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

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Linscott breathed another sigh and Elaine’s eyes turned towards him. He gave her a slow, hard, look and walked out of the room shaking. As his footfalls faded she heard him dial a number on his cell phone and start talking. What happened to him next didn’t matter now.

“Now, to figure out who they intended to send this to,” Elaine said.

She set the Enoch on the table next to the monitor and plugged it into the USB port on the side of the dumb-terminal’s keyboard. Moments later the Enoch had gained root level access to the controller for the supercomputer and opened up a link back to her lab to help parse the logs.

“Why did you stop compiling?” a message appeared in one of the command line terminals.

“Hadaly, trace that message.”

On it, boss.”

A few seconds passed as Elaine started some forensics of her own into another terminal.

Another message appeared. “A trace! Could that be you, Holmes? You are late.”

Elaine frowned. Could these messages be from the “Professor X” that Whitaker had talked about. Watching the screen she wondered if she should speak to this person. Interrogating them might lead to further closure in the case. Not that she needed it: the case was essentially over. She’d caught the culprits, unveiled the “cheating” ring for Dean Harwood, and now she would secure the evidence.

In whatever way she could.

“It is you, isn’t it. Let me know it’s you. I’ve been following your progress in finding the professors, in unwrapping the project, and that would lead you inexorably to this place. Talk to me,” the screen displayed. “You already have the means, I know you do. You found my listening device, after all.”

Boss, Frog tells me that the bug in the dean’s office wasn’t put there by Tango,” Hadaly said over the goggles’ earpiece.

“Intriguing,” Elaine said as she fished out the makeup compress with the bug she’d excised from the dean’s office a mere week earlier. She fit her nail beneath the lid of the compact and popped it open.

“Who are you?” she said into the device.

Moments later, a message flashed onto the screen: “Bravo. Congratulations. You are a regular Sherlock Holmes, Elaine Mercer.”

“What should I call you? Professor X?”

“Professor X?” the terminal’s display lit up. “I don’t know if I could bear an X-Men reference. I prefer the classics. How about you call me…Moriarti. Still a professor but not some regrettable idealist.”

Elaine looked to her Enoch and used gestures to ask Hadaly how the trace was proceeding. The reply did not fill her with confidence—Hadaly was quick to explain that Professor X, Moriarti, whomever, had managed to run the messages through several different anonymizing services through a very sophisticated Onion Router (still easily unraveled by an equally clever AI.) The trace would take a little more time.

Elaine pulled a stick of pocky from her vest and chomped on it idly while passively watching the screen. He was good, her adversary.

“Don’t tell me I have you stumped, Holmes,” the terminal flashed.

“I’m going to delete this binary and all the source code,” Elaine said. “I don’t know what you intend to do with it, but you’re not going to get your hands on it.”

“Delete it. The software has served its purpose, I have no need for it,” the terminal responded.

Elaine didn’t hesitate. Her finger okayed the file kill command on the Enoch and the smartphone went about the work of obliterating not only the partially compiled binary produced, but it also chewed through all source code linked to it. Seconds later no trace of the program remained on the local computer and it cycled up again to overwrite those sections of the hard drive with random data; it wouldn’t stop until it had done so over two-thousand times.

“There are copies, of course?” Elaine said into the bugging device.

A momentary pause passed.

“Not if the professors followed my instructions to the letter,” the screen displayed. “If you’ve just done what I suspect you should have done, you have destroyed the resident copy. The only copy of the project in existence.”

He’s telling the truth, boss,” Hadaly said. “There hasn’t been enough time to compile the source and nothing has been exfiltrated from this machine in…weeks. The professors really did a good job of keeping it secret, this is–was–the only working copy.

“Why would you let me delete the only copy?”

The screen flashed: “The project doesn’t work. It would compile, link, and run; but that version can only affect the students that my dear professors set it to work with. It functions almost entirely on contagion and will not scale to anything other than tinkering with a particular finite set of students’ grades.”

The terminal paused for a moment then added:

“Quite useless. Actually.”

Elaine sank into the chair—after her use of Acellerando earlier her muscles had begun to complain and through sheer adrenaline she’d remained standing.

Something didn’t seem quite right about Moriarti’s reaction–all this subterfuge, a huge hidden project, lots of money changing hands, the hostage situation… Perhaps Frog would be able to give her better insight into what it all could mean but put together there was no reason for him to be so blithe about the destruction of the final product…


“This was just a test,” Elaine said. “You never intended this project to work; you just wanted to prove that you could construct a Rössler engine using conventional computer code.”

“Wrong again.”

Elaine frowned. She tapped away at the Enoch. “Where are you on that trace?”

Its hiding behind a very complex onion-router,” the AI said. “Quite sophisticated. I’m not sure I can trace this. I’ve been capped out at Princess Elisabeth Research Station…in Antarctica. Somehow I don’t think that’s where Moriarti is.

“What? No pithy reply, Holmes? Alright, I’ll give you a hint: it’s like Umberto Echo, sometimes the city is its own map.”

“I don’t follow.”

“No. This time you didn’t. The case you were on for Mr. Harwood was only part of the equation and while you have all the pieces to the puzzle you probably won’t understand until a few days from now. Perhaps next time our paths cross. Kwaheri.

With that the bug sitting in the makeup compact emitted a soft pop, followed by a sizzle, and a small wisp of white smoke issued forth.


“The connection closed,” she replied. “We’ve lost the trace.”

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