Friday, July 19, 2013

Hot Chips and Sand 211-215 Draft Comparison

Hot Chips and Sand
Copyright © 2013 Mary Hughes
All rights reserved

Any T‑shirts?”

Another uniformed man was dispatched, and quickly came back with several of the familiar big black T‑shirts Cliff favored. Vickie took them one at a time, feeling the hidden inner pockets. Empty. Empty. Jackpot!

She practically ripped the shirt pulling the hard, flat square from its hiding place. She held it up with a grin.

“What is it?” the ambassador asked.  She smiled to herself.  “It’s the

“The HCC300 prototype for the HCC300 chip.” She waved it at the lead computer expert.  “We should be able to install it in one of theHave any HCC boxes [M1] already built.  There are a few been produced, aren’t there?” yet? We can install this in one.”

The man indicatedwaved at an HCC300 computer sitting in the corner of the room.  “That was one“One of the first things I tried.   was booting that thing. But there’s no software on it, not even an operating system.”


            “Maybe not on the factory box. But Cliff might have leftput something in the chip prototype’s memory. If we can install it in that box, maybe we can access it. I can download the operating system from the palacesecure virtual private network if I have to.  I can break in that farat the Hawkesclyffe home offices.”


            “You can break intoThey opened the operating system?” Tess exclaimed.  “Then why can’t you stopbox, popped off the explosion?”


            “I can readfactory-fresh chip from the operating system, not change it.”


            The government expert spoke as he worked at installingmotherboard and fitted the chip.  “If you can readprototype chip in  its place. Vicky nodded and the palace security operating system, then maybe you can trace it back to where Fahrrad is holing up.”


            “I only wish.  But one ofexpert hit the Hawkesclyffe hardware gurus designed the device hookups specifically so you wouldn’t have to worry about location.  I do know, however, that they’re not using a modem to dial in, and they’re not on the premises.”button.


            “How do you know that?”


            As it booted, Vickie pulled the keyboard of the HCC300 over.  “Because I can see their ID on the system, and it’s not one of the modem connections, and it’s not on the local network.  Now let’sonto her lap. “Let’s see if we can get this chip to speak to us.”

She worked tensely for about ten minutes, then shook her head and offered the keyboard to the government expert. He tried a few commands, then returned the keyboard to her and pried the back off the box. After switching a few connections, they tried again.

Still nothing. Vickie said something to the expert, and began downloading the HCC operating system from the palace network. home office. Vickie glanced at her phone. An hour and a half left.

The expert reconnected the chip. Now the terminal flared to life, and Vickie hacked away at it for half an hour. Then she turned, brushed a drop of moisture from her temple and shook her head.

The ambassador’s face fell, and he lifted the receiver of a red phone in the room. “Your highness. I’m sorry we have nothing for you here. How goes the search?”


            Vickie anxiously watched the ambassador’s face, but found no comfort.  Kulinahr had sent soldiers to sweep every corner of the country, but. Vickie’s fingers rose to her throat and she searched the ambassador’s face, but the man’s tightly drawn lips were no comfort. She clenched her fist against her chest, small though itMiddle Yemen wa[M2] s, it would be impossible to find Cliff in the short time they had left. Not without some clue.  Fahrrad and his guard knew the area well; they could be anywhere.


            There wasAnd with less than one hour left, barely enough it was time to evacuate the palace. The computer expert extracted the DALE chip prototype and gave it to Vickie.  And those awfulShe stared at it in her palm, wondering where to put it. Just tuck it back where it had been? She switched her gaze to the pile of rumpled black. Those black T‑shirts. She picked one up and hugged it to her, fighting the tears.  She doubted Cliff would be allowed to live once he was no longer needed.Less than one hour. Fahrrad would kill himCliff after the palace was rubble.

The uniformed men ushered everyone out. Vickie’s feet felt like they were coated in molasses. John had to pull her the final steps. How could she leave Cliff…before the end?

“He’d want you to be safe,” John said.

She came then. She had not cried.

            One of Kulinahr’s people droveTears would come later.

A black military limo carried John, Tess and Vickie back to the airport.  Vickie had wanted to stay to the end, but John had pulled her away.  “He wouldn’t want you to be here.  He’d want you at least to be safe.”  She had not cried.  The bitter tears would come later.


            The Middle Yemeni officer who drove them to the airportit had taken driver’s ed from someone in Hades, but Vickie didn’t even pay attention. In the back seat, she turned the chip prototype over idly in her hands.

She wasn’t really looking at it, but something about it …a flash in the wrong place or a slight irregularity in the feel…something caught her eye.  So that’s why it hadn’t worked, she thought. attention.

She looked closer. Someone had defaced itone side of the chip, putting several long scratches in it. So that was why it hadn’t worked. Probably Fahrrad, she thought.  Maybebecause Cliff had lefttried to leave a clue in the memory, so Fahrrad had tried to destroy the chip.  They would. They’d never know, now.

She gazed blankly at the chip, her mind a thousand miles away. Cliff.  He had been behindhelping Kulinahr all along, only wanting her to trust him.  What a fool she was.  SheHer throat thickened and her heart beat a heavy recrimination. She’d had had it allhappiness, and had thrown it away.


            And if she hadIf she’d come with him to Middle Yemen, who knows if he  with him, would he have been captured?  No, he wouldn’t Without the distraction of her rejection, could he have been distracted. escaped Fahrrad’s machinations? Well, of course he could. She remembered the ease with which he had escaped with her that night over four months ago.  He wouldHe’d be free right now, laughing with her about some shared joke.


            Oh, great.  All she needed now was to feel guilty about his death.


            The word shocked her out of her reverie.  Death?  No, he couldn’t Instead of about to die.  Not

How could he die? Why now, not when they’d had so little time together.  She must stop the car, she must run out and find him before it was too late.  And she had only a half an hour.?

She stared at the chip again. If only Fahrrad hadn’t defaced it. If only…she looked closer at the scratches. They weren’t on the circuit side.

They weren’t on the circuit side. So whoever had made them had either not known much about chips, or had intentionally made them on the side where they wouldn’t do any damage.  And that, coupled with where it was found, might mean Cliff was attempting to leave a message.


            But what?  A message from Cliff?

She brought the chip to her nose and examined the scratches. Three of them, look ing kind of like arranged in a weird triangle.  Now, where had she that she’d seen that symbolsomewhere before. But where?

She couldn’t remember. She slapped the chip onto her thigh and stared out the window, trying to beat the answer out of her brain.

The triangle was the mathematical symbol for change. Was he trying to indicate they were changing locales constantly? No, besides making no sense, Kulinahr’s air units would have tracked them, then.

Triangle.  Warped triangle.  It looked familiar. Warped triangle.

And then it clicked. The bizarre sculpture in the hotel where she’d been held prisoner.  She yelled out in her excitement.

Hot damn.” She turned to Tess.

“It’s okay, Vickie,” Tess saw the wild‑eyed look in her friend’s face,grabbed her flailing hands and squeezed. “We understand. Go ahead and let it all out.”

“No!” She practically shouted. “Stop the car!  You must. We have to go back to the city!”

“Vickie,” John started patiently. “We’ve been over this already. We can’t do any more good here, and Cliff…”—”


            “…“—is being held in the same building I was four months ago! when I was abducted. Look at this chip John,” she.” She shoved it under his nose. “See the scratches? They form a sortthe shape of curled‑up triangle.  Ex actly the same as a sculpture in the lobby of the hotel where I was held.  It’s unforgettable because itIt sticks out like a sore thumb in that squalid decor. . Cliff stayed at the same hotel; he wouldhe’d have seen it too, and known it was memorable.”


            “But where is that hotel?”

            “He couldn’t have done this, Vickie suddenly deflated. .” John spoke gently. “He couldn’t have known where they were taking him before they actually abducted him..”

“Sure he could have. He’d know their hideouts. He might have heard where they were taking him and either had enough warning or escaped long enough to scratch a quick message. Oh, John, it doesn’t matter if I’m wrong. This is our only chance!”

“But Vickie,” Tess said. “Where is the hotel?”[M3] 

It hit her like a spear shaft to the heart. She had no idea.  Cliff might know, no, obviously did know, but sheShe hadn’t seen her arrival or her departure route.

Then the Middle Yemeni officer spoke up. “I know the hotel.”  His English was obviously limited but that was all they needed to hear.  All three urged him to drive immediately to the location.   you’re speaking of.”

Vickie wanted to hug him. “Then let’s go!”

The officer wanted to callwait for reinforcements, but Vickie quickly vetoed that.  “There’s nosaid, “No time.  We have lessLess than a half hour to get there, break in, find Cliff and the computer and unlock the destruct sequence. Go now!”

The officer drove even more maniacally now. Vickie held onto the door, narrowly avoiding getting crushed in a particularly quick turn.  ‘Well, If they didn’t get to Cliff, if we can’t find you in time, it won’twouldn’t be for this guy’s lack of enthusiasm.  

   John broke into her thoughts.  “We’llheld grimly to the door handle. “We need to havemake a plan before we get there. . There’s no time to look the place over first. Tell me about the hotel, Vickie.”

She told him as much as she could remember, including how Cliff had rescued her, skipping only the kiss that had started it all.

“Okay,” he said, slamming.” His body slammed into the door on another tight turn. As they bumped their way down the main drag, dodging cars and people and animals, John explained what they needed to do.

 [M1]I'll have to revisit this. I updated much of the technology but it could stand some more. Boxes are going away. We're in the tablet and smartphone age.
 [M2]Again, it's important to not just show the action, but the POV character's reaction to high points.
 [M3]Plot holes are much easier to see from the vantage point of time away from the story :)

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