Can You See Me Now?
Chapters : 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7-25 Available On
PLEASE NOTE: This is a preview of this novel. It is available for purchase in its entirety via
Bob Jeffers leaned back in his comfortable desk chair and stretched.
eyes flitted from screen to screen as he
reviewed the sixteen oversized monitors arrayed in a semi-circle around
A desk resembling a
recording studio mixer took up the space in front of him, with
embedded in a curved structure.
without looking to find the coffee cup to his right.
was in its normal place, but was light enough
that he knew instantly it was empty. He
set the cup down as his eyes zeroed in on a blur of green on one
Casually, he reached forward
a mouse, clicking once on the blob of green that his experience told
Tapping a button and
turning two knobs caused the little green blob to swell on the screen,
could see the serrated leaves of cannabis sativa. His
eyes told him the plants were in rows,
which meant they were cultivated, rather than wild.
told him the plants were less
than a meter tall, and he changed his initial opinion, deciding these
were of the cannabis indica species.
Rather than leaning forward,
he twisted a dial and the image grew even
Yes, very dense, wide leaves,
probably from some variety grown from seeds brought back by veterans of
another button and typed a short message.
Clicking the mouse on a small
icon in the lower right corner of the
screen, he pinned the latitude and longitude of the marijuana growing operation to the message
the send button.
automatically returned to its former size.
seconds, he had noticed the anomaly, identified the issue, and sent it
appropriate agency, in this case, the DEA.
They now had all the
information necessary, including close-ups of the
plants, which would generate a search and seizure warrant, as well as
identification of every structure within ten miles of the site, and
of all the avenues of entry and egress.
Including game trails.
one government agency, but his output went to dozens of others.
had an ultra-secret clearance, which
sounded more impressive than it was. He
had no access to classified materials, unless you included visual
relating to every highly classified "industrial location" in the
In the entire world, for that
matter, though those other countries had no idea Bob could examine
facilities closely enough to read the headlines of the newspaper lying
hood of a car, while they perused the same words from only a foot away.
work was so secret, almost nobody knew that he did it.
wasn't married, and wasn't dating. Even if
he had been, he couldn't tell his spouse or girlfriend anything about
He had a cover story as a
analyst who did trouble shooting for government computer systems, but
never had to use it.
He worked seventy-two
hours on, and forty-eight off, in a rotating shift.
his seventy-two hour shift, he worked
eight hours on and eight hours off. In
that way, when his seventy-two hours were finished, he would have
from space at every visible spot on the Earth's surface, at all hours
day and night.
that he was
He wasn't. But
his eyes were.
controlled sixteen satellites, half of which were in geosynchronous
around the Earth, and the other half of which crisscrossed the globe in
that, over time, would cover every square inch of the planet.
was good at his job, which was spotting
irregularities made visible by the satellites.
In addition, if some federal
agency needed intelligence on a particular
spot, anywhere in the world, a request to him, with sufficient detail
in it as
to what was required, almost always generated a report that solved
He had even tracked a carload of
bank robbers/kidnappers for the FBI, watching the getaway vehicle in real
and pinpointing its location so the feds could raid the compound where
criminals were hiding. Such use of satellite time was rare, because it took a pretty important crime to be worth the expense, but it happened sometimes. In the case of the bank robbery, the hostages were two children taken from their mother in the bank, and the FBI knew how dangerous the robbers were because they had already killed three people during the commission of the crime.
though, Bob's life on the job was pretty boring. One
of the natural assets he brought to the
job was a photographic memory, and he could tell you, without looking
previous day's pictures, how many cars in a particular mall parking lot
been moved since the day before. As
such, his primary responsibility was to simply look at as many of the
possible during his shift, and then look at the same areas of interest
The differences could be
particular day, the marihuana field had been the only thing of interest
The National Hurricane Center
had asked for some shots from two of his birds, but that had been
taking only a minute or two.
In fact, he
had programmed the satellite to send the agency a new photograph every
minutes, which exceeded their request.
He knew they'd be happy,
It wasn't the first time they
had needed satellites other than those
under their own control.
was over, he retired to the living quarters on site.
would relax for eight hours, and then
start all over again, reviewing any particular areas of interest, and
processing new requests as they came in, based on their priority.
Jerry Springman, who was relieving him, and opened the fridge, peering
to see what leftovers there might be. He
preferred to heat something up, rather than actually cook.
had a new book to read, and would rather
do that than spend time at the stove. In
any case, reading usually put him to sleep.
later, he was dreaming.
Bob happened to be in a position to survey Wyoming was at 1315 the next afternoon.
of curiosity, he input the latitude and
longitude of the marijuana field he had seen the previous day.
popped up on the screen, still verdant and
Apparently the DEA hadn't
it a high priority.
again, and his sharp eyes caught blobs of color moving off to one side,
there was an old shack of some kind.
Toggling the camera, he moved
it and zoomed again.
There were three people on
Something looked wrong about
Two were standing side by
side, facing the
third, but it just didn't look natural.
He hit a button that began
recording what he was seeing.
again, and saw the forearm of the lone person, the one wearing a black
sticking out in front of the body.
Experience told him the elbow
was against that person's side.
He zoomed yet again, and saw
the black glint
of a handgun in the hand on the end of that forearm.
identified it was a gun, the business end spat yellow flames ... twice
then twice more.
He zoomed back out
The two who had been
standing side by side were down, lying with arms and legs akimbo.
witnessed a double homicide.
black hoody and instructed the computer to follow that signature.
his earpiece, he called the
switchboard and asked for 911 for Riverton, Wyoming, or the county that
serviced that location.
fifteen seconds, and heard a double ring that was picked up almost
what is your emergency?"
report a shooting.
Two people were shot,
actually, at a remote pot growing site ten miles southwest of Riverton
From there, the location is
1,235 meters south. It's on the upper bend of a logging road west of
this?" asked the disembodied voice.
question, looking at the feed, which was faithfully following black
The computer was smart enough
black hoody entered a vehicle, it self tagged the vehicle and followed
He zoomed, trying to gather
data on the
It was an SUV, but moving
it was, he couldn't tell what brand. It
was dark green, though, and it was driving east on the logging road.
came the 911 operator.
Bob watched the
vehicle as he spoke.
tell if the victims are dead, but the shooter is in a dark green SUV
eastbound on that logging road I told you about. By
my guess, he'll be in Arapahoe within ten
The driver is wearing a black
hoody. I don't know if anybody else is in the vehicle."
your name, sir?" asked the operator.
tell you that," said Bob.
don't bother trying to trace the number, because you can't.
trust me and get law enforcement after
You should probably get an
ambulance out to that pot field too, though I doubt those people are
"Where are you?" asked the 911 operator. "Who are you?"
wasting time," said Bob.
you really think finding out who I am is more important than catching a
or saving a couple of lives?"
checked the feed again.
perp is driving through Arapahoe now.
Not much there, is there? Looks
like he's going to keep going over to a road marked 138 on my screen.
can't tell if it's gravel or paved."
someone on the way, Sir.
Can I get your
may not," said Bob, patiently.
was used to this.
They never were. But
he only called if it was life or death,
so he tried to be patient.
can't spend much more time on this. I
have other things to do.
If you want to
hold the line open, I can check my screen and give you updates on where
to see what they were going to do. He'd
already spent almost ten minutes on this, and it wasn't on his list of
He swiveled his head and
checked the screens he'd been ignoring.
His last assignment had been
to check a particular building and document
what cars and trucks were parked outside it. He
had planned to use RL384, a vehicle in low synchronous orbit. That vehicle, though, was in a non-equatorial and non elliptical synchronous orbit, which meant it would appear to oscillate in a figure 8 pattern to an observer on the planet. It was already moving off the target area.
he cross haired the site from memory and hit the button that would take
He should be able to
blow that up and get the needed data. If not, he'd have to use a
bird. That would put him behind schedule.
A quick glance at his job
sheet showed he had no more specific tasks for
He touched his
earpiece again, taking it off hold.
there?" he asked.
really must know who you are, and how you know all this information,"
the obviously harried 911 operator.
All you have to know is how
catch the son of a bitch who's shooting people, and find their bodies.
put them on
hold again and checked the monitor that displayed Wyoming.
computer was still happily pinned on the
green SUV, but it wasn't moving any more.
It was sitting outside what
looked like a farm house, maybe. Bob
could still see the haze of dust left by
the vehicle's tires as it arrived.
Unconsicouly he reflected on
how it must not be a windy day,
He clicked on the house to
the latitude and longitude, and then noticed flashing lights off to the
He panned over and saw a
car turning off of 138 onto Little Wind River Bottom Road, headed for
scene. He touched the hold button again.
here." It was a different voice.
They'd probably called for a
That was the usual drill.
patch me through to your car that's approaching Arapahoe?
he checks the victims, I can tell him
how to get to where the shooter is. He's
no longer mobile.
He's in a farm house
not all that far away."
in a helicopter, Sir?" asked the operator, trying one more time.
need to land, Sir.
You're a material witness in
If you fail to cooperate you
can be arrested
and put in jail."
through to your man on the ground," said Bob, calmly.
I'm going to hang up, and
you can do this on your own."
moment, Sir," came the voice.
"I don't know how to do that,
but someone else here does."
to the perp's camera.
He saw someone
walking around outside.
He watched that
person go behind what looked like a shed.
He zoomed. It
was black hoody,
who had pushed the hood back, exposing blond hair.
was burying something.
When he was done, he scraped
his foot over
the site and took the shovel he'd been using around the shed.
put it inside, and then returned to the
is Sheriff Tom Rogers, Fremont County,
Wyoming? Who am I speaking to?"
me Frank," said Bob.
to snag yourself a murderer?"
know if I have a murderer to snag or not," said the voice.
in about sixty seconds.
You're coming up
on a faint road to your right.
and follow it for about a mile.
It will lead
you to a field of pot. You'll see a shack there. There
are two bodies lying on the ground in
front of that shack. I
both dead. They got double tapped."
hell are you, Frank?"
friend of law enforcement, Sheriff. I'll
hold until you're ready for me to tell you where the shooter is."
Sheriff Rogers didn't badger him about laws and jail time.
watched him park his car and approach the
He knelt, probably looking
pulse, and then went back to the car.
I find this son of a bitch, Frank?"
to 138 and turn right.
About four or
five miles down the road, there is what looks like a farmhouse on the
He ... or she ... was wearing
black hoody when the shooting took place.
That person has blond hair. Green
SUV parked outside, which was the getaway vehicle by the way.
be some tire track evidence you can use
there. A semi automatic pistol was used, and I suspect it's buried in a
grave behind the shed that goes with the farmhouse.”
one of them drone people, aren't you, Frank?
You work for the Air Force?"
tell you, Sheriff.
I'll stand by until
I'm sure you're not going to be killed yourself, okay?"
any rockets on that drone you're flyin', Frank?
Cause if you do, you can just
blow that farmhouse all to hell if you
process, sheriff," said Bob.
Ten minutes later Bob
the sheriff parked his car beside the green SUV. If
he knocked, it was on the way in. Within
a minute he was back outside with
black hoody, bending him over the hood of the squad car and putting
He got in the car again and
man, can you wait until my deputy gets here?
I don't want to leave the
suspect in the car alone while I go look for
and saw the tiny flashing red blip that represented the lights of the
He had just turned onto 138
was no more than ten minutes from the sheriff's position.
checked his job sheet again.
His next task involved taking
a specific area in Iran. He could program that while the deputy got
or ten away," said Bob.
have to program something, but I'll get back to you."
the other side of his desk and tapped keys.
He clicked his mouse on a
predetermined spot on a map of Iran, typed
some more, and then pushed the execute button.
He rolled back to check on
The deputy was just arriving.
shovel the perp used to bury it is in the shed.
No sense getting your hands
real hoot, Frank.
I'm gonna have to
leave the radio to go do this."
gone when you get back," said Bob.
"Tell you what, though, I'll
send you some pictures.
Might help with the
prosecution, assuming the
judge will allow photographs with no known source."
to shove," said Rogers, "We'll get the state patrol to take the same
ones from a chopper.
I appreciate it,
Hate to see a bad guy
get away with it."
he saw Rogers dig up the gun, snapped a shot of that, and then hung up
Nobody could trace his call. It
had been routed through over a thousand
He earmarked photos of the
marijuana field, the bodies lying on the ground, and the farmhouse,
two squad cars parked there.
send them the video of the murders themselves.
That could give away too much
He wasn't really supposed to
do this kind of
His job was to support
security, not local law enforcement. But
his work was so highly classified, that only his immediate supervisor
know what he'd done, and only then if he reviewed every minute of Bob's
... which he never did.
As long as he
got his work done, and people were happy with his video and
ever bothered him.
all the shots were scrubbed of the electronic signatures that would
them as having been taken by satellite.
It was child's play to find
Sheriff Rogers' email address.
He emailed the pictures,
routing them the
same way the phone call had been routed.
to make sure the shots of Iran were in the can.
was one of those days he dreaded. His
job sheet had only two things on it, neither of which would take longer
ten minutes apiece, even if he dragged them out. That
meant more than seven hours of just
looking at the world, trying to find something interesting or dangerous
natural that he took a look at Riverton, Wyoming. He
thought he'd look at the crime scene
again, as an exercise in trying to tell what the sheriff had done while
processing the scene.
it turned out, had been a busy man. The
marijuana was gone.
There were vehicle
The place looked like
a war had been fought there, and everybody got tired of fighting and
panning outward, not really looking for anything in particular, just
what kind of terrain Sheriff Rogers and his men had to deal with each
got bored, and decided to look at Pueblo, Colorado. He had spent a year of his life there, while his parents took care of his grandmother, who had dementia. She required twenty-four hour monitoring, and it took them an entire year to find a facility that could care for her and which they could afford. It happened to be his senior year in high school, and he had lived with his aunt and uncle in Pueblo because "Gran" was living in his room. His parents lived in Iowa, but he thought of the little two bedroom bungalow south of Pueblo on Doyle Road as "where he grew up". Such can be the importance of the things that happen to a boy in a given year of his life.
Over the years he'd seen the
changes in Pueblo, not by being there, but by looking down on it,
The construction was easy to
Brown scars on the green land
buildings going up.
His aunt had her garden
He zoomed in, trying to see
could tell what she'd planted.
tomatoes were grown enough to see well, though he thought he could see
of sweet corn.
He couldn't use the
really high resolution cameras without entering his special code.
would set things in motion he didn't
want set in motion.
Not about something
unofficial, like this, anyway.
out and scanned north towards Colorado Springs.
He aimed the camera west, to
take a look at NORAD. There wasn't much to
That was good, because that
on the part of DOD.
He looked at Pikes
Clouds were rushing up the
mountain and across a parking lot full of cars.
He followed the road down the
mountain, through each twist and turn, all
the way to Manitou Springs.
It brought back memories of being able to simply look up and be soaked in the majesty of the mountains.
to think of someplace else to look at when something caught his eye.
was just a spot of white, but it looked
out of place.
He centered the camera on
what was probably a hunting cabin, except it was too close to town.
white was something square, right in the
middle of the roof, on one sloped side.
and then leaned forward.
he stared at the screen.
upside down, but the computer could spin the view if he needed it to.
sat didn't move, but the image could be
He twisted a dial.
He took a picture of the
bed sheet that had been affixed to the roof of the cabin, with black
painted on it that said "HI NSA. CAN YOU SEE ME NOW?"
was written in two lines.
Whoever had thought of doing
this didn't know
much about the NSA's satellites. They
didn't need something as big as a bed sheet.
That was way
bigger than needed.
They could have done the same
thing on a sheet of poster board. Then
again, the sheet had caught
eye, and something as small as a sheet of poster board wouldn't draw
attention unless he was actually looking for it.
Curiously, he started
It was bigger than a
cabin, he decided, maybe a small house.
He zoomed back out. The
surrounded by trees.
There was another
building up the road, maybe half a mile. It looked like a house too.
Nothing on that roof. He
back to center the sign in the middle of the field of view, in
taking another picture.
This would be a
hoot at the Christmas party.
he got it
centered saw the spot of color in the back yard. It
wasn't a propane tank.
He could see one of those,
further out from
But it was light colored,
against the darkness of the green grass around the house. He zoomed in.
was a woman, lying out in the sun on a
chaise lounge in the backyard. It was the white of her skin he had
He increased the magnification for a closer look.
hair, and was wearing sunglasses. He
panned down her body.
had on a black bikini that complimented
her hour glass shape.
The sun glinted
off her sunglasses and he realized she'd moved her head.
giggled as he reacted to that, his
subconscious fearing she could see him spying on her.
might suspect there was a satellite up
there, but there was no way she could know he was actively looking at
Idly, he noticed the chaise
lounge she was
lying on was one of those old fashioned ones from the fifties and
of wide, interlocking strands of plastic strips that made the web upon
she was lounging.
Other than the sheet, there
nothing about the house that called for attention.
was a sedan parked in the
The grass had been mowed
He could see the marks the
tires had made, creating signature parallel lines across the dark green
panned in on
the girl again.
His imagination created
a scenario in which she had read an article about the NSA, or seen
TV about satellite surveillance, and thought she was clever by making
didn't think it would be seen, but she had just done it for fun.
zoomed one more step, and ran the view
down her body again.
She had to be cute,
with that shape.
Too bad she wasn't
his mind working.
He checked his job
Only one job left, and it
for an hour.
He looked back at the girl. She
was teasing him.
She might not know it, but
could it hurt if he teased her back?
Next Chapter >>