Mike is a reporter who knows a lot of secrets. Jack is a drug lord who wants those secrets buried. David and Todd are Mike's cyber geek friends who are dot-com rich and seriously dangerous. Jack never really had a chance.
An high-tech Orwellian thriller about a band of mild mannered computer geeks who are lords of an unseen electronic empire.
1. Monday January 8
Time: 2 PM
Arms tense and hands clenched nervously onto the steering wheel, Mike rushes to his rented farmhouse several miles north of Des Moines. On a sunless, cold, gray January afternoon, his car rattles and bounces its way west on a nameless gravel county farm road. The outside temperature is 7 below, the wind chill is -20F. The car's heater chatters vainly.
Mike's beat-up old hardtop heaves and sways over the uneven loose stone surface, passing endless snow patched fields. It thumps across an unguarded railroad grade crossing, a loose old ramp of worn wood bridging shiny rails on which endless trains cart corn, soy, coal, and freight to ports south.
A colorless cluster of silos a few miles north fades dimly in the gathering haze. In the dismal churning sky aloft, flocks of crows scavenge for the last remains of summer. Gusting winds stir dry corn husks into furious small cyclones.
Slowing, he turns onto a stony driveway but quickly halts at the sight of what's down the long path ahead. After several moments of panic and indecision, he takes his foot off the brake and the car creeps slowly forward to the sound of rock crushing beneath its turning tires.
He slows to a crunching halt in a small farmyard. In the leaden winter light, engine idling, he looks numbly at the smoldering remains before him.
Of the old farmhouse, only the chimney and a few pipes remain upright. The rest is a smoking, fallen ruin of charred timbers. Discarded before what was once the entrance are three red gasoline cans.
Anxiously looking to see if anyone's hiding in the small grove of trees, he pulls on his heavy gloves, and stretches his knit stocking cap low over his ears. The rusty hinge creaks as he opens the door and cautiously gets out.
Nervously, he walks up to the blackened remains to see if there is anything salvageable. He hears only the sound of wind and the distant, cawing crows.
The floors have collapsed into the cellar. Burned pieces of furniture, the stove, refrigerator and other debris are scattered across the basement. Around the yard, in the driveway, the bushes, everywhere, he sees his papers and files blowing about. He realizes that the place was ransacked first, then torched.
In frustration, but with a note of despair, he says "Shit," and kicks at small a rock. It sails upwards then arcs downward into the cellar, landing with a metallic thud on the old stove below.
Returning to the car, he leans against its warm hood and surveys the remains. Pulling off one of his gloves, he reaches through his coat into a pocket and extracts a cigarette.
Feeling through his pants for his lighter, he slides it out, hunches over, back to the wind, and lights the cigarette. He takes a deep drag then flicks the tiny ash to the wind. But, in the corner of his eye, something moves. He turns quickly. In the distance to the west, far down the road, a rising, spiraling plume of dust is moving his way.
Ambush! They were at the west end of the road. They saw my own trail of dust. They were waiting there behind the trees, out of sight of any farms, the way I normally come home! Mike tosses the cigarette, jumps in the car, shoves the transmission into forward and floors the gas pedal. The rear tires spin on the loose stone and the car fish tails into a quick 180-degree about face. It lurches back down the driveway. Swerving onto the county road, he races to escape.
Picking up speed, he kicks up his own dust cloud. He wants to get to the blacktop a few miles east and the safety of the small farm town beyond. The crows screech and scatter skyward from the fields as his car clatters by.
A bullet pings his bumper, then several more. Some hit the trunk. He ducks when the rear window bursts into a great starry pattern of cracked glass. They're gaining.
His spinning tires on the crushed rock liberate a growing plume of wind borne stone dust that hides him from the pursuing SUV. But, when the road turns and weaves around small hills, the cloud parts and both prey and predator get to glimpse one another clearly.
The SUV is now about a quarter mile behind and closing. He struggles to open the gap but he's going as fast as he can on this bumpy road without losing control. Their SUV is better suited for this terrain.
From behind, they shoot blindly into his spiraling screen of rock powder. Few find their target but the sound of each round grows closer.
Ahead, hidden by a small hill, the grade crossing comes into view. However, to his left, a southbound freight rumbles his way at 80 miles per hour. Both he and a hundred cars of freight, preceded by three soot belching diesel locomotives, are seconds from the crossing.
Panicked, Mike whispers to himself, "This is it."