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

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When Elaine returned to her lab she could feel the fatigue clawing through her veins and she knew she should crash in a chair and stay there; but the anxiety in her nerves wouldn’t let her sit still. So she paced.

Almost all of the bullet-time available through the spellcode had been exhausted and the Enoch currently had all its resources taken up running the calculations necessary to refill the buffer—it would take exobytes of offloaded data to defer even a single Newtonian erg-moment. The calculations would take at least eight hours to regain ninety-seconds of accelerated inertia differential. Plus, there’d be the time it took to sift through the data to optimize the code…

Frog watched her pace back and forth as she mulled over the problems involved. On this pass, Frog had a full can of Mountain Dew, which she traded for the empty one without looking. Two other empties sat on the table nearby, still dripping beads of condensation.

Worse, her data on the cheating case had generated a bunch of negatives—an entire batch of false positives for the discard pile. The research into the improbability engine that had fueled cheating for the subset of Brad’s DarkNet team had shown that it could be done, and how it could be done, but out of all the subjects Hadaly had her scan, none of them showed traces of the spellcode in their brains. That hypothesis had been thoroughly disconfirmed and now she needed a new one to proceed.

She paused a moment to drum her fingers on a table and drank down half of the soda in her hand. She tapped her fingers on the can as she paced across the room behind Frog again.

“Do you think the dean is having second thoughts about hiring me for his case?” Elaine asked.

“No,” Frog said. “Why do you think that?”

“Something I detected in his behavior as we were leaving his office the day he hired us,” she said. “I think you would call it buyer’s remorse.”

Frog’s chair creaked as she turned to face Elaine. “How did you come to that conclusion? You’re not very good at reading people.”

“I hypothesized your reaction based on observing the dean. He spoke tersely and now he’s out of contact.”

“Oh,” Frog said. “Well I guess you have a point there. He was awkwardly quiet near the end. I don’t think that we can assume he’s not happy with your service. We haven’t done anything yet.”

“I see,” she said. “That’s part of the problem. The current lead has gotten us nothing. The suspected cheaters are not under the influence of a Bernoulli improbability engine.”

“Which just means we know what it’s not; a fact that whittles down the possibilities of what it is. Basic deduction. We can just let Hadaly crunch a few more numbers to see if we can’t shake out any other connections between them and that will probably lead to another clue.”

Elaine stared at her for a long moment.

“Anyway,” Frog said, stretching out in a long, languorous motion. “We can worry more about this later, like after Zane gets back.”

Zane had taken his leave of his “command center” to go check something in the field. Frog explained that the exploratory team had discovered something underneath one of the nearby benches—a key. The exploratory team sent to the Rec Center determined that B233 referred to a closed locker. Zane had rushed out the door the instant these revelations had been made clear in order to escort the key to its destination.

“I—” Elaine began.

The door to the lab swung open to admit Zane and his entire DarkNet team. He held a black box in his hands with numerous silver catches and a giant DarkNet Metropolis seal gleaming on the front. He beamed proudly as his entourage trailed in behind him. All of the bodies entering the room radiated heat and sweat glistened on their faces.

Elaine finished off the Mountain Dew in her hand and set it down next to the other three empties. Frog already had a forth for her in hand.

Zane set the box down on the central table and the rest of the team swarmed it. While they chatted amongst themselves, he drifted across the lab to where Frog and Elaine had ensconced themselves and glanced at the quickly forming embankment of Mountain Dew cans.

“You weren’t using your celerity spellcode app recently, were you, sis?” Zane asked.

“How can you tell?” Elaine asked. She held a hand up to her cheek. She felt flushed, but hoped that the exertion caused by the internal acceleration on her body hadn’t produced any visible side effects. Previous versions of the code caused accelerated objects to produce a diffuse, but visible, polarized light along the lines of kinetic manifold (generating some very eerie tracers.) Of course, she surmised, Frog would have already told her if something that profound had been in effect.

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