And here’s this week’s bonus episode…
Wednesday, August 20, 2036
Making the Call
“Right.” I filled Rene in on what Col. Mustard told me. “Do you think you can dig up anything on Palmer Lanois, or any of his assistants? One of them might be who’s behind this Talon thing, and all the other stuff.”
“Probably.” He sat down at poked at his gadget for a few minutes. “I can get started now. The evening drop should give me something to work with tonight. Ready to go?”
“Yup. The pipes are clear and everything’s in place.” I wish I was that sure about everything besides the pipes.
We hiked up to the house, and Rene started banging away at the computer. “Anything turn up?” I asked after a few minutes.
“Yeah,” he said. “Lanois walked away from a mental hospital in Baton Rouge on September 1st last year, and just vanished.”
“The puzzle coming together?”
“This was definitely a missing piece. I think it’s time we share what we know.”
I rummaged around in my old contacts, and found the phone number from the Fibbies who interviewed me after the junta fell. I’ll refer to them as Mulder and Scully (and you probably have to be over 50 to catch that reference). I had no idea whether they were still with the Feds or not; they could have retired or moved on to some other department or section. But this was the number I had, and they told me to call if I ever learned any information.
“Director Mulder’s office,” the receptionist said. “Can I help you?”
I identified myself. “Mr. Mulder visited me some time ago, back when he was an agent, about a tenuous connection I had to the junta, and said to call me if I thought of anything. Something, maybe important, has fallen into my lap, and I think you guys need to take it from here. Oh… he wrote on the back of his card, ‘E317,’ does that mean anything?”
“Hang on a second, Mr. Fetched,” he said, and I heard taptappytappitytaptap. “Yes sir. Hold, please, I’m going to transfer you.”
I had the speaker on, and Rene and I looked at each other. “You think —”
“Director Mulder. You say you’ve learned something?”
“I may have. One of the people living with me, Rene Cardenas, he was in EDID in the war and —”
“Is he with you now?”
“Yes,” Rene said. “Is that all right?”
“Certainly,” said Mulder, and I heard tappity tap once again. “Oh… that Rene Cardenas?”
Rene sighed. “That’s him,” I laughed. “He’s a little modest about the war, but he does know how to go digging for info. You’re aware of the flood of flamebait coming down the newsfeeds, right? We might have connected it to Palmer Lanois, somehow.” I nudged Rene, and let him fill in Mulder on the visit from the Talon people, my relationship with Col. Mustard, and some connections that I hadn’t even been aware of.
“We’ve been watching these people too,” Mulder said. “But I have to admit, there are a couple of things we weren’t aware of. Mr. Cardenas: do you think they have some way to communicate off-net? We haven’t seen anything that looks coordinated on the net — or actionable.”
“Encrypted radio transmissions,” Rene said. “Send small packets, maybe over shortwave. You get a low bitrate, but for text that isn’t a huge problem and you don’t have to worry about routers. I don’t know if that’s what they’re doing, but that’s one way to do it. Sunspots are pretty high right now, so the higher end of the band is open a lot.”
“Right. I really appreciate this information. We’ll see if we can find anything suspicious on the air. If we’re lucky, it’ll lead us to Lanois. Thanks for your time.” He hung up.
“That was a little rude,” Rene said.
“He’s probably excited. I suspect getting Lanois back on the reservation is their Number One priority at the moment.”
“Probably —” Serena and Pat walking in broke that train of thought.
“I was starting to get worried,” Serena said. “It would have been nice if you’d let us know what was going on.” Pat gave me his what’s going on anyway? look.
I looked at the clock on the computer. “An hour and a half? I’m sorry, Serena. I got a call from Col. Mustard and he gave me a name. Rene found out the guy — Palmer Lanois, the one we called Swamp Thing back in the junta days — has been loose since last September, and —” Too late, I realized Pat was still there, taking it all in.
“Pat, why don’t you head on back?” Serena suggested. “Let the others know everything’s OK.”
“What’s going on?” Pat said. “I want to know.”
“Rene could tell you,” I said, “but then he’d have to kill you.” Serena snorted and Rene gave me a puzzled look. Pat just shook his head and left, poking at his gadget as he went. I waved at Rene and Serena to carry on, and caught up to Pat as he was going out the door.
“There’s some stuff going on,” I told him, “and we might have figured out where it’s coming from.”
“You mean with the refugees? I hear stuff all the time, but they’re not like that. We have two families here, and it’s been fine.”
“I know. But somebody’s making a bunch of noise, trying to get people stirred up, and we’re trying to find out why.”
“So who is it?”
“Some people, at least one of them anyway, who were associated with the junta back when.”
“Gas. I wasn’t even born when they got thrown out. They’re still around?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “It might be some other group using one old junta guy.”
I took advantage of the pause: “You making any headway on your new clatter track?”
He pulled it up on his gadget. Knowing how to change the subject is most of the battle.