Ethan Lin & Elizabeth Cheng

Dozens of monitors line the walls of the Sentry analysts’ control room. Each shows a live feed from a Sentry agent’s helmet, allowing the analysts to strategize and direct the agents accordingly. Olivia has a very simple job: make sure that they do that well. She paces nervously through the dark room, glancing between the numerous screens.

In one, an agent with the superpower to turn invisible is sneaking through a facility suspected to be manufacturing weapons. An analyst, hunched over a desk strewn with grainy photos and torn blueprints gives the agent instructions through a small microphone, eyes narrowed as he hurriedly sifts through the pile of intel.

Another screen shows an agent evacuating civilians from a building where other agents are engaging with a group of supervillains. Through the feed, Olivia can hear gunfire and energy blasts. She sees civilians cry and scream as the shaking building drops rubble around them. Analysts scramble around, coordinating with law enforcement to secure the area around the building.

Olivia bites the side of her lip, a frown etched into her face as she looks at the blank screens in the corner of the room. There are currently 47 active agents. In the past four days, they have lost contact with six.

Four never responded to their summons and the two others disappeared in the middle of their missions, their video feeds cutting out abruptly. All attempts to reestablish contact have failed. Olivia knows that it could be a matter of coincidence, but she knows better than to hope that that is the case. 

The Sentry agency’s greatest strength has always been its ability to keep the identities and powers (or lack thereof) of their agents a secret so that they can efficiently deal with incidents and targets throughout Metroplex City. But a raid on the Watchtower, their headquarters, had ended with the file containing all that information being lost to a pair of mercenaries.

That is, to put it lightly, not good.

Olivia can tell from the frantic pace of the analysts around her that she isn’t the only one who had made this connection. The air of calm calculation has all but disappeared, leaving only a nervous apprehension. As much as the agents depend on the analysts to guide them during their missions, analysts need their protection. If agents have really started disappearing, that would leave the analysts in a very vulnerable position. And analysts hate feeling vulnerable. 

There is a commotion at the table where analysts are overseeing the espionage operation at the warehouse. Olivia looks up at the screen just in time to see sharp flashes of white light flying at the helmet-mounted camera, before it cuts out just as quickly as the other two had. A smothering silence sets over the room.

“Rewind that footage. Everyone else, back to work” Olivia’s voice cuts through the chamber, firm and authoritative. Even as the cancerous lump of fear and uncertainty grows in her stomach, she cannot afford to let it show. In the past few days, she had heard the whispers of mutiny and unrest among her analysts. Whispers that spread like a virus, only compounding the fear that festers in the dark control room. She had reprimanded those that talked of quitting “before we all die,” of “getting off the sinking ship.” But Olivia is not stupid. She knows that for every hushed whisper that she hears, three more slip by. She can’t really blame them. A tiny part of her also wants to just quit, find a new job, preferably one that doesn’t involve supervillains and monsters and evil organizations out to destroy the Sentry agency.

Olivia looks back up at the ongoing mission. The sounds of battle are far more distant now, and she can see the panicked look on the civilian’s faces finally giving way to reassurance. Some smile and hug their families as policemen usher them into underground safe rooms. Olivia watches a teenage girl embrace her friend, tears streaming down her dust-caked face. A smile, so unfamiliar to Olivia now, spreads across her own face. That expression of relief is exactly why she had become an analyst in the first place. Being able to watch someone be released from the shackles of despair and misery, just as she had been so many years ago, bolsters her resolve. She can’t let her own fears stop her from doing her job.

The other screen comes to a stop on a dark, blurry image. The white robes on the large monitors are unmistakable as the same ones seen on the security footage of the Watchtower raid. The wicked grin hidden under the hood unquestionably belongs to one of the two mercenaries. Olivia clenches her fist and strides towards the monitor. The root of her problems, the cause of all the unrest in her workplace, has finally shown his face. 

She calmly grabs a microphone and presses a few buttons on the control panel. “All active and available agents, gather at the Watchtower. We have located one of the mercenaries responsible for the attack last week. Await further instructions.”

Olivia has a very simple job: oversee the agents and analysts of the Sentry agency and make sure they do their job well. And she takes her job very seriously.