Shadow Unit

Case Files

Teasers & Deleted Scenes

J. Edgar Hoover Building, Washington D.C., December 2008

Stephen Reyes knows his own nature as well as any man can. Self-awareness is something you owe the world, when you're a bastard.

He's not proud of what he is, but he also knows the futility of changing. And paying some attention helps keep the son-of-a-bitch off the undeserving.

He's also aware of language, and so he knows just how unfair that terminology--bastard, son-of-a-bitch--is to his mother. Her son's cast-iron hardassery is not her fault.

But neither is his meticulous and categorical mind, although he thinks she's probably where he got the trained social awareness and observation, and the habitual manipulation of everything and everyone around him. The control issues, though--those are definitely from his dad.

Stephen Reyes knows that one of the ways he exerts that control--and expresses that meticulousness--is in categorization. He knows his sorts are arbitrary, that there are boundary cases and borderline instances. Nothing about the natural world is ever black and white, yes or no, one or zero. Everything falls along a spectrum--the spectrum, say, from a Joseph Lawrence Hakes or Jason Saito to a Hafidha Gates or a Charles Villette, which could pass through a Sofia Akadiou and a Susannah Greenwood somewhere along the way. But it's handy to establish categories, rules of thumb: alpha, beta, gamma.

His team falls into sorts, too: natural fracture lines, self-establishing categories. There are the younger agents and the older ones, and Brady splitting the difference. There are the agents who found the Anomalous Crimes Task Force because they came looking for it, because they needed answers: Brady, Todd, Worth. There are the ones who fell into it, and found a place where they were needed... or who found an obsession that consumed their careers, more or less: himself, Falkner, Lau.

And there are the ones he went out seeking: Gates and Villette.

He can divide them other ways, such as by specialty. Falkner, Lau, Worth, and Todd for interviews, for soothing ruffled feathers. Todd, Gates, and Villette for research. Brady and Worth for crime scenes. And so on, including specialists for all the dirty work.

But there are also the internal divisions. The friendships. The cliques. He doesn't mind: good partnerships can make a larger organization work more seamlessly. As team leader, he's aware of them: himself, Todd, and Falkner--divided by experience and command. Hafidha, Villette, and Worth: the betas and their guardian. And last and tightest, but definitely not least, Brady and Lau.

That's a more cryptic association, a partnership whose root causes puzzle even Reyes, though he has some theories (they both have a bit of a martyr complex, they both have a powerful protective drive, they both have alienated families and a military background of sorts) but it's a bond he'd be a fool not to recognize and use.

The closest approximation he can manage is that it comes down to why they're there--even though they're not there for the same reasons. For Brady, it's personal. The anomaly hurt him, and hurt him badly. For Lau, it's a matter of intellectual commitment, of an ingrained belief in justice and in doing what's right. It doesn't have to be personal for her to be effective, driven, unrelenting.

Sometimes, Stephen Reyes thinks Nicolette Lau is the closest thing to a really decent, selfless human being that he's ever met. Sometimes.

Until he remembers that her drive isn't selfless: it is her self, her self-definition. She chooses to be the crime-fighter she is because she needs to be that person. Because she needs to justify her existence, and her family isn't about to accept any rationale she offers. So in the face of those insurmountable odds, she's made the healthier decision to prove to herself that she's a good person who has made good choices and who is making a difference in the world.

The jokes about Wonder Woman aren't jokes.

But Wonder Woman doesn't just work alone. She's part of a team, a core group of like-minded superheroes with very different backgrounds. Some of them operate, like her, out of a devotion to justice. Some are intellectually motivated. Some are idealists, and some are colonialist aliens who just happen to be imposing values in agreement with Western democratic thought.

And some? Some are driven by their broken hearts.

The Batman seeks vengeance. Redemption. He pursues closure, and since closure is the most elusive quarry of all, the hunt never gives him rest.

So, in the privacy of his own head, Reyes thinks of Brady and Lau as Bruce and Diana, and--because narrative and fiction are all about establishing patterns in a chaotic world--that makes the friendship make more sense to him than it might otherwise.

Because what do Diana and Bruce have in common?

Well, when it comes right down to it, rather a lot.