He was late to the meeting, and the rain wasn't helping much; but he enjoyed a lot inhaling hard the cold, humid air while walking. It felt like the old times, when there were only rainy days filled with tension and danger, the whole world in the brink of destruction and the organization standing to contain it. He crossed the street hurriedly to the Council of Foreign Relations building, located in 58 East 68th Street in New York City, a wonderfully out of time place, built of secrets and the sweat of countless unnamed agents who worked and died for them. The best thing about those secrets is just simply to have them and to know that the others doesn't. Childish? of course, but in the end all life is just playing games. And he liked the dangerous ones, those that implicate those simple and wonderful things that make life: blood, death and sex.
Winter was upon the city, and in a broader sense, over the world at large. And just in the moment when he was needed the most, that happens to be every single day of his life, he has to take a cab driven by a happy and lazy puertorican gangsta with the radio full of raeggeton. The trip lasted fifteen minutes until his reason began to slip and mother rage slowly took his place; time to get out and better take a walk. How they had let that slipped in the first place? Since they let rap, hip-hop and all that music run without checking, they conceded a partial victory to the Discordians. Just thinking over them, the enemy, the anarchists that want the world to plunge into senselessness and chaos, makes his blood pressure blow and his muscles to be filled with anger. He stopped for a second, breathe the humid air with his eyes closed facing the rain, and every piece of thought fell into place, softly.
Regaining ground to think, he concluded that it was a lesson learnt long ago: afrodescendants -those social scientists came up with a new denomination every year- make the most rithmically accepted forms of music, and that meant profits for the Entertainment Divisions, a shicho Go movement in answer to the discordian chess threat. Dodge that, assholes, he thought with a smile and began to run faster to the headquarters, like in the old days. Rain poured like a waterfall from the sky, and he almost tought that if there is a god above after the massacre the organization did to any form of religion after the industrial revolution, this is a fine form of retaliation. Always thinking how the enemy will be going to attack. He was completely soaked, but alive in his musings. His lungs ached for a cigarrette.
Old Richard Grimes the doorman, with his guard-of-the-queen stance, cold gray eyes, and a hapkido and ninjitsu joint program running constantly in his implant inside the brain, opened the massive oak door into the vestibule. A chess-like floorboard greeted him to the dark chambers of thought and control, but again he preferred the subtleties of a good Go game to the chess, which he always linked to the enemy. 180º cameras with thermal, retinal and sound pattern detectors and analyzers mounted over thousand year old armors watched over him ominously. He was accustomed to the tingling sensation over his skin, but since the renaissance it was a necessity: you'll never know when the current manifestation of the enemy will sneak a spy, be it a ninja, a whore, little and seemingly not harmful boy scout girls with bombs implanted in their stomachs, or even a Jeovah's witnesses armed with EMP biblical bombs. It's amazing how creative they are, and how slow the Planning Department is relocating the headquarters. 'It's the best place you can find to have the HQ: camouflaged in an netherwordly lagrangian subspace within a government think-thank' they say, to which he answered 'Precisely, you idiots. This is the stuff the conspiracy theories about us are built, that led the enemies flooding at our gates believing they are true. Thanks to our operatives using Reason Frontieering we debunk their theories into nonsense, but of course, but that is more expense added you haven't even consider. Do you ever see how our security budget have skyrocketed in the last 60 years?' But as the Rotschilds and Rockefellers funds the minutiae from the overall budget, nobody says nothing. The sense of efficiency is lost.
Ahead, in a murky, twisting and clausthropobic corridor beyond the general offices there was an old, scratched door with a golden pommel labeled 'Meeting Room - on repair'. He took off his right glove and put his index finger in the cold pommel. He felt the rays running through the circles of his fingertips, verifying the identity, the program sending instructions to the titanium-enclosed computer mainframe in the basement to turn on the EPR-Bohm decodifier and prepare the located wormhole pulse that opened the bridge to the subspace vector Calabi-Yau 643. There was a soft click in the lock, followed by a barely perceptible humming and a very faint glow in the door-frame, and the space beyond the door changed to a room in repair, to a glassy room filled with mirrors and monitors for walls, and an oval table seemingly made of black onyx in the center of the room, all the new Operative Monitors sited and looking severely at him. Damn! He hated to be late, he hated more to be the last one to get there, and overall he hated the most to let a bunch of newbie kids feel superior even in slight things like these. We need new blood in the board, agent Beam, the messenger from his superiors said to him while in Davos, and we want you to instruct and form them. Your older team will be reassigned to the Zadith project in Zeta Reticuli. Fine. His best agents since the Cold War will be assigned to the most ambitious project of the organization, and he has to take care of the Brady Bunch. I'm agent Mike Beam, but just call me Mike, dudes. How are ya? Ready for the fun? Science almighty, how he hated this situation. Mental note: avoid cab licenses to puertoricans who hear reggaeton, at least in New York. And a special notepad and calendar program in the hard disk wired to his brain took note and programmed a reunion with mayor Bloomberg for next thursday at 1:30 pm.
Attitude is what matters to these kids, so let's show them. Waving his right index finger, one of the mirror panels dissolved and a perch went out. While walking, he took off his overcoat and hanged it with one swift movement. He took the lead executive chair, the one with controls in the armchairs, and pressed the touch screen in the onyx table in front of him. On the screen appeared a sign indicating that the meeting order archive was going to be uploaded into the hard disk in his brain. He accepted, not looking to either of the operatives, and then, with all the due ceremony, he raised slowly the head and looked straight into the eyes of each one of the five operatives. Instantly, their curriculums were displayed in augmented reality over each one within sight, every time he looked to them. All newbies. Impressive curriculums for the United Nations, Human Rights International, or Mitsubishi, but they are going to be eaten alive by the enemy, and they will not even know when. This is going to be tough. He recalled with his will their initial reports, and their briefs were displayed in his eye view, but their full content were uploaded directly in the brain from the hard disk.
He wanted to shout loud, grab their necks an let them feel his sharp nails in their spines. In six hundred years, in the quarterly meetings, there were some failings. Sometimes it was a killing by a double agent, crossfire in the field, the classical venom in the champagne, even treason; some other times it was some unsuspected source of injury like invoked creatures of the nether regions, a finance minister of a third world country possessed by a conquistador's ghost and armed with a chainsaw in the middle of the brazilian embassy, or clouds of bioengineered nanobots that rearranged the DNA to transform the victim in something like an amoeba, released from a biotech lab in the middle of nowhere near Pakistan. But this was unbelievable. Five missions, five failings. Once agent Beam sat, a computerized voice reverberated in the room:
- This meeting starts 14:32 earth time in meeting room #01 at subspace vector Calabi-Yau 643. Presents are agent Beam presiding, and Operative Monitors One, Los, Orneopthrix, Yang and Ialdab. Estimated lapse of meeting: 25 minutes. Annotation one: presiding agent Beam came up late 7 minutes from the programmed beginning.
- The sooner, then, we will have to discuss the matters at hand -said agent Beam to the computer, but emphasizing the words to the other agents-. Let's begin with Monitor Ialdab, please. Field Project 23-BBHILL: testing the protonucleoid RNA silicium based strings on random subjects using 4th-kind approach. Will you enlighten us with your stupidity, please?
Agent Ialdab was a tall, slender brunette with sky blue eyes and long, perfectly manicured fingers. She swallowed a gasp with agent Beam's last words, and she made a conscious effort to not let her fingers tremble.
- Sir, it was not the fault of team 45th...
- ...But -interrupted agent Beam- it happened that you are the leader of team 45th, and a dozen more. To me it is clear it was not their fault, it was yours. How the hell you blow up a simple abduction, the most standardized method for picking guinea pigs we have? How is it possible that the agents picked up a pair of old men that barely can stood up, and worse yet, how they forget to use the mental projectors on the subjects, and they recognized them as humans and the description of your agents is perfectly detailed on that crap tv program 'UFO hunters'? My science, even CNN is passing their descriptions!
- Please sir, allow me to explain... -now her voice trembled, and the effort to not let her hands shake was fading away-
- And to make matters worse, you let the craft to be photographed by air comptrollers in four different airports! Do you have any idea of how much does it cost to put a platoon of MIB enforcers to clean up your mess? Damn, it is sure that we will have to launch another MIB movie to make them appear nice! And guess what? We will have to sign up Will Smith again! Do you have any idea of how much does him cost? Do you have any idea of anything!?
- You have no right to treat me like that! -yelled agent Ialdab- I'm a competent agent and...
- ...Competent? -interrupted sardonically agent Beam- You put a trail of the most selected hollow heads just outside our door, made this already costly operation unnecessarily high, and you are competent? Please darling, get out of my sight!
The voice of agent Ialdab suddenly muted, her eyes wide open in fury and her lips protesting but no sound came; in less than a second she became blurred and the holoprojection ended. The other agents looked briefly between themselves, their stance like if they were poker players.
- Agent Yang, I am the one fucking your wife on thursdays and I coordinated your dog's beating by those punks you are now seeking desperately, and that you will never find. That will suffice to explain your shortsightedness and how you let those discordian terrorists to steal the genetic imprints of some of our most prominent figures in the Republican party, endangering our deal with the Babylonian Brotherhood. I am putting you in mute mode, so I don't have to listen to your gibberish and incoming insults and enjoy your defenselessness. Allow me to tell that you're the worst lover Samantha has got, and yes, she resented your asian heritage and if you don't have an impressive curriculum for a snob, she would have escaped with Andrew, the lobbyist from Greenpeace. Yes, the one with the dolphin tattoo in the wrist. Please, stop trying to shut down the communicator or trying to get up of the chair, you know I'm holding you as long as I want you to hear me. Ow, come on; look at yourself, you are crying! That's it, the organization cannot abide people like you in our ranks. You are terminated. Send my regards to your dog in whatever plane of existence you two are going to meet.
Agent Yang image exploded in silence, and the other agents tried to cover themselves from the carnage that never came, the holoprojected pieces of burnt meat dissolving mercifully into nothingness. Agent Beam sighed with resignation. All the agent training, the embarrassment with the lizards, and even the agent's wife was poor sex by what he has had in old commie Russia or in the exotic slum dens in Hong Kong.
- Well... shall we continue with... let me see, agent Los?
Los gulped loudly. In his forehead a thin sweat cape was slowly forming, his green eyes fixed in the void.
- How were your trips to Mother Russia? Enlightening? -asked agent Beam, masking his words so well that Los cannot distinguish f it was plain irony or a genuine concern-.
Los forced himself to stand and lock his eyes with agent Beam. He was afraid and Beam knew it, but he will not let him reinforce that belief for too long. From all his companions, he was the one decided to get higher into this circle of power. Conspiracy theorists only speak of “them”, without knowing what that meant, who are those who managed the strings of the world. Since he glimpsed the truth years ago at college he wanted to join, to be recruited, to wield true power. Power over police. Power over the military. Power over public budgets, politicians, natural resources, industries, technology, men and women. Power to shape destinies, to play with the backbone of reality himself. This was his test, to prove of what he was made, of let his superiors to know how far he will go with his ambitions.
- Yes sir, very. We set up the conditions in seven years to have Anatoli Tsergov to win the primary elections in Russia. Right now we have teams 11th and 29th working in shaping his future view of regaining Russia's dominion en Eurasia, but we have vague his discourse regarding the return of communism. Right now we have team 66th preparing special subliminal modifications to some promising video games for various consoles and in social networks, that will in turn breed with 36% probability new 'extreme right' attackers with messianic messages, and 32% acceptation from new young conservatives with moderate violent behavior. In four years we will turn again the opinion of the masses against leftist ideas and we will have another global political dichotomy and tension to boost our resources and improve our current position.
- Bravo! Agent Los, for almost a minute you impressed me. Let me ask you something, from the basics: in which phase of the ovulation period is Irina Kostiakova?
Tsergov's wife, thought agent Los, but you're not going to catch me with this, old fart.
- According to our most recent data from april 2nd, taken by an operative introduced in Tsergov's household as a second handmaid, Kostiakova has suppressed ovulation due to the use of Jadelle. Analysis of various urine tests show that she has been using the contraceptive for 6 years.
- Good! And now for a thousand bucks in the category 'I believe I'm such a smartass', the answer is 'Masha'
Los don't flinched. This was a curve ball that went straight into his hands. Maria Predatelski, Tsergov's favourite stripper from Dolls, a famous club downtown Moscow that specializes in the eccentric. What was planning the old fool?
- With due respect sir, I believe you know that answer. Tsergov's has been dating her for three years, regularly visiting her on his bimonthly party's committee nights, and every now and then when his wife is attending business in Norway. And I also believe you know she has a mistress too in Oslo.
- Let's make it a little bit difficult, and mix my last two questions. What will your calculations give? -asked agent Beam with a smile-
Agent Los stood silent, and his fingers ran like torpedoes over his keyboard. With every stroke, his eyes widen and the sweat began to fall from his forehead to his cheeks.
- I know that Tsergov is no fool -began agent Beam-, and suspecting correctly that some of his political enemies will spy him on that strip club, he gave the old in-and-out to that teenager in well, some odd places, out of their and our sight. You can make from the review of Kostiakova that she doesn't want to get pregnant from this sonofagun, and I understand her, really. She is too smart, beautiful and avant-garde to be by the side of this troglodyte. But Tsergov has inside him a seed of the old russian patriarch. He wants a son, desperately, but Kostiakova has been very successful making him believe that she is barren. But guess what? Little Masha is going to give him one because he's no longer using protection, and with a probability of 84,5% that will be happening in her wife's next biz trip when the brat will be literally a fertile ground for Tsergov's wishes. I see in your face you are asking 'how this wonderful gentleman that is my boss knows that Tsergov is not protecting itself, or why is trusting a whore?' -agent Beam spread his hands like a preacher to him, rising an eyebrow, smiling with the smell of victory over this one too- The answer is... I did the old fashioned 'recording from under the bed' in a motel on the road to Tula. The... how do you say it? -his eyes went blank for a second and his fingertips lashed against the keyboards in the chair- Ah yes, old fart, promised the girl to get a modeling contract and her pimp a share of the operation. Once the girl is fertilized, for a 5000 bucks in the category 'Gotcha!' the answer is that the old fart will divorce discreetly with Kostiakova´s complacency, will get married to a rising model, and he will get a more comfortable position in his party than the stressful presidential run -agent Beam emphasized the words, like he was giving a lesson to a child-. So, agent Los, let me tell you that all your efforts have been in vain and while we have been talking I reassigned teams 11th and 29th to more productive endeavors within Tsergov's party. But team 66th is doing very good work with the rightists. Consider yourself dispatched with a C-, an 'almost failure'.
Agent Los' face was a mask of stupefaction, and before he could reply, his image dissolved from the meeting room. Agent Beam looked to Agent Orneopthrix. She/he was the only one to give him the creeps. Her(his) face lines were delicate, ethereal like strokes of a zen painting. Hisher golden grayish sunflowery bald head make him dizzy, and it seemed that the holoprojector cannot follow her(is) changes because it was constantly framing the image. I need a cigarette, for science's sake.
- Ok child, the only thing I'm going to say about your current situation is that you're totally screwed, and I believe we cannot help you. Believe me, I pity you, but that is not going to help you or to amend the mistakes you've done. Bah, I'm not going to lie to my 'team', you give me the creeps. Get out of my face and try to do something good of what is left of your life.
He/she let a tear scape and nodded silently, while the image disappeared. In the briefing, it was stated that Agent Orneopthrix fell right into the midst of a discordian satanist coven, literally from the roof in the harbor warehouse they used as temple, and after she/he emptied her/his gun over them to no avail, they decided to use her/him as their 'holy prostitute', their alchemical rebis. They, a group of eleven madmen highly skilled in what the superstitionist called 'magic', raped her/him with everything they could find in that old and rusty warehouse in the port, while invoking a creature so foul that even Howard Phillips Lovecraft would tremble in his grave. A rescue team found her/him on the beach, catatonic and cold, transformed in these transsexual being with a message carved with a knife in the back: a peace symbol with an apple and a letter K inside, and a 'thanks for the gift, we're giving you a goddess'.
There was one left. Agent One.
Agent Beam archived the file in his brain hard disk, and for a while stood silent before him. He managed to put a Mona Lisa smile, and crossed his hands confidently.
- Well Agent One, like your predecessors, I believe you failed.
- I disagree with you, agent Beam. I finished successfully my mission. I have completed my monitoring over you.
- Oh, you did? And which are your conclusions, s'il vous plâit? -Agent Beam lean back in the chair like he was attending a movie, crossed his legs and kept the hands crossed.
- You are the agent with most accumulated field work time, almost 650 years. Your experience is invaluable not only to the organization, but to the world at large. You have saved humanity from countless threats, mundane and extradimensional, and in these latter years, your coordination activities over the monitors kept us on the front line of defense of the reality from its multiple enemies. But you have become a real bastard. You have always been tough, ruthless, but we think that the years have taken their toll on you. What you did in Tula was childish; you knew that agent Los will eventually figured out the relationship between Tsergov and Predatelski...
- ...The kid were going to blow the whole operation because he was reckless! He didn't took the necessary precautions or do rightly the investigation! -yelled agent Beam, thumping over the onyx table, leaning forward menacingly to agent One- And that idiot Ialdab! Thousands of dollars lost...
- ...because you assigned her knowing that she haven't had the proper training in using reverse-engineered spacecrafts. You know that one thing is having excellent grades in the theoretical studies, but another matter is to operate them. In fact, we have proof that the ship assigned to the abduction was not in full capacity, and when the technicians tried to use the mental projectors, they were non-operational...
- ...Lies! I have the full status report of the ship before the operation begun! -agent Beam begin to tap furiously the armchair keyboards-
- ...A status report you forged -continued agent One calmly-. Please Mike, stop doing this. You are not going to silence me like you did with poor agent Yang. That was termination with extreme prejudice, not to add outright humiliation. You know he is going to became at least a fifth magnitude ethereal manifestation...
- ...Don't make laugh! A Ghost? He didn't have the will to become that, and you know it!
- You wanted the thrill of the sixties, to exploit the marital insecurities of agent Yang and his wife, and feel control over all your agent's personal and professional matters. You did the same to agent Orneopthrix, leading her to a confrontation in which she was outgunned, manipulating her desire to be recognized just to locate the discordian cultists. You managed it fine, dispatching the creature and terminating them, but agent Orneopthrix was used as the lowest bait...
- Oh, come on! You are not talking seriously, do you? We have done this countless times before! And now you are getting soft. That is the point of this whole meeting. You are getting soft, and all the world is going to hell because after all these years you are infected with the thought that maybe the discordians are right in some of their senseless arguments!
- No, agent Beam. You wanted to be the hero again. You needed the recognition, to feel superior, because we haven't let you go up. And that is because we needed you to train the newest monitors. You resented that your last team got a kind of promotion, preparing our first interstellar station. Instead, you feel stranded on Earth, on a world that have changed a lot since your 'golden' years. But we don't need this from you. We are going to digitalize your memories and filter them, to get a training manual for the future generations. After that, we are going to give you two choices: one, be terminated, but your legacy will endure the passage of time in the newest generations; two, we could rearrange your behavior and you shall be an excellent coordinator for the new monitors. Right now, we are sending a group of technicians for the digitalization. You have five minutes to think about your future, agent. Good bye.
Agent One's image dissolved. Agent Beam was muted, his mouth wide open in disbelief. He looked to his infinite reflections in the mirror walls, and for the first time in decades he trembled and falling over the table, he began to cry.