Mirrors were never inert.
They were their own purpose and function – they existed to facilitate magic, and once they were used, they disappeared. If there was a shard, there was a wish.
If only a small wish.
Andrea lifted the block of impenetrable glass and stared at the sliver of silver inside. Her reflection was visible through the glass, occasionally flickering with expressions she knew she wasn’t making.
‘They say it’s Chaos,’ Jane said from somewhere behind her.
Andrea stared at the mirror, her reflection staring intensely. ‘It wouldn’t surprise me at all,’ she said, blinked, and put the block of glass down.’
‘Staring into the face of god would make some people nervous.’
Andrea shrugged, and she felt another curl come loose from her bun. ‘Chaos was an impetus, a beginning, everything after that is out of his control. I’m not nervous because…I couldn’t even begin to fathom how his thought patterns work, so…anything I see of him would be his attempt to mimic myself, and I have no reason to fear myself.’
Jane slid onto the stool beside her. ‘May I?’
Andrea pushed the encased mirror shard towards the other agent. ‘This is all above board, we had a grey-list informant bring it in, in exchange she’s received immunity and one of our maintenance packages.’
‘Is she a CEO or a pleb?’
‘Middling,’ Andrea said, recalling the file, ‘it’s more stable than anything she could have wished for out of this tiny piece.’
Jane laid the block down flat, the lab’s lights striking the mirror and bouncing up through the glass. ‘It’s going to Central?’
‘Yes, of course. For them to examine it, then destroy it,’ she said, sounding unconvinced.
Jane grinned. ‘Agent, are you trying to say that Central might not be telling us the whole truth?’
Andrea rolled her eyes. ‘I assume you wanted something, other than to make sparkles,’ she said, running her hand through the pieces of light that came up from the mirror.
Jane nodded. ‘You’re not exempt from the audit, Andrea.’
‘Yes. Right.’ Andrea stood, and required herself into a full uniform for once – a white blouse replacing her Portal shirt, and a clean lab coat replacing the one Merlin had drawn on in the early hours of the morning.
She touched her hair, and required it into a single plait, tied off with a Agency-blue hair tie. ‘Do you wish to use one of my meeting rooms, ma’am?’
Jane shook her head. ‘I like to observe agents in their natural state, and this is your office, correct?’
Andrea looked around her lab. ‘It did start out as a regular office, but I just kept leaving equipment in here, so it seemed easier just to convert it to a full lab. And it seemed safer to get rid of the windows – my kids do tend to make a lot of explosives.’
Jane gave her a confused look. ‘Some of your recruits are older than you, but you still call them your kids?’
‘Most of them don’t know how young I am,’ she said, ‘it’s been my experience that recruits do like to keep that layer of separation between “us” and “them”, so if they think we’re all old as balls, then it’s easier for them to accept you as an agent. True newborns can’t get away with it, of course, and Darren tends to boast about how young he is. But I-‘
‘Try to fit in?’
Andrea sat, then nodded. ‘There are enough issues with this Agency, as I’m sure you’ve been able to glean, without adding tech to their problems.’
‘So far I’ve only found one fault with your department, Agent Jones.’
‘Just the one?’
‘You don’t have an Aide,’ she said, ‘you’ve got more than enough qualified recruits working under you, and I understand they share the paperwork, so why not appoint one of them?’
‘Having too many qualified applicants really is the issue. When I was first generated, I kept on Samuel’s Aide, but after xie left, I didn’t feel like choosing another, so I just began to section out the work amongst the other recruits, and have maintained that working structure since. It seems to work – most everything gets done on time, and those things that don’t have reasons, or are within a reasonable delay.’
Jane nodded. ‘I understand that it won’t necessarily increase efficiency, but it does have a perception of there being a lack of leadership and organisation.’
‘I would find it hard to promote one of my existing recruits over the others – because it would cut into their other duties, and we have a really well balanced schedule as it is. Do I pick Sacha, and then have to find someone else to lead most of the phone bank shifts. Do I pick Screen and have to replace her on her monitoring shifts. The-‘
‘I understand the issue,’ Jane said, ‘so why not-‘
‘I always look at new recruits with a view to potentially placing them in the Aide position before they’re swallowed up by other duties. If I pick someone new, then there won’t be the disharmony of someone from a set of equals being promoted over their peers.’
‘And whether or not they would respect the new person,’ Jane said.
‘I don’t think that would be an issue, not really, they would recognise the function is more administrative. I’m not trying to grow another Magnolia here.’
‘Cloning that woman would be both a wonderful and terrible idea.’
Andrea steepled her fingers. ‘Believe me, I’ve considered it.’
She nodded. ‘Definitely smart enough for the job. I think there would have been a fair degree of mentoring required for the organisational aspects, but yes, a fair candidate at least.’ She paused. ‘If she’d been my recruit, of course.’
‘Departmental pissing contests aren’t really the kind of thing captured on paperwork unless you have a very dedicated or very retentive staff in an Agency. Does he…do this a lot?’
Andrea shook her head. ‘No. He usually takes the obvious path with recruit placement. There was a…disagreement between myself and Taylor about Hewitt, but their numbers were still low, so I let it go. Mimosa…’
‘It’s been ruled Cherry Syndrome. So long as it doesn’t become a habit, then I won’t really make too much of an issue about it. For someone who’s more than half Dusker-‘
‘He doesn’t like being reminded of that,’ Andrea said.
‘It’s what he is,’ Jane said. ‘I’m not sorry. The majority of agents who were template from Duskers have…issues. That fact that he doesn’t makes him a statistical anomaly or-‘
‘Or he’s very good at hiding it, that’s the Enforcer thinking behind this, isn’t it? It’s the crack in his armour that they’ve been looking for.’
‘Crawford may have intimated something of that nature.’
‘I don’t think you have to worry about that,’ Andrea said. ‘He has his moments, but we all do. If he took on an Aide, then I think we’d all be better off, but you’d have to convince him to relax a little before that happens.’
‘Informally,’ Jane said, ‘and off the record, who would you pick for Field Aide?’
‘That’s not for me to say,’ Andrea. ‘Not Brian, that’s my only advice.’
Andrea swung slightly on her chair for a moment. ‘I think he’s a good Recruit, but I haven’t really had that much to do with him. I don’t know him enough to say that.’
‘But you think he’s loyal?’
Andrea leaned forward, her fingers drumming on the table. ‘All I can say is: it would be a surprise to me if he turned traitor.’
Jane nodded. ‘Good, I’ll take this into account.’
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