The Harbinger of Change
The Harbinger of Change is an action thriller that never stops delivering, whether it’s covering Pablo’s backstory about his rise to power, or Matt and Vera’s struggle to flee the country, the confluence of characters is moving and believable. Shocking at times, this novel deals with some real-life issues that technology is going to make us all face sooner rather than later.
Dr. Daniel Cooper was making his way out his condominium’s parking lot at a very unsafe speed. He was running behind schedule thanks to his damn garrulous neighbor. Cooper’s BMW 350i turned the corner off California onto Mary Avenue at such a high speed that the tires squealed their disapproval. Very uncharacteristic for someone who had never even had a nosebleed.
Fighting to beat the train, he jammed his accelerator hard like he was trying to merge onto a busy freeway (something he almost never did). Danny loathed taking any chances in his life, which is why he almost always avoided the freeway. He had not purchased the car because of its performance, although that was formidable; he had bought it for its high safety rating, as well as the prestige.
Out of fear of earthquakes, Danny lived in a new steel-framed condominium, not even two miles from work. He knew that if he did not leave by 7:50, he would catch the train delay. If that happened, he would get to work two minutes late and he would miss her. She was never late. Of the list of a million things he loved about her, her punctuality was as big of a turn-on as her looks. But all were trumped by her essence— there was not one thing on earth that compared to her smell. He bolted up Mary Avenue just as the railway-crossing arm came down in his path.
Slamming the steering wheel, he cursed old Miss Dumont for having snagged him as he was leaving. She lived alone and always tried to lure him over for dinner, dessert, or some other banal encounter that was bound to bore him nearly to death. Daniel always flew by her in the mornings though, with the perfect excuse that he had to go to work. She normally allotted him that space, and it was a good thing because he had a tight schedule to maintain in the mornings.
He looked up and down the tracks. He knew that if he moved now, he could make it. He had been late three other times, and, in all instances, he had counted the time the train took to get to the crossing. It took thirty-two seconds. The first two times it happened; the impulse was there but the thought of driving around the flashing train signal was only a fantasy. The third time, though, the impulse almost turned into action as his obsession to interact with her prior to work was becoming compulsive.
This time, before he could stop himself, Dr. Daniel Cooper stepped on the gas and drove around the crossing arm. He was doing something he had never done in his entire life: He was risking his life in pursuit of a personal passion. Not only that, but he also was not controlling the experiment— another first.
He started around the crossing gates without knowing exactly how much time had elapsed. Albeit the train took thirty-two seconds to reach the intersection, it only took ten for it to come into sight. Dr. Daniel Cooper of Conceptual Laboratories discovered what having a train bearing down on him sounded and felt like. His heart was racing like mad as he skirted out of the situation, swearing to himself that he would never be so foolish again.
Since his foolhardy move had enabled him to gain back some lost time, Daniel thought he might now get lucky and catch her just as she entered the building. On fortunate days, she would be wearing boots or some other garment that security made her remove. That was currently the favorite moment of his day. He carried the thought of those precious moments all the way to bed each night.
It was so unbelievably sensual to watch her gently remove her garments. His mind drifted to the possibilities as she removed them and placed them into the scanner. Her bare or stocking feet were even more amazing as he got to watch her pad through the detector and then replace her clothes on the other side.
Dr. Daniel Cooper had become an expert on stalking Nancy Chavez, even though she appeared to be unaware he had any interest in her at all. She actually worked for him, and lately, she had seemed very vulnerable; she had even opened up to him. Daniel would have to get there in time to make sure he went through security with her, to make sure he started this day exactly as he was envisioning it to go.
Daniel had learned to act nonchalantly whilst the woman that was consuming his every thought partially undressed right next to him every morning. Being next to her in that intimate moment was as close as he had ever dreamed of, until now . . .
He looked in the rearview mirror and told himself, “Today’s the day.” His face was flush with excitement as he pulled up to the security building. The building was squarish and gray with tinted windows. In front of the building was a gigantic black marble boulder and flower garden that encircled it. On either side of the edifice were the gated entrance and exit points.
Daniel pulled up in a hurry, and of course, the car in front of his had some issue, which brought his heightening anxiety to an all-time high. He never had a good day when he did not get to walk in the door with her, and today of all days, he must!
Finally, the fool in front of him found his identification and moved from his path. Within seconds Daniel was through and headed for his parking spot. His spot was a lot closer to the employee entrance than Nancy’s, so he still had a chance. Much to his chagrin, he was pulling in just as Nancy was entering the building. Unless he ran on a dead sprint, she would be through security by the time he got there. Not only that, she was not alone. She was talking to a brunette Daniel recognized but did not know. Great, simply great…
Daniel meandered through security forlorn, his plan having already gone afoul. He decided to drop the whole thing right there. Who am I kidding? They all had tight schedules and he found scant minutes to be around her during the day anyway, but that was the least of his worries. If he did not figure out how to replicate his predecessor’s success in the EMP Net and get things going, then they were either going to get rid of him or cut funding—that meant layoffs in his department.
Nancy was the last person he had hired, so he had to figure this project out and get the funding renewed or she would be the first to go. He would have to abide, as the owner, Bill Westinghouse, would be watching. The thought of not having his current access to Nancy was not a prospect Daniel wanted to face. Of course, until recently, these crumbs were all he could hope to obtain. But that’s all changed now, hasn’t it? Why else would she tell me about the breakup with her boyfriend?
Daniel got into his office and dove into the work pile on his desk, including his email inbox. By the time he popped his head out to check on his staff, it was lunchtime. In hopes of seeing more of her body, Daniel had tried to loosen things up in his lab by relaxing the dress code, but true to form, Nancy was wearing her lab coat.
She was always covering up her looks, and Daniel loved that and hated it all at the same time. On one hand, no one knew she was a diamond in the rough and one could take one’s time worming one’s way into her life. On the other hand, he was short on fantasies to live by, and “Hottie in a lab coat” was just plain worn out.
Daniel decided this would be the day; this would be the day he asks her to go to a movie with him. “Just as friends.” He was throwing that in there in case his impressions were horribly wrong. It would leave her an avenue to get out of the situation and would not preclude him from her future friendship. If it went wrong, he would just put twice the effort into building a platonic relationship with her, to convince her he was no cad.
But if it went right, he could get to spend real time with her, to be able to sit next to her for a whole movie and secretly smell her the whole time. Daniel suddenly worried that she would want to talk about the movie afterward, so he decided to watch it alone first—that way he would be sure to have lots of intellectual insight to spout about the film of choice.
The absolute thrill of this prospect almost made him drop his salad on the floor as he glanced at Nancy eating her lunch. She was perfect. How could every man not see it?
Returning to his desk, Daniel was once more drawn into the mundane tasks of running a department. Although the necessity of such tasks was not lost on him, Daniel also knew that if he could just focus on being a scientist, maybe more actual scientific things would get done here at Conceptual. He was waiting for test results from the B group and was excited to see them come through when his stomach rumbled, and he looked at the clock. It was time for his constitutional. Right on time.
This was one of times during his day that he got a chance to walk past Nancy’s office for a quick peek, except today after he got his peek at Nancy, Angela Peterson called him just as he was about to make his right turn to the bathroom. Daniel decided that the intrusion was not particularly bad, seeing that after he signed Angela’s requisition forms, he could walk back by Nancy’s office again.
Dr. Cooper did just that, and even in that brief one-second encounter, his heart swelled, and he imagined more—so much more.
As Daniel reached the bathroom, he realized that Angela had kept his pen and that one cannot do the jumble without a pen. Of course, Angela had forgotten a form that he needed to sign, and then had begun blathering some inane small talk that Daniel had no interest in.
Clenching, he headed back to the bathroom. This time he took his eyes off Nancy’s area as he passed. He intentionally did this, as he never liked to leave an obvious trail. In one of the rare instances in his life, his gastric need subsided over the delay. After looking in the mirror of the bathroom at his complexion, Daniel washed his hands out of compulsion and headed back to work.
He was now going to cross back over her path again and he surely would avert his eyes to appear preoccupied. He often tried to act like Nancy Chavez was the furthest thing from his mind, as it helped him keep some semblance of control.
As Daniel made his way by, Nancy’s office was empty; his trepidation had all been for naught. He made his way past Angela more than a little disgruntled. Daniel had not broken up that routine in years now, yet somehow because of this annoying woman he was left hanging.
He brought his screen back up, and the email he was about to read earlier held some staggering information. He had to read it twice to be sure. This was a major win, and combined with the data in his safe, they were not only going to get their funding renewed, but they were going to be one big step closer to creating an intercontinental ballistic missile shield to protect America. What would surprise most people was, it was not going to be done using lasers.
Dr. Daniel Cooper swelled with pride viewing this new data, as it was a fact now. Imagine that. He was barking up the wrong tree the whole time, as he was trying to get the power to do this with a Non-Nuclear Electromagnetic Pulse, which complied with parameters set forth.
Of course, an NNEMP has a power output one million times less than the EMP caused by a nuclear detonation, but even so, getting the power to make their desired burst takes energy, a lot of energy. The Russian “K” project showed the way. Detonate an atomic bomb thirty-five kilometers up and one can short out an entire continent. Daniel was looking to target a much smaller area, but with the same “shorting effect.”
Daniel walked across the lab to the hallway that housed his safe room. The hallway was not locked, just an unlocked door, but the two rooms that lay therein surely were. The hallway was off limits to anyone but him. The locked room inside held his project’s safe and the laboratory’s video storage files. As Daniel was approaching his door he looked up to the left and observed with curiosity that his predecessor’s door was slightly ajar.
He had heard that the man had a breakdown and that was why he left; but Daniel had also heard rumors that people had seen James Haberman after hours. Now he knew that rumor was true. His instinct was to hit the alarm and let security work it out, just to teach everyone involved in this charade that he was not one to trifle with. But with the results he held in his hand, he had to rub it in the face of, “The Great James Haberman.”
Dr. Daniel Cooper approached the door cautiously, assuming the confrontation would be tempestuous. What lay inside, he had a tough time grasping.
First, Haberman’s vault was a monstrosity. It reminded Daniel of a metal version of the monster from Little Shop of Horrors.
Second, Nancy was in the room, and she was retrieving something from one of the smaller safes that looked like an odd metal flower sticking out of the side of the weirdest master safe humankind had ever seen. What drug James Haberman was on when he thought of this design, Daniel could only guess. Daniel was not even aware he had shouted Nancy’s name or that he asked how she had gotten in there.
Under normal conditions, he never would have spoken to her that way, but he was absolutely overloaded with emotion. First, his adrenaline had been driven up at finding a way to save her job and then he had found Haberman’s door open. He was just on edge.
She did not even flinch as he yelled, so he assumed he had mostly yelled in his head. He did not know how she figured out how to get in here, but he knew she was going to be highly thought of, as getting into this room was a quagmire the top brass had been trying to solve for the past year.
Dr. Daniel Cooper reached out to touch Nancy’s shoulder for what he hoped would be the first in a lifetime of touching. He was going to marry this woman and he was going to spend a lifetime making her happy. That is when he saw her turn and plunge the white blade of the ceramic knife she was concealing straight into his chest.
Bill Westinghouse sat in his chair listening to the two idiots before him and he desperately wanted to pull open his top drawer and plug both these sycophants with the Colt 45 he kept in there. Hell, I have a permit. He looked at the two bureaucrats sent here to rattle his cage with disdain. Jesus, how did I get here?
He was just a bright boy from Texas, with some family money to spend and a patriotic heart. His initial idea had been simple: he would start Conceptual by accumulating the greatest minds in the science and math world to come and work for him, and then he could spin his family connections to get Department of Defense contracts. After a while though, they had gotten so good, they started fixing other people’s bugs too—well, not they; him, James Haberman. James Haberman was the greatest mind of the time and Bill was lucky enough to get him right out of MIT.
Cooper was one of the great minds to come out of the next generation, but Haberman was the best he can remember, and everything was great as the two of them started something that took on a whole other life, with everyone wanting to go after its footprints. Conceptual had been at the top of the world. Then came the breakdown. James Haberman’s letter was succinct, and it ended with “I’ll be back, all my work is in my safe.” Of course, it contained a few other pieces of information that they were not happy about. Oh yeah, that’s how I got here.
“Are you even listening to me, Westinghouse?” Kirk Rogers, Assistant Director of Homeland Security was looking at Bill as if he were something stuck to his shoe. Rogers was a spitting image for Charlton Heston, and it was hard to talk to him without daydreaming a little.
“I hear you, Kirk, but what am I to do? We can’t take the whole building down for Christ’s sake, and he said he’ll be back, but it might be a while. I guess we’ll just have to have some patience. He was pretty clear that attempting to get into the safe would be questioning his patriotism and would not only be punishable by losing its contents, but probably half the block as well.”
“That’s asking too much Westinghouse!”
Bill absorbed Kirk Rogers’ last emotionally packed sentence admirably, given his temptation to draw the shiny pistol in his desk and end him. He retorted calmly, “Haberman’s final words were, ‘best to trust me and wait until I get back,’ and Gentlemen, I concur.”
Kenneth Beck was a short man compared to Rogers, only five-nine and weighing about a hundred and sixty pounds wet out of the shower. But there was an air about him that suggested he could take men many times his size, and to reach his current position as Assistant Director of the CIA, he had had to do just that more than once.
“Bill, we understand the issues here, but Cooper isn’t making the needed progress, and Conceptual must take the next step or our funding for this project is over. Our Field Agents have scoured the planet ten times, and we still have nothing on Haberman’s whereabouts. That safe holds the only research we have to resurrect a very vital program, a program that has wide-impacting National interests at its heart. So, we’re going to give you and your team a month to produce a solution to resolve this.”
Bill Westinghouse replied to Ken Beck in as condescending a voice as he could muster. “A month to undo a safeguard that the greatest mind I’ve ever known has set, huh, Kenneth? I’ll tell you what, we’ll open her up to you and your team and see if you can figure it out.”
Beck chided, “Didn’t you people ever stop to think what would happen to the vaults if one of these people died or disappeared?”
Bill stared, then started. “Gentleman, as you know, safeguards were in place to make sure the doctors didn’t really have control of their vaults the way they thought they did. Our problem is Mr. ‘Off-the-charts’ outsmarted us all and reprogrammed his vault, so we have no control, so now we’ll have to wait to see what happens. I guess we can put it to the staff once more to see if anyone can come up with an idea, but the reality is, as stated in his letter, any attempt to enter that room or access that safe will be met with dire consequences. Gentlemen, when a man like James Haberman tells you that you are going to have ‘dire consequences,’ you better be upping your insurance; you’re going to need it.”
Bill knew that Ken Beck never liked him, mostly because he came from privilege, something he had heard Beck did not have the pleasure of doing. As a result, there was an animosity that made Beck’s composure slip a little. With too much personal inflection he shot out, “For all we know he’s working for the Ruskies, Westinghouse! And if he is, you and this whole place are going down, Bill, and no one is going to give a shit that your daddy is a State Senator.”
Beck got up abruptly and Rogers followed as he retorted, “You’ve had a good run, Bill, but we need to get that satellite into its Beta mode, and if that means tying some heavy-duty cables around Haberman’s safe and lifting it out of here with some Chinook Helicopters, then that’s what we’ll do. Then we will simply fly that fucker down to Moffett and laser it open. It’s up to you Bill, you have one month to produce him or the plan, and then it’s our turn.”
They both left with an air of haughtiness that they really did not deserve to have. Especially Beck, that guy was dumpster sludge.
Bill’s office overlooked the fountains. As he watched them and their entourages get into their respective limos and leave, he could not help but think about Haberman. James sure screwed me up. He knew he was pushing James too hard. Although James would never admit it, Bill knew that he was putting too much pressure on him, and the Satellite Project was James’s most aggressive new idea ever.
He just expected James could handle it, that he thrived in that high-pressure world, but apparently that was not the case. Now he was being thrown to the lions and he was really wondering, what in the world is in that safe that could blow up half a block?
Bill only hoped these guys thought about it long and hard. Even if they breached the vault, the files had security, too. It was a losing bet; and worse, they would be “insulting a great patriot.” There was also the human element. It was in his personnel file. James Haberman did not like to lose at anything—ever. His chess playing was legendary when he was growing up, and many had him slated as the next Bobby Fisher. He was always a ferocious competitor, and it did not surprise Bill that James did not want anyone touching his work.
Actually, it showed that he was serious about coming back. Jesus Christ, I hope these idiots come to their senses before a lot of magnificent work is lost. As he looked at the last of the Government Boys leave, he realized that the good old days were gone, and he was one step away from being unemployed, or worse, under indictment. He needed a break. His stomach rumbled and he had a thought about where to head for lunch and who he would call to join him.
"Harbinger of Change is a real page turner that will keep you up late into the night with anticipation of what happens next. What more can you ask for??!! Timothy Jon Reynolds tells a great story. Harbinger of Change is action packed, has a vibrant energy, and is absorbing and complicated. The charac- ters in the book are described with depth, detail and likability."
– Heather McLaughlin Merath
"Riveting, intriguing. Timothy Jon Reynolds immediately draws his readers in with the complexity of the characters and their dilemmas. The Harbinger of Change is an unpredictable, twisting tale that kept me on the edge of my seat, often torn between reading faster to see what would happen next, and slowing down to savor each delicious morsel of the story. A very timely, apt novel that leaves the reader wondering . . . what if?"
– Patricia Whitman
"I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Harbinger of Change. I am still catching my breath after following this fast-paced adventure around the world. The story took me on a ride as I watched the various pieces fall into place and the story materialize in front of me. I know a good book when I sit there for a half hour after finishing the last page and consider everything that just took place. I am still thinking about this story and am excited to read the next book in the series."
– Ross Kurz
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