch the shelter. His orders were specific; report to this location at two in the morning. Some sort of interview. The why wasn't important. But there is nothing here. A single chime of a bell and his phone, sitting in the passenger seat, shines a cone of blue upward.
He leans over slightly, reading the text without picking the phone up. It's from his First Sergeant.
"Good luck Sir. I no you'll nail it. TTYL."
Why is he texting me this late, Edward thinks. The First Sergeant was the closest thing to a friend he had at his previous assignment. The man trained Edward, protected him, made him an exceptional officer. A sense of duty, kinship maybe, tells Edward he should respond. At least try to remain friends with the man. Honesty is a louder voice though, and it leads Edward to not care.
The light disappears, and he returns to darkness.
Edward knows he should be leary of this; a late night meeting in an isolated location. He picks up the phone, swipes away the text message, and double checks the coordinates in the GPS.
"Yeah," he says to himself. "This is it." His lips turn in thought, his young but worn face twisting. He ponders while his thumb gently taps his leg.
He quickly exits the Mustange, a long shadow momentarily thrown across the parking lot before he shuts the door behind him. The phone slides in to his pocket. He absently tugs at the bottom of his uniform jacket, removing its wrinkles while allowing his bright, green eyes to adjust to the night. He holds his breath, focusing his thoughts on being stoic and professional: a soldier.
"Right," he says through a heavy exhale. His mouth mimics the sound of a gunshot as he steps away from the car.
The clicks of the patent leather shoes and their cheaply made soles fill the still air. Edward is quickly at the short pavement path cutting from the lot to the shelter where he stops. A smile crosses his face.
"Yeah," he says through a smirk before biting his lip. His confidence grows with every step. "Yeah." With a hop, he continues forward.
The clicking steps cease with the whisper of the glass door to the shelter sliding open. Edward cocks his head in surprise. "Fancy shed," he says, stepping through the door.
The saturated field at night disappears around him as he enters. Inside, the walls are opaque, colored a pearlescent slate. The door slides shut behind Edward, leaving him to gaze around the room.
"Okay." Confusion wrestles with certainty. He begins to walk the perimeter of the room, watching the shades of gray shift with his perspective. A light touch reveals a glass-like texture. "Really fancy shed."
"Step onto the red square." The lilt of a woman's voice fills the room, slightly distorted through unseen speakers. Startled, Edward takes an instinctive step away from the wall, dropping his arm to his side as if he was caught doing something he shouldn't have been.
"Right," he says with a swallow.
Scanning the ugly tile floor, he finds the faded red square. In four steps he is there. The square is wide enough to stand in comfortably, but with little room available to shift his feet. He holds his hands behind his back as he stands facing the direction from which he entered.
The floor shudders. Edward's body tenses. The gray shelter disappears above him as the floor rises and he moves down into the black tunnel. A rumble above draws his attention and he looks up to see a sliding door closing the shaft in absolute darkness. Only the growl of the chamber and the sinking feeling in his gut tells him that he is still descending.
He clicks his teeth with his tongue, a futile distraction to fight the uncertainty filling him. Edward stands still, lowering into a blind unknown. He had simply been ordered to report to this location at 2200 hours, ten o'clock at night, for a potential new assignment. He wants to be angry, but curiosity proves the stronger emotion.
The blackness accompanies him for an uncomfortable amount of time, before white fluorescence surrounds him. A well-lit, mirrored chamber replaces the darkness. He exhales, surprised to realize he had been holding his breath. The downward movement becomes imperceptible. The dark square above him grows ever smaller in the deepening silver column.
The platform slows to a stop, catching Edward's attention. Silence. He tugs nervously at his jacket. "Hello?"
"Stand by." The distorted voice from above fills the mirrored chamber, immediately followed by a low hum. Edward swallows.
The noise increases to a level of annoyance. Edward grimaces and lowers his head, attempting to block out the sound. Two pinpoints of red light appear at the bottom corners of the chamber. The bright line of a laser surrounds him, scanning his body from the ground up. As the scan reaches the top of his bowed head, the humming stops.
"Thank you, Captain Masen."
He looks to see his reflection shudder. The mirror slides upward to reveal a lobby bathed in golden light. He steps out into the wood-paneled room. A quartet of green pleather benches, each large enough for four people, lines the sidewalls. Along the back, a large metal square is hung center, reaching from floor to ceiling. The words, "IN TENEBRAS. AC TENEBRAS," ring an upward-pointed arrow with a diamond shape at the end.
"Hello?" His voice echoes.
He scans the room. From where he entered, the elevator door has disappeared, lost in the texture of the pine walls. To the left, an iron memorial covers a third of a wall. Topped with an enamel American flag and floral embellishments, four columns of names engraved in two-inch letters fill half of the black slab. Larger letters along the bottom read, "UT MALENDICTIO ILLORUM ELEVARI." It's translation below reads, "May their curse be lifted."
A clacking sound like the pouring of marbles on tile begins, the volume enhanced by the open room's acoustics. Edward turns to the noise coming from the front corner of the room. He watches in disbelief.
The wall appears to dissolve before him, folding squares into squares in a fractal pattern. He approaches in awe as the yellow wood dissipates, revealing a silver, pearlescent finish similar to the inside of the chamber high on the surface. After a few moments, a rectangle stands in contrast to the natural surface around it.
Before given a moment to comprehend the sight, voices are heard from behind the wall. Edward's fists clench and he holds his breath, unsure of who is approaching. His body instinctively locks into a rigid position of attention as the now familiar whisper of the sliding door accompanies the rising wall.
"You told me he'd be late," a male's firm voice enters the lobby before Edward can see him. Two sets of footsteps.
"I know, sir." A female. "And he is."
Edward's brow furrows and his jaw juts forward with indignation.
A thin, blonde man enters, accompanied by an attractive woman with short, boyish, brunette hair. They both wear black on black.
"Captain Edward Masen," the man says, his tone shifting to welcome Edward upon seeing him. "Relax." He approaches with an outstretched hand, leading Edward to smile and step forward to shake hands. "I'm Colonel Carlisle Cullen."
The Colonel's black uniform is cut identically to the Army's dress uniform, though it, aside from the name tag, is without the traditional decorations. A miniscule eagle rank pinned to his lapel catches a spark of silver light. Above the left breast pocket, three rows of multi-colored ribbons the size of tie pins blur into a collage of tiny colors.
"Good evening, sir," Edward says. He hides his fascination with the variation of the dress uniform as it comes apparent that this is not a typical military organization.
"We are pleased to have you here, Captain." Colonel Cullen steps away, sliding his hand into a pocket.
"Thank you, sir." Edward hangs his hands in front of him, fingers interlaced.
"I know you likely have no idea who we are," the Colonel says. There is a sense of bored understanding in his voice.
Edward nods, finding comfort that the superior officer understands. "No clue, sir."
"That's what tonight is for." He takes a step back, allowing Edward a better look at the woman who entered with him. She wears the gold chevrons of a Sergeant but no name tag. There is a distant exoticness to her face, and approachability in how she carries herself. She shakes Edward's hand.
"Captain Masen." Hers is the voice from the elevator. "For now, please call me Adele." She purses her lips with knowing bemusement. "Welcome to the Lilim Division."