Chapter 13: Busted
Frankincense city is buzzing with its usual lunch time vibe. That meant the gutters were flowing with rubbish and the rats were squeaking up and down the sidewalks. As I head over as quickly as possible to the Five Reds; I’ve already determined my objective.
Maintaining information systems was crucial to how the Five Reds ran and operated. I wasn’t going to do anything too dodgy. I was simply going to look into the data bases and print off all the information I could find about the Gang of Shadows and Dale himself.
It would be for my own benefit and his. Once he received the information I held, he would know exactly what the Five Reds stored about him and his activities.
I hope this time round I don’t see the Five Reds’ squad in the building. I didn’t want to bump into Captain James and his crew. I wanted to go in, go out and get my revenge on him later. I mean, it was a pretty simple and easy plan. How could anything go wrong?
I waltz my way happily through the front revolving doors and I can’t help but notice the strange looks some of the admin girls that I recognise, are shooting my way. I roll my eyes to myself as I conclude it was most likely James’ gossip about me. He probably told everyone I was a whore for the Gang of Shadows while I attempted to get my mission completed.
I almost halt in the hall way as I think that thought, because, ironically, I had agreed to be so; and it wasn’t even to complete a mission. I was considering being a whore for them, just to join the dark side.
In a sudden moment of self-disgust, I almost, almost decide on telling the Five Reds what happened to me. Everything I knew.
But just as quickly I remember my priorities.
The Five Reds were assholes; the Gang of Shadows were the only people to accept me. Dale accepted me. Into somewhere I finally felt like I belonged.
Soon-to-be-whore or not, I wanted to continue this journey to at least see where it would lead. Call it nuts, but I already had a few fun fantasies in mind where I would act such a bad-ass that I would quickly be revered in the Gang of Shadows. I would be valued more highly and I would be seen as more than just a body to give pleasure.
I honestly thought that was a realistic outcome that I could achieve.
I just had to prove my worth.
I frown as I slow my walk and enter into the computer lab rooms on the second floor. Nothing on here was so much as classified as it was public but I had literally over heard, a couple of times, the admin girls gossip about the ridiculous password to access the secure information.
The password wasn’t as top secret as it could be, but it didn’t matter as these computers weren’t connected to any form of internet. Information was only transpired through flash drives, updated hourly.
I enter the warm room, heated from the many hard drives running at once. These computers were five generations old, a symbol of the past. Two seats are occupied by fellow low level spies like myself. I choose a corner computer, hooked up to the printer.
I wouldn’t be here long.
I push my hair back over my shoulders and I log into the computer with my first and last name. I then access the secure files with the known password. All the while my nails tap on the letters gently, careful not to damage the antique keyboard.
All the information about identities is stored automatically in alphabetical order. Top priority targets is an option for sorting the list, so I choose that. Not surprisingly ‘Gang of Shadows’ and ‘Dale’ are at the top.
I quickly print off the document about the Gang of Shadows without question.
Mostly because my mind was on looking up Dale next and finding out as much information as possible. Now it wasn’t just about pleasing him. It was about getting some background context for my own benefit. Power was knowledge; I wanted to see if I could get any interesting tips that perhaps the admin girls had missed when passing me the print offs.
His last name is labelled in yellow, ‘Howard’. This coded colour means it is an assumed last name with no certainty.
When I open the document about him, I don’t expect to see so many possibilities surrounding his person. Underneath his name are five different possible Dales. Each one with a brief summary and each start have a letter H for the last name.
However, one big thing stands out. All are labelled as ‘Not a likely connection’ however, they are the closest the Five Reds could come up with. Aka, Dale’s identity is extremely sketchy. All the details on the document are possibilities but there is no hard evidence of where he comes from.
I print off that page, even though I feel it is useless. But I couldn’t waste time thinking.
I have about ten more minutes to get back to STRIKE at my apartment block.
…I want to do a really quick, extra search of my own.
I was far too curious to check out the alphabetical list. I go down to the name Dale and the list for last names starting with H. All five have been covered.
Except for one.
This last name is red for deceased.
I get excited when I feel in my gut that a huge revelation is soon to come. When I click on the name, the document opens and a few sentences exist.
Dale Howl, D.O.B. 5th of September 2130, deceased 3rd of March 2131. Only heir of Howl Inc. died during first year of life. Victim to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
I frown in disappointment and also unexpected sadness.
I had thought that would have been something interesting or perhaps something exciting. The only interesting fact was the correlation of a dead baby to Howl Inc. They were the family who invented Spanky Dust –
I jump in my seat when the door to the lab slams open.
The dully lit computer room is suddenly flooded with light a moment later.
I turn around in my seat, my papers strewn out on the table and Dale Howl opened on the screen.
In the entrance are heavily armed police.
Two point laser guns in my direction.
“Alyssa O’Brien, you’re under arrest,” between the two police, one officer dressed in heavy black metal armour, clunks his way through. I instantly see the badge on his uniform.
Misfit Prevention, head officer.
I’m frozen to my seat, instantly engulfed in panic and shock.
“What did I do?” I ask, quietly, trying not to tremble at the guns still pointed at me. The silence in the room from the other spies is deafening and the head officer continues to move forward slowly. He pulls out a black tablet from his belt and he opens it up with a smirk on his face.
I wait patiently as he accesses some images and then turns the tablet for my inspection.
“Evidence of your broken contract, Miss O’Brien,” he says shortly as I glance at the image of my room and two close up images of Dale’s call card and the bottle of Black Lair perfume.
What the hell?
“But I’m doing my job –!” I try to complain but the head officer quickly cuts me off.
“Whether this is to insert yourself into their lifestyle to complete your mission is beside the point. We require top level confidentiality. You cannot lazily keep these pieces of damaging, malicious content, anywhere near the public. You’re busted, Alyssa. You should have paid more attention to your job… laziness never helped this planet… it destroyed it. Behaviour like yours will not be tolerated –”
“Do I get a fair trial?” I bud in, confused and angry all at once.
“A trial is not needed for the nature of your broken contract. Get up and turn around, we’ll escort you to Preventative Care. Don’t fret, Miss O’Brien you will not be sentenced to ten years behind bars. You will receive rehabilitation for the course of your impending six year re-education. Upon completion, you will be granted freedom to try and serve this planet lawfully. Any other questions?” he asks while managing to exact a tone that balanced out impatience and arrogance perfectly.
“How is this fair?” I ask, jumping up from my seat, I watch as he goes to grab the cuffs hanging at his belt.
“We weren’t fair on this world and now it’s dying. Don’t expect generous treatment, girl, we’re trying to save this planet before it’s lungs give out.”
“That’s rather poetic,” I hold out my hands.
“Hold your tongue, your stupidity to get yourself in this situation isn’t my problem,” he snaps, while cuffing my wrists.
“Be careful escorting me, officer, perhaps I’m not as stupid and innocent as you’d like to think,” I hiss as he grabs my shoulders and shoves me around him, pushing me towards the door.
“You seem pretty darn stupid to me. Your records show your fresh out of high school, you were disowned by your family months later and you don’t even have friends,” he has fun rubbing it in as the two police officers with him both grab a hold of each arm and escort me out of the building.
All the while, fellow employees watch in excitement from their door ways, happy for some gossip for the day.
Once we’re nearing the entrance, to my great irritation, I see Prof. Hedgy waddling inside with a coffee in hand. He pauses as he watches me being escorted out. For one moment, he pauses, before shrugging to himself with a little smile on his face as he continues on past.
I crack it.
“It’s Howl, you dull witted lump of fat, leaves and twigs!” I yell out after him just as the police officers hurry me outside, their grips tightening on my arms.
I lick my lips as I turn my head towards the street and scan the road.
My eyes light up as I spot the front familiar grill and headlights of STRIKE poking out of an alleyway down the road. However, I only get a glimpse before the police officers are opening the car door and shoving me down inside.
The head officer grabs the door before its shut just so he can look down on me and gloat.
“Any other questions, Miss O’Brien? Fire away. You’re truly busted now. This is the last chance you get to speak freely before you’re incarcerated in PC,” he says all too happily.
“Is the world really dying?” I ask, anger and passion running through me at his lack of emotion and cold, ruthless tone.
“Yes, Miss O’Brien, did you skip history class?” he asks before slamming the door shut.
I wait for him to head into the front passenger seat while one man drives and one sits in the back with me.
“Perhaps people just don’t think outside the square anymore nowadays; because they’re not taught to,” I mutter, feeling like a smart ass but happy I worked out something so simple in my research; that everyone had missed.
The answer was right in front of people’s noses sometimes.
They just had to look, to line up the little bits of intertwined facts and data.
“What are you thinking, Miss O’Brien? Please, enlighten me,” the head officer chuckles as he relaxes back into his seat.
“Perhaps the world isn’t dying, it’s just been rebirthed, rising out of the ashes?” I suggest, proud by the hesitation in the head officer’s stature.
“I’m afraid your PC may be upgraded to full incarceration for a dangerous attitude, Miss O’Brien,” he snaps, “Do you consider yourself a Misfit?”
This, I do not answer.
My thinking had changed and I take a moment to realise why.
Dale had cleared my system of the vaccines and suddenly the world seemed a little more... abstract?
I didn’t know all the bits I was missing, but now that I could see straight – something just didn’t feel right anymore.
Something was off in Frankincense City.
I was dying to find out more hidden facts.
Oh, and I wasn’t worried about being incarcerated, either.
Because when I glance into the side mirrors of the police car?
STRIKE is trailing.
Three cars back.