Here is the second installment of the story that I posted last week. It was the ensuing assignment for my writers’ group, but this time we were supposed to take our same character-goal-obstacle (in my case: Frank the painter, whose goal is to find true love, after overcoming that idiot from corporate), and write the same story from a third-person viewpoint. I emailed the group’s writing-guru leader, Brenda Moffitt, and begged permission to write a continuation instead, since I’d left my character in-hiding, in the middle of a life-or-death assignment. She graciously agreed, as long as I used third person POV. Without further ado:
The door closed. Hu Sing’s footsteps faded away down the corridor on his way to a phony errand to meet Han Li. Beneath the chairman’s massive, cherry desk Trig Denton exhaled, but his attention immediately re-focused on the flash drive in the CPU next to him. He uncoiled his taut muscles, automatically adjusting the “Frank Panetti” paunch and paint-splattered coveralls as he stood, and leaned over the monitor.
“Come on, baby. You’re almost there.”
The plans and technology for TRUE LOVE—the Chinese’s modifications for a Total-Range, Unceasingly Energized, Land-Operated, Veiled Explosive—something they’d stolen from the U.S. in Los Alamos, was confined to a set of reasonably-sized .pdfs. The blueprints for the Bao-Dong tower, however, were larger.
The words “Download complete” and “Upload complete” appeared on the screen. A grin curled Trig’s lips. As he’d downloaded the plans and blueprints, he’d also uploaded a virus. He tugged out the flash drive, pocketed it, and turned off the chairman’s computer. Time for phase two.
He exited the room, took the elevator down to the commissary, and pulled out his cell phone. Calling the closed-loop transfer feed devices he’d clipped onto the room’s hidden cameras, he stopped their cycle. The cameras would go back to showing a live feed. Then he ordered a Diet Coke and a tuna sandwich and sat down at one of the café tables. Taking a sip of soda, he plugged the flash drive into his phone. While eating, he uploaded the TRUE LOVE files through his encrypted line, to his New York office, and to Langley. When it finished, he dialed another number.
“Hey, sugar, what are you wearing today?” he cooed into the line.
“Stop it, Agent Denton,” Cheryl’s voice growled. Trig chuckled, picturing the field-agent-liaison’s cheeks turning bright pink beneath her silver-gray curls. “And yes,” she continued, “your files came through. Parrish is looking at them now… oh, wait. He wants to talk to you.”
“Good work, Denton,” Parrish boomed on the line. “Now finish up and get out.”
Trig frowned. It was obvious the Chinese were farther along in the development of this weapon than the CIA had previously thought, and they had two choices. Either they let him see how far he could get right now, or they removed him, analyzed the data, and planned another chance to get somebody else inside. This second alternative is was what Parrish was telling him to do. It would be the safer, more conservative route. But there were two major problems: the virus he’d just sent into the Bao-Dong systems would put the Chinese on high-alert after today, and it would take too long to get the next agent in as deep as Denton already was.
Trig glanced at the business crowd around him, eating their lunches. “I got some hot tickets for tonight’s game,” he said to Parrish, covertly indicating his desire to move forward with the task.
“Negative. Too dangerous.”
“Oh, honey, I’d love to, but I think I’m coming down with something,” Trig said, reminding Parrish about the virus.
There was a pause on the other end. Trig mentally weighed the options, the same ones Parrish would go through: the accomplishment of the smaller task at the expense of the larger one. The safety of the agent, versus the security of the nation. They’d known going in it could come to this. It really wasn’t much of a choice. Trig was more than ready.
“Fine,” Parrish grunted. “Good luck.”
“Thanks, sugar.” Trig disconnected.
He tossed his soda can and sandwich wrapper in the trash and flipped through his phone until he came to the blueprints for the Bao-Dong tower. Navigating to an emergency stairwell in the building’s south corner, he descended four flights until he came to the end at a dimly-lit landing. A large, steel door loomed in front of him. It was marked “Mechanical Room” in both English and Mandarin. According to the plans, the lone, back exit to the weapons facility was hidden in this room. Unfortunately, once past the door, his cell phone wouldn’t get an outside signal. He’d be entirely on his own.
A single, mortise lock stared out at him from the handle. Frowning, Trig picked the pin-tumble mechanism. The handle turned without effort. Trig’s senses were instantly on high-alert.
Something’s wrong. Why isn’t there a scanner? Or a card reader? Or at least a keypad? Unless…?
The door opened into blackness. Loud whirs and ticks clamored through the air. He entered with cautious steps, his right hand on the Frank-belly. Trig had added a pocket at the front of the belly, where he’d concealed his Baby Glock. Not the favorite of his handguns, but the smallest. From his left pocket, Trig whipped out a set of night-vision goggles and affirmed his surroundings. Giant metal tanks squatted in long, neat rows. Several series of parallel pipes snaked up the walls and across the ceiling.
…unless it’s also a real mechanical room, for which a serious, high-tech lock would be too suspicious.
The door shut. Trig was alone in the dark room.
He pulled his phone back out and maneuvered around the perimeter until he reached a section of blank wall, inconspicuous except for the fact the pipes were separated just slightly farther away from each other, before they twisted back together for the adjacent run to the tower’s upper floors. Looking closer at the blank wall, Trig grinned. The nearest pipes twisted around and up, concealing the edges of a door, and in a narrow gap behind the pipes the wall held a palm scanner. Pulling on a pair of pre-imprinted gloves, Trig placed his palm on the pad. In the interview to get the painting job, Frank Panetti had shaken hands with Hu Sing’s superior, a man who had access to Bao-Dong’s inner sanctums. Click. The door opened.
He was in a long, cement tunnel. A strip of lights flickered sporadically along the ceiling. A rivulet of water trickled from a crack in an upper corner, down the wall, and along a lower corner where the wall met the floor. Trig removed his goggles and followed the flow downhill until the tunnel met a larger passageway. He was in the bowels of the manufacturing facility.
Trig’s story continues next week….