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Rated: 13+ · Chapter · Action/Adventure · #2322289
In which Kai, Mali and Rome uncover hidden truths in Chalam's archives.
On the top floor of OmniVentures’ corporate building lies a tiny, dark hallway. Its hidden location in a corner makes it almost invisible. The door at the end of this hallway is small and unassuming, with no handle or lock, just a tiny black box on the left side of the doorframe. Unless one knew to look for the little black box, the entrance to Chalam’s private archives would seem like part of the wall.
Kai knows better.
He glances over his shoulder, for the umpteenth time, making sure the hallway is deserted. Still no one there. Kai forces his fingers to relax, noting the circular imprint the passkey has left in his palm. He could have put it in his pocket on the way to the archives, but he needed physical assurance the plan is working.
So far, so good.
Taking the service elevator to the top floor had been Rome’s idea, as it’s used only by custodial staff and located as far from Chalam’s office suite as possible. The CEO was a stickler for appearances. Service elevators and custodial staff were on his list of necessary evils—things to be avoided at all costs.
Jet needed Kai to find information, so Kai would find information. True, Jet had only asked for financial records, but Kai wants to bring him more, something better. And not just because there’s a possibility that once Jet has said financial information, he will disappear for another ten years.
Kai squints in the dim light, trying to find the passkey reader while tamping down that last depressing thought. Jet would not have asked Kai to do this if all he was going to do was take it and leave. Kai has spent enough time with his older brother now to know what kind of person Jet grew up to be.
Jet asked for Kai’s help.
He trusts him.
So all Kai has to do is get a grip and do what Jet asked him to.
He lets out a slow breath, pulse pounds in his ears. The soft click of the reader signals a successful scan. The door swings silently inward, and the smell of old dust and paper fills his nostrils. Kai blinks in the dim light as rows of metal cabinets lining the walls come into focus. Clearly, OmniVentures’ public push to go digital doesn’t apply to the company’s CEO.
“Typical,” Kai mutters, turning on his phone light and opening a file drawer at random.
Neat rows of hanging folders with carefully hand-lettered labels greet him. The light flickers as one of Kai’s shaking hands opens his phone’s camera with one hand while opening one of the folders with the other.
A pile of documents stares back at him. These are different from the digitized copies in the general archives—these are originals. Lists of names and addresses followed by numbers, most unfamiliar to Kai, but Rome will know them. He moves on to the next folder, and then the next. The stack of documents he wants to take becomes thick enough that Kai has to empty another folder to make space. For a while, the only sounds are the rustle of paper, the metallic hum of file drawers opening and closing, and the faint click of Kai’s phone as he takes pictures. He plans to show the actual files to Rome and Mali if he can, but a digital backup doesn’t hurt.
When Kai reaches the farthest corner of the room, his fingers and feet falter. Most cabinets in the room are four-drawer metal ones, but this one is smaller, wooden, with only two drawers. Kneeling in the dust, Kai grasps the top drawer handle and pulls, ears pricking for any sounds outside.
“Nothing.” Kai mutters again, this time with disappointment. “Damn.”
The bottom drawer is harder to open, and heavy. Kai adjusts his grip, palms slick with sweat, and yanks on the handle, cursing with every tug. Each muffled thump of wood against wood increases his heart rate. Painfully slowly, the gap between the top of the drawer and the cabinet widens.
Still, no one comes.
Kai releases the breath he was unaware he was holding. The drawer is finally open wide enough that he can see the contents: three acid-free boxes, lined up one behind the other, dust-free. The first two are empty, so Kai uses one to transfer all the documents he previously found, and then shoves the other empty one in the top drawer, hoping no one will notice.
His hands still as he lifts the lid of the final box. “The hell?”
Inside are two nondescript books—one black and one red. They look like ledgers, but when Kai opens the black book, he doesn’t see names and numbers. He narrows his eyes at the symbols etched along the margins, and across several closely written pages. Chalam was paranoid enough to add another layer of protection to whatever information is written here. Several SD cards are also taped to blank pages in the book. Kai makes a mental note to get Zone to look at them later. His phone buzzes.
ROME: Find anything?
Kai glances at the timestamp on Rome’s text. He’s been in the archives for half an hour—twenty minutes too long. Sliding the black and red books into his box, Kai closes the drawer. His mind races as he heads back to the hallway. All he has to do now is get back to Rome’s office without being seen.
With a box of incriminating documents.
It’s easier to exit the archival room than to enter it. Kai grips the box with both hands, gripping it so hard the muscles in his arms clench. Without glancing behind him, he bolts down the service stairs back to Rome’s office.
As Kai bursts into the office, Mali jumps to her feet and locks the door behind her brother. Rome remains seated, leaning forward as Kai drops into the seat next to him.
“You found something.” Rome’s voice is neutral, but his eyes are alert.
“I found a lot.” Kai drops the folder on the table between them. “And no one saw me go in or out.”
“Just like in the movies.” Rome smiles at him.
Mali gives them both a frustrated look. “This isn’t funny.”
“No,” Kai agrees. “But it was kind of fun. Did you know there isn’t a single digital file in Chalam’s personal archives? If Interpol gets access to that, there’s a whole paper trail exposing everything that bastard’s done.”
“Provided Interpol can get access to all of it.” Rome points out. “Which they haven’t been able to do.”
“This is a start, though, isn’t it?” Kai flips open the folder so that Mali and Rome can see the stack of papers inside. “Once we look through all of these I’ll take them back and Chalam will have no idea they were missing. ”
Mali cocks her head. “And what if we need to see them again, or show them to other people?”
“I’ll just show them this,” Kai holds up his phone. “There’s a picture of every single one of these, just in case.”
Rome looks amused. “You really did have fun, huh?”
Mali also takes a seat, her eyes carefully scanning each document. “These are originals. Corporate inventory, employment records, business valuations. You found a goldmine.”
“He was right about the paper trail, too.” Rome has found the list of names. “Chalam really does keep everything and every one off the grid. If we get these names to Kit, then Interpol can run background checks to find out who these men actually are.”
“There’s more,” Kai holds up the black book. “It was hidden in a locked drawer in the farthest corner.”
Rome’s brow furrows as the thumbs through the pages. “It’s encrypted. We’ll need to figure out the keyword before we can figure out what these symbols mean.”
“Maybe it’s on one of the SD cards.” Kai flips to one of the blank pages so Rome and Mali can see the little plastic squares taped in neat rows. “Or maybe there’s other things like CCTV footage or something.”
Rome nods. “Talay can look into those.”
“And if he’s too busy I’ll give some to Zone.” Kai has already stuck several of the SD cards in his pocket. “And before you say anything, Zone is just as clever with computers as Talay is, and since we’re both on semester break he doesn’t have anything else to do.”
“Other than training with the racing team,” Mali points out.
Kai shrugs. “So he’ll train with them during the day and look at the SD cards at night. Simple.”
“Why don’t you let me hold on to them and you ask Zone if he wants to help first?” Rome holds out his hand, but the SD cards stay in Kai’s pocket.
“I don’t have to.” Kai reassures him. “He’s in.”
“What’s in this one?” Mali reaches for the red book before the conversation between her brother and her boyfriend can become a full blown argument.
Kai shrugs. “Didn’t have time to look.”
Mali lifts the red book off the table, and several sheets of paper and a packet slip from between the covers. One of the sheets of paper has fallen face up, and both Kai and Mali freeze when they see the letterhead.
“Why does my uncle have a letter from the orphanage where you two grew up?” Rome asks the question all three of them are thinking.
“Chalam likes to put up a philanthropic front,” Mali sounds like she doesn’t believe the words she’s saying. “If the nuns are naive enough to accept a donation they think was given in good faith, then who are we to judge?”
“Then why would he hide this?” Kai reaches for the letter, but Mali grabs it first. “What does it say?”
“They thank him for his kind donation and ask if there is anything they can do for him in return.” For the first time, Mali looks disappointed.
“Unhelpful.” Kai grumbles. He opens picks of the packet and flips it over so he can see the top page. “What the hell…”
“What does Chalam want in return for his donation?” Mali leans forward. “Kai, that’s…an adoption dossier.”
“For Jet.” Kai nods.
He reads carefully over each page, then snaps a picture of it on his phone before passing it on to Mali, who passes it on to Rome. He doesn’t recognize the names on the application, or the address on something with the heading “Home Study Report”, but he knows the name of the Mother Superior on the legal documentation. Her name is also on the court petition and adoption decree, along with two other names Kai doesn’t know. He skims through other documents about Jet’s medical history, letters and emails between the Mother Superior, and the legal and government officials who were involved in the adoption process.
“If these weren’t hidden in Chalam’s personal archives, I’d say this was perfectly normal.” Rome says what they’re all thinking. “He’s got everything accurately documented, same as any potential adoptive parent.”
“But every one of these documents is signed by other people.” Mali points out.
“Not all of them.” Kai's voice catches. All the color has drained from his face. “I found Jet’s new birth certificate.”
He places the document on the table with shaking fingers, takes a photo, then moves back so that Rome and Mali can see.
“But—I don't understand.” Mali sucks in her breath, her face turning the same chalky color as Kai’s. “This can’t be real.”
“That registration number means it’s real.” Rome confirms, his expression grim. “And that stamp makes it legal.”
“It’s Chalam’s hidden agenda.” Kai stares at the digital image on his phone--a copy of the birth certificate on the table.
The emblem of the Thai government at the top leaves no doubt that this is official documentation. At the bottom, the official registration number, official stamp, and signature of the registrar--a clear indication of the certificate’s legality. Jet’s full legal name--Lian-Jie Saetangmasawat--and birthdate are the same. Instead of an infant’s photograph, a sixteen-year-old Jet stares defiantly back at them. Below the photograph is the name and signature of his legal parent:
Chalam Tian Samongkonchai.

"27. Backlash

Read from beginning: "1. Ignored
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