In the Public Eye: Part 10

And we have an update…

Oh, for what it’s worth, I attended Penguicon on Saturday. It’s a convention that’s focused on science fiction and open source software. It’s worth going if you happen to be in the area and like either of the two. I went largely because a friend was on a couple panels, but had a good time. Randall Munroe of xkcd was every bit as amusing as you might expect.

Sometimes when you realize something for the first time there’s a certain excitement as your whole world changes. Sometimes you feel like an idiot.

For example, imagine that after three weeks you finally decided to check out a lead that you should have checked out earlier, but didn’t because you assumed traveling to Chicago was a huge hassle. Then, weeks later, you actually calculated how long it would take you to get to Chicago if you were using your grandfather’s suit of powered armor that just happened to include a jetpack.

Imagining a direct flight from Grand Lake to Chicago, that’s about twenty minutes.

I realized it on Thursday while sitting in Grandpa’s lab in League HQ. I’d just scooped the bugs I planned to plant into a bag, and thought about the practical details involved.

That’s when I realized that I could fly to Chicago in about the same time it takes to drive a car across town. Theoretically, I could have flown to and from Magnus’ house during lunch hour at school.

I’m an idiot sometimes.

I told my mom that I’d be at Grandpa’s house studying and didn’t worry about my dad because Thursday night is one of the nights where he stays late at his private practice.

Then I suited up and shot myself out of the tunnel that exits over Lake Michigan, flying across the water.

The sun had already set, leaving the stars and moon to glow in a cloudless sky and dark waves below. I saw the blinking lights of a jet above me and watched for planes at my own altitude.

Moving at three hundred miles per hour, it seemed that I’d barely put Grand Lake behind me when I began to see Chicago’s lights. The Sears Tower’s top story shone while the two antennas glowed red in the night.

I had a sudden urge to buzz the building, but didn’t. You know that wouldn’t generate good press.

I shifted course a little, informed by my GPS that Magnus’ house lay to the north of the city.

Passing over endless suburbs, cars and well-lit streets, I wondered how well Grandpa’s suit showed up on radar. I knew he’d done his best to make it hard to see, but that didn’t guarantee anything. After having to avoid the police last weekend, it would really stink if the Air Force scrambled fighters to investigate me today.

Worse, I suppose, would be if the Midwest Defenders decided I was threat. I had left them a voicemail saying I’d be in town, but how often did they check it?

I landed half a block away from Magnus’ house, guessing that I’d probably make too much noise if I landed on the roof, and suspecting that landing on the front lawn might be a little too “in your face” for comfort.

The neighborhood had big lots, large lawns, and enough trees that it felt like a forest. Magnus house looked like an Italian villa with a square tower, a wide arched doorway, and three disjointed sections, each as large as my home.

None of the lights were on. I wasn’t sure if this was good or bad. It could be good because it would make it a little easier to bug the place, but on the other hand, it could mean that Magnus had already made a run for it.

I stood on the sidewalk next to the brick wall that divided Magnus’ property from the street.

Unhooking the pouch from the powered armor, I pulled it open, and fished around inside for the controller. With the controller in hand, I activated the bugs and watched them swarm out.

Long and multi-legged, they could pass for large cockroaches. I adjusted the picture on the controller to include the house and pressed the “infiltrate” button. Most scuttled down the other side of the wall while a couple flew upward to tap the telephone line, both to listen to Magnus’ calls and so that they could broadcast any information back to League HQ.

The thought that I was “bugging” a house with cockroach shaped robots amused me much more than it deserved to.

Seriously. I actually giggled a couple times.

I briefly considered moving somewhere less visible while I watched the roachbots (a nickname that also seemed considerably funnier at that moment) do their initial once over of the house. A guy in golden armor doesn’t blend into any neighborhood.

Unfortunately, I got distracted.

Flipping between the viewpoints from thirty different bots, I found that one of them had made its way into a very interesting room. Bookshelves lined the walls. Beakers, jars, and test tubes covered the tables along with human skulls and animals preserved in jars of formaldehyde.

I tried to decide if the room fit better in one of the Harry Potter movies or Frankenstein, but found myself pulled back to reality by a more pressing issue.

“Don’t move,” said a voice from behind me. “Turn around and hold your hands where I can see them or I’ll blow you away.”

I held up my hands and began to turn around, curious. If all he turned out to be was a guy with a gun, he was about to have a very unpleasant surprise.

6 thoughts on “In the Public Eye: Part 10”

  1. Jim, just realized something. From a usability point of view the links at the bottom of the post blend in with the text. Using a different colour would help. Minor, but it irks me as a designer.

    Keep up the great work! I’m loving every moment of this series =).

  2. Hmmn. I’ll have to think about what to do about the color issue. You’re right. I’ve been thinking about changing the template lately, but haven’t started looking. Maybe I have to do that soon.

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