Adam Van Hett sniffed a bit as he stepped into the Observatory. It smelled like Orichalcum dust in here, a smell that always left his nostrils burning for the rest of the day. He made a note to talk to the boys in Manufacturing about moving the workstation into a more well-ventilated part of the building.
The Observatory itself was impressive—or at least, it had once been. Adam had since grown bored of all the various ways the VOC kept abreast of things, but was able to still recognize how truly efficient and impressive a machine the Observatory was.
The center of the room was dominated by a large, flat world map, lit from beneath by electric lights. All along the walls were shelving units, each filled to capacity with small Orichalcum nuggets, no single one any bigger than the tip of Adam’s pinky. Beneath each organizer was a small cabinet, which Adam knew were all filled with files, full of information on each asset the VOC was currently tracking.
The “assets” were individuals who, for one reason or another, had agreed to allow the VOC to monitor them. They were then Tagged, and released to do whatever they did, and the folks working the Observatory would check in on them every so often — with the Orichalcum crystals attuned to their specific Tag. A global network of spies. Any one among them was infinitely replaceable, but the conglomeration of all of them working together was, without question, the single most valuable tool in the VOC’s possession.
“Oh, uh, good morning, Mr. Van Hett,” the technician stammered out as Adam walked in, clearly caught off-guard by his unannounced arrival. “How are you today, sir?”
Adam suppressed a smile at the technician’s behalf. “I’m fine, thank you. How are things down here today?”
The technician, a mousy, bespectacled young lady who exuded an aura of being fresh from the University, gathered up her parchment and pen before responding. “We are hitting all projected benchmarks for check-ins, sir. All check-ins are on time and are fully within expected parameters.”
Adam finally let his smirk show a bit. “Relax, kid. This isn’t an inspection.” The girl let out a soft sigh and a smile, though seemed no less comfortable for it. “I actually wanted to look at a file, asset 71N.”
The technician stammered a bit as she adjusted her spectacles. “Oh, yes, I actually just finished checking in on him earlier this morning. Let me see here,” she said, setting down her things and moving towards one of the organizers. “Nothing unusual,” she continued, thumbing through a cabinet until finally withdrawing a leather-bound folio, “he’s probably one of the less exciting assets, to be honest.” She strode back across the room and offered it to Adam.
“Thank you,” Adam said as he accepted and opened the folio. He began thumbing through it, speaking as he did. “It looks like we’re checking in on him once a week, is that correct?”
“I believe so, sir, if that’s what his file says.” Adam lifted his gaze to meet hers, and cocked an eyebrow inquisitively. “I just do the check-ins, sir,” she confessed.
“I’d like you to start checking in on him daily, if it’s not too much trouble,” Adam said, returning to the file. Without allowing her time to deny his request, he continued, “Are you able to tell anything else through his Tag, other than location?”
“I-its a pretty basic Tag, sir,” the technician said, struggling to keep up with the Executive’s pace of conversation. “He was acquired as a low-value asset—just some klutz snooping around in the financials department, if I remember right. I doubt I’d be able to get anything more than just a heartbeat.”
“Well, let’s start recording that, too, then,” Adam said, conclusively. “We want to know everything you’re able to tell us.”
“Um, yes, Mr. Van Hett.” The technician held up a finger, as though to ask a question. She hesitated, almost thinking better of it, but after a moment, pushed forward. “Sir, may I ask why this man is suddenly so interesting? We’ve had him as an asset for a while now, and he’s barely given us anything useful.”
“I’m afraid,” Adam said, finishing up his browsing and clapping the folio shut, “that is above your paygrade.” He handed back the folio and turned to leave. “For now, just record what you can, and we’ll keep you informed of any changes as they roll in.” He opened the door, then turned back to the technician. “And thanks for all the hard work. You’re really helping us out, down here.”
“My pleasure, sir,” the technician called out, but Adam was already gone. “Huh,” she muttered to herself, after the door closed.
She eyed the folio as she returned it to its cabinet, continuing her external monologue. “Asset 71N: ‘Joe.’ You just got into a whole lot of trouble.”