Chapter 20 Page 6 of 8

“Don’t stop for any more red lights. Go through the intersections as soon as you can without colliding with anybody. Drive on the sidewalk if you have to.”

She didn’t respond immediately, concentrating instead on avoiding the yellow cab on the left and the motorcycle on our right. She veered away from the motorcycle, sent the cab-driver in a panic to his left, and managed to miss both by inches as we screamed into a small gap that had opened between the cab and the car immediately in front of us.

“Right,” she said. “Hang on.”

I had never let go. It was then that I noticed that I still held the park brake handle in my left hand. My right hand was clenched to the door handle. My feet were firmly planted on the floor. I was bracing myself in the same position I’d been in since we left the parking lot.

“I’m ready,” I lied.

She took my suggestion to heart and swerved sharply to the right, cutting across two lanes and darting between two cars parked along the curb. Lisa slowed only slightly as we bounced over the curb and up onto the sidewalk. Pedestrians scrambled to give us a wide margin as Lisa maneuvered to avoid sign-posts on our left and pedestrians on our right. I could see a blur of astonished faces flash by my window as we hurled down the walkway. Everywhere I looked people were pressed up against the fronts of buildings in an effort to give us every inch of sidewalk possible.

In the seat beside me Lisa was pressed up against the steering wheel. Perspiration formed on her furrowed forehead as she concentrated on maneuvering the vehicle down the tight corridor with parked cars on our left and buildings, stoops, and people on our right. She squinted through her eyes with her neck craning forward, as if straining to catch a glimpse of each oncoming obstacle moments sooner than she would have otherwise.

I pressed my eyes tightly shut, not wanting to see any more. I would have covered my ears if only I had been willing to release the strangle-hold both of my hands had on the door handle. I tried to project my thoughts to someplace else… someplace serene. It didn’t work. As the car veered to the side, spurted forward, slowed abruptly, and then veered again, I was forced to acknowledge that I was in a car vaulting down a sidewalk with pedestrians scrambling for safety while the world economy was dissolving into nothingness. Fiat money cannot exist without tokens and without accurate records. Electronic transfers reduce the reliance upon tokens and the millwright was in the midst of destroying all accuracy in records. I pressed my eyelids together tighter.

Then, suddenly, the car came to a full stop. I heard the driver’s side door open and then shut. Slowly, carefully, I opened my eyes and looked around. Lisa was trotting back toward the car.

“What’s the matter?” she called through the window. Her forehead was furrowed in puzzlement. “Aren’t you coming? Let’s go! C’mon!”

“I’m right behind you,” I muttered in a silly effort to hide my confusion and bewilderment. Together we ran to the building and down the hallway to my apartment. I hurriedly unlocked my door and pushed it open. Lisa went in ahead of me and immediately turned toward my primary machine. I went straight to the phone. I called Lorenzo Thomas at the NSA. We needed to get the latest source code for BIF to Lorenzo so that he could execute it on the NSA computers. Does the NSA really have enough computing power to solve daunting computer problems in minutes? Can they really crack 56-bit DES is real-time? Can they actually solve NP problems? I sincerely hoped all of the rumors were true.

Lorenzo had already been briefed and was waiting for my call. I told him that we would send the files via the Internet as soon as Lisa had them loaded.

“You’ll never get it through our firewall,” said Lorenzo. “Our packet filter blocks any incoming traffic, including e-mail, except stuff that has been cleared ahead of time. Hmmm… Maybe we can set it up on this end so we can use ftp. Do you have an anonymous ftp server on your machine?”

I groaned. I didn’t. My machine was not set up to provide any network services to outsiders. I use it mainly as a client to other Internet servers. There was silence; nobody had any ideas. Now what? Then Lorenzo asked, “Where are the files? Are they still on the tape?”