Although he hadn’t said so, she could tell both Aaron and Graham were scared. They had every right to be. Her knees hadn’t stopped knocking and her hands trembled at the horrible situation and the serious implications. “God in heaven!”

Time was running short. Eligibility for the funding required for the following year was coming to a close. It was the last stage before they launched and it was funding they seriously required to set up the other three locations required to prove their viability nationwide. Time was of the essence!

She sighed heavily. What was the problem? Ellie wasn’t a programmer or a geek but she knew the program and used it regularly but it was refusing her access while indicating someone else was already in the account… “What?” she asked aloud. How? Who? This was a secured encrypted site. What the hell was going on?

The infuriating message kept reiterating that her account was logged on and already in use. “Fine!” she whispered angrily. Taking a screenshot, she closed everything down and restarted the laptop. While she waited for it to boot up, she grabbed a cup of coffee and settled back into her comfy chair. Unbelievably, she got the same result! This was ridiculous! She grabbed her hair and yanked. “What the HELL” she cried aloud. “This isn’t possible, I’m me! This is my password, my account, my code!”

Grabbing her address book, she flipped through until she found Graham Madden’s phone number and punched the numbers angrily into the phone, waiting impatiently through several rings before he answered. “Graham, Ellie. What the hell’s going on? I can’t get into my account. The damn thing keeps telling me, I’m already in! I’m not! Have you…”

She stopped dead, “What did you say?”

“I said, we’re all locked out. I’m trying to get to the bottom of this, Ellie, I’ll have to call you back…it’s as if the program has gone rogue…we’re all locked out…the entire company…I gotta go. Promise, I’ll get back when I know more.” He hung up. She stared at the phone blankly, unable to take in what he’d said.

“That’s not fraken possible! Not possible! That would mean…” someone was trying to steal the information, their identities their work…. “No Fraken Way!”

She jumped up and raced to Aaron’s door and pounded before entering, “Aaron, I’m sorry, I know it’s your day off, but honestly, I need you, your expertise…it’s seriously urgent!”

He dragged his weary body to a sitting position and growled, ” Ellie are you completely insane?”

“I sincerely wished I were, but I’m not” Grabbing his shirt off the chair she threw it at him, here, I need you, I can’t do this alone. I don’t have the necessary skills…please!” she ended with a beseeching voice as she reversed out the door.

Aaron knew Ellie rarely freaked out about anything and she was obviously in a state and that said a lot. “Ok, give me a minute. Get me coffee!” he yelled at her retreating back. “Oh boy, this can’t be good.” He dragged his weary body to the bathroom and shut the door. Ablutions complete, he made his way to the front room.

“Alright,” he plopped down on her chair, “what the blue blazes is so almighty urgent…” He didn’t complete the sentence before she was pointing at the screen…

“Read that!” He leaned in and noticed she was logged on. “Yeah, so what?”

She flicked the program closed and re-opened it….the damn thing said she was in the program. Pushing her aside he said, let me. Confident it was just a glitch, he began working his magic followed by a few more steps and waited…”What the hell?”

“Yeah, and it isn’t only me; I called Graham. He said it’s everyone…all of us him included..everyone is logged on and we can’t get in. Can you help me? Us? I can’t lose the information…we can’t….it would end all of us…open us up to…”

“Yeah, I know…I get it. This is nuts!” From that moment on, she became invisible, non-existent…he blocked her presence out completely as he dug in, fingers flying across the keyboard at a speed she could only dream of. Unable to follow his movements, she sipped her coffee and watched quietly with anxious concern and anticipation.

Minutes turned into hours as Aaron worked, attempting again and again, to address the problem while listening to his aggravation each time he hit a roadblock, forced to retreat and outmaneuver another obstacle. Feeling helpless, all she could do was keep him supplied with strong black coffee and the occasion pretzel his favourite go-to food, as he fought back against an invisible but effective enemy.

He picked up the phone and consulted with Graham. She listened to their geek speak, without understanding a single word. All she knew for sure, was that it was serious and her two favourite geeks in the world had their hands full as they tried to wangle their way through a heavily constructed maze meant to stop them cold. It was way above her pay-grade, it was serious, it was devastating for everyone concerned. And time was running out. Her eyes nearly bugged out of her head when she overheard Aaron tell Graham they had a matter of six hours and twenty-two minutes before the inevitable – total destruction of all they’d accomplished in creating their unique program. That’s the allotted time they now had to stop the hacker. She knew that whoever had managed to hack in, was damn good, better than good, they were brilliant but the fail safe’s they’d installed and implemented were top-notch, the best in the business, hell WAS the business.

Although he hadn’t said so, she could tell both Aaron and Graham were scared. They had every right to be. Her knees hadn’t stopped knocking and her hands trembled at the horrible situation and the serious implications. “God in heaven!”

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