Chapter Four: The Contact
It was starting to get dark.
Ingrid pulled her jacket more tightly around her as a chill wind whipped through the dim alleyway, swirling underneath the lid of a dented rubbish bin and sending it clattering to the ground. She flinched, speeding up her pace with a glance over her shoulder.
"I wish it wasn't always such a trial to find this place." She muttered under her breath in her native tongue, inwardly cursing the habits of a man so cut off from society he no longer even had a proper name. "If he wasn't so good at computers...then I wouldn't be doing this now. But Sophie has me thinking, and teaching Riot a lesson would be more than welcome. Techrat is the only one I know with the technology to hack a computer system from a distance without leaving a trace. I just wish he'd find somewhere better to live!"
She paused at the end of the street, taking the turning and stepping carefully over pot-holes and bits of abandoned metal and wire. She was approaching his workshop, and as she got closer to the worn building at the head of the cul-de-sac, the bits of componants and broken machinery became more frequent. These were his discards, yet noone had ever commented on them in an alleyway already teeming with refuse. The last time she had come here, she had seen a rat calmly feeding out of one of the rubbish bins, and the memory made her shiver.
"No rats today." She told herself firmly, steeling her nerves and approaching the battered door. She knocked three times, waiting impatiently for an answer.
"Who is there?"
The voice was rasping and almost ghostly. Ingrid rolled her eyes.
"Minx. Who else would it be?" She demanded. "Who else is stupid enough to come all the way down here to visit you? Even the mailman doesn't come to this part of town!"
There was silence, then the door opened a crack to reveal an eye.
"Why are you here? I am busy!"
"I know, you're always busy. But I need your help." Ingrid told him simply.
"My help?" The door opened a little more, and Ingrid could make out the partial features of a man's face, shielded by the gloom. "You only ever come here asking for my help! And last time, where did that get me? Your Rory Llewelyn said I was a fool...that my technology was useless!"
"I know he did." Ingrid slipped a foot into the opening of the door. "And that's part of the reason why I'm here. My business associate and I, we want to teach Rory a lesson. He treats too many people like they're worthless. We want to show him that he can't do that and get away with it."
"This is not my problem." The man seemed dismissive. "I don't waste my technology on inferior projects."
"Not even to teach him a lesson?"
Ingrid offered him a smile, though inwardly she was bubbling with frustrated anger. "Sophie - my colleague - and I thought it would be fun to hack into his computer system and change all the passwords. But neither of us know how to do that without leaving any kind of trace behind. You're the only one I could think of who'd be able to do such a thing, and do it professionally. That's why I came to see you. I wanted to ask you if you would. We'd pay you, of course. You know that."
"Money is not important to me."
A pair of beady eyes looked the visitor up and down, then the door opened fully.
"But there are componants I need for another project of mine. You will find these for me, if I help you?"
"It's a deal." Ingrid nodded.
"Then come." The man beckoned. "But don't touch anything!"
Ingrid hesitated, then, swallowing hard, she stepped into the dwelling, watching him close the door behind her.
The room was dimly lit, with mechanical pieces and circuitboards covering every surface. Once it had been a habitable ground floor flat, but the kitchen units, tables and chairs were all coated with tools and other bits and pieces, and a lump of matress vaguely resembling a bed was tossed down in a corner. Despite the madness, however, the room was impeccably clean of crumbs and anything else that might attract the local vermin, and Ingrid took a deep breath. No rats here, at least.
Her companion saw her expression, and an odd smile touched his lips.
"The rats chew my circuitry." He said simply. "I had to get rid of them."
He gestured towards the far wall, where a box-like contraption was set up against the cracked plaster.
"They end up in there. Silly creatures. Far too easy to fool."
Ingrid turned her back on that wall, glancing around her for somewhere to sit. Finding nowhere, she leant up against the doorpost.
"Are you building something?" She asked conversationally. The man frowned.
"In the process of it." he agreed guardedly. "Though it's not so easy as I had hoped."
"And that's how I can help you, if you help me?" Ingrid asked. "Techrat, you'll have to be more specific. We want to teach Riot a lesson that he remembers...and we want to do it soon. Is there something here that can do what I ask?"
"There is always something in my home that can do a simple job like that." Techrat snorted. "Do not insult my work."
"No insult intended." Ingrid spread her hands. "So what componants do you need? Tell me where they sell them and..."
"No, not those componants." Techrat shook his head. "It's old componants I need for this particular project."
"I don't follow you." Ingrid looked confused. Techrat scooped a box up off a battered armchair, running his fingers along the side. As he did so, a faint beam of light emitted from it, sending shadows up the walls. He smiled.
"I have been watching for a long time." he said softly. "It is a fascinating piece of equipment...but I can't quite see exactly how it was put together. What was his secret? How is it that I cannot duplicate it here? I am a genius...it can't be beyond my knowledge!"
"It looks like a torch to me." Ingrid frowned. "What does it do?"
"At the moment, it does nothing." Techrat snapped, and the light flickered out. "It is only the beginning of what I am trying to create. Silly woman. I thought you understood something about machines - about electronics!"
"I do." Ingrid looked angry. "I build all my own synthesisers, you know I do! You said my work was good!"
"So think on a bigger scale." Techrat retorted. "Think on the biggest scale there is...the one thing that everyone in this city thinks is dead and gone."
"I beg your pardon?"
"You are a silly woman." Techrat shook his head. "The Benton machine, of course! Synergy!"
"I thought your virus rid the world of that machine already." Ingrid looked sceptical. "Else why, when the FBI found it, was it in such an awful state? You told me that your virus would take it's insides to pieces. Were you wrong?"
"I am never wrong." Techrat's eyes narrowed to near slits at the challenge in his companion's voice. "I do not know why the virus did not take full effect, but I believe it must have been handled wrongly by that Llewelyn idiot. He has no understanding of the delicacy of machines, and probably tried to hurry it along. Such things can never be rushed. He was in too much of a hurry...he gave up far too quickly."
"So what are you telling me? Something else destroyed the computer?"
"No. Only those too blind to see what I see." Techrat shuffled across his living room, rummaging among a pile of papers for some creased sketches. He held them out. "This is what I have worked out. My latest invention has enabled me to track electronic emissions in light and sound. I was certain that this machine was too sophisticated to be so easily destroyed by falling masonry. As usual, I was correct. The FBI are easily fooled. They do not have my genius, or my technology. They do not see what I see."
"What are you saying?" Ingrid's eyes became big, and she grabbed the diagrams away from him, brushing against his arm in the process. "That Synergy wasn't destroyed at all?"
Techrat sprang back.
"Don't touch me!" he hissed. "And be careful with those!"
"Answer my question, Techrat. Are you saying the FBI were lied to, and that the computer still exists?"
"Of course it still exists, you feeble-brained woman!" Techat exclaimed. "I told you, my device tracks the emissions it makes. It is frequently projecting around the centre of Los Angeles...near to Starlight Music and Misfits Music. I have not pinpointed precisely where - but it tallies with the information that foolish girl gave us two years ago. My belief is that this machine is being used by someone at one of those two companies and is hiding in plain sight."
"Hey, do you think that you could hack into it, and somehow use that to teach Riot a lesson?" Ingrid's eyes became bright as she contemplated. "This computer is very powerful, isn't it? Surely it could do a lot of superficial damage to a man in his position?"
"The computer's emissions have become more and more erratic of late." Techrat shook his head. "I do not know, but I hypothesise that the reason is the long term effect of my virus. It was strong and it did the job that I thought it would - it just took longer to work through the more complex circuitry than I imagined. When working with a computer you have never seen, it can be difficult to estimate things like that. But still, I feel it has indeed done damage. The mainframe is unstable and I don't believe it will be much use to anyone before too long. I find it having difficulty maintaining a direct transmission between it's mainframe and it's remote units, and I have detected several different binary thought patterns emitting from it since the middle of May. It would be far too unreliable to try and override it's commands, even if I wanted to. It does not even seem able to process the most simple behavioural commands properly."
"Does that mean you've tried?" Ingrid looked up from the plans, disappointment clear on her face. A slight smile touched Techrat's thin lips.
"Why waste my time? My readouts are accurate." He said dismissively.
"So the point of all this is what?" Ingrid demanded. "I came here to ask for your help and you've gone off on a tangent...I still don't understand what you want me to do for you, if you help me!"
"The FBI have parts which I believe belong to the real Synergy." Techrat said comfortably. "The original is unstable and reaching the end of it's lifespan, but I'm sure that, if I got a good look at the custom componants Benton used, I could replicate them. And therefore replicate the machine."
"Ransack the FBI offices?" Ingrid blanched. "Are you crazy?"
"No, I'm a genius." Techrat shook his head. "And you said you needed my help."
"So you're going to build your own Synergy, based on the design Emmet Benton used?" Ingrid asked slowly. Techrat nodded his head.
"That is the plan." He agreed.
"Well, then here's the new terms." Ingrid handed back his plans. "If I can get these pieces for you from the FBI lab, the stakes are higher. I want in on this machine. I want us to use it to put Riot back in his place once and for all. A powerful holographic simulator could do a lot of damage to his reputation without me even having to lift a finger to bother him. That's the deal, Techrat. Are we agreed?"
Techrat eyed her thoughtfully for a moment, taking in her features carefully with his wary dark eyes. At length he nodded.
"Yes." he agreed, in soft, rasping tones. "It's a deal."
PART ONE: MEMENTO MORI
Prologue: Emmet's Task
Chapter One: Discontent
Chapter Two: Jewel In Session
Chapter Three: Mirage
Chapter Four: The Contact
Chapter Five: Le Klub Kool
Chapter Six: Sullivan
Chapter Seven: Cracks
Chapter Eight: Illusion
Chapter Nine: Jacqui
Chapter Ten: Marissa Demands
Chapter Eleven: Stefana's Warning
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All events in the stories on this site are based on original ideas and are not rooted in any existing Jem fiction nor in any real life event or person.