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Ghost in the Machine (Ep. 3 Pt. 2)


The monitor flashed the words – a stark white message on an indigo black background – then vanished as quickly as it had come.
Rue blinked, eyes darting over the half-a-dozen open windows on his computer. The hell?
Clicking a few commands he ascertained that nothing unusual was running in the background, no ports open he hadn't himself authorized.
With a wary look to his coffee cup, noting the finger-ful of scotch still within, he resumed his clicking about on the Internet.


Unmistakably and inexplicably the message hung around a touch longer this time. It prompted a more thorough search from the now truly irked PI.
Something? Maybe​? Rue bit down on his cigarette as he hunted down the backdoor he'd left open for when he needed to search more, ahem, intently in systems he himself ought not have access to. He supposed it stood to reason that such a port could go both ways, even for one as careful as him.


Erecting roadblocks as fast as he could, Rue managed to get in a message of his own. Clearly the other end desired a dialogue. Shutting them out completely wouldn't get him any clues.


The screen went black. Or maybe it was Rue fainting as he recognized the sign off...

A presence in the room roused Rue Dobbs from his slack-jawed slumber. The keyboard dangled from its cord, forgotten, while a series of colorful geometric shapes floated aimlessly over Rue's idle monitor. Taking in the scene Rue assessed that, no, there was little chance at all that he could claim to have been hard at work during Mrs. DeLange's unannounced entrance.
He sat up with a snort, blinking as much dignity as he could into sleep-muddled eyes.
I need your help, Rue.” Millicent tapped her toe impatiently from her perch in the doorway.
Don't you knock?” Rue winced, bending over in his chair to put to rights his wayward keyboard. He risked a glance at the screen as it flickered to life. The dull reality of his Inbox blandly stared back, no mysterious messages lay in wait.
I did.” Millicent didn't budge. “And you said 'come in'.”
Huh. Well, he supposed sleep talking was no odder than the frighteningly vivid dreams he'd been having. Product of an addled mind, no doubt aided by Mrs. Frazzled-be-cuckoo over there.
The nap had clearly done Rue little good. He again glanced uneasily at his screen, the nervous action an ironic cue for Millicent's next words.
I'm having computer trouble. If you could come in here a moment...”
The words were a precursor to the woman's finally leaving his doorway and Rue took advantage of the reprieve. A swish of his warmed scotch cleansed teeth, breath, and mind. On his feet, Rue was awake and ready for action.
Wha's the problem?” Even awake he found he had to think hard to avoid slurring the question much further.
Everything.” Millicent gestured to the beige fossil on her desk, then to the pile of neat and tidy notes that lay nearby.
Puzzled into curiosity, Rue glanced to the indicated papers. “Yes?”
First off. I don't even know what that woman means by roll-play-ing-game. Secondly-”
Rue cut her off. “Really?”
Millicent ignored the incredulous question, though whether it was because she was a kind soul or had merely moved on to her next dilemma was unclear. “How do you get... on...” She broke off to peer at her notes. “Online...?”
Rue nearly swallowed his tongue.
Was Millicent serious?