The sacred protocol, p.1
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       The Sacred Protocol, p.1

           Hylton Smith
 
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The Sacred Protocol
The Sacred Protocol

  Hylton H Smith

  Copyright 2011 by Hylton Smith

  Published by Promethean

  No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic and mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage or retrieval system, without the permission of the publisher.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters and incidents are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to persons living or dead, are entirely coincidental.

  Acknowledgement

  The continued support and encouragement of Rhys J. Smith and Anne Flint are always evident and genuinely appreciated.

  Chapter 1

  The peasants toiling on the Cornish coast were buoyed by the fantastic July weather, making their burden lighter in their imagination. Jonas Goodbody was first to intrude with a sour sentiment. He had watched the horizon deliver an ever-increasing number of ships from the haze. His panic-driven bleating was at first rebuked by his supervisor, who then quickly grasped the significance of Goodbody’s clarion call. This was no summer maritime gathering whose intention was to relax and imbibe the ambience of a green and pleasant land. It had been predicted, but information was sketchy at best among peasantry. It was indeed the most feared realisation of the Spanish Armada. The prepared beacons were lit, and as practiced, the information reached London and Plymouth quickly. The response was also well rehearsed. Elizabeth insisted on travelling to the coast to witness Sir Francis Drake deal this Catholic invasion force a dose of typical English tactical pragmatism. All did not however go to plan.

  Lady Luck played a curious role in defeat being snatched from the jaws of victory. Philip II of Spain believed he had no alternative to crushing Elizabeth I. He already controlled the Spanish Netherlands which were often referred to as the low country; however Protestant influence was spreading as a direct consequence of sponsorship from the virgin Queen. With England also under his control he could rule the English Channel. He believed that Scotia and Hibernia would at the very least assume neutral status, more because of their hatred of the English than any love for Iberia. There was also much Catholic support in these bordering domains. There was, in addition, the small matter of Sir Francis Drake’s attack the previous year on the harbour of Cadiz, where many ships destined for the Armada were being built. Considerable losses were sustained in sea power and naval personnel. This home defeat rankled with Philip to the point of obsession. Even when the fleet was, in his opinion up to strength again in 1588, he made quite an incredible decision by filling the position left by the loss of Admiral Santa Cruz, who died in 1586. Medina Sidonia, a very accomplished army heavyweight and nobleman, was bestowed with the dubious honour.

  Exactly what the rank and file crews made of this is not well documented, but the entire plan seemed to be sinking in terms of credibility. A key part of the strategy was to navigate the Channel and pick up soldiers currently occupying the Spanish Netherlands.

  They had however underestimated Sidonia, and even Philip confessed, but only to himself, that it was an inadvertent stroke of genius to appoint the army man as Admiral of the fleet. One of the first things he did was to abandon the plan to pick up the land forces and risk losing them aboard sinking vessels. He did not however disclose this intention to anyone. He knew that there was no port in these Netherlands deep enough to conduct such an operation safely even without Drake breathing down his neck. The solution he had inherited was to march the army to Normandie. He knew it would be a bitter debate to try to countermand Philip’s death trap, so he apparently went along with it, and crucially so did all of the spies who would report such stupidity back to Elizabeth. In a clandestine agreement with Danish noblemen he decided to feign flight from Drake’s fleet into what would be realised too late as a trap. The renowned Drake ‘floating bomb’ tactic of sending flaming vessels into collision with the Spanish galleons never got off the ground. These ‘Hell Burners’ depended on the enemy being sluggish or clustered without much room for manoeuvre. Sidonia’s crescent formation allowed speed and defensive protection. When Drake eventually felt the Spanish were cornered in some God-forsaken Nordic harbour, the entire naval manpower of both sides was exhausted. The English spirit however was briefly rekindled when their prey was apparently in a predicament worse than the anticipated location in France. The Danish mercenaries, who had no religious leaning, were brimming with energy, spoiling for a fight, and well equipped with vessels designed specifically for the tidal turmoil in the region. The crowning factor was the short, deep but narrow strait access to the inner calm of the real harbour. Only two ships at a time could traverse this channel, and of his 130 vessels, Sidonia sent his 22 galleons through first to then volte-face and fire upon the eager pursuers. The last four Spanish ships in the channel were halted and offered as sacrificial gambits as their crew took to the rescue boats awaiting them. With the channel effectively blocked, the Danes closing in from behind, Sidonia taking aim from calm water, and the appearance of catapults despatching fireballs from both banks of the channel, Drake’s fate was sealed. His temporary upsurge in morale had been replaced by the sudden realisation that his navy would be totally eradicated. And so it was. After resting with his co-conspirators, Sidonia sailed back to Normandie to collect a fresh, well preserved land invasion force. This had been his thinking all along. Unless the transfer of his army could be achieved with little or no loss, the naval battle would have been of little relevance.

  Elizabeth was back in London when the news came, but unfortunately, Scotia and Hibernia were already in receipt of her plight. The three pronged converging forces brought England to its knees in bitter but short campaigns. She was herself publicly beheaded in the style so often employed by her father.

  With appropriate concessions to the acolytes of Scotia and Hibernia, the genesis of the new Iberian Empire was set in motion. July 19, 1588 was accorded the status of one of the most significant turning points in history. The astonishing pace at which the fledgling Catholic alliance flourished to the worthy upgrade of empire was underpinned by Philip’s considerable skill as a forward thinking politician. He excelled in this trait as much as he appalled in military strategy. Lady Luck had indeed delivered his platform.

  He had kept his fascination with the ancient Egyptian philosophy of ‘victory by cultural absorption’ to himself. It would have been considered regressive by the Church, especially when compared to the rationale of the Inquisition. It worked wonderfully well with the Nordic peoples. France was gradually but acutely aware of all of its neighbours being seduced to come under the Iberian flag in some form or another. Its national identity was eroded from the west, north and south. Philip also accommodated the Basque language, the oldest in what had up until now been known as Europe, in a restructuring of Spanish to Iberian. His next challenge was considerably more subtle than what seemed in hindsight to be the routine purging of England. Germany was a key facet of his master plan. Timing was everything – and so it was necessary to ingest but not digest France prior to rolling out his Lutheran cleansing.

  Although Martin Luther died in 1546, his ideology had a firm grip on the German psyche. Apart from being the initiator of the Protestant reformation he had promoted apparently tolerant ‘celibate marriages’ for the priesthood. Philip seized upon the later anti-Semitic preaching of this professor of tolerance, and coupled with his quasi-Egyptian alternative, he effectively nullified the threat of war. He was able to quote all of the previous bloodless harmonisation of cultural advantage, including the latest and most unlikely example of France. He insisted that the French were accorded a policy of non-interference in domestic affairs, local laws and even their grossly indulgent obsess
ion with those powerful anarchical taboos of art and literature. He was gambling on France and Germany each watching the other, and the fence sitting gave him time to sneak in the avenue of religious tolerance. The minds of the populace had to be won, not driven. What he really meant was given time to reflect on Papal adoption or the extreme poverty of Lutheran obstinacy. His patience paid off, and in less than two decades of stabilisation he was musing over the next two conundrums. Namely – his succession and the East.

  The East predominated largely due to the situation in the New World being simplified by the recent ascent of Iberian identity. In addition, he already controlled Portugal, Naples and Sicily. Following Columbus’ discovery in 1492, the main protagonists harboured ambitions to dominate both the northern and southern Americas. Now the way was clear for their re-naming – North and South Iberiana. All members would share from the common gain. The original purpose of Columbus was to find an alternate route to the Indies, as Islam had cut off the overland route through Egypt and Suez in mid-seventh century. The demand for spices, incense, herbs, opium and other drugs ensured a solution had to be found. Arabs took over this trade with Europe until the Ottoman Turks cut the route again in 1453, and this consolidated the need for a maritime route, which was partially satisfied by Vasco de Gama declaring the Cape of Good Hope as the answer. Philip had become known as Philip the Prudent, and he was not going to settle for this arduous journey in the long term.

  When German Iberia was announced he saw an opportunity to move forward on the question of the East. He brokered the future marriage of his son to Margaret of Austria – sister of Ferdinand II, and was, like her future husband, a member of the House of Habsburg. His expansionist plans did not go unnoticed by Russians, Slavs and Turks. He also knew the dangerous routes through these, in his view, relatively uncivilised territories, was not an option. He offered something they all had in common – a desire to curb the growing problem of Islam. When they realised he meant elimination, other doors opened. Technology became currency for passage. Gradual strangulation of the Arab economy created cracks in the hegemony and exploitation presented itself, with many Islamic dignitaries taking residence in the southern Iberian Peninsula. The leaders benefitted from generous estates in return for strategic assistance and fighting men in bringing down their common enemies. Religious tolerance was once again on offer, with the caveat that there was no room for protest against the majority.

  In a way this long, systematic decomposition of the indigenous Arab world would become the grooming background for his son to become Philip III. He didn’t have the charismatic presence of his father but he could be moulded to a caretaker’s role until his own heir, another Habsburg, could revive the former momentum. It was the best option in the semi-hiatus which was accompanied by the approaching death of Philip the Prudent, which duly arrived in 1598.

  Chapter 2

 

  Konrad Salina had been thorough in preparing for his act of martyrdom. He only made the mobile video contact with the local Londonis police precinct when all other items had been checked off the list. The recorder was running and his message, including the details of his security vault had been tattooed on his back, in code, some weeks ago. The call was onward directed to Elle Butragueno, who was hurriedly gorging on takeaway tapas at five minutes to eight in the evening. It was actually her lunch. “Butragueno.”

  “Please listen very carefully.” The camera panned around the apartment and settled on the balcony where she could make out a crudely constructed gallows. “Not another jumper,” she moaned, “I’m going to tra…”

  “No you aren’t. This isn’t a threat or cry for help. You can’t save me, and that is why you must get here as soon as possible after I am dead. There is no such thing as a secure line now. You will know the importance once you are here.” The address was flashed up and Butragueno ran to her vehicle while yelling to the desk to inform her superior Maxi Duarte.

  It was a short drive, culminating in a sharp shock as she looked up to the eighth floor, to see the black outline of the corpse swaying in a ferocious wind. “Jesus.” It was all she could muster as she believed she was, at least at present, the only person to know of the suicide. It was a desirable, tree-lined street, not the kind of place where these things happened. A strange thought almost percolated to verbal as she ran up the stairs instead of using the elevator. ‘Funny, it will be me telling the Medical Examiner the time of death. Twenty two minutes past eight, August 8, 2022. I need a new career.’

  She had managed to keep onlookers out of the incident area until the Lightbox brigade arrived, fractionally ahead of her boss – Maxi Duarte. She mumbled under her breath, ‘Oh no, that’s all I need – no sleep tonight’. Duarte exercised patience until the new forensic team had their shot at the corpse and his apartment. This arm of investigation was new and extremely helpful in creating an incorruptible record. By installing the volume parameters involved and locking the photonic capture of the scene, and subsequent flooding of the image in the lab with fluorescent x-rays, many things were revealed. The routine forensics team could then pursue their task. The Lightbox scans were compared against database item references such as fibres, semen, narcotics, shards, etc. – and this almost instant feedback was very helpful in guiding the regular forensic checks.

  “Fill me in Butragueno; this doesn’t make a lot of sense to me right now.” Duarte was a tired, soon to retire, old school Chief Inspector. He wanted out, but at the same time had no idea what he would do on the first day, month or even year of being surplus to requirement.

  Elle showed him the video of the entire incident, including the deceased’s call to her. The tattoo was obviously a starting point, but didn’t offer immediate clues as to the information it was supposed to reveal. “Great,” said Duarte, in exasperated concession to getting both profilers and code breakers involved, “I get the feeling we won’t be on this case too long – it stinks of political motive. Do we know anything at all about him – work, girlfriends, memberships of organisations, hobbies?” Butragueno winced. “It might be worse than you think Sir. His father owns this expensive apartment, lives in Madrid and is a big wig in the Central Security Division.”

  “How do we know that already?”

  “Well Sir, there’s a photograph in the hallway, of his parents at some CSD award ceremony and it was turned to the wall, which seemed unusual. I looked behind and it is obviously a special edition as it had the date, venue and official seal on it. I checked with Madrid and they knew of this address, but wouldn’t say more until they talked with Snr. Salina himself.”

  “Well D.I. Butragueno, it’s pretty certain that you’ve poked the first stick into the hornet’s nest. I know it’s frowned upon to have gut feelings in today’s policing practice, but my ulcer is screaming disappointed parents and wayward offspring.”

  He was right about the case being hijacked, but it happened sooner than he allowed for, and consequently he reacted uncharacteristically angrily. Ricardo Pierze entered the apartment while barking out instructions to his ‘underlings’. He was the antithesis to Duarte in just about every conceivable respect. He was tall, handsome, clean in appearance and exuded an air of being in control without having to be explicit. His sharp dark eyes didn’t dart about; they were always focussed on the person he addressed, usually with the intention of disarming them. He would soon get frustrated with Maxi Duarte, whose overweight frame was always draped in food-stained, ill-fitting attire. Personal hygiene had little priority in his short list of lifestyle objectives. The remaining crescent of wispy grey hair which circled his sweat-beaded dome was particularly annoying to Pierze, as it was matted, and always retained the influence of his pillow until he showered or looked into a mirror, whichever came first.

  “Senor whoever you are, I believe, until I’m contradicted, that suicide is still a crime even though we cannot arrest the perpetrator. It is a technicality but we are duty bound to determine if this is clearly and only suicide.” The
reply was paper thin in its sincerity.

  “Pierze.” He flashed his ID, “I would very much appreciate you according proper formality to our cooperation Chief Inspector. Please, at least look at my accreditation, you need to be careful. There are aspects of this incident which we have anticipated for some time now and we will require you to respect boundaries which are crucial to the security of the Republic.”

  Duarte glanced at the pretentious ID wallet. It was quite ornate and shouted ‘Director of Operations – International Communications Corruption Bureau’. “So you aren’t really police, or even a force. I just know that you’re going to acquaint me with your leverage on high-flying people who are.” He also wondered how and therefore why he was there so quickly. Pierze responded with a rare olive branch, although it didn’t seem to be anything but confrontational. “Your choice Duarte, join the team or be replaced.”

  Butragueno interceded, “Sir, I would like to hear what the Director means by his anticipation of Konrad Salina doing something like this – it will surely help all of us to understand anything we can about his activities leading up to the suicide.” Duarte was silent for a full minute while he satisfied himself that she was right. He nodded and gestured for Pierze to continue.

  He did so by summoning a subordinate to activate a portable video transmission. It displayed footage from CCTV in several prominent cities in the Republic. One type of protest banner kept cropping up, and the zoom revealed similar faces at all of the locations. Konrad Salina was amongst them. Before Duarte could challenge the relevance of this he was given a short refresher course in recent history.

  Pierze was very deliberate in structuring his précis to exclude any conclusions at this stage. “We all remember vividly the total and instant collapse of the internet in 2016. Equally, the development of a new safe global network was a landmark event. The paralysis of institutions such as banks, government, manufacturing, and air travel threatened a rapid slide into dystopian culture. The perpetrators were never identified even though their infection, which cascaded like no other, achieved its objective with unstoppable momentum. Because of the miraculous timescale in which a new, apparently bulletproof system was available, the scenario became one of rectifiable disaster rather than Armageddon. What you do know is that the system we have today has satisfied all of the aforementioned institutions. What you do not know is how it came about so quickly and that it may not be as impregnable as first thought. My remit does not allow me to flesh this out, but your cooperation with the method of investigation of the suicide is paramount. We need it to look like that is all it is. That is why the boundaries will be required. You may have observed that the protests were against something they refer to as ‘Overlord’. That is their suggested name for the organisation itself, which has paradoxically attracted cult status amongst the majority of young people, and yet it is the target for the perceived protest action – which is not yet fully understood. The real protest is against the increasing dependency and licensing of SACRED. You no doubt recollect that the system which ‘saved’ our society in 2017 was indeed hailed under that acronym. In case you have forgotten it stands for ‘Signal Amplification, Correction, Revision, Encryption and Distribution’. There is no evidence from any of the key players who were hit by the internet collapse, that the system is anything but perfect. That is why it is so surprising that it has fostered such antagonism from certain youth groups while the rest are obsessed with it. I hope you see that we must conduct our investigation undercover, and your team may proceed separately unless we find something which requires us to ask you to alter or delay your conclusions. I will be back tomorrow for the daily briefing you will present to me. I trust you will sleep on this tonight and let me know in the morning whether or not I need to replace you.”

 
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