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121 Cracking the Code

 He Zhichu drove Gu Nianzhi over to the Huaxia Student Association's mixer party in his Mercedes-Benz.

He parked the car in front of the building and, to Gu Nianzhi's complete surprise and dismay, followed her inside.

Gu Nianzhi had tried several times to get him to leave, but he had waved aside her arguments easily with sarcastic retorts.

Gu Nianzhi gave up: she would just have to ignore him and pretend that he wasn't there. She walked into the building and began to mingle with the students inside.

She was young and extremely beautiful. All eyes were on her as soon as she walked in. What made her stand out further was how not only was she a good conversationalist, but also was cheerful and easygoing. Her fellow students quickly warmed up to her.

Gu Nianzhi scanned the room, but did not see the postdoc fellow she was looking for, the one from the School of Engineering. She pulled one of the party organizers aside and asked, in a low voice, "Hey, have you seen Zhao Quan?"

"Zhao Quan? I saw him a minute ago. Maybe he's in the kitchen, helping them out with grilling chicken wings?" The student pointed the kitchen out to her.

Gu Nianzhi thanked her and calmly walked towards the kitchen.

He Zhichu casually followed her. She was tense as he stopped in the kitchen doorway, and looked in.

A chubby man, half a head shorter than Gu Nianzhi, turned and hurried to the door. "Yes? Are you looking for me?"

Gu Nianzhi stood frozen in place.

What the heck!

This man did not look anything like his photo on the university website! He had been sitting down in the photo, which had made it impossible to tell how tall he was. Although, he had a pleasant face that was easy on the eyes, he probably could have passed for an "Adonis"-if only he had been a little taller.

Gu Nianzhi stood and stared at her short, chubby "Adonis", chagrined. She could almost hear He Zhichu laughing at her behind her back.

Well, she thought, she was just going to have to go through with it-she was a woman on a mission, after all. He could have looked like a total pig, and she would have shamelessly worshipped the man as an a beautiful made idol even then, if it had meant getting the results she was after!

He Zhichu was, as Gu Nianzhi suspected, laughing at her, but only inwardly.

He coolly looked Gu Nianzhi's "Adonis" over, before turning to leave.

Once Gu Nianzhi saw that he was gone, she breathed a sigh of relief. It would have been so much more awkward if He Zhichu had hung around.

"Brother Zhao, I heard you're a postdoctoral fellow at the School of Engineering. That's, like, so amazing!" Gu Nianzhi looked admiringly at Zhao Quan with her large eyes; she bat her eyelashes at him and smiled. Zhao Quan's mind instantly went blank under the full force of her adoring gaze.

"Oh no, I-I-I'm just like any other researcher, r-really," stammered Zhao Quan. He handed her a grilled chicken wing. "Want some?"

"Thank you, Brother Zhao." Gu Nianzhi accepted the chicken wing. She held it up to her nose and inhaled. "Oh gosh, this smells heavenly!"

She began to butter Zhao Quan up again. "I'm a law student myself, but only because I'm no good at science. I never paid much attention in my science classes, you see, ever since I was little, so I really admire those with a head for science-like you, for example! Actually, now that I think about it, women have always been inferior to men when it comes to the sciences, haven't they?" Gu Nianzhi gave an exaggerated sigh.

Zhao Quan was feeling light-headed from all the praise. He quickly said, "Hey now, don't underestimate yourself. There are plenty of intelligent and accomplished women in the sciences, and many are better than the men in their respective fields even."

"Really? I don't believe you. You're just saying that to make me feel better." Gu Nianzhi fluttered her eyelashes at him again as she placed a grilled chicken wing on Zhao Quan's plate. "Here, you should eat too, Brother Zhao."

Zhao Quan smiled. He took a bite out of his chicken wing, and pointed in the direction of the living room. "I'm not lying. See that lady over there? That's Xin Xinggao, the most accomplished student in my department. She's the leader of our best observation and surveillance team, and she doesn't even have her doctorate degree yet!"

"Oh, really?" Gu Nianzhi's heart was racing now. She had not expected Xin Xinggao to be at the party as well-coming to the party had been well worth it!

Xin Xinggao was dressed casually, and appeared to be a gentle, well-mannered lady with delicate features and wavy hair that reached her shoulders. She was chatting with the president of the student association, a beer in her hand.

Gu Nianzhi set her plate down, and wiped her hands neatly with a napkin. She reached for a bottle of beer and handed it to Zhao Quan. "Here, have some beer. It goes so well with the chicken wings."

Zhao Quan downed half the bottle in one go. "Everything I say is true! You can look it up on the university intranet if you don't believe me. It's public information."

"Oh. But, I really don't see what's so impressive about that." Gu Nianzhi shrugged. "Maybe she got lucky."

"Luck has nothing to do with it! Her team is working on some really incredible stuff. They're trying to crack the channel encryption for satellite signals, did you know that?"

Gu Nianzhi put on her best vacant stare. She shook her head. "I have no idea what that means, it's all Greek to me. Why are we talking about this anyway? It's stupid and boring, let's talk about something else." She giggled and began telling Zhao Quan a few jokes. She eventually noticed a female student, about the same height as Zhao Quan, glaring at her, and decided it was time to leave. She rose and said, "I'm going to see what everyone else is up to. Want to come along, Brother Zhao?"

Zhao Quan was in charge of the kitchen, and could not leave. Gu Nianzhi knew this, of course; she had asked the party organizers in advance.

Sure enough, Zhao Quan reluctantly said, "I have to stay in the kitchen. You go have fun."

Gu Nianzhi skipped gaily out of the kitchen and into the main room. She spent some more time cheerfully mingling with the other students before leaving the party.

Once she was outside, she looked around, but did not see He Zhichu's Mercedes-Benz. She guessed that he had already left.

But when Gu Nianzhi walked out of the gates and onto the street, He Zhichu's Mercedes-Benz rolled into view and pulled up beside her.

He Zhichu lowered the window and looked out at her. "Get in."

Gu Nianzhi pursed her lips. She clutched at her backpack, feeling somewhat embarrassed, and got into the passenger seat.

"So which Adonis do you want to visit next?" There was an undercurrent of amusement in He Zhichu's voice. He looked over at Gu Nianzhi, his expression openly mocking.

Gu Nianzhi buried her face into the backpack on her lap. She mumbled, "They don't grow on trees, you know. It's so hard to find even one "Adonis", these days."

He Zhichu chuckled. He did not say anything after that.

He drove her back to the apartment, his expression neutral for the rest of the journey.

As soon as Gu Nianzhi got out of the car, He Zhichu said, "Since you seem to have a lot of free time, you can help me out with a new case. I'll send you the documents. Draft a report, and hand it in." He did not even look at her. He floored the gas pedal, and the Mercedes-Benz sped away, leaving Gu Nianzhi in a cloud of dust.

Gu Nianzhi covered her mouth with a hand as she coughed and sputtered. Once she had recovered, she returned to her apartment.

As soon as she was back in her apartment, Yin Shixiong pulled her to his room. "Quick, I have a video call going with Mr. Huo."

Gu Nianzhi perked up upon hearing this. She quickly seated herself on Yin Shixiong's desk chair.

"Uncle Huo!"

"Yes, it's me." Huo Shaoheng seemed to be in good spirits. "Nianzhi, you did it. Good job."

"Thanks, Uncle Huo! What else can I do to help?" Gu Nianzhi swelled with pride. She was eager to prove she could do even better.

A small smile flashed across Huo Shaoheng's lips. "Work with Little Ze and try to intercept the signals tonight, see what they're up to."

"Got it." Gu Nianzhi had already thought of doing that herself and had made the necessary preparations.

The signals had appeared at midnight the previous night. It was probably safe to assume that they would have to wait until midnight to catch the signals again.

Gu Nianzhi was too preoccupied with her new mission to bother with the case He Zhichu had assigned to her. She went to bed early and slept for a few hours; at midnight, she got up, contacted Zhao Liangze, and granted him remote access to her laptop. The two of them began tracking the probing signals.

They spent the entire night running detailed calculations and tests. By daybreak, Zhao Liangze and Gu Nianzhi were confident that they knew what the signals were up to.

What they had found was both expected and unexpected.

Zhao Quan had told the truth: the signals sent from the School of Engineering were probing for Nandou Global Satellite Navigation System's channel encryption key.

Huo Shaoheng and his men had failed in their most recent operations; this meant that the team at the Harvard School of Engineering had most likely cracked part of the pseudo-random password for the Nandou System, and were now able to track and locate anyone who was connected to the system.