A grieving veteran's life turns upside down when he joins a team seeking the world government's billion dollar bounty on Debyan Radchenko, a terrorist and inventor of a revolutionary Cryptocurrency. Spurred onward by a mysterious benefactor providing advanced technology, the team of hackers, spies and soldiers-of-fortune collide with rival hunters and learn all is not what it appears. From the dusty alleys of post-coup Saudi Arabia, an information broker's Goan fortress to the gleaming skyscrapers of Hong Kong, the veteran seizes a chance to fulfill a promise to his beloved at a mysterious Pacific island.
IN 2017, the world's economies collapsed. The cost of food and energy skyrocketed to unimaginable levels. The nations of the world ground to a halt. The people desperately cried out and demanded their leaders provide answers.
In the midst of the chaos, a mysterious new cryptocurrency became adopted as a de-facto world currency. Commonly known as the Ducat, it provided a shelter from confiscation and the means to anonymously transfer money, establish contracts and provided marketplaces for assets, goods and services.
But the stabilization provided by the Ducat was for naught. After three years of chaos, the world's politicians, blaming the crisis on income inequality, unveiled Central Planning Committee for the Equitable Distribution of Wealth, a worldwide government ultimately requiring all nations and people of the world to be subject to the laws and taxes of the CPC. The new organization, amidst other shows of power, immediately declared the cryptocurrency illegal. Despite the opposition, the Ducat continued to thrive outside of the law.
And then emerged the Emerson Corporation, introducing a world changing innovation: an inexpensive, environmentally friendly and easily transported form of energy. With the power hold of the elites in question, everyone watches to see how the CPC will react. As a threat to the strength of the CPC, will the new energy see the same fate as the now illegal cryptocurrency?
May 7, 2024
Portree, Island of Skye
A town in a quiet part of Scotland, Portree was known for its beautiful scenery. Surrounded by lush greenery on three sides, the little town’s harbor sat on a deep loch that lead to the ocean. A cobbled pathway made up a waterfront, and during the day tourists strolled happily beside multi-colored stuccoed houses. There were just a few hundred plain townhomes, none more than three stories high.
A bell tolled softly as waves rocked a buoy. As the evening darkened, cool air from the sea moved over the sun-warmed land, covering it for the night. It rolled in like a thick carpet, blanketing the area in an ethereal mist. Fog so thick, one could feel the oppressive and heavy moisture. Even the fingertips of an outstretched hand were difficult to see.
In spite of the damp fog, a man patrolled the wet cobblestones. Seemingly on alert, he paced to and fro in front of a plain, somewhat dilapidated house facing the village harbor. Dressed in a London Fog great coat replete with a warm hood, he never felt the temperature change. His mind was focused on his task and his eyes darted to find the source of every sound. The man held a submachine gun inside his coat, ready for use. Outside this house, he protected the interests of those inside. Their cause was his cause. The fact they paid him generously was a bonus.
The guarded house faced outward to the loch and from the street looked abandoned. In a dimly lit second story room, Leonard Cromwell peered at a computer screen that pulsed with life. Across the screen, a complex visualization of the process he was engaged danced and weaved. His pop-bottle thick glasses reflected a mass of information spilling across the screen. Cromwell needed to perch precariously on a shabby chair to keep his tall, beanpole frame erect. He wore an ancient and threadbare argyle sweater, the colors faded after years of heavy use. This favorite argyle, a holdover from his London years, was now wholly insufficient for the task of keeping him warm in the damp clime.
In another life, Cromwell had emerged unscathed from the dot-com crash of 2000 with a tremendous fortune, managing to sell his tech company just before the collapse. The man had decided to study the dismal science and had worked to be a professor at the London School of Economics. After achieving that goal, he had decided academia was a waste. From that point, he had floundered a bit, starting his own fantastically successful hedge fund and investing in world changing technology. By midlife, he grew weary of his passive role and choose a different path. A path that combined his entrepreneurial spirit, political outlook and computer skills.
The two men standing behind Cromwell were not technical wizards. They were experts in the art of intimidation and its follow-through. Cromwell looked ever so shabby and slovenly in contrast to Beckett DeGroot. With his military bearing, small sub-machine gun and shaved head, he created an air of intensity. The man loomed over the seated Cromwell as he undertook his computer borne maneuvers. The South African chomped on a cigar under his thick mustache, but other than that one vice, DeGroot stood stoic and unemotional. He was taller than the average man, closer to six foot five. Beckett was muscular, his bulging biceps covered in black tattoos. His vein-laced forearms always seemed ready to unsheathe the omnipresent machete strapped to his back. There was something about Beckett that inspired fear, a fear that seemed to be emanating from his rich dark green eyes. At first, DeGroot had found it hard to make a living in the real world, apart from the trade he first learned as an 18-year-old. His military service, so many years ago in Pretoria had shaped him into the man he was today. Loyalty. Training. Discipline. Those were the things that were important to DeGroot.
South Africa had not been the right place for him and upon leaving, he had entered a world in which he belonged. He slid into place in the mercenary world like a key fit into a lock...or a knife into a chest. He worked in the field of battle, he had thrived off of creating rivers of blood in his quest for revenge, in the search for purpose and a country. Those lawless and wasteful days were past. Cromwell's goal was now his goal. DeGroot both trusted and respected Cromwell.
DeGroot's Ghanan deputy looked on. Complete with a mohawk, the man was somber and enormous. Like DeGroot, he was impeccably groomed. Unlike DeGroot, he was completely silent. In fact, for the last two weeks, neither men heard this man say more than three to four words at a time. His eyes, however, were alive and alert.
Beckett had met the Ghanan just two weeks prior. Cromwell had provided the introduction, convincing DeGroot the man shared their ideals and had particular skills that would be of use to them. Upon Cromwell’s recommendation, DeGroot had explained to his new deputy he stood to gain a lot of money, and his skill with the sniper rifle would truly matter to all humanity.
DeGroot's own experiences had taught him that motivation and incentives were key, and he wanted to ensure those under him were properly encouraged across the spectrum. To DeGroot, that was a matter of trust. At this point in his life, DeGroot was motivated solely by duty, but he’d come to a sad realization that not all men were like him. The more incentives for the men under his command, the more he could trust them. That also was one of the guiding principles of the organization the men gathered in the room represented. The Liberari.
Perhaps the most interesting thing in this room was not the men inside, but a small box plugged into an ancient LCD monitor. About the size of a man's hand, it pulsed with an almost alien blue light. An eerie sound quite unlike a computer’s electrical hum emanated from the device.
The Englishman continued to work intently on his task, and sweat poured down from the Brit's wild looking hair. Cromwell knew he looked as though he hadn't showered for days. His nerves were well and truly shot, he surmised. More than that, Cromwell found the cigar smoke wafting around him irritating and disgusting, but there was much he chose to put up with from a man with as much skill and drive as DeGroot. Despite being close to his friends, he was on the edge. "How have things deteriorated to this point?" he asked himself aloud.
DeGroot’s patience was wearing thin. "We're overdue. It's never taken this long before. There's something wrong."
"The CPC has been busy. It's taking Genesis longer to break through the firewalls. The key generation is complete, but they haven't all been distributed. Five more minutes." Cromwell explained. His tone was optimistic, but his posture at the computer indicated defeat.
"By now they've got our location!" DeGroot fumed.
"They've had it for the last 7 minutes," came the distracted rejoinder from the slender professor.
An alarm tone split the air. With a tap of the screen, Cromwell brought up a new display and showed it to the military man. "Genesis has intercepted traffic on the CPC military band. Incoming military assets."
Degroot pointed to the blinking red marks on the monitor. "How many."
The tall man studied the flickering LCD. "One counterterrorism team on a stealth chopper.” Cromwell turned to face DeGroot and their eyes met. “A destroyer has also been routed to our location."
DeGroot nodded to his quiet companion. The Ghanan exited the room without a word, hefting a large sniper rifle he had left leaning beside the door frame. He knew what he had to do, and headed into the bleak fog.
DeGroot thought through the situation. The chopper, manned by an elite squad of SAS men would arrive first. The destroyer? Well, that was another matter entirely. All in due time. The fellow outdoors would have his hands full, but it was good that he was not alone. A skilled marksman was also hidden in the fog. The sniper’s thermal recognition goggles would allow him to take out the CPC team long before they reached this upstairs room. The whole group would just have enough time to disappear into the mist before the destroyer arrived. His men would put this counter-terrorist team in the morgue. It was a sordid business, and DeGroot took no pleasure in it. DeGroot now had a reputation, one that had kept him busy for the last few years. Soon, soon, it would be over. There would be rest, and there would be peace.
Thank you all for the tremendous support, far in excess of what I expected. Onward to Chapter Two!