In From The Cold

“When spies ‘come in from the cold’, as I have, we are very, very lonely. I came back to GLC from the Zone with the same cover I had there, that would now be mine for the rest of my life under my Zone cover name. Those documents under that name are the only ones that exist for me in the Great Lakes Consortium, and though I have a valid passport under a totally different alias, I can never return to GLC because their Security Service, GLCCA, would, if they got wind of me, try to find documents under that alias, just like you will do.

“They would find nothing, nothing whatever to support the lie on my very genuine passport. They would also know that there was only one person who could make that happen, a chief of GLCIS, and I would be immediately blown.

“My GLCCA friend Iris, once used a submachine pistol to gun down three men of a four man hit team and saved my life. The actual assassin in the incident was killed by my Madam, Elizabeth, using a contraband snub nose revolver bought on the Chicago black market. Sometimes a spy’s life can be quite colorful,…if you can get past the utter terror.

“Iris would spot the GLCIS handwriting on my real passport with my phony name immediately. You won’t, of course, find Iris listed anywhere as a member of GLCCA. That’s not quite her legal name. Until proven otherwise, everything I say to you is a lie. Or at least you should assume so.

“So, as I said, we spies are lonely. I was very lucky that my friends, Julie and Elizabeth, retired at the same time I did. They are the only people on earth with whom I can let my guard down and be relaxed and intimate.

“GLCIS is gone, partially because of the gunfight we’re discussing; not only was their entire hit team shot and killed but also their entire spy roster for Pacifica was either rolled up, tried, and imprisoned; or had to leave town in only their socks, just like we had to in the opposite direction.

“My country betrayed me, but I betrayed my fellow spies, to put the matter as straight and tough as I can and should. Neither event justified the other, and I don’t come to you seeking any sympathy or absolution for it. In my world sympathy and absolution are scarce and unaffordable luxuries.

“One of the human costs of spying is “agent fatigue”, a midlife crisis where the spy finally understands that they ceased to be a decent human being, without realizing it, long ago. They see that the amount of destruction their spy work has caused far outweighs any good it might have done. And they have learned that an ex-spy lives a life of chronic fear and utter loneliness until that life ends. Discovering so suddenly that spying simply wasn’t worth devoting their entire life to, they usually kill themselves. They are, after all, only human, or, maybe, ‘human all too human’.

“Not every spy goes through this and those that don’t probably had a sociopathic and criminal character before they started spying and spied cynically from the get go. Or they were, like me, forced by the two women who are still my dearest friends, to confront the fact that spies always sacrifice the last chance to be a decent human being from the moment they first go clandestine, if not before.

“When this happened to me, I was 24, Julie was 46, and Elizabeth was 63. We spent less than a week together, and by the end of it I was suddenly and unequivocally a grown up, with no way back to where I had been. That’s why when I took up life as a whore I was already a chicken and not a pullet, already a woman and no longer a girl, and my sisters in the house were utterly bewildered by me. They do, of course, bewilder very easily. Some of them started on the street at as early as 12 years old and had never seen the inside of a school since.

“GLCIS had always kept a generous part of it’s secret budget as the fund for maintaining a top of the line Agents Club, where past and present members of the Agency could interact with each other to ease the retired spy’s loneliness without fear of security breaches, in the same way that Julie, Elizabeth, and I interact in our home.

“This club was the reason why so few of the Agency’s secrets were betrayed over three separate Chiefs of Service. One of the reasons GLCIS was shut down was the inordinate expense of this club. The GLC President and GLC parliament wanted more “oversight” of the agency and decided that the Agent’s Club was a money wasting boondoggle.

“So the Fourth Chief of GLCIS persuaded the President to have us, its most recent retirees, killed to achieve a similar level of security. They found out that intelligent retired spies working together are extremely hard to assassinate, and two separate attempts resulted in eleven bystanders and an entire hit team dying with none of the three spies killed.

“This, as well as the collapse of the entire GLCIS Pacifica network, and the public uproar over the new GLCIS tactic of indiscriminate bombing, finally forced the President to shut down the Agency entirely. This allowed the “overseers” in parliament and the President’s cabinet of ministers to discover that recreating a spy agency without help from experienced spies is harder than it looks.

“The first Chief of Service was dead, the second CoS was too old and demented to help, and the third had been run out of the country by an unsuccessful attempt to kill her. The fourth, of course, had already been fired for incompetence by the President. So, five years after the Pacifica safehouse shoot-out, GLC is still without a Spy Agency and unlikely to have another one any time soon. And it’s killers and thugs have mostly gone back to prison on old charges, or, if not, they were convicted of old crimes committed before their employment by GLCIS.

“When I retired, I thought that my good luck of not causing too much destruction, and my preparation for spying as a woman who already knew the cost, had left me with more than enough happiness and enjoyment with my two friends that I could ease them, Julie especially, through their agent fatigue.

“Then events forced me to kill a man by putting two bullets through his head and watching the explosion of blood and brain tissue on the opposite side of his skull as he slumped to the floor. Tough talk, I know, but it was a very tough thing to watch. I’m still determined to stand by my sisters and friends through thick and thin, but never with the happiness I’d hoped to do it with.

“And that’s it, friends, that’s what you need to know about the spies you chase and the spies you guard.”

There was absolutely dead silence.

“Now, some homework for you, which I’ll assign you if Angela hasn’t already done so. Not all the things I’ve said in this lecture are perfectly true. So, go over it and evaluate which of them are probably true, which are indifferently true, and which are likely to be false and write an agent’s report about me. For example, I quoted three literary works or authors–the Bible’s Book of Genesis, Frederich Nietzche, and the great 20th Century spy novelist John LeCarre–perhaps to convince you of my cover as a woman University professor. How likely is that to be true?

“I do hope you’ve been listening carefully and committing this lecture to memory. You’ll do lots less work if you have. Otherwise you’ll be spending a whole lot of time, which I’m certain you don’t have, relistening to the recording of this lecture.

“As a full fledged security agent, you would be asking these questions all along and would have already reached some tentative conclusions about all of it. You were invited to PISS because someone thought you had potential and talent. You should maybe rethink that based on how much you have to rely on the recording. Your boss will. And maybe her boss will, too.

“Now your adversaries like me, on the hide side of our mutual hide-and-seek, faced at least equal challenges. When I was in deep cover training we had to practice very complicated tradecraft. When we didn’t get it quite right your instructor would look at you and say, ‘If you screw this up in cover, you’ll die.’

“I’d like, once again, to thank Angela and David for inviting me to meet and talk with you. It’s been a pleasure.”

Once again there was dead silence. The agents-in-training perhaps now had a little too much on their plate and it would take them some time to determine whether they liked that or not.

Then David came up to the lecturn, turned it’s microphone away from me, and spoke, “When I met Sally, my first impression of her was that she was a very dangerous hardened criminal. I had never encountered any spy quite as tough as these three. But before that ordeal ended, I saw how very much she took on teaching Emily as one of her own, and how devastated she was when Emily was killed. Sally may be, as she says, no longer a decent human being, but she certainly is a caring human being. Your evaluation of her would be incomplete if you didn’t know that.”

They finally got up enough nerve to clap and clap loudly. And, since I was a spy, I was out the exit door before they even knew it. I was only a spook, after all.

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