The Week Internet Freedom Died

 “Reminiscent of early Kurt Vonnegut.” – Anon

Published 2017

©Copyright MMXX


Chapter 1. Not Cool With the Boys

Chapter 2. Turbulence in the Andes

Chapter 3. Operation Rebel Kitty

Chapter 4. #WhereIsPaddyLeith

Chapter 5. The Vegetarian Sandwich

Chapter 6. PortalLeaks Coup

Chapter 7. Timere Grammaticus

Chapter 8. The Perfect Twitter Feed Stained

Chapter 9. The Bloody Mary

Chapter 10. Imprisoned Like Papillion

Chapter 11. The Hangover

Chapter 12. Dusty Grammar

Chapter 13. The Deadman’s Switch

Chapter 14. Finding Mojo in the Mayhem

Chapter 15. Fuzzy Recollection of Empirical Data

Chapter 16. Swing. My. TITS!

Chapter 17. Keeping It Groovy

Chapter 18. Morphine-spiked Time

Chapter 19. Dickhead, Autistic Punk-Ass

Chapter 20. Neo’s Trumpet

Chapter 21. Into a Thousand Pieces

Chapter 22. Military Calculus

Chapter 23. Big Kitty Doesn’t Smile

Chapter 24. The Emerging Collective

Chapter 25. El Mercado Negro

Chapter 26. Greywater

Chapter 27. My Little HACKSUB

Chapter 28. The Feather Men

Chapter 29. There is Nowhere We Cannot Go

Chapter 30. The Grey

Chapter 31. The Nutless Punk Grew Some Pills

Chapter 32. Into the Grey

Chapter 33. Twitter Tag

Chapter 34. Hanging in the Balance

Chapter 35. The Post-Coup Ruckus

Chapter 36. Incognito One-Man Government

Chapter 37. Scar Tissue

Chapter 38. An Ill-Advised Personal Side-Op

Chapter 39. The UNIX Red Book Upper Hand

Chapter 40. The Key

Chapter 41. Scalped

Chapter 42. Tumble Puppy

Chapter 43. Terra Firma

Chapter 44. The Blockchain and Mempool Piece

Chapter 45. Tapping the Petty Cash

Chapter 46. The 4Chan Comment from Icelandic Higgy

Chapter 47. Little Dickie

Chapter 48. A Chicken Crossing the Road

Chapter 49. The End of an Era

Chapter 50. A Good Little Soldier

Chapter 51. Tweaking the Matrix


Editor’s Note

About the Author


Guillermo Avellino – Ecuadorean ambassador, lover of drink

Ron Berry – US Secretary of State and ex-military man

Gunther DiLeo – Hacker hippie with Asperger’s Syndrome

Chaucer – German shepherd and companion of Gunther

Paddy Leith – Leader of PortalLeaks, a whistleblowing website

Roberto – Ecuadorean techie working at the embassy in London

Dimitri – PortalLeaks’ groupie and free spirit living in Cambodia

Rusty Hicks – Lieutenant and wanna-be computer hacker/warrior

Gloria – Administrative assistant at the Ecuadorean embassy

Naomi Henderson – Movie star who has lunch with Paddy Leith

Dusty Pearce – Retired SEAL, computer guy and Greywater employee

Tori Finger – Reporter of PortalLeaks story on Foxe News

Sally Anne – Backpacker who falls in love with Dusty Pearce

Gus – Media officer working for the government in Quito

Colonel Braithwaite – Military colonel involved in black ops

Rockett Man – Ex-SAS and Greywater Director

Bernie – The tattooer who inks Lieutenant Rusty Hicks

John Wayne – Greywater operative

Annalore – Girlfriend of Dimitri and fellow free spirit

Rosemary – Backpacker who falls in love with Troy Martens

Martin – Ecuadorean Coke addict and abused rehab prisoner

Massey Mathers – One of the key leaders in the Illuminati



It was the smell that he detested the most, and this was saying something after the stuffiness of the Ecuadorian embassy for almost five years. The air was heavy, laden with mould and dampness, the room big and dark. The window had been removed and covered with bars and filled in with wood. They’re doing this on purpose he thought to himself, shivering and still unable to get the knot unstuck in the pit of his gut. Fuck. They have me.

The words, unspoken except within his own mind, weighed heavily with truth, devastating him. Paddy Leith had governed himself with muster and guile by finding a safe haven in the midst of US pressure coming down on his online publishing activities, and had succeeded in out-manoeuvring the strongest government in the world by finding refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London. For five years he had been able to continue publishing safely from his new secure locale in the UK. Despite having not made it to the scented airs of the Andes where he could broadcast his pirate signal from the top of the world on the equator, Paddy was at least safe from the special ops boys for the time being. The creator of the whistle-blowing website PortalLeaks was safe in his fortress.

Or so he had thought. Until now. Fuck. They snagged me. What the hell happened?

Chapter 1

Not Cool With the Boys


“And how is the family these days? It’s been so long since we last spoke.” The Secretary of State was on his best behaviour yet he could not mask the urgency of his movements, which put his sense of timing off. Guillermo didn’t like Ron Berry as a person but he had his strong points when it came to his technique as diplomat. In fact he was in awe of his finesse. Clean cut, tall, white and maybe 25 pounds overweight, it was his hair that stood out: combed from the side with almost too much precision. In his nearly 20 years in international politics, Guillermo Avellino had seen how some in his own diplomatic corps emulated Berry’s techniques for their own betterment. Yes, he did have a style. But that blue tie he wore wasn’t about to sway him into anything against protocol, unannounced visit or not.

“It has been a while – over a year, Mr. Secretary.”

“It has been a busy time during this election year, as you can appreciate.” Ron Berry surveyed the modest office and noted a feint smell of alcohol-based cleaning products.

“We are all very keen to see what unfolds,” he said. “To see how it all plays out.” Guillermo’s native tongue was Ecuadorian Spanish but he had spent six years at boarding school in Canada, where he made a special effort to learn the subtleties of the English language and the shades of meaning when English expressions were used. It fascinated him then and it fascinated him today.

“Yes, what unfolds. There have been many surprises during the election.” Berry smiled at him, waiting for a response.

“There have been many surprises, yes. We follow it in the media.” Guillermo smiled but he regretted it because that was when Ron Berry had his opening. Poignant scolding unfurling.

“See there are many things that can arise during an election as we all know. Now, in our day and age with such a porous media infrastructure and hacking and firewalls and cyber security and all those things that we never spoke about 25 years ago because these weren’t issues like they are now, governments must take proactive steps to restrain the illegality of pilfering binary numbers from midair in order to protect the freedoms that we represent for our people.” The seasoned diplomat paused for gravitas. “You know how that works, don’t you?”

“We are very proactive with our cyber security sir, but I know we can always use a stronger firewall.”  Guillermo still disliked computers: the mysteries of programming and code caused him unease. “And we actively recruit the latest graduates from the computer sciences. We will continue to do our best.”

“But you see there is a complication in all this. I know your sovereignty here is protected under international law but there is something we have in the United States’ law that outlaws any outside international interference in a federal election. And that’s frankly why I’m here. These tweets and emails and everything being sent from this building is adversely affecting our election. Now what if we had something in America who was publishing and spreading negative propaganda to your political rivals and electorate? What if the United States was negatively affecting your federal election? You wouldn’t like it one bit, would you? Well we don’t like it either. The President has asked me personally to come here to ask if you would, acting on your own honourable volition, restrict the Internet access of your temporary visitor who is the cause of our common problem. This would, we believe, alleviate the problem for a temporary basis.”

Guillermo had feared this day might come one day but whenever he had thought of it in the past it had played out much differently. He was surprised at how simple and precise his language was to pinpoint the mutual issue in play. 

“You know our position with regards to this matter.” As he spoke the words he experienced a flare of Latin anger that remained in the base of his throat like heartburn.

“Yes Guillermo, we do.” Ron Berry’s eyes narrowed under his dark eyebrows. “Would you like me to repeat our hope? Would you like me to ask you again? Is that what you are asking me?” The chill in the air for a moment was ice cold. And poor Guillermo could not contain himself.

“Your hope. I know what your hope is.”

“Perhaps you will take it up with your boss?” The Secretary of State turned to a waiter standing at the doorway. “More coffee por favor.” He sat and finished the rest of his coffee in one gulp, entrenching himself in the chair with his minions around him. His features were now chiselled from wood, his profile a portrait of stoic patience.

The Latin flare of anger had now cooled so Guillermo dialed the phone and spoke to his boss. They spoke in rapid Spanish before Guillermo put President Rivera on the speakerphone.

“Mr. President please go ahead. Mr. Secretary of State Berry is here from the United States. Sir, the President of Ecuador.”

“Hello Mr. President.” Berry now stood with a fresh cup of coffee, his hand shaking slightly.

“Yes Mr. Secretary, hello. Dr. Avellino has told me of your concern and I’m sorry but we are set on our position to let Mr. Leith publish. He is a protected refugee fleeing from a ridiculous – if you excuse me – a ridiculous charade of law. No charges as you know have been laid and we have offered to have him questioned at the embassy there so you know the situation.” President Rivera paused and cleared his throat. “May I ask: why now?”

“Because Mr. President, his words are negatively affecting our federal election.” The words hung there in the air, people shifting uncomfortably. “Mr. President, I do apologize for my unannounced request but you know the severity of this. You can surely see how other countries in the world are not impressed by this too, as these classified documents include names of government officials from countries around the world – with countries that do business with the United States. You can see how this might negatively affect them too, and you would hate to see some of your major trade partners switch to other nation states for supplies of your oil or flowers or even your bananas. There could be some negative fallout for you. Some consequences.”

Again the dead air was palpable.

“I think there could be…” Guillermo was cut off.

“Pardon me Dr. Avellino but I just want to emphasize how interconnected we all are now,” said Ron Berry. “We all trade with each other and this is a clear contravention of international norms of behaviour. Do you think China would not take action if this Paddy and his PortalLeaks were publishing private classified emails that were directly affecting their national security and economic trade? Sir, if I may speak plainly?”

Guillermo sat down, posture deflated.

“Yes, please.”

“There is a certain code of conduct when it comes to a country’s federal election being negatively affected by international players hiding behind trumped up legal red tape.” Secretary of State Ron Berry was in now hitting his stride, using good form. “Sir, basically what you’re doing is, to use an English expression, not cool with the boys. And the ‘boys’ I’m talking about are all the governments in the world engaged in election survival. But upon serious analysis, there is a simple way to solve the problem. And that is simply cut off his Internet connection.”

President Rivera spoke in rapid Spanish to Guillermo, who responded by explaining what “not cool with the boys” meant in his native tongue.”

“That’s it? Not cool with the boys.”

“That’s it Mr. President. That’s all of it.”

That was when Secretary of State Berry did something rather theatrical: he stood semi stooped over holding his coffee and his hand still jittery, quiet, his breath held but his eyes darting around the room at every eye on him, imploring each eye not to utter a word. He stopped on Guillermo’s eyes. Blazing. Urgent. Wild. Black with intensity. There was a naked ugliness revealed in a moment that Guillermo knew he would never forget.

“Dr. Avellino, please accommodate Mr. Berry and cut the connection. We will speak later Guillermo.”

“Yes Mr. President.” The line went dead.

“So Ron please convey our remorse to your many trade partners for our oversight,” said Guillermo. “It was not intentional.”

“I will do my best.”

Guillermo was faintly aware of how close Ecuador was to danger and destruction. It felt like a fissure had opened that had let water in and now the ice was coming in to freeze and crack it wide open.

Chapter 2

Turbulence in the Andes


Swarms of birds flew from one tree to another outside the window from Gunther DiLeo, his PortalLeaks’ work scattered across his messy desk. Massive windows revealed a canopy of tree-tops that rose upwards like a wall in the distance, which created an ideal workplace for Gunther. He was a combination of people: Swiss and northern Italian, passionate and orderly, impulsive yet logical – he always saw himself swimming in an estuary rather than just fresh water or just salt water. In fact he often described himself as a ‘walking conundrum’ to the girls he met. But Gunther was not his usual jovial self all perched and safe in his Ecuadorean Andean hideout. Something was amiss in his chosen Eden.

He focused on the email from Paddy Leith, his boss and the prophet to a new age in information transparency. It was true that Gunther was still young but it didn’t matter. In fact it was better because he could learn and grow with PortalLeaks and read the classified info that came across the PortalLeaks desk. He didn’t mind organizing it all because he had one of those minds that could instantly organize and categorize and file it away in a very neat and concise directory. That was his gift, but his lack of other gifts were very apparent too, such as the state of his casa. It was spacious and cool and colonial Spanish but it always looked like he had just thrown a party the night before. Whatever he did he could not get the house clean. The dishes in the sink didn’t smell so he still had time to wash them. He had thought of hiring someone to clean up but there was very little in the petty cash for that. So he did it himself. Enough anyway. Once in a while. He couldn’t understand how some lived in completely clean houses because when people live in a house it becomes lived in, and messy with books and login passwords and hashtags.

For Gunther he was always in a state of organizing documents of PortalLeaks information and his casa.

Gunther loved his work but more than his work he loved being the guy who was preparing international publishing star Paddy Leith’s new Eagle’s Nest in Ecuador for when he landed from London. Gunther had created a retreat where Paddy could rule his cyber empire from up in the clouds atop the Andean mountain chain. He glanced outside at the clouds that hugged the lush mountaintops that were set on the eastern horizon. He knew he was the perfect guy for this job. Like his life job. All his strengths played to reaching his goal despite being so riddled with other shortcomings. Like the Peter Principle, he knew he could reach his maximum potential undertaking the establishment of the PortalLeaks’ new International Headquarters in Ecuador. For Gunther it was an honor. They didn’t even have to pay him. A place to live and his petty cash fund was more than enough.

Smoke from his cigarette obscured his focus on the succinct-yet-oddly-worded email in front of him. He read it aloud as he followed each word on the screen with his finger: “Dilly, something awry. US peeps here. Unexpected black hats with many black vans. My door is still closed but there is something in the air. I can see the black vans out my window.” Gunther smoked his cigarette and then as he exhaled he said the last words: “Have hashtags ready.”

But the hashtags were only for that one time when everything goes FUBAR.

“Couldn’t be FUBAR action,” he said to his dog Chaucer. “Things are too good for any FUBAR action, right puppy dog?” Chaucer, a German shepherd with a black face, didn’t look too concerned.

Gunther was more frustrated than angry or worried. He hated vague emails. For Gunther, who was OCD and perhaps even suffering from mild Tourette’s syndrome, he detested anything imprecise. It was worse than being immoral. Sloppiness with language was weak intellectual effort manifest. It was also bad manners. And disrespectful to the reader. To him. And Paddy Leith was a guy who shared that absolute demand of grammatical precision that very few others’ had.

“That’s what it is,” he said to Chaucer. “Frickin sloppy volley man. Very uncool!” He stood up abruptly and stepped to the balcony. The air was thick with moisture from the equatorial foliage. Living in a rainforest on the equator 8000 feet above sea level surrounded by hidden coca plantations was a cool vibe. There was no way anyone could find him because his neighbours were so far away and they were people who did not want visitors. The locals knew a hippie gringo lived at the hideout down the road and that was good enough for him because that was basically what it was: a hippie who lived off an income from an online business. Simple. And his dealer was his age and cool too, recommended by his neighbor. But if he was honest, those guys in the Ecuadorean government knew exactly where this place was, and have it labelled as Paddy’s retreat from American Special Forces who might wander around Ecuador to find this needle in a haystack.

“They won’t find us, will they puppy doggie?” Chaucer ran up to him and wagged her tail, happy to have her master talk to her. Something in his voice. He glanced at his reflection in the sliding glass doors and saw the bags under his eyes but he waved his hand in the air. “And so in the meantime puppy doggie, we’ll just keep at it, won’t we? Gooood doggy!” He knelt down and hugged his dog, feeling the warmth of companionship that surprisingly did little to quell what ailed him in his gut: that something was wrong with his boss. Best thing to do is to do the right thing: confront his sloppiness. “Have to. Have to man.”

And so Gunther wrote the following email to Paddy Leith:

Volley vague. Hashtags here as per usual fully cocked. Are these visitors an immediate threat? Note: everything is in place. Give me the word and I will release our plan B contingency piece. Otherwise, please advise on priority items on agenda.

Gunther sat on his couch and hit the send button on his laptop. He did have the hashtags ready, and so did seven others who represented the Council of Nine. He thought to himself: Now that PortalLeaks’ lawyers were dead, Johns in April and Cantor in May, and even that guy Seth Tisch from the DNC who leaked the emails to PortalLeaks died in July, the Council of Nine had expanded to keep the number at nine, a decision that Paddy had insisted on but one that made very little sense to him, especially at such a time during the US election year and the upcoming questioning at the embassy in the Fall by the Swedes about the alleged sexual assault. Two of the four new people on the Council of Nine Gunther seemed fine but two seem to be pushing a slightly different agenda. He could see it in the language they used to describe ideas and responses they had to certain actions that have been proven effective in the promulgation of new information from anonymous leakers. And some tweets were worded with questionable undertones for impartial and neutral PortalLeaks.

Chapter 3

Operation Rebel Kitty


Guillermo was pissed off. His day was shot and the reports and unanswered emails were left pressing against his temples. The bustle in the embassy put him on edge. What was strange was how many secret service accompanied the Secretary of State. It was true he was number four on the list of who would inherit the presidency if the president, vice president and leader of the house were dead. Big ass job, big ass security boys. But they were into everything, even the kitchen. One guy kept brewing pots of coffee, taking over the pantry. Seemed like they were looking for sugar and cream that were there on the counter but they didn’t see them so they ransacked the cupboards. There had been one guy talking to the chef in the kitchen since they arrived. Gunther had popped into the kitchen to try to find out what they were talking about but only heard talk of recipes and Secretary of State Ron Berry’s favorite dishes. The most annoying was a short guy who spoke loudly with the secretary, which seemed to throw everything into disarray. He bombarded the poor girl, who was already overworked, into administrative submission. Two Marines were at the front door talking to the embassy security, apparently friendly. Granted the visit was unannounced, he still felt their presence was a bit too penetrating, especially it being a Saturday and under-staffed.

What hindered his utmost efficient functionality was the nagging voice in his head debating whether to ask these guys to take a step back. Guillermo was aware that some might not be well-versed in the labyrinth of etiquette within an embassy, but this was surely Ron Berry’s responsibility. And therein lay the prick: He was being ambushed. It was happening now and he couldn’t formulate a plan of action other than to ask his IT guy to sever Paddy’s connection to the Internet. The thing was that he had given Paddy his word that he was safe in the embassy and here he was about to betray that trust. But he knew Paddy hated being interrupted during the morning hours. Only when he emerged from his ‘cave’ – as they called his room in the old women’s washroom – after 1pm was his door open for visitors. He had made it clear that he worked in the mornings and did not want to be disturbed until he opened his door himself. Besides, Gunther thought it would be less painful to cut his connection first and then talk to him.

So there he stood in the hallway staring at Paddy Leith’s closed door, lead publisher of PortalLeaks, most wanted man in the West and most powerful man in the world right now in October of 2016. During this moment in history this man had more power than even the most powerful political leader in the world, an amazing manifestation of vision followed through with airtight programming and a true belief in a secure submission platform. The random variable in the hose worked so leakers could leak with pure anonymity. And this man had his hands on the keys to the gate.

For a second Guillermo Avellino lost himself in thought, realizing that from a few feet inside that door was a man more powerful than POTUS and yet there he lived like a Hobbit, drinking loads of tea and seldom changing his clothes. He was a workhorse. The hours he had already spent behind that door had fueled an online revolution. Like a perfect storm, it might prove to be the final pure moment of Internet freedom before the heavy hand of censorship spread its ugly hands deeper into everyone’s privacy. Paddy had often spoken of this being the ‘golden age of Internet freedom’ but had noted the serious storm clouds on the horizon. Guillermo knew he wasn’t a visionary like Paddy Leith because he didn’t possess the visionary’s perspective to know when the zeitgeist was in play. He had dominated the headlines in 2010 and then fell into obscurity for most except a few followers, but he kept at it but now, like history repeating itself, or like malaria that comes alive every seven years, PortalLeaks was again dominating the headlines six years later. All those hours, all those clicks on the mouse and tapping on the keyboard had led to this moment in 2016. Sometimes it boggled his mind to see the situation in the embassy for what it was, so he tried to keep it clinical and keep his mind on the day-to-day.


Guillermo returned to his office and called his techie. Suddenly Ron Berry and a skinny guy with red hair holding a laptop were at his door. His good nature took over and he raised his hand and smiled in the universal brotherhood expression of welcome.

“Roberto, I will call you in a minute.” He hung up.

“I don’t want to disturb you Mr. Ambassador so please excuse the interruption.” Flawless language. Beautifully trained this man.

“No, not disturbing me at all,” replied Guillermo. “What can I do for you?” And just like that he again had an upper hand.

“My tech man here Lieutenant Hicks is a master at the Internet.” Ron Berry nodded at the redhead techie Hicks. “Me, I don’t understand half of it of course. It was really after my time, the Internet. But I have him here to disconnect if you wish.” They both looked at Hicks who opened his laptop to an open page that showed all the computers that were emitting a signal from within the radius of the embassy.

“This is him here, sir,” said Hicks, pointing to a username RebelKitty.

“What does it say lieutenant? I can’t read that.”

“It says Rebel Kitty sir, one word.”

Rebel Kitty. Well, that must be it.” The look of distaste on Ron Berry’s face was Shakespearean. Guillermo marvelled and secretly envied his muster and poise during such a delicate moment.

“Yes, Mr. Secretary. It’s Rebel Kitty,” he replied weakly. Only Hicks laughed. But it was true: he didn’t have the gravitas like Ron Berry. Fuck.

The skinny lieutenant said: “At least it’s not MENDAX.” Both stared at the techie, shoulders out yet still narrow as a stickman. “Sir.”

“Would you like us to disconnect?” Guillermo flushed. He hated being rushed into things that were well within his abilities to task. He felt his upper lip stiffen, which never boded well for him. A stiff upper lip he knew was cause for concern because danger was near.

“I think we can handle the Rebel Kitty account sir. I can let you know when it’s done. How is that?”

“That’ll be fine Doctor. We will be out here.” They left the door open so he closed it after them, feeling the hair on his arms and the back of his neck rise, like a bull about to charge. He went to his coffee machine and reached for a mug and then thought of the bottle of vodka in his desk. He reached for a bottle of orange juice and settled into his chair and mixed himself a screwdriver. 

“Fuck it,” he said to no one.” “Fuck him. Fucking day’s shot.” And then he drank. It took about ten seconds for the flush of alcohol to flutter in his chest and warm his cheeks. So he took another long drink and then placed the mug close to him on the desk. Then, in a moment, there was a thrill in his empty gut, or was it fear? Sure he was breaking the laws of etiquette drinking in the office but he would do it wisely.

He called Roberto. “Don’t get emotional,” he said into the phone to himself as it was still ringing.

“We need to disconnect Paddy’s Internet connection today. Can you do that? Just his. And no one else.”


“Can you do that?”

“Sure, no problem. Want me to do it now with you on the phone sir?” Guillermo took another swig and thought why not.

“Sure. Take me through it.”

“Okay. The server recognizes each signal by a code, or a username. Um, yes, here. I see Paddy’s here sir. It’s not difficult to isolate and disconnect sir.”

“Are you looking at the Kitty username?” Silence for a moment. “Roberto?”

“Well no sir. I’m not seeing Kitty as a username.”

“You’re not seeing his username? It has Kitty in it. Rebel Kitty.”

“Yes, I see Rebel Kitty sir.” There was a long sigh from Guillermo that felt good because the absurdity of immature men made him laugh.

“Very good son, please disconnect Rebel Kitty. We can call this op Operation Kill Rebel Kitty, si?” He laughed for a moment like his old high school math teacher: all air and no sound.

Roberto, a young computer geek who loved war games and special missions, for a moment lost himself while on the telephone, forgetting who was on the other line.

“Yes sir. Operation Kill Rebel Kitty.” Then Roberto swore he heard his boss laughing, so he let loose with his best gaming commentary: “Going in for the right click and yes, we can click on that baby right there and bam! The Paddywagon is history! Connection terminated sir. Operation Kill Rebel Kitty successful.” Guillermo sat up in his seat.

Paddy’s wagon is history. Confirm.” His hand shook from the laughter, trying to stifle himself as he poured another shot of vodka into his mug. These computer guys were weird.

“Roger that. Confirm. Repeat, confirm Rebel Kitty is disconnected from the Internet. His cybership has had its moorings untied. No more connection to the dock. Full Ghandi. Mission complete, sir.” Roberto pulled up a new page and narrowed in on some new data.

“Well done Roberto. I knew I could count on you for this. Obviously this will be news so please refrain from commenting on anything. You know the drill.” Guillermo loved throwing expressions like that at his fellow Ecuadoreans because he could always tell whether they understood the expression or not.

“Sir, I see the Americans are on our network,” Roberto said, feeling like a spy.

The odd time Guillermo did drink at the office was usually Friday afternoons or emergencies, and this was an emergency so that was fine but his biggest fear was being spotted so any spilling of alcohol on his clothes was a major faux pas that threatened his integrity and career. And just as Roberto said this, his hand jumped as if subconsciously he had suspected that little Hicks chappie of hacking into their network. For a guy with a pencil neck like that his special talent must be with his keyboard. Pussy. The alcohol slurped upwards to the rim and over, landing in his right cuff and right pant leg right in the middle of the thigh, very tricky if not impossible to hide.

“Fuck!” He wiped his pants but the dark stain against his bright trousers left a large, noticeable mark. He lifted his cuff and smelled like a distillery with fumes of 80-proof alcohol on his sleeve, right under the noses of his co-workers for the rest of the day.

“Is that a fact? I meant. Are you sure?” He swore he heard Roberto laugh on the other end of the phone. Guillermo quickly drowned his cup and engineered a proper drink in his ‘tall traveller,’ so he could add some ice.

“I’m sure Guy. The username they’re using right now is Offline Kitty.”

“Are you-.“ He coughed violently for a second, inhaling the alcohol fumes into is windpipe.

“Sir, are you okay?” The coughing died down.

“Don’t be silly. Just a little coffee down the windpipe. Happens from time to -.“ He cleared his throat a few times. “From time from to time.” He let out a long sigh. “What does it mean?”


“What does it mean? What can they do? They have hacked into our network? Isn’t there a password for that and other safeguards?” One big cough solved his temporary throat issue. His windpipe was clear. In fact it burned clean with the alcohol stinging the scraped parts.

“I suppose they could be downloading any of our files from our database here sir. They could be deleting files or planting bugs, or viruses and spyware.”

“What about bacteria? Will they pour that into our private directories too? Is that what you’re telling me?” He put the phone away from his ear and then opened his door, seeing Hicks slouched over the laptop. “Fuck!” It was too late. Before he closed his office door it slipped out. He was sure of it but he tried to convince himself otherwise.

“Can you reset the password and put some sort of diagnostic on our network, and only let the admin and executive sections use the network. Turn on all our best security.”

“Yes sir. Would you like me to disconnect them sir? Operation Slice & Dice Some Stars & Stripes. Over.” It was the first true grin of his day and for the first time he knew he would get through the day and survive intact.

“Roger that. Operation Stars & Stripes on hold. First reset the password on the secure network. If you did that wouldn’t you take everyone offline?”

“Yes sir, I can do that.”

“Go ahead and remove Stars and Stripes from network access by setting new password.”



“What is the new password?” Guillermo took a deep breath and thought of his date tonight and the promise of love it brought with it. It was like a drug. He put up his feet on the ottoman and pondered. Yes, he would weather the storm and he would be safe but poor old Paddy was finally up.

“Paddywagon. One word, all lowercase. Understood?”

“Roger that. Over and out.” Guillermo felt the sweat on his forehead and realized how significant it was what he had just done that would have a ripple effect for months and years to come around the world among the most intellectual and keenest historians and politicians. He had played out his hand and now felt terrible. His genuine respect and admiration for Paddy Leith was pure but he had no real voicing in the matter.

He craved a cigarette but fought hard against the craving, instead letting the ice melt in his drink that would last him until the Berry bunch left.

Chapter 4



Dimitri was dedicated to his computer and to his life inside of his computer. For him it was a window to the world – a community of smart, curious people who wanted to share. But even more than that was its underbelly, the dark web, that lured his imagination into what could be there in the shadows where no man knows where to look. But Dimitri had his diversions. He had daily searches to pass his time as a struggling artist living in the sticks. He was an artist – he could see from the way he lived that he was an artist at heart – but he still had yet to find his artistic outlet, other than his little side passion of computers and the world that lay through his screen in front of him. He was, by virtue of his tenacity and unstoppable curiosity, among the world’s top computer experts in his scope of what existed. And that was why he liked PortalLeaks: he could surf there and soak it all in like a sponge. And he went there because he believed that one day it would all come crashing down and the raw data – the non-fiction of it all – would be lost or deleted or misplaced or censored. Dimitri was fully aware that 1984 was here and there were many masks of Big Brother in 2016.

It was really only a question of when the Tipping Point would come.

And that was what crossed his mind – the big question of when – as he read the latest tweet from PortalLeaks new Task Force – a loose collective of interested PortalLeakers who strove to correct the inaccuracies and outright lies of propaganda by the other side. In this battle the PortalLeaks Task Force would protect its good name by pinpointing and highlighting all the lies and misinformation on the Web. For Dimitri it was fun to see it all unfold in front of him like the cascading characters on the screen in the Matrix movie. Cascading down. Unfolding. But Dimitri sensed the Matrix was out of key. The harmony was experiencing a wrong note. Something was amiss in the unfolding. There had been a bleep and now there was a discordant sound. He read through the recent tweets and again came to some strange wording.

Knowing Paddy Leith had been at the helm of PortalLeaks for so long, it was easy for him to see someone else was tweeting.

There was an aspect that others noticed about him that he didn’t – and this was that he always wanted to be first in everything he did. He wanted to be the first to try the new XGM-97 modem or the latest disc brakes on his car, so it wasn’t unusual for him to start Twitter hashtags. And today he would start one: #WhereIsPaddyLeith. He typed the new hashtag and hit enter, seeing his tweet the first in what could become a robust thread. Stranger things had happened. He had seen it.

He stared off for a moment, not noticing the wooden motorboat moving upstream along the Mekong River below the balcony. His long hair and goatee and sunglasses made him blend in with the other travellers sitting at the tables along the second floor balcony. The breeze from the south blew the tall palm trees that lined the river, a remnant of the French. All the buildings around the Foreign Correspondents Club of Cambodia were colonial, as was the FCCC itself, built of huge timber and with the style of the relaxing Frenchman. Looking for recreation. They did have a knack for it back then, he thought to himself, for a moment not caring of the possible dangers to his Internet world. The new hashtag had been submitted. It was now in play. He could sit back and order another cup of unique French coffee that came from the local fields surrounding Phnom Penh, which some insisted was the best coffee in the world.

But at the threat of disturbing his flow on the balcony of the FCCC, Dimitri could not help but take the possible danger one step further. If there had been a change in the running of PortalLeaks, he realized that all searches and people following PortalLeaks might now be under surveillance in a more robust and aggressive way. Since the US election was raging and it looked like the Republican candidate Sumpt might defeat the democrat Hilary Plimpton, Dimitri saw a conceivable fascist situation where there might be a tremendous ripple effect across the computer lives of all peoples in the civilized online world.

Chapter 5

The Vegetarian Sandwich


Guillermo had reached a point in his alcohol consumption that he was flat, relaxed and unintentionally sloppy. His tongue had the slur so he kept busy at his desk with an eye on the Berry bunch. But no matter how hard he pressed himself to work he couldn’t. There was too much activity out there. He was sure they were planting bugs all over the place. All the chatting was diversion. But why had they come today? A Saturday?

He nervously glanced at Paddy’s door. It was well after his usual open-the-door-and-I’m-open-for-business signal. Paddy Leith had been pale yesterday but Guillermo thought it was just because he had had a restless night before and after his visit with his movie star friend Naomi Henderson. Guillermo had been thinking of her enormous breasts for two days – the way she presented them on Thursday! So he had some insight into Paddy’s sleeplessness. But today he should be well-rested and up early.

Then Gloria knocked on his door. He could see her hair bun above the threshold.

“No, he hasn’t come out yet today,” he said to her. He could see she was concerned about Paddy. Gloria Martinez was Paddy Leith’s temporary surrogate mother figure and secretary – the one who made sure his laundry was done.

“He didn’t look good yesterday,” she said. He could see she wanted him to take action.

“I can’t cross that line,” he said but it failed to convince even himself. “Okay, let’s knock.” They went to the door and knocked. There was a groan.

“Can we come in Paddy?” There was no sound for a few moments.

“Come!” Sounded more like a cough. Gloria pushed the door open and found him in the fetal position on the floor still in his jammies and socks.

“What’s wrong?” Gloria knelt beside him.

“My stomach. Feels like there’s an acid burning in my stomach and throat.” When Gloria looked at Guillermo he knew she was thinking the same thing. Ever since that movie star fed him a vegetarian sandwich for lunch two days ago.

“He looks real sick mamita. Let’s call Dr. Solanado.” Just as he reached for the phone Secretary of State Ron Berry stood at the door and watched the scene.

“He’s not feeling well?” he asked, showing genuine concern and urgency.

“He’s got a bad stomach sir. Something he ate.” Berry’s eyes were fierce.

“Our lieutenant also happens to be a trained medic.”

“Oh!” The alcohol had loosened his self-censorship somewhat so he couldn’t restrain himself from letting it out. And they all knew what he meant.

“Yes, Lieutenant Hicks.” He turned his head and barked a command. A few seconds later Hicks appeared and wasted no time to examine him. He showed great concern for Paddy’s swollen throat.

“He’s showing signs of having an allergic reaction. His windpipe is closing from the swelling.” He turned to Secretary Berry for instructions.

“Guillermo, would you like us to.” He nodded. Hicks disappeared and they all stood around Paddy who lay motionless, clutching his stomach. Guillermo wanted to bring up the Internet disconnection and apologize but the timing wasn’t right. But he couldn’t help himself.

“Paddy, I had to cut it.” He didn’t move. Berry stood tall at the doorway and puffed out his chest.

“Went too far kid,” he said. For the first time Paddy made an effort to look around to see what was unfolding. He started to speak but could only cough. Hicks appeared with his medical bag.

As if putting on a different hat, Hicks removed the cloak of officer and assumed the soft touch of a medic, serious about his craft.

“Now sir, please try to relax.” He put his small hand on Paddy’s forehead and left it there, feeling the heated brow but also trying to calming him. A tear appeared at the corner of Paddy’s eye.

“You are having some sort of allergic reaction. Have you been exposed to anything unusual or out of the ordinary recently?” Paddy nodded.

“Naomi Henderson’s visit two days ago sir. That was the unusual thing he’s referring to.”

“Your throat is swelling so you need to take these pills to stop it.” Hicks, in his best dramatic turn, said to Berry: “Sir, this man is critically ill and needs proper facilities and medicines at a hospital, or an ambulance.”

“Hicks, are you sure?” Something about the question sounded scripted.

“Yes, I’m sure.” He held up Paddy’s head and helped him take the pills. Gloria looked very concerned as she watched it all unfold. He tried to take one pill but wasn’t able to. He coughed. They could hear his breathing was shallow but heavy.

“He can’t swallow those with a swollen throat.”

“The pills will help sir.”

“Is there another way to give him the pills?” Hicks nodded and produced a fully prepared syringe full of the same medication as the pill,

“This should help.” And just like that Hicks poked a needle into his arm.

Guillermo was now on red alert. Something didn’t sit right with this. Hicks hadn’t asked him basic questions. How could Hicks not know that Paddy wouldn’t be able to swallow pills with a swollen throat? And what was that they just put into his bloodstream?

“Um,” was all he said. The poor guy had been violated with a needle of unknown contents but Guillermo didn’t have time to explore the profundity of that because whatever it was Lieutenant Hicks gave him caused Paddy to turn blue and stop breathing.

“Fucking hell!” Guillermo shouted, pointing at Paddy. “Hicks man, do something!”

Strangely, Secretary Berry was calm. “Hicks. Do something.”

“Sir, we need to get him to a hospital. There’s one three blocks from here. It’s our only option sir.” Berry nodded and then looked at Guillermo.

“Do we take him?” Guillermo felt his cheeks flush dark red so he turned away for a moment to consider the situation. Phone calls were not an option. Save his life!

“Yes dammit! Let’s save his life!” Hicks gave some instructions and very quickly there were two marines escorting Paddy Leith out of his room, down the hall and out of the Ecuadorean embassy’s backdoor where there were three nondescript black vans. Hicks stayed with him and Guillermo followed in the middle van with Secretary Berry.  Sitting there in the van Guillermo’s thirst overwhelmed him.

Chapter 6

PortalLeaks Coup


Gunther loved his life in Ecuador so when the email came there was an instant uproar in his life. The email was short – too short – for his liking, especially considering the content. Paddy Leith was in a rush but Paddy Leith was never in a rush. He read it again and again:

Our Task Force might have been infiltrated. Check your data and resort to our plan B. Infiltration is a likelihood. Vans are still outside. Doesn’t feel right. And worse, I don’t feel right. Ever since I had that damn f***ing sandwich from Naomi Henderson. She probably spiked it. I swear, it’s been two days since that sandwich and I feel worse every hour. I need to go to the hospital. Issue Deadman’s Switch.

Infiltrated,” he said to Chaucer, who made a sound. Gunther coughed as he pulled his baseball cap lower over his eyes despite being inside, and lit a smoke. Chaucer’s ears went back. The dog hated his smoking. “Hope he wasn’t infiltrated too with some nasty radiation. I swear, the guy was cautious with every piece of food and liquid going into his system and then, just to be polite to a movie star with big boobs, accepts a ‘home-made sandwich’ from her own kitchen. He looked at Chaucer and spoke thus: “And even then I bet he didn’t insist on eating Naomi’s sandwich to make sure his wasn’t spiked.”

He shook his head and enjoyed the interest Chaucer showed in what he said.

“Gooood doggy.”

But Gunther came back to the fact that his instinct had been right and that there had been a violation. Must be something overlooked. A loophole in the defences.

“Man, I thought we were fortified puppy doggy.” Chaucer wagged her tail in agreement. A PortalLeaks coup might be in play.

Chapter 7

Timere Grammaticus


Dusty Pearce was an old hand. He had gone through almost every hoop and program the army had to offer before jumping ship and taking them up on a free education. Obviously computer science was the best choice for him due to his math skills and the fact that every guidance councillor he spoke to pointed to the fact that computers were a good investment in terms of utilizing the army’s educational system. Computers would, after all, dominate the future. So he took it, finding it easy and intuitive. It didn’t really matter to Dusty Pearce because the most important thing was to stay busy and not get bored. He didn’t care whether the guys he was killing were in fact baddies. Wasn’t his concern. Wasn’t his call. Was outside his realm of care and so he left it at that. What mattered was the execution. How it was done. That was all him. And he loved the style he had developed. As far as he was concerned his batting average was still 100 percent, despite some mixed results during his early army career.

When he really thought about it Dusty could see that he was only really happy when he was working. Everything else was just waiting around. He would rather jump out of a flying plane or read the UNIX Red Book instead of spending three days of R&R getting wasted and tattooed, though he loved his own tattoos. He had placed his tattoos on his body so that he could see them while he was working. He glanced down at his family crest on his inner forearm and took strength from it. His ink fed him in some strange way during an operation, as they did when he typed into his computer in his basement apartment close to the Potomac River. He knew his superiors used language like ‘workhorse’ and ‘good follow-through,’ so the armed forces did their best to give him a set of tasks to do and let him work. Didn’t really matter now where he did his work as long as it was done. Discipline had never been a problem with him either.

He had a healthy vengeance against wasting time.

A part of Dusty Pearce had always wanted to be a hacker, ever since he saw the movie War Games with Matthew Broderick back in the early eighties. He was a kid and loved it how Matthew Broderick was able to hack into the military grid and start a thermonuclear war. And then there was Mendax – the real life hacker who had the proven ability to hack any system and yet restrain himself from damaging the infrastructure, showing a strong morality in his hacking style. Good technique it was. The WANK message was a classic. But it was real life – life imitating art since the film came out in 1982 and the hacking Mendax did happened in the mid-nineties. Still Dusty followed the news, especially since 2010 when PortalLeaks really hit the scene and offered their submission platform to anyone who had classified info pertinent to transparent governance and responsible action.

The pure objectivity of its publishing had stood the test of time – until now.

Dusty opened his book and followed some of the detailed programming code required to tweak some of the past archival data and threads. Again he felt the buzz of the op, pure and simple. If he stopped to think about what he was doing he might stop, but he was unable to stop his desire for the thrill. He was a thrill junkie, so he typed and typed, not stopping to drink or eat for hours. From the time he finished his dinner, he settled in for an all-nighter: the perfect time in a 24-hour cycle of time to get any serious work done. As part of his briefing he had been informed that there would be others in the new PortalLeaks Task Force trying to overtake the command post and that he would likely be able to identify from their actions within the private PortalLeaks firewall. Dusty had been given a new online bio complete with a proven online track record of supporting the transparency movement. So he had studied it in detail and wrote down some info that had helped him prove his muster during the vetting phase of being admitted to the Council of Nine during the preceding few months. He had to have every last piece of detailed information available to him to gain entry and mask his online persona with enough rhetoric and urgency to be accepted by Paddy Leith’s team.

He had been briefed back at the base in the non-descript garage that accompanied the mechanics station. His chief Colonel Brathwaite only brought a small-but-powerful tablet with a few key screens ready for review. It was brief and heavy but Braithwaite knew how to tap into what made Dusty Pearce an exceptional operative. He went straight to the point by listing the major actions items, spending some time on the potential problem areas in this special op. The overall action was described as thrusting his Roman sword into the heart of the beast to take down the operations side of the organization. It was his understanding that a separate team would take out the head of the beast in London terra firma. But what Braithwaite insisted upon was a serious authenticity in his tweeting language.

“There is a language these guys use – specific words – that if used incorrectly will betray your true understanding of what’s going on. Every single word you type must have purpose. You have to maintain your awareness of this strict use of language. Do you understand what I’m saying key man?

“I do sir.” The nod was done directly and solemnly. “And certain words they won’t use. I’m deep but I know these guys are deeper.”

“Exactly what I’m pointing out. So that will be with you. Do whatever you have to in order to get this done. Total secrecy. Unlimited expense account. Answer only to me. We have monitors watching 24/7. Just keep at it. I’ve seen your best work and I have a feeling this might be your moment of greatest triumph. So don’t fuck it up.” Braithwaite’s bald head was as smooth as a baby’s ass. He had shaved off all his grey hair, except for the pencil moustache.

They stood there for several minutes not talking. Instead they both casually surveyed the area from beneath their sunglasses, looking for anything unusual.

“I do have one question.”

“Go ahead.”

“Once I’m in I’m supposing to tweet and carry on as before but with no new stuff to publish? Is that correct?” Braithwaite thought for a moment.

“Somewhat. We will milk all the last stuff published but it’s up to you to adjust the timing of things and play it by ear a bit.”

“If we take out the chief, what about his close minions like Higgy in Iceland? Or Denmark or wherever that fucker is.”

“Each of our men will be undertaking different responsibilities, so don’t worry about the minions. Clean up the archive. Delete the bad stuff. That’s all you need to know for now. Just watch your grammar.”

A ruminating fear came with these recollections, a fear that kept percolating upwards from some unknown bile duct that had become overactive. The language. Did he have it? His education wasn’t as deep as some of these guys. He hadn’t spent the time in front of books and studied the etymology of words and the subtleties of ironic usage. He barely knew what irony was. But for now it was merely distraction, this Timere Grammaticus – an obstacle of doubt on his road towards completing the long list of items on his agenda.

And how he loved checking things off his agenda! It showed action!

The sun was coming up by the time Dusty Pearce had sent out his first tweet. He had done the 99 things before that perfectly, but when he came to the 100th thing to do – double-checking the tweet – he didn’t bother checking the online dictionary for a grammar question he had. And he had been sure of the spelling! But then another strange thing happened: he did it again. He tweeted another tweet with three grammatical errors in it. Granted he was so jittery from the energy drinks he had been drinking all night he hit the Send button by accident. His finger hit his laptop from the nervous shaking. He had done it: he was now tweeting from the account of Paddy Leith. Dusty Pearce didn’t think of much else because within minutes he was asleep, satisfied with his work, having found a toehold in the PortalLeaks media platform from which to trumpet. His dreams were full of tweets to come, the five million Twitter followers now his audience waiting for his words of wisdom.

Chapter 8

The Perfect Twitter Feed Stained


Gunther was in a happy mood in his Ecuadorean house in the mountains, his dog Chaucer obedient and offering him security against any unannounced visitors. As long as there were no earthquakes in the area, he was safe. The volcanoes were near Quito far enough away, and the tidal waves and typhoons were far away too along the coast. Other than a power outage, there was very little for him to worry about. So he had become very good at being happy. (He had purchased a back-up generator so when there were power outages he could last for days). But he was experiencing impatience, something totally incongruous with his surrounding environment. Paddy Leith had not returned his email yet, which was unusual. No, rare. Very rare. He was working on managing his patience when the two tweets rolled down the Twitter feed.

“Wait, that’s not right.” He refreshed his screen and the tweet remained, now with a second tweet behind it. He looked at Chaucer as if she was a human being, waiting for something from her mouth but instead she turned away and closed her eyes trying to rest on her wool blanket. He removed his baggy of marijuana from the drawer in his desk and rolled a joint. As he smoked it he read and re-read the tweets, surmising that Paddy was out of his mind.

“Ten years of a perfect Twitter tweet record and now he has two serious miscues in a row. That is very wrong.” Chaucer was now perched on her blanket, ears up in two perfect triangles. “Very sloppy.”

Something stirred deep within his gut that caused him to turn on the TV. He eschewed all the mainstream media for obvious reasons but when he checked he went to Foxe News, which is where he saw the report.

“PortalLeaks publisher Paddy Leith is about to be arrested is has been reported from London. Let us take you to our correspondent on the scene Tori Finger. Tori, what is the latest from where you are at the Ecuadorean embassy?” The TV showed a female reporter in front of the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

“Yes, thank you Christie. We have several reports that the leader of the contentious PortalLeaks organization that has been publishing very damaging private emails of the current US administration is about to be arrested.” Gunther stood up to watch. “Now we have tried to find out exactly what has caused this turn of events but for now those of us who are here in front of the Ecuadorean embassy in the swanky neighbourhood of Chelsea, many of us saw vans here earlier drive up to the front of the embassy and then some vans around the back. There is a lot of activity here right now, with many black-uniformed men walking around, some carrying weapons. You could say Christie that there is alarm here on the streets of London. But we will report back as soon as we have confirmation of an arrest for the PortalLeaks leader, likely in connection with an outstanding arrest warrant still outstanding at Interpol over an incident in Sweden that involved Paddy Leith flinging a hot dog at a patron in a deli in the capital Stockholm several years ago. Legal representatives recently confirmed that next week there is a scheduled meeting between Mr. Leith and Swedish prosecutors.”

“Bloody hell,” he said to the TV. “They’re going to pick him up.” Gunther’s stomach froze. They would come for him too.

“Tori, is there any word on what has caused the vans to be there?” Christie smiled to the camera.

“As I mentioned, there is little for reporters to confirm at this point,” said Tori Finger, taking things into her own hands. “However several staunch supporters of the PortalLeaks leader have said Mr. Leith is no longer online – that his Internet connection has been disabled. Secretary of State Ron Berry is also in London currently so there has been some speculation that there might be some behind-the-scenes phone calls made to the Ecuadorean President to calm Mr. Leith’s seemingly personal attacks on Hilary Plimpton, one of the candidates of the United States election that is currently reaching its final week.”

“Well Tori we know PortalLeaks has been a thorn in the side for the current administration and particularly for the Democratic nominee Hilary Plimpton. There’s so much controversy over this guy we don’t really know what to think, isn’t that right Tori?”

Tori Finger kept her hand on her ear for longer than normal.

“Well, it is true there is much controversy but at times it’s difficult to know if it’s because of what PortalLeaks do or if it’s due to the serious revelations we’re seeing from the PortalLeaks website, or, as some have suggested here today, due to the PortalLeaks’ Twitter feed.”

“Sounds like a lot of controversy Tori.”

Tori’s hand reached to her ear piece again, and then she looked at the camera. “Yes, the leader of the transparency movement is involved in all the fallout because it came from their submission platform, but as Paddy Leith keeps saying, ‘Don’t shoot the messenger.’ It’s hard to argue that I think. Christie.”

The TV drowned out after the report because Gunther was busy smoking his pipe on the balcony. Chaucer jumped up in her efforts to prevent her master from smoking the pipe.

“Freaking black vans man!” He blew the smoke out slowly, enjoying the taste. “If this is it I could say it’s only taken you dudes five freaking years to snag him, but on the other hand I should be saying: Fuck! How in the freaking world can they just walk in and grab him? Granted he’s in the heart of the beast in London right in front of the GCHQ boys and now really overdoing it with those personal tweets about Plimpton and all the corruption everywhere. A little over the line, eh Chaucerian onion?” He took a paper clip and cleaned out his pipe, taking a moment to gather the resin and burn that into a sizzling barbeque in his pipe, the last of the pipe’s offerings and the strongest of all. But the taste was a challenge to endure.

With that distaste swamping his tongue, Gunther now faced the screen and decisions. He continued to watch Foxe but didn’t see another report all night. He spent the rest of the night on 4Chan trying to ascertain opinions about the black vans and the Internet disconnection. No one knew anything. Just conspiracy theories, which he loved. He did notice that some Dimitri started a new Twitter hashtag #WhatsWithPortalLeaks. But none of them really took root with him, except one on 4chan. Someone posted that everyone in the Council of Nine had been arrested, their computers confiscated and forced to sign a gag order. In their place are agents of the shadow government now managing operations of PortalLeaks. He ended his post by saying “The end is here. If PortalLeaks has been compromised, then every single thing we see on the Internet now can be compromised. The old world of true Internet freedom has ended. We all knew it had to end. The golden age of Internet freedom is over. It was a great 25 years!”

“Freaking 4Channelers are always insane, aren’t they puppy dog?” Gunther’s stomach rumbled but he didn’t feel his hunger. Instead his opened a can of iced tea. He used the cold iced tea to cool his strained and overworked throat. He enjoyed when his epiglottis throbbed against the cold splash of the tea.

Fuck!” Chaucer looked at him and put her ears down. “Oh sorry puppy doggy, I was just saying.” Chaucer always understood her master and came to him when he said he was sorry. It was also always an opportunity to ask for a walk. Chaucer jumped up and opened her mouth in a smile and started to breathe quickly.

“I know what you want puppy. It’s actually not a bad idea. I’m a bit jittery. Good call.” He stood up and looked directly at Chaucer. “Wanna go for a walk?” He did it for maximum effect. She jumped up and put her paws on his chest and licked his face, and then ran to the door. What a perfectly trained dog, he thought. Purebred German shepherd. All she wants to do is serve me, well now you can by protecting me full time. He glanced at his laptop and then at his happy dog and for a moment felt the love for his canine that he had had ever since he had purchased here two years ago. It might have been the best purchase he had ever made.

Chapter 9

The Bloody Mary


In the mayhem of what was unfolding, Guillermo suddenly felt extremely irresponsible for having drank from the cup of sin. That’s all he could smell in the van beside Secretary Berry: booze. In fact it was so overpowering that Secretary Berry grinned and told him a story from his fraternity days at Yale. Guillermo was so thirsty he couldn’t follow the story but it involved skulls and the bones of the dead. It sounded creepy.

“But it was in Vietnam that I really found my groove. Before that I didn’t want anything to do with the establishment. Young and rebellious I suppose. I was out to prove my father wrong and that was fine I think but when the bullets started flying and I saw death so close I felt like I was part of something bigger, something stronger than just a father-son bond. Kings serve their people. To serve is a verb. To be of service. So that’s what I did: I chose to serve my country. I am serving my country. It is bigger than the Berry family. It is a fraternity, a brotherhood. There is a bond that is deeper among those who care and have taken an interest in these matters. It’s tough to determine how much to reveal in terms of how many players are involved in what we see every day on our TV screen, world events taking a turn for the unexpected due to special circumstances. Everyone has their orders, wouldn’t you say? President Rivera and Ecuador are part of that brotherhood – that team of nation states working together to achieve stability in the face of rogue nations like North Korea that defy UN regulations. Acting together as a unified global federation as it were, we are stronger, more stable, more cooperative and mutually secure.” Guillermo was busy rubbing his tongue against the top of his mouth that was dryer than sandpaper.

“I think it’s all very interesting sir but the essential point remains that Mr. Leith has been granted refugee status and is protected by international law.”

“Well right now, I think you will agree, is a matter of life and death rather than a matter of refugee status. Everything will be fine. I promise it will be. And please convey those exact words to President Rivera.”


All the while Secretary of State Ron Berry was talking Guillermo had forgotten how long they had been in the vehicle and had lost track where they were. But he was sure that they should have been at the hospital by now.

“How are we doing driver?”

“Almost there sir.”

“How long?”

“Four minutes sir.”

“Don’t you think we ought to have reached it by now?” Guillermo looked out his tinted window and couldn’t recognize where he was. It looked like East London near the docks.

“Say, it’s been a tough day. Cocktail?” Ron Berry nodded to his deputy in the passenger seat. “I’m religious about my five o’clock cocktail. It came from the military. At the exact minute I was off duty I cracked one open. Now it’s varied from a Budweiser to a rum and coke to a Bloody Mary. I have the ultimate concoction.” The deputy handed a Bloody Mary to Secretary Berry who took it for himself but then turned and gave it to Guillermo.

“Where are my manners? I did attend an Ivy League school you know. But my manners were decimated during war.” He quickly took the second drink offered by the deputy. “There is some horseradish in there too. Awesome.” Secretary of State Ron Berry took a dramatic swig from the said beverage and licked his lips. “It’s chilled too.” That was when Guillermo couldn’t resist his thirst anymore and caved-in to the cool, red cocktail, taking a series of small swigs, his throat muscles taking over for a brief second.

“It’s good.” He licked his lips, the celery salt satisfying his thirst for a moment.

“What is your drink Guillermo? Are you a Scotch man?”

“I stick to wine. I grew up drinking red wine at dinner. But I don’t drink like Americans and Canadians, who seem to drink a lot at once to get the buzz overload. Lots of crimes that way.” Secretary Berry had turned to look squarely at him, giving him his complete attention.

“Hmm, wine.”

“My brothers, sir, they were the ones…” Then he passed out mid-sentence. His Bloody Mary spilled all over Secretary Berry right into his crack.

“Damn!” Then silence. Nothing was said for the next 20 minutes as the vans reached a remote building near Watford where they drove into a warehouse, which had its garage doors open. Once the three vans were inside, the outside doors closed. There were no neighbors in the area nor any lights on in the warehouse. The only thing that was unusual about the property outwardly was the helicopter landing pad that had been built behind the warehouse surrounded by trees. Nothing stirred. The helicopter that had landed days before remained quiet and hidden in the night sky. The only noticeable thing was a small red light overhead that was from the drone that hovered overhead. The light would come on when it was sending data, which was almost constantly.

That’s what Ron Berry saw when he took a moment and surveyed his day. He smiled at the drone and then his mind turned to the stealthy presence of a large power boat on the Thames nearby. So far things had gone according to plan.

Guillermo was left alone in the van.

Chapter 10

Imprisoned Like Papillion


Gunther loved his walks with Chaucer. Without them he would implode. He often wondered how people survived life without a canine companion, especially when you could buy a smart one who is a good listener. It took him the experience of owning and training a dog of Chaucer’s calibre to truly know the synergy between human and dog. He watched Chaucer run around smelling the foliage and certain tuffs of grass, wagging her tail and glancing back once and a while to make sure he was okay. Gunther was okay with the idea that the only reason Chaucer really cared about him was because he was her food supply, but he now knew there was something deeper – a bond born from understanding one another – a total acceptance of each other’s idiosyncrasies. He had never been afraid to hug the dog when he needed a hug. It was, he discovered, part of the language dogs understood.

He watched Chaucer gather a bevy of smells she stored in her snout that she would come back to for the rest of the night, able to identify each scent. Paddy was like that. He had a great sense for truth.

“And that’s what bothers me puppy dog: those tweets were not from Paddy,” he said to Chaucer. He mulled the possible scenarios that could be playing out.

“Okay, one. He has had his Internet cut off and will be back online after the election is done.  And he’s too sick to tweet so he asked one of the Nine to tweet for him.” Chaucer ran up to him to acknowledge he was speaking but then ran off into the edge of the forest along the trail that hugged the mountainside.

Two. Ecuador has finally bowed to US pressure and has cut him off. PortalLeaks will continue to publish via the Deadman’s Switch, which will be released when the word comes in.” A striking blow came to his solar plexus and his cheeks turned bright red upon his sudden realization that perhaps now was the time to be posting the hashtags. Had he missed something? Hadn’t Paddy explicitly told him to release the switch?

“Shit!” Chaucer chased a small mammal in the woods.

“Okay, focus. Three. His sickness became worse and he’s at the hospital or resting or on the toilet doing a major Number Two. Continuous Two. A two-day continuous retching Two.” He rubbed his lips, which felt numb. “But if he’s sick, he could remain at the embassy and get treatment brought in. But what if it’s too serious? He would have to get treatment at a big medical center. Period. Fuck! It was that vegan sandwich!”

Gunther quickened his pace and walked straight for an hour without another word. He only stopped when the sun was setting and he would need to rely on Chaucer to guide him back to the house in the blackened new moon night sky. With no street lights around for countless miles, the stars were brighter than usual up in the Andes, without any air or light pollution and where it rained constantly in the afternoons. And being so far above sea level and being on the equator, the stars seemed dramatically closer.

Gunther figured it was why those ancient aliens built their empire in South America.

By the time he arrived home he wasn’t thinking about ancient aliens anymore. He ate and took a valium and lay down on his long couch, forgetting about the Deadman’s Switch again. Chaucer sprawled across his chest. His eyes shut like iron doors, the rims of his eyes feeling raw and red like his throat. He had a headache but the warmth of his dog on his chest relaxed him into a deep sleep, as if he were falling over a cliff. Tweets went through his mind and computer code at the speed of light, dead ends followed by endless loops in a desperate search to find the end and the answer. Sidetracked and false starts made his sleep choppy and violent, Chaucer witnessing the ticks and twitches in his arms and legs, his teeth grinding and his breathing intense at times. Chaucer jumped out of the way when Gunther’s arm came swinging out from the couch, slamming into the lamp and waking him for a moment. He looked at the dog and then fell back into sleep, his breathing full of sleep.

Somewhere in his dreamy mind he spoke clearly to Chaucer as he walked along his trail along the Ecuadorean mountainside. ‘Four. Poor old Paddy Wilkens. No, no, I mean Paddy Shire, er Paddy Leith, where there is sunshine for all. Four is that worst possible scenario: Paddy was taken to the hospital and then down some World War Two tunnel to the Thames where he was ushered out on some crappy fishing vessel going about four miles per hour to a dock on one of the few that scatter the eastern part of the Thames. There, I mean right there near those nice homes there, they take him in – into a boathouse or docking area, private, and bring him into the cottage. An unassuming-little-Lawrence-of-Arabia type cottage. There a car leaves, perhaps in the dark, and there, in that small little unassuming vehicle Paddy Cakes is swiftly ushered into a hangar where he boards a plane in the dark, wearing a hoodie handed to him by the bad guys, held up of course by two special-ops types up the stairs to where he is placed harshly into a seat there in the airplane. Once of course in the air Paddy’s gone. Paddy is swiftly taken in this incognito aeroplane to the nearby US base in the UK. Then he’s in custody. From there he might go to Guantanamo Bay or something like that. Perhaps torture. Definitely some serial unkind treatment, prolonged like Papillion in Papillion. Great book. But fuck! Total breakage. We will never hear from him again. Have they already hurt him? Have they given him brain damage yet? Have they employed their tools to tamper with his hardware yet? Have they inserted a long needle into his grey matter permanently turning off entire directories? Has the flame been extinguished? Has PortalPuppies served its purpose? Will it be enough to change history at the election?’

The twitching limbs and intense breathing suddenly calmed and Gunther lay still like a manbaby.

The next morning Gunther woke late with a headache. Being in his late thirties and still healthy, due to his smoking habit he had developed a case of the lung biscuits, so he expelled a few upon waking up and before his coffee. He favoured his bad knee – the one he wrecked playing hockey when he was a kid. Never healed properly. And tended to become stiff after his long walks with Chaucer. There was a nagging sound coming from the forest outside, a bird in distress, which somehow filled his dream with dread and danger. He felt terrible. Empty. He hadn’t eaten a solid meal in weeks. The thought of fried chicken made him salivate but then it passed, willing himself into the practicalities of his situation. He was the most powerful man in the world’s wingman and he had made sacrifices to become that guy so a good, solid coffee and a few almonds might do the trick.

Being mildly autistic with Asperger’s, the precise routine witnessed by Chaucer made it easier for her to understand and follow set behavior patterns, and to know where to sit and when to act. Chaucer could list the first 20 things her master did every morning without fail, mostly in the following order. “My master:

1. Gives me a long pat before getting out of bed.

2. Goes to coffee machine and makes coffee.

3. Let’s me out for a pee.

4. Has a pee outside with me.

5. Takes milk out of the fridge.

6. Feeds me a treat.

7. Puts easy-sounding music on.

8. Opens laptop and logs in.

9. Pours a large mug of coffee with some milk in his favorite mug.

10 .Rolls up something into a white thing made of thin paper and then smokes it.

11. Drinks coffee very seriously as he smokes and reads the headlines, scanning furiously.

12. Darts to the pot of coffee for a second cup, following same milk routine.

13. Picks up two cookies from the jar that is just out of my reach.

14. Sits back in his chair for a prolonged period of serious reading.

15. Third cup of coffee, adding milk again.

16. A long period of intense reading or typing – most volatile time in the morning.

17. A fourth cup of coffee, milk again added.

18. Handful of salted almonds and cashews.

19. Takes his medication with water.

20. Takes a long swig of coffee before settling into his chair for the final hour of reading or typing.

21. He finishes his coffee, turns to me and says my name: “Chaucer.” And then: “Wanna go for a walk?”

These 20-or-so things happened every morning, so Chaucer had learned to not get in the way until he heard his name, and the coffee pot was empty.

Every morning.

Gooood doggy Chaucer. Okay so today we have a few items. Pressing items. Find Paddy. Number One. Deux is to figure out the Twitter situation. And three, touch base with Higgy in Iceland to find out what he thinks. That small little Viking always speaks his mind. Little Fuck.” Chaucer’s ears went up. “I mean, er. Sorry Chaucer. Sorry about that.” Chaucer recognized the words and what they meant, and lifted her paw to show she understood.

“Higgy will have the goods. Vikings always deal in raw truth. That’s what marks them as a people. You can see it in the simplicity of their language. For example the vast majority of action words in Scandinavian are short words. They’re easy to say. And made it into the English language. So many I can’t count.” Chaucer tried her best not to look away at the cookies that were so nearby. Then she glanced.

“I know what you want,” said Gunther. Chaucer raised her paw again just as he gave the command, and took the cookie quickly. Chaucer then did her best not to wreck anything with her wagging tail that was so difficult to prevent. But she failed – her tail struck something hard. Gunther’s coffee mug went flying off the table, coffee spilling on the floor. He didn’t react except for a slight shrug. What was he supposed to do get mad at a dog for being a dog? For being too happy to get a treat? Nine times out of ten Chaucer would lick up the mess but she didn’t like his milky coffee.

But Gunther’s day never recovered from the news that popped up on Twitter about Paddy’s closest advisor and mentor being found dead.


“That was fast,” he said. “He was only 71.” The guy was fit too. He had met Haden McFetridge a few times in London before he had flown to Ecuador to establish the Eagle’s Nest for Paddy.

“Feels a bit like a special op, doesn’t it?” He knew Chaucer agreed with him. Couldn’t be a coincidence. “Eh puppy?” He reached for his pipe. He could think more clearly after a pipe. That was when he made his phone calls. The first person on his list was Guillermo at the London embassy. He would know what’s going on. He was not encouraged to call his cell phone unless it was an emergency but he had mustered up enough to warrant such a call. As he listened to it ring it dawned on him he hadn’t prepped for the phone at all. And he was a guy who lived by the lists he wrote down on the neatly organized papers all over his desk, with each pile having its own significance. He briskly reached for a clean sheet of paper and his favorite go-to pen. But he fumbled with his favorite pen just as Guillermo picked up.

Chapter 11

The Hangover


Guillermo was still trying to figure out how he had ended up in his office this morning. He had awoken on the floor for some reason tucked behind the desk. There had been some strange places he had ended up after drinking too much but honestly nothing this strange. Why hadn’t he taken a taxi home? But more alarming were his missing piles of papers. Someone had gone through his papers clearly looking for something. He just knew. He could see them out of order. And that’s what he had been resisting all morning: flipping through the pile of papers on his desk to see what was missing. He left them there and only stared. He stared for a long time, not moving, exhausted, dry-mouthed and already sweating in yesterday’s shirt. Then the telephone rang. He looked around and hadn’t noticed a few people at seats working despite it being Sunday.

“Yes.” He cleared his throat.

“Hello Mr. Ambassador, it’s Gunther calling from Ecuador. How are you this morning sir?” For a moment Guillermo had no idea who was calling until he heard the sound of a dog in the background. Then he realized it could be only one guy: that PortalLeaks hippie stoner in Ibarra.


“Yes,” he replied. Fine. What is it?” He cleared his throat again and remembered the funny tasting Bloody Mary and the slight double clutch Secretary of State Ronald Berry employed to hand him his drink. Fucking slippery douchebag. But fuck, what was I doing? Total exposure.

Something in him was angered when he heard the whine of the dog in the telephone, which prompted him to justify a sudden hair-of-the-dog decision that he knew was being made in justified anger, an emotional state that rarely yielded fruitful results. And just because there was a dog? But he couldn’t help it as he watched his hand go for the near-empty vodka bottle in his bottom draw.

“At least they left me the bottle, eh?” Guillermo’s beard was dark and prominent even after missing just one morning of shaving. It was his daily curse.

“I’m sorry?” Sweat appeared on his forehead as he witnessed his hand shaking so much that he spilled a good portion on his thigh, which left a fresh wet stain near his crotch area.

“Go ahead please. I’m busy.”

“Is everything all right there sir? There were reports-“

“Yes. Don’t believe everything you see on the media.” He didn’t wait for the orange juice. Instead he closed his eyes and drank like the cowboys did who had lived before him on the Andean slopes on horseback, living a hearty life independent from the colonial yoke. He gagged for a second but was successful in keeping it down, and not worrying about the dead air on the telephone.

“Am I calling at a bad time?” The gentleness in the hippy’s voice struck a chord in him just as the liquid drug hit him in the bloodstream, which instantly tapped into something leftover in his liver and sprung to life the last quantities of last night’s consumption back through the carburetor, fumes and all. Emboldened and wobbly lipped, he could smell the stress coming from him. He had a lot to answer for today so he better bring his A-game. If the US Secretary of State can swing his stick like that then my stick can have its time to play too. I’m a natural. Today I shall tap into my gift of diplomacy. Deflect. Deflect. Deflect.

“Things are busy here. We had a change with the Internet. Paddy’s access has been temporarily suspended. So there will be some adjustment time needed to sort things out. We had some outside pressures so the President was wise in his dealings as I saw it and we are currently monitoring the situation. So what is it I can help you with?” Professional. Succinct. Nothing revealed but the facts.

“So then Paddy’s fine? Just offline?”

“Offline, yes.”

“His health is okay?”

“His health?”

“An email he sent yesterday to me said he felt crappy.” The dead air on the telephone confused Gunther, so he went on, assuming from the silence that Guillermo hadn’t fully understood him. “I think it was really nudging towards a serial Number-Two issue, prolonged two, turbulence post-‘sandwichgate’ with the big-boobed woman, er the one who wears those shirts that maximize her boob surface area she was blessed with from God.” More silence. “It could be more than a Number-Two issue though of course. Could be an active bile duct and some control issues with his epiglottis. That is, he might be sporting some serious Technicolor yawn action too, leaving him all pooped out at both ends. As. It. Were. Sir. A lot of carnage can result from a tampered sandwich. Believe me, I have experienced such.” The worsening imagery Guillermo was being exposed to was too harsh not to put a stop to.

“A stomach issue, yes. It’s likely fine today then. Perhaps he was able to expel everything.” A smile appeared on Guillermo’s lips, a mischievous smile of a drunken child hell-bent on finding irony wherever he went because that was the way of the true diplomat – keep things light and airy, like a Ronald Berry on a good day, but still with that switch to clinical when the going hit turbulent seas. The last image of Secretary of State Ron Berry came back to him: that observing eye watching him wavering, then looking at his bottom lip as it got away from him at the end. He must have passed out right after his bottom lip became so rubbery he couldn’t control it. He didn’t want to remember the drool, but he clearly saw the glistening fallen saliva on is arm as he tried to finish his thought to the Secretary of State.

“So it’s almost business as usual except he’s offline?”

“Yes Gunther. That’s correct.”

“And the vans?” A fear bolted through his vodka-soaked morning armor sobering him to the quick.

“The vans?”

“The vans, yes. The black vans that were on TV in front of the embassy.” Shit. Did I miss that?

A sound appeared audible to him for a moment, like a ceiling fan in a bar lounge, that swirled around in his temples making a swishing and swooshing sound. Guillermo stood up to get his wits but he dropped the phone and fainted. Fortunately his chair deflected the full impact of his landing, only hitting his head on the corner of his desk leaving a small five-inch gash. The swirling suddenly intensified as he blinked and, once focused, saw the ceiling of his office. More blinking and his wet pants confirmed his wipeout.

“Hello? Hello?” The receiver was only inches away from him on the floor so he spoke thus:

“I’m here. Just dropped the phone. One second.” He sighed and took a moment. Some hippie punk wasn’t going to take away that somewhat enjoying post-fainting phase when the system reboots and all the files are reinstalled. He could feel each step in the hierarchy of bodily sensations when the electrical field was reconnected and back online. Then there was that five-second period when you get to rediscover everything for the first time, if only for a few seconds. That, for Guillermo, was the best part of fainting. Reconnected and rebooted, he slowly stood up enjoying once again the onslaught of a possible fainting spell but weaker than the first, and also enjoyable for its momentary threat to system failure. A calculated risk of how low to bend and still withstand the aftershocks of more fainting. In a moment Guillermo was again back on his feet spritely and with some moxie.

“Publishing will go on as usual by you and the others. Confirm please.”

“Confirmed sir.” Gunther knew not to mention the Deadman’s Switch.

“Anything else?” Gloria appeared in his office smelling freshly showered and perfumed. Seeing him without a coffee she returned with a mug for him from the main pantry. She could see he had slept in the office. She could also smell him.

“Rough one sir?”


“No, I mean you need a coffee don’t you. Here we go. I will put on a fresh pot and we can open this window too to let in some fresh air. You work hard Mr. Avellino so take your time this morning. The Americans are not here, well except that Lieutenant Hicks. But don’t worry about him. I’ll take care of things.” She stopped speaking when she saw that he was on the speakerphone.

“Thank you Gloria.” She wisely left the office and proceeded to brew a fresh pot of coffee in the other pantry and then place the pot in Guillermo’s coffee machine without him noticing. Guillermo had forgotten he had asked her to work today.


“Yes, I have one more question – or request: can you let me know if Paddy’s Number-Two issue gets worse?” Again for Gunther the silence was confusing. “I mean his bile duct issue, his stomach turbulence from the boob sandwich. Food poisoning perhaps.”

“I understand.” Then Guillermo, in his sudden good spirits saw the irony in it all. “Are you all hunkered down there in the mountains?”

“Yes sir.”

“Are you safe?”


“Your power supply?”

“Well, that’s always a worry – perhaps the weak link here if you know what I’m getting at. The weak link in the chain fencing. The weak spot. But other than that pretty solid here.” Gunther wanted to ask why but he wasn’t able to deviate from his purpose.

“There is a re-election approaching in Ecuador you know and President Rivera has been in power seven-and-a-half years and cannot run again for power. This will inevitably lead to a shake-up of things in the coming months. Prepare yourself for it please. Listen, I know you’re a bit of a hippie but great at what you do with computers, that’s all fine, so I’m telling you man-to-man: get your game-face on. This is all serious business. You hear me? Now let me go. I have pressing work to attend do.”

“I appreciate that Guillermo.” Again the softness of the voice lured him back to one more thing.

“Trust no one. Put your radar on high alert. And I will let you know if Paddy’s Number-Two issue gets worse. Good-bye.” Guillermo shook his head and laughed until tears stung his eyes bloodshot. Programmers are a strange breed, especially one with Asperger’s. One sip of lukewarm coffee and he had his own Number-Two issue to fend with. But before he was able to deal with his grumbling in his lower abdomen, another call came in.



“Gloria, can you get me some normal hot coffee with milk please?”

“Yes sir.”

Fricking onions man!” When his door was closed he could say anything he wanted. And he needed to say something loud before pressing the speakerphone button. It was precisely 9am and it was only then when he realized Paddy Leith was not in his room. He looked sharply at the closed door, nothing showing the change in circumstance.

“Yes” he said angrily into the speakerphone.

“Guillermo, we have reports here about some situation there.”

“Gus, it’s simple. We’ve disconnected his Internet and email because he’s become personal in his tweets against Hilary God Damn Plimpton. And that’s the end of it as far as I see it. Simple.” Gus was his media relations officer.

“Oh, okay. I can read that. ‘Temporary’ you say?”

“Yes, for now. Keep the press release simple because it is simple, but wait a few days until it hits the media. Right now from what I can see there’s nothing on Foxe or anything else. It actually feels like there’s a media blackout on.” In the ruffling on the other end of the phone it was clear they both knew what that meant.”

“Some outside pressures?”

“Yes, some outside pressures.”

“Makes sense. I get it.”

“Well, what do you think?” Gus was a smart guy and Guillermo always asked his opinion because he knew the real score of things in global politics.”

“I think that if there’s a media blackout now in place, then there will likely be some misdirection from the media institutes that are in cahoots, so let the conspiracy nuts have their time for a week or two and let’s keep this under the radar until we need to make a statement. Otherwise we’re showing our hand too quickly. Buying little bits of time by extending the periods of time between tweets and press releases will slowly lengthen the insatiable appetite for consumption that we’re currently at. By spreading out tweets and acting slowly, the speculation and mystery grows, which should keep the keen and curious out there at bay for a week or two. Yeah, that’s what I think boss.”

Guillermo nodded with vigor into the phone.

“Fine. Now I gotta get to it.” His drink was gone and the coffee was too thick and soupy. He took the last of the vodka and poured it all into his tall traveler coffee mug and added orange juice and accepted the fact that his days might be numbered in this office. The re-election had made everyone on edge at the embassy, and the weird nocturnal hours of Paddy Leith had, at times, really pressed them all to the maximum.

The foreign refugee had most definitely overstayed his welcome.

But where the fuck is he?” He looked over his shoulder to double check his door was closed. He thought of some dark military safe house where he was gagged and deprived of the basic necessities.

Guillermo looked at the photo of his dead twin brother and spoke thus:

“But he was dying! I mean fuck. He was turning green.” The orange juice was cold and refreshing, especially with the ice. “Blue I mean. He was blue. Turning green.” He flipped up his hand in the air. “No man I mean he was poisoned by that movie star woman, I swear. And that was his folly: showing admiration for famous people. Vanity. They exploited it perfectly, but Naomi Henderson? Who would have ever guessed? She had to have spiked that vegetarian number. I swear, James Bond stuff man. No, I mean why did he let her serve him tainted produce? What was that thing that had allowed that breach in his firewall? His longing for fame? His unbalanced frame of mind from being holed up in a room for five years in a world of celebrities and weirdos and other extremists who warrant news. And Naomi Henderson with her beach TV show and her big chest.” Guillermo looked into his twin brother’s eyes and said: “See Spike, he was lulled into it by a serpent woman fueled by guile and misdirection. Biblical. Yet so simple. But seriously, I wonder what it was. Something like a slow poison or acid that might produce a turbulent chemical reaction. But maybe she poked him with a sharp instrument when she hugged him or when she caressed his skin when they embraced. Tough to say for sure. Suffice to say bro, there was some tampering. And it happened under my watch. But we knew the big boys would come one day. Interesting way they pulled it off. The sandwich. The backdoor exit. The spiked Bloody Mary. And my papers! Fuck!” He stormed out of his office without looking at anyone on his way down the stairs and out into the crowd that was there every day, week after week, month after month, protesting Paddy Leith’s Ecuadorean stay.

He needed an early breakfast.” Guillermo turned off his telephone and checked out for a few hours.

Chapter 12

Dusty Grammar


The beam glistened in the sun against the blue sky where steel girders met at one of the corners in the half-constructed edifice, ropes blowing wildly in the wind. Then suddenly he looked down and fear went to his heart and cut off his breath and he awoke. Sweat warmed him against the wet sheets only for a brief moment before turning cold, his t-shirt soaking, his teeth sore from clenching. Dusty hated heights. Dreaming of looking down from a girder ten stories above the ground was one of a handful of reoccurring dreams that spelled danger. He had adjusted to knowing how to identify certain signs rather than trying to overcome the danger. ‘Simple avoidance’ had proven better every time over ‘engagement.’ For Dusty, it basically boiled down to stickhandling. He had to stickhandle his way to effectively manage his PTSD or else the ripple effect affected every decision he made in a given day. It was emotional scar tissue that required constant attention and management. He knew how to manage it but it cost him something. He allowed himself a mild morphine sulfate addiction but of course in small, controlled doses until larger doses were called for. There had only been a few times when he took too many. Morphine is tricky, especially when you’re drinking and start popping them like candy and then forgetting how many you took.

Very dangerous.

The number of pains he felt in his mind and body were too numerous to list. Old injuries, war wounds and party injuries had riddled his body with sore aches and pains. This morning it was his right big toe that was painful for no reason other than it acted up now and again, the result of dropping ordinance on his foot during BASIC. But Dusty was a man of pain and a man who could very easily set aside pain and only regard it from an ironic distance, except when it came to stomach pain. The years of morphine sulfate abuse had created a hole in his stomach he was sure, or at least a severely injured the tender stomach lining from the pills dissolving right before reaching his duodenum. It was a drag, the pain in his stomach, but he could manage with coffee all day and then a meal. The issue he confronted every morning was not what to wear or demands of work; it was whether or not he would pop his morning morphine pills on an empty stomach or not. If his pain was bad, and if he had suffered a sleepless night with restless, unsettled dreams then the urgency for the pain-free warm glow trumped the practical demands of consuming the pills with a full stomach.

This was his big struggle every morning and he hated it.

He threw four pills into his mouth, double his prescribed dose, and drank it down with cold coffee from yesterday as he waited impatiently for a fresh pot to finish brewing. He shivered when he gulped them down. The rest of the day would now fall into place. The focus now was to generate some momentum, so he reviewed his campaign against the destroyer of privacy: PortalLeaks.

He grabbed a sharp pencil and pad of paper and wrote:

1. Jack Johns, Paddy’s UN lawyer, was pushed in front of a train and died. Difficult to sell. Therefore the first to go. Very powerful in international UN law. April. Check.

2. Brian Cantor, PortalLeaks chief counsel, biggie with all the important info, died of cancer. Op commenced two months before, poison. One cancer mulligan. May. Check.

3. Chris Tische, DNC leaker, traitor, shot in the back. Bad luck. Cities are dangerous. Random shooting mulligan. Separate op. Justified elimination. Traitor. July. Check.

4. Edwin Bowden, NSA leaker, releases Deadman’s Switch in 64-bit code. Can’t get the fucker. Russian traitor. First to know the op was underway. How? August 5.

5. PortalLeaks offers $20,000 reward for info re: Chris Tische. Op pushed forward. Overtime. Fear of PortalLeaks campaign against the op. August 10.

6. Email leaks from Hilary Plimpton’s campaign manager, full on press with op. Many all-nighters. More overtime. Things falling into place. Major damage with release. October 7.

7. Naomi Henderson “Operation Boob Sandwich,” celebrity patriot, used boobs to sell spiked sandwich. Crucial for extraction, bait taken. October 13.

8. Ron Berry impromptu visit at Ecuadorean embassy, ask for Net disconnect. Plays hardball. Applies pressure. Offers goodies. Connection severed. October 15.

9. Paddy Leith ill from poison, given shot to knockout, taken to “hospital.” Major finesse. Crucial piece. Berry masterful. Snags package. October 15. Check.

10. Ecuadorean Ambassador drugged, removed from equation. Weakness for booze exploited. Again Berry masterful. Minister dropped off at office. October 15. Check.

11. Passwords, files, hard drive copies and miscellany snag from the Ecuadorean embassy. Burglary. Minimal footprint. Danger area. October 15. Check.

12. PortalLeaks coup, Twitter accounts and websites controlled by special op team. Working with existing Council of Nine. Very dangerous. Still in play. October 15.

13. Raid on the Council of Nine, multiple locations, incognito. High flammability potential. Gag order, hard drive confiscation and threat of arrest. Hardball. October 16.

Neat, ordered and logical, it was time to engineer total eradication of active PortalLeakers but keeping it quiet was the hard part. Dusty’s job was to monitor online traffic and communications among members via the usual chat sites and other channels he had at his disposal. He had access to PRISOM and the other tools but he liked to go old school with UNIX. He was a hacker himself after all.

The morphine and coffee swirled around in his glaring stomach, the pain now feeding on the mix or stomach acid and the pills, pressed against the raw and bleeding lining in his stomach, the coffee failing to sooth it in any way. It was a cruel cost to his work, but he had to be on his A-game today.

Just as he was about to begin, his phone rang.

“I’m on it.”

“Good morning Dustweed, sleep well in your pain-pill puff cloud?” Colonel Braithwaite had had his pot of coffee already and it was only 9:30am.

“Yeah, yeah. On my second cup. But am set up nicely for the day.”

“On duty then. Today we go in. You will only hear from me if there is a change of plan. Otherwise much of this day is on, and you are our key man. Do you hear me?” Braithwaite liked to think he was old school so he let him give him his pep talks in the morning, likely some latent script he had heard at West Point.

“Like Custer, sir.” He knew Braithwaite loved George Armstrong Custer so he brought him up when he needed his boss in good form.

“Good you brought up General Custer. His downfall was faulty intel. You need to be on top of everything today. These hackers, I don’t know. They can do shit on the computer that can expose this op.”

“How many?”

“Five right now.”

“Roger that.”


“Yes sir.” Click. Very crisp. He enjoyed the finality of his last word on the phone. Good form.

Dusty stood up, set up his work station and then placed a poster of Custer on the wall in front of him knowing that underneath the humor there was a serious parallel – that these hackers were rogue, not following laws, causing havoc. And if this insurmountable edifice of resistance can be breached then the great lands to the west will be open to control. The Internet now, today, if the op succeeds, will effectively break the backbone of cyber resistance against the most powerful group of people on earth. Custer’s decimation stirred a nation to arms to defend their right to Manifest Destiny, just as the shadow government now executes a covert cyber op to dismantle control of the coveted PortalLeaks’ submission platform.

He had over 20 windows open on his computer, Twitter accounts filling many of them. The five who were about to be raided were all on showing minimal activity except for one guy. He was on a rant on 4chan and Twitter – multi-tasking bugger.

Finally he clicked on the Tweet button and formulated his first PortalLeaks tweet of the day. The empty tweet form remained there blank. He wasn’t feeling any pain anymore, and his mind was alert from the caffeine but the tweet form remained blank.

Then he gave way, opened another window and looked up the word that terrified him:

Full Definition of grammar

1 a :  the study of the classes of words, their inflections, and their functions and relations in the sentence. b :  a study of what is to be preferred and what avoided in inflection and syntax

2 a :  the characteristic system of inflections and syntax of a language. b :  a system of rules that defines the grammatical structure of a language

3 a :  a grammar textbook. b :  speech or writing evaluated according to its conformity to grammatical rules

4 :  the principles or rules of an art, science, or technique <a grammar of the theater>; also :  a set of such principles or rules

“What the fuck?” he said. “Inflections.” Even worse there were words used in the definition that he felt he needed to look up, but he didn’t have the time to check his dusty grammar. For the first time he appreciated the importance and reach of a liberal arts education. It would always be something he wished he had had. He closed the window and started to write, his fingers greasy from sweat, his beard now fuller to the point where he could see the hair on his upper lip at the bottom of his eye. Emboldened, he told himself all he needed to do was be natural. Then he typed…

Chapter 13

The Deadman’s Switch


As it was every morning, Gunther worked to the countless sounds of birds singing. It was a soft, background sound for the first few hours until – at some culmination of temperature and winds – the birds would hit a crescendo, with a few birds taking the lead and really letting it go. This was when he really slipped it up a gear during his day. He regarded the sound of birds as his alarm clock. Sitting at his desk he chose not to look at his pipe and instead invested heavily in the steam curling upwards from his perfectly brewed coffee that elevated his senses and mental crispness. Chaucer sat a bit removed for the first few hours while he drank his coffee and had his morning smoke, but his habits and routine had proven the most productive of all variations he had ever tried, so he was fine with going with what had proven most effective. If that involved a doobie then so be it.

Small potatoes for a big harvest.

While Gunther was scanning his usual information spots online, he came across the latest tweet from PortalLeaks.

The same front company behind the Paddy Leith #hotdoggate

Is also behind 2nd plot to frame him as taking $1M from Russia.

Awkward wording.

“Who is tweeting this?” he asked his dog. Then he saw an election poll tweet right after it:

Plimpton 45%, Sumpt 39%, Benson 5%, Stone 3%, – Fox News Poll

“And since when does PortalLeaks publish polls?” Gunther shook his head in disbelief for a long time. “Something is definitely out of whack, wouldn’t you say puppy?” He had waited as long as he could. Something was awry. It was time. Chaucer kept looking out the window at the birds flying from tree to tree.

He sighed, and then hacked into the Twitter account and wrote the following tweet:

Pre-commitment 1 Ron Berry


Gunther double-checked the number several times until he was sure it was right. After he hit the tweet button, he exhaled slowly.

“The dreaded Deadman’s Switch.” He felt sad as he typed out two more tweets containing the key to unlock back-up files on dispersed servers throughout the world. Only Paddy was the master architect behind the entire contingency plan. Gunther was tasked with publishing the codes and then the follow-up management of the backend system, continuing the scheduled dumps of emails each week.

It was the release of all the most sensitive files PortalLeaks had.

“How many people are now tweeting from this account Chaucer, oh glorious writer and forgotten master of adventure fiction?” Chaucer was mellow this morning and remained fully committed to her morning nap, not concerned over the release of the contingency plan.

Chapter 14

Finding Mojo in the Mayhem


Rusty Hicks loved the army and everything about it. He chose to wear his uniform even off duty after work, taking his time removing it after his shift was over, enjoying the post-work social percolation in Virginia – the best of the 13 colonies. Virginia he found was much more quaint and restrained than the countryside northeast of London around the military base located close to the Thames near Wickford. He grabbed his collar and pulled it up to warm his neck, exposed to the chronic chill in the air from the never-ending dampness that plagued the country. Can’t do much about the North Atlantic currents, but he figured the Brits would have at least invented the infrared heater to warm and dry the air. None to be seen; only the well-worn hallways and stairwells of British military bases, hardened and well-served for a millennia of wars. Even the metal chair he sat on was cold. But he could be proud of the Brit’s tech prowess. Not much about any silicon valley here but they’ve been smart enough to outsource and nurture, much like they did with the enigma machine during World War Two.

Having already consumed a pot of English tea, Rusty Hicks sat on the edge of his seat and read like a madman, scanning the papers and files usurped from the Ecuadorean embassy. He had both the Ecuadorean ambassador’s stash and Paddy Leith’s cache of passwords and files and memory sticks. Now nearly all identified and categorized, he scanned the Excel sheet and the thousand entries he had made since late last night, each listed with a searchable code. This was very good work he knew, which spurred him on more, even though the work he needed to do was already done. The truth was he loved the opportunity to move up the ladder to rub shoulders with the larger fish: those killer whales at the top of the food chain. Pencil-necked guppies needed a chance to use their gills and spread their fins to find their flow in their own current within the same sea. This Excel spreadsheet would be read by the top brass in Washington and Virginia this morning.

This, he knew, was his opportunity.

He had 20 minutes left to finish his email and attach the document. Once sent he knew that history would shift and the men in power would gain in online reach, now toppling the last bastion of resistance from the true leader of the original cyber warriors. Rusty Hicks thought of Paddy Leith as he typed the rest of the email, thinking of what he had accomplished with PortalLeaks almost single-handedly over the last nine years. There was admiration there for sure. In fact Rusty Hicks was guilty of searching for news about Paddy Leith every morning for five years and following Paddy Leith’s every move, every publication and every tweet. He didn’t like the word ‘groupie,’ but a few of his army mates had used the word.

When asked about it he merely replied: ‘research.’

It wasn’t difficult to use Excel to his advantage and create a searchable index in the introduction so that his military masters could get to the bottom of things as to what we have. These chappies were also juggling bombings in Syria and drone strikes in Iraq, and endless technical support to the Saudis in their skirmish against Yemen.

He summarized:

It is safe to say that the US is now in possession of the entirety of Mr. Leith’s personal files. Most significant finds include:

• The backend archival files with their passwords and access codes

• Existing stash of Democratic emails waiting to be published

• Login information to his network of PortalLeaks “microsites”

• His personal hard drive with every single word he has ever written, including university papers and programming code (good material for future building)

• The original programming code for his ‘submission platform’

• And the password to the PortalLeaks and its other associated Twitter accounts

He took a moment before stating his recommendations. He had five minutes left because he was aware that there was a bigger issue in play.

Rusty Hicks went outside for a smoke, enjoying his cigarette more in the damp air. He thought of the RAF pilots who had stomped these grounds and the countless other heroes who left their heroism on the battlefield and then never spoke of it again. He tugged on his nicotine stick and then had an idea. Instead of handing things off to someone else, why shouldn’t I run PortalLeaks? These fat fucks in Washington and Langley don’t know their ass from their elbow when it came to computers, let alone the nuances of code, hacking and the world of the dark web. That’s where I am General Patton! That’s why I deserved to have my own Colt 45 and holster! I’m on the cyber frontlines and I’m armed with a fricking BB gun compared to Hackers Anonymous. These clowns wielded power like a child playing with a BB gun after a few beers.


They took down government sites but so could he, incredible as it sounded. His bosses still hadn’t caught on that the US needs the best hackers.

Back inside his chilly room, Rusty Hicks wrote what he thought might determine his fate:

I recommend the following:

• That offending data be immediately deleted (emails, etc.)

• Archival keys be published with distorted backend hashtags

• Leave everything “as is” on the surface, while removing damaging archives

• Plant tracking IDs on all visitors investigating Paddy Leith

This represents a golden opportunity for us to slip ourselves inside the top of the PortalLeaks organization so that we can catch those who still submit leaks.

We ensnare while being quiet.

I volunteer to manage these projects and the PortalLeaks Twitter account.

After attaching the Excel spreadsheet and sending it off, Lieutenant Rusty Hicks took off his boots and massaged his feet. They had never fit properly and there were callouses that kept growing no matter what he did. He had even taken a knife to his boots to carve out some of the leather in the offending areas but this had only caused a tear, and the tear added to the aggravation of the callous and greatly contributed to the redness and pain.

With his boots back on and outside having another smoke, Rusty Hicks felt like a new man – a man on the rise. The sharks and hawks would soon take note of his name and he would eventually be taken into the club where there was a lot of gin and a lot of steaks consumed.

Not more than an hour later, he received his instructions:

Proceed with Twitter management for time being. Proceed with caution.

The nicotine was still overloading his bloodstream but this was why he felt the craving for more so he went outside and smoked another cigarette in the moist air. Caution! What am I, a dork? He straightened his posture when he faced the truth of the matter: that he was born with a narrow build and therefore people – other men, alphas – treated him as a junior man. And he hated it. Wasn’t anyone’s fault. It was just how it was.

“Bullshit,” he muttered to himself as he stubbed out his cigarette and returned to his office. Once logged into the PortalLeak’s Twitter account, he hovered only for a few seconds before he wrote out his first tweet:

Paddy Leith’s Internet connection has been severed by a state party.

We have activated the necessary contingency plans.

“Did I use caution?” he asked aloud. Fat fucks. Now I’ve got my Colt 45.

Rusty Hicks didn’t read much but he liked George Orwell’s 1984. It was the only novel he had ever read but he never told anyone that. He figured everything was said in that one book. He spent the next few hours thinking of the book and its prophetic themes – namely that he was now Big Brother’s deputy on the front lines.

Chapter 15

Fuzzy Recollection of Empirical Data


The more the morning slowed down and time slowed with it, the more of last night was returning to him. Bits and pieces kept finding their way to Guillermo’s mind’s eye, so he kept reliving parts of the night, finally painting a canvas that told a story. He understood the cause and effect nature of what had transpired and had accepted it, but what bothered him was how they were able to get inside the embassy and drop him off without anyone taking issue. Trying hard to remember along these lines was peppered by embarrassment but he braved through it as he stared out the window at the Tower of London.

The English have crappy food but they Frickin nail breakfast, he thought as he suddenly felt full, after days of insufficient protein intake. The beer was refreshing and satisfying, and he loved the fact that he was completely invisible among the other patrons in the pub despite the fact it was late morning.

“Would you like another dear?” The waitress was thick boned and friendly, with smooth skin and bad teeth.

“Could I trouble you for a pot of tea? I dare say the pint was fantastic aber it is enough. Schön. Sehr schön.” The waitress nodded but couldn’t help betraying some bewilderment. The German did some times slip through, a remnant of his love for his grandfather, the only person who really cared about young Guillermo. He loved the way he spoke, everything intermixed with funny sounding words like ‘bitte’ and ‘aso’ and even his favourite: ‘geisteswissenschaffen.’ It confused people but Guillermo understood it. It might have been what started his fascination of language. He couldn’t help it but he loved Spanish the most because it was the best language. English was a practical language and at times difficult to know, but Spanish was easy and soft and fun and in this way beautiful. French took itself too seriously and German was too dramatic and harsh. Dutch and Frisian, the closest languages to English, were the center connecting points in all the Indo-European languages in his opinion.

It was hard for him to find any criticism with the Dutch.

Buoyed by a good meal, Guillermo turned his phone on and re-engaged with his day. President Rivera had called him.

Fuck!” A few patrons look around. He slumped a bit in his chair, and motioned to the bartender to pour him another Guinness. And then a seriousness came over him as he vigorously debated within himself whether it was acceptable to call a President of a country from a pub. He looked at the walls and saw the Irish Harp. Irish Pub – they were in every city in the world those Irish.

When the bartender dropped off the Guinness, Guillermo was feeling feisty and sporting.

“Lemme ask you a question mate,” he said, lifting the pint to his lips.

“That’s a funny accent. Hard to place, yeah?”

“It is actually. My question for you is: Would you call the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from an Irish Pub?” The bartender’s face, full of scars, suddenly lit up, the scars turning bright red.

“Is that what you’re up to My Son?” For a moment Guillermo had to take a breath. He had trouble handling things when a question was dodged or left unanswered.

“Would you make the call then?”

“Well hell buckets mate! Why wouldn’t you? Seems to me mate it’s the best place to make that call.” He remained at the table expecting Guillermo to make a call directly to the Prime Minister.

“No, no matey. It was a hypothetical only.” The bartender looked around for a moment, losing some of his poise.

“What? A hypothetical?” The bartender looked at him suspiciously, immediately casting a darkness between them. Guillermo nodded and smiled but not fast enough before he turned away to his mates at the end of the bar. Any optimism he might have had also turned dark. Clouds and thunder rumbled outside and he shivered in his thin dress shirt and exposed neck. He cursed himself for not wearing the wool vest he kept in his office specifically for the chilly moisture that plagued this part of the world. It was the death for the infirm or elderly. He wondered for a moment whether the climate in England really had an impact on the disposition of the modern Englishman. Certainly he believed the climate in Canada had a direct impact on the national character there, the extreme cold binding Canadians together to endure the winter hardships together just to survive until the spring. That endurance was responsible for the deep kindness Canadians had – that cheeriness-despite-the-raging-snowstorm-outside moxie that had created their national character. No, for the English there was a serious reliance on wool for proper warmth while maintaining functionality, the best example by far was the choice of wool socks. Proven. Look funny but still work. Good enough for Sir Edmund Hilary conquering Mt Everest, it should be good enough for the Welsh hinterlands.

The pint was half finished after his revering. The phone was in his hand when he was interrupted by the bartender. He had two shots in his hands.

“I was thinking about your question mate,” he said sitting down across from him. “And if I were to call the PM from this pub, I would make sure there was no music in the background.”

“Yep, good idea.”

“And if this hypothetical call were to happen, it would be best to wander over to the stage area near the speakers because the background hum of the patrons can’t be heard. It will cut down exposure so to speak. You get it?” Guillermo couldn’t see anything else other than a hundred little scars light up burgundy red.

“I get it.” He smiled and then laughed at the grin on the bartender’s face as he lifted the shot glass in his hand.

“Here, on the house. Good chattin’ with you matee.” They clinked glassed and shot the booze down, sending a shrill down his spine. A strange aftertaste lingered on his tongue that made him shiver. It hadn’t tasted like vodka.

“Offside,” he blurted out.

The bartender’s smile disappeared.

“I mean it’s a hockey term, from Canada. Means the shot was a little too, too good, if you get the meaning.” Purposeful nodding coaxed the bartender back from the brink of suspicion.

“It was a little too too good! Hah!” Deep laughter from the bartender carried throughout the pub as he returned behind the bar.

Guillermo licked his lips and felt hot, his tongue numb. He could taste some sort of chemical. He drank the stout to get rid of the unusual taste. Then the phone rang.

Shit!” All at once thoughts flooded his mind and he couldn’t think straight. Then the music stopped. He saw the bartender at the stereo.

“Hello Mr. President. I was just about to call you.”

“I hope so young man.” There was shuffling at the other end of the phone. “Listen, we must get something out regarding the Internet and Paddy. Will you please take care of that? Let’s get on this mister! Today!” He hung up. There was nothing more to be said.

Guillermo nodded at the bartender, who then turned the volume back on. Slouched and thoroughly exhausted, Guillermo started feeling very relaxed. His arms were heavy and his thighs were Jell-O. Finally he thought, he was finally feeling relaxed.

“Stress kills” he whispered into his hands as he massaged his temples and struggled with an idea. It was as if all his chakras had opened up. He felt enormously truthful, like a confessing drunk. Looking through his fingers at the pub, he wondered for a second whether he had the English character wrong. Warm thoughts of Sherlock Holmes and Christmas fireplaces and Dickens’ films sent him into a semi-weeping mode except that he didn’t weep. He wept without showing it. Then it dawned on him: he had to call the President back to confirm the exact wording. He knew it was bad timing but he would rather get the tongue-lashing now rather than lose his job after a bad tweet that caused a firestorm. Sensitive. All of it was.

He stood up and took his phone to the stage where the music happened to turn off again. He didn’t even bother to look. Very bold, he limbered up for a moment and then called President Rivera, rotating his neck like an athlete. Wing it man! Wing it!

The President wasn’t happy when he got on the phone.

“Sir, will we be saying Ecuador took the decision to disconnect only ‘temporarily’? Do we mention the election?” In the silence Guillermo was optimistic that he had asked two very pertinent and important questions no one had really thought out yet.

“Damnation! Get with the program. Living in London has made you soft. Ecuador’s decision. Full stop. No mention of election. Crazy.” In the silence that followed, the music suddenly blared out of the speakers much louder than before. He looked at the bartender who gave him a very laidback nod and then turned away.

“Mr. President?”

“Where are you? A disco?” Gloria by Van Morrison roared out of the speakers, the riff clearly audible over the phone.

“No,” he replied, trying to come up with something. “There’s a thing.”

I know that song! C’mon Guy, get to work.” said the President of Ecuador, before he hung up. Just then the music stopped. The bartender again had the same look and then went about his business, neither apologizing nor laughing nor acknowledging the trespass that might have cost him his job.

Strangely Guillermo was relatively unperturbed. The muscle relaxant that was in his shot glass just made him mellow. Very relaxed. Taking inventory post-call to the president, if anything it gave him some breathing space to spearhead a few projects of his own before the end of Rivera’s term. He went to the bar and turned up the music. Van Morrison was the last thing he remembered hearing in that Irish Pub nestled in the old bowels of old London, after which he had only a fuzzy recollection of empirical data that followed.

Chapter 16

Swing. My. TITS!


Tori Finger was ticked. She had used truth as her sole beacon since she was a little girl, worshipping truth as divine. There was, for her, a cathedral of truth all around us that so few took the time to explain truthfully. It rankled her that Christie Gold bitch-from-hell had the female balls to try to guide her from her platform. That was mine – that report. Little Miss Blondie doesn’t know dick about PortalLeaks!

But neither did she, and that really spiked her gourd.

“She gets on my tits!”

But her morning run unrankled her and put her in gear for the day. The Potomac trail along the river’s edge was her favorite run. She could yell her expletives into the winds that blew off the river, and surreptitiously barf up all the gunk that accumulated at the office. Journalism was tough these days she knew, but she was up for it even if she had to manhandle her bosses. ‘Tori Finger: The Pulse’ was her brand and this was her moment to seize it. How many journalists had there been who had let their one chance slip through their fingers to make a name for themselves during an election or crisis and who could then write their own ticket, get their own show or be hired by one of the big networks?

“If Christie Gold can swing her tits on Live TV then so can I!” She glanced behind her and saw no one. “Swing. My. TITS!” Ah it felt good to verbally barf into the wind!

She laughed from her gut and instantly felt cleansed of resentments and emotional loose ends. She thought of her days playing soccer at boarding school, the smell of the freshly cut grass and the sweet sound of a well-struck ball into the net. She loved soccer more than any other sport. It was the biggest sport in the world for a reason: it was the beautiful game that when played well was like a form of poetry.

For a very long while she ran thinking of nothing but an Egg McMuffin, her salivating mouth overflowing. She swallowed a bit and then spat, the saliva dripping down her chin.

“PortalLeaks is my story,” she said to herself, like a pep talk. “I need to get on it.” Then she stopped running. She tried to kick-start her run again but it didn’t work. She was done. She walked across the grass and stopped at a tree and stretched out her calves, loving the flush of endorphins that gave her life-sustaining energy. Flagging a taxi to her apartment, she was in her office researching PortalLeaks with her door closed, the office nearly empty. She kept the Egg McMuffin wrapper left open on the corner of her desk but didn’t once look at it. Knowing it was there was enough guilt to motivate her to fully immerse herself in the conundrum that was Paddy Leith, and the possible US legal action against PortalLeaks. Tori Finger was going to be the new name on the journalistic docket in Washington from now on. It didn’t matter she didn’t know much about hacking.

Chapter 17

Keeping It Groovy


Gunther enjoyed his buzz on his balcony now that the sun was out through the clouds, drying the rain shower from the midday rains. Leaves glistened in the sunlight and insects and critters in the forest teamed and snorted and buzzed. He had three laptops scattered around him as he sat perched with his pipe held level, eyes serious, lighter placed just close enough not to burn his throat.

“But that is the cost of using a small pipe, right Chaucer? But the benefits far outweigh those of a long pipe because as any regular pipe smoker knows cleaning the pipe is of utmost importance. Cleaning equipment is of particular significance since one cannot smoke with a clogged pipe.” He stopped and patted Chaucer for a few minutes, soon resuming where he had let off. “And pipe smokers never like to be without a functioning pipe.”

Gunther used a straightened-out paper clip to insert and scrape off the resin in the body of his wooden pipe as well as the bowl. It was the most effective and easiest-to-use tool in his kit. He usually wiped the resin on a rolling paper to add some moisture to his weed, which sometimes dried out too much and burned too hot and hurt his throat.

“Sometimes it’s tough being a hippie,” he said, Chaucer enjoying the attention, her ears back and mouth partially open with a slight pant. “And today is such a day, puppy doggy.” Chaucer was perched in from of the balcony railings now watching the birds flying around, clearly bugged she couldn’t do anything about it.

He picked up his personal laptop and checked 4Chan. Alarmed at the new thread discussing the Deadman’s Switch he just released, there were already reports that the hashtags didn’t match the back-up archive files.

This is not good,” he muttered, now swinging his leg around and returning to his desk where he could check the hashtags again.

“Crazy fucks. Hackers are strange peeps, n’est-ce pas?” Chaucer stood at his feet, ears up and wagging her tail. “You’re such a smart doggy.” With Gunter’s Asperger’s Syndrome, the German shepherd breed was a good one because she was engaged throughout the day by this bachelor with a smoking problem.

It didn’t take him long to see what had happened. The archive files had been tampered with. Each date had been changed to 1984.

“That’s strange, onion Paddy puppy didn’t like Orwell.” He looked at Chaucer and felt lonely, which impelled him to speak: “It’s odd that such a guy with such a vision didn’t really have the foundation in literature and culture than one would expect in such an epi-onion bun. What?” He missed his friends. He hugged his dog and then settled in front for some analysis.

“Who? Who could’ve done this? It’s just not Paddy Cake’s bun, y’know?” Chaucer wagged her tail, looking at him right in the eye. “If the codes have been tampered with then it’s safe to assume the entire archive has been compromised.” Gunther was pretty sure there were maybe two or three back-up archives hidden in safes around the world but figured only Paddy had the keys for these.

Chaucer started barking.

“What is it puppy?” He quickly covered his pile of drugs and whatnot with a bandana when there was a knock on the door. Then he remembered his dealer was coming by.

Hola amigo.” Alejandro was a smart dude, and respected the unspoken bounds of protocol and discretion. Coming highly recommended by a fellow man in Quito, Al was very good about keeping his supply up. Professional and known to drop off the face of the planet for weeks at a time and then resurfacing with a new phone number was something he prepared for by keeping a small back-up stash for this intermittent drought.

“Come in my friend.” He put the baggy directly in his hand and then stepped aside, lighting a smoke. His eyes were extremely bloodshot. “I didn’t hear you come up the driveway.

“New car. It’s no noise.” As he smoked Gunther could tell he had something on his mind.

“Did you bring rolling papers dude?” He suddenly smiled.

“I love when you call me ‘dude.’” It was great to hear pure laughter.

“Thanks dude,” he said when Alejandro handed him three packs of Zigzag white rolling papers. Al rolled up his sleeves revealing an arm covered in a sleeve tattoo.

“Okay dude.”

“Well you’re saving my ass with these papers dude, that’s the truth. Very important to have all the necessary ingredients for maximum productivity.”

Si.” Al looked at the screen on Gunther’s laptop showing the archive data with the date set at ‘1984.’ “Work?” He studied his dealer for a moment.

Si, work.” He stood up. “Beer?” He shook his head.

Non, I have no time. Call me.” Before he could leave Gunther had opened two cold beers by the door.

“Okay, see you later then. Long trip back to Quito, non?

Puta!” He grabbed the beer and drank it with Gunther, sharing a rare moment together. They went to the balcony.

“What’s your work? Business?” He was surprised to see Alejandro remove his own personal kit and pack a pipe with a medium hit of homemade crack. Almost out of respect he broke his own rule of not volunteering information.

“Not business, no.”

“Girls?” He laughed and smoked at the same time. Incredible display of coordination and lung control while ensuring the epiglottis was handled with care. Exceptional technique.

“Yes! I’m a pimp.”

“No. I’m serious.” He expertly let the smoke seep out between his teeth as he spoke, enjoying the taste. Al didn’t look like he wanted to let it go.

“Yes, I’m serious!”

“No, you joke.”

“My business is publishing,” he said, suddenly finding the words on his tongue. “I publish stuff online and am paid by advertisers, so you could say it’s a business.”


“Not really. Computer stuff. Like programming and sharing code.”

“Code! Hacker?”

“I wish. I mean, no. I’m not a hacker. Hackers are young and nerdy.” Alejandro smiled.

“Yes, they are nerdy.”

Gunther grabbed two more beers and brought over his laptop to show Alejandro.

“See? This is my work. These are files in a database that are retrievable via a search algorithm.”

“Okay. Okay. But what are the files?” When he looked closely in his visitor’s eyes he saw a very sharp mind but a degree of desperation too that he knew was dangerous.

“They vary.”


“They vary.”

“Very?” He drank the rest of his beer in one long gulp. “What does this mean? Very?”

“There are many different files.”

“Like what? Credit card information?”

“Yes, that’s what they are.” He tried to change the subject but the Ecuadorean was like a cat on the three-legged mouse.

“No good. You a bad man.” There was no smile.

“No, no. I’m joking.” There was no expression on Alejandro’s face.

“Okay, the files contain stuff like emails and reports and stuff. I basically organize the data.”

“Organize the data.”

“Yes. And publish it.”

“To who?”

“On the Internet.”

“From where?”

“In social media.”


“No, not Facebook.”


“No.” Like a Pitbull with the scent of the kill, his eyes wouldn’t let Gunther go.

“Twitter?” He found it tough to lie to a direct question.

“Well, yes. Sometimes.”

“What’s the name?”

“Come one dude, give me a break here.” Alejandro stepped closer and saw the PortalLeaks logo on one of the papers on his desk.


“Why are you busting my balls here?”

“I know. It’s good beer. He finished his second beer and then left. In the wake of his departure Gunther felt like he had given too much. The security in his house was everything, for both him and Paddy Leith. He couldn’t find a reason not to trust his drug dealer since they already sort of had an outlaw pact going already.

He wanted to call Guillermo to find out about Paddy’s state of health but he had to assume the worst. The tweets and the ‘1984’ Orwell reference just didn’t fit.

“I sense a coup,” he said just as Chaucer started barking again. She smelled the air and then ran to the front door just before the knocking. He assumed Alejandro had forgotten something so he scanned the room but didn’t see anything.

“Coming.” He grabbed two more beers before opening the door carelessly, seeing a hiker in front of him.

“Oh sorry, I thought you were someone else.” He saw the odd tourist like this around Ibarra, complete with hiking shoes and knapsack but none had ever knocked on his door.

The man held out a wallet. “This fell out of the car that just pulled out of your driveway just as I was passing by on my bike.” He pointed to his mountain bike parked against a tree.

“Oh. Okay. Um…” He turned to put the beers down so he could take the wallet from the hiker. Chaucer wagged her tail and sniffed the man who seemed friendly enough, but when he turned back to retrieve the wallet from him he saw a gun in his other hand.


“Yes, umm. That’s right. Step back slowly. Don not alert the dog. Are we clear buddy?” The hiker-turned-special-forces whacko kept his relaxed smile, convincing the German shepherd that all was well and groovy between them. Gunther, completely shocked at what was unfolding, stood motionless, not sure what to do. Thoughts of kicking the gun out of his hand died as soon as they appeared, like flares shot into the wind and rain. No, he had expected this.

“Okay listen man, I’m not that groovy with this. This is not groovy.”

“Well then man, you have it in your power to make this groovy.” The Special Forces hiker said it as if he were asking for mustard for his cheeseburger.

Fuck,” he said, fully realizing that this could either go south very quickly, or he could try to make it groovy. “Fuck, okay man. Chill. This is my casa, okay? Man-to-man, take off your shoes before you come in. I don’t have any weapons here. I have a small hit of drugs for personal use. For personal use. And that’s it dude. So chill. Respect my home Mr. Special Forces Man. Now, I’m gonna have a beer. If I were you I would have one too – for the dog’s sake. As you said, let’s keep it groovy.” It was obvious by just looking at this guy that he was smart and that nothing really was going to get by this guy. Well-trained like a piston after high-revs, this chappie was in his element.

“Yes, agreed. This is your casa and I will respect it.” As he spoke Gunther saw the scars that lined the right side of his face in fine lines that fell like an asteroid down to his ear. A deep respect went through him in the presence of such a bundle of coordinated muscle. Forget video games, this guy is the seasoned soldier el grande.

“Okay man.”

“Now give me that brewskie and let’s get this over with.”

Chapter 18

Morphine-spiked Time


The rumble of vehicles could be heard outside of his basement window but it didn’t deter Dusty Pearce from carefully organizing incoming data. Out of the five who ran PortalLeaks, four had been neutralized. Only one still remained to check in. Dusty had been most worried about Higgy in Iceland taking some sort of Last Stand but it didn’t happen.

“Soft, doughy cookies,” he said, thinking of the programmers and hackers who had no concept of living ‘in the field’ despite their complete fascination with online war games. At least with Grand Theft Auto one could go out and drive, but with military games, what’s the outlet? Go to a post office and let off a few rounds?

The morphine had kicked in so the problem was now dealing with the slow passage of time. Even his Twitter feed that usually cascaded down with staccato bursts seem to drip out of the top of the screen, tripped up by molasses in the oil. Anxiety from his lack of knowledge of grammar had manifest in a robust disbursement of said medication, though he was happy to have taken his large dosage after eating a biscuit.

He re-read the tweet that had been written but not sent for nearly half an hour. With the statuesque Custer behind his screen, the tweet seemed so weak and unheroic. The world was waiting for him to tweet something but he felt handcuffed. As long as the grammar is correct, I should be okay. He read it once more:

There is no US election. There is no power consolidation.

Rigged media and the proverbial rigged “pied-piper”

Drive consolidation

It was a good use of words, clever yet to the point. He had always suspected he had good writing skills and his teachers had been wrong so now was the time to spread his wings and catch some air. He clicked on the turquoise tweet button and felt the thrill of battle as the PortalLeaks tweet entered the mainstream waters where over four million of his followers would read it. Plus all the other ones too afraid to get mixed-up with censorship and being red-flagged for using search words that raise flags.

But when he saw it in the Twitter feed he was crestfallen. He had forgotten an article or picture to go with it. He quickly scrolled back and looked at the past tweets and didn’t see one tweet over the last month that was typed just as a wise aphorism. Maybe PortalLeaks can start to be more Nietzschean now he thought to himself, rubbing his chin. These were driven youngsters who wanted the taste for battle in the cybersphere so let them play. Let them dig the new Nietzschean to-the-point’ness. Damn right!

The sound of his ring tone pulled him out of his revelry.

“Yes Colonel.” He cleared his throat.

“Can you explain that Lieutenant. I don’t seem to understand the tweet. Explain.” He could hear that he was on speakerphone.

“The tweet, yes.” Morphine seemed to handcuff his tongue. “Well, that’s what they’re saying isn’t it?” There was talking in the background for a minute. “Trying to touch a nerve in the target audience sir.” This met with a better response.

“Yes Lieutenant. We see now. However, we would like things to remain as they are with no touching-the-nerve insights and other philosophical ponderings. This is not the platform for that. Have we made ourselves clear Lieutenant?” Dusty had no idea who he was speaking to nor did it matter. What mattered was that his orders would be followed.

“Yes sir. Roger that.”

“Do you understand what we want?”

“Yes sir.”

“Then tell me.” The crackle of the line was surreal in his morphine haze, but his brain was left untouched, instead removing itself from the sloth and sway of the opiate hearth to focus on the task at hand. Speak man!

“Sir. I will study the past two months of tweets, learn the template and then employ a seamless transition from the past to the present administration. To do this successfully I will use finesse to post tweets that follow that same format as before. Seamless sir. The same. For now. Slowly sir. And with large amounts of finesse.” The murmuring sounded for the most part, agreeable.

“That’s fine Lieutenant. Any questions?” Despite hating being asked this, he did have one he needed to ask.

“Sir. Is a robust policy of misrepresentation and misdirection, in terms of diversionary value, a viable option in this current circumstance?” The dead air lasted for a while until someone bothered to say: “One moment Sergeant.”

Dusty looked away from his telephone and spat out the words: “Sergeant? I’m not a fucking Sergeant.” Before he realized that with the lull in the traffic outside his basement window it was very likely he was heard. The select laughter confirmed his fear.


“Yes sir.”

“Use the following items or approved themes for misdirection: One, Russia supplied the leaks to PortalLeaks. Two, Paddy Leith is a sex offender. Charges are currently being manufactured. Three, things are looking rosy for Paddy because Sweden is finally coming to the embassy to question him. Offers hope. Other miscellaneous items of note. One, no more mention of the election or the DNC emails. Two, more retweets of what PortalLeaks supporters are tweeting. Three, go ahead with a more robust tweeting campaign from The PortalLeaks Task Force. Use that resource and introduce other Task-Force’esque Twitter accounts. Copy?”

Dusty Pearce relished the concise use of language and felt privileged to be the recipient of such a polished piece.

“Roger that sir.” The silence and the shuffling of papers obscured the voice that spoke into the phone but the phone clicked dead after another ten seconds. In the current of post-chat glee, the spirit was quickly marred by the realization that he hadn’t recorded the call nor had he taken notes. He scrambled to his computer and started writing down what he recalled by his attention was interrupted by yelling outside his window. The voices from the street grew louder to the point of screaming. Then someone whistled loudly, which stopped the screaming. The sound disrupted his mind because of the morphine. He squinted through the window through bloodshot eyes but didn’t see anything.

“Crazy town,” he muttered and stubbed his toe when he tried to avoid a shoe on the floor. He didn’t have to fall but he did anyway. The soft carpet softened the blow on his shoulder blade so he remained there for a moment. He pictured in a psychedelic haze all the chief bigwigs discussing how important the job was and that they could trust the proven old-school Pearce. He played out the scene and remembered every single word verbatim but when he woke up four hours later, the only word he could honestly remember with certainty was the word ‘finesse.’ And he couldn’t pinpoint the exact manner of how the word was used either.