Saturday, 29 August 2015

Wi(Spy)Fi

Chloe, head leaning on one side, was watching the strange machine.
 “Scan,” a metallic voice boisterously announced.
 A platform, laser-scanning the product, quickly travelled its height.
 “Implement.” The voice echoed again. Another platform repeated the motion over a copy on the other end of the podium.
 “Success.” It concluded.
 Mike turned to her with a triumphant expression.
 “What do you think?” He asked. “Quality check on the go!”
 Chloe glanced sceptically at the thing and smiled.
 “Is this for children? Or do you actually want to present it at World-Con?”
 “Hmm…This is getting us in front of the world out there, remember? This is history in the making.”
 “No serious engineer will be impressed by that.” She scolded playfully. “Things aren’t done like that on the assembly line. Everyone knows. Give yourself a break and come up with something that counts.”
 He eyed her seriously. “Hey! Is all that space stuff gotten to your head?” He grinned again.
 Chloe could not be serious, not when looking at that funny contraption. Perhaps Mike did have a point.
 “Anyway…Don’t know if Big Guy would agree; I’m leavin’ it in your hands. So, rock on.” She turned around. “Gotta run.”
 “Give ‘em hell!” He gave a thumb up.
***
  “Pursuing the capability of several re-entries,” Chloe’s confident voice was elaborating. “This vehicle’s initial costs will be sky-high. It will save you fuel and resources in the long run and after just four flybys to low Earth orbit, we believe that the investments would be paid for. That statement is estimated against the price of the currently employed shuttles.”
 The gentlemen in black suits represented either government agencies or other corporate giants.
 “Miss Walker.” Chief science advisor opened. “First let me congratulate you on the well-structured and informative presentation. The potentials described are very appealing, indeed. Could we discuss the costs you mentioned in depth?”
 “Of course!” She flipped some charts on the screen. “Here we show that—“
 She was playing the cards well.
 Striking partnership with the biggest around was maybe just a step closer to being assimilated. But they were hitting big projects and that brought big money in. Thrilling and exciting.
***
 Which was probably why Chloe was not feeling fulfilled at the evening meeting; especially after the success with the outsiders. It was a drag and somehow perturbing to be in the company of so many of her colleagues and achieve nothing.
 “Russia and Japan are ahead in that department.” Chief Joe’s face was tired; his statement yet firm. “Magnets of such size will lose us time and money.”
 No fusion energy.
 “So what do we do?” Clara’s usual patience had gone on a trip. “Is no body worried about last week?”
 “Remind me what that was.”
 “That ISS service company went out of business.”
 After a moment of uncomfortable silence Gregory spoke.
 “Exploring as many venues has always been a huge part of success. I don’t think we should rush to find our core competence today, though.” Chloe always found his assertive behaviour calming. She was grateful he had a say in the company matters. “Sometimes some things need their own pace.”
 In the meantime head of IT was lost in his notebook; HR was quickly glancing around and Safety Assessment fared no better. They all nodded with renewed energy at Gregory’s timely remark; still nobody broke the inertia they hit while talking of development.
 Perceiving the atmosphere Gregory finally pushed the inevitable, “Let’s just call it a day and try again next week.” He smiled broadly. “Shall we?”
  Quick mutual agreement followed and quiet exclaims of relief filled the room. It was nine—the day had certainly been long.
 Chloe switched off the post-me network of the company. She had tuned in people who could not make it. ‘Thank you’ and ‘See you later’ messages filled the white sheet, previously stuffed with charts and designs.
 She saw Greg approaching from the rustling crowd.
 “Success?” His face tired, but his lips still pursed in a smile.
 “You look too knackered to even hear about it,” Chloe smirked. “You look like you need to hit the sheets, mate.”
 “I know. It’s been a long day. May I just have a moment?” He paused. “If you’re tired it’s ok. It can wait.”
 “No, it’s fine. I actually wanted to tell you that some of these ideas floating around,” she spun her finger in the air. “Are really great. It’s just that everybody are not in the zone.”
 “Yeah.” he nodded.  
 “So, what is it?” She started packing her things into the bag.
 “You know, it might be nothing. But I’ve been looking into that new thing -- the syntheses of the post-it program.”
 “Mhmm. What about them?”
 “Some of the bottom lines report a drop in output. Might just be me; might just be some folks struggling with something. I am not an expert,” he pursed eyebrows. “But I think five to ten percent less is quite a lot.”
 “Oh...Are you going to take another look into it, or?”
 “I want to talk with people around.” Fleeting seriousness settled briefly on his face. “You know. Have a chat and see if everything is alright.”
 “And in which project does that come in?”
 “Ha,” he smiled. “So like you…No, it’s not part of anything. I will be looking into it myself…And I wanted to ask you for help. Could you speak to some of them? See what’s going on?”
 “Can do,” she looked at her watch. “But not tomorrow or Thursday, either.”
 “Friday?” He shrugged and she nodded. “That’s perfect, then. Professor Chang would be coming down here on Friday as well. Gimme a call then?” He asked heading for the door.
 “Sure.”
 The end of the working day had come.
 God! She’d sleep well tonight.
***
 The synthesis tool of the post-me platform.
 The work tool was connecting people from around the world in project sharing and development or just plain chat. The ladies from Work Smart HR were promoting it. The synthesis tool was a latest fad. It was gathering information on the productivity of employees. Not just hours spent typing, but performance measured against goals.
 “They’re seeing me,” Chloe imitated a mocking voice.
 ‘Big brother is watching you,’ she typed on the sheet.
 A few answered ‘LOL’ or ‘Good morning’.
 Sipping her coffee, she was going through some of the articles on the subject. “Standard routine performing tasks”, “protocol algorithms”, “signature detection”, she was murmuring; small scale meta-data gathering network still in development. It was calculating output throughout periods and comparing those with each-other.
 Pretty simple.
 Developer -- Professor Chang. Computer Sciences; Statistics; Mathematics.
Great!
 They even had a genius looking after their own I-am-watching-you system which even told you that you’ve not been working properly.
 She put the tablet away.
 This new technology stuff was amusing her. Take her online dating profile, for instance. It was filled with faces quite similar to those of the actors in the movies she’d recommend around the web. Quite useless but fun nonetheless.
 “You’re wasting your time, Big Bro!” She shouted triumphantly as she was getting dressed.
 On her way to work Chloe phoned her mother. Ready to get asked the big question—“What about him?” she was surprised when her mum instead said.
 “How’s the space program coming up?”
 “Oh my God, Mum! Where is that coming from? Wait I need to check if I am calling the right number!”
 “Oh, stop it! I’ve read about it on the web. It looks pretty interesting, you know!”
 “Yes it is! And you know what?! The government itself is considering a contract. I was presenting!”
 “Oh wow! I am so happy for you! Congratulations!”
 They chatted more; the uneventful road was flowing by; the rural green a haze as she was driving into the fields.
***
 She called Greg during lunchbreak.
 “So that thing you were asking about…It looks like it has potential.” She paused. “To track you down and reveal all your secrets to the world.” She added.
 “Yeah, I’m not sure about that last bit. I was just looking into some of the people this morning, actually.”
 “And...”
 “A few…worse cases can be highlighted.”
 “Alright. If you have a name that’s close to me I’ll be able to take a short look. Deal?”
 “Err…Where are you going to be throughout the day?”
 Chloe glanced at her watch.
 “Big Guy wants to push the buttons on Test and Development today and I will be his tool.” She said solemnly.
 “Ian Anderson.”
 “Cool. I’ll be on my way then.”
 “You know what you’re doing.” Greg said. “Thanks. Let me know how it goes.”
 She ate quickly and hurried to the meeting. The dessert menu consisted of engineers, safety assessment staff and representatives from affiliating companies. They were given a tour in the giant hangar and could even view some prototypes of space machines. Despite not being her field, seeing them still made her feel proud. It was those things propelling the company forward.
 But it was people like Ian Anderson who were involved in them actually flying. His expertise in the gaming industry was implemented into a simulation device, testing flight capabilities and emergency scenarios.
 Lucky for her, he also happened to be on the meeting. Managing to finish on time she got the chance to speak with quiet-looking Ian.
 “Hello.”
 “Oh,” the man seemed startled. “Excuse me, hi.”
 “Chloe Walker, project management and PR.” She stretched a hand.
 “Pleasure to meet you. Ian Anderson. I heard you managed to impress government officials yesterday.” He smiled timidly.
 “Well…we all did! It will get busy here in the future, wouldn’t it?”
 “That’s what we’re here for.”
 “Say, do you mind if I ask you about your work?”
 “Please do. We do testing in here,” he pointing at a room behind him. “Working with virtual design and examining physical trajectories for the vehicles to see to see how they will behave in the atmosphere. A bit of material science as well.”
 “Interesting…Do you know about the new assessment algorithms on the post-it work sheets?”
 “I use it all the time. Makes life easier, but I don’t think I know what you mean.”
 “It’s studying work signatures and gauges productivity output. Not only how much time you spend working, but apparently, how effective one is throughout a time period.” She blurted. “Your name is on the short list, it seems.”
 His eye brows lifted, giving a slightly dumbstruck expression to his face.
 “I don’t think I am quite aware of that. But our work here is going smooth. We do—“
 “Of course, of course,” she boisterously shook head. “I didn’t mean to suggest anything of the sorts. We were in a meeting today with quality assessment and as you saw, everything was in order. You guys are doing fine! I am just investigating on a request from a friend. I think he is actually concerned.”
 Silent, Ian glanced aside; hands crossed on his chest. He looked back at her and said.
 “I can’t sit and look at the simulation for too long. Lately, I have to take breaks.”
 “So you are…simulating less?”
 “Yes. I think I’m afraid of heights.”
 “What?” Now she looked dumbstruck. “How does that change anything?”
 “We use a three dee engine to construct the virtual matrices. We literally are taking ships in the air; that’s what we’re simulating. And as I said I am afraid of heights.”
 “Aha.” She scratched her chin.
 “Apart from that, all our submissions are passed on time and we always deliver before deadlines. I, individually, am just incapable of doing it all the time without resting. It didn’t use to be like that.”
 “How come?”
 “It occurred recently. When we started picking up the big projects, in fact. My legs,” he rubbed his thighs. “Are going numb and my stomach bundles into a knot whenever I look from high above.”
 “And you’re essentially all about looking from high above, are you not?”
 “Yes.” 
 “And you got that recently?”
 “Yes.”
 “So you cannot do your work as you used to do it before, but everything is going smooth.” It was as if she was stating to herself.
 “Well, that first part is what your program says. I am just trying to take it slowly these days. It’s not unbearable, but I have to be careful.”
 “No, I understand.” She shook his hand again. “Thank you for your time. And don’t worry, it’s nothing. Everything’s in order.” She said while walking away; probably leaving quiet Ian slightly more perplexed.
    
***
  After her early dinner she typed to Greg.
 ‘Guy looks pretty OK to me.’
 ‘Anything come up?’
 ‘He can’t do as much work because of a medical condition. No problems with management.’
 ‘Ok, thank you.’
 A short time later another message came in. ‘Care to look into one more?’
 ‘Time off now. speak to u tomorrow.’
 ‘Thank you. Nighty.’
 She turned off the phone and put some quiet music on. Short news from the web followed with her tablet.
 “Interdimensional worm hole for magnetic fields.” She snickered. The article specified further, that it was hardly a true worm hole. “Media…” she thought, while observing adds on the side of the page. Some were profile jobs in her field.
 She checked one of them out. A big company, essentially in the same market as them, was recruiting. “On a shabby webpage,” Chloe sarcastically noted to herself. Slightly lower pay but training period provided.
 “Is there a coincidence in me getting that thing?” She pondered. “Anyway…” She switched it off and just relaxed on the sofa.
***
 Come next morning Chloe wanted to make one thing clear.
 “I never really asked you,” she was driving, one hand on the wheel. “Why are you looking into them?”
 The early morning drizzle was covering the land ahead. It was almost foggy.
 “I aaah…,” Greg stuttered for a bit on the phone. “I think the thing is working well. Its info seems reliable.”
 “OK. I kind of saw that myself, but why are you doing it? What do you want to find out? Is it that important?”
 “Well…actually, I think it is. It’s also important to talk to them because of something else as well. I got this job offered straight from the bat; out of nowhere. Boom! Just like that.”
  She frowned, “Ok, now you’re being cryptic. Have you lost your mind over it?”
 “No, not at all. I’m thinking, if somebody is not doing well, they might get up and leave to an easy offer like that. I will be in the department today, alright? See you later?”
 She sighed heavily.
 “Geez, don’t expect me to just hop on like that...OK!? I have things to do and I might not make it today.”
 Slightly pissed she hung up before waiting for an answer and focused on the schedule for the day instead. The road would go even for miles, so looking at the screen was not a feat.
 Purchase of intellectual property on the development for material superconductivity in space.
 And she was not even too sure what that meant.
 A lab across the ocean had come up with a small breakthrough that would ease the productions of some elements. That made more sense.
 It was time to put the battle guise on for the day. Space adventures awaited.
***
 The phone was on silent and she had not even glanced at it. After midday she checked the working sheets including private messages. Gregory had texted. Not sure whether she should be upset, Chloe read it.
 ‘Ian’s leaving; had a chat with him today. He has been offered a position in gaming.’
 “That’s almost a coincidence,” she thought. “The bastard had a point.”
 ‘Had he been head-hunted?’ She typed and sat eating her lunch.
 The phone vibrated with a reply after a while.
 ‘Yes. And guess what he shared—they’re open about it. They found him using data synthesis.’
 ‘There’s nothing wrong with that, I guess?’
 The phone rang.
 “Unless somebody contacts you straight away and politely offers you a position that is exactly what you are doing,” Greg put drily. “You never knew them, but they know you!”
 “Isn’t that where the world is going anyway?” She conveyed through a mouthful of sandwich.
 “That could be true,” he ponderously replied. “Still, I will be looking into another name. You in?”
 “I will take the day off from now on, thanks. I will give you a call tomorrow before work, unless I am in a terrible mood.”
 “You’re never in a terrible mood early in the morning.” He quipped.
 “You wanna take chances?”
 She was beginning to tease him.
 “Nope,” he laughed. “Have a good one.”
 “Bye.”
***
  She, too, was not taking any chances, listening to Barry’s deep voice and having the allowed glass of red wine for the day. A pleasant surrender was invading and the sensation was amplified by the warmness of the duvet she had muffled in. Having opened all the windows in the back of the house, she was breathing in the fresh, early autumn eve.
 Half focused on the Introduction to Feminism’s History review course, Chloe instinctively pushed the red icon for a new message that popped up.
 Squinting, she mumbled, “Dear Miss Walker, We apologise for this sudden and without a doubt, unexpected connection, but we believe we have something—. “ She continued to utter quietly. “Based on our data assessment we have concluded that your skills are—“
 “Wait,” she lifted her head. “Why am I receiving work messages during the time I’m going to see them?”
 She read the whole thing again—an offer for a position within a different company, not too different in terms of work responsibilities or payment. Strangely, though, it was also focusing on regimented hours per week. And like Gregory had said earlier, they were very open about doing the research based on synthesis.
 Something was bothering her. Sipping from her glass, she began walking up and down the couch, wrapped in the cosy blanket and voicing her thoughts aloud.
 “But why me? I am happy at my place. How can one leave space behind so easily? If a sick guy cannot do his work, that’s fine. Apparently they can fish him out. But if I am capable and happy, why would they send me this crap.” She settled down in front of the tablet.
 The words “Introduction to Femi…” were seen on the small tab, behind the message window.
 “No way…,” she grinned. “No way! Just because of that?!” She scuttled back into the duvet. “Well, I am not some overworked girl that will whine about her job. Sorry!”
 She thought it was terribly simple and out of taste.
***
 The warm haziness of the evening had evolved into a deep and rejuvenating sleep. At dawn, early six o’clock it got replaced by a mug of dark coffee, news and a slight sensation of bewilderment in her head. She was pondering about the efficiency of the system that was providing details in such an open and global way. After browsing and skipping through conspiracy theories posts, vague or rude forums and shady websites, she narrowed her search down to ‘Meta-Data Analysis’.
 Scholarly articles came filing in.
 “‘Meta-Data Analysis’ synthesizes a precise answer based on a number of studies, performed on as numerable and as varied as possible environments.”
 The next few searches were taking her into the realm of Science Fiction (whatever Artificial Neural Network meant), so she decided she had explored enough.
 Getting in the car, Chloe was already phoning Gregory.
 “Good morning, sunshine,” she opened.
 “Morning! How are you feeling so early?”
 “On top of my game. Are you leaving your job?”
 “No…Why?”
 “I also got an offer without applying or looking for anything. Can you imagine?” She made it sound annoying.
 “I am not surprised. You’re a gem in what you’re doing, so…You’re not leaving, are you?”
 “No…Why?”
 “Good. Look, can we have dinner? Professor Chang will be joining us today at the department. You’ve heard, right? I will try to invite him over and I think you should come, too.”
 “I was about to ask you what are we doing about guys fishing our guys?”
 “Well, we swim in the same sea, so gathering applications is not so hard these days. I imagine we have to do something about the screening process, though. I am thinking of proposing people getting interviewed more often now.”
 She remained silent on the line for a bit.
 “Everything alright?”
 She almost blurted in inspiration, “How many months until somebody gets up to speed in a new company, you think? How much time before someone starts contributing?”
 “Four, five months maybe? A year, up to two years higher in the ladder.”
 “We might know how much money it costs to keep a position open, but I can tell you that we don’t know how much money it will cost us to allow somebody to gather speed on a new position.”
 “Hmm—”
 “Do you think we can allow for a massive flow of people in any direction?”
 “I think that is a rhetorical question now.”
 “We can’t allow that. We have to do something.” She paused for a moment. “Do you think we might be targeted?”
 “Let’s not get that paranoid. Too early to say anything. But I can start asking some friends from other companies to see how things are going. It might just be the normal thing on the internet these days.”
 She sighed.
 “We have to consider this now. Tell ya what! Do you have any other name you want to investigate?”
 “Bernard Johnson…You want to do it?”
 “Yes!”
 “Thank you. What about the dinner?!”
 “Are you hittin’ on me?” She pitched her voice a bit.
 “Well…I wanted to invite Professor Chang over, so I thought you might hear what he has to say.”
 “Alright. I will come.”
 “I will see you later.”
 “Sure.”
***
 The question from the morning was weighing in her mind, so she pushed it aside in a dusty corner and went on about her duties for the day.
 Another government job was on the quota. They wanted to rent part of Production; the deal was that the company would not know what becomes of the product or what it will be used for. Being a government contract, she thought, it would sit well on the company’s resume as well as hers. So she dug up in the details of the papers. Chloe wanted to nail this with precision.
 Early afternoon came without lunch break. She was torn between visiting the cafeteria and Professor Chang giving a talk at the building. He was coming down all the way from Massachusetts.
 Considering the earlier outcome she decided to visit the talk and see what the developer had to say.
 The small conference room was full of familiar faces and also some she had never seen before. Academics from various parts of the country, she learned. The room was packed and people had to stand up around the walls to attend the talk.
 The Professor was a middle aged man with clear Asian features and a round boyish face. He glanced at Chloe and the rest late-arrivals and waited politely for them to find space.
 “Hello,” he opened. “My name is Professor Edward Chang. I am pleased to be here. As many of you know, I am working together with this company to develop and study computer algorithms. I hope they will be used to improve everybody’s life. But before I begin I would like to ask something unusual of you. Just to set the mood straight,” he smiled. “Amm…Could you please switch off your mobile devices.”
 A rustling form the crowd came. Some complied quickly, others mumbled about appointments and whatnot, but after a while all of them had their phones and tablets turned off.
 “Now, I don’t mean to come in the way of your work,” the professor was now walking on the podium, waving his hands in a calm manner. “It’s just to give you a sensation of the subject. There is no surveillance in this room and provided everybody had switched off their mobile devices we can assume that we will remain ‘invisible’ to the outside. Although, it is already somehow unproductive to try and hack a device and spy on an individual, one should always be concerned with safety. The events from the Iranian Stuxnet scenario are largely outdated terms of concept. It is still legit to implement, though, every good effort to protect your privacy. As of this week, this company is involved with government and that means that from a third party of a third party of the government, it is becoming a third party of the government.” He paused for a moment to swallow. “In terms of internet protocols, that means it’s going closer. And if there is malware lying dormant in the systems and files somewhere around here, it might explode in the near future. The outcome can range from exposing or erasing social security data for some millions of employees to tampering with national security devices and devising fake messages. That could be catastrophic.”
 Slow, their attention focused more and more on what the professor had to say. His Arcanum of Arcana and academic language had enchanted their minds, guiding them to a world outside of their mundane job day.
 After a short sip of water, he continued. “But that just won’t happen as easily. Any company is taking great care not to have its systems compromised. Today there is a big collaboration between academic circles, corporate institutions and government to introduce better ways of keeping a system safe. Everybody benefit. I myself am involved in the evolving safety of this organization and my research has all to do with that—how to make your system safer!”
 “But times are moving ahead. And so we are challenged constantly to think and invent new ways to keep up with the new tide. What yesterday seemed like the only game in town is today not surprising at all. And in a day more, it’s already outdated. Of course, you have to be afraid of a hacker wanting to get inside your stuff. Of course, governments spy on companies and hire people to crack walls. But what this new wave is bringing,” he pronounced the next words slowly. “Is getting what you want without having to resort to digital or industrial violence’.”
  “Take a product on the market for instance. If you study ten people talking about it, you could find very little about that product. If you study ten million people talking about it, you could probably find everything that’s essential about it. If you take that and synthesize it together you end up with the product itself, but with one addition: those aspects, which satisfy the consumer on a global scale. If you have that information, you can then predict which products will be most sought after in the future, or rather, which aspects of a product would make it appealing in the eyes of the consumer. If somebody else had those statistics, then they will be able to get your own future product from you, before you even have it on the blackboard. This is like industrial espionage without having to crack a wall. All they have to do is look at the information on the web and read it.”
 Chloe raised her hand.
 “Professor! My name is Chloe Walker. I have a question.”
 The man politely nodded.
 “It’s not that easy, is it?” Her loud voice boomed. “You cannot just take vast amount of data and say you’ve studied it and come with a bottom line. You need processing algorithms for that.” She blurted the last bit. “Even synthetic neural networks, because it’s a lot of information.”
 The people in the room turned around slightly amazed. The Professor, though, seemed happy. He even smiled back at Chloe.
 “Yes. I was just getting to that. Thank you! It’s true. To study the enormous amount of data efficiently you’ll need strong processes and algorithmic architectures with possibly, basic self-learning abilities matching those of the human brain. Although we do not have that at the moment, you could say that the race is on. And nobody wants to lose that one.”
 “You’ve already said that you can predict the future product of a company, which seems pretty damaging.” She continued boldly. “Can you use this method to harm an organization in a different way?”
 People in the room mumbled in agreement with the question. Those who remained silent were frowning in intense focus.
 The professor thought for a bit before replying. “Potentially. The possibilities are endless. And it all has to do with how the changing society views this new level of knowledge gathering. There still are no hints in social norms implemented to address this new aspect. Information could and will be back-engineered, by constructing it bottom up. And if somebody has something they might not want to share with the public, which could be harmful for them, they may end up in a very sticky situation. Public knowledge of company operations, which was to remain confidential can cause so much stir and even affect the economy. The public is still not ready to see some things put openly.”
 This time Gregory stood, “Could there be any other uses? Like helping the organisation without harming anyone.”
 “Science was and always will be a double-edged sword. In essence, what we have described is merely a way of gathering data from large pools, which in theory we did not know how to approach so far.” He pointed at Greg with open palm. “Thank you for addressing this issue, by the way. As many may have noticed, the extension on the work tool of this company is an embryonic state of the algorithms that assess data and synthesize an outcome. So far we can only do so much. It’s still not part of this company’s core module of operation, because it’s still in research stage. But it has provided some very reliable feedback which fits the empirical data. That is—observing the people.”
 Gregory and Chloe exchanged looks. For the first time Greg saw doubt and concern in her eyes.
 “With it, we aim to achieve long term goal orientation. You can measure your output today and how it will affect the company in say, fifty years from now. Remember, that’s just simulation. Instead of trying to steal form your competitors you could estimate their progress and evaluate your current output against their future projections and that of your company in twenty five years from now. I believe that such methods will introduce more humane, civil and intelligent design in the operations of companies as opposed to the last century, which has shown us that short-term money oriented goals have been disastrous for the general wellbeing of society.”
 “Is this like,” another man from the audience said. “Being open about spying on other people?”
 “Yes.” The Professor finally concluded with a smile. “Although, when everybody knows about it, it hardly is spying anymore? Right?”
***
 She was trotting through the corridor quickly, while speaking on the phone. After the meeting she had bolted out of the room and was headed directly towards Research and Development.
 “Hello! Is this Bernard Johnson?”
 “Yes, on the phone.”
 “Hi, this is Chloe Walker, Project Management. Just wondering if you could spare a minute for me? Just a quick chat, really! I’m actually headed your way now.”
 “Oh, I see. Well then, sure. I will wait for you outside.”
 The man was a tall, pale and lean fellow. He politely shook hands with her.
 “My pleasure.” He had a surprisingly loud voice.
 “Hi. Sorry for the sudden interruption—“
 The man swung head to show he didn’t mind.
 “—But I just wanted to ask you a couple of questions. Are you familiar with the data assessment tool of the post-it work sheets?”
 “Vaguely.” He replied. “I use the sheets all the time, though. It helps me with the project as I can work with South Africa.”
 “Good. It’s reporting lower output for you as measured against an older record. Basically, you’ve been less productive as of late,” She put bluntly.
 Inclining his head slightly, the man’s reaction came like a bullet. “Do you want me to speak with my manager?”
 “If you wish. But I am not here to nag you. I am doing an investigation on behalf of a friend. I am beginning to think it’s very important, actually.” Her tone mellowed down. “Has there been anything outside of your life here in the department to produce a change for you recently?”
 “Well,” he looked away. After pondering for a bit he finally said. “I am seeing somebody. I think it’s very promising, so I am trying to devote quality time to them as well. Other than that, I assure you that we’re on track. My job is perfect; my manager is happy and everything is looking good.”
 “Of course,” Chloe put on a role of surrender. “I am sure your manager would have told you if there was anything. By the way, did you meet her on-line?” She smiled.
 “Errr…yeah.” He frowned. “One of the dating websites; same interests, actually—writing.”
 “Oh, how wonderful!” Again she pitched her voice more than usual. “So that’s why you need to spend more time away. Good! Good…Tell me. Are you happy on the job?”
 The man was looking slightly confused now. “Yeah,” he nodded.
 “Would you leave if you were offered another position?”
 “Not necessarily. You’re aware that better conditions are always preferable.”
 “Of course.” She was already putting her phone out. “Well, thank you for your time! Sorry for being so weird.” She turned on her toes.
 The man was looking at her back, dumbstruck. Then he shrugged and went back in.
***
 “Damn it,” she whispered to herself as she was watching the figures on the screen. “Five thousand employees. It’s a potential bankrupt.”
 Sitting alone in the lobby-room, she was calculating numbers on her phone and quietly exclaiming every now and again.
 “I will be the Spy Queen,” she uttered and realized the irony of it immediately. "At least, Mum can stop pestering me about having kids.” A grin crept over her face.
 Either way, a project was brewing in her head—a new corporate order to utilize the best of the new technology.     


END.