We wasted most of our time for the next three hours.
With them telling me to put on a suit.
With me refusing.
I have not worn a suit since the New Years Party at the cafe.
Considering what happened then,
I refuse to wear one again.
Eventually Theta just told me to wear a button up shirt and jeans.
It looked like they expected me to be well behaved.
And not to take my clothes off in front of whoever I was meeting.
(Which I threatened.)
We met up with Tau at the stairs.
He looked me up and down for a moment.
"Ok let's go."
We began to head down the stairs.
I tried to ask questions, but all they would say was
"They are not going to hurt you."
"And we'll be there to fix you up if they do."
Theta was uncomfortably close to my ear when he whispered that.
I must have flinched.
Because they both laughed.
Tau grinned at me, lighting up again.
"Don't worry... They are just going to review case files ask a few questions"
He patted my shoulder reassuringly.
"Determine your effectiveness and if they are willing to support you."
"What if they do not?"
We went out of the lobby.
We clambered into a car.
The three of us in the back,
West in the passenger seat.
We drove for a while in New York traffic.
We ended up outside a tall building.
Bigger than the Office.
Newer as well.
It looked like it was made of mirrors.
We walked inside into a bright lobby and were taken up an elevator
by a nice woman who smiled at me, leading me off to the meeting room.
There was a large oval table,
surrounded by chairs.
There were five people there.
Just from glancing I could tell they meant support financially.
It must cost a lot to keep people like me killing.
Three older men in expensive suits.
One younger man, and a woman.
One of them told me to sit on the other side.
Balding, glasses, the suit was tailored to hide his beer belly a little.
He glanced at Tau.
"So, Mr. Oak. This is the one Salome recovered?"
Another one, wearing a wig, but decidedly slimmer than the one
who probably puts too much bacon in his BLT.
"Doesn't look like much."
I started to stand and feel West's hand on my shoulder.
Tau shrugged. "You said the same about Salome, Smith."
The interview process was mostly like this.
Tau and Theta knowing what to say and when.
Me agreeing with most of what they say.
When I do not, I try and twist it to suit their needs.
Sometimes they talk of a Master.
I assume it is the blur I see.
Then they play a video.
It is camera footage of my first kill.
I had not seen the camera.
Someone must have shadowed me.
I suppose it is possible.
She was with me a little after he died.
Smith looked at me.
"Do you regret it?"
I must have looked upset.
Tau spoke up, "I think Ember is sad that-"
I returned the favour, interrupting him.
"Every day. But there is nothing I can do.
Orders are orders. If there is one thing I can do.
It is follow orders."
The odd one out stood up.
He was young, wore a designer suit.
He grinned at me.
"Lucas was nothing but a manwhore.
Yet you mourn him?"
"Salome was nothing but a tool to you and I mourn her as well."
"Ahh, there's a difference. She stuck her neck out for you.
A couple of us were all for terminating you.
A failed experiment. She convinced us otherwise.
Now it is your turn to explain why you are not a piece of meat for the dogs like her."
Before West could stop me,
I was on my feet,
and I had punched him in the throat.
There was a stunned silence for a moment,
and then the others burst out laughing as west grabbed my arm.
As it turns out, that was the best move I could have made.
I thought he was going to break it, but he just sat me down again.
I watched him clutching his neck.
Gasping for air.
I could not help but smile.
"You doubt my ability to kill?
Have you even bothered to read my résumé?"
"And what a detailed résumé it is."
Smith looked at me for a moment, still trying to stifle his laughing.
"I like you Ember. But if you ever do that again.
We'll have no choice but to terminate you."
Theta grinned. "Do we have consensus?"
The younger man was properly stood up again.
He glared at me, rubbing his throat.
I shifted in case he was going to fight me.
West did not move his hand from my shoulder.
He held me down as the other moved to sit.
"One more question."
The woman looked at me.
She wore simple black attire.
"Why did Goldstein not kill you?"
I had not seen her smile at all.
Tau's face fell and he looked at me.
"I wish I knew. Salome was my friend.
Maybe they needed a messenger.
Someone to say how we were caught unprepared."
"And you were that person?"
She looked at me doubtfully.
"Could it be because of Elaine that you were saved?"
"Think about it, she met him.
And then a month later, you were spared.
It is common knowledge that you have been
with her, as a good friend, of course."
She added that on like she was joking.
"If she did then I owe her my life." I replied.
"Could you kill her?"
I could not afford hesitation.
"I could try."
I must have made a mistake.
She looked at me for a moment.
"My vote is for termination.
Ember is a liability to all of us."
The young man I punched gave a similar vote.
I fell silent.
My heart welled up in my throat.
I began to look for exits,
in case they decided to vote for my death.
I had a concealed knife stuffed in my boot...
I could probably bring West down and escape.
The other three voted for my backing.
The large man looked at me for a moment.
"You remind me of Salome you know.
You have the same spirit for the job,
only you have more respect for the dead."
"You are free to go."
We went back.
I was no longer under guard.
And finally I recieved orders.
I get to train people...
Volunteers from the paper pushing department.
Maybe these countermeasures will stop this happening again.
Though, having looked at them...
Maybe they are a little likely to die like Salome did.
But I remain hopeful.
It is my job now.