Yip and Markus get to know each other.

John Barnes, Author

August 7, 2015

6 Min Read
Silence Like Diamonds – Episode 5: Circular Trail

This is the fifth installment of Light Reading's 10-part science fiction serial, "Silence Like Diamonds." Need to catch up? Start here:

Silence Like Diamonds – Episode 1: Family Business

I stood stone still. All possibilities seemed equally mad. Maybe the same mystery benefactor who bestowed superb free invisible security on NItCo also funneled the money from that into my sister's company because it just liked her. Maybe my sister, who would walk ten blocks to return a dime of extra change, had tricked the victims of her market-manipulation scheme into hiring me to investigate.

Maybe I'd woken up in the wrong dimension.

The intercom double-beeped. "Call from Markus Adexa."

"Copy and store all." Graphs and tables vanished from the walls. "Accept."

Markus had changed shirts and shaved -- a positive sign? "Hey, Yip, how are you, now that nobody's tried to blow you up lately?"

"Better, Markus, much better." I looked at the clock. "Wow, I've been working seven hours. I get a little lost when I'm working."

"Are you hungry? I've got secure catering available, and we could have dinner in your place, if you're not too busy. Since Zalodny Integrated Security is giving me a big retainer for exclusive services till the NItCo case is resolved, this would be billable professional time."

"For me too; I'm a ZIS subcontractor, same as you. Sure, let's get some dinner, talk some business, and send the bill to Yazzy. What else're sisters for?" I was hungry; I'd had no breakfast before the explosion over my house early that morning. "Can we eat sooner rather than later?"

"My secure caterer usually gets here within half an hour. Seafood, veg, Italian, Vietnamese ... "

"Can I admit I love retroCantonese? Too cliché, too trendy?"

"My favorite cliché trend. This caterer does an awesome Tea Smoked Duck. So expect them, and me, in half an hour."

"Great, that gives me time to shower off the worst. And since you're wearing a clean shirt, I will too."

"I just did it to have a better target for the food."

I gave him the raspberry, zoomed through my shower, and tried to remember how that stylist had intended me to arrange my close-cut hair. This was a perfect. My first dinner with Markus would involve no scary date stuff and a guaranteed conversational topic. And because I'd fled in haste to this secure cabin on the grounds of his security company, I had no resources to dress up -- wouldn't even have to consider it.

Thirty-two minutes later, the caterers' robot carts wheeled in, bearing a complete buffet. While the carts arranged themselves, unfolded into full steam tables, pulled out dishes, and corrected temperatures, three crawler bots swept the cabin for listening devices, finding only terrified cats.

Want to know more about the cloud? Visit Light Reading's cloud services content channel.

Markus came in. "Stefvan's got the perimeter remote systems up. The opposition could invade with an army but they can't sneak in with a gun. Let's eat."

Smelling the food had made me ravenous. I didn't talk much till we were both dishing entrees.

"Good so far?" he asked.

Next Page: Blind Alley

"Excellent. Grandpa Quang was actually a cook in an old before-it-was-retro Cantonese place down in Santa Barbara. That soup was second only to Grandpa's."

"There's a high compliment. If you're here a while --" Did he sound hopeful? "-- that service offers lots of cuisines."

"How about Bohemian?"

"You mean, like, Czech? I can find out. They had Swedish but not Gambian."


"Well, I call myself SwedoGambian, but I think of myself as Wolof-Viking. Long story. I'm guessing you're Chinese-Czech?"

"Sort of. Really, Mama is fifth-generation American, or 'like totally Huayi' as she puts it. Táta is Czech but he got citizenship right after he graduated from Michigan State. The world is one big salad these days."

"One big salad, yeah. I'm an UNHCR brat. I share my parents' interest in keeping people safe, but I work retail instead of wholesale."

We chattered about family stuff all through the entrees and right up to the green tea ice cream.

Then conversation turned to work. It was a good decade for both of us to be in security, though not much of what we did overlapped. As borders and national authority crumbled and the lines between irregular corporate operations, organized crime, and political violence hopelessly blurred, guys like Markus were much in demand, especially in the tech industry where highly skilled human beings were critical assets and therefore targets. "But really," he said, "what I do is pretty simple. I keep the people who don't pay me from beating up on the people that do. On the other hand, I don't really know... will you think I suck if I admit I don't really understand what you do, Yip?"

"I won't think you suck. It's sort of strange. You've heard 'follow the money,' all your life, right? Well, a scheme architecture analyst like me figures out what track the money is running along. If something's not supposed to be going on, someone has figured out how to collect money for it, and usually a whole plan for washing the money clean on the way. I figure out the pathway."

"Like, uh, for example?"

Oh, well. I had now established Markus was definitely straight, almost certainly single, and probably compatible. Enough of my social life; back to business. "Well, here's an example. Just before you called, I caught my sister."

He looked up from his tea with a polite raised eyebrow, signaling me to go on and tell it my own way. More points for the man.

I explained quickly, finishing with, "So I went looking for a broker that might be churning NItCo securities, and it turned out that although there are some later opportunists who spotted a chance, there's just one that went into business right before the mystery benefactor operation against NItCo started, and since then has done nothing since but churn NItCo: AtlantiCrossing, which is wholly owned by ZIS."

"What? You're kidding. That would mean --"

"Yeah. My sister Yazzy's company is the main profit recipient from the operation that she's hired us both to investigate."

Next: Silence Like Diamonds – Episode 6: Patient but Rough

John Barnes Follow me on Twitter is the author of 31 commercially published and two self-published novels, along with hundreds of magazine articles, short stories, blog posts and encyclopedia articles, so he likes to describe himself as an extensively published obscure writer.

About the Author(s)

John Barnes


John Barnes has 31 commercially published and 2 self-published novels, some of them to his credit,  along with hundreds of magazine articles, short stories, blog posts, and encyclopedia articles, totaling more than five million paid-for words, so he likes to describe himself as an extensively published obscure writer. Most of his life he has written professionally, and for much of it he has been some kind of teacher, and in between he has held a large number of odd jobs involving math, show business, politics, and marketing, which have more in common than you'd think.

Subscribe and receive the latest news from the industry.
Join 62,000+ members. Yes it's completely free.

You May Also Like