Shady Business

The security guard manned the desk in front of the elevator in the first floor lobby. It was just after midnight in the Marduch Industries building. The man had wrinkles on his face, a neat gray mustache, and thin silver hair. He sat at the desk that all entering the building would have to pass. Even both emergency exits had to pass through the lobby on their way out, due to poor (and technically illegal) building design. While the security guard did not know him, he knew the name of the guard was Gus Smith, he was sixty-five years old, and at risk for lung cancer due to smoking for a decade. He did not know he, like the other members of the security staff, had been psychologically profiled.

The lobby had skylights and bright, reflective marble surfaces that allowed it to shiny brightly during the day. At night, however, it was poorly lit and only caught reflections of light from nearby street lights and passing cars, causing the marble to reflect strange shapes on the ceiling. Smith had learned to ignore that, and sat back reading a sports magazine. He did not see an intruder, crouched in the corner. The intruder was a walking transparency in humanoid form. Millions of microscopic cameras projected the images they saw behind them, acting as a high tech chameleon. Special insulation fabrics prevented his body heat from radiating too brightly, discarding extra heat to blend into the background radiation. He pulled out his specially made pistol, and took aim at the security guard.

A barely audible clicking sound was the only warning of what was to come. The silenced shot hit him without warning, and Smith fell back in his chair. The intruder flanked around the dark marble lobby, avoiding the line of sight of cameras. The cameras and alarms had been silenced by a special computer worm he had uploaded before entering, but the human guards still had not realized. While the security system's CCTV cameras were disabled for the next few hours, he did so out of habit and personal paranoia. He reached out his finger towards the downed security guard and checked his pulse. The intruder removed the tranquilizer dart from his body, and felt the guard's pants. He felt a lump in his back pocket, and pulled out a decaying, leather-bound wallet. Inside was Gerald Smith's drivers license, spare change, and pictures of his family. The intruder slipped a pair of twenties into Smith's wallet, and put it back into his back pocket. He propped up the sleeping guard comfortably in his chair, and moved into the hallway directly behind the security desk.

The hallway had marble tiling similar to the lobby, but no lights were on. There was only a set of management offices, some cubicles, and the restrooms. The intruder in the Mirage suit moved past all of them, eventually stopping in the server bank at the end of the hall. Placed right behind the janitor's closet, this room allowed wireless Internet to all inside. To gain access, the intruder placed a wire from one of his devices onto the keypad. Pressing a few buttons on his wrist-tool, it began to give the keypad thousands of possible passwords a second until it found the right one. The locked door clicked open, and gave him access.

A blast of cold air hit him as he walked amongst stacks of processors. This room was clinical and sterile, having white walls, ceiling, and floor tiles. This room was well-lit, despite no one being inside. In the colder temperature, the suit automatically began to retain more of his body heat than release it. The intruder looked amongst the stacks of processors for a particular one, and plugged his wrist-console into it. He began to download the files on, and exhaled. Given how cold it seemed, he half expected his breath to crystallize.

The download concluded faster than he thought it would, and the Mirage breathed a sigh of relief. He forwarded the data through the server to a relevant email address. He left the room behind him, and worked his way back down the hallway. The door to the server room automatically locked itself behind him. The Mirage moved back past the sleeping sentry, and then back towards the unlocked emergency exit he had entered from. He emerged in an alleyway parallel to the Gothic skyscraper, and moved to a parking garage at the end of the block. He came to an unmarked van parked on the first level, and climbed inside. He closed the door behind him, and disabled his active camouflage. He removed the tight black suit from his skin, revealing his undershirt and boxer shorts. He changed back into a sweater and sweatpants, and drove the van out of the garage. He was no longer the Mirage, but Jordan Dumas, freelance forensic accountant.

After a quick nap, he performed his morning rituals, put on the wear for his other business, and got ready to meet his clients. Jordan Dumas stood in front of a meeting in the Turner Financial Systems building. He was dressed in a well-tailored suit, and stood at the head of a long table of older, middle aged men and women. Most of them were white, unlike him. His dark skin and short hair seemed to match the shade of his suit jacket and pants. He held a laser pointer in one hand, and gestured to the slide-show behind him. There was a plain white slide showing the summary of conclusions he had found from his research. He used the laser to highlight each bullet point as he went through.

"And that is why, ladies and gentlemen, I say this merger is not in your best interests," he went down the list. "In summary, there are too many records of transactions missing. Some of the dealings they do have aren't exactly stellar, either. They've knowingly done business with shell companies for known elements of organized crime, performed insider trading, have dealt with far too many political lobbyists for me to count, and generally performed all manner of questionable deals with questionable people."

He flipped to the next slide, which had projections on it. There was a graph showing a massive downturn marked with a red arrow, to drive his point home. Nearby, there were bullet points. He moved his laser, and continued his findings. "As you can see, the long term projections for the merger are not good," he replied. "If you continue on your current path, you'll maintain some slow but steady growth."

A hand shot up from the table. Jordan nodded. "Yes, sir?" he nodded to the Director of Marketing.

"You've established there'd be some short term profit from the merger," the old man added. "Here it's all gloom and doom, though!"

"I'm getting to that shortly," Jordan replied. "I try to be as thorough as possible in my research."

He pointed back to the chart. "As for the short term, well, there's not much potential there. There would be some short term profit, but short term is the keyword here," he looked across the room. "One of my sources has informed me that the IRS and SEC may be auditing Marduch Industries within the month. When that starts, you know what happens once there's blood in the water."

Jordan saw many of the executives nod grimly. "Why nail yourself to a sinking ship?" he replied. "Especially one made of rotting wood. As you can see, as your client, I recommend you do not continue with this merger."

He ended the presentation, and stood with hands resting on his stomach. "So, I believe your current business strategy has some merit, and that this merger has none. I cannot recommend it economically, financially, or legally. I thank you for your time, and wish you all the best in business, ladies and gentlemen."

There was some forced applause from the assembled group, and Jordan Dumas left the room. He exhaled, leaving the business formality at the room behind him. He already knew what was going to happen with Marduch for a reason. He had submitted the irregularities to the Feds himself, acting as an anonymous whistleblower within Marduch. He knew he was a highly sought after consultant for a reason. His financial forecasts were correct most of the time, no small thanks to his secondary activities. The scumbags got caught, his clients would benefit if they listened to him, and he got paid regardless of the outcome. When dealing with shady business, there was plenty of room for a Mirage.