The Scarab

The Scarab by Scott Rhine

Book: The Scarab by Scott Rhine Read Free Book Online
Authors: Scott Rhine
me how much my head still hurt. The key for
the Exotech Viper attack craft (one of the heavies) almost matched, but had
generated a data corruption error. Maybe the file was incomplete, or blocks had
gone bad in the crash. As I scrolled the buffers to my screen for an eye-check,
I could hear my removable drive whir.
    Most of what zipped by was
appropriate crypto-babble, except one chunk in the middle which was in glaring
plain text. The header was a game-description file for something called a
Radio-Seeking missile. I’m not sure how it worked, but it sounded lethal,
probably homing in on the spark plugs or other emissions of a hostile vehicle.
I’d never be certain because the file was incomplete. For some reason they were
sending the missile to one of their other team-mates at the time of death. I
could understand them wanting to off-load a sinking ship, but if they were
sending it to one of their light or middleweight vehicles, I could nail them on
a price-range violation.
    Examining the destination header,
the Viper craft appeared to be sending the missile file to team member five
with the same key. But the user count only went up to four. “Couldn’t be.”
    I was burning repair cycles, but I
had to try just one more experiment. I mailed the Duratech vault to the
now-defunct key with user number five. The send succeeded, but when I listed my
inventory, the vault was still there! The transfer count hadn’t gone up. This
could be exploited as a major security hole. Exotech was cheating six ways from
Sunday! My outrage cooled, turning to ways I could use this information to get
my revenge. I’d have to contact Playfair with my evidence. Meanwhile, I’d get
rid of the black box and play dumb.
    First, though, I deleted the plain
text file fragment and changed the interface so that it would send a broadcast
message “I cheat at solitaire” to all the players every time someone read the
buffer. I labeled the log with an Exotech logo and dropped it in the common
maintenance area where it was bound to get back to the snakes.
    Before logging off, I remembered
Mare’s password. She had been using my login up till now, and it just occurred
to me that she might mistake the password I chose as an insult. Thinking of her
capture of the thief yesterday, I changed it to “Caught You!”
    I popped out my removable drive,
and carefully labeled it with the word EVIDENCE. Stuffing it into my jacket
pocket, I headed for the lobby.
    By the time I located Playfair, I
had spent twenty minutes poring over the casualty lists, and couldn’t deduce
the owner of the safe. I wrote a note to the spook to meet me in the Men’s room
in ten minutes, and dropped it next to him on the bench where he sat.
    Fifteen minutes later, we were
alone in the rest room.
    “What’s this list for, Hayes?”
    “Call me Enrico,” I said looking
around, furtively.
    “What the hell for?” asked agent
    “There might be spies!” I hissed,
worried about bugs.
    “Half the people here are spies of
one sort or another. So what?”
    Three fans walked in to use the
facilities. Quickly, I covered by saying “Do you mind, we’re having a lover’s
quarrel!” All three promptly zipped up and left before Playfair’s jaw reached
the floor. “As I was saying, this morning I caught Exotech cheating.”
    “Why are you doing this to me?” he
asked, still not believing what was happening. “I have a cover to keep.”
    “Those guys? They just think you’re
gay, not a spy. If anything, they’ll think less about you since you have a
label,” I explained. “The Viper tried to mail a plain-text copy of the
radio-missile to one of his junior team members.”
    “Jesus, those things are
classified. Do you have proof of any of this?”
    I didn’t want to tell him about the
disc, or he’d know I cheated, too. “No. But I can get it. You do know that
Exotech is already facing federal fraud charges.”
    “One has nothing to do with the

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