Fragmented Friends

What followed for Lika and Russ after the opening of their office door was a swift demand that they accompany a suited man upstairs.

Russ trembled the entire way but said not a word, which was highly unusual for the man. Yet Lika could not get out of the man in the suit where they were going. Thankfully she was able to grab her datapad before being escorted to the elevator.

When the elevator stops and they step out through the doors and onto the plush cream carpet Russ goes white. Even if the sign were not present above the head of the secretary as he sits behind that massive curved half circle desk Russ would know where they are. That means it’s just as bad as he feared.

“Why have you brought us up to the director?” Lika queries the man. She gets no reply, he ignores her question and instead gestures that the pair approach the secretaries desk, holding the mighty glass door open for them to pass through all the while.

With little option the pair do exactly as instructed, though for Russ it is evidently done far more begrudgingly.

“Oh good you’re here, the director will be pleased.” The secretary says with several head movements that make his quiff dance about quite distractingly.

The lively quiff having pulled attention away from his broad winning white toothy smile throughout the moments during which he lowers one of his hands out of sight to fiddle with something.

Still the secretary keeps his attention on Lika and Russ, and while he does he continues to hold the smile. Finally, his attention is averted when his eyes angle downwards and away from them.

After that brief few seconds of distraction he looks back to Russ and Lika to announce, “The director will see you now.” Right after he gestures toward a massive floor to ceiling door of American Black Walnut. It slides open to grant them passage.

Lika strides forward. To say she has no reservations about all this would be to lie, if only to herself, and yet when she turns to find Russ hasn’t moved she unleashes a commanding glare. He sighs clearly feeling force to resign himself to whatever his fate might soon be, but not enamoured by it one bit. Still, it has the desired effect as he then follows.

The pair slip across the threshold of the oversized door with Lika continuing to lead. Russ meanwhile drags his feet at the rear, even once they are free of the short corridor and step out into a massive square room occupied by a single massive desk behind which sits a small looking woman with grey hair that turns to red near the ends his pace does not alter.

The desk bound woman’s attention is diverted to whatever happens to be sat before her. Lika cannot see what it might be. Not that it matters much as the woman’s focus soon changes to them when Lika and Russ draw close.

“Mr Marwen I see you are back in the limelight somehow, not really much of a surprise I must say but I had dared hope.” The director looks angry. Her hair grey except for the bottom third, which is a dark red and hangs to her collarbone. The wrinkles around her eyes give away that she must be middle aged; though past that there is no further incite to help pin down her age.

In response to the directors words Russ elects to say nothing. He does gulp but that is the only sound which can be heard from him.

Right after the usually cocky man with straggly brown hair no longer feels capable of holding the directors stare and so lowers his gaze to a point on the floor. It’s the sort of reaction one might expect from a naughty schoolboy guilty of some infraction or other which he now regrets because he’s been hauled up before someone with real authority.

“Ma’am, may I ask why we are here?” Lika manages to query only to get an eyeful from the director who realising her disrespect softens her expression just a little and replies, “What is your interest in Warren Thewlis? Access to that file is limited at my request and monitored at all times.”

The director’s voice is stern, cold and unwelcoming. Lika can see now why Russ has been acting the way that he has and by the sounds of things these two have history. Lika hopes he didn’t try it on… She abandons that thought and represses her urge to think, ew.

“We were following a lead.” Lika admits finally. Her tone more defensive than she feels was appropriate.

The director raises an eyebrow in curiosity without uttering a word which Lika takes as a positive sign. After all, she was sure her head was to be bitten off and chewed upon for the tone of her response.

“What sort of lead?” The director questions with narrowed eyes.

Before there is an opportunity to answer the directors without pause turns towards Russ and reminds, “Mr Marwen did I not make it clear that you were to keep within your pitiful remit and fix the damage you caused?”

Russ offers no reply, keeps his gaze lowered and remains perfectly still like a statue.

“We were running the fragmentation compiler to consolidate all the disjointed…”

“I know the purpose of your team Miss Rodgers, now get to the point.” The director assures cutting Lika off with an insistent tone that also manages to sound bored simultaneously. Lika would find that, at any other time directed at any other person, impressive.

The office around them is sparse, almost empty save for the desk that is eight metres from end to end and largely unadorned with trinkets or work implements. It too is American Black Walnut except for the cut-out right in the centre where the director is sat. That is where her rig and its touchscreen keyboards and segmented display are housed within the metre by metre square.

“…We found something in the code. Well, Russ found it…” Lika gestures and looks to her colleague who barely perceptibly in response shakes his head from side to side. Apparently he doesn’t want to be included in this no matter how small his part may have been. Lika quickly moves on continuing her explanation.

“It was a signal of tone altered static, repeating over and over.”

“What has this got to do with Warren Thewlis?” The director is out of patience. She wants answers and she wants them now.

“That’s the name that was provided in the, the transmission.” Lika stumbles over her words acutely aware of the director’s eye burrowing keep into her soul.

That stare is the single most uncomfortable feeling Lika has ever experienced in her life and this is coming from a woman who had to fight in her younger days, fists and all, because of prejudice set those that lived around her due to a label they themselves gave her which wasn’t true.

The director scoffs. “Am I to believe this thin veil of lies? Do you take me for a fool? Who are you working for, really I mean? Tell me and you might get out of here…”

Russ’ jaw drops and for the first time since their arrival he goes to say something. More than likely it would have been a declaration, him swearing he is not involved in anything untoward. However, Lika gets there first and surging forward, datapad in hand ready to show proof, advises, “We are with no one. There are no lies. See the code for yourself director.” With that the multicolour haired woman stabs the datapad in her hand toward the diminutive middle aged woman. The director snarls for barely a second and then snatches the pad.

Following that the middle aged woman begins to pour all her attention into the data being displayed. She starts from the beginning not seeing a reason to trust this pair. It helps that she knows the code the virtual network spits out and so is confident she’ll be able to judge the validity of their claims.

Her mouth falls agape when she reaches the cycling signal of ‘static.’ Unlike Lika she can decipher the meaning without translation, but it cannot be. This has to be a trick, she tells herself. But the more she examines it, right up to the present moment, the more sure she becomes that this is truth and not lies.

Upon realising that she has not kept her composure the director snaps out of her disbelief, steels herself, sets the pad down carefully as if it is some prized heirloom and informs, “What you have found is not to leave this room, is that understood?”

“Director I only wish to…” Lika begins only for the director to cut her off and explain, “You will remain on this but may speak of it to no one but each other and myself. Is that understood? And yes Mr Marwen this is a promotion.”

Lika agrees, Russ remains lost for words and following that the director fills them both in on who and what they have uncovered.

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