True Blue Lou
by K. Kylyra Ameringer
Each station was located in individual alcoves curtained off from the main room with heavy velvet drapes. Hidden systems focused beams of intense energy to a small manifestation area that was marked off by glowing green lights. The only evidence of the massive machinery behind all of it was a small, slim terminal to the side of alcove. Usually when in operation one could find a Tech and a First Liaison at a station. His own had enough activity to warrant a trainee as well. When Lou arrived at his station he not only found the Tech, he also found a Traffic Control Special Ops Team and his own manager. His trainee, a young female with another term at school still to go, lay unconscious on the floor.
"Lou!" His manager spotted him and pushed him next to the unconscious trainee. "Where have you been?"
"I didn't know what time it was," Lou responded, looking around. The Special Ops Team was sweeping the alcove with their sensors. One of the team tapped at the terminal controls, the frightened looking Tech standing to one side. "What happened? Where's Phoebe?"
"She didn't show," his manager said, dropping his voice.
"Didn't show?" Lou asked, reflexively dropping his voice as well. "What do you mean she didn't show? I thought we took care of that problem."
His manager sighed and pulled a silk handkerchief from his pocket to wipe at his forehead. "I thought so too. Her scheduled arrival time came. You weren't here, so your Tech," he nodded towards the terminal, "called me down. Just in case. You know Phoebe," he said.
Lou nodded; Phoebe was notoriously difficult to handle.
"There was no problem, absolutely none. Everything went as scheduled; the Tech did his job and nothing seemed unusual. The machinery kicked in - the beams did fire -" His manager raised the level of his voice a bit so Special Ops could hear him. "But there was no Phoebe. Nothing."
Lou crossed to the terminal. "Let me look at the data," he demanded of team member tapping away. "I know Phoebe. I know the sequences she's most likely to use to try to override the system. You'll waste valuable time not giving me access right now."
The team member said nothing but glanced at his leader. Identical silver chips flashed at their temples. The team member at the terminal stepped away, giving Lou access.
Lou scanned the data for anomalous mathematical loops, one of the favorite tricks Phoebe was known to use to try to override the return sequence. He was finding nothing.
"Okay, let me try something else." Lou felt his heart rate begin to speed up as the Special Ops team finished their sensor sweep and stood nearby, waiting. He applied a random chaotic algorithm and waited for the main frame to complete the program. Why Phoebe continually tried to override the system was a mystery to Lou; when she returned to the complex she complained about her duties on Earth, yet she almost never failed to try to bypass the system and not return to the complex. She'd received reprimands, counseling, a micro-lock had even been installed in her AMULET3. to prevent her tampering with it. And she still kept coming up with ways to subvert the system. Lou shook his head with acceptance. That was just Phoebe.
A light blinked at the corner of the terminal, telling him the program he'd run had found something. "Got it," he said. "She embedded a self-looping virus in the secondary directional control for the beams."
The Tech glided to the side of the terminal and looked down. "This ... could present a bit of a problem."
"What? You can't fix it?" Lou's manager bounded over to the terminal and shoved Lou out of the way. The silver chips in the temples of the Special Ops team began flashing in unison.
"No, nothing like that," the Tech reassured them. "But I need to close down this section of the main frame," he pulled up the schematics and highlighted the area, "which will result in some minor random arrivals at secondary locations."
The chips in the temples of the Special Ops team flashed so quickly Lou almost thought they were emitting continuous light. He knew orders and directives were being distributed to the heads of all departments, alerting them to begin monitoring their secondary arrival locations. The Tech stood immobile by the terminal, waiting for confirmation to continue his work. The chips on the Special Ops team flashed out in union, and their leader gave the Tech an almost imperceptible nod.
The Tech's hands began flying over the terminal, tapping away at a furious rate. "Okay, I've isolated the affected area in the main frame and I'm resetting the control for Phoebe's phase signature. She's ... not where she should be. Let's see..." The Tech punched on his auxiliary PAD calculating the variables.
"Just tell us where she's going to manifest," Lou's manager said testily.
The Tech paused to give Lou's manager a withering look. "Traffic Control common room," he replied curtly.
"Can't you narrow it down more than that? I'd need to get every Liaison and their assistants down here to cover even half that room," the manager whined.
"That's not my problem," the Tech replied.
3. AMULET: Auxiliary Micro Utility LANs Encapsulated Transmitter
True Blue Lou by K. Kylyra Ameringer