|08 Measured Response
Author: Thescarredman PM
IO, stung by the girls' escape from the mall, decides to take off the kid gloves. Colby is forced to play a double game with his old friend Lynch and his ruthless employer, Ivana Baiul.Rated: Fiction T - English - Sci-Fi - Chapters: 5 - Words: 16,446 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 1 - Updated: 03-29-09 - Published: 01-26-09 - Status: Complete - id: 4820104
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When the door shut, Ivana turned back to Ruche, the good humor already gone. In a brittle voice, she said, "Watch him. Every second, whenever he's out of the complex. Bug his house, his phone, his car. Bug his clothes. Bug his fucking glasses. If he takes a piss, someone had better be able to tell me what color the stream was." She calmed somewhat, and Ruche's heart dropped back into his chest. "I want additional surveillance on him. A second layer, independent of the first. Have them shadow him and his guards."
"It may be hard to find people he can't shake. The people I've got on him already are supposedly the best I have."
"Then hire a private firm, the best you can find. We should have done it sooner. He probably knows exactly how many people you've got detailed to him, and how well trained they are. This may be the only way to put a tail on him that will stick." She returned to the head of the table, but passed her seat to stand at the billboard screen. The chameleon was still on display, Desert Eagle in hand. The image was life-size, and Ivana and the chameleon's heads were at the same height. She looked at the image, her back to him and Ivery. "Now. Can someone tell me how this little bitch left my prints on the bathroom knob?"
Ruche's heart jumped back into his throat. "Well, hem, there are latex appliqués you can put on your fingers-"
The boss lady of International Operations wasn't easily misdirected. "I know all about appliqués, Gerry. Where did she get the prints?"
The fingerprints of all senior IO personnel, along with their medical records and other personal information, were part of their sealed files. Only the staffers themselves or their designates would have access. The security of those files was Ruche's responsibility. "Well… Lynch would have had access before he left. He might even have installed a back door, so he can still get into the database."
"No." Ivery shook his head. "Weren't security protocols changed when he crashed the mainframe at Darwin?"
"Oh, yes, that's right." With Ivana's back still turned to them, he shot a glare at the Research head. "He still could have copied the files before he left."
"Or we have a mole with access," Ivana said. "Back to Colby. When did he learn about Genesis?"
"Two years ago, when he took over as Assistant Director. We brought him in so he'd know why we were hunting his former boss, since we're using Operations assets for the search. Otherwise we'd have left him in the dark like we did Lynch."
"Only Jack wasn't entirely in the dark, was he? How the hell did he find out his boy was at Darwin?"
"Well, once Lynch knew about the second phase of the G13 project, he could safely assume that if we ever found his kid, that's where he'd be. We think he got hold of the school's DNA records and did some comparisons."
"That man always was too clever for everyone else's good." Ivana's voice softened. "If his wife hadn't rabbited, we'd be running this place together, Jack and I. It's what Miles really wanted." She looked into the chameleon's eyes. "Instead, he ends up running for his life with a freak show and this pretty little piece." She put a thumb on the screen, seemingly touching the chameleon's chin. "Do you suppose she's doing him, Gerry? Just him. I'm sure the kids are under his thumb. If she's got him by the dick, she wouldn't have to bother with the others." She turned back towards them, her expression intent. "When I get my hands on her, she won't stay pretty."
Ivana was standing almost cheek-to-cheek with the image of the chameleon. It was like seeing her with her cheek pressed to a mirror.
Ruche felt his blood pressure drop; dimly, he heard Ivery's breath puff out. Ivana looked at their faces, frowning slightly. "What?"
"Ivana," he managed to say, "didn't you tell me you don't have any relatives in this country?"
"I don't have relatives anywhere, Gerry." Then she caught it, and looked at the chameleon. "Really?"
He nodded. "Really. When you talked about messing her up, your expressions were identical. You could be sisters. Twins, even."
"And her hair," Ivery said. "You wore it like that for a while, when you first came here. Not blonde, but the same style."
"I'll bet anything she sounds like you, Ivana. Thick-soled shoes, contacts, and a wig – and she's you. At least close enough to fool someone who doesn't know you. I think we've found our mole."
Breathlessly, Ivery said, "My God, she could have everything. And if she's been giving orders in your name, there's no telling what sort of time bombs she's planted."
Ruche's imagination took flight. "Our financial records. The real ones."
Ivana scowled. "Get a grip, you two. If she had all that, we'd be out of business already. She hasn't been roaming IO property at will on the strength of a resemblance." She studied the image. "You know, she doesn't look so nauseatingly cute in this picture."
"She's just killed a man with her bare hands," Ruche said. "She's in the middle of gunning down five more, and she's a second away from smashing in the face of the man behind her. She's not cute."
Ivana nodded. "Good. I never was either." She returned to the table and sat, steepling her fingers in unconscious imitation of Miles Craven. "All right. I don't care how much she looks like me, we don't have identical prints. Twins don't. Even a clone wouldn't; prints aren't a genetic trait. So we know she has, or has had, access to our personnel files. What can she do with them?"
"Oh, please. Personnel files?" Her mouth twisted in a sneer. "Medical histories. Previous employment, marriages, mistresses. Treatment for substance abuse or STDs. Who'd be insane enough to cross me to keep that stuff a secret?"
Ruche thought the files could still be serious leverage, if they were handled skillfully. But he knew his boss, and he was sure Ivana was in no mood to be contradicted. "Then perhaps she may be looking for weaknesses to exploit." An idea came to him that was beautiful and monstrous in its possibilities. "Like Colby's taste in women."
Ivana looked up over her fingertips at him, startled. "You think…"
He shrugged. "He seemed to know her awfully well on scant information. Or maybe it's just that she's his kind of girl." Like you, he thought. He hadn't missed the weird chemistry between her and Colby as she'd dismissed him. He wasn't jealous – he'd rather invite a cobra into his bed – but the exchange had made him feel uneasy and threatened. Keeping those two apart seemed like a very good idea.
"Hm. We're missing something, Gerry. Why did she go to the trouble of leaving my prints at the scene, if not to show us that she had those files? Let's keep that in the back of our minds. What about our PT? The tricks they do with computers and phones have me wondering. Tell me she and Jack haven't got their hands on proscribed tech."
His mouth went dry again. "I'm sure she couldn't access Research data without leaving tracks, and a snap audit last night came back good. They're the most secure files we have, of course, and carefully encrypted."
"And the hardware? The demos and prototypes?"
"Locked down tighter than an ICBM silo. You know that." The three of them were regular visitors to the seven warehouses in Arizona, California and Colorado where the working models of IO's discoveries were kept safe. "With your permission, I'll check the entry logs against your itinerary for the past couple years, see if you've ever been in two places at once." He inclined his head towards Ivery. "But you usually go with Ben anyway. I suggest that you travel nowhere without a large escort from now on. Not just for your protection, but to make you harder to impersonate."
She nodded. "Good. Make sure no one got into the vaults before Jack took off, Gerry. He's dangerous enough without a truckload of flying saucers and death rays."
Ruche said carefully, "You seem certain they're working together."
"If she's maneuvering those kids, she's maneuvering him. She wouldn't get away with it any other way." She sat back in the chair. "What about financial? Be realistic."
He nodded. "You're right; she must not have a copy of our books. She might be skimming cash, I suppose, but nothing turned up in the quarterly audits."
"That's not reassuring. It would tickle Jack to use our own money to thwart us." She looked at Ivery. "Ben. Imagine Jack copying the Genesis database at Darwin before he trashed the computers. What would he know that we don't?"
"God. How could we know?" Then Ivery started thinking about it. "All the kids' histories, of course. A lot of stuff on the Twelves. Theoretical and observational data – manifestation is an exponential process, as you know. But if you know what to look for, you can see it start before the subjects do. That's why we kept them busy with schoolwork and exercise, and tested them constantly and made them submit to weekly physicals." He shook his head. "And they still caught us unprepared. Who'd have guessed they'd all manifest at the same time? Putting them all close together must have triggered a group reaction of some sort."
"Would he know things about Gens we never knew, perhaps? New discoveries?"
Ivery raised his eyebrows. "Possibly, if he had talented researchers. After all, he'd have had the data for two years. And he's got five developing Thirteens to observe at close hand."
Ivana's mouth thinned. "Those prints were another challenge, a shot over our heads. Not only have they got us scared to conduct operations, now we have to tear our organization apart looking for leaks. What a clever little bitch. She means to tie us up in knots, paralyze us." She turned to Ruche. "Keep the pressure on Colby, any way you can think of. Use him as a bird dog to flush them out for us."
He felt his brows gather. "Why me?"
She gave him her Mona Lisa smile. "Because you're so good at goading him. I never saw anyone get under his skin the way you do." She looked at Ivery. "When that happens, we need to have a little surprise for them. Benjamin, I want something that'll strip a Gen of his powers without putting a collar on him, preferably without having to get close. Give me something. And both of you get your service pistols out of your desk drawers and get down to the range to re-qualify. I need senior people to set an example."
Ruche wasn't afraid of guns, but he found them distasteful. He'd barely qualified when he'd first joined IO, and he suspected the range master had passed him out of pity, knowing he'd never hold a gun again. "What about you? When was the last time you qualified?"
Her eyes were flat as a shark's. "Eleven days ago, Gerry. With a Desert Eagle."