Still Not Black Enough Chapter 07
Monday, May 13th, 2024. 11:00 AM - Paris, France
Outside DGSI Headquarters
Adam isn't happy about having to drag Clara along with him to follow up on the lead, but not only does he have no time to argue about it, Clara is also right: it's the most efficient way to get an ID on the man he saw at the compound.
But as he starts the car, he wants to make certain things clear to her.
"Just so that we're clear: when we're in the field, I'm in charge. I don't want you to do anything I don't tell you to do, you understand?"
Clara is rather taken back by the sudden burst of unexpected hostility from Adam's side.
"Umm... Yeah. Of course. But I can take care of myself."
"You almost got yourself killed an hour ago."
"We're just going to look at a bunch of security tapes, Adam."
"Clara, this is serious. And I need to you know you understand that. How did you end up getting kidnapped, anyway?"
"What do you mean?"
"What I mean is why you."
Clara sits silently for a moment.
"I was snooping around."
"Why would you do that?"
"Hey, I've been a reporter my whole adult life. Sometimes, when you do a job long enough, you just operate on instinct. Without even realizing it. You just get sucked into it. And it becomes too late to turn back."
That hits home with Adam.
"Yeah. Well. I just want you to be safe."
"I understand that."
Adam focuses on the road, while Clara gazes right at him. While she finds it scary that Adam is so familiar with this world that is completely foreign to her, and includes staring death straight in the eye, she also must admire his determination to do just that.
She also feels safe with Adam, despite the circumstances.
"Do you think they can really do it? Take control of those power plants - and melt them?"
Adam struggles with being truthful, while also trying to keep Clara from panicking too much. He, however, concludes that Clara is someone who deserves more than sugar coating.
"That's what we're gonna have to assume."
"What possesses a person to do that? To even contemplate something like this."
"I think, deep down, we all aspire to do whatever we believe is right. Whatever our cause. Those causes just aren't the same for everybody. Unfortunately"
"What's your cause, Adam?"
Adam doesn't answer immediately but after a prolonged pause. He has to find the answer himself, first.
"I don't have a cause."
"But surely you do. You don't have to be here. You've risked your life today already. On multiple occasions."
"I've never asked much of people. The only thing has been for people to try to do what's right. It's the most you can ask of anybody. You know. I've wrestled with these questions my whole life. Doing this job, I've broken more rules than I've followed. Laws that were written by men much smarter than me. And I know that. In my mind, I know that. But when I see a bus full of people being held hostage, all the rulebooks fly out the window. Even if my mind knows I'm breaking every rule ever written - I don't think my heart could live with knowing I could have done something differently, but didn't. So, I guess that's my cause: trying to do what's right."
Clara has rarely met a man - or a woman, for that matter - with such conviction. It's absolutely intriguing to her. The circumstances of the day are out of the ordinary, to say the very least. But seeing Adam in this light has enforced her feelings for her tenfold.
*"Do you regret anything you've ever done when doing this?"
"But those rule breaks. They're what you've been running away from, right?"
"You could say that."
"You're a great man, Adam. Did you know that?"
"I'm no role model."
"Could you stop with the self-deprecation for one minute and let me admire you?"
For a long time now, Adam hasn't been used to someone pushing through the wall of self-pity he's built for himself. It's either heart-warming or scary. He's not exactly sure.
"Let's just get through today."
Isaac has called an all-staff meeting to brief everyone in on the current threat with the nuclear plants.
All known details of the stolen device, as well as the nuclear plants at risk of being attacked, are shown on screens throughout the main conference room.
Experts are giving everybody a rundown on the situation.
"There are 58 active nuclear power plants in this country, with a total capacity of 63.1 GWe. Recently, we have learned that we have reason to believe that the terrorists responsible for President Abbas' kidnapping earlier today are in possession of a device capable of converting these power plants into weapons. If I may direct your attention to the screen. This graphic represents a single meltdown scenario. The stolen CX4 device can be used to shut down the coolant system, which will cause the core to melt through the containment. In the first three hours, the population within a 10-mile radius will receive the highest doses of radiation. Within two days, those people will die. A conservative estimate of the immediate casualties lies in the hundreds of thousands. The environmental impact would also be catastrophic; 30 miles around each plant would be uninhabitable for at least five years."
"Don't the power plants have systems in place to prevent this kind of breach?"
"Yes. But the device was designed to override and deactivate such measures."
An eerie atmosphere fills the room as everybody is taking in what they just hard, as well as looking at each other in the hopes of someone having a quick and easy answer to preventing this. But there is none.
The newest member of the staff, Jeremie Benoit, is the first to raise a question - and seems particularly eager to do so.
"What actions are currently being taken to solve this crisis?"
Isaac takes the lead.
"Right now, Adam Black is following up on a lead. The hostage held prisoner with President Abbas and his family recognized one of the men in the compound. We're working on getting an ID."
Isaac then gives his staff a pep talk.
"This is a scary situation, people. I need everybody working at full capacity. We can't afford any mistakes today. We need to find these people and find them now. Get to work."
People get back to their workstations. Jeremie picks up some papers from his desk and approaches Diane.
"Hey, Diane. I just received these files, and I'm supposed to forward them to Adam Black."
"Oh, Adam already left. To follow up on that lead."
"Yeah, do you know where he went and how to reach him?"
"They're going to look at surveillance footage at a security company called Sauvegarde. I can give you his number."
"That'd be great, thanks."
Jeremie returns to his desk to look up Sauvegarde's location.
The man Clara recognized at the compound has packed his bags and is currently navigating his way through the afternoon traffic. Visibly nervous, sweating, and shaking.
The anxiety isn't improved by receiving a phone call.
Luckily, the call is from someone he trusts.
"What is it?"
The person on the other end is Jeremie from DGSI.
"DGSI has found out about the CX4."
"Already? I'm on my way out of the country. How much do they know?"
"The woman who recognized you at the compound is on her way to make an ID with an agent."
"A private security firm called Sauvegarde. I looked it up, it's at 81 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis. They're going to be looking at some security footage, or something."
"Shit. They already left? There's no way to delay them?"
"None that I can think of."
"Stay put. Avert suspicion at all costs. I'll try to buy myself some time."
"Avert suspicion why?"
"I'm going to have that woman and the agent killed. As soon as DGSI learns that they're dead, they'll know someone on the inside leaked their location."
Feeling as if the whole world is crashing down on him, the man tries to remain calm and makes another phone call. To people who he hopes can take care of a problem.
Also making their way through the traffic are Adam and Clara.
Both have been quiet for a while. Mostly to take in everything that has happened, and everything that may yet happen. They don't wish to think about the worst case scenario, but both know they need to.
Adam being the one more accustomed to that.
Until Clara realizes something.
"Oh, my Gosh."
"What is it?"
"I really should call Madeleine and let her know I'm alright."
"I'm not comfortable with you making phone calls right now."
"It's just Maddie, Adam. She's probably worried sick. Just one phone call. She's my best friend."
"Yeah, alright. Just make it quick. And don't tell her anything."
Clara dials the number and hopes Madeleine picks up, seeing as how she lost her own phone and is now using a DGSI phone. Luckily, she does.
"Madeleine, it's me."
"Clara, oh my God. Where are you, are you alright?"?
"I'm alright. Everything's alright. I just wanted to let you know."
"Let me come to pick you up."
"Oh, I'm in the middle of something, and I can't really talk right now. I just wanted to let you know, like I said."
Madeleine gets a little awkward for a moment.
"Actually, Raphael asked about you."
The awkwardness is then immediately shared by Clara.
"Everyone was watching that live feed, Clara. He wanted to know how you are, but he couldn't reach your phone."
"Well, I have his number blocked anyway. For good reason."
"But should I tell him you're okay?"
"Look, I can't really be dealing with this right now, honestly. I'll call you as soon as I can, okay?"
Clara hangs up and looks visibly shaken. Adam picks up on this.
"Yeah, I'm fine."
The sound in her voice doesn't build Adam with confidence.
"Yeah. Let's just focus on what we need to do."
A Restaurant in Paris Center
Daivari and Mia get out of their car to enter an ordinary-looking restaurant at the heart of the busy afternoon in Paris.
They make their way to the back area where only the staff is allowed to enter.
This isn't the first time they've entered the area, it seems to be a place of operations for them.
They are greeted by some of Daivari's henchmen.
"Was the operation successful?"
"Yes. We have what we need to breach the nuclear power plants' firewalls."
"What about President Abbas?"
"Still alive. But we will handle him in due time. But first, we need to finish this."
Mia is curious about the person recognized at the compound.
"What about Mullins?"
"He won't be a problem for long. I'll make sure of that."
"Mullins is a weasel, he's probably on his way out of the country already. So you better hurry."
Daivari doesn't take kindly to being told how to run his operations. His anger isn't loud, however. It's the quiet, scary kind of anger that you don't see, but you sense.
"I would appreciate it, Ms. Evans, if you didn't take it upon yourself to tell me how to do things."
"Oh, don't worry about me. I know you have a handle on things, D. It'd just be a shame for a weasel like Mullins to fuck everything over."
Adam and Clara arrive at the Sauvegarde office and make their way in. Adam greets the first person he comes across.
"My name is Adam Black, working on behalf of DGSI. I called earlier."
The security guard shows Adam and Clara the way.
"Yes, sir. Right this way."
Jeremie from DGSI pays Adam a call.
"Adam, this is Jeremie Benoit from DGSI. We met briefly."
"Yeah, what is it, Jeremie?"
"How far away are you from Sauvegarde?"
"We just got here."
"Has she recognized anyone from the footage?"
"Not yet. I'll let Isaac know as soon as we have something."
"Actually, Isaac wanted me to let you know that as soon as Clara recognizes someone in the surveillance footage, the data should be sent to my system. I'm on 401-Python."
"Okay, copy that."
The security guard escorts Adam and Clara to the main surveillance room where they store all of their footage. They had everything set up before Adam and Clara arrived, so he the guard begins to go through the files and explain them to Adam.
"We had security cameras running on only two areas; one covering the main ballroom, one at the entrance"
"Okay, put them both up."
Adam studies the footage for a moment.
"The ballroom angle's too wide. Let's just go with the entrance."
Clara sits down to observe the footage.
"What is that?"
"I think that's too early. I got there late, maybe around 9. That's when I met him."
Clara goes through the footage with her eyes glued to the screen, not saying anything. Studying, observing, until.
The guard stops the footage.
"Roll that back a few frames."
Clara then points at a man he sees.
"That's him. Adam, I think that's him?"
Adam wants to make sure.
"Are you absolutely sure that's him?"
Clara takes a closer look.
"Yes. That's the man I saw."
The guard zooms in on the man, but the picture is unclear.
"I'll need a few minutes to process the picture."
As the guard works on the image processing, Adam notices one of the security feeds showing an empty desk at the entrance.
"Who's supposed to be at that desk?"
The guard turns to take a look.
"Hah. Miguel. He's a slacker. Probably went out for a smoke. Again."
Adam takes a look at the other feeds.
"That gate right there. It's wide open, and no one's there."
Now even the guard gets suspicious. Adam isn't only suspicious, he knows something is up.
"How many ways are there into this area?"
"Put them up on the screen."
The guard puts the footage up, and it shows dead guards at both entrances.
Adam reacts immediately, pushing Clara to the floor and pulling out his weapon, aiming at the doorway.
"Clara, get down!"
Two armed men enter the room, but as a gunfight ensues, Adam manages to take them out first.
As he turns around, he notices the security guard has been shot. Adam goes to check on him.
"Stay with me! I will call for help, but first I need to get my hands on that tape. Where's the file?"
The guard is dying and gasping for air with his mouth bleeding.
"It's- it's in the main server... password is... 27118-ALPHA."
Clara notices a memory stick on the desk and gets on it. She's tech-savvy and knows what to do.
The guard isn't going to make it. Adam tries to do what he can.
"Stay with me! Stay with me!"
But he's dead.
"Son of a bitch. He's gone."
Clara takes out the data into the memory stick, and Adam sees more men coming on the camera feed.
"Clara, we gotta move!"
"Should we call DGSI?"
"No! DGSI has been compromised, it's the only way these people could know we're here."
Adam opens the door to see if it's clear while holding Clara tightly behind him.
"Stay behind me."
They go quietly go through the corridors, as Adam checks on the doors on the way to see if there is one that is unlocked.
As he finds one, he drags Clara with him inside.
Adam then starts to dial a number on his phone. Clara wonders why.
"I thought you said DGSI has been compromised?"
"They have been."
"Then who are you calling?"
As the call is going through, Adam peeks through the doorway and answers.
"Someone I know I can trust."
President Abbas and his family are still at DGSI, as Abbas is on the phone with President Levesque.
"Yes, I am determined to continue with the peace negotiations. As soon as possible."
"I admire you, President Abbas, but after what just took place-"
"I can not let my enemies - our enemies - to have the satisfaction of halting the peace proceedings. I would be giving them what they want. I am ready to continue, unafraid."
Abbas proves that he is not just another politician. He is a brave man of honor, willing to do what is right - despite placing himself at risk while doing so.
Levesque is happy to hear this, mostly due to the fact that the peace agreement would be a giant notch on his belt.
"I am ready if you are. But if you will excuse me, I would need to discuss the current situation with Mr. Bernard."
"Of course. As a matter of fact, he's right here."
Abbas hands the phone to Isaac.
"Mr. Bernard. As it stands now, there are 58 power plants in this country in danger of melting down. I need an updated evacuations strategy from you as soon as possible."
"I'm already on it, sir. You'll have a plan within 15 minutes."
"How much time would a worst-case scenario give us, approximately?"
"A worst-case scenario would be about three hours, sir."
"Keep me updated as soon as you know more."
"Of course, Mr. President."
Adam and Clara are sneaking their way through the corridors, trying to go downstairs, heading to the parking hall.
Adam is trying his best to keep Clara safe.
The fear is getting to Clara whose life is in danger for the second time within a few hours.
She stops Adam for a second.
"Adam. I'm scared."
Adam remembers that Clara is not used to this world. She's not like him. It hits him like a ton of bricks, and he feels guilty for agreeing to get her involved.
He hugs her and gives her a quick kiss on the forehead. Then places his hands around her face and looks her in the eyes, trying to calm her down.
"Hey. We'll make it through this. Just stay close, okay?"
"Can you promise me?"*
"Yes. I promise you. Trust me."
One of the armed men come up the stairs, but Adam is the quicker draw.
Clara almost has a heart attack.
"Clara, we need to move."
Clara does her best to keep herself on her feet and moving.
They head down the stairs to the parking hall. Everything seems to be clear, until the large garage door at the end of the hall opens, and more armed men enter the parking hall.
Adam and Clara hide behind one of the cars.
"Clara, stay calm."
They try to stay in hiding, but even more men come in from the opposite direction, forcing Adam to open fire.
A full-blown firefight begins. Clara stays down as Adam takes out what he can.
Until he runs out of ammo.
"I'm empty. Son of a bitch, I'm empty!"
Adam desperately tries to think of a plan B as the men approach their location.
As the men are a second away from reaching Adam and Clara, they're taken down by bullets coming from the garage door.
Adam then hears a familiar female voice.
"Adam! You okay?"
Instantly recognizing it.
"Alexa! Yeah, we're alright!"
Adam then grabs Clara by the arm and picks her up.
"We gotta move! Now!"
The remaining men enter the hall and open fire. Alexa provides cover for Adam and Clara.
Alexa takes the men out, and the three make a break for it to Alexa's car.
Diane comes across something on her computer and immediately calls for Isaac.
"Isaac! You're going to need to see this!"
Isaac rushes to Diane's workstation.
"What is it?"
"It's started. 20 of the power plants have begun melting down."
"Dear God. Contact Black. Either he finds the people responsible - or we're looking at a nuclear holocaust the size of this country."
As promised here this post has a number of my followers set as beneficiaries.
I thought I could set all of them at once, but there seems to be a limit, so I'm going to need to do this in two parts, it seems.
The beneficiaries for this post are as follows:
Vote for @nextgencrypto as witness!