Reality Bytes Part 4 -- Clarity

(Part 1 from 3)

Alicia took a long, steadying breath. "Focus, Ally," she told herself, and wiped the budding tears away. The damned orgy in the next room had finally ended and she was able to take the rig from her head without damaging the fragile filaments. She needed to take charge, and the first thing to do in a crisis situation was assess the damage.

She tapped on a small red rectangle near the edge of her table and the embedded electronics came to life, billions of microscopic LEDs activating to form a display screen with the Dante's logo. Bumps formed at the table's edge next to her and rose a few millimeters above the surface. Glowing blue letters appeared on the bumps to indicate the keys of a keyboard. The “Dante’s” logo on the screen faded and a text message appeared.

Please choose an option:

Restaurant Menu

Member services

Net Access

Alicia touched "Net Access" and typed an address. The message, "Contacting user. Please Wait," scrolled across the top of the screen. After a moment, the text changed to "Video Disabled" and a very tired and irritated female voice came from the table, "That you, boss?" Boss was the pet name her research team had given her.

"Kelly," Alicia said briskly, "I need you to meet me at the lab in thirty minutes. We may have had a security breach tonight."

"You're joking, right?"

"I wish it were bullshit, but it's not. Just be there." She cut the connection. There was no time to waste on explaining what was going on. She paused on the way out just long enough to drop off the rig with the club's staff and then rushed for the exit. 

Outside, it was just beginning to rain. She clambered into the dry interior of a cab and directed the driver to her lab. Her dress, soaked from her brief time in the rain, stuck to her legs uncomfortably. She shivered as much from anxiety as from being cold and damp. “Forty-third and Placer, please,” she told the car. It came to life with a soft whine and moved into traffic with the calm precision of a machine.

Her eyes traveled upward as she stepped out of the cab, up to the tenth floor. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, though what she expected to see on the outside. There was a security guard on duty at the front desk as she entered. She’d spoken to him a few times before. She remembered his name: Bill.

“In for some late work tonight, Miss Davis?” he said, hastily dropping his feet from the desk where he had propped them.

She shook her head dismissively. “Has anyone come in besides me tonight?”

“Yeah. Kelly Brenshaw got here just a few minutes ago. She told me you’d be coming.”

“No one else?”

He shrugged. “Not since graveyard started.”

“Thanks, Bill.”

“Sure, no problem.” He grinned. “But please call me Bud. Everyone else does.”

“Thanks, Bud,” she shot back over her shoulder on the way to the elevator. It was only after she was inside, on her way up to the lab that she thought it might be a good idea to bring Bud along.

Most of the lights were out on the tenth floor, but the hallways were all bathed in greenish florescent light. She hurried to the lab, her heart pounding faster now as her anxiety reached its peak. She grabbed the knob and stopped cold before she remembered her keycard. She removed it from her pocket with shaking hands and passed it through the reader, then stood still for a scan of her irises from the camera set into the wall next to the door. The red light on the panel flashed green and the door lock clicked. Wasting no time, Alicia gave it a shove and stepped inside.

Nothing appeared out-of-the-ordinary in the lab. But why was it so damned hot? “Oh, shit!” she cried out, running for the stainless-steel refrigerator along one wall. The door was standing wide open, letting in air that was a good ten or twenty degrees above thirty-seven C. She looked over the rows of Petri dishes in dismay, knowing they had to be ruined. Both the phages and the bacteria they preyed upon were dead, visible only as a drying scum in the bottom of the dishes. Weeks of careful culturing had just been obliterated, probably in the space of less than an hour.

“Boss, there you are.” Kelly’s voice. She stood in the doorway, absolute business. It seemed she hadn’t yet grasped the situation. “I tried to save a few of the samples, but it looks like they were all ruined. There was some kind of failure in the thermostats for both the fridge and this room. What happened here?”

Alicia ignored the question. “Have you looked at the research files?”

She shook her head. “No, I just got here and—“

“Come on,” Alicia said briskly, cutting her off. She ran to a computer and entered her password. “Goddammit!” she screamed, pounding her fist on the desk. The research files had been wiped clean from the server. She checked for recently deleted files, but it appeared that someone had actually written over all of the empty storage space after deleting the references to the files, destroying the data forever.

“What about the backups?” Kelly said. Alicia was oddly reluctant to take the next logical step. Theoretically, the backup data should be intact. Their system administrator backed up all data at the end of every day, burning them direct to holocube from a separate server with the best firewall protection and encryption that was available to the corporate world. Somehow, she doubted it was enough.

Alicia ran to a storage cabinet. Inside was an empty rack. It was exactly as she feared. The holocubes were gone. Alicia leaned against the edge of the desk to steady herself. It was just as she had feared.

“Now wait just a damned minute,” Kelly said. “Someone would have to break in to get these cubes out of here.”

It was true. The holocubes could not have just walked away on their own. Someone would have to have picked them up. “Oh shit!” Alicia said, for the second time that night. “The maintenance bots. They probably dumped the cubes in the trash.”

“Why would they do that?” Kelly asked, but Alicia was typing away furiously at the administrator’s workstation.

She leaned back, staring what amounted to her last hope being dashed. “The garbage was processed twenty minutes ago. Our backup data got crushed up into a million fragments.”

“Hold on,” Kelly interjected. “This is crazy. How does something like this happen? I could understand a fridge going out, but losing all our files at the same time, and the hard copy backups?”

“We were hacked, the whole god dammed building,” Alicia said, rubbing circles into her temples with her thumbs to alleviate the sudden pain. Her mind was already falling back, making plans for picking up the scattered pieces contained in personal notes and from memory. It would take months. And in the meantime, the work they had done so far could make millions on the black market. Another research team could finish the work and publish the results before they were half done. She looked up at Kelly. “It’s my fault.”

Kelly stared at her. “You? What, you let a password slip?”

She sighed. “It’s complicated. Let’s just say I attracted some unwanted attention. Listen, there’s nothing more we can do here tonight. Have Gabe go through this in the morning, see if he can find anything we might have missed.” Gabe was the system admin.

The crestfallen look on Kelly’s face was proof that she finally realized the extent of what had happened. “Boss, this is for real, isn’t it?”

Alicia rolled her head back and stared at the ceiling, feeling drained but strangely numb. “Well, it sure as fuck ain’t virtual.”

Pages : 1 | 2 | 3 | More Erotic_Stories, check also erotic stories or adult stories.
Post your review/reply.

Allow us to process your personal data?

Hop to: