Mooi Plaas Farm –West of Pretoria…
The line dies for a moment, carrying nothing but the gentle hiss of the satellite link.
‘Dead…? What the hell are you talking about, Albert? Dead?’
‘I mean what I say, man - he’s dead…D E A D…Dead! Shall I spell it out again for your dumb, white ass?’
Rolf de Wet takes a deep breath. ‘Alright Albert, what the hell happened? Where’s Abaddon…did you get it?’
‘No, Rolf, he didn’t have it…’
‘But he must have…he must have it.’
‘Rolf, that crazy old man beat the crap outta that piece o’ shit an’ he had nuthin’…ya hear me? Nuthin’! If he’d had anythin’, the motherfucker’d sure as hell’ve spilled the goddamned beans there and then.’
‘Did you check his apartment?’ Rolf asks desperately.
‘Did I check his apartment? Of course I checked his apartment, you white-assed supremacist fuckin’ brainless Nazi…what you think I am, some dumb-assed ghetto nigger? Huh?’
‘Okay, okay, sorry Albert…I’ve got to ask…you know that. No offence meant.’
A world away, Albert pauses for a moment. ‘Uh, okay man, none taken. What now then?’
Rolf pauses again, pondering this latest setback. ‘Stay in New Orleans, Albert. We’ll be in touch.’
‘Okay man; but you’d better wire me some more cash through; I’m getting’ low out here.’
‘More cash?’ Incredulous, Marius lapses into his native Afrikaans. ‘Bliksem en donner Albert - ons het twintig duisend dollar vir jou gegee…is jy mal man?’
What the fuck have you done with twenty thousand dollars Albert?’
‘Chill out Rolf…life’s expensive out here, man, and that crazy old man – he’s got expensive habits. You get me some cash, or I’m outta here.’
Rolf sighs. Dealing with the black race still stretches his patience. But we’re allies now, allies against the great Satan…and our Lord cometh, even as a thief in the night…
‘Okay Albert, we’ll do it today. Stay out of trouble.’
Albert grins. ‘Sure thing Rolf. You give my best wishes to all them white chicks in Pretoria, my man.’
‘Fuck you, Albert.’ Rolf slams the phone down. ‘Blerrie Kaffir…’ He sighs deeply, reaches for the phone again…What the hell do I tell Father…?
Half a world away, Albert chuckles, places a few coins in the call box, dials again.
‘Mr. Kaluma…Sir…? Yeah, I spoke with him. He says to wait, man….yeah, right...’ He puts the phone down sharply, releases it as though it burns his hands. That crazy old man scares the shit outta me…
C-Max Prison, South Africa
Joost Klopper blinks blindly as he steps into the stone courtyard. Alone, always alone. Fifteen years alone, protected from the opportunistic hatred of fellow inmates, and the outsiders who clamour still for his execution.
He pauses for a moment, relishing the relative vastness of the space before him, the kiss of the warm yet cooling breeze against his skin, the rush and rumble of traffic beyond the barbed wire enclosure. He knows he will be here until he dies: by his own hand - or that of any one of those who hate him so much, though in truth, they barely comprehend the compass or the horror of his crimes. Even to himself, those things are but a dim relic now, echoes of a fading past.
He sighs, shakes his head. The medication keeps him sedated, suppresses his hatred of the world and its pathetic inhabitants. He can no longer barely imagine the feelings, the powerful mental imperatives that led to the slaughter of so many at his hands. But even now, regret is a mere word to Joost, an alien and incomprehensible concept to a mind that knows neither remorse nor pity. That was why they’d recruited him…used him so effectively.
He marches quickly to the end of the yard, pirouettes with comical, soldierly precision and retraces his steps over the flagstones. The guards look on in silent contempt. After thirty minutes he is sweating profusely, his bright orange prison garb thoroughly soaked and sodden.
Still bloody fit…the bastards can’t take that from me…
The prison overall flaps loosely against his wiry frame, concealing his knotted, steely frame, and the tell-tale signs of combat damage that engrave his skin like frozen memories of violence and death. He knows them all intimately; remnants and souvenirs of better days, that bear testimony to his self sacrifice for his people.
One of the guards gestures imperiously, crossing his throat with a thumb, pointing at the open door to the prison block - the tomb of Joost’s genius. Obediently, he trots into the claustrophobic electric illumination, meekly offers his hands for cuffing and heads for the showers. He knows the routine. A truncheon suddenly blocks his path. He freezes, tense and expectant. The spindly white scar running from his blinded left eye to his mouth throbs suddenly, flushes red as blood wells up into the surgically grafted plastic membrane that holds his face together.
‘Not today, Klopper,’ the guard to his right barks. Joost remains frozen, clenches his teeth in anticipation of the pain, the beating to come. They haven't done this for years.
‘Warden’s office, Klopper...’
He turns his head, registers the savage sneer on the black guard’s face, and walks as directed. He rarely sees anything outside the solitary block, and looks around curiously as they traverse the vast maze that has been his home for so long. A sharp stabbing in the small of his back breaks his reverie. A vast wooden antique door looms a few meters ahead.
‘Stand straight, Klopper. And remember…speak when you’re spoken to.’
The guard raps the door with his knuckles, turns the huge brass handle and pokes his head through the narrow gap. ‘Klopper for you, sir…’ He pushes the door open, gestures Joost to enter and retreats, closing the door behind him.
‘Klopper, come in…’
Joost looks uncertainly at the man behind the vast expanse of varnished wood, struggling to remember his face…it’s been so long…
‘Step forward, Klopper…’
He moves forwards a few steps, uncertain.
‘That’s right, Klopper…nothing to worry about - not today.’
Joost remains silent, drops his head, averts his eyes.
The warden moves out gracefully from behind his desk, points to a chair. ‘Sit there, Klopper.’
He complies, looks down at the floor. Cold sweat leaches from his prison overalls, dripping onto the parquet floor. The warden begins pacing, speaking into the air. ‘How long have you been with us now, Klopper?’
‘Let me see now…’ The warden glances at an open file on the desk. ‘Fifteen years and three months…’
Joost looks up sharply; ‘And three days…sir.’
The warden smiles coldly. He is a slight, dapper man, altogether dwarfed by his enormous desk and vast expanse of office. His reputation is evil. Word is, he’d run a covert special forces outfit – a trouble-shooter during the worst of apartheid’s insurgency problems. But like so many of those bastards at the top, he’d bared his heart, such as it was, before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and been welcomed back into humanity’s fold.
Bastard! I know you…you’re no better than me…
‘Yes…yes of course…that memory of yours…’ the warden mutters. He looks down at the prisoner, considering his words carefully. ‘We’re growing old together here, you and I…how many parole hearings so far?.... Well – how many, Klopper?’
‘Ten, sir…ten parole hearings.’ Where the hell is this leading…what does the old bastard want from me?
Joost again looks up sharply. ‘Sir?’
‘Would you like a cigarette, man? It’s a simple enough question.’
What the hell do you want?
‘No thank you, sir…I gave up.’
‘Good for you, Klopper – bad for your health.’ He turns the packet over in his hand, flips open an ornate Zippo lighter – it bears a faded military insignia, Joost notes. For a moment he senses the intense scrutiny behind the flickering flame, the cold calculation bleeding from the warden’s unnaturally pale green eyes. He shivers. He knows that look, sees it in the mirror every day, recognizes its lethal intent. For so many, it had been the last thing they saw before death took them.
‘Now for myself, Klopper, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass. Unlike you, I’ll probably be here for another fifteen years, guarding the new South Africa from impenitent, murdering scum like you.’
Joost’s heart skips a beat. Surely…
‘Thought that would get your interest, old chap.’ The warden moves back behind his desk, picks up the file. ‘My oh my…you did enjoy yourself didn’t you?’ He puffs meditatively at the cigarette. ‘Talkative bugger aren’t you? Ah well, to business then. How would you like to get out of here, Klopper?’
‘Has prison dimmed your once brilliant wit, Klopper? I asked, how would you like to get out of here?’
‘I don’t understand, sir.’
‘Klopper, unlikely though it may seem, I have a proposal here in your file that could benefit you, this establishment, and, dare I say it, this country we so unfortunately share…’
‘Ah…I see I have your attention at long last.’
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New England
Dave Andrews stares at the PC screen eagerly, rapidly scanning the subject’s anticipated responses. Beneath the high resolution three-dimensional image of a human brain, a cursor flashes expectantly. A swirl of coloured motes traces seemingly random trajectories through the modelled neural pathways, glittering trails of scintillation marking the arcane paths of human thought. The shifting pattern pauses, forming a stable filigree of red, collapses into a single point deep within the subject’s brain. The computer announces its prediction…
…Selection - Alpha
…Mark time 09:25:24.14
Dave tenses expectantly. In the chamber beyond, screened by invisible layers of copper, Laura Brannigan, oblivious to the thousands of sensors secreted within the naked white walls, carefully considers the options before her. With only a moments’ hesitation she clicks the mouse, selects Wireframe Design Alpha from the array of sports car prototypes on the screen.
Andrews leans forward, grasps the desktop tightly.
09:25.:27.25 AM Selection Alpha…. the screen recorded. Predictive Algorithm Verified…
He thrills with almost sexual intensity: Yes!
Six versions of the sports car, each gorgeously and distinctively coloured, flash into place on Laura’s display. She considers the options, feels the thrill of emotion and surge of blood as she responds emotionally to the images.
A myriad colours again surge through the neural model, tracking her thoughts, pre-empting her actions, rapidly converging on another sector of her simulated brain. Blood surges through stimulated microtubules; a sunburst of neurons discharge their microscopic energies across axons and synapses, primed by the power of thought and prediction…
…Selection Alpha-Red 09:26:20.04
Laura hesitates, then drags the cursor over two of the images. Dave Andrews holds his breath.
‘Red…blue…red…blue’ Laura mutters uncertainly, and clicks decisively. Again the computer responds…
09:26:21.08 Selection Alpha Red…
Predictive Algorithm Verified.
‘Fucking hell!’ Andrews enthuses, ‘We’ve done it! We’ve fucking done it!’ He slams his fist into the desk. ‘We're reading her fucking mind!!!’ Behind him, a door opens.
‘Yes Professor Andrews, you have indeed succeeded…’
Andrews spins round, startled. ‘Who the hell are you?’
Like a surge of whispering shadow-crows, the black suited figure is upon him before he can react, silent and deadly. A gentle whisper hisses through the cold, unreasoning terror that freezes his limbs…‘That, Mr. Andrews you’ll never know.’
The blow to his solar plexus is like a hammer strike on crystal, shattering the cohesion of his thoughts, driving wedges of darkness behind his eyes. But he does not react, cannot fight back, has no true comprehension of the sudden, deadly assault that is now upon him. Even as the garrotte bites into his neck, Dave Andrew’s single dying thought is a single pitiful silent plea… ‘Why…?’
The assassin releases him, feels briefly for any pulse at his neck and grunts in mute satisfaction. Moving swiftly, he locks the door behind him and turns to the PC, glancing briefly through the security window at Laura Brannigan.
To be continued...