From X-Factor

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2046-05-27 Challenges

I really have no idea what I am doing any more.

Like with this. A journal. It is completely ridiculous. Spies don't journal. Someone might read them.

The fact that I might journal to deal with 'troubling emotions' was tactfully suggested to me by a government psychologist during my series of exit interviews. Yes, they subjected me to a series of exit interviews despite being fired for what is essentially a genetic disorder. After all, ex-spooks are essentially a pain in the arse, and even more so if they have reason to be disgruntled. I would be very surprised if the Chief didn't cherish certain fantasies about simply quietly putting them down, just to avoid headaches. I would be even more surprised if it hadn't been considered as a way of dealing with me.

I stopped being naive about these things a long, long, long time ago.

And, yet, as ridiculous as I thought it was, here I am writing a journal anyway. I am writing it by hand, sheet by sheet on a solid surface that does not preserve pressure marks. Afterward, I will burn it, quite thoroughly, and there will be no way of recovering it. Otherwise, I would be worried someone would read it. After all, someone is keeping tabs on me.

That's not paranoia, by the way. That's common sense. If I were them, I would watch me. Far too many red flags on my record. Troubling chap, that Fraser-Urquhart. Knows too much, can do too much, and is no longer sound. And so on and so forth.

This is for me, not for posterity. I need to sort my head out. In the past, I always knew who I was, both deep down, and who I had to be in that moment. Now I keep becoming confused.

I came here to investigate and infiltrate. I set myself a mission, like I might have in the past. Discover what mutant culture is. Learn about this woman who is supposedly my daughter. Decide whether I want anything to do with any of it, or to simply arrange a quiet and unexpected windfall for Miss Moody and disappear, still very much closeted, to the Highlands. I thought about going there instead of New York. It would be quiet. I could fish.

Instead, last night, a sort of madness came over me.

I don't know how else to explain it. It wasn't drink--I wasn't drunk. The whiskey in that bar--a bar that should have been condemned by any sane health authority--was excreable. I could barely bring myself to drink it.

Perhaps it was a desire to relive my wild days, when I did drink life to the full, running wild in dive bars with girls with high spirits and bright eyes. Even where that got me.

Perhaps it was, sitting there, watching people weave and bob on the dance floor, I suddenly felt like I was missing something. A community, a people, that I should have belonged to and never have.

Perhaps it was simply the sad midlife crisis of a washed up divorcee in his forties. It's happened to better men than I.

I have faced more subtle machinations and higher stakes than a pretty blonde in a bar who wanted me to steal for her. I could see right through her manipulations--so why did I let them succeed? Why did I let a stranger push me to revealing what I haven't for so long? Why did I let her make me think about what I could do in my alternate worlds and whether anything I do there really matters?

Perhaps I really am just a sad old man, head turned by a flash of young flesh.

But it was the stubborn jut of her chin that intrigued me as much as her soft lips and bright eyes. For a moment, rising to her challenges made me feel alive again, as I hadn't since the days I was matching wits with terrorists and foreign powers. I couldn't help but think: I would like to go a few rounds with her. I bet she knows how to play.

In whichever way that is.

And so I found myself, alone in a crowded bar, and then on the street, eating a kebab and wondering who in the world I am these days, and whether I could ever openly be the one who leaps between universes.

And how much my other universes must hate me.

I kept the knotted cherry stem in my pocket. It's on my desk now, here in this lovely but impersonal hotel room, right beside the fountain pen my father gave me upon my graduation.

It's a reminder.

The problem is I am sure not what it is a reminder of.