This section covers George's unexpected trip.
Viewers familiar with this subject may pass on to the next section.
Please select PASS or CONTINUE.
A Flying Visit
George went to the door and used his hand print to open a panel. He then deselected processor control from the door's security circuits. He then selected check, open if clear, from the control panel. The door opened. There was no-one near who looked suspicious so he went outside. As he stood near the door, looking around for a second, he felt the brush of whiskers against his ankle. Shortly afterwards a police floater landed in front of him. It had arrived in response to his vidbook signal. He half expected to see Kerstin as the pilot but he did not recognise any of the policemen in the floater.
George asked. "Where is Sergeant Berry today?" as
he prepared to step into the floater.
One of the policemen answered. "She is on a call to the University. We are the backup crew."
George was aware of a vague shape getting into the floater ahead of him so he stepped into the floater and sat next to one of the policemen.
The floater lifted off normally but George had a feeling that the policemen on board were just a little too quiet. He half expected them to say something about Marita or Kerstin or some other aspect of their work but they said nothing. The floater was going in the direction of Camden Central as he had half expected. George knew that if the policemen were imposters, Undepoldus would deal with them. Nothing appeared to be happening that indicated that Undepoldus was active. Maybe Undepoldus thought that it would be too dangerous to do anything while the floater was off the ground. He was thinking along these lines when he noticed that the pilot seemed to be fighting with the controls. He was straining and sweating. He seemed to be trying to steer the floater on a different course and failing. The policeman next to George seemed to be nervous about something. He was obviously trying to look normal but he was under some sort of strain.
Then there was a strange noise like the control column had broken a linkage. The pilot looked horrified. The control column seemed like it was no longer fixed to anything yet the floater continued on its course as if it was being flown normally.
The pilot ceased to try to fight with the controls and slumped into his seat with an air of resignation. As the floater descended gently into the floater park at Camden Central, George saw several armed policemen and women using other floaters as shields around the area where they would land. George saw that the policeman next to him was weeping uncontrollably. The others looked as if they were in a state of shock.
Then George heard an amplified voice from a loudspeaker. It said. "Come out slowly with your hands raised in the air." The pilot got out first. He was shaking with fear. George trusted that if anyone made a mistake, his formfit would protect him. He opened the door slowly and began to get out. As he did so he tripped over something he didn't see and fell flat on his face. He heard a shot from in front of him and a short "uh" behind him.
Two policewomen helped George to his feet. One of them said. "It was lucky you fell over Mr. McFigg, you could have been shot in the back."
George looked around and saw two policemen with their hands held at shoulder level and a third lolling forward in the back of the floater.
George asked. "Is Sergeant Berry OK?"
The other policewoman said. "She stopped a bullet in the leg but she will be OK. The man she caught was a fourth imposter. She was so annoyed with him that she broke his arm. She has reported herself for using too much force to arrest a suspect. She must be extremely fit because she picked him up and carried him here with a bullet in her leg."
Sergeant Fisher appeared and said. "It was a miracle.
Somehow the floater controls failed and the automatic homer took
over. You are extremely lucky Mr. McFigg that it should happen
when these fake policemen were trying to kidnap you."
George thought that he was extremely lucky to have Undepoldus as a fellow passenger. Somehow he must have taken over command of the floater's processor. It must also have been him that tripped him up in the nick of time. He said nothing about what he was thinking. A floater left with the injured man and the other fake policemen were marched into the building covered by several armed policewomen.
Sergeant Fisher led George into Superintendent Abdullah's office. The Superintendent looked very worried as George came in.
He said. "Mr. McFigg, I am delighted that you are safe.
Two of my officers were shot as four fake policemen hijacked one
of our floaters. One was seriously injured and the other is your
friend Sergeant Berry. She has been badly hurt in the leg but
she will be OK. Now I need to know how your emergency call was
intercepted and how four people were ready to hijack one of our
floaters just before it was coming to you.. Our security system
must have been penetrated somehow."
"Mine is not safe either. A processor expert has been recruited on the enemy's side. We must assume that no communications are secure now."
There was a knock on the door and Kerstin came in.
She said. "I'm reporting back for duty sir. I see that Mr. McFigg is OK. Have you any other jobs for me?"
George looked at Kerstin and saw that Marita had taken her place although the Superintendent did not realise it.
The Superintendent said. "This is amazing Sergeant Berry, Have you had a miracle cure?"
Marita said. "Yes sir." Then she made the three monkeys gestures.
The Superintendent understood immediately and isolated his vidcom.
Marita then made a throat cutting gesture. Superintendent Abdullah then disconnected his vidcom entirely. When he had done so, Marita said. "You may have guessed but I am not Sergeant Berry. She is recovering in the clinic at the Spacers Club. I wanted to tell you of a possible solution to one of your problems but I am sure that all Spacer and Police processors are bugged in a sophisticated way."
"Carry on Sergeant. Any help you can offer will be welcome."
"If you come out to the floater park I will show you what I mean."
George wondered if the Superintendent would understand what Marita was saying but he need not have worried. The Superintendent got up and said. "I'm sorry Sergeant, I have an important engagement now but I will be happy to discuss this with you later."
As he said this he winked and the three went out into the floater park.
Marita said. "I have to be as sure as I can that what
I tell you will not be heard. My students have come up with a
brilliant idea. They have suggested that all prisoners are sent
to our base at Lagrange Five. Then it is planned that rumours
should be started that the prisoners will never be released. Some
of them will die in space accidents and the prisoners themselves
will be told that they may never return to Earth."
"That is a bit drastic isn't it?"
"The aim is to get the prisoners to a place where they know they are out of reach of those who hired them. The other aim is to let the terrorist organisers know that their people will never return."
"What will that achieve?"
"The prisoners will think that they have nothing to lose. They will know that there is no way to escape from a space station except by space ship. Hijacking a space ship is an impossibility. Only Spacers know how to control them. The terrorist organisers will not be able to do or say anything to force the prisoners to remain silent. In that way we hope that the prisoners will start to give us the information we need."
"I can understand the idea but it might take some time before the prisoners start to talk. In the meantime we may still be faced by more attacks like today."
"The second part of the plan is to convert the prisoners into Spacers. They will have to undergo some Spacer training to continue to live in the low gravity environment to start with. They will be told truthfully that they will not be able to return to Earth without medical assistance if they spend more than a few weeks on Lagrange Five without the training. We want them to get to know us and trust us, and to learn that there is nothing that we require from Earth except as a place to spend holidays."
"How long do you think it will take to get the desired result?"
"Some of them might start talking as soon as we have lifted off from Earth. We don't know yet. On the other hand, any new recruits will know what fate awaits them if they are caught. The organisers know that our success rate is 100% and that their success rate is zero so far. The organisers will need some pretty powerful persuasion to get new recruits and to keep those they have."
George said. "How can the prisoners be transferred to us without an international agreement?"
Marita said. "In most cases we will not have to make any formal applications - the prisoners will do that themselves. We will let it be known that the worm is seeking vengeance. The only place where they can go to be safe is Lagrange Five. Anyway, few governments would oppose a request from the Spacers League if such a request was made. We already have a large number of bilateral agreements with different countries. Just take Kerstin's position as an example."
George said. "I think it might be a long shot Marita but it is worth a try if it can be organised."
Superintendent Abdullah said. "It seems a bit involved but nothing we have done so far has achieved anything. Your plan could work. It has the advantage that the prisoners would find themselves dependent on the goodwill of Spacers for all their needs. That will surely have an effect."
As they were talking a civilian floater landed in the park. Gurprit and Anita got out of it and it took off again.
The Superintendent said. "It is good to see you Mr. Singh. Have you got some answers to our problems?"
Gurprit said. "The whole of the vidcom processor network system has been effectively bugged. Anita here discovered it. We have brought you some communicators that are pretty secure so that we can keep in touch with you without using the vidcom system. We want you to continue to use your processor and vidcom as normal except when you are dealing with Undepoldus security. The people who have been causing the trouble are not interested in routine police work. They only want to know what is happening in relation to Undepoldus and those connected with him."
The Superintendent said. "Bugging the police is a criminal offence. Have you any suggestions about tracing the bugs?"
Anita said. "We need your cooperation and the cooperation of the vidcom network organisations. We need to tap the network so that we can trace how the system is bugged. I can't tell you how we will do it but we can locate the bugging system if we can get access to the network routing processors."
The Superintendent said. "That is a very tall order young lady. How can we communicate with the network companies without using the vidcom to let them know the problem?
Anita said. "I have arranged that Spacers will deliver communicators to several network companies already. They know that we supply and maintain their satellite communications. They trust us. However, they will need confirmation from an authoritative source to allow access to their networks. We think that your Chief Constable could organise this in conjunction with the British Home Office. You know that your system has been bugged because a floater mission was intercepted. A communicator like this one has been delivered to your Chief Constable. Can we leave it with you to do the rest?"
The Superintendent answered. "Certainly young lady."
Marita said. "Miss Kohlvits is an expert in communications. These communicators were designed by her to be interception proof."
Anita said. "When you first use them, just call the person named. Then use a password that both of you know. This will trigger a setting that cannot be broken unless the person listening in has an identical communicator and knows your password. As an example, you could get through and say 'use my first name' to mean using your name 'Anwar'. If the other person knows your first name, he can tap in Anwar and you are both connected. Then when you are connected for the second time you can agree another password and use that for a third and more secure connection."
The Superintendent asked. "How secure is the first call?"
"It would take most processors several days to decode it. It should only be long enough to tell the person called to use a password. Then the channels used will be encrypted so that the signal cannot be intercepted at all unless an identical communicator using the same password is used at the same time. The second stage enables you to select a more secure password. I thought that my system would not be secure enough but Mr. Singh says that it is as nearly unbreakable as it can be already. One of its features is that each communicator is pre-programmed to call up to ten other communicators. Only a few people know how to program a communicator with the correct calling codes for the other communicators."
Gurprit said. "This type of communicator uses 200 different frequencies in any order. The password is used to produce an encoding that tells the other communicator which frequency to use next or after a given number of changes. The sound is also scrambled and small samples are mixed together to produce a white noise equivalent before being transmitted. I know how it works. I have built a lot of them but I do not know how to intercept and decode a signal quickly enough to get an intelligible message."
Superintendent Abdullah said. "There are a few protocols to observe before I contact the Chief Constable. You can rest assured that I will do what is necessary. The network companies will want you to call as soon as they get clearance for your work. They do not want their systems compromised any more than we do. Can any of you pilot a floater?"
Marita said. "I can but do not have a British licence."
The Superintendent said. "You forget who you are Sergeant Berry. Take the unmarked floater there."
George wondered where Undepoldus had gone. He could certainly pilot a floater and had no regard for licences. He could find his way around and look after himself very easily.
Marita asked. "Where first?"
George said. "Undepoldus House please Marita. Perhaps Gurprit and Anita can have a look at the processor to see if there is any way of protecting it against bugs."
The next section covers plans to debug the processor networks.
Viewers familiar with this subject may pass on to the following section.
Please select PASS or CONTINUE.