Sunday – 18:25
"Why aren't you in bed sleeping?" I asked with a confused look on his face.
The question seemed to puzzle Thaddeus as if he wasn't used to being asked questions but rather the one asking them. Or perhaps he was expecting a scolding.
"Ummm, w-w-w-well," he started. "I have an extreme case of insomnia. So I barely sleep, and even when I do, it's in short bursts. I never even sleep long enough to have dreams."
If that was supposed to make me feel empathetic, it failed. It was hard to feel sad towards someone who had trouble sleeping when I himself wished I never needed to sleep. I would prefer having no dreams than the nightmares that I endured every night.
"Then why are you here and not eating dinner?" I asked. "The cafeteria will close in a couple of minutes, and if you don't eat now, then you will have to wait for breakfast tomorrow."
"Ok, sorry," Thaddeus said apologetically. "I lost track of time."
"Let's clean up your mess first and then we can go." I started walking toward the stack of opened files.
"N-n-n-no, it's fine," Thaddeus cried out. "I got it. I made the mess after all. I should clean it up."
It was clear that he didn't want me to see what he was looking at, so I carefully kept note of which cabinets were open so I could come back later to check them.
Once Thaddeus finished, they left the room and hurried to the cafeteria. Thankfully, they made it just as the doors were closing. Once closed, you could only exit but not enter.
Thaddeus sat red-faced throughout the entire meal. He was clearly embarrassed by what happened, which meant that he was hiding something. So I went on the offensive.
"So, what were you doing in the file room?" I pried. "It must have been important if you prioritized that over dinner."
"Nothing really," Thaddeus answered. "I was looking through the files to get answers. Since you managed to avoid answering my questions, I figured I could find answers to them myself."
That seemed plausible, and it didn't look like he was lying. But it was clear that the vague answer was a practiced response. I made a mental note of it and saved it for later.
"There is no need to hide anything Thadds....nope, that doesn't work either. It isn't against the rules to search the file room. It's open for a reason. Let me know what you wanted to check out, and I can help you find it."
Thaddeus eyed me carefully before answering. "I was in shock at how everyone treated you earlier, so I was going through your history to see what made you so special and to see if I could pick up any tips on how to be as successful."
That also seemed like a partial truth to me. "You know, kid, you could have asked me. I know that I am often busy, but I am not purposely avoiding you. Just talk to me. What do you want to know?"
"Well," Thaddeus said. "I noticed that you didn't appear in any initiation lists. How come? Did you skip training?"
"That's a simple one," I answered. "You see; I was initiated in another department of ISEKAI. The name of it is confidential. Even other T-rank members don't know its name, so I can't tell you. Only the managers and directors are aware of all of the different departments. Typically, they don't allow transfers between them, but I was an exception. I pulled off a mission that countless top operatives failed beforehand.
"The target was a brilliant teenager, who was both perceptive and protected by his girlfriend, who was an extremely skilled martial artist. Either way, it was proving impossible for anybody to get him. They almost gave up on the target. I was a pretty decent operative at the time, so I figured I might as well try.
"I knew that I needed good enough bait to reel him in alone and keep him distracted. Therefore, I set up a homicide situation and made sure he saw us there. We wouldn't be found guilty, but we would make him suspicious. Then after we were cleared, I got my partner to catch his attention while leading him towards an illegal deal. From there, it was a simple task of sneaking up on him and knocking him out. That allowed me to feed him the ISEKAI pills that our department had been developing.
"It worked like a charm. I was immediately transferred to TRUCK-KUN, and since I already worked for ISEKAI, I wasn't required to join initiation. You know that guy I met in the garage? That's Terry. He was my mentor, and with his guidance, I quickly got solo approval and reached T-rank in record time. And that's my story. Are you satisfied?"
Thaddeus blinked a couple of times, clearly not expecting such a straightforward and detailed answer. I knew the look in his eyes. The 'about to ask a question' look. But what he asked was unexpected. "Terry....what's that short for? Terrible?"
I gave a hearty laugh. "Ha-ha! I need to tell Terry that one. No, it's not a nickname. Since Terry was my mentor, I still call him by his full codename out of respect."
Confident that I had provided enough information, for the time being, I told Thaddeus to go to bed and rest as much as possible since there was another mission planned for tomorrow that I had been planning for weeks now.
I led Thaddeus out of the kitchen to the K-rank dormitory, and after dropping him off, I walked toward his dormitory and bumped into the twins on the way.
"Yo, Tobias," Timothy said. "I saw your video during lunch. One of these days, your luck is going to run out, and when it does, we are going to be the big shots around here."
"That's right," agreed Thomas. "You are way past your prime. Once you completely fail, we will be the highest in the rankings."
Timothy and Thomas, known collectively as the twins, were the next highest in T-rank. They had a unique situation. They worked together, and their rankings were split between them. This meant that they needed to accomplish twice the amount of work compared to anyone else. Normally, this would be a major hindrance, but these two had enough chemistry to work together and enough resolve to accomplish their extra missions. While they didn't always succeed the first time, they never failed to Isekai their target within the first three tries. After an agent failed three times for the same target, called striking out, they were immediately dropped to the bottom of their letter rank.
"Timmy and Tommy!" I shouted joyfully. "Or is it Tommy and Timmy? Actually, it doesn't matter. You are both useless by yourselves. Twins! How are you doing? You aren't looking so well. I would say to use a mirror to get a good look at yourselves, but I wouldn't want you to get confused." The taunt wasn't a good one, but these two always got on my nerves. While I liked that they weren't in awe of me, they always showed open hostility.
"You will regret saying that," Timothy warned.
"Look out for yourself tomorrow during your mission," Thomas warned. "It would be terrible if you happened to drop down to the bottom of the rankings."
"Oooh, I am shaking in my boots," I joked. "See you around. Not on the rankings though. Even if you both got full credit for your missions, you still wouldn't be close to me."
With that quick jab at them, I entered my room and got ready for bed, knowing what awaited me was far worse than a day with the twins. After a couple of hours of reading, I fell asleep.
* * *
Sunday – 22:00
"You killed us!!"
I was driving my truck when the voices started. I was about to ram the target when ghostly arms appeared around me and pulled the steering wheel hard to the left, causing me to miss.
"You killed us!! "
I ended up crashing into the guardrail and banged my head into the horn, causing a loud honk. The shadowy arms began wrapping around me tightly, strangling me. I couldn't breathe. I tried squirming free, but it was of no use. I was trapped and slowly losing consciousness.
"YOU MURDERED US!!!
Time to wake up, I thought in relief.
However, the dream unexpectedly continued.
I materialized on the side of the street, with a perfect vantage point of the intersection. The scenery refreshed, and the simulation started again. There was something strange, though. The target wasn't the same person as before. The face molded into an identical one of Thaddeus.
That part was new, and the nightmare was way more vivid than all the times before.
The scene played out as before; the truck started driving towards the intersection, and Thaddeus was running to save the person chosen as bait in the street.
"Don't do it," I yelled. "The person is in no danger! Save yourself!"
But Thaddeus continued forward, saved the pedestrian, and inevitably got bulldozed by the truck.
I dropped to my knees in anguish and looked at the driver passing by. What I saw was myself, laughing maniacally.
The shadowy arms returned, wrapping around me and binding me to the middle of the street. The slithery whispers started speaking into my ear.
"Now it's your turn!!"
The truck turned around and started speeding towards where I was pinned.
"You are a hypocrite!!"
The truck was closing the distance each second. It was about to hit.
"YOU DESERVE THIS!!!"
I woke up that morning sweating once again.
* * *
Monday – 9:00
I picked Thaddeus up and led him once again to the basement, where I told him to wait in the passenger seat. Meanwhile, I went to speak to Terry about my run-in with the twins.
"The twins were actually here earlier," Terry told him. "They asked me to give you regards and that they wish you luck on this mission. They might be up to something, so be careful."
"It's probably fine," I said. "Even they wouldn't do anything that underhanded. They would rather beat me in the rankings honestly than resort to underhanded tactics."
Terry sighed loudly. "If you say so, Tobias. I still am not so sure. Be careful though. Even if they possess the moral compass that you attribute to them, others might not be as noble. They aren't your only enemies in this joint."
I often deferred to my mentor's judgment during times like these. "I understand. Terry. I will be as careful as possible."
I then left the room, got into the truck, and drove Thaddeus towards the unsuspecting target.
* * *
Monday – 9:30
"This target's deadline is in two months," I told Thaddeus. “I was given the assignment about a month ago. Three months in total is the usual time slot we are given to Isekai the target."
"What happens if you fail?" Thaddeus asked.
"Well," I responded. "Then I get two more tries to Isekai the target within that remaining timespan. If I fail twice more, then the mission is delayed. Delays are actually more common than you might think, especially among the lower ranks. However, even R-ranks and T-ranks once in a while strike out, meaning that they failed to Isekai the target within their three tries. Once they strike out, then the assignment is pushed off until a later season and then given to a different operative. Usually, it's given to a higher-ranked agent, though it depends on how much that fantasy world is willing to pay. Don't worry though. That won't happen."
"D-d-d-don't jinx yourself," Thaddeus stuttered. "I learned that the hard way."
"Everyone is giving me advice today," I joked. "When did I become the trainee?"
They then rode in silence for a few minutes, passing a beautiful park, flowers blooming and kids playing. I was reminded of his childhood, playing in similar parks with my parents. I wished I could go back to those times, carefree and ignorant. Unfortunately, real-life wasn't as forgiving and naive.
I then started catching Thaddeus up on the mission.
"This target is pretty standard," I told him. "He has a standard schedule. He walks towards school alone every day within a fifteen-minute window. There are plenty of crosswalks that he needs to traverse throughout the trip. That leaves plenty of opportunities to arrange accidents."
"H-h-how come it needs to be an accident?" Thaddeus interrupted. "You said that were violent with the detective kid back when you were in the other division. Why can't you just run this person over and get it over with?"
I was once again proud of his pupil's astuteness.
"There are different types of targets," I responded. "TRUCK-KUN does things to look like accidents since we generally target kids that are depressed or lonely. They don't tend to be the highly motivated type. Therefore, if they knew that they were Isekai'd on purpose, then there is a higher chance that they wouldn't play along in the fantasy world but rather would continue to wallow in their self-pity. However, when they think that it's accidental, they are more willing to go along with the new situation they were thrust into since it's ideal escapism. It's slightly more complicated than that, but that's a general idea.
"On the other hand, there are some highly intelligent and determined targets. Those people are more likely to go along with the fantasy world if they think that they can get to the bottom of the mystery of who Isekai'd them so that they can catch them or exact revenge. However, if they were under the impression that it was an accident, they might not feel as motivated to play along in the fantasy world since they wouldn't see the point. Again, it's more complex than that, but you should now understand the differences between them."
"I understand," Thaddeus said. "The more I learn, the more I realize there is to learn. I guess that is how everything is. So what are the rest of the details of this target?"
"Well," I continued. "He always uses the same crosswalks to get to school. However, another member of his school uses the same route and usually leaves slightly before he does. I made contact with the girl and got her contact info. Then, I started befriending her with another phone pretending to be a guy from her area. I will keep her eyes concentrated on the phone with flirtatious messages while stalling her as long as necessary with my control over the traffic lights. And before you ask, yes. I can control traffic lights in close proximity to where I am. All agents are given devices for this once they reach C-rank.
"Once the target is close, I will turn the light green for a second for the girl to realize, and then she will commence crossing the street. However, right as she is doing so, eyes on her phone, I will quickly switch the light to red and drive fast towards the intersection. The boy will see the girl in danger thinking that she is being careless and will rush to rescue her. That is when I ram him with the truck."
"That seems a little overboard and unnecessary," Thaddeus noted.
"It is. However, I prefer using different tactics than doing the same thing over and over and possibly being sloppy from the repetitiveness. Enough talking though. It's show time." I pulled out my phone and called headquarters. "Agent Toby to base. The operation is ready to go. The target is approaching now."
"Roger that, Agent Tobias. You are all clear to execute the mission," came the quick response over the phone.
The girl was on her way to the crosswalk. I turned the light red and then started texting the girl, who started texting back, fully absorbed. A minute later, the boy came into view and was closing in on the crosswalk. When the time came, I turned the light green and started speeding up slowly towards the crosswalk. After a few seconds of texting, the girl looked up, saw the green light, and started to cross, again looking at her phone and texting. I then turned the light red once more and started speeding towards her.
The boy saw the girl crossing the red light and, in his peripheral view, saw the truck speeding towards the intersection. Without hesitating, the boy ran forward and pushed the girl out of the way right as the truck was closing in. It was going just as planned.
Just another success.
Suddenly, the was a massive popping sound and something caused the truck to veer out of control. I missed the target. Inconceivable! But I couldn't worry about that now. The truck was out of control, and it was proving impossible to get it back under control. The truck skid towards the end of the street and rammed into a sturdy pole on the side of the road. My body shot forward, face slamming into the steering wheel, and I slowly slipped into unconsciousness with just one thought on my mind.
I failed a mission.
END OF PART ONE