The Pavilion mall escalators descended to lower levels of the mall, parking basements and the food court. Xin lead Chris to Al-Amar, a Middle Eastern restaurant at far end of the food court. The partitioned sections gave them the privacy they needed.
“OK boy genius, what do we do? What the hell is this message you’re talking about?” said Xin, now in a mix of panic and anger.
“The last slide that Raj emailed me, it is a Turing machine. The very first theoretical concept of a computing machine.”
“And how does that explain the creep after us?”
“I don’t know. I need to look at it again.” Chris pulled up his Macbook from the envelope sleeve and popped open the slide deck. “It needs some sort of input, some series of letters”, moving his finger around the diagram.
“Why don’t you just call him?”, with one eye on the entrance to the food court.
“Wait, yes the text message. I knew something wasn’t right about it.” Chris pulled up the text message on his iPhone, reading it again.
‘i CracKed the Code. SeCret is in The SPACE. run for your life. Trust no one’
“What does it have to do with the…”, Chris gasped with the sudden realization, “unless…”
“Unless what?”, clearly looking frustrated and uneasy.
“Unless it’s the input… see here” pointing at the series of capitalized letters, “people don’t text like that”
Chris quickly took out his pen and started scribbling on the restaurant napkin, the series of letters came out to be
“This still doesn’t make any sense” said Xin, almost ready to walk out.
“Just give me 2 minutes” moving his finger against the laptop’s screen.
“2001:db8:0:1”, said Chris, still scratching his head.
‘What is that, a bank account in Zurich which you can’t remember?’ sarcastically, referring to a recent spy movie.
Chris looked back at Xin, clearly not amused by the comment. “I think it’s a location, a virtual location”
“Where you find the great mystery of “The SPACE” I presume” now having made her mind to get on her way. “This is bullshit! I am going to the police and tell them everything.” She walked out of the restaurant.
Chris was still stuck in thought, trying to figure out what the numbers meant. It took him a few seconds before he realized Xin had actually gone. He tried to find her in the crowd, shifting his gaze from corner to corner. No luck. It was a Saturday night and felt like the entire city was eating out, shopping or partying. The restaurants were packed. People were waiting outside to get tables. Music playing in the mall set a festive ambiance. Interestingly enough, every restaurant proudly bore the address to a facebook page next to their name.
“It wasn’t like this some years ago, the social networking boom has captured everyone” he thought to himself, distracted by his curiosity of how online social networks had evolved. It was this curiosity that drove his research for the past several years. “Everyone now has a facebook page…” he stopped midway with a sudden realization.
‘Facebook page. Web address. IP address …holy shit!’
Chris ran to find Xin, realizing that Raj cleverly encrypted an IP address in the text message. The extra slide in the presentation acted as a decrypter. As he ran towards the escalator to move up to the ground level, two men seized him from behind. One of them shoved a pistol into his rib cage and motioned Chris to submit. A strong blow hit Chris on his stomach as he tried to resist.
“Oh God, these are the same men who came after me in the auditorium” he thought to himself.
Not being able to contain himself he started shouting at them, “What do you want? Why are you after me?”
“You should keep your mouth shut if you want to live” the man shouted back, punching Chris again in his ribs, rendering him breathless and unable to speak.
There were people inside when the explosives went off, civilians, Americans… does that mean anything to you at all!
Collateral damage, every war has its fair share of it
You disgust me! We have no right to decide who gets sacrificed to save lives of others
We couldn’t have known. The plan was to evacuate the facility first. The first explosion was designed to do exactly that. Everyone would have fled in fear if the explosive went off in time.
But it didn’t, and the second one killed everyone inside. 38 people died that night, all because your plan was flawed General!
Don’t accuse me Durus! For all I know you wanted them to die. You wanted the first explosive to fail. I know how much you hate them. Unless you want to end up in solitary confinement, which you can bet your worthless ass you will! Get yourself together soldier and leave this behind. It was a covert op and no one needs to know. Revolution feeds on sacrifice
“Revolution feeds on sacrifice”. The words kept echoing in his mind. The sudden turbulence woke Durus from his dream, his nightmare.
‘Sir, seems like we’ve run into some pockets of low air pressure, nothing to worry about. We should be landing in Kuala Lumpur shortly’ updated the Captain
Out the plane’s window, Durus could see the bustling city glow in the night beneath him. Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes, ‘John, we’re almost there. Destiny awaits’
The two men escorted Chris to an SUV parked by the curb. Even though passing by people could clearly see that he was being taken against his will, nobody seemed to be surprised. Apparently many international criminals had been caught over the years in this city by secret agencies. The suited men and the black SUV could not be mistaken for anything else.
One of the men opened the rear door of the car and hurled Chris inside. Still unable to muster the strength to talk, he submitted himself to the suited stranger.
‘Just sit tight mister Noman, this won’t hurt a bit’ as he stabbed Chris with a large needle. Chris kicked and screamed but to no avail. He started feeling a numbness creeping up inside him, slowly taking over. The door closed behind him. The engine roared to a start.
What is this drug? What is happening to me? Chris tried to knock himself out of his trance. He could barely move now. His head tilted sideways, looking out the heavily tinted glass windows of the SUV. As blackness gradually enveloped his vision, he saw a bright light in the distance. He was moving toward it at a furious speed.
Is this how it ends?
Sirens of police cars broke Chris Noman’s daze. He was sitting inside a rather small car. Jia Xin was driving, rather violently. Chris Noman could feel the car speeding and zig zagging through traffic as his weight shifted from one side of the seat to the other, only held in place by the flimsy seatbelt of the car.
‘Your friend Raj, he’s dead’ replied Jia Xin. ‘The report said he was murdered. His apartment was torched. I think these agents are connected to your friend’s murder. I came back to get you’.
‘Wha… Raj… dead…’ even in his drugged state, he could still pain in his heart hearing this news.
‘Also, there is something I need to tell you about myself, why I came back for you’
Few minutes ago, as the agents were opening the front doors of the car, a Toyota Prius slammed into the driver side of the SUV. The impact swirled both cars on to the pavement. The agents were knocked unconscious. Jia Xin kicked the door open of the SUV and dragged Chris Noman to her Prius. Someone had tipped off the police and sirens of police cars could be heard in the distance.
A Macbook and a scribbled restaurant napkin lay on the dashboard of the wrecked SUV.
‘Sir, he got away’ said the agent, holding his head trying to figure out what just happened. ‘The woman came back and hit us. She took him with her. She was driving a silver Toyota Prius’
‘Goddammit! There are hundreds of Prius’ in this city, how the hell are we going to find them!’ barked George Mason, standing outside Kuala Lumpur police station.
‘We have his laptop. He was also carrying a note, scribbled with some code’
‘Then what are you waiting for! Read it to me already. We don’t got much time!’
2001:db8:0:1 well well well, I underestimated the simplicity of your plan Mr. Noman. How ingenious.
‘Where is the closest public government library?’ asked George Mason
‘The National Science Center Library is a 20 minute drive east of here’
‘I think that’s where they’re headed. Take the laptop to HQ. Will meet you there once I am done with our friend’
The Prius was parked at a gas station. Jia Xin had brought some water and pain killers for Chris Noman. His head was pounding against his skull. The recent news of Raj’s death mixed with the venom of whatever the agent injected in his head triggered an explosion inside his brain. It took 4 painkillers and 10 minutes before he could think straight again.
‘Need to go to National Science Center, know where it is?’ mumbled Chris Noman.
‘I know where it is, but why the Science Center?’ Jia Xin, puzzled.
‘The code we found from the slides, it’s an IP address. A unique type of IP address only used by government networks, the military and CIA’ taking in a deep breath, ‘this special location can only be accessed from a computer connected to such a network. I know that the main terminal at the science center is connected to the government network. That is where we can access this coded location and find the truth behind all this madness’
After 15 minutes, Chris Noman and Jia Xin were at the entrance of the National Science Center. The structure was designed as a large alien spacecraft. The main console was on the 5th floor at the end of the hall. Chris Noman had been a regular here, visiting the library every time he came to the city. The management had invited him many times to give seminars on “Social patterns” and “Collective conscious”. He even had a VIP pass that let him access the main console of the library.
Chris Noman sat in front of the console and motioned Jia Xin to pull up a chair. The console came to life and in a couple of seconds the screen filled up with scrolling text, jumbles of words and symbols. The white and yellow text kept scrolling up against the black background. Chris Noman was mesmerized by the glowing symbols, as if he had discovered the DNA of the collective conscious.
‘Brilliant Raj, simply brilliant’ Chris Noman now turned towards Jia Xin, ‘He saved his work hidden on a top secret government server. He knew no one would look for it there.’
Chris Noman browsed through the contents of the folder, keyed something in and a prompt showed up which read “Enter The Date”. ‘Funny, normally someone would put in a password protection’ he said. He typed in the current date 09/23/2011. The computer rejected the date.
‘Seems like date is the password’ exclaimed Jia Xin, ‘Any special date that Raj talked about?’ she continued
‘Nothing in particular, he did however overuse the phrase “time to change the world” but that’s figurative speech’
‘What was the most significant date common to both of you in recent past?’
‘Well we’ve been talking about the release of our next social aggregation platform, let me try that’ he punched in the date 03/15/2012. Nothing happened.
‘“2012” isn’t that the year scientists of yesteryear predicted the world would end?’
‘The apocalypse, when the earth collides with a black hole. The date predicted is December 21, 2012’ he tried keying in 12/21/2012. The screen went blank. ‘But this can’t be it, it’s too obvious.’
Chris Noman was right. It wasn’t the date. The screen came back with the same dreadful prompt “Enter The Date”. The cursor blinked as if it was mocking Chris for his lack of intelligence to solve the puzzle.
Think Chris think. What am I missing? I need to trace my steps. The text message said, “CracKed the Code. SeCret is in The SPACE. run for your life. Trust no one”. Can’t think of a date with that. The extra slide. The diagram of a Turing machine. The text message and the Turing machine. Turing… Alan Turing… Shit!
‘Can you Google “Alan Turing Year”’ pointing to Jia Xin’s phone.
‘Who is this Alan Turing anyway?’ moving her fingers on the QWERTY keypad of her Blackberry
‘Alan Turing was the father of computing, computer science, artificial intelligence. He acted as a code breaker in World War II. If my memory serves me right, 2012 is also the year of Alan Turing.’
Chris Noman could see the phones screen refresh and with it the expression on Jia Xin’s face. ‘You are right, the year 2012 is the Alan Turing Year, a century after his birth on…’ she paused. ‘Key in 06/23/2012’
Chris Noman did as directed. The screen flashed and then filled up with a list of what seemed like dozens of files. From first looks, they looked like video logs of Rajesh’s work.
Chris Noman executed the first video log labeled “August 2010”. Here we go.