“So what’s the worst Site you’ve ever worked at?” asked Cipher.
“I don’t know. Difficult question.” Kantos paused in solemn thought. “Seoul. Seventy-One. The place barely functioned.”
The BMW they sat in could have belonged to any corporate executive in America. Its black paint was newly waxed and buffed, the interior leather spotless. Parked outside one of the largest banks in the city, no one would give it a second glance. Few would notice the extra layers of window tinting, just outside the realm of legality, or the slight bulges of the guns the driver and passenger wore.
Agent Cipher sat in the front seat, the window open, holding a cigarette outside of the vehicle. As her partner spoke, she leaned out and exhaled a stream of smoke. “Yeah?”
Kantos nodded. He was the type of man who wouldn’t have looked out of place in middle management. Just shy of six feet, on the better side of his thirties, his hair was still thick, short, and beginning to grey at the edges. Muddy brown eyes sat behind a pair of white-frame glasses, and his chin was as hairless as the day he came into the world. The black suit he wore was tailored to hide both his gun, and the physique of a man who’d visited the gym every day for the past twenty years. “Half the time we didn’t even have central heating. In fucking Seoul.” He spoke with a deep Greek accent.
“Jesus,” said Cipher. Slightly shorter than Kantos, and possibly a few years younger, she wore her dark-brown hair in a bun and a suit similar to her partner’s. She watched the outside as she talked, eyes flicking across the sidewalk, sizing up every pedestrian. “Let me guess, repair was always ‘On Order’?”
Kantos laughed. “Shit. I mean, the work was not terrible. Half the time, I was too far from the facility to give a shit. Now,” he waggled a finger to emphasize the point, “Sixteen. Canada. Awful, awful place. Behind a desk, sorting records, attending meetings, not a day in the field. For four fucking years.” He paused, shook his head, sighed. “One time, you sleep with the Site supervisor’s wife…”
Cipher cracked a grin.
“What about you, then?” asked Kantos.
“Mmm,” said Cipher, still scanning the passersby, “I have to pick one?” She took another drag from the cigarette, then flicked the spent filter to the sidewalk. “Probably the Red Lodge, but if I told you about that, I’d have to kill everyone on the block. So let’s say Thirty-Five. Shitty peers. Shittier leadership. I must have gotten this close to going AWOL half a dozen times. They found out a research director had been fucking scips once.”
“Yeah, right? They found out while they were reviewing the security cams after a breach. Idiot had totally forgotten about the cameras. The guy who replaced him was an even bigger asshole.” She gestured outside the car. “There she is.”
Cipher opened the car door and stepped out. She crossed the sidewalk to where a woman was emerging from a black-windowed door. The woman was over a head shorter than her, and pushing her sixties. Black hair was cut short over brown skin, and she wore a white jacket, wrapped tight to protect against the winter air. As she walked, the river of people parted almost unnoticeably to let her through.
“Ma’am,” said Cipher as she reached the woman. She turned, and they both began to walk towards the car.
“Agent Cipher,” said O5-4. The voice carried no emotion. “I didn’t expect you to start duty so soon.”
“I get antsy if I’m away from the job too long, ma’am,” said Cipher. They reached the car. She opened the backdoor so the Councilwoman could slid in.
“Well, good to finally have you,” said the O5. Cipher gave an appreciative nod and closed the door. She slid back into the passenger’s seat. Then she slammed her fist against O5-4’s face. Before the councilwoman could react, the muzzle of Kantos’ pistol was pressed against her cheek.
“Now,” he said, “Tell us what you did with the real O5-4.”