03 - Mirrorshades

13 – Distance

Taylor opened his eyes.

His HUD fully initialised, coming up to speed from the minimal mode that was online during a sleep cycle. Four AM, as expected, as predicted, as programmed.

He lifted the light blanket back from his body, stood from the military-style cot, felt the ambient coolness on his skin, and ran the morning macro.

His uniform appeared, its predicted weight assuring him that every item was in its place.

The cot was dismissed, replaced with his desk and its attendant chairs. No paperwork had been left unfinished the day before, so no outstanding work marred its surface.

The lights brightened to normal, and the door to his private gym opened.

He moved into the gym, and started his standard Tuesday routine while the rest of the morning macro ran in his HUD.

The first thing that appeared was Magnolia’s location and condition. No injuries sustained overnight. Current location, level nine, room seventy-six, the assigned dormitory room of Recruit Screen. Within expected parameters. Normal. Nothing to be actioned.

The other agents appeared next. The Scholar was walking the halls of her primary floor. Ryan was in his office. The Parkers, Applebaum and Natalie were in their rooms. Grigori was within his Agency. Conditions normal. Nothing to be actioned.

The Parkers’ overnight log showed only grey, low-level entries. Routine recruit ailments. Nothing to be actioned.

Next were messages whose alerts had been suppressed during his sleep cycle. Notifications of various outages and maintenance were easily deleted. Magnolia also received copies of those. She would flag if anything was going to interfere with their routines or schedule.

No personal messages. Nothing that needed his attention.

Everything was within expected parameters.

He finished the first section of his training routine, stood straight, refreshed his uniform, then moved to the other end of the gym.

He pressed on one of the wooden panels that formed the wall of his gym, and it slid aside, revealing the well-kept storeroom of exercise and training equipment. He checked the schedule, his minimal notes on what he was to run through with Magnolia sitting beneath the date, and began to set up the activities she would have to run through.

This could have been done with requirement macros. Would have been easier.

This felt better. Felt more real.

He set up bright blue and red plastic markers, denoting the start and end positions. Laid down ropes. Carried a target, its weight easily borne, to the middle of the course. Each piece with a purpose. Each piece part of the shorthand he shared with his recruit.

Consistency was important. Necessary. Always the same colours for beginning and end markers. Always the same type of throwing knife for the target. Change was…inefficient. Less than optimal. Unwanted.

Fifteen minutes before she was scheduled to arrive, Magnolia entered the gym. This wasn’t inconsistent, this was optimal. It allowed for additional work to be done without the schedule being ignored.

‘Sir,’ she said and walked up the steps of the bleachers to sit on the third row, as she usually did. This was far enough back to avoid any activity he might undertake that would interfere with the first row. Gave a better vantage than the second row. Still close enough that she could be by his side in a second.

The large binder that she called her “workbook” appeared in her lap, but she ignored it, instead going through her phone, likely dismissing the same messages that he’d felt free to ignore.

‘Nothing needs urgent attention,’ she reported. ‘Anything from your end, sir?’

He shook his head.

Everything she was doing, all of her words, all of her actions, were normal.

There had been the possibility that discussion of past events would have led to things being less optimal. Led to change. There had been no need to discuss it. No need to share the details of how he was incomplete. How Jones had failed at his job.

How he failed to measure up to- Himself. The dead man.

Magnolia hadn’t known him before. Had no point of comparison.

Everyone wanted a reversion. Wanted a complete agent.

Magnolia set her workbook aside and strode down the bleachers, a fluffy petticoat bulking out her black skirt. A normal look.

She fell in beside him, and wordlessly, they moved into a stretching routine. Warm-ups for the rest of the day. Not something he needed. Something he was amenable to participating in.

‘I’m about done with Combat’s pre-process paperwork for Mimosa. I need to clear a couple of specifics with her, but everything is on track.’

He grunted his acknowledgement.

Mimosa had to be another mistake. Each time Ryan had attempted a resurrection, the process had been far from smooth.

Whitman had experienced a glitch state so rare that Techs studied each and every case to attempt to root out the bug. He was a pale copy of his former self. Mimosa, between the mirror and the augmentation process, something was likely to go wrong.

And with something more dangerous than a nuclear weapon housed in her chest, Mimosa could easily be a threat to everything it was their Duty to protect.

He looked at Magnolia, observed as she stretched her calves, the muscle tone evident, even beneath stockings.

Mimosa could be a threat, but unlikely through the force of her own will, at least from Magnolia’s assessment. A recruit that belonged amongst the Scholar’s ranks, not one that would prove an asset to Ryan.

Precautions needed to be taken.

Beyond that, beyond failsafes, was the purpose of Combat.

He’d let Magnolia take point with the impending augmentation. There was little he could add that Magnolia couldn’t cover, and it was…easier to step back. To act through her as a proxy. To not be in a room with people who looked for someone else behind his face.

It was best to do his Duty and to stay separated as much as possible.

So far, he’d only had one stipulation. And it would serve the interest of everyone that Combat protected. To allow aide access to the kill switches that would be implemented in Mimosa post augmentation.

Most augments had at least one kill switch. A verbal or somatic combination that could kill the augment if such an action was necessary. Generally, such access was only given to agents. Still, there was precedent for aides to be able to trigger the execution code. Therefore, there was no issue in requesting aide access, especially given the scope of Mimosa’s potential threat.

It would also mean that O’Connor might gain the permissions necessary to kill a colleague. With his ex-Solstice status, that was something for someone else to decide. An ex-Solstice of O’Connor’s calibre would know multiple ways of killing an agent, so the relative threat to Mimosa didn’t increase by an unacceptable margin.

Beside him, Magnolia finished the last of her stretches. ‘Begin, sir?’

He grunted his agreement and began to explain the course he’d laid out.

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