Jack is a Security Officer Class 5, which sounds important, but isn't. However, her banal life as a cubicle worker by day and tinkerer by night is interrupted when she discovers that her employer's computer system has been invaded.
Jack enlists the help her co-worker, Gilles and Adrian, an online friend she's never met, to help her track down the source of the invasion. Her investigation leads her to a shadowy group called the Red, where Jack learns that not everyone lives a life of quiet servitude.
Even though she believes that the Red are responsible for a series of gruesome attacks, Jack begins to become attracted to their worldview.
The figure stood beside Jack’s bed and looked down at her sleeping form. Maybe she sensed his presence because she turned ever so slightly.
He leaned toward her, his 5 o’clock shadow nearly scratching against her chin. “Good morning, Jack,” he said, his voice low and gravelly.
“What the f—k!” Jack woke up immediately, terrified and energized by the unexpected presence in her bedroom. She sprang toward the figure, jumping through his body and punching a button on the console sitting on the table at the side of her bed. The image of the intruder flickered once, twice, then disappeared.
Jack sat on the side of her bed, panting with exertion and adrenaline. “This alarm clock sucks,” she said aloud, even though she was alone in the room. “That was no ‘seductive stranger’,” she said, reading the currently selected setting on the holographic Personal Wake-Me-Up unit by her bed. She punched a few buttons and selected ‘chirping birds’ from the scrolling menu of options charmingly titled “Who do you want to wake you up?”.
“With my luck it's a f—king swarm of vultures.” Jack hit save, blinked a few times and around her room.
The sun, such as it was, peeked through the window as the 'glass automatically turned from opaque to translucent. There hadn’t been a decently bright day in years; it had been so long that Jack wondered if it were one of those nostalgic false memories that old people were notorious for sharing with anyone who would listen. "Back in my day," they would say, "the sky was blue and so was the ocean, and everyone was happy and healthy and beautiful."
Bullshit, Jack thought. The air was always full of crap, even when she was a kid. Sure, it might have been bright, but it still stank and made people sick. At least no one got sick anymore. The vaccines took care of that.
Jack stood up and walked the ten paces to her tiny bathroom. She did what she needed to do then stripped off her underpants and turned on the shower. After washing the night’s grime off both her body and the bathroom, she dried off under the blower and wandered over the the eating area.
Calling it a kitchen would be an insult to the concept. She grabbed a breakfast bar out of the economy sized box near the fridge and slopped coffee into her cup. She pulled her uniform out of her autoclave and got dressed. F—king blue daisy, she thought, distastefully, looking at the logo of her employer embossed on the back pocket of her regulation trousers. She wondered, not for the first time, if anyone at Bellis International had ever even seen a real daisy - blue, green or any other colour.
She stuffed half of the breakfast bar into her mouth and the other half into one of the utility pockets in her pants. On her way to the door, she went online by thinking the right combination of phrases to make it happen. The chips in her brain whirred and clicked; at least, Jack liked to imagine that they did something like that, but she couldn't actually feel or hear anything. She absentmindedly rubbed the area behind her left ear where the chips were implanted. She shuddered slightly as the image of her home workstation superimposed itself over her vision and her personal startup chime sounded in her ear.
She had a handful of messages from the night before, but she figured on reviewing them at her desk. Work had been dull at Bellis lately, so catching up on mail was a good way to ease into the day. Work at Bellis has always been dull, Jack thought, it just had been even more slow recently than it had been in the past. I guess there isn’t a whole lot to secure these days, she thought, grabbing her jacket which was covered with the words Bellis International Security in large font, encircling an image of a sad looking blue daisy locked up in chains. Jack hated the blue daisy logo that Bellis slapped on everything, so she took a perverse pleasure in the Security department’s version of the design.