"Cut him some slack," Richard said. "This is probably hard for him."
"Thanks. It is. It's also against the rules. I could lose my job if they find out."
Derek tapped the waiting chair. "Find out what? That you're here, or that you broke cover?"
He sat, but didn't pull the chair in. "Both, really. I was supposed to decide whether your group was dangerous, whether it should be monitored, or..." He looked down.
"Or targeted. We talked about some of the nasty things the agency could do to people it considered threats. They -- we, I suppose, since I work there, can ruin your life. Get you fired, sink your business, even drive you into bankruptcy. And you'd never know why. It's all so impersonal, too. Once you're tagged an enemy, you're not human any more."
Derek leaned forward. "So why are you still there? If you don't like what they do, why don't you quit? Walk away. Do something constructive instead."
"It's not that simple. I can't un-know what I've learned. I've seen what they're capable of. Everywhere I look, I'll see what might be signs of their handiwork, but I'd never be certain. I'd go paranoid. I know it."
Richard did what he could to calm the man's frazzled energy field. It was clear that he needed sanctuary, and this was where he had sought it out. "And if you stay?"
He bit his lip. "Maybe I can do some good. I already feel a bit like a double agent. To them I'm Craig. Spook in training. But to be honest, I'd rather be Ron, the guy who really wants to see people like you succeed."
"If it makes you more comfortable," Derek said, "we'll keep calling you Ron, then. Your secret's safe with us. Was that why you came, or was there something else?"
"There was. When we were discussing tactics that could be used against suspected terrorists, the section chief asked an odd question. He wanted to know whether the membership were capable of taking over for you if you were, um, distracted with your own problems."
"Like losing my job, and so forth. I don't know. What do you think, Rodney?"
He scratched his head briefly. "I certainly wouldn't have any problem keep things organized. I've been instigating actions since middle school, after all. But Gisela's better at figuring strategy, being a gamer and all. It's kind of like that. Nobody's the big cheese. We each have our own piece of the pie. And there are others that are nearly as good as whoever's taking lead at the moment, so it'd probably be possible to carry on. Might be a bit of a struggle while the person taking over a role got comfortable in it, but it wouldn't stop us, I don't think. Why did he ask?"
Ron smiled. "I'm not sure why he brought this up. But he said that it's far easier to wreck a group that's got a command and control structure than one where everyone's working towards the same goal without a formal leadership structure. Like the Wobblies."
Rodney shrugged. "Wobblies? Who are they?"