We were hoping to sleep a bit longer on Saturday morning, but Uncle Pete had other plans for us. He started banging on our door at 9 AM… 9-fricken-AM! Tim got up first and walked to the door. He opened it and peeked around it to see what Uncle Pete wanted.
“Just get your butts out of bed and get dressed. We’re going for a ride.”
“Tim, we can play 20 questions in the car. For now, get up, get dressed and have breakfast. We have to leave soon.”
“No buts; move.” And he walked away.
As Tim was closing the door, I couldn’t resist. “Tim, speaking of butts, has anyone ever told you that you have a great looking one?”
“I bet you say that to all the boys.” And he walked back over and kissed me.
“*yawn* I guess we better get moving. I think Uncle Pete was getting annoyed by your questions.”
“Sure, blame it on me! Hehe.”
Tim was already pulling on his boxer briefs when I threw off the covers and grabbed mine. Ten minutes later we had brushed our teeth, washed up and dressed. We went to the kitchen and I got the cereal out while Tim grabbed a couple of bowls and spoons. As I got the milk and orange juice, Tim got a couple of glasses.
Uncle Pete wasn’t around, but his half-full coffee cup was on the table, so he couldn’t be far. He walked back in as we were finishing.
“Are you guys about ready?”
“Just about, Uncle Pete,” I said. “Why all the ‘cloak and dagger’ stuff about where we’re going?”
“It’s not ‘cloak and dagger’, Mike, I just didn’t want to have the conversation and delay us any more than we had to be. We can still talk about this in the car. The ride will be about 55 minutes.”
Tim and I looked at each other and hurried to finish our food. A few minutes later we were putting our dishes in the dishwasher and getting our jackets.
“Shotgun!” Tim called out.
“OK, but I get shotgun on the ride home,” I told him.
Uncle Pete was wearing his lumberjack jacket and his Cubs baseball cap. “Let’s go, boys.” We rushed past him as he locked the door and got in the car. Tim was riding shotgun and I was in the back seat. Uncle Pete got in, put on his seat belt and started the engine… and then he waited.
After 30 seconds, Tim asked, “What are we waiting for?”
“I’m waiting for you guys to put your seat belts on.”
“Oh,” Tim said and buckled his seat belt.
“You too, Mike.”
“But Uncle Pete, I’m in the back seat.”
“Mike, if we’re in an accident, the back seat isn’t magically protected. Put it on.”
“Yes sir,” I said and buckled up.
When we got on Roosevelt Road and headed east towards the Eisenhower Expressway, Uncle Pete started speaking.
“You guys asked me what I did and I said I was a Computer Systems Analyst. That’s true, but did I mention that I own the company?”
“No!” we said in unison.
“Yeah, I keep forgetting to tell people that part. When I moved to Chicago, I was working for another company when I saw an opportunity for a service that was becoming more prevalent. I started a company that does computer surveillance of corporate employees. We monitor what they do online and what messages they send and to whom. Most of the work is pretty boring and routine. Most people are honest. But every now and then we find someone communicating with their company’s competitors. It might be that they’re looking for another job, which is important, but more importantly, we watch for company secrets that are being sent. We can even monitor what files are burned to a disk or memory stick.”
“Wow! I didn’t know that technology was possible!” I said.
“What happens when you catch the crooks?” Tim asked.
“Tim, it used to be that we would just report the guy to their company’s security people, but recently we’re added a security team to our company and now we offer the ability to professionally surveil a suspect and clandestinely obtain proof of their guilt to be used in court.”
“You have a security team?!? How cool is that?” I asked.
“In fact, Mike, you guys already know my security team.”
“We do? Who are they?”
“Frieda and Rolf Berghoff.”
“No! Not the German Club leaders and our chaperones for our trip to Germany?
“Yes… the same ones.”
How are they qualified?”
“They came to Raccoon City seven years ago when they retired from the Mossad. That’s the Israeli version of the CIA.”
“But they don’t look old enough to be retired,” Tim added.
“Tim, the Mossad has an age limit for active agents. Rolf retired first and three months later, Frieda retired, too. They spent a lot of time in Germany and the United States, so they moved to Raccoon City and were hired as German teachers; they wanted to take life a little easier. I’ve been talking with them for over a year about moving to Chicago and joining my company. When the nuke hit Raccoon City, they called from Munich and I found a place for them immediately. They arrived the same day you guys did, but they knew where they were going, so I had Gil Iverson get them settled.”
“Gil Iverson?!?” we both shouted.
“We thought he was a suspect!” Tim added.
“I told you guys that to give you something to do. I knew that you’d never find him, so he was the best choice to be a possible ‘bad guy’. Gil is actually my second in command. He too is a computer security expert. He and I met here in Chicago a few years ago. He didn’t like what Umbrella Corporation was doing. He knew it was at least unethical, if not illegal. I encouraged him to stay with Umbrella and see what he could find out. He came to Chicago the day before the blast; it was his regular trip to ‘the big city’ and no one gave it a second thought. He’s been invaluable since then.”
“If it was his regular trip to the city, why didn’t Umbrella Corporation come looking for him,” I asked.
“Good question, Mike. His car and a charred body were found on a road leading out of Raccoon City. It was just assumed that the body was his. Actually, it was more of a stain on the seat than a body. He decided to drive in with Jill Valentine in her car. When they heard about the explosion on their car radio, Gil destroyed his credit cards and stopped using his ATM card. When they came to me, I gave him one of the general purpose company credit cards we have and set up a cash account for him to use.”
“Wait a minute, Uncle Pete! Whose body was in his car?”
“Tim, we think it was a garage mechanic. Gil had dropped his car off to get it serviced and was to pick it up when he got back. But when the burnt out car was found, the authorities just assumed that it was Gil in the car. When he and Jill got to our house to check in, Gil had already decided not to use the reservation that he had for the hotel in Chicago. You see, Gil was one of the main computer geeks for Umbrella Corporation and that’s how he was getting information for Terri’s exposé. Since Umbrella thought he was dead, we decided to use that to our advantage.”
“What was Jill Valentine doing in Raccoon City?” I asked.
“Mike, she was visiting friends. She and Gil knew each other from working at Umbrella and with me, so when she offered to give him a ride, he readily accepted.”
“Wait! Jill works for you too?!? But she’s a teacher at Lombard High School!”
“Tim, Jill has worked for me since she left S.T.A.R.S. I pay her and her job right now is to lie low and be ready. Whatever she makes from the Lombard Board of Education is a bonus for her. Besides, all we really need from Jill is her blood. Hahaha.”
“Her BLOOD?!? What are you, a vampire?”
“No, Mike. Umbrella Corporation has developed a virus, it’s called the T-Virus, and it infects and takes over a living host. If it’s not stopped, the infected person becomes a Zombie.”
“You’re shitting me!”
“No, Tim. That’s what Terri was going to expose. She, Jill and Gil were working together to gather proof that the T-Virus existed and that Umbrella Corp created it. We already knew it did, but tracing down the source was proving to be elusive.”
“How did you know it existed?” I asked.
“Mike, Jill was infected with the T-Virus, but she was able to receive an antidote before it was too late. Now we need her blood to make additional vaccine to protect others. For now it seems that the T-Virus was destroyed in the nuclear attack on Raccoon City. Gil is using our facilities to monitor activity on the world wide webs to glean information of any additional outbreaks of T-Virus infestations.”
“Wow! You can do that?” Tim was incredulous. I couldn’t blame him; I was, too.
“Tim, that’s what I do for a living. Yes, I can do that.”
As I looked out the windshield, I could see the Willis Tower was getting closer. “Where in Chicago are we going, Uncle Pete?”
“We’ll be there in about 10 minutes, Mike. All we have to do is get on the Kennedy Expressway and drive north a couple of miles.”
As soon as he said that, we slid over to the next-to-the-last-lane on the right. The signs indicated Interstate 90/94 North to Wisconsin. In a little over five minutes we got into the far right lane to exit the Kennedy Expressway at Augusta Boulevard. When we crossed over the Kennedy, we continued on for another block and then turned left on Noble Street. Unexpectedly, to Tim and me anyway, Uncle Pete turned left again down an alley. Just after we passed the Polish American Museum, we turned left and pulled up to a gate that led into a small parking lot between the museum and another building. Uncle Pete took a device from under the driver’s seat and tapped in a code. The gate slid open. Once we were through the gate, it slid back into place.
“Here we are, boys.”
“You work at the Polish American Museum?” Tim asked.
“Haha. No. Next to it,” Uncle Pete replied.
We looked to our right and saw what looked like a warehouse building. Uncle Pete was already parked and out of the car when Tim and I got out and followed him. We walked up to a non-descript door and Uncle Pete put his right hand on the glass of the wire-reinforced small window in the door. It was about head level. Then he spoke: “Pete plus two.” A dim green bar of light scanned his hand and we heard the lock on the door click, indicating that it was unlocked.
Uncle Pete opened the door and ushered us in ahead of him and warned us not to speak or touch anything. Once Uncle Pete was in, the door closed and relocked. The only light was coming through the window in the door. Uncle Pete again put his hand on the glass and said, “All is well.” Again, his hand was scanned and when his hand was removed, a panel rose and covered the window. For a moment we were in total darkness and then a light in the ceiling softly glowed and we sensed that we were descending. The descent continued for almost 20 seconds when we gently came to a halt and the wall behind Tim and me rose up, showing a brightly lit hallway.
“End of the line, boys. Go ahead and step out and follow me.”
We exited and stepped aside so Uncle Pete could lead the way. I looked at Tim and saw that his mouth was hanging open, too. We closed them and fell in step after Uncle Pete and followed him.
Uncle Pete walked down the hall to the second door on the right. Again he placed his hand on a scanner and said, “Pete plus two.” The door opened and we followed him into an office with all kinds of weird shit. He walked up to a desk off to the left and uncovered what looked like a scanner and a laptop, but it was like no laptop we had ever seen before.
“OK, guys, as you’ve seen, security is important here. I own the building we entered and I lease it out to a messenger service. You probably knew that we descended in an elevator. We are 200 feet under the streets of Chicago. When we entered the elevator, we were scanned and all electronics that we had on our persons were logged,” he said, and then projected what was on the screen in front of him to a massive flat panel monitor on the wall. On the screen were the silhouettes of three men.
“This is us as we entered the elevator.” He typed a few keystrokes and red spots started to flash on the silhouettes. Two of the silhouettes had a single flashing light and the third one had three. Each of you boys has a cell phone.” A few more keystrokes and the cell phone brands, models and phone numbers appeared.
“Hey! That’s my number! This is cool!”
“Yes it is, Tim. By looking up the telephone numbers, we know who is who.” More keystrokes were entered and the name of the owner of each phone was displayed with each silhouette.
“Wow! They nailed it!” I said. “Why do you have three dots, Uncle Pete?”
“Mike, besides having a cell phone, I also have the remote for the car on my keychain and a digital recorder that I use to take notes when I’m driving. Take your phones out,” he said.
Tim spoke first. “I don’t have a signal. I guess it’s because we’re so far underground.”
“That’s part of it, Tim,” Uncle Pete said. Then he made a few more keystrokes. “Check your signals now.”
“Holy shit! I have five bars! I can’t believe it!”
“Tim, that’s because we have an RF damper in the facility as well. We can easily block or unblock any signal from a user’s devices.” More keystrokes. “We don’t allow active phones in the facility. You might as well turn the phones off. If you don’t, they’ll keep scanning for a signal and run your batteries down.” We turned them off.
“Now I have to scan your hand and get you into the system, otherwise I’d have to hold your hands while you pee, and that ain’t gonna happen.”
We laughed and volunteered to get our hands scanned. After Uncle Pete scanned a hand, the owner had to record his voice saying his name. We had to do that for each hand.
“You guys are registered as guests now, so you can get into all the common areas, like the cafeteria and the rest rooms. I’ve also authorized entrance to one of the labs for you. Let’s go.”
We went to the door and tried to turn the knob, but it wouldn’t budge. Uncle Pete laughed. “You’re not authorized to be in here alone, so I have to unlock the door for you.” He walked up and put his hand on the scanner and said, “Pete with two registered guests.”
A mechanical voice said, “Have registered guests put their hands on the scanner and identify themselves.”
I went first and then Tim. The LED on the scanner changed from red to green and we left. Uncle Pete led us to another door and told us to enter it. The scanner worked great and we were both allowed into the lab. When we got there, someone was waiting for us.
“Guten Tag, Herr Morales und Herr Bennett.”
“Guten Tag, Frau Berghoff,” we said in unison.
“How are you boys doing at your new school?”
“Very well, Frau Berghoff, but we miss our friends,” Tim said. I nodded in agreement.
“Yes, that was a terrible thing. But if we perform our tasks correctly, we can bring the murderers to justice. Your uncle has asked me to immunize you against the T-Virus. Do either of you have allergies to eggs or dairy products?”
We both answered in the negative. Frau Berghoff had us roll up our sleeves. She wiped a spot on our upper arms with an alcohol pad and in seconds it was over. She even gave us Scooby Doo Band-Aids to cover the injection sites.
“Mike and Tim, that is all we actually have to do here. Would you like to take a look around before we return home?” Uncle Pete asked.
“Yes!” we shouted.
He nodded to Frau Berghoff and she walked over to another large flat panel monitor on the wall and a floor plan appeared on it. Frau Berghoff tapped on one of the rooms of the diagram and it expanded to take up most of the screen.
“We are here,” she said. “This is our Bio-Containment lab. In here, we can safely detect, work with and neutralize almost any biohazard. This is where Rolf and I work when we are not on field assignments. Rolf has a doctorate in Physics and I have a doctorate in Chemistry. We both have doctorates in Biology.”
“Wow!” Tim said, “How long were you guys in school?”
“Not as long as you might think, Tim. We completed our doctorates concurrently, so we completed our university and doctorate courses in seven years. We graduated together when we were 22 years old. We were driven to succeed. Our grandparents were the victims of Hitler’s Dachau concentration camp in World War Two. You boys were scheduled to visit the camp the day after we received word that Raccoon City was destroyed. Dachau is just north of Munchen*.”
“I don’t think I was looking forward to the Dachau visit, Frau Berghoff,” I volunteered.
“I don’t blame you, Mike. It is difficult to accept that human beings were forced into slave labor and unthinkable torture and horrors. Hopefully, the work we do here will prevent this from ever happening again.” Frau Berghoff tapped the screen again and the image of the lab shrank and the floor plan came back into view. Now Uncle Pete spoke up.
“Please follow me to the ‘Data Mining Room’,” he said. We said goodbye to Frau Berghoff and again we had to scan our hands and speak our names. Once in the hallway, we walked down three more doors and Uncle Pete scanned his hand and said, “Pete with two registered guests.”
The computer requested that we scan our hands and identify ourselves. We complied and were allowed to enter. This room had at least fifty keyboards and monitors set up in almost a classroom setting, but there was no teacher’s desk in the front, only a wall-sized flat panel monitor. Sitting at one of the positions was a man in his late 30s.
“Are you free, Gil?” Uncle Pete called out.
“Just about, Pete. Give me 30 seconds.” Less than 30 seconds later, Gil got up and came over to us. “You must be Tim and Mike. Your uncle has been bragging about you since you got here. I’m Gil Iverson.”
We introduced ourselves and Gil explained what the Data Mining Room was.
“Each monitor is dedicated to a client, though not all the monitors are active. When we take on a new client, we receive a dedicated link into the clients’ systems. The rest of the job is rather boring, actually. We electronically monitor what the users are doing and if something catches the eye of the security software that we created, we ‘piggy back’ on the link and monitor the user closer. Most of what we monitor is harmless, but if someone is using their companies’ computers or connections to do anything illegal, we’re on them like white on rice. Most of the time all we do is report back to the client with our findings, but when necessary, Frieda and Rolf are assigned to investigate.”
“Wow! I can’t believe our German teachers are spies!” I said. Tim voiced his agreement.
“And they’re very good at what they do. In the short time that they’ve been here they’ve more than earned their annual salaries. They are truly professionals.”
“Uncle Pete said that you were trying to get information on Umbrella Corporation. How do you get into their systems?” Tim asked. Gil looked over to Uncle Pete and we saw him nod back.
“One of our customers on another project is the National Security Agency – the NSA. We’re helping them design and implement a world-wide data monitoring system. It’s still being expanded, but monitoring within the United States is up and running. As part of our contract, we’re required to monitor that system and provide real-time status and quality updates to the NSA. One of the ways that we provide our monitor is by intercepting all internet and email traffic from random users. We told them that we need a ‘constant’ to work with so we could quantify the results. They told us in writing to use Umbrella Corporation as that constant. I’m not sure how your uncle scored that one, but now we have the approval of the NSA to monitor all data traffic from Umbrella. Eventually, someone will mess up and let something slip. When they do, we’ll be monitoring them and send the Berghoffs to investigate further.”
“Sheesh! This is real spy stuff!”
“Yes it is, Mike,” said Uncle Pete. “Now we have to get going. You’ve seen what we do and the other rooms just have more of the same stuff that you’ve already seen. What do you say we go to the Rock & Roll McDonald’s for lunch?”
“YES!” we shouted. We thanked Gil and said goodbye. Then Uncle Pete got us out of the ‘Data Mining Room’ and back to the parking lot. As soon as we were outside, Tim and I turned our phones back on. Neither of us missed any calls or texts. In next to no time, we were at the Rock & Roll McDonald’s and the place is HUGE! Tim and I had to go through the museum on the second floor after we ate. Uncle Pete said to enjoy ourselves and after 45 minutes, he texted me to get Tim and meet him at the car.
On the ride home we couldn’t say enough about the great time we had at Uncle Pete’s company and about seeing Frau Berghoff again! This was going into an email to the German Club for sure! Uncle Pete reminded us that nothing that we saw in the building could go in our emails and he told us to treat it with extreme caution or we could blow our chances of capturing and punishing the people responsible for murdering our families. That sure got our attention. We decided to just tell the guys about McDonald’s instead.
*Munchen is the German name for Munich.