PG: GAMBIT -3 FL:4319D [CLASSIFIED]
ACCESSING NRO ARCHIVES...
SATELLITE IMAGE DATABASE
MISSION: DOMESTIC SURVEILLANCE
LAUNCH DATE: 1972/03/15
Of all the seasons Spring was his favorite. This was planting season. Trailing behind his father through the winter thawed fields, stopping on occasion to record the top and subsoil moisture levels, Harry could almost see the first spring oat crop. The thick green sway of the milk stage, gradually giving way to pale gold as the weeks bled into summer.
Winter wheat and red clover.
A different rotation each year.
“And I thought my head was too far into the clouds.”
Harry started at the warm sound of his fathers voice, smiled at the gentle ruffle of his hand through Harry's too long hair. “I was just...”
His father smiled down at him and looped his arm around his son's shoulder, guiding them back to the farmhouse. “Just imaging the possibilities?”
“Yeah. It's still pretty fantastic, year after year.”
“That it is.” His father said quietly as he gave Harry's shoulder a squeeze. Unspoken between them was the knowledge that this was it, that they were counting down the last seasons now. Crop by crop and the annual returns of the ruby-throated hummingbird. Harry, despite his all competence and enthusiasm, would never be a farmer.
The last harvest came without either of them knowing. Harry had worked the combine for days, plotting the direct lines between a late start and a slow planting, a freak early killing frost and the dismal soybean yield. Reaping, threshing, and winnowing, Harry had worked alone.
He would lay down this last cover crop of winter rye. He would make the calls later to start the process of selling off the lower 500 acres. Up ahead he made out the shape of his father emerging from the shed. Pausing the seed drill, he dug the still unfamiliar eye glasses from his pocket. Up ahead his father snapped into focus, arm raised, waving hello from across the rich black soil.
Waving hello. Waving goodbye.
Harry pulled the glasses from his face, jammed them back into his pocket. He shifted gear and the seed drill roared to life again. Winter rye and spring land auctions. Lassiter and the rest of the world out there.
Harry stretched out in the open flatbed of the truck. The sky stretched out wide and open above. Punctuated every so often by the far off boom and flash of pyrotechnics.
Lucy Davenport curled close to his side.
How soft is Nature's calm repose
When ev'ning skies their cool dews weep:
The gentlest wind more gently blows,
As if to soothe her in her sleep!
Who needed a keg party when you could spend the night bathing your father?
“Want me to warm up some milk for you?” Harry asked as he helped his father down onto the bed. Not too long ago Harry would have been the one treated to a night time glass of warmed milk dashed with nutmeg, regaled with a chapter of Oliver Twist and the always open opportunity to share an overly complex update on his latest circuit array.
Not too long after that his father set the kitchen on fire.
Harry sat on the edge of the bed, giving his one-sided update anyway. The circuits had grown more complex. The 60 amp standard REA electrical installation wasn't nearly strong enough to power the microprocessors. But still, he'd made progress. His machine was learning. His machine had graduated from Morse to BASIC, then C. The code was easy.
Much less complicated than Lucy Davenport.
Much, much less complicated than Walter Mayhew and their warm burrowings together in the hayloft. These things he did not share.
His father was asleep, no milk. Harry tucked the sheet over his shoulders then pressed a kiss to his father's furrowed brow, slipped out of the quiet bedroom and back downstairs to his friend.
It was much easier than it should have been. Harry decided that, given the opportunity, he'd build it much better. His keystrokes sounded like staccato poetry, gaining an entry to the stream of packets transferring a world of information back and forth.
Social Security Number: xxx-xx-xxxx
He'd retrieved the old template from a back up floppy. Incomplete. An early exercise in sedition. Keystrokes and imagination fleshed out the picture and bricked up the back doors. Air tight code, powered by ARPANET, shrouded by immense skill and hastened by the unknown TCP/IP window that had first appeared last month and then again with increased regularity.
Back and forth.
They knew who he was, in general. Knew where he was, in general. Camouflaging the data stream was also easier than it should have been but Harry knew he couldn't keep it up forever. His homemade computer had taken him as far as it could. He stilled his fingers over the keys, a gentle stroke of his hand over the too warm processor.
Tomorrow he would check his father into The Pines. Then, Harry would disappear for a while, manage the disposal of the farm from afar. Dodge the men in black and let the trail run cold. Dodge the men in black and start all over again, small and inconspicuous. Dodge the men in black and disappear into the world out there.