The transmission from Shadow Moses was still active. Liquid's dying scream tore through the speakers. "Looks like things are wrapping up nicely over there," Richard murmured. Richard cleared all of the personnel out of the study. We were now alone. I could hear Snake and Meryl over the wires. It seemed that he had succeeded in rescuing her in time. "Now the question is, what am I going to do with you?" Richard said as he turned away from the radio. The time had come for me to make my move; I walked up to my computer. "This machine has been recording every- thing that went on in this study and relaying it out to a remote location. Once there, the data was immediately backed up on an optical disc." It was no bluff. It was just a more covert version of a real-time remote conferencing system. Because of my work, I frequently must acquire information from such unsavory types as black-market arms dealers and Mafia members who specialize in plutonium smuggling.
The recordings were my standard insurance policy. "I've already sent a message to the collo- cation administrator. He'll give the disc to my media contact if he can't get in touch with me by a certain time." That had been the mail I'd secretly sent from my PDA earlier. "If anything happens to me, the contents of the disc will be all over the world." But Richard was unfazed. I started to feel apprehensive as he calmly lit another cigarette. "You mean this disc?" He took out a shining optical disc from his inside jacket pocket and slid it into my PC's drive. A few quick clicks of the mouse and the playback started. I stared at the slightly grainy footage, horrified. The audio seemed overly loud in the silent room. "You should be hearing from him soon. You're clear on how to use the radio?" Richard's voice was raspy in playback, but it was definitely the data I had secretly collected and sent out. "How...?" "You shouldn't underestimate me," Richard said as he ejected and pocketed the disc.
"Everything in this house has been vetted and monitored since the operation started. Nothing got in or out without my knowing about it -- including electronic signals. That e-mail you sent from the bathroom never got to its destination." He'd seen right through me. With that realization, I felt strength leaving my body. The game was up. "But even if you had managed to get this data out into the world, that wouldn't have guaranteed your safety. No one would have believed yet another conspiracy theory, least of all the press." "Your -- people would have made sure of that, I'm sure." Instead of answering, Richard stubbed out his cigarette and slid his right hand inside his jacket. There was an awkward bulge there, in the clean line of his tailored jacket. It was where he kept his gun holstered. Cold sweat trickled down my back. I was slowly backing away from Richard, and I did not even realize the fact until my back hit the wall. There was no way out.
"Are you really prepared to kill me?" I could not hide the tremor in my voice. "You should know the answer to that." He said quietly, looking me straight in the eye. Then he pulled his hand out from under his jacket, and I instinctively shut my eyes. But even after what felt like an eternity, the muffled shot and the pain I was expecting did not come. I warily opened my eyes, and saw what was in his hand. It was not a gun, but a disc. "Everything you ever wanted to know about FOXDIE." Richard walked up to me and placed the disc in my hand. "As I said, a recording of what took place in this room won't guarantee your safety. There's no solid proof, just talk. It can easily be denounced as a fabrication and covered up." "But the FOXDIE data is a different story," He continued. "This disc contains everything about that project, from its origins to the names of every individual involved. As long as you have this as an insurance, they won't be able to touch you." "Why, Richard?" He did not answer my question.
"You'd better get out of here quickly. Your car's just out back." "What about you?" "That's not something you need to worry about." "But -- " "You don't need me, Nastasha. And I have things to take care of." "Why are you doing this?" I asked again. "You'll figure it out someday. Do what you have to do, all right?" He suddenly held me close and put his lips on mine. As we broke apart after a long kiss, he whispered in my ear, "I wanted to do this again, just one last time." Then he gently eased me away. "Now go. Hurry." There was gravity in his voice that allowed only one response. I nodded, and sped out of the room. That was the last I ever saw of Richard Ames.