Building the Squad: The Soldier

February 26, 2015: Amanda Waller recruits the first member of her new project, and US Agent has some questions.

Gotham's East End DHS Offices

"Not much to look at…"



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Mood Music:

'Proceed with extreme caution'. That was the notice that Waller got when she finally got approval to proceed with her new direction for Task Force X. 'Proceed with extreme caution'. Which is about as politically delicate a way of saying 'Don't screw up' as she can think of. But the message was communicated clearly, that she was walking on thin ice. After all, her methods had rubbed people the wrong way before, and now she was doing something that if exposed might appear on the surface to be rather unethical if the wrong people got their hands on it. For this reason she knew she would need someone on her side that she could trust implicitly, someone who would play things by the book and keep the riff-raff in line as needed.

'Proceed with extreme caution'.

Extreme caution had led Waller to a handful of names that we on her short-list for recruitment. The first on that list was a DHS agent that came with high-marks from some mutual friends within the CIA. A good soldier who loved his country and was willing to do whatever necessary to protect it. It sounded like the kind of person she needed in her corner, so she pulled a few strings to design a meeting with him, trying to pull up as much information on Walker as she could. Currently Waller stands outside an unassuming brick office building, dressed in an impeccable tailored suit, her hair trim and styled to give her a casual, young appearance. She buzzes to be let in and waits to be let in. She was very vague in what she needed to speak to Walker about, only that it was a matter of upmost national security.

Walker's office wasn't much - funding for anything in Gotham was hard to find, especially federal funding. Plenty of people liked to pretend the city didn't exist, wanting to just write it off. But, where others had just seen madmen or supervillains, John Walker had seen just another kind of terrorist. Wearing make-up or masks, being driven by insanity rather than idealogy, but their methods were the same, as far as he was concerned. His attempt at a war against them, though, was increasingly becoming a one-mman crusade. The local heroes all owed their loyalty to the Batman, and his crew of agents quickly dried up or got killed.

Walker wasn't sure what to do with his future. SHIELD was always an option, but he didn't like it. The international nature of their operation could put him under foriegn control and he wouldn't take orders from anybody but an American. People could call him a neanderthal for it (and had), but he didn't give a shit.

And now this Waller woman wanted to take a meeting. A mixed reputation. On the one hand, ruthless, cold, calculating and underhanded, by all accounts. ON the other hand, effective, efficient and willing to get her hands dirty. Walker had no tolerance for people who pretended you could get through fighting evil without getting a little blood on your hands. That's why he had a gun on his hip to go with his SHIELD.

He buzzes her up and sits in his tie and shirt, his jacket hung on the back of a chair, an American flag tie pin holding the black tie to his crisp white shirt. When she comes in, he rises and comes around to offer his hand, the big marine filling up a room with his presence, "Miss Waller? John Walker. Go ahead and take a seat," he says, gesturing to a slightly worn but still decent chair, "Sorry, I decided having a secretary was an unnecessary expenditure. I'm decent enough at doing paperwork anyway."

As she is buzzed in Waller, starts to take mental assessment of everything she sees, somewhat taken aback by just how barebones everything is. When Walked comes into view, she cracks a wide, professional smile. She shifts the dossier she holds in her hands to extend a hand back towards him. She can't contend with his strength, judging by the pure size of him, but she does give a firm-enough handshake to let him know she's no office push-over. Her record speaks for itself, and if Walker did his research he'll know that she's far from just talk.

"Walker, Waller," she says as way of introduction. She eyes the offered chair and settles down, setting the dossier on the nearest table as she makes herself comfortable. "I hope the similarity won't be a confusion," she jokes as she straightens out her skirt before crossing her legs at the knee. "I do appreciate your time, I can only imagine that your…operation here takes up a good amount of your time." She looks around at the empty office before looking back towards him. "Especially when it seems to be a one man platoon. That by design or circumstances?" she asks curiously.

John Walker settles into his seat, "I'm sure I can keep it straight. There was a Walters who served with me for a while in Afghanistan and we always managed," he says. He had, indeed, done his checking, his CIA friends from his time serving as an interrogator describing her as 'formidable' and 'a little scary'. This from men who tortured people for a living, men that Walker knew were anything but soft. As a younger man, he'd have likely underestimated her - young jocks from the South, especially those of a conservative stripe, could be an ignorant bunch. The Marines had cured him of most of that, if not all. He definitely still had a few rough edges, but bigotry couldn't be counted among them.

"Bit of both," he says of his offices, "I keep a high standard and a lot of people at DHS see Gotham as a dumping ground - I'd rather do without than have incompetent people under my command. There's also something to be said for the symbology - Batman, Captain America, they do their work as symbols. People seem less willing to invest in U.S. Agent, perhaps because I'm not as willing to play the mystery game or pretend to be a boy scout. But I get the feeling you're not here looking for a boy scouts, are you, Miss Waller?"

Waller simply continues to offer a pleasant smile at that. "Not entirely, no," she says, pushing the dossier towards the fellow peacekeeping officer. "I respect the work you are doing here, and I agree that it is thankless. I have kept my eye on this city for a while, and I am torn." She lifts one hand slowly. "In case, it seems to be a lost cause, fit for firebombing by dawn," she offers before raising the other hand. "But then, if we don't believe things can get better, why do what we do?" She rests her hands back in her laps, shrugging her shoulders slowly. "It is a quandary."

She clears her throat before continuing, straightening herself some in her seat. "But no, I'm not here looking for boy scouts. In all honesty, Walker, I'm looking for soldiers. Dedicated, focused and determined." She pauses for a second before continuing. "Are you familiar with the outfit Task Force X?"

John Walker picks up the dossier, scanning it quickly before he answers, "I'm not sure that both aren't a good idea. Firebombing parts and rebuilding from scratch would be worthwhile, if you could ever evacuate the people and fund a proper rebuild. Which would probably require Bruce Wayne to get off of his pampered ass, since no government agency would ever fund it - understandably so. I'm not crazy about big government myself, but sometimes, something has to be done," he says.

"Only in the vaguest sense, but, then, that's rather the point of it, isn't it? Doing things that don't amount to much more than rumors so far as other people know. I do know that it's gone through several different phases of management - I know it's been connected to Team 7, which is just another shadow inside the shadows, but a bit more legendary." he says, "The question is, where do I come in? I won't pretend modesty and say I'm not the things you just suggested. I'm a soldier and a damn good one, and the chance to go back to it instead of sitting here playing cop…well, let's just say, I'm no MP and that's become more and more clear to me as I stay here."

Waller doesn't look overly surprised that Walker doesn't have much solid to say about her operation. In fact, her smile seems to widen some at the confession.

As he opens the dossier, the contents seem to be a bit strange at first. Rap sheets for various criminals from across the country. The only thing they seem to have in common is a single line: 'Current Location: Belle Reve Correctional Facility.' As he looks over the files, Waller starts to speak, slowly, calculated. "The term first popped up in the 1940s, refer to a group of scouts that discovered something strange in the deep south while searching for secret Nazi labs. And I don't mean Alabama; they were sent to Antarctica with little expectation that they necessarily would return. You see the X? It stands for expendable."

"Only, they didn't die as expected," she continues, clearly enjoying her little story. "In fact, they discovered something down there far more significant than any Nazi life. Dinosaurs, still alive, against all rights of science and God herself. It allowed the US government to make first contact with an area we now call the Savage Land. The unit was maintained to continue to perform operations too dangerous or too classified to trust with traditional soldiers."

She takes a deep breathe. "The name was retired soon after the war, but years later it was dug up again by the CIA as a branch of their Stormwatch project. Which is why I am here today," she says, finally rounding around to the point. "I am establishing…a new face for Task Force X, but it has some detractors within my superiors. If I can be blunt, Major, I need someone that put their mind at ease. Because the other recruits I have in mind? Well…" She gestures towards the stack of incarcerated profiles spread across Walker's desk. "They aren't your traditional soldiers, to say the least."

John Walker looks over the list of killers, psychos and terrorists on the list, raising an eyebrow, "To say the least is right. If I'm reading you right, you're talking about taking some of the worst human beings on the planet and using them as weapons," he says. Rather than judgmental, he sounds…intrigued. At the very least, thoughtful. He'd actually considered working in the prison system - he had a cousin who worked as a prison guard and found the work satisfying and steady. Felt like he did something worthwhile at the end of the day.

Of course, his prisoners didn't have superpowers and they were kept inside of their cells. "Putting their minds at ease probably depends on who your superiors are. There are some people in the government that don't consider me much better. Fascist, I think I got called by a certain Democratic congressman last time I went trying to get funding," he says. He opens up a humidor on his desc, drawing out a cigar, 'You like one?" he asks, lighting it in clear defiance of local smoking ordinances. He doesn't ask permission - it's still his office, after all.

"I'm interested. But I want to hear more details," he says.

As soon as the cigar is pulled out, Waller's shoulders seem to relax some. She shakes off the offered smoke however, instead reaching into the inner-pocket of her jacket to pull out her own pack of cigarettes. Sliding one between her lips, she quickly lights up, seeming to relax significantly as soon as she releases the first drag, sinking back into her chair.

"Details are still developing," she admits. "You are honestly the first person I've spoken to on the subject, other than my superiors and a few staff members. My logic is that we use the assets available to us through the Belle Reve facility, which is under my control, to have useful but non-precious staffing." She shrugs her shoulders. "This way, if we lose someone in the field, it is unfortunate but I won't lose sleep. Completely expendable, total plausible deniability if they get caught. Only loose end is needing someone to guide a group like that."

She points forward with her smoke, a mischievous smirk coming to her lips. "That's where you come in. The soldier, the leader. The glue that holds the madhouse together. I know your methods have left a bad taste in the mouth of some—I can relate. The upshot of this is that you're a step above actual criminals. If this works, it brings your name back into a positive light, perhaps some more control over the direction of your service. If it doesn't?" She gestures towards the profiles. "That's what we've lost, half on death row as is. If we've already thrown out humility, I dare to say that's the very definition of a win-win scenario."

John Walker takes a long drag on his cigar. He'd thought this posting was prestigious, but that's all it was. An empty title - the local cops barely listened to him, regardless of what they were told. They were more likely to listen to the Batman, the vigilantes time and establishment giving him too much influence over the city to make much impression. Actually accomplishing anything would require methods that, if he used them, would only bring him into conflict with that self-same vigilante.

"No loss at all, then, you're right. Most've 'em oughtta be dead by rights already - I ain't as much fond of our appeals system as I'm sure their lawyers are," he says, tapping ash. "Sounds riskier than you put it. After all, I'm also putting my career in the hands of these nuts - if they get loose, if they blow up in our faces, I'll be the one who gets burned the worst. Matter of fact, I probably shield you a little bit from the brunt of it. But that's what soldiers do, isn't it?" he says.

"So long as you deal from the top of the deck with me…then, yes, count me in. But if I get field command, then I expect that authority to be respected - I'll follow your strategies and your goals, but I'll be the one under fire and having to keep these scumbags in line. And if I catch you lying to me about anything or hiding shit, you'll find out that I ain't nobody to fuck with." he says.

"Oh we have methods to keep them in line," Waller is quick to point out, her tone a bit clipped at that. "Implants, promises of term reduction, deterrents based on the individual. Keeping them in line is my job, yours is to point them effectively at the target." She reaches forward to ash off the tip of her cigarette. If she's intimidated by his blunt words, she doesn't show it. "So yes, you'd be field commander, and as far as you having the crew blow up in your face—"

That thought is cut off as Waller's cell phone starts to loudly ring. She winces, clearly embarrassed as she fishes it out. "One sec, forgot to put this…on…" she starts, trailing off when she sees who the call is from. She quickly answers it holds it to her ear. "Wall here. Yes? You have her in your sights? Now?" She nods, her smile returning to her lips. "Understood. Keep an eye on her, will follow your locale. Wall out, and good work."

She hangs up her phone and stands in the same motion, her eyes locking with the Major's. "Unfortunately, duty calls Major Walker. I shall be in touch as the group materializes more signficantly," she promises, pulling out an old-fashioned business card with only a Metropolis area phone number on it. "That's my personal line. Share it and you'll be leaking confidential government secrets," she explains as she turns on her heel, clicking her way out of the office. She's clearly a woman on a mission.

John Walker takes the card and tucks it into the breast pocket of his shirt, "Sounds like you got it all figured it. Also sounds like you've got a big one on the line. I grew up fishin', I know the sound of a hook gettin' pulled when I hear it," he says with a wry smile.

"I'll be in touch, Miss Waller. Use the left elevator on the way down - the right one's a little tricky and gets stuck sometimes."

As she moves swiftly, Waller indeed slides towards the left elevator, summoning it to open for her. "OF course, might want to have that looked at," she says with a knowing smirk. As the elevator doors slide open, she steps in, turning to face Walker. "And you're part of Task Force X now, Major. You can simply call me Boss," she offers as the doors slide shut.

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