Spacer Fireworks & Frenzy 195
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July 2, 1987 (Thursday)

That was fast; got a call from the Senator today. They've found someone for us already. Apparently he was on the short list last time around and still at loose ends, so they snapped him up. I suspect that the only reason they didn't hire him before was that, given his previous experience, they couldn't afford him. They probably still can't, but after the raise we got last month the offer may have seemed like less of an insult.
    "We were actually surprised that we were able to find him so quickly," Snow admitted. "We expected that something else would have come up for him over the last six months. But apparently this was the exact sort of position that he was looking for. And then with the funding increases we just had...."
    "Great. A masochist." I wasn't kidding.
    She didn't seem to notice. "No, I think 'idealist' is a much better term. Unfortunately his résumé has been redacted in some places...."
    "Here." She passed the paper over. "His career up until six months ago was as a field agent for Majestic 12."
    "What did he do?" I asked with a sinking feeling, automatically assuming the worst. There couldn't be a good reason why a former member of the Navy's variant intelligence unit would be coming to work with us.
    "He's an energy manipulator," she misinterpreted my question. "There's a power profile on there."
    I repeated my question. "What did he do?"
    Snow gave me a blank look. "He retired after the Daemonwar."
    I hoped that "retired" didn't mean "got kicked out" and looked at his résumé. Captain Paul Sutton had been born in 1960, had been part of Majestic 12, had retired with honors, and that was about all I could gather. Someone had a very free hand with a black marker. "This is certainly interesting."
    "He fills a lot of the same niches we were looking for with Promethean, hopefully in a somewhat more stable, um, format."
    "Well, I guess we can assume he's experienced. We'll have to assume," I realized, looking at the block of ink covering most of what he's spent the past five years doing as part of Naval Intelligence. It did note that he's a qualified marksman, a former naval aviator, and a trained martial artist. "Huh. We may as well meet him, I suppose, give him a tryout. Can't be worse than some of the ones we've already had."
    She nodded and added delicately, "I did want to discuss with you the origin of the additional funding."
    "Oh yes, that."
    "We've just recently received some rather large, tax-deductible contributions from Agglomerated MegaCorporation, corresponding with the contracts that have been signed for the use of the state-copyrighted name and the use of the state-funded variant team. They're very... interested, in having the rest of you actually sign on, rather than having to develop fictional characters to go along with their...."
    "Phoenix has mentioned that," I said noncommittally.
    "I just wanted to let you know that we in the Senate are very much in favor," she emphasized, "of this."
    "I'm sure you are. And we will take that under consideration."
    "We realize it's a personal decision on all of your parts. Apparently there's a special exemption written in here, they've stated that you're not even to bother asking Albert because they believe it to be a foregone conclusion?"
    I could just imagine his reaction. "It's probably safer for everyone in the vicinity if you don't bring it up."
    "Just something for you to give serious consideration to," she said with unnatural emphasis. I gave her a pleasant smile and said nothing.
    Frankly, I don't care about the money. I don't mind (much) that we're considered a nonessential civil service that the state of Massachusetts hasn't seen fit to spend a cent of its own budget on to date. I do mind the idea of a private corporation making money off us, charities or no charities. And oddly enough I've found I have some "issues" around the topic of privacy these days.

July 3, 1987 (Friday)

[Aside: Thunderbolt]

Our new team member arrived this morning. So far, doesn't seem to be anything wrong with him.
    "Phoenix Talon, remember the new guy's coming today!" I called on my way to the door. Then I caught sight of him on the couch, watching TV in his usual early-morning costume (that is, his boxers). He'd evidently forgotten.
    "What new guy?"
    "The new guy. Starting today. I told you last night."
    "Oh!" He jumped up and sprinted toward the stairs while I shook my head and continued on my way down to the dock to meet them. Clear, hot morning; looked like a nice weekend ahead.
    "Needle, this is Captain Sutton," Reilly introduced us.
    "Pleased to meet you," I shook his hand. Big man, very firm grip. Short-cropped hair, clean-shaven.
    "Needle, excellent," he smiled. "Pleasure to meet you."
    "Welcome aboard."
    "He's read the code of conduct," Reilly added.
    "Oh good." We headed up to the building and went in.
    "Stand still, I'm scanning you," Scott called, halfway through adding Sutton to the security system. Phoenix Talon, now dressed, jumped down from the landing, put his other boot on in midair, and stuck out a hand to introduce himself.
    "John Astaverdia."
    "Paul Sutton," the newcomer responded in kind.
    "Nice to meetcha."
    Scott schlorked out into the main room with his trademark cheery, "Hi!"
    "You must be Scott."
    "I understand we have a new person." The noise had drawn Albert out from his studies. I performed the introductions. "Military?"
    "Ex," Paul clarified. "A pleasure, how are you?"
    "I am one of the greatest minds of our time. Yourself?"

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© 2000 Rebecca J. Stevenson