The Freshman Ch. 28

bycaligula97236©

The question about Vladim Dukov's trip to Greece was answered when Jason came across several papers related to a water-conservation conference to be held in Athens. Dukov and several other Danubian officials were slated to attend and were planning to fly home on the 23rd. Apparently that trip was the reason April 23rd had been chosen to launch the coup. Jason did not find anything specifically discussing a plane crash, but he suspected that Dukov's plane would be targeted as the delegation flew home.

After about three hours Jason stopped collecting information. He burned a final CD with the newest scans and decided he needed to quit. Undoubtedly he was overlooking plenty of important items. He knew better than to try to turn on his father's computer, or even touch it. Perhaps what he had was incomplete, but most certainly it would be of tremendous value to both the Danubians and their southern neighbors, should he chose to turn the information over to them.

He carefully put everything back in order. He went through Cassie's room to make sure no papers or other items from his father's office remained, and finally checked the office to make sure nothing was out of place. Then he locked the door and shut it. His next step was to clean up Cassie's computer as best he could. He deleted the history files and logged onto a couple of her book-marked websites to over-write his own recent activities. Then, he checked the camera's video card to make sure none of the pictures he took were still on it. He put away the camera and shut off her computer, just in time. He stepped out of his sister's room as he heard her coming in through the garage door.

Jason looked over what he had: three CD's and six cassette tapes. He sat in numb horror as he contemplated what his father's associates were planning to do: assassinate a Prime Minister and overthrow his government. He knew why: his father's partners in Mega-Town Associates still were hoping to log Upper Danubia's forests and build that road. There were some other contracts pending as well, if he understood what was in the documents from his father's desk that now were scanned onto his three CD's.

It was time to call his grandmother. He told her that he needed to go over to her condo right away, that he had something important that he needed to tell her. For the next hour he paced nervously while he waited for her friend to come get him. Carrying his cassettes and CD's in a backpack he left the house, suddenly very fearful Mr. Schmidt might come home and find him with the evidence.

That evening Jason and his grandmother sat listening to the tapes. The German conversations confirmed Jason's worst fears, that there was a pending coup being organized against not only Upper Danubia, but also it's southern neighbor. The plot would begin with the killing of Vladim Dukov's delegation by blowing up his plane. The plane crash would divert everyone's attention and be the signal to launch military operations in Upper Danubia. The assault would begin in Danube City with the seizure of the National Parliament and the National Police Station, as well as the King Vladik International Airport and Danube City's port and railroad station. The operations would be deliberately bloody and violent, to destroy the Danubian government and scare its people into submission. Once Upper Danubia was secured, a second operation would land mercenaries into the country's southern neighbor, where several paid-off local officials would be waiting with their own supporters. The double coup would place the plotters in direct control of both countries within a 24-hour period.

The assumption was that, with Dukov, his advisors, and most of the National Police officers dead, there would not be much organized opposition in the Duchy. A German subsidiary of Mega-Town Associates was planning to provide much of the logistical support and fly in mercenaries. Jason's father was in charge of everything having to do with communications, public relations, and assuring the new governments received quick recognition from the US and other countries.

From the German conversations Jason's grandmother learned that Mr. Schmidt's lobbying firm apparently was not directly tied to the coups. The project was a private matter between Jason's father and several executives from Mega-Town Associates. It was something of a rogue operation, but if it succeeded as laid out in the conversations, it would leave the company in complete control of two countries in the center of Eastern Europe and allow the executives to then launch a hostile takeover of Mega-Town Associates. The project would not end there. The takeover would place the largest corporation of the US under the control of the plotters. Using the company's wealth and influence, they would bankroll congressional and presidential candidates and try to take control of the entire United States.

Jason's grandmother was devastated as she sat listening to the tapes. In her mind there was only one option for her grandson. He had to get the information to the Danubian government immediately. There was no doubt about it whatsoever. The Danubians had to know. Jason hesitated.

"You're not worried about Dad, that maybe..."

"No. I could care less about him. If this is the way he wants to be, then he's not my son anymore. He's dead, as far as I'm concerned. Dead. I don't want to see him again."

She blinked back some tears and continued. "Do you know anyone... who you can get this to?"

"I...maybe Cecilia might know..."

Jason's grandmother immediately grabbed the phone and passed it to Jason. "Call her. Now. You've got only three weeks to stop it."

It was late, and Cecilia was asleep. Even though she was trying to wake up, she seemed very glad to hear from him.

"Jason...oh...you don't have any idea how much I miss you...I'm goin' crazy here..."

"I miss you too, but I...we've got a big problem. A really big problem. I need to get some stuff to Vladim Dukov right away."

"What do you wanna send?"

"I can't tell you over the phone, but it's important. It's some stuff I gotta get to him, and he's gotta take a look at it. It's not something he can sit on. He's gonna have to look at it right away."

"But we're startin' up next week and then..."

"It can't wait that long. It'll be too late. Is there any way you can get up here?"

"You fuckin' crazy? I can't get up to Wisconsin! I ain't got no car!"

"Well, I can't leave."

"What about a bus? If you come on a bus to Chicago?"

"I can't. I can't leave here because..."

"Your dad?"

"Yes, my dad. There's no way I can try leaving on a bus, 'cause I think he'd figure it out."

There was silence on the other end.

"Cecilia..."

"Jason, you're tellin' me your dad's up to somethin'..."

"Exactly."

"Shit."

"...and it can't wait." Jason emphasized his last point "It cannot wait."

Cecilia thought about her options. The only realistic one was to call Cynthia Lee and ask her what to do. She could only hope that Cynthia was at home.

"Is it OK if I make a call, and get back to you?"

"Yeah. I'll be at my grandma's place."

Cecilia thought about that, and then figured it would be better to keep their phone conversations as secret as possible.

"Look, I'm not callin' you there. You go to one of those convenience stores and buy yourself one of those cheap phones, you know, with a callin' card. That's what Raul always used so the cops couldn't find him. You get yourself one of those phones and you call me."

Fortunately there was a convenience store within walking distance of the condominium, so Jason went over to pick up a phone and a calling card. Once he keyed in the service number and activated his account, he called Cecilia.

"OK, so what's goin' on?"

"I got some stuff I got out of my dad's office...some recordings and I scanned some letters and whatnot...I think there's gonna be a coup against the Danubians and their neighbors. I mean...like they're gonna be shooting a bunch of people and taking over. And, they're gonna kill the Prime Minister."

"What? You're sure about this?"

"I've got the tape recordings and papers. I actually heard my dad talking about it. There's some serious shit that's about to happen over there. I want Dukov to see what I got, and then he can figure out for himself what he's gonna do."

Jason then filled in some of the details and convinced Cecilia the plans were both serious and well advanced. She replied that she had managed to contact Cynthia Lee, and would call her again to relay Jason's information.

Fifteen minutes later Cecilia called back.

"I'm not gonna be able to come up, but Cynthia's on her way."

"On her way?"

"She's leavin' right now. Can you meet with her?"

"Sure."

"She'll be at your grandma's place first thing tomorrow morning. She wants to see what you got. If it's important she'll take it and fly it out to Danube City herself."

----------

Jason spent the longest night of his life, unable to sleep as he waited for the morning and a phone call from Cynthia Lee. Words could not describe the turmoil going on in his mind. Why on earth was he doing this? Why was he risking himself to help a bunch of total strangers? The only answer he could come up with was that he did not approve of what his father's associates were planning to do and wanted to stop them. It was that simple.

Finally Jason dozed off, his cell phone at his side. No sooner had he fallen asleep than he was startled awake by its ringing. He picked up.

"Jason? It's Cindy. I'm in downtown Carterville. You got the stuff?"

"Sure do."

"OK, so where am I going from here?"

Jason gave Cynthia directions to the condominium. While they waited for Cindy to show up, Jason's grandmother fixed breakfast and made coffee. A few minutes later the very tired-looking graduate student stepped out of her car. Cynthia gratefully accepted the cup of coffee Jason's grandmother offered her. She quickly laid out a laptop on the dining room table and began looking through the CD's. Jason nervously tried to justify himself.

"A lot of this stuff I don't know what it is. I just scanned what I could, what I had time to scan. I kinda thought the passports would be important, so I did get most of those."

Cynthia flipped through several files, and finally responded. "It's what you say, Jason. Exactly what you say. There's gonna be a coup on the 23rd. They're gonna take the Duchy and then move south. How many people know about these CD's?"

"No one knows, except you, Cecilia, and Grandma."

"And you won't say anything to anyone else?"

"Of course not."

"I can take these?"

"That's why I called Cecilia. To get them to Dukov ASAP."

"Then I'm going straight to Milwaukee and flying out as soon as I can get on a plane. If I'm lucky I'll be in Danube City first thing tomorrow morning. It'll be my Easter present to the Prime Minister. A pretty fucked up Easter present, don't you think?"

"Yeah."

"I'm...I don't know how to thank you. I...I mean to have the guts to do this for us...and go against your father. You're one of the bravest people I've ever met. No matter what happens next month, you remember that, what I just said. You were the one who had the courage to warn us."

She hugged both Jason and his grandmother and then quickly drove off, turning towards the freeway to continue on her journey to Europe.

Jason and his grandmother stood quietly in the chilly dawn as they watched Cynthia drive away. The enormity of what they had done struck home. She had betrayed her son, and he had betrayed his father, in an effort to change the course of history, save a bunch of lives, and thwart some extremely unsavory ambitions.

Less than 24 hours after slipping into his father's office, Jason's part in preventing the coup was completed. Now it was up to others to finish the task: up to Cynthia to safely make it to Danube City with the CD's and cassettes, then up to Dukov and his people to analyze the information and act on it.

A few minutes later Jason was on his way back to his father's house, his self-appointed mission completed. His grandmother's friend suspected that something very serious had just taken place, but did not ask. Instead he cheerfully bantered about restored cars and his latest project while Jason tried to pay attention. What he actually wanted to do was go to sleep.

He returned to the house and passed his father's home office. The room was locked, and his father was at his job in Chicago helping his unsavory clients. Later that night Mr. Schmidt would be back in the office, on the phone and with the door shut. However, Jason knew there was no further point in taking the tape recorder down to the basement. There was nothing left to do but wait, and hope that within a day or so the Danubian government would be analyzing the information he had collected. He did go back downstairs one final time, to retrieve the box of high school memorabilia he was planning to keep. He vaguely suspected it would be the very last chance he would have to take anything out of that basement.

----------

The remaining days of Jason's Spring Break were rather anti-climatic. He went jogging through the neighborhood and spent hours in the pool, hoping to be ready to participate in several marathons over the summer, and perhaps even try to win the Tri-Alpha 10-K run a second year. He carried his anonymous cell phone with him, just in case Cecilia needed to call.

Saturday morning, she did call.

"Jason...good news. Cynthia just called me from Danube City."

"So she made it OK?"

"Yeah, she made it in yesterday mornin', and that poor girl hasn't had any sleep since she landed. They got a bunch of people lookin' over your stuff and she's been translatin' for 'em. It's the first break anyone's had in two days. That's why she didn't call 'till just now."

"So they're taking it seriously?"

"Takin' it seriously? Yeah, they're takin' it seriously. You saved their asses, Jason. They didn't know shit about what your dad was plannin' till they got those CD's."

"So...did Cindy tell you what they're gonna do about it?"

"No, she didn't tell me that. That's not something you talk about over the phone. I 'spose we'll know more, when she comes back next week. She did say the Duchy's gonna do what they can to keep your name out of it, cause those people from the company are mean. If they find out it was you who turned 'em in, they're gonna fuck you up."

Jason's heart skipped beat. He hadn't thought of that. No wonder Cynthia Lee kept saying he was so brave... He drew a deep breath, but didn't know how to respond.

"Jason...Jason? Are you still there?"

"Yeah-yeah, I'm still here."

"I got somethin' else to tell you."

"What's that?"

"I love you."

It was the first time Cecilia had ever said that to him over the phone. She was not affectionate or loving when she spoke on the phone, so from her those three words meant very much. Hearing "I love you" from Cecilia gave Jason most of his courage back. He realized that no matter what happened to him, he already had defeated some of the most powerful men in the United States. They had been defeated, and nothing was going to change that, not even his own death.

That afternoon, a day before he was scheduled to return to the university, Jason glanced at his father as he sat in the family room. He was watching a couple of football games from the previous season that he had recorded but never had the chance to see. The cheering of the crowd on TV and the chatter from the sports commentators reminded Jason of his father's constant use of football terminology to refer to his life and his relationships in the business world. Winning team...rush...huddle...goal post...fumble...play-book...

Then, as he looked at the arrogant, abusive, domineering man sitting in front of the TV, Jason thought bitterly about all the terms his father used to refer to him: moron...idiot...wimp...loser...

We'll see about that, Dad, he thought to himself. We'll just see.

He resisted the urge to walk up to his father and announce that he had just given away his team's play-book to the coach of the opposing side. The linebacker had fumbled, without even knowing it yet. As soon as Cynthia Lee landed in Danube City, the defending team had taken control of the ball.

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