Friday, November 30, 2007

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye

This is really my last post. As of right now I'm outside of the territorial United States, on my way to a new life. I can't tell you where I am, whether it's on a plane, a boat, or some other mode of transportation. They're letting my make one more blog post so I can finish the story.

By now you've seen the news reports where investigators have linked all the explosions together...the first on at Stanford, the one at Infinitae, and now the one in Santa Clara. Suspicion has been cast right on me, linking me with Chinese Intelligence. It's all been one shocking revelation after another. My family has been outed as well, as their loyalty to the US Government has been called into question. It's one giant clusterfuck of unbelievable proportions. They also can't find Carrie, and they believe that I'm responsible for her disappearance.

The Chinese didn't exactly welcome me with open arms when I returned to the safe house, especially driving a stolen car. Even Ellie kind of sighed wearily when she saw me, but I didn't know where else to turn. Carrie escaped, and I thought we had lost all out evidence incriminating her.

The whole operation to get Ellie and I out of the country was a bit of a nightmare, sitting in the back of a van for hours, sneaking through customs in boxes, and a bunch of crazy stuff. Now we're settled in our cabins, trying to relax. I haven't really seen Ellie since I returned yesterday, and it's not like they gave me a choice in all this.

I finally get a chance to see her after everyone is settled in. We're in a private room, and she's lying prostrate with her broken leg up on pillows. She waves me in and has me close the door. She beckons me and indicates a chair near her. I sit down and sigh.

"Hey Alex," she says, "we need to talk. Can you help me sit up a little?"

I arrange some pillows for her and return to my seat. I fiddle around with some duct tape that's patching my seat together.

"I need to tell you some things, Alex. You're not going to like most of it. I'm going to be as honest as I can, and please let me know if you have questions. OK? Good.

"My real name is Kai Ying Slavinsky. Elena Galistina is a name I made up, and I probably won't use it again. I'm a deep-cover field marshall for a secret wing of Chinese Intelligence. You've heard of handlers? That's my role. I was controlling a number of agents in the Bay area, primarily focused on corporate technological espionage. We've infiltrated many of the local companies, including Infinitae.

"When I first met you, Alex, at that bar, I was meeting a potential client. By client, of course, I mean a corporate executive I could potentially use as an information source in exchange for...well whatever I needed to use. He never showed up. My assignment hadn't been going too well, and I guess I was in a mood, and when I saw you drowning yourself at the bar, I became a little curious. You didn't look like the normal bar rat. So I struck up a conversation, and soon realized you were a pretty good guy who'd ran into a little bad luck. You talked so passionately about your defunct company, that I could see you had some kind of spark. And then you talked about your dad's cabin, skiing, and all the kinds of things I've been dying to do. I couldn't help myself, I just had to see more of you, even though you didn't have any intelligence value to me.

"But of course, everyone that I contact socially needs to go through a thorough vetting process. We never know who's a setup. Your story checked out, but then we ran across a red flag from your past. You had indirectly injured a girl and then been sent to a camp for a year. We then of course looked into Shelly White and your other friends. When we discovered that the primary driver had died in a suspicious accident, we kept investigating. It turned out that Shelly White had disappeared. Imagine our surprise when she turned up as Carrie Park, a programmer analyst at a brokerage house.

"We dug into her finances, and were amazed by her abilities. We could tell that some of her gains were ill-gotten, perhaps by hacking financial systems. One of our agents got in close to her. We revealed some of her lesser infractions which led to her termination. Someone of her ability and low moral threshold doesn't come along every day. She became our number one person of interest. If we could turn her, we could use her abilities to gather far more information that we could with out own resources. So we formed a plan to get you two to work together. Our agents inside Infinitae gave both of you offers you couldn't refuse: you got a job, and she got a position with almost unlimited computing and staff resources and complete freedom to work on whatever project she wanted to."

I glare at Ellie. "You're telling me that you knew she was Shelly the whole time? You got us to work together? What was the plan?"

Ellie sighs and struggles for words. "We knew she still had a thing for you. An agent got her to talk about her past, and she expressed how crushed she was when you rejected her. We wondering if she still held a flame, or if she wanted you dead. Unfortunately, she immediately went to work setting up her plan to discredit you. We didn't take it too seriously until people started dying. At some point, she became aware of our intervention, and we needed to back off. We were able to reveal some of her documents to you. That's how you got access to all those files. But we had underestimated her again. We didn't realize she had these datacenters scattered around, and also she had created a team of mercenaries and assassins to do her dirty work.

"I hate to say it, but that's mostly my fault. Instead of working the case, I spent a lot of time with you. She knew more about us than we knew about her by that point."

"So your big plan went to shit."

"Well, we kind of forced her hand when we revealed her plans to you. She then took you under her wing. We figured that if I cut you loose, you might go to her. It kind of worked. Too well. You don't know how much that killed me, Alex. It's about the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I cried for hours after that. I didn't think you'd ever forgive me. But Carrie...she was out of control, and we thought you might be able to get in there and somehow tame her."

I don't know whether to hit Ellie or hug her. "So you wanted me to get with Carrie?"

"No! God, Alex. The thought of you with her..." She shivers.

"It was terrible," I confess. "Even Carrie thought so. I didn't even want just happened. Ellie...this whole thing is just killing me. You lead the most fucked of life of anyone I've ever met if this is how you treat people."

Ellie nods. "Yeah. The more I do it, the more obvious it gets. A few years ago, I would just make my mark fall in love with me, take him for everything, and then leave him without a thought. I'd be running three, four plans at once, sometimes a night. And remember, these were just the guys I didn't wind up killing. The ones I had to eliminate I'd treat even worse."

"You're not the person that I knew. The Ellie I knew didn't do anyone of that stuff. Someday you need to figure out who you are."

Ellie fingers the bandage on her head. "I'm trying. With you I became more of the person I want to be. I think with this project blowing up so bad, they may put me on the back burner for a while. You don't know how badly I've failed. This is a huge setback for me. They'll analyze everything, and I'll be facing possible court martial."

"So why are you going back? You've got money, you've got abilities."

Ellie laughs. "Someone like me doesn't walk away. I'll be on a new hit list, this time with killers who know how to do the job. I'm good, but I can't be vigilant forever. I need to go face them."

"What about Carrie? I'm sure she's long gone."

"Well there's still that. Thank god you have those recordings."

"Ellie, she had a jammer, and smashed the cell phone. We don't have anything on her."

She smiles coyly at me. "Alex, you underestimate us. The phone didn't transmit on a cellular frequency, it transmitted at a much higher, technically illegal frequency that no known jammer can block. We have it all. If she ever shows up again, we'll be able to blackmail her into helping us. I swear to god if I ever get past the inquisition, I'm going after her. I refuse to let that bitch be a blemish on my record."

"You'll never find her. She'll change her identity again, probably her appearance too, and lay low."

"Well, we'll see. We could really use your help, Alex. I know we've treated you pretty poorly. I've been terrible to you, and I know that I don't really deserve any of your loyalty right now. We can always use someone like you in our intelligence division."

"Um, Ellie, I can't work against the United States. Please don't ask me to. I won't stop you from doing your work, and I won't testify against you, but I can't doing anything against my country, any more than you can."

Ellie frowns a little. "Good. You're going to be under a lot of pressure. I can only protect you so much. The only way you'll might be able to be safe is to work for me. I won't ask you to do anything against your country, but I'm sure there will be plenty of questionable activities that you won't like or oppose. But Alex, if you want any kind of life, it's your only option right now. Hopefully the authorities will clear your name, and you can return. But we can't take the risk of letting them have you."

I think back to the torture. "Yeah, you found out that I'm a blabber. Now I'm your fucking burden."

"Are you talking about the interrogation? I'm so sorry about that. We thought you had been compromised. We had to know for sure. You passed with flying colors."

"But I talked! How could you do that to someone!"

"Alex, it's what we do. We find out the truth at all costs."

I jump up. "You don't know shit about the truth. You pretend that you're trying to protect your country but it's all a fucking game to you. You mess with people's lives like players on a chess board. You don't care who you hurt, or even what you even accomplish. It's all about the game, and who can play it the best."

"Yes. You're absolutely right. We play a game where the losers are dead and the winners have no souls. And you know what the price is. Do you think China wants to be relegated to third-world status like India? Don't you think we're getting tired of the rest of the world enjoying the benefits of modern technology? Don't you think we're sick of your ridiculous trade restrictions and product recalls and militarism? Yeah, it's a game, but I have the potential to improve the lives of billions of people. I have the potential to prevent terrorists from destroying an entire population. I play this game every day, and with every ounce of my ability. I know this isn't your world Alex, and maybe I needed a break from it to give me some perspective. But when that idiot Park starting playing us against your government, I got my shit together and started working again."

I sit down again. "You've turned into the 'other' Ellie again. I've always seen two sides of you. One nice, sweet, interesting, and the other intense, scary, and murderous."

"Well, I'm not Ellie anymore. I don't think you'll see much of the 'nice' me anymore. I've let myself slip and get soft. I don't blame you. I just knew this might happen one day."

"Ellie," I say, sitting down next to her. "I know you feel like you have to save the world. I know you feel like you have to be tough. But I've seen your other side Ellie, and I have to say I like it a lot. You're a special person, if you would ever allow yourself to be yourself. You not a killer. Someone made you kill, but I don't believe you're a killer. I've seen you fight, and at the cabin you spared some lives when you didn't have to. I'm willing to accept both sides of you, are you?"

Ellie looks down for a moment. "I don't know."

I take her hand. "Well if there's anyone in the world who can take control of her life, it's you."

She squeezes my hand.

I don't know where I'm heading or what the future has in store. It may be a long time before I can post again. It may be longer before I finally get my life back, if ever. Wish me luck.

-Alex Ross

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