class, Alec went directly to Dr. Catania's office. Alec found
him in owl mode, sitting in an old, overstuffed arm chair
hiding in a corner behind piles of journals, books, and file
folders piled on the floor.
come in Alec." The old professor said cheerfully with
twinkling and blinking owl eyes. "I was concerned about
you. I heard a news report this morning about troubles at the
Centroid Café, where, I believe you work after school?"
I'm the…part-time barista and summer janitor at the café from four until
you were not in harm's way there yesterday?" the
professor said with a lifting eyebrow.
exactly. Actually, I saw everything that happened."
saw the terrorist attack but were unharmed?" the
professor gasped incredulously.
see, Dr. Max, I'm not supposed to talk about it."
Army general made me sign a confidentiality agreement. I'm not
supposed to talk about it with anyone except my boss, Mr.
Sturm. The general said it was a matter of national
security. But…but that's what I wanted to talk to you about.
First, I don't even know exactly what I signed because there
was no time to read it and I only have a computer file for a
unconscionable nonsense!" the professor exclaimed
suddenly as he sprang to his feet faster than Alec thought was
humanly possible. "You were told to sign an agreement
under duress, without access to any counsel, and then not even
given a copy that's readable?"
I don't really know that the copy isn't readable," Alec
explained, "The general said I could maybe open the files
on my computer. I've already tried on my laptop, but I think I
don't have enough memory in it."
and do you still have the disk?"
right here," Alec said retrieving the disk from his
battered old briefcase.
we try to read it on my box?" the professor said rubbing
his hands with obvious relish over the prospect of uncovering
a mystery wrapped in a civil-liberties outrage.
Dr. Max. That would be a big help."
spry professor sprang to his computer terminal and slipped in
the disk. But after several attempts to open the disk files in
various ways, the professor threw up his hands with a loud
harrumph. "Alec, it looks to me like you are just one of
the latest victims of official cyber junk. You are not
supposed to be able to open this. The whole thing smells very
fishy to me, I must say."
what Monty said—fishy he called it," Alec recalled out
loud. "I think it is too. The…well…thing I saw was not
a national security thing…I just feel it."