011 The Package (HOPR Hunt Puzzle #14)

Kanza trudged through the sludge and stink of the Market District, trying to keep her head bowed to avoid the hundreds of cameras Central had installed in every public space.

It wasn’t hard: the package on her back weighed more than she did.

Dozens of other relayers scuttled past her, each burdened with a seemingly identical package. But Kanza knew hers was different somehow.

It had been several weeks since her first contact with the Resistance. Every day when she woke, she scanned her video wall for glitches and hidden messages as surreptitiously as she could manage, always finding nothing.

Then suddenly that morning a new message appeared, in barely perceptible letters projected behind her rusted wash stand.

DO NOT DELIVER TODAY’S PACKAGE. YOU WILL RECEIVE NEW INSTRUCTIONS.

Kanza gulped. Failure to complete a relay would result in penalties and even exile. As a Class-F Relayer, Kanza had no leeway for non-compliance. But the Resistance was her only chance to find about her father. How could he possibly still be alive? She didn’t know if she wanted it to be true or not. All she knew is she had to find out.

In the Relay depot, as she waited to be loaded up for the day’s toil, a supervisor she didn’t recognise had pushed her roughly to the ground as he strode towards the mainframe responsible for calculating the day’s routes.

Kanza was used to such treatment, but when she picked herself up she found a tiny datachip had been pressed into her hand. She slotted it into the monitoring unit clamped firmly around her wrist, and a voice suddenly crackled in her ear:

“It may seem like Central has eyes everywhere, but it has grown complacent. It makes links between data that it shouldn’t. As long as you hit the primary nodes on the route for your Daily Toil, you have some leeway to stray from the path. In this way, you can slither past its sensors. Relay this package to our contact, and we will tell you more. About your father, your future, your fate. This data grid will tell you everything you need to know: your projected route, the route you should actually take, and where you should meet for the dropoff.”

“What’s in the package?” she whispered.

“That is the one thing you cannot know. To know that would reveal the truth about this whole Settlement. You are not ready for that yet. Just focus on this mission.”

Looking down at the monitoring unit, she saw the display had become corrupted. This must be her instructions.

Where must Kanza deliver the package?