Once there was a spy who was very, very afraid.
Much of what she feared was—as so common in human affairs—that which she did not know. Namely, she did not know that she was a spy. Or, to put it more clearly (and if this confuses you, imagine how she felt!) she didn’t know what kind of spy she was, or what she was supposed to be doing.
But every month, she received a very generous check from M.O.N.S.T.E.R. (Miscreants Organized Nastily, Sloppily, and Terrifyingly towards Eternal Ruination). It was a very neat, very professional check, issued by a reputable payroll company. Too reputable; it would, by no means, speak in any way of its clients, even if you worked for one of them, about any specifics; unless you could show that your paycheck was missing, overcharged, or undercharged, they would not disclose corporate secrets. And that was her problem: while it was quite a generous compensation, she had no idea if it was an overcharge or an undercharge, and the problem wasn’t that it was missing; the problem was that it was here.
Because she’d looked up the organization. It had a very bland, very polite, very corporate website which spoke of its work doing legitimate detective work: investigating financial malfeasance, marital infidelities, international data theft, and so forth. It was very, very firm that it acted only in appropriate ways, through well-trained agents, acting within both the spirit and the letter of the law; firm in exactly the kind of way that lets you know, with a subtle wink and a certain implicit sideways glance, that this was where to find black-hat hackers, thieves, and the sword of people who’d stick a knife between your ribs for six pounds and a half-eaten biscuit.
And she was on their payroll.
It did not look like the kind of organization which made mistakes. It did look like the kind of organization which, in the very rare offchance that it had made a mistake, would give a little polite chuckle and explain all the details; it was quite obviously the kind of organization which made mistakes disappear.
And that was a challenge, because she had no memory whatsoever about being any kind of spy.
There were three basic possibilities here:
- There had been some terrible mistake. The checks were supposed to go elsewhere. Someday, they would figure it out, track her down, take the money back, and disappear her – body and all.
- She really was an agent for them, but they’d suppressed her memories. And someday, on command, she’d awaken, and then she’d do…all manner of horrible things. She wouldn’t want to. She’d have to. And then the police would find her, and she’d be locked up, with angry convicts and horrible, horrible memories.
- She’d already done the unspeakable things, and she’d shut away those memories. Only… that couldn’t last. Not on what they were paying her. And someday the memories would return, and they would break her. She was sure of it, absolutely certain.
It’s not like she was far from broken already. She’d had to quit her day job; she was just too stressed to do it. She stayed home all day, starting at her phone, wondering what would happen next.
…no, just kidding, you deserve to know what really happened.
See, she’d once had an executive assistant at her office. And she was horrible to her executive assistant. She might not have been all that nice a person. And also, the executive assistant rubbed her the wrong way.
One day, the Executive Assistant won the lottery. They didn’t tell anyone. They didn’t quite their job.
But they did fly down to the M.O.N.S.T.E.R. offices in New York City.
None of it was illegal in any way. Nobody was threatening anyone. They were even sending the recipient lots of money.
But she did quit her job, making life much, much better for the executive assistant.
And if she’s at home all day, wondering what terrible thing is going to happen to her…
….well, her guilty conscience is her own damn fault.
My name is Jeff Mach (“Dark Lord” is optional) and I build communities, put on events, and make stories come into being. I also tweet a lot over @darklordjournal.