Ode to Werner Von Newkessel
Lab Rat squinted in the dim green light from the display, straining to make sure he was cutting the white wire with the black strip and not the yellow wire with the red strip. He was glad he checked: he had been on the verge of a very serious faux pas.
His fingers danced the wire to the back of the cable while bringing forth another one. He strained, decided that this was the proper one. Press of a button, and a soniq beam bisected the frail wire.
Above, the fold-up screen of his notebooq qomputer became one line longer (and one line brighter) as the qomputer noted that the qamera feed had been disrupted. Lab Rat’s fingers danced as he slipped on T splice and restored flow in under five seconds. Any longer, and the machine would have notified security and maintenance.
A third line on the screen logged that the vidio transmissions had been restored.
Lab Rat smiled. Perfect teeth: in other words, implants to replace his originals. Those had been pulled during an interrogation by a rival qomputer hacking clan who (incorrectly) believed he was smuggling a microchip of data. The replacements he’d bought were a little too perfect and shiny: it gave his smile a ravenous leer.
However, this time the hunger was for information, not blood. He was just moments away from patching into the system. All he had to do was... ...and this wire there... ...and whah-lah!
The lap-top’s screen split in half. On the left, a schematic of the building, with the qamera locations in glowing yellow. On the right, a five-second delay of what any specific camera had in sight.
Lab Rat studied the layout of the building, then moused the cursor to the up arrow. Double-clicking the button, the qomputer-generated maps of the building’s floors changed as he changed the floor he wished to study. He took it all the way to the top, then descended line by line, floor by floor.
That’s the one.
He clicked the box, and a detailed blueprint came up.
A crackle over his headset, and he looked up quickly. Nothing presented itself. Just a surge in the airband’s white noise. He was tapped into the security channel, so if he were found out, he’d know what they were doing to catch him. So far, things had been pretty quiet.
The fact that he had gotten so far so quickly stood testimony to their (in)effectiveness. Very amateurish.
He returned his attention back to the schematic on the screen. There were five yellow T markers. He dragged the mouse over to the one in the room that occupied the entire southern side of that building’s floor. It commanded an impressive view of the coastline in the daytime, but it was that obscure time right around when you realize ten pm has become two am. All that is visible is fog.
The arrow landed on the yellow prong, clicked twice, and Lab Rat kicked back to watch the movies.
The picture was almost a total, deathly black. If there hadn’t been the sound of rustling paper, Lab Rat would have thought the place was empty.
He moused up to a pulldown menu and adjusted the audio coming through his headset. Left channel, security. Right channel: the office. Twist of two knobs, and the left hand static was replaced by right hand murmurings.
He still couldn’t make out what was going on.
Tracking the camera around, he soon located a beacon of light. The occupant of the room had a desktop qomputer on, lit up with information.
Lab Rat was very curious to know what that information was.
He zoomed both audio and vidio, in an attempt to better resolve his problem.
“...cooperation on their end. They won’t arrest them, but they will tell us if they become aware of the group’s location. I’ve also given their images to four of the qommunications monopolies. If any of them even walk past a vidio phone we’ll know about it.” He decided it best to sum this up for his superior: “I think that’s the best we can do to keep track of them, should they return to this area.”
Lab Rat pressed a button, and the image began to record onto his hard drive, plus a duplicate print on the same type of microchip that had cost him his dentistry.
The image recorded wasn’t very impressive: just hollow light from an oversized, smudgy vidio screen lighting up a cluttered desk and the back of a standing man.
The man whose desk it was sat out of sight, swallowed up by the darkness of his overstuffed velvet chair. It looked to Lab Rat like a very poor throne, almost: a pathetic throne for a pathetic king.
The standing figure squatted down, and several small stars of light suddenly lit up as the camera took in the brass Hanneman unobstructed.
“Now,” Leonard Whitlock was saying, “how do we get out there?”
Whitlock’s majordomo, Fosfornotu, nodded and pulled up several bound charts, which he spread onto the wooden desk.
“We’ve made several inquiries with our contacts and gotten some conflicting information, but it seems that they now have a good hypothesis for what flung the original ship out there four years ago.” He leaned over the map, which at first Whitlock assumed was a chart of a solar system. “The people at GCT analyzed the flight recorder, and pinpointed their exact location down to the nanosecond to have been equidistant between these two moons.”
Whitlock looked at where Fosfernotu’s spindly finger was jabbing, and realized sheepishly that he was looking at a map of a planet and its moons. He did not own up to the mistake.
There was a long pause. One of the many fields Leonard Whitlock was ignorant in was astronomy.
“Between the moons...” he repeated deeply, in a tone conveying that he understood completely.
Fosfornotu continued, “now we checked the most detailed survey of the system, and found that aside from six planets and two comets, MM 22 also has a sinkhole in slow orbit.”
“...Sinkhole,” Whitlock repeated obliquely.
“Ah, good, you’ve heard of them. The original survey team put a buoy in synchronous orbit with it so no one’d fly into it, but that’s something that would only show up on a navigational map, not a standard reference printout. Anyway, as all sinkholes do, this one is leaking Von Newkessel Particles.”
“Von Newkessel Particles...” Whitlock repeated shrewdly.
“Right. Anyway, Galaqtiq QomTeq just ran an in-depth survey on that sinkhole, which I have obtained and replaced with a false report.”
“...false report,” came the echo.
“Exactly. It would not be to our advantage if GQT learned the truth about that sinkhole.”
In the shadow, Whitlock nodded, for once satisfied with what he was hearing. He whole-heartedly approved of misinformation, even if he did not fully understand why it was being used in this instance.
Forty-two floors below, Lab Rat also nodded. Münster had gotten ahold of a bootleg copy of the report, and had puzzled over it with everybody. GQT had re-surveyed the entire system in detail, with massive inspection of the place where the ship had been when it suddenly propelled 270,000 parsecs away. Lab Rat was nodding, because when he’d seen the report too, he couldn’t find any cause for the aberration. Now that he learned that he had seen false data, he smiled in expectation of learning the Truth.
“Anyway,” Fosfornotu continued, “that sinkhole happens to release Von Newkessel Particles in a complex but repetitive pattern. We qomputer simulated the trajectories for that day, and found that one Particle passed right where the ship would have been. The ship was not moving, and was at the midpoint between two moons gravity fields when the particle hit it. Since Von Newkessel particles move faster than light, it took the ship right along with it. The only thing that made it stop was passing by a large gravity well, namely, the planet where our friends seem to be.”
The last bit sunk into Whitlock’s flabby brain.
“Jansenn, did you leave the fire escape from the generator room unlocked?”
That voice came from Lab Rat’s left ear: a guard was using the channel. He shifted attention to the second qommunication.
“No,” came the reply.
Lab Rat looked up and over his shoulder. The room he was in was empty, the door shut and locked from his side. Beyond that door was a maintenance station to the generator. And on the other side of the generator room’s fire escape entrance was a security guard, who had noticed that the generator’s door was unlocked.
Whitlock said something in his other
ear, but Lab Rat listened to the sound of heavy hinges rolling back as the
guard opened the door. Lab Rat reached
up to his desktop qomputer, next to which was his
Just as his hand slid around the grip, the sound of the hinges again, and a definitive locking snap.
“Well,” the first voice was saying, “some asshole forgot to lock it.” Walking noises. “Is there any qoffee left?”
Lab Rat shook his head pathetically. The guard must have just poked his head in and looked around. Unprofessional. Even worse, he could unlock the door from his side, and get out quickly (he’d already prepared his escape rout, which was why the door was unlocked.) He turned his attention back to the other miq.
Whitlock was sniveling like a baby.
“...but when can we get out there?”
Fosfornotu fidgeted, and Lab Rat held his breath.
“You must understand that a unique set of conditions have to be met, including moon, sinkhole, and spaceship preparation. If everything isn’t worked out perfectly to six decimal places, it won’t work, and you’ll have to wait nine months to try again.”
Whitlock wasn’t interested. His troops would be too scared of his wrath to make a mistake. All he growled was “when?”
Fosfornotu smiled, though a little forcibly. “You’re in luck. Next window is in four days.”
Lab Rat also smiled.
“I would suggest that you...” Fosfornotu started, but Whitlock cut him off.
“Don’t tell me how to do anything,” he hissed. He was observing that: the moment advisors start advising, they start issuing their own orders, and then they go rogue like Münster. Well, that certainly wouldn’t happen again!
“I’ll prepare for this.”
And then Lab Rat heard something that he had to bite his tongue to keep from laughing. When he gave Münster the tape ten hours later, the first thing he would do would be an imitation of Whitlock’s last words which made Münster cry with laughter.
“I’ll lead the assault myself.”
[continue to next chapter]