It was as if Constance had always known, and in a way, she had. It was just that the Agency had omitted certain things. No, she decided, that was too kind a way to put it. They’d consciously doctored things. At least if she could believe this man Jin. They stood in the gardens, Jin looking up at the carefully maintained night time sky.
“Am I even alive?” Constance asked. She had fallen back to English, although Japanese came as natural, thanks to the wetware. She decided that in the sea of conflicting memory and information, it was important to go with what felt right. “The Agency tested my loyalty, and I still don’t know whether or not I passed. I assumed I did, but maybe even that is in question.”
Jin regarded her with the look of a mentor. A slightly different way from how Manly regarded her. She found herself missing his fatherly ways. “How do you feel?”
“Feel? I feel fine. But that doesn’t answer anything really.”
“Do you believe that you are alive?”
Constance frowned, and even part of the illusion of her as geisha slipped. She let the show of control fall back a little, “I don’t know what to believe.”
“What do you know?”
“I know that the Priniciple is not the head of the Agency,” Constance remarked. “I know that Susan Faye is the head, answerable to John Brockman, head of the Ministry of Homeland Security in the Republic of Oceania.”
Jin regarded her with a look that implied she should continue. Constance felt as if she was just quoting knowledge she had known all along. She had. Since she had sat at Jin’s table, suddenly she felt as if she knew a lot of truths. He had awoken memories she had always known.
“The Agency is a secret branch of the Secret Intelligence Service, its goal to observe and interact with a number of key corporate interests within the Republic and its protectorates. Furthermore, agents in the field are charged with provoking these corporate interests into committing crimes which are then bought to the courts.”
Constance kept her hands clasped lightly before her, as they stood on the small bridge. Underneath, the brook babbled quietly, inoffensively. “Mr Samuel Manly has been my handler during my time at the Agency. I have been answerable primarily to him, but equally so to the Principle.”
“The Principle is not the head of the Agency,” Jin remarked, and it almost sounded like a question, if only by a hint of inflection. A careful guide, Constance observed.
“No, as I said, Susan Faye is.” Constance frowned. Why did it only just occur to her now? Her voice carried her concern at the memory. “I’ve been employed by both the Agency and Asano Concerns. A joint project of sorts …”
“Yes. And for some reason, the Agency has decided to keep us out of things since what we have assumed and now know to be a Code Black.”
Jin had his hands clasped behind his back, and looked again to Constance for answers, quietly guiding. Gently opening the course of conversation.
“That’s just standard protocol,” she explained. “Cut all links and ties. Total silence. They need to find the source of the leaks that have lead to the deaths and disappearances of both agents and handlers. The Agency has been compromised.”
“Who do you believe the leaks to be?” asked Jin. Constance thought that she could feel a breeze, but it had to be part of the illusion that made this garden real. “You have the truths, they charged you with the task. Have you got a shortlist?”
Constance frowned, and looked pointedly at Jin. “Frankly, with this development, I’ve had to change it somewhat. I do. But it now includes Asano Concerns. They were right to cut you out of the deal. Your a strong candidate for a possible leak.”
“You’re a joint project,” defended Jin. If he was annoyed by the accusation, he didn’t show it. “We can’t have the Agency controlling you like this. They doctored your memories. And did a poor job of it.”
“Too quick,” he explained, looking back at Constance. His black John Lennon glasses betrayed nothing. “Too many inconsistencies. Along with a few that we managed to put in via the truths themselves.”
“You’ve both doctored me,” Constance shot back, annoyed. “Both of you have shadowed my memories or altered them in some form. I’d almost put that down to manipulation.”
“You’re essentially in the spy business, Constance. This is merely a part of your every day existence. What you are. Who you are. Agents are constantly redefining who they are.”
“No,” she replied. “You’re wrong there. To a degree. We do redefine ourselves. Like I did coming here, appearing as a geisha. But we still keep a core of who we are. We aren’t just some template you can wipe and change at will.”
Constance frowned. She knew Jin saw it too, before she tried to wipe the expression from her porcelain features.
“Are you alive?”
“I don’t know.”
“Is this even real,” Jin pressed, firmly. He stared at her through those black glasses, gesturing perhaps a hint dramatically to the surrounds. Of course, he meant the world, not just the Oriental Quarter, which lay mostly in illusion.
“It has to be. Something has to be real. And if this is real, then I’m alive. I have to choose to believe something. Whether I believe your story, or what I’ve always known, I have to choose something. And I have to stay true to it.”
Jin actually showed a hint of worry. “What is that, then?”
Constance found herself not so quick with the answer to that. All she could think of was Toa. All the things they had been through together. It could have all been illusion, all just false memory. It was a possibility, but it made more sense that what Jin was telling her, and what she was remembering now was all true. She stared out across the garden and remembered her feelings for Toa.
“What do you believe to be true.”
“I never terminated Toa,” she remarked, quietly. It was almost a whisper on the wind. “I couldn’t have. Which means the Agency would have held my loyalties in question.”
Jin stood silent and patient. Constance didn’t give him any more. Jin looked like the mentor that realized he didn’t understand his student. Momentarily spooked. He drew a slow, careful breath.
“Sigma is one of the primary corporations that has been attacking the Ageny,” Constance remarked, finally. Jin looked distracted. “Sigma have enough technologies in the memory business. There is too much compromise.”
“Come back with me to Nippon then,” Jin said. He turned to her, almost imploring, she noticed. “While the Code Black is in existence. There is no reason why you can’t return to Asano Concerns for that time.”
Constance regarded him cautiously. Already she could feel her decisions coming to mind. A few seconds later and another message had already prepared itself in her mind. She sent it to Toa with a blink, watched as the leaves fell from the trees behind Jin. She shook her head.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“As you wish,” he replied, letting it lie. Still with the iron control. Constance figured more was going on behind those taut features. “What do you plan to do now? Return to Toa Carter for the duration of the Code Black? Your memories have been restored. You know the truth of yourself more than you ever have with your time with the Agency.”
Truth, or merely a new truth, Constance wondered. She knew her loyalties always lay with the Agency, even if she was part of Asano Concerns.
As the leaves twisted and fell behind Jin, she merely smiled. It was a polite, and careful smile, all the picture perfect of the geisha she pretended to be. She smiled, and felt a keen sense of awareness. A keen sense of freedom. Then, it was done.
* * *
Please forward this to my handler, Manly. It is my final list of leaks within Section 17. Is has been formulated after careful consideration, and I believe it to be true within the limits of my abilities;
Agent Simon Burser
Handler James Morgan
Mr John Brockman
My final inclusion comes in form of myself. I believe I have compromised Agency security with my connection to Asano Concerns. Please find attached a full brief and report on my reasonings for these choices.
I know that I do in yours, but you will always have a place in my heart also. Goodbye Toa.
* * *
Carter stared over the atrium, a perfect view from the apartment windows. His expression was stony as the message trickled through his wetware, becoming memory and knowledge. It had been bad enough that he hadn’t been able to detect Constance’s presence. But now he knew somehow that it was final.
Manly appeared next to him, flicking momentarily before the hyper reality took in his peripheral. He looked concerned. Carter felt the hollow absence inside.
“I told you it was bullshit trying to shift her head around like that,” he muttered. He couldn’t look at the man right now. “Now I’ve lost her. We’ve lost her. She’s gone over to Asano.”
“No,” replied Manly. He looked tired. “She hasn’t. Asano Concerns have attempted to contact us since the Code Black. They’ve been open and frank about their recent involvement with Constance since we gave her the shortlisting project.”
Carter finally looked at Manly, staring him straight in the eye. About him, his own environment bled poorly into Carter’s. Manly remarked to him straight, “She hasn’t gone over to Asano Concerns. That would have almost been a preferable outcome.”
Carter frowned, but then Manly filled in the blanks.
“She’s gone entirely.”