Breaking and entering - Excerpt from Aurora
Well, it seems the editing of Aurora is about finished. As I've mentioned in a previous post, due to issues outside of my control, the publishing will have to wait until September 1st, but I'll be posting a few excerpts while we wait.
So without any more from me today, here's a scene starring the enigmatic Thomas Dunn:
The night was warm, and there was a sweet scent to the air, even through all the filtering and decontamination, clean and almost flowery. Aurora was a beautiful place, an Eden for those who cared to notice. Thomas Dunn had a task that demanded his full attention, but he also had the ability to take in his surroundings in full. Nothing escaped him. As he approached the building, he grinned at the guard standing outside the door. The guard recognized him, and immediately looked to see if anyone else was around.
“You’ve got the booze?” the guard almost whispered. Thomas nodded, and brought out a gray canvas bag. A clinking sound escaped it when he — a little carelessly — handed it over. The guard smiled nervously and licked his lips.
“It’s been years you know… I almost forgot how much… How good it can be…” Thomas cocked his head and looked at the poor drunk. He’d snatched a few bottles of moonshine from the private stash of one of the soldiers a few weeks ago, and had kept it hidden since. With full access to the personnel files, he knew the strengths and weaknesses of the men and women — civilian and military. This guy had been sober for so long, ever since before they left Earth, but once an alcoholic… So he’d chatted with him, and casually mentioned his little secret stash.
“Now you owe me one, Pete.” The guard nodded eagerly, as he put his hand inside the bag. Then he took out one small bottle and slipped it inside his jacket. The other went down the pocket on the side of his pants. Thomas slapped him amiably on the shoulder as he turned around.
“Save a little for after duty then,” he said as he walked away. He didn’t wait for an answer. He’d been surprised this guy hadn’t been kicked out in Selection, back on Earth, until he connected the dots. Richard Thatcher, the mastermind behind the conspiracy had time and time again proven his foresight. And when Thomas though about it, he chuckled. They needed a few weak links in the chain, and Pete was just that. Placed on the Exodus, where he’d have no access to his little vice, he’d be an obedient soldier, but here… He didn’t know all the instructors involved, but he knew that even Senator Joe Buchanan had been involved, and he headed the entire project back on Earth. He could only imagine the trouble they had gone through to secure Pete’s place on the Exodus.
Thomas rounded the corner, and walked into the administrative building, where he had a small office. He threw his jacket onto his desk and sat down to play around on his tablet for a while. No one noticing the light in his windows would react to it; he often worked late, and sometimes even pulled all-nighters. Layers upon layers of deceptions hid his true intentions, and while some might suspect there was something amiss with his front cover as an administrative assistant, no one really knew who he was. Some in Havelar’s inner circle might know Thomas was his personal spy, but his true mission remained hidden. Just as he’d planned all those months before the day he finally stepped into the role of Thomas Dunn. It was a role he’d become accustomed to, and it was all part of him now. He lived, breathed, and thought Thomas Dunn. It was the only way, to immerse himself into this fictional character, to such a degree that even he sometimes wondered who he really was.
He’d had a lot of these musings lately, and every time, he pushed himself out of it. It could drive a man crazy, thinking like that. He looked at his watch. Half an hour had passed; that ought to do it. He had no way of knowing just how quickly Pete would jump into the bottle. From what he’d learned about the man, he didn’t expect it to take long, but to be sure, he’d spiked the booze, just enough to make sure. A few sips would be tasty; a few more, and the guard would fall asleep.
He went outside again, and as he rounded the corner, he grinned. Pete sat slumped against the wall, the bottle lying beside him. Thomas looked around before he darted over and quickly spilled the rest of the bottle on the ground. He laid the bottle back as it had been, and checked Pete’s pulse. He’d be fine. In a couple of hours, he’d wake up, confused, and Thomas chuckled as he thought of it. Of course, if someone discovered the poor drunk, he’d be facing a shitload of trouble. Oh well.
Thomas took out an access card he’d stolen earlier, and held it up against the lock. He had reprogrammed it, resetting the code, and now he pushed the eight digits. The lock clicked, and he opened the door. The lights were out, and he didn’t dare use a flashlight, so he waited for a moment to let his eyes adjust to the darkness. He knew exactly where he was heading; after all, he’d been part of setting up this compound. He followed a short corridor until he reached another locked door. He fumbled a little in the dark before he found the other access card. This door had a double lock, with two ten-digit codes. It was basically an archive, although it held a few pieces of advanced electronic equipment as well. Thomas had no interest in the gadgets; it was information he was seeking.
There, he quickly spotted the server he’d known would be here. It was just an ordinary computer, but it was the only way he’d be able to access Alphanet, Havelar’s private network. The server had a sophisticated firewall protecting Alphanet from the other networks on Aurora. Even the network run by the powerful servers on board the Exodus, covering most of the northern hemisphere, was completely separated from Alphanet. Only a small number of devices were connected to Alphanet, and every single one of them was tightly guarded. This was the weak spot, though it had taken some planning to make sure it would be accessible. He would never have been able to breach it if not for his privileges from working so closely with Havelar himself. And Pete, of course. Now, by hardwiring his tablet to the server, he’d be able to bypass the firewall, and using a slightly modified stealth program, he’d gain access to the information he sought.
He searched for a few minutes, his heartbeat almost too loud to concentrate. He felt a trickle of sweat down his back, as he impatiently went through file after file. Each file name seemed to be random letters and numbers, no logical organization to go through. Damn, it was taking too long. Someone might come by and discover Pete outside. A muffled sound made him start. He heard it once more, and recognized it was just the main drive of another server working. His presence had probably already increased the temperature of the room, making some of the older machines react by speeding up their fans.
There. He recognized the file just as he opened it. The numbers were obvious; coordinates, dates, times. He thought of the containers smuggled along on the Exodus. Who knew what they held, but he’d always suspected it would be bad. Now he finally had a way to find out. He quickly copied the file. Then he deleted a temporary file that had been created the instant he breached the firewall. He erased a part of the drive as well, ensuring there would be no way to recover the file. When he disconnected, there would be no way to trace the breach, no record of time, nothing to lead to suspicion.
He carefully locked the doors as he exited the building, and made sure everything was just as when he’d come. Then he patted Pete on the head and whispered softly.
“I won’t tell if you don’t. Promise.” Then he walked away.
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