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VirileMail/5

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VHSJanek

By the time I left work Sunday I was so tired I was afraid to drive home. I put a CD into the player in my car and turned the key just far enough to send current to the player. In the hours since Chloe had left to go home, I had thought about her many times. I started thinking once again about how nice it felt to have Chloe as a friend and coworker and how terrible it had been when I had learned that it was possible to drive her into a rage. I let my eyes close and almost immediately started to fall asleep. I woke up as my head tipped to the side and cursed myself for weakness. I felt sure that during sleep I would lose my resolve to keep working to figure out what was going on.

Monday Edit

I have no memory of what happened next, but I must have quickly fallen asleep as I sat there in my car, still in the parking lot at work. It was about six hours later when a new security guard who was coming on duty noticed me and knocked on the window of my car. Still half asleep I lowered the window.

The guard was shining a flashlight into my car. "Is everything alright?"

I replied, "Yes, I'm fine."

I could tell the guard was trying to smell my breath. I started my car and put the window up. The guard kept watching me as I drove off. As I drove home I was aware that I had been trying to stay awake and figure out a problem. By the time I got home I had convinced myself that the problem I had been working on was a tricky detail of database programming for the VirileMail software. I showered and ate and headed back to work.

By the time I got to work, Fred and Judy were showing the details of the computer network and server array to the new network administrator, Brad Emphrone. I said, “Welcome back, Judy.”

She introduced me to Brad. He about crushed my hand in his huge and muscular cow-milker’s hand. I was to learn that Brad grew up on a dairy farm before attending Brandeis and getting a B.S. in computer science. He has worked for a dotcom startup during the late 90’s then had worked as a temporary network administrator at half a dozen companies since then.

I said, “This is a first for Antler. Four network administrators all here at one time.”

Fred objected to my count, “You can’t count yourself anymore, you’re part of that fancy new software development project.”

I said, “The transfer papers I signed last Friday specified that I would start on the new project at noon today,” I looked at my watch, “So I’m still officially a network administrator for a few more hours.” Thinking of Dave and employment paper work reminded me to ask Fred, “Has Erin been in?”

Fred was bone tired from the cumulative effect of his week of 12 hour night shifts and he was eager to head home, but he did want to talk to Erin. “I’ll go see if she’s in yet.” He went to try to find Erin.

Brad asked me, “So am I being taken on so that you can switch to this new project?”

I was sure that Brad was wondering how long his temporary position might last. I told him about the plans to hire both him and another new network administrator. “If there were four network administrators we could get away from the 56 hour work weeks that Judy, Fred and I have been on.”

Judy objected, “Hey, I like the bonus they have been paying us for the long work week.”

I told Judy that Fred had just gone to talk to Erin about pay raises. “With this new project getting started, somebody finally got a crowbar into Geisler’s wallet. I suspect Erin will agree to pay you the same for a 42 hour work week as you have been getting for 56.”

I could see Judy’s eyes light up at the prospect of an extra 14 hours a week to be at home with her family.

Just then Fred came back after having a quick word with Erin. He confirmed that Geisler had spoke to Erin about the idea of pay raises and that Erin had signed on to the idea of higher pay for experienced network administrators. Fred reported to us that he had seen Erin tell Dave to start pushing the paper work involved in pay raises for Fred and Judy. Fred handed Judy the biometrically activated palm computer and said, “Geisler will be here at 1:00 to set Brad up for thumb printing.” Fred wished me luck on the new project and promised Brad that he would be back at 3:00 then he started to split for home.

As Fred left the room and headed down the hallway, Brad called out, “Thanks for taking on a double shift so we can get our schedules synchronized.”

I knew that Fred was exhausted and I was surprised at the idea of him returning that afternoon. I asked, “Fred’s coming back at 3:00?”

Judy told me that they had agreed to try 3-11, 11-7, and 7-3 shifts. When another network administrator was hired in the near future then they would probably go to daily 6 hour shifts and a 42 hour work week.

Judy had heard of the new project, but did not know anything about it. She asked me, “What is this new project you are joining, anyhow?”

I gave a short description of the artificial intelligence-supported email application that the Czechs had developed. “The new project is a push to get the new email software on the market in this country.” I told Judy about the huge drain on computing resources being exerted by the new software.

Judy was shocked, “We’re running at 95% CPU cycle utilization?” That level of CPU use was so unbelievable that she had to immediately pull up the network resource utilization report on the palm computer. She stared at the numbers in disbelief and spoke with outrage, “We have paying customers who will scream murder if we bog down and can’t supply them with their computing resources when they need them. Company policy is that we need a minimum of 25% excess processing power at all times. Who is the lunatic who’s letting this new software take us to 95%?”

Judy was really upset, but I was able to calm her down and explain the situation. Finally she accepted that the Czech software was not interfering with regular business operations and started asking about details of the new project. She was intrigued by the idea of an artificial intelligence routine that would be using so much of our computing resources. She commented, “I did my masters degree research on artificial intelligence. I’d sure like to see this program code.”

There was a certain amount of compartmentalization and security around the VirileMail project. I explained, “When I signed on to the new project last Friday, I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Access to the VirileMail code is restricted to project team members.”

Judy was not sure she had heard me correctly. “Virile male?” I explained that the name of the project was some mistranslation of the original name. I almost mentioned that the email software had been written in some unknown Eastern European language, but I kept my mouth shut about that. If it had been just Judy and Fred I would have spoken more freely, but I really did not know Brad at that point in time. The more I thought about the events of the past week the more I remembered about just how strange things had been and I started to remember my commitment to sort it all out.

Judy knew me well enough to see that I was holding something back, but before she could start to pump me for more information, Brad asked to see the thumb print-activated palm computer and the awkward moment passed.

I could tell that Judy was very excited about the AI software development project and disappointed that she would be stuck with training Brad while I went off to work on the new project. While she told Brad about the palm computer and what network administration functions could be performed on it, I thought about the feelings I had for the new project. I had never understood why I had been selected to join the project. It was true that I had access to the network administration tool that had been needed to link to Czech team into our server array, but most of the work I had done on the project so far seemed like a dream. I had done database programming to set up the VirileMail package on our server, but while doing that work it had been like I was a puppet. Standing there thinking about the past week, I had flashes of memories that reminded how wrong many of the recent events had been. My legs started to tremble and I felt a wave of anxiety.

Video check Edit

Judy and Brad were deep into conversation about the networked services our company provided. They did not notice that I was having mental difficulties. They stepped into the server room, leaving me in silence.

My thoughts came back to the fact that I was officially changing jobs. I started thinking about cleaning my things out of the network admins office for the move upstairs and then I suddenly remembered the VCR and my plan to use it to help understand my own odd behavior and crazy memory defects. I rewound the tape that was in the machine and tried to remember leaving work on Sunday. I fell into thinking about Chloe until I was brought back to the present when the rewinding ended with a loud clunk.

I hit play and watched myself. I saw myself explaining my past desire to catch myself in the act of doing something I could not remember. Suddenly I was sweating and trembling and wondering why I had forgotten all about this. It was obvious that I had been afraid I would forget, so I had recorded a short proclamation of my will to remember and solve the mysteries associated with the VirileMail project.

Much of my frame of mind returned from before I had fallen asleep in my car Sunday evening. I now felt confident that it was true: if I slept then something went to work, rearranging my memories and removing my commitment to understand what was happening to me and my coworkers on the new project. The video recording then went into a boring replay of events in the office on Sunday. I set the playback to its fasted setting. While frames of video that were about ten seconds apart played back in an odd stop-action format I sunk into a chair and tried to order my thoughts. I watched Chloe and myself on Sunday when we had been trying to find an unauthorized transmitter in the building. After she had left, there was just myself, relentlessly pounding out database code for hours before Fred had arrived for the shift change.

As I watched the video I could only vaguely recall what I had been composing and typing and debugging. Even my memories of being with Chloe were fuzzy.....I wondered why we had spent so much time looking for a radio transmitter. What a waste of time! The tape finally ended about an hour after Fred's shift had started. Apparently I had left work without even thinking to shut off the VCR, although I could only vaguely recall having said good night to Fred.

I knew something was wrong with my memory and my mind started to manufacture excuses. The excuse that made most sense to me at that moment was that I was mentally ill. Somehow, telling myself that I was sick was a source of relief. I reasoned that since I knew I was having memory problems, my illness was selective, so there was some hope for me. Somehow I remembered most things about my life but I had forgotten ever learning the advanced database methods I had used during the past week for the VirileMail project. How could that be? At that moment I had a strong sensation of déjà vu, just as Judy and Brad came out of the server room.

My rational mind was trying to construct a theory about how I must have some bizarre multiple personality disorder. That excuse calmed my emotions and I threw the VCR and the tapes into a box, chuckling at my own silliness. Still, it bothered me to think that what qualified me for the new project was a past that included training I could not really remember. The rational part of my mind seemed to remember that memory problems in multiple personality disorder should only extend to traumatic events that I wanted to forget, not something like years of technical training in a field of computer science.

Since Judy really wanted to join the project, and her masters degree work made her more qualified than I was, I told her I would ask Chloe if she could join the VirileMail project. I knew that if she did, I would probably not get to work on the new project. The only thing that really bothered me about that was that I would not get to work with Chloe. I felt a rush of euphoria as I thought more deeply about the possibility of finding a way to avoid joining the project. Part of me knew that all of my odd behavior and memory problems had started with the arrival of this mysterious new project. If I stayed as a network admin rather than join the new project would I return to normal?

Judy seemed satisfied with my offer to mention her interest in the new project to Chloe. She and Brad then went off on the grand tour of the other floors of the building.

After they left I finished clearing my desk and packing my personal items for the move to the fifth floor. I logged in to the net and I made one last check of the system resources diagnostics and saw that CPU utilization was still pegged at 95%.

I noticed that I had gotten an email from Dave. He needed me to fill out a new tax withholding form. I went down the hall to Dave’s office and started filling out the form. Erin popped out of her office to hand some papers to Dave. She saw me and said, “Hi, Joe.”

I told Erin that Judy was interested in the new project and that her background with artificial intelligence research might be useful. Erin said that she was counting on team members like me to suggest personnel for the project. Erin had no objection to Judy working on the project but she said I should ask Geisler and Chloe. I said I would probably be able to talk to both of them that afternoon and we had a short discussion about the possibility that Judy rather than me should be on the new project, but I could tell that Erin had no basis upon which to make such a decision. Making that choice required technical understanding of the project and our backgrounds that Erin did not have.

I remembered one last thing to do before heading up stairs to the VirileMail offices. I reviewed the webcam images that I had been stored on the server, looking for difference from what was on the video tapes. Wishing there was a better way to automate the process, I tried to keep my attention focused on the task. The worst thing was that I felt very silly wasting my time like this. All I was working on was some hunch that I could not trust data that had been stored on the server array. Was I just trying to find a machine to blame when the problems I was having were most likely due to my own illness? As I sat there, confirming that both video records were identical, I could not even clearly remember what had led me not trust data on the servers. All that really drove me was the 30 seconds worth of video of myself saying that it was important to do so. That was concrete. All of my memories seemed like a jumble of contradictions that would be so easy to dismiss! Something deep in side me kept saying, "Don't sweat it".

But another part of me was stronger. I kept at the task of checking the video records against each other. I got to the point in the video where Chloe and I came back to my desk after confirming that it was possible to transmit radio signals from the server room to the second floor through the hole in the wall. I paused the rapid playback of the video frames. Looking at a single frame of myself and Chloe, I could remember myself say to Chloe, “I'm not going to give up on this. I never want to forget another thing as long as I live, and I want all my missing memories back.”

I now remembered that Chloe had nodded in agreement and I remembered feeling very pleased that she was no longer angry at me. At that moment I could not recall what Chloe had said to me. Irked at my unreliable memory and wanting to hear her voice, I plugged the VCR back in and inserted the tape that held our conversation. I stepped through again at high speed, found the critical moment and played it at normal speed. I had used a recording setting that was low quality, and the webcam had a poor microphone, but I could hear her say, “Okay, here’s a plan. First, we patch the hole in the wall of the server room with metal. That’s probably closing the barn door after the livestock is gone, but it should be done. Second, we tell George that we need to open up that patched hole in the floor.” She pointed up. “I’ll do it with a hammer and a chisel. If there’s hidden radio equipment in the cement patch, I don’t want a jack hammer smashing into it.”

After that, I watched as Chloe and I then took an old metal computer case and cut out a piece of sheet metal to fill the hole in the server room shielding. We then disappeared off camera for ten minutes. I remembered that that was how long it took us to solder the metal plug into the hole in the wall of the server room.

I then watched the same events as recorded in digitized images on the server array. I could detect no differences in what had been recorded by the VCR and what was in the computer memory.

I continued to watch playback of when we had returned to the office: Chloe and I went back to my desk and we started doing something on the computer. Watching this for the second time I became puzzled by what I was watching and could not remember exactly what we had been doing on the computer. I switched back to the video tape and quickly realized that there was a good reason why the digital image sequence was confusing- part of that sequence had been deleted. On the video tape the audio was terrible but it was easy to figure out that what had been deleted from the server was when we were reviewing the routing tables for the network. At first I could not remember why we had been interested in the routing tables and then as the memories returned, I suddenly felt dizzy and nauseous. I forced myself to keep watching as Chloe and I got into systematically resolving all of the IP addresses in the routing tables. The longer I watched, the better I could remember having done what I was watching.....and why.

Finally, as I saw Chloe and myself on the video getting excited, I remembered what we had discovered and why it had caused so much excitement. I paused the video tape and carefully reviewed the video images that had been stored on the server. I the time period when Chloe and I had reviewed the routing tables and made our discovery, the images from the server were not deleted, but rather, that record showed falsely time-stamped images of an empty office!

What had surprised us was what we had found when we traced the email path to Janek. Brian, Kaede, Bhavya and I had sent dozens of emails to Janek for translations of the strange Cyrillic text of the Czech software. We were able to trace the path of the emails to Prague but then the path wound its way right back to us! I turned the video tape back on and watched myself say to Chloe, “The Janek emails are going in and out of the port that I set up for the VirileMail network traffic.”

What happened next on the video was the strangest of all. Both Chloe and I seemed to slump in our chairs. There was ten seconds of silence then Chloe straightened up and said, “So what are you looking for?”

I watched myself "reactivate" and try to remember the Friday meeting in Erin's office; that had been when I first noticed something strange in the router tables. But soon the topic had shifted and Chloe and I were off running around searching for an unauthorized radio transmitter again.

I shut off the VCR and wiped the sweat out of my eyes. Clearly, our discovery of the path taken by emails to Janek was not something that I had been meant to remember. I picked up the phone and called Chloe. It took the building operator a few tries to find her new office on the fifth floor. Finally Chloe came on the line, “Hello.”

I blurted out, “Do you remember the routing tables?”

She sounded alarmed, “Joe?”

I repeated my demand, “What did we find in the routing tables?”

She was quiet for a long time. Finally she said, “I remember that we started looking at the routing tables, then we went off and checked on the wireless hub.”

As I expected, Chloe could not remember the discovery we had made. The only reason I remembered was because I had watched the video. I sat there puzzling out what it all meant. Who would have altered the video images stored on the server and yet neglected the video tape? And what did it mean that “Janek” was traced back to the VirileMail software running on our server array? Chloe asked, “Joe, are you still there? What’s going on?”

My head was throbbing and my mouth felt like I could spit cotton. I croaked, “I’ll be up in half an hour. I’ll tell you then.” I hung up and looked at the webcam. I had proven the value of not trusting my memory or data saved on the server. I sat there spinning all sorts of fantasies about Janek being some devilishly clever hacker who had penetrated all of our security layers by working from within Dr. Gajduskova’s group in the Czech Republic. I was glad that Geisler would soon be in. I’d tell him what was going on and then we’d soon get to the bottom of it all.

router/Janek Edit

Fearing that I might forget again, I put a blank tape into the VCR and sitting in front of the webcam I recorded a brief account of what I had learned and where the key video data were showing Chloe and I blacking out and forgetting out discovery. I heard Judy and Brad coming back down the hall, so I finished my short narration.

Judy asked, "What are you doing with the video equipment, Joe?"

I went to disconnect the webcam from the VCR. I told her that I had set up the webcam to monitor goings on in the server room after the cable disconnection had taken our server array off the internet the previous Tuesday. We talked about the hole that had been blasted through the building. Brad said, “I saw something on the news about that. Were they serious about that meteorite idea?”

While we talked, I ejected the tape and popped out the plastic tab that would prevent further recording on the tape. I wrote router/Janek on the tape's label and then threw all the video equipment into my moving box. A wave of triumph swept over me and I suddenly felt more normal. I shrugged. “Why would a meteor blast through four floors and then evaporate? I saw the holes. It looked like something went up through them, not down.”

Brad asked, “The cable disconnect and the holes happened on the same day?”

I nodded. “Last Tuesday. Just about the same time.” I told them about the hole I had found in the wall of the server room and how Chloe and I had finally patched the metal shielding on Sunday. It was about 11:35 and I was trying to get last minute chores done while we talked. I made one last review of my email inbox and saw the copy of the project report that Chloe has sent to Erin that morning. I cut the hardware upgrade plans from the report and emailed copies of it to Judy and Fred so that they could be in the loop for the pending upgrade of the server array. Just as I was finishing up, a new email arrived from Chloe. It was notice of a group meeting for the new project members at 1:30.

Judy said, “Damn! Too weird. All this on top of the new project. I leave town for a week an all hell breaks loose.”

I knew Judy was capable of perceptive thinking and I expected that in a moment her creative mind would be imagining connections between the "meteor" and the new project. I did not want to share my speculations about such connections until I had a chance to talk with Geisler and Chloe. I replied, “I hope to know a lot more about the new project after the first meeting of the new project team this afternoon.”

Having helped Chloe write the project report over the weekend, I felt like I had a good sense of what had happened last week to get the VirileMail software running on our server array, but I still did not understand where the project was headed. There was something more going on than development of an email program. My hope was that Chloe has been in contact with Dr. Gajduskova and had some answers about exactly what her software was doing to consume such a torrent of computing resources. I was having a hard time figuring how Geisler planned to market an email application that needed an array of expensive hardware to support it. I hoped both Chloe and Geisler would have some answers for all the mysteries that had accumulated.

Judy invited me to go with her and Brad to lunch, but I declined the invitation. I wanted to go talk with Chloe about Janek and the fact that someone had erased and altered the video data that was stored in the server array. I picked up the box with the VCR, put on my backpack and headed upstairs.

I left my backpack and the box containing the VCR in my new office and then went looking for Chloe. I found her new office down the hall and looked in. Chloe looked up from her work and said, “Joe. Come in. Have seat.” She seemed to be inspecting me closely. I had actually gotten some sleep the night before and I probably did not look quite as crazed as I had on Sunday. “Since you called, I have been trying to remember exactly what we did yesterday.”

I nodded. “This is why I had the webcam recording events yesterday. I know I cannot trust my memory.”

I could tell that Chloe was struggling to sort through her own memories. “I remember that I took a nap in your office Saturday. I had been up for a couple of days and just blacked out. But I also remember waking up in your office yesterday, too.”

“Yes, I just watched the video tape. We were sleeping together yesterday."

Chloe chuckled, “You have the strangest way of saying things.”

I realized what I had said and felt my ears suddenly burning red. Looking at her looking at me with a sly grin I felt sure she knew the effect she had on my emotions. I tried to collect my thoughts and act professionally. “Sorry. I mean the video tape shows that we both blacked out for a moment yesterday, both at the same time.”

Chloe said, “That’s weird. I don’t remember that. I remember a lot of silly running around looking for a radio transmitter. What do you mean we blacked out?”

I stood up and said, “Hold on, I’ll get the tape. I couldn’t remember until I watched the replay.” I went back to my new office to get the VCR and the tape. I took two video tapes out of the box. On one of the two tapes I had written #1 on the label. The second tape in the box was the one I had recorded on minutes earlier and on which I had written router/Janek. I was looking for tape #2, the one that showed Chloe and making the discovery about the path taken by emails sent to Janek. I dumped everything out of my backpack and the box but could not find the tape #2. Had I left it down stairs?

Chloe appeared in the doorway of my office. She asked, “I thought you were coming right back. Is there a problem?”

I replied, “I’m looking for the video tape.”

She picked up the two tapes that were on my desk. “One of these?”

I shook my head. “It has ‘#2’ on the label. I just had it before I came up stairs.”

She watched me paw through the stuff I had dumped out of my backpack. “What were you doing with the tape before you came up?”

“I was watching it.” As I answered her question I realized where the tape was. “I must have left it in the VCR!” I plugged in the VCR and connected its video adapter to the display on my desk. I turned on the VCR and hit play. There was no tape in the machine. “Damn!”

Chloe asked, “What’s wrong?”

I hit eject and nothing happened. I put my fingers into the tape slot. It was empty. “Now that I think about it, I'm sure I did not leave the tape in the VCR." I could not remember if I had the tape when I came up stairs. "Now its gone.”

Eventually we retraced my steps all the way back downstairs to my old desk. The tape labeled ‘#2’ was nowhere to be found. Chloe said, "Well, we do not have time to sort this out right now. We can get back to this after the meeting."

When we came back upstairs, Brian was in the fifth floor hallway talking to Kaede and Bhavya. They were just back from lunch. I wondered, who would have taken the video tape? Or, with the way my memory had been, had I simply forgotten what I had done with it?

Feeling very foolish, I went to my new office and put the router/Janek tape into the VCR and watched my rather hysterical account of the discrepancy between tape #2 and the video stored on the server. Out in the hall I could hear Chloe make sure that everyone would be at the 1:30 group meeting. She came into my office and I shut off the VCR. I asked if Geisler would be attending the meeting. Chloe asked, “Why would he?”

I explained that Geisler would be coming in to validate the new network administrator’s biometrics. Chloe said that she had not heard that Geisler was even in town. Most of the year Geisler was on the road visiting clients, attending trade shows and hunting out investors. Chloe said, “Well, I need to finish getting ready for the meeting." She said to me, “Don’t forget, we have a date for after the meeting.”

Chloe went back to her office and Brian slipped into my office. It was clear that he had been listening. He elbowed me. “A Date? You devil, you. What happened to the non-fraternization policy?”

I explained that I had been ready to show Chloe a video tape, but then it had disappeared. The way Brian laughed then made me suspect that he had swiped the tape, but then he said, “This is your roach video?”

Kaede and Bhavya were attracted by Brian's laughter and came to the door of my office. Of course, Kaede and Bhavya wanted to know what the “roach video” was, and by the time I was done telling about the server being disconnected from the internet and my use of the webcam to monitor the server room, it was almost 1:00. I wanted to catch Geisler before the group meeting, so I said I’d be back in half an hour and I went back down stairs.

All thumbs Edit

Brad, Judy and Geisler were huddled over a desk in the network office. Geisler was making sure that Brad’s thumb print worked with the print reader of the palm computer. I watched as he got the device to accept Brad’s biometrics along with those of Judy and Fred. Geisler saw me watching him and said. “Hi, Joe. I was just going to take you off the list of network admins.”

I suggested that he not do so. “There’s a chance that Judy will be joining the new project, not me.”

Geisler was surprised. “I read Chloe’s preliminary report. You did a great job helping get the new software package running on our server array.”

I looked at my watch. I wanted a few minutes alone with Geisler to discuss Janek and my fears that our net security had been compromised. I did not want to discuss these things in front of the new employee, Brad. I looked at Judy and wondered why she didn’t join this discussion. Knowing Judy, she was reluctant to blow her own horn.

“Well, I’ll discuss it with Chloe. Even if I was able to help get the new software up and running, Judy’s AI experience in grad school makes her qualified to work on VirileMail, probably more qualified than I am.”

Geisler seemed surprised that I seemed to be backing away from participation in the new project. Geisler said, “Well, sort it out with Chloe.” He shut off the palm computer and handed it to Brad. “Try to log in.”

Brad went through the complete power-up and login. The palm computer now recognized Brad and he could access the admin account.

Geisler said to Judy and me, “I’ll ask Gajduskova what she thinks. She requested that our team here be relatively small. She’s paranoid about this new software being stolen and knocked off before she has rulings on the patents she submitted. But we can probably assume there would be no problem from Gajduskova if we added another team member. She has already authorized the idea of adding an outside consultant to the team, so she should not mind an additional team member drawn from inside the company."

It was clear that Geisler was open to the idea of both Judy and I working on the new project. I said, “I would not want to leave Fred, Brad and whoever else we hire as a net admin doing 56 hour work weeks. I think Judy is better qualified than I am, so maybe I should just stay as a net admin.” I was having second thoughts about telling Geisler about the routing path of the Janek emails. If the video tape was truly gone, could I prove my claim? If I went back into the routing tables today, what would they show?

Geisler seemed to sense that there was something strange about my behavior. He looked at me closely with his shrewd gaze then shrugged. “Sort it out with Chloe.”

Geisler made his excuses- a long list of appointments with department heads that afternoon. He said goodbye and departed after a final “welcome aboard” to Brad.

Then he turned around and approached me as if he wanted to tell me something. "Oh, I almost forgot. I need you for a special job. Be at my office tomorrow at first hour and I will tell you about it".

As Geisler left he looked back and winked at me, as if he found something amusing in this episode. A chill ran down by back and I stood there wondering just how much Geisler knew about the mysterious events of the past week. I wondered if he and Gajduskova were playing some elaborate trick on the new project team. And now there was this new meeting with him. I was so intrigued I knew I would not sleep well that night. What would he have to say to me? If it were something simple, he could have just e-mailed me. Special job?

At that moment, I knew I would gladly do anything that would give me a chance to step back from the VirileMail project and the strange events that surrounded it. I feared that maybe this new "special job" was only a quick task that would not give me an excuse to distance myself from the VirileMail project. I felt some relief from the fact that when he ordered me to sort the project out with Chloe, it sounded like he did not expect me to continue working as I had been on the VirileMail project. But what about the wink?

End of another long dayEdit

I went back up stairs and suffered through the first real VirileMail project team meeting. I looked at the faces of my co-workers and started thinking of them as zombies. They were all so eager to develop a stupid email program but they could not be bothered to notice all of the strange happenings from the past week. All I wanted to do was run from the meeting and find the missing video tape! Then I would be able to make them understand that this was not business as usual.

My "date" with Chloe was even worse. All I could show her was the tape of me ranting about Janek and routing tables. She could not hide a small grin of amusement as she watched my dramatic performance in the role of the paranoid and delusional computer nerd. The only small relief from utter embarrassment was that she did still remember waking up in my office on Sunday. That was enough to get her to sit down with me again and look through the routing table one more time.

I pleaded, "Yesterday, we found that the "Janek" translations actually flow from our own computers. Now that we know what we are looking for, it will just take us a minute to confirm that."

It did not take long for me to realize that the data in the routing table had been altered so as to no longer show messages to Janek going in a closed loop from our computers to Europe and back. Chloe just shrugged and made her excuses about work to do and left me. I worked deep into the night trying to trace how the routing table data had been altered, but who ever had done it left no tracks.

By the time I left for home I was doubting my own memories. If there was something making me forget maybe there was also something that could make me imagine things. Could I trust anything I thought I knew?


Continue to Chapter 6

Chapters: 1234567891011121314

Other pages: CharactersGlossarythe novel all on one pagemain talk page for the story

For authors (warning: plot details!): MetaTimelineVirileMail/2008audio version



Note: Some older ideas are at Chapter 6 Alternate (plot step 3)

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