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  • Semper Fi

    1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C., United States of America

    Pvt. Peter McCain

    June 16th, 1942


    At the dawn of a new day, Peter forced his aching, tired body out of the government limousine into the chilly morning air. He wore his most formal outfit, with a bright blue tie, a grey jacket, and grey dress pants. His right arm rested in a cast at his chest, almost completely healed from the near-impossible landing in the Philippines. He had sent a letter to Hilario as soon as he was able to write while in the hospital, and to his surprise the surly mechanic sent a heart-felt response with an image of him and his brother, Isko, as boys. Hilario hoped to continue writing back even as he was being sent back to the front to assist Filipino forces. Peter, on the other hand, had been dealt an entirely different opportunity.


    He was greeted with a sweaty handshake by a man in all-black business attire, a collection of files in a manila folder under his other arm, “We're glad to have you, Mr. McCain.”


    Behind him was the revered White House, the residence of the President of the United States. Peter paid little attention to the neurotic man before him as he looked out on the freshly cut lawn and intricate stone pathway leading up to the building. It was just as grand a piece of architecture as he had seen in pictures, perhaps even greater.


    The man guided him up the path leading up to the front doors.


    “A beautiful morning, isn’t it, Mr. McCain?”


    “Yeah, you could say that. Pretty early to have a meeting for a guy like me, though.”


    “Director Donovan could only book the room for this time. They’ve been quite busy, as you can imagine.”


    Peter perked up, “Director... Oh! I thought you were Donovan. See, I was being real quiet and smooth, because I thought you were the Director. What’s your name?”


    “The name’s Cornellius Pernell. I’ll be your handler once you begin training. I thought he had mentioned me in the letter… ”


    “Ah, yeah, he probably did. Sorry. I’ve been focused on spending time with my little girl. We’ve been watching those cartoon pictures at the theater. You need to keep paying those guys making the ones with the bunny. She loves those things.”


    “That isn’t quite our department, that would be the concern of the Office of War Information. You’d have to talk to one of them, assuming you aren’t joking.”


    “Only partially, Mr. Pernell.”


    “You can just call me Cornellius. We’re going to be doing a lot of work together.”


    Pernell opened the doorway leading into the reception room and then into the central hallway. The floors were shining, freshly cleaned, and an intricate chandelier hung from the ceiling, tying together the various works of art and plants lining the walls. A wide, red carpet divided the room in half, leading them on the path to the West Wing. Looking upon the old-fashioned marble work, Peter whistled in awe at the sheer size and majesty of it all. It was everything his home was not: Massive, regal, fit for a king and his queen, and completely spotless.


    Again the duo passed through another set of doors into the West Wing’s foyer, the architecture slightly more modern with an entirely different color scheme and atmosphere. In the center of the room were several men in military uniform talking, before glancing at Peter as he entered the room.


    Peter began to panic, adjusting his tie, and wiping away any debris on his shoulders, “Shit... I shouldn’t have worn the blue tie. It was too much, wasn’t it?”


    Cornellius muttered quietly, “Peter.”


    “Look, they’re all wearing striped grey ties.”


    In a hushed tone, Cornellius exclaimed, taking Peter's shoulder, “Peter!”




    “Just... stay calm. Look, don’t worry about what they think of you; They know you're here for a good reason. Just look at your cast: It says it all. Me, though, I’m new to all this bureaucracy. If they’re looking at anyone, it’s me... When we get inside, just sit down. Be humble. You’ll be fine.”


    With his hand firmly on Peter’s shoulder, Cornellius guided them left into another hallway, and then immediately right into a wide room with a table in the center, covered in papers. Sat at the table was a man with posture that commanded the room. He was most definitely Director of the OSS, William Donovan. At his right was a young lady with a typewriter, now smoking a cigarette, and to his left several more men in military uniforms listening to him. At one end of the table was an image projector, turned off on a rolling cart; At the other, was a portable, white screen placed near the opposite doorway.


    Noting their arrival, Donovan stood up from his seat, leaning over and outstretching his hand to Pernell who accepted the gesture.


    Pernell motioned towards Peter, stating, “Director! This is Private Peter McCain.”


    Donovan offered his hand to Peter as well, “A Private no longer, Cornellius. It’s great to have you, Agent McCain.”


    Unlike Pernell's clammy, unrefined grasp, Donovan’s was firm and daunting. Peter was at a loss for words, already being referred to as an agent of the OSS before training had even begun.


    “Thank... th- thank you, Director. Uh... is the President anywhere around here too, or... because I don’t know if I, uh-”


    Pernell nudged him above his ribs behind the cast, urging him to silence. Donovan responded promptly, “The President will not be joining us as he has other matters to attend to, but I know for a fact he would love to meet you in person. For now, we should begin the meeting. Deandra?”


    The young blonde woman put out her cigarette, ensuring her typewriter was ready before nodding to the Director, now seated alongside the others at the table. Pernell and McCain sat down at the opposite side, Peter meeting eyes with the assistant before passing a flirtatious wink. This did not seem to faze her as she prepared to write the transcript of the meeting.


    Donovan looked over the paper before him, reciting it to the room.


    “Gentleman, just three days ago the President issued an order to establish the Office of Strategic Services. Our agenda is to perform special operations and intelligence work for the United States military. You are all the first members of this historic organization, and have been hand-selected for your skill-sets, expertise, and technical prowess. In particular, the purpose of today’s meeting will be to introduce our first field agent, Mr. McCain, to his upcoming operations. Mr. Pernell will be his handler and Mr. Hampton will be the Chief Operations Coordinator.”


    Peter leaned over, nudging Pernell and whispering to him, “Which one is Hampton?”


    Pernell promptly motioned with his index finger towards the stout older man behind Donovan’s chair.


    “With time, we will have more new recruits for Operation Torch, but Mr. McCain, your training will concern intelligence far greater in secrecy that will affect the future of the United States throughout and after the war. George, the lights?”


    Near the doorway, a suited man dimmed the lights of the room, as another activated the projector, beaming a light onto the white screen. Peter squirmed in his chair, dying to ask questions but afraid to do so at this time.


    The first image that came onto the screen was that of an older, bald, and bearded man in a lab coat sitting at a desk.


    Donovan continued, “This is Doctor Ludvig Maxis. In 1931, he founded Group 935, a scientific research organization headquartered outside of Breslau at a location known as The Giant, or in German, Der Riese . The world’s most prestigious scientists were invited to join the group by Doctor Maxis, and it has since expanded across the globe. Group 935 is an extremely exclusive and secretive organization sharing next to none of its research publicly. Their research primarily revolves around a rare, new element known as 115, and The Giant is smack dab on top of one of the largest depositories of 115. Group 935 concerns us because of Maxis’ dealings with the German government.”


    The slide changed to a blurry photo of two figures shaking hands, one apparently Doctor Maxis, and the other in German military fatigues.


    “We have confirmation from numerous operatives previously watching over Group 935 that Maxis has formed a deal with the Nazis. They requested Group 935 to support their military in exchange for future funding. What this support has garnered for them, we are not entirely certain yet. British operatives discovered spent shell casings that seem to have been forged partially using the element. Now Group 935 has expanded its influence into Austria, Siberia, Kastovia, and Japan. They also have two facilities in Berlin that are unknown to even some members of Group 935, and the Reichstag would like to believe we know nothing about them. Your first goal, Agent McCain, will be discovering the purpose of these two facilities. Their secrecy to all but Maxis’ most trusted inner circle is concerning, and their research could turn the tides of the war for the worse.”


    Now on the screen was a map of the world with red dots scattered across the eastern hemisphere denoting known Group 935 locations. Peter grew more anxious thinking of being sent to Europe.


    “Because of your actions in the Pacific, you’ve grabbed our attention, and according to your records you excelled in every training regiment, with... minimal complaints from your superiors. You’ve succeeded in medical training, and apparently speak fluent German?”


    He looked to Peter expectantly, who nodded his head nervously as he spoke. “Germ- yeah, I learned it in High School, then some College classes… ”


    Donovan nodded, assured, returning to his prepared words.


    “For these reasons you have been chosen for this operation, henceforth known as Operation Firebrand. At the moment Group 935 is closed off from allowing non-German citizens into its ranks. For now, you’ll be training for field operations and analyzing all the information we have on the organization to prepare you for the day you have to infiltrate Der Riese . Major Sawyer, here, has top men forging a medical license and research to be published under your name. If Group 935 will ever allow Americans into the organization again, you will need the proper scientific background to join. Once you are ready and your body is healed, we can begin espionage training and a further debriefing on your upcoming missions. Mr. Pernell will be handling all of that and more. He will be your direct line to the OSS in the field and will provide you with everything you need.”


    Pernell adjusted himself in his seat, seemingly nervous at the very mention of his name.


    Donovan continued, “Between training, you will need to conduct research of your own on Group 935’s top players: Ludvig Maxis, Edward Richtofen, Hermann Porter, Josef Lehto... any known associates: Doctor Friedrich Steiner, Walter Bennet, Kosuke Okitsu... Study their books, their discoveries, anything you can find. Mr. Pernell can assist you in finding any information we have available and a list of known Group 935 members. Do you have any questions, Agent McCain?”


    Peter mumbled to himself, slumped in his chair, searching for a proper question as the entire room looked directly into him. “Yeah, yes. How much time between my work will I have to come home and check in on my family?”


    Donovan nodded thoughtfully, closing the folder before him before motioning the man near the door to turn the lights back on. “Throughout your training you will have holidays and ample vacation time. Of course, during that time you are free to visit family and friends before you are needed again. Once you are in Europe, however, you will stay until Operation Firebrand is a success and Group 935 is no longer a threat.”


    Peter stared blankly at the table for a moment, then to the young lady at the typewriter. She raised her eyebrow before looking at Donovan. Donovan broke the silence, “Any more questions, Agent McCain?”


    Peter caught himself staring, before regaining his composure and replying, “No sir, no more. Thank you, sir!”


    Donovan nodded, smiling, and outstretched his hand to him, “Thank you, Agent McCain, I’m sure you’ll do us proud.”


    Peter shook his firm hand before standing up and heading towards the door, Pernell behind him. Pernell looked back to the Director, stating, “You can count on us sir. I’m sure Agent McCain will not let us down.”


    The pair had now exited into the lobby of the West Wing, Peter stopping as the door shut behind them to backhand Pernell in the chest, who exclaimed, confused, “Hey!”


    “Hey you, Cornellius. I won’t let you down? What is that supposed to mean?”

    “It means I have confidence in you, Peter.”




    “I said be humble, not this humble.”


    “I don’t know if I can do this. This is all so quick.”


    Peter was now leaning against the wall near a window looking over the lawn of the White House. Pernell joined him at the opposite side.


    “I don’t know if you are aware of this Peter, but that stunt you pulled to get the battle plans to Corregidor... that was crazy. No weapons, no air support, that took brains and most of all, that took guts.”


    “It wasn’t all me. Isko-”


    “I’ve read the debriefing. There were three of you, and you certainly couldn’t do it alone. But without you they would have gotten nowhere. It was a team effort. Think of me like one of them.”


    “You? Like Isko? Or Hilario?”


    “Okay, maybe not exactly like them, but I’ll have your back. I know you can do this, Peter. What you did that day may have saved the lives of your entire platoon and more.”


    “‘May have ’ being the key phrase there. Since then I haven’t seen Wesley, or Stanford, or, Hell, Corporal Little-”


    “These things take time. Now, I don’t know you yet, not really. But I know you’ve got the skills that the OSS needs. The skills to save some lives, maybe kick some ass. First, I want to learn a little more about you, Pete.”


    “Don’t call me Pete.”


    “Noted. Won’t make the same mistake twice.”


    Peter paused for a moment, looking back onto the lawn before continuing to walk towards the doors he came in through, Pernell in tow.


    “If you want to know something about me: I don’t like change. Not one bit. In terms of a career, pencil-pushing and secret agent stuff is a pretty big change from failed field medic turned grunt. I’m gonna need some time to get acquainted with all of... that. I hadn’t even heard of Group 935 before all of this.”


    “Very few have. And for the record, everything you saw in there was completely confidential.”


    “Oh please, who would I tell? Have all the information on Element 115 you can find sent to my place. Also everything on Doctor Maxis; I’m gonna need to get inside his head.”


    Peter and Cornellius were now out of the front doors of the White House, walking down the path towards a different limousine from the one before.


    Cornellius patted Peter on the back, “I'll get right on that. You take care.”


    As Peter prepared to lower himself into the vehicle, he stood back up, speaking to Pernell.


    “Also, send me an English-to-German dictionary too. Maybe some lessons for kids or something. I’m a bit rusty. Nein sprechen ze Deutsch sehr gut!”


    Pernell said nothing in response, choosing instead to offer a thumb’s up and reassuring expression as he closed the door of the vehicle, waving to the driver to take Peter home. As the limousine drove away from the White House lawn, Peter looked out the window back towards Pernell, who tripped and fell as he made his way up the steps, scattering the contents of his briefcase as another suited man in a wheelchair came outside and tried to assist him.


    “I guess that’s why I’m the field guy... ”

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