Tag Archives: Benoit

“I understand it’s a longshot.”

« Toxicology report available. [C] ^@, [t] 87 detected. »

^@.

Agent Aird didn’t think those were numbers. Then again, it’d been twenty-six years since kindergarten.

^@.

The rest of the text read normal. Compounds were defined. Outside of a name, his suit seemed to know this.

Agent Aird lowered his goggles and turned back around, looking ^ and @ her.

“All right,” he said. “I understand it’s a longshot, but when the spooky A-3 jabbed my neck with a mystery chem, did you consider asking what it was he gave me?”

Agent Karla Chai, who had yet to stop smiling, or to blink, maintained her stance on both of these.

“Sure, boss,” she death rattled.

Then she stopped talking, and stared at him.

“But you didn’t ask because,” he prompted.

“Orders, boss.”

Orders.

She stopped. And stared. Almost blinked, before he realized it’d been his reflection in the glassy whites of her monolidded eyes.

“What orders, Agent Chai,” he inquired.

She smiled wider.

“To not to, boss.”

That was his fault. He deserved the non-answer for a bad question.

“Okay.” Agent Aird tried again. “Whose orders?”

“Talbot’s, boss.”

Great! Okay, this was good. He kept a straight face, but they were getting somewhere. Agent Chai had cooperated.

Masked suits took patience. He’d been one. He knew she could talk in full sentences, but he also knew she felt slighted by him moving in on 616 outside of their investigation’s scope. In hindsight, to a Deployable, that dumpster meant vindication, but as this investigation’s lead, Agent Aird had been obligated to visually confirm their target’s status, especially at the sign of a disturbance in an area with reported external threats. He’d agreed to let Agent Chai donate her mask to him during this to prove he still valued her input, but again, he used to be Deployable. This was what they did. Once she got it out of her system, they could move on.

Her creepy jack-o’-lantern grin, he just kept ignoring, along with how her arms dangled, ready to grab whatever landed in their reach. His grandma had an old, Victorian doll collection; Agent Chai reminded him of the one his cousin gave a haircut. The eyes didn’t shut, the paint had scraped off, the cheeks were black from fingerprints, and a tattered bowl of fake hair drooped from its head. He used to find it under his blanket taped to a knife. Agent Aird didn’t like his cousin. In that vein, for her second time in the last fifteen minutes, she blinked.

No, that was his reflection.

“Agent Talbot told you not to inspect the chemicals added to my bloodstream,” he restated. “Show me.”

She did. Agent Chai curled her arm towards her belt, leaving the other to hang. The gap between her rows of teeth swelled.

“All yours,” she said, holding out her issued phone, “boss.”

Then she stared.

“Thank you. Agent Chai.” He took a moment of angling his hand before accepting her offer so they wouldn’t have to touch – out of politeness. He was a mess; it wasn’t as if Agent Aird thought she was going to bite him. Anyway, “He texted you?”

“Problem, boss?”

“No,” he said. “It’s no problem.”

It was more casual than he expected, but he dealt mostly with A-2s.

You can ask but I cant say. Blame our privacy act

Their privacy act.

Did Agent Talbot mean privacy legislation? Was he treating ^@ as some sort of personal medical history?

“We good, boss?”

He quickly thumbed at the screen. The rest of their conversation was Agent Chai establishing how the A-3 had known so much of what happened: she told. Her tattling was accurate, but she’d gone into excessive detail. On that note, Agent Aird stressed, “You realize I was dying through this. In a dumpster.”

That dumpster. The one she’d watched as he crawled out from under the lid, and then while he dragged himself over the rim, crushing his leg to better land like a brick and re-heal from ^@.

She scrolled for him.

Hes fine

“Oh. Good.” He’d been worried they didn’t care. Now when Agent Aird caught whiffs of the hours spent baking the curls upon his head into layers of fish, Indian take-out, and kibble clotted at varying stages of digestion, he could rest assured they’d left him there deliberately. “Thank you, Agent Chai.”

“Welcome, boss.”

He couldn’t tell if that was sarcasm. She seemed to know this. Her grin stretched. He couldn’t tell if that was sarcasm.

“Where are we with the job,” Agent Aird asked instead.

“Where you left it, boss.”

What Agent Chai, the Deployable, had meant was that his involvement left no discernible impact on their work either way. What she had referenced, and what Agent Aird elected to focus his attention towards, was that the status of the external threat hadn’t advanced. She was wrong; they now had to manage an active DTD armed with new knowledge of their target’s hotspots. These were hotspots purportedly swarming with external threat activity. If the DTD lied about wanting to avoid them, it pit a maximally volatile case against a group that cared even less about discretion.

“I think,” he said, “I need to call Agent Talbot.”

Domestic disturbance, acted on local reports, sought to verify the case’s ultimately inaccurate profile; when he was asked, he could at least explain his side of things.

“Using my phone, boss?”

Out of reflex, he began handing it back. He paused as he noticed she wasn’t taking the phone from him.

“What?”

“Gross, boss.”

The phone. He’d smeared it a little with what he told himself was innocently Vaseline. He tried wiping it, and crusted more of this dumpster paste into the charging port and under the volume rocker.

“Agent Chai,” Agent Aird suggested, “why don’t you find me something to clean up with?”

Without a word or facial tic of acknowledgement, his subordinate turned ninety degrees and moved past him. She then turned those ninety degrees back, and thus departed.

This wasn’t a person for whom out of sight, out of mind should have applied, but as she faded around the corner, he got the feeling she had never been here. It got chased by an odd plurality that she was also still behind him. She wasn’t, which he confirmed after snapping to check.

Good. Agent Aird was alone, free to call an upper tier Agent and explain how essentially a typo had put their second most delicate type of case into arm’s reach of anarchistic lunatics. The phone had 18% of its charge left; putting aside that neglect, he doubted the conversation would last past 16.

Benoit.”

“Agent Talbot? This is Agent Aird.” He kept his voice light and professional. “I’m calling about an overlap between our cases. Are you available to talk, sir?”

What followed was a long, gliding breath from the other end. To no one’s surprise, it sounded like somebody smoking.

Mr. Aird,” he heard afterwards. “You’re looking sprightly.

Agent Aird adjusted his posture, and checked the alley.

“I am, sir. Thank you,” he said, scouting the other way. “I’m feeling sprightly, too.”

Nothing reacted, chess pear.

Ah. French.

“No, sir. Not that I’ve detected.” Up. “But if I could ask, Agent Talbot,” he quickly proceeded to, scanning the brick by story, “what was I administered?”

You’re the suit. You tell me.

There. The man was leaning through a window, alighted on a sill now likely covered in ash. Those sunglasses and embers of a cigarette loomed from what Agent Aird counted as the sixth floor; along with the glass shards, it served as enough proof that this was the DTD’s room.

By the way – what?

“I’m sorry, sir. I’m not sure I caught that,” he lied. “What was I injected with?”

The phone-lit smog circled the A-3’s head. Through it, Agent Talbot gave what appeared to be a shrug.

I know what they think it is.” This twirled the smoke curling down the alley. “So?

Agent Aird didn’t answer. His professional instinct spoke, because nothing else would.

“Our system recognized it in part – I’m truly, very sorry, sir, but did you stick me in the neck without knowi–”

What part did it recognize?

Again, instinct said, “The compounds, sir. The make-up, the…” He wasn’t a scientist. “I can send the details to the lab and have them produce a report.”

Had I wanted to wait for the lab, Mr. Aird, I wouldn’t have stuck you in the neck.” Agent Aird wasn’t able to respond before the A-3 soared on with, “You mentioned an overlap.

“Yes.” He agreed. With this. With that – with what Agent Talbot was doing, moving along topics. They could discuss what had happened later, and if what had happened involved someone stabbing him to get to his suit’s bloodwork instead of waiting four days for a lab report. “There’s overlap.”

And you’re planning to tell me what it is.

“Yes. Yes, sir,” he said. “Given my condition at the time, I wasn’t able to inform you that the cross contamination of our cases surrounding my target’s known locations should be considered our new, top priority.” He waited for the hammer to drop. A-2s yelled, A-4s swore, A-5s telegraphed the impending consequences through hysterical laughter. Agent Talbot continued quietly smoking. “… Your target knows where my target could go, and may attempt to interact with her.”

Mm.

A-3s went mm.

Staring up this way hurt his neck; his posture was slacking. Agent Aird pulled back his shoulders, correcting his parade rest.

“As you’re aware, sir,” he resumed, “my target forms an extensive component of an A-1 project. More than any case, with no detraction intended towards your own, it cannot afford the public exposure risked through open conflict. We have two teams of sixty deployed to this location, one to address a locally reported external threat. I’m not sure how familiar you are with these reports, Agent Talbot; they’re classified, but I can assure you this threat won’t neglect the opportunity to attack your DTD if he’s discovered where they both think she’ll be.”

He counted to ten in the silence. He had to leave time for what he’d said to register. Or, as Agent Aird squinted, managing a clearer look, time for Agent Talbot to light a new cigarette off of the old one.

I can’t say I am familiar with these reports,” he heard exhaled. “Enlighten me.

It could have been sarcasm, or it could have been French. Either way, it seemed safer to reply in earnest.

“Other people with powers, sir. Quasi-organized. Destructive. They’re meant to be active in this area.”

Meant to be.

“Yes, sir.” According to the Keeler case file, which was obviously under review. “It’s best to err on the side of caution.”

Who am I to argue that.” Definitely sarcasm, however subtle the undertone. “All right, Mr. Aird. What do you suggest we do?

Him?

“I was hoping, sir,” Agent Aird said slowly, “that you would monitor the situation.”

Ban it’s been monitored. They’re out together as we speak.

His suit pinged. He didn’t need to check – he did – to know it was suggesting the 14. The grip he had on his phone tightened. His other hand centered behind his back clenched in a ball. Very evenly, Jason asked, “What?”

You know, Mr. Aird, for all the information you release, you don’t seem to get much.” The A-3 sounded like he had changed to speakerphone. From these six stories away, he also looked to have started poking at his screen. “Why, say sa. She’s not here, Karla writes.

Agent Chai. About Keeler.

“That doesn’t mean she’s with your target,” he argued.

I do.

A need to ask what Agent Talbot was basing this on pinched at the back of his mouth. Before the words could leave, he shut it. When it felt safe to speak, Agent Aird tried being less confrontational.

“When did she send this?”

I don’t get a sir?

“Sir, when did she send this,” he asked again, amplifying the urgency.

The sense of the A-3 rolling his eyes dripped down to the alley; nevertheless, he got a response: “A little before you called. I think they’ve maybe been out for an hour. Everything’s fine, Mr. Aird. I haven’t heard that he’s killed her yet.

Agent Aird had been thinking in terms of leverage through kidnapping. DTDs were trying to get away; the thought of this one stopping to usher in her wanton destruction hadn’t even crossed his mind.

“Sir,” he said, over his suit pinging about the 14, “I have to request full access to your case file.”

Agent Talbot laughed and laughed, and then laughed more for good measure.

Oh shit. You meant that.”

Of course he’d meant it.

“This situation has escalated beyond…” Agent Aird caught himself. “… well beyond my case’s condonable parameters –”

Do you rehearse how you talk, or is that it naturally?

“By authority of the A-1’s commission, I need to formally request, if not demand, that you supply me with your case’s full profile and its relevant, supporting information.”

His chest was seizing. If he hadn’t known what a heart attack felt like, he would swear this was it. He tried to keep his eyes focused on something close – like the fucking dumpster.

You don’t work for an A-1.

The smugness in there sent a hard series of pings through his neck. He didn’t need the 14. He wanted the 87.

“No, sir, I don’t. But I work for an A-4 with a direct line to his A-2, who has her direct line to that A-1. If I report to either of them that Bethany Keeler is at risk of dying because of a DTD, who went undisclosed in this area, I can promise they won’t ask as nicely as I did.”

He wasn’t shouting. He wasn’t quite not shouting, however, and now the silence on their line had flooded with his ragged, panicked wheezing. His throat still felt raw from how hard he’d had to work to breathe this morning – again, because of this guy’s rogue case.

You understand how this will turn out for you, should I give my interpretation of events.” The A-3’s voice had gone low and deliberate. “I’ll begin with you having divulged the very information being used against your target now.

“That’s okay, sir,” he cried, “because at this rate, I’ll be equally as screwed if she dies.”

Mm.

He counted to ten this time to keep his sanity. Every upper tier rank had quirks, but universally, they abided by the rule that the first to speak lost the negotiation. This was more of an ultimatum, he realized, but the rule applied. He stayed quiet, counting higher until he heard something.

I’ll think about it.

The line cut. Agent Talbot stepped back into the room’s embrace, and the gray smog thinned until it had cleared. Agent Aird was alone again. He stayed alone until the pings stopped.

Karla.

The name flashed through his mind like a bomb. He had her phone. How could she be texting? Why hadn’t he been the first for her to –

“Jason!”

He looked up in time to get hit in the face. It was a glove; more specifically, it was his glove. The other and Agent Chai’s mask landed beside him.

“As a favor, when I call your mommy, I won’t mention that the other boys stole your hat and mittens.”

And then Agent Talbot disappeared.

It could have been worse. He had his gloves back, and the mask he thought he’d lost. Reunited with this equipment, Agent Aird looked to the fifth floor.

“Don’t get caught this time,” he muttered.


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His suit chimed.

Agent Aird is an exceptional resource.

Agent Aird comes highly recommended.

Agent Aird is distinguished through initiative.

Dr. Grace Li offers a personal commendation.

Agent Aird is successfully on track to obtaining his A-5.

He was also dying in a dumpster.

The exceptional, highly recommended Agent Aird had been awake for an hour. It felt like days, and every sound that led to nothing stretched his wait. He’d sent a priority distress alert when his eyes first opened, but until his partner acknowledged it, and according to his goggles, she hadn’t, here he stayed, trapped in rancid bags of trash.

It’d been said that men were best known by their garbage. The dog shit priming his heels for when he finished sinking through molded curry gave all sorts of insight into these residents: they were assholes, in case attempted murder left too much doubt about it.

His suit chimed. He’d fought five broken ribs and a shattered leg to pull his goggles from their pouch on his calf; he would answer every ping it sent, whether or not they had news.

« Administering 87 (12%) – confirm/deny? »

Confirm.

He lowered his goggles back to his collarbone right as the arms of his suit hissed. The hundred, tiny needles pinched to bring a familiar, jolting high, and then dulled to a lucid hum.

« 87 (4%) administered. Next recommended dose: 17 minutes. »

This text was how he tracked time. The 87 could blunt severed limbs to a reasonable ache without the 85’s constipation, but like the rest of the 80 series, and unlike the 90s, it didn’t repair damage and wasn’t designed for extended use.

He hadn’t requested the 90 series. Those were for suits who got caught or were too stupid to think of a way out. Masked suits, in other words. Deployable.

Agent Aird anticipates and learns from others’ miscalculations.

He shouldn’t have borrowed her mask. Fading was already his second nature, and the edge a mask offered provided nothing if he broke his own illusion. The room upstairs was a mess; the most management-friendly explanation placed what happened on him unsettling the wrong pile of dirt. He knew better, but his alternative theories refused to ignore that that person had been neither one of them nor a civilian. If he’d been wearing his goggles instead of trying to make nice with subordinates, he would have an answer by now.

« Administering 14 (100%) – confirm/deny? »

Agent Aird blinked to deny and lowered his goggles again.

The 10 series moderated moods. His suit had sensed frustration, compared it to his physical health, and decided he was disadvantaged if he needed to hide. The fading technique relied on a calm mind, which didn’t come easily to rookies or closet panickers. As suits were no small investment, and following the mantra adopted from their parent company, the Agency picked salvage over surrender and developed a would-be Zen-state Viagra. He didn’t need it. He put his theories on hold, agreeing to look into them after he escaped this wet egg stench.

The last hiss of his 87 reserves ended with a whimper. There’d been no acknowledgement of his distress alert. His suit offered him the 14, and once he more, he blinked to refuse it. He could wait.

For seventeen long minutes, Agent Aird endured. By the eighteenth, his body realized how hard he’d hit the trash. A tremor started in his right thigh, and a pain near his spine thrummed down his torso.

« Administering 14 (100%) – confirm/de– »

He turned off the chimes.

Bracing took his whole focus. He didn’t notice the voice until it was outside the dumpster, muffled by the closed lid. No one else spoke. It must have been a phone call. So now he had to die quietly lest he alert the damn civilian, because if this was a person from his team, they would be saving him.

No sooner did the thought occur than a rusted screech of hinges cried out. He whipped his good arm to block the sun, but not before its light rented into his eyes. The pain sparked havoc through his limbs, like every nerve had ripped along an old wound. It ended just as violently, buried by a newfound weightlessness. The syringe he’d also failed to notice needling his jugular then pulled from his neck and dropped beneath the curry.

“… say Pa Ma foot –” Blather. “– cash tay marred.

Not English. He told his good hand to reach his goggles and translate, but the weightlessness worked too well. He overshot and hit himself.

“Ban Prussian fawn, cash neuf.

French. Was there another language he should have expected? The five words of it he remembered from grade school and movies bubbled to mind, and at the silhouetted figure he strained to see, Agent Aird mustered a frail, disarming, “Bonjour.”

The lid shut. The voice moved a step away, never missing its beat.

A-3.

Before he’d been chained to a furniture pyre at the top of his list of extenuating circumstances, he called it impossible to screw up on matching senior Agents to their rank. The upper tier took to promotions like they came with vows to uphold the stereotypes: A-5s were too giddy over having authority to use it less than excessively, while A-4s, who were arguably better, imagined every fourth word was a coded slur. He had yet to meet an A-1, but the rumors promised twelve, hulking gods. Personal experience with his A-2 confirmed those rumors that any of them running their assigned facility on only a handful of Adderall and bi-nightly therapy sessions was underworked. With so many ranks leaping over each other to be the most choleric, it was almost inspiring to hear them agree that A-3s were undisputedly the most self-centered.

An A-3’s responsibilities began and ended at their case, and they had as much interest in other Agents’ affairs as they did in revealing their own. This was a rank guided by avoiding inconvenience, which gave them a unique logic behind saving colleagues from death one minute, only to lock them back inside a reeking vault the next for talking.

There’d been an A-3 listed at this area. This was not them. Agent Aird went for his goggles, and had the pair this time when the sun violently returned. Once the stream of colored dots across his eyes waned enough to see, the silhouette gave way to details of a man propped over the edge. One hand, the hand holding a phone, draped loosely over the dumpster’s rim. The other stayed lifting its corrugated lid.

He was in his forties, this rescuer. His head cast a triangular shadow, and in his gleaming aviators was the haggard reflection of a buried suit. These mirrored lenses rested on a nose that looked broken more than once, above a jaw bearing its own shade from two days’ worth of growth. This stubble matched the black fuzz looming over his creased forehead, and darkened the already grim lines around his mouth to a permanent, unsurprised wince.

“Agent Aird,” the figure told him. “You’re in my garbage.”

Agent Aird’s tongue felt too numb to talk. He made it work.

“I’ll need,” he huffed, “to see your ID.”

Those grim lines tightened. Agent Aird felt an immediate, cold sweat despite his current inability to feel. He was about to sputter an apology and lather his request in more pleading when a sudden understanding of the gesture swept over him: this man thought this was funny. The tighter wince was there to smother a grin, which un-smothered as soon as the man recognized Agent Aird’s enlightenment. Without a word about it, he obligingly tossed the lid to support itself against the building, and then retrieved a card from inside a scuffed jacket that would have been black three years ago.

“A suit who asks for facts before he makes his decision.” A-3, the card confirmed. Agent Benoit Talbot. “We should throw more of you from windows.”

Rude frog.

“Thank you, sir, for your timely intervention.”

Had he been allowed to finish the ceremonial gratitude, he would have next explained how he’d arrived here. Instead, the A-3 moved on to producing a cigarette, jamming it in his mouth, lighting the snack, tucking his lighter back into its pocket, and exhaling a long, plume of smoke, all while refusing to put his phone away. Agent Aird cut himself off by coughing, and Agent Talbot, seemingly content with this, ordered, “Skip to the part where you thought he was an Agent.”

The man spoke like a cartoon, through his nose and in a leaden accent that clumped his words and hit as much pluralization as it missed. He also claimed to want an answer, but without the apparent intention of listening to one. While this wasn’t French that Agent Aird had ever heard, as far as whether Agent Talbot was an A-3, it couldn’t be more obvious than if he closed the lid now and never returned. Hoping to avoid precisely that, Agent Aird continued.

“You’re referring to the gentleman…” Those lines tightened. He changed his phrasing. “… the individual upstairs.”

Agent Talbot’s reply in its entirety was to wait on his elbows at the dumpster’s rim, perched. More smoke curled from the cigarette’s red tip. Again, Agent Aird continued, grateful for the weightlessness’ effect on a clenched jaw. The upper tier demanded respect.

“He asked about my case. He wanted to know how many were on the primary team, who was managing it –”

“The NCA.”

This was his turn to ask a question.

“If you’ll excuse me, Agent Talbot –”

“Bo.”

The noise caught him off-guard. Agent Aird recovered just as politely, with a pleasant but curious, “Sir?”

Bo. Tal-bo. Ignore the last T.” When Agent Talbot now exhaled, he switched to saying, “In fact, ignore the name completely. Jason. Benoit. Ignore the last T.” Some ash flicked between them as a multitasking indication towards Agent Aird, and to knock the burnt excess into the waste. Agent Benoit Talbot, lacking two of his three last T’s, added, “You won’t impress me with formalities when all I can ask myself is what that is on your arm.”

Agent Aird checked to then report, “Fish, sir.”

“Mm.” This simple conclusion bored the man. “You were saying something.”

“Yes. About the NCA’s involvement. That’s protected information,” Agent Aird reminded. “I understand you’re an A-3, and I can provide you the details you need, but if you’ve obtained access through means I wasn’t made aware of, outside of legal protocol, I’m not sure I can cooperate – wait, wait!”

“Jason,” Agent Talbot overstressed, mid-reach of his cigarette hand towards the dumpster lid, “I have things to do.”

“I understand that, sir, but – wait,” he nearly snapped. Agent Talbot waited. The lid was now half-closed, shielding Agent Aird’s head from the angry sun. “I was dropped from a sixth story window by someone who more than presented at an A-5 status. The only reasons I’m alive are the dozen adjustments to my suit’s shock absorption last month, not landing on my head, and wearing something that’s kept my insides inside on impact. I’ve had to remain this way because my subordinate failed to address my distress alert, and because I extended my deference to higher ranks to someone who isn’t part of the Agency. I can’t feel the pain, but I’m sure I’m still dying for my mistake. You’ll have to forgive me for being sensitive.”

This became the longest handful of seconds he’d endured yet. He watched himself in Agent Talbot’s mirrored lenses, looking too young to be taken seriously, gawking with his mouth open as if he had more to say. It may have been why the A-3 stood frozen. That, or the thrill of leaving him to rot was a lot harder to ignore than Agent Aird felt comfortable imagining.

“Your subordinate,” Agent Talbot finally said. “Karla Chai. A-6 Deployable.”

Agent Aird blinked up at him.

“You’ve seen her?”

It would explain how –

“Put your goggles on.” Agent Aird didn’t waste a moment doing as he told, further inspired by the A-3’s relenting decision to re-open the lid. Once he had, the man now standing over the dumpster rather than leaning on it said, “Find case DTD 05.”

Agent Aird did this, too. Across his goggles’ interface appeared the large, loud word of Classified. Underneath was a plainer notice reading, “Case lead: Benoit Talbot.”

“I don’t understand,” he admitted.

“You want to talk about protected? About access outside of protocol? Everything in that file is for my eyes only. When I’ve finished, I’ll pass it off to whichever A-5 who wants to feel special by archiving high level documents, but not before. It’s a simple system, one you’ve bruised by intruding on my case, in my room, and in my garbage.” The humor in Agent Talbot’s voice about this from earlier failed to appear at its second mention. “You spoke to him. Cooperate, or he discovers your suit has had those shock adjustments, and that you’re still here.”

The ball landed in Agent Aird’s court. He worked through this information.

“This really is a DTD site?”

Agent Talbot reared back, like he was ready to take off and slam the lid after all. He didn’t go through with it, but his tone changed again to something near patronizing. He flicked away his ash and said, “My boy doesn’t lie. He gives half-truths. Being on the case is an old favorite. What did you tell him?”

“That my target is being tracked at her regular establishments, and that her latent abilities require physical distance as a precaution.”

Apologies were best made through actions. Agent Aird’s had been accepted, as evidenced by Agent Talbot leaning his elbows on the rim once more.

“Keeler.” The novelty of the A-3 knowing everything had worn thin. “You realize she moved.”

“Yes, sir.”

It’d been brought to his attention.

They had come full circle, because the ghost of another smile quickly hid behind a smoke screen and innocent, “Do you know where she moved to?” Not waiting, Agent Talbot finished, “516. One floor below. She claims she got a better price.”

“You spoke to my target?”

“Ben sir.” That was more French. “Since we’re all doing it. But my question is, given the number of little details you don’t appear to have, where did you get your information?”

Agent Aird prided himself on admitting faults. It sped up being able to fix things when he bit the bullet early. Right now, he recognized he’d been distracted by trying to process an A-3’s actual ribbing to see where this was going. Agent Talbot’s aloofness waned, and when his grinning wince tightened now, it took on an air of concentration. These changes were slight and almost imperceptible with sunglasses blocking the man’s eyes, but Agent Aird paid too close attention to miss.

For whatever reason, the A-3 was more concerned by this than by what had happened during Agent Aird’s DTD encounter.

“From the working case file, sir.”

“When?”

“Two days ago.” And it was gone. The instant those words hit the air, Agent Talbot stopped caring, leaving Agent Aird flapping in the breeze as he waited for the reward that wasn’t coming: the full story. “If something is wrong with my case, I’m obligated –”

“Your case is safe, only missing your target’s proper whereabouts. Stay out of 616,” Agent Talbot said. He crushed his snack on the dumpster’s inside wall and dropped the butt down a corner. Agent Aird might have protested this if he wasn’t more immediately concerned by the A-3 reaching for the lid. “Thank you, Mr. Aird. You’ve been very helpful.”

The hollow slap of this rotting grave closing drowned out his yells, but the even worse sound of a phone being answered while footsteps moved away shut him up entirely.

Jason laid his head back on the trash bags.

Agent Aird’s deference to higher authority can come at personal expense.

He noticed his suit had been trying to ping him. It quietly rumbled against his collar.

« Administering 14 (100%) – confirm/deny? »

No.

But maybe.