Hard_Code, Scene I
Frank 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. It's a fake, a decoy."
"The hypertext?" we all, Dirk, Scott, and I, asked at once.
"Yes. It's 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 it's an amazingly perfect encoding of some other text."
"I thought we wrote it," Dirk said.
"You'll believe anything, won't you?" Frank shot back.
"Look at the word 'Unknown,' when I decode it:
"Dammit, I'm 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! I've got it!:
A relaxing of tension, especially internationally!" screamed Frank.
"Frank," Dirk objected, "D_tente has an accented initial E. I thought you said this code was 'amazingly perfect.' As if it were possible to modify 'perfect.' I mean, you're either perfect or you’re not, you're not 'more perfect' or 'less perfect!' The Unknown is flawed, you said it yourself!"
"We're not flawed," Rettberg said coolly, "we're imperfect. We're not geniuses, man, we barely add up to a single genius."
"We're like a single genius" I clarified, "without a good editor."