Ads 468x60px

Monday, January 13, 2014

Trouble in Vamp town

            Timaeus stared at the video that had been linked into an email for him from the very last person that he’d been expecting to hear from. Despite the distance between them and the years they’d spent away from each other, Timeaus half expected to feel the rasp of metal-tipped fingernails on his throat.
He could tell that the Countess had dictated the message to him, and he could also tell that she was fairly desperate to get a hold of him since she had bothered to delve into more modern technology to do so. The film that played on the screen in front of him was one that made the dead heart in his chest flutter slightly in panic. It was a news feed, one that was time stamped as having happened in the early hours of that morning. According to the missive that accompanied it, all of the news stations that covered the story had been forced to yank it off only a few minutes after it had aired.
            Zuriel, the leader of the radical vampire clan called the Choir of Zuriel, had attacked four hospitals in as many hours. His creatures had left none alive in any of them, although many of the victims still wandered the hallways as mindless thralls, their souls having been forcibly torn from their bodies. The film clip also caught a vampire drinking the blood from a the throat of an attending nun in perfect detail, and since the creature’s eyes had been focused directly into the terrified cameraman’s lens, there could be no doubt that she was in fact showing off for the camera. She was unabashedly revealing her existence to the world, and that made Timeaus shudder.

            He stopped the news feed and buried his aching head in his hands, all too aware that he was shaking from withdrawal. The Countess was sending over one of her court to “neutralize the situation,” and it was to be Timaeus’ duty to assist. The Countess had insisted that even though she didn’t have to right to demand his cooperation she was certain that her vassal would fail alone. She was practically begging, and that on its own was terrifying beyond belief.

            Timaeus grabbed the phone beside him and when the line went live he growled, “Achan?”


            “I’m going to need you to send someone to pick up a package.”

            “What’s the package?”

            “A vampire…from France.”

            There was a long, uncomfortable pause. It was nearly impossible for a vampire to cross any running water, let alone an ocean. Those who had crossed had taken extreme precautions: laying in one’s original coffin filled with native earth helped, as did feeding from fresh, young blood immediately before embarking, but none of these were absolute. Before the advent of aircraft, the passage between continents had been reserved for only the most heinous of criminals as a heinous punishment, as the water pried any revenant’s mind apart like ice in a stone crevice. Those who made the trip emerged broken and shadowy or in a demonic blood-frenzy from which few ever emerged.

            Flying across the ocean was easier, as the time exposed to the rushing water was severely shortened, but it did not make for a stable, controlled revenant when they landed. Whoever was sent to retrieve the hapless vampire would be exposing themselves to a potentially lethal loose cannon.

            “Who were you thinking of sending?”

            Timaeus’ mouth quirked into a cold smile, “This is supposed to be some sort of elite guard that we are meeting, so I think that he should be given a little test. Send a human.”

            “What?” Achan stammered, his normally unruffled nature definitely ruffled, “Any thrall we send would be devoured on sight!”

            “No, not a thrall: an untouched human. I want to see what this particular visitor is made of.” Timaeus scratched at his skin, which was crawling uncomfortably, “You have people in the FBI, don’t you?”

            “Of course.”

            “Send someone from there. It would be an even greater challenge, since the human would definitely be missed.”

            “You are sick, but it will be done.” Achan’s voice was sharp, and Timaeus could tell that his long-time friend was seething, “Where and when will this…visitor arrive?”

            “Tonight at Teterboro Airport. Our bait should be there at nine.”

            “Noted.” There was a long breath on the other line and Achan added, “I sure hope our French friend passes your little test.”

            “For everyone’s sake, so do I.”


            Agent Karen Thomas practically frog-marched Christie Steele into the Director’s office, and stood behind her ominously as Director Franks glanced up from the cup of coffee that he’d been doctoring on his desk and smiled, “Well done, Agent Thomas.”

            Christie scowled, “Yes, well done for tracking down and finding an agent who filed her travel plans with the director before she left.”

            “No, you didn’t. Agent Steele, have you conveniently forgotten that you are not a field agent?”

            Thomas snickered and Christie’s frown deepened, “No, sir. I just happened to find a case that was incredibly pertinent to my research,” she glanced awkwardly over her shoulder at Thomas and cleared her throat, “My classified research.”

            “Your work isn’t classified, Agent Steele. Just no one has asked about it.” Director Franks’ mouth split into a cryptic smile and he blinked at Agent Thomas, “Agent, do you know what Agent Steele does for us?”

            “Sir?” Thomas blinked at him, and Steele shot daggers with her eyes.

            “Agent Steele’s first encounter with the FBI was seven years ago, back when she was a doctoral candidate at MIT. Her dissertation focused on the ever increasing, if not infinite, volumes of data on the Internet and in various databases. Her thesis focused primarily on how a user couldn’t isolate a particular entry because the information was so common that the number of hits for any particular request was too large to sort through. The information was indistinguishable from the millions, if not billions, of other hits, which, in effect, made that particular entry invisible. Her paper was entitled White Noise: Crime Amidst the Metadata. When she submitted her initial draft to her mentor, Professor Bruce Kim, her paper disappeared for nearly three months,” Director Franks continued, “This Professor Kim stopped returning her calls and emails, and he was unavailable for meetings or casual lunches. Her paper resurfaced in the department’s conference room, where she first met Carlton Stanford, a director at the FBI and my predecessor.

“Most programs identify information or data that is a statistical aberration. If, for instance, you have millions of oxygen molecules—no, thousands of inmates convicted of robbery, you can categorize robberies based on what was stolen and where, until you have a witness, fingerprints or DNA samples. If that criminal does nothing unusual, if they don’t leave some sort of clue, use a particular type of gloves or drill bit, then it would be difficult to cross-reference their crimes to others in existing databases. And, if the criminal varied their manner of committing crimes, the locale, and their type of target, then they could in fact disappear in the databases unless you were specifically looking for a criminal who was, for lack of a better term, inconsistent, when in fact that criminal could be responsible for hundreds of crimes.” he folded his arms and smiled at Christy, “Which is where this program comes in.”

“What if the criminal has never been arrested before?” Thomas blurted, her eyes wide with wonder.

“Then the chances of capturing them drop precipitously because there is little physical evidence, the methods are random, and there isn’t a physical description. Also, if the perpetrator has no direct motive or connection to the victim, then the criminal is virtually invisible, like white noise.”

 “Based on what you just described, there would also be a bias among investigators to focus on crimes that are easier to prove.”

 “Yes, law enforcement officers and prosecuting attorneys have an incentive to charge criminals and go to trial when the case can be won. Why would they invest time that they don’t have on cases that will probably yield nothing? You would need to identify patterns by examining data that doesn’t seem to fit any particular pattern. Computer programs look for positive hits to isolate or find predictable occurrences. Black ink on a white sheet of paper in a manageable quantity is what most users desire. The challenge is to make sense of large quantities of information where there seems to be no discernible way to break the data into smaller subsets.”

Christy cut in angrily, “What the hell are you doing?” she blinked at his harsh look and she added, “Sir?”

“Giving our Agent Thomas here the same perspective that I recently gained from a conversation with your subordinate, Agent Taylor Caussyn. You know, at the meeting you were supposed to have with me?” Christy stared at the floor in shame and Franks smiled, apparently very pleased with himself, “So, in short, what does this program study? It studies and charts the statistically neutral occurrences: crimes that fall into the overwhelming white noise of daily crimes and criminals that are so nondescript that they are in the FBI’s databases but garner almost no attention.”

            Thomas nodded, her brow furrowed, “That is a brilliant idea, Agent Steele.” Christy sullenly nodded and continued to glare angrily at the director, “How did you come up with the idea?”

Christy said nothing for a second and then rubbed her brow with a hand, “My grandfather told me a story, actually a joke when I was younger. A man works at a factory where they are producing, say, gold bars. Somewhere in the manufacturing process there is a large quantity of sand being used and one of the workers is given permission to take excess sand home for a private project. He brings a wheelbarrow of sand to the security gate every day, and the security guard uses a stick to prod the sand to see if any gold bars are buried in it. He doesn’t find any, and this routine continues for weeks until one day a supervisor discovers that the worker isn’t stealing gold, he is stealing wheelbarrows.”

Director Franks laughed, “And this same grandfather was convicted a number of times for larceny,” he said, the smile never leaving his face.

“My grandfather wasn’t statistically neutral. He is far from what I have described as white noise.”

“If you had been advising him, would he have been a better criminal?”

“Maybe, but he is from a different generation and maybe too gregarious and too emotional to ever be described as statistically neutral. Plus, it is not my purview to be a consultant for organized criminals.” she stiffly added, “May I leave now, sir? I feel that I have been sufficiently humiliated.”

The director handed her a manila envelope and lifted and eyebrow, “Certainly. Here is your next assignment, which conveniently takes place tonight.”

“I thought you said that I was to remember that I’m not a field agent,”

“You are not, but this assignment is to make sure that you remember that. And Agent Steele? Next time, call me before you blow off one of our meetings, alright?” Steele’s already red face turned a much deeper hue as she stalked away and slammed the door loudly behind her.

            Thomas cleared her throat and asked, “This has all been fascinating, Director sir, but why did you tell me this?”

            “Because, Agent Thomas, you have just been assigned to track the progress of this system and keep an eye on Agent Steele.” The director’s grin was gone and he handed her a matching envelope, “I don’t need to tell you how dangerous this program could be if set to different parameters. You will be my failsafe. Congratulations, you are now my watch-dog.”

No comments:

Post a Comment