Taecyeon went to the Echelon headquarters in Seoul, Korea as soon as he got off the plane from Italy. After asking around as to where Mr. Kang’s office were, he immediately went to Mr. Kang’s office.
Looking up from the file he was reading, “Oh, Mr. Ok, you’re here. I was expecting you.”
“Why are you so sure that I’m going to come back to Korea?”
“I just know. Besides, there’s nothing for you there in Italy anymore. Am I right? Im Yoona is dead. No reason for you to stay. Mission accomplished.”
“It wasn’t a mission! It’s- Never mind. It’s over. Stop talking about her. Whatever happened in Italy is enough to last me a lifetime.”
Mr. Kang smiled, “Good for you. Now follow me to the boardroom. I’m going to make an announcement for all the Supreme Echelon members to gather there. You will meet your squad mates soon enough.”
Taecyeon went to the boardroom with Mr. Kang and saw Minho already sitting on one of the chairs in the boardroom.
Minho stood up from his seat and walked towards the door where Taecyeon was standing and extended his hand, “Hi! Nice to meet you. You must be our leader.”
Taecyeon took his hand and gave Minho a smile, “You are...”
“The tech specialist. Choi Minho. I have read all about the Supreme Echelon members on the database. So you can say that I know all of you. But I can’t say the same with the other guys though. By far, I’ve only met Nuri, the cool sniper guy and of course, you.”
Mr. Kang then added to the conversation, “Actually Taec, the other members had never met each other before, today is the first Supreme Echelon meeting. There are certain reasons why I picked them all. They are not your regular Echelons. They have been through a lot. There’s bound to be some, let’s just say, rough edges here and there. I’ll be honest, some of them might have a hard time adjusting with each other. Your job at this initial stage is to smoothen those edges. Minho should be able to help you with that. Right?”
Minho agreed, “Right. No problem. I’ll help Taecyeon with that.”
Jonghyun was the next person to enter the room.
“Hi Mr. Kang.”
“Jonghyun. I want you to meet Ok Taecyeon, your leader and Choi Minho, the Supreme Echelon Tech specialist.”
“Oh, hey guys.” Jonghyun then sat down on one of the chairs.
Jonghyun could not be bothered with all the pleasantries. All the years working as an undercover had weathered Jonghyun. There’s nothing that he had never seen, nothing that he had never heard. He was indeed, like what Mr. Kang said, rough at the edges.
Ignoring the awkward atmosphere, all of them sat down while waiting for the rest to come.
Nichkhun then entered the room and proceeded to introduce himself to all the members and sat down.
The last to come was Nuri who was slinging his sniper rifle over his shoulders, to whom Jonghyun stared at.
“What are you staring at?” Nuri questioned Jonghyun.
Jonghyun then muttered under his breath, “How can someone be so late for a first meeting? Even gangsters are punctual.”
“What exactly is your problem? Do you have any idea how far it is to walk all the way from the Echelon shooting range?” Jonghyun, who was irked by Nuri’s question, stood up from his seat.
Taecyeon immediately stood up and attempted to stop the brewing dispute between Nuri and Jonghyun.
“Guys! We’re in this together. So pull yourselves together and sit down! The both of you!”
Taecyeon’s booming voice of authority managed to silent the two members and also the whole room.
Mr. Kang who was sitting at the head of the conference table chuckled quietly to himself. He was pleased that his choice of a leader was not wrong. Taecyeon proved to be good in handling such a situation, a situation that Mr. Kang expect would reoccur in the future, given the members that he picked.
Jonghyun, was not actually annoyed by Nuri’s delay to the boardroom, he was just staring at Nuri because he felt that Nuri was a tad familiar. He felt that he had seen Nuri somewhere during his 5-year stint as an undercover. But being the rough-and-tumble man that he was, he definitely wasn’t going to explain the real reason behind his prolonged gaze, hence, the complaint.
Nuri went and sat down on one of the seats, opposite Jonghyun.
Mr. Kang then broke the silence of the room, “Alright. I believe that everyone is comfortable and settled now.” Mr Kang directed a quick gaze to Nuri and then to Jonghyun.
“All of you must be wondering the reason behind the setting up of the Supreme Echelon. On the surface, the Supreme Echelon is set up to aid the operations of the Echelon in combating national and international crime. That, is the side of the street that was illuminated under the street lamp. The side where data of the missions that you guys do is documented and is freely available to anyone who had authorized access to the database. The real reason behind the Supreme Echelon is the minor, unlit side of the street. In the shadows.”
Nichkhun commented, “You mean, we’re doing black-ops?”
“Right, but not accurate. Sure, underneath the normal operations that you guys carry out, there will some covert operations that you guys do. But, by all means I can assure you that you will not be doing anything that’s against your conscience, in fact, you will be doing the Echelon, or even the country a favour. Sometimes, it won’t be, strictly speaking, legal though.”
“Perfect.” Jonghyun mumbled.
Nichkhun questioned, “So, what are we looking for?”
“Honestly, I’m not so sure what we are actually looking for. There’s no specific target, yet. There’s been an increase in botched Echelon operations. Although reports stated otherwise, I suspect that they were sabotaged. I think that these failed missions were used to cover up something bigger, but what? It’s up to you to find out. I wish I can do it myself, but I am only one man, and unfortunately, I’m not young anymore.”
Mr. Kang handed each of them a file, “You can start with this. An independent mercenary group named Cerberus was sighted at 3 out of 5 failed Echelon missions. Apparently, Cerberus was there to save our men and was hailed as heroes to some of our men.”
Taecyeon frowned and expressed his opinion, “It can’t be that simple.”
“Exactly. They were members of the Korean police force but decided to resign for what they say, ‘the greater good’. Like Korea’s Batman and Robin. But I doubt that what they are doing is completely legal. However, they had never interfered with any of our operations before and we appreciate that so we kept our noses out of their business. But things have changed. I need you to find out why did they save our men and how did they know that our men were in trouble. Remember, this is a covert operation. The ‘upper’ level of the Echelon would never agree with us trying to investigate Cerberus. Apparently, they said that they want to keep things calm and cool between us. But I suspect that it is not that simple. Right now, I will hand everything to you Taec. You have a big responsibility, not only in ensuring the success of this mission but also, to unite the squad members. Brotherhood is key. Come and see me later Taec, after you have settled down in your apartment, I’ll give you the files, documents and the things that you might need. I’ll leave all of you here. Mingle around, get to know each other better, because I assure you that this won’t be over anytime soon.”
With that, Mr. Kang walked out of the room, leaving the 5 of them together. The staring game soon ensued between Jonghyun and Nuri again, while Nichkhun shook his head to the tension between Jonghyun and Nuri.