Bewildering Stories

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part 1

by Michael J A Tyzuk

I was there when Armageddon came.

Of course we did it to ourselves, and of course we saw it coming, but no one was able to stop it.

There were those of us who tried and for a while we thought that we were actually getting somewhere. It’s when you start thinking you’re making progress that you become the most complacent, and that’s what happened to the United Nations Intelligence Directorate. We got complacent. We started to see a light at the end of the tunnel, but we forgot that there was still plenty of darkness left in the world and all it would take was the smallest fraction of that darkness to shut off the light forever.

I wasn’t there to see things start, but I was there when things started to heat up. Those were the days when the world was fighting a war against terror. It wasn’t a declared war, but it was a war nonetheless, and all the nations involved treated it as such. The terrorists treated it that way too, and became more and more ruthless as a result.

It was because of the terrorists that my fellow UNID agents went forth into the world, assisting UN member governments with locating terrorist operations within their own borders and bringing them to heel. We only went where we were invited, and for the most part the countries that asked for our help were very cooperative. But America in general and the CIA in particular have always lived by their own set of rules, content in the knowledge that they can do no wrong.

They say that pride goes before a great fall. The CIA was a proud agency, and boy did they fall.

And I got to see it all happen before my very eyes.

Back in those days I went by the name Amanda Baldwin. I’ve had others since, but that’s what I was called when I was working out of Washington, back when the world really started to go crazy.

* * *

There are some disguises that people just don’t question. It isn’t worth it because some things are just plain self explanatory.

Take your typical business executive for example. These are people who dress in immaculately tailored clothing, sit behind a desk eight hours a day five days a week, and spend their time going over the kind of data that the rest of the world finds incomprehensible on the best of days but which seems to mean everything to the executives. Their speech is loaded with buzzwords like demographics and fiscal quarter and other such verbal nonsense. And their attitude is such that they truly believe that life simply could not exist if they were not doing the things that they do.

These are people who are given corporate credit cards for their efforts, a gesture which has no real meaning save that it gives them an excuse to spend outrageous sums of money without ever having to foot the bill in the end. These are people who are usually possessed of a level of brilliance typically associated with idiot savants in that while they may be brilliant at what they do their inflated self-images are so out of proportion with reality that their formidable social skills suffer because of it. When they try to convince the rest of us poor working stiffs of their perceived importance in the grand scheme of things they come across as hopelessly arrogant and self-important and the rest of the world tends to shun them for it.

There are other reasons why this class of humanity is often abhorred by the working classes, but they’re not important. What is important is that this type of person made the perfect camouflage for my current assignment.

As an agent of the United Nations Intelligence Directorate my mission in life was to use all the means at my disposal, some of which were quite considerable, to detect and identify those elements both at home and abroad that are engaged in acts of conspiracy with global terrorist groups. Once I had gathered this intelligence and passed it on to my superiors it would be used to take down those networks using military force provided by UN friendly nations.

Typically my targets fell into one of two classes. First there was the fat, bloated businessman who had no idea who his contacts were really working for but was eager to do business with them because of the incredibly high profit margin involved. Typically these businessmen were responsible for laundering the funds directed at these organizations so that when the money finally reached the intended recipients it would be impossible to determine where the funds actually came from. This class of target usually either knew they were doing something illegal and truly believed that they could never be caught, or they had no idea that what they were doing was against the law and were totally surprised when informed, usually in front of a judge and jury, of the error of their ways. Penalties for treason were harsh these days, and more often than not my targets ended up making brief appearances before firing squads.

The other type of target I ran into was typically some form of your stereotypical back woodsman with an anarchist point of view which stated simply that civilization was on the decline and the only way to fix anything was to destroy it all and start all over again. These people usually belonged to militant groups of one kind or another and were typically the first to sign on with some kind of local terrorist cell, whether they knew that was the cells agenda or not. These people were often considered by the more politically minded members of the cell as expendable and were usually tapped to perform such tasks as attempted assassinations which were doomed to failure. The only reason these people were recruited and allowed to do anything was to give agencies like the FBI and the UNID a sense of accomplishment by allowing them to pick off unimportant members of terrorist cells while the more important members hid in relative safety and continued to plot the downfall of the infidels. Despite the fact that these people were as much victims as the people they killed, they still made their brief appearances before their firing squad because treason is treason no matter what form it takes.

Today my target fell into a third category, which I had never before encountered: he was a prominent local politician who not only knew exactly what he was dealing with, but was willing to go along with their agenda because certain promises were made of wealth and personal power beyond all reckoning. Of course it also helped that we had uncovered evidence that the organization which he was actively supporting was blackmailing him.

So, why was a group of Middle Eastern terrorists actively partnering with an American Congressman? Simple, he was a means to an end, and there was no doubt in my mind that once he had outlived his usefulness the terrorists would be very quick to punish him more appropriately for his crimes. My problem was twofold. First of all while we were waiting for the terrorists to deal with him appropriately this swine would still be out there selling information to the enemy. Second of all, all acts of treason aside, that kind of justice would just take too long. I was motivated to take him down.

However, before I could take him down we needed hard evidence that he was engaged in the kinds of activity that we suspected he was engaged in. Since there was no way I could obtain that information through legal means without tipping him off of our interest and therefore risk tainting the data we did receive I was going to have to settle for using illegal means. That meant staging an information raid.

The first steps of any successful operation are the preparation stages. In my case I had several key things that I needed to do. First of all, I needed to observe my target for an extended period of time and get an idea of what his regular schedule looked like, get a feel for where he was when, and why. Next I had to determine the state of the security at his official residence and in his professional offices.

I had no real desire to go up against Congressional security arrangements if I could avoid it, despite the fact that I knew where all the holes were. Fortunately, I could handle the professional portion of my raid by remote, and that’s exactly what I had done the night before. Now I had, sitting on several disks of removable storage media scattered throughout my apartment, the entire contents of the hard drive in his computer at his Congressional office. I had not yet had a chance to go over the data stored there, but I was confident that what I needed would be there.

Today was my day for taking care of the second part of my information raid.

So there I was, sitting on a bench in a park across the street from the condominium tower where my target maintained his residence. I was dressed in an immaculately tailored skirt suit, black in color with pin stripes, a white silk blouse and black tights. At my side was an oversized purse of a type that many independent women carry when they are forced to carry more items on them than they really need to, or want to for that matter. My face was made up, and my shoulder length chestnut hair was immaculately styled. Across my lap was a professional leather portfolio, which I had opened. On one side of the portfolio what appeared to be a typical Personal Digital Assistant was affixed, with several zippered storage compartments beneath it. On the other side was a letter sized pad of lined note paper.

I was making an appearance of dividing my attention between taking notes on the PDA and writing things down on the note pad. Beneath the note pad was a zippered compartment for carrying file folders. I had the compartment opened and every now and again I made a show of taking out one of the files and referring to some kind of information contained within.

My appearance and actions were carefully crafted such that any randomly occurring passers by would take me for some kind of corporate executive who had taken a hankering to doing some work out in the sun. In other words I was pretty much invisible, as my disguise would cause people to see me without really seeing me. It was the perfect camouflage.

Though I appeared to be engrossed in my work, in actual fact my choice of this bench had not been made at random, for I had a perfect unobstructed view of the front door of the condominium tower. Indeed, while I was looking down at the portfolio making notes I could take advantage of my peripheral vision to keep tabs on the tower. I had been sitting out there for about fifteen minutes now, and I knew that I would not have to sit there for much longer; the event I was waiting for was almost at hand.

And then it happened.

A black, chauffeured sedan with government plates pulled up to the front of the building and stopped. The front door of the building opened and my target walked out and briskly climbed into the back seat of the car, which then drove off.

Show time, I thought to myself as I closed the portfolio and stuffed it into the oversized purse. I stood up, shouldered the purse, and left the park. I walked down the street and into an open fast-food restaurant, where I made for the ladies’ room and occupied one of the stalls.

My suit, shoes, and tights were off in less than a minute and were quickly replaced by a pair of navy blue workout trousers and a worn out old t-shirt which had been folded into a bundle in the oversized bag. I pulled on a pair of slouch socks and a pair of cross trainers. Then I put on a green jumpsuit which had the logo for the company which provided and maintained the condo towers security system emblazoned on it.

Suitably attired, I stepped out of the stall and made for the wash basin and counter. The contents of the oversized purse were spilled onto the counter, after which I turned the purse inside out. It now looked nothing like a purse and everything like a maintenance workers tool bag. I even replaced the strap so that it would look more appropriate. Everything I was going to need for the rest of the operation was then stuffed back into the bag, while everything which had already served its purpose was stuffed into a plastic shopping bag which I had brought with me specifically for that purpose. This included the suit and tights I had been wearing, which I though was something of a pity because I had rather liked the way I looked in that outfit. But that didn’t matter. It had been bought specifically to serve the purpose that it had served, and it was now time to jettison it. Thank God for expense accounts.

Besides, if I really wanted to badly enough after this assignment I could always go out and buy it again; only this time I’d get it cheaper. It’s one thing to spare no expense when it’s for a mission and you’re not paying for it anyway, but when shopping for oneself I find it prudent to be a wee bit frugal every now and again.

I took a moment to remove my makeup, and then messed up my hair and tied it back into a loose pony tail. I put on a beat-up baseball cap and pulled the pony tail through the loop at the back. Then I put on a pair of sunglasses and tossed a stick of chewing gum in my mouth. My disguise thus complete, I gathered up my things and left the restaurant.

The shopping bag was tied closed and stuffed into the nearest garbage can.

I crossed the street and stepped into the condo tower, stopped at the front security desk. I smiled at the duty guard as I pulled a copy of a perfect, legitimately faked work order for routine maintenance on the tenth and eleventh floor cameras and recording systems and handed it to him.

The guard handed me a security pass for the wiring closet and pointed me at an elevator. I gave him a smile that was all teeth, popped a gum bubble at him, and went into the elevator.

The wiring closet that I needed to get into was on the tenth floor, while the Congressman’s residence was on the eleventh floor. I took the elevator up to the tenth floor, making sure to keep up the appearance of the bimbo repair girl all during the trip. On the tenth floor I stepped out of the elevator and walked down the hallway to the wiring closet. I swiped the card I had been given through the reader and the dummy light on the reader flashed green. I opened the door, stepped inside, closed it behind me, and set to work.

I opened up the wiring cabinet for the cameras and set the tool bag on a work table along the other wall. I opened the bag and pulled out two tiny digital recording units. The first of these units was spliced into the tenth floor camera feed with wires and alligator clips. On the top of the recorder was a tiny LCD screen. I used the screen to verify that the corridor outside was empty and recorded several minutes of empty corridor footage. While that was recording I spliced the other recorder into the camera system for the eleventh floor and repeated the same process.

With two complete sets of empty corridor footage I rearranged my splices so that the video feed was coming from my recorders, which I had set to continuously loop their footage. I could now move between the tenth and eleventh floors at will without fear of being caught.

I stuffed the two recorders into the wiring cabinet and closed it. Then I went to the work table and extracted my leather portfolio, which I tucked into the front of my jumpsuit. A lock pick that was also in the tool bag went into one of the pockets of the jumpsuit.

I left the wiring closet and strolled down the hall to the stairwell. A quick examination revealed that my information had been correct and that there were no surveillance cameras in the stairwell. I walked up to the eleventh floor and stepped out into the corridor. I stopped outside the Congressman’s door and looked both ways down the corridor to make sure I was alone before picking the lock and entering his residence.

To be continued...

Copyright © 2003 by Michael J A Tyzuk

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