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Untitled, unfinished book of mine - first ten chapters


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#1 ClockworkGhost

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Posted 19 February 2015 - 06:48 AM

Kelly slowly opened her eyes. It was most definitely day time, though the exact hour was elusive. Fully clothed, Kelly crawled out from underneath the blanket that someone had draped over her and surveyed the mess that was her lounge.

There had been a party, that much was sure - something big and moving, most likely, though Kelly couldn't for the life of her remember much of it. She scanned the most breakable things, of which there were very few, making sure that nothing too important had been broken. The standby light on her TV was still there, so they hadn't demolished that at least, but shards of pottery suggested that a couple of small figurines had met their end.

Sighing, Kelly set about cleaning up the mess, shovelling empty beer cans and pre-mix bottles into a black plastic bin bag that then went outside with all the other bin bags, to lie in state, waiting for a future where rubbish was again collected for free.

Catching sight of herself in the mirror, she cringed at how wild and unruly her long, dyed black hair looked, vowing never to fall asleep on the couch in future. For now it would have to stay that way, for she had driven herself into being motivated to clean, and taking a break to comb her hair would just be procrastination of the highest order.

Next Kelly emptied the ashtray, hoping beyond hope that there would be an unfinished joint somewhere, but fate chose this moment to deny her such a nicety, and there wasn't one - not even the smallest roach. This was extremely surprising, as basically everyone Kelly knew smoked weed, though with the scarceness of good weed and the glut of cannabis oil people were now smoking their roaches until not even ash remained.

Finally Kelly checked the contents of the fridge, only to find that the party last night had claimed all her butter, a loaf of bread, and a jar of jam – not too bad, and it could have been a lot worse; Kelly had been a part of other parties that would clean out all of the food from a kitchen like a swarm of piranhas.

As nobody else in the flat had emerged from their rooms, even though it was almost 2pm according to the wall clock, Kelly decided that this was enough cleaning and went back to her room to read. Let someone else deal with the remainder of the mess. There wasn’t much else to clean, truth be told, but Kelly had had enough of housework for now, and was happy to climb into bed and escape into the fantasy realm her book promised.

Maybe half an hour later, just when Kelly was firmly engrossed in the trials and tribulations of a group of fantasy knights and their attempts to catch and ride dragons, she heard someone else stir in the flat. At this point it would have taken a crowbar to prise Kelly away from her book, so she ignored the sounds and slipped back into the tale.

Seven, one of Kelly’s flatmates, walked past her closed door on his way to the kitchen. Seven, unlike Kelly, could remember the party the night before as he did not drink, much preferring to stay sober and laugh at all the alcoholic mishaps his friends endured whilst drunk. Seven’s drug of choice was technology. He had studied a dual degree at the local university in computer science and engineering, and his room bore testimony to this, as every spare space apart from that where he slept on a rolled up bedroll in a sleeping bag was infested with half demolished computer hardware.

Completely ignoring the mess in the lounge and its spill over into the kitchen, Seven grabbed a bottle of milk from the fridge and poured himself a glass. He didn’t know whose milk this was, the flat having a strong policy on everyone buying their own supplies and cooking their own meals, but he didn’t really care – other flatmates regularly pinched his cheese, slicing it thin so as not to arouse suspicion, but he could tell that this theft had been done as he routinely measured the cheese with a ruler each day to see if it had been shaved.

Seven felt like he was slumming it here, and was very irritated by the fact that he was unemployed, what with his two degrees and self-taught experience with computer repair. Sevens problem, a problem he couldn’t recognise himself, was two-fold. He refused to apply for entry level jobs and he radiated an air of arrogance that came out in in the handful of interviews he had secured over the previous year. Seven just knew he was better than other applicants for positions, and in many cases was much more skilled than the people interviewing him, so instead of a sterling career in computer hardware design he was left unemployed, on a benefit, and in a world where roving parties of drunken hooligans invaded his home.

Not seeing any reason to stay in the communal areas of the flat, Seven then returned to his own room again. He had been working on building a monitoring suite, complete with remote cameras and movement activated recording, which he planned to rig up in his room so as to monitor if anyone went into it while he was away. Seven wasn’t paranoid, he was just very seriously into protecting his things, plus this would be a challenge. He had all the parts; old cameras bought for next to nothing from a shop that sold junked tech, other hardware being cannibalised from amongst his collection. No, compared to daytime television, his experiments were much more interesting and were bearing fruit. The motion sensor drivers would need to be re-written as they were incompatible with the rest of the hardware, but other than that he could see nothing that would stop him from completing the task.

Just then there was a knock at the door. Seven considered just ignoring it, as seldom were visitors for him, Seven mostly keeping to himself and his tech, but the knock was insistent and the way the person knocking just kept pounding on the door suggested it was something important. Eventually Seven gave up pretending that nobody was home and opened the door. Standing outside, her hand raised to knock once more, was a short punk looking woman who he didn’t immediately recognise, but assumed was one of Kelly’s friends.

“It’s Christchurch,” the short punk said, her face contorted in a grimace of sheer dread. “Christchurch is no more – it’s been completely destroyed by an enormous earthquake. The Cathedral has been smashed and, from the looks of it, most of the town centre has been levelled. All my family are down there, what am I going to do?”

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#2 ClockworkGhost

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Posted 19 February 2015 - 06:49 AM

Dougal was tired and wished he could go back to bed. Long international flights always did this to him, even though he flew first class. He knew however that this feeling of intense jet lag would pass quickly, and within the space of the weekend he would adapt to the time zone, just in time to fly out to another destination.

In terms of airports, Wellington airport didn’t promise anything different to the hundreds of other airports he had ended up in over his time as a courier for the building giant Toll Brothers Incorporated. In the end, Dougal picked up a bottle of Scotch whiskey that promised to be his personal companion whilst here in New Zealand, paid with an EFTPOS card under the name of David Jones, the same alias he had travelled under from New York, and made for the exit. Dougal always travelled light – one cabin bag was all he ever needed for his courier work as he was seldom in the same place for a week at a time, so he had no luggage to collect and then manoeuvre to a waiting taxi, something he had always hated when he had travelled for long periods of time in the past.

The only thing that mattered here was the flashdrive that was attached to his wallet, safely secured in the front right pocket of the jeans he wore. Dougal had no idea what was on the flashdrive, but it was definitely important, and had required a personal delivery, the information obviously too important to trust to the secrecy of the World Wide Web.

Dougal never asked questions, but the increased frequency of flashdrives, hard drives, and once an entire laptop he had been carrying around the world for Toll suggested that something serious and secretive was taking place, and he was simply the messenger of choice.

Dougal had enough forged passports to travel unnoticed, the frequency of his travels drawing no attention, much in contrast to the degree of interest Customs would have in him for his constant travelling if he used just one. The other forged documents safely stashed in a safe back at home – home that just felt like another hotel bedroom, as he was seldom there for a night, using his home base as a storage point for a substantial number of illegal documents, the passports included. The safe also held letterhead from three large companies that he used to write himself access into areas that would otherwise be closed to him, five birth certificates, three University degrees from a prominent Ivy League college, and certification to drive a car in America, the United Kingdom, and South Africa, all under assumed aliases. Other than that, the safe contained a cut down .38 revolver, the barrel cut back to protrude only slightly out from the cylinder, a gun he kept on him at all times when he was back State-side, mostly as protection from the muggers that television and radio warned could strike at any time.

Leaving the airport and not really thinking straight because of the jet-lag hangover, Dougal collided with a rather run down looking punk kid who also appeared to not be looking where he was going.

“Watch where youre going, you stupid feral,” Dougal snapped. “You could have knocked me flat.”

“Damn, sorry man, I wasn’t looking where I was going. Nothing broken though, so no need to get all worked up about it,” The punk replied, running a fingerless-gloved hand through his matted hair. “Sorry though, I have to go. Sorry about crashing into you again, I really should have been looking where I was going.”

Somewhat placated by the quickness and readiness of this feral to apologise for what had obviously been his fault, Dougal pushed the punk kid aside and walked towards the main doors, out of the airport terminal and in to a stream of taxis. Jumping in the back of the first one on the rank, Dougal directed the driver to the Hotel Intercontinental, and the taxi was away, leaving the airport grounds.

Dougal quietly dozed in the passenger seat of the taxi as it sped past the airport, past Hataitai, and into the tunnel that led into the city. Sensing a good fare, the taxi driver ensured he was driving ten kilometres under the speed limit at all times as his passenger snored softly on the chair beside him.

Finally they arrived at the Hotel Intercontinental, the taxi driver having taken Dougal for a very scenic tour of Wellington, this being lost on him due to his being asleep. Snapping awake as the car stopped outside the hotel, Dougal reached for his wallet, only to find it wasn’t there. Blind panic starting, Dougal quickly checked his other pockets in vain, but it was no use – the wallet just wasn’t there, and that meant the flashdrive was missing too. Hands trembling and sweat beading on his forehead, Dougal turned to the taxi driver.

“My wallet has been stolen, probably in the airport. I had my wallet in duty free, but now its gone.” Dougal explained.
The taxi driver had heard this before, and knew that the airport was a breeding ground for pickpockets. That said, this passenger owed him a fair bit, a fact that he loudly brought to Dougals attention.
Reaching in to his top pocket, hands still shaking as he tried to control his heartbeat, Dougal fished out a company card and gave it to the driver.

“This is my company – Aerospace Aeronautics. They have offices in Wellington and will pay the fare if you call them up. Im sorry I don’t have the money myself to pay you, but I’ll let my office know I’ve been robbed and they will pay you instead.”

Taking the card, the taxi driver knew that there was little he could do otherwise. Being an over-stayer, he avoided the police whenever possible, much preferring to resolve issues himself. In this case it seemed pointless to press this passenger for full payment, as this too would create a scene and might attract attention from the police, this fact compounded by the hotels close proximity to the Wellington Police station, and a common path for beat police to take into the city proper.

As the taxi driver grunted and handled the business card like it might explode at any minute, Dougal slammed the passenger door shut and entered the hotel. His first thought was that he must call Toll Brothers and let them know of the situation, then he would try to check into his room with no identifying documents to verify who he was. But first, the phone.

Calling collect, Dougal placed a call to Toll Brothers. Angela, the receptionist, accepted the charges like she had been instructed to do so for all Toll couriers, and quickly put Dougal through to Mr Williams, his supervisor.

Alex Williams, board member and head of Logistics, took the call in his spacious office, sitting back in his heavily padded office chair. Alex was a keen collector of taxidermy animals, and strewn around the office were some of his most treasured pieces. A bear stood in one corner, fully erect, and on the shelves a collection of birds stared out at him from their glass eyes.

“Dougal, how are you?” asked Alex, knowing full well that if his courier was calling this early into his assignment that something terrible must have happened. He wasn’t to be proven wrong as a breathless courier proved his concern to not be unfounded.

“It’s the flashdrive, Sir. It’s been stolen.”

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#3 ClockworkGhost

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Posted 19 February 2015 - 06:49 AM

Matthew smiled to himself as he collected his motorbike from out of the car park. It had been a good haul of wallets today, five in total, some of which had even had money in them – something that was becoming much more unlikely in the days of EFTPOS and ATM machines. All up, Matthew had pocketed more than his weekly benefit payment, and he was looking forward to getting very high on the proceeds.

Airport security was a joke – Matthew had picked someones pocket almost right in front of a security guard and he hadn’t so much batted an eyelid. The truth of the matter was that there were just too few security staff, too few cameras to really make much of a difference, plus the security staff were on the lookout for suspected terrorists, not simple pick pockets.

Paying the toll for parking in the airport with a stolen twenty dollar note, Matthew pulled out of the car park and on to the highway back into town. Enjoying the ride, Matthew smiled to himself and congratulated himself on a job well done.
Twenty minutes later, a twenty minutes spent zipping past other commuters caught up in the early evening traffic, Matthew pulled up into Kelly’s’ driveway. Securing his bike to a metal post in the back garden, Matthew ascended the stairs and rapped his knuckles on the glass door. After what seemed like forever, the door was opened by Seven.

Seven didn’t like punks as a rule, especially ones that seemed to fit the stereotype of Mohawk, band jacket and patched trousers, and as far as he was concerned Matthew fitted the bill perfectly.

“What do you want, Matt?” he asked, standing in the doorway so Matthew couldn’t just breeze past him into the lounge.

“Kelly in?” replied Matthew, scratching his mated hair with one fingerless gloved hand.

“Yeah, she’s in her room, I think” answered Seven, moving out of the way to let Matthew in. As far as he was concerned, as long as Matthew wasn’t just going to sit on the couch and expect Seven to keep him company then it was okay with him.

Matthew brushed past Seven with a smile. He had no idea that Seven detested him so – he believed that he was some kind bon vivant and everyone in his little social circle couldn’t help but love him.

Walking down the corridor towards the bedrooms, Matthew knocked on the door to Kelly’s room.

“Who is it?” came the reply, albeit in a tired and sleepy voice.

“It’s Matt here, I have money, wanna get high?” Matthew asked, his smile audible. He knew the answer though before Kelly even said anything – nobody he knew would turn down an evening of smoking a big bag of weed in his friendship group.

“Yeah, okay,” replied Kelly. “Come on in”.

Matthew opened the door to see Kelly sitting on her bed, looking quite dishevelled.

“Have you just woken up Kel?” asked Matthew, “It’s like almost six PM”

“Yeah, there was a party here last night. I have no idea when it finished because I just coma’ed out on the sofa and am pretty damn lucky someone didn’t draw all over me!” Kelly laughed. She had known Matthew for a long time and felt fully relaxed in his company, a stark contrast to Sevens feelings for the man. “Come in, Matt. Sit yourself down and tell me more about what you’ve been up to.”

“Yeah, well I’m just interested in getting really fucked up this evening – do you have any weed left or shall we get some?” Matthew grinned, knowing full well that Kelly wouldn’t have any left over as she only bought in small amounts, enough for a single session of smoking.

“Nah, we’ll have to get Paul to get us some – I’m all out,” replied Kelly as she clambered over her bed towards her dresser table and the comb it held.

Kelly deftly combed her shoulder length hair, wincing as the comb found all the knots and tangles. Matthew watched her with what he believed was a wry smile.

“You really should go for a Mohawk, Kel. Mohawks never need combing – all I ever do is spray mine with spray paint and then iron it, looks awesome and comes up like a metal blade. Bugger all this primping and combing I say.”

“Nah, I prefer my hair the way it is thanks – Mohawks are just so cliché”

Matthew pulled the five wallets out of his spacious array of pockets – two out of his ratty patched jeans and three out of his Extreme Noise Terror patched jacket.

“Why didn’t you just dump those wallets? Why do you always bring the wallets with you rather than just dumping them in the first bin you see?” Gasped Kelly as she got to work on a serious matted patch of hair,”Argh, stupid hair – what the hell are all these mated patches? Did someone pour beer into my hair or something?”

“It’s all part of the game, Kel. I keep the wallets like big game hunters keep trophies. I’ve got a whole draw full of them back home. You should come and see it sometime – I have quite a few.”

“I’d watch it if I were you then,” grinned Kelly. “One of these days you’re going to get caught and all those wallets are going to make excellent evidence when the police search your flat. Anyway, do you want to call Paul or shall I?”

“Could you please give him a call? I don’t have any money left on my phone, plus I’ve got this flashdrive I want Seven to have a look at.”

Kelly smiled and reached for her phone as Matthew stood and walked out her bedroom, back down the hall way and into the living room. Seven had reheated a three Day old bowl of soup that he had been savin g, and was seated in a chair watching TV.

“Anything interesting on?” asked Matthew.

“Yeah, theres this singing and dancing contest – X-Factor, I think it’s called. I only just turned it on,” answered Seven, giving none of his attention to the waste of skin he considered Matthew to be.

“Oh, right – my flatmate always watches that. He says that its really funny in the beginning, but as time goes on it gets quite dull,” replied Matthew as he took a seat on the edge of the sofa. “Seven, I have this flashdrive I found, I was hoping you could take a look at it and see whats on it. Im hoping theres something good, something saleable maybe even. Could you do that for me please?”

Sighing loudly, Seven held his hand out, still not giving Matthew much attention.

“Okay, fine. Just give me the flashdrive and I’ll crack it open later on, when this show has finished maybe”

Matthew took the red and black striped flashdrive out of an inner pocket of his jacket and handed it over. Seven then slipped the small flashdrive into his shirt pocket to look at later, when he was by himself and could escape into his computers once more. Damned if he was going to rush, as the flashdrive more than likely contained nothing of any real interest to anyone except its original owner. Why Matthew couldn’t just slip the flashdrive into a computer and access it that way was beyond him.

Matthew then stood, thanked Seven to which he received a grunt in reply, and returned to Kellys room once again.

“Right, it’s all on,” Kelly said as he returned to his seat on the edge of her bed, “Paul is on his way over.”

Stripping the wallets of the cash they held, getting a small pile of twenty’s and tens out of them, Matthew smiled at Kelly once again.

“Yeah, let’s get seriously fucked up,”

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#4 ClockworkGhost

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Posted 19 February 2015 - 06:54 AM

Just like Kelly and Mathew were waiting for Paul to arrive with the drugs, chatting about what they should do whilst high tonight, two other people were waiting in the foyer of the Hotel Intercontinental the next morning, waiting for the courier to appear. Upon hearing of the loss of the flashdrive, Toll Brothers had immediately contacted its branch office in Auckland, who had in turn flown down to Wellington two elite specialists in dealing with this situation.

The two specialists looked so different that their sitting together caught the eyes of a sizeable number of other hotel guests as they either moved through the foyer to the elevators that would take them to their rooms, or came from their rooms out into the foyer. The first, a huge, hardened looking scar-faced man dressed all in denim was going by the name of Ethan at this time, whilst the other, a male-model look-alike was dressed in the finest tailored suit and went by the name of Dan. Both were wearing expensive sunglasses, making them stand out even further in the grey dawn. Dan and Ethan completely ignored the passers-by gazes as they waited for the courier.

Maybe fifteen minutes later, Dougal descended from his room. The two specialists, both having seen pictures of the courier while taking in the hastily assembled reports, quickly moved to intercept him, ending up with the terrified courier cowering in fear in a corner, just outside, the specialists blocking his exit fully.

“Mr Sanderson, we are not here to kill you, we are specialists in tactical retrieval from Toll Brothers. We want exactly what you want - the flashdrive you lost to come back to us, safe and sound,” started Dan, playing with a hotel coaster he had picked up while waiting.

“Yeah, and we need you more alive right now. So let’s get the car and go,” finished Ethan.

“Wait, why do you need me then? You’ll obviously have read my report on what happened? It was such an obvious pick pocket ruse, but I was so jetlagged I could hardly think straight,“ answered Dougal.

“It’s okay, Mr Sanderson – things like this happen, and we have ways to fix most problems, both in person or through technological means. That flashdrive you were so recently in possession of will, as soon as it’s used, send out a GPS position. That person who stole from us all merely has to plug the flashdrive into any internet capable computer and we will find out where they are.”

“Oh, that’s good to hear, “answered Dougal, visibly relieved. “I knew we would have a backup plan or have some way of tracking down that flashdrive, cause we’re the good guys, right? We don’t let a couple of thieving punks get in the way, do we?”

Meanwhile, half way across town, Seven had just inserted the flashdrive into one of his computers. In theory, his nine computers should be running in tandem, much like a sort of supercomputer grid, yet Seven had not worked out the final few kinks in the system, and it was still failing to run.

Seven opened the flashdrive to see two files were loaded onto it. One was entitled ‘Assembler’, the other ‘Read Me’. A probing attempt to open the first file was met with a password request while the Read Me file opened up no problems, the flashdrive automatically sending the GPS and IP address of Sevens’ computer right to Ethan, Dan and Dougal.
Not even realising what had just happened, Seven had started to try to crack the password on the Assembler file. Knowing that the code was an eight digit string, he knew it would just be blind luck if it opened anytime soon, so he got a subroutine to operate the code cracker as he began to scan the Read Me file, if only due to a complete lack of other things to do.

The Read Me file read like some kind of instruction manual for a device known simply as an Assembler. The file went on to explaining how the device could re-create any object other than itself on some sort of mechanical construction line where old wrecked cars could be brought back as new, out to even rebuilding material and parts for builders to put into new buildings, where the older building had been deemed unfit to rebuild.

Assembler tech, it seemed, as he read on about it whilst also opening a second page to search the web for pages of rumours concerning Assemblers, was the perfect construction yard. Seven also found a forum dedicated to Assembler tech rumours and speculation that provided some interesting and seemingly legitimate information. It seemed that one of the scientists that worked on the Assembler had gone rogue, the concept of a machine that could produce damn near anything if it had the right code not sitting well with his conscience.

Assemblers were pretty damn big, some industrial Assemblers being as big as a complete factory while personal assemblers were also conceivable it would seem, these being just as big as a garage. Assemblers ran off of templates. You simply fed a template of a car into it and it would spend up to the next four hours or so weaving the skeletons of old wrecked cars into strands of steel which were then moulded somehow into the frame and chassis of new cars, ready to meet with the interior robots, the windscreen and car windows robots, and the robots that fitted tyres. And it wasn’t limited to cars – Assemblers could assemble anything small enough to fit inside the Assembler – clothes, bags, shoes, anything you ever wanted, except more Assemblers.

It personally reminded Seven of a completely robotic production line, just without any waste, but instead of having to use up resources the production line ran on waste, and at this time both not in use and subject to several large lawsuits against its use being filed by representatives of people who vehemently spoke against the full automation of technical production lines in fear of some ‘mega computer’ starting up an army as it became self- aware apparently, and people who didn’t want large scale production that removed the whole human element from its process. At this stage it appeared that Assemblers hadn’t even been tested, and the Assemblers that existed had been left switched off pending a go ahead from the American and British courts.

This whole concept of a self-aware AI taking over an Assembler and producing an army of killer robots made Seven smile. He couldn’t believe some of the ridiculous things that people believed in. No, the greater threat he could see an Assembler being used for was to set up production lines, flood other markets with Assembled merchandise at a completely impossible price to beat, thereby sending that country’s economy into a spin, or at least driving it into the ground, especially if they had a whole factory of Assemblers, all working twenty four hours a day, seven days a week producing whatever the demanding public wanted. An Assembler effectively made a country into a self-contained state, destroying international trade in computer hardware, automobiles, oil products and many more.

Where a country relied on export profits, an Assembler in the wrong hands could eliminate the need to trade at all. Yes, that’s the problem, thought Seven, as soon as one owner of an Assembler gets a template for making more Assemblers, then we can really kiss goodbye to a global economy. America could create an unlimited supply of oil, anybody would be able to create nuclear weapons if they had the right template and the right core parts for the warhead, there was just so much you could do with one of these things. But still, as far as the internet forums and sites dedicated to the Assembler paranoia advised, Assemblers remained non-functional as a result of legal battles across the globe. Seven smiled at this, thinking to himself that Assemblers were probably running somewhere, just out of sight of the public eye.
Assemblers could not assemble living things either, it would appear. Yes, they could assemble animals and fruit, but the animals were always dead and the fruit wouldn’t grow, but would wither into nothing but dust in a short time frame.
Marvelling at the amount of information out there concerning Assemblers that he could find, especially seeing as they remained theoretically inoperable until all the legal arguments had died down and Assemblers weren’t the big bogey man they were now, Seven checked the code cracker. Still no joy, though he wasn’t really expecting it to work, and so he unplugged the flash drive and returned it to hit shirt pocket.

Just then there was a knock at the door. Seven ignored it – it wouldn’t be anyone he knew, just another dirty punk or drug abuser, or both. The knock came again, much louder and more forcefull this time. Seven considered going and abusing the hell out of whoever it was when he suddenly heard glass breaking. With this, Seven quickly dashed to his bedroom window, threw it open and jumped out into the garden, hitting the ground running.

As he ran he looked back, not seeing anybody as he rounded the corner of the house next door and out of sight of his flat. At this point he stopped to take a breath, sprinting away from people who would break and enter his home not being something he did all that often. Feeling for the flashdrive in his pocket, he set off across town to the safety of one of his friends places.

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#5 ClockworkGhost

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Posted 19 February 2015 - 06:56 AM

“We need guns,” opined Dougal. “This is getting much bigger than the search and seizure operation we started with. We should report in to the Wellington handler and get some firearms.”

Ethan agreed with Dougal – this had gone from simply getting a flashdrive off a couple of punks to actually having to scare people. Guns, in his opinion, answered everything, and it was a tough civilian who wouldn’t get frightened staring down the barrel of a handgun.

Dan, on the other hand, didn’t like using guns. He was trained in a variety of martial arts, and preferred to get close and grapple people, finding that what could be achieved with guns could equally be achieved by breaking someones arms. Outnumbered though, and him being the only hand to hand fighter of the three, he had to agree that it was the best option right now, and the acquisition of guns must be the next thing to do.

A call to the Toll Brothers offices in Auckland quickly put the three of them in contact with Tolls representative in Wellington, the representative calling them straight back after they left a message on his machine. Ethan let the representative know what they needed, and was directed to an address. The house was luckily quite close, and it only took the three of them fifteen minutes to walk there.

The Toll representative, a small dark skinned man who didn’t offer them his name, was waiting for them at the address. This obviously not being the place he lived at full time due to the complete lack of furniture and other things you would expect to find at a residential home. What there was though was a large suitcase.

“So you need guns. Have you tried using less obvious means to get the flashdrive back? “Asked the representative. “Have you tried to merely just grab this guy off the street for interrogation?”

“Yeah, its not turning out like that at all. Theyre too slippery to catch, and we need guns to pin them down to one place when we find them, rather than the big noise theyre liable to make if we just grab them.”

“I seriously don’t think you’ve thought this through. Guns make just as big a commotion, plus they often result in targets getting armed too. Much better to use more discreet methods, rather than going all Rambo and relying on firepower, but who am I to question your methods – you guys have been long enough in the business to know how to get what youre after, and if its guns you want then its guns you shall have.” With this he opened the suitcase, revealing a veritable oasis of firearms, from handguns to submachine guns.

Ethan was in gun heaven – he simply loved firearms, and had quite a collection back home in the States. Just like a young child at Christmas, he almost ran over to the suitcase. Dougal and Dan followed him over to where he was already checking out a nice big automatic.

“Desert Eagle,” Said the small dark man as Ethan admired the weapon. “That’ll kill anything youre liable to come across, including armoured targets if you’re running armour piercing slugs, like you obviously would do if youre planning on taking on armed police officers. Hollowpoints are much more practical, but when you own a Desert eagle youre probably not thinking practical.”

“Hey, who said anything about taking on armed police?” Questioned Dan. “Were trying to keep this small, just happens that the people we’re after are as slippery as weasels on grease. All I want in a handgun is something I can scare people with – like a .38 or a nice discreet automatic. We don’t need machine guns and armour piercing slugs, we just need something that says ‘I’m serious, and if you don’t want to get hurt you’ll do what I say’.”

“Nothing says that like a Desert Eagle though,” answered Ethan. “And we really don’t know who we’re going up against here. They could well be armed themselves, you cant trust these alternative types to not have a pistol under their pillow or a shotgun under the bed.”

“This isn’t America – people simply don’t have the same number of firearms here in New Zealand. While youre likely to get shot in America if you go into someones house unannounced, here shootings only occur when the gangs are involved.”

“And how do we know that the gangs aren’t already involved? These people who stole that flashdrive might well be linked to the gangs. Then we’ll be in a firefight, and where’s your nice little pistol going to come in to play there?”

Finally Dan decided on a Colt .45, mostly because he loved the way people looked in movies when they had one, and
Dougal chose a sawn off shotgun for if things got close and nasty. The shotgun was cut down enough to fit under his jacket on a shoulder sling, the other two choosing pancake holsters that held the guns tight against their ribs, under Dan’s jacket and Ethan’s shirt. Ammunition for the weapons was also attached to the holsters, Ethan going with full armour piercing rounds while Dan chose hollowpoints. Dougal simply pocketed half a dozen rounds after loading the shotgun with two cartridges.

“This is going to destroy my suit, you realise. Tailored suits aren’t designed to conceal firearms under them. Know how much this suit cost me? You really don’t want to know, it’s that much.” Complained Dan. “I’m just saying that pointing a gun at someone better work, otherwise you owe me a new suit, okay?”

Meanwhile, across town, Seven quickly walked to his friend Sunil’s home, knowing that there was nothing to trace him there left in his room for whoever broke in to find. Sunil would be at home because he was always at home tinkering with his computer – the guy was so xenophobic he only rarely went outside. Sunil existed through the use of several delivery services, one of these being groceries, and made his money by building complex websites under both government and private contract.

Sunil came to the door quickly when Seven knocked, opening the door just wide enough to check who wanted to come in. Seeing Seven, Sunil reluctantly opened the door to let him in.

“I’m expecting a pizza,” he stated, “which is lucky for you, otherwise I wouldn’t have answered.”

“Well its good you did,” answered Seven. “I have an interesting piece of tech for you to open. It has an eight character code embedded in it, and if anyones going to crack it it will be you.”

Obviously flattered by this comment, Sunil took the flashdrive off of Seven and motioned him to follow him to his room, past the stacked pizza boxes and other rubbish that otherwise took up residence in his flat.

“Why don’t you just throw all these away?” Asked Seven. “It cant be healthy living in a house full of refuse.”

“I dunno, I’ve just never gotten around to it” came the reply.

Sunil’s room resembled Sevens in regards to the pile of hardware it contained, but his were solely for parts. Sunil was building the most powerful computer he could out of cobbled together hardware, but the result seemed to be the same – neither man had any formal training in hardware maintenance, so their projects were more hit and miss affairs, backed up by YouTube videos watched when things got tricky.

Sunil inserted the flashdrive into his one fully working computer, and opened it to reveal the Assembler program and the Read Me file, just as Seven had done before him. Clicking on the Assembler file, he was met with the same password protect screen.

“Whats the password?” Inquired Sunil.

“No idea. That’s why I brought this to you.” Seven answered.

“Okay then, let’s see if this can stand up to a full on onslaught of data,” Sunil stated, to himself more than to Seven. “Assuming that this file doesn’t have a set number of times you can enter a password, hitting it with eight thousand passwords per second should do it.”

Sunil opened an application on his computer that Seven had never seen before – a code cracker that bore the American Governments watermark on the front page. Seven knew that Sunil frequented some shady places online, but he couldn’t help but whistle as the codecracker got to work.

“Where did you get that?” He asked, gazing in wonder as the code cracker sped up even faster than the frame rate on Sunil’s computer could handle. Sunil minimised the window and let the code cracker do its stuff.

“I found this program on the NSA database,” giggled Sunil. “I put a back door into their site that I still think hasn’t been found. My code breaker simply accesses their code cracking computers, piggy backing in on legitimate requests. The NSA obviously run so many password protected files through their cracker that one or two requests from outside go unnoticed. Plus, I’m a genius and theyre government employees – theyre looking for the obvious in back doors, I just don’t even show up in their records – simply in, attach to a legitimate request, then out again as soon as its finished, erasing any trace as it does so.”

“So I’m to believe that you have direct access to the NSA’s super computer? Pull the other one, its got bells on.”

“I’m not asking you to believe, I’m asking you to watch as I crack the code on this here flashdrive.”

With that, the window that was running the code crack reopened itself, showing that the computer had broken the code. Sunil clapped his hands with glee, turning to smile at Seven.

“There we go. Twenty minutes tops – that hardly even merited an attempt. I thought you said this was hard work? Lets see whats in that file then that’s so damn important.”

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#6 ClockworkGhost

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Posted 19 February 2015 - 06:57 AM

“So do you think its true then, that the big Christchurch earthquake was man-made to test the Assembler? People died in that earthquake, lots of people. We’re the good guys, we don’t drop buildings on top of people,” questioned Dougal once they had left the Toll representative and were on the way to hire a car in an attempt to move through the city quicker.

“I wouldn’t put it past some of the Research and Development people – some of them are extremely heartless when it comes to civilian lives. I reckon New Zealand is simply a testing area for Assembler tech and Christchurch was the best city to demolish in this instance,” answered Ethan, who was feeling much safer now he had a handgun.

“How would they have triggered a quake like that though? Its not like you can just press a button and cause one, earthquakes are the plates moving up against one another, so how do you cause that?”

“No idea, but I’d guess that they would have drilled down deep into the earth, either near or straight on top of a fault line, and then packed the hole with tons of explosives, then KABOOM! Instant earthquake.”

“No, I don’t think that’s possible, but if the Christchurch earthquake was in fact made by Toll then it would explain why youre here, Dougal. Toll needs those templates to run their Assembler, and its obviously easier for us to get them back off these punks rather than have Toll send another courier with another flashdrive, plus that flashdrive you lost probably contained an awful lot of delicate information that we don’t want to get into the papers, or back to the government.” Dan stated, butting in to a conversation he thought was pointless. As far as he was concerned, it wasn’t their job to question Toll’s motives, they had been hired to get the flashdrive back, no questions asked, in his eyes.

Walking through the car sales yard, past a good selection of older cars and vans, Ethan walked up to the sales man, it being obvious who was running the place mostly due to there being nobody else there today.

“Sirs, can I help you? We have a very good selection of cars. Excellent cars, never break down, AA tested,” asked the salesman as he took Ethans hand and pumped it up and down, the big smile never once leaving his face.

“We’re after a van, something plain and simple, low cost, low mileage, reliable – something to get around in and to carry stuff in the back, you know what I mean?” answered Ethan.

“Youre in luck, my friend,” the salesman said, quickly moving to the corner of the yard, the three in tow as he motioned them towards an old looking pale blue Morris Minor panel-van. The van had no windows in the storage area, Ethan noticed, this being a definite plus as far as he was concerned.

“This beauty is exactly the right car for you, my friend – hard working, reliable, and able to carry lots of signage for your business. Its done a few kilometres, but then again who hasn’t? Plus its cheap at nine thousand dollars, so what have you got to lose?” The salesman beamed.

Not wanting to waste any time haggling or looking at other vehicles, and buoyed up by the fact he had a Toll credit card and almost unlimited expenses, Ethan agreed to the price, shook the salesman’s hand and followed him into the office as Dan and Dougal waited back outside, leaning up against their new car.

Finally, Ethan emerged out of the office, having declined a whole raft of optional extras, from full valet cleaning to leather seat covers. He walked back over to the panel-van, motioning Dougal and Dan to get in. Dan immediately jumped in the passenger side door while Dougal was left to climb into the back, which he did so.

“Is the flashdrive still broadcasting its GPS from the same location?” Asked Ethan as he pulled out of the car yard and on to the road.

“Yep, still the same place – looks like we might be in luck this time,” answered Dan, playing with the vans radio. “We have guns and transport now, so we should be able to get to the flash drive faster and hopefully will be able to get whoever has it to give it to us without any risk or injury to anyone. That said, I still say we can get the same results with subterfuge and breaking limbs, not driving around fully armed and breaking peoples doors down.”

“Your feelings on the matter have been noted,” said Ethan. “But right now we’re going to do things my way. If my way doesn’t work then youre more than welcome to try things your way.”

Meanwhile at Sunil’s home, both Sunil and Seven were reading the contents of the Assembler program, both of them fully versed in a whole plethora of computer languages.

“So, if I’m reading this right, this program is a load of templates for a machine called an Assembler. Why do you have this?” Asked Sunil as he slowly scrolled through code on his computer. “And why is this so important that there are people chasing you around to get it? This isn’t the Wild West – if you get something stolen off of you, you go to the police, you don’t make it your personal vendetta to hunt the thief down – I mean, who knows what bother you can get into if you take that route – you might be up against one of the gangs. Its just pure luck for whoever originally had this flashdrive that youre just a bunch of amateurs. We don’t even know what we have, let alone the resources to make use of it.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean – now we’ve cracked it open…”

“I cracked it open,” corrected Sunil as he closed up the Assembler program coding and removed the flashdrive from his computer.

“Okay, now you’ve cracked it open we’re still basically in the dark as to its uses. We know the data on the flashdrive works by following templates, but why? What sort of company are we dealing with?”

“You know,” started Seven, “I reckon this flashdrive has something to do with the Christchurch earthquake. You saw the tags concerning who it belongs to – Toll Brothers are a big American house building company, so maybe they need the Assembler templates to rebuild the city? If they had a device that could make new building parts using just refuse and rubble then they would be able to undercut their rivals on cost, what with not having to purchase any new materials. We could be witnessing here a total coup by Toll to get all the Christchurch rebuilding contracts.”
Just then there was a knock at the door.

“Finally, my pizza,” cried Sunil, leaping from his chair.” Only took them an hour, I could have made my own damn pizza in that time.”

Sunil raced to the front door and swung it open. There was what sounded like a car backfiring and he went flying backwards into the room, blood exploding from what used to be his chest. He went to stand, his arm buckled, and he fell back, unconscious.

“Sorry, my finger slipped. I’m not used to handling guns,” came a voice from outside.

Dropping the flashdrive into a box of CD’s, and throwing the box underneath Sunil’s bed, Seven quickly ran to Sunils bedroom window, throwing it wide open and clambering out. Hearing the window open, Dan was right behind him, and missed grabbing him my mere inches.

The window opened up onto a long driveway, the end blocked by a panel-van. Seven raced down the driveway as a gunshot rang out behind him, missing him by only a couple of feet. This only made Seven run faster as he reached the van and vaulted over its bonnet.

Meanwhile, both Dan and Dougal hadn’t followed Ethan, and had instead raced around both sides of the house. Dan was therefore in the perfect position to see Seven flee down the driveway, his access to the driveway being blocked by a six foot high chain-link fence. Dan quickly climbed over the fence and set off after Seven just as he reached the van.

Over the van the driveway opened out into the back of a pub, this in turn opening out onto the road. Seven quickly hid behind a stack of kegs and dialled Kelly’s number on his phone. Getting the answering machine, Seven left Kelly a message explaining where the flashdrive was, including a brief description as to what it contained and that he was on the run from someone who had shot Sunil.

Just then Seven felt something pressing against his back. Ethan had run to the front of the house, the side that opened directly on to the street, and had then gone around the front of the pub next door, ending up behind Seven.

“Move and you die,” panted Ethan. “now give us that flashdrive and you wont get hurt.”

Remembering his friend, who was probably dead by this stage, Seven shook his head. He wasn’t going to let these people get that flashdrive, no matter what happened. His friend had died because of it, and he wasn’t about to let the people who killed him take it back.

“Now, get in that van, and no funny moves,” growled Ethan, having got back his breath. ”One false move and I’ll blow your head off.”

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#7 ClockworkGhost

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Posted 19 February 2015 - 06:57 AM

Kelly returned to her flat after a day long binge of drugs and alcohol. She was feeling a lot more down to Earth by now though, the majority of the chemicals she had put into herself winding down and returning her to the real world once again. She was still feeling rather drunk however, and was regretting the dozen or so vodka Red Bulls she had consumed.

Noticing the smashed front door window, she opened the door slowly. Inside, Kelly was greeted by turned over sofas and piles of clothes and personal effects that had been unceremoniously dumped on the floor. Someone had more or less turned the whole flat upside down in a search for something – money, probably, or drugs.

Feeling instantly sober once again, Kelly checked Seven’s room, finding him gone and his room completely trashed, all his draws pulled out and several of his computers lying in a jumbled heap in the middle of the floor, looking like they had been swept off the top of his computer desk by someone searching for something.

Just then her phone chimed to tell her that it had one missed call. This wasn’t uncommon as her cellular service provider always seemed to have bad coverage recently, Kelly planning on changing providers once she had enough money to get out of her contract with the one she had.

She unlocked her phone and then dialled her message inbox. One new message – Kelly pushed the play button and a message from an out of breath Seven began to play.

“Kelly, theyre after me. They seem to be after that flashdrive Matthew gave me to open. I’ve put the flashdrive in a box of disks, under Sunil’s bed. Get there fast, I don’t know if they have it yet, but its in the box of disks if they haven’t.” Kelly listened as Seven gave her Sunil’s address then saved the message for future use.

Knowing that there were no drugs at her flat for probing police to find, she then called the cops to let them know about the break-in at her place. Knowing that the police would probably take a while to get to her flat, break ins hardly being high priority once the thieves had left, she then grabbed her skateboard from out of the wreckage and left to go to Sunil’s place, which wasn’t too far away anyway.

Kelly quickly skated over to Sunil’s, checking the phone message to ensure that she had the right place. She ascended the steps to the front door, which was ajar, and entered his flat.

Again, the whole flat was in ruins, but the thing that caught Kellys eye was the dead Sunil, splayed out like a broken doll against the wall behind him, lying in a pool of his own blood, the blood smear on the wall following what would have been his descent down to the floor.

Having never seen a dead body before, she fixated on it, finding it very hard to look away. Sunil looked so peaceful and serene in death, his long black hair lying in a halo around his head, dead eyes open and staring straight ahead.

“Come on, pull yourself together,” she told herself as she held her nausea in check. “Lets go and find this flashdrive that everyone seems to want and are now killing people to find.”

Checking the other rooms of the house, Kelly quickly and easily found Sunil’s bedroom, it being the only room in the house with a bed in it, Sunil preferring to live alone. Entering his room, Kelly immediately drew parallels with this room and Seven’s room back home, the pile of computer hardware reminding her of her flatmates technical tinkering.

Sunil’s room had obviously been searched, the computer hardware dumped in a pile on the floor, his desk draws all pulled out and left on the bed. Kelly quickly got on her knees and peered under the bed, finding the box of disks exactly where Seven had said they would be. Laughing quietly to herself about how useless the thieves must have ben to miss such an obvious hiding place, Kelly extracted the flashdrive from the box and put it in her pants pocket.

Next she called the police from Sunil’s land-line and left an anonymous message telling them that she had heard what sounded like gunshots coming from Sunil’s flat, hanging up when pressed for details. The phone then rang, and at this point Kelly left, leaving it to ring.

Kelly quickly skated back home to await the police, still in a little bit of shock and still drunk, though feeling very sober now. Surprisingly, she met the police at her house as they were just pulling up in their squad-car, having been expecting a long wait for them to arrive, a very attractive male police officer and a slim brown haired female officer getting out of the car as she approached the front gate.

The police followed her inside, making notes about the broken door and the upturned lounge, pillows and overturned chairs still being as chaotically thrown about as Kelly had left them. The first officer introduced himself as sergeant Joshua Reime and his partner as sergeant Rebecca Ranks, asked Kelly to take a seat, and then sat down beside her. Officer Ranks then left to look into the other rooms in the flat, leaving Officer Reime to question Kelly.

“I’m assuming that your flat doesn’t always look like this?” Joshua started.

Kelly shook her head, her hands now beginning to shake as her mind took in what was happening. “No, I came home after spending the day with a friend to this, plus my flatmate is missing. He hardly ever leaves the house, and never for long when he does – I’m worried something has happened to him.”

“Okay,” said Officer Reime, making notes as Kelly again looked around the room at all the mess. “So, have you noticed anything stolen? Did you have anything like jewellery, a big screen TV maybe?”

“No, there’s nothing missing as far as I can tell, but I haven’t really checked – I thought it best to leave everything as-is until you guys turned up so you could see first-hand what the thieves had done”

“Wise move, ma’am.” Replied Officer Reime as Officer Ranks came back into the room.

“All the other rooms are just the same,” stated Officer Ranks. “Looks like whoever did this was looking for something. All the drawers have been turned out and the computers in one of the rooms have been dumped on the floor. I don’t think this is a random burglary, I would say the thieves were definitely looking for something specific.”

“Ma’am, do you know anyone who could have done this? And do you know what they were looking for?” Asked Joshua.

“No, I have no idea what they were looking for, and I don’t know anyone who would break into my flat and turn it upside down,” Kelly answered, hands still shaking, feeling like she was going to cry.

“We’ll take fingerprints and see if they match any known offenders,” said Rebecca. “Do you have somewhere you can stay for a couple of nights as we process the crime scene?”

“Yeah, I know somewhere I can go,” answered Kelly, thinking of Matt’s place and his spare sofa. “I’ll just collect some things and go.”

“Wise move ma’am,” smiled Joshua. “We won’t take too long, but it’s much easier if you can be out of the house while we process it.”

“Don’t worry Ma’am, we will catch whoever did this. This looks like theft to order, and that’s usually your professional thieves, plus we will be interviewing your neighbours to see if they saw anything. We’ll be in touch once we have finished our enquiries.”

Kelly stood and walked over to her room, Officer Ranks in tow, and packed a change of clothes into her backpack along with other essentials, like her straightening irons and a comb. She then took her skateboard, after giving her cellphone number to the police, and left to skate over to Matts house. Matthew had been unconscious when she left him, and so she didn’t bother ringing ahead, knowing full well that she would be welcome to crash on his couch for as long as she needed to.

She felt for the flashdrive, wondering why she didn’t mention it to the police, and left the police to it. She didn’t really trust the cops all that much, but welcomed the chance to get out of her trashed flat, hoping beyond hope that Seven would call back soon to let her know he was okay.

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#8 ClockworkGhost

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Posted 19 February 2015 - 06:58 AM

“Well, that was easy,” Dougal said, removing the blood stained rubber gloves he wore. ”I still don’t understand why we had to kill him though. Why not just dump him in the middle of nowhere? We have the flashdrive, so why did we need to kill anyone? ”

“He’d seen our faces, so killing him was the only option,” answered Ethan. “Now we just need somewhere we can dump the body where it won’t be found for a while.”

“I’ve heard of a good place, and it’s not too far away,” Dan said as he consulted a map. “It’s called the Rimutaka Hill Road – according to this map we just drive north through the Hutt Valley to get there. Someone once told me it’s this giant gully full of bushes and trees with the road running beside it.”

“Okay then, let’s get moving,” stated Ethan as he turned the key and started the panel vans engine. “North, you say and past the Hutt Valley. Shouldn’t be too hard to find – if anything this country seems to be big on road signs, so we’ll just follow the signs then.”

Dan folded the map and put it away in the glove compartment, fastened his seatbelt, and tried again to find a station on the radio that didn’t just play pop music interspersed with manic drivel from the DJ. Finally he gave up and turned the radio off altogether.

“One thing that never ceases to amaze me about this country is the difference between in privacy between the bigger cities and the small towns. In one of the cities, you can torture someone to death in the back of a van and nobody will notice. Go an hour down the road and everybody thinks its their business, having a panel van parked up on the main street. I’m telling you, this whole country is endemically wrong – I mean why does everyone want to know your business? Of what matter is it to them?” Chipped in Dougal.

“I wouldn’t say it was unique to New Zealand, but it definitely is a marked contrast comparing small town life to big city life, if you can call any city in New Zealand ‘big’,” answered Ethan. “I wonder what sort of paradigm shift the little town dwellers go through if they visit the bigger cities? Do they still try to talk to everyone they pass in the street? Do they expect unlimited car parking down the main street? Do they assume that all the shops will be on the same street, and when they find a local grouping of dairies and bottle stores do they irrationally think that they’ve found the centre of all the action?”

“Right, we’re here. Just drive to the top of the hill and then we cast the body into the ravine,” said Dan, who had been watching for road signs. “It says Rimutaka Hill road is open, so lets get this done, then we can let the home base know we have the flashdrive, and we can get out of this godforsaken country and back to civilization.“

After what seemed like hours of ascending the hill road, snaking back and forth as the road followed the side of the side of the hill, they finally reached the summit. Luckily there was nobody else there, so they jumped out, opened the back doors and dragged Seven’s body out, Dan taking the legs while Dougal and Ethan took an arm each. Carrying him quickly to the edge, Dan counted to three and then they all pitched the corpse over the edge and down into the trees below.

“Now we just need to clean all the blood out of the van. All we really need is a petrol station with a hose – then we’ll just tell them we were carrying home-kill beef in the back, nobody will be any the wiser,” Ethan said as he wiped his bloodied hands on his handkerchief. “Come on, its starting to get late and we don’t really have anywhere to stay. Lets go grab something to eat, then we’ll find somewhere to sleep and get the van cleaned up in the morning. Also, we need to call the head office so we can link up with them and deliver this flashdrive, so I suggest food, accommodation, then phone call to arrange a meet-up. What do you guys reckon?”

Dougal and Dan nodded their heads in agreement with Ethan before all three climbed back into panel van and started off back to Wellington again. The drive was uneventful and they soon arrived at their destination, this being a Burger King in Lower Hutt, to feed their hunger before they looked for a place to stay.

Accommodation was equally as easy to find, and they all checked in to the Riddiford Hotel shortly after, Ethan paying for the three rooms on his company credit card. Once they were checked in, Ethan placed a call to Toll Brothers in Auckland on his cell phone, but could only get an answer service that advised the opening hours and invited Ethan to call back between eight and six. Fishing a piece of paper out of his pocket, Ethan then called the Auckland handler direct and requested an urgent meet up in order to deliver the flashdrive to Toll Brothers, the handler advising Ethan that he would call straight back with a time and a place to meet.

Fifteen minutes later, Ethan’s phone rang. Answering it on the second ring, Ethan was given a place and a time to meet up with the Wellington contact. The meet-up being only an hour away, Ethan advised Dougal, who was watching a Western on his TV, and Dan, who had just gotten out of the shower, that they had a meeting to attend and to get dressed, and to come to Ethan’s room as soon as they were ready.

The three of them, all feeling more refreshed after their brief rest, all piled in to the panel van and Ethan set off to the location he had been given – a house in the neighbouring suburb of Kelburn, a suburb of opulent wealth and university students . Ethan had travelled to Kelburn before, last time he had been down in Welington, and it never ceased to amaze him how one small suburb could play host to millionaires and students. Surely the millionaires with their large flash houses would prefer to be with solely other millionaires, not four bedroom run down houses with sixteen student occupants.

It was just New Zealand, thought Ethan. A country as big as the United Kingdom but with only four million citizens. Three big cities, if you could call a million people ‘big’, and a hell of a lot of rural land and native bush to get lost in.
Arriving at the Kelburn address, Ethan parked the van next to the kerb and all three occupants alighted. Pressing the buzzer next to the gate, Ethan, Dan and Dougal all waited for the gates to open and to allow them through. A matter of moments later they both swung inward, controlled by discreetly placed motors located in the base of the wall.

Walking in along the path through the immaculate garden and up to the front door, Dan whistled at the sheer opulence of the surroundings. Miniature fruit trees jostled for space between the beds of multi-coloured roses and the small fountain that constantly ran water down over a series of shaped stones. The house itself was a two level wooden abode with pillars in front of the main doors.

Ethan pressed the buzzer on the door, which was quickly opened by an attractive young woman dressed in a business skirt suit even at this late hour.

“Good evening gentlemen. Megan Olson, at your service. Auckland tells me you have recovered the missing item?”
Dan handed Megan the flashdrive, which Megan took with a smile.

“Let’s see what we have here then,” Megan said, turning to walk into the house, followed by Dan, Ethan and Dougal taking up the rear.

Megan walked over to a long wooden table and took up a laptop computer that had been stored underneath it for some reason unbeknownst to the three. Booting it up, she placed the flashdrive in one of the computers USB slots and waited for the computer to read its contents.

“Well gentlemen,” sighed Megan, steepling her fingers in front of her. “This is not the flashdrive we’re looking for. This flashdrive is just downloaded music tracks and pornography, so we seem to have a problem here. I want you to go back to where you found this flashdrive and find the one we are after. Go tonight and try to be discreet, but the main mission is to locate the red and black striped flashdrive which has been taken from us and bring it back to me.”

“But that’s ridiculous,” answered Ethan. “If it’s not a crime scene now it soon will be – the place could be crawling with police.”

“But that’s what you get paid to do – you’re fixers, youre supposed to fix problems and act discreetly. Now, why would it be a crime scene? If anything it will just be a case of breaking and entering, and even the New Zealand police don’t work all night on such a simple thing as that.”

“Well, we might have shot someone to death there,” answered Dougal, looking at the floor. “But it was an accident – the gun just went off in my hands.”

“Yes, that may complicate matters somewhat, but even still there shouldn’t be any police at the crime scene, and even if there are police then just wait for them to leave – I’m sure they won’t be working all night. Think, Gentlemen – stop reacting to every event as if its insurmountable.”

“Sorry Ms Olsen, it’s just been a long day”

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#9 ClockworkGhost

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Posted 19 February 2015 - 06:58 AM

“I don’t know what this flashdrive contains, but whatever it is has led to one person being shot dead and another one missing,” said Kelly to the police officer on the front desk of the central Wellington police station. “I’m seriously fearing for my own life here – something big is happening right now and I have no idea if I’m going to end up dead next.”

“I’m sorry, Ms Grant. Like I said, if you could please wait until someone is available to speak to you about this matter then I can get on with serving the people behind you,” answered the police officer, his voice getting audibly strained as he tried to reason with this strange woman who kept waving a flashdrive at him.

Realising that this was getting her nowhere, Kelly retired to the waiting room chairs and tried to get comfortable. At least she was in a relatively safe place here in the police station. She couldn’t help but wonder what must be on the flashdrive though to result in what had happened to the people who had opened it and read what it contained.

Finally a police officer came to see her. He was a very attractive young Maori man who introduced himself in a strong American accent as senior constable Adrian Brown. Officer Brown then took Kelly deeper into the police station into an interview room, asked if she wanted a coffee or a cup of tea, explained that he had to briefly talk to someone; and then left, closing the door behind him.

Kelly looked around the room, taking in the big one way mirror on the wall to her right and the four chairs arranged around a table in the middle of the room. After only a couple of minutes, Officer Brown returned with another police officer, another male, though this time a European, who also introduced himself in a strong American accent as Detective Inspector Rick Hart the second.

“Are the Americans taking over the New Zealand police system or something?” Joked Kelly.

“No ma’am,” answered DI Hart. “Though youd definitely wonder, to be sure. Now, take us back to the beginning of your story again. A friend of yours stole a flashdrive and now one person is dead because of it and another person is missing. Have you any idea what is on this flashdrive that might make a person kill for it?”

“Yes, that’s basically the gist of it. I have no idea myself whats actually on the flashdrive, I just know it must be something big to warrant the attention its getting from the people who are after it.”

“Could I please see the flashdrive? We’ll take a look at it here and see if we can answer that question.”

Kelly fished the flashdrive out of her pocket and handed it over to DI Hart, who then left the room with it, suspending the interview.

“You definitely did the right thing, coming to the police with this, you know,” stated senior constable Brown. “At least you’ll be safer now we’re involved, and we’ll be able to deal with anyone who might come after that flashdrive much better than you could have done so alone.”

Kelly nodded, realising that she wasn’t going to get the flashdrive back from the police, and that now it was more than likely evidence in a murder case. With that load off her mind she stood up, ready to leave the police to it. Not needing her any longer, but asking for her phone number in case she needed to be questioned again, Senior Constable Brown also stood to let her go.

“Please stay away from your home for the next three days or so so we can fully finish our enquiries there. In fact, you’d probably be safer staying with family or friends until this case is resolved. We have no idea if you’re a target yet, and I’d hate to see you involved in this matter any longer.”

Kelly nodded her confirmation. “Its okay, I’ve got somewhere to stay for as long as I need to be out for. If you can call me when its safe to go back home then that’ll be fine. About the only thing I’ll need first is clean clothes for a week and maybe my laptop.”

Senior Constable Brown smiled broadly, the action making him look like a totally different person. “Yes, I think we can manage that. How about you come back in tomorrow and we’ll arrange for a police escort while you pack your things? Say about midday?”

“Yep, that’s fine. I’ll see you then.”

At that moment, DI Hart re-entered the room. “We’ve had a look at the flashdrive on a closed system, just in case it was broadcasting its co-ordinates every time it was turned on, and read one of its files. There’s a very complex passcode on the other file which we are trying to crack. You definitely did the right thing in coming to the police today. Im assuming we have your contact details and you have been advised to stay with friends or relatives while we finish our investigations at your place? Good, then youre free to go. Senior Constable Brown, if you could please show Ms Grant out.”

With that, Senior Constable Brown opened the door and motioned for Kelly to follow him. Kelly walked out of the interview room behind the policeman, entered the lift that was called for her, and left out the front doors of the police station, Senior Constable Brown buzzing her out of the security doors below.

Meanwhile, across town, Ethan, Dan and Dougal were casing out Sunil’s flat. At the moment there were two police cars parked outside the flat and an obvious police presence in the front garden, along with a media crew who seemed to be tied up talking to a senior looking police officer.

“This is hopeless – we’re never going to get back into that flat, theres just too much going on there.” Said Dougal as he played with the hem of his jacket.

“Yeah,” agreed Dan. “Short of us going in guns blazing I honestly cant think of any reason we could give the police explaining our presence there.”
Ethan, who had been sitting quietly ever since they arrived, suddenly opened the door to the panel-van and leapt out. “Wait here, I know how to get in.” Ethan then walked up to the police in the front garden, said something to him and was then escorted into the flat by the police. Quarter of an hour or so later he returned to the front door carrying a satchel, shook hands with the police officer, and returned to the panel-van once again.

“That’s amazing!” stuttered Dougal as Ethan climbed back into the vehicle. “How did you manage to get the police to let you in?”

“It was pretty easy,” said Ethan. “I just told them that I lived there and needed to get a few things. Looks like the police haven’t looked in any of the spare room cupboards, otherwise Id be answering complex questions about where all my clothes are. Theyre mostly set up in that kid we killed’s room – theyre taking fingerprints and hunting through all his things at the moment. I just grabbed this bag out of one of the spare rooms, filled it with clothes out of the cupboard, and let them esc ort me back outside. Im telling you, my luck was really with me just now – I have no idea what I would have done if that cupboard had been empty.”

“You would probably have done what I’d have done – you’d have ad libbed something about all your things being stolen and you would have filed a false police report for all your clothes and maybe a laptop. Sometimes the most bare-faced lie will work over the more logical and well thought out plan. Im guessing you gave them a false cellphone number and name when you left?” Said Dan.
“Yeah, maybe. Anyway, looks like theyre not leaving anytime soon, so I reckon we should call it a night and go get some rest, what do you guys reckon?”
Dougal and Dan both nodded in agreeance, Ethan turned the key and they drove back out of town, back to the Riddiford Hotel which was quickly becoming their main base of operations. Parking the van out of sight of the main road, just in case; Ethan, Dougal and Dan retired to their room to come up with a plan to get back inside Sunil’s flat and to find the missing flashdrive, wherever it may be.

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'The way to do is to be' - Lao Tzu

#10 ClockworkGhost

ClockworkGhost

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Posted 19 February 2015 - 06:59 AM

“So, this is the last place the flashdrive was accessed?” questioned Dougal, looking up at the front of the central Wellington police station.

“Yep, and only for a moment too, so hopefully they haven’t had a chance to look over its contents fully. Im guessing they will have considered the fact that it might be broadcasting its location, so they probably have it in an enclosed environment, not connected to the internet” replied Dan.

“How would it broadcast at all then? How do you even know its here?”

“Well, looks like they plugged it in before they closed the network, albeit only for a moment. That’s all it needed though, just one brief moment of broadcast time and its GPS points us to here”

Dougal, Dan and Ethan opened the car doors and exited their vehicle. They had been lucky to get a carpark right in front of the police station, a massively solid looking structure of reinforced concrete and glass. The central police station looked more like a fortress than a building. Ascending the stairs, all three entered the building and walked up to the enquiries counter.

“Good morning, how can I help you today?” a fresh faced young clerk asked them, his name tag identifying him as a civilian, not a police officer.

“Yes, we’re interested in speaking to someone about a flashdrive that was stolen from us a couple of days back. We were just wondering if the flashdrive has been handed in, as it contains some very important information we urgently need back” answered Ethan, a smile fixed rigidly on his face.

“Okay, wait here – I’ll just call through to our lost and found department to see if we have your flashdrive. One moment please” answered the clerk.

The clerk picked up the phone and dialled an internal number. After a brief conversation, one that involved the smile disappearing from his face, the clerk hung the phone up and addressed the three again.

“Sirs, if you can wait here, one of our officers will be out to speak with you in a moment”

Moving out of earshot of the clerk, Dan turned to Ethan and Dougal. “Lets get out of here, I reckon we’ve been rumbled – that conversation sounded from our end that they know who we are, so I’m thinking someone has gone to the police over all this.”

“But nobody else has seen us,” argued Ethan. “We’ve eliminated everybody whose seen our faces, theres no way that the police could be on to us.”

“They don’t need to have seen our faces,” replied Dan. “They are more than likely after whoevers interested in that flashdrive. I say we get the Hell out of here and try to come up with a plan to get back in here after hours. Yes, this place looks like a fortress, but even fortresses aren’t completely impregnable”

“Can you two hear yourselves?” asked Dougal, eyes wide with fear at what Dan was suggesting. “Theres no way we’d be able to find the flashdrive – it could be anywhere in this building. I say we just ask the police for it back and play the whole corporate courier card, denying any knowledge of what it contains.”

Just then a police officer approached the three, entering out from a door behind the counter. “Sirs I’m Senior Constable Brown. I understand you have lost some computer gear and you believe it was stolen from you?” he asked, eyes scanning the faces of the three.

“Yes, that’s right – a flashdrive,” answered Dougal. “We are corporate couriers for the American building company Toll Brothers. The flashdrive contains building plans for work that Toll is interested in bidding for down in Christchurch, and we’d really like to get it back so we can lodge the bid with the New Zealand government.”

“Well sir, I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.” Replied Senior Constable Brown.

“My name is David Jameson,” replied Dougal. “That flashdrive is irreplaceable and contains private documents that are worth a sizeable sum of money. If we could please have it back then you would be doing your country a big favour.”

Senior Constable Brown frowned, his previously friendly demeanour quickly disappearing and his face becoming stern and hard. “If you would please come with me, I believe we would be better discussing this in detail elsewhere, rather than creating such a scene.”

“Youre not taking us anywhere,” barked Dan, drawing his pistol from its holster and pointing it at the policeman. “Either you give us back our property or you die. Bet you wish the New Zealand police carried guns about now, but this country is so backwards all you get landed with is pepper spray and the odd taser.”

Senior Constable Brown raised his hands, his face a mask of shock and anger. “Yes, we do have your flashdrive. If you wait here then I’ll send someone to fetch it. If you also hand over that gun then we’ll forget that this ever happened and you can be on your way.”

“That’s a joke – hand over my gun? I’m American – this gun is my birthright, and I’m damned if youre getting your hands on it. No, you will take us to where the flashdrive is, then you will give it to us and escort us from the building. I see one armed policeman and I shoot. Do you understand?”

“Wait, wheres the person who was at the front desk?” asked Dougal. “Quick! We have to get out of here before he rouses the entire police station!”

Ethan sighed, drawing his gun to cover the front desk and the door behind it. “We’re not going anywhere without that flashdrive.”

“No, Dougal’s right,” Dan said. “We have no chance against an entire police force. Quick, lets get out of here.”

Ethan sidestepped over to the front door, covering the front desk as he went. The sliding doors that had previously opened freely now refused to budge, locked from somewhere inside the building. “Not meaning to worry anyone, but the doors are locked. They look like shatterproof armoured glass too, so we’re not getting out this way.”

Dan took the moment to grab the police officer, placing himself behind him and the gun to the back of his head. “Youre coming with us, and youre going to show us how to get out, otherwise you die.” With this, Dan pushed the police officer towards the doors behind the counter, the ones he had previously entered from.

“Take it easy, nobody needs to get hurt.” Stuttered Senior Constable Brown as he edged towards the doors. “Just put the gun down so we can talk to each other like civilised human beings.”

Dan laughed. “Time for talking is over, now we either get out of here in one piece or its your funeral.”

The doors automatically slid open as the four men approached them. Beyond them was a corridor, doors placed either side of it every few meters. Dan edged down the corridor holding the policeman in front of him and the gun to his head. Ethan and Dougal followed closely, their weapons now out and pointed down the corridor.

At the end of the corridor was a central control area, the four workstations all unoccupied, looking like they had been vacated quickly due to the scattered chairs and discarded cups of coffee.

“Wait, is that… no way, that’s just too easy!” cried Dougal as he reached over and grabbed a black and red striped flashdrive from off the table. “If this is our flashdrive then that’s truly a miracle!” he exclaimed, slipping the flashdrive into his shirt pocket.

“Yes, that would be the flashdrive you’re after,” Answered Senior Constable Brown. “See? Nobody needs to get hurt. You have what you came for, so lets get out of here and everyone can get on with their lives.”

“Shut up, you.” answered Dan. “Show us the way out now and we wont have to kill you.”

The police officer led them through the control room and into another corridor, past a few more closed and darkened doorways, further into the building. “We’re headed for the back entrance, where the cars are kept. That’s the closest exit to where we are at the moment, plus we shouldn’t have to meet up with anyone if we go that way.”

Finally, after a couple of twists and turns the corridor ended in a door. Ethan opened the door into a carpark, police cruisers lined up from wall to wall. Dan pushed the policeman inside, followed by Dougal, who had been keeping up the rear, watching for any signs that the three were being followed.

“Do the cars have keys in them?” asked Dan.

“They should do,” replied Senior Constable Brown. “Its common police practice to leave them inside whilst the cars are parked here – that way theres less chance of a key being lost.”

“Alright, I didn’t ask for the reasons, I just wanted to know if the cars had keys inside,” barked Dan as he maneuverered the police officer over to the first one. “Okay we don’t need you anymore, youre free to go.”

The police man turned and ran back to the door that led back into the police station proper. Suddenly Ethan raised his pistol and fired it, the bullet slamming into the police mans back, sending him sprawling. Ethan then walked up to the prone body and fired two shots into the back of his head.

“What the Hell did you do that for?” screamed Dougal. “We’re home and dry here – all we needed to do is get into one of these cars and get out of the building – we didn’t need to shoot anyone, and now we’ll have the entire police force after us!”

Dan opened the nearest car door and got into the drivers seat. “Stupid bloody right hand drive cars – I’ll never get used to them” he muttered.
Dougal jumped in the passenger seat and Ethan got in behind them, pulling the door closed as Dan started the car and pulled out of the carpark, the roller door opening automatically as the car approached it, then closing behind them.

“Right. We have the flashdrive, now lets get back to the handler and hand it over – then we can get out of this God-forsaken place and go back home.”

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'The way to do is to be' - Lao Tzu