L. Dee Walker
L. Dee Walker
Karma. When newbie Leticia Mayfield, in the IT Department, discovers an odd command in the mainframe system, it throws everyone out of whack when they fix it. The entire Karma system locks up, and every department must do a cold boot twice to get things back in order.
At the same time, a wayward soul—named Ronni Lewis—shows up in person though not in the data entry, and flips recruiting upside down. Unable to deal with the facts of her death, she tries to find an exit, causing chaos with her scheduled yet unscheduled arrival—not to mention a mess that needed to be cleaned and set back on track.
Every department suffers, but none is as severe as the bad karma accounting division. After rebooting the system—twice—Jax Howard finds nearly two thousand new cases in her queue, with many red folders having the exact court dates. If this isn’t enough to send her over the edge, at just eight in the morning, her dreamy boss—William Cassidy—informs her that she will be training a newbie who just arrived in recruiting. The order came from the executive management, which might be a glitch.
The events turn Karma upside down as they discover people have not been getting their just desserts for too long to count protected and only thought of as a hiccup in the system. Now, they need to get to the bottom of who is behind the trickery and set things on the right path, dishing out bad karma when necessary, all while trying to stay off overly sensitive radars about their actions.
Something Hinky with the System
Leticia Mayfield, the new kid on the block, didn’t want to make ripples on her first day, but she was about to make a tidal wave. Having checked her notes once, twice, and three times—getting the same miserable results—the newest IT department member ran a shaky hand through her strawberry-blond hair. Not sure what they expected her to do, she didn’t think corporate added locating foreign coding in the systems mainframe to the list, but it should make someone happy.
Chocolate eyes peeked over at her supervisor, who had issues and did not need more piled onto her overflowing plate. “Oh, she isn’t going to like this one bit,” she whispered. The longer she put it off, the harder it would be to explain why she did. “Dani, I’ve found something,” she paused, trying to think of the best word to describe her discovery, “hinky with the system,” she pointed to her monitor.
Glancing over, Danielle “Dani” Thurman quirked a brow. “Define hinky. When looking into a system that holds the life and death of millions of people, hinky doesn’t sound like it belongs in that scenario.”
“That’s about the gist of it. It doesn’t look like it belongs, and, well, it might be here for—I mean, that can’t be possible because it would make it so that—can you come and check this, please?”
Not enthused at the perplexing description, Dani stood up, stretching. “Ooh, my bones forgot how to work. I swear. I get tired of sitting in the same chair day after day. I’m setting a time for us to get up and walk around the office. Yes, we should all do that. Everyone, set a time in your schedule to get up once every two hours and stretch.”
“Yeah. I’ll get right on that,” Leticia quipped while typing on the keyboard. “Been sipping on the happy juice over there? Share the wealth over here.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. We will never have fun if we don’t laugh about our situation! Do you want to spend eternity not having fun?”
“Um. Yeah. Fun. More like numbers over here. Letters over there. So, can you come over and check this out? It’s not supposed to be in the mainframe. At least, I don’t think it is.”
“Yep,” she muttered. “Every newbie thinks they’ve found some life-or-death situation that needs my immediate attention. Everyone in this office found something inconsequential. Oy.”
“What’s that? If you’re talking to me, I didn’t catch it,” Leticia called over.
Huffing out her irritation, she took a deep breath before faking a smile. “Coming.” Snagging a candy bar off someone’s desk, Dani peered over Leticia’s shoulder, looking at the display. It only took a second before Dani pushed Leticia out of the chair and began typing on the keyboard. “Hang on. What the bloody hell?! Hinky is right!” Still not believing that Leticia didn’t put it there, she pulled up different frames on the screen. “Whoa! This isn’t supposed to be in the mainframe.”
“So, is it as big as I think it is?” Leticia looked over Dani’s shoulders.
“Where did you find this? You didn’t do it, did you?”
“Me?! Whoa! No. I merely found it. A hidden Easter Egg pushed back behind some frivolous junk files. I’m surprised no one else discovered it.”
“Well, to be fair, we’re not nosing around the system as you are.”
“Well, you told me to watch the system for errors, right? That gives a lot of wiggle room in the predestined duties.”
“You say you found all this behind some frivolous junk files. Hm. This is interesting. It looks like someone is trying to stop certain individuals from suffering for bad deeds.”
Leticia looked from the monitor to Dani. “Wait. What? Isn’t that what we do; enforce the rules of Karma?”
“Yeah. Something like that. This has me curious. Duplicate it, tear your copy apart and learn everything you can about it. I’m more interested in why someone went through the trouble of hiding it if it’s legit.” Hopping up, she walked back over to her desk.
“I wondered the same thing.” Staring at the odd symbols, Leticia studied them trying to figure out the best way to tear your copy apart.
“So then figure it out.”
“I’m on it.”
Ten cups of strong coffee and fifteen hours later, Leticia had managed to reverse engineer the odd array of numbers and letters and shook her head at the results. “You can’t be fucking serious?” Taking a moment to breathe it all in and swallowing the last bit of her not-quite-cold coffee, she called her back over. “Okay, Dani. I finished, and you are not going to believe this shit. I’ll put it up on the main screen.”
“That bad, huh?” Turning in her chair, chocolate snack in hand, Dani glanced up at the big screen TV on the wall. “Okay, darling, impress me.”
“It’s worse than I thought it would be. I understand why someone had hidden it from view.” As Leticia clicked a button, the screen came alive with numbers and letters, drawing attention from most people in the room. “The code, as you see here, is programmed to stop bad karma from happening with any relation to these initials: NP, CS, BS, HC, BO, JB, MC, GB, and those are just the ones off the top; it’s a pretty damn big list. Any person listed under those initials put into the system has protection against bad karma for any acts they do.”
“Any acts?” Taking a bite of the candy, Dani focused on the presentation. “That seems out of the scope of reality. I wonder why these people have such protection?”
Rummaging around on her desk, looking under the mound of papers she collected in her research, Leticia snagged her notes, taking them over to Dani. “I did some looking into it, now, the obvious thing would be government officials, but that could be a ploy. You can find those initials in all three political parties.”
Accepting the tablet, she alternated, looking from the paper to the big screen. “Yes. I see where one could come to that conclusion. However, that karma level is on another floor. They have loopholes due to national security and whatnot and rules about what does and doesn’t constitute as such versus personal gain. So why would they need to stop it on our level first?”
Bryan Owens, one of the men in the back, chimed in. “My guess is most of it is bullshit but isn’t that a far reach to assume they’re government officials? My initials are in there. Why wouldn’t you assume that someone wanted to take over Karma, and what better way than the inside out?” Otherwise known as the brainiac of the group with wavy blond hair and crystal blue eyes, he looked innocent, but appearances can be deceiving. Many of them had no clue what he did to wind up there. If they did, he wouldn’t be considered such a sweet guy.
Leticia stared at him as if he spoke another language. “That’s what I said! It could be a ploy, or it could just be so asinine ridiculous that it’s factual.”
Studying the monitor, Bryan nibbled on the inside of his cheek. “Hm, you might be right. It’s too coincidental for those to be the initials that would stop anything tied with them. It’s got to be someone famous or powerful that would stretch the law on more than one occasion, needing to recruit people to do their evil deeds.”
“All good points, but why would they hide this and protect those who break the commandments if it wasn’t illegal?” Staring at the code, Dani pointed up at one section. “Like, that right there. It tells the system to ignore this name. Pinpoints it into a voided character—someone who doesn’t exist, almost like a glitch. Now, I hate to be all conspiratorial over here, but I wouldn’t put it past the government—and the extremely wealthy—to think themselves above all the laws.”
Sitting back, Bryan scoffed. “Not to be the doubting Thomas, but since when do government officials follow any laws—either the Cavaliers or the Outliers? I’ve noticed that they believe themselves above such atrocities, or at least certain ones do. So why would they worry about such trivial matters as stopping someone from bad karma? As a matter of fact, how would they even know about us?”
“I think anyone with a set of eyes would be able to see that.” Leticia pointed to one line. “This has been in effect for a long, long time. Look at that date.”
Catching sight of it, Bryan winced. “Kinda like government officials—lifetime positions, or so it would appear.”
“Good thing we no longer worry about their political affairs.” Dani clapped her hands together. “Okay. It’s time to fight fire with fire.”
Glancing over with a confused expression, Leticia went back to her desk. “What exactly does that mean?”
“Sometimes, you can defeat a fire by starting a controlled one, but in this case, we are about to start a shit-storm.”
Rubbing his hands together, Bryan let out a squeal of excitement. “Finally! We get to do something around here. Wait, it will be legal, right?”
Wiggling her brows, Dani winked. “But of course, I am the boss here.”
Shrugging, he turned back to his work. “Legal enough for me.”
While staring at the data, Dani snapped her fingers at Leticia, handing back her notes. “Okay. First, Leticia put the code back together but don’t touch theirs. They’re probably monitoring it for any changes. Create something that counteracts their information, treats it like a false flag, and ignores it. Find a place to slip it in so no one will discover it.”
After retrieving the papers, Leticia blinked rapidly. “I’m not sure I can-” seeing the look on Dani’s face, she hesitantly changed her tune. “No biggie. I’ll get right on it and put it,” she paused, “in the mainline where,” she paused again, “no one can find it. I can always slip it into the system’s coding piece by piece by attaching the last line of the preceding code as a continuation. No one should be checking that without our approval. It’s going to take some time to do all that.”
“Time is of no essence here. Do it,” Dani took another bite of her candy. “Then let’s see who raises a big fuss about it and what key role they have in all this mess.”
As the lights flared back to life, Bryan turned in his chair. “Then again, if someone did find it, you might discover the person responsible for all this.”
“Very true.” Dani leaned back, rocking. “It will be nice to get karma back on the road to redemption.”
Getting a sudden terrifying thought, Bryan cleared his throat. “Dani, the moment she turns that on, it will cause a problem with the system. I mean, people forgotten about, thought of as nothing more than a glitch, will suddenly be put in the limelight and thrown into our judicial system. We don’t know how many that is.”
Pausing mid-bite, Dani slowly chewed, thinking over his suggestion. “Yeah. Good point. That’s going to cause a failure of epic proportions. It will likely freeze the software apps and force a hard boot on all computers. I can guarantee our phones will ring off the hook with complaints. We can make excuses. Bryan, watch the information for any changes. Tweak the system so you can catch anyone nosing where they don’t belong.”
“I’m on it.”
Picking up the phone, Dani pushed a button, and her voice echoed around them. “Listen up, people. This is not a drill. The system is about to take a hard hit, and it will crash, possibly numerous times. I’m sure every department is going to call and bitch about it. Dispatchers, remember your script. We are looking into the problem. Once we find the issue, the system will be back online. Nothing else. Save any work as soon as possible and give us the go-no-go sign to start.” After hanging up the phone, she glanced over the few workers in the main office. “Leticia, once you remove the flag, it will relocate people from their protective status and throw them into the system, and they will most likely suffer like never before.”
Getting his duties, Bryan nodded, raising a finger as if to object. “Um. Quick question. What will stop anyone from just removing them from the record?”
“You know the rules. No matter who it is. Once in the system, no one can eliminate them. It has to go before a trial once the red flag alerts and receives points or fines. That’s why they made the system think it was a glitch. All those protected individuals are probably located in a folder somewhere that has a higher clearance than we have.”
Snorting, he pinched the bridge of his nose. “Yeah, but I’m pretty sure we’re dealing with people who don’t follow any law.”
Thinking over his statement, Dani growled low in her throat. “I, for one, will be happy to show them that no one is above the commandments or laws, and it’s high time they suffer for their immoralities in real life versus waiting until the afterlife.”
“You’re talking about an incredible number of people. These instructions have been in effect for decades, maybe even longer.” Leticia pointed to the initials. “Look at the beginning dates on those five alone. NP, CS, JB, HC, BS, LG, I mean, if those are government officials, they have been in office since, well, since the nomads came out of their caves!”
Laughing, Dani shrugged before turning back to her desk. “Prepare yourselves, people. Save anything you’re doing right now because when she installs the new lines, everything is going to change. Life as we know it is about to become quite hectic.”
“What initials do I use as an authority in the Easter Egg code?”
“Put mine.” She grinned. “DT.”