Hand-delivered Invitation

“Detective Cortez?” Noemi looked up from her desk to see two men in dark suits standing at her door.  At first glance, they were obviously feds- dark suits, dark ties, dark glasses. However, Noemi’s experience over 20 years told her there was more to it. They looked the part, but just their casual posture was out of character for all the bureau goons she’d met. It was also odd they kept their sunglasses on indoors. “If you have a moment, we’d like to talk to you about the Ripper case,” the shorter of the two men said.

Noemi was surprised that she was even asked. It wouldn’t be the first time higher-ups swooped in to take one of her cases, and she was always the last to know.

“Sure, come on in,” Noemi waved them in, then leaned back in her chair to give them her full attention. The tall agent closed the door behind him, then sat down next to the short one.

“I know your time is just as valuable as ours,” the short one said. “So, I’ll get right to it.” As he spoke, the tall agent leaned forward and placed a manila folder on her desk. He came in with nothing, and she wondered where it came from; she did not rush to look at it. Instead, she kept her focus on the one that seemed to be doing all the talking. “There’s your culprit, as well as how he did it. It’s not what you’d call, ‘normal’,” he said.

“And you know all this, how?” she asked. Though, she still did not reach for the folder.

“It’s our job, much like yours. However, our responsibility ends at the identification of the guilty party. Then, we pass off the information to the appropriate authorities. In this case, we’ve determined that to be you.”

“Why me?”

“Efficiency,” the short agent replied. “The truth is we’ve come to recruit you. The best way to do that is to give you a hint about what you’ll be up against.” He cast his eyes down at the folder.

“I’m not interested in being a fed,” she replied. The short man nodded. “Neither are we. We’re not from the government, our agency, the B.A.A., is independent.”

“B.A. A.? Never heard of it,” Noemi replied. The agent nodded, but didn’t elaborate. After several quiet moments, it became apparent he wasn’t going to offer any more information. Noemi reached for the folder and opened it. The first sheet was a full body, color picture of a man from a medium distance. He was bald and lean with a scraggly, blonde beard. He was dressed in rags and Noemi’s first guess was that he was homeless. The only thing that really stood out was a large tattoo on his bald head. It consisted of a hand making the ‘peace’ symbol, and the number 21 under it. She flipped to the next sheet and saw his name.

[Ken Parker: Unique Soul #21 – La Mano; S- rank] Noemi stopped reading after the first line. His age, description, and criminal history appeared to be in the lines below, but she was already lost.

“What’s a Unique Soul?” she asked. “And what does a ‘hand’ have to do with anything? It’s been a while since high school Spanish, but I’m pretty sure ‘mano’ means hand.”

“It is exactly what it sounds like; a soul that is entirely Unique, in and of itself. It has no counterparts in any other universe. La Mano is one of 54 Unique Soul types you’ll be meeting if you accept our offer,” the short agent explained.

Other universes?” Noemi raised an eyebrow; the short agent nodded.

“Generally speaking, La Mano has the ability to reach into other universes as long as their hands are not being watched. Although at the higher tiers, like Mr. Parker, they are able to reach into the universe they’re in.”

“Reach… how?” Noemi asked.

“Literally,” the agent replied. “Mr. Parker is reaching into his victims to pull their organs out.”

“You want me to arrest this guy and explain to everyone that he can magically stick his hands into people from a distance?”

“It would be the truth,” the short agent nodded.

“If he’s got an ounce of brains he’ll never admit something we can’t prove. I won’t even get him to court,” she said.

“That depends on the court,” the agent grinned. “This isn’t the only Earth Mr. Parker has victimized. With your help, we can make sure he gets an appropriate sentence.”

“Are you asking me to testify?” she asked. The agent shook his head.

“I mentioned earlier, our job ends at identifying the culprit. The B.A.A. has decided to change that and put together an actual police task force. Your experience here would be invaluable in authoring arrest procedures for Uniques. You’re invited to be the new chief of our police force.” Noemi’s eyes almost popped out of her head in surprise. To say it was a dream come true would be an understatement for the woman who spent over 40 years practicing her name in front of the mirror each night.

Noemi Cortez – Chief of Police,” she took great pride in being able to carry on her family tradition. For the first time in six generations, one of the Cortez boys did not have a son before he died in the line of duty. At his funeral, Noemi decided two things. Women could be officers too, and she would not carry on the tradition of dying on duty.

“Yes!” she eagerly nodded. Unique Souls and alternate universes and the unknown was all worth it for the title.

“Great,” both agents stood at the same time. The tall one pulled a glass rectangle out of his coat pocket and placed it on top of the folder.

“That’s a node,” the short one said. “Learn how to use it, study whatever you can. Let us know when you’re ready to start,” he said. Then, they both turned and headed to the door. The tall one reached it first with his longer legs, and he opened it. As the short agent walked out of the room, the tall one looked at Noemi.

“Welcome to the Bureau of Alternate Agencies,” he said with a large grin. “By the way, your favorite number is 32. You should get that on a tattoo,” he said, then left the office.

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