Step 2 - Bribery
I do not own Angel the Series. All rights reserved to Joss, et al.
Thanks to Starway Man, my betaExit Strategy
Chapter 2: Step 2 – BriberyWolfram and Hart, Los Angeles
4:01 pm, April 27th, 2007
Lindsey looked up from his computer, upon hearing the knock on the door of his brand-new corner office. It was a nervous, unsteady knock. Rolling his eyes, he told whoever it was to come in. As soon as he did so, Lindsey recognized the man – Walter Lendel, one of the people from the company's IT division.
“Uhm...I'm sorry to disturb you, sir, but there appears to be a...well, that is to say...we're being hacked, sir.” The man had a file folder in his hand, and held it out to Lindsey.
Lindsey gestured to the man to come closer. “Hacked? As in, right now?”
“And you're telling me, why?” Lindsey could think of half a dozen people whose attention this should have been brought to, apart from himself.
“Because the program was authorized using Holland Manners' identification key.” Walter said nervously. “It's a Special Projects issue.”Ah. Well, that explains that.
But then Lindsey considered the almost-trembling computer geek more carefully. “Holland's dead. And yet, you kept his ID code on active status?”
“It was an executive order from the CEO, sir, since Mr. Manners' perpetuity clause has him attached to the Los Angeles office. But the man's soul is on active service outside of this dimension. Has been, since his death. And while the connection is outside access...it's definitely from this dimension.” Well, duh. Not like there's a lot of extra-dimensional demons who would hack into our computer server. Then again...okay, that's something to raise at the next departmental meeting, since if I could think of it; no doubt eventually someone else will, too.
Lindsey took the file from the man and opened it. “Start from the top.”
“At 3:27 pm, an outside terminal – we're still trying to find out where – entered Mr. Manners' key-code and activated a hidden subroutine in the archiving system. Hundreds of files are being copied and sent to a remote outside terminal. We're trying, but we can't stop it!”
“What kind of files?”
“Safe-houses, shell corporations, account numbers, case files, client information - basically, the works.” Walter shifted around, palms sweaty. He knew that as one of the branch's division heads, a lot of the mud from this cluster-fuck would stick to him. “If this information got out...the firm could lose billions, and...” He paused a moment, biting his lip. “It could give every federal law enforcement agency in the country enough ammunition to come down on Wolfram & Hart like a ton of bricks. Not to mention a lot of state and local ones...”
“Even the IRS?” Lindsey raised an eyebrow, as he flipped over one of the pages in the folder.
the IRS, sir.”
“I suppose you've already tried to lock out the program?”
“Yes sir. No luck. It resists every tactic we've tried, like whoever designed the damned thing knew
that we would try that sort of counter-measure. And it's been in the system for over a year, so a system reset isn't going to get rid of it either. Ah...I suspect I know why it's resisting our efforts so well, and why we never noticed it before.” Walter rubbed his hands on his blue button-up shirt as he spoke.
“And why would that be?” Lindsey played with his pen, as he looked over at the IT man curiously.
“Because the person who designed it...I'm pretty sure it was David Cowan. I worked with him long enough to recognize his electronic fingerprints. He was one of our cybersecurity people, until about a year ago.”
Lindsey leaned forward. “And where is Mr. Cowan now?”
“It's hard to say. His employment with this branch of the firm was terminated. During his last performance evaluation, he was deemed untrustworthy and unreliable, and subsequently fired. No...no, I'm sorry, I misremembered - actually, he was set on
fire. But if you look at the final evaluation...Lilah Morgan oversaw the whole process.” Walter gestured to the folder. Lindsey turned to another page and saw Lilah's telltale signature at the bottom of a termination approval sheet. Involuntarily, he whistled.
“I have to give her credit. A good plan.”
“You've been ordered to find Lilah and eliminate the threat she poses with this information.” Walter said, as if waiting to be attacked. “You...you'll see the signed order on the next page...”
“Try not to live down to my every expectation, will you? If Lilah dies, all this goes public in a heartbeat! She'll have made sure of that much...no. It's not that simple. She's been working on her exit strategy for years probably, just in case. And I've got to hand it to her, this has style. We can't do anything to her yet. At least not directly.” Think. Think. You know Lilah as well as she knows you. What would she do? Where would she go?
Lindsey put the folder down, honestly stumped. “I have to admit, I have no clue where she's hiding out, since her apartment hasn't been visited since she left the building, and none of her known personal safe-houses have been touched. I don't suppose you
happen to know where she is right now?”
“Uh, no sir.” Walter said nervously.Typical.
Lindsey purposefully forced himself to stop thinking like a lawyer, and more like a cop. Or even a private detective. All right. What would Angel do in this situation? I mean, he's infiltrated the firm before, without setting off every alarm in the building. And how did he do that? Using the firm's human element. Using an insider, like he did with me way back when. So what's Lilah's human element? Her Achilles heel? Oh, yes, of course...
Lindsey smirked, staring at Lendel. “Did you know how the Soviet spy network managed to keep up with the Western agencies for all those decades, despite being completely outclassed in terms of technology? People
, Walter. It all comes down to who you know, not what you know. And fortunately, Lilah didn't hide everything perfectly...”
He entered some keys into his computer. “We can't get Lilah to turn herself in, and we can't kill her. She'll have prepared to unleash those files, before we could stop it by simply terminating her. But what we can do is play a trump card of our own...”
The formerly one handed lawyer picked up his office phone and dialed, one handed, then held the receiver up to his face. “Hauser? It's McDonald, Special Projects. Send a retrieval team to Covenant Providence Nursing Home, in San Fransisco. There's a certain invalid woman there, in Room 312. Transfer her to Fairfield Clinic's nursing home. Make sure she remains completely unharmed, and taken care of to the best of the clinic's ability. But maintain armed guards outside of the clinic and whatever room they put her in, until further notice.” Lindsey started to hang up the phone, then he brought it back up. “And make damn sure, no bodies to be buried later during the retrieval op. Or else you're the one who'll be held responsible for the mess. I want this one done quick, clean and quiet.” He dropped the phone back onto its cradle.Two can play at this game Lilah. And I can't wait to see the expression on your face, once you learn that I've gotten my hands on your mother...Apartment Complex, East Los Angeles
4:09 pm, April 27th, 2001
Pulling the last floppy disk from the computer, Lilah pulled the plug on the machine. Now it was time to cover her tracks, completely. There was still a chance they could trace the program – though not actually shutting it down should leave them chasing their tails, at least for a few more hours. With nowhere to receive the files, they'd bounce and end up all over the Wolfram and Hart mainframe.
But precautions always needed extra layers, and Lilah had those in spades. An axe made short work of the computer – modem, wires, hard drive, hardware, casing, everything. The IT geeks would have no idea when she'd stopped receiving the files, assuming Cowan had done his job right.I've banked a lot on that part of the plan. Sure, they'll have found out what's going on by now. But everything is too buried. They won't find Cowan's fingerprints or mine, until it's too late.
Ever since she'd started work at Wolfram and Hart – well, the real
Wolfram and Hart, rather than the one all the new initiates had to start in, which was the facade for public show – Lilah had been planning her exit strategy. Digging up dirt on the higher-ups had been an ongoing process, but that wasn't a major problem or obstacle. The real trick had been getting out of Los Angeles alive, and making it to safety. Every strategy she'd come up with had relied on unsure things, only possibilities, not certainties.
Lilah Morgan didn't do uncertainties. The arrival of Angel Investigations on the scene gave her exactly what she needed. If there was anyone who could get her out of the city under the firm's nose, it was happy-joy-joy crew on the other-side. All good guys and puppies.And now, I have something they want.Angel Investigations, Los Angeles
5:39 pm, April 27th, 2001
Lilah looked at the four do-gooders, setting her bag and her briefcase down. “What? No hello? No 'get outs'? Not even a token death threat, for old time's sake?”
Wesley was the first to react to her appearance. In one fluid motion his to-go carton was on the desk, and a pistol was out from under it, leveled at Lilah. With his free hand, the former Watcher gestured for Gunn and Cordelia to get out of the way, and they did so, a clear angle of fire forming.
Lilah rolled her eyes and put her hands in the air, at the level of her head. “And to think,” she quipped. “Six hours ago, I
was the one on the other end of the gun.”
Wesley ignored her. “Angel, check her for weapons.” The vampire approached her. “Arms outstretched to the side, Lilah.”
The female lawyer complied, looking at Angel with a smirk. “I bet you've just been waiting
for a chance to do this, right tiger?”
Ignoring the innuendo, Angel checked her, moving efficiently down from her arms to her waist to her legs, taking a gun out of her pantsuit jacket. With ease, Angel pulled the clip and tossed both parts of the gun onto the floor. “She's clean.”
“Ah, really? To think, you didn't even check my crotch to see if I've gotten anything hidden under there. Some Champion you
are. ” Lilah smirked, turning her attention to the boss of the outfit. “Still, satisfied? Really, Wesley, if I wanted you and everyone else here dead, I'd be a little bit more sophisticated than walking in with a gun. Give me some credit.”
“You work for Evil Incorporated, Lawyer-bitch.” Gunn retorted. “Don't think you qualify for gettin' any
credit. What do you want?”
“Well, you heard what I said in response to Cordelia's comment. It's a good thing I'm not Lindsey. Oh, can I lower my hands now?” Wesley didn't lower his weapon, but nodded assent, and Lilah dropped her arms. “Good. That was starting to get uncomfortable. And I need to get my comforts where I can, before finally ditching this damned city.”
“What? You seriously expect us to believe that you've seen the light, and you want our help to escape L.A?” Cordelia scoffed. “Do we look
like we ate our stupid flakes this morning?”
“Oh, please, Little Miss I-Got-Cursed-With-Killer-Headache-Visions. Do you really
want me to answer that question?” Lilah laughed at the infuriated look on Cordelia's face. “Anyway, seen the light? No. Need your help to escape Los Angeles? Yes.”
“If you haven't decided to leave Wolfram and Hart-” Wesley started to say.
“Oh, please, I've left Wolfram and Hart.” Lilah interrupted. “The firm decided they no longer needed my services, as of roughly eleven o'clock this morning. We've since parted ways.”
“People don't just leave Wolfram and Hart after they've been fired, Lilah. What's your angle?” Wes asked curiously.
“My angle is that I want to stay alive, Wyndam-Pryce. Lindsey was the one who got the promotion to Vice President of Special Projects, and I was slated to be sacked. Literally.”
“And how did you wriggle out of that?” Angel demanded.
“Easy, you undead moron! I had enough dirt on everyone else in that room for them to let me out walk out of the building alive and unharmed, afte
my contract with the Senior Partners was terminated and set on fire. By now, they'll have formally ordered Lindsey to track me down and kill me as his first big assignment in the new job. I'd like to be out of Lose Angeles, by the time he decides he has no choice but to get moving on that.”
“I vote we sending him a fancy greeting card and tell him she's here.” Cordelia supplied after a moment, raising her hand. “Who's with me?”
“This isn't a democracy, Cordelia.” Wesley replied. “Besides, we can hardly hand Lilah over to be murdered in cold blood, regardless of how much we don't like her. But I don't see why we have to help her, either.” Wes paused, looking at the brunette attorney carefully. “Still, you'd know that, so you'd have come here with something to trade for our help.” He cocked his head and raised an eyebrow. “What is it?”
“Better if I show you.” She picked up the briefcase and fiddled with the dials on the lock, opening it after a moment's work. The four members of Angel Investigations caught a glimpse of stacks of hundred-dollar bills, crisp, fresh and carefully ordered. Cordelia's vision went a little green for just a moment. Shopping spree!
went through her head, an involuntary reflex. Well, she had been the richest girl in Sunnydale once upon a time, so that was hardly surprising.
But the money wasn't the only thing in there. There was also a pile of floppy disks. Lilah took one out and closed the briefcase. “Files from the local branch of Wolfram and Hart. Safe-houses, account numbers, case files, client information – the workups on each and every one of you, and even your blonde Slayer's gang up in Sunnydale. Well, half of all that information, anyway. All of the files are incomplete, just in case. Once I'm out of Los Angeles, the other half of the files are yours.”
“And what are you planning to do with all that money?” Cordelia asked, raising her eyebrow. “Use it to fund your new life?”
“Girl's got to have something to survive on, when they're on the run from a pan-dimensional law firm with a global reach.”
“The offer is tempting, Lilah.” Wesley started to say. “But-”
“We don't trust you.” Angel finished, interrupting Wesley. He simply couldn't help it. “Who knows what's really on those files? That information could be completely useless, or even worse, some sort of entrapment.”
“Useless? Entrapment? Oh, puh-lease. That information in the right hands would see over half of Wolfram and Hart's staff in prison for a list of crimes bigger than your ego
, Angel! Bigger than your brood, even.”
Cordelia laughed at that, she simply couldn't help it. Lilah may have been an evil bitch, but at least the female attorney didn't flinch at calling them like she saw them. “Nothing's bigger than his brood, Lilah. He's been working on it for a century.” She ignored Angel's indignant 'Hey!'
“We're talking information on the pies that Wolfram and Hart has had its fingers in, all over the country. Think about what you could do with that kind of information.” Ms. Morgan looked at each of them in turn. “All right, fine. I knew you'd want proof, so here's a freebie...a down-payment, if you like.” She tossed the floppy disk disk in her hand to Angel, who deftly caught it. “This disk has all the information you'll need to bring down the LA branch's infant smuggling operation in this city.”
“Infant smuggling?” Gunn frowned. “You mean-”
“In some dimensions, human babies are considered a delicacy.” Wesley confirmed.
“Oh, please, it's not just that!” Lilah said, looking briefly disgusted before he face became an expressionless mask. “Surely you don't think that's all
they use the damn brats for, do you?”
“What are you talking about?” Angel demanded.
“And to think, I thought you actually had a brain.” Lilah sneered. “Hello, Los Angeles? Home of a thousand and one drug deals? You honestly thought Wolfram & Hart wouldn't see a way to enter into that sort of market?”
Cordelia suddenly had a horrified look on her face. “Are you telling me...?”
“They're called soul drops
.” Lilah said in distaste, as everyone stared at her in disbelief. “Made from the essence of the newborn, or in some cases, even using unborn
human children. Human souls, harvested into the most powerful and addictive drug imaginable. And not that I'm dumb enough to try them myself, but I've heard that the high you get from just one of the damned things...well, it has to be seen
to be believed. That's why they've been earning the firm a fortune from the rich and famous, over the last two financial quarters!”
Wes shook his head, staring at each of his colleagues. “I told
you we hadn't begun to plumb the depths of Wolfram and Hart's depravities.”
“Not even close.” Lilah agreed. “So. Do we have a deal? You get me out of the city safely, and the rest of the files are yours.”
“And where are the rest of those files?” Cordelia asked.
“Somewhere safe. Somewhere neither you people, nor Wolfram and Hart, will ever find them. So, are you going to help me, or am I going to have to give all this interesting
information to someone else?”
Wesley scowled, but both he – and everyone else - already knew what the decision would have to be.