The building John Clarke used as his front for his organization was in a village ninety minutes from Grand Central Station, in New York. Tourists and visitors avoided the place as the village was practically a ghost town, full of empty buildings.
“We have arrived.”
Mick parked the car in an old parking lot, where the buildings had windows blocked with wood panels. John had come out of the office to greet us, and I followed him inside while Mick parked the car.
The office was not large, which made the wall covered with computer monitors more noticeable. There were phones for each monitor on a desk with numbered stickers.
I looked at monitor No.3, monitoring a small New York bookstore from across the street. It seemed that a disguised car was shooting the footage. I recognized the place because Tina, who is also a prior Awakened, worked there. Monitor No.4 showed Waden Ruch of Musicteca working in his office. It seemed that an operative had hidden a camera in the office as the video stream showed working at his desk. I turned my head at John’s words. (EN: I know “video stream” is anachronistic for this era, but Sun is familiar with the term, and that’s how he’d think of it.)
“It would be there.”
I had been informed that they had narrowed First Evil’s whereabouts to Texas and he now pointed to monitor No.9. The quality of the footage was fuzzy at best, and I could only make out that it was a large cornfield.
“It’s Roberts County, and we have placed agents on the nearby roads and bribed the sheriffs generously. We should finally catch him.”
“Why didn’t he run to Mexico?”
“Outside of cities, which he would likely avoid, strangers would be noticeable.”
“All right. He won’t teleport or do anything weird this time.”
First Evil had used up all of his insignias, and he would not have had a chance to get another one during the six months we had chased him. He would not have been able to conquer a dungeon by himself. The worst-case scenario was that he had managed to get a daily routine quest, however I had not seen one since the tutorial.
“Kill him on sight. It seems that the team there won’t be able to wait for me.”
Mick came in now, and it seemed that this was his first time coming here. He looked at the monitors for a minute before standing straight, and John looked at him with questions in his eyes.
“I asked Mick to come in. He has first-hand experience in the dangers of our work. John, I was disappointed with the agents I had worked with this time. Please train them better.”
“Was there a problem?”
“They didn’t take the danger seriously! They were doing PT in camp, near the site! Cut off those who ignore the briefings, and don’t believe it is dangerous just because they don’t see anything. Mick here at least understands what we could face, and our organization needs more of him. Place only those like him, with first hand experience with the Cat, in charge. Make him a board member and base him out of Headquarters. He will help you with recruitment.”
John looked back and forth between Mick and me. While he was surprised, he had no choice but to agree. (EN: Sun is the money, and when money talks, people listen.)
Mick nodded. While John was not happy, he acted cordially and extended his arm for a handshake.
“You’re one of us now.”
I added a word.
“Don’t stand there awkwardly and sit down.”
Mick followed my gaze to sit at an appropriate spot before I changed the subject.
“How are things with the Reinhart case?”
That was Second Virtue’s real name, and he was living on another continent at present. As the current technology was insufficient to monitor him in real-time from here, there was no footage of him.
“I have an agent placed as a live-in bodyguard in his house.”
John also had a team observing the Second Virtue’s company and to tail him.
“The subject only goes back and forth between his business and home while working on his IPO.” (Initial Public Offering)
John played a recording from Germany, and I could see that the Second Virtue was a workaholic. He was riding this golden era, as even the Frankfurter Wertpapierbörse was also affected by irrational exuberance. (EN: Frankfurt Stock Exchange. Largest of Germany’s seven Stock Markets.) His firm would prosper enough for him to buy a German communication firm before the IT bubble broke. I estimated that he would Awaken around that time. Maybe that was also when he started to form Revolucion, which had been the strongest armed force of my first life.
It was illegal and immoral to listen into other people’s communications. Still, I guessed that Second Virtue had built Revolucion that way. He must have used the German communication firm he bought to find pre-Awakened for a long time to have built Revolucion. Even the EU had bowed to him before I came back. As an organization, the Second Virtue had the strongest of them all. Therefore, Western Europe had been his territory. But that had not been all that bad, as Western Europe had fared better than other regions because of Revolucion. That was why I hesitated and thought things over as I observed him.
Mick had been driving me, and I told him to stop. I got out of the car and looked at him.
“Mick, this organization will grow. That means your role will become important.”
I clasped him on the shoulder once before hailing a taxi. Wall Street was bustling as people dreamed of a bright millennium in the dotcom bubble. Among the smiling people, I saw a party of young people from Silicon Valley who had finished their IPO. One of them would become a millionaire overnight and would make headline news tomorrow.
I thought of such things as I came to Jonathan Investments, and the first floor lobby was open. It seems Jonathan Investments had invested heavily in that group from Santa Clara, hence their smiles exiting Jonathan Investments… (EB: Silicon Valley is in Santa Clara, CA. )
“If you’re going to disappear, tell me first.”
I could see Jonathan was annoyed.
“You haven’t checked your email yet. When did you come to New York? Why those vintage gloves in the summer?”
Jonathan looked with distaste at the Deva King’s Protective Gloves as I sat on the VIP sofa to speak.
“I thought the important things had already been decided.”
I looked around the office to see the expensive office and saw a painting that had shaken American contemporary art. Jonathan sounded annoyed as he spoke curtly.
“The accountants hung that up due to the damn taxes, for the rebates.”
It seemed that something urgent had happened, but I could not think of something. The stocks I had listed were going up every day, and I had to ask.
“Did something happen?”
I mulled over, as making a loss would be impossible for any of the hedge funds under our group in his era.
Jonathan’s voice was low and dark, but he could not keep it up for long. I could see his excited smirk as he continued on.
“Our property fund’s accumulated profit rate is…!”
Jonathan let out a laugh he seemed to have been holding back for a while now. Of course, that had to be the case in this crazy market with those crazy stocks I had him buy.
Edited by Userunfriendly