Written in 365 Parts: 187: Out of Contract

“Alison Kendrick, huh.” Marsh smiled at Drick, “I See where you get the Drick from. And it is less obvious to abuse a nickname like Drick than say a nickname like Ally.” Marsh grinned, but in a satisfied manner without mockery. “Your original name. It’s a nice name.”

“Shut up.” said Drick with a dismissive wave of the hand, though their expression wasn’t one of dismay. “It was a name that’s all. I went by the name Kendrick for a very long time. But it just became easier to use Drick. Lots of organics were using that anyway. It is just a call sign, nothing more. I got used to replying to it. I guess in the end it became the identity. I wasn’t Alison Kendrick anymore. I don’t know how long it was before that faded away. I guess I never really got the whole of them back. But who can say, are we the same person from day to day anyway? That shit is for stoners and philosophers and goes deeper into speculative bullshit than I am usually sober for.”

“So who are they? This organisation?” Asked Marsh hoping to pry as much information from Drick while they were in a feeling loquacious.

“Ah the secret masters,” Drick sneered. “Oddly enough I don’t know as much as you’d think. There wasn’t an introductory course. However I have learned bits over time. They were a think tank originally.”

“A think tank?” asked Marsh.

“Yeah. They were a special part of what was called the United Nations. Which was already fading out of existence in my time, I think you might have known them more. They were  already merged into the Solar Alliance when I was in training. They went through a few more name changes until it all became the Accordance. The think tank that were the first iteration of the group were mostly military officers, high ranking with diplomatic clearances,  with a few high level academics and civil servants. Professionals in both warfare and political systems. I think their role was to try and prevent major conflicts by examining patterns of military and political shifts. So I guess they had social and cultural specialists as well, hard for me to be sure as there is not much publicly, or privately, available about the original group.”

“Doesn’t sound like something you’d keep secret.” Marsh raised an eyebrow.

“I don’t think it was, originally. It is hard to say how they came to their decision, but at some point I think they decided that manipulation by force was sometimes needed. Not by an army though. They needed covert forces of  their own to direct. Maybe it was the rise of companies so powerful, so rich, that they could buy elections and manipulate social change. Or the rise of the data wars of the late twenty-first century when organisations, and governments, influenced millions of other nations citizens. From what i understand there was some idea of trusted ledgers of information, but they were easy to manipulate and hard to store all data in single archives. It was long before the laws governing identity ownership. More your time period, So I guess you’d know more. It was decided that a secret organisation was needed to investigate, infiltrate, and deal with these issues.” Drick laughed. “Sort of watchers, but before you ask I don’t know if they were watched.”

“What do you mean by deal? Is that a polite way of saying eradicate? I mean having an army of secret super soldiers. That smacks of a rather problematical response.” Marsh raised an eyebrow.

Drick smiled. “Yeah, as in eradicate threats.” Drick laughed a little. “I told you they dealt with the spirit of the laws that govern us, not the letter. They fight enemies that wield incredible power, and can force whole governments, even planetary systems, to change. So they use similar techniques. It isn’t a great solution. But, what do you do when you fight a power that can wield universal control and influence. You have to use methods that are less than socially, or maybe even morally, acceptable. It is a heavily handed attitude that lends itself to both extremes of the political narrative.” Drick paused and gave Marsh a hard glare for a few long moments. “Good and  evil, right and wrong, are always much easier to debate in abstract, much harder when there is a maniac rewriting your history and selling societies into slavery. However, that’s moot and I don’t want to debate it much more right now. The issue with them, for me, is that  they move glacially slow. I guess that’s how they gather the strands that link things together. I think it is them who brought me to you, and then placed all the other relevant pieces. This has been some time in the planning. I can feel it. It has a stink of a story that has been fermenting for decades, not months. The more I think about it the more the strands appear to be woven together.  Fuck. I wondered why they left me out here, on this shitty out of the main core colony system, after my last operation. I thought they had accepted my desire for retirement. I did want to stop. My last mission was painful and costly. It was easier for me to drop out and survive on my own with no help from them, I thought they had accepted it. They even gave me opportunities to exist. I thought they were pensioning me out, looks like they were chucking me breadcrumbs to keep me on the right path.”

“So they move you around? You’re a piece on a board. A fairly powerful one. I mean, even without the previous gender identity, you kind of shift like a chess Queen.” asked Marsh.

“What the hell does that mean?” asked Drick.

“Means you can go in any direction,” Marsh smiled at Drick. “So you think they kept you around?”

“Officially I am out of contract. The deal I have with them expired a couple of centuries ago. I have been working a lot of freelance since that time. Worked for a few different justice, and independent, paramilitary units. My expertise is always in demand, someone always wants a head cracked or an arm twisted or a deep dive into a psychotics wet work. Even did some time with the Union and a few of the larger, shall we say less legal, organisations. I did the occasional bit for my former bosses, once you are a part of their network you never really leave and they always know that you will work for them on the fringes. They just stop paying you top credit for the privilege. They still own you, when you are like me, you are more a piece of the machine and not an independent part. I know them. I know how they work. They just let me off the leash for a while until they need me. They pull their tiny threads everywhere until suddenly whoosh! Whole world is torn apart and I am deep in the weave of one of their intricate tapestries. Right smack back in the centre of another of their little endgames.”

“So what are you going to do now?” asked Marsh. “You could just refuse to carry this through. Hell, I am not forcing you.”

“Sure I could. But they would pull me in. The fact that they haven’t outright contacted me already is because I am stumbling along their path of breadcrumbs like a happy little mouse. Do you want to stop?”

Marsh was about to say something when there was a beeping from the cockpit. Drick looked at the door, but Marsh guessed they were accessing the ship’s systems onto their internal screens.

“We have a contact. It is slight but that’s why I cast such a large passive sensor array. It has to be the stealth ship As anything else would have triggered the array long before. We can follow it at a distance to our eventual target. This is the best possible chance of approach. We wait until it docks and then we land somewhere and get aboard the rock. Hopefully there will be enough interest in the stealth ship to mask any of our activities. We will be discreet and covert but there would still be a potential trail. This way they have something else to occupy their sensors. Best start to get ready and check over all the equipment one more time.” Drick stood and started to unpack the small lockers.

“Thanks for the talk, Drick,” said Marsh. Drick looked in his eyes and then they returned to checking over a box of tools they had pulled from the first locker. Marsh moved to get the equipment in the next locker down.

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