Dark Secret (DARC Ops Book 1), страница 1
DARC Ops Book 1
Wild Owl Press
Copyright and Disclaimer
Also by Jamie Garrett
About the Author
Copyright and Disclaimer
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2016 by Jamie Garrett
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other non-commercial uses permitted by copyright law. All requests should be forwarded to [email protected]
Cover design by The Final Wrap.
Editing by ACH Editing.
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Hacker: In mainstream media, a person who gains access to a computer system in order to access information and/or cause damage. Originally (and gaining in popularity again) it meant someone who was a highly skilled computer expert, and usually involved in a hacker community or subculture.
Air walled/Air gapped: A security measure used to ensure a computer is physically isolated from potentially unsecure networks, such as the public internet or another network (for example, a local network in an office).
White Hat: Internet slang referring to an ethical computer hacker or security expert. They may be hired by other companies to break into their computers and networks to test their security and vulnerabilities to a real attack.
Honey pot: Traditionally a honey pot is a decoy computer system used for trapping hackers or spammers. Honey pots are setup to purposefully engage and deceive hackers, and identify those responsible for malicious activity. The term has also been used to describe spies or hackers (usually female) who use their looks and skills to break into secure networks or facilities (for example: stealing someone’s keycard or convincing them to tell them their password).
Encryption: The translation of data (including text and images) into a secret code. To read an encrypted file, you need the secret key or file to decrypt it.
NGO: Stands for Non Government Organization. NGOs are non-profit, voluntary citizen’s groups which are organized on a local, national, or international level. Usually task-orientated and formed with a common interest, NGOs engage in a variety of services and functions.
Ping: An electronic query from one computer on a network to another to determine whether there is a connection to it and whether the other computer is working.
R&D: Stands for research and development.
It was almost too easy back in Germany. She had even had the luxury of being polite about it, adding “entschuldigung” before “ich bin nicht in dich” for her slightly clingy and considerably older nightclub stalker. And off he'd go, the sulking pile of moody Berliner disappearing into the darkness beyond the pulsing lights of the dance floor.
Italian men, being more tenacious, required a little more cruelty. “L'amore non è cieco,” she'd say to even the most ruggedly handsome of shirtless Veronese concrete laborers. By the time Mira had left Italy, she'd become an expert in halting an almost hilarious variety of unwanted advances, the wreckage of male egos stretching from Verona to Calabria.
Even on the dusty back roads of Dak Nong Province, where the Vietnamese delicacy of fertilized duck eggs were served from vendor carts, it was necessary to speak the universal language of bothered women. Even there, to the kids on the dirt bike who kept smiling and whistling, it absolutely had to be said. “Hãy để tôi yên!”
Of course, it helped to have the element of surprise on Mira's side. Her rejections were delivered flawlessly from such a foreign, pretty mouth. They'd land with the effectiveness of a stake through the heart of even the most ardent of seductors. But on returning to the United States, she'd suddenly lost that edge. There was no longer anything surprising about her replies, unless she said something particularly nasty. She'd sometimes like to say something nasty. But that wasn’t her style.
Why did she have to be so goddamned polite and cerebral?
Why couldn’t she, with some confidence and verve, instruct her car mechanic to stop talking to her tits? And why couldn’t she tell the rude French Canadian, when hearing his français and noticing a red plastic poppy on his lapel, to “fuck off, eh?”
She obviously knew the language, having been born into it, so it wasn’t so much a matter of linguistic competency as it was psychology. Attitude. Some mental block or another. It was precisely this deviation from her norm that allowed breathing room—or a breeding ground, rather--for the one-way flirt fest masquerading as her and Chuck's healthy and professional workplace relationship.
He'd come by her cubicle that morning to deliver yet another sweet treat from Landon's Bakeshop, this time a bite-size wedge of tiramisu with a side of “Landon's. The only place where you don't mind me thinking about you.”
She couldn’t afford to be rude to him, that much she knew. But her self-respect could certainly afford a little acknowledgment. Or at least something more than the quiet acceptance of his constant compliments.
“I loved your speech last night,” he'd said, a sudden wave of seriousness washing over his tiramisu-crumbed face. “Very moving. And you looked so poised up there.”
What was it about Chuck that kept her so complacent? What kept her content with being his office prize? Was it hypnotic suggestion? God knows his eyes were creepy enough.
To his credit, he'd say things that any woman with a pulse would enjoy. He said them well, and with a smile. And he wasn't exactly hideous-looking, even beyond office standards. He was also the personal assistant, and great chum, to her boss, Senator Langhorne. And although he was roughly as low as Mira on the office totem pole, his influence with the Senator was real and powerful. Chuck once got an intern fired for something as trivial as a sports team allegiance. Go Redskins, or else, was the message to anyone who, unlike Mira, gave a shit about sports. Still, as much as she tried, she just couldn’t imagine Chuck pitting the Senator against her like that. It seemed that no amount of her extremely soft rejections could push Chuck that far over the edge. It would take something big for such a turnaround, for the unthinkable, for him to stop wanting her pretty face around the office anymore. Maybe a break-up would do it. Or a date not ending in sex. Yet another reason for Mira's constant cool rejections was that she was using them as a buffer against the looming threat of date invitations. She liked her job too much for that.
For once in her life she'd fou
But again, there was Chuck, incessantly gravitating toward her glass-panelled cubicle. He also had a knack for throwing monkey wrenches into her cogs. “What are you working on now? Swahili limericks?”
He asked questions like this all the time, and Mira resisted the urge to roll her eyes every single time.
For Mira, the natural-born polyglot, it was just another language to decipher. A sad, pathetic language which primarily consisted of about 600 different ways of saying “I really, really, really like you.” It was also a translation that Mira was not paid to perform, and so she ignored it whenever she could and deflected him when she couldn’t. That morning her excuse had been Senator Langhorne's letter to Yang-Dong Guo, head of China's pulp and paper industry.
Wait, where was she again? Oh right, the forests of Myanmar...
...total forest stock volumes showing a decrease similar to 2006, with forest coverage rates falling from 17.22% to 12.49%. Therefore, the domestic wood pulp consumption of 14.62 million Mts of...
Just beyond the letter's surface of statistics lay a carefully veiled plan, something especially clear to anyone doing the translating. The Senator was trying to guilt the Chinese—if not threaten them outright—away from their somewhat illegal and definitely environmentally reprehensible plundering of Myanmarian rainforests. The Senator also just so happened to offer sweetened trade deals that would increase American pulp wood exports. Everyone could go home happy. That seemed to be Senator Langhorne's trademark.
And everyone did go home happy, including Mira, who, after leaving the Hart Senate building, which sat just a block away from the Capitol Hill, would listen happily to a Joan Didion audio book during the painless half-hour commute home across the Potomac. She'd cross on the 14th Street Bridge, then take the freeway past the Pentagon and the Arlington National Cemetery to Washington Boulevard which snaked around to her high-rise apartment in posh—okay, yuppie—downtown Arlington. And there, beneath the twenty stories of Randolph Towers, and without even thinking of the comforts of her sofa or TV or fridge, she'd do her daily ten laps in the indoor swimming pool. It was a practice she'd maintained since her arrival to the Towers four years ago, a move made possible by a scholarship from George Washington University. A dual Masters later, one in Business Administration and the other in International Trade and Investment Policy, she was scooped up and hired by Senator's Langhorne's personal headhunter.
Sure, life was good for Mira. It was a quietly successful, orderly life which sometimes bordered on being a little too orderly. Even she would admit that, with her color-coordinated Rothko prints and color-coded book spines, the well-watered ferns, puzzle-pieces of Vermont foliage being linked together to the sounds of Billie Holiday, the occasional sip of Korean smoked tea, quinoa gurgling in the rice cooker. And most noticeably, the boring, albeit peaceful absence of a significant other.
But as night approached, the quiet orderliness of Mira's apartment became almost suffocating. It would keep her awake, the sixteenth floor silence. Sometimes, when lying under the covers, she'd stretch out across the bed, her arms and legs spread wide, trying her best to fill its queen size. But she could scarcely feel the edges. Then she'd lie there and wonder about her other half, her true other half, the empty space of her mattress, wondering how many more nights it would stay cold throughout the night.
* * *
Chuck, sadly, was the closest thing to a man in her life. Though he was much more the boy in her life. And hardly even that.
“Morning, gorgeous,” was his next morning's greeting.
...Naai Surachejpong, for Thailand's cooperation in counter-narcotics training activities, and implementing... Fuck.
Mira looked up from her laptop screen, her tight bubble of concentration having been popped at the familiar, grating sound of Chuck's nasally greeting. He had this particular talent, a way of smudging out the sparks of progress just as something big was finally about to catch fire.
“Sorry,” Chuck lied. He was never sorry about interrupting her. “I just wanted to give you a heads up about the Senator. He'll be coming in early.”
“So, in case you're not done with the Sura... Surachej...” A look of blankness crossed over his face.
“Yeah, that one.”
“It's already done.” It was Mira's turn to lie. “But thanks.”
“No problem,” he said, smiling as if he'd almost saved her day. “And sorry about Landon's. They were closed again.”
“Chuck, you don't have to keep bringing me Landon's.” She watched his face twitch imperceptibly, and it almost made her feel bad for saying it. “I mean, you're gonna blow me up.”
“Well, hey, we're in this together.”
“In what together?”
“The addiction,” he said with a dirty grin.
“No, we're not.”
“By the way, I eat twice as much Landon's as you. The éclairs, amuse bouche, bear claws...” He did a proud little half-turn which showed off his mid-thirties pudge. “Hasn’t blown me up yet.”
“Yes, it has,” Mira said matter-of-factly. This time she didn’t feel bad about her honesty.
Chuck laughed and turned away. “More to love, Mira,” he sang while striding back to his cubicle. “More to love.”
A few moments later, as warned, the large, bovine head of Senator Langhorne appeared as it floated across the office above the tops of cubicle frames. His voice, too, floated across and transfixed the room. A temporary work stoppage ensued, with necks craning around at any odd angle necessary to catch a glimpse of the Senator. What was he saying? Who was he talking to?
He reached Mira's cubicle, his smile having already begun to weaken slightly, his face rosy under the harsh florescence of office lighting. He'd been known to show up early after a night of socializing. The more hungover, the earlier he'd arrive.
“Mira,” he said, his smile slowly returning. “I didn't get a chance to thank you for the additions.”
“Which ones, sir?”
“Well, look at that.” He chuckled. “Shoot, you're covering my ass left and right.”
Mira smiled. She drew her hands from her laptop keys and folded them neatly in her lap. She had work to do, but interacting with the Senator was probably the most important part of the job.
“The Yang-Dong Guo, especially,” he said. “Seems like our writers don't know the timber from the trees.”
“It was an easy fix.”
“Maybe for you it was.” The Senator began looking around to the other cubicles, quietly taking stock in his workforce. “I should have you writing these things, not just translating. Save a lot of time and money.”
“Senator,” came the voice of Chuck, again on cue just as something good, like a sudden promotion, could've potentially happened. “Senator, your ten o’clock. Line two.”
Langhorne nodded politely and retreated, with Chuck in tow, to the back of the office. In his absence, the room seemed to come to life again, an awakening mélange of keystrokes, caster wheels, and coughing. And now, for Mira, the melodious language of Thai.
...insufficient assets to control her remote border with Cambodia. Efforts to participate with neighboring LE can and should...
The harsh, digitized ring of her desk phone promptly jarred Mira
“I'm sorry,” he began. “I know Chuck and I are probably killing you today.” He had no idea how half-right he was... “But could you do me a quick favor, Mira?”
“Of course,” she said. “What is it?”
“Could you please go into my office and print out the meeting agenda?”
“Today's agenda. With the attachments.”
“You got it.”
“Thanks, Mira. I'll be in the conference room.”
Fine. No problem. It wasn’t often that he requested her to do Chuck's work. It might even feel good to stand and walk a little. For the past month she'd become increasingly aware of a slight hunch forming in her back, the true sign of a full-time cubicle dweller.
In the Senator's office, where no one was looking at her but the wall-mounted, taxidermied heads of big game animals, Mira could finally and properly stretch her back muscles. With her chest pushed forward and her shoulders rolled back, she stretched her arms straight up until she heard a loud, merciful pop.
Finally, with self-administered chiropractics taken care of, she started in on his computer to track down that elusive meeting agenda. Though the search wasn't as straightforward as she'd expected. In contrast to the Senator's immaculately clean office and desk, his virtual desktop was a complete mess. There might have been around twenty open windows – all of them minimized to show a background almost completely covered in icons. He’d even left a muted YouTube video running, a slideshow of classic muscle cars. When she hit a wrong button, its music began to play, the obnoxious twang of cheap country rock briefly filling the office until it was silenced by her frantic mashing of the keys.