Because Syd appealed to me on Facebook to get a move on already... Presenting the next stage in Caspett's plan for world domination. Or, at least, to get the bitch outta his chair.

Exipotic Warfare

Chapter Four

It's just about done," Terry said from his place at Nigel's dining room table.

Three laptops, four programs and five coffees went into producing a sword with which they could slice Natalie Durant out of her position. Messy didn't concern Nigel, as long as the scan was untraceable and effective. There was someone occupying his chair, a woman clinging to his destined office and stalling the inevitable. In his mind, Caspett had already redesigned his business cards. Embossed like the letterhead. And unlike his current stack, they'd actually spell his name right.

"How is this going to work, exactly?"

Terry's sideways glance vowed that he'd waste no breath on particulars to the computer illiterate. I'd tell you but then I'd have to…

"Let's just say that when she swears she never got it, we'll have the time stamped evidence to the contrary." He rebooted one of his systems, then muttered something about going wireless next time.

Revenge is a dish best served heaping and the goal, total annihilation, needed to be thorough as well as emotionally satisfying. It wasn't enough to take her out, the occasion called for panache.

Nigel sniffed. "And this will bring me closure of the problem?"

With the pride of a craftsman, Terry beamed. "If you want her to look incompetent, this is your tool."

"And there's no way to tell that it's, as you say, a false door?"

"At first and second and eighth glance, it should appear legit."

That one word was an incessant needle to his eye and Nigel had to rub the sensation away. "Should?"

"Well, if they have a bored hacker on staff, they could invest the time to trace the pathways. But they'll be too busy sorting Durant out."

Right out the door, Nigel thought with a mighty rubbing of hands. Still it was an added worry for what he'd hoped to be a foolproof plan. The danger of exposure hardly made a dent in his determination to roll forward. No matter the disease, the next case would be…invigorating.

And immediate, according to the dual rings on their pagers. Terry blew out an irritated breath and switched off the rattling box.

"So much for date night."

Nigel grabbed his coat. "I'd have thought that once you were married, you'd have no need for such expense."

"My wife disagrees," said the beaten man.

An unconscious twist of his silver ring and Terry hit speed dial to deliver the grave news. His bride of two years could be heard through the blue tooth device and nothing in the tone suggested understanding. The bumper sticker was right; Marriage is for quitters.


In a tiny Kentucky town which any map would be challenged to mark, five northerners brought their technology to a building with insufficient wiring. A local family practice had been converted into a triage as residents wandered in with boils the size of gum drops. The two doctors on staff had contracted the illness by virtue of proximity and few precautions had been established before the government team arrived. An isolation room was set up in the cafeteria and when that overflowed, Terry and Kyle knocked through the decayed dry wall to make space. The administrator gave nodding approval to the demolition between howls of blistering pain.

In subsequent hours, the NIH group was inspecting their own skins for signs of infection. There was little else to do. Samples lined the tables while they waited for three-prong adapters to arrive from a local hardware store so that they could plug in their equipment. Day one concluded with a fist fight among the aching patients, over high school football no less, and the following morning began with a dissertation on proper hygiene from the town drunk, still inebriated despite being days past his last bottle. The day proceeded with noticeable issues, from inconsistent power to a newly discovered lack of adequate medicinal supplies. Nigel excused himself at noon to fire off an urgent e-mail to his superior.

"I hate rednecks," Lucy grumbled over Kentucky's version of Chinese takeout as she prepared the nightly e-mail.

Kyle popped his head in at the comment. "That's uncalled for." The boy didn't wear sullen well and Lucy only giggled at the attempt.

Nigel swallowed what tasted like General Tso's toes. "I want Terry to add a few things to the bottom of the message."

It wasn't unusual, so the girl who routinely bit her nails down to extinction tapped away quickly before handing the laptop over.

"It's all yours but don't forget to requisition the anti-hick spray. These guys're half dead but still ogling me."

Terry let out a sinister wolf whistle while banging the thin keys. The clicking had no rhythm, pausing as though unsure even as his face arranged itself into grim concentration. Websites for hummers and future golf courses had been destroyed by this man, the internet his firing range.

"Done," he said after ten minutes.

"That was a lot of typing. Love letter to the Director?" Lucy's suspicious gaze was too playful to warrant concern.

"She is single, I understand," Caspett mused as though the notion was appealing.

Lucy raised her pencil-thin eyebrows. "Maybe. But the way she and Connor carry on, don't expect that status to last."

Rumor was a tool for ruin and he was just in the mood to indulge. "What have you heard?"

Adjusting her significant tush to find elusive comfort on the molded plastic chair, Lucy's eyes darted from Desmond to Terry to Nigel with conspiracy steaming from her skin.

"Obviously their smoldering looks are known to set off fire alarms. Not often, mind you, but they definitely check each other out. There's all that intensity when they face off, you know, like the romance novels say."

"No, Lucy. We don't read that stuff," Terry said. "We're called Men."

Her pierced tongue slid out momentarily. "Bet Kyle does. Anyway, there's been clandestine meetings of late up in her office. They're either solving the Iraq War or planning a wedding."

Or neither. Regardless, what had been done tonight would negate any plotting between the two former teammates. A glance at Terry showed the man was thinking the same.

Once left alone, Caspett leaned close and asked, "So she'll get the message in her box tomorrow with tonight's send time?"

Sporting the expression of the profoundly bored, the hacker stretched every muscle. "Our laptop will show we sent it tonight but hers will come up as unread. I just have to time it right to maximize the humiliation. After we make a complaint call to the brass."

And that was a glorious word. "Ten o'clock tomorrow. That should give them time to be present for the interrogation."

Terry fidgeted a bit. "Are you sure they're gonna think this is a big deal?"

"We asked for more penicillin. It didn't arrive. I expect Durant will get a close look at the carpet when they call her on it."

Patients put at risk by bureaucracy is a trigger that could detonate the woman's career. The worse he makes it sound, the deeper the pit that's dug for her. Of course, they'd smuggled extra medicine with them so the case comes out looking rather miraculous but Durant's reputation will be a car crash of lazy and careless administration. And her driver will go down with her.