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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 30: Brown 110
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Previous chapter: Chapter 29: Slade 101
Two nutritional drinks later and Morach had passed through Ferris to become, once more, Derek. He pulled on his clothes, donning the dart apron and wrapping his chain around his waist as a place to tuck his knife, and then pulled his laptop out of his pack, along with a few of his parts and tools.
"Let's see what we can do with their security system," he said, "just in case they're using it somewhere." In a moment, the panel was off the controls at the desk, and a couple of jumper cables clipped one of his cards into the system between his laptop and their circuits.
"What's that," the bomb expert said.
Derek thought for a moment just to say it was classified, but he knew he'd hate to get that kind of answer. He approved of people who wanted to learn; it was something else Lauren had taught him to value.
"It's a fiberoptic decryption coprocessor circuit with a trinary to binary converter."
"It's a circuit board that cracks security systems; the central processor runs in base three, but a secondary chip converts between that and a variety of base two computer standards, which I feed it from my laptop."
"What are you talking about? I've never heard of such a thing."
"Then I suppose I should have said, 'it's classified', and left it at that."
That seemed to take some of the demand out of the man. "Sorry. I just meant--"
"It's all right. There's no reason why you should have heard of it. As far as I know, it's the only one of its kind in the world, it's several hundred years ahead of current technology, and I can't possibly explain to you how I got it without raising a lot of questions to which you're not cleared to know the answers. Let me also suggest that you don't bother to guess, because whatever you're thinking, it's wrong."
He scanned the readout on his screen. This was just an office building; the security protocols were laughably simple, and he was almost embarrassed at the ease with which he could get around them. There were cameras in many locations within the building; he blinded them all. Entrances, stairway doors, fire doors, and elevators were all connected to a sensor system, and these too he disabled. He took another look, and was about to disconnect from the board when he suddenly had an inspiration. It might be good or bad for them, but it would undoubtedly drive the terrorists crazy.
The elevators were set to cruise, to a certain degree. In each pair, if one was not in use it would sense where its mate was and move away from it such that it would be nearer the floors which were not being served at that moment. This was a relatively simple program, and Derek started tweaking it with a few extra lines of code.
"If you hear an elevator, be wary, but don't panic," he said as he packed up his gear. "I've just programmed them so that if they're not in use they will travel randomly from floor to floor, opening when they arrive, then closing and continuing to another floor."
Calloway looked at him. "Elevators? Oh, you mean the lifts? Why did you waste time on something like that?"
"Obviously," Derek said, "I thought that it was worth the minute it took to do it. Long before we find the bomb, these terrorists are going to know we're in the building. They might have discovered this already, and started looking for us. Every time one of those doors opens near the terrorists, they're not going to know whether it's us, or our reinforcements, or just another malfunctioning elevator."
"We don't have any reinforcements."
"They don't know that; and by the time we're done with them, perhaps they'll believe we do."
"You want them to think that there are more of us than there are?"
"Why not? The less they know about us, the better, and since it's unlikely in the extreme that we can search a building this size overrun with terrorists and not have them realize we're here before we find and disable their bomb--if indeed they really do have a bomb--we might as well have them thinking they've been overrun as otherwise."
The lieutenant nodded. Probably he had hoped that they would finish this without anyone knowing they were here. Derek figured he should know that that was not going to happen.
"By the way," the lieutenant said, "they gave us these." He handed Derek a headset connected to a small box.
"Short range broadcast communications system? Probably good; I don't expect us to be separated, but better to be prepared." He donned his, noting that the lieutenant had one like it already in his gear. A third was produced for the bomb expert.
"I know it's confusing that I keep changing," Derek said, his voice now feeding to his own right ear through the headgear, "but for reasons that are difficult to explain I've got different names when I'm different people. I guess that doesn't sound as silly as I thought. Anyway, I'm Derek. Lieutenant Calloway--can we just call you Jim? That's easier, faster." The lieutenant again nodded. "And all I know about you," Derek said, "is that you're a bomb expert who knows a lot more about nuclear devices than I do. Sorry we didn't have time to get introduced back there, but even now it's not a good time. So, what do we call you?"
"I'm Peter Uballa," he said, then added, "Pete will do."
"O.K., gentlemen,” he said as he packed up his computer and electronics gear, “we're inside, and I suggest we not stay by the door any longer. We know they've got the doors guarded, but it seems to me most likely that they've got everything else upstairs somewhere. I came down a stairway, but there's another right over there we could use to head back up. If anyone has any thoughts on how to narrow the search area, I'd love to hear them."
Slinging the laptop case over his shoulder, he picked up his laser rifle and walked to the stair door to begin the climb.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #226: Versers Adapt. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: