Money Money Money

In the not-so-distant future, an employee of one of the world's leading electronics firms learns a terrible truth- and finds himself the subject of a terrifying manhunt.


4. Into the Shadows

Derek climbed into the back of James' car, casting a final glance at the place he had called home. Tears once more welled up in his eyes as he thought of all the memories there- he'd packed a few keepsakes, pictures of Angela, souvenirs from past holidays, but he'd had to leave so much behind.

He could never return. The people who had tried to kill him would soon realise they'd failed- 'Peter Fowler', or whoever he really was, would have been under orders to tell his employers when the deed was done- now he'd never report in, and those employers would know something was wrong.

Derek needed to disappear. James had connections and Derek had old friends- he could vanish easily enough. Part of him wanted to do more- he knew in his gut that what he'd seen- the information he'd kept safe for so long- had something to do with it, and he had a responsibility to do something.

James seemed to have a sixth sense for what Derek was thinking. "You don't owe the world anything Derek. You've done your duty."

"They took my wife." Derek's voice was harsh. "I owe them, whoever they are, payback."

James started down a main road, heading out of London, toward Harlow, taking the quieter roads where possible.

"Personally, I agree with you. But after what you told me, this is much bigger than you or me. This company you used to work for, do they still exist?"

Derek sighed. "Yes. Zero Communications. Behind a lot of the mobile phone technology you see today. Got their fingers in many pies."

"I've heard of them." The woman next to James spoke up for the first time. "Sarah Lewis, currently seconded to the SAS from MI5."

"You've been pretty quiet up to now." Remarked Derek warily.

"The less you say the less you give away. An important lesson for an MI5 agent." She replied curtly.

James brought the car to a stop as a set of traffic lights turned red. "Sarah is with me as part of a program to improve resource-sharing between major branches of Her Majesty's Services. Joint Ops is becoming a crucial part of our defence strategy."

"I never trusted spooks. Always had their own agenda, even when they were meant to be on our side." Remarked Derek sourly.

"I am on your side. I am as committed to defending Britain's interests as anyone else." Sarah's voice took on a firm edge.

The light turned green. James started driving again.

"I'm sorry, it's just..." Derek shook his head. "I can't get her face out of my mind..." Derek went quiet. It wasn't hard to guess why.

They headed east, out of London, into the heart of Essex. As they traveled they came across fewer and fewer street lights, so darkness crept over them. No one spoke- they just sat there in an awkward, uncomfortable silence.

It wasn't until they reached a small country road off one of the main roads that their journey took a change for the unusual. The bumpy country lane was barely noticable from the main road and James had to pull a tight right turn to get onto it. As soon as he had, he killed the lights.

"Whoa, what are you doing?!" Cried Sarah. "It's pitch black!"

"Don't worry, I know what I'm doing." Replied James, never taking his eyes off the road.

Sarah fell back to silence, but her face was full of dread. This wasn't her version of a good idea.

The car rumbled down the road for about fifteen minutes, until they spotted lights up ahead. As they drew closer the lights resolved themselves into floodlights, behind a fence ten feet high with serated wire at the top. Signs warned that tresspassers would be shot on sight- and the guard hut up ahead was manned by an armed guard holding a large and deadly-looking rifle.

As was protocol, the car came to a stop by the guard hut and the guard (a young man not much older than twenty-five) kept his rifle by his side, but his left hand never left it as he stepped up to the driver's side.

"ID?" He snapped.

James took a card from his jacket pocket and held it out. Sarah did the same. The guard glanced over them both, and handed them back without a word. He glared at Derek.

"ID?" He said, louder this time."

"This man is with me son. Code 17." Said James.

"I appreciate that sir, but General's orders..."

"General's standing orders make allowances for emergencies. If you need to confirm this with him by all means pick up the phone."

The guard looked nervous for a moment- the General was sleeping, and was notorious for chewing out people who disturbed him without good cause. In the end his internal struggle was resolved, and he pressed the button that unlocked the large, imposing metal gate. It swung open, and they were on their way.

Another five minutes later, they arrived at an 'off the map' military compound. Two large buildings of bricks and mortar and another, smaller building made of sheet metal occupied the land, along with a small helicopter pad. A few military vehicles were parked up to the left and James steered his vehicle toward them, slotting into an empty parking space.

"Where are we?" Asked Derek.

"At a new, secret facility for the SAS. From here, we can conduct various drills and embark on a variety of training exercises. It's known only to a handful of people outside the base itself. You're now one of them." James let his seatbelt slide back and got out of the car. Derek and Sarah followed swiftly.

"Now, Derek, we have access to a lot of resources from here, plus Sarah can access the MI5 database from here. Together we can figure out who came for you and why." James led them toward the slightly smaller of the two brick buildings, on the left-side of the base.

The corridor through the main door had a great many rooms joining it. None were marked and none had windows. Some of the spaces between the doors were greater than others, suggesting bigger rooms, and it was into one of these rooms that James led them.

Inside the room was virtually black. The walls were painted dark brown, the tables were a deep grey and the computers (there were several) had black cases. The carpet was a faded red, and several simple black chairs were scattered about the room. It was quite spacious, but even with the lights on, the room seemed to suck brightness away.

"Sarah, Derek, pull up some chairs and pick a terminal. Derek, I need to know everything you know about Zero Communications and John Stockwell."


The disc slid across the bright and polished beech-finish desk and Calvin Stark had to grab it quickly to stop it sliding all the way off.

"There. The last disc. Your secret is once more housed within these walls." John Stockwell's grey eyes were ice cold. "By the way, the man you sent to take care of Derek is dead."

Stark's eyes widened in shock. "What are you talking about?!"

John slammed his hands down upon the desk, hard enough to make Calvin jump. "I'm talking about a monumental cock-up! I told you I had the situation under control- you paid me to do a job and I was doing it! But you had to jump the gun and do something stupid." His voice went calm, and the temperature in Stark's plush executive office dropped a few degrees.

"I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about." Stark began to circle the desk, but kept his distance from Stockwell. "I gave no such order."

"Well, someone did. And now, as a direct consequence, an innocent woman is dead, a man who was not a threat now is a threat, and if my instincts are right, he has or will go to his former contacts in his old line of work- and they can make life very uncomfortable for you."

"Us you mean. Uncomfortable for us." Emphasised Stark.

"No. I mean for you." Replied Stockwell quietly. "I did not create this mess and if you had come to me in the first instance I could have retrieved what you needed, and done so without any loss of life or alerting anyone to what was going on. I might have even advised against moving on Derek in the first place. He was of no consequence. He's not a man of action. He lacks resolve. Yet now his wife is dead and he is full of fury. He'll go to his friends in his old occupation and they will soon come gunning for you. Don't expect me to put myself in the firing line to cover a mistake of yours."

Stark stood dead still, filled with impotent rage. "You could have taken care of him yourself! You knew he would be angry and that he would probably go to his colleagues, yet you did nothing!"

"That's right- because three dead bodies would raise even more questions than two. Plus, I can keep an eye on Derek. He may have SAS experience but I have experience and skills of my own. I can find out where he is right now. Besides, whatever my past dealings with Derek, he was a professional in service to Queen and country. He does not deserve to become another statistic."

Stark was calming down now, but his own anger was still very much bubbling away. He couldn't stand Stockwell- he was always too calm, too measured, and he had too many secrets.

"Ok, you're right, I screwed up. But you know as well as I do what damage this scandal could do if it broke. What are you going to do to help me?"

Stockwell's eyes narrowed and Stark shuddered. "I will do whatever I deem necessary, which, thanks to you, may be far worse than I would care for."

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