Prompt for Open Salon Fiction Weekend 12/9/2011 - 12/11/2011: At work one day, a character finds something troubling in a coworker’s desk drawer. What is it, and what happens?
I went a little Sci-Fi with this one. I hope you enjoy it.
At 9 a.m. today, I got an email from IT Security. It was concerning Isis, the new market researcher that I had just hired. I figured it might have to do with unauthorized Internet use. She probably did some online shopping during a lull in the day. Frankly, I didn't care about such trivial matters, but since the IT "Police" got involved I had better read the entire email and check things out.
The email mentioned that as per policy they were monitoring Isis's computer usage for the last three weeks. This was nothing new. All new hire's computer and Internet actions are monitored for the first three weeks and then everybody's actions are spot checked on a random basis. It is clearly stated in the employee handbook.
However, the email went on to say, that their report showed that Isis logged on every morning, and logged off and shutdown her machine every evening, but other than that nothing else occurred. It further stated that she did not access files, the Internet, nothing.
"This is not possible,' I thought. Isis has proven to be a very reliable and resourceful employee in the short time she has been with the company. She compiles detailed yet succint reports. She communicates through the company email system, and she uses the software licensed to the company. The email continued saying that their monitoring system detected no keystrokes on her keyboard. I was confused and figured their software must be off so I sent them an email stating just that.
Within seconds, I got another email from them. It stated that their monitoring software is constantly being debugged and it is very accurate. To prove it, this second email included a report showing when I had opened the first email, how long it took me to respond to it, and how may keystrokes it took to write my reply. Bastards! They just had to rub my nose in it.
I wrote back telling them I would look into the matter, and get back with them in two days. After I sent the email, I started thinking about Isis. She was a firecracker; she was a fast learner and she got along with everyone in the department even though she kept pretty much to herself. As far as I could tell, she did not mingle with anyone in the department or in the company. But I didn't care since she had proven herself to be a highly competent worker in just three short weeks.
I figured that if I checked out her cubicle, I could glean some information. At around 11 a.m., I sent Isis on a little mission. She was to visit a few big-box type retailers in the area, and check out how our products were being merchandised in comparison to our competitor's merchandise. I felt like a rat sending her off, but it was the only way I could scope out her cubicle without her showing up unexpectedly. I told her to take her time and that she could even take her lunch hour while she was out.
I waited a full thirty minutes after she had left before walking into her cubicle. The first thing I noticed was it was bare except for a few company memos and the usual assortment of office equipment: staplers, pencil holder, etc. She maintained a very clean desk. Too clean in my opinion. There were no cutesy stuffed animals, motivational posters, family photos, nor were there any boyfriend (or girlfriend) photos on her desk. She didn't even have one of those funny mugs that said, "I don't do Mondays" or some ironic hipster statement. I opened the top drawer of her two drawer cabinet. Except for some pens, pencils and other office supplies it was empty. I opened the bottom drawer and it too was empty except for a very curious looking box. It looked like it was four inches long by four inches wide by four inches deep. It appeared to be made of Lucite or glass. I grabbed my cell phone and snapped some pictures of it.
I went back to my office and closed the door. I pulled out my phone and looked at the photos of Isis's box. I could not believe my eyes. When I had seen it in the drawer, it was an opaque white. Now it was blue. I went back to Isis's cubicle and opened the drawer again. This time the box was red and it seemed to glow. Confused, I closed the drawer and headed back to my office.
Around 2 p.m., I noticed Isis had returned. Thirty minutes later, I got an email from her; it contained an attached report complete with photos, graphs and recommendations. She also said she needed to see me. I took some time to scan through the report. Much impressed, I called her over. With very long purposeful strides, she walked into my office and stood in front of my desk. Her manner of walking reminded me of a tiger: strong, confident and predatory. I motioned her to sit down.
"That was some report," I said, "I haven't read the whole thing, but ... quite frankly ... I'm floored you were able to furnish it so quickly."
"Thank you, sir," she said tilting her head slightly down and not losing eye contact with me. She reminded me of a tiger staring down a prey.
"Please call me, Tee," I said. I was starting to get annoyed at her boldness.
"Okay...Tee," she said it in a manner that indicated that she felt uncomfortable with such informalities or at least calling a full-grown man by a letter in the alphabet, "I have to file a complaint."
"Okay ..." I replied as I squinted at her.
"I have been here three weeks and I think I do a fairly competent job," she continued, "I don't bother anyone, I keep to myself and avoid the office ...gossip," she said. Her voice wavered she was either losing confidence, or she was uncomfortable with her word choices. I seized the moment to turn the tables by making her feel more uncomfortable.
I leaned forward and stared into her deep green eyes. I slowly bent my neck to the right, then to the left, and then back to center. Her eyes widened. I then lowered my eyes to her red leather pumps and slowly slithered them up her perfectly tanned bare legs, over her knees, over the surface of her tight-fitting knit black skirt, up her matching knit sweater top, and shamelessly stopped on the outline of her breasts. My eyes then
continued their luxurious stroll up to her perfectly chiseled chin and sharply pointed nose before resting on her emerald eyes again. It was then that I noticed her pupils were not round; they were slits like a cat's.
"Anyway, Sir," she continued, " I feel that my privacy has been violated ... this morning ... while I was out."
"How so?" I asked nonchalantly.
Isis leaned forward in her chair and stared right into and through me.
"Someone entered my cubicle while I was gone, opened my drawers and took pictures of my personal belongings," she said as she arched her right eyebrow.
I pushed back from desk, got up, walked over to the door and closed it. Then I walked back to my chair and sat down. "Isis," I said, "Our Company prides itself in being fully transparent with its clients and its employees, especially with its employees. Earlier today, I received an email from IT Security," I briefly recapped the email. Then, I told her about checking out her cubicle while she was out.
"Do you think you can explain what's going on?" I concluded.
"Certainly, there must be some error in their reporting system," she said with a hesitancy in her voice, "The box in my drawer is just a light cube I got as a...graduation present...from my...err...father," she added, "it lights up randomly. I take it with me all the time. It has become my ... mojo," she forced a smile. She was lying, and failing terribly at it, and she knew it, or she was uncomfortable with her word choices, or both.
"Isis, I strongly suggest you leave for the day, come back tomorrow morning, and we'll pretend this never happened. Okay?" I said. I could tell she was quite shaken. She got up and left. If it had been someone else, I would have fired her right on the spot, but Isis was so damn efficient, I could not afford to lose her.
That night, I called my wife to tell her I was going to work late. I was pissed that the retailers we did business with had pushed our merchandise to some corner of the store that got very little foot traffic. I knew our competition was giving more push money than we could afford to give. It was all in Isis's report, but how could she know so much detail. More importantly, how did she know that I had taken the pictures before I told her? Did someone in the office tip her off?
The office was empty. I got up to go to the bathroom, stopped by the break room for a snack and some coffee. I passed by Isis's cube, stopped, shook my head, and kept walking. Back in my office, I stared at the report on my screen. The door to my office creaked closed. I looked up and saw Isis standing in the middle of my office. She had that predatory look again. I looked her over. She was wearing a black latex cat suit and black leather boots that went up to her calves. Her thick auburn hair was tied up in a tight ponytail. Her legs were hips-width apart and her hands rested at her sides.
"Can I help you, Isis?" I said.
"I appreciate your candor earlier today," she said, "I know you know I lied. I owe you an apology and an explanation."
"Go ahead," I said.
"To make a long story short," she said as she approached the desk, "I'm from a very far away place." She sat on the edge of my desk and continued, "Where I'm from the technology is much more advanced than you can ever imagine." She drew her left knee so it was fully resting on my desk, her right leg dangled from the desk. She leaned forward so that her elbows, forearms and palms rested on the desk. Our faces were inches apart. "You would be amazed at how advanced we are."
"Are you Russian?" I asked.
"No!" she snapped, "I can't tell you where I'm from exactly, but I can tell you I'm NOT from this planet or any other planet in this galaxy."
I was starting to get worried. I had 911 on my speed dial, but I had a feeling it would not be prudent to make that call.
"So you came all the way from outer space to work for a company that sells office novelties?" I said with enough tension in my voice to denote that I was getting pissed...scared but pissed.
"Well, no. It just turned out that way," she said. She then got off my desk and slunk into a chair.
"Prove to me you are from some advanced civilization that is out of this world," I challenged.
She stood up like she was waiting for me to say just those words. She unzipped the front of her cat suit, reached inside and pulled out a diamond necklace that held her mystery box. She removed the box from her necklace and set it on my desk.
"Beta 51," she said to the box, "access Tee's computer and show images of our home on the monitor."
"That's a computer!" the box said in a very human voice, "I'll do my best, but don't expect any miracles." Beta 51, the talking box, then shot a beam of light onto my computer screen and instantly I was shown a quick video of Isis's home planet.
I was stunned. I witnessed images of a world very similar to ours, but different in many ways...ways I cannot even begin to describe. Isis picked up her box, smiled at me, and sat down in the leather chair that was in front of my desk. Dumbfounded, I stared at the now blank screen.
"So why are you here and ...?" I started to ask when I noticed she had disappeared. I then heard a cat's meow. I looked at the chair and saw a black cat with a diamond necklace around its neck. The necklace had a charm in the center. It was the cube in miniature.
I stood up to get a better look. Shocked and awed, I fell back into my chair like a sack of potatoes. Suddenly, the cat leaped out of the chair, bounded on my desk and jumped on my lap. In a blinding flash, it turned back into Isis.
"NOW...do you believe me?" she said with a purr.
This story is a spin off of "Assignment: Earth" from Star Trek (the original series). It guest starred Teri Garr, Robert Lansing, and Victoria Vetri as "Isis".