Now we’ve come full circle. Our hero escaped Donovan only to have him reappear on the ship while he was investigating his computer backups with Mr. Athenos. What role does Donovan play in all of this? Whose side is Ben Simpson on? The answers will start emerging as we approach the conclusion of this story.
Road Kill Part 15
Donovan? What was he doing here? How did he find us?
“So, I see that Athenos has helped you find those pesky backups,” Donovan said as he looked past me at the master of the Dark Web.
“It’s as we suspected,” Athenos answered.
“Wait, so you’re in on this?” Jones said. “How is that possible?”
“Ah, Mr. Jones, I presume?” Donovan said turning to the astonished Jones. “I’ve learned a lot about you. You are a talented man.”
“You know about me? I don’t even know who the hell you are and how you’re connected to Athenos.”
I watched Jones becoming angrier. Donovan was not a man that you directed anger at without serious consequences. I made Jones aware of who we were dealing with by asking Donovan what he wanted.
“I want to have a chat with all of you about what you’ve found, but not here. Athenos is one of us. Our agency needs assets with his skills and he is paid quite handsomely to do the work we need.”
This surprised Jones, but it made sense to me. The government had long been recruiting hackers that were in trouble with the law promising them immunity and freedom in return for them working for the good guys. Athenos, however, was truly a big fish.
“They made me an offer I couldn’t refuse,” Athenos said in an effort to justify his subterfuge.
This was big. Athenos had broken the code of the hackers and caretakers of the Deep and Dark Webs. If that information became known, he would be the scourge of the community.
“Mr. Athenos is being modest. His skills are so important to us that we agreed to set him up with this floating supercomputer and keep his front business operating along with a substantial annuity. Of course, if he had refused, we would have tied him to his anchor and dropped him in the ocean,” Donovan explained.
My head was spinning. Athenos worked for The Mother Ship. Jones didn’t know. What about Ben? I turned and looked at him and he had trouble meeting my gaze.
“They made me do it,” Ben said, reading my thoughts. “They had leverage on me and they made me do it.”
“That’s right. Mr. Simpson has been keeping me up-to-date on your progress ever since your exit from our facility. By the way, did you really think that you escaped using your own talents? We let you escape so that you could lead us to more evidence.”
Now my mind was reeling. They let me escape? Simpson was just monitoring me as I led them to more evidence? I was totally screwed. How could I be so naïve?
“Enough discussion here. We need to go somewhere else to debrief. Mr. Athenos, thank you. You are free to go. The rest of you, let’s get onto our boat, get you to your quarters, and we’ll debrief properly.”
Donovan and the two men he brought with him herded us from Athenos boat to a unmarked grey cutter. Whatever Donovan was up to, he had some funding. The cutter looked to be similar in size to what the Coast Guard used as patrol boats. It appeared to be fully crewed and well-armed.
We were escorted to small cabins on the ship and locked inside. They were not uncomfortable, but did nothing to alleviate the feeling that things had just turned bad. I understood my own fate was sealed, but I was worried about Jones and I was angry at Simpson for pretending to be on my side. I suspected him all along, but Donovan had confirmed my friend’s allegiance with those that were after me.
I sat in the cabin for what felt like several hours. There were bottles of water and various packaged food provided. It appeared they had been preparing for us for a while.
Just as I settled onto the cot and put my head back on the pillow, I heard the lock on the door being opened. The door opened and Donovan walked in.
“You know, I always considered you my best analyst and you have proven me correct. I really didn’t think you’d get as far as you did. Of course, enlisting the help of Mr. Jones was brilliant. His talents are formidable.”
I didn’t know what to say. Donovan was not exactly asking questions. He seemed quite pleased with himself.
“I do question, however, your willingness to trust Mr. Simpson so easily. Did you really think that he created that underground bunker on his own pension from the Navy? We provided that for him in return for his anticipated service. It was a shame to let him destroy it.”
I just looked down at my shoes. The game was over. I then looked up at Donovan and asked him to release Jones. I explained that I kept him removed from the content of what I had found.
“Mr. Jones committed a serious felony when he hacked into the State Department. He is not being charged, however, although I would like to use it as leverage over him to get him to join us, but he is doing good work as a civilian and should continue to do so. He is being released as we speak and will be flown back to Jacksonville.”
I was perplexed at this revelation. Donovan was letting Jones go? This seemed out of character and also seemed to convey a mixed message.
Just as I was mulling this over, there was a knock on the cabin door. Donovan opened it and Ben Simpson entered.
“Ah Ben. Thanks for joining us. I was just about to go over what happens next. Your timing is perfect.”
I looked at Ben and he gave me an apologetic expression in return.
“I really wanted to tell you I was monitoring you all along,” he said. “Donovan made it clear that I had to keep it up until we got into international waters. Being outside of U.S. jurisdiction was vital to the plan. I didn’t know what the plan was, but I didn’t want to disobey orders and face the consequences. I was also afraid that if I told you Donovan was going to meet up with us in international waters, you might be a bit reluctant to move forward.”
A bit reluctant? He was delivering me right into the hands of the people that believed I was guilty of treason. Reluctant might be an understatement. Donovan picked up on this and began to give some information.
“As I mentioned before, we let you escape from The Mother Ship. Do you know why we did that?”
I answered that I did not.
“I knew that you would do whatever you could to clear yourself of the treasonous charges that I threw at you. The fact of the matter is, I am the one who framed you. I did it for a very good reason.”
Now I was angry. I charged at Donovan, but was stopped by Simpson. I turned on him to let me go.
“Hear him out. You’ve got a choice here.”
A choice. What kind of choice? Work with Donovan or disappear in the basement of some government facility.
“Actually, you do have a choice. You can help stop a historic blunder or you can go back to your boring life as an analyst. I hope I haven’t underestimated your patriotism and your drive to do the right thing. Our efforts may fail with you, but they will definitely fail without your help.”
Now Donovan had my attention. He was hardly one to exaggerate or make false claims. I decided to sit back and let him plead his case. What he shared was unbelievable and would change my life forever.