The Lad Who Poked the Devil in the Eye
Chapter 8: Unexpected Allies
Copyright© 2016 by Vincent Berg
"Natalie Romanus speaking."
"This is Y. Do you believe me now?"
"I never doubted you. You knew too much to be inventing details. I needed something to convince skeptics with."
"And did they get it? I'm not near a TV, so I haven't heard much."
"It happened just as you described. Luckily, everyone expected a counter strike, so it wasn't hard convincing them the threat was real. However, when they blocked off the streets, it had an unanticipated effect. Instead of firing on unprotected cars and pedestrians, they fired on homes and businesses."
"Damn, I should have known you can't cheat death."
"The rest happened exactly as described. The secret service insisted on using rocket launchers, but as you said, it was pointless. The ships were too high and moving too fast. The rockets fell to the earth, exploding on impact, producing more fatalities than we'd have otherwise. As you can guess, the president and most of his staff were secluded in their safe house in the West Virginia mountains."
"I was hoping I cou—"
"Shh. Don't say anymore. I can speak freely, but since the government knows I've spoken to you, they can examine the NSA recordings. Anything you say will be examined by a slew of security experts."
"How do you—"
"Again, hush and listen. I'm using a device I got from Josh twelve years ago. It allows me to overlay a fake conversation on my phone, but not yours. It overrides my phone's signal, sending a false message with a tracker. They track who receives it, and then transmits the actual conversation directly to the person's phone. I think it's safer if you use it, rather than me. That way you can tell me what's happening without the NSA uncovering what you say."
"Wait, you want me to show up in a train station so the boys in blue can arrest me?"
"As I said, they won't hear anything I'm describing. But ... if you don't trust me, we can do a blind drop. I'll stick it into a locked box and you can pick it up whenever you want. You know how the feds work. They'll cover a site twenty-four hours a day, but they'll only do it for so long. You can simply wait them out."
"Maybe, but you're not risking your life in the exchange."
"You saw its effectiveness in my old news reports. We can go anywhere and send messages to anyone we want. Consider how handy and advanced it is. We don't have anything to compare to it. Best of all, the police have no way to counter it."
"OK, tell me the location. I've got to trust someone. How did the authorities react to the information?"
"As you'd imagine. I'm sure they have a wiretap on my phone. People are anxious to get their hands on you, for more reasons than you'd expect. Some want you hung out to dry and would gladly trade you for the promise of a cease fire. Others want access to your information, though they'd prefer taking it for themselves."
Natalie hesitated for several seconds, which triggered warning bells in Otis' head. "Are you still there?"
It took another few moments for her to reply. Otis was preparing to hang up when she returned. "Sorry, I've got to prepare a response which the NSA wiretaps will receive instead of what I'm saying. Although it's advanced, it takes time."
"I've been on the line longer than I'm comfortable with. I need to change my location."
"Alright, here's where I'm leaving it. Just don't wait too long, as I'd rather you were using this than repeating it directly to the NSA."
"Thanks. I don't like the idea of defending Earth by myself. It's a little ... intimidating."
Otis spent a good twenty minutes surveying the lobby before approaching the train station lockers. Locating locker #137, he resisted the impulse to check on David. If he sprung the trap, he didn't want his friend captured as well. He surveyed the lockers one more time, swallowed and spun the lock. He wasn't surprised that it opened. He trusted Natalie. It was the NSA he didn't.
He retrieved a small earpiece from the locker. Not sure what to do with it, he stuck it in his ear, figuring it was the easiest way to carry it.
"You're younger than I imagined."
Otis spun, seeing an older woman with blue eyes and dark hair. "Natalie?"
"Who else would I be? Come on, I'm as paranoid as you. Let's go somewhere where we can watch anyone approaching."
"How'd you know I'd show up so soon?"
"I didn't. I figured you're desperate. The idea of avoiding the long arm of government's overreach is compelling."
"You're right. I'm constantly glancing over my shoulder."
Natalie led him to a nearby bar where they sat down.
"Speaking of youth, I'm not of legal age yet."
She cocked her head, examining him. "I'd have guessed early college student, maybe nineteen or twenty."
Otis smiled. "You should have seen me two weeks ago. I was short, underdeveloped and skinny. So far, I've grown seven inches."
"In two weeks! Damn, whatever you've got, I'll take some."
He shrugged. "I don't think you'd want it."
"Alright, I won't press—now—but I'm eager to learn about it."
Otis twisted the object in his ear. "How do you work this thing?"
Natalie glanced around, observing who might be close enough to overhear. Dropping her voice, she explained. "It's a link to a smaller shuttle abandoned when Josh and the ... let me see if I've got this right, Wi'Tibold, left."
"Yeah, that's the correct term. Though I suspect it's the Ti'chrk's name, rather than their own."
Natalie leaned forward, removing the earpiece from Otis's ear and sticking it in her own. "Transferring control to Y. He's now fully authorized access." She removed it and handed it back to Otis. "Introduce yourself."
"Since we're in this together, the name is Otis." He reinserted it. "This is Y, otherwise known as Otis. How are you?"
A heavily accented voice responded. "Fully functional, I'm in stasis orbit."
Natalie took her phone out, jotting down her number. "Tell it you want to send a substitute message, call me back, leave a fake innocuous conversation and listen." She handed it to him and sat back.
Otis did as instructed, recording "The rain in Spain, falls mainly in the plains."
"Now tell me something," she suggested, moving her phone by his other ear.
"This feels silly when you're sitting right in front of me." He heard exactly what he said, so arched her brow. "So?"
"You heard the original message. It tracks the location of my phone. When you send information, it'll transmit a fake call—which you'll supply. However, wiretaps and interceptions won't pick up the transmitted signal. You now have a totally secure phone."
Otis smiled, then tilted his head. "Can the Ti'chrk pick it up?"
"I'm not sure, but I doubt it. The aliens we rescued are more advanced than this new batch. Ours would never inflict so much damage when issuing demands."
"I wouldn't be so sure. The Ti'chrk tell some horrific details of their attacks."
"Point taken, but they're at war. The president had already capitulated, until you torpedoed the deal."
"Yeah, but I'm aware of..."
She waved his argument off, turning and motioning motioned to someone. "No one is paying attention, so let's introduce a few people who may help."
Otis noted a couple approaching.