System Breach Attempt Detected.
“Crap, again? What was that?”
Harvey sat up. It was his thirteenth night shift in a row and he was really sick of this overly sensitive firewall going off every couple of hours. He took this data-babysitting job because it was easy money and he could watch the latest Miranda Rhapsody holo-novel in peace. He had a comfy chair, holo-sculpts of his kids on his desk. No one bothered him. His supervisor, Mr. Hammersmith, used to show up every few nights to check on things—to check on him—but it’d been months now since they last spoke. Harvey was fine with that.
System Breach Attempt Detected.
“Damn it, come on, you piece of crap. If you’re going to get triggered by every brush-by or sniffer program…”
He punched a quick command and the glaring red light on his holoscreen shut off. Grumbling, Harvey made a mental note to suppress that alarm in the future. No one was going to break into KOVIN & MARKS DIGITAL VAULT SERVICES. They had nothing of value. As an archival service for medium-sized businesses, they stored old data that these companies had kept around for regulatory purposes, but didn’t want to clutter up their own servers with. Digital paperwork, old plans that never saw fruition, data sheets, outdated reports. At worst, someone would drag up an old HR report from years ago. Nothing current.
System Breach Detected.
“What do you want, dammit?!”
Harvey’s annoyance was becoming real, his exasperated cry lost among the screens in the dark room. He didn’t design the firewall, but by gosh, he was going to give the person who did a piece of his…
Harvey reread the red letters hanging in space, noticing a missing word. They were no longer warning of an attempt.
“Breach… Detected? That can’t be right.”
He quickly brought up his program log. A few holo-keystrokes followed. A nervous glance at the time.
“'Server 121120 Accessed… Unknown Point of Origin.' Wait, is this for real?”
System Breach Detected.
Initiating Trace Subroutine.
“Crap. Crapcrapcrap… crap.”
Trace Subroutine Failed.
Attempting Server Lockdown.
“Oh no. No no no.”
As more screens popped up in his peripheral vision, Harvey’s pleas became increasingly desperate. “This is going to take all night to fix if this blasted system goes into lockdown. Aw crap. I don’t get paid enough for this.”
Thinking quickly, Harvey flicked over to the server command panel. If he could switch that server block into maintenance mode, it’d prevent the lockdown from ruining his night. It would still be at least a half-hour of work to get things right again, but no big deal. Better than the alternative.
“Let’s see, maintenance… maintenance… that’s in the third subsection, right?” Heart pounding, he jabbed at the holoscreen in front of him, flinging virtual panels around. There it was.
Server Maintenance Mode Enabled.
Upon seeing that message, Harvey sighed with relief. “There! See. No problem.”
He leaned back into his comfy chair, his hand about to open his holo-novel again.
“I… didn’t enter that command.” He had only just opened the settings panel. How was it—
He wasn’t commanding the server.
Someone else was. Remotely.
“No way! No you don’t!” Harvey’s hand slammed down on the big red holo-button in the corner of his viewport: Emergency Ice Activation. Time to call in the cavalry.
Ice Activation Initiated.
He allowed himself to smirk. The company cut a lot of corners, but they didn’t skimp on ice. The intruder was as good as gone.
Ice Activation Sequence Bypassed.
Unable to Comply.
“What? That’s impossible!”
Download Sequence Completed.
System Reboot Initiated.
Terminating Process Tree.
System Shutdown Complete.
His monitors went blank. All of them. Harvey’s mouth hung open in the heavy, sudden darkness.
He sank back into his chair.
This was not how the night was supposed to go.
He knew what protocol called for next. He was just a lowly sysop, after all—the message had to go up the chain. As Harvey eyed the link-pad on the edge of his desk, he felt his chest tighten, like he was trying to breathe through a very narrow straw.
The light of his pad’s holoscreen flickered across his face like an ice-cold candle.
“Mr. Hammersmith? I’m sorry for waking you.”
Harvey took a deep breath.
“We’ve had an intrusion into the system.”
Hammersmith’s response was so fiery, the sysop nearly dropped the pad. Harvey struggled to placate the furious supervisor.
“Yes, sir… just a few… yes, I activated the ice but… yes… no! No, it didn’t stop th… Hold on, I’ll check.”
System Boot Sequence Initiated.
“Yes sir, it’s coming back online now. I’ll… yes… yes… I’ll check the logs immediately, sir.”
System Startup Complete.
Well, that was promising—
YOU WILL TRANSFER 3.5 MILLION CREDITS TO ACCOUNT 16732764-4 BY THIS TIME TOMORROW OR WE WILL LEAK THE DATA TO THE MEDIA
The demands were plastered in green across every holoscreen in Harvey’s display. They blinked with slow, self-assured inevitability.
“Shit. Sir, are you seeing this? …right, of course you can… okay, right, logs…”
Harvey’s heart was racing now. He was struggling to move through the server pages with the glowing green lines in the way.
“Here we go… yes. Server 121120, sir. OPTICON OPERATIONS AND RESTRUCTURING. Never heard of that company, sir… Yes, I’m sure it was that server… if you insist, sir.”
System Purge In Progress.
That was odd. “Mr. Hammersmith, sir? Did you initiate a purge?”
Maybe it was his adrenaline-addled brain, or his pulse pounding in his ears, but Harvey didn’t quite catch Hammersmith’s response. Something about a cleanup, or a cleaning crew, coming to the office tonight. The specifics didn’t really matter. Harvey knew a firing when he saw one.
“Yes, sir. I understand. I’ll wait at the entrance. Goodnight. Thank you, sir.”
System Purge Complete.
With a sigh, Harvey collected the holo-sculpts of his kids from his desk. He paused briefly to look at them, wanly recalling the family trip to Luna City, before piling them into a small box.
“Guess it’s back to the job boards tomorrow.”
Without another word, he got up and left the dark office, the small box of mementos clutched to his chest. Mr. Hammersmith had said the Response Team would look for him in the front lobby. Harvey wasn’t sure what the fuss was all about, but it wasn’t his place to question it. Especially since he wasn’t getting paid anymore.
User H.Smith: System Access Revoked.
User H.Smith: Profile Deleted.
User H.Smith: Purged.