Part Three: Haruspex Analytics, Jason Klein's Suite
Phyllis Tanner has many skills. Speed reading is one of them.
This is not a unique skill on Jason’s team: reading through volumes of information as fast as possible is extremely useful in her line of work. Pretty much everyone has some degree of proficiency in it; the only one who never got the hang of it was Billy.
She closes her eyes for a moment, feeling and then suppressing the loss that comes when she thinks of him. She can’t dwell on it now. She has to focus.
“Jason, I need your authorization to go further.”
Jason Klein, head buried deep in a pile of printed reports, looks up distractedly. “Hm?”
“I hit another secure area,” Phyllis says. “I need your authorization to continue.”
Jason looks vaguely annoyed—not at her, specifically, but at the presence of yet another protected area.
“It’s Russian dolls.” Simon Yin rubs his eyes wearily, pushing his chair away from his desk, then stretches his entire body without bothering to get up.
“They’re called Marushka dolls.” Michelle Lawrence is barely visible from the depths of her over-sized hoodie. “And it’s basically our fault.”
“Whatever.” Simon relaxes out of his stretch, letting his arms hang over the sides of his chair. “…I need more coffee.”
Phyllis finds herself missing the situation room again. Jason’s promotion brought with it an entire suite of offices. This means they each have offices of their own, something most people would consider a perk. But Jason’s group works best as a group, so they’ve converted the reception area into a bullpen. It’s essentially a smaller, more cramped version of the situation room, without catering.
The office suite is more private, and since Jason is now a member of the board they are directly linked into all the data they need. But the security breach they’d been brought in to investigate had occurred because board members had grown over-reliant on their staff, and one of the first remedies was to require board members to personally authorize access to information above a certain level of classification. Jason’s team is auditing all the organization’s security protocols… which means they constantly access information above a certain level of classification.
Jason stands, grumbling, and heads over to Phyllis’ computer. He’s about to place his thumb on the security panel when something on the screen catches his eye. He frowns, squinting, then his eyes go wide.
He pulls his thumb away from the panel.
“Jason?” Phyllis looks up at him, eyebrows raised.
“I… can’t,” he says. “I mean, I could, but I’m not supposed to. We’re not supposed to access that data.”
Phyllis looks back at her screen. “It doesn’t look any different from anything else. How are we supposed to audit security protocols if we don’t know what they are?”
“Yeah, I know, but…” Jason points to a string of symbols. “Anything with that on it is off-limits.”
“What is it?”
Jason takes a deep breath. “Magic stuff,” he says. “Mara has a different team dealing with that.”
Phyllis looks at the locked file carefully. The title simply says “Incursion Protocols.” The string of symbols beneath it were, she’d assumed, just encrypted information that would become readable once access was granted, but upon inspection, it’s obvious they’re not ASCII symbols… nor are they part of any of the extended Unicode typesets she’s familiar with.
“OK,” she says. “Off limits. I don’t suppose you’ve read them?”
“No,” Jason says.
Phyllis nods, careful to keep her expression neutral. She’s worked with Jason for a long time, and he almost never lies to them. It happens so rarely that, while he’s a pretty good liar in general, he’s genuinely bad at lying to them, which is why she knows he just lied to her right now. She stares at him as he returns to his desk and sinks back into those reports. She’s not the only one staring: Simon is also watching him, brow furrowed.
He knows Jason’s lying, too.
She glances at Michelle, but whatever the young woman’s reaction might be, it’s hidden by her hoodie.
Phyllis thins her lips, then looks back at her screen. The Incursion Protocols sit there, staring back at her.
I bet I don’t need his thumbprint, Phyllis thinks. She sets about proving herself right.