Killing Time OST – 17a – Gadgets

<< 16c – Deal

Dealing with the FBI resembled a game of Texas Hold ‘Em. A few of our cards lay flat on the table for everyone to see and use. Others remained carefully hidden from sight, each player desperate to guess what the opponents’ hands held. Among players equally versed in the art of bluff and character judging, the determining factor of victory had little to do with the cards and all with confidence. No matter how much your adversary managed to make you doubt yourself, you had to show a stern face, sedately flip your chips and trust your skills would lead you to victory.
One time out of two, you were wrong but if your confidence so much as flinched, the odds against you tripled.
Hence, despite the cordial exchange with Gabriel, the only thing I could do was play the hand I had been dealt without so much as a telltale frown. My plea had survived the first round; they believed the nanobots had indeed been in me and not someone else – thanks to the sample of DNA I provided with the parasites. Of course, they extracted basic information from that: my possible height and build, the color of my hair and eyes, etc. Nothing they didn’t already know. The lack of ominous car appearing on my street in the next few days told me they hadn’t made an ID.
First round on the table and everyone had bet without flashing a tell. Now I had to raise the stakes.
I took a deep breath and reluctantly nodded to Vexx who pressed a couple of buttons on his hologram.
“One, two, test,” he whispered in his headset. It sounded loud and clear in my head. I had postponed the test as long as possible as I was sick of suffering. No pain came. I gave him a thumb up. “I still can’t believe you showed him your face.”
I rolled my eyes and checked my material one last time. This week hadn’t been pleasant at all. After we came back from ‘vacation’, I had to spend a whole day with Naomi during which she poked and probed until she felt she knew every spicy details of my time out of the country. Maintaining the web of lies would be a challenge but it didn’t compare to the hard time I had brunching with Dad. Even though I couldn’t bring myself to blame him without more proofs, my incapacity to share the major events of my life with him made me sick.
Vexx complained day in and day out about my foolish confidence in the FBI. And now, this test robbed me of an argument to keep my head hacker-free. All it left me with was ‘it annoys me’ which, as far as history went, never stopped Vexx.
“Do I really need that many thingamajigs?” The bulk of my backpack shook unpleasantly when I strutted. Running would be uncomfortable. “A palm-sized ball of plastic would work.”
“This,” he said as he stuffed one last tool in a side pocket, “is how normal people do it.”  I cocked an eyebrow. “Fine. This is how techies do it.”
“Not helping.” I snapped the strap around my torso. The weight wasn’t an issue; the constant wiggling was and nothing I did steadied my cargo. I took the pack off my shoulder and tried another adjustment of the straps.
I understood the purpose of the gagdets even if they bugged me. If I triggered the alarm while stealing The Device, chances were the whole mainframe would barricade itself, efficiently making my hardly acquired key ‘lockless’. Alternatively, if they noticed the breach after I successfully downloaded the mainframe, they might go into a fallback security protocol kept outside of their computers. The big fishes would slither out of reach in no time.
Stealth was a necessity on this field trip and the damn backpack ruined it for me. I pushed it off the counter but Vexx caught it by the strap before it hit the cement floor.
“Stop it,” he snapped. “You’re falling into an obsessive behavior again. It’s fine and you’ll drop most of it halfway.”
I moaned and extended an arm so he could pull the backpack in place against my spine. He was right of course; my moods couldn’t quite be trusted yet.
I practically ran out of the basement when Vexx gave me the go. A little fresh air would do me a world of good.
First order of business: stealing a car. As I bared the wires of a still-smelled-like-new Lamborghini, I felt like a teenager again. How many pricey cars had I moved to ‘no parking’ zones just for the kicks? I parked this one correctly though, two blocks away from Merrilyn Plaza; I would only use it for distraction if I absolutely had too.
Big booms always drew attention.
I progressed through the steps of the plan swiftly, getting to the roof and plugging the transmitter to the access door so Vexx could hack it remotely, but it felt weird. The plans I executed always were my own and this one was the hacker’s. The approach was completely different, partially because of the extra subtlety requirement, partially because it was missing my je-ne-sais-quoi.
I shook the feeling off.
The last part was all me and it would have to do.
“You’re good to go,” Vexx said in my head, shocking the hell out of me. He must have heard all the internal reflections. So much for regaining my independence. At least he didn’t comment.
I entered Merrilyn Plaza, silently pulling the door close behind me. I put Frogster – assassin frog extraordinaire – on the ground. A sneaky spider piggybacked the ride down the corridor. The duo would be fast and stealthy on its way to the nearest control panel. Every minute I spent standing in this corner was an occasion for a security guard to catch my shadow on his screen. Provided he caught the frog on the corner of his eyes, he would blink twice and it would be gone by the time he looked again: privilege of an extinct species.
“I’m in,” Vexx announced.
“Now playing Welcome to Destruction by Funkervogt,” my music chip added.
I swayed my head as the introduction played and started in the corridor on the first beat. I walked on rhythm, allowing Vexx to work his magic as I progressed. He had a lot to process to keep me out of trouble, hence the rather slow song. Not only did he loop the cameras to hide me from sight – never freezing any of them long enough to trigger suspicion was the key –, he also watched out for patrols. Contrary to our first infiltration, every guard wasn’t attending the ballroom.
I reached my target without meeting any man or triggering the alarm. So far so good. Truth be told, I had a little bit of performance anxiety, considering I had never been on a mission without the unwanted back-up of the nanobots in my head. I sighed when I closed the office door behind me and faced The Device’s room.
Infiltration had been easy enough. But then, I knew it would be.
The challenge hadn’t even begun.

17b – Gadgets >>

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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