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CHAPTER SIXTEEN – “I DO NEED MORE TEA!”
Lunch was very enjoyable and the food was of an excellent quality in both substance and presentation. During the time that the four of them spent eating, the Commander asked a number of questions designed – as he put it – to allow him to get to know the lads and the Celts clan a little better.
“Whilst I don’t mind admitting to you both that we have excellent and extensive intelligence reports on your clan and others.” The Commander told them. “They don’t always show the true personality of a clan.”
Grateful for the Commander’s candour and figuring that art least by their sharing they would get to give an honest and more personal perspective on the clan, Liam and Sully tried to explain how the clan was as much about the camaraderie and banter as it was about the actual battles fought.
“Speaking of battles fought,” the Commander told them as he placed his napkin on the table next to his now empty plate, before standing up, “I promised you lads an explanation. Let’s return to our meeting. We can have tea or coffee there in order to save time.”
And with that the Commander led the lads back to his office and the anteroom they had spent the morning in.
On the walk back the Commander had deliberately walked alongside Sully so that he could quietly and discretely approach him about his comments concerning the possibility of their having to have their memory of this whole event wiped.
“The mind is a very delicate thing.” Sully explained in response to the Commander commenting to him that he was acutely aware that this possibility had understandably annoyed Sully. “Trust me, if anyone knows that I do.”
“I am very much aware the struggles.” The Commander agreed. “And I want you to know that it is not a decision that was taken likely nor is it something that I want to have to happen. I really do hope with all I have that you lads will agree to help us.”
“Commonly, drugs for removing memory of an event are given before or during an event, so what have you given us?” Sully asked. “It can’t be Rohypnol because we are too aware of what’s going on.”
“I can assure you that we haven’t given you anything.” The Commander told him. “Yes, as I have freely and openly admitted, there is a possibility – again not one that I want us to have to resort to – that we will need to remove your memory of your time here, and in fact of having been picked up by the PSNI. But if that has to happen – which I hope it won’t it will be done just before you leave. And I can assure you that our methods are far less dangerous and much more effective than resorting to date rape drugs and the such. And I hope that having met me.” The Commander continued. “You will know that to be true.”
And in fact the truth was that Sully did trust him and did believe the Commanders assurances to be true.
What Sully, what the two lads, did not know however, was that the morning had been as much about the Commander meeting and getting to know them, as it was anything else. By meeting them he had hoped that he could confidently assess how much involvement, if any, they would have. And thus how much information, if any, he wanted to share with them.
And in truth the result of that assessment so far was that the Commander really liked the lads. And in some ways he even envied them and the fact that they had such a friendly and casual bond with their clan mates.
The position of authority that he had been placed in, coupled with the sheer number of personnel under his command, meant that it was nearly impossible for him to have such relationships.
Back in the anteroom, the Commander instructed Veles to secure the room and once everyone had all gotten fresh cups of tea or coffee, he settled back down in his seat.
“You were saying earlier that perhaps these tanks weren’t really tanks.” Liam prompted the Commander.
“Yeah, that confused me too.” Sully added. “I know very few of the news reports had actual footage of any battles but where they did they certainly looked like tanks to me.”
“Well,” the Commander answered, “that’s probably because half of them were, but the other half – whilst meant to look like tanks – weren’t actual tanks, in the traditional sense.”
Confused by what the Commander had just said, Liam and Sully looked at each other and then at Kevin and then back at the Commander. Whilst the Commander’s statement had been simple enough in substance it was far from simple in implication.
For a moment or two the Commander remained silent and just studied Liam and Sully. Perhaps he was formulating how he would progress with his explanation or perhaps he was still not fully decided if he wanted to give one. Either way his silence and steely concentration on the two lads from across the table made both of them a little uncertain as to what was going on.
Kevin – or so it seemed to the two lads by the Commander’s next action – did however know what was going on. As when the Commander turned his head slightly to look at Kevin, Kevin simply nodded as if answering a question that had silently been asked.
“OK.” The Commander suddenly said, leaning forward in his chair and placing his elbows and lower arms on the table with his hands together. “What if I was to tell you that half of the tanks in these battles were ours and the other half weren’t really tanks as such, but probing or scanning devices concealed within replicated tanks?”
Here again the Commander’s statement – whilst simple in substance – was far from simple in implication and Sully and Liam both, whilst fairly sure they understood what the Commander was saying, wanted and needed to know and understand far more.
“So what you are saying,” Sully asked, “is that their function isn’t really to operate as tanks but to operate as tanks whilst probing or scanning” It was a statement which, if you could read Sully’s mind at that moment, you would see that Sully was just as surprised by his having made it as anyone else would have been.
“Yes.” The Commander confirmed. “That is exactly what I am saying.”
“But probing or scanning for what?” Liam asked. “And why do it in these – what did you call them? Replicated tanks? Why not in cars or vans or trucks or something?”
“To be totally honest with you, we aren’t totally sure.” The Commander told him. “And lads I really am being honest when I say that. As I told you much earlier this morning, I will be honest with you and won’t employ any underhand tricks. And I promise you that if there is something that I don’t want you to know I will simply tell you I don’t. But the fact is that we just don’t know why they are choosing to house such probes or scanner in these replicated tanks.”
“We have our theories.” Kevin added slightly more positively. “Such as that tanks often suit heavy and difficult terrain. Or that the probing equipment might require the kind of horsepower and/or stability that tanks offer. Not to mention the fact that tanks do have inbuilt weaponry.”
“Or it could be that tanks, by their very nature, deter people from approaching them.” The Commander added. “But as I said. We really do not know the actual reason. But what I can tell you, and you might have already picked this up from the news reports, is that, so far, all activity seems to have been in remote or sparsely populated areas and regions.”
“OK. But that still doesn’t answer the question of what they are probing or scanning for?” Liam commented. “Or of who is behind it.”
“Just what they are scanning or probing for is something else that we just don’t know.” The Commander told him.
Then the Commander thought for a moment or two before continuing.
“Lads I can imagine that you are both sat there thinking that either we really don’t know very much at all or that we are deliberately holding stuff back from you. But what you have to understand is the history of all this.”
Liam and Sully just sat quietly and looked at the Commander, fully expecting him the tell them that history.
“But again, before I continue I have to ask you if you are still both open to the proposition of your helping us.” Flicking open the black leather case top to his wrist watch he looked at the time. “I am very conscious of the fact that if you are not going to help us, then I need to start thinking about returning you to where you were picked up.”
“Before we agreed to come,” Sully turned and asked Kevin, “you said that arrangements had been made to cover our responsibilities. Are you absolutely sure that was done and if so, how long for?”
“Yes, I am absolutely sure.” Kevin told him. “As soon as I received notification that you had been picked up. Veles, please confirm.” He added.
“If you would like to check you mobile phones gentlemen,” the soft digital voice seemed to address both Liam and Sully directly, “you will be able to read the actual text conversations that those people who usually cover for you, thought they had had with you.”
Not really believing what they had just heard, Liam and Sully looked at each other and then reached into their pockets for their mobile phones. Having located their phones and having navigated to their messages and to the text messages with the relevant contacts Liam and Sully could hardly believe their eyes. Even having to show each other their phones as a result of their relative disbelief.
“But we never sent those messages.” Liam observed, his confusion obvious in his tone.
“And yet, as far as anyone would know, you did.” Veles offered.
Suddenly Sully’s phone sounded a ‘message received’ alert followed almost immediately by Liam’s phone also sounding one.
Sully and Liam both looked at their phones, navigated to the messages the receipt of which they had just been alerted to, and were somewhat shocked to see that Liam – or rather Liam’s phone – seemed to have just sent Sully a message suggesting to him that he was in need of more tea. And Sully – or rather Sully’s phone – had, in response, just sent a message back saying, “Yes please. I think I need one. After all, tea is culturally believed to be beneficial in dealing with shock.”
Liam and Sully looked at Kevin and then at the Commander.
“You’ve hacked our phones?” Liam asked.
“But when?” Sully added. “They haven’t been out of our sight.”
Kevin smiled. “You don’t actually have to access someone’s phone in person in order to hack them.” Kevin answered. “Remember that picture file I shared with you, some time back, via the Celts Admin chat?”
Both Sully and Liam nodded that they did.
“Well it wasn’t just a picture file.” Kevin smiled.
Again Sully and Liam just looked at each other, both in a thought-filled stunned silence.
“But what I really want for you guys to know.” Kevin’s voice was serious and also very sincere in tone. “Is that had we not decided to go ahead and bring you in, that hack would never have been activated.” He looked at both Liam and Sully. “And whilst I know that all this seems very cloak and dagger in style, my friendship with you was and is real and sincere and it happened and evolved naturally. It wasn’t ordered or conspired and absolutely no – let’s say – ‘grooming’ has taken place.”
“He’s telling you the truth.” The Commander offered. “Trust me I am fully aware of the way things progressed and your potential involvement with us evolved totally naturally.”
For a moment or two the lads remained silent and for a moment or two Kevin and the Commander seemed content to let them be so. But after what seemed like ages, the Commander was the fist to speak.
“What are you thoughts Sully?” The Commander asked.
At first Sully didn’t respond, but then simply looked at Liam, then at Kevin and then back at the Commander before simply announcing, “Liam, or Liam’s phone, or Veles or who ever the feck sent that message was right. I do need more tea!”