Friday, March 09, 2007

Story 10

[NOTE: This is part of a progressive story. The first entry is here. Check the blog label 2007Story for all entries]

     Anthony waited quietly as the others left. He knew that Blake already knew how he felt about any interaction with the Commander, but he still felt he should make his feelings public, to Blake anyway. Once everyone had left, they sat in silence for a few moments and then Blake stood to leave, saying he had some errands to run. He asked Anthony to come.

     They walked largely in silence the few blocks to Main Street, talking innocuously about classes and the upcoming Homecoming. Finally, just as they reached Quark Electronics, Tony turned to the subject beating on his brain.

     "You don't really expect me to talk with the Commander do you?"

     He stared at Blake as the two rounded the corner of the shop and went inside. Blake turned to look at his stunned friend.

     "Of course that would be the ideal. But we both know how unapproachable the Commander keeps himself, so I really just want you as close as possible. Ear to the ground so to speak."

     Blake glanced around and then walked up to the service counter and cleared his throat for the benefit of the employee hiding in the back room playing with some sort of gadget.

     "Seriously Blake, what do you think I..."

     Blake interrupted Tony with a wave of his hand and began speaking to the man behind the counter.

     "Ah my good Thomas. How are you today? Fiddling with anything fun back there eh?"

     Blake gestured knowingly towards the back room and gave a chuckle.

     "Afternoon Blake. Nothin really cool yet. Just piecing together some kid’s toys to make 'em better. Maybe tomorrow I'll have somethin’ to show you with 'em."

     Thomas eyed Anthony nervously, gave a slight smile and then proceeded to look back towards Blake, not exactly looking at Blake, but looking at the edge of the counter just in front of Blake.

     "I'll have to stop by tomorrow and take a look at the creation then, won't I? I'm always thrilled to see your talents in action. This is precisely why I’ve come."

     Blake pulled his backpack off and placed it on the counter.

     "I'm afraid one of your handy anti-snoop gadgets back at the house decided to buzz and beep at the contents of my bag this afternoon. I narrowed the source down to this pen and I wanted you to take a look at it. Mainly I'm curious if you can tell me who made it. Better still, if you can somehow turn the thing back on itself and tell us who's getting the messages from it, I'd be eternally in your debt."

     Blake pulled a simple looking pen from his bag and handed it to Thomas. Tony watched in wonder as the tall young man with thick fingers and a skinny nose pulled open the casing and removed a small object from inside. Tony knew Thomas from school but didn’t know much about him. How Blake knew him, he could only guess.

     Thomas set the piece of metal and plastic on the counter, a brief flash of recognition on his face but no sound coming from him, and with a pair of tweezers that came from nowhere, he tugged at a corner of the object. Miraculously, he exposed a loose edge and began to extract a tube from the center of the object. Within minutes, he had exposed some a bit of electronics that had been hidden innocuously on the end of the ink cartridge. Thomas looked up at Blake, staring at him squarely, just below the chin.

     "Well, I doubt I can tell you who made it. It’s a fairly generic bit of tech. It’s an RFID transmitter. Basically it sends a signal to a receiver. If you’re thinkin’ it’s snoopin’ on ya, then it’s probably sending out a pulse to multiple receivers that can then combine their data to pinpoint your location on a map. On the plus side, it’s not sophisticated enough to be listening in on you. It’s just keeping an eye on your whereabouts, not snooping beyond that.

     "I can probably figure out who is listening in on this, within a few dozen feet. But it'll take some time. I'd need to make a few changes, plug into the tracker myself. If you leave it here, I could have it for you by morning."

     Tony watched as Thomas looked back to the tracker and lightly probed it with a plastic stick-like object. He tried not to laugh as he watched Blake try and pull Thomas' attention away long enough to answer more questions.

     "How long is the range on this contraption Thomas?"

     "A few hunderd yards I'd say. At most. The battery can’t likely sustain a signal larger than that."

     "Any idea to tell if the signal is being received now?"

     Thomas’s eyes lit up slightly. He disappeared behind the counter and pulled out a small machine and flipped it on. He held the device up to the machine and began twirling dials and staring intently at the readout.

     "Uh. Hmmm. No, it don't look like it's sending the message home right now. Must be too far."

     "And you'll be able to have it set up to trace it back to its owner by first thing in the morning? I suspect I won't want to show up to school without it."

     "What? Oh, yeah, no problem. I'll have it ready for you before school. Just stop by and grab it."

     "Any idea who might have access to this sort of technology? An RFID and a set of receivers?"

     "Look Blake. If you want this done by morning, leave me to it. Stop by around 7 and I'll have it ready for you."

     Tomas lightly slid the object on to a large piece of paper and carried it back into the back room. Nothing more was said. Blake and Tony glanced at each other and then walked out of the shop. Once they were out of site, Tom returned to the back room and sent an email message to the Commander, letting him know what had just transpired.

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