Every time I sit in my boss's office I feel like I'm back in school awaiting judgement from the principal. Even when I've done nothing wrong, I still tense up like I'm about to be yelled at. Don't ask me why, he's given me no reason to feel like that, in fact Charles is probably one of the coolest bosses I've ever had the pleasure to work for. Must just be a conditioned response when asked to speak to a higher up, one-on-one.
"Sally told me about the episode in the bull pin today." Wow cutting to the chase today. I was hoping for our usual hour of chit chat to relax enough to get the story out.
"I had a killer headache thats all." I really don't want to go down this road. Events do not change, thats a fact that needs to stay the same.
"Really? Because how she described is that one minute you're fine whizzing through data and then the next you're complaining of a headache before you promptly go down for the count. Don't play dumb Betty, you're one of the smartest people on my team." Ouch, he's pissed.
"I'm not playing dumb, headaches can pop up out of nowhere, I had been staring at screens for the past 5 hours non-stop I might have just noticed it once those two distracted me." That sounds entirely plausible, go me.
"Don't even try to pass it off as a simple case of you zoning into your work." Guess not so plausible after all.
"I want you to go get checked out. If this really wasn't caused by an event the med-bay should be able to establish that. If not we need to widen our research scope. And you are going on desk duty for a bit."
"Sir! Thats completely unfair!" I hate desk duty. All you get to do is review others reports and look for anything odd that stands out. "Do I at least get to keep up with my research?"
"Depends on how your check up goes. You know that if your bond has strengthened we would need to locate your bond partner before allowing you access back to classified material." I hate that rule.
"And what if my research would allow me to locate them faster, my bond partner that is." Well that got an eyebrow raise. This is either going to go my way or backfire spectacularly.
"And how exactly would your research establish that. Last I checked I had you looking into a pattern for when events occur, not matching links." Is he pissed? I can't tell, he's totally blank.
"I was, but then I thought what if I could create a program that would analyze typical event symptoms and have it query against other similar reported complaints that occurred at the same time. We know that events happen at nearly the exact same moment for both partners give or take a few seconds. What if we could compile all data for recorded events and do a cross comparison. It may not always give perfect matches but we can at least present smaller pools to research."
"We've tried that remember, the data is too sporadic, or not consistent enough." I know where he was going with this. "Plus it takes forever to get around all the red tape needed to subpoena all those records here not to mention asking the rest of the world governments to participate and send us their data."
"Right, because we were trying to be sneaky. Why? Everyone knows about these events now. That press conference guaranteed it. What if instead of trying to go through the backdoor for data, we just asked the public to submit their data in an effort to link them to their partner." I had a hard time understanding why everything has to be so hush hush with the government.
"Because what happens if people use that data for blackmail, or worse, as a way to harm or kill someone."
"They're already doing that though! The only difference is 65% of the time those people are bluffing and innocents are getting hurt in the process. Its worth a shot at least. Isn't it better that those with stronger bonds find their partners fast?" This was a sore subject for me, on the one hand I don't want to know my partner. But in cases like Sally and Drew where they literally can't touch anyone besides themselves its important.
"I understand Betty, I really do. But this isn't just about finding everyones link. There are national securities, Corporations, investigations and a whole slew of other things at risk. This isn't a black and white issue here." I knew that, thats why I was trying to do this on the side. I understood that my program in the wrong hands could put a lot of things in jeopardy. But at the same time, isn't leaving these people to sit in ignorance also putting them at risk?
"I understand that sir, but we still shouldn't give up on this. What if we masquerade the data." This was going to be a long shot.
"Yes, what if we create like a forum where we ask people to submit their event stories. Then we have the computers analyze the submitted data and look for commonalities. Its not perfect due to the fact there will always be false data provided, but its a start. It grants access to the data, without making a promise to find partners. Plus we are then able to keep classified information for certain groups of people secret whilst looking through the data." Wow, I've impressed myself with this one.
"You want us, to create a fake internet forum, where we ask the public to submit their event stories, on the basis people can look through it and find their own match hopefully." Ok, he seems on board since he grasped the concept. "Exactly how are you going to manage the false positives? Whose to say people won't just start copying posts in hopes of tricking someone." And there's the skepticism.
"I can't guarantee we won't get some false positives but there are ways we could structure the system to work against that. I'll write up the proposal and submit it for your review. Its not like I won't have the time if you do bench me." And I am not pouting when I say that.
"You're pouting, and we're not benching you. Its protocol and you know that, now get back to work." You know for being so stern at times, he really is a big old softie at heart. Either that or he's drawing comparisons between me and his son again.
Charles has always been a bit of an enigma. I'm never quite sure what his angle is, or why he requested to head this rag tag group of rejects. And I don't mean rejects as in we are all terrible at our job, more like rejects because no where else really had a place for us. Sally and Drew didn't meet until they were both asked to join this division and until then due to their event were kept in administrative jobs when in fact the two of them have some of the best tracking and investigation skills I've ever seen. Sally can get the truth out of anyway and spot a lie from a mile away, something about micro-expressions, and Drew has this uncanny way of making intuitive leaps that always wind up being correct. Charles paired them together instantly and it was only me accidentally tripping and knocking Sally into Drew's arms that we realized those two were linked.
The others on our team are Estelle, a quirky vibrant admin from Brazil with an insane organization system and the ability to speak 15 languages fluently. She claims she learned them from traveling I think she learned them from her harem of men she keeps around. Next up is Marley, my partner in crime so to speak. She's great at seeing the whole picture, comes in handy when examining piles of data and you need someone to spot details that correlate, it pairs nicely with my data mining skills. Field wise we're a quirky pair, she's a little more subdued compared to my hyperactive personality but it works, I talk to people get them relaxed and she asks the pointed questions in a way where people don't think they're being interrogated. She's going to kill me if I do get put on a desk, because she gets shoved there too until a replacement for me can be found. Together and with a few others we make up the Event Investigative and Tracking Task Force for the CIA, we totally got gipped on assigned names since we don't get a cool acronym. I think someone just had a bur up their ass that we were given to the CIA and not the FBI. Apparently some believe that we should using our research on a crime solving basis.
"Sir, do you mind telling Marley for me about our current work status. I really don't feel like getting my ass kicked right now." I know she'd recognize this wasn't really my fault, but the fact was she hates desk duty. There's not too much for her to do. And reading poorly written reports from some of our "lazier" coworkers. Some took this job because they felt they wouldn't have to work then. No one really expects results for the mass majority of work we do. We're mostly here so that if we have another case like the Larson one, a system is already in place to handle the situation better.
"I'll take care of it. You go and start mocking up a proposal for your little idea. I'm not making any promises but if we can locate links faster I'm not going to be the one who said no." He really is a great boss, most others would discount any idea I had due to my age or experience. But what I lack in years with the CIA I made up with a new breed of thinking.
Walking back to my desk I notice a few of the others in the bull pin staring at me. Especially one group in particular. I couldn't stand them, they bring new meaning to the term slacker. Always taking the cases where finding a match is virtually impossible so no one ever expects results. The spend all day sitting and gossiping about other agents and acting better then everyone else.
Donna the leader of that pack of idiots was the first to open her mouth. "You feeling better rookie? Was computer work too much for you? If you need an easier job I've got some files you can put away." Fuck do I hate her. All she does is sit on her fat ass chatting with anyone and everyone.
"I'll pass, you look like you could use the exercise simply putting those files away will give you. In fact I've got a bunch you can put away for me." Just because she's older and been with the CIA longer doesn't make me a rookie here. I was on this task force before her, if anything she's the rookie now.
"Wanna say that again you little punk?" She was quite the large woman. Once a lean mean fighting machine but desk duty has made her balloon to epic proportions. Its amazing she still has a job. Why they made the call that our team doesn't have to pass the fitness exam every year I'll never know. Woman could use some sort of motivation. Or at least someone screaming at her to move her fat ass.
"You're a lazy fat cow and I don't have the time nor the patience to deal with you got it. Next time remember I may not be your boss but I still rank higher then you in this group." I never pull rank, but she was pissing me off, and the fact that she keeps forgetting that fact and acting like I'm some desk clerk really chaps my hide. I'd punch her if it wasn't for the fact that Charles would rip me a new one.
"Just because you got some fancy title doesn't make you a better agent then me little girl. Remember that." These old school agents make me want to break something. They think your rank is determined by how long you've been there.
"Of course not, my success rate makes me a better agent then you. Why don't you actually try to do some work, so you have something to show for once in next months meeting." I was done with her, surprisingly her cohorts had stayed quiet through out the whole exchange. Both only warily staring at me as if no longer sure if I'm an ally or the enemy. Donna was still yelling something at my back but I was ignoring her now, she really wasn't worth my time. One day she'll get fired, I'll throw a party when that day comes.
Sitting back at my desk I notice more data reports have been dropped off. Hidden underneath the pile was a red folder. Someone should tell whoever's trying to be sneaky that a red file underneath a bunch of bound white paper isn't exactly covert. Picking the file up first I look to see whats inside. No documents just a flash drive. Plugging the drive in I skim through the rest of papers wondering if they stashed a note inside, coming up empty I open up the folder thats just appeared on my screen. Inside contains only a compressed folder. Even compressed the file size was massive, a whopping thirty gigabytes. That was going to take a bit to unzip, setting my computer to run in the background I start to glance through the reports on my desk. I hate looking through these reports, all they were was incident sightings. Each one a brief outline of an event an agent witnessed along with a picture and sometimes information on the subject. This was such an inefficient way to collect data but with no real legal action to take in getting better information we were stuck. These reports were only really good for finding intense bonds. The ones where injuries transfer, anything less and its hards to spot. Not exactly like an agent can tell if someone is picking up phantom sensations or what not.
Stopping at one file in particular I reread to make sure I have the information correct. A small child being treated for a broken arm had burns appear down their leg. Going back a few pages I found where a little girl waiting at the hospital for her sudden broken arm had coffee spilled on her by another patient. It might just be a coincidence but I don't get paid to believe in those. Putting the two cases together and off to the side I keep running through. Most aren't obvious like those, some are subtle. One regarding an overheard conversation about this elderly woman unable to sleep due to her constantly feeling like her legs are in motion, is paired with another file for a triathlete complaining of constant exhaustion. This was going to take a while.
I'm stuck with those reports for hours, flipping through each case and backtracking a few times to see if there's a correlation to previous read ones. My stack of potential matches doesn't get very big. Establishing that there are no longer any clear matches I separate the remaining reports into piles for me to prep for upload into the database. I'll let my programs establish any links between these listed and others already reported. May not be able to get exact matches but I can at least get them grouped by the type of issues and go from there.
Hearing my laptop ding I look up. That thirty gigs had exploded to 236 gigs. Whatever software they used to compress all that data I wanted to play with it. Inside the uncompressed folder was hundreds of spreadsheets. Opening one up I'm flooded with hospital records. Social security numbers, names, dates, reasons for visits and patient history. This file looked to be for all the hospitals in Chicago, opening up another file I find the same data but for St. Louis. All these files were hospital data for major cities across the country. How the hell did someone get all this data. There's items in here that are clearly something you'd need the patient to sign off on. Arranging the data columns so that I could upload them into my program I start to upload each sheet one at a time. I'm hoping my system could handle all this. I need to know who sent me this.
It takes me four hours to get all the information uploaded. A few times I thought my system was going to crash and fear had me paralyzed as I prayed for the status bar to continue moving forward. Finally I had everything uploaded. All I needed to do was hit initiate for my system to go through and ID similarities. Clicking enter I was as a new status bar came up, it was calculating estimated time. It took five minutes for it just to give me an estimated time for completion and that number was high. Knowing there was nothing I could do in the mean time I decide to call it a night. My system can run through the night and hopefully be done in the morning pending no power outages. Taking the flash drive with me I pack up to head home.
The office is dark all around me, everyone having already left hours ago. I'm usually the last to leave, but thats OK, I'm typically the last one in. Staring at the drive in my hand I keep wondering about who sent this to me. How'd they know I could use his data? Except for today with Charles I hadn't told a single person what I was working on. Not even Marley knew. And the data was everything I needed, all the right fields and data points. Formatted correctly. This took time, and intimate knowledge of what I had been working on. My files were all encrypted and I programed that system myself to eradicate any back doors. That had been a hard sell to my boss, but after pointing out the CIA system had been hacked before I asked him did he really want all our research falling into the wrong hands. He finally agreed after I showed him how easy it was to gain access to his computer at work from my apartment. I may never have made a job of hacking into systems but that didn't mean I didn't know my way around the computer.
Finally reaching my old beat up jeep I unlock and start to toss all my bags in. I'm not paying attention till a box in the back of my car catches my eye. Freezing up I wonder what the hell it is. This is the CIA parking lot, I doubt someone was able to get in here with a bomb but that didn't rule out a myriad of other bad things it could be. Debating on calling back up I start to reach for my phone. Just as I'm unlocking to call Marley it rings. And unknown number flashes across the screen.
"Hello?" Proud that my voice didn't waver in fear I still noticed it was a little higher pitch then usual.
"Hello Betty." It was a cliche digital voice coming through the line. I'd laugh if I wasn't imagining it asking if I wanted to play a game.
"Who is this?" Less high this time, I'm relaxing more.
"That doesn't matter, I trust you got my gift earlier." This person needs to stop watching movies, its like they're trying to say every classic line out there.
" I did, though next time with data of that sensitivity putting an unencrypted drive into a bright red folder on my desk might not be the way to go." They might have gotten fantastic data but espionage was not their strong suit.
"I wanted to make sure you saw it and opened it right away. I'm sure you've seen the box now, inside you'll find more data like what I've given you. I know what you're working on. Use this to get it launched globally." How the hell do they know about that.
"How do you even know about that?" I wanted to strap this into one of our little white rooms and beat the information out of them. They respond by hanging up, no bye, no reasons for why they want to help my program, nothing. Taking one last glance at the box behind me I turn my car on and head towards my apartment. This night was definitely going to require some alcohol to help me make sense of what the hell just happened.