~~~
Day’?s Verse:
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:17
~~~

Things seemed too quiet around Frank’s little part of the vast Titan Software complex. Normally, Frank tuned out voices discussing various devious workarounds, explaining the intricacies of a certain section of code, engaging in one-sided arguments on the phone, joking, or generally goofing off. Additionally, the sound of mice clicking and keyboards clacking provided a subtle, constant background noise.

Now all Frank heard was the frigid air whooshing out of the icy HVAC system. For a second Frank though about that freezing air: even he, normally an overly warm guy in most situations, agreed with the constantly-cold women coworkers that although computers operate better at cooler temperatures, employees certainly do not. There was even some talk of bringing in an independent thermometer to determine the actual internal temperature, a topic of much conjecture.

Where was everybody? Frank checked his calendar: No, this wasn’t some vacation day he had missed out on. Besides, most people would probably have come in to work on a regular vacation day; since the new release of the Light Box 2007 software, all the groups had more work than they could handle. Time to investigate. Frank picked up his coffee mug—anybody carrying an empty mug automatically had an excuse for wandering around—and meandered through the cubicle farm that was his home away from home.

A few workers populated the vast space. Larry wasn’t here, and he hadn’t said anything to Frank about taking the day off. In fact, looking around, Frank noticed that most of his EarthFirst! friends were conspicuously absent. After wandering around the ominously silent gray-walled forest, Frank decided that probably most of them had called in “sick” after the excitement of the World Business and Energy Conference the day before.

Continue reading.Soothed, Frank made his way to the break room for a fresh coffee refill. He thought back to the exciting news coverage of the event: How all those signs had shown up clearly, how clips of the speaker’s megaphone speech had made it onto primetime, how impressive the clips of all the lights shutting down on the block had been. Although several people had been arrested, especially among some of the younger members who had gotten a bit excited—smashing windows and lighting cars on fire had never been part of the agenda—Frank deemed the overall protest a stunning success. The EarthFirst! website had been slashdotted, thanks to speculation on how they had shut off the lights in that area; the name EarthFirst! had leaped into the public consciousness.

Sitting in the break room stirring cream into his coffee, Frank listened to two women chatting about yesterday’s excitement.

“You see the news about the riots downtown?” one asked, her heavily made up face not hiding lines instilled by too many nights out drinking late.

“Yeah,” her companion assented, sounding tired. She made no attempt to hide the dark shadows under her eyes or the strain lines around her mouth behind too much makeup. “Reminds me of the WTO riots from a while ago.”

“Not that bad,” the first woman disagreed. “But it’s interesting, what those protesters were saying. I mean, I’m not in favor of protesting—”

“Burning cars?” Came the wry interjection from the second woman, now avidly watching her cinnamon roll heat in the microwave.

“Not that, either, but seriously, what they were saying about energy…” The speaker trailed off, as if the thought exceeded her brain’s ability to process effectively.

“I think they’re right,” her slightly brighter friend agreed, readying to press the “Open” button as the microwave timer counted into the single digits. “I mean, look at Titan Software. Think about all the energy we waste, leaving our computers on all the time, even. Or having all the lights on all the time. I’ve been by at like 2:00 am, and they’re all still on.”

“Yeah, exactly. I hope those big business leaders go for something a more environmentally friendly. This global warming thing scares the shit out of me.”

“I don’t know…” Extracting the cinnamon roll, her friend paused. “Could be nice—Seattle will be the next Florida!” She laughed sarcastically, showing that she didn’t really think that was a good thing.

“Right… Anyway, I hope they do something. I don’t want all those animals to die just so some big factory can keep making gizmos we don’t need.” The two women walked away, still chatting, the smell of hot cinnamon and sugar wafting behind them.

A small, self-satisfied smile crept across Frank’s face as he gingerly sipped the still-steaming coffee. If their protests had gotten airheads like those ladies talking, perhaps they had also gotten through to some of the people with real power.

The smile became a smirk. Even if they hadn’t, it would hardly matter. Those businesses wouldn’t be operating much longer, anyway. EarthFirst!’s database suggested that they had almost reached a critical mass of Light Box 2007 adopters. Soon they would be able to deploy their virus. Then big business’s powerful executives and CEOs would be brought down to the same level as everybody else.

Staring at the wall, envisioning this brighter future, it took Frank a moment to notice somebody else had entered the room. Refocusing his eyes, he blinked for a second. The future had seemed so real, so tangibly close just then, it was difficult to pull himself back into the depressing reality of the now.

“One too many coffees?” Emily asked, her blue eyes twinkling as she saw Frank’s glazed look.

He shook his head. “No, actually,” he said. “This is only my second one today.”

Delicate eyebrows raised in mock surprise. “Amazing,” she teased. “I didn’t know it was even possible to function on so little caffeine.”

Motioning for her to join him, Frank rejoined, “When was the last time you had so little coffee? Can you even remember?”

Now she pulled her expressive face into a faux-pout—looking, Frank thought, remarkably cute doing so. “Come on, give a girl a break. I only need the caffeine IV drip on days I have to really be awake.”

This drew a true laugh from Frank; he couldn’t help it. The vision of little Emily, one small, sturdy arm outstretched to receive a needle full of coffee, was too much for him to handle. He shook his head, still chuckling, his curly dark hair bouncing on his forehead. Brushing it out of his eyes with a motion that spoke of hundreds of prior brushings-away, he looked at Emily for the first time as a woman, not a coworker.

Though not exactly beautiful, her open, round face, with its pale golden hair, blue eyes, and a few leftover freckles from summer, did have its appeal. He knew she was fit; then, too, she rode her bicycle to work diligently.

“Can I ask you a personal question?” he asked as she seated herself, a free Titan Software mug full of steaming black coffee clutched in one hand.

“Depends,” she replied immediately. “I’m not going to tell you who I have a crush on, but short of that…”

Frank could hardly resist: “Who? Somebody here?” Her blush spoke volumes, encouraging him to continue in that vein. “Some security nerd in your group? Your manager? Tsk, tsk—he’s a married man, with children.” Her manager was flagrantly gay, actually, but he and his partner had adopted a little girl from China.

“No, no, no, an
d I’ll still say ‘no’ even if you guess it right.” She sipped and sighed contentedly. “I’m guessing that wasn’t really the question?”

“No,” Frank admitted. “Actually I was wondering why you ride your bike to work. It’s kind of unusual, especially in the winter. You do ride in the winter?”

“Sure.” Emily waved a hand, brushing aside the long, rainy, dark nights of wintertime. “I’m from Minnesota; winter here is a breeze. Well, I have three reasons.” Her voice took on a rehearsed tone, and Frank guessed that she had answered this question at least a few times before. “First, it’s environmentally friendly. No CO2 emissions. Second, it’s a great money-saver—no car insurance, no buying gas at… however much it costs these days. And it’s great exercise. I can eat whatever I want! It’s great.” She paused, sipped again, thinking. “Plus, I actually don’t need coffee in the morning. My ride is better than caffeine.” Done with her spiel, she cocked her head inquisitively. “Why? What about you?”

“Because it’s there,” he replied facetiously. “…And I’m addicted to the exercise. Seriously.” She just looked at him thoughtfully, just listening. Frank squirmed a bit, then, a little unnerved at her silence, added, “It’s the environmental aspect for me. I just can’t see adding tons of carbon dioxide and other miscellaneous crap into the air, just to get to work. Besides, the environmental cost of obtaining and transporting fuel—and maintaining the infrastructure required for cars—and making the cars, of course, and getting the material to build them—and transport them—” he trailed off, lost in her solemn gaze. Had he started to sound a bit wild-eyed at the end there? He hoped not; he did want Emily to think well of him.

Now why would that be?

“I see,” she acknowledged calmly, neutrally. “All good reasons. Do you think everybody should bike instead of driving?”

“Definitely.” His voice came out vehement, probably too adamant for a casual conversation in the break room. “I mean, it’s not like I’d force everybody to go out and get rid of their cars” (You would, too, his mind disagreed) “but I’d certainly like to see fewer cars, especially SUVs with one person inside ’em, on the roads.”

“Yeah, those SUVs…” Emily shuddered. She knew the fear of a narrow, windy road combined with an overly aggressive driver. “Anyway, I actually had a question for you for real.”

“You mean like work?” What a relief, to be able to regain some of that lighter joking tone they had lost for a minute there. Frank didn’t want to get too emotionally involved here; this job was just a cover, after all. Just access to the code, that’s all. He wasn’t here to fall in love.

What?

Emily, unaware of his sudden shocking personal revelation, continued blithely: “You know the back door I told you about a couple days ago? It’s really been bothering me—more than bothering. It’s all I can think about. How did it get in there, how’d I miss it? I was trying to think back to who had helped me with that section of code.”

“Did the version control database help?” It should have pointed right to Haytham Al’Areba, the way Frank had arranged.

“It said somebody worked on it, but I don’t know…” she caught her lower lip between her teeth in frustration. “I don’t remember him ever working on it.”

“I’m sure Haytham had a good reason to be in there,” Frank said reassuringly. He was standing as he said it, glancing at the clock as he did so, and that made him miss Emily’s sharp glance.

Looking into the sink, Frank didn’t see as Emily suddenly sat up straighter and opened her mouth as if to say something, then slowly closed it, eyes dark. “I should probably just ask him, huh?” Her tone seemed a tad forced, but he attributed that to the strain of the situation.

“He’s probably got a perfectly good reason,” Frank told her, rinsing his cup. “Although why he might have put in such a complicated, obscure key sequence to log on, I can’t imagine. I mean, the Control-Alt-Alt sequence could just be a typo anyway…” When he turned around, he was surprised to see Emily’s half-drunk coffee abandoned on the table.

Or: My NaNoWriMo profile.

KF quality

2 thoughts on “Action Novel: Day 13

  1. In the back of my mind as I read the beginning of this post, I heard a deep, ominous voice intoning, “It seemed quiet around Frank?s little part of the vast Titan Software complex… too quiet.”

    I can hardly wait for the next installment!

  2. Bit too much sympathy for the Earthfirst people. Almost everyone, including Drake, is at least theoretically or partly in agreement with them. Throw in a few strong and not-too-rational dissenters and you’ll really get the reader on their side.

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