At the church, as usual.
The sanctuary kind of smells weird today. Did R8PR have a girl over or something? I smell kind of strong perfume. Or maybe he bought a bunch of bake sale items, and then… pretended to eat them as he incinerated them with electric blasts?
You never know with this guy.
Right now, though, R8PR is laying lopsided on his makeshift throne, seemingly bored out of his robo-mind with his robo-legs propped up on top of the non-robo armrest.
“You okay, buddy?” I ask, sitting on a pew with my legs up and resting on top of the row in front of it. I probably look kind of bored myself, actually. Two of a kind, me and him.
“Not really. I’ve been analyzing these e-mails you gave me for thirty minutes, using every single encryption technique I can think of. Bupkis.”
“Well, what do you think it is?” asks Karina, sitting next to me, her hip touching mine and her hand resting precariously close to my thigh. I don’t mind that, of course.
“Surely it’s a key of some sort, to unlock some sort of device. All of the typos add up to be 32 characters long, so it should be designed to decrypt something. I just wonder what.”
“Or it could actually be a glitch on her computer,” I say. “Maybe it’s nothing.”
“You could be right,” he says. “How about we call it an evening? I’m sure you two’d like to get some rest, right?”
Lordy lordy, I haven’t slept in a good seventy hours at this point. I should be thanking my technologically-enhanced body, and all the coffee, for making sure I stay lucid even with nearly zero keeping me going.
“Wait, no, not yet,” Karina says. “I think we can figure it out if we just…” She yawns. She hasn’t exactly rested like a baby herself, and she doesn’t have the same powers I do. Karina never ceases to impress me with how well she can keep up with me all on her lonesome, despite being not at all physically fit, and being constantly exhausted by all her other obligations in life. She truly is the Green Hornet to my Kato.
Suddenly, her eyes snap wide open, and she jumps to her feet. “Have you checked it as a website URL?”
“Uhh… no,” R8PR says. “I don’t think… Well, I guess I can’t make assumptions or guesses. Might as well try– and there it was a website all along. Wow. This was just a website URL.”
“What made you think of that, Karina?” I ask.
“Um, I think I’m a little delirious. I can’t quite… remember.” She sits back down on the pew and loses all the energy she had just a second ago.
“Wow, um… Look at this,” R8PR says. He turns on his eye-projectors and shows a computer screen URL that’s just a file index, a very long one consisting of hundreds and hundreds of files.
“What is it?”
“These are… I’m not sure. The filesizes are very big; this one called “funding_proposal11.ghx” is almost a whole gigabyte. We aren’t downloading that one on the wireless modem out here. Not unless you have a week to spare for the wait. Oh, there is this “readme.txt” though…”
“What’s it say?”
He opens the file, it downloads and shows a quick, three-line message: “This is my research folder on the Ascendants, everything I have uncovered. Please use at your own volition. -Jones”
R8PR gives a hearty digitized laugh. “That girl’s really gone and done it, hasn’t she?”
“Gigabytes of research on them, too,” R8PR adds.
“Can we… talk about this tomorrow?” Karina asks, having finally lost her will to remain conscious. Her head has leaned back against the pew, and she’s dozing off in an incredibly uncomfortable way. I put my arm behind her neck for support so she at least won’t injure herself.
I can feel it too, the relentless tiredness. “This is huge, but… R8PR, can you look through all this, and tell us what you find? Call us if there’s anything important.”
“Will do.” He gives a thumbs up. “You two have done a great job with everything. Thank you.”
“C’mon, Karina, we’ve got to go home.”
R8PR shuts off his projector and the church goes dim. As I help my half-conscious friend up from the pew and out of the room, I look back at where R8PR was. For one moment, I see his glowing green eyes, two neutral, vertical lines. Then they flicker off.