Chapter 30 by Elisabeth ten Cate

Panic bloomed in Ken’s gut. When he had blurted out that they would be moving Nadia the next day, he had felt as though he had bought himself ample time to assess the strangeness of the situation. Yet time seemed to tick quickly now. He had feigned casualness whilst namedropping a mixture of facts and fiction. He had also sounded appropriately irritated to convince the people on the other side of the line that he was blind to their deceit. The Adi he knew would never ask about the project in such a careless manner.

 

The capabilities of Cryptop, he knew, should under no circumstances be underestimated. The group of hackers, clouded in mystery, was notorious. Anyone involved in the dealings of LifaLabs knew to be wary of Talal, Dorian and their accomplices. But if they had managed to recruit Tara so shortly after her escape, they must have been aware of what was going on for far longer. Had they infiltrated their systems ages ago, or had there been a traitor in their midst?

 

Drowned in thoughts he walked over to the only computer present in the lab. They would surely try to break into our systems, he thought as he logged in. An easy job, given they had Adi. Changing his password would create suspicion. They would instantly know that he had not been fooled by the call. Yet if he could continue his act of oblivious naivety there was a chance he could climb a rung in LifaLabs hierarchy. Changing the password was not the way to go, so he wiped the camera recordings of the past two days and replaced them with a duplicate of the recordings of the two days prior to that.

 

Friend or foe, he thought as browsed through the companies’ employer database. Adi’s face revealed as little in the photograph as it did in real life. Charming, controlled and always vigilant. At least, until he had made the error of allowing Nadia into the apartment. As she had entered their domain, impulsivity had penetrated Adi’s otherwise composed demeaner. Even so he had remained in charge, on the receiving end of the boss’ messages and giving orders. Ken had not met, or in fact been aware of, Ms Yoss until very recently. If it had been Adi that betrayed them, he had delivered a stellar act.

 

Could it be Dr Rosenberg, he wondered. Was it possible she had entered their lab in disguise? Her eternal frown stared at him from the screen. What would be in it for her though? Her entire education had been funded by LifaLabs, so a betrayal of this magnitude would seem unusual.

 

Ken’s face now moved one profile down. The fiery red locks of his controversial ex-colleague stood out. He remembered the day Aaron Keen had been dismissed after catching the virus. He recalled the commotion his death had caused in Matana’s media. His liquidation in such a public spot had been an error of judgement. It had been necessary, Adi had said, withholding an explanation as to why. Like everyone they had looked at the detailed pictures that had emerged in the papers and it had unleashed an inexplicable fury in Adi. “Bloody rat,” he had shouted. Ken had not understood why, but as he pulled up the images again, his eye fell on a detail he had overlooked last time around. The contours of a key designed with the makings of a motherboard were visible on Aaron’s wrist. He had been the one and they had found out too late.

 

As adrenaline rushed through his body, his phone rang. He took a deep breath before answering because he did not want to come across like an uncontrolled child in front of his superior. Ms Yoss sounded neutral. “I want you to double check we have at least ten percent of our stock left before we travel,” she ordered without delay. “Once you have done the count, I want you to add it to the log.” He was unable to respond. “An ‘of course, Ms Yoss', or an ‘at once, Ms Yoss’,” would be in order she reminded him. “I’m sorry Ms Yoss,” Ken answered dutifully. “I’m really sorry, but I have discovered something serious. We have been betrayed and Adi’s been intercepted by Cryptop.” What seemed like the longest seconds he had ever lived passed in silence. But then Ms Yoss voice sounded again. This time he could hear her think as she articulated each word. “Yes, I know,” she said. “It’s all part of the plan.”

About the author:
Elise is a 20-something-year-old writer. Five years ago, she moved across the pond to cross three things off her bucket list: living in London, studying philosophy, and truly mastering a foreign language. Today she finds herself at work in the screen industry whilst trying to chase her greatest dream of all: to be a published novelist.