“The Bedouin” is the fourth episode of serial fiction set in Mundus Novit.
In “The Stream,” Boyle and his team get jumped in Kathmandu by a crew who may work for the Chinese. In “The Vault,” a special section of Canada’s Communications Security Establishment is monitoring Kathmandu, which has gone dark to all electronic and parapsychic traffic. In “Mission Unlikely,” we learn that Boyle and his team have gone missing. Becca meets Alex in Monrovia in order to get him to come with her to Kathmandu to find Boyle.
And now a further player enters the game.
Four: The Bedouin
He sat at the antique style writing desk, his feet upon it. Propped up on one arm, she lounged on the bed. It had posts and a canopy, like something out of a movie. He could only guess at the cost per night for the room. Their host had a reputation for extravagance, a reputation which Kyle now believed.
The Bedouin sipped at his coffee, then leaned back into the sofa, his eyes on Meredith. She held his gaze. Kyle always had trouble placing Meredith’s age. He knew she must be in her forties, given her history with Prospero. She didn’t look it. She had an Olympic athlete’s shape. He considered her attractive–not gorgeous, more like exotic.
“For the price you are asking, we will expect your loyalty,” she said to the Bedouin.
“My loyalty?” The Bedouin offered a patronizing grin, almost a sneer. “Loyalty is not purchased. You will have my fidelity. I will meet the terms of the contract. You will have my discretion. No one will know of our business nor will any other be privy to the information I obtain for you. But loyalty? I would expect an agent of Propsero to be smarter than that.”
“Did I say we were from Prospero?” Meredith’s voice came as a purr. Fitting. She had a certain feline quality to her.
The Bedouin waved off the comment. “You did not need to. I know of you, much as you know of me. I would wager, though, that I know more of you.”
Kyle might have accepted that wager from anyone else. The other part of the Bedouin’s reputation, the part of the reputation that brought Kyle and Meredith to the hotel, was that the Bedouin knew more and could learn more about anything than any other intelligence source known.
“We know as much about you as is necessary.” Meredith removed a single sheet, folded once, from her jacket pocket. “This is our contract. This is what we require. This is the price we offer.” She slid it toward him.
The Bedouin rose and took the paper. He sat down on the bed beside Meredith.
His file gave the Bedouin’s name as Ahmed Zeghida. He wasn’t a Bedouin, rather he was an Algerian. He had worked for the British Secret Intelligence Service and India’s Research and Analysis Wing before going freelance in 2004. Nothing explained how an Algerian without British residency began to work for MI6, or then moved on to work in India. Nothing explained how he became such a high priced security and intelligence consultant.
“Kathmandu?” The Bedouin crumpled up the paper in one hand, and it disappeared. Amusing parlour trick, except Kyle hadn’t caught the usual movements or misdirections. Perhaps the Bedouin had resources that reached beyond information and secrets?
“We want to know what happened,” Meredith said. “Or at least, what some of the possibilities are. We need a trail, some starting point to find the answer.”
The Bedouin turned to Kyle. “And you will find the answer, will you?”
Kyle only shrugged.
“The strong silent type.” The Bedouin returned to the sofa and his coffee. “That stereotype is long since past. The figure that you offer is acceptable. I will garner what intelligence I can and communicate it in the manner requested. I will tell you this now, different fingers point to Narcissus, to the Special Bureau, and to SD8.”
Meredith sniffed. “All the big players.”
The CIA’s ESPers, the Chinese telepaths, and Russia’s psychics–everyone suspected one of those three. Some suspected them all. This was not intelligence worth payment.
“Yes, but here is your first clue, the first step on your trail.” The Bedouin winked at Kyle. “None of them were involved, at least not directly. Someone else was. Someone who had crossed the Stream.”
“What stream?” Meredith asked. “Somewhere in Nepal?”
The Bedouin’s smile exuded a certainty of superiority. “Not a place. You know of the Stream, even if you do not know who they are.”
“Tangible Stream?” Kyle said. “The Stream is involved? You know this?”
“Right now, nobody is certain of anything, but I can tell you that a top unit from the Stream was in Kathmandu.” The Bedouin leaned forward. “The only information I have now is that the Stream followed a weapon.”
“Wait, Tangible Stream doesn’t do anti-proliferation,” said Kyle. “The Stream doesn’t go after weapons smugglers.”
“I was precise in my choice of words, even if English is not my mother tongue.” The Bedouin’s eyes narrowed. “The Stream followed a weapon to Kathmandu.”
Meredith’s intake of breath was almost a gasp, though she controlled it. “A weaponized post-human?”
Kyle tried to sort it through in his head. Any post-human could be considered a weapon. The Stream only involved itself in aberrant and destabilizing uses of post-humans. “A purpose built post-human?”
“Until now, everything has been chance,” the Bedouin said. “No one can say who the Oberon virus will infect, who it will effect, and how it will effect. Were one to learn how to build what one wished, that would be Trinity all over again.”
Trinity. The atomic bomb. Yes, it could be just that much of a paradigm shift. Post-human weapons, purpose built by states. Was Kathmandu the test case? Was this the test detonation?
“At this time, I have only conjecture, based on the information received from contacts in Kathmandu.” The Bedouin threw up his hands. “It could all be so much fairy dust. But the fact remains, the Stream was in Kathmandu when it went dark. That is no coincidence.”
“I agree,” said Meredith. “We will expect further intelligence and analysis as per the contract, delivered on the date and method designated.”
“As I said, you have my fidelity.” The Bedouin finished his coffee. He carefully placed the cup on the saucer, and held it there for a moment. When he released it and looked up, he had a smile on his face. “I will waive my fee for the answer to one question.”
Meredith glanced at Kyle. She had a question in that glance. What could he say? She was the liaison. She was the lead. Did she really want his opinion, or maybe just his support. He nodded. She turned back the Bedouin, but before she spoke, he did.
“Does Denton Heath truly run Prospero?”
That made Meredith sit up on the bed. It made Kyle put his feet on the floor. The Bedouin smiled. “Well, definitely from Prospero, then. So, Mr. Heath, does he run Prospero or is he a figurehead?”
Meredith shook her head. “I don’t know.”
The Bedouin turned to Kyle.
Kyle opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again. What should he answer? The Bedouin did not seem impatient nor perturbed at his silence. Kyle finally found an answer. “I can’t say.”
“Ah. Can’t say or won’t say?”
This time, Kyle smiled. “Knowledge is power, isn’t it? So that’s worth something to an information peddler like you. Who knows what, right?”
“C’est ça.” The crumpled ball of the contract reappeared in the Bedouin’s hand. “Answer me truthfully and I waive my fee.”
“I can’t say because I don’t know.” Kyle didn’t flinch from the Bedouin’s steady stare.
The crumpled ball ignited in flames, quickly consumed, leaving only a puff of smoke and not a mark on the Bedouin’s hand. He rose. “I suppose it is important that life retain some mysteries.” He offered each a short, curt bow. “You will be hearing from me.”
Mundus Novit: Dark Horizons will continue with “Meet And Greet.”