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A Change In Seasons - Prologue
Alice shifted uncomfortably in her chair, her suit and tie combo causing her neck and shoulders to chafe. She could never get used to the suits she was required to wear when meeting with Mr. Delstrom. She found them too uptight, and tried to get out of wearing them as much as possible. She tried loosening the tie a bit, but it didn’t help her be more comfortable. She stared blankly at the polished marble floor that decorated all the buildings in the island complex, wondering why she was called down to Mr. Delstroms office. He never asked for anyone personally unless it was an important assignment or if they were being punished. Most of the younger adoptees had only ever seen him once, and it was when he came to adopt them. Mr. Delstroms island complex was filled with adopted children, who grew up being trained for service as civil servants, security staff, or soldiers for hire. Alice was a sort of jack-of-all-trades, though her gender and age stopped her from getting any requests from the many businessmen who paid for Mr. Delstroms services.
Alice looked back up as the heavily polished wooden door in front of her swung open, and a large, very serious looking man emerged from the office. His hair was dark, as black as the suit he wore, and was pulled into a neat ponytail. He wore dark sunglasses that hid his eyes from the world and gave him an air of mystery that Alice couldn’t quite place. The glasses reflected back at her the image of an 18 year old girl; hair brown, long, and unruly, suit tight looking but very neat, her face clean with no major imperfections. The girl looked incredibly uncomfortable as she sat in a hard wooden chair with very ornate golden plating, her suit pulling her chest in tight, making it hard to breathe.
“Boss says you can go in now.” Devon said, his deep, grating voice low and void of emotion.
Alice nodded and stood up and stretched, straining the seams of the suit she wore.
“Don’t rip the suits.” He said, walking off in the direction of the living spaces.
Alice sighed and dropped her arms, letting them swing lightly at her side. She let Devon get out of earshot before she heaved open the door and stepped inside. Mr. Delstrom was standing next to a small table on the far side of his office near the large bulletproof windows that made up one of the walls of his office. The view from here was amazing, Alice thought. She could see almost the entire island from where she stood. Mr. Delstrom’s office building, where they were, was on a cliff on the edge of the island, and she could see across the mile long island all the way to the port on the other side, waves crashing against the shore. She could see the training building, the schoolhouse, the living quarters, the hangar for Mr. Delstrom’s jet, and small groups of people moving about the island. Mr. Delstrom himself seemed to be enjoying the view, a glass of what seemed to be brandy sitting on top of the wooden table. Alice bowed low, her hair cascading out of place, swinging down on both sides in a tidal wave of brown.
“Alice at your service sir, you called?” she said, loud enough to make her presence known.
“Yes, yes I did.” He replied, turning around. “You can stop bowing; I know you don’t like it.”
“Thank you sir.” She said, bringing herself back to an upright position.
Jason Delstrom was in his mid 50’s, but he had aged well, grey barely speckling his well kempt hair, which looked like a starry sky on a moonless night. His face was tight and serious, but his pepper colored facial hair gave him a friendlier look despite the very business-like suit he always wore. A smile grew on his face as he appraised Alice.
“I’ve got a job for you,” he started, “long-term, plenty of benefits.”
Alice’s eyes lit up, she hadn’t worked in several months, and it was starting to get on her nerves. There were jobs on the island training the other adoptees, but she wasn’t old enough to, and no one from outside the island would hire her because she was a girl, and a young one at that.
“Great! With who?” she said, getting excited.
“Me.” He replied, picking up his drink and taking a sip from it.
“Really? Don’t you usually have one of your personal guards do jobs for you?” she said.
“My guards don’t have what you have that I need for this job.”
“Like what?” she said, crossing her arms. “I’m barely an adult, and no one wants to hire me based on stupid gender profiling.”
“I need exactly that. I need someone young, I need a girl, and you happen to be the most skilled young lady on the island.” He said, taking another sip from the glass.
Alice felt her face get a bit red, but she shook it away. She needed to remain professional, especially in front of her boss. Mr. Delstrom’s smile remained on his face, and Alice was having a hard time not smiling back.
“So what are the details?” she asked, looking out the window to the sky beyond to avoid Mr. Delstrom’s infectious smile.
“I am sure you’ve heard the story of my little,” he paused to sip from his glass again, “affair.”
Alice nodded. The woman assigned to raise her when she arrived on the island had told her of the escapade after Alice had asked why Mr. Delstrom wasn’t married. Eighteen years ago he had spent a month in downtown Chicago on a business venture, and met a woman named Julia Sharel, and fell in love with her, despite her marriage. The romance lasted for a year, Jason making frequent trips to Chicago to meet with her in secret. Her husband eventually found out, and threatened to sue Mr. Delstrom, but they settled it out of courts without much publicity. He agreed to never see Julia again, to never get the chance to, because several months later, she was killed a car accident. Mr. Delstrom only found out after a visiting businessman who knew of the situation brought up her death in conversation. It devastated him, and he apparently canceled all his appointments for the next month, before eventually deciding to start adopting and raising children. He didn’t start training them to be hired arms until the head of the CIA approached him with a government sponsorship to train civil servants.
“As it turns out, that little stint produced a son.” He said, scratching the back of his head. The smile he wore had faded into a more serious and solemn look, while Alice’s expression changed quickly to one of surprise and confusion.
“A son? I thought you couldn’t have children.” she asked, her eyebrows furrowed in confusion.
“Eric Sharel himself called and told me they knew it was mine just this morning. All these years and he never told me.” He said, shaking his head slowly.
“But that doesn’t matter anymore,” he continued, “I am taking things into my own hands now. As my son, I want him to inherit my fortune when I die, and that has many responsibilities and dangers that come with it. You, along with several other agents, will be my eyes and ears when it comes to him.”
Alice nodded while he continued explaining the job to her. She didn’t expect something this serious when she was called down, but she was raring to go, excited to have something better to do than sitting around waiting for someone to hire her.
“Our good friend Devon will be head of security, but your job is much more important than his is. You will be directly aiding and protecting my son, as well as joining him at his high school in Illinois.”
“High school. We have already enrolled you at his high school under the name Alice Conti.”
Alice was excited; she had always wanted to go back to a regular schooling system, because she never really got along with anyone on the island. She was never able to find her niche, constantly switching training camps partway through, leading her to be good at most things, but never giving her the chance to make a connection with someone.
“Alice Conti. Got it.” She said, nodding.
“I am entrusting my son’s safety in your hands Alice, don’t let me down, because it would be very bad for both of us. I don’t want to have to get all serious like this, because I should be happy that I have the son I’ve wanted for many years, but he just became a major target for people I’ve upset over the years.” He said, his eyes sharp and his face serious.
“I understand sir, you can count on me.” Alice replied.
She had never seen anyone look as serious as Mr. Delstrom did at that moment. Looking at him brought a light of burning resolve into her eyes that caught the gaze of Jason Delstrom, and when he saw that light, he smiled once again.
“Thank you Alice. Let’s get down to business. You will be leaving for Illinois by the end of the day, so when you leave here begin packing right away. I want you and Devon to explain the situation to my son, and I also want you to deliver a few things to him.”
He walked over to his desk and pulled two large briefcases from under it. They looked very heavy, and one had several locking mechanisms put on it, while the other was a simple brown briefcase with two clasps. He opened the second one and waved Alice over. When she walked over he spun the brief case so it faced her. It was lined with a deep purple furlike fabric, and was filled with several important looking documents, identification cards and licenses. There also was a smaller case inside of it, along with two sets of keys and an envelope in Alice’s name.
“In here is everything you’re going to need for your new life in Illinois. Basic ID’s, drivers’ license, gun license, title deed for your apartment and stuff like that.”
He pulled out the two sets of keys and tossed them to Alice.
“I’m sending you over there with two cars, one for yourself, and one for my son. You can drive his until you find him if you like, and you can consider your car part of the payment.”
“Thank you sir.”
He picked up the smaller case and clicked it open, putting it on the table in front of Alice. Inside it were two identical silver pistols.
“These are yours to keep as well, use them wisely. I’m getting you permission to carry them in the school, but don’t shoot up the place” he said with a smirk.
Alice nodded, admiring the design of the pistols. They were made to look like bursts of wind, and the silver of the guns gleamed brightly under the lighting in the office.
“Your first payment is in the envelope, and I’ll send you more every month around this time.”
Mr. Delstrom rested his hand on the other briefcase.
“This is what I want you to give to my son. You have the keys to the two clasps on both of the sets of keys I gave you. The code for the combination lock is his birth date.”
“Alright, got it.” She said, nodding purposefully.
“Remember that I’m counting on you. His name is Gavin Sharel. It’s a pretty small town and you’ll be in contact with other agents so he’ll be easy to find. The plane leaves at 7 sharp, so be at the hangar by then. You are dismissed.”
“Yes sir.” She said.
Mr. Delstrom called one of his assistants down to help Alice with the two briefcases. Before she left he put his hand on her shoulder.
“Remember, I’m giving you a lot of responsibility here, I expect you to do your job and do it well.”
“The more pressure the better, it makes everything more worthwhile, which motivates me to do well.” She said, smiling back at him over her shoulder.
“Good to hear.” He replied with a tired smile.
Mr. Delstrom watched as she and his assistant carried the briefcases down the hall. He knew it wouldn’t take much time after he broke the news to the public for an incident to happen, and he hoped that when it did, the young girl he just trusted with his son’s life would be able to find a way to prevent it from causing any damage. He didn’t know if he could handle losing the last connection he had to the woman he had lost.