Truth and the True: Part 10

Looking down at the words on my phone, I wrote back, “What?”

Three dots that indicated that she was writing appeared. I waited. Then more words appeared, accompanied by a beep. “There’s a file cabinet in Sandy’s office and he shoved a bunch of folders in there when I got close to his desk. Don’t know what’s in there, but he didn’t want me to see it.”

Even as I thought about my reply, she added, “Might not be the Nine, but it’s worth a look.”

I wrote back, “Right. Want to talk here? Tomorrow night after work?”

Seconds later, “Yes. Seven?”

That worked for me. I put my books and computer into my backpack, took the elevator upstairs, and went to bed.

* * *

Checking email on my phone after I saw an email from Dr. Hansen, head of the Engineering Department. Could I drop by his office after class? I had an hour between classes that morning that I’d been planning to use to read ahead or start my Calculus problems, so the time worked, but it wasn’t convenient.

I replied yes. This had the feel of an order instead of a request.

Dr. Strazinsky left no sign that he thought that I was in trouble or even that he knew about the meeting. He lectured, reminded us that we had an assignment listed on the class site, and then class was over.

I arrived in the Engineering Department and walked over to Dr. Hansen’s office. The door was open. I leaned in and knocked on the door.

Dr. Hansen looked up from his laptop and waved me in, saying, “Please close the door.”

As meetings with authority figures go, those are words that start unpleasant conversations more often than they start pleasant ones. At the same time, Dr. Hansen didn’t look angry to me. He stood up, drawing himself up to his near seven-foot height. It might have been more intimidating if he weren’t thin as opposed to muscular. Also, he was holding out his hand for a handshake.

Ignoring that part of my brain that had been suddenly reminded of Tara trying to teach Tiger tricks (“Shake? Shake? Yes! Good boy! Who’s a good boy? Who’s a good boy? Yes, you!”), I shook the professor’s hand.

We both sat down.

Closing his laptop, Dr. Hansen looked over the desk at me. “Nick, this isn’t about you. We’ve had no complaints. Everyone says you’re doing a good job, but—”

And there I expected him to end the sentence with, “we’re ending the internship,” because that would have been a mess.

Instead, he ended the sentence with, “—there’s been a security breach at Higher Ground. Someone’s been taking recordings inside the building and your name was specifically mentioned in one of the videos. That doesn’t mean that we think you took the video, but from what was said you were in the area when it was taken. So, it falls to me to ask you, did you or anyone else you know at Higher Ground take video inside the building?”

I’d already triggered my implant to help in case I couldn’t remain calm on my own, but the implant didn’t notify me that it was helping as I said, “No,” with what I hoped was a convincing level of calm.

Dr. Hansen nodded at my response but kept on talking. “That’s good to hear, but I can’t leave it there. Hardwick Industries is one of the major places we place interns. Losing their confidence would do our internship program major damage. That’s still true if there are problems with one of our interns with the Higher Ground because there’s a connection between the two companies.”

He watched me as he talked, seeking signs of a guilty conscience, maybe?

In my head, my implant received notifications from my phone. It hadn’t been as hard to make a connection as you might think, allowing me to give alien technology some of the same features as an Apple Watch.

I’d received a message from Lim on the encrypted network Supers used. It said that another team had been assigned to this investigation and that he’d been required to share the videos with them. “But don’t worry, your name isn’t associated with the video—just the mad scientist list and our investigation. That’s bad enough, but we think it’s likely they’ve guessed you’re working with us from the beginning.”

If I weren’t already trying to look as calm as possible, that might have shaken my composure. I’d have read the entire message, but for the moment, this was enough. Anyway, Dr. Hansen hadn’t noticed that I’d been distracted. He’d kept on talking, “I’ve read that you know people there now. One is a friend from before—”

“I knew Stephanie a little from my scholarship program, but more now,” I added as he talked.

“Right, but you know other people there too, not from your scholarship program, but since you were hired. Are any of them or anyone you know involved in espionage against Higher Ground or Hardwick Industries?”

He stopped, watching me, eyes wide, mouth in a scowl.

If his expression had become more intense, I knew why. As he’d asked the last question, he’d touched the pin on his tie. As he did, the implant recognized the sounds as, “Dominator command inflections,” and my glasses began to vibrate, making sounds designed to be outside the human hearing spectrum, but also capable of blocking out the sounds that would have forced me to answer his question whether I wanted to or not.

17 thoughts on “Truth and the True: Part 10”

  1. Nick’s got some great strengths.

    His crazy-preparedness lets him no-sell tons of psychic/compulsion attacks (though shout-outs to Evil Beatnik for actually taking him for a ride), his martial arts give him a big edge against normies and the ever-improving tech keeps him relevant during the super slugfests.

  2. When did Nick start wearing glasses, was that from the start of the series and I just missed it? I remember some sunglasses, but those should have been removed for a meeting inside. If he suddenly started wearing glasses wouldn’t somebody have asked about it?

      1. Nick’s a nerd. I just assume that all nerds wear glasses unless specifically told otherwise.

        You might be surprised how true that stereotype is IRL. Personally, I think that the way VR headsets are likely to interfere with glasses is the biggest reason they aren’t more prominent already.

        And yes, I’ve worn glasses for as long as I can remember.

  3. I think you just found the Nine connection in your school Nick.

    Also you are beginning to give Batman adequacy issues on being prepared. =^_~=

    1. I don’t really see Nick’s set-up for resisting sound-activated behavioural control as being hyper-prepared. He’s gone up against people with powers like that a number of times. It’s more like he’s just learned from previous experiences, and doesn’t throw away useful tech.

      In fact, Dominator voice-control is getting common enough in his world that it’s no different than Batman wearing kevlar.

      Hg

  4. Lim’s theories were certainly validated. As soon as he shares information, it’s apparently leaked and someone with Dominator technology tries to find the source.

    That said – does what Dr. Hansen is doing make sense? He, or at least the people he works for, know that the source of the recordings is not in fact industrial espionage but rather someone working with the FBI/government.

    Suppose his Dominator tech worked and Nick answers, “Yes, it was me. The FBI recruited me to plant some listening devices at the company because they suspected them of being involved with the Nine.”

    Where do you do with that? Is he counting on his tie clip machine to be powerful enough order Nick to forget the conversation or not tell anyone? Because if Hansen does find the informant, now he has exposed himself as someone trying to uncover the government’s informant and actually he’s the one in trouble if he can’t also shut up said informant and prevent them telling on him.

    1. In that case Dr. Hansen would probably order Nick to go to the rooftop and jump head first. Just another poor genius student driven past the edge by the pressures put on him.

      ———————————–

      “Not that I know of; but…” replied Nick as he stuck a thinking man’s pose.

      Dr. Hansen leaned forward powerfully, slightly rising up from his seat. “But what?”

      “If I had to bet, I’d bet on Victor. He’s been pretty angry lately over not scoring with neither Stephanie nor with Emmy Rogers” said Nick as he threw the man under the bus.

      😈

    2. Interesting how the speed of things makes it obvious who is connected to whom. I got pulled over today, and within minutes of the police running my insurance, I got a robocall about “problems with your car’s extended warren-tee.”

      1. Could be worse. Could run your license and while you are sitting there get an add for a traffic attorney. . .

        1. Actually, that would be a good thing. See, my car doesn’t have a warrantee; it’s old. So the ad is a lie. I walked out of that incident with a ticket for not having insurance, so I could at least have possible use for a traffic attorney.

          And I didn’t have insurance because Progressive are a pack of lying thieves. They added two people to my insurance, without telling me. Then, they cancelled the policy because I didn’t pay the higher premium that they didn’t tell me about.

          An attorney might prove very useful in the near future…

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