Social Engineering – a novel

CHAPTER ONE

Twentyone

The woman looked down her nose at the fellow seated at the kitchen table, “What trial are you on now?”

He flipped through his lab book, “Hold on. Number twenty.”

“And how many did you kill?”

Addesh looked up at the woman, judging whether to answer. “I didn’t kill any of them. You know that. They died of natural causes.”

Tanalia held up her hand and counted to herself, “One, two, three, yeah you killed that one too. At least four by my count.”

“Natural. Causes.” The bio-engineer said stiffly.

“If you think you and that machine of yours is ‘natural’ I got news for you. I’m sure any SWAT truck full of authorities would think the same. Murder is my guess. Oh, they won’t prove it. You’ve torched the evidence by now. How many trials again?”

“All biohazard waste is torched. Two thousand Fahrenheit, minimum. And I already told you.” Addesh turned in his seat and squinted up at her, his glasses dusty, “You keep digging at me and maybe sometime after you brush your teeth you start feeling — a little funny.” He got up, filled a mug from the tap, clanked it into the microwave, tapped in sixtysix and hit START.

“You wouldn’t dare. You fuck with my genes and the NSA will be all over you. You know I’ve set up a failsafe. You’ll get tagged by Homeland, FBI, probably even Interpol, seein’ how you nix’d that Irish woman. What was her name?”

“Gaile. And she was Scottish.” The microwave dinged and he prepared his hourly cup of instacoffee. Holding it to his face, he smelled it deeply.

“Twenty trials and you’re not even close,” the woman scoffed.

Addesh sipped at the cup tentatively. “Oh, I’m close. It’s just that this particular gene lies right next to a couple of others that regulate things like breathing, and body temperature.”

“What was it that the media reported? She ‘cooked in her own juices’? You scratched her with that claw of yours and she boiled away in her bed that night.” Tanalia paced up to the window and peered out at the glimmer of streetlights reflecting off the wet roads.

The man in the lab coat had had enough. “I’ve nailed the problems. This next run is the one. We need a high profile mark. And he has to be a guy we can track. A local. But somebody with a lot to lose.”

“And you want me to set it up, is that it?” The woman strolled up to the man and poked a finger into his chest. “I’m here to deliver Roger Simmons. That’s it. You said ‘ten, you could do it in ten’. Well it’s been twenty now and so far I haven’t seen any progress. Mr. Terrence is not gonna be happy.”

Addesh backed away from the red fingernail. “My research said a ‘probable’ ten. This gene splicing into a hijacked viral payload isn’t like growing bread mold in your fridge. Sure, my research using the prior version of the CRISPR/Cil3 allowed me to turn a rabbit green. That was trivial. I created a glow-in-the-dark chinchilla, and gave chameleon chromophores to a goat. But this behavioral gene modification is a whole other field.” The fellow advanced a step back toward the woman. “So. Back. Off. Missy.” He then sat down at his laptop. “Twenty-one will be the ticket,” he continued over his shoulder. “Get me a mark and be ready by tomorrow morning at ten. Let me know where you’ve set the meet.”

~~~

The mark turned out to be managed futures broker Keith Darston. Tanalia came dressed as a jogger. It turned out her concern about attracting the attention of Mr. Darston was a non-issue.

Addesh had passed her the glass tallon containing the viral payload, that slipped over her finger. It had a safety-tip which she would remove prior to use. They’d met at the Starbucks across from the mark’s work place. Addesh instructed, “The wrist would be best. Or the neck. You have to apply the tip directly to skin. It might work through clothing but then you might break off the tip leaving evidence.”

Tanalia was impatient, and a little nervous. “I got it. Now leave me alone. You look like a pervert.”

“Skin. On the skin.” Addesh mouthed as he walked away.

The broker arrived during the mid-morning lull. He came down nearly every day to get a double with a shot of vanilla creme. Sugar and caffeine; a broker’s best friends. Well, not ‘best’ per se, Darston had a meth habit that he’d kicked some months ago. He’d found himself twitching one morning while poised to take a big position in July natural gas; he couldn’t make his finger tap the Enter key.  That lost trade cost his firm nearly two and a half million dollars. So meth was out. Sugar and coffee were in. Lot’s of coffee.

Tanalia played it perfectly. Ol’ Keith couldn’t take his eyes off of her cleavage which she’d managed to stuff into a 34B jogging top. As she walked out with her cup, she stumbled over his shoes, and fell directly into him. As he bent to catch her, spilling half his coffee and all of hers, she reach over the back of his neck to catch herself. In the process she traced the glass needle across his scalp. Mr. Darston, so engrossed in the woman’s physique, not to mention the scalding coffee spreading across the floor, failed to react to the infecting scratch.

A store employee shuffled out to clean up the mess, but by then Tanalia had apologized to the broker, tossed her empty cup and the glass fingertip into the trash bin outside the door, and had jogged off around the corner.

Trial Twenty-one had been successfully delivered. Now all they had to do was sit back, cross their fingers, and watch the news.

The mark didn’t die. Not right away at least. Addesh called that a success. Tanalia remained skeptical. That was the good news. The bad news was that the mark called in sick for three days. Three days of waiting to hear about some dead broker found melted in his satin sheets. Or whose heart had stopped while he sat in a pharmacy waiting for a prescription of antibiotics. No amount of penicillin was going to cure this man’s ills.

The first clue at their success came when Mr. Keith Darston returned to work, looking well enough, despite having recently been sick. When he came down for his trading doldrums pick-me-up, he ran into Tanalia. She was properly dressed this time, if you didn’t count the fact that she had, once again, stuffed Bert and Ernie into a teacup bra. Stuffed them and made sure Mr. Darston purposefully eyed them.

“Miss. Miss. Do you remember me? I was here a few days ago and I think I may have tripped you. I’m awfully sorry about that. I feel compelled to make it up to you. I was hoping I’d see you — here, here’s three hundred dollars. No, here’s five hundred dollars. I just hope you weren’t injured. If there’s anything I can do to help you… here’s my card too.”

Tanalia scanned around discreetly, trying to pick up if anyone was eavesdropping. “Hey, thanks, um, Keith. I’m fine. Thanks for the cash. You take care, okay?” Tanalia slipped away and never set foot in that Starbucks again.

After entering Addesh’s temporary apartment Tanalia fingered the five bills, calculating, “The guy gave me two hundred bucks. He practically forced me to take it. I’d say that was a good sign.” She’d returned immediately to the apartment with her report. “Tell you what, I’ll split it with you,” she said, checking his reaction. She laid one of the mark’s hundred dollar bills on the table next to Addesh’s keyboard.

Ignoring the money Addesh drilled the woman, “What else did he say? Anything? Did you ask him about any charity he’s feeling overly philanthropic about? What about his accounts. No you wouldn’t ask him about those. Was he missing his expensive watch? Anything?”

“I took the cash and split. I wasn’t going to have a heart to heart with the guy. I’d just poisoned him. Be happy the poor fella didn’t turn into soup,” Tanalia replied, indignant.

Addesh bit at his lip. “Yes, I suppose you’re right. We’ll give him a few more days. I’ve nearly got trial twenty-two ready.

Better news arrived the following morning. While scanning Bloomberg, Addesh noticed a news item scrolling across the bottom of the screen about a local brokerage company: “All-Energy Futures has sent the heating oil market reeling with its divestiture of nearly seven hundred and fifty million dollars worth of contracts. Company officials say that it was a ‘fat-finger’ error and that they were investigating the source.’

“Fat-finger. Ha! Try fat wallet.” Addesh was convinced that this was the genetic infiltration mechanism taking effect. “We need to ensure that the mark is fully divesting himself of everything that he owns.”

“Didn’t you say you wanted it to incubate longer than three days. Like ten was better. Is that what twenty-two does?” Tanalia was anxious to get the project going against her personal vendetta, Roger Simmons. “We could use twenty-one on Simmons and you could keep hacking on the delay part.”

“Don’t rush me. All right?” Addesh was adamant. “Once we unleash this there is no going back. I want it to be perfect. Twenty-one lacked the influenza virus’ distribution capability. Twenty-two contains that plus a twelve day incubation which will get it into every major financial institution on the planet. Every trans-global corporation will be infected. Every government, every tyrant, every oligarch and aristocrat in the world.”

“I’ve heard your brochure speech already,” dismissed Tanalia, inspecting her now white fingernails. “You’ve got a name for it. You know, in case it becomes, famous?”

“Of course. I call it the ‘Siddhartha Syndrome’.”

“What’s a Siddhartha?”

“Never mind, just return here tomorrow and we’ll see what other mayhem your Mr. Keith has wrought. If it’s as extensive as I expect, we’ll implement twenty-two immediately. As soon as we do, you can inform your boss.”

“Yeah. I’ll be here. But Simmons is first. You promised,” the woman tossed back as she left, “Oh, and don’t forget, he’s your boss too.”

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