Attenuated – Part Two

The lower floors were more utilitarian than the executive suites.

Stubby dividers of frosted glass fenced in most of the “open plan” office. SuccINCt had strict rules about one’s workspace. You were allowed a maximum of two personal items. One could be a framed picture (which had its own rules attached governing content and size), and the other a knick-knack or small plant – all subject to additional restrictions, of course.

The Human Resources orientation manual was bulky when printed, and came in a large three-ring binder. He had used his as a doorstop at home, after turning in the “I have read and understand” form with his signature.

Myles hated the open office design. It meant constant interruptions by well-meaning co-workers, usually when your mental flow was at its deepest. Mentally ascending to the shallow waters of careless conversation stressed Myles out, especially when he had a deadline to meet.

The overhead lights were off, which was a relief. Only the wall halogens were lit, casting graceful parabolas on the textured walls. During the day, the long strips of ceiling lights cast an overly-bright glare on everything below. It was like being trapped in a photographer’s infinity backdrop, visual cues for wall edges washed out in the persistent fluorescent blizzard.

Myles walked carefully between 3D printers and digital drafting tables. Here a concept could be created and instantiated with relative ease. Some objects were left on the printer trays, bright colored plastic shapes and cross-sectional coverings.

He needed access to the planning files.

Myles jiggled each mouse as he passed workstations. The ones that lit up with the SuccINCt logo were locked, password prompt hovering in the center. His clearance wasn’t high enough to browse the shared file server. He kept up the rhythm, jiggle, logo, jiggle, logo, jiggle, desktop.

Success! The desktop was littered with links to project folders and proposals. Myles pulled up a system window displaying the connected network drives. Clicking on “Projects Ongoing” resulted in a long list of coded project names, sorted alphabetically.

Inserting his keychain USB drive, Myles browsed to the folder labeled “SAS” and dragged it to his external drive. The OS displayed animated fluttering pages, copying the contents. At the far end of the floor, a brilliant white cone swept the room.

“Who’s there?”, the guard sounded annoyed at having to investigate. Myles must’ve triggered a sensor at the doorway.

“Myles Chapman, just had to send a quick email.”

The guard lowered his light, walking towards the cubicle.

Myles pulled the USB drive and pocketed it, locking the desktop just as the guard rounded the row.

“Sorry about that, just wanted to get out of here – have to tend to some copies upstairs then I’m gone.”

“You and me both, buddy. Okay, take it easy.”, the guard peered at Myles ID before stomping back towards the exit.

He had to get out of here. It was way too late to do any more snooping. Besides, he had to rise early to get a head start on all of his neglected housework. His laundry wasn’t going to wash itself. Myles exited to the elevators, punching the “Up” button.

He sincerely hoped the security guard wouldn’t make a big deal out of his late-night computer usage. Arriving at the top floor, Myles scooped up the still-warm copies from the DocuMax tray dumping the contents on the personal assistants desk down the hall.

Descending to the lobby, Myles pondered about what he had found.

The system was too fast to catch all of the document names he had copied, but momentary pauses in buffering the contents had revealed glimpses of names like “Threshold Stimuli”, “Subjective Analysis” and “Time Domain Perception”. It was very puzzling, indeed.

The subway ride home was noisy and jarring, large metal wheels squealing against worn rails during each turn. Myles preferred to stand, even though the car was empty. He once had made the mistake of sitting down late one night and had fallen fast asleep.

He had woken up in the train yard as the sun was rising, back aching and neck sore from the hard plastic. Myles vowed to never let that happen again. Even if it meant tired feet, it was way better than going to the end of the line and having to walk all the way home.

Myles exited the station and walked home, street lights still shining. He lived in a small three-story walkup on the ground floor. It was a good distance from work, but the price made it worthwhile. He slotted his key and opened the door, throwing his bag on the floor.

It wasn’t large, but it was his. Bookshelves lined the walls, curled posters from concerts bracketing his prized possession a large monitor that also functioned as his entertainment center. Myles paged through the DVR screen, adding some shows to record.

He was too sleepy to watch anything tonight. Maybe tomorrow after he got his chores done.

Myles took the USB drive from his pocket, quick-releasing it from the keychain. Who knew what secrets it held. He turned it over in his hands, placing it next to his computer.

Trudging into the bedroom, he kicked off his shoes and flopped on to his bed. He was exhausted.

A breeze rattled the bare branches outside, casting long shadows on the wall.

(To be continued.)