Ryan looked around the waiting room – it was an affectation that most Directors had. It was an affectation that even Reynolds had bowed to.

He hadn’t bothered with a waiting room. The Director position wasn’t his forever. It would be the height of arrogance to take on the small touches that real directors were entitled to. He was filling his father’s shoes, nothing more.
Hook hadn’t joined him – this had seemed like a matter to be solved agent-to-agent – and there was no way of knowing how Robinson – or Reilly, should he appear – would react to seeing a member of the Lost.
The waiting room was pleasant, in that bland way that was the standard design principle of the Agency in general. There were a few black and white photos on the wall – and a young woman sitting at a small desk in the corner. She had offered him a drink, then informed him that Director Robinson was running late.
Real directors were allowed to run late. If he ran late for an appointment, it was a black mark against him.
Half an hour after his scheduled appointment, the secretary raised a hand. ‘Director Ryan? He will see you now?’
He looked to the young woman, smiled, then walked to Robinson’s door, and knocked before entering.
Director Robinson’s office was no surprise – it was a typical look for an agent of his age and location – rich, paneled wooden walls, dozens of leather-bound books, and furniture that would have cost a civilian a tidy sum.
Robinson stepped forward, and shook his hand. ‘Sorry to keep you waiting,’ he said. ‘What can I help you with, Ryan? Please, sit,’ he said, indicating to the chairs in front of the desk.
‘This is a delicate matter,’ Ryan said. He had run the words through his mind a hundred times – there was no easy way to tell another agent that someone under their command was guilty of a crime – and moreover, and offence against an innocent.
‘Speak your mind,’ Robinson said, ‘someone of your station wouldn’t waste my time.’
Ryan laid the first folder on Robinson’s desk – this one contained the summary reports from the Lost. ‘Your Agent Reilly has been abusing his son. His caregiver from the Lost has removed him for his own safety.’ He laid the second folder down. ‘This is an order codifying that decision, and granting a stay of custody from Reilly, an order that is likely to be made permanent, once there had been time for further review.’
Robinson took the Lost’s file, the expression on his face unchanging and read through it. ‘I see,’ Robinson said after several minutes of silence. ‘You can be assured that he will be punished in line with the appropriate procedures.’
There was professionality, there was being aloof, and there was not caring. From how he was reading Robinson, the man’s reaction seemed to be the last. There were no photos of children on Robinson’s walls – that wasn’t proof that the man wasn’t a father, but even without children of his own…there should have been an emotional reaction. There should have been something. Anything.
An agent abusing a child was not something that-
‘I’ll speak with him directly, Agent,’ Robinson said. ‘And I will ensure that-’
‘We may need to speak with him,’ Ryan said, breaking in, ‘to understand what he did to his son, in order to reverse it.’
Robinson gave a noncommittal half-nod. ‘All of your appointments with him will need to be booked through me, in order to comply with the procedures.’
‘Sir, if you’ll permit me, what he’s done is-’
‘Ryan, if you’ll forgive my bluntness.’ Robinson folded his hands together. ‘My first and main priority is the smooth operation of this agency. Reilly’s actions have not impeded his Duty, so however reprehensible his actions have been, that will be a mitigating factor in his favour.’ Robinson was quiet for a moment. ‘I know it is an unpopular opinion, but I have never agreed with agents having families. They can be a detriment to duty, and to a proper work performance.’
Ryan suddenly got the uncomfortable feeling that he was looking at himself.
Emotions had been hard. Emotions had been harder, because of his connection to Rhys. It had been easier to suppress, to double-think, to be the quiet one, and allow Reynolds to take the lead whenever something other than pure logic had been required.
There were agents that Reynolds, other senior agents, and now he, called “the best of us”, agents that were…in their way, almost the platonic, Solstice ideal of an agent. Agents who didn’t speak, who instead always used communication mode; agents who didn’t have friendships, or romances. Agents who were far more machine than man.
And he could have been one of them.
His first birthday – his first annual evaluation – when the Agency had been far smaller than it was now, two of “the best”had been sent to judge him. They had shifted in, silent as executioners, ready to scrutinise every action he had taken.
And his emotions: their lack, or his fear of them – had been something that had appealed to him. They had seen a potential in him. A potential to be one of the greats. And the offer had been tempting – there would have been no pressure to be a man, just to be an agent.
No more comparisons to Rhys. No more invitations to laugh when he didn’t understand a joke. No more…attempts to playact at being a person.
He had – as a good agent should – requested permission to speak with his Director. Reynolds had spoken of the opportunity – along with the fringe benefits – even whilst in the early decades of the Agency, it was expected that Central agents would live danger-free lives, compared to their field services counterparts.
Reynolds had taken him to see the stars. To stand in the night air. There had been life – even if he didn’t know what it meant yet. There was the wish to be more, even if he could never measure up.
He had declined, and for better or worse, he had become a person.
Robinson seemed like someone who would have jumped at the offer. An agent who truly believed that they were nothing more than their Duty; that Duty for Duty’s sake was enough. Duty without meaning, Duty without an anchor…was a Duty you wouldn’t perform to your utmost, as it meant nothing more than the words in your code. Duty performed to protect family, friends, lovers – that was a Duty far more fulfilled, a Duty you would die for.
He had a sudden, driving wish to hold his daughter. To see the latest incarnation of why he fought every day, in its sugar-covered, five-foot-tall form.
‘I appreciate your point of view,’ he said, to fill the silence. They were safe words. Words that meant nothing. That sounded good. ‘My Technical agent will be in contact, when we know what we need from Reilly.’
Director Robinson nodded. ‘Feel free to contact me if you need anything further.’ He extended his hand. ‘Good to see you, Agent.’