The Butterfly Dragon: We Who Stand On Guard - Episode 03 (First Draft Finished July 7, 2023)

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The Butterfly Dragon: We Who Stand On Guard - Episode 02 Excerpts

Detective Edward Farnham meets Inspectors Tricia Camden and William Halmand at the site of the MindSpice bombing. There, Farnham's forensic team has uncovered electronic evidence in the form of digital audio being echoed by systems still buffering the cloud based AI, MAZ's inner thought processes. The investigators converge on the audio source and uncover its clues.

"Let me get that on recording..." Halmand fished out his pocket recorder, holding the high sensitivity microphone near the speaker, letting it play through several times before he stopped.

"Now that you've heard that, perhaps you can tell me what a Mentis And The Millions Of Minds might be? Don't hold out on me, after all we've been through together," Farnham stood up after disconnecting the alligator clip from the metal lead jutting up from the wreckage.

"Mentis? That's latin I think," Halmand thought about it momentarily.

"Certainly is. Its the root of the word mentor, and generally means mindful teacher or leader of the mind," Tricia responded.

"Impressive. You're up on your latin, aren't you? Personally I thought it was a waste of time, especially when we've got the internet now," Farnham responded, jotting down a few notes.

Tricia ignored Farnham's comment, instead focusing on the rest of the AI's repeated phrase.

By that time, Halmand had already produced his field phone and had just finished a search on CPIC.

"Look at this. Looks like this Macill fellow has quite a lengthy record. Male, single. First name: Habus.  Last name: Macill. Born February 3, 1981, an only child. Lost both his parents in a train wreck when he was three. Raised in several foster homes until he was twelve, at which point he was remanded to a care facility for wayward youths where he got into his first real trouble. Apparently he organized a coupe against the management of the facility and held them hostage for over two weeks as the self proclaimed leader of youths. By the time the dust had settled, there were no deaths fortunately, but Habus accrued a lengthy list of charges from that one incident. Of course, still being a minor, he got a slap on the wrist and finished his stint in the youth care facility four years later. That's when things get real interesting," Halmand said, scrolling down the list of charges for which he'd been found guilty.

"That's better than what I've got. Mentis And The Millions Of Minds is a poem written by Allison Trendel, a resident of the Leeds Care Facility in north Toronto," Tricia added, hard filtering the criteria from her internet search.

"Just a hunch, but what are the chances that those two names are connected? Allison and this Habus fellow?" posed Farnham thoughtfully.

"What was that name?" Halmand asked.

"Allison Trendel, with an E, like Grendel," Tricia responded to Halmand's question.

"Oh, right. Let's hope the similarity ends there," Halmand typed the name into the CPIC search interface.

"Bullseye! Looks like Allison was at one time a successful legal assistant, when she got mixed up with Habus. Apparently years after his stint at the youth care facility, he started his own... ideology for lack of a better word," Halmand began.

"Don't keep us baited with your breath, Halmand. So this Allison joined I'm assuming?" Tricia confirmed with Halmand.

"That she did, along with over a hundred and fifty other people initially. Turns out their proselytizing became known for its invasive and aggressive nature, eventually catching the attention of Provincial and Federal investigators. They opened an official investigation when the daughter of a prominent politician joined the group. Apparently she began sharing sensitive family information with Habus and his followers and they started using it to puppeteer due process through said politician, even trying to expand their grip onto other members of office. They improved their tactics, luring in more followers, eventually getting up to a thousand before they were busted in a series of raids throughout Ontario. It says here that Allison was deemed unfit to return to the public sector and was permanently housed in the Leeds Care facility for the Mentally Ill, while Habus served five years in Penetanguishene, " Halmand orated for his peers.

With the official criminal investigators closing in on the mystery behind the bombing, Brad Stanton, a deep cover operative working for an agency that the Canadian Government does not discuss publicly as a civilian electrical engineer finds that he's being pursued. He tracks down his pursuer, tricking him, quickly turning the tables.

"Both hands up high where I can see them! Start talking now. If I don't like what you have to say, then this here gun of yours is going to do some talking of its own," Stanton spoke in a firm voice.

The man quickly raised his hands, unknowingly telling Stanton that the gun was loaded.

"You're getting slow old man," the man said to him in a somewhat familiar voice.

Stanton forced the man to look at him, and was caught off guard by the face he saw.

"Foller?!" Stanton responded, shocked to see his face.

Foller immediately took advantage of the distraction and forced the gun away from his head, grasping it with his other hand after he'd delivered a solid punch to Stanton's lower left jaw, purposely impacting the lymph node at that point.

Stanton's eyes began to water as the pain shot through his head from the punch. Taking only a tenth of a second to overcome the effects, he quickly brought his knee up into Foller's groin. Foller winced in pain, but hung onto the gun, forcing Stanton backwards over the garbage bin as Stanton's speakerphone continued its staticky babble.

Stanton was now bent over backwards against the garbage bin, as Foller worked the gun up trying to get the business end pointed at Stanton's head. Stanton with his right leg, kicked the garbage bin out from under the both of them, rolling over its side and onto the cement surface, throwing Foller down full force onto the pavement beside him. Foller's shoulder hit the pavement and he cried out in pain, but still held onto the gun.

Stanton got to his feet, holding Foller's body in place as he twisted the gun, and Foller's arm into a locked position. Any further and Foller's arm would dislocate.

"Uncle!" Foller cried, tapping the ground a few times as he released his grip on the gun.

"Stay on the ground face down. Why the hell were you following me?" Stanton backed away enough so that he was beyond Foller's reach.

"Things are different now, Stanton. Its a whole new game out here and to tell you the truth, there's no room in it for you old timers..." Foller spoke, his face to the pavement.

"You're not exactly a spring chicken yourself, Foller," Stanton responded, having caught his breath.

"The ten years age difference between you and I in this business, is the difference between making or breaking an investigation. Its the difference between life and death old man and you know it!" Foller lay unmoving as he spoke.

"Really? I guess so, judging by your current position. Experience pays its dividends well don't you think?" Stanton responded firmly.

"There's a lot more riding on this than the life of an AI, or even the life of the parent of that AI, Stanton," Foller responded.

"And who would that parent be?" asked Stanton, unsure about that to which Foller was referring.

"Where've you been old man? Still locked up in that Nuclear Power Plant? Too much time around all that U-235 and the radiation's messing with your head..." Foller replied sharply.

"...It's U-238 at the reactor. U-235 is weapons grade uranium and we'd better not have an issue involving that. What's the matter Foller, gave up on being a poor engineer so you could be an even worse soldier?" Stanton challenged Foller.

"Asnon. Gabe Asnon. He's the parent of the AI in question," Foller responded.

"That's progress. Now what AI are you talking about?" Stanton demanded.

"MAZ. The AI that got fried in that bomb blast. Don't you read the news anymore?" asked Foller sarcastically.

"Let's just start playing for the same team?" Foller added.

"I always have. So what makes you think that the way that they crafted that bomb was just a decoy to mislead investigators?" asked Stanton.

"You said it yourself. The bomber appears to have been a professional. They must have had access to RDX one way or another and that takes both resourcefulness and finances to finagle," Foller continued.

"But if it was someone with sizeable finances and no experience, and they had access to RDX in the first place, the whole device would have been RDX rather than Nitrogen Dioxide," Stanton retorted.

"Regardless, I'm going to be keeping an eye on you. Orders are orders. So maybe we can work together on this?" Foller said as he opened the door to Stanton's pickup truck.

Inspectors Tricia Camden and William Halmand arrived at the Leeds Care Facility, where they question  Allison Trendel, an ex-member of Habus Macill's Cult Of The Mind. From her, they discover the dark secret of how the ideology propagates throughout society. Tricia begins her questioning.

"How are you feeling today Allison?" asked Tricia.

"Something happened. Didn't it?" asked Allison astutely.

"Things happen everyday Allison, but sometimes bad things happen and we have to figure out how, why and who," Tricia responded to Allison's question.

"You didn't say what," Allison observed.

"You were friends with Habus Macill, weren't you?" asked Halmand, diving right in as Tricia barely visibly smirked at him.

"Mentis? I still hear the voices. Especially when its noisy," Allison replied, her face void of expression upon the mention of the name.

Halmand began to take notes of that fact as Tricia continued.

"Did you hear voices today, Allison?" asked Tricia.

"Lots of them. Especially in the late afternoon, even though it was quiet in here. Even though I had lots of my medicine," Allison told Tricia.

"When did you start hearing the voices, Allison?" asked Tricia.

"When I first met Habus. He has a noisy mind. Noisy people always around him. With noisy minds..." Allison described for Tricia.

"Did you hear his noise immediately when you met him, or did it take some time?" asked Tricia calmingly.

"It took time. I was with his first Cloister back in 2000. When he was only a hundred people. I couldn't hear his noise at first, but then after about six months, I started to hear them all the time," Allison explained to Tricia, seemingly excited by the memory.

"So it took six months from not hearing... him or them at all, to hear him the first time?" Tricia confirmed as Halmand continued writing.

"We used to stay in the Cloister on weekends and all night, there would be voices speaking. People talking in their sleep. A constant babble of what sounded like nonsense to me. I spent three nights a week and two weekends a month at the Cloister for six months. And then, one night when I was sleeping at home, I began to hear them again. As if they were right there beside me. The only thing is that I wasn't at the Cloister. I was in my town home near York Mills Road and Yonge Street. Yet, I could hear them all talking in their sleep as if they were right beside me," Allison recalled the that moment.

"Did they say specific things to you?" asked Tricia.

"Not really. It sounded like a crowd at first, and then it got to the point where I could focus in on specific voices, or they were focusing in on me..." Allison started to tremble.

"What's the matter Allison? Did they do something to you? Did they hurt you?" asked Tricia.

"No. Not my body, they didn't hurt. They hurt my mind. Gave me headaches... made me feel like I wanted to die..." Allison recalled, curling up as she spoke.

"What makes you think they did that to you Allison?" asked Tricia compassionately.

"I was working at the law firm at that time. I was in charge of all the case files for the entire law firm. I had access to everything. One day, the voices started telling me that I needed to take one of the case file folders, and put it all in the paper shredder... all of it..." Allison recalled that day.

"What happened then?" asked Tricia as Halmand wrote quickly trying to keep up.

"I told the voices that it was wrong to do that... I refused... and then... I started getting migraines... unbearably painful. And depression... like my feelings at one moment were calm and happy and then the next moment I felt like I wanted to die. Like my head was going to explode..." Allison told them, hanging onto her head as she remembered.

"What makes you think that it wasn't your own health issues Allison?" asked Tricia calmly.

"Don't you believe me?" Allison asked Tricia.

"I want to Allison, but I need to ask you these questions. They're difficult questions, but talking about them might help you, and save a lot of other people," Tricia assured Allison.

"A week after I'd refused to shred the files for Calder case, I felt much, much better... I could think clearly. I wasn't constantly depressed, but then the voices ordered me shred them again... and I refused again... and this time it was a hundred times worse..." Allison began to sob.

"Its alright Allison. Nobody's going to hurt you here," Tricia assured Allison.

"Night after night I was hunched over the toilet, thinking I was going to vomit... but I never did. My head was pounding and I felt like I should slash my wrists..." Allison recalled her experiences.

"Did you try going to see a Doctor?" asked Tricia.

"Yes. I did. He prescribed me painkillers. Codeine I think... I took them but it didn't help completely. I felt numb and depressed all the time... my headache still pounding but not as painful..." Allison recalled.

"And then what happened?" asked Tricia.

"Then, about a week later, it all stopped again. It was quiet for a while and I really got a lot of work done at that time, which was good because one of the partners in the law firm had pulled me aside and told me that I needed to pick up my pace or I could lose my job. Of course, I did my best but when I was sick, but I just couldn't concentrate on anything. When I eventually felt better, the voices told me once again that I needed to shred the files... I remembered the pain of what I'd experienced when I didn't do what they'd said, and so I grabbed the entire case folder, and waited until after both the partners, the receptionist and file clerks had left that afternoon for golf, and I took all the files of the Calder case and shredded them. Then I took the shredded documents in a black garbage bag and dumped them in the bin behind the office tower... That night, I felt like I was in heaven. Like I was the of the best health that I could be. Like I was twenty again... That same feeling continued for a week..." Allison explained to Tricia.

"Until...?" Tricia asked without interrupting.

"Until it was found out that the Calder files were missing. The partners held a firm wide meeting, with all of the employees and we were each individually grilled about it. The Police were called in, and they interrogated us, but at the end of the day, they didn't have anything to go on. So fortunately, I kept my job. The voices continued but from that time, they didn't ask me to do anything again, though they got stronger and stronger. Then, about a year later, one of the partners decided that he was going to run for office. That's when the voices began telling me that I needed to do them favours again..." Allison looked up at Tricia.

"What did they ask you to do?" asked Tricia, leaning back a little so as not to intrude in Allison's space.

"They wanted me to share the contents of his daily itinerary with the followers of Mentis. I refused the first time they asked, and I went through a week of utter hell once again... The second time they asked, I did as they said. I'd copy the itinerary to a text file every day, and sent it to one of Mentis' followers by email. That's when I started noticing that when I was reading the itinerary, the voices would speak what I was reading, aloud, as if they were there to see it..." Allison told Tricia.

"You mean they were spying on your computer?" confirmed Tricia.

"No. Because this initially started happening when I was reading the itinerary from a print out I'd made for the partner's secretary," Allison admitted.

"So you're saying that they were seeing exactly what you were seeing? At the same time?" Tricia confirmed what she was hearing.

"No. I'm saying that they were looking at the itinerary through my own eyes..." Allison told them, almost pleading with them to believe her.

That's when the voices in her head began once again.

"You've been talking again Allison... haven't you?" the voices asked her.

"Noooo... go away!" Allison suddenly grabbed her head, shaking it violently.

She felt a tingling feelings in her abdomen, and near her privates, followed by the gushing sensation of hormones being thrust into her system from her glands. A moment later, she was in the height of a serious panic attack.

"Make them stop! Make them stop!" she screamed as the migraine headache arrived.

Tricia and Halmand realize they've uncovered one of the most important witnesses for the case but it is Tricia who decides that she must do something to enlist the help of a group of people looking into the same mystery. On the behavioural science aspect, they are headed up by Doctor Stephen Briggs and Professor Bryce Maxwell (read this in The Butterfly Dragon: The Two Butterflies - Episode 04).

The Butterfly Dragon: We Who Stand On Guard - Episode 03


Trent stood in front of the tall mirror in the employee change room, first, straightening his hand tied bow tie, after which he checked his side burns to ensure their height reached the bottom of each lobe. He adjusted his red vest atop of his white button down shirt, which crowned his gray slacks.

"So? How long have you been with housekeeping?" Trent looked deep into the mirror, mustering as much bravado and charm as he could.

"I've always admired housekeeping. Its the very place where this hotel is made," he raised one eyebrow, looking seductively at the mirror.

"Have you ever been to the Drake's buffet the morning after? No! No! No! That's sooo not me," Trent said, shaking his head as he looked at his feet.

"Look, I'm finished at four AM. Would you like to get a coffee at Fran's up the street?" asked Trent of his own reflection.

"No, but how bout a beer?" asked his friend James, who'd just donned his bellhop uniform.

"You're not my type, James," Trent snickered at his friend.

"Are you still pining about that woman from housekeeping?" asked James as he straightened his tie.

"Practice makes perfect, doesn't it?" asked Trent as he closed his locker and readied himself for his shift.

"It sure does when it comes to tips and hips..."  James replied slyly.

"Why are you even on tonight? Its a night shift?" asked Trent of his friend.

"We have a wedding reception in Ballroom 2, and I was personally requested," James smiled, flashing his perfect teeth.

"How in the hotel do you get these shifts?" asked Trent urgently.

"Practice makes perfect buddy. Besides, if you spent more of your time working on your parlez-vous than on your your playwrighting, you'd be there too," James shot him the signature look of a bellhop pro.

"Tell you what, buddy. If you come to Ballroom 2 at midnight and help me with the shift, I'll cut you in for half the tips. Deal?" confirmed James.

"What do I tell the front desk?" asked Trent.

"Don't. Besides, housekeeping will love you. They'll handle your job and pocket the tips. The best way to get to your girl," James smiled at his friend.

"Alright. I'll be there. At midnight," Trent replied.

"Good, because I'm a romantic at heart. Besides, I heard she'll be working catering tonight. Was her name Rysalyn? I think that's her. So get in there and give it your best shot. Some opportunities only knock once in a lifetime, Trent. Don't lose out. Gotta run," James jogged out the door of the change room and made his way to the Ballrooms.

Trent looked one last time in the mirror, envisioning the protagonist of his masterpiece in progress: Storm And Shore.

"Ms. Emberly: That's what we're all about. Making sure that this here fire lights the night. Every night, and that this shore remains in our possession until dawn," Trent spoke the last line of the first act of his play, poignantly.

He then stepped out of the change room and out into the big hall, striding confidently to the front lobby of the Marriot.

Morning Emergence

The face of the timer ticked, as the last second passed before it eventually expired. With a sudden blast of sound, Stanton's alarm clock went off, though he was already awake to appreciate the five in the AM  buzzer.

He heard the click of toenails on the hardwood floor and the sudden pounce before his hundred and eighty pound Husky, Tasha bounded up onto the bed, showering his stubble pocked face in canine kisses.

"All right you big lug, I'm up," Stanton rose from his bed, his muscular form a silhouette in the morning light of dawn. 

He quickly made his way to the master washroom to relieve himself, and then proceeded to shave and shower. Another twenty minutes and he was opening the door to his heavy duty pickup truck, and letting Tasha in the back seat.

"You know what day it is today, don't you?" he asked Tasha from the back seat.

Tasha barked once enthusiastically.

"Its V-e-t-e-r-i-n-a-r-i-a-n day, you big fur ball," Stanton said to Tasha, whose head craned sideways at his spelling of the word.

Stanton put the big truck in gear and headed out down the street of his West Pickering home, driving a few blocks away to his favourite Veterinarian Clinic. He pulled the big truck into the parking lot and let Tasha out of the back door.

Tasha's stance suddenly became a little less enthusiastic when she figured out where they were.

"Oh come on. Daddy's gotta drop you off for a few days, and when I come get you again, you'll be as good as new. That back hip of yours will feel like a million bucks, or at the very least, least cost like it," Stanton joked to Tasha.

"If it isn't our favourite Husky," the receptionist greeted Stanton and Tasha.

"Well as you know, she's here for her surgery. She hasn't eaten for the last day, but she's surprisingly raring to go," Stanton assured the receptionist.

"Don't worry Tasha. She's in good hands," the receptionist led Tasha to the back where she put Tasha in a cage.

Tasha immediately began chewing on a large play toy bone in the cage as Stanton leaned down to the say goodbye.

"Alright honey. I'll be back for you in three days. You be good for daddy," Stanton said his goodbyes and left the clinic after signing some paperwork.

When Stanton got back to his truck, he noted that the internal phone system has received a call. He flicked the dash lights three times and then typed a code into the keypad on his dash.

An email browser opened on one of the truck's MFD displays, where there two messages, both of them ads. He immediately checked the spam folder and found the message he was looking for:

Want results and fast? Feel the explosive power of the men's pill, with the most potent of ingredients.

After reading the subject line, he immediately knew that he'd been called about the chemical analysis from the transistor station from which he'd taken a sample yesterday at the site of the MindSpice bombing.

He pressed another button on the MFD and then entered a second code and the onboard phone began ringing.

"Stanton, Bradley Alexander, Unit 54109621EF responding to your report," Stanton spoke aloud, keeping his head down as he did.

"54109621EF, copy that. We received the chemical analysis and confirmed your hypothesis. The explosive compound was in fact RDX and Nitrogen Dioxide, utilizing a station super transistor as the detonator. That's a negative on Nuclear, Biological or Chemical weapons of mass destruction. As it turns out, we ran that through our database and this particular modus operandi is a signature bomb recipe crafted by a group known as Hard Cel. They are relatively new on the mercenary scene and offer their services to the highest bidder on the DD Web," command reported to Stanton.

"I'm sorry Sir, the DD Web? Say again?" confirmed Stanton.

"The DD Web. The Deep Dark Web. Think of the Dark Web, and this is its more secure third generation offspring. It is Quantum Decryption proof, meaning that even with state of the art decryption hardware, neither us nor our allies around the world can break it for surveillance purposes. However, we can infiltrate it, and fortunately, we've had someone close to the inside for three years now," command reported.

"So how are we supposed to get these guys and interrogate them?" asked Stanton.

"Our insider, Doctor M or DRM, managed to finagle enough information to correlate the identity of one of the potential ingredient couriers. They call him Mister Eck. Presumably his online handle is derived from the name of Wim Van Eck, a computer engineer who wrote the first scientific papers describing TEMPEST vulnerability in computers and communication. Despite Mister Eck's propensity for blowing the heck out of people and places, he also has a soft spot for weddings. He's attending a reception tonight, in Toronto at the Sheraton Marriot Center in Ballroom 2. Be on the lookout for a stocky male, five foot nine inches tall. Approximately ninety five kilograms, with dark hair and blue eyes," command reported.

"How am I supposed to get in there? What's my cover?" asked Stanton.

"Given the impromptu nature of this event, we couldn't convincingly stage an alternate identity for you. However, we have managed to intercept a call from the Sheraton concerning electrical maintenance. In fact, this one might be right up Elena, Matt and Dave's alley professionally," command informed him.

"No offence command, but they're civilians. They're very raw around the edges not to mention they don't have any of the training necessary for an operation of this latitude," Stanton corrected command.

"But you do, and your best assets are your friends and coworkers. The security at the reception will likely be light. Its a wedding reception, not an underground bunker," command reported to Stanton.

"Sir, there's a big difference between certainty and likely. I can say with certainty that I don't want to put my friends at risk without them receiving the proper training," Stanton challenged command.

"Then consider them assets to your cover. Frankly, I might remind you that the best assets we have don't even know they're assets. If your friends knew what they were taking part in, they'd be a danger to themselves not to mention they'd put the whole operation at risk. There's a reason why you as an agent have the weight of knowing, and most of our other assets do not. Unless you'd like to see another similar bombing here, or read about the death of innocent people abroad, I'd suggest that you sort out your conscience and carry out what is requested of you," command reminded Stanton.

"Give me the details, and I'll put together an improvised plan, with three alternatives. As you request, I'll present this option without letting Elena, Matt or Dave know that they'll be taking part in such an operation. I'll also need an extraction and interrogation team for Mister Eck," Stanton asserted to command.

"That we'll have on standby. Just contact us from your phone or truck, citing the response code: TANGO ECHOLON CHARLIE KANGAROO. The reception starts at eight o'clock, so you'll have plenty of time to prepare. The person who made the call for a contractor electrician is named Anne Reed. She works as the maintenance manager during the afternoon shift. She'll be expecting you," command reported to him.

"Copy that. 54109621EF Over and out," Stanton pressed the disconnect button without waiting for the reply.

"Now how the hell am I going get Elena, Matt and Dave to come along on this...?" Stanton punched his steering wheel once, and then pulled out of the Veterinarian Clinic parking lot on his way to the Pickering Power Plant.

The Pitch

Stanton, now wearing his hard hat, walked beside a five tonne turbine as it traveled the length of the gantry crane positioning it for installation. The project he was working on as chief engineer, involved rebuilding CANDU reactors 2 and 3, which had been safely shut down in 1997. Since that time, a number of projects evaluated restarting them, but it wasn't until 2017 after years of feasibility studies that the plan was approved.

The project itself commenced in mid 2022, with the safe dismantling of the old reactors, a process which took nearly a full year, after which the new, clean gantry crane was built to carry the modern hardware. Once the turbines were in place, the installation of the safety systems, regulating and monitoring features would begin. 

Stanton spoke over his headset, guiding the crane operator despite the fact it wasn't required. The crane system had several cameras, both attached to the crane and to several poles that spanned its operating perimeter. These visual cues gave the crane operator an unprecedented awareness of his target, the load, and the crane itself.

"That's it. You're in Timbuktu like a champ," Stanton assured the crane operator, as another team began the process of welding the turbine to its base.

"Not bad. This project might actually get finished on time," Elena said as she approached, her too in her hard hat and a pair of stylish safety shoes.

"And what brings you out of the office today?" asked Stanton, checking that the terminal struts were lined up correctly.

"Dave and I are doing maintenance standards inspections today, so I thought I'd pop over and see if you had time for lunch in fifteen?" Elena asked him.

"I'd love too, assuming I can get this project done on time," he replied with a quaint smile.

"On time? The upper management was griping at us at yesterday's meeting about it going over budget," Elena informed him.

"And what'd you say?" asked Stanton of his supervisor.

"The same thing I always say when it comes to this power station. I'd much rather the job get done right and cost more, than wrong, and cost less when it comes to nuclear reactors," Elena replied with a wink.

"Thanks, looks like I owe you and Dave a beer then. Speaking of which, how'd your date with...?" Stanton smiled to her as she cut him off.

"Don't even mention it now. I'll give you the short version over lunch," Elena pouted slightly, turning to make her way back to the administrative building.

"See you shortly," Stanton responded, returning to his inspection of the struts.


Dave and Stanton joined Elena and Matt at their lunch table in the cafeteria. For the first minute, the table was quiet as they all began consuming their food. Dave kept looking nonchalantly over to Elena, somewhat expectantly of her, as if he was waiting for her to speak.

"So how was everyone's night last night?" Dave asked innocently, throwing Elena a quick glance.

"Don't you even start with me!" Elena shot back.

"What? I was just concerned that my coworkers and friends are having a good life?" Dave said with a puppy dog face.

"Look! My date last night went horrible. He turned out to be a real jerk and I abandon him at the restaurant before we even got to the movie! Now you all know! Satisfied?!" Elena said, raising her voice as she stood and addressed the entire cafeteria.

There was a sudden round of applause, as paper money changed numerous hands throughout the cafeteria.

Elena sat down quietly.

"Is there anyone who didn't bet on my date?" she asked rhetorically.

Matt and Stanton both put their hands up.

"How'd you and Dave like to help me with a side job I have tonight. You'd be helping me a lot, especially seeing as its a commercially rated electrical job. Its for a hotel, so it might actually be a lot of fun, not to mention I'll pay you both for it handsomely," Stanton spoke, quickly changing the subject.

"What hotel?" asked Elena asked, suddenly enthusiastic.

"The Sheraton, in downtown Toronto. Its a Marriot. A nice place. You can dress casual for the gig, the better you blend in the better. Not to mention, dinner and drinks are on me. What do you say?" asked Stanton, looking to Elena and then Dave.

"If I can get permission from Carol, I'd love to. With my take on your side job, and what I won with a well placed bet over Elena's date, I should be doing pretty good this weekend," Dave smiled, looking over to Elena.

"You bet against me having a good date! You jerk!" Elena stood and began assaulting him with a nearby folded newspaper.

Everyone in the cafeteria once again stopped and laughed at Elena and Dave's antics.

Elena then sat down, and turned to Stanton.

"I'd love to help you out on this job. Besides, it sounds like it might be fun. That, and its the weekend tomorrow," Elena replied to Stanton's request.

"Perfect. You're welcome too if you'd like to come Matt?" asked Stanton, not wanting to leave his old friend out.

"I would, my son, his wife and I are taking the grand kids out to the movies tonight, but thanks for asking," Matt replied, still amused by Elena and Dave's playful display.

"You have fun tonight then. Elena? Dave? We'll leave from here and go directly to the hotel. They'll be giving me a complimentary room. We can get cleaned up there. Sound good?" asked Stanton in confirmation.

"I'm good with that," Elena replied.

"Me too, once I recover from the concussion Elena delivered with that newspaper," Dave replied, smirking at Elena.

"Great. We'll meet up at reception and leave together. They'll have parking for us as well," Stanton assured them as he stood up with his tray of empty dishes.

"See you then big guy," Dave nodded to Stanton.

"Thanks for lunch!" Elena added.

Stanton made his way out of the cafeteria and made a call on his satellite phone.

Everything was in place for that night's operation to apprehend and extract Mister Eck.

Meeting The Lost

Inspectors Tricia Camden and William Halmand entered through the front doors to a building that had been zoned by the city for commercial use. At a height of ten floors, it was an odd building in that it bore no windows. The perimeter of the roof was lined with hidden cameras, directed both outward to the surrounding area, and inward towards the helicopter landing pad, which itself had seen recent use.

It was located just north of Steeles Avenue, off Woodbine Avenue on Esna Park Drive, a commercial area still bustling from the early nineteen-ninties tech boom. It was the perfect place for such a building, for it housed many facilities and even more secrets. To the outside world, it was just another computer and technology distribution center.

Tricia approached the front reception desk, Halmand close behind her.

"They still haven't fixed that door..." Halmand remarked, referring to one of the front doors, whose hinges would only allow it to open so far.

"Miss Camden? Mr. Halmand?" asked the receptionist.

"That would be us again, though I'm sure you remember us from the last time," Tricia responded to the receptionist who smiled politely.

"We have a lot of people through these doors, especially recently. I just wanted to be sure. How's your day been today?" asked the receptionist.

"Its been good. Its wonderful weather we're having," Tricia replied, making small talk.

"I'd hate to see an astute woman like yourself to miss out on it. I'm guessing you have plans this weekend to enjoy it?" asked Halmand, not missing the opportunity.

"Perhaps we could discuss this after your meeting?" asked the receptionist, who threw Halmand an inviting smile.

"If that would be convenient for you," Halmand replied, as Tricia blushed for him.

"It would. They're waiting for you upstairs.  The seventh floor. Suite 701," the receptionist smiled politely to them both and they left her to her work.

"You certainly didn't waste a moment," Tricia affronted him in an amused manner.

"Why not? It only makes sense. We're both in the business of keeping trade secrets, including this place. I'm sure you can appreciate how difficult it is to find companionship in this business. Why not somebody already familiar with the challenges involved?" Halmand replied honestly.

"Nobody's scolding you here. I'm sure she must have appreciated your candor, if she isn't hit on by every eligible bachelor that walks through those doors, and in this business, that's a lot of bachelors," Tricia replied observantly.

"Maybe they all get stage fright by the time they get to the reception desk," Halmand replied confidently.

"And you don't?" asked Tricia, curious as to his reply.

"I couldn't tell you. That was the first time I've ever done that," Halmand replied with a mischievous smile on his face.

"You're not very good at keeping secrets, are you?" Tricia asked him as they entered the elevator.

"Am I that obvious?" he stepped in beside her.

After a short trip in the elevator, they emerged onto the seventh floor, part of which was tasked with Technical Intelligence Analysis, the other half was the Medical Technology wing.

Tricia and Halmand entered into the Medical Wing and to the reception area.

"We're here for Suite 701?" Tricia flashed her badge and ID to the receptionist.

"No need. You've already been scanned," the receptionist replied.

"Let's see, facial recognition as we walked in the front door. Maybe a quick retinal scan without our knowledge. Is that truly enough to determine who we are?" asked Halmand, curious about the matter.

"You missed the gait scan and analysis, thermal signature, nervous system signature, bodily EMF emissions scan and about seven others I can't talk about," the receptionist replied.

"Just wanted to be sure that you're sure its us without us needing to flash our identification to you," Halmand replied.

"Anyone could forge your identification. Nobody can forge your combined biometric signatures. They're waiting for you in 701, which is just out the door and to the right of the elevators," the receptionist smiled.

"Thank you," Tricia said as they left.

"You didn't hit on her," Tricia asked Halmand amusedly.

"She already knows everything about me. I feel violated," Halmand replied, drawing a quick laugh from Tricia.

"Besides, I'm just keeping my eye on the ball," Halmand replied, referring to his appointment with the front door receptionist.

They stepped in through the door and were greeted by a blonde haired woman, a Doctor and a familiar, yet unfamiliar face who was in traction and under medical care.

"He's still recovering and will be in this wing for at least another three weeks before he can walk," a Doctor wearing a Turban and in his mid forties turned to face them as they entered.

"Thank you Doctor Singh-Charan. I'm feeling much better after that trip, but I have to tell you that sedative agent you used on me, it leaves you with one heck of a hang-over," Gabe Asnon tried his best to smile, given his swollen face.

"I have to admit, I'm at a loss, though I knew you'd be here Mr. Asnon, but your friend? Isn't she Linda Delmore? Does she even have clearance to be here?" asked Tricia defensively.

"You know as well as I do, the security here. If I'm in here, then I have clearance," Linda turned to face Tricia and Halmand.

"I'm here under cover. For the company..." Linda spoke cryptically.

Tricia and Halmand were still in shock at the situation.

"I've been investigating this case since the Western Delegation turned up in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Even back then, I was on the trail of this Habus Macill fellow, when the case of the gun-runner came up in Vietnam. I initially made contact with the delegation by hitting on Doctor Stephen Briggs. He's devoted to Zheng Ni Wong and wouldn't budge from her. Still he was so polite and friendly that he invited me to join them at their table and from there, I became an inseparable part of their group," Linda explained to them.

"She was just being modest for me when she omitted the hot date her and I had at Heylyn's most recent fashion show...?" Gabe joked, causing Linda to smile.

It was clear that she absolutely adored him.

"So, a real spook from the company, eh? Is everything they say about you true?" Halmand seemed more amused than anything.

"Funny you should ask, because I was just going to ask you where you parked your horses and put your wide brimmed hats, 'cause I didn't see a stable or a hat rack when I arrived," Linda responded, referring to their identities as members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

"We're with the Igloo and Dogsled division. We just got back from an ice fishing trip. After we finish debriefing Mr. Asnon on this RCMP special operation, in the interest of protecting his life, would you like some of the pickerel we caught, EH?" Halmand was quick to reply to her in defense of his organization and country.

"Look! I'm the one recovering and I'm supposed to be the comic relief. You're cutting into my turf now and I'm not liking it one bit!" Gabe responded to their bickering, attempting to break the tension at his expense.

"I'm with him, he definitely needs a real Doctor," Doctor Singh-Charan gestured to Gabe, backing his approach.

"Miss Delmore. I'm sorry, we got off on the wrong foot. We respect your identity, your employer and tasking so long as you do not operate against the interests of Canada, her elected representatives, her Governor General or her citizens. As you are here under official capacity, though it grieves me that we were not informed of this matter and only found out about it by such a surprise as meeting you here in this protected facility, we will act to protect you so long as you are within our borders. Are we in agreement?" asked Tricia of Linda.

"No crossing your fingers or any spook tricks when you agree," Halmand reminded her, watching her carefully.

"I can agree to those terms. I will uphold Canada's laws and interests while I am here and at home in the United States Of America, unconditionally where those interests do not come into conflict with those of the United States Of America, and I offer that as a gracious token of your protection," Linda responded diplomatically.

"How about the sharing of intelligence?" Halmand turned to Tricia.

"In debriefing Mr. Asnon, we're also here to collect intelligence. Intelligence to which you are not privileged. However, I'm willing to overlook this fact so long as any intelligence can be reciprocated at equal value, here and now. As a professional myself, I'm also fully aware that you'll purposefully keep the most valuable intelligence so you always have at least one bargaining chip in your back pocket. I remind you that given the nature of this threat to our way of life, and potentially to the stability of the regions of Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Oceania, that putting aside the strategic elements of intelligence sharing might actually help us to avert future conflict. We'd prefer to see the cultures of these regions retain their cultural history and identity, rather than for any of them to be usurped by any external interest of social, religious or armed invasion," Tricia asserted her country's own political stance, something she studied for years in order to lead this investigation when it came to the threat involved to the stability of world politics.

'Remember, no crossing your fingers. No tricks," Halmand said watching her closely.

"Fair enough. We'll share intelligence of equal value, here and now. Nothing more. Nothing less," Linda again agreed to their terms.

To be continued in The Butterfly Dragon: We Who Stand On Guard - Episode 04

Credits and attribution:

Artwork: Amy WongWendy PuseyGhastly, Brian Joseph Johns, Daz3DUnreal Engine...