Agent 1337 - damn that name, old people trying to play cool - enters Director Craig Costigan's office and finds the boss sitting at his desk, chewing on a cigar with such intensity that his ears should be smoking. Agent Ted Waters, the senior agent who is mentoring 37, is also there. Waters favors his protégé with a brief smile, but it fades as quickly. Costigan is in a foul mood, and both agents report to him, so this meeting will be awkward. "I'm doing this under protest," Costigan announces. He points a meaty finger at 37. "Agent Waters vouches for you. You hacked a supervillain's secret files. None of that will save you if you slip up and start breaking the law again. You get me?" 37 shrugs and nods wordlessly. This is the lecture part, let's just get this over with. Costigan chomps down on his cigar, sending a flurry of ash outward. "Right. Agent 1337, I'm assigning you to monitor the Menagerie. You got your briefing documents already?" 37 had, and nods. It was all paper. Dry facts with no organization or narrative, like the stream of consciousness from an IBM mainframe. Corrections, manual line breaks, redaction - that's why they give me paper, so I can't hack through their security - it was so Federal it hurt. "Good. Now let me teach you something about intelligence analysis. Synergies is where it's at. Puzzle pieces that fit together too well." Waters peels open a manila folder and rifles through its contents. He presents file photos of each named individual, as Costigan supplies the narration. "Jason Quill. Father, Byron Quill. Enemy, Achilles Chin. Now Chin is a terrorist, an arms dealer, inventor, you name it, if it's high-tech and dirty, he's got his fingers in it up to the knuckle. Both men disappeared recently, but until you find the body, that doesn't mean a thing. Quill's worked with us in the past, but never for us. Anything Chin got his hands on, Quill got as well, and put away in his warehouse. Chin's daughter, Alycia. She and Jason had a - shall we say - special relationship. He could be compromised. May already be." Waters chimes in. "We confirmed it was her, sir, that 'Alice Chan'." Costigan positively gnaws on his cigar. "Right. That means she spent a month, prowling around a warehouse full of her father's captured goodies, and his father's crazy trophies. Either he's bad at operational security, or he's in on it. If the least we can lay on that Quill boy is neglect, it's still enough to pin him to the wall." "Next, Leonard Snow. Father, Rossum, also called the Minion Maker. Super-villain inventor. Wanted as an accessory on a full 3% of the super-crime in this country, if you go strictly by the losses and count his mechanical henchmen as working for him. We got him a few times. We moved his boy from family to family, then we'd leak something to draw the old man out. It never took, until we gave Waters full control over the investigation and incarceration protocol." Agent 1337 glances at Ted Waters. His face is unreadable stone. That kid was just a worm on a big hook. The boss doesn't look happy about it. Director Costigan is still talking. "Kid's got some kind of implanted chip or device. Maybe a mind-control gizmo. His father could do it. Plus, Rossum is excellent at building robot weapons. The kid's got the talent too, and he's getting better - fast. A psych evaluation gives him a dozen anger issues. It's only a matter of time." The next photo is a recent one, taken with a long-range telephoto lens. "Charlotte Palmer," Costigan explains. "Our intelligence says she came about due to a fracas between the Magus and Doctor Infinity. The eggheads say she could be carrying around vast reserves of untapped energy thanks to being at ground zero. Plus, if that nutcase we brought in, Ghostheart, is right about one thing in twenty, she's a magnet for something that could threaten the whole Earth." "Technically, the Menagerie brought him in," Waters observes dryly. Costigan twists the cigar around in his mouth but lets it go. "She frequents coffee shops, and talks to a lot of strange people, face to face and online. She's got quite a social network set up already. She's got no living immediate family, no history, no records. If we needed some leverage or intel, all we'd have is these presumed civilians she pals around with." The next photo looks like it's from a school yearbook. It is. "Adam Amari," Costigan explains. "Apparently human. Has some kind of weapon or empowerment from some alien group called the 'Concordance'. We had him in here awhile back. Spooked the examination team but good. I don't mind aliens, but I mind alien organizations that don't formalize ties with Earth authorities. What are they really up to? What's their real motive? We just don't know." Waters holds up a series of photos, with names. Mother, father, baby sister, grandparents. Costigan explains. "We think the kid's family, or some of them, know about his powers. He's still keeping it close to the vest, though. He's in high school, but he's pretty young. And young means impressionable. Goes to Halcyon High, same as the Snow kid. If they're gonna conspire, that's a logical spot. We can't get anyone in there without them standing out like a sore thumb - well, you could, I guess, if it comes to it." "Finally, we got Harry Gale. No need to tell you about him, I'm sure, but just in case. Speedster, son of speedsters. Doesn't always see eye to eye with his parents. Attends school with Jason Quill. Same situation - a ripe opportunity to talk offline, out of earshot." "All these kids have some unknowns, Agents, but it's the knowns that worry me. Quill's at risk of being compromised by Alycia Chin. Snow's just a matter of time. These people have Harry Gale's ear. If they radicalize him, his powers could do considerable damage. Speedsters in particular are a problem for us. You can build tech that neutralizes powers, blocks energy blasts, shields the mind from telepathic intrusion. But it's hard to react to someone who can just flat-out act faster than you. That's the basics of the OODA loop. Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. It doesn't matter what gear you have, if the operator can't think quickly enough to bring it to bear in the right way. And Harry Gale can get inside the OODA loop of just about anyone. If he decided to attack someone or something, that'd be just too bad." "So what you've got is a team of kids, not even adults yet, with a bunch of unknown social connections, personal ties with two major super-villains and an off-world alien organization, a warehouse full of high-tech gadgets, considerable personal or technical power, acting as a magnet for an incoming menace... " Costigan pounds heavy hands on his lacquered wooden desk, so hard it makes the ashtray jump. "Problems like this would keep men four times my size awake at night!" At least their team name is weird cool . 37 isn't quite brave enough to offer this bit of levity aloud to the Director, though clearly he needs something to take the edge off. "Agent 1337, the Menagerie as a whole is your responsibility now. You're about their age. You can get in their heads. You'll work with Waters, report to him like you're doing now, and you'll get a budget and surveillance assets. Do you understand?" 37 considers. "Yes, sir. If I'm to learn what's going on with them, I think I know how to do it." Costigan glances at Waters, and both men nod. "Alright, good. I expect reports early and often. For now, both of you, scram!"