“A solution to our problem requires a certain amount of ordered chaos,” Hsiang explained to his cellmate as they used the guard’s severed head to gain entry into DeadPan’s nerve center. “To find a workable answer we need to invite a wide range of possible solutions. Early on, this requires a certain amount of randomness in our search. Eventually, this turbulence has to be controllable in a way that allows us to turn disorder into a deterministic system. Does that make sense?”
“If it means killing Blythedale.”
“It could. But you need to be open to many other possibilities.”
“Like killing Sikkurd, Noh, Fallkirk or Mi Tang?
“Possibly. Though it may mean not killing anyone.”
“What kind of a plan is that?” Suarez asked, his meaty hand flexing around the iron brace Hsiang had removed from one of the industrial dryers in the laundry facility after his last shift. “This just isn’t about escape, it’s about vengeance.”
Hsiang nodded. “Yes. Vengeance. It should be optimized. Our wrongdoers should pay, but death is not the only toll we can exact.”
“Death is simple.”
“But not always painful enough,” Hsiang said softly. “Pain is a powerful teacher. Our vengeance should instruct. Remember, many will be watching.”
“We are always watched.”
“Exactly. That is the flow into which we must introduce turbulence. That instability will show us possible flaws we can isolate and then optimize in order to escape.”
“And punish,” Suarez reminded.
“I thought you didn’t believe in absolutes, Hsiang?”
Hsiang grinned. “You, Suarez, are just the sort of turbulence needed to bring order into the chaos we are about to create.”
Suarez scratched behind his ear with the iron bar and then pointed with its filed end to the screens that displayed every prisoner in DeadPan. “Who do we start with?”
“It must be random. Not a conscious choice. That will make us reactors along with the rest.”
“Fair enough,” Hsiang acknowledged. He lifted the sentrybot’s pierced skull above the main console, looked away, then dropped the carbon cranium onto the central monitors where it bounced, flipped, spun and landed on the image of Snowden’s cell. The live feed showed him engrossed in a book, an honest-to-NSA paper and ink book.
“That’s it? This starts it?”
“Pebble in the pond. Butterfly in the breeze. Ghost in the machine,” Hsiang answered as he tapped the command and Snowden’s image faded from DeadPan’s surveillance grid.
“Now, out of the spying pan and into the fire.”