Mass Hysteria for Fun and Profit
“At what point did you lose control of Williams, Titania?” The Department Manager looked at his notes in his own numeric code.
“I never had control of him,” she said, looking at her perfectly manicured nails. “He was the CIA’s problem, but even they couldn’t control him. He was a loose cannon all the way around.”
“How the hell did he end up in the DARPA building?” her Section Manager asked. His voice was squeaky with suppressed rage, bordering on panic; that had always annoyed her about him.
“Williams was smart, in a crude sort of way. He picked up Viola’s trail in Afghanistan and followed her to Baku, where she was making contact with that damn Ryan child.”
“What was Ryan doing in Baku?” the Department Manager asked. He had it in his notes but he wanted some elaboration. “Other than playing computer games with your team?”
“He was running drugs on the internet,” Titania said. They stared at her. “I’m hardly an expert, but I understand that that’s how it’s done these days,” she went on when they continued to stare at her. “It’s all online logistics now,” Titania said with a sigh. Running drugs had never appealed to her. There were too many variables in each transaction for her team to get a successful revenue stream from it. They could barely cope with Hermia’s modest weapons-and-drug operation in Laos. “Point to point arrangements, heavily scrambled on all ends, so only the little people and mules get caught, which is surprisingly seldom. The parts of Central and Southeast Asia the drugs run in are in such chaos, there’s really no such thing as law enforcement anymore. Of course, getting the drugs into the U.S. is trickier if you don’t have a contact in the military or a big contractor to bring them in.”
“I suppose you mean like your organization?” her Section Manager practically sneered at her.
“Ah, no, we’re a very small shop compared to those kinds of organizations. Not big enough at all for that kind of thing,” she said, mentally adding, “And you’re not big enough to manage the big extramural drug operations.” Keeping the country slightly destabilized through terror was one set of skills; keeping it messed up, but functional on drugs, was another set. Titania knew well enough one should play to one’s strengths and not dwell on, but be aware of, one’s weaknesses.
“What was Ryan’s involvement in the Los Angeles incident?” the Department Manager asked bringing the conversation back to the issue at hand.
Titania took a deep breath so she would say what needed to be said and not a word more or less. The last thing she wanted to admit was that Miranda, her internet specialist, had been stupid and arrogant, which was partly why they’d been in such a mess in Los Angeles. “Although we have enhanced access to networks through our paton, Mr. Cheney, my cyber operative likes to use gamers as cyberterrorists in what’s called Electricland,” she said carefully. “They think it’s a game, but it’s not. We only use gamers in obscure parts of the world where they won’t see the effects of what they’re doing. These gamers are mostly idiots, but occasionally you get a smart one, a hacker–”
“Like Ryan in Baku?” the Department Manager asked.
“Yes and no. Ryan was a gamer in Baku, which is pretty obscure. But, no, unlike Ryan because Ryan is even smarter than the usual smart hacker/gamer we like to run online,” Titania said patiently. “He was smart enough or stupid enough to hack into our network and–”
“I thought that couldn’t be done!” the Section Manager squeaked.
“So did we,” Titania said coolly. “But one learns something new every day.”
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