by Bill Kowaleski
|Cast of Characters and Species||Table of Contents|
Chapter 43: Speculations
Manuel Lopez Guevarra stood up. He looked down the long, beautifully lacquered table at what he had come to think of as the usual suspects, his co-conspirators. Over the past week he’d done much thinking, much consideration of the words of James Martin, much study of the situation in his country. He was no longer so sure that the people who shared the luxurious board room with him were on the right track.
“First, let me report on what our agents have discovered about this Mr. Sabio that we heard from last week.” He paused, looked each one of the attendees in the eye.
“OK,” said Ms. Schaefer. “Enough theatrics, Guevarra. Your report, please.”
“Yes, here is my report. Not one agent could find even one reference to this Mr. Sabio. Not one image of this man exists in any database, any periodical, any top-secret dossier. He does not exist.”
Guevarra sat down. For a moment the room was silent except for the steady hum of the ventilation system. The CEO of the refining company that hosted their meetings said, “So he was someone in a disguise then?”
Guevarra smiled. “I had the same thought. Yesterday I contacted Mr. Martin and asked him if he knew who Sabio really was. Do you know what he told me? Allow me to quote him, as it was a most memorable non-response. ‘It has been a genuine pleasure to know you Manuel, but you will not be seeing me again. You understand, of course, why I must go my own way, and it’s best if I know nothing more of your plans. But rest assured, all your attacks will fail.’ Now here’s the best part: ‘You are dealing with forces far beyond anything you could ever understand.’”
“Perhaps Sabio was a Cygnian in disguise,” said Director Naïr. “Maybe that’s what Martin was alluding to.”
Guevarra stared at the Director. “You brought him here. Are you telling me that you don’t know who he is, either?”
“He was presented to me by McDermott as an expert in Cygnian technologies. Their disguises, when they choose to wear them, are perfect. So he could have easily fooled me. But what is the difference if he is an alien? That’s a side issue at this point.”
Guevarra nodded. “True.” He paused, stared at the ceiling, then looked down and said, “Martin told me one more thing, Mr. Naïr. And it fully supports your theory. He said, ‘Someone wishes to speak to your group. He has a most interesting proposition. I suggest you hear him out.’ We must travel to Upper Zion to hear this proposition. What do you all think?”
Ms. Schaefer rose. “I think that we haven’t sufficiently tested them. I think more attacks are needed first. I don’t intend to surrender after the first skirmish. There’s always time for negotiations later.”
“True,” said Director Naïr. “But later, their offer may not be as good.”
“We can hurt them!” said Ms. Schaefer. “They’ll want to give us something to leave them alone, but only if we hurt them. We may have killed some of them already—”
“Oh yes, that,” interrupted Guevarra. “Still no independent corroboration of Cygnian deaths in our attack. We really don’t know what happened, and our intelligence community contacts are strangely unable to help us. My opinion is this: No Cygnians were killed in that attack, and we didn’t hurt them at all. Given that, I want to hear their proposition now. Another embarrassing failure isn’t going to help us.”
“You are speculating!” Ms. Schaefer’s voice was shrill and angry.
“As are you,” Guevarra said, his voice quiet and level. “We need facts right now, and hearing their proposal will provide us with some.”
“If you are right,” said Ms. Shaefer, “if we didn’t hurt them, then they must have known the attack was coming. Martin must have told them about it.”
The table was silent for a long time. Finally, Director Naïr spoke, “Or their defenses are so good that they didn’t need to know. If that is true, we’d better listen to their proposal.”
Guevarra nodded. “Yes, but there’s the matter of all those workers at an off-site at the exact time we’d planned the attack. I can’t get that out of my mind. It convinces me that Martin broke his promise to us.”
Abdullah Naïr looked around the table. Their eyes all said that they felt the same.
Ms. Schaefer was surveying the table at the same time. “I think we all agree what we have to do.”
“Say it, Ms. Schaefer,” said Director Naïr. His voice was tense, too loud.
“Mr. Martin must be punished for his treason. And there is only one possible punishment.”
Abdulla Naïr stood. “I will not be a party to murder. In fact, I will not be a party to any more of this nonsense. Add me to your list if you must. I’m leaving.” He turned to his brother. “Are you with them or with me?”
Saeed Naïr stood, walked to the door, opened it, and continued into the hall. Abdullah followed.
Copyright © 2019 by Bill Kowaleski