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Chapter Sixteen

A tall man wearing yellow Zeiss shooting glasses and a black ammo vest quietly entered through the rear door of a dimly lit room. A projector throwing bright images of C.I.A. training videos onto a screen in front of several neatly dressed men and women flickered above. He slammed the door behind him. “Welcome to the Farm, ladies and gentlemen!”

The new Agency recruits flinched and turned noisily in their seats.

“Congratulations on making it this far, folks, I hope your trip through Virginia was pleasant?”

“Yessir!” they replied in chorus.

“Good...good.” The man strolled from the rear of the room, walking through the rows of doe-eyed agent trainees hanging on the man’s every word. Illuminated images from the projector glided over the man’s lanky frame as he passed in front of the screen. “Let me start by saying...Epstein, please turn the projector off,” the man said placing his hand in front of his face.

The room filled with darkness, followed by a gradual increase in the overhead lighting.

“Thanks. Now, let me begin by saying I am not going to blow smoke up your collective asses and give you any participation trophies, this is not my job, that’s your mom and dad’s. Let’s face it, some of you will end up behind a desk. Some of you may even drop out. This is all completely up to you. You can either push yourself or...?” The man shrugged his shoulders. “Fail. That simple. Regardless, my team and I are here to make sure that for those of you who wish to pursue a career as a field agent, you will be able to: first and foremost, do your job, second, defend yourself, and lastly, keep yourself from getting caught and ultimately tortured. Repeat after me, I do not want to be captured and tortured!”

"I do not want to be captured and tortured!” the recruits shouted back.

“Fantastic. I see you can follow instructions. Oh and one thing, hang on to that little phrase. It is the one thing you should never, ever forget! Well, let me introduce myself, I am Agent Harland Fitzpatrick. I’ve been with the Company for nearly 20 years. You can call me Fitz and for the next few weeks I will be your shadow and your conscience. My team and I will be teaching you what the Central Intelligence Agency calls, Tradecraft. The art of espionage. You will learn cryptography, surveillance, stenography, and lots more fun and wonderful things involved in living your new life with the Company.”

Cole raised his hand.

“Recruit? State your name?” Fitz inquired.

“Cole Hitchens, sir,” the young man replied in his thickest Virginia drawl, drawing muted laughter from the rest of the recruits.

Fitz nodded and glared at his audience.

“Um, sir, Mr. Fitz, sir, what in the name of Sam Hill am I doin’ in this here class? This is way out of my league I’m thinkin’, sir.”

More laughter, this time much louder.

This outburst raised the ire of one Harland Fitzpatrick.

“Hold on a second, recruit Cole,” the man said raising a finger. He turned a pair of angry eyes toward the other recruits. “What in the hell is wrong with you people? Are you in high school or at a top secret CIA training facility? You think his accent is funny? Yes? Do you guys realize that 44% of the soldiers overseas fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban are from the southern parts of the United States. That means that those of you who end up over there will have a better than one in three chance of working with somebody with a ′funny’ accent,” the man air quoted. “Go ahead, I always thought it was brilliant to insult the men that you might need to drag your ass home after you take a bullet!”

The trainees nervously shifted in their seats.

“Never judge your enemy or your fellow agents by the way they speak or look, oftentimes you will underestimate their capabilities to your own detriment. This smart fellow Dr. Wayne Dyer once said, When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself. And I am damn well defining some of you right now.”

Cole raised his hand once more.

“Son, put it down,” Fitz said, returning his focus to the other recruits in the room. “Now, ladies and gentlemen the focus of your ridicule right there, recruit Hitchens, is most definitely an anomaly in standard CIA recruiting. Technically, the Agency does recruit from militias in Afghanistan and other places, this is true. However, recruit Hitchens is in this group because he single-handedly disarmed several highly trained FBI, ATF, and other law enforcement officials, all without killing a single one of them. He can disarm you, immobilize you, and be on to someone else in a matter of seconds. He’s actually supposed to be in prison and was, up until about a week ago. Regardless, that man can hold his own with any sharpshooter and he has an I.Q. approaching 140, although he has yet to put it to good use,” Fitz said, narrowing his eyes at Cole.

Another trainee with the remainder of a grin raised his hand. “Prison sir? When did the CIA start recruiting from prison? My cousin Joey is serving time upstate for grand larceny. Can he join?”

More laughter.

Fitz nodded and then sat down on a desk at the front of the room. He laced his fingers together and placed them in his lap, scanning over the room. “Recruit Biltmore, correct? I would warn you not to underestimate Recruit Hitchens. The militia camp that he was extracted from contained a variety of former Green Berets and other rather deadly folks. He has literally trained with some very scary, very dangerous people and the stuff he knows has made him this entire room’s biggest threat to making it to the top of the class.”

Cole lowered his head. He knew he was in for it now...it seemed he was either the teacher’s pet or his target.

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