Canary in a Coalmine

Canary In A Coal Mine

Fan fiction by Michael J. Watkins
 
At one of the famous steam baths in Bad Bruekenau, Germany, a man and a woman sit in the hot pool drinking mineral water. They’ve been coming here regularly for about a month. Since they appear to speak Czech and a smidgen of German, nobody pays them any heed.
 

* * * * * * * * * *

"So, Tatiana, this is what you have been up to all this time. You’re a spy. And I thought you were just a hooker in the Reaperbahn ” The man leans back against a reclined section of the spa.
    
"Boris, you’re a pig. Are you familiar with every red light district in the world, or just the ones in Deutschland?” Tatiana throws the remainder of her mineral water at him.
    
"YAH! That’s cold!” Boris shrieks, and retreats into the hot water to warm himself.
    
"You think?” After a brief pause she continues, "It’s not like I was working the ground floor. I was working at the sauna.”
    
"You still working saunas?” Boris leeringly sli-i-ides from his spot in the tub.
    
"Not a chance.” Tatiana’s glare forces him back to the other side of the pool. "Boris, 300 DM won’t even net you my business card.”
    
"Yea, but hey! Don’t you owe me a favor?”
 
"Are you going to help me or not?”
 
"Alright, ok OK,” he relents, thrusting his hands into the air. "What do you need?”
 
"That bio-tech company you work for, Blau Traum, may be getting in over it’s head with this new skin cancer contract,” she says, settling back into the water.
 
"What’s the problem?”
 
"I work for a Parliament sub-committee. They suspect that your company has already developed a treatment for melanin-type skin cancer and has been sitting on it, purposefully keeping it from the public.”
 
"Why in the world would they do that? The only people to get melanin type skin cancer are rich folks and war vets. Research like that could yield insane amounts of money.”
 
"They could do that or milk the government for more funding, and then release their discovery.”
 
Boris shrugs his shoulders. "Just sounds like capitalist pragmatism to me. The government wastes money like this all the time.”
 
"Parliament will see it as theft, whether the law supports them or not.”
 
"Some might call it Free Market Enterprise.”
 
"They want a crack at the free market, they should set up shop in the U.S. I’m giving you a chance to make a difference here. You can help a lot of people here.”
 
Boris yawns, patting his gaping mouth with his hand.
 
"Alright. How about helping yourself. Blau Traum’s stock is going to tank when the truth comes out. Wouldn’t it be nice to cash out and move on before that happens?”
 
"Now that I know it will, I could pull out whether I help you or not.”
 
Tatiana smiles, withdrawing a slip of paper from her valise. "Not with a lean on your shares.”
 
Boris’s face pales, then his lip curls upward in amusement. "This wasn’t necessary. You know. I’d do anything for you.”
 
"Sometimes, dear Boris, a little insurance is necessary in our business.”
 
"Sure. What do I have to do?”
 
"Excellent. I need you to find out if the research is complete. Plus, I’ll need copies of everything they’ve discovered so far. You think you can handle that?”
 
"Consider it done.”
 

* * * * * * * * * *

"The maedchen and I had a wonderful time, as always,” Boris remarked to the man behind the counter as he and Tatiana walked out of the bathhouse.
 
Maedchen? The puzzled desk clerk looks about for the young woman who’d arrived with this man. "Uh, of course, sir. May I call a taxi?”
 
Already outside, Boris secures a small backpack across his shoulder and leans in close to Tatiana, concealed from the desk clerk by her psion mind-trick. "I’ll get on this, you take care, Tatiana. Ciao.”
 
"Great. You too, Boris.” She pecks him on the check. "Tchuss.”
 
Boris turns down the Strasse and whistles a tune commonly found in a beer tent at a local festival, then turns down a cobblestone street.
 
"Yaga, you are getting better. Do you think he bought it?” a voice asks through Tatiana’s earpiece.
 
"He bought it hook, line and sinker. Boris’ profile mentions a penchant for escorts though it would have been nice if it also mentioned that he fixated on them.”
 
"My fault. Besides a implanting a few fake memories, I torqued up his glands. You may have held his attention on your own, but I made him need you.”
 
"Greeeaat. Make him think I was this hooker he used to have crazy monkey sex with, jack up his hormones, then set us up a nice secluded hot tub. Thanks a bunch.”
 
"You could have told him the truth.” teases the voice on the other end.
 
"Yeah,” she smiled. "He’d have hit the sidewalk outside in less than 30 seconds, trunks or no.”
 

* * * * * * * * * *

About a week later
 
Two men, a German and an American, stare at a pathetic man through a one-way mirror. His arms are folded into his chest. Like a caged animal, his eyes dart between objects and details within the room. His eyes reveal a childlike expression of, "but but ”
 
"Remind me not to visit the mountain this coffee came from.” The American sets his cup on the table.
 
"That’s the problem with you Amerikaner,” the German responds. "You are so accustomed to drinking the swill from the bottom of the global barrel that you don’t recognize anything decent unless it has viel much caffeine.”
 
"I suppose you’re right. At least we can make good cigarettes,” the American returns the German’s half-pack. "My kid brother smokes stronger stuff than these.”
 
The German’s comeback is interrupted by the entrance two other gentlemen. One is shorter than average German with a brown wool suit. The other is an average height African clad only in black: black turtleneck, black leather belt, black pleated slacks, socks, shoes, nothing but black from head to toe.
 
"Herr Schueler,” the two greet the German, "this is Leone Nwabudobi. He represents the client for our recent contract. He was in this part of the world and flew in when we contacted the client. Leone, this is Karl Mensch, our special projects security chief, and this is Terry Thessles, our building security chief.”
 
"It’s a pleasure. Gute Nachmittag.” Both exchange a solid handshake with the African.
 
"Mr. Thessles, have you identified anyone that has a close association with this  Boris Stoelke?”
 
Turning a chair backwards and sitting, Terry responds, "There are no close associations. He’s dumpy and not very attractive. He tends to frequent 'houses of ill-repute’ and fancies himself the ladies man. Of course, this effectively guarantees that no woman stops to talk to him for longer than necessary. Nobody can recall him ever spending time with others outside his work.”
 
Leone raises an eyebrow, slightly. "That’s unusual. People tend to have at least one friend, if even a tenuous one. Has a search of your video records turned up anything?”
 
"We’re still waiting on that. When my people turn anything up they’ll let us know.”
 
"Please, get whatever results they have, if any.”  Terry acknowledges this instruction with a curt nod and exits the room.  Leon continues, "Mr. Mensch does Mr. Thessles know the true nature of our project?”
 
"No sir,” Karl replies nervously.
 
"How close is the project to completion, Herr Schueler?”
 
"I’m told that the virus you desire can genetically match the target population but there is trouble with the blood cell re-sequencing. We’re attempting to engineer that portion of the virus.”
 
"As long as it makes the target population’s blood cells to change to AB.”
 
"How do you plan to deal with those whose blood is already AB?” Karl inquires.
 
Leone looks to Karl, momentarily, "They don’t matter. After all, they’re only a fraction of the populace.”
 
Terry enters the observation room with a manila folder and hands it to Leone, who peruses its contents.
 
"We’ve only examined the last 4 days so far.” Terry gestures to some still shots. "We’ve identified these two individuals: Anya Chen and Kristoff Bauer. Miss Chen is the system administrator for the computer lab. Mr. Stoelke solicited Miss Chen to turn over the data tapes from the computer backups for the project. Mr. Bauer’s only connection to Mr. Stoelke was an intimate one. He, apparently, propositioned him. This other woman we have yet to identify.” Leone closes the folder and walks out of the observation room., returning several seconds later.
 

* * * * * * * * * *

Ignoring the trembling hand offered him, Leone draws the captive’s attention in a low, even tone. "Mr. Stoelke ”
 
"Ye-y-y-yes,” replies Boris, wringing his hands nervously.
 
"Mr. Stoelke, why were you attempting to acquire the data from the Skin Clear Project?”
 
"L-like I told the other guy I was gathering the data for a government investigation. They know about the cancer treatments. You must know, too, or you’d have called the polizei by now.”
 
"Mr. Stoelke, the company doesn’t conduct cancer research.”
 
"But! But the woman ”
 
Leone raises his hand, silencing Boris. "Yes, let’s talk about this woman.” He shows Boris the still shot from the video footage. "Who is she?”
 
"That’s her ”, Boris violently points to the image, "She’s her name, her name, Tatiana. Tatiana Ballshuh. She works for ”
 
"Yes, I know. You have told us this.” Leone crosses his arms at the wrist then looks down upon Boris. "Mr. Stoelke, like I said, we do not research cancer treatments here. Do you know what a decoy is, Mr Stoelke?”
 
Boris shakes his head no; then yes, slowly.
 
"Tell me, how do you know this Tatiana Ballshuh?”
 
"She’s an acquaintance. From a while back...”
 

* * * * * * * * * *

Eventually Leone leaves Boris in the briefing room and joins the others in the observation room. "Mr. Thessles, lock down the building. Make sure nobody leaves, and find this woman.” Leone hands him the still of Tatiana.
 
Terry stares into space. He wants to say something, but thinks better of it and downs the rest of his coffee, then throws the cup away before leaving.
 
After he’s gone, Herr Shuele asks, "So what do we do now?”
 
Leone gives Herr Shuele a sidelong look. "Have Miss Chen deliver the data from our contracted projects directly to me. Suffice it to say, our contract will be terminated following this delivery.”
 
"This is an outrage!” Herr Shueler screams. "Just because ”
 
"Just because you’ve attracted outside attention. Just because that somebody has an agent on the premises and has managed to co-opt one or more of your employees. Be thankful that this is all my organization is doing, Herr Schueler. Now, stop bickering and get me that data!”
 
"Fine.”, Herr Schueler looks to Karl, "Do it.”
 
Karl nods and leaves.
 
"I also suggest you sell your stock,” Leone mentions off-handedly before leaving.
 
Once alone in the hallway outside, Leone looks to no one in particular and says, "You know what to do.”
 

* * * * * * * * * *

Tatiana walks past a break room where two women are chatting.
 
"Hey,” one of the women calls out to her. "You’re the one Boris was hitting on earlier, right? Why did you report him? He’s like that with all the girls.”
 
"Boris? I didn’t report him,” Tatiana replies..
 
The other woman chimes in, "No, no. I heard they caught him stealing. He’s with security right now.”
 
"Well,” Tatiana stammers, "I need to go.”
 
As soon as she’s out of sight, Tatiana mutters, activates her cloak, and vanishes into the halls. One of the women steps out into the hall to ask another question, but finds no one. "Huh,” she wonders. "Where did she go?”
 

* * * * * * * * * *

Babba Yaga enters 'her’ cubicle, pulls out a TTY phone commonly used by deaf people, and dials a number. The connection is made and "HELLO-GA” flashes across the phone’s thin screen. She types
 
HELLO-THIS-IS-B.Y.,-THE-CANARY-IS-DEAD.-INFORMATION-CONFIRMED,-BUT-NOT-COLLECTED.-ADVISE.-GA
 
B.Y.,-GLOVES-OFF,-BLOW-MINE,-GET-OUT.-GA
 
CONFIRM:-GLOVES-OFF,-BLOW-MINE,-GET-OUT.-OUT
 
Dammit! Dammit! Dammit! Dammit! Babba Yaga’s mind reels. She grabs a floor puller from the bottom desk drawer and curls up a carpet square under her desk. Then she uses the floor puller’s suction cups to move the white square of raised floor beneath, revealing her purse. The small bag contains her "babies” &mdash a Butterfly Sting and a Chinese Makarov, which she slips into a shoulder holster taken from a hiding place behind her top-right desk drawer. Then she grabs several small gray bricks of C4 from the floor and replaces the tile.
 
Time to blow this joint, literally, she thinks, heading for the secret labs.
 
POP, no more camera .
          POP, no more camera .
 
She turns down one hallway. POP. Turns down another. She’s not too concerned. The guys in the security office are probably sending guards right now, but she’s not worried. Her psion cloak will make sure no one sees her, but the electronic surveillance has got to go.
 
She makes it to the lab in question about the same time as the Asian woman, who’s carrying an aluminum attaché case, and follows her inside. The Asian opens a cabinet and starts loading the tape cartridges within into her attaché case.
 
Cha-ching. Maybe this won’t be such a bust. Time to place some explosives.
 
Babba Yaga looks for a good place to set some charges, but
 
Oh my
 
Someone’s already found a good spot, and the bomb’s counting down from less than 5 minutes!
 
Looking back, Babba Yaga sees that the other woman has finished loading her case and is walking towards the exit. By now the place is in an uproar. People are fleeing to the exits. Yaga’s cloak will keep her from scrutiny but it doesn’t hide the bodies she’s left behind. 
 
Yaga paces the Asian until she gets around a corner and out of sight. POP THUD The she races around the corner to find the Asian on the carpet with blood trailing beneath her head. Scanning her surroundings, she finds no one about, and catches sight of the aluminum case about ten feet away.
 
Then she notices two dimples in the carpet about the size of feet. She holsters the Butterfly Sting, grabs the attaché case, and steps back.
 
If those are feet, and that’s about shoulder length apart, then the head should be about
 
POP  "ARGH!” THUD
 
There
 
She examines the blood splatter on the wall. Butterfly, no.. Egg Fu Yung, no She’s terrible with the Rorschach blots.

* * * * * * * * * *

Yaga follows the crowd down to the first floor. Fortunately, nobody notices the pistols or attaché case. Unfortunately, the guards at the front of the building aren’t so unobservant.
 
"Excuse me, ma’am. I can’t ” POP
 
" believe you’re in my way.” Babba Yaga sprints out the door.
 
Once outside, she searches for her ride. It should be here by now.
 
Glancing over her shoulder she sees two guards looking out the window before returning back to their fallen comrade. When she looks back, she spots her ride in an alley, and weaves through the traffic in front of the building.
 
Less than a minute later the building goes up as several incendiary devices ignite the building and several surrounding buildings, bringing them all down in ruin.