WhisperWraith/Recruitment File: WhisperWraith
From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
Recruitment File: WhisperWraith
The moss-covered gravestone was small, unkempt, unspectacular; crowded into a heavily shaded, remote corner of the cemetery along with dozens of other identical slabs dedicated to the bit players, the unlucky ones at least, who tried their hand at the hero game over the years.
“Lots of shadows...unnoticed...far out of the spotlight. Probably the way he would’ve wanted it, if he’d been given a choice in the matter…from what I’ve read,” thought Zane.
“Hi Dad. Long time no see.”
Zane bent down, rubbed away the heavy crust of dirt and moss from the front of the gravestone.
~ Protector of the Innocent ~R.I.P.
“Protector of the Innocent. R.I.P.," Zane shook his head. "Every damn stone in sight has the same inscription. Hell, there isn’t even a body in THIS grave. …should say, M.I.A. not R.I.P.”
Zane stood up. Kicked away the pile of damp, rotting leaves the autumn winds had pushed against the stone, revealing more debris and bits of trash.
“This would never be tolerated in Praetoria,” Zane thought. “Clockwork would’ve been on it immediately. Guess there are some percs to freedom-crushing totalitarian rule.”
“You missed the rendezvous,” the voice behind him was flat, with just the hint of annoyance. Zane had been aware of the tail since he left the Talos Island rail station. He knew who it was, had been expecting someone for some time now, but when he saw her...in this context...in this dimension, everything seemed...off...this was not Praetoria. The dark-haired woman continued, “Dame Destruction and Penelope Yin put a considerable number of our Praetorian agents at risk ferrying intel about you across the rift.”
Zane said nothing, continuing to clear away the years of debris from the gravestone. He had watched her enter the cemetery earlier; she moved with the familiar agile alertness of someone trained by the Resistance.
“For a Warden operative with your particular pedigree and accolades, you were surprisingly easy to track down,” she said. “You’ve been on a tear though the bowels of Paragon City ever since you crossed the rift. Pretty loud introduction for someone who goes by the name…Whisper.”
"Scared? What are you scared of?"
"Monsters...they’re going to eat me up when you leave."
"Zane…buddy…no such thing as monsters. Trust me. I promise not to let any mean ol’ monster take even one nibble out of you. Here, let’s check under your bed. Now where’s that cool Portal Corps flashlight I gave you…"
“Wraith. It’s Whisper..Wraith. and what’s your point, Livia,” Zane replied, stepping back from the grave and turning to face his old Praetorian friend and ex-team leader.
“Don’t call me that,” she said with a terse smile, “not here, not in this place...in this dimension, I’m known only by my call-sign: Fox.”
A shaft of sunlight piercing through the heavy canopy glinted off the metallic plates and coils of his right arm. His Praetorianess stood out like a beacon, screaming refugee, other. The advanced cybernetic prosthetics, created from Clockwork technology, linked him forever to his home dimension. But, of course, Zane wasn’t Praetorian, he was a child of Paragon City; twenty years of exile in Praetoria and all that was left of his childhood in Founder’s Falls were scraps of fading memories. After crossing the rift two weeks ago, he had grounded himself by focusing on the mission, but as much as he hated to admit it, he could no longer call Paragon City his home. He was Praetorian at his core. It’s where he grew up, where he learned who he was. He may have been born a Primal, but his home was Neuropolis and the Imperial City.
She continued, “well, Zane Sheppard has been dead to Cole’s regime...and others... for years now, miles off the radar. We both know what an advantage that can be. I never had that luxury in Praetoria, and trust me, in our line of work, you don’t want to be on the radar. But the noise you’re making in Paragon, the digging into your parents’ tragedies, not to mention the obvious nod to your father’s M.O. Won’t be long before someone in Praetoria puts two and two together. Someone will want to clean up unfinished business.”
“And it never occurred to you that that might be the reaction I’m looking for?” Zane said incredulously. “The Resistance taught me ... taught us, everything we know about deception and redirection…about espionage, but sometimes you need to stir the pot with a big, loud stick to get the undercurrents boiling…I’m sure you get that, right? I may work in the shadows most of the time, but I need those responsible for my parents’ death to show their hand, to come out of the shadows. Too much time has passed...the leads are...thin...cold.”
The woman paused, taking in the unnaturally dark-skinned young man in front of her. Her eyes lingered on the cybernetic arm and the dull red glow that emanated from the milky pupil-less eye.
“Bottom line, Zane.”
“…bottom line - you missed the rendezvous and that doesn’t sound like the operative I knew. Rift passage can mess with your head, we’ve learned that. When Dame informed me that you were prepping to return to Paragon, I knew you would make one hell of an agent for Scorpio. Operation: Liberty was as tough as they get and you were a vital, invaluable asset to my team. I know you, I know your capabilities. Nova Praetoria or Paragon City, I know you want to continue the fight against injustice. On my recommendation, Scorpio is willing to give you a second chance to do that.”
Livia moved closer, dropping, if only for a moment, the soldier’s wall between them, “Zane, I know you came here for answers, for the truth...or maybe, simply for revenge, but you can’t fight these monsters on your own. Hell, you won’t even find your targets if you go it alone. You are not your father and this world is not Praetoria. It’s a chaotic, primal mess with more factions, cults, groups, splinter groups, armies, militias and meta-humans then you can possibly imagine; throw in a generous assortment of extra-terrestrials and demons and you have the good, the evil and all shades in-between. The web of power here is complicated and fluid, constantly shifting. Those responsible for your parent’s deaths...they live in shadows within shadows within shadows. The Resistance has virtually no footprint here as of yet, they can offer little help in your fight, but Scorpio has more intel on any one of these possible players then you could dig up in a lifetime. You need them.”
Zane knew she was right. This wasn’t a fight he could win on his own.
“And, Scorpio needs agents who can hit the ground running. They could use an agent with your abilities and experience. I could use your unique connection to Praetoria and Paragon. We need more Praetorians on this side of the rift...vigilant, alert, ready. You know better than most Cole’s end game - there’s a war coming and if Paragon City’s great defenders thought the Rikti were tough, they’re in for a big surprise. Cole wants this dimension bad but he’s not ready for a full assault, not yet; so right now it’s up to us, the shadow players like Scorpio to do our best to destabilize his regime and weaken those aligned with him on this side of the rift,” she paused, regaining her professional composure, “but I have to be honest, what we don’t need is a rogue agent obsessed with his own agenda. Join us, I...we will put a stop to Cole’s ambitions and we will help you track down the monsters that took down your parents...but on Scorpio’s terms...our method, our way.”
"Zane…buddy…no such thing as monsters. Trust me. I promise not to let any mean ol’ monster take even one nibble out of you…"
Zane shook his head, “I know I’m not my father, Liv...Fox. My father was a hero, but he wasn’t a soldier. The Resistance made us soldiers; taught us the strength of the unit…of command structure. All of my contact with Dame Destruction was through Penelope Yin…y’know, inside my head. I’m not a psychic like you, you’ll have to forgive me for the skipped meet n’ greet…after the passage, it all seemed… a bit hallucinatory, dream-like...but I’m ready now. For ten years after my mother’s death, I fought against Cole’s totalitarian rule and I have no intention of letting up now. WhisperWraith is reporting for duty.”
Zane continued, “I’ve stirred the pot and somebody out there who knows the truth, now knows that a wraith of vengeance is coming for them. I can afford to be patient. The monsters will get their due.”
Livia handed Zane a small communications device. “Keep this on you. Someone, not me, will be in contact to escort you to one of our sub-stations. We will need a full debriefing of your knowledge of Praetoria, and any recent Resistance intel you may have of Cole’s operatives in this dimension. Prepare to be thorough, took me three days to get through the debriefing. Welcome to S.C.O.R.P.I.O., WhisperWraith.”
Livia took a step back and unshouldered a long, black nylon case that had been slung over her shoulder. She set it on the ground and unzipped the length of it. From inside she pulled an unstrung, matte black bow and handed it to Zane.
“One of our agents pulled in a few favors with his contacts at the PPD,” she said, watching as Zane studied the bow. “It’s been locked away in crime scene storage for the past few decades. It was your father’s bow. Detectives found it at the Portal Corps warehouse in Independence Port. A night security guard witnessed The Whisper enter a third floor window. Your dad was never seen again...but you knew that already.”
Zane held the old bow in his right arm, his cybernetic arm. Telemetric sensors instantly determined the mass, weight and balance of the weapon. Even without the spectrum analysis from his cybernetic eye, Zane already knew.
“This isn’t my father’s bow,” he said, tossing the weapon to the ground and turning his gaze back to the empty grave.