Chapter Fifty

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At the ten minute mark, I push up off my palms to stand, then trudge to the Cray's inner cavity. I bring up Paul's value-pair text file and find its growth rate has increased slightly.

"We could make it," I call out to Graham.

He answers over the supercomputer's thrum, "If you swing this, Codewise owes you one giant bonus. You'll have saved the company."

"From what, bankruptcy? Or being reduced to a pile of rubble?"

I close the text file and leave the Cray's inner cavity to find Graham fingering his thermal undersleeve.

"As a coerced member of my team," he says, "I'm not privy to all aspects of the plan."

"Nobody told you about explosives in ducts?"

He shakes his head. "Though I can't say it surprises me." He twists on the vinyl bench, rolling his tongue into one cheek. "I'm certain Oleg would make space for you in the convoy. To have you along, help debug any deployment issues."

I drop back onto the bench beside him. "I realize we've only been acquainted forty hours, but do you honestly see me as a person who'd jump into the getaway van with Russian heavies?"

"At times, the correct move lies beyond the character you thought was your own."

Our knees brush, and I don't pull away—his jeans feel like some luxurious pad for my battered bones. I look at him hoping for more, but his blue eyes are ciphers.

How will Oleg use those charges?

I have been assuming they're the bleach to his cleanup job—blast us to the moon and pin it on Omar Mohammed. But is that a good assumption?

"Does it even matter if we build Blackquest?" I ask. "If we succeed, do we gain anything?"

Graham, too, is leaving his leg where it is. "For all else he is, Oleg is a believer in due rewards. In accountability. That much is authentic. I think finishing the software would be all to the good."

The Cray's casing is warm against the back of my skull, and its gentle vibration feels like shiatsu massage.

I close my eyes. The code has been optimized to within a silicon wafer of its existence; I can't make it any speedier. It will get the full range of value-pairs when it gets them.

All it needs is time.

I recheck at five minutes, then at three. Each time, the file size indicates the botlets inching closer to a rate that could push us over the top. If we do miss, it'll be by no more than five minutes.

Five minutes.

Where can I find find minutes?

I have an idea. "When will Oleg run the final test?"

Graham stretches a lanky arm overhead. "When the forty hours have expired."

"Okay, but specifically—is he going to kick off the test right downstairs in the lobby? Could I stall him? Get him talking somehow, buy us more time?"

"It's sound thinking," Graham says, wincing, "but no. I wrote the finalization code—at time zero, Blackquest 40 locks in the last commits, and that is the code that must be tested. You can stall all you like, but the code is frozen."

I slump deeper into the vinyl, and watch my toes in their sandals, the middle twisting over the big, then big over middle, all worming in place for an answer.

Below us, the building groans with activity. Stairwell doors to Ten and Nine keep opening in what must be Codewise and Elite personnel streaming down to the lobby. The crates are surely being carted outside for transport.

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