Killing Time OST – 4c – Scouting

<< 4b – Scouting

I pulled off my fake face on the way home and stretched my jaw. I probably looked crazy but couldn’t care less; a part of my numb body needed to be de-numbed, no matter how small it was. I decided to check in with Vexx before I dived in the pool. Running down the stairs blissfully prepped my body for the higher intensity of my swim.
Vexx promised to have a little bit of something for me once I dealt with my nerves; according to him, my level of crankiness was directly proportional to my minutes of inertia. I dumped the chocolate-coated coffee beans and the wasabi peas on the corner of his desk. He swiped them at a frightening speed.
“I can’t understand how you stomach so much of this stuff.”
“You should try it. It’s how I keep fit and brilliant.” By then, both bags were already opened and a fistful of peas were shoved one by one into my techie’s mouth. The regularity of the open-shove-close-crack-crack-crack-crack-swallow could definitely be the drum line to a pop song.
“If you say so. Exercise suits me better.” It also was the only way for me to come anywhere near an equal level with my technologically-enhanced enemies and competitors. Not that I had many of the second category.
A bathing suit always waited for me in the changing room of the interior swimming pool. I swan dived from the 10 feet podium and water opened up to welcome me. I emerged with a sigh of content.
“Welcome Lorelei,” the personal trainer said. The same machine managed the shooting range, gym and pool. It tracked all my time spent training and suggested exercises to keep in shape. This machine too had a problem with some specific program we forced it to execute; it thought I trained too hard.
“I’ll have the Cooper test, swimming variation.” A twelve minutes sprint seemed the perfect thing to shake numbness out of my body. I wanted to analyze my information while it was still fresh in my mind but couldn’t concentrate until my muscles calmed down. With a little chance, I could devise the core of the plan tonight and shop for some props tomorrow.
“Please get to the edge of the pool.”
I obeyed the computer and it gave me the countdown to start. People thought training and pushing yourself was about enduring the pain. That was why they didn’t do it and got nanobots to keep them in shape instead. For me, training was about channeling the rage and dissatisfaction into an activity beneficial for body and soul. It was about the simple pleasure of knowing you did it.
I switched on my chip, asked it to play some upbeat old school techo, and swam as if my life depended on in. I powered through the sprint with sheer amusement.
I was halfway through another lap when the trainer rang the end of the twelve minutes.
“You have established a new personal record by completing 16 laps. You kept an average speed of 1 mile per hour. Congratulations.” I leisurely swam toward the ladder but the voice wasn’t done. “One call was sent to the spam box while you exercised. It will be permanently deleted in three days. One ping registered while you exercised.”
I programmed only a couple of things to go straight to spam; telemarketers, ex-boyfriends, my brother… people there is no way in hell I would want to talk to. The ping meant Vexx requested my presence in the basement. I towel dried myself and put a pair of wrap pants on. The bollywood-inspired free flowing fabric was my favorite to wear after a run in the pool. I remained in my bikini top so my hair wouldn’t make a t-shirt cling to my body.
“What’s up?” I asked when I landed downstairs after surfing down the ramp.
“I won’t be able to hack the office’s security system off your back.” Vexx slammed his hand against his workspace. “That work has Nathan Blode tattooed all over its binaries.” A handful of wasabi peas found its way to Vexx’s mouth while he inhaled. “I hate this guy.”
Nathan Blode was one of the most renowned security experts in California. Once a hacker, he now countered them. Vexx took the opposite path. And both were sore losers.
“Okay. Deep breaths. Explain to me.”
“The creep plugged its mandible in Edouardo’s control panel which turns the alarm system on and off. So I only have access to the alarm’s mainframe.”
I cocked an eyebrow. It sounded good to me. Catching on my incomprehension, Vexx inhaled deeply as he does every time he launches into a “follow the crazy pace or be glared at” explanation. I focused all my concentration on him.
“The system is all broken down in unconnected parts. The core, to which I accessed, listens for event calls from the triggers and sends out orders to the security measures. Pretty standard procedure if you use a precise path toward the two other parts and listen for or send a simple command. That’s my yellow brick road. But the son of a bitch has the system listen and speak to the whole web and send complex commands on no paths. So to protect you, I either scan the gazillions existing net connections to find the path or I shut down the world wide web. Both virtually impossible.”
Vexx’s face had turned bright red during his explanation. It was quite entertaining.
“Can’t you just ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’ it? That would be a monkey wrench!” My poor attempt at humor flew miles over Vexx’s head. His attitude actually worsened enough for me to feel a twinge of worry.
“Wow. Why didn’t the tech genius think about that?” He grunted and threw his hands up the air. I grunted back to remind him that snapping at me when he was angry wasn’t an option. Only I was allowed to be snappy. He sat and took a couple of minutes to calm down. “Without an overview of the system, my alterations of the code might cause a bug that would be worse than if I hadn’t touched a thing. And if I try beforehand and mess it up, they’ll revise the system. Back to square one for us.”
“Why doesn’t everyone do that if it’s so strong?” I asked, knowing Vexx needed to get all the frustrated programmer-speak out of his system before he could concentrate on something else.
“Systems on internal networks are theoretically safer because the hacker has to take an extra step to breach it. What he did goes against any natural instinct a security guy has. He let his system fully opened to the public. Anyone who knows where to find it, virtually-speaking, can hack it with their eyes closed. But that’s the point: finding it is impossible.”
“It’s okay,” I grabbed the bag of chocolate-coated coffee beans and brought them over to him. “So there’s nothing you can do? Sit this one out. I did this alone several times before I saved your ass.”
“Oh! I can do things. I can narrow down the list of triggers once I crack the encryption he used to name the calls. I can probably list the type of security measures too.”
“That’s not so bad. Pull as much as you can and I’ll go shopping tomorrow.” I planted a peck on his sharp cheekbone and headed back upstairs to satisfy my body’s wishes for a bed.
“There’s something else I can do,” Vexx’s thoughtful smile stopped my foot on the first step. “It’s completely crazy. But, given the system is activated, I could trigger any or all security measures.”
I laughed; this was my kind of crazy.

5a – Shopping >>


About Aheïla

Somewhere in Quebec City, Aheïla works as a Game Design Director by day and writes by night. Known for her blue hair, unyielding dynamism and tasty cooking (quails, anyone?), she’s convinced “prose is the new crack”. She satisfies her addiction daily on The Writeaholic’s Blog and weekly on Games' Bustles View all posts by Aheïla

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