Chapter 12 – A Spy in Our Midst (Part III)

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After they finished, Benjamin stepped back from his work. Each box included not only the coordinates but notes on where to go. He held his cryptophone aloft, photographed the board, and sent the image to everyone in the group.

“That gives us six good locations and two probably good locations.” Zane waved his finger at the board as he spoke. “Alright. Let’s split up and move fast. Russel and David, you hit the two spots near University; Susan and Benjamin you scout the locations around the MU; that leaves you, Adam, the last location looks like it’s near Gradi Gammage, hook up with Susan and Ben after you check it.”

Murmurs went through the group as everyone pulled away from the table and hooked up with their respective partners.

“I’ll stay behind to plug in the box and deal with these stickers,” Zane continued. “They’re QR codes for smartphones, I think, and I believe that the cryptophones will read them. So I’ll start attempting to collect the information from those to see what it turns into.

“Call in if you find anything.”

As the respective team members began to filter back out the door, Zane prepared his cryptophone to read the intact QR code stickers on the box. Elaine agreed, they looked exactly like modified Quick Response codes—a special type of matrix bar-code designed to be read by smartphones. As he puzzled over the information popping up on his cryptophone, she received a message of her own on the Enoch.

The phone dinged softly at her hip informing her that she’d missed a call and the caller went to voicemail. She wandered away from Zane, keyed in her access code to voicemail, and piped the sound to her goggles so that she could listen without disturbing anyone else in the room.

The first voicemail was from a woman with an ASU extension.

“Hello, this is Sheila Blake from the Dean’s Office calling for Ms. Mercer,” the woman said in the voicemail—Elaine recalled her as the receptionist. “I remember I told you the Dean would be in today at around 2pm. He’s called in to say he won’t be making it in today so if you want to set an appointment with him it may need to be for later in the week.”

Elaine shook her head and prompted for the next voicemail message.

A robotic voice started up in mid-word, “—ailing, you have been placed on academic probation pending an assessment of your class load. This is an automated message triggered by a change in your academic status. If you have any questions please call Academic Services at extension 2785 or contact your adviser.

Elaine let her hand drop slowly from where she had it raised in midair to manipulate objects projected into her vision by her goggles.

“That’s unexpected,” she said out loud. “I should have a 4.0 weighted grade average right now. How could I be on academic probation?”

“What happened?” Frog asked.

Elaine ran the voicemail again, this time through the speaker on the Enoch and held it up for Frog to listen. As the robotic voice went on, her friend winced and shook her head. She shrugged.

“It’s got to be a glitch,” she said. “You want that we go check that out today? Your advisor is that one professor chick from the Astroengineering and Computation Laboratory this year because the dude from the rover project quit last semester, right?”

“Doctor Ursula Fedora is still my academic advisor,” Elaine said. “I’ll send her an e-mail later tonight. Midterm grades should be in already. The automated system could have misread the data and left me the message.”

“That’s my girl,” Frog said and allowed herself a huge grin.

Her smile faded slowly as Zane wandered over. He wore a heavy expression and nodded a few times as he spoke lowly on the phone. He looked at Frog and shook his head. Both of the girls leaned up in their seats with curiosity—Frog cocked her head to one side, letting her hair cascade over her eyes; Elaine popped up open a new Mountain Dew can and sipped at its contents. The taste was beginning to make her eyes water but the sugar and caffeine simply felt too good to put down.

After a few moments of speaking, he waved the girls over. “It’s Susan,” he said. “There’s been an odd turn of events. I’ll let her explain.” He clicked the phone onto speakerphone. “Go ahead, Susan, Elaine is listening.”

“We ran into my brother,” Susan’s voice said over the phone. “Elaine, you’re going to want to hear what he has to say.”

“Hey guys,” Larry Pilgrim said. “I’m telling you this because Elaine did something really cool for me and my team yesterday. You have a spy. An anonymous e-mail came in for Brad earlier today offering to sell your information to us. I can have him forward it to you, if you like, he doesn’t want to get mixed up in that…”

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