Wednesday, 20 March 2013

St. Patrick's Day

A knock.

"Hello, Mr. Holiday, it's Turtle."

I leap up to open the door.

"You wanted to meet Mr. Justice?"

I try to look behind him.

"What, is he here?"

Turtle frowns.

"Um, no. I'm sorry. I'm here to take you to him."

"Ah. Okay. Let me just grab something and we'll go."

I run down to my room and take a pen-mounted recording device, then return to Turtle.

"Alright, I'm ready."

"Mr. Holiday? May I ask what you just grabbed?"

"Just a pen in case I need to write something down."

I don't think either of them would actually mind me recording this, I just want them to be candid.

"I don't go anywhere without one."

"Okay. I just needed to be sure it wasn't some sort of weapon. I don't think Mr. Justice would like it if you were to assassinate him."

A pause.

"N-not that I'm implying you would, of course."

"It's fine. I'd be paranoid if I were in Justice's position."

He leads me downstairs to a waiting cab.

"The drive's about half an hour."

We climb in.

"So,  Justice makes the rest of us hunker down together, then lives half an hour away?"

"He oversees more than just this division, and he needs to be closer to where Mr. Jacob and Ms. Tempest live."

"I suppose that's reasonable. How is Jacob? I haven't seen him in some time."

"He seems to be doing well. I haven't been around long enough to notice any significant changes."

"I keep forgetting how new you are. I guess that's what happens when you're suddenly getting orders from someone who wouldn't have even approached you on the schoolyard five years ago."

"I don't think Mr. Justice was in school five years ago."

"I meant you, Turtle. I haven't seen Justice in person since before he was Justice."

He nods and falls silent. The silence remains for the duration of the drive. At the end, we pull up outside a small, modest-looking house. Turtle pays the fare, hesitates, then gives a tip. His genial expression becomes indignant as he watches the cab drive off.

"Shouldn't have even tipped him. He never would have stopped for me if we hadn't specifically called for a cab."

I'm surprised at the sudden anger in Turtle's voice.

"That's a strong statement. Did he say something to you?"

"Oh, no. They never say anything. Never to your face."

He stares after the cab until it disappears around the corner then turns back to me, all smiles and professionalism again.

"Well, here we are. This is where Mr. Justice and I live."

"I have to hand it to Justice, he's not as extravagant as that cantankerous old fart, Eternity."

Turtle unlocks the door and leads the way inside.

"I never knew Eternity–"

I note the lack of honorific.

"–but Mr. Justice doesn't really care much about how things look. Also, he doesn't really leave his room much. Secretly, I think...I think he's probably really sad and lonely."

"I think that happens to a lot of architects when they see what they've finally built for themselves."

Turtle nods.

"One second."

He wanders off down the hall and knocks on a door. It opens and I strain to hear a muffled exchange of words. Turtle comes back.

"Mr. Holiday? He's ready to see you now. Right down that hall."

I stride down and push the door open. The room inside is small, probably the smallest room in the house apart from the bathroom, if I were to estimate. A wooden desk and chair are at the forefront, like in any office. Justice is sitting there in a simple black robe, the hood pulled over his tattered eyes. Behind him is what appears to be every other room he could need, except, again, the bathroom. His bed (more of a military-style cot, really) is off to one side. To its left is a small dresser with his personal items on it. On the other side of the room is a small table covered in matches, scented candles and incense sticks. None of them are lit, but there's a faint hint of eucalyptus in the air.

Under his hood, Justice has a slight smirk.

"Welcome. Holiday, is it?"

"You know it is, Justice."

"You wish to discuss something?"


"Well? Speak."

"Since you took over, we've had two things go wrong that needn't have for which I am blaming you. The first is Ratatoskr. If you'd let me screen him like all our other recruits and brought him into the fold where Cardinal and I could be kept abreast of his activity instead of giving him remote access to our servers, he never would have caused the trouble he did.

The second is Fracture. I don't think I need to tell you how stupid it was for you to let your personal feelings about TE-119H influence your actions. However, at the point where you were doing that, you should have at least one of your sweepers involved in the mission. It's not like either Cardinal or I are inexperienced and we definitely wouldn't have let that crap with Moth happen if we'd been on the job.

Now there are ten bodies hanging over your head because you've been playing your cards too close to your chest. Care to explain yourself?"

He's silent for a moment. Then he sighs.

"Ratatoskr unfortunate miscalculation. I gave him a degree of freedom believing it would be safer than dramatically uprooting his life to move him here. His reaction to the Master was unexpected and unfortunate, though that mishap ultimately solved itself.

As for Fracture...Tempest and I, among others, both feel that he is a threat to the organization and our way of life. While I admit that I may have some bias regarding T-119H, Fracture's retaliation was in response to Nee-chan and Theta's interference. We intended to aid those who would obstruct Fracture. Nee-chan and Theta were...enthusiastic in their aid, and Fracture's reaction was not one we expected. Again, an unfortunate miscalculation, and one with much more tragic consequences.

It may please you to know, however, that we have arranged a truce. Neither side can risk an incident like this again, and while Fracture's actions certainly feel like a declaration of war, it must go unanswered. We cannot be fighting our own."

"I am pleased to know this, and your points are fair. However, you've dodged my question. Why are you keeping Cardinal and I out of the loop? I'd like to remind you our job description also includes preventing fuck-ups, not just cleaning up after."

"We did not feel it was relevant for you to know at the time. Considering what happened, that was, perhaps, an error. Unfortunately, the past cannot be changed, but we will reevaluate our policy regarding what is and is not important for the future."

"You didn't feel it was relevant to include either of your sweepers in a covert ops mission against a hostile force? That's your answer?"

"We did not. It was, as you said, a covert ops mission. We wanted to involve as few people as possible."

"There's your problem. You've confused "possible" with "necessary"."

"Again, it was an error. An oversight."

"Fine. Have you found a replacement for Verde yet? Zombie is falling behind on work filling in at the Warehouse."

"We have narrowed our candidates down to two and expect to reach a decision this week."

"Good. I look forward to vetting him or her. A less pressing issue concerns Photographer. Virgil and Meridian are dealing with the increased workload more than adequately since Mockingbird bit it, but I'd still like an idea of what we're doing with his partner, even if it's just to know he's being sent elsewhere. Keeping tabs and all that."

"Tempest and I are still discussing that. We have been focusing more on a replacement for Verde."

"Understandable. I think that's everything unless you have anything you'd like to discuss with me."

"No. Again, I apologize for all that has happened."

He pauses.

"Holiday, wait."


Another, longer pause.

"Do you envy me?"

A third, even longer pause.

"No, but I don't pity you either."

"I can tell you don't think highly of me.  I wouldn't expect you to.  I never thought highly of Eternity.  But I need you to understand my position.  You can criticize my decisions, but you do not want to be the one making them.  You do not want to be a broken man responsible for giving orders to dozens of people.  Please understand."

"I understand. That's why I criticize  Eternity heard no voices other than his own and his reign was a travesty. You may think yourself responsible for the upsets we've had but you're not. You were just the catalyst for a long-overdue reaction. You're better than he was. Eternity denied his own failures and limits. You acknowledge them. That's why I criticize. Because you'll listen and you'll improve.

Though you're right. I don't think very highly of you."

"I understand. I don't think very highly of me either. You're dismissed."

I salute and step out of the office.

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