September 24th
Curt punched the wall of the elevator, then winced at the pain in his shoulder. A pointless gesture, then pain – the theme of his autobiography.
Confirmation as much as the Agency needed or wanted that she was dead. No footage, no idea who had taken the body – there was even the chance that it would turn up in a dumpster run that morning, placed there by some fae who didn’t want a corpse showing up on the news.
Rumour had it that Brisbane had a garbage man or three and they were always a good possibility when a corpse when missing.
Most depressingly, and most likely, was that Solstice had her. Tagged by random chance, then picked up by a retrieval team.
She would have been thrown in a van, bleeding and crying, begging for mercy that would never come. Recruits, after all, were worse than agents in the minds of Solstice. Agents didn’t have a choice about what they were…recruits, however, made the conscious choice to side against humanity.
Agents didn’t have a choice about what they were, but they did have a choice in how they acted.
How they reacted.
Had a choice in whether or not they gave a shit about dead newbies.
Not all agents were Petersen.
Not all agents were complete monsters.
Ryan wasn’t Petersen. That fact was the one thing he’d had to force himself to believe when he’d been transferred. Petersen hadn’t organised the transfer, hadn’t picked Ryan to be his jailor, so it had been a chance, whereas staying in Adelaide was going to mean death, one way or the other.
Ryan was nearly impossible to read – he was so close to the Solstice ideal agent: the emotionless, passionless, stiff-lipped imitation of a man.
A thing that wore skin, but had no life.
Ryan was a nearly absent figure in the department – mostly staying in his office to deal with politics and paperwork, whilst the floor went to hell. He let tiny-minded wannabe-dictators like Brian stage coups and make plays at “actually” being in charge, to gather flunkies and exclude anyone who didn’t fit.
They found his presence to be offensive; they thought he was a perversion of what a recruit should be. They hated him, and they only thought he was a red shirt – it was more than a little tempting to reveal his secret origin story, if only to see the shock on their faces, before they started petitioning for him to be tossed out on the street.
It was an idle fancy, and the fallout wasn’t worth the momentary gain.
He hardly saw Ryan; even if he did make every attempt to fulfil the Director’s every whim. Proving himself useful was a good plan for keeping himself alive.
It wasn’t a choice between ruling and hell and serving in heaven…but at least he could get himself a better position. Any tiny favour, any move towards becoming Aide bode well for having a future.
The lift doors opened, but he hesitated.
He was acting irrationally. He was going against his plan that had worked so well so far. He was making himself a target.
He forced himself to breathe.
He stalked towards Ryan’s office, knocking before he came to a stop.
‘Come in,’ Ryan’s voice came a moment later.
He could back off. He should back off.
Curt pushed the door open.
It took him a moment to parse the man standing near the desk as Ryan. Ryan’s coat, vest and tie were missing; his shirt wasn’t tucked in and two buttons were undone. His hair was damp, and he had blue residue on the hairline. He looked…rumpled – the very opposite of the image Ryan always seemed to project.
‘Sir, I’m wondering if you’ve seen the final casualty list.’
‘I’m the Director of this Agency, Curt, I see it first.’
‘Yes sir, of course you do, sir.’
‘If this is about Mimosa-’
Ryan’s expression didn’t even flicker. At least Petersen had shown emotion while cutting him, burning him, watching him die-
‘You’re on medical leave for the rest of the week, Recruit, we can shuffle the schedules then. Or, as you’ve proved time and again, you work well on your own-’
‘You think I want to discuss the fucking schedule?!’
Ryan poured himself a glass of bright red liquid. ‘I can’t see anything else of importance you’d need to discuss.’
Curt punched Ryan before he realised his hand had formed a fist.
A quick, painful jab in the cheek, a great first move in a bar fight.
He’d just punched an agent.
His bladder let go.
He stumbled back, his legs jelly.
He’d never hit Petersen; never had the strength, the bravado, or enough slack in his chains.
He’d hit an agent.
He was never going to see daylight again.
He was going to suffer, then die.
A pointless gesture followed by pain.
‘Oh, gods,’ he managed as he backed into the couch and fell against the soft leather, unable to fight to stay upright. ‘Sir, I-’
Ryan turned away and poured himself another drink. The slight mark on his cheek faded before he had capped the bottle.
‘You might want to get your doctor to take a look at that twitch, recruit.’ Ryan said after he finished the drink.
Curt took a breath. He had a way out. He could walk away. It would be stupid to push the issue.
‘You got her killed, sir.’
Ryan’s head snapped toward him, the first flicker of emotion on his face since Curt had entered the office. ‘Recruit-’
‘All she wanted to do was impress you, sir.’
He’d pushed it too far.
Breath became hard again.
Ryan put the glass down, and began to fix his uniform. The agent buttoned his shirt, tucked it in, then his vest and tie appeared, both of which he pulled on rather than requiring them straight onto his body.
‘Sir – a KIA doesn’t mean she’s dead.’ He swallowed. ‘There are people I know who know people who know people.’
This seemed to get Ryan’s attention. ‘Your transfer papers didn’t speak of any remaining contacts.’
Curt barked a short laugh. ‘Petersen wasn’t interested in getting any useful information out of me.’
‘It’s pointless, Curt.’
‘With respect sir, do you know what the worst case scenario is in this situation?’
‘I’m not an expert in such matters, unlike yourself.’
It was a warning to back off. Another get out of jail free card. He ignored it. The agent needed to know what he’d done. Even if the cost outweighed the lesson, someone had to speak up. Someone had to say something.
No one had spoken for him. No one had fought for him.
There were few things worse than being at the mercy of the Agency.
‘Worst case is that she was alive. I never dealt with recruits only fae but I know recruits got it worse. If she was alive they would have made attempts to keep her that way. There’s fae drugs and stuff you can use to extend a life beyond the point where they should give up. Torture of every kind you can think of. They’d bleed her for whatever blue they could extract. And when they were done they’d get rid of her. Some bases have a…people used to call it the swirl. One of those big things you use to grind up cow carcasses. They have a hatch and a pneumatic wall. At first there’s enough room to keep away from the blades. An inch forward a minute. It’s a sport. People take bets. It’s usually a toe first. Or a hand. Then a leg goes. Everyone jumps in head first once they lose enough of themselves. Every person kills themselves because it’s the best way out.’
Ryan’s expression didn’t change.
That was beyond being emotionless. That was-
‘This has been instructive, Curt.’
‘Don’t you at least want me to reach out? If there’s any chance of saving her-’
‘I can’t tell you what to do with your free time.’
‘I need Agency backing. I can’t negotiate with nothing!’
‘And I can’t break the rules for a recruit. Especially not one who was here for three days.’ There was the briefest flicker of a smile on Ryan’s face. A very interesting reaction. ‘I-’ Ryan’s face went back to neutral. ‘Recruit, you’ve got your answer.’
The Agency was supposed to be better than the Solstice. They were, for lack of a more grown-up descriptor, the good guys. He knew it was bullshit – anyone that allowed Petersen to continue to live weren’t the paragons of light that they tried to pretend to be, but they were supposed to be several shades of grey better than the Solstice.
If they weren’t, it was a jump from a fire to an even worse fire.
Stef had been following the agent around like a puppy, eager to please and excited. It wasn’t something he seemed to be appreciating.
A high tech score. A field operation she shouldn’t have been on. A stupid, pointless death. Hopefully a stupid, pointless death. She wouldn’t last a minute under torture, and they hurt the helpless even worse. No point in keeping a person in something resembling one piece if they had no valuable information.
His stomach turned at the idea of the newbie strapped in a chair, bleeding, crying and dying at the hands of some psycho.
He looked back to Ryan. All evidence that he’d hit the man was gone, and the agent didn’t seem interested in pursuing that further.
Even beating the hell out of the agent wouldn’t do anything. It would feel good, but mean nothing. The Agency understood rules and paperwork. And Agency paperwork could fuck you so hard you died.
A life for a life, it was fair.
One last chance.
‘Sir- Please. If there’s a chance she’s out there, doesn’t she deserve-’
Any emotion. Any remorse. Any sign that Ryan felt sorry for getting her killed. Any sign the death meant something. Anything and he’d back off.
He saw nothing.
A thing that wore skin, but had no life.
‘Recruit, I have things to do.’
‘Yes sir. Of course, sir. I’ll get out of your way.’
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