I wasn’t worried about the communicators’ encryption. I’d only put them together last spring. It wasn’t as if they were old League technology that everyone had analyzed thirty years ago.
Maybe I should have been worried more. The communicators were based on the roachbots, and Grandpa had designed the first versions of the roachbots in the 1950’s as mobile bugging devices.
I’d updated them substantially over the past year though. Grandpa’s design survived only in the most general terms.
All the details of the current systems were mine.
Of course, the communicators still connected to the League’s old alert system. That might be a vulnerability.
I thought about that.
The deep rumble of Travis’ voice came over the communicator. “Do you have anything concrete, Rocket?”
That yanked me back to reality. “Uh… No, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong. I can think of possible vulnerabilities, but I don’t know they’re really vulnerable. The most I can say for sure is that I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”
Someone (Marcus?) made a noise somewhere in between a snort and a chuckle.
Travis exhaled. “Alright. Your bad feeling’s been noted, but now we’ve got to decide whether we go in or not.”
Cassie’s voice came over the speaker, but without her typical optimism. “I’d say not.”
That was a shock. Her time in D.C. must have been quite an experience.
“Look,” Cassie said, “I’ve fought the Nine twice now. Both times they had a lot more behind them than I expected. Let’s see what the roachbots turn up, and then go in.”
Marcus spoke up, “I was there the last time, Night Wolf. They had paralysis guns that the Rocket’s devices couldn’t block, and I’m betting they still can’t, right?”
“Right,” I said.
“Just by luck,” Marcus continued, “I was the only guy who could move after that. I’d say we shouldn’t move in unless we’ve got a plan to avoid being hit.”
The sound of wind and Vaughn’s voice broke in at exactly the same time. “Shift’s right,” Vaughn said. “Night Wolf, you’ve got no idea how close it was. I mean no idea.”
Travis said, “Night Cat, you’re the only one who hasn’t said anything.”
Haley went quiet for a couple seconds, and then started talking all at once. “I didn’t think Ridgeback was all that hard, but if what they’re saying is true, I don’t want to walk into a trap.”
“OK,” Travis said, sounding a little surprised. “Then we’d better get out of here before they notice. I’ll start. Rocket, give us a couple minutes before you pull out, and check on the roachbots we sent in.”
“Sure,” I said.
“I’m doing it right now—just like I’ve been doing it,” Haley said. “He doesn’t need to.”
So that was pretty crazy. We were doing the sensible thing. It was as if we were in a horror movie where the characters said, “Hey, instead of learning the dark secrets of the haunted house we just bought, why don’t we leave, and sell the place?”
I felt pretty good for all of a second—because then I remembered that when people started doing things that sensible, it almost always resulted in all hell breaking loose.
I pulled out my roachbot controller, and checked the bots. I wasn’t going to take them over, but I wanted to find out where they were going.
Notices began to scroll up the screen:
[Connection Successful: Bot499]
[Connection Successful: Bot500]
[Connection Successful: Bot502]
[Connection Successful: Bot512]…
A little bit of fiddling with the controller’s buttons gave me a view of one of the vents, but disappointingly, no conversations. I started to switch from one viewpoint to another when more messages started.
[Connection Lost: Bot499]
[Connection Lost: Bot500]
[Connection Lost: Bot502]
[Connection Lost: Bot512]…
At that moment, I began to have that horrible sinking feeling a person gets when everything goes horribly wrong, and you know you don’t know how bad it’s going to get yet.
I clicked on the van’s communicator on the League’s open frequency, “Night Cat, can you connect to the bots? I can’t.”
Haley’s voice came over the speaker, but with noticeably more white noise than usual. “I can’t either. You didn’t change anything?”
“Nothing,” I began.
Travis said, “Shit!”
Across the street, the Wolfmobile whipped out of its parking space, all black, headlights blazing, and moving through Lakeside Lounge’s parking lot at a speed much faster than the recommended ten miles per hour or less.
At the same time, the van’s screen switched from GPS to radar, and began beeping while the word “Alert!” appeared again and again across the bottom.
On the screen, jagged graphics of bird shaped objects dove toward the van.