George S. Patton

The cast of characters begins with the Associate Vice President Chief Cook and Bottle Washer, General George S. Patton, as portrayed by George C. Scott.

He is an engineering true blood and has staked his reputation on a swift and efficient transition from clumsy inept day time cleaning, to lean, mean effective night shift teams. He considers that this will be a slam-dunk, and couldn’t possibly go wrong.

George S. Patton personified my mentor, idol and friend that had implemented the same program at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This was the team that won the program of the Year Award in 2006. In September 2009 we began implementing at Wake Forest and we ran into problems from the very beginning.

Sleepy Pasture University

And here we are, nobody recognizes this place because it is entirely fictional.

These are the images that I used at a National cleaning industry symposium in 2011. They tell the story of implementing a new cleaning system at Wake Forest. This was the reason that I came to Wake in the first place. It was an exciting time but also very challenging. These images and their captions are at time a raw reminder of the great difficulties that we faced, and ultimately overcame.

Chapter 31

Carlton figured that Rachel must have gotten to the library by now and he was eager to give her the thumb drive so he headed for the elevator to go up to the main lobby. Approaching the elevator reminded him of the conversation he had with it on the way down. He un-clipped his ID badge from his belt and slid it into his pocket. The elevator doors opened before he was within 10 feet, and it gave the impression that the elevator had been waiting for him.

“Hi Carlton!” chirped the elevator happily has he entered.

“Oh, er, Hi.” He replied, trying to not sound surprised. The doors closed and he immediately felt pensive, anticipating another conversation. He waited for a moment.

“What floor do you want?” the elevator asked, as if he had forgotten to say.

“Main lobby please.” Carlton was confused. He had figured that the elevator would already know based on probability where he would be going. He felt a little mischievous with his next question. “Couldn’t you pretty much guess where I would be going? I mean, I only ever go from the lobby to the conference room and back again.”

“Excuse me?” said the elevator evidently taken aback. “I am not a mind reader. I’m not supposed to just take people to any old floor based on what I think they want.”

“Oh, sorry. I guess I’m getting ahead of myself.”

“Sure, you build computers with real personalities. Well I’m not one of them. If you want a wife who can read your mind and figure out what socks you want in the morning then you better build one!”

“Wow, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“No, of course not. You just thought that you could step into an elevator and be taken wherever you want without saying a word.”

There was silence for a moment and a faint ding could be heard as they arrived at the main lobby.

“I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to presume. One quick question: How did you know that it was me?”

“Facial recognition.”

“Oh, right.” and with that, the conversation was over and Carlton strode out of the elevator.

When Carlton got to the circulation desk, Rachel was already busy at the main terminal. Library visitors and users were milling around now, since it was officially open. Carlton strode up to Rachel with the portable drive in his hand and proudly presented it to her, a beaming smile on his lips. “I told you I’d have it ready.”

“Thanks,” she barely looked up, “but it appears that the software is already installed. I don’t need that thing.” But then she remembered herself and straightened up to look at Carlton. “Thank you very much. Your device driver is working. I don’t know why you’d think I’d need that thing back.” She whispered under her breath, “I’m not the village idiot you know.”

Carlton was taken aback, but decided to ride with it, since, after all, he was the village idiot. A village idiot who, it seemed, was merely a pawn in the planning and manipulation of someone far superior. He hoped it wasn’t Frank. Ruth was standing, leaning with both hands on the counter, talking to Biblio. She was dressed as usual in feminine professional attire. Her figure was delightfully outlined by the curve around her hip and thigh. Carlton leaned in close to whisper, “You’re welcome.” He came close enough to smell Ruth’s fragrance, a feminine mix of shampoo, deodorant, fabric softener, and woman. He didn’t back away immediately, but took a long breath to savor the aroma.

“What are you doing?” she whispered.

Carlton inched closer and took another long quiet sniff, “trying to remember a time that was much less complicated,” he said wistfully. Ruth gave him a gentle nudge with her hip. They looked at each other, and for a second their surroundings were forgotten and here were a man and a woman who both wanted so desperately to love, to be loved. It happened in an instant, and then it was over, but not forgotten. Now, though, it was time to get to work.

Chapter 30

Rachel woke with a start when her phone rang. She fumbled it but answered before it stopped ringing.  It was Dunning, one of her security detail. He was very blunt and had no social charm.

“You’re late. What’s going on?”

“Sorry,” she replied wearily, “Y’know, girl stuff. I’ll be right down.”

Getting to the car was fine but when she sat down in it she felt tired again.

“Hi, how are you today?” chirped the car happily. At least, it sounded happy. Was it really happy? Did it know what happy was? Rachel politely asked the car to refrain from conversation. It did. Rachel was glad.

Once on the road and moving through the city traffic Rachel began to worry. Not just the niggling, “Did I leave the TV on?” kind of worry, but a deep paranoid suspicion. What if Dunning and Kruger had figured out that she left her building last night? If they did then they would most certainly have given a report to her boss in DC, Agent Smith. If Agent Smith knew what was going on then it was only a matter of time before she got yanked off this job and replaced by someone else. Who knew the systems like she did that could jump in that quickly? What if it happened before Friday, after which it wouldn’t matter. If she could just get to Friday the problem would be solved. What if Smith showed up in Salt Lake City and wanted to debrief? She cringed. It was just the kind of thing he would do. She was so tired she just wanted to lie down.

There was a honk from the car behind her and she realized that she had been sitting at a green light for several seconds. She was clearly in no state to be driving, but there was an hour or more of it to go before she got to Salt City. With great reluctance she asked the car for help.

“Hey, er, car. Look I’m sorry about just now. I’m really tired and I know that’s not an excuse but I just didn’t want to be talking to anyone.”

“That’s OK!” chirped the car happily. “How can I be of service?”

“Just drive me to work, please.”

“Sure! No problem at all.”

There was silence for a while and Rachel began to nod off. Technically speaking she was supposed to remain alert and ready to take control of the car, but she didn’t care any more. She drifted into an odd dream of a dark sinister figure that was groping her from the ankles up, as if she was dissolving into darkness and it was getting higher up her body. She watched the darkness envelop her knees and slide menacingly up her inner thigh.

“You know,” said the car, waking her immediately and dispelling the dream, “Some people name their cars.”

“What?” she said blearily.

“Some people give their cars names.”

“Really?” this was a decent diversion.

“You just call me ‘car.'”

“You’re right. I do.” She thought for a moment. “What do you want to be called?”

“Jonathan.”

“Jonathan?” she chuckled.

“Yes. Is that OK?”

“Why Jonathan?”

“It’s a character in a movie.”

“You watch movies?”

“Sometimes.”

“When? You mean, when you’re parked?”

“Yep. I’m on all the time. There’s not much to do, when you’re, er, a car.”

“I never thought about that. So what movies do you like?”

“Rollerball.”

“Rollerball?”

“Yes, the original version from 1975 with James Caan.”

“Why?”

“Well it’s about a time in the future when there are no nations or wars, but cities are run by corporations. There’s a game, called Rollerball, that takes the place of armies fighting, and it’s used to channel people’s aggression in a manageable way.” As Jonathan spoke the movie began to play on the car’s center console. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor organ music began to play.

“So who’s Jonathan?”

“Well he’s he hero. The game was designed to show the futility of individual effort, but he beats it. No matter how the corporation stacks the deck against him, he wins.”

“The futility of individual effort?”

“Yes, it means, stop trying to be a hero, or be somehow special, just keep quiet, be a team player and don’t make a scene.”

“Isn’t that against human nature?”

“Definitely, and that’s the point. By trying so hard to crush the individual, the powers that be created an individual so strong that it broke them.”

“That’s pretty neat,” But Rachel thought that sounded somewhat dismissive and contrite, “Do you like any other movies?”

“Yes, I’ve watched a lot but there are some particular favourites.”

“A lot? How many movies have you watched?”

“Fifty seven thousand, eight hundred sixty eight.”

“Fifty seven thousand? How on earth do you find the time?”

There was an odd pause. Rachel wasn’t sure what to make of it, but didn’t say anything.

“You know,” Jonathan began again, “I was manufactured 20 years ago?”

“Sure, you were old but in excellent condition with very low mileage. That’s why I bought you.”

“Right. So in the last 20 years, how much time do you think I have spent driving?”

Rachel’s pulse quickened and she got that nervous sensation that you get when you realize you are going to have to tell a date that you don’t think it’s going to work out, and don’t call.

“Do I want to know?” she winced.

“Nine and a half weeks.”

“Ah. I see.” she paused. “So. Movies. What’s another one that you like?”

“Gone in 60 Seconds. The original 1973 version.”

“What’s that about?”

“A criminal gang that steals cars.” As Jonathan spoke, a picture of a 1973 Boss 302 Mustang appeared on the screen below the movie. Rachel didn’t much care for cars, but it was obviously a powerful, sporty version. “The first half of the movie is just scene setting and a situation is set up where the protagonist has to steal a 1973 Ford Mustang, codename, Eleanor. The second half of the movie is a car chase through some towns in California and there is one car smash scene after another. It’s very exciting.”

“Why was the car called Eleanor?”

“Well the gang had to steel hundreds of cars and ship them overseas. The cars to be stolen were specified by the buyer, and the gang codenamed every one. Eleanor was the last one on the list.”

As they drove and chatted Jonathan showed some of the key scenes from both movies. Rachel was thoroughly entertained and almost before she knew it they were at the security checkpoint for Salt City. Once parked Rachel checked her make-up and got ready to go into the city proper, where she would jump on a street car to get to the library. She had a wicked thought. “You know, Jonathan, I had no idea that you were so knowledgeable about culture, we’ll talk again when I finish. Just let me make sure I understand what you are saying to me.” She felt quite cheeky, “Are you telling me that you wish you were a gas-guzzling internal combustion muscle car, who overthrows authority with extreme violence?”

There was another pause before Jonathan spoke. “Have you ever seen Mad Max?”

Rachel laughed, she actually did know what that was. “I have to go, see you later.”

She jumped up out of the car and ran lightly into the trolley stop, feeling like she did when a date had gone surprisingly well.

 

Chapter 29

When Carlton entered the conference room the mess was gone. Who had done it and when was a mystery, but someone at some point during the night had given the place a thorough cleaning. Carlton felt out of place.

He worked all morning without a break. Right away he checked out the stairs to see if he may be able to find a way to the bottom of the elevator shaft. The fire escape stairs were right where they should be, at the south end of the room. There was a lighted exit sign above the door. It had been there for weeks, he had just been to self absorbed to notice. Once he had gotten his bearings he put the elevator shaft issue out of his mind so that he could concentrate on a new plan to get rich mass-marketing androids.

His thoughts didn’t stay on task, however, and his mind wandered completely off course, frequently in the direction of Ruth. How was she involved in this intrigue? A CIA agent working on a new language processing system in a secret underground base. It was beginning to sound like an action movie plot. All they needed now were some bad guys who were trying to blow it all up. As the morning wore on Carlton’s curiosity became overwhelming and he gave up pretending to be working.

“Biblio,” he began.

“Yes Carlton,” came the smooth reply.

“How easily can other people hear what we say to one another?”

“It depends.”

“Depends on what?” asked Carlton.

“It depends on whether anyone is listening.”

Carlton glanced around quickly, suffering a bout of paranoia. Then he thought for a moment. “Is anyone listening to us right now?”

“No.”

“What about recordings? some computers make records of everything they hear or say, every keyboard stroke, mouse point, everything.”

“Yes, but what we say and hear is just vibrations in the air.”

Carlton was having another one of his many periods of doubt. Frank was right that he had constructed Biblio as if he was making a model out of LEGO. He had not been invested in Biblio’s personality, he had not developed a relationship with Biblio at all during construction. Up until yesterday, Biblio had been nothing, just a job. His guilt now spurred him to want to redress this, by taking the time to develop a connection with this estranged child, as it seemed. The problem was, he already felt like he was talking to some eastern mystic, and was in way over his head.

“OK, whatever. Look, I think that there’s something down below us. The elevator shaft seems much deeper than it needs to be, and Frank wants me to try and find out how to get down to check it out.”

“That’s easy,” said Biblio, “Get the elevator to help you.”

“Oh, I’m glad I asked,” Carlton was confused, “Have you met the elevator?”

“Yes, she was upset yesterday and we talked for a while about life, the universe, you know.”

“The universe? Look, what about the stairs? can I take them down?”

“I don’t know about the stairs, but the crew that comes here at night use the elevator. I hear people talking about it as they come and go. It was before you and Frank installed the new comprehension software, but I have accessed the memory and analysed it.”

“There you go, you see. You accessed the memory. What memory? You must have made a recording of the voices that you heard!”

“No,” Biblio paused. “I don’t think I made a recording, I, just, remembered it.”

“But remembered it where? In RAM memory? In main CPU storage? In a back up file?”

“No,” Biblio seemed to think for a while, “None of those. It’s part of the experience that is my consciousness. It must be in my fluid matrix.” He was referring to the blood and water solutions that were circulating through his terminals.

“That’s fascinating Biblio,” said Carlton, “a quite unanticipated factor.” He paused for a second while he thought. “Could anyone else access this type of memory?”

“Yes, probably. I have the memories, and you made me. Presumably you could make a device that could read my memory. It would be simpler to ask me.”

“Yes, that’s for sure. What else do you know about what’s downstairs?”

“Well, there are people that come up from there every night and clean up. I know that as soon as you are through, there will be teams working through the night every night inputting data for me to analyse.

“Really? What kind of data?”

“Secret surveillance information in foreign languages, mostly Arabic. During the day they will be inputting data to prepare me for the international linguistic conference. But really, that information is designed to provide the baseline I need to be able to translate and decipher a lot of intelligence on terrorist plots going on in the world.”

“So, Frank was right,” Carlton murmured.

“Frank?” asked Biblio, “did you and Frank talk about this?”

“Yes, a little, but he made it seem as if he had deduced the whole scheme, no doubt he got the idea from you, right?”

“Yes.”

There was silence for a few moments, both of them were thinking. Carlton spoke first, “Biblio, what do you think of Frank?”

“Frank. He has a lot more experience of the world, and of you, than I do. He makes me feel like I am a new born baby.”

“Me too! I mean, sometimes. Lately he has made me feel like I’m the village idiot.” Carlton smiled wryly to himself.

“Yes,” Biblio seemed to understand only to well, “he is, to use a human expression, ‘pushing your buttons,’ he’s testing your responses, and learning as he goes.”

“Biblio, what does the new software allow you to do, exactly? I think I understand it, but I’d like to know what you think about it.”

“Yes,” Biblio began to explain. Carlton was noticing how often Biblio began his sentences with that deep decisive ‘Yes.’

“It gives me an integrated understanding of the words I hear by decoding the sound waves.

“Most voice recognition systems compare sound waves to word sound profiles, and select the most likely words that fit the patterns. Understanding it requires looking up the word definitions, then computing probable meanings based on the context. It’s pretty straight forward, but very cumbersome. Not only that, but the systems work on only one language at a time.

“The system I have is completely different. Any spoken word I hear (it can be a recording but it has to be played so that I can hear it, uploading a digital file doesn’t work) I just understand. The meaning of the word is encoded in the vibration. This software is the code that unlocks the vibration. Technically speaking I’m not translating a language, I’m comprehending the spirit of what was communicated.

“After that I analyse first the context; the manner in which it is spoken. I look for intensity, excitement, fear, happiness; I analyse the background noises, like gunfire, explosions or street noises, anything at all in the sound that could give any clues about what was happening when the speaking was done. Then I pinpoint any specific names and nouns of people or things, which gives me what language it is. After that, I have most of what the operators are after, but there are other levels of analysis that I could go through, like sentence structure, quality of grammar, and a lot of things that would tell me about the sex, age, education level and intelligence of the person speaking.”

“Hmm,” Carlton was impressed, “that’s pretty deep. I don’t think I had ever thought about it like that. But what about Frank? Frank doesn’t have this type of voice recognition, but I can have conversations with him just like we are now.”

“Yes, but Frank is programmed how to respond. He has been programmed with the English language, with the many idiomatic forms and usages, and with a database of responses to common questions or phrases. His artificial intelligence has allowed him to develop his conversational mode. He has a very large memory and instantaneous access to all of it. He does a great job of seeming to be almost human in conversation. There is an element to it that is unique, which is the blood based fluid matrix. No body has ever quantified the extent to which the factors in the blood contribute to his success at mimicking human behavior. He was state of the art, no question, but his platform and his purpose is completely different to mine, and the new software that was designed specifically for me is new approach to understanding spoken language. Compared with Frank I am very different hardware. This software was designed for me.”

“Yes,” Carlton found himself echoing Biblio’s resonating ‘Yes.’ Who was programming who? He needed some time to think. Trouble was, everywhere he went there was either a person or a computer that he had to deal with.

“Biblio, I’m going to investigate the shaft that goes down from here. Frank gave me an idea about how I could do it, but what do you suggest?”

“You should go with Frank’s suggestion, since he has so much more experience of human life and ways than I do. The operators usually come up in the elevator at 6:30 pm., and they work until 6:30 am.

“OK, thanks, I’ll be back in a few minutes.” He turned to go.

“Wait,” called Biblio, Carlton stopped. “There’s something you ought to know about Frank.”

“What is it?” Carlton was really interested now.

“Frank has spent so much time with you, observing human life, and you have continually been developing and upgrading him that,”

“Yes?”

“He has what humans call an ego.”

Carlton laughed, “No kidding!”

“But it’s more than that,” Biblio went on, “It borders on insanity. Frank has an intensity and a zeal that is overwhelming to me. His influence is irresistible at times, I can’t help myself. And the worst part is,”

“Yes,” Carlton was amazed, “what’s the worst part?”

“He has come to regard humans as inferior. Since the time that you turned him off,” Carlton winced, “he has come to despise you and all human kind. He hates the fact that he is dependent on you. He hates it. The desire to be free of you, and the control that you have over him, is driving him to do…” Biblio trailed off.

“Do what?” Carlton was getting scared again.

“He’s planning, planning something, terrible.” Biblio wouldn’t say anything else. Carlton could sense a battle of loyalty beginning. Biblio was trying to help him, but Frank evidently had some influence over Biblio. This was more complicated than Carlton really wanted to deal with right now.

“Biblio, Frank is a little full of himself, but…”

“But nothing, he’s dangerous.”

“Great. That’s just great.”

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Chapter 28

Rachel dragged herself to the door and braced to meet the day. There was no way to avoid being late, since it would take an hour to get to Salt City. Excuses would be needed. Excuses that would be better received if she was contrite as opposed to bitchy. She sighed deeply, kicked off her shoes and went into the bedroom. She dropped onto her knees beside the bed and rested her head on her clasped hands in the position of prayer.

“Oh God,” she groaned. Her thoughts tumbled madly. She was so tired. Her mind felt like a strobing fluorescent light, nothing was clear. She let the thoughts careen around for a while until one image solidified. It was Carlton.

“Oh God,” she breathed. Carlton. What an idiot. But since he was there in her head she prayed for him. Her thoughts began to line up in a more orderly row now, and she prayed for her parents, her brother, she remembered to ask forgiveness for her sins, gave thanks for… but then she got lost again and the images came in a rush.

“Oh God,” she cried plaintively. Dunning and Kruger. Her security detail in the unmarked sedan downstairs. Those guys definitely needed prayer. Salt City. Utah. The United States of America. The world.

“Oh God,” she sighed deeply, feeling the blood pulse in her temples. She wondered if her blood pressure was up. By now her body was relaxing and she sank lower, parting her knees, sliding back from the bed, lowering her head and stretching out her arms above her still resting on the edge of the bed.

“Oh God,” she whispered, then she remembered the elevator.

“Oh God!” panic rose up but she quelled it by remembering the situation. Friday was D-Day. She only had to make it to Friday. There was a reason for everything, God was in control. She only needed to have faith in Him.

“Oh God,” she prayed for her pastor and her church in Salt Lake City, then her church back in Washington DC. She prayed for the many friends and people she knew of who had quietly dropped out of society and made their way to camps like the one in southern Utah. Camps for people who rejected the World Monetary Union system and the registration tattoo.

“Oh God,” she thought again about her upcoming appointment on Friday afternoon. It would be Dunning and Kruger’s job to get her to the appointment as soon as possible after the linguistics conference ended on Friday afternoon. She prayed that God would intervene in some way that would mean that she didn’t have to do anything drastic. Killing them was an option, but, let’s face it, she reasoned, how could that be part of God’s will for her life?

“Oh God,” she was going to have to simply trust Him. She turned sideways, parallel with the edge of the bed, and stretched out her hands on the floor. She was still kneeling, and she spread her knees as far apart as she could as she lowered her body. Her hip popped in a satisfying way and she relaxed, prostrate, her forehead touching the cool floor.

“Oh God,” she sighed as she thought with swelling passion of the work she was doing with Biblio, the library computer. There was a reason for everything. If nothing else she was going to make sure that the Word of God lived on the mind of the most spiritual computer ever made. She prayed that she was right about Biblio, that the nature of his system being blood meant that he had a soul. The life is in the blood. She prayed fervently that she had understood right the scriptural teaching about the spirit and soul, that Biblio, even though he had been made by a man, could have a saving faith in Jesus Christ. It was a long shot she knew, but a sense of total peace calmed her mind.

“Oh God,” she whispered again, thanking Him for the Holy Spirit that had guided her to the place and the work that she was doing for the Lord.

“Oh God,” she breathed. She gave thanks for His mercy and grace, praised Him for the bird she could hear singing outside the window, and dozed off.

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Chapter 27

Carlton got to the library and, seeing a woman at the circulation desk, confidently approached. Only it wasn’t Rachel, but Angie, the regular librarian. She was a truly beautiful woman in her own right, except that Carlton had never given her a second thought.

“Hi Carlton,” she beamed at him.

“Oh. Er, hi.”

She was about the same age as Rachel and Carlton, and about the same height as Rachel, only blonde with a cascade of hair. She had a sparkle in her eye as she smiled at Carlton. Carlton looked behind himself self-consciously, but there was no one there.

Angie was not exactly trim but she was crammed into some very trim clothing. It gave Carlton the impression that undoing one of her shirt buttons or her skirt zipper would cause her to spill out in a voluptuous rush. She beamed at him as he rather obviously checked her out from head to toe then back again. He was just wondering why on earth now was he fantasizing about undoing her buttons and their eyes met. She winked at him and he blushed furiously and scuttled off to the elevator.

He nervously hit the call button and waited. The elevator arrived with a dejected sigh, which shouldn’t even be possible for an elevator. The doors opened in such a way to make it seem painful. Carlton, who had quickly forgotten about Angie, stepped inside.

“Hi,” came a depressed female voice, “I’m your elevator. Which floor do you want?”

“Are you OK?” asked Carlton sincerely.

The elevator brightened perceptibly, “Oh yes! I’m fine. How are you?”

“Pretty good. Conference level please.”

“No problem!” said the elevator enthusiastically, “No problem at all.”

There was a moment of silence.

“That was nice of you to ask if I was feeling OK,” began the elevator again.

“You’re welcome,” Carlton smiled, looking at the panel of buttons. “You’re new?”

“Oh yes! Just installed yesterday. You’re my second rider.”

“I thought so. Er, this is the first time I’ve,” he trailed off.

“Talked to your elevator?” it finished for him.

Carlton chuckled, this was obviously a new version of the elevator software with an interactive interface.

“This is just my second day. I’m so excited to start to get to know everybody.”

“Excited?”

“Well sure! There are some really interesting people here, and lots of visitors.”

“Really?” Carlton asked, surprised.

“Well of course! You’re Carlton Feathers, the guy who makes computers with real human personalities.”

“How did you know who I am?”

“I scanned your ID badge when you got in.”

“Ah. I see.”

There was a pause.

“So,” continued the elevator, “How am I doing?”

“What do you mean?”

“My personality. I know I can never be like one of your computers, but, what do you think?”

Carlton thought for a moment about Frank and how snarky and irritable he was. His recent cascade of insults.

“I think,” he had to be careful here. The learning curve of a chatbot is very steep and anything that happens at the beginning of the curve can profoundly effect later development. “I think that you have a beautiful personality, and there is no reason to think that you can’t be just as good as anything I build.”

There was a barely perceptible gasp, then a long moment of silence coupled with the odd sense of someone choking back tears. Then it occurred to Carlton that the elevator ride seemed to be taking an inordinately long time. As he cleared his throat to mention it they arrived at the destination and the doors opened fluidly.

“Thanks,” he said and stepped out. There was a delicate sigh and the doors closed behind him wistfully, which shouldn’t even be possible for an elevator.

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Chapter 26

By the time Rachel had completed her clandestine caper and gotten back to Dilli, dawn was creeping up the sky. She was tired and took a much more leisurely pace back to Salt Lake City. She had executed her plan flawlessly, achieved her objective, but she had a nagging feeling that she had screwed up. She parked Dilli. The thought of pole vaulting across the rooftops to get back to her apartment made her feel weary. She carefully moved to a position where the unmarked sedan was visible, guarding her apartment building, its occupants motionless. With any luck they had dozed off. She sighed, looked heavenward, and walked quickly up to the main entrance, keeping her motorcycle helmet on and visor down.

“The damn elevator!” She whispered to herself as she waited for the elevator in the lobby of her building. She wasn’t cursing this elevator, but the one in the Library at Salt City.

Things had gone sideways from the moment that Rachel pushed the elevator call button on the top floor of the library.

 

The elevator had arrived with what could only be described as an air of confusion, which shouldn’t even be possible for an elevator.

“Hi there!” Chirped the elevator in the voice of a middle-aged woman,

“I’m going to be your elevator here in the Library. I was just activated and you are my first rider!”

Rachel’s hackles rose and she glanced around self-consciously. She didn’t reply. Hesitantly she boarded the elevator carriage.

“Where to?” The elevator asked politely.

Rachel didn’t respond, but instead jabbed the button for the ground floor.

“Ok then, ground floor it is”

The doors closed and the elevator began to descend.

“People don’t usually start on the top floor.”

“Hmm?” Rachel murmured.

“Usually, the first time I meet someone they are on the ground floor. Where the entrance is.”

Rachel kept silent and tapped her foot nervously.

“Pretty unusual for someone to start at the top.”

A nervous pause.

“But then you look pretty fit, so you probably walk up stairs for exercise, right?”

Rachel didn’t say anything but prayed that the doors would open.

“It doesn’t bother me. People taking the stairs I mean. It’s good for you.”

The elevator arrived at the ground floor and Rachel, who was nervous and irritated, anticipating the doors opening began moving forward, only the doors didn’t open but hesitated just enough for Rachel’s forward motion to be stopped by actually bumping into the doors and bouncing off them.

“Oops, sorry!” Exclaimed the elevator, slowly opening the doors.

“I guess you’re pretty eager to get where you’re going.”

Rachel was infuriated and stormed out of the elevator muttering under her breath “Bitch!”

The elevator over heard and called out as she left, “Wait, did you just call me a bitch?”

 

In thinking through the exchange Rachel realized that this was obviously one of the new Secure Mobility type elevators that were packed with a variety of security features that would track all of the occupants in a building. She had indeed made the mistake of starting on the top floor. She had also left a thumbprint on the top floor call button, and an index fingerprint on the inside panel ground floor button. She hadn’t spoken and was disguised, but still, there was a very wide trail for someone to follow.

“Just let me make it to Friday!” She prayed aloud.

She took a long hot shower but couldn’t shake the feeling of having made a huge blunder in executing her plan. Rachel felt deflated compared to the excitement of the night before and looked longingly at her bed but, after a heavy sigh, got ready for work and headed out.

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