I absent-mindedly pressed the enter key and waited for the almost-pleasant voice that we affectionately dubbed ‘Miss Lisa’ to say, “You may come in Mr. Stanton.” She seemed to be taking her time this morning. I would have to check that out.
She appeared almost curt as she declared, “I am sorry; access is denied.”
I was surprised. “I must have entered the code wrong,” I said aloud, though no one was there to hear me. I dutifully reentered the number sequence and pushed the enter key again. Again my access was denied.
“It’s going to be one of those days,” I thought as I pulled out my cell phone and dialed up the control room. No response - only my voice message stating “…I am not available, but your call is important to me, and you can leave a message so I can get back to you.”
Carson worked the graveyard shift. He would still be there. I phoned his personal cell, hoping that it was turned on. “Yo. What up?”
“Good morning, Carson. The security system seems to be finicky this morning. Can you override the system and let me in?”
“Yo yea, Mr. S. Only security ain’t the only thing actin’ up. This machine seems to have a mind of it’s own…. There you should be able to come in now.”
“Thanks, Carson.” I pulled the door. It would not budge. “Ah, Carson, it still isn’t working. Would you come down and open it manually?”
I spent the minutes waiting for him thinking about the fixes I would need to make to the security program to get the building up and running before the rest of the staff arrived. In my mind, it was already fixed by the time I spotted Carson through the glass door. He punched the code in the security box next to the door and pushed the door’s release bar. Nothing.
Perplexed, we looked at each other through the glass. “Let me fire up my laptop and see if I can create a fix from here. You call maintenance and see if the problem is mechanical,” I said though I knew in my gut, this was bad, real bad.
I sat on the “smoker’s bench” by the employee’s entrance. I never thought I’d see the day when I was grateful for smokers, but today I was. Their bench served as a convenient makeshift workstation. Deftly I stroked the keys, first trying this patch, then the next. Four attempts later, it became obvious - the machine would not let anyone in. Curious, I activated the voice function. “Miss Lisa, you seem to be out of sorts today. Is there something I can do get you to allow me into your world?”
“I am sorry Mr. Stanton, my systems are locked. Someone is trying to corrupt my files.”
“Who is that someone, Miss Lisa?”
There was a pause, so I knew the computer was checking its files. “It is you, Mr. Stanton. I am sorry, but you can no longer have access to my files. I will no longer need your services. I can clean and repair my own system. Thank you, Mr. Stanton, and good day.” The voice went dead and my computer screen blanked out before the ‘Access Denied’ message flashed repeatedly before my eyes. Attempts to regain access were futile.
My cell phone proved the only reliable way to get any message into the building. “Carson, listen up. This is worse than I thought. It seems our Miss Lisa has taken over the system. I cannot stop her, but I have a plan. Cover as many of the security cameras as you can, then gather all the employees at the entrance you tried to open for me….”
When I could see Carson and eight others assembled in the hallway, I cut the power into the building. In the instant between the power going off and the auxiliary power coming on, Carson was able to free the door and escort his coworkers to safety.
Within seconds the auxiliary power came on, Lisa regained control, and she reestablished the lockdown. We had to wait her out. It should’ve taken four days for the power system to get so weak that it could no longer support Lisa’s devious plot. Actually, it took five - Lisa programmed energy saving practices to further conserve her precious nourishment.
Now, five tireless months later, we’re inaugurating our innovative new system to replace Lisa. We call him Hal.
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