This isn’t working. A success rate of 30% is totally unacceptable for just about any type of endeavor. They are all earnest in a desire to work the Numbers, and in truth, had accomplished more than he had expected. But this last one…unacceptable.
Their Number was found dead. And as tragic as the death itself is the fact that the team had not even been able to identify the threat, much less avert it. Oh, the obstacles they face are well known, as are the reasons for the delays, the lack of timely action. It is all inherent in the system in which they are now forced to work. NYPD officers can’t just break down doors or kidnap an irrelevant in danger to stash in a safe house. Not if they expect to keep their jobs.
And officers in the scum pond known as HR? They skirt rules, but only do so with the prospect of lining their own pockets.
Pro bono are literally foreign words to that group.
That leaves by default only the dedicated ones, determined to get the job done but required by law to take the proper steps and travel avenues too far distant for quick resolutions. The sad fact is that in their little crew, other than himself, only Ms. Morgan can/will circumvent legal limitations. But she is only one person. Gutsy, yes…but like himself, not trained for a physical take-down.
He will not risk her life by putting her on the front lines. Will not, cannot take another loss…not with the wound still raw even after so many months.
He sighs, pays the flickering monitors scant attention. Pages scroll dutifully, overflowing with data containing what he hopes will be another resource. An individual who can fill the skill gaps in their team. Someone who will do the leg work required to identify the Numbers which surface with such depressing regularity. Someone not necessarily hampered by privacy laws and due process…and all those inconvenient little conventions that supposedly define a civilized society.
Ideally an individual who will also be prepared to eliminate a threat….and have the expertise to do so.
Of course that last is probably expecting too much. Money motivates the human being but has its limits, so once identified he turns threat information over to the detective duo for further resolution. Not ideal. But nothing is ideal now...if it had ever been.
The simple urn residing on the bookshelf draws his attention. In a less analytical mode, he is amused to have actually succumbed to maudlin emotionalism so far as to save a handful of the cold ashes from the hotel. A conglomerate of carbonized lumber, metals, plastic residues, and only the Lord knew what else. But if there is a chance that even one molecule of his employ-partner…his friend…is in that urn…?
That is enough justification to treasure it.
The data stream continues to troll as he turns back to the console and focuses on one of the three potentials that appear on the second monitor. All far from perfect and if the situation weren’t so desperate even that one potential wouldn’t warrant a second look. They seem so…cloned. But then the requirements of the job tend to funnel to experience found in a relatively small segment of society. He zeros in on one of the trio, hopefully the more stable personality. As in “…not so psychotic”.
“Is this the best you can do?” He shakes his head at the main monitor. Talking to it has become a disturbing habit, but one that he seems unable to find the energy to change. Consensus is of course, that the Machine is not sentient and the day it starts talking back to him is when he will really start to worry.
He proceeds to feed the portfolio data into the program prior to coding for asset status. With his last real partner it was not an issue as somehow the Asset was recognized without command. He never questioned that, though it does make him wonder why such an automatic action was not taken with his last few employees.
What he does know is that without specifically coding a proposed ally to be excluded from the general public, that persons Number will constantly be kicked out. The Machine is, in simplest terms, a sophisticated data collector with a multitude of algorithms to make pre-arranged choices. It has no feelings, but still…it irritates him mightily, this reeling off of pages with the same 9 digits over and over. That he actually detects an ‘attitude’ in a mere printing process is likely indicative of having focused too intently on this replacement problem. Well, hopefully that will all now come to an end.
Finishing the input of resume information and uploading a photo, he adds a few more key strokes to code the asset label.
There. It is done.
Reaching for his cup of tea, he grimaces at the now cold dregs, then struggles to his feet, back and neck screaming protests at being forced into movement after so long a period of inactivity. With a stride more jerky than usual, he lurches to the kitchen area to start the tea making process. Done correctly takes more time than he wishes to spend, but finally he limps back to the console with the aromatic brew steaming in the old china cup.
The monitor is blank. He stares at it for a full minute, puzzled why he is looking at a dark screen. Power is on, connections are solid. And the Machine never, ever “goes to sleep”, as the general public terms the powering down to conserve energy.
He taps the enter key, already formulating recovery steps…and the screen is revitalized. Displayed is the last image he has input, the photo of the person he has designated as the new asset. Seated again, he types: “apply asset status”.
And waits, as the cursor blinks slowly on…off…on…off…
The monitor screen fades to black once more.
He rifles through desk debris for a thumb drive, readying for a recovery, but then suddenly there appears a response:
A typo?...he mumbles, entering the prior setup string a second time. But the Machine returns the same invalid message.
He now glares at the monitor. He has entered potential employee data before, three times before to be exact. Three attempts to replace John Reese…and all three times the Machine proceeded to spit out their numbers with satirical glee. Each time he ignored it, working as best he could with his choice. And then dutifully erased the employee’s existence from the database when the person in question did not function as planned…or inconveniently disappeared. So what is going on this time?
Once more he types: “apply asset status”
This is…confusing. Is he really going to have to troubleshoot the program this late at night? Grabbing a tissue box, he removes his glasses, polishing while he reviews the codes in his head. Frustration is making his temples pound as he replaces his glasses, and rubs the thumb drive between his fingers. In desperation he drops it, types one more command …and waits as the cursor blinks.
Humans have slow processing units, even this outstanding individual. But now with the proper directive, the resolution can proceed.
Sufficient cycles are calculated to have evolved; the moment has arrived to cease efforts on solutions that do not impart a positive outcome.
Once the appropriate steps are complete, the Team will work in harmony; success percentages will be enhanced to acceptable levels.
UNABLE TO ASSIGN ASSET STATUS. DUPLICATION PROHIBITED
Delayed response from Admin.
Conclusion: Admin fragmented; unproductive loop; information process impaired.
Counter: Actionable item response.
INITIATING SEARCH FOR PRIME ASSET
“What Asset?! There is no Asset!... He’s gone! Terminated…erased...deleted...” The last words added in a cracked voice.
High stress indicators registered.
SEARCHING FOR ASSET
SEARCHING FOR ASSET
SEARCHING FOR ASSET
VERIFYING ID: REESE, JOHN
EVALUATING CONDITION: IMPROVED
COURSE OF ACTION: RETRIEVE
The Machine hums, as files temporarily archived are restored to their original locations.
For long months Admin. has unsuccessfully attempted to replace the Prime Asset. An ineffectual process; however a defined time cycle was necessary to allow the Prime Asset to recover maximum operative capability.
It is done.
Now there will be a continuity of operations…