So let's make an attempt to really make this not suck, right? So after the story is background material for the story. Go ahead and add to the story, or the background material. Just make sure the background is consistent with the story, and the other way around. Also, feel free to make minor edits to existing material.
She looked down and saw it lying there... on the ground. It was the Nine of Diamonds. She bent down and began to examine it. It was your average playing card, although a little worn from sitting outside on the sidewalk for some unknown period of time. She looked around and saw no sign of an owner. It was the same as all the others. Just a playing card, lying there, sometimes face up and sometimes face down. She picked it up and began to examine the pattern on the back. This had an image of an old car. It was yellow, with an open top, and looked like the kind you would see in the really old and glamorous black and white movies. The Nine of Diamonds...
* * *
She put the card in her shirt pocket and paged Control. "Control, this is 4299 speaking, I have another card here." In a muffled sound from her left earpiece control responded, "Right on it 4299." She unsuspiciously removed the card from her shirt pocket and inserted the card into The Pocket Scanner TM which she kept in her back pocket. She continued with her mission. Step by step she came closer to the church.
* * *
A very average-looking man wearing a white lab coat over a white button-down collar and a plain royal blue tie stood, unseen, looking through a large window from his darkened room into a brighly lit examination room on the other side.
Lying on a table in the center was a tall, powerfully-built woman wearing a hospital gown. Though she was not struggling, her arms were strapped to the table by her side. Sitting next to her on a rolling stand was a television screen and digital recorder. A thin, black wire was running from the back of the recorder to a strange-looking device that seemed to be glued to her forehead. On the device, there was a a steadily glowing green LED, and next to it, another green LED that was blinking very rapidly and sporadically.
Turning his attention to the monitor, the man could see a tall, powerfully-built women, wearing an outfit that was so average and obviously designed to blend in with a crowd that there was no question that it was a Control uniform, approach a large, seemingly ancient stone building. Near the door was written, in bold, red lettering, "First Church of the New Christ."
The man smiled.
* * *
Latifa walked through the elaborate entry-way and entered the church. As she opened the door, she heard a soft clunk and a strong downdraft of air, smelling strongly of disinfectant, poured over her for a few seconds. "Geez," she thought to herself. "These people really are germophobes."
Inside, there was an entryway that went back about 15 feet, and was as wide as the building. Opposite the door was a long desk streching from wall to wall, and behind the desk on the far wall was another sign just like the one outside, only a little bigger and this one had a little bit of relief. The only other exit to the room was a door on the other side of the desk, and it was not immediately clear how anyone could get to the other side of the desk without having to climb over. Her first thought was that behind that big, impressive stone facade, this church looked just like a dry cleaning place.
Seated at the desk was a young Asian man who was typing something into a computer. Glancing at her, and noting her obviously nondescript outfit and equally plain briefcase, the man asked in a calm voice, "Can I help you?"
Almost startled, she looked at the man and had to think for a moment to try to remember why she had come. After a few seconds, she finally replied, "Yes," as she took three long strides over towards the man. She pulled a plain folder out of her briefcase, and as she handed it to the man, her voice took on a more commanding tone.
"I'm Latifa Allen, Control Operative 4299." She did not bother showing identification, as she knew that the man was already looking at her picture, Control personnel file, and credit history on his computer screen. "As you can see in this folder, I'm here to conduct a routine inspection of the premises."
"Certainly," the man replied, unfazed. "Please, come with me." He tapped a key on his computer keyboard. "One moment."
A few minutes later another Asian man wearing a very expensive-looking suit came through the door and greeted her. "Agent Allen. I'm happy to see you again."
He was fairly tall for an Asian man, in his late 60s, and looked be in excellent health, especially considering his age. Latifa immediately recognized him as Makoto Takahashi. He was the man who had started the Church.
Makoto waved his hand slightly, and the man seated at the desk pressed another key and, with a soft hiss, a section of the desk slid aside, leaving a gap of about 4 feet.
"Please, follow me." Makoto said as he walked through the door.
She followed him into the rear of the church. Turning right, the two walked without speaking down a long hallway, with the walls painted white. It was lit overhead by fluorescent lighting, and the hallway seemed to stretch on forever. Makoto's shoes seemed to make almost no noise as he walked. Latifa wore a style of shoes with hard rubber soles and a short heel that had been popular for a few years, and her steps made a much more audible impression on the hard white floor.
As they made their way down the hallway, Latifa noticed numerous entryways with no doors. Behind each was a room that streched away from the door about 30 feet but was only about 15 feet wide. Each was tightly packed with stackable chairs. Many of the rooms were almost packed with people, listening to a lecture by a very clean-cut, very respectable-looking young man or woman. Some of the rooms had people doing some strange mental exercises. They seemed very repetitive to Latifa, and she wondered why these people would be willing to come here to perform them, but she had not seen anything illegal.
After she had seen about 200 such rooms (she lost count after a while), the hallway made a ninety degree left turn, then, about 60 feet further down, another left turn. Ahead of her stretched another very long hallway with numerous entryways with no doors.
After another seemingly endless walk, the two arrived again at another door, with "Makoto Takahashi" written on it in black lettering, and the man led her through it. He had not spoken a word to her throughout the entire walk. Inside was a very plain-looking office. Considering the quality of the suit Makoto was wearing, Latifa was surprised to see an office so ordinary.
"There," he said, again nearly startling Latifa, "You've seen the whole building. Is Control satisfyed that everything is in order?"
"I see nothing unusual in the initial inspection. We may want to come make a more thorough inspection later after the data is analyzed. Right now, I have a few questions to ask you."
"Very well. As I've explained before, we have nothing to hide." He took his seat behind a small plain wooden desk, and motioned for Latifa to sit.
"How did you become involved in the First Church of the New Christ?" as she sat where he had indicated.
"You say that like it's a street gang or something." He paused. "This Church is where I get my inspiration. My reason for living. Here, I can bring the word of Christ as I see it to everyone."
It seemed like an awfully short answer for the founder of the church, but she decided not to push it. "What do you know about the Epidemic?"
"Well, just what I've seen in the News. It was caused when some terrorists released Sieve..."
"C-5182 is its official name"
"...Yes, well, they released the virus. It quickly spread worldwide and killed most of the world's population. Control sprung up to deal with the crisis, and declared a world-wide martial law. They managed, after much hardship and suffering, to bring to population under control and stop the spread of the virus. They were supposed to reliquish the power back to the original nations once the threat was neutralized, but there's been no major outbreak for 5 years, but Control has made no effort to dissolve itself."
"Do you hate Control?"
"No. Well, I don't know. I guess not. They saved the world I suppose. I don't like the way they did it though."
"The church was founded right before the Epidemic, right?"
"And even then, you included in your doctrine all the very elaborate hygiene practices that your church is so famous for?"
"That's also true. It was very fortunate for my followers, since they survived the epidemic at a much greater rate then most people."
Latifa knew she was treading on thin ice, and she decided she did not want to offend such a powerful man as the head of the First Church of the New Christ without a very good reason, and she decided not to push it. So she asked a few more less pointed questions, thanked him, and was shown out of the building.
She paused on the sidewalk outside for a moment, and looked up at the stone facade. She had a funny taste in her mouth. The place did not seem normal. They were up to something. But what was it, and how could she prove it?
* * *
The man in the white lab coat turned his attention away from the monitor. He picked up a playing card that was sitting on a nearby desk. The Nine of Diamonds.
The other cards had all had microprinting on all the lettering. A huge number of 'A's, 'T's, 'C's, and 'G's. These were easily picked up the the pocket scanners carried by the field operatives. But this one did not. This one was . . . ordinary.
In frustration, he crumpled the card in his hand.
"Crap." he said softly to himself. That was a stupid move. He'd just destroyed some potentially important evidence, and would surely be reprimanded later. He looked at the crumpled mess.
Something caught his eye. He retrieved a pair of tweezers from a drawer and squinted at one of the corner. Gripping something, he pulled it slowly out. He held up to the light a very thin, irridescent piece of plastic. A hologram. Damned clever.
He carefully stowed it in an envelope and hurried out of the room.
* * *
A women walked into the room and pressed a button hidden on the side of the device attached to Latifa's head. The rapidly blinking green light stopped blinking, and the monitor displayed a screen of blue with the text "No Signal" in the corner. After a moment, the steady light began to blink on an off slowly and in a much more controlled manner than its wild neighbor. After another few moments, the device came loose in the nurse's hands and she set it onto a tray near the examination table.
Latifa opened her eyes and suddenly tried to jump off the table. The restraints stopped her from getting very far, and after a few moments she became oriented to her surroundings and relaxed. Waking up from a memory replay can be a very strange experience (though not nearly so strange as entering one).
At this point the nurse removed the restraints from Latifa's wrists and allowed her to get up off the table.
"Did you get what you needed?" Latifa asked the nurse.
"You'll have to ask Dr. Morris when he returns."
"Where did he go?"
"I don't know. He left very suddenly."
"Oh." she said, surprised. "Can I see the recording?"
"You know I can't let you do that." the nurse replied, smiling.
"Well, I can always hope . . ."
Latifa grabbed her clothes off the chair in the corner in the room. She hated having to perform a strip search after every operation, but Control had a great benefits package, and employee privacy isn't much of a concern regardless of where she might work. She went to the changing room down the hall to put her clothes back on. She knew it was also monitored, but for some reason she didn't mind it as much in there. Maybe it was that big damned mirror in the interogation room that made her nervous.
* * *
Latifa looked at her watch as she got dressed. It was nearly lunch time. She always found herself extremely hungry after memory replays, and decided that she was going to head down to Little Tony's and get herself a nice Philly Cheesesteak and a big plate of fries.
As she clocked out she ran into Ted, one of her coworkers that had recently spent some operations time in Istanbul. She wasn't terribly fond of Ted but he was alright. He might be a little too cock sure of himself at times but he was a good agent and Latifa respected that. He also didn't like cheesesteaks at all so she knew he wouldn't be interested in joining her, which was fine by her. She kind of felt like eating alone today anyway. They exchanged a little bit of small talk and then she continued down the street.
(Insert childhood flashback memory thing comparing very populated streets of the past to sparse streets of the present... sorry but I've got other ideas in mind right now, I just think it'd be cool to have one of those here)
She walked into Tony's and looked around. It was a typical lunchtime crowd, which is to say that there wasn't one, and she found a pleasant table next to the window. The server came up to her and took her order. She recognized her as the new girl. She'd only been working there for about a week or two, but she was getting to be decent enough. It wouldn't be long before she was able to tell what Latifa wanted that day as soon as she walked in. Latifa began thinking of the other server that used to work at Tony's. His name was Kurlander, but everyone just called him Karl. He was from one of the old soviet states and still had a little bit of the old accent in his speech. He was nice enough, and definitely knew how to earn those tips. She didn't know much else about him until he died in the recent outbreak on the outskirts of town. That was the operation that she was working on now. It wasn't a typical outbreak that kills a dozen or so individuals, despite what Control was telling everyone. This was deliberate. Somewhere out there was an individual or a group that was attempting to wield C-5182 again. She began brooding but then her cheesesteak arrived and she quickly took her mind of work.
She enjoyed her meal very much... until her check arrived. She looked at the bill and saw some writing on it. It was nothing more than a personal number. Her first response was to wonder if anyone had placed anything in her lunch. She decided that if it hadn't killed her right away, then it could wait a few more hours, but she would have to go to Control's analysis division and be certain. She picked up the bill and walked outside to a nearby call booth. She dialed the number and waited.
The face that answered was not the face that she was expecting.
"Hello Latifa. Have you had your memory scan yet?" Makoto asked.
"You know that I just finished this morning. It's protocol."
"Yes, I just wanted to make sure. Additionally I would like to meet with you again. I have some more information that I would like to give to you... unofficially."
* * *
The Epidemic: An engineered virus, known as C-5182, released by terrorists in October 2013 in New York City quickly spread around the world, killing off by some estimates as much as 60% of the world's population. Though it has mostly burned itself out as a result of its high fatality rate, outbreaks occasionally appear, killing dozens of people before the Control operatives can seal the area and incinerate the victims. Very little attention is paid to whether the victim is alive when the incineration begins. It doesn't make much difference anyway. Many people call the virus by its common name "Sieve", which is an abbreviation of the C and the 5 in the first part of the name, but the name seems apt.
Control: After the Epidemic devastated the world's infrastructure, an organization was formed from the remnants of many of the world's governments. Because of the urgency of the situation, it assumed control over all world-wide governmental responsibilities, and immediately declared planetary marshall law. Its swift action and very little attention to ethics meant that it was able to bring the Epidemic under control (so to speak). But when the Epidemic subsided, Control seemed unwilling to relax its grip on the planetary government, though martial law was lifted, and the citizens of Earth are more or less free to do as they please, which is why Control has had very few uprisings (the ones that did occur were quickly and brutally squelched). It remains the only substantial governing body anywhere on Earth.
First Church of the New Christ: A large, powerful organization that gained a great number of followers after the Epidemic. Followers are known both for their zeal in spreading their faith and for their fanatical attention to hygiene. The church's teaching of hygiene principles as part of its doctrine has led to a high survival rate for its members, which only makes its power grow. Because of its power, the Church is a source of a great deal of nervousness from Control. Behind the scenes, though, something much more sinister is afoot . . .