VirileMail - Chapter 13[edit | edit source]

Joe returning to Earth.....

Revenge[edit | edit source]


After many days of reading about the nanoscale adapter organelle project and piecing together bits of information about the project, I began to get a fairly coherent understanding of what they were doing.

The bioengineers routinely referred to the nanoscale adapter organelle as an NAO. The NAO development project was at a company called Conceptions Organiques, located in France. I was astounded to learn that the NAO was a genetically engineered mitosome, a type of naturally occurring subcellular organelle. The NAO had been designed to be synthesize by Naegleria fowleri, a type of amoeba capable of invading and surviving in the human brain. The strain of Naegleria fowleri being used was called Nf23 and it had been genetically modified to reduce its ability to damage brain tissue. Nf23 cells could invade the brain by way of olfactory neurons in the nasal cavity and then become factories for the production of NAOs.

Unlike normal mitosomes, the NAO was designed to function in the space between neurons. An Nf23 cell inside the brain would released large numbers NAOs into the fluid-filled spaces between brain cells. The term "NAO" really meant, "nodal adapter organelle" where the term "nodal" was a reference to Nodes of Ranvier, the small gaps in the myelin coating along the surface of axons. The NAO was designed to clamp onto an axon at a Node of Ranvier and provide a convenient molecular adapter through which nanobots could both monitor and control the electrical signals being sent down the axon.

The attachment of NAOs to axons depended on the presence of Badhesins at the surface of both axons and the NAOs. The Badhesins were the molecular glue that was needed to hold the NAOs on brain cells. The Badhesin virus would infect brain cells and program them to express Badhesins on their surface. My mission was to deliver the Badhesin virus to Conceptions Organiques and they would need to test the results obtained by simultaneously infecting human brains with both the Badhesin virus and Nf23. If all went as planned, the result would be an ideal biomolecular interface by which nanobots could integrate fully into a human brain.

I was sickened and horrified by the idea that there were biologists who would do this kind of work for the aliens. Even if the people at Conceptions Organiques knew nothing of aliens and nanobots, what did they think they were doing? I read deeper into the documents available to me and found that Conceptions Organiques was trying to make a computer interface that would allow stimulation of nerves in patients with severed spinal cords. The goal was to allow quadriplegics to regain control of their muscles with the aid of a computer and implanted arrays of nanoscale electrodes. I quickly scanned through all the documents and found no mention of nanobots.

Apparently the situation at Conceptions Organiques was similar to what I had experienced at Antler where we had imagined that we were working with some fairly conventional email software, but in reality we were giving birth to Janek, an alien artificial life form. The biologists at Conceptions Organiques probably imagined they were working on a new approach to treatment of a serious medical condition while remaining totally unaware of what the aliens intended to do with the NAOs.

I could not sleep that night. I kept thinking about the pile of nanobots that were waiting to enter my brain and I had no confidence that Lilya's vaccine would prevent use of the NAOs by the aliens as a means to achieve better control over human brains. What I wanted to do when I reached Earth was immediately take the vaccine to the resistance forces and provide them with the sample vaccine doses and instructions for mass production of more vaccine. However, I doubted that I could prevent delivery of the Badhesin virus to Conceptions Organiques. Even if I did not make the delivery, Janek would find another way to get the virus to them. So it seemed like there would be a race. Were the resistance forces well enough organized to get the vaccine produced and distributed before the aliens could make use of the Badhesin virus? And sprinkled in among all my worries and my nightmares were images of Chloe, a lost and helpless puppet of the aliens.

The trip to Earth seemed to pass more slowly than had the reverse journey to Mars. One day, finally the image of Earth swelled to fill the computer screen and Janek contacted me. "The virus samples are in compartment one in the cargo hold. I've unlocked the door to that compartment, so you can now go get the samples. The samples are frozen in liquid nitrogen. You will be dropped off in the country, not far from the Conceptions Organiques research labs. You will deliver the virus and explain how it is to be tested in combination with Nf23. I have set up an appointment for you to meet with the lead researcher, Dr. Redes, at 9:00 in the morning."

"So Dr. Redes knows nothing about the Badhesin virus?"

"Very little, no more than Anthony Geisler knew at the start of the VirileMail project, in other words, just a suitable cover story."

While Janek spoke, I started feeling itchy around my nose and mouth. I looked for the pile of nanobots, but it was gone! Once again I had the alien nanobots in my brain. "And when I have made the virus delivery to Dr. Redes, I want you to honor our agreement. I want you to remove the nanobots from Chloe."

Janek produced a perfectly normal sounding laugh. "Very well, Chloe will be free. Maybe you can then both go to Mars and 'live happily ever after'. Do you have any more demands?"

I replied, "I want no more tricks. You say, 'Chloe will be free,' but I do not want you to later say, 'Oh, but I did not say when she would be free..."

Janek could not hide the contempt in his voice, "What do you want, a signed and notarized contract? Really, you have no choice but to trust me. But I agree, there will be no tricks. After you deliver the virus to Dr. Redes you can come back to the ship and I'll fly you across the Atlantic to Chloe and she will be free of all nanobots when you reach her."

But even as we made our deal I knew I would try to break it. My mind felt no different with the nanobots back in my body and I had already decided to test if the anti-Badhesin vaccine was now protecting me from alien mind control. If so, then I would destroy the virus samples and focus my efforts on getting the vaccine instructions into the hands of the anti-alien resistance forces.

The spaceship made a night time landing just a few miles from the Conceptions Organiques research facility. The office compartment, with me inside, was pushed out of the cargo hold. I opened the door and jumped down about four feet onto the surface of Earth. I was immersed in the smells and sounds of a Summer night on Earth. I looked up at the alien spaceship. The door to the "office" cargo compartment slid shut and my eyes started adapting to the moonless night. The spaceship seemed to glow softly in the star light. Then the "office" cargo compartment retracted back into the cargo hold.

I wore a backpack that contained the virus samples in a small container of liquid nitrogen. Now that I was off the ship my hope was to escape from Janek, but in case my nanobots were able to take control of my mind, I tried to note the terrain and landmarks so I could return to this landing site. I was only a few feet away from the ship when it silently drifted back up into the sky. I had not previously seen an alien ship flying and I was impressed by its easy movement.

But now was the time to test the nanobots. I took off the pack and opened the liquid nitrogen container. I felt no interference from the nanobots. I poured the liquid nitrogen on the ground and then shook out the tubes of frozen virus. I felt nothing but elation: the nanobots were powerless to stop me from destroying the virus!

An hour later I was in the village of Parsac and from there I was able to hitch a ride to the nearest rail station. My MasterCard debit card was recognized by the French rail system ticket machines and by dawn I was at the Limoges airport, with a plane ticket in my pocket.

After a short connecting flight to Charles de Gaulle airport I went to the main customs office and reported that I had lost my passport. I was provided with a temporary replacement and bought a ticket on the next available flight to New York. I went to the Airport's post office and put a small package that contained the vaccine instructions into the mail, addressed to a P.O. box number used by the rebels. I kept one of the six vaccine sample vials for myself, planning to use it to free Chloe from her nanobots. The vaccine seemed completely effective at keeping me free from any nanobot mind control and I was eager to share this freedom with Chloe.

Twenty hours after returning to Earth, I sat in a rented car, parked down the street from Chloe's house. After waiting there for two hours, I saw Chloe returning to her house from work. She pulled her car into her garage and the garage door closed behind her. I waited a minute then I drove my rental car into her driveway. I went to her front door and rang the bell. A moment later she opened the door. "Joe? Joe! I never should have doubted..."

I'd had often fantasized that she might welcome me back by throwing her arms around me, but this was the real Chloe: she just stood there looking cute, struggling mentally to imagine where I had been since my sudden disappearance. I asked, "Can I come in? I need your help."

We sat in her living room and I tried to watch her closely for signs that she was still infected by nanobots. By now, Janek surely knew that I had not delivered the virus to Conceptions Organiques, so it seemed unlikely that Chloe had ever been freed of her nanobots. She asked, "Why do you need my help? What happened to you that night we were in the mountains?"

I wanted to tell her everything that had happened to me and give her the vaccine. Then I wanted her to help me destroy Janek's communication channel to the nanobots. But I had to take things slowly. I said, "There is so much to tell." And I did not feel safe at Chloe's house, it was too obvious of a place to look if the aliens were trying to find me. "Let me buy you dinner, and we can talk."

Chloe agreed to dinner, so we went outside and got in the rental car. I told her everything from the moment she had gone to bed the night I left Earth. I talked and talked and she listened to it all. By the time we ordered desert I was starting to tell her about Lilya and the anti-alien rebels on Mars. She went to the restroom and I poured a dose of the anti-Badhesin vaccine into her drink. Chloe ate her desert and finished her drink while I told her about the anti-Badhesin vaccine and that I had returned to Earth in order to help anti-alien resistance forces produce the vaccine in large quantities.

We got back into the rental car and I told Chloe, "During dinner I put a dose of the vaccine in your drink. Soon you will be free of the alien mind control."

Chloe said, "That's quite a story, Joe. It would be nice if you had some proof, some verifiable evidence to support these claims about aliens and your trip to Mars. Also, I'm wondering where you are taking me now."

"I called my bank today and found out where my belongings have been stored." While I drove I explained how my memories had returned after my dose of the vaccine. As I talked about the "router/Janek" tape, Chloe started to breathe rapidly and perspire.

We found the storage company and I parked under their big glowing "24 hour access storage" sign. Chloe and I went into the office and soon emerged with a key to the storage shed that held my belongings. When I lifted the door of the shed I found myself in front of my car, my one possession I had really missed, particularly while waiting at trolley stops on Mars. Chloe and I searched through boxes until we found the "router/Janek" tape, my TV and my VCR. I plugged the TV and tape player into an outlet in the wall and played the tape.

I narrated, "This is the part you have seen before. I recorded this little bit over the original data tape. Its me explaining our discovery and the key contents of the original recording. After my short narrative there is some of a conversation between Judy, Brad and I. They had come into the room while I was making my recording. I have never previously listened to this; I've always just stopped the tape at this point and rewound. We kept watching past the point where I had stopped the recording. Now Chloe and I could see that I had recorded over the "evidence tape". I hit fast forward and found the point on the tape showing how Chloe and I discovered that the VirileMail AI was pretending to be a human named Janek. Chloe was now sweating and trembling and she tried to turn away from the TV, but I put my arms around her and forced her to watch. When the tape showed Chloe and I loosing consciousness, Chloe collapsed.

I picked up Chloe and put her on the back seat of my car. I ejected the tape from the VCR and got into my car. It started with a bit of difficulty after sitting unused for so long. I drove my car out of the storage shed then put the rental car in the shed. I locked the shed, got back in my car and drove away. I rented a room in a motel and put Chloe to bed. I sat in a chair watching her sleep, wondering what kind of battle was going on in her brain between nanobots and the anti-Badhesin vaccine. When she woke up would she remember everything the aliens had tried to make her forget?

Hours later I woke up to the sound of someone knocking on the door. Chloe also woke up and was looking at me with confusion and concern, I got out of my chair and went to the door, looked through the peep hole and was surprised to see Briana Geisler. When I opened the door Briana said, "Its good to see you again, Joe."

Chloe was sitting up in bed and shaking her head in wonder, "This is so strange, is this a dream? What's going on? Where am I?"

I let Briana into the room and asked her, "How did you find us?"

Briana said, "When you disappeared, my father hired an investigative firm. One of their services is to monitor bank accounts of people who disappear. When your debit account became active about a day ago, it was not that hard to follow your spending pattern. My father was notified and I was told that you were back in town."

I said, "Of course, I used the debit card to pay for this room."

Briana nodded. "As soon as I learned about that transaction I came here."

Chloe said, "Where is 'here'? I don't remember how I got here."

I ignored Chloe's question and asked Briana, "So your father ordered you to find me?"

Briana nodded, "Yes, he did. He'll we thrilled to learn that you are safe. We should call him."

I said, "I'd rather not."

Briana asked, "Why not? Are you in some kind of trouble?" That last question was asked as much of Chloe as of me.

Chloe said, "Joe has been telling me wild stories about aliens and....and, he said he put something in my drink."

My mind started racing as I tried to imagine how I could explain everything to Briana. Briana chuckled. "Aliens? I suppose Joe told you that he disappeared because aliens abducted him."

I said, "Chloe collapsed because alien nanorobots in her brain were trying disrupt her memories. I brought her here so she could recover from the nanobot attack. I don't care if you believe me or not."

Chloe jumped out of bed, "Joe, I remember!" Chloe was not steady on her feet; she stumbled and crashed into a table.

Briana stepped forward and held Chloe, "You remember how you got here?"

Chloe shook her head. "No. Joe, I remember what was on that video tape. And I can remember that whole the VirileMail project got started. Oh, but that was crazy...and now....I can see that it was all are right was Janek, the AI, giving us orders...does that sound crazy?"

I was thrilled that Chloe was remembering and drawing the correct conclusions from her memories, but I was worried that Briana was here seeing Chloe's escape from nanobot control. I was sure that as a member of the Geisler family, Briana had been under nanobot control her entire life. I could picture her reporting back to her father and then soon enough Janek would learn that Chloe's mind was no longer being controlled by nanobots. My plan had been to get Chloe to return to Antler and sabotage Janek's communications channel to the nanobots, but Briana could easily disrupt my plans.

Revelation[edit | edit source]

But Briana said, "Chloe, you are not crazy, you're just waking up. And Joe, I do believe you about the aliens. You are not the first person to be abducted from Camp Geisler. I was specifically recruited to serve as a monitor of all the strange goings on associated with my family."

Chloe asked, "Recruited by who?"

Briana replied, "A network of people who know about the alien nanobots. They do everything they can to resist the aliens."

I sank back into my chair, rather astounded at the good luck of finding Briana was part of the resistance. I said, "And with your help, we'll do much. We're going to take down Janek. I know how to do it."

Of course, it was not that simple....the three of us were deep in our personal oceans of paranoia. I did not trust Briana, Briana did not trust me and Chloe did not trust either of us. But we talked our way through it. I learned that Briana was like Kresly: she had been given a dose of the early proto-Badhesin vaccine by the resistance. I explained to Briana that both Chloe and I had taken doses of the new anti-Badhesin vaccine. Chloe's memories were stabilizing and she was quick to integrate into her thinking with what Briana and I could tell her about the aliens.

Briana had to make a report to her father. "I'll just say that you two went to a motel for the obvious reason. I'll probably be told to follow you, unless Janek has already been in contact with my father." She went back to her car in order to contact her father. Chloe was still not very steady on her feet. She sat back down on the bed and I went over and sat next to her. "When I was on Mars, I learned about a special piece of hardware that Janek uses as a communications interface with the nanobots. The aliens are millions of years beyond us. One of the amazing technologies they have is a way to communicate using signal transmission that is propagated outside of our conventional three dimensional space. Somehow they send information through a set of alternative dimensions. Anyhow, remember the hole in the wall of the Antler server room?"

Chloe nodded. "I remember when we searched the server room for a transmitter."

"Right. We were looking for a conventional human radio transmitter that might have been used for industrial espionage. We were out of our league. The aliens planted a nanoscale device inside one of the servers. It allows Janek to communicate directly with the alien nanorobotic life forms. I need you to go into work today, go to the server room and destroy that alien device."

Chloe was willing to try. She asked, "How will I find it? Can we detect its signals?"

I explained, "The trick is to trace to it from Janek. The rebels on Mars were able to devise a simple trace strategy by experimenting with the Janek-like AI that was built by the Varna software project." I explained to Chloe how to use the Antler network diagnostic tools to find the nanobot communications module. "Once you identify the location, all you need to do is go into the server room and pull out the unit containing the alien hardware."

Chloe said, "I'll also shut off the liquid nitrogen cooling system. That will force all the Lockback modules off line, removing most of Janek's computational capacity."

I nodded, "Yes, but we need a permanent solution. Everyone else at Antler is still infected with nanobots. If you shut down the Lockback modules and start shouting 'aliens!' they'll think you are crazy and just switch the cooling system back on....after they have security throw you out of the building."

Chloe suggested, "Maybe the easy thing to do would be to just destroy the entire server room."

I laughed, "That is the direct approach, but Geisler would not be pleased. The rebels on Mars suggested a better approach. The Lockback chips normally reduce their power demands if there is no coolant reaching them."

Chloe said, "Right. We used them in low power mode for a few days before we got the liquid nitrogen cooling system running. In fact, we could not ramp them up to full power until the liquid nitrogen was flowing through the Lockback modules. If there were a way-"

I was having too much fun and enjoying Chloe's agile mind now that she was free of the stifling nanobots. I put my hand on her leg and interrupted her, "There is a way. There is an over-ride instruction that will lock them in full power mode. The command sequence is 8B9F 7EC3 8B9F 34CB. Just send that code to all the Lockback chips before you shut off the coolant line. Within a minute all the chips will cook."

Chloe repeated back the code. In twenty seconds she memorized what had taken me an hour to invent a memorable mnemonic for. "Geisler will still be upset even if I just selectively target the Lockback modules."

"This is going to get interesting Chloe, but we may have to go into hiding for a while, until the resistance can get the anti-Badhesin vaccine production under way. Eventually, we should be able give Geisler a dose of the vaccine. Some day you will be famous as the great heroine who stopped the alien invasion."

There was a knock at the door. I got up off the bed and found that it was Briana, returning from making contact with her father. She told us, "Anthony wants me to keep watch on you, Joe. He's expecting Chloe to go to work soon and then he wants me to approach you and offer to take you to meet with him."

I asked. "A meeting? At Antler headquarters?"

Briana nodded. "Yes, He'll be there at eight."

Chloe tried standing up and seemed to be more stable. "I better go home, get changed and go to work. Maybe Janek is not yet aware of any threat."

I drove Chloe to her house and dropped her off. I was feeling nervous about sending Chloe to shut down Janek, but I tried to relax. I pulled into her drive way and took hold of her hand. "Chloe, do you think there is any danger in this?"

"Well, I expect Anthony to fire me today. Beyond that, I do not know."

"I'm going to try to be in my meeting with Anthony when the fireworks start. If I can, I'll try to make him understand what is going on. But I agree, I expect us to both be thrown out. He might call the police and press charges."

Chloe said, "I plan to be careful. If all goes well, Anthony might not even figure out that I am the saboteur."

I asked, "Chloe, would you go away with me? Will you go into hiding with me if we have to lie low and wait for the resistance to start producing vaccine?"

She squeezed my hand, "Let's hope it does not come to that. But yes, it would be good to be with a friend if I get myself in trouble today." I let her go and drove back to the motel, stopping on the way to buy a change of clothes.

I took a shower, checked out of the motel and got a drive-through breakfast. Briana was still following me around, so I bought breakfast for her to. I pulled up next to Briana and handed her the bag with her meal. I decided I had enough time to return the rental car. "I've got time to kill before the appointment with Anthony. Follow me to the car rental." I went back to the storage shed and swapped cars. After leaving the car at the rental company, I got into the Briana's limo. She drove me to Antler and walked me through security, "Dr. Geisler is expecting us."

The guard recognized me. "Hey, Joe, are you coming back to work?"

I said, "No, this is just a social call."

We went up to Anthony's office. His door was open and he called us in. "Joe! Thanks for coming in. I hope you do not mind that I sent Briana after you as soon as I was told that you were back in town."

"No, sir." I shrugged. "I guess I should have realized that someone might be monitoring my bank accounts....its a reasonable thing to do when dealing with a missing person."

Anthony seemed slightly embarrassed. "Well, the private investigator had to bend the law slightly, but I felt justified. You had just been in the hospital and I was feeling protective...I did not know if you could take care of yourself or not. But you look healthy and- well, I guess I need not have worried about you. Still, I'm did you get off the mountain? Just hike out along the service road?"

Briana said, "Don't be silly, father. I flew the length of the service road three times a day for a week after Joe's disappearance."

Anthony said, "Yes, I know, Briana." Anthony seemed annoyed by the fact that Briana had come to the meeting. I guessed that she had probably decided on her own to come in with me rather than continue to play he role of chauffeur. "For a while I imagined that you had found some place inside the camp to hide...maybe just until the search was called off, then you could have strolled off the mountain without being seen."

I said, "Maybe some day I will tell you the details of my disappearance, but this is not the time for that."

Anthony raised his eye brows. "Must you make it into such a mystery? And I was told you started using your credit card yesterday in France. What were you doing in France?"

I decided I could tell Anthony some things just to kill time and take my mind off wondering how Chloe was doing with her attack on Janek. "I had a little job to do in France. It did not work out, so I came back home."

Anthony was clearly exasperated with my evasiveness. "A job, eh? Does that mean you have no interest in returning to work here?"

Briana said, "My father has been afraid that you went off to some other company to sell your knowledge of the software and hardware that went into the VirileMail system."

I laughed, "That is a good idea, I could use the money! But, no, I've been concerned with things that are more important than money."

Anthony seemed relieved that I was not a corporate spy. "More important than money? If you are still struggling with your health, let me know. You are still eligible for your health insurance coverage."

I shook my head. "I've never had a health problem. If I did care about money, I'd try suing you for having an unsafe work place, but that would not really be fair. I doubt if you are capable of even recognizing that a problem exists."

It seemed I had managed to anger Anthony. "What problem are you talking about?"

I replied, "I'm not the only one who has had problems here. For a while I thought it was an infection, like Legionnaires Disease. Everyone on the VirileMail project was infected, but somehow I was the only one who noticed. Everyone else was happy to just continue as if nothing strange had happened. Even now, you seem to imagine that it is just good fortune that the world's first human-like artificial intelligence appeared here in our little computer network."

Anthony was sweating. He got up from his desk and went to the wet bar in the corner of his office. He took a long drink of water, then asked Briana and I if we wanted anything. "I admit that we got lucky. The synergy between the VirileMail software and the Lockback chips is fantastic. But good things happen when you work to create good products. The combination of two good products can often be greater than anyone could predict."

What was the point in trying to reason with people who were under the control of nanobots? Bored with the conversation, I started speculating if maybe I could push Anthony into a full panic attack by talking about aliens and nanobots, but there was no point in bothering to try. I wondered if Chloe had completed her attack against Janek.

Briana said, "Dr. Klein requested permission to do a health survey of everyone on the VirileMail project. It might be worth looking into that."

We could hear Erin Jecklestein in the outer office talking to Anthony's assistant, then she stepped in with us. Anthony asked, "What is it, Erin?"

"A problem with the server array. Brad called me ten minutes ago to say all the Lockback modules went off line. Then he just called back to say that someone shut off the liquid nitrogen lines."

Anthony rubbed his chin, "Is this a day for liquid nitrogen delivery? Maybe a valve was shut off by mistake during a tank swap."

Erin notice me. "Joe! What a surprise. I had not heard you were back." She turned back to Anthony, "No, Brad said it was not an accident. The main line and the double redundant backup lines were also shut off. Our weekly nitrogen delivery is tomorrow." She looked uneasily at Briana and I and then went over to Anthony and whispered in his ear.

Anthony's eyes widened when he heard what Erin whispered. "Are you sure? Where is she?"

"I don't know. I came directly here."

Anthony went to the door and spoke to his assistant, "Get Chloe on the phone, or better, tell her to come here." He turned to me, "Well, I guess you should go. It looks like we have some excitement here. But come to think of it, you spent the night with Chloe, didn't you?"

I said, "Like everyone else associated with the VirileMail project, Chloe has been battered and abused. You cannot really expect people to just accept mistreatment."

Anthony glared at me. "What are you talking about? Battering? Abuse? Mistreatment? I've heard no complaints."

I wondered if Chloe was on her way. It did no good for me to anger Anthony, but it seemed that he was sure to react poorly to any hints I tried to provide about what was going on. "I have a video tape that you should take a look at some time. Chloe saw it yesterday and, like me, was not cheered by what she saw. You think the VirileMail software is going to be a big money maker, a revolutionary advance in computer science, but it is much more than that."

Anthony pointed a finger at me and demanded, "What are you trying to say?"

Chloe came in. There was an awkward silence. Chloe asked Anthony, "You wanted to see me?"

Anthony turned from me to Chloe. "Brad says that you asked him to let you into the server room shortly before all the Lockback modules went off line."

Chloe nodded. "Yes, I discovered that there was an unauthorized piece of hardware that had been planted in our server array." She held out the palm of her hand and showed us what looked like a very small circuit board.

Anthony picked it up and looked closely at it. "What is it?"

Chloe looked at me, as if she were uncertain about what to tell Anthony. I said, "Its a communications device. Remember back at the start of the VirileMail project, the hole in the wall of the server room? The network's security has been compromised ever since then."

Anthony jumped to the conclusion that I was a spy. "So you did this!"

I laughed. "In a sense I'm responsible. I searched the server array, looking for something like this, and I missed it. I should have gone to the trouble of looking inside every piece of equipment in the room...but I was distracted from doing my duty."

Chloe said, "Don't talk flap doodle, Joe. You did more to try to figure out what was going on than anyone else around here. And of course, thanks to you we did finally figure out that this alien device was in our network."

Just then Brad came in, but I noticed that both Erin and Anthony were very pale and sweating. Brad said, "Alien device?" Nobody would say anything. Chloe, Briana and I were looking at Erin and Anthony, wondering if they would say something, but they seemed unable to speak. Anthony went back to the bar and drank some more water. Brad said to Erin, "Well, its worse than I thought. Its not that the Lockback modules went into low power mode when the coolant was cut off. For some reason the fail-safes did not engage...all the Lockbacks are burned out. They kept running at full power without coolant and cooked themselves."

I smiled at Chloe and tried to imagine what it had been like for Janek to be lobotomized in that way. Anthony asked, "How could that happen?"

I was thinking that this was the time to leave. The questions could only get more and more sticky from this point on.

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