"Waiting for Someone"
By Richard Green aka Mainframe
of the "Geek Out! with Mainframe" podcast at http://gowmainframe.blogspot.com/
Originally published July 29, 2010 in the "Every Photo Tells" podcast, episode 27
It was a dark and stormy night in the windy city. At a corner booth of Joe's Diner, Mabel was wiping away tears.
She had just finished her fourth cup of coffee. Sam was late; too late. She was the kind of girl with the face of an angel with the curves to match. There weren't many reasons why a guy like Sam would stand up a girl like her; and NONE of them were good.
Mabel flipped her raven hair to the side and called over to Flo, "What's a girl got to do to get a refill over here?". "If ya drink anymore, I'm gonna have to teach ya how to make it yourself!" Flo joked as she slid two full plates to the regulars sitting at the counter. "All right, all right, I'll bring a pot over."
Flo slid into the other side of the booth, and poured the dark stuff into Mabel's cup. "Listen sweetie, your guy's not coming tonight. Why don'tcha call it a night and give him what-for in the morning?"
"Maybe ... but if Sam's not here yet, there's another guy I need to see," Mabel confessed. "Sounds good to me! One guy is pretty much as good as the next, as far as I'm concerned. Good on ya!," Flo winked as she left to tend to the other patrons.
The bell jingled as a small mountain of a man walked in from the cold, shook himself and hung his soaked trench coat and fedora by the door. He could have been a boxer or maybe a mob enforcer from the looks of him, but he was in ... another line of work.
He walked back to a table near the kitchen and sat down facing the door; he always faced the door, since a surprise in this area of Chi-town sometimes came with a bullet. "Flo! The usual!" was all he needed to say to place his order.
Mabel got up and slowly walked down to the big man. Her dress highlighted all her best assets, but he wasn't studying any of it. "I like the cut of your jib; but sorry, skirt, I'm off duty and the only things I want are a plate of Joe's finest and a good night's sleep," Mabel sat down at the table and countered "I don't know, I might have a little something-something to spark your interest."
Then she tossed an envelope in front of him. "You're Dick Johnson, private eye, right? If so, I've got 30 dollars a day plus expenses to change your mind." Johnson flipped through the contents, including a small stack of bills, as Mabel continued. "Sam said if he didn't show to wait for you, then give this to you. He's in trouble, I just know it. If he's alive, I need you to find him. If not, then I want you to gun down the sorry so-and-so who did him in. In the back, if that doesn't go against your ... sensibilities."
The large man briskly stood, took on a much more gentlemanly posture, and politely shook the woman's hand. "I'm sorry. mademoiselle; I didn't introduce myself properly. Richard Johnson, licensed private detective, at your service. Please get comfortable and order something for yourself, if you'd like - this has just become a business meeting."
Star Coffee, Applegate Mall, 2010:
"Damn! Damn, damn, damn! Damn, damn! DAMN!" Mae thought as she pressed "Control-A" then "Delete" to consign what she had just typed on her laptop to utter oblivion. "This is the biggest steaming pile of crap I have EVER written. What was I thinking? ... 'Dick Johnson'? Could I have BEEN more phallic?" she silently chastised herself.
But she wasn't just mad at herself for the writing. She was angry that she ever agreed to try to meet a man that she had only conversed with on-line. Oh, SAM719 (Sam Seven One Nine) was always gentlemanly on Twitter, but a guy can lie a lot in 140 character chunks when he wants to.
SAM719 seemed to share most of her geeky interests, but maybe that was just an act. She should have known that his charming cartoon avatar probably looked nothing like him, and that he would get cold feet and pull a no-show rather than have her cringe at what he probably really looked like. Mae's mind spun with these thoughts over and over again until - "Ah screw it! This mall has 75 stores. I'm going shopping!"
Mae took off the light green scarf she wore so that Sam would know who she was, and stuffed it into her purse. It was too close to payday for Mae to have much disposable cash to spend, but she had a couple of 20-dollar bills in her wallet as well as her credit card, with enough left on it to splurge a little bit if she found just the right thing.
Looking in a window she thought, "Hmmm, that broach looks interesting." ...
Metro City, 2120:
Flying cars filled the sky outside the Space Cafe as Samuel Blane, reporter for the Daily Galaxy waited for his lunch date. O.K. not a "DATE"-date, but his interview for the next edition of the paper.
As he bided his time until Silver Angel, Amazoonian Princess and one of the most famous crime fighters of all time, would join him - Sam couldn't help but people-watch as the greatest guardians of Metro City came in. Major Comet flew in for a to-go order, as retired legends seated at near-by tables looked on. Lady Leopard, currently on maternity leave, was dragging her cubs in for a needed meal out that she didn't have to prepare herself.
What could be keeping Silver Angel so long?
Elastic Boy was stealing food off Electro-Lad's plate. Mr. Cellophane turned nearly invisible. ... Did he just skip out on the check? Madam Butterfly spread her wings and flew away after a casual noon-time meeting with the Flying Fish.
Suddenly the Silver Angel's side-kick, Teen Angel, tapped Sam on the shoulder to give him some unwelcome news.
Java's Finest, Applegate Mall, 2010
Stephen looked up from his sketch pad to see one of the waiters waiting for ... something. "Can I get you something?" the waiter inquired.
"Oh, I'm fine. I was waiting for someone. See, I have this pink carnation?" Stephen explained.
"Sir, you have been here for over an hour and a half. We are getting busy, so I need for you to order something or move along." the waiter insisted.
"An hour and a half? Sorry, I was doing my super-hero sketches. See... here is the Space Cafe." Then flipping to another page, Sam pointed .. "And this is 'The Silver Angel'! I based her on someone I know from Twitter, but haven't been able to finish it yet. Her avatar picture is her cat, so ..." Stephen rambled.
The waiter cleared his voice "*ha-rumph* Please, order or leave. I'm really not a psychiatrist, and I'm pretty sure you aren't going to tip THAT good."
Stephen took the hint and excused himself as he gathered his stuff. Walking through the mall he muttered to himself, "I'm too nervous to eat. I can't believe she didn't show, I hope I didn't scare her off. *Argh*" Looking at the wilting flower, he decided against carrying it with him further and disposed of it in the trash. He'd buy her another one, ... if he ever had another chance.
After a while, Stephen came to the center of the mall. In the ceiling was a stained glass dome above a number of benches for shoppers to sit. Two of these benches were directly beneath the center, back to back to each other. Stephen sat down on one of these and settled his baggage beside him.
Stephen leaned back and looked up to admire the dome. The colors were brilliant; the workmanship expert. As he relaxed, his mind began to imagine pictures within the dome. He knew they weren't really there, but he swore that parts of it looked like ... but no, that was silly. Within minutes, his neck began to protest a bit, so he sat upright and took a few drinks of the bottled water he had with his belongings.
During this intermission, A lovely brunette woman sat down on the other bench beneath the multi-colored dome. Almost every time she shopped at the mall, she rested here to gaze up at it; it was just one of her favorite places to be. Soon both she and Stephen were leaned back, looking up; but they were far enough apart that neither of them saw the other in their peripheral vision.
Stephen remarked "Lovely, just lovely." This startled the woman, in turn startling Stephen.
"Sorry, I was just remarking on the stained glass ... what do you call it, a skylight?" Stephen inquired.
"Well, *I* just call it a dome. My friend calls it a cupola, which it probably is, but I just call it a dome," the woman replied.
"My name is Mae. And you are ..?"
"Stephen. And I am pleased to meet you. This dome is beautiful. Maybe I've just been looking at this too long, but I could swear that I see a moose and .."
"Squirrel." Mae interrupted. "Either it just a coincidence, or the artist had a real sense of humor." "Now, when I look at it from this side, I see a couple of fairies and maybe an imp or two."
"Would you mind?" Stephen asked. To which Mae nodded "no".
Mae stood to let Stephen sit where she had been, then she sat next to him; just far enough so that they didn't touch, but only just.
For the next half hour, they spun a joint tale of fairies flying across the sky being chased by imps and butterflies.
"I was feeling pretty down since I was stood up for a date earlier today, but this is nice" Mae commented, subtly noticing how cute Stephen looked in his own geeky way.
"What a coincidence, I was stood up too, over at the coffee shop earlier. I wonder why I didn't see you there. I mean, if you were there, I'm sure I would have remembered .... over at the Java's Finest." Stephen said.
"They have a Java's Finest in the mall? It must be new. No, I was at Star .." Mae trailed off as an idea struck her. "You weren't waiting for 'SilverAngel' were you?"
Stephen replied, "Yes, she was supposed to be wearing a green ..."
"Scarf, right?" Mae interrupted, holding up the green scarf. "I love silver and angels. I even bought a silver broach with angel wings today."
"It is quite beautiful. ... And you were waiting for 'SAM719', right. I had a pink carnation, but it wilted so I threw it away." Stephen confessed.
"Your Internet codename is 'SAM719', but your name is 'Stephen'?" Mae questioned.
"My full name is 'Stephen Andrew Morris', so I use my initials plus my old campus post office box number from college." Stephen explained.
"Do you mind if I call you 'Sam' anyway then? You look more like a 'Sam' to me." Mae asked.
Stephen replied, "Go right ahead. And though Mae is a lovely name, would it be o.k. is I called you 'Angel'?"
"See I've started a comic book super-hero named 'The Silver Angel'. I just didn't know what you looked like so I could finish." said Stephen, pulling out his drawings for her inspection.
"Nice artwork, I didn't know you drew." "Yes, you can call me 'Angel' ... if you just HAVE to." Mae said with fake protest.
"So Sam, I don't know about you, but I haven't eaten yet." Mae stated as she donned her scarf.
"Good Angel, I haven't." Stephen stood and asked politely, "Would you please do me the honor of joining me at the eatery of your choosing?"
"Yes, but not a coffee shop, this time. Perhaps the Italian restaurant I saw just around the bend." Mae suggested.
"Agreed. But we will need to make another stop first; just over there. I think I owe you a flower." Stephen pointed to the near by florist.
"Do you think you would have time to pose for me, so I can complete my sketch after we eat?" Stephen hoped.
"Since you ARE kind of cute, I think I could arrange it." Mae laughed as she took Stephen's arm.
"Young Love and Other Perilous Pursuits"
By Richard Green aka Mainframe
of the "Geek Out! with Mainframe" podcast at http://gowmainframe.blogspot.com/
Originally published May 23, 2010 in the "Every Photo Tells" podcast, episode 12 and the "Geek Out! with Mainframe" podcast, episode 3
The door to the coffee shop opened at just the right time of the morning to spread bright sun rays through the entry way. To the sound of chimes, Conner and Allie stepped through, both laden with laptop cases. Conner hefting an additional backpack, led the way - toward a table by a window and with access to power.
They unburdened themselves of their baggage; then sat themselves down – making light “huff”sound in unison as they did. They paused for a mere minute before the desire for food and drink overcame their need for rest. Conner fished some crumpled currency from his hip pocket, handing them to Allie with a light kiss, who walked over to the counter to exchange the bills for coffee and muffins.
Not exactly coffee, but whatever passed for cappuccino here at Costa Coffee. They liked this brand very much, but true gourmets would never settle for such.
While Allie waited for the order, Conner busied himself with setting up both of the MacBook Pros so that the lovely young lady and he could take advantage of the complementary “wi-fi”. By the time Allie returned with the hot cups and breakfast sweets, Conner had finished.
She rested back into her chair, this time with a long “sniff” to enjoy the aroma, before surfing to her favorite news sites. Conner, between sips from his two handled cup and bites from his orange/cranberry confection, was engaging in more serious endeavors with his laptop.
Conner and Allison fell in love at work, where they found themselves employed as system administrators for the same mid-sized company. Economic down-turns resulted in both of them being down-sized six months ago. Allie had moved in with Conner a few months prior, so their expenses were reduced; but not enough that they could remain unemployed for long. However; despite their qualifications, there just weren't any suitable jobs available. A brief period of minimum wage part-time jobs prompted Conner to contemplate less traditional alternatives. Specifically a life of crime; computer theft and fraud.
They began using public wi-fi to steal credit card info, bank account data, and the like. Being a couple, they were far less suspect than a solitary hacker sitting in the corner. Conner's computer security experience transitioned well into exploiting other's systems. Allie was very good at sensing and deflecting suspicion. She also proved expert in finding the proper marks. Allie and Conner, did not want to do any real financial damage to anyone; so they tried to only take a modest amount, from only those who could afford it.
“Connie,” Allison using her pet name for him, leaned in to point out someone in the café who looked promising. “There is a gentleman in the back corner who I you might want to look into. He's brought in a laptop bag and he'll probably break it out in a few minutes.”
“I'm not sure, he doesn't look like he has much to me.”
“I know he isn't wearing expensive clothing, but everything is brand new and those tennis shoes are high end. He probably bought everything for vacation, and he likely wears suits for his day job. Look at his posture; the way he drinks his coffee – I think he has some money to spare.”
“I'm already sniffing the network, but I've got time to set up a man-in-the-middle so that all his network traffic will have to come through me.”
After a while capturing the stranger's Internet activity, and examining the data that had been coming through, Conner reported back to Allie. “Al, I'm getting everything; but it's all encrypted. I'm not sure if I can do anything with it.”
“Hmmm, well why not at least check out where he is connecting to, Connie. That might tell us if it's worth our while to try to decrypt it or not.”
“O.K., Miss Allison …. Now that's odd, most of the connections are to Russia and Afghanistan … plus a few other '-stans'.”
“--- Connie, I think we've made a mistake. I think he's got money, ... just not the kind we want to mess with.”
“Dude, if Russia means Russian Mafia; and Afghanistan means their biggest cash crop; that adds up to trouble! I think we need to leave -- now.”
Conner and Allison were simply too frightened to pack up their belongings surreptitiously. Their movements were clearly too rushed.
As the couple lifted their eyes before standing, the stranger was there looking back at the hackers from an alarmingly close distance. “Excuse me,” the stranger spoke. “I think you have something that belongs to me.”
“Wha? Huh?” Conner stuttered. Allison protested, “How could we have anything of yours? We've been sitting over her the whole time?”
“There are many types of possessions. Some are more, shall we say, nebulous than others. Let me be more direct. … Hand me the laptops. Now!”
Meekly Conner handed over his bag while Allison angrily gripped the handle of hers. “Al! Give it to him.” The stranger smoothly opened one side of his jacket just enough to display his semi-automatic pistol.
“Here! And you can go to hell!” She shoved her laptop case at the stranger.
“Ordinarily, I would say, 'You first'. However, I do have pressing business.” The tall man turned and vanished out the rear entrance.
A brief moment later, Allison's anger overcame her and she rushed out after the stranger. Conner attempted to protest, but could only follow.
The moment they stepped back into sunlight, the stranger had disappeared without a trace. No trace, that is except the damaged computers lying on the ground. Each bore the injury of three bullet rounds through their hard drives. They were for all purposes dead; the computers hopelessly destroyed and the data irrevocably gone.
Conner could only wonder how close he and Allie were to a similar fate.