"All right, what I am looking at?" Parker stands behind the analyst's chair, looking at the large monitors. "We've been reviewing the subject's notebooks, per your instructions, ma'am." Agent Daley's Carolinian accent is an interesting contrast to Parker's English one, as are their skin tones. But both are all business. "The first three days, there were no noteworthy features. In fact, the notes taken were remarkably unadorned." "Explain." "Most people in lectures or long meetings doodle in some fashion or another. Geometric patterns, lettering, images --" "-- hearts, kittens, rocket ships, yes, I was a teenager once, too." And have sat in more long meetings than anyone should in a lifetime. "Precisely, ma'am. Well, as I said, the first three days, there's none of that. It's all transcription, neatly summarized but otherwise it could be by a court reporter." "Someone's had field training," Parker comments. "Ma'am?" "Learning to control your doodles is Spycraft 101. You'd be surprised how many folk have betrayed themselves through little drawings, or writing the name of their target in amusing fonts, et cetera." Parker nods. "Not at all surprising, just interesting that she's maintaining that discipline." Does she see this as an assignment? Is it just caution? Or force of habit? "So nothing of interest in those first three days." "There's some shorthand-like text in places, but we've got that mostly deciphered. It shows up in mostly in history, least in math and science." "Color commentary?" Daley smiles. "As you say, ma'am. She has some rather -- intresting views." "Doesn't make them wrong. Or right, for that matter. I'd like a transcript for background, but that's low priority. I assume there's something more interesting after the three days you keep mentioning." "Yes, ma'am. The first is what you're looking at. In the margins of her Home Ec notes. Which, by the way, are fairly sparce." "I expect Ms. Chin has had a full education in human sexuality, poor thing." "Ma'am?" "Would you care to be educated on human sexuality by Achilles Chin, or at Achilles Chin's direction?" "I see your point, ma'am." "I abhor the phrase 'damaged goods,' but it's important to remember that the subject has had a very idiosyncratic upbringing, and nurture is always as important as nature in such cases." Parker pauses. "Though -- any commentary on those class notes? Out of curiosity." "No, ma'am." "Pity." Sex can be a useful way to manage a subject, and knowing what she -- Parker shakes her head. "So, again, what am I looking at? Surely not some sort of sex toy sketch." "Only for very rough sex, ma'am. These look to be batons of some sort, or Escrima sticks --" "A moment. Are these the first of these drawings chronologically?" "Yes, ma'am, assuming they were added in contemporaneously with the classes and notes." "So she starts off with bludgeons. Interesting. Carry on." "So there's several of these, going from rough sketches to more detailed items, and we start getting dimensions and notes on materials." Parker doesn't actually smile, but there's a hint of some amusement, or perhaps approval, there. Good girl. Thinking ahead. Making plans. "What's that -- stripe?" "That's an interesting one. It shows up earlier, here, and here, but eventually once we start getting the notes, it appears that the body of the baton is intended to be some sort of carbon fiber construction --" My Escrima sensei would be scandalized. Parker mutters. But Ocampo was very much the traditionalist. "-- but with bonded with and sheathing a light metal alloy spine." "For strength?" "Possibly. I've shown these sketches to some of the folk in the armory, and they said it would provide a tougher core, at the cost of some flexibility, but they were confused by the design." "I'd expect nothing less. In what way?" "The metal surfaces at the handles, here, and then up at the top and tip, these stripes and spots here, and here." "And your armory consultants had no opinion?" "One thought it looked a bit like a mace or morningstar, but it's flush to the stick." Parker is silent. At length, she says, "Okay, put a pin in that. What next?" "These. Bullets" Parker's face twitches. Unfortunate. I was hoping the sticks were a good sign she's not interested in just killing her -- She peers closer. "Wait. Is that --?" "Gel bullets. It's similar to the AEGIS standard load, but -- there's something a bit off about them. My armory contacts were scratching their heads about this contact, and this element here." "Hypertech, Agent Daley. They always invent something new and interesting and often irreproduceable." "Yes, ma'am. Though -- though McLaughlin says this gave him an idea for something we might be able to use. Even if --" "Yes?" "Well, let me take this in order, ma'am. These are standard 9mm casings, but with loads that can be used for different purposes. Loaded by clip, we'd assume, for flexibility and convenience. There are sets of chemical formulae lined up after this. The lab is still analyzing them. Some are straightforward triggered by exposure to air, others by kinetic impact, others are binary chemical mixes . The ones we've figured out have explosive charges, corrosive qualities, light in a steady flare, light in a flash-bang. but most seem to be various quick-acting tranquilizers." "That's a girl," Parker mutters. "There's some other bits here -- grapnels and some point armor, and something that looks like a personal force field but that has a big X through it. But this last is the really interesting bit. "With that lead-in, Agent -- Oh. My." "So, yes, this appears to be a schematic and construction layout for some sort of power or energy glove, consistent with previous appearances of the subject, including last year's assault on Mercury." "Hrm. Contact, or ranged." "Conductance rings in the fore and middle fingers, so probably ranged as well as contact. These pads here on the palm would let the energy be discharged by touch." "And the output?" "Well, based on this, and this capacitor, and this -- well, whatever the hell that is -- all told, I would not want to be on the receiving end, but it should be non-lethal." "Very, very interesting. Oh." "Yes, ma'am?" "Those palm pads." "Great for a joy buzzer, ma'am." Parker reaches forward, juggles around some of the open images. Stops. Smiles. "There." "Ooooooh. A match-up with the handles on those batons. I do not want to be on the wrong side of that girl." "Indeed. Designed to conduct a charge through the stick to the target. But ... it's all non-lethal, barring unfortunate pacemaker incidents and the like. No depleted uranium sabot rounds, no vortex blasters, no poison-injecting stilettos." The two agents look at the imagery a while longer. At length, Daley says, "Is she actually going straight, ma'am?" Parker is silent for a while. "Possibly. Or it may be a long game." "She is a teen-aged girl, ma'am. I have one at home. 'Long game' means 'desperately holding out for the weekend.'" "She's also the daughter of Achilles Chin, Agent Daley. And she managed to keep her head undercover and mount a solo hypertech rescue effort for her father over several months. I would not care to assume she's as flighty as the average schoolgirl with senioritis." Daley nods. "Of course," Parker says, "The problem with a Long Game is losing track of it being a game." "Ma'am?" "Forces of habit. The imagined becomes the real. Or, as your writer Hawthorne would have it, 'No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.'" "Oh. The Scarlet Letter ." "Top marks, Agent Daley. Again, Spycraft 101." "So you think if she pretends to be a good guy for long enough -- she'll become one?" "Assuming she's not actually trying to be a 'good guy,' just to fool us -- yes, it's a possibility. Brief undercover work is exhilarating. Long undercover work --" She pauses, and something flickers across her face. "-- poses unique challenges." "Yes, ma'am." Daley turns back to the monitors. Parker smiles slightly. Daley clearly enjoys the analyst role, safe in a monitor room. She also clearly doesn't want to learn too much about Parker. It's easier to keep all such things at arm's length, evaluate through video files and scribbled notes. It's substantially more difficult to draw lines when you have to actually interact with the subject. But potentially more accurate. "One more thing, Agent." "Yes, ma'am?" "Under that last item, the scribbles there." "We're still analyzing it. It's not just scribbles, but it isn't that encoded shorthand. Crypto Section hasn't cracked it yet." The ends of Parker's mouth turn slightly upward. "Are you a betting woman, Agent Daley?" "Just on my March Madness bracket." "Any luck?" "I'm not retiring on my winnings, if that's what you mean, ma'am." "Just as well. I was going to wager twenty dollars that the scribbles will end up translating as something along the lines of 'All designs copyright Alycia Chin, keep your hands off, you AEGIS tools of the oligarchy.'" "She -- you think she knows we're going through this stuff?" "Of course." Parker sighs. "Also, probably something like, 'So, Mom, when do I get access to materials to build this stuff?'" "That's ... peculiar, ma'am." "Oh, I don't know, Agent. It has a certain amount of charm to it. And it's a far sight better than sullen silence, as I recall my teen years." "True, ma'am. True." "If Crypto does crack the code, Agent, feel free to leave a counter-message on my behalf, casually scribbled below hers." "Ma'am?" "'Soon.'"