Countdown to 9/11: A Cautionary Tale.

"Old sins have long shadows."

"Here is a church and here is a steeple. Open the doors and there are the people."

"War is horrible, but slavery is worse." (Winston S. Churchill).

"... And they said: 'Let us build a city, and a tower whose top may reach up to heaven. Let us make a name for ourselves lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.'" (Genesis XI).

Countdown to 9/11: A Cautionary Tale.

Part One.

Construction of the World Commerce Tower, Chicago, commenced on September 11th 1968 and was completed exactly ten years later. Designed by the eminent yet controversial French architect Pierre LeCheminant, and standing at 3500 feet, it was, until 1100hrs on Tuesday 11th September 2001, the world's tallest building. Home to no less than seven hundred financial institutions and forty international charities, the "Chicago Monolith" - as it was affectionately known - symbolised not only America's might outwith her military capacity but also, her altruism.

The World Commerce Tower was almost never built. An alternative project, involving plans to erect two skyscrapers in Manhattan, New York, nearly gained ascendency. However, The Big Apple's loss was Chicago's gain and the latter's citizens lost no opportunities in gloating over their rivals' commiserations!

The opening festivities, held on September 11th 1978, were both lavish and dignified. At the Tower Memorial Hall - built to honour the one hundred and fourteen construction workers who lost their lives - the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under its celebrated conductor, Sir Georg Solti, performed Verdi's Requiem plus a work commissioned for the occasion, "Monolith Music," by that doyen of British composers, Sir Harry Bloomfield.

Present at the concert were three people who had no cause for euphoria: Pierre LeCheminant, his chief construction engineering consultant Marcel Moyne, and Lionel P. Northwood, Chief Executive Officer of Redmonds, America's leading Private Investigations Agency.

Ever since the Tower's plans had left his desk, LeCheminant had been effectively ignored. With previous projects, he had taken full control and responsibility from conception to completion. An awesome reputation for perfection and zero tolerance of any opinions which did not find accord with his rigorous tenets defined LeCheminant's persona. Such qualities were not appreciated in Chicago, especially from a Frenchman!

Both he and Marcel Moyne were politely yet firmly told that America's top building contractors and civil engineers were in charge once the plans had been finalised and accepted. "Your job is done. Great stuff! It looks fantastic! Now, sit back, leave us to get on with the real graft - and relax!"

To LeCheminant, relaxation was an alien concept. Fortunately, other schemes prevented his anxiety-neurosis from becoming life-threatening - until June 1977. Then, having overseen the construction and completion of what was considered to be his design masterpiece, the Channel Bridge linking Calais with Dover, both he and Marcel Moyne flew to Chicago for a meeting with the Tower Construction Consortium Manager, Ross P. Winterton, at the latter's request.

Due to the enormous stresses Mother Nature would hurl at the World Commerce Tower, the first five hundred feet of the structure - protected to some extent from the elements by surrounding buildings of comparable height - were constructed from an incredibly tough carbon and glass-fibre compound. The latter component was imported from Kormistan, an independent communist republic situated between South-eastern Mongolia and Western Sinkaing-Uighur (autonomous region).

By far, the greatest part of Kormistan's population were Muslims, forbidden from practicing their religion under state law. To prevent civil unrest, all but the communist oligarchy were kept in penury and, to break the monotony, vicious pogroms would be regularly undertaken. Kormistan was one vast slave-labour camp where very few people reached the age of sixty. Apart from the export of glass-fibre rods, manufactured in the almost Auschwitz-like conditions of Taminkaz Industrial Complex, Kormistan typified a remote little country with even less significance in world politics. Visitors, apart from a handful of intrepid wilderness explorers with hard-sought visas, were not allowed and nobody, other than state officials, was permitted within ten miles of Taminkaz' perimeter.

At Pittsburgh, Kormistan's export and the carbon rods (from Newcastle Upon Tyne) were bonded with a resin to form a substance estimated to be at least five times stronger than the Wotan steel used in the construction of those Kriegsmarine monsters, the Bismarck and Tirpitz. To test the resilience of this material, a missile with sufficient power to level Congress House was fired at a fifty foot square slab with eight inches of thickness. The projectile penetrated to a depth of barely two inches: the impact crater measured four feet in diameter and, upon further examination, no cracks other than superficial fissuring along the crater rim could be found. Above all, the damage was easily repaired by a work-team despatched from Pittsburgh to the US Army Ordnance Testing Range at Fort Chinook, Montana. Upon completion, the experiment was repeated - with virtually identical results!

That experiment was conducted during mid-June 1968.

It was in the residents' dinner suite, Hotel Nexus, Chicago, where Messrs Winterton, Moyne and LeCheminant met, wined and dined - at the latter's expense for LeCheminant was no miser - on June 17th 1977. After an excellent meal, it was Ross Winterton who changed the conversation from superficialities to more grave matters.

Winterton: "Look, guys! I haven't called you back just because I like a free meal. I've been in the construction business for over forty years and I know when something aint as it should be. That carbo-glass stuff scares the shit out of me. Wanna know why? Simple. I'm an amateur musician with perfect pitch. A fifty feet by fifty feet slab, when struck with a metal hand-held hammer resonates to a specific note. When the first five hundred feet of the tower was up, each slab still emitted the same note. We broke the three thousand feet barrier a year ago. Still the same note. I did the same test last week. No note - just a dull, toneless thud. Look: I've done this test countless times over the last few years on most, if not all of these slabs. Same note, same timbre - until last week. Something's going badly wrong and I wanna find out why! I know it's a bit late in the day but, for f***'s sake, this ain't the Tower of Babel!"

Moyne: "Apart from us, who else knows of your fears?"

Winterton: "I've told my bosses. They think I'm a cent short of a dollar. Don't wanna know. Far as I'm aware, there's nobody else."

LeCheminant: "Your sanity is not in doubt, least as far as Marcel and I are concerned. Look here - can you get hold of two carbo-glass slabs, one about ten years old and the other made within the last three months?"

Winterton: "Yeah. Guess that should be okay. How long have I got?"

LeCheminant: "That depends on whether you can get the US Army to do a re-run of the tests they did nine years ago. The problem is that when I'd finished the plans, I was told to leave the rest to your so-called experts. Given that, why should the military cooperate? They don't owe me any favours. However, my country's weapons makers may show willing. After all, I did design their new factory complex at Lille. Possibly, a few strings could be pulled. Marcel, what do you think?"

Moyne: "If the US Army are asked, they may agree. That will certainly cause problems for Monsieur Winterton here. Let's do it at home. To me, it is clear that this carbo-glass compound is not retaining its stability and we need to find out how long the decay process will take. And, above all, we need to know why! When the answers are known, we will prepare our own report and send it to the Mayor's office in Chicago. It's then the city's responsibility. We will have done everything to alert the authorities of any possible dangers. Then, on their heads be it!"

LeCheminant: "How many other building projects are using what may be a grossly defective product? You know - so often, the architect gets blamed for disasters. It's the same old story: build it, decorate it, live and work in it, deface it - but NEVER design it! I've seen some of my colleagues - rivals, if you like - castigated, humiliated and even dragged through the courts when a structure has been jerry-built. That has never, and will never happen to me! "Marcel! Get in touch with General Villefort and follow up on your suggestion. Monsieur Winterton! I needed those slabs yesterday!"

Winterton: "You've got them! I don't like being treated like shit by my bosses who, let's face it, buddy, know f***-all! But, for my money, I bet the problem's with those glass-fibre rods. We make them here in the US of A, but it's cheaper to import them in bulk from that Asian hell-hole. When it comes to counting the bucks, quality goes out of the window."

Moyne: "I've heard strange, terrible stories about Kormistan. Do you remember that row concerning a book written by the explorer, Ryan Thomas Quest? Well, he was one of the privileged few to have been allowed in. Apparently, the scenery's magnificent. Anyway, Monsieur Quest was detained for trespassing. He was supposed to have strayed into a sort of exclusion zone surrounding this factory town ..."

Winterton: "That's where the glass-fibre rods are made?"

Moyne: "Yes. When the English poet William Blake wrote of "dark, satanic mills," he may well have had such a place in mind if it had existed then. But there are only unconfirmed rumours. Nobody is allowed within miles of this complex. Monsieur Quest ended up being deported and all his equipment confiscated. His book, "Bleak Journey," described his experiences in Kormistan. Their embassy objected, naturally, and invited a delegation of US officials to visit Taminkaz - that's the name of the industrial town, by the way. As you may recall, it never took place due to problems with their nuclear power plant."

Winterton: "How convenient! Look, buddy - I can see where this is going. I ain't stupid! These glass-fibre rods are manufactured by prisoners, slaves, call them what you will. My country, the so-called land of the brave and free, imports from this goddamned shit-hole to save a few dollars, and sod the locals. That stinks!"

LeCheminant: "My wife is Jewish and from Poland: a survivor of Maidanek and Ravensbruck. I do not need lessons in morality. Monsieur Winterton, I share your sentiments. My fear is that all this may be too late. We'll see. The slabs, if defective, could be replaced but it would take years and at an astronomic cost. "What I - we - will do is this. As soon as I get these plates, they will be shipped to France for thorough testing. Marcel, you were right. Pointless to do it here in America. Too many vested interests would ensure nothing but whitewash with a very slight hint of rouge. "Monsieur Winterton, I want to know what is going on at Taminkaz. I cannot speak for you, but ..."

Winterton: "Listen up, buddy! Yeah, the US of A has its faults but I can tell you, sir, that in my walk of life, I've met 'em all. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Niggers, Commies, the lot. And I love 'em! Dammit all, they're people. We have to share this small planet with all sorts, whether we like it or not. For my part, I try my best to get on with everybody. My brother-in-law is a Muslim. So what! He's a fine man with a gorgeous wife and kids. My neighbour is as black as the ace of spades. You should hear him play the saxophone. Bloody magnificent! Okay, we have a few bigots and nutters but, thank God, they're a minority and do not speak for the vast majority of decent American folk. "I also want to know what's happening in this Tami-Tami .."

Moyne: "Taminkaz."

Winterton: "Yeah, right! I ain't a commie but I am proud to have got where I've got by bloody hard graft. Labourers, navvies, coolies, call 'em what you will, they're the backbone of every country on this goddamned planet. Any regime that treats its work-force like shit wants removing - and if their henchmen suffer in the process, too f***ing bad! "I know of an outfit which may help us. Ever heard of Redmonds? Well, they're the US of A's biggest private investigation firm. They specialise in things like industrial espionage and company fraud. One major advantage over their competitors: they operate abroad."

LeCheminant: "Their name strikes a chord. Marcel, was it this Redmonds organisation which recovered those missing billions of francs, thus saving the Channel Bridge project?"

Moyne: "Yes, that's correct. Redmonds certainly prevented a scandal which could have caused both our President and Prime Minister to resign. Alas, the real villian was not so fortunate."

LeCheminant: "Monsieur Winterton, he is referring to our former Chief Finance Minister, Jeuxtemps, who is currently in prison and will remain there, unregrettably, for some time. "If Redmonds send in a team to Kormistan, how will the American authorities react? And Russia: they could present difficulties."

Moyne: "Kormistan gained its independence from the Soviet Union shortly after Stalin's death. I do not know details of the secession. It's a country which keeps a very low profile on the world stage."

Winterton: "It's been rumoured that Redmonds employ a lot of ex-CIA people. Word may get out. We've gotta be careful. That Quest fellow was lucky to leave with his balls intact, as far as I can tell. However, don't underestimate this firm. They've got a bloody good track record. Mind you, they don't come cheap!"

LeCheminant: "If Redmonds agree to investigate Taminkaz, it will have to be a product quality control issue. It would surely be in Kormistan's interests to learn of any defects with what happens to be their sole export. We are all aware of what may be gross maltreatment of the work-force but, if this enquiry is to go ahead, the matter of human rights abuses must not appear on the agenda."

On June 30th 1977, two carbo-glass slabs arrived at Brest, Brittany and were transported to the French Armed Services Ordnance Testing Depot, near Rennes. One was from a batch made in 1969, the other a mere three months old. Each piece measured fifty feet by fifty feet and was eight inches thick. They were, in turn, subjected to the full force of a new weapon currently undergoing trials, the Exocet SSM.

The three month old slab's impact crater measured six feet in diameter and the depth penetration was three inches. Only superficial fissuring along the crater rim could be detected.

The older piece sustained more extensive damage. The hole was approximately fifteen feet in diameter and a multitude of cracks, whilst not exceeding five inches in depth, radiated from the hole's edge to the very borders of the slab.

Afterwards, a three feet square cutting was removed from the more recent slab and taken to the ordnance factory at Lille for chemical analysis and experimentation, including computer-predicted component degradation timetables.

The report, compiled jointly by the staff at Rennes and Lille, was signed by General Villefort on November 5th 1977. Its verdict and recommendations made grim reading. Basically, the carbo-glass compound was deteriorating in strength, starting very slowly and then accelerating dramatically after approximately eight years. Tests revealed that the glass-fibre component contained small quantities of a sulphate which reacted with the resin, causing the slabs to become brittle. It was estimated that by the millennium, the carbo-glass material would be too unstable to support the weight of the tower's remaining three thousand feet.

It was recommended that only the purest glass-fibre be used. The rods imported from Kormistan were demonstrably unsatisfactory and this should be communicated to the factory managers of Taminkaz, as it was felt that the problem could be easily remedied. In the interim, since there were American manufacturers who would welcome major contracts from the Chicago Tower Construction Consortium, supply was a non-issue. Work on replacing the defective slabs, although onerous, was not insuperable and would take around four years. The inauguration should be delayed until Spring 1982 at the earliest.

A week later, the report landed on Buford B. Bulliman's desk. His wrath was predictable. "How dare the French tell ME, the Mayor of Chicago, what's good for MY city! That Pierre LeCheminant had been nothing but trouble and now he's overstepped the mark by going behind my back! I bet it's Ross bloody Winterton who put him up to this. Well, Ross - you're fired!"

He was. The Mayor's Office commissioned its own report into the World Commerce Tower's structural integrity. It was a smiling Buford Bulliman who, during his televised New Year's Day Address, 1978, announced that the building would be formally opened during September. Rumours concerning safety risks had been thoroughly investigated and were found to have been ill-informed scaremongering. The Tower represented an unequalled achievement: not even the Channel Bridge could rival such a triumph of design, engineering and ingenuity. Inauguration Day would be a Public Holiday not just in Chicago but throughout the USA.

General Villefort's report was filed away in the basement of Chicago City Hall, where it remained until mid-September 1998. Charges against Ross Winterton relating to the theft of two carbo-glass slabs were dropped on the undertaking that he, along with Pierre LeCheminant and Marcel Moyne, remained silent about what was, from the viewpoint of the city authorities, a regrettable episode which could have soured diplomatic relations between the USA and France.

LeCheminant and Moyne soon became involved in another grand project: the New Lyle Art Gallery and Concert Hall, Battersea, London. Before pen and ruler were brought into play, they sought - and obtained - a private interview with the Chief Executive Officer of Redmonds, Lionel P. Northwood. It was during the morning of Tower Inauguration Day, September 11th 1978, that the three met again ...

At the beginning of August 1977, three agents from Redmonds masquerading as quality control inspectors from Horndon Glass Fibre, Cleveland, Ohio, gained visas to meet the Controlling Committee of Taminkaz at Peshmira, capital of Kormistan. Horndon was one of many such dummy companies set up by the Agency, complete with all the requisite bona fides needed to withstand scrutiny.

The pretext was that, subsequent to satisfactory quality testing, a major order for glass-fibre rods would be placed. During the meeting, the Redmond/Horndon delegate broached the matter of going to Taminkaz, since it was customary for them to see any manufacturing processes involved. Very reluctantly, it was agreed that one of the trio could visit the complex under close supervision.

Agent Hennessey toured the vast nuclear power station, saw the monstrous furnace chimneys belching noxious grey clouds into already glowering skies, and soon became accustomed to the prevailing noise which even ear-defenders failed to mute adequately. Of the work-force, he saw very little, save on two occasions when distant, orderly squads of men were being frog-marched under the escort of uniformed staff carrying what appeared to be machine guns.

Although treated with courtesy, Hennessey realised that what he was being allowed to see was a mere facade which, as he discovered inadvertently, concealed Kormistan's evil heart.

After the second day of intensive discussions, he retired to his fifth floor apartment - part of a suite in the Administration Unit reserved for visiting state apparatchics - but, although tired, fell prey to insomnia. Around 0300 hrs, Hennessey, having given up any notion of sleeping, sat by the window overlooking a scene redolent of Alberich's Nibelheim. Due to the vast factory complex's lighting and its diffusion by a cloud-laden sky, an orange glow permeated the entire field of vision.

Roughly three hundred yards away was situated one of the furnace buildings with its double-door entrance clearly in view from Hennessey's apartment window. He saw a lorry halt alongside the edifice, its driver alighting, then proceeding to un-padlock and open the doors. Whilst this was happening, a gust of wind lifted one of the canvas flaps covering the vehicle's cargo. Hennessey caught a glimpse of neatly piled naked corpses. It was difficult to estimate the number but, as a rough guess, he put the figure at around thirty. The driver then re-entered the lorry and drove it through the entrance, leaving the doors open. Half an hour later, the vehicle returned, the doors were secured, and as the engine clatter receded, Hennessey felt an irresistible urge to vomit.

At 1000 hrs the same day, he had his final scheduled meeting with Aram Pazimsky, Chairman of the Controlling Committee. A request to visit the quarries, situated four miles from Taminkaz but within the perimeter fence, was turned down on grounds of safety. As Hennessey persisted, Pazimsky's calm exterior slowly peeled away.

Pazimsky: "Mr.Hennessey, I cannot possibly accede to your wish. Please forgive me, but you are being - how shall I say - rather unreasonable. My committee has to consider your safety and it has not escaped my notice that you are looking rather tired. Did you not sleep well last night?"

Hennessey: "Sir, I speak on behalf of my company. Horndon has a duty of care to its employees and expects similar standards from organisations with whom it does business. I fail to see why I am being 'unreasonable' as you have suggested. This is a factory town. Surely, there cannot be a shortage of hard hats and face-masks. After all, I'm not asking to take part in the actual quarrying and, presumably, I will be accompanied."

Pazimsky: "The quarries are governed by strict regulations in accordance with State legislation. Nobody, other than designated state personnel can visit them. I cannot make an exception in your case, even if I wanted to."

Hennessey: "My company's policy is equally strict. The health and safety of workers either employed directly by us, or sub-contracted, is not negotiable. I thought that had been made clear back in Peshmira. Your delegation seemed perfectly okay with that then. You were there when this issue was discussed. There was never any suggestion that I would not be allowed to meet the work-force. I'm sorry if I may seem annoyed but I, like you, cannot go against my company."

Pazimsky: "It seems as though we are at an empasse."

Hennessey: "Sir, we are talking about a major contract. If there is any doubt at home regarding treatment of your labourers, Horndon will not proceed. There will be no deal. Other US companies doing business with Kormistan may follow suit although I don't speak on their behalf."

Pazimsky: "Mr.Hennessey! We export all over the world. Our product was used to build your - and the world's - tallest structure. Nobody to whom we have exported has raised such trifles, until now. You are privileged to have been granted permission to visit Taminkaz. No other foreigners have been allowed here. Yet, for reasons I am beginning to suspect, this courtesy afforded to you is not enough."

Hennessey: "I take it, sir, that to see the quarries on behalf of Horndon is impossible?"

Pazimsky: "It is out of the question. It is clear to me that you seem more concerned about working conditions here in Taminkaz than securing exports for Horndon Glass Fibre. I am asking myself why that should be. Well, Mr. Hennessey?"

Hennessey: "Sir, I can only reiterate my company's policy on this matter. If you wish to contact Horndon's headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio, please go ahead. They will only confirm what I have told you. However, it's likely there will be no deal since I am unable to give them answers to questions about working conditions."

Pazimsky: "Very well. I do not think there will be any need to speak with your managers, other than to inform them that negotiations were not successful. A car will collect you for the return journey to Peshmira at twelve o'clock. Before you leave, I will ask: are you involved in any so-called 'human rights' organisations?"

Hennessey: "No, sir. I don't have the time. I've been with Horndon Glass Fibre for nearly ten years. It's a busy life."

Pazimsky: "And before that? Your deportment tells me that you are a former military man. Am I correct?"

Hennessey: "US Navy, sir. Many American companies recruit their so-called 'white collar' staff from the armed services. I am a typical example of that practice."

Pazimsky: "Horndon Glass Fibre is not the only American company in Cleveland with overseas interests, is it, Mr. Hennessey. You see, it's curious that until you and your two colleagues came to Kormistan, we had never heard of them. Yet, my country is the world's largest manufacturer and exporter of the glass-fibre rods. Therefore, we would know not just those companies to whom we provide, but also the others, if only by name. "I've never been to Cleveland but I understand that Redmonds has one of its offices in the city. Have you heard of them, Mr.Hennessey? No, of course you haven't! It is of no import, however. I will bid you farewell and a safe journey. Now, if you will excuse me, I have other matters to deal with."

It was a very worried Hennessey who left Taminkaz at 1210 hrs for the five hour journey back to Peshmira. His final encounter with Pazimaky left no doubt in his mind that the authorities were more than merely suspicious. Whether they would take action to prevent him and the other Redmond operatives from leaving the country preyed on Hennessey's mind. He could not be certain if the lorry driver had noticed him watching activities at the furnace building. Unlikely, perhaps: in that event, it was probable he would never have left Taminkaz. Hennessey's demise - an unfortunate accident whilst touring the complex - was a grim possibility had his observations been, in turn, detected.

The deal was off. Upon return to Peshmira, Hennessey, re-united with, and alongside his two colleagues, Smithers and Needham, was brought before the City Commissioner. Politely, they were informed that their presence was no longer desirable and they must leave Kormistan within twenty four hours or face charges of industrial espionage. The bemedalled, corpulent functionary concluded his statement with a chilling warning:

"Gentlemen, you abused our hospitality by claiming to represent an American company which, as far as my government has been able to determine, does not exist except on paper. You are lucky to be merely sent home. Others who have visited Kormistan under false pretences have been less fortunate. "Our penalty for those convicted of espionage is life imprisonment with hard labour. In this country, 'life' means life. Under those circumstances, your desire to meet the workers at Taminkaz would be fulfilled. Whether you find the experience pleasurable is, of course, another matter - one which, speaking personally, I would not care to dwell upon."

Hennessey, Smithers and Needham flew out from Peshmira Airport at 0930 hrs on August 8th 1977, bound for Karachi via Kabul. From there, they would journey to London, to board the plane for New York. However, their flight never reached Kabul. One of the passengers, an elderly man en route to Aden, experienced frequent episodes of projectile vomiting. Consequently, the aircraft made an emergency diversion to Peshawar, Pakistan, where the unfortunate could receive prompt medical attention, such facilities being deemed inadequate in Kabul.

Shortly after arrival at Peshawar, two airport officials boarded the plane and informed Smithers that a representative from Redmonds had arrived in Pakistan and requested an urgent meeting with the three agents. A car was waiting to take them to Rawalpindi and arrangements were in hand for revising the homeward journey, upon conclusion of business. A letter to this effect, bearing the personal signature of Lionel P. Northwood, Redmonds' Chief Executive Officer, quelled any suspicions.

It was a forgery. At gun-point, the three agents were bundled into a pantechnicon with an illuminated interior and mattresses covering the floor. They were each ordered to strip to their waists before receiving an intra-deltoid injection, expertly administered by a young woman of oriental appearance. Then, after re-dressing, the trio were told to lie down and make themselves comfortable with an ample supply of blankets and cushions. Ten minutes later, they were sound asleep ...

"Good morning, Mr.Needham. I trust you are none the worse for changes made to your journey. When the drug's effects have finally worn off, you will find facilities for washing, shaving and answering calls of nature in the adjoining room, plus fresh underwear and a dressing gown. Please be assured that your two colleagues are in good health and have access to similar services.

"No, you are not back in Kormistan. Their security apparat planted a bomb on your aircraft which would have detonated one hour before being due at Karachi. Fortunately, the flight ended at Peshawar. It was the old man who, after a miraculous recovery, alerted the airport authorities to the device. He was my key agent in Kormistan. Been there since Stalin's last years in power. Of course, he cannot return now. Not after this episode.

"I had no intentions of allowing you to become immersed in Pakistan's bureaucratic mire. Of course, they have to tread carefully - too carefully, in my view. Also, you would not have been safe from Kormistan's assassins. Now, you are my guests, not in my country but in a part of the world where your protection can be guaranteed. To all but my associates, you have disappeared without trace.

"I have to tell you that I dislike any country or organisation which does business with Kormistan. The USA is one of the worst offenders. In Chicago, part of their new tower was built using a product manufactured under appalling conditions and they couldn't care less - even when a certain Ross Winterton started raising doubts. You know the rest. I am a personal friend of Pierre LeCheminant and Marcel Moyne. So, I am aware of the purpose behind your trip."

Perim Mulok's Narrative, as related to Messrs Hennessey, Needham and Smithers, employees of Redmonds Private Investigations Agency, Cleveland and New York, USA.

"Now that we are all together, I will introduce myself: Perim Mulok. I was born in Peshmira, Kormistan and am a Muslim. Whilst a youth, the country was part of Soviet Russia, under Stalin. Far, far away from the political jungle of Moscow and Leningrad, we did not have too bad a life. Although Muslims were not allowed to worship in public, they were not persecuted. However, there were many of us. In the aftermath of The Great Patriotic War, Muslims from the more westerly provinces were relocated to Kormistan and its neighbours. It was a time of great upheaval and the NKVD troops certainly lived up to their reputation. Eventually, calm was restored and everybody made efforts to coexist. Provided we did not step over certain boundaries, there was no hassle. That was, until General Pauk arrived.

"It was rumoured that General Pauk, one of the heroes of Stalingrad, exercised some kind of blackmail against Khrushchev, who was, himself, during those terrible times, a Lieutenant-General. Of this I know nothing, but there was something between those two which may have explained why Khrushchev allowed Kormistan to break away from the USSR.

"Pauk arrived on February 27th 1953, exactly one week before Stalin's death was announced. Having recently retired from the Red Army, he was, as the saying goes, "put out to grass." Until 1956, Kormistani life carried on as before. Then came independence - and problems.

"Taminkaz! Of course, its very name struck fear into the population long before General Pauk took over. During the 1930s, it was part of Stalin's slave-labour empire and provided Russia with two-thirds of its glass. After the war, production increased, and what had been a mere collection of labour camps was transformed into a huge prison-town with an estimated population of fifteen thousand convicts and some three thousand staff. Under the terms agreed between Khrushchev and Pauk in 1956, Soviet Russia would continue to rely on Taminkaz for most of its glass. However, virtually the entire labour force along with all their warders, being under USSR jurisdiction, left Kormistan. The residue were a motley bunch of convicted burglars, murderers, rapists, black marketeers and those deemed to be "incurably violent."

"Pauk's solution to the labour shortfall was simple. Fearing an upsurge of Islamic fervour, he launched the first of many purges against a wholly innocent, law-abiding community - just because they happened to be Muslims who, in any case, could not openly practice their faith. It is estimated that during 1957 alone, twelve thousand people ended up in Taminkaz. The replacement workers, ripe for exploitation. The authorities did not have to advertise for guards: they were already waiting for the first intake of slaves!

"I and my family were lucky to have missed the first round of mass arrests. We did not wait for the second. It was fortunate that because of the long-standing ban on religious assembly, Pauk's henchmen could only surmise who was, or was not a Muslim. However, Kormistan had been, until incorporation into the USSR, a predominantly Islamic country and the new Independent Communist Republic felt it expedient to brand whoever it wished as a Muslim activist.

"We fled to Samarkand, Uzbek SSR in early October 1957, courtesy of an escape organisation set up after the first deportations to Taminkaz. However, we were left virtually penniless due to the hasty departure plus an exorbitant fee. The gang provided this lifeline as part of their smuggling and black market operations, and not out of sympathy for Kormistan's Muslims.

"Fortunately, my father was a civil engineer with an expertise in water supply and sewerage systems, and it was literally "cometh the moment, cometh the man!" Samarkand had been experiencing major problems with its water and drainage infrastructure - until my father started work for the city authorities.

"There were a number of emigrees from Kormistan who had set up an information network to monitor events in their former land. As it turned out, one of my father's friends was passing reports to the emigree committee from Peshmira, including concerns about atrocities in Taminkaz. He was the same person who fell ill on your flight!

"I followed in my father's footsteps and obtained degrees in civil engineering and electronics at Leningrad. That was in 1963 - the same year he died. Shortly after the funeral, I found myself sitting at his desk in the role of Chief Engineer, Samarkand City Water Department, with a workforce of over three thousand at my disposal. A year later, I married and my son, Zoltan, came into the world.

"In 1966, tragedy struck. A motoring accident on the outskirts of Samarkand killed both my mother and wife. I will dwell no further on that.

"By way of compensation, my spare time became devoted to Zoltan and working for the emigree network. In 1967, I was asked to lead the organisation and accepted with pleasure. It was at that time when news came of General Pauk's death.

"We all hoped that more liberal forces would take over, but expectations were dashed. Pauk's successor was his police chief, Vassily Zhulov. Clearly, a man who chose to model himself on the Nazi, Reinhard Heydrich! The pogroms continued unabated. Worse, Zhulov set out to eradicate the emigree network. Assassination squads were sent across the border and the body count started in earnest. The Uzbek authorities, traditionally tolerant towards its Muslims, warned Kormistan that any terrorists convicted of murder would be executed. Of course, Zhulov vehemently denied any state involvement and even offered to cooperate with Uzbek in foiling these racist thugs!

"Yet, the killings continued. My apartment in Samarkind was fire-bombed twice during February 1968. Fortunately, I and my son were away on both occasions. Realising that the third time may prove lucky for the terrorists, I made arrangements for Zoltan to stay with his mother's brother and sister-in-law on the outskirts of Moscow. There, he would be as safe as possible: Zoltan's uncle was a colonel in the Red Army's Parachute Division, with a fearsome reputation!

"Zhulov's downfall in 1970 came about, courtesy of a greedy American businessman. Kormistan is swimming in oil but, prior to 1967, nobody seemed to be interested. Then, sensing prospects of acquiring vast wealth for himself and his henchmen, Zhulov opened secret negotiations with a certain Paul Gordon Wells from Houston, Texas. The proposed deal was that Wells Petrochemical Corporation would provide the technical support to enable oil extraction. Kormistan would provide the labour force - at minimum cost. I think we all know what that meant!

"The Kremlin found out and went beserk! Kormistan's independence was conditional upon respect for the security of Russia's western border provinces. In the event of any threat to the region, Kormistan was - and still is - obliged to give material and personnel assistance to the USSR, according to the latter's requirements. The presence of American 'plunderers' was not only unacceptable but also in clear breach of the 1956 agreement signed by Khrushchev and Pauk.

"Zhulov was summoned to Moscow. He never came back. Wells and his associates returned to America with their tails between their legs. The matter of oil faded into the background - albeit temporarily. A furious Brezhnev demanded a complete change of leadership in Kormistan and, as a consequence, Tikon Kamev became the country's third leader and its first 'officially designated' President - as decreed by Moscow!

"It was I who alerted the Soviet authorities to what was going on behind closed doors between Zhulov and Paul Wells, based on information received via the network. Had this deal gone ahead, it could have forced a showdown between Moscow and Washington, with adverse consequences for future trading relationships between Kormistan and the USA. My main concern was that the quest for oil would, in the long term, be disastrous for everybody.

"Under Kamev, the murder squads withdrew from Uzbek and we all sighed with relief. Life slowly returned to normal. The new regime in Kormistan was, for the first two years, under the Kremlin's thumb and, in return for compliance, investment came flooding in. Taminkaz' capacity expanded and production of glass-fibre rods commenced. The ongoing problems with labour supply did not lessen and so the repression continued, albeit more discreetly than under Pauk and Zhulov.

"There is no doubt, at least in my mind that the abortive Zhulov / Wells cash for oil deal scared Brezhnev. He is no fool! The last thing Russia needs is corporate USA riding on the back of an Islamic renaissance, with oil as the real agenda. Don't forget that if Hitler had stuck to the original objective of 'Operation Blue' in 1942 and occupied Caucasia, Russia's oil supply would have been effectively cut off. The Great Patriotic War still colours Soviet foreign policy - which is not always appreciated by the NATO alliance.

"Kormistan exports large quantities of glass-fibre rods to the USA. Although I deplore this, it provides another conduit for the KGB to monitor American business activities. Then you came along. Kormistan is fearful of losing a major customer. If the USA authorities impose an import ban, you can count on revenge from two fronts - not to mention what will happen to those unfortunates in Taminkaz! To be blunt, your enemies now include certain American companies. I don't need to tell you what their top executives are capable of doing.

"By now, the Kremlin will have learned of this escapade. They are not going to wait whilst America and Kormistan decide their next moves. They see this as nothing less than a threat to the region's stability. Brezhnev worships stability. He isn't interested in 'world revolution.' Stability, that's all! And now, it looks as though the USA, driven by its commercial interests, is about to embark on a new adventure, lured by the prospects of oil. Brezhnev will not allow that to happen!

"You are staying at my country retreat some fifteen kilometres from Bukhara, Uzbek. If you leave, I would give each of you a life expectancy of forty-eight hours - at the most! By now, I hope you realise what a mess you've created. Pierre LeCheminant and Marcel Moyne are men of the utmost integrity - and, of course, Ross Winterton. However, it was foolish of them, if well intentioned, to have enlisted the services of Redmonds, good as they are. As far as the USA is concerned, you are burnt! Personae non gratae!

"My brother-in-law may be able to help you. He is now General Officer in Command, Seventh Parachute Division, Red Army, based at Rokossovsky Garrison, Moscow. Obviously, he cannot compromise his position but he has certain connections with the GRU. I'm sure that their counterparts in The Pentagon would be interested to learn about just how unscrupulous some American corporations can be on matters of public safety. After all, it's not just your country which has used these glass-fibre rods in building projects! I can promise nothing, but it's worth a try."

Indeed, General Viktor Polnikova received an urgent communication from Uzbek but not via his brother-in-law. At around 3 am on October 2nd 1977, a series of massive explosions demolished Perim Mulok's country house and out-buildings. There were no survivors. Dental records were only able to establish the identities of Mulok and his household staff. Such was the scene of destruction that the forensic authorities were presented with a nigh impossible task. It was not until eight days later when General Polnikova and his ward, Zoltan Mulok, arrived in Bukhara.

The police investigation concentrated on Perim Mulok's links, via the emigree network, with Kormistan. If the authorities in Peshmira had been behind the bombing, it would have been the first incident of that kind since 1970. A personal letter from President Kamev not only denied any state involvement but also offered to help with the enquiry.

Unfortunately, Kamev received two visitors from Moscow on October 13th 1977. The KGB had been monitoring the activities of American companies and wanted to know why three agents from Redmonds had been so interested in Taminkaz. When he denied any knowledge of this, the matter of August 8th and a bomb aboard an aircraft carrying Messrs Hennessey, Needham and Smithers was raised. Again, an emphatic denial. The KGB men left on the following day. Exactly one week later, Soviet tanks rumbled into Peshmira. Kormistan's independence had run its course.

The salvos heralding Part Two of "The Great Game" had just been fired!

Conditions at Taminkaz improved dramatically. The entire management and security corps were tried before a military tribunal, resulting in eleven death sentences. Apart from seven acquittals, the remainder received lengthy prison terms. However, the issue of quality control was not addressed.

The United Nations Security Council met in closed session on October 29th 1977 to discuss the situation in former Kormistan. The USA found it rather hypocritical of Russia to suddenly concern itself with human rights abuses in what was to all intents and purposes, a former outpost, whilst throughout the Warsaw Pact, their record was so lamentable! However, in defence of the re-occupation, Ambassador Svetlanov mentioned Kormistan's murder of three Redmonds operatives, whose crime had not been espionage but to expose the horror of Taminkaz - whose product the USA had been more than happy to import. The estimated death toll from 1957 to the end of September 1977 was in excess of ninety thousand! Svetlanov concluded thus:

"We view with increasing concern the efforts of certain USA industrial companies to interfere with the status quo in our eastern satellites. Are they acting on their own initiative or are they being manipulated by Washington? We will never know the full story behind the tragic deaths of Hennessey, Needham and Smithers. Do I detect some relief that their demise has saved America some considerable embarrassment? The word 'expedient' comes to my mind.

"Moscow does not seek a confrontation with Washington. However, I am instructed to inform the Council that Comrade General Secretary Brezhnev is deeply worried about the recent turn of events and will tolerate no further interference in what is an internal matter for the Soviet Union. The situation in Kormistan is normalising after a period of corruption, gross mismanagement and a callous disregard for its people. Let us all be thankful for that!"

No resolution condemning the USSR's re-occupation of Kormistan was adopted.

The real culprits behind the bomb outrage - as subsequently revealed at the end of an exaustive KGB investigation - were foreign mercenaries operating on behalf of Wells Petrochemical Corporation, although there was no conclusive proof. Aram Pazimsky, former Chairman of Taminkaz' Controlling Committee revealed, under interrogation, that he had disclosed the names of the three Redmonds agents to an Iraqi oil company executive. The latter was, at the time, involved in business discussions with Kormistan's Minister of Power, and had requested information on their activities.

The KGB were curious. The Kormistani authorities' attempt to assassinate Hennessey, Needham and Smithers had failed. Glass-fibre rods were not being exported to Iraq, so how did that country, awash with oil, fit into the equation? It was clearly not an issue of glass for oil. Above all, what was the connection between Iraqi oil interests and three operatives from Redmonds?

It transpired that since the oil for cash deal, abandoned in 1970, Wells had, via a massive money laundering operation, established control of a major oil extraction company in Iraq. The plan was to re-open negotiations without any suspicions of corporate USA involvement.

However, if Redmonds went public with any reports of human rights abuses and defective merchandise, the repercussions would be enormous. Cessation of exports from Taminkaz to the USA would alarm Moscow's spy-masters. It would not take long for the KGB to expose Wells Petrochemical Corporation's scam and, in that event, any denial of involvement from Washington would be contemptuously dismissed. Therefore, Hennessey, Needham and Smithers had to be located and eliminated quickly!

But now, it was too late. Kormistan had been restored to the USSR, due in part to Wells' villainy. As far as the Kremlin was concerned, the quest to prevent what they saw as American imperialism by proxy had just begun.

Redmonds Private Investigations Agency was shaken to its core by the deaths of Hennessey, Needham and Smithers. No sympathy came from Washington. The firm's licence to operate abroad was revoked for an indefinite period. Lionel P. Northwood, the Chief Executive Officer, was summoned to appear before a Congressional Sub-Committee to account for the circumstances which resulted in such a tragedy. Although no sanctions, other than the aforementioned, were imposed, Redmonds' reputation had taken a battering.

It was not until September 8th 1978 that Northwood learned of the truth behind the deaths of his three operatives during a visit to his house by a certain Wolfgang Klein. The latter owned an antiquarian bookshop in Cleveland and was, ostensibly, calling to value some rare tomes.

Northwood relayed the information to Pierre LeCheminant and Marcel Moyne on the morning of the Chicago Tower's Inauguration Day - September 11th 1978. After the evening's Tower Memorial Hall concert, the three never met again. LeCheminant and Moyne returned to France on the following day and immersed themselves in the London New Lyle Gallery and Concert Hall project. Their last trip to the USA had run its course.

In Uzbek, General Polnikova, in the presence of a senior KGB officer, told Zoltan Mulok about the circumstances surrounding his father's death. Already distraught and inconsolable, Zoltan succumbed to acute depression. After two years of unsuccessful treatment, he was sent to a private clinic in Kabul, Afghanistan, which specialised in affective disorders.

It was on 30th May 1983 when Zoltan Mulok, accompanied by General Polnikova, boarded a plane to take them from Kabul to Moscow. The former's mental health had been described by the clinic's director, Professor Rabad, as stable yet liable to relapse if placed in a situation which, by association of ideas, could lead him to dwell morbidly on the nature of his father's demise, with suicide being a major risk. Zoltan's condition would require regular monitoring in a stress-free environment and it was deemed that despite the clinic's therapeutic atmosphere, Moscow would be safer than Kabul. After all, there was a war on!

The aircraft, bound for Tashkent on the first stage of its journey, never left Afghanistan. A fault forced an emergency landing at Faizabad - which, unbeknown to the aircrew, had just fallen to Mujahideen rebels. With them were two CIA operatives.

Excepting Zoltan, everyone on the plane was wearing military uniform. The CIA men had evidently been expecting him and, at gunpoint, led him away to a jeep, leaving the other passengers lined up in front of a trench. Ten seconds after departure for the town of Faizabad, sounds of automatic fire were heard.

It soon became plain that the CIA mission had been a disaster. The object was to abduct both Zoltan and his uncle but, to the Muhjahideen, General Polnikova and his entourage were nothing less than war criminals and liable to summary execution. There was to be no compromise with those who violated Afghanistan's sacred soil. Realising that the General was irrevocably doomed, as a last resort, Field Agents Levenson and Marvin informed the rebels' commander that Zoltan was a CIA operative whose death would cause utmost displeasure in Washington. The ruse worked.

The CIA was well aware of Wells Petrochemical Corporation's attempts to exploit Kormistan's oilfields and how these contributed to the USSR's re-occupation, and subsequent events. It was also fearful that Zoltan Mulok knew of the circumstances behind his father's and the three Redmonds investigators' murders. The prediction was that Soviet Russia would eventually withdraw from Afghanistan and Kormistan, to be replaced by Islamic regimes. Would these be pro or anti USA? Would American oil companies be able to do business with them? The present policy of arming and supporting what were hoped to be Afghanistan's and Kormistan's future governments guaranteed nothing. By interviewing Zoltan, the CIA hoped to gain some clarification. As a bonus, General Polnikova would provide valuable insights into Soviet Russia's long-term strategy.

Unfortunately, the CIA was unaware of Zoltan's precarious mental health prior to his abduction. During the interviews, it became clear to Levenson and Marvin that he was only too aware of the underlying agenda - America's quest for oil and global dominance. Zoltan, his anger barely controllable and speaking only in riddles, displayed utter contempt for representatives of a so-called democracy which appeared to sanction corporate greed - as demonstrated by Wells Petrochemical Corporation - and condone the murder of its citizens whose presence threatened to expose state-condoned corruption. Although Zoltan had never met Hennessey, Needham and Smithers, he mourned their untimely demise and would never forgive those responsible.

On June 4th 1983, Zoltan was handed over to a field officer of the Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence Afghan Bureau and flown to Karachi via Lahore. Shortly after arrival, he collapsed whilst being escorted through customs and was rushed to hospital. Upon regaining consciousness, Zoltan had no recollection of who and where he was. The absence of any documentation was, as far as he was concerned, an irrelevance. Diagnosis: Total Amnesia. Prognosis: Indeterminate.

One of the hospital doctors, a certain Aram Horus, felt a great deal of sympathy for this evidently broken young man, whose only spoken words were "sis" (or was it "sismal?") and "emen." After lengthy discussions with the hospital authorities, Zoltan was flown to a private sanatorium in the Gulf state of Kuhrain. The medical director of this establishment was one of the world authorities on amnesia and its treatment, Dr. Perim Horus, whose son, Aram, worked in Karachi.

Interlude One: Zoltan's Curse.

As told to Field Agent Lance B. Marvin of Special Actions Unit 16B, Mujahideen Liason Directorate, CIA, on June 3rd 1983 at 1015 hrs. Location: Faizabad, Northern Afghanistan.

"You slaughtered my father, who saved the lives of ...
Your countrymen, also to embrace ...
Your gift of death.
You may feel ...
Your mission was ...
Your duty to a nation perverted by those who ...
You extol, yet never question.
Your victims acted to honour the sanctity of ...
Your motherland.
You rewarded them with death.
Your treachery was a mere prelude to ...
Your agonising, protracted downfall.
You, who are amoral, vaunt ...
Your invincible empire:
Your Valhalla.
You are seduced by black gold and lured by ...
Your glorification:
Your delusion.
You will, forever, be slaves to ...
Your greed:
Your insecurity.
You, who are almighty, feel safe in ...
Your ivory towers:
Your prisons.
You have sown the seeds of ...
Your ruin:
Be frightened.
Your monolith to Mammon:
Your obelisk to Oblivion."

Interlude Two: 11th September 1998 and its consequences.

At around 0330 hrs on 11th September 1998, two employees of Kandymann Food Research Institute were brawling in the gentlemen's (sic) toilet area of "Cakewalk Dance Hall" - part of the Kandy Kitchen Staff Leisure Residency, Las Vegas. Despite its genteel name, this complex had a reputation for fornication, intoxication and aggravation which achieved a certain cult status amongst the city's debauched cognoscenti.

Both were experts in the art of Shotokan Karate, but the rigorous code of conduct expected from exponents who had achieved 5th Dan was not in evidence. Fuelled by alcohol and lust for the same woman, Messrs Armitage and Shanks were in the process of demolishing the ornate, yet tacky, fittings whilst parrying each other's moves.

Shanks, by far the taller, launched a left round-house kick, followed by a right elbow jab and then a blow from his left fist. These, executed in a mere three seconds, would have either killed or seriously maimed Armitage. Instead, they landed on two adjoining ceramic tiles situated between the urinal and a narrow opaque glass window.

Both men abruptly ceased combat and looked aghast as a grey powder poured from the fissure created. Then, after six seconds, the wall collapsed in clouds of acrid dust and rubble, leaving a shattered white ceramic statue. There would be no further communications with the almighty on this china telephone.

Within twenty minutes, the Cakewalk was evacuated and placed out of bounds to all personnel, pending further investigations. It did not take long for the Las Vegas authorities to conclude that the carbo-glass slabs used in constructing the dance hall back in 1967 had decayed to such an extent that had the fracas between Armitage and Shanks not occurred, an incident involving far less kinetic force would have produced comparable damage.

The insurance assessors' report, published one week after the incident, had repercussions which were felt throughout America's construction sector. Although there had been no imports from Kormistan since 1992 following the Islamic Revolutionary Assembly's seizure of power, existing stockpiles of glass-fibre rods were still being used in some building projects.

At an emergency meeting of the USA's insurance companies on 21st/22nd September 1998, it was announced that in order for damage cover to continue, two conditions would apply forthwith. Firstly, remedial construction would commence on all affected buildings to replace the defective carbo-glass slabs and, secondly, the residual stock of glass-fibre rods from Kormistan was to be destroyed. The disinterring of General Villefort's 1977 report from Chicago City Hall's basement had been a key factor, accompanied by formal castigation of ex-Mayor Buford B. Bulliman.

The major building complexes constructed, in part, with materials containing glass-fibre from Taminkaz, Kormistan, were:-

(1). The Kandy Kitchen. Administrative Centre and Staff Leisure Residency for Kandymann Food Research Institute, Las Vegas, Nevada.

(2). The Donovan Institute. New annexe to CIA Headquarters, Langley, Virginia. Home to the Gulf States / SW Asia Department and Centre for Islamic Studies.

(3). The Wells Citadel. Administrative Centre of Wells Petrochemical Corporation, Houston, Texas.

(4). The Boston Tower. Headquarters of Globecom.

(5). MMC House. Headquarters of Mercury Media Corporation, Philadelphia.

(6). The Vader Centre. Research and Planning Division, Strategic Defence Initiative Programme, The Pentagon, Washington DC.

(7). Closet Cloisters. Sanctum and Centre for Spiritual Renewal. Headquarters of the Christian cult "Guardians of the Holy Closet," Austin, Texas.

and ...

(8). The World Commerce Tower, Chicago.

The main problem lay with the world's tallest structure. Pierre LeCheminant and Marcel Moyne had died in 1987 and 1991 respectively, with no inheritors of their design and engineering legacies in tow.

Enter Sisemen...

Enter Sisemen, a multi-national construction firm with its headquarters in Milan, Italy. Formerly a major operator in European building projects under its original name of Bruccini, the company was purchased in 1993 by Prince Sismal Emen Kuhra, a member of Kuhrain's ruling dynasty. (Despite being the second smallest Gulf state, Kuhrain was, by far, the wealthiest).

Very little was known of the reclusive Prince. He never appeared in public and always conducted his business and affairs of state through emissaries. It had been rumoured that Prince Sismal Emen was not a blood relative of the Kuhra household but had been adopted during the mid-1980s under tragic circumstances. However, his business acumen and entrepreneurial skills were not in doubt. By 1997, Sisemen's construction empire stretched from China to South America. Add to that Kuhrain's oil revenue and the combination made Prince Sismal Emen one of the world's five richest men.

Politically, Kuhrain maintained a strict neutrality which was tested during Operation "Desert Storm" in 1990/91. Both Coalition and Iraqi forces were denied use of any land, sea or air-space under Kuhraini jurisdiction. In return, all Iraqi assets were frozen until Kuwait was liberated. Prince Sismal Emen's contempt for Saddam Hussein and his thugs was common knowledge not only throughout the Islamic community but also to the CIA, MI6, the Deuxieme Bureau and Mossad.

Consequently when Sisemen was awarded the contract for remedial work as stipulated by America's buildings insurers, following their September 1998 meeting, no objections from Washington DC were forthcoming.

The massive task of reconstructing the first five hundred feet of Chicago's World Commerce Tower commenced in early November 1998. All the building's occupants were evacuated and relocated in especially designated temporary offices and residences within Chicago.

An elaborate exoskeleton of scaffolding surrounded by gargantuan cranes provided the stage for a soundscape which eclipsed Alexander Mosolov's "The Foundry" in terms of cacophony and duration. Replacing each faulty carbo-glass slab with one of identical formula - this time, manufactured to the most rigorous standards possible - was a painstaking, onerous undertaking which took nearly two years to complete.

Upon completion of the structural repairs, it was decided to replace the power systems, housed in this section of the Tower, with new, "state of the art" equipment. Four generators, designed by Tekcor Energy - a subsidiary of Sisemen - were installed. By May 2001, all work had been finished and the Tower was re-opened amid much jubilation, tempered with relief after two and a half anxiety-laden years.

It may not have escaped notice that, when reversed, "Sisemen" and "Tekcor" become "Nemesis" and "Rocket." Mere spelling quirks or indicative of something sinister? The nine people invited to attend a conference in the World Commerce Tower on Tuesday 11th September 2001 under the chairmanship of Max Zemlinsky had no reasons to worry about such trifles. Their agenda, monstrous beyond belief, was paramount. Nothing else mattered.

Every nation produces benevolent and malevolent citizens, destined respectively for fame and infamy. Germany saw Goethe and Beethoven, Hitler and Heydrich. Russia nurtured Tolstoy and Shostakovich, Stalin and Beria. The USA forged Bernstein, Ellington, Presley and Whitman - part of a magnificent cultural legacy revered throughout the world.

Amongst the elite of America's villians were those assembled in The Franklin D. Roosevelt Conference Suite, Level 482, World Commerce Tower, to initiate a programme which would culminate in the country's global hegemony.

14th October 2001.

Sifting through debris some five miles from where the Chicago Tower once soared proudly, a worker discovered a battered yet intact "Walkman" type recorder complete with cassette. Three weeks later, a transcript of almost unimaginable depravity appeared on the Internet...

Author's Note.

Apart from actual people and organisations identified as such - for example, Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra - names and events described are products of my imagination. Any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental.

Mark Brook, Weymouth, Dorset.

Copyright © 2nd November 2003.

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