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With 18-hours, until Jan Zabar, Agent to Plushenko Devices, Inc expected Chip to return the funds he skimmed, Kay Whatley was hoping for a miracle. She had faked her way in far enough to confirm that Plushenko Devices was laundering money. Kay needed to find out the location of Plushenko and what they were doing with the laundered money. All she really knew was that the money made stock prices soar. She had no idea what stocks those were or even in what industry. There was more to figure out in 18-hours than one person could handle.

Chip was too stressed to be much of a help. Bryce wasn't tech-savvy except when it came to having sex with her Hebot. Jade was too close to the situation, so she'd follow her heart and make mistakes. Will, who Kay adored on many levels, lacked the brain power. Kay hesitated to ask too many favors of Norbert Klein, but she had no choice. Norbert may have started out as a subversive teen hacker, but his skills have developed over the years. In his home country of Australia, he was a shadowy sought after asset. One of Norbert's finest qualities was loyalty. He worked closely with Kay's Mom and hopefully that relationship would carry over to her.

Kay called on the Plume that she was certain had not been compromised.

"Kay Whatley. I was expecting your call. A secure line I assume," Norbert answered in his Australian inflection.

"One thing I learned early on from you and my Mom; always keep an old telephone."

"Yup, I called it early on. Ha, a bit of a pun tucked in there. I predicted technology would get away from us in terms of privacy. The way to have an absolutely secure device is to hack into old telecommunication cables that are no longer used but still work. If someone tried to bug your phone it would be easily detected," Norbert said.

"Thinking like it's 1995 – clever. I need a favor and it's time sensitive."

"From the profile you had me create for Emily Parker, I figured you'd need me. I'm in route to St. Louis and then I'll catch a DV to your little berg. I'm sending some things as we speak, and It will arrive on your doorstep within an hour. I'll bring my computer gear and my hard-side suitcase."

"You're a life saver, Norbert. I mean that literally," Kay said.

"I know. See you in two hours."

Kay looked at her watch. By the time he arrived, they'd have 15-hours remaining. Kay poured herself a coffee. She was astounded that Chip fell asleep while his life was in the balance. The girls were passed out because they got into the tequila and it digressed into virtual sex and other shit Kay wasn't concerned with at the moment. Kay had to check in with Maury at ViaTech because she still had a job to hold down and Norbert would be there in a couple of hours. She left a note for Chip that she'd be across the street at her condoand that help was on the way. They had spent a long night at Bryce's condo.


Tracey had probably reminding her to do everything from calling her parents to working out, both of which could wait until later. Kay walked into her office as the lights went on and her work computer started humming. A red flashing light indicated a message from Maury, probably wondering if she was willing to take the promotion. What was she going to say – Gee, I don't know, I've been busy trying to save my friend's life. She had to come up with something because she had been at ViaTech 2-years and despite some clashes with her boss it was going well.

"It's been a while, Kay. Feeling better?" Maury asked. His face popped up on the screen.

Kay was unshowered and wearing a wrinkled shirt. She looked sick because she was exhausted, which worked well for her sick story. "Not 100% but I thought I check in before heading back to bed."

"Did you think about the supervisory position?" Maury asked.

"There are certain things that I won't do," Kay said.

"Like what?"

"You have to ask? Our styles clash and you have a more aggressive approach to getting information via our bots. I disagree and won't impose your invasive rules. You want too much information and who knows where that shit ends up," Kay saw a delivery craft dropping Norbert's packages on her front steps as she spoke.

"We don't use every bit of information we get from customers but it's good to have," Maury said with a toothpick hanging out of his mouth. Dude was gross and Kay was relieved she wasn't working next to him in a cubicle.

"Have for what?"

Maury sighed because he didn't have an answer that made sense.

"I'll keep thinking about the answer to the promotion and you think about my question. I'm taking another sick day. I'm about to get sick – bye for now." 

Kay walked out of her home office; the door locked, lights dimmed, and the computer powered down. ViaTech would survive another day without her. She saw Norbert arriving and breathed a sigh of relief.

"There you are, it's been years since I've seen you in person. You look fantastic," Kay said as she threw her arms around Norbert. He was in his late fifties– she guessed. Norbert was a teen- hacker when he met Patsy Whatley. He knew Kay's father, but they didn't have the connection that he had with Patsy.


"You look run down – sorry, I got the honesty gene from my Dad. I've got a few extra diagnostic pills for ya. They're harmless. I'd have to answer to your mother if I gave you anything risky."

"Of course, you do. Is that the secret to your healthy look?" Kay asked.

"Among other things. Pop one of these and it'll send a report to my cell that will tell you what's missing from your diet. It'll also tell you if cancer or pre-diabetes markers are in your blood. It would be a bummer if you were diagnosed with an incurable disease," Norbert said casually as he handed Kay a magnetic particle pill.

Kay swallowed it. "At least I won't have to wonder how I'm going to leave this big blue marble. Let's go to my bedroom and chat – and no, Norbert, I'm not propositioning you. It's my clean room because you never know."

"Too bad Kay. It's been forever since I've fucked a human."

Kay chuckled. "Remind me to introduce you to my friend Bryce. I see your phone on one wrist. What's the gizmo on your other hand? If I wonder what's coming in terms of technology, I just ask you. You must think I'm living in the dark ages."

"No, I have this kind of stuff pushed on me for free. I wouldn't pay money for most of this shit. I put this on while I was in Palm Desert, and 101* Fahrenheit. It's a wrist air conditioner that they're developing at MIT. Ask me and they have to go back to the drawing table. I was still sweating like a pig."

"Isn't Australia hot?"

"It's a different kind of heat," Norbert said.

"Why the fuck are we talking about your gadgets? Chip is about to be dissolved in a vat of acid," Kay said. "Sounds kind of old school to me, but I guess that's how these guys play."

Norbert got at it and wheeled his case into the room. Norbert pressed his thumb on the pad and his hard-sided smart suitcase opened on Kay's bedroom floor. It was as close to a mobile office as Kay had ever seen. With the press of a button, he came up with the stocks that had seen a 4 point rise (+/-.5) in the past 6 months. He took those stocks and filtered them using various algorithms. He handed what he came up with to Kay.

"They're steel stocks and they're probably tightly tied to Plushenko." Kay glanced at her watch. Norbert had already provided information that saved time. Time remaining 14-hours.

"If you look at the top three, you'll see that they are selling their product to arms manufacturers. Plushenko is laundering money in exchange for insider stock information. The arms are likely for civil wars in Eastern Europe and possibly the Middle East. Illegal -yes but that won't be proved in time to save your buddy's life."

"I have some threatening to do. This is the type of leverage I've been looking for. It's specific enough to scare Plushenko and walk away quietly. Then I'll deliver the information to the feds via a bot which I'll create with your help. First, I'll bring Chip over and tell him what we've found out and then we can get to work," Kay said.

Norbert was silent and he looked Kay up and down.

"Why the fuck are you staring at me, Norbert?" Kay asked.

"Your Mom is my hero and she's one of the first people who took my skills seriously. She and I knew our anti-establishment tactics could be a force for good. You have a lot of her same qualities, Kay. It blows my mind. You remind me of Patsy Whatley back in the day when we worked on the WANK hack."

"Thank you for the compliment. I think I'm going to cry now because I miss my Mom so much. I have to schedule a visit because her health isn't great – did you hear?

"Yes, I'm sorry. You do really have to see your Mother. She'll tell you what I think – you're wasting your skills at ViaTech.


 Chip and Norbert were gathered with Kay on her bed. Chip looked at his wrist device that had a video feed of his front door, he had visitors.

"Chip, why the hell didn't you take off that device. I told you to leave everything behind," Kay said.

"I only just turned the thing on and now I'll turn it off," Chip said, attempting to defend himself."

"Norbert?" Kay was asking him to handle the situation.

"Say no more." Norbert put his palm up. "Give me your device pal."

Chip begrudging handed it over. "Are you going to stomp on the thing as Kay did to my glasses."

"No, I'm going to blow it up – kidding. I'm just going to scramble the signal, but I doubt it'll do much good. They gathered your location the second you turned that thing on."

"Are they coming here with the acid?" Chip asked as the color drained from his face.

"If you shut up. Kay and I have a plan and we can try and prevent your death by acid."

Chip slinked out of the bedroom leaving a relieved Norbert and Kay without a lot of time. They decided that as Emily Parker, Kay would threaten Jan Zabar directly with the threat that she was one button push away from sending a message via bot to the feds. His house of cards would collapse. It was risky and scary, but Norbert Klein had faith in Kay and that meant a lot.

Norbert's wrist device dinged. "Kay, you don't have cancer or diabetes, but your diet is lacking in several nutrients."

"Really, you're lecturing me on my diet now?" Kay laughed.

"Let's do this Kay. Plushenko' s men are on their way." Norbert threw the phone in her direction.

"Jan, it's Emily Parker..."

Submitted: June 16, 2019

© Copyright 2022 kristie leonard. All rights reserved.


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