World’s Hero

The new intelligence museum was packed with groups of school children, their supervising adults, couples and a few visitors that were on their own. Many people are fascinated by the history of intelligence. 

There was a new special installation that included a new plaque dedicated to those who lost their lives in the line of duty along with their photos, if available. It was dedicated to agents whose sole job during their tenure was to be anonymous, a hidden secret even to many in the agency for many years. The group of pictures included an agent named John Montgomery, his code name was the spider. Except the dates of service and a blurry photo, nothing else was included in the memorial. 

An elderly gentleman stood tentatively, leaning on his cane in front of the picture of John Montgomery. He was deep in thought and displayed quite a stern countenance. He stood still, looking at the picture with his still piercing blue eyes. 

One of the visitors, a stranger to the elderly man, noticed him looking at the photograph. He seemed to be overlooking the entire new installation considering he was wearing an official uniform. He was struck with the intensity of the elderly man’s seeming interest and found it peculiar. This stranger made his way casually toward where he was standing with the intention of satisfying his curiosity. 

“Did you know him?” breaking the elderly man’s concentration.

Startled, the old man turned toward the voice that broke into his memories, “Yes I knew him.  He was a conflicted young man but he ended up saving the world.” 

The stranger thought that he was exaggerating. These old men and their memories he didn’t think were very reliable. Curiosity got the better of him though. These were spies, who could know any details about what they did except those who knew them. He didn’t have to wait long, because the elderly man began his story. 

“Everyone during the time didn’t know all the information about the incident that was his last job. Those who visit this museum stare at these photographs with no understanding of what really went on. He was very smart but troubled. He was recruited as a young student. A deal so he wouldn’t go to jail. He was caught breaking into the computers of government agencies and other little bits of deviousness. So instead of jail, they used his talents and gave him more skills that help an agent survive. He was undercover for a while and was successful, he was determined to prove himself and ended up saving the world, believe it or not. His last job was complex, challenging but not outside his skill set.… 

…There was a momentary hesitation, a bead of sweat was forming on the anchor’s forehead. The producer in charge brow furrowed and anxiety grew with the rest of the staff in the studio. They didn’t know what to expect anymore but they started the live broadcast anyway. 

It began with benign threats that eventually became more malicious. They now created a great tragedy in the world.  The body count was rising. They were clear in their intentions and tensions grew, not just at the news stations but officials in government and regular citizens. It began as taking computers hostage to train derailments and bombings. Things that caused chaos were bad enough but the loss of life was unbearable. So intelligence was brought into the situation. The problem was they left no clues. Security cameras gave no information, they couldn’t track their piggyback broadcasts. The agency called in John Montgomery.

The voice on the line was desperate. John could feel his stomach tighten. No matter how long he has been doing this job, it is always something that always makes him lose his appetite. “I understand…. Yes….. very well….the usual….I have a new program….okay.” He hung up.

It was still very early in the morning. Sitting on the bed in his boxers, he leaned forward, spending some time in thought. He had to be successful. The voice on the other line was someone he had never met in person but he could sense that there was a lot riding on the success of this mission. He understood the rising threat and the mentality of those terrorists. He’s met a few although they never lived to remember him.There were whispers about him too.  

There was a mirror situated in front of him. He thought that he looked much older than he should be. He had a spider tattoo near his wrist at the end of his well developed forearm. The price of the years spent in espionage. His body was muscular and slim. A result of a lot of training and acquired self-discipline. He pursed his lips together and pushed himself up off the bed, the bed shook and he got everything ready for the next job. There was even more at stake this time. He had to get it right. 

When he was about ready, A Manila envelope was pushed under the door. It contained the final piece of his new assignment. It was a lanyard that was his new identity, Anthony Wilson, to enter as a new employee as a computer repairman, to the news agency which broadcasted globally. The agency had pulled everywhere.

Exiting the hotel, he got into a waiting yellow taxi cab and gave the driver directions. The driver didn’t give him any glaces of acknowledgment. John just stared out the window, his expression was blank but he was always a good poker player.

The taxi pulled up in front of another highrise building on the other side of the city. It was the building that housed the largest international news corporation. The facade was modern and he was amazed how it was made up of all windows. His eyes glanced all the way up the building as he grabbed his backpack and exited the taxi. He went inside to the reception desk, telling the receptionist why he was there and asked directions. A man in a gray suit excitedly came out to greet him, reaching out his hand. “Welcome, Anthony isn’t it?” 

“Yes. You must be Nate Wilson I was told to meet. It is nice to meet you.”

“Yes I am. Okay, let’s get you upstairs.” They went toward the elevators. “You will be on the 11th floor. It is the floor under the broadcast studio. We have heard great things about you. You must have some great friends.”

“Yes, a few.” He definitely had some great friends who got him into difficult places. 

John wasn’t much about banter. He was very still the whole way up to the 11th floor, tightly grasping the backpack he was wearing. The bag he carried had all he needed. They exited the cabin of the elevator to the lobby area. Nate pointed to the right of the elevator exit, “This is you.” He took out his lanyard with ID and the magnetic keycard to unlock the door and they entered the office.

He led him to his cubicle, just as boring as the other ones. He stepped aside to allow John to put his things down. “This is your desk, but you might find yourself mostly at the data center and in the studio on 12 occasionally to fix their computers. They have the entire floor dedicated to them.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out another keycard, held it out to John, “This one is yours. It will give you access to this office space, the data center and the studio.” …..

…..”So when did the adventure and saving the world come in this story?” the stranger asked. The elderly man was still focusing on the picture in front of him. “It only took a couple days for the real threat to come. Don’t worry. I will skip the boring parts. He had to find the right time to install his newly developed computer program to track the feed from the terrorists. It was the first time using it so it was a gamble that involved millions of lives.”….

…..Looking around the data center and realizing he was finally alone, he set about his business. He found the server he needed to upload the software from his device he had stored in a secure interior pocket of his jacket. 

He needed to be quick. Figuring out the schedule of people in the office, he was able to find out that this time was best for him. As usual, he needed to do it without detection. He became quite good at that. There were many people in the office that were skilled with computer programming, but no one came close to his own skills. He was able to stop the live feed of the security cameras in his vicinity to mask his activity. That was simple enough. He had a few near misses early in career but he learned the hard way.

 The program he developed was located on the small device hidden in his jacket, not much bigger than a cellphone. Although they have been able to continue their threats and acts of terror with success so far, that will soon come to an end. Even though he had a rocky start, he applied himself fully and was dedicated to his job. John had many skills intellectually, but there were issues with behavior in the past. He has been trying to prove himself from the beginning…. 

….”He wasn’t a coward was he?” the stranger narrowed his eyes with some contempt. 

“No, he was just out of his element. It was not the trajectory he thought his life would take but it was out of necessity,” the elderly man shifted nervously only turning part way toward the stranger, “He had to grow up fast. He didn’t have the typical personality type for the job, preferring the safety and independence of civilian life. The truth is secretly, what he felt was anxiety mixed with excitement and he always came through in the end which made him proud of himself. That’s what counts.” 

The stranger seemed placated. “So, I am assuming that, since we are all still here, his plan worked.”

The elderly gentlemen looked at him finally, “Oh, yes it worked. It just didn’t work the way he was hoping….

….He was looking down at the tablet. His relief barely registered on his face. Hearing the distinct sound of someone using their keycard he scrambled to get all his things in order. He rushed back to the area that he was originally working on to continue the charade. He gathered his tools, restarted the live feed of the cameras remotely and put everything in his bag. The tablet was already in his secret pocket. He acknowledged a co-worker before he nonchalantly strode out of the data center. Back to the upper floor but he needed to find an empty office to continue checking the progress of his program. Now he just had to wait for their next broadcast. 

 He maintained his cool. He planned out his next move when he found the location….

….”So when did he save the world?” the stranger was getting impatient. He wanted to get to the exciting part of the story. “It happened during the next live broadcast. The interruption was the same but this time the warning and threat was unbelievable. They announced their plan with cold disregard to anything. They are going to target significant buildings all over the world with a nuclear missile strike. The group made it clear their intent, even if it meant losing their own lives. Even John was amazed at the sheer recklessness of their threat.”….

…There was quite a lot of panic and speculation running through the office according to the conversations John caught while going about his business. He sprinted up the stairs, taking the steps two at a time in the stairway to the studio. He headed to the space that he found a few days earlier where he could hide unnoticed to monitor the progress.

Everyone was distracted. The shock of the announcement sent ripples through the studio. They were threatening the world with complete annihilation, no matter the consequence to their own family and friends. The emotions were mixed with denial, tears, and anger.

While there was much excitement going on around him in the building, John was hyper focused on his device. There was still a chance that the terrorists could still hide, using means to block tracking but bingo. Location found. He jumped up without thinking about the consequences for himself….

…..”Where were they?” The stranger looked intently at the elderly gentleman. 

“Not far, in an abandoned warehouse a couple miles away from the studio.” The man leaned forward on his cane and repositioned himself and with a slight grimace he gently rotated his right shoulder.

”He sent an urgent message with coordinates to his contact and knew backup would be on its way but he couldn’t wait. He left the building and jumped into a passing taxi. He got to where the signal came from, jumping out of the taxi and into the enemy’s lair”….

….There was no way in except through the enemy. He fought his way inside. He was able to get a weapon from the first man he came across inside the building. John found a place out of sight and was leaning against a wall, a bullet wound causing him a lot of discomfort. He heard more of the enemy scrambling so he needed to keep going. The time left was limited. He had set tiny but powerful charges as he traversed the inside of the building. He knew it was the only way to stop their plan and right before the blast that took out the warehouse and all the computers, with blood pouring down his shoulder, he continued leaning against the wall, breathing heavily in pain….

”I guess he didn’t get out of that building then?”the stranger shook his head. “He was a very brave man. He deserves the recognition.”

”That nobody knows for sure. He was never seen again but the fireball that resulted from the blast was the most likely cause of the end of John Montgomery. It ended the threat, that was all that mattered to the authorities. There are rumors that they re-grouped but continued in smaller activities but nothing confirmed.” He watched as the elderly gentleman pulled up his shirt cuff to scratch his forearm. The stranger, satisfied, turned to leave.

”Well, that was a fascinating story, sir. Have a good day.” He turned, leaving abruptly before the elderly man could respond.

The stranger went through the double doors, seemingly talking to himself mumbled,“The spider has been confirmed.”

2 responses to “World’s Hero”

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