Ferikan grabbed the doorknob, stood still, and gently squeezed it.
All she ever did; The laughs, tears, and meals shared with those who supported her; the threatening stares, curses muttered under her breath, and homicidal fantasies directed at those who opposed her; everything had led Ferikan to this moment. Just beyond the closed door in front of her lay what she always dreamt of, or so she thought.
This is it. It’s not how you imagined it, but this still counts as an invite to the top floor.
If only she knew this was the beginning of the end for field agent Ferikan. She stared at the floor, flared her nostrils, pursed her lips, and took a deep breath.
Who sends a meeting invite from the Executive group account without identifying themselves or attaching an agenda and an invite list?
Ferikan had tortured herself for days, speculating on the possible purpose of this mysterious meeting. She swallowed hard, followed by a second deep breath held in her chest. She straightened her back, cracked her neck, and flexed the upper part of her wings outwards. She ensured the tips stayed close together at her lower back, framing her slender body within the V formed by her white feathered wings. It was very uncomfortable, but she knew that a lack of proper etiquette can sink any career.
You will become the youngest Executive ever. And this is a step closer. She raised her chin, exhaled, formed a toothy smile, and opened the door.
“Ah, agent Ferikan, punctual as always,” someone greeted her before she could take a second step into the office.
“You know what they say, sir,” she closed the door but never stopped moving, “If you’re five minutes early, you’re already ten minutes late.”
She fixed her sight on one of the two simple black armchairs in front of the desk and walked towards it. Three empty glasses rested on coasters on the desk, and a jug of water was on a smaller table off to the side. She placed her briefcase next to one of the armchairs but remained standing. She knew better than to sit when no one else was at the desk across from her. The other person in the room had turned towards the massive window admiring the view, but even with his back to Ferikan, she could tell he was an Executive. No sign was outside the door, and no nameplate adorned the desk, but the purple uniform was hard to miss. His name was, for now, unknown, but his position mattered more than his name. The luxurious black office chair behind the wooden desk was as immaculate as the rest of the furniture surrounding her; it probably belonged to the Executive staring out the window.
Whoever that third glass is for has already marred their record by being late. I guess that’s a point for me. Ferikan tightened her lips, holding back a sly smile.
She padded towards the massive bookcase that covered the entire wall across from the desk, observing her surroundings and taking notes.
This office is massive. It must be nice to have all this space to yourself.
Her tiny cubicle was cramped in an office less than half the size, which she had to share with another field agent, a mission strategist, three engineers, and four data analysts.
What’s that? Four, maybe five metres to the ceiling?
Ferikan recalled the low head jamb of her office door. It was a design flaw everyone knew about yet somehow forgot when it was their turn to enter or exit the office. The loud thuds announced arrivals and departures, often followed by a few unsavoury words. She tittered.
I guess they have the extra height on the top floor. This must be the office of one of the seven Lead Executives. But who?
She didn’t dare speak to the Executive in the room unless he addressed her first, at least not until the meeting had officially begun. She sneaked in a few peeks instead. Her first glance left her with furrowing brows. The second glance lingered a little longer as she squinted, making sure she saw clearly. The third glance kicked her brain into high gear. He did not hold the tips of his wings together at his back. He had them open and relaxed in a more natural position, and his uniform was wrinkled.
This is one of the seven Lead Executives? It can’t be. Maybe he’s one of the many low-ranking Executives dealing with some forgotten sector of the universe.
Ferikan reached the bookcase and fought hard against her body’s urge to turn and look at the Executive once again. Thankfully, the enormous piece of furniture towering over her provided a much-needed distraction.
The size and high maintenance of everything here scream high status and power. So why not his clothes and stance too? Something doesn’t add up. Could this not be his office? But he recognised me as soon as I entered, so he must have arranged the meeting.
She browsed through the titles of the books that neatly filled every shelf.
‘The Order of Naturalism, the Role of Executives, and the Grand Mission.’ ‘The Organization and its Organisms: Naturalists Observing the Universe.’ ‘The Importance of Documenting All Known Energy and Maintaining a Record.’
Nothing surprising there. Three books every single person in that building had, at the very least, in their digital collection.
‘Nine Basic Types of Energy and the Best Methods of Recording Them.’ ‘Field Agent Basics and How to Record High-Quality Data.’ ‘Energy Spectrums and What Data Analysis Shows About Energy Transference, Transformation, and Preservation.’
An interesting collection of books. Most likely, an Executive who began their career as a field agent like me. Perhaps I can use that to my advantage.
‘Space-Time Continuum and the Four Dimensions.’ ‘Alternate Realities, Parallel Dimensions, and Energy Complications.’ ‘Black Holes and Revelations, an Attempt to Measure Energy Across Dimensions.’
Oh, now these are an intriguing read. Black holes are where we should be focusing. I just know they hold the key to better recording energies from other dimensions and eventually unlocking interdimensional travel.
‘The Infinite’s Journey; a Bridge Between Dimensions. A Hypothesis.’
The Infinites? Who bothers with such old, not to mention forbidden, information? And what’s all this about dimensional bridges?
Compared to the rest, this book was out of place. All of them were in excellent condition, trophies meant for display, but this one must have contained information and knowledge the owner found significant or, at the very least interesting. The cracks on the spine spoke of the countless times they had opened it, and the numerous sticky notes protruding from the top revealed they had meticulously studied it.
Ferikan pulled out the book and began reading the blurb. The door opened, and someone entered the office. She scanned the rest of the back cover, looking for the writer before putting it back. She didn’t recognise the name and didn’t find an image of the author either.
“Ah, you’re both here. Excellent,” he moved towards the office chair behind the desk, “Please excuse my tardiness. The recap meeting lasted longer than expected.”
Ferikan’s chest tightened. Is that Lead Executive Berson?
“That’s fine, Berson. I authorised the extension on Kalia’s report. I felt it was important information,” the other Executive replied.
It is Berson! Ferikan’s heart skipped a beat. Wait, what? Her eyebrows raised, and her eyes opened wide. He authorised? For Lead Executive Kalia? Even though her lips never parted, her jaw loosened. Who is this Executive? She slowly turned and looked at him as he moved closer to Berson’s desk.
“That it was,” Berson replied as he stood in front of the ornate chair. “Hopefully, we can use all this information to one day press the council to remove their ridiculous prohibition and bring all our research out into the open.”
Why am I in a meeting with two high-ranking Executives? Ferikan brought her hands together and squeezed as she screamed internally, trying to identify the unknown Executive. Grey hair on the side of a balding head. A black moustache that is turning grey. Brown complexion. Shorter than me but bulkier, with a belly. He isn’t one of the seven Lead Executives, but I know him from somewhere.
“Agent Ferikan, I believe you’d also be interested in Kalia’s findings. And depending on how this meeting goes, you might soon find yourself familiar with all matters relating to the Infinites,” Berson said.
Ferikan didn’t reply. Her mind raced, trying to grab ahold of an answer that circled the outer edges of her mind.
That white brassard indicates active field duty. Perhaps I saw his picture in a mission report? An Executive who knows the seven Leads and is still active in the field despite his advanced age. Wait, this is--.
Ferikan stood still like a deer caught in headlights until Berson’s chuckle pulled her out of the stupified state. She blinked a few times and shook her head, but she didn’t move.
“I imagine this meeting comes as a shock to you, agent Ferikan, and I apologise for all the cloak-and-dagger tactics, but they are necessary. Certain Lead Executives and their ministries would not be happy if they knew the true purpose of our little gathering.”
Ferikan stared at the other Executive, still unable to form words.
“Perhaps an introduction will make things clearer,” Berson faced the other Executive and opened his eyes wide. He then tilted his head towards Ferikan and loudly cleared his throat.
“Oh. Yes. Right. An introduction,” the other Executive began walking towards Ferikan. “Agent Ferikan, my name is--”
“Garjian, you’re Executive Garjian,” Ferikan blurted and continued in the same breath, “The only Executive still active in the field. Garjian, who should have been one of the seven Lead Executives but passed on the opportunity so he could keep doing field assignments. The Executive who currently holds the record of the youngest agent to become an Executive.” She moved in to shake his hand.
“Well, it’s been many galactic rotations since I became an Executive. But yes... that’s who I am.”
Ferikan reached down and grabbed Garjian’s hand for a handshake.
“Oh good, you know each other,” Berson said.
“Only from what I read in various mission reports,” Ferikan said while shaking Garjian’s hand for too long.
“The same goes for me,” Garjian replied.
Ferikan stopped shaking Garjian’s hand but didn’t let go. “You know of me?”
“I like to stay informed when it comes to talented field agents.”
Blood rushed to Ferikan’s head, and her body went a little woozy.
“I’m also aware that you’re close to breaking my record and becoming the youngest Executive ever. How would you feel if I helped you break that record?”
“Ecstatic, but how would you do that?” she let go of Garjian’s hand.
“I have an assignment I want you to join me on. Working with an Executive gives you extra credits towards your promotion, which should help you reach the Executive level sooner than I did. However, the details of this assignment will have to remain off your official record.”
“Yes, I’ll do it.”
“Hang on a minute,” Berson jumped in, “Agent Ferikan, don’t you want to hear the specifics of this assignment? This mission isn’t sanctioned--”
“No, sir. As long as I get to work with Executive Garjian out in the field, you can count me in.”
“Excellent!” Garjian replied. “I have an active case running at this very moment. How soon can you leave?”
“My data tablet is on my desk down at the office.”
“I’m glad you’ve both agreed so quickly, but,” Berson placed both hands on the desk and raised his voice slightly, “We still need to do this properly,” he glared at Garjian.
“There’s no time for that, Berson. The Infinite I’m observing might cross over any moment now,” Garjian turned to Ferikan, “Pick up your field tablet and meet me at the portals in the basement a.s.a.p.”
They were walking towards the door when Berson began bellowing from behind his desk, “Garjian, you can’t do this. You know we need to do all the right procedures, or Sinethia will not only have our wings but also demand our heads!”
The door clicked shut as both Ferikan and Garjian exited the office.
Garjian stuck his head back in the office through a half-open door, “You take care of the paperwork, Berson,” he was waving his hand as if he was shooing a fly, “Make it look all nice and official for the rest of the Executives and their ministries,” he shouted as he closed the door.