S. A. Clark Speculative Fiction
163 Ashcombe SE approximately 120,000 words
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52403
Phone (319) 363-4663
Volume I of the Sidereal Trilogy
S. A. Clark
NOBLE PEN REVIEW SECTION 4
(Chapters 19 – 24)
Agent Information TBD
Clark / REVELATION / 121
Dormo Pravis sat at his U-shaped granite desk. The walls of his large, austere office
were covered with light gray tapestries. The flag of Marondor—a mahogany field with a
muscular, dark green reptilian arm extending upward from the bottom edge and ending
in a clenched fist holding a laser rifle—was woven into the drapery panel in back of the
There were six gray metal side chairs for subordinate visitors. Three were placed on
each side of the U.
The office was on the top floor of the General Command Tower, which was adjacent
to the Imperator’s palace in Marondor, far beneath Denaria’s surface.
In the first metal chair to the General’s right, sat his concerned aide, Praetor
Her apprehension arose from the fact that she had just delivered a dispatch to Pravis
from the first Trigot team on planet Earth. It did not contain good news.
Pravis re-read the dispatch several times. Then he rose from behind his desk. He
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He paced back and forth, cursing under his breath. Finally he stopped and glared at
his aide as his voice quivered with rage.
“What idiots. First they locate Bram Dorn, then they lose him. They have not found
the microcode; nor have they secured any U235. This is unacceptable.”
At the Imperator’s command, Pravis was required to deliver periodic status briefings
to Jurious. In his previous briefing he detailed how Bram Dorn, the only remaining
Dorn family member, must be the carrier of the microcode. The emperor had been most
pleased with this progress.
If he must now explain that the Trigot subsequently lost Dorn, Jurious would skin
Still, Motar, his first Trigot team’s leader, had some past successes. After all, he had
neutralized the son and finally located the daughter. And he secured the unarinoctium
pellet from that idiot Barnard after a defective worm tube plunked it down in the middle
of the Arizona desert. Then the team fashioned the large pellet into several core tubes for
their pulse weapons. But this trivial accomplishment would not offset Motar’s major
failures—no enriched uranium and no microcode.
Dormo needed to take action. And quickly.
“Andora, pack your bags. This team clearly requires our guidance. And it’s time to
activate my Lyran mole. We are taking a worm tube to planet Earth this evening.”
The Trigot Proconsul Motar sat in his underground quarters beneath Pine Ridge in the
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Cumberland Mountains of eastern Tennessee. He sensed the general’s wrath as he
stared at the transmission just received from Morondor.
PROCONSUL MOTAR-TRIGOT XGAR
LESS THAN SATISFIED WITH YOUR PROGRESS. WILL ARRIVE YOUR
LOCATION SHORTLY ACCOMPANIED BY MY AIDE PRAETOR ANDORA TO
PROVIDE DIRECTION AND ENSURE MISSION SUCCESS. MAKE NECESSARY
PREPARATIONS FOR OUR ARRIVAL AND RECUPERATION.
Motar grunted. This was not what he needed.
“Just when we are starting to make real progress, I must now divert resources to
placate our Commander in Chief. Lord Pravis, you can be a pain in the ass.”
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In route to the White Palace board room, Lance speculated he and Ogden would be
alone for this initial meeting. His speculation, like his earlier belief that the day would
get better, did not prove to be accurate.
He was ushered to the board room by Brenda. The cavernous executive meeting
room was furnished with rich walnut walls, crystal chandeliers, and high-backed
burgundy leather chairs. There were five people huddled at the far end of the conference
table. They were already deeply engrossed in their own meeting.
CRI had a non-smoking campus. From the thickness of the cloud of cigarette smoke
hovering over the group, Lance concluded the meeting was serious and had been in
progress for some time. He felt a growing feeling of discomfort.
After Brenda departed, Ogden Jarvis looked up and spotted Lance. “Gentlemen, this
is the man who brought us together, Lance Ryan. He is our Network Systems Manager
and heads up the entire engineering team on the GADS II network development effort. I
believe our sidebar discussion is concluded, so let's adjourn.”
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Three men left the room, leaving only Ogden Jarvis and another man in a gray
Harris-tweed jacket. Ogden motioned for Lance to join them. His voice sounded tense as
he spoke. “Lance, this is Jesse Chase, Special Agent in Charge with the FBI’s Cedar
Rapids district office. Because of the critical nature of recent events, Special Agent Chase
will be joined by Special Agent Lawrence Vavra, who will be flying in from Washington
within the next few days.”
Chase offered an extended hand to Lance. “Please call me Jesse. Sorry our meeting
had to be under such circumstances. First a fatal accident. Now your recent revelations.”
Lance froze while shaking the agent’s hand. His anxiety dialed up a notch. “What do
you mean, fatal accident?” he asked.
Ogden responded to his question. “At 7:30am this morning, Girard Parker was
fatally injured in a freak accident.”
Lance was stunned. “What happened?”
“Girard came in early. He was working in the lab on a new chemical process for
GADS II wafer fabrication. Apparently, a gas valve leaked and caused an explosion. The
entire lab was incinerated. The valve was recovered. The FBI is checking it out as we
“So that’s why the state trooper’s car was in my parking space.”
Chase broke in. “Lance, this room is cleared for classified discussions. The three of
us have Top Secret clearances with a need-to-know on GADS II.”
Lance was puzzled. “Why are you are telling me something I already know?” he
Lance stared at Chase, who was in his late 40's but looked ten years younger. He was
short and thin with dark brown hair, and immaculately dressed. Because of his stature
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and his glasses, he seemed like the small kid in grade school of whom you could always
take advantage. But somehow Lance sensed Chase was far from vulnerable.
Lance had been apprehensive about this meeting, but Chase's calm manner made
him relax slightly and breathe easier. In other words, Lance was the one who was now
Chase responded, “Because I need to know all the details of your discovery.”
Lance related the message from WonTon, their rendezvous in Records, and the
subsequent discoveries that the files on Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy had
apparently been compromised. He did not mention their discussion regarding WonTon’s
fascination with female breast perfection.
Chase wanted more detail. “What further steps did you take following your
Lance began to feel uneasy about this line of questioning. “None. We replaced the
documents in the file cabinets and returned to my office. I notified Dr. Jarvis
“Did you open any of the files?”
“No, I didn't want to disturb any possible evidence.”
“You did well.”
Lance felt a sense of relief. Chase's tone seemed to signify the initial interrogation
was at an end. Lance turned to Ogden Jarvis. “Ogden, why exclude WonTon from this
meeting? He made the initial discovery.”
“WonTon?” Chase asked.
Jarvis responded with WonTon’s given name. “That's Walford Tannus.”
After a momentary pause, Chase, rather than Jarvis, responded to Lance’s question.
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“Because he is one of the prime suspects at this point.”
That explanation placed Lance on the defensive again. No one on his team could
have done this. “You must be crazy. WonTon is one of the most loyal people we have.”
“Now hold on, Lance,” Jarvis interjected. “I understand your loyalty toward
WonTon, but let's look at the facts. You yourself stated that no one else had signed out
any of the files during that period except WonTon.”
“But someone else might have opened the file cabinet without signing the file log.”
“Well, let's check that out right now. Do you have the numbers of the file cabinets in
“Only the first one. It's DCB-1067. WonTon has a list of the others.”
“Let's check out this one,” Jarvis said
Jarvis pressed an intercom button on his conference table speakerphone. He issued
a crisp directive to Brenda in the outer office. “Brenda, I want a printout of all activity
for the last 30 days regarding file cabinet DCB-1067. Have the data summarized by date,
employee, and time. Then display it immediately on the conference-room wall monitor.”
A section of the walnut wall at the far end of the room parted to reveal a theater-size
screen. At the top of the screen appeared a single line with the date and time code.
Centered in the middle of the screen was the word ‘working’ followed by a blinking
Lance was always annoyed by the use of that word. It typically flashed on terminal
screens whenever computers were loading programs or sorting data. It was supposed to
keep the requester from getting impatient, ensuring him or her that the computer was
responding to the request. But right now it wasn't having a calming effect. Lance was
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nervous as hell.
Abruptly the screen sprang to life:
PRIORITY REQUEST - I/O ACTIVITY - CLASSIFIED CABINET # DCB-1067
DATE EMPLOYEE TIME TAG
15APR L. RYAN: 1013-1025, 1531-1538
19APR W. TANNUS: 1335-1343, 1818-1824
21APR G. PARKER: 1142-1210
23APR L. RYAN: 1017-1021
25APR W. TANNUS: 1015-1022, 1609-1616
03MAY W. TANNUS: 1423-1428
16MAY W. TANNUS: 0806-0821, 0935-0942
****** DATA COMPLETE ******
“Is G. Parker the same Girard Parker who died in the lab accident?” Chase asked.
“Yes. Parker was one of our engineering group heads,” Lance replied. “He moved
here from silicon valley when A3 relocated. But WonTon accessed the file folder two
weeks ago, just like the printout shows. He didn’t notice anything wrong then.”
Chase continued to play the skeptic. “Maybe he missed it, or possibly he was in
cahoots with Parker.”
“You might as well suspect me, too. I'm also on the list.”
Chase turned and looked Lance straight in the eyes. “That's possible, but not very
probable. We've re-verified the data in your security clearance file, but even then we
can't be sure…”
Chase's voice trailed off as he turned to Jarvis, who picked up the dialog. His voice
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had a more ‘presidential’ demeanor.
“Lance, the violation you uncovered today is extremely serious. Unfortunately it is
not the first.”
By now Lance’s initial discomfort had dialed up to serious apprehension.
“The FBI’s involvement didn't just happen as a result of your call this morning. Ten
days ago, we began monitoring unusual coded computer traffic on our network. It did
not fit the usual profile. It was generated in late evening and early morning. When we
tried to analyze the data from our back-up tapes, we discovered the tapes had been
erased, apparently by accident.
“Then one week ago, the FBI verified that data from one of our computer data tapes
in Records was transmitted via the Internet to a computer in California.
“Yesterday, a CIA operative at CRI, Dr. Francis Wallingford, who had been working
to crack the mystery code, was murdered. These events have led to a series of meetings
at the Pentagon. The entire GADS II program could potentially be compromised. Your
discovery today put the icing on the cake.”
Chase broke in with additional data. “We’re dealing with some treacherous people
and a very short fuse. There is a critical time element you are not privy to. It necessitates
a solution within the next 11 days.”
“Administrative oversight for this initiative is coming from C3I DCO in the
Pentagon. It has been code-named Project Aviary. There have been discussions between
Washington and Dr. Jarvis because of the highly technical nature of the compromised
information coupled with the need for rapid resolution. The Pentagon decided the
government needs key specialists to help plug this leak fast. Therefore...”
He turned back to Jarvis, who dropped the bombshell on Lance. “Therefore, I am
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temporarily assigning you to Project Aviary on a full-time basis, effective immediately.
I’ve asked Egan Marner to take over your other duties until further notice.
“During your assignment to Project Aviary, you will be moved into the new area of
your building still under construction.”
Lance gave him an inquisitive glance. “What construction?”
“Oh that’s right, you didn’t know. A new sub-basement is being constructed during
the night shift. There is a large office directly opposite the elevator on Level B-3. I’m
already having your furniture moved. Your new badge with the additional elevator
authorization will be with Abby. I assume you want her to join the team.”
Somewhat hesitantly, Lance nodded as Jarvis continued.
“By the way, you will have an office mate. The Pentagon wanted a team with a
specialist in computer systems networking and integration—that’s you—along with a
data security expert—that’s Brooke Claymore.
“Who, by the way, you are picking up at the Eastern Iowa Airport late this afternoon.
When you return to your office, Abby will have a classified summary briefing envelope
for you to give to Ms. Claymore. It will bring her up to speed on today’s events, so the
team can hit the ground running. Anything else, Special Agent Chase?”
Chase nodded and gave Lance a serious look. “Your team will receive the Bureau’s
full resources and support at the highest priority. I can also promise you an intense,
intriguing, and dangerous couple of weeks. You should find this assignment quite
Jarvis broke in with a directive. “After you pick up Ms. Claymore at the airport,
bring her here. We’ll have a sandwich buffet with fixings for a working supper.”
Everything was happening way too fast for Lance. “Wait a minute, gentlemen. You
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already said I'm a possible suspect. How can the Pentagon take a chance on me, not
knowing if I might be the security breech?”
Chase frowned. “With our short time frame, we don’t have a whole lot of options.
Besides, we don't believe you to be the breech, or we wouldn't have accepted you. In any
event, we will know for sure within the next twenty-four hours. So long.”
Lance was curious what that twenty-four hour bit meant, but he restrained himself.
Chase shook his hand and that of Dr. Jarvis. Then he turned to depart. As Chase left,
he threw his head over his shoulder. “I’ll see you both back here at 5:00pm. By the way,
Lance, come back prepared to catch a red-eye plane tonight for Washington.”
Lance felt as if he had just stepped off one roller coaster onto another. He thought of
the excitement and the long late-night hours that lay ahead. He now stood alone in the
room with his executive director.
Dr. Jarvis turned to him with a final admonition. “Get with Egan Marner this
morning to discuss program details requiring his attention while you are on assignment.
I want you to finish up here in your office and leave for home by early afternoon. Pack a
suitcase for your Washington trip. I needn't reiterate the importance of this mission.
“The success of this entire program—even our company’s future—is at stake here.
We must have someone of your caliber on the team. We need an individual who
understands this realm and knows what to look for. I can't think of a more highly
qualified person for the job. I know you will do your best.”
Lance left the conference room in a daze.
By the time he arrived back at his office, Abby had placed the envelope for Brooke
Claymore on his desk. He signed a receipt for the pouch, which was marked ‘SECRET -
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He wrapped up the paperwork requiring his attention. Then he dictated a
Delegation of Authority memo to Abby informing the staff that Egan Marner would be
acting in his position for the next two weeks. Afterward, he called Marner to discuss a
number of critical GADS II issues, including an upcoming program review with DoD.
Finally, he packed the classified envelope and other material in his briefcase.
Then he turned to his secretary. “Well, Abby, it’s time for me to leave. When I
return, it appears we’re going on a little adventure together.”
“I understand we’re being transferred to an office in the new sub-basement.”
“Is the word out already?”
“Just to me, Chief. There is an expedited move order for your office. The haulers will
be here within the hour. Here is your new ID badge with the additional access codes. I’ll
see you when you get back.”
“Right, Abby. Whenever that is.”
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Lance pulled into the short-term parking lot at the Eastern Iowa Airport with only
minutes to spare. He walked, briefcase in hand, toward the airport’s only concourse,
curiously dubbed Concourse B. The PA system announced the arrival of United flight
759 from Los Angeles. He stood at the entrance to the concourse, wondering how he
would recognize Brooke Claymore.
On an impulse, he opened his briefcase and extracted a sheet of paper and a black
felt-tip marker. Lance had a brilliant technical mind, but he was a lousy speller. He
hurriedly scratched ‘BROOK FROM CRI’ on the sheet and held it up as passengers
started trickling out of Concourse B.
When Lance scanned this flock of passengers, he realized there were a number of
attractive women arriving on the LAX flight. He noticed several particularly alluring
young maidens and silently hoped one of them might be his new teammate. They all
walked by him heading for baggage claim.
Lance failed to realize he presented an equally-attractive figure to the arriving
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females. It wasn’t particularly surprising that a rather fetching blond wearing painted-
on black slacks strolled up to him. “My name isn’t Brook, but I just arrived back home
after a bummer of a trip. I could sure use some company for dinner tonight. You
“Sorry, dear. This one’s taken.” Lance turned to see an attractive redhead in a gray
business suit smile as she slipped her arm into his.
The blond shrugged her shoulders. “Oh well, it never hurts to try.” She smiled and
faded back into the crowd.
“Assuming you are Lance Ryan, you could close your mouth and thank me for
“Whether or not you are Brooke Claymore, you have my thanks.”
“I am, and you’re welcome. Please call me Brooke.”
“And I’m Lance. Do you have any luggage?”
Brooke patted her carry-on bag.
“It’s all right here, with the exception of a leather pouch I need to pick up at the
United counter. By the way, you need an ‘e’ on the end.”
“The name on your sign. It’s Brooke with an ‘e’.”
They collected her pouch. As they walked to his car, Lance was grinning like a
Cheshire cat. This woman is drop-dead gorgeous, he was thinking. And we’re going to
be working closely together for the next few weeks. What a hell of a lucky break.
Brooke sensed exhilaration radiating from him. When they reached the car, she
placed her hand on his arm. “Let’s get one thing straight, right now. What we’re doing
together is serious work. This is not a date. We cannot let personal feelings interfere
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with the job we need to do. We’re keeping this relationship totally professional,
A silent, deflated Lance could only nod his head affirmatively as he placed her carry-
on bag in the back seat. Was I that obvious? he thought to himself.
He reached inside his briefcase and withdrew the classified envelope. “Here’s the
report you’re supposed to review on our drive back to ICI.”
“Thank you, I think.” She opened the envelope and took out the report.
The classified report began with a description of ICI’s various security computers.
Next, it summarized the critical GADS II system infrastructure, programming, and
hardware files, which were all given code names from the Old Testament:
● GENESIS: the code name for the compilation of all utilized decryption schemes.
● EXODUS: the code name for the operating software required to manage these
decryption schemes and the decryption hardware.
● LEVITICUS: the code name for the decryption hardware, specifically an integrated
circuit microchip capable of performing the successful decryption.
● NUMBERS: the code name for the file containing the identification, location, and
linkages of all GADS II data computers.
● DEUTERONOMY: the code name for the file that contained details of the various
security code words required for individual computer access. This file also included the
specific interconnection and timing schemes employed to ensure absolute inter-
Brooke turned to Lance. “Tell me about Leviticus.”
Damn, why did she pick that one? “Well, it just so happens the design of this super-
secret integrated circuit (or IC), known as the Leviticus chip, falls in my shop.
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“Leviticus isn’t utilized as a single IC but rather as a matrix of 64 identical inter-
connected Leviticus chips. The function of this Leviticus matrix is to rapidly decode
virtually any encryption transmission scheme. That about covers it.”
Lance expected more questions, but Brooke remained silent.
Five minutes later, he glanced over to see Brooke scowling. Clearly she was upset.
She turned and glared at him. “Who is your security chief at ICI?”
“It’s not really ‘who’; it’s ‘what.’ Our head of security is a computer named
Brooke bristled as she once again heard the name of the computer that played a role
in Wallingford’s death.
Lance continued with his explanation. “ICI is protected by the world’s most
sophisticated computerized security system. It’s impervious to circumvention. Your ID
card should be in that envelope. You’ll see it in operation soon.”
“I can hardly wait.” She did not sound particularly happy.
They pulled into the parking lot and walked briskly to the main entrance.
When they logged in with Lisa, she announced, “Ms. Claymore, the verification scan
of your cerebral cortex is not yet on file. This must be accomplished within the next
forty-eight hours. At this time I will grant you escorted entrance because Mr. Ryan is
They proceeded to the White Palace executive offices. Dr. Jarvis’ executive mobile
robot, Brenda, led them to the Board Room.
A smorgasbord of cold-cuts, cheeses, salads, and breads awaited them, along with
Dr. Jarvis, Jesse Chase, and Egan Marner, head of Lance’s division.
Jarvis strode to greet them. “Welcome to ICI, Ms. Claymore.”
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He shook her hand. Then he motioned toward the food on the sideboard. “If you two
would fill your plates and have a seat at the table, we can get down to business.”
While Lance and Brooke ate their sandwiches, Jarvis completed the introductions.
Then Chase went over the details of the previous events both at CRI and ICI, tying them
together. Finally he hit them with something new. “The two of you need to know there is
a major extortion plot against the United States government. You are not yet cleared to
know the details. However, I can tell you that the critical time window expires in eleven
Chase stopped speaking and sat down. When no one offered any more information,
Brooke stood up. She was feeling very frustrated. “I’m confused. I was told to rush here
for a detailed briefing. What you have given me is a rehash of what I already know.”
Jarvis responded to her concern. “Excuse me, Brooke. We were informed the
detailed briefing to you and Lance will take place in Washington. Both of you are to
leave on a private jet at 9:00 this evening. The specific reason for your visit to our facility
tonight is to have you check out our data security. There may be some apparent
“I have asked Egan Marner to join us this evening so he could escort you on this
security tour. I believe the packet that Lance gave you provided an overview of our
Brooke felt exasperated. “If that’s the game plan, let’s get to it.”
Jarvis rose to his feet, as did the others. “Egan, take her to Security for her retina
and cerebral cortex scans. Then give her the grand tour, answer her questions, and have
her back in the lobby at 8:30 sharp, so she and Lance can leave for the airport.”
After they left, Dr. Jarvis turned to Lance. “My limo will take you both to the airport.
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Until 8:30 you are on your own. Make the best of your time.”
Jarvis shook his hand and left. Lance knew what he had to do next.
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Lance met Brooke in the ICI lobby at the appointed time. They walked to the
burgundy Cadillac limo, entered the back seat, and departed for the airport.
Brooke sat silently fuming for several minutes; finally she exploded. “Damn it,
Lance, an overall data security net is only as good as its weakest link. I know it isn’t your
responsibility, but ICI computer security leaks like a sieve. Critical information for your
entire program may have been compromised, given the kindergarten system you have in
“Hold on, we were told the configurations of our computer systems represent the
best possible security.”
“That may be true when the bad guys are people, but it’s not true when the intruders
are sophisticated computer systems. And I believe that’s what we’re facing. I hope the
people in Washington can give me a greater feeling of confidence than I have right now.”
Lance felt devastated and did not say another word.
When they arrived at the airport complex, their limo driver drove to the general
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aviation terminal. An unmarked Learjet 45 waited on the tarmac. Standing next to it was
Special Agent Chase. “Ahoy, mates, time to board your private chariot to Dulles.”
No one noticed the faint blue laser beam emanating from the darkness just south of
the General Aviation terminal. As Brooke emerged from the limo and walked toward the
Learjet, the beam quickly scanned her from head to toe. Then it vanished.
Chase threw their bags into the storage hold while they boarded the aircraft. Then he
stuck his head in the door. “There is a well-stocked bar in front, and there are hors
d'oeuvres under the seats. Sorry I can’t go with you this trip, but you’ll be met planeside
at Dulles. Buckle up and have a safe trip. See you soon.”
Chase vanished. The hatch slammed shut. Their ears were filled with the whine of
the two Honeywell TFE731 jet engines being cranked up. In less than ten minutes they
were airborne and headed east as the last faint orange rays of the setting sun fell behind
the distant horizon.
As soon as the seat belt sign was extinguished, an anxious Brooke went to the galley
and emptied three Johnny Walker Red Label miniatures into a tall glass. Then she
returned to her seat and quickly drained the glass.
Lance found himself trying to relax at an altitude of 29,000 feet. He always prided
himself on being able to remain ‘cool’ under pressure. But right now he felt as agitated
as a coiled rattlesnake, mad as hell but with no one to pounce on. There were two
reasons for his anxiety: first, because security on the GADS II system might be in
shambles which could put his entire program in grave jeopardy, and second, because he
was being forced to work with a beautiful “ice queen.’
While Brooke drifted off to sleep, he dug a Budweiser out of the cooler, sipping it
while his thoughts drifted back to his last hour at ICI.
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After leaving the White Palace, Lance had returned to his office. Once there, he had
proceeded to violate Ogden’s directive. He called WonTon into his office and told Abby
to power down. Then he told WonTon more than he should have, rationalizing his
actions by convincing himself that he really didn't give WonTon all the details.
“WonTon, I'm going on special assignment for the next week or so. Even though I
can't give you the specific details, I will be working on the source of the security leak. I
want you as my inside contact. I will let you know my secure comm lines as soon as I
have them. We’re under a great deal of pressure, so I need you to be my eyes and ears
here in ICI. Before I leave, I need two pieces of vital information from you.”
“I figured you would, so I brought them with me.”
WonTon’s comment took Lance by surprise. “Hey, you may be good, but you aren’t
that good. I haven't even told you what I want.”
"I knew you were going to meet with Super Chief, so it stands to reason that he'd
assign you to this security problem. The entire project depends upon this leak being
Lance shuddered at the thought. If the entire program was compromised, it would
mean the end of GADS II before a single phase II satellite was in place. Even more
damning would be the inability to effectively monitor major terrorist activities in real
WonTon explained his reasoning. “I figured you’d want two things from me: first,
the list of the file cabinets and files that have been compromised and second, a list of
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Lance was dumfounded. “Well, I'll be damned. You’ve nailed it. Maybe you should
have been picked for this assignment instead of me.”
“Not so. It just means that great minds like ours are programmed to think along the
same channels. We independently reached the same conclusion. Here are your lists.”
An astonished Lance grasped the two sheets of paper offered by WonTon. He
glanced at the first one. It contained the names of the compromised file cabinets, along
with the individual drawer and file folder numbers. Then he glanced at the second sheet
and reviewed WonTon’s hastily scrawled notes:
Egan Marner (Vice President/General Manager of ICI) – has access to all
material - personality: a real complainer when things don't go his way or he is left
out of the decision process; possible motive: he covets the top position in the White
Palace. He would like to make Ogden Jarvis look bad so that he could move up.
Girard Parker (Engineering Group Head) – recently deceased – had access to all
material - personality: very aloof; wife has relatives in Peking. Possible motive:
irritated with ICI because he believed he should have been promoted faster.
Question: was his demise an accident or murder?
Freddie Dempster (senior ICI technician) - access to Prime CPU material -
personality: happy-go-lucky; possible motive: although he is a brilliant technician,
his wife complains constantly that they aren't making enough money, and she
spends it like water. They are heavily in debt.
Walford Tannus (Project Scientist) - access to all material - personality: grouch;
possible motive: despises the U.S. government because of a CIA foul-up in the late
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70's that caused his brother’s death.
The last entry disturbed Lance. “For god's sake, WonTon, I didn't know your brother
had been in the CIA. Why didn't you tell me?”
“It was none of your business then, but it is now. Since the government knows, I
figured you'd better know as well.”
“If you hate the government, then why shouldn't I consider you a security risk, likely
to sabotage the program? Why would you even want to work here?”
“I respect you, I like working for ICI, and I honestly believe that the GADS II
program could wipe out the prospect of major wars in the future.”
“Let's not worry about that now. Is there anyone else who should be on the list?”
“Probably. You should consider any ICI personnel who have access to those files as
potential suspects. But I don't have clearance to run that data.”
Lance made a mental note to run that cross-reference data at the earliest possible
opportunity, along with the access data on all the drawers. He put his hand on
WonTon's shoulder and looked him straight in the eyes. “This gives me a good head
start. I really appreciate it. Anything else?”
“Yep. We should probably establish an emergency code, a single word I could work
into any transmission that would convey the covert message, 'Be careful because the
situation here is going to hell in a handbasket'. It should be a word that I wouldn't
normally use. And if I did, you would understand instantly, even though anyone
intercepting the message wouldn't see anything wrong.”
“Sounds a bit like cloak-and-dagger, but it makes sense. Any suggestions?”
“"It's quite obvious. If there is a problem, I will just sign my communications with
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my real first name, ‘Walford’. You know that I'd never do that in my right mind.”
They both laughed.
A solitary man in a gray trench coat stood by the control tower and watched the Learjet
vanish into the dusky sky east of Cedar Rapids. He looked down again at the readout on
his tiny laser scanner.
Then he opened his cell phone and sent the following text message: Daughter too far
away for reliable scan. In route to DC.
After the Learjet faded from view, so did he.
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The brown-skinned reptilian Trigot Proconsul Motar stood nervously waiting with
his humanoid Suzerain Kafer. Neither of them was looking forward to the Dormo’s
arrival. It was 2:00am local time.
They were standing in darkness in the middle of a large clearing. It was located in a
heavily-wooded area of Pine Ridge on the western edge of the Oak Ridge National
Laboratory Reservation in east-central Tennessee. The only illumination came from a
small tube held by Kafer from which emanated a faint yellow glow. Their eyes had
adapted from years of living underground in semi-darkness. This dim light source
allowed them to see as if it was broad daylight.
Ten meters in front of them was a thin translucent vertical disk roughly three meters
in diameter floating in the air just above the ground. The silent disk was bathed in
shimmering dark blue highlights. It appeared to be rotating slowly counterclockwise.
A gradual build-up of orange and red flashes occurred within the disk, accompanied
by a sporadic crackling sound. The color within the disk shifted progressively into
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rapidly spinning yellow highlights. The crackling became continuous. For an instant the
disk flashed bright white, accompanied by a loud, sharp crack. A gray oval-shaped
metallic object, two meters in diameter and seven meters long, shot out of the disk. It
landed on the ground with a soft thud.
The colors radiating from the disk reverted back to deep blue. Within seconds the
disk disintegrated into the cool might air. Motar and Kafer ran to the metallic object.
Motar touched an indent on the side. The object opened up like a clamshell. The interior
was blanketed in a yellow haze.
The haze gradually dissipated. Two reptilian beings could be seen inside what
appeared to be translucent, hard shells. One being was similar in size and color to
Motar. The other was much larger. His scaly skin was coal black.
Both translucent shells appeared to be filled with thick clear mucus. Motar used a
sharp knife to cut through the larger shell. When the inner viscous mucus was exposed
to air, it shriveled into a rubbery blob and fell off the body of the large, black-scaled
passenger. Slowly, he opened his eyes.
Motar and Kafer reached down. They helped a weakened Dormo Pravis to his feet.
Motar spoke first. “Lord Pravis, welcome to Earth. Allow us to assist you to the
resting chamber for your period of recuperation from the journey.”
They led Dormo Pravis slowly to the edge of the clearing where an evergreen bush
was uprooted. Beneath the bush was a tunnel leading downward. They helped him
After a few minutes they returned and cut through the outer shell of the smaller
capsule. Then they assisted Praetor Andora to the underground recuperation chamber.
Next, they pulled the metal object to the side of the clearing so it could not be seen
Clark / REVELATION / 147
from above. Then both of them rested in silence for a few moments. Motar felt anxious
and worried about their commander’s presence. Finally, they retreated back down the
tunnel and pulled the bush closed after them.
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TUESDAY, MAY 17, 2016 - - 10 Days Left
The night was ink-jet black when the Learjet touched down at Washington Dulles
International Airport on Runway 35L at 12:30am. Light drizzle coated the tarmac as the
aircraft taxied to the government hangar. An idling black Lincoln Continental limousine
waited by the main hangar doors.
As the jet’s engines shut down, a figure emerged from the limo and walked to the
foot of the aircraft steps. An impatient Brooke emerged from the Learjet, followed by
Lance. She immediately spotted the figure through the mist.“Hello, Rusty. Lance, this is
Special Agent Rusty Vavra, a member of our team.”
Vavra nodded toward Lance. Brooke grabbed Vavra’s arm. “Are we finally going to
find out what’s going on?”
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“Probably, but only after you have had a few hours of shut-eye and a good breakfast.
After all, you guys are the experts. You should enjoy some of the few perks associated
with being on the government dole.”
Brooke’s expression confirmed her annoyance.
While a crewman unloading their bags, Vavra motioned for Brooke and Lance to
enter the limo. Their gear was thrown in the trunk, and the limo sped off.
Vavra started out with an apology, informing them that because of a convention in
town, the only room available was a two-bedroom suite on the VIP floor of the Dulles
Hilton. This infuriated Brooke, and she scowled at Vavra.
He knew her scowl required a quick response. “Before you over-react, Brooke, I
assure you both bedrooms have locks on the doors. By the way, an in-suite breakfast has
been ordered for you at 7:00am. The limo will pick you up an hour later.”
“And our destination?”
“This entire project is being run out of the National Reconnaissance Office. We
acronym-crazy folks refer to it as the NRO. It’s a top secret agency under the umbrella of
both the CIA and the Department of Defense. It’s located a few miles south of your hotel.
“The NRO has overall responsibility for the critical security data analysis. This
clandestine organization has been around for a while, even though the building is only a
few years old, which is an interesting story in itself.
“It was built in 1994 by Rockwell International, supposedly as a major new Rockwell
facility. However, that was just a cover story. The building was funded by and built for
the NRO. Only a handful of people knew what was going on. When Congress found out
the truth, there was a big stink, but things finally quieted down.
“It’s an impressive facility with four high-rise towers and one-million feet of space.
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3,500 people work there, analyzing data from satellites and a variety of other sources.
“Brooke, this is where the data from your computer ends up. And Lance, this is the
organization that will ultimately control your GADS II satellites.”
If the GADS II program isn’t scuttled after this security breech, Lance thought to
Brooke’s thoughts were of a slightly different vein. She wondered how a mere FBI
agent could have such broad access to both of CIA and DoD material.
“Well, here we are.” Vavra’s proclamation interrupted their thoughts as the limo
pulled into the Hilton’s lobby entrance. The driver opened the doors and retrieved their
“Sleep tight, you guys. You’ll need the rest prior to your activities later this
morning.” Without further explanation, Vavra waved from the window as the limo sped
Brooke and Lance hurried into the lobby. They refused the doorman’s offer to carry
their bags. When they checked in, the number embedded in the magnetic strip on their
credit cards was programmed to act as their room key.
They never noticed a lone woman sitting in the hotel lobby reading The Wall Street
Journal. She was wearing dark glasses, a trench coat, and a hat with a yellow feather in
it. After Brooke and Lance vanished into the elevators, the woman rose and left the
Their suite consisted of a spacious central living and dining room. It had a separate
bedroom and bath on both sides. All the rooms were furnished with cherry Queen Anne
furniture. They decided to get a few hours of shut-eye and then rendezvous at the
breakfast table by 7:00am.
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Lance had a difficult time getting to sleep. Although Brooke’s personality could be
categorized as fiery, her physical attributes had fired up some of his long-dormant male
neurons. In spite of her distant attitude coupled with her insistence their relationship
remain totally professional, he drifted off to sleep with fading thoughts dwelling on
sensual rather than professional matters.
Brooke, on the other hand, grabbed three miniature bottles of Johnny Walker Red
from the mini-bar. She chugged one down, relishing the tingle as the amber liquid ran
down the back of her throat. As she grabbed the second miniature, she could sense her
mother’s disapproving face and feel her reproach.
She could still hear one of Beverly’s admonitions: “You’ve come up with enough
excuses to jump off the wagon. Now you need to choose. Do you want to be a success or
Brooke sat silently on the edge of the bed for a few minutes, feeling a sense of
shame. Then she rose with a sigh and placed the remaining two miniatures back in the
She stripped off her clothes and fell into bed. Exhausted from her two flights, she
was asleep within minutes.
The next morning, Lance arose first. He shaved, showered, and dressed. Then he headed
for the door to retrieve the morning paper. When he picked up the Washington Post, he
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noted that a hotel envelope had been slid under the door. Maybe we’re being billed for
the room after all, he thought as he tore the envelope open.
Lance was apprehensive as he read the message scrawled on the piece of paper
Don’t get involved -- IBIS.
Lance wasn’t sure what it meant. He stuck the note in his pocket to discuss with
Brooke at breakfast. Then he sat down to read the paper.
Lance greeted Brooke as she emerged from her bedroom ten minutes later, dressed
in a white blouse and gray slacks. “Good morning, sleepyhead.”
She nodded a silent anti-social response. He was about to mention the note when a
sumptuous breakfast of Eggs Benedict accompanied by strawberry-topped Belgian
When they sat down together at the table, his brain was frantically trying to
formulate a strategy to thaw her icy wall. Finally, he offered a tentative suggestion. “This
breakfast is probably the calm before the storm. Fate has thrust us together in this
venture, so how about starting off by sharing our backgrounds with each other?”
Her terse response was, “You first.”
Lance tried to organize his thoughts to make a good impression. The note under the
door was forgotten. “Well, I was born and raised in northern California. Both of my
parents were doctors and wanted me to enter medicine. They were rather irritated when
I developed a fascination with computer design.
“By the time I finished high school, my interest had focused on networking
computers and getting different systems to communicate with each other. As a result, I
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attended Stanford University. Because I went against their wishes, my parents refused to
pay for graduate school, so I put myself through and earned a doctorate in computer
systems design. I was considered a computer nerd and wasn’t much interested in girls
“After graduation, I worked in Silicon Valley for a networking company and then
joined ICI, which is a subsidiary of American Astrophysics & Aerospace—or A3 for short.
“During the Regan Administration, A3 won a major portion of the GADS I program,
also known as the Global Aerospace Defense System or Star Wars.
“Then with the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the major
threat changed from the communist bloc to third-world terrorists. GADS I evolved into
GADS II—the Global Aggression Deterrent System—t0 monitor al-Qaida-driven terrorist
hot spots and training centers.
“I was given the opportunity to lead the GADS II proposal pursuit at ICI. When our
firm won the contract, I was promoted to network systems manager for GADS II system.
“A3 and its ICI subsidiary relocated from northern California to the new high-tech
corridor in eastern Iowa along Interstate 380 between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.
“I found a home in North Liberty, a great rural town with good people. It was
reasonably close to both my ICI facility and the more upscale life in the university town
of Iowa City. After I started working on GADS II, the 70-hour work-weeks left me with
virtually no social life.
“But that’s enough about me. Now it’s your turn.”
Brooke closed her eyes for a moment as she mentally composed her response. When
she opened them again, she stared coldly at Lance. “I’m also a native Californian, but
from San Diego County. I had planned to earn a Masters in Nuclear Engineering.
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However, my father, a police detective in San Diego, was killed in the line of duty several
years ago by an explosion.
“I graduated with a BS in Computer Security from UC San Diego. Then I was
accepted at USC graduate school to pursue a Masters in Computer Security. My mother,
my brother, and I sold our home in San Diego and moved to a smaller rental property in
“My Masters thesis presented a unique approach to computer data security. That
thesis led to my management position in data security with CRI.”
Brooke paused for a few moments. Then she took a deep breath before continuing.
“If we’re going to be working together closely as a team, I have a couple of phobias you
should also know about.
“The first one stems from the flying lessons I began on my 19th birthday. Several
months later I was coming in for a landing on my first solo flight, and a drunken pilot
tried to land his WW-II P51 Mustang at the same time. He flew over the top of me, and
we collided. I walked away from the crash with only a few cuts and bruises, but the
incident left me feeling extremely anxious about flying. That’s why I poured a stiff drink
and went to sleep after take-off yesterday.
“The second phobia is the result of an incident that took place when I was eight
years old. I was visiting a shooting range with my dad. Because he was a police officer,
he wanted me to be comfortable around all types of guns. Unfortunately, a bullet
ricocheted off a metal post and struck me in the arm. The wound cause me considerable
mental trauma. As a result I dread guns, even more so if they’re pointed in my general
She paused again. Her gaze seemed to harden. “Finally, in case you were flustered by
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my stern warning yesterday when we first met, it was triggered by the way you looked at
me. I am very sensitive to male reactions about my physique. My looks are more of a
curse than a blessing because men are easily distracted from the task at hand. In
addition, most men are threatened by my strong-willed nature. As a result, some men I
have worked with in the past saw me only as an object of physical conquest.
“Perhaps you’ve noticed my coolness towards Agent Rusty Vavra. Some time ago a
CRI employee was involved in industrial espionage. Vavra and I worked in a
collaborative effort on that case. What he really wanted was to get me in bed. He
succeeded with the case, but not with me.
“Because of these past experiences with men, I’ve become turned off by the whole
courtship process. I have yet to find a man who intrigues me and wants more than a fast
Noting a puzzled expression on Lance’s face, Brooke paused momentarily. “I’m
sorry, Lance. I didn’t mean to ramble on about my social problems. I believe we have a
good experience fit on this case. I just want to ensure we keep our relationship on a
“You should also know I’m a woman who works hard and then drinks hard to
unwind, although I’m trying like hell to curtail my alcohol consumption.”
Lance was unsure how to respond. He was saved by the phone ringing. The doorman
on the other end of the line announced their transportation had arrived. They threw
down some food and were in the lobby five minutes later.
As they walked outside, it was obvious the fairy tale was over. They were met not by
an elegant limo but by a gray Dodge mini-van. The driver came around to greet them—it
was Vavra. “Sorry, guys. During daylight hours all the limos are taken by VIPs, so this is
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the best I could do. Hop in.”
It took less than ten-minutes to arrive at the ominous black towers of the NRO.
Vavra dropped them off in the visitors lobby. Their visitor badges were waiting, along
with a woman in a gray business suit who appeared rather anxious. “Brooke Claymore?
Lance Ryan? I’m Ms. Argyle, Admiral Wells’ executive assistant. Will you follow me
She escorted them to an elevator which rose to the 14th floor of the North Tower.
Exiting the elevator without another word, she led the way to Conference Room LR-22.
This woman has all the charm of a dead fish, Brooke thought to herself.
When they entered the austere conference room, a large-framed, gray-haired man in
a dark navy pinstripe suit rose from his chair on the far side of the table.
Argyle made the introductions. “This is Admiral Atticus Wells, the Director of
Project Aviary. Admiral, meet Brooke Claymore and Lance Ryan.”
Wells motioned for them to sit down. Because the other side of the table had two
chairs, it seemed obvious where he wanted them. Argyle stood to the right of Admiral
The Admiral seemed to be sizing them up as he greeted them. “Welcome to the
NRO. We have a lot of ground to cover today. I’d like to keep things on a first name
basis. Please call me Admiral.”
Argyle glared at him. Wells ignored her.
“Before I can brief you into Project Aviary, we have several security screening tests
both of you must pass. These should take about one hour. Lance, Ms. Argyle will escort
you to your testing room. Brooke, I will escort you. We will re-convene back here at the
conclusion of your tests.”
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Argyle escorted Lance down the hall to an even more austere room. The walls were
plain and bathed in an orangish-pink color. The only furnishings were two chairs in the
middle of the room. Lance sat in one of them. Argyle closed the door, leaving him alone.
Initially he felt anxious and ill at ease; however, the color of the room seemed to have a
A few minutes later, the door opened. A man in a white lab coat wheeled in a cart
full of instruments. “Hi, Lance. You may call me Alpha. I am here to conduct your Alpha
screening tests. The Alpha tests utilize a very sophisticated digital polygraph, or lie
detector system. It measures body tension by monitoring your galvanic skin response,
blood pressure, respiration, pulse, and voice inflections. All you have to do is let me
strap you in. Then sit back and answer my questions honestly. OK?”
Lance nodded, and Alpha began to connect him to a harness that had wires running
to the console of instruments. It had the notation ‘Solomon-Model B-22’ stenciled on its
side. Alpha was humming away when Lance asked him about the notation.
“Wise as Solomon,” was his only response.
As soon as the connections were complete, Alpha powered up the unit and pressed
some buttons. Then he made an abrupt transformation from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde.
“All right, Mr. Ryan, please answer the following questions...”
First there were several baseline questions. Then for the next twenty minutes, Mr.
Alpha-Hyde fired off a series of non-stop questions covering a wide variety of subjects
These included: Have you ever stolen from your company? Have you ever been a
member of an organization seeking to overthrow the U.S. government? Have you ever
been involved in any illegal activities? Have you ever been engaged in any type of
industrial espionage? Have you ever had any contact with the IBIS organization?
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Lance suddenly remembered the slip of paper. However, the questions were coming
too rapid fire to say anything about it. Soon it was once again forgotten.
Just as abruptly, Alpha-Hyde became good-old Alpha again. “Well, that’s all there is
to it, Lance. You’ve been a very cooperative subject. Let me disconnect you, and I’ll be on
And he did just that.
A few minutes later, a middle-age woman, also dressed in a lab coat, entered
wheeling another larger cart. “Good morning, Lance. Please call me Beta. I am here to
conduct your Beta screening tests. The Beta tests determine particular patterns of your
lifestyle. It’s not nearly as stressful as Alpha. I will place an immersion helmet on your
head. It will display a series of pictures from the real world. All you have to do is enjoy
Beta produced the helmet and placed it over Lance’s head. His visual world turned
pitch black. He heard Beta turn on a series of switches, after which several red points of
light entered his black-draped world. Beta made several adjustments to his helmet. Then
she tightened it in place. He jumped as he heard her voice through the headset. Then he
saw her face as a 3-dimensional image in front of him.
“OK, Lance, I’ve made all my adjustments. Can you see my image and hear me OK?”
Lance nodded his head.
“Is the helmet reasonably comfortable?”
Again, he nodded.
“Well, then, just sit back and relax.”
Lance’s helmeted world was suddenly filled with orchestral music and panoramic
scenes flashed before him in 3-D. The initial scenes were of various people involved in
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mountain climbing. Next it changed to sailing, then flying, followed by a beauty contest.
As the scenes changed, so did the music, from classical to romantic to soft rock to hard
rock to acid rock.
The beauty contest gave way to a football game, a fencing match, a church service, a
group swimming and playing in the ocean, romping with a dog, people hiking, dancing,
operating computers, printing money, robbing banks, making love, a screaming child
being disciplined, walking in the moonlight, a convict being electrocuted, a group
shooting dope and ending up in group sex, a well-dressed man extorting money from a
merchant, placing a bomb in an elevator, flying a plane on a bombing run over an
industrial city, tearing off a woman’s clothes.
Subsequently, the scenes changed to a collage of still photos of body parts and
hardware moving across the screen. At one point a computer might be displayed in the
upper right hand corner, a sports car in the upper left, a gun in the lower left, and a
bathing beauty’s chest in the lower right. Then it would change to something different.
Lance was trying to keep up. He was also getting a headache. Abruptly, the images
vanished. Ms. Beta’s image returned to the screen.
“Well, Lance, that’s the end of our entertainment for today. After I remove your
head gear, someone will come by to escort you back to your meeting. Thanks for being a
Argyle returned shortly for Lance. When he returned to the conference room,
Brooke was already in her chair. Admiral Wells was nowhere to be seen. Argyle left them
alone. Exhausted from the testing, they sat in silence, waiting nervously.
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In another room, Admiral Wells sat at his office desk, talking on his secure phone. It was
obvious from the scowl on his face and the volume level of his speech that he was not
“Damn it, Chopper. They both failed the security tests miserably. Both of them
recognized the secret IBIS pseudonym. Brooke’s alpha waves are off the chart, and she’s
afraid of guns for Christ sake.”
“Now cool down, Atticus. I have no idea how Lance recognized IBIS, but Brooke was
already briefed after Wallingford’s murder.”
“On whose authority?”
“Mine, and you know damn well why her alpha waves appear abnormal.
Furthermore, her fear of guns is a result of being accidentally shot as a child. In spite of
their minor flaws, you need them both to have any hope of cracking this case. However,
if I were you, I’d find out how Lance knew about IBIS.”
“I’m going to do more than that, Chopper. Just to be sure, I’m going to feed them
some information on one of our undercover agents. I want to see if they take the bait.”
“Suit yourself, Atticus.”
The line went dead.
You can damn well bet on it, Wells muttered to himself as he rose to leave.
Admiral Wells strode into the conference room all smiles with the testing results in
folders under his left arm. Brooke and Lance rose from their seats as he entered.
“Be seated,” Admiral Wells commanded.
When they sat down, Wells opened the folders and seemed to study them. After
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what felt like an eternity, he finished reviewing the file folders and began to speak.
“What you both experienced were our Alpha and Beta tests. These are designed to
give us almost instantaneous results of your honesty, security risk, and predisposition to
certain critical tendencies.
“Normally I would discuss the test results with each of you in private. However, you
have been asked to join us as a team, so I believe it is appropriate for you to hear each
other’s overall generalized results. Agreed?”
They both nodded.
“Very well. In the Beta test, we conducted an EEG scan of your brain waves to
determine what images elicit a significant response. Simultaneously, we performed an
eye movement scan to ascertain specifically what objects you dwelt on in each picture or
scene. What we were looking for was any damning trend that might label you a security
risk. For example, did you always look at—or experience significant brain activity with—
scenes or items of violence or money, or were you always focused on genitalia, regardless
of whether the picture was a baby, a young child, or an adult.
“I am pleased to report that you both passed this test with flying colors. You are as
normal as apple-pie. You are both highly ethical and driven people, tendencies we
happen to admire around here.
“In the Alpha test, you were monitored by computers for fluctuations in digitized
representations of your body tensions coordinated with your responses to certain
specific questions. Computer analyses of these variations ascertained your truthfulness
in the appropriate areas of specific interest pursuant to a specific project.
“Brooke, you passed this one; however, Lance, you did not. There is a code word
associated with Project Aviary that you should not have recognized. Yet when you were
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presented with this word, you exhibited a considerably heightened response. The word is
IBIS. What do you have to say about this?”
This revelation angered Brooke. Before Lance could respond, she pounced on him.
“I thought we bared our souls to each other over breakfast. Just what the hell are you
keeping from me?”
Lance felt a sense of panic. He looked like a kid who was just caught with his hand in
the cookie jar. “OK, you two, when I picked up the morning paper today, there was a
note slid under our door signed by IBIS. Then with our breakfast discussions and the
early arrival of our transportation, I honestly forgot it. When the Alpha test brought it
up again, the questions were so rapid fire, I didn’t have a chance to explain. If your
questions were arranged like mine, the IBIS question was buried in the middle, so by the
time we were through I had forgotten it again.”
Brooke and Admiral Wells glared at him.
“If you two don’t believe me, take me back through the Alpha test again and ask me
if I ever heard of IBIS before 6:00 this morning. Here is the note.”
Lance pulled it out of his shirt pocket and gave it to Brooke. She read it and passed it
to Wells. His eyes widened. “Well, they know you’re here, so we no longer have the
element of surprise. I believe you, Lance. How about you, Brooke?”
Brooke glared at Lance. Without understanding why, she began to sense a feeling of
truthfulness and genuine remorse in him. “Well, I accept your explanation, even though
I don’t know why this note is important. However, if we are going to work together,
don’t ever forget any little details like that again. Got it?”
“Yes, I do, and I won’t.”
Wells looked sternly at both of them. “OK, team. I’m declaring you both cleared for
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the Aviary briefing. Because your participation is voluntary, at the conclusion of this
briefing, I will ask you each one final time if you still want to participate. You may still
decline. However, the contents of this briefing are classified ‘Top Secret’ and may not be
revealed to anyone else should you opt out. Understood?”
Brooke and Lance both nodded again. Wells laid their folders on the table and sat
“Very well. Let’s begin with your in-briefing on the project. Four days ago the NRO
intercepted a coded message from an individual or group identified as IBIS demanding
one-hundred million dollars. The message further stated that if the funds were not paid
into a specific numbered Swiss bank account by midnight Eastern Time on the
thirteenth day following the transmission of this message (which is 10 days from now), a
massive world-wide interruption of government and commercial computers will occur.
This stoppage will supposedly cripple communications and result in losses of hundreds
of billions of dollars.
“The message also stated there will be five ‘demonstrations’ to clarify the power of
the extortionists during the next few days. These demonstrations will take the form of
five violent murders of U.S. Government Senior Executive Service employees. The
message was signed with the code name of IBIS, the same name previously deciphered
from clandestine transmissions by Francis Wallingford four days prior to his murder.”
As he began the concluding portion of his briefing, Admiral Wells pressed a
concealed button under the table. The door opened, and Argyle escorted two men into
the room. One of them was Vavra. The other was a scruffy, unshaven middle-aged man
dressed in rumpled slacks and a moth-eaten sweater.