“You know, an operator like Achilles Chin could probably infiltrate AEGIS.”
Alex Gemini Shelby looks up from their computer and peers at Emma Agney, aka “Hot Mess”. The two are hanging out in Hermosillo, conveniently near the SATMEX control center that runs Alex’s current conduit to the electronic world, Eutelsat 117 West B. So far discussion has been limited to Alex talking excitedly about the bird and what they can get it to do, and Hot Mess rolling her eyes and drinking expensive-looking drinks that Alex is pretty sure are alcoholic. So, this kind of announcement is uncharacteristic.
“Uh, probably, I guess?”
Emma takes this as permission to continue, which it is. “Alright. AEGIS works with all these brilliant people, but doesn’t really hire them, right?”
Alex thinks this over. Are they a super-genius? Not really… I mean, there’s computers, but that’s not really the same thing, is it. Did Waters say anything about it?
“Uhhh. Yeah, guess not. If I had to guess, it’s because geniuses are hard to plug into hierarchical decision-making systems? If you’re smart, you think you know best how to do everything, yeah?”
Emma nods. “But sometimes they really do know best. Definition of genius, right? And Chin had it on the ball, running a huge world-wide organization. Shit, the boss thinks he has it good micromanaging 10 city blocks where he’s at.”
“So you’re thinking, AEGIS’s deal is dealing with supervillain shit, Chin sees that as a threat, he’s gonna do what people do, which is infiltrate and suborn it?”
“Yeah.” Emma shrugs. “I mean, it’s a locust of power, or whatever.”
“Locus.” Alex smirks a bit. “L-O-C-U-S.”
“Whatever!” Emma scowls. “Point is, he’s got the means and motive.”
Alex nods along. “Fine, counterpoint though. Alycia Chin came in from the cold, and the first thing she did was narc on all his shit. So AEGIS has to be prepared for Chin and his moves. Hell, we got sent on this mission to begin with because AEGIS picked up Chin-type activity, and lo and behold that paid off.”
Emma is annoyingly prepared for this. “She apparently missed that she’s got a sibling, brick-brain. What else doesn’t she know? For that matter, who’s to say all that activity wasn’t just a huge trap to get her down to this one place where they could get at her?”
Alex wants to laugh this off, but finds themselves mentally reeling at the possibility that it might just be right. But they rally, and sit up straighter - almost spilling their own drink on the all-important laptop in front of them. “Well thankfully for us, we’re not using any AEGIS resources right now. It’s just a bunch of us doing things our way. And anyway, what qualifies you to talk about all this shit like you’re some kind of cold master-class villain? You’ve been operating for like a year.”
Emma shrugs, and smiles in a strange way that worries Alex. “I was gonna be valedictorian before I got in a car accident. Pretty traumatizing, yeah. The boss took me in, helped me out, taught me how to be a proper villain.” She slides her sunglasses down her nose to stare at the hacker. “But before that, when I was just a regular high schooler? I wasn’t a good person even then, Alex. I knew how to hurt people, how to manipulate them, and you know what stopped me?”
Alex assumes the pause is a call for an answer, but doesn’t know what to say.
Apparently, Emma doesn’t either, because she shrugs it away. “Anyway. I’ve found my true calling. I don’t have a genius brain like the Chins. But when it comes to doing bad things for good reasons, I’m the best.” She glances down at the laptop. “So get back to work, find us a lead.”
Alex rallies, back in their element. “Already did. Just pulling in some extra data.”
“Well, Nono’s insight was right, the people in the lab were staying in the town nearby, and the sheriff was being paid to look the other way. Thing is, those people were brought in from all over the place for their chemistry expertise. And they all have a few things in common. How they paid for their trip to Mexico, for example. I’m working my way through FinCEN files to follow the leads back.”
“Oh, like JPMorgan? Yeah, those guys move money for the Ukrainians. Samir knows some of that shit.”
Alex looks up in surprise. “Oh. Yeah. Duh. I guess I should be asking you about this.”
Emma flashes the biggest shit-eating smirk Alex has ever seen. “Yeah. You should.”