Time passed quickly, and Jared’s eyes began to ache from skimming so many lines of code, but this was his window of opportunity. Forty-five minutes to either find what he was looking for or quit. programming-1857236_1920He knew the risk and continually felt the icy fear he kept contained just below the surface of his brazen exterior. If they knew he was the intruder, he would not only lose his job, but the authorities could detain him too. Who knew what he would have to admit to behind closed doors before he would have a chance to plead his case? Jared squinted harder at the alphanumeric lines and scrolled faster.

Jared recognized some of the lines of code as they rolled by; it was code written by his coworkers and other coding teams from prior weeks. He slowed for only a moment but continued perusing screen after screen of code looking for something suspicious. Jared felt hot in the glow of the LCD monitor and wiped his face and glanced at his hand anticipating sweat but found there was none. Annoyed by the distraction, he ignored it for the moment.

Fifteen minutes had passed since the internal network server had begun its nightly backup. The backup process took more than an hour to complete, but Jared had given himself just forty-five minutes to either find what he was looking for or disengage. Typically, the security system would have flagged his actions on the server, but he was taking advantage of a port usually reserved for off-site data backups to cover his penetration. Recently, Jared had practiced the steps required to address any security barriers. Now, after seven minutes of typing commands, running scripts, and scrubbing logs, Jared was finally able to access the source code file he wanted to view.

Dozens of lines of code continued to pass by as Jared felt his chances slipping away. Now, he wasn’t even reading the code anymore, Jared was looking for anything that looked out of place. Nervously, he glanced at the timer counting down at the top of his monitor and saw only ten minutes remaining. His head was aching, but Jared put all of his attention to using the last ten minutes to maximum benefit. Skipping ahead, he hoped to thoroughly skim the entire source code file before the time was up. With only seven minutes remaining, lines of redacted code suddenly began scrolling up the screen. Jared’s jaw dropped, and he stared at the final lines of code. The remaining code had black blocks covering each character.

“What is this?” he thought to himself. Never had he seen lines of code redacted in any application he had ever encountered. Sure, he had seen sections of code marked for removal. They often contained comments explaining removal but were never hidden from view. Shocked by the unexpected finding, Jared forgot the timer and stared at the copious lines of covered up code. He had been searching for something that did not belong but instead found code he was not able to read.

“What are they hiding here, and how had they done this without anyone noticing?” Jared whispered. Days earlier, all coding for the application concluded, so he knew compiling of the source code would start soon.

I suspected they were hiding something, but this isn’t what I even imagined. Somebody has gone to great lengths to add code to our application and cover it up in the process, Jared thought.

He glanced at the timer as the last thirty seconds fell away. Jared scrambled to close out the file and back his way out of the network. He had gotten sloppy towards the end but felt satisfied his infiltration would go unnoticed.

Somebody in our company is modifying our work without anyone else being aware of it and for what reason I’m unsure. Jared thought.

He leaned back in his rolling chair for the first time in an hour and rubbed his sore eyes. Now, Jared was sweating for sure.

CLICK HERE to read other poems and stories by Kevin F. Wishon.

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