THE HOUDINI HIJACKING
During this time, Parliament was now back in session, I tried my best to be a normal MP whatever that was supposed to mean. I started replying to many of my constituents letters, sometimes to good effect. Also I began trying to make an impression in The House.
Being an Independent I was given little attention by the major parties. However, perhaps because I represented a different perspective on events, perhaps because I had somewhat of a celebrity status, I was given multiple chances by The Speaker to ask my questions and state my point of view. I think also that sometimes he just got bored, so much so that when he saw me stand he was favourably inclined to give me the floor as much to amuse himself as anything else.
They must have thought I was some kind of alien. All my dialogue was sourced almost entirely from text books on modern political philosophy which I began to understand more fully, in particular those on constitutional reform. I would memorise entire paragraphs from these academic materials and quietly pass them off as my own. Concepts that became common in my speech were items such as; Pure Democracy, Hyper Real Spiral of Change, Open Source Governance, E-Democracy, Free Software Movement, Collective Wisdom, Platform Development, Self Determination, Popular Initiative, Collaborative Governance, Big Data Predictive Modelling.
I started to get some positive press, now I was ‘Radical Ray’ or ‘Revolutionary Raymond’. It was quite flattering but I felt my impact on people who might really make a functional, practical change with these ideas was very limited. Largely the reaction was encouraging and promising but praise, although from some big names, was usually accompanied by a sort of patronising tone. Its amazing how small one can be made to feel by a few well chosen words delivered from a great height. Still I plugged on for want of another way of operating.
The PM still singled me out for special interest. With small remarks here and there directly to my person when we happened to intersect and even some official documents relating to the work with the Phantom Group, it was clear she had taken me under her wing. I was summoned to No.10 on several occasions for conversations much like the first, only now there was a more friendly attitude. The most obvious addition to her advances was that now she would often talk of party political matters and began making suggestions that I might like to think of joining her party at the next general election. There would be many benefits to my career having a whole party system behind me and perhaps even a new cabinet role with a special title, something like ‘Cyber Liaison Secretary’. I said I’d think about it, and I did, often.
Meanwhile back at the arches our rumour, our lie, had seemed to be the first domino piece in a domino effect. The intel we gathered mostly direct from the internal workings of other countries’ security agencies was breathtaking. We were hacking into the heart of these supposedly locked safe systems and it was exhilarating. Pete and I knew we were getting in way over our heads, especially as we were sharing none of this with Mr. Simons, but we carried on, we couldn’t help it.
This was our little state sponsored hack and further to any illegalities of it we were the sole censors of what we passed on to our superiors. It felt anarchic and hot but somehow sustainable.
Then a bomb with my name on it dropped, it fell squarely on my head and I nearly didn’t get up from it. Our privileged access anonymous source at the FSB came through with an official message: Raymond Dante under investigation by MI6. Pete looked at me with some empathy and said “You’ve had it mate.” I looked back at him with a look that simply said ‘Help me.’
I walked back my usual route, the paranoia now fierce and immediately present. My memory of a catalogue of comments by my fellow MPs, all slightly sarcastic and under the belt, started to play in the theatre of my mind. All suggestions hinted at my naivety, my gullibility and how green I was in the political arena. Some of the words I remembered mounted up to one piece of advice; Watch Your Back.
I was in it up to my neck but it wasn’t until a very rude and physical awakening from this purely psychological turmoil that I was motivated to take action.
I had the feeling I was being followed again, this time by a man who wore one shoe that made a different noise from the other. I tried to ignore it, remembering the last time, but this time he began to get closer, making ground on me with every uneven step. I turned to look, too late as he was suddenly upon me, then pinning me to a wall.
He was big and ugly and Russian. From his bearded mouth, carried on breath that stank of vodka he muttered in a loud whisper: “Your people will come for you, your own people. They will take you away to a very small place, hold you under your Official Secrets Act, ask you questions you cannot answer. They will send you down to prison, your name will be dirt, when you come out your life will be dirt. You do nothing and this will happen or you phone this number and come to live in Moscow, you can bring your pretty Babushka bride and you can have nice life with us. You choose, but choose soon or you might die.”
He pushed a business card into my jacket pocket and walked away. My heart was pounding and my nerves prickling my skin all over. I breathed, at least I tried to breathe and then I began to find myself. I looked around, there was no one here, no one saw this. I was alone and took a good minute before continuing to the train stop.
To be in a contorted mental place is no easy thing. The mind is used to working with tangibles, it is usually able to adapt to new situations but when it cannot, when it runs out of resources with which to act, it goes into a mode that is either irrational, seeking random solutions, or one which shuts down into hibernation to give the subconscious a chance to work upon that which the conscious mind has failed to throw any light. Fortunately my mind tends towards the latter and so on this journey home I looked and felt like any other pedestrian, any other traveller on a train.
A person recognised me and said hello, as sometimes happened to me, but this time I just stared at them until they looked away. On auto-pilot I made the last part of my journey to the front door on foot and didn’t make one observation, didn’t entertain one idea or play out one memory. Perhaps this is what is meant by a dead man walking.
It only hit me in a great wave when I put my keys down on the kitchen table and laid eyes on Misha who was reading an interior design magazine, sitting on the sofa in the living area. Her accent tapped into my recent encounter with the man and I lost it.
Far from being a letting loose, to-hell-with-it kind of breakout my loss of control manifested it in a way with which I was entirely unfamiliar in my own behaviour. It was a state of mind and manner that shocked me as it took over from my usual character and seemed to be a type of possession. I believe a Psychiatrist might have diagnosed me in those moments as clinically psychotic. My words were delivered with crisp clear clarity, it was a kind of inner rage expressed in a controlled clipped fashion.
As I became used to this surprising feeling, as Misha and I talked of mundane matters, I began to feel that she too was behaving in a similar way, the way I had noticed her before. Only now I was matched to it and strangely she didn’t seem to notice. After ten minutes occupying this stance, I began to relax and as I did so I realised in horrible moments of truthfulness that I did not love her, not in any way that had any meaning anymore.
Only then with this dawning revelation did I begin to think of someone that I did love. As I thought of her any vestigial remains of my temporary psychosis died away and I returned to my natural self, the person I recognised. The person I thought of was my old University flame and someone I had been seeing as a secret lover on and off since I became an MP. Gina, Gina Royce.
We had a great relationship, a long lasting friendship full of laughs and loving, she was far smarter than me and perhaps that’s why historically I had moved away from her, a kind of intellectual inferiority complex. In many ways she was the one that got away. I thought of all that we had done together, all that I could remember. I thought of the time I had seen her in San Francisco when I rushed through in a half-hearted attempt to re-establish what we had once had. Of course I thought of the times we had met in secret too over the last six months, really only a handful of quickly and carefully managed moments, but nonetheless moments that seemed now more than ever to take on great significance.
I didn't sleep, but after she spent twenty minutes of talking non-stop in a monotone about matters of no consequences Misha eventually did. That night my personal separation with Misha began and was completed, now seemingly something of an automaton she lay next to me and I would never look or think about her in the same way. It wasn’t just her spying on me and handing information to Russian agents via her father which was so obviously the truth of our current situation, it was the cold, emotionless way in which she was going about it. It was sad but I didn’t worry about it because with the pleasant thoughts of Gina began the embryo of a plan that was designed to get me out of my otherwise impossible predicament. After seven hours of constructive creative thinking, by dawn my plans had taken their shape. I knew one thing; I needed the help of The Americans.