Z-anon-sensei Speaks #71
“It now becomes clear on the contrary that it will be lived all the better if it has no meaning.” Camus
The Director usually tried to resist turning to other NSS agencies for information. He had direct access, of course, to databases and shared file systems and the like. But sometimes, as in the current situation, those systems didn’t hold what he was after. If he needed original research or other categories of data he would have to send a message up through chains of command he preferred not to have to negotiate. Questions often led to questions in return, and budget line items were always in competition among the various letter combinations within NSS, black though those budgets might be. And, quite frankly, ^zetateam did not always receive, shall we say, the respect that some of the other sections did. So he has developed over the years an extensive network of personal contacts, people with whom he has exchanged favors professional and personal, large and small, and upon whom he can count when he needs help, without any awkward questions.
Once one has entered into the deceptive services, problems like loyalty, integrity of information, chains of command, and so forth can become incredibly complicated. Certainty, it’s said, is the first casualty of security classification. In a world where need to know rules, one is never sure of what is true or who is working with whom. One must operate in a realm of probabilities and likelihoods rather than simple chains of cause and effect, in a network of influence and suggestion rather than push and pull. Information warfare is closer to literature than it is to karate or kendo. In the Director’s world, dominoes don’t fall, exactly, but rather lean and nudge against each other. Truth along with hope is long abandoned; intuition, hunch and gut instinct are better guides than data and history, and the moon and stars more accurate for navigation than chart, compass, and sextant. And personal relationships are more important than organizational hierarchies.
Elaborate codes and cyphers, secret handshakes and other methods have been used historically to try to navigate the uncertainties of what Ary Burr would call “spy biz.” Like threads through a dark labyrinth, agents use these methods to simultaneously hide and reveal the truth, depending on which side of the cypher they are on. But even those methods have uncertainties. Has the enemy deciphered the cypher, but not revealed himself yet? Is the hand on the other end of that handshake or that text message really who they say they are? Is my contact double or triple-timing whichever of my own identities I’m revealing to her? Is a statement true, or is it a lie passing as truth? Is a message clearly labeled as fiction in reality a truth lying about its own nature?
For these reasons, philosophers and poets don’t usually make the most effective agents inside the complicated stew of alphabet agencies, secret societies, or criminal conspiracies. The Director tended to handle all this complication with calculation, being by original training a mathematician with an overwhelming love of statistics and a not-so-secret gambling addiction.
But Shelaegham Bohaeagun was an exception to this rule. She could recite Yeats or Seamus Heaney while slitting the throat of an ex-lover without even a quiver of cognitive dissonance. She could disobey the orders of a superior while obeying the orders of his superior, not by not questioning, but rather by a complicated process of internal exegesis through which she was able to rationalize pretty much anything she did. Her favorite light reading was deconstructionists like Derrida and Julia Kristeva. Clarity was clearly not a virtue in her mind. She was clear about only one thing, and it had gotten her this far without serious injury or imprisonment, though not without consequence, she might add. Her one principle was: do the next thing, now. Think about it all later.
Shelaegh grew up in a Catholic family during the troubles in Belfast. It was a hard life and a fast one, though Shelaegh didn’t whine about it. She’d grown up hard and fast herself. She was brilliant in school, and good with a gun in the running street battles she had been part of even as a young lass. But she’d ended up in a spot of trouble or two, and found herself sent off to the states for college— sponsored, though she had never told a soul, by a wee bit of IRA money. In college, she soon found herself recruited by someone who only ever said “government” when she asked who he worked for. The recruitment was easy, because part of her collateral for the IRA loan was to develop exactly this type of contact. “Well, sure I’ll try it.” she had said, almost without hesitation. “It seems like the only way to deal with it, then, doesn’t it?”
A complicated but always interesting career had followed very naturally for her, one next thing at a time. The complications of her alliances and responsibilities had grown very complicated, for sure. And that very complication of responsibility left her feeling completely free.
She had badges, IDs and code words that allowed her into a surprising variety of secret facilities. She knew hand-shakes and cypher-signs that allowed her passage into backrooms and side-doors, into secret sacred groves in hidden copses of woods; she held credit cards that opened the doors of country clubs, city clubs and speakeasies alike; and her palm-prints and iris patterns would allow her access into even more classified realms than the present text can mention. She could agree to or refuse pretty much any job she was offered. And she was good enough at her job that she seldom found herself short of work.
She took the call from the Director in a pub in Galway, where she was watching the hurling match. Her team was losing badly, so she stepped outside to talk, out onto the old long walk and into a strong wind blowing in off the sea. She liked the Director, and in her web of many-leveled loyalties, actually liking someone was a rare and treasured thing. They talked briefly about the banging bloke Shelaegh was banging and the fookin’ fellow she was no longer fookin’ and the weather, which was, of course, bad, it being Ireland. The Director made a few jokes about his wife, quite droll, actually, and Shelaegh laughed out loud a few times.
When the conversation ended, Shelaegh had a new assignment, a new next thing to do. Two names. Robert Priest. And Xenon.