Victoria found Yuen-Ja waiting for her at the front door when she arrived back home. Her sister was literally bouncing on her toes with impatience.
“Did you find Eugene? Did he answer your phone call?” The girl asked the moment Victoria had closed the door.
“No, I left him a message though. Why, do you have reason to believe he’s in some serious trouble?” Victoria was taking off her shoes and saw there was an extra pair of shoes in the entryway. Converse size twelve unless she missed her mark.
“Yes. I called his phone and traced it using a program I wrote to track down the North Korean military operatives responsible for the murder of mommy. The signal was so weak I almost could not pinpoint it but he is most certainly on some sort of boat headed out to deep waters.”
“Shit, do you have any idea where they’re taking him? Why the hell would he have gotten on a boat?” Victoria asked.
“I can only assume he was forced into it. Eugene is not stupid and would not put himself in such a situation unless he had no choice.” The small girl frowned, “There are no major land masses for quite some distance in the direction his signal was moving so I believe whoever has him is planning on keeping him on board until he is ransomed.”
“There are a couple other things that come to mind Yuen-Ja. One is he might be a captive of the crazies who think I’m some sort of sign of the apocalypse. The other is whoever has him might be forcing him to do some sort of operation for them. If I get a list of hard to find components can you check them against purchasing lists to see if we can draw a correlation? I can think of a few things that would be extremely specialized to Eugene’s line of work, maybe we can narrow our search.”
“Good idea. You get the list together and then you, David and I can all search together. Three sets of fingers are better than one.” Said Yuen-Ja with a smile.
“David’s here?” Victoria asked, raising an eyebrow. “I don’t think it’s a very good idea to get him involved do you? If these people are as powerful as you think they are and if Eugene has actually been kidnapped by them it’s not fair to involve other people.”
“Shhh, mom and dad will hear you! I do not think that is a good idea.” Said Yuen-Ja.
“Victoria is that you? You’re home early, how did your date go?” Her dad was standing in the entryway.
“It was interesting, Dmitri is a complex guy. We talked about a lot of different things, it was a change of pace to be on a date with a guy who could actually hold a conversation. That restaurant is pretty awesome too, I’ll have to take you guys some time.” Victoria watched his face carefully and saw him relax.
“Did you make plans to go out again?” He asked.
“Well not exactly, but I think we both had a pretty good time. He has my number if he wants to take me out again.” She grinned at him, “I remember your lectures on how ‘going steady’ wasn’t something I should start doing impetuously when Derek and I were together. I like the concept of a date just being a date, and Dmitri is a perfect gentleman.”
“You speak as though you already have your next one planned.” He said, grinning back.
“Actually David is taking me to a movie tomorrow. So I guess I do!” She paused for a second, “Well that’s weird. I must have a thing for boys whose names start with D. Come on Yuen-Ja, I’m going to put on a pot of coffee, if we’re going to crack this thing we’d better get started.”
“Wait, what?” Her dad looked lost, “I thought David was here to see Yuen-Ja. You’re going on a date with a boy that much younger than you?”
“No dad, he is just a friend. The only boy I like I rarely see although we do exchange emails on a regular basis. After I met him, other boys became boring.” Said Yuen-Ja. The look on his face was priceless. Victoria wondered who she was talking about.
“I’m attracted to David’s brain. That boy has some groundbreaking ideas about mathematical formulas.” Victoria said.
“And you should see my robotics work too, I think you’d get a kick out of it!” David was leaning on the door frame to the basement stairs.
Victoria used to call the den down there ‘The Dungeon’ and now it was one of her favorite rooms in the house. Full of the old overstuffed leather furniture her mom had wanted to toss when she bought new things for the living room. It was the perfect place to curl up with a book or watch a movie on the old VHS player and CRT television. Sometimes high definition just didn’t fit the mood of the program.
“I’ll be down in a couple minutes, I just want to make some coffee.” Victoria turned from David to her dad, “Where’s mom? Don’t tell me she’s in bed already?”
“Oh no, she’s watching a movie. I’m sure she would appreciate a kiss if you had the time to stop in the TV room.” That was something Victoria had always appreciated about the layout of the house. The living room was set up for reading and conversation while the television was in its own room, separate from the rest of the house. Instead of dominating the main living space like so many houses she had been in it was quarantined off where it couldn’t interfere with daily life.
“OK dad I will.” Victoria first went into the kitchen and put four healthy scoops of beans in the coffee grinder. Her dad always insisted on getting freshly roasted coffee from a local shop and grinding the beans just before making a pot and she had come to appreciate how much better it tasted than the crap out of a can. After starting the brew cycle she went to look in on her mom.
Before she got into the room she could hear the Bhangra and knew there was a Bollywood movie playing. “Hi mom, I’m back.”
“Oh sweetie, how was it?” Her mom paused the movie and looked over at her. “Was he OK?”
“Dmitri was a perfect gentleman mom and quite a fascinating conversationalist as well.” Victoria assured her.
“That’s a relief. Honestly he seemed a little too polite to me.” Her mom said, “Almost like he was an actor pretending to be what your father and I wanted him to be.”
“Yeah he has a funny way of phrasing words that threw me for a bit too but once I started talking with him I was able to look past his mannerisms and was able to appreciate his wit and discerning mind.” Victoria said, giving her mom a squeeze. “His family emigrated from Russia when he was like ten years old, so that’s probably why he talks a little strangely.”
“I’m glad honey, are you two going out again?” Her mom had the same tone and expression her dad had when he asked the same question.
“I don’t know, maybe. We both had fun so it’s possible he will call me again.” She smiled, “I’m going to go hang out with Yuen-Ja and David, I think my coffee is almost done.”
“OK dear, don’t stay up too late.” Her mom had already started the movie she was watching again as Victoria slipped out.
After pouring the pot of coffee into a carafe, Victoria grabbed three cups, cream and sugar and put them on a tray. Heading downstairs she could hear Yuen-Ja and David chatting.
“I know she is smart but I do not know about genius.” Yuen-Ja was saying.
“Hey guys, I have the coffee!” Victoria didn’t feel comfortable eavesdropping and she also wanted to get started on the search for Eugene. She looked at David, “Cream and sugar? Just a guess.”
“Yeah, cream and sugar would be great.” He said looking at her a little askance. Yuen-Ja snickered.
“Wait. You don’t even drink coffee do you?” Victoria asked, “I should have known, you’re probably more of a Rockstar or Mountain Dew guy am I right?”
“Damn, how did you know?”
“It’s pretty obvious.” Victoria counted off on her fingers, “You’re too young to like coffee because you’re an American, you’re also too young to drink something like Caffix but you’re up late so I have to imagine you drink some sort of caffeine and it’s either energy drinks or sodas and those are the two that are the most statistically likely for your age group.”
David burst out laughing, “I TOLD you Yuen-Ja, she’s an analytical genius!” He turned his smiling face toward Victoria, “Wow, I’d bet you could give Sherlock Holmes a run for his money.”
“As I said before David, I believe it is Adam who is helping out. He has the most advanced data cataloging techniques I’ve ever seen.” Yuen-Ja said smugly.
“Wait, you TOLD him about Adam?” Victoria had to struggle to keep her voice down.
“Hey, it’s cool Victoria. I read a lot you know, and you are going to be published in next week’s Wired. I have a friend who works there so I always get mine early.” David said, “Well, I guess they didn’t quote you or Dr. Arlington directly but they mentioned you both by name. They had some source from the LA Times?”
“That fucking HACK, I knew I should have done away with him when I had the chance. A simple public humiliation was too good for him that bastard is going DOWN!” Victoria set the tray with the coffee down on a side table, her anger at Yuen-Ja giving away her secrets evaporating in the face of the rage she felt at the reporter. “I will make sure he is never published ever again.”
“It’s a really good article, honest.” David was holding his hands up, fear on his face. “I really think he was trying to make peace for whatever transgressions he made against you. You should read it before you pass judgment I think.”
“No. He used my name and my story without my permission. That fucker will pay. I will make him regret he ever wrote anything about me.” Victoria’s mouth was set in a hard line.
“Oh sister, didn’t you tell me not to bother with the small fry?” Yuen-Ja said in Mandarin, “I think you need to calm down and focus on the problem at hand.”
Victoria sighed and responded in the same language. “Enough about him, let’s look for Eugene.”
Yuen-Ja grinned and David glanced between the two of them. It was evident that he didn’t understand what they were saying.
“OK, Yuen-Ja tells me you have some data compiled for us to search on? Do you have it on a USB drive or something?” David asked, pouring enough cream and sugar into a cup of coffee to make Victoria’s fillings hurt.
“What? Data on USB?” Victoria couldn’t help but laugh, “No, it’s just in my head. Just some things that would be necessary for the construction of a new prosthetic that would be difficult to come by, it’s not much of a list. Here’s what I have so far; a laser lathe that can work with titanium and is accurate down to fifty nanometers, a large quantity of spider silk, liquid dilithium acetate and an electronic frequency generator that can isolate individual frequencies.”
“Spider silk? What the hell is the spider silk for? I can understand the rest of that stuff although I haven’t ever heard of dilithium acetate but that’s the weirdest robotic component I’ve ever heard of.” Said David.
“It is used to strengthen the fibers of the Nanomuscle.” Victoria said, firing up her laptop and then sitting her favorite armchair within reach of the coffee pot. “From what I understand Eugene uses it to create tunnels that house the fibers, I never really asked how it works.”
“Wow that is such a brilliant idea, I need to meet this guy.” David was starting his own laptop, “I’ll see if I can dig up any info on that ship first. There are a couple websites for boat watchers that I know chronicle the comings and goings of vessels, maybe they’ll have something on the Misery.”
Victoria stilled her fingers on her keyboard. “That’s it! All we need to do to find out who this is and where they are going is to hack into the Coast Guard’s registration database. That will be way easier than looking for all this other stuff.”
“I will crack it open like a clam.” Yuen-Ja smiled, “I knew it was a good idea to get the three of us working on this together. Good things always come from the meeting of great minds.”
“Damn it!” Yuen-Ja’s outburst jolted Victoria awake. “These systems are so slow, poorly designed and archaic I cannot find the information we want!” Glancing at the clock, Victoria saw it was a little after three in the morning.
“Sorry for dozing off guys.” Yuen-Ja and David barely noticed her, they were both staring at her sister’s laptop screen.
“What about this?” David tapped a few keys, “If we use this Boolean instead maybe it will let us wildcard?”
“I do not know which table holds the ship name data David.” Yuen-Ja said through gritted teeth. “Until we find the registration number and link it to the ship name we will not be able to locate the GPS ID. I will write a data mining program and let it run all night. That way we can be fresh tomorrow to try again.”
“Oh shit, I need to get home, it’s past three.” Said David, “Well, mom’s working a graveyard again so I guess she isn’t going to miss me and dad’s almost never home from the lab… but I would like to get some things ready for her when she gets back from work.”
“You are such a good son.” Yuen-Ja said approvingly, “Your mother has raised you well.”
Victoria watched the exchange between the two of them, wondering how her adopted sister had managed to become so familiar with David. Math club was one thing, but… there was something more there.