Once the last team member had dialed into the bridge, Julie opened, “Thanks for joining the conference bridge. I know that we all have been scrambling to get to our newest assignments, so I appreciate the update reports and your participation in this call.
“Juan and I have studied the reports, and they all seem to have more in common with each other than we typically find in so many locations and different types of customers. The exception is Tyler’s assignment where no electronic ransom demand was made.”
Tyler chimed in, “While that is true, Julie, in my case, there are some secondary issues with distorted GPS map coordinates which may have contributed to the misrouting of emergency responses. The area had an influx of burglary which needs to be investigated further. Also, since this event is on U.S. soil, my suspicion is that the perpetrators knew not to make ransom demands which would invoke all the three letter security agencies. It may be an unrelated simple smash and grab approach, which would leave the detective work to the local constabulary. I think it is worth a bit more investigation on our part. Shoring up the emergency services digital network is the other avenue that requires attention, if there is a new virus out here.”
Julie pondered momentarily and then suggested, “Good observation and interesting theory, but it doesn’t seem to be true in our other case based in the heartlands of the U.S. Please continue to work that angle, Tyler, as your case may not be connected to these others.”
Julie paused and displayed the cases on the video feed and then continued, “Now these other cases we were called into have a ransom demand displayed on several computer screens that should only be accessible by someone or something inside the digital perimeter of the company’s firewall. If these were isolated cases, I would expect a perimeter breach that was facilitated by a disgruntled employee. However, for the cases we are looking at, I’m inclined to believe that a new digitally engineered ransom-ware program or group is more likely the assailant. Can any of you comment on this observation, please?”
Brayson offered, “Julie, it’s too early to tell on my assignment as I just got here. But I will hunt for evidence with these theories in mind.”
Summit commented, “I am also in the early stages of my investigations with some interesting characters that are supposed to be helpful. Once I cut through the personality issues, I will search for the root causes.”
Summit made a funny face and then a confused gesture which caused the team to chuckle in total understanding.
Mercedes waited then contributed, “I am working with Jim, at the insistence of the U.S. intelligence community. In this situation, I’m inclined to make the reverse suggestion and say that the digital ransom demand is a cover for the assassination of this company’s automation process. There is a significant worker versus management situation that apparently caused an impact on the economy, along with some hard feelings. But we will let the facts drive the theory’s outcome.”
George cleared his throat and then stated, “I just got on site after a horrific security check with these people. This operation is enormous, so, Juan, your original statement is justified. I still need more help here, so I appreciate you both being here. I am still calculating the costs and speculating on how bad an event would be that would justify the ransom being paid. At this point it seems like an empty threat.”
Juan nodded and added, “Understood. Let’s see what we can do about getting at least another pair of hands and eyes there to make this one flow better.”
Ernesto offered, “I’m back from my last assignment in Finland, and all the paperwork is completed. Let me know where I can best contribute. I wouldn’t want to miss any of the fun you all seem to be having.”
Julie threw out one of her megawatt smiles and affirmed, “Thanks, Ernesto. We hadn’t forgotten about you. Since business is good, I am hoping you can coordinate some of the material and technology resources support remotely, as well as take on our routine short-term assignments.”
EZ added, “Ernesto, perhaps you and I can team up on some of the communications monitoring that I have been watching from each of these areas.
“Julie, I hope you don’t mind, but with everyone on assignment the monitoring of communications seems to have accelerated. Another pair of trained eyes would certainly help.”
Julie thought for a moment about EZ’s request. EZ, or Eilla Zan Marshall, had been the protégé of Andrew who subcontracted the high-tech communications assignments for the R-Group. Andrew, or Andy as he was known, was also her father. To further complicate the family business, EZ had recently become engaged to Quip and was now living with him in Zurich. She had discovered that she wanted to put her education and telecommunications skills to work. There were internal concerns within the R-Group of how much EZ should be allowed to see of the business, so Julie had hired her as a unified communications specialist for the CATS team. In that role, EZ was also a liaison to Andrew’s team which subcontracted to the R-Group via Quip. Julie speculated that the arrangement made for some interesting pillow talk between the recently engaged EZ and Quip. The move was a win-win for both organizations.
EZ was a stunning woman with long and wavy fiery red hair. She had a heart shaped face and a beguiling smile that could change her in an instant to a ferocious combatant. With her sea green eyes and 1.65 meter height without an ounce of fat on her luscious female curves, one would never have suspected she’d spent six months in rehab after a near-fatal parachute jump. As additional proof of her resiliency, she was also now fully recovered from a brutal kidnapping scenario. She was a fighter and definitely one tough lady. Just the type of personality to keep Quip in line, thought Julie.
Julie smiled at the bold conversational entrance of EZ and responded, “That sounds like a good idea, EZ, provided that you structure it so that we can scramble Ernesto to a new field assignment, if needed.
“For those of you on remote assignments, I like the way you all have plugged into your clients and are keeping us briefed. I expect as you start to dig in, you may find the situations more fluid than anticipated. Don’t wait until you’re drowning, with no air left in the sealed compartment, to raise your hand to get an acknowledgement to a timid request. These roles you are engaged in are exactly why we spent so much time preparing you. Push hard in your position, but be smart and safe in your actions. Comments?”
Juan grinned and, unwilling to let the statement go by without comment, said, “Okay, class, you all heard mother now! No undue risks while you are on the playground.”
Some of the team members could not mute their phones fast enough to suppress the laughter as it came through the bridge, much to Julie’s chagrin.
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