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©02 The Media Desk

The ARM of theHunter


     Three weeks at work crawled by. Although I had several projects assigned to me, and stayed busy, just knowing that I would not be going on an outing for Bishop42 made things dull.
     At home, Keia seemed as busy as ever. She had piles of newspapers, all from the West Coast, around for a week. And she would not talk about what she was doing. She also did not repeat the type of visit she had made to me the night I returned from the badly aborted mission. If she came to my room at all, it was with an armload of clean laundry or towing the vacuum cleaner.
     The computer game was coming to a head. Rumors abounded about dates of a 'rebang' of the game, and what alignments would be for the next game. My stand was the same as always.

     theHunter: Let them rebang at will. In the new game, I will align myself with me.
     CEO1: But everybody is switching corps.
     theHunter: Everybody but me.
     GeorgeS: We're going bad next game. Wanna sign a treaty now?
     theHunter: No thanks.

     They continued to banter about when it would happen, and new corps.
     Keia spoke over my shoulder. "You enjoy being alone."
     The several layers of meaning in her statement came through. "I used to." I looked at her. Her eyes looked tired, she had been reading for hours. "You need a break."
     She didn't speak.
     "I know just the thing." I smiled at her. "Something I think you will enjoy."
     "I make some tea to enjoy."
     "I've got something better. And I will make you tea to go with it."
     There was no distrust in her eyes, no wariness. She had spent her first few months with me more or less at arm's length and evidently and come to believe what I had told her the first night.
     "Of course I like girls. But you're not here for me to take advantage of."
     I walked into my bedroom and reached up on the top shelf. While trying to make more room, I had run across a gift box of bathroom stuff I had gotten from somebody and hadn't even unwrapped. It had all sorts of stuff in it a woman should like, bath drops, oils, some foaming foot wash. I peeled the plastic off the basket and sat it on the counter in the bathroom. Then I started running the bath for her.
     When I walked back into the living room, she was on line, typing a note to the Bishop about her research. I let her finish it. When she exited the program I took her arm gently but firmly and lead her to the bathroom. She didn't seem to understand.
     I pointed to the basket and to the slightly steaming bath water. "I'm the master tonight." I grinned to let her know I was kidding at least a little. "You find something you like the smell of and relax. I'll make you some tea." Then I closed the door behind me.
     In a few minutes I heard her turn the water off. The silence of the apartment was overwhelming. I turned the stereo on in self-defense. Carefully carrying her mug full of boiling hot dark tea to her I gently tapped on the door.
     "Yes?" She said.
     "Cover up, I've got your tea." I said through the door.
     "OK. Come in."
     I was disappointed that she was completely under the water except for her face. The smell of the mint foaming bath gel was almost overpowering. I handed her the cup.
     "Thank you." She said carefully taking it. I smiled and turned to leave. "Master."

     I don't think I breathed at all until I was on my computer checking my mail.
     There was a note from the Bishop.
     "I have something you can do without leaving your apartment. And this will count as a field assignment." The note said. It went on to explain about an internet site run by a foundation that was so unstable it spent twenty hours of every twenty-four last week down for one reason or another. Bishop42 explained that this foundation had called in every hardware, software, and mysteryware expert within a hundred miles to look it over.
     I read the next line aloud laughing myself silly over it. "They all came in, passed judgement, took their check, and went home. Every one of them saying the system was fine."
     Bishop42 said he believed the problem was not with the machinery, but with somebody getting into the system and crashing it to bilk money out of the foundation for service calls.
     Enclosed in the letter was the address of the system and every password and code I'd need to see every inch of the system without going to Chicago.
     I grinned as I typed in the address. This was going to be fun.
     The foundation's site was huge. Menu after menu, everything from cookie recipes to a floating dentist office on a German icebreaker had a spot on their page. I passed over it after just a look see. What I wanted was deeper.
     Without hesitating I got into the programming and began a good look through.
     I smiled in spite of the serious business I was conducting. Keia was singing along in the bathroom to the song on the stereo. Then I found problems in the system. For the next hour I didn't hear or see anything. I started marking back doors into the system. If anybody came in, I'd be notified by the markers. Finally, I sat back.
     "The Bishop got you doing work Huntie?" Keia asked me.
     I nodded. "Not much, but it's something. Now all I have to do is wait until the guy breaks in again." I turned around and smiled at her. Then took a sharp breath. She was wearing a towel.
     "So what else did Master have planned after bath?"

     Luckily the message of an intruder into the foundation's computer didn't come in for a couple of hours. By then I was back at my desk cruising the site. Keia was asleep, curled up on the couch.
     I dropped out of the site and looked around the master programs. The intruder had tripped my marker and backed out. But he left footprints. His terminal access code was an open book.
     With the access I had I pulled up his vital statistics and found out everything there was to know about the intruder's account. From the records, this was a real person, and not a shadow created by some hacker.
     But before I sent him a stink bomb in his email and zapped his account into the ozone, I wanted to make sure of it. I jumped to the game channel and paged the Bishop. It seemed to take forever, but he joined me in chat finally.

     theHunter: Are you familiar with the actual people involved in that other corp?
     Bishop42: If you mean the corporation you are assisting, yes.
     theHunter: how about a corp member named Frank Haiko
     Bishop42: What about him?
     theHunter: His corporate account was the point of entry to those sectors.
     Bishop42: He is a part time assistant to one of the directors. And he does benefit from, shall we say, incidents.
     theHunter: Want me to go ahead and lock him out and see if the problem stops, or wait and gather more evidence?
     The Bishop was silent for a few moments.
     Bishop42: Go ahead and delete him. And while you are at it, send him a nice note wishing him Solomon's best regards.
     theHunter: Solomon? as in the king of Israel? talk about your post dated email
     Bishop42: A personal friend of mine. That should take care of the problem. The Corp member you named is under heavy suspicion. Do as you see fit with my blessing.
     theHunter: Thank you Holy Father.
     >Bishop42 is smirking knowingly at you.

     I left the chatroom and logged into the foundation site. Another marker had been tripped with the same access information. Without another thought, I went to my work account and imported a graphic I had made for a tugboat spaceship I used in the game, The ARM of theHunter. It looked reasonably like the arm of Hercules holding a short sword with the title around it. Under the graphic, I wrote a note thanking Frank for all the fish. Signed it in care of Solomon. And then mailed a copy of the note from my untraceable work address to every outside email address Frank had listed, and a copy to Bishop42.
     Then I went back into the foundation site and carefully deleted Frank from the foundation's system.
     Finally, from my home computer, I sent a couple of Frank's email accounts a mild headache. A virus I had written that simply reproduces itself to fill all available memory until it's deleted. I didn't care if his scanner caught it, just him knowing somebody out in the wide world had it in for him should keep him looking over his shoulder for awhile.
     I thought about posting his vital statistics on the system at work as a known hacker. Then did it. You can never be too careful.

     At work two days later I got a package from the courier. I finished up the review of a program I was working on and went back to my main workstation to open it.
     Inside was two discs and an envelope. One disc was a big black five incher. The other was a CD-ROM.
     I put the black disc in the machine first.
     It was a congratulations on the foundation hacker job. Bishop42 claimed he was out of stickers, so there was a small graphic of a smiling elephant saying 'Good Going!' The note explained that the morning after I had nailed Frank, he had resigned from the foundation. I nodded to myself, he had it coming. The Bishop went on to tell me I would be getting a new credit card in the next day or so, a field assignment was pending. The last paragraph explained the CD-ROM was the file of the investigation of the failed mission where I ended up fleeing for my life under fire and JoeW was killed. The Bishop asked if I would go through it with my housekeeper and respond.
     I didn't want to look at it at work. The CD went into my briefcase. I broke the black disc in half and dropped it in the recycling bin.

     At home, Keia sat next to me and we went through the CD together.
     The investigation had determined that there had been a leak in the field from the moment the mission was conceived. While the writer of the report did not believe the leak was JoeW himself, the source was close to him. Perhaps his house was bugged, or he couldn't keep a secret after he had a couple of beers.
     In any case, the bad guys knew as much about the mission as he did. Including my travelling name and a description of my car.
     There was a play by play, what JoeW did, what the bad guys did, what happened to me when I got to town, and the resultant high speed chase and flight from the motel. There was a mention of my opinion that the desk clerk had been watching for me to come back and seemed shocked that I did.
     Part of the disc was photographs and an animated map of the area showing in a few minutes what took hours to go down that night. Keia was fascinated by the overlapping lines and dots.
     The conclusion was that since the incident, the business of the organization we were after had been substantially moved, since they had a leak as well. And further operations in the area were considered too hot to handle.
     "What you think, Huntie?" Keia asked me.
     "I think I was damned lucky."
     "The Bishop, he want us to make recommendation." She looked at me with her eyes all serious and scholarly.
     I pushed back from the desk. "I got one recommendation. TheHunter needs a drink."
     Keia turned to the keyboard and typed that into a message to Bishop42.
     I left it as the first line of our report.

end 8 Arm

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