Divine extinction, p.18
Divine Extinction, p.18Hylton Smith
The lawyer spoke for the first time. “Snr. Pierze, there is a difference. My client is a birth national of a sovereign state not under the Iberian flag. Although it is aligned by treaties, common market undertakings and military cooperation, that is different from Arabic Iberia and Southern Iberiana. One such example is the charge of treason against De Boer, it could not be seen to offer an unbiased trial under our law, whereas it would on a constitutional basis for the others. Therefore, in the absence of homogeneous International law, I don’t see this as an invalid request. Furthermore, if you were to agree to this, my client may be able to add to the truthful information he has already submitted to you. This information has already indicated that there is a difference in the nature of his remit compared to the other two to be charged. He hasn’t been involved in hands-on subversive action against Iberia. His main task was to report on others, who may yet have to try to prove their innocence of such a charge. That may be more difficult if my client reveals evidence to the contrary. He’s asking you to weigh up the pros and cons of separate prosecution of your case.”
Pierze and Manuel decided to adjourn and think this over. This chessboard was becoming congested, not with the actual number of pieces, but the permutations and combinations of available moves. Pierze detested compromise when it was not on his terms, but Manuel was more pragmatic and brought up yet another possible move.
“Ricardo, I think we both agree that my source has stirred this concoction of ours deliberately, I stand by my belief that he is reputable, and he must therefore be under pressure to get a result for someone. We unfortunately have to let go of him, and I think that will cause problems for him. If De Boer can really give us more, we should at least hear him out. I say that because he is assuming that the Southern Africana hierarchy will want to help him, when it is just as likely they don’t want anything to do with this. It could rebound into a diplomatic nightmare for them. Despite what this lawyer says, Africana is expecting to continue to benefit from Iberian investment. De Boer is taking a calculated risk. You could save him the risk on condition he gives us sufficient evidence of a credible justification of different charges.”
They mulled it over for more than an hour. Pierze then went to the office gym to replace the mental fatigue with physical tiredness, and a compensating release of endorphins. When he returned he agreed to commence the end-game with Johann De Boer.
End Game One
They reconvened. Ricardo Pierze talked very slowly and very carefully, describing the attendees, the time and date. He then switched off the recorder. “Very well De Boer, you have one shot at sketching in what you can illuminate for us. I’m making my offer, I will not to block any extradition request from your homeland conditional on this ‘sketch’ delivering valuable information. We have to take these pledges on trust. Please begin.”
The lawyer interjected. “There is also the small matter of separate charges, provided you concur that what my client discloses constitutes probable evidence that his involvement in the irregularities is limited to reporting on his colleagues.”
Pierze was beginning to exhibit signs of impatience. “Yes, yes, now can we get on with it? I am now turning on the recorder as you claim this will become evidence for your client’s defence – if it indeed merits a lesser charge.” Consensus reigned at last.
De Boer was handed a pre-prepared statement from his lawyer, from which he was told not to deviate. “I must make it absolutely clear that I know nothing of the greater agenda of the people on whose behalf I was recruited and later engineered into Iberian Central Security. My controller, known to me as Atlas required me to ensure that my working colleagues, Freema Anwar and Andreas Silva, kept to protocol and target reporting schedules. I wasn’t permitted to know the details of what they reported, and they were instructed not to allow me access to such information. Things did not exactly work out that way. Although Anwar and Silva initially respected my remit, they began to object over time – to me, they didn’t dare confront Atlas. The three of us became increasingly concerned that we would need to be erased at some time. This fear originally came from Freema. She came to me before Silva did, as he was technically her subordinate. She confessed that although she was instructed and informed by Atlas on a need to know basis, she was able to connect how her information uploads dovetailed into Project 3. She didn’t know the target, place or time, but it became obvious that mass murder was the only possible result. We had all been groomed for espionage tasks, but this made her realise that we would, of necessity be one strand of the links, which would have to be severed to protect the architects. She had sensed my own discomfort, which had been triggered by what I saw on Atlas’ laptop the day of the fire alarm. We were very nervous about sharing information, nevertheless the inevitable fate of doing nothing convinced us to include Silva, as we all had to be acting as one while we planned our disappearance. Events overtook our departure otherwise I wouldn’t be sitting here. We felt we had to continue to act as normal and Central Security was as safe a refuge as we could expect while we extricated ourselves. I can provide details of my individual plan to get back to Southern Africana. I have travel vouchers which were purchased before you brought me to confinement. I have also made arrangements with people there who can confirm where they were planning to ‘bury’ me. I’m happy for you to check this out. The others have made similar arrangements. I would now like to progress to what knowledge we gathered, which I must stress again, we were officially prohibited from having.
“Atlas met his counterparts from a list of four controllers, on a scheduled basis, sometimes overseas and occasionally at the apartment here. I personally have only seen one other to whom I can assign a code name. Medusa was here recently. Freema believes she has figured out the other two. I got the picture from Atlas’ laptop when I re-entered the meeting room during the aforementioned fire alarm. From the structure of the other data I saw at that time, we tried to put together the sequence of these projects. This was assisted by the information pattern of what Freema and Silva were asked to gather. We had already come up with the order of the projects as 3-2-4-1. This was what panicked us, as the one we were hired for was to be first. I have the picture and the rest of this information copied on to a memory stick, in a secure location.”
The statement was handed back to the lawyer who returned it to his briefcase and said, “Over to you gentlemen. This memory stick will be made available if you are now prepared to discuss how things will proceed, if you find my client’s account is verified, and it consequently leads you to arrest of the persons who are really responsible for the savage loss of life we all witnessed.”
The recorder was turned off. Pierze looked at Manuel. It was agonisingly tempting, especially as their own enquires had foundered. The tension was reaching a crescendo when it was punctured by a rendition of the 1812 overture. It startled three of them but De Boer exclaimed, “That’s my ringtone!”
Pierze was catapulted into a frantic search through his pockets. He had communicators from all three of them. He tipped the mobiles plus his own on to the table, and urged De Boer to answer the call.
“Yes.” A short pause followed while De Boer asked for a pen. He scribbled one word – Atlas. “Yes sir, I understand, when?” There was another brief silence while Atlas discharged further instructions. “I see. Will you be speaking with the others or do you want me to do that?” He then tried to keep Atlas on the line while he wrote – ‘Get Freema and Silva’.
Pierze despatched the guard to bring them into the room immediately. Just as he was debriefing Freema on the situation and De Boer was nodding affirmation her ringtone sounded. She was told to answer. The same conversation occurred, but this time Atlas told her to inform Silva to attend. The arrangement was for all of them to attend the apartment. De Boer was scheduled for fifteen minutes ahead of the other two. He explained that it was highly unusual for them to be called to attend within such a s
Freema and Silva were returned to their respective rooms wondering what the hell had been going on with De Boer, who now took his lawyer, Manuel, and Pierze to see what was on his memory stick. When it was retrieved and hooked up to his laptop, he double-clicked on the picture in question. A simultaneous ‘Jesus Christ’ was uttered by Pierze and Manuel. Pierze recognised Jose-Maria Olmeda, who had been the legal counsel for Manuel’s father Antonio, who in turn was Pierze’s predecessor. “Which one is he?”
De Boer replied, “That’s Atlas, do you know him?” Before he could reply Manuel clamoured to know one of the others.
“Which one is he?” the reply meant nothing to Pierze.
“He is Medusa.” Manuel sat down and looked sheepishly at Pierze. “No it isn’t, it is Raul Ibanez.” It now did mean something to Pierze.
Olmeda had of course been one of the first casualties of Pierze’s appointment. He had been ultra-loyal to Antonio Salina and it was felt to be inviting trouble if he was asked to work for Pierze. While investigating his background at the time, it was not thought significant that Olmeda’s ancestry was rooted in Inca bloodlines. He had gravitated from post-university employment in Peru to a prestigious legal partnership in Madrid, and then to Central Security. He had obviously returned to his native Southern Iberiana following his dismissal by Pierze. Manuel was utterly embarrassed about Ibanez and now seriously concerned about his unnamed contact in Uruguay. Pierze agreed to check on him through the local police databases.
“What is his name? Manuel we have to do this.”
Reluctantly, and admitting that he had not been able to reach this man despite repeatedly calling him, Manuel uttered, “Leopold Rodriguez.” Pierze also said that once Olmeda had been apprehended he would ask Sanchez to enlist the help of Din chow Zen to get Ibanez out of Korea.
The process of apprehending Olmeda went smoothly; it did conform to expectation that a contract killer or an underling was issued instructions from his parked vehicle. When this man arrived in the apartment he got the message immediately when confronted with eight armed security personnel. A quick message to Pierze from the leader, confirming that the neutralisation of the assassin had been completed, allowed the ground force to move in on Olmeda. He tried to end his life as the vehicle was surrounded but one of the sharpshooters fired a shot into his shoulder. The rest were on him in a flash and they brought him in for medical treatment. He wasn’t going to be easy to crack.
Pierze gave Manuel the bad news. Leopold Rodriguez had been found floating face down in the Montevideo estuary two days ago. Needless to say it was treated as suspicious. The Uruguayan police would cooperate. Sanchez made the plea to the Orient leader and was promised that Ibanez would be attended to with some urgency, as it would finally clear Zen’s domain of any involvement in the attempt on Sanchez’ life.
Having patched up Olmeda’s shoulder, he was transferred from the hospital to Pierze’s office. He was accompanied by medical expertise as he had already tried to take his own life. As Ricardo Pierze sat across the table from Olmeda he noticed for the first time the ethnic features of original natives of Southern Iberiana. Although it had been known over the centuries since the Conquistadors raped the sub-continent, that there was some lingering hatred of Spanish imperialism at the time, it was never really thought to be a simmering threat. Pierze had to revise that perception as he looked down at information just received from his people in Southern Iberiana. Raul Ibanez had similar lineage to Olmeda. It seemed rather obvious now that after Olmeda’s dismissal, he had been vulnerable to extremist influence. He would see dual targets, Pierze as the person who ended his ascension to greater things, and the Iberian juggernaut regime which, in reality, still treated Southern Iberiana as a colony. Pierze also needed to extract information on two fronts. First priority was the extent of Project 3, and then the wider issue of covert uprising or even secession agenda. The expression on Olmeda’s face was a composite of disgust and contempt. Pierze decided not to fuel his deep-seated emotions at this interview. He confined his delivery to the evidence accumulated from De Boer, Freema and Silva. The photographic and computer data came next and then he paused. Sensing that Olmeda’s intention was to remain silent he shuffled through his papers and began to rise to leave. “Oh yes, I thought you may want to know that we are currently awaiting Raul Ibanez – he is on his way. More worrying for you I suppose, is the probable murder of Leopold Rodriguez. It occurred at about the same time as you left for Madrid. Pierze was alert for and did notice there was no reaction to Ibanez being hauled in, but there was undeniable shock at the Rodriguez disclosure.
Having left the interrogation room, Pierze made a further call to Zara. “I wondered if you could spare the time to visit again. I’m sorry to make this request at such short notice, but something has come up and I could benefit from your expertise. If you aren’t able to come to me I will visit you.”
Zara was cautious. “Can you tell me what it’s about?”
Pierze said it needed to be explored in an absolutely secure location. “I would have to avoid sharing such sensitive probing on communicators. If it isn’t convenient right now we can fix a time to suit you better.
Zara relaxed a little. “No, that won’t be necessary, but it would help if you came to see me.”
There was a message for Pierze to call President Sanchez. It was news he could have done without. Ibanez wasn’t in Korea, he hadn’t even stayed for the full duration of the holiday package. The border control records showed he had left after four days for Southern Africana. From there he had taken a flight to Tobruk, and then the trail went dead. Manuel was profusely apologetic to Pierze, as both of his trusted contacts had provided disinformation. He told Pierze he was going to Tobruk.
“He will be easy to spot if he’s still there and I know what he looks like better than anyone. It would help if you could get Freema to tell us where the weapons contact is in the city; that can be the only reason he’s there. I know Freema has denied direct involvement in the weapons procurement, target, delivery or use, and I’m prepared to believe that is true, but she is likely to have helped in setting up the contact. She may see this as a chance to mitigate judgement on her part in this saga, it’s worth a try.”
Pierze saw no reason not to proceed with charges against Freema and Silva directly. He did f
Freema didn’t know the arms importer in Tobruk; she did however have the go-between’s name. By revealing this, she knew she was providing evidence that her controller had asked her to obtain this conduit. Even if she didn’t know the details of the purpose, she had sought out and passed on connection to an illegal weapons merchant. Pierze passed the name of Habib Al-Ahmed to Manuel.
“I have also contacted the Tobruk police precinct and asked for their cooperation. They are more than willing to help, as we are looking for a specific person, who could actually help them bring down an arms ring. Please be ultra-careful Manuel, if Ibanez finds out you are on to him he won’t hesitate to kill you.”
Jose-Maria Olmeda was still under the impression that Ibanez was on his way into Pierze’s custody. When it was time to question him again it was thought this might be useful. Pierze began with Antonio Salina, which surprised the prisoner.
“It was not a personal reprisal when I fired you Snr. Olmeda. You know that you were a victim of circumstance. I had to cleanse the department of all those who had been close aides of Salina, as he was directly involved in the Sidonia cult. I couldn’t take the chance that you and many others were not, as there was too much at stake. It seems you may be part of a different cause at present, and as we know where the weapons came from in Tobruk, we will be able to pin this on you, and confirm it by the evidence from your moles in my department. Antonio Salina’s son Manuel is in Tobruk at present, and will, with the help of the local police bring the dealer here. It’s unlikely he will protect you by lying, especially if his incarceration would amount to the rest of his life, with the spectre of it all coming to an end in a few years from now. Speaking of the Comet itself, I could also understand you wanting to be with your family when the end comes, that is, if we cannot prevent it. I know you tried to eliminate yourself from my enquiries when you were captured, but that was a snap decision. You didn’t have time to think it through. Those with whom you are involved in this crusade wouldn’t want you to talk, and that is indirectly going to bring pressure to your family. Both your co-conspirators and your family will be worried about you, wondering where you are. That will change soon when I charge De Boer, Anwar, and Silva. Imagine what they will think when both you and Ibanez follow on. The loyalty of those executives of the cause back in Southern Iberiana will be severely tested, in the same way they will believe yours and that of Ibanez will. It’s a kind of ‘chicken game’ to decide who jumps out of the path of the train first. Your family can’t afford you to lose. I have until your arrest and charge becomes public to get your family out of there and to safety, if you can help with our enquiries. Alternatively I can assist in another way; I can let you know when your family has been kidnapped or worse. So you see, I think your wife and children need you to stay alive. I can’t believe you are a selfish man - surely you just tried to kill yourself out of misplaced loyalty. I’ll leave you to think about things. I’ll have all the evidence I need when Manuel returns. One more thing you possibly want to consider – Ibanez didn’t try to end it, and he strikes me as being more flexible when prioritising his loyalties.”
Divine Extinction by Hylton Smith / Science Fiction have rating 4.2 out of 5 / Based on38 votes