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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group

Genius: The Con

Genius (Volume 2)

Leopoldo Gout; read by Dan Bittner, Kevin R. Free, and Nancy Wu

Macmillan Young Listeners

MORE ABOUT THIS BOOK

1. TUNDE


Omo, please take my advice: Never jump from a moving train.

Outside of the physics related to falling and landing and rolling, there are a number of ridiculous hurdles one must overcome. The speed at which the train is traveling, the conditions of the ground onto which you are landing, the angle of your descent, these are only but a few. This is why the people who risk life and limb to jump from trains do it in a heartbeat. It is one of the few things in life in which the brain needs to be rerouted.

If you think about it, you will not do it.

It is na beanz, my friends.

So my advice to all who know me is, always use your brain.

After Painted Wolf and I broke my closest friend, Rex Huerta, from federal custody, we took the first train out of Boston and headed for New York. I will tell you, I was very anxious. I was sitting, in the very literal sense, on my own future.

The jammer, the piece of machinery I believed would save my family and my dear Akika Village, was just under my seat. My father told me at an early age that there is only one way to ensure you do not lose your most prized possessions—you must always have one hand on them. And so it was that I kept my hand on the jammer for the brief time we were on that commuter train.

Yet as this train rounded a bend and slowed to a manageable fifteen miles an hour, we pulled the emergency release on the hydraulic doors and jumped out into the midmorning cold.

One of my favorite concepts in physics is the first law as conceived by Sir Isaac Newton. It is very simple to understand and yet that is why it is so elegant.

Simplicity is always the hardest skill to master!

The first law is this: An object that is in motion will continue in motion at the same speed and in the same direction unless it is acted upon by another force.

In our case, the other force was the ground.

I landed with the jammer slamming up against my back. Painted Wolf was the most graceful. Rex don sakoro before he tumbled head over heels in the pea gravel just beyond the tracks. We were up and moving before we could feel the bruises.

Our timing was excellent. Only a half-mile distant we could see the by-now-familiar blue and red strobe lights of police vehicles. They were waiting for us at the next station. Seeing those cars instantaneously brought our actions into focus. The police wanted us, and we were running!

Running!

My friends, never in my life had I broken the law. I say this with confidence. I was an honest person, an upstanding member of my community. To break the law went against everything I believed and yet here I was. What we had done paled in comparison to the wrongs that had been committed against us!

I no just dey dive! My people, my entire village, were in the crosshairs of a madman. Rex was ruined, his name synonymous with the greatest cybercrime of the twenty-first century. Painted Wolf was concerned for the well-being of her entire family. The cards were stacked against us and the dealer was cheating.

This is why we ran, my friends. We were desperate.

We followed Painted Wolf from the train tracks toward a busy intersection where taxicabs whizzed by at incredible speeds. I assumed we might try to catch one. I was very wrong.

“There.” She pointed to a bus packed with commuters at the station.

“Are you kidding?” Rex blurted. “We’re still forty-two miles from New York!”

“They’ll be looking for us running or on foot. Every cab on the street is going to get an alert. They’ll be talking about us over the radio. We’ll only get a few blocks. But no one is going to expect us to be on a bus.”

1.1

The first step of any good escape plan is confusing your pursuers.

We knew there was simply no way we could outrun the police and FBI.

Not only were they highly mobile but they also had access to every aspect of public transportation. Step onto a bus and they could see us from the driver’s-side mounted cams. Hide out in the subway and we would be picked up by facial-recognition software. Even walking down the street was fraught with peril, as the authorities had undertaken the highly unusual step of launching surveillance drones on U.S. soil. I tell you, omo, it was like we had stumbled into a war.

But we were not without our resources.

Namely, Painted Wolf!

As we ran toward the station, she pulled out a cell phone and began typing. Painted Wolf typed for three city blocks as Rex and I shook with anxiety that we would be spotted.

“What are you doing?” Rex asked her.

“We have to go,” she said with a smile.

Omo, we wove like vipers in tall grass through the parked cars that ringed the station. Most of the police officers were inside, waiting for the train to arrive (surely it would be only minutes before they heard of our escape!), and those who were outside were distracted enough that they missed us make our way around the back of the station. Thank God, I saw no officers there.

Ah, but there was a good reason for that!

“Watch out!”

Painted Wolf motioned to the sky as Rex hustled me behind a parked car. Before I could ask him what had him so spooked, he pointed skyward. Three drones the size of dinner plates hovered a block away. As they moved toward us, I could hear the faint whine of their servos over the distant crash of traffic. My friends, though it was clear these things were likely looking for us, I was impressed. What amazing design! Even in the midst of running, I give big throwaway salute to technology!

“Think they’ve seen us?” Painted Wolf whispered.

“If they haven’t, they will soon,” Rex replied.

The drones spread out. Two of the clever machines hovered about fifty-five feet above the edges of the parking lot and one, seventy feet up, hovered over the middle. Just glancing at the bulbous 360-degree cameras on their bellies told me they would easily find us. And they would do it quickly.

“We need a diversion,” Rex said. “I’ll do it.”

I held him back. “No. We bring them down.”

“How?”

These Americans, so ready to leap into overdramatic action anytime the going gets tough! “I am going to turn on the jammer, of course.”

Rex he dey shine a splufic smile!

The drone hovering a half block away on our side of the street whirred lower; it would be right overhead in a matter of seconds. I undid the locks on the jammer, and my fingers moved on automatic across the controls. I knew this machine inside and out! There was an anticlimactic silence as the jammer buzzed to life, but I knew that human ears could not pick up the signals it was generating.

The drones, however, could.

The one on our side of the lot was only twenty feet away when it suddenly plummeted, clattering to the pavement. The second and third drone dropped like stones soon afterward. One shattered; the other lost its rotors in an explosion of plastic. Ah, it was sad to see such refined engineering broken on the pavement.

“A waste,” I said as I stood.

Rex grabbed me and pulled me back down. “Not so fast. Even though their GPS systems are jammed, their cameras could still be working.”

“Let me handle it,” Painted Wolf said.

With a wink to Rex, Painted Wolf pulled a laser pointer from her purse, then slowly, carefully, eased herself up over the hood of the parked car and aimed it at the nearest drone, targeting its camera eye. We were too far away to tell if the trick worked, but Painted Wolf hit the other drones with the laser, too.

Still, my friend Rex was not taking any chances.

He jumped up and ran to the nearest downed drone. When he got to it, Rex stomped it to bits! What a sight, to see those pieces spinning across the parking lot. Rex next made a beeline to the second drone and delivered the same treatment.

Finally, letting off all his steam, Rex crushed the third and last drone with a well-placed leap. Though I hate destruction, I will tell you, the crunch of the glass was incredibly satisfying!

1.2

We reached the bus only seconds before it lurched into gear.

This was no danfo!

Not only was the ride impeccably smooth but the interior was more like that of an airplane than a highway bus. With the bus half full, Rex and I sank into our seats near the back while Painted Wolf paid the driver. The other passengers, young people with too few bags and older people who were already fast asleep, largely ignored us as we settled in.

I did notice one young woman eyeing her cell phone and then glancing back at us. Was she taking photos? Checking her news feeds to see if we were the ones the police were looking for? The way her eyeballs darted from her cell screen to our faces told me we had to do something fast. Even though I may have been growing paranoid, who could blame me!

I told Rex and Painted Wolf to power off their cell phones. Then I switched on the jammer again and the bus instantly became a moving bubble of GPS failure. And more! As it had at the Game, the jammer wreaked havoc with every device receiving and generating electronic signals aboard. The young woman watching us restarted her phone, tapped it ruthlessly, and then finally put it away, completely flabbergasted.

I turned the jammer back off a few minutes later. I did not want to be responsible for any accidents. I figured the best use of the jammer was to turn it on and have it send out a very low disrupting signal every five minutes or so. The process would be laborious, but that way at least we would have the best of both worlds—a moving digital bubble that did not leave a trail of broken phones and equipment. This way, the phones would work but there would be no incoming or outgoing messages.

The bus made its way through traffic to the highway on-ramp. Passengers complained about lack of service, and though she had nothing to do with it, the bus driver actually turned around and apologized to everyone. She was a good person, and I did feel guilty about the situation.

But my guilt did not last that long, omo.

With the phones and tablet computers rendered momentarily inactive, the passengers were forced to do the unthinkable: They had to talk to each other or gaze out the window at the beautiful landscape surrounding us.

It is true that most of it was industrial—warehouses, refineries, factories—but, my friends, I believe that all human ingenuity is beautiful.


Text copyright © 2017 by Leopoldo Gout

Illustrations copyright © 2017 by James Manning and Leopoldo Gout