Chapter 15: And Days are Dark
Beads of sweat trickled down Jason’s forehead as he frantically worked to decrypt the file. He had been working on it for nearly an hour and so far he’d had no luck. Every time he’d get close to cracking the code, there’d be some phrase of letters left that didn’t make any sense. He knew he was running out of time and had to hurry. He wiped the sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand and kept going. Another minute passed, then five minutes, fifteen minutes. Jason intensely scrutinized and analyzed every letter, trying to come up with another possible code pattern that would decrypt the file.
Okay…looks like it’s a Caesar Cipher. Shifted down by twelve….please dear God let this work.
Jason quickly typed another command on the laptop and anxiously waited. His heart began to race as all the incoherent phrases began to transform into actual words and sentences.
There in front of him was Dalmar’s plan, outlined step by step. His plan for running for higher offices. Building his network and support bases. Acquiring more weapons. And ultimately seizing power. Even more importantly, the location of the weapons was laid out in the document.
Jason felt an overwhelming sense of relief that he’d deciphered the pattern yet kicked himself that hadn’t cracked such a simple code sooner. He figured his nerves had got the best of him but he couldn’t help but be angry at himself. He’d lost a great deal of time, time he couldn’t afford to lose. Jason suspected Dalmar or one of his men had encrypted the file manually as it was amateur work. A skilled professional or person with a knowledge of computers would have used encryption software such as AES which would have converted the plaintext contained in the file into ciphertext. Rendering it impossible for Jason to decrypt the file without entering in a specific password. He picked up his pen, pressed the top metal bottom on the side, and snapped several pictures of the file.
From the looks of this the weapons should be located…in a bunker a few miles north of here. He quickly encrypted the file again, excited the file, and closed the laptop. He picked it up and inserted it back into the drawer just as he’d found it. He placed the pen back in his pocket. Jason closed the office door and headed back down the tunnel shaft. Now that he had the intel they needed all they had to do was make it through the rest of the gala. He already had been gone a great deal of time and knew that the longer he was gone the greater chance he’d be caught or that Dalmar would be suspicious of him and Tasha. He hoped he wasn’t too late.
The black limousine made its way down the winding road that encircled Dalmar’s estate. As they drove Dalmar pointed out to Tasha the various structures and amenities that graced his home. The guest house, its exterior resembling that of the main house with an assortment of glass, wood, and chrome. The tennis courts and lavish swimming pool. And the rose garden, all the flowers coming together in a rainbow of color and releasing a sweet scent into the air.
Inside the confines of the limo, Dalmar placed his arm around Tasha and pointed in the direction of the greenhouse. “And over there is the greenhouse.”
“My goodness, I’ve never seen such a large one before.”
“My mother, loved plants, especially flowers. I suppose I inherited that love from her.”
“I never would have guessed that you would have such a fondness for flowers.” Tasha teased.
“Their strength yet delicateness is something to behold. And of course their beauty.”
Tasha forced a smile. “I’ve never met someone who has spoken to me… or makes me feel the way you do.”
“Beauty is meant to be appreciated and treasured. You, my dear, are a shining jewel.”
Tasha stood there frozen, speechless, unsure of what to say.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable or-“
“No, no. It’s just I’m used to guarding…my feelings. Taking things slower…but being here with you…it feels different.”
“I’m glad.” Dalmar smiled and took Tasha’s hand. “This has been one of the happiest nights of my life.” The car suddenly came to a stop, causing him to release Tasha’s hand, for which she was relieved.
“We’re here.” The chauffeur announced.
Tasha peered out the tinted windows of the car yet didn’t see any structure or buildings in the distance. She turned back to Dalmar. “Here?” she asked, a quizzical expression on her face.
“You’ll see.” He grinned. Tasha and Dalmar exited the limo and walked to the front of the car.
“Right this way.” Dalmar motioned in front of him. The two of them began making their way forward through the woods. Tasha found it somewhat difficult to walk as her heels kept getting bogged down in the ground. She did her best to conceal it from Dalmar. The last thing she needed was for him to offer her his hand, holding it once had been more than enough for her.
Soon they arrived at what appeared to be an electrical substation. They reached a metal fence, all over which were signs posted that read “Danger. High voltage.” Dalmar entered a passcode into a security keypad and a metal gate rolled to the side.
“Thank you,” she smiled.
They went through the entrance, the gate closing behind them. After walking to the control house, Dalmar typed in another code on the keypad located on the door handle. “I believe inside you’ll find something that you’ve had your eyes on.” Tasha felt her heart begin to race as the door unlocked and Dalmar turned the handle.
Tasha stepped inside the room, followed by Dalmar. The lights flashed on showing a stairwell a few feet in front of them. At the end of the stairs, there was a hallway, with a metal door located at its end. Dalmar punched in another password on the keypad. Tasha heard a metallic click and the door slowly slid to the side.
Tasha let out a small gasp as they entered the concrete bunker. From the floor to the rafters, the room was filled with an assortment of weapons. Machine guns, automatic rifles, ammunition, surface-to-air missiles, and even a few tanks. “Wow,” she said softly in awe. “This is incredible.”
“Even better than you imagined?”
“Yes.” She slowly spun around to get a complete view of the room. “Other girls like flowers or chocolate. A trip to Tahiti,” she laughed, “but me…this is my life, right here. My happy place.”
“I can see that.”
“From the moment I met you I could immediately tell you were a man with great ambition. And in my line of work I’ve met many people with the same fire in their eyes…but somehow, it’s hard to explain, I knew you were different.”
“Different, how so?”
“Others may have had the same ambition as you but I felt in my soul that you were destined to become something. To do great things. To leave your mark on humanity. Many aspire to such things but few accomplish them. I believe, with my whole heart, that you are among the few.”
“I’m glad to hear you believe so. I for my part have always held that I would be among the great men of history. These past years I’ve dedicated all my time and resources to this goal and now I’m on the eve of achieving it.”
“The eve? You’ve said many times now that you’re on the eve of your dream becoming reality. That your goal is about to happen soon.”
“Yes. I have.”
“The question is when exactly is ‘soon?’ It’s such a relative term. For some it’s a few years, others a couple of months, or perhaps even a few minutes. When is it for you?” Tasha pressed him for more details. “If you decided to tell me…” she took a breath, “not only about when you intend to enforce your plan but its entirety, it would mean the world to me. To know that out of all the billions of people in this world I was enough…for you to completely confide in.”
“You can be very persistent. When you want to be.”
“I try my best.”
“I’m sure by now you’ve heard of my political party the KLF and my run for parliament.”
“Yes. I am aware.”
“Initially when I announced my run to be a member of parliament I did plan to win power by legitimate means. Start at the bottom and work my way up so to speak.”
“I assume eventually becoming prime minister.”
“Exactly, but as time has passed I realize that I can’t wait. I have to act now. This country is at the brink of collapse, of being internally ripped apart until it fails to exist. It is hard to believe now but centuries ago this country used to be one of the shining jewels of the world. Trade and the economy flourished. Money poured into the nation. The military was one of the most formidable forces on earth. Most importantly power was centralized in the hands of the Sargis family. But over time the country was stripped of its former glory at the hands of upcoming nations, as they attacked Krudia again and again. The Sargis dynasty crumbled and the economy is nowhere near as prosperous as it once had been. Recently, due to famine and political instability, the country has fallen into economic ruin. Looking at a map today, compared to other countries, Krudia is merely a speck of land. But hundreds of years ago it was nearly ten times the size it is today. My goal is to restore Krudia to its former glory and in the process be immortalized in history. The only way for that to happen is by force as many unfortunately are against radical change.”
Tasha crossed her arms. “I can’t imagine why. Unless they enjoy starving to death.”
“In my eyes, they’re merely a nuisance.” He scoffed. “One that won’t exist for much longer. Next week, once your weapons have arrived, I plan to establish myself as the new president of Krudia.”
“I knew you were ambitious…but this. I never dreamed I’d do business with a future president.”
“Thanks to your weapons. All my goals for this nation will become reality. The nations surrounding our borders will be forced to comply with my wishes. To surrender the land that originally was part of Krudia. Nations will be forced to their knees and to fulfill my demands. Otherwise, they’ll be obliterated. With me as its leader, Krudia, not only will be restored to the height of its power but become the greatest nation on earth. Imagine me as its leader and…you be my side.”
Tasha found herself taken aback by his words. The way Dalmar mentioned threatening nuclear destruction without even a second thought sent chills up and down her spine. In some ways when dancing and dining the evening away it was easy to forget who the man was who stood in front of her. A deranged and disgusting psychopath. She swallowed, trying to find the words. “I-I can’t imagine it.”
“The thought, it’s a lot to take in isn’t it?”
“It certainly is…but as I said before you are destined for remarkable things.”
“Now is there anything else…you want? Anything at all you can think of, just name it.”
I really have this guy wrapped around my finger. At least I was able to use it to my advantage. “Just one thing. Another dance…with you.”
“There’s no music.” He stretched his arms out.
She shook her head. “Not here. Back at the main house.”
“As you wish, mi corazón.”
“I like the sound of that.”
“Which part? Mi corazón or as you wish?”
“Both. But especially as you wish.”
Dalmar and Tasha each laughed as they headed back towards the stairwell. As she climbed into the car, Tasha felt a sense of relief wash over. She’d gotten the information they needed. All she had to do was keep up her cover, despite how difficult it was increasingly becoming. She hoped Jason would be back at the house by the time she and Dalmar returned. That is if he had not run into any trouble. Tasha quickly silenced those thoughts for what seemed like the hundredth time that night. She knew thinking about Jason being caught, without knowing if that was actually true, would do neither of them any good. As they settled back in the car Dalmar once again wrapped his arm around Tasha. Tasha inwardly rolled her eyes, her annoyance with Dalmar’s enchantment with her growing every second. It’s good. You can do this. She told herself. Just so long as he doesn’t propose.
Jason quietly made his way through the tunnel into the lab report room. In front, he could see the door that led to the hall, off of which was the stairwell. That stairwell led to the first corridor, beyond which lay the door to the outside. The last thing he needed was to get caught especially after all he’d done to get this far.
As Jason began to exit the room a piercing shriek filled the room, followed by a succession of agonizing screams. It had come from the door on the left side of the aisle, the room he had seen the two security guards enter earlier. Jason then heard words come from a man, who sounded as though he was in excruciating pain. “Please stop. I won’t speak out against Dalmar again. I swear.”
“I’m afraid once is one time too many” came another man’s voice, that sounded like Tarek.
He could only imagine the horrifying scenes unfolding in that room. Jason knew that in becoming an agent he would see and hear horrific and tragic things, see the worst sides of people. Every day in training new agents were debriefed on this issue and how to respond. How not to let it affect them or their actions, but to continue to carry on with their mission. Their instructors would ask them what was more important. Saving one person at the expense of the entire operation or choosing to save more lives by keeping their cover intact? For Jason that was a question he didn’t want to answer. Losing one life was one too many. However, in this world, you had to put aside your own beliefs and values for the sake of national security. At least that was what he’d been told by his superiors. He couldn’t do what Jason Allen Whittaker would do. He had to do what 1131 would do. Jason knew that right now he had to push his thoughts aside and press on. No matter what, Dalmar could not carry out his plan. He had to succeed on this mission, failure wasn’t an option. Even still it took every ounce of his willpower to not intervene.
Jason suddenly froze, in the doorway, as he heard the sound of a gunshot. He then saw the door across from him begin to open. Frantically he ducked back into the lab report room, praying he hadn’t been spotted. He pressed as close as he could against a wall and stood as still as possible. From across the hall, he saw Tarek and three other men, two of them the same guards he had followed, exit through the door. Two of the men helped to drag a man’s bloody and mutilated body out of the room. As they dragged him through the hall on the ground his blood smeared all across on the concrete floor. A brutal testament to the pain and unspeakable suffering he had endured.
His Grandpa Harold would tell him that there are moments in a person’s life that would come back to haunt them. Fill them with what-ifs and doubts. Make them wonder if they should have done more or made a different choice. As he exited the warehouse Jason knew this was such a time. He was no longer a little boy with an innocent view of the world. This moment had reminded him once again how cruel and heartless people could be. How much evil there was in the world. All Jason knew was he had to bring Dalmar to justice. No matter what it took.