Prologue: Consideration

The laboratories were humming with activity. Several scientists were busy with a large machine in one, while others worked with Bunsen burners and test tubes full of liquid in another. On one wall of each room was a large plate glass window, a window that could be seen through from the inside of the office between the two labs but not from the labs themselves. A solitary figure looked out through each window in turn, then moved over to the large desk in the middle of the room. A list lay on the desktop, and the figure picked it up to peruse it carefully.

"Yes." A voice said softly. "The conference will be the ideal place to plant this little time bomb. There will be engineers representing the top industrial firms from all around the globe. The amount of technical expertise there will be immense. With care, we will reap a harvest that will put us in the forefront of engineering and technology for decades to come. Not to mention what it will do to our rivals. We will have all of their secrets."

A long fingernail traced down a list of names, stopping at one in particular.

"I did not know there was a change here. This one will be ideal for our ultimate goal. The knowledge this one possesses is already huge, and I'm sure more has been accrued. Now, how to reach this particular person?" Again the long fingernail moved down the list, stopping at another name.

"He might do. He would be easy to manipulate, and his strong feelings about our target would drive him to act...yes, we will start here. With him."

The figure picked up a phone and dialed a number.

"Yes. I have someone for you to see. Make sure you fulfill your mission. Then pass the information on to our operatives in Abidjan. They will be ready for the conference."

The call ended. The desk chair squeaked softly. Fingers were templed over the papers on the desk.

"It won't be long now, and our rivals will be destroyed. Destroyed from within."


The Berlin pub was warm and full of smoke. Most of the patrons were drinking good German beer, but not the man in the corner booth. He applied himself to the plate of bratwurst before him, and sipped from the whisky and soda placed at his left hand. Sooner than he would have liked, the liquor was gone. He motioned to the buxom blonde behind the counter for another drink.

The pretty barkeep poured the whiskey and added the soda in a clean glass for the man at the corner table. As she turned to put it on a tray and deliver it to him, she also poured a small vial of colorless liquid into the glass and gave it a quick stir. She smiled. He would never suspect that something was put in his drink. He would not have the slightest idea that he was a pawn in an international game of industrial espionage.

She took it over to his table with a flounce of her hips. He picked up the glass and saluted her before drinking it off in one gulp. She blew him a kiss and went back behind the bar.

She went back into the kitchen for a moment and took out a cell phone. Dialing a number from memory, she said simply, "Subject contaminated. Notify Abidjan." Then she went out to finish the shift.

She would not be there tomorrow. When the man came back in and asked for the pretty barmaid, the owner would stare at him as if he were out of his mind. Her job was finished. Now the operatives in Ivory Coast would have to make the next move on the board.