Samantha Vagus is an agent with the NSA.
Well, was, actually, but more about that in a moment.
The author gave the series the name "Scratcher" and explains in the first page of the first adventure that Vagus is a "scratcher. For me, scratching is a lot like sex, sometimes better, which I suppose says volumes about my love life lately. I will scratch any itch I have until I bleed. I find this kind of pain, though fleeting, a blessing, much more pleasurable than the discomfort of the itch itself, which is nearly unbearable, especially if I can't reach the itch." What is interesting about this "affliction" is that I cannot be sure if she is physically scratching herself or it is a metaphor. Certainly she
Back to the "was an agent" part. Vagus, and her best friend, Kelly, "used to work for a subset of the National Security Agency, the NSA. Our branch was, well, is, it's still there, called the DSA. We left the kind and benevolent good graces of our overseers with something less than a chest full of medals. We got sick and tired of the increasingly fascist bent of the U.S. government and its unworried approach to the destruction of American rights on behalf of American business welfare and so-called national security concerns. Corporations are people? No thank you."
That sort of explains why she and Kelly are no longer with the goverment. What they were once with the government is a bit more complicated.
Vagus was in operations though actually what I could not get a handle on except that she is very, very good out in the field and when it comes to eliminating opponents, temporarily or permanently, she is not only very good at it, she is good without any hesitation.
Kelly is easier to pigeon-hole. He is an IT geeks. A very, very, very intelligent and talented and inventive geek. He is as far from field-ready as you can get. His idea of being in the field would be a stroll through a park but even then he would be thinking of something he was building or programming.
How the two of them got to be friends is fun to read because Vagus is no techie. She is "a year off a divorce, a Sacramento girl with a high school education, a high IQ, a ferocious temper, high expectations of myself, a kick that would stop a rhino, and not one clue about what I should be doing with my life. I usually wore moderate clothes to deflect attention, then took them off to get attention. I thought long and hard before speaking in those early days, because I was afraid I would launch into a topic I shouldn't. ... I got drunk most weekends whether I wanted to or not. ... My self-hate was matched by hate of everything around me. I was, in short, a genius for a job I despised. I never found any instructions for that."
So we know they are friends and they have left their jobs with the NSA. What was not yet said is that "when we left, Kelly took a little invention of his with him, something that would make privacy in the United States a thing of the past, an unbreakable security algorithm. The government wants it. We're not going to give it to Them, or anyone else, for that matter."
And therein lies the basis for the adventures.
- Regarding a beefy bodyguard, "Dumber than manure, as my mother used to say, yet not as useful."
- "Social graces have never been my strong suit. Breaking people's noses has always served me better."
- About her best friend and computer expert, "Kelly sits and thinks about how he thinks about things." In contrast, she says of herself, "I no more want to think about me than I want to catch bullets with my teeth."