The drive from his home to the meeting room usually seemed like it took forever for James. But he was in no hurry to get there today. He received texts from Lynn, Will and Marcus on the way saying that they had been summoned as well. That made him a feel a little better, but not much. Sebastian was his recruit and getting access to his software was up to James. The Conductor had made that quite clear. Then on top of that, any attempts to follow Sebastian lately always ended with the same results. Sebastian would inevitably find whatever tracking device James planted, then would dispose of it before he could get any information from it. The Conductor wasn’t used to failure when it came to assignments such as this. But this was more than a failed assignment.
The Conductor had to get his hands on that software. During his time as leader of ‘The Keepers’, there were always occasional surprises along the way. Even with all of the technological advances that they had access to, there were occasional innovations that would be created that they had never seen. But within a matter of days, they were able to get their hands on it, study it, then use it to their advantage in one way or another. Several of their recruits in the past were found this way.
But Sebastian and his anti-tracking software was a different story.
James pulled into the parking lot of the innocuous building. He entered through the front door and walked down the hall until he reached the third door on the left. The room was unmarked and didn’t stand out in any special way. When he entered it, he found Lynn, Will and Marcus already inside. The four friends and colleagues shook hands and exchanged pleasantries for a few minutes before taking their seats at the table. As always, the intercom was sitting in the middle of the plain metal table. And as always, the veiled guard standing silently in the corner. Trying their best to ignore him, Marcus reached over and turned on the power.
As if on cue, the voice on the other side spoke up.
“Gentlemen. I take it you’re all there?”
“We are”, Lynn answered. “James, Marcus, Will and I are all here.” He didn’t go into the usual small talk, asking how he was doing or anything like that. They could all feel the tension through the intercom system.
“Good. Let’s get down to it. I asked you all here, but James, I’m going to address you. I assume that there has been no change in our situation with our young friend?”
James had to clear his suddenly dry throat before answering. “I’m afraid not. Everything I’ve tried, he’s seen it coming. But he has to make a mistake sooner or later. I’m still not sure he knows what he has.”
After a painfully long silence, The Conductor spoke up. “He knows what he has. If he didn’t before, he does now. After he found your bugs, he has to be suspicious of you.”
Nobody said anything for a few seconds. Finally The Conductor said, “We’re going to have to take a different approach. We’re not going to sneak up on him now. He’s a sharp kid. He knows somebody is after his project. We’ll have to butter him up a little. That’s why I asked all four of you to join in today.”
The four men in the room shared nervous glances at each other, anticipating what would come next.
“Now, I know that all of you work together, but operate separately and independently. That’s the way it’s always been. All of your work is compartmentalized from the others, some of it even kept from me. But we need to shake things up in this instance. Lynn, Will and Marcus, I want you three to keep doing what you’re doing with your own recruits. Nothing changes on that end. But I also want you working with Sebastian in your spare time.”
Again, the four men in the room stared at each other in disbelief. All of the members of ‘The Keepers’ had their own separate universe in which they worked, each responsible for different areas of expertise. Nothing like this had ever been done as far as they knew.
“I know it’s different from normal procedures”, The Conductor continued. “But we need this. I want Sebastian to feel like he is special and that he can trust us. So like I said before, we’re going to try something different. James, I’ll be getting the exact details to you later today, but for now, plan accordingly. I’ll be in touch.”
The familiar dead air followed, meaning that the meeting was over. No one said a word until finally Marcus reached over and turned off the power to the intercom.
“I can’t believe this”, Will finally said. “I don’t know of anyone that has seen multiple operations. The Conductor must really want this software.”
After he said it he looked over at James to see what his response would be, but was shocked to see his friend smiling and looking relaxed for the first time today.
“What are you smiling about?”, Lynn asked.
“Don’t you guys see? He’s not doing all of this over some software”, James replied.
“Seriously?”, asked Marcus. “Were you not just in the same conference call that we were? He sounds pretty serious about getting his hands on it.”
“He wouldn’t go to this much trouble, breaking protocol, for one piece of software. He’s doing this for Sebastian. The Conductor has found his replacement.”