Paranoia (057 of 170)

—of —
by Joseph Finder
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Macmillan: Paranoia

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


Early that evening I drove to Trion headquarters. The parking garage was almost entirely empty, the only people there probably security, the people who manned the twenty-four-hour ops centers, and the random work-crazed employee, like I was pretending to be. I didn't recognize the lobby ambassador, a Hispanic woman who didn't look happy to be there. She barely looked at me as I let myself in, but I made a point of saying hi, looking harried or sheepish or something. I went up to my cubicle and did a little real work, some spreadsheets on Maestro sales in the region of the world they call EMEA, for Europe/Middle East/Asia. The trend lines weren't good, but Nora wanted me to massage the numbers to bring out whatever encouraging data points I could.

Most of the floor was dark. I even had to switch on the lights in my area. It was unnerving.

Meacham and Wyatt wanted the personnel files on everyone in AURORA. They wanted to find out each person's employment history, which would tell them what companies they were all hired from and what they did at their last jobs. It was a good way to suss out what AURORA was all about.

But it wasn't as if I could just saunter into Human Resources, pull open some file cabinets, and pluck out whatever files I wanted. The HR department at Trion, unlike most other parts of the company, actually took security precautions. For one thing, their computers weren't accessible through the main corporate database; it was a whole separate network. I guess that made sense—personnel records contained all sorts of private information like people's performance appraisals, the value of their 401(k)s and stock options, all that. Maybe HR was afraid that the rank-and-file would find out how much more the top Trion execs got paid than everyone else and there'd be riots down in the cube farms.

HR was located on the third floor of E Wing, a long hike from New Product Marketing. There were a lot of locked doors along the way, but my badge would probably open each one of them.

Then I remembered that somewhere it was recorded who entered which checkpoints and at what time. The information was stored, which didn't necessarily mean that anybody looked at it or did anything about it. But if there were ever trouble later, it wouldn't look good that on a Sunday night for some reason I walked from New Products to Personnel, leaving digital bread crumbs along the way.

So I left the building, just took the elevator down and took one of the back entrances. The thing about these security systems was that they only kept track of entrances, not exits. When you walked out, you didn't use your badge. This might have been some fire-department code thing, I didn't know. But that meant that I could leave the building without anyone knowing I'd left.

It was dark outside by now. The Trion building was lit up, its brushed-chrome skin gleaming, the glass windows a midnight blue. It was relatively quiet out here at night, just the shush of the occasional car passing by on the highway.

I walked around to E Wing, where a lot of the administrative functions seemed to be housed—Central Purchasing, Systems Management, that sort of thing—and saw someone coming out of a service entrance.

"Hey, can you hold the door?" I shouted. I waved my Trion badge at the guy, who looked like he was on the cleaning crew or something. "Damned badge isn't working right."

The man held the door open for me, didn't give me a glance, and I walked right in. Nothing recorded. As far as the central system was concerned, I was still upstairs at my cubicle.

I took the stairs to the third floor. The door to the third floor was unlocked. This, too, was a fire department law of some kind: in buildings above a certain height you had to be able to go from floor to floor by the stairs, in case of emergency. Probably some floors had a badge-reader station just inside the stair exit. But the third floor didn't. I walked right into the reception area outside Human Resources.

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