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Short story from the book "Firewall"

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by William Sen

The new Mr. Eight removes couriers and suppliers of all types.
It restores important files after accidental consumption,
filters unknown workers and blocks students doing
work experience and trainees.
Moreover, you get the secretary free.
The secretary also effectively protects your home against visitors,
neighbors and news.


The revolving door revolved and I emerged at the other end. At first I had no idea where I was, as a man in grey trousers and a white shirt held a scanner to my forehead and then urgently waved me on. The entrance area was buzzing with hectic activity. The people ejected from the revolving door ran first to have their foreheads scanned and then to the express lifts in the centre of the building. I was in the middle of a big company and had no idea how I had got there.

Mr. One, a lean, thin security guard dressed in a grey uniform, scanned everyone entering and leaving with a small handheld scanner that he held like a gun. The scan was to determine their racial origin, time of entry, destination and purpose. However, I neither had a barcode on my forehead, nor did I know what my task was. Nevertheless I was here.

I looked down at my body with curiosity to check myself out. I realized that my brightly colored suit alone meant that I did not match the general appearance of the workers around me. On my belt, on my right side, I was wearing a square electronic unit the size of a mobile phone. “Internal-external transmission logbook” was engraved in large, clear letters on it.

My transmission logbook beeped: “Log 01″. I experienced the need to investigate the building as soon as possible. In the same way that a freshly-hatched baby turtle instinctively feels the desire to go into the sea from the beach, I ran to the nearest express lift.

lOG 01

The company was on a total of eight floors. Workers in dull grey-black suits used the total of sixty-four express lifts to travel from floor to floor. But I noticed that other people, who had presumably also entered by accident, were wearing brightly colored suits. They represented a good mix of people, young and old. Some also had transmission log books. The departments interacted continuously. They phoned, faxed or sent each other messages about their workplaces. Some workers were notorious speed merchants. They rushed back and forth through the narrow corridors, often with the result that they bumped into each other and lay motionless on the floor.

The workers’ lack of interest in my activities was probably because I was able to blend in perfectly and conceal myself well. For example, I even managed to hide in a briefcase.

lOG 01 eND

lOG 02

The Security Department had some reason for concern in the last few days. It had heard that unauthorized persons had repeatedly entered the building. There was agreement that these were primarily people in brightly colored clothes who had obviously passed Mr. One’s security scan at the main entrance without being detected. Most people did this not only to take up residence in the offices. They also stayed in very unprepossessing locations in the building such as under tables or in broom closets.

In the press office, people had been found in filing cabinets and had obviously been living there unnoticed for months. They lived mainly off rubbish from the wastepaper baskets, ate ballpoint pens and also left the remains of their food wherever they happened to be.

An incredible curiosity drove me to open cabinets. I discovered that not only people in brightly colored clothes but also workers with barcodes on their foreheads were living in the cabinets. They had apparently been hiding there for years.

lOG 02 eND

lOG 03

The workers kept missing important paper documents, the remains of which were sometimes found in pieces scattered throughout the offices. Even when filing cabinets opened as if by magic and people climbed out with whom workers otherwise had nothing to do, no one seemed suspicious. When a worker from the Accounts Department later disappeared inexplicably in the dishwasher, other workers expressed concern only because they believed they had witnessed cutbacks. At this time, the workers had simply not yet become aware of the existence of the strange, brightly clothed people.

lOG 03 eND

lOG 04

The Board of Directors was naturally not at all pleased to learn that unauthorized persons were able to live in their filing cabinets. The new security guard, Mr. Two, was to be the solution to this problem. He and Mr. One were given the task of standing outside the main entrance to the building and preventing anyone wearing shoes from entering. The Security Department had decided that the unauthorized residents wreaking havoc in the offices would share the common identifier that they wore shoes. Initially there were a few misunderstandings as Mr. Two refused to allow even genuine workers and customers to enter the building. Nevertheless, the Security Department was full of praise for Mr. Two’s work.

lOG 04 eNDE

lOG 05

Clearly, no new undesired visitors were entering the company anymore. However, those living in the cabinets and briefcases also had to be removed. The workers in the design area were the first to take action. However, stupidly they also exposed workers from the Accounts Department as uninvited visitors by mistake and disposed of them in the dishwasher. In the meantime, I had fallen into the habit, purely for reasons of self-preservation, of keeping well away from the dishwasher in the kitchen of the cafeteria on the ground floor.

Finally, to unburden the Design Department of its weighty responsibility, the Security Department made a decision that was intended to put an end to the strange intruders. The cleaning company Cleanfit was its answer to the catastrophic situation. Every day, Cleanfit workers in white suits were to look out for people who did not belong in the company. They would then be removed, and with extremely crude methods. The fate of the compulsive pen and paper munchers was thus sealed.

lOG 05 eNDE

lOG 06

Every now and then, Cleanfit employees would also clear out entire files from the cabinets although presumably no one had given them this task. However, even such incorrect cleaning work was received positively by some workers. They commented that they finally had space in the filing cabinets again. Some departments actually thought that these measures were intentional.

lOG 06 eNDE

lOG 07

Since Cleanfit also began to do away with files, some workers schlepped their files home with them in heavy removal boxes. Understandably, they feared that these could be the victim of the next cleanup. Although the threat posed by the undesired file munchers was now a thing of the past, the consternation was still deeply felt. And it came to pass that the Security Department misinterpreted Mr. One’s report on the removal of files. With alarm, they saw only theft and espionage, even though the files reappeared shortly afterwards. The workers had actually only wanted to protect their files, of course. Finally, another measure, rather pathetic in my opinion, to prevent the emigration of files was decided. Mr. Three, the new security guard, disallowed the entry and departure of files, while Mr. Two continued to ensure that no one wore shoes and Mr. One scanned people entering and departing with his scanner as before. Consequently, there was great congestion in the entrance area. An attempt was made to counter this by installing a revolving door that was faster than all its predecessors. The new revolving door was able to transport several workers in parallel in one chamber. In the end, however, this measure did not improve things at all as Mr. One was still able to scan each individual only at the same speed as before.

lOG 07 eNDE

lOG 08

Although the cleaning workers finally followed their instructions not to clean files, there was still widespread concern among the company’s workers that they might lose files. But the disallowance of file migration also prevented employees from bringing files back again which they had already removed. Both when entering and when leaving the building, the contents of all removal boxes were removed and destroyed by Mr. Three and replaced with new files. The boxes were then marked: “Suspicious file discovered and deleted”. It was also no longer possible for many shoe wearers to leave the company. The workers thought that Cleanfit and undesired visitors could only find cabinets that were at easily visible locations. Therefore, they moved their cabinets and had assistants place them in unusual or less-frequented locations. The natural consequence of this was that other employees complained about the cabinets that suddenly turned up overnight in their departments. The cabinet migration was completely misinterpreted. The new security guard, Mr. Four, was therefore instructed, along with Mr. Three, Two and One, not to allow suppliers into the company any more as it was initially thought that new cabinets had been introduced from outside. The Security Department assumed sabotage had taken place.

lOG 08 eNDE

lOG 09

Alarmed by the latest events, further disallowances were introduced. Virtually every worker was now assigned a personal secretary who performed similar tasks to those performed by the security guards. However, this measure unfortunately had the result that even customers who were expected were refused entry at the door of the office, assuming they had managed to get through the main entrance to the building, which was only possible without shoes. Many departments could not even be reached by phone now. Callers would be rejected with the message “Unknown Caller”. Similarly, even letters to the company were returned, marked “Unknown Sender”.

lOG 09 eNDE

lOG 10

Despite all these efforts, some new strange people had succeeded in entering the company. Initially, no one knew how this could be possible. It was only possible to get in without shoes on, after all. It was soon concluded that shoes could not be the only way of identifying strange people as some even stranger people had never worn shoes and had thus been allowed to enter without difficulty. However, it was still a mystery to the Security Department how these uninvited visitors had been able to blend in so fast despite the secrecy in the company.

From time to time, there was a real onslaught of unknown visitors although the security guards worked hard. When such unidentifiable people flooded into the company en masse, it was always possible to slip past the security check, sometimes even wearing shoes.

Some had even put on white suits and disguised themselves as Cleanfit employees and were running around undisturbed in the company in this guise. They were then able, without arousing any attention, to pursue their old hobbies of eating files and writing implements and living undisturbed in the filing cabinets.

There was terrible confusion. The Accounts Department was quick to point a malicious finger at the Design Department. Other departments accused the Cost Control Department of inviting customers who had not removed their shoes. In its desperate search for security leaks in the company, the Security Department discovered increasing indications that uninvited visitors and saboteurs were trying to defame the company.

lOG 10 eNDE

lOG 11

Later it was Mr. Seven who carefully checked every intruder as an additional security guard. Some workers considered this measure excessive. And the fact that the main entrance was immediately locked when Mr. Seven fell ill was not met with universal agreement. Although it was now permitted to wear shoes again, some workers still complained that they were not allowed to wear any new shoes not known to the security guards. From time to time, it also happened that the dishwasher could not be opened for security reasons. On the other hand, workers occasionally discovered violently washed dishes.

lOG 11 eNDE


My discovery was purely by chance. An assistant of Mr. Seven asked me a number of odd questions, none of which I was able to answer. My transmission logbook was shamelessly destroyed even before I was able to explain that I was not a file muncher. Although I struggled, I ended up in the dishwasher. I was just able to decode the last message that the assistant sent. But however much I tried from the dishwasher, I was unable to stop it:
Trojan horse found in address 45 and deleted.


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