The lights pulsed a dim red and violet as Fishhook descended into the basement nightclub called Q. The music beat in his ears, and a gray haze of artificial fog reflected the lights in strange, ever-shifting patterns. He scanned the room with practiced precision, and very quickly spotted a man dressed in the dark PriSec uniform he’d been watching all day. The off-duty security guard stood at the bar, a long, glass-and-steel affair that also reflected the shimmering ethereal lighting.
Fishhook pondered the situation for a moment. He could approach the man with his quick wit and charm, and try to fast-talk his way into finding out more about the building. The problem, however, was that he needed more in-depth information than such a tactic would provide. He needed real intelligence, not just a passing interaction.
He put on a genuine smile, and approached his mark.
“Long day?” Fishhook asked as he came up to the bar.
The PriSec guard looked over at him. He was a young man, perhaps in his mid-twenties, with a boyish face and wide, innocent eyes. He looked so much like a puppy that Fishhook almost felt bad for his ulterior motives. “Me?”
“Of course. What are you drinking?” Fishhook asked.
The young man looked down at his short glass. “Whiskey. Scotch, actually.”
“Good choice.” Fishhook flagged down the bartender and ordered them each a drink. “You like this place?”
The young PriSec officer shrugged. “Not really. But it’s not a bad place to get away for the night.”
“I know what you mean.” Fishhook took a sip of his scotch. He was fairly sure he had the boy’s number now. “I hope I’m not intruding. I figured you had to be ex-military, just by your bearing. I’m former SXC myself, and don’t know the area that well. Figured a fellow soldier might help me out.”
The PriSec officer’s eyes went wide as he took the bait. “M-me? No, but I always wanted to be. Couldn’t make the cut, though. Wow, SXC? Really? What’s that like?”
When his PAD chimed midnight, Fishhook took notice. The young officer, Alex Marsden, was thoroughly drunk. Fishhook himself had carefully concealed his own lack of drinking, and the more inebriated the young man became, the easier the conversation flowed.
“PriSec’s a pretty good gig,” Marsden hiccuped. “Decent hours, good pay, and some action from time to time. Never had to shoot anybody for real, but I’ve t—tazered a few. You’d be good at it. They’d probably make you a squad leader ’cuz of your mili—hic—tary experience.”
“I could use a standing job,” Fishhook agreed. “Tell me what it’s like.”
“Well—” Marsden said. “Get there to start your shift, and buzz into the locker room with the secure ID. Get your gear on, then do whatever the watch leader tells you until it’s time to go home. Check the security systems, make sure all the suites are locked down… y’know. Security stuff.”
“That does sound good. So you carry a keycard? They haven’t set you up with biometrics?”
“Nah. Encrypted keycard is just as good, they say. Easier to set up across multiple buildings, too, than sticking biometrics everywhere just for the security guards.” Marsden took another drink, and wobbled a bit.
Fishhook put out a hand to steady the boy. Finally, some useful intel. He concocted a story on the fly. “I remember once, back when I served on board the SXC Valiant, they issued us keycards. I was only a second lieutenant, fresh out of OCS, and I lost my card in a garbage hopper! I scrubbed the latrines for a week for that.”
“That’ll never happen to me.” Marsden clapped one hand to the left side of his chest. “Sec—secure pocket.”
“Good man,” Fishhook said with a grin. “Keep that safe.”
He ordered them another pair of drinks as the conversation went on. After another ten minutes or so, Fishhook turned as though to glance at a sound over his shoulder, and spilled his own glass all over the young man’s jacket.
“Oh, I can be so clumsy when I’m drunk,” Fishhook said. “You’d better give me that jacket, though. That glass was full of Martian-distilled vodka. Shit will eat right through kevlar if you let it sit. I can get it out for you.”
Marsden, as drunk as he’d become, saw nothing wrong with this situation. Fishhook took the jacket to the men’s room, used the automatic dryer to remove the water stain he’d actually made on it, and returned it to the boy—sans keycard.
“Here. Really sorry about that.” Fishhook said as Marsden put his uniform jacket back on.
“Nah, no problem. We’re both pretty drunk. Thanks for saving my uniform. They’d have taken that out of my pay.”
“Glad to do it,” Fishhook grinned. “Come on, you’re pretty drunk. Let me buy you a cab home to pay you back.”
“Aw, thanks man. And hey, if you ever need a job, you should go see my sergeant. They’d love to have you, I’m sure.”
Fishhook carefully guided the young man to a cab, got his address, and sent the drunk boy home, after tipping the driver generously. Once the cab was safely out of sight, Fishhook loaded up his PAD.
|<00:12:20> Fishhook: I’ve got a keycard.|
|<00:12:36> G00dw;ll: good deal! we can use that to get in|
|<00:12:48> Fishhook: It’d be better if we cloned it, I think. Rook, can you do that?|
|<00:12:49> Rook F47E2A: Affirmative. I will establish a physical method for replication, once G00dw;ll dismantles the encryption algorithm.|
|<00:13:12> G00dw;ll: k, everyone get back here|
|<00:13:13> Rook F47E2A: Incidentally, I have also secured our transportation. I will return to the agreed-upon location immediately.|
By the time Fishhook arrived back at the hideout, Rook had created a wireless transmitter which could write the algorithm, and had procured a receiving card that would accept the duplicated credentials.
G00dw;ll took the original card and worked his magic. He cut through the encryption protocols like shears through a network line. It took him less than fifteen minutes to crack it wide open and create a duplication process.
They loaded up the card, and checked it.
“It will function,” Rook said, after the test. “Unfortunately, it appears that the encryption protocols randomize at every zero-hundred hours. We are unable to predict the next pattern which will be transmitted at the next check-in. It is fortunate that you procured this card after its midnight refresh.”
“So you’re saying it stops working at midnight tonight?” Fishhook asked.
“Correct,” Rook agreed.
“No more planning, then,” G00dw;ll said. “We’ve got to do this tonight.”
“The building closes down for the night at 2200 hours,” Fishhook said. “That’s when we’ll make our move.”
Rook and G00dw;ll nodded.
“Do whatever last preparations you have to do,” Fishhook said. “I have to return this card to its owner before he discovers it’s missing.”