Part 11

Copyright© Geoff Wolak October, 2009 - Rev 2010

Old scores

With the media discussing the Venezuelan attempt to kill us, and the media buying our side of things, the war of words heated up. America, and a few other countries, labelled Venezuela as a terrorist state, as did a few around Central America. They worked on the basis of the evidence presented by the Cubans — of all people, coupled with that of the UN and French Army investigators in Haiti. Venezuela counter claimed, by suggesting that Jimmy had turned off the lights in Caracas and destroyed mines and oil refineries, at a time when some of their own police were blaming the FARC. Since the Venezuelans seemed to be trying to justify their attempts on Jimmy, they just made themselves appear guilty of the car bomb attacks — which they denied.

Jimmy then did an odd thing. He nagged the Cubans to meet with the Venezuelans, and for them try and sort out their relationship with their southern neighbours, for the Cubans to act as honest brokers and to mediate in this mini-crisis. The Cubans took the advice and agreed to meet the Venezuelan President and his team in Havana, the accused to bring their evidence with them, although that would again point towards their motivation to attack us.

The Venezuelan President took off in a small jet and headed north, but contact was soon lost with the plane as it headed toward Havana, wreckage discovered offshore the next day. As soon as I heard, I had images of a ship or two picketed along that stretch of the Caribbean, an EMP or two pointed upwards. When I confronted Jimmy about it he denied any involvement. The black box recorder would never be found, and that ended an episode.

The Venezuelan public suggested that either Colombia, America or Cuba had shot down the plane — an oddly matched trio of co- conspirators, the wreckage recovered so far suggesting that the plane impacted the water intact and with no signs of missile damage. Elections would now be held for a new president.

Spring neared, and the media were just crazy. Not crazy with exposing us, nor crazy about us, just plan crazy, the stories getting stranger by the day. Jimmy now unleashed the dogs of solicitors that we retained and warned the various British papers about the silly stories. In the States, we let loose the lawyers on several commentators who suggested we had been active in Venezuela, suing for substantive sums. First, our accusers would have to prove the entry and exit of the Rifles, their transport to and from the area, evidence of their involvement at the mine and refinery, then complicity in the outages in Caracas and elsewhere. Since the Venezuelan police chief was publicly voicing his opinion about the FARC and criminal gangs, those accusing us would have a hard time justifying their claims.

Our one weak link was the Colombian Government and Army, some of who knew about the insert of the Rifles. But they were not about to admit any of it.

One news group offered to settle out of court, but we were putting a large number on the settlement, aiming to make it hurt. In parallel, a group of American and European experts had concluded that an EMP weapon had been used, and would stick by it in court. Unfortunately for our accusers, the experts also agreed that they were not aware of anyone perfecting the technology — short of detonating a nuclear device in orbit, but suggested that the USAF or NASA may have developed one — and detonated it in orbit over Caracas. That did nothing for their case in the States.

We jumped on a plane and headed to New York to keep up our charm offensive, the risk of exposure seemingly firmly buried beneath a mountain of rumour - and complete nonsense. At this rate we'd never be exposed. At the airport we were met by an FBI protection team, thirty officers, most of whom were heavily armed. Hardon Chase was not about to take any more chances, not least because of Jimmy's miraculous return from the dead still attracting column inches in American papers.

In New York, we reclaimed my apartment, Cat watching the girls in the UK, and made ready for a chat show. Helen dressed up smart- sexy, looking gorgeous, and we headed around to the studio, to be filmed in front of a live TV audience. That fact made me a little nervous, since the public were all being a little weird these days. They either sent us their life savings, proclaimed Jimmy as the messiah, or wanted us dead for some reason or other best known to themselves. And that was the reserved British public. The American public were just downright crazy.

Cliff Taylor, our host, had interviewed us twice before and I felt reasonably sure that he would not ambush us. That and the fact that he knew what our American lawyers might do to him. We stepped out to a loud applause, but I could not tell if they were being polite, or genuinely liked us. The three of us eased down onto large sofa, facing the host at a bit of an angle so that audience, and the folks at home, could see us.

When the applause had eased to a quiet background crackle, Cliff said, 'Ladies and gentlemen, we have with us tonight: Jimmy Silo, Paul Holton, and Helen Holton — for those who've just arrived back on this planet. So Jimmy, what planet are you from?'

Jimmy smiled. 'I'm a big fan of Star Trek, as you may know, and I love the idea of people living aboard spaceships in ordered societies.'

'You think you could live on the Starship Enterprise?'

'I could, definitely. I've always loved travel and exploration, long journeys to new places.'

I resisted a smile.

'How many air-miles do you three clock up?'

'Too many, ' I mock complained. 'But we take the girls with us when we can.'

'Do you holiday together?'

'Not always, ' I replied. 'But there are some benefits to having Jimmy along; he watches the girls if we want to get away for a while.'

'You have a full time nanny?'

'We do, but the girls like their Uncle Jimmy, ' I explained.

'Helen, how do you cope with work and motherhood?'

'Well, the girls are ten and eight - and well behaved, so they're not usually a problem. They're in school during the day, and are quite happy to study in the evenings.'

'What are they into now?'

'They've gone off Harry Potter, they've seen the films too often. They're now both into their music studies, and even compose a few of their own simple tunes.'

'You all live on a big estate, so plenty for them to do?'

'Yes, plenty, ' Helen agreed. 'The main house has a pool and gym, a piano room, and the grounds have rivers, ponds, a paddock and a small zoo.'

'A zoo?'

'A large shed with hamsters, rabbits, and an owl.'

I cut in with, 'But the girls haven't yet figured out why their four male hamsters became eight!'

The audience laughed. The host said, 'I think maybe one was not male. So, Jimmy, I hope you don't mind, but you were shot three times. What was the story there?'

'Many years ago ... we moved into Africa, and helped to stamp-out corrupt western mining companies exploiting the Africans. To date, they've made ten or more attempts to kill us for what we did.'

'And what did you do — that they're mad about?'

'We left all the profits in Africa, and paid taxes to the Africa nations. Before us, western mining companies simply took the ore without paying for it, ignoring the poor people.'

Cliff shook his head. 'That's terrible.' He raised his head to the back screen. 'We have a picture of what your city in the jungle looked like. Before -' They displayed a strip of savannah, the volcano visible in the distance. '- and after.' They displayed Gotham City's tall apartment blocks.'

The audience collectively sighed, and said 'wow.'

'How much have you spent on that?'

'Hard to say, ' Jimmy answered.

'But everything you earn is put back into Africa, or to charity, yes?'

'Yes, ' Jimmy agreed.

'So how much — in total — have you earned and given to charity?' Cliff pressed.

'If you include all of our re-investment back into Africa over the past twenty years, then around thirty-eight billion pounds, about fifty billion dollars.'

The audience gasped.

'Fifty billion dollars? That's what you earned — and could have paid yourself?'

'Yes, ' Jimmy said with a nod.

'What's that as a percentage of total earnings?'

'Ninety-nine point five percent, ' Jimmy answered. 'I have less than thirty million in my personal account.'

'Wow. And you Paul, do you keep a little back for Helen?'

I smiled. 'I have to, I'm married.'

'Helen, what do you spend money on? Do you like jewellery? Fast cars?'

'Neither. I have my house, the girls, my work. I don't need anything else, and I certainly wouldn't spend money on lavish trinkets. We live simply.'

'Apart from the huge estate.'

Helen explained, 'Some thirty people live there, staff that work for us or with us, so it's more like living in a working hotel.'

'My office, ' I began, 'is half a mile away from my house, still inside the grounds, but full of my staff; the estate was built for them more than us. Jimmy lives in an apartment no bigger than the room I had in college.'

'I'd heard that. Jimmy, why the small apartment?'

'What else do I need? My life is not in the house, it's ... out there somewhere.'

'And the man who shot you here? Who was he working for?'

'He was working for a Belgian mining company, who the authorities there have now raided, arresting the key suspects. But he was funded by the former President of Venezuela.'

'And that's the bit I don't understand. Why was that crackpot involved?'

'He fully believed that I lowered oil prices by developing African oil fields, and avoiding joining OPEC.'

'And all us motorists really hate you for that, ' Cliff joked, the audience laughing. 'And the January Rescue Force deployment, you sold your shares in Pineapple Music to pay for that?'

'Yes, ' Jimmy answered. 'And shares in a few other businesses.'

'And paid two billion dollars to have all those rescuers on the ground?'

'Yes, an expensive deployment.'

Cliff started to clap, soon joined by the audience. 'Ladies and gentlemen, two billion dollars to help the people of Haiti.' The three of us felt awkward, at least I did. 'And now you're involved in electric cars?'

'Yes, we're keen to help with global warming and the energy crisis.'

'And these new electric cars, what's different about them?'

'You can drive for five hundred miles on a ten dollar top-up, ' Jimmy explained.

'Five hundred miles ... on a ten dollar top up? Where can I get one?'

'You can't, ' I said. 'Your oil industry is trying to stop them being imported here, and they've bribed a few senators.'

'The cars can't be bought here?'

'No, and may be banned for many years, ' I added. 'Meanwhile, the people of China and Europe are driving around for nothing. I have one on the estate, I use it to go back and forth each day. In six months I've not topped it up, and it produces no pollutants harming the environment.' I had done my political speech bit.

'In Africa, ' Jimmy began, 'we have electric buses that are free for the passengers, routes all over our region.'

'Amazing, truly amazing. Is your hospital there still full of my friends and colleagues?'

The audience laughed.

'Yes, ' Jimmy said with a smile. 'Many stars of yesteryear heading for a shot.'

'An expensive shot!'

'Yes, but it all goes to Rescue Force.'

'Talking of charity drives.' He faced the back screen again. 'Ladder 142, come in please.'

The screen came to life, revealing firemen in uniform, the former cancer patient mid-screen. He shook his bucket. 'We've had a fundraiser for Haiti, and raised twenty-five thousand dollars.'

'Thank you, Ladder 142, ' Cliff offered. 'Rick, you wanted to say something to Jimmy.'

'Jimmy, your drug saved my life in hospital, and you saved me again when you put yourself in the way of that gunmen.' His wife and daughters walked into shot, and I wanted to get up and run out. It took all of my strength to remain there, and to remain composed. Then the daughters thanked us. God, could it get any worse, I wondered. It was the longest ten seconds of my life.

With the image gone the audience again applauded, and I forced a polite smile, wanting to be somewhere where they were shooting at me.

'Jimmy, the Manson drug, is it really as good as they say? Is it the elixir of life?'

'The drug stimulates the bodies own natural release of stem cells, and those types of cells help children to grow and adults to heal. As we get older, that process slows down, the drug simply speeding it up. It simply makes use of what a baby has: that strong replacement of cells each day that's missing in us adults.'

'And it halts the ageing process?'

'I'm forty-five years old, ' Jimmy posed.

'And you look thirty, if that. And the gunshot wounds you received?'

'They healed very quickly because of the drug.'

'Do you need top-ups to this drug?'

'No, one injection in a lifetime is enough. But if you're injected late in life you don't age backwards. Best to have it when young, because you stay young.'

'I think, maybe, there'll be a few more people flying to your clinic.'

'If people wait, it will be cheaper in the future. I hope. Besides, the drug is not wise for everyone. You need to exercise a lot to keep the weight off, because an increased appetite is a side-effect; the body craves more protein to rejuvenate itself.'

'Any other side-effects?'

'You sleep less, alcohol doesn't affect you as much, cigarettes are not as addictive, but your pecker gets much bigger.' Our host, and the audience laughed. 'Just kidding. The main side effect is a concern for the sporting industry, because you become much fitter. A few athletes have taken it and got themselves banned. In fit young people it has a dramatic effect, allowing them to run all day long without tiring.'

'I read a report - I have it here - a report from the American Medical Council. It suggests that — in American alone — the drug will save four million lives this year alone.' The audience applauded. Cliff continued, 'Worldwide, the UN says that figure will be thirty million.'

When they had stopped clapping, Jimmy said, 'A lot of people have made a fuss about the affectionately titled "M" Group meetings. Well, one of the things that the leaders in that group did was to have faith in the drug, and to assist my research. Hardon Chase had faith in it shortly after coming to office, and assisted with hidden finance through Africa. Without his input, that drug may not have made it into the public domain.'

Oh dear, I thought, the Russians and Chinese would be on the phone later.

Jimmy continued, 'And the cheap equipment that your hospitals now benefit from - that comes from factories in Africa that Hardon Chase funded with US taxpayer dollars.'

'Why keep it secret?'

'Because your Congress is full of idiots with their own agenda, many of whom didn't want the projects pushed forwards. The research had to be done in secret to get around some of the Congressmen in the pockets of the drug companies. Hardon Chase invested a few billion dollars in Africa, and I deliberately misdirected that money towards the drug, the hospital equipment, and now the electric cars — and Chase knew. Hardon Chase's legacy will be a cost saving to the US taxpayer in the trillions. And at the end of the day, they're the people he works for, not big business. Whoever gets in after Chase will inherit so many cost savings he won't know what to spend the money on.'

'I'm a Democrat, ' our host admitted, 'But I would vote for Chase.'

'It's not the party that matters - it's the person. And that person needs the guts to stand up to those around him, and to big business — for the sake of the voters.'

I was starting to see where this was going, and hid my grin.

'So what's next for team Silo?' our host asked.

'We'll be busy on a new pan-African cooperation group this year, ' I said. 'And I'm trying to extend our buses to remote villages around Africa.'

'And Rescue Force?'

'Are all fast asleep, ' Jimmy said, making everyone laugh. 'They deserve a rest!'

Off air, I was pleased with the way it went, very pleased. Exposure? Fuck 'em, I thought. We just introduced the blood, and the "M" Group to the world, and made them both seen quiet innocuous. Anyone trying to reveal the "M" Group now would not be taken seriously, and the blood was out there; the websites about us had nowhere to go. We had just described the drug on global television, and justified the activities of the "M" Group. Wow!

There was a time when such revelations would have been just that; revelations. But now they were accepted facts, like microwave ovens or iPhones. I left that interview an inch taller, feeling good about life, and constantly surprised by Jimmy. How often I had doubted him in recent years.

We were escorted around to the club, and I enjoyed a relaxing evening of celebs and singers — many having been injected, no one wanting to bitch or moan at me. The club was no longer ours, it was on the Pineapple balance sheet, but our faces still fitted. I had a great evening, I felt good, and Helen had never looked better.

But in the morning, Jimmy dropped a bombshell. 'You and Helen have two years left. You're due to split then.'

I was stunned. 'Everything between us is ... fine, ' I argued.

'It takes two, and people change, ' Jimmy said with a sigh. 'And ... I know what happens. Sorry.'

I had to sit down and stare at nothing for ten minutes. When Helen suggested shopping, something she knew I hated, I agreed for a change. I took my wife shopping, angry at the world in general and Jimmy in particular, but trying to be as nice as I could to my wife. I even splashed out on a little jewellery for her, despite what we had claimed the night before.

Back at the apartment, I found Jimmy scanning the American papers. 'Got a minute? Or ten.'

He lowered his paper. 'Let's take a walk.' I led Jimmy out, telling Helen we'd be back in fifteen minutes. In the building's large and plush foyer, I directed Jimmy to a seat, asking the security detail to give us some space. So far, Jimmy had not commented. 'Things between us ... are fine.' I meant between Helen and me, and keenly waited a reply.

Jimmy took in the ornate ceiling cornice. 'They say ... that our personalities are formed by age sixteen, and that our childhood scars us for life. It ... forms deep groves, and establishes what we like and don't like. Those likes and dislikes are masked in middle age, and come back later; we return to our roots. The boy who liked to play toy soldiers likes to read military books when he retires.

'Helen ... was not a happy child, which is why she took up the odd career that she did, and that just made her even more unhappy, more ... angry with the world. When you provided her with a home and a family you distracted her from that foundation, you papered over the cracks and turned her head away from the mirror. And, since then, she has found genuine happiness, and you've done a good job as husband and father. The problem ... is that as the years go by she'll start to slip back toward her real self. And that real self is not so attractive.'

I sat listening, but not commenting.

Jimmy continued, 'You may feel - you may argue, that the past eleven years have changed her, changed her for the better, and you'd be right — it has. But you're on borrowed time, because as soon as the girls become more independent - and it's just the two of you - she'll slip back towards being the person she was, the one angry with the world. And, unfortunately, being a virtual prisoner in the estate hasn't helped. People shooting at us hasn't helped either.

'She deeply loves her family life, yet deeply resents the fact that she's caught up in all this. Fact is, it could not have happened any other way. If she hadn't come to spy on us, then you wouldn't have married her. And if you'd not married her, then you wouldn't have two beautiful daughters, and you would not have had the stability that I needed for you to develop. Raising the kids, and being married, has given a few extra elements to your personality that are necessary for later, for when I'm not here.

'When I say not here, I don't mean getting myself killed. If things work out OK in 2025, or the preparations are as good as I'd like them, then I'll be ... returning to where I came from. After that, or even before, you will — in an ideal world - take a larger role. So whether I'm shot or not, you'll be running your own show at some point. And what you're doing in Africa at the moment is great training for a wider political role. So, it needed to happen this way, because I could never see an alternative. And Shelly has a role to play, something of a paradox.

'I hate to admit it, but your marriage and your family life has been one very big training exercise for you, an important part of the plan towards fixing 2025. And that objective ... is one for which I would sacrifice anyone, or any thing.'

I stared at my shoes. 'Could you fix it? Me and Helen?'

Jimmy sighed. 'I could help to prolong it for the sake of the girls.'

'And when the time comes?'

'You'd move into your old apartment, and still spend lots of time with the girls, so don't worry about that. She's not about to jump the fence, and you'd still work together.'

'That ... seems a bit odd from this angle. I mean ... if we break up, it'll be for a reason. To then work together?'

'You'll understand more at the time. And, I'll do what I can to keep you together. But let me ask a simple question: do you still have sex every night?'

I considered my answer. 'Well, no.'

'There'll come a time when you're happy to have her there - in bed with you, but just can't turn over and do what you used to. For some couples that's not a problem. Anyway, you have a few years, so make the most of it.'

We took the lift back up.

I hardly slept that night, and the next morning we flew down to Washington aboard a private jet, Hardon Chase more than keen to see us.

In the Oval Office, Chase pointed at a trolley. 'We got tea and beer, so you Brit's can't whinge.'

'Took long enough, ' I quipped. I made the teas for Helen, Jimmy and myself, asking the Chief of Staff if he wanted one.

'So, ' Chase began. 'You're working hard at raising my approval ratings. They're the highest ratings since Reagan sat down with the Russians, by the way.'

'We do what we can, ' Jimmy responded.

'Cut the crap, Jimmy. What are you up to?'

'You need to beat up the banks more. So now you have a bigger stick to hit them with.'

'I thought we were more or less on top of them?' Chase puzzled.

'Not where we should be, and the mortgage market is heating up; too many applications are being passed, and quite fraudulently. Kindly jump on it, or my next speech will take twenty points off your ratings.'

'I'll order an investigation, and tightening. Again, ' Chase sighed.

'And spend some money on low cost units, ' Jimmy encouraged. 'I'm going to build more houses - here and in the UK - to assist, but they take time.'

'What are we aiming at?' Chase asked.

'Prices are rising by twenty-two percent, but we need fifteen percent to stop future problems. You don't need to raise rates, just enforce the mortgage regulations. Make an example of a few people before I do.'

'And the cooperating banks?' Chase nudged.

'Four are on board, the others in the spotlight, and there's no imminent danger, ' Jimmy reported. 'But you only need a small correction in house prices to have them hurting.'

Chase eased back in his chair. 'There are a lot of folks not happy about you helping those four banks. Especially overseas.'

'Well, if you did your job properly then I won't have to, ' Jimmy curtly pointed out. 'Why not split off the retail banks from the investment arms?'

'This is a Republican Administration, Jimmy; non-interference, market forces, etc.'

'Then I'll interfere when necessary, and you'll bail out BNK. That means nationalisation, which should be abhorrent to a Republican Administration. And then you'll have people telling you that capitalism — and the free market economy - doesn't work.'

'We're keeping an eye on them, and they know it, ' Chase offered.

'You're due to give a speech in New York soon, so kick them hard, ' Jimmy firmly encouraged.

'I could get Shelly to kick them in the shins, ' I offered.

'How is she?' Chase asked. 'Haven't seen her for a while.'

'Growing rapidly, ' I said. 'She does a lot more with her time than I did at that age; I hung around on street corners getting into trouble. Our girls play musical instruments, ride ponies, use the computer - they never seem to have any free time.'

'It's a different world, ' Chase noted. 'So, when will that new pan- African parliament building be ready?'

'Six months or less, ' I replied. 'We're building quickly, and it's a simple enough design.'

'Shelly's design, ' Helen put in.

'Yes?' Chase queried.

'She drew a building and Jimmy approved it, ' I explained. 'Although Shelly's drawing did have kangaroos and penguins in the grounds.'

'We conducted a survey after your TV interview, ' Chase informed us. 'And most people accept the drug and the "M" Group, and don't see anything sinister in either. Anyone trying to expose the inner workings would hardly make the papers.'

'A carefully crafted lie, ' Jimmy agreed.

'You think exposure is still a possibility?' Chase asked.

Jimmy said, 'I've muddied the waters a great deal, so unless a senior official goes public we should be OK for a few years more.'

That seemed to attract Helen's interest; I could see the look on her face out of the corner of my eye.

Chase got back to Africa. 'So what do you see this new parliament doing?'

I answered, 'More of the same, just more organised. We'll advertise for ministerial level jobs, and let the national leaders vote on the candidates. We'll start with a Tourism Minister, an Agriculture Minister, and a Minister for Cooperation.'

'And a Minister for the Rifles, ' Jimmy added. 'Then a Minister for Refugees, plus one for innovation and technology. After that it'll grow into a full cabinet, with sought after well-paid jobs.'

'And the final goal?' Chase nudged.

'It'll have teeth, and influence, ' Jimmy stated. 'Block buying power, block military power, and block economic power.'

'The way the DRC is going, it'll join the G20 group of nations in ten years, ' Chase pointed out. 'And the combined co-operation group could do that sooner.'

'It's cash rich, but needs sustainable industries, ' Jimmy pointed out. 'Problem is, it's too far behind the rest of the world to ever be the next Taiwan. So oil and ore will always dominate, but I'll develop the internal markets as much as I can.'

'And by 2025?' Chase asked.

'Africa should be a hell of a counter-force to the Brotherhood. Instead of the Brotherhood moving south and capturing land, we'll move north and take it from them. Overall, the region is a good six years ahead of where I thought it would be, and Paul is doing a great job of maximising the growth. He keeps them busy.'

'We'll release our own super-drug in a month, ' Chase informed us.

'Which version?' I asked.

'The Chinese model. We've struck a deal with a pharmaceutical company here, and the inner methods will be kept secret. They've found a way to mass-produce it, they've even done a better job of it than the Chinese.'

'Your pharmaceutical companies way ahead of them, ' Jimmy pointed out. 'But don't forget the agreement: don't sell in Asia or Africa.'

'We'll sell it here for now, and take a very big chunk out of the health bill. I'm planning a new round of tax cuts.'

'Why not save some for a rainy day?' I asked.

'Well, that as well, ' Chase reluctantly agreed.

'That would be a better use of the money, ' Jimmy firmly nudged. 'If the countries out there held fewer dollars, it'll help in the future.'

'I'll look at it, ' Chase offered, but I had to wonder what was really going through his mind. My mind was elsewhere as well.

Back in New York, we met those bank bosses that we were friendly with, and plotted a major scam, one that would hurt BNK. Jimmy did not give them all of the details, he simply suggested that there would be a currency squeeze, and for them to buy and sell when he indicated. In the meantime, he asked them to reduce their holdings of Euros.

A Greek tragedy

A month after meeting with President Chase, Jimmy said it was time to bust up BNK and a few others. But the timing was out of Jimmy's hands; that involved others. Those others got a nudge, and finally sat down for a chat. At the end of the chat they left Jimmy to execute the plan, but were not happy with it - and would never admit to it.

The next day, the French and Germans were reported to be unhappy with Greek debt, rumours of the Greeks misleading the European Union. Someone Stateside then released a few very accurate figures, suggesting that Greece, as well as Portugal and Spain — the Club Med countries — were all in trouble. The Euro took a dip. It was not a massive dip, but nonetheless a dip against the dollar. I observed it in my old apartment, waiting ready behind three Forex screens.

BNK were involved in the rumours and the subsequent squeeze according to Jimmy, the bank colluding with a few of their hedge fund buddies. Fact was, Greece was genuinely stretched, but not by as much as they would have been without Jimmy having interfered in the markets years earlier. BNK ran a trading arm, like most banks, and that trading arm had decided that anyone betting the upside of the Euro-Dollar trade was onto a losing bet. Under normal circumstances, they would have been correct.

On the second day the Euro slid further, with additional unconfirmed reports leaked. I waited patiently and observed, checking my watch. The Greek bourse had fallen, but I had bet the downside heavily through BNK themselves two days ago. I now reversed strongly, which must have been a surprise to the computer at their end, no humans involved in these automated trades. I then made the computer's day by heavily betting the Euro to rise against the dollar. A human trader may have questioned my sanity, and possibly figured that something was amiss. Either that or they'd rub their hands at the idiot wasting his money.

I now had a billion dollars bet on the upside through various accounts, and through several Swiss exchanges I bought Euros with our stronger Dollars, most of which were Hardon Chase's investment dollars for Africa. It was a bit cheeky. It was also a risk, but not as great a risk as that inherent with options or stocks, the movement between the currencies always being small.

The French, German and Greek Governments then released a joint statement, suggesting that a minor liquidity and debt blip had been dealt with, and followed up with a report that Greece had just taken receipt of a twenty billion dollar loan from China, a ten billion dollar loan from Russia, and further twenty billion Euros from France and Germany. They made it clear that there was no problem at the Greek amphitheatre. The tragedy would be played out, but just by the actors.

The Euro rallied against the dollar, BNK and others scrambling to get out of their positions, and stunned by the news. I was joined in my old apartment by New Dave, Israeli banks having been involved in today's action. We had reversed our trades on the Greek bourse, and were now making a killing off BNK's trading arm, the foolish traders not placing the bets in the open market. They had been tipped about a Greek/Euro fall, and so assumed the up-bets to be folly. As for my Forex futures trades, BNK had no choice but to wait, and to see me take their money. By close of play I, and others in on the deal, had taken six billion dollars off BNK and their co-conspirators, a bad day on the markets.

And my two billion dollar profit? I bought six thousand electric cars and four hundred electric buses, asking for them to be shipped to Athens, the Greek Government already expecting them. In addition to that, six of our oil tankers were dispatched to Greece, the oil a gift that would be kept secret. My medical factories switched delivery to Greece, enough supplies of medical durables to keep them going for five years. And China delivered vials of the super-drug, to lower Greek medical bills further.

We had done as much as we could for now, the finances of Greece nowhere near a crisis. The behind-scenes-crisis with Greece's European partners, the ones it had lied to with the help of BNK, would rumble on.

The news of the currency squeeze hit two days later, a rumour that BNK was in trouble. They had made a bet, a strong one-way bet against the Euro, and now their trading account had a deep hole in it, a year's profit wiped out. Chase called. BNK had borrowed from the New York Fed, short-term loans, but not a great rate. Jimmy leaked the full details of BNK's woes to the financial media and, given the remarkably risky nature of their one-way trade, Ritter was replaced. What could have been a Greek tragedy had been dealt with using everything at our disposal, and in a coordinated ballet.

Unit 402

The President of Senegal was not a popular chap, not with his own people, nor Jimmy. Unit 402 were sent in, the timing critical.

The President of this poor West African nation had spent a great deal of money on a large statue perched atop a small hill, something to rally and inspire the population. That population was struggling to make a living, and they displayed no appreciation for communist- style edifices. A day after the huge statue had been completed, it was blown to pieces, so much explosive used that bits of it travelled half a mile. The President was not a happy bunny. He blamed all sorts of dissident groups, and his police cracked down, the usual suspects rounded up, the crackdown widely reported in the African Times.

Turns out, the old boy objected to his harsh treatment in the African Times, and called Kimballa a few names, saying that it was his doing. Well, that was just rude. Unit 402, still in Senegal, made a few additions to the President's official car. The following morning, as the Presidential convoy left the President's private residence and journeyed towards parliament, his car blew up.

The people of Senegal rejoiced in the streets, and Kimballa made a few rude comments of his own, not at all concerned that he was a suspect. Unit 402 withdrew from Senegal, no evidence left behind.

It was, technically, the first African leader that Jimmy had directly assassinated, and openly admitted to in our circles. And these days I didn't care. My mind was still on Helen, and I was angry at the world. I understood Jimmy's motivation, and I'd not go back in time and swap the my girls for anything, but I was mad at him anyway. I was also now mad that he had informed me; it may have been better not to know. At least these next few years would have been lived through with a sense of optimism, not pessimism.

That evening, I went around the main house, ready to have another go at Jimmy, and there had been a few of those in recent weeks. I found him in a lounge, watching TV with Han.

'Can I have Jimmy for a while?' I asked Han.

Our polite Chinese houseguest stood and bowed, withdrawing.

'Still mad?' Jimmy asked, focused on the TV.

'There must have been a reason you told me, instead of just letting me ... well, let it happen.'

Jimmy took a moment. 'In Vietnam, when the young soldiers arrived there, they were afraid - yet youthfully optimistic. But then they mixed with the soldiers who had already been there for a while, soldiers who had become disillusioned. The optimism went, and the fear grew, growing into terror. When their friends were killed, that terror was focused. But, as time went on, that fear became a resentment ... of fear itself, and slowly evolved into anger towards the enemy. They then wanted to go out and kill those that had frightened them, and eventually did so, becoming better soldiers. But that anger was also directed toward the indigenous population, hence the shooting of civilians.

'Then, once the soldiers returned home, they went through a difficult adjustment, many suffering post traumatic stress disorder. And, finally, years later, some old men went back to Vietnam for a holiday, walked the same fields as they did in their youth and met Vietnamese veteran soldiers, coming to peace with what had happened, and how they felt about it.

'You see, having experienced a wide range of emotions, you can look back in later years and rationalise them, and you can recognise them in others, and in yourself.' He finally faced me. 'The more time you spend thinking about it, the more you'll get back to Vietnam for a holiday. It would have been easier for those old veterans to deal with the war in their youth if they had the benefit of foresight at the time. For most people, it's very difficult to look forwards a few years, then to look back and judge yourself on live events, or events just about to happen. We have to go through them to understand them.

'Right now, you're going through the break-up in your mind, a better place to do it than here in this house, shouting and screaming, moping around, and being a great big pain in the arse when I need you at your desk. So this is a dry run, a dry run that'll help a great deal when the real thing happens. So, think ... till you're at peace with it.'

I heaved a sigh and walked home. Thinking.


Angola shared a long border with the DRC, and hosted the dated Unita rebel group, a group that Jimmy had oddly avoided up to now; he had always insisted that the time had to be right. They had not crossed the border or caused us any problems, rightly terrified of the Congolese Rifles.

So I was interested when, one fine Monday morning, Ngomo turned up with two officers. We put him in one of the palatial rooms, but he complained straight away, wanting a smaller room. We gave him an apartment. Hell, he would have been happy sleeping on the floor. In the basement, we huddled around a map of Angola, numerous coloured annotations already marking planned deployments.

'Unita rebels have crossed the border, ' Ngomo reported.

'Daft of them, ' I quipped.

'Yes, so now we must act, ' Ngomo insisted. 'I have spoken to President Kimballa and he has assigned me the task.'

'You mean Jimmy gave you the task, ' I corrected him.

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