Elias Heikkinen - Mind GamesMature

Elias wasn't sure what to tell his grandfather. If he mentioned the note, the logs, he'd be as much as admitting to computer crime. While he was sure his grandfather wouldn't understand, he'd almost certainly start paying extra, unwanted attention. Different scenarios ran through Elias' head as crafted a suitable response that would keep his grandfathers intrusions to a minimum.

"I was-"

"I don't care what you where doing. What I really want to know is why you got onto one of those moving death traps. The roads have it in for you, boy. They took my son, they'll not take my grandson. Do I need to walk you to school?"

"Ukki, please, enough already." Elias whined, secretly smiling inside, his grandfather already distracting himself from the core issue. He deliberately rolled his eyes and slumped his shoulders, excellent cues of exasperation with a hint of disrespect that his grandfather would instantly pick up on.

"Don't ukki me! You'll stay away from those things while you're under my roof, you hear! It's up to me to take care of you and I'll do it my own way and that means no buses. Go to your room and think long and hard about what you’ve done. You could have been killed."

His grandfather couldn’t stay mad at him, Elias knew, besides, he was more concerned than angry, his paranoia about transport no doubt finding justification in this latest set of events. Elias just nodded and walked up to his room but secretly he was smiling inside. All according to plan.

Paranoia being the prevalent theme, Elias thought about the accident and the note. Nine names, nine targets and an offer from someone or something of redemption, a clean slate. It seemed too simple and thinking about it, who were these other people and had they received a list just like his, their own name substituted for his? Perhaps the accident wasn’t an accident at all, perhaps it was an attempt by one of the people on the list.

He slumped on his bed and stared at the ceiling, trying to puzzle it out. He evaluated the facts. One, he had been bugged. Two, he had been given proof that someone had evidence against him. Three, he had almost been involved in an accident. Four, there was a list of people he had to kill to make that evidence go away. It seemed unlikely that all these things were connected only by coincidence.

These people were smart, they’d manage to enter his house, his room, his computer without a trace and log everything he had done, with no way for him to identify them. However, that gave him at least some information. He knew they had people in Finland, or at least people who could travel here. He knew that these people were skilled infiltrators and technical experts. It wasn’t much to go on, but he filed the information away mentally, hoping to eventually build up a better picture of them in his head as he went.

They weren’t concerned about the lives of the people on the list. With their skills, Elias reasoned, they were more than capable of eliminating them themselves which meant they had specifically chosen him for a reason. Just providing him names would make it extremely difficult to find and kill these people, or to even be sure he had killed the correct ones, there had to be more than one person with the same name in the whole world. Therefore, these people must be interested more in the challenges he would face and the solutions he would come up with than the end result. The allusion in the note, “Would you like to play a game?” became suddenly less sinister. It was a game. If it was a game, or a test of some kind, then it made sense there would be other players. The others on the list. It was beginning to make sense.

For some reason some person or organisation had set up coerced ten people to kill each other, of that much he was now certain. As to why, he wasn’t sure. Entertainment, perhaps? He’d seen movies about rich men paying to watch people tortured, of human hunts and other grisly things. Was he perhaps caught up in the machinations of a similar entity? He wasn’t sure, but he didn’t think so, the nature of the threat wasn’t right, the environment didn’t make sense. Surely these people couldn’t monitor everything, watch the participants every second of every day without exposing themselves, not even governments had that had of power. So if this wasn’t for entertainment, what was it about? A test of some kind? But for what?

He didn’t have enough data but he could kill two birds with one stone. If he had to participate, he’d need to know more about the people on the list and if he wanted to know more about the shadowy figures behind it all, he could make a more educated guess by working out what made them select each participant.

Thinking back to the accident, he had a surge of paranoia. Perhaps one of the others had found him and failed. If the others where searching for him, not only did he have to contend with finding out more about the people behind it as well as these others, but he also had to worry about surviving. Despite himself he felt a rush of adrenaline. This was exciting, he’d never had a challenge like this before, a puzzle so complex and multi-faceted. He took a breath and entered the first name on the list into a search engine.

Michelle Sanchez

It came back with over five million results. Many of them were no doubt for the same person, but even so, after doing some basic filtering to remove duplicates (which could take a very long time indeed) he’d have no guarantee of the right one. It was even possible that one or more of these people had no Internet presence whatsoever. No, Google couldn’t help him, though it did give him another piece of information - the people behind this didn’t want this to be easy, which further supported his idea that this was more of a test than some rich man’s blood sport. Out of curiosity he tried each of the other names and came back with equally dismaying results except for one.

Kamali Ncube

It was an unusual name. There were several results, but nowhere near as many as the others. Better yet, they all seemed to be related to the same person. She was an African architect, a famous one it seemed. Interesting, they aren’t afraid to target relatively high-profile people. Elias posted the other names onto an identity theft website and posted a small bounty for information on each of them. He didn’t want to get his hands dirty and there were already people out there with their fingers in government databases, no need for him to put himself at risk when he could pay someone else to. Ignoring them for now, he put his mind back to the task at hand. Kamali Ncube, the architect. Could she be one of the people he was looking for? There was only one way to be sure and that was to confront her and see what her reactions were. Ideally, he’d do it in person or at least via a camera or some kind of surveillance but that wasn’t possible. He couldn’t just leave for Africa, he had to reason to go, no excuse and even if he did, it was too dangerous. Here he had the home advantage and it was too early to give that up for so little gain.

It didn’t take him long to find out the number of the office where this Kamali Ncube worked. Using a skype account on someone else’s computer he had taken control of, he routed a call to Murundi Designs. At first, all he heard was an automated message in a language he didn’t understand but he held the line and eventually another automated message played in heavily accented English. He listened and then put the phone down.

He had barely been able to understand what the message had said but after thinking about it he worked out it was telling him that it was outside office hours but if he knew what extension he wanted he should dial it and leave a voice message. Of course, he should have thought about the time difference, it was a rookie mistake to make and he chided himself for letting his excitement make him careless. He had no idea what extension he would need but it was clear he wouldn’t be getting through to Kamali without having to go via a receptionist unless he found it. He didn’t like the idea of having to talk to anyone, even through a voice distorter on his computer. He set himself a deadline. Find her extension code before her office opened or make the call. He had to know if things were really what they appeared to be and with people potentially out to murder him, he couldn’t waste time.

The End

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