Agent Death pushed open the door and walked in.
The old woman was unconscious in her bed.
He gestured to one of his assistants, who injected something into her with a long needle. She slowly opened her eyes, then bolted up into a sitting position, surprised.
She saw the dark man in the middle of the room staring at her. "Death, is that you?"
"Well, it's the department I work in and not my real name."
"You're not as scary as I thought you'd be," she smiled.
"Our coordinator is merciful," he winked.
"What happens now?"
"You'll see," came the reply.
A few minutes later, his team was loading her stretcher into a waiting ambulance outside. Half an hour later, they were pulling into the garage of a medical lab on the side of a mountain.
"Get her into vat four," Death directed. "How are you feeling?"
"A little nervous," she said.
"Don't worry, that's normal." He motioned to one of the techs, who promptly injected her with something else.
Before she knew it, they had unceremoniously dumped her inside a tub of pink liquid. She was feeling sleepy, groggy, and it was a few minutes before she realized she was breathing in the liquid rather than air. She couldn't resist feeling mildly amused by this.
Death left with most of the team they came with. "Give us a call when she's done," he said to the remaining tech.
A few hours later, after one of the most pleasant dreams in recent memory, the woman could feel herself being lifted out of the liquid. She could see Agent Death waiting for her.
"You have a choice to make now," he said. "Would you like to join us in the agency, or return to civilian life?"
"What? What are you talking about?" said the old woman. "I have so many questions," she said before realizing she was no longer old anymore. She suddenly felt like running around the room, something she hadn't done in years, but now the urge was almost irresistible. Her curiosity helped keep her calm though. "Why is there suffering in the world?"
"You helped create it. You're not solely responsible, but you are part of the ocean you swim in. Every one of us in the agency has suffered as well. It is what guides us in our work in your world."
"There's far too much of it," the woman said almost angrily. "Do you know what I've gone through? Do you not see what is happening out there?"
"That is where my question comes in," said Death. "If you return to civilian life, you will be able to change the world as much as any other civilian. If you join the agency, you will have access to things no civilian does."
"I'm definitely joining the agency then. You have no idea what a lousy job you all have been doing."
"The world is a lot bigger than you know. It is bigger than what most of us have time for. My department only oversees a small part of where you live, and there are so many realities you have never seen, even existing simultaneously in the same space that you believe you're from."
"So you guys don't have the power to just fix everything?" she asked incredulously.
"Actually we do. And there are places where everything has basically been fixed, but there are also places a lot more terrifying than where you come from. They all exist simultaneously, covering not just the entirety of human experience, but non-human experience as well."
"So you're telling me there are places where you just let people suffer?"
"Yes, it helps them learn about what it is to live, and in case you haven't suspected, you have already been in this position many times before. The last time you chose to return to civilian life in the precise world you just came from."
"So what happened to my previous memories then?"
"Don't worry," said Death. "You'll have full access to them again once you rejoin the agency."
"Great, when can I start fixing this crap I just came from?"
"I'll have one of these guys take you over to Agent Mercy's department. I think you'll get along very well. But you can always transfer later."
"So do I get to keep my name?" asked the woman.
"No, Mrs. Huang, I think after you regain all your memories, you'll realize your most recent identity is only a tiny fragment of who you have been, and you will be adding to yourself still."
"What should I call myself then?"
"Agent Mercy," was the reply.
"Welcome to the agency, Agent Mercy."