Harry works at the Research subdivision of a company nicknamed Big Blue. All Harry knows is Deep Black. Every morning at 5:30, Harry wakes up. He kisses his wife goodbye, hoping he doesn’t wake her up, and drives half an hour to his work place. He goes home after dark, and he spends his days under dim lighting.

He thinks back to that day, the 27th of October, when the Russians were still the enemy. The sudden feeling of hot metal through his body, the sudden chill of the upper atmosphere and the coldness of everything. His body hungering for oxygen. The fragments of his bird coming apart around him. The missile tearing him and his plane into so much confetti to fall from the upper atmosphere.

The Holiday Inn hotel in Monterrey has been taken over by three dozen gunmen and three confirmed superhumans. The police attempted a peaceful negotiation, but the negotiator was killed in what appeared to be a blast of green lightning from an upstairs window, and a strike team that attempted to infiltrate the hotel was seriously injured and forced to retreat.

The girl is eight years old. Her arm and shoulder are tightly wrapped in antiseptic bandages, and one of her eyes is similarly covered. She looks up and sees a small man with a black hair and bushy beard. His skin is dark, but not black. He grins, showing her very white teeth. “Lily?” he asks. His voice is warm, and rich, like hot cocoa on a winter morning.

Ekaterina squirms uncomfortably in the padded chair. The men and women packed into the conference room with her are expressing their discomfort in diverse ways. Drinks lie untouched on the organically curved, expensively engineered table before them. A few brought donuts or bagels from the table in the back, but these are similarly ignored.

With great power comes great amusement. Exodus entertains himself by throwing the core of his just-eaten apple as far as he can, then teleporting it back into his hands. It isn’t easy, given the winds blowing at the top of the Statue of Liberty. But he has time to kill, and he wants the cops to finally make it up the stairs before his grand departure.

Faduma opens her eyes. Was she daydreaming just now? The messengers are waiting nervously for a reply.

Frank has a very big back yard.

Exit interviews are as hard to conduct as they are to sit through. The typical employee of a corporation will often see their HR representative as someone who sets himself apart from the rank-and-file. At Persona, this is complicated for agent interviews, since we must ascertain who among them is likely to give away trade secrets or risk our security. A good interviewer will cut through that tension and partner well with his subject.

Tim is sitting at the table across from me, playing with his hair. It’s been getting longer, and he’s so proud of it. Finally he talks, and I sip my coffee.