Aleister ran along the corridor, his vision a blur of exhaustion. He could almost feel the packages waiting for the order to detonate. Green data overlays directed him towards a fire escape; he reached out for it but the handle was suddenly surrounded by a warning halo of red. He retracted his hand as if bitten by a snake.

"T3, are you there? I need to get out through the escape - NOW please!"

He heard the chopped up and translated voice in his headphones, calm as ever - T3 (whoever he was) was most likely safely at home thousands of kilometers away, while Aleister was trapped inside a lab filled with remote-controlled explosives.

" or...ganized data...base. G...ive me th...e door num...bers"

"It says 5-47. Bisoraa!"

"OK. No al...arm - fix...ed"

The warning halo vanished. Aleister rushed inside, closed the door and began to descend. T3 and Embezz were chattering to each other about the computer system they had grabbed; apparently Embezz wanted to start erasing now, while T3 wanted to let the blight spread further into the complex. Aleister didn't care, he wanted to get out. Stairs rushing by, descending floor by floor. Ground level. He almost fell out into the open through the exit, painfully bouncing against a fence. The moonless night enveloped him in blind darkness. Wireframe diagrams directed him towards the pickup point by the outer fence. A small display told him that the security system had begun to run a self-check against the will of the two crackers. Oops.

Suddenly there was a rumble from behind. The explosives had been set off, the question about what to do was settled. Light and sound spilled out over the dark forest, scaring up hundreds of birds. A status display told him that the local net and remaining computers were erasing everything, overwriting backups with random bits and sending off spurious requests that would take down some of the remote servers. Certain parties would be furious.

"I hate this; if we had more time we could have infiltrated them, seeding the project with false information, put trojans in their nanocode, virused backups and cost them even more than this. This is a rush job."


"Yes, but now they know what we can do. They will go back to off- site backups, commandeer another lab and beef up the security. And we're too nice to off the Pavlovs."

"Hey... have you forgot about me?" Aleister panted "I'm the one who went in there with your ticking packages. You better get me out now."

"You're definitely in our minds, Al. Car is on its way, ETA 1 minute. Don't worry about SatCams, they are fuzzed out by the fires, and the fire department plus police will approach from the other side. You will be back at the hotel in a jiffy, we even got you an alibi."

Behind him the security cameras continued to watch the flaming building through the forest, sending their pictures through fiber optics to dead servers.