Fifteen dollars and fifty one cents. Sarah had expected there would be more. The donation box had one ten dollar bill, two two-dollar coins, one loonie, five dimes and a penny.
What kind of cheap bastard ditches a penny in a collection box? There’s a fine line between ‘every penny counts’ and insult. Of course who am I to judge?
There had been three cheques as well. Two for five and ten dollars respectively, the third for fifty. But she had no way of cashing them. Certainly no legal way, not that she’d acquired them legally.
Eleven dollars had bought a cheap single gig USB drive at a convenience store. Two dollars paid for an hour of time on their back-room computer. The rest had paid for the ubiquitous soft drink and bag of chips special. She pocketed the chips for later and sipped at the rootbeer while she worked.
She used the internet connection to connect to the University server and download from her account some code she had been working on. She ran the program from the USB stick and really got busy.
The program was the current version of something she’d been tinkering with for a directed studies course she was taking. She had already staked out territory, intellectually speaking, at school as the girl who knew more than anyone about searching the internet. Clearly it was her specialty, and her advisor was already talking about the potential for the digital gizmo in question to be the cornerstone of her graduate studies. That was still two years away.
Complex search strings were a game for her. A puzzle. How could she craft a query to ferret out precisely what she was looking for with as little search noise as possible? Of course there was also interesting information to be discovered in the noise. Sarah’s understanding of searches had developed to the point where she could glean nearly as much useful information from the background data in some cases as from the most relevant hits.
The program bordered upon breaking privacy laws. It accessed her standing accounts with over two dozen general and specialized search engines and compared the data on who – or at least what IP addresses – were searching for what and looked for patterns.
First she honed a search for vampires, eliminating as much obvious fiction as possible. Of course to the world at large everything to do with vampires was fiction – and that was the catch. What she had to find were people who, like her, knew vampires were real. Making this even more complicated were the large number of deluded and fantasy prone people – like far too many of Ruthven’s peers – who couldn’t tell the difference between their imaginary vampires and the real world. Developing segments to filter out those hits could only be marginally successful in the time she had.
Sarah had no idea what to do with the vast number of recent news items about the “Vampire Virus Outbreak” at VGH, fortunately it was easy to filter out with a simple time-based function, so she could run comparisons both with and without. It was a good thing she did.
There was a natural spike in relevant worldwide results over the past forty-eight hours. The local results were understandably above the mean due to the outbreak being Vancouver based news. Focussing even closer on those results revealed a minor spike from one related set of IPs. Some pedestrian investigation revealed that the results came from the downtown head office of the Lancaster Corporation. Someone in the Lancaster building was following the outbreak developments very closely. This in itself was not remarkable. It became more interesting when she compared the historical results. This is where the time she had spent crafting her program paid off. The automated comparison search she had built into the code ferreted out a result that wouldn’t have seemed too remarkable if it were not for the outstanding recent spike from the Lancaster Corporation. She would not have given much more than curious notice to the number of searches that were attributed to companies across the lower mainland – barely statistically significant – that were owned under the umbrella of Lancaster Holdings.