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"I hope you're happy, Garland," the F.B.I. agent said. "You've led these poor boys into a trap."
Too bad about the girl and Freedy, I thought. I'd been starting to feel a little bit like Cupid there for awhile. She had certainly fooled me -- she looked genuinely affectionate toward the little Thief. But all was explained; the cheerleader and the small town burgher were never to be an item.
"We almost succeeded, Sheila -- I mean, Agent...?"
"Special Agent Sheila Moller. Cybercrimes Unit."
The crew of gold miner/heisters was uncharacteristically quiet. Chastened, even Charlie.
"Don't worry, boys," I said, sounding more confident that I felt "Elias will have us out on bail in no time!"
She walked up to me and got into my personal space, waving her finger in front of my face. "We've been following your little band of eco-terrorists for months. When you showed up at Elias River's getaway, it was a gift."
I couldn't help but laugh. "Eco-terrorists? You work for the Department of Justice, Agent Moller. I would have thought you had more interest in Truth and Justice."
"I follow orders," she said. "I wouldn't be so certain about meeting bail -- the government takes terrorism very seriously."
The miners started muttering, until Charlie glared them into silence.
"We can take it," Charlie said. "We are only standing up for our rights!"
Big bad Special Agent Moller just shrugged, but underneath, I could see that the girl we'd known as 'Sheila' was troubled.
"Why were you at the Last Cozy Cottage in the first place?" I asked, but already suspected I knew the answer.
"Elias has gotten a little too close to Anonymous and Wiki-leaks," she said.
"You're on the wrong side, Sheila. You're working for the bad guys. You know it too, I can tell. You're a computer whiz, you know what's happening here. You know that governments and corporations are trying to takeover the Internet."
She shook her head "Doesn't matter what I know or don't know. I do my job."
"You can live with that?"
"They won't succeed," she said, sounding certain.
"But it's worse than that, " I said, simply. "There is One who might very will succeed. You heard Elias. Josiah Secore plans to take over and once he does there won't be a thing we can do about it, except go off the grid. It will set freedom back by a thousand years."
"As far as I'm concerned, Josiah Secore is a big myth. No one's met him; no one knows anything about him. I haven't been able to prove anyone with that Name owns anything."
She didn't really believe that, I could tell.
"I've met Josiah Secore," I said. "I assure you he's no myth and he's every big as dangerous as Elias has told you."
"I don't make these decisions," she said.
"And Freedy? Was that all a big act?"
She flushed and looked away. Ah, ha! Maybe there was something there afterall!
"Freedy is a dupe. He's an innocent who has been entrapped by you. I will testify to that and he won't serve time -- if he gives himself up."
I'd been amazed to see Freedy escape. It took real balls to defy a gun trained on you. Then again, that crestfallen look in Freedy's face, as if someone had reached in and pulled out his heart. Maybe he just didn't care.
Still, I hoped Freedy was getting away. The complex of tunnels in this complex was extensive -- Elias had shown me a map. So there was a possibility that if he could get away from the initial search, he might get away altogether.
Where he would go, I didn't know. He couldn't go back to Filk's End.
But I was learning that Freedy was more resourceful than I'd expected.
Agent Moller's cellphone rang; cute, the X-Files theme.
"Yes?" Her face lost all composure, and she looked around in a bit of a panic. "That's impossible. Check again."
She turned away from us and walked a few yards away and lowered her voice. "I caught them red-handed, sir. They were about to destroy a federal data center.
"No, sir. Just me -- and the security guards who don't really know what's going on but are following my orders. Blame the tornado? But, sir!
She hung up. "Let them go," she said to the guards. "There hasn't been a crime here."
The head guard seemed ready to argue, but she glared at him and he wisely shut his trap.
"Apparently Elias still has some clout in Washington," she said. "But I wouldn't feel too secure, Garland. I'm betting this order will be overruled."
My eyes landed on the stack of computers just to my left. The second one down had a little plaque saying, FXG334NTZ882. What would happen if I just happen to stumble into it and knock it to the floor?
Nah, I shrugged. The machines were probably tougher than that -- and it probably didn't matter anymore, since they knew what we were after, they'd just put the information back. It had all been a Hail Mary pass in the first place. For one thing, I knew that the computers on ground floor, while functional, served as duplicates to the real data center beneath. Even the federal government wasn't stupid enough to have all their information stored in the path of tornadoes.
Agent Moller's phone rang again. She listened for awhile, and when she responded, her voice had lost all it's professional veneer.
"NO WAY!" she shouted.
Everyone in the room stared at her, the guards, the gold miners, and me. She flushed, and turned away.
"Are you absolutely sure? But that makes no sense? Yes, sir. Yes, sir. I understand, sir."
She dropped the phone in her pocket and turned to me, looking completely baffled.
"I'm ordered to join your expedition and to follow your orders."
Now that really was impossible.
But I wasn't going to question it.
I walked up to FXG334NTZ882 and plugged in my flashdrive. A virus was about to destroy this entire data center. Mineral rights all over the west were about to go up for grabs. Anyone who had paper proof of ownership would be in the cat bird's seat.
Now, all we needed was the paper proof of ownership.
Since we'd already accomplished the improbable, the impossible didn't seem so....well, impossible.
1 week ago