It never fails. The minute things get interesting, you remember that you have something important to do. Government Steve would rather have stayed to see what happened when The Bro – the world’s biggest philanderer – tried to hit on Abril – the world’s biggest narcissist. The drama was sure to be spectacular. Sadly, Government Steve needed to attend to something else that was important and time-sensitive. The perfect addition to The Grenadier’s team lived on the lowest level of Headquarters and needed to be prepped immediately.
Government Steve reached the door and knocked. It swung open, revealing a room full of men and women in lab coats surrounding a man on a hospital bed. The man had electrodes covering his shaven head. Large monitors on one wall displayed his brain activity. Government Steve couldn’t read any of the data but the people in the lab coats browsed it like their Facebook pages. Some stared at wavy lines. Some chatted excitedly about significant blips. One of the women kept pointing at a monitor and insisting emphatically that something on it was an artifact. Government Steve didn’t understand any of it, but he didn’t need to. These people were paid well to do the understanding for him.
“I was kind of hoping he’d be awake,” Government Steve told Jenna, the pretty woman who held the door open. She was the only one not wearing a lab coat.
“I was waiting for the order, dude,” she said as Government Steve entered the room. He liked that Jenna called him ‘dude’. Usually, he was either ‘Government Steve’, or ‘Sir’. That got old.
“I should have given it earlier,” he admitted. “This whole thing kind of fell into place and I was so worried about getting The Grenadier here and getting him set up that I didn’t think about waking up Displacer Beast until now.”
“Dude, I thought we agreed we aren’t calling him ‘Displacer Beast’?”
“No one offered a better alternative,” Government Steve shrugged.
“I made several suggestions,” she argued, “A couple of them were even serious. What about ‘Wanderlust’? You never gave an opinion.”
He considered that for a moment, “I kind of like Wanderlust,” he said with a nod. “I don’t remember you suggesting it.”
Jenna smirked, “I thought you’d like that. You always go for pseudo-highbrow.”
“I’m not highbrow,” Government Steve insisted.
“Of course not. You’re pseudo-highbrow,” she said. “You can’t manage actual highbrow.”
“Would you just wake up the asset?” Government Steve ordered though smiling.
As Jenna approached the asset, the people in the room hushed and settled in front of their monitors. This was prime time for them. For reasons none of them could explain in layman’s terms, the moment this man woke up was very exciting.
Jenna reached out a finger and tapped the sleeping man’s forehead. His eyes opened, and he sat up abruptly.
The man surveyed the room with obvious confusion. “This is…different,” he said. “Where am I.”
Why do they always ask that question? Government Steve thought. “We just call this place Headquarters,” he said. “It doesn’t have an official name because it doesn’t officially exist.”
“You must be foreigners,” the man mused, “I’ve never seen your kind of magic before.”
A pair of the anthropologists stood up, looking excited. Government Steve gestured to them to sit back down. They always got excited when the asset mentioned culture but now was not the time for study. It was time to find out if they could finally take this guy on a mission. It had been six years since he was discovered but because of his oddity, he had yet to be fit for combat when he was needed. Tonight, hopefully, he would finally be ready.
“Actually, you’re the foreigner here,” Government Steve said. “Hey! How’s ‘Foreigner’ for a name?” he asked Jenna.
“Ugh, no. That’s a band name. My dad used to listen to Foreigner. I’ve been trying to forget they exist.”
“This is weird,” the man said, prodding one of the electrodes on his forehead. “Why does my voice sound wrong?”
“Bring the mirror,” Jenna ordered. “I could try to explain but it’s easier if you see for yourself.”
A few minutes later, the man was staring at a full-length mirror in disbelief. “That isn’t me,” he said.
“No, it isn’t,” Government Steve agreed. “I can’t explain it. These guys,” he indicated to the men and women in lab coats, “they have theories, but you have to have seven degrees to understand them. The gist of it is this, every time this body wakes up, a completely different person is in it. Today, it’s you.”
“Well, isn’t that a fuzzy caterpillar,” the man said. Suddenly, he looked very confused. “Why isn’t that a pun anymore?”
Jenna chuckled. “You aren’t speaking your own language, dude. Somehow, this body is capable of speech no matter who is in it and what their native language is.” Jenna was smiling but Government Steve noticed by her posture that she was ready to put the man back to sleep if necessary. It was probably best to determine quickly whether they should. There wasn’t much time left for a reset.
“What is your name?” Government Steve asked.
“Are you male or female?”
Brice looked offended. “I’m a man, of course.”
“I have to ask,” Government Steve explained. “In that body, we’ve had men, women, a few people who refused to answer, and even one who didn’t understand the question. I’m glad you are a man though, sometimes it gets awkward when a female inhabits the body. Waking up one day to find yourself the opposite gender has got to be jarring.”
“I don’t know,” Brice said in a skeezy tone of voice. “I might enjoy waking up in a woman’s body, if it was just for a day.” He mimed fondling imaginary breasts.
“That’s disgusting, dude,” Jenna said. She was holding her finger up and looking at Government Steve, asking for permission to put Brice back to sleep. Government Steve shook his head and she put it down reluctantly. Brice, obviously noticing the exchange, eyed Jenna warily.
Finally, Government Steve asked the vital question, “How do you feel about violence, Brice?”
Brice narrowed his eyes and hesitated before answering. “Do you mean about violence against me or violence perpetrated by me?”
“By you, against strangers.”
He shrugged. “That depends how much you’re paying. It’s a profession, not a hobby.”
Government Steve smiled. “Good answer.”
“So how do you plan on paying me, considering I only have one day to live?” Brice asked.
“I won’t actually pay you, but I can promise you it will be the most interesting day you’ve ever had.
“That’s putting pants on in the winter,” Brice said, trailing off with a frown. “That doesn’t make sense in this language. What I mean is, you can promise me anything, but I have no reason to believe you. It’s fine though. I think I’d rather see what your interesting day has to offer than find out what she,” he indicated Jenna, “can do with that finger she keeps holding out like a weapon.”
“Great,” said Government Steve. “There’s one more interesting thing about that body you’re in. It can teleport.”
“Teleport?” Brice asked.
“You can disappear and reappear somewhere else. You better start practicing now though. It’ll take you a few hours to get the hang of it. That’s about the time we need to leave.”