Chapter 11 – DarkNet Follies (Part III)

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“Zane,” Elaine said as she watched the newborn program compile into bytecode and begin to produce results. “I have to run this down; it’ll take me a little bit. I’ll get in contact as soon as I’m done.”

Her brother lowered the cellphone for just a moment and nodded. “It’s all good,” he said. “I we can handle this from here, I’ll toss you a line if we run into trouble.”

She stopped briefly at the minifridge in front of the lab and grabbed a Mountain Dew on her way out.

Results had already come back from the program. She prioritized the student with no next class because she couldn’t easily predict where he would go next—he would be exiting the Farmer Education building in less than two minutes. Heads turned when she bolted from the elevator as if it were on fire and sprinted through the Computing Commons. Papers flew from the front table in her wake, she skidded with her momentum as she opened the door and threw apologies to the staff; but she didn’t have the time to stop and deal with it.

Within moments, she’d loaded an augmented reality program into her goggles that would feed her crowd topology for best speed to the Farmer building. After she exited the Commons and she found an open causeway, she triggered an icon in her HUD that looked like a .22 bullet and read “Bullet Time” beneath. Time seemed to slow as if in a Six Million Dollar Man episode—sans the weird techno sound effect—when the Astral spellcode began to execute and a tiny diminishing pie chart began to count down the seconds she could safely remain under inertial acceleration. Now the topology and crowd dodging visual augment became extremely important: an impact at her new celerity-level speed could inflict quite an injury.

To the average ASU students going about their day, Elaine sped past them as if on extra-oiled rollerblades as she tore past. She could feel the wind whipping through her hair and burning her ears as she went, but even with the celerity-inertia spellcode running, she’d be cutting it close.

ASU campus became a well-defined lattice of lines, angles, and aperture dimensions as Elaine pushed her gamer sharpened reflex-eye coordination to its full extent. She dodged past students who looked like they were standing still, jumped over someone leaning to pick up a stack of fallen papers (suspended in the air as they started to blow away), and rebounded from a cement protrusion to avoid a particularly thick crowd.

Within thirty six seconds she’d crossed the campus between the Computing Commons and the Farmer Education building. Upon arrival, she killed the inertial acceleration—a loud pop and a billow of air followed a spike in temperature as her displaced momentum bled back into the proper inertial frame. The Enoch began spinning up and buffering and compressing the remaining bullet-time to prepare for when she wanted to trigger it again. “194 seconds remaining until critical inertial aperture failure.”

With a gesture, Elaine brought Hadaly’s image up in a small window near the bottom of her vision.

“Load me a picture of subject alpha one,” she said.

A portrait appeared in her vision and she scanned it for a moment. None of the students gathered outside the door matched.

“Good news, boss,” Hadaly said. “The phone number with Josh Hugo is a cellular phone and he’s broadcasting his GPS location to FourSquare. I’ve uploaded his position. He’s around the corner.”

“Thanks.”

Josh Hugo had tucked himself into a shadow at the corner of the building where he was tapping away at his smartphone texting someone. He looked about her age, dressed for the warm weather in shorts and a T-shirt, and carried few books. She pulled out her phone and pointed the camera at him—which also included the more sophisticated directional sensing equipment like a Fermi-Bohr array, which could detect the minor field fluctuations caused by the improbability engine.

He noticed her and looked up.

“Can I help you?” he asked.

For a moment, Elaine stood transfixed. “No. I’m good. Calibrating my camera. Thank you for asking.”

With her goggles still pulled down over her eyes she probably looked like a bug-eyed-monster from Zeta Aquilae and that didn’t sit well with Mr. Hugo. He shrugged, stuffed his phone into his pocket and walked away stiffly. As he left, he glanced over his shoulder several times at her to check if she was still there—or at least to make sure she hadn’t followed him. She didn’t, but she did keep the Fermi-Bohr detector pointed at him.

The readout displayed flatlines and background noise across the board: No anomalous fields detected.

“Subject alpha one is clean,” she said into the pickup for Hadaly. Perhaps it was the case that the field was too diminished to be detectable, so she let the Enoch record for a few seconds. “I am moving onto alpha two.”

Elaine triggered bullet-time again and blitzed after her next target.

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