Chapter Three: Emmery

“How’s it going?” Xyla asked, poking her head into the small room Dejar had assigned me.

Near the engine room, it was so tiny I could almost touch opposite walls if I stretched my arms.

My guess was that it had been some kind of janitorial closet, but Dejar had it converted into a one-woman workshop: someone had miraculously managed to place a small desk inside the room, and six computer monitors had been bolted to the wall.

It wasn’t exactly the most comfortable of places, but I didn’t really mind it. I’d certainly worked in worse.

Just as long as my fingers were flying over the keyboard and I was in the zone, my surroundings were meaningless.

Except, of course, my fingers were not flying over the keyboard and I was definitely not in the zone.

“I’m so damn bored.”  I leaned back on my seat and propped my feet up on the desk. The cup I had sitting by the keyboard wobbled slightly, but it stopped before my coffee became a puddle on the floor. “I feel like ripping my eyes out. Do you have a spoon I can do it with?”

“Wow,” Xyla laughed. “You’re in a good mood, aren’t you?”

“I was.” Lacing my fingers behind my head, I glanced at the small army of computer screens in front of me and sighed, the information plastered there reminding me of the brewing headache between my eyes.

Getting into the Dominion identification systems had been surprisingly easy.

I’d been practicing, learning the new, alien information architecture, coding paths, all of it, the entire time we’d been on board the Rogue Star.

It made the autotutor modules worthwhile, even if I wasn’t really planning on doing anything with it.

And mindless scrubbing during the day gave me plenty of time to memorize command structures, how script loops were called here.

It was like my first mentor had always said. As long as you can make yourself think like the computers do, understand how the databases interact, learning a specific programming language is just a detail.

Too bad she’d never know the extremes to which I’d taken her philosophy.

I had made it look as if my point of access was somewhere in the Dominion, masked my virtual ID, and then it was only a matter of hacking my way into government databases.

All with the help of the best translation software I had managed to find. I had gotten all the information I needed to forge new identities for the team Dejar had assembled, but now I was struggling.

“Seriously, I need an assistant or something. I have all the information we need, now it’s only a matter of going through the motions and crafting these IDs. A well-trained monkey could do this part of the job.”

“I don’t remember seeing any monkeys around these parts except for Qal’s pet,” Xyla said kindly, but I found myself frowning all the same.

I was having to juggle a mountain of databases—I had to insert the information from these new identities in every official Dominion database, as I didn’t know which they would use during a particular ID check—and there was so much minutia to input, check and double check, that I no longer felt like a hacker.

More like a glorified data-entry assistant.

“Really funny, Xyla,” I told her as I pulled my feet from the desk and sat straight once more. “When I volunteered I didn’t know I’d be stuck in a broom closet, you know? This is a rebellion, right? It should be dangerous and exciting and—”

“And you’re safe in here.”

“We’re trying to overthrow the Dominion. That’s not the definition of safe, at least last time I checked,” I argued. “Besides, it’s not like I’m asking to be sent to the frontlines. Trust me, I rather be behind a keyboard than facing the Dominion soldiers. I just want to start working on the more interesting parts.” I sank my head into my hands, resting my aching eyeballs.

“I’ve laid the groundwork on these fake identities, and while there’s still some work to be done, I want to move on and start doing what I’m good at. I want to get into the Dominion central.”

“I’m sure that’s part of Dejar’s plan. You’ll just have to be patient and keep at it.”

“Are you sure?” Drumming my fingers against the desk, I eyed the computer screens again and sighed. “I don’t really know what Dejar plans are, to be honest. He keeps things close to his chest, and it’s not like I’m part of the inner circle. Unlike a certain someone I know, a smart and persuasive woman who could—”

“No way.” Raising both her hands up, almost as if I was pointing a hand at her, Xyla took one step back. She was already opening her mouth to say that she wouldn’t help me under any circumstance, but I was faster than she was.

“C’mon,” I insisted. “All I’m asking is for you to put a word in my behalf. Hell, Dejar might not even know I can hack into the Dominion central. All you have to do is remind him of that, and maybe I can finally start helping the rebellion.”

“You are helping the rebellion,” she sighed. “These fake IDs are essential.”

“I know but—”

“And are you even sure you can hack into the central?”

“Now you’ve offended me.”

“Alright, fine.” She shook her head and, shifting her weight from one foot to the other, finally gave me a nod. “I’ll talk to Dejar and remind him of what you can do for us. God, you’re impossible.”

“You know me.” Jumping out from my seat, I closed the space between us and kissed her cheek. “Thanks, Xyla, I really appreciate you doing this. I’m dying of boredom in here.”

“I’m going to try,” she said. “No promises.”

“That was all I was asking.”

***

The next few hours were a slog.

I spent them hunched over my keyboard, furiously typing away endless lines of code and trying to create real persons out of the information Dejar had given me.

Although some parts of the job were interesting—especially when it involved sneaking in and out of databases to insert the information—others were so boring I was actually surprised I hadn’t fallen asleep at the desk.

Still, I kept at it.

Even though I had complained to Xyla, this sure was better than just being sent around to clean random things. 

And it was definitely more agreeable than being the designated tech person on a station like Persephone. I snorted at that thought. I didn’t know who had thought to call that shithole a station—probably Kalyn’s mother—but I had thought of slapping that person countless times, were I ever to meet her.

Located on the fringes of the solar system, Persephone was one of the places Terrans used to send their pariahs. People just like me. I still remembered the day the judge banged his gavel and told me I was being sentenced to five years of service at the Persephone station for my “antisocial behavior and criminal tendencies.”

In truth, while my social manners were sometimes lacking, I had never been a criminal. Sure, I had hacked into highly secured systems and accessed confidential information, but I hadn’t done it out of malice. I did it out of boredom.

Mostly.

“Alright, I’m done here,” I sighed, pushing my chair back. I hadn’t eaten anything since morning, and it was already time for dinner. I secured all the information on the terminal, ensuring no one would be able to retrace my steps, and then turned on security on my computer.

No one but me could access it.

I narrowed my eyes into slits as I stepped out of the room, the bright lights of the Rogue Star’s corridors a stark contrast to the darkness I kept in my new office, and made my way toward the crew mess at a lazy pace.

Xyla sat by herself in one of the corner tables, and I made my way toward her before picking up any food.

Dinner could wait a few more minutes.

I took over the seat across her and she raised her head to face me.

“Emmery.” She kept on chewing her sandwich as she spoke, and she looked as if she had been lost in thought before I sat down. “Are you done for the day?”

“I think so,” I shrugged. “Maybe I’ll head back to check on some more stuff, but I don’t plan on working late tonight. Why? Does Dejar need me? Have you talked with him?”

“Alright, slow your horses,” she sighed, wiping the corner of her mouth with a napkin. “I did go and talk to Dejar—”

“And?”

“And he told me he wants you to focus on those fakes IDs. He’ll give you the final details for the identities once the whole team has been assembled.”

“Are you serious?” Raking one head over my face, I did my best not to raise my voice. “I mean, there’s so much we could do if we hacked into the Dominion central. Just imagine, we could start messing with—”

“Look, I get it,” she cut me short. “I understand that hacking into their central would be a major victory for us, and I think Dejar understands that as well. Thing is, the priority right now is to have those fake identities sorted out. Once you’re through with that, maybe Dejar will start thinking of more stuff for you to do.”

“What am I supposed to do in the meanwhile?”

“Have you been listening to me? You have to get those IDs done, Emmery. So that’s what you’re going to do while you wait for your dream job.”

Shrugging, she then offered me a smile as way of apology. “You’ll be out of that broom closet soon enough, I’m sure.”

“I don’t mind the closet,” I admitted. “I just want to help out.”

“You’ll have your chance,” she shrugged. “And maybe sooner than you think.”

“How’s it going?” Xyla asked, poking her head into the small room Dejar had assigned me.

Near the engine room, it was so tiny I could almost touch opposite walls if I stretched my arms. My guess was that it had been some kind of janitorial closet, but Dejar had it converted into a one-woman workshop: someone had miraculously managed to place a small desk inside the room, and six computer monitors had been bolted to the wall.

It wasn’t exactly the most comfortable of places, but I didn’t mind it.

Just as long as my fingers were flying over the keyboard and I was in the zone, my surroundings were meaningless.

Except, of course, my fingers were not flying over the keyboard and I was definitely not in the zone.

“I’m so damn bored,” I said out loud, leaning back on my seat and propping my feet up on the desk. The cup I had sitting by the keyboard wobbled slightly, but it stopped before my coffee became a puddle on the floor. “I feel like ripping my eyes out. Do you have a spoon I can do it with?”

“Wow,” Xyla laughed. “You’re in a good mood, aren’t you?”

“I was.” Lacing my fingers behind my head, I glanced at the small army of computer screens in front of me and sighed, the information plastered there reminding me of the brewing headache between my eyes.

Getting into the Dominion system had been easy. I had made it look as if my point of access was somewhere in the Dominion, masked my virtual ID, and then it was only a matter of hacking my way into government databases.

All with the help of the best translation software I had managed to find. I had gotten all the information I needed to forge new identities for the team Dejar had assembled, but now I was struggling with that information.

“Seriously, I need an assistant or something. I have all the information we need, now it’s only a matter of going through the motions and crafting these IDs. A well-trained monkey could do this part of the job.”

“I don’t remember seeing any monkeys around these parts except for Qal’s pet,” Xyla said kindly, but I found myself frowning all the same. I was having to juggle a mountain of databases—I had to insert the information from these new identities in every official Dominion database, as I didn’t know which they would use during a particular ID check—and there was so much minutia to input that I no longer felt like a hacker.

I felt like a glorified data-entry assistant.

“Really funny, Xyla,” I told her as I pulled my feet from the desk and sat straight once more. “When I volunteered I didn’t know I’d be stuck in a broom closet, you know? This is a rebellion, right? It should be dangerous and exciting and—”

“And you’re safe in here.”

“Are any of us really safe?” I asked her. “We’re trying to overthrow the Dominion. That’s not the definition of safe, at least last time time I checked. Besides, it’s not like I’m asking to be sent to the frontlines. Trust me, I rather be behind a keyboard than facing the Dominion soldiers. I just want to start working on the more interesting parts. I’ve laid the groundwork on these fake identities, and while there’s still some work to be done, I want to move on and start doing what I’m good at. I want to get into the Dominion central.”

“I’m sure that’s part of Dejar’s plan. You’ll just have to be patient and keep at it.”

“Are you sure?” Drumming my fingers against the desk, I eyed the computer screens again and sighed. “I don’t really know what Dejar plans are, to be honest. He keeps things close to his chest, and it’s not like I’m part of the inner circle. Unlike a certain someone I know, a smart and persuasive woman who could—”

“No way.” Raising both her hands up, almost as if I was pointing a hand at her, Xyla took one step back. She was already opening her mouth to say that she wouldn’t help me under any circumstance, but I was faster than she was.

“C’mon,” I insisted. “All I’m asking is for you to put a word in my behalf. Hell, Dejar might not even know I can hack into the Dominion central. All you have to do is remind him of that, and maybe I can finally start helping the rebellion.”

“You are helping the rebellion,” she sighed. “These fake IDs are essential.”

“I know but—”

“And are you even sure you can hack into the central?”

“Now you’ve offended me.”

“Alright, fine.” She shook her head and, shifting her weight from one foot to the other, finally gave me a nod. “I’ll talk to Dejar and remind him of what you can do for us. God, you’re impossible.”

“You know me.” Jumping out from my seat, I closed the space between us and kissed her cheek. “Thanks, Xyla, I really appreciate you doing this. I’m dying of boredom in here.”

“I’m going to try,” she said. “No promises.”

“That was all I was asking.”

***

The next few hours were a slog.

I spent them hunched over my keyboard, furiously typing away endless lines of code and trying to create real persons out of the information Dejar had given me. Although some parts of the job were interesting—especially when it involved sneaking in and out of databases to insert the information—others were so boring I was actually surprised I hadn’t fallen asleep at the desk. Still, I kept at it.

Even though I had complained to Xyla, this sure was better than just being sent around to clean random things.  And it was definitely more agreeable than being the designated tech person on a station like Persephone. I snorted at that thought. I didn’t know who had thought to call that shithole a station—probably Kalyn’s mother—but I had thought of slapping that person countless times, were I ever to meet her.

Located on the fringes of the solar system, Persephone was one of the places Terrans used to send their pariahs. People just like me. I still remembered the day the judge banged his gavel and told me I was being sentenced to five years of service at the Persephone station for my “antisocial behavior and criminal tendencies.”

In truth, while my social manners were sometimes lacking, I had never been a criminal. Sure, I had hacked into highly secured systems and accessed confidential information, but I hadn’t done it out of malice. I did it out of boredom. And while I understood that was a lame excuse to give in a court of law, I still didn’t think the punishment fit the crime. The travel to Persephone could’ve cost my life, for God’s sake.

“Alright, I’m done here,” I sighed, pushing my chair back. I hadn’t eaten anything since morning, and it was already time for dinner. I secured all the information on the terminal, ensuring no one would be able to retrace my steps, and then turned on security on my computer. No one but me could access it.

I narrowed my eyes into slits as I stepped out of the room, the bright lights of the Rogue Star’s corridors a stark contrast to the darkness I kept in my new office, and made my way toward the crew mess at a lazy pace. I spotted Xyla sitting by herself in one of the corner tables, and I made my way toward her before picking up any food. Dinner could wait a few more minutes.

I took over the seat across her and she raised her head to face me. “Emmery.” She kept on chewing her sandwich as she spoke, and she looked as if she had been lost in thought before I sat down. “Are you done for the day?”

“I think so,” I shrugged. “Maybe I’ll head back to check on some more stuff, but I don’t plan on working late tonight. Why? Does Dejar need me? Have you talked with him?”

“Alright, slow your horses,” she sighed, wiping the corner of her mouth with a napkin. “I did go and talk to Dejar—”

“And?”

“And he told me he wants you to focus on those fakes IDs. He’ll give you the final details for the identities once the whole team has been assembled.”

“Are you serious?” Raking one head over my face, I did my best not to raise my voice. “I mean, there’s so much we could do if we hacked into the Dominion central. Just imagine, we could start messing with—”

“Look, I get it,” she cut me short. “I understand that hacking into their central would be a major victory for us, and I think Dejar understands that as well. Thing is, the priority right now is to have those fake identities sorted out. Once you’re through with that, maybe Dejar will start thinking of more stuff for you to do.”

“What am I supposed to do in the meanwhile?”

“Have you been listening to me? You have to get those IDs done, Emmery. So that’s what you’re going to do while you wait for your dream job.” Shrugging, she then offered me a smile as way of apology. “You’ll be out of that broom closet soon enough, you’ll see.”

“I don’t mind the closet,” I admitted. “I just want to help out.”

“You’ll have your chance,” she smiled. “And maybe sooner than you think.”

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