(A special thanks to Chase for writing the part of Michael Feller)
The long gravel driveway snaked between tall trees as it climbed the small hill on which Min y Coed manor stood in its grandeur. The manor was built in the 15th century, and it sprawled across the landscape in the form of a rectangle. At each corner, towers rose from the stone grey structure. Upon each, four Welsh flags undulated in the cool afternoon breeze. Clear, crystal water bubbled forth out of a fountain, formed in the likeness of a boar, which was centered in front of the manor.
Bran sat still as the limousine made its way up to the mansion. He was frozen, as one in a coma. His world which he had built around him was falling apart. One mistake. One terrible, enormous blunder had brought him crashing to his knees. In his sorry attempt at good, he had fallen off course and became the villain. He closed his eyes, and the familiar scene rushed back into his mind like a wave of darkness engulfing him...
It was his 22nd birthday. There were flashing lights and deafening music. The club... He turned around as a drunken patron poured a glass of alcohol down his shirt. Laughing, giggling and senseless noise surrounded him. Someone collapsed in a heap nearby. The clamour was too much for Bran, and he stumbled towards the back exit of the club, shoving his way through the crowd. A hand grabbed him from behind, and someone whispered, "...have him... outside...". The words barely penetrated his mind. Following the man, Bran exited the club and entered the alley behind it. The mist of the night clouded his mind as he tried to recall the event. Before him stood two large men who roughly held between them a frightened third man to keep him from escaping. A revolver was placed into Bran's hand, and he mechanically pointed it at the squirming man. "I'm innocent!". The words pierced the silent night. "Murderers aren't innocent", a second voice shouted. Bran recognized it as his own.
"I suppose you will claim that this is all a mistake, that you didn't kill the young girl'" Bran smirked. "But of course you did"
Bran kneeled in front of the man and stuck the gun in his face. "She deserved to live, didn't she?! You snatched life from her without any pity, forever forfeiting yours."
Bran stood back up and checked to be sure the gun was loaded. "Murderers are swept from this world. They are cast out". He pointed the gun towards the man and placed his finger over the trigger.
"Oh god, please!" The man wailed. "I have a wife and.. and a lovely daughter. I..."
His words were cut short by the sound of the shot, and he crumpled into a heap; life leaving his body.
Bran took a step back. His heart was racing. Rain started pouring in torrents from the sky. Swirling darkness closed in around him, smothering the vision...
The limousine pulled to a halt in front of the manor. Bran stepped out of the car and slowly looked on the familiar sight before starting up the long set of stairs which led to the manor from the driveway. Reaching the top, he headed toward the doors, but something caught his attention. A man.
The suited man straightened himself then walked up to foot of the stairs, "Mr. Brychanson? I'm Michael Feller, with ACME." With a handshake, he offered his card, "My employers want to meet you."
Pausing to gauge Bran's reaction, he continued, "I'm in charge of recruitment for our special operations," Hinting to the door, he nodded, "May we speak inside?"
Bran said nothing in return but gave Feller a suspicious, questioning look. He wasn't in the mood to converse with anyone at the moment, and, although Feller had produced an identity card, his instinct told him this was a media gag of sorts. But whether it was interest or his current feeling of despairing apathy, he decided to let Feller have his say.
Bran swung the great wooden doors open and entered the manor, purposely leaving them ajar for the agent.
Michael Feller, not disheartened, buttoned his suit jacket and followed the taller man into his lofty home.
Upon entering the house through a rather large hall, Bran took a left and passed through a few small chambers before coming to an enormous sitting room where he found a bottle of wine and, after pouring himself a glass, he addressed Feller.
"I fear you caught me at a wretched moment, you did. Forgive my ill manners. I've had what you might call a 'bad day'". Bran strode over to a large red, cushioned chair and lowered himself into it; then he, taking a deep breath, fixed his gaze on Feller. "Now... what does the great ACME want with me?".
"I like how you get right to the point, Mr. Brychanson," he straightened his upper lip into a smile of sorts before continuing, "ACME isn't always easy to recruit for. We're not a government agency, you see, Mr. Brychanson, we're a private corporation that deal in law enforcement. We need good agents, people who would do anything for the good of the world, and people who know how to do anything... for the good of the world.
I hope you understand me when I say we've seen your... uh... work, Mr. Brychanson, and we think you'll find what you do a good fit with our policies."
"My work...". Bran placed his glass on a nearby table. "As you represent a law enforcement agency, I can't even begin to imagine why you would be interested in ‘my work'. If you have truly observed it, then you will know ‘my work' was a failure...". Bran turned and gazed into space as if recalling something. "My father... my father said a man should always do what is right and... and good". He put a hand to his head for a moment and took a deep breath."But my father never killed an innocent man and he never would have...". Avoiding the eyes of Feller, Bran snatched up the glass of wine and emptied it.
Feller looked uneasy. He knew about Bran's misfortune a while back, and he understood, just like any agent prone to mistakes.
"You don't want to fix that, Mr. Brychanson?" he asked, "you don't want to try make a difference, make up for what you did?"
Bran snorted at Feller's words. "Ah, so you speak of redemption now". He put the glass to his lips but placed it roughly back on the table when he realized it was empty. "But we all know the devil can't be redeemed". Bran chuckled brittly. "You can attempt to accomplish good, but you will eventually become what you fight against. Ironic isn't it? Exactly as someone claimed, ‘You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain'. It's the inevitable truth no one wishes to accept".
Bran lapsed into silence and turned to stare at the floor. A nearby clock struck 1500; it's chime echoing throughout the manor.
Seconds passed without sound as if a mourning bell just struck commemorating graves of the fallen. Michael Feller had been recruiting for ACME for almost twenty years, and in his time, he learned to read when to urge the best in people. There was a lot in the younger man in front of him, but the 53-year-old also saw wounds that needed healing.
"I understand," he said while his body backed away as a sign of respect, "Here's my card, Mr. Brychanson," Feller presented a white ACME card on the table with his personal phone number, the title read: Michael Robert Feller, Senior Recruiter.
"If you ever need anything, even if it's just resources..." Feller gave an encouraging smile, "Thank you and good day, Mr. Brychanson, I wish you the best."
Feller took a few steps back to look around the manor before leaving. He would later recount to a friend that Bran Brychanson was the shortest and longest recruitment process of his career.
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