Author: Alastair Millar

“So,” I asked him as I took the bar stool next to his, “What do you do?”

He half-turned, and evidently liked what he saw. No surprise, I’d made an effort for the evening.

“Data mule,” he replied with a smile. “I’m Dan.”

“Hi Dan, I’m Andi. So, what’s a data mule, and why is it sitting here all alone?” Not subtle, I agree, but then if you’re into subtle, Marvin’s is not the place for you.

“Glorified bagman, but I carry data.”

“Why? Don’t people just send it over the net?”

“Usually. But when your info’s in cyberspace, you don’t know where it is, or who’s duplicating or decrypting it, or if someone’s diverting or delaying it. That’s where I come in. You hand me your data package, I take it where it needs to go. Simple. Across the street, around the planet, off world, makes no difference to me.” He raised his empty glass in query.

“Oh, make mine a gin and tonic, thanks! But isn’t that kind of slow?”

He tapped the order in. “Well, sure, it’s slower than the grid, but it’s a lot safer.”

“Wow, that sounds… well, glamorous I guess. Getting paid to travel and all. Seeing all those places. And I guess the stuff you carry must be important?” I’d gone all wide-eyed innocent at this point, because with a certain kind of guy, that routine never fails.

“To someone. It’s all encrypted, I have no idea what it is. And honestly, it’s not as exciting as it sounds.”

“But someone’s comping you to come to Mars! Most people can only dream of it!” The robot bartender put our glasses in front of us. His was a Scotch, I noticed – pricey, but hey, if someone else was picking up his expenses, why not?

“I know, but I got in on a late shuttle, and now I have to kill time until my client’s office opens in the morning. Then it’s straight back Earthside on the lunchtime flight. No time for sight-seeing or whatever.”

I pouted. “What, no time for any fun at all?”

He raised an eyebrow. “Did you have something in mind?”

* * *

Obviously, I didn’t have to screw him – hypnopharmaceuticals would have done the trick – but nobody said I couldn’t enjoy myself when working out of hours.

Later, after he fell asleep, I’d taken the sniffer out of my purse and run it over his clothes; it was a nano drive hidden on a shirt fastening. Cloning it was quick and easy – when you work for Security, you get all the best toys. He’d never know that a copy of whatever he was carrying was going to end up with my boss, and then the Administration’s decryption boys.

Before slipping out, I left him a note telling him how sweet he was, which was no lie. I also left him my bleeper number “in case he passed through again”; if this became a regular route for him, I’d happily play the local girl he could rely on. He was fun to be with!

But like they told us in basic training: despite all the technology and the workarounds, it’s always the human factor that’s the weakest link.