Part Eight - The state of the system can be caused to change by a flow of heat
Lena's head ached--throbbed--and the clicking of her own shoes down the tiled hallway was aggravating it almost as much as the jarring of her steps. She had fifteen high priority take-downs on the verge of coming to closure and she's called in on a sabotage case? And to look at technical files for what? And whose files--Dr. Rachel Jones? The prospect of meeting Dr. Jones would have been the only highlight of the trip, and now Dr. Jones was not even going to be there.
She ran her tongue over her teeth to try to wipe off the residue of the coffee that was keeping her awake. She had been briefed on her escort's file. A long history of violence, several murders, IQ over 200, and supposedly living in a lesbian relationship with Dr. Grace Wilson. Spinnelli had mentioned that little fact with a slight tone of disgust in his voice, the basic "two good-looking women, why do they waste it?" attitude which was, in this day and age, uncommon among the agents she knew. One look at the two women herself and she could tell they were very, very, very close.
Her escort was attractive, however, she was obviously not happy with Lena's presence and the request to see the computer files. Her lips held a grim line, and her dark brows pinched in a frown as well. The lanky nano tech unlocked the computer room with a swipe card and held the heavy door open for the agent. Given the chance, Lena locked onto her with her own dark, penetrating eyes. If she trusted her instinct she would say they were hiding something ,and this was not simply technology paranoia.
Lena walked over to the user-interface station and made a mental list of the equipment. You can tell a lot about a person by their equipment, and, not surprisingly, Dr. Jones had pieced together a system almost as good as her own. The sharp clang of the doorlock 's resettling startled her.
"Anything in particular you are looking for?" The dark nano tech stepped around Lena and sat behind the desk.
Lena took a seat in the swivel stool against the wall. She waited a moment before she spoke, just observing the tech's minor hand fidgets. Then Dana Papadopolis picked up a mechanical pencil and began to flip it through her fingers with the expertise of a carnival knife-tosser. Lena had been charged with finding any sorts of inconsistencies in Dr. Jones' programs, such as creation dates that would indicate unusual copying or editing. Also, they wanted her to look at any e-mail transactions that appeared out of the ordinary.
"I'll tell you when I find it," Lena Whitley finally replied after several cycles of the pencil.
The tech chuckled and smirked. Lena was sure that the woman was not going to offer her any assistance and that this was going to be like removing a pacifier from a baby's mouth--noisy and messy. She crossed back over to the computer interface. "Want to boot this up for me?"
A moment passed and then Lena heard the creak of the chair and two loud claps. The machines then clicked and the screens emitted a familiar surge of light that always gave her a little tingle in her belly. The nano tech leaned forward and toggled the voice/manual control to manual. She reached over to pull the rolling stool over to the station but was stopped by Lena's hand on he shoulder. The touch was met with an immediate flinch, and the shoulder was jerked away. The tech turned on the agent with the stone-cold look of a killer which quickly transformed into a look of indifference.
"You want to sit here?" The tech's voice was strained.
Lena nodded as the tech slowly moved the chair a little closer to her. It was at this moment that Lena knew without a doubt that Dana Papadopolis perceived her as an immediate threat. Lena sat on the cushioned stool and studied the keyboard for a moment. She was not used to using one, but the system would no recognize her voice commands. She typed in the source command code for the system software and began to direct the gopher to find and retrieve Dr. Jones' e-mail files on the three hard drives and through the LAN server to any nodes her system was connected to as well. A few seconds passed and nothing came back. She spun to face the emotionless tech and bit her lip for a moment before she spoke. "Where does she keep her files, Ms. Papadopolis?"
The tech's eyes flicked over to hers, and she shrugged. "Damned if I know, Agent Whitley."
Lena sighed and turned back to the screen. "Do you think she might have them hidden?"
"Never know with Dr. Jones. She trusts no one."
"It appears she's not the only one."
"It appears some people have good reason not to."
"Only if they have done something illicit."
"Or the wrong people are snooping around."
The agent placed her hands on her hips and turned to the tech. "What could the FBI possibly want from your program other than for it to succeed Ms. Papadopolis? Hmmm? Do you think we want to destroy one of the most promising avenues of cancer research? That's ludicrous and paranoid!" She turned back to the computer and punched in the back door code she had discovered as a junior in college and reran the search for the files. She was instantly rewarded by the nano processor with megs and megs of mail files. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the blue eyes grow wide and then spring back into an irritated squint. "Something wrong?" she asked with a knowing little smirk toward the computer.
"Good." She turned to where she had placed her briefcase on the floor and pulled out a soft case for holding Roms. She pulled out a Rom and loaded it into the driver.
"What are you doing?"
"What does it look like I'm doing?" she sighed again. "I'm making copies of Dr. Jones mail files."
The nano tech scowled at the side of Whitley's head but the action was not missed in the reflection of one of the monitors.
What are you all hiding? Lena asked silently as the files quickly copied. She inserted another Rom and scratched an itch on her cheek. She could tell the tech wanted to move--to bolt--she had seen it plenty of times during a take-down. She filled yet another Rom and reached for another when the door opened and Dr. Wilson walked in. The doctor raised her eyebrows in a non-verbal expression of "So how's it going?" to Dana Papadopolis. Lena watched the silent exchange and the softening of the tech's expression as the doctor moved closer to them. She was hit with a strange sensation of familiarity.
"Is Dana helping you find everything you need, Ms. Whitley?"
"No, but I don't really need her help," she said as she shook off the surreality that always accompanies a good deja vu.
"She's copying Rachel's personal mail files."
"Why?!" Grace asked in shock.
Dana shrugged. "Where are Sputnik and Rigormortis?"
Grace hesitated a moment. "They are with Davenport reviewing all of our funding documents and purchases."
"This is so fucked!" Dana muttered with disgust.
Potty mouth, Lena could hear her mother saying to the nano tech. What would mom think of these two? And then it clicked for her, who they reminded her of, except the dark haired women was different. She exhibited the same raw strength as Helena Perean, her mom's best friend--her namesake for goodness sake--but she was so different in so many ways. Helena Perean would never find herself on the wrong side of the law. She realized she was staring at the two women and that the two women were staring back. The blue cold, the green warm.
The uncomfortable showdown was disbanded by the opening of the door and the entrance of a woman, dressed in faded blue jeans, a MIT sweatshirt that was living well past it's projected lifespan, and white-leather NIKE sneakers that squeaked on the floor.
"Hola ," Rachel Jones greeted the women with glee in her step. "Jesus, Doc, didn't recognize you in real clothes. Looking kind of 'suitish' if you ask me. I'm for the sleevless T-shirt and blue jeans look on you myself. Have to love those biceps. But then you're here to make Queenie happy and not me, right?" She slapped Dana on the shoulder. "Hi, Queenie," she gently acknowledged Grace with a touch on the shoulder.
"Rach," the doctor replied with what appeared to be a smile of relief.
"And someone's been sitting in my seat," Rachel said as she studied the curvacious form sitting in her spinny chair. "Been eating my porridge too...most definitely haven't been sleeping in my bed--I would have noticed you."
Lena spun around and climbed to her feet. "Lena Whitley. You are Dr. Jones I assume?" she asked, extending her well manicured hand graciously.
Rachel took it absently. "Guilty."
"She's with the FBI, Rach," Dr. Wilson explained.
Rachel studied the dark attractive face, the profile catching her attention and sparking cognitive recognition in the form of an old memory from her pot-filled college days--memories that usually needed pot to be remembered. "Ooo, not Cyber Cop Junior, daughter of the the infamous Cyber Cop Inez Whitley."
"I've never heard it put quite that way," Lena said, trying to pull her hand away in defense.
Rachel smiled and eased her grip but not before she added. "I met your mother once, a long time ago, when she lectured. She is a very cool lady. She must have retired by now."
"Ha! She hasn't retired. She works from home now. I don't think a day has passed since 1990 that she hasn't logged on to go after some slimeball."
Rachel turned away from the agent and began to unzip a small pocket on her purple backpack. "Here are those country music discs you've been nagging me to make for you, Doc." She handed Dana four small CD Roms. Dana grunted her thanks.
"Country? You hate country," Dr. Wilson said.
"I don' hate country, Grace. I like some of it. I'm not that narrow-minded."
"Whois it?" Grace asked taking a disc out of her hand.
"Mary Chapin Carpenter and Lyle Lovett."
"Pshaw," Grace said, pursing her lips. "Lyle Lovett isn't country. He's Tex-Mex."
"Pshaw," Dana replied, mimicking Grace's look with exaggeration. "He is country," she argued, pulling the disc out of her lover's hand, "and pshaw, Tex-Mex is a style of food, not music, Charlie Pride lady."
"You're never going to forget that, are you?"
Lena and Rachel watched the exchange between the two women. "I don't even want to know," Rachel finally said and turned back to the federal agent.
"So you're trying to take me down, are you?"
"No," she replied defensively. Then she grabbed a corner of the sheet of professionalism that had blown off from her proverbial clothes-line and added with a touch of spring-breeze coolness, "Why? Have you done something wrong?" Still, she could not help smiling at the icon.
Rachel smirked at her, and laughed. "Haven't you?"
"Well, I'm no saint, Lena." She gave the agent a soft smile and then walked over to her desk and placed her backpack on the blotter. "So, have you hacked into my files yet?"
"I have accessed your mail files and copied them."
"Sweetheart, you did not access them, you hacked them. You can say the word, it's not a four letter one, and your tongue won't fall off." Rachel sauntered closer to the monitor, took a look at the information displayed on it, and gave a sidelong glance to the tall tech who was no longer bickering about music, having apparently won.
"Ask her how she did it," Dana replied to the unspoken question.
"I know the back-door command," Lena offered proudly. "I figured it out when I was a junior."
"Hmmm, not a freshman, though. Too bad. Thought you had promise, kid," she said with a smile. Lena could not help smiling back.
"Up, up, out of my chair," Rachel commanded with a few flicks of her hands as well. The agent stood up and straightened out her skirt while Dr. Jones claimed the seat. "Are you trying to take me down, Lena?" Rachel asked again with a charming directness as she toggled the commands to voice.
"I'm not targeting you personally for take-down." The agent grew serious. "Would I have reason too?"
Rachel grew serious as well and then winked. "Not that you could catch me if I have been naughty."
Doctor Wilson interrupted them with a loud, guttural throat-clearing. Rachel spun on the stool to face her. "Yes?"
"We're going to take off if you don't need us."
"See you," Rachel replied with a dismissive wave. The brunette almost smirked at Dr. Jones. "So, Lena, what would you like me to show you?" the computer administrator asked just as the door closed behind the nano tech and the doctor.
"My, oh, my, we are in big trouble," Grace muttered as they walked down the hallway.
"Don't worry about it, Chipmunk. It's under control," Dana said, pulling Grace by the hand into their office and closing the door. She turned on a small radio on her desk, pulled her glasses from her pants pocket, and then inserted all four discs into the computer. One by one, she downloaded files to the secure nano project server.
"Those aren't music discs?"
"Ha! What do you think?"
"I think I won't get those tickets to Lyle at the Oakdale Theater now."
"I'd go if I could suck on your neck during the slow songs."
"What slow songs?"
Dana used the back-door code, one that was becoming too well known, to change the file creation dates. "Hey Chipmunk, hand me the notepad from your briefcase."
Grace pulled out a spiral notebook and handed it to Dana. Doc began to reenter the creation dates to match the notes she had scribbled when she removed the files from the server the previous day.
"How did she change the data so quickly?"
"Probably wrote a program to do it and then sat eating Cheetos and drinking moonshine all night."
"I still don't understand what they want with the files," Grace said, looking over the gray cashmere shoulder. "She's definitely legitimate FBI. So what could she want?"
"My guess is that they're using her." Dana twisted so that she could look at the woman who smelled so intoxicatingly delicious and who's breath was wetly warming her ear. "And they're going to try and show that we caused the explosion to cover for a failing program."
"To disgrace us, and in doing so, destroy us. Reputation is everything when in comes to funding research."
"Doesn't seem Reichert's style," Grace said.
"No, it doesn't. But then the man is a chameleon." Dana typed in another date. "What do you think of Agent Whitley?"
"She seems to worship Rachel," Grace replied with a chuckle.
"Do you think she's attractive?" the nano tech asked as she typed.
"Do you?" Grace asked a bit hesitant.
"She's arrogant. Turns me off. I like sweet girls."
"Then why are you with me?"
"You're a sweet girl, Grace. You just pretend not to be."
Grace laughed. "You have me confused with Joy."
"No, I don't. Do you find her attractive?" she asked again.
"Hmmm." That was not the answer Dana wanted.
"I find lots of people attractive, but I know exacty which one I want."
Dana turned her head to look at her lover.
"You're the one that has only tried one brand of bottled water," Grace said.
Dana chuckled. "I've found the crispest, cleanest one and stuck with it. The Poland Spring of bottled water." She typed in the last date and time, then signed off. "Want to go to lunch?" Doc asked her companion. "I'm thirsty for some reason."
"I can't eat. I'm too stressed."
"A walk then? Maybe feed the squirrels some Cornuts?"
Dana smiled that crooked smile. "I'll get a bag from the vending machine, you grab some waters."
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