When I entered the conference room, I recognized Dr Bennet from my last overhaul, then there was Drake, my case officer, and two women I had never seen before. I sat across from them all and kept my mouth shut. Probably a first for me.
“Well Maxine, we are holding this consultation verbally rather than just implanting our findings. So far we have found you respond better, if you have input.” one of the women said.
“That is true, I do tend to go along better, if I have some idea where I am going and why,” I agreed.
“First of all, we need to deal with the fact that you knew the identity of the person who attempted to assassinate a sitting US Senator and didn’t reveal that to us.” The more in charge looking woman commented.
“I also didn’t murder him for you at the time. I’m sorry you guys like your euphemisms. I didn’t eliminate him for you.” I said aloud.
“So your excuse was that it would have exceeded your orders. Was that the real reason,” the man I knew as Drake asked.
“Drake, if during a field operation you think there is only one reason for an agents actions, you are a virgin.” I said keeping my voice as even as possible. “I know you are supposed to have real field experience, so I have no idea why you would ask that, unless it was for those who have never been in the field.”
“Explain it to them,” Drake demanded.
“First of all, it he had been a total stranger, I would also not have killed him. I would have done exactly the same thing, I would have neutralize the threat and gotten the Senator the hell out of there. Leaving the mooch for the local cops to deal with.
If I had killed the son of a bitch, what would I have had to do with the body not even twenty feet from a hundred runners. What would I have done with it in a strange town. Would you really prefer me to call you up on Saturday morning. Then say to you, I have a body in the middle of the Washington Marathon route. Could you send a clean up crew immediately, since someone is going to stumble over us any minute.
Worse still would you want me to take an arrest and wind up in jail with cops and medical people probing me. Would you want to trip the doomsday switch in a DC police station with homeland security doing the investigation. There is more, but I think you get the idea.
Oh yeah there is also the fact that Irish told me why the Senator was on the Admiral’s hit list. He sold the Iranians the codes to bring down that Drone. I know, because I am who I am, that the Irishman had been working on the Drone’s recovery in Cairo last week. So there was a good possibility after he told me that, I might run down the senator and kill him myself. It was no better than 50/50 for a few minutes there.” I informed them.
“We would never have allowed that,” the first woman said.
Doctor Bennet looked at me and smiled. then said, “Emily there is no way we could have discussed it and made the decision in time to have stopped it. We are always going to be able to second guess Maxine, but we are never going to be able to act fast enough to prevent a single unscripted act from her. That is the nature of the beast I created.”
The Doctor took a breath then turned to me. “That Maxine is why we are here, can we live with it. Or should we shut you down permanently and hope we find out how to control the next one better.”
“Shutting me down is your decision to make, but don’t even think you can make the next one more obedient. What you have is like the doctor said the nature of the beast. If the big selling point for me is that I can make a decision without you holding my hand, then guess what. I am going to make decisions without you holding my hand. Then so is any other agent whose brain you suck dry.
As I told you before the best you can do is tell me what you want the final outcome to be, and then help me get there, but leave the final operational details to me.
I’m the one who has to live with Hitler’s final solution. That is if I fail to figure all the angles. I can live with that.”
“We have been pretty good at that so far,” Drake said. “Giving you room to operate. We have been second guessing you, but that’s the nature of your beast.”
“Yes and I have no problem explaining about the Irishman, but get this. I am not going to stop making that kind of decision. You can complain and I will take it into consideration next time, but the decision has to be mine or I can’t operate.”
“We can understand that you we can’t tie your hands completely and expect you to function,” the woman called Emily said. “We do want some input into how you do things.”
“Input and orders aren’t the same thing, but I will listen and I do listen now,” I said. “I also do the job you want done with a minimum of drama.”
“Okay we will lay our complaints out and you lay yours out. How is that?” Emily asked.
“Fair enough,” I agreed. “You go first.”
“You don’t trust us.” she said.
“Now that covers a lot of ground. If it came down to choosing what was best for me or best for the agency. What would you choose?” I asked.
“Okay, I grant you that. But someone has to have the final word in these matters,” Drake added.
“If you trusted me, it would be like it has always been, the agent in the field has the final decision to make. Why do you feel like you have to second guess me more than you would your most experienced operative. I’ll tell you why, because you can.”
“There is some truth to that,” he said.
“I don’t mind it at all, when you tell me to ask some asshole the bid date for a missile program. That’s trivial bullshit, but if you were to ask me why I did or did not kill someone real time, that is beyond reasonable. I have to live or die with the consequences, so I have to make those operational decisions.”
“If we just suggest things as you go along will you stop using the jammer.” Drake asked.
“No, I have to have the confidence of my own sources, or I might just compromise the mission. What I am saying is that I have to operate on a mission priority basis and you have to understand that. It’s how I have always worked and it’s why you rushed me through, rather than let me die.” Sure it was presumptuous to make that statement, but I felt like I had a good shot of being understood.
The nameless lady asked, “My concern is for your mental state. Are you still who you were and how are you handling this new you?”
“Sweetie, no one is ever who they think they are. We all have to deal with the changing world around us. I had a real shock, but I have managed to get my world to fit the new me. Somethings are better and some are worse, but my own life would have been like that. Nothing stays the same.”
I stopped then quickly turned back to her before anyone else could speak. “My concern in that area was that I couldn’t feel anything for others after the change. I find that I could feel real friendship and attraction for Sylvia just as I still feel it for Jen. So it wasn’t all memory, memory just told me how I should feel toward her and how I should treat Sylvia, so I began making new memories with her. She will never be Jen, but she can be Sylvia now. Do you understand what I am saying?”
“I most certainly do and it is a healthy perspective,” the unnamed woman said.
“My concern is how you treat that body. So far I have no complaints. You monitor the power carefully and that is the main thing. Your diagnostics only get run if we do it while you are in your power down stage. You really should run those more often.”
“Are you able to repair things with me in Aster and you here?” I asked.
“Not really, but we can alert you to when things need to be repaired,” he said rather snippy.”
“Doc, if I run the diagnostic at 3PM or you run it at 3AM is there really a significant difference?”
“I guess not,” the Doctor admitted. “So I guess I don’t have any real complaints.”
“Well, I am not happy with being excluded from the loop, but I can’t complain with your results. You are making significant inroads into the DC culture of perversion. You also did the Senator protection job just exactly as I would have done it myself. I might have stayed till the cops got their hands on the mooch, but I do understand why you didn’t, so I’m good with it.” Drake even smiled and nodded his head at me.
“Well that leaves only me. I am not comfortable giving you that much freedom. But if you will accept that I have the same rights with you as I have with any other agent, I think we can do it.”
“If you accept that you are just another client, and I will do for you what I do for them, then yes. You can monitor me as you would any scientific experiment. What you can not do is to interfere with my ongoing operations in any way.
I will use the jammer now and then because if you know somethings you will be compelled to act against my interest, which is going against the mission interest. If you know, you will have to do something, or risk your ass. If you don’t know, then you can put me down like a sick dog, should I fuck up. That is the same as with any other agent.”
I paused took a deep breath then said, “Just accept that even with these compromises, I can still do more for you than any other agent you have. Also I have less baggage these days. I am pretty much fearless as well, and you do not have to carry me on your books anywhere.” I knew that last would get her attention. No financial or personal responsibility for my operations. I was just a credit card account in the black ledger.
“I think we have the framework for a working arrangement. You know we have too much invested to shut you down without really. really good reason. I think you feel an obligation to us for your life which you will honor. We also have control of your spare parts and repair service. It is truly a symbiotic relationship.”
“So I can go home now and sin no more,” I suggested with a smile.
“Actually we are all counting on your continual sinning,” Emily suggested.
“Speaking of which, how would you feel about doing some consulting work for local police departments on politically sensitive cases? They will have the lead you will just have to get them to trust you.” Drake asked.
“Got to be more fun than beating bureaucrats with a belt,” I replied.
“I don’t know, that sounds to me like it might be fun,” the nameless woman said.
“For a minute or two,” I admitted with a grin.
“Well I did promise not to bore you,” Drake suggested.
“Yes you did, and so far you have kept your word, but then so have I,” I said smiling.
“We checked very carefully and found that the people Jen had to buy your properties in the Drugstore conversion were shaky. The professors are fine,” Emily informed me.
“Gee, why don’t I just give Kate your number and you can handle my real estate holdings,” I said with a laugh.
“We just want to keep trouble away from you and our other retired agents,” she said. “By the way those kids are going to sell you the housing project by the mill. Try to keep the price of those single family houses down to under 100K. We have a lot of lower level employees who need to get the fuck out of DC,” Emily said. “It seems that everyone wants to retire there.”
“Should I save the fancy Drugstore unit for one of you?” I asked.
“Don’t bother, I trust you can find us something when the time comes. Or at least Kate can.”
“Tell me you aren’t pulling Kate’s strings?” I asked laughing.
“You know us Maxine, we will tell you whatever we think you need to know, just like you do us.” She finally seemed to get it.