"This will cost her her life you know," Big Nose stared hard through him.
"It's the truth."
"Then why did you desert?"
"I couldn't take it any more."
"You expect me to believe that?"
"I don't have much of a choice."
The door behind Big Nose opened. "Okay, Karl, I've seen enough."
It took a moment for Rob to focus. A new suit stood in the doorway. He carried himself with authority. Spook, probably. Former Ranger by the looks of it.
Big Nose nodded once. He picked up the DVD player and walked out of the room.
New Guy crossed the room and extended a hand. "Would you prefer your old name or your new?"
He stared at the hand in confusion. "I prefer Rob."
"Then come with me, Rob. We have a lot to talk about."
"She's fine. For the record, I'm very sorry we had to do that to you. Now come on, up with you."
"Why was she crying?"
"She had just been told you might be executed for treason."
"Come on, then. Get up."
Rob took the offered hand and numbly followed New Guy out of the interrogation room. They walked down a long, white hall, then another, then a third, then took an elevator up several floors. Another hallway. A closed door. New Guy opened it. A locker room.
"There's a fresh set of fatigues. Clean up. Someone will bring you to my office when you're done. By the way, I'm Special Agent Smith."
"Of course you are."
Smith snorted. "I get that a lot."
Rob closed the door, peeled the gritty clothes he'd been wearing during his captivity off, stepped in to a shower stall and turned the water on. He stood in the flow and stared at the wall for a long time, dazed, on the verge of tears. He'd gotten sloppy, let someone in. Now he was caught and she was a knife at his throat.
No more. He'd get out of this somehow. He could run.
Newfound determination filled him. He cleaned up quickly, found the fresh clothing, and walked out of the locker room.
Hot One was waiting for him. She'd traded the tight skirt and fuck me pumps for a conservative pant suit that showed no cleavage. "Rob," she said, "Special Agent Smith wanted me to escort you. I should tell you that I'm Agent Cline."
"It's awkward, I know." She smiled, then started walking down the hall. He shrugged and followed. "By the way, she must be really special."
"I was starting to think it would take months to break you."
They took the same elevator up a few more floors and walked down another hallway to an office. "He's ready for you," Cline said, opening the door.
Rob walked through the door. Smith was seated behind a cluttered desk. He didn't even offer the pretense of rising. "Rob, please," he gestured to a chair across the desk, "Sit. Let's talk."
Rob took the offered chair. "About what?"
"I have a job for you, if you're willing to take it."
This was the last thing he'd expected. "You what?"
Smith leaned forward. "I'm sorry for all the shit we put you through, I really am. But these are desperate times and we have to do extraordinary things, up to and including working with people who a month ago we would have left to rot in Leavenworth."
"Like you." Smith sighed heavily. "I have a lot of friends in the regular Army and the Guard. I asked a few of them to keep an eye out for people who might be able to help me in my task. You have the skills and determination to do what we needed, but I couldn't afford to have someone who I couldn't trust working for me. And I certainly couldn't justify working with someone who left Delta Force to commit treasonous acts."
"So that interrogation was a job interview?"
"You could call it that."
"It's nice that you you think you can trust me and all, but I'm not really feeling I can trust you."
"I understand." Smith held up a thick folder. "This is your file." He began feeding pages in to a shredder next to the desk. "It's going away. You've got a clean slate and, I dare say, you can be Rob or you can be Alexander Simkins. Hell, you can be Alexander Graham Bell for all it matters. You're free. But your country needs you now."
"To do what?"
"To find people."
"And kill them?"
Smith shook his head emphatically. "Absolutely not. We need you to help people." He finished with the shredder and leaned across the desk. "I'll level with you. It's absolute chaos out there. We're not advertising it, but the armed forces of this nation are at just over 50% strength and maybe a quarter of their expected effectiveness. A lot of people have disappeared and a lot simply went AWOL. Militia groups and gangs have sprung up all over the place and are grinding the Guards down. We couldn't win a war right now if we wanted. Hell, we couldn't fight a war right now."
Something clicked in Rob's head. "So is that why the U.S. Ambassador suggested turning everything over to the U.N.?"
Smith stared at him for a moment, blinking silently. "Um, not exactly," he finally said. "In fact, no one is really sure why that happened. The Joint Chiefs are up in arms over it and word has it that the British Ambassador isn't welcome home any more after his move to support the motion. Quite frankly, as weak as we are, turning control over to the United Nations will only weaken us further."
"So have we recalled the ambassador and reversed course?"
The Special Agent rubbed his eyes and breathed heavily through his nose. "No," he said after a moment. "The President went in to a closed-door session with that Carpathia creep mad as hell and came back like they were the best of buddies. Congress is panicking and word has it that they'll either turn control over or declare war on the U.N."
"What's going to happen?"
"Well, that's where you come in. Some of our most vocal opponents of the United Nations disappeared. We know a few of them were part of The Event, but several others were out of the Capitol at the time and apparently away from witnesses. We need them. And we need someone to find them."
"Can I think about it?"
"Yes. But not for long."
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