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Elzm was an outsider. This meant she had no personal existence over the internet. She held her livings free of hackers, only targeted by runners. Her family left her with a good deal of inheritance money, and she had only made great profit with it. She was now the owner and CEO of Razar, that worked with software development, specially antivirus software. Economically, she was undefeatable. Even if the competition united, they would have a hard time.

Today was a special day at the tallest building of Guangzhou city, where, in the tallest five floors, operated the China division of the Razar corporation. Elzm came to the country after reports of lowering production and had just finished checking the place for any problems, with her service efficiency advisor, and having a meeting to tell the division administrators what needed to change.

Now she was sitting on the administrator's chair, her legs on the table, looking through the glass wall to the illuminated buildings of Guangzhou. The problems with the division were simply poor decisions, if the place didn't get better soon, she would fire those assheads in charge.

Well, if she left soon she would have enough time to do something interesting in the city, before going somewhere else. Sometimes she wished that she didn't own the company--and the responsibilities that came with it--at all. It was while she thought about this that suddenly, there was a black-out.

The chance of an overload was nil, and that of the power plants dying less. Backup after backup would have to fail. Luckily, the back-up power kept the mainframe working, though all other computers were immediately shut off. Elzm stood up from the chair and looked through the window. Nearby buildings were in complete darkness too, but far-off, she could see lights near the streets.

The problem, whatever it was, happened only locally, so it was probably deliberate. The door of the office opened up, Hoo Lin, the administrator, appeared, his white skin visible under the dim moonlight, "Are you alright, ma'am?"

"Yes. What the hell happened?"

"A black-out, it's unusual, but not entirely rare, unfortunately. The lights should start working soo..." the lights came back on, before he could finish, "There. See? Nothing to worry about."

"That was no black-out. The lights only went off in this neighbourhood, the rest of the city was still lit. Where's Sven? Call the power company!" she said, while leaving the room to find Sven, her second-in-command.

Energy locks were down, they had been bypassed quite well. The commission wouldn't be that hard after all, though the hacker didn't know how his commissioner had control of the energy grid. Either way, he's just have to pry open the door that lay in front of him now. The locks were back in order, and he was able to break the password inputs so that he'd have some time to himself while they authorized their proper methods of bypass.

Quickly the hacker used his fake keycard (he had accessed the ID department of the company earlier) to unlock the last door, the last obstacle between him and a direct link to Razar's mainframe, where most of the security measures wouldn't be active. He inserted his fake keycard in a slot on the wall, and another slot opened, where he could insert the optic fiber cable of his palm top. The console came together before his eyes, he was finally doing what he was truly sent for. Too bad there wasn't any security to break this time, just permissions to use.

 :LOGIN ELZM0 5J&Q@4L_quickbrownfoxatetherainboW

God, he loved typing in caps. Whatever, he now had to get out somehow. He had known he might not get out alive, that's why they sent him.

Ten minutes after the computers were turned on again, the electronics technicians of the company found out that they didn't have any access rights.

He was strapped to a chair now. He had tried to get out as fast as he could, but they caught him when he hesitated to jump out of a window.

One of the building's security employees had taken him, and before he could take him to the police, Hoo Lin discovered it and paid the guard for an hour with the thief. Elzm heard about it twenty minutes later, and when she entered the dim lit, minuscule room, he was being beaten by the security guard.

"Is he the guy?" she said.

He sobbed and spoke something in Chinese, Elzm demanded to know what he had said.

"No, I'm not, I was only coming home late from work," the security guard translated, in a rather calmer tone.

Hoo Lin was red from anger. "He's obviously lying! Ma'am, give me some time with him, I interrogated some people during my time in the People's Army."

Elzm hesitated. Those files were of utmost importance. Software more advanced than anything outside science fiction, and many of the things inside. That could get Razar trillions of euros. On the other hand, she didn't want problems with the local authorities, and all time spent with this man would be wasted time if he wasn't the thief.

Not once did she consider to let the man go for ethical reasons.

"Go ahead." said Elzm, "Find out where he sent the Polquin files, what does he have on his palm?"

Hoo Lin passed Elzm the palm that had hacked their secrets of the Polquin Algorithms. Elzm left off to have it scanned over, closing the door to leave the hacker, Hoo Lin and the security guard alone.

Hoo Lin was quick to start, "We both know what's going on here, so I'll be blunt. Where did you send the data?"

"I don't know nothing about no data," said the hacker.

Hoo Lin took no time to punch the man's stomach, knocking back his chair and then left if fallen, "Look here, fellow, our technicians will find out where you sent those files even if you don't tell us, but then I'll have no reason to not kill you. Do you understand?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," the hacker said. Hoo Lin knelt down, pulling him up by his collar with the chair. Anger could be seen in his eyes, before he spat in the hackers face and shoved him aside while walking away.

Ten minutes later he came back, with some papers and a pistol, grinning.

"There, I told you," he said, released the safelock and aimed the gun at the man's head.

The wide-eyed man blurted out, almost by accident, "What? But there's no way they could have found out..." and then, noticing his mistake, he forced his own mouth shut.

Hoo Lin threw the pistol at the ground, grinning victoriously. Reading the paper, he said "Memo to all employees of Razar, Elzm Kilternas is coming to our offices to supervise the operations. We need you all doing your best, any person that publicly shames the company will be fired."

Crumpling the paper, he added, "With that out of the way, how about you start talking?"

The man kept silent.

Disappointed, Hoo Lin left the room, but before, he ominously said, "Don't worry, I'll be right back. And I hope you don't need your fingers."

The hacker leaned back a little. There was a reason they sent him instead of another, more superior runner, he was loyal. He just had to get a little more control over his nerves.

Iqbal Fahim Hashim Abd Al'AzizEdit

"GOOOOAAAAL!!!" the narrator screamed at the top of his lungs, and a man, almost one hundred kilometres distant from him was almost deafened by the sound. Iqbal turned the big television set off, what was the use of buying the latest Home Theater system if his team was being massacred one game after the next since the beginning of the championship?

Iqbal Fahim Hashim Abd Al'Aziz lived in Al'Rahman, one of the wealthiest cities in Palestine. And he wasn't one of the less wealthy citizens of it. He lived at the top floor of a fifty stories luxury hotel. Living in a hotel was a good deal overall, he had to pay more, but he didn't have to bother with preparing meals or cleaning his own house.

His cell phone rang, the tune of "God save the Queen," this could only mean...

"Hello, Elzm?" he answered the phone, the voice at the other side of the line was authoritarian, and angry. Iqbal just kept answering while he went to his PC, a big, black, and sleek CPU box (in which he put a transparent green "window"), with a completely new Spd processor (it would only reach the stores next month) with twenty Gbs of memory, a flat screen LCD monitor.

He turned it on, while telling Elzm to calm down (Don't you fucking tell me to calm down!), she was an obnoxious, annoying bitch, but she had the right to be, since she was also rich. Elzm was Iqbal's wealthiest clients, and paid even better than his official job as a security consultant in an Israeli company.

She wanted him to find out who the hell received files that were stolen from her company's Chinese branch by a hacker she captured. She sent the contents of a PDA to his ghost e-mail account, he created a different one every time he did a job, Iqbal told her to send him a picture of the guy first, so he could know who the hell he was. She yelled at him again, but ended up doing it.

He did a quick face-search on the net with a software he had stolen earlier from the InterPol and found six passports, eight identities and one family picture. The guy was freelance. Looking through the articles, he seemed to have a thing against corporal selling of softwares.

Maybe he could do a face search on the family members, find some names, and search for that address in the site of whatever police force watched over them. But he had to choose, was the family to be trusted? They probably knew some thing or another, but if his persistence ran with the family, they'd only alert the hailings to some associate.

There were the passports. Tracking travel would prove possible, and that could allow a tracing of past workings. Not to mention that most travelling companies were relatively easy to hack. After some time of thought, he decided to put the family idea on hold and to discover where the hell he had come from.

Xfer of ServiceEdit

Dead heaps of trash were easier to eat than the bull of agency quota on customer privacy. Fahim had tried asking for records before, and he had always been turned down with pages of standard protocols. Government was best left out of things, since they were slow and constricting. They'd follow the protocols of the agency before helping some company tracing a theft. They only helped with the thief, and even that had to be kept civil.

He was fuming with anger, since that was about the twentieth time he did that procedure, following that protocol, talking to somebody's superior or inferior or assistant, and that was after his long travel to China. He sighed with frustration as he was redirected to another person. "Fine, it's been what, only the twentieth-first time I had to do that procedure?" he shouted at him.

"Whoa, there, why're you shouting at me!?" said the Chinese dude who evidently thought that the bureau was slick. The bureaucrats always thought their bureau was slick. It was a long-standing tradition of their trade.

Fahim just stared at him, in disbelief. "If the agency doesn't want to cooperate, just tell it to my face."

"Now, if you'd let me get started, I'm here to tell your requests were validated," he said, while they walked through the fairly illuminated corridors.

"Serious?" Fahim asked, for some reason, he was suspicious of that. It sounded too good to be true. He was probably being taken somewhere where he could sign about a hundred forms and pay a small tax to speed up the process.

"Yeah," the Chinese dude answered, matter-of-factly.

"Well isn't this nice." he said again, before following the man into the office.

The door shut behind him, the man sat down and he felt himself pushed into a chair before having his hands pulled back. The Chinese dude was grinning. The hands holding him to the chair were firm, and he figured he was safe, for now.

"We've done our own checks, Fahim. From the looks of it, your only care for Elzm is for the jink. You've left messes before, and so we know you don't follow the law to the letter. We think we'd like to strike a deal with you. And so we'll start off by not being confused with prices."

Oh great, that was about the third time this year he had his arm twisted by some thug while just trying to do his job. And it was only February. Why did they always think he was so short sighted? He should probably get out of the situation, he knew, but he couldn't betray Elzm. Even if he did get a fair pay from this little switch over, Elzm would make sure he never had another commission again, if he even managed to survive her wrath.

"Yeah, hard daisy there. But ya know, I don't want to go out of the biz after know what kind of things she can do to me," thinking a little more, mostly about the money, Fahim continued, "So if I go along with you, the people you work for can keep it quiet?"

Seeing how eager the other man was, the Chinese dude let him go, "That was easier than I thought. You have the fame of being rather loyal."

Fahim smiled, studying the Chinese dude, "And I am. Completely and totally loyal, to my bottom line. And I can't betray her in those hard times, you know? Elzm does wonders to her, so, unless you give me a good deal..."

"Ten thousand. Five more if you do it well," the Chinese dude interrupted.

"I suppose that'll work, as long as my reputation for being loyal stays clean. Because if it comes down to me being found, I'll cover my tracks faster than you can clean them." Fahim knew his new partner was suspicious, so he couldn't make himself sound too willing.

"Yes, and don't worry about that. If there are any mistakes, it'll be because of you. And I take it you won't slit your own throat, hmm?" The man seemed agreeable with that, probably because he knew he couldn't force loyalty.

"Okay, now what am I doing?" Fahim figured it was about time he finish up.

"False leads, simply giving reports that are based on misinterpreted info and sources that prove to be less reliable than they seemed. Like this meeting. We are going to give you some false records. Sure, checking them back a little will prove they don't make sense, but nobody is going to do work that they think somebody else has done."

Fahim smiled, as the person charged with gathering information for the higher-ups most of time, knew that all too well, "But I suppose my services to you are to be continuous?"

"Yes, of course," said the Chinese dude, nodding, "Until Elzm is satisfied. Having any of our operations investigated by the likes of Elzm is a luxury our organization cannot afford," he took a flash drive and a sealed light-blue slip paper from his coat, he gave them to Fahim, after unwrapping the slip.

"And what organization would that be? MacroSoft? SoftCo? SoftRus?" Fahim asked, taking the paper.

"This drive has several files and directories, and in the slip, there are seven of the most important files in that computer," the Chinese dude pointed to a nearby computer, ignoring Fahim's question, "The drive contains files that were made to be similar to history files of this office, you'll tell Elzm you stole the drive and hacked the files in this slip. You'll give them to Elzm, through whichever is your common modus operandi."

The Chinese dude glanced at his watch, "The slip of paper is made from a special material that will degrade in less than an hour, making it unreadable, so don't even think of trying to betray us and show it to Elzm. Also, resealing the slip won't stop it from falling apart."

Fahim nodded, and his new partner reached out to shake his hand. The hacker gave his usual firm handshake, though the other seemed a bit more firm. The firmness had the 'If you fail me, I will crush you' feel.

The MindEdit

Elzm was in a fancy restaurant in the suburbs of Ghuangzhou, it was less than a day since the hacker stole the files from her company, but she was already getting impatient with the lack of information gathered. Sven called his sources, but found nothing, the hacker that usually worked for her was still in some Chinese travelling agency.

Still, she needed to keep on with business, and now she was in a business meeting with other two businessmen. She smiled. Where she came from, it was an oxymoron to use the words "fancy" and "Chinese restaurant" to refer to the same thing. Still, this was a nice place.

The businessmen wanted to set up a highly secure project, and so had decided to work with Razar. Elzm knew nothing of what they planned to do, and would only know when they decided she could be trusted. She knew many things that happened all the time, and the people that did them, but never once had she ever uttered another's secret information. It was one of the requisites for staying in business.

But this wasn't in a closed area, so they'd only be keeping on about the legal side of the affair.

Elzm looked at her dish, it was empty, they hadn't ordered yet, because she insisted on knowing what exactly was that which she was getting into. She wasn't used to make shady dealings with near-strangers in Chinese restaurants, but whenever those strangers worked for the Chinese Mob, and she suddenly - thanks to the incidents like Polquin - needed as many contacts as she could get; exceptions could be made.

And this was one of them. Since those members of the Mob also owned Chinese companies, since they were contactful, and since they were in need of a person with other kinds of contacts like her; this was the perfect exception, this was the perfect business opportunity, this was the perfect occasion to expand Razar's activities in China.

"We'd like to understand further if we could find use of the algorithms in an AI architecture," one of the businessmen hushed. Elzm blinked a moment. An AI architeture? That was the kind of thing she expected programmer kids to be interested in, not the Chinese mob.

"Well, they are capable of object-oriented branching systems with variable patterns." Elzm tried to think of what the AI would need, though she wasn't entirely sure. She knew it superficially, since she might have to explain it to eager investors one of those days. An eager Chinese mobster was just the same.

"Yes yes, but what of reverse engineering a keyless encryption? You know, to deactivate the encryption, and make it readable by anyone?" the other businessman continued for the other, in an even more hushy voice.

"Well, keyless decryption can't be done without a key. Anyone can try out a set of possible keys." Elzm was a bit shocked, the idea made no sense.

"Yes, but what of encrypted keys?" the man continued. Elzm didn't see where this was getting.

"I really don't know what you are going on about." She was ready to leave, this was going nowhere.

"Can it use n-space geometric analysis to generate consistencies given a shape of considerable complexity?" The man struggled to explain.

"And this shape?" Elzm was putting her hands on the table.

"The mind." The first to speak uttered. Elzm rested. They seemed to have some idea about something or another. The other continued.

"We believe that the mind is a perfect fractal of growth, and can thus be calculated for how it will develop given standard stimulus. We also believe the variables can be encrypted recursively to the point of no single answer of the source to show how it evolved. However, given a key, the data can be reversed to an original state. That key, is a stimulus," this one seemed to understand exactly what he was talking about. In detail.

He was a frail man with hexagonal green glasses, his hair was gelled back, and he had a golden ring on his right middle finger. He seemed to be trying too hard to look cool. But he got Elzm's attention, "You plan to create a mind?"

"Not so loud!", the other one managed to whisper and exclaim at the same time, "Yes, it is what we were thinking. We heard you developed a new encryption system, "Polquen" or some other thing, that seems perfect for our purposes. We intend to create an AI that can be easily analysed, controlled. The experiments with AIs have failed until now because they have the habit of self-destruction, if we could analyse every bit of the process, we would be able to create a workable one."

She almost asked him if he didn't hear about the robbery, but then again, she didn't tell the press yet, so she decided to probe more, "But why would you want to create a mind? Don't yours work well enough?" she asked him, smirking.

"All too well, we want to learn how to reverse engineer them though. But alas, we dine now." the man seemed to almost signal the server, though Elzm really couldn't say. She was too busy thinking over this idea. She'd learn not to ask much of commissions, but this was a peculiar case, and she could not resist her curiosity. She didn't realize she ordered spice shrimp until her plate had some dropped into it.

She gave them a better look as they ate, completely absorbed. They didn't look eager to answer any of her questions, or even speak, at the moment. If she ever seen people that seemed completely satisfied with the life they were leading, these would be it. She decided to eat her food, calmly, while she imagined which questions she would ask them when they were finished.

The meal was finished all too soon, as she noticed them rising before she had finished the final shrimp on her plate. She followed, into a back room of the restaurant.

The guy who tried to look cool sat at a computer and pulled up two texts. Both held a load of gibberish inside them.

"This is our starting point. We want to be able to create hashes recursively for planned collision. Our AI layout requires a key for the hashes it gets, and thus we need something that can take a hash and create the data we require with that hash. Right now we figure a few of our theories will have to be reworked, but that's the basic idea of holes." The man tilted his head downwards as he looked up at Elzm, his glasses sliding forward so that she could see his single eye. That single eye looked at her, sizing up how much she understood and how probable she was to go along with the scheme.

"We have not fully fleshed out Polquin's lambda calculus," Elzm said, she didn't really understand a lot of how the program worked, but she did read the reports, "but I'd think your goals are plausible. Polquin preferred to program with functional languages, so I wouldn't cross out the algorithms being bound with potential in that regard. But hash collision calculation is a difficult thing, your junk data could become difficult to maintain and if you wanted to make multiple collisions, the rate of growth would be exponential." Elzm frowned a little while thinking over how to contract these fellows.

"Perhaps if we could see the program, and examine it, we could see if it really does what we believe it does," after some seconds, he added, "Our boss would be prepared to pay a large sum for your services, of course."

Elzm waited a moment. Right now silence gave her power. They needed her. And she had to make some deals quick, because with the recent theft it could be spreading within days.

"Sure, but I want straight up cash. And I want to meet this boss of yours directly."


00> 23 died for these algoritms. You'll be replacing him, and I do hope you are prepared
24> I'm quite sure I am, as I have already proven. May I ask what the task?
00> You proved nothing, nothing besides you're a cheating bastard and that I should not trust you as far as I can throw you. But don't worry, I can throw you pretty far.
24> The task?
00> You're going to track down Polquin's cousin. He was in close contact with Polquin and is suspected to being behind AIOS.
24> OK, but I want to be explained exactly what you want him/her for before I bring him/her to you. Not that I care about him/her, but I whatever you're doing, I want in. Are we clear?
00> It's a she.
00 disconnected
24 disconnected


It had been a year ago that Polquin, her cousin, had died. Since then she'd kept her head low, making sure to release betas of AIOS. But when she needed to know what her enemy had discovered, she had lightly interested the Slayers into the algorithms and Razar. Before long she didn't have to even mention it for discussions to flood the IRCs. And in all that time, they had yet to find out she was of the Slayers.

The group was an odd one, to end up having the patchy information to be able to track her down yet be unable to identify her as one of their own. Maybe it was luck or faith or maybe a guardian angel or some other shit was watching over her. She had been held from seeing what loot 23 had pillaged, maybe now she'd be able to negotiate.

"AIOS is pretty complicated, I don't think I could advance it much without the technology my cousin was developing." She looked at whoever was it across the door. She had refused to open the door, a small show of power the guest did not wish to violate.

"All we ask is for the documentation, your code isn't exactly easy to decipher." The man shifted in his spot, she didn't like talking outside, especially in a loud voice, but the bastard was deaf in there or something.

"If you can't read my code, you evidently can't develop my code." Polquin's cousin turned around, walking away. The man would be desperate, or at least she hoped.

"And if we hire you? Free board and a worthy salary. You can even take a few spa days if the stress gets to you." The man was determined. And the offer that was inevitable had finally been offered. Indeed, the next offers would probably be less than desirable. And her choices were pretty limited, if they were already looking for her. She turned around, and coldly stared through the window. The door opened.

ELZM0> I need to attend another conference on tree redundancy so make this quick.
!qbi> Just figured I'd pass my results to you, I was able to get some logs.


ELZM0> Odd that they had my password. Obviously not a rainbow table.
!qbi> How they got that hash is the other matter. It seems we have conflict within Razar.
ELZM0> Stop wasting my time with things I already know. What have you found about COMPLEX_?
!qbi> Simply put, nothing. I contacted them and they denied everything. They also refused to give us access to their logs. I'm sure that they've since cleared the logs, so a hostile strike would prove fruitless.
ELZM0> Save me the verbosity, I want to know who's pillaged us. Contact me once you've found information I might find useful.
!qbi> Well, there was some other things I came over while investigating the issue.


ELZM0> I'll look over it later. I've already wasted enough time catching up on nothing. Better give me something concrete next time I contact you, or I may have to revise your usefulness.
ELZM0 disconnected
!qbi disconnected

Iqbal unplugged his PDA from the public connection, after a moment of hesitation. Using it for interchanges helped him keep his anonymity, but the conversations were much easier to be intercepted. What he did for Elzm was legal. Well, it wasn't illegal. But his other employer, on the other hand, would need to wait until he had access to a more secure connection.

The files he sent to Elzm had just the right amount of truth to be verifiable, and for him to claim ignorance in case she found out the false information sooner than expected. But apart from that, they were useless. That should keep her busy while he solved his business with this "COMPLEX_", and now the key for it all was already in his possession, he just had to try it on each and every lock.

He was a hacker. Unlocking secrets was his speciality.

He returned to the car, Polquin's cousin was waiting for him, "So when I'm supposed to meet my new boss? Or was it all just a trick to get me into a tour around town?". She had a sneer way about her, he'd dealt with her remarks while driving in circles for some time, making sure there weren't any tails.

"I need to contact them. I'm not familiar with the town, do you know anywhere I can get an absolutely secure connection?" Iqbal asked. And she told him of a place. It seemed plausible that the place had a decent connection, so Iqbal set course to there, besides, with the prospects of a high-paying job, Polquin's cousin had no reason to lie, had she?

Elzm was sitting on her desk, revising her speech, but couldn't focus. She had made a cursory reading of the files Iqbal found. There was very little truly useful information, apparently, but that was the least of her worries. First and foremost in her mind was the prospect of making good business deals in the conference she was about to go. Many potential investors would be there, and she was a businesswoman after all.

But second in his mind was the need to have someone watching Iqbal, he was acting bizarrely for some time now. He was pretty competent the other many times he worked for her, being that the reason she kept hiring him for important jobs needed to be done quickly, despite the protests of Sven, warning her that she shouldn't depend on third-party employees so much. It was bad for her image.

And yet she did and now wished she had trusted Sven. Iqbal was acting bizarrely, too much time had passed and he uncovered too little. She took her cell phone and called Sven. She needed someone watching Iqbal. The phone only rang once.

"Your newest request?" Sven mumbled through the connection, obviously multitasking.

"Since you're such the expert on rogue third parties, I'd like you to trace Iqbal" Elzm wanted to get back to working on the conference.

"Finally realizing his...commitment issues, aren't you?" Sven obviously had sat back from whatever he had been doing.

"Yes, now while you're at it you might want to ask that hacker something for me," Elzm added, remembering.

"People like Iqbal don't work too long for one person only...weeeell, about the other hacker..."

"Ask him about a name: lavar lavar lavar underscore."

Elzm hung up, before Sven could tell her that the hacker that had broken so deep into Razar had since bitten his tongue and died. They tried to get him some medics, but he died of blood loss before the company's physician could even get there. Sven did suspect, though, that the guards' attempts to get medical help were little more than half-hearted.

Sven decided to focus on the matter at hand, rather than calling her back and facing the wrath of a frustrated boss.

The place seemed like a relatively normal apartment building, rather run-down, obviously not in a good neighbourhood, it seemed that nobody bothered to maintain the building in the last five years or so, and the elevator didn't work. Luckily the place they were looking for was on the second floor.

"Are you sure they have a safe connection here? It looks pretty..." Iqbal started saying.

"Oh, I'm sure. UR_XLNC is pathetic, but he works with some crime syndicate or another. They set him up a pretty secure line," she calmed him down.

"Well, normally I'd just wait until I was into known territory, but the boss told me to not leave the town until I contacted him. You know how it goes, just because the boss is stupid it doesn't mean we can just tell him that," Iqbal told her. And he was actually telling the truth, at this point.

They climbed the flights of stairs to the second floor. The door they were looking for had the room numbers ripped out of it, and a "XLNC" was sprayed in bright violet next to it, on the wall. Polquin's cousin knocked rhythmically, and said "Open up and allow me to partake unto the wisdom of the ruler of rulers."

The noise of a key entering a lock and being turned was heard, the door opened, and a tall muscled up and bald man with one of those random stripes tattoos on his forehead stoof beside the doorway, he motioned them to enter and locked the door behind them. The room was only slightly illuminated by a faint blue light, and loud techno was pounding at his ears, but still, Iqbal was sure there were far too many people for such a small room.

"Oh, hey!" said a man wearing a flamboyant electric blue jumpsuit, and various glowing bracelets, "What you want today? Don't tell me, decided to try the new stuff? It's great, I tell you, came right outta Japan, this one, they call it butoka tnaaka or some other shit like that. I call it BT. But I tellin' ya, I got people from as far as the capital comin' here to..."

"No, UR, my friend here just needs to use the special line."

"Oh...that...well, the rate went up to ten euros the minute, and I only accept cash," he said, his glee momentarily reduced, and his hand held up in the air, "It's in the backroom, where you last saw it."

The door seemed secure enough, though that was to be expected. The small room was stiff, a booth with an old fashion telephone. Of course the telephone had a keyboard rigged to it with a monitor, and to no surprise it was painted all over.

Iqbal typed in /dial #ORBITAL_00F3EC9A.SAT into the terminal and waited.

"Hello, proxy." The voice on the other end was flat.

"Hi, this is Iqbal. I've got that cousin here, though she won't name herself." Iqbal glanced over at the cousin, she was busy scratching at the flaky wall.

"Good. May I ask how El took the bait?" The sound of a chair spinning sounded behind the question.

"She was in a rush, but she was able to remark on how uninformative my information was and ordered I get my act together." Iqbal leaned against the wall. Polquin's nameless cousin held up a dozen Euros, causing Iqbal dig in his pockets for spare change.

"Dang, should have expected that from her kind. Oh well, could I talk with the cousin?" Iqbal passed the phone quickly.

"Hey, don't have much time. Lines dropping soon so talk." She made her point all the more obvious with her tone. Iqbal sat back as she nodded a couple of times, and then hung up.

"You were going to introduce me to Elzm, but Boss has decided that you'll just be marking me. So now I'll be off to see him myself, train is already being arranged. Come, we should hurry," she told him, opening the door for them to leave. They paid for the time on the line and left, just in time to not see one of the people in the room vomiting all over three or four persons and passing out.

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