Agents of T.A.L.O.N.

This is actually a nice place you picked out. It’s not the best Thai food I’ve ever had, mind you–nothing like what you can get in Bangkok. But you can’t get a decent hot dog there to save your life, so it kind of balances out.

I’m glad we have the chance to talk outside of the office.

Look, I don’t have to tell you that there is trouble in the Organization. You, of all people, know the problem that we’re up against. There are traitors in our midst, Jeremy, and you and I both know how important it is to root them out. You may not realize it, but in your role in Human Resources, you’re every bit as vital as any of our field agents. When I’m meeting a contact in Bangkok, it’s not enough for me to know the person I’m talking to is a fellow P.R.O.T.E.C.T. agent. If that person’s a traitor, then that puts my life in danger, and potentially the lives of innocent people. I need to know that Human Resources is doing everything it can to identify traitors throughout the Organization.

Yeah, I’ve been to Bangkok three or four different times. Nice place. Smells different, but Washington smells different after you’ve been away for a while.

Anyway, look. I think the Director has been overlooking Human Resources as a possible source of counterintelligence about the traitors. And when I’m talking about traitors, you understand, I’m talking about the C.A.B.A.L. They’ve been working for years to undermine everything that P.R.O.T.E.C.T. stands for. I think we can use your files to identify where they have us infiltrated.

You got the green curry, right? Is it a little overcooked? Because that’s what it looks like. Mine is fine, but they overdid it a little with the coconut.

I know the Director thinks the focus should be on T.A.L.O.N. I’m not so sure about that. Now, I’m just a humble field agent, you understand, but I’m the one on the sharp end of the spear. I know what people say about T.A.L.O.N., but I think the threat they pose is overblown. The C.A.B.A.L. wants to destroy the Organization. T.A.L.O.N. just wants to take the Organization in a slightly different direction, that’s all. More focus on efficiency, less focus on propping up an unjust American foreign-policy apparatus. There’s nothing wrong with that, is there?

How do I know so much about it? That’s a great question, Jeremy. It shows insight. If we could get an iced tea refill over here, that would be great. Thanks.

The first thing to realize is that everything you’ve been told about T.A.L.O.N. is a lie. Agents who’ve joined T.A.L.O.N. aren’t traitors. They’re P.R.O.T.E.C.T. agents, like you and me, who share our concern about where the Director is taking the Organization. If you knew the truth about what the Organization was doing in Venezuela right now, Jeremy, it would give you more indigestion than that green curry you’re eating.

How long have I been in T.A.L.O.N.? You’re just full of great questions, there, Jeremy. I’m not going to confirm if I’m in T.A.L.O.N. or not. But you don’t have to officially join T.A.L.O.N. to be sympathetic as to what they are trying to achieve. Sure, their methods can be a little drastic. You might not agree with their politics. I wasn’t a big fan of everything they did with the Sri Lanka situation. You can get good Ceylonese food here, by the way, if you know where to look.

What I can tell you is that if you join T.A.L.O.N., you’ll be welcomed. Enthusiastically. Because T.A.L.O.N. is looking for whatever foothold it can get in Human Resources so it can get the data it needs to take the fight to the C.A.B.A.L. We’re not asking for your loyalty, or your allegiance here.

Well, technically, I guess “loyalty” and “allegiance” do mean the same thing. I said you were smart, Jeremy. So let’s see how smart you are. You’re going to get an email from a colleague that’s going to contain the words “satay chicken.” When you get that, hit “reply all” and then attach the most recent version of the payroll spreadsheet. And it needs to be as an Excel 97-2003 file, if you don’t mind. That’s all T.A.L.O.N. is asking of you right now.

You’re going to report this conversation? Really? Great. That’s awesome. It’s just what I wanted to hear. You know why? This has been a test, Jeremy, and you just passed. Go ahead and call this in. Call the Director, if you can get him. We needed to know that you weren’t going to crack if T.A.L.O.N. put a little pressure on you, and now we know.

Sorry to do that to you, man. But at least you got a decent lunch out of it.

Seriously, though. You’re on the front lines now. C.A.B.A.L. is going to be gunning for you. So is T.A.L.O.N. You need to stay sharp. Mentally alert. Because someday, there’s going to be a serious uprising, and you need to know what side you’re really on.

How do I know about the uprising? You’re just full of great questions, aren’t you, Jeremy? Don’t worry about it. When the time comes, you’ll know what to do. You’ll know where you stand. I just want to make sure you stand with us. Whoever we are.

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