Here’s my fifth of eight installments in preparation for NaNoWriMo 2011, presented in its raw and unedited format for all to see.
Also, I have decided to raise money this year for NaNoWriMo and the Office of Letters and Light to support their efforts in encouraging writers both young and old. So, I am asking you, my readers, to sponsor my writing effort this year.
If you head over to my fundraising page at StayClassy and help me reach my goal of $250, I will post my NaNoWriMo effort on my website on 1 December 2011. Help me double my goal, and I will post the NaNoWriMo story plus a completed version of the story of which my preview vignettes will become a part on 1 January. If we go beyond even double, I will find something else cool to do for you.
NaNoWriMo 2011 Preview #5
Spilling the beans
By Dennis L Hitzeman
“Where the hell did you go, Colonel Whiteman?” Cantril said as he barged into Dean’s library without even the courtesy of a knock.
“Detroit. Why do you ask?” Dean said in his most nonplussed voice. The kid seemed to forget that he was a combat veteran. At the moment, he seemed like he was going to pop.
“After all, I didn’t actually agree to do anything specific for you, did I?” Dean continued. He could tell that Cantril was about to melt down, so he decided to press his attack, “So, you thought you’d just trace me from your command center until I led you to your mark. And then what? You were going to bust a cap in him? Take him in for “questioning?” Disappear us both? Why else would you send an SRT to a nightclub in Saint Louis where you thought I might be.”
Cantril was shaking with rage. Or fear perhaps. “Colonel, that is highly classified information. Perhaps you would like to come in and explain how you came to possess it.”
Dean laughed. He called it his commander’s laugh. “Please… Really? Have you bothered to ask yourself at all through the course of your investigation why any of this is happening? What crime has Ryan Alten committed?”
“Ryan Alten is a clear and present danger to national security, Colonel…”
“Everybody knows Ryan Alten stopped the attack against the Core a week ago, Cantril. Stopping an attack your own people couldn’t hardly constitutes a threat in my book,” Dean said. “So, I’ll ask again. Have you asked yourself what might be going on here?”
Cantril slumped into a chair across from Dean and covered his eyes with one hand. Advantage, Dean.
“Why don’t you tell me about it,” Dean said.
Kevin paced the floor of the studio apartment Ten had set him up in, slowly wearing a path in the carpet. It had been three days since he had last heard from Ten and more than a week since the last time he’d been online. In his world, that was like a hundred years.
What was worse is that he was convinced Ten was just storing him. Kevin suspected he’d wake up one day with his network connection restored and no evidence than any of this craziness had ever happened. Maybe that’s what he wished for, because the alternatives were scarier.
He about knocked himself over when someone knocked at the door. Knocked. Didn’t even bother with the comm. Then he noticed the screen was blank and he froze.
“Yeah?” he shouted.
Ten’s voice came from the other side. “Room service.”
Kevin opened the door slowly in case things were not as they seemed, but it was only Ten and two bags that looked like luggage. Ten came inside, pulling the bags behind him.
“Going on a trip?” Kevin said as he closed the door.
“Nope,” Ten said. “You are.”
Kevin eyed the bags. “Where?”
Ten shrugged. “That depends entirely on you.”
“Is everything a game with you?” Kevin said.
“This is hardly a game,” Ten said, “but the circumstances of the situation demand different preparations.”
Ten gestured at the bags, “On my right is your old life, rebooted. It contains a change of clothes and a bus ticket to Spokane. It also contains a voucher for three months rent at a place a lot like the one you recently inhabited, a ten thousand dollar prepaid card, and the contact information for someone who can get you back on the net.”
Kevin’s heart pounded. With that kind of setup, he could get months ahead from where he was before. Ten continued.
“On my left is another kind of life altogether, but I can’t tell you much more than that it involves the things I and some others are engaged in and that it will change you forever. If you take this bag, someone will meet you in the parking lot and the rest will happen from there.”
Kevin’s instinct was to take the right bag and forget it, but he couldn’t force himself to say it. Instead, he said, “Why should I trust you. It just sounds like you’re trying to disappear me one way or another.”
“Do you really think I would go to this extreme to make something like that happen?” Ten said. “I could have just let the federales grab you and saved myself the trouble.”
Ten gestured to the left bag. “Look, Kevin, you’ve got a lot of promise, but let me be frank: you’re young and you’re stupid, and you’re wasting your talents writing identity theft scripts and joining hack for hire teams. If you want to be more than that, here’s your chance. If not, you can have your old life back.”
Kevin looked back and forth between the two bags, and he realized he was rocking back and fourth. Then he realized what he was about to do, and he felt himself panicking.
He reached out and took the left bag and choked. “Do I just go out now?”
Ten nodded. “There’s a white rental car waiting for you in the parking lot. The driver will take you where you need to go.”
Outside, Kevin found the car, driven by an old man with a cast iron hand shake and a military buzz cut. “I’m glad to meet you, Kevin. Ten’s told me a lot about you. My name’s Dean. Settle in, because we’re in for a little bit of a drive.”
Vladimir thought he was going to cry. Every time he thought he had the exploit nailed down and fixed, it reappeared somewhere else and kept doing whatever it was doing. If he didn’t know better, he could have sworn the thing was alive.
He realized he was shaking as he looked around the room. It might have been two days since he had slept, and even the boost wasn’t really working anymore. The rest of his team looked like the cast of a bad zombie movie. It’d been four days since he’d last seen Alexi, and when he left he wondered if he ever see her again.
But in that time, he had come to realize on thing. Once, years ago, he had taken a wrong turn and it had cost him everyday of his life since then. He hadn’t realize how much the cost had been, but now, he thought, the whole amount was due and he had no capacity to pay.
Alexander came back into the room, haggard and drunk, and Vladimir flinched.
“Have you fixed it, Vlad?” Alexander said.
Vladimir wasn’t sure if he was mumbling. “We need more time. This was an expert hack.”
Alexander raged. “We don’t have more time, Vladimir! Do you have any idea what is going to happen to us if we don’t fix this? Do you have any idea what they can do to us if they do not get what they want.”
“No, Alexander, I do not,” Vladimir said. “Because I do not know who they are or why any of this even matters.”
Alexander’s bloodshot eyes widened, and for a moment, Vladimir thought he was having a seizure. “No I suppose you don’t know anything, do you, my dear Vladimir. Walk with me. I have things to tell you.”
Alexi Domanovic had lived for a very long time with the guilt that she was a traitor. Yet, somehow, she had always found a way to explain away the reasons why she had done what she had done all those years ago. That was, she had been able to do so until she watched the man she had betrayed slowly destroying the man she had come to love. It was some sort of grand irony that she was the one who might have the capacity to put the whole thing to a stop.
She’d left the message four days before on a message board she knew he sometimes checked. There used to be other ways to get in touch with him, but those had all vanished as the ante went up over the past week. She was sure she knew why the things were happening the way they were, but she wasn’t sure what he might want. All she knew is that it involved what they had gotten themselves involved in.
She’d waited for a reply by taking a trip to Moscow to visit some old friends she hadn’t seen in a long time. They’d shopped and drank and made a general nuisance of themselves, just like in the old days, and it was almost enough to ease her impatience and fear about his reply.
It came on the third day, terse and to the point. Be at a certain cafe at a certain time. Connect to a certain node by a certain channel. Do not make any attempts to block what might happen next.
Even with that, she wasn’t prepared for the brute force of the hard channel that connected with her that afternoon and ripped her from the net as if she’d never been there at all.
“Alexi, my dear, why does it not surprise me that you are in the thick of this,” Ryan said.
“Don’t be stupid, Ryan,” she said. “You know I have been with Vladimir for a long time.”
“So you have,” Ryan said. “What are you offering?”
“What do you want?”
“Why should I expose myself that way, especially to you?” Ryan said. “You have a habit of using that kind of information to your advantage.”
“Ryan, I can’t do anything about what I did once, but I can do something about now.” Alexi said. “You’re clearly after something, and if you tell me what it is, I will find it out for you.”
“Who is employing Vladimir?” Ryan said.
“A syndicate boss by the name of Alexander Varisky,” she said.
“And who is employing him?”
She paused. No one had ever brought that up. It seemed like such a simple piece of information, yet she had no idea. “I don’t know.”
“Find out, and we’ll talk.”
The connection went dead and she was back in the regular net wondering what they had all gotten themselves into.