After sending out the designs, Rajeev stared at the time in the taskbar, “Any time now”, he thought to himself. “This will change everything, the way we interact, communicate, socialize… “.
There were sounds of footsteps outside. Alarmed, Rajeev leaned against the door, trying to make out who was outside.
The door burst open, throwing Rajeev on the rug. In the blinding lights, he could only make out silhouettes of three men. His body was trembling but his mind focused, as if he had played this exact scenario in his mind before.
“You can’t comprehend what this can do to the world! It can’t be controlled”, Rajeev tried to buy some time. It seemed like he was keying a code in his Smart-watch. Before he could say more, a single spit came from one of the three men. Rajeev arched and fell down gasping.
“Take the drives, destroy everything else…” said the man in the overcoat.
The door closed and a flamed torch lay on the floor. Like a herd of Zebras running away from its predator, the flames spread throughout the apartment. The curtains blazed with fire, smoke taking residence. In the corner a bright light emanated. Rajeev’s phone came alive with the message
Faction 6 – Initiated
It was half past nine in the morning. Chris scrambled to stop the alarm ringing on his phone. He swung to the side of his bed and pulled aside the apartment’s curtains. Beyond the thick unmovable glass was a view of the magnificent Petronas Towers, once considered the tallest building in the world; now second seated by the Arabs making a bigger replica of their design. Rubbing his eyes, he looked at his phone to see the time. There were two messages from Rajeev. Chris realized that it was 9:45 am and he was late for his keynote.
“Damn, I overslept! I’m pretty sure they put something in that Nasi Lemak. I hope Raj sent me the designs or I’m screwed”, Chris thought while frantically trying to change into his khaki and blazer. He checked his email. There was an email form Rajeev with an attachment.
Even though the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center was few minutes’ walk away, Chris was sprinting away. Entering through the VIP access gate and running through the escalators, he got to the door of the main auditorium. He reached just in time; the speaker had just introduced him to the attendees. He entered the room and was greeted with a standing ovation. The crowd applauded him to the podium.
While the tech team was busy setting up the microphone and projection system, Chris quickly scanned Rajeev’s email, downloaded the attachment to include it in his slide deck.
“Great! Formatted to my presentation, always count on Raj to spend extra time to make his designs outsell themselves”.
Quickly pasting all the design slides to his main presentation, he looked at the last slide. The last design didn’t make any sense, didn’t even look related to his keynote. Deleting the last slide, he gave thumbs up to the tech team and moved to the podium.
“Alright Chris, it’s time to change the world”
“We as a society have evolved in to this new age of a digital identity. Our lives no more live in private journals, letters or notes. We’re on the web and so are our friends. We Facebook, YouTube, Tweet and Foursquare. Sharing our experiences on the web, not knowing who is reading them. “
Chris continued, “These tools were designed to help us keep up with our friends, but now we can hardly keep up with this flood of information. There are over 30 million tweets a day. 300 million pictures are uploaded to Facebook each day. The average user has more than a hundred friends on Facebook. How can you ‘follow’ all this content?”
“After years of research, we now have the answer. With Contextual, our Social Aggregation Platform, you can follow and friend as many people you want and the platform decides what’s important to you based on your neurological web print, your web equivalent of character and personality. By crunching millions and millions of social data of your personal and interest graphs, patterns can be found. Data tailored for your current state of mind, for your taste.”
“Power of infinite knowledge; humanized by the aid of technology!”
Chris thought the punch line had been delivered. Rest of the keynote was just covering technicalities. A bunch of colorful diagrams, “these oldies with deep pockets love this kind of shit. Guess they are too distracted to focus on words.” Chris smiled. “What was that last slide about”, he wondered.
After finishing the keynote, Chris took a moment to absorb the appreciation. His last 5 years in self inflicted exile finally paid off. Scanning through the crowd, he saw some major players from the tech industry from across the world. On the far end of the room a man caught his eye. He was talking into what looked like his watch.
“Everyone is going crazy about security these days. I don’t think terrorists want to bomb a bunch of geeks at a geek convention.”
Stepping down from the podium, Chris glanced over his phone. “2 messages from Rajeev…”. The first one was about the designs. He moved on to the second message while looking for the way out. He saw three men pacing towards him. One of them was the guy who was talking to his watch before.
“Odd, are they concerned for my safety?” Chris thought trying to read the rest of Raj’s message.
i CracKed the Code. the SeCret is in The SPACE. Run for your life. Trust no one.
The nearest exit was four rows ahead. As Chris looked over his shoulder, the three men were briskly moving towards him. The man in front called out, “Mr. Noman. We would like to speak with you”. That was his cue, something snapped inside him and before he could realize it, he running towards the door.
Bursting out the door, Chris looked around. “This is crazy, what am I doing? Why am I running?” but for some reason, his instinct was telling him to run.
The hallway was lined with small business rooms on the left. The right wall was made of glass, overlooking the Suria Mall beyond the dancing fountains.
Seeing a group of tech students in the hallway, he thought of a plan. “Elements of any great escape, distraction and deception“
William Mason was shouting on his radio, “Target has left the auditorium, keep a look out for a man in a dark grey blazer with a red laptop bag”. As Mason entered the hallway, he saw an unexpected sight. Everyone was frantically running toward the exits. Screams of “fire!” filled the otherwise quiet hallway of the KLCC.
“Where are you Mr. Noman”, Mason wondered while scanning the hallway, from end to end. All of a sudden a man running to the far exit caught his eye. The bright red strap of the laptop bag was impossible to miss. “Nice try Mr. Noman”. He sprinted towards the grey blazer while talking on his radio “target is moving towards the east exit, head him off at the security check outside the gate”. He continued running till he was a few feet from his target.
“Stop right there Mr. Noman, no use running. My men have sealed off the exit.”
The man turned stopped in his tracks and raised his hands. Shaking in his place, he slowly turned around. “Chill man! I’m not Mr. Noman, I was just taking his bag to the VIP lounge for him when the fire alarm went off”, said the student wearing University of Kuala Lumpur’s grey blazer.
Outside the KLCC, Chris was running towards the Traders hotel carrying his Macbook Air inside a document envelope. He glanced at the east exit where the teenager was being questioned. “Distraction and deception”, Chris exhaled.
While trying to figure out his next move, Chris saw a tall slender woman standing outside the lobby of Traders Hotel. Lighting her cigarette, the dark hair oriental woman seemed like she was looking back at Chris beyond the lighter’s flame. Chris had heard stories about the adventures businessmen enjoyed in KL, and she fit the description perfectly. Chris needed a way to get away from the open, away from the men chasing him. “Blend in, don’t stand out” he thought to himself. He and the woman seemed to be the only two people who were by themselves.
Cautiously he went over, “It’s a crime for a gorgeous woman like you to be alone in a beautiful city like this. Can I share a smoke with you?” Realizing how awkward that sounded, Chris looked sheepishly for her reaction, praying she would not slap him or worse, call security. To his surprise, she replied back “I would love to buy some Jimmy Choo to go with an Armani. But I have an image to keep, and you look like you’ve been running from the Grim Reaper himself. Why don’t you come up to my room, you look like you need to freshen up”.
“Jimmy Choo and Armani. That’s about 10,000 Ringgits. Tailored for the elite indeed.”
‘Escort: to shepherd safety during transportation’, Chris scratched his head thinking about the ironic play of words as he entered her apartment.
“I am Xin by the way. Jia Xin”
“K-uh…” he stopped midway. “Kaiser, Kaiser Khan” wiping a bead of sweat from his forehead, hoping his father left him some inheritance of South Asian looks.
“Pleased to meet you” Jia squinted “Mr. Khan, please make yourself comfortable”
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m new to this city and need someone to show me around. I hate being alone in a new city”. Chris had been to KL many times before. “Give me a few minutes, just want to check something on my computer”.
“Sure, I’ll get some water” walking towards the kitchenette. “Take your time, Christopher Gabriel Noman”, she thought to herself.
“Very clever Mr. Noman”, William Mason realizing he’d been played. “But these antics won’t get you far. You don’t realize what you have gotten yourself into”.
Mason had been sent on many manhunts before, but this specific assignment was Level 5; Chris must have really pissed off his superiors.
Mason shouted on his radio “Check the mall and send a team to his apartment. He couldn’t have gotten far”. Mason realized that most attendees of the conference were walking towards the Traders hotel. Apparently it was built connected to the convention center. “Chris, could you be so predictable?” Mason thought as he walked towards the concierge at the reception.
“Have you seen this man? He forgot his bag in the auditorium”, he asked showing the concierge a photo of Chris from a recent newspaper article.
“In fact I have, he just went upstairs with one of our regular distinguished guests. Executive Suite 905, take the elevator to the 9th floor”, answered the concierge, seemingly more interested in the group of girls standing outside than answering Mason’s queries.
The elevator door opened on the 9th floor, #905 was the third suite on the right. He could see light from underneath the door. He knocked on the door and said “Room service”.
As soon as he heard the door unlock, Mason kicked the door and barged in, instantaneously grabbing the woman and pressing his 9mm Beretta to her ribs.
“Where is the man that came with you?”
“I don’t know what you are talking about”
“Don’t try to be smart with me. The concierge just told me you came up with this man” shoving the newspaper in her face.
“I will call the police!” screamed the woman. “You can look around all you want. There is no one here but myself.”
Mason shrugged her aside and cautiously surveyed the bathroom and closets. No sign of Chris. Puzzled he walked back to the door and looked outside. To his disbelief, as the elevator door closed it gave him a glimpse of Chris leaving with a woman. Mason ran to the second elevator and banged the call button. The elevator door opened and Mason jumped in. “You won’t get away this time”, Mason grinned as he pushed the button labeled “G”. The Mitsubishi LED display changed from 9, 8,7,6,5,4…and suddenly slowed down on the 3rd floor. The door opened and an elderly woman using a walker supported by tennis balls slowly walked in. “Come on!” Mason spoke in an uneasy tone. The doors shut and the elevator started moving again.
After the minor interruption Mason finally got back on the reception floor. He sprung out and saw Chris moving towards the main entrance. Chris heard Mason running behind him and froze in his steps as he turned around to find Mason standing right behind him. “It ends here!” Mason shouted. As Mason reached for his pistol, two armed guards stopped him in his path. Apparently the woman in room 905 had called security after being attacked by a madman.
Relieved Chris walked out of the hotel with Xin.
Leaving behind Traders Hotel, Chris and Xin hopped into a taxi waiting in the hotel’s driveway.
“What the hell was that about!”, Xin questioned in a muted scream, trying to control her expressions.
“I don’t know. That man has been following me from the conference. I have never seen him before.” Chris trying to think of an explanation, keeping his voice low.
“All I know is that I got this text from my CTO that I am in danger, and that the answer is in Space”
“Hey mister! If he had come directly to our suite, we would be dead right now. I know authorities and he wasn’t one. You may be paying a lot but it’s worth nothing dead.”
Chris thinking back to Rajeev’s message and then he lookup to Xia, “The last slide, the design, it’s not a design! it’s a coded message.” scratching his head with the realization.
“I don’t know what you are talking about. Frankly I don’t give a shit. Stop the car near the mall and I’m out!”, Xin pointing at Pavilion Mall, losing her calm.
“That man has seen you leaving with me. He knows where you’re staying. He will find you. If he was with the authorities you could have just gotten it over with by telling them exactly how you know me and where they can find me. But…”
Xia squinted her eyes and looked back at Chris, one foot outside the car, “but?”
“But as you said, he isn’t from the authorities and he might just kill you after getting his answers.”
Chris felt sick to his stomach, but he knew he was right and he still needed Xin. Why exactly? he didn’t know.
“You’re best option right now is to stick with me”
Xin pulled her leg in and closed the door. “You son of a bitch!”
“An interesting turn of events wouldn’t you say John” stroking his silver beard. “The code was not on the disks, but that was expected now wasn’t it. Chris holds the key and we have him in the palm of our hands”
“Don’t be so sure of yourself, Durus. He outfoxed the agents and now you don’t know where he is”
“Chris hasn’t yet realized what is going on, but he soon will.”, countered Durus. “The next few hours need precise execution. We must make our next move from the chessboard itself.”
“Once I have the code” Durus continued, “the power of the world will tip in my favor. Raj played his role. Now Chris must play his. Revolution feeds on sacrifice.”
END OF PART I
Continue to Part II