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DARRYL GLANCED AT his watch, then pressed his thumb to the orb on his desk. The plasma sphere replaced the rolling display of purple and orange lightning to a solid, static red ball in the middle, a tiny glowing pupil in an embryotic womb.

Security mode running: audio and video recording. The orb confirmed. Good evening.

Two bulging files easily fit into his briefcase. He clicked the titanium case shut and crossed the office to the doorway, stopping to turn off the lights.

The office flooded red, his glass desktop shinning in the orb's glow.

"How's it going?" The voice came from behind.

Panic washed over Darryl, every muscle in his body tensing. He grit his teeth and forced his shoulders to relax. What the hell does he want?

Peter Stone had appeared in the doorway without a sound. Darryl fought to keep his disappointment from reaching his face. Had he been a few minutes quicker, he might have avoided further confrontation from the nosy executive. But he should've known he wouldn't be able to sneak out before Peter could question him on what he had prefaced as urgent and pressing business.

"Shit, Peter. You scared the hell out of me. Doesn't anyone knock?"

"Sorry. Man, you're jumpy. You okay?" Peter raised an eyebrow.

Darryl nodded and shrugged unconvincingly.


"I'm sure. Just whizzed myself, but other than tha—"

"Say. Do you have two minutes? I want to run over the details of a project I came across that I'm unfamiliar with. Looks like ALIGN3.0 falls under your department."

"Of course." Darryl ran his tongue across his lips. He nodded to the data pad in Peter's hand, recognizing the financials even from arms-length. "But can we discuss this in the server room? I need to make a few adjustments and finish some scheduled maintenance on my way out."

"Excellent. Sounds great." Peter locked gazes with Darryl, and chuckled. "I was beginning to think you were trying to avoid me."

"Not at all. Follow me, come on. Let me see what you've found."

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