Monday, December 28, 2009

One Tree City (Pt. 4 of 13)

Baby's sitting across from me sans her name tag. I know it's her for two simple reasons. First, I haven't been gone long. Secondly, I'd recognize that swooping downward breast line anywhere. Actually, I probably wouldn't, but it's been a while since I've seen such an immaculate breast curve. I hope to have it ingrained in my memory for a long time. Capital F, Capital I, Capital N, Capital E. Baby's got breatseseses.

But though breasts are fine. I've got a new gadget. A watch. In complete heterosexual fashion, Loony Jake picked it out for me. It's old school, or at least appears to be. It has the mechanical arms, and the knobby little side winders. But the top little windy knob thing on the side, I push that, a small and very hot flame ejects out from the other side. If I pull on it, a very thin, three meter long cord unwinds. Plus, there are eight little metal clasps that make up the band that bracelets around my wrist. One of them has what everyone (and now me) knows to be a GPS tracker. Another has fuel for the torch. One of them contains a poison; I think it's called tetra-don't-i-die. I can't remember exactly, but if I want to simulate my own death, I'm supposed to eat it. It's a nice watch.

In summary, I must say that I like Baby, and I like my watch. I'm not sure in which order though. They're both hot. My nannies are not. I don't like my nannies. Yes, that's right, I'm calling the nanites nannies, because they are. They are freaking jerkoff nannies and I hate them. Except that I can't hate them because I can't feel any emotions for a period of time longer than a second. Probably half a second. My nannies even change my perception of time. I thought drugs were supposed to do that, not drug regulators. Since when do drugs regulate time? Lame. Hyperlame. Lame to the max. My nannies are freaking Nanny narcs. I know I need them, but for multiple isolated second fractions I hate them.

"Hi Baby," I say.
"It's been a while," she smiles at me. "I told you you'd see more of me."
"Did you?" I can't remember.
"You've met Thyme, right?"
"Yes," says Thyme.

"Ok kids," interrupts Looney Jake, as he sits down right after me.

Oops. So sorry. We're still in Madison. Actually, we just got out of the vacuum room and the new clothes room and I can still hear Tian's weird accent echoing in the back of my head. My time perspective is distorted, so it's difficult to tell exactly what's up when I'm writing this.
"Tian caught up Mister Teague—"
I had to interrupt. "Seriously?" I ask. "Seriously? Do you have to call me Mister Teague? Can't you just say Jasper? Even Jazz is better. You all have bad ass names. I mean bad ass." I pointed at Baby. "Baby?! I mean really. That's killer. And Thyme? Well, no offense, but you seem kind of an ass, and I mean that since my nannies won't let me get angry. But your name is awesome. And you!" I turn to Looney Jake. "You have the name Looney in your name. That's ridiculous."
"No," says Thyme. "It's Looney."

I catch my breath for a moment. "Ok, you know what Thyme? Even if I could laugh, I wouldn't have, because that wasn't funny and because you're mean. And please, don't call me mister Teague. Call me Jazz."
"Honey," says Baby. Oh my god the sound of her voice. "Jazz is a stupid name. Jasper is ok. There's a ghost named after him, so that's nice. But Jazz is dumb, and Jasper is too nice, so we're going to call you Mister Teague. "
"Ok," Looney Jake butts in again. "We're done with the childish name thing. On to grown up stuff, ok kids?"

We all nod. By we all I mean that I nod and the woman give stern looks of agreement in my general face direction.
"Great. Now as I was saying, Mister Teague—"

I couldn't even wince. I hate the nannies.

"—has been briefed about E.x.P.a.t. And I believe that he knows what we're going to do."
Again, I'm the only one nodding, but this time only because there are six expectant eyes on me.
"Good. Now Thyme, your turn to break the hard news."
I see her smile. I know that whatever happens next isn't going to be good, but my Nannies have already opened me up for hard core disappointment. I'm ready to accept whatever's said without judgment of anykind. I'm a fresh sponge ready to be tossed to a dirty kitchen sink, at the mercy of whatever the guiding hand might do. Will it be willing to rinse and wring me out or will it leave me oiled and sloppy on the side of the stainless steel cauldron of mess? Stay tuned…
"We're about to go to war with China," says Thyme. I find that kind of interesting, but my nannies dumb that down and just let me soak it all in. "E.x.P.a.t is huge, and her core components are in every major database worldwide. Right now she's 68% in the United States, 17% in Japan, 4% in France, 4% in South Korea, and 7% other. Obviously, the sixty eight of her that's in the United States is scattered all over the U.S."
"Yes, that's obvious." I say.

The six stern eyes hit me again.

"Ok, come on. I can't be sarcastic. Seriously, I can't be I wish I could, but I can't. So obviously, don't waste time with being obvious. Ok? Thanks."

Baby purses up her lips and briefly, briefly, a thin smile stretches them out again. I don't both looking at Thyme until she starts talking again, which is far too soon.
"Ok Teague. Fine. We need to get her in one location."
"So you're starting a war?" I ask. "That's not as obvious, but possible, so I'm just asking."
"Yes," says Thyme. "And believe me, many people are going to die. War's start fast and end long and slow. All of them. The plan now is for China to attack Taiwan. Then we will attack China, and then –not so obvious-- China's going to launch a nuclear missile strike at Los Angeles."
"You know what?" I say. "At first, that all made sense. But now, now I think that's crazy. Especially the last nuclear Los Angeles part. You're crazy. I'm assuming China's no percent, because you just said so. So E.x.P.a.t isn't there. So that's weird. Further, you say China's going to make the first move, which means China's helping you, which is crazy since there's no percent of Patricia, can I call her Patricia?"

L.J gives me a quick nod.

I continue, "Great. So If Patricia's not in China, then why would they care? Oh also, if E.x.P.a.t is so smart and in all the huge whatever database computers, why would she let a war happen? She'd stop you."
"Mister Teague. I'm not offended, because I know your mind is trying to grasp the situation beyond the realms of emotion, otherwise I'd slap you. Let me assure you that number one. China is cooperating. This has been planned without the interference of the government. Yes, you heard me. Without the interference of the government. Our leaders go in and out of power more often than we'd like, so we're working with people who don't."

"Very good. We're working with Money. Money both here and in China. And yes, you're right, China's no percent, which is very odd. So odd that we're convinced that China actually is a percent, and China tends to agree, which is why China's going to help us out.
"So, tomorrow the Chinese will commence their hostilities. We can't be entirely sure, but soon after that, maybe minutes, probably hours, perhaps days, we'll be at war. Tomorrow, our facility goes on line. It's a secret. The people who built it don't know what it was built for. The people who assembled the tech inside of it are ours but also government affiliated and cleared for very high security. Almost know one knows about it. Which is why we're sure she knows about it.
"Unfortunately, the people who do know about it don't know us and they won't let us in."

"Wait a second," I say. "What are we talking about?"

Looney Jake speaks up. "Tian didn't tell him about the Call Center."

Thyme smiles. "The Call Center is the largest computer network in the world. We like to call it a hypercomputer since it runs so fast. Everyone wants access to it, especially the Department of Defense. They wanted it so bad that when they got wind of it, they didn't just buy processing time, they bought the facility." She looked at my watch. "Big or small, men like their toys."
I let it go. Freaking Nannies supervising the thoughts in my head and the words out of my mouth. I had a toy to show her. Wait. What was I thinking?

Thyme continued. "Fortunately they also like to show them off. Once the war with China starts, Patricia's going to want to spread out and minimize casualties."

"Or declare herself and kill some peeps," I say.
"Correct. But in order to insure her cyber-dominance, she's going to want to put a presence inside the Call Center. Imagine you found an oil field just before you were going to start a big war. Would you start tapping it before or after the fighting began?
I saw where Thyme was going.

"Before you went to jail, people transmitted information through phone lines. Now we can do it over airwaves, power lines, and designated fiber cables too. Fortunately for us, Patricia travels through power lines.

"It isn't fast, she doesn't want to risk burn out. But it gets her anywhere she wants to go. Unfortunately for her, the Call Center is completely off the grid. It's powered by an array of capacitor banks that get their energy from a hydro dam on the Potomac River. She has only one way in. And actually, we only have one way in too."
"What's that?" I ask. "Our way, I mean. We can get back to Patricia's life later. Tell me what you mean by fortunately men like to show off."

It was Baby's turn to talk. For a half second I was grateful to hear her voice. I was in love with her voice. And then I was loving her. But it only lasted for half a second. Then I was just listening to a moving mouth. But oh the mouth! But then oh the Nannies. They were getting better. Only for a half second each did the mouth or voice matter.

We're going to a general's ball. We don't know the general but there's a colonel we know. So we get into the ball. Then we get ourselves invited to the opening day ceremonies at the database center. Cake."

"By we?" I ask, hopeful I'm going to get the answer I want.

"Yes. Two couples. You and Thyme. Me and Looney Jake."

Good thing I couldn't feel my balloon pop. God how I hated Thyme. Not so much her as her name. Using my incredible new abilities to rationalize, I quickly convinced myself that Thyme wasn't badass, it was annoying.
There were more pressing things than annoyances though. For example, attending the ball seemed to be planned all wrong. The timing was off. If we were going to be at a ball the night the Chinese were going to attack Taiwan. How were we supposed to lure in E.x.P.a.t?
"I know what you're thinking," said Looney Jake. He said it in that way that meant even if I don't know what you're thinking, soon you'll think I did. There should be a name for that. Anyway. "It's true," He said, "that we don't know when we'll be at war. Inevitably though, we know our military response will be fast. The party is tomorrow night, it starts with a dinner at 8pm. We need to keep people there boozed and happy, by whatever means necessary, until 2am. That's six hours. If the ball is terrible, that's a terribly long time. We've taken some measures to ensure that we'll have some rowdy friends and that it'll be a good time. But if they fail and people want to bail early, it's gonna be tough to keep people there, and therefore suspiciousless, until 2am.

"The Chinese will make their move when the East Coast is most asleep. They care more about Washington and the U.S than South Korea or Japan. At 1 pm they'll start a missile and air attack on Taiwan. They've already begun to assemble troops in Xiamen and Shantou harbors, but an hour before the missles go, the Chinese will be amassing what could easily be construed as an invasion army. Our military will be woken up, especially those at the general's ball."
Thyme nods. "We hope some balls drop. Literally. We want to pick up information and access cards/keys/whatever that will get us into the instillation."
My confusion begins to clear. "When you said invitations to opening day ceremonies—"

"There are no opening ceremonies for this installiton. The Call Center's integrated network can compute 2.4 petaflops per second. It's only connected to 3 hardlines that go out of the system. One to I.C.A.N.N, which is the basically the people in charge of the internet, one hardline to the D.O.D, and one hardline to N.A.S.A's supercomputer in Texas.

"The Center is huge, Teague. It's underground and it's the size of a small town. It will provide the perfect place for E.x.P.a.t to call home. It's underground. It's got access. It's super efficient. With a war, she'll want a secure home. This is our only chance to shut her down."
t all sounds good to me. A little crazy, but good.

"Ok, fine. Speaking of Patricia, how do we lure her in and shut her down?"

"When the shooting starts, D.O.D will automatically open up the three hardlines. They are faster than powerlines, which is good for us, and they don't burn out, also good for us. Patricia will send in some feelers. She won't commit a lot though. The thing is powered by a capacitor bank, and if the capacitors all discharge at once, she's at risk of burning out." Looney Jake grins big. "Even with the Nannites you're having trouble following?"
I nod without shame.

"We need access because after the capacitor banks go down, and they will since shortly after D.O.D brings the Center we're simulating a power short, Patricia will think it's safe to get inside. She'll commit a lot to it to. She'll be able to think really fast with 2.4 petaflops of processing. Once she's in, we go in with our oranges, toss a few, and bust her brain. There are small centers set up around the country that D.O.D doesn’t know about. We'll bring out those dogs to bite up the remaining bits of her that are left to chew after we short her out."
I look at him quizzically, but he's faster than that, he doesn't see the expression on my face.
"I'm not too old that I don't know how to write some code." He says, drinking at last from his full cup.
"Fine." I say. It sounds real enough. "Do you know the building security?"
They all nod this time.
"We do. But first we're going to eat. Then as equals we're going to take a jet over to Washington D.C and crash a party."
"L.J, what do you mean by equals?"
"You know what we know. You know who we know. What if we're blowing smoke up your ass and we actually work for the Chinese and we're going to tear down U.S infrastructure?"
Wow. Talk about a shot in the dark. "That's unlikely," I say. But I know my voice sounds uncertain.

"I know, but it's possible. One last thing," Looney Jake pulls a book out and puts it on the table. "Did you ever watch TV before you were in jail? A cartoon about an inspector's daughter and her dog."

I nodded. The bad guy had a big metal fist. I remembered.
"Well this book is like her book. I want you to write in it, for real, write in it, in pen. And then use the last page when you need to. There's a hook up port you can pull out of your belt. Remember? Hook that up when you want, the flight will be perfect for this. It's a long one a small plane. Learn to use the program."
The book on the table is leather bound and plain. Definitely not special. It looks like Looney Jake got it out of a craft shop, but it's not from any store I'd know. Sure, the front pages are blank and ready to be written in, but the last page isn't a page. It's a screen with the words:

Welcome to CPU Dummy:
An interactive and adaptive program
That will help you to lose friends and take over the world

Well that's fine. I don’t' really have any friends. "Is this a joke?" I ask.
They all shake their heads. I look back down.

Voice Identification Confirmed:
Jasper Jules Teague
Would you like to begin?

I close the book. "Thanks, I guess this will come in handy."

Baby smiles, "Even if it doesn't, it's cool. Now tell me. How filling was that shake I brought you, or would you like something else to eat?"
I could eat. And I say so. Looney Jake calls over for some menus. For the first time I realize that we should have had them all along. Obviously the ladies made it clear we weren't to be bothered.
Like my name, the café is nice. It's just upscale of blaise college town trend. And when the food arrives it's good. It's better than good. It's even better than the view. And the view, for fleeting bites of seconds, is also better than good.

I catch my eyes staring not at Baby's breasts, but where her nametag used to be. It's an odd thing to know one's eyes should be elsewhere. I shake it off easily and look back up but there's no conversation to be had. Maybe these three are telepathic. None of them have spoken to each other while I've been around.

I lose myself in my thoughts. Thoughts like how to start conversation that's passable for legit at a military formal ball. That'll be tough. Also, I want some of those oranges. And I should probably tell the screen when I want to begin. Do I actually have to tell the screen?

After the food's done, we climb into a newish Japanese made sedan. It's meant for a family.

Thyme drives.
In the back seat, Baby assures me that the jet ride will be cozier. But also more private. I think that's interesting. Cozy but private? Why didn't she say and…

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