WASHINGTON DC, 2020
A bullet just hit my plexi-laminate side window. “Damn, How much is this going to cost me?” I curse under my breath. Still, in this day and age, living in DC, we get shot at. I’ll look at the bullet later. It’s embedded in the laminate, as it should be.
“One shot,” I whisper to myself and lean back. I wonder. I’m glad they armored the truck. I’ll lean against the door pillar. I don’t move for a while and slowly reach for my Glock, locked and cocked, just in case. It could be a random senseless act, or otherwise. If otherwise, I hope they will assume a kill and be gone. That’s how it’s done.
There have been hints and suggestions that I’m not appreciated for some of my work. This could be one of them, a 'hint' I mean. I have discovered a conspiracy which threatens my life, this has been their first attempt. While I’m waiting for what I believe a safe interval before I leave, I think back to how I got here.
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 2019,
"Stevens, it's for you, on a government line."
"Answer phone," I said, speaking slowly and clearly so the rickety voice-command system could keep up. When a thin humming sound emerged from the desktop speaker, I said, "Rick Stevens, Archives, may I help you?"
A woman's voice: "Hello, this is Ms Shang in the General Accounting Office. We are conducting a computer usage review and you are one of the people we have selected to interview. We are thinking of making significant upgrades to the current systems. Since you are relatively new here we thought you might have a different slant on things. When might you be free for say a half-hour or so -- say tomorrow?"
"Tomorrow is fine. This is government work so I'm not playing hooky or anything. Where do you want to meet?" When she didn't answer, I suggested, "How about I meet you in the main reading room and we will take it from there?"
"Okay -- let's say 11 AM. I will be there," she says.
"See you then," I said, then added "End call" when the carrier hum went silent.
I hung up the phone and went about my work. It occurred to me then that I had forgotten to ask how we would recognize each other, but I wasn't too worried. One can usually pick out a seeker in a crowd, especially in a library.
I am an Archivist in the Old Section of the Library of Congress (LC) located in Washington DC. In case you didn't know, the LC is the modern equivalent of the Alexandrian Library in ancient Babylon. We have everything here. The Old Section is the repository where books, magazines, articles and the like, having little historical, political or cultural importance, are stored. Here they wait duplication into a more permanent, less fragile media and then the originals, space-eating culprits, will be vaporized/recycled. This is not a very public job, nor one that lends itself to the internal politics of any government bureaucracy. That's one of the reasons I love it.
For thirty plus years, I either owned or ran high level technical search firms -- 'headhunting' agencies, in common parlance. Most of my work throughout that time was concentrated on the recruiting of high end technical or managerial people, for jobs with security clearance levels often far above my own. That made recruiting tough at times, but added the challenge that I always enjoyed, no matter how much I complained! We worked with government contractors and "other enterprises" (some of the 'if I told you I'd have to kill you' variety). And even though we live in a highly inter/intra connected environment, our "Traditional People Skills"-- match making, bounty hunting, prostitution and weapons sales, to use a few un-PC but appropriate metaphors -- were highly valued and therefore highly paid.
Highly paid or not, challenging or not, thirty-odd years of dealing with nerds and divas and their would-be employers had exhausted my patience with people. With money and time in ample supply, I turned to my life-long love of history and books for a new occupation -- one that required a lot less glad-handing and ego-stroking.
I fell in love with the Library of Congress back in college while conducting research on Chinese Maritime History, a post graduate study, but never completed. So working as an archivist, attempting to locate items with just shreds of data was no different than looking for obscure individuals, who at times did not want to be found. And unlike a candidate for hire, at least the book or magazine could not say "no" to the customer and hang up or walk out. A nice change. On top of all that, and an added benefit, was the computing and retrieval power I had here. It dwarfed anything we had in the business. I could locate almost anything from anywhere. It was the Library of Congress. So instead of a small town library, that I thought I might seek out as a new home, I landed here.
I guess I'm lucky, living in Washington, DC, the Capital of The United States. For all intents and purposes, the economic and political capital of the planet. I was fortunate indeed to be close to the Library of Congress, hold a degree in Asian Studies and Chinese from Rutgers U and an advanced degree in Archive Management with a concentration in rare books preservation from Georgetown U.
Though I'm not using that specific aspect of my education, one of my professors arranged the introduction. I do think that because of my age, I'm the "new OLD guy". I landed this position because I'm not a threat to anyone's career path. I made sure they knew it. I lived that life in business and after putting my kids through college, I had nothing more to prove. Just let me read, smell and touch those books.
A NEW MEETING: MS SHANG
So, the next day at 10:50 -- I'm always early -- I entered the main reading room, dressed in my "uniform" -- blue jeans, button down shirt and a sweater, my idea of business formal these days, and well-suited to life in the stacks and storerooms. I was standing around, Being Easy to Find, when this very smartly dressed young woman -- in her late 30s, I'd guess, although Asian women can fool you -- walked up and greeted me.
"Mr. Stevens? Yes, I thought so. I'm Ms Shang. My ID." She held out a vidcard and let me inspect the several screens-full of credentials, all very impressive and bearing the latest tamper-proof coding. "You may call me June, but my Chinese name is Liu-yue Shang. Where may we sit and not be too disturbed?"
I pointed to a private reading area that is open only to employees and those with special passes. First impression, she had a very formal manner for a government type, especially considering the low priority a systems study like this must have had.
Her ID card, and her outfit -- old time IBM drone -- pegged her as was what we used to call an Individual Contributor. Those were people that had incredible technical skills but when it came to human interaction, not good. I may have been her first attempt at a new position and she may have been conducting the interview by the book, based upon her training.
NOTE/ 1st REPORT from Shang Liu-yue, TO SELF:
Those 2 idiots. Why in gods name am I getting stuck with this? He said he wanted me in on it from the beginning. What a waste, it's damn small from the reports. Not worth my energy or training. Jonathan would be better suited. He has enough experience, can make the decisions and be done. Well, here goes. Do I have to smile? Is this damned machine working? I'm going to request someone else take this. I do need a vacation. Not up to my usual game.
End of Report
She was attractive and that day, that was reason enough for me not to worry about anything. At least she wasn't IRS! She began with an overview of the current system -- and she certainly did know the guts of the system, way better then I did, that's for sure.
She told me that her study was focused upon data retrieval. The higher ups were concerned about losing data as we converted older late 20th Century and early 21st Century documents to newer media. I'm sure she knew, but I made a point to mention that I was working in the old stacks. After the material was converted -- scanned and parsed into document and image files, if hard-copy, read, reformatted, and written to the latest storage media -- molecular quantum whatever, magic to me -- the originals would be vaporized. The converted and catalogued stuff would be easier to access and cross-reference, but aside from saving space, I really had no idea why they had to destroy the originals.
She smiled and asked me why I changed from headhunting, to this -- spreading her arms wide to indicate the LC and its centuries of material. "It's so out of character, going from a people-centric business to burrowing through books and obsolete disks and tapes."
Her observation threw me. She was NOT a back roomer, and she knew some more about me then she was letting on. Sometimes one's intuition was wrong. I felt the beginnings of suspicion over why I was being interviewed -- and why now. But I let my own curiosity override it.
I told her my history and I looked at her and asked if she was really interested or just making conversation.
"No, I'm interested, trust me on that, I really am".
I was impressed. In my old job it was rare to find someone interested in the subject matter and the candidates other than to view them as a meal ticket, a commission. Maybe this was how they hoped to develop a system to interact with people better. The computer systems approach had been, and continued to be, Bend the Human to Fit the Machines, and not the other way around.
This interview ended up taking an hour or so. She looked at her watch and apologized for taking my time. "Would you mind if I set up other meetings so we can continue our discussion?"
"Sure," I said, "why not?" We agreed on a time for another meeting, and I watched her weave her way through the human traffic and the data kiosks and hard-copy shelves, toward the exit. She moved with a brisk efficiency that matched her manner perfectly.
After the interview, I went back to work, looking around and wondering if any others had been interviewed yet. A few have mentioned this in the cafeteria. Interesting they say. They haven't been through one of these in years if ever. They all mention the cut of the clothing of these systems analysts. Yeah, pretty sharp, we all agree. The government must be paying its employees in these sectors a lot more these days. I can vouch for that. We all laugh.
REPORT: from Shang Liu-yue
I read the initial report, the bio. There appears to be more here than we initially realized. I think it would be prudent to continue with the "system evaluation" before we make our standard recommendations.
End of Report
Shang Liu-yue to Committee:
Excerpt from Rick Stevens's Personal Journal (subject unaware of recording)
One day, I was working in the Old Stacks, a darkish grotto with boxes of books and magazines filling row after row of four-meter-tall shelves. Even though most of the stuff in this section is just general magazines and publications, nothing of consequence, it is great. I was rummaging around for something -- I have forgotten specifically what it was -- when this huge carton falls behind me.
I was knocking into the shelves -- they're packed so close together there's barely room to turn around -- but I didn't expect that. I could have made the Olympic high jump team. My next thought after I turned and viewed the chaos was "Shit, damn it, now I have to clean this crap up." That meant reorganizing, cataloging and re-stacking hundreds of items. It was a big box.
I went to my project lead and informed her of the situation and to put off any speculation the new Old Guy was asleep in the stacks. Her comment was that it was a slow time of the year, with Congress not in session, and little demand for retrieval of older documents. Even the transfer of data to a more permanent medium (to be followed by destruction of the original, except for first editions of historic items) was on hold due in part to lack of funding.
"Go ahead and straighten the mess up, Dick," she said. I didn't bother to correct her. "I'll call you if I need you." She made it sound like the odds that I would be needed were on the low side.
After a leisurely lunch of a good pasta dish and a glass of wine, I was light headed, but determined to straighten the mess so it could be re-catalogued -- then duplicated and vaporized or recycled. Oh joy of joys -- the librarian / antiquarian's dream. At least I wouldn't be bothered by upper echelon librarians.
They hardly ever come down to this level. Only the archivists or someone with a stack pass, (which is akin to holding a Top Secret Clearance in today's world) with that rare desire to locate something obscure, would ever show up here. I've heard rumors that government types hunting for sensitive and/or hush-hush stuff -- the location of the Lost Ark, for all I know -- visit on rare occasions. Since only the senior archivist and the Politico in question do those types of work, after hours, after shut down, we peasants never get to witness it. Nothing has been moved or removed since my arrival. I can tell by the dust.
So in I went. I put on my lab coat and addressed the paper avalanche blocking the aisle: "Dr. Book here, what seems to be the ailment? Ah, falling boxes, yes, a common enough problem -- and I have the cure." The mess was still there where I left it, of course.
No biggie. Part of the excitement of the job is reading this old stuff, much of which exists nowhere else in the world. Every now and again I come across an interesting piece and it takes me away from the here and now, a chance to dream awake.
The fallen box was dated 2009, about 100+ years ago. I wondered why it hadn't made the vaporizing schedule. I looked at a few of the items from the top of the heap; they're all mis-catalogued, like the da Vinci notebooks they found only a few years ago, but these magazines and such are not of that caliber. It's ironic how just one digit or letter in the catalog coding can be the difference between incineration and permanent preservation.
The collection includes magazines from the late 1990's to 2008 -- a few issues of Foreign Policy and a single Signal Magazine to name two -- and various newspaper clippings. A rather eclectic collection -- I wondered why they had been stored together... I started looking at the Signal Magazine since there was only one issue in the box. An article from May 1998 was dog-eared. It had something to do with an anti- hacking software called Blitzkrieg. The article mentioned its ability to analyze computer based attacks, and mount counter attacks against the intruder at the source, anywhere on the planet. This as I understood it was contrary to the then existing Geneva Conventions. An interesting article, but the significance escaped me. Software of that vintage was as relevant as grocery lists written in cuneiform or Linear A.
Next, I opened one issue of Foreign Policy. I skimmed through and a weird photo on one page stopped me. Some people were wearing what looked like old style cyber/simUglasses that must have weighed at least half a kilo. But then I noticed that most of the page was dedicated to an article on hacking. It claimed that MicroWare provided the Peoples Republic of China with access to its Windows source code operating system back in 2003...
REPORT: from Shang Liu-yue to Committee:
Please review and conduct analysis for historical and political accuracy. I recommend these meetings be continued until a clear and complete understanding of this situation is made. I will hold off any "spot decision for the present". Jonathan should a least get a chance to interview Mr. Stevens. I would like his take.
End of Report
Shang Liu-yue to Committee:
Excerpt from Rick Stevens's Personal Journal (subject unaware of recording)
I'm a bit of a history junkie, (a 20th Century term, forgive me) a common ailment among archivists (the study of history, not drugs), so I actually paid attention when my history classes mentioned that MicroWare had fought its competitors and the governments of the U.S. and the European Union, to avoid giving up that same source code, that very same data that the article mentioned. Unfair competition, restraint of trade, that sort of thing. Even then, MicroWare had more money than many small countries, so they paid the fines, released some of the relevant code, and it was never a major issue after 2009, or there about. So the article contradicted all I had read and been taught in the past.
I had never heard about the transferring of source code to the PLA. This would have come up in my History of Software Connectivity, at least as a footnote, and I surely would have remembered. Activity such as that mentioned in the article, giving the Source code to a potential belligerent, would have been proscribed under some form of military export license control code. Not too much of that is made today due to the uniqueness of GASS: GENERALLY APPROVED SOFTWARE SALES for operating systems. But back then, technology transfer was a real as well as a hyped problem...
"Hello, Mr. Stevens? Mr. Stevens?" The voice emerged from a large gray suit. I had to look up to see the man's face.
“Mr. Stevens, Ms Shang can't make the meeting today. She asked if I could take her place. She offered her apologies," the suit-wearer said, holding out his hand. "My name is Mr. Berg, Jonathan Berg. How do you do? Call me Jon. May I call you --?"
"Rick is OK", I said, a bit disappointed. I had been enjoying the meetings with Liu-yue, but what the hell.
"We're trying to get this project completed so instead of waiting for Ms Shang we're moving ahead."
Self-important windbag, I thought to myself. For an upgrade to Library Of Congress? Since when are we THAT important? Jonathan went over all the old stuff, making sure they had everything, my analysis, suggestions for the upgrades, results and such. Nothing too much out of the ordinary.
But then he asked me a strange question. "Have you ever used the system for personal –projects?"
I answered his question with a question, because I wasn't sure just where he was coming from, or leading to. Did they think I was accessing pornography or plans for quantum-energy weapons?
"What do you consider personal use?" I asked. "I know the internal rules and I do keep to them. I don't play games or such either."
"Well," he said, "Technically, any research not related to your job function could fall into the 'personal' category."
I made an effort to stay calm, although this was the sort of nonsense that had made recruiting for some firms more difficult -- and lucrative, since successful candidates often resigned as soon as they could, leading to repeat business.
"That standard could be open to interpretation. One should take the initiative in some cases. Using LC resources for outside work would be unacceptable, I know. I do admit to research out of curiosity at certain times, when I run across interesting items in the material I have to review. What has this direction of inquiry got to do with systems analysis and development of new upgraded retrieval systems for LC?"
Berg frowned and said, "We are concerned about misuse of time and system resources."
Shithead, I think, we're not machines. My expression must have shown what I thought of his explanation. Berg excused himself, said something about not getting anywhere, and left.
Back in the lunch room, I mentioned that I was still being interviewed by GAO. Most everyone, except those in my direct work area, said that they had two meetings and that was that.
"Are you some kind of spy, stealing top-secret 20th Century technology, Rick?"
Everybody laughed, but a few of the upper-floor types looked at me with poorly-veiled suspicion.
REPORT To Committee from J. BERG regarding R. Stevens
Did not get anywhere. Candidate was unwilling to divulge information necessary to make any informed decision. Suffice to mention he began asking me questions as he caught OUR inconsistencies. He's bright. I recommend the usual.
However, if Ms Shang wishes to continue I will not object. There may be more here. She appears to be able to extract the information freely. I may have intimidated him.
End of Report
Shang Liu-yue to Committee:
Excerpt from Rick Stevens's Personal Journal (subject unaware of recording)
One thing I have to mention that is "funny", and that's how in 2019, China is still portrayed as the greatest potential adversary of the United States and its allies. There is the occasional foray to Taiwan. Naval vessels and combat satellites converge in that locale with lots of saber rattling, a shot here and there and a satellite downed from either side. Japan makes noise about going nuclear in order to protect itself against the growing Chinese hegemony.
But I couldn't forget that Foreign Policy article. It kept bouncing around in my head. Something was just nagging at me. I reread my notes, went online and called up the Foreign Policy issue in question. Yes, there it was. The cover was exactly the same, and the contents, page by page -- until page 93, where the digitized version had a full-page ad and no article! The story was missing. I started to wonder if using the research systems too openly to dig deeply into this subject would be a smart move. The interest expressed by Si-Yue and Jon suggested otherwise.
Since I had not yet re-catalogued the box and its contents, no one even knew it was there. I pulled out the box and looked at the other magazines. After a goodly amount of time that left me with eyes watering and a headache, it became obvious that every magazine and newspaper article had something to do with computer hacking, cyber warfare, MicroWare and China. Sometimes there were only a few lines, or a reference to other sources not in the box; sometimes there were articles running to hundreds of words. I suspected that the online equivalent of each item (where they existed at all) had been altered like Foreign Policy. I needed to keep this box safe for a while. I needed to make copies of names, dates, and sources mentioned.
I told myself that this was just another research project, like the ones I had conducted in school, or the prep work before I started a senior level "Confidential Replacement" headhunt. I could always walk away. I came here to work with old books, not dig up dead issues.
But I couldn't let it go. I tried to be more careful, spending only minutes at a time on the subject, and using different LC terminals, but I began to use the system to call up all sorts of unrelated things, with the targeted magazines and articles embedded within the request. As I discovered, all the magazines were available in the system. However, any article relating to the issues in question had been effaced.
I had the hard copies in a box down in the Old Stacks. This box was placed here for a reason, intentionally mis-catalogued. Something was up, obviously, but what exactly? Research showed that people had always bashed MicroWare, or anyone who was number one. IBM had similar problems many years before MicroWare. It was apparent human nature for power and control or the lack thereof.
Jealousy? This package was meant to be hidden like the Dead Sea Scrolls or Gnostic writings of the early Christians, tomes and politically banned writings throughout history. Someone thought hiding these articles was important enough to bury the materials, 'purloined letter'-style, in one of the largest collections in the world.
I thought back to my last job as a headhunter and wondered if the discrepancies between the magazines in the box and the deleted articles on their equivalent online versions were connected to the strange goings-on at that company.
In the early 2000's recruiting data became computerized. The data was stored on centralized servers, no one knew where. No one cared. The technological changes didn’t matter, except the data was more accessible at a quicker pace. Data from offices from all over poured into the company's office and the central database simultaneously. Input search, retrieve, analyze and move on it. The system worked well. As time went on the system would go down with increasing frequency. I asked the systems administrator, a guy named Chen “What’s fucking the story here. How the hell are we supposed to work when the data is inaccessible?”
Chen responded, “Hey give me a break. The amount of work has increased beyond the original design parameters. The system has to be patched more often because of it.”
“It happens too much. This is not rocket science. Someone was screwing up and or did not have the skills to maintain the system,” I accused.
Silence on the other end. “Maybe so, but we are dong the best we can,” came the terse reply.
“Hey man sorry to jump down your throat, but it happens too much.”
“Yeah, OK.” said Chen, accepting the oblique apology.
I remembered a conversation I had with some colleagues in the company office. “One thing that never seems to change when I interview. Most applicants try to impress me by what they know. Each one says a bit more than is in the resume. From there a more complete picture comes into view. I sit back and listen. Sometimes I have to suggest that the information they are speaking about might be crossing the line. Occasionally I run across someone who is either totally batty, or is working on stuff that is beyond the current state of today’s science fiction. I send the resume to one of a few other companies as a freebie. If the guy is real, he gets a phone interview or a fly in. They usually call to thank me. Bingo, then I know, true or false. It’s amazing just how much information is available to people like us, in our business. By-the-way, the people I mentioned, they will send a new resume with much of the original information deleted. That’s yet another cross check that we have access to.”
One of my female colleagues looked at me and asked if I thought this could be used against the US.
I looked right at her, “Ms Abuna, what do you think? You just asked the $64,000.00 question. Back in the Soviet Cold war days I gave that very subject some thought. I even mentioned it to a few people in the Intel world. Nothing ever came of it. Today with the use of computer data retrieval who knows what is going on. I’m not cleared nor is anyone in this company. I have no idea if you’re on to something or what.”
The subject was never mentioned after that. I started to think about the possibilities and the methods to undertake such an operation. Suppose, just suppose that the company or any recruiting company was actually owned by a foreign government acting through citizens of this country. These were legitimate businesses conducting important work. They would be self sustaining through the company profits. The managers would be paid well, and kept in the dark. Turnover would be minimal. If there were no new people, and all the others were getting fat and happy, generally speaking, no one would be inclined to snoop around. And why would they?
Once control of the data, or copies of the data were sent somewhere for “safe keeping” again, no one would give it a second thought. It could appear as normal and prudent business practices. There would be no need to fund the operation in a clandestine manner, so no one would actually know what the 'back room' was doing or the extent of the operation’s reaches. There would be no possible money or paper trail. All they knew was a rich uncle or someone gave the new owners money.
The decision to buy into this industry was based upon investigations which concluded investing in a high end recruiting firm would achieve the goals set. The best opportunity would be acquiring a technical firm of known reputation.” The investors would upgrade systems that allow data to be gathered, scanned, analyzed and directed to the “interested parties.
This led me down another path of reason. The recipient did as suggested and the company(s) grew. Innocuous referrals could be made suggesting hires. For example the database administrators, the systems administrators, the basic back roomers running the computer and communication system could actually be sleepers tasked to conduct the actual data switching and or refer others whose job it would be to conduct that work. After a number referrals the 'candidate' would be appear to be clean.
Unknown to the 'managers' these people were actual sleepers managing the flow of data. It would be off-shored. This wasn’t government cleared information. It was resumes. There would be no red flags for government security. That same data that was available to me, would be combined with more sophisticated gathering/analysis techniques to them. A more complete intelligence gathering picture would blossom. No. Impossible. Totally impossible. It would take a concerted effort, a ton of money and more importantly a boat load of people who would keep quiet.
I felt he had to bounce this off someone. I told the computer guy Chen my revelation that I had, due in part to Ms Abuna’s question. I went into every detail and possible scenario.
Chen was silent. He looked at me hard and then said, “No totally impossible. That would require the complete commandeering of the software and computer departments. How could anyone get away with it?”
"OK, Chen. How would anyone get around you? The data is off-shored is it not? Who’s to stop them from doing what I just suggested?”
“No one really. Nice Idea but not anything to really concern yourself with. It’s just not possible.” he said, dismissing my apparent paranoia. Chen left shaking his head, “You work too much. You think too much. Your brain is going to explode.” Chen chuckled at his last remark.
A few months later I received a notice to attend an important unscheduled meeting. At the meeting it was announced that the partners had sold the business. Some senior people would be asked to remain and a few others would be given decent severance packages. The company was being sold to a group of investors that would remain anonymous. They had gone through all the employees’ resumes and had made their decisions. It was a done deal as far as they were concerned.
I assumed the usual. The bosses come and go. I always remained to do my job. Chen was there too. Odd I thought, but maybe he was there to patch the system in, making sure it didn’t go down for this meeting. The meeting was connected via a secure line to all the national offices. I shook hands all around. Looked at Chen, was about to ask a question as to his presence, and decided, no not a good idea. I just nodded to him and smiled. Chen did not smile back.
The people in the meeting were the lawyers and invited staff. They explained, “Some of you will be asked to remain to assist in the transition, which if completed as designed, will be seamless. Others will be given very generous severance packages and a non-compete requirement.”
I figured I would be staying, I had to ask with a smile, “How much is enough?”
The head of the firm didn’t even look at me directly, but to the others, “Enough so your grandchildren could retire.” The assembled group chuckled. And then he added looking at me directly, “Enough for you to forget you ever worked here.” Those were his exact words.
I muttered under my breath, “that’s a shit load of money.”
Chen, who I had discovered during the meeting, had been promoted to senior VP and director of internal software application of software applications, pulled me aside and asked what I though about all of what just transpired.
I said, “It sounded pretty good. I’ve been doing this for years. Hey if they wanted me to leave it would be OK.”
I was just saying it. I enjoyed the specialty part of the work. The meetings and bureaucracy, I could do without. With new owners one never knew what would transpire. I’d seen that too many times with my clients.
I looked at Chen and asked, “why you asking?”
Chen looked at him, Well, Rick, you’re the one they are referring to.”
“What? How’d you know?”
“My family is one of the buyers. Or one of our companies is purchasing this operation. You of course know this is confidential. My Uncle's have been following this company and similar ones for years. They thought the time was right to purchase this one especially. It is a gold mine for us. We know how much you’ve done and we want to reward you for your service, your excellent service. As we mentioned a few minutes earlier, They, WE want to make sure you never have to worry about your future or your children’s children. And as the lawyer mentioned, you will also forget you ever worked here. It’s just something we desire.”
This was stated with coldness that I was sure I'd read correctly. I had majored in Asian Studies in college. This sort of attitude was not alien to me. I did understand.
“You aren’t fooling around are you?” I asked Chen.
“No not at all.” He looked at me in a strange manner. I had never seen Chen look like that. Friendship over? A new boss look.
“OK, what’s next?” It was a fait accompli and there was no reason to argue. Chen handed me the papers.
“Just open the letter and read it, sit down and read it.”
I began to read it, and looked up, “you’re kidding, this is a fortune!”
“Rick, he said, as we mentioned some people would be given decent severance packages. We didn’t want you to be shocked when you heard the numbers...”
“What?!!” I was in shock anyway. “Are you kidding me?”
Chen said, “Read on, it is all there. We took the liberty of having your lawyer review the papers before we presented them to you. He is under the same obligation of silence as you are. That’s why we brought him here.” Chen looked at one of the company lawyers and commanded, “Please have him come in now.” I noticed the slightest bow.
My Lawyer Steff walked in. I could see from his eyes he was unsure of all of this but smiling.
Steff said, “Sign it and run you lucky bastard.”
“That’s it, that’s all you have to say?”
“What do you want a kiss too? That’s all I can say. Sign it! They must respect you.” And quietly hushed, “Or fear you. I’ve never done a deal like this.”
Chen moved in close and cutting any further conversation, added before I could ask, “We are paying all legal fees. You owe nothing. Thank you for your service and work friendship. It mattered greatly to me and my family.”
“I’ve heard of this in cases where an individual had an operation that was a cover for…” I kept that and the rest of his thoughts to himself. This was a Chen I never knew. He was so business-like, so efficient, so cold. He was almost scary. They want me gone. Why? Had I come close to the truth of something when I'd confessed my theory to Chen all those months ago?
I said to Chen as I shook his hand sealing the deal, “Well it’s better than a bullet to the head.”
Chen smiled, “We considered that too.”
Somewhere In the Mountains of Maryland at Government Site R, September 2119 CE:
"Hey, look at this!" Eddie Chavez said. "MEDUSA keeps getting hits on these ancient highlighted and flagged items, from this one source site. Jocko, take a look."
Jacques "Jocko" Carrier called up a duplicate of his excitable colleague's screen and scrutinized the highlighted items in the stream of references.
"Legit source, that's for sure," he said. "Library of Congress node ..."
"Dozens of item searches for flagged topics and keywords, spread out over a year. All within non-related subjects," Eddie said. "But no printouts. Ah, could be coincidence, considering the source. We don't want to piss off any suits. Whatcha think, Jocko, pass on it, or pass it on? Your call this time -- one more false alarm from me, they'll cut my pay grade for sure."
Carrier grunted. "LC node with restricted access -- it could be legit. But damn, that's a lot of proscribed topics. I say we kick it up the line and let someone else worry about it."
"Whatever, man, as long as it's your ID on the message," Eddie said
."Some tweed-wearing bookworm is about to get a little excitement in his life," Carrier said. He dragged the MEDUSA log to a messaging app and sent the information on its way.
FACE TO FACE and THEN SOME
"Mr. Stevens? This is June. I'm so sorry Jon Berg had to fill in for me. I had a small emergency -- flooding in my apartment. I understand you didn't get along too well with him... Anyway, I would like to continue our discussion. Maybe we could meet somewhere away from the Library?"
"Sure," I said, "How about after work at Ciros? It's a nice Italian eatery, good food, no one bothers you and I know the owner."
There was a pause as if she was checking her schedule, then she said, "I could be there at about 5 PM. Would that be all right?"
"Done!" I said. "See you then."
She apparently knew the place, because when I arrived she was there and Ciro pointed to her, gave me a look, and called her by name. I'd never noticed her there before. Different time schedules?
"I'm glad you could make it," she said.
"I'm the one who should be glad," I responded. But my mind was elsewhere. I was thinking about my research as I sat down. I had been telling her about my life and my discoveries. Now that I had verbalized it, had time to really hear what I have said, I was beginning to realize the importance of it all. This was kind of spooky. She was quite wonderful to be with even if she was only there because of work. I found myself hoping that her interest wasn't all work and no play. No fool like an old fool, yet…
In my mind, I was organizing my findings:
2003 was the year the gates to the kingdom were thrown open. The keys were given away, and China, using a modified form of the ancient tribute system, used economic bait in the guise of windfall business opportunities for "us" and the rest of the planet. The game was played by the rules set up by the Middle Kingdom, and like Las Vegas, inevitably the house would win the game. Only those with a need to know the fullest extent of the game were ever informed. No weapon was ever fired, not a visible weapon anyway.
There wasn't even a footnote in the history books (and I looked, through a database that should have contained every word published in the U.S.). Every reference had been effaced, struck out of existence just like the Egyptian practices of old, where all traces of a person, an idea, a group of people, an activity, was erased, even if literally carved in stone. It was a cover-up worthy of Big Brother, or Stalinist Russia, but it had been carried out here...
"Rick? Mr. Stevens, are you all right ?"
"Sorry, June," I said. "I was just thinking about a pet project. It's not important."
She apologized, again, for not being there for the last interview, but her superiors had asked that Jonathan be allowed to interview me.
"Interview me? Interview for what? I thought this was to gather user requirements for new systems for LC."
"Yes, of course," she said. "But there is more to it than that. I want to tell you -- but you must promise not to talk about it with anyone else."
"If this is really private, I think we need to go to a different place," I said, winking. "See the little black orbs in the ceiling? Those are cameras. Your lips can be read." I'm joking about the concern, not the ability of surveillance cameras and computers to eavesdrop. Hell, they've been able to read newsprint from orbit for about a hundred and fifty years.
She turned a bit pale. "Maybe you're right. Do you have any suggestions?"
I couldn't believe that I was saying it, but the words, "How about my place?" emerged from my lips. If her expression hadn't been so serious I would have thought that she was coming on to me. But something in her voice said not to joke.
We went to my place and I got her a glass of wine. Since we had left Ciro's without eating, I started to put something together with the sauce that I had made yesterday. Steeping for a day actually improves the flavor, so I knew it would be good.
While I assembled a quick but tasty Italian meal, I noticed that she was looking around, investigating my books, art collection and objects de mess.
"Getting an idea of who I am?"
She looked up, startled.
"Don't worry," I said, "It's what I do when I visit someone new. I can't help it. It's the old head hunter's investigative skills, wondering what makes people tick. I never got rid of the nosiness. I guess your job tends to bring out the same urges."
She nodded, but still looked embarrassed, and made a point of sitting down facing me as I worked.
Maybe fifteen minutes later, we sat down at the dining room (well, kitchen) table to eat.
"So now you know more about me, what's up?" I said. "I've told you most of the story. There IS more. Do you want to hear it? Then I want to know about you."
"Let's eat first" she said.
"Okay, not a problem," I said. "Cooking always makes me hungry anyway."
We ate. I could see that she was pleasantly surprised by my culinary masterpiece. Then she asked for Gin and tonic on the rocks, which she downed fast enough to make my head spin.
She sighed, put her glass down, and said "Let's talk." She looked me straight in the eyes...
"You're in trouble?" I asked.
"No, you are!" she exclaimed. "Your incessant little prodding of the system is going to get you in deep shit and I'm not even supposed to tell you that much. I don't know exactly what you've been doing with the information, but someone is worried, concerned and wants it stopped, now. I like you -- I would rather I did not, but I do," she said, maybe trying to calm me down. "You are an interesting person. And just by the look of your home you are more interesting than you have let on. But you must tell me: what have you done with this research, this 'project of yours?'
At first, the only thing that registers is that she has said that she likes me. But then it hits me. They know. I had been right. Everything I had read and photocopied and mailed to myself in other locations in case I lost one collection, pointed to a secret deal between China and the West, a secret deal so big that anyone who stumbled onto evidence was immediately targeted for investigation. And depending on the results of the investigation...
Liu-yue shook her head as if reading my mind. I had always been a lousy poker player.
"Look," she said, "You have been querying the system regarding some sensitive areas. You attempted to bury the inquiry within your regular work. Nice try. Our system is designed to pick out patterns of unbelievable obscurity. There were too many pop-ups to ignore. Where did you get the data to even set up such an extensive search? By the way, does quantum computational analysis mean anything to you?"
"I've heard of it," I admitted. "I have some idea of what it is. I know it's a strong tool that -- no, I'm bluffing. I've heard the term, but I have no idea how it works or what it does."
She said, "I am a computer specialist but I'm also a security investigator of sorts. We, every one that has been in your office lately posing as systems analysts, are cyber investigators. Never mind who we work for -- you have never heard of it.
"We had no idea what you have been doing, and more importantly why you've been doing it. That's why they called us, called me in".
"Who are 'they'"?
"I told you, you've never heard of the department. Now what are you doing, the truth? Please, I don't want you to get hurt".
"Hurt? Truth? Boy, I've really stepped in something nasty, haven't I?"
I stood up and started pacing back and forth between the kitchen and the dining room table. When I noticed her glancing at the wooden block holding my collection of chef's knives, I altered course so as to stay well away from anything resembling a weapon.
"I told you the story of what happened, how I did what I did. I want to make sure you know I certainly haven't published anything, nor have I mentioned this stuff to anyone -- except you, that is. Who would believe me, or care? This was an interesting exercise, digging into some contradictions between hard-copy documents and stuff I studied in college. The effort kept the mind working. I never thought it would lead to an investigation."
"I'm going to have another drink. How about you?"
She relaxed and let her purse drop to the floor. There was something heavy in there, by the sound of the thud, probably something that trumped anything in my knife collection. I began to tell her of my analysis of the data. She appeared interested, and not just in a "should I kill him?" kind of way. So I told her what I had deduced about China's rescue of the economies of the Western world, and the price we paid for it... beginning with MicroWare.
FINAL MEETING # 4
Report from Shang Liu-yue to Committee:
Transcript of Conversation with Rick Stevens (subject aware of recording):
"Knowledge of the reality of the relationship between Beijing and the West was strictly controlled. If prominent individuals not involved in the deal had suspicions and they made mention of it, they seemed to have retired to very comfy quarters in remote and exotic parts of the planet, or died before their time in unexpected minor disasters, like plane crashes. What's the loss of a few hundred or a few thousand people when you control the planet? Life as most of us knew and know it never really changed. But the center of power, the final decision-making apparatus relating to crucial aspects of governance was relocated, "off-shored". This was a boardroom take-over, a cultural revolution, WW3, and a palace coup combined, and bloodless, or nearly so.
"The deal was motivated by a number of factors. The U.S. government had gradually lost its credibility with the American public and the world, as a moral leader. The people were more interested in who survived an island adventure eating bugs and grubs, or the Sports Circus, than in their birthright and their responsibility to choose their leaders wisely. Meanwhile, the U.S. economy, and thus the economy of the West as a whole, was sinking under the weight of huge deficits and accumulated debt. The credit of the U.S. would have become equal to that of some of the then third world debtor nations. If the dollar became worthless, riots and political chaos and who knew what else, would surely follow.
"So in the end the PRC/PLA got the keys, opened the gates, and through a concerted cyber attack upon Taiwan, quietly, and with the U.S. looking the other way, took over the island, as a dress rehearsal! Then it was on to the rest of the planet. The PLA marshaled its immense pool of internationally based talent to conduct small probes, larger probes, Trojan horses, service denials, grid crashes, personal data thefts and losses, disruption of communications, satellite communications, and lastly, control of the embedded C3, C4ICR software as well as all software residing within the then existing weapons systems.
"When making the initial probes all reactions were catalogued, measured and evaluated. If someone on the other end of the attack foiled that attack, that person was soon promoted, relocated and removed from that environment. Other successful removal tools were lotteries. The target in question would win a huge pot. They would usually quit their jobs and move away. Tickets could be given out as gifts from the boss in sealed envelopes to a number of employees, but the target always won.
"The PLA expanded their efforts outward, while all the time denying anything of the sort. The initial hacking/intrusion attempts then being made were not initially created to gain access, but to measure, and catalogue. Planned attacks would be infinitely more sophisticated, harder to discern and in the final moves, successful.
"...Wow. Considering the implications, I managed to make that pretty boring. Hard to believe that my research started because I bumped into a shelf and nearly had a heart attack when a box full of old hard-copy landed at my feet.
"I'm not sure just what else to tell you. All this data relating to computer hacking, cyber warfare in the 20th century was there. When I looked it up on the main system it was not there, and that inconsistency piqued my interest. Simple as that. I was curious as to the origins and whys and wherefores. I was careful about the research, just because the data was not anywhere else to be found and it seemed prudent. The publications have been vaporized as they were intended to be. I can show you the boxes they were in and the vaporizing tickets, if you like."
REPORT & RECOMMENDATION: Final from Shang Liu-yue: Candidate: R. Stevens
The candidate accidentally uncovered the History. It has not been promulgated in any manner as I can tell and I do believe his story. He is worried. He knows he's in trouble. Since the data was destroyed, I witnessed the destruction booth and the records indicating those articles were the very articles in question, I assured him nothing was amiss. There is still a potential problem.
No rush on action is recommended. We have him contained. He has a cabin in the north. I mentioned it might be a good idea if he took off for a while and to call me when he arrived. We could discuss the situation. He appeared relieved. This would be a perfect location if required. One strange thing, he left via a GTV, ground transport vehicle. Is he a woodman and didn't mention that in his "confession"? If the decision to proceed is given I wish not to be involved; but if ordered. Otherwise I recommend a heightened surveillance with cleansing actions only if leakage is determined.
End of Report
“Dammit, was it Canada or Montana he said he was going to? Forgetting these details, that’s not like me. I’m the one that really needs a vacation”.
“Even though the cabin sounds good, I’ve never been to the newly Independent Nation State of Puerto Rico. My old friend once said I should look him up and vist him there. He’s in Charleston on his yacht. I hate the ocean, stay away as much as possible, but, what the hell.”
“I’ve never done this before.” I just sat in the drivers seat, my left hand on the wheel, not moving. “Decisions” I mumbled. The truck was in the driveway pointed toward the street. The brick wall of the steps leading to the sidewalk of the next townhouse was on my left. It made the interior of the vehicle even darker. “We need the streetlight out here repaired.. I keep calling about it. The damned city can’t even fix a light. What a mess”
“Oh what the hell, I’ll go there instead,” I said.
“Coming ‘bout 180 degrees, it is, sir. ” I said out loud, chuckling to myself.
As I was about to start my vehicle and turn my truck away from my planned destination to the new one, I recalled the last conversation with Chen years ago. I didn’t put the key into the ignition.
“We thought about that too.” Popped into my memory.
Chen and Si-Yue, a connection I wondered? The smile left my face.
Hair on my neck stood on end and a shiver went through me. At the same time, from just down the heavily tree lined street, a single 168 grain boat tail bullet left the silenced muzzle at 2700 feet per second. The armored glass on my truck stopped it.
The body in the truck did not move. Sure of his work, the professional, a large, heavyset individual, got into the darkened waiting vehicle, and slowly drove off.
Shang Liu-yue left the Library of Congress early that morning . She looked around and out at our beautiful city with the buildings and monuments, of and to the Republic for which they stand. The foundations of a new world order were made here. It was an incredible experiment, started in 1776. Our flag is still flying there in the front court yard, a blue field, red and white stripes and all 51 stars. The crimson star in the middle of the blue field made her feel just right.
UNDRESSING THE SYSTEM
“I'm not available to answer your call. Please leave a message and a number. I will return your call as soon as I am able.” Beeeeeeep.
“I going on vacation and I don’t give a shit,” I told Ms Shang. “I’m going to my cabin in Montana.”
“That’s an excellent idea,” She concured and said she would be in touch, soon. There was something about the way she said 'in touch' that I did not like. So I’m paranoid, big deal.
As I was about to leave Washington D.C., Someone took a shot at my truck. In WDC that still happens. I had been shot at before. I just got the hell out of there. I gave it a little more thought. I decided to make an unscheduled 180 degree change in plans. I don’t know why.
I now headed to Charleston SC to meet a very old friend. I had his letter in my pocket and figured what the hell. As I settled down into the cabin and control center of my truck, I engaged the system for data retrieval. “System on,” I commanded. I love this “no hands” computer system. I had been meaning to do this for some time now. I plotted a rural route, just to be different. The scenery is nicer going through small towns, sometimes.
I had a strange run-in with a couple of government officials of a dark type, meaning undercover, black operations. Ms Liu-yue Shang and this monster of a human, Dave something or other. I don’t remember his last name, suffice it to say I did not like him. I was curious as to just who Ms Shang was and what she actually did for a living. Going on to the system I called a few friends, and an IOU or two from the past. They ran some background checks on her. Once a head hunter, always a head hunter.
The data was being delivered via a down link installed in my GTV by my some of my techie friend that were in the defense related electronics business. They asked if I wanted some state of the art goodies. I declined due to the fact that I did not have the clearances they held. Those tickets would get them out of any trouble should the discovery of said ‘toys’ be uncovered. They did it anyway. They also added a few options to protect their interests, as they put it, with some comments regarding the level of civilization in the area I live in. They didn’t want the truck broken into. They didn’t want me hurt and questions asked either. They added thick plexi-laminate in place of the normal glass. It saved my life. Nice guys.
The download is beginning. As it prints out I read it off the screen: Ms Shang Liu-yue is the product, strange use of terms, of a German (Mother) and Chinese (Father). She is an only child (spoiled brat???). Majored in Computer Engineering from Princeton and minored in foreign languages. Postgraduate studies were conducted abroad in Europe, school not mentioned. Then she enrolled at Beijing University. There is mention of advanced work in computer forensics and not too much more on that.
Well that explains some things. Not as much as I had wished for, but enough to begin. I take the rest of the download on voice mode. What it didn’t tell me would I was to discover.
FALL/WINTER 2019/2020 Shang Liu-yue at a debriefing
“So you have him going to his cabin, where?” questioned Liu-yue’s boss .
"I think Montana or Canada. Sorry, for some reason I dropped the ball. I’m sure the records will show us quickly. This can’t be the real issue here. Why this level of questioning?”
“You might be right; however, this is very out of character for you.” said Liu-yue’s boss. “No, we do believe and trust. Again, WE think there is a serious problem here and WE would like to make sure nothing has gotten out. Since you feel there is no major issue, take a few days off then follow up as you see fit. You have carte blanche as to action and resources. Please be careful.” Was her bosses gently veiled admonition.
“What? Careful? With him? He’s no physical threat.”
“No Liu-yue, take care of your assignment. WE are not taking this lightly. It’s been decades in the works and a slip up by you or anyone assigned to this project will be watched. If you get what I mean.” Her boss stated a bit more emphatically.
To herself, “Shit I should have just given it to Dave. I hate to fuck up even a bit. Like missing an X when I’ve had a perfect score.”
“He is a nice guy. I hope he hasn’t done anything stupid. How would he know? Oh well. I’ll go to him in a few days, get this straight,” and laughing to herself, “bury the whole thing one way or another, a blip on the screen, so to speak.”
I am heading down to meet my old buddy Dan, on his boat. I haven’t seen him in years. We go way back. Even though we may not have been contact for some time, within a few minutes, after the customary greetings, it’s as if no time had passed. He’s like a brother.
Dan has been my friend from kindergarten. He was/is my verbal/philosophical combatant, a better chess player (especially end game) and was my sparing partner as we grew up. He is also a whacko ex-marine and was always talking about moving to a small island or small country somewhere south. He hated bureaucracy, big government and the cold. When I received his letter after years of nothing, I sent one back letting him know that he should give me a heads up if he was in the country. Nice timing. Instead of north, I’m heading south.
I knock on the gate to the pier and ask for Dan, give the name of the boat, the Xebec.
The dock-master points to this huge boat, almost a ship. “She’s moored out there. I’ll have to call to have him get you, Mr.?”
“Just tell him ‘Frizz’ He’ll know.”
“It’s huge, what will it do?”
“75+ knots sustained, 100+ for shorter distances. Runs on a new design I developed. I’ll tell you about it some time. Have a drink. It’s been a while. By the way, where did you park, they are pretty strict about that here.”
“Where you suggested. At your place in the garage. Why?”
“You hinted at a situation, so being the old boy scout and suspicious as always…”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I must be nuts. Get me that gin and tonic and I will go over a few things, then take a look at this stuff I brought along and tell me what you think.”
In a while, Dan begins to read my paper, notes and documentation. About half way through the first set of pages, he faces me, gives me a strange look, reads more and makes a call. The engines begin to hum and I realize we are underway.
“What’s up? I ask. Going for a sail?”
“You bet, and out of here ASAP. You are in deep shit friend and now so am I. Were I anyone else I would be calling your government, setting you in a boat without food and water, zip tie you and deny any knowledge of your existence. Holy shit is this real?
I tell him the whole story and show all my downloads.
He brings his system up and asks. “Don’t you get it? You, my dear old sparing buddy, chum, you have looked death in the eye or on the lips if I know you. You are a dead man. I am so lucky to have diplomatic immunity,” he mumbles a bit too loudly. He calls up to the bridge, “As soon as we are out, I want full speed.”
I can feel the power under my feet. This is no ordinary vehicle. No joke. He shows me a print out of Ms Shang, with data that I have no idea where he got it. Even my friends didn’t have this detail. This was classified. I knew that from the old days.
“That thud from her purse, in my apartment.” I look at him, "a GLOCK Lady”?
“The best there is. She either thinks you’re harmless or there is more they want to know. I’m betting the latter. And now I’m part of it. International waters can't come soon enough. Hopefully they haven’t figured out that you are not up north in your secluded little shack.”
My blood runs cold, just like the time I just missed getting T-Boned late one night on my motorcycle.
I blurt out, “The truck is parked in your garage and once they find it they will make the link. Now what?”
“Well, you can forget a comfortable retirement. Have you thought about political asylum? I can arrange it. We have no love for the PRC or the States in Puerto Rico. They are 900 lb gorillas in the room, a political reality we just have to deal with.”
"What’s going on here? You mean to say that my finding that stuff is a big deal? Who cares at this point in time? Things run smoothly, most people are asleep and or no one actually gives a damn where or who the ‘Boss ’is. You are making this bigger then it has to be.”
“No my friend, you who studied history are blind, a fool or both. Legitimacy is one leg that a government has to stand on the other is power. Balanced, things flow smoothly; the occasional miscreants get wicked “legit” and things go on. However if one of the legs is broken, cut off, or cancerous, the government wobbles and eventually topples. It takes longer if it relates to issues of legitimacy since people do not want to believe the worst, say like a marriage. The reaction is quicker if there is a power vacuum or to use the marriage analogy when found ‘In Flagranti Delecto’. There has been an undercurrent of people throughout the planet that would pay a kings ransom for the data you stumbled into.
“Jeez, this is too weird. Dan who or what are you? You hate governments and all that.”
“I am as you would put it a troubleshooter for certain people and entities making their home in Puerto Rico. And WE are an Independent nation, trading on the open bloc not beholding to any one government or group. And now that we have these papers we will either get blown out of the water, our country vaporized or I’m betting, be in a better bargaining position to be left alone and do as we please.”
I noticed the WE was emphasized.
“Thank you for all this, and, Welcome to your new, temporary, or possible permanent home Frizz. WE will be paying you a handsome amount as a finder’s fee for this data. You do not have to concern yourself about income any more.
“Fuck you Dan”. Said with a smirk and a smile and a real worry. I really do not like situations like this. All I wanted to do was work in the library, eat good food and live a quiet life.
I do as he says. My new found wealth is here. My heart? My house, my stuff?
SITE R, Maryland
Eddie Chavez, to Jacques ‘Jocko’ Carrier, “You ever wonder what happened to that stuff MEDUSA picked up on the Library thing? Must have been something. I heard that mean-ass Chinese chick, you know the one that threatened to kill us the next time we sent her something stupid, was on it. We haven’t seen her and we’re not dead. Jacques, I wondered what that was about. Looked pretty legit to me except for the calling up and the manner in which it was done. I looked at the citations late one night again and there was nothing too unusual. Lots of old techie stuff from 2003 and so. Ancient history, as far as I’m concerned.”
“I wondered too. She really reamed us a new one last time.”
“Jocko, you want to take a look and see?”
“Naa, maybe when the new guys show up for training. We’ll use this as the game plan. See if they pick out the same things we did. We’ve been at it way too long. I can’t wait to get my retirement badge and go.”
WASHINGTON DC a few days later
Shang Liu-yue was ‘pulling her hair out', “I should have shot his ass right then and there in his townhouse. It wouldn’t be the first time I had to do it like that.”
“OK self, Liu-yue you idiot, so he’s not there at the cabin, nor is he answering his phone. Now what do I do? Maybe he got eaten by a bear. I’d miss him, but a relief. I have to go to his place and have another look around, get the sensor reports for his vehicle and see if, maybe he’s still home. That would be a surprise. He did take a two week holiday. That’s on record.”
Liu-yue going over the data in her mind, “I went to his townhouse, and nothing, not a fucking thing. I found out he did a download via a double link to his mobile unit. According to the print out it was about me! There isn’t much in the open world so I’m not too worried. I have to get more background on him. A few letters, he doesn’t travel much or not by public conveyance. Sort of a home-body, likes music, food, art and movies so the cabin thing is an odd part that doesn’t quite fit.”
“Apparently his truck computer is shielded. I guess working in the area he was in gave him access to the people and technology. He must have a few ‘friends’. There is no record of travel and no record of fueling. So anywhere he went is within a tank load away. That is, unless he used someone else’s cards.”
“You know this just might be a problem, and I might have really screwed up.”
“First let’s do a little digging. Got to know the target. What am I saying, he’s just away. Nothing. I saw the document destruction. Back to work girl.”
“So he grew up in the wooded part of New Jersey, that explains the cabin. Was sociable, but had few friends in the true sense of the word. Is or was a master shooter and studied boxing and Tai Chi Chuan. He never told me that. I guess he can be dangerous. I never saw any weapons in his home.”
“What’s this, he’s licensed to carry in all states. Hmmmm, how is that possible?”
“He was married a few times; once for 20 years. He has a daughter and son, one from each marriage. Maybe he’s there. Need to find them. Apparently he speaks to one ex every now and then.”
"I have the children’s phone records. Nothing current.”
“What is the range of his type of vehicle with extended tanks? Possibly? 800 miles? Let’s say it was full and he went to visit a friend with in either ½ the fuel distance or more and hasn’t had the need to refuel since he is the guest. Max range would put him just north of Jacksonville, south and upstate NY or New England”.
“No record of the vehicle on any street so far, no speeding ticket, no nothing. He just disappeared!”
A new report states that the download was transmitted to a direction just south of DC, but can’t pin point the location. He’s not at the cabin. So, more likely he’s at a friend or private location close by.
“Something is up or he just changed his mind, but why and where? I’ve found that when someone isn’t attempting to hide, it is sometimes more difficult to locate them because they act in a random and at times in an unpredictable and out of character manner. That’s what I think I have here.”
“Get a grip!”
THE RESEARCHERS REPORTS:
“You’re kidding! Puerto Rican? No way. Him? He would have mentioned it, (maybe he did but he never shut up. I just tuned some of it out). “
A researcher on his feet at attention and worried, to Si-Yue, “No sir, Commander Shang Sir, here are the birth documents of his family back to 1900. The other records show left wing political activists, or humanistic contributions, most activities are in minor roles. Nothing major, but consistency”
“Well, only in heritage. He speaks no Spanish that we know of, just Chinese and German. And, he’s been a recruiter for our people for decades. I won’t question his loyalty.” Thank you for your report I will go over it in detail”
“Puerto Rican??? Let’s see if he flew out on some private jet or something. Private, Anything within a 500 mile range that smells of Puerto Rico I want to know about within the given time frame.”
Later that day:
“Sir, Commander Shang, Sir:" saluted the researcher. "It appears that a high level ‘Puerto Rican diplomat’s on a ship left Charleston Harbor unexpectedly early in the week and headed for home. The manifest had it registered to stay in our waters for a week more. We didn’t give it any thought and it later disappeared from our tracking systems. Not unusual. Once private and quasi private craft have left our waters we just take a glance. One thing though, it was running at very high speed for a craft of that nature. We have catalogued it as ‘OF INTEREST”. The propulsion systems must be of a new design and retro fitted.”
“It is a registered foreign government craft without full diplomatic immunity. The ship is the XEBEC. The captain an ex US Marine, Daniel Samoht. Born and lived in the central New Jersey area and…”
Liu-yue cuts off the report. Barking orders to her crew, “If he has a house in this country, I want it searched. NOW!”
“I’m looking for a vehicle of this description. I want a complete rundown of this marine. Puerto Rico, Newly independent, filled with radicals claiming many of the current governments are illegitimate. He may be a new problem that we have to watch. He’s not on my watch list. Something smells in Puerto Rico my good friends and it’s not fish.”
“Well, well, well. His old friend from way back, just happened to be in the neighborhood and our dear archivist did a 180 on his way to Montana. Then they left in a great hurry. Speed will get you caught when you’re looking to hide. He has to know that. Wonder what it was?
Before I jump to any conclusions, make sure Captain Samoht did not have a family emergency or something that we can verify”.
“Sir, There was a communication from The Island HQ to the boat shortly before it left and not the other way around. It was quantum encrypted so we cannot break it. I recommended a watch, but since it was one way there was nothing we could do, nothing unusual either.”
“Sir, we located the vehicle in the garage of the diplomat’s home. The housekeeper said there appeared to be nothing unusual nor was Mr. Stevens, she recognized him, in any apparent stress. In fact she said he seemed to quote her “down right happy”. I think we have a case of coincidence here. Parking is strictly enforced in that area. So he probably just pulled it in off the street. It has more then ¼ a tank of fuel left in it. The garage has chargers for long term battery storage. None were hooked up. Sir, 2 things. We did find a printout in the vehicle. I think you might want to see it. It is ah I would say of a private, possible delicate matter. And, number 2, that vehicle has some unusual technology embedded in it. We will be taking it down to see what and where it came from. We don’t see this type of equipment except in special government vehicles.”
To herself, “The download that this fine officer managed to locate was one relating to me. Not too much here that’s out of the ordinary. Some things are underlined and there is…. never mind. Ignore it Liu-yue.”
“There are too may coincidences here. OK his friend gets in touch with him. He does a quick change of mind and a 180 from OUR planned excursion, the ship leaves in a hurry but only after an encrypted message is sent TO the ship and not the other way around. The ex marine, Armenian by heritage, is a high ranking member of the newly formed Nation of Puerto Rico. He is also a bit of a loner, well read and multiple degrees in Science and Literature. The two of them have been friends since kindergarten. Wow, that’s a long time. No wonder they are friends. They sound like twins.
According to the data found in the vehicle, Mr. Samoth sent a letter to Mr. Stevens just a short while ago before our incident, so this maybe coincidence.
“Maybe our citizen has been kidnapped. Ah yes a good excuse to twist a few arms of this new pain in the ass country. I like it. Good PR, pardon the pun. This just may work and who knows Mr. Stevens may become a “hero”.
Walking down the hall, her heels clicking with a sound that said you really don’t want to mess with me, Liu-yue to no one in particular, “Why is it these little shit island countries can hold up great nations, Formosa, Cuba, England, sometimes Japan and now Puerto Rico. We should just vaporize their fuckin’ little heads and be done with it. Modern politics.”
OUT OF NO WHERE:
“Better not fuck this up LIU-YUE or it’s your head”
“Fuck off Dave. You’d like that, then you’d be #1 Go find your own territory then. Ask for a transfer.”
“And not work with the best?”
“Tsa ni ma!”
“English my dear; you know I don’t speak Chinese. Kiss, kiss.”
“What???? Eat shit big boy.”
“This is it! This last one assignment and I’m out. I love my job, my vocation, my life, but this back-biting and the politics. Where the hell did it all come from? I know something must be up. Someone is really worried. Otherwise we would be left alone to our own devices. Dave knows something and he isn’t telling. I have to watch my back at home now too. This sucks.”
Eddie and Jocko going over some plans and procedures:
Eddie: Let’s have a re-look at that old stuff. You know those old indicators we noticed for about a year before MEDUSA picked up a pattern. I’m still not sure what that was all about. It looked OK to me. Must have been something. That mean-assed Chinese chick never came back… or it was so off the wall they didn’t do anything and we were lucky. Isn’t she a HITTER?”
Jocko: “I don’t know and I never ever want to know those types of things. And I NEVER, want to see her again as long as I live. I like sleeping at night. Are you crazy digging into that old shit? I mean really we are both about to get out of here and you’re bringing up dead issues. You are nuts!”
Eddie: “OK, OK but like I said lets run this by the new guys as a training program and see what they do. Maybe they will ignore it.”
Jocko: “Or maybe not. So what will that prove?”
Eddie: “I’m not sure but this one was different to me for some reason.”
The new members of the MEDUSA SYSTEMS Watch Staff are introduced to the current two senior members that are about to retire. The system is designed to pass tasks on to fully trained individuals, sort of like the baton pass in a track meet. When done correctly, its smooth and seamless. In order to do so there is a fairly long period of training. This is the number one location, all others being subordinate. And, the project itself is one of extreme high importance.
So for grins and giggles the two, Jocko and Eddie, set out the scenario that Eddie seems intent on keeping alive for reasons unknown even to himself, save a strange curiosity.
Most pass on the data based upon the origin, the dates and such. Only one person, a soldier with an advanced degree in History and Literature (why she is in the military the two could not figure out and it was none of their business) say that there might be something here. But in order to make a recommendation she would have to review the actual data as opposed to simply the titles. From that, she would then make a go or no-go decision. As it stands she would just keep an eye on that specific source.
Eddie takes that as a silent self-vindication. “I’ll get to this at a later date”, he thinks. “Something to occupy my mind and time after retirement.” Since this is an official drill he can get the printout without any questions being raised. He does one very illegal act. His first in all his life, he takes the data home and copies it, then returns it the next day. No one ever checks his or Jocko’s packages any more, ever!
General and random searches of everyone, private to 4 stars that’s one recommendation that he will make to the outplacement debriefing. He will insist on including this in his file.
Eddie is at home looking over the data in his office. As he goes over the data, “nothing too much here. The indicators are vague and all over the place. Political magazines, technical magazines, newspapers, a few books, what’s here that got MEDUSA up? What’s so important? Let’s see Aviation Week, a few articles, not much, some stuff on China, ends abruptly. Foreign Policy nothing. None of the articles in question have anything. This is too strange. Am I missing something? But there was an alert, low level, but a MEDUSA low level is something. Do we have a repository in the cave? Maybe we have this stuff on hand. It is ancient yes, and….. Maybe old book vendors too”
Just a word of caution to myself: self Knowing what I do, I really must be careful. That wacko Chinese chick and all who work for her, they’re connected to the MEDUSA project. And they are not nice people as far as I can tell. I have to go to Bethesda tomorrow. I’ll check and see if there is a rare book dealer or three in town. Old establishments only, family owned???”
Bethesda. It never changes. Parking is a bitch. Great food establishments everywhere. The air has the perfume of garlic and spices, oh and yes, the wealth. It’s all sanitized, just like the fucking Home Owners associations love, but this is done by the individuals and not by false governing bodies. Bethesda is a nice place to live if one can afford it. Ah, there it is THE SECOND STORY BOOK store, 2nd floor, family owned since the mid 1950’s.
“Hi, do you have an old magazine section? Say late 20th earl 21st century?”
This kid gives a look and points to the back, “We have a bunch of that old stuff, it’s kind of fragile and all, paper quality being what it was then. Help yourself. Anything in particular?”
“No just technical periodicals. Maybe other things but mainly technical.”
“You can look but there isn’t much of that anymore. I have no idea. There was a ton of that stuff once and it dried up. Just like that according to my father-in-law. I can’t get much no matter how much we’re willing to pay. That’s rare stuff.”
“Thanks, I’ll look.”
He comes back and says, “There is this big guy, Jonathan, he comes in every now and then and purchases whole lots that we may get. He just purchases them no questions, top dollar cash. I give him a call when we get a load. Maybe you know him?”
“I can’t say that I do. Do you have anything new?”
“We are conducting an estate evaluation on this old house. One of the guys said there was an attic full of ancient stuff. We’re offering a bulk price for it. I haven’t called our regular buyer. You interested?”
“Might be. Can I have a look see?”
“No problem. Be here tomorrow morning, 10 AM. I’ll give you an hour or two. Then I have to call him. Business is business”
"I’m there at 9:30 just to be sure. The kid points me to the back room. What a load of books, magazines, maps. They are so unorganized. So I start to go through the box. It’s all 2000 through 2008. All types of stuff. Political, technical, literature. I guess a good demographic of the location and time period. “Dusty too, yeach. Nothing. Oh well.”
I go out front and thank him, “If anything should arrive same time period give me a call. I would appreciate it. I am looking for a few specific pieces. It’s confidential.”
He gave me a strange look. “You guys are all alike. Writing a book or something?”
“Yeah, something like that.”
“OK we deal with a lot of writers who don’t want to blow their story or ideas. Not a problem. Anything in particular?”
“Aviation Week, Foreign Policy and Jane’s Defense, 2002 through 2008”.
“We don’t have anything like that, that’s for sure.”
“Hey wait a minute. The store doesn’t have anything like that. That doesn’t mean I might not. I have a collection of magazines from that period, though mostly political. Here’s my number. Give me a call over the weekend”
Again I thank him. This is most unusual. He must be family or working a side business.
As I left and got in my car, I thought I saw someone I sort of recognized from?? A big guy. I’m hungry, no time to make acquaintances.
“Rick Stevens is in Puerto Rico,” says Liu-yue to her boss. “I’m not sure there is anything to worry about. I do have an idea. If we want to or need to extract him, I have a plan that would give us a good cover.”
“OK, I’m game, shoot,” her boss states with a smile, as if this is nothing to worry about.
To herself, “Sometimes I would like to.”
“We could claim he was kidnapped. We want one of our distinguished, now retired pillars of the community, returned to his rightful home.”
“Not a bad idea. We don’t tip our hand, we make him some sort of minor local hero of sorts and keep him on a short but comfortable leash. I like it. Let’s get this in place so if we need to do it, or we get orders, we’re ready to move. One thing though, what if he doesn’t want to come home?”
“Oh please, it’s not like he’s living in Europe. It’s that piss ant little island. How can he want to stay? And, how can they resist? I can personally go there. He trusts me and I think he likes me too. We should be able to get him home. Please, no leaks and no behind my back activities”
Liu-yue to herself, “He just insured his own safety and has no idea either.”
Rick to no one in particular, “Puerto Rico, I like it. It’s nice here. They rebuilt it after the major hurricanes and earthquake. The climate has been tamed somewhat. And it is my heritage to a degree anyway. I can’t speak Spanish. I will learn.”
But why does Dan think the storm hasn’t even begun yet. He thinks it will be a big one, BUT it will be conducted at a level no one will notice, that is diplomatically. He thinks they will want me back simply to make sure I have nothing on them. I’m not sure about these political machinations. He also thinks that if word gets out that these papers exist and are available, then I’m dead meat. They will blame me no matter what. Heads will roll; not before mine loses it moorings.
“Hey Frizz. Guess what, your government has indicated through ‘channels’ that they think you’ve been kidnapped. They claim you were lured away by a false friend and that you want to come home.”
“Oh, I don’t get it?”
“You see this is a political issue and a public interest story. You, my dear friend are or will become a household name. You can even expect a government delegation with media in tow, pleading for your release.”
“I’m not held here. I like it.”
“I know and I’m sure THEY know, but family and country has no conception of the depths this issue is going.”
“All this for what?”
“My guess, to keep an eye on you. They’re not sure if you have the data, sent it to anyone or what. By the way, why would THIS Ms Shang ask for a private meeting with you? You have something going on that you haven’t mentioned?”
“No,” I lied. In my mind I did. But I never expressed it as such, nor to any degree that would be misconstrued.
“What? What does she want?” I think to myself, I do really miss her. I never met anyone like her before. She’s way too young for an old fart like me. Be careful you old fool. Skirts have always been your weakness.
I met her at a local pub. No one knew me and no one knew her. Her people were there as well as Dan’s.
“Well hello, June, sorry Liu-Yue, nice to see you again. I am surprised by all this. What the fuck is going on?”
“Rick it is nice to see you,” ignoring my ‘greeting’. “We think you’re being held here against your wishes and as an important member of our country, a dedicated headhunter for our defense industry a hard worker and such, we will defend you.”
“Besides, I miss you!” she said in a lower tone.
“I miss you, you fool. That’s why I’m here. I’m protecting your ass too. We wanted to whack you for the research you did. I’m sure you figured that out by now. Lucky for you, you destroyed it all. I want you to come home. I want to get out of this business. I have more money then you know. And I know you’re well off too. Maybe we can….”
“Are you for real? I’m so much older than you. Why me? Why should I believe you?”
She pulled out my notes that I left in the truck with the hearts.
Boy was I in a mess.
“Liu-yue, Can you call your people off?”
“Yes” and she said something in Chinese, too fast for me to understand. A few people, men and women, got up and left.
I see Berg in the corner.
“Your monster friend, Jonathan, is in the corner,” I pointed with my eyes.
She was mad and I could tell. Under her breath, “That Fucker. Wait a minute please.” She got up. Headed for the ladies room. Then headed for him. They were physically animated but quiet. She reached into her carry bag and he drew back some.
I heard him say, “Just wait till later, bitch”
She came back, visibly shaken. “He was not supposed to be here. He was not on my jet. They promised me no interference. Something stinks.”
“I don’t even want to know,” I told her.
“Let’s go for a walk. I have carte blanche here. This is my family home. Not that I ever mentioned it.”
“I know now.”
We talked, we walked, and we talked. What to do? I never let her know, except for those doodles I thought she found in the truck.
Eddie knew he couldn’t do anything with the data even if there was something there. His clearance obligations ran a lifetime. To violate them would bring the 'house down' on him. And he had seen it happen.
What’s all this fuss anyway, a morbid exercise, a death wish, a something to do? Maybe, but sometime when you get a sniff of something ,you follow the scent. I really must be careful. I’ve already done one illegal act. I don’t even jay walk.
Why can’t I be like Jacques? Jocko will be playing golf, watching videos, traveling, and all the expected things.
I have this itch and it needs scratching, damn it. OK smart ass, suppose there IS something there, then what? You know I’ll worry about that then. I’m getting more psyched the more I think about it.
If I don’t hear anything from that kid in the bookstore in a while I will drop it, maybe visit some family on the coast. Drink some good wine and food. A 2 week excursion, yes. I’ll call Roy to see when would be good and get some reservations tomorrow.
“Roy, I’ll see you in 3 weeks. I’ll make the reservations in a few minutes. Wine, food and good times, I can’t wait to meet your new ladies. Give your kid a whack in the head for me.”
Yes, hello? Oh yes the guy from 2nd Story Books. You have a new load of rare books and magazines. Yeah sorry I didn’t call you at home I was busy at work. Yes I’ll be there in the morning first thing. Thanks.
I got there early. The ‘kid”, opened the store. I walked in. Should I be wearing dark glasses or something? I thought to myself and laughed. He gave me a look. “Listen kid, what is your name?”
“Kitt, Kitt Sune. I married into this family. I used to work in my family business in State College, an antique and custom glass store. I collect political stuff from the 20th century and some art. One of our regular customers’, who I know, came in the other day and mentioned that they were cleaning out one of their properties in the old part of Bethesda. There were a few boxes of old magazines. He knew I collected. I have them here, in the back.”
“Take a look, not too much there. Apparently the home was owned by a librarian, a Ms Sara Svati at The Library of Congress back at the turn of the 21st century. That much we discovered in the notes/Obits in one of the boxes. Her notes mentioned there were supposed to be two more duplicate cartons. They are not here. It appears she catalogued everything. I found the paperwork on that. Maybe it’s buried in the boxes somewhere else.”
“OK, thanks for the history. You know what? I’ll take them sight unseen. How much?”
I agreed and loaded my car. I wanted to get home and review this booty at my pace. Not rushed. Why was I worried, what was I worried about? I’ve never been like this. Purchase a pig in a poke? I must be stupid in the head!
RICK AND LIU-YUE
“June, I mean Liu-yue, I like your Chinese name, do you mind if I don’t call you June?”
No I prefer it. I know you studied the language and history so it’s not alien to you.”
“Listen, how long can you stay on the island?”
“I have as much time as I need”
“Why don’t you call in for a working vacation?”
“Yes, a working vacation. You’re here to convince me to return, work. You also said you have a xin for me too. No? So let’s make a date for dinner and I will take you around. Well talk some more, vacation. Simple, easy, just say yes”
“All this crap about me being kidnapped, what’s up?”
“It was my idea,” she confesses. “It’s working too. There is a lot of pressure on this government to force you to leave.”
“You know, if it weren’t for you I'd tell them to fuck off. You are different calculus. I’ve never met anyone like you. I’m doing things and not doing things I would and would normally not do. Stay here a while. The place grows on you. Give it a shot, a pun?”
“Listen, round eyes, I like you, yes and maybe a bit more too. BUT I have a job, a career, a love of duty and honor, and I like it. I have never given it up for anyone, ever! And you’re asking me to what? We want you home for our reasons. I want you home for mine. If you come home I will guarantee your safety. If you don’t I’m not sure what I can or will do. Let’s meet for dinner tomorrow and we’ll talk business then. Now let’s walk and forget politics and business. The sunset is beautiful.”
Out of nowhere she said, “Kiss me.”
She had to leave early before the sun came up. That was different. I’m toast. Now what?
I can sell most anything. Getting her to stay, while I figure this out may take some doing. I’m hoping her handlers will think that this is the best way to get me home, along with the pressure on the Government of Puerto Rico.
I made a public statement that I am free to do as I please, to come and go and at this time I am the guest of a dear old boyhood friend. I’m not sure how this came about. “I am honored that our government has gone out of its way to protect one of its ordinary citizens but please, stop you’re spoiling a nice vacation”
That was broadcast on all the Hispanic stations, throughout the USA, and the world. The following few days there was an ease in the air. However, everyone on the island now recognized me and my “girlfriend”.
Privacy was getting to be a difficult commodity. Luckily I had one of Dan’s boats, The X Factor. Not the Xebec. That was his personal toy. We spent a week on that, catered to as never before.
As I was about to bring the subject of coming home up. Liu-yue came running up and said there were some new incidents that might give us some breathing room. Her face was red and she was visibly upset, mumbling that she should have popped him the first time.
I was thinking Berg, that mountain of a human. I said “Jonathan!”
She shook her head, then nodded, “him too”, and a smile. She was beautiful and dangerous.
EDDIE CHAVEZ BACK AT HIS HOUSE:
Eddie Chavez begins the journey into a different political world.
OK, OK, I’m tired of all this. These publications are all over the place. The only thing I can sense is there are related articles on computer issues of the day. Apparently there was a lot of piracy. I’m glad I didn’t live in that mess. People had to spend a good portion of their time defending their own computer systems from attack. That had to be costly and a pain in the ass.
One thing, most of the writing seems to be pointing to China and Russia. How silly. I mean there was no real threat. Look at today. Things run smoothly, no big problems, and we’re all interconnected. OK last pile of magazines, Foreign Policy. Bla, bla, bla, hunh?? This is strange, a picture of simulation and an article on hacking. MicroWare? China? Operating systems? Right. Is this science fiction, history or what? I’m going to bed.
The next day Eddie headed into work and thought to himself, “The archives will put an end to this. Let me check that issue out and see if there are related references”.
On his break, he headed to the library. Jacques asked, “What’s up?”
“Just checking something out. I’ll meet you for lunch in 15 minutes.”
He was on the computer and brought up the issue of Foreign Policy and Jane’s Defense. To his surprise and shock the pages of interest did not match. There were advertisements in place of the articles. “This is wrong! Very wrong!”
“Put it this away,” he thought. “There is something here and that’s why MEDUSA clicked on! Oh shit.” The totality of it hit him.
At lunch Jacques asked, what’s wrong?
“Nothing much, just a personal issue that I have to deal with.” Deflecting the question, “How are you doing?”
Jocko animated as usual, hands waving all over the place, “Good, can’t wait to be out of here. A week, and that’s it.”
“How are the replacements doing?”
“Very good as a matter of fact. Real good, especially that woman. I think she’ll make the best leader.”
“Yeah and she’s good looking too. That can’t hurt.”
“Not an issue here, you idiot.”
“Hey, don’t bite my head off. What the fuck is eating you?”
“Nothing, forget it. Sorry.” But to himself, “something stinks and I’m not sure I like it at all. How do I do this without getting in deep shit? Maybe it's all in my head. I’ll look in the boxes again and see just what I have there. I can’t be right. All I have been doing, for all these years….”
At home he went through the boxes again, obsessed with the discrepancy in his hands and in the library. Eddie purchased a box of large envelopes, copied the issues at hand, had copies of the modified issues stuffed into the envelopes. He, being who and what he was, had worn gloves all the while. “NO prints, thank you very much,” he said to himself. He’d done what he could.
Eddie was tight jawed as he proceeded on his task. This was not the way to end a career that one thought was of value to one's country, nor the way to start a new one, a rebel? He placed the packages in a mail slot in a few different buildings so as not to be recognized by the biometric street scanning systems in place. Thankfully, his parents never had a chip emplaced as a kid as so many others had done. A hat and sunglasses added to the disguise. “Maybe it’s nothing, but I will let the pros settle this. Sara Svarti, this is for you. I hope I’m not dropping the ball.”
That’s the only thing he could do. What a way to end a career.
His last day at work. He is debriefed of the security position he held, and signs Standard Form 312. He had lunch on base, said his good-byes and got into his car to leave.
Jacques ran over and asked, “What Is Wrong with You!! Leaving this place got you down like I’ve never seen. Man, are you a mess. Come on let’s go get a drink off 15 at the regular spot.”
“Yeah Jocko, that’s it all right. I’ll call you in a few days. You have my number, drop in any time. I really need to go. I will call you. I just have to get out of here. I’ll explain later,” but to himself, “not likely”.
On his way out of the compound he looked at the flag for what seems to be the first time: the red and white stripes, the white stars on a blue field, that small crimson star in the center of the blue field, IS NOT RIGHT!
Liu-yue was out of breath as she entered Rick’s room.
“Listen Rick, Some radio stations in NY, Texas, WDC and CA have copies of the work you destroyed. The stuff was mailed only a while ago. Someone found a cache of the same data you had and mailed it to these stations. They’re spreading it across the planet. People are running for cover. The PLA will be going after heads. They do not like losing. When it comes to politics, especially where their legitimacy and interests are concerned, they care little for freedom and rights. ‘Political power grows out the barrel of a gun’, is the last resort, to paraphrase Mao, (one wise military strategist of the 20th century)”.
“The groups spreading the news are part of the Pacifica Network and pains in the ass since the 1960’s. They are promulgating a New Federation, North East, West Coast and the Coastal South as separate governing units sighting the Constitution and Bill of Rights for validation. One smartass mentioned the Mandate of Heaven. I think they will be off the air shortly, rights or no rights. This stuff has been picked up by the entire planet. The government is in crisis mode. People are questioning the very legitimacy of everything.”
She said “Read the editorial. This is not your writing. Here it is.
Cyber Security/State Security
It’s a day that will live in infamy. Unlike the blatant attack on Pearl Harbor, this day would be more representative of the secret interlocking treaties that made up the alliances in early 20th century Europe, prior to the first great wars.
There would be no great bloodshed, no loss of property; in fact no one but a few well placed individuals would ever know the particulars of the treaty. Flags would not be changed, yet.
The surrender did not take place on a battle cruiser, a nuclear submarine, or in the shadow of a bombed-out city. The surrender took place quietly, almost unknown, rarely published and if alluded to, the specifics were omitted.
The surrender was an acknowledgement, a fait acompli, when the operating system to Windows, the main computer operating system of the world, was handed over to the Peoples Liberation Army in the early 21st century. A few science and military publications mentioned it. The story died a quick death, as did the authors. Thanks be to the Internet news and publications. The eventual termination of the printed newspapers and written references were expunged. For all intents and purposes, it never happened.
The terms are still unknown. They are not onerous. Just complete subjugation to the new ruling elite. The ruling elite in many ways is an interlocking group that transcends national boundaries. We will never be allowed to know all of them. However there are clues.
Nations rise and fall. Some rapidly, others gradually, clinging to the illusion of grandeur and power long after their influence has waned. Power shifts boundaries and with the shift come new elites. That’s not to say the old elites are cashiered. Not all the time. As in the Greek takeover in Sicily (see Herodotus), the ruling powers kept the rich and powerful, even though they stood against them. Who needs the poor and common person? The poor were and are a burden to the society. Slaves, wage or otherwise, and gun fodder is the best use for that human resource.
Dick Cheney was the first modern, post 20th century, visible tip (and iceberg) of that new political elite. His total disrespect for the laws of the land only served to highlight his non-alligned role in the new world order. The president of China is another. He, unlike the others, doesn’t hide that fact.
Regarding “the others”, that’s a good question. Observe the travel of certain individuals to the central kingdom. The clique will in time become obvious, even if the observed are puppets. They are tied to “the others”, who through those visible proxies control everything. It’s just a matter of a reshuffling of the Board of Directors. It’s very simple and it’s very, very clean.
The first of the final shots were made, in the case of the United States, when the government under George Bush II, allowed or was forced to acquiesce control of the Operating System of Windows to the Peoples Liberation Army, the controlling organ of the Peoples Republic of China. That was the final step, the first stage of the Planetary Domination Plan or PDP/PLA. At that point in time, combat was to be avoided at all costs. The resulting damage would be possibly total and permanent.
The British transfer of Hong Kong to the PRC is the template implemented. In every case, each political geographic entity is different and requires a modification in the template. In the long run, the template works. Each nation has the perimeters within which to work, based upon their national heritage. Russia has the historical freedom to move quickly, ending dissent. The US has the least. There are limits of acceptable activity.
Many elected officials do not have access to this data. They may scream and yell about issues relating to trade, military activities and such. Unless they cause a serious issue, they are tolerated here in the US because it is our history to tolerate this type of activity. To squash it would bring questions to the fore. They are not stupid.
For the foreseeable future, the USA, Europe and Russia, which is a different case all together, will be allowed to continue as if nothing changed. The populations have no clue. The news media, always controlled under the Chomsky Propaganda Model, understands the rules of engagement and operates therein.
What happened, how did it occur? Access to the source code allowed the PLA and its cyber war divisions to gain control of total infrastructure, from the timing of stop lights to the Command Control and Communication systems. The process took time. The PLA works under an extended multi year, multi decade, plan.
The PLA was assisted to a large degree by the bureaucratic infighting and territorial battles being waged in the halls of power in the US as well as Europe and for that matter, the rest of the entire planet. The danger posed by cyber war, while verbally acknowledged, was incidental to the power hungry myopic leadership in government and the military.
Conversely, the PLA was of one mind when it came to achieving this goal. Five thousand years of learned and studied history helped. In truth, central control of China is funneled through the PLA. If one looks closely, most all the members of the Chinese ruling elite are members of the PLA and engineers, scientists or technically competent. As opposed to the USA, where the ruling elite are mostly lawyers, the PLA is equipped to handle the complex issues facing the planet. They understand when the scientists speak. They understand history. They are not ignorant.
Liu-yue said, “You are in the clear. There are now bigger fish to fry. This would have happened with or without you. Do you think you want come home now?” In her heart, Liu-yue was not an island girl.
“Why would I want to do that? This does not sound good to me. I think staying put is a better idea. For all intents and purposes this is my home. Have you thought about it? You can stay here now, too? We are welcome here. You don’t have to be part of that mess any more. You did say you wanted out. Here’s the opportunity, and to use your argument, no problems!
Dan calls with the same news. “Yep, Liu-yue just gave me the news. You have my copies and all the rest of the documentation that was not sent out by whomever. Feel free to use it as you require. I’m just wondering what happens now?”
She looks at me, “Copies?” There is a look I have seen before, danger, then a smile.
“Of course” I say, I had a feeling about this stuff. Dan, and now the events, proved my concerns. There is much more here.”
Dan interjects, “Were I either one of you, I would not go back to the states just yet, if that’s been on your mind. Things are going to get pretty shaky in a while. You will be a target for retribution, whether or not it was you that sent this stuff out. From the looks of it, the inflammatory data was copied from originals, not copies of copies. Someone may have located another box? You just have more of it.”
“On a less threatening note, ask your girl friend here if she would like to be our most esteemed and welcome guest for as long as she requires and desires. Ms Shang is well known among our people. She might like to open a school of sorts. We’re always seeking out ‘good help’. That is, if she is looking for a new career. No pressure, just a suggestion. I will leave the two of you. See you tonight for dinner at the embassy. “Ms Shang, a heads up, you will have to leave your tools either in your vehicle or check them. We understand your esteemed position. You understand ours.”
A nod and, “Yes, of course, and I will be honored.”
A NEW BEGINNING
The effect that the historical data initially released, by the Site R administrator Eddie Chavez, the more complete and detailed compilation held by Rick Stevens and the Nation State of Puerto Rico, took years to come to a head only after the attack. Discounting the usual conspiracy fanatics, groups of people had for generations suspected something sinister in the halls of government. The data released proved it. The fact that the government couldn’t even protect the citizenry was the topping on the pizza. Feelings against China ran high, but the animosity, distrust, and outright revulsion was a mild description in comparison, when it concerned the government of the United States. Our own people sold us out and continued to do so.
The last straw had been a dirty bomb that had gone off in the mountain area of West VA. It had been carried by a group of home grown militia types and not foreign based terrorists as projected by the government.
What then occurred was unthinkable by many even in the 1860’s, the breakup of the union into semi-independent, somewhat federated and dispersed geographic areas. The Northeast, the West Coastal areas, and the Southern Atlantic areas each became independent from the central government. Washington DC was now a tourist haven, a historical place to visit, a neutral place, and a political Disney Land.
The federal government at first attempted to quell any rebellion as they called it. The soldiers and especially the national guard would not lift a rifle against the people. The Chinese government responded by sending its navy and air force. They were interdicted on the high seas and sky and forcibly turned back by a united federated military interested in protecting the citizens of North America. Expeditionary activities for the time being were eliminated, unless the free trade and protection of the UFSA citizenry were put in danger.
All federated sectors claimed legitimacy from the same set of documents: The Constitution, The Bill of Rights and The Declaration Of Independence. Each sector was independent, each sector elected administrators who were wise enough to understand the need, the requirement for some form of unity among the disparate regions. The Articles of Confederation were reevaluated in this light and utilized as a framework for the future.
The rest of the planet began looking inward at their own individual situations and their governments, analyzing the corrupting effect outlined in the documents. In some places there was violence, as was too in the United States. In other locales, people accepted the status quo ante. Things ran rather well. Leave it alone was their call. Overall the ties that bound the feet of the planet were being unfettered.
The planet’s nations are in some disarray. The PRC is the major player. The United Federated States, independent to a degree is still beholding to the PRC. The Indian subcontinent countries are in a similar quasi independent position as the UFS. They always knew the PRC would be the dominant dragon.
The PRC is not looking to go to war, just control and recognition of its central place on the planet. Annual tribute in the form of resources, human or otherwise is expected. To do otherwise is to exact retribution of an unpleasant nature.
The PRC has been freed up to act the power it truly is, now that the cat is out of the bag.
She was not an island girl. Liu-yue was a cosmopolitan world traveler, and accomplished expert in her field. She was, in her heart, dedicated to her job and her country. As much as she loved Rick, she wouldn’t let that crush her. Maybe later she would settle for a more relaxed lifestyle, if that were possible.
Private conversations with her previous handlers and the powers that be, allowed her to return to her chosen profession. The only stipulation was, simply, that she could never see Rick again, except on official business. Otherwise that would be his death warrant, and the two of them would be cashiered.
Speaking of cashiered, Jonathan Berg happened to go too far, too many times and was deemed a threat to the organization. He disappeared soon after Liu-yue returned to government practice.
-- Richard Tornello