Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Emperor Dad (Part 12 of 47)

© 2003 by Henry Melton

The only way I’m going to find him is to master this software.
Mom wouldn’t be home for some time yet.  For now, he could be confident he wouldn’t be disturbed.
He dismissed the airport window and created another one.
Location: ParisWatch.
The monitor window appeared, solid black.
Is it always nighttime in Paris?  He moved the window and it quickly brightened.  A pale yellow light bulb lit the old furniture.  I’m in someone’s house.  It was a bedroom.
There was a window, and he moved close to it, seeing an evening landscape from the height of about six or seven stories.  The other side of the street was filled with stone apartment buildings, all about the same height.
Abruptly, the shades closed before him.  Sounds of someone moving come from the speakers on his computer.
He fumbled with the controls and found a way to rotate the viewpoint, slowly.
Somewhere, he was sure, a tiny camera was rotating on a track around a tiny sphere.  He remembered the glint of the lens when he brought it to his room.
Someone moved.  A girl.  She was walking out of the bedroom.
Slowly, he tracked the viewpoint towards the door after her.  There was a familiar bang.  A glass door.  
A sound of water started.  A shower door.
He hesitated on the controls, and then moved closer, catching the view of a female form semiobscured behind the frosted glass.
He took a long slow breath.
No.  His first instinct was to panic and bail out of the program.  His second instinct was to go with it, and move closer.  Her slow motions were tantalizing.
How many naked girls could he watch with this thing?  Millions?  Billions?  
But I’m not here to gawk.
He took a deep breath and retraced back to the origin location, the dresser drawer.  He moved in, and it was still black inside.
If this thing is a spy camera, then there has to be a way to shine a light in dark places.  He pulled down the menu items one by one, and found it.  He set the illumination level at low.
There it is.  It was the same watch he’d tagged on his first visit to Paris.  Some girl bought it, and took it home.
That means that the location followed the watch.  How does that work?  
I should’ve tagged Dad’s watch, then I could track him everywhere.
Muffled, he heard the sound of the girl returning to her bedroom.  Time to go.  He closed the display window.
My father is a spy.  He’s working secretly for a government project that’s perfected the ability to spy on remote locations using invisible cameras.
He’d seen such things in the movies, but he’d always thought they were impossible.
I need to keep at this.  He fired up another window and this time, he chose a Watch option and tagged his own watch.
A new window appeared. “Begin Watch Training.  Press a button.”  
Which button?  But there were no hints.  He pressed the one on the upper left of his sport watch.
“Name the button:”  He typed ADJUST.
“Press a button.”  He did.
“Name the button:”  MODE.
He repeated the routine for START and LIGHT.
“Press a button.”  But he was out of buttons and his watch was a time zone off and blinking in 24-hour mode.
On a guess, he hit the return key on the computer keyboard.  He must have guessed correctly.
“Press the activating sequence.”
Activating sequence?  What’s that?  The software did not read his thoughts, although by this time he wouldn’t have been surprised if it had.
Come to think of it, how did the software know when I pressed the buttons on my watch?  It has to be able to sense it somehow.
So ... the watch buttons are an input mechanism to the software.  The watch controls the software?
A sense of wonder started bubbling in his stomach.
Okay.  Activating Sequence.  What buttons to press to start a control?
He’d hate to mess up his watch settings every time he wanted to use the controls.  He’d also hate to control something by accident when he wanted to set his watch.
LIGHT LIGHT LIGHT   That ought to do it.
The computer prompted, “Select Locations.”  A dual list widget opened.  The right hand side had too many entries to count, but he spotted the one he had created.  James quickly dragged ‘ParisWatch’, ‘Home’, and then ‘Base’ for good measure to the active list.  He clicked ‘DONE’.
“Activation Button:”  There was a selector widget.  He selected ADJUST.
Up popped “Actions list.”  
A car’s engine could be heard in the distance.
Mom’s coming home.
He was feeling overwhelmed.  “One thing at a time,” he mumbled, and clicked ‘DONE’.
“Name this watch:”  He typed ‘Homewatch’.
The window closed.  Does this software give you error messages?
It was his father’s software, he was sure of it.  Dad was good.  Surely he wouldn’t just close the window on failure.
But now he could hear tires on gravel.  He hurriedly logged off.
Maybe I shouldn’t be doing this.  Maybe it’s for the CIA or something.  Every time I add a location, they could notice and get Dad in trouble.
“James?  Did you get your father off to the airport okay?”
He headed in her direction.  There was a whiff of fried chicken.
“Yes.  No problem.”
Should I tell her?  She’s my mother.
But how could he bring it up.  “Oh, Mom, by the way I think Dad’s a spy for a super-secret government project.”
The wind-up clock over the fireplace mantle chose that moment to chime the hour.
It’s late, and I have homework I haven’t touched.
A bubble flicked into existence among the deep sand dunes of Algeria.  In transparency, Bob Hill stood carrying a large sledgehammer.
He pressed a button on his watch, and a ten-foot gray granite ball appeared, hovering in the air.  It was an image out of fantasy, something you could see in a painting, but never in real life.
But Bob had seen it many times now.
It’s hot out here.
He waited, as the intense sunlight baked the hard rock.
Crack!  The ball fell out of the sky and hit the sand below, with a Whoom.  
Good.  I won’t need the sledgehammer.  Just bake it in the sun and natural expansion will fracture the boundary.
The ten-footers were too big to handle personally.  The size was intimidating.  When he first started carving his base out of granite as one-foot, and then three-foot spheres, a tap with the hammer would break them free. 
But it wasn’t like scooping out the granite with an ice-cream scoop.
He could teleport a ball of granite into mid-air, but it took just a little extra for the rock to let go of its original strata.
With one location of a sphere in rock and the other exposed to bright sunlight and oxygen, the granite eroded.  Just a tiny fraction of an inch deep, rock that had never seen air or ultraviolet light oxidized into a weaker form.
But that was all that was needed.  Granite that had formed deep under the ground had been compressed since it cooled out of the magma.  Now allowed to expand, it broke loose.  In a crack the rock ball fell through to the open-air side, leaving a spherical hollow in the original granite layer.
Bob stepped back from the desert through the teleport portal to his underground base.  In the cave, even with the lights on, it was too dark to see well.  He was blinded by the desert sunlight.  He fumbled over to a handy computer screen and turned up its brightness.  A few copy and paste operations, and he’d set up a group transfer.
Near where the first granite ball fell, twenty giant spheres appeared over the Sahara sands.  From halfway around the world Bob monitored the four by five array.  Some of them were only partial spheres, with sections cut out by previous transfers.
Inside his base, Bob felt a tremor.  One of them had let go.  The new room he was creating, just a few feet away was instantly a little larger.
One hundred yards by fifty—it will take some time to get this rock gallery carved out.  Can I program this?  Automation was his first impulse these days.
He set up the initial parameters and turned his computer loose on the job.

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