An ONSET Universe Novella…
Before he was an Elfin Lord—before he even joined that secret group of Mages—Jamie Riley was a Mage recruited by the FBI and the Office of Supernatural Policing and Investigation. A new-minted Inspector sent into one of the most complicated supernatural regions in the country: Los Angeles.
The rest of OSPI’s LA team has grown comfortable with allowing politics and pragmatism to decide which cases they pursue, which criminals they charge—but when Jamie’s investigation suggests that a pillar of the supernatural community has killed in cold blood, he will let nothing get in the way of getting the murderer.
Not even his career.
This book was previously published in the Spaceships & Spellcasters ebook collection.
“Some of you already know why you’re here,” someone said in the silent conference room at the FBI National Academy.
The speaker was a man dressed in a plain black suit, similar to though more tightly tailored than those worn by each of the twenty-three men and women sitting at classroom-style desks in the brightly lit room. All of them had just completed the gruelling twenty weeks of training to be FBI Special Agents. They’d received their badges and credentials from the director of the FBI that morning, but all they’d received for assignments was an instruction to be in this room at this time.
“The rest of you, I am certain, realize that all five of the members of your class who joined late are sitting in this room,” he continued. “You have also, given the talents that led to you sitting in this room, heard rumours of a group within the FBI named ‘Division O.’
“To lay your mind at ease, I will tell you that those rumours are completely false,” he said with a straight face. “My name is Kyle Ardent, and I do not work for the FBI. If you accept the offer I’m here to present, neither will you.
“This is Nineteen-Ninety-Nine, however, and I am no longer allowed to draft you,” he told them as concerned mutters rippled through the room. “There are, in the desks in front of you, detailed non-disclosure agreements. Breaking these agreements is treason.
“If you do not wish to sign these agreements, you may leave,” Ardent concluded. “Report to Special Agent Jason Miller, and he will make certain you are given a regular FBI assignment. If you remain, you will become part of something… more.”
The agents shuffled. The tone of this meeting seemed as if it belonged in a stuffy room buried in a basement somewhere, not this skylight-lit conference room on the top of the FBI National Academy.
Jamie Riley smiled at his fellow agents’ consternation as he quickly skimmed the non-disclosure agreement. It was the third such document the dark-haired twenty-year-old had signed in the last six months, and it was completely identical to the first two.
After signing it, he looked up to watch five members of the assembled group slowly make their way from the room, leaving the papers unsigned on their desks. When the door shut behind the last of them, no one in the room made a move. It seemed to Jamie that everyone was holding their breath.
“Agent Riley, could you collect the forms for me, please?” Ardent asked, sounding unconcerned that he’d just lost almost a quarter of his audience.
Jamie, who had been one of the five late joiners to the regular class due to, among other things, classes Ardent had taught, stood up at the older man’s instruction. He collected the agreements, quickly checking that each Agent had signed it and giving his former classmates reassuring smiles. The four other “special” recruits looked more comfortable than the rest but still awkward.
The tall young man delivered the stack of papers to Ardent, who gestured for him to remain standing up with him.
“Very well,” the older man said quietly. “If everyone is sure this is where they belong, let’s begin with a more complete introduction of myself.
“I am Senior Special Inspector Kyle Ardent of the Office of Supernatural Policing and Investigation,” he said in a flat, crisp tone that brought the roomful of agents to straight-backed attention before they could even question the word “supernatural.”
“The office is what is often referred to as Division O in FBI operations, but it is, in fact, a completely separate entity—an entity to which you may be transferred.
“Since the most common response to this speech is the claim that the supernatural does not exist, I have asked Jamie to remain up here with me,” the Inspector continued with a small gesture at Riley. “Could you alleviate your fellows’ doubts, Mr. Riley?”
Jamie had suspected that was why Ardent had kept him up at the front. Like the other four recruits who’d undergone additional training, he was a supernatural—in his case, a Mage.
With a deep breath, Jamie reached inside himself and muttered a nonsense phrase under his breath as he exhaled and lift his right hand. Considering a visual to be best, he conjured a six-inch-tall pillar of blue flame on his extended palm.
A ripple of confusion, surprise, and fear ran through his former classmates, all but four looking at him with new, horrified eyes. He let the magic flame flutter over his hand for a moment and then blew on it, tossing it to Emily Rossum, the other Mage among the five supernaturals in the class.
She caught it with a smile, turned it pink, and then scattered it in sparkles across the room.
“Now that you’re done showing off, take your seat, Inspector Riley,” Ardent told Jamie.
A shiver ran down his spine—technically, he was an FBI Special Agent until later that day, and Ardent was the first to refer to him by that title.
“As Riley has competently demonstrated, magic is, to a certain extent, very real,” the Senior Inspector told the agents quietly. “He, Ms. Rossum, Mr. O’Conner, Ms. Groen, and Mr. Riesling were all inserted into your classes by OSPI upon completion of our specialty training course. They are all supernaturals.
“As you can imagine, this does not remain secret without the action and co-operation of the United States government. A number of offices, code-named the Omicron Branch, wield the full power and authority of the United States in domestic affairs of the supernatural.
“Such authority includes investigative and law enforcement responsibilities and powers very similar to those of the FBI,” Ardent continued. “To fulfil the need for appropriate personnel, we both run supernatural volunteers for OSPI through the National Academy and make an offer of recruitment to some of the top students from the regular course.
“Mr. Riley and the other supernaturals in your class were the first group,” he concluded. “The rest of you in this room are the second. The agreement you have signed means that if you refuse this offer, you would be well-served to simply forget that this meeting ever happened—chalk it up to a post-graduation celebration.
“Those of you who accept are going back to school for another fifteen weeks, to learn everything about the Omicron Offices and the nature of the supernatural we can possibly teach you.
“If you accept, I have travel papers and tickets here for each of you,” he told them. “If you do not, feel free to leave to avoid any accidental pressure by your peers.”
Three more of the group, muttering about “stage tricks” and “lunacy” quickly left. Jamie, followed quickly by the other four OSPI volunteers, was the first to pick up the manila envelope with his name on it.