The Reset Manifesto
CopyrightÂ© 2016 by Lazlo Zalezac
“I guess Dad was wrong.”
Patricia looked over at Charles not sure what he was talking about.
“Dad told me once that Peter would either die a martyr or in obscurity. Based on the number of people out here, he clearly didn’t die in obscurity. His death is not usually the kind associated with martyrdom.”
As far as the siblings were concerned, Peter had always been an enigma. He had a level of self-confidence that was all out of proportion to what he accomplished. He always talked about being able to take care of himself, but while in school he’d come home almost weekly with bruises from some bully. Patricia had often said that he had beaten many a fist with his face. It wasn’t meant to be a joke, just a description of what happened all too often.
“Why on earth would Dad say something like that?”
George said, “Dad once said that people who try to change the world are either killed or fade into obscurity. Could that be what Grandad meant?”
“Are you saying Peter was trying to change the world?”
“Dad wasn’t that kind of person.”
Rebecca said, “He changed this town when he helped the people who worked in the factory purchase it.”
George argued, “He always said that he was just doing what Newton hired him to do. They wanted him to transition it from Newton to the new owners. Newton didn’t realize that the workers had bought it.”
“Newton wanted to kill this town. Peter stopped that from happening by enabling the workers to buy the factory.”
George said, “This sounds like one of the events that helped trigger the time of riots.”
“The very pubic unraveling of Newton was one of those events. Of course, Peter was long gone from Newton by then.”
Peter stood in the basement watching the work crew putting together the skeleton of the tempest room. The foreman was swearing after hitting his head for the third time that day.
“This room isn’t tall enough.”
“That’s not a problem. The people who will work in here are midgets compared to you.”
Two of the men working on putting the framing in place laughed. The foreman had played basketball through college. Everyone was a midget compared to him.
“It may not be a problem for your people, but it is for me. I keep knocking myself out every time I stand up.”
“Discounting the time you’re unconscious, how much longer will it take?”
“A month to get everything in place.”
Peter walked around the perimeter of the basement. The walls, ceiling, and floors had a layer of steel plate in place. The steel plate was part of what would become the body of a safe. A concrete pour, another layer of steel plate, and a heavy duty safe door would protect the inner sanctum.
The center of the basement was now occupied by the skeleton of a room. The crew was assembling the tempest room. Peter paused at several of the more critical parts of the structure and examined the work carefully. It wasn’t going to be a very large room, but no one would know what was being computed in it without being in it. He was paying top dollar for the best.
“Who is this place for?”
Peter answered, “I don’t know. I’m just the contractor.”
“It’s got to be the NSA.”
“I wouldn’t speculate about that, if I were you. I don’t know the customer, and I’d rather not know the customer, if you get my drift.”
“Right. It’s got to be the NSA.”
One of the men muttered, “I thought they were forced to stop the civilian surveillance program.”
Peter ignored the man in a very obvious manner. Heads nodded. Mystery solved.
“I’ll be gone for the next three weeks. You have a contact email address. Shoot me an email and I’ll call you back.”
“Where are you going?”
“Nowhere in particular.”
“One of those kinds of trips.”
Peter didn’t answer. He turned and climbed the stairs. When he reached the parking lot, he pulled out his cell phone and sent a text message. He smiled and put the phone back in his pocket.
In the basement, the foreman pulled out his cell phone and composed an email. He hit send. Nothing happened. He looked down at the phone and saw that he had no bars. Of course he didn’t have any bars; he was standing in the center of a Faraday cage.
He climbed the stairs to the first floor of the office building. He hit send. Almost simultaneously with hitting send, there was a reply.
He opened the new email. He read it, swallowed heavily, looked around nervously, and deleted the message. His hand shook while putting his cell phone away.
He walked back down into the basement and announced, “Guys. We don’t talk about this job at all. We’re vacationing in Tahiti. Do you understand?”
“What’s got you spooked?”
“I just sent in a query about this job to a guy I know in one of those places people don’t talk about. The email was returned instantaneously with a message saying that parties who want to remain nameless demand absolute security, particularly for jobs in Kansas. Woe to he who violates security.”
“We’re not in Kansas.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means my email was intercepted at the cell tower and sent back to me undelivered as an attachment to an email addressed to me personally. It’s a subtle hint, that if we want to watch our grandchildren run around and play some day, we’re to keep our f•©king mouths shut. Get it?”
“What’s that about Kansas?”
“Jesus, are you too stupid to live? We aren’t even supposed to talk about what state we’re in.”
“Our boss knows where we are.”
“To tell the truth, I don’t know if our boss actually wants to know that. He was pretty squirrely when talking about this job.”
Peter stopped at the factory on his way out of town just to see if there was anything important to do before leaving for three weeks. He parked in his normal space and went inside. There was a matter of a potential contract with a Korean company that managed to eat up most of the afternoon. He swung by the factory floor to observe the progress being made in retooling for the project.
It was thirty minutes before it was normal quitting time when a major section of the job finished. Everyone looked up at the clock and then over at the next task that was to be done. All they would be able to accomplish was to spread things out just enough to have to pack it away.
“What should we do?”
“Is there anything worth doing now?”
Tim looked around at the factory floor. He shook his head and said, “Nope.”
“Then let’s knock off early,” Peter said.
“Sounds like a plan.”
Peter stepped out of the factory door. A guy was at his car with his head under the hood. The guys beside Peter started to run for the guy.
Peter shouted, “Wait!”
The guy at the car looked up at Peter and then over at the crew pounding pavement in his direction. They weren’t supposed to be there. He was about to move when Peter pushed the button on his key chain fob. The car went up in a big ball of fire. There wasn’t much left of the man, at least above the waist.
The factory crew came to a sliding stop. They all turned to look at Peter in shock. He said, “It looks like he went boom. Whoever hired him should have gotten someone more competent.”
“I guess someone ought to call the police. I’d appreciate it if someone would give me a ride to a car rental place.”
“What about the police?”
“I suppose someone ought to stay here to explain to them what happened.”
“Shouldn’t you stay here?”
“No, I’m the target. There’s a saying for situations like this, ‘Run, Hide, Fight.’ Just tell the police that I’m running somewhere to hide so that I can fight from a position of strength.”
“I never heard that one before.”
“Who will take me to a car rental place?”
Raising her hand meekly, Jean Lewis said, “I’ll take you. I’d like to get out of here.”
They went over to her car. She got behind the wheel and sat there for a second. She handed him the car keys. “Maybe you should drive. I’m a little nervous.”
They exchanged places. While Peter was driving to a rental place, Jean was on the phone with her husband explaining what had happened. He waited to say anything to her until she had finished her conversation.
“So he’s coming to pick you up at the rental place?”
“I’m sorry to inconvenience you like this.”
The reality of what she had seen finally settled in on her. She had seen him calmly reach into his pocket and pull out the key fob. She had watched him calmly push the button. “You just blew that guy up.”
“He who hesitates loses. He hesitated, I didn’t. He lost, I didn’t.”
“I’ll teach my kids that,” she said wide eyed.
There was a police car waiting for them when they reached the car rental company. Peter snorted. He should have known they’d dispatch the nearest car there. Maybe he was a little more shook up than he thought. Normally, he would have anticipated that.
“Yes, Officer Fitzpatrick.”
“We need you to come to the station.”
“I’d really rather not go there. I’ll be a target coming out of it.”
“Why do you say that?”
“I’m sure he has backup. Anyone who goes to the trouble of putting a bomb in someone’s car isn’t going to assume that it’s going to work. I’m sure there’s a backup plan.”
“I’m going to have to insist.”
“Officer Fitzpatrick, my statement is short and sweet. I came out of the factory and spotted someone at my car. Out of habit, I pushed the remote start button on my key fob. The car blew up. End of statement.”
“Did you know him?”
“I didn’t see him all that clearly, but I didn’t recognize him.”
“Who would want to do that?”
“The only one I can think of is Stephen Augustus Stapleton, the Third.”
“I can see SAS the Turd hiring someone to kill you. That guy is wound a little too tight for as many screws as he has loose.”
“Call the police chief and see if you can take my statement here while I’m renting a car.”
Officer Fitzpatrick went over to his car and called into the station. A short discussion ensued. Peter made arrangements to rent a car. He had the keys in hand by the time the policeman returned. He held out a piece of paper.
“I wrote your statement. Check it and sign it.”
Peter read it over. It was almost verbatim to what he had said. Peter signed it.
“You’ve got a good memory.”
“I’m also observant. It helps in this line of work.”
“You’ll make detective before too much longer.”
“I’m taking the test next time it’s offered.”
“Thanks. I guess that’s it. Get out of here before there’s a riot.”
“It appears that half the town is ready to kill. They don’t like anyone threatening the guy who saved their jobs.”
“By the way...”
“You got it wrong. It’s Run, Hide, Fight. Run to escape. Hide if running is not an option. Fight only if you must.”
“I know that. My version is optimized for my survival.”
“Are you going to kill them?”
“I abhor violence. They will harm themselves.”
“You might want to get on the road. Call some people when you feel that you’re safe. There are a lot of folks who are worried about you.”
“I can take care of myself.”
“You’re a cool one.”
“Why do you say that?”
“I doubt I would have remembered the key fob if I had been in your position.”
“I couldn’t let everyone get hurt. They’re good people.”
“How would they get hurt?”
“He had a gun.”
“You saw it?”
“No, but I couldn’t take a chance that he didn’t. After all, he did have a bomb.”
“Get out of here. Come back when it’s safe.”
Peter stared out the window of the bus at the passing scenery. Although a bus is perhaps the most uncomfortable way to travel, it does have one thing in its favor. Buses are anonymous. Tickets can be purchased with cash and without identification. It isn’t even necessary to go to a bus station since tickets can be purchased at certain gas stations and convenience stores. All that’s required is to get on at a marked bus stop, thereby avoiding all cameras. It was the easiest way to disappear.
It had been simple. He had dropped the car at a rental place and taken a mass transit bus across town. He got off in the city in front a convenience store where he purchased a ticket for a cross country bus. He got on the bus in front of a donut shop.
That level of misdirection may not have been necessary, but someone had tried to kill him. That kicked his paranoia into high gear. It was one thing to take the possibility into consideration, but something entirely different to have it actually happen. He still couldn’t believe that someone had tried to kill him.
His lack of attention with regard to Newton could have killed him. He was going to have to spend a little time doing a threat assessment. It wouldn’t be hard. Considering the arrogance of the people involved, there would be plenty of emails or text messages. He’d find out what their next move would be and counter it.
He tilted his seat back and closed his eyes.
The man sat at the desk with a yellow pad of paper in front of him. “Let me get this straight. You want bulletproof windows, armor panels all around, reinforced floor, runflat tires, gas tank and engine protection, remote start, and remote door opener.”
“It’s going to be expensive.”
“My last one got blown up. This will be cheap.”
“It’s going to be heavy.”
“No it won’t.”
“Plate steel is heavy.”
“Can’t get Kevlar here for that. You can only get it from—”
“You’re well informed.”
“The Kevlar will be arriving within two weeks of you accepting the job.”
“That’ll save a lot of money and a lot of weight.”
“I’ll discount the suspension system. Do you want an alarm, gun port, tear gas launcher, flame thrower, or camera system?”
“Automated radio system?”
“No. No GPS, satellite radio, built-in cell phone, or radio. No wireless devices of any kind.”
“Okay. A non-tracker special.”
“Faraday bag in the glove box.”
“You are really going all out on this.”
“My last one got blown up.”
“Were you in it?”
“No. The guy was installing a bomb when I hit the key fob.”
“You should have captured him for questioning.”
“It wasn’t worth the effort.”
“Why do you say that?”
“I knew the outcome of pressing the key fob. I knew nothing about how it would turn out if I went after him.”
“What’s the cost?”
The man punched in some figures on his adding machine. He did it a second time and got the same figure.
Peter pulled out his cell phone. He tapped on the face for a minute. “It’s in your account.”
“You’ll need my account number and bank routing number.”
“It’s already in your account.”
The man turned and pecked at the keyboard of his computer for a second. He studied the screen for a moment, glanced over his shoulder at Peter, and then shut down the program. He didn’t know who this guy was, but he was pretty sure the guy was someone important or working for someone important. His customers usually were.
“You’re right. It’s in my account.”
Peter looked down at his cell phone. “The Kevlar panels are on their way. They’ll be here in two weeks.”
“The car should be ready in six weeks.”
“Thank you. I’ll call before I return to pick it up.”
“I’ll call you when it’s done.”
“I’d prefer it my way.”