Chapter 3: Transit

Mice and Cats / Cats and Mice

“You’re ok?” Gus was grinning, ecstatic even, but since Kyp left he had developed a newfound concern for the safety of his friends, family, and coconspirators. It caught him by surprise sometimes and never failed to make him feel old, but healthy interest in well-being was probably advantageous in the long run.

“Yeah, fine, I’m hardly tired even,” Irena said, her grin almost audible as well. “Did you see how that ISA’er chased after our bots for like… hours”

“It was a good idea to dial down our speed after we pulled the switch. Probably why we don’t have headaches… yet.”

“Well that, and it was damn funny to watch the ISA’er run around so fast.”

“That it was. Shame he didn’t know what was really going on.” Gus said finally disentangling himself from his gear to stand up and stretch, and then he yelped with joy, almost hopping as he made his way to his desk. He took a deep breath, and his grin returned for a moment: “We did it! That was a great mission. You were great Irena. Pretty soon, I’m going to be out of a job.”

“I don’t know about that Gus” Irena was bashful, and perhaps a little too reverent.

“Believe me, I’m looking forward to it,” Gus said. “Lets take a look at the postmortem records, to make sure that everything still safe.”

“Good plan, we’re offnet?” Irena said, slipping into the chair behind her part of the desk.

“Yep, as soon as we came off ourselves,” Gus reported. That was an amazingly useful little program for protect against instant counter attacks, and it was such a simple script that he was kind of disappointed that it took him–or Kyp–so long to realize it could be done.

“Do you think it was Busby?” Irena said after a moment.

“Oh, no, probably not. Busby’s partners have always been the hackers, or whatever the ISA calls them. ‘Support staff.’ He’s not bad on the net, but from what we can tell he always hangs out in the background and runs support. Years and years ago, Kyp and I did a mission for Busby, and even then he didn’t like to go on the net very much. We never run into him, really.”

“And he’s a computer crimes guy, supposedly.”

“Supposedly,” Gus said. ISA didn’t have a psionic division, after all there were no telepaths, as far as anyone knew. ISA had Busby, the unofficial determined demi-genious, and the ISA higher ups pretty much let him operate free range. Well, and they let Matthew Connor get away with a lot, but that was off the clock. ISA didn’t know about Matt’s involvement.

“Looks like the bot, well bots I guess, we left in the database is undetected and active.” Irena reported, referencing a small portable.

Their servers would probably need to be offnet for a day or so, but they kept a couple of portables around connected to a too-complex web of other servers so that they could get up to date information: how the bots were running and doing their job, and if they’d been caught or traced and needed to run.

“Also looks like we got a lot of new data out of the sting.”

“Unexpected, but nice. What’s there?”

“Totally.” Irena paused and entered something in a flurry. “Not sure, running diff now.”

“Good, keep me posted, but de-prioritize it. We need to make sure that we’re not in any trouble, first.” Gus said. ”When did I turn into Kyp?,” thought to himself.

“Right; On it.”

”I’m going to see what the spybots intercepted while you look at that,” Gus said.

“Ok, good plan. I’m going line by line; our first sweeps didn’t get anything in the security logs. So if they got anything, they’re not tipping their hand, or they don’t know they have it yet.”

“That’s the great thing about data volume these days.” Gus closed his eyes for a moment while the spybot programs compiled reports. “Busby was in net running support, he checked for Kyp’s sig, again. Good, he’s still working on old data.”

“Nothing of you?”

“I escaped-out that time, and Matt’s kept the data stalled in forensics, so I’m not sure that they know I was there; but I do worry a bit… Enough to check on it.”

“Busby was paying a lot of attention to you.”

“Wait, how? You took lead, and who ever chased after your bot.” Gus said, calling up a view of Irena’s records. “If he was providing support, shouldn’t he have been watching you?”

“Yes.”

“Damn, ok. What can we look at on this one?”

“Not too much, their bot killall took a lot of the endgame data with it, and probably obsoleted a few of our bot designs,” Gus said.

“Nothing these days lasts as long as it used to.”

Gus reached over to the portable and ran a search on his signature; just to make sure that he hadn’t been flagged anywhere. When they brought the servers back on, he’d set up an auto-check, but he got a bit nervous all of a sudden. After paging through a couple hundred search results, he decided that everything was probably safe, at the moment. He set the portable back down on the desk, and it fell into it’s place a little more clumsily than Gus had intended.

Irena looked over at him, by now she had stopped her reviews and her intent concentration gave way to concern. “Clear for now,” Gus reported, but he could feel himself almost turning white with worry and probably a little bit of exhaustion. He closed his eyes and covered his mouth with his hands as he took a deep breath, while he considered what to do next. “Are you doing alright, or do you need to take a break” he asked, when he opened his eyes.

”I’m fine, really,” Irena said. She didn’t flinch and she definitely didn’t have to say ”but you’re not.

“Good. I think I got hit harder by that then I wanted to. Can you get all the post-mortem stuff running while I go try and sleep it off?” Gus yawned.

”I’m on it Gus don’t worry about it. Should I try and get link up to Mars for a report to Kyp and them when you wake up?”

“Lets wait until we know something more, and lets not rush getting back on-net this time, unless you pick something up on the–” Gus yawned again and gestured generally at the portable.

“Yes, yes, of course. Now to bed with you.” Irena said. She was being uncharacteristically forceful, but the situation seemed to demand that. Also, she wanted Gus asleep so that she could make sure that his mind, or whatever her telepathy would let her see, was still in order.

She thought about contacting Matt, but realized that the real computers were still offline, so that could wait; and she also considered helping Gus walk over to his bed, but thought that there wasn’t much use in making him more worried than he already was.

Irena turned back to the computer for a moment to see if she could coax anything new out of the computer until Gus fell asleep, but it was still crunching through the data: ”predictable,” she thought.

Returning

“So am I still alive?” Kyp asked, when Taban finally started to disconnect all of the various leads and sensors that connected his body and torso to Taban’s diagnostic equipment. Kyp had expected to be a little more worn after so much telepathic contact, but as always, Taban and Kalian were gentle and calm minded, and he barely noticed.

“I think you’ll live, and god it’ll be interesting. You have a lot going on up there,” Taban said.

Kyp laughed. “You’re one to talk, mister. Anything interesting?”

“Well you know, we won’t have anything really conclusive, for a few days, unless you want to help us build a supercomputer,” Kalian trailed off and smiled.

“I think I’ll pass on clogging my gear up with your numbers. It’s actually kind of nice to have a system, albeit slightly underpowered, all to myself.”

“Fair enough.” Taban said.

Kalian started to say something, but stopped and just grinned.

“From what I can tell though, you’re in good shape, and nothing physiological is in a lot of trouble,” Taban said.

“Great. I didn’t think anything was wrong, but you two are too good to me.”

“Well enlightened self interest and all. We’re low on people to work with here, and you’re always great to have in the chair,” Taban said. “Lets sit in the living room: we’ll all be more comfortable.” They had all remained in the office, which doubled as a research and testing space, when the occasion called for it, but the quarters were cramped.

“That sounds good, actually.” Kyp was still lying down. “It’s a bit disconcerting to be looking up to you, actually,” he said. He smiled.

“Fair enough, get some more of your friends to come to Mars and you might be safe from our research table in the future,” Kalian said.

“Speaking of, are we expecting new folks anytime soon?” Kalian asked Kyp. While Kalian and Taban had been on Earth more recently, Kyp maintained contact with a number of people on Earth, while Taban and Kalian limited their corresponded to Matt Connor. Despite their great advancements and insights, and leadership role in the community, the Morgans often fit the age-old stereotype of telepaths as hermits and recluses.

“I hope so, but it would be hard to keep any sort of mass immigration under cover, and life here has been pretty good, I have to say, I don’t know if I want to ruin it.”

“That’s not what we’re about, I can certainly respect the feeling, but I think it’d probably be worthwhile to get more of the community to move over here.” Kalian said, sounding like the trip from Earth to Mars was quick and effortless.

“Well, getting people to move, is always hard, you know. And it’s so expensive,” Kyp said.

“And the dust doesn’t wash away for months,” Kalian said, eliciting laughter. They had discovered that the never ending dust was a product of the loading and unloading techniques. Since the storage cartons were vacuum hardened, they didn’t keep the cartons inside during loading and unloading: ergo dust. Unfortunately discovering this mystery didn’t prevent them from the weeks and weeks of dusting.

“You know Kalian, we should see if we can talk with the government here to get more transport permits for ‘our’ people,” Taban suggested.

“We have people now?” Kalian asked. “Yeah, I guess we do, that’s probably a good idea.”

“Aside from that, the governments should really subsidize some more relocations, and we’re nearing an optimum transfer point series again, right?” Kyp said.

“We are? This soon?” Kalian said, in surprise.

“I think so, in the next couple of weeks. You could check.”

“I believe you. I think the government subsides that paid most of our way are still around, and have been for a long time, but the people who know about it don’t want to leave their posh circumstances to live in the colony, and the people who don’t know about them wouldn’t think to ask.” Taban said.

“Typical.” Kyp said.

“Unfortunately. Speaking of untypical things, I was thinking about making dinner? I trust you’ll stay.”

“Only if you promise not to poison us.” Kyp said.

Kalian laughed, remembering a particularly bad meal that Taban had “cooked” back on earth, probably two years ago. After that, Kalian became the designated cook most of the time, much to Taban’s embarrassment and shame. Kyp chuckled as well, his own memory triggered by the feeling of Kalian’s memory.

“Hey you two, cool it, and be thankful that you’re not cooking.” Taban tried to stifle a laugh, but was largely unsuccessful. “Besides, welcome to Martian cuisine, as you know the term ‘cooking’ isn’t quite the right word for this.” Unfortunately he was right: the food on Mars, particularly in the early days was not what one could call gourmet, but preparation was quick and it nourished.

“We relent,” Kalian said, still smiling. “Thanks for ‘cooking’ dearest!” Kalian called out, laughing again.

Kyp and Kalian both felt Taban think something along the lines of “grumble snipe” from the kitchen. They laughed harder, but a moment later a faint chime interrupted them.

“That’s not the door, is it?” Kalian asked regaining some composure and looking around for the source of the noise.

“No, I think it’s my portable,” Kyp said, checking his pockets for the device. “I put it in my bag when we were prepping, is it in the office?” Kyp stood and moved toward the office door.

“No, I think it’s by the door,” Kalian suggested.

“Right, thanks,” Kyp said, reaching his bag only after the chime had stopped. He doubted the call was real-time anyway: the people he knew on Mars–save Taban and Kalian–so rarely used the system, Earth was too far away, and he couldn’t fathom why anyone in orbit of the planet would be placing a call.

Sure enough, it was a message. “It’s from Gus calling from Earth.” Kyp reported, still standing over his bag while he drilled through a couple of menus to unlock the device and access the message. “And he cut the transmission time way down. That’s pretty impressive.”

“What’s he got to say? He’s well, right?” Kalian remembered that Kyp and Gus had a pretty complex communication schedule worked out to minimize the lag, and make sure that any data transmissions could make it effectively between them and two planets.

“I think so, at least as of last week he was fine, but give me a second,” Kyp said. He was a little concerned, this was an odd time for a call, and this seemed almost of out of character for Gus “Here goes,” Kyp said, activating the message.

The portable took a second to load the feed as the system back in his quarters–crunched through the encryption. Kyp expected to see Gus’ boyish face on his portable, but there was no image, just audio. Audio which, particularly with the flex-compressions used to send data to mars, never quite sounded like it should:

“Kyp, I hope you can get this soon. Irena and I have been working on a way to get a bug into the ISA database in Busby’s department; you know the one that we were after a year ago for those contacts. We finally got an independent system to run on for the hack, which kept them off our tails and we were even able to run dialed up for while. It was successful, we think, and Irena reports that there hasn’t been any buzz about it so either nothing happened, or Busby is keeping this under wraps. I put a call out to Matt, but I haven’t heard from him yet.

“Irena seems to think that things are still safe–we were offline for a good fifteen hours, and she’s still crunching through the postmortem and the steal. I think she did a telepathic once over of me after I passed out–which was weird, the passing out that is, I’ll tell you about that later when I’m more together–but she’s not telling me, and I suspect if something is really wrong, you’ll hear about it before I will,” Gus said, there was a hushed conversation that the recording didn’t capture, Irena was probably in the room. While the ‘scan the partner while they’re asleep after a run,’ thing wasn’t strictly speaking cooth telepathic behavior, Kyp could remember a dozen or so times that he and his hacking partners had done the same thing.

A moment later Gus continued, “Encryption on what we got is really thick too, but we weren’t being really careful when we extracted the information, because that wasn’t our objective. Irena’s good by the way, you’d like her, I think; also, I’m turning into you, which is scary.” Gus laughed.

”I’m calling off schedule, because I’m pretty sure that Busby got a sniff on me, again not sure, and the postmortem isn’t done. In a way it’s because we were so successful, they were completely unprepared for another assault, even though some of our folks had been nibbling at their door for… Well probably since our last run on them.

“Also, Busby still had scripts out looking for you, so even if he has a sniff on you, he doesn’t know you’re on Mars. If that’s comforting to you, there you are. After this, I’ve been thinking about coming to Mars sooner than we’d planned. Irena, she’s really good, and I don’t want to hang on here more than I need to or should. I’m not sure. I’m also not sure if we should have made the run against ISA, I mean, yeah, Busby’s people have been sniffing around a lot, but the more I think about the the mission, the more wrong it seems to feel, The more I feel like it just shouldn’t have happened that way.”

Gus took a deep breath. From even a planet away, Kyp felt his own anxiety rise in sympathy with Gus’, he passed the portable to the other and took a breath before Gus started talking again. Kyp looked up at Kalian who was standing by one of the chairs, looking quite concerned. Taban was still cooking, and hadn’t heard the portable ring, though he could probably feel Kyp and Kalian’s concern.

Gus continued: “I suppose on the upside, the data is pretty mucked up right now, I don’t suspect they’ll be able to recover more than whatever files they had withdrawn, when we attacked. This is a bit old, but also tell the Taban and Kalian, we’ve managed to finally track down all the people on the list from last year, but only a few people that we didn’t know about. We’ve been giving out materials, and they’ve been sending data back, so I suspect we’ll have a couple of big data packets compiled soon, though I’m still concerned about sending the data if I’ve been made, too much risk, and I’m thinking about getting someone to courier; though Irena isn’t worried about it. When did I become this neurotic?”

“The day you were born,” Kyp answered softly, even though this was only a recording. Kalian almost choked on a laugh.

“Lets not answer that, actually,” Gus said, apparently anticipating Kyp’s response. There was laughter in the background that Kyp assumed was Irena. “Anyway, We’re going to sit tight for the present and restrict our net activities for a while, at least until I feel more calm about this whole thing. I wanted to get your input though. I’m worried about sending the data, I’m not sure how to proceed, and I thought you should hear this from me before you hear it from Matt or someone. Be well, and I’ll here from you soon.” The message concluded with a burst of encoded signals, to ensure authenticity. Kyp thumbed the device off: he could run the code later.

“Oh dear,” Kalian said.

“Everything ok?” Taban had apparently missed most of the message, and nearly all Kalian and Kyp’s reaction.

Kyp opened his mouth to explain, but couldn’t find the words. Kalian started instead, “Gus sent a message, seems a run didn’t go as well as he thought at first, and he’s worried about his security, and some data.” Kyp put the portable back in his bag and went over to the chair he’d been sitting in, and sort of collapsed into it. Perhaps he was more hungry than he thought.

“Is he ok? What about the data?” Taban asked, sounding concern. Taban appeared at the doorway of what passed for a kitchen. There was a smudge of something food related across Taban’s cheek, Kalian looked at it quizzically, and decided not to ask, but Taban rubbed the food away, having probably felt the thought anyway.

“Gus’ ok, and the data’s safe where it is, but I think he’s worried about the transmission. I suspect there’s a lot of it, and there haven’t been as many developments in transmission bandwidth in the last six months as we had predicted.”

“Well that’s good. Still, should we be worried?” Taban asked

“I don’t know, if it weren’t serious I don’t think Gus would have called.” Kalian reasoned.

“Yeah, that’s true, but he’s probably right about the extra security problems, and having him in shambles isn’t a good thing either, even if he’s alright at the core.”

“Do you think Irena can handle it without him?” Kalian asked.

“Irena?” Taban’s voice echoed slightly, likely the product of a little telepathic “gain boost.”

“Gus’ new hacking partner,” Kyp and Kalian answered in unison.

“Ah, what do we do?” Taban asked,

Kalian and Kyp looked at each other for a moment before responding at the same time:

“I guess we wait and see,” Kalian said.

“I think I’m going back to Earth,” Kyp said.

tycho garen

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