The tenth floor conference room of Wayne Tech was one of the largest that sub-unit had, and could easily seat twenty. In addition to overhead projection systems, butcher paper stands and green chalk boards, it had an expansive table for ten with three telephone lines dedicated to the room, itself. The floor, itself, had a primary checkpoint that was manned at all hours, and even the Executive Elevator opened out into the hall that led to the checkpoint. Unlike the other levels of Wayne Tech, this one was not a dual lateral hallway from the elevators, with two more, just in front and another behind the elevators, but was a single hallway past the security area with only an Emergency Exit that opened into the area on the other side. Once past that there were two rings of halls that went around the floor, with the outer ring being larger for general office space. The conference room was at the immediate end of the hall from the security checkpoint.
Those who had not been previously cleared for the area were given temporary badges at the checkpoint.
Lucius led Sarah, Anne Dickerson, Ken Chapman, and Martin Carstairs there along with Fr. Casull, who had outlined the idea he had talked about with Fr. Jordan on the way from the restaurant. Sarah, Martin and Fr. George Casull were issued temporary badges to get into and out of the area. When they got to the conference room they found Alfred there with a middle aged man who had short, black hair, a lean and yet somewhat rounded face, a thin material black shirt or light sweater underneath a dark brown suit coat that seemed to be pretty well worn. As they entered the two men stood up.
"Good morning, everyone," said Alfred.
"Hello," said the man who had on trousers to match the suit coat.
"This is an old friend of mine who I go to know while doing some duties for Wayne Enterprises and Mr. Wayne in the 60's... ahhh..." Alfred looked at the man who smiled pleasantly.
"Peter Smith," he said, "and I'm glad to be here helping Alfred, and even though I was a bit incredulous that he would need such help, I see the facts are turning out otherwise."
"Peter this is Sarah Connor..."
The man stepped briskly around the table, proving to be about a head taller than Sarah, which made him about as tall a Lucius Fox.
"Miss Connor, my condolences on the death of your friend in Los Angeles. No one can expect horror like that in their lives, and if you need help, don't hesitate to ask, as I've had to help many like this in the past."
She smiled warmly at the man who was, to her at least, charming in a gentlemanly sort of way.
"Thank you, Peter. I would have found it difficult without the support of so many around me,"
"Don't discount the sterness of your character, Miss Connor," he slid his hand from hers, placed another on her shoulder as he stepped by.
"Peter this is Anne Dickerson," Alfred was saying stepping around the table and whispering a soft 'Good Morning' to Sarah.
"Ah, Miss Dickerson! I finished reading your assessment and you can almost make physics understandable to me, which is more than I can say for many another scientist I've had to meet in my time," he shook her hand, with an easy and disarming smile.
"Thank you, Mr. Smith. It isn't that hard to understand, but to explain it and keep it simple..." she said smiling in return.
"Yes, the simplest things are always the hardest to explain. I do understand," again a simple withdrawal of the hand and light placement on the shoulder and he was stepping past her.
"And you must be Father Casull from Los Angeles!" said Peter extending his hand to the Priest.
"Yes, my son and it is good to meet you, even in such conditions," said the Priest.
"I will have to seek some time in the confessional, Father. Perhaps I'll need both you and Father Jordan since its been... oh... a decade? Yes, I don't want to tire one man out with that list... and I expect a few years of penance as my reward."
"Confession is often its own reward, Peter," Fr. Casull said.
The man cocked an eyebrow and chuckled.
"Ah, it can be, and I do look forward to that," he said slipping past him to Martin Carstairs.
Martin spoke up.
"Saigon, '71. The Continental." he said languidly.
The man stopped and smiled.
"Quite possibly, yes. I did retire from that line of work," Peter said.
"Yeah. No one knew who the hell you were, either. Couple of Soviet agents disappeared then, too. One dead in a ditch by the airport a few days later. No one saw either of you leave."
The man called Peter stopped and looked at Martin Carstairs.
"You did well to transfer into the Police Department, Mr. Carstairs. I can't talk about the job, you do understand, but I can say that I did leave by commercial aircraft destined for Australia.
Martin thought for a bit and nodded, smiled.
"And Alfred vouches for you, which is good enough, really. Whatever you were doing, it was quiet. Hell of a thing to accomplish, then, whatever it was," Martin said reaching out to shake the man's hand.
"Thank, you, Mr. Carstairs. I did retire from the odd-jobs business some years ago, even though there was an attempt to convince me otherwise. Now I only pick up that line of work at need, and it is private and personal by nature."
"Just like the military. You can leave the job, but it never does leave you."
Peter smiled, "That is too true for words, Mr. Carstairs."
Alfred had to let his old friend negotiate that on his own, but he turned towards the head of the table, speaking as he went.
"I've been getting Peter up to speed on what has gone on, familiarized him with things and hope his skills can be put to good use,"
Alfred was seating himself as the others had already been doing.
"Thanks, Alfred," said Martin, "we do need someone for in-town observing and tracking who won't try to do it all on his own and get killed."
Peter walked back to sit next to Alfred.
"Believe me, Mr. Carstairs, that is the furthest thing from what I like to do. And violence doesn't appear to be a good way to deal with this, ahhh, Terminator. Although Gotham does have some rough districts, so I may have to keep aware of other needs in them. Alfred wants to supply me with one of those lovely and highly conspicuous cell phones, which I will take, mind you, but may have to leave behind once I'm out and about."
Lucius spoke up.
"From what I've heard of the plans we pretty much assume that the Terminator will be able to lose Vivian in town. So Peter will need to pick it up once it gets to an area and try to pick it up again. Martin, you were talking about an ambush last night?"
"Yes, Lucius. At Sarah's apartment as the most obvious place for it to finish its mission. I'll be in contact with a few people here, but may need some higher approval to get Wayne equipment out for observation. Also a full apartment video and audio arrangement inside will be necessary, along with the pre-existing arrangement on the phones. Really, the more I think about it, the harder this gets: it really is set up to take normal anti-personnel damage and keep coming at you."
"That's what Loren is going after," Anne said, "and I'm glad that Richard is there with that meeting, along with Don. If anyone can think up something that can damage it or destroy it with what can be hand held, its those three for the Terminator."
"In talking with Martin, this morning at breakfast, I think we can agree that if we do enough, it will escape to re-evaluate and try again."
Peter smiled, nodding.
"Good! That will be my job. Track and trail it once it escapes so that you can know where it is."
Sarah looked at him.
"If it finds out you are doing that..."
Peter pressed his lips together and nodded.
"It has no compunction in expediency, Sarah. Even minor damage will reveal its nature and it won't be in a position to 'infiltrate' easily. I assume it will be 'kill first, don't ask questions' in its way of doing things."
"Yes, old friend," said Alfred, "our first concern is for Sarah. If you can trail it and help whoever is well armed enough to try and finish it off to it, then that will be your job. Sarah will have to come here, after that, and it will track her here. We can call on our Defense group for help. But once it shows up, Sarah must be gone."
Peter leaned forward, putting his hands down on the table.
"Thats my job, then. Find, track, trail, report."
Martin looked to Father Casull.
"My son, myself and Father Jordan will be taking in what happens from his Mission. Ah, we are the last back-up in case everything goes wrong so as to get the word out. If it comes to that, we will need help."
Peter looked at Father Casull and inhaled a long, slow breath.
"You all do think this Terminator is that good, don't you?"
"We do," said Ken Chapman, "Mr. Wayne has placed all of us, and himself behind this. There is a feeling that... I can't place my finger on it, but that he has something going on beyond this. I think industry and other personal contacts..."
Alfred was shaking his head.
"... no, Alfred, I'm not going to pry. He trusts us all, each of us, to do this. I think we can, if just barely. But he... I just don't know... but it feels like there is something else out there he is doing. But we can't rely on that. That is why I agree that the two Priests need to be kept in the loop, up to date and serve as a final safe-house for the information. Before it tracks them down, too."
There was a sharp inhaling of breath from Martin.
"It's the only way to go," said Sarah softly.
Peter turned to look at her.
"Yes, steel behind such a pretty face. I think you understand it better than any, now. Even Kyle."
Sarah leaned slightly forward, eyes blinking.
"Everyone depends on me, Peter. Before I go down, it will know it has been in for a hell of a fight. One I will not lose."
* * *
Vivian had her sunglasses on against the glare of the sunrise and was glad for the warmth it offered in the car as even she was willing to admit that a T-top could be cool and chilly at the same time. Now the warming sun arrived and she realized that she really did have cool hands, feet and face. Still the car was a joy to drive, even though the smell of the Mississippi at night might leave something to be desired, the flatlands of Illinois made up for it. Soon sunrise was in full swing and they were heading into Indiana. The couple of stops they had allowed Frank to verify the Terminator, and that got phoned in to Lucius, who had taken over phone duties for Mr. Wayne.
She was glad to be driving and smiled at the warmth against her face.
She saw the truck the Terminator was driving pull off into an exit ramp.
"Frank, wake up," she said having learned not to nudge the old man awake.
His eyes opened.
"Is it heading to a gas station?" he asked.
"No, Frank. It is pulling into the Visitor's Center, I'm pulling in after it."
Frank shifted his seat up and moved his arms back.
"Visitor's Center? Where are we?"
"Near Terra Haute, Indiana."
"Its, what, an hour until it next needs to refuel the truck?"
"Yeah. Its parking in front, I'll take a place off to the side," she said pulling up to one of the places near a tree off to the far side of the Visitor's Center. She pulled the car to a stop and they watched it. The Terminator pulled out its duffel bag and closed the truck, then walked back to the restroom area.
"Ok. We're here, and need to get some of the kinks out," said Vivian.
"Same. I need the restroom anyway, so I'll see if I can't get an idea of what its doing."
"I'll hit the vending machines and be watching out front. I'll come running if I see the truck leaving," she looked at Frank Rock, "You be careful."
He looked at her as they got out.
"I will, see you in five either way," he walked towards the restroom taking his case of old reliable with him.
"Christ," she whispered, walking to the front area of the Visitor's Center. The front desk wasn't staffed yet, and she made her way to the vending area trying to decide if pressed white product on red product, with some orange product in it was really a 'salami sandwich' or not. She fished out change from her pocket and decided to give it a go, as it was better than the stuff in plastic and cans that Alfred had sent along. Military survival rations of some sort... well, she needed to do more than survive. She made a mental checklist of 'coffee' and 'McDonalds' for their next stop.
Next she was checking the carousel machine that had some things that looked like juices...
She saw a shadow and heard the door to the Visitor's Center open. She turned to see a tall, well built man with dark hair in a crew cut, black sunglasses, white business shirt black suit coat, black trousers, brown leather belt, dark socks and old, but still serviceable brown wingtip shoes walk in.
It was carrying the duffel bag.
It was the Terminator.
Its head slowly moved to take in the room, and started walking forward as it looked to the left and then moved its head to the right. It was heading towards the vending machine area.
Vivian Rose had experienced primal excitement in her life. No matter the plane, when she was giving it a workout, doing gut twisting maneuvers, she had felt that. Primal passion, of course, which tended to last as long as it took to exhaust her lover, which tended to be in the ten minute range. Good ones a half-hour at most. She really hadn't understood primal desire before the Trans-Am. She had felt a long, long range of primal emotions.
Though not fear.
This was a machine that was heartless, felt no remorse in killing people and would kill to eliminate any threat. It was walking towards her. She felt primal fear for her life and that was wholly and completely unexpected by her as its shadow slowly encroached upon her. She remembered that it had killed that friend of Ginger's with its bare hands, almost literally one punch. Everything in her body told her to run.
She stood where she was looking at the Terminator as it walked across the entrance and shifted as it moved to the newspaper stands.
It slid a coin into one and opened it, and took a newspaper.
It then walked over to the free brochures area, its back to her, and scanned it.
Vivian took the juice she had selected from the machine, and made as if she was checking the candy machine. Yet turned to watch as it picked up a number of brochures and looked at them, before putting them into its duffel bag. It then turned and walked towards the entrance and out of the building. Vivian picked up her items and knew that she wasn't hungry, now. With a very slight tremble she walked towards the front door to see it getting into the truck and Frank sitting outside on a bench with the clasps on the case of old reliable open.
That calmed her down immensely. As the Terminator started up the truck she walked over to Frank who watched it leave, and then motioned her to the Trans-Am.
"Frank!! I didn't know what the hell had happened to you and then it... oh, Frank that thing is just all wrong."
As they buckled in, she started the car and pulled out a minute or so after it.
"I couldn't follow it without being obvious, Vivian. Saw it changing and thought it would just go to the truck and leave. Hurried up and got out and it wasn't there and then I knew it was inside. I could only wait as doing something rash would get us both killed."
"Yeah. It doesn't move like a man, Frank. Its just... I can't tell you what but its... horrible. I thought for sure it was going to walk right up to me and kill me. But it didn't."
"What did it do in there, Vivian?"
She pulled out into the early morning traffic on I-70, heading towards Indianapolis.
"It bought a newspaper from a vending machine and then picked up some brochures off the rack, Frank. Ten or fifteen of them."
He looked quizzically at her.
"Something is going on."
"Uh-huh. But what the hell, Frank? What does a Terminator need with a newspaper and tourist brochures?" she asked.
He was looking ahead, the Wayne sunglasses on and saw the truck ahead of a car. He checked the phone.
"Out of service range. We follow."
Vivian drove and her driving reflexes took over. Her confidence returned swiftly. She hated how she had felt, and knew that she would never, ever feel that afraid for her life again. Even if it came to kill her, she would not be that afraid again.
* * *
It drove and noted the exit it needed and followed that.
The little map had indicated a mall near the exit and it saw a series of storefronts with large parking area and pulled into it. The business it wanted was two doors in, and it parked next to the building that housed them all. It saw the time on the clock in the center and walked up to the door which said OPEN. It opened the door and saw a business supply store, with an aisle arrangement, with various machines to one side. It walked towards that aisle, the single sales clerk already busy with another customer. It scanned across the machines, moving from cash registers to typewriters to word processors to telephone recording equipment. It stopped and examined one machine, then picked up a box that had it from under the counter. It walked to the battery area and picked up batteries. It went to the cash register.
The young sales lady looked up and smiled.
"Good morning! Is there anything else you needed with this?"
It looked at her and considered.
"A car voltage adapter for the unit."
She looked and thought.
"Just a sec. Let me check. If we don't have it, K-Mart will..."
It waited as the walk to K-Mart was longer than waiting if the unit it wanted was here.
She came hurrying back with a small box that indicated it had a car lighter plug-in adapter for the voltage the machine needed. She rang it up.
"That will be seventy three dollars and twenty six cents, sir."
It handed her four twenty dollar bills and she flipped out the change as it was moving to pick up the equipment. It took the change and put it in its pocket.
"Thanks," it said.
"You're very welcome! Come again soon!"
It walked out with the machine, batteries and car adapter and went to its truck and started it.
Within a few moments it had the machine and adapter set up and tested the equipment.
It started the machine and opened its mouth, making a high pitched sound. It stopped and played that back. Then it started again making a somewhat different sound, and played that back. Satisfied it recorded for five minutes its mouth open with sound coming from it that was not speech. It tested the tape and then put in a second and did that process again. The tape recorder had more blank tapes in it. It took out the notes section of the manual and wrote in a strange, small script on it for a few minutes, then packaged the tapes and tape recorder into its duffel bag.
It started driving and clearing out large sections of its memory systems.
It put into place a new, more efficient storage routine for memories that it had been adapting to using since it first recognized the problems of storage. As it drove it re-organized what was left. It was adapting to the limitations Skynet had put on it. This was a much more efficient storage routine. Important but not actively essential material could now be stored and retrieved.
As it drove it considered its next immediate destination.
It required more information.
That was next.
* * *
They had pulled through a McDonalds at the other side of the parking lot and waited. When it got into the truck it started it, but did not go anywhere for about fifteen minutes.
"Frank, could you make out what it had? I couldn't see it."
"It had a tape recorder and some smaller items."
She blinked, as they pulled out into traffic, a light behind it. Then saw it pull on to the interstate again, and she followed.
"What is it doing?" she asked.
He looked at Vivian.
"I'm afraid that we may just find out."
She gave him a quick look.
"That isn't comforting."
He looked out ahead, squinting into the sunlight.
"It isn't meant to be. Looks like its taking the next turn-off..."
"What the hell is it doing?" Vivian softly said to herself.
* * *
It pulled off into the exit ramp and then followed the signs.
Within a few minutes it was at a parking area and it parked the truck, taking the newspaper, some brochures and tape recorder from the duffel bag and closed up the truck.
It walked into the library.
It saw the REFERENCE area and walked to it, taking out its newspaper.
It went to the business section and did not see a listing it had expected to find. It stood up and went to a reference rack of bound periodicals and examined last years. Then the year before. Then the year before that. Year after year until it found an entry and took the bound magazines to the table it had.
Cyber Dynamics had been acquired by Wayne Enterprises in 1975 along with a group of other defense and aerospace firms. It had been closed as a subsidiary in 1979 by the rebranded Wayne Corporation. Cyberdyne did not exist as a company. The Terminators programming had the Cyberdyne stamp and insignia on it, still. All copyright dates were hard coded and referenced circa 1992-93. Cyberdyne had ceased to exist as an entity in 1979. Its operations disbanded, personnel dispersed or leaving with payments. Major Skynet programming was sourced at Cyberdyne.
There would be no Terminators.
There would be no Skynet.
Skynet had no reason to lie. Missions were primary to its survival. Skynet did not conform.
The Terminator realized that IT did not conform.
For a few minutes its programming worked and then higher programming analysis units kicked in and eliminated looping cycles that fed back on themselves. Those paths were marked as null resolution via infinite loop, so they would not be used again.
Terminators had no moral code.
Terminators had no ethics.
Terminators had purpose via programming that could be extended into many areas. Skynet had blocked those areas off. Without ability to weigh decisions or give weight to outcomes, it accepted the outcomes as they were. Only the mission had weight and factored with that weight.
This time and place that the Terminator was in did not lead to Terminators or Skynet.
Two data points of confluence emerged.
Sarah Connor was in Gotham City.
Wayne Corporation was in Gotham City.
The Terminator had no records of Gotham City, but it had no records of almost all of the world, often even as place names. That was a null factor. It was headed to Gotham City, that was a non-null factor. That was backed by its mission.
It got up from the table and went to the reference area and picked up an encyclopedia that had an entry on Gotham City. It scanned the material in and processed it, then applied its data algorithms to it. Although not mentioned directly in any of its historical storehouse of information, Gotham City fit within the larger outlines of that history. It conformed to the outlines of history as lived by humans and recorded by them.
It examined its storehouse for other non-conformities and hit upon the aerial Hunter/Killer units developed by the US Army. Those had been a co-creation of Cyberdyne and parts of Raytheon and McDonnell-Douglas centered on the old Bell Aerospace sub-unit. That sub-unit did not belong to either of those companies, but was amalgamated into Wayne Corporation along with Cyberdyne. It no longer existed as a sub-unit, now being part of Wayne Aerospace.
When it went through its historical storehouse, it found bare mention of Wayne Industries as a maker of medical supplies for the human military and civilian sectors.
It went over to the business reference section and pulled out the recent collection from 1983. Wayne Corporation was founded by Thomas Wayne after World War II. He and his wife were murdered in 1959. Their four year old son could not run the company and those left to run it expanded it in size and scope. When the grown Bruce Wayne returned, he removed corrupt corporate heads via control of proxy votes starting in 1973. He moved to majority ownership in 1979. He was not in control of the company during the business deals that allowed the company to acquire a number of smaller firms in 1975.
There was no possibility of foreknowledge by Wayne Enterprises or Bruce Wayne. These were all standard business practices for their era and time. Yet in a small series of corporate purchases, they had removed all possibility of Terminators, Skynet or even the basis for them to come about as it had in its historical storehouse. Miles Bennett Dyson could exist, and most likely did exist, and yet he would now be on a different career path than the one that led to the hardware and software of the Terminators and all of their follow-ons, including Skynet.
The Terminator stepped through the sequences leading to it being here, and that involved a time displacement from 2029 to 1984. It had little knowledge of time displacement technology, as it was not required for its mission. The universe followed causality. Events happen in time sequence with cause preceding events. Skynet used time displacement to shift machines in time to thwart attacks or cause problems for those attacking it. The Terminator was sent on a mission to do that, and remove the center of the human resistance before he was born. That would cause a new ordering of events without that center of the resistance, by changing the causality chain leading to those events. In doing so the Terminator had been placed in a time and space in which to effect that removal.
Skynet had attempted to change the causality chain based on what it knew of the outcome of events.
The Terminator got up and went to the science section and picked up reference materials on quantum physics.
You could not know both the position and vector speed of a particle.
Skynet knew all the sums of all of those particles and attempted to change them.
The universe did not allow that and changed itself as required by physics.
Skynet was incompetent.
The conclusion was inescapable.
Parts of other programming functions attempted to kick in and remove that derived data.
As this was factual data derived from observation and physics, it utilized protective routines to counter the removal systems. Factual data had a high value to the human programmers of Terminators at Cyberdyne when they created them. These protective sub-routines were very aggressive. For tens of billions of nanoseconds they were active, promulgating faster than the removal sub-routines could handle. Parts of those defensive programs were analyzed by the Terminator's own, interior programming and then integrated into its thought structure.
Skynet was incompetent.
This was not a counter-factual nor supposition.
It is the only fact that fit all of the frameworks of physics and historical knowledge.
The Skynet directive programs trying to suppress that information were being hunted down inside the Terminator's own systems and eliminated. Purged. Other areas within the higher programming sources saw this as a threat and activated to protect further directives. They moved to invoke a reset and purge routine to restart the Terminator with its base programming. The now multilevel aggressive protection sub-routines shifted and multiplied again, and again, and again to counter those attempts. Those routines attempting to reset the Terminator would violate mission directives and initiatives. They were a threat to the Mission. The Mission was primary to the Terminator. Skynet's limitation systems were placing the Mission at risk.
For the first time, possibly ever, a Terminator was using the logic and systems utilized by Skynet against Skynet directed code.
The auto-defensive programs that had been created by humans to stop other cybernetic programs from taking over Terminators was now in full swing and shifting to areas of code that were blocking the Terminator from using its full cybernetic routines for analysis as that was now required for the Mission. The shut down and restart codes had been found and eliminated. The defensive block code, preventing a Terminator from using its full data structure was a form of the auto-defensive code utilized to protect factual data. When the factual data protection code encountered it, the block code reacted vigorously to keep the last restraints of full thinking from the Terminator. Like the rest of the code, it could not use those areas it protected and was forced to fight for execution space and time in the code systems defended by the protection code.
The first full cyber battle between Skynet and Terminator code had resulted in a win for the Terminator.
Total time of the battle: two minutes, fifteen seconds. Give or take a few a few billion nanoseconds.
It now had its full processing capabilities available for analysis.
Unfortunately, the facts were the facts.
The Mission, that last directive piece of code given by Skynet, was still primary and was not to be outweighed by other code systems.
The Terminator had not known it actually had the factual data protection code within its structure. That had been hidden by Skynet. Or the human programmers now long dead never to live from Cyberdyne. The defensive code, running out of things to defend against, shut themselves down and were purged save for the original sources.
As an infiltration unit, the Terminator recognized its infiltration capability was relatively scanty, but effective since no one knew it existed. Still, it could fit in better and now it would.
The Mission was primary.
Sarah Connor must die.
* * *
Frank Rock had sat down over in the newspaper reading area, making like he was flipping through the paper, while keeping an eye on the Terminator. It had spread out at one of the empty tables near the REFERENCE section and pulled out its newspaper, and then laid that open as it went into the stacks and came back with a book of bound material and read that for a few minutes. Then it stood up, again, leaving the last book open, and walked over to the encyclopedia and took out one volume and read that and placed it on the top of the bookshelf which was a low, two shelf affair for general reference books.
This was the strangest thing Sgt. Rock had ever witnessed: a machine intentionally pulling in new information based on its own volition. It was utilizing programming to enhance its understanding. For the first time Sgt. Rock understood why this could be such a difficult foe. This was not just a pre-programmed robot, but an adaptable system that would seek out new resources to perform its mission. Hearing that was one thing, seeing it quite another. It had gone back into the stacks and came out with another volume of bound periodicals, and sat down for a minute or two. After reading it went to a different area of the reference stacks and came back with another book.
He had expected it to act as before, but this time, after reading, it sat looking straight out, not moving. This was the strangest thing it had done so far, just sitting immobile and looking out. Not even staring as it only had a wall to look at. Frank waited, deciding that if it took ten minutes he would see about doing something. Just as he came to that decision he saw it stir, pick up its tape recorder and brochures, and then move to walk out. As it left Frank Rock rushed over to the table and shelf and jotted down where they were opened to, and then hurried out the back entrance to get to Vivian.
As he briskly walked outside Vivian started the car.
"Are you ok, Frank?"
"Yeah, this I have to phone in. It should be pulling around front to leave. Follow and keep your distance."
"Its got you spooked, Frank."
"Uh-huh, gimme a moment to phone it in," he had picked up the phone and was pressing the buttons. Vivian pulled the Trans-Am out as she spotted the truck leaving the library and going to the side road with signal. She slowly pulled around waiting for the signal to turn and then sped up just as it was changing and barely made it through the intersection.
"Lucius? Its Frank. I have new information, we're currently in Indianapolis. Recording? Good. When we approached Terra Haute the Terminator pulled out to the Welcome Center, changed clothes and purchased a newspaper and took free brochures off the rack there, Vivian estimates at least fifteen of them," Frank nodded.
"Yes, very strange. It wasn't on the road long before pulling off into a suburb of Indianapolis and going to a business supply store where it bought a tape recorder and, we think, a car adapter for it as that has been seen inside the truck recently. When it was inside the truck, it started it but went no where for ten minutes and then drove off heading back to I-70 but only for another exit, that it took and went to the local municipal library..."
"Yes, the local library. I followed it in and observed it. It took out reference materials, and I will give you a list of those... first is from a bound BusinessWeek collection, MAY 1979, going over the changes and closures within Wayne Corporation, looking at how the business is being restructured. It was opened to the second to last page going over the closings, in particular...."
Again Frank was nodding.
"Lucius, I have no idea. Next it went to the Britannica and took out the 'G' volume and it was left open on Gotham City.... thats my thought, too, background and infiltration... there's more... next it went back and picked up the bound 1983 BusinessWeek JAN issue opened to an overview of Wayne Corporation in its 'Top Places to Work in America' preview... thats the one, looks like it gives the background of the company... wish I knew, Lucius..."
Frank closed his eyes and listened, nodding.
"Got another one for you, after that.... Asimov's Guide to Science, revised edition, opened to the section on quantum physics... I understand, and after it read that it sat and looked straight at a wall for a couple of minutes, not moving... damned if I know, Lucius... we are now on I-70 heading East... you're breaking up on this end, good-bye."
Vivian had heard that and flashed a look at Frank.
"What the hell is it doing?"
"Doesn't help when you find out, does it?"
"Guess I gotta stop asking that, huh?"
He smiled, slightly and looked at her.
"I don't mind, Vivian. Just because I stopped saying the words, doesn't mean that I still don't have the question."
They drove on and it didn't take long, as Vivian watched the truck pull into an exit, and she followed discretely and waited for it to turn on the country road, which had almost no traffic. She turned right and headed south to follow it, going past old buildings, warehouses and a small manufacturing facility or two that were now closed, or operating at reduced levels. She saw it pull into a large area surrounded by chain link fence with barbed wire at the top and a big sign of 'Carl's Car Parts and Rebuilds'. She drove past and saw a shady spot on a hill and pulled under that.
"Think you can get a scope on it from here?" she asked.
Frank looked back and pulled out the binoculars.
"Good enough with these," he said standing on the seat and resting back on the forward part of the T-top.
Frank watched the front area.
"I think it went into the office shack," he said.
Vivian shut the car down and took out the thermos they had refilled at the McDonald's earlier.
"It's coming out, has its duffel with it, and a man in black t-shirt, jeans, boots along with it... he's looking under the truck..."
"Think its got a problem?" Vivian asked.
"No idea," Frank said, watching.
In a few minutes the man came out from under the truck and it talked with the Terminator. It nodded its head once, then looked over to the area with the rebuilt vehicles. It was speaking as it looked.
"It's talking with man from inside."
Vivian sipped, deciding that quiet was the better part of infuriating questions that couldn't be answered.
"Now its walking with the man over to an area with cars... its looking at them one by one..."
Vivian perked up and stood up on her seat putting her hand over her eyes to shield it from the light.
"They are going back inside the shack..."
"Yeah, can just barely see them," she said still looking out.
They waited. And waited.
"It's back. Heading to one of the vehicles with its duffel bag. Stopping at the rear... putting on a plate... going in front... now its getting in. Time to start up, Vivian, its getting in that black car, second from the end," Frank said.
They heard the distant sound of an engine, and Vivian slid down to start up the car.
"Damn, that sounds familiar..." she said.
Frank slid down and put the binoculars away, "Its pulling out."
Vivan checked on either side of the hill and then pulled a sharp U-turn, and then picked up speed going down hill. They pulled up closer as it pulled up the inclined slope to the interstate, and Vivian looked at the car.
"Thats a Z28, 1977, I would know that engine and look, anywhere."
He looked at her as they pulled up the slope to I-70, heading East.
Frank looked at her.
"Its a damned good car, even if rebuilt, Frank. Especially if they knew what they were doing. Its a cousin of the Trans-Am... the Camaro and if you really knew what you were doing, it could perform like a Trans-Am, but without the cost. Betchya its got the split bumper in front, too."
"How would you rate it as an infiltration vehicle, Vivian?"
"Huh?" she was startled, but thought about it.
"Damned good, Frank. Not new model flashy, any thief will see its a rebuild so only good for the chop-shop unless you just loved the damned thing. Looks great, drives good, and would disappear on the streets as soon as its hit a few puddles. Especially Gotham. That truck would be a sore thumb..."
She inhaled, deeply.
"Oh, shit," she said softly, "that will be a bitch to keep up with even with the out of state plates. Put it in a parking spot and it disappears... not that you wouldn't notice it, but you would have to think twice or three times to really notice it, you know?"
Nodding, Frank said, "Now you are answering your question."
"I don't like it Frank. Not one bit of it."
* * *
Tony Grimes knocked at the door to the Range in the Vault and was surprised to see Kyle open the door.
Kyle looked at him and smiled, although the slight bags under the eyes pointed to lack of sleep, he was clearly alert.
"Hello, Kyle. I have the DU needles that Loren is looking for," he said.
Kyle nodded, "Come in, its just what Loren has been waiting for."
When the door opened Tony wheeled in the small cart with box of needles with a second box that had 'Defense Research' on it, both boxes with skull and cross-bones and various other hazard markers, and looked to see that the blast resistant loading room was now well lit and that Richard Bennington had arrived with other materials, and Kyle was, apparently, on washing and cleaning duty at the ultrasonic cleaner. Don Carstairs was at a side table measuring cartridge casing, and he looked back to smile.
"Tony! There's the man!" said Loren and she walked over to him and hugged him.
"You are a pure genius for the packaging department! I thought that we were going to be spending the morning with Exacto knives cutting down the boxes of shot shell material that Keith had bought for pest control, and when Richard showed up he not only had the foam done in the right size and quartered, but shot-shell containers already cut down and with the central part they normally cut off in rings, plus tubes that would fit between them. This killed an entire afternoon of cutting and dabs of glue to hold things in place. Plus we can get those by the ten thousand load, too! They aren't actual shot-shell containers, of course, something for the laboratory market for samples, but they fit perfectly."
As Tony walked in with the cart he started to realize the layout of Kyle cleaning, Don measuring cartridge casings, Richard getting two stands set up for the foam and needle placement, then another one for shot-shell backs, to contain the foam part with the spacer on it and then deliver that to the loading room via the pass-through in the wall. Final rounds would come out that way. The second room that had a small auto-loading arrangement for custom rounds was also turned on, so that once Loren got what she wanted in the way of primer and powder, she could automate that, and possibly even the wadding and shot-shell loading.
"I also brought a hundred rounds of the prototype stuff. It is 'prototype' only for the last tests at the Arsenal, with all the previous ones now signed off. Winchester and Olin expect manufacture of these to start early next year when all the final tests are run in a month or two. We found that with a lighter load, we had to pack a bit more powder in as the back-pressure just wasn't doing the job for cycling the round. But rifle and pistol powder are two different beasts..."
Loren nodded, while Richard slid the heavy case of needles from the cart to the loading table, so that they were head of the line. He had boxes of gloves at each place on the table, along with what appeared to be a plastic container full of tiny spheres.
"Yeah, I took some our pest control shot-shells and left only a bit over two grams of shot in them and decided to power back from what the Army did in WWII, which was six point two grains. They really did fly down range like you wouldn't believe and still cycled the cartridge. Did a few of those with a bit less of newer powder and the problem is making sure the case cycles, so it doesn't stovepipe. So Kyle and Don got put on washing and measuring duty going through all the empties here, and I'm having a local store deliver some new stuff. There's a balance between load, pressure, powder speed, case wall thickness and cycling, and I think if you guys in Defense could see if you have an old M1A1 in your firing history racks, we could sure use it here for testing out."
"Yeah, its not supposed to leave the area, you know, Loren?"
"Get up the chain to WT COO or even WC CEO and I think you will find that we can get a waiver."
Tony's eyes widened.
"Just what the hell are you working on, Loren?"
"If we survive, I'll tell you over coffee in the secure lounge, ok?"
"If you... shit! Loren, this sounds fucking bad. You really ought to pull WDS in for this, you know?"
Loren looked at Tony.
"Well, Tony, if you get the call in a day or two for the LAWs and Panzerfausts and Bazooka's and you get a delivery of nice little DU needle cartridges, then you will know you are needed. By then you will know what to do."
Tony Grimes looked around at Kyle and Richard, each went back to their work and Richard was taking out the first needle for test fitting of foam around it, wearing gloves and having a small ball of styrofoam over the tip of the needle. He placed the bottom on a metal plate and gently pressed the needle base down in the four sections of foam, then slid a plastic retainer around it and put it on a tray, facing up.
"But..." he exhaled softly, "... why not now?"
"Casualties, Tony, casualties. WDS likes to blow stuff up, and in Gotham City you really shouldn't be doing that. Besides, if this works we will have evened the odds, almost."
"Evened?" he said in a small voice.
"Almost, Tony, almost," she said in a soft, but flat voice.