Part 15 – Downgrade.

Agent Price wasn’t big on empathy. He just got the job done, as was asked of him. Nevertheless, even he found it difficult to ignore the silence as he drove Adelaide to the hidden base. She wasn’t talking, eating or even humming to herself. He’d expected some comment about him kidnapping her again when he’d blindfolded her, but she hadn’t said anything. Gazing into the rear view mirror was like looking at a deflated balloon. Still, the last thing he needed was noise, so he didn’t complain.

Walking her into the briefing room, which was along a lengthy corridor, he got odd looks from passing co-workers as he stopped occasionally to spin her round. He knew perfectly well that they’d have taken the blindfold off her by this point, but that was so unprofessional. If you wanted to do a job, you did it properly.

When he finally pulled the blindfold off all he got was a sullen frown. Adelaide folded her arms and stared at him through half lidded eyes.

“We need to talk,” he paced the room.

“Stand still,” she replied, “you look like a moron.”

He stopped. It was hard to pretend he wasn’t a tiny bit offended.

“I heard about what happened last week.”

“How?”

“I have my methods,” agent Price pulled out his dark glasses and put them on, as much because he didn’t want a repetition of the spray can trick as because he wanted to look cool.

“Right,” Adelaide rolled her eyes. She suddenly reminded Price of the Director of Extra-Normal Relations.

“What were you thinking?” He decided to ignore her attitude, “Going up against someone without telling me first. You could have got yourself killed!”

“Hey!” Adelaide looked suddenly angry, “You’re the one who wanted us to ‘fight crime’ in the first place! How were we to know crime was so hard to fight?”

“That’s not the point,” Price put a hand to his face, “this isn’t about you actually doing anything. This is about the media, the publicity.”

“So rather than actually make a difference you’d like us to just appear to be making a difference?”

“Yes, but no, but…” Price trailed off. Adelaide watched him, her expression bored and listless. He glowered at her then shook his head and resumed his pacing. Adelaide watched him wordlessly. God, he was glad he didn’t have kids.

“You know what?” He said after a while, his whole body slumping as he leaned against a wall, “Forget it.”

There was a pause. Adelaide’s sullen expression vanished and she narrowed her eyes at him. Suddenly her tone was accusatory.

“What do you mean forget it?”

“Forget this whole hero business,” Price put his head to one side, glad to suddenly get her attention, “it was a dumb idea in the first place. I should have known trying to get a bunch of kids to do anything was stupid. You’re evidently incompetent. Do you know something? I actually went so far as to gamble my job on this, I genuinely believed in you. Can’t imagine why.

Adelaide frowned, her eyebrow shot up her face. Price pretended not to notice.

“Wait,” she said, “are you telling me this was your idea all along? Not some kind of government initiative, your idea?”

“Yeah,” Price shrugged, “I saw the problem, and a solution occurred. The Director’s been working on something else… Project blooming Prodigy. Well, I can tell you it’s not going to work. But I actually thought I could come up with something better.”

Adelaide waved her hand at him for her to stop.

“Who’s the Director? What’s Project Prodigy?”

“You don’t need to know,” Price shook his head forlornly, “you’re done. You’re finished. I don’t care what you do anymore, just get out of here.”

“Sure,” Adelaide stood up, smiling and with a look of guile. She walked to the door of the room. Price, who suddenly realised to his horror that he’d forgotten to lock it when entering the briefing room, tried to stop her.

“Wait! I need to…”

“I’m sure I can find my own way,” Adelaide replied casually, “and for your information this is not over. I am going to reform my team and we are going to damn well fight some crime. You will not lose your job and you will regret ever saying I was incompetent. Oh, and by the way, your flies are undone.”

“Nice try,” he scowled.

She shut the door with a bang and there was the sound of footsteps heading off. Price waited until they had faded then punched the air silently. The Director had been right, this manipulation thing really did pay off!

He’d sacrificed a little bit of his honour letting her just walk out, and he was sure his colleagues would laugh at him about it later. Still, he was sure she could find her way home and it wasn’t as though the location of the facility was a huge secret. Just one that might cost him his job…

There and then he resolved never to talk to anyone about this ever again. Negatives aside though, his plan had worked. He’d expected Adelaide’s defeat would knock the wind out of her momentarily. All it had taken was a little application of authority and she’d bolted in the other direction like a rabbit pursued by a fox. Maybe he would be a good father. The thought chilled him to the very bone.

His phone rang. It was the Director.

“Hi Price.”

“You saw that?”

“Why do you always ask that? I am sitting here behind the cameras watching you as we speak.”

“Right.”

“Oh come on,” the Director sounded amused, “don’t just let me walk all over you. Not after that impressive little display of string pulling! Listen Price, it sounded for a second there like you’d actually grown a brain.”

“Thanks…”

“There we go again,” the Director was suddenly bored, “no saving a sinking ship I guess. You’ve got another week by the way, ’cause I like her, not because I like you.”

“Director I couldn’t possibly thank you m-”

“Quit toadying and do up your flies.”

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