Baxter yawned as his clock sped through the theme from Star Wars. If he didn't turn it off, it would start talking about "the dark side" in Darth Vader's extreme baritone. He whacked at the clock and hit snooze.
He wouldn't be so tired but a new game had come out and he'd stayed up until the wee hours of the morning playing with some friends. Placing a pillow over his head, he closed his eyes again. He could lay there for five more minutes. Maybe even ten. He wasn't in any hurry to get to work. Nothing ever happened there anyway.
The door opened to his room, letting in way too much light for someone trying to sleep. "Don't you have a meeting today?" Joel, his roommate and gaming buddy, spoke from the doorway.
Baxter breathed a sigh, but not one of relief. Oh crap. Yes, he had a meeting. He'd forgotten about it. Again. Deliberately more than likely. He tossed the pillow in Joel's general direction. "Go 'way." Which left him nothing to cover his head with.
"Just reminding you." Joel sounded amused. "Told ya you should have gone to bed at midnight."
"Don't you have an elsewhere to be? With Sam?" Baxter swung his legs out of the bed, still glaring at his roommate.
"Samantha had an early morning meeting. That she made." Before Baxter could launch anything else at him, Joel sauntered away.
Probably for a bike ride. It was Joel's day off. If only Baxter could be so lucky. He had every reason to leave Cybernetics and only one reason to stay.
Anna Marie Lawson.
A damn good reason to stay.
Even if he had to suffer through stinking meetings like this one. Even if she barely knew he existed.
One day he'd have everything. One day.
But for today, he still had to work for a living at a job that sucked.
He rubbed his face and headed for the coffee pot. Time to do some code monkeying aka programming.
"...stinks. Your writing isn't very elegant. It's not very functional, even though you are very diligent." Boring Bob puckered up his lips like he'd just bitten into a lemon. Must be the way he felt about Baxter's code. Baxter sometimes felt that way too. "What do you think?" Bob folded his hands and looked very soberly into Baxter's eyes.
Baxter couldn't say what he thought. Not out loud. Not unless he wanted to get fired. "I'll work on that." Bob wouldn't know good code if it bit him in the ass. Now that would be a picture.
"Good. I'm glad we had this meeting." Bob stood up and smiled that fake placard of a smile he had. "We'll touch base again in a few weeks."
"Good." Baxter held out his hand for the flash drive that contained his current work. He wasn't leaving that behind with anyone, not even his boss.
Bob handed it over to him. "I see you put in measures that won't let me amend this file or save it."
"Good thinking. With the leaked secrets and all." A flicker of a shadow passed over Bob's face. He was probably annoyed he couldn't redo all Baxter's code and put his name on it.
But his words expressed exactly what Baxter had thought. "I'm also keeping an eye on my hardware. Making sure no one installs anything without my knowledge."
"In case of a keylogger?"
"Exactly." A keylogger recorded every keystroke on a computer, sort of like a typewriter ribbon. "I don't want to take any chances with the code I'm working on." The new program would be a nifty one if they didn't get scooped.
"More good thinking." Yeah, Bob could stick his not diligent comment up his ass. Another good metal picture.
Baxter nodded half-heartedly, said his goodbye, and cruised out of Bob-the-Boob's office. He grabbed a cup of coffee--his fourth for the day--being careful not to drop the Styrofoam cup, and swung by the receptionist's desk.
Intent on her phone conversation, Anna Marie didn't notice him approach. Not that she ever did. She brushed a stand of brown hair behind her ear and tapped with the pen on her message pad. "I'll make sure he gets that fax right away." She had a deep throaty voice that sent spirals wrapping around Baxter's body and gripped him tightly as his cock expanded into maximum drive.
Her curly locks hugged her head even while tumbling out in every direction. The purple shirt she wore today had a plunging neckline that showed off cleavage, of which she had plenty. Baxter ached to run his hand down to the goodness below. He'd bet her globes were firm, her nipples large and rosy, and that she was sensitive. The rest of her was always hidden behind the desk but he could always envision what he couldn't see. Trim hips, usually encased by a knee length skirt of black or brown. Tan or black hose would coat her long legs from ankle to knee. Small black shoes that encased her entire foot finished off the parts he couldn't gaze upon. She never showed her toes. Never. Not once in the three years she'd worked there. Stupid thing to notice but he always wondered why. Why no open-toed shoes? Just like he wondered about the locket she wore. Was it from a boyfriend? She'd never been picked up by one for lunch or at any other time. Baxter would have noticed if any man picked up Anna Marie. But why wouldn't she have a boyfriend? With her looks, it made no damn sense, even though it gave him free reign with fantasies.
Long as she wasn't seeing anyone, he could have all the daydreams about her that he wanted.
As she hung up the phone, she glanced around and looked shocked to see him standing there. "Oh, hey Baxter."
She. Said. His. Name. Without prompting or reminding or prodding. "Ah, hi, Anna Marie." His voice sounded horrid. All deep and gruff like his Darth Vader clock. He cleared his throat. "Oh, would you like a soda? I can bring you a cup. Bring you ice." Where had that come from? He wanted to pound his head into the grey, granite desk. Of all the things to say. You are officially an idiot.
A plastered smile moved across her face as though she didn't know what to say. "Oh, well, thank you but no thank you." She lifted her hand. "Too many calories."
Baxter tilted his head to the side. She didn't need to be watching her weight. Not one bit. She was perfect. But he couldn't make his mouth tell her so.
"Anyway, I'm sort of busy." The phone rang again with different bells going off, indicating it was lots of different incoming lines all ringing at the same time.
Baxter nodded and didn't even say goodbye. She was too busy to chat. He stalked back to his cubicle. Four squares made of rug-like material over particle board. He didn't even have real walls. It felt like it took him years to get back to his desk as he ran the whole scenario with Anna Marie over and over again in his head.
He sat down in his squeaky chair and pulled up to his particle board work station. Turned on his desktop computer and pretended to work for several seconds.
Yes, he needed to get out of this place. His muddled thoughts knew that. This job was crap. Lectures. Doing stuff that didn't make him creatively happy. He was doing programming that didn't matter to him.
Though he couldn't imagine not seeing her pretty face anymore. Even when she told him in her polite way to bug off.
His side computer business would soon escalate to the point where he'd need to make a decision about his future. Many more mornings like this one, it would be easy. He'd be able to work from home if he took the side business full time, designing software for his own company. For himself. He could get up when he wanted. Take baths and naps. Stock his fridge with Tab and Mountain Dew. Eat Fritos all day long if he wanted to.
But he wouldn't see her any more.
He blew out a long suffering sigh and got to work. There were some things too deep for a code monkey to decide on only four cups of coffee.
Anna Marie watched Baxter walk away. He seemed dejected about something. Maybe his work wasn't going well. A shame. Baxter was a nice guy. She watched as he schlepped through the doors.
He had a nice ass, too.
Not something she should be thinking about a fellow employee, especially not a...what had she heard what he did referred to? Code monkey? Yes, that was it. He was a computer programmer. Not exactly a high brow job, not that it mattered to her. Well, maybe, it did matter. She'd been going to night school for eons, attempting to major in business. She didn't intend to answer phones forever, oh no. She had plans where she wasn't going to be another flip flop wearing, gum chewing, non-working member of society. Like her mother.
Those plans didn't involve a code monkey distracting her. No matter how nice he was or how nice his ass was.
He does have a nice ass, though to go with his nice personality.
She viciously stabbed the phone with her finger, dialing up the number to her boss to tell him he had an important conference call.
Maybe she was a telephone monkey. It didn't take brains to do this job. She could do it in her sleep.
She often had, especially after night classes.
As the phones finally quieted, she rubbed her head. She'd had a late class yesterday and now it was telling on her. Maybe she should have taken that soda that Baxter had offered. She could use some caffeine about now. Even with all the calories.
The intercom buzz almost made her jump. She shook her head to clear it and picked up the phone. "Yes, sir?"
"Anna Marie, I need to see you. In my office. Right now."
She rubbed her temple again. Not good. She slowly left her desk and strode to the heavy wooden door of the office to her boss. Timidly, she raised a hand and knocked on the dark door.
She pushed open the heavy barrier and went into the office, shutting it behind her. What had she done? She hadn't been late or left early. She had no projects to get done and had answered every call that came in immediately with fake politeness. She'd been the model employee, trying to impress. She'd always come to work dressed up with her hair in place. Okay, maybe her hair never sat in place for long but that was no reason to write her up. Why was she now in the boss's office?
Bob Minor looked at her like he could eat her alive as he stood behind his desk. He always looked like that. He had beady eyes like a rat and with his grey hair, he reminded her of a rodent. She wasn't sure if he liked her looks or just looked at every woman the way he did her. She'd heard him referred to as boring Bob and Bob the boob. He did tend to drone on and on. Most of all, she found him creepy.
"Sit down, Anna Marie."
"You wanted to see me, Mr. Minor?" This wasn't good. Not good at all. You didn't get asked to sit for good news. Good news involved standing. Bad news involved sitting in the chair so your legs didn't collapse when it was delivered. Her knees knocked together some as she sat in the enormous chair in front of his mammoth desk. She looked across the great divide at him as he sat down too. Everything seemed so much bigger in his office. Furniture. His creepy look. The feeling of being closed in. She wasn't about to have a panic attack was she? No, she was just about to lose the job that paid all her bills and for her schooling. She took a deep breath, trying to get as much air into her lungs as possible.
"You've been with us a few years now." His voice adopted the droning tone of a robot speaking.
Three years to be exact. But of course no one at the company knew exactly how many years she'd been there. She wasn't noticed enough for them to know that. This couldn't be a good sign either. Why would he bring up her time of service to the company? She was about to get fired. Fired. Why else would he start out like this? She couldn't even squeak out response, though he seemed to be waiting for one. She'd be unemployable after this, probably ending up like her mother, wearing muumuus and sitting around the trailer waiting for "her day to come" without doing anything to get that day to come. She'd never finish school. The office walls seemed to be closing in on her, much like the trailer walls had when she'd been a little girl and trying to be as unobtrusive as possible. Would he still fire her if she passed out? Hope he has a paper bag handy. Instead of breathing, she sucked in air without releasing it.
He gave her scathing look, probably due to her lack of response and continued, "I know you have aspirations of doing more with this company. Which is why when this assignment came up, I immediately thought of you."
She blinked and released the pent up breath she'd been holding. Maybe this wasn't leading up to being fired. An assignment? Maybe there was some hope after all. Maybe all the time and effort she'd been putting in was worth it.
Bob got up and locked the door, which was not anything she'd seen him do before or heard of him doing. He sat back down and pushed a button on his phone. "Carrie, I'm in an important meeting. I don't want to be disturbed. And answer Anna Marie's calls, too, would you? That'd be great. Thank you." He hung up and then pressed another button on the phone toward the left.
Anna Marie knew the phones inside and out. What he'd just pressed wouldn't let any calls or pages come into his office. Whatever this was, it must be huge. He wasn't taking any chances to being overheard. She'd seen that security measure taken a time or two but only when the managers above Bob had some secret meeting and that was before she was booted out the door. She'd never known of Bob to shut down his phone. "An assignment, sir?" First no response, now repeating what he'd said. If she wasn't careful, he was going to mark her down in the stupid column and leave her out of whatever he had in mind. She sat up straighter in her chair.
"It's of the utmost importance for Cybernetics." He looked soberly at her as if assessing her for the job.
She wasn't sure how she measured up. She sat up even straighter and pulled her skirt down. Maybe she should start wearing longer skirts to be taken more seriously. She tried to look as assignment worthy as possible. She'd do anything to stop being a telephone monkey. Well almost anything.
A dark thought occurred to her. What if Boring Bob wanted something...sexual? An assignment to give him head. She barely kept from wrinkling her nose. Not even if her life depended on it.
"What I'm about to tell you must be kept confidential. No one else can know." He pursed his lips together. "No one. It's strictly between you and I."
She nodded to encourage him to go on. The way he was acting, you'd think they were with the FBI or something, instead of a lowly computer company. What could he want her to do that was going to be so secretive?
God, please not a blow job.
"In going over the communications for the company, I'm convinced we have a leak to our competitor."
Company espionage? She'd heard of it but never imagined it happening in the computer world or to her own company. Didn't that happen to bigger players? "Someone is leaking secrets to Omnitech?"
"Not just secrets but base level code. They seem to always be two steps ahead of us. I'm sure you've noticed that." He didn't raise his voice and let any emotion creep out on his face. Unlike the last boss she'd seen talking about this situation to another supervisor. This other boss had gotten all red in the face to where she was worried about calling 911.
Everyone had heard about Omnitech scooping them. They'd debuted every single piece of software and system just before Cybernetics could do so over the past six months. Everyone at Cybernetics had been talking about it. "Yes, I have."
"I think someone is selling us out." He folded his hands over his desk like he was praying to some computer god for answers. "And I think I know who." The latter was said smugly with no trace of a smile on his face.
Anna Marie leaned back in the chair. It didn't creak or groan like most chairs at the company. Must be nice to be the boss. He definitely had the better chairs. "That's great that you've figured it out." She still didn't know what this had to do with her. She didn't want to say that for fear she'd seem stupid.
"Where you come..."
Ah. She quickly leaned forward to show she was listening. Maybe she should take notes? Dictation? How did one show you were attentive to every word? She had to be. This could be her ticket out of being the lowly receptionist.
"...in. I'm sure you're wondering about that." A fake smile graced his lips, making him look like a Halloween mask and a gross one at that. His face was too thin for that smile. His skin stretched taut over his head.
"Yes, sir. I am. What do I have to do with this?" Another horrible thought popped into her head. She was full of them today. Surely he didn't think she was involved with this? She didn't have access to anything that was top secret. She was just a receptionist who wanted to be more but hadn't gotten there yet. Heck, she barely had clearance to use the restrooms here or get an occasional cup of coffee. She was too low on the totem pole. She didn't even have a totem on the pole, she was so low.
"You're a beautiful gir--woman." He amended the word at the last possible second. "You know that, don't you?" His eyes seemed to bore into her a little more heavily than she wanted them to.
She shrugged her shoulders, compressing herself, especially her breasts, which had always seemed to get in the way from recess in elementary school to running on her college campus. Should have worn a turtleneck today. This conversation wasn't going in a direction she liked. He could be praising her business savvy or her brains, not that she ever got to use them here, but instead was talking about her looks. Why? Why would her boss be discussing how she looked?
Blow job, baby.
But then why the build up about the company espionage?
"What my superiors and I have discussed is not letting the snitch know that we know, but instead, trying to get close to them and find proof of what they are doing. That way, they won't just run and hide but we'll get the true scoop of what they've done and how far this has gone." He relaxed his hands on top of his desk.
"Sounds like a good plan. But I still don't see what this has to do with me." She crossed her legs and regretted it as his gaze followed the movement. She'd been an expert in staying still when she'd been younger around her mom's many boyfriends. She slunk into herself again, trying to emulate the teenager she'd been.
"We'd like you to get close to this individual. Use your charms. Get proof of what they are doing. It's a tough assignment. But one we feel you can handle."
Bob had to be kidding. She was supposed to use feminine wiles to get information out of a cheat? Someone who'd sold out the company to their competitor? How did he know this person wasn't dangerous? Only how dangerous could they be? Most of the guys who worked here hadn't seen the inside of a gym during the past presidential administration. "Sir..."
"Perhaps we were mistaken on our choice of assignee." He narrowed his eyes at her hesitation, scanning her. "Perhaps you don't want to work for the rewards that this assignment would bring. After all, this would be a huge coup for our Cybernetics. To seal this breach would be instrumental in our future."
She hesitated as she glanced around his office. This could be her shot at moving up in the company. She might actually get an office or at least a cubicle. She'd have doors, or at least an opening, and walls, even if they were made out of cheap wood. She'd be a fool not to take this chance. After all, who knew when it would come again? "You can depend on me, Mr. Minor. I will get evidence on the person selling secrets." She fought off an insane urge to salute him.
"Good. I knew I could. I told my higher-ups there was no one better for the job." That saccharine smile was back in place. He had a coy sound to his droning voice.
Yes, Bob still gave her the creeps. She didn't think she'd ever get over that. "Who...do you suspect of this? Who will be I be tailing?" Or doing whatever it took to get evidence. How far did they expect her to go?
"We expect...more than tailing." That didn't say a lot about what she was supposed to do. "Use your charms to get information. By whatever means necessary."
She gulped. It looked like they expected her to take the charade pretty far. But it would get her from behind a receptionist's desk and into proving herself in business. God, I hope this is no one I know.
"I know it's asking a lot. But your company needs you." She half expected trumpets to play on that comment or banners to unfurl. "We need to get this settled before we plan to release any more projects. We can't face another first release by those bastards." From anyone else, it would have sounded threatening. But from him, it sounded even more empty than the coffee pot after an all nighter.
"I know. I can handle it." She met his eyes with her own solid gaze. She was determined to look like she could do this, even with her doubts. "Who do you suspect?"
"Baxter. Baxter Savage."
The code monkey was the seller of secrets? No way.