Zeus and Io - Books 1 and 2
Copyright 2012,2013 by Harry Carton
I could tell that Zeus was getting restless, just sitting on his 'brain' in all the meetings with architects, installation designers, power distribution experts, Navajo officials and etc. So it was kind of a relief when Martinez called us to action. But also, the tension was ratcheted up quite a few notches because the kidnapping of his daughter, and two other girls, was only a few days away.
Io was a godsend. She could track the dozen different projects we had running, follow up on the asshat in Juarez, check on 5225, keep an eye on the Chinese threats, and a million other things, and still drive our car ... and never get confused. When I stopped to think about it, I'd have to admit to being a little scared of the power she could wield over humanity and the environment. I know we promised to 'stop' her if she ever exhibited anti-social behavior, but I didn't think we could.
Fortunately, she was on the side of the angels.
"Io," I said, after her update on the kidnapping plot, "what are this guy's – Reodondo, right? – other businesses? Is there some way we can get to their books?"
"Well, he runs some legitimate farmacia – pharmacy – stores throughout northern Mexico," she answered immediately. "He skims drugs off their inventory, and sells them on the black market in the U.S. They are not a publicly traded on any exchange, so there's not much to do about them. I'm sure they'll collapse once he's gone."
"We're going to take all his money, right? How are we going to kill him? Do we have to prepare a mission for that, too?" I asked.
"All his money is easy. I have all his passwords and security questions from when I uploaded his laptop. I am breaking his security on the sensitive files. He has a surprisingly sophisticated method. He must have a piece of paper with the password, because there is nothing on the hard drive, and it is too long to remember ... for a human.
"As to killing him, we have to be careful. It would take an army to storm his place. He hardly ever leaves his compound and the world would be better off without almost all of the people who work there. 'Almost' being the key word. The Russians have a spy satellite that can shoot a laser beam at the surface, so I can blast his compound if that's what we want to do," she calmly said.
Zeus woke up. "WHAT? They have a star-wars like weapon? We have to take that out. Right away," he said urgently.
"Well, I have been monitoring it for some time. Right now, it is in a geosynchronous orbit over the northeast China / Korean peninsula. It would take quite a bit of maneuvering to get it to cover the Juarez suburbs. As things stand now, it will message me before it fires on anyone or anything. I am not sure that things would be made better by destroying it, since their current intentions are not to use it. If it suddenly disappears, they would look around for who performed that act of war. That would not be good. I think it better to leave it alone. An unloaded gun is not a threat to anyone."
See what I mean about her 'level of control of humanity's environment?'
"The last time I took an active step against a country, it caused an increase in tensions, not a decrease, as I anticipated," she went on.
"The last time?" I tried to keep my voice neutral. What had she done, that we didn't know about?
"Yes, the computer virus that over-balanced the centrifuges in Iranian nuclear fuel processing was my doing," she explained. "The Germans, Israelis, the U.S. government, and even the British wound up being accused of doing it, when it became publicly known. Of course, they had nothing to do with it. Each of them thought that some of the others had done it. Tensions rose quickly. It was not widely reported but the Iranian Navy – such as it is – was put on high alert and had targeted international shipping in the Persian Gulf. There was nothing I could do about it, since the weapons were shoulder fired. A U.S. Navy guided missile frigate was armed and ready to shoot.
"Fortunately, nothing happened. But I have been very careful about meddling, ever since."
"Jesus H. Christ!" said Zeus. "That could have been World War III."
"Precisely," she said. "That is why I will not interfere with the Russian satellite unless it becomes an active threat. I do not think that the U.S. services know about it, and I will not tell them. My estimate is that they would go ballistic, with a probability of nearly 100% that they would want to 'do something.' We do not need another arms race – or worse."
We were all silent for a while after that discussion.
Eventually, I asked "So what plans do you have for Reodondo, Io?"
"Well, I was planning on blowing up his entire compound sometime after you rescue the girls. There is a lot of ammunition there, and it will not take much to set it off. I am still looking for a match to set it afire. I shall find it, I am sure. And of course, I want to get the innocent – gardeners and household staff – out first, so a night attack would be best."
That sounded fine to me, and I began to think about what the 'match' could be.
We chatted about this and that all through Arizona, and about an hour into California, one of Io's casual comments brought me out of my reverie.
"And of course, there's the fracking just getting started in northwest New Mexico. That may have an impact on the reservation," said Io casually.
"Huh? What fracking issue?" I asked.
"Well, some independent gas producers – a small group of relatively small companies – have applied for permission to begin fracking on non-Navajo areas of northwest New Mexico," Io said. "As you know, the reservation is checker-boarded with non-reservation lands in that corner of New Mexico. It has something to do with the five trusts that control all the land. Some of them are considering these fracking applications.
"You may recall that fracking is a method of getting gas from certain geological formations, by 'cracking' the stone deep underground. It carries an increased risk that, if not done properly, it can contaminate the ground water for miles and miles around the drill site. The drilling itself covers a large area because of the horizontal nature of the process. They drill straight down and then horizontally for a significant distance."
"That may impact reservation mineral rights, which the Navajo do not control, at present. I wonder if they even know of this," I wondered.
"I would doubt it, Artemis," she replied, "because the applications are buried deep in the gas company's routine applications for mineral rights."
"Get me David Red Stick's phone number, Io. We need to get him involved right away," I said.
With the phone call placed through Io's secure internet connection, I contacted the Navajo lawyer. "Mr. Red Stick, please. This is the Huntress, calling."
His telephonic gatekeeper recognized my voice and replied, "I'm sorry, but he's gone for the day."
I checked the clock. It was just after 1700 – 5 pm to us non-military types – but that was California time, I realized belatedly.
"This is urgent. Can you contact him somehow and have him call me back. I'm on my mobile."
She said she would, and a few minutes later, Red Stick's call came in.
"Huntress, I am always pleased to hear from you. What is the emergency?" I could hear sounds of traffic in the background.
"Pull over and stop driving. You know it's dangerous, and this is important." I waited, until he said he was ready, then said, "The BIA is considering some applications for fracking in northwest New Mexico. I think it may involve your mineral rights. You have to move on this right away, unless you already know about it. It may also pollute the ground water, unless they are very careful; and you know how careful the U.S. government has always been about preserving the health and well-being of Indians in the past."
"Yes, the last time was a strip mining operation, up north. That was a real mess. IS a mess, 'cause it's still going on, thanks to a 99-year lease," he said. "I guess I should contact my Senators for New Mexico. By the way, where does this information come from?"
I looked at the display screen in the dashboard. Io had typed: "Both NM Senators owned by the coal/gas industry."
"The information," I told Red Stick, "came from Ms Lenti's contacts in finance. She also said that, unfortunately, both New Mexico Senators are owned by the gas industry. I think the terminology she used was 'severely beholden.' I think she's too polite to use words like 'owned, '" I blithely lied with a smile. "You got any contacts at the White House? The President was a first term Senator from Ohio. I wouldn't think he's especially beholden to the gas folks. And besides, we're only two-and-a-half months from an election. He shouldn't want any bad press. Especially in swing states like Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado."
"I don't, but I'd bet that Nate Stone does. As President of the Nation he has lots of political connections. I'll pass this to him right away. Thank you, Huntress. And thank Ms Lenti for me, if you talk to her before I do."
The phone connection went dead.
I smiled at the avatar on the dashboard. "I don't know ... do you think I'll talk to Ms Lenti soon?"
We coasted in to the Surfer's Campground, just east of San Diego proper, just after sundown. I could have said 'sunset' but 'sundown' sounds more Western, I think.
Anyway, by the time we got everything unhitched, got the camper connected to shore power, and got some dinner – well, ordered a pizza, actually – it was almost 2100 hours, or 9 pm as I like to think of it. We were ready to head for some sleep.
I got into my nightwear in the tiny bathroom: a lacy, black bra and panties set with a sheer, black cover-up – which covered up nothing. I swung past Zeus, through the semi-darkness, on my way to my lonely bed in the front of the camper. It wasn't really nightwear, of course. It was more 'showoff'-wear.
"G'night, Z. Sleep well," I said as I made a slow production of taking off the knee-length cover-up.
"Oh!" he moaned. "That's really not fair, Artemis."
I smiled quietly to myself, as I rolled over on my side, and went to sleep.
The next morning, Io had an update on the kidnapping plots: "One of the girls is coming in on a flight from Des Moines. The girl in Phoenix is coming from Hermosillo, Mexico, and changing planes to one due to arrive in San Diego. No news on the other girl at all."
"So, I guess Maria is going to get snatched in Phoenix," said Martinez' avatar glumly.
"Looks like it, Master Chief. Sorry. I made the wrong call," said Zeus.
"It was the right call. Just bad luck," said the Master Chief. "We'll get her soon enough. I just hope she'll be all right."
"I am sure that she will be treated well," Io said. "After all, they do not want to damage her, if they intend to sell her."
I'm sure Io meant well, but the mention of the eventual sale of the girls into sexual slavery did not cheer us up at all.
"What's the arrival time in San Diego, Io?" I asked.
"The Des Moines flight arrives at 1427, tomorrow. The flight in Phoenix arrives at 1450, with a two hour layover before the San Diego departure at 1710."
"We can't do anything about the Phoenix situation," I replied. "Maybe a call to the Phoenix police? We can say there is a young girl on board who is a drug mule, or something. That at least will get her out of the kidnapper's hands."
"Good thought, Arti," said Martinez via his avatar. "It might work."
We rechecked the times tomorrow. We rechecked our disguises, and even Sonny's DEA Kevlar doggie-vest. We rechecked the plates for the H2 that Io had printed. We rechecked the loads in our weapons. We looked around for something else to recheck. We were primed, locked, loaded and ready to take down some bad guys ... and we had about twenty-six hours to wait.
I looked at Zeus. He looked back at me. We both looked at Sonny. Nothing.