Global Explorer II
by David McLeod
Dark Net and Dark Plans
Davey Jones's Journal, Anconia Compound, Virginia, January 30, 2018
The members of the Romanov family who had moved to Virginia–including children–had been scanned and cleared by Jonathan, Fabiop, and me. We were about to bring Jaf into the inner-circle of the inner circle. So, I introduced him to Langen. Of course, there were still circles within circles to which Jaf wasn't yet privy. To keep Jaf from wondering about that, I took him on a tour of the compound. When we reached the paddock, Langen met us. He and Jaf bumped fists, Langen sent me an okay, and we continued our tour. Easy-peasy.
Alexander had sent a challenge to Jaf: find the dark channel that the UFC was using to send instructions to the faithful–their "shock troops." Alexander hadn't said but Jaf and I agreed that we would also want a way to disrupt the dark channel without the UFC catching on, should Alex ever want to do that.
Jaf was thrilled to be given the task, especially when I made it clear that he'd have access to all of Anconia IT–except the Montana facility and team, which Francesca had reserved for herself.
"Why don't you want Francesca to know?" Jaf asked.
An astute question. I explained that there was something of a rivalry between Alex–whom Jaf knew only by reputation–and Alex's sister. Jaf grinned at that.
It took Jaf several days to find the channel, because it wasn't live all the time: just when they needed to send a message. Once he'd found it, it took Jaf less than 30 seconds to break the encryption and another minute or so to set up a node that would receive all their traffic without them becoming aware. Creating a way to destroy the UFC's darknet connection was a little harder, but Jaf assured me he could do that, too.
Jaf was so excited when he told me all this, that without thinking, I hugged him. And felt him, and realized that he saw more in the hug than was there and wanted more from me than I was willing to give.
Oh crap. I've got to find Jaf a boyfriend–and fast!
Atrium Café, Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, January 31, 2018 @ 12:30 PM
The Bishop scowled at the menu. "Everything's organic," he said. "That means small portions."
"At least they have meat," Elder #1 said.
"I thought you were a vegetarian," Elder #2 said.
"If God had wanted us to be vegetarians, why did he make animals out of meat?" Elder #1 said, and then ordered the double bacon cheeseburger. Hell on a bun, according to the Old Testament dietary laws, he thought. We've managed to make people ignore them, while ensuring they remember Leviticus 18:22; damn, they're stupid!
"Do you want sweet-potato fries with that?" the teenybopper waitress asked.
"What news?" the Bishop asked when the waitress had left.
"They have brought members of the Romanov Organization to Virginia. A Swiss corporation has purchased more than 50 townhouses in a development near the Anconia compound," Elder #1 reported. "We suspect, but cannot prove, that the Swiss company is an Anconia subsidiary."
"A contact in Russia reports that mercenary soldiers are rolling up KGB networks and arrested hundreds. Others have fled. The Russian Orthodox Church leaders are dithering, trying to decide if they should move into the power vacuum," Elder #2 said.
"They've been sucking off the Premier for so long, they've probably forgotten how to lead," Elder #1 said.
The Bishop frowned at the man's language, and then decided it would be all right for him to smile.
Elder #1 continued the report. "One of the banks on the Channel Islands was forced by the US government to reveal the names of American account owners. Our account with a balance of over $25 million was included."
"What does that mean?" the Bishop asked.
"The account was registered to one of the branch churches. Their accountant was notified by the bank. He anticipates a letter from the IRS. They may be asked to pay a fine for not reporting the account. We should wait and see before considering action. We should however, notify Mr. Lennox."
"No," the Bishop said. "Do not tell him. He has enough on his plate."
Anconia Montana Compound and Global Explorer, February 8, 2018
"Hey, little sister," Nicky's call to Francesca began. "I've got the UFC's dark web connection. Pretty good for a kid with a low-bandwidth link to the internet, huh?
"I had a secret weapon," Nicky continued before she could reply. "A hacker named Jaf. He's set up a node that will get all their traffic, and forward it to you. You'll have to filter it for us, since our connect speed is so limited."
I listened to the conversation from across the conference room. Francesca's reply was feisty, but I knew how to read behind the words. She copied the information from Nicky, and signed off.
"You didn't tell her that Jaf was on Jonathan's team," I said. "Or that we knew who he was."
"You are right on both counts," Nicky said, and grinned. "I wasn't sure she needed to know, and want to keep Jaf as a secret weapon, at least for now."
Jaf? He's recruited Jaf? That means Nicky knows who he is. Who is Jaf, and how did Nicky find out? Francesca wondered. And planned.
I was unaware of Francesca's plans, but I could guess. "You've won this round, Nicky," I said. "And she's not really pissed, even though it sounds as if she were. She won't hurt you over this, but she will prank you. You need to watch your back."
"Watch my back?" Nicky looked over his shoulder. "Is that a reference to my cute butt?" he asked.
I remembered then a visit to the statue of Vulcan, on a pedestal above Birmingham, Alabama. The very most original buns of steel. The god was wearing only an apron that covered his front; the back was open to view from the observation platform.
"Yes, Nicky, you have a cute butt. The cutest, if I may say so, although I may be biased–"
I could not finish the sentence. Nicky had wrapped me in a hug and a kiss that stopped my mouth. My hands, however, were free, and dropped to Nicky's butt, and squeezed.
After the door to our bedroom closed, it took only minutes for Nicky to strip, and lie on his tummy on the bed. It took me only seconds more to get naked, and lie on top of Nicky, my penis pressed between his buns of steel. We lay there, quiet and motionless. Then, I kissed the back of his neck, then his shoulders. Then, I knelt astride him, bent over, and kissed my way down his back.
Gently, I began to lubricate and loosen him, one finger at a time. I was careful not to over-stimulate his prostate–that was for later, and for a different appendage.
"Ready?" I whispered.
Nicky responded by rolling onto his back and lifting his knees. I leaned forward. Nicky took my penis and guided it into himself. I watched his eyes widen and felt his legs wrap around me and I was pressing hard against him, buried deep inside.
Lady Chapel Washington, DC, February 9, 2018
The Bishop forestalled Mr. Lennox's report. "I have transferred three million from the Barbados account to our allies in Russia through an account in North Korea."
Through North Korea? Mr. Lennox wondered. How safe is that?"
Global Explorer, February 12, 2018 @ 0600 (Monday)
I was a little better prepared for the next "schools videoconference." I'd invited Dr. Gannon to join me. Actually, I'd invited Dr. Brewster, but he deferred to Dr. Gannon. I think Dr. Brewster knew he was still a bit of a geek, and that Dr. Gannon could speak better to kids.
This time, the audience was from India. In India, it was late morning but it was–as usual–a lot earlier on the Explorer.
I started with the standard introduction, and gave each of the classrooms a chance to identify themselves. India had a very stratified society, although it was slowly changing. The spokespersons for each school were boys, but I saw a few girls sprinkled in the classrooms.
I gave the standard speech and invited questions. These kids were sharp, and their questions were very polite but pointed.
Dr. Gannon seemed to enjoy his interactions with the kids. I was watching the clock, and interrupted. "We have time for one more question," I said.
A boy in one of the classrooms took the microphone. "Sir, it has been reported that the Global Explorer cost more than six billion American dollars to build. Six billion dollars would do a great deal to alleviate poverty in … in many countries. How can you justify this expense?"
This wasn't a question for Dr. Gannon. I took it. "You are correct," I said. "The money spent for this ship and for one year of its operation could easily have provided toilets for six million people. It could have provided homes and medical care for more than 100,000 orphans from the Sahel. It could have paid for about 60,000 heart transplants, 120,000 tractors, 120 water purification plants, or over a billion individual solar cells.
"The Global Explorer is an investment in research and education that I hope, I dream, will be spread to the world, and that the benefits of this science will pay for all of those things, and more."
Jonathan's Journal, Virginia Compound, February 12, 2018 @ 10:00 AM
Mr. A had called the meeting. He and I had planned what to say. Mr. A would take the lead.
"Count? It was very good of you to agree to meet with us, today." Francisco Anconia's voice was not quite unctuous, but he projected a sincerity that he did not quite feel. I could sense that, and hid my smile.
"I rely on your discretion in this matter," Francisco continued. "As you know, Jonathan has asked Leopold to serve as chief of his privy council."
Francisco's failure to use the Pretender's title of "Grand Duke" was deliberate. Count von Bismarck understood that instantly.
"There is another office that is broader in its responsibilities." Mr. A deliberately did not say, "more powerful or prestigious." Mr. A looked at me. It was my turn to speak.
"Count, would you agree to be named Chancellor?" I asked. "That appointment would, of course, have to remain secret until we return to Russia, triumphant. But I need your help and advice, and would like for you to be a formal member of the New Romanov Organization."
I thought the count's monocle would pop out. Had he been a bird, he would have been preening his feathers. He immediately stood, clicked his heels together (really!), and bowed.
"In any way, may I serve Your Most Imperial Majesty?"
Mr. A and I had anticipated this. I stood, shook his hand, and then (Ewww!) kissed both cheeks and allowed him to do the same to me.
"It will be necessary to remove a number of current Russian diplomatic personnel throughout the world," I told him. "The obvious place to find replacements will be within the Romanov organization. There are two questions: who, among current Russian diplomats throughout the world, might we depend on to be loyal and leave in place, and who among the Romanov people might we trust? Will you prepare lists?"
This was a carefully planned strategy. We knew the count would relay this information to his masters, and hoped that we'd be able to trace the comm link and nail down their location. We also knew that the Rump KGB would help, even direct, the creation of the lists. Anyone they recommended for a diplomatic position would have to be scrutinized extra carefully by us, even though we expected them to throw in a few innocent people to mislead us.
Anyone they recommended for removal would be checked, as well, in hopes that they would become allies to us. It was a double-blind chess game, one we hoped our greater resources would win. Mr. A had just advanced the count in hopes of protecting a few pawns. At the same time, he enabled the count to build the case against himself for a charge of treason.
Anconia Virginia Compound, February 12, 2018 @ 11:00 AM
The caller ID on the secure phone showed the call was from the Montana compound. "Hello, this is Davey."
"Good morning, may I speak to Lukas, please?"
"Yes, Davey." Her voice dripped sweetness, and I knew I was in trouble.
"Don't." Now, her voice was hard. "Lukas Achterberg. You probably call him Jaf."
There was no sense in denying it. "He's not here."
"Don't lie to me, Davey."
"No, I mean it's a school day. He's not here; he's in school."
"In school? How old … "
"Oh, sweet. Now I have another little brother to keep in line. And I thought the triplets were trouble." Francesca hung up.
Jonathan laughed when I told him. At first, I was angry; then I decided it was funny, and that we'd actually won this little battle.