Big Change, ch. 12: Mary Rucker [null]

Monitoring: Mary Rucker [null]
Langley, Virginia, United States

10:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time
Tuesday, January 7th, 2014
15:30 Coordinated Universal Time
Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

Fast Forward—

Mary Rucker is an operative in disgrace. Had things gone another way, she might have been dismissed entirely from the Central Intelligence Agency eleven years ago. Some days, she thinks that it would have been better if things had gone that way. Officially, nothing had happened and she was found innocent of any wrongdoing. Opinion ranged on whether she had even exhibited a lapse of judgment, and her superiors evidently deemed her capable of working in, and eventually running, a program called LN/PALATINATE.

Unofficially, though… Well, there is a reason that she’s been on edge ever since she was summoned to the office of the Director of the CIA. Outside the door, she steels herself for the inevitable. Mary briefly wraps a hand around her throat, as if to keep it from getting slit, and then knocks on the door and enters.

The director stands up from behind his desk as she approaches. He offers his hand, which she shakes warily, and then they sit down together. The walls of his office are close to bare, with a couple of pictures set leaning against the wall, but his desk is strewn with papers. As she glances at them out of the corner of her eye she notices her name in more than a few places, and with a slow-growing horror it dawns on Mary that the director has been looking at her record.

After a moment his gaze turns to those very papers, and he begins to speak. “In the mid-Nineties, several projects and operations of a, shall we say peculiar nature, were starting to lose their mystique. Following the end of the Cold War, we no longer needed to fear, so to speak, a ‘remote viewing’ gap with the Soviet Union. There were, after all, no such things as remote viewing, aliens, UFOs, or vampires. The Cold War had made us all crazy, and in more ways than one.”

Mary can see how this is relevant to her, in a way, but for the life of her can’t tell where the discussion is going. She opts to say nothing, despite the distinct pause that he makes. A couple of seconds later, he picks back up. “It turns out that even crazies have staying power in a bureaucracy, though. Rather than get totally removed, these various projects—BLUE TEAM, STARGATE, MH/SIGN, and others—were folded into LN/PALATINATE and given a shoestring budget. Probably we just didn’t want to fire a few people who didn’t have anywhere else to go, or something like that. It became a joke, our own little team of Mulders. But it looks like you’re going to get the last laugh.”

This time the pause is clearly not going to end until she picks up her end of the conversation. “What do you mean?”

“The world went as crazy as we used to be,” he says. “As of a few days ago, there are one hundred children with, for lack of a better word, superpowers. Probably all teens. We don’t know where they are or what they can do, and we need to change that. I want every one of them identified and as many as possible brought to our side. Your new mandate covers anything that might pertain to them, down to working out a PR plan for when and if the public finds out.”

“You’re fucking with me.” There’s no anger in her statement, just resignation–and she will resign, as soon as she gets back to her office. Mary is through with this.

The director carries on as if she hadn’t spoken. “I’m initiating the use of compartmentalized clearance for this operation, code named COSMIC. You still don’t have higher than Secret clearance, I’m afraid, but if you need anything more than that, and I mean anything, then talk to Caryn Gamble, who has been authorized to add documents to COSMIC on request. You will receive Top Secret clearance yourself just as soon as we’ve finished the necessary investigation.”

“But sir…” The words die in Mary’s mouth. She struggles to speak. “Why me?”

The director flips through a sheaf of stapled papers before he replies. “I like what I see here. I know about your past, but I don’t think that the concerns of other people were warranted, and I think that you have proven yourself sufficiently in the time since. Besides,” he admits, “I don’t really have much of a choice. I don’t want to draw attention to this, which is exactly what might happen if I authorized a new operation, and if I subordinated you to a stranger just as LN/PALATINATE became useful to us, then that might also cause a problem.”

“Do I have a choice?”

“You can quit,” he says, “but you haven’t done that since you were transferred to LN/PALATINATE. I don’t see why you would do so now.”

Mary looks away. On the floor there is a painting of a ship, an English galley sailing on crystal blue waters. “What resources will I have?”

“Ask, and ye shall receive. All communications will be sent directly to my desk, and you can trust that I won’t be going home until I have read anything that you think is high-priority. Probably I won’t go home until I’ve read everything that you’ve sent, but I hope that one day I’ll be getting too much to keep that promise. If you want an operative, then give me names or just a number to shoot for. If you need sites, then you’ll be assigned them. Your budget is in the black forever.”

Mary considers everything that she’s been told. There’s definitely more than this, and the director probably knows some of what that is. She doesn’t have the whole story, and it’s going to be a lot more dangerous than it sounds. But it’s interesting, and it’s a sort of vindication for her, and even something to daydream of rubbing in the face of every person who ever said anything about “professional lapses” or “poor judgment.” Maybe more than anything else, it’s that last part that really convinces her, even if she might not be able to tell anyone about it in real life. The director may want her to plan for the public to find out, but obviously it would be better if this stayed under wraps, to reduce the likelihood that a bad actor might find out and take advantage, and she intends to do her job well.

“Okay, there’s a lot to do if we’re going to do this right. There are a lot of prizes out there for proof of the paranormal. We’ve always had an eye on groups like the Randi Foundation and the Independent Investigations Group, just in case. It might be time to add more eyes.”


8 thoughts on “Big Change, ch. 12: Mary Rucker [null]

  1. Some clarification on clearances:

    The clearance level for any sort of agent, asset or operative, let alone program manager for something that would be considered “black ops” within the CIA starts at Top Secret and the question would likely be more about whether the information she’s being handed requires upgrading her clearance to include Sensitive Compartmented Information or “Top Secret/SCI”.

    Secret clearance isn’t a whole lot of clearance all in all, _especially_ to the CIA — and if she’s CIA she’ll have had to take a polygraph anyways, and that is the big difference in the background check between Secret and Top Secret anyways, which means she’d already have the SSBI done. The major component (the polygraph and background check) of qualifying for SCI clearance is exactly the same as the component for qualifying for Top Secret, the difference is basically a bunch of paperwork and a reason for the extra clearance.

    Alternately you could play up how broken down and laughable the current program has been treated by the agency by having had the CIA let her Top Secret clearance lapse as part of her disgrace, and the program being the sort of paper pushing assignment that wouldn’t require it, but if so I don’t think she’d think of herself as an “operative” or the project as really being “black ops.”

    (Source: I used to be a defense contractor, though I never worked with the CIA.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Whoops. I thought that “black ops” could be used a little more generally (or rather, I didn’t consider how the CIA would probably be more specific in their use of the term). I’ll get rid of the “black ops” mention.

      //if she’s CIA she’ll have had to take a polygraph anyways, and that is the big difference in the background check between Secret and Top Secret//

      I thought that polygraph tests were notoriously unreliable (or at least not precise enough that you would want to stake anything important on a polygraph test alone). Am I incorrect about this, or is there something more going on?

      //Alternately you could play up how broken down and laughable the current program has been treated by the agency by having had the CIA let her Top Secret clearance lapse as part of her disgrace, and the program being the sort of paper pushing assignment that wouldn’t require it, but if so I don’t think she’d think of herself as an “operative” or the project as really being “black ops.”//

      Absolutely. Thank you. I look forward to any other critiques that you might have for future appearances by the CIA.


  2. If changing the head of LN/PALATINATE would cause too much attention, why doesn’t the director simply appoint some trusted men nominally under Ms. Rucker but actually reporting to him directly? Ms. Rucker may turn out to not be too bad a fit despite her past but what are the chances that she would actually be considered their best option. Especially on something with such important and world-encompassing implications as this?


    • It might be suspicious to add someone new just as Mary was given this information, but that doesn’t mean that someone else wasn’t co-opted (or that the director doesn’t have some other backup plan).


      • How would telling her to “request” someone specific of his choosing be anymore suspicious to the wider (high clearance) world than telling her she can request whoever she likes and her than doing so? In both cases the department suddenly increases in human (and other) resources.

        Same goes for the suspicion caused by a change of head of department. It may be an insult to her but telling her “This is Mr. Smith. His nominal title will just be [whatever] but you and I know that he is actually your new boss and answers to me”. I guess that would be a bit too heavy handed though given how the director seems to otherwise think that Ms. Rucker is competent.

        By the way, I just assumed that Mary Rucker is unmarried. Hope that isn’t a problem.


      • Not suspicious to the wider world, but to Mary. Appointing someone new to the team says “You’re not *really* in charge” as effectively as replacing her does. And as you say, the director thinks that Mary’s qualified for the job.

        I hereby adopt your headcanon as canon. So let it be written, so let it be done.


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