Paranoia (043 of 170)

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Paranoia
by Joseph Finder
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Paranoia by Joseph Finder. Copyright 2004 by Joseph Finder.
All Rights Reserved. Sharing not permitted.


Part Two: 21 (Cont'd)

Then I looked closer and came across a few pieces of paper, printouts of e-mails Nora had received from someone high up at Trion. From what I could tell, the woman named Alana Jennings, who'd had my job before me, had abruptly been transferred somewhere else inside the company. And Nora was pissed—so pissed, in fact, that she escalated her complaint all the way up the food chain to the senior vice president level, a pretty bold move:

SUBJ: Re: Reassignment of Alana Jennings
DATE: Tuesday, April 8, 8:42:19 AM
FROM: GAllred
TO: NSommers

Nora,

I am in receipt of your several e-mails protesting the transfer of ALANA JENNINGS to another division of the company. I understand your upset, since Alana is your highest-ranked employee as well as a valued player on your team.

Regretfully, however, your objections have been overruled on the highest authority. Alana's skill set is urgently needed in Project AURORA.

Let me assure you that you will not lose your head count. You have been granted a backfill requisition, so that you may fill Alana's position with any interested and qualified employee within the company.

Please let me know if I can do anything further to help.

Best,
Greg Allred
Senior VP, Advanced Research Business Unit
Trion Systems
Helping You Change the Future

And then, two days later, another e-mail:

SUBJ: Re: Reassignment of Alana Jennings
DATE: Thursday, April 10, 2:13:07 PM
FROM: GAllred
TO: NSommers

Nora,

Regarding AURORA, my deepest apologies, but I am not at liberty to disclose the exact nature of this project except to say that it is mission-critical to the future of Trion. Since AURORA is a classified R&D project of the utmost sensitivity, I would respectfully ask you not to pursue the matter further.

That said, I appreciate your difficulty in filling Alana's position internally with someone appropriately qualified. Therefore I am happy to tell you that you are, in this instance, permitted to disregard the general companywide ban on hiring from outside. This slot may be designated a "silver bullet" position, enabling you to hire from outside Trion. I trust and hope this will allay your concerns.

Don't hesitate to call or write with any questions.

Best,
Greg Allred
Senior VP, Advanced Research Business Unit
Trion Systems
Helping You Change the Future

Whoa. Suddenly things were starting to make a little sense. I'd been hired to replace this Alana woman, who'd been moved into something called Project AURORA.

Project AURORA was clearly a top-secret undertaking—a skunkworks. I'd found it.

It didn't seem like a good idea to pull out the e-mails and take them out to the copy machine, so I took a yellow legal pad from a tall stack in Nora's supply closet and began taking notes.

I don't know how long I'd been sitting there on the carpeted floor of her office, writing, but it must have been a good four or five minutes. And suddenly I became aware of something in my peripheral vision. I glanced up, saw a security guard standing in the open doorway watching me.

Trion didn't do rent-a-cops; they had their own security personnel, who wore navy blazers and white shirts and looked sort of like policemen, or church ushers. This guy was a tall, beefy black man with gray hair and a lot of moles, like freckles, on his cheeks. He had large, heavy-lidded, basset-hound eyes and wore wire-rimmed glasses. He was standing there, watching me.

For all the time I'd spent mentally rehearsing what I'd say if I was caught, I went blank.

"I see what you got there," the guard said. He wasn't looking at me; he was staring right toward Nora's desk. At the computer—the KeyGhost? No, God, please, no.

"Excuse me?" I said.

"I see what you got there. Hell, yeah. I know it."

I freaked, heart racing. Jesus Christ almighty, I thought: I'm hosed.




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