Agent Vincent Green checked his gear, and then his watch. Everything was on schedule. The merchants’ ship was entering the outer atmosphere of Avalon. Once they made their final approach to land at the spaceport, he could jump. He’d made plenty of HALO jumps before, they no longer bothered him. The high altitude part was easy enough; it was the low opening of the chute that made some people nervous. What worried him was the lack of intel on Avalon. He knew virtually nothing about the area where he was going to land, and he hated that. The people here were so damn xenophobic it was downright weird, especially as they were humans.
Since when did one human colony shut itself off from all others?
Well, that’s what I’m here to figure out.
The ship shuddered, the groan of metal on metal echoing around him as the landing gear was lowered. The wind slapped him in the face. He checked his watch again, which, like the rest of his gear, was multifunctional. It flashed green.
Down through the pitch black air he plunged. In an instant, the ship was little more than its running lights blinking off in the distance. It was no concern to him, gravity was, and so he focused on the matter at hand. Down, down, down he fell. It was a moonless night, more dangerous for him, but necessary if he was going to avoid detection, and his anti-thermal suit was another concern, as it was proving cumbersome. His watch beeped; he’d dropped below radar level.
With a whoosh, he deployed his chute. His head snapped back, but he was ready for that and was careful not to knock himself out on his air tank. The sounds of the sea rushed up to greet him. A black sea on a dark night was almost invisible.
Damn, it’s darker than four feet down a horse’s throat. I can’t see shit!
Suddenly, white foamy water appeared beneath him.
Whitecaps! Yeah, rough seas may be hard to deal with, but at least I can see them.
He hit the water. Into its blackness he dove. Activating the release button, he swam hard for the surface. This was the most dangerous aspect of the jump. Most HALO jumps that ended in death were the result of the person getting tangled in their chute. Nearing the surface, he didn’t break it. Given the rough waves, he was safer where he was. He deployed his fins, turned on the airflow, and checked the compass on his watch. Green was a strong swimmer, so he reached the shore in less than thirty minutes.
Kneeling down in the surf, he did a thermal scan of the area. Other than a few nocturnal creatures, there were only two odd readings: two human-shaped figures in the sand that were growing colder.
Drowning victims? Better check it out.
Wading ashore, he found the young couple, and confirmed that they had indeed drowned. The wreckage around them made it clear they’d had a boating accident. While saddened at the loss of life, he did see it as an opportunity. After kneeling to say a brief prayer for them, he searched the man’s clothes and found his ID.
Hmmm, no gene tag, not even a picture to replace. These people are pretty laid back. All the easier for me to become Caleb St. Armand.
Once he’d changed into the clothes in his kit and tucked his gear (all of it disguised as innocuous items) in his backpack, he was faced with a quandary. His first instinct was to do the right and proper thing for the unfortunate couple: bury them. But, he had his orders: no evidence left behind. So, using his demat gun, he reduced them and his unnecessary gear to ashes. Step one completed, now to hike to the nearest town and begin his search for answers.
The sun had just risen above the horizon when he entered the city of Neo Providence, his trek made easier by a friendly farmer who gave him a lift. The people here seemed very trusting and easygoing, and they made use of the simplest of technology. The farmer’s truck was a basic hover vehicle. Yet, Caleb wasn’t about to complain. It sure beat walking. It also gave him a chance to talk to a local to get information about the area.
“So, you looking for work?” Eldor said. “You looking to be a regen guardian?”
“A… regen guardian? Why do you say that?”
“Well, strapping young man like you, there are plenty of old farts like myself who’d love a new friend to hang with as they transition. I know for a fact the local center is hiring. They are desperately shorthanded.”
“Oh, yeah. You know how it is, we Baby Boomers hit our seventies, and we start thinking about a regen.”
I can’t believe my luck. This is perfect; I’ll complete my mission in record time! “Well, okay then, can you drop me by the place?”
He did so gladly and Caleb entered what was clearly an important building. It was large and sprawling, ornate, and had a golden phoenix sitting atop the fountain out front.
He hadn’t gone two steps inside the front door before four middle-aged women practically assaulted him. “Have you ever been a guardian before? No? No problem, we have a training program.”
“Are you married?” another said.
Here he lied and said he wasn’t, and immediately worried that they’d check some sort of database. After all, the guy dead back on the beach was married. Fortunately, they didn’t do any sort of detailed confirmation.
They did do a background check to ensure he had no criminal record. It seemed Caleb had been a good boy. After that, it was a whirlwind week of tests and training. They gave him a thorough physical to ensure he was strong and healthy. No issue there, he was a top agent. Then two days on the care of a regen, which he actually found quite fascinating. Although he didn’t completely understand the regen process, which he didn’t let on so as to avoid suspicion, it was clear that a person emerging from their pupa was not only younger but also reduced in size and strength. Thus the need for a guardian who would care for the person, make sure he/she ate right, and grew to normal size. Long before he was done training, he essentially had answers to all his questions, and could call for an extraction.
He didn’t want to.
There were several reasons he’d been chosen for this assignment, most of them physical. He could easily pass for a native. At six-six and with prematurely white hair, he fit in perfectly, no makeup, prosthetics, or plastic surgery needed. The people of Avalon were quite tall; six feet was practically the minimum. Yet, there was another reason he’d been sent, one unspoken around CIA headquarters. It was known that he was a bit of a loner and that his ‘tastes’ ran to the ‘unnatural,’ at least that’s what his section chief said every time he came up for promotion (it was always denied). Caleb knew that this was a dangerous assignment, the odds of returning safely were minimal, and that was the real reason he’d been sent. They wanted to get rid of him.
Okay, fine, if that’s the case, I’m staying a while and having some fun, even if it is with some old guy getting a new lease on life.
So it was that a day later he was called into Unifier Katsumi’s office. She was the person responsible for giving out guardian assignments. Some of the staff called her ‘Matchmaker Katsumi’ as she did her best to put the perfect pair together. Sitting behind her desk, she smiled, which frankly worried him. That usually meant bad news was coming, but what could be wrong? What if they’d discovered that Caleb was married? He sat in the chair she gestured at and simply smiled back.
“You wanted to see me, ma’am?”
“Polite as always,” she replied, the smile staying put. “Yes, Caleb, we have a new subject in transition, and the assignment is yours.”
“So soon? I’ve only just completed training. Who is the gentleman?”
She cleared her throat and activated a holo-display. The image of an elderly woman appeared between them. “Um, her name is Olivia Hargee.”
“A woman?” he squeaked, then calmed down. “I thought the guardian and the regen were supposed to be the same gender.”
“That’s standard, but a mixed couple is allowed, so long as both parties agree,” she said, and flipped her intercom. “Would you send her in, please?”
The door opened a moment later and in entered the little lady, literally. About four and a half feet tall, she had an angelic face, soft supple skin, and head full of white curls, which made him chuckle. Granted everyone on the planet had white hair, but she was the youngest person he’d met, and it looked a bit odd on her. Despite being prepared, despite his years as an agent, and having seen the holo-films showing him what a regen subject looked like upon emerging from their pupa, he still gasped in surprise. She was an angelic version of her older self.
“Who’s this joker?” she snapped.
Her attitude was in sharp contrast to her appearance.
“Caleb is in line to be your guardian,” Katsumi explained.
“No, absolutely not! I want a woman, I always get a woman.”
“As I explained, repeatedly, none are available. It’s Caleb or a group home, and you know what that means, Mrs. Hargee; the government will take your home and sell it to pay for your care.”
“Mrs.?” Caleb said. “Where’s her husband?”
“None of your business!” she growled at him and then turned to Katsumi. “No, I’ll not lose my property because of some silly law.”
“Then you accept Caleb as your guardian, yes? And, Caleb, Olivia is acceptable to you?”
“Sure, I’m fine with that,” he said.
“All right,” she grumbled.
Babysit some middle-aged woman going through the change of life? Sure, it’ll be a cakewalk. I’m a member of the Cosmos Intelligence Agency. I can easily handle— “Ow,” he cried, as she kicked him in the shin.
“Hey, you big lug, she asked me first! Mind your elders and your manners.”
Caleb rubbed his leg and glared at her; they were roughly eye to eye.
Katsumi frowned. “Your charge has just acted in a socially unacceptable manner. How do you respond?”
“What?” they both said.
“Caleb, you’ve done all the training, and you know the rules regarding a regen’s behavior. Now, how do you respond to her act?”
“Right here, right now? Um, okay.”
“No!” Olivia squealed.
She stepped away from him, but his arms were longer than she’d expected. He grabbed her and pulled her across his lap in one smooth motion. She fit very nicely and her little terrycloth shorts were snug and soft, and her perky breasts were on the small side, yet felt nice against his thigh, even through her little t-shirt. Holding her as she squirmed, he raised his hand and…
Smack! He gave her a firm swat, and Caleb couldn’t help himself; he smiled. It felt so very good and it had been over a year since he’d last gotten to spank a fine young lady. Granted, it had been a girlfriend who had been (marginally) into it, which made it much more enjoyable, but if it meant he helped this woman and him fit into this society better, he was happy to spank her. He swatted her again, and she yelped and struggled.
“No, no, no, I will not be spanked by a man! Katsumi, I—ouch—demand a different guardian, do you hear me?”
“Olivia, you just agreed to take him, which is verbally binding under the law. I’ve told you, there are no women available.”
“Ouch, ow! Yes, there are, I’ve seen—ow—plenty in the waiting area.”
Katsumi sighed. “Mrs. Hargee, I’ll be honest with you, based on your reputation, no one wants you.”
Caleb did a slight double take and almost stopped, but his training (both CIA and regen guardian) kicked in, and he kept right on spanking away. He hated to admit it, but it felt so very, very good. The feel of her firm round bottom, the sting and warmth building from each smack, and yes, the squeals and protests as she struggled.
He had the distinct impression that this was going to be a very interesting assignment.