The Director’s office smelled of cigarette ash and day-old deodorant. James Rooney, whose crew cut and slender frame made him appear younger than his thirty-three years, took a regrettable deep breath as he entered. The morning sun shone in brightly through full-length windows on three sides. He stood in between two plush leather chairs – non-swivel variety – and awaited the invitation to sit.
“Either one,” the Director said, without glancing up from his long, dark oak desk. Director Jenkins, a middle-aged man with a rough, unshaven face and an even rougher reputation, very rarely invited employees up to his office.
James perched himself on the edge of the chair to his right. Director Jenkins glanced up from his desk and stared at him with wide, suspicious eyes. James shifted nervously in his seat. Jenkins enjoyed this part, and paused to let it simmer a little longer. Then he said, “Relax, Mr Rooney! Relax. It’s good news.”
James let out an audible sigh of relief and sunk a little further back into the chair’s soft leather. “Oh, thank goodness. I mean, you hear stories-” He stopped himself. Evidently he’d become a little too relaxed.
Luckily, Jenkins appeared in good spirits – which in itself was a tale James would enjoy telling at a later time – and took the quip in his stride. “I wouldn’t know anything about that.” He began to shuffle the papers on his desk – a tension building technique he had long-since mastered – then cupped his hands together. “Now, to business. You know why I’ve called you up here?”
James Rooney was pretty sure he knew why. Several months ago he had applied for a position in a special programme which involved infiltrating and monitoring very special persons of interest. The actual nature of the programme was unknown, although it was the cause of much discussion and wagering in the lower floors of the Dynamic Industries offices. James was happy that the Director seemed happy, as this surely indicated good news.
“It’s about the programme. The Persons of Interest programme I applied for,” he said, disguising his answer ever-so-slightly as a question.
Jenkins smirked. “Of course it is. I’m happy to say you’ve been accepted.”
“That’s fantastic news.” It was fantastic news – the bump in salary alone was astounding – but hidden behind James’ smile was an important and nagging question. He had only applied for the position one a whim one horrible Friday afternoon, after all.
“But I do have one question. Why me?” And there was the nagging question in his head. James had none of the qualifications he deemed necessary to work in the Person of Interest division. He knew very little about it, of course, but from what he had gleaned from others, and his own ideas about what the division did, he doubted his background in data analysis would be of any use to him. The application was more in hope than any sort of tangible expectation.
Jenkins leant in closer over his desk. “We deal in a very special kind of observation and monitoring here, James. For it to work we need very special people, too.” He paused, allowed the moment to build. “You’re one of those people.”
James had always imagined being called special would fill him with some sort of inner warmth, but the answer was too vague to allow this. He needed more. “Special how?”
“Well,” Jenkins began, the sun now shining in stronger and highlighting the near-baldness of his scalp, “the science behind it all is far below my pay grade, to be honest. Inconsequential really. But the crux of it all is this: we have a way to implant a consciousness in a living being, so we can monitor a specifically chosen target first-hand, without the need for bugs or cameras. But, the criteria for compatibility rules out most people. You, however, are a suitable candidate.”
“Suitable candidate?” James pondered.
“Like I said, leave the science to the scientists. Basically it’s all about brain wave suitability, compatibility matrices, etcetera etcetera. It’s all quite complicated and extremely boring, I promise you.”
Jenkins anticipated his response, He knew this dance. “You’re wondering how the targets don’t realise the people closest to them aren’t quite their usual selves, considering that they’re wandering around with yours or someone else’s conscious thoughts in their head?”
“Trial and error. We started by implanting on human targets, but, as you can imagine, it became difficult to maintain a satisfactory façade long enough the glean the information we required from the target. Sooner or later they figure out something is up.”
James shifted back in his chair, having found himself on the edge of it. “So-”
“So,” Jenkins again cut in, “we decided to travel down a slightly different route. A route which enables us to monitor the targets closely, but with a very low risk of discovery. Two percent risk in fact. so far anyway. At this point, Mr Rooney, I have to ask you, are you still interested?” It was a question HR required Director Jenkins ask, even though only one answer was ever acceptable. Still, even now, Jenkins awaited the response hungrily, his finger perched above the black security button under his desk.
James found himself glancing over his Director’s left shoulder and out of the ludicrously over-polished double-glazed windows, where several birds flitted around in the open air. His mind replaced the birds with dollar bills, and he imagined them falling through the air all around him. The Person of Interest programme didn’t half pay well. “I’m still interested. Definitely.”
Jenkins slid his trigger finger away from the button. A smile stretched across his ragged face. “Excellent. That’s good to hear. Now, big question…” His trademark pause reared its ironic head again. “How do you feel about Pomeranians?”