Chapter 13 – Klaatu Barada Nikto (Part I)

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Frog, Elaine, Zane, gathered in one of the Computing Common’s many stairwells with Sarah Pilgrim, Larry Pilgrim, and Brad Wright. Frog took up a position high on one of the nearby stairs; Sarah stood midway down a lower flight; the rest of the group gave Elaine enough room to wave her arms as she quickly wrote an ad hoc spellcode program to give them some privacy. Frog and Zane, already old hat to these performances watched nonchalantly as Larry, Sarah, and Brad exchanged significant glances at her conductor’s motions and rapid head movements.

“Sound dampening is in effect and tripwires are active,” she said after a few minutes.

With her goggles down, she could see the stairwell as a series of semitransparent walls limned with brilliant azure lines that extended to the edges of her vision in a three-dimensional blueprint. Her tripwires were invisible lines of Astral code laid along every door of the stairwell, top to bottom, if anything with more than a gram of mass or taking up more non-gaseous volume than one centimeter crossed them they would trigger.

As for sound dampening, that worked along a radius by significantly diminishing sound compression waves passing through a small region of air by reflecting most of it inwards as if against a temperature interface. This resulted in a strange white-noise echo after anyone spoke aloud. Anyone attempting to listen in from the outside would only hear muffled voices and even highly amplified listening devices would only receive distorted waveforms with very little articulation. Military grade sound software might be able to put the conversation back together; but Elaine guessed such equipment would be well out of the price range of the people who might want to listen in anyway making the privacy veil sufficient for their purposes.

Sarah opened up her laptop, balancing it on the stairwell rail, and started tapping way.

“You might want to sit on the ground instead,” Elaine said. “Your equipment would be safer.”

Sarah laughed and cast a willful smirk at Elaine. “I’ve been doing this since I could type,” she said. “I won’t drop it.”

“She won’t,” Larry confirmed. “If she can tip the laptop on it, she can use it as a table. In fact, I’ve seen her use it on the bus up against the window—while we’re moving. Some girls text, she laptops.”

“The e-mail came to me shortly after the event started today,” Brad said while Sarah brought up her e-mail program. “We were trying to figure out what the numbers on the screen meant. I figured that since Larry and Sarah are related, she couldn’t be your spy. I sent the entire e-mail to her, headers and all.”

“Here it is,” Sarah said. She turned the screen towards the group clustered on the landing.

Elaine accessed a blossoming iris-menu with her hand and told the Enoch to interface with Sarah’s laptop—it’s Bluetooth radio promoted a brilliant green icon in her augmented vision. “Hands off keyboard for a moment,” she said. Sarah stood absolutely still and didn’t touch anything. The screen flickered for a moment as the Enoch requested the file and transferred it off.

After finishing the file transfer, Elaine opened it up in her vision and looked through the contents.

I will shortly have access to the secrets of Zane Mercer’s DarkNET posse. If you’re interested e-mail me back at this address. I expect $100 cash or Paypal. Move quickly: this deal sundowns at sundown. Don’t think that he’s not going to beat you without help. Help me, help you.

It took her only a few seconds to write up a regexp to pull out the addresses in the headers that showed the route the e-mail took from its destination to reach Brad’s @asu.edu address. Of coruse, Elaine didn’t expect to find much from those traceroutes as she noticed it was an @hushmail.com address and she already knew everything she needed about the security surrounding that site. All the traceroute series told her was that the address wasn’t spoofed—they really did originate from Hushmail.

“The spy is using an anonymizer service and probably a proxy,” she said aloud. “I’m willing to bet the address self-destructs in a few hours as well. Smart.” She paused a moment while addressing the coordination space from the cryptophone network. Due to the cryptographic nature of the phone’s communication and command, she couldn’t immediately see what they were doing; but she could tell what sites they’d accessed easily enough. “As I guessed, the spy didn’t use their cryptophone to access the e-mail service and nobody has accessed a proxy at all. Something that I should probably teach everyone about the next time I do a lecture for your team, Zane.”

“Everyone on Zane’s team is smart,” Frog said. “That doesn’t really help us narrow this down very much.”

“Anyone behave suspiciously today?” Brad asked.

Zane shrugged. “No more so than usual. A few people were late to the meeting, but nobody that I have reason to suspect. I hand picked these people for the team because I know them. I’m shocked any of them could be a spy willing to sell us out for a hundred bucks. Over a game.”

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