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Exit One Chief

Maxwell Smart hurried down the halls of CONTROL, eager to get to the emergency meeting the Chief had called. He was hoping there was some sort of a national emergency that needed his attention-not much had been going on since he had gotten back from his accident. Being back on duty made him feel like a million bucks, but if there were no dastardly deeds going on, where was the fun? That's why he'd been so excited about the emergency meeting. It usually meant trouble.

Max burst into the meeting room and found it filled with other CONTROL agents. They had hired back about half the staff since the government had put them back in business, but it still seemed small compared to what they used to have. Max squeezed his way up to the front and stood next to his wife and partner, 99. She kissed him quickly on the cheek.

“Okay everyone, let's settle down!” the Chief called, walking briskly to the front of the room. He took his place behind the podium and cleared his throat. “I know you're all wondering why I sent for you.”

“What is it Chief? It's KAOS, right? Even though we thought we beat them to the floor they're back, right? And we're the only ones who can stop them?” Max asked fervently. Chief sighed.

“No, Max. It's something else.”

“A new organization, right? We can take `em! I know we can!”

“Max, please! That's not why we're here! If you'll just settle down I'll tell you!” he said, rather impatiently. He assumed a more serious expression and looked out on his faithful agents. “Although this happens to everyone in his or her life, I don't think it's ever easy,” he began. “But, there just comes a time when it becomes necessary. And that time has come.” He looked down at the speech he'd written the night before and tried to calm down. Who knew it would be this hard? He looked meaningfully at each of his agents, knowing them all by name and knowing of at least one good story about them. He looked over at Harold, who had only been there for about a year. Already he showed signs of being one of their best; more than one medal had gone to him. Chief searched around the room and met Eva's gaze. Eva was such a mastermind. She could do anything she told herself to do. And then there was Calvin, a mischievous little agent whom the Chief had know since he was a toddler. His parents had been agents too. Somehow, Calvin always made his shortcomings work to his advantage. “Each and every one of you mean a lot to me. I've shared the best years of my life with you, and I don't regret a second of it. You're a very special group of people, one that can never be improved upon.”

All the agents were starting to get edgy. What was their Chief talking about?

“I'll miss all of you, very much. But…the time has come for me to step down. I want to leave when I can still say I made a positive difference for this organization. I want you to know I've thought about this extensively, and have come to the conclusion that it is time. Therefore, I hereby announce my retirement, effective immediately.” Chief waited breathlessly for a response. All the agents were too shocked to speak. All except one, that is.

“But Chief! You can't do that! Who's gonna be Chief?” Max cried indignantly.

“Well, that was the next point of order,” the Chief said, stepping away from the podium. “We will have a new Chief of CONTROL, and I will announce him now.”

Max almost jumped out of his shoes. He knew it was going to be him! It had to be! He'd been at CONTROL for almost twenty years, and had been their top agent for most of those! Max promised himself that when the time came he wouldn't act like he knew. He would pretend it was a complete surprise.

99 bit the inside of her cheek. She knew it was going to be her! It had to be! She had been at CONTROL almost as long as Max, and had always done excellent work. Besides, having a woman run CONTROL sounded like a great idea. She'd whip things into shape in no time. But first, she had to act like she it was a shock that she was the new Chief.

“And so, I'd like to introduce the new Chief of CONTROL…” Max leaned forward. 99 bit down harder. “My nephew, Benjamin!”
A tall, slender man dressed in dark colors stepped forward and waved.

What?!” all the agents cried simultaneously.

“Chief, who is this?” Max bellowed, pointing to the stranger. “None of us have ever seen him before!” Cries of agreement rang out. Chief (or, ex-Chief) held up his hands to quiet things down.

“Just let me explain. My nephew has been working at the CIA for quite some time--"

“The CIA?! They're our mortal enemies!” Max pointed out.

“Quiet! Benjamin has worked there for almost twenty years. He's responsible enough to handle the load of Chief.”

“Chief, just one question,” Max said, stepping forward. The Chief sighed.

“Yes Max, what is it?”

“Why did you pick someone who's never worked for this organization? Why not pick one of us, whom you know and trust?” Again, cries of agreement followed.

“Quiet, people! Max, I think I know and trust my own nephew.”

“Yeah, but none of us do!” Calvin cried from the back.

“Yeah, are you out of your mind?” 99 shouted, coming forward.

“My mind is made up. The paperwork is filed. Benjamin is your new Chief,” Chief said, already gathering his things. “He's a good man. It's what this institution needs. It will improve relations with the CIA and give CONTROL the boost it needs. Plus, with him being my nephew, I can keep my eye on what's going on around here.”

It was a lost battle. The agents knew there was really nothing that could be done, except a lot of scowling. Chief looked mournfully out on his agents.

“I don't want to leave with everyone upset. That's not how I imagined it. Please, don't leave here angry or hurt. I want you to know I considered every one of you before I actually made up my mind.”

“Well, obviously not too seriously, if he's the best you could come up with,” Max snorted, nodding towards Benjamin. Benjamin looked hurt.

“Wait a minute. You guys don't even know me. How can you pass judgment on someone you don't even know?” he demanded.

“Simple. With you, it's an exception.” Max said coldly. Benjamin retreated to a corner.

“Max, I may not be in charge any more, but you can not talk that way about my nephew.”

“Why not? I didn't even know you had a nephew! All this time, and we never even knew!”

“I couldn't tell you! His identity is top secret, as is my personal life!”

“I tell you about my personal life!” Max said, crossing his arms.

“Max, you do that on your own, I never asked you to!” Chief could feel a headache coming on. “Look, you're dismissed. But please give the new Chief a chance before you make any judgments. Remember, I was once like him. Completely new and out of place. It's hard. Just give the kid a chance!”

All the agents scuffled a bit and muttered to themselves. Max and 99 exchanged looks but didn't say anything. Eva was the first to leave. She shook the Chief's hand and smiled.

“I'll miss you, Chief,” she whispered. Chief smiled back and watched her leave. All the agents lined up to say goodbye to their longtime mentor and friend. Max and 99 immediately got in the back of the line.

“Max. 99.” Chief said, looking his two top agents over and shaking each of their hands when their turn came. “I think I'll miss you the most.”

“We'll miss you too, Chief.” Max said, looking at the floor.

“You don't have to call me Chief anymore. You can call me by my first name.”

“You're the only one we'll ever call Chief, Chief!” 99 cried dramatically, throwing her arms around him. “I can't imagine this place without you!”

“Geez 99, get a hold of yourself!” Max whispered to her. “But she's right Chief. I can't imagine working for anyone but you. You were the one who hired me and watched me grow as an agent.”

“Yes, I remember,” Chief said darkly.

“And you were there when Max and I met!” 99 said, still crying. “And through all the times that were the best times in our life!”

“Well, I'm sure you'll have many more,” Chief said, untangling himself from 99. “You two are going to do very well, I know. Memories don't stop just because one person leaves.”

Now it was Max's turn to tear up. “Chief, can't you stay? Just for one more week?” he pleaded. Chief laughed.

“No, I'm going up to my cabin in Minnesota. I haven't been there in years. I always promised myself I'd retire there and now I'm going to.” He could see both of them were very upset. “There's nothing to be sad about. Look.” Chief pulled out a piece of paper. “No one else here knows where my cabin is, but here's the address. You can write or come over whenever you want. I'd be happy to have you.”

99 took the paper. “We'll take you up on that someday, Chief,” she said, sliding it into her pocket.

“Chief…can I ask you something?” Max said.

“Sure Max. What is it?”

“Why did you really retire?”

“Well, I am in my seventies, Max. I'm ready for a little rest and relaxation.”

“Um…” Max leaned close to him. “If you're retiring because you don't think you can do your job anymore, I just want you to know, I don't hold it against you for sending me out on that mission that almost killed me.”

“Which one?”

“Never mind.” Max said, rubbing his head where his injury had been. The Chief sighed contently.

“Well you two, I have to be off. My flight leaves in an hour.”

“No! Let's have lunch or something, Chief!” 99 suggested. The Chief shook his head.

“I'm sorry, I really have to go. But please, come and see me sometime. I'd enjoy your company.”

“How about now?” Max asked eagerly. 99 swatted him on the shoulder.

“He didn't mean now, dear.”

“Oh. Well, it never hurts to ask.” Max shrugged. The Chief laughed.

“I really am going to miss you two. It was…interesting working with you,” he said, shaking both their hands again. 99 hugged him again.

“Bye Chief. I'll see you again someday,” she whispered to him. She began to cry again and quickly left the room. That left Max and the Chief alone. Max hesitated.

“Um, Chief? I forget. Is it acceptable for a man to hug another man?” he asked meekly.

“Sure Max. In these situations it's fi-“ he was cut off by a big bear hug from Max.

“Bye Chief,” Max said, breaking from the hug a moment later.

“Bye Max. Try to stay out of trouble, and say goodbye to your kids for me.”

“I can't do both, Chief,” Max said honestly. “I'm only one man, after all.”

Chief laughed. “Well, ok. I'll see you around, Max.” Max shook his Chief's hand once more and walked out of the room.