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It was twilight on a dark and unbearably frigid night in late February when Sebastian’s colleague, Thomas H, stopped by Sebastian’s desk with a steaming cup of coffee from the kitchenette. Coffee was the omnipresent elixir that fueled the entire vault, the only drug that personnel security allowed the workforce to develop an addiction for to keep operations running around-the-clock. 


Years before Sebastian joined the Agency, another senior analyst on his team, one of the most accomplished he would ever have the chance to work with, brilliantly had organized an office-wide ‘coffee club’. Unions may not have been allowed at the Agency, but the informal collectivization of workers for coffee rights was definitely a thing. Each month analysts and managers pooled five dollars into the club’s fund to access unlimited re-ups of Folgers' best from the kitchenette's communal pot. While perhaps not the highest quality brew, it was a phenomenal deal for a lowly GS-9 like Sebastian who was the sole breadwinner in his household, especially when the Starbucks downstairs charged five dollars for a single pour. At the time Sebastian was supporting Avery in grad school while they settled down together in Washington DC, one of the United States’ highest cost areas of living. Money was tight and the coffee club was one of the few modest luxuries on which Sebastian felt comfortable splurging.


Frugal self-sufficiency was an endemic feature of civil servants in government like Sebastian. Everyone in the building had to pay their way through their workdays, otherwise there would be concerns of bribery and corruption. There was no such thing as a free coffee, lunch, or any other kind of perk for that matter.


Sebastian over the course of his career would take many trainings on this issue and years later when volunteering on behalf of the Agency at a recruiting fair he literally ran in the other direction after a contractor working at the booth next to his tried to shove an entire box of lukewarm pepperoni pizza from a local delivery place in his hands during lunchtime. 


–How was your weekend?


–Same old, same old. It’s so cold out, Avery and I mostly stayed in.


–Dude for real, Wendy and I did the same. The kids though were little Yetis. They went wild with the storm on Saturday, building snow forts and shit the whole day. We probably would have lost them forever if we didn’t have hot cocoa to lure them back to the house.


They chuckled. In that moment, as he and Thomas carried on with the start of their workweek bantering, Sebastian suddenly became aware of the juxtaposition between his present circumstance and his past. It was still several hours before sunrise and he was enmeshed in a sea of computer monitors and giant TV screens somewhere within the bowels of a sensitive compartmented information facility that was located in a nondescript suburb 30 minutes south of DC by car. The Agency’s headquarters was the third largest building owned by the US government, a gleaming contemporary monolith of concrete, steel, and glass that from above the Earth looked like a giant eyeball staring up towards the stars. In the dark, when he would often work, the stars stared back at Sebastian, the watcher being watched, seeing and being scene too.


How did he end up here?  


Sebastian thought of the afternoon years ago that Professor di Jenne had asked him to stay behind after class. It was the end of his freshman fall semester, shortly after he had met Avery, and she had emailed him abruptly a few hours prior to their weekly seminar to review his latest assignment in person. Before their meeting, there in McCosh 50, a victorian-style lecture hall with a soaring four-story high ceiling that was illuminated by hundreds of incandescent bulbs adorning a series of baroque chandeliers, Sebastian squirmed during the Professor’s hour and a half-long discourse on magical realism. He was convinced that he had failed the assignment and that she would ask him to withdraw from her course. He had a tendency to catastrophize.


After the seminar was over and the last of his classmates departed, Sebastian nervously walked up to the lectern where the Professor was still collecting her notes. He was completely caught off guard by the commentary and line of questioning that followed.


–You have the most beautiful smile.


Was she hitting on him? Sebastian became even more nervous. He began gently rocking back and forth and then sniffed the fingers of his left hand, a compulsive habit he had developed in early childhood before his earliest memory. After clearing her throat with a guttural cough the Professor continued.


–Your latest essay was impressive. Really your performance the entire semester has been far above average. Has anyone ever told you that you can write? Because you can. It’s not often that I have students come through my course who can synthesize ideas from disparate sources like you can in such an organized way.


She spoke matter-of-factly in a neutral tone with her signature mid-western accent. Her face was passive. Normally Sebastian excelled in reading a person, every lilt of the voice or subtle inflection in facial change or body posture conveyed a deeper meaning beyond just the words exchanged. For once though he couldn’t decipher what his interlocutor was communicating. He was just confused.


The Professor handed Sebastian a scrap of paper torn from a yellow legal pad with a URL scribbled in pencil that he could barely read. 


-I think you’d find this opportunity rewarding. Take a few days to look it over. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I’d be more than happy to write you a letter of recommendation.


And with that the Professor abruptly snapped shut the double bindings on her Birkin bag and darted out of the hall, vanishing before Sebastian could give any response. He was completely puzzled over what had just happened. He was also relieved that he hadn’t failed the course.


Sebastian immediately returned to his dorm to access the URL in private. It was a link to a website for an internship program to be an analyst for some government agency he had never heard of. He was even more confused.  


What was ‘geospatial intelligence'? Sebastian Googled it. He was still perplexed, but now intrigued. It had something to do with information gathered from satellites. What an unexpected surprise. Growing up he had loved watching spy thrillers. Was this his James Bond moment? Naively he didn’t give the idea a second thought and instantly emailed the Professor back [Comment: As with many other life-changing choices that he would later face, Sebastian probably should have made a more informed and less impulsive decision]. He was in.


What transpired the following semester was a blur of interactions with recruiters, personnel security, and eventually the team of analysts that Sebastian would become a member of. One day in mid-spring a large white envelope marked with only Sebastian’s name and no return address arrived in his campus mailbox. It was stuffed with a compendium of forms he was required to fill out and return. The next thing he knew, all of his friends, family, neighbors- even his old boss from his first summer job serving nachos at his community pool back home- were all contacted and interviewed by a mysterious cadre of investigators who asked the most invasive questions about him that you could imagine. Eventually came Sebastian’s turn to be interviewed:


-Have you ever had any legal action taken against you?




-Do you own any foreign property?




-Are you in debt?


-Aside from student loans, no.


-Are you working on behalf of any other government or terrorist organization?


Sebastian giggled. The investigator pursed her lips and maintained direct eye contact without blinking.




-Do you do drugs?




-Do you consume alcohol?




-Do your parents know?


-Well, I mean… I don’t think we’ve ever had a direct conversation about it, but I’m in college now so I assume they probably have some idea that I sometimes drink with my friends.


-You’re only 18. You need to tell them.


Sebastian complied. It was one of the most awkward phone calls he ever made to his mom and dad, who in the moment were not happy about his admission but years later would repeatedly resurface the tale to tell as a funny story at parties after Sebastian was far beyond the legal drinking age. 


The whole experience left Sebastian depleted. He was empty inside. He had nothing to hide, and he knew that, and he loved his country, but it seemed as though he had to justify every decision he had ever made to a group of strangers who would rush to see the worst in him. He felt almost as if he had voluntarily sentenced himself to a Kaftkaesque trial where the judge and jury alike presumed he was guilty until proven innocent for no reason other than for him being an outsider, an ‘other’ trespassing where he didn’t belong.


Little did Sebastian know that almost two decades later he would become exactly that.


Despite his growing insecurities and misgivings about the mysterious position he had applied for, the second week of May Sebastian received a phone call from his new boss congratulating him on joining the team. Somehow he had gotten the job. 


Wary of telling anyone about this major development given the extensive security vetting he had endured, aside from the Professor of course and Avery whom by this point he had been dating for several months and started to associate with the word ‘love’, Sebastian celebrated that evening in the dining hall by treating himself to a generous serving of vanilla-chocolate swirl ice cream copiously coated under a heap of jimmies, a reward he reserved for the most special of occasions.


Sebastian was anxious about exactly what he had gotten himself into, unsure if he was really qualified for the role, especially since he still didn’t understand what it entailed. In spite of his uncertainty, he was also beyond ecstatic to have the chance to do something that he believed would be important. He felt like this was his opportunity to repay his country for all of the opportunity he had already been afforded. He was thrilled to finally have found a vocation where he could not only make a difference in the world for the better, to keep people safe from harm and danger, but that would also lead to the financial freedom and stability he had longed for his entire life.


At the end of every academic term that followed, Sebastian would go to the DC area during his summer breaks. There he would learn the tradecraft of spying on other countries with satellites that generations of intelligence officers before him had cultivated in secret. Weeks before his college graduation, as a member of the great class of ‘13, one of Princeton’s luckiest cohorts ever to pass beyond Fitz-Randolph gate, Sebastian’s boss called him up again, this time to extend an offer for full-time employment. Now, over six months later, here Sebastian was learning all about the trials and travails of parenting small children in the snow while the brightness of imagery from all corners of the globe irradiated darkness in even the hardest to reach crevices of a secure room that few would ever enter. 


-This coffee is making me restless already, wanna do a lap?


-Yea for sure, let’s go.


-Wait, sorry hold up, do you see what’s playing on the news?


Thomas’ voice trailed and his face sallowed. Sebastian turned his eyes towards the same TV screen in the corner of the vault that had stolen Thomas’ attention, the scrolling headline in bold font exclaimed: “BREAKING NEWS: RUSSIA INVADES CRIMEA”.




-Guess we’re going to be working overtime.


Thomas lightly sprinted to return to his desk, which was caddy-corner from Sebastian’s and plastered all over with pictures of his kids and his beloved hot-blue vintage Camaro. Sebastian’s cortisol levels skyrocketed as he logged back onto the Agency’s network for the first time since going on shift, re-entering a modern-day Matrix. The sun still hadn’t risen and wouldn’t for another hour at least. While the darkness of night wantonly lingered, the start of what would become a very long week for Sebastian began.




С праздником Весны всех Вас!

Желаю главного - Мира, Счастья, Здоровья!

по сообщениям из регионов ориентирую вас:

ночь в Крыму, в районах дислокации воинских частей ВС Украины  прошла спокойно.

в Керчи произошла передислокация зеленых человечков.

из 6 уралов, которые минувшие несколько дней дислоцировались рядом с батальоном морпехов, остался один, личного состава до 30 человек. рядом с КПП воинской части развернут полевой лагерь - установлена палатка, работает ПХД (полевая кухня).

остальные зеленые человечки на технике убыли в район Арбатской стрелки. по сообщению источника там разворачивается блок пост.

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