“Welcome, my old friend,” Caroline stood up from her sunbed by the blue sea, and she welcomed cordially her old collaborator, but never a lover, Rudolph.
Once, they both were top executives of The Corporation, bringing a questionable gift to the mankind: The Device, they were the ones who kept their fingers on the flow of human history at one moment, a highly addictive feeling indeed.
But it was clear that this bold tale they manufactured, packed into a pile of lies, manipulation and propaganda, can’t end well, and after many people died and position of both executives was impossible to hold on, it was the right time to end, to leave the scene, fortunately unharmed and alive, and to escape here, to the Caribbean, meeting only occasionally.
No, it was not the same between her and him, like before. He blamed her, that it all went too far, that they risked too much, so they lost everything in the end, and he missed the world of top management so much, that stress and pressure, instant action, wearing glamorous suits which fit your trained body perfectly, when you never know what happens in the next minute, you solve all that demanding professional challenges, you feel so young, strong and alive… but now?
Where did she get him, her wrong decisions? Into a paradise where the biggest news was incoming rain season! This was not a life Rudolph wanted, but it was the only part of life that remained to him.
An unwritten deal was made between the Czech state and them in the past: to avoid prosecution for their many sins against valid law, they both had to leave the country once and forever, never to participate in the international business again. She accepted it, she seemed indifferent; but for him, it was harder, much harder. He had those thoughts every day… to go to Hong Kong, to start again, some new big project, private equity maybe, to be there again, inside the action, when he is still young and strong, to have a real life again…
“Long time, no see,” Caroline said to him with small regret. She knew, what he felt, but what could she do? They talked about it several times, and she always concluded the discussion only with something like ‘just wait, everything will be resolved, you will see’, but months passed and nothing changed.
“I have some news,” Rudolph replied, and for a moment, he felt like in the old times. Just for a second, but it was enough, to start breathing again.
“Let’s have a drink at first,” Caroline said, and she moved behind the desk of a small beach bar she managed.
In his eyes, it was so ridiculous! Once a top female manager worldwide, who literally changed the world, and now you could see, how she opens coconuts with a knife, preparing drinks for the rich tourists, who leave a dollar or two of tips for her! And she smiled, like a poor woman, who appreciates such small favors!
But she still seemed satisfied, only him was the man who complicated their early retirement into alleged paradise.
No, they never became lovers, as she once promised him, when things got really hot, but he knew, that she just needs him to stick together, not to fall apart too early. Later, after all what happened back home, when they came here, there was a wall erected between them already, no tropical paradise dream became reality. He slept with local women, and she? Who knew? Rudolph definitely not.
He sat on a bar chair, like an anonymous beach guest, watching her silently. She was dressed only in a tiny bikini swimsuit, still beautiful, tanned, her body was impressive, she was in great shape, she swam every morning and every evening in the sea, smiling at her customers, who asked her occasionally, whether she knows Caroline Rubesova, a Woman of The Year, because she reminds her so much… then Caroline always smiled, replying, that if she would be such a woman, she wouldn’t work here… only a likeness, a coincidence, nothing else, and they believed her, she never lost anything from her perfect ability to persuade people…
“A man visited me,” Rudolph started talking. “You know him. He asked us for a help. He asks for a mission.”
That word, ‘mission’, it was a code name for activating The Device for, let’s say, not so perfectly good, official and allowed purposes, for the kind of tasks that wouldn’t be liked by a state court, or a Parliamentary investigating comission.
“Naturally, you told him, that we are sorry, the shop is closed forever, but we can serve a great Pina Colada here instead,” Caroline replied without being interrupted, arranging the tropical fruit into their drinks, whereas the sun was shining on the white beach around, and the sea was so blue. It was beautiful, but not for Rudolph, not anymore.
“I did, but he allegedly has some sensitive information that could be very interesting for the state security services, I mean, in our old country, not here, where the cops can be bribed just with coconuts,” Rudolph explained. “It is allegedly related with that dead young woman they found inside The Facility, that journalist, what was her name? Catherine, I think.”
Caroline stopped slicing a mango, just for a split of a second.
“The man declares,” Rudolf continued, “that he has an evidence, that we delivered a fake body at the site, after the incident. That the woman in fact disappeared, she was not killed during the incident, as we officially claimed later, and thus we should confess to the world, where she is now in reality, as many people would be very interested in this information, and other entities would not be pleased, that we covered a disappearance of a Czech citizen, who was proclaimed dead, her family is mourning, whereas in reality, she is possibly alive. The press would simply love this sexy tale, he says, and a prosecutor would definitely find a very nice corresponding paragraph in the Penal Code for this kind of our sins against valid law,” Rudolph was talking in riddles, but Caroline knew exactly, what is going on. She was the only witness of all what happened there, during that ‘incident’. It was her who suggested to create this lie, but she never explained the reason to Rudolph.
“Anyway, he offers a trade: he will forget and bury this information, if we will allow him for a mission. He wants to save his former girlfriend, a fashion model, who disappeared in 1996 from Charles bridge, or what,” Rudolph remembered the message, not noticing, that Caroline now watches him with suspicion.
“Rudolph, I know, that you hate it here, the passivity, the coconuts, apes on the trees, a dumb bar. But this is not an amusing way, how to create some action, believe me! I would never suspect you, that you gave him this information, to get out of here, but still, let me tell you: I don’t consider this as a reasonable idea.
Where would he get the info, anyway? The site was cleared, bodies burned, all evidence disappeared, with full cooperation of the state, as they also didn’t desire to make an affair from the incident, they wanted to finish the tale finally, to bury all that mess forever, to have a clean table.
And now, after so many months, you want to tell me, that some man simply occured, he fell from the Moon maybe, with his head full of very sensitive information that only WE TWO had, and he knew, where to find us, and he came here, for a small vacation, and to make some business deal to save his lost girlfriend, who disappeared 20 years ago?” Caroline pushed the knife in her hand harder, and Rudolph noticed it.
“I can see that all former trust between us is long gone,” Rudolph sighed in disappointment, which quickly changed into anger. “Just listen to yourself, how you are talking to me! I am just telling you what just happened, so we can contain the situation somehow! But remain assured, that you will be the one who will make the decision, as only you, you fucking bitch, who lied to me since the beginning of this shit, only you know what really happened back there, in that fucking bunker that brought us only a curse in the end!
It was you, who made me an accomplice… and now your sins, or our sins, as a lawyer would say, are floating to the surface, with risk of being uncovered by some rat! So, what will you do? Not what we will do, as I am just a passenger! You decide, like always! I was so fucking dumb to go with you on this damned route into fucking hell, full of lies and dead innocent people!
You said, ‘collateral damage belongs to business’, when thousands of people died, because of our small invention. You said, ‘all will be resolved’, when I called my friend from a hospital to deliver a body of a young female as soon as possible, to create another lie. You said, ‘it’s only temporary, honey’, when I came into this alleged paradise, so much time passed, and I am still here, no private plane came to extract me, to return me, where I belong. And in the end?
You just said, that I am a liar, that I made this tale up to extort you, so you will pay me in coconuts, because it’s all you have now, you miserable bitch… I don’t fucking believe my own ears! You forget that you are the one who was always lying? To people, to public, to our employees, to me? To your husband? To everybody?” Rudolph stood up, and swept away all the fruit from the bar desk, in anger.
Caroline watched him with sharp, attentive eyes, slowly putting the knife down. “How can the man guarantee us, that a granted mission will be sufficient for him? You know, how the extortion works: they always return, asking for more.”
“I just delivered a message,” Rudolph sighed, tired after that explosion of anger. “You know him better, than me: it’s that man from ‘Wu’ corporation, who once approached us already, offering a joint business, but you declined, ‘to keep all treasures under our control’, as you said.”
“Hmmm, it means Chinese,” Caroline thought loudly. “He could be only their messenger. I wondered, how could he personally get to such explosive data? Not himself, they could supply him the information, and they send him to us, as their covert messenger, to get their hands on The Device, then asking for more and more, as they can possess much more information against us, than they revealed yet, some forgotten secret files from the archives of The Corporation, for example, a very filthy ones, some nasty incriminating surveillance tapes or records, or pure fabrications against us, false witnesses and evidence, who knows… and through time, we will be lost, we will have to give them everything, what they always wanted, although they pretended, that they are not interested, you know those people. And also, we don’t know, whether the lost woman was his girlfriend, or not. It’s all his claims, and possibly lies.”
Rudolph couldn’t resist to smile loudly. “You forget one small detail: We don’t have the access to The Device anymore! We are on this fucking island at the opposite part of the world, counting crumpled dollar banknotes in your cash register, we have to use a pay phone in a nearby village, to order supplies for the bar, as there is no cell signal here!
Or is there a secret bunker with a time displacement machine here, on the beach, that my eyes missed? And hey, this makes me wonder: how can he think, that we can still arrange a mission for him? Caroline, isn’t it a good time, to tell me some nice tale?”
“You are so good friend, Rudolph,” the woman leaned over the bar desk, to embrace him. “A nice tale for the beloved, for good sleep, is a good deed, rewarded by the God, so let me tell you one!”
“Now I understand, why I stayed with you so long: you are so cute, once in a hundred years,” he smiled, now totally disarmed, succumbing to her charm and wit again.
“Now you finally see, how beatiful it’s here, we have enough time to narrate nice old tales, no one disturbs us, as the tourists will come at the evening…” she pursed her full lips, and she looked like a girl, for a precious moment. “But let me ask you one question at first: when we arrived at the site, did you know, who the culprit was? Who was behind that infamous security incident?”
“To be honest, I rather concentrated on consequences, I was not too interested, who was it exactly. What would it changed, to know? it was simply somebody. But then I suspected that woman, a mother of two,” the man confessed.
“You were always anti-woman a little bit, and now you finally admitted it,” Caroline sighed, pretending to be serious. “But I was at 99% sure immediately, that I know the person, just checking their personal files on our way to the site. That was the reason I asked you later to… help me.”
“Wait, there was five of them: Catherine, the journalist, who ‘disappeared’, let’s say. Next, a too young boy from a Grammar school, an old weak grandpa, and a mother of two. Who of them would be able to eliminate four perfectly trained, armed members of the Military Police, which escorted them, if the visitors were thoroughly inspected for any arms before entering inside The Facility, and there were yet two guides present, both with security training and specialized anti-terrorist courses?
I placed my bet on that young mother, with all respect. She could have such capabilities, a Special Forces training, as our poor lost Denise had, and no one would suspect her in advance.
I still wonder, how could anybody manage it: you saw the fresh bodies before all manipulation and deliberate mutilation, and you never revealed the details, so I estimate, that some different means than normal firearms, melee weapons or explosives was used? Something more… advanced?”
“It had to be, without any doubt,” Caroline approved this theory. “After all, you remember, that this person was somehow able to disable the hydrogen fuse reactors on the whole Third floor, to entry ‘a fortress inside a fortress’, as we called it, fully sealed against any unauthorized access, in a matter of minutes, and still: our sensors reported no internal explosion, or a defence software failure, or a cyber attack. It was quite a riddle to me, and let me tell you, a very scary mystery.
I confess to you, my dear Rudolph: I was scared as never in my life, before I went inside, leaving your male protection, and even today, I sometimes wake up from a dream in fear and terror, when I go through a dark, long, deserted and silent corridor of that cursed bunker again, I can hear only heels of my own shoes and my own heart beat, otherwise there is a grave silence that tears me apart, and I feel something unnatural and scary around me, all that lost souls of many people who died there, exactly in those corridors, look, he fell right here, near that pile of rubble, a young soldier, his pregnant girl was waiting for him at home patiently, but he will never return to her, and that soldier fell there, who had a dream of becoming a highly decorated war hero, to be somebody, but he never will, his tale is over, his mother will receive just a state letter of thanks for his sacrifice, and it was me who killed both of them and many others in certain sense, who issued their death sentences, and now that wraiths recognize me, they know me well, they know and remember my voice, it was the last thing they ever heard before that explosion after the self-destruction sequence, because it was me, who recorded that voice tapes for use during Procedure Beige, I haven’t really expected that they will be ever used, so I did it just for fun, I even laughed during recording them, pretending to be very serious and maternal and calming, but in the end, yes, it happened, and people really heard them, the final message, before the end came and they knew it, I talked to them, I soothed them falsely, being far away from death which was approaching them, they only heard my voice, I was not there with them, to share their fate, and they hated me in that last thirty seconds before the charges went off, rightfully, and now, all that lost souls of former lives are here, around me, asking for a revenge, that angry souls, imprisoned down in the dark underground tomb forever, never to see the bright sunshine again, and here I come, to pay for my countless sins, the court is gathered… I am so alone and fragile, a weak woman, I realize it so strongly, but too late, I feel that I will die soon, as this power is strong enough to suppress all trained resistance or weapons, and I am just an unarmed manager, not a soldier, I have no chance, but I am yet so crazy to continue going further, just to find what happened there, although to pay the ultimate price for this knowledge, but to die KNOWING, you understand?
But let’s start from the beginning, Rudolph.”
Continuation: Inside The Facility: Stronger Than Us