Paranoia (161 of 170)

—of —
by Joseph Finder
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Macmillan: Paranoia

Paranoia by Joseph Finder. Copyright 2004 by Joseph Finder.
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Part Eight: 87 (Cont'd)

When the motion detectors were on, they triggered the cameras, shifted them in the direction of any moving object.

But the motion detectors were off. That meant the cameras were fixed, couldn't move.

It's funny, Meacham and his guy had trained me to beat security systems that were more sophisticated than this. Maybe Meacham was right—forget about the movies, in reality corporate security always tends to be sort of primitive.

Now I could enter the little lobby area without being seen by the cameras, which were pointed at the door that opened directly into Secure Facility C. I took a few tentative steps into the room, flattening my back against the wall. I sidled slowly over to one of the cameras from behind. I was in the camera's blind spot, I knew. It couldn't see me.

And then the Talkabout bleeped to life.

"Get the hell out!" Seth's voice screeched. "Everyone's been ordered to the fifth floor, I just heard it!"

"I—I can't, I'm almost there!" I shouted back.

"Move it! Jesus, get the hell out of there!"

"No—I can't! Not yet!"


"Seth, listen to me. You've got to get the hell out of here—stairs, freight elevator, whatever. Wait for me in the truck outside."


"Go!" I shouted, and I clicked off.

A blast of sound jolted me—a throaty mechanical hoo-ah blaring from an alarm horn somewhere very close.

Now what? I couldn't stop here, just feet from the entrance to the AURORA Project! Not this close!

I had to keep going.

The alarm went on, hoo-ah, hoo-ah, deafeningly loud, like an air-raid siren.

I pulled the spray can out of my overalls—a can of Pam spray, that aerosol cooking oil—then leaped up at the camera and sprayed the lens. I could see an oil slick on the glass eyeball. Done.

The siren blared.

Now the camera was blind, its optics defeated—but not in a way that would necessarily attract attention. Anyone watching the monitor would see the image suddenly go blurry. Maybe they'd blame the network wiring upgrade they'd been warned about. The blurred-out image probably wouldn't draw much attention in a bank of TV monitors. That was the idea, anyway.

But now that careful planning seemed almost pointless, because they were coming, I could hear them. The same guards I'd just bamboozled? Different ones? I had no idea, of course, but they were coming.

There were footsteps, shouts, but they sounded far away, just background chatter against the ear-splitting siren.

Maybe I could still make it.

If I hurried. Once I was inside the AURORA laboratory, they probably couldn't come after me, or at least not easily. Not unless they had some kind of override, which seemed unlikely.

They might not even know I was in there.

That is, if I could get in.

Now I circled the room, keeping out of camera range until I reached the other camera. Standing in its blind spot, I leaped up, sprayed the oil, hit the lens dead on.

Now Security couldn't see me through the monitors, couldn't see what I was about to try.

I was almost in. Another few seconds—I hoped—and I'd be inside AURORA.

Getting out was another matter. I knew there was a freight elevator there, which couldn't be accessed from outside. Would Alana's badge activate it? I sure hoped so. It was my only shot.

Damn, I could barely think straight, with that siren blasting, and the voices getting louder, the footsteps closer. My mind raced crazily. Would the security guards even know of the existence of AURORA? How closely held was the secret? If they didn't know about AURORA, they might not be able to figure out where I was headed. Maybe they were just running through the corridors of each floor in some wild, uncoordinated search for the second intruder.

Mounted on the wall to the immediate left of a shiny steel door was a small beige box: an Identix fingerprint scanner.

From the front pocket of my overalls I pulled the clear plastic case. Then, with trembling fingers, I removed the strip of tape with Alana's thumbprint on it, its whorls captured in traces of graphite powder.

I pressed the tape gently on the scanner, right where you'd normally put your thumb, and waited for the LED to change from red to green.

And nothing happened.

No, please, God, I thought desperately, my brain scrambled by terror, and by the unbearably loud hoo-ah of the alarm. Make it work. Please, God.

The light stayed red, stubbornly red.

Nothing was happening.

Meacham had given me a long session on how to defeat biometric scanners, and I'd practiced countless times until I thought I'd gotten it down. Some fingerprint readers were harder to beat than others, depending on what technology they used. This was one of the most common types, with an optical sensor inside it. And what I'd just done was supposed to work ninety percent of the time. Ninety percent of the time this goddamned trick worked!

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