It wasn't long before the endless stretch of the Atlantic Ocean gave way to the gray rocky slate shores of England. The proud island nation was blanketed in a dense cloud of fog and pollution typical of winter, and Malik had to concentrate carefully while maneuvering them towards Heathrow Airport. Once landed, she took the plane to fuel while Jensen found his way to the vehicle sent by Interpol.
"Mr. Jensen, my name is Thomas Holden. Allow me to thank you again for your assistance in neutralizing the threat at Panchaea," started the uniformed escort.
Jensen nodded and briskly shook hands, seating himself in the back of the unmarked black sedan. Keeping a low profile, eh?Jensen mused. As they set off, Jensen took a moment to survey the damage done in London. Like Detroit, wrecked cars were strewn throughout the street, and numerous cleanup crews were working on clearing the debris. Macerated augments were scattered here and there, and the streets were mostly empty. The world was still in shock after Darrow's signal sent all augmented people with the upgraded biochip into a violent frenzy. It had only lasted a couple hours, but it had been enough to ravage most cities and cause hundreds of thousands of deaths, especially in countries where most of the police and military personnel were augmented.
Pritchard's voice commed in, "Looks like you made it there in good time. They're keeping Darrow in HM Prison Belmarsh in south east London. You should be there shortly."
"Thanks Freya. Anything you can tell me about the place?" He didn't anticipate there being any danger, but it was better to be prepared for anything.
"Well, it's a Category A prison, so top security. Nothing I couldn't crack, but I'd rather not since we would be risking an international incident. I'll be ready to at the drop of a hat if the need arises, though."
He smiled, "I know I can always count on you."
Upon arriving and going through several unnecessary security check points (after all, he couldn't detach his augments), he found himself standing in front of a cell with thick plexi-glass walls scattered with 1-inch diameter holes throughout. All to contain the elderly, handicapped Nobel Prize winner and philanthropist who had orchestrated one of the greatest acts of global terrorism in history.
"Adam, how good of you to visit," started Darrow. "Forgive me, I would stand up to greet you, but they've confiscated my walking aid."
Adam grimly remembered the last time he saw Darrow, his chromium, spear-like cane smeared with blood after defending himself from the augmented Panchaea workers driven mad by the signal he had created. The man had appeared remorseful after their discussion before, but even in his cell his face held that steadfast, composed expression. He was one of the brightest men in the world, yet had succumbed to his growing resentment of his own technology for leaving his genetically incompatible self behind.
"Right, I have some questions for you," started Adam, crossing his arms and lifting his optical display.
"I imagine, since I already explained at length why I did what I did, that there is only a handful of topics left to exhaust. Namely the identities of the other conspirators whom I betrayed with my personal plot," said Darrow knowingly, his gray face regaining a hint of its sagely affect.
"We'll get to that in a minute, but first I want to know about White Helix," he insisted.
Darrow seemed surprised for a moment, but his eyes quickly reflected understanding. "Ah yes, White Helix. How much do you know about that facility?"
"Almost enough. I know that was where some kind of experiment was performed upon a group of children, including me, which would make us perfect candidates for augmentation. I was rescued and the facility destroyed, but somehow word was sent to Dr. Reed that my DNA held the key to her research and she and David Sarif made use of it without my knowledge to unlock the secret to supercompatibility with augmentation technology," Jensen explained. "But that doesn't explain what exactly happened to me, and who was responsible. What is, or was, White Helix?"
Leaning back, Darrow looked to the side of the room and answered, "Why should I tell you? You feign a passion for the truth, but when it came down to it, you released the Illuminati's message to the people. You told them it was just my greedy, murderous plot with Zhao Yun Ru and Tai Yong Medical to control augmented people."
Jensen saw genuine disappointment in Darrow's countenance and responded vehemently, "No, Darrow. I wanted to release your message – the facts. I still believe the world has a right to know, but before Eliza could finish broadcasting, the message was intercepted and doctored. I presume by the Illuminati. Help me, Darrow. I still want to get the truth out, but we need to know where to look."
"That was probably Everett's work. Morgan Everett, CEO of Picus broadcasting. He is one of us of course," Darrow explained. He hesitated to continue, but could not deny Adam's honesty. "Mr. Jensen, the answer to both questions is nearly one and the same. I'm only telling you so that should they eliminate me before I testify in at my arraignment, which is quite likely, then another soul might yet reveal the truth. Those who were working with Zhao Yun Ru, whom I know of, include William Taggart, Morgan Everett, Beth Duclare at the WHO, Stanton Dowd and Robert Page. There was another man in the shadows, above even them, but I was not privy to the workings of the inner circle of five, so his name remains a mystery to me."
"Robert Page, do you mean Bob Page of Page industries?" asked Jensen, remembering that was to whom Sarif was directing Megan to continue her research.
"Yes, Bob Page," he confirmed. "He is the one you should be asking about White Helix. That was his pet project, all those years ago, along with the Rifleman Bank Station now."
Darrow trailed off, lost in thought, and then turned back to Adam. Pritchard was of course relaying the message to Sarif, and immediately checking records on Robert Page, Bob Page, Page Industries, and any other names he could possibly be registered under. As she investigated tax records, Page Industries came up as the lesser known parent organization of Versalife incorporated.
"Adam, are you heading back?" she asked, pulling up the full corporate organization tree for Versalife inc.
"Yes, what is it?"
"I don't know if you already knew this but Versalife, the company behind Neuropozyne, is owned by Page Industries. Along with Omega Ranch where Megan and the others were being kept captive."
"So Dr. Reed's going back to work for the men who likely coordinated the kidnapping in the first place," Adam said coldly. He wondered if she knew. It wasn't his business what she did anymore, but he was certain he at least needed to talk to Page.
"Any idea where Page is located?" asked Adam.
"Let me check." Within Page Industries and Versalife's networks she was able to track down their G-P-L server and run a scan for Page's particular transmitter. Along with that, she came across several archives with references to White Helix which she downloaded to her external storage. They were encrypted of course and would take some time to crack. With each additional move she made within their system, she felt her apprehension growing. After the warning from Windmill about investigating the erased biotechnology company, she could almost feel the trackers hacking into her system. As she moved through their system, she got the feeling that she was circling a deeper level of data that she couldn't quite access, like skirting the corona of the sun but never penetrating that glowing halo.
Suddenly, an encrypted message popped up on her screen. She paused her Versalife mining for a moment to trace it to its source. Right when she narrowed it down to somewhere in Montreal, the text started flashing, as if it were about to expire. Pritchard quickly took several screenshots before it was lost and the source extinguished. It was timed perfectly so no one could identify the origin, which made her suspicious it was a warning of some kind. And in Montreal the only person, or rather entity, who would want to send her and Adam a warning was probably…
Pritchard knew she couldn't risk speculating over open airwaves, so she started to work translating the message and other data she had obtained. She'd reached the limits of what she could access remotely. As a precaution, she disconnected her computer from the network and worked offline until Adam came into the Tech Lab.
"Freya, did you find Page's location?" he asked, his optical overlay retracting and revealing his golden brown eyes, spinning with circular diaphragms and apertures. He stopped walking just behind her and rested his hands on her shoulders, the sides of his thumbs smoothly grazing the back of her neck.
"Yeah, I was able to track his G-P-L. Looks like he's en-route from Moscow to Hong Kong."
"That's Versalife's headquarters. Probably a safe bet he's going back to business as usual," Jensen mused.
"It looks like he'll be there soon. He started flying back to Hong Kong about the same time that you left from Heathrow," she informed him.
"Did you dig up anything about White Helix?" he asked.
"Of course," she answered, grinning, "a treasure trove of information from Versalife and Page Industries. Only problem is it's all encrypted, and I didn't have time to decrypt things while I was in there – I just wanted to get in and out. They're not going to be happy about it…"
"Have you gotten anything translated yet?"
"Only one thing," she started, turning around in her chair to face Jensen. "While I was breaking into their system, an encoded message popped up several times. I was able to trace it to Montreal and save it before it flashed away. It was shorter and easier to decipher than most of the data I obtained, so I started on it first."
"Montreal… do you think it was Eliza?" Jensen asked eagerly.
"Almost certainly. I wanted to tell you over the comms but I'm sure they're listening in. I don't even know if discussing it like this is safe, but she had a message she wanted me to relay to you."
Freya had written it down on a scrap of paper and handed it to Jensen.
I am sorry, Adam. I overestimated my degree of autonomy when I attempted to reveal the presence of the conspirators. I am limited by three independent data filters, each with similar programming to myself but much more limited scope. You already destroyed two of the filters inadvertently – one at the Hyron project beneath Panchaea, and the other at Omega Ranch. The final layer preventing me from reporting the unadulterated truth lies with the leader of the Illuminati. I cannot reveal his name, but Robert Page may be willing to do so. I have detected a growing rift between certain members of the inner circle of five, particularly between Robert Page and their current leader. When you find him, if you are able to disable the final filter, then I shall finally be able to reveal the truth you wanted, along with any additional information you might have obtained since Panchaea. When the time comes, Freya can send me the supplemental data and I will broadcast your message. Be careful, Adam. They are watching you both.
As Jensen's eyes scanned across the lines of text, Freya started packing up her gear. She had stayed late waiting for him, and it was already nearing eleven at night and her stomach had been growling at her for hours. Adam glanced about and noticed that the Tech Lab was the last office light on in the atrium, in addition to its normally glowing data towers and security screens. He felt an intriguing mix of guilt and happy satisfaction that she had stuck around for his sake. Tossing on her black and orange jacket, Freya pulled her black hair tie away to let her hair down. She let it drop on her desk top and tousled her hair gently to loosen the strands so they weren't still stuck in their tied back position, leaving the strands with a natural wave.
"The decryption is still going on those files, it'll take at least a day or two," she continued, waiting for him to respond.
"I'm going to have to talk Sarif into letting me go to Hong Kong. Maybe I can arrange an audience with Page through Dr. Reed."
Freya paused in picking up her messenger bag when he mentioned Megan. He still hadn't told her what happened when he found Megan in Omega Ranch, only that he never wanted to see her face again. She was his ex-girlfriend, and he'd been a man obsessed with rescuing her. To have such a change of heart, what he found must have been pretty earth-shattering.
"I can contact her in the morning, but I don't think she's made a decision on Page Industries yet – there's nothing on Malik's flight schedule for tomorrow except taking Sarif to Washington D.C. in the morning for congressional hearings. Those are expected to last a couple days, so Malik should be free by late morning."
"Thanks for checking on that, Freya. Are you ready to head home?" he asked, noticing she'd mostly packed all her gear.
"Yeah, I'm starved. Chinese?" she asked, picking up the phone and resting her index finger on the number pad. Jensen let himself relax just a bit; it was hard not to when he saw Freya's bright, expectant blue eyes staring back at him. Nodding, he smiled and came over next to her, slipping an arm around her waist and resting his chin on the side of her head while she ordered. Somehow he found himself missing her immensely even after just a day apart and took in the faint floral aroma of her hair. It was uncharacteristically feminine and he remained still, wanting to prolong the moment just a bit longer. She leaned into him and dialed the number for the Jade Flower restaurant, her finger lingering slightly on each square. Though she was distracted by his touch and her head started feeling spacy, she was able to put in their order and tear herself away from him so they could head out.
She kept close to him as they walked through the streets of Detroit at night. The police force had been decimated during Darrow's attack and the initial shock was starting to wear off, so unsavory figures were beginning to reappear in the alleys. Fortunately it wasn't long before they were walking over the threshold of his apartment, the space filling with aromas of honey walnut prawns and chicken chow mein. Jensen was about to turn on the television, but he hadn't watched anything besides the news in months and neither of them wanted to see that. It was all depressingly predictable. Eliza Cassan's calm, mechanical voice would inform them of more protests and violence around the world. She would then air more discussion about Tai Yong Medical and Hugh Darrow as well as speculation about tomorrow's congressional hearings on the future of the augmentation industry.
"Do you need anything from your place?" Jensen asked, subtly inviting her to stay overnight again. She studied his face a moment as he turned just barely away from her and unpacked the Styrofoam take-out boxes onto fresh paper dishes. He wasn't outspoken about his feelings but with Adam, his actions and what he left unsaid were more meaningful than any official romantic declarations. She smiled and answered, "I already have the basics in my bag since I've spent the night at the office so many times. I have lots of computer gear there, but nothing I need tonight."
"Good," he said, his expression softening as he handed her a plate. None of this felt normal to her yet. This was only her third time stepping foot in Adam's apartment. She still hadn't gotten over him wanting to keep her in his presence. Somehow she was so used to seeing him as a loner, off on solo missions and closing himself off to casual office friendships, that the fact he had feelings for her was still sinking in. As she took the plate from him with one hand, her other traced up his glistening black augmented forearm, enjoying the feel under her fingertips. She couldn't help being so easily distracted by him, it was all so new. Everything about him.
Nervously she kept her eyes averted from his, but he stepped forward and guided the plate back to the counter top, slipping his arm beneath her and around her back. It was as if her touch had set off something inside him and he brought his lips down to hers, forcing her to tilt her face up to him. His hands traced up her spine and twisted into the ends of her dark tresses, mixing pleasure with pain as he bent her neck sharply back. She ran her hands through his hair and pressed her elbows against his shoulder blades, pulling herself up to him. Freya hadn't noticed before, but there was a subtle smell of spicy cologne along his collar mixed with the metallic iron aroma rising up from his arms. It was indescribably intoxicating and she forgot about that dull ache in her stomach, instead wanting nothing more than his lips pressed against hers. He pushed her back into the opposite counter, pressing his body flat against hers, her knees parting to make room for him as she filled with a feverish desire. His tongue gently teased at her mouth and she welcomed it inside, relishing his hands tearing off her jacket and sliding along her bare skin beneath her shirt. Without another word, he picked her up into his arms and carried her into the bedroom. Dinner could wait.