The Covert Exhange


It was risky, but it had to be done. A cold drop wouldn't work. It was new territory for her and we hadn't set up any safe locations for a switch and besides, she was still pretty green. Anyway, the goods were too important to be left in a cold drop in unfamiliar territory. We had to do a covert exchange out in the open. I could tell she was nervous. When you read each other's typed words as much as we'd read each other's you can almost begin to hear the tone of voice. Almost all of our communication was in plaintext, and I preferred it that way, thought the department frowned on it. To my way of thinking, encrypted messages just drew attention to themselves. A looker might not know what was up, but he'd know something was up. Plaintext just got lost in the in the ether with all the others. She was pretty good at plaintext.

LadyBug: The RichMan got the data you need - are you ready to receive?

Sparky: No. I have something for you too. Besides, I don't want to take a chance on the data being intercepted - it's too sensitive. We have to do a physical exchange.

LadyBug: Where? When?

Oh yeah, she was nervous. If she weren't she would have asked about what she already knew I'd tell her. If she hadn't been nervous, she would have asked what it was I had for her.

Sparky: Don't worry, just stick to your usual route and schedule. We'll make the switch in the park at 12:50. I have an experimental inference engine for you. I want you to try it in the field; it may be helpful in your work. Primitive AI capabilities, but it has received good reports from the field and I need an evaluation from someone I trust.

LadyBug: Okey. Not the park… On the street. Across from the Big Store.

Sparky: All right. 12:50, then.

Actually, the change in location was a good idea. In the park, people would be sitting, watching the people. Not a good thing. On the street, everyone would be moving. Maybe it was her instincts. She had good instincts. I had recruited her a few months ago. Actually, she had contacted me first, but without the intent of going into The Firm. I had a rep for some pretty good contacts, and she needed help. I gave it to her. It paid off for her and big time for me. She was a natural. Then I think she recruited the RichMan, but never told him what it was all about. That's the way thing worked in this business… people just did things and things got done - don't ask too many questions.

I was ninety seconds early, in time to see her emerge from the parking lot across the street. I jaywalked over. She handed me the disc without missing a beat. I handed her the 8-ball.

"Nice to see you. Tell the RichMan, 'Thanks.'"

"No problem." And she walked away.

The old derelict in the overcoat (it was 80 degrees), watched us, but he had been an old derelict in an overcoat for as long as I can remember. Not a problem. Everyone else was wrapped up in their own worlds. The swap was a success.

I reached the other side of the street and watched her walking decisively to her destination. Oh, yeah, she would turn heads, despite the hair that she hadn't taken the time to dry, despite the scowl on her face that meant she'd rather be going somewhere else. I wondered about that. I couldn't read her. Not yet. But she was good. Oh yeah, she was good.


© Frank Burnside Jr. 2002