Origins Part I: Indoctrination
See, when you hear the word package, you generally assume it’s a box or letter. Instead we were presented with a girl. She had thick black hair pulled back into a ponytail, caramel coloured skin and hazel eyes that had a perpetual intensity to them. I had to look away and felt myself fidgeting.
“Be careful,” the man said to the girl and then the SUV disappeared.
“I guess this is what happens when you’re one of the few people in the organisation who raises a kid,” Heppenheim muttered. “My name’s-”
“I know your name. Carlos filled me in on the drive here.” The girl cut him off. Her eyes were scanning everywhere, her hands clutching the straps of her bag. She seemed constantly on alert for danger.
“Ah, right. And your name is?” Heppenheim asked, checking no one was within earshot before asking. A glance around of my own confirmed there were no cameras here either. The Syndicate had planned this out.
“Kellen. Kellen Gustke,” she replied. I felt my eyes widen instantly. We were protecting the daughter of the European head of the Syndicate? I hadn’t even realised the guy was married. Heppenheim’s expression changed too, recovering from shock quickly and moving to concern.
“I see. I guess we’ll need to be a bit more careful. Juliette, scan the area constantly,” Heppenheim instructed. I nodded, already tuning out my vision and emitting my echo. I wasn’t really able to hear normal conversation well when echolocating but me and Heppenheim had worked out hand signals long ago that I used now as we walked back to the train station. He would tap me on the shoulder when we needed to stop. Twice meant he wanted me to return to normal hearing. When we reached our platform I went on the train first to double check the carriages. I held up my palm with all fingers spread out to indicate it was safe and Heppenheim and Kellen walked on board.
When I returned back to the my normal human senses Kellen was studying me curiously. I tried not to feel self conscious as she obviously stared at me.
“So you can what, sense bad things?” she asked.
“I just get a good idea of the things and people around me. I’ve learned to recognise how certain types of objects feel,” I explained.
By learned I meant Heppenheim had put me in the same room as guns, bombs, drugs, knives and various other weapons and explosives and had me echolocate with them. He then moved them at random to another room and left the doorway open for me to guess what was in there. It took a few months but I was proficient at figuring out what different items were and if they were dangerous.
Thankfully nearly all buildings had gaps under doorways; in air ventilation systems; plug sockets. Older buildings especially had tons of nooks and crannys I could use when echolocating. I could nearly always find hidden compartments where someone might try storing a bomb. There was no such things on this train anywhere.
Two train switches and four hours later and we were at Amsterdam. The sky outside was starting to darken as we made our made to the the docks. One of the texts from Mr Suit said food would be provided on the ferry so we didn’t hang around in Amsterdam. The ferry itself was your standard tourist crossing. We went away from the main crowd boarding, following text directions. Another pair of suits were waiting for us in the specified location. One of them lowered their shirt slightly to the right, revealing the emblem of the Syndicate emblem just below their shoulder blade. Heppenheim rolled up his sleeve to show his own matching tattoo.
“Here,” she said, handing him an envelope. I saw him open it and check inside. “All the documentation you’ll need should be there,” she explained. Her brown flecked green eyes briefly settled on me and I fought back the urge to squirm. What was with all these Syndicate goons looking at me? We joined the thrum of people getting onto the boat and I tugged my hood a bit further just to make sure no one looked at me. Kellen noticed me do this, frowning but not commenting. The guy blinked at the IDs and looked at me. I pushed the hood back enough that he would be able to see my features. He blinked again and Heppenheim took back the passport.
“Let’s go,” he said, leading us to the room we would be sharing for the next sixteen hours. The Syndicate apparently had the money for luxury, or maybe that was because of Kellen. The room we entered was more like a living room, with a bathroom and two bedrooms attached.
“I need to make a call,” Heppenheim said, walking into one of the bedrooms. Guess that left the other one for me and Kellen to share. I walked over to the window, looking at the ocean. I’d never seen it before.
“He doesn’t talk much, does he?” Kellen asked as we walked into the bedroom. She had already sat on one of the single beds, one leg dangling off the edge while the other was crossed on the bed.
“You should hear him mutter to himself when he’s working,” I replied, laughing quietly and still looking outside.
“Are you a boy or girl under there?” she asked. I blinked at the question and spun around.
“Erm, girl,” I replied, feeling awkward.
“Oh, I couldn’t really tell with the short hair,” she shrugged.
“I thought they told you our names and stuff,” I said, sitting on the other bed.
“They told me about Heppenheim and mentioned he had a kid but that was it,” Kellen shrugged. “So what’s your name then?” she asked.
“Julie,” I replied. Her face twisted in contemplation.
“Name doesn’t suit you. Julie sounds girly and you’re all tomboy,” she said. I didn’t really know what to say to that, but apparently Kellen was able to fill the conversation just fine. She stood up and walked over to me, scrutinising my appearance.
“Can I put makeup on you?” she asked.
“Why?” I asked, not exactly wanting to try it.
“I’m bored,” she shrugged. She backed away though, hands crossed behind her back and she looked at the room. “I’ve never been somewhere this nice before,” she whispered.
“Really? But you’re Mr Gustke’s daughter?” I said, confused.
“What? Gregor’s my uncle. He just … took me in,” she explained. Immediately after speaking her eyes went downwards and I had a feeling the circumstances weren’t good.
“Want to leave the room and look around?” I asked. “I can keep us safe if anything happens,” I reassured.
“Won’t that be uncomfortable for you with,” she waved her hand around her face to finish her point.
“That’s why hoodies were invented,” I replied, shrugging. She bit her lip nervously before agreeing.