After leaving the Representative, Thomas and her group were taken to an office building in the centre of the Sydney CBD. After making their way to a secure floor, they entered a room set up with a meeting table and chairs at one end, and six large, flat screen televisions at the other.
As Thomas entered the room, she swiped her card and the screens flared to life. Each one displayed an individual sitting in a similarly decorated meeting room. Smith loved technology and this stuff appealed to him no end. Thomas was talking even before she sat down. Smith had no idea why Hamish had decided to crash the meeting, but then, the kid seemed to do whatever he pleased.
“Good afternoon everyone.” She said in her most business-like tone. “Before we get started I would like to introduce the new Theta Team Coordinator, Agent Robert Smith.” Thomas motioned to each screen in turn as she spoke. “David Wexley, Europe; Nina Esconda, South America; ‘Tex’ Melling, North America; Su-Ling Poi, Asia; Zafra Al-Mukhtar, Middle East; and, N’gembi Ontaro, Africa.”
Smith smiled in general greeting and took his seat.
“By now you have all been briefed on Williams and the Red Council. I am hereby declaring a Code White for the Agency.” Several people on the screens blanched visibly.
“Penny is that really necessary?” asked Director Melling, his thick south-western accent filling the room. “Shouldn’t this be an internal matter for the Haemocracy?”
“Tex,” she began. “If this had been confined to the Haemocracy than I’d agree. But almost two-thousand innocent people were killed, two Lycans were experimented on in the most hideous way imaginable, and, the Red Council is clearly developing biological weapons far in advance of anything we know of, and, can currently counter.”
The North American Director nodded and went silent.
Thomas looked to the upper right-hand corner. “Zaf. There’s talk that they may have recruited scientists from the old regime in Iraq, and quite possibly Libya.”
Director Al-Mukhtar shook his head. “Sorry, Penelope. We just picked up the last of them not three hours ago. All black market and ex-regime weaponists are accounted for.” His richly accented voice seemed to heighten the tension in the room.
Thomas muttered a profanity. “Are you certain? The Haemocracy speculates otherwise.”
Al-Mukhtar shook his head. “Absolutely sure. We’ve been watching these targets for six months. They have all been neutralised. We even gave the CIA a couple of gifts.”
Thomas slammed her hand down on the desk. It seemed her favourite way to let of steam. “Damn it!”
“I’d be looking into former Soviet scientists myself.”
This cause Thomas to perk up somewhat before looking to the middle left screen. “Do you have something for us David?”
The dapper man smiled condescendingly. “Naturally. The Soviets were far more advanced in this area than even the Americans. Their biological weapons programme was so ahead of it’s time that the only reason it wasn’t put into action was that the delivery technologies they wanted were yet to be invented.” Wexley looked to one side off screen for several seconds. The sound of rustling paper indicated he was looking for something. “A-ha! I have four of the bastards unaccounted for.”
“Let’s have them.” Thomas instructed as she motioned for Campbell to take notes.
Wexley continued. “Antonin Antonovich – ex-head of the Viral Research Unit for the KGB; Tatiana Kamarova – Scientist in Charge of their military research unit; Michal Keraboski – previously Political Officer of the State Bio-Repository; and, Serafina Kilkatova – Director of the KGB’s Weapons Research Unit. I don’t know how, but all four eluded their Watchers, and the entire associated surveillance.”
On another screen, Director Ontaro gasped in surprise. Smith surmised that the CSD’s surveillance techniques were not easy ones to elude.
Director Esconda of South America spoke up. “This may not be anything, but we’ve had several ex-Nazis in Brazil suddenly go quiet.”
“How long ago was that, Nina?” Thomas asked.
The attractive Brazillian woman replied. “Six weeks ago.”
“What were their backgrounds?” Smith asked curiously.
Director Esconda answered without having to refer to anything. “All were engineering. No bio-tech whatsoever. All had high level engineering skills, but had been relatively low profile during the war. We’ve kept watch on them, but have so far been unable to tie them to war crimes. So…”
“Hang on,” Hamish interjected. “How old are these guys? Shouldn’t they be back in diapers with slobber cups by now?”
Esconda laughed. “I need someone like you around here, Hamish.” Then her expression became all business again. “These men all have the appearance of early middle age. We guessed that they may have had access to black market genetics research, but it still wasn’t enough to show on the radar.”
“Consider them back on the radar, Nina. We need to know where they are, and taken into custody if possible please.” Thomas requested.
“Shall do, Penelope, however, the DEA have been sniffing around them which may have caused them to go underground.”
Thomas looked to Melling. “Tex, can you get the DEA to back off for a couple of months?”
The Texan American laughed boisterously. “When have I not delivered for you, Penny-Pea?”
Thomas smiled in spite of herself. “Rarely.” The American was typically over the top but completely engaging. She tapped a few commands on her PDA then looked back up. “Alright, I’ve just sent you everything we have, including our travel itinerary for the next week. We suspect that they will try again. What we don’t know is where. It could be here in Australia but it could be anywhere.”
Director Ontaro spoke up. His voice had that richly accented basso common to African men. “Penelope, Williams was on a route for heavy weapons smuggling. Now, there are not as many of those, as there are isolated small towns.” Ontaro left it hanging.
Thomas replied crisply. “Good thinking. All of you intensify your Watchers on known heavy weapons smuggling routes and I’ll ask our friends to reposition a couple of satellites for us. Anything further?” No other comments came from the conference participants. “Then I’ll check in with all of you in three days. Thank you.” With that, all the screens went dark. Thomas handed Campbell a file. “Get onto our friends at the Pentagon and get some assets put over the routes that the D’s specify.”
“What’s with the heavy weapons link?” Smith asked.
Thomas leant forward in her chair. “When you put all those individuals together in one pot and stir, you immediately think heavy weapons. There are nineteen preferred routes for heavy weapons smuggling in the world.”
Smith understood. “So, a heavy weapons shipment could identify a target.”
Thomas rocked one hand from side to side. “It’s hit and miss. Thankfully, the satellites will also be able to pick up Haemocrat heat signatures. Combine those with the location and we might get a hit.”
“And Watchers,” Smith continued. “They’re what I think they are?
Thomas nodded. “They are. We have at least one Watcher in each major city and most major towns. Other areas depend on importance whether or not an asset is put there.”
Smith waited as Campbell left the room to attend to his task. As soon as the door closed he spoke. “We have people in the Pentagon?”
Thomas looked to Hamish. The young man sighed in the manner of a jilted teenager. “Okay, okay” he started. “I’ll go ogle Campbell and leave the James Bond stuff to you grown-ups.” Hamish and his pout left the room.
Thomas spoke. “We have someone in every organisation, country, town, or company that we deem of import. Always remember that.”
“How many of us are there?” He asked breathlessly.
Thomas tapped on her PDA for a few moments before bringing up some data on one of the screens. “Each Director has total control over their area. It’s entirely up to them how many agents they have – their generous budget permitting.” Thomas switched the picture to a map of the world. Dotted all over it were small green dots. “Each dot is a Watcher. Most are ours. Others are agents in Intelligence Organisations that do work for us as well. Others are just the right people in the right place that we recruit on the side.”
Smith gestured at the map. “We have Watchers in countries that hate us.”
Thomas nodded. “Countries may hate us. But that doesn’t mean that all the people in that country do. We seek those people out.”
“How do the agents maintain their integrity? Being the servant of two task masters must put them between a rock and a hard place sometimes?”
Thomas again nodded. “True. But we don’t do that. We will not violate the internal policies of an Intelligence Organisation of an ally.”
Smith raised an eyebrow. “And those we don’t consider an ally?”
Thomas smiled grimly. “Then it’s open season.”
Smith smiled knowingly. He had read reports about the actions of so called ‘Good’ agencies when it came to destabilising the ‘Bad’. Smith had understood the intentions behind the activities but had not always agreed with them. Making a country come around to your way of thinking by increasing the level of fear and paranoia in its own government did not seem quite the right approach to him. Mind you, he had been a data analyst looking at the issue through an intellectual window, far from the actual event itself. He now understood how so many agencies could so easily get things wrong. However, it did not alter his particularly moral view of the phrase ‘the means justify the ends’. For him, that would never become an accepted axiom.
Most of the decision makers sat in offices in downtown areas of capitals or major cities. Few, if any, were actually out in the field doing the hard work. It explained any number of incidents that had gone horribly wrong over the years. The bosses did not experience the nuances of the situation whilst the field agents were focussing on their own issues but had trouble seeing the bigger picture. Unfortunately, there seemed to be no middle person who could translate for both.
Perhaps this was why Smith was developing such a deep respect for Thomas so quickly. She was a Director who got out amongst her agents and experienced the events first hand. She handed very little off and was involved in every step of an investigation. Interestingly though, she did not micro manage. She was involved, but was more than comfortable delegating to her team and letting them do the actual work, including the decision making for that particular task. It was evident that she was still very much in charge though. She knew everything that was going on in the Agency and with all their operations.
It squirmed underneath his touch. He did not care. He pulled back momentarily to realise that not only did he not care; he did not hate the creature either. In place was an ambivalence that seemed to lay over him like a familiar blanket. It comforted him; soothed him; eased the last few concerns of his. It was a liberating feeling. With a sigh of release, he turned back to his project.
Before him, on a raised marble dais was his subject – a Lycan. The thing was perhaps just reaching maturity. Its body was still underdeveloped and it was quite unable to break its’ bonds. A fortunate thing, it seemed, as it was very angry indeed at the treatment it was receiving. He took a large syringe from a side table and, checking the quantity, injected it into his subject.
It would be several minutes before any change began, so he wandered around his lab, tidying up where necessary and maintaining the integrity of his space. And he did so enjoy his space. A converted Hammam, it was predominantly marble with high set windows in a domed roof that allowed light to bounce around and provide some truly glorious moments in the day. That it was constructed mainly of marble also meant it was much easier to keep clean, and he was most meticulous in that.
He stopped by his computer and consulted the read outs. Everything was proceeding according to his projections. The genetic drift was a disappointment, but it did save him the thorny issue of what to do with them after their tasks were completed. At least it was quick. Previous attempts had resulted in agonising deaths that took weeks, and in some cases, months. A few days were nothing to complain about.
He turned back to his subject at the sound of a low growl. It had begun. The enzymatic compound that had been introduced to the Lycan had now begun its’ work. The Lycan was now experiencing a level of pain hitherto unknown. The thing would be experiencing stimulation to its nervous system that would feel as it was being sliced into by white-hot knives. Again, he did not care. All he was curious about was the intended effects and what actually happened.
The Lycan was forced into its hybrid form by the solution attacking its system. It screamed a unique cry of human and canine. It was almost a howl, but it was marred by the excessive screeching that was a human-like scream. He rolled his eyes. This was precisely why he and his kind should no longer be signatories to the Contract. These beasts may be physically stronger and faster, but they had no spirit. Indeed, he had postulated many times that he believed they did not even possess souls or emotions such as them. They were merely beasts who had managed to pass themselves off as respectable members of the gene pool.
Now, the subject was beginning to manifest actual physical change. Its incisors shortened, and its eyes were slowly turning a pinkish hue – a mix of the Lycan silver and the Haemocrat red. Its’ skin was also losing some of the bronze tinge peculiar to Lycans in their human form, in its place was the pale, almost translucent white of a Haemocrat. Further, its’ ears lengthened whilst its claw-like nails began to have a more Haemocrat appearance. Brushing his hand against its’, he noticed the change in skin texture that would allow it to adhere to most surfaces.
He smiled as he administered a tranquilizer to silence the beast. Everything had proceeded according to his research and planning. Sitting in front of his computer, he sent a message to the Council informing them of his success in further refining the genetic change.
He was quite pleased with himself. A lesser scientist would have bungled it. As it was, there had been times when he himself had wondered if he would succeed. It goes without saying that his musings were internal – of course. He would never have admitted his concerns to the others. After all, he had an image and a position to maintain. Even if it meant the cost of such personal consolidation would be several Lycan lives. They were just dogs after all. And he had a duty to end the suffering of rabid animals.
He carefully washed and disinfected the hand that had been forced to touch the unconscious beast on his table. He had to fight not to physically gag. It was the one thing that he disliked about his vocation. To experiment on them was one thing – he could use instruments for that – but occasionally he was forced to actually touch them. It turned his stomach.
His family had stretched back for thousands of years. And yet, he despised the female side of his lineage. Even with the knowledge that his genetic makeup was mostly Haemocrat, he could not help but be sickened by their need to breed with Lycans. He had doubled his efforts to find a way for his kind to successfully breed without the need for Lycan assistance. He had conducted several trials using fully human females as incubators. Sadly, all of them had perished either mid-term or at birth, and none of the infants had survived. Their genetic dependence on the Lycans was proving most difficult to break. But break it he would. It was only a matter of time.
An alarm broke his concentration. Looking to his screen, he saw the vital signs of his subject dropping faster than he could read them. He moved quickly to the dais and began attempts to keep the creature alive, but it expired before he could make a meaningful attempt to keep it alive. It was most concerning. This was the only subject to react in this fashion. All the others had successfully mutated then lasted several days. This one had barely lasted several minutes.
He summoned his assistants and immediately began examining the still warm corpse. As one assistant took a blood sample for analysis, another assisted him in quickly opening up the torso of the corpse. He cut deeply, through the skin, muscles and ribs to expose the cardiac cavity. What he saw shocked him.
The heart had all but exploded. Looking at the remains it appeared as if an explosive had detonated from the inside, blowing out one side of the primary chamber. The lungs had also reacted in a similar fashion and had practically shredded themselves. He wondered if other organs had suffered similar fates and commanded his assistant to open the cranium.
He moved to the assistant conducting the blood analysis and looked over his shoulder. On the screen before them was the magnified image of the beasts’ red blood cells. Right before his eyes they were exploding, his enhanced hearing clearly detecting the barely audible ‘puffs’ of the cells demise. The analysis clearly identified a type of runaway gaseous expansion that was compromising their cellular integrity, resulting in an explosive end. Given the subject had been in his care for the previous month, he knew that the beast had not arrived with this condition. Someone had sabotaged his work.
With a steady, careful step, he moved to the intercom on his desk and summoned four security staff. When they arrived, he ordered his assistants taken into custody for questioning. The two men were dragged away in spite of their extensive protestations. He knew that someone within their organisation had done this, and he would start with those closest to him.
His facility possessed the highest level of security and yet, it was clear that someone had tampered with his experiment. He was not happy. It would take days, perhaps weeks, to understand how it had been done. It would require the most meticulous work, and would not be made any easier by the pressure he knew he would come under from the Council as to answers.
His pressure was exacerbated when another security officer ran into his domain and breathlessly advised him that his remaining five subjects had all escaped. Fighting down his own fury, he ordered the retrieval team to be deployed and the subjects to be brought back alive. He amended the order to include deadly force should they prove to be too uncooperative. The security officer acknowledged the order and bolted from the room.
With a roar, he spun around and, with his fingernails extended, tore a chunk of marble from one of the columns, which in turn landed on the floor, the force of its’ impact causing it to explode into fragments. As he fought to regain his control, he was annoyed with himself for making such a mess. As if his day was not bad enough, he had to add a mess to his clean lab on top of it. With a final deep breath, he went off in search of a broom.
Kael put aside the small glass of red liquid. He found his hunger had deserted him after his guests had left. Strange. He had not thought of Gareth in many years. To see him in the flesh had been welcomed and long overdue. Kael had been one of the five of nine members of the Representative that had voted to expel him from the Haemocracy. It saddened him deeply at the time, in spite of his acceptance of their policies. Mating with a human was simply far too dangerous.
Kael chuckled. The progeny – Hamish – was as outrageous and as outspoken as his father had once been. Not only that, but he was possessed of abilities that Kael would be eager to see demonstrated. More than that, as a scientist, he was eager to see how the boys’ DNA had successfully and healthily merged the two sets from his parents. An outcome that would be fulfilled in a day, after their lab had processed the small biological sample that Kael had deliberately taken from the utensils the boy had used.
Though underhanded, Kael had a responsibility to the Haemocracy to know. Never before had such an individual walked the Earth. The few matings that Kael had been privy to had all ended in either still births or hideously deformed freaks that could have never been mistaken as human. The Haemocrat DNA was simply too alien to Human DNA. Haemocrats and Lycans had essentially been inbreeding for thousands of years. For the average human couple, this would produce any number of genetic deformations resulting in any number of illnesses and malformed offspring. For his and their allies’ kind it produced only a healthy line of ‘children’ that went back millennia.
He sighed nostalgically. It was only in recent time that this sort of disgrace had begun to surface as an issue for the Haemocracy. Kael longed for the centuries before modern medical technology. He longed for his old estate in the Loire Valley. He had long ago sold his chateau and the accompanying vineyards to move to Australia in furtherance of his duties to the Haemocracy. Kael had served as a member of the board for one of Australia’s most powerful telecommunications companies for the decade previous, as were most of the Representative. Indeed, there were few technology and medical companies that did not have at least one Haemocrat on their board. It was vital to the Haemocracy’s interests to have their fingers in those specific pies. His musing was interrupted by the arrival of the Haemocrat that served as his attached. Kael looked up.
The youthful appearing blonde man nodded respectfully. “The data sent to us from the CSD has confirmed our own findings. The mutation is currently being genetically broken down, but it is definitely an attempt to merge the two Houses.”
Kael shook his head slowly in revulsion. “It is an abhorrence.”
Ty nodded slowly. “Their attempts do not suggest that they will cease their efforts.”
Kael stood quickly with a grunt of disgust. “No. If anything, their failure will simply spur them on to continue refining their ghastly technique.”
Ty paused uncomfortably before asking the next question. “If I may ask, are there truly members of the Haemocracy who support the Red Council?”
Kael turned to look at his charge. “Indeed. It is regrettable but true.” Again, he sighed. He thought to himself he did that too often of late. “They are misguided, of course. But we do not tell our members what to think. They may support the Red Council – in principle only. As a Democracy, they are entitled to think what they like. They may even leave to join them should they please.”
Ty was openly shocked. “You would let them go?”
Kael shrugged. “What would you have me do? Chain them? Bind them? Imprison them? Kill them?”
The younger Haemocrat visibly drew back at the idea of one Haemocrat harming another. Indeed, it was part of what made the actions of the Red Council so appalling in their eyes.
Haemocrats were barred from harming another of their own kind. They were also barred from harming their Lycan sisters. These two laws, along with the protection of Mankind, formed the very foundation of their societies. For eight hundred and two years, no Haemocrat had ever harmed another. The last to do so had only acted in self defence to protect a group of humans who were in danger from the blood lust of a deranged Haemocrat. Even now, Haemocrats everywhere will pause at the stroke of midnight every March 24th to mourn the act.
“What are we going to do, Sir?” Ty asked gently.
Kael walked to the window to overlook the fountain splashing outside his study. “Nothing. The CSD must be the key player in this event.”
Ty could not believe what he was hearing. “They are humans, Sir. They cannot possibly understand or access the inner workings of the Red Council such as we could.”
Kael continued to gaze at the dancing fluid without. “We have no choice. To openly confront the Red Council could invite a disaster on us all. We must, as always, protect the Haemocracy from external forces.”
“Sir,” Ty began, choosing his words carefully, “The CSD, even with its unique agents, will most assuredly fail. Unquestionably, we should assist them.”
Kael slowly turned in his chair and looked up to his charge with undisguised shock. “You would tell me what we must unquestionably do?”
Ty took a step back and bowed his head. “My apologies, Sir. I do not seek to rise above my station. My concern, as always, is for humanity and their protection.”
Kael allowed his temper to dissipate. Truth be told, the younger man was correct. “Of course, you are right. And we shall assist them in whatever way we can. But we will not attempt to penetrate the Red Council. To do so would lower us to their level. Understood?”
Ty bowed in acceptance, then left the room.
Kael walked over and sat at his desk. He picked up his PDA and began scanning the contents of the documents he held on it and it alone. Given that the device was never out of reach of his person, it was the most secure place he could store such inflammatory information.
He quickly composed an email that detailed everything the CSD had told him. He then further attached all the documents they had provided. When completed he sent it before erasing every trace of its existence on both the PDA and his personal server. When he was certain that everything had been taken care of, he summoned his steward and requested a new glass of lunch. The previous had sat for too long. The two drinks were efficiently swapped and Kael sat back and slowly savoured his lunch.
Whilst one issue had been taken care of, yet one more now presented itself - The CSD. Their involvement would no doubt draw yet more attention to the Red Council, and quite possibly to the bonds it still shared with the Haemocracy. The information had been closely guarded by all but the most senior of its members, and yet a collection of genetic misfits, an outcast and a couple of humans could potentially discover what he had sought so valiantly to keep hidden for so many years.
Kael, respected member of the Representative, and one of its most senior advisors, was the Red Council. The hierarchy of the Red Council reported to Kael and Kael alone. And Kael would not have it another way. After all, you don’t change the world without the small changes along the way.