Maya had scolded in the past for not listening and engaging.
“You don’t actually want to hear it all do you?” Leo had that mocking look on her face, the one that she used to tell him not to worry about her.
“To be frank,” he rolled on his side to look at her. “I’d much rather talk about anything else. But if it matters to you, then it matters to me. So tell me what’s on your mind.”
Leo cracked up laughing, clutching her side and wincing, but guffawing all the same.
“As punishment for that terrible lie, I’m just going to tell you what’s on my mind.”
“Damn,” he slapped his leg. “Thought I’d gotten away with it. I guess I’ll have to sit here and listen to you go on and on.”
“Buckle up, buttercup.” Leo grinned and then the grin almost staggered, she put her hand to her eyes. “It’s a little complicated. There are people in that organisation that aren’t evil incarnate. It’s not like the movies where all the henchman gather in an audotorium and listen to the evil speeches of their commander where they are told they are taking over the world. It’s just people.”
“Well I was part of that machine.” Sam said, “I’m not a good person, but I’m definitlely not evil.”
“Ha!” Leo said. “Of course not. But I’m not talking about the soldiers. I’m talking about the administration. The people in the offices. The people signing form after form and compiling folders of information. I wonder if they read any of it.”
“I don’t think they put things like ‘We are planning on taking children and turning them into killing machines’ on the front page of ever expense form.” Sam smiled.
“No.” Leo rolled onto her side. “But there must be someone with some clues.”
“What’s brought this on?” Sam looked at her furrowed eye brows and they sent a pit into his stomach.
“There was a man who came into my cell when I was with Piwitti. He was from information processing. They tried to get into my computer and they couldn’t. He was mad but I wanted to talk to him and get him out of there. He had doubts, I could see it. He probably has more access to the System than most. He’s been seeing things and he’s worried.”
“What makes you think that?”
“He stopped. He stopped with his hand on the doorknob and listened.”
“And you think it sunk in?”
“I have no idea if it sunk in or not. But he thought about it for a second. There’s one seed of doubt planted in one mind in that organization. In information processing.”
“Do you think it’ll work?” Sam couldn’t help but feel doubious. One person in an organization that size, it couln’t possibly work.
“I have no idea.” Leo said. “But it does make me think that there might be a chance. And maybe we can do more than just one mind. Maybe we can change the minds of a few more.”
“How do you want to do that then?”
“I'm still working it out, but if I can test and inactive intranet email and spoof an internal IP address, I might be able to send an email. Just one, a chain. It might work. But the email there has to be monitored. I'd have to use one that was recently deactivated. Within a week of someone leaving.”
“I'm not going to pretend that I know much about what you just said, but I do know that not many people are leaving their jobs in this climate. How long do you have to wait for that?”
“Not sure.” She rolled over onto her side. “I do have a couple of worms that could do some digging. But I'd have to be very delicate. Everyone's movements must be very closely watched. I bet that if I set up an external program to watch the emails, no one would notice. It'd have to be so subtle and delicate.”
“Still have no idea what you are saying.”
“I just have to sit and watch.” She smiled again. “Be patient and wait for an opening.”
“Like a sniper waiting for his mark.” Sam finally understood, the analogy finally hitting home.
“But,” Sam put a hand on the shoulder that was facing upward. “You have to wait to do all that. Get a night’s sleep that isn’t drug induced.”
“Like I can sleep here.”
“I know.” Sam rolled onto his back again. “These toy soldiers don’t know what they are doing at all. Is this who we sold weapons to? One of our biggest customers other than the Russian Maffia. I can’t beleive it. How are they sitting here in the middle of France and no one in IJS knows?”
“Maybe they aren’t a big enough threat?” Leo said. “Maybe they just aren’t on the radar because they’re rubbish.”
“You know as well as I do that they are on the radar. But the IJS is just letting them sit here. Why?”
“I don’t know. But I’m not gonna sit here and get picked off.”
“We’ve made them a target.”
“Yeah. But what they do with that target is beyond me. We may have to get out of here in a hurry.”
“Let’s stay two days,” Sam patted her shoulder, trying to be comforting. “Get your little tracers set up, your worms, your trojans. Whatever. Let’s give it fourty-eight hours and then we are gone.”
“Yeah.” Leo took a deep breath, as if to calm herself yet again. But she still didn’t relax. “Did you get any sleep on the way over?”
“Not really.” Sam said. “That flight in was rough.”
“So how long have you been up now?”
“Almost almost fourty hours.” Just saying that, Sam felt the weariness wash over him. His muscles screaming at him that he needed sleep. He might need sleep for the next two days.
“Sleep, love.” Sam felt her sit up and go for her case. She was pulling something out, some peice of equipment. But it felt like it was happening far away. And all around him.
The warm pool of sleep was glistening just beneath him and he dipped his toes in.
“Nope. Can’t do it. Have to stay awake. Have to keep Leo safe.”
“You don’t need to keep me safe right now. It’s my turn now. Sleep. You’re no use to me dead. Just sleep.”
And the wave of sleep overtook him and he went under, falling into dreamless blackness.
She heard his snores before she finished speaking. She pulled her computer onto her lap and started coding.
Sure, she was exhaused, she needed to sleep without drugs. But she really needed to make this software, while she had her feet on the ground. While they had some semblance of safety.
This camp wasn’t the most safe place in the world. It didn’t feel safe at all, other than they were surrounded by people with guns. But something niggled at her conscience. She didn’t feel like many of them could shoot acurately.
Yvonne looked like the only one remotely competant with a weapon. But she hadn’t done a very good job of passing on that knowledge.
The people here were no better than the CSD, but maybe even worse. They thought they could fight the IJS with nothing but grit and one charaismatic leader.
They thought they were in a distopian novel.
Suzanne Colins had a lot to answer for.
She was staring at a blinking cursor again, her emulator dormant and the execute button grey.
She took a deep breath and starting to type. She put in a couple of catalogs, deleted them, threw in three different ones, deleted one, put in two more. She named some variables, letting the computer know what to call it, she pulled some button designs from an old worm program and then starting linking them all up.
These programs never took long. She’d been making them since she was eleven years old, before mom and dad had left. When she would sit at the dining room table coding and dad would dance in the kitchen with Maya. Mom would laugh and flick them with a towel, telling them to get out so she could make food.
And Leo would just sit and code and let the strings of commands lead her to her end goal. A bot to snag her pictures, to feed her certain peices of news, to tell her when the bus had pulled up at her stop. To tell her if she should buy or sell on the market using algorithms.
And then all the money had gone. All the money from everywhere went. And so did Mom and Dad. Not able to handle it, to survive with their kids.
They’d left her and Maya alone. She’d been fifteen and Maya thirteen. And they’d just shown up home and their parents were gone. No one came home that night. Not for a month of evenings, no one came home from work to cook dinner.
The first night they flew into a panic, calling for the police, asking anyone to tell them where their parents were. And no one came home.
It didn’t take long for them to be thrown into the foster care system, sticking together.
But after one house that didn’t allow computers after a certain time of day, Maya and Leo had enough.
They each packed one bag, just a backpack, and they left.
No one came looking, not after the first 48 hours. It was too easy to dissapear now. There wasn’t enough money in the foster care system for anyone to be paid enough to give a damn about two runaway teenaged girls.
They’d found Blossom’s and she’d taken them in. Giving them a bed for the night. And it was a month or two and she taught them about living rough. Blossom didn’t let them live rough, not until they’d found their niche.
When they’d started with the weapons, Blossom got mad. So mad she almost kicked them out. She didn’t like gun running and thought it was too dangerous. She didn’t want them to get caught up in that side of the underground. She wanted them safe.
Leo never understood how Blossom could get so attatched to the pair of girls so quickly. Never asked why Blossom had helped them for so long. But she had, several times.
Blossom was an enitity that the IJS probably didn’t know about. But only probably. It was a thought to give her a call, to let her know that she and Maya were okay.
There was too much risk. Always too much risk to go and check on the ones that they loved.
This was the only thing she could do, run the code. The fastest route home was through the numbers, digging out whatever scrap of information she could. Scraps of information buried underneath emails, expense charts, incident reports, grant applications, personell files. All of it was part of one big puzzel and the end of the puzzel unlocked a doorway to home.
And then the work would begin. Making a real home.
The tent city wasn’t the best place in the world to be, Maya realized as she wandered it’s streets. It was out in the open on a beach. She could feel the wind coming off the water and it was all warm. She could smell fish and salt and sand.
And food. But not good food. The food smelled like a school cafeteria. Not how she wanted to eat while in France. But none of them could leave the camp. There was no way she could get into the town for decent food without being seen.
She found her way to the endge of the little cluster of canvas and peeked just around the corner, looking up to the sloping hilss of the riviera. She expected to see people and luxry cars and the lights starting to peek through the trees as the sun started to dissapear.
But there was nothing. Just empty houses. Most of them looked like they had been abandoned for almost five years.
There had been plenty of rich people who had been taken down by the economic collapse, but there had to be some who had gotten off just fine. But the riviera looked like a ghost town.
That was how they were able to sit in the middl of France without detection. Probably most of the people in this sector had declared bankruptsy long ago.
She turned back around and went into the town. Yvonne had to be around here somwhere.
It took her about twenty more minutes to find Yvonne.