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“There are only two possibilities: yes or no?” he yelled.
“It isn’t that simple, so let me explain,” I replied.
“Get on with it,” he demanded.
I sighed. There seemed no way to make him understand that he didn’t understand, even though he was my boss.
“Well in theory, no, but in practice possibly.”
He roared, “YES or NO?” again.
“NO!” Right now, that was the only answer I could give him.
“But you said you might be able to do it?”
“Well I can’t!” This was going nowhere and this seemed like the only answer that would get rid of him.
“But I promised you would!” Now he was belligerent.
“Well you shouldn’t have because…” we were interrupted by Alex, my assistant, “Phone in the outer office Mr Biggs.”
“Professor Biggs!” but he went out.
The minute he went through the door that Alex was holding open, Alex closed and locked it.
I raised my eyebrows in a question.
“I made up the call to get him out. He was wasting time and has no idea. He can’t fire you and he knows it. That is one of the problems. He resents that his boss, Prof Cartwright, hired you and you answer only to him.”
Professor Cartwright ran the whole operation and under him, on the laboratory side was Biggs, and on the admin side Mrs Withers. Everyone reported to either Biggs or Withers, everyone except me. When I was head-hunted part of the deal was I could by-pass Biggs because I knew him to be a buffoon and would only agree to work under those terms.
Alex was right, and I had already lost my train of thought.
I turned back to my work and immediately forgot about Biggs banging on the door.
“Right, Alex, we were discussing the last remaining weak link in quantum cryptography, the man-in-the-middle. We said that, if A contacts B using quantum cryptography no one can hack in, but A and B need to be able to verify each other so C cannot impersonate either to steal the data. And we had agreed that this verification issue was what we needed to overcome. Right?”
“Right, but we also said that this need only be a problem with the first contact because after that both A and B will recognise each other,” Alex added.
We were silent for a while and then suddenly it hit me.
“I think I have it,” I shouted in excitement.
Alex looked enthusiastic as he waited for me to explain.
“It is simple. We get computer manufactures to add quantum data to their machines so each one has a recognisable, but secret number. These will be catalogued and anyone using quantum cryptography only needs to use a registry to click a public IP and connect safely to another user without knowing the extra IP. When you first use your computer you add numbers and/or digits to your IP. If you do not add this, the computer will not work. This additional IP is known only to you. Once you have established a secure connection with another, you have ten minutes to confirm or lose the connection, so you ask each other for the extra IP and enter it.” I looked expectantly at Alex.
“Yes, it could work, but what about people who pay to get someone else to set up their computer?”
“Ok, so these technicians have a temp extra IP and add it to do the work, but they remove it once they have finished, or it expires after 30 minutes, one hour – whatever. Then you add your additional IP when you get your computer.” More ideas were coming to me as we talked.
“Police could identify a cyber-criminal by clicking and getting their location, but never seeing the extra IP. No one would.”
“It could work,” said Alex thoughtfully before turning to leave and saying, “I will go to my lab and start tests right now.”
He unlocked the door and left. Biggs had given up, for now, but I knew he would be back to exact revenge and did not relish the thought.
I didn’t have long to wait, because Biggs was soon back with cleaners. “You may not be under my jurisdiction but this lab is, and I think it might be a health hazard and needs a thorough cleaning. It might take a few days to do right, so you need to leave. I will let you know when it is ready,” he said smugly.
Furious I yelled at the cleaners not to touch a single thing and called Professor Cartwright. When I explained what was happening he arrived at a run and sent Biggs and the cleaners away immediately.
While I was waiting for this incident to be over I had another thought about the man-in-the-middle, and settled down to work on it.
I spent two days on my new man-in-the-middle idea and when I was ready set about testing it.
Just as the tests proved positive, Professor Cartwright arrived to speak to me.
He started, “I want to talk to you about Professor Biggs,” but hesitated, and seemed to have trouble deciding what to say.
“Er, there is a leak,” Professor Cartwright said. “I checked it seems to be coming from Professor Biggs. I know he is an idiot, but do you think he would do this?” he asked.
“Yes. He bitterly resents me and feels I stole his job.”
“I have to fire him,” Cartwright said desolately. “Do you want his job?”
“Yes, and Alex can have mine,” I said, happy Biggs was going.
“Right, I am on my way to fire Biggs now,” and Professor Cartwright left.
I called Alex. He was ecstatic.
“So your theory worked?” he asked.
“What theory?” I pleaded ignorance.
“Don’t worry, I had the same thought, but when I tried to pretend to be Biggs and leak unimportant information, I saw you were already doing it. Now we can implement our Man-in-the-middle solution.”

About the Author: 
Jill Vance worked as a ghost writer for many years, but now publishes books of short stories with a twist in the tale under her own name. she also writes fables for children, again as short stories.