The Crime

The access point was designed to be used to search the archives for certain records by name. But Barry knew a secret. He quietly rehearsed the ten-digit code that had been whispered to him in the bathroom at the Academy as he flashed his ID card at one of the security guards. He felt a jolt of adrenaline as the guard waved him through, and he walked over to the screen. Glancing around him, he noticed that a security camera was trained in his direction, but if he angled his body just right, it wouldn’t be able to see what was on the screen. He cracked his knuckles and released a shaky breath. He looked around for the “alphabet board”; his friend had told him there would be one, and that he needed to “touch the buttons” in order to use the code that would break through the Great Firewall. He spotted it hiding within a drawer and quietly slid it toward him. He quickly pressed the buttons in the order of the sequence as he had been told, then he waited.

And waited. And waited longer. The Network was known to be slow and finicky, but he hadn’t expected it to be this slow. A bead of sweat rolled down the back of his neck. He started to question if breaking the law was really worth it, and was on the verge of a full – blown panic attack when the screen changed.

Barry didn’t know what it was supposed to look like after breaking through the Great Firewall, but he reckoned he had done it. The screen was a wild array of colors and mini images of animals. A small white box in the center of the screen said, “Ask me anything!”. Barry breathed out a sigh of relief, and then pressed the buttons again: S – N – A – K – E. The screen changed faster this time, and a green screen with the word snake across it appeared. Printed below it was another box with the words “Level One” on it.

Barry conjured up the next step of the whispered instructions in his mind, and guided the pointer over to the box. He pressed down. There on the screen was a computerized snake made up of a chain of circles. The chain moved from right to left across the screen. When Barry found the set of arrows on the alphabet board and pressed one, the moving chain changed directions. With some trial and error, Barry guided the snake over to one of the free-floating circles, which was then added onto the chain, making it grow in length.

Barry was playing a game. And it was fun. He wanted to laugh out loud, but suddenly became overtly conscious of the security camera that was still trained on him. He knew he could not sit at the access point for too long, or he would arouse suspicions. He played for a few more minutes, before wistfully typing the exit code. The screen faded back to the lifeless, grey panel it had originally appeared as.

Barry made a show of pretending to search the archives for a record. After a few long moments, he decided enough time had passed, and shrugged his shoulders in the view of the security cameras before walking out.

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