Dove couldn't quite recall the last time she was in somebody's, anybody's kitchen, eating something that wasn't processed with whatever the Agency found to have the highest nutritional value. Half the time, she was convinced they were all just fancy words for crap. Last time she was anywhere, must have been... well, the last time she was allowed to roam about without the world thinking she was dead. It was a nice change.
And an interesting way to stand by before the objective was pursued.
Duvessa was standing--for some odd reason, she had a problem with such a high state of idleness at that point. Thoughts consumed her. Past... present... future... the future, mostly. What was going to happen to the Agency?... would she have to go back?
"Tell me about the mind-wipe procedure," she focused on a single aspect of all that would soon--hopefully--come to pass. It was almost a method to feel less still than she really was.
"Well, it's quite complicated. Are you sure want me to explain?" John asked.
"Well, where I'm from, procedures typically involve an array of drugs that literally make the subject so out of it, they don't remember how to tie their shoelaces, much less anything else. So," she allowed herself a grin, "it'd be great that I know you're not screwing off the Director's head, even though he might have earned it."
As the words abandoned her mouth, she wondered if she'd be ready to do it, if the occassion so called. Kill him, that is, if it wasn't a question of eliminating information rather than the annihilation of a sect that systematically manipulated and used people like her. She decided that she would.
"Well, allright," John began as he bit into his pizza slice. "Our process is a bit more selective. We use a brain scan, then we stimulate the neurons with electricity, activating and deactivating various ones, getting rid of memories."
"That was the easy version," Jim added.
"If the Agency had your tech," Duvessa mused. She did not finish her sentence, though obviously, it wouldn't have been anything good. Just about everyone the Agency had on their hitlist was a scientist-type personage. Maybe they were trying to advance themselves? Maybe. But all it ever could be, for the time being, was a guess.
"So, tell us some more about the Agency," Daniel requested as he chomped on a breadstick.
"The Agency, eh?" Duvessa looked at Daniel awkwardly. Her mind went back to the beginning. She was four, so it was blurry. She could half-swear... that she remembered her mother die. The silhouette of a strange figure, raising what looked to be a weapon. "They're... complicated."
She swallowed a mouthful as she sought the words to describe it. Having been blocked off from the real world for so long, it was difficult to name what was different and what was not.
"Most of life is training," she decided to begin there. "Training body, mind, how to fight, how to lie. I guess you'd think most the people in there are like Pluto--that Assassin that just about had your brains splattered about the hallway. Overbearing, dedicated solely to one objective and nothing else. But they're not. They're just like everyone else."
"So, your job is basically to kill people who you're assigned to kill, mostly scientists?" Daniel inquired.
"Very blunt," Duvessa remarked. "But yeah. Of course, they never tell us who the targets are, but you get a feel after so many times. Wasn't like that early on, though. Seemed like regular people."
There was a brief pause.
"Well, I don't know about describing it as a job. I haven't seen so much as a five dollar bill since I was four. It's just the kind of thing you do, get used to, don't care about, like you don't care that the pepperoni on your pizza was once a living breathing animal, y'know?"
"What, are you a vegetarian?" Jim chuckled.
"Oh, yeah, that's me," Dove took a rather generous mouthful of what was obviously a meaty pizza, chewing deliberately.
Jim laughed again.
"So," Dove started with her mouth half-full. Swallowing hard, she continued, "how do a bunch of guys as young as you end up behind a bunch of tech as advanced as this?"
John and Jim exchanged looks as Daniel shrugged.
"Well, a bit of experimenting with computers, a few government grants, cash left over. I used that, made an explorer drone, and sold the design to a defense contractor. Lots of money there gets me pretty much whatever I need," John answered.
"And I work with his money and materials," Jim added.
"And yet, a bunch of old guys with the screwed-up government I've got backing them up can't get the damned thing working. The irony..."
"What can we say? We're smarter then they are!" John yelled through a bite of pizza. Jim burst out laughing.
"Oh, yes, I'm sure of that," Duvessa allowed herself a grin. "I hope you're better paid than them."
"Nope. All the cash goes to some food and the stuff we need for work," John replied.
"Don't forget this house," Jim interjected.
"Oh, right, yes," John replied sheepishly.
"Interesting," Dove mused. "So basically, you're a bunch of government-funded tech wizards with the best gadgets on the block, and you can't even bask in the spoils?" She paused a moment. "I guess it's better than my salary."
John piped up.
"Speaking of the best gadgets on the block, we have some planning to do," he announced.
"Right," Duvessa immediately molded herself into that persona required for the task that lay ahead. "What have we got?"
"Well, we have some databanks to wipe, a few people to mindwipe, and some equipment to bust up," Jim replied.
John glanced at him.
"I can get you through that door to the portal room," he added.
"Our assets?" Dove straightened her back, fast taking on the form of one who had once exercised some kind of authority, even if only over herself.
"Not much. We have the portal, and Jim's a computer hacking wizard, but other than that, nothing," John answered.
"Except for you," Jim added, looking to Duvessa.
"Right," Dove grinned appreciatively. "Though, if you don't mind me adding some things to the list. I might not always be there. I recommend coming armed, something small and lightweight will do. If we're lucky, we won't have to resort to that, but if we do, we better damn well be prepared."
Jim and John grinned.
"We don't have anything small," John laughed.
Jim went down the stairs to the basement, and came up a few seconds later with a 12-gauge.
"This is what we have," Jim informed.
Daniel laughed as he threw the pizza box away.
"Well, if you haven't got anything better," Dove grinned sarcastically. "How many?"
"One for each of us, at least," John replied.
"I'm fine with what I've got, thanks," Dove nodded. "Will you be joining us, or are you able to function from the other side?"
"I'd be more useful here, more likely," John responded.
"Right. And what equipment will be required after we go through?" she went on. Dove, of course, was referring to the elimination of information, in mind, machine, and manifestation.
"Well, let's see," John thought. "We would probably need magnets to wipe the drives, sledgehammers, gasoline, and matches to take out the portal, and we'd need the portable mind-wiper I've been working up."
Dove laughed out loud. Nothing... nothing like the Agency. They weren't even allowed to leave behind the body. Take the corpse, give it over to the officials, who then proceeded to burn it. Eliminating all evidence that it was once there, then boxing them up and labeling them, like all good bureaucracies do.
"Right, right, right," Duvessa massaged her eye with the palm of her hand. "A tad conspicuous, but I can work with it."
"Allright then," Jim replied. "Shall we start with the lab?"
"If you're referring to the machine, then yes, the sooner that's out of the way, the better," Dove sobered her expression. "If we start erasing minds first, and they figure out the machine exists pre-elimination, we've got more work than we need on our plate. And if, for whatever reason, all else fails, at least the biggest problem is out of the way, albeit temporarily."
"It's settled, then. Tomorrow, we torch the lab," John declared.
Jim nodded, then his eyes widened.
"Wait a tick, where the hell are we going to sleep?" he asked.
John smacked himself in the head.
"Well, you guys have homes you can go back to and sleep. Ms. Batte here is another issue," he noted.
"You got a couch and I'll live," Dove replied flatly.
"It's settled then," he chuckled.
"Yeah," Dove nodded resolutely. "It's settled."