Jay Duggan is a New Zealand eco-warrior who has been involved in campaigns in several continents – capturing evidence of the destruction of the famous forests around Kunar in Afghanistan, sabotaging a gold and copper mine polluting a sacred river on the Jayawijaya Ridge in Papua New Guinea, and leading a mission against a biotech facility in the heart of the Amazon, where thousands of square miles of rainforest were being destroyed to plant genetically modified soybeans.
There was a time when haunted eyes and bulging stomachs meant more to Jay Duggan. Yes people were starving. Dying. He’d been to the camps. Seen and heard, smelt things they’d never show on TV. Foot-long worms writhing from the mouths of stick figures. Hyenas gnawing at the limbs of living skeletons. Nurses sobbing under mosquito nets night after night. Jay was sick of the way the fly-infested faces were exploited. Tomorrow the cameras would be pointed at a new photo opportunity. It was all a game to them and he’d had a gutful.
Catherine (Cat) Tayler is director of science at the Los Angeles-based Millbrook Foundation, an NGO set up to counter the menace of genetic modification. The catalyst for her environmental activism was a school project on fish dying downstream from a chemical plant near her home in Utah. It led to a PhD in microbiology from the University of California.
‘That’s not the way they saw it in Melville. Factory had to close. Over a hundred folk lost their jobs. We were shunned. I mean completely shunned. Got really unpleasant. They boycotted Mom’s business. She had to close down. Then one night she just arrived home and announced she’d had enough and was leaving. Leaving town. Leaving Pop. Leaving me. Next day she was gone.’
Englishman Matthew Liddell is IT director at the Millbrook Foundation. He was headhunted for the role and enticed to Los Angeles soon after being listed as one of the ten most dangerous hackers in the world.
‘Several times,’ Matthew lied. He almost met the legendary hacker once. It was at a London 2700 meeting the day after Turtledove appeared on the international cyber crime wanted list. He’d been going to hacker meetings for over a year, but it was the first time he’d been invited to the secretive inner sanctum where the big boys played.
Bradley Kaufman is the security chief for Vestco, the multinational corporation behind the genetically modified Alo seed coating. He served in the Marines for several years, then with US Special Forces before joining Vestco, where he has developed a special interest in counter eco-terrorism.
The landscape architect who redesigned Pershing Square wanted people using the five-acre space to get the idea they were in a great bowl surrounded by buildings, yet out of sight of the traffic. The anonymity suited Kaufman as he casually dropped the screwed up newspaper into a trash can, slipped the wig and glasses into his briefcase and blended into the early morning current of pedestrians on Olive.
Chas Petersen, the Vice President of Vestco, is counting down to the biggest payout of his life. The sort of money never dreamed of during his career in politics. More than enough to fund a disappearance, a new identity, and in one dramatic sweep remove all the skeletons from the closet.
The now disgraced and former journalist was nobody. Latest in a growing list of people whose lives had been sacrificed during Petersen’s relentless climb to the top. Yet another person who, if they knew half the truth, would have reason to want him dead.
Detective Inspector Chris Hansen is a fast tracker in New Zealand’s Criminal Investigation Bureau, thanks to leadership roles in two recent high profile homicide inquiries. She joined the police after a double degree in law and international relations. She is known to her colleagues as Pahi, which means boss in Maori.
He’d visualized a hard-nosed chain-smoker with loose tie and shrinking hairline. Surprise number two was the color. Christine Hansen had brown skin like someone out of Honolulu, with eyes a shade or two darker and a ridiculous fish hook round her neck. Kaufman extended his arm. The handshake was solid, just like the woman giving it. Big lips parted in a forced smile.