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CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR – SECRETS WITHIN SECRETS. LIES WITHIN LIES. FALSE FRONTS BEHIND…
The revelation of the presence of some sort of alien race being behind the rogue tanks was one which threw both Sully and Liam into slight shock and for a few minutes neither of them spoke.
“I hope.” Kevin told them, his voice quiet and almost containing a reflective resignation, “that now you understand the size of the task before us and just why I pushed for you both, and especially the Celts, to be involved.”
“Obviously it goes without saying,” The Commander added, “that news of this just can’t get out, as it could cause widespread panic. So I hope that you now also understand why there is such a need for secrecy. Perhaps one day, hopefully when we have found an answer to this threat, people will know about it and also about the involvement of the Celts as well as the others chosen for this project. But for now, for as long as we can, we need to keep it extremely secret.”
“And the news services etc?” Liam asked.
“So far they are just seeing these rogue tanks as just that. Rogue tanks probably belonging to ISIS or an affiliated group.” The Commander told him. “And we are doing all we can to keep it that way. But we are also in communication with those in charge of most of the major news agencies and they have promised their cooperation.”
“What about any reporter who wants to go rogue?” Liam asked. “One who finds out and feels that the public has a right to know.”
“We will deal with that as and when it comes.” The Commander answered honestly. “And with most of the major news agencies co-operating the avenues for them to spread any rogue news are limited. And where they still insist then we will explore the use of gagging orders and the such.”
“And the such?” Sully commented.
“Let’s just say that they will fully understand just how important we hold their keeping quiet about all this, for now.” Was the only additional clarification that the Commander offered.
“The thing is that we need to be able to focus on the threat itself without having to try to deal with widespread panic as well.” The Commander explained. “You know yourselves how panic can change the way people react.”
“Which is also why we are not telling the selected online players just what they are really doing.” Kevin added. “We are selecting them according to their current game and play skills. News of just what they are really doing and just how important it is could change the way they approach it or play and we just don’t need that.”
Liam and Sully both looked at each other. In truth, both of them had a natural aversion to people in authority, governments and world powers keeping secrets from people – and doing so under the general justification of it being ‘for the greater good’. But here, in this situation, somehow they couldn’t help not only understanding it but also agreeing with it.
“I am hopeful,” Kevin changed the subject slightly, “that your now knowing the full extent of the threat before us, hasn’t changed your willingness to help?”
“Not at all.” Liam assured him.
“Aye. If anything,” Sully added, “it has just made us more determined to help.
“But I am guessing.” Liam observed. “That even though you, that we, know they are there and that they are doing this scanning, you don’t really know what else they are planning.”
“And even with this scanning, you said that we don’t know just what it is that they are after?” Sully asked.
“In terms of the scanning.” Kevin answered. “It is possible that they are looking for some mineral important to their economy or even their survival.”
“But as for what else they are planning. No.” The Commander answered plainly and honestly. “We have had no communications with them whatsoever, and in fact, at this stage, we don’t want to let them know that we even know they are out there.”
“Because you don’t want things escalating?” Liam asked.
“Well our best guess.” The Commander replied. “And it really is a guess, is that since they have chosen to mask their presence by replicating our tanks in order to house their scanners, they are trying to conceal their presence.”
“And since their replicated tanks always destruct when defeated, and since we have been very careful not to escalate our responses.” Kevin added. “It is a fair assessment that they could still be under the illusion that we have not yet detected their ship.”
“Although obviously given the fact that their technology is far more advanced than ours, it is just possible that they already know that we are aware of them.” The Commander suggested. “But either way we really need to get our immediate response – this project, the Clan Connection, up and fully running and to it’s best ability as soon as possible.”
“Which is part of the reason you are following a non-military response rather than just a military one and why you have decided to bring us in and to tell us all this? Sully asked.
“Absolutely.” The Commander confirmed. “This is as much about covert responses than anything else. Which is why the most important thing you can do now is to get back home and to start building your clan to be the absolute best clan it can be.” He looked at both Liam and Sully for a moment or two.
“Not only in respect of game skills,” he told them, “but also in respect of all the other things we spoke about earlier and that the Celts are already really well known for. What better place to hide our response than in a game and what better place to recruit and hide our operatives than in clans?”
Liam and Sully looked at each other. They had so many questions that they wanted to ask and yet they knew that the chances of them being answered, at that time, were very slim.
“Then we best get to it.” Liam announced, standing up and looking at Sully.
“Kevin, have the chauffeur bring our jet round, please.” Sully joked as he too stood up.
“I want to tell you.” The Commander told them as he stood up and offered them his hand to shake. “I am so very grateful to you both for agreeing to help is and also to your clan for all they are going to do. Especially now you know the full size of the task before you. I have no doubt that we will have many chances to talk in the months, maybe even the years ahead of us. And Kevin will of course brief you further on your flight home.”
“Hey.” Liam smiled as he shook the Commander’s hand right after Sully had done so. “We’re the Fighting Irish.”
And with that Liam and Sully followed Kevin out through the Commander’s office and back down the corridors towards the double doors they had first come in through.
“Bye for now, Veles.” Kevin told Veles as they reached the exit doors.
“Goodbye, Agent Bold. It was good to see you again.” Veles answered. “And goodbye gentlemen. I look forward to working with you in the future.”
Liam and Sully both said goodbye to Veles and followed Kevin outside, where they stopped for a little while whilst Kevin smoked his pipe for a few minutes before they all got on board the jet.
“Never in a million years, when I first met you online, would I ever have imagined that we would end up all being involved in something like this.” Liam told Kevin as he and Kevin stood there as Kevin puffed on his pipe. Sully having walked off a little ways in order to stretch his legs and get some air before they boarded the jet.
“I know.” Kevin told him. “But to be fair, I would be a lousy agent if you had of guessed.”
Liam thought about Kevin’s response and had to admit that there was a great deal of truth in it.
“Is Sully ok?” Kevin asked Liam, as the two of them looked over at Sully who seemed to be bent over slightly by the corner of the complex.
“Yeah, I think so.” Liam told him. “He is probably just tense about having to fly back.”
“Well, we will just do the same as we did getting him here.” Kevin suggested, as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small canister of pills before waving Sully to come back.
Once Sully has returned Kevin gave Sully the two tablets and then suggested that they get on board and got settled in and then relaxed for a few minutes before taking off so that the tablets had a chance to kick in.
“And I guess I should give you brief outline of our best guess at the potential time frame involved in all this.” Kevin told them both once Sully had returned. “At least that way you, or we – if you still want me involved in the clan – can plan training events etc.”
It was to be the opening statement in a conversation that would in fact last for a good hour or so as the jet made it’s way back to Belfast. The rest of the flight being filled with a long and excited conversation about the numerous different apps and functions that there new phones and watches had, followed by both the lads – who after all that had happened and given the amount of time they had now been awake for – getting some very well deserved and much needed sleep.
On landing back in Belfast the lads were met by an unmarked PSNI car which was waiting to take them back to where Liam’s van was parked up. Standing at the top of the boarding steps Kevin said goodbye to them, explaining that the jet would take him to Waterford Airport and a car would then drive him home. He also assured them that they would chat again very soon. Either online or through a secure phone connection.
As Liam and Sully both walked to the PSNI car waiting for them, they turned and waved as the jet taxi’d off to the runway ready to make it’s take off.
Turning to get into the PSNI car Liam and Sully were both taken a little aback when the PSNI officers who were to be their escorts opened the rear passenger doors for them and then called them sir as they tolds them that the journey wouldn’t take too long and that Liam’s van was fine as they had been keeping an eye on it. To be honest they couldn’t help thinking how it made a pleasant change from the old days of their being bundled into the back of a PSNI car against their will.
En-route to their van, and unsure of just how much the PSNI officers new about what they had just been up to, Liam and Sully remained very quiet on the car journey back to their van. Even with their wanting even needing to discuss things with each other. Especially since they hadn’t been left alone the whole time they were away.
And so it was a huge relief to finally get into Liam’s van, close the doors, and watch the unmarked PSNI car drive off.
“I know we both need to get home and that it is going to be hard enough to explain why we were gone so long as it is.” Sully told Liam. “But this is something we are going to have to do some serious conversations about.”
“You’re not wrong there.” Liam agreed.
“I still can’t fully believe this has all happened.” Sully told Liam as Liam started the van and pulled out into the traffic.”
“Me neither.” Liam agreed. “Trust us. The one time we agree to be on the side of a government and it isn’t just one government it is all of the feckers.”
“I think those who know us, and those who you and I are both thinking of, will understand. Given the situation.” Sully told him. “If it ever came out, that is.”
“True.” Liam agreed. “And hey, at least if challenged we can honestly say that we didn’t really know who we were working with. After all the Commander was very keen to keep that particular piece of information a secret.”
Liam went quiet for a moment or two before continuing.
“But then that’s all part of the whole cloak and dagger, mirrors and schemes world they operate in, I guess.” He glanced across at Sully who was looking at his new phone. “Faceless government agencies hiding Official Secrets Acts, false fronts, and seemingly legitimate businesses etc.” Liam added.
“Yeah, about that.” Sully commented. “Since we both signed the same act and both did it at the same time. If I was to share some information with you that I was probably not meant to have, would I be breaking the Official Secrets Act?”
Liam glanced a Sully for a moment, not sure where his question had even come from.
“I guess it would depend on what the information and how you came about it.” Liam suggested. “I mean if you and I both signed the same Official Secrets Act, what would it matter if we both knew? We are both bound to keep the some secrets.”
“Yeah,” That’s true.” Sully agreed.
“Secrets within secrets,” Liam added. “Lies within lies. False fronts, behind false fronts.”
“Yeah. In he that kind of thing.” Sully told him, reflectively and honestly.
“Me too.” Liam agreed. “But in this case I do kind of understand it. But even so, I do feel bad not telling the clan members that they are being used in this way,”
“Yeah, but we can’t tell them all and, as the Commander pointed out, we don’t and won’t know exactly who from the clan will be selected.” Sully told him.
“And who in the world would ever imagine that when they signed up to play an innocent fantasy role playing game involving tanks they would end up hopefully helping to save the world.”
“Secrets within secrets, Lies within lies. False fronts, behind false fronts.” Sully repeated the words that Liam had used but a moment or two earlier. “And this particular role-playing game isn’t what it seems to be.”
“Yeah.” Liam agreed. “But the players don’t know that when they sign up to play it, And I doubt the game designers knew that when the made the game.”
“Secrets within secrets, Lies within lies. False fronts, behind false fronts.” Sully said again. “Want to see a picture I secretly took when we were outside waiting to board the jet whilst Kevin was smoking his pipe.”
“You took a photo?” Liam asked.
“Yep. When I was bent over at the corner or the complex.” Sully smiled. And with that he held out his phone for Liam to see.
“Secrets within secrets. Lies within lies. False fronts, behind false fronts.” Sully commented simply as Liam looked at the picture in disbelief.
The photograph that Sully had taken and that Liam was now looking at was of the name plaque on the front of the complex building. Having seen it Sully simply had to take a photograph of it to share with Liam. WARGAMING.NET “Let’s Battle” it read.
“The sneaky little feckers.” Liam gasped. “They didn’t just use the game for this purpose. They designed it for this purpose.”