Techno Fail

Eric Cooper is about to discover something that will set in motion events he cannot predict, with the stakes being incredibly high...

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2. Breach

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Black glass held the sort of minimal look that appealed to the suited and booted man seated behind the desk. It was a pity then, that he had to look into replacing it, and even more of a pity that this would involve removing and refitting the intergrated computer panel that was tucked away in the desk. A visible crack, where his mug had come crashing down far too hard, was now irritating him enough that he couldn't even bring himself to turn his brown leather chair around. With a great deal of effort he resisted the urge to grind his teeth.

"Sir, what do we do?" Came a nervy male voice. The seated man looked out over the South Dock. To his right, the red trains of the Docklands Light Railway trundled over the choppy, murky water, veering to the left and disappearing behind the concrete constructs on the other side of the Dock. People looked like ants as they scurried across the South Quay Footbridge. They looked insignificant from where he sat.

"This is a strange place." He began. A Nordic accent lent a dispassionate sound to his voice. "Two centuries ago, it was the hub of some of the world's largest trading companies, with sailing ships and boats pouring in from all over the world. Then, in the aftermath of World War II, it fell into decline. By 1980, every dock of this once thriving location was closed. Now, the Docks are a tremendous business opportunity, a real hub for exciting and upcoming companies, the 'go-to' venue for the young and determined." He stood and turned around in one fluid motion, keeping his Armani pinstripe suit impeccable. The other man, similarly dressed in suit and black tie, shuffled nervously on his feet.

"Of course, if I have learned anything, it is that history can repeat itself. The men who ran their powerful little empires during the British Empire's glory days never imagined it could end, but it did. Even when everything worked perfectly, it didn't mean everyone who came looking for a slice of the action came away in one piece. People who made mistakes, who got greedy, or sloppy, or complacent... you know what happened to them, don't you?" He kept his voice measured.

"No sir?" Came the mealy-mouthed reply.

"They either ended up destitute and on the streets, or they died. How they died... well, that depended on their circumstances." A dangerous smile made the other man sweat. "Those who worked well, who showed initiative, they ended up living almost as well as royalty. Start random employee searches here, under the guise of anti-theft measures. If you have any initiative, you'll already be checking CCTV?" The voice was deceptively warm and pleasant.

"Yes sir, everyone is on it. We think we have a lead." The sense of victory in the assistant's voice was aggravating.

"You think? Tell me what you know."

"Ah, yessir, one of our older employees, Eric Cooper - it was his terminal anyway - downloaded the full code onto a USB device. Minutes afterward, CCTV shows Mr Cooper leaving the building."

"How did the code get onto his terminal?"

"We don't know sir. It's unclear as to whether he found it and assembled it himself, or someone sent it to him."

The man took several deliberate steps toward his assistant. "You mean to tell me there may be a wider security issue, but you can't be sure?" Every word was laced with danger.

The other man hesitated. His hands pressed down his suit, before finding each other and clasping. "The computer is being analysed..."

"So you aren't sure. Do you have any idea..." He walked around the assistant, who kept completely still, afraid to even breathe. "Of what this could do to our plans? Of the damage it could do, to you, to me, to all of us?" Cold fury was entering into his voice now.

"Mr Lanker, we are doing everythi..."

"You are not doing enough!" Lanker took a deep breath. "I apologise for my outburst, but if everything was being done, you would not be here, explaining to me of one security breach, whilst alluding to another. We may have someone in our ranks who is betraying us. We may have someone who has accidently stumbled upon the information now in the hands of Mr Cooper, and for whatever reason, they are using him rather than handling it themselves. First things first, we must find Mr Cooper and have him dealt with. He has stolen top-secret company information, and is in breach of several laws. I want him prosecuted. Harshly."

"Yes Mr Lanker, I'll see to it personally."

"Good. Go."

Once his assistant had left, Lanker sat back down in his chair and returned to his view of the Dock. This is a strange city, a city of contradiction. He could not understand London. The people alternated so easily between brusque and rude, to unbearably polite, to aloofness so refined it would make a fortune if such a trait could be bottled.

The expansive office that cradled his vision had been designed to be as minimalist as possible. The (now broken) desk, chair, and a large flat-screen TV on the left wall were the only visible features in an otherwise featureless room. Blank white walls kept the room looking bright, but also served to focus attention on the desk, and the man behind it - which was exactly what Alfred Lanker wanted.

His black shoes clicked upon the floor as he stepped back behind his desk. After a moment's contemplation he pressed his left palm to the surface. The entire desk area lit up, with blue symbols and touchscreen buttons. Lanker tapped a few then sat down.

"We have a problem. A security breach. I'm sending you the relevant files now."

"I'll take care of it." Came an androgynous, computerised voice. His contact had so far, despite two years of discussion, failed to reveal anything about themselves.

"Thank you."

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