47 Random Fragments of Unauthorised Hope and Despair


ALAN was well and truly puzzled. This was the fourth time he’d tried to mail the report through to Josh in the projects office and the fourth time he’d phoned to find it hadn’t reached its destination.

He’d left plenty of time, as well, to allow for screening and so on.

He was convinced it was all something to do with the header. It was so hard these days to dream up a title that wasn’t pre-blocked due to previous use by spammers or v-terrorists.

So he’d changed it. Three times. To no avail.

When the fifth version also failed to get through, Alan decided enough was enough.

He printed the thing out in full - all 96 pages - and took it round to Josh in person. When Josh had made his amendments, he duly filed the report on the main system.

But he wasn’t prepared to let the matter drop. Later in the week, when he at last had a moment, he cornered one of the IT agents in the Refreshment Centre and asked him what he made of it all. This was a glitch that should not become a regular occurrence at the department and that was for sure.

Jared told him it was probably the title that had blocked it and shook his head in bemused sympathy as Alan outlined the evasive measures he had taken.

He wrote down the details and said he’d look into it for Alan and then was off, with a click of the chip sensor, as he hurriedly purchased his refreshment within the allotted time.

A couple of hours later, Alan was surprised to find Jared standing beside him when he looked up from his monthly stats.

“Could I have a private word, Alan?” he asked, so they stepped out into the area beside the fire exit where, everyone knew, the microphones didn’t work.

Alan felt rather ashamed to find himself there, but this seemed to be an emergency of some kind.

“Listen, Alan,” said Jared. “I have to know. There’s nothing, ummmm, dodgy about this email is there?” Seeing the look of mortification that took hold of the other’s face, he tried to soften the impact a little.

“... I mean, nothing out the ordinary? Nothing that might attract attention in an, ummmm, untoward sort of way, even though, of course there wasn’t anything remotely... that goes without saying...” But it was too late. The damage had been done.

Alan was straightening his back, puffing himself up and about to tell Jared how long he’d worked in the department, how reliable he had been proved to have been over that period and a few more things beside.

However, Jared saw it coming and stopped Alan short with a defensive raising of his hand.

“OK,” he said. “I know. I’ll explain. No worries.”

For a moment, he paused as if he was not going to carry on after all, but then he did anyway. “It’s been referred,” he said. “To security. Top level. No access.”

This just was not possible. Alan wanted to wake up from the nightmare into which he had suddenly been immersed.

Jared again interrupted his faltering effort to speak, telling him he had a contact ‘on the security side’ and he could find out more if Alan could swear this would not land them all in a lot of trouble. Alan was able to give him that reassurance. As if he would in any way act beyond the authorisation accredited to him! The thought was absurd!

Less than an hour later, Jared was back at Alan’s side, with a print-out.

“Here’s your problem,” he said, pointing to a marked section. Alan scanned it quickly. It was just his report.

“..studies from the Department of Social Cohesion have therefore demonstrated comprehensively the benefits of even relatively low-level exposure to the toxin and we would maintain that the path to more emotionally effective government lies in producing a more persuasive framework.”

He looked at Jared in confusion. What was the issue here?

Jared put his finger on the text. “Can’t you see Alan? Here, look!”

Alan looked again and still couldn’t see it and only when Jared spelled it out loud and clear did the words “government lies” stand out from the text as if they had been illuminated with flashing pink neon.

Alan felt a wave of relief sweep through him. So that was all it was.

Of course, the incident would not be without consequence. The same unfortunate wording, picked up by the security software, was now also filed on the main system. Together with his repeated attempts to mail it to Jack, this amounted to at least six counts of terrorist communication.

There were bound to be a few interrogation sessions to deal with, but at least it would give him a chance to reassess his pain thresholds.

And if his career inevitably suffered as a result it was a small price to pay for the necessary vigilance against terrorism in all its incarnations.

It was a case of one man’s inconvenience against the freedom and security of the entire global community, reflected Alan. When you thought about it, he was lucky his stupid error had not caused a major emergency.

But all had finished well and at the end of the day you had to laugh!