Carrying a small backpack, Christopher Noman reached the entrance to the Batu Caves. The statue of Murguan towered over the entrance to the stairs. The 272 steps stairway lead to the limestone caves, one of the many famous tourist attractions in Kuala Lumpur. It was almost midnight and the area was deserted under the full moon.
He quickly ran up the stairs and halfway through he saw a guard lying on the ground hidden behind a bush. As he moved up further, he saw a few more guards that had been taken down. Taking on this man physically was out of the question. Christopher Noman knew that. The cold night brewed the adrenaline rush with the fear of death, creating a cocktail of emotions inside Christopher’s mind. He still kept going. After walking up what felt like never ending series of stairs, he was finally near the entrance of the cave. After emptying his backpack, he went inside.
‘Where’s the cavalry Mr. Noman?’ shouted Durus from a distance, his voice echoing in the labyrinth of the caves.
‘I fixed the bug, take the code and let go of Jia’ Christopher Noman shouted back
‘It’s not that simple my friend. How do I know you are not toying with me? See to your left, there is a laptop over there. Setup the code there.’ the voice felt it was moving closer, ‘there is a file on the desktop, run the code per the instructions.’
‘Are you crazy? Just take the goddamn code and let her go!’
‘You have 5 minutes. We can spend it chit chatting or you can make an attempt to save her life’
‘You are a madman!’
‘All the great visionaries are…’
Christopher Noman set himself up in front laptop, copied over the code and looked at the file. It looked like a personal profile of an international terrorist. The file had satellite photos, addresses, transactions and close up snapshots of the terrorist. Noman was confused why would Durus want to expose this man.
‘Stop scratching your head Chris. This is a test to see if you didn’t try to become super hero overnight and fool me with a false program. If what Rajeev said is true, then your so called weapon should get the CIA and US Marines on his doorstep faster than he can scream “freedom”’
‘But why would you want the Government to catch him? More importantly how do you know where he is, everyone and their mother are looking for him?’
‘Your ignorance amuses me, how easily deceived by people in power. This so called terrorist died ages ago. The person in the photos is actually a clone, a look alike. A good friend of mine I might add. Every now and then freedom fighters use him to rattle the anti-terrorist organizations. It’s amusing to watch their heads roll every time they think they had finally killed him, he was alive again, in the flesh on the internet.’
‘You are willing to sacrifice your friend for your insane plan?’
‘Shut up and run it…’ Durus barked back. The words were followed by a woman’s scream as if she was hit in the gut.
‘OK! OK! I’m running it, don’t hurt her’
Noman quickly keyed in the commands, uploading the images, addresses and information on to the system and executing it to spawn this information across the internet, across all social networks. The screen instantaneously filled up with details about users being impersonated and sharing details about this wanted man.
‘Ok Durus! Its d…’ Noman was midway in to his sentence as something hit him from behind and knocked him out.
Echoing sounds of a news reporter woke Noman up from his daze. As he regained focus, he found himself lying on the floor. He could see Durus seated a few feet away from him, gun pointed to Jia Xin who lay face down on the floor and tied up.
Newscaster’s voice: ‘Authorities have just reported that two U.S. Marine choppers executed a priority 6 op in a northern city of Pakistan. From the first reports, seems like they have found and killed Abdul Mahroof. Mahroof has been on the most wanted terrorist for the past 10 years. The locals have…’
‘Welcome back my friend, for a moment we thought we lost you. Xin here was quite emotional about it. Weren’t you dear?’ Durus kicked her. The sound of Xin’s muted cry enraged Noman, but he felt helpless.
‘Haven’t you done enough? This news proves that the code is real. What is it that is going to bring back the 5 Americans you killed in Middle East? Will destroying the world redeem you for killing John Roberts. Wasn’t he your friend as well…? Collateral damage?’ Christopher Noman selected his words carefully, having read up about his file.
The words brought back a dreadful memory for Durus. A memory that has been eating him from inside, every living moment of his life.
There were people inside when the explosives went off, civilians, Americans… does that mean anything to you at all!
Collateral damage, every war has its fair share of it.
You disgust me! We have no right to decide whom to sacrifice to save lives of others.
We couldn’t have known. The plan was to evacuate the facility first. The first explosion was designed to do exactly that. Everyone would have fled in fear if the explosive went off in time.
But it didn’t, and the second one killed everyone inside. 38 people died that night! All because of your plan was flawed!
‘Don’t accuse me Durus! From all I know you wanted them to die. You wanted the first explosive to fail. I know how much you hate them’ barked the General. ‘Unless you want to end up in solitary confinement, which you can bet your worthless ass you will, get yourself together and leave this behind. It was a covert op and no one needs to know. Revolution feeds on sacrifice.’
Sam ‘Durus’ Jenkins walked out of the General’s office. He could not believe the General’s words. Black Dawn had been created to serve the ideology of the country. But this mission wasn’t it. He could not go back to it. He could not decide the fate of innocent people, not anymore. As he turned around to tell the General he was not going on the mission, he overheard the General on the phone
We have to clean him up. He is not going to be of any use to us anymore. Make sure it looks like the mission went bad and he ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Durus ran and never looked back. He dedicated rest of his life to take down the establishment. Take down Black Dawn and every other covert operation like it.
‘You know nothing about the operation. They wanted those people do die. They will pay for it. For every one that died that night’, Durus snapped out of his painful flashback only to find Chris Noman pointing a gun at him.
‘Do not move you son of a bitch! You damn madman, this is no way to save the world!’
Before Noman could react, Durus jumped to his right while pulling the trigger. A sudden force pushed Noman backward onto the ground near the entrance of the cave. The bullet had hit Noman on his chest, knocking the life out of him.
Durus dusted off his overcoat and walked towards Noman. ‘We could have been friends Mr. Noman. If you knew what I know, you would understand.’
Now standing right above Noman, Durus leans closer looking into his eyes, ‘Remember ARPANET? Yes that’s where the so-called internet took genesis. It was designed for the military. Seemed like a good coincidence it ended up for the average Joe doesn’t it. The real reason why it became the internet was that at that time the government knew they could easily win the physical wars. They had the nukes and the firepower to annihilate entire cities. The real threat was of civil rebellion, the information war. Every great empire crumbled when its people revolted. This country was too great to fall into that trap. That is why in 1969 heads of the country made a half a century long plan.’
‘Why do you think any and every technology that is based on digitizing your personal life has become an overnight success? Google, Facebook, Twitter, iPhone… the list goes on and on. Everyone and anyone is publishing their thoughts on the digital frontier and is being controlled by it. Before it was very hard to get private information on people, now people were voluntarily giving it away. Infidelity, deceit, blackmail, corruption…’
‘Ever wondered why our biggest threat China has kept a strong lockdown on Google and Facebook? It is sad that our people don’t care anymore. They hear about the president fooling around with his secretary and they forgive him. They know what we did in the Middle East and they ignore it. It is time someone woke them up!’
Noman now breathing heavily, ‘and now you are going to use this program and tell the world about this conspiracy? Is that what this is about?’
Durus now walking around Noman, stroking his beard ‘your short sightedness disappoints me, I always expected someone of your caliber to be more insightful. No my friend, our people would not give heed to this conspiracy, they are too busy with their Paris Hilton’s and American Idols. Unfortunately to recover from this ignorant slumber, our people need a powerful enemy. An enemy that will know how to use this weapon to bring down the empire. Only through chaos we will find freedom. Only through sacrifice will we find our revolution.’
Now aiming his gun straight at Noman’s face, ‘it is time I free you from this pain. Sorry we met in such incompatible circumstances. I believe on a different day, in a different world, we would have been friends.’
All of a sudden Noman sprung around kicking Durus off his feet to the ground, landing on top of fruits that Noman placed around the entrance when he came in. The landing knocked over his pistol, over the stairs. Durus was covered in the pulp of smashed fruits.
‘Sorry Durus, but I plan to live through this one. Hope you like fruits as much as these bats do.’
Noman shoots a flare in the air and then lied prone on the ground. The dark cave suddenly came alive, the flare moving upward into the shaft of the cave, climbing, swirling, like a white serpent reaching for the skies. As lightness ascended inside the cave, a fluttery darkness descended downwards, spiraling around the walls and the ground towards the entrance.
Durus tries to stand up only to meet the swarm of bats approaching him. Homing in on the essence of fruits, the bats converge on Durus, piercing his flesh like a hard skin guava.
As the flare dies down, the cave returns to its hibernation. Noman shrugs off dirt from his clothes while taking off the bulletproof vest he took from a dead guard. He walks over to Jia and unties her.
‘Time to go home.’
Noman carries Jia on his shoulder as they leave whatever remained of Durus behind them.
A woman sits in her lounge watching the 9’oclock news.
‘In a shocking press conference, veteran Silicon Valley technologist Christopher Gabriel Noman exposed major user data privacy vulnerabilities in the top social and search networks. He added that terrorists and governments are both exploiting these vulnerabilities. In his press conference he announced that he published enough details on his blog to prove his claim, however he has destroyed the technology that his co-found Rajeev Singh had developed to uncover this.’
Taking a sip of dry martini, she looked at her watch.
‘Following the press conference the government has asked for an official investigation of respective government departments and technology companies and ordered to take their CEO’s in custody. Internet privacy activists have hailed this news as a major victory over the technology and information monopoly of the BIG 3. In related news, Rajeev Singh, the social startup millionaire was killed in his apartment two days ago. The murder is said to be related to the technology showcased by Chris Noman in his press conference.’
Her phone started to ring. She picked it up while walking out to her car, ‘Hello?’
‘Yes sir I am watching the news’
‘Everything worked as we planned. He does not suspect anything. Our cover is intact. People think Durus fed them the details. They think the code has been destroyed. Any links to us died with Durus.’
‘Yes sir, I have secured the code as you ordered.’
‘I will give in my official report tomorrow on my desk’
Jia Xin hung up her phone and walked to her Porsche Cayenne, keys in one hand and the USB drive in the other.