I held up my hand and waved it, “Hey everybody, Hal’s already got the location. Master Martian’s in Washington D.C. More precise information is on its way.”
Though we didn’t feel it thanks to the gravitics and inertial dampers, we could see through the windows as the jet spun around in the sky, changing direction and altitude, clouds and the blue sky a blur as the jet shot upward.
Then Cassie started talking over the radio, logging our change in flight plan with the nearest airport. It was a risk, given the reason that we were going, but when you’re traveling several times faster than the speed of sound, you don’t want anyone in your way. Besides, she told them we were going to Philadelphia.
I didn’t know what she was going to do, but it wouldn’t be hard to put up the shields and stealth in when we got closer.
“Crap,” Vaughn said, turning to look at me, “that was fast. Daniel just asked for help. What happened? Did the guy get caught or something?”
I shook my head, “Not that I know of. Hal called in some favors. He knows a guy, or really, he knows a bunch of AIs.”
“Huh,” Vaughn paused, then said, “that’s a little scary.”
“Not necessarily,” I said. “If you think about it, some of them have been around longer than we’ve been alive and so far as I know, none of them have given us trouble. We’ve been fighting humans this whole time.”
“Point,” Vaughn said, “but for all you know, those people might have been following directions from AIs.”
Thinking back to how the Coffeeshop Illuminati launched a coup in Turkmenistan with plans from Hal that they’d stolen from us, I couldn’t argue with him. “Could be. We haven’t seen any signs of it so far, but it’s within the realm of possibility.”
And that’s when Hal attacked my brain. Okay—not really—but an explosion of images opened up inside my head along with maps and news reports, and footage from security cameras, all of it saved in discrete files by my implant.
[That’s favor number one—a mix of publicly available information from the D.C. area along with private information collected by the Feds. It’s all sightings of Master Martian.]
I thought back, Where did you get this?
[Eugene—an AI created in the 1950s as part of an accident involving lightning, an engineer, an early mainframe, and a nest of rats. He’s nice. Works with Isaac Lim sometimes. The Feds keep on adding on as he needs more hardware. I hear he takes up most of a building now.]
Okay. That could be worse. He sounds trustworthy. Where do the rats fit in—
Hal interrupted me. [You don’t want to know. Sorry—just got access to the second favor—it’s video streams. Eugene can’t get everywhere, but CYB3R-WZ3L can. It lives in the unused processing power of millions of computers all over the world. I’ve loaned it a virtual machine every now and then. So does Eugene. It only runs on Windows, so there’s not much of a risk.]
Trustworthy? I thought back as I looked over the streams.
[Within limits. When it passed those limits, I’ve deleted the virtual machine. Eventually, it got the idea.]
Comparing the packets of data from Eugene with the video streams, I found that CYB3R-WZ3L’s video streams were live while Eugenes’ data showed where Master Martian had been over the last few days—following an oil company lobbyist on behalf of a country with oil reserves. Eugene had pictures of him meeting members of that country’s embassy staff.
Better, combining the pictures with the maps and the streams told me exactly where Master Martian was, complete with an address. I sent the address to Cassie via my implant and got Daniel’s attention with a telepathic poke. Feeling his attention, I showed him everything.
That’s a lot, he thought at me, I’m pretty sure you’re handling more information and connections between your brain and the implant than you could have when you got back from space. Give me a second.
He closed his eyes, took a couple breaths, and when he opened them, he said, “Everybody, Hal gave Nick everything we need to find Master Martian. Unfortunately, I’m seeing that we’ll definitely end up fighting when we get there. I don’t know any more than that, but Cassie, if you can hurry, it will help.”
Cassie glanced back, “Then I guess we’re going sub-orbital.”
The hum of the jet’s engines moved a little higher—if nowhere near the worst I’d done when we were in space. As we left the atmosphere, there were moments where the streams flickered and I couldn’t connect, but Hal managed to reconnect and stay mostly connected throughout the flight.
That allowed me to watch as Master Martian walked through the door of a nearly empty apartment and lay down on the white, pillowed, couch—the only piece of furniture in the room. Master Martian didn’t quite look like the original. The original wore a helmet and shiny green spacesuit that could have come out of a 60s sitcom.
This one wore a dark blue suit. As he’d walked through the door, I wouldn’t have seen him as anything but a normal human, but as he closed the door, his skin had taken on a green tinge. By the time he was on the couch and throwing off his suit coat, his antenna extended from the top of his head.
Except for the antenna and skin tone, he could have been any guy coming home after a long day.
Switching video streams, I checked outside. Looking out of the camera of a doorbell on the other side of the street, I saw a row of multi-colored painted, brick three-story houses. Master Martian’s apartment was on the third floor of the one that had been painted yellow—except for the orange balcony.
It wasn’t the buildings I cared about as much as the cars in front of them. A white van sat two houses down on the left. The two men inside didn’t look like deliverymen. Even though they wore blue shirts and dull blue jackets, the sunglasses, clean shave, and close-cut hair made me think of soldiers or cops. The earpieces made me think more of the Secret Service.
Another similar van parked two houses down and to the right of Master Martian’s apartment. Dressed and groomed like the others, the man in that van seemed familiar. The wide mouth and handsome face set off alarm bells in my head. He was a male version of Tara.