Chapter 28 – My Moriarti to Your Holmes (Part II)

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The weekend and the late hour worked to Elaine’s advantage as she sped across the campus. Her surroundings blurred by with an uncanny almost-surreal gaussian stretch as photons intersected the Acellerando field and warped into her frame of reference–it cast the world with a subtle shift from blue filtered to red across the center of her vision. Without as many pedestrians to avoid, the collision algorithm built into the Acellerando protocol didn’t need to trigger as often and as a result managed a greater efficiency than normally available.

It still took a great deal of reprocessing to open the door to the Engineering building (and Elaine still almost tore it from its hinges as the field attempted to adjust around the doorway and knob) without buffering the intersection of slow-and-fast inertias could have caused tremendous damage to her hands. The spellcode instead dumped that into the door causing the frame to creak with distress.

The same thing happened again when she opened the door to the supercomputer room.

Linscott jerked away from his keyboard and monitor as if he’d heard a gunshot.

In some ways he had. The dynamic of Elaine’s passage into the room surrounded by the Acellerando field, opening the door, and cutting it off without allowing it to dissipate fully generated a small sonic boom–with about the same kinetic energy of a whipcrack. Most of the energy of the boom exited through the now-open door, but the rest echoed and reverberated around the restrictive space and close walls.

To Linscott, Elaine’s entrance would be heralded with a peal of thunder.

Paul Linscott looked about as haggard as he sounded on the phone—his greying hair frayed about his skull like a thunderhead that couldn’t decide which direction to flow redoubled the dark patches that surrounded his eyes. He wore a grey suit and pearl white shirt that ill-fit his frame, the red tie loosened but still hanging around his neck flung haphazardly to one side revealing a few buttons undone.

His face froze in a shocked expression, squeezing wrinkles from every surface as he stood—bolt upright—trying to keep the chair he had been sitting in from tipping over (one of the wheels on the base spun with a soft grinding sound.)

Elaine entered the room with purpose, removed the Enoch from its belt holster, and pointed the phone like a weapon at Linscott. He let go of the chair and it rattled back into a stable setting, but he didn’t sit in it. He just stared without comment.

“Step away from the keyboard,” she said to the professor.

“You’re the girl on the phone,” said Linscott. “What do you have to do with all this?”

“The FBI has arrested Whitaker and they’re going to be on their way here shortly,” Elaine said. “You heard it happen on the phone. Unless you want to be in handcuffs next, you should step away from the keyboard and leave.”

Linscott’s jaw worked as he looked at Elaine. His eyes fluttered from the screen–with its dazzling display of configuration and linker messages–and finally relented. He sighed, straightened up, and walked across the room.

Once the professor had vacated the keyboard, Elaine took over. She pressed Control-C and halted the compilation.

“We were so close,” Linscott said.

“Why did you make this?” Elaine asked. The curiosity of the statement came easily to her lips, but the words felt strange in her mouth. It didn’t matter why the professors had done this. It was over. She would end it and very little explanation would be changing that.

The professor stood tall for a moment and adjusted his crumpled sleeves. “Some, like Whitaker, needed the money,” he said slowly, “but I just wanted to know if we could do it. It’s an astonishing piece of technology.” He nodded to himself slowly. “Of course, the money didn’t hurt. I could fund an entire department on what I’m going to make. And, with my friends, some of them actually need the money we’d make from this project. We have an amazing mathematical puzzle, potentially unsovlable, solved here, and a way to get Whitaker out of debt. A nicely wrapped package. ”

“This program you made could be weaponized,” Elaine said. “It plays with probability in ways you couldn’t understand. If you’ve been using it to control graduate students’ selection and grades, didn’t you think it could be used for other purposes?”

“Will that matter now?” His eyes flashed in the dim light as he gestured to the computer. “Once I heard your voice on the phone, I figured it was all over. You can confiscate it…or destroy it.”

“That’s exactly what I intend to do.”

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