Susan

Susan walked through the metal gate and saw her mother leaning against the car. “I don’t suppose you want to see him, mum?” Susan asked. Janet Roberts looked at her daughter and wondered why she had to dress like a boy. She didn’t even brush that scraggly hair of hers. Didn’t she care what people thought of her? “You know I don’t want to see your father. We’ve managed to pretty much avoid each other for five years. I’m not suddenly going to be his best friend again, just because he’s got himself banged up?” They climbed into either side of the car and Janet passed the seat belt across her daughter’s small frame. “I can do that, I’m sixteen, not six.” Her mum reached down and stroked strands of light brown hair out of her eyes. “Suzie love, it’s his own fault.” Susan shook her hair back down into her face and rubbed her eyes. “Don’t call me that, mum. My name’s Susan. Anyway, it’s not his fault. Just because he’s clever enough, doesn’t mean he did it.” 
As the car pulled away, Susan looked back at the high brick walls, thinking of her dad going back to his cell. She knew that he was in there for something he hadn’t done. But how had he allowed it to happen? How had he been tricked? “I want you to know, Susan, that I didn’t take that money.” He always called her Susan, because that was the name that Matt Roberts had chosen for his daughter. She was named after Susan Calvin, the Robopsychologist created by Isaac Asimov for his robot stories. Susan knew what her name meant to her father, what hee xpected from her. “I don’t know how the money got in my account, but that’s not what I do. You know what my work’s about Susan, you see it every day.” She knew. She watched her father and helped him with his work. He was one of the most obsessive and skilled hackers in the business, but had never done anything for personal gain. He did it to balance the wrongs he saw in the world. And of course, because it was really exiting.
Janet pulled the car in next to the flat, and put her hand on Susans. "Look, Susie, I know you want to see your dad, and you miss him and stuff, but maybe it's good for you to spend sometime away from him.” Her eyes glistened as she tried to swallow the lump rising in her throat. “I know it’s my fault sweetie, but I worry that you’ve been spending every day at his place. At your age you should have friends, and be out having fun." Susan knew that her mother didn’t like how close she was to her dad. But she hadn't stopped her. A few years ago, it suited her that Susan went there every day after school. She wouldn't have been able to work if she hadn't. It wasn’t that Susan didn’t have friends. She did, but she didn’t bring them home. Her mum would have chattered and pried into their lives, asking questions and feeding them cake. They were clever like Susan and her dad. And at his place they could hang out and worked on the machines, and they thought that was cool.
Susan and her mum climbed the concrete stairs up to their flat on the 3rd floor. “Do you want a cup of tea Suzie?” Janet called from the kitchen. “If you like.” Susan replied, as she slumped into the big green velvet arm-chair that her dad used to sit in when he lived with them. She stroked the worn patches on the arms, as she looked at the picture of them all together, sitting on a small table next to her. The picture showed her mum and dad on a climate change march, with five year old Susan on her dad’s shoulders, all curls and smiles. They must have liked each other once, Susan thought. But why? They were so different. Matt was clever, and Janet was emotional. She was only interested in people. When they met they both wanted to make the world a better place, fighting oil companies and big business with campaigns and direct action. But as the years went by after Susan was born, their ideas of how to change the world took them on different paths. She worked with community groups, and he built on his physics degree to develop an uncanny talent for hacking, which he used to target unethical companies.
“I’ve got your favourite for dinner tonight, Suzie.” Janet said as she put down the cup in front of the picture. “I’ve got to go out first. Dad’s given me the keys to his flat, and I need to do a couple of things for him.” “Oh Suzie, why do you have to go round there? The police have been all through his things. It’ll upset you.” Oh god, was she crying again? “I'm not like you mum, it’s alright.” Yes there were definitely tears in her eyes. “Should I come with you Suzie? I could help.” “Don’t be stupid mum. You wouldn’t understand it. Just stop fussing, I’ll be fine!”
When she got to her dad’s she wasn’t surprised to see that her mother was right. Everything had been turned over. Shelves and drawers emptied onto the floor. She looked but of course it was all gone, the PC, the laptops, the disks, modem, printer, everything her dad used for his work. She took out a piece of paper from her coat pocket, and unfolded it, just as someone knocked on the door. She stood absolutely still, listening, and pushing the paper deep into her pocket, trying to hold her breath. The knock came again. “Calvin, are you in there?” It was the voiceof one of her geeky friends. Susan breathed out, and opened the door. “What are you doing here Charlie? How did you find me?” “Took a guess. Seeing as you’re here every day, seemed like good odds.” He looked over her shoulder with that stupid smile on his face, raising his eyebrows. The smile that he always had when he felt pleased with himself. “Wow it’s true, the feds did a real numberon your dad, then.” “You’d better come inside, now you’re here.” Susan grabbed his wrist and pulled him into the flat, closing the door behind him.
“So what’s the plan?” Charlieasked as he walked through the wreckage of what had been his favourite after school hang out. “We’re going to find out who did this to my dad.” “Well sure,but how? There’s nothing here. The Feds got it all.” Susan took the paper from her pocket. “Not all of it. My dad gave me this.” She held out a crumpled paper with fine a pencil writing: “EiRE 49-7/ 61-1 / 16-40 / 90-4” “What does that mean? Do we have to go to Ireland? Are these co-ordinates?” Susan was quiet. Then she climbed over to the book shelves. Half the books were on the floor, and she picked them up one by one flinging them aside, until she found the one she wanted and held it up for Charlie. He read out the title. “Earth is Room Enough. Asimov. Aha, EiRE. But what are thenumbers?” Susan flicked through to page 49, and read the 7th line: “important information in a safety-deposit box. He acted as…” Page 61, first line: “When they talk about the Ridgley administration of 1988, do…” Page16, line 40: “By 1960, even the largest universities depended upon…” And then page 90, line 4: “assigned (it looked, as did all such, like a rather stumpy obelisk),”.
“I’ve seen that somewhere …” Charlie said, as they both looked around the room. Charlie spotted them first. A set of three obelisk shaped beeswax candles sitting on a shelf above the books. He grabbed a broom and pushed them off the shelf and onto the floor. Thelargest was still in tact, so he threw it down again, harder. It broke into lots of pieces revealing a small brass key.
A visit to the bank in Ridgely Street nearby, revealed that they fitted safety deposit box number 1960. Inside, Susan and Charlie found an external hard drive, encased in shiny black plastic.
When they got back to Susan’sflat, her mum was busy in the kitchen, but not too busy to notice a visitor.“Are you going to introduce me, Suzie?” She said, wiping her hands on a tea towel. Susan dragged Charlie into her room. “Mum, Charlie. Charlie, Mum.” She closed the door. Going straight to her computer, Susan dug the hard drive out of her pocket. “Have a look in that box for a USB cable Charlie.” He found a cardboard box next to the cupboard, overflowing with cables and chargers, headsets, and cameras. Rifling through, he pulled out a silver cable and passed it Susan. She connected it to the box and then to her computer. A log-in window appeared on the screen and prompted her for a password. Without hesitation, Susan typed ‘AlfredLanning2002’. “Hey, Good password Calvin. The name of the and date of the seminar that Susan Calvin attended on Psycho-Math and Robotics, if I’m not mistaken.” Charlie sat next to Susan. “Yes Charles. I have taught you well.”
The password revealed the contents of the external hard drive, and Susan scanned through the list. “Wow, he has everything on here. One whole Terabyte of memory, filled with my dad’s files, emails. Records of all the activity on his computers.” Charlie is impressed. “Good old Matt. He’s the back-up king! Well, of course he’s also the hacker king too … and that’s really cool and everything. But you can't be cool without a good backup system …” “Oh be quiet Charlie, and help me go through this stuff. There’s tons of it.” They begin to scroll through the files. “What are we looking for Calvin?” “Anything that can help us clear my dad’s name. He didn’t divert that money into his account. So someone else must have done it, and planted the evidence on his computer. We’re going to find out who did it, and how they did it.” “And then what?” Charlie asked.“And then we’re going to free my dad.”
“Dinner’s ready… Susie, Charlie… it’s on the table.”

Melissa Taylor

 

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