Girls do, in fact, just want to have fun. But not all girls are into shopping and romantic comedies. Some like reading through lines of code and weeding out spyware on a Friday night.
The Joy of Deduction, by Alexander Paul Willging
Word Count: 695
“Bored again!” my roommate hollered. I walked into the den to find her upside down in her chair, kicking her bare feet in the air. If not for her utterly serious expression, Holly would’ve seemed like an overexcited pink-haired child.
“Already?” I asked.
Holly barked out a laugh. “God, yes! That was too easy! It was Bernadette from the jewelry department. She palmed the thumb drive when her coworkers weren’t looking. And she’s not visiting relatives in Scotland either. She’s vacationing in Indonesia.” She picked up her datapad from the floor and ran her fingers over the screen impatiently. “So what’s next?”
Though I gave her a smile, I was sighing inside. It wasn’t the easiest thing being her handler, but the Justice Department insisted she was an invaluable resource, saving them so much time and money. But it was either this or go back to being a D.C. desk jockey.
“Come on, Ray!” Holly stretched her legs up and down, forward and backward. “What’s next?”
I checked my pocket tablet for any updates. Then I tapped it against her pad and waited for the soft chime of a data transfer. Holly grinned and scanned the tablet screen voraciously.
“Aha!” she called out. “A network intrusion in Des Moines. Possible cyber attack by Iran. Hmm… no. The bug came off an Iranian server, but that code doesn’t scan. And why go after a high school? Tehran would hit a military target or someone on Wall Street.”
“Maybe someone bounced off an Iranian server as a distraction?” I suggested. As I leaned on the doorframe, I looked over Holly’s room. It never got cleaned or organized. The poor girl had no sense for domestic living. She’d been picking apart antivirals and malware since age six. And what government official or teacher was going to correct such a high-powered intellect on neatness? My own attempts had fared about as well.
At least she’d stopped drinking milk straight from the carton.
“Hey, I think you’re onto something,” said Holly. “Iran’s a distraction. So it could be a local suspect.” In a none-too-graceful move, she rolled herself off the chair and lay on her stomach while she tapped at her datapad. “Yeah… that’s more like it. It’s a homemade spybot. Very simple, except for the foreign tag. Writes a database injection to steal from the student records. Probably looking at a teenage soap opera.”
“Cheerleader breaks a geek’s heart, geek wants revenge?”
I looked down at my pocket tablet and tapped in a Quicknote to my boss Kramer at the DOJ. Bot’s not Iranian. Just Iowan. Details to follow.
Holly, meanwhile, was rolling on the floor with an ecstatic grin. “And… got ’em! Marcus Green, junior-year. Kicked out of Computer Club for bad conduct. Suspended for improper use of student-access software. Social profiles show a high frequency of posts tagged with the name Brittany Bergstrom, a cheerleader in his chemistry class.”
When she stopped reading from her tablet, I cleared my throat. “And what about Iran?”
“Huh? Oh, yeah. Frequent search results for Iranian networks. A few public edits to a wiki page about digital security in the Middle East. Pretty solid case, so far.”
I smiled. “That’s good for now. We’ll look into it soon.”
Holly smiled, but not in a happy way. “Soon. They always say ‘Soon,’ but they never mean it.”
“Who says that?”
In a little-girl voice, she answered, “Everyone.”
My heart fell for her. I knelt down onto the carpet as she stared into her datapad, tapping idly at the screen.
“Forget what they say,” I advised her. “You like what you’re doing, don’t you?”
She nodded without looking up.
I shrugged. “Then who cares? They don’t see what we’re seeing. We know how to get the job done and that’s all that matters.” Since she was sensitive about being touched, I reached down and patted a spot the floor next to her. “Come on, Holly. Let’s wrap this case up and then we’ll go get ice cream.”
Holly’s head snapped up, flashing the biggest grin ever. “Yay! More fuel for the fire! You’re the best, Ray!”
“Right back at you, gamer girl.”
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