Chapter 1


NDA agents. That's what we were, Jason and I. The National Defense Agency. A federal organization that began shortly before the Depression. We were the law. Above local law enforcement, above the FBI, we stood for everything that was right in what seemed like a very wrong United States. We had jurisdiction over any crime scene, we had access to even the most secure government facilities, we had a seemingly unlimited supply of resources.

But today? Our job was simple. Meet up with local law enforcement in San Diego and help transport a high risk prisoner. They said the prisoner attacked four officers unprovoked, and was finally overwhelmed by five other officers. With NDA Agent Jason Stafford and I nearby, we were requested to help transport the prisoner to the local jailhouse, where they were to be held until someone from the NSA picks them up.

I stared out the window as we were driving towards the crime scene. San Diego was definitely not what it used to be.

If you owned a car, you were considered wealthy. Most people owned motorcycles or bicycles as means of transportation. Even so, a large portion of the population simply walked to where they needed to go.

Most buildings were abandoned and run down. The few buildings that were still in operation were mostly office buildings of what few large corporations still existed, and apartment buildings where the wealthy lived. Most people lived in old, out of shape homes or in the abandoned buildings (though this was illegal).

"This blows man." Stafford said, "It's past," he looked at his watch, "twenty-two hundred and we're stuck transporting some prisoner because the cops are afraid. Isn't there anything more important we could be doing?"

I shrugged.

Special Agent Jason Stafford was a large man. Easily over six feet tall, I estimated he weight approximately two hundred and thirty pounds. Though don't let his size fool you, he's probably one of the kindest men you'll ever meet. He's always one for doing what's right, even if it put his own life in danger. Regardless, he was always a jokester, always saying that he refuses to grow up.

Spurred on by patriotism, Stafford enlisted in the United States Marine Corps right out of high school, and rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant after eight years of service. He then received his Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and started working for NCIS. After the Depression, Stafford was asked to join the National Defense Agency. He was easily eight years my senior.

"I mean, think about it Matt. Isn't there anything else you'd rather be doing?"

I shrugged again.

"You gonna talk to me, or what?" he asked.

I just turned and looked out the window. The dim moonlight shined in the interior of the car.

"You're no fun, Mr. Robb." Stafford turned in his seat and continued driving.

"Got some ID?" one of the cops asked. He looked like he was in charge.

I showed him my badge.

"Hmm…" he looked closely at it. "NDA Special Agent Matthew Robb, thanks for all the help."

I nodded and turned in Stafford's direction, "This is my partner, Special Agent Jason Stafford."

"How ya doin'?" he asked casually.

We were right smack-dab in the middle of a freeway. However, since cars were such a rarity these days, freeways were almost always abandoned.

"What do you need us to do?" I asked.

"Not much. Just follow our prisoner van to the prison. It's about a twenty-five minute ride from here." the police officer said.

I nodded. "If you don't mind me asking, sir, what exactly makes this prisoner so special that it required our assistance?"

He shook his head, "Please, call me Jim. Anyway, this prisoner, she took on four of my officers and knocked three of them out cold, the fourth has a broken arm. I haven't seen strength like hers. I can only explain it as superhuman. I swear one of my officers was thrown at least ten feet backwards by her. I just want to make sure. The NSA had apparently caught wind of the situation and told me you guys were coming to assist. They said they'd send someone over to pick her up tomorrow."

I still wanted to know why the National Security Agency was so interested in a girl. I concluded that there'd be time for these questions when the NSA agent arrived, and I quickly dispersed my thoughts and snapped back to reality.

"Ten feet huh?" I walked over to the prisoner van and looked inside, Jim and Stafford followed closely behind me.

She looked to be about five foot four inches or so tall, with medium length brunette hair. She looked to be maybe in her early to mid twenties. I continued looking at her with a sort of fascination. Something seemed different about her. She shot back at me with a leer.

"She doesn't look very strong to me." Stafford turned to me, "She's cute, though." he said with a sly smile.

Jim scoffed. "Believe me, she's a handful of trouble, she is. Anyway, we should get going. Ready?"

I nodded and Stafford and I went back into our car.

"So, what do you think?" Stafford asked me while we were waiting for the van to start leaving.

"I don't know what Jim saw," I said, "but I'd really like to find out. There's something strange about her, but I just can't figure it out."

Stafford started up the car and we followed the van closely from behind as it drove off.

About fifteen minutes into the drive, the van in front of us stopped in the middle of the road. I turned to Stafford and saw him grab his sidearm. I did the same.

I chambered a round in my sidearm and got out of the car.

"Prisoner Van, NDA, what's going on? Over." I heard Stafford ask into the radio.

The radio crackled to life, "NDA, Prisoner Van, I don't know, some guy is standing in the middle of the street in front of us, over."

"Roger that, Van, we'll check it out."

I looked at our surroundings. Most of the light in the area was coming from our headlights, with only a few streetlights working and clouds shrouding the moon. There were small buildings to our right and left, a bad place to be ambushed. The street was completely deserted.

Stafford and I moved forward until we were in view of the person standing in front of the van.

It was a guy, probably around my age. He was of average height and build and had short, dirty blonde hair. "Let her go." he said.

I raised my weapon towards him. "Put your hands up and get down on your knees." I said.

He just stood there indifferently, as if he didn't hear me.

Stafford repeated my order to him. Again, he stood there unshaken.

"Let her go. Now." he demanded.

Stafford shook his head. "Ain't gonna happen, cupcake. Put your hands up or we will be forced to restrain you."

Two more of Jim's men came up from behind us with their weapons drawn, facing the unknown person.

The man started laughing. "You kidding?" he shook his head in disbelief. "Well, you asked for it."

He darted forward. A split second later, I flipped the safety on the pistol and was about to take my shot, when everything blacked out. I was lying facedown in the asphalt. I gripped my hand for my weapon, but it wasn't there. I looked up and tried to figure out what exactly was going on.

There was gunfire, two shots, and a scream. I turned and saw one of the police officers get tossed over me. He landed about seven feet in front of me, unmoving. I turned to Stafford, he was out cold. The second police officer and Jim were nowhere to be seen.

I got up wearily and looked towards the van. I could hear the man fiddling with the locks in the back. I quietly got up, retrieved my weapon, and moved towards the rear of the van when I was grabbed from behind, I assume from the woman. The man came out from the rear of the van and smiled at me. He raised his fist, and…

There was an explosion and everything went black. One second, I'm eating my dinner, the next, my brain is scrambling, trying to piece together what could have possibly happened.

I could hear people screaming in pain and horror in the distance. Where was I? A ship, that's right. My ship. I was in the galley eating and there was an explosion. I couldn't feel my right arm, I think it's stuck under a table.

I could hear the General Quarters alarm ringing incessantly, and something was burning in the distance…

"Wake up!" I felt a sharp pain across my face.

I groaned, "Where-where am I?"

"Good, you're alive." the voice said.

"Who are you? What's," I cleared my throat, "what's going on? Where's Stafford?"

The voice replied calmly, "Shut up."

My vision started to slowly come to and I took stock of my surroundings. I was in what looked like one of the many abandoned buildings of San Diego. The room I was in looked no larger than what a decent sized bathroom would have been. There was two lamps in the corners of the room, and no windows.

The man that freed the prisoner was standing in front of me, staring at me, as if trying to figure me out. I saw the girl sitting in the corner, watching us. I tried to move but couldn't. At first I thought maybe my arms and legs were broken, but came to the realization that I was just tied to a chair. Even so, my stomach got tied in knots, and an uneasy silence pierced the room.

We had received training on what to do if you become captured, but I never believed that it really could have happened to me. Despite all my training, I was scared, and although I hated being scared, I accepted it. I just put on an indifferent face and tried to project myself as calm and cool.

The man smirked at me and sat down near the girl. I stared at them both, and they returned it.

"We're ransoming you." the man finally said.

I was surprised by the sudden explanation. "What?" I asked.

"You're scared. You're wondering what we want with you. We're going to ransom you for the return of our brothers…" the girl next to him gave him an elbow to the ribs, he grunted. "and sisters. And-" he began, right before she elbowed him again, "and for information."

I still couldn't figure out what was going on. "Who are you people?" I asked. "You really think the government is going to trade me in for convicts? Forget about it."

He stared at me for another minute, before finally turning to the girl next to him. They held a small conversation, and though I could pick up a few words, it wasn't enough to interpret what they could have possibly been saying.

"You think you're a patriot." the man said to me. "You're not our enemy."

I gave him another questioning look.

He shrugged and said, "I read and profile people. Very, very well.

"So, you really believe that we're convicts." he chuckled. "'Cause, well, we're not."

"Right." I replied sarcastically.

"We just want to be left alone." this time it was the girl talking.

"Who are you? What's going on?" I said, slightly less nervous than I was before. They didn't seem like their goal was to harm me in any way.

The man sighed and turned to the girl. She looked at me for a moment, before turning to him and nodding.

"I'm Alpha Heracles Zero Eight. This is Alpha Heracles One Four." he said nonchalantly.

I gave him a blank stare. "What?"

He smiled. "We're both genetically enhanced super soldiers from the Heracles Project."

I raised my eyebrow at him. I was even more lost than before.

He laughed. "So, you really don't know about the Heracles Project."

I shrugged.

"For as long as we can remember, we've been in the Heracles research facility, training to be soldiers. The twenty of us, me, One Four, and our other eighteen brothers and sisters, we each had a specialty. Mine is profiling. One Four's is computers and electronics. But regardless, we all have increased strength and stamina. I can hear a pin drop from a hundred yards away, but won't experience any damage or discomfort from noises up to one hundred and seventy decibels. I can run and accelerate as fast as, if not faster than any human-" the girl elbowed him again, he grunted, "I mean, any regular human, on Earth."

I nodded sarcastically, "Yeah, uh-huh. Great story. Can I leave now?"

"Why do you think we could take on so many of you at once? Why do you think we can throw you guys around like a baseball?"

He had a point. I remembered one of Jim's police officers flying above me and landing like a rag doll. But there had to be some other logical explanation to this.

"You're a NDA agent." the girl, One Four, said.

I nodded suspiciously.

"You've never heard of the Heracles Project?"

I simply shook my head no in reply.

"They took young children from their homes to be tested on and trained to become Heracles super soldiers. That's what happened to us. All twenty of us, we were the first ones, the first 'batch' they called us.

One Four continued, "But then we all started having dreams of our lives before the Heracles Project. We started to remember that there was an entire world outside the confines of Project Heracles. The scientists, they were going to kill us, so we escaped. All twenty of us."

At this point my brain felt like it was overloading. I didn't exactly believe them, but they sure did come up with one helluva story if they were lying.

"You don't believe us." he said, "Eh, I didn't think you would anyway."

It seemed like hours past in that room, though I'm sure it was only a couple of minutes. I didn't feel as nervous as I did when I first came to, but I was still tied up to a chair in an unknown location.

"So-" I started, "what're you guys gonna do with me?"

The man, Zero Eight, stood up and walked over towards me and took out a knife. I felt my stomach almost jump into my mouth. He simply smiled and said, "Relax."

He cut the rope from my legs and hands, until I was unrestrained. He then sheathed the blade.

I massaged my wrists and looked up at him.

"You're free." he said simply.

"That's it?" I asked, "What was the point of taking me hostage?"

"Well, you said that you wouldn't be any help to us, so why keep you?"

I looked at One Four, then back at Zero Eight. "What if I tell people about what you told me?"

He looked at me apathetically, "You really think people will believe you? They'll think you're crazy, just like you thought we were crazy." I still kind of did.

I knew he was right though. People wouldn't believe that I was captured and then released by two experimental super soldiers. Just the absurd thought of it all almost made me laugh.

Zero Eight's apathetic face slowly turned into a nervous and worried look. His eyes rolled up into his skull and he fell to the ground.

One Four got up and ran to his side. I knelt down beside him and checked his pulse, it was faint, but pounding.

"Grab the bag behind you!" One Four ordered.

I turned and saw a green duffle bag lying up against the back wall of the room. I ran over and grabbed the bag. She pulled out a syringe and prepped it. She was right about to inject his arm when she looked up at me.

I looked back at her anxiously. "What? What's wrong?" I asked.

Super soldier or not, I could tell she was scared. "I can't do it." she said.

I took the syringe from her hand and injected Zero Eight's arm myself.

"What now?" I asked, as I disposed of the syringe.

"Just wait." she said.

After a minute or two, Zero Eight came to and got up. "Dammit…" he massaged his temples. "I hate it when that happens."

"Uh," I began, "what exactly happened?"

"I guess my serum was defective. About every few weeks to a month or so, I go into a coma and I can't be woken up unless I'm injected."

I looked at the now empty syringe. "Injected? With what?"

"Sugar water." was his reply. "I don't know why, but the stuff keeps me alive, so I'm not complaining. Thanks for helping me, One Four."

She shook her head. "He injected you."

He turned and faced me. "Really? Huh, well this is awkward. Thanks. Oh, and sorry about before. You know, the whole ambushing you, then punching you, then kidnapping you thing."

I slowly nodded. "No problem."

I quickly changed the subject, "So, you guys really go by Zero Eight and One Four? You guys don't have, I don't know, regular names?"

They looked at each other, puzzled. "Those are our regular names." Zero Eight said.

I sighed in resignation. This night just kept getting weirder and weirder.

"Well, I'm gonna go, so…" I got up. "If you guys ever need anything, feel free to look me up. My name is Matt Robb."

I knew that I should have been arresting these two people now, but there was just something about them I couldn't put my finger on. It was like they were telling me the truth. My gut was telling me that I could trust them, that they really weren't bad people. This was definitely something that I'd have to look into once I got back. I immediately wanted to speak with the NSA agent and figure out what exactly this 'Heracles Project' was and what these two seemingly regular people had to do with it.

I got up and started walking to the door when I heard Zero Eight say, "Wait."

I turned and faced him.

"Will you-" he looked at One Four, and she turned to me and finished his request, "Will you help us?"

"You really want my help?" I asked.

They both nodded yes simultaneously.

"How do you know I won't turn you in or betray you?" I asked.

Zero Eight said, "Because, I can read people, remember? I'm a super soldier specially trained to be a profiler. If I thought you'd betray us, I would have never cut you loose and let you leave.

He had a point. Moreover, in a weird way, I owed them my life. They had the power to end me right then and there. They were more than capable of it. But they didn't lay a finger on me. Common sense would say that this is all just a trick, that they would betray me, but my gut was telling me otherwise, and trusting my gut had saved my life numerous times before, so I just went with it.

"What do you want me to do?" I asked.