Exclusively Tales

Sophia had searched everywhere inside Site-19 — or at least everywhere Iris' clearance could allow her to walk in Living Sector-13 of Site-19. To Sophia, the specifics didn't matter. To her, everywhere she walked seemed like a never-ending loop of gray-white hallways, white fluorescent light, and black-framed windows. Everywhere, from the cafeteria, to the barracks, to the temporal containment rooms for site exchanges, it all looked the same. And it just made it harder to find Iris.

It wasn't only her mind that had taken the toll of finding the Commander of Alpha-9, but her legs as well. Since all the instability that happened at the start of Last Hope had passed, Light hadn't worried much about running from bullets. She felt how her thighs shook as her mind drove away, and looked for the nearest bench she could find.

She continued to puzzle her head and think of almost every possible variant that could happen. Sophia overthought every small detail she knew about Iris to guess where she could've gone. The more she thought about it, the worse it got. The entire sector was at least a kilometer deep, and Iris' clearance allowed her to enter approximately 80% of the rooms. Sophia knew she wouldn't be able to go far, it would be reported to her at least.

However, this wasn't much of a relief considering that it’s Sophia’s task to supervise Iris and right now she was failing it. Headache and fatigue eventually managed to break Sophia and make her sit down on the nearest bench she could reach. Relaxing her hurting muscles, Light scratched her head. She thought to herself: why the hell had she gone missing all of a sudden?

Then, her mind clicked. Realization hit her head like a bullet from a sniper rifle. Sophia raised her head, her thoughts sweeping away as her eyes opened like plates. And in the hit, only two words came out of her mouth:

"Oh, no."

Adrenalin kicked into her body with the following panic that was hard to hide. Thoughts in her head were a complete mess, but Sophia didn’t have time to lose herself in them. She had to stop the situation that happened in her mind to turn into reality. Tiredness left her body like it never was there, getting up from the bench and rushing through the corridor. In between the mess that her thoughts rambled through her mind, there was only one place her mind agreed on: the lockers.

In retrospect, it didn't take Sophia much time to reach the lockers. At the moment, it felt like time not only wished to slow her down, but to completely restrain her. The few minutes she ran from Point A to Point B felt as not a temporal slip-up, but a physical force — and the fact that she bumped into random researchers in the halls didn't help either.

Her already stressed out mind increased, adding to her exhaustion. She was the Director of Alpha-9, the one responsible to run the controversial task force smoothly. And yet, she didn't know what to do at all. What was she going to tell Iris? How was Sophia supposed to explain the situation to her? It would be nice for her to sit down and plan out her next move, but the variables weren't in her favor. She needed to act, and quickly. Despite her shaking hand, Sophia opened the door to the lockers while breathing deeply. Unsurprisingly, the locker room was empty, except for the one person Sophia was looking for.

Iris sat on the large bench, surrounded by the closed, gray-colored lockers, with only hers opened in front of her. At the corner of Sophia's eye, she saw her task force clothing and equipment still inside. Iris remained in her jeans, shirt and green jacket with the Alpha-9 logo strapped on her upper arm. Sophia slowly walked towards her, avoiding too much noise but still enough to let Iris know she was there.

Just as Sophia wished it didn't, Iris gripped a document in her hand while propping her head with the other. Sophia couldn't see her eyes, but her entire body language just exalted shock. Her head jumped and looked behind her, locking eyes with Sophia. Her previous mood instantly changed to a sullen one.

"Sophia."

"Iris," Sophia raised her hands, doing her first attempt to deescalate the banging emotions of Iris. "Look, I am as confused as you are and mad no less. I know you want an explanation, so if you just calm down we can work this out–"

Iris stood up, shoving the document to Sophia's face as she walked towards her. As she did, her words coming from her mouth increased her wrath. "Work this out? Are you even listening to what you're saying? How am I supposed to work with that– with that…"

"Iris," Sophia said, grabbing her wrist and pulling down the picky document Iris held. "Listen to me, I didn't have a choice here. I was as amazed as you are, and if it were my choice, I'd kick him back to where he came from. But I can't, and you definitely can't."

"I-I.." Iris shaked her head, closing her eyes and avoiding Sophia's eyes. Her stiff body began to relax, and just as she did, the document fell out of her hands – the shuffling of it being the only sound filling the empty locker room at the moment, until it reached the floor and it all came quiet for a moment.

In Sophia's mind, two thoughts fought inside her: please, don't cry and that's right Sophia, keep going and you'll keep your job.

Sophia slowly reached Iris' shoulder, and patted her. "I can explain this to you, Iris. Just, please, please listen."

Iris eyes opened, slowly looking back at Sophia, gazing at her from her side, with some of her hair falling on Iris' forehead. And just as Sophia thought she fixed the situation temporarily, Iris' weakened expression hardened. What came out of her heard as a whisper, but Sophia perfectly understood it.

"I don't need you to explain anything… In fact, I think I am going to get an answer from that motherfucker right now."

Oh, no, was again the only thought that warned Sophia this day. Sophia held both of Iris' shoulders this time, and looked at her. "Please, I am begging you, don't do anything stupid."

"You know that this is our private matter," Iris answered Sophia with her most eye-piercing look, it frightened Sophia for a second. Enough time to let her guard down and allow Iris to push her away and walk to the locker's exit.

Sophia followed her, desperately yelling as Iris opened the creaking steel door of the locker room. "I know and that's why I want to stop you from what you're planning to do!"

A heavy thud came from the locker room door, and Iris bursted out with more energy than Sophia could’ve collected when she looked for her. Sophia followed, exiting through the closing opening of the door that closed in her back. She tried to catch up to Iris, but still fell behind a few steps closer from her – her own exhaustion succumbing to Iris’ wrath. Sophia called Iris’ name multiple times, pleading her to stop – when Sophia managed to grab Iris' wrist, she let go, making Sophia feel like she was miles away from Iris each time.

Every time Sophia saw security guards she called them to no avail, as each time she tried to raise her voice she breathed quickly, her lungs asking urgently for air from all the pushing Sophia had done to them. The security guards in different checkpoints tried to stop Iris, but she shoved her Commander credentials and let Iris pass – they did the same with Sophia, and repeated what Iris did. The security guards had always seen weird stuff in Site-19, but a middle-aged woman following a younger one as if it were a mother calling her daughter in the middle of a mall must have been even weirder.

Light had mixed feelings while she followed Iris: she was grateful that she knew where Iris was heading, and at the same time she was terrified how everything would play out once Iris arrived.

To what felt like ages of walking to Sophia, she had finally arrived at her destination: the training sector where the rest of Alpha-9 were having the training session Iris missed – and she would continue to miss, this time intentionally.

Sophia shouted desperately between gasps, trying to convince Iris with as much reason she could inject into her mind. “Iris, please, stop this! You’re the Commander, set an example!”

Iris’ looked back at Sophia as she walked, her wrathful stubbornness remaining in her eyes. “Oh, I will. Once I use my Commander title to kick this motherfucker out of my team.”

These words slipped through her teeth with firm determination to do something that must be done. Even if almost no one would approve it. After all it was rather personal business and Sophia knew it perfectly.

They both walked upstairs to the Command Room. Each step felt like another weight on her shoulders for Sophia, who had to grip the railing to just keep up with Iris. Everytime she looked up from the floor so she could avoid tripping herself, Iris was farther and farther away. Reminding herself the scandal she had to avoid, both as her role as the Director of Alpha-9 and not embarrass herself, Light did what she hadn’t done in some time: she took two steps at a time instead of one.

Once she arrived at the top, she took a deep breath to fill the air she let out as she walked up. She couldn’t take another one, as she busted right through the door in front of her and walked down to the Command Room. Once she got near, she saw the security guards stopping Iris – Sophia hoped that they wouldn't allow her to enter, and thought she avoided a controversy to Alpha-9’s team.

Then Iris shoved her credentials on both of the guards' faces, who took some steps back in surprise.

“I’m the Commander of Mobile Task Force Alpha-9, and I want to speak to the General.” Iris raised her voice in the most authoritative tone Sophia had ever heard coming out of Iris’ mouth.

Out of following orders or fear, Sophia didn’t know, but one of the guards opened the door for her. She walked right into the room, and before Sophia could yell at them to not to, the guard closed the door.

She walked to the security guards, and just as they were about to ask Sophia for her credentials, she followed Iris' footsteps: shoved her credentials right in front of their faces, and before she walked into the Command Room, Sophia looked back at them and asked for their names. Once they told her their names, Sophia said:

“I’ll have both of you supervised next time.” And Sophia closed the door.

Once she threatened the guards, she returned to her task at hand. Now, Sophia couldn’t avoid the situation: now she had to de-escalate it. When she saw the situation right in her eyes, she realized how tough it would be.

Light saw a room with three people, except for herself, well, or at least two. Dr. Alto Clef had already noticed them, looking at both with his classic Cheshire cat smile and three different colored eyes. He, too, perfectly understood what was about to happen, but did not rush things, because the desire to enjoy the theater of the absurd prevailed in him.

The second person standing next to Clef was the hero of the occasion and the one to whom Iris' eyes were riveted. Only in truth, either because of his age, or because of the excessive focus on work, he did not notice the guests in the room.

And the man because of whom this all happened was no other than…
General Willis Alan Bowe.

With the righteous anger that Iris held inside, she was finally able to ask the ultimate question to the man who had changed her life irrevocably more than 10 years ago.

“Why are you here?”- she said that with the mix of anger, despair and confusion in her voice.
Bowe kept looking at the training room, his eyes following the rhythm of the rest of the Alpha-9 team inside it. With his arms crossed behind his back, and without looking at Iris, he finally acknowledged her. “You’re late, Miss Thompson.”

Sophia stepped in. “Iris, please let me explain–”

Iris raised her hand, and hushed it in her lips. Sophia startled, and asked herself how the unofficial Commander of Alpha-9 could shut up the Director. “Let Bowe speak for himself, Director.”

Iris turned back to see Bowe’s back. “Bowe, you better give me a reason – and a good fucking reason as to why the Foundation hasn’t sent you to Keter Duty once you came back to this site.”

Clef snorted, and Iris glanced at him – had he’d been ten years younger, that snort would have terrified Iris. Now, instead of the cackle that would’ve followed the shotgun-waving, fedora-wearing devil he was, he coughed violently, covering his mouth with the sleeve of his shirt.

Bowe looked at Clef, from top to bottom. “You’re skinnier, Clef. The last time I saw you, you had some pounds on you. What happened?”

“Stress, Bowe. Fucking stress,” Clef went back to watching the training session. He whispered something to Bowe, who whispered back, and finally turned on the communicator. “Andrea, go all out against Alexei. You’re on equal terms with your suit, so don’t push it over.”

Sophia walked to Iris, and placed her hand on Iris’ shoulder. “Let’s go, Iris. Clef and the General are busy – we can talk this out calmly somewhere else.”

Suddenly, Sophia felt a tight grip around her hand, feeling as if it was contracted by a trash smasher. She crossed eyes with Iris, and felt the same weight Iris pushed into Sophia’s hand with an equal if not a greater force on Sophia’s eyes. Iris was about to ramble against Sophia, when a voice came in front of them.

“I can talk to Thompson while supervising the training,” Bowe’s voice said, which caught Iris’ attention so much that she moved her head like an owl. “You can watch this alongside us, and since the Commander wasn’t able to train with her teammates, she can watch them.”

Bowe looked back, half of his face showing a crooked-teeth smile. “Come on, see the effort of our fruition.”

“Our fruition?” Iris whispered, and let go of Sophia’s hand – she rubbed it, following Iris. “I don’t remember ever seeing you have a say in Alpha-9 since its foundation, and I doubt they would allow you to take over.”

Iris glanced back at Sophia, who looked away to the training session below the four of them.

“And you haven’t answered my goddamn question, Bowe. Why the fuck are you here?” Iris barked at Bowe.

General again took a look at Iris, his smile quickly changed to a rather sour expression on his face. Was it due to her previous experience with Bowe or not, the change on the General's face shook her resolve with uncomfortable feelings.

Willis rubbed his eyes with fingers and made a sigh.

“Language,” He said. The reason why I’m back is above your clearance, sadly. However, just know that I’m here to help with the fight against your long lived terrorists.”

Iris furrowed her eyebrows. “What are you even talking about? Serpent's Hand or-” Before Iris could say anything else, Sophia grabbed Iris's shoulder and pulled to herself.

“We'll talk about this later. It is important enough for it to be not discussed like this.” - Due to Sophia's rather muttering than speaking, Iris could barely make out the words, but there was clear tension in her voice.

Iris took a few seconds to wonder what was the big deal with all this. She was a Alpha-9 commander after all, if something would've happened, she would've knew. …Unless Foundation is hiding something again, as always. But one way or another, how does the General fits in all of this?

Thoughts of Thompson were interrupted by Willis, who clearly noticed the confusion and yet didn't want to delay this conversation.

Iris looked around at the command room, then at the only person who had been strangely quiet through the entire conversation. Clef continued to supervise the training room, spontaneously giving orders to Alpha-9 without Bowe’s assistance.

What caught Iris' attention wasn’t that he told orders – he didn’t bark them. Nor was he smiling like he usually did, his face had an unusual neutral, if not serious expression. And in just a second, Iris and Clef glanced at each other. When she saw him, it seemed Clef like he shaked his eyes, telling Iris to stop, then went back to see the training footage.

This only made Iris even more suspicious of Bowe. He looked back at it again, and this time, she suddenly felt her whole body going stiff, with her mind only focusing on one image of the general: the smug bastard she only saw in person on a few occasions, who chose her of all people to become the child soldier of Able.

That’s when she realized why the stiffness came to her body: she felt like that same Iris when she was taken her life away and couldn’t do anything about it but stand and see her surroundings. Now, she could only stand and see her surroundings as every single high-ranking Foundation member welcomed back Bowe with open arms.

“Fuck you,” Iris whispered, her eyes as open as plates.

Sophia equally opened her eyes as at Iris level and stared at her, while Clef looked back with a raised eyebrow. Iris saw Bowe’s furrowed eyebrows reflecting through the training window, and looked back to his side at Iris.

Sophia stepped up and backed Iris down. “Bowe, I’m sorry for the whole situation. I’ll make sure everything is back in or–”

“Excuse me?” Bowe interrupted.

“I’ll make sure–” Sophia tried to explain the situation again, until Bowe raised his hand.

“I wasn’t referring to you, Light.” Bowe pointed at Iris. “It was for her.”

Iris stepped up, taking away Sophia’s hand from her. He stared eye-to-eye to Bowe, rage filled in her eyes at Bowe’s annoyance.

“What did you say, Iris?” Bowe asked, as if he didn’t know what Iris had whispered at him.

“Are you turning deaf, Bowe?” Iris barked, only exacerbated due to Bowe’s seeming aloofness. “I told you to go fuck yourself. You think I’m okay with you coming back to the Foundation while the rest of these motherfuckers–”

Iris raised her voice, catching the attention of the rest of the personnel in the command room that had ignored the argument between look stares at Iris – some confused, others annoyed due to the random insult to them. Clef sighed as Sophia’s cheeks turned red.

“Allow you to come back with a silver platter and a red carpet after all the damage you’ve done to us. If you think I’ll allow a fucking war criminal to order around my team, you better think again, you bastard.”

Iris began to exhale roughly once she was done, her eyes staring at Bowe with pent-up rage contained for years. Meanwhile, General Bowe stared back at her, unamused.

Bowe raised an eyebrow. “Are you done?”

Iris' eye twitched. “Oh, no I’m fucking not – because you’ll wish I had.”

She looked around for support, only to see Sophia looking at her phone and texting someone. Her other eye twitched too, followed by a heavy exhale.

“Unfucking believable,” Iris spat, looking back at the General.

So far all this was already enough for the candidacy of one of the worst days in her life. Iris outrightly wanted to strangle the General and in her head she did it in the most violent way. However her thoughts are not real life, the only things that could tell everyone what she is thinking of were her shaking hands, to which, fortunately for her, nobody paid attention. Even with what Iris already said to General, she was keeping herself reserved because if she told everything that was in her head, she would get instantly detained. Even with her hatred for Bowe, Iris nether less did not want to end up locked up in a waiting cell of the Internal Tribunal or, perhaps…

When each minute lasts like an hour, Iris “had time” to think about this, obviously her rage couldn’t not interfere in her thoughts. And so, when yet again rethinking this whole situation, Iris thought to herself: “What the fuck, I’ve been caged for almost a decade of my life and with what I’ve been through… Oh, no. I won’t let this fucker get away so easily. Fuck it, thirty minutes of of interrogation is the best price for what I want.” After this, Iris’s face began to creep into a small, but insane smirk.

Bowe raised an eyebrow at Iris, and spat. “I’m getting sick of this show, Iris. Light, get her out of here if she won’t bring anything valuable to the table.”

General Bowe turned around, and Sophia grabbed Iris’ shoulder. “Let’s go, Iris. You’ve had enough for a day.”

Light was ready to let out a breath of relief while Thopson looked at the floor. She knew exactly what she was about to do.

To everyone’s surprise, Iris took a deep breath and continued conversation without any aggression in her voice.

“Ahem. You know what, General? I think we started on a wrong note. I mean, well, it’s been a long time, you right. And doesn’t time cures? I bet you can see how things changed her but unfortunately I can't say the same about you. Right now, the only thing I can say about you is that you are becoming even more ancient old man. So, would you kindly tell me more about yourself, eh?”

These words were like a shockwave to everyone in the room. Willis himself was extremely surprised by this, but it can’t be this simple, can it? The only one who was interested in conversation but didn’t want to participate in it was Clef, he still had more important things to do but for him all this was truly entertaining to watch. He only wished all this to get a bit more interesting.

Sophia was surprised by all this no less than Bowe, however unlike him she was sure that Iris had something in mind. The only thing she could do is try to forcefully get her out of here before the domino effect happens.

“Iris, it would be better for everyone here to leave this for later. So, how about we go right now and we'll talk about i..”

“Oh! Also, Bowe, could you please tell me a thing?”

Even though he wasn’t sure what Iris had in mind, General decided to give it a shot perfectly knowing that it might be just a waste of time.

“Yes?”- his voice sounded both of interest and suspicion.

“Tell me, what were you doing after Omega-7? Hmmm? Did the government send you to a desk job? How it felt for you to send near the president after you biggest fuck-up? I remember that while I was in Omega-7 I always saw how your pride led you to fall face down in the dirt. Back then, 10 years ago, I couldn't even imagine you falling even lower… Yet here we are.”

Bowe remained straight, unwilling to show any back down or emotion that have fed Iris’ intentions – but in the back of his head, the memories of just a decade ago rang a bell inside of him, one that he tried to suppress everytime he woke up.

He looked around and saw everyone in the control room staring at him, now the table was starting to turn against him. He raised his voice to how he held up his commanding position – even if it became frailer because of the years. “That’s not of anyone’s concern and frankly, it doesn’t contribute anything to your team’s training, Commander Thompson.”

“Oh, it doesn’t?” Iris asked coily, crossing her arms and tipping her way to the Command Room’s window, leaning over it as she watched the training – then turned back again to Bowe. “I don’t think so, Bowe. Back in the day, you used to boast about the importance of knowing your subordinates, honesty and other nice words to hide your intentions – it looks to me that you’re just trying to divert the situation.”

Iris shrugged. “I hope you don’t have any children. I mean, you’re already hiding behind a mask with us, I can’t even fathom what you would tell to your own family.”

Whispers came from behind Bowe’s back, and he gripped the collar of his shirt. “You amaze me, Iris. You surely have grown since the last time I saw you.”

“Tsk, I’ll take it as a compliment.”

“Oh, I didn’t mean it as one,” Bowe let go of his grip, this time touching the ring he had in his finger behind his back. “I said it because it amazes how you’ve come to accept the very thing that you hate me for: a weapon.”

Iris opened her eyes as plates and lifted herself from the Command Room’s window. “Listen to me, Bowe. I’m not a weapon, not even close to what you wanted me to become.”

“You aren’t?” Bowe asked, lowering his hand to the side of his stomach. “I still remember the very same girl who would protest because she didn’t want to murder anyone, that cried after having her first challenge with Able, and that was horrified by her mere presence inside Omega Seven. I come back, and now I’m informed that you are the Commander of this new Pandora’s Box – and you did so willingly.”

“Now hold your horses–”

Bowe raised his hand. “Where’s the pacifist inside your heart, Iris? You yelled at me to burn in hell and tried everything in your hands to escape from the Foundation, that you would never participate in something like this again.”

Bowe walked to the Command Room window, looking at the training and tapping it. “Now, you have an entire squadron under your command. I must admit, you did a good job replacing me while I wasn’t here – and Light has, too.”

Bowe looked back at the wrathful Iris in front of him, and smiled. “I guess you really grew up besides your height, you grew up to take my place. Iris, if I were your father, I’d have given you a promotion to the highest office in the Pentagram.”

Iris, on her behalf, stood still. She listened attentively to every word that came out of Bowe’s month. The worst thing about all of this is that it all was true. She really changed in a way after all the time…

But, no.

No, no, no. It can’t be like this, Iris can’t let it be like this. The feeling of being cornered mixed with progressively growing hatred created a lump in her throat. She had a mouth and she wanted to scream. Yet she had nothing to scream itself. The bastard might’ve aged, but his ability to reason and make hard-to-argue-with points works like a clock.

Iris, even though trying her best to hide extreme aggression, clenched her fists and her jaw clenched like a hydraulic press. In the meantime Bowe was calmly staring through glass, perfectly knowing that one of his former subordinates was piercing him with her glance.

Taking a breath, he turned his face to Iris and, with what looked like a small grin, added a few words to what he said.

“Heh. Why so shy? Tell me everything you want to, I am listening. We’re both adults and I am sure that whatever you have on your mind can be resolved with a civil discussion, can it, Mrs. Thompson?”

No, Iris thought, and jumped straight forward to Bowe with her fist aimed at his crooked-teeth mouth. Iris didn’t know what happened next, but all she remembered were shouts coming all around her, chairs creaking and falling to the floor, accompanied by a violent shouting in her ear as Sophia held her arms and took her away.

Sophia’s teeth clenched as Iris tried to free herself from Sophia’s grip. “Iris, get a hold of yourself!”

“What the fuck are you doing?!” Iris turned around to see eye-to-eye to her, looking as a dog with rabies trying to bite their victim. Light had never been scared of Iris: not when she was a teenager, not when she was held inside her cell for a decade, and never when she joined Alpha-9. Now, Light gulped when she watched a glimpse of what a lifetime without liberty and resentment in front of her.

The Command Room turned into a mess: the support crew in the different hallways and monitors stood up and pointed a finger at Iris, others went to Bowe – some seemingly to protect him, and others out of confusion, wondering if what the blond in front them said any truth – which caught Bowe off guard. Finally, the door to the Command Room busted open as the security guards finally came in to check inside the commotion.

One of the guards held her baton, while the other reached for his taser. They began shouting orders to the Command Room researchers, assistants, and technicians to calm down and clear the area – despite their authority, nobody from the Command Room followed the orders, continuing the disturbance happening inside.

Light took her deepest breath yet, and at the top of the lungs shouted to the guards. “Guards, take SCP-105 and General Bowe here from the room right now and to the nearest interrogation room. Everyone else, leave immediately unless you want to be detained too – now.”

Finally, Light had been listened to once in the entire day. The guards walked to Sophia, moving between the personnel who began to leave the Command Room, slowly emptying it – once the guards were near Sophia, she gave the resisting Iris to the them, who upon leaving Sophia’s grip tried to flee, but immediately stop once she felt the tip of the guard’s baton in her beck. Sophia whistled, wiping sweat off her forehead until she heard a clicking coming from one of the guard’s belts.

“Don’t put her any handcuffs,” Sophia ordered, which caused both the guards and Iris to stare at her.

The male guard, who Sophia remembered was called Jenkins, said: “But, Director, she tried to hit a staff member – we can’t take her away without the handcuffs. She’ll most likely try to flee again.”

“Look, I understand where you’re coming from, but the situation has gone too far. With what has happened so far, we have made a huge mistake which will cause a PR disaster for Alpha-9 – if we take 105 in handcuffs, the Commander, what do you think the rest of the Foundation will think of what we’ve done?”

“But–”

“No buts, Officer. You and Charlie better hold on tight to her once you’re about to leave with her – and that is an order. Understood?”

Charlie and Jenkins saw each other, then back at Sophia and nodded. Officer Charlie shoved the tip of her baton at Iris, causing her to flinch and stare back at her.

“Get moving,” Charlie said, pushing her to the Command Room entrance. “You’ve already caused enough ruckus for the day.”

“Me?!” Iris asked, eyeing Sophia then Bowe as she was taken away.

Footsteps came behind Sophia, turning around and saw Bowe smiling calmly at her. “That was an interesting way of handling the situation, Director. Not something that I would’ve personally done, but I know that circumstances didn’t play in your favor.”

Sophia furrowed her eyebrows. “You must know that you’re not getting out of the situation, right?”

Willis raised his hands, as if saying: you caught me. “I never planned to, Director. This wouldn’t be the first time anyone from the Foundation would detain me.”

“I’m glad you know the position you’re in,” Sophia eyed Clef, who leaned on the Command Room window and smiled sheepishly at her. “Do you mind taking General Bowe with me?”

“I get to be the bridesmaid?” Clef chuckled, immediately walking to Bowe and holding his left arm as if he was about to accompany him to the altar. “I wouldn’t want to miss what may come next.”

“And I hope that nothing comes out next,” Sophia said, holding Bowe’s right arm and walking him out of the ruins of the Command Room.

Willis chuckled lightly. “It’s been almost fourteen years that I’ve left the Foundation, and you still are the same.”

As they all walked down from the command room it felt like the storm had passed. In the meantime the only thing that betrayed Light's suppressed emotions was her nervous tic. She sincerely wanted to yell at everyone with a lot of curses and go to her bed to sleep, but unfortunately she will not be able to do any of this soon. While all this Bowe himself was rather not impressed by all this and yet Iris still had a look of a ticking bomb. For a moment it looked like the roles were reversed and that the Iris should be in place of the General. She really got a spirit, in a way.

"You fucking scumbag…" Thompson muttered under her breath with overly suppressed fury. Meanwhile operatives who lead her decided to ignore that, Willis on his side, either didn’t hear that or just remained silent. However the one who decided not to, was Light.

"Iris. Look at me."- Light said in suppressed voice.

Iris raised her head and turned to Sophia, who was already fed up with all this and looked enraged just like Iris few minutes ago. Thompson looked at her with a rosary face of complete disregard. Light immediately understood that Iris won’t stop this even after the interrogation. Well, at least she won herself some time to think of a way resolving this.

“Haven’t you had enough for the day?” Light asked as she turned sides with Clef so she could speak closer to her. “You said what you had to say to the General here, and already caused a lot of commotion that many of the staff involved will not stop yapping about for the following week – and now you’ve gotten yourself detained and are about to be interrogated. You’re the Commander of Alpha-9 for Christ’s sake, act like the title you’re wearing.”

Iris clicked her tongue. “As if that title meant anything, Director. If it did, then I wouldn’t have to be walked to a cell by these two assholes carrying me because you told them to.”

The guards did not react to the insult just thrown by then, considering how anyone would’ve been sick of Iris’ insults by the time they had spent walking here to detainment.

However, Sophia couldn’t deny that Iris wasn’t right. In the grand scheme of Project Resurrection and Alpha-9, Iris’ Commander title was like being appointed as group leader of an elementary class: a title that wasn’t worth anything when the teacher left the room and everyone started to do ruckus, and when the teacher came back to the class losing all the supposed power she had over her classmates – in this case, Iris was the group leader who barely had any influence above her teammates in battlefield, but was overshadowed by Light being senior personnel and in charge of the task force.

And there she went Sophia’s brain again, overanalyzing the situation again and just depressing her even more for how everything has played out since 2014. She had hyper focused on the entire situation with Iris and Willis, that she had almost forgotten she’d also have to include to report on how the rest of the task force were left with no one to supervise their training–

Oh, you can’t do this to me, Sophia slapped her forehead so hard that everyone stopped walking and looked at her in confusion – then she regretted doing so, because she felt a building sense in her forehead she convinced it was starting to redden.
Calm down, she thought to herself as her slap hurt her and was started by everyone around her, Sophia, think this through. They may still be there practicing, they may be standing there confused, or Adams saw this opportunity when no one was watching and said: “well, our break arrived sooner than we expected, let’s get out of here!”

Because think about it, how probable could it be that this situation could get any worse?

And once her brain started to calm down from her sprinkle of reason seasoned onto her, loud footsteps came from the crossroads in the hallway in front of them – the guards, Iris, Clef and Bowe turned their attention toward them as the sharp footsteps banging the floor came, while Sophia cupped her eyes and slowly raised her head and wished she hadn’t thought of what she did just a moment ago.

The footsteps came to a halting stop, and the figure balanced herself in the hallways corner wall to get some air. She looked up, wearing the standard practice uniform for anomaly’s but that was adapted by the eggheads at R&D to suit her anomalous capabilities – Sophia realized she was the girl that was obsessed with superheroes that Dr. Valdez had recommended it despite Sophia’s reluctance. At that moment, Sophia wished she hadn’t approved her Alpha-9 application.

Just before Sophia could raise her hand and shake her hand in front of her neck to hint at her to knock it off, Leora’s eyes widened and smiled. She looked back to where he came from, and with all the air that was left from her lungs smelled across the hallway with her energetic voice. “I found Director Light, Adams!”

You… brat, Sophia bit her tongue to not think of anything to insult a literal teenager.

Leora shook her hand to what Sophia wished it was Adams, but as the more footsteps came to her direction combined with the shadows of multiple people with different sizes increasing in the floor as well as the mumble that came from them – Sophia wished she could wake from this nightmare, but was only reminded of the reality once Leora came running to Light.

Sophia looked at Leora, then looked at Iris – Iris looked back at her and gave the creepiest smile Iris had given to her, and Sophia knew that Iris had gotten her undeserved second chance to continue her discussion with Bowe. Iris gazed at Willis, and combined her pierce gaze that she had gotten over the years combined with the exact same grin she gave to Sophia. Sophia looked at Bowe, who just shrugged Iris off and looked in front of him to see rest who were coming to them – Iris furrowed her eyebrows but shrugged it off too. Sophia had to think, and think fast.

Suddenly, her mind had clicked again – Sophia had already lost her count, and if she tried to count, she most likely would lose her head doing so. Quickly, she pulled out her phone and contacted a close friend who’d owe her a favor – she tapped the floor at the same speed Leora did, that every time Sophia looked up and then at her phone, felt as if she teleported then ran towards her. Once her friend answered her, she shushed Clef who furrowed his eyebrows because of interrupting his entertainment.

Sophia pointed at her phone, then pointed at his – Clef confusedly picked his phone, and before he could even unlock his code, Sophia had already sent him rapid messages that bombarded his ears because of the annoying sound he used as a notification. Clef read at them, his eyes slowly opening like plates – he looked at Sophia once he was done reading, and gave her the widest grin he had ever smiled. Clef was in, and now Sophia just had to hope this plan didn’t fall onto itself as her previous one did.

Leora stopped a few feet in front of them, buffing and puffing as she wiped her sweat from her head. She saluted Light despite having no need to do so – General Bowe smiled, and Leora lowered her hand once she saw Iris being held by guards and Sophia and Clef holding Willis as if they were taking him to a prom.

“Uh, Director Light?” Leora twisted her boots on the floor, which squeaked.

Sophia sighed. “Yes, Leora?”

“I, uh…” Leora stumbled on her words. “Why is Commander Thompson being held by guards and why are you two holding General… Bowie, was it?”

“Bowe, Agent,” Willis sighed. “It’s Bowe, why do people pronounce it like Bowie?”

“But that’s what I said!” Leora answered to General Bowe, who then backed up after raising her voice to a four-star general who had pins with the American flag. “…Sir.”

Sophia looked behind Leora, and saw the entirety of Alpha-9 assets walking towards her and mumbling between themselves: Adams at the top wearing her suit while holding her helmet below her arm, with the giant bug that is Alexei Belitrov to her left and the stone-cold, neatly-dressed assassin that is Aleksander Foxx. Over Alexei’s left shoulder, a cut hand with its bone poking out from behind it stood as Han talked to Alexei about how garbage the last season of Game of Thrones was or some pun about hands – whatever it was, Alexei was not enjoying it.

One the last of the line, Cain walked calmly alongside Alexei with one of his hands on his pants pocket with the other hanging and swinging smoothly despite the mechanical parts that attached to his body. Finally, to the right was another no-longer teenager but looked like one not too long ago that was also obsessed with heroism and had found a perfect match with Leora: Rainer, like Cain, kept to himself but by his body language, was more on the defensive. To Sophia, that was understandable since he was just a normal person capable of picking stuff from wormholes while he walked alongside an immortal son of Yahweh, a Soviet supersoldier, a talking hand, an annoying and suave agent in an exoskeleton, and a stomach-less killer.

Sophia looked again. “Where’s–”

“Do not worry Director, for The Specter is right on time!” The Specter showed up as Sophia gasped and almost stumbled with one of the guards and Alpha-9 was now complete.

Bowe laughed to the top of his lungs, cleaning his eyes from the tears. “Oh, I wish I had this team at the time of Omega-7. Had I had it, America would have probably won Syria! Oh, Light, I had read the reports – but I hadn’t seen the circus as I should have.”

"Willis, right now, can you at least be silent?" Sophia said as she looked at Bowe with genuine discontent at her face.

"Don’t take this personally, Director. It’s been a heck of a time since I last walked here." General said with a smile on his face in contrast to Sophia's unpleasant look.

Meanwhile Adams was the most amused one out of everyone. Yes she was almost as angry as Iris, but looked incomparably astonished.

"Wha- What is all of this nonsense?" she exclaimed, waving her hand.

"Hi Adams, as you can see, some bullshiting is in process." Iris said, quickly changing her expression to the calmest possible in order to make the situation look even more like a bad irony.

"Oh, female solidarity." The general broke into a dialogue with a now usual smug face.

Before Adams could say anything in response to rather bold words of General, there was a short but caustic laugh.

"Bravo, both of you, we just came here and you are already starting a goddamn show." Fox said with genuine excitement in his voice, being probably the only one who liked to see the chaos unfolding.

After receiving piercing and clearly displeased looks from Adams and Iris, Foxx had to calm down a bit. After realizing that this situation could in a way affect him he started to actually try to participate in order to at least slightly dilute this tense situation.

He took a deep breath and turned his thoughts around once more as he continued.
"Pffff… Al-righty, but seriously, what’s your problem with Mr. Bowe? He is fine with me." Aleksander said with a portion of confusion in his voice.

"Thank you agent, I appreciate these words." calmly said Bowe, seemingly being somewhat cheered up by the fact that someone here is ok with him. This however could not please today's hero of the occasion.

"Ooooh, For fuck sake, Foxx, do you even know anything about him?!" Iris said with a new portion of rage.

Aleksander scratched the back of his head and answered:

"Hey, no need to scream at me! I’ve read a few documents and despite…" Alexander took an awkward look at the General. "…some questionable things. Mister Bowe is still a decent person. Professional at least."

"Foxx!"- Adams shouted at him.

"Oh, don’t look at me like that!" Aleksander replied with small frustration in his voice.
"It was Mrs. Thompson who asked, all I did was give her answer."

"Ahem…" Leora entered the dialogue "My deep apologies, Commander Thompson, but, I must say that even if I am familiar with the name… uh, "Bowe". I barely read anything and I can’t really judge now." She said, trying to keep the confidence in her voice. "I am still loyal to you, however I must know more if you want me actually standing by someone’s side."

Rainer was rather amused by the situation itself and decided to silently watch in order not to get himself into trouble.

Iris was unquestionably frustrated about the loss of another possible ally in all this when suddenly someone with iron will decided to enter.

"He is a Yankee. Enough for me." Alexei spoke in poor English and in a heavy, alarmist mechanical voice, pretty much surprising everyone and scaring some.

After several seconds of silence, the answer followed. "I don’t think you get my point, but, uhhh, thanks, Belitrov. Iris said a bit bushed, but happy to have another member by her side

All Willis did in response to this statement was look into what appeared to be Belitrov's cold metallic "eyes" with a straight face. Despite retaining composure, it would be foolish to deny that such a metal mastodon did not strain the General. However it was not known what frightened the General more, the fact that there is a giant metal exosuit in front of him or that it had red stars with hammer and sickle on it.

As everyone bursted into discussion nobody noticed how Han got off Alexei shoulder and made his way to Sophia, who at the moment was in the middle of repetition in thought of the plan she came up with.

"How I feel sorry for you, Director." Han whispered her ear, causing Light to jump in fright.
"I-" she sighed

"I've got it all figured out and don't you DARE do that again if you don't want to be next in line for decommissioning."- Sophia mumbled visibly annoyed by Han presenting on her shoulder.

Sophia again wished that she hadn’t thought that the situation couldn’t get any worse – at that moment, she hated herself for even thinking the situation could have been controlled since the start. Having Willis back and Iris as the Commander of Alpha-9 was like pouring oil over water and expecting them to blend together. She had enough shit for the day, and felt like she was going insane every time she heard another voice speak of the situation instead of minding their own business.

Her fists balled, and her back tensed as she wanted to scream at anyone at first sight. Suddenly, she felt like a thousand ants were crawling from her side and stopped over her shoulder.

“He–hey, Director Light,” Han said in her ear with a last emphasis on the hey as if the fiasco wasn’t a serious situation. “I just wanted to let you know, that I’m sorry for the situation–”

Light’s neck snapped, and looked at Han – her nervous eyes were gone by this point, and showed a repressed desperation and anger that looked as if they were about to pop from her eyes and engulf the entire team with her wrath. Han backed up a bit, and almost fell from Light’s shoulders if he hadn’t snatched himself from her shirt at the last minute.

“Han, listen closely,” Sophia ordered flatly, and Han bowed a bit as if he were a child being scolded. “You ever do that again to me, and if you do not tell me about it next time or in an absolute emergency, I’ll decommission you. I’m not Alexei or anyone else in Alpha-9 for you to do that freely, do you understand me?”

Han moved what was left of his wrist up and down. “I-I’m sorry, Ms. Light.”

Light sighed, now feeling guilty for lashing out briefly to Han, who had nothing to do with the situation or any blame for it.

“Jeez, Director Light,” The Specter said, walking to her right where she was talking with Han. “You were terrifying, even I was stopping myself from showing up.”

The Specter sighed, and then lifted his hand and tightened it in the air as if swearing revenge to an old enemy. “I wished I could’ve helped you, my jointless friend Han, but The Specter could not help you this time because of my cowardice!”

Han moved to look at The Specter. “That has to be the worst description of me being a jointless hand that I’ve ever heard of.”

“Hey!” The Specter put his hand over his chest, and Light’s head clicked yet again. She looked back at the situation, and now Adams and Iris were arguing with the guards who stood their ground despite not knowing anything of why this started to begin with, while Leora tried to calm Adams down to not punch one of the guards in the stomach. In between those arguments, Foxx at times tried to just put an end only to be told to shut up by Adams, which didn’t cause him to shut up. Alexei kept staring at General Bowe, who stared back at him and had caused to miss his attention to the small argument between Han and Light.

The only ones who weren’t involved in the argument were Cain, Rainer, Han and The Specter – and of course, Clef was chuckling at the situation as it all played out. Light picked up her phone again and texted Clef.

Hold the General for me, I’ll be back in a minute, she wrote to him and moved away from the General and Clef.

She signaled Han and The Specter, to follow her – who were still caught up in their own little argument but were interrupted once Sophia took Han from The Specter way.

They stood a few feet from them, and Sophia crossed her arms. She looked at The Specter then at Han on her shoulder. “Before I say anything else, what do you think of the situation which is playing out between General Bowe and Iris?”

“To be honest, I’d rather be back in my cell and rewatch the last season of Game of Thrones time and time again than to watch this,” Han said, moving his fingers with his speech.

“That was oddly specific, but works for me?” Light looked at The Specter and mentally prepared herself for the anomalous effects that would come out of her mouth. “The Specter, what do you think of this charade?”

“I’ll be honest, Director, I haven’t read a thing about Mr. Bowe here!” The Specter put his hand over his chest, and bowed slightly. “As the personification of justice, it is a deep irresponsibility for me to not be informed and because of that, I’m sorry.”

Well, that’s good to know, Sophia thought in relief.

“However,” The Specter continued, and Sophia glanced at him annoyed. “I’ve also heard rumors that General Bowe wasn’t popular or even beloved by many personnel – I don’t want to trust rumors, but you know what they say, you can always take it with a grain of salt. And considering Iris’ reaction to his return…”

The Specter looked over Sophia to the situation, then back at Light. “I don’t know if General Bowe is a good person – maybe he deserves the reaction, maybe not. I can’t say. What I can say is that this situation isn’t good, it’s breaking our camaraderie in Alpha-9!”

Bingo, Light smiled. “Well, what if I told you that you can help with putting this situation down?”

“I’m all for it if it means my ears will stop hearing all these screams,” Han answered, standing up with his fingertips.

The Specter crossed his arms, and while he didn’t have anything in his face to show emotion, Light knew The Specter skeptical. “The Specter is always willing to help, but I need to know what you mean by “putting down”.”

“It’s not what you imagine, and this wasn’t my first option,” Light said, signaling them to close up to her. “This situation is out of control and unless we do what I have in plan, this won’t stop.”

Light proceeded to tell her plan to both of them, and as she told each step and how it would be carried out, both Han and The Specter remained quiet for a moment.

The Specter talked first. “Director, this can’t be right! It’s an extreme response, there must be something else–”

“I’m up for it,” Han interrupted, then looked up at Light. “All I have to do is to convince Cain and follow your lead, then the Professor will take care of the rest?”

“Pretty much, Han,” Light looked at The Specter, shaking his head. “The Specter this is the best we have at the moment for a situation that is too out of control – we can’t use reason by this point. We’re on a point of no return.”

“How do you know that Rainer will be okay with this, or Cain?”

“Rainer is your friend, and look at him, he’s completely outside of this. He’s not saying up or against, even if Iris has called him for support. As for Cain, I can’t say – he was closer to Omega-7 and knew Iris since then, as well who General Bowe was even if he never met him face-to-face. But seeing that he’s not involving himself in the situation, I’m convinced he does not like the situation.”

The Specter shook his head, holding his fedora.

“The Specter,” Light called him, and he looked back with a hand on his hip. “Do you want to see Alpha-9 breaking up?”

“W-What? Of course not!”

“Do you want to stop helping people?”

The Specter snorted. “I’d have no purpose in my existence if I decided to do that!”

Sophia glanced coldly at The Specter. “Then help put an end to this situation, and Alpha-9 may survive this PR disaster.”

The Specter stared at Light for a moment – he rubbed his forehead in desperation, then put his arm down and sighed. “Alright Light, let’s do this. I just hope I don’t feel guilty helping you with this.”

Light shook her head too. “I can’t promise you anything, I’m sorry.”

Just like that, Han jumped from Light’s shoulder and walked across the floor with nobody noticing him – except for Cain, who followed Han’s track until he arrived in front of him. Cain kneeled down, offering his palm to Han and lifted him to his shoulder – they began to whisper to each other, and Light moved her attention to Rainer.

Rainer attentively looked at the argument unfolding with Iris, Adams, Bowe, Foxx and the security guards – he didn’t notice when The Specter showed behind his back, but didn’t freak out once he showed himself. The Specter started talking to Rainer, and now Sophia left the outcomes in The Specter’s and Han’s hands.

She remained in her place, and crossed her arms as she saw the situation continuing to spiral downwards. Objectively, she had indeed failed her role as Director of Alpha-9 this time – she could’ve done anything to prevent this from happening, long before today's training session. However, there were many circumstances out of her control: the Insurgency terrorist attack that caused Bowe to come back to the Foundation, the vote from the O5 Council, the arrangement for the return of Bowe and how it perfectly coincided with today’s training session.

Sophia could have blamed anything of that for what happened today, but she played a part too. It was time for her to take responsibility as Director of Alpha-9, even if that was in the worst way possible. She didn’t know why, but coming to that realization made her stress wash away from her body – and this time, she was sure her plan would work out. And if she didn’t, she always had her clearance to ask for guards.

"Ahem!" The Specter shouted as he teleported near Iris, giving a jump to the guards. "I think it is time to give a say to actual justice, isn't it?" These words sounded surprisingly soft, in contrast to The Specter's usual style of speech, and for this reason, many immediately took notice of him.

"Mister… Bowe. I might not know you well, but I know for sure my colleague and respectful commander Missis Thompson. And from my personal experience with her I know well that she wouldn't be angry at someone without reason. As far as I am aware all people who surround as right now are members of Alpha-9 one way or another, so… there is no reason for you to hide anything from us. So tell us the whole truth and remember that every extra word can be used against you." It wasn't in the character of The Specter to give speeches like this, but the situation too wasn't very ordinary and all the The Specter could do in it was to follow the plan of Sophia.

Shaking his head, Bowe came out of the trance into which he was put in by the words of The Specter and the answer was not long in coming.

"Mhm. Well then I think everyone here has enough clearance to know all the information, it's not my fault that you didn't bother to re-" But before the general could complete his sentence, he went speechless at the realization that someone was crawling over him.

"Hey mister blindness, hold your horses!" Han exclaimed as he reached Bowe's shoulder. "Say, General does have a point. YOU ALL ARE members of Alpha-9 and it is fully your task to be a goddamn responsible members of it. I don't think that now someone doesn't understand that this man preceded Alpha-9 and he created the foundation of the project we are in now. Have you been on the briefings for God's Sake?! If you paid attention to the history of all this, you all could've been prepared for a situation like this and nobody would ask… not very smart questions."

"How the fuck can i prepare to see this scumbag again?!" Iris shouted at Han in anger.

"I'll take it as a compliment. And…" Bowe sarcastically replied to Iris's question, only to get her hatred sight again but there was something he wanted to ask someone else. "Han, I think? Do you… tend to scare everyone like this?" Willis whispered.

"You'll have to get used to it pal. Everyone goes through it."- Han answered with ticklish irony which left Bowe slightly confused as he wasn't very comfortable with living loud hand on his
shoulder.

“How dare you?!” The Specter lifted his hand and pointed his finger at Han, causing his cape to fly in the air by the motion. “How dare you speak of Iris like that?! You better show some respect and apologize to her right now, Han. She has all the reason to be mad at General Bowie for coming out of nowhere and barking orders at us!”

Iris sighed in relief. “Finally, someone who understands what I’m going through!”

Han raised his finger. “First of all, it’s Bowe, you absolute moron.”

The Specter put his hand over his chest, and Han raised his second finger. “Second, none of you…” Han pointed his finger at each and every single one of Alpha-9 with the exception of Iris and Sophia. “Said anything about some unknown military official coming in and helping us train for today’s session.”

Han pointed at Adams, then at The Specter. “Not you Adams – you came in right to Iris rescue, but you were so happy trying to crush Alexei’s skull. Then, you come here and suddenly you’re against all of this, when you were teleporting from god knows where the entire session!”

“And you!” Han pointed at Alexei, who crossed his arms and tilted his head. “You’re fine.”

Rainer frowned, seemingly unsatisfied with the fact that he is being lectured by a hand, while many here were also not very happy, he, nevertheless being not quite sure about what is he even doing and what for, was able tospeak up to continue his point.

"Okay, this is all getting extremely stupid and… No offense, but genuinely, Han, when the hell did you decide to become Devil's advocate? "

Even though it was directed at Han, Willis' face was somewhat astonished, no one had ever called him a devil before. He took it as a compliment
Han snorted. “If I’m a devil’s advocate for supporting a four-star general with real experience of how to organize a task force, instead of following orders of an angsty lady who didn’t grow up from puberty, then I’m proudly one!”

Iris barked, her mouth contorting like that of a rabid dog being kept by a leash – which fit when the guards had to hold her down even more because she almost went straight ahead to Han. “What the fuck did you just say?!”

“How dare you–” The Specter wasn’t even allowed to raise his finger completely.

“Yeah, you heard me!” Han stood in his four fingers, pointing at the rest of Alpha-9. “All of you heard exactly what I said, and it’s because of bullshit like this that I’m supporting Bowe here instead of Iris – because unlike the General here, he’s keeping his cool after all the shit that Iris has thrown him.”

Iris shook her arms, wrestling with the guards to set herself free – she stared at Han the entire time, with stripes of her hair falling down on her forehead. “What the fuck do you know about Bowe that I don’t know, you bastard?! I have known him since I was fourteen, I’m trying to do all of you a favor here.”

“Maybe you should do yourself a favor–”

A gun clicked, and Han fell silent as Adams pointed one of Q-Branch’s experimental paraweaponry on what was left of him. “Maybe you should do yourself a favor and shut up.”

Bowe raised his hands, and without giving Han a look, said. “Han, I appreciate your support, but I do suggest that you follow Adams’ advice and shut up – and jump from my shoulder too. I’m not in the mood to be an unwanted casualty.”

“Oh, please make him an unwanted casualty,” Iris said.

“I’m tempted,” Adams replied cold heartedly, her usual snarky demeanor gone.

The guards holding Iris stared at Sophia, indirectly begging her to tell them what to do. Sophia quickly raised her finger, and put it over her lips, telling them to wait.

The situation went from bad, to worse, to the possibility of a shoutout. The Specter and Rainer were shocked by what happened in a moment’s brief, and looked at Sophia with the same look of the guards.

It’s all up to Han, she told them by her gaze.

In the meanwhile, Han had crossed his thumb and index finger, as if scratching his chin in deep thought. Then, he put his five fingers back in Bowe’s shoulder and said to Andrea: “Nah, go fuck yourself.”

Andrea breathed in, and out. “Fine.”

And just as Adams was about to pull the trigger, Sophia put herself in the middle of the way and spread her arms – placing herself in front of the barrel, she looked Andrea straight in the eye, who didn’t display a single hint of emotion.

“Step aside, Sophia,” Adams said, slightly annoyed. “You don’t have to take responsibility for the Coucil fucking up again. Let me get this over with the situation, and we can come back to normal.”

Sophia crossed her head. “You disappoint me, Adams.”

Adams raised her eyebrow. “What–”

Sophia gripped the barrel of the gun, and pulled it up – out of sheer reaction, Adams pulled the trigger. Everyone either closed their eyes or covered themselves. Adams’ eyes opened and shook as she saw that the shot ending in the wall, and the bullet flying across Sophia’s scalp as it flew through her hair.

Sophia stared at Adams, still keeping the gun up. She looked back at Alpha-9 with the same anger that she showed Adams. “And I’m disappointed with everyone here, with how Alpha-9 acted today.”

Iris looked at Rainer and The Specter. “You should’ve kept quiet and remained on the sidelines as both of you did on the start – look at what happened when you picked a side without knowing what side you were choosing. I’ll convince myself that you did it for loyalty to Iris, but just because you’re loyal, it doesn’t mean you support or believe that everything they do is right.”

Sophia pointed at Leora, who squeaked and stood with her back straight. “I’ll let you off the hook because you’re still young, but I don’t want to see this kind of behavior from you again.”

“But–,” Sophia looked at Leora, she looked down and nodded. “Yes, ma’am.”

“As for the rest,” Sophia looked at Han, Alexei, and Foxx, who each stood silent. “You’ll be hearing from me later.”

Sophia returned to Adams, who couldn’t believe that she looked down at her with fear. “You’re supposed to be Iris’ watcher, you’re supposed to walk her the right path, and you suddenly pull out a gun and try to shoot another Alpha-9 teammate?”

“I-I… But I was helping her–”

“Yeah, helping her with fueling the fucking fire,” Sophia pulled down the gun, and snatched it from Adams’ hand – she snapped at Clef, who happily trotted to her way and gave him the gun. Usually, she wouldn’t trust Clef with experimental paraweaponry – but right now, this wasn’t a usual situation.

Sophia looked at Iris, who exhaled and inhaled heavily as she stared at Sophia.

“Didn’t I tell you that you were the Commander? Didn’t I tell you that you had to live up to your duty?”

“Sophia, you damn well know–”

“I know, Iris. I told you since I went for you back at the lockers – but look at all the ruckus you helped build because you wanted to have a word with Bowe. I was almost shot. You should realize that in your attempt to help Alpha-9, you’re almost helping it to disband. Do you want that?”

Iris bit her lip, and even if she didn’t say it, Sophia knew what she really meant – she sighed.

Sophia went to the General, and gazed at Han to jump off his shoulder – which he happily obliged. “Clef, let’s move General Bowe. Considering how Commander Thompson won’t help us, we might as well move someone who’s cooperative.”

Clef stopped playing with the paraweapon, and composed himself. He grabbed Bowe’s arms without any of his usual comments, and Sophia gave one last look at the team.

“Does anyone have something else to say?”

Nobody answered.

General Bowe sighed. “Thanks for the help–”

“Willis,” Sophia said tiredly. “Shut up. I keep this to myself, but I’m disappointed that you even came back to the Foundation – I don’t care what made you come here, but if it’s some bullshit about protecting national security, I’ll send you to a desk job.”

Willis clenched his jaw, and looked away from Sophia – admittedly, he had enough of what happened today.

“You’re not getting away from this,” Iris whispered, and finally broke loose of the guards who left their guard down after the gunshot, and followed Willis to wherever Sophia took him.

Sophia sighed, I guess my plan finally worked out, now that I didn’t want to.

Iris catched up to them, stepping on both Sophia’s and Willis’ feet as they continued to walk. Sophia saw Bowe’s head slowly looking back at Iris.

“Don’t you dare look at her or speak to Iris, Willis,” Sophia called him, and Bowe raised an eyebrow at Sophia but at the end did as she asked, and continued to look straight ahead as Iris continued to ramble behind them.

“You think I’m done with you, Bowe?” Iris asked, and Sophia wanted to scream a yes at her. “Oh, I haven’t been done with you since I was fifteen. You blow up an entire site, let my friends be massacred by Able, and return with a pat on your back? You disgusting warhead, everyone else from Omega-7 is dead and you still walk like nothing happened.”

Willis inhaled heavily as Clef chuckled to his side – Sophia hushed Clef to stop it, but only made Iris’ eye twitch as the rest of Alpha-9 followed and watched her.

“I’m sure you sleep well at night, because why wouldn’t you? You were let go scot free from your crimes while everyone else had to die – you have blood on your hands, and you don’t care. You’re just another warhawk who helped invade countries, kill civilians, and use child soldiers.”

Sophia turned around, and finally heard the closing sounds of engines turning, computers operating, and heavy machinery being operated as she walked closer and closer to the damned sector of Site-19: the floor that was owned by the Research and Development Department.

But the rest ignored this, with the exception of Bowe. “Sophia, where are we–”

“Bowe, don’t.”

Willis whispered to her. “Sophia, I’m getting sick of Iris. Initially, I was having fun, but her voice is tiring me. She talks like she knows everything.”

“She does know everything about what happened with the Commission, Willis. She’s hitting the nail with everything she’s saying.”

Bowe looked at her seriously. “You don’t know what has happened since then.”

“Not yet,” Sophia answered. “And at the moment, I don’t care in the slightest. I’ll figure out later, Willis. For now, just follow my orders.”

Willis opened his mouth to continue, but was stopped by Iris catching up to Sophia and following her from her side as she watched Bowe – who continued to look straight, despite the clenching of his jaw.

“What is it, Bowe?” Iris asked, noticing this. “You’re finally growing a consciousness from what you said? Do you remember Adrian, Beatrix, Neil, anyone from Omega-7 that weren’t your coworkers from the government and your buddy-buddies running the Commission? Those who did your job and paid their lives, and for what? For four fucking years to fight against “terrorists” and expand the government’s influence on the Foundation. You only had Omega-7 for four years, and you nuked a goddamn site and had the task force butchered.”

The doors in front of Sophia and the rest automatically opened as they sensor movement nearing, and Sophia had forgotten what R&D’s innovation had been until she saw it: temporary, experimental containment chambers being lift from cranes attached to long walls inside the facility, assembly lines that went from the bottom-up with automated machinery speeding up the process of paraweaponry and paramachinery manufacturing, endless servers that felt like long libraries filled with the latest advancement in paratechnology, all while the facility overflowed with thousands of scientists, engineers, and who-knows-what that worked day and night to keep the department going despite the Council.

Sophia almost bumped with several scientists, who would’ve also bumped her if it hadn’t been for the cautionary signal telling them they were inches from hitting each other. But they weren’t looking at her: the R&D scientists were looking at Willis Bowe, and despite his old age, many of them who had been at the Commission knew who he was.

Where’s Kain, Sophia asked herself, looking around at the busy sector.

The R&D scientists, researchers, and engineers began to talk to each other, pointing at Sophia and the rest of Alpha-9 as they walked through their sector. Suddenly, one of the scientists walked to a propelled elevator and pressed a button, sending him to the highest level of the sector that forced Sophia’s sight. He looked like an ant above there, rapidly walking to what seemed like a station.

Sophia snapped back to reality as Iris ignored her surroundings and concentrated her hatred with Willis. “I hope you fuck up again and soon so that the Foundation has a reason to finally kill–”

And everyone at Alpha-9 stopped when a loud, excited announcement came at the top of the scientist’s lungs: “General Bowe is back! The General is back!”

These words struck both Thompson and General like a sniper rifle. For Iris, this was the third shock of the day and her face expression made that perfectly clear. She couldn't believe what she heard.

With all that she has been through
What. How. *HOW DARE THEY?!*

How DARE they greet a fucking war criminal who ruined so much lives, who saw everyone as nothing more than his chained animals or a problem he could get out of the way without fear of getting his hands dirty. Iris couldn't bring herself to call the General a human. Just a scumbag with blood up to his shoulders.
Are they THIS ignorant? Or they are just as awful as him?

Despite all the haltered that filled Iris, now it was mixed with disbelief.

She just couldn't understand how ANYONE can like him.
Maybe she was missing something?
Maybe she doesn't know something?
Maybe it's just a simple misunderstanding?
Or…
maybe she is wrong in something..?
No. Absolutely not. Not that she cared about.
She knew and remembers everything she needs to and remembers clearly.

While Iris was shooting her hatred-filled gaze at the scientist, deep inside Bowe was grateful to him that he didn't let her finish the sentence. The General's patience was close to running out.
Light, trying to take advantage of Thompson's shock stage, was thinking how she can buy time for Crow to arrive. Unfortunately she wasn't fast enough.

As Iris snapped out of it and remembered she had a conversation with Bowe, she took fast but deep inhale and, turning back her eyes to General, exclaimed:
"Don't fucking think these lab-coat shiteads can save you. I am not done with you."

Bowe barely overheard as he nodded his head and smiled to the coming R&D scientists, as they patted his back and asked him thousands of questions that they were so eager to be answered.

Bowe looked at Iris, composing himself to not snap in front of everyone, and said between his teeth. “Cut it out, will you?”

“Oh, you want me to cut it out?” Iris walked towards Bowe, pushing and bumping through the R&D scientists, who called her as they rubbed their backs and shoulders. “That’s pretty ironic, now that you’re saying it when all your fans are here to hide you. Like you always did, Bowe. You haven’t changed at all, you’re the same exact general that hid in his chair and behind your shiny medals on your uniform, and asked anyone else to do their bidding.”

Bowe locked eyes on her. “I suggest you finish this.”

“Iris! Excuse me,” Sophia walked through the R&D staff, which only began to surround Iris and Willis in a massive circle.

Iris ignored her, and focused on Bowe. “Or what? You’re going to ask your eggheads to point out one of their useless experiments, you’re going to ask for help, or will you just crawl away and pretend nothing ever happened.”

“Iris!” Sophia yelled in the sea of personnel.

Iris stood in front of Bowe, both standing eye-to-eye. Sophia arrived at the front row of the circle, looking around. The rest of Alpha-9 followed, and stood still in silence as they saw their Commander bickering against Bowe – who were overlapped by the cheering whistles and yells from R&D scientists.

Bowe looked down on Iris, who was a foot smaller from him. He had to admit, Iris had grown; not mentally, but she certainly had grown.

“No one wants you here, Bowe,” Iris said. “Alpha-9 doesn’t want you, I don’t want you here. You are just a greasy old man, who’s slowly pilling in dust from whatever hole you were sent to after Able slaughtered everyone. You had the happy ending compared to everyone else in Omega-7, and yet you have the guts to come back here and pretend nothing happened. You are a fucking disgrace, you don’t deserve those–”

Iris pointed at the medals hanging from Bowe’s chest, and could only imagine how much blood he had spilled to get each and every single one of them as he had achieved a great accomplishment. But she knew the truth, she knew who he really was. Iris doubted Willis Bowe was even a man.

She deepened her finger on the medals. “Those medals you carry with pride, they’re fake. You never deserved Omega-7, you never deserved all those people who died because they believed you, and you definitely don’t deserve to come back. Get the fuck out now, Bowe, while you still can. Don’t come back, ever.”

The R&D facility fell slowly into a deep and hollow silence once the R&D staff understood what was going on.

A scrawny, spectacled-looking scientist spoke up in protest. “Hey, don’t you disrespect the General–”

Iris and Bowe looked at the scientist, who stepped back, and said: “This is a personal matter, don’t you get involved.”

Iris looked back up at Bowe, confused.