Switzerland is a small, land-locked, central european country bordered by France, Germany, Austria, Liechenstein and Italy. Well-known for the magnificence of its scenery and the secrecy of its banking system, the Swiss have managed to blend a modern technological life-style without losing their traditional way of life.
One of the most democratic countries in the world, the Swiss political system promotes a high degree of citizen involvement and frequent referenda; all of which results in a society which is slow to change, very slow to war but quick to protect itself.
A large proportion of this protection is provided by the Strategic Intelligence Service, which conducts foreign intelligence operations in much the same way as the CIA services the United States of America. Like the CIA, it is, of course, a covert organisation. One way in which the two agencies differ, however, is that the Swiss SIS is charged specifically with protecting the Swiss banking system.
The assassin had transferred into the SIS straight from the academy in 1982, 2 days after his 22nd birthday, and spent a further 2 years as a student. As a graduate of the Militärakademie he was already the recipient of a very extensive military training, including spending the year ’79-80 with the Mujahideene in Afghanistan. Upon his return to Switzerland his training had continued, with particular emphasis on explosive devices: from the improvised kind used against the Russians to the highly technical variety currently being used by terrorists. This was all in additional to the skills that all graduates were required to have acquired: fluency in at least three European languages (not a large leap for a Swiss), a mastery of computer theory with a very hands-on approach and, of course, the art of all soldiers, how to kill another human being, taught with an equally hands-on approach. Now, however, it was time to trade his uniform for a suit and learn the intricacies of modern spycraft.
More computer training (utilising everything from the latest mini-computers to the new Apple ][ micro) , accounting (which he thought he’d find boring but actually took an almost perverse pleasure from – he enjoyed making the books balance) and language learning (he became fluent in South American Spanish and achieved a basic grounding in Japanese and Mandarin). He was also instructed, in great detail and with great care, of the banking practices and laws of all the major players.
In the first two weeks of September, the Knabenschiessen takes place at the Albisquetli shooting range, on the edge of Zurich. Swiss children aim to emulate their most famous folk hero, William Tell, and become the Marksman (or woman) of the year. The assassin was about to leave the facility with a view to watching the proceedings, when he was sent for by the Direcktor of the Service.
He had been selected, it was explained, as a possible candidate for an experimental treatment. It carries certain risks, indeed it has never before been tried on human beings. The potential benefits, however, were incalculable. It would increase the recipients I.Q. by 50-100%, and increase the efficiency of the heart and other internal organs. In theory, this would mean a longer life (as they don’t wear out so quickly), but this is not something it’s been possible to test. After the treatment, the candidate would join his country’s first line of defence against a new type of enemy. A type of enemy small in number yet with the capacity to do tremendous damage. A type of enemy whose numbers were on the increase and whose skill-base was becoming ever wider.
Although he would have been happy to accept on the spot, the assassin observed the protocol and retired to his room to consider his options. He realised he was about to change, but it was a change for which he’d been prepared for a long time; to his mind more of a metamorphosis.
He was born in 1960 to a good Swiss family. Although based in Zurich, both of his parents travelled in the course of their work, and he was raised by Beata, his kindermadchen.
His mother (who was a phychiatrist) told her son that she was the sort of doctor that everybody needed and nobody wanted – certainly nobody Swiss. Swiss society is very stylised and on the rare occasions that the existence of mental illness was acknowledged, it was rarely discussed – not like in America, she told him.
When he was just 5 years old, his mother returned home early from a trip abroad and called him to her. She told him that he should always be proud of his father, that he had been a brave, and clever man who had wanted to protect his country. Would he be coming home again? No, he would not, could not come home any more; he had given everything for his country. Her son understood and crawled into her lap. That night, she allowed him to sleep in her bed for the first and only time. In the morning, she explained that she would be going to America, and offered him a choice of going with her or staying in Switzerland. If he went with his mother, would they live together?, would he see her every night? His mother would be very busy, both at the hospital and lecturing, so no, he would live with his kindermadchen and his mother would visit when she could. In American though he would, of course, go to an American school and do everything that American children do – would he like that?. What if he stayed here? What then? He would stay in the house until he was old enough to enter the Militärakademie. She explained that this was a school for soldiers, for people who wanted to defend Switzerland against her enemies would harm her. Like Vater? Yes like Vater . There was no doubt in the young boy’s mind. As a serious minded young Swiss, he had already formed a negative opinion of America, and wanted, to stay in Switzerland very much. As he was already used to his mother’s intermittant appearances he did not find it difficult to choose. He would stay here and go to the Militärakademie. Just like vater.
The treatment was performed at a clinic in New Orleans and was followed by a 10 day recuperation period in a private compound in Mexico.
At six o’clock in the evening of the tenth day of that period of recuperation, the assassin received his first assignment.
The assassin was all too aware that the modern terrorist was spawned in Europe. Bomb hurling anarchists strolling around London, Paris and Vienna in nitro-lined overcoats fighting a private war of publicity. The anarchists were fgovernment sponsored, although they operated in a city belonging to a different country.The assassin did not, of course, regard himself as a terrorist (being sanctioned by the Swiss government and therefore acting on behalf of the entire western world: all of civilisation); he saw himself as tracking down a virus before it spiralled out of control. Interferon on the streets.
The particular virus currently under the microscope was a banker working a double shift. During the day he was, legitimately, trading on the money markets with the blessing of the many investors who trusted their money to his employers, Hambros, a respected merchant bank. A merchant bank respected by some very important people. Slow but steady was the order of the day. During the evening, however, this particular banker had other ideas. Educated beyond his intelligence, he had conceived the idea to borrow money from clients’ accounts, invest heavily in the Japanese markets overnight, sell at a profit and pay back the money by the morning. He was by no means the only of his kind to have had the same idea, in fact it had happened so often that it had a name: rogue trader. Unfortunately, he had the skills to match his originality; he had to be stopped. Stopped dead in his tracks.
It was now a quarter to six and the assassin was waiting on the corner of Park st. and Mount St. for the banker to pass by. He had the habit of spending the early evening in Trader Vic’s, a polynesian tropical paradise located in the basement of the Hilton in Park Lane. The assassin waited astride a large motorcycle, keeping a careful watch out for the banker, the police and traffic wardens alike. He did not have to wait long before he spotted his target in the rear-view mirror. As the banker approached, the assassin pulled away from the kerb and drove towards Park Lane. At the junction, he turned the motorcycle around and faced his prey. Not for the first time, the banker was about to lose out to a Japanese machine.