Legend – Chapter 12

Chapter 12.

She stopped dead in her tracks as she saw the blonde young man, not much if any older than she was, wave at her from across her own office.

An office which she had just unlocked. “Who are you, and what are you doing in here?”

“A service call,” he said with a grin. “Legend wouldn’t have asked himself, but Jason figured you needed more security here. He was right, too. That so-called security system you’ve got could be broken by a one-armed blind man using a credit card.”

Now she was pissed. “Who the hell are you? And if Wood’s behind this –“

“I,” the man said, straightening up and bowing, “am the Jammer.” He said it in the same tone one might say “I am the Emperor of the Universe.”

She blinked. “You?”

“Me. Active for twenty years, Most-Wanted for three, legendary for fifteen.”  He continued running some odd gadget over parts of the office. “And I know you’d rather have been told, but there was no absolutely sure and secure way to tell you until now. Phones — even cell phones — can be tapped, face to face meetings can be witnessed, and so on and so forth. But if I don’t want someone spying on me, they don’t, and that’s pretty much the beginning and end of it.”

She regarded him with skepticism. “And so you broke into my office to make it more secure. You, the hacker who they couldn’t catch, stopping by because Jason Wood thought I needed more security?”

He looked — just a tiny bit — embarrassed, but his next words showed it wasn’t about what most people would have been embarrassed by. “Well, um, actually, they could catch me because ‘they’ did, and ‘they’ let me stay out of jail if I did their work instead of my own.”

“I . . . see.” She considered getting the gun out of her purse, but the situation didn’t seem to warrant it . . . yet. “Have you . . . secured my office?”

“Almost done.”

“Does that include my phone?”

“Sure, first thing I did. If someone’s listening in that you didn’t call or bring into the conference, it’ll squeal like a teenager at a Medallion concert.”

Accordingly, instead of using her office phone, she pulled out her cell and selected a recent number from its memory. Maybe people can tap my cell, but I’m not doing this call using a phone he just worked on, that’s for sure. It was answered after two rings. “Wood’s Information Service,” a woman’s voice said. “How may I direct your call?”

“Jason Wood, please. Tell him it’s Doctor Hsui.”

“One moment.” There was a short interval of hold music, and then a familiar voice answered, “Wood here. Dr. Hsui?”

“Yes, Mr. Wood. There is another gentleman here in my office who did not have an appointment.”

“Ah, yes. I thought you’d call about that. It’s for your protection as well as your client’s, and I trust your visitor told you why no one warned you.”

“He did, but I didn’t trust his word entirely.”

Jason’s chuckle was clearly audible. “I don’t trust him entirely either — but with stuff like this, he’s not only the best, he’s so much better than the second best it’s not funny.”

“So exactly what has he done to my office?”

“Let him explain it. I’ll just say that it’s something you couldn’t have afforded even if you’d known how to contact him, which you didn’t.”

“How do I know it’s the right person?”

“His real name is Ingram Remington Locke. No one other than me, a couple of my associates, and the agency that . . . recruited him knows that. Ask him for his name.”

“All right . . . I guess. But I don’t want any more surprises like this.”

“In this business your life will be full of surprises,” Jason said, seriously. “This is one of the pleasant ones. One that will, hopefully, prevent you from having any of the less pleasant ones later.”

“I . . . see.” She hung up and looked at the Jammer. “What is your name? Your real name?”

He blinked, then grinned sheepishly. “Ingram Remington Locke. My dad . . . was kinda into guns.”

I am not going to start another impromptu psychoanalysis. This guy would be a career all by himself, judging from what I know of his history. “All right, Ingram. What did you do to my office?”

“Well, the main thing was to make sure that there weren’t any bugs, and that someone couldn’t come in here and put any more in. I did a full search and scan, replaced your CryWolf unit with a new secure one, and put in an automated monitor unit and scanning routine that’ll put an inconspicuous but clear warning icon on your desktop when you boot up in the morning if anyone’s been messing around with your stuff.

“Then I put some exterior security in, based on some of the Shelter tech, that will pretty much make it impossible for anyone to do any spying from the outside. Anyone trying won’t see clear shots of your office, just blurs. Don’t,” he said with another grin, “ask me exactly how it works; something to do with metamaterials and encoding sequences. I just program it to blur things in a way that even God couldn’t unscramble.”

She looked out; the view seemed the same. “If I was standing outside right now . . .?”

“. . . you’d see a blurred figure that your own mother couldn’t recognize,” the Jammer confirmed. “Though that will be less extreme when you’re not in the office; that trick’s a power hog. Similarly, someone trying one of the TEMPEST or related tricks will get absolutely nothing from your computer, and laser-microphone and other methods won’t get usable sound signals from your walls, windows, or any other part of the office.

“The expensive part, aside from the reinforced metamaterial windows, is the shielding unit preventing the . . . um . . .” he gave a hesitation she was only all too familiar with, ” . . . super-beings from just doing some kind of scrying, X-ray vision, whatever to see what’s what in your office. That we took from a Shelter that was under construction but the shell had a flaw, so it’d be another couple of weeks before they’d need it; by then we can have another unit made.”

He pointed to her desk. “And, of course, I’ve secured your computer, which was about as secure as a sieve before. Now that you’re here and we can talk securely, I’d like to ask you permission to do the same to your house.”

My house? “Do you think that’s necessary?”

He shrugged. “Most people take work home with them — sometimes without realizing it, sometimes because they have to. And someone in your position probably sometimes has emergency calls at home, and then you’re going to have to access your records from there.”

She felt a chill as it began to sink in. Someone’s decided that this is important enough to make this kind of offer. Someone with a lot of money and power. “Who are you working for, Jammer? Jason Wood isn’t your boss.”

He bit his lip, a somewhat childlike affectation that probably meant something — stop the psychoanalysis! — and thought. “No, he’s not — though there’s an awful lot he could ask me to do, just because  . . . well, that doesn’t matter. Anyway . . . I work for a United Nations organization, which I don’t want to detail any more, which has spent a lot of years looking into the bizarre, so they were in a position to handle the Transformation. They’re the ones who’re behind coordinating the Shelters, the warning systems, who’ve helped lean on the legal system to deal with the changes, all that kind of thing.

“I know what you’re asking, though. All I can tell you is that my boss didn’t tell me to go along with Jason because he owes Jason anything, it’s because he thinks someone like you is needed.”

“How do I know you’re not actually bugging my office while pretending to secure it?”

For a moment the Jammer simply looked offended, then he shrugged. “You don’t, I guess. But if I did that, believe me, eventually Jason would find out — and there are some damn good reasons why there is almost no one on earth who wants to make that man mad, even though he hasn’t got one single special power to his name.”

In the end, what decided her was the tone and expression she remembered from Jason Wood talking about Legend, and especially how he had said he could make guesses about the hero’s identity . . . but wouldn’t. “All right. If you can make it look like an ordinary upgrade.”

“Not a problem. And believe me, it’ll make everyone involved breathe just a little easier.” He picked up a small backpack and slung it over his shoulder. “And just incidentally, you will now have the absolute best burglar alarms ever.” He waved and walked out, whistling a vaguely-familiar tune.

For several minutes she sat alone in her room, thinking about what this meant, and her heart grew heavier and heavier. Am I putting myself in danger? Am I putting Yuki in danger?

She was strongly tempted to put an end to things right then. I can’t lose her. I can’t risk her being hurt because I’m treating this man. She knew that Yuki — if she knew — would insist that she go on, but Jennifer desperately wanted to not go on, to stop, stop this right now before anything else happened.

Even as she thought that, she knew it was a lost cause. Yuki would want her to continue because Jennifer had taught her that this was her job, had made her daughter understand how important that job was and that other people depended on her doing that job . . . and Yukari Hsui, being very much her parents’ daughter, already cared what happened to other people.

So it wasn’t just that Yuki would want her to continue; it was that the profession, or at least Jennifer’s view of her profession, demanded she continue. There was no legal requirement, but there was a moral requirement for a doctor that you helped the people you could, when they came to you for help. You might in regular practice decide you couldn’t afford to take on one more patient, but once they were your patient, that was it. You had assumed responsibility for helping them. In the operating room, an enemy soldier was just another patient and you did what you could.

And that didn’t change because you were working on the mind instead of the body. Legend was her patient, and she wasn’t going to let anything – least of all herself – scare her off from doing what she could to help him deal with what were undoubtedly some of the most difficult and unusual problems anyone had ever faced.

Decision made, she felt a weight lift from her. Oh, the fear that something terrible could happen was still there, but she accepted that. Other doctors, in other times, had risked at least as much, and in this case her patient risked a great deal for others every day.

The outer door chimed, and she took a breath and readied herself. Time to get back to work.