Just like in my other life the urge to screw just anyone at all passed quickly. Without any ‘romance’ the animal urge passed easily. Okay that was probably bullshit in the new wrapper and maybe it had been in the old wrapper as well, but it helped me to stay sane. No woman, not even the sluttiest, wants to believe that they are beyond being able to say no to a man.
I went into power saving standby mode. I just sat there like a microwave oven which was not being used at the moment. My clock was keeping time, and I was one push of the button away from being at full power.
A man, who I had never seen, came into the room. I sensed him. In the old me it would have been debatable whether I really did or not. In the new me, there was no question. My sensors picked up his breathing and even the change in the air temperature caused by his body heat. Hell I could even tell you his body weight more than likely.
I opened the protective lids over the lenses of my extremely low light sensors and there he was. I had never seen him before, but I knew he was all business from the way he held himself. That and the thick file in his hands.
“Good morning Maxine, I think it will be easier for us both if we have a real conversation, at least this first time.” he suggested.
“You seem to be holding the file, and all the cards for now,” I said it to challenge him just a bit.
“So I do. They told me you were going to be difficult,” he suggested.
“I do hope you are up to it,” I replied.
“As do I. My code name is Drake.” he said confidently.
“As in the duck?” I asked.
“That could easily be your interpretation, or maybe as in Sir Francis Drake.” he replied.
“Why, Sir Francis Drake?” I asked.
“Because your code name has been chosen, since you are going operational now,” Drake informed me.
“I do hope it isn’t lady anything. That always reminds me of a dog’s name. I know I can be a bitch sometimes, but I don’t like to be reminded.” I admitted.
“Your code name is Duchess,” he replied without smiling.
“Duchess interesting choice,” I suggested.
“I didn’t choose it, so let’s move on,” he replied.
“Whatever you wish Drake,” I said using his code name jokingly. “So I am being commissioned. Do you break a champaign bottle over my head?”
“Nothing like that, we just give you an objective and push you out into the cold cruel world.”
“Now that is not very nice. But then I don’t suppose I have a choice,” I said.
“I have a little speech, but why bother,” he said. “You owe us big time Maxine. If not for this program, you would be in a hospital bed with tubes up your ass for as long as they chose to keep you ‘alive’.
We gave you a second life, and a chance to kill the asshole who killed you.So like any other entity, we want to collect on our investment. You have had time to adjust to your new body. We have also had time to adjust to your personality, such as it is. Now it’s time we see what you can do together.”
“Believe it or not that sounds perfectly reasonable to me,” I replied.
“You were getting bored already. Well love, you are going to have to make do with playing real estate tycoon in that little piece of hell you call home. We can’t have you running from job to job. You have very special talents and uses.
So between assignments find something you can use to pass the time. Before you ask, if you were an Eve, we would just put you in a storage building until we need you. Since you can manage yourself, it’s no skin off our ass, if you function in Aster between jobs. Doing that keeps you current, so that we don’t have to do a catch up download. Sometimes we miss something important before we send you out. You can keep yourself fully updated. It’s a real win, win for us.
“Okay I get it, so what’s the job?” I asked.
“Oh you are going to love this one,” he said throwing the big file in front of me. “You get to go undercover in D.C. instead of crawling through the jungle somewhere. Well it isn’t exactly undercover, but you get to do some playacting.”
“The pictures in this folder are people in evening clothes. Am I going to pretend to be a party animal?” I asked smiling.
“That’s exactly what you are going to do. You, and your predecessors, can drink anything, ingest anything, and still function perfectly. That is a great asset when you are undercover. In your case, even if they put you in a bunker you can still function just fine. The Lucy types were lost without direct contact with the farm. Eve not completely, but she couldn’t function with any nuances, so she could be easily detected.
You, on the other hand, can manage just fine even when cutoff from the farm completely. You can improvise, they can as well, but to a much smaller degree. They have to take their hints from what’s going on around them, but you can have original thoughts. You are the perfect undercover agent.”
“Not to mention I’m the perfect suicide bomb if things get really nasty,” I said.
“Who told you that?” he asked angrily.
“Sweetie, as you said I’m no idiot. If they take me prisoner and it looks as though there is no way out, you are going to do a Lucy to me. I can’t fall into enemy hands for any serious investigations.”
“Even if that were true, being taken isn’t very likely, in your case. Unlike the Lucy or Eve types, you have a hell of a lot of field smarts. You can sense a trap, where they might walk into it.”
“You do know all this suicide bomber talk makes me wonder about some of those bombs in the middle east.” I said.
“Those are real people. People are a hell of a lot more disposable in some cultures than others,” he informed me.
“But there is always a point where they are disposable in all cultures,” I said.
“I guess the value of life is set on a sliding scale,” Drake admitted.
“I pretty much understand why I have been chosen for this gig,” I admitted.
“There is one more reason you might as well know up front. It has to do with who you are. We can get you into places it would be hard to insert other agents. Let’s face it you are known to the other players. You are even known to a lot of the non players,” he reminded me.
“So the fact that I didn’t win the Emmy doesn’t disqualify me?” I asked.
“Did you see the U tube interview that went viral,” he asked.
“I knew there was one, but I never saw it,” I admitted.
“At the end the entertainment reporter said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen those scars are not tattoos or make up. Maxine Stone is the real deal.’”
“I’m not sure that was a compliment,” I replied. “Since I didn’t win.”
“The show won, and you have been picked up for another year.” Drake said.
“They will not be filming anymore episodes. They are just editing what they have.” I explained.
“Yeah we know. So the point is you have enough celebrity that people want to have you around. Therefore you can get into some places none of our other operatives can.”
“Which brings us back to the file,” I suggested.
“We have decided to throw one of those round up the usual suspects parties,” Drake explained.
“You mean, like the Super bowl party where the cops serve all the old warrants?” I asked.
“That’s exactly what I mean. We want to throw a party and invite a lot of TV people and some fringe players. Just to see who shows and who wants to play,” Drake admitted.
“So you get a lot of Muslims drinking liquor. It’s not exactly big time blackmail material,” I suggested.
“True, but it is a start,” Drake informed me.
“Drake there is more to this isn’t there?” I suggested.
“First we need to get you into the right crowd, then see how high you rise in the ranks without forcing it. Whatever we learn along the way is just gravy,” he said.
“So, you want to use my name as hostess?” I said.
“Well no, we want you to set it up. Take a place in D.C. and make the arrangements.”
“That’s out of the question, my life is in Aster,” I said.
“Maxine, you owe us. We gave you this second chance and we helped you get the man who shot you.”
“I owe it to you to do the mission, but not to move to D.C. that is cruel and unusual punishment.” I said sharply.
“So where do we compromise?” he asked.
“I will become intimately involved with this mission, but not live in D.C.” I promised.
“Then you need a surrogate in D.C.” Drake suggested.
“How about Eve. We can set her up as a party planner and I can communicate with her,” I suggested.
“You are going to need to go to D.C. in order to make your presence felt there,” Drake demanded.
“It’s a long drive from Aster to D.C. and you know I can not get on an airplane,” I said.
“Sure you can, you just can’t get on a commercial flight. Actually you have some friends, who run an airway. An airline which doesn’t fly commercial flights. Let me check something?” Drake said. Then he punched a few keys on his toy laptop.
“Okay, I just Checked they can swing by to pick you up at the local grass strip air port. They can fly you to D.C. as part of their regular scheduled run. It will be a little out of their way, but we can make the arrangements.”
“This thing is that important to you?” I asked.
“What you don’t get yet Maxine is that, you being you, is what will make this work. People will want to be around you, because you aren’t part of the games they play in their normal life. The fact that not playing their game, is our game will never occur to them. By the time they figure it out, we will have done what we need to do.”
“You realize that this makes no sense whatsoever,” I suggested.
“If it made sense sweetie, it would never work. If we understood what we were doing, so would the bad guys,” he said with a laugh.
“So we need to get Eve in the loop?” I asked.
“Eve will go along, so no she just needs to be briefed when we have everything ready to go. First thing we need is a place for Eve to stay till you come to town then for you to do your entertaining.”
“Drake this is pure madness. I really don’t care much for parties. How the hell will I ever figure out how to throw one?”
“Maxine, if you had to do it without our help, who would you ask to help?” Drake said.
“Jennifer, but I can’t take her away from her practice for this,” I said.
“No but you can have her put a staff together for you. It will make it all seem more straight, square, and plumb,” Drake said. “See Maxine this is all about you being you. That’s our best cover and it’s your best defense.”
And that’s how we left it. I was back on the road after lunch on Saturday. I didn’t have lunch, but I got to drink coffee while the so called real people ate. After they finished, I had two more meetings about the new sensors and receptors. After those I was free to get back on the road.