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The Grey Edge: Chapter Twelve


‘Tell me about him,’ Taylor said as he stared out from the cafe to the building across the street.
‘Torgon Assail,’ Grigori answered. ‘CEO and primary director. It’s not a top-tier company, solidly mid-list though, has a couple of popular franchises, but they make their money off quantity, rather than quality. They specialise in-’
‘Do I need to know?’
‘No,’ Grigori said, ‘I suppose not.’
He looked away again, calculating exactly how little explosive material he would need to bring the whole building down, it would be so easy to-
‘They do some Agent porn though,’ Grigori. ‘The “Duty” series, not bad stuff, the humour could use a little work though.’
He added some unnecessary C4 to his calculations, then looked back to the Russian. ‘What?’
‘Oh come on, you knew about it.’
‘I knew nothing.’
‘Look at yourself, look at me, tell me you can understand a fetish for Agents. We’re popular,’ Grigori said with a grin. ‘I mean, of course they don’t get real agents in, just human-seeming fae, or fairies who’ve had their wings removed. Half the time they keep most of their clothes on anyway, so no one would notice.’
‘I think I’m misunderstanding you.’
Grigori leaned across the table. ‘Sometimes, it’s so much hotter when your clothes stay on. There’s an element of wanting what you can’t have. Sometimes the clothes come off in the end, if not, we still get to see all the good bits anyway.’
‘You’ve…watched these?’
Grigori nodded. ‘I’m an Agent, aren’t I? I feel it is my solemn duty to keep a track of our portrayal in fiction.’
‘You are-’
‘I know. Magnolia’s video, that was more of their standard fare, just a fairy gang bang.’
He bent his fork in half.
‘Hey, keep your temper in check. And put that fork down, I’m going to have to pay for that now. We need answers, you can’t simply walk in there and tear his head off. It could have been a coincidence that it came to you, it could have been a wrong email address, and don’t forget – he could be completely innocent. He shot the film, yes, but that isn’t a crime. Until we know for sure, you have to treat him as innocent.’
‘He-’
‘All he did was film one of your recruits having sex, for money, and sold it for a great deal of profit so people could watch her, naked and exposed, and touch themselves to it. Jerk off, while watching her being exploited on video. But that’s ok, you don’t care about her, so there’s really no reason to be mad at him.’
He stared at the Russian. He stood, pushed his chair back, and walked into the bathroom, walked across to the far wall, and put his fist through the brick. He wrenched his hand back through, washed off the dust, then went back to the table.
Grigori popped the last small piece of quiche into his mouth, and looked at him, eyebrows raised. ‘What was that?’
‘Nothing.’
‘I know you didn’t have to piss.’
‘Leave it be.’
‘Magnolia’s video is part of a series, dedicated to our feathered friends, all of them are pretty much like you saw, but some are a lot worse. She got off easy.’
‘Only you would say that.’
‘People have done a lot worse for money, Taylor,’ Grigori said, ‘not everyone has the luxury of requiring whatever they want.’
‘I don’t care.’
There was no reason to care. No reason to take notice. No reason to consider the facts, or think about them more than the once that it took to record to memory.
The information…it was pointless, it concerned the dead Magnolia. The old Magnolia. The one that had fought back against him, that had sworn at him, had threatened to kill him on dozens of occasions, had been…imperfect. Hadn’t been his.
The Magnolia in the Agency now. In the infirmary. That’s what was important. She was the real Magnolia. The Magnolia in the video wasn’t her, no matter what his visual recognition system said. It wasn’t her. Not the her that counted. Not the her that was his.
‘I don’t care,’ he said again.
Grigori stared at him, disappointed, then looked, staring at the offices of Torgon Assail again. ‘So why is it,’ the blond asked him, ‘that you believed her when she told you that you were alive, when nothing else could convince you otherwise?’
She’d pulled him from the fire, saved their lives. She’d been beside him as they’d waited for the magic to clear from the air. He’d thanked her. He’d nearly… He’d nearly…
He reached across the table, and grabbed Grigori’s glass of water, chugging down the contents before slamming it down onto the table.
‘You’re making things complicated,’ he said, unsure of if he was talking to the Russian, or to himself.
Grigori was talking of nonsense. Magnolia was…
Duty.
There was generation, there was duty, there was the end of duty. Three steps. The perfect agent life. There weren’t supposed to be complications. There weren’t supposed to be complexities, or issues. There was just duty, just the rules that kept things simple. There were parameters. There were parameters, and life was supposed to exist between them.
Outside of parameters was where problems occurred. Outside of parameters was where complications happened. Was where weakness happened. Was where des-
Duty.
He focused his thoughts.
Duty.
‘Excuse me,’ he said, leaving the table again. He went into the bathroom, again, and punched through the wall, again. He washed his hands again, but stared at himself in the mirror.
He wasn’t how he had been generated. He’d altered his parameters – for his duty, his height, his muscles, all to serve his duty. His hair, that hadn’t been for duty, that had been from fear, from weakness. No one had ever commented. No one ever commented. Except for the waste-of-space experiment, who had likened him to a volcano whilst he’d been in the process of tearing out her spine.
He reached up and touched it, wanting to be back in a system area so that he could change it back, so that he could give up the weakness, go back to being as he should be.
Back where there was only duty.
Back where it was safe.
Back where he didn’t think about his Aide far more than he should.
Back where he hadn’t touched her leg. Where he hadn’t caused her pleasure. Back where he hadn’t put his face close to hers to thank her, close enough to-
Back where the be all, and end all of every thought was duty.
As it should be.
He made a note to investigate emotional purging – there had to be some scholarly way of degrading parts of himself back towards a newborn, uncomplicated state, methods that would not hinder his performance in any way.
Duty.
As it should be.
He stared at himself in the mirror for a moment longer, then straightened his shirt, the ridiculously unarmored jacket, steeled himself and walked back out.
The table was empty.
There was a whistle from the door. ‘Come on,’ Grigori called. ‘Time to go.’
They crossed the busy street, cars and buses waiting on pedestrians and flying brethren of all sizes. The building was innocuous, a simple office block, a simple sliding door affording them access – a smaller revolving doors giving access to the fairies that did not wish to change from their six-inch form.
A receptionist greeted them, and Grigori signed them in under fake names, showing ID that matched – a precaution that he should have considered, but hadn’t. A misstep on his part. A mistake on his part. A weakness. A fault. Something he needed to move away from, become better than.
They traveled up in the lift in silence, Grigori playing with his own jacket, before turning to him, treating him like a damned doll again, making sure he was picture perfect.
Another receptionist greeted them, and Grigori gave the fake names again, and flirted with the woman at the counter. He sat on the hard plastic chair, posters from the various exploitative films staring back at him, bearing breasts, legs, and arses without shame.
None, thankfully, featured his recruit.
There was one, however, one for one of the faux-Agent exploitative films, showing two men impersonating agents, a large-breasted between them in a mocking attempt at appearing as a recruit. He stared at it, trying to understand the appeal, then simply stared at the carpet.
The carpet was covered in penises.
Woven into the design of the carpet were hundreds and and hundreds of phalli, endless phallus designs, repeating in endless combinations across the entire office.
He stared at his hands. They were unlikely to erupt in phalli.
Grigori slapped him on the shoulder. ‘He’s ready to see us now.’
He followed the Russian into the next room, a corner office with a view over a dingy alley. Torgon Assail stood, wings flat down the back of his expensive-looking suit, portraying himself in much the manner Clarke did when trying to placate an angry contact.
Torgon smiled at them. ‘Oh, you two are excellent,’ he said with a grin. ‘I’ll have to book a proper audition, but if you wouldn’t mind giving me a sample, I’ll pay you at normal rates. Now who is-’
‘I may have mislead your secretary,’ Grigori said, stopping Torgon. ‘We have some questions to ask you.’
‘Look,’ Torgon said, ‘I don’t care if you aren’t professionals, and we can give you pseudonyms if you want, maybe even organise for a glamour, if you’re worried about some reputation or the other, but that’s coming out of your pay. Ginger, be a good boy and blow blondie for me, I want to see what you two can do, I’m getting some very, very good ideas. Would you be up for more than one film? I don’t think people would get tired of you two easily. Hop to it Ginger, I don’t have all day.’
‘Mister Assail,’ Grigori said. ‘We aren’t here to audition.’
‘Look, Blondie, everyone has to audition, now I think you’re the hottest thing since they released lava berry pancakes, but everyone has to-’
Grigori stepped forward. ‘We’re agents.’
‘Yeah, yeah, everyone’s an agent. Hell, I cameoed as one in the third-’
‘We. Are. Agents,’ he said, stepping toward the desk, ready to push his way past Grigori and dangle the fairy out of his precious corner office window until he stopped speaking.
‘Oh, he speaks, unfortunate, mute is kind of in vogue at the moment, would you mind playing mute, Ginger?’
Grigori held up his ID, his real ID, not the false one he’d flashed to the women behind the desks.
Torgon sat down immediately. ‘Oh,’ the fairy said, ‘I see. Well, gentlemen, if you ever feel like a change of career, come see me, I could set you up for a comfortable few years.’ He took a drink from an open bottle. ‘What can I do for you?’
‘We want some information on one of your films.’
‘It’ll depend on what kind of information,’ Torgon said. ‘I’m not obligated to help the Agency.’
‘I’ll be grateful,’ Grigori said.
Torgon looked away from Grigori, his small eyes bearing down on him. ‘How grateful?’
‘Don’t look at him,’ Grigori snapped. ‘Look at me. And how grateful I’ll be depends on what kind o information you give us, and how helpful you are.’
Torgon sat back in his chair, stroked his chin, then sat up, and wriggled his computer’s mouse. ‘What movie?’
‘Dirty Birds Nineteen,’ Grigori said.
‘For such a quick movie, it’s getting a lot of attention lately.’ The fairy’s lips twisted into an unsettling smile. ‘Which one of you did it come to?’
‘You sent it?’ he said, moving closer to the desk.
‘Hey, Ginger, settle boy, only doing what I was paid to.’
‘By whom?’ Grigori asked.
‘How grateful?’ Torgon asked Grigori again.
Grigori’s look didn’t falter. ‘Answer the question.’
‘Magpie herself,’ Torgon said. ‘Paid me quite a lot.’
‘To send one copy to one email address?’ Grigori asked.
‘No, that was just the first step, wide, free distribution was the payday. Makes it all worthwhile, it wasn’t exactly easy working with a first-timer. Not the most desperate I’ve seen, and more than willing to open every which way I said, but it’s still hard when you’re working with untrained actors. I offered her more roles, you know, wanted to do a spin-off “Hammering the Hammond”, not that it would work, because she wanted to use a fake-name.’
He felt his hands curl into fists, and Torgon smiled.
Duty. He was there to find out information. Not to care. Not to give a damn. It wasn’t important.
‘Oh,’ the fairy said, ‘it was you. Six, that’s a lot for one girl to take on, and we left a lot on the cutting room floor, I only like the best shots to go in, I may make porn, gentlemen, but I do quality work, I’m a filmmaker after all. So, Agent, there’s a lot of banging that you didn’t see, lots of takes on some of those scenes.’
He felt his fingernails break skin.
Duty.
It was all about duty.
‘And, after all was said and done,’ Torgon said, ‘I had a go myself.’ The fairy leaned forward and lit a cigarette. ‘I mean, she was exhausted, really too tired to say no, I think she said yes, I think. Made it worth her while, twenty bucks seems fair, don’t you think?’
He was an agent.
He was an agent.
He had his duty.
He had his answers, all that he needed to know.
He was an agent.
He had his duty.
His duty was to-
He reached across the desk, and snapped Torgon Assail’s neck.