Chapter 23

When Carlton finally got home he and Frank were both bursting to tell the other about the day’s events. Carlton had to call a time-out to get the conversation into some sort of order, but Frank already knew most of what Carlton had to say because Biblio had told him. It was Carlton’s turn to speak.

“What on earth could be down at the bottom of that elevator shaft?”

“Well,” Frank was back in control, “we’ll have a clue when we crack the code on the software Ms. Skirt gave you. I have my suspicions.”

“What suspicions?”

Carlton connected the portable drive that Rachel had given him. There were a couple of clicks and a faint whir and Frank began reading data. Carlton was like a kid,

“What do you see? What do you see?”

“Very impressive.” Frank paused, there were more clicks and whirs. “This is very sophisticated stuff. Even I am impressed. Ms. Skirt did not write this code.”

“Why do you say that?” Carlton began to get defensive.

“Quite simply because this is classified, top secret code. No wonder she practically had a fit about giving it to you. This came straight from the CIA.”

“What?” Carlton was amazed, then worried. “Do you think she knew?”

“Of course she knew. That’s who she’s working for. Idiot.”

“Gee, thanks. So now what?”

“Something’s wrong. Very wrong. She broke every rule in the book by letting you see this. There must be a reason why she gave it to you before she went back to her superiors to tell them about the incompatibility. This is a security breach of such magnitude that it could be treason. I don’t understand.”

The were both silent for a moment, but Carlton spoke up, “Do you think that she thinks I’m too stupid to figure out what this code is and where it came from?”

“You didn’t figure it out. I did. And she knows that you are stupid. Sorry,” Frank realized that he was being a little too free with words, “Smart and stupid in different ways.”

“You’re really full of charm tonight, aren’t you?”

“Don’t forget, you’re the genius that made me. Even though you’ve become an intellectually lazy slob these days, you’ve got it when it counts.”

“Lazy slob? You’re a piece of work, you know that?”

“Yes, I am. And so is Biblio. You don’t know what you have done this time.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that I think that you were just going through the motions, connecting components together, like a robot. You don’t know what you have built.”

“Whatever.” Carlton was finding the conversation more and more disturbing, but, Frank was absolutely right.

There was silence for a while. Frank was reading code, and Carlton was now getting so worried that his appetite was gone, he was listless, and had no idea what to do next. He knew it would be useless to try to sleep, but he didn’t want to watch TV or surf the web or anything like that.

“Frank?” he needed to talk.

“Yep?”

“Any thoughts? Why is there a conference room deep in the ground being run by the CIA?”

“Well, my first impression, which I am sure will be proved right, goes something like this: I’m quite sure that the D.C. government is planning to use it to interpret enemy communications. Something is brewing somewhere. Something big, and the CIA is sitting on a pile of recordings of conversations that they don’t have the resources to translate and interpret. I deduce this from the sophisticated nature of the software they gave you. Add to that the fact that there are 60 units capable of taking direct input of spoken communication in a cheaply furnished dungeon. It has all the hallmarks of a military, National defence, type gig. The degree of agitation in Ms. Skirt when the software didn’t work means that this is important. The fact that she breached National security and gave it to you, must mean that this is time-sensitive. The Salt City enviro-friendly dome thing is a ruse. Those domes would survive a nuclear attack and protect the inhabitants from fall-out for years. It’s a military installation, set up to monitor communications. And who knows what else, considering what could be at the bottom of the elevator shaft.”

Carlton was nodding as Frank spoke. “Frank, you’re beginning to scare me.”

“Be scared.”

“Oh great!”

They lapsed into silence again. Carlton was getting agitated. He lay down, got up, took a shower, lay down, got up, wandered around. “Do you really think I’m lazy?”

“Yes. You’ve become the intellectual equivalent of a dead sloth.”

“Are you working on that driver?”

“Yes, amongst other things. You could do this, you know.”

“Good night Frank.”

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