Carrie and I drive down to Santa Clara. After a few minutes, Carrie speaks up.
"How are you holding up? You're being real quiet. Still fretting over Ellie?"
I just shake my head. "I keep going over and over it in my head. I've hung out with other female friends before. And I don't think you're especially threatening."
"What? You say I don't have something to offer a man?"
I catch my next words just in time. "Um, no, I mean you're not a pouty supermodel type."
"Oh, so I'm not all sexy with this wonderful cast and the fact I haven't been able to properly bathe since I've had it?"
"Yes, you're an angel from heaven."
"Thank you. Just...I know it's really hard for you right now. I know things feel black and you maybe think you're a failure. But if she isn't even willing to listen to you and give you a chance, then that's her loss."
"Yeah, I guess." I know she's just trying to cheer me but it's just too soon.
We drive in silence as Carrie works something on her IPhone. As we get closer, she calls out directions, and guides me over to a street near the warehouse. I grab her crutches and help her out.
"I hope we don't have to do any running," I tell her. "Let's try not to get blown up this time."
We creep around the corner of the deserted street. No one is in sight. We tiptoe along the chain-link fence and then through an unlocked gate. We can't see any guards. Slowly we approach the door, looking all around. Carrie gestures and I spot a camera. It doesn't seem to be looking in our direction. We finally stand at the door.
"Huh," says Carrie. "All I see is a card reader."
"Damn. I guess we'll have to break in. See any bricks around?"
"What is wrong with you men? You're thinking with the wrong part of your body. Try your brain. Remember that you have some kind of secret access? Try your card."
"Right. Why would my card work out here? We don't even know--"
Of course my card works and we head the clang of the bolts releasing. We slip through the door and close it softly behind us. It relatches with a solid clack. We just see empty hallways and offices. We head down the hall in front of us until we reach another door. I hear a whooshing and buzzing sound from the other side of the door. I try the door and it is unlocked.
Inside we find a vast space filled with racks and racks of servers and network devices. Cables fly everywhere through the room like mini superhighways. I notice a man sitting at a console in one corner, most likely a network operations guy. He spots us and nods.
Carrie pushes me in that direction. It's hard to hear in the din of the room, and I feel a cool breeze as air conditioners pump megawatts of heat out of the building.
"Hey," says the guy. "Haven't seen you in here before."
I try to come up with something to say.
"We're doing a spot inspection," says Carrie in her imperial know-it-all voice. "We're going to be pulling random machines off the racks and checking them out. Can you pull up your service map?"
The man shook his head. "Lady, pull away, but I don't have a clue as to which machines do what. They're all black boxes to me. I just plug 'em in or turn them off. You could burn this place down and my console wouldn't even beep. All the live monitoring is somewhere else, and they just page me when they want something. Most days I just sit here and I don't lift a finger."
Carrie leads me around the warehouse, examining all the racks. Every machine looks identical, with no markings or decals except the rack and slot number. She grabs one at random and plugs her laptop in.
After a minute she shakes her head. "Nothing. This machine doesn't respond to any standard protocols. It's running some kind of load generation program I've never seen before. It's like a Denial of Service attack bot, but instead of attacking, it's simulating a service, but in an extremely sophisticated way. It's also able to simulate thousands of computers at the same time."
"How did the fingerprinting find these machines then?"
"I'll explain later. Basically this machine can simulate many machines, but it can't be other machines."
Carrie takes the machine off the rack and turns it off. She simply yanks the hard drives out of the front of the machine, marks them, and hands them to me to put into a duffel I had brought.
She picks out about 5 more machines. My duffel is really getting heavy.
Suddenly she grabs my collar and yanks, pulling me down. "We have company."
Two men in suits are talking to the tech. He points in our general direction. The men nod and start walking though the servers, searching for something.
"Shit," I whisper. "They're on to us. We've got to get out of here."
Carrie looks around. She pulls me along the back wall, dragging her crutches as we crawl along the riser. We get to the back, up against the diesel emergency generators.
"How well do you see in the dark," she asks.
"Well visualize the path out of her. There's a fire escape right there. We'll have about 10 seconds to get through before the generators kick in."
Carrie looks around the generators. She finds some rack rails lying nearby. "Ready?"
She takes a few of the pieces, and throws them up into the main wiring of the building. They clang around for a couple seconds, and the men start shouting at us. One of the rails must have hit paydirt, because it erupted into brilliant arcing and buzzing, and intense blue light.
All the lights in the warehouse and every server stops. Smoke pours from the location where the rail landed. "Let's go," whispers Carrie.
She grabs her crutches and I grab her, half carrying her. I hear a screeching sound as the starters for the generators engage. In the dim glow of the melted metal we find the emergency exit and pass through in a flash. I must admit when I handed Carrie her crutches she made great time back to the car, without any sign of pursuit. She may be small, but she's made of some tough material.
"Wow," she says as we speed away. "That was a rush. Bam! I didn't think that would even work. I just saw the 'High Voltage' sign and went for it. Whew! God, I'm covered in sweat and my foot is throbbing like a mofo but whew!" She clutches my pant leg and shakes it.
"That was kinda fun," I admit. "Took my mind off things for a minute."
Now I'm back at Carrie's place. She's starting to work on the disks we stole. I hope we find out something, because we've been lucky a few times now, and I don't think it will last.
One of these days they're going to catch us in the act.