Chapter Thirty-Five

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I can't remember if it's cyanide or explosives or sarin gas, but it's something.

Something bad.

Maybe this would move Susan, the possibility of her 317 employees being blown sky-high or drowning in their own seizure-induced saliva, but I can't pause to find out. It's fire alarm time. I have to get word outside.

How? Earlier I had the idea of using that carebnb backdoor to slip a message through the datablock, but now it occurs to me I need specific computers for this—computers with the same database access the servers on Two have.

The straightest line between here and police cruisers roaring up Second Ave, I think, is to physically escape the datablock. Depending on their antennas' strength, the block could extend anywhere from five to ten feet from the building perimeter. Beyond there, I can broadcast a message to the San Francisco police, fire department, the FBI, Drudge, The New York Times—anyone and everyone capable of summoning the calvary.

The ground floors will be covered by Elite guards or sensors. Even assuming I can break a window on a higher floor, how do I get sufficiently far from the building? Hedgehog Eleanor Roosevelt has the ability to transmit, but my arms aren't ten feet long.

I could throw her. Set a timer, rig a message-send to run two or three seconds after I activate it from her keyboard. Then hope she gets the message off before crashing to the ground and exploding into a thousand pieces.

Feels like a prayer. I could knuckle down and do the deceleration calcs, but off the top of my head, I'm pessimistic.

No, I need something that can gain those ten feet of space and stay operational. Either by surviving a fall, or ...

Or not falling.

I lower myself out of the duct, leaving the vent panel aside, stepping down the cart. I take the long route to the stairwell exit so as to avoid Oleg, Katya, and the sleeping biz-siders. Raven could rendezvous with me by riding the elevator or bumping handicap-access push buttons, but neither is quiet—I need to let her out at Two. Then we'll relocate to one of the more sparsely-populated floors and try our SOS.

I slip out of Ten and begin tapping Hedgehog Eleanor Roosevelt's keyboard. My fingers keep striking between keys but eventually I get the command issued for Raven to go to the second-floor stairwell and hang tight.

I walk down eight flights. When I tease open the door, my girl is hovering at forehead-height like a spare brain.

"You rock," I whisper.

The least-populated floors are Three and Eight. Deciding Eight is better, the transmission having a better chance away from street-level interference, I lead us back upstairs. Raven follows in EXTREME_QUIET mode, using just two propellers, virtually silent with Sempiternity for a backdrop.

On Eight, we walk to the far east edge of the building. This floor used to house Graphic Design and Brand Strategy—before the bosses outsourced both. A few giant monitors and easel-style displays dot the area, oddly left behind after the furniture and workspace borders got reclaimed. Dinosaurs after the layoff meteor.

Hedgehog Eleanor Roosevelt pegs the time at 4:57. If I remember correctly, Elite was planning to wake us at 5:30. Thirty-three minutes is a chunk of time, but it's not forever. To pull off her distress cry, Raven will need custom logic. She needs the text of her message. She needs recipients. She needs fly and repeat logic—if the SOS doesn't go at 10 feet, I want her beaming it again at 10.1 feet, at 10.2 feet, at 10.3 feet ...

The first decision is where. Which window. We cruise that east hall, gauging thicknesses and surroundings. I find a usefully-eroded stretch of caulk in one corner office, but the neighboring building is a mere ten yards away and could bother the transmission. In theory Raven can pathfind around it, but she's been an indoor cat for years now and I don't trust her algorithms with such large vectors.

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