Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Safe, Part XIII

Captain Huffold slammed the button on the keypad, muting communications. He realized he’d lost his temper as confused techs from around the room began to swivel their gaze towards him, awaiting orders on what to do next. He took a breath, composed himself, and got up from his chair. “Please divert the feed to my private channel. Hold off on informing Chairman Sollart of the recent developments. I’d like to get a better handle on this situation before we notify him.”

Huffold made his way to his personal suite and wondered how Celia was able to overcome the sedative so quickly. This mystery reminded him of a similar series of questions he had when he’d first learned of Celia’s premature awakening. He’d hurried to his suite, confused but eager to speak with the Keeper. The two had sniped comments back and forth, and during these conversations Robert had to work hard to keep his anger under control; it remained obvious that Celia had the upper hand. He made a mental note not to telegraph his emotions while talking to her.

His suite’s main screen flickered on and he was surprised to see Celia naked from the waist up, fastening the Velcro band on the front of her pants. She must have noticed the transmission light become active on her camera because she quickly turned her back to the lens and began pulling on a long sleeved shirt. “Sorry, Robert. I’m not giving away any more free shows. During my journeys through this ship’s logs, I’ve taken notice to your frequent spying on me through the video feeds. You’re a curious person, aren’t you?”

“Surely you can understand that we must keep tabs on you. You’re very important to us.”

The Safe seated herself in the med bay chair and looked directly into the camera. Her stare, digitized and transmitted across the light years, made its way directly into Robert’s eyes. Though she looked straight ahead, her right hand buzzed over a keypad attached to a machine that was slightly out of frame. Robert noticed that her robot denizens were retreating, one by one, until finally she was alone in the large room. A light veil of smoke hung in the air, leftover from the machines’ welding work on the door.

“Oh, of course,” Celia answered sarcastically. “So important that I simply exude behavioral data, even while in the shower…but, you’re the government employee and I’m simply the village idiot, so what do I know?”

He paused, embarrassed that she’d learned of his frequent invasions into her privacy. “I assure you that we only have your safety and the safety of our colonists at heart.”

“Ahh, yes,” she tapped her right temple with her index finger. “The colonists. All safe and sound.”

Huffold sensed the scorn in her voice. So far she had lied, schemed, and commandeered a colony ship. In short, she’d bested him at every turn. Was she lying now? He needed to find out if the colonists were alright. “Are they? Can you assure me of that? Perhaps if you’d extend a sign of good faith and let my people inspect the Stasis Chamber, they can survey the extent of…”

She cut him off. “Not a chance, Robert. I’m keeping an eye on our new friends. No doubt they have a few of your tricks up their sleeves. There is no way I will grant them access to the chamber. They will see only what I want them to see.”

He shifted his weight in the chair and became alarmed at Celia’s confidence. Her eyes still gazed into the camera while both her hands were now busy, flitting over unseen keypads. Suddenly, an item on one of her screens caught her attention and she looked away.

“I see you’ve started to regain control of my ship,” she said with a raised eyebrow. “Nice try, Robert,” she said coldly. “You must have some pretty smart cookies on your side. Too bad for you I’m smarter.” After a few more seconds of quick keystrokes, she said “Ahh, here we are,” and emphatically tapped the keypad. Huffold saw a text-based message blaze into view in a display near his viewscreen.

“Hub Control of Cornucopia transmission module has been lost.”

He heard the din from the control room through the door of his suite; the techs were going nuts. At least five additional viewscreens sprang to life around him, each showing an unnerving amount of red text. Breaking Celia’s stare, he scanned the incoming information and inhaled sharply. Somehow, Celia had bested Marian’s team and forced an override of the newly-formed remote access they’d established over the Cornucopia. The Hub control had been slowly winning the fight, bringing the more and more of the colony ship’s systems under their control; all of those connections were now being severed with blinding speed.

“Celia! Please, stop! Why are you doing this? What are you trying to accomplish?” he said, exasperated.

She blinked and smiled slowly, reveling in her newly regained power. “So many questions. But as I said before, it’s my turn to ask.” Getting up from the med bay chair, she approached the camera and lowered her voice.

“First, let me ask you Robert…are we on an encrypted channel?”

Wondering what she was playing at now, Huffold answered, “Yes. This is a private conversation.”

“Very good. What I’d like to speak to you about is designated Level Eight confidential by Hub Command. I don’t think you’d want any of your techies hearing this. Nor do I think Chairman Sollart would approve of you learning his secrets.”

Robert’s heartbeat quickened. Level Eight clearance was the very definition of ‘top secret’, information privy only to heads of state and chairmen of the various global governmental branches.

“You’ve penetrated Hub command’s mainframe?” he asked. Prior to this moment, Robert knew he was dealing with a heightened intelligence, a brilliant mind. The sheer impossibility of her hacking into a Level Eight system demonstrated that he’d underestimated her.

Another smile. “It was difficult, but the spoils proved to be worthwile.” She was close to the camera lens now, her simple beauty nearly filling his monitor.

“Captain, earlier you asked about my motives, what I’m trying to accomplish. I do not wish to reveal my grand designs just yet. However, what I’m about to speak of may provide you with some insight.”

Huffold was confused, excited. “I’m listening, Celia.”

In a near-whisper, she said “Robert, have you ever heard of something Project Kurzweil?”

His eyes darted around his desk as he kicked the term around in his brain. “No, I can’t say that I have,” he answered truthfully.

“Not surprising,” she answered with a nod. “The only people that knew about it were the five scientists that worked on the project, our former Chancellor O’Brien (may he burn in hell), and the project manager – a young go-getter by the name of Charles Sollart. Learn as much as you can about this project and perhaps you will understand what I’m doing with your fantastic ship.”

The transmission ended, leaving Robert staring at a blank viewscreen.