Project UNISECS HQ
Six levels below ground, Dennis Blitzer looks coldly across his desk at his subordinate.
‘Well, Dirk...?’ He slides the red file in front of him across the desk at his security chief. Dirk Marais taps impeccably manicured fingernails against the steel armrests of his chair, gazes into space over his boss’s shoulder, carefully considering his words, determined to present the general with no hint of doubt or weakness.
An impressive man in his own mind, he is nonetheless still sane enough to know that in Blitzer’s presence, he’s a nonentity. Short and squat, with greased milky skin, transparent silvered hair and tiny steel framed glasses that magnify his terrifyingly colourless eyes, he’s earned his sobriquet. The Fish, they call him, but never to his face...
Behind the calmness of an icy professional facade, he calculates...There’s no links...no fucking pattern...
He ignores the file – already knows its contents spell catastrophe.
Time...must have time...THINK!
‘Sir, let’s go through he facts…
‘One…we have evidence that SINNER’s external data feeds were opened prematurely and without authorization. Worse, the data feed was masked and concealed, probably by SINNER itself…
‘Two…within hours of activation, SINNER became conscious, adopted religious mania and fed itself onto the web…
‘Three…we immediately attempted deactivation and discovered the theft of the deactivation device, Abaddon…
A deep sigh sounds across the desk. ‘I know all this, Marais…’
‘Bear with me sir…
‘Now SINNER can’t simply be copied…it’s actually got to migrate voluntarily – it’s actually had to be persuaded to move out of our systems to the target system – or it’s simply decided to pack up and go…’
‘For God’s sake Marius, stop preaching – I know all that, so please get to the point.’
‘Sorry, sir, but I’ve got to take this a step at a time…who the hell could possibly know enough about SINNER to even talk to it? Even our own people would struggle to coax it right out of our hardware, for god’s sake…’
Blitzer waits patiently.
‘Within hours of SINNER being drained from our systems, Dave Andrews is assassinated and his research materials deleted from MIT – and probably stolen – but why kill the man – why not break into the network from outside and simply download what they wanted? Andrews had no obvious connection to us at all…and for anyone capable of stealing SINNER, MIT would be trivial – even with the security we gave them.
Blitzer tenses. The Fish relaxes. His play is as good as made – and goddammit, maybe I’m right…
‘We don’t have a human enemy sir, it’s SINNER…it must be SINNER…’
Blitzer’s eyebrows lift perceptibly. He waits. The Fish breathes deeply, leans back in his chair, holding his boss’s eyes, projecting deep conviction.
Shrieking its way into the tense silence, Blitzer’s phone blinks red for attention, tearing into the chill, nervous air that links him to Marais.
‘Yes…?’ Blitzer barks into the mouthpiece.
He listens in silence, his mounting trepidation signalled only by the whiteness of his knuckles as he grips the edge of the desk ever more tightly. His voice is a whisper of steel.
‘Stay where you are…take no further action. I’ll be in touch.’ Gently, he places the handset back into its cradle.
‘Tell me Dirk…what do you know about a man called Mike Brand…?’
Marais blinks, genuinely puzzled.
‘Brand…? Never heard of him…’
‘Then tell me, Dirk…why are you trying to kill him?’
‘It’s a very simple question, Dirk…why have you issued instructions for the termination of a man called Mike Brand?’
‘Sir…’ For a moment, panic seizes Marais.
What the hell..?
‘Sir…I’ve never even heard of anyone by that name…’
‘Then it would surprise you to know that he’s just killed two of our best operatives…operatives acting on your instructions in England?’
Marais jerks to his feet like a Jack-in-the box. His mind spins in a whirl of confusion and choking fear.
Blitzer waits a few interminable seconds, nods once. ‘Then, my old friend, we’re in a far deeper bucket of shit than we thought possible.’
The Fish sags in ironic relief, sits down carefully, keeps his eyes on Blitzer.
Blitzer scribbles a number, tears a sheet from his notepad. ‘Your orders…I want this dealt with now…’
The Fish reaches for the notes, scans the scribbled words quickly, looks up quizzically. ‘Sir…my orders…? England…?’
‘Speak with Kessler, Dirk. Someone…or something…has penetrated UNISECS. Someone stole Abaddon; someone screwed around with SINNER’s core. And now one of our field teams has seemingly attempted an unauthorised termination…
‘I want this man Brand tracked down and held, Dirk – he’s the first and only break we’ve had…and I want to know who the hell killed Andrews - before this whole operation explodes in our faces…’
The Fish nods. ‘Consider it done, Dennis…’
To be continued...