She was done wasting time. Jack. What was Bill here for?
Global Genetics latest biological nightmare.
Her hand went to her hip, and she stifled a flash of anger. Something had happened up in that corner office and Jack had destroyed it, wiped it clean from her mind, erased it from her memorysomething he shouldnt have done. He had said as much right before shed walked in. Bullshit. Why was he here? she demanded.
Distress crossed him, real but not moving her. It doesnt matter, Peri. Forget about it.
He came out from behind the counter, and she put up a hand for him to keep his distance. Screw that. You fragmented something you shouldnt have. What was it?
Jack took a breath as if to protest. He looked torn, desperate. Her eyes narrowed, daring him to stay silent. And then he exhaled, his eyes pleading. I only wanted to stay with you. Bill said if I kept quiet about the list, did a few jobs on the side, nothing would change.
Jobs on the side? What list?
Um. Jack looked away, then back. A list of corrupt Opti agents.
Her eyes widened, and she looked out the window in time to see Bill get into a black Opti car and be driven away. How , she started, then sat down as a flush of cold washed through her. I just gave Bill a list of corrupt Opti agents?
Peri, Jack pleaded. Its worse than you think. The list is Bills personal stable of drafters and anchors. Hes giving it to his superiors after he takes his best agents off it. Hes cleaning house. I got us on the right side of things, but were on borrowed time and the interest is stacking up.
My God. He knew? How long? Her outstretched hand faltered and she turned, the blood falling from her face. Bill was dirty? Their handler was corrupt?
Seeing her understanding, Jack nodded, head lowered as he took up her wineglass and came forward. Shocked, she sat there, trying to figure it out. You kept a copy, right? she whispered.
Jack hesitated, but when her gaze sharpened on him, he set their glasses down beside her and reached for his wallet. Its in your wallet? she exclaimed.
I havent had time to squirrel it yet. He sat down, metal-woven wallet in his hand. It was impervious to scanners. Her favorite handbag was lined with a similar material. Breathless, she sat beside him, lightheaded as she took the hotel stationery he extended. I, ah, decoded the chip while you were in the shower, he said as she scanned the list of eight names. Every one of them was familiar, every one of them in high-profile tasks.
I dont get this, she said, looking it over. Nathan and Chris? Ive known them my entire Opti career. And youre telling me theyre corrupt?
Remember when they ended that three-week grounding of international flights by exposing a terrorist cell? There were no terrorists, only scapegoats. Jack took the list from her, and she scooted closer so they could look at it together. It was a planned shutdown to keep the U.S. clean while that smallpox outbreak in Iran ran its course. A non-Opti task.
Peris eyes widened as she recalled thinking it was a bit of luck that the shutdown had happened right before the first smallpox case surfaced. Please dont tell me Opti caused the outbreak, too? she said, and Jack pointed to Brandon and his anchor, Julia.
Also a non-Opti-sanctioned task. We thought it was an accident until recently, he said. And the brain-Web interface trials? The innovation that was going to give us a direct link to Internet everything through the new glass technology?
It was supposed to have been the biggest breakthrough since the vacuum tube, having everyone from those in Washington to religious leaders around the world in an uproar at the possible culture upheaval. They failed. Everyone died of brain hemorrhages from the implants, she said, and Jack tapped Gina Trechers name, his finger lingering on her anchor, Harry.
Oh, they died all right, but not because the technology was bad. The company behind wave technology wanted it buried, knowing if people could see the Internet in their heads, it would make their product look like it was from the Stone Age. Not Opti-sanctioned.
Nina and Trey didnt end the Africa uprising in 2026, he continued, and Peri held her breath, remembering how pissed she was when the older couple got the high-profile task instead of her and Jennifer. Opti sent them to help the transition from the existing government to one the U.S. approved of, but what they were being paid the big bucks for was to install an extremist faction instead. That the extremists went on to slaughter everyone with white skin was not a surprise.
Peri sank back into the cushions, remembering the horrific newscasts coming out of the tip of Africa. They had called it the White Plague, and it had been little more than organized murder. No wonder Nina wouldnt talk about it.
My God. This is real. What were we really doing at Global Genetics? she whispered, and he folded up the list.
Getting this, but I didnt want you to know. Bill threatened to take you away from me if Iwedidnt do a few jobs for him. Its gotten out of control. We have to run.
Her head came up as she started to think again. They couldnt run. The same patterns that kept her sane would make her easy to find. Besides, Opti had the backing of the U.S. government, and they had no proof tying the corruption to Bill. It was his word against theirs. We have to do something with this.