Devlin’s eyesight was failing, so he leaned forward to peer at the woman sitting across his desk. Tall, slender and soft- spoken, she didn’t look like spy material.
“Trust me on this one, Devlin,” his senior had said, “Deborah’s very good. She may seem sweet as honey but on enemy ground she’s... well, you’ll find out soon enough.”
Devlin shuffled in his chair. This whole situation was making him feel uncomfortable. He knew just how dangerous the mission was, but Deborah was the only applicant for the job. It looked like he had little choice. With the urgent need to infiltrate Gowa’s headquarters and obtain the blueprint of their HC2 prototype, Devlin relented and hired her.
The interview over, Deborah stood up, pushed back a stray strand of blonde hair and smiled, “It’ll be a pleasure working with you, Sir.”
John, Gowa’s Chief, was keen to complete the HC2 project. The latest prototype had yielded excellent results when tested on his staff. None of them questioned his orders or argued with him any more.
The realisation that he would soon be able to duplicate the results on every human being brought a smile to his face. He’d tried modifying the RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chip but had encountered problems with major security breaches. Subjects complained that their personal data was being accessed without their consent. Furthermore, the majority did not like the chips implanted under their skin. That’s when John had come up with the HC2 (Human Control Code).
The project was at such a sensitive stage that John knew the risks of any romantic liaisons.
The painless procedure altered a subject’s DNA, causing them to favour one person or object over another, depending on the programme selected. It involved walking through a door-frame embedded with special electromagnets which initiated the alteration.
The project was at such a sensitive stage that John knew the risks of any romantic liaisons, but Deborah, the woman he’d been seeing lately, was different. Life is for living and the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, he’d reasoned. He loved spending time with her and had even shared a few top-secrets with her, more to vent his frustrations than to impress her. He was confident he didn’t have to worry about leaked information. She had a rather low IQ. Her only interest was bee-keeping. He was somewhat surprised because he’d always thought that expats from Venus were intelligent.
John sat in his office, raked his jaw-line with his fingers and sighed.
“Chief, have you seen the news?” His assistant swept into his office like a whirlwind and flicked the TV remote.
As John absentmindedly watched the news, his thoughts returned to the fateful day. The evening at Deborah’s apartment had started off well. It would have ended perfectly too, if he hadn’t spotted the folder under the coffee table. He assumed it had fallen by accident and leant down to pick it up. Deborah had gone to the kitchen to get more wine. A single sheet of paper with the word Gowa on it fell out. Coincidence? Perhaps not. Curiosity got the better of him.
“I’m just popping into the bathroom,” he announced as he slipped the folder under his shirt. Locking the door behind him, John quickly scanned through the document. Beads of sweat started to form on his forehead. He clenched and unclenched his fists as blood rushed through his veins making him look flushed. He had to act. Fast! Thinking on his feet, a plan quickly formed in his head.
It was a pity that their last evening together had ended the way it had.
John’s assistant faked a cough which brought him back to the present. He looked up and arched his eyebrows.
“Why exactly do you think I’m interested in the death of a woman I don’t know?”
“A classified folder was found in her apartment. It appears she was a spy commissioned to infiltrate Gowa.”
John searched the man’s face for evidence that he didn’t think he was a suspect. Satisfied that his secret was safe, he feigned surprise and sympathy, then dismissed him and exhaled deeply. Gowa wouldn’t have stood a chance if Deborah’s mission had succeeded, he reflected. Gowa was John’s life. Even so, it was a real shame that she’d had to die.
No sooner had the door closed than it opened again, revealing the startled face of his assistant. He was about to admonish him when a flurry of activity behind him stopped him dead in his tracks.
Devlin sat at his desk with his head between his hands. He felt as if he was carrying the weight of the whole world on his shoulders. Deborah was dead. He knew he should have trusted his professional instincts. It was too late now. He stroked his chin as he contemplated his future, before a tap on the door interrupted his thoughts. When Deborah walked in, he couldn’t hide his surprise.
“Didn’t the news reports say you were dead?”
Her lips formed just enough of a line to let him know she’d smiled. She handed him a folder.
“Here’s the blueprint you wanted. The military have been deployed to arrest John and seize all property belonging to Gowa. I believe the operation is underway now.”
“You have to tell me how you did this!”
Even with his intelligence, explaining herself would probably be beyond the old man’s comprehension, she reasoned.
“Seeing is believing,” she said simply as she stood up. She looked into Devlin’s eyes and blinked. Devlin could have sworn he saw two sets of eyelids but then again his eye-sight was failing him. He rubbed his eyes and looked again. This time two Deborahs stood in front of him. He let out a faint cry of surprise. The question he was going to ask hung in mid-air as Deborah spoke.
“Self-cloning. Where I come from our “real selves” are known as Queen Bees. We clone ourselves when undertaking dangerous missions. The queen never leaves the hive unless absolutely necessary. You know that Deborah means bee, don’t you?”
She certainly wasn’t called Deborah for nothing.