A few hours later, I found myself on a call with him. Isaac sat in his home office. I sat in my lab. I’d used backchannels to let him know I had something big and he’d called me from his secure system—the one so secure that even his superiors wouldn’t be aware of it because they might have been compromised.
I’d given him access to the video I’d made. He’d finished watching and shook his head. “That’s bad. I’ve seen worse, but that’s pretty bad. Higher Ground is blackmailing their own employees into getting their DNA modified by alien artifacts. Then they’re using them to steal an unknown piece of data from Hardwick Industries. It seems to be organized by their research director who might have connections to the Nine.”
Stopping, he took a breath. “Do you have more? It’s not that this isn’t great, but let me tell you what we still don’t know. We don’t have definitive proof that the Nine are involved. We just have two people guessing and we don’t have any reason to believe they’re right. I’m not saying they’re wrong, but we don’t have anything solid.”
Thinking about the hours of recordings we’d probably made, it struck me that we didn’t yet have a process for getting them listened to yet. Hal, our AI, had agreed in principle to go through them and so had Tara, but we hadn’t handed them off to anybody.
We’d only been listening in for a few days, so we probably didn’t have much.
I met Lim’s eyes. “We don’t yet. We’ve got recordings, but no one’s gone through them. Anyway… I’m a little surprised that you aren’t telling me to shut everything down and get out. They’re changing normal people’s DNA with alien tech and the people are saying that they have urges to kill and eat people. That’s pretty far out there.”
Lim nodded. “I get it. There’s no denying those are both big problems and we could go after them for that—Higher Ground would lose their grant to study the artifacts they don’t own and the ones they do could be seized. Beyond the artifacts, Ryan might go on trial for blackmail and if Art and Zola don’t murder people in the meantime, we might be able to make it stick. The problem is that the big fish here, by which I mean the Nine, will completely disappear and we’ll be right back to the beginning there.”
I slumped on my stool, watching him as he nodded.
“I get it, Nick. Investigations are tough and investigations are slow and believe me, this is easy work by comparison to what we’ve had to do with organized crime. We’ve had to work with geeks hired by a mob boss to handle their computer systems. Except those geeks were nothing more than geeks. You’ve had years of training in the same techniques our agents use for deep cover—except in your case it’s called a secret identity. Plus, you can handle yourself in a fight, you’ve got contacts with talents no one’s going to expect, and if everything goes to Hell, you can call in the kind of cavalry that gives people nightmares.”
He smiled at me. “This is going well. It’s not perfect. I’d be lying if I said I’m not worried that Art and Zola might become serial killers or maybe murder Ryan, but you just got evidence we couldn’t get before now and you’re in a position to get more. Start processing your recordings and we might actually be able to end this thing.”
Then he met my eyes. “As much as I want to get as much as I can out of you being in there, I don’t want you to get killed. The good news is that being a friend of Vaughn’s makes that less likely. They know someone will miss you and that that someone’s connected with the major source that funds their research. If at any time, you think that it’s become too dangerous for you, tell me and we’ll decide if you need to pull out. How are you feeling right now?”
I didn’t say anything, considering it. “Well, I’m okay. I know that Zola is suspicious of me, but I think I might be able to give her the impression that I’m attracted to her. She’s got the same powers Haley does, but I’m pretty sure she isn’t as good at using them. Haley might be able to help.”
Lim nodded. “Good. Keep me updated on that. If you need to get out, we can do things like lower your security clearance or revoke it, giving you an easy exit.”
Then he frowned. “One more thing. Document their security practices. I’m not impressed with what I’ve heard so far, but that’s good. One anonymous complaint and we can swarm that place with agents. I know exactly who will make it. You won’t even be connected.”
Staring at the screen, I said, “You’ve got someone else in there?”
Lim grinned. “Yes, but don’t go looking for them, okay? They don’t have your access, but they are in a position to help or distract if they need to.”