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Ian Tee: secret agent

How might classic Bond stories be reinterpreted in the near future, with some modern cutting-edge technologies incorporated into old plots? Here's one possible outcome complete with a glossary of the tech featured...

"Don't bother being gentle Krabs," Drexham ordered as his henchman used a swab to scrape saliva and skin cells from the inside of British Secret Service agent Ian Tee's mouth, holding his jaw open with the other hand.

"Welcome back Commander Tee," said the voice of Drexham as he paced the floor. Tee heard the double doors into the room slide shut with a hiss. He was back in Drexham's control room, a matter of metres away from the businessman's latest venture: the Skyscraper 1 spaceship.

Tee tried to lift his right arm but it was held in place by plastic straps.

"You won't be going anywhere for a while," said Drexham conversationally. "We thought about tying you up but rope is so prone to human error. Cable ties are not only cheap, they are just so versatile."

Drexham sat in his chair as Tee looked around to see the gloating figure of Krabs to his side looking dutifully at his master in his almost luminous uniform. Tee wondered why they couldn't use something more subtle than brightly coloured one-piece suits with numbers stamped on the front and back - an RFID chip implanted behind the ear maybe.

But then he recalled how easy such things are to subvert. He had dug one out of the back of a heavy on his last mission to China. That and a severed index finger gave him ready access to Julius No's underground lair. Maybe, Tee thought, the henchmen could wear different moustaches instead to identify them.

As he struggled, Tee could feel the motion of his wristwatch against his sleeve and the cable tie. Krabs had clearly not bothered to remove it, perhaps thinking it was of no importance. Yet as he looked up he could see the silver cigarette lighter that Krabs must have removed from his jacket pocket lying on Drexham's ostentatious oak desk.

"Yes, we did find this little gadget," Drexham affirmed as he tracked Tee's gaze to the inoffensive object. He picked up the lighter and flicked the top open.

"This really is quite ingenious. I won't attempt to light it. I'm sure it's booby-trapped in some way. But Krabs worked it out with the help of a few X-rays. There's no lens as such and yet there are image sensors inside the nozzle. Isn't that right Krabs?"

"Yes dear leader," Krabs replied obediently. "The images seemed to be full of junk until I realised that the camera takes everything it can possibly see. Software can focus the image on any point in the room - it's the ultimate spy camera."

"A spy camera, eh Krabs?" There was a pause as Drexham stared at Tee's bruised and scratched face.

"I suppose you expect me to talk," said Tee flatly.

"On the contrary Mr 'I'm sorry' Commander Tee, I expect nothing from you. I already have everything I need," Drexham replied. He paused and smiled to himself. "Five hate you. They practically have to have Facebook pages while you Secret Service types run around believing nobody knows about you. Well, I know about you Tee. All about you and your ridiculous methods.

"You're stuck in the past protecting 'Queen and country' like some 21st Century Francis Walsingham. But he wasn't much of a spymaster – just very lucky. What did Walsingham's black magician John Dee pretend to do? Receive psychic messages about traitors? All along, he was looking up coded messages in an old text book. I guess any advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, eh, Commander Tee? Well, like the codes Dee was using, your ciphers are easy to crack. With a little help from your own kind.

"I, or at least Krabs, turned your own methods against'you. Money, bribery and blackmail are the hallmarks of the British secret services, aren't they? And we only needed a couple of those to obtain the chips needed to decipher your internal communications," Drexham boasted.

"All we had to do then was hook into your communications network. Of course, being the owner of the country's second-largest telecom network was a great help in that. Krabs simply had to override the software in our own switches to route the precious data your field operatives were sending in to us. I believe it's called a 'man-in-the-middle' attack. Isn't that right Krabs?"

Krabs nodded obediently.

"But you can't tap into the satellite systems," Tee asserted, hoping in his overconfidence Drexham might reveal a genuine chink in the Secret Service armour. Tee knew all about the missing chips - developed by Q Branch under the nickname Mincemeat 2.0.

"What makes you say that?"

"There was no one following my car. You were miles ahead on the road." Tee conjectured. "I'm curious to know how the aerial drone homed in on the Aston Martin."

"Why, we used your technology against you. Your taste in cars Commander Tee is an unfortunate giveaway, as is the British government's heavy investment in run-of-the-mill surveillancespeed cameras everywhere. Clearly your souped-up but rather flimsy vehicle is not registered to one Ian Tee. So it was not as simple as running your name through the Police computer. But Krabs was able to pick up your car's number plate and visual signature from your own careless surveillance of my Kensington flat."

"Visual signature?" Tee queried.

"Oh I'm sure you know all about this one, Commander Tee. The paint used on your car is surprisingly distinctive. A satellite in space can pick up its...what is it Krabs?'

"Hyperspectral signature, dear leader," Krabs replied snappily. Always eager to please. Like a puppy, Tee thought. "The satellite can see deep into the infrared and ultraviolet spectrum. It can reveal the paint and material composition of objects on the Earth's surface down to less than a metre.

"With confirmation from the United Kingdom government's own number plate recognition systems, we'probably had more information about your movements than 'M'. From there, it was simply a matter of launching the drone and letting it come and find you. I was a little surprised that the missile didn't blow the car to smithereens but the armour it used was surprisingly resilient."

Krabs was keen to interject. "I examined it. A remarkable honeycomb structure that absorbs energy extremely efficiently and even channels it around the vehicle even as it melts. I performed some checks. It seems it was developed to protect lightly armoured vehicles against IEDs."

Drexham was quick to see the opportunity. That was his hallmark, after all. "We will have to pay the servers of that military contractor a little visit, eh Krabs? Can't have too many advantages accruing to the other side."

Tee recalled the briefing notes he'd had to read a week ago about Drexham and the way in which he'd gone about a previous piece of industrial espionage.

"Will you hack in this time or just ask for the key, the way you did for the Skyscraper 1's nuclear-propulsion system?" Tee asked.

Drexham's eyes narrowed: "You know about that?"

"Well, you know what they say: careless talk costs lives," Tee retorted.

Drexham pondered and then realised how the information could have slipped out.

"Ah, the restaurant, of course. It was very loud in there. Wooden floor. Ceramic walls. Very echoey. I'm surprised that one of your eavesdropping devices could even pick up a quarter of the conversation'" Drexham thought to himself. Had he been betrayed by one of his own? He looked sharply at Krabs. "I think you need to have a quiet word with Holbein. Persuade him to come clean. For his own future. Brief though it now is."

Tee looked at Krabs as Drexham mentioned Holbein's name. The ruse seemed to work. Drexham saw the nervous glance and congratulated himself for working out how a key piece of information had slipped his grasp, while simultaneously cursing himself for failing to adequately vet the furtive financier.

Tee, however, knew the truth. Drexham could trust Holbein with his life. The Secret Service had not turned him. Instead, an operative armed with a telephoto lens, camera and computer had focused on Drexham and Holbein as they chatted over Oysters in Roast Plum Sauce, Melon Tenderloin and Tuna in Marscapone Foam washed down with a couple of glasses of Heineken Export, to Tee's digust, at the Plump Grouse. The lipreading software provided all the information required.

"I wonder how much you really know about my plan, Commander Tee. Let me save you the bother, I'll tell you. With the launch imminent and you strapped to that chair, it's hard to see you being any more bother."

"Here's a question: how do you get people to commit suicide?" Drexham asked, not bothering to wait for the answer that might spoil his eagerness to show off his cunning. "Why, offer them a dream, something other people can't have. Let them become members of a club that others have joined purely through exceptional talent and bravery. For money they'd otherwise waste on a holiday home in Bermuda I offer them a chance to touch the stars."

Drexham gestured to the model of the Skyscraper 1 space vehicle sitting on his desk. "With my package tour, and the help of an unadvertised additional payload, they get to become part of a star, albeit shortlived."

Tee was surprised at the lack of ambition in Drexham's plan. "All this effort to kill some bankers and businessmen? Is this about the rail franchise?"

"You don't fool me Tee. That is only part of the plan. It's where they die that's important. In a few short hours, Skyscraper 1 will rise from its launch site in Guyana. After doing almost a complete orbit of the Earth it will drift off course. It will plummet not into the North Atlantic Ocean where it might be rescued but aim directly for the City of London. It won't just kill the bankers onboard but will signal the start of the biggest financial shockwave the world has ever seen."

Drexham barely paused for breath. "While the world is watching the tragic conclusion of the first commercial manned spaceflight 'in a crater formerly known as the City of London' the computers in my network will trigger shockwaves around the world. Remember the New York stock exchange meltdown of 2010? That was just a few routers with a headache. This will attack one of the busiest nodes in the financial network. Couple that with automated trades that are calculated to maximise the disruption and the result will be stunning. Naturally, my investments are elsewhere right now. But, within a matter of hours, I will control large swathes of the Western economy."

"Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a speech to make," Drexham turned and barked an order. "Krabs, rev up the flier."

As he headed towards the door, a white object pulled into the air by four rotors rose from behind Krabs. It turned one way and the next as if it were looking for a target. Drexham suddenly stopped and turned.

"Oh, you'll be wondering why Krabs was so interested in your saliva. I need a scapegoat Commander Tee," Drexham explained. "I can't possibly be held responsible for this...this tragic act of sabotage. A disgruntled Secret Service agent striking against his homeland is entirely plausible. Once your body fluids in Krabs's hands have gone through his little chemistry set, we'll have enough DNA to provide a nice little trail for what's left of the British establishment to follow as they try to work out how things have gone wrong. I will, naturally, provide my full cooperation."

He turned back to the door again. "Let's go Krabs, I don't entirely trust the software in these things."

Sitting alone, Tee studied the smaller version of the drone that attacked his car only a couple of hours ago and thought of the Q Branch-supplied wristwatch as he worked his wrist to the corner of the metal chair's armrest. He had to be sure he could activate the trigger for the electromagnetic-pulse device the watch contained - in the hope that the shockwave would disable the drone's computer. He didn't want to use the device now - it was meant to halt the launch. But there was only one chance to escape the drone.

As the tracking laser from the drone crossed his face, Tee rocked his chair from side to side and launched his body and the chair towards the ground...

Further information

Hear Chris Edwards read this story at the end of episode 22 of the E&T podcast, which is a free download.

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