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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Late Nights and Morning Plights

One of the most crucial equipments in tradecraft is not, as one might imagine, the hidden microphone or even a Walther PPK, but the humble pair of sunglasses. Not only is it a good device to stop your retinas burning to a crisp should you get close enough unexposed to the Sun but it prevents the outside world from peering into the windows of the soul. So Agents can look grim and menacing while on duty when all they want to do on most days is to keep their bloodshot eyes from revealing too much about last night's activities.

CIA agent Oslo Fontina and I sit in the back seat of our taxi looking grim and menacing. We are gridlocked, have been for about half an hour now, just another metal morsel among many in the digestional tract that leads to the stomach of Beijing. Fontina, slack-jawed assassin, informed me through my hangover blur that we would be meeting the rest of the Virginia Fratboys and the lads from MI-6 in a lecture hall nearby. I sip a soft drink made from celery extracts and inject caffeine directly into my eyeball. 'Sure,' I croak, 'but I think we're running a bit behind schedule.'
'Don't worry dude. They'll all be late and wasted.'

We finally arrive at the destination- an abandoned school- an hour and a half late. Fontina decides that this would be the perfect time to haggle over the price of the trip. Normally this might be a fun thing to do if you're a poor file clerk touring around China on an extremely limited budget but when you're on the Company payroll this is just pathetic. 'Just pay the guy or slit his throat!' I yell, 'We're late enough as is.' Oslo grudgingly complies, handing a wad of notes to the irate cabbie.

Seems Fontina was right. Even though we're reasonably late everyone else seems to be just getting here about now. The Agents file into the auditorium hiding their quiet desperation behind their sunglasses. As I stagger in to the room full of moaning men with alcohol-related brain rot I can't help but imagine I've wandered into a Ray-Ban commercial or a parallel universe where the Blind Boys of Alabama are predominantly white. We all take a seat.

I quickly scan the room. Most of them seem to be Company men (high-fiving each other and muttering things like 'Man, I got wasted last night.') but there are a handful of chaps from the Six. A few scattered individuals, sitting away from the main groups, act slightly different. Could they be from another Agency?

'Yo Oslo, Who are those guys?'
'Who knows? NSA maybe.'
'There's another Agency working on this thing? That's insane. How are we supposed to contain things? Is that where the Man with the Perfect Hair is from? Is he one of the Fort Meade Boys?'

Before Fontina had a chance to reply two men enter the front of the room. These guys must be the Tweedledum and Tweedledee of the operation. One of them grabs the microphone. 'Alright ladies,' he growls, 'let's get down to business.'

Former Champion in the world of Competitive Eating,


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