I'm not bad at planning. I don't like doing it, but I'm not bad at it.
I'm much happier simply going with my gut and doing what feels right.
That all said?
I'm glad Cass is a planner.
Otherwise shit would have gone sideways much more often than it ever did in our crazy lives.
Chapter 8: Get the Party Started
Cass’s curse was quiet for all its vehemence. She, Mac, Montana, and Stone were holding a council of war and Mac had just dropped a bombshell.
“You’re sure?” she asked Mac.
“I was up all night working on this, sometimes I don’t sleep much, anyways they might have thought they had good security but they don’t, at least not from where I sit, but that could be because they taught me using their systems and codes and so I know how their IT people think, I can usually get around their firewalls and traps, sometimes I can even use their own backdoors, but once you’re past the outer layer it’s really child’s play because everybody’s been taught to keep it simple because the firewall will keep people like me out except this time it didn’t work, and so yes I’m sure that what I just told you is the truth at least as far as Talbott put it into the system, I can’t say if there are any paper documents out there which would contradict this information but I doubt it, Talbott is pretty thorough about getting it all online rather than paper, haven’t you ever seen her desk clean as anything.”
“Who’s Talbott?” asked Stone, not following at all.
“She’s the current Director of the outfit that Cris and Mac work – er, worked – for,” clarified Cass, her earlier anger already cooling as she applied her intellect to the new information.
“Okay, okay, Mac – one more time though. Please.”
“I told you already what I know.”
“Mac.” Stone’s voice, familiar with the timbre of command, cut through the room. “One more time.”
Mac gulped and said, “Yes’m,” without any conscious volition. “I got thinking, like Cass said, that this was all too coincidental, losing Cass, not being able to contact Kendra, the ambush leaving the city, all of that just didn’t add up, so I went digging, I had to use a VC Seven patch to -”
“Forget the bloody details, I can’t follow the tech, Mac; can you just tell us what you found?”
“Oh. Yeah. Sure. Well, I found the electronic copy of a contract between OutLook, though actually it was personal contract to Director Talbott, and HLC, for the retrieval of Cass and the elimination of Kendra, it was dated the same day Kendra reestablished contact with the Complex, and then I looked some more and found another contract from HLC to eliminate Cass, that was dated almost two months ago, so I traced from that point and found that the reverend – Farrell? - was hired by OutLook for the job, he wasn’t really one of ours, just a man with a price though he was former military about twenty years ago and I guess there was some sort of trouble -” She saw the look in Stone’s eyes and stopped.
“Anyways, Farrell took his shot and Cass disappeared, the goons in Los Alamos were a backup team there to eliminate Farrell, they didn’t do that either before you removed them Cass so we might be able to get more info from Farrell if we can get hold of him, I ran a search and he seems to have vanished as well.”
“Is she always like this?” said Stone sotto voce.
“Always. This is normal.”
Mac didn’t notice the byplay. “After that Talbott got paid, about five hundred K, though she did a pretty good job of burying it in the company income and expenses, and she’s supposed to get another five hundred K for Cass’s capture and Kendra’s death. You know I also got thinking about -”
““Death”,” quoted Cass. “How?”
Mac took the interruption in stride. “Well it gets a little bit fuzzy, I think that Talbott was trying to play both ends and collect twice on Kendra, she created that courier job, and assigned those two agents, though they didn’t know what was going on, they were just dupes along for the ride, but there’s some guy in the Valley who’s made a big deal about Kendra, though he still calls her Foster-Briggs, something about his father and him taking revenge for a job Kendra did years ago, he’s also paying Talbott, twenty million Bruins for Kendra alive, ten million if she’s dead, I think he’s really got a hard-on for her, and the last entry in the files is about you awaiting interrogation and that Kendra had been captured and Evan and Jamey killed, but like I was saying about HLC –”
“Where is she?” Cass didn’t try to hide the steel in her tone.
“I don’t have an exact address, just a general location, it’s in the Valley, in the Confederacy, that’s a pretty easy place to get into but we’re going to be a little obvious won’t we?”
“Thank you Mac.”
“But Cass – there’s this thing, you know, and I really think you ought to know about it, I know you’re worried about Kendra, I’m worried about her too, but the more I think about it the more it worries me and I really don’t want us to have any surprises, at least no more surprises, we’ve already had enough.”
Cass looked at Mac. “Okay, what is it?”
“What is what?”
“Whatever you’re so eager to tell me,” groaned Cass. Sometimes Mac could be a trial.
“Oh! Right, yeah, I was thinking –”
“We got that,” muttered Stone.
“- and Kaine is just a Deputy Director, he’s not going to have the pull to set up a contract like that, not one that pays half a million, he’d need some serious oversight to get that approved, which means that we’re looking at something rotten way up top at HLC, but I can’t get through all their firewalls, it looks like it’s a publicly-owned company but actually that’s just a front, there’s stock you can buy but you don’t have any control, all the control is held by someone and I can’t figure out who that is, or who they are, and they have to be the ones who were putting out the contracts because there aren’t any links between Kaine and his usual chain of command, it’s like the contract was dropped on his desk from on high.” Mac finally paused to take a breath.
“What you’re saying is that whoever owns HLC is the one behind all this?” asked Montana.
Cass said, “That’s some serious juice. HLC is a multi-billion credit company, and that’s Sonoran credits. Dollars? Think closer to a trillion and you won’t be far off.” She thought some more, then shook her head. “I can’t see that it makes a difference in our mission right now. Yes, we need to figure it out, but first we need to get Kendra back safely. Still, good thinking.”
Mac’s pleased grin could be seen from space.
“Oh,” added Cass. “One more thing? Can you dig up contact for Dick Evans? He’s a, well, a forger in Vegas that Kendra used.”
“Sure, that should be easy, why?”
“I’ll explain later. Thanks.” This time Cass allowed a smile to cross her face, disappearing as soon as she left to do her search.
“You have a plan?”
“Plan?” laughed Cass bitterly. “Not even close. First off, though, we need to find Evans.”
“Amazing old man, and the best way I know of to get hold of Kendra.”
“How will he...?”
Cass cut Stone off. “When we were in trouble, he was the person she ran to. He had a bunch of different IDs ready for us to have, and Kendra mentioned that she’d used him plenty of times before for, well, that’s not important. The key is, if there’s anyone who can help her, it’s him.”
“That you know of,” added Stone. “If she got to him.”
“I don’t know anyone else!” snapped Cass. “At least he’s a place to start, a way into her network!”
“Whoa, settle down there, I was just trying to point out -”
“I will not fucking settle down! This is my wife we are talking about here, and I am not about to give up!” Cass stood and stomped out of the room.
Stone looked about. “Right, then. That touched a nerve.”