L. Dee Walker

L. Dee Walker

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One

Something Hinky with the System

Letitia 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 member of the I.T. department 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 of her own 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 … 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 looks like it might be here for … I mean that can’t be possible because it would make … can you come and check this, please?”

Not enthused at the perplexing description, Dani stood up, stretching. “Ooh, I think my bones forgot how to work. I swear. I get tired of sitting in the same chair day after day. I think I’m going to set a time for us to get up and walk around the office. Yes, I think 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.” Letitia quipped while typing on the keyboard. “Been sipping on the happy juice over there? Share the wealth over here.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. If we don’t laugh about our situation, we will never have any fun! 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. You newbies always think you’ve found some life-or-death situation that needs my immediate attention. Everyone in this office found something inconsequential. Oy,” she muttered.

“What’s that? If you’re talking to me, I didn’t catch it,” Letitia 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 Letitia’s shoulder, looking at the display. It only took a second before Dani pushed Leticia out of the chair, typing on the keyboard. “Hang on. What the bloody hell‽ Hinky is right!” Still not believing that Letitia didn’t put it there, she pulled up different frames on the screen. “Whoa! Yeah. This isn’t supposed to be in the mainframe.”

“So, is it as big as I think it is?” Letitia looked over Dani’s shoulders, watching her type some coding quickly.

“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 apparently are.”

“Well, you told me to watch the system for errors, right? That gives a lot of wiggle room in the predestined duties.”

“And you say you found all of this behind some frivolous junk files. Hm. This is interesting indeed. It looks like someone is trying to stop certain individuals from suffering karma for bad deeds they do.”

Letitia looked from the monitor to Dani. “Wait. What‽ Isn’t that what we do here? Enforce the rules of Karma?”

“Yeah. Something like that. Duplicate it, then tear your copy apart. I want you to find out everything you can about it. I’m more curious about 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 coding, Letitia studied it, trying to figure out the best way to tear it apart.

“So then figure it out.”

“I’m on it.”

Ten cups of strong coffee and fifteen hours later, Letitia had managed to reverse engineer the odd coding 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 T.V. 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 Letitia clicked a button, the screen came alive with numbers and letters. “The coding, as you see here, is programmed to stop bad karma from happening with any relation to these initials: N.P., C.S., B.S., H.C., B.O., J.B., MC., G.B., and I just grabbed the ones off the top, but it’s a pretty damn big list. Any of those 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, Letitia 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 code. “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?”

One of the men in the back raised his hand. They all knew Bryan Owens as the innocent brainiac of the group with wavy blond hair and crystal blue eyes, but looks could be deceiving. Most of the time, they got all their information from him. “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 just assume that someone wanted to take over karma and what better way than the inside out?”

Letitia 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 again, 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 basically 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 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? Everything I’ve noticed, they believe themselves to be above such atrocities … or at least certain ones do. So why would they worry about such trivial matters as stopping someone from bad karma? 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 the United States government officials – lifetime positions, or so it would appear.”

“Good thing we don’t 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, Letitia 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 nodded. “Legal enough for me.”

While staring at the code, Dani snapped her fingers at Letitia, 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. I want you to create something that counteracts their coding and treats it like a false flag, so it ignores it. Make sure to find a place to slip it in so no one will find it.”

After retrieving the papers, Leticia blinked rapidly. “I’m not sure I can-” seeing the look on Dani’s face, she changed her tune. “No biggie. I’ll get right on it and put it … in the mainline where … 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 previous 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 just 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 who were 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 the question. “Yeah. That’s going to cause a failure of epic proportions. It could easily freeze the software apps and force a hard boot on many if not all computers. I can guarantee our phones will ring off the hook with complaints. We can make excuses. Bryan, I want you to monitor all the coding for any changes. Make sure you tweak the system so you can catch anyone nosing in 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. Maybe a few times. I’m sure every department is going to call and bitch about it. Dispatchers, just remember your script. We are looking into the problem. Once we locate 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. “Letitia, once you remove the flag, it will relocate people from their cushy protective status and throw them into the system and they will most likely suffer like never before.”

Bryan nodded but then cleared his throat. “Um. Quick question. What will stop anyone from just deleting them from the record?”

“You know the rules. No matter who it is. Once in the system, no one can just delete them. It has to go before a trial once the red flag alerts, and then receive points or negative points. 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 going to be dealing with people who don’t actually 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 a lot of people. This coding has been in effect for decades, maybe even longer than that.” Letitia pointed to the initials. “Look at the beginning dates on those five alone. N.P., C.S., J.B., H.C., B.S., L.G., 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 code, everything is going to change. Life as we know it is about to become quite … hectic.”

“What initials do I put in the Easter Egg coding as an authority?”

“Put mine.” She grinned. “D.T.”

Just a week away!