***

The agent walked up the stairs with her files. She noticed the slightest bit of blood had made its way onto her collar. She was on her way to her own office to write up a report and place the files in the system but was stopped on her way.

“Agent Xing!” Her commanding officer said. He walked through the brightly-lit corridor with another agent who he dismissed. “You didn’t take as long as I thought you would. Got everything you needed?” He asked, though he hesitated to remark about the blood.

“He gave me what I needed. And more.” She had contempt written all across her face. He looked at her in earnest, his face full of pity and sorrow.

“I’m sorry you had to go through that task, Li-”

“Don’t call me Li.” She interrupted. She didn’t want any of this task to be related to her personal life.

“I’m sorry you had to go through that task, Agent.” He struggled with his next couple words. “You understand why you had to do this task, right?” He gestured his hand towards her reluctantly and she nodded. “You’re our best agent, and you had the least relations to the casualties of anyone we could find for the job.” A tear ran down her face. He offered her a hug, but she declined it, taking a tissue instead. “Head to the debriefing office before you write up the report, they’ll help you with some counselling. This place is swarming with therapists ever since… what happened.” He was about to walk away before she stopped him.

“Sir, there’s a few things in this report you’ll want to know now.” She looked through her folder of notes and almost gave up on finding the right page just as she got to it. “I think I’ll need a promotion after this assignment. Everything about the Ascended. In my gut I know he wasn’t just hallucinating, they’ve been mentioned before.” He stammered a few times before keeping his voice lower.

“I think you’re due for a promotion as well. But don’t mention anymore of this unless you’re in my office.” He patted her on the back and began to walk away. She stopped him once more.

“We’re also going to have to scrap the drone sectors of the police force.” She said.

“I’ll read it in your report.” He replied without looking back. He turned a corner in the corridor and kept going about the rest of his day.

Agent Li Xing headed off to debriefing. There she cried for a while about her family, her husband, and her child. The therapist offered suggestions and methods for dealing with loss, but none of it was internalised. The agent left the office. She thought she would never be able to overcome the trauma of what happened.

She was right.

The End

***

THE MARVELLOUS MACHINE | THE OBJECTIONABLE INVENTION

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