“Yes, well anyway...I doubt there is anyone working in the private sector at the moment that is more qualified than you for the job!”
Zak couldn’t help but notice the cold glare Vennhim gave Grimrok. Knowing the ex-agent, Zak figured that he had taken that last statement as more than just a small insult. Vennhim had always believed he was the ultimate Aragne patriot, unequalled in his ability to defend his nation. Zak conceded that his training and skills were above the norm, but he knew that Vennhim was not the super hero he saw himself as. In fact, Zak considered him a low-life. The man was unscrupulous, vicious, and amoral.
“I’ve told you, I don’t do that kind of work anymore,” Zak said patiently. “I’m getting too old for it.”
“If you were Human, I’d say at age fifty, perhaps you’re right.” Grimrok’s smile took on a manipulative aura. “But with Elvish blood running through your veins, you are only just approaching middle age. And you look to be in a lot better shape than most twenty year old Humans. Come now, Mr. Harris. This theft offers intrigue beyond anything you’ve dealt with of late. It’s an unfathomable mystery how these thieves managed to get past our security without leaving a trace and I’m offering you the opportunity to solve it.”
“That’s bit exaggerated.” Zak’s instinct was still saying ‘no’, but the fact was that the adventurer within him was feeling bored and this sounded more interesting than writing security code for corporate network systems. He could feel his resolve begin to weaken. “What exactly was taken?”
“First you must agree to take the assignment and sign a confidentiality agreement.” Grimrok slid an electronic document and digital pen across the desk toward him.
Zak left the offered document on the desk. There was still some resistance in him. Something didn’t feel right about this whole thing. And Vennhim was another negative. He had no desire to work with the man again.
“To help you make up your mind,” Grimrok said, “Here’s a little incentive.”
His stubby fingers quickly tapped at the keyboard in front of him and he swung the monitor around for Zak to see. The amount on the screen was more than Zak made in a year with his security business. It didn’t sooth Zak’s instinct any, but things were getting even more interesting.
He still resisted picking up the pen.
“Mr. Harris, this could become a matter of national security if it is not handled correctly!” Grimrok was somewhat flustered over Zak’s resistance. “I’m not asking you to follow my wife around to find out who’s doing her this month. This is serious business. This could have a very detrimental effect upon our nation!”
He paused for a moment then continued more calmly. “I need someone who can quickly learn the playing field and who can also fly below the radar, as it were. I can’t afford to let the government, or the press, get wind of this. It would put an end to our military contracts. You’re the man we need, all right. Anyone who could pull off what you did in the Kremloch Colonies during the Tel Ghar incident... Infiltrating the Goblin’s capital city and safely extracting two prominent hostages was no small feat. So you see, I am confident that you can get this job done.”
“I told you, I don’t play cloak and dagger anymore.”
“This figure is just a retainer, of course,” Grimrok said, indicating the monitor screen. “Twenty-five percent. You will be paid the rest upon completion of the job.”
“Mr. Grimrok,” Vennhim broke in. “It’s pretty obvious that Zak’s not interested. I did try to warn you that he’s lost his edge after...”
Grimrok held up his hand to cut Vennhim short. “Let’s give Mr. Harris a moment to make up his own mind, shall we?”
Vennhim’s words rubbed at Zak and his ability to rationalize dropped a few notches. He couldn’t for the life of him figure out what Vennhim was doing working as head of corporate security. After all, there just wasn’t a whole lot of opportunity to torture and kill in corporate life. Or was there?
In spite of the insistence of his better judgment not to do it, Zak picked up the pen and signed the agreement.
“Excellent!” Grimrok grinned.