The office of Director Jamadigni Renuka resided in the upper tiers of the XSWAT Headquarter tower. It was peaceful, in a way, sitting as it did among the clouds, overlooking the rest of Angelus in a manner not unlike a guardian watchdog. For Cadet Jaden Tshuva, however, it was obnoxiously loud. Wireless networks were laced through the entirety of the Tower, forming a central nervous nervous system screaming out its intentions and needs on a nanoscopic timescale. Billions of bytes of data streamed through its veins, and thus, through Jaden.
His first trip to the Tower had nearly overwhelmed him; the an overabundance of information proved too much for the young Clade to handle all at once. It took a whole year of intense mental exercises and discipline before he could come to terms with the amount of information streaming throughout the building. While the experience still wasn’t a pleasant one, he could at least tolerate it.
* * * * *
Newly polished boots clicked and clacked on the marbled floor of XSWAT’s administrative offices, the sound accented by the swish of a clean and freshly pressed uniform adorning Jaden’s small vulpine form. He strode casually, but purposefully, towards the office of Director Jamadigni Renuka, dodging and weaving around other officers and administrators who were busy going to meetings, discussing matters of various importance, or transferring files and documents to other locations throughout the Tower. Jaden found this chaotic, but purposeful, mess intriguing; he wondered why there seemed to be an emphasis on physical interaction and paperwork, didn’t they have any trust in their own networks?
Pausing in the hallway leading to the Director’s office, Jaden adjusted his collar and smoothed his coat. He noticed the walls were bare, except for two objects set facing one another. On his right was an XSWAT patrol coat, stained, worn, and patched, with Sergeant's stripes. On his left was a riot shield, battered and warped by forces he couldn’t even begin to imagine. Both had obviously seen better days, but both had also been carefully cleaned and prepared for presentation. Returning is attention to the door in front of him, Jaden inhaled gently, then knocked on the door. "Cadet Tshuva reporting as ordered Madam Director."
As Jaden entered the office, the door closing silently behind him, he looked towards the Director’s desk, squinting his eyes at the bright light of the rising sun, which cast a warm golden glow throughout the room.
"You've asked for my presence Madam Director." He stood at parade rest before her desk. "How may I be of service?" Sneaking a few glances around the room before the looked up, Jaden noted the various relics, mementos, awards, and decorations that were the result of nearly twenty years of service in XSWAT. He took a number of mental notes and stored them away for future deliberation.
“That I did, Cadet Tshuva.” Director Jamadigni Renuka sat back in her chair and pressed a control on her desk, activating the polarizing filters on the windows behind her. While she (and Cadbury) enjoyed the bright sun, the effect could be a bit blinding. As the room slowly dimmed, she closed the holographic displays in front of her and examined Jaden carefully. He wasn’t particularly tall, which was unusual for a Clade, but looked to have a sturdy build, which wasn’t. He was also more… anthropomorphic then most Clades, looking far more vulpine than say… Captain Winterfox. Still, Clades came in all shapes, sizes, and species, and Jama had never been one to make assumptions based on appearance.
“Your time at the Academy is nearly over. Which means that we’ll need to decide where you can be of most use to XSWAT.” she paused and then looked at Jaden directly. “Where do you think you can do the most good?”
The polarized windows did much to alleviate the sting of the morning sun. Jaden normally found bright sunlight tolerable, but only when he was prepared for it; going from the gloom of office-based fluorescent lighting to the brilliant glow of the newly-risen sun had momentarily blinded him, catching him off-guard.
“Wherever my skills in field logistics can prove most logical, Madam Director.” Jaden met the Jama’s gaze with his own, allowing her a clear view of his unusually enlarged pupils. “Such a question would seem most appropriate for my evaluator. I would then ask, for what reason would the Director of XSWAT ask for my presence, other than simple curiosity?”
He cocked his head slightly as he began to mentally sift out the ever-present white noise within the building; each layer was quickly stripped away, piece, by digital piece, until only the Director’s office and himself were all that existed. Once he finished, he found an open data file floating between himself and the Director’s computer. He recognized it instantly, seeing as it was a very specific length of digital video; video shot not with a camera but with his very own eyes. In fact, the contents of the video where the very reason he’d joined XSWAT two years ago.
“But then again, there is more to it than simple questions about my future in this organization.” Jaden’s tail swished about in excitement. “So, how long have you known about me? What tipped you off?”
“How long have I know?” Jama glanced at the immense cat that lounged on the far corner of her desk. The cat, in turn, returned her look, shrugged (much to Jaden’s bemusement) and then went back to watching the proceedings. “Cadet Tshuva, I’ve known what you’re capable of almost since you first applied to XSWAT.”
“I would hope so, else I’d be disappointed in this organization’s ability to utilize the vast amount of resources given to them, all for the sake of removing Entities and other paranormal anomalies from the city, Madam Director.” Jaden crossed his arms behind his back, catching his tail. “So you’ve noticed a few personal qualities about me, but what of all the other students, especially those who also excelled in the computer fields? Certainly they’d have just as much right to be here then, seeing how they have surpassed my own abilities with programming.”
Are you worth my time? Jaden thought, waiting to see how the Director would handle his bluff.
Steepling her fingers in front of her face, Jama shook her head. Everyone always seems to want to play mind games when they talk to me. “Cadet Tshuva, there may be some skilled programmers among this year’s crop of cadets, but I’m fairly sure none of them are able to reprogram a machine simply by looking at it.” A quick keystroke later and the virtual video file Jaden had noticed earlier blinked into the physical world, “Or broadcast images to the local network without a wireless link.” Sitting back, Jama glanced again at her cat, who gave her a sleepy look in return, then turned her gaze back to Jaden. “You, Cadet Tshuva, are possibly the most unique Clade I’ve ever seen. And I think you could be a great asset to XSWAT… or a great deal of trouble.”
“Unique... to be honest with you, I’d rather be like any other Clade.” A file appeared on Jama’s computer, its icon a distinctive double helix. “You know what I hated about that place. Being something less than a Clade, another product to poke and prod, to fill with whatever cocktail their labs would mix up.
“If I had wanted to be trouble, than I would have done so already.” He frowned, “But not here. No, I’ve grown to respect this place and its principals. Be that as it may, if the ideals of this place were to ever be corrupted, I would not hesitate to stop it at its source. I’ve already seen what total control with no care is like, I will not suffer it again.”
Sliding her finger across a trackpad, Jama dropped the double helix into a (hopefully) secure folder. “Cadet Tshuva, I’ve spent the last twenty years trying to ensure XSWAT stays true to the ideals first put forth by Director Cadbury. And she spent twenty years establishing those ideas. And I hope my replacement will do the same.” Gesturing to her cat, Jama then sat back in her chair, adopting a more casual pose. “That said, there are around 15,000 people in XSWAT, and I never can be sure all of them share my ideas. We—you, me, and even Cadbury here—must remain vigilant. There are more than just Entities for XSWAT to worry about; there’s also greed, vice, sadism, the desire for power, and a host of other human ills.”
Cadbury, a Maine Coon that Jaden wasn’t sure he could beat two falls out of three, settled in the Director’s lap with a look the Clade could only describe as ‘smug’. She buried her hands in the cat’s thick fur and started to scratch between his ears. Cadbury simply closed his eyes and gave a rumbling purr that Jaden swore caused the floor to vibrate.
“You do know that as an XSWAT officer I will do everything within my power to ensure you remain free?” Jama asked. “It’s the same offer I extend to any and all Clades that join the force.”
“I understand… but it needs to be known that I am far beyond any normal Clade, and though I may be the first, I will certainly not be the last.” Company logos appeared on Jama’s display as Jaden transmitted additional information. “I was designed by a committee who, through the power of the spoken word and private handshakes, formed splinter corps with which to hide behind.
“Unfortunately there are too many unknown factors for me to tell you more. I don’t know their other names, nor if those companies are their actual identities… there are too many hurdles and walls to penetrate.”
With a wave of his hand Jaden quickly erased all of the information floating on front of Jama. She noted that none of the data had actually been delivered to her computer, instead Jaden had apparently projected the desired information directly onto her display.
“I… see networks, like rivers, flowing in and out of servers who glow like ponds, lakes, and oceans.” His ear flicked and he pawed at it idly. “Always there is noise… even here, so much so that it sometimes hurts, but I have slowly learned to… focus on the smaller things, hobbies as you would call them, mental exercises to help calm my mind, but sometimes it isn’t enough.
“I am the eyes and ears that can see into the matrix… and I’m willing to offer you that which is most secret to me… I’m offering my trust to you Director Jamadagni Renuka, as I have to start somewhere.” He offered a smile, the first actual sign of warm emotional behavior, along with a salute. “Cadet Tshuva reporting to Madam Director Renuka. How may I assist you?”
“Perhaps you could ask before dumping data to my computer?” Powering down the system built into her desk, Jama continued to scratch Cadbury between the ears, her brow furrowed as she studied Jaden closely. “You seem to be rather free with other’s computer systems and that bothers me. It’s almost akin to espers being rather free with other’s minds.”
Her brow smoothed (Jaden noticed the symbol there wasn’t the same as the one he’d seen before… how did she do that? Sub-dermal holographic display?) as she sighed. “I’m sorry… I’ve become a bit high-strung as my tenure as Director reaches its close. There’s a lot I want to get done, and more I hope to see continued after I leave.
“However,” and here Jama allowed herself a slight smile. “I can think of one way in which you could assist me, as well as XSWAT as a whole. I could always use another set of eyes and ears to watch the traffic we generate. Perhaps, after you fulfill your required time in the field, we can see about bringing you into the Tower, to be part of the network security team. Would that interest you?”
“Well, if everything goes well, the possibility of such a future is well within the realm of reality.” Jaden relaxed into parade rest, smoothing away a few creases in his uniform. “But until I can mentally relax my mind while within the Tower, it is going to prove a bit overwhelming to my senses. I’m still a first, as you pointed out. My capabilities are... still an enigma to me.<
"No matter, if I can help, it would please me to do so but," and he leveled a stern glare. "You must understand, that I may not be the only one of my design, nor would any other of my kind be considered... free in their actions. I don't know what I can do to support you all if a Jaden 2.0 were to appear."
“If another Clade such as yourself were to appear,” Jama replied, “and proved to have malicious intent, I would hope that you would do all you could to help contain the threat.” She paused and glanced out the window, her expression thoughtful. “Here in XSWAT we often never know exactly what is going on, what we are facing, or how to fully deal with it. All we can do operate to the best of our knowledge and ability.”
"As they say, one can only hope for the best." Jaden agreed. "So, is there anything else you wish to discuss, or ask of me?"
“Discuss? No, not right now. I think I’ve heard enough for the moment.” Jama tapped her computer’s keyboard, bringing up a file and attaching a note or two to it. “I’m going to have you engage in some field work for a bit. Get you out of the Tower, where it’s… quiet. We’ll see how you work with others, how you handle yourself in the field, and once you’ve had some practical experience out on the streets, we can talk again.”
She rotated the floating screen so it faced Jaden. “You be meeting with Sergeant Bernard Godfrey on the morning of July 4th and accompany him and four other officers on a simple field exercise. Once you get back from that and we get the initial evaluation of your performance we’ll attach you to a squad house for a six month stint. Do you understand?”
"Looking forward to implementing my capabilities to the field." he gave a firm salute. "Interesting times are certainly ahead of us."
With an about face, Jaden left the Director's office, back into the cacophony of tower life in XSWAT HQ.