In the moist air of the Jungle, the Architect of the Capitol could feel the sweat now rolling down his back. His handcuffed wrists ached, but all of his attention remained riveted on the ominous titanium briefcase that Sato had just opened on the bench between them.
The contents of this case, Sato had told him, will persuade you to see things my way. I guarantee it.
The tiny Asian woman had unclasped the metal case away from Bellamys line of sight, and he had yet to see its contents, but his imagination was running wild. Satos hands were doing something inside the case, and Bellamy half expected her to extract a series of glistening, razor-sharp tools.
Suddenly a light source flickered inside the case, growing brighter, illuminating Satos face from beneath. Her hands kept moving inside, and the light changed hue. After a few moments, she removed her hands, grasped the entire case, and turned it toward Bellamy so he could see inside.
Bellamy found himself squinting into the glow of what appeared to be some kind of futuristic laptop with a handheld phone receiver, two antennae, and a double keyboard. His initial surge of relief turned quickly to confusion.
The screen bore the CIA logo and the text:
USER: INOUE SATO
SECURITY CLEARANCE: LEVEL 5
Beneath the laptops log-in window, a progress icon was spinning:
ONE MOMENT PLEASE . . .
DECRYPTING FILE . . .
Bellamys gaze shot back up to Sato, whose eyes were locked on his. I had not wanted to show you this, she said. But youve left me no choice.
The screen flickered again, and Bellamy glanced back down as the file opened, its contents filling the entire LCD.
For several moments, Bellamy stared at the screen, trying to make sense of what he was looking at. Gradually, as it began to dawn on him, he felt the blood draining from his face. He stared in horror, unable to look away. But this is . . . impossible! he exclaimed. How . . . could this be!
Satos face was grim. You tell me, Mr. Bellamy. You tell me.
As the Architect of the Capitol began to fully comprehend the ramifications of what he was seeing, he could feel his entire world teetering precariously on the brink of disaster.
My God . . . Ive made a terrible, terrible mistake!