:: previous – You Think You Know Someone
“Unsuccessful?” Dayen hands me his tablet to read the message. “How can that be?”
To: D. Mourning
Subject: Grim, K. File Retrieval
Advisor Mourning, File Retrieval Status Grim, Khiana: Unsuccessful. Crown Tech Service Ticket DM-002 opened. Remediation required.
“Yes ma’am, a file accessed prior sans issue. Without it, I’m unable to fully engage an investigator in Ms. Grim’s missing person case. All that remains of her file is the summarized version inside your press binder.”
A new message appears in the screen’s corner.
From: Crown Affairs
KRD whispers saturate the District. The terms: sham, secret, and conspiracy among the top mentioned—
Someone knocks on my door.
Dayen takes the tablet from my grasp before I can read more.
Whispers? “Yes?” I call.
Rose enters with her usual sunny disposition. Her cherry-brown hair is in a neat, low ponytail. She looks pretty and confident in her long-sleeved dark blouse and gray skirt.
“Any word from Fortune’s Governor?” I ask. “Her team suggested this time for a call and she’s tardy.”
“No, ma’am. I tried to reach the Governor’s House, but I’m receiving strange static from their end. All methods of communication have failed.”
“Hm.” Hopefully the Governor purged her musings about resigning and no longer requires a meeting. “Thank you, Rose. We’ll continue to wait. Besides, I could use this pause in my day.”
She gives a sweet smile and closes the door.
I look at Dayen. He’s staring straight ahead, unmoving and detached yet present, like a mannequin soldier in an enlistment office.
After his confession of insubordination and my irritation with him the previous day, we’ve spoken little. It’s rather frustrating when things unravel incessantly. Having an advisor liable for some of that unraveling only intensifies the chaos.
A tiny chime turns my attention to Dayen’s watch. He looks at it.
“Intriguing.” His voice sounds bored and indifferent.
Loose waves of his dark hair hang carelessly over his forehead as he taps away on his tablet. He smooths the unruly strands back, but to no avail.
“Is that good or bad?”
The tablet screen rotates to a vertical standing position on top of my desk.
It hovers at Dayen’s eye level, expanding into a wider screen consumed with black-and-white static noise.
“What are you doing?”
“Saving the day.”
The noise changes to a creamy black-and-white spiral whirling downwards.
Above the door, a circle shaped purple light pulses quietly and fast. Dayen follows my line of sight, then looks back at his screen.
“You may not have encountered this alarm before. It signifies disruption with our connection to the Void. Our network is down.”
“Right now? What caused that?”
“A virus. It’s spreading.”
On the screen, he zooms into a micro blood-red dot within a large blank white circle on top of a solid black background. More red dots emerge in the black and shift closer to the white, as if preparing to attack.
“My directive is to eliminate the red inside the white circle before the others penetrate. Crown Tech is handling the others.”
I imagine the red dots turning into drops of blood. Spreading anarchy. A crushed crown. “Who’s responsible for this… We’re secure, correct?”
“Yes, ma’am, we are secure. Even without our King present, the Essence of the Crown is our shield.”
“We shouldn’t reach that point, should we?”
Dayen’s motionless, staring at the number pad on the right side of the split screen. The left side displays the active virus where more red dots accumulate inside the black.
The increase of red coupled with his delay in selecting numbers makes my heart ping-pong nervously.
I turn away to sway the anxiety bubbling in my gut. It’s dead silent in here and the lights have dimmed automatically, which makes the flashing purple light appear brighter amongst the floor-to-ceiling black and gold interior, and far more urgent.
Finally, he selects numbers. His face is filled with rage, or like he smells something disgusting and is furious about it.
“It’s my thinking face, ma’am.” He says out of nowhere. “Your concern is palpable.”
“How else should I feel? I don’t have the slightest clue what you’re doing, and that alarm is flashing—”
“I’m completing my counterattack.”
“Hm. Another virus wearing a shiny crown that’ll consume the other?”
His grin is sly. “No one displays their treasures doing dirty work.”
“Winter?” Her voice quivers with worry. She loiters by the door, holding onto the knob. “The network—”
“We know. Dayen’s assisting.”
“Is everything copacetic…?” She inches inside more. “Because Mr. Zubin is out…”
The crown soldier’s towering silhouette passes slowly behind her in the hallway.
“It’s because of the alarm,” Dayen replies casually.
I motion to the pulsing light above her head. “We’re secure, Rose. Not to worry. Keep me posted on word from the Governor.”
She nods and scurries out.
I don’t need her fear piling on top of my own.
On the screen, only white and black remain and the purple light ceases its flashing.
“Is it resolved?”
“Yes. The network is back up and running. We engaged in conflict and emerged triumphant. Thankfully, that skirmish was brief. I’ll instruct Press Affairs to draft a statement. Perhaps… We encountered a temporary disruption to the Void during routine maintenance… something along those lines.”
I check my phone. The V icon reappears beside the time. “That’s a relief. Great work, Dayen.”
“It is an honor, ma’am.”
His tablet minimizes and folds itself into a palm size flat square shape. It slides up the cuff of his right-hand sleeve and disappears beneath the thick material of his Crown Standard uniform.
“Do we know who is to blame?”
“Not yet. Tech is investigating further.”
“But it was a hack?”
“Sadly. Feel secure that no other disruptions were detected…” His face sours again.
“Wasn’t there a concern with the missing woman’s file?”
We gaze at each other.
“Is that related to this virus?” I add.
The thundering voice shakes through the walls and floor. It’s thick, deafening, and enraged sounding.
“Finally.” Dayen says, his voice a whisper. “He speaks…”
With a smug, satisfied smile, he fixes a framed photo of my father and me walking on the beach that fell over on my desk.
Rose dashes inside, slamming the door shut behind her.
“It’s quite the m-morning, huh?” She says with terror in her eyes.
Her expression matches mine.