Jones stood in the doorway of the workroom, watching Tamarai working through the evidence in this sim. Merlin sat on a large cushion, methodically working his way through a lollipop half the size of his head.
Merlin knew he was there – he’d felt the boy’s mind touch his as soon as he’d come up to the floor. From what emotion leaked from his son, Merlin felt disturbed, but from looking at him, he was putting up a front, perhaps acting happy for Tamarai’s sake.
He forced himself to flip onto his back, his legs protesting with another wave of nauseating pain.
He planted his hands in the earthy floor and pulled himself back against the bloodstained table – there was no use in spending energy and processing power on keeping himself level, when bracing himself was relatively easy.
T-shirt. Uniform pants. Most of Jones’ tricks and fixes resided in his lab coat – he didn’t take it off enough to set things up any other way.
From the outside, the house looked perfect.
A well-designed home, light brick with wood accents, and a cute little fence. The hedges were shaped, and flowers flourished in the gardens. Chimes that looked as new as the day they’d come out of the box hung from a hook near the door and lightly tinkled in the breeze.
It looked normal.
And bad people could never live in a house that looked normal. Child abusers could never live in affluent suburbs with tended gardens.
Sick, perverted monsters wouldn’t have chimes.
It took Merlin fifteen minutes to stop tensing in his arms.
As he had always done and would always do, Jones held the child until the fear subsided to what they unfortunately had to accept as “normal” levels. A background radiation of fear.
Something they couldn’t avoid; something that was only natural, with Merlin’s life.
Tiny hands touched his right shoulder, and a small head rested on them.
Jones looked up, unsurprised to see Merlin, goggles pushed up onto the top of his head, his expression one of exhaustion. ‘Going to get some sleep, sweetheart?’
Merlin nodded his head, then lifted his head and hands away from Jones’ shoulder. ‘I’m tired, Mumma. More than I should be.’
Jones spun on his chair to look at his son. ‘Do you want to sleep in your bed, or in your box?’
With Merlin securely tucked in, Jones drifted in his HUD.
Most agents had some true – if shallow – sleep during some part of the night. Even agents only had so much processing power, so sleep served as a convenient time to fulfil functions that would otherwise slow their reaction times.
Deep scans, integrity checks of every single nanite, cache clearing. Sleep gave an agent time to look after themselves, to make them fresh and new for the next day.
Jones refused to waste the time – it was inefficient to have so many dead hours during the night, when he could get so much work done without recruits underfoot.
Combat and Field functions were largely diurnal – so no one would miss Taylor if he bunked down – naked, apparently – for six hours.
The hour before and the hour after midnight were always the quietest in the tech department.
Jones walked his usual late-night circuit around the floor, more of a habit than an actual need. An excuse to stretch his legs – to spend some time away from his lab and his desk, if not away from his work.
All his current work sat in minimised windows along his HUD task tray – unless it was something that the Agency didn’t need to know about, it was automatically synched. Backups upon backups upon backups; changes made in-HUD or by keyboard were executed, recorded, and logged.
He stopped by one of the window seats, and he brought up his email as he sat. The transparency was such that the city outside the window was still perfectly visible. Everything seemed peaceful, but it was impossible to be sure.
Three Months Before Dorian Knocks.
Three recruits on the phone bank. Two in the lab, working. Three in the smaller lab, investigating their understanding of human biology. Four recruits in the main computer lab, submitting alternative drone paths.
All in all, very quiet for two in the morning.
Jones placed another bet and wondered if Blue Earth ever even considered horse races when they threatened to expose magic to the world.