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Chapter 6 The Warning

by Deewrites 

Posted: 04 March 2018
Word Count: 3942
Summary: In 2020, IT systems at Val and Mo's workplace are going crazy and Mo is unaware he is investigating Val's partner

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Val is an acting team leader at a government contracted investigations & intelligence agency
Mo has been demoted into Val's team and unwittingly investigating her partner for leaking info
Andrew is Val's partner, has used her ID to get info that he uses to blog and sell to news media
May Church is in charge of Mo's improvement plan and has started assuming control over Val's job
The Twenty Sixty-four app (with a one eye logo) reconstructs what has taken place by linking to various devices and using their data but also can prompt people to do or see things through subtle suggestion.   

So far; It is 2020.  Mo is investigating Andrew which Val knows but does not know what to do.  Andrew also realises he is being investigated.  He has got into the '2064' software but the IT systems have started to malfunction.  Mo's mind is confused follwoing flash-backs from a demonstration of '2064'.

Chapter 6

With the wisdom of her teens, having calculated how much she would need to retire at sixty and for a mortgage at thirty, and therefore a decent salary by around twenty-five; young May Church had prudently enrolled on a Management degree at eighteen. 
What could go wrong? (unless women started working past sixty or house prices exceeded three hundred thousand)  As an EU citizen she could retire to the Costa Del Sol (God willing).
May had even taken into account that she would marry (God willing) in her early thirties.  It was hard to know why God was unwilling.  He didn’t talk much.
But, one by one, The Lord had stamped on each of her hopes and her dreams.  He was a father, so perhaps her financial independence would hinder reliance on him.  He was The Lord so perhaps ambitions challenged servitude.  He was a jealous god and so he never allowed May to meet the right man.  Only after she turned thirty did it occur to May that the hand of God might be no more than meaningless circumstances with no purpose to discern. 
She sometimes doubted that there was a God to blame, but still went to church and never admitted her doubts there.  A similar facade had to be erected for work.  She could not let the wrong people know who she really was.
Acting her role became difficult when reviewing Mo's improvement plan.  He was no easy person to deal with;
“I am encouraged that this fortnight you achieved ninety-five percent timekeeping”
She saw spite in the way that he smiled
“However- you were once late back from lunch!  Our ethos is constant improvement and so I am setting ninety-seven percent as a target for the next fortnight!”
He leaned back, then forward, as if to serve in tennis.
Mo pointed out there were twenty returns to work in a fortnight. She told him to stop playing games with numbers but he insisted each attendance counted as five percent, so his target would have to be either ninety-five or one hundred percent.  His finger jabbed down as if the numbers were on her desk.
“Look Mo, one hundred percent would be too harsh.  First hit ninety-seven.”
Mo’s whole demeanour remained obstructive.  Did he ever think positively about anything?
When Mo tried explaining again why a ninety-seven percent was logically impossible.  She had to stop him by raising her hand. This was not a maths lesson.
“Now if you can just sign here to agree to these targets”
Mo stared at the printout.  For three or four seconds he stared, before surrendering and signing the APFI form.  No one was sure what APFI stood for, but it sounded good.  Then Mo found something else that was wrong;
“It says on this form that I start work at 09:00 and at 13:00 each day”
May could not stop her face displaying the dull ache that came with hearing his voice.
“That’s what is in your contract.  The system generated those details, based on your contract”
“But everyone in my team takes a twelve thirty lunch”
May exhaled with all her body
“I am not reviewing them.  I am reviewing you” she replied, but he interrupted the conversation by saying something;
“We even have meetings at five past twelve.  Do you want me to miss them if I’m on lunch or…”
May stopped him with her hand once more.  She had come across excuse makers like Mo in her real line of work and now borrowed the skills from there to deal with Mo.
“The rules are the rules!”
“So why did this review start at five past twelve?” asked Mo
“Oh stop making excuses!”
May glanced at the time on her computer.  He was annoyingly right but she could not take the blame.
“You should have told me, Mo.  I could have changed it to eleven thirty.  You are responsible for missing half your lunch.  You should have spoken-up”
May insisted Mo must not be late back that lunch.  She reminded him again that rules are rules and “the system” generated his details, not her.
She then became distracted by her laptop indicating Mo was late for his lunch.  He was still logged on.  She asked him why that was.
Mo tapped his case and said his laptop was there and turned off.  She didn’t believe him until he unzipped the case and showed her.
“But you ARE logged on.  It says so here”
Mo shrugged his shoulders.  Sensing her authority wane, he needed to do no more.
“Well, I’m sorry but it says here that you are” said May, now also desperately trying to find the record of Mo’s only lateness that had suddenly gone missing.  His time-keeping for the last fortnight had changed to one hundred percent.  When he heard her mutter this fact he pointed out with a smile;
“Computerized records are not always right”
“Well they are what I go by!” said May as if telling him to shut-up. 
“Ms Church” said Mo with his usual, sarcastic formality;
“IT systems are only systems.  For centuries people have automated systems that then take over.  Ever heard of ‘rule of law’; blind justice or bureaucracy?  Systems aren’t perfect so let’s not get religious about them”
“I beg your pardon?” said May, with a cold expression and tone so angry that Mo was taken aback. He was unaware of May’s religious background and not meant offence.  He tried making things better but made them worse by explaining;
“I’m only saying- that application is not God…”
May butted in saying “I’ve had enough of your bigoted insults, your arrogant atheism, your mocking the law and not to mention your snide comments to female superiors.”
Mo stared with amazement.
Seeing his shock, May wondered if she had misinterpreted him..
He asked; “Which snide comments?”
She pointed out he said he wanted the review “over with” and that her targets were “impossible”.
“But what has that got to do with you being a woman?”
“Can’t you see I am?  It shows your complete lack of respect a female in authority”
“No it does not!”
“There you go again!  You dismiss everything we say!”” 
May added a new target to Mo’s review.  He would have to undertake an online course called “Respect for All”.  He made another snide comment; “oh good”.
May just glared at him,but let that comment go.
She printed out another APFI for Mo to sign, which included a respect-for-all training course.  As Mo went to sign it he observed that it now said his punctuality was one hundred percent.  May, almost growling, repeated that all the technical details were generated by “the system”. She had not typed that bit.
Mo just signed the form that said he had one hundred percent punctuality which needed to improve to ninety seven.  .He even signed the box that May had marked for him with a little cross.  It was the reviewers’ signature box and he saw May Church put her signature in the box meant for him.  He dared not challenge her again.
To May, it seemed Mo was a continual source of problems.  To cap it all, after he had left she noticed the wrong date was printed on his APFI.  No one else had that problem during their review!  That man was nothing but trouble.
She noticed the date on her computer was also wrong; so was the time and the day of the week.  She looked down and saw that the Twenty Sixty-four app was open.  She wasn’t sure how, but her feelings told her all of these malfunctions were because Mo had been there.
When she maximized the Twenty Sixty-four application, she found the image of a man appearing to look right at her.  He was in his early thirties, athletic, smartly presented with a perfectly ironed shirt but somehow menacing despite the living room in the background having a passive Buddha statue, fruit bowl and several feminine touches. 
“Hello?”  she said, to see if this was a live link.
The man looked around.  He seemed to have heard her voice but could not tell where it came from.  As she asked who he was and where he was.  He said something that sounded similar to spitting and seemed to examine whatever was below his camera..  May realised he was being filmed by a laptop he was working on.  He had obviously not been spying on her but was equally confused by their connection as she had been.
May’s link to the man’s device was cut short.  This was a serious security leak that she would have to report.  There had been a lot of IT problems lately.  Perhaps Mo was not to blame. 
“Oh Lord” signed May, who hearing her own words wondered if it was indeed ‘The Lord’s’ fault.  Was there some purpose to all this?  Was God trying to say something or just not helping things?  .
Her phone rang;
“May Church, Quality and Standards”
“Blimey, you sound the part.  Have you been there too long?"
"Who is that?"
"It's Brown!  "Quality and Standards" indeed!   Look, the Gov’s been trying to ping you.  Is something wrong with your connections at that place?”
May was caught out by this call.  She was so into her role that she had forgotten who she really was.
“Their IT system’s always up the spout, Steve”
“Best phone him then”.
*      *      *       *       *
Andrew Johnson understood time.  He understood space: not just the virtual time and space that we experience but actual computer time and space. He understood in the way a criminal understands law.  He understood how the Twenty Sixty-four application did more than just use time and other systems.  It manipulated them and he had started to manipulate it but… but might be swimming out of his depth.
His tampering with the software had exposed the way this out of control software intelligently linked devices and linked the past, present and ever the future of every bit of its network.  
That interlinking was what he could use, but now May Church had seen what he looked like and even where he lived.  Also, his partner, Val had got wise to his using her equipment and Andrew knew that one of her team, the one he called Pin Head, was investigating him.
Sat there on the sofa, for the first time in a long time Andrew started to feel doubts about how clever he was. 
He stared at the photo of him with his kids.  Would they stay in contact if he returned to jail?  Then there was Val.  The way he was using her meant she might face charges too.
Scrolling through his phone he saw ten, twenty, fifty different contacts but no true friends.  He was outgoing but alone, inside.  He scrolled through another five, six, seven personas that he had created for himself but he couldn’t find himself there. 
There was a poor quality picture of him in a suit, at a desk. He saw another, strangely angled picture of himself holding a microphone.  It wasn’t that one.  He wasn’t that one either; a university researcher, nor the security consultant that he had invented for the man he called Pin Head, when they met in a cafe.  Perhaps he wasn’t to be found online, in a file or in any directory.  Perhaps there was no real him.
Andrew went over the plastic-gold plated photo of him with his children.  He wanted to throw it away, but then saw something odd on the wall behind.  There was a small mark.  At least- he thought it was a mark but when he brushed it with his finger something hard was embedded in the wall.  A hole, no wider than a pencil tip had been drilled and something tapped in to fill the hole.
Andrew was no fool and took only seconds to work out someone was spying on him.  He would find out who did this.  All his self-doubt evaporated as Andrew’s found himself again, as he became angry.
Back on his laptop, he stared at the welcome screen.  When the single eye logo blinked, he knew exactly what to do. 
Thirty seconds later he was scrolling through a view of his living room with the back of the sofa that was not accurate.  That meant the computer had been guessing how it appeared so there was no secret camera installed back then.  When he got to the views filmed that morning, the beading and the creases that were actually there appeared in the picture.  That would have to be when the device had been installed. 
Backwards and forwards he scrolled but could not see anyone in the room placing a device in the wall.  Whoever had installed it was clever, but everyone leaves some clue at the scene of their crime.  Andrew started surveying, in detail, every angle of every room in his flat.  One thing that suddenly changed without explanation was that a bin in the kitchen apparently jumped about nine inches to the right at 11:07.  They had been clever enough to delete any images of their presence in his flat so that even the Twenty Sixty-four app could not show them there, but their mistake was to move that bin.
Andrew went over to the bin to see what the mystery intruder had used it for and only one object was inthere.  He recognised the lipstick on that piece of tissue.  It was Val’s. 
*      *      *       *       *
Val wiped her lips on a tissue as she read Mo’s review with him.  She questioned whether he could achieve ninety-seven percent punctuality when there were twenty attendances in the review period.
“I know!  I tried telling her that it would have to be ninety five or a hundred.”
Val said that Mo needed to be more assertive with May.  He said “perhaps”.  She bit her lip, thought carefully while leaning forward and turning from the screen.
As Val went to look Mo in the eyes, he looked away.
“You do come out your shell sometimes, Mo.  When you got excited about your investigation into… into Andrew Johnson, for example.”
He said he understood his research and could make it work.  She asked if that implied the opposite might be true about working with... people
He shrugged as if to not challenge her point, rather than to accept it.  As he did so, she saw a fifteen year old sat awkwardly in his seat.  Fifteen year old boys do not like talking personal things, at least with adults of the opposite gender.
“There is something I need to tell you about Andrew Johnson and…”
She hesitated because saying “me” was too difficult.  Before she could say it, Mo uttered the word; “carrots”.
“You keep using incomplete sentences, so I finished one for you”
Val could scarcely believe that at the very point she was about to confess a relationship that might cost her career, this thirty year old adolescent had chosen to crack a stupid joke.
“I was about to say something important”
He said she shouldn’t worry about that.  He was being sent on a Respect For All course that would teach him to listen.  She thought better of confiding anything important to someone as immature as Mo.
Once Mo had left, Val had to decide who she should tell about her situation.  May Church acted like she was Val’s line manager but was only a Quality and Standards “Officer” barely higher than Val in the company structure.  Her sudden appearance and interest in everyone else’s business had alienated almost everyone.
Val’s line manager, “The chief”, or God as they called him, was abroad for the week, claiming alcohol from the expenses account without Finance realizing.  Val just had to report things to someone before the truth about her and Andrew came out. 
She decided she had to call her manager after all, but his number was no longer "active".  Did that mean that his mobile was off?  Why had she not gone to voicemail?  She tried again, thenshe tried Skype, which said he was no longer listed in the directory but advised her to call another number.  She called the number.
"Public Contracts, May Church"
Val shuddered when she realised who was answering her,
"May?  Oh, it's Val here.  Um, I've been trying to contact God"
When May took offence at that, Val had to explain she was talking about her department manager.  May took further offence then said she was "covering" him for the moment
Daunted by the prospect of divulging her sins to the company's Chief Inquisitor,  Val asked when her manager would be back.  Again she was told that May was "covering for him" and asked her business.  Val just said it was complicated.
"Has something happened to him?" she asked but May would not answer;
"I cannot discuss the matter further and please do not discuss it with anyone else either.  I mean; do not even mention that he is off for a while.  We are sending out an email to tell people that I am covering.  In the meanwhile; do not discuss it."
Val made an excuse about calling on some matter of online orders with a delivery company.  May hummed for a moment before saying that Val's department had a 'glitch in their finances' but might be back to normal in a week.  She then added that if they weren't sorted in a fortnight, she would personally make any orders Val wanted to make.
"Is this all something to do with the finances?" asked Val.
May’s official tone advised her not to speculate.It sounded a bit like a police caution to Val.  It also sounded like Val’s guess had been spot-on about financial questions being asked.  Val ended the call.
So that was it!  Val couldn't talk to her departmental manager because he was suspended and she could hardly talk to May.  Perhaps if she gave Mo another job, she could stop him finding out about her and Andrew before she could sort it all out.
As she pondered on what to do, any hope of hiding the facts from Mo disappeared.  Right then he was looking at his first really clear, recent picture of Andrew Johnson.  There, next to Mr Johnson was someone Mo knew too well.

Mo shook his head. He put a hand over his mouth, one of his few habbits that ever showed emotion.
He did not only recognise Val, but he recognised Andrew Johnson was the man he had met in a local cafe.  How could Mr Johnson have realised Mo was investigating him?  Then Mo's eyes glanced back at the picture of Val.  Of course!
There was nothing for it but to contact his line manager; the one known as the Boss, Chief; God.  There was an organisation-wide tradition of calling senior managers 'the gods' or saying "I spoke to my God" after a meeting with one.  Mo liked these strange quirks at his workplace and no one seemed offended.
When Mo tried phoning, he was directed to another number, which he phoned.  When someone else answered he gave his name and said he wanted god.
"You are on thin ice with this joke Mo."
It was May.  He silently mouthed three words.  There was a two second pause before May asked him if he had finished swearing under his breath.
"I am sorry,  I didn't realise it was you"
There was much the same conversation as May had previously had with Val.  She explained how she was "covering" and just like Val, Mo also realised his line manager had been suspended.
Mo said that he had something serious to report.  He then went silent. 
“Well?” prompted May.  Mo muttered something.
“Look, are you going to report something?” she added.
Mo explained that Val was mixing socially with someone he was investigating.  He felt it was serious.  May pointed out that if anything criminal would involve the police.  She then said "they might already be interested"
"But I am only just reporting it" said Mo
May said the police were already interested and he might have to make a statement.
"We have been called in because of some interesting accountancy"
"They: the police!  They have been called in because of possible fraud"
There seemed to be some cross wiring where May asked what his complaint had to do with the question of fraud and where he asked what fraud had to do with his complaint.
"We are only investigating the financial side, not general security"
"But you are the Senior Quality and Standards' Officer."
"I am, indeed!  Yes, but the police; they are only investigating...  Actually,  I am not meant to tell you about the investigations.  I will pass on your concerns but right now do you have anything actually relevant to the question of finance?"
"OK- I'll pass your complaint on to someone"
Mo said he wasn't really complaining
"In that case I won't pass it on.  Anything else?"
Mo said no.
After the call Mo found unexpected relief.  He rubbed his hands together as he smiled.
Mo hadn’t really wanted to report anybody, just hear someone telling him what to do.  Perhaps it was Val that he would need to confront with what he had found about her.
Noticing a movement in the corner of his vision, Mo glanced at the single eye logo of the Twenty Sixty-four app there on his laptop.  It must have just blinked.  Mo could not even remember turning it on.
“Now what is the little pinhead muttering to himself” asked Andrew, staring at the live feed of Mo.  Andrew was confident enough he himself was not being watched, having removed the device on the wall and checked all around for others.
Perhaps it is funny that a man who spied on others with the latest software had not even checked his own device to see if his webcam was on.  He hadn’t even looked down to see the single eye on his screen blink.  Then again, he didn’t realise there was an investigation going on that would make Mo the ‘pin head’s seem minor in comparison. 
The real threat for Andrew came neither from Mo nor the police.  As Andrew watched Mo on his screen, every smile, smirk and pinching of his lips was recorded and analysed and the system knew what made him react because it saw everything on his screen and saw exactly where he looked.
It was the Twenty-First Century so the question was not if anyone could see, but why they would be looking.

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Comments by other Members

Carlyagain at 18:30 on 05 March 2018  Report this post
Hi Deewrites

Yesterday, I promised to beat-read my friend's novel. I'd like to read this but it will be more likely towards the weekend.


Carlyagain at 13:17 on 11 March 2018  Report this post

Hi Deewrites

I've read your chapter and made the following comments. I haven't commented on typos, as this is something you can pick up when redrafting. It's a good read and there are many interesting characters here, some more intriguing than others. I think Andrew is a great character.

I've made some comments on your piece. I think that it has good potential but it does need considerable tightening, particularly with the dialogue, which is explained in more detail below.

Here are my comments and nitpicks:

I guess she is Irish! Not a comment as such but the UK won't be in the EU in 2019, so I wonder if this is your way of giving the reader info on her nationality:

As an EU citizen she could retire to the Costa Del Sol (God willing).

For me, tennis doesn't quite work in this context, although I can see what you mean. Mo seems combatitive, so something more punchy such as 'volley' would be better.

He leaned back, then forward, as if to serve in tennis.

This is a great piece of information for the reader. The link with the man is also interesting and it is at this point I fel that this chapter comes alive. :

She wasn’t sure how, but her feelings told her all of these malfunctions were because Mo had been there.

I feel that everything before then has just been a discussion between May and Mo that is there to convey their frustration with each other and the computer system. Can you shorten this section considerably? There is too much dialogue that lacks interest for the reader. It's great that you are showing May and Mo in combat, but you don't need to show so much of this. You could even start the chapter towards the end of the conversation and show May wearied by the exchange and wanting to get Mo out of the door. You could have Mo say something that shows he is frustrated by one thing but this is one thing in a long line of issues. The ending of this section was intriguing.

The next section is good. It leads on from the previous and we get to meet the man May saw. 

This tells me that the photo itself is plastic-gold plated, rather than the frame. Also, I'd say cheap gold-plated if you mean that gold is covering the frame or a plastic gold-coloured frame if you mean that the frame is plastic but coloured gold.

plastic-gold plated photo

Did you mean he wanted to throw away the photograph or exchange the photo for another frame?

It's intriguing that he wants to throw away a photo of his children and suggests a problem with his character and relationship with this children. If this is the case, give the reader another line to let the reader know that it's more complex and then move onto him seeing the mark behind the photo frame.

It's a fab ending this section, btw. Especially as we know Val is his wife.

Sometimes you try to shorten dialogue with a bit of tell, but it doesn't always work, especially when your tell is virtually as long as the dialogue would have been.

Val said that Mo needed to be more assertive with May.  He said “perhaps”.  She bit her lip, thought carefully while leaning forward and turning from the screen.

For example, if you have Val biting her lip, she could be trying to think what to say next as Mo seemed evasive when she'd suggested he was more assertive with May. She wondered why. Maybe he needed more confidence. After all, he'd glanced away when she'd looked at him.

Then you could restart the dialogue:

“You do come out your shell sometimes, Mo. ... etc, etc.

There are a few examples of this throughout your chapter. Check whether dialogue would work better, especially if you are not shortening it by moving to 'tell' or whether you could reduce the amount of dialogue where there are larger chunks. But make sure you are cutting dialogue and tightening the story rather telling us exactly what they said but in 'tell' rather than 'show'. Tell definitely has a purpose in helping a writer to get to the point. I hope this makes sense.


This bit confused me, as we move from Val to Mo without warning:

So that was it!  Val couldn't talk to her departmental manager because he was suspended and she could hardly talk to May.  Perhaps if she gave Mo another job, she could stop him finding out about her and Andrew before she could sort it all out.
As she pondered on what to do, any hope of hiding the facts from Mo disappeared.  Right then he was looking at his first really clear, recent picture of Andrew Johnson.  There, next to Mr Johnson was someone Mo knew too well.

Mo shook his head. He put a hand over his mouth, one of his few habbits that ever showed emotion.

I think you need a scene break after 'Mo disappeared' or a very smooth transition from Val's POV to Mo's. This isn't a smooth transition so it feels like head-hopping.

It's a smoother transition between Mo (seeing the app) and Andrew's POV but you may choose to have Andrew as a mini-scene too. But that's for you to decide.

I love this ending but who is narrating? I think you need to be a bit clearer with your POV's in the third scene of this chapter as we have several POVs in this but in both other scenes you carefully stick to the one POV.

It was the Twenty-First Century so the question was not if anyone could see, but why they would be looking.

I can see the story unfolding and it is a dramatic story. However, this is Chapter Six and I wonder what has unfolded before this point. Is there much drama and action? I think you could tighten this chapter and cut a lot of the dialogue. Scene two was a great scene with a lot of drama and intrigue that you built well.

It's interesting that the wife is watching her husband who is watching other people. The intrigue is excellent and I would like to find out why everyone is so wary of each other and what they have to hide.

This is my view and I'm sure others will have different opinions. There is so much positive in this chapter but I don't think you would lose much by tightening the dialogue and you would increase the pace and the appeal.

I look forward to reading more.


Deewrites at 09:37 on 12 March 2018  Report this post
Thanks Carlyagain,

What you've written seems to 'ring true' at this stage and  I do appreciate the times and effort of commenting on it.  I'll initially take a closer look at the dialogue between Mo and May, as suggested.  I'll also consider the shifts in POV. 

I do need to go back and redraft a few things.  I've gone through a burst where I concentrated on 'moving forward' rather than perfecting what has already been written.  That was after redrafting the first, initially dreadful chapter so many times, but I now have a trail of two or three rough-draft chapters like this that need cleaning-up or maybe pruning.

Really useful!  Thanks- Dee

Carlyagain at 10:51 on 12 March 2018  Report this post
Good luck with your pruning and clearing up. That's something I am doing with the early chapters in my new novel too. I'll think of you as I get those secateurs out. smiley

Chestersmummy at 13:28 on 18 March 2018  Report this post
Hi Dee

Just like to say that I have read this and really enjoyed the strong vein of humour running through it.   Several times it made me laugh out loud.   I agree with Carlyagain that you should use more dialogue and cut down the 'tell' passages that litter your work.  You have created some strong characters, especially Mo and May Church and I especially enjoyed their 'difficult' interview (I could almost hear May grinding her teeth).  I think you need to make it clearer when you change the POV from one character to another as sometimes I got confused.  Having said that, I think the beginning (when May is pondering over her life) worked well.   I also liked the ending which had an element of foreboding and which made me want to read on.

Best wishes.


Deewrites at 15:16 on 18 March 2018  Report this post
Thanks Chestersmummy.  I am really finding feedback helpful.  (does that sound like one of the characters?)  Thanks for giving it the time to read and comment.  Dee

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