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©02 The Media Desk
"The resolution to permit joint operations with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police along the mutual border and within the State of Alaska has been approved by the Holder of the Mandate. This is to become effective immediately." Centre took a breath. "Northstar's position as liaison officer with the RCMP has been made a permanent and official and a replacement field op will be selected and trained..."
The group in the conference room was about evenly divided between those that appeared to be trying to act like they were listening, and those that had abandoned all hope of not being bored to death.
Centre went on with more. He had a laundry list of things that had to be brought up, even though they were dull and uninteresting beyond belief.
"Now. About collateral damage."
My ears perked up.
"Yes this is about you." Centre smiled at me. "Our man here sat a record for damage and mayhem. Never before, since 1865 and the signing of our Mandate, has the actions of one officer acting to fulfill his mission result in such horrific casualties, destruction of property, and disruption in the normal local environment."
The other trainers and supervisors in the room looked at me. Some with obvious derision.
Conga, however, began to clap, then he stood up, "That's my boy!"
Some of the others joined the applause. I didn't stand up and take a bow.
Centre, after a pause, continued. "However. All local intelligence gathering has determined that major organized crime activity in the city has ceased." He nodded at me, "So on the whole, it worked."
Everybody clapped at that.
Then Centre's face got very solemn.
He waited until the room got quiet.
"There is going to be a change at Command and Control. Nothing is firm as of yet, and I am not going to say any more about it. Some of you will be involved, some of you will simply be told what has happened. But, as we say around here, that's the way it goes."
After that, he dismissed us for a break so we could gossip amongst ourselves.
Most of the rest of the meeting was almost too much to stay awake for. Nobody that spoke was an agent or even anybody I had ever even heard of before.
Organizational reports, operational details, right down to the reading word for word of the laboratory report of a new form of teargas that is supposed to take down even a suspect under the influence of drugs or mentally deranged.
My first thought was, 'would it take down an 81?'
I asked the technician during the question session.
The technician looked at his papers, then at Centre. "Go ahead and answer it." He said.
"We don't know." He paused, "I doubt it."
"Then why bother with a new potion?" Conga shouted out.
"We have other concerns than just the 81's."
"Yeah, but one good shot with a nightstick will take down half of them, the others respond admirably to a .357. What do we have that works on the Deep Men?" Second Grace said.
Centre looked at her, then he shook his head and looked down.
"We're working on it." The technician said.
Then there were more reports.
My eyelids battled with gravity. I heard somebody in the row behind me sighing in their sleep, Conga made repeated trips to the coffee pot and the restroom. Even Centre's attention seemed to wander from time to time.
Finally it was done.
"So much for our yearly organizational meeting." Centre said banging the gavel.
The applause was heart felt and sustained.
But Centre stood behind the podium while the last of the reporting techs walked out.
I had been gathering my stuff to leave, but seeing his face, I put it back down and waited. So did the others.
"OK, now. For some more important updates." He nodded my way, "We DO have something that will stop an 81."
Light dawned, "The baster." I whispered.
"The baster." Centre nodded. "Until recently, last week in fact. We had no way to reload the operational unit agent theHunter provided us from Africa. It works on live plasma held in an internal storage chamber. We had schematics on how this was done, we even had a contact that had been involved with the process."
He nodded to an assistant who touched the control panel on the back of the room, a large screen descended from the ceiling and a video projector lit up in the ceiling.
We watched a short video in which we couldn't see anybody's face. They charged and fired the baster.
"I thought regular mortals couldn't fire the baster." Rathskeller said.
"Ordinarily, no, but we understand how it was done now and made adjustments to another weapon that came into our possession. The 'baster', as you call it, that he brought in had been adjusted by his contact."
"So you just reverse engineered it." Conga chuckled.
"Yes. But charging it proved most difficult. And cost us some, err, collateral damage. But in the end, it worked."
The crowd murmured some.
Centre smiled. "We now have four operating basters."
I couldn't help it, I whistled. It was echoed by some others that thought about exactly how much firepower that amounted to.
"I want one!" Conga said.
"That's a possibility eventually. Of course one will be signed out to Hunter, especially as he has an upcoming assignment to see about an 81 we have gotten wind of. One will be kept at Control. The other two, we shall see about."
Centre glanced at Conga, the big man relaxed, he knew he would get one.
"Since we have been looking for them, we have identified over two hundred of the deep men world wide. They are in Australia, Scotland, Arabia, Korea, and all over the former USSR. They are working tropical cruise ships as bartenders and welding pipeline in Alaska. Men and women, of all races and physical types, thin, fat, some look like they just graduated from college, others with gray hair and wrinkles. Most don't want any trouble and we will leave them alone."
"However." I muttered. Centre seemed to hear me.
"However. Like Mulie and some of the others that have turned up. Some of them, enough of them, even if its only a few of them, still have something stuck in their craw about what was done to them, and why it can't be undone."
"They were told it could be." Rathskeller said. "I understand why they might be pizzed off."
Centre nodded, "But not all of them are. Hunter's contact was an 81 that's on our side, there are others that seem to have accepted they are going to be what they are until the day they stop living."
He had phrased that aweful funny. I wasn't the only one to have noticed.
"All the data is not in, but from what we know, the 81's do not age normally. They will live more or less in the same physical condition they were in when they went through the conversion, for upwards of sixty to eighty years. Then, as the procedure wears off..."
"They age sixty years in a week and fall over dead." Conga said it like it was funny.
"Not exactly. But our best guess is, in several decades, a couple of hundred Deep Men will suddenly and rapidly begin to age and then, things may be different."
"Psychosis sets in. They will develop all sorts of mental problems. Also, some of the earlier ones, when the procedure was not as refined as it should have been may become unstable sooner. Some have thought Mulie may have been one of them." Centre finished up with a brief pep talk about other missions, other concerns, that there were many things going on besides the 81's."
"But what do we do if some night one of them goes wacko in our home town?" One of the others asked.
"Pray." I said.
"Call control on the emergency line and we will respond with personnel trained on the baster." Center said without emotion.
"And pray." Second Grace repeated.
Centre didn't respond, but he did nod.
"So how was meeting?" Keia asked me.
"For three hours I was so bored I think I fell asleep." I caressed her cheek and smiled, "But the last half hour made up for the rest of it."
"How that make up?"
I opened my briefcase and took out the baster, very carefully I made extra sure it was locked, then I showed it to her.
She looked at it. It was the first time she had ever seen one without having to duck and cover.
"We discussed the 81's."
"And Centre give you gun?"
"And Centre gave me gun."
I had to tell her why, and she became very concerned. Our baby was due in just a couple of months and she didn't want me in any more firefights or in high-speed chases. Or blowing up a whole freight yard of train cars.
Which was fine with me.
I missed the excitement, but not everything that went along with it. Pain, wounds, airsickness, frostbite, cramps, and sleeping in my car. I still longed for the thrill of making a good bust, but not in adding to my collection of things that had left their mark on me, knives, bullets, a ball bat, and so on.
Ok, I was a trainer now, a technology manager, and there were others in the field, laying in crawlspaces, eating cold pizza, getting shot at.
Keia let me feel the baby kick.
Did I miss the chase?
Not any more.
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