The Cerebral Corporate Cortex by Tantroo (critique requested)

The squeak of a turning faucet brought to end the warm comforting waterfall of the shower. The skunk let out a bit of a sigh, leaving the comfort provided by the cleansing waters was never easy. He knew it could never last forever though, especially not with his job where he injected himself into the world of filth and villainy on a daily basis.

Tonight especially, he was sure he'd be needing another shower soon afterwards as his employer, simply known as "The Agency" had uncovered a major lead implicating the CEO of a mental help clinic called "Mental Mending Inc." has been doing more than just helping the psychologically troubled, but instead has started to use his hypnotic abilities to corner the market. Doing so they not only created a fanatical client base, but also freeing the company of labor costs by enslaving the workers.

One would think that such a growing operation would have been easily detected by the government, or some other source of power. However every time an outsider had gone to inspect for suspicious activity, there was no protest or note of what was really going on in there. Obviously, it is under suspicion that they were mentally coerced.

The skunk put on his jacket as he stepped out the door of his well furbished abode, making his way down past the lobby and heading to his vehicle. As he pulled his keys from his jacket pocket a voice came from the shadows.

"Agent Herring, I presume." it called out causing the skunk to spin away from his vehicle, noting a silhouette by the nearby pillar, a trail of smoke coming from a cigarette lit in the mouth of the stranger.

His codename was always strange, but then again most of them were. Usually never correlating with the species they actually were. The skunk not knowing who this individual was or how they knew his code name left him a bit on edge. He reached for a concealed weapon gripping it in his paw, the cold handle of the metallic device giving some assurance.

"Excuse me?" the skunk’s voice remained calm, someone in his line of work had to at least appear to always be in control of the situation; as strange or dangerous as it seemed. "I am afraid you are mistaken."

A puff of smoke arose from the pillar as the shadowy form moved closer, but never revealed itself to the light. "I am not, you are mistaken if you feel you can deceive me... for I have been deceived, time and time again. I have had to deceive, time and time again. You see, agent, I know you are about to infiltrate the Mental Mending Inc. facility at the heart of downtown. I know because I worked there, I know what you are about to walk into, and I know that you are not prepared for what awaits you."

The skunk's dark paw never left his concealed firearm, he sneered a bit. "So what, are you some messenger come to warn me? Or come to control me? I am afraid that you will not succeed, if you pull anything I will kill you."

"You misconceive my intentions agent, I wish to help you... as it would help me. You see, I wanted to make the world a better place, to make people live more stress free lives. That's why I became an employee there. But over the years, I've seen what their manipulation has done. They provide mental easement to those who can afford it, and cause anguish and fear in those that cannot. They have become a company fueled by greed, and in that effect cause more anguish than they alleviate." The figure turns to face the agent's general direction letting out another puff of smoke. "If you go as you are, you will fail as those before you. However, I have a device that will protect you."

A blue gem shimmers as the mysterious stranger pulls a sort of jeweled necklace from his pocket. "Take this. This will help you keep your mind should it attempt to be taken by your enemy."

The skunk looked upon the device for a moment, a pink paw holding it before him, he could not see anything past the creature's wrist even though the gem seemed to generate its own kind of light. The agent reached and grabbed the device with his off hand and looked down on it, the glow of the gem reflecting off his iris, almost blinding him as his pupils readjusted.

"What am I supposed to do with this?" he asked before looking back up for the stranger. But his words struck merely upon the air around him as there was no longer anyone else with him. The jewel in his hand being the only object reminiscent of the encounter.

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He had arrived at the facility in good time. The sleek engineering of the building designed like a technological temple. For a clinic the building was surely an impressive site. A serene and well maintained park lining the front with comfortable looking benches. The flush green flowing into the concrete shore of a perimeter walkway which surrounded a cool steel colored structure that stood about three floors tall, the glass windows spotlessly reflecting the late afternoon sun in manner which would be blinding if looked directly upon.

Agent Herring stood in an abandoned and decrepit building across the street, raising a pair of binoculars to his eyes.

"I'm here." he spoke into an earpiece.

"Good, do you see the access way in the roof that we went over in briefing?" replied a voice on the other end of the line.

"Affirmative." the skunk looked down upon a schematic he had rolled out on the disheveled wooden floor. "As long as the source of this document is as reliable as you claim, the vent should take me straight into the CEO's main office, right?"

"Our sources are reliable. All we need you to do is to get a copy of Nahgah Swanson's hard drive and retrieve all the information and bring it back to headquarters."

The agent's mind went to his prior briefings. Nahgah Swanson was the full name of the current CEO of Minds Menders Inc. A rather large and well structured creature, he was named CorproWatch's most fit CEO of the year for three years running. Though, once again, information pertaining to him gathered by witnesses were always highly suspect to the agency. He was rather large at six foot four, scales of jade, eyes of emerald, and was rumored to be quite a charmer to the public. Well liked by friends, but highly feared by enemies the naga was rumored to have a very two faced personality. His seemingly genuine empathy transforming into aggression at the moment of threat.

Clearly, the agent knew that he had to proceed with the utmost of caution as he took up the schematics and plans. He turned to a heavily dented and charred metallic barrel a previous unlawful resident of the condemned building used as a heat source and used it himself to torch the plans. A customary action to keep the dealings of the agency from being discovered should anything backfire.

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It was almost surprising to Agent Herring how easy this mission was so far. The vents were rather spacious for what they were intended for. Crawling about in ducts was part of his job description, and knowing the limits on where he could go without getting horribly stuck. However, he felt as if he could fit two of himself in here and still barely be able to make his way through.

He had passed above what appeared to be a lab. A grate opening looked down from high up in the ceiling. Below were creatures in lab coats moving about, working on some sort of chemical compounds. It looked like some sort of drug producing facility.

As he was taking photos from his hidden position a loose bolt from the grate cover began to slide out. Eventually it fell loose and the skunk’s heart sank as he watched it descend and hit an empty glass beaker resting on a table. There was a loud crash as the impact caused the item to tip over and roll off the table and fall to the floor.

The skunk slid back as the sound had rung throughout the room. He tried to keep into the shadows should anyone come peering up at him. However, the strangest thing had occurred. There was hardly any reaction from the lab technicians at all, the ones working on neighboring tables just went about their tasks, uninterested in the shattered glass that now lay upon the floor.

He just sat there and waited to see if anything would happen at all, or if someone was going to stumble upon it, see it, maybe even step on it. However it continued to be ignored. Zooming his camera in upon the creatures of the lab the skunk noted they looked spacy. As if they were wandering about early morning before having their cup of coffee.

There was a crunch as the large shoe of a rabbit technician stepped upon the shattered remains of the beaker. Surely the skunk expected for the scientist to stop what he was doing and take note of this change in their environment, but he kept going, toward his destination.

The behavior was most certainly strange, but it was not his main objective, it most certainly looked as if they were mindless on anything but the tasks of their work. Perhaps, he too should get back to what he was supposed to be doing.   
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It seemed that the vents were almost designed for him to traverse to his objective. Agent Herring now could see into the CEO’s main room. A throne room if he ever saw one. A lavish mahogany desk with a stylish mainframe setting upon it. His mission was to gather evidence off of that computer so that could be used to incriminate the snake for his ill-gotten gains. 

But how he was going to do it that was another---

“Sir, sir!” a voice cut through his thoughts. A meek looking mouse, albino in coloration entered the room causing the CEO to jump in his chair a bit. There was a strange sense of familiarity with the voice, but Agent Herring shook it off as he continued to watch.

With a hiss and glance Nahgah looked to his lackey. “I told you not to interupt me while I’m working squirt!”

“I’m sorry sir, but we have a situation in the labs that needs to be looked into.” when the mouse announced that the skunk spy felt his heart pound a bit, that must have been the spill he caused.

With a bit of an agitated grumbling the large snake rose from his desk and slithered for the door. “Must I do everything myself? You’d think with brainwashed workers they wouldn’t be so prone to error!” his sputtering could be heard as he left the room.

This was his opportunity! The skunk quickly unhinged the vent near the ceiling and tied a line to the vent; clipping himself to it. He slid down swiftly before unhinging himself and then running up to the desk. He reached into his jacket and pulled out a computer leaching device sticking it upon the mainframe. Herring held his breath as he watched the bar upon the information device fill up, copying all the data on the computer. He hoped there wasn't too much information, though that wish was not granted as minutes went by. The skunk stayed low as he he watched the data fill up. It was torture as it got closer and closer but seemed to slow as it reached higher percentages.

“Come on, come on, come ----” the skunk coaxed under his breath before he was suddenly cut off by a coil around his throat choking off his words as he was thrown away from the machine and desk and pinned into the wall by the strong snake. His paws instinctively went up to pull at the strong reptilian muscle.

“Who are you and what are you doing in my officcce?” the serpent bellowed as he glared at him dangerously. The agent felt his air in short supply as the coil pushed his throat against the wall. The tail of the skunk agent fluffed up, he was about to spray his foul musk into the air to get his attacker to gag, but his eyes found themselves locked into the piercing jade of the serpent’s eyes.

A voice swims in the agent’s head as the serpent grins, the emerald eyes sparkling and reflecting off of the interlopers own helpless irises. “I guess you really wanted to work for me didn’t you? Bringing peace of mind to those who can afford it...?” the skunk gave a nod as his tail started to relax. “That’s it, you’re only wisssh wasss to work for me. For my company. To be at peeeace. Why struggle? Struggle causes pain. You don’t want pain, you want peeeeace.” the words bounced about his mind the skunk’s tail hanging loosely and his paws lowering from the grip on the coils at his throat. Giving up his struggle.

The albino mouse was also in the room, having returned with his boss. He held up a card he had found on the floor. The card was of an odd reflective material but had an image of the skunk on it along with some type of code. “Not really boss, he’s from a government agency. Probably to spy on us.” he squeaks, cutting through the inception.

Nahgah was agitated by the interruption, his jade eyes breaking from their target as he looks to his lacky. “Don’t you think I know that you pip-squeak?” 

With the inductive trance interrupted the weary minded skunk felt his hand trace into his jacket and grip upon the medallion he had been given in the parking lot when he left his apartment. His paw felt numb as if it were suffering from a form of carpal tunnel as his mind was buzzed. However it was now or never. He gripped as hard as he could the medallion and pulled it from his jacket just as the jade eyes turned back to target him.

When the serpents eyes fell upon the jewelry he suddenly jolted back, “It can’t be!” he exclaimed as the scaled coil dropped the agent to the floor, but the skunk held the item high gasping with new found blessed breath. Nahgah’s tried to move his eyes from the cool blue light as it swam forth and locked him in its grasp. His jade eyes dilated as the aura swam into him and then pulled out a green essence from the snake before entrapping it into the pennant.

The CEO froze in place, his emerald eyes replaced with the deep blue hue of the artifact that the skunk held in his paw. The agent stood up and took panting breaths as his mind started to recollect its own thoughts causing a slight stumble as he garnered his footing, looking to the snake standing with his mouth agape his tongue hanging out, eyes completely blue.

After a moment of silence the mouse lackey suddenly sounded off in jubilation, running up to the skunk and giving him a hug. “Thank you! Thank you! Oh you have freed us all! That jewel has trapped his power and freed us all! But we must destroy the medallion to end this.” the rodent puts his pink paw on the agent’s shoulder. “Only I know how to end it, your job is over agent, just hand me the pendent and I’ll put an end to this.”

The skunk felt something odd of this, he had questions. Like how did this rodent know how to use this artifact? Why couldn’t get just destroy it himself? But these hesitation were ignored by his body as he simply handed the jewel over to the mouse, it was what he was supposed to do. He wasn’t supposed to question it.

The meek mouse gripped the medallion in his pink paws, and as soon as it was secured he started to change in demeanor. He cackled light before bursting into a maniacal laughter. “Oh this was oh so easy Agent Herring, thank you so much for being a loyal servant.”

Confusion took hold, and fear, he had to take back the blue jewel from the mouse but he couldn’t move. His body wouldn’t allow him to attack this mouse. Why couldn’t he? His heart pounded, why could he do nothing, he was but a mouse. He could easily suppress him physically!

The mouse grinned as he moved his paw under the skunk’s chin and squeezed his cheeks like a little pet. “Oh, you seem so confused, you see, that old snake... he thought he was so smart...” he pranced over to the dazed snake. “Oh you thought you were so smart, running a company, running people’s lives through their minds. Treating my species as your meal ticket, as if we were lesser creatures... but I showed you... you’re just one big dumb animal aren’t you? You’re going to sign over your company to me aren’t you?”

Within the mouse’s paw the medallion glew and the snake gave a nod. “Yes.... you are now in control.... the company is yours.”

Agent Herring now knew he had to stop this he moved forward toward the mouse, with new found vigor he drew his weapon. “Put the medallion down!”

The mouse didn’t even break a sweat “Put down the firearm, agent, your work is done.” his calm meek voice commanded.

A clank was heard as the weapon fell from the skunk’s grip and hit the floor. There was a fear in the agent’s heart. He was listening to this mouse? Why?

The lanky pale mouse grinned to the skunk. “You seem confused, since I have won with your help I suppose it’s time I showed you the truth... you were working for me the whole time.” the mouse grins lifting the medallion once again the skunk felt himself grow faint and visions of the past came into his mind.

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The skunk saw himself back in the parking garage, where he had met that figure, but the past was revealed to be much different than he had first perceived.

"Agent Herring, I presume." a voice called out in the garage causing the skunk to spin away from his vehicle, noting a silhouette by the nearby pillar, a trail of smoke coming from a cigarette lit in the mouth of the stranger.

But the smoke wasn’t unpleasant as he had recalled, in fact it smelled rather intoxicating, curious, wonderful. His hand at first went to his firearm as he recalled in the past but as the trails of smoke passed by his nostrils he felt a numbness in his mind, lowering his defensiveness.

“That’s right, there’s no need for violence, not around me, and if you work with me, there will never be need for violence again.” the voice assured the agent.

“Excuse me?” the skunk stated, the same line as he recalled but with different context. “I’m afraid you’re mistaken-- I have no desire to work with you.”

The figure moved forward, recognizable as the meek looking mouse. Another line of smoke flowed over the skunk, the relaxation caused the agent’s paw to let go of his firearm.

The albino rodent in his own pocket. “Look into this--”

The blue light of the medallion was piercing and the skunk felt his past being rewritten, and his understanding of the future shifting, the squeaky and meek voice of the mouse suddenly felt full of authority and control and the agent hung on every word.

“You must remain as an outside agent, an enemy of my boss, he cannot know you’re working for me, you must not know you’re working for me. You will only recall me as a shadow informant, all of your actions will seem spontaneous, but they all have purpose. If you do good, I will reveal this to you, you will be my right hand man in the new peaceful world, where all minds work as one. Not for greed of a corporation but for progress of everyone. You will now take this, and show it to my greedy boss, and then everyone will be free... free to serve for a better purpose. Not mindless servitude based upon species and economic status like Nahgah’s power hungry game, but blissful freedom of thought for everyone.

“You are at peace and now, if you work with me that peace will belong to everyone.”

The rodent hands the blue medallion to his new co-opted agent. “Use this, as I cannot against my boss he’ll be too suspicious of me, you can catch him by surprise. But when I ask for it back, you will give it forth without hesitation.”

“And then your work will be done.”

The Cerebral Corporate Cortex (critique requested)

Tantroo

20 November 2012 at 09:50:36 MST

A government agent goes on a mission of espionage into a corporation that is suspected of using mind control and hypnosis to co-opt customers and workers.

Will Agent Herring, the skunk, be able to successfully expose the corporations schemes or will he also be lost in the cortex?

Entry into hypnosis contest http://www.furaffinity.net/view/8549089/

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