Paranoia (148 of 170)

—of —
by Joseph Finder
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Macmillan: Paranoia

Paranoia by Joseph Finder. Copyright 2004 by Joseph Finder.
All Rights Reserved. Sharing not permitted.

Part Eight: 80 (Cont'd)

I inspected her badge. Hers had the same stuff on it as mine, the 3-D holograph Trion seal that changed color as light passed over it, the same pale blue background color with TRION SYSTEMS printed over and over on it in tiny white letters. The chief difference seemed to be that hers had a red-and-white stripe across the front.

"I'll show you mine if you show me yours," she said.

I took my badge out of my pocket and handed it to her. The basic difference was in the little transponder chip inside. The chip inside the badge was encoded with information that either opened a door lock or didn't. Her card got her into the fifth floor in addition to all the main entrances, the garage, and so on.

"You look like a scared rabbit here." She giggled.

"I think I felt that way on my first day."

"I didn't know employee numbers went this high."

The red-and-white stripe on her card had to be for quick visual identification. Meaning that there must be at least one additional checkpoint beyond waving the badge at the badge reader. Someone had to check you out as you entered. That made things a lot more difficult.

"When you leave to go down to lunch or up to the gym—must be a huge hassle."

She shrugged, uninterested. "It's not too bad. They get to know you."

Right, I thought. That's the problem. You can't get in the door unless the chip inside your proximity access badge has been coded right, and even once you're on the floor, you have to pass by a guard for facial confirmation. "At least they don't make you go through that biometric crap," I said. "We had to do that at Wyatt. You know—the fingerprint scan. A friend of mine at Intel even had to go through a retinal scan every day, and all of a sudden he started needing glasses." This was a total lie, but it got her attention. She looked at me with a curious grin, unsure whether I was joking.

"I'm kidding about the glasses part, but he was convinced all that scanning was going to ruin his eyesight."

"Well, there's this one inner area with biometrics, but only the engineers go in there. It's where they do work on the prototype. But I just have to deal with Barney or Chet, the poor security guards who have to sit in that little booth."

"It can't be as ridiculous as it was at Wyatt in the early stages of the Lucid," I said. "They made us go through this badge-exchange ritual where you had to hand your ID card to the guard, and then the guy gave you a second badge to wear on the floor." I was totally bullshitting, parroting back something Meacham had told me about. "So let's say you realize you left your car headlights on, or you forgot something in the trunk of your car, or you want to run down to the cafeteria to grab a bagel or something ..."

She shook her head absently, snorted softly. She'd run out of what little interest she had in the intricacies of the badge-access system at work. I wanted to pump her for more information—like, do you have to hand your ID card to the guard, or do you just show it to them? If you had to hand the guard your card, the risk was a lot higher of the guard discovering a fake badge. Does the scrutiny get any more lax at night? Early in the morning?

"Hey," she said, "you haven't touched your wine. Don't you like it?"

I dipped a couple of fingertips into my glass of wine. "Delicious," I said.

This little act of stupid juvenile male goofiness made her laugh, loud and whooping, her eyes crinkling into slits. Some women—okay, most women—might have asked for the check at that point. Not Alana.

I was into her.

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