2351 words (9 minute read)

Chapter 5

Brrriiing. Vrr. Vrr. Brrriiing. Vrr. Vrr.

Dylan’s cell phone rang and vibrated on his nightstand in the wee hours of Thursday morning. Startled awake, he flailed his arm wildly to reach for it. His hand clumsily grasped the device and answered the incoming call and pushed the phone against the side of his head.

“Hello?” he asked in a weak, scruffy voice.

“Dylan, it’s Alan. I’m sorry to wake you so early. It’s important, are you coherent?” Alan spoke with an unusual agency and directness that got Dylan’s attention.

Dylan sat up on the edge of the bed and placed his feet on the floor while rubbing his eyes with his free hand.

“Yeah, go ahead, Alan. What is it?”

“There was a breach about two hours ago.” Alan paused, assuming there would be a reaction to the news.

Dylan sighed deeply, and shook his fist in the air.

“Fuuuucccck,” Dylan growled quietly into the phone.

Just then Dylan could feel the bed shaking.

“What time is it? What are you doing?” Alice whined in an exasperated tone.

“Alan, I’m going to walk into the the auditorium on campus in two hours.” Dylan checks the clock on the nightstand that reads 3:27 a.m. “At 5:27 I’m going to walk through the doors, and I want all hands on deck for a complete sit-rep, so we can have the hole plugged by noon and get to work on damage control. Get everyone else in there, execs, white hats, coders, interns, everyone we’ve got. Got it?”

“Can do, boss. See you in two hours.”

Dylan hung up the phone and held his head in his hands for a minute.

“What is it, babe?” Alice asked, having gained complete consciousness.

“Our network was breached.  I’ve got to get to campus now.”

“How big of a deal is it?” Alice sat up and placed her hand on Dylan’s back to comfort him.

“Not sure yet, but I’m just going to assume that it’s a full-on fucking disaster. All of our user data might have been stolen.” Dylan abruptly stood up and walked across the room in the dark. “Really won’t know until I get there.”

At 5:23 a.m. Dylan walked into the Fieldy Lands auditorium, which was abuzz with activity as over one hundred employees attempted to get the entire story straight amongst each other. Even more were still trickling in from the parking garage. Immediately, Dylan found Randall  at the front of the room. Together they stepped onto the stage and marched toward the podium located on the far side of it. Dylan tapped the mic with his fingertip and hearing the thud through the speakers learned that the system was already on.

“Everyone grab a seat and quiet down. We’re on the clock here.” Dylan’s voice was stern and firm. The room fell quiet and still within seconds. “We’ve been hacked. This day is an epic fucking failure for this entire corporation, and it’s making me sick to my stomach. I don’t know how bad it is, or to what extent we’ve been infiltrated, but it’s too damn much for me. For us. We’re better than this. I want the hole found and patched by noon today. As incentive, I’m putting a bounty out on it. Fix it by noon and everyone participating gets a ten thousand dollar bonus. Fix it by nine, twenty grand. If it’s past noon, the offer is expired. Randall’s going to tell you all everything we know so far. Let me just say one last thing, though. We are entrusted by our users with a lot of personal data. We cannot just let that data be stolen. This is a fuck-up, and it will be investigated, and there will be consequences for it. But right now, just get it fixed.” Dylan scanned the faces in the crowd before him; they were all serious and attentive. His pause stretched noticeably long causing them to wonder what, if anything, would come next. “Randall, tell them what we know.”

Dylan stormed off the stage and grabbed Alan by the arm, physically dragging him into the hallway while Randall briefed the software engineers and coders on the technical specifics of the breach. Once the door had shut behind them, Dylan relinquished his grip.

“I need you to be all over this for me today. Updates on the half hour. I’m going to be in my office. No calls, no visitors, nothing until I say otherwise. Did you speak with the rest of the Board?”

“Yes. Samuel and Donald are furious. Jeff said he’d be here around eight.”

“Good. I want to see Jeff. As soon as he’s here, I want him in my office.” Dylan cut Alan off, unconcerned with the rest of what he had to say. “Tell PR and Customer Service that we are not admitting anything or making any comments until we know more. Users are to be told that we have been experiencing technical problems, but that does not mean that we were hacked. Anyone using the word “hacked” is spreading rumors and conjecture. Got it?”

“Yes, Dylan. Is there anything you need me to get you? Breakfast, anything?” Alan spoke with a comforting tone, recognizing that Dylan was primed to explode.

“Just get Jeff in my office.”

Dylan turned and walked briskly down the hallway without another word.

In his office, Dylan sat in the leather wingback chair by the window with the orange glow of the sunrise surrounding him like an aura. A notepad and pen rested on his lap while he held a tablet computer displaying a page of breaking news. There was no mention of the breach yet. The story hadn’t broken. Dylan’s free hand held a smoldering cigar, whose smoke added to the otherworldly aura surrounding him.

The door to his office suddenly opened, causing Dylan to jump a bit in the chair. He turned to see Alan leading Jeff into the room.

Dylan stood up to greet Jeff with a handshake.

“Thanks for coming so early.” Dylan said.

“Are you kidding me? I live for disasters of this magnitude. I get to watch everyone else wading hip deep in shit without getting any on myself. I love it.” Jeff’s blunt truth forced Dylan to smile briefly before turning to Alan.

“Any news?” Dylan asked desperately.

“They say they’ve analyzed over forty percent of the vulnerable code. And one team believes that they’re on to something, but nothing concrete yet. At this rate though, it should be found by nine or so. So, that’s something, I guess.” Alan explained.

“Keep on ‘em. Jeff and I need the room.”

Alan nodded silently before hurrying out of the office and closing the door behind him.

“You look like hell, kid.” Jeff announced, while helping himself to a cigar from the humidor on Dylan’s desk.

“I want to kill these fucking hackers.” Dylan said as he stared blankly into the distance. “Literally execute them. This isn’t about me or my company, or the bottom line. It’s the fucking ethics of the thing. They’re fucking cockroaches scurrying around anonymously in the dark, stealing from people that can’t afford it, ruining perfectly good things.”

Jeff puffs on the cigar while lighting it.

“Funny thing about criminals, most of them don’t agree with common definitions of morality.”

Dylan walked to the chair behind his desk and sat down in it silently.

“So what do we know, exactly?” Jeff asked while taking a seat in the wingback.

The room was hazy with cigar smoke punctuated by rays of morning sun.

“We know that something is wrong. We don’t know what that means. We know that no users have complained, and no press has sought comment or published anything.”

“Jesus fucking Christ. You know what I call that?” Jeff chuckled.


“Not a fucking problem.” Jeff crossed his legs and puffed on the cigar before continuing. “You’ve got all your minions working on a fix, right? You’re in front of this. You can’t get sued, that’s in the terms of service. This is a nonissue. You’ve got to relax.”

“Jeff, it’s about the morality for me. I’m the face of all this. People trust me with their stuff, I don’t want to lose that trust.”

“So, let’s say you’re housesitting for someone, and have a party while they’re away. You clean everything up, and they never find out about it. Does that make you irresponsible, or does the fact that you could pull it off mean that you’re even more responsible than they originally thought?” Jeff sat smiling awaiting Dylan’s response.

“Shit like that is why I didn’t go to law school. I hate how you guys twist everything around.” Dylan puffed his cigar, and blew a smoke ring over his desk.


“Socrates?” Dylan was confused.

“Socrates was, for all intents and purposes, the first modern lawyer. Philosophers and lawyers are the same. One’s practical, one’s theoretical. That’s the difference.” Jeff stood up and walked to the sole bookcase in the office and opened a cubby door. In the cubby, he found a bottle of Scotch and glasses. He read the label of the bottle as he crossed the room toward the desk. “Glenlivet 18. Is this swill the best you’ve got?”

“I’m collecting the 50 year olds at home. I’ve got a ’64, ’65, and will get a ’66 later this year.” Dylan relaxed a bit for the first time all day.

“No shit? Tried it yet?”

“Nah. I was thinking that one would be for the wedding.”

Jeff poured two glasses and handed one to Dylan.

“You’re not even engaged.”

“I know.” Dylan took a sip of his Scotch and began laughing. “I picked out a celebratory drink before an engagement ring.”

Jeff took a sip and also began laughing.

“At least you’ve got a girl in mind, though.” Jeff added.

The laughter continued for a moment and gradually faded out. Dylan wiped a tear from his cheek.

“Ahhh.” Dylan screamed trying to pull himself together.

“Is that something you’ve been thinking about? Getting married? You’ve been together for what, three years now?” Jeff asked seriously, followed by another drink.

“Three and a half. We’ve talked about it, and just can’t figure out when the right time would be. It feels inevitable. I mean, we practically are engaged, we could have a full blown dream wedding next month if we wanted. We don’t need a long engagement to figure stuff out.”

“Well, if that 50 year old Scotch is on the table, I say you should propose tonight.” Both men laughed again before Jeff could continue. “How much does it run, anyway?”

“Twenty-five thousand. It’s a one hundred bottle limited run. A single twenty gallon barrel each year. That’s it.”

“I might have to get my own next year if you’re too chickenshit to open yours.”

“I was going to open one of them to celebrate my next idea, too.” Dylan said before downing the remaining Scotch in his glass.

“Yeah? Anything in the works?” Jeff asked curiously.

“Nope. I’m a fraud. Honestly I’m counting on one of the Stanford grads to come up with something great, because I’m fucking tapped out.”

“You know that you can’t count on anyone but yourself in this world.” Jeff poured another round of drinks. “It’s happened too many times before, if you rest on your laurels, you’re going to get a boot in the ass. That’s business in America. Figure something out, kid. Unless you’d be happy riding off into the sunset with your money and model girlfriend. No one would blame you for that.”

The men sat in silence for several minutes, sipping Scotch and puffing on their cigars.

At 8:37, the silence was broken by the phone on Dylan’s desk. He leaned forward and answered it as Jeff looked on.

“Go ahead… Good… Good… Okay… Alright… Hang on a minute.” Dylan covered the phone with his hand and looked at Jeff. “They found the hole. It’s looking good, though. They may not have gotten to the user data.”

Smiling, Jeff raised his glass in the air. Dylan remover his hand from the phone and spoke into it.

“I’m back. Give everyone a break, I want to have a meeting with the managers at eleven to get everything straight… Thanks, Alan. Be sure to take a break yourself, you’ve been killing it today.”

Dylan hung up the phone and raised his glass at Jeff. They both smiled and downed the liquor in unison.

Next Chapter: Chapter 6