Seriously...what the hell's been wrong with the boards lately? Here we go for reals. Chapter Zero.
Winter’s harsh glare gleamed violently into the miserable soldier’s eyes. He had been bundled up well past the point of necessity, but even with the sun’s company he felt frostbite creeping into his toes. The young recruit found himself grateful that the evening’s harsh winds had finally died down.
After more than two full days standing at attention, the soldier found himself hoping to find anyone, Allies or not, approaching on the horizon. When it seemed as if his wish had finally come true, he made sure to rub a heavy mitten over his goggles just to make sure he wasn’t seeing things.
“It seems he’s approaching, sir,” the soldier said, leaning back towards the front door of the humble farmhouse he was stationed in front of.
“Very good, Ensign,” came the disembodied reply, a voice emanating from the walkie hanging from the soldier’s belt. “You know what to do.”
It was almost two hours until the distant figure had reached the soldier. Wrapped twice as heavily as the guard, as well as dragging two large wardrobe trunks, the traveler sighed and let them both drop to the ground. “Nice weather we’ve got out here…”
“Ensign.” The guard knew full and well who the visitor was, but was nevertheless grateful that the scarf and goggles that masked his face covered the excitement on his face as the man returned the introduction.
“Ensign? That’s a rank, right? Well, the name’s Martin Marino, maybe you’ve heard of me. You sound American, but, hell…I’m just glad you speak English, kid.”
Quickly returning to protocol, the Ensign continued. “Authorization, please, Mr. Marino.”
Known the world over as one of the greatest musical performers in the history of the United States, the charming and charismatic Martin Marino was used to signing autographs and bedding his favorite fans, not military protocol. “Oh, yeah,” he replied rather awkwardly. “Here you go, kid…er, Ensign.”
The soldier received the shimmering, unreadable card that Marino offered him and glanced it twice over. “Everything seems to be in order, sir. Please enter.”
“So…are you, uh…?” The guest gestured at his luggage expectedly.
Shaking his head and muttering as he stepped past the guard and into a wretched, decrepit hovel, Marino was surprised to find nothing more inside than a ruined wooden table and a pair of rickety chairs…one of which was occupied.
With a mug that Marino swore only a mother would love and a frown that would sour milk still in the cow, the occupant nodded at his guest. “We’re pleased you accepted our invitation, Marino.”
“Yeah, about that…” The American removed his sunglasses as his eyes quickly adjusted to the dim indoors. “What’s going on? One minute I’m belting out a packed house at Caesar’s, doing what I do best,” he paused, rubbing his chin and smirking roguishly. “Well, what I do second best, if you catch my meaning, boy-o. Anyway, next thing I know, I’m requested to head out to the middle of nowhere as a matter of World Security? Martin Marino does not get told where to go, baby.” Shrugging his shoulders and trying to loosen up under his bundled layers, Marino tried to do what he really did best…take control of the situation.
“Let’s get one thing straight, greaseball.” The figure rose, stepping into the light. For the first time, Martin was actually able to see the man wholly. He wore a uniform the performer hadn’t seen before, a strange weave of blues and black that Marino couldn’t quite focus on completely. What struck the traveler most, though, was that the man’s right arm was made entirely of metal, a product of technology Marino had never imagined possible. “From now on, Martin Marino does get told where to go, and if he doesn’t, he’s held as an accomplice to Adolf and a Prisoner of War.”
As the singer fought for something to say, the man took a closer step, his close-cropped gray hair framing a face with narrow, sinister eyes. “We are not affiliated with any government, Marino. What we do to our Prisoners of War, we cannot be held accountable for. Now, what is it you’re so sure you’re ready to say?”
To call the man’s presence ‘intimidating’ would be akin to calling the surface of the sun ‘warm’. Finally, backed into a corner and with nothing to lose, Marino found his backbone and smirked.
“I was just going to say that I’ve got myself an Uncle Sam. Love him to death. I figured out of respect for my Uncle Sam, I’ll do whatever I can for yours.” Chuckling comfortably, Marino held out his hand. “You know it already, but my sweet Granny always told me “There’s no bad place for good manners”. The name’s Martin Marino.”
“Veign.” As Marino shook the man’s hand, his mind told him something had just been driven into his palm. Unfortunately, it was already too late to react by then.
Martin awoke with a start, thrashing violently in his bed before forcing himself to settle down. It was only then that he realized it wasn't his own bed he was in at all. A stark room, with steel walls, floor, and ceiling held nothing but the rather comfortable bed he was resting in.
"What the f-"
"Good to see you're back with us, Marino. Get up and come with me." A familiar voice emanated from in front of him as a portion of the wall slid away to reveal a man Martin wished he didn’t recognize. To his credit, the singer regained his composure quickly.
"Look, don't nobody tell Martin Mar-"
"I'm telling you,” Veign smoothly replied. “Now get up, and shut up. I don't have time for your self-important crap." The veteran soldier entered the room, revealing a weathered face with a vicious scar running along the entire left side of it that Marino had failed to notice in the farmhouse…if it had even been there at all. The man’s seemed a face carved of rock itself, one that would spend eternity scowling at the world. For the second time in his life, and since meeting this stranger, Martin Marino backed down.
"Y-yeah. Yeah…sir." Climbing out of bed, Martin found himself wearing a comfortable pair of black pants and a white tank top. "Where are my clothes, guy?"
"In about ten minutes, that's going to seem a lot less important, Marino."
Following the soldier out of his room, Martin was stunned at the size of the area before him. The entire building was made of the same material as his room, and hallways seemed to race endlessly outward in every possible path and direction. Nowhere did he see any doors, save for when the walls parted to allow men and women in white lab coats or military fatigues to move from one area to another.
“So, uh…what is this place, friend?” Grumbling to himself about his lack of social balance, Marino glared icily at Veign’s back.
“This is nowhere. This building does not exist, and this organization has never been created.” Veign did not look back as he talked.
“Well it all looks pretty re…” Marino trailed off as Veign looked back to glare at him for his flippant comment.
“This is the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, European Branch. And, Marino?”
“Yeah?” The American finally felt a tone of equality in Veign’s voice, a trait he quickly warmed up to.
“Don’t ever call me your friend again. Lieutenant Veign, or sir, if you’re feeling lazy. Call me your friend again and I’ll shoot you myself.”
“Jeez…old people,” Marino muttered under his breath.
“Damn kids and their music,” Veign echoed.
Martin entered a sullen silence, though it didn't last very long as he continued to awe at his surroundings. After what must have been a mile and a half of walking, they ended before a wall that slid away to reveal a large conference room, dominated by a large, round table.
Of the half dozen assembled, Martin failed to recognize any of them. The only one obviously American, a man dressed in combat camouflage, wore a five o'clock shadow and an emotionless frown, his attention focused on the sidearm he was fastidiously cleaning. He didn't look up.
Across from where he entered, Marino noticed a darkly cloaked figure conversing with a rather average, unassuming fellow in wrinkled, unkempt clothing. He was clutching a massive tome under one arm, and constantly adjusted his glasses as he yammered on about something. The other man nodded along, his interest impossible to gauge behind his cowl.
A handsome young man dressed in a rather unique semblance of crimson armor nodded at Martin from across the room and smiled amiably. Beside him stood a man of somber countenance, garbed in plain white. His blue eyes and blonde hair both seemed unnaturally bright, and a shimmering armor of golden plate occasionally shone over his otherwise normal clothing.
"Y'ain't the only weird one around here, are ya, Lieutenant Guy?"
The grizzled soldier ignored Martin's question. "Team, this is Martin Marino, the latest addition to your unit. Martin, this is the team:
“Alpha: A subject of Nazi experimentation, he is a super soldier in the truest sense of the phrase. With strength, endurance, skill, and intelligence far beyond those of any other man, the only drawback seems to be his complete lack of people skills.”
“Lightbringer: A former citizen of the original Holy Roman Empire, it seems Someone had bigger plans for him. This plans culminated with his drinking from the Holy Grail itself. He is now capable of flight, healing, and the creation of holy fire.”
"I will do whatever I can to see this through to the end."
“Shadowgate: Derelict and homeless, it is a wonder still where Kaelin Yates' powers originated from. Regardless, he is capable transporting himself and others over large distances. A topographical genius, he serves as both recon and communication between outposts.”
"Beyond this Gate, Justice reigns."
“Triton: A historian from a crappy little town on the coast, Doctor Nathan Nimitz brings us the unparalleled power of Atlantean technology to our organization. His contributions to our cause are unsurpassed.
"Can you believe I'm finally getting paid to do this stuff??"
“Ensign: Our first attempt at our own super soldier, Ensign possesses abilities slightly above those of a normal human being. While he may not pack the same punch as the rest of the team, his heart's in the right place.
"I'm a huge fan, Mr. Marino. Can I just say what an honor it is to—"
"And as you know, I am Lieutenant David Veign. I'll escort you to the testing facilities. Those of you that are still alive in two months, be prepared to welcome Mr. Marino back to the team."
"Whoah, whoah…two months? Whaddya talkin' about, guy?"
The Lieutenant said nothing, only continued to escort Martin through the winding halls of the BPRD…