uckner Axele Davidssen pushed away from his desk, and rose to his full six feet. With his eyes closed, and his arms raised high above his head—he drew a deep and relaxed breath. He exhaled slow and measured, counted to ten in the process, an exercise that calmed him… and he needed to be calm. He was meeting with someone tonight. Someone very important, and the only person he trusted with the information he had.
Late last night he received a call from a friend, an ex-CIA agent who needed his help. The friend informed him of the hands-off directive, issued on six of the individuals identified as dangerous by his system. Hell, Buck knew who gave the directive; as he was gathering info on that person as well.
Alert and poised he stood before the wall of glass; his gaze fixed on the woods that surrounded his house, the first hint of light poked through the dense trees. A flicker of movement caught his attention, and he reached for his Weatherby, Mark V TRR sniper rifle.
Two deer pranced from cover, and hesitated. With the stealth of a tiger on the prowl, he was out the back door, sighted and adjusted the crosshairs of the scope on the center of his mark—four-hundred feet away. His finger caressed the trigger as he breathed in.
He lowered the Weatherby, as the deer turned down the path, and picked up their gait—four doe followed.
I must be seeing things.
He watched as the deer ran down the path. Why not… it’s the perfect time for a run?
Rifle in hand, Buck left the house and hit the main path in full stride. At forty-eight, he was financially secure and retired. He did not consider protecting America a job. The woods kept him sharp, and reminded him of the jungles where he served. They had wet lands, thick brush and streams—he knew every path. Hell, he was US Marine Corps Recon. As a Marine, he performed as commanded, no questions asked—he defended and killed to protect America’s freedom. More important, the Corps promoted what his father had imparted everyday—honesty and integrity.
Honor is loyalty Buck, they would tell him. It is dedication to God, Country, Family, and Self.
The Corps was Buck’s family, and he served his country proudly for twelve years.
He thought about the two men his mentor asked him to track, they were on the hands-off list too. His thoughts turned to the CIA contract. Was there a connection? Hell, he wondered about all the people he was tracking. He knew politics and drugs were involved, and whatever was going on, it exceeded the boundaries of America. There were foreign entities involved, the pieces to the puzzle did not quite fit—and a few larger pieces were definitely AWOL.
Forget the list, he would dig deeper and take the CIA contract too. He didn’t quite know how the meeting would go tonight, but he did know one thing for certain. Some powerful people would have to fall—before America changed forever, and with or without his mentor’s help.
Time to clear the mind—Ooh rah!
Darkness closed and the sky broke—angry rain slammed into the dirt trail. About a hundred yards down the dirt trail was a small clearing, where an old oak tree split the paths. He knew the oak tree well. Carved into the tree were the initials B-A-D, a heart and C-V. He smiled and gave the tree a pat, then chose the path that led home.
He jogged to the back entrance, and pointed a remote at the back door. The green light flashed, and he entered his domain.
The TV was on, a tarp covered the infield at Citi Field, and bad news flashed across the bottom… Rain delay.
Why not? It was April 6, 2016, opening day for the Mets, and a beautiful April day for everything, but New York baseball.
He pointed the remote at the control panel, the monitor came to life, and his new algorithm program was still compiling.
His sweat-drenched exercise clothes gave new meaning to strangulation. The thought of constriction by a two-step snake entered his mind, claustrophobia set in; he yanked and stripped until a pile lay on the floor. He was naked and looked down at his six-pack abs. His firm core had come from a tortured workout regiment, and careful diet.
Ok, that was a lie, he no longer drank beer as a sport, but he still ate bad, smoked cigars and enjoyed the occasional cigarette or two.
Nevertheless, his core was power central. Fat slowed you down and could turn deadly in his world. He prided himself in his fitness and fighting skills, he was proficient in every close-quarter martial art worth a damn. He hit the gun range often, but knives were his preferred weapon—he never left home without them.
After a long shower, he slipped on shorts and a T-shirt, grabbed a sweatshirt from the dresser, and threw it on too. It was his favorite—thread-worn and full of holes, but across the front, in bold letters, it stated—PROPERTY of the United States Marine Corps.
He returned to the bathroom, grabbed the scissors, and started to trim his long graying beard. He paused… the beard covered a battle scar, which ran the length of his left jaw.
What’s that expression? Pain heals, chicks dig scars, and glory… glory lasts forever.
Lee Greenwood’s iconic song, God Bless the USA, blasted from the speakers. Satisfied that a hint of the scar showed, he put the scissors back down.
“I’m proud too, Lee—just not today.” He said, and then belted out the last few words. “God bless the U-S-A.”
The intelligence world changed by the hour, and he remained resolute in the game, through constant enhancements to his transposition cipher algorithms. He monitored chatter, on anything with a CPU, and searched for words, expressions and events—treasonous acts against America—foreign and domestic.
He returned to his office, and checked the status of the program.
In the kneehole of the desk, behind a brass logo label, were two buttons. One controlled specialized panels that lowered from the attic, and covered the windows and doors. The result a SCIF, or sensitive compartmental information facility, virtually impregnable and un-hack-able.
Buck pressed the other button, and a hidden panel (filled with books that actually appeared to have been read), opened to reveal a sixteen-by-six foot, soundproof and environmentally controlled room. It housed the heart of his system; the length of the wall lined with servers, communication equipment and printers. Buck retrieved a hard copy of the data on a USB flash drive, and returned to his desk. He pushed the button again and the room disappeared.
He plugged the stick into a USB port on his laptop and read it. Shit! The two people his mentor wanted information on were congressmen.
His system didn’t identify them as problems, he had to look for them, that bothered him.
I’ll have to tighten the search criteria.
Three of the people his system marked as dangerous, were now on their way to Jakarta. That bothered Buck more.
Could it be a coincidence? Buck didn’t think so.
One thing was for sure; they all came from money and wanted more. It seemed to Buck that neither the left nor the right cared what happened to America. They cared about one thing—money for their own causes. They spied on everyone… and Buck spied right back at them.
He lowered the volume on the TV, and cranked the music.
Rain pelted off the wall of glass.
The bang on the back door echoed through the room.
“Buck! Open the damn—door.”
“Oh shit, it’s Roy.”
Dr. Roy Singh was his business partner, best friend and Swami. Hell, he was a genius, and had three PhD’s to prove it.
“Sorry buddy, I changed the code and didn’t hear you. I had the music blasting, come on in.”
“I have a couple of things I’m working on,” Roy said, as he put his overnight bag next to the desk, and opened his laptop. “I want to add them to the system, and see how it looks.”
Buck looked at the bag. “How long you staying?”
“A few days, I’ll crash in the guest room.”
“Knock yourself out.” Buck wrote down the new code, and gave Roy the evil eye. “Here’s the new code, and by the by, I think the guest room became yours when you put the Buddha statue in it.”
Skynyrd’s, Red White and Blue, was now rocking on the system. Buck muted the sound on the TV. He loved this song.
“What are your plans?” Roy asked.
“Greg called, he’s having a problem cracking some transmissions, and the CIA won’t give him access anymore… you know, since he quit.”
“Are you going to let him use our system?”
“Probably… he mentioned a big CIA contact, and wants to partner with us on it. I told him we would, if we got additional backing.”
“Are you talking dangerous big?”
He didn’t want to scare Roy. He wasn’t packaged like Buck. What was he going to say? Yeah Roy… it’s dangerous.
“I’ll call you later on it. I’m meeting Micky in White Plains tonight, and thinking of spending a few day’s there. I’m going to swing by Sarge’s, have a few beers, complain a little and blow off some steam. I want him to come with me, and I hate driving in the rain. Sarge will drive.”
Micky Livingston was his mentor. They met on an IT security project in Purchase, NY, several years ago. Micky gave more than half his life to America, he was legit, and got the whole God and country thing. After five years in with the Navy, he put another twenty in with the Air Force. His military background in intelligence and security offered a lucrative life after the military. As a ghostwriter, he made millions from his political thrillers.
The American dream… writ large. He also held a powerful position in government, which swayed security decisions. Micky Livingston was the Director Homeland Security Investigations.
Buck shoved away from his desk, timing his words and exit to Skynyrd’s final chords.
“If you don’t like America, get the hell out indeed,” he sang.
“Can you please… turn your music off?
“No problem buddy. BADDAY… Buck music off.”
“You activated voice control?
“Yeah, you had better add yourself. The system responds to BADDAY only.”
“I’ll add myself later; I have some others ideas too. Call me if you need me.”
Buck grabbed a duffle bag he kept by the back door. It had two week’s worth of clothes, rolled tight, to accommodate the compact size. It was one more trick he learned from his mentor Micky. He stuffed his laptop in the only outside pouch.
He turned toward Roy. “Last chance, do you want to come?”
“Call Sarge and convince him to pick us up here, that will give me some time to test.”
Buck pressed the speed dial for Sarge and waited. Sarge spent every waking moment in his garage tinkering on something. He had a flat screen TV, stereo system and a bar in it. The refrigerator was always full of beer. He would peek at the TV screen, see who was calling, would wait for a message, and only then would he answer—if he wanted to talk.
“Pick up damn it.”
“What’s up Buck?”
“I’m heading up to White Plains for a couple of days to see Micky—”
“And it’s raining,” Sarge said. “So you want me to drive!”
“What I was going to say was… I’m getting a suite at the Residence Inn and they have free Heineken on tap every night.”
“You know I’m a Bud Man, I don’t drink that crap.”
“Fine… I want you to drive and Roy’s coming too.”
“Let me pack a cooler and pack some clothes,” he said. “I’m bringing the Blue Monster; see you in half-an-hour.”
Buck turned toward Roy to give a thumbs-up signal and Sarge was gone.
“Son-of-a-bitch hung up on me.”