less than another millisecond, the signal was
caught in a microwave antenna on top of the eleven-story federal printing building. This
was the Public Document Distribution Center, known to most as the place to write to in
Pueblo, Colorado for free information. The digitized message David had just transmitted
flowed through a cable down the eleven floors, plus three additional basement levels, to
the bottom of the block-sized building. David's four word message: IS MR. HENDERSON THERE?
flashed on a computer screen.
"We got another Code One here!" yelled Scott Thomas, as he
picked up the phone. "Get me Mr. Henderson! It's another breach of security."
Across the basement floor against the south wall, a big red steel door
with the words DIRECTOR OF DEPARTMENT OF STATISTICS on it swung open. A big, almost obese
man in a tan camel hair sport coat, short at the sleeves and tight at the stomach, hurried
across the computer filled room. Mr. Henderson knocked down a female filing clerk as he
rushed to Scott Thomas' desk. Weighing close to three hundred pounds, he ricocheted off
several of the tightly spaced desks before he was at his destination, leaning over Scott's
shoulder, reading the screen.
"Someone is able to tap into our computer lines. It could be the
same person that tried last Friday night," said Scott.
"Last Friday night! Why wasn't I informed?" yelled Mr.
Henderson as he spun Scott around in his chair.
"We didn't think it was important. We thought it was some kid. He
couldn't even spell and said he was freezing or something," Scott answered
"Who is we?" yelled Mr. Henderson, louder!
Almost everyone on the floor turned and hid their heads behind their
computer screens. A few employees got up from their desks and headed for cover in the
restroom, breakroom or anyplace to escape the wrath that was about to fly.
"Mainly, it was myself and Tom. We were compiling some data for
the Sunday morning newspaper and we received this message about somebody freezing up on a
mountain. We thought it was a news story, but then the spelling was so bad we thought it
was a couple of kids," Scott whimpered.
Mr. Henderson grabbed the phone off of Scott's desk, dialed, then
yelled into the receiver, "Kirk, get down here immediately! We've got a security
Scott began to tremble. Kirk, Mr. Henderson's right-hand man, worked
one floor up, on the second basement level all by himself. His main responsibility was the
huge open reel computer machines which stored and produced all the facts and statistics.
His job was high security and top secret. He once had a fellow employee fired for
accidentally getting off on his floor. Kirk loved the power he held within the Department
An elevator door opened on the same side of the floor as Mr.
Henderson's office. A skinny, white-haired agent with a shoulder harness on stepped out.
Kirk rapidly scanned the large open office area, his ponytail flipping from shoulder to
shoulder. Immediately he noticed a lot of employees were away from their desks. Squinting
his eyes to aid his poor eyesight, he could barely make out the huge frame of Mr.
Henderson standing over someone still constrained to an office chair. Kirk Smith was
overzealous, and Mr. Henderson used this to his advantage. Kirk pulled the nickel plated,
nine millimeter handgun from his shoulder harness. While gripping the gun with both hands,
he worked himself through the maze of desks toward Scott and Mr. Henderson and he pointed
the gun right at Scott's head ready for his fourth kill of the day.
"Put that thing away," said Mr. Henderson, somewhat
embarrassed by Kirk's actions.
Kirk slid the weapon into the leather holster and asked, "What's
"Someone has broken into our computer system," Mr. Henderson
said while pointing at the screen.
Kirk yanked Scott from his chair and took his place. He read the words
off the screen: IS MR. HENDERSON THERE? Kirk rubbed his hand on his chin while talking out
loud to himself. "I installed the most sophisticated scrambling and decoding
equipment; nobody could break into this data center. It must be an internal problem. I'll
run a loop test and find out where our little leak is."
Kirk jumped from the chair, ran across the room, got in the elevator
and went one floor up. In less than two minutes he was in his captain's chair at a console
of electronic equipment and a wall of security monitors, determined to find and then
destroy the person who thought he could outsmart him.
Mr. Henderson had pulled Scott into his office and waited for Kirk to
call down with the informant's name. Scott sat in a chair in front of Mr. Henderson's huge
wooden desk. He knew better than to offer an explanation or talk. Scott could visualize
Kirk one floor above, sitting amongst all his high-tech security equipment, frothing at
the mouth, ready to pounce on somebody. Scott got a knot deep down in his gut. Kirk
might blame the leak on me. He has never liked me. He will probably try to pin something
on me to cover his butt. Twenty years of hard work to get where I'm at could be gone. And
it's in the hands of that ten-cent security cop.
From behind his desk Mr. Henderson loosened the tie from around his
fat neck, pushed back the executive chair and stood. Scott's eyes followed him as he
waddled across the royal red carpet and pushed a button on the dark-walnut wood paneled
wall. There was a low hum as a section of the paneling lifted to reveal a built-in bar.
Mr. Henderson took some ice from a bucket and put it into a short glass and then poured
some scotch. Scott watched him in the mirror that lined the wall behind the bar. Mr.
Henderson's ugliness was overshadowed by his power. Scott believed and shared in his goals
and great vision of creating a better and stronger society. Scott worshipped him and
almost felt he didn't deserve to be part of the team that Mr. Henderson had assembled over
the past twenty years. Just like everyone else, he was intimidated and scared of Mr.
Henderson, but falsely trusted him and would do anything for him.
The phone rang. Mr. Henderson moved back to his desk and plopped down
in the chair. He picked up the phone and listened, then started to yell, "What do you
mean somebody on the outside has been able to tap into our computer!"
Scott breathed a sigh of relief. I'm off the hook.
Mr. Henderson continued yelling into the mouthpiece. "Kirk, I
am holding you completely responsible! I gave you over fourteen million dollars so you
could get a computer system no one could get into. And now somebody has broken into it and
even knows my name."
Scott sat there gloating that Kirk was the target of Henderson's wrath.
This couldn't be happening to a more deserving guy. Mr. Henderson motioned for
Scott to leave and as Scott did so, he left the door slightly cracked so that he could
finish eavesdropping on Mr. Henderson's tirade. Not wanting to look conspicuous by leaning
his ear against the door, Scott stood a few feet away and strained to hear.
"I want you to find the person who has tapped into our computer
and take care of him. And don't screw up like this morning. That plane blowing up on the
runway was a big mistake."
Scott couldn't believe he was hearing things right, but deep down he
knew exactly what was going on. The door open and Kirk rushed out of the office and got on
the elevator. Still in shock Scott went back to his desk and just there knowing he should
not have listened at the door; now he knew too much.
Two minutes later the elevator doors opened again. Kirk rushed out with
something in his hand and headed right for Scott. I'll deny hearing anything about the
plane blowing up. I will play dumb.
Kirk pulled Scott from his chair! "Is the hacker still on
Relived that he had not been caught eavesdropping, Scott answered
breathlessly, "I haven't touched anything."
Kirk sat at the desk and carefully turned the computer around. He then
clamped a blue signal probe around one of the cables coming out the back. He pushed two
buttons on the test probe and 0000 lit up on a red display. Kirk then turned the computer
back around and typed:
WHO WANTS MR. HENDERSON?
Again, in less than a millisecond this message flashed back up to the
microwave dish on Mt. Antero, down the cable, and onto David's screen. Caught off guard,
David read the screen and began laughing. What kind of fool do they think I am? They
actually think I'd identify myself? David typed back the message:
JUST TELL MR. HENDERSON AN OLD FRIEND WANTS TO TALK TO HIM.
Kirk knew that he had to find out who was on the line; his career could
be riding on it. He typed back:
JUST WAIT, A FEW MINUTES WHILE I GO GET MR. HENDERSON.
Kirk reached behind the computer and as he pushed a button on the test
probe, the red display started to flash and count numbers. Feeling cocky and oh so smart,
Kirk looked at his watch in less than ninety seconds he could trace the connection
back to his next victim.
David read the message off his screen, the just wait, a few minutes
sparking his curiosity. He did not know Kirk, but there was no way he was going to be
outwitted. David instantly reached up and unsnapped the modular jack from the terminal
board. They think I'm stupid enough to stay on line, so that they can trace the call.
Kirk was concentrating on the test probe when the red numbers quit
counting. "God damn it! They disconnected. Whoever is tapping into our system is
smart enough to know that we could have pinpointed their location."
Scott was watching over Kirk's shoulder. He knew Kirk would be held
responsible by Mr. Henderson for not finding the computer pirate. Scott had always been
afraid of Kirk and now more than ever especially having overheard Mr. Henderson
saying something about blowing up the plane. Scott was supportive of the mission at the
Department, to alter statistics and change facts, but he would never be part of killing
Kirk copied down the numbers off the test probe. At least there was
enough information to learn which state the hacker called from. David had no way of
knowing, he was now an opponent, and at an unfair disadvantage. It would be like a chess
game; but this game had lives riding on it. Kirk enjoyed the game; nobody had beat him
Knowing the risk of going back on line, David folded up the computer,
loaded up, and headed back down the mountain. During the forty-five minute drive back to
the shop, David thought about the senator, what was on the tape, and finding out about
what D.O.S. stood for. He decided none of it meant anything to him. It definitely was not
worth risking the Clipper Chip over.
His thoughts turned to going to the Naval Base at San Diego where his
discharge records were. Then somehow he could find a way to tap into the main computer.
He'd disguise himself as a phone repairman or maybe even bribe someone for an access
number. David started to entertain the idea of traveling to California for a well-deserved
week off. Maybe it was meant to be. After all, Paul had given him a plane ticket to San
Francisco. Despite his upbeat thoughts, David just could not fight off the sickness
growing in his gut. Even his knuckles were turning white from gripping the steering wheel.
The big problem was he hated flying.
Meanwhile, those at the Department of Statistics were not going to
dismiss David as easily as he had dismissed them. Kirk was back on the second basement
level working out some calculations in front of a map. Scott sat idle at his desk one
floor below, not sure if he should start working again on his terminal or what. Scott's
career flashed through his mind. He had been with the Department since the mid-seventies.
Scott's father was a judge and used his influence to get him a college deferment from the
war. He graduated from Yale with a degree in Statistical Science and it was his father
again who secured a position for Scott with the government. Three months after graduation,
Scott was standing in front of Jack Luther Henderson's desk, about to be his assistant.
There were immediate animosities. Jack hated college boys and regarded Scott as a coward.
Although Jack Henderson had only served eleven months in the Press Corps, he wasn't a
As the Vietnam War was coming to an end, Jack Henderson's assignment in
the Press Corps was to make sure that the actual POW and MIA figures were kept low. As
Director of Casualty Statistics, he was to make the public think there were not that many
men being lost. It was simple: just alter the numbers and/or words, control the
perception. He liked holding back information as to who was actually missing in action or
a prisoner of war it made him feel like God. By manipulating a few words he could
make someone a hero or simply a number. He once wrote about a solider who had pulled three
men back from the front lines and then took a bullet in the back, as if he were a coward
that got shot while running from the fighting. He changed the facts just because the
soldier's name was Lightfoot; Jack hated Indians.
Since his appointment came directly from the White House, and no
bureaucrats wanted to be tied into what he was doing, he answered to no one. Jack
Henderson's one-man department should have ended with the Vietnam War, but the usual
bureaucratic red tape reassigned him to an office in the United States Government Printing
Building in Pueblo, Colorado. When the Free Information Bill was passed, the press offices
got to be known as the Free Information Building.
Jack Henderson still had no one to answer to and knew that the position
of Director of Causality Statistics would be phased out with the next administration.
While in the Press Corps, he realized how much power the printed word really had. Hence,
he dropped the word causality from his title and became simply Director of Statistics.
Like every other government employee, Jack knew he was on the gravy
train and knew he somehow had to make it look like his position was invaluable. He started
compiling data, like how many voters believed in birth control and who wanted capital
punishment. Then when the governor was destined to lose reelection, Jack furnished this
information to him. The governor switched his platform to supporting birth control and won
his reelection. Jack had a politician in his back pocket.
Jack Henderson was a one-man office for almost two years, until Scott
Thomas showed up to work under him. Jack instantly became the Director of the Department
of Statistics. Although he did not like Scott, he liked his new title, the power, and
being in charge. He told Scott always to call him Mr. Henderson and devised a horrendous
first assignment that would keep Scott busy for years and out of his own larger plan.
Scott's first assignment was to compile the statistics on how many cars
in the U.S. required metric tools for maintenance or repairs. Scott worked hard to prove
himself to Mr. Henderson. But after two years of working on this project, Scott began to
notice something: whenever he would send out a survey to a mechanic or garage, he got back
a lot of nasty, resentful replies. It was obvious that Americans did not want to convert
to the metric system. One day, still trying to curry Mr. Henderson's favor, Scott jokingly
hinted that they could blackmail the auto industry by changing the statistics.
Jack Henderson enthusiastically jumped on the idea and initiated a
plan. It was simple, they would use the Free Information Department to release bogus
information about the benefits of converting to the metric system. Then Scott could change
the statistics to show that mechanics actually wanted to convert. They could even make up
some polls and have the newspapers print the results saying that the whole country wanted
the metric system. If it had worked, it would have cost the auto industry billions of
dollars to retool.
Over a five-year period, the three major auto makers indirectly
channeled over sixty-six million dollars to the Department of Statistics. With this huge
amount of funding, the Department grew from a two-desk operation to occupying the three
basement floors of the Federal Press Building. Nobody within the massive Free Information
Department knew what was going on below them. Ever since Mr. Henderson and Scott started
extorting money, there was no need to ask for an increase in funding. Both were still on
the federal payroll and they just got lost in the bureaucracy.
It was the result of Scott's first assignment that actually allowed the
two-man department to become a self supporting, silent, powerful force and earned Scott
Mr. Henderson's obligation and respect. After all, because of Scott, Mr. Henderson was
able to filter almost two million of the sixty-six million into his own alias accounts.
Scott's career reminiscing was interrupted when the phone on his desk
rang. His heart racing, he picked up the receiver. "Extension twenty-two."
"Scott, this is the switchboard. Your wife just called. She said
to remind you that you promised your children that you would make it to their church play
"Thank you." Scott hung up the phone and looked at his watch.
It was almost four. Weeks ago Mr. Henderson had already given him the okay to leave early
on this Monday. Turning down the brightness on his computer monitor, Scott got up from his
desk, grabbed his jacket, and headed for the elevator glad that this day was
over. He had just pushed the UP button for the elevator when he glanced to his right. Mr.
Henderson's door was open and he was on the phone. Scott hoped the elevator would hurry
before Mr. Henderson noticed him. He had been promising his two children for over a month
that he would make it to their play and didn't want to be delayed.
Ding. The elevator door opened. Mr. Henderson looked over as
Scott stepped in. The doors shut and Scott breathed a sign of relief as he hit the ground
floor button. He was on his way to see Chad and Polly perform in their church play. He
felt guilty not being able to spend more time with them but his position required working
late nights after most newsrooms shut down for the day. These after-hours were when the
Department could change information on the wire services without being detected.
The elevator door opened and Scott walked across the mezzanine
squinting his eyes from all the light coming in through the full length windows. Working
three levels underground made him feel like a mole. That was the worst part of his job,
working underground. The lack of daylight made it like hell. Scott hurried to the front
doors. The security guard looked at the security pass clipped to his jacket and when he
pushed a button, the two sliding doors parted. Scott took a deep breath of the fresh air
as he exited the building. He was not more than fifty yards from the building when he
heard footsteps behind him. It was Kirk chasing him down. "Mr. Henderson wants to see
you," yelled Kirk from about twenty yards back.
Scott kept walking, ignoring Kirk. He's lying. I cleared leaving
early this afternoon weeks ago. As he thought about it, being terminated could be the
best thing for him, especially in light of what he had heard today. At least he would be
able to see more of his family. Kirk, not one to be ignored, grabbed Scott and spun him
around. "I said, Mr. Henderson wants to see you. Now!"
"I okayed it with him to get off early," replied Scott,
abruptly pulling out of Kirk's grip. "Have him fire me if you want. I promised Sue
and my kids I'd finally make it to one of their activities."
"You fool! Do you think you can just walk from the Department?
You're in as deep as us. You just don't want to admit it."
Determined to leave, Scott stood next to his car and reached into his
pocket for the keys. He looked straight into Kirk's beady little blue eyes and said,
"I don't care what you and Mr. Henderson are up to. I will not be part of blowing up
Kirk went berserk and slugged Scott with an upper cut to the stomach.
Scott doubled over and Kirk rammed his head into the side of the car. Scott fell to the
ground and Kirk started kicking him. Despite the blows and the pain, all Scott could think
about were his children, their eyes wandering through the audience wondering why he had
broken his promise and missed their play.
The door security guard saw the commotion, ran from the building to
help and pulled Kirk off. "What's the problem, Mr. Smith?" Kirk looked at the
guard and said, "We've got an employee here that has been stealing government
"Should I call the police?" asked the guard.
"Not yet, just help me get him back to my floor."
The trio returned to the building, Scott in the center with Kirk
holding one arm and the guard the other. They walked across the white marble floor to the
furthermost elevator. Kirk inserted a card into a slot and the elevator opened. The three
got on and Kirk pushed the BASEMENT 2 button.
The doors opened onto a floor filled with huge computer tape backup
machines. To the right was a console with security monitors and banks of switches. They
turned to the left and Kirk led the three down a short hall. The door at the end of the
hall was a restroom; the door on the left said PHONE EQUIPMENT ROOM. Directly across on
the right side of the hall the lettering on the door read CLEANING SUPPLY ROOM.
Kirk unlocked the steel door on the right and switched on the light.
They all walked inside the small room which was filled with mop buckets, push brooms, a
floor polisher, and other cleaning tools. In the center of the room was a wooden table
with a folding chair pulled up to it. "Sit," ordered Kirk. Scott did as he was
"Mr. Smith, do you want me to call the police now?" asked the
"No, I can take care of things from here," said Kirk, guiding
the guard out of the room. "Thanks for the assistance. And I will remember this,
Henry. There could be a promotion coming your way." Kirk pulled the door shut and
Scott sat in the room alone, scared. All he could hear was the hum and
clicking from the phone equipment right across the hall. His mind raced a million miles an
hour, going from the certainty he had slipped up when he blurted out about blowing up
people to the imagined consequences facing him. If only he had not listened at Mr.
Henderson's door. But it was far too late; he should have gotten out of the Department
when they started changing facts and statistics. Extorting money from the auto industries
was just the beginning. Now the Department was controlling the way people thought, voted,
and even lived. And died!
Scott gingerly got up from the chair, sore from Kirk's kicks and
punches to the stomach and head. He walked to the door and tried turning the knob; it did
not budge. Scott surveyed the room. It was about twenty by twenty, with no other exit, not
even a window, since it was two floors underground. There was a mattress over in the back
corner and next to it was a video camera sitting on a tripod. I bet that pervert Kirk
brings women in here and then blackmails them with their job or something. I could tell he
was trouble ten years ago when Mr. Henderson hired him to install a computer network
system. Back then he worked himself into handling security for our two-man department. Now
he has a whole floor of computer and security equipment, and all thanks to the first
sixty-six million dollars I extorted for the Department. Now the Department of Statistics
has grown to over fifty people and we almost control the country. And no matter how hard I
try to deceive myself, I am part of it.
As Scott heard a key being put into the door; his heart seemed
ready to burst out of his chest. There was no way out! He hated himself for being such a
weak man, a coward, afraid to fight for his country years ago and still not brave enough
Kirk walked into the room and barked out the order. "Sit!"
Scott sat at the old wooden table. In walked Mr. Henderson. Kirk
unfolded a chair and slid it next to the table. The chair creaked as Mr. Henderson's large
buttocks more than covered the whole seat. "We've got a problem here, Scott,"
spewed the words from his fat face, beet red with anger.
Unable to speak, Scott couldn't help but notice the deathly smirk on
Kirk's face as he stood over and behind Mr. Henderson, as if waiting for the word to put a
bullet into Scott's brain. It was easy for Kirk to justify killing just one less
person to share in his world, a world where the unfit and weak would be extinguished like
animals. Kirk shared the same vision that Mr. Henderson had preached to him many times
behind closed doors. The two of them were getting so close to their goal. Within ten years
their plan of mass euthanasia could be in full swing. The world would be a better place.
Kirk would see that no person or thing would interfere now!
Dredging deep strength from within, Scott finally said, "You can
kill me. I really never did believe in your philosophical views. You are playing God. To
change statistics and polls are one thing. But killing is wrong!"
"Don't try to get heroic on me this far into the game. You think
you're innocent. What about all that false information you put out on the wire service?
Tell that to Mr. Cleaver. You were the one that made him out to be a felon hiding up in
the woods in Montana. That's the only reason the ATF killed his wife and all his animals.
Go tell him in prison how upright you are."
Scott let his head slump. Mr. Henderson was right. He spent every day
with the guilt. He bravely looked straight into Mr. Henderson's deep set, black eyes and
said, "Kill me, or I will blow the lid on what this whole raunchy Department of
Statistics is all about."
Kirk pulled his chrome plated, nine millimeter from his shoulder
harness, walked over behind Scott and put the barrel up against the back of Scott's head.
Looking over at Mr. Henderson, he said, "You'd better get up or his brains will blow
all over you."
Mr. Henderson started to get up from the table, but realized he still
needed Scott's help in finding the computer hacker. "Put the gun away."
Scott, his eyes clenched, was praying feverishly, begging God for
forgiveness. Realizing how close he had come to death, he started to shake. Then suddenly
his face felt as though it had been caved in. Mr. Henderson had backhanded him with his
massive right arm, sending Scott flying backward, the folding chair slapping shut as it
hit the floor. Mr. Henderson picked up the chair, unfolded it, and set it back in front of
the table. "Get up!" he yelled.
Blood was pouring from Scott's mouth. How he wished he could kick Kirk
and break his neck. He'd have torn out Mr. Henderson's stone cold heart if he could but,
meek by nature, he crawled back to the chair with blood all over him.
Mr. Henderson sucked the blood from his cut knuckles, showing a blood
red tongue as he voiced his demands. "This is the way it is! You help us find that
computer hacker and your kids will be safe. Take Tuesday off and let me know Wednesday
morning if you're with us or if I should kill them. I might have Kirk make a video tape of
your lovely wife Sue, just to show you I'm serious." Mr. Henderson pointed toward the
mattress in the corner. Scott was more than terrified not for himself but for his