“I can show you how it was bounced off computers from private homes, to businesses, to universities.  It was sophisticated.  It’s why the cyber-criminals don’t get caught captain.”

“You know for sure that this went on?”

“Oh yea, it has all the tell-tale signs.  We know what program or pirate of the program it was too.  But, you can’t link anything to anybody.”

He was the “bad cop” when they used to interrogate guys.  They knew how to shut down cameras just when a guy would slip, or spill hot coffee on himself.  Internal affairs said there was a pattern in their interrogation methods, but the guys who hit the switch were never the tech guys themselves.  These guys weren’t on the take for money or drugs, they were out to get results.  They were one of the most decorated units in the L.A. area for getting the worst of the worst out of the human zone.  They took out the guys that needed to be in places like hell.

There was something about the vent professor.  He had dealt with the white collar creep-aholics before.  They were usually dealing on a different plain, and were brought down by the mundane.  They usually hadn’t thought of that simple thing, or they went into patterns were they thought they could play games.  We also had Link, who had gone to Stanford and Cal.  He took psychology and sociology courses, and dabbles in the brain.  It was always funny to get him and the clever criminals to say they hadn’t thought of that.  He was a natural; classes, IQ tests, and studying be damned.

Dr. Tier left a taste.  The tennis pro confirmed it.  Dr. Wang said that he had a type of personality to get what he wants with charm, but had to take off the mask while working in these circumstances.  She had not read him well, and would not have hired him.  She has gone over their interviews in her head many, many times.  The E-R-* leader would still have hired him based on what he presented.  Dr. Wang should have done better background on him.

The captain got some coffee and eggs,  said hello to some of the usual workers he saw in the morning, looked at the news on the TV, and prepped to meet the vent professor in his lab.

He signed in.  There was a lot signing in as safety was of the utmost concern.  There were two places he could recall hearing about accidents and catastrophes, and the difference between the two.  There were the autobahn accidents in Germany.  The police he talked to said that these were like aircraft disasters, or military planes crashing.  Another one that hit close to him was in the Phoenix Metro area.  You would think that a guy from L.A. would say California Highway Patrol had the worst stories.  While they did have some gruesome tales, it was the police and firemen of Phoenix, where they had boulevards where people were often going and coming in opposite directions, hitting at 50+ mph a piece, where stories of jaws flying into swimming pools, eyeballs popping out and rolling down the road, and stuff you wouldn’t believe abounded.  The freeways had dividers.  The Phoenix boulevards had painted lines or none at all.

Accidents at the bottom of the ocean were not accidents, they would be catastrophes.  They would be enough to turn a co-worker to chunky soup.

He was brought into the heart of the beast of vent and volcanology.  It was strange lights here, and artificial pressure there, with poison gas baths for the colorless beasts that they did manage to keep alive.  They had to mix and match the water and the spew that came from the vents just right.  Everyone used gloves to work, as you didn’t want to get scalded or get the skin exposed to it on a daily basis.

The professor sat in a raised platform where he looked out on all the activities, plus screens that surrounded the room.  They had permanent cameras keeping constant watch in night vision hues so as not to disturb the creatures that lived there.  If you were to constantly shine a light on them, then changes would occur.

He followed the professor into this office, and took a seat as there was not much standing room.

“We want to cooperate in any way we can captain.  He was our colleague, and the foremost expert and idealist on the vent culture.”

“What does an idealist on vent culture mean?”

“A man can have ideas about how things should be done.  A perfect way to do things.  A Utopian ideal of how to work with and use the vents.”

“Are you saying you and he differed on what was to happen at the vents?”

“Oh no, no, no, not differed at all.  We were like birds of a feather.  We got along quite well.”

“Maybe you wanted to exploit the vents for more profit?  Maybe you had some people to show or some to prove something to?”

“How so?”

“Maybe you are an alpha male in a place where it is best to be symbiotic.”

“Please, I have shared the credit many, many times on projects.”

“Have you ever had a project of this magnitude and importance?”

“Of course.  We were some of the committee that put together initial reports on the feasibility of this project as part of this Yi-Er-San project.  Without our initial reports that were checked and rechecked by other experts and computers, there would not be the seat you sit in now.”

“Very comfortable.  It must have been hell to see your co-worker vaporize into mush.”

“It was traumatic, and it made me ill.”

“How did it make you ill?”

“I was sick to my stomach immediately, and I have had nightmares since then.”

“Do you know that one of the first hires we made for the police on this project was to get an expert in technology?”

“I see.”

“We hired him away from the government.  They tried to match his pay and we played back and forth with the numbers.  But, it was the adventure that got him.”

The professor studies the face of the detective.  No reaction to his story.

“He tells me, that so far it has been a bore.  The usual hackers and etc. trying to get in.  But, we have the best walls and security, and constant changing codes.  He was chomping at the bit for something to do.”

“Of course, he thought the adventure would be a romanticized version.”

“So finally I gave him something to do.  He takes care of the usual, which is really being done by the computers themselves.  But, he has found that someone might have changed the numbers and calibrations of the vent sheath.”

“I don’t understand.”

“At the exact time your co-worker was in the suit, a program or something changed the calibrations ever so slightly.  But, with the extremes in temperature and pressure, the result was Campbell’s Chunky professor.”

“Please captain, a little respect.”

“Respect?  Like fake gagging and pretend dreams you tell a shrink?”

“Look captain. . .”

“Pressure?  Try this on for size Johnny English.  You are going to get the young gun as an assistant.  You could have gotten along with with a guy you came up in the trenches with, but the new breed will see new things and have the tech to do the new things.  Pretty soon they will be the favorites of Dr. Wang, and you will the be the new soup.”

“No one understands the vents and what we can do like me.”

“Pressure Dr. Tier.  Every day my tech guy is working and the computer will backtrack.  If you fuck up once, then the pressure is on.  For now, I leave this case open because I think you or someone you hired pulled your co-workers plug.  So I am not putting this down as a simple accident.  We can’t prove it yet, but something will give under so much pressure.”

The professor stares out from the pod.

“I’ll see myself out Tier.  Thanks for the interview.  I’ll leave my card on the seat.”

The professor continues to stare out from the pod.  He leans forward to watch the policeman being escorted to the door.  He was right, the pressure is giving him a terrible headache.

The captain makes his way back to the snack bar to get another cup of coffee.  After he drinks it he will make arrangements to get himself to the surface.  It reminds him of the ride at Disney.  It was a hybrid of Captain Nemo and The Little Mermaid.  You don’t see shit but black ocean for the most part on this ride though.  It would not have a long line, and it had no action on it to warrant a height requirement.  The villain on the other hand, was not flamboyant enough for a movie, but a villain all the same.


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