Susan Fletcher paced impatiently in the Crypto bathroom and counted slowly to fifty. Her head was throbbing. Just a little longer, she told herself. Hale is North Dakota!
Susan wondered what Hale’s plans were. Would he announce the pass‑key? Would he be greedy and try to sell the algorithm? Susan couldn’t bear to wait any longer. It was time. She had to get to Strathmore.
Cautiously she cracked the door and peered out at the reflective wall on the far side of Crypto. There was no way to know if Hale was still watching. She’d have to move quickly to Strathmore’s office. Not too quickly, of course‑she could not let Hale suspect she was on to him. She reached for the door and was about to pull it open when she heard something. Voices. Men’s voices.
The voices were coming through the ventilation shaft near the floor. She released the door and moved toward the vent. The words were muffled by the dull hum of the generators below. The conversation sounded like it was coming up from the sublevel catwalks. One voice was shrill, angry. It sounded like Phil Chartrukian.
“You don’t believe me?”
The sound of more arguing rose.
“We have a virus!”
Then the sound of harsh yelling.
“We need to call Jabba!”
Then there were sounds of a struggle.
“Let me go!”
The noise that followed was barely human. It was a long wailing cry of horror, like a tortured animal about to die. Susan froze beside the vent. The noise ended as abruptly as it had begun. Then there was a silence.
An instant later, as if choreographed for some cheap horror matinee, the lights in the bathroom slowly dimmed. Then they flickered and went out. Susan Fletcher found herself standing in total blackness.