Offspring Ch. 014byTalemaster©
So much for my report. It would give them a lot of information they didn't have and show the Federation I was worth keeping. If Feng was right and I was about to be shifted to the sidelines, perhaps it was worth taking the initiative and make the job easy for them. I didn't really need the office at the Fed building any more. If I handed the office back voluntarily it would save them from having to toss me out and risk resentment, it would also pacify those who didn't like me being there in the first place. Further it would show that I valued the Federation's interest more than a status symbol that most Federation officers would give their right arm for. Now, what to do with my notes and documents? They would not like the idea of me running around with a computer full of confidential and secret material, encrypted though it was. Luckily I had a second computer no one knew about, an identical model to the one I had been using until now. I spent several hours transferring the material I wanted the Federation to see onto the backup machine. When I was done I ran a small programme that set all the file creation dates and all access dates to a future date. Let them do something with that. Next I rang the number Feng had given me and informed the restaurant that I intended to go there for lunch with two other senior Federation officers, all in uniform and could we have a private room. They said that was okay. I told them I would confirm the booking before eleven AM tomorrow. I was set to make my play.
Next morning I went to the office early and in uniform. The first thing I did was upload my report. When that was done I asked for a conference with Arden and Colonel Nakov. I was told they would meet me in my office at ten.
They arrived exactly on time and after I had settled my guests down with a beer Colonel Nakov said:
"Where is the fire, Major Walters?"
"No fire, Colonel," I said. "I just wanted to inform you that my report has just been sent of to HQ. That part of the work is done. There is something important I would like to discuss with you gentlemen regarding this office."
"What about this office. Something wrong with it?" Colonel Nakov seemed irritated.
"No, nothing like that, Sir. It's just that I am, at least for the time being, finished here. It seems such a waste. I am certain the Federation has better use for this office than to accommodate an officer who no longer needs it. Please don't get me wrong, I am very grateful for the facilities here, they made my job a lot simpler and more pleasurable, but from now on all I will require is access to a terminal from time to time. I am sure we can work out something that is less resource intensive."
Arden and the Colonel exchanged looks, there was surprise, and, I fancied, relief.
"That is very generous of you Major Walters," said the Colonel. "Most officers would kill for an office like this. When do you intend to move out?"
"Right now, if that's alright. There is something else that bothers me though."
"And what would that be?"
"My computer, Sir. It contains my notes and work files. I will also need my code book. I am not comfortable carrying this machine around with me, although my files are all encrypted. I would hate it to fall into the wrong hands. The code book cannot leave the building, I know that. If it is possible, I would like to deposit these items with security so I can still have access when I need it."
"It pleases me no end to see an officer who is as security conscious as you are. I wish all senior officers were like that. It shall be as you wish. Arden will take charge of your items and make them accessible to you on demand. He will also guarantee access to a terminal, whenever you need it. What do you intend to do next?"
"I am waiting for orders, Sir. I have proposed a plan to HQ. I believe it will be acceptable."
"Good. Anything else?"
"Yes, something personal, Sir."
"Go on, speak up."
"I have discovered this wonderful Chinese restaurant. It's not far from here. The food is out of this world. I would like to take you gentlemen there for lunch today to show my appreciation for all the help you have given me. I have made a tentative booking, Would you do me the honour of lunching with me?"
Arden and the Colonel exchanged glances. For a second there I thought they were going to refuse, but then the Colonel said: "We would be delighted, Major Walters."
I rang the restaurant to confirm the booking, handed my computer and code book to Arden, arranged to meet them outside the restaurant at twelve, shook hands and took my leave.
I had just over an hour to kill. On a sudden impulse I rang Feng and asked him if he could supply me with a laptop computer. He said he owned an electronics shop in the mall and if I went there a Mr. Wu would look after my needs.
Shortly before twelve I turned up at the restaurant, my newly acquired computer under my arm. Arden and the Colonel were just arriving. The head waiter greeted me by name and ushered us into one of their private rooms. He suggested one of their set banquets and we settled for that. I could see Arden wasn't very impressed with the food, but the Colonel went into it with gusto, evidently enjoying every bite.
"I see you bought a computer, Major," said the Colonel.
"I feel naked without one, Sir. Seeing that my machine is tied up with Federation business I needed to get a new one for day to day stuff."
"If you hand me the receipt I will see that you get reimbursed. It's the least we can do."
The sly bastard. If I did that my old machine would effectively become Federation property. He could snoop around in my files without a court order and, if it contained something incriminating, use it against me in a court martial. Let them check. I was well covered there. Anything they found would only enhance my credibility. I handed him the receipt and thanked him for the generous gesture.
"How is Feng?" It was Arden who asked. He would know that the computer had come from Feng's shop.
"He seems fine, I only spoke briefly on the phone with him to ask if he could tell me where to get a computer without getting ripped off. He referred me to a Mr. Wu who sold me the machine."
"Good move. If he recommended Mr. Wu you would have got a good machine at the right price. He wouldn't refer you to a crook."
"That's what I figured."
If in future someone saw me with Feng and I was asked about it I could say I had some problems with the machine. They would buy it. Just another arse covering exercise on my part.
We finished our lunch and parted on friendly terms. I had done what I could to forestall whatever was converging on me. I hoped it was enough.
I went back to the hotel and changed into civilian clothes. My computer was a worry. If I got caught with it it would put me straight in front of a firing squad. I had turned the tables on the Federation and changed the scenario. It would take a while for them to adjust their security procedures. Once my report was evaluated and the full impact of what I said had sunk in they would check if I was holding anything back. At the very least they would have a clandestine look around my hotel room. If they found my computer I would be dead. For the moment I was safe. Nakov would not risk an illegal search without sanction from HQ. I had to get that thing out of here and there was only one place where I could keep it and that was with Feng. I decided to take the machine with me for our meeting at eight tonight. For once I cancelled my appointment with the Oktonian woman and left the hotel, the computer in my briefcase.
I spent the rest of the afternoon in a bar close to the restaurant after making sure I wasn't being followed. At eight I went to see Feng.
The Peking duck was superb. You couldn't get better on Earth. I said so.
Over coffee I showed Feng the report I had sent to the Federation. I also showed him two images I had withheld from my masters. One was a picture of a city I had worked over to show an amazing amount of detail. With a bit of luck it was enough to go there on one of my jaunts. The other was an island the size of Madagascar. What was interesting about this one were the heat signatures, indicating intense activity on the island. This, I figured, was the place the Oktonians operated from.
"This is dynamite," said Feng. "You need a safe place to put the machine."
"I thought you might be able to help me with that."
Feng fished for a card in his wallet and gave it to me.
"This is my bank," he said. "Meet me there tomorrow at ten, I'll introduce you to the manager. I suggest you transfer your investment portfolio to them, that'll give you a reason to go there frequently. We'll arrange a secret safe deposit box as well. You can keep your computer in there. Leave the machine with me overnight, I'll bring it with me tomorrow."
I really didn't have much of a choice, besides Feng knew all the dangerous shit on the machine anyway and he was as exposed as I was if it ever blew up. I gave him the machine. The bank was a solid institution with branches all over the known worlds, there would be little risk with them. I could confidently let them handle my investments.
Much relieved I made my way home. Back at the hotel I pretended to be much more loaded than I was. Let them think I'd had a heavy night on the piss, just in case they wondered why I had cancelled my appointment.
At ten the next morning I went to the bank and told the Oktonian girl at reception I had an appointment with the manager. Feng was already in his office with my computer in his briefcase. He introduced me to the manager, a Mr. Wong, and gave me my machine.
"Meet me at one in the restaurant," he said and departed.
Mr Wong was a short, balding gentleman in his mid sixties, fastidiously dressed in a dark pin stripe suit. With the typical politeness of an educated Chinese businessman he explained that Feng had briefed him on my requirements. He inspected my portfolio and prepared the necessary authorisations for me to sign. That being finished he took me to a vault.
The manager showed me a safe deposit box and explained that this box was for my day to day matters. He then showed me another box in an adjacent aisle and told me that this was for the confidential stuff. The same key opened both boxes. The confidential box, he explained, was registered in a dummy name and the bank kept no record linking it to me. This way secrecy could be maintained.
I had to grin. What a simple and effective scam.
I deposited my computer there and we were done. He asked me to come and see him in two day's time and finalise matters with my portfolio. We made a time and I went for a beer before going to see Feng.
He had disappointing news.
"What we thought were Oktonian artefacts are not," he said. "Both the container and the impregnated cloths have been manufactured here. The cleaning agent cum deodoriser is of Earth manufacture too. We found the company that had supplied several thousand of these kits to the Oktonians. Apart from bird shit, which you would expect to find on a dick that had been up a cloaca, there were traces of a badly deteriorated, complex organic compound, unsuitable for further analysis. When I suggested getting more samples for analysis I was told there was no point. The cleaning agent did too good a job."
"I guess it's back to the drawing board," I said, "anything else?"
"Yes, the camera is finished."
Feng took a small case from his coat pocket, opened it and showed me the new camera. He had said it was only about half as much longer than the previous one and that was probably right, but now when I looked at it I wondered how I could get that monster up my arse. The idea freaked me a bit. When I voiced my concerns Feng brushed them aside.
"It'll go. You just have to relax, lubricate it well and don't try shoving it up there in one go. You kind of need to fuck it in, a bit deeper with each stroke. Just make sure you've had a shit before you do it."
I wasn't looking forward to it, but I knew I'd try, especially when he told me about the new features he had built into the thing. It was a wonderful piece of engineering.
"I just need to make a waterproof cover for it," he said. "Give me another day or two."
We made a date two days hence and I went back to my hotel.