The Vault is the second episode of serial fiction set in Mundus Novit.
In Dark Horizons – the Stream, a team of TANGIBLE STREAM clandestine contractors has an encounter with a group of locals that may or may not be working for the Chinese military. The STREAM parapsych is “ambushed,” but quick action by her team-mates shut the locals down. The STREAM contractors go to ground, sensing something has gone wrong.
Two: The Vault
“Kathmandu’s gone dark.”
The statement made Heather mentally freeze. After a heartbeat, she blurted out the first question that came to her. “What the hell do you mean, dark?”
Madison smiled his annoying little smile of superiority. A lot of the staff in the Vault were smart, some of them geniuses, but Madison also had an uncanny knack for understanding complex situations; how they developed, how they evolved, and how they inevitably exploded. He had always been marked as someone special. Everyone wanted him, and he had decided he wanted the Vault.
He gestured to her monitor. “Call it up.”
Heather stared hard at him for a moment. He had a dry sense of humour that few in the Vault really appreciated. Was this a joke? He seemed sincere. She turned to the docked laptop hidden by the mountains of files in her cramped office. She clicked a couple of times on her mouse, bringing up the area then the city.
Nothing. No traffic. No radio, no cellphone, no transmissions of any sort. She glanced out the glass doors to the operations centre. Nepal was up on the big screen. Activity everywhere it should have been except for a big black hole around Katmandu.
“All those satellite dishes suddenly cried out in terror as they were suddenly silenced.” Madison was an unabashed geek as well.
Unlike the rest of the Communications Security Establishment–and the Canadian intelligence community–the Vault monitored more than just wave transmissions. With a third click, Heather brought up the psy-count. Dark as well.
“We know there are psych-assets in Kathmandu?” Heather knew the answer, but she had to ask.
“Absolutely.” Madison moved around to her side of the desk. He leaned. “Just before darkness fell, we were tracking at least seven assets in the area. We had one tagged TANGIBLE STREAM.”
“Perfect.” Heather rubbed her forehead.
The Vault had tagged a specific psychic frequency–one of the ESPers actually called it a perfume–a kind of signature that had been linked three times to actions in which the operators from TANGIBLE STREAM were implicated. Defence Intelligence had first brought the STREAM to the Vault’s attention, but they didn’t have much. And who had fed DI the STREAM information? Best guess was the CIA, but everyone in the secrets business was busy keeping secrets, even when it was counter-productive, so no one knew for certain.
If anyone really knew what TANGIBLE STREAM was, other than a rumour and a ghost, they weren’t saying. DI considered the STREAM a black ops, wetwork unit, specific for post-humans–anything from ESPers to enhanced. Of the three known STREAM cases, one had ended in the death of a post-human freelance assassin–physically enhanced by the Oberon virus.
And Kathmandu goes black after TANGIBLE STREAM, the reputed Oberon killers, arrive.
“Absolutely perfect.” Heather covered her eyes.
“Yeah, then this.” Madison dropped a thin file folder onto her desk. “CIA is shouting to anyone that’ll listen that they want some guy named Boyle–important to the CIA but otherwise invisible. Boyle was in Kathmandu. We think he was with the STREAM sig we were tracking. Then, bang! Darkness. And the CIA wants his head.”
Heather scanned the files. Again the information had come through the office of the Chief of Defence Intelligence. CDI answered to the same boss as CSE, but the two still competed. “So why is everyone so generous today?”
Madison tapped the top of the page. “Keep reading.”
Heather skewered Madison with her most threatening glare. She didn’t like what she read and didn’t believe it. “Mads, tell me this is a joke.”
“Nothing of the sort.” Madison raised his hand to halt her. “I had nothing to do with this.”
“Secondment to some kind of special forces team?” Heather shook her head. “It’s been a long time since you’ve been in the field.”
“Me?” Madison chuckled. “Read to the end.”
“You’ve gotta be shitting me.” Heather closed the folder. She sat back in her chair. “You have got to be shitting me. Why me?”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Madison looked around her room with a theatrical display of innocence. “A decade in the military with all sorts of crazy training the boys didn’t think a girl could handle and then becoming a top intelligence analyst.” Madison gave her a wink. “And here’s a chance to show the boy’s club that they were wrong, that a girl can take all their names and kick all their asses.”
“C’mon, Mads, you’re supposed to be the genius,” Heather said. “This is about something else.”
“Like what?” Madison raised an eyebrow. “Listen, I know Taylor, I know his crew. They can be bastards some times, but it’s not like they are trying to sell us up the river or anything.”
Major Taylor had a small team of of “specialists” working in the CDI. They had a better working relationship with the Vault than the rest of the regular forces boys. Taylor’s name was also all over the Kathmandu file. He wouldn’t be riding with them, but one of his would be.
No, it wasn’t Taylor. It wasn’t his crew. It likely wasn’t anyone in CDI. But this didn’t sit right with her. Madison had his talents, she had hers. She wasn’t Spidey, but something was tingling.
“Come with me.” Heather snatched up the file and slammed open her door. In three long strides, she was at the Chief of Operations’ door. He also worked in an aquarium–an office with glass walls. His glass cage bordered the metal walls that gave the Vault its name.
Encased in a barrier proofed against both electronic and parapsychic eavesdropping, the Special Investigations Directorate operated inside a large metal box–hence, the Vault.
Heather all but kicked the Chief’s door open. “Bill–”
Holding up his hands, the Chief didn’t give her a chance to rage. “Not my call, Heather.” He clicked his mouse a couple of times, then turned the monitor so Heather could see it. “Apparently you know the guy.”
The black and white picture revealed a man of late middle age with a strong jaw, very short dark hair, hooded grey-blue eyes and stubble. Heather knew him, but couldn’t say where from. It took a moment of searching before it came to her. “That guy from the Balkans. Wasn’t he Irish? Army Ranger Wing?”
“This seems to be Michael Rourke, that guy from the Balkans.” The Chief turned the monitor back to face him. “But he’s not Rourke, he wasn’t ARW, and it’s possible he’s not Irish. He goes by Boyle now, and Boyle is with the STREAM.”
“So, what, they think he’s going to give himself up to me for old times?” Heather growled that out. “There weren’t any ‘old times,’ Bill. He never trusted me. We worked together, but we weren’t a team. He sees me, he knows who I work for.”
The Chief gestured to Madison, who closed the door. “Here’s the deal; this comes down from on high. I don’t know how high, but it’s way over anyone who will talk to me. The Americans want you. The Brits want you. Hell, far as I know, even the French want you.”
“Have they heard her French?” Madison’s nose wrinkled. “Oh so bad.”
Heather flipped him the bird. “Don’t forget, you’re coming with me.”
Madison shrugged. “My French is impeccable.”
“Not sure what they want with you, Mads, but I wouldn’t be happy in your place,” said the Chief. “I’ve got marching orders for the two of you, and it isn’t a tropical paradise. You’ll need to see the medic about vaccinations.”
“Bill, seriously, Mads is no field agent, and I’m way off my game.” Heather struggled to find more reasons to cancel her participation, to get Madison out of the fire and back into the frying pan. “Bill, come on. You owe me.”
The Chief frowned, his eyes getting dark. “You don’t need to remind me, Ms. Jeffries. But this is over my head. It’s orders. I follow orders. You follow orders. It’s what we do.”
“Fuck, I’m sorry, Bill.” Heather shook her head. “This just smells bad. There’ve got to be other people still in the field that have met this guy. Are you sure they just didn’t find the most expendable cypher to try to bring him out of the woodwork? Am I going out there as bait?”
“I wouldn’t let you two go out there without someone to watch your back,” the Chief said. “I believe you’re both familiar with Lieutenant Evan Walker?”
Madison’s smile drained from his face. “Walker’s with Detachment 7. Aren’t those guys black ops or something? You’re sending along a ninja?”
Heather shook her head. “Walker isn’t like that. He’s special operations all right, but he’s not some kind of contractor or spook. He’s a good guy. If he’s along, I’ll feel better.”
“He’s coming along.” The Chief leaned back in his chair. “I had that much pull, but nothing more. I wanted at least a section to cover for you, but they only gave me one guy. Walker volunteered. He’s done plenty of intel work and has close personal protection experience as well.”
“You’ve got a bad feeling too?” Heather asked.
“I’ve always got a bad feeling,” the Chief said. “You see the shit we see? Always a bad feeling.”
Mundus Novit: Dark Horizons will continue with “Mission Unlikely.”