Techno Fail

Eric Cooper is about to discover something that will set in motion events he cannot predict, with the stakes being incredibly high...

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9. Frosty Acquaintances

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There was something that London did very well. It did opulence, finery and elegance in a way few other cities could match, and tied it all together in a setting that brimmed with a rich history. Looking out from the huge bay windows of the master bedroom, Mr Lanker savoured his glass of whisky, poured out of a diamond decanter. His tie had been discarded and was strewn upon the bed, as was his shirt and the remainder of his clothing. A female hand was wrapped around his torso, and he turned to look at his latest conquest. The pretty young brunette had been eager to go to bed with him, and he had decided to reward himself for closing off one side of the worrying leak. The young woman was an employee, but a low-level one, who wanted to impress her boss, and impress she had. Lanker could never be interested beyond sex, but if it transpired she was good at her job, she might get a promotion, one that kept her closer to him.

"Drink my dear?" He asked, before emptying the contents of his own glass. The liquid burned smoothly - he savoured it.

"Mmm, sure, what do you have?" She all but purred.

"Anything you like, though the red wine is particularly good, some form of vintage, I don't know the label."

"Sounds good to me."

He got up, slipping on his boxers as he did. The drinks cabinet in the master bedroom was an extravagance he had afforded himself, and he poured out two glasses of red from a bottle stored within it, kept nice and chilled. The modern square-style chandelier provided a warm glow that wasn't too bright, and made the wine seem a deeper shade than it actually was. He grinned as he handed over one of the glasses. "So how long have you been with One Touch?"

"About six weeks. I never thought, I mean, I wouldn't normally..."

"Hush. It's quite alright. You are single, I am single. We are two consenting adults no? Does it matter what our respective positions are? Does it matter if I am dominant..." He inwardly smiled at the little flutter of her eyelids that comment provoked. "and you are submissive, in a business sense of course? As long as we are hurting no one, then it doesn't matter."

"So, does this mean I'm not a one-time thing?" She asked cautiously.

"You are not a one-time thing Melanie." She seemed pleased he knew her name. "But, I am not proposing anything other than the physical, and at work it is strictly business."

"Oh, for sure, I'm not looking for anything serious anyway."

"Good. You will have the second bedroom tonight, there are too many people who would wish to make a scandal of this, so discretion, we must always be discrete." Young Melanie appeared crestfallen, so he cupped her chin in his hand. "But first, shall we finalise our arrangement with another round?"

She grinned again, and as his boxers came back off, his thoughts moved away from phase two...

****

Eric had desperately wanted to speak to Mary, to let her know he was alright, but instead Rob had dropped Fiona outside and she had knocked on the door, before a brief yet animated chat. Fiona had gone inside, and then Rob and Eric were off, heading toward a secret rendezvous. Rob hadn't questioned Eric's insistence on public phone boxes and landlines only, and now they sped down dark London streets to find the other person they were prepared to involve. They found themselves in Hampstead, thankful for the good luck that meant he was off duty.

As per their plan, the man was walking down the street. Dressed in a black button-up coat, he looked like he'd just stepped out of the nearby pub. As Rob pulled up, he and Eric made a show of a friendly greeting. The man smiled and laughed with them, and took them up on their offer of a ride. He climbed into the back, and his demeanour changed.

"Didn't think I'd ever hear from you two again." He said gruffly.

"Good to see you too Peter." Replied Rob, matching Peter's tone.

"It actually is good to see you Pete." Added Eric.

"Hmm. So you said this was serious, as serious as it gets. What is it?"

The car started moving. Eric craned his neck to look Peter in the eye. "It's serious enough that someone killed Andrew and tried to kill me."

"Fuck! Harper's dead? Never did like him, ran me too hard, but still... Who killed him?"

"I don't know his name, but I took care of him. He was after this..." Eric pulled the silver USB drive from his pocket. "Someone wanted me to find what's on this drive, and someone else thinks it's important enough to kill for."

"What's on it?"

"A backdoor program to nearly every phone, computer and tablet in the world."

"Fuck. You sure?" Peter's tone was slightly disparaging.

"Yes, I'm sure." Replied Eric curtly. "I worked for the company that designed this. You're not the only computer bod."

"Alright, keep your hair on. Any idea what they want it for?"

"No." Admitted Eric. "But it will give them access to major government departments, military bases, major infrastructure and big businesses. Not just here either, but all over the world."

Peter was silent for a moment. "Something like that is impossible." He said slowly.

"Yeah, well, this USB says otherwise. We need a computer that's isolated, completely off the grid." Eric replied. "And we need one with military-grade anti-virus and decryption software."

"I can't just waltz into the base and take a computer. They do search us you know."

"But you can get us inside." Rob spoke up. "We can take out any... what was it, network cards? And do what we need to do."

Peter rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Let me get this straight. You want me to invite you onto the barracks, then let you have access to a computer, unsupervised, because of some wild stupid story? Fuck me that's good."

"We're serious. Do we think we'd make up someone murdering the Captain?" There was heat in Rob's voice.

"I don't know what you two would make up, but fuck it, even if I wanted to help, you two would need all sorts of clearance."

"Well, we're all ex-SAS, that will count for something." Remarked Eric.

Peter sighed. "Yeah, I suppose. I'll try to get you in, for old time's sake, when do you wanna go?"

Eric and Rob both looked at him.

"Fuck, you want to go right now?" Peter sighed again. "Ok, fine. You two are gonna be the death of me."

The car sped off, toward a military facility of non-descript appearance.

****

Lanker had not yet fallen asleep; the hour was only 11pm and he did not tend to sleep much. Melanie had 'retired' to the guest bedroom, as he preferred to complete one or private rituals in the evening. Another glass of red wine, one final peruse of work emails, and a few checks on other projects, to make sure everything was proceeding as it should - it all took place from the privacy of his bed. Fatigue was slowly claiming him, but he was not yet finished - too much needed doing. He was however, winding down for the night when his phone starting buzzing upon his sleek gloss-white bedside cabinet. The caller ID was blank.

Lanker pressed the green accept call button and scoope the phone to his ear. "Hello."

"We have a major problem." Came the non-descript voice of his contact. "My agent has not completed his scheduled check in."

Lanker's blood suddenly ran very cold. "How can that be? He was sent to kill an old man."

"An older man with military training. Someone who probably suspected he was going to be hunted."

"Your agent underestimated him." Lanker allowed a little anger to creep into his voice.

"And Mr Cooper has failed to understand the lengths to which we will protect our plans. Right now the agent's phone is moving out of the Hampstead region of London. He doesn't know we can track it even with GPS turned off. I have people who will ensure he is silenced. Trust me."

"I hope you are right. There is no telling who he has spoken to. Can you retrieve the agent's body? That alone is a security breach."

"Again, I am taking care of it. Do not concern yourself with my end of the task. Phase two is your only worry."

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