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Authors: Michael C. Grumley

Leap - 02 (9 page)

BOOK: Leap - 02
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17

 

 

 

 

“Excuse me?”

“Ms. Shaw, I know this may sound a bit presumptuous, but I’d like you to help us find Dexter.”  Alves’ expression was serious.  “We still don’t know who attacked us, or where Luke might be.  Even though we haven’t received any communication, we are still hopeful.  But more than that, I believe Dexter saw what happened that night, and he may just be smart enough to give us vital information about it.  How many were involved?  What they were wearing?  If we can just get an idea of who did it, I promise you, I will spare no expense tracking them down and finding Luke.”

“I don’t-” Alison started, then turned to DeeAnn, who remained silently thinking.

Finally, DeeAnn looked back at him curiously.  “This isn’t just about finding the monkey.  This is about
talking
to him.”

Alves nodded.  “That’s correct.”

“Is that even possible?” Alison asked.

DeeAnn rubbed her finger softly against her lip.  “It’s feasible…maybe.”

“I thought IMIS was programmed specifically for gorillas.  Is this monkey similar to a gorilla?”

“No,” DeeAnn answered.  “Not even close.”

“Could IMIS talk to it?”

DeeAnn shook her head.  “Doubtful.  But…”

“But what?”

“But there’s another possibility.  Dulce may be able to talk to a capuchin.”

“Are you kidding?”

“No.”  She paused to think again before continuing.  “I’m not sure, but I think it’s possible.  When I worked with Koko at the Gorilla Foundation, there was a researcher by the name of Joanne Tanner.  She was brilliant and had worked there for years.”  DeeAnn’s speech began to speed up, with a trace of excitement.  “
She spent ten years filming gorillas at the San Francisco Zoo and discovered something startling.  The gorillas there had never been taught to sign like Koko, but she found that they used
gestures
.  She documented almost thirty common, instinctive gestures used by the gorillas.  It was a major discovery in primate studies, demonstrating what some of us had already suspected.  There is a lot more to their communication than we know.  More importantly, she found those common gestures spanned multiple species.  And I believe one of them was capuchin monkeys.”

“You mean like some kind of sign language?”

“Yes, exactly.  And with Dulce and this Dexter monkey both being highly intelligent, it’s conceivable that they could actually speak to one another.  I don’t know how likely it is, but it’s certainly possible.  Joanne was sure there were many more gestures yet to be identified.”

Alves was smiling broadly, excited at DeeAnn’s explanation.

“But transporting a gorilla is a production,” she continued, thinking about the logistics.  “It would have to be as fast as possible so she didn’t become too anxious or nervous.  She would also need to be in a cage, just in case.  Dulce is young, but she’s still strong.  Too strong for us if she became frightened.  It would definitely have to be by plane.”

“I can provide whatever you need.”

“Whoa, hold on!”  Alison interrupted, holding up a hand.  She looked at their visitors.  “Would you mind if we excused ourselves for a minute?”

“Of course,” Alves replied.

With that, Alison stood up and motioned for DeeAnn to follow her.  They crossed the room and opened the door, stepping out into the hallway.  After it clicked shut, Alison wasted no time.

“Okay, hold up.  What exactly are we thinking here?”

“A trip,” answered DeeAnn.

“A trip,” repeated Alison.  “Just like that?”

DeeAnn folded her arms.  “I don’t think we have much choice, Ali.  Or time.”

“Okay,” Alison said calmly.  “I know you’re worried about Luke.  I understand that.  But we just met this man.  We know nothing about him.”

“That’s true, although we should be able to check him out pretty easily.  I mean, the man sounds like some kind of billionaire mogul.  I doubt we’d have much difficulty finding out.”

“Okay, fine.  Let’s assume everything he says is true.  We’d be heading off into the jungle in some unknown country-”

“You mean
I
would be.”

“Wait, what?  Alison looked confused.

“I would be heading off into the jungle.”


You
would be?  What about me?”

“Because you, Alison, have a very big day tomorrow.  You can’t miss this.”

“Are you kidding?” Alison raised her voice.  “You think I’m going to just ship off while you and Dulce get on a plane bound for God knows where?”

“Yes,” replied DeeAnn, with her face forming a determined look.  “Because everything is ready now.  Including Dirk and Sally.”

Alison froze with her mouth open, working on her rebuttal.  But she had none.

“Listen, Ali.  I don’t want to argue.  Do I think this is a brilliant idea?  No.  But we also don’t have a lot of time.  If there is any chance Luke is still alive and we can help find him, then I have to try.”  Her dark eyes softened.  “He would do it for me.”

Alison glanced at her, then off to the side, finally closing her mouth.  She sighed in resignation.  “Okay.  What are the risks?”

DeeAnn thought about the question.  “Something happens to me…or Dulce.”

“Exactly!”

“I see what you’re doing.  Could something happen to me or Dulce?  Yes.  It’s a possibility, but probably not a very likely one.  Listen, Ali, something has
already
happened to Luke.  We’d be talking about a low probability against one that’s already occurred.  It’s not a terribly hard decision.”

“Dee, there’s a lot more involved than that and you know it.”

“I do, but when it’s all boiled down, it still comes down to whether we try to help.  And I think we both know each other well enough to know what that answer is.”

Alison stared at her in silence.  Her head began to shake back and forth.  DeeAnn was right.  As long as Alves and his security team checked out, it wasn’t a huge risk.  It was really more about the logistics.  And it was not as though they wouldn’t be coming back.  “Well, I don’t like the idea of both of us being gone at the same time.  It doesn’t seem smart.”

“We can stay in touch by phone.  You have the satellite phone on the boat.”

Alison sighed again and covered her face with her right hand.  Something about this didn’t feel quite right.  It was too rushed.  In reality, they still knew very little.  The only reason to throw things together so haphazardly was because they didn’t know whether Luke was alive and, if so, for how much longer.

“Assuming Alves can provide what’s needed,” DeeAnn said, “there’s really only one thing left.”

They looked at each other and then both slowly turned around.  The one thing was an awfully big ‘
if.'

18

 

 

 

 

“You want us to make another vest?!”  Lee Kenwood was leaning over his metal workbench.  Juan Diaz was on the opposite side, disconnecting wires.

Both Alison and DeeAnn stood at the end of the workbench, watching them.  “Is it possible?”

Lee stopped and looked at them.  “You mean when we get back from the open water testing?”

Alison glanced nervously at DeeAnn.  “No, before we leave.”

Both Lee and Juan stopped what they were doing.  “
Before
we leave?”

Alison eked out a small grin.  “Possible?”

The two engineers turned their gazes back to each other, considering.  Juan shrugged first.  “There’s always V2.”

Lee took a deep breath, still thinking.

“What’s V2?  DeeAnn asked.

Reluctantly, Lee replied.  “It’s the backup.”

“The backup what?”

“The backup waterproof vest.”

Both women’s eyes opened wide.  “We have a second
vest
?”

“Well, ‘second’ might be a stretch.  It’s a second unit primarily for spare parts.  We were planning to take it with us on the boat.”

“Does it work?”

Again, Lee and Juan exchanged looks.  “It could work.  But I’m not sure how quickly.  We’d have to do a data dump and then go through testing, which takes longer than anything else.  More importantly, the translations would be very slow without a separate server.  The processor in the vest is small which is why we offload the bulk of the work to other servers.  When are you and Dulce supposed to leave?”

“How about tomorrow?”

Lee rolled his eyes.  “I don’t think we can make that.  The data dump would take almost that long, leaving us virtually no time to test.  Could you leave on Saturday?”

DeeAnn frowned.  “I have a friend in trouble.”

“And you need an IMIS system to help?”

“Yes.  And Dulce too.”

Lee was still pondering when Juan spoke.  “We could probably put it together in time, but with only minimal testing.  If it didn’t work, it would be a wasted trip.  It also means we have no backup or spare if we have problems during the open water test.  And speaking from a technical standpoint, having no backup is a
really
bad idea.”

“Have you had any problems so far with the first vest?” Alison asked.

“Not yet.”

“Well, that sounds encouraging.”

“We’re still in a controlled environment.  Sending the second vest off without thorough testing, especially if you need it so badly, scares the hell out of me.”

“Well,” DeeAnn interjected, with her hand resting over her mouth.  “Maybe we can test on the way.”  They all turned and looked at DeeAnn, who smiled at Juan.  “Ever been to South America, Juan?”

Juan returned the smile.  “I can be packed in ten minutes.”

DeeAnn looked at Alison playfully.  “I hate that about men.”

“Hold on,” Lee said.  With a sigh, he ran his hand over his face.  “There’s something else.”  Lee circled the other end of the workbench and headed for his computer.  “Something I need to show you both.” 

He fell into his black chair and rolled forward, placing his hands on an extra wide keyboard.  “We have another problem.”  He opened a window that filled the entire screen, displaying another frame of video footage.  The long list of system log entries appeared alongside of the video.  The frequency of red colored errors in the log was increasing.  “I’ve been trying to track it down, but I can’t seem to find it.”

“Track what down?”

“This.”  He pointed to the list of errors on the screen.  “This is the main system log for IMIS’ translation process.  This is where identification and translation happens.  And these red entries are indicating problems.”

Alison leaned in closer, staring at the text.  “What kind of problems?”

“Problems with the translations…as in
mistakes
.”

Both of the women’s eyes widened.  “Mistakes?”

“Yes.”  Lee sighed again, turning around to face them.  “There’s a lot involved in what IMIS does.  It starts with converting the analog wavelengths of our voice into digital data.  It then parses that data into chunks that can be matched against spelling and grammatical rules looking for errors.  Then it applies dozens of-” he suddenly stopped when he noticed their eyes beginning to glaze over.

“Okay,” he continued.  “So that’s basically how it works…but here’s the problem: the communication is increasingly becoming
less
systematic.  In other words, it’s unraveling.”  Lee swung back around to his screen.  He grabbed the mouse and scrolled up through the log until the entries displayed the time and date from four days ago.  “Look at this.  Not as many errors as today.”  He then scrolled up further.  “And even less last week.” 

“So they’re increasing?”

“Exactly.” 

“So what are the errors saying?” asked DeeAnn.

“What they seem to be indicating is that an increasing number of language translations are no longer matching.  The time synchronizations are off.  Which means the data is being received and transmitted out of order.”

Alison stood up straight.  “So what does that mean?  We’re not really talking to Dirk and Sally, or Dulce?”

“No, that’s the weird part.  There aren’t any errors for Dirk and Sally’s translations, just Dulce’s.  And, yes, we are really talking to her, for now.”  He scrolled back down his log entries.  “But the errors are clearly increasing, and we’re already close to one error out of every twenty translations.  It’s getting worse, fast.”

DeeAnn shot Alison a worried look.  “And you have no idea what the problem is?”

Lee shook his head sheepishly.  “I don’t.  I’ve been trying to figure it out, but haven’t been able to yet.  If I had to guess, I would say there’s something wrong with one or more of the logic sequences we developed for Dulce.  Those that are primate specific.  Or, perhaps a flaw in one of the algorithms itself.  Either way, it indicates this to be a deep problem and not something we can fix quickly, or easily.”

DeeAnn took a deep breath and exhaled loudly.  “So what you’re saying is even if we build another vest for me to take, it may not work regardless.”

“I’m afraid so.  I agree with Juan.  We could assemble a vest in time and make it work, even if he went with you and did the testing on the plane.  But at some point, your communication with Dulce is going to become less and less accurate until you reach a point that you can’t even understand her.”

“How long do you think I’d have?”

“Hard to say,” Lee shrugged.  “Judging from the speed the errors are increasing, I’d guess three or four days.”

Alison folded her arms.  “And you think this will take some time to fix.”

“Eventually, yes.  We haven’t even identified where the problem is, let alone begun working on a fix.”

Alison turned to her left and stared at DeeAnn.  “Well, I guess it’s now or never!”

 

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