November 12, 2014

Sophia Rose: Chapter 4

                The steam from the shower flooded the living room. She never liked wearing envirosuits. After only a few minutes of activity they left anyone hot and sweaty. Veronica emerged from the bathroom with a towel wrapped around her torso and her hair wrapped in another.
                She sat on the hard couch in her executive suite and grabbed her phone. She flipped through the recent news articles, many of them on the recent upcoming CST senate elections or on KyotoTech's upcoming launch of the subspace gates. She sipped on a glass of imported wine that she had poured hours earlier. It's grape flavors now soured by vinegary oxidation. She continued to sip on the wine despite its new flavors, for the bottle was too expensive for her conscience to leave any of it undrunk.
                She had been working for JADE Propulsion Industries as a security and intellectual property protection director for the past nine years, of which the last three have been here on Amalthea. Most of this work entailed dealing with corporate hackers or spies. She had been transferred from JADE's headquarters on Earth to the Amalthea facility after the company decided to move production of its new jump drives here. But now, if the news on her phone was indication, was going to be out of a job very soon. She didn't worry too much. Many companies would relish in acquiring the security director of a competitor, but JADE, or what would be left of it, would stop at nothing to see that an acquisition never happened.
                All of the large companies in the solar system had and hand or two in the pockets of many of the elected officials part of the Collective Senate of Territories. If so inclined, they could easily have a black mark put on her record, effectively barring her from any future employment opportunities in a position as luxurious as she currently held. So for now, she would continue to do her best until the bitter end, where she hopes she is let go from a company no longer big enough to have their hands in the politicians bank accounts.
                Veronica gulped down the last bit of wine and sat back on the couch with the glass still in her hand. Maybe I could find some work on Enceladus. She delivered a small smile to no one. Maybe find a nice rancher and retire there. Who knows, maybe I'm not too old to have kids. She laughed at the notion and immediately dismissed it as she leant forward to set the empty wine glass on to the small coffee table.
                As if on cue, when the wine glass lightly clinked onto the table, Veronica's phone next to it lit up with a stark red alert. "SECURITY ALERT: BUILDING 37, FLOOR 11" Veronica popped the alert and a hologram began to generate a conference screen.
                "Voice only!" She quickly said, just re-membering she had nothing but the towel from the shower on.
                "Security Station eleven here." a gruff voice from the other end of the connection called.
                "It's Veronica what's the problem?" she said standing up with the phone in her hand. She moved into her bedroom, threw the towel on the bed and started hurriedly to put on clothes.
                "Ma'am, we caught on security footage two people who look to be in an argument. One of them looks like to be Dr. Manelski. We're not sure who the other girl is though."
                "Damn it." She exhaled loudly under her breath. "Is she wearing a red envirosuit?"
                Veronica pulled up the pair of security pants and began to buckle the belt. "Get two men down there at the door to the shop. Don't let them go in without me, but don't let the others out of the machine shop either. I'll be there in five minutes." She ordered.
                "Yes, Ma'am."
                "Anything else I should know?"
                The man at the security terminal paused. "Uh, well when we noticed this developing we started to go through some of our logs of data. They're in a corner of the room that our mics can't pick them up, but we did find something odd."
                "What was it?" she said as she started tying her shoes.
                "Well, it looks like we had a data breach in the past two hours. It found a back door to our systems and looks like it accessed our network and took some information. We're not sure what yet, but we tracked the breach to a device in the machine shop. Nobody else was in there except those two when it happened."
                "Damn it." she said, this time much more audibly. The background check said I could trust her. Veronica grabbed the bolt pistol and holster from on top of the wardrobe and slung it over her shoulder and around her waist. "Do not let any one out of that room, do you hear me?" she said sternly at the phone.
                "Yes, Ma'am." The voice replied and she swiped the conversation away.
                She pulled the bolt pistol out of the holster and slid a magazine into it and loaded the weapon. She slid the pistol back into its home and grabbed a jacket to conceal it as she walked out of her suite. Once in the hallway she made her way towards Building 39, her still wet black hair clinging to her face and whipping the back of her neck as she ran. This is not going to help me get out of this place.
                After a run and an elevator ride, Veronica was in the hallway just outside the machine shop. Two guards in their silver and green uniforms stood outside the door. One of them had his ear pressed against the door trying to listen to what was happening on the other side.
                "What do you have to report." Veronica said quietly to the guard listening.
                "It's hard to tell, I can't hear much through the sound proofing. You think there wasn't any with the racket the machines normally make." His joke fell flat as Veronica delivered him a serious look. He shook his head to recompose himself before continuing. "The only thing that I can say for sure is that one of them wants to take something out of here, and the other doesn't want them too."
                "They've started to move in the last minute or two, sounds like they're getting closer to the door." the other guard said as she held her bolt pistol in her hand.
                Veronica straightened out her jacket that was wrinkled up on her run. "Ok, I'm going to go in there. I want you to stay here just in case. I don't want anything rash to happen. JADE already has enough bad press at the moment, we don't want to add a dead GUTS technician to the fire." She attempted to do something with her still  damp hair, but quickly gave up. She motioned the guards over to their positions out of sight and opened up the machine shop door.
                The dialog inside the machine shop stopped when the door slid open. James turned to his head while still keeping the hammer above it. Sophia stood there with her arms outstretched in front of her preparing to repel and attack.
                Veronica slowly walked into the room with her hands at her sides. Her footsteps were the only think that spoke, saying that she was very unhappy.
                Obviously it was James who broke the silence first. "She... she has somethi-"
                "Oh shut the hell up James." Veronica barked. "What the hell is the meaning of all of this?"
                "She has an AI! She found it in the bot!"
                "What does that have to do with all of this then?" Veronica questioned.
                "It's in her phone. She connected it to the network and stole our data."
                Sophia finally stepped in. "That's not true!" she said loudly.
                "But I saw it! It hacked in and now she's trying to leave with it!"
                "Liar! I only did what I came here to do."
                "Quiet you two." Veronica sternly ordered. She put a hand on her head and rubbed her temples. "Sophia, let's just make this easy. Just come with me. We have the evidence that a breech occurred and we tracked it to your phone."
                "What?" Sophia replied in shock.
                "Just leave your things and come with me. The sooner we get this started the sooner it'll be over." She politely pleaded. "If we start now, you'll probably be able to go in the next few days."
                Sophia had a look of disgust towards the two. "I never did anything. I never would do anything."
                "It's all on her phone! If you get her phone you'll find the stolen data!" James interrupted.
                Sophia took a step back and put a hand on her bag where her phone was.
                "Just hand over the phone and we can get this all over with." Veronica put out her hand, hoping it would be that easy but not expecting it.
                "No." Sophia said as she took another step back. "I'm not a criminal. I didn't do anything!"
                Veronica sighed and shook her head. She reached in under the jacket and produced the bolt pistol. "Come on, just hand it over." All the politeness from before now replaced by anger and demand.
                What happened next nobody had expected. All the lights on the eleventh floor suddenly shut off and they were left in nearly complete darkness. A second later there was the sound of feet shuffling and moving. From the darkness there was a small crash followed by a great noise was made which sounded like two giant rocks colliding. That noise was immediately greeted by another immense sound, a loud pop and sizzle of a bolt pistol discharging accompanied by the bright blue flash of the plasma bullet. A beat later, the few emergency lights flicked on.
                The machine shop was now just barely lit. The dull light revealed Veronica with the bolt pistol in her outstretch arm and a presumably dead Dr. Manelski on the floor next to the  mass reactor hammer he had been holding, which was now firmly stuck to the floor. She moved her finger to a switch forward of the trigger on the gun and flip it up, producing a cone of light from the attached tactical flashlight. Veronica's eyes scanned the dim room. There was no sight of Sophia to be seen anywhere.
                She moved slowly around the shop with her pistol elevated, her eyes darting to every shadow checking for Sophia. She heard a noise over her shoulder and turned a half revolution to be pointed towards the noise. In the doorway to the machine shop stood the two guards from before.
                "She's in here somewhere! Find her!" Veronica ordered. The two guards switched on the flashlights attached to their pistols and began to move through the machine shop. The cones of light from the three of them slid and bounced around the room as they moved through it.
                "Keep moving. She's hiding someplace."
                They moved quickly towards the back of the room until they were left at the foot of the broken bot Sophia was called to this place to repair. Veronica looked down and saw that there was nobody there. Veronica relaxed her grip on the pistol and stood up straight from her slightly crouched tactical position. Where could she have gone? She scanned the room. There were two ways out of shop, one was through the door at the front and the other was through the levilift canal. The two guards regrouped on her to and reported they also found nothing.
                "She must have sneaked by us. You two, make sure she didn't get out through the canal. I'll back track through the front door and make sure she didn't get out that way."
                The two guards began running towards the canal when she turned and started her run towards the machine shop entrance. Damn. And to think I felt bad for you in the car earlier.

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