There was a knock at the door.
“Sir, we’ve decoded the message.”
Coffey opened a window flashing at the bottom of the massive flat screen. The three men read the message and took a moment to let it sink in.
“She was heading into The Dead Zone.” The Director pinched the small bruised space on his nose, just above the eyes and squinted.
“It seems that way,” answered Coffey, in a nonchalant way which drove the Director crazy. It was as if nothing phased the Head of Intelligence, even when it came as a surprise.
“Of course she was.” Mullholland’s booming certainty stilled the undercurrent between The Director and Coffey. “It’s been under our nose all this time. The Underground are based out in The Dead Zone. ” He walked over to the screen and pulled up the photo of Midwife #2, Sylvie Johanssen. “She was the bait.”
“Bait?” queried Coffey, scratching at the sandpaper growth on his jaw line.
“Why lead us in there then?” asked the Director, pulling the his tie off. “And why kill the agents before they got there?”
“Nothing works in The Dead Zone – you know that as well as I do. The electro-magnetic disruptors put up by the hippy-scum thirty years ago were amplified by the Government after the infection to ensure no one went in.”
“And no one came out,” added Coffey.
“Kill them once they’re in there ,” Mullholland continued ignoring Coffey’s comments, “and you’ve lost your calling card.”
The Director turned to stare at him. “You honestly think the Underground is based in there.”
“Yes. We’ve spent years trying to locate it. It all makes sense now.”
“I’m unsure. The message seems to be sending her into there. Rather than out of there.”
“Sending her in there without an escort though. ” Mullholland said, staring hard at Coffey. “This is totally removed from the normal modus operendi. Midwives never go anywhere alone. They are considered by the underground too vulnerable and too valuable to wander around by themselves.”
“Have you been able to isolate where the message came from?” The Director wound the tie around his hand and pulled it tight, the meaning not lost on Coffey who shook his head in reponse.
“It was routed so many times it is basically background static. Their communications system is more sophisticated than anything we’ve seen.”
“Or more basic than anything we’ve experience in decades,” suggested the Director.
Coffey nodded his head. “We’re investigating that angle also.”
Mulholland bought up the picture of Jamieson again and blew it up to fill the entire wall sized screen. It looked as though the dead agent would crumble to dust, like a Hollywood corpse and blow across the screen to cover them in Death. He turned and pointed up to it for added effect. To their credit the other two men didn’t look away though Mulholland caught The Director flicking imaginary dust from his shoulder, completely obviously to the fact he was doing so..
“Let me pose something to you… if The Underground isn’t The Dead Zone, then something in there is trying to get out.”
“You don’t think your two ideas are mutually exclusive ?” said the Director, looking up to the feed coming in from the sewer..
Mulholland shook his head.
“We can’t discount that The Underground, regardless of where they may be based, had strong links when the first encampment was established. Parents and grandparents would have been wiped out when the virus was released.” He paused, letting his words sink in. “What if they now want to unleash something on the City, like the City unleashed on them. And I’m not talking biological warfare.”
To emphais his point Mullholland pulled up the only remaining photo of on of The Dead Zones infected – eyes ablzed in a gaunt barely recognisable face. The Director sucked in his bottom lip and thought for a moment. Coffey looked away.
“We’d need to go in on foot.” The Director sat down on the edge of the table. “Mulholland search our databases and work out what will and wont work in there, and if we’ve got it on hand here.”
“See what old military junk lying around, yes sir.”
“And Coffey, I want all intel on what’s been going on in there the past twenty-five years.”
“TYou are not seriously considering going in there.”
“I’m seriously considering all option and I’ve asked you for something.”
“Well it won’t be too difficult – there is basically nothing. The best I can offer is a blank page and heresay. We turned our back and walked out of there when the virus mutated, you know that as well as anyone. No one wanted to know what was going on in there. There was an official decree to destroy all the files. What was left is what we already know. There are no secret files. Nothing.”
The Director pinched the aggrevated spot above his nose again.
“Arnold – I’m asking you, not as the Director, but as a fellow citizen of this great city we both love and wnt to protect, if you’ll put aside your personal and professional issues and work with me on this.”
Coffey coughed and typed something into a mobile communicator and a new window appeared on the screen, showing all the satellites.
“I can position one of our probes to the quadrant The Dead Zone is in, but it will take at least two hours before I can stream any images live. That’s not me, that’s just the way it is. And I can’t be certain the electromagnetic disruptors wont interfere with what images may or may not come out – assuming anything is bounced back. And nothing will be accessible in the field.”
“Shit,” the Director shook his head and jammed his tie into his pocket. He wasn’t a military man, before his rapid rise to power, he’d been an auditor. He was way out of his depth – he should defer it to someone in Stateland Security but the lead was cooling and if Mulholland was right…
“Thirty minutes gentleman – you’ve both got thirty minutes to supply me with the information I want. And Mulholland, organise a debriefing for an hour’s time. I will have made my decision and spoken with the Mayor by then.”
This installment incorporates Dale’s challenge (a blank page).