Rainbow by David Macfie

The shadow ghosted, invisibly, from one pitch-black area to the next. The guards and rottweilers that patrolled around the building, had already been neutralized with a silenced dart rifle. Getting through the security cordon had been a challenge, but once the guards and their dogs were out of the equation, the shadow only had the electronic security to master. The fence alarm was switched off by hacking into the computerized perimeter monitoring system, then it had been a simple matter to cut a hole in the diamond wire near the secluded maintenance entrance. The shadow had prepared for this penetration with extensive research into the company and everything to do with it, including the specifications of all protection mechanisms employed to prevent intruders from stealing the secrets that had made the business one of the biggest and most successful arms manufacturers in the world.

The shadow reached the main doors, undetected. The next system to be hacked was the building control system, which automated everything from access management to air conditioning to water recycling to electricity usage optimization and everything else required to make the building a leading example of an environmentally green and friendly installation. In no time the shadow was inside and heading for the vault, where the company stored its computer backups. The shadow had researched that also, down to the last detail, including the floor plan of the building showing the location of the vault, the type and make of the door and the locking mechanism. The infrared night lighting provided just enough illumination to make the short walk though the corridors a simple proposition.

A few moments later, the intruder stood in front of the vault. It smiled under its mask, when a cursory glance confirmed that the door required a retina scan, a password and a master key. The smile resulted from the first part of its mission for the night. Earlier, the shadow had broken into the home of the CEO of the company and tortured him until he revealed the password and the location of the key. Now the shadow reached into a pocket in its black costume and retrieved a small box. Inside was a glistening human eye, which took care of the retina scan. The password was quickly entered, and the key turned. The shadow grasped the large door handle and turned it clockwise ninety degrees. The door opened easily. The shadow glided straight to the section where the computer backups were stored. It only removed the latest one, knowing full well that it contained everything of value to the company.

Without bothering to close doors or reset alarms, the shadow left the building the way it had come in and disappeared into the night.

The following morning, much earlier than usual, James Blind was summoned to his boss’s office. That, by itself, announced that something serious had occurred. “P” dispensed with any niceties. As soon as Blind was in the room, he began the brief.

“Last night, the offices of this country’s leading arms manufacturer were broken into and their secrets were stolen. The intruder got away with the latest computer backup, which contained everything of importance to the company, including the technical specifications of all their weapons. I emphasize that this information is classified top secret and includes the latest data on Britain’s nuclear arms program. It is imperative that this backup does not fall into the wrong hands. Get on it instantly, if not before.”

 He threw a file across the desk.

“Here’s all we have,” he grunted, clearly displeased.

Blind grabbed the file and made a strategic and hasty departure. “P” was not good company in his present mood. Blind got coffee and hid in his closed office with a DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door. The file didn’t tell him much more than he’d heard already, except for the grisly details of the CEO’s demise and the physical observations made by the police at the violated premises.

“Hmm,” mused Blind. “Clearly a talented operator. Did careful research and knew exactly what had to be done to achieve the objective of stealing the secrets. Ruthless and not squeamish to take the eyeball, but effective. Killing the CEO was pitiless but necessary, since he was the only person to see the intruder. Is an expert hacker or has an effective support group to get the lowdown on the company and be able to override the alarm systems. Cool under pressure. Leaving the doors open was a nice touch. Told the company and their security experts how useless they were, in the most insulting way possible. I don’t know anybody that fits this profile so probably a new kid on the block. That sucks. These are the hardest to find because they haven’t left any tracks yet.”

Blind called the AUNTI intelligence group and asked for Brian, an expert analyst who was a hacker of note. He briefed the man and shared the profile he’d worked out for the intruder.

“Brian, I don’t recognize this person from the profile, but I know that hackers sometimes know a lot about their competition. Do you have any thoughts on who this operator might be?

“Not off the top of my head,” replied Brian. “That’s the bad news, but the good news is that, from what you’ve told me about the murder and the break in, your profile is spot on. Maybe you should transfer to intelligence!”

Blind laughed.

“Not now, thanks. I get my kicks out in the field. Maybe when I get a bit older and want a quieter life. But, don’t try to sidetrack me. Can you tell me anything useful?”

“It’s not one of the established guys. They’re all making too much money designing systems to foil the best of the other hackers. So, you were right. It’s a newcomer. I know a few of them, but not this one. I’ll have to ask around, but I’ll need to be careful not to speak to the perpetrator. That would really blow the whole thing. I’ll get back to you.”

“While you’re at it, please approach it from the opposite direction. Check out who might be the likely buyers of this information.”

“Will do, and I know you need the answers yesterday. The boss has been stamping around here this morning as well.”

Blind returned to his office and began to call his own contacts, a mixed bag of AUNTI agents, underworld snitches, policemen, experts in the nuclear arms field and one or two agents of foreign organizations trying to achieve the same thing as AUNTI. He asked all of them the same two questions. First, if they recognized the profile he’d developed of the intruder. And second if they knew any individuals or organizations that were in the market for up-to-the-minute nuclear arms specifications.

Blind spent the rest of the day completing this personal research. On the first question he drew a blank. On the second, there were several mutually corroborating reports indicating eight possible customers for the stolen material, five countries – The USA, Russia, China, North Korea and Iran, and three criminal organizations specializing in sales in nuclear weapons. Two of the three were new to him, the third was an old foe called Future Notions.

Late in the day, well after normal stopping time, Blind was sitting in his office, mulling over these possible buyers. He was inclined to ignore the countries as possibilities, because they each had too much to lose if counter-intelligence organizations found them out and they were all well watched by their adversaries. And he didn’t think Future Notions was a realistic buyer, since it was only four months since Blind had taken out the six major players in that company. He was sure they wouldn’t have fully recovered from that loss yet. He was thinking about the last two when his phone rang.

“James, it’s Brian. Sorry for the delay. Much work was needed to get anything useful for you. Let’s start with possible customers. We identified eight possible buyers and have rejected six as not likely. So, we think it is one of two criminal arms dealers.”

“Thanks Brian. That helps a lot if it agrees with my own findings.”

The two quickly compared notes and were in full agreement.

“Where did you get your results, James?” asked Brian, sounding miffed.

“Over the years, I have developed a circle of trusted sources. I called all of them and came up with the same list as you did.”

“Then why did you waste my time?”

“Actually, I didn’t. This agreement is hugely valuable, because it came from two vastly different sets of information providers. That we ended up with the same list, makes the content of it highly likely. And it simplifies one side of the problem considerably.”

“Then maybe it reinforces my suggestion that you join us in Intelligence,” offered the analyst.

“Someone has to be at the sharp end to do the dirty work, Brian. Please will you send me full dossiers on the two likely possibilities. And now talk to me about the intruder. There, I drew a complete blank.”

“That’s comforting,” remarked Brian, acid dripping from his voice. “Perhaps you need us a little after all.”

“Don’t be waspish, Brian. It’s not dignified and doesn’t become you.”

“Sorry, it just slipped out. Word in the hacker community is that there’s a new wunderkind, who came from nowhere and became established by pulling off several daring and intellectually challenging coups. It’s not known if it’s a man or a woman, but this individual goes by the hacker-handle, Rainbow. You can find the name on social media, which provides some general background and descriptions of the hacks done to date. Most have embarrassed people or organizations that are morally suspect. And Rainbow makes no secret of being hugely impressed by a group of hackers-for-good called ‘anonymous’.”

“Is Rainbow considered a political vigilante?”

“Nobody knows, but I’d say the hacks suggest that.”

“Then why kill to steal weapons specifications? It doesn’t make sense.”

“I haven’t a clue, maybe to make sure the weapons don’t get made. Perhaps to sell, which was our first assumption. The killing was a quick way of getting into the vault. It was expedient rather than murderous. It shows ruthlessness and focus on the end goal rather than a taste for the deed.”

“Is Rainbow contactable via any of the social media platforms you mentioned?”

“You could try using Facebook ‘messenger’.”

So, James did. His message read ‘Hello Rainbow. I’m James Blind from an organization called AUNTI, which is dedicated to the prevention of the spread of nuclear weapons via criminal activity. I believe you were responsible for a killing to gain access to a vault containing nuclear weapons specifications, which you subsequently stole. I have been tasked with finding you and recovering the secrets, using whatever methods are necessary. However, I also believe that your motive is not personal gain. I think you may share our desire to see a reduction or eradication in the use of such weapons. I therefore wish to have conversation with you to determine if we may plan a way to achieve both our objectives by working together. Message me your answer.’

He felt it was worth a try but didn’t hold his breath. Instead he studied the dossiers that had come from Brian.

However, in a surprisingly short time, he received a message notification. He dropped everything to read it.

“Hi James. I’m Rainbow and I’m familiar with AUNTI. I also know you’re an agent like James Bond, 007, licensed to kill. I am therefore intrigued by your message. You’re right, I didn’t take the information to sell it on. I abhor war and particularly nuclear war. My plan is to repeat this mission in each of the countries with nuclear weapons. Once they’ve all been penetrated, I’ll publicly inform the world how easy it was and threaten to share the information on how the missions were accomplished to all interested parties, including the arms dealers. My price for silence will be a very transparent reduction to zero in nuclear weapons over a period of three years.”

“It’s a great plan, but you’ll be dead before you complete it.”

“You think?

“Yes, I don’t think the agencies of any of the other countries affected would follow the path I have. I think they would track you, find you, kill you and take back the information.”

 How will they find me?”

“Trace you through your social media sites?”

Rainbow laughed.

“I hacked all those sites. I have no accounts on any of them. I’m a ghost. I cannot be tracked that way.”

“But if I send you a message and you reply, I can put a tracker on your message, not so?”

“Did you?”

“No, but I could have, that’s all I’m saying.”

“Fair point, so I won’t answer any more messages. How will they find me then?”

“Probably the way I’d have tried next. You have a family. You have people in the hacker community, who probably know more about you than I did. I’d have worked my way though the hackers until I found one that knew about you and your family. I’d have extracted that information and then gone to visit. Under the right persuasion, they’d have given me a way to track you down.”

There was an email silence. Blind patiently waited. Five minutes passed before the next mail arrived.

“OK, so they’d find me. You’ve made your point. What do you suggest?”

“My bosses don’t care about anything except the security of the data. I suggest that we go to them with a proposition. You return the backups under certain circumstances. First you will not be prosecuted for any part of this past mission. Second you will become a consultant, to AUNTI Intelligence, on all matters pertinent to reducing nuclear footprints everywhere. Third we agree to certain measures to promote the objective you had with this intervention, namely the managed global reduction of nuclear arms capability everywhere. How does that sound?”

“Too good to be true. Can you pull it off?”

“My bosses have two choices. They’ll choose the one with less risk, which is our proposition. What do you think?”

“I like it and I will agree to it, on one condition.”

“And that is?”

“That we meet, discretely, after the dust has settled, to get to know each other better. I like your style.”

“I can live with that. I’ll get back to you soonest.”

Blind phoned Brian.

“Can I put a tracker on a Facebook message?”

“Yes, if you’re a good enough hacker.”

“That’s what I told Rainbow. We had a conversation and came to an agreement.”

Brian laughed.

“You’re kidding me. I swear you could fall into pig-shit and come out smelling sweet. Let me know how it turns out.”

Early the following morning, Blind met with “P” and outlined the proposition.

His boss didn’t hesitate.

“Agreed on one condition. Get Rainbow here to see me and give back the information personally. I need to know what I’m bringing into AUNTI.”

Blind messaged Rainbow with the conditional acceptance. Her response was rapid.

“Can I trust him not to get me arrested on sight? After all, I did kill someone.”

“On his orders I have killed many. I haven’t been arrested yet. It’s part of working for AUNTI.”

“OK, I’ll come. What’s the best time?”

“Early morning at seven-thirty. He’s always there then, but the rest of the staff start at eight-thirty.”

“I’ll be there, tomorrow. How will I get in?

“I’ll meet you at the front door. See you.”

At quarter past seven, Blind was already waiting in the sheltered porch at the door. It was raining steadily, and Blind was wondering if the weather would put Rainbow off. Several people passed in both directions, but none approached him, until, at precisely twenty-five past seven, a stunning twenties something woman climbed the steps.

“Hi, I’m Rainbow and you must be James,” she said, with a smile at the stunned expression on his face.

“Close your mouth, James. You’ll catch flies,” she teased. “I take it you didn’t expect a woman?”

“Not one that looks like a top model,” answered the agent, recovering his composure.

“Shall we go?” she said.

James grinned and ushered her inside, then led her to the lift, which whisked them to the top floor. “P” was waiting in his office. Blind did the introductions and turned to leave.

“Stay, James,” barked his boss. “This is your assignment, and if Rainbow joins us, she will report to you.”

He turned to Rainbow and stretched out his hand. She handed over the back up. He checked it rapidly and nodded.

“You’re sharp,” he said, grudgingly. “Most people would have tried to shake that hand.”

“And you’re just a big teddy-bear in disguise,” she replied, with a warm smile.

James winced and waited for the explosion. But it didn’t come and there was a ghost of a smile on his boss’s face.

“I understand,” mused “P”. “Your father is much older than you and you’ve been able to manipulate him for years, just like you’re trying to manipulate me. True?”

“Yes. I’ll try to be less obvious in future.”

“I’m sure you will, but I wish an answer before we decide if you have a future here. The question is simple. How much are you prepared to do to help deliver our mandate, which James tells me you understand perfectly.”

“I told James I abhor war, particularly nuclear war or the threat of it. That was the truth. I will do whatever is in my power to make war obsolete. Since nuclear war is the most dangerous, I am fully aligned with your mandate. I would be honored to work here. And I do have some useful skills to offer, I think.”

“We noticed that,” said “P”, dryly. “OK you’re in. James will take care of the employee stuff. Thank you for returning the information. I will make the best use of your intervention, I promise you.”

And that, as the saying goes, was the start of a beautiful friendship.