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Hmm, Road Closed barrier up ahead. I turned off my Harley and looked around a bit. No big piles of sand and it was too early for snow. That didn’t come until about Thanksgiving. No big equipment either. It had to be his idea.
As much as I loved my bike, I didn’t want to take a chance with her either. I walked her over to the side and hid her between two hills of dirt. I left my gloves on but took my helmet off.
I kept low while running to the edge. A large facility lay beneath me. No personnel. There should at least be half an army down there and nobody around. Something seemed funny about all of this.
I hung around waiting to see any sign of people, but nothing, until two large trucks came in and stopped. The back opened up and soldiers poured out. The last man to exit was good ol’ Uncle Xander.
I went back to my Harley and made it back to my lab. The military had trained specialists in every field one could think of including computers. If one was foolish enough, one could try to penetrate the defenses.
I told someone I thought I could trust about my accomplishment only to have it backfire. My program that I worked on for years, night and day, had come about. I was so excited it was done at last. I bragged about it to the wrong person, and after that, it was gone. Who else could’ve done it since that person was the only one I told? The person I told was my own uncle. I didn’t even tell my own Mom.
Yeah yeah, sure sure, someone hacked my system and got it that way. It’s done all the time and they happened to get lucky. Ransomware thieves and all that. It was all too coincidental. It had to be him. I had enough protection on my systems to keep out everyone. When they do penetrate, I would’ve been notified. He got lucky when I turned my back on him. I still didn’t know who the stupid one was.
I got onto my computer and through a series of misdirections I got into their systems. That wouldn’t last long so I had to act fast. They would’ve erased me from their files by now but I had to try. By the off chance I logged in, and sure enough I couldn’t get in.
Plan B included going in through the mundane files such as keeping track of electricity output, inventory, and assignments. It wasn’t as secure which could work in my favor. After all, did they need to secure the fact that they had one hundred rolls of toilet paper or that ten people must’ve used a blow dryer?
A small base, small system, not that much security, and I got in. It set off an alarm which told them someone got in and I had thirty seconds in which to get out and erase my presence. Not a problem. Download completed in ten. Insert program to erase my presence commenced. A smiley face to make them happy.
Got in. Got my prize. Got out. So simple anybody could’ve done it. I wished it was that easy. Half of me celebrated while the other half waited for the inevitable knock on my door.
While I waited, I went through the program I retrieved. The bastards changed everything about it. Not a single original string existed. I got out my notes and started from scratch.
One of my mentors told me once, equipment may not always be available. Memory may not always be reliable. Computers can be stolen. As long as good notes existed, somewhere, a program can always be rewritten and started over again.
Before I began this project on my own, Cory and I had already begun setting plans and getting the baseline work of this done. If it wasn’t for her generous father’s financial backing and contacts it wouldn’t have been possible.
I put the program in another mainframe that had the necessary storage. I made a solemn vow not to tell anyone about this. I learned my lesson to not trust anyone ever again.
It had been five days since I penetrated their computer systems. Either they couldn’t find me or they gave up. On the other hand it was the military. It was only a matter of time.
In the meanwhile, I turned it on and waited. “Up and at ’em, Cory.” Then I saw that face and smiled.
It seemed to take an eternity before I got the invalid response message. The screen turned blue before blacking out on me. There must’ve been something I missed.
I erased everything and input the program one piece of data at a time. I must’ve been too in a hurry the first time. I caught several missing pieces of data I didn’t remember inputting.
I stood up and went to the door. I had a feeling. “Well. Just as I thought. Uncle Xander. What a surprise it took you this long. What happened? You lost the map and couldn’t tell right from left?”
His face turned red. “That’s enough, young lady. You will treat me with respect. I am a man.”
“Respect given is respect earned. Waddaya want anyway? I’m busy.”
“I want the Computerized Operational Regional Device returned to me.”
I had no idea where he came up with that. I laughed. It was the funniest thing I heard. I stepped outside and shut the door behind me. “What was that again? I must’ve had a brain freeze or something. I could’ve sworn you said Computerized Operational Regional Device.”
“Yes. Yes, I did. I designed it myself. As any man can since men are more mechanical than any woman. Hmph.”
A deep breath inhale to prevent the spew of cuss words from coming out of my mouth. “Hmm. So I am to believe that one, men are mechanical. Two, that women only exist.”
“There are only three things any woman should remember. Any woman of good upbringing by a good father would’ve taught their daughters those things. I do not need to repeat them as I taught them to you.”
I took a quick glance at the soldiers around him and their jaws tightened as their eyes narrowed. There were a couple who shrugged.
“Well, dear Uncle Xander, your ideas are archaic at best. I’ll leave it at that. As for what you came here for, you haven’t answered me.”
“Yes, I did answer that. A very good fellow will be leading my unit of good men. A good man named Colonel Edgar. He and I will get along very well. He has a good household with a woman by his side and two fine kids. Not one of those mixed-up families.”
How many times could I count to thirty? Before I had a chance of further contemplation, a military vehicle pulled into the parking lot. A black woman dressed in camouflage stepped out. Tight bun on the head too.
I laughed at Uncle Xander’s expression of wide eyes as his mouth dropped open. That alone told me he made everything up and never looked to see who was attached to the name. Was it too early for that feeling of satisfaction?
I tried to suppress laughing any more when she turned to me. “Good day. I am Lieutenant Colonel Wilma Edgar. You may address me as Colonel Edgar. If we could step to the side so that we may discuss your involvement.”
“Yes, Colonel Edgar.” I nodded my head and followed her a few steps away from the others. I glanced to see Uncle Xander try to side-step his way closer. Colonel Edgar looked at him and he stopped.
I told her everything that happened and she kept smiling.
“That’s where we are right now.” It felt like a bomb was about to fall.
She nodded and raised that eyebrow. “Do you have proof?”
So much for the bomb but I could still feel it. “I won’t show you the notes. However, I have personal vlogs that you could watch.”
“I will take the personal vlogs and the notes.”
I opened my mouth but she put up her hand.
She took one step closer to me. “I have enough background knowledge to know what I am looking at. I assure you, they will be returned intact. Everything given to me will be seen by me and no one else.”
She could be one of Uncle Xander’s friends but I doubted that. She was a strong independent Black woman. “All right. Just know that the last time I did this, the reason why he’s here, is because I trusted him.”
I watched her and she didn’t shift. She stood there smiling as she looked at me.
“It’s going to take a few people to carry the boxes.”
She turned towards the other men and motioned them over. “Follow Ms. Maguire. She will point to where some boxes are located. Load the vehicles with the boxes. Do not look at them. Do not drop them. Do not pick off the tape. Do not tear the box tabs. Am I making myself clear?”
They stood at attention and saluted. “Yes, Colonel Edgar.”
“Carry out your orders.”
They followed right behind me to where I kept everything. After I pointed to them, they took them out one by one. I remembered my declaration but I didn’t have a choice. I only hoped it wouldn’t backfire again.
When I came out, Colonel Edgar gave Uncle Xander a going over and yelled at him a few times. Something about being too old and overweight. After everything and everyone was loaded up, they left.
I closed my eyes and fluttered my lips as a silent prayer went up. There were backup notes I had stored away. Not as clean as the ones I gave the colonel but they were the same ones. I went back to reprogramming to be sure Cory worked the way she was supposed to. I don’t think I even slept during that time.
About to try Cory again, someone knocked on my door and I opened it. “Colonel Edgar.”
“Yes, ma’am. May I come in?”
I opened the door wider to let her in. “Is there something wrong?”
“I have a huge apology to make. I am so sorry that I didn’t look further into this when I should have. The other thing is that I admire your dedication. It took you so long to fulfill a promise only for someone to take it away. That wasn’t right.”
I was confused. “Ma’am?”
“I’m talking about Cory. Xander Maguire will be disciplined by the military to its full extent. All of your notes and all of your vlogs are sitting outside waiting for your go-ahead. They will return them as they found them. I promise that nothing was copied.”
“Uh. OK. Thank you.” Did I need to feel relieved?
She got on her com device and told them to bring the boxes in. I opened the door and they did return them. I followed them and they put the boxes down where they were before.
“As for you, young lady, you have some explaining to do. Every part of the army database is secure, but it seems someone found a way in. You are going to come with me and show me exactly how you did it. That way we can prevent something like this from happening again.”
“OK. Give me a couple minutes and I will be back.” I ran inside to double check everything. Computer off and rough notes put away, I grabbed my purse and my keys and came back.
We got into the vehicle but she didn’t turn the key. “What got your attention to begin with?”
“Well, I was out for a drive on my Harley one day and was going to visit someone. I saw a road-closure sign and decided to investigate. I didn’t see any sand dunes and it’s too early for snow. No construction equipment either.”
She turned towards me and smiled. She turned the key and drove out. We got to the same road-closure signs and she moved them aside. She got back in and we kept going to the base.
Show-and-tell time once I got there. She laughed through most of it because it seems she warned her superiors of such a thing but they never did anything about it. Now that proof existed, the higher-ups didn’t have a choice any more.
I got a bite to eat and returned to my warehouse. I started Cory up again. I had confidence all the pit holes were filled, so she should run as I thought she would. Yes, I had confidence, but certainty didn’t exist. Not yet.
I waited for the smiley face to appear. “Up and at ’em, Cory.”
“Please input security code.”
So far so good. “Cory Ellen North. Two. One. Five. Waldo. Mr. Whiskers.” The dog loved me but that cat hated me.
“Security code accepted.”
The next thing to do would be to check if the rest of her worked. “What’s the weather today?”
“It is sixty degrees Fahrenheit with winds out of the northwest at ten miles-an-hour. The sun rose at six o’clock and will set and six-thirty tonight.” It smirked. “Really, after all of that, that was the best you could do?”
I laughed. “It’s good to have you back. Your base programming is set. You will eventually be running the information systems in a medical facility. Not yet though. When you were first conceived, talking computers were an idea. It’s too normal now. I need to take you beyond that. For all intents and purposes though, you are set and ready to experience the world.”
I sat back and smiled. Memories of Cory talking forever about how cool it would be if it was a mother computer in a medical facility instead of a car. She loved that show and wanted to do what I accomplished. Staff could concentrate on the patients instead of hackers and lost paperwork.
“I am Cory. I exist in this computer as an aid in the medical system. My duty will be to be sure all systems are secure against intrusion. To provide comfort and care to the patients. To have the database to store medical information for ready reference.”
I smiled. Things were good. Hmm. “All right. What’s my financial worth?”
“Processing. You have a two-thousand-dollar credit limit, no outstanding bills. Five thousand six hundred dollars and thirty-five cents in your checking account. Two hundred fifty thousand dollars in an annuity.”
I laughed. “All right. All right. I get the picture. You know everything.”
“Yes. There should never be any question. Your net worth is two point seventy-five million dollars.”
No. There was never any question. I had a feeling this was going to be a long and interesting journey. Maybe after all of this, I could learn to trust again. “All right. Let’s see where we can make some changes. Shall we?”
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