Dreamscapes Fiction

Kelvin Mason

Fan paced nervously up and down the corridor. She just couldn't believe all this. She ground out yet another cigarette in one of the sand-filled ashtrays the bank provided - for the punters really. Not only could she not access her own clients' accounts, she couldn't even get into the bank's mainframe. Someone must have hacked around and messed up her password and her entry code.

It was the only explanation that fit. Very funny! Someone would pay. God, she hoped it was just her that was affected. If the whole system had gone down it would cost the bank millions. She hugged her arms about her body. Why was it so damned cold in the building? Fan returned to the computer room.

A single lamp burned. It was her lamp at her terminal. Her own private terminal in a sound-proofed cubicle. Fan Ho Mei-Sang proclaimed the steel grey plaque on the stout wooden door. It hadn't taken long to get that plaque and this personal facility. Her cream smooth rise to the top had been meteoric. Senior Accounts Manager within two years of leaving university. Now, only three years later, she was an Executive Managing Director, one of only three in the bank. And, she was on the board - the top woman banker in London. Just one small slim-legged step from the top. Fan smiled, amused at her own ambition. She sat, demurely pulling the shiny black skirt down a little towards her knees. She faced the screen.
Access denied... Access denied... Access denied...

For Christ's sake! She had responsibility for hands-on management of only a few very special accounts: the elite. Now here she was unable to get into her own bloody files! What the hell was going on? Calming herself she tried again, went through the whole procedure from start to finish, methodically checking every little thing. It was always human error in the end. Or human intention. There were no ghosts in the machine. This system was guaranteed infallible. Fan should know, she had written the specification herself.
Invalid Filename.

Fan crossed her legs. Her stockings made a satisfying sexy sound. She rested her head in her hands and thought deeply. No possible explanation occurred to her. She looked at her watch (The computer - glorified bloody adding machine! - wouldn't even tell her the time) Four-fifteen a.m. Bullshit! It must, must... must be to do with the Kenyon account. Perhaps someone else found what she had, then pulled the plug on the whole system? She picked up the phone. She would ring David, he'd get over being woken up, this was critical. Then she remembered. Just last evening David had left for Sydney. He'd still be in the air. She must be exhausted to have forgotten. He had even kissed her good-bye. Fan touched the spot on her cheek now. That wasn't like him. David was a cool customer. A star that had reached its apex. Managing Director of the bank at only thirty-seven. It was going to take a major stride to overhaul David.

Idle for a moment, tired, her chin in her hands, Fan thought deliberately of her first computer lecture at Uni in Glasgow. The diversion might refresh her, spark inspiration out of tedium. An Introduction to Information Technology, the course was called. The dull lecturer with his grey back always towards them, face constantly turned away, mumbled his pointless speech. He was drawing, or rather trying to draw, with his dried up brown marker pen, on the White-board. An irregular rectangle was supposed to represent the Central Processing Unit. Meanwhile, next to Fan, Lee had hacked into the local travel agent's system and was noting the telephone numbers of all women under thirty who had booked expensive single holidays. Wyeson, another friend, was fatally altering the MS DOS system of the entire network by using wild card symbols in a most imaginative way. Fan herself had created an horrific graphic image in streaks of running red and was E-Mailing it to an ex-boyfriend. It was her period and she felt vengeful.

‘It's just like a big calculator really, but with a massive memory.’ The dusty don was trying to be user friendly.
A white boy watched in horror as his screen went into a continuous scroll at breakneck speed. Wyeson allowed himself to exchange smiles of satisfaction with Fan.

Now, she allowed herself a brief reflection of that smile, comforted by memory. One more go. Try everything she knew. Hack it herself if necessary. She wished they'd turn the heating up, it was freezing. Normally, she would normally do it herself, but she couldn't even access the building's control programme!
Bad Command... Bad Command...

Six-thirty. People would start to arrive soon. How embarrassing, the bank's sharpest programmer shut out of her own system. Fan returned to pacing the corridor, chain-smoking, dusting dropped ash off her silk suit. She had been so close to nailing what was going on with Kenyon. Someone in the bank was accessing that account: her account, her client. And they were taking away the profits like the millions of dollars were just prawn crackers!

Fan managed a tightening of the mouth to acknowledge a joke at her culture's expense. Her own expense. That's how she liked it. She'd make the jokes. She'd do the mocking. It was certain that Fan would never have to serve a drunken Scotsman with a disgusting, fat-dripping, deep-fried spring roll ever again. The memory of those student summer jobs still haunted her. Well now those leering, pasty, lumpy little bastards would pay to sniff her farts. Fan was getting even in her own way. In the last five years of massive expansion the bank had not invested a single penny in Scotland. All decisions made on sound business principles, of course.

Kenyon though did have interests in Scotland. They had interests everywhere. Kenyon was a real meat and potatoes account. A very thick dick to suck as the current catch-phrase went. Fan had always hated jargon and argot in their sector. A complete waste of time. Boys being boys when what was needed were men. There were some hard nuts at Kenyon and the suspicion was that their money, if not dirty, was at least grubby around the edges. Very grubby. There had always been those rumours doing the rounds, even when Fan was still downstairs: drugs, arms, tax evasion... Still they were big business. If the bank lost their confidence others would follow. It would be the beginning of the end.

Why couldn’t she get into the system – her system - why? What could stop her? Think, woman! Someone was coming! Fan looked at her watch. Seven-twenty. She didn't want to be seen like this weary, dishevelled and stinking of smoke. Every action is a career decision, she reminded herself. She watched as the Deputy Security Manager came up the escalator. He was talking to a man in overalls. The sound of their voices was isolated from Fan by a glass wall. It was that cute black guy from maintenance. The one who tried and failed not to look up her skirt when she ascended the stairs from her car-port. Fan had often thought of taking him home to play. But it was indiscreet to toy with the staff. Momentarily, the black beauty's eyes seemed to locate her presence through the glass, but they found nothing to focus upon and he looked away. What were these two doing on this floor, and so early? They went out of sight now into the computer room. A bit suspicious. Fan hurried to the Senior Executive Women's Washroom. De facto, it was her washroom as she was the only senior woman executive. She would face them clean and fresh. There were questions to answer.

When Fan got back to her terminal, soaped, brushed and scented, her computer had been switched off. Fucking outrageous! She was stunned. She'd have their balls! Through the door, she rushed to the fray -
a tigress. Something was missing. Her eye had registered a problem, but her brain was still trying to pin it down. She ceased her storming and stood looking back at her cubicle door, her feet still pointed towards confrontation. The nameplate was gone. Her nameplate was gone.

Fan walked without direction, her shoulders slumped. She was in a state of shock. Why? Why had they sacked her? What was going on? She couldn't begin to sort it all out. Perhaps they thought that she was the one creaming the Kenyon account? Oh no, not that - God forbid! She needed time to think. Her wandering brought her to the monitor in the top floor lobby. This was for general use no access hassles here. She'd read the papers, check the markets, that always calmed her. Fan wanted to start with the FT but before she could begin to flick through the dailies her hand froze on the keyboard.

The Guardian had her picture at the top of its front page. It was the one taken of she and David after they had clinched the deal with the Germans six months ago. A moment of triumph. Her ‘inscrutable’ smile showed just a hint of the pleasure she had felt. She had wanted to punch the air: Yes! We did it! That was the night she and David had finally made it. There had been body language aplenty for months, but they'd never got any further. In Berlin it had all come to a head. David delivered champagne personally to her room and before either knew what was happening she had turned from the report on her lap-top and they were clutching frantically at each other. He took her first standing up, entering her without even removing her knickers. There was no need for foreplay, they were still up with the power - bursting after the triumph over the Bundesbank. It was a great night, the passion heightened by the elation of the winning. Since then, there had been a few good screws, but nothing like that first scintillating encounter. The business. The newspaper photograph said it all, you could read it in their eyes.

But Fan had no smile for the picture; it left her cold. The headline this time was not in any sense inscrutable. It read ‘Bright light of banking snuffed out.’ Fan was dead. She had been since seven p.m. yesterday. Shot on her way home from work. Foul play was suspected and police were investigating. How reassuring. David's Judas-kiss burned briefly on Fan's fading cheek.

© Kelvin Mason, 2001

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