Hard_Code, Scene I
rank had cracked the code of the Unknown.
Eureka, he said, Stratton, come here, I want you.
We all scurried over to the laboratory table where Frank, in a white lab coat wearing safety goggles, was sitting before a hissing, aspirant Bunsen burner and a scribbled page of notes.
Marquardt, what gives? I demanded.
The Unknown, Frank gasped, is a different book. Its a fake, a decoy.
The hypertext? we all, Dirk, Scott, and I, asked at once.
Yes. Its a code. Each letter is standing in for some other letter. And the beauty is, the whole thing works. I mean, somebody has taken a text, some kind of really big weird text, and substituted each letter for some other letter, and the whole thing comes out not only making sense, but also giving the impression of telling a story. Oh, the code is slightly flawed. The Unknown would appear to have spelling errors, to be a hypertext novel that is flawed when in fact its an amazingly perfect encoding of some other text.
I thought we wrote it, Dirk said.
Youll believe anything, wont you? Frank shot back. Look at the word Unknown, when I decode it:
Dammit, Im almost positive N is standing in for E. It makes sense. N is the most common letter in the Unknown, E is the most common letter in the alphabet. Wait! Ive got it!:
A relaxing of tension, especially internationally! screamed Frank.
Frank, Dirk objected, Détente has an accented initial E. I thought you said this code was amazingly perfect. As if it were possible to modify perfect. I mean, youre either perfect or youre not, youre not more perfect or less perfect! The Unknown is flawed, you said it yourself!
Were not flawed, Rettberg said coolly, were imperfect. Were not geniuses man, we barely add up to a single genius.
Were like a single genius, I clarified, without a good editor.