Shock and Awe Chapter 14. Soldier Park

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Chapter 14. Soldier Park

Soldier Park, renamed several times through the years, finally evolved into a large park for cities of this size. It was, in fact, the largest park in the city.

One mile in circumference, standing on one end, the community museum operated by the council of tribes that lived in the area. Three stories above ground and two stories underground the old museum remained the pride of the arts community since the previous century.

The crowning jewel was the central area of four ball diamonds they built with care and an eye for beauty and nature.

It was a beautiful park, great conifers that towered at the edges of the park mixed with ancient oak trees that seemed to tell stories by their very presence. The evenings were always peaceful with the ancient guardians of the park.

This evening was no different in the early autumn. In the beauty and space that families would come and play volleyball, touch-football and softball, a wide open area that begged for activity during the summer and weekends, a shadow floated down from above.

A barely audible whirring sound could be heard by anyone standing among the branches and trunks of the man-made forest just before Radio Check touched down with the dark parasail.

His landed with such gentle control, he did not even take a walking step.

From the trees, shadows emerged and moved quickly to new arrival and relieved him of his heavy burden. Four shadows on each corner of the package that held his equipment ran back to the road where a van waited and put the bag inside.

Another four shadows collected the wing and electric fan while Radio Check unhooked the harness.

In under a minute, they had packed up and vacated the area.

He opened the passenger door of the transporter and paused, Radio Check was the last person to take his foot off the ground. Looking around, he smiled. It was all according to plan.

Excellent.

Mission successful.  No deaths, a number of casualties and they would be cleaning polymer beads up for months. But the whole of the mission was perfect.  Hunting an assailant, they would think he ran from one end to the other, vandalizing things.

If in the event the IT department figured out that the computer system had been hacked, the controls and Trojan Horse programs the Radio Service would dynamically install back-doors into the network. The sub-system would record normal operations and display proper data if someone ran a check. Even the antenna on the roof allowed the remote users access through multiple layers of security with a sub-carrier frequency built.

Radio Service saw all that went on and with ultimate control, the next assault would be less noisy and destructive, but far more effective.

 

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Shock and Awe Chapter 12. The Shaft

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Chapter 12. The Shaft

He pushed open the vent, the hinges popped with a sound that seemed louder that they were. There were no more sounds of flashbangs going off and sirens were audible. He leaned out over the vertical drop and looked down on a square of light illuminated through the service hatch at the top of an elevator car on the main floor.

They had guessed his secret. But it was not the same car he had been on top of. The flashlights they were using were all pointed down. They were looking with care and were missing nothing. The next one they would open and look down with those lights, they would find footprints.

His method of travel would be discovered. It was time to leave.

They would not observe any disturbance in the air-return vent there. That was early enough in the assault before he modified his plan of attack. It would be a while before they followed the trail.

If they ever looked at the vent he opened. A few days and the dust of operations would conceal the recent openings. Being part of a service, the HVAC techs would open and clean the air plenum often. Twice a year, perhaps more, to keep the different plenum ducts from loading up with dust and posing a hazard to the mission critical data center and dispatch.

It had been impressively clean. So the evidence was that the massive cooling system had just been serviced, top to bottom, but there was a small amount of dust in the system to show his passage to an observant investigator.

Any traces he might have left would be narrowed down to recent activity.

No matter, he had finished. Anything he had taken in with him he had brought out. Except for the grenades and the two lead bullets he used at the beginning.

Still, they would think that was only a matter of time before he ran out of corners to hide.

There were no corners he would hide in, he was just  a phantom. Each person that exited the building would have his or her body scanned, patted down, picture ID checked and verified by a fingerprint scan in the department database.

*So much fun.* He thought. *My fingerprints would be in the employee database in seconds if I needed it.*

Climbing quietly, the straggly beard was itching him mercilessly. He would be taking care of that problem soon enough.

The second elevator moved to the main floor. No cable for traction here, it was a hydraulic-type elevator, meaning the tenants of the building were free to use the spare space for running cable from the different locations as needed. Each group of cables were zip-tied to each other, making a larger group.

He traced cables connected to a junction box— and each connection was clearly marked, this made Radio Check smile.

Perfect!

Unscrewing the box cover plate, he gained access to the internals of each connection. Electricity was passing through the system for radio and data transmission. The odds were in his favor that he would not receive an electrical shock, but he took no chances, keeping his leather gloves on, he bypassed the connections with practiced skill, and placed a new connector of a special design on the antenna, resoldered the connection to the new screw on connector.

Repeating it five more times, a minute on each connection and he packed up his tools.

Stepping to the roof access door from the junction boxes, he looked up and saw the magnetic sensor for the door opening. The lead in wire had long been broken and never repaired, rendering the system non-functional, nodding he scanned around for a hidden sensor. Using his flex mini-camera, discovered another cheap sensor in the frame that he disabled in seconds, then he opened the door and stepped through into the night air.

“Radio check.”

“Five by five. Outer limits.”

“Air traffic?”

“ETA twenty minutes, they were just ordered.”

Radio check laughed. Radio service would have held any requests for air support until the call for a “radio check”.

Sighing happily, he jammed the door shut with cornstarch plastic wedges that would decompose in moist air, one wedge on top and one at the bottom of the door. There was an onshore breeze with a high moisture content. The wedges would become little more than mush in a half-hour.

To help the disintegration along, he poured a few drops of water on the paired wedges. The police could batter the door down, but they would waste their time.

He was almost gone. Going over to the package that the flyer dropped for him, now two hours before, he unzipped it and opened the big bag up, spreading a lightweight sheet and cords attached to a web of flight rigging along the roof. He would be cutting it close, there was not much clearance with the antenna on one side. Getting hung up with the antenna would be a disaster. But the wind was steady at a ten-mile-per-hour on shore breeze with gusts to about twelve.

He could take off almost standing still with the size of the sail. Stepping into a rig of webbing, he pulled the straps tight around his body, then lifted a ducted fan out of the package— itself a light Kevlar cloth made from an out-of-service parachute.

Attaching the fan around his waist like a belt. Securing the straps to mount-points on the frame of the fan, he locked it in place.

He inspected everything with a skilled eye, double checking straps where he attached clips to the mount points. Nodding, and scratching, he sighed.  The whiskers were about to drive him to distraction.

Pulling off his gloves, he dropped them into the transport package and with fingernails, he began to pull at his eyebrows until they came loose. Working down under the skin, he worked his fingers along the latex and plastic cheekbones and lifted the skin away from his own and pulling the artificial face-hair with it. Carefully and quickly, down the nose, he peeled the latex flesh to the tip and, finally, free of the built up face that had no resemblance to his own. Pulling off the wig he dropped it into the delivery package with the double-barreled rifle, deerskin jacket and calico shirt.

He pulled on a black sweatshirt. His fringed pants pulled away without his shoes coming off. Off came the outer skin of sueded polyester covering his shoes.

He was now a clean-shaven, short-haired man with lean, handsome looks and wide ebony-dark eyes from his Italian heritage. His left forearm sported a tattoo of crossed bayonets, the mark of the tenth mountain division.

Pulling on a helmet, he laced the chin strap to a solid fit, then he tucked the helmet’s data plug into a shoulder pocket.

Dropping his ancient-style backpack into the transport package, he pulled all the straps of the big, lightweight container tight, lifted it up and slid his arms through the holes provided for him, they looked like disembodied sleeves of a shirt, but sewn to the package.

Shifting, he got comfortable with the electric ducted-fan on his back and checked to be sure all the cords attached, he plugged the data plug into the data and power port on the handle.

“Air service radio check.”

“You are clear, ETA ten-minutes.”

“Request permission to launch.”

“Permission granted. Your wind is seven knots from west-northwest. Launch at your convenience.”

Testing the speed control, the electric ducted-fan spun up. Contra-rotating blades gave thrust with less than a whisper of noise.

With the extra-wide parawing he had flaked out and attached all the cords to his web-gear, he took several fast steps. A no easy feat as he was carrying over a hundred-pounds of gear, but the wing caught the wind and filled, he could feel the lift before he even twisted the control handle for power.

Radio Check grinned. Steady wind, if he did this right, an altitude of five-hundred meters would be perfect, but he would not sit still for that, he would be putting horizontal distance between the noise and sirens below.

He could hear an amplified voice challenging him to come out and surrender. There was no way out, they had the block secured three layers deep. Surrender now with his hands up and…

Radio check hit the throttle and gained altitude. Nothing left to be foujnd except for what he wanted to leave. The ducted fan was quiet and the soft sound, more of a whoosh, was inaudible from the roof to the ground five stories below.

Into the darkness he glided, the moon was not yet up. No one would have seen anything of interest if they had looked straight up and directly at him. He was a black-on-black gliding shape that vanished into the night sky.

“Eagle is flying.”

“Copy Radio Check, your next stop, The Twilight Zone.”

“Thank you.”

Shock and Awe Chapter 8. Nerve Center

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Chapter 8. Nerve Center

Stepping out of the air-return shaft, he pressed a button in his pocket, the remote control was little more than a car door remote that sent a signal to the receiver in the fresh air duct above the ceiling.

With the patience of electronics, the signal activated a circuit that inflated the folded balloon, that obstructed the duct and blocked all fresh air from being delivered to the lower floors, becoming an effective cork.

Radio Check gently rolled two smoke canisters to each end of the hallway and pressed the button on a spray can, deploying a vapor that smelled like melting plastic and stood in the expanding cloud of thick smoke, pressing his back to a wall.

A dispatcher that was questioning the radio traffic, was turning to her supervisor to say there was something wrong when she saw smoke and smelled wires burning.

“Fire!”

As one, the dispatchers all stood up and made for the smoke-filled hallway.

Suddenly blocked by a man in a mask and leather jacket.

“No fire, just attention-getter. Please, everyone lay down.”

In the far end where Officer Davies sat, she brought out an AR-15 that out on the first alarm of an attack.

The intruder lobbed three stinger grenades into the dispatch center, one detonated  in mid-air, causing Officer Davies to duck and take stock that she was in pain, but still alive.

She could not see, and was too late to stop Radio Check who had plugged into a USB port with his equipment and pressed a button, recognized and allowed the tablet computer administrative access. Data transferred through the now-allowed hardware and rebooted the entire dispatch system.

Officer Davies, decided the grenades did not injure her permanently, picked up her rifle and took up a position behind her desk and attempted get an aim on the intruder through the smoke. But there were too many obstacles, the air was too murky to shoot at a shape with people sitting up when the monitors went dark.

Someone yelled “RUN!” and twenty people scrambled for the stairwell.

Officer Gwen Davies grabbed the phone and tried to call the watch commander’s cell phone.

“Hello.”

“Lieutenant! He is down here in dispatch!”

“Shit! On our way.” The masculine voice broke the connection. Gwen looked at the phone for a moment, she thought Leslie Murrie was on duty.

Her radio on her hip buzzed on a person-to-person frequency. “…Davies.”

“Go ahead for Davies.”

“It’s Russ, I’m coming your way to back you up, this place is on fire,”

“No, we the subject is here! He’s smoke-bombed us.” She said quietly. “He is here in dispatch.”

“Enroute. I have contact with the watch commander, I’ll tell her.”

“Who is on tonight?”

“Leslie Murrie. Why?”

“There was a male voice that answered the watch commanders phone.”

“Could have been one of the other guys. Shit is going bad up there. We have officers down.”

“Okay, get here as soon as possible, I’m pinned down and he has explosives.” She looked again. “I can’t see because of the smoke, and I think he is moving so I can’t get a clear shot.”

“Copy, I’m at the end of the hall. He has to come past me or you to leave the floor. I can’t see shit with all this smoke, why is this floor not venting?”

Pops of gunfire sounded.

“He’s shooting! Small caliber!”

Gwen dove through the door, flashes of his weapon illuminated the smoke. She aimed about leg high and laid grazing fire down the hallway.

A scream from the smoke.
Boo-Ya! She bagged a bad guy! This gave Gwen a savage pleasure.

“I’m hit!”

Shit! She knew that voice, she was just listening to it on her phone.

It was Russ!

Gwen got to her feet and moved from side to side of the hallway. The heavy smoke was acrid in her nose, it was military spec smoke. She knew the smell intimately from her time in the service and the smoke grenades are easy to get from the internet. She passed by the data center and tried the door.

Locked. It was always locked. The window was intact and it was clear inside.

As she stepped away, a movement caught her eye as she passed the window. She stepped back and looked again. Staring and tried the door once more.

Locked, positively locked. She looked up and down the door, nothing wrong with the door, no tamper marks, but, on the floor, something odd.

A bit of cardboard with bar codes on it. She left it alone, dropping a folded notepaper over it in the shape of a tent.

A few more steps in the smoke, the smell of burning plastic still faint in the thick haze, she saw paper bits on the floor with a few small paper cylinders that had not burst.

Firecrackers.

The asshole faked shooting and she shot Russ in the confusion and .

Russ was on the ground, blood had sprayed on the wall directly behind him. The bullet had grazed his calf, giving him a groove in his muscle the size of her index finger to fit in.

“You will be fine, it is just a flesh wound.”

“Oh yeah, they say that, but they never said that it hurts like a bitch!” Russ said, rocking back and forth, holding his leg up. “Damned thing throbs!”

“Russ!” She yelled at him by accident, surprising herself. “Did he come this way?”

“What?” The question distracted him from his pain for a moment. “No. I saw a shadow in the smoke, then he started shooting, but no one came this way.”

“He had to go back into dispatch and he is in there somehow.”

The elevator door opened and eight black-clad SWAT officers stepped out, seeing the bleeding brother on the floor, the leader motioned to one of the heavily armed officers who stooped next to him and applied a pressure dressing. It was a SWAT medic.

“You got him?” The masked swat officer asked Gwen, then pointed to the elevator. “Take him out of here.”

“Yeah.” And she pulled Russ towards the open elevator.

She smiled grimly, bad guy screwed the pooch now. His life was about to become harsh beyond any nightmare he may have ever had.

SWAT – the best of their best, pissed off and heavily armed.

Gwen would pay good money to see this bastard get taken down by the team of extreme trained professionals. She would have to fight the urge to kick the unsub in the testes when they led him out in cuffs.

If they let him live.

 

Shock and Awe Chapter 7. FSCK

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(Note: FSCK= File System ChecK)

Chapter 7. FSCK

He crawled through the large-diameter air shaft to find the data center, the mainframe computer needed tons of chilled air, ventilation for such a system was large and fed the massive amount of air into the heat-producing rows of circuits and drives to the isolated room.

It was easier to find in real-life than on the blueprints.

Turning his back to the blinking light that indicated the vent for dispatch, Radio Check nodded at the position of the computer center. The information tech department chose to place the data and internet nerve center directly across from the demands of its internet access, the computer-aided dispatch and radio systems. Residing behind two-sets of locked doors,  blueprints failed to show the contents of the room.

Using the small fiber-optic camera, he could only see a series of rate of rise heat detectors, two smoke detectors but no video camera. Nodding, he backed the fiber-optic cable out, placing a yellow flashing light on the inside of the air-return chamber. Unseen from the outside, they served only show the correct vent for him.

Pushing on the spring-loaded vent cover, it swung down and stopped on friction-braked hinges without a noise. Carefully, he positioned the big musket across the hole and pulled a hook from the winch disguised as a cap made from a furry animal and hooked it to the trigger-guard of the firearm.

He double checked the tablet computer he pulled from in his pocket and checked the universal USB-cable adapter. He lowered himself with his foot in the cap to control his descent to the floor, and looked around before flipping his leather mask up for better vision and, as observed by the little flex-camera he used, no video cameras were in the small room.

With a skilled eye, he followed a cable that fed from the ceiling to the back of a cabinet where he pressed an old style, round RCA adapter into a port in the back of the console and pressed a button on his headset, he smiled at the sound of a radio working perfectly.

“Radio service, radio check.”

“Five by five, outer limits.”

This tickled his sense of humor, ”Outer Limits” referred to an old tv show that started with a famous line to those who were fans.

“We are controlling transmission.”

The smiling fan of Outer Limits knelt down and plugged in his small data cable to a USB port on the tablet and the opposite end into the console. After a moment an icon turned green in the upper right corner of his display and indicated that he had gained access to a low-level, unprotected file and with a single command “FSCK” caused a reboot of the core system.

Thirty seconds later, the system reboot was complete, with him in control. Using VOIP he connected to another computer that was now logged into a wi-fi signal identified as “Sheriff Backbone WIFI”. The tablet spoofed the MAC address of a local squad car that the team sniffed out when it drove by a city park one evening on mundane duties.

“Voice check main core.”

“Copy five by five. Outer limits. We are in control of your set.”

“Dispatch please.”

“Engaged, system logs will self-destruct in five-minutes.” The clipped, professional voice answered. “All conversation now will be over intranet in-house. We have control of all video and radio transmission. Radio Check, you are the invisible man.”

Radio Check unplugged from the mainframe, he calmly walked over to the door and slowly opened it, blocking the lock with a UPC bar code from a box of Cap’n Crunch cereal purchased at a mom and pop shop that never installed video cameras, with cash, the year before. Then with care, he looked out.

Doors were open and the sounds were of emergency traffic. They were all focused on the barricaded person in the main floor men’s room.

Excellent.

Smart Bomb Chapter 8. Smart Car

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Chapter 8. Smart Car

The internal clock ticked to the appointed time. An electron gate opened and subsystems became active.

The moment he opened his eyes, wisps of a ghostly sensation filled only one of his memory banks. This was oddly, the information corrupted and failed to retrieve. His memory banks were the best that could be obtained at the time of his construction a year ago.

Struggling with it for one-tenthousandth of a second to an android is a lifetime – he sat up, the dent in the memory foam of the mattress where he remained motionless on all night.

Permanently lubricated joins moved without effort, but the flesh that covered the frame was stiff and felt cold.

Sensors the size of a human skin-cell indicated pressure points and stiff areas of limited circulation of the artificial fluid it used for blood.

Blood.

It was an artificial fluid to mask his lack of humanity in the event he suffered an injury. If something lacerated his flesh, he would bleed dark red that would turn blue-black over a time while it became tacky then hard.

Water soluble, it coud be washed away, but, it would never pass any lab analysis.

Yes, it carried glucose and oxygen in an approximation of real blood, but no red cells were in the fluid. A wound would receive care by the android, not a human that might not understand the red fluid under the microscope.

Pulling the pack on, leaving the keycard in the room as instructed by the woman at the counter, he left, walking towards the used-car lot the android observed the day before.

Out of sight of any eyes, once again shifted size and apparent gender.

Pulling to body shape to maximum, the android appeared as a small female with large breasts, as dictated by known American tastes in the decadent music videos and the rampant pornography that the media pours out in the early evening hours.

The android had not logged in to any of the televisions, however one of the circuits that the core processor established to record the sins of the American south indicated that the programming had flaws, the android concluded.

The core processors deteremed a need to observe the television programs that the general American culture watched and record accurate information. Information that conflicted what the religious leader taught. Conflicting with the Leader was also a sin and should be burned from the face of the earth.

Only those programs that showed approved versions of history and prayer programming would be allowed.

First, to start with the leaders of the country, the force and type of the explosion would remove all trace of the bomb, with the added level of contamination of radioactive debris for thousands of years, America would be crippled by their smallest President’s namesake.

Then the jihad of the most righteous would take over and the Kafirs that occupied all the lands and Mecca would be wiped out next. The idolatry of the prophet would be removed.

The Commandments given to him by Michael the Archangel in his dreams, the leader passed on to the creator of the android, there is only one Most Righteous to follow on earth and it was He who walked in Russia alone. Blessed above all, the leader said he was.

Gabriel, it was taught, is not an Archangel, any lessons taught by Gabriel were false.

The little pissant that was a carpenter who got his own nails driven through his arms and suspended from a cross got what he deserved.

Only D’urs’l was the one and true savior.

This coding in the android’s database instructed the automaton to follow the teachings of the holy one.

Confusion edged in on the corners of his programming. Each patch of code that recorded kindness, conflict, wrongs or rights , adjusted accordingly.

Programmed the android might be, the recognition of error in observation to programming required corrections to fit the circumstances.

Alternatively if the core processors did not alter the programming to fit the situation, the mission would come to an end as the covert nature of the android would be compromised.

Now, the mission to travel on foot changed due to weather. Snow was coming early, it required the android to modify the untraceable mode of travel or the mission would be exposed.

Arriving at the used car lot, the salesman watched the backpack wearing woman of dark skin and a size-forty chest that poked out past her the shoulder-straps of her backpack.

Her pants were slightly oversized, cinched by a belt that barely held her drawers up over the nice swell of her hips. She walked around looking over an ancient SmartCar that suffered badly from generic paint, rust and appeal.

It was the cheapest car on the lot, he could not give it away it seemed.

“I will take this car.” She said as she looked inside the non-descript transportation.

“Well, we have some paperwork to do.” He smiled at the little lady. “I’m big Peter Prichet, you can call me Pete.”

“Thank you Mister Prichet, I have cash. I would like to buy this and be on my way.”

“Well,” Big Peter pulled at his ear. “There is some paperwork to fill out.”

Holding out the roll of paper money, she peeled off enough bills to make a layer visible from the side, matching the asking price.

“This would be sufficient?” She smiled at him.

“We still need to fill out papers, but we might work something out if you are in a hurry.” Peter winked. The woman was obviously running from someone, she had saved a roll of money on the sly, and now was making her escape, and as such, she would be vulnerable.

He could make this worth his while.

The android had other plans. No paperwork filled out and a single punch ended the discussions while Peter lay on the floor holding his groin.

“Anyone comes looking for me, you never saw me. I have recorded the monetary exchange on my phone (The android did not have one, a total bluff- learned from playing poker with the Bonsells while discussing religion.) and I will forward it to your wife that you have hanging on the wall there.” She pointed at the family picture of him, his children and his wife. A wonderful wife, but a ferocious lioness when crossed. 

She took his personal device and hacked it in a blink of an eye. Leaving his personal information displayed as she left in the modified SmartCar.

All electric, the battery pack listed itself as seventy-percent charged, a modified drive system someone planned to make the car a long distance champ, but failed.

Still, after a two-hour drive, the car was making noise for a charge. Batteries were less than five-percent and needing of a deep charge. Plugging it in to an independent solar charger left over from the early days of the electronic revolution, it was not part of the worldnet. Charging was free as an elderly child of a hippy rebelled against the corporate society by charging cars and trucks for no charge.

This was another lesson, with help from the old man who went by the name of “Hummingbird” Johnson, he charged the small car with a lecture on how America lost its way with people dependant on oil energy.

Internal conflict at that moment. The gift of energy, yet the man railed against the importing of oil from the seat of civilization.

Except that from the point of view of the slow trip from Florida, charging stations were abundant, fuel depots that dispensed oils were not.

However, the android calculated the charges of the electric power stations owned by Standard Excellent Electric Motivation Systems “SEEMS” charged equivalent amounts of credit per unit of energy.

A calculated ratio, the population might feel the electric company that “Filled up” their electric automotive machines, uncovered that the per-mile cost of energy worked out to the same or higher than if they drove an oil-burning vehicle.

A definition: Greed.

In certain ways the ancient flower child of the twentieth-century was as right as he was wrong.

Business would make as much money from the people who worked as it could.

And yet?

And yet the people of devote religion, some non-religious, others, like Mister Hummingbird, swore that god was in the leaf of the pipe he smoked that “helped with the appetite”.

Errors in programming were again addressed that night as the android stopped again at an inexpensive, hotel after a mile walk. Arriving to look like a tall, broad, bushy-bearded biker-stereotype with tattoos that took some effort to place in obvious locations on the forearms and hands.

Signing his name on the register as “Snake” in generic block lettering.

The android retired to the rented room.

Sitting on the edge of the bed, he re-shaped to the standard shape of a slim, human, a shape that drew less energy to maintain.

The android had found a few dark sides to the Americans, but few could be listed yet as evil.

Laying on the bed, the android began the required patching of the database.

America, not a cesspool or an evil place.

America, not a place where no streets had paving of gold.

It was a place where people lived, laughed, and lived lives, and in some cases, close to the Supreme Creator.

The android turned off the lights in the room with the remote control and closed the optic sensors that were eyes.

Setting the time before sunrise, he powered down, seeking that edge of programming that danced around the low energy gates of the memory banks.

Humans would have called them dreams.

Shock and Awe Chapter 10. Going up!

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Chapter 10 Going up!

 

He had nearly dropped the vent in the room of the mainframe, pulling it up by the tips of his fingers, he saw the officer walk by the window. Her shadow stopped and he knew she was coming back to look.

She saw it.

*Damn. Maybe she didn’t know what she saw. * He thought.

Crawling back to the service hatch, he opened it and could hear the verbal commands that squad leaders were given to the men while they were holding the elevator door. They still did not know where he was, this was in the plus column for the operation. One officer,  wounded in the crossfire when he dropped the Chinese firecrackers as a distraction, this went in the minus column. Officers shot was not according to plan, most uniforms were innocents.

Stinger grenades not counting. He stepped over to the positive pressure side of the system and opened the hatch. The inflated fabric balloon had done its job and now was time to retire it.

Pulling a boot-knife, he sliced the material and stuffed it in his backpack, restoring the airflow to the lower levels and data center. He did not want anything to overheat there. Closing the service hatch, he slipped back into the air return and made his way to the elevator shaft.

Stepping gingerly on the steel supports that anchored the box of the elevator car. He squatted down and became part of the machine.

“C’mon, Russ. You are doing okay, just in the car.”

He could hear the woman’s voice clearly.

“I’m so sorry I shot you. Really.”

Friends? Partners? It made him smile. Either way, if the shot officer was a good enough man, they would become closer friends.

Radio Service laughed inwardly, the only outside appearance of his humor was a smile nearly hidden under his long beard. He was a cupid in a twisted sense of the phrase.

The difficult part now accomplished. As an option, he could stop at basement level-1 and mess with the police even more, but he had nothing against the honest men of the SWAT team. The elevator slowed and came to a stop on the main floor. More swat team had come in. Listening to them talk, they knew he was no longer in the bathroom.

Yeah, time to leave. Messing with them now was a game of chance. Thus far, there was nothing left to chance. All according to plan. The Swat level was only an option if time and events looked positive.

Stepping off the elevator car as it began its descent to the dispatch level, he hung on to the service ladder in the shaft.

Four floors of a ladder climb.

Well, three and a half, he would enter into the return vent on the top floor and access the human resources office.

Second floor, detectives level. He should try to figure out something to do there. But— it was not in the plans, so he kept climbing.

Third floor. An option to enter, Commanders, Vice-chief’s office general admin. Nearly all of it on computer. Access was already granted. He would spend far more time looking for tiny bits of information that did not pay them back in benefits.

Cost versus benefit at this point. The cost was too much time versus the risk of capture.

Fourth floor. Chief of Police. Files that were still on paper. Physical access to the stand-alone system that belonged only to the administration and the Chief himself.

Into the exhaust vent he stepped. This one was smaller by about a third. He could not sit straight up, but he could recline comfortably if he chose to.

A first look. A secretary type office. File cabinets, locked with a simple combination padlock, the type that had a keyhole in back.

Worth a look. He tagged the inside of the plenum with a yellow flashing LED light and moved on.

Sliding his thin camera down the vent, he looked at another office. The Chief of Police worked here. A massive desk, sumptuous decor. Pictures on the wall. Books everywhere. A long table on the far side of the room. But a dead-end.

He looked another few meters down. There was another corner. He looked at the Chief’s office again. Nope. There was no room or vestibule to call for a vent.

Making the corner and then to the downward bend, he slipped his snake-eye through the vent. There, a computer. Looked to be cabled for internet. But it was not a city issued piece of hardware.

This was the Chief’s personal computer.

Excellent!

Twisting the camera around, there were small speaker cabinets at four points at the ceiling where the wall met.

Not speakers.

Video cameras.

Oh, quite sly, Chief, quite sly.

Pulling out his tablet, he opened up a sniffer program and let it run for a few minutes. He was ahead on the timetable so he could spare the minutes.

Before the uniforms began a floor by floor sweep, he would still be gone and they would have layers of cordons around the block to look for him.

This group never just sealed a block. They sealed a block three times normally. One might slip through a single line of cops, but the Croix Bay police? It was a minimum of three levels. They had their fair share of fugitives running from other law enforcement. No-one slipped past them, they always got their man.

Well, except for tonight. Around the building they would have all the available patrols. This is right where he wanted them. Running around in the basement, playing war with shadows while he was in the Chief’s personal entertainment system.

Maybe. He was watching the sniffer.

There! A spike in broadcast. A handshake. Data transmitted back and forth.

He sent a corrupted packet, knocking the wifi connection off. The item logging into the computer would fail and need to retry.

And it did. Two times, three times. He used the patience of the machine against itself.

Then he had a break. The complete log in sequence from the cameras. While the camera cycled for yet another attempt to log into the computer, he logged in using the camera’s MAC and identifier.

Although he was in the air duct, he now had control of the computer as if he was sitting at the keyboard.

Intercepting the camera signal, he successfully logged it into his tablet and download the images it had stored. One picture per minute. High resolution. Radio Check nodded, not an unreasonable setup, except for the outdated operating system. A bit of poking around, he found the password file.

The password file was not even encrypted. He downloaded it and sent it on to the radio service, packed up and crawled back to the HR office. Scanning around, a motion sensor was on the wall covering the room.

“Radio service radio check, hardware check.”

“Go ahead. You are on Vee-Oh-Eye-Pee with an IP address.”

“Sending you images. Do you have this under control?”

“Radio check. Copy sensor, it routes through to dispatch. Outer Limits. You are clear.”

It was the most talkative that radio service had been in a long time. Radio Service hated the sound of his own voice and was terse over the open air, but this was downright talkative for him.

He would have to tell Radio Service that he nearly talked Radio Check’s ear off in these few seconds.