“Sir, the person writing these novels cannot have any other intent but to try to help bring down our economic and political system entirely.” Randy pauses, then efforts to speak in a tone that shows genuine care and concern -- though it comes out sounding more like an amateur actor forcing emotion. In his heart, he just can’t imagine the System failing, no matter what. And especially not when he’s just getting his big shot at taking advantage of some of its serious largess. No one’s luck is that bad. And up until now Randy has been very lucky. He looks up at his Boss, Mack, confidently.

Mack, the director of this brand new government agency, DISS (Domestic Intelligence Security Services) looks back at The Big Kid, Randy, nonplussed.

Randy moves forward to the next act with a stock play-plead: "Despite all its faults, sir, we know it is still the Best System."

Randy looks across the hug black desk between him and Mack expectantly.

"Right," Mack answers flatly, turning away to hide a yawn. Now that they are in the new millennium, everyone is so giddily optimistic and paranoid at the same time. And so modern in their outlook and language. Gone are the days of referring to things as American, or Russian, or French. And certainly no more talk of Communism or Capitalism. Everything is referred to now in the present or future tense as belonging to some impersonal state the lefties call a Global Village and righties call a Network.

‘And now what?’ Mack thinks to himself, ‘All of this is going to get debunked by some frazzled, bum writer of toilet fiction?’

Mack scratches his head. Thoughts are spritzing around like seltzer fizz. ‘Didn’t two-thirds of the world’s population -– the daily toilers -- not even know the date, or care? Or have any fuckin’ time to read?’

Randy sits patiently. The Boss was notorious for – well, for many things -– but especially for keeping his thoughts to himself and ruminating over them for long periods in the middle of conversations. Sometimes he did this in long dark silences, and other times in droning murmurs, and then, rarely, but most unsettling, in a rambling cacophonous whine.

Rumors had it that this was due to the fact that he knew so much about everything, and everyone – the good stuff that could get you destroyed – that it took preternatural effort on his part not to let any out until he could use it.

"Stop staring at me like a schoolgirl and go fix us a drink, will ya please? There's a bar right behind that black panel next to the cd player. Make mine just a tomato juice and club soda."

What Randy said earlier about the System zooms Mack’s attention toward that. He thinks of his eldest grandchild -- the son of a couple of Ur -- who he is financing to go to a prestigious University. The kid is actually majoring in Systems Analysis. ‘The whole world is a System, Gramp. It doesn't matter what you call it. We just observe and participate in it, we don't control it. If anything, whatever system we are in controls us.'

Mack snafus that belligerently: ‘Lose the control game, sonny-boy, and you’re out of the money for your education.’ Below that gut reaction, however, Mack sort of agrees. The way he almost always ends up doing with his grandkids anyway.

In fact, Mack contemplates, nestling a tiny fist beneath several drooping layers of chin, he had just gone out of this System about as far as one could and instead of getting put out or destroyed by it, it engulfed him and brought him back into itself. And in a way that made him even more invaluable to it.

Mack feels beads of sweat form on his cool brow even as he just thinks about it casually. He had risked his whole career, and his very life, to help the brother of a Colombian drug trafficker escape an American jail and return to South America.

Mack’s glad that things like that just sort of happened within the course of events. Kept you from thinking about them while they were happening. The whole thing took place within a three-week period about nine months ago. While it was happening Mack lost all sense of time and place, like he was in a virtual reality, or on some kind of natural Prozac that kept you from losing your shit while you were stressed out of your mind. But afterward -- geeze -– that was another story. What a rush.

"Phew!" Mack sounds out, shaking his head in disbelief. ‘Still can hardly believe I did that.’ Like someone who survives a near-fatal heart-attack, Mack is still in the chary phase of letting only tiny bits and pieces of the event back into his mind.

Mack looks up and calls out. "Put some Scotch in my drink. Mostly Scotch, in fact.”

Randy grimaces while mixing the tawny liquid into the bright red juice, turning it the color and texture of sodden clay mud. Mack rolls his eyes.

Mack wants to finish off his thoughts about the Colombian imbroglio before engaging in a sure-to-be enervating, academic discussion with The Big Kid, Randy. His new charge, sent to him directly from the office of The National Security Administration. ‘Following my most outrageous escapade to date, they put me into a highly visible office of power and then send this kid over here to watch me? And then I suppose one fine day when I least expect it, they let me know when their favor of silence is due in. Maybe. And maybe just new millennium paranoia.

Mack automatically reaches out for his drink, but it’s not there. Looks up and sees the back of Randy’s high rear-end just as he’s entering the rest room. This single office is more spacious than anything Mack could have afforded to live in when he was Randy’s age. Mack resents the good-looking thoroughbred assigned to his office. Resents anyone getting something for nothing. He never did. Put his butt on the line many a time to get where he is today.

Gets up from behind his desk to fix and get his own drink.

Mack tries to assure himself that no one knew what he'd done, or, more importantly, why. He was a regional director in DEA then, and it was assumed and expected that when you dealt with the Devil you became a little like the Devil.

Bottom-line was budget-justifying busts, and Mack chalked up his share in his way. And the kidnapping of the brother in Bogotá and his extradition to jail in the States was in the first place a CIA-thing that made sense to no one but them.

Mack takes up the glass of mostly tomato juice, not Scotch, and downs it. Then pours himself another one more to his liking and leaves it there for Randy to bring to him.

Executives had different ways of assessing employees. This was Mack’s: was Randy observant enough to notice what he did; and two, would he remark it, either verbally, or another way.

Mack walks back slowly, enjoying the light start-up buzz that first drink of the day just gave him, and the expansive view of the Potomac behind his desk. Unlike the other government security agencies, like the CIA and FBI, this new office, DISS, is boldly public and up-front about its mission. The first office ever designated to overtly fight terrorism within America’s own borders by its own people. And this brand-new skyscraper set right in the heart of the nation’s Capital is the new Administration’s way of saying that they are not only going to fight domestic terrorism tooth and nail, but that they are going to be open about it. Mack hasn’t seen such balls-out Fuck The Constitution! sentiment since Ronnie Reagan and his band of half-witted zealots were dealing drugs to fight an outlaw war in Central America.

All those other agencies seemed to know how to do was aggravate the piss out of the world of dark-skinned people.

Like plucking that Colombian off the streets in Bogotá and bringing him to an American jail. The guy was not even in the family’s business; was slow, sort of the family idiot. A real prize-catch for the Ivy League Spooks.

Mack shakes his head chagrined. The war was supposed to be on drugs, not idiots. And Mack’s proud of the way he used his incident toward that purpose. The jail-escape coincided, not accidentally, with a big sensational drug bust at JFK.

Juts out his chest, though not past his belly. He’d adroitly kept the media's attention focused on the long banquet-sized table full of shimmering white flake rather than one hombre, among more than two million now in American jails, fleeing. And true or not, for who knew what really went on in the hearts and minds of spooks, Mack heard that the CIA had been taking so much shit about the kidnapping, that they were actually relieved to hear the idiot escaped.

Mack sits back down behind his desk waiting for Randy to return. ‘Must be fixing his makeup,’ he scoffs impatiently.

Resists the urge to get up and just bring himself back the whole freagin bottle. He would never have designed a bar so far away from his desk. Looks back over the events one more time. Checks and feels no remorse or moral hangover. The busts were legit, tons of raw cocaine. And now he has a substantial amount of money parked offshore for good purposes -- his own pleasures, first and foremost, and also for his children’s expensive rehabs and grandchildren’s educations. At Clinics and Universities, they would never have been able to get into without his money and connections. The Good Life in America did not come cheap. If he has a moral hangover about anything –- he can’t even remember where he picked up that inane term – it’s that he raised such fucked up children. Or failed to raise them. He repeats his sarcastic Sermon Under The Mount to himself that he was too busy busting poor kids and sending them to jail for doing the same things his kids had been doing since pre-teen, starting with sniffing goddamn rug cleaning fluids. Mack was capable of finding some misdirection on the moral compass around that – he was at heart a fair fighter – but it would take more effort than he’s presently capable off. After so many years of trying to understand and change things, Mack has simply accepted that the System does not make sense, is not fair, and will never be. So, you find your way on your own.

Like with the Colombian he helped to get his brother out of jail, Alejandro Cabrera. He was basically a good person in a bad business that he got into in order to escape a kind of poverty most North Americans couldn’t even imagine. And Alejandro really loved his stupid brother and wanted his family together again. ‘So what the fuck?

Randy, despite his size, nearly six-and-a-half-feet tall, moves softly, and comes back to the desk without Mack hearing or seeing him. Sits down across from him with a very neat dry martini pursed in front of himself. Quaint little olive and all. Pushes the mud-slinger away from himself and toward Mack.

Mack can’t discern from Randy’s mannerisms if he noticed or not that the drink had changed. Mack surmises, that like most kids today, Randy didn’t notice much outside of himself. ‘He’ll sure make a super-spook for NSA.’ And that was fine with Mack.

Grabbing his tumbler-size glass in his fist, Mack looks over Randy. ‘This Kid is right to be worrying about the health of this System. Where else could someone who’s only previous achievement in this world had been throwing a piece of inflated pigskin fifty yards get handed a six-figure job in the nation’s Capital?