Paranoia (157 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: 85 (Cont'd)

It opened. I knew that the doors to mechanical rooms were required to be unlocked from the inside, to make sure no one got trapped, but it was still a relief to know we could get out of here.

In the meantime, Seth took out a pair of Motorola Talkabout walkie-talkies, handed me one, and then pulled out from his holster a compact black shortwave radio, a three-hundred-channel police scanner.

"You remember the security frequency? Something in the four hundreds UHF, wasn't it?"

I took a little spiral-bound notebook from my shirt pocket, read off the frequency number. He began to key it in, and I unfolded the floor map and studied my route.

I was even more nervous now than when I was climbing down the side of the building. We had a pretty solid plan, but too many things could go wrong.

For one, there might be people around, even this early. AURORA was Trion's top-priority program, with a big deadline a mere two days off. Engineers worked weird hours. Five in the morning, there probably wouldn't be anyone around, but you never knew. Better to stay in the window-washer uniform, carrying a bucket and a squeegee—cleaning people were all but invisible. Unlikely anyone would stop to ask what I was doing here.

But there was a gruesome possibility that I might run into someone who recognized me. Trion had tens of thousands of employees, and I'd met, I don't know, fifty of them, so the odds were in my favor I wouldn't see someone who knew me. Not at five in the morning. Still ... So I'd brought along a yellow hard hat, even though window washers never actually wear them, jammed it down on my head, then put on a pair of safety glasses.

Once I was out of this dark little room, I'd have to walk several hundred feet of hallway with security cameras trained on me all the way. Sure, there were a couple of security guys in the command center in the basement, but they had to look at dozens of monitors, and they were probably also watching TV and drinking coffee and shooting the shit. I didn't think anyone would pay me much attention.

Until I reached Secure Facility C, where the security definitely got harsh.

"Got it," Seth said, staring at the police scanner's digital readout. "I just heard 'Trion Security' and something else Trion."

"Okay," I said. "Keep listening, and alert me if there's anything I should know."

"How long you gonna take, you think?"

I held my breath. "Could be ten minutes. Could be half an hour. Depends on how things go."

"Be careful, Cas."

I nodded.

"Wait, here you go." He'd spotted a big yellow wheeled cleaning bucket in the corner, rolled it over to me. "Take this."

"Good idea." I looked at my old buddy for a moment, wanting to say something like "Wish me luck," but then I decided that sounded too nervous and mushy. Instead, I gave him the thumbs-up, like I was cool about all this. "See you back here," I said.

"Hey, don't forget to turn your thingy on," he said, pointing to my Talkabout.

I shook my head at my own forgetfulness and smiled.

Opening the door slowly, I looked out, saw no one coming, stepped into the hall, and closed the door behind me.

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Macmillan: Paranoia
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