Bob Hill worked with the lights off, carefully steering the tiny sphere from table to table in the casino. At each table, he located the box where the dealer kept the house’s winnings and carefully removed a chip or two.
This is theft. He jotted down each withdrawal on a notepad, in a column under ‘Luxor’ and the date. Someday, he would have to find a way to pay it all back.
There was little risk. He took from the stash that had not yet been counted, and took it evenly over many different tables. Maybe the level of theft was so slight that no one would even notice it. And if they did, no one could point a finger at an innocent employee.
When the tally added up to $3000, he put the chips into an envelope and steered the remote sphere to a deposit-box of an off-casino service store. Just like before, they would be converted to cash and electronically credited to a Las Vegas bank account he had opened under the name ‘AZ Consulting’.
He closed the sphere and connected to the Internet. Finding that his account had over eight thousand, he used their automated payment service to mail a check home.
Five thousand. That should get us past this week’s bills.
Bob blanked the computer screen and disconnected from the Internet. He felt totally drained.
This is wrong. But I’d do it again to pay those hospital bills.
It’s just like the state lotteries. I’m taxing the gaming corporations. Certainly my research will be worth it to mankind, eventually?
But there has to be a better way.
He was especially guilty about buying that used Ford pickup from the neighbors. One car was just not enough, not with Diana working and James still needing transportation when his friends couldn’t drive him. But buying it with stolen money cost him hours of sleep.
Development of the teleportation spheres was coming along much better, now that he had so much computing power.
But even that was stolen.
No computer system was secure from a person with direct access to the hardware. He had reached into the corporate computer center where he used to work. Rebooting one of the computers after hours, he used one of the standard administrative back doors built in at the factory to gain root access.
Reactivating his old account, he then erased all of his actions from the logs and plugged a network cable through the spheres. The huge computer farm was then his to use.
Hiding as just another employee, he ran his simulations, getting results in hours that he had spent weeks on before. Bellerman space equations were finally coming under his control.
One of the first bonuses was the discovery of a way to clone the spheres. From just a single pair of spheres, he now had the ability to make as many pairs as he needed. From that point on, his computer tap was online permanently.
He sighed and stood up in the darkness. He flipped a switch and the lights came on. All around him were dark stone walls.
I am spending all my time these days in a cave. Still, it’s a lot easier to hide my equipment here.
He tapped a command on the computer and a large sphere appeared.
He walked through the sphere and out into his work shed.
He had spent many nights sweating over the equations, plagued with doubts that teleportation would ever be safe enough, practical enough to use. Those doubts were gone now.
This is so much better. Teleportation was more than just a peephole for light, now.
Create a clone sphere under certain conditions and its interior space was subject to quantum entanglement. Large-scale objects that went in came out as one piece, not just individual molecules. He could walk through and keep his blood inside his body. When his water balloons had passed through the test sphere without leaking, he had been bursting with excitement. He had been aching to share his joy with someone. Diana still hadn’t forgiven him for the water balloon fight in her kitchen.
At a different level, he could entangle sets of spheres, and use the potential energy of one transfer to offset that of another. His new cave was at about 3000 feet elevation, and he could step to 600 feet without fear of smashing to a pulp. Of course, that step also pumped gallons of water from the lower Mississippi River to Lake Dillon in the Rocky Mountains at 9000 feet elevation.
I’ll need more water transfers to handle the new energy needs. I have a lot of work to do.
“Surprise!” Diana and James chorused.
Bob was shaken out of his thoughts as he walked into the house.
“Happy birthday, Dear.”
Oh. I forgot.
Diana had a cake for him, with candles he didn’t attempt to count.
“Here, I had planned to give you these on Christmas.”
It was a boxed set of James Bond DVDs. He remembered mentioning them once, several months ago.
“Thanks. We’ll watch one tonight, okay?”
James presented him with a nice multi-function digital watch. His boy coached him through every setting, and it was obvious that his son had gotten him the very thing he wanted for himself.
With cake and popcorn, they watched ‘Dr. No’ in the living room. It had been ages since they had watched TV together.
“Didn’t they have special effects back then?” asked James.
“The opening logo, with the dancing girls. That’s about it.” Bob grabbed a handful of popcorn. “It’s fascinating. Every movie since then has copied that intro. Show some semi-obscured naked girls dancing and then have James Bond shoot his gun. Minor variations, but all of them have that.”
James shook his head. “Not even a car with built in machineguns.”
“Was that ‘Q’ who gave him the new pistol?”
Diana liked the scenery. “We need to go back to Jamaica again. I loved that place.”
“You guys were in the Caribbean?”
“Back before you were born,” said his mother.
“Back when we could afford it.”
They watched it through, and even James was enthralled.
Bob was disturbed.
“It’s been years since I saw this last. I didn’t remember how evil Dr. No was.”
Diana asked, “What do you mean?”
“Well, of course he is an evil genius trying to blackmail the US, but towards the last ... I didn’t remember that he turned Ursula Andress over to his henchmen to be raped. And she was, apparently. Did you notice that when Bond rescued her, she was missing her pants?”
Diana nodded. “And James Bond was pretty ruthless towards that girl who betrayed him.”
“Yes. I think he’s mellowed over the years.”
But still, the action flick was fun. James asked to watch the next one, but Bob pled that he was too tired.
Hours later, dreams haunted him. Bob lay in the dark, worrying.
I’m a criminal. I make my living by stealing from people. Is there any difference between Dr. No and me?
Maybe I should just shut it all down—smash the control equipment and go find some honest work.
By 2 AM, he was fully awake, listening to Diana breathe and letting worry gnaw at him. He got up quietly from the bed and tiptoed out to the work shed in his robe and overcoat.
He activated the Internet connection and isolated Grumpy from his secret network.
On the web was a database he had used frequently when he was employed. It listed all the references to a scientific paper. The more the references, the more important the world scientific community considered the paper. He entered Dr. Lam Bellerman’s paper.
Four referenced already. He scrolled through the abstracts of the new papers. And half of them are from other countries.
One of them was toying with the idea of using Bellerman space as a plasma confinement. That was my first step.
That settles it. Other researchers will discover it too. It’s just a matter of time.
The question was—how would they use the discovery, once they made that final connection?
James got a ride home from school and, as usual, the driveway was empty.
He’s gone more often than not, these days.
He checked the work shed.
“Whoa!” Most of the gear was gone. Grumpy was the only computer left.
Is the game disk image gone?
He logged on. Still a network, but it’s different now.
The dwarves were still there, but most machines were strange. He counted the names—about twenty.
The mystery local network annoyed him. Where are they?
The wiring was mostly gone, but there were a number of leftovers. He traced Grumpy’s ethernet connection to a strange jack mounted on the floor.
He checked outside again, but there was nothing, no outside wire.
It has to be wireless.
There was a system control for the network, a software control panel. He checked and found there were three network ports; a modem, a gigabit-ethernet, and a wireless card.
But only the ethernet is active. How can that be?
Software can lie to you. He opened the access hatch on the side of the computer.
At school, he had become a student aide in the computer lab, helping with upgrades and network issues. The school had more computers, but it’d always been a secret pride that his family system at home was always just a bit more complex and a bit more sophisticated than anything at school.
With Grumpy’s guts exposed, he checked the interface cards. Everything matched.
Dopey has a wireless card. His father had said it was cheaper than stringing cable all through the house.
I can network them together.
His father was always quiet about the jobs he took. When James asked, he’d explained corporate security and how that meant keeping secrets, even from family. That included keeping business and home computers separate.
He won’t like me doing this. He looked at the time.
Quickly, he made the system changes to allow this computer to route its network out the wireless card. It was strictly against his dad’s rules.
But if I switch Dopey to this computer, I’ll be disconnecting from the wireless Internet in the house. So it should be okay.
He logged out, tidied up the changes he made, and left the workshop.
In his bedroom, he logged into the mystery network.
Randomly, he began looking through the program directories. His father had taught him scripting years ago. He could read them.
‘Bail’? That’s a strange command. He opened it in an editor. It was simple enough.
Access the sphere library and send a string of gibberish to its command function, then delete the sphere library, and then delete ‘Bail’? What is this?
And what is the ‘sphere library’?