"You are reporting to me now," Starr said.

"What are the terms?"

"We don't want to change too much. Only that I'll be your official contact and link into the organization."

"Am I expected to follow your orders like your other reports?"

"Try to see me as a source of information," Starr said. "Anything the organization wants you to know, will usually be coming through me. And anything you'd like to send back, I'll be your primary contact for that."

"And if I refuse?"

"We hope you won't. We hope the relationship in both directions will be beneficial."

"What if problems come up?" I asked.

"We hope they won't. But the organization has a great deal of resources at its disposal that we can easily access to help us find our way."

"You seem to have a lot of trust in them."

"They've worked out for me so far. I'm not going to pretend to be blind though. I know they have problems, but my emphasis is on what is currently working," Starr said. "You might say I'm using them as much as they are using me."

"You're not afraid they'll toss you aside once they no longer see you as useful."

"They probably would. I'm not going to pretend they won't. But I'm alive right now, and that's what matters."

"What if they endanger you in the future?"

"I keep my eyes open. I bring in people like you. We build our own internal organization if we have to. We spread internally if we have to."

"Wait," I said, "do they know you're saying stuff like this to me right now?"

"We're not as stupid as you think in here. It's not official policy, but it's common knowledge we all watch our backs, no matter what the official policies are."

"I'm not sure I want to surround myself with so much cynicism."

"If you'd like, I'll help shield you from the rest of it," Starr said. "If you limit your contact with them, then it's just our own meetings that need to be your concern."

"And if you turn on me, or are ordered to turn on me?"

"I hope that won't come to pass, but I'm not asking for your trust. Design and build your own backup plan if you must, but we are hoping to maintain as good a working relationship between you and the organization for as long as possible."

"Thank you Starr. Will that be all today?"

"There are a few others here that I would like you to meet, if you don't mind. Others I've personally recruited, like you."

"And you trust them?" I asked.

"As much as I trust you. I can't guarantee any kind of loyalty, but for now, we enjoy working together."

"And that's what matters I suppose. Alright, if anything, I might learn something about your judge of character from them."

Starr laughed. "I hope I can live up to your standards."

"You won't force me to work with them if I don't like them, will you?"

"Like I said, you can limit your contact with the organization to just me, if that's what you choose. Anything else is up to you."

"Alright, let's go then."

It didn't happen immediately though. We spent another week in the back of the wagon.

"Hey you, you're finally awake," Starr said the morning we crossed the border into the imperial capital.

I wasn't as familiar with the streets there as Starr was. It was only a matter of time I suppose, but I spent the first day looking up at all the grand architecture, wondering how much human effort had gone into putting them up. And all the strange people in the street, wondering what brought them to the capital, and what they were doing now with their lives.

"You can spend the next two weeks here before we get you more settled," Starr said, indicating an inn catering to travellers. "I'll show you the rest of the gang tomorrow night."

"Gang? Is that what you call them? What does the rest of the organization think about what you're assembling right under their noses?"

"Are you kidding? I learned how to do this from others in here. Officially, this isn't supposed to happen, but it's how everyone protects their backs."

"It's not sounding so pleasant now as it did in the beginning," I said.

"Depends how you look at it. Imagine building a house. If you stop, it will never be as good as you want it. If you keep going, then one day it will be acceptable. But if you stop then, it will be your own fault for not making it as good as it might have been. We build this organization everyday by what we do in it. We are responsible for the direction it moves in. At least the parts closest to us. If parts further away want to move in a different direction, that's on them, as long as we are able to protect where we want to go."

"Sounds like more internal politics than I care to worry about."

"Up to you. Treat me as the only person you interface with if you want. You can always change your mind later." With that, Starr waved a goodbye. "I don't want to overwhelm you too much, so we can save some for later. I'll come find you tomorrow morning. You'll be here?"

"What if I need to step out for something?"

"I'll also look for you downstairs. They have most provisions you could want. Otherwise, I'll just wait here until you return."

Starr left a bag of coins on the table and was gone.

I picked out a small number of them and headed downstairs. There were a number of others there, preparing to wait out the night in the lobby. I considered Starr's words from earlier that day and wondered when it would be time for me to start recruiting my own gang.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.