Chapter 10:

His L's didn't quite roll off the tongue. Get it?

FICTION: If you held the power of god in your two hands, would you save the world? Would you doom it? Or would you watch from the sidelines, just as you had done before?

“Hutchison, I’ve got another case for you. It’s in market manipulation; trends show displaced data since the 2010’s.”

Without even looking at the man speaking to him, he gave only a nod in reply.

The agent didn’t talk much. You could call it confidentiality, but really, he just wasn’t a social guy. The quiet kid in school; not many friends, probably. He couldn’t fight, he couldn’t kill, and he had a lot of money but didn’t often spend it.

He was the type of person whose coworkers would talk about from a distance, saying things like “What’s going through that guy’s head?” “I wonder what he does at home?” “Think he has any hobbies?”

Well in the very least, nobody wondered what he was doing working for the company, nor did they question his place. If anything, he was one of the few people who made the others, who socialized, showed up late from time to time, and drank their black coffee in the break room, feel more out of place. Because they remembered that while their intelligence agency’s day-to-day operations felt like a regular company’s, it was the workers like “Hutchison” who would always make them remember that the numbers they crunched ran far deeper than just money.

Our quiet protagonist worked for Breach, a black-hat organization which worked with data, both personal and business-related. Anything that they could get their hands on, they would find and store in their database. It started out as a nonprofit whistleblower like WikiLeeks, but after they faced their first big legal attack, leadership changed, and now they dealt with money. Both because payoffs were much cheaper and far less resource-heavy than blackmail, and because a strong sense of conviction didn’t pay the bills by itself.

The best talent was often made more widely available through money. And that included Hutchison, who was their specialist in trends. Trends with numbers, and with codes too. You could say his overall job was to take data that was useless to the company, and make it more useful.

He did his job well, didn’t cause problems, and made Breach loads of money. He was virtually the perfect employee. So if anybody else had problems with him or caused problems for him, as far as management was concerned, they were the liability.

Which was a convenient scenario, considering the kid didn’t do much to stand up for himself.

Without letting anybody know, he packed up his laptop and left to continue his work at home. He had run out of a steady caffeine source, and the cheap, complementary coffee they served at the office simply wouldn’t do. So instead, he donned his baseball cap, and silently left for home.

Walking through an unusually wide front door, he was greeted by a vast open space of pristine hardwood flooring, occupied by scarce furniture, and a nineteen year old girl in an apron.

“Oh, you back?”

“I couldn’t focus.”

She caught on quickly.

“Uhn… And why you early?”

His calm demeanor subsided, and his voice cracked a bit.


“Uhn. coffee. What about coffee?”

“Make me some. P-please.”

Suddenly dropping her interrogative attitude with an added mutter to herself in Korean, she smiled again.

“Uhn. Ok~ay.”

She held up a little “OK” sign with her hand. It was a little scary, how she could carry such an attitude, then just switch to such an innocent smile in a blink.

Well, he was used to her by now, and vice versa. After she was taught how to brew the drink herself, she quickly ended up even more skilled at it than he was.

And it was his hobby, too. He felt a bit jealous of her, but that was second to his addiction to her precise technique.

“The maid?”

“The maid leave early. For, uhnnn, per- parson…”

She paused to pull out a little palm-sized dictionary, flipping through it for about a minute before continuing.

“Use the digital specs I got you.”

She ignored him, and continued reading.

He waited patiently for her, regardless.

“Parsonal reason! But I finish cleaning, so it aaaall ok~ay.”

She smiled again, with the same hand sign as before. It was like her catchphrase at this point. Incidentally, there was never a reaction from him. She more just did it because she liked to.

“And my mom?”

She slumped.

“Today she not feeling well. No talking.”

He nodded, then left to a far door that was just barely left open. In the room, his mother was sleeping soundly, hooked up to an oxygen pump and a feeding tube. Her time was probably getting close; she had looked especially worn out lately.

Like she was tired of fighting.

“The coffee ready!”

From the other room, she called him back in to grab his cup of joe.

He looked down at the cup in his hand; the milky brown, creamed and sugared to a color that he could tell would taste divine. The agent looked back at the girl, focused on cleaning the espresso machine she had just finished using.

He wondered what she would do, once his mother passed. He had originally hired the foreign exchange student just to take care of her, after all. Well, of course she would move on, right? She had a degree to finish; a job to find.

A life to live.

Well, it would no longer be his business at that point. Or at least, that’s the thought he ended on.

“Let’s work on your pronunciation today.”

She turned her head, and her eyes lit up.



“La, li, lu, le, loooo. Dooo, loololololo. How I am?”

She giggled a bit, clearly having a bit of playful fun with her own lessons.

“It sounds bad. You aren’t even trying…”

She smacked him on the shoulder, from their short distance beside each other.

“Ashh, I try hard! You explain bad!”

“Ro. Ra, ri, ru, re, ro… Try it again.”

“La, li, lu, le, lo. Lolololo. Loliloli.”

“Stop doing that. It’s not helping.”

“Why you so boring? I try hard! English is stupid language.”

He sighed. Obviously, he was getting nowhere. And half an hour of trying to get the foreigner to differentiate between an L sound and an R sound was already too much wasted time for him.

“I give up for now. You’re free to go.”

“Uhn. You go take class on teaching.”

He didn’t respond, and kept his eyes down as she left the room. She was joking; he knew that, but he didn’t really know how else to take it other than as a flat insult. He was never good at communicating; at understanding others. How was he supposed to teach her english?

How was he supposed to figure out how to keep her from moving on from him?

“When you find somebody you like, or you want to move out, let me know. I’ll make the arrangements. But until then, you’ll work for me.”

That’s what he had told her, when they first got married.

Just to get her an American citizenship, of course. Their relationship was strictly business.

That’s what he liked to think.

But despite that, he couldn’t help but try and try to figure out ways to try and keep her around. Perhaps he would get her another gift for her hard work. Or a pay raise. Perhaps he could pay her enough so that she wouldn’t ever want to go out and finish school.

But doing things that way didn’t feel right to him either.

He retreated to his office in the lowest level of the four story mansion, and shut the door behind him. He had about enough of wasting time on such nonsense thoughts and actions. Of course, she was never allowed to enter that room, nor could he tell her what his actual job was.

But why was it a waste of time? Why was he trying so hard to spend more time with her and help her with her studies, if it was such an impediment on his work? Perhaps his work was the real waste of time, and he should be going up and trying to talk to her more?

Nothing felt right, at this point.

He couldn’t focus on his numbers, even. That had never happened to him in the past.


The next morning, the fruit of his unease bore a binder full of research papers and studies from many published sources both English and Korean, all printed and meticulously highlighted to point out the easiest parts to understand for a second-language English speaker. Every single one was about how to properly pronounce the letter “R”.

That day, he was especially productive at work, despite not getting a lick of sleep.

Even though he left two hours earlier than usual, and missed his made-to-spec morning coffee.

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