Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 Year In Review

2007 Year In Review

I had 2 big goals for 2007: Sub 30 5K and a 2:30 Half Marathon. You'll see how I smashed these goals more than once.

Well my year started off fine. I was running well, with some good pacing, and then at the end of January I was fired from my job. Needless to say, this hasn't really happened to me much before. In fact, aside from when the whole division was laid off, I've never been fired before. And the whole thing was bogus, they came up with some "reasons" why I was fired, but in reality I think it was just a cost-cutting measure on their part. I just wish they had been honest about it.

Then about a week later I contracted the flu, and I was out of it for about 2 weeks with no running. I talked with my boss from a previous company who wanted me to come back on a part-time basis to fix some code I wrote for him a couple years ago. Meanwhile, we had settled on a contractor to repair the damage to our house during the Windstorm of 2006 where some trees fell on our house. This actually worked out well, since I could work part time, deal with the contractor, work out, and also begin writing again. I did finally get a job at a great company, and also was able to finish a novel I had started a number of years ago.

After the flu I had lost a lot of my speed. I lost at least a minute/mile pace and I found it hard to get back into a rhythm. My first race of the year was Henry Weinhard's St. Patrick's Day dash, a mostly downhill race in downtown Seattle. I still hadn't recovered, and my Heart Rate(HR) was really high. I didn't PR this year. But from then on, things really started picking up.

I'm not sure what I did different this year, but I think it comes down to two things: more weekly mileage, and more consistency. I broke down my week into 4 basic runs: 5 mile slow run, 6-8 mile long slow run, 1 "speed" workout ~5 miles, and one "hilly" run of ~5 miles. This gave me a weekly mileage of 20-23 miles or so. For whatever reason this improved my running all through the year.

May was fun, especially the "Beat the Bridge" race. I had 20 minutes to run 2 miles before they opened the bridge. In hindsight, I don't think I had much to worry about, but since I've never beat the bridge before, I still had some trepidation. Turns out I had nothing to worry about, hitting the 2-mile mark at 18:26 and crossing the bridge with plenty of time to spare. It felt great finally beating that thing.

In July I ran my 3rd Half Marathon (13.1 miles) at Seafair. I felt great all through the race, even the last couple miles. The difference was that I had increased my long runs out to 12 miles. I also used sport beans and the provided sports drinks during the 2nd half of the race which helped as well. I beat my old record by about 14 minutes. This is a huge improvement. Meanwhile I keep setting personal records in my other races as well.

Then tragedy struck a couple weeks after the HM. My dad passed away after a long illness. It was really hard to keep running. I would start crying in the middle of a run. A couple weeks later, I ran the Footzone 5K where I was determined to once and for all break 30 minutes. I dedicated the race to my dad. Since I started running a couple years ago, this was my ultimate goal. I had been really close all year, getting down to 30:03 the week before the HM. When I approached the finish line, I saw the clock at ~29 minutes, and I knew I had it. I burst into tears crossing the line at 29:32. It was by far the most emotional finish I've ever had since my very first 5K, probably the most emotional of all.

In my next race I blew away that time with a 28:42. I have no idea how I achieved that, except that I was on some medicine at the time. I now have a really difficult mark to beat. I ran another 5K later in the year and came within 11 seconds, so I know I might be able to beat it at some point.

In my final big race, the Seattle Half Marathon, I did it once again, beating my record by 4:30 on a more difficult course. I even achieved a negative split, which is really hard since the 2nd half of the course is more uphill. I also ran a 12K and once again killed my record for that course. However, I missed my next race due to a kidney stone or something, so now I'm done for the year.

Also today, on the last day of the year, I ran five miles with our 7-month old puppy "Blackberry." She did great, although she would stop abruptly to answer the call of nature.

Race Results for 2007:
Avg HR
Max HR
3/11/2007 3.3M 33:35 10:10 Henry's St. Pat's Dash
183 197
3/25/2007 10K 1:04:35 10:23 Mercer Island Rotary 173 184 X
5/13/2007 5K 0:30:18 9:45 Kirkland 5K
176 195 X
5/20/2007 8K 0:51:20 10:19 Beat the Bridge 174 194 X
6/2/2007 5K 0:31:30 10:08 Issaquah Tri 174 192
6/24/2007 6.76M (11K)
1:10:43 10:27 Shore Run 168 184 X
7/3/2007 5K 0:30:03 9:40 Firecracker 5000 176 190 X
7/8/2007 HM (13.1M)
2:26:15 11:09 Seafair HM
165 186 X
8/5/2007 5K 0:29:32 9:30 Footzone 5K 176 191 X
9/30/2007 5K 0:28:42 9:14 Children's Run
177 194 X
10/7/2007 10K 1:01:54 9:57 Issaquah Rotary Run 172 190 X
11/4/2007 5K 0:28:53 9:17 Pace Race Kirkland 176 186
11/25/2007 HM (13.1M)
2:21:45 10:48 Seattle Marathon 170 185 X
12/16/2007 12K 1:17:46 10:25 12K's of Christmas 174 190 X

Yearly Mileage:
* this is only "logged" miles that don't include treadmill runs at the gym or when the GPS ran out of juice.

Monthly Mileage:

104 Miles in October was my highest mileage month ever.

Goals for 2008:
Sub-28 5K
Sub-60 10K
2:15 HM
1000 Miles Logged (20 miles/week, 83 miles/month)

I also want to start running regularly with Blackberry as she grows. I've considered trying to run a full Marathon, or trying to climb Mount Rainier again, but I don't want to overcommit to my goals, because that results in overtraining and stress.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Grumpy Holidays!

Grumpy Holidays!

Things I'd like to ban from the Holidays:
  • 12 X of Xmas songs. Stupid! Except for the "beer in a tree" one.
  • Taking down decorations. I'm getting way too lazy to put them I need to take them down??? WTF???
  • Marketing for Christmas in September. Tell me what's for sale the day after Thanksgiving. Hey, is it Back to School time yet? Stop marketing crap out of season.
  • No good new Xmas songs on the radio any more. Like, doesn't anyone write new crap anymore? They don't even play it. I heard "Santacide" on the radio last night...kewl but OLD.
  • Holiday Food. Didn't we just have ham & turkey?? What about Christmas Gefilte Fish? And did Jesus have a sweet tooth or something? Is that why we're getting slathered in Egg Nog all the time? I want some red-hot Xmas Jerky.
  • Being nice to people. What? We're not allowed to be nice the rest of the year? I'm supposed to have Holiday Cheer because of what? I just spent all my savings and my kids hate all their presents?
  • Christmas Sex with Strangers. Wait...that might not be a bad thing...

Things that we need to see more of:
  • Snow. I want 2 feet of snow on Christmas day dammit. I've lived 40 years and I don't ever remember a Christmas snowstorm. Dreaming of a White Christmas my ass.
  • Christmas Miracles. Like Santa getting off his fat ass and actually doing something. What's his deal anyways? Either pony up the presents or admit you're a fraud. Game's up, dude.
  • Peace on Earth. For a Christian Nation, we certainly do our share of misdeeds. Wrong is wrong, no matter how you phrase it. I want Bush and his whole staff, every member of Congress, and all the other dickheads to get nothing but coal in their stockings.
  • Alien Invasions. Seriously. Do aliens take the holidays off too? Why isn't there any Christmas Family Alien Invasion movies? I can't even find a kewl Google link for this bullet point, because the topic doesn't exist!
  • Warm Fuzzies. People will be fucking nice to each other this Christmas or I will KILL THEM! (the next day of course...wouldn't want to ruin Christmas ;)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

12K's of Xmas PR RR

12K's of Xmas PR RR

This race starts in downtown Kirkland, WA, right near my office. The day was cloudy and cool, about 40 with a light wind. This is the one and only 12K of the year, and as usual they had a small sign at each K with a picture of each "day" of xmas on it.
Fashion report: (all nike) black long sleeve top, blue/gray shorts, visor, black gloves to start, NB 857, garmin 305.
This is a fairly hilly course, but since my office is literally on the course, I run these hills all the time. That didn't really help me today. I haven't felt well lately. I missed last week's 5K due to a kidney stone. I had to bail on Friday's 5.5 miler over a lot of the course at 4 miles when I just felt tired and had no strength whatsoever. Today I felt better but not 100%. My kid had a fever on Friday so I know something's going around.
So here's the breakdown:
  • 1 10:30 +99
  • 2 10:02 -56
  • 3 11:24 +148
  • 4 11:23 +91
  • 5 9:20 -213
  • 6 10:12 0
  • 7 10:06 -71
  • .5 4:46 -5

I don't think the elevations are all that accurate but you can get a general sense of how hilly it is.
The last couple miles I really tried to get down to 5K pace but I really didn't have much in me. I couldn't even get to 10K pace.

Final stats:
Current course record:
1:21:44 (10:57)
Current 10K PR pace: 9:57
New course record:
1:17:46 (10:25)
A ~4 minute PR and 32 seconds/mile faster

Well, that's the last race of the year. I've had 11 out of 14 races be PR's at that distance. (which I guess a PR for PR's)

overall place: 694 out of 939
division place: 71 out of 83
gender place: 297 out of 347
time: 1:17:35

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Author Report: John J. Nance

Author Report: John J. Nance

Today John J. Nance gave a talk at my office.
This guy is a great speaker. He's a pilot, a consultant for ABC, a lawyer, and the author of 18 books. He talked mostly about his latest book Orbit. It's the story about a space tourist who gets lost in orbit, and how the world comes together to save him. It sounded incredibly interesting.

I actually talked with him over lunch as well. He and his SO are working on creating a new publishing house, so I may send them my synopsis and see what they think. I'll try to find out more about it and make a separate post.

He talked a little about politics, the airline industry, the state of the military reserves, and the current state of the publishing industry. He is pretty opinionated but speaks in an entertaining and convincing way.

He said in his latest book, his focus was far more on characterization than on action for once. He said he's been under pressure to keep his books fast-paced and not waste words on dialog, but now he's decided that he's more interested in his characters. I like that attitude, and I think I should do some of the same things.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

I Can Do Better Than That...

I Can Do Better Than That...

Do you ever just read something or watch something on TV or see a movie and just say to yourself, "I can write better than that"?

I think part of the frustration is knowing that I'm sitting through a crappy movi
e when I could be home working on the next masterpiece. Or reading a book that makes no sense and uses awkward prose. It's like the author just mails it in. Do people really not care about the quality of their work, or is there so little good material out there that people will just film anything?

Here's an example: If you ever start thinking "Hey, what if my Main Character had an evil twin--" STOP!
The Evil Twin paradigm has been done to death. Yes, we all understand the yin-yang dichotomy of the modern intellect, but please...putting a goatee on someone and calling them evil doesn't fly any more.
No clones, twins, brothers, yourself from the future/past, a ghost of yourself, yourself from Dimension X, yourself as the opposite sex, the you that "should" have been, transporter accidents, lightning bolts, whatever. Enough is enough!

And for God's sake...enough of Vampires and Zombies! Repeat after me: DONE TO DEATH! Do you know what "done to death" means? That I'd rather die than watch or read another uncreative author/writer's take on vampires and zombies! ENOUGH!!
Create some other kind of monster already! Even the frickin Cookie Monster would be better. Imagine a thousand rabid muppets stalking you, wanting to eat your cookies. You would freak the hell out, beatch! Look at those googly eyes, and the deep cavernous throat. This SOB can pack a whole 10lb sack of Famous Amos before you even knew he was in the room. Look at the maw on this mother!

Come on folks, I know you can do better. No, wait...I can do you'd better get your shit together because I'm coming after you!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Spending All Day Looking At...

Spending All Day Looking At...

Well, I can't really exactly say what I'm working on, but it involves writing an algorithm to filter out "adult" content based on various parameters. Of course, to verify that the algorithm works, I have to actually look at the content and determine if it is indeed "adult" or not.

Some of the stuff I've seen had been pretty graphic and terrible stuff. Very extreme stuff, with labels like "educational" or "interesting" which are completely bogus. I don't even think much of it is legal. It also comes in from all around the world, so it's not just US stuff that I'm looking at. It's strange how different cultures value things so differently. I guess the question is whether I can come up with something that my kids can view or not. Another problems is that some of this content doesn't even have English words at all, so it's really hard to know what it is without looking at it.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Writing Tasks

Writing Tasks

Here are my writing tasks and accomplishments:
  • Received feedback on Dawn's Rise from the website. The feedback centered on these main complaints/observations:
    1. Too much description, not enough action in the beginning.
    2. The prologs are unnecessary and somewhat offputting.
    3. People didn't quite understand what/why things were happening, and didn't get involved with the characters.
    4. Too many adverbs.
  • Finished my NaNoWriMo story. I really like the character Ellie. I want to go back and create a short story around her, but I'm not sure how to make it science fictiony.

Here are some things I want to get done in the next few weeks:
  • Submit a couple more chapters from Dawn's Rise to Critters.
  • Write up some "interviews" of my characters. This may help me to know them better.
  • Write up some commentary on 30 Days so I can decide what to do with it. I think I can just put comments on all the posts.
I think I'm going to take it easy the rest of the year though...with all the holidays. I want to also focus on getting stuff done around the house.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Ski Season!

Yesterday was Opening Day at Crystal Mountain!
It was nice and sunny in the morning, but then a storm moved in and the afternoon was snowy and windy.
Noah is the kid in the foreground.
Looks like another storm is moving in as I write's always fun around here :)

"30 Days" Chapter Index

"30 Days" Chapter Index

This is the "blogvel" I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2007. Here it is presented in the "correct" order that it should be read in.
Comments/critiques are always welcome but keep in mind that this is a very rough first draft with only the most basic edits so far. I hope to repost an edited version at some point but don't hold your breath.

1 I am Really Freaked Out
2 I'm Almost Calm
3 Now I'm Beyond Freaked Out
4 Bad Night
5 Help Me...
6 Ellie is Driving Me Nuts
7 Things are Getting Insane
8 I've Got Family Issues
9 What the...
10 Carrie's Gambit
11 More Stuff Happens That I Can't Believe
12 In the Hospital
13 This Day has been "Swell"
14 I Don't Understand Ellie
15 I'm Lost
16 I'll Never Sleep Again
17 Maybe a Clue to All This
18 At the Warehouse
19 Ellie's Gone
20 I'm Blown Away
21 Finally a Relaxing Day
22 Carrie Finds some Crazy Stuff
23 Game On
24 Agent Ellie, Part One
25 Agent Ellie, Part Two
26 I'm Getting Sick of the Lies
27 Carrie Meets Ellie
28 Modern Interrogation
29 I'm Losing It
30 It's Gone from Worse to Worst
31 Wa the hels hapinin
32 From Ellie
33 Heart 2 Heart with Ellie
34 Carrie...Again...
35 Having it Out with Ellie
36 Shotgun Thanksgiving Part One
37 Shotgun Thanksgiving Part Two
38 Shotgun Thanksgiving Part Three
39 Shotgun Thanksgiving Part Four
40 Good News/Bad News
41 "Over"? Did you say, "Over"?
42 WTF Part One
43 WTF Part Two
44 WTF Part Three
45 Getting Back
46 So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye

Friday, November 30, 2007

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye

This is really my last post. As of right now I'm outside of the territorial United States, on my way to a new life. I can't tell you where I am, whether it's on a plane, a boat, or some other mode of transportation. They're letting my make one more blog post so I can finish the story.

By now you've seen the news reports where investigators have linked all the explosions together...the first on at Stanford, the one at Infinitae, and now the one in Santa Clara. Suspicion has been cast right on me, linking me with Chinese Intelligence. It's all been one shocking revelation after another. My family has been outed as well, as their loyalty to the US Government has been called into question. It's one giant clusterfuck of unbelievable proportions. They also can't find Carrie, and they believe that I'm responsible for her disappearance.

The Chinese didn't exactly welcome me with open arms when I returned to the safe house, especially driving a stolen car. Even Ellie kind of sighed wearily when she saw me, but I didn't know where else to turn. Carrie escaped, and I thought we had lost all out evidence incriminating her.

The whole operation to get Ellie and I out of the country was a bit of a nightmare, sitting in the back of a van for hours, sneaking through customs in boxes, and a bunch of crazy stuff. Now we're settled in our cabins, trying to relax. I haven't really seen Ellie since I returned yesterday, and it's not like they gave me a choice in all this.

I finally get a chance to see her after everyone is settled in. We're in a private room, and she's lying prostrate with her broken leg up on pillows. She waves me in and has me close the door. She beckons me and indicates a chair near her. I sit down and sigh.

"Hey Alex," she says, "we need to talk. Can you help me sit up a little?"

I arrange some pillows for her and return to my seat. I fiddle around with some duct tape that's patching my seat together.

"I need to tell you some things, Alex. You're not going to like most of it. I'm going to be as honest as I can, and please let me know if you have questions. OK? Good.

"My real name is Kai Ying Slavinsky. Elena Galistina is a name I made up, and I probably won't use it again. I'm a deep-cover field marshall for a secret wing of Chinese Intelligence. You've heard of handlers? That's my role. I was controlling a number of agents in the Bay area, primarily focused on corporate technological espionage. We've infiltrated many of the local companies, including Infinitae.

"When I first met you, Alex, at that bar, I was meeting a potential client. By client, of course, I mean a corporate executive I could potentially use as an information source in exchange for...well whatever I needed to use. He never showed up. My assignment hadn't been going too well, and I guess I was in a mood, and when I saw you drowning yourself at the bar, I became a little curious. You didn't look like the normal bar rat. So I struck up a conversation, and soon realized you were a pretty good guy who'd ran into a little bad luck. You talked so passionately about your defunct company, that I could see you had some kind of spark. And then you talked about your dad's cabin, skiing, and all the kinds of things I've been dying to do. I couldn't help myself, I just had to see more of you, even though you didn't have any intelligence value to me.

"But of course, everyone that I contact socially needs to go through a thorough vetting process. We never know who's a setup. Your story checked out, but then we ran across a red flag from your past. You had indirectly injured a girl and then been sent to a camp for a year. We then of course looked into Shelly White and your other friends. When we discovered that the primary driver had died in a suspicious accident, we kept investigating. It turned out that Shelly White had disappeared. Imagine our surprise when she turned up as Carrie Park, a programmer analyst at a brokerage house.

"We dug into her finances, and were amazed by her abilities. We could tell that some of her gains were ill-gotten, perhaps by hacking financial systems. One of our agents got in close to her. We revealed some of her lesser infractions which led to her termination. Someone of her ability and low moral threshold doesn't come along every day. She became our number one person of interest. If we could turn her, we could use her abilities to gather far more information that we could with out own resources. So we formed a plan to get you two to work together. Our agents inside Infinitae gave both of you offers you couldn't refuse: you got a job, and she got a position with almost unlimited computing and staff resources and complete freedom to work on whatever project she wanted to."

I glare at Ellie. "You're telling me that you knew she was Shelly the whole time? You got us to work together? What was the plan?"

Ellie sighs and struggles for words. "We knew she still had a thing for you. An agent got her to talk about her past, and she expressed how crushed she was when you rejected her. We wondering if she still held a flame, or if she wanted you dead. Unfortunately, she immediately went to work setting up her plan to discredit you. We didn't take it too seriously until people started dying. At some point, she became aware of our intervention, and we needed to back off. We were able to reveal some of her documents to you. That's how you got access to all those files. But we had underestimated her again. We didn't realize she had these datacenters scattered around, and also she had created a team of mercenaries and assassins to do her dirty work.

"I hate to say it, but that's mostly my fault. Instead of working the case, I spent a lot of time with you. She knew more about us than we knew about her by that point."

"So your big plan went to shit."

"Well, we kind of forced her hand when we revealed her plans to you. She then took you under her wing. We figured that if I cut you loose, you might go to her. It kind of worked. Too well. You don't know how much that killed me, Alex. It's about the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I cried for hours after that. I didn't think you'd ever forgive me. But Carrie...she was out of control, and we thought you might be able to get in there and somehow tame her."

I don't know whether to hit Ellie or hug her. "So you wanted me to get with Carrie?"

"No! God, Alex. The thought of you with her..." She shivers.

"It was terrible," I confess. "Even Carrie thought so. I didn't even want just happened. Ellie...this whole thing is just killing me. You lead the most fucked of life of anyone I've ever met if this is how you treat people."

Ellie nods. "Yeah. The more I do it, the more obvious it gets. A few years ago, I would just make my mark fall in love with me, take him for everything, and then leave him without a thought. I'd be running three, four plans at once, sometimes a night. And remember, these were just the guys I didn't wind up killing. The ones I had to eliminate I'd treat even worse."

"You're not the person that I knew. The Ellie I knew didn't do anyone of that stuff. Someday you need to figure out who you are."

Ellie fingers the bandage on her head. "I'm trying. With you I became more of the person I want to be. I think with this project blowing up so bad, they may put me on the back burner for a while. You don't know how badly I've failed. This is a huge setback for me. They'll analyze everything, and I'll be facing possible court martial."

"So why are you going back? You've got money, you've got abilities."

Ellie laughs. "Someone like me doesn't walk away. I'll be on a new hit list, this time with killers who know how to do the job. I'm good, but I can't be vigilant forever. I need to go face them."

"What about Carrie? I'm sure she's long gone."

"Well there's still that. Thank god you have those recordings."

"Ellie, she had a jammer, and smashed the cell phone. We don't have anything on her."

She smiles coyly at me. "Alex, you underestimate us. The phone didn't transmit on a cellular frequency, it transmitted at a much higher, technically illegal frequency that no known jammer can block. We have it all. If she ever shows up again, we'll be able to blackmail her into helping us. I swear to god if I ever get past the inquisition, I'm going after her. I refuse to let that bitch be a blemish on my record."

"You'll never find her. She'll change her identity again, probably her appearance too, and lay low."

"Well, we'll see. We could really use your help, Alex. I know we've treated you pretty poorly. I've been terrible to you, and I know that I don't really deserve any of your loyalty right now. We can always use someone like you in our intelligence division."

"Um, Ellie, I can't work against the United States. Please don't ask me to. I won't stop you from doing your work, and I won't testify against you, but I can't doing anything against my country, any more than you can."

Ellie frowns a little. "Good. You're going to be under a lot of pressure. I can only protect you so much. The only way you'll might be able to be safe is to work for me. I won't ask you to do anything against your country, but I'm sure there will be plenty of questionable activities that you won't like or oppose. But Alex, if you want any kind of life, it's your only option right now. Hopefully the authorities will clear your name, and you can return. But we can't take the risk of letting them have you."

I think back to the torture. "Yeah, you found out that I'm a blabber. Now I'm your fucking burden."

"Are you talking about the interrogation? I'm so sorry about that. We thought you had been compromised. We had to know for sure. You passed with flying colors."

"But I talked! How could you do that to someone!"

"Alex, it's what we do. We find out the truth at all costs."

I jump up. "You don't know shit about the truth. You pretend that you're trying to protect your country but it's all a fucking game to you. You mess with people's lives like players on a chess board. You don't care who you hurt, or even what you even accomplish. It's all about the game, and who can play it the best."

"Yes. You're absolutely right. We play a game where the losers are dead and the winners have no souls. And you know what the price is. Do you think China wants to be relegated to third-world status like India? Don't you think we're getting tired of the rest of the world enjoying the benefits of modern technology? Don't you think we're sick of your ridiculous trade restrictions and product recalls and militarism? Yeah, it's a game, but I have the potential to improve the lives of billions of people. I have the potential to prevent terrorists from destroying an entire population. I play this game every day, and with every ounce of my ability. I know this isn't your world Alex, and maybe I needed a break from it to give me some perspective. But when that idiot Park starting playing us against your government, I got my shit together and started working again."

I sit down again. "You've turned into the 'other' Ellie again. I've always seen two sides of you. One nice, sweet, interesting, and the other intense, scary, and murderous."

"Well, I'm not Ellie anymore. I don't think you'll see much of the 'nice' me anymore. I've let myself slip and get soft. I don't blame you. I just knew this might happen one day."

"Ellie," I say, sitting down next to her. "I know you feel like you have to save the world. I know you feel like you have to be tough. But I've seen your other side Ellie, and I have to say I like it a lot. You're a special person, if you would ever allow yourself to be yourself. You not a killer. Someone made you kill, but I don't believe you're a killer. I've seen you fight, and at the cabin you spared some lives when you didn't have to. I'm willing to accept both sides of you, are you?"

Ellie looks down for a moment. "I don't know."

I take her hand. "Well if there's anyone in the world who can take control of her life, it's you."

She squeezes my hand.

I don't know where I'm heading or what the future has in store. It may be a long time before I can post again. It may be longer before I finally get my life back, if ever. Wish me luck.

-Alex Ross

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Getting Back

Getting Back

I've been watching the news reports all day, just like the rest of you. I've seen the hazy videos of me running out of the building, and seen Ellie in the car. Fortunately it's pretty grainy. They're still calling it an "accident" but they are launching a full investigation. The Fire Chief has called it "suspicious." The entire campus has been closed off, and parts of San Francisco have been evacuated. Listen, anyone reading this, you need to believe me when I say that I wasn't involved. I mean, I tried to stop it. I'm sorry about all of it.

I'm sure Marcia's people are out looking for me. The Chinese got rid of Ellie's car, and hopefully some evidence. They took all my clothes and forced me to wash up. I really want to get out of here, but I have no where to go. Ellie's been sleeping most of the day due to the sedatives they gave her. Around dinner time she's a little more conscious.

"Hey," she says as I come in. The attendants leave us alone.

"Hey. How are you feeling?"

She looks terrible. Her face is swollen, but she should make a complete recovery. A surgeon came in earlier to fix her head laceration a little cleaner, so there should be very little scarring.

"OK, I guess. I've been through worse. I could really use a cigarette."

I smile. "Me too."

"I'm leaving tomorrow," she announces. "I can't stay in this country any longer. Our entire operation will be jeopardized. I need to find a new role in my organization. I really screwed this one up. Alex, I'm really sorry about everything. You're a great guy, and I would have loved to try to make things work out, but you can't be mixed up with someone like me, and I can't be the kind of person you need."

I felt like protesting, arguing, doing anything to keep her around. "I hope you find what you're looking for, Ellie. I think deep inside you're a pretty good person. You've stood by me through everything, and saved my butt a ton of times, and in a lot of different ways. I hope we meet again some day. I'm going miss our times, just hanging out."

"Yeah. You're pretty special too."

I feel like crying but I hold it together. I heave a big breath. "I guess this is it, then. I'm going out there to get Carrie, and you've got a plane to catch."

"We'll always have Casablanca."

"Huh? Oh yeah." Duh. "What does he say? 'Here's looking a you, kid.'"

I squeeze her hand and kiss her cheek. She waves at me as I leave. As I leave the house, General Tam gives me keys to a car that I'm going to use, a gun, and a phone to contact him. I try to avoid him as much as possible.

Now to find Carrie.

I drive around SF for a while, just breathing and thinking. Carrie's smart. She's probably somewhere monitoring everything. She'll want to know the second that suspicious is cast in her direction. She won't be in any of her usual spots. She'll want to have access to Infinitae's data gathering prowess, which should still function even without Building Four. Somewhere with a hot internet connection.

She wanted us to drive South yesterday, but we never made it. Where was she headed? There's Stanford. She might have access to some servers there. I doubt that she'd be there.

What about the data center in Santa Clara? What ever happened to it? I know that Infinitae blocked it, but I figured that wouldn't pose much of a challenge to Carrie who wrote the blocking code. I start heading down there, no clear plan in mind. I drive for a while thinking about Ellie. I don't know how much of our time together was real, and how much she just faked. It's not like we didn't spend quality time together, and didn't make time for each other. But letting me go through that torture, it's not something I can forgive.

I stop near the warehouse. The streets seems quiet and dark. I have no idea how to get in. I'm not a spy or an infiltrator. I begin to think about how Ellie would do it. She'd probably just bust the door down. I recall that back door we exited. I scurry around back and look at it. There's no handle on this side, only a lock. I put my ear against the door. I can faintly here the roar of the servers which are apparently still running. I wonder why.

I bring the car around and line it up with the door. Slamming the gas, I back the car right into the door, and it impacts with a crunch. Hopefully the din inside will block the noise of the impact. I pull the car away which thankfully still runs. The door's frame is loose, and with some wiggling I'm able to pull it completely off, frame and all. I see some wires poking through the frame. Hopefully they're still intact and I didn't trigger an alarm. No matter.

I draw my gun and remove the safety. I have no intention of killing Carrie, unless she fires first. I head back towards the front, trying to find that office I noticed the first time. I finally spot it, but it's empty. About a dozen large monitors in the office are displaying newscasts, surveillance footage, and various readouts. I notice one that is displaying my damaged car, but it's too late

I feel the cold business end of a gun against my neck.

"Drop it or I'll drop you."

I toss my gun away.

"Put your hands on your head." She starts patting me down, and swipes my emergency cell phone, pocketing it. She begins laughing, slowly.

"Wow, Alex, you never give up. Where's you friend Elena? Too hurt to make the trip? What a shame. Move it."

She pushes me into the small office at gunpoint, and sits opposite me. "What are you doing here, Alex? Come to kill me?"

"If I have to. You've done some bad things."

Carrie shakes her head. "I didn't make anyone suffer for years. Every person I killed died with very little pain."

"So what now, Carrie? Are you going to kill me?"

She picks up my phone and studies it. "Maybe I should call the news stations. I could be a hero. I've already tied you and Ellie to this datacenter. It wouldn't be a stretch to get them to believe this is your hideout. Hero today, goat tomorrow. And I come out smelling great."

"Then what? What's your big plan? You can't go back to Infinitae. You can't expect to escape suspicion forever."

Carrie points around with her gun. "See all this? Do you know how many emails and IM's and chats and voice communications I've collected here? I've got trillions of conversations waiting to be mined. Even as we speak I'm transcribing all kinds of voice conversations. The CIA would kill for a system like this."

"Why? What's it all for?"

"God, Alex, do I really need to spell it all out for you? Think of all the corporate insider information I'd have. I'd know about every earnings miss. I'd know how senators are about to vote. I'd know what the Fed is planning. Within a few years, I'd be the richest person on the planet. I could run for office, buy a few campaigns, and who knows? I could be President. Imagine that, President Park."

"You mean White, don't you?"

She glared at me, and aim her gun in my general direction. "Shelly White is dead. That loser no longer exists. You made sure of that. Maybe I should thank you. You know, we're really not that different, you and me. Maybe that's why I liked you so much back then. I was a loser, and you were a loser, too. But guess what? I've grown up, and you're still a loser."

"We're nothing alike. You're a murderous, psychopathic bitch with delusions of grandeur. You'll never get away with any of it. They'll trace everything back to you."

"Forget it Alex, I've covered my tracks too well. They've got nothing on me. Look at this screen. I'm monitoring the entire world for any mention of my name. The moment it pops up, I can be prepared to defend myself."

"Do you even care about the people you've killed? Wasn't Benson you're professor?"

Carrie smirks at me. "Yeah, well, he wanted to go back to his wife. Poor bastard, she was terrible."

"You killed him because he wouldn't sleep with you? I don't blame him."

"Hey!" she waves the gun at me. "He had it coming. He made his choice, just like you did. Can I help it if I take these things personally?"

I shrug and look around the place. My leg starts shaking. Carrie starts studying my face. "Alex. Are you expecting someone? Oh my gosh." She looks at my phone, then begins to disassemble it. "Alex, I'm surprised at you! This phone has been transmitting this entire conversation, hasn't it. It looks like it's off, but my guess it that you've had the screen disabled. No, that's not it. Let me see. Ahh, here it is, the battery is it's own transmitter. I can take it out and it's still recording. Genius!" She smashes the whole thing with the butt of her gun, then points it at me.

I can't help but smile at her. "They'll be here in a minute. It's over, Shelly. You've confessed to everything. It's all been transmitted and...oh yeah you'll like this...posted on the internet!"

Her face grows dark. "Get up. Get up or I'll drill you."

Alarms begin sounding all around the building. On the monitors I see black cars pulling up from all directions. Then entire building is surrounded.

"Come on, move it." She pushes me ahead of her. I look back to notice that she's grabbed a device off her desk and pulls out an antenna.

"What is that, a detonator?"

"Move your ass Ross or I'll set it off now."

She pushes me through the center to the very middle. There's a metal railing leading up to the ceiling panel. "Remove the panel, and don't try anything funny. After I remove it, I see that the railing leads up to the ceiling about thirty feet up. "Climb!"

I climb up the thing, and find a hatch which I push open. In moments I'm up on the roof. I look around. Hidden from the street, I see a small gyrocopter. "Stand back," cries Carrie. I see flashing lights in every direction. She jumps into the single passenger vehicle. She pushes some buttons, and the blades begin spinning. A gyrocopter needs to be moving forward to work, unlike a helicopter, but a small motor can assist the startup. I notice that the roof of the building has been cleared out like a runway.

"Hey Alex," she shouts at me through the growing din of the gyro's motor, "too bad I scrambled your signal. The moment you stepped in, I detected your transmission. You think I can't dampen a cell signal? You've lost, Alex, and I'll make sure you get blamed for this explosion too. Goodbye."

She revs up the motor and starts taxiing right down the roof of the building. I run after her and just catch one piece of the rear wing. I hold on for dear life as I'm dragged down the roof. I can't hold on, and I roll right to the edge of the roof. I have about two seconds to jump off before the whole building explodes in a huge burst of flame behind me. I hit the ground and roll under a car as a deluge of servers and wires and cinder blocks rain down all around me. Once the debris stops falling, I start running. I spot a car where some people had stopped to look at the fire, leaving their car running. I hop into it and speed away.

Well, I'm back at Ellie's hideout now. There are videos on the web connecting me to the scene. None of my secret transmissions got through. I can't beat Carrie. She's just too smart. Her gyrocopter disappeared to who knows where, and I have no way to clear my name. Wherever you are Carrie, know that you can't escape, and I'll be chasing you.

I don't know if I'll post again.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

WTF Part Three

WTF Part Three

Fuck! Fuck!! FUUUUUUUCKKK!!!!

I start slamming the steering wheel. "FUCK! FUCK! FUCK! FUCK! AAAAAAGH!"

I am so angry I can't see straight. All this time. "How?! How the fuck did she do it?! How did she get everyone to believe as this crap?! How did she kill all those people? Fuck me ten times sideways!"

Ellie puts a weak hand on my arm as she tries not to scream in pain as I drive like a madman towards the address Ellie gave me. "She's loaded. She took that insurance settlement and made a fortune day trading. She's worth more than I am. She must have used that wealth to hire a bunch of hitmen and mercenaries. They never knew who they worked for."

"But she lives in a dump! She doesn't even fucking bathe! She drives a goddamn death trap!"

"She paid for that whole datacenter. Did you know her previous job was at a brokerage? She knew financial systems inside and out. She knew how to change my account somehow, because when I checked with the bank, they don't have any records of any transactions, and restored my balance. It was all faked."

"Aagh! What the fuck! We have to get her, Ellie. We have to make her pay for all this. I want her dead. I want to go back and kill her."

"No. We're screwed, like she said. She's a genius. I believe her when she says she's planted evidence. We've got to get out of here, once I'm patched up. She may be the only person in the world who can clear us. The only way out of this is to get her to confess, and even that may not be enough."

"Fuck!" I'm silent for a moment. Could there be a way to turn this around? "Do you have a phone?"

Ellie points at her purse on the floor. I fumble around and retrieve it. I dial up a number.

"Elena?" says the voice on the other end.

"No it's me. Do not believe any of it. I had nothing to do with it. I tried to stop her."

"Alex," says Marcia on the other line. "You have to come in. You can't fight this one. We'll protect you."

"Ellie's been badly hurt," I tell her. Besides, I know that even Marcia can't hold off the people who would want my head. "I'm going to get her treatment. Listen. It's Carrie Park. She's the mastermind behind all of this. She hired the men at the cabin, and she blew up Infinitae. You have to believe me."

"Sure, Alex. I believe you. Just let me know where you are and we'll make sure Ellie is taken care of."

"Carrie Park," I say one more time, and then hang up. I flip the phone out the window. I know Marcia won't believe me, but I have a plan, and she's a key piece of it. It's a long shot, because Carrie's not stupid. But I am. And maybe I can use that to my advantage.

I don't have much time to think about that. We arrive at a gated residence. I push the button on the intercom.

"Who's there," demands a heavily accented voice.

"It's Alex Ross and Elena Galistina. She's been badly hurt. Please, she needs help."

The let me in and I pull up to the door. I'm instantly surrounded by men with guns, all shouting at me. I put my hands out the window. They literally drag me out the window and press me down on the ground, their knees in my back. I see under the car that they've brought a stretcher out for Ellie. I think she's passed out because she's not moving or making a sound, but they check her pulse and eyes and don't seem too concerned.

After they carry her inside, they drag me to a small room and throw me in there with only a bottle of water and some cold rice. I collapse in the corner.

After a while the door opens, and General Tam walks in.

"I'll tell you everything," I shout. "Just don't bring that thing in again."

"Ssh, shh, it's okay, Mr. Ross. I apologize profusely over my indiscreet use of that terrible device. I promise you I will never use it's kind again. I'm not here to question you. I simply need to find out what happened."

I fill him in on the details. He makes notes in Chinese in a small black book. "How's Ellie," I ask him.

"She lost a lot of blood, but the fracture in her leg is clean and won't require surgery. She's resting comfortably. She wants you to get some rest."

"What's going on? What are people saying about the explosion?"

"They're saying it's a natural gas leak. An employee ran in to warn people and barely made it out alive. Fortunately no one died."

I breathe a sigh of relief. They're sure to find the detonator and explosives at some point. Maybe Carrie lined a gas line with explosives to make it look like an accident. Or maybe Tam is lying through his teeth. He leaves me after a cot is brought in. I try to sleep, but I toss and turn, replaying the last month's events over and over in my head.

Carrie just knows me so well. She knows exactly what buttons to push, and how to string me along. I had thought god was playing a trick on me, but the answer was much more mundane. She must have prepared this for months. She must have discovered Ellie's secret.

Early in the morning, Ellie calls for me. She lies in bed with an IV, a large bandage wrapped around her head, and her leg in a cast. This cast I know is real. I hold her hand and she squeezes it.

"I must be a mess," she says.

"You're not so bad. I'd still choose you over half the women in this house." I wink.

She smiles wanly. "Things will work out. We'll find a way to clear your name."

"Tam says the TV is calling me a hero, but I don't believe that. It's only a matter of time before they find the stuff Carrie planted."

"We think we may know where she's hiding out. She's good, but everyone leaves a trail of some sort."

"I want to deal with her. I may need your team's help, but I want to get her to clear my name."

"You want to trap her?"

"Not exactly." I explain my plan to her. Ellie nods.

"We'll set it up for Thursday night."

I'm still going to have to leave the country. Things will get ugly. But not as ugly at they're going to get for Carrie.

WTF Part Two

WTF Part Two

I'm in a building wired to blow up. I've got a minute to get out before it all blows up. I run down the stairs like a madman and out the emergency door. I'm about twenty yards from the building when I'm thrown off my feet in a terrific blast. I feel sharp pains as debris slams into my back. I'm tossed probably another thirty yards away. After rolling on the ground, I look back. Smoke is pouring from the bottom of Building Four. I see one edge of the building sag, and then the whole thing collapses in a huge cloud of dust and noise. I put my shirt over my mouth so I can breathe, and start running away as fast as I can. I don't look back.

All around me I see ambulances and police and firetrucks lumbering to the scene. A large black SUV stops in front of me. The passenger door opens.

"Get in!" cries Ellie behind the wheel. I flop in and she takes off before I can get the door closed. I try to catch my breath.

"You okay," she asks, glancing at me. "Try to hold it together."

I'm still coughing and choking from the dust and exertion. We get about two or three blocks when another car slams into the driver's side of the SUV. We're tossed around the cabin like rag dolls. "Ellie!" I tweak out.

Ellie is very still, her head lying on my lap. I can't even tell if she's alive. A figure emerges from the other car and comes to my side. My door is wrenched open and I'm looking down the barrel of a gun. It's Carrie. She doesn't have a crutch or a leg boot. She's not limping. What??

"Give me her fucking gun. Now! Really easy. I just blew up a building, and you'll be next if you don't cooperate."

Ellie moans a little. Thank god she's alive! She has a nasty cut on her head, and her leg doesn't look right. I find her holster and pick out her gun. I toss it out to Carrie.

"Good. Now tie her hands behind her back." She throws me some quick ties.

"Carrie, come on, she's unconscious."

She comes closer. "Do it, Ross. Or I will take you both out right now. Move!"

I try to move Ellie off me and she howls in pain. I reach behind her and push her hands together and bind them with the ties. I hope Ellie knows how to get out of this.

"Tighter! Good. Now get her into your seat, you get in hers."

There are no words to really describe getting Ellie over. Her lower left leg hangs limply, her head is gushing, and she is barely conscious of anything but her extreme pain. She screams as I try to move her, but there's not much I can do. I jump back into the driver's seat.

Carrie jumps in the back. These SUV's are great, you can beat them up and they just drive away. "Drive."


"Just move it! Head South."

Ellie begins moaning as the car starts jerking around. "Alex," she says weakly.

"Shut her up," screams Carrie.

Ellie struggles against her bonds. "It's Carrie," I tell her. "She has a gun."

Ellie just moans in pain.

We drive South for a bit. I'm starting to piece everything together. There's no plot. There's no fingerprinting. There's no Building Four, and there never was. But why?

"I don't get it Carrie," I say finally. "What the hell was all that about? Do you just like blowing up buildings?"

"Shut up, fuck head. You should know. You are so stupid. You and everyone around you. You think you own the fucking world. Well I've had it. I've been waiting a long time for this."

Ellie cries out loudly as we hit a bump.

"Will you shut her up?" Carrie reaches out to knock her gun against Ellie's head and I just snap. I jump out of my seat and go for the gun. I don't give a flying fuck what happens anymore. You can only push a man so far, and this is it. We struggle for the gun and it goes off. The sound is deafening, right next to my head in a closed space. But the recoil startles Carrie and I wrestle the gun away.

"Shoot her," says Ellie quietly, somewhat cognizant of the circumstances. Instead I toss the gun out of my broken window. I turn around quickly, as the car is headed right off the road. I correct it quickly and slam on the brakes. Meanwhile Carrie still has Ellie's gun which I had forgotten about. Fortunately it's a imported model and she can't figure out the lock quick enough and I snatch it away from her. I don't throw it away.

Carrie bolts for the door. I jump out my broken window and chase her. She may be light and speedy but she's been in a fake cast for almost a month. Her leg has atrophied and I catch her and push her to the ground. She struggles but I slam that bitch right in the face.

"Fuck you Carrie! I'm going to fucking mess you the fuck up!"

"Alex! Stop," cries Ellie. Those words stop me from doing something unthinkable.

She's leaning out of the car. I drag Carrie pretty much by the hair as she bleeds from the mouth. She struggles but I hold on firmly.

"I've got a knife in my back. Cut me loose," she asks. "Then we can deal with her."

I throw Carrie on the ground. I gentle reach around Ellie, under her shirt. Taped to her back I can feel the hard edge of the knife. I quickly release her, and she immediately feels her head and her leg. "I'm going to need help soon, Alex, but first we need to deal with her. Alex, there's something you need to know. Something about Carrie. Do you want to tell him?"

Carrie looks up at me with pure hate in her eyes. "No."

"Ok then. Ow. God this hurts. You see, I did some digging on her. Turns out Carrie Park died almost ten years ago."

"I heard that. It's a weird coincidence." Shit. Of course it's not.

"There is no other Carrie Park. At least not one anywhere near her age."

"So she's not Carrie Park. Then..."

"She's Shelly White."

Wham! "Oh my!" I look at Carrie. She can't be! She doesn't look like Shelly...but...

"Fuck you, Alex," says Carrie. "You didn't remember me, did you, you don't even remember what you did to me! Do you remember now! You stupid fuck! Look at me! Look what you've done to me!"

Shelly White. We used to call her "Smelly Shelly." I know it was cruel and juvenile. But she never bathed, and always had an odor about her. We teased her mercilessly. But she was big, like 250 pounds big. Could this be Shelly? It seems impossible.

The memories all come rushing back to me. I remember that day as if it were yesterday. Shelly and I had been thrust together on an assignment. It wasn't so bad, she was definitely smart and I knew I'd get a good grade. But then she started giving me little gifts, sending me poems. I didn't want to hurt her feelings, but she seemed pretty fragile. That day someone discovered she had been sending me these poems, and it was on. They posted it around school, they put it on the net, it was humiliating. I protested but not that strongly, I mean I wanted her to back off. I caught sight of her later that day crying. I didn't feel so good.

You'd think that was bad enough. After school, a buddy and I are waiting at a light, we're looking at racing for a block or so. The light turns green, and out of nowhere this car cuts us off. We almost collide. My buddy talks to me through the window. "Isn't that Shelly White? Do you want to teach her a lesson? Let's get her!"

We start after her. He starts blaring his horn at her. It must have frightened her, because she takes off. We're going down the street, 70, 80, 90, then I back off. But my buddy keeps chasing her. She tries to take a corner, the car flips, and she's thrown from the car.

There are witnesses, and soon we're all arrested. Shelly's on life support basically. My dad gets them to give me a year at a work camp instead of basic juvenile detention. Shelly collects millions in the settlement. The other guy goes to jail, since they consider him the instigator. My life is ruined, though. With that work camp on my record, I can't go to college. Instead I go to a technical school. I never heard from Shelly again...until now.

"Carrie, Shelly, I--"

I began thinking about everything that's happened. The Hit List. The attacks on Ellie and the cabin. The secret datacenter. Building Four. The explosion.

Ellie speaks up weakly. "Tell him, Carrie. Tell him what you've done."

Carrie crawls to her feet with a smirk on her face. I just can see her as Shelly. The thought makes my skin crawl. But when I look at her, I see Shelly's eyes.

"God, Alex, you must be the stupidest person in whole fucking world. Look at you two. Chasing leads around like dogs. You believed every fucking thing I told you."

"Why? Why did you do it? Did you want me? Did you want me dead?"

"No, Alex. Well, I mean after that horrible excuse for fucking, I certainly didn't want you. Jesus, Ellie, how did you ever put up with that? I figure a slut like you could get any man in town. What the hell are you doing with this loser?"

"So you want me dead? Is that what this is about?"

"Hell no, Alex. I want you alive. The bastard that chased me, well...he's dead."

Shit! I remember now that Larry died in some kind of accident. Well I guess it wasn't an accident now. I hear some sirens in the distance.

"We gotta go," says Ellie. "Someone must have called us in."

"Wait. Carrie, so what do you want from me? What the fuck are you doing this for?"

Carrie scowls at me. "You don't understand what I went through. My entire face had to be reconstructed. I lost my spleen, half my intestines, and now I can never have children. Why do you think I'm so thin now? I laid in that hospital for years, with nothing to do but study and figure out how I'd ruin your life as much as you've ruined mine."

"Well congratulations. But when they find out you were behind everything, you'll be put to death."

Carrie laughs at that. I see a worrisome triumph in her eyes. "No, Alex. What made you think to go into Building Four? Was it the sketches I had deliberately leaked out? Where some monster experiment was about to start? Well it worked out great, because right now on every major video site there's a video of you running out right before the explosion. And then it shows you getting in the car with Ellie. Don't worry, Alex, there's plenty of evidence on you at your apartment, on your old work computer, and of course, on your precious blog where you mention blowing up Building Four. And Ellie, I hope you like what I did with your old laptop and your account. You sure saved me a lot of money. You two are so screwed."

The sirens grow louder.

"Alex, we have to go!"

"What about her," I ask Ellie. "Should I just fucking shoot her?"

"No, we'll get to her eventually. She can't hide from us. Trust me, you don't want her blood on your hands."

I can now see the flashing lights half a mile away. Carrie's waving at me. "This isn't over," I shout at her as I scramble back into the driver's seat. I floor it an we take off, leaving Carrie in the dust.

WTF Part One

WTF... Part One

Oh god, where to begin. I'm sure you've heard all about it by now. Maybe some of you readers are looking for me. Well, good luck. I've got to leave the country, that's how bad things have gotten. Don't bother looking for me at airports or piers. I'm going to disappear and there's nothing you can do to find me.

Well like most things in this blog, it starts with a phone call. From Carrie. I don't know why I answer it. I want to change numbers, change locks, whatever it takes to get away from her. I listen to my cell phone chiming and look at her image on the screen. I want to beat on it. Every contact I have with her turns to shit. I pick it up, thinking that I'm finally going to tell her off.

"What," I say brusquely.

"It's on, Alex, the machine, it's on. They're beginning to test it out. Tomorrow it goes live. I, I, I'm going to stop it. I just thought someone should know. I know things have been a little strange between us, but I want you to know what I'm doing."

I so want to hang up right now. I should have. I could have salvaged my pathetic life if I had just thrown away the phone right at that moment. I dangle my thumb over the disconnect button. But once again, I put the phone back to my ear.

"What the hell are you talking about, Carrie? You're going to stop it?"

"Yeah, it's all set. I can't talk on the phone right now. Meet me at the corner of Balboa and La Playa, and I'll tell you everything. Hurry, we don't have much time." I hear the phone disconnect.

I slam my fist on my thigh. Dammit. What the hell is Carrie up to? She's really unstable. Then I remember something she said. She wants to blow up Building Four. I didn't take her seriously. Could she be capable of something like that? God I hope not.

I reluctantly get in my car and drive the couple miles over to Infinitae, and park near where Carrie mentioned. I consider calling Ellie and letting her know that something's up, but I can't bring myself to do that. I just need to deal with Carrie once and for all. If I can't do it on the phone, then I'll do it in person.

I spot her standing on the corner with her laptop backpack and a single crutch. It looks like her cast has been replaced with a boot. She somehow looks better than I've seen her in a while, cleaned up, and a bit of a glow about her. She smiles at me when I approach. I'm not quite buying it, but she looks a little saner right now.

"Hey, Alex," she greets me almost jovially. A couple blocks behind her looms Building Four. She reaches out and takes my hand. I try to pull it back but she's insistent. She leads me into a nearby apartment building and into a vacant room, save for a chair and a desk. The window looks out on B4. She unpacks her laptop and plugs it into a large monitor sitting on the desk.

"I'm glad you're here, Alex. I wouldn't want you to miss the festivities." She smirks at me. I get a chill down my spine.

"Carrie, what's going on? I want to know what the hell you're doing."

"Tsk. Geez Alex, you'll spoil the surprise."

I watch as she brings up some screens on the monitor.

"Here we go," she says. "All I have to do is press this key and it's done."

"Carrie, what the fuck are you doing?"

"Say goodbye to Building Four." She presses the button.

I look outside but the building is still standing. Carrie laughs deliriously. "Oh my god. You really thought I was blowing up the building! What do you think I am?"

"Then what was that?"

Carrie grins at me triumphantly. "It's a timer, silly. Building Four goes down in...14 minutes 48 seconds. Don't even think about messing with this laptop, the timer can only be stopped from inside the building."

She shows me a live image of the timer, ticking away somewhere under the building.

"Carrie! What the hell have you done! You fucking crazy idiot!"

"Hey, fuck you, Ross! You didn't the fucking balls to do shit about this, did you? You could even get your Chinese whore to investigate. Your such a fucking loser, and you're gonna finally get what's coming to you."

I try to leave but she blocks the door. "Get out of my way."

"Or what? Pussy! What the fuck are you going to do?"

I pick her up and throw her into the desk, sending the computer equipment flying and crashing on the floor. Does she even know the hell I've been through lately? She lands heavily and screams. Not in pain, but in anger. It looks like she's going to rush me, but then she begins laughing.

"Oh Alex, you poor little piece of shit. Now you want to go save the world? Go on, run over there. You'll never disarm it. You don't have the fucking brainpower. Asshole."

I run out the door, grabbing my phone. Thank God I have Ellie's new number on me. I dial it as I run towards Building Four. I have no idea what I'm going to do. It rings and rings, not even going to voice mail. I'm already halfway to the building when she picks up.


"Ellie! Carrie's gone nuts! She wired Building Four with explosives, and it's going to blow in about 13 minutes. We've got to stop it. I'm heading there now."

"Alex! Don't! I'll be there in a minute! I have something to tell you about Carrie, something I just discovered. She's not who--"

I trip on a curb, and my phone goes flying right out into the street where a semi crushes it, all 18 wheels it seems. "Shiiit!!!" I scream. It's now in tiny little pieces, way beyond repair.

I race down the street oblivious to the pain in my skinned knee and elbows. As usual, Building Four is locked up as tight as a drum. I jump over to Building Three next door where there's a reception area. I run up to her.

"There's a bomb in Building Four. You need to evacuate immediately."

I must be a great sight, panting and sweating, blood dripping from my torn shirt and pants. She sort of just stares at me blankly.

I start screaming. "There's a fucking bombing about to go off! Now!" I spot a fire alarm on the wall and I go and pull it. She jumps on the phone and calls someone. I run back outside. In a few moments, I see some red lights start flashing on Building Four, and a siren begins to wail. In moments, I spot a door opening. I sprint over to it and push my way past people emerging from the building. God, why didn't I think of this before?

I'm finally in Building Four. I know I have only ten minutes or so, but I have to see it. I have to see the machine behind all this drama. I run up the stairs to the fourth floor and get in when someone opens the door to evacuate. I see plenty of servers humming away. I walk all around, up and down halls, ignoring the calls to evacuate. There's nothing but servers. I try the third floor. Exactly the same. There's nothing in Building Four. All this time, and it's exactly what everyone says it was. No secret labs, no secret projects, no secret teams of developers. No fingerprinting machine. Just regular servers, providing people with useful online communities. Nothing more.

I remember the bomb. I think it's in the garage. This place is about to blow. I've got to get out of here. Shit shit shit shit shit