Alec had been waiting in Jeronica’s personal assistant’s office for eight minutes so far, and had finally picked up some of the reading material on the occasional table. The office was tidy and precisely laid out: the door to Jeronica’s office was guarded by the desk, and the guest seating was a corner of chairs a little too low to sit on comfortably in the opposite corner. The walls of the office were more frosted glass and the personal assistant was tasked with making sure that visitors did not see each other at any point during their visit. There were newspapers and magazines on the occasional table, which were carefully considered and adjusted according to who was going to be kept waiting in there and for how long. At the moment the magazines had a slight right-wing bias to their editorials and the newspapers were all from non-English speaking countries. There was a slight hint of tension in the room.
Alec set the magazine down and looked at his watch. He had arrived early, having been warned by his boss to do nothing to upset this very expensive and very effective agency, and felt a little bit like he’d been unwelcome from the first instant. Sitting here on a chair that hurt his knees looking over magazines that only reinforced his opinion that the newspapers were seditious and dangerous nonsense was reinforcing that feeling, and he was starting to wonder if this was all a test somehow. He decided that he should make a stand.
“Mr. Fury?” The personal assistant didn’t look up, and he wasn’t sure she’d spoken. He looked more closely at her, but her eyes were looking at something on the desk in front of her and he couldn’t even be sure that they were open.
“Mr. Fury, I’m over here.” He looked beyond the assistant and found a tall, well-dressed woman standing in the doorway to the inner office. Her face was neutral and nothing about her body language suggested that she was emotionally affected by him looking at the wrong person. He felt a flush in his cheeks as embarrassment surged, and he struggled to his feet, the awkward chair making it hard for him to stand up gracefully. He finally got to his feet and stepped forward, holding out his hand, but she stepped back before he could get close, granting him access to her office. Confused, he walked past her then stopped, wondering if he’d been rude, turned, and found that she’d somehow moved with his turning and stepped past him where he wasn’t looking, and he was looking back at a closed door. When he recovered from that Jeronica was sat behind her desk, indicating that he should take a seat.
Which was the wrong height again.
“Mr. Fury,” said Jeronica. He looked at her. “May I call you Alecto?”
“Alec,” he said reflexively.
“But may I call you Alecto?”
“I suppose.” No-one used his full name. Most people didn’t even know it was a name.
“Thank-you. You are here on behalf of an organisation called the Atlanta Furies? I believe that you are, in fact, a founding member though you conceal that within the organisation, taking on a middle-management role in order to better understand the people you work with and ensure that there is… let us say alignment across all levels of your group. You have deliberately been excluded from the process of deciding to work with us in order that you can obtain a fresh perspective on what we propose to do and how we will do it, and so you can independently evaluate us without needing the expense or… shall we say indiscretion? – of an external agency. And if you were a less tactful person, you might inform me that your good opinion of us is very necessary for the continuance of our relationship.”
He captured his rage effortlessly as it surged, long practice enabling him to take the blast-furnace heat of it and turn it into chilly, emotionless reaction.
“You’re very well informed, Ms….?”
“Jeronica,” said Jeronica. “It’s not my real name. If there is a need to, you and your organisation will be able to deny any and all connections with us.”
“Exceptionally well informed, Jeronica. So much so that I will have to conduct an internal investigation about accessibility of information.”
“That won’t be necessary. My assistant will provide you with a dossier when you leave on exactly how we determined all of these things; what you choose to do with that information is entirely your business.”
“I see.” He was momentarily impressed, but the rage was still burning, still being converted to patient, tightly-wound tension. “Then, since you know so much, perhaps you’d like to tell me what you think we want you to do?”
“The Atlanta Furies have, on paper, hired us to conduct a feasibility study of expansion into three states with the aim of increasing turnover by 250% over two years and profits by 70% in the same period. Organisational growth should happen, but be constrained, and ideally create a two-tier organisation so that direction and execution can be separated.”
Alec relaxed a little.
“The real work we are being tasked with is the weakening of local police and judicial authority to create a power vacuum into which the Atlanta Furies can insert itself. Your competition is this arena is currently small and you see a benefit to being prime-mover. With a suitable grip on law-enforcement you intend to drive a survivalist and anarchist agenda, returning humanity to a more primitive state that, through a process of adaptive competition and natural selection produces fitter, better evolved people. The long term objective, currently considered over an eight year period, is an eventual control of political parties for the betterment of everyone.”
Alec forced a smile on his face.
“We can deliver that for you,” said Jeronica.