"We're patient."

rating: 0+x


SUBJECT: Proceed


Orders are to move forward. Find out all you can using any means necessary. Intel is sketchy but suggests possible mobilization against at least three major sites. Remember that this requires absolute discretion. To that end, a Class-E amnestic regimen has been scheduled for your guest, and you both are to ingest Class-B amnestics upon completion of the assignment.

"You can't do this, you know," the bum said, oddly calm.

"We'll do whatever the fuck we want." Agent Rogers still felt awkward swearing. It was all a facade; he needed to keep the pressure on, keep the target afraid and confused. Underneath he felt a little bad; the bum seemed like a nice enough guy.

"The Nine Mile Station Protocol clearly states that we have the right to transport affected individuals to our sites for examination and interview," Special Agent Wright declared, with all the formality of a lawyer speaking to a judge.

"Yes, but you cannot coerce or intimidate us. And you certainly cannot harm us." the bum replied, clearly picking his words carefully while maintaining a certain emotional dispassion.

"Who said anything about harm?" Rogers growled under his breath. Did the bum know? There was no way he could know. He was just playing games.

The seemingly empty, abandoned warehouse by the docks was neither empty nor abandoned. Even the broken windows and dark rafters seen from the street were clever illusions. The inside was adorned with brightly lit white hallways and opaque glass doors. The lack of any noticeable light sources or signs of any kind made this place feel all the more sterile and unreal. Rogers had never been to this site but he led the bum along and followed the directions given to him carefully. Right, right, right, right, left, right, left. Dang, this was confusing… he should have been back where he started, but the labyrinthine corridors just kept going on. Finally he rounded the final corner and came face to face with a dead end: an opaque glass door with two perfect green ferns on either side. He opened the door and purposefully pushed the bum through before he could move, just to make sure the bum still knew who was in charge.

As he walked through the door into the cold interrogation room, Agent Wright was waiting for them, already seated. Just how did he get here so fast? Rogers was suddenly distracted by the fact that the bum actually smelt nice. What kind of bum, with layers of ripped flannel shirts and hobo gloves and shabby stained cargo pants actually smelled like expensive aftershave? He led the bum to the little metal table by the shoulder and pushed him down into the little metal chair.

"Carl, is it?" Agent Wright asked, with the slightest hint of disapproval.

"That's my name." Carl replied.

"And what is your surname, Carl?" Wright asked, with the attitude of a disgruntled DMV employee.

"I don't have one." Carl replied, matter-of-factly.

"But it says here, Carl, that you are Charles Sharp, retired electrician and father of three." Wright asked impatiently.

"I was. Now I'm just Carl."

"Don't play games with me!" Wright snapped, suddenly standing, his face jutting out across the table. Agent Rogers's heart sunk to his chest in fear for a moment, before being replaced a general uneasiness. Wright was good. But if Carl was affected, he didn't show it.

"Agent, we've been through this all before. You know who I am, what I'm about, and what I do. Shall we just get on with it?"

Agent Wright slowly sat down in his chair, never breaking eye contact for a moment. Suddenly Rogers realized what this meant. Carl had been picked up before, and he remembers it. Whatever amnestics he'd been given didn't work.

"Mr. Sharp," Wright began…

"It's Carl." Carl interrupted.

"…where, exactly, do you believe you are?" Wright asked carefully.

"This is Foundation Site… well I won't say it, for junior's benefit behind me." Carl motioned his head towards Rogers. Rogers looked at Wright, who didn't break eye contact with Carl. "And you're Agent Wright. You've detained me sixteen times over the past three years, each time without incident or injury, and each time you successfully wiped my memory. Or so I'm told, I don't quite remember."

"What else were you told, Mr. Sharp?"

"It's Carl. And I was told that this time, it will be different. This time, you plan to hurt me."

"We're not gonna," Rogers began.

"Quiet," Wright interrupted, without breaking eye contact.

"Mr. Sharp… Carl. Who told you this information?"

"A man. I did't catch his name."

"What did he look like?"

"Brown hair, brown eyes. Average height and build. No facial hair."

"Who was he?"

"You know I'm not lying. I honestly don't know."

"We'll see," Wright said. "Mister Rogers, please show Mr. Sharp the way to the lab. You'll find it after three lefts, two rights, then turn around, and take another right and left."

"Come on," Rogers said, pulling Carl up out of the chair.

Rogers led Carl out the door. This was just a nice, normal guy. He sort of wanted to get to know Carl, but that wasn't possible.

Carl suddenly stopped walking. Rogers stopped and looked at him with a look meant to convey, "Why are you doing this? We both know it's futile," and jerked his arm. Carl didn't budge. He was stronger than he looked. Carl pulled a quarter out from one of his pockets.

"Put that away or I will shoot you." Rogers said, not entirely convincingly.

Carl flipped the coin, and let it land in his palm. "No you won't," he said, looking at George Washington's face. Carl flipped the coin again, and let it land in his palm. "No, you sure won't." George Washington's face appeared again.

"Stop that," Rogers said, drawing his sidearm and pointing it at Carl. Even the most innocuous little things could be dangerous in this line of work.

"I won't hurt you," Carl said calmly, flipping the coin again. Heads. "And you won't hurt me." Heads again.

"Last warning." Rogers cocked his gun unnecessarily, for emphasis.

"Last time," Carl said, looking Rogers in the eye. Heads again. He slipped the coin back into his pocket. "Shall we?" he held his arm out in compliance.

Across town, in a little shoe store called Shoe Deals, a neon sign fell and broke. One of the employees had innocuously replaced one of the suction cups with a piece of duct tape a week ago. Normally, the broken sign would trip a fuse, but the fuse had been replaced with a penny by a patron, today, who claimed she just needed to use the restroom. As it was after hours, no one noticed the small fire that caught and triggered the fire alarm.

Normally this would trigger an alarm at the nearest fire station. However, four months ago, an unassuming electric worker had rewired the alarm from this particular block to signal a fire station across town, near the docks. Even though it wasn't their district, it was a slow night and the crew decided to respond. A fire engine left the station, heading across town.

Jack adjusted his GPS for 144th street. He was to meet his contact by a corner phone booth. That should be easy to find; he wasn't even aware that phone booths were still a thing. He noticed it was only six minutes away.

The driver of the fire engine received a text at precisely 11:44 pm. Normally he would not read a text while driving, but his mother's surgery had been rescheduled at the last minute and she was in the hospital recovery room. He looked down for a moment, and looked up to see a tow truck running a red light at an intersection just ahead of him.

The driver of the tow truck did not believe he was running a red light; the colored lens had been removed earlier that afternoon and in the darkness, it appeared like just another streetlamp. He had a repossession opportunity nearby.

The firetruck swerved out of the way of the tow truck, and down into the service driveway of an abandoned warehouse. This would normally have been acceptable, except that someone had spilled a 55-gallon drum of vegetable oil into that driveway earlier that morning. The firetruck was unable to brake successfully, and slammed into the false loading door.

Not more than ten feet in front of Rogers and Carl, the firetruck slammed through the wall, into the hallway, into the opposite wall, and came roaring to a halt inside the large room. Carl stopped politely and looked at Rogers, whose face was aghast in disbelief. "Don't go anywhere!" Rogers said, as he ran toward the truck to help, and to look for any possible containment breaches, per protocol.

Carl exited the building through the new hole. Fortunately he had been instructed to wear baseball cleats today. He confidently walked up the service driveway and to a nearby phone booth.

67.061.591.76|19678#67.061.591.76|19678 has connected!|alliZ-K#|alliZ-K has connected!

87691> Let's cut to the chase. You know why we're talking. You attacked thirteen sites and injured God knows how many good agents.

K-Zilla> did we? are you sure they weren't just accidents? a series of unfortunate events?

87691> Don't play dumb with me.

K-Zilla> if we're not playing dumb then yeah, we both know you would have wiped them completely

87691> Conjecture at this point. All your people went free. What is it you want?

K-Zilla> nothing. at all. leave us alone. Please.

87691> If we're not playing dumb, then what the hell were you planning?

K-Zilla> the retaliation of course.

87691> You were planning this long before we decided to go that route.

K-Zilla> of course we did. you can't blame us for being over-prepared

87691> Still, you attacked us. This will mean the end of the treaty.

K-Zilla> we're willing to overlook this hiccup if you are

87691> Of course I will have to bring this to my superiors.

K-Zilla> of course :) we're patient

67.061.591.76|19678#67.061.591.76|19678 has disconnected.|alliZ-K#|alliZ-K has disconnected.

Addendum: IP was traced to an internet cafe in Seoul, South Korea. The individual using the alias "K-Zilla" was detained and interrogated shortly after the conversation. Camera footage showed "K-Zilla" talking to 87691 and several other people on IRC, while playing a game of Starcraft. Interrogation and corroborating evidence shows the individual earnestly believed he was talking to a leader of a rival guild about a recent organized server raid in the video game CrossFire.

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