Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Koreshi Chronicles - Chapter V: Escalating

Deniev Webb was trying to decide if he wanted another cawfee. It was always a hard decision around 12 o’clock, should he eat or should he have another cawfee? Usually he ended up taking a doughnut with his hot drink, so it wasn’t much of a choice. 

His pondering was interrupted by a knock on his door. He was annoyed he hadn’t gone to get his beverage before someone bothered him, but after seeing his newest analyst hanging on the frame, he forgot his doughnut. She was 20 cycles younger than him and though he knew better than to fraternise with underlings, he certainly didn’t mind it when she had a question.

“Come in, Clarice. How are things going? I know you must be settled in by now. What’s it been, a season?” He said waving her in and pointing to the seat in front of him.

“Two, Deniev, nearly three, and yes, I feel right at home, but I have a question. Have a look at this.” She said, putting a data pod on his desk and letting his trideo display bring up a virtual folder. She activated a document and then another. Webb recognised operation costs sheets, the sort of thing his department filed by the hundreds daily.

“Here,” she said, pointing with a delicate finger at a figure, when she saw her supervisor had seen nothing out of the ordinary.

“Yes, I see the loss of three Jaguars.” Nothing too unusual there, Webb thought to himself. They were valuable pieces of NorthCo equipment, but they were already in the hands of Northern Guard. “We already received payment on those, Clarice. The Guardsmen lost that merchandise, not us. This fellow Captain Sikes will have to answer for it.”

“I know, but look here.” She pulled up another operation costs report. “This happened a week later. We had considerable damage to a facility we share costs on with the Yele Medical Center based in the Marathon basin. I looked into the reason for the damage costs, and according to the security report indexed here, there was a break-in by three thieves. Security personnel were hurt and there were a few fatalities, as well as a breach of intellectual property.”

Webb looked at his young employee and smiled. She was intelligent and beautiful and full of enthusiasm. “Look, Clarice, I see what you’re trying to do, but three missing gears and three intruders in a facility hundreds of kilometers away doesn’t mean there’s a connection. There were other Gears taken off the same train but later recovered in the desert, so that number isn’t as significant as you think. It’s just a coincidence. I appreciate your gusto, but if there were link, it would be up to security to make it, not accounting.”

Clarice was shaking her head. “There’s more.” She pulled up another folder on the trideo display. “Look here, on this expenses report. We have miscellaneous costs running in the tens of thousands relating to an unspecified expense code. I looked it up, it’s coded Detail.”

Webb swallowed. His new employee was bright and spirited, but she shouldn’t have found out about Detail expenses; those were above her pay grade. But she had uncovered something that he felt warranted escalating to upper management. He hesitated for a second before deciding to bring Clarice with him. In the end he decided she knew the data better than he did. If she were commended for uncovering these facts, it would reflect well on him as her supervisor, and if this brewed a shit storm, he had someone to blame.

They sat outside Director Schroeder's office for 10 minutes before the receptionist showed them in. Webb hadn’t been here very often. Until a cycle before he reported to an assistant director, not Ms. Schroeder, but after restructuring they had taken out a layer of management. He used to think of it as a sort of promotion by default, but now he wasn’t so sure he was pleased with the new hierarchy.

Webb cleared his throat, not to announce his presence as the director was looking right at him and Clarice when they came in, but because he couldn’t talk. “Director, I believe we’ve found something requiring your attention.”

Clarice ran over her preliminary data again; the director was attentive but unfazed. She raised an eyebrow when Clarice mentioned the Detail costs, and Webb lowered his eyes self-consciously. Clarice continued unaware.

“The Detail costs here are for the same day as the theft of the Jaguars; the after-action summaries say both expenses occurred at the same place, on some train to Mainz. Now look at the project the Detail expense is flagged under: ’Helix +’. The project in the Yele center was flagged under ’Helix’. I tried to compare both projects, but I don’t have clearance. I don’t think this was picked up by security because Helix and Helix + are classified as two different projects with different expenses and security levels. But these three people, the ones who entered the Yele center and probably took the three Jaguars, are also probably connected to the unidentified Detail costs on the train. I just… we thought someone should be alerted to this possibility.”

Clarice stood away from the trideo display and waited for a reaction. Director Schroeder folded her arms together and looked at the files before addressing her underling. “Webb, please ask my assistant to fetch Rozam and Gustafson.” Webb step into the entrance and conveyed the message. When he stepped back into the director’s office, she was asking Clarice to wait for the new guests and to tell them what she had found. The director asked Clarice about her background, how long she had been at NorthCo and where she saw herself in 5 cycles. Webb stood aside and waited.

“Thank you, Deniev, you may return to your accounts. If I need you, I’ll let you know.” Director Schroeder said, all the while still concentrating on Clarice.

Webb nodded and let himself out. In the hall he crossed Chief Rozam of internal security and a severe looking man he took to be Gustafson. He watched them go in, and the door shut behind them. Webb stood there dejected a moment before smiling to himself and setting out in search of a cawfee and doughnut. 

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