"The building isn't ours. Don't you know that white people like you own everything here? There was a another man with Nabulungi, older by at least ten years, his head recently shaven. Instead of her black fatigues, he wore loose khaki robes, a tattered leather bag in one hand, a gun in the other.
Unmute. "Agent Schrader! Who is this? Why didn't you warn us!"
"Sorry, sorry! Just got a bit carried away! Neeley sent me a message and Poptarts gave me a write up . . ."
"No wonder nothing got done here," Kevin muttered inaudibly.
"That's your backup, Nabulungi and Gotswana!" Agent Thomas said, "She offered, free of charge and first mission and all, thought you could use some help."
"Why do none of you understand that I am a fully trained agent! I can do things on my own!"
"Okay, Mr. Agent," Gotswana said, white teeth flashing superciliously while he clapped a hand on Kevin's shoulder, "I have things to do, so we should get going. What's the plan?"
Kevin jerked, throwing the man's arm away from him and knelt to pull a grey square from his belt and place it upon the floor. Although it looked like a piece of coarse, folded grey paper, upon losing contact with the warmth of Kevin's hand it began to unfurl, becoming a solid, flat sheet. A spiderweb of black lines crawled over the surface, materializing into a schematic diagram.
"This is where we are," he pointed, "and there should be a passageway underground around" he looked up scanning the room, then pointed to an inconspicuous set of ladders leaning against the wall, "there. Under the floor. Those ladders are probably to climb down once you've opened it. We don't know what's down there, but Agent Michaels has seen the general's men bringing crates around here. The number before and the number there should be if those boxes were just moved into the main area don't match. So they must go somewhere else, but where and why?"
"I got this, I got this!" Arnold was at the ladders in an instant, already prying the concrete tiles up with one of the many tools attached to his belt. Once they were suitably loosened, Gotswana helped by hefting them away from the main hole.
"Let me check how deep it is," Nabulungi said, pulling a matchbox from her belt and moving to strike a match.
"No need," Kevin said, proudly displaying his own electronic flare. He applied slight pressure to its base with his thumb and the white orb began to glow yellow. Nabulungi stowed her matches away as he threw it into the gaping hole. It floated downward, hitting the bottom with a dulled thud, blinking a few time times before extinguishing. Kevin judged that the hole was probably not bigger than ten feet deep and promptly jumped down. Nabulungi followed suit. While the two waited for Arnold and Gotswana to climb down the ladder they'd lowered into the hole, Kevin and Nabulungi looked around them. Even in the faint spotlight from aboveground they could see that the room was undeniably white. Something made of glass gleamed at them.
"Do you have any more of those lights?" Nabulungi asked.
"I found a lightswitch!"
The room was flooded with fluorescent light courtesy of a proud Arnold Cunningham. Kevin glared at him and Arnold shrunk back apologetically against the wall, making to switch the light off, until Kevin dismissed him with a wave of his hand.
"Now, since Agent Cunningham's lack of forethought could have us sighted we have to work quickly. We're looking for signs of the latest shipment of AIDS preventative, so anything with the Church's logo or a liquid with the signature mauve tint. We may have to go further in, through those doors, since all the equipment looks like someone left in the middle of doing something. That's suspicious. So we should-what are you two doing?"
During Kevin's speech Nabulungi had crept over to where Arnold slumped to whisper reassuringly to the distraught agent.
"I'm listening," she said, looking up. Arnold sniffed, nodded and stood up.
"This isn't it." Kevin's head whipped around to stare at Gotswana who was running his hand along one of the tables, intently staring at the equipment.
"This isn't the same medicine you and the other agents graciously give us for free so we can survive another day. A variant. They didn't just take the medicine to hoard then sell on the black market," he held up a small vial, "They've changed it. And I can see from what equipment they're using that they're replicating it. And there's another serum here. Something different . . ."
"Gotswana's the local doctor," Nabulungi explained, "he makes all the medicines himself."
"So I know what I am talking about."
"I think we should wait to make such assumptions," Kevin said , politely. He considered takeing some samples for Neeley, but wondered if it would offend the doctor. It was not that he doubted Gotswana's credentials, oh Kevin Price was certain he was a good doctor for easing the pain of slum disease, but he felt more comfortable if a Telestial approved scientist would investigate the strange liquids.
"Arnold." He motioned toward the table. Eagerly awaiting his time to make up for the previous bluff Arnold unzipped his bag and removed several large syringes. He unhooked a tear dropped shape of indeterminable material from his neck line, pressing it to his face to where is latched on to cover his nose and mouth. Kevin did the same.
"Do you have gas protection?" Kevin asked the other members of their party. He could not risk any casualties from what they might release.
"I have a gas mask."
"Put it on."
"All I have is this." The sound was slightly muffled by the blue bandana now wrapped around the bottom half of Nabulungi's face.
Kevin stared at her, incredulous.
"Um, well." What could he say to such lack of equipment? "You should probably close your eyes in case anything we release has blinding properties."
"Your eyes aren't covered."
"Special protective internal synthetic lenses. If you want to help us on any more missions I'd suggest coming up to the base and get fitted with suitable gear. I honestly don't understand how you get anything done with nothing to work with."
"We learn to survive. To react quickly," Gotswana said, "just close your eyes, Nabulungi."
She did and with Gotswana's helmet now securely on, Kevin could once again turn his attention to the table. One gloved hand pulled the mauve liquid forward. He could see why Gotswana was suspicious, the usually translucent purple liquid, was clouded and thick. He tentatively removed the stopped and Arnold plunged in with the syringe, pulling up the whole contents of the test tube. He capped the vial and stored it in the bag. They continued like this three more times, one more of the purple and two of the "different" ones (they appeared exactly the same to him, but he would appease the doctor.) Kevin passed these vials through a codifier, which recorded the color and viscosity of the samples and sent signals to the container of nanobots on his hip so they could imitate expected fluid movement and projectthe correct ratio of primary colors so as to best pass itself off as the same liquid. They covered their tracks by refilling the test tubes with this substitute.
Part one of today's activities was complete. Simple infiltration. Data collection that was more dangerous than that of a Scout. Ample use of technology and caution. All in a day's work for an agent. In fact, Kevin was underwhelmed by his first assignment on the job, although he wouldn't admit it to himself or anyone. Which was probably for the better, considering what McKinley had told them was in store for second part of the day.
"Do you have anything to report?"
Under the table, he nervously fingered the data chip. He would only be following orders if he handed over McKinley and Church's conversation. It was the right thing to do. Neeley thought it was what he wanted to do. Gracious Neeley, who had not spoken a word of protest when his treacherous duties were explained. Loyal Neeley, who went out of his way to collect information like this, so he would look good. Paul would be happy, too. He was confident that it was important, that Paul would want it if he knew it existed, but something kept him back.
"Kevin's been stalling successfully. Captain McKinley's worried, but not suspicious. He's more preoccupied with his own missions, you know, than to start suspecting something else. That's good right?"
"Yes, Thomas' reports have still not indicated any severity to Church's condition other than incapacitated. Without your intelligence he could just have the flu for all we officially know. Thank you. You are very useful. It's good to know the preventative measures are working."
"What happened to the book?"
"It is none of your concern."
". . . "
"We burned it."
"Oh . . . Paul?
"You'd always tell me the truth?"
"Mormon's don't lie."
"If I asked you something, you'd tell me."
"Perhaps. You must remember your place. I love you, but you are my inferior. You must follow. My love for you can't interfere with the President's plans. You can't know everything. Be happy with doing your job well."
"Yeah, right, okay, I know. I just want to know if you know, since you're like, right hand man to President Cleale, what Captain McKinley is doing? His motivations. Because why would you guys care about us if it wasn't something important? Really important. Is it criminal?"
"I understand. You're confused about loyalty. You have no reason to be worried, McKinley is an exemplary agent and Mormon. The extra mission is his own pet project. He doesn't want to tell us, because he doesn't want us to worry. He does it, because he sees it as his duty to make a difference. This means taking on more missions to make the Telestial territory a better place and he understands that is his prerogative. But we cannot be held accountable for anything that happens or extra resources wasted."
"And Agent Church? You won't help us cure him? Neeley said he knows you can!" A fist slammed the metal table.
"Calm down, please. I'm sorry, but Agent Church will have to stay the way he is. I'm sure he'll manage, he's a competent man, but he must be McKinley's cross to bear. One man sacrificed for the good of many. We don't want to see the tragedy that could result from McKinley's independence, but we have no moral right to stop him, because he acts on noble grounds. McKinley is good hearted, but we hope this might deter him from pursuing these . . . unfavorable leads. And I think I have said too much. I must go now. Good bye. Praise Christ."
Elder Schrader flicked the screen off.
"Mormons don't lie," he muttered, "then why do I feel like everybody lies to me? Everyone wants me to just help them with whatever plans they make and I don't know what's are we really working for?"
A previously mute Dr. Neeley moved forward to pull the other agent's clenched fist to him. He slowly unfurled the thin fingers and removed the chip from within and pocketed it, smiling.
"But, you didn't give it to him, Simon" he said, "I think you've already chosen who."