This entry won third place in the Aspiring Writers contest for the first half of January 2012. The genre was fiction: suspense, theme: first day on the job, highlight: an email you received in error. Length: 600-715 words.
Natalie was glad to finally be actually on the job. She’d had almost two days of site orientation, safety training, security training, and computer security training, before being allowed to go to her new office. She still had to wait for her security clearance to come through, but the company had fast-tracked her accounts, so a sealed envelope containing her username and temporary password was waiting on her desk.
Her computer was already booted up and waiting for her to enter her username and password. Once she did, Outlook launched automatically. There was a stream of routine emails waiting, from the cafeteria, the library, and other departments. One message was titled “Need your approval ASAP”. Probably the Savings Plan or United Way Natalie thought, clicking on the message.
“Ned, we need to move two kilograms of plutonium from the basement lab in building 25-J to the testing facility in the northwest corner, first floor, of building 3-L. Please advise, soonest. –Bob.”
That was definitely not routine. Those buildings were not inside the classified area. What on earth were they doing with plutonium, much less with it outside the fence? That email message was a clear security violation. The systems geeks were going to have a time purging the unclassified system..She wondered who Ned was. In the company directory she found Ned James Dunne. Her own username was NJD, for Natalie Jasmine Donner. Ned was in X division — which meant his work was classified.
The training she had just received labeled this as both a security incident and a computer security incident, to be reported to her division’s security and computer security officers ASAP. Natalie wondered which one she should call first, but looking at the little orange card of emergency numbers, found that both positions were filled by the same person, Kevin Centrella. She dialed his number.
“Hello, Kevin?” she said timidly, “My name is Natalie Donner, I’m a new hire and I just got an email that looks like a computer security violation and, um, a security violation too.”
“Really?” a man’s voice said, sounding bored, “why don’t you tell me what it says, WITHOUT mentioning any of the words that you think make it a violation.”
“Okay,” she said, “It was sent to me by mistake, from somebody named Bob, asking permission of someone named Ned, to move a specific quantity of a particular material from one location to another”
“This material,” the man asked, not sounding as bored now, “would it be a controlled substance? Don’t say the name!”
“Yes, it is definitely a controlled substance,” she replied, “and one that is not supposed to be in either of the locations mentioned.”
”Okay,” he said, all business now, “You did the right thing. Stay where you are until I get there. Turn your monitor off, but leave the computer on. Close your blinds and your office door, and don’t let anyone in.”
She did what he said, then sat down to wait. She had a feeling “Bob” was going to be in big trouble. Checking her watch, she saw it was after eleven. She was supposed to join Suzanne at noon for a meet-and-greet with the rest of the group, but that wasn’t looking likely.
Kevin knocked, displaying his badge before entering. He turned her monitor back on and did a flurry of typing, while making cryptic comments over the phone. Finally, he hung up and grinned at Natalie, “Welcome aboard, you passed the final test.”
“Test? This was a test?”
“Of course,” Kevin said firmly, “it was the final test of your training. You don’t think we actually have plutonium wandering around the facility, do you?”
Natalie didn’t know what to say. Kevin headed for the door, “You’re on the network for real now. If you hurry, you can still make that lunch.”
The group was just getting their food when she arrived. “Hey, Nat,” Suzanne said, “you missed all the excitement!”
“Yeah,” a dark-haired young man chimed in, “the guards came in and dragged some guy right out of the food line.”
“That was Bob,” said a new voice from behind her. “Nice to meet you, Natalie. I’ve heard a lot about you. I’m Ned Dunne. As soon as your clearance comes through, you’ll be working for me.”