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The Java Bug

By Wyatt All Rights Reserved ©

Romance / Thriller

Chapter 1 - In the Beginning

Revenge, at first though sweet, bitter ere long back on itself recoils. John Milton

Once in a great while we’re lucky enough to get the chance to experience a beautiful morning that could just as easily signal the first, crisp taste of fall as it could the dawn of a new spring. Even though separated by the seasons, the sky is the same beautiful pale blue, the clouds are equally wispy, and the air has the same cool, clean smell. And even though one morning is leading to the chill of winter and the other to the warmth of summer, it doesn’t really matter which is coming on such a day. All that matters is that exciting sense of impending change hanging in the air.

And where better or more appropriate to the experience than a college campus. Hallowed halls covered in ivy and tradition, sleepy ponds, stately trees, a quad filled with students and their books and backpacks hurrying from class to class, and the simple, quiet hum of everyday life in the sacred dominion of academia all blend together to evoke such wondrous days—and such wondrous days are the essence of those sepia-toned, sentimental memories whose magical hold never departs. Yes, change was in the air. But exactly what that change was, no one could have foreseen.

In the Beginning

The life of a Professor of Psychology and Ethics at a small college in a small college town in Middle America is a good one, a very good one indeed. So Dr. Leslie Thomas concluded to himself as he gently closed the cover of the biography of John Milton he’d been leafing through. He briefly stared out the window as he sat at his desk contemplating Milton’s words. Revenge does have a tendency to recoil on its perpetrator—great material for tomorrow’s lecture.

Dr. Thomas always enjoyed lecturing on topics dealing with the poorly defined fringes of morality. Those murky, dark, and uncertain areas where the instinctual urge to protect what you personally believe to be right at any cost gets blindsided by the often conflicting standards of what society at large accepts as right—or wrong. Whereas what is moral, what is justifiable, what is an absolute necessity for the maintenance of a life worth living can be very specific and carved in stone to a given individual, to the larger world more concerned with generalized rules applicable to all, it’s not always so cut and dried. The needs of the many do, indeed, tend to outweigh the needs of the few.

Students always sweated when forced to make hard decisions on exams about where right ends and wrong begins. However, as Dr. Thomas privately conceded, that brought him a great deal of satisfaction. Not so much because he liked to watch them squirm (though he felt there were always a few who deserved it). No, it brought him satisfaction because he knew he was helping the students to think, really think—some possibly for the first time in their lives. Well, maybe forcing them to think might be a more accurate phrase than helping them, but the end result was the same. Through some combination of encouragement and coercion he caused people to abandon their safe, familiar, and limited mindsets to tackle the bigger, stickier questions of life. It’s always easier to simply leave difficult issues in some dark corner of your brain in hopes that you’ll never really have to go there. We’re all guilty of that to an extent—well, everyone outside of a handful of enlightened minds like his own—but there comes a point in each person’s life when it’s time to ‘put on his big boy pants’ and face those tough questions. And, as the good Doctor of Philosophy liked to expound upon as often as possible to all within earshot, the sooner the better.

Dr. Thomas had made his scholarly fame—fame in academia, anyway…  that is, among the people who actually mattered, as far as he was concerned— by going after just these very moral hornets’ nests. There are no absolutes, of course, but there are certainly identifiable guidelines of thought and boundaries to actions that keep a civilized society… well, that keep a civilized society civilized. And if anyone could claim to be an authority on where those murky guidelines and boundaries of our collective morality lie, Dr. Leslie Thomas knew for certain that he was the man.

He glanced up from his book long enough to catch sight of two young women jogging past his office window, which brought him back to the nitty-gritty world of the here and now. The two women smiled and waved. The good Professor smiled and waved back. They were in his Tuesday-Thursday Philosophy 202 course over in the large lecture hall. Thomas hated that hall—Winston Hall—it was just too damn big and impersonal. When the topic is something as intimate as personal philosophy or as cutting as morality, a venue that encourages a bit more intimate contact is always infinitely superior. Moreover, the second floor of the three-story structure was currently housing a computer lab, and the cold, impersonal precision of the digital world just seemed so out of place when it came to the ambiguous and ever-changing arena of the human psyche. However, he had to allow there was arguably an upside in that the situation frequently gave him a convenient excuse to ‘accidentally on purpose’ run into the incomparably brilliant—and yes, he couldn’t deny, exquisitely curvy and alluring—female head of the Department of Computer Sciences, which had its benefits… but that was an issue for another time.

Oh, well. Overall, this was still a great place to be. It was the quintessential college town, iconic in its every detail. The small but comfortable campus was beautiful and without doubt a bastion of learning—academia at its time-honored finest. Yet it was also a place of youth and life. The school was justifiably well-known for its superior scholarship and the future leaders it graduated. But alongside all the scholarly piousness was a rich and exciting campus life empowered by the enthusiasm of that youth—young people who, though admirably studious, also knew how to let down their hair when study-time was done. Yes, the school had set the bar high. But, as Professor Thomas himself was fond of saying to his last class before each weekend, when the studying is done, the bar should be set just high enough to rest your elbows on. At least he thought it was pretty funny, anyway.

Enough reflection. It was time to move on with the business of the day. Dr. Thomas rolled his black, leather-backed office chair across the floor to the closet. He loved doing that—the sound of the rollers on the old, wooden floor made him smile. He stood up, opened the door, and took out his appropriately professorial jacket with the elbow patches. He smiled as he glanced at the little stand beside the closet with its now socially unacceptable pipe sitting in a dust-covered ashtray. At one time it, too, had been considered very professorial—every bit as much as the jacket with the elbow patches. He had to admit he had really liked that pipe. It held a lot of significance as well. It had been personally given to him by the most distinguished dean the school ever had—sadly now long deceased. Just as he felt the school and its environs represented the quintessential definition of college life, wearing the jacket with that classic, old Meerschaum gripped firmly between his teeth had made him feel like the quintessential college professor.

But no more, no more. These were just additional examples of how boundaries of social acceptability change with the years. The less well-defined standards of behavior are usually the most fluid, of course. However, sometimes even areas of conduct which seem like the bedrock of society can be turned on their heads. Once a refined smoking habit was all but mandatory in order for a college Prof to gain respect. Now smoking in general was about as taboo as it could be for someone in his position. Certainly things had changed over the years, but—he had to concede—mostly for the better.

He rolled his chair back to the desk one more time to make sure he hadn’t forgotten anything—like his keys, for example. That was always embarrassing. After a quick inspection left him confident that he had everything he needed, he got up and walked to the office door. But as he reached for the light switch he remembered that there was, in fact, something he forgot. With a light-hearted sigh he headed back to the desk where his laptop was still running. How could he have forgotten that little item?

He plopped back down into his oh-so-professorial leather chair. Before shutting the unit off, he clicked through a couple screens of information just for good measure, and in the process noticed that he’d just received some email. He was anxious to get out of the office and normally would have left the note till later but it was addresses to himself personally from a trustee of the University, so he thought he should probably take a quick look.

He clicked on the link and opened the email. But instead of any information from the school, it contained nothing except gibberish. Another damned piece of spam. God, it always frosted him to think about all the losers out there who have nothing better to do with their own time than to screw with decent people’s time and then laugh about it. He clicked on the link again and hit delete, then he tapped the shutdown button.

But as he was in the act of closing the machine by folding down the screen, he noticed the computer was still on. He reopened it fully. In the mere handful of seconds that had transpired, his inbox began to flood with a deluge of spam. Another goddam email attack! Why does this shit continue to happen to him? Why the hell does it have to happen to anybody?

He began to swear, striking the shutdown key again and again, but to no avail. His anger increased, and he could feel his face getting warm as the blood rushed to his temples. He looked at the ever-growing tide of junk mail and saw that on top of all else, each and every one contained the word “LOSER” in the subject line.

In a knee-jerk fit of rage he jumped up from his desk, grabbed the nearest object at hand and threw it at the laptop. Luckily it missed the computer, but smashed against the office wall. As the shards of whatever had just shattered bounced onto the floor, he felt warm liquid splashing onto his face, bringing him back to a somewhat calmer state. But the calm did not last long. He realized almost immediately what had happened. The warm liquid was coffee, and what he had smashed in anger was nothing less than an antique cup he had been given by the self-same revered Dean who had presented him with the pipe.

At the realization of what this perverse prank had just cost him—undoubtedly a hilarious joke in the mind of the twisted, jackass prankster who had engineered the spam attack—he exploded in fury. He picked up the computer itself and was about to hurl it against the wall as well, when his attention was arrested by the device’s screen. It was black, the laptop was off. He slowly lowered his arms and looked around, baffled as to how this had come about. He saw the power cord dangling near his feet. That’s right. The battery had been low, so he’d been running it from the power adapter which had obviously come unplugged when he had grabbed the unit from the desk. He sat back down, shaking.

He plugged the adapter back in and rebooted the computer. It went through the usual rigmarole involved with restarting after a crash, which only served to give him a chance to get mad again as he spent the time gazing at what remained of his coffee cup. Lord, if he only knew who was doing this internet crap. He envisioned catching the scoundrel all alone in some dark alley and kicking him so hard in the ass that his shoe got stuck in it. Grudgingly, he had to laugh. The thought of such a scene was about as funny as the crime was serious.

It took a while for his laptop to get back up and functioning. He’d noticed that it seemed to be running a lot slower in general since the spam attacks had begun several weeks earlier, but no matter, it was still working. He clicked on the icon for his browser software in order to return to his webmail account at the University, but nothing seemed to be working. With mounting frustration he clicked on it several more times, but still it was a no-go. At length an error message popped up informing him that there was no internet connection to be had. He felt the heat of anger rising within him once more.

After a number of additional attempts to access his email he decided it might be best to just leave it alone for a few minutes and see if it would eventually make the connection on its own. To pass the time he began to pick up the broken shards of his coffee mug. There were quite a few and many were very small, so he pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and began to place the fragments into it to make it easier to keep them together.

He had to get down on all fours and crawl around to find the bulk of the splintered pieces, which meant that the legs of his pants ended up wet with stale coffee, which in turn served only to irritate him further. Then while scooting to his right to reach down for a larger shard under the desk he felt a sharp, sudden pain in his knee. Reflexively he jumped up, but in the process smacked the back of his head against the bottom of the desk drawer. He fell face-first, flat onto the floor. As he lay there moaning he eventually became aware that there was a large fragment of the cup right in front of his nose. He recognized it as the handle. His smoldering anger gave way once more to outright rage. When the Dean had presented him with the gift so many years before, he had taken a small pocketknife and carved the date onto the handle as a reminder of the event and a token of friendship. In the mind of the Professor the indignity of this whole sad incident had just been literally shoved right in his face.

Thomas launched into an unbroken tirade of curses until the tantrum exhausted him sufficiently and most of the frustration was out of his system. Goddamn whoever was the horse’s ass playing such idiotic pranks with the email. Goddamn the sonuvabitch whose warped joke was also the root cause of all the difficulties he’d been experiencing of late while trying to get his work done on the computer—the slowdowns and interruptions of service—and who now was the monster that had cost Thomas a precious keepsake from one of the few people for whom he had true respect.

Thomas carefully picked himself up off the floor and placed the handkerchief with the broken remnants of his beloved keepsake on the desk. He sat down in his chair and pulled the computer toward him. He clicked through a few screens and saw he still had not been reconnected to the net. No matter, he’d get back to that later. Right now his main concern was the condition of the laptop itself and the valuable research files it contained.

He moved the mouse across the screen and selected the folder holding the most critical documentation. He selected the first file listed and opened it. He gave it a quick once-over and was satisfied that everything was in good order. Next he clicked on the second file listed. Nothing happened. He checked to make sure he’d selected the right item. It turned out to be the file he’d thought it was, so he clicked on it again—and again.

Eventually the document did open, but it was nothing more than a field of jumbled, meaningless characters. The Professor began to get nervous. These documents represented the heart of the most significant work he’d ever done—a ground-breaking study on human psychology that he knew would catapult him onto the world stage and serve to make his name synonymous with the likes of Freud, Jung, Fromm, Skinner, and Adler.

Apprehensively he started to work his way through all of the files. To his abject horror, although most opened normally, many others appeared to be damaged or completely destroyed. His search became increasingly frantic with each passing second, and his thoughts more disjointed as the extent of the potential loss grew more apparent.

Though he had no idea how it might help or why he was even bothering to do it, he quickly paged back through all the open windows on the computer screen in search of his browser menu to see if the internet connection had been reestablished. He poked the refresh icon a few times, but no luck.

He leaned back in his chair, exhausted, furious, and at a complete loss for what to do, and began to rub his forehead in a desperate effort to jumpstart his brain. He looked around the office for anything that might spark a helpful thought, then down at his desk to the little pile of broken porcelain that had once constituted a memento of deep personal import—made all the worse because, as he had reflected upon mere moments before, it was from the one person for whom Thomas had profound respect.

Ironically, however, that very thought—a thought forged by the seeming helplessness of the situation—was the thought that provided the spark of insight to as to where he might find the help he was seeking. Certainly the Dean had been someone Thomas profoundly admired, but not truly the only person. There was one other individual he valued equally highly and who was the person which might be able to come to his aid now. And that was none less than the self-same brilliant beauty whose lovely visage had so fully occupied his brain mere minutes ago—the Dean of the Department of Computer Sciences, Dr. Susan Philips. Granted, it was a small department, but it was still a genuine department at an elite college, and she was still the Dean. However, although the reason she occupied such a dignified position was because of her indisputable intellect and abilities, Thomas had to privately acknowledge that the reason she had come so quickly to his mind was more likely due to a far less dignified animal instinct.

Oh, well, those particular thoughts were best kept to himself for another time. He could fantasize all he wanted about his slim chances of getting to know her better on a personal level later. Right now he needed her in her professional capacity, the authority on all things technical and the number one hope to get his computer back on line and—far more significantly—to recover his precious research files.

Thomas got out his campus phone directory and opened it to the Department of Computer Sciences. He had to chuckle as he set it aside. He’d picked up the phone directory merely out of habit. He knew Dr. Philips’s extension quite well. He’d called it on previous occasions in the past regarding University business and he’d contemplated calling it a thousand other times on personal business, but never quite had the courage to take that chance.

Whenever he had had reason to call Dr. Philips in the past it usually was due to technical issues brought up in the midst of a staff meeting or something similar, and as a consequence the calls tended to be made in the presence of others. Therefore, on those occasions Thomas felt that for propriety’s sake it would be best to maintain the appearance that his interest in Dr. Philips was purely professional. And, being as shrewd as he was, he found that a clever way to convince any others present that images of her weren’t perpetually dancing through his head was to act as though he couldn’t even remember the main Department Computer of Sciences number, let alone her personal extension. Granted, a juvenile bit of chicanery, but it seemed to do the trick. However, the upshot was that he knew her number… well.

He picked up the phone and began to dial. He noticed his heart beat increase and his forehead getting warm. God, he was acting like a teenager calling a girl in class for a first date. You would think that as we get older things like this would get easier—but apparently you’d be wrong. Thomas could hear Philips’s phone ringing now. His throat was getting dry. “Jesus, snap out of it, man!” he scolded himself. “This actually is a business call! Act your age and deal with it.”

He heard the receiver pick up, and then he heard it… her voice. Oh, shit, he could feel himself melting. But right now it was time to act like a grown-up, for Christ’s sake!

“Hello, Philips here”

“Hello… umm, Dr. Philips?”

“Yes, Philips here… speaking,” came the reply with a noticeable touch of impatience.

A moment of dead silence ensued, which had the effect of causing the Professor’s blood pressure to skyrocket—which, in turn, naturally had the effect of making the whole situation even more uncomfortable. Another tense second passed by before he was able to bring himself to continue nervously, and then only with great hesitation.

“This, uh… this is Dr. Thomas over in Humanities.”

The tension was broken by a suddenly upbeat change in Susan Philips’s tone of voice. “Oh, yes! Hi, Dr. Thomas. How can I help you?”

“I’m working on some important research but I’m having problems with my computer, so I need help getting it taken care of right away. I figured the best way to do it was to go right to the top, so I called you.” The Professor chortled apprehensively in a weak attempt to reduce his own stress.

“How kind, thank you. What sort of problems are you experiencing?”

“Let’s see… first I got slammed by one of those spam attacks that have been going around the University, and now I can’t even get back onto the net.”

Philips sighed. “Well, one thing I can tell you for sure is not to bother trying to get onto the net for a while. There’s an outage that’s College-wide. As I’m sure you’re aware, there’s some type of very sophisticated, very dangerous, and very evasive virus that’s been attacking the school’s main servers recently. And since the whole campus system is routed through them, anything that affects them affects every computer linked through that system. We’ve been working on it, but so far solid answers as to just how the damn thing hides itself before striking have eluded us.”

“Do you have any idea at all when I might be able to get back on?”

“Not really, but hopefully sometime later today. It’s serious enough that I’ve put the best talent I have available on it. In fact, I’ve got the brightest student I’ve ever had is looking into it as we speak. I fear he won’t be able to cleanse the whole system of the virus tonight, but I have every faith and confidence that he’ll get the system back to an acceptably functional state soon.”

“So, Dr. Philips, what you’re telling me is basically the net will be up and running again whenever it’s up and running again.”

“Pretty much.”

“Wow, that’s… that’s serious,” Thomas said slowly as the possibilities of how this development might negatively impact his research project started to sink in.

“Yeah, it’s very serious,” Philips responded. “In the meantime, whatever you do, just be careful, OK? And stay the hell away from those emails. Don’t open any, just trash ‘em right away—they could have the bug we’re talking about.”

“OK,” Thomas responded guardedly. “Will do. Thank you, Dr. Philips. Goodbye.”


Thomas put the phone down with absentminded distraction. His main focus was on the fact that he had opened some of the emails and he couldn’t deny his computer was now starting to act up. What if his computer was infected beyond repair? What would happen to all his research?

The perverse irony of it all was the fact that the desire to protect his anticipated award-winning research was the very thing that had put it at risk. In an effort to limit the chances of someone stealing what he had been so diligently working on, with great effort he had stored everything—everything—on this one, single laptop so he could keep it by his side at all times. Yet now, by minimizing the threat of theft, he had inadvertently maximized the threat of loss.

He leaned back deeper into his chair and pondered both the ramifications of the dilemma and the possible avenues of deliverance from it. He had to protect his project, naturally, but he still had to keep it under wraps as far as possible.

At last he perceived a glimmer of light at the end of the dark tunnel. Even though the main research resided on just the one computer, he had, in fact, backed up a couple of the less critical things onto a flash drive. The solution became obvious. He would take Philips’s advice—to a degree, anyway. He would bow to the harsh reality of the situation and back up all of his research files to the flash drive—but only to that one small drive. So although there by definition would be multiple copies of his work, it would in reality consist of only two copies in total. And, equally importantly, the whole shebang would reside on devices physically small enough that he could keep them both with him at all times.

Thomas opened his desk drawer, rummaging through the chaotic jumble of miscellany it contained in search of the backup. He had to admit it certainly wasn’t an overly organized method of filing things, especially for a man of his stature, but it sufficed for him—and, moreover, nobody else needed to know about his messy workspace.

After several minutes he did at last find what he was looking for, and over the next hour or so the Doctor went through his entire cache of material item by item, taking meticulous care to ensure that nothing was left out. The task was even more tedious than he’d expected, but it had to be done nonetheless. However, as the time wore on and his nerves wore progressively thin, the demon of anger which this situation had aroused—and which he had managed to keep under reasonable check despite repeated provocations—began to raise its ugly head afresh.

The idea that there were actually people in this world with great technical skills which could and should be used to help mankind, but who instead took some perverse delight in disrupting and destroying the property, labor, and—in extreme cases like identity theft—the very lives of honest people just trying to go about their daily business made him sick to the core of his being. What was wrong with them? What was wrong with the whole damn world?

Some were just blatant criminals, of course, stealing identities for no other reason than to cash in on them.But others were plain sick—little people with big egos who felt the world didn’t recognize or properly reward their own fantasized greatness. Little people with big problems who were quite willing to boost the distorted notions they held of themselves by blindly lashing out and indiscriminately hurting the innocent and defenseless. Cowardly degenerates—usually immature and sexually frustrated, or else purely and completely socially inept—whose psyches were so hopelessly twisted by their own glaring inadequacies that they somehow really believed their destructive deeds raised them above the crowd—despite the fact they hid their true selves in the shadows like the vile vermin they were.

The incensed voices of moral outrage which had been rising in his feverish brain were now screaming with such intensity that he was no longer able to concentrate on backing up the precious files. He found himself fixedly starting into space as he became increasingly obsessed with the proposition of what would constitute justifiable retribution for the actions of such slime bags. Fines, community service, incarceration? The more he considered the extent of the damage that could be caused by reprobates of this magnitude, the more it was clear to him that the standard forms of justice would constitute nothing less than injustice—injustice to the parties injured by the crimes. The perpetrators deserved overwhelming punishment commensurate with the overwhelming extent of their depravities. Drawn out, extreme, and aggravated punishment.

Hmm… ‘aggravated punishment’. Wasn’t that the ancient Roman euphemism for torture? Yes—yes, it was. And the Romans knew how to torture, too. So where’s a good, crusty Centurion with a splintery, rugged cross and some big, rusty nails when you need him? That might prove to be the ticket in this situation.

That wasn’t merely idle reflection founded in anger on his part, either. He could cite countless studies confirming the notion that often the best deterrent against possible future misdeeds was by providing a vivid, brutal example of the potential consequences for those misdeeds. The only real question was how to tailor the exact nature and severity of those consequences in such a way that they would have the maximum impact—and determining the exact psychological buttons one needed to push in order to produce the greatest impact on the otherwise enigmatic and hazy realm of the mind was something right up his alley. After all, he was widely recognized as one of the authorities on the human condition—if not the authority. Yes, he knew which buttons to push, by God.

Something about that last observation seized his attention. Yes—yes, he was, in fact, the authority on the human condition, he did know which buttons to push to get a reaction out of such base villains—actually, to get a reaction out of anybody, for that matter—and in the process those reactions would force the scoundrels to expose their inner selves to public scrutiny and, ultimately, to the searing, penetrating light of justice. So despite current appearances, in the long run he actually held the upper hand… he would know exactly what to do if and when the moment ever came.

Thomas sat back with a pompously majestic flourish, raised his eyes toward the ceiling, and began to laugh uncontrollably—harder and harder, louder and louder, until his cackling reached a state of maniacal shrieking driven by wild thoughts of the cold, inexorable, and total retribution against the currently anonymous, but soon to be exposed criminals, which in the end would constitute his own great victory.

Truth be told, this whole thing was almost too perfect. A mocking smile—so unnaturally gargantuan it bared nearly every tooth in his mouth—broke across the entirety of his face as he began to take heart over this sudden, marvelous insight as to what the future held in store. Dammit, he was the authority on the human mind and how to uncover its deepest, darkest secrets, and it was his research—the very project now at risk to the computer virus—that would eventually save him by compelling those responsible to come forward (and the beauty part, due to the unparalleled subtle ingenuity of his approach) without them even realizing what was happening. After which, it goes without saying, out of sheer magnanimity he would announce to the oblivious inhabitants of the rest of world how he, Dr. Leslie Thomas, had saved them without their slightest awareness or assistance. They could then demonstrate their gratitude in some manner befitting his actions.

The reason for this imminent reversal of tormentor and tormented was elementary. The essence of the secretive yet groundbreaking work which he was now striving to protect revolved around the dual themes of studying both the underlying causes of what drove people to such socially destructive criminal behavior as was plaguing him now—behavior such as criminal acts which had no specific goal or target—and then using that knowledge to effectively combat the indiscriminate evil of those deranged perpetrators, unerringly identifying and removing them from the healthy society they would choose to senselessly destroy before they could even pull it off.

It was all so clear—when Thomas finally released his findings to the public, the first to be caught and brought to justice by use of his pioneering methodologies would be degenerates just like the ones behind the virus. What a hysterically funny and appropriate way to turn the tables! His own future great fame would be brought about by the utter destruction of those cowardly wretches whose random maliciousness unwittingly targeted the instrument of their own downfall--Thomas’s epic study!

Brilliant minds like Dr. Philips’s might be currently striving very diligently to limit the potential damage by seeking a way to control the spread of the virus itself, but it was up to a true genius like himself with his innovative techniques tobypass all that pointless and time-consuming hassle by simply identifying the lawbreakers themselves and thereby solving everything in a swift, single stroke by cutting off the problem right at its root.

Presently, some odd sounds from the computer’s hard drive jerked Thomas out of his rambling musings and back to the urgency of the pressing task at hand. Damn, it was slowing down. He understood the significance—it was that confounded malware. He had to buckle down and get this backup finished ASAP.

Anxiety began to mount palpably and it felt like the process would take forever as the unit sputtered in increasingly lengthy and erratic fits and starts. Ultimately, the worst case scenario became a reality—the device crashed completely. Oh, Jesus H. Christ, what now?

The Doctor sat back for a moment and pondered his options. Maybe it wasn’t quite as bad as he feared. In recent days the laptop had crashed on a couple occasions, but thus far he had always managed to reboot it after a short period of downtime.

Oh well, he concluded, the only thing he really needed was for it to restart one more time so the remaining files could be backed up from his endangered, infected laptop to the flash drive—now his ultimate defense against disaster. Yeah, that’s it. Just one more time… after all, he had gotten the bulk of them copied—that was something, wasn’t it? A definite step in the right direction.

He closed his eyes, sighed heavily, and rubbed his aching head. He wasn’t the proverbial prayin’ sort of man, but he had to admit right now he was hoping to God he had managed to elude what could easily have been the worst calamity of his entire career. With a little luck he’d only have to call on Jesus H. Christ one more time.

And speaking of time, it was time to get on with business as usual. He resolutely slapped his hands on the arms of the leather-backed chair, stood up, gathered his things, took a quick look around his office, shut off the lights, locked the door, and walked out to his car in the staff parking lot right behind the building that housed his office. How convenient to have his ride so close, he reflected, especially during the winter. Nonetheless, he decided that in light of the drama he’d just been through, rather than driving, a brisk walk to his next destination in the crisp, cool air might be the best medicine. It might also be the best medicine for his ailing laptop by providing it with a little of the crucial downtime he knew it so vitally needed.

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aeratheninja: Interestingly enough, this story touches on different psychological states and was very informing, on top of being a solid story. Although somewhat predictable, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this; I could feel the fear and the frustration of the characters, and was happy when they were happy.Even ...

Ali Albazaz: I started reading "Caged" few hours ago and I'm on chapter 7 now. Caged is definitely one of the most addictive stories I've ever read. Thank you so much for writing this novel.

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FreakyPoet: "you made me laugh, made me cry, both are hard to do. I spent most of the night reading your story, captivated. This is why you get full stars from me. Thanks for the great story!"

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Sara Joy Bailey: "Full of depth and life. The plot was thrilling. The author's style flows naturally and the reader can easily slip into the pages of the story. Very well done."

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Ro-Ange Olson: "Loved it and couldn't put it down. I really hope there is a sequel. Well written and the plot really moves forward."