First things first.
Craig felt the cold nights chill about him, the way that the boat pitched and rolled in the water. He was far enough out that he couldn’t see any of the lights from the shore, or even the Archologies. It felt like he was half way to Australia now, but experience told him better, even if he couldn’t call on SatComm.
Craig cut the engine and headed back out to the stern of the boat for another brief check of things. Thermals just reported back nothing but a stark, cold blue in all directions. Cold and dark like bruises against the black.
Here was as good a place as any.
Craig went back inside, and got the two cases. He’d had to put the smaller case that he had been carrying when he met Stiles into a more robust case, but the device from Williams would be safe in the one he had given it to him in. Craig spent a few minutes making sure they were tight, and well chained. The device he had locked onto the chain near the old style padlock was good. Even if he lost that prescient sensation in the back of his mind, the Agency’s tech boys had eyes sharp enough in orbit to pick it up.
The night was silent, other than the slapping of the water against the hull. Craig paused. Almost allowing himself a hint of paranoia. This far out, it really almost was like being the only person in the world. Without the Agency and without Dogson, he just had high corporate level wetware, and even with that turned down low, there was barely a blip.
No adverts. No greetings. No Dogson. No ‘how-you-do, buy-me-now’. No poptarts and pennywhistles.
Craig hefted the weight of the two cases up onto the back of the boat, reflecting briefly that this could be how he went out. Just like the Code Black had winked out all his connections to the Agency, he could just fade away. Rumor had always been that the killswitches still worked in Code Blacks. But then how would that be when the Agency cut every single last connection. Now would be the perfect time for a scrupulous agent to go under the knife and vanish for good.
Craig set a heavy boot into the cases, and they pitched over the side. The hit the water with an unsatisfyingly small splash, before vanishing almost instantly beneath the surface. Then down they went. A dirty bomb big enough to depopulate a good chunk of Downtown Skycity, and a case that would kill the careers of more than a handful of very high ranked politicians.
Dirty boys and dirty bombs.
Nothing was left now, just Craig and the night. The boat continued to pitch quietly in the waves. Craig didn’t bother amping up the gain on his wetware. It was good to have the world tuned out. It was better not having Dogson over his shoulder.
Now. Next things next.
Craig stood a moment in the back of the boat. Then inside, mind made up as he started up the engine. It spluttered a few times then turned over with a gout of fossil fueled black smoke. It would be a few long hours back into harbor. More than enough time for him to consider the implications of his future actions.
* * *
Craig stared up at the white peaks against the budding morning rays. The sea had turned tumultuous behind him, but Craig was confident enough in the moorings to know the boat was safe against any snap storms across the Taranaki area. He’d have to take the long way back up, but already he could see the almost military style fences and watchtowers above.
“Craig, you old fuck. Figured you were going to take the boat out and off yourself.”
“Not this time, Simon.”
Craig had let the presence press into the front of his mind. It was far more blunt and intrusive than Dogson had ever been. He’d seen people get a lot worse than what he had just felt, a sense of nausea at the intrusion that had felt almost like a needle pressing through the front of his skull. He strengthened his step as he headed up the tight path to the top.
“Weekend visit this time, you old asshole,” asked the voice, as craggy as the cliff path Craig was taking. “Or another of your oh-so-briefs?”
“Hate to disappoint you, Premier.”
“Well you know the drill. Mind the blackout. Take the hut.”
Craig knew that if Simon had even the slightest inkling of the irony there, he wouldn’t show it. The presence was gone, and instead he felt a strange, yet familiar sense of sickness. He pressed himself hard against the cliff face for a moment until it passed. Now, even if the Agency did come out of Code Black, he wouldn’t know it until he left. He blinked the watery tears out of his eyes and pressed on again.
He was getting too old for this shit.
Craig was moving in ahead of the rain, getting to the place Simon called ‘the hut’ just before the first of the squalls hit. The place was dark, and had a musty smell of age about it. It took a few seconds of thought before Craig remembered the place wasn’t wired. He slapped out at the light switch near the door, and bolted the door itself.
The hut had a simplistic modesty about it, moreso than just the fact it was entirely old world. Little more than a single room, Craig could almost feel the rain beating against the roof. The windows in the front rattled as the wind whipped up. A television sat against the back wall, a sofa of comfortable familiarity nearby. The kitchen service was all hands on, and the bed was near the back, where the wall shortened and the ceiling hugged down close.
A ringing shot up near the door, and Craig glanced back. He answered the phone, amused by the quaintness of it all.
“Anything you need, just dial Betty. You remember the extension, right?”
“Take it how you like, but I’m sort of happy this will be a brief,” Simon reported back. The line ticked in a strange and concerting way. There was a reassuring hardness in just holding the receiver. “I wouldn’t be able to entertain you either way. Some of the codgers back home are rattling the sabers over this whole CER malarky. I tell you, Craig. Your country is as much a bunch of upstart assholes as you are, especially since you up and turned Republic.”
“We am to please, of course,” Craig smiled. “Need I remind you that you dumped King and Country a whole lot sooner than we did.”
“Not like you had much damn choice in the matter when you did. Maybe it’s just that we all have a little more sense than you shaggers.”
“Something like that, Premier.”
“Anyway, the huts yours as long as you need it. Bettys rattling around somewhere here. Do what you need, just don’t hold any all nighters unless you plan on at least spitting me an invitation that I can turn down.”
“Wouldn’t be surprised to hear you were shagging my wife on all these close visits of yours, but frankly I couldn’t give a damn.”
“Not in the line of work we’re in, Simon,” Craig replied. The rain was really starting to belt down outside. Craig could see across the tarmac, but the fortress that passed as a house was on the other side, out of view. “Best for all parties to keep their mouths shut.”
“Better they bring back the King. A good, tight monarchy never hurt anyone. Those bastards in the senate don’t know what they’re missing.”
“Politics and I never see eye to eye,” said Craig. He considered letting Simon rattle on, but pulled the conversation short. “I’m going to have to leave you again. Got caught in the downpour, so I should be out of these clothes and into something hot sooner rather than later.”
“Should find clothes in the drawers. Haven’t had any guests over since your last visit.”
Craig cut the call with a stout tip of the receiver, putting it back onto the hook. He made a line for the heater, and fired it up. It was strange hearing the thing gurgle and turn when it finally got going. Nothing worth buying ran anything other than silent these days. A quick investigation turned up liquor in the cabinet, and enough food to get by for a good few weeks. Craig knew he just needed the hardline and perhaps a good sleep.
Craig poured himself a generous measure of whiskey and then took a shower, despite lying about being caught by the rain.
He toweled himself off after, and enjoyed the anonymity of picking up the hardline in just a towel. He dialed on the number, almost losing it at one point, before hearing the line tick and take the call. The voice at the other end was startled.
“Who the fuck is this?”
Craig smiled, enjoying the mans discomfort. “Any way to speak to a potential business partner?”
“I’m telling you now, identify yourself or I’ll not only termin –”
“It’s fine, Nick. It’s just Craig Welles.” Craig let the information sink into the greasy fucks mind, feeling a pinch of annoyance at his tone. “We met in the Atrium. You remember. Edward Skye for Lord Mayor?”
“Oh! Welles! Well why the hell – the connections ruined. I’m not getting any intel at all. Else I would have known.”
Craig doubted that Stiles didn’t know what a hardline felt and connected like. He was confident that this particular line was bouncing to the colonies and back. “Of course, but I’m in a little of an isolated location at the moment.”
“Not quite,” Craig remarked. He pulled the conversation about sharply. “Say, I was looking at my schedule for the next few days, and I’ve noticed a gap. How does a late lunch on Thursday sound? Name the location.”
“Oh! Delightful! I’m sure we can come up with a beneficial neutral. You mentioned a working lunch in the Atrium? Is that still what you had in mind?”
“Yes, actually. I was wondering about your experience with Richmond.”
That paused the man, Craig noticed. He knew Dogson probably dug fairly deep to get that dirt. “I know a little.”
“Good. There’s a man I want to talk to you about. Someone I think would be good for both our organizations to get on board. His names Abraham Williams.”