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Who's holding the baby? a Cobra story

March 04, 2018 09:50PM
The Cobra finds himself in accidental potential hot water with a case of mistaken identity

4 Who’s holding the baby?

Now, I’ve been part of a lot of hand-offs in my time. Usually for me, this involves the passing of a briefcase full of information on a target. And it’s always been pre-arranged.
Which is why I found it unnerving, to say the least, to find a briefcase being thrust into my hands as I navigated the metro in a rush hour.
My first thought was to drop it, but that would have raised too much interest in me, and doubtless someone would have wanted to return it to the clumsy oaf who dropped it, and the bus police would be all over me in case it was a bomb and ...
I held onto it, and boarded the next random trolley that came along.
The stations are stiff with cameras, but if you pick your seat with care, you can be out of sight on the actual vehicle. The place I wanted was occupied by a pair of teens, canoodling. I gave them a death glare.
“Get,” I said.
They got, fumbling with their clothes in the hopes of not appearing on candid camera doing what they had been doing.
Naturally this would cause some interest in me, and I was glad that I was returning home from some reconnaissance wearing a different face.
I got out my pocket box and plugged in, to change the arrangement of the nano-tractors to yet another previously prepared face.
Yes, of course I have a number of prepared faces. Some of them even have forged ID to go with them. This one did not; I just wanted a forgettable throwaway. I erased the face from my box as well.
Then I sniffed the brief case.
No, nothing kinky; but that expensive nose had to be good for something, and detecting explosives, or drugs, was one of the somethings it was good for detecting.
Right, it was not about to explode.
There were no explosives attached to the lock.
There were 8 numbers, 4 each side, and I did not fancy trying out however many combinations that might be, so I turned it over.
Why do people assume that a really expensive lock will protect a briefcase when they use perfectly standard hinges on it? It was the work of minutes to vandalise the hinge mechanism, and to discover that the briefcase held papers and a couple of flash drives.
Papers roll up readily to go into large pockets in cargo trousers, and flash drives go in any pocket. I roughly cobbled the hinges back together, and left the briefcase under the seat, and got off at the next stop with my new face.
I took several forms of public transport, including taking the expedient of hopping off the train as it pulled out of the station – it takes a neat bit of kit to override the doors, but I’m always prepared for a getaway – and went through several public lavatories with a quick face change, reversing my jacket, and changing my hair length as well as colour. That year as an actor was well spent. And then, finally, I headed home. Someone would have to be as good as me to have followed me, and there aren’t many. And if I was being unduly paranoid, well, I’m still alive, and paranoia has kept me that way.

My apartment is pretty sparse by the reckoning of a lot of people; but then, I don’t take much account of the things many people seem to find essential. There is the odd personal touch; I have a weakness for real books, and I have about 200 in a bookcase. Most of them are novels. My research library lives on a number of sticks, five copies of each to make sure I don’t lose any of them. And two of the sets of copies are in safe deposit boxes belonging to other names and faces. Just in case I have to relocate in a hurry.
The only other personal touch is a crystal dragon which my landlady’s niece bought me. She doesn’t know what I did on her behalf, she thinks I hired someone to do it. But she wanted to show her gratitude. I was touched. I’d even consider grabbing it if I was leaving in a hurry.
However, apart from those personal touches, I was happy with a furnished apartment, with the bare minimum of furnishings to permit the occupant to add their own rugs, pictures, knick-knacks and so on. The place has central heating, so there is no need of carpeting of any kind, and why would I need pictures? I have the best pictures in the world in my memory.
I sat at my desk, and looked over the papers long before putting the flash drives into my computer. Many an amateur has simultaneously fried their own computer and sent an internet message to the person they have stolen their data sticks from for not taking basic safety precautions.
Even the paperwork was hot. It was printed scans of the rough working of someone with a lot more knowledge than I have in the field of biochemistry. Absently I selected a chip and uploaded appropriate knowledge into my memory, making a cup of strong Cafstitute™ to help me deal with the raging headache I always got with knowledge chips. I hated the biochemistry one, it was programmed using the knowledge of Dr. Barnard from Grunstern AG, and now I knew she was a woman, it explained a lot. Dr. Barnard had an abrasive personality and did not tolerate fools, period, never mind gladly. I always felt like a fool when I was slotting biochemistry.
The headache settled to a dull throbbing, and I read through Dr. Barnard’s notes. She was a busy little bee, this was a long way from the frivolity of Vandammeron, or whatever she called the muscle enhancing drug. This was a cure for the common cold.
That was a minefield.
The first scientist to publish on this would be assured fame and glory, several cash prizes, and their corporation would make a fortune with the one-shot pill. However, they would not make as much in the long run as the big Pharma companies in selling the usual combination pain-killers with antihistamine that they put together to quintuple the price of buying them separately in the local corner store. The ignorance of the general public always enhances the profits of the big boys. But this would mean fewer people would be using even the generic anti-inflammatories for the side-effects of the common cold.
And that meant that anyone who worked for a pharmaceutical company would be like greyhounds at the slips, straining upon the start to get hold of this, to destroy it; and that did not rule out other departments inside Grunstern AG. Dr. Barnard had a problem. A problem which might prove fatal if someone decided she was worth more dead than alive.
I knew, because of the personality overlay on my biochemistry chip, that Dr. Barnard would never compromise her research, which was a shame. The safest thing for her would have been to let her bosses have a copy of most of the research and promise them never to publish, unless she should happen to die when the copy of her research would automatically be sent to publication pretty much everywhere in the world.
Mind, having a copy in the bank with standing orders to do that might just keep her alive long enough to complete the research and talk Grunstern into releasing it. After all, they could always make it expensive so most people still went with NSAIDs and antihistamine.
One thing I did know; I could try to hold this information to ransom, or sell it elsewhere, but whatever I did with it, someone would eventually catch up with me. It was too hot to handle and I needed to contact Dr. Barnard personally.
I still had the contact number for Mr. Smith. This gave me the phone line into Dr. Barnard’s department, but not her personal number.
In the end I mailed the lot to her, with a big biohazard stamp on it, and “For your eyes only, sample, with care,” on it, to be signed for. Doubtless someone opened most of her mail, but that should put the frighteners on anyone else.
I wrote a letter.
“Dear Dr. Barnard,
If this did come directly to you, I hope you used chemsniffers, bomb detection and the like; relying on the cowardice of your colleagues could be a trick used by someone less benign [in this instance, anyway] than me.
This fell into my hands accidentally and I thought you might like it back, as it’s too dangerous for me to handle. May I make a friendly suggestion that you place a copy of it in your bank with instructions that it be immediately published if you meet with an untimely end – and make sure anyone in whose financial interest it may be to suppress it knows this? It would, after all, cause a serious dent in your own corporation’s sale of cold-relief drugs. I know exactly what it is, and how high your integrity is because I slotted your knowledge chip to understand what I was reading. The implications excited and scared me, and I do not scare easily. Please take proper precautions, Dr. Barnard; your presence in the back of my skull makes me want to flirt with you and I don’t even know your first name.
If you want advice, contact the Shadow Net, and leave a message for Geoff South. It’s not my name, but it will find me.
Not-Geoff. “

She contacted me within the week.
>> It’s Elizabeth and I have taken your advice<<
Well, it was a start.
I figured I’d give it a couple of weeks, and phone the department and ask for Elizabeth.
You never know.
I might even score with a lady scarier than I am. And there aren’t many of those.

Who's holding the baby? a Cobra story

Sarah WaldockMarch 04, 2018 09:50PM

Re: Who's holding the baby? a Cobra story

KarenteaMarch 05, 2018 01:27AM

Re: Who's holding the baby? a Cobra story

Sarah WaldockMarch 05, 2018 02:13PM


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