by Emily Mills
Comments welcome at: email@example.com
A little red light began flashing ominously from the hard drive tower and the
whole system froze. A man seated at the desk with the offending computer nervously
tugged on the knot of his tie and glanced around at the other cubicles nearby.
Everything in the office was as it should be, no one had noticed his malfunctioning
computer yet and this was good. Ross, a middle-age, middle-weight, middle-management
employee at Pharmatech had been having a very bad day. And, from the looks of
the ERROR message that continued to pop up on his screen every time he tried to
access the main database, the prospects for it getting better were slimming.
Ross grumbled in frustration and did the only thing he could think of to force
the machine to come back to its' senses: he swatted the side of the monitor with
his right hand. Minus the dull thud that reverberated off the walls of his cubicle,
nothing else came of the action. The ERROR window continued to loom menacingly
on the screen and the little red light kept up its' flashing.
"Stupid, no-good piece of trash," the worker cursed under his breath. He loosening
his tie yet again as a few beads of sweat began accumulating on the tip of his
But then he heard the woman in the next work station over groan and hit her computer.
Ross leaned back in his chair and looked around the office again. This time, however,
most of the other workers were also cursing their suddenly frozen computers. Good,
it's not just me. They can't fire all of us.
But what Ross didn't realize was that "they" wouldn't have to fire anyone. There
would simply be no jobs for them anymore in about two hours--not even for those
A slim figured woman with a pointed nose and chestnut brown hair pulled back in
a bun so tight it made her look as though everything amazed her, strode purposefully
into the center of the large room where the din was steadily increasing. She cleared
her throat and almost immediately a hush fell over the space.
"Attention please everyone. There seems to be a major glitch in the central network
backbone. We have our best people working on it as I speak, so please just relax
and take a break until we get everything back up and running." Her calm outward
demeanor seemed to put all of the workers at ease and they began shuffling off
toward the break rooms in search of some nice, black coffee. The woman spun on
the heel of her gray pumps and headed back into the room she had come out of.
Door shut firmly, she walked over to the seat she had previously vacated around
a large meeting table. There were three other people assembled in the room along
with her, the two sitting looked as nervous as the workers outside had but the
woman who stood at the head was
"Cool as a cucumber." The pointy-nosed woman observed of her superior, who stood
leaning casually against the table. The other woman grinned, dark eyes twinkling.
"Mm. Always, Valarie," the executive purred, her low and raspy voice almost tickling
the eardrums of those in the room with her. Valarie sighed deeply and patted her
hair bun with a careful hand. The other two seated across from her, a short and
rather stout man and another man of average stature, sat motionless and dared
not speak. The woman pinned them with her deep gaze and smirked, shaking her head
condescendingly at them. They just shrunk further back in their seats, very much
aware of who was in charge here. Valarie chuckled ruefully and looked back to
her superior from the cowering forms of the men.
"Hunter, how do you do it?" she asked sarcastically. The woman in question
turned her head to face Valarie, her almost maniacal grin still spread across
the slightly rugged features there, and hoisted one brown eyebrow.
"Trick of the trade, my sweet. Trick of the trade."
"Yes, well, what tricks have you got to get us out of this mess?" Valarie went
on, examining her well-manicured nails with half-hearted interest.
"With Sera and Mary in jail for the moment, we're on our own really. I do have
our computer people on the job right now, but if they don't come up with something
soon.... I'd be willing to bet that this is the work of that Passaris woman he
brought in the other day to work on the system." Valarie looked up from her nails
at the remark but kept silent. "Something about her never did feel right. If you
ask me, the old boy's soft spot for her has blinded him to the fact that she loathes
him and his work now. 'Course he never listened to my warnings about her, but
if this little mishap is her doing--and it is--maybe he'll finally believe me.
No matter though, I don't plan to be working for that walking hard-on much longer."
"Surely you're not thinking of--"
"Quitting?" Hunter cut the other woman off. Valarie shrugged. "I certainly do.
I've got my own plans. But, in the meantime, let us focus on the problem at hand."
She was about to go on when the door burst open and one of the technicians who
had been working on the computer problem practically tumbled into the room. "Yes?"
she drawled. He blinked a few times and then seemed to remember what had been
"Virus...in the whole system. It's deleting everything and we can't stop it or
figure out where it came from."
Everyone in the room sat in silence for a moment, pondering the situation, as
the tech stood nervously at the door. One of the men at the table sat forward
in his seat and looked at Hunter's torso, refusing to meet her cold stare.
"Perhaps we should call over someone from Ops at Detrimus. They might have a better
chance of fixing the bug," he offered meekly. The executive thought about this
and then nodded her approval.
"Good idea," she began. The man fairly melted back into his seat, he was so relieved.
"Mitch," addressing the tech, "Call up Ops at base and have them send someone
from a local branch on over. Tell them it's an emergency."
"Right away, boss," he affirmed, almost saluted, and then scrambled back out of
"It's a good thing we have Sera's other companies to borrow people from. Otherwise
our rather inept computer staff here," Valarie started up, leveling an accusatory
stare at the two men. "--would've stood by and watched while the whole damn company
got deleted. As it is, we've probably lost some important files."
The man on the left gulped. Hunter almost giggled, but it was more in her nature
to cackle and so she did. This just made the men even more nervous. Valarie was
sure that if she checked under the table just then, there would be two wet stains
on the floor beneath the men's chairs.
Two hours ticked by, but finally a crew from Detrimus Ops' local branch came into
the building and began checking out the malfunctioning systems. Valarie and Hunter
wandered around and loomed over the technicians' shoulders. After a short five
minutes passed, one of the workers, a very short man with pleasant dark features,
shot up from his former position crouched in front of a terminal and shouted,
All eyes were on him. Everyone stopped what they were doing and he went on.
"The whole damn thing," he went on, exasperated. "All of it. Everything's been
"And this means...?" Valarie questioned. Hunter already knew, though, and was
standing quite still as she formulated a plan of action. Sera was going to be
pissed. But really, if she did this right, it wouldn't affect her at all.
"It means," the man continued, "that this whole company no longer exists, digitally
speaking that is."
A few of the workers poked their heads out of the break room at the news, mouths
agape. Hunter pinched the bridge of her nose with a thumb and forefinger and was
silent for a moment as she ran some ideas through her head. Valarie had gone quite
pale at the news and was fidgeting nervously. She hadn't thought that the whole
damn company would get deleted.
"Did you...figure out who put the virus in?" Hunter finally spoke, eyes still
closed. The tech shook his head and threw his hands into the air.
"No trace. Absolutely no trace. I've never seen anything like it before."
Valarie wasn't positive, but she thought she heard Hunter chuckle. Some of the
workers had now wandered out of the break room and were mixing with the technicians,
asking questions about what exactly had gone down. No one looked very happy. No
one except for Hunter, anyway, as a rather ironic grin spread over her face and
she continued to chuckle softly.
One of the more agitated looked workers grunted and kicked the wall.
"This is NUTS! What the hell happened here? What are we supposed to do?"
"Calm down, for one," Valarie replied, trying to hide her own nervousness and
at the same time get the very addled looking employees to keep from rioting. "Everything
will be fine, OK? It's just going...to take longer than we thought, is all. You
can all take the rest of the day off..." she noticed the uncertain looks, "...with
pay." This seemed to satisfy the group and people began grabbing their bags and
heading for the doors, all the while mumbling angrily to one another. Valarie
took a deep breath and was thankful that at least no violence had erupted...yet.
The thing was, if everything really was just, poof! gone, then it would certainly
take more than a day to fix it, if indeed they could. She glanced over to address
Hunter and had to stop and shake herself a little when she realized the woman
was gone. "Where the...?"
Hunter had ducked out of the main room while Valarie was courageously handling
the upset employees and headed for her office. There was a back way out of the
building that she planned to make use of after gathering everything she would
need, so as to avoid being seen. She would have to be fast. Packing her own bag
first, she then moved into Mary's office and rifled through some of the hardcopy
files there. Satisfied that she had what would be needed, Hunter walked quietly
out the back entrance and toward a large, red Impalla, her boat of a car. She
was finally free of Sera and therefor free to execute her own plans. Seated in
the oversized leather seat, Hunter started up the car and adjusted the rear view
mirror so that she could see her own face in it. The ex-executive winked at herself
and then pulled out into the Dallas traffic.
"So if this bug will basically delete the whole company, how will that be damaging
to the rest of Sera's 'empire'?" Reese continued. Auset smirked and stretched
out her back a little.
"Well, before the bug gets to work, another program will seek out and copy any
files that contain the more damaging evidence against Pharmatech and then send
them off to the FBI." Reese's face took on a look that said oh shit and Auset
went on. "Since Pharmatech is, of course, directly linked to Sera's main corporation,
Detrimus Enterprises, the feds will trace it all right to him. That will give
them a reason to dig around in all of his other dealings as well. And then, boom."
"I guess so," Reese agreed, impressed and a little shocked. The dark-haired woman
shrugged and then stood up, offering to take the now empty plates back into the
kitchen. "Let me help," the writer insisted and Auset accepted silently. The two
washed their own dishes and then raided the refrigerator for a drink. Auset noticed,
much to her relief, that as Reese was about to grab a bottle of beer she blanched
and then caught herself, opting to have a glass of the same cranberry juice that
the hacker was drinking. Without saying anything, Auset poured them both a glass
and then they returned to the living room, where both seated themselves on the
mattress. Auset sat with her back against the wall, window directly overhead,
and Reese sat just across from her. Another semi-uncomfortable silence drifting
through. Auset just stared at her crossed legs. Reese cleared her throat nervously
and looked up at the somewhat shadowed features of her friend's face. She
is...beautiful. The writer had to force herself not to blush just at the thought.
She carefully studied the planed surface of Auset's face; the pronounced cheekbones
and sculpted black eyebrows, the wonderfully messy short black hair, and most
importantly, the unimaginably cerulean eyes. The final glow of sun as dusk began
to settle reflected off of them and the sense of depth Reese got was almost breathtaking.
Finally, after finishing her appraisal, Reese decided to just gird her loins,
so-to-speak, and asked the question that had been hounding both of their minds
"So...ah...what about that kiss?" she chuckled out nervously.
Auset was sure she should probably say something. Anything. One word would
do! But it was as if her tongue had suddenly cemented itself to the inside
of her mouth and, for the life of her, all that she could do was stare a lot and
maybe blink...if she was lucky.
Reese was waiting nervously for some sort of response. She was a little worried
that her friend either hadn't heard her or was simply going into a state of shock.
The blonde cocked her head to one side and gently poked Auset in the shoulder.
"Well...I...uh," the hacker stuttered, seemingly pulled out of her stupor for
the moment. She was suddenly very nervous--so uncharacteristic of her, really--and
her usual penchant for few words had suddenly turned into a complete inability
to speak. For once in her life, Auset was worried about getting involved with
someone because for the first time in a long time, she really cared for the person.
Everyone else had merely been a...distraction, a conquest even. But Reese, no,
she really cared about her. And because of that, Auset was very reluctant to step
over the line and truly involve Reese in her world. Well it's a little late
Auset was also quite hesitant to open herself up again and risk getting hurt one
more time. Was it worth the trouble? Looking into Reese's sanguine and trusting
eyes, the dark-haired woman really wanted to believe that it was worth it. But,
more importantly even, Auset wasn't entirely sure that her affection was returned.
Sure, Reese seemed to like her well enough. Amazing. But, well, Reese
had only dated men before--perhaps the kiss had been nothing at all.
Maybe she'd misread everything. Like she would really care about someone like
you. She's probably about to shoot you down and tell you that the kiss was a mistake,
something she did because of the drugs--
Reese's amused shout finally snapped Auset out of her thoughts. The blonde was
smirking at her, laughing quietly with green eyes sparkling.
"Uh...sorry, what?" Auset answered stupidly. Reese let out a full chuckle and
poked the woman's shoulder again.
"Are you all right?"
"Um, yes, I guess...you caught me off guard?"
Reese was beginning to wonder if Auset really didn't want to talk about what had
transpired between them earlier. Maybe she wanted to forget about it all together.
Maybe Auset had done it out of pity, or just didn't mean anything by it--but it
sure had felt like it meant a great deal. What the hell is going on in that
"I'm sorry Auset, I shouldn't have--"
"No, no," the hacker cut in, finally coming to her senses when she noticed the
supremely disappointed look on Reese's face. "Don't apologize. It's all right."
She scratched her chin. "It's more than all right, with me, I mean, are you...?"
"I thought maybe you just didn't want to talk about it, or maybe it was a mistake,"
Reese went on nervously, becoming a little frustrated with the whole conversation.
This woman sure was difficult to figure out. Thankfully, Reese had been starting
to realize that one stood a better chance of understanding Auset by paying attention
to her eyes. They said volumes more than her sparse words. Right now, however,
the blues were focused on the ground and Reese couldn't exactly study them for
a hint as to what the hacker thought about all this. It was complicated enough
to deal with the somewhat new-found aspect to Reese's sexual preferences, but
now this too?
"It wasn't...a mistake. Not for me, anyway, but if you--" Auset began, absently
picking at the leg of her pants.
"Goddamnit Auset!" Reese growled petulantly, throwing her hands up in frustration.
Auset just blinked and shut her mouth. "You are the most aggravating person sometimes,
you know that?" All of this was punctuated by tiny thuds as Reese punched her
forefinger into the hacker's chest. "If I hadn't wanted to kiss you, I wouldn't
have done it! Especially since all of this is so damn new to me. I've never felt
this way about anyone before, let alone a woman, and you are not helping anything
by second guessing everything and assuming that I couldn't possibly care
about you!" Reese was on a roll. Auset was speechless. "Look, I do care
about you, a great deal in fact. Despite, and because of everything. With you...I've
never felt so alive, so like myself...and with you I feel right. OK? Can you get
that through your thick skull?"
A police siren started howling from somewhere within the city and grew muffled
as the car moved further away. Auset's eyebrows drew together as she pondered
something for a moment and then tapped the side of her head with two fingers.
"This thick skull has saved my butt many-a-times."
The tension in the room shattered into a million pieces and blew out the open
window. Reese allowed the muscles of her shoulders and back to relax, slumping
back in her seated position as a smile pulled at the corners of her mouth.
"You," the writer began seriously, her eyes raised to meet the other woman's gaze,
"are such a dork."
The comment was rewarded with a rakish grin, white teeth flashing, deep blue eyes
twinkling. Auset wasn't about to deny that accusation.
Reese practically swooned at the sight of that beautiful smile just inches from
her own lips and from the locked gazes they exchanged. She would willingly drown
in those depths, but Auset broke the spell then, speaking with some of the confidence
gone from her.
"I suppose I'm just...I don't want to get you involved unfairly. I don't want
you to feel like you're, under any pressure for.... You've already gotten caught
up in things I would rather have kept from affecting you."
"But I got you involved in events unfairly too, Auset. Everything in Flora--you
wouldn't have had to gone and done those things if it hadn't been for me. But,
I am glad you came. You know, we're even."
Auset mulled all this over for a second.
"We've both got messed up lives," the writer continued.
"No kidding," Auset snorted with little humor. Reese smiled and placed a hand
on the hacker's knee.
"So why don't we try and work through our messed up lives together?"
Oh, there's that word again, Auset thought. Together. It's absolutely
crazy, but I think I would really like it.
And then it was happening again. Auset suddenly noticed that either Reese's face
had gotten bigger or they had closed the distance between them. She studied the
gentle curve of lips that were presented, a little shyly, for her to explore.
But, just as they brushed against her own mouth, it was again the verdant eyes
that transfixed her. Forever.
Then all of their surroundings melted away, the noise of the city fading into
a rush of sound like waves rolling onto shore. The tentative first touch of lips
gave way to a deeper contact, an onslaught of sensation that made both women shudder
in its intensity. Tongues gently parted lips and began the exploration of each
others depths, slowly coaxing out a full abandonment of insecurities. Reese brought
her hand up and cupped Auset's cheek, enjoying the surprisingly soft feel of warm
skin. They continued for another few breathless moments until mutually pulling
apart, if for no other reason than not wanting to pass out for lack of air. Two
hearts beat double time, Auset worrying that hers would just leap from her chest
and fling itself across the room. Reese, for her part, was struggling to gain
control of her senses, completely unprepared for the flood of feeling that had
washed over her. Her whole body felt like it was set on a slow burn and she swallowed
in a vain attempt to quench the fire.
"We should do that more often," Reese rasped out breathily. Auset nodded vigorously
and smiled what she was sure was the biggest, goofiest grin ever.
Concluded in Part 10...
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