Round Robin

Part 25

by Maureen (mobrien at

Moriarty knew something about cracking computers. Inspector Lestrade had once been expert at it. Watson was a compudroid and could sort through data a million times faster than any human; he was more at home on the Net than in Baker Street. But, though all of them were good at finding things or taking them apart, none of them made anything new. They were crackers or players. In the computer world, that just made them users at best.

Tennyson, on the other hand, was a hacker in the old, honorable sense of the word -- a programmer who knew code better than the back of his hand. He'd never write twenty kludged lines where a single elegant one would do. More than that, he was a wizard at it, constantly coming up with new programs that were not only beautiful but actually useful.

Tennyson was a handle well-known in certain circles. You found it in the credits of at least three bestselling programs and in the comment lines of the leading open source projects. His address had once been associated with another handle, all but forgotten because of the rightness of the one he'd been given. He was the Poet Laureate of code.

When Beth Lestrade met him, she'd assumed it was a name taken in bravado -- another punk kid calling himself by his better's name, like saying he was Jesus or Kibo. He hadn't bothered telling her otherwise; she'd find out eventually. He'd been able to tell when she did by the respect in her eyes.

Tennyson mouthed subvocal commands; the microphone installed in his throat picked them up. Nobody had asked him to agree not to call the police. Without touching his keyboard, he made wireless contact with Watson. Watson's formidable firewalls parted to let him through. No, Watson replied, his voice coming through the tiny bone-induction headphones stuck behind Tennyson's ears. He still hadn't been able to get through to New Scotland Yard. Someone was still jamming the normal communications frequencies, and of course the wires were still cut.

Tennyson smiled behind his scarf. The Dragon Lady, like most management types, obviously knew very little about how her equipment worked. Watson didn't have to transmit on those blocked frequencies; his communications package was capable of far more. From there on, it would be easy to reach devices that did use those frequencies. Most people didn't know that, under the right conditions, you could use a remote-controlled toaster to send email. He coded a quick and dirty mod for Watson's com-link, hunted up his old toaster email program, and sent them both to Watson with his compliments.

Tennyson looked up. Things weren't going well for Lestrade. Watson's message came back. Backup was still coming, but it was being held up by an ambush laid by more of the Dragon Lady's hirelings. When some of Moriarty's people had run into the melee while trying to come to their master's aid, it had turned into a giant three-way firefight between cruisers, armed hovercars and armored lorries. Greyson had no idea when they'd get through.

On to Plan B, then. Maybe he'd promised not to interfere with the fight, but he certainly hadn't promised not to interfere with anyone else. Behind the mask, Tennyson's expression was grim.

Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards.

Wiggins watched the fight anxiously. Okay, so he was a boxer and didn't know this game, but he could tell that Inspector Lestrade was hurting. She could do better than this. She was letting this Dragon Lady spook her -- falling into old patterns and forgetting to focus. The Dragon Lady's men were cheering. Things didn't look good for the home team.

But the Inspector was stubborn as a pig. Now, that could be good, if stubborn was all the sitch needed. But she'd started out wrong this time, and she was too pigheaded to think about changing tactics. That was the real problem.

He could see it all so clearly; why couldn't she? He was beginning to understand why his boxing coach looked so frustrated during matches. "Fight like you practice!" he yelled, just like Coach.

He thought maybe the Inspector'd heard him, because suddenly her stance was a little bit sharper. The Dragon Lady'd trained her, sure, but that was a long time ago. He bet the Inspector'd picked up a lot more stuff since then, 'cause a good fighter never stopped taking classes and learning. Now it looked like she was remembering that.

Wiggins smiled. Time for her to show that old dog some new tricks.

On to Part 26!

Back to part 24.

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