“Sir! We have new intelligence on Agent 451’s whereabouts.”
Mr. Brown looked up from his desk sharply.
“You know where Dean is?” he asked.
“No, but we’re afraid the conversation with his mother about meeting further west was a ruse. We’ve noticed suspicious new activity on the profile of the woman he was previously assigned to. She’s befriended someone called ‘D.’ Our agents have been looking into the details of the profile’s owner, and it was begun in Agent 451’s home state.”
“Do you have photo evidence?”
“None as of yet, sir. But we know where he’s heading.”
“Great,” Mr. Brown said gruffly. “Out with it.”
“He is heading back to the city. Should we consider him armed and dangerous?”
“Dean? I highly doubt that. Is he on foot?”
“No sir, according to a FaceSpace private messenger conversation with his former user, he is on his way back to the city via bus.”
“Bus?” Mr. Brown said incredulously.
“I know it’s odd sir, but considering the agent’s situation, it’s possible he has suffered some sort of mental break.”
“I’d say it’s likely,” Mr. Brown said with a frown. “When is his bus due to arrive?”
“There’s no way of telling. We don’t even know which bus line he will be on.”
“I want an agent deployed at every bus station in the city. Make sure they all have their target’s face memorized. If you find him, bring him here and we’ll deal with the matter quietly.”
“Of course, sir.”
“Send them into the common room to be briefed.”
“Of course, right away.”
“Agent?” Mr. Brown called as the man hurried toward the door.
“Yes, sir?” he asked, turning around.
“Handle this delicately. There’s a chance that he is still a friend of FaceSpace, and there’s a chance that he is now our enemy. Take no definitive action until you know whether he is friend or foe. Be careful in your manner of speaking. If you can negotiate with him and sway him to come with us willingly, do so. We don’t want him turning against FaceSpace. He knows too much, and if we just get him back here in one piece we may still be able to use him. He is very valuable to the operation, and this may just be a case of puppy love gone too far. FaceSpace is like the parent of a rebellious teenager. Deal with this accordingly.”
“Do you have any suggestions about how to communicate with him, sir?”
“I’d like to speak with him personally,” Mr. Brown said, clearing his throat importantly. “I always felt we had something of a repertoire. But since I can’t be there to stake him out, alert me the moment you discover his whereabouts. And if that doesn’t work, I want to make sure our most diplomatic agents are available. Assign those who have tested with an unusually high emotional intelligence and brief them immediately.”
“Right away, sir.”
Mr. Brown turned his swivel chair to face the large windows in his office. It was a shame that it had come to this. He didn’t want to harm Dean, but he would rather have him working at FaceSpace as a paper pusher or a custodial worker than to release him onto the street in his state of mind. The poor man would end up raving like a lunatic, waving a cardboard sign about how the end was nigh and FaceSpace would one day rule them all.
While the assertion was preposterous, it was still a form of bad press that should be avoided at all costs. Whether people liked it or not, the ravings of the deeply depraved often followed them wherever they went, sometimes burying suspicions and paranoia deep in the heart of even the soundest thinker. FaceSpace couldn’t afford skepticism. Not when it was about to seal the most important deal in history. The situation with Dean would have to be rectified immediately.
Mr. Brown sighed and leaned back in his chair. If only he hadn’t allowed Dean to go on vacation. But who was he fooling? He had been a ticking timebomb from the start.