James Hicks is an agent with the University.
According to a description we are given about this group, "the University has been a clandestine organization since the days of the OSS. The University and its agents have always lived in the shadows; using its vast intelligence resources to help defeat the Nazis, end the Cold War and strike back at terrorists all over the globe. They have been at the forefront of global espionage for decades".
The University has, besides its impressive budget, OMNI, or the Optimized Mechanical and Network Integration protocol. The term was as old as the University and was now largely a relic of the past but the system, being constantly upgraded and improved and refined, was a state-of-the-art as anything could be. Only the name hearkened back to the beginning. The acronym remained perfect for the system because its tendrils reached everywhere.
One of the reasons for its immense capabilities is the enormous number of assets at its call. In this regard, these assets were men and women from every walk of life and every industry or service. These people were constantly feeding OMNI intelligence and more. "Assets were expected to provide the University with information or access or options it needed at the time, but didn't have. If the Asset played along and did what was asked of him, he made out well. If he refused or got cute, they got the University's equivalent of a newspaper in the nose: a bullet in the brain."
This sounds extremely harsh because it is.
Hicks is one of the 'recruiters' who makes it harsh. The University through the probing of OMNI constantly look for areas where its intelligence is weak or needs change. Then Hicks, or one of his colleagues, start to work, "digging deep into the person's past for that one knife they could hold to their throat to make them comply. Past offenses and indiscretions they didn't want to see come to light. Current mistakes that could get them fired or ruin their marriage. Hicks' colleagues ran checks and analyses on a potential Asset's personality profile to make sure he or she could stand up to the passive pressures of the University's constant influence in their lives. If they passed all the OMNI simulations, then an Asset was approached, broken, and put to work. If an Asset cracked and killed himself or had to be eliminated, then OMNI was simply directed to change parameters to account for the shortcomings in the analysis model. It was all as simple-and inhumane-as that."
Hicks is not just in the recruiting side of things. He is there when things go bad and the enemy needs to be stopped and he is very, very good at that because he approaches that work the same way he handles the recruitment process - with deadly earnest and no hesitation.
Two interesting comments noted early on:
"The man who called himself James Hicks checked his watch when he reached the corner of Forty-second and Lexington. It was just past eleven in the morning; more than an hour before he was scheduled to ruin a man's life. And plenty of time to smoke a cigar."
"Because in his line of work, small mistakes were forgotten and big mistakes got you killed. Such harsh, immutable constants brought a certain resignation to Hicks' life that he found almost peaceful."