Excerpts from the personal planner of Dr. Rose McRoth
The project remains at 57% as it has for five days now.
Dr. Madeline Trill continues to pester my assistant for a personal meeting. I have no time for a personal meeting, but Dr. Madeline remains undeterred.
The project remains at 57% and has not risen.
The project is finally progressing, but not fast enough. We are too close to launch and too far behind for my taste. Something must be done.
Dr. Madeline attempted to sneak past my assistant today. Were she not necessary to the project launch I would have had her suspended.
Dr. Madeline forced her way into my office today and demanded we speak. She had stacks of paper files under her sweaty arms and data on her iPad. She looked wild-eyed and frantic. Dr. Madeline claimed that the project being rushed to launch would endanger consumers. Most alarmingly, she insisted I HAD to delay release, perhaps even cancel it entirely!
I soothed Dr. Madeline’s fears and promised to evaluate the data. This seemed to mollify her. Truly, her fears are inflated and the product launch date has not changed. However, the longer I can keep Dr. Madeline soothed, the better. She is crucial to the product launch.
I took lunch with Dr. Maddy. She confessed to feeling isolated among the lab crew, being one of the few women among them, and the highest ranked. I hazard to say we bonded over our careers as women in this business.
Let Dr. Maddy think I am her friend, not her boss. It will only make it easier for me to steer her away from the more troublesome facts of the product launch. If I can quell her more rebellious impulses, it will be for the good of the launch and the company, but also Dr. Maddy’s own career. It would be such a shame for her to commit career suicide over something as innocuous as a few safety studies.
Maddy and I went out for drinks over the weekend. Out of the office setting Maddy looked far more relaxed. We did not discuss company business whatsoever. It was like being in college again.
Though I decided to form a closer relationship with her to keep her in check for the product launch, I find myself relishing our closer moments. Not that I would trade it for the world, but it is lonely at the top. As the CEO, as a woman, as a person in this business, I often feel as though I cannot trust anyone. Maddy, delightfully, I can trust.
Some idiot CC’d Maddy on an email about the product launch. He’s since been fired but the damage has been done.
Maddy is enraged. Perhaps I misjudged her. I thought I could steer her and redirect her inquisitive streak to more useful matters. It seems I was mistaken.
Maddy smashed a vase in my office, ranting about the safety studies and “public health risks” and called me all manner of names.
I must relinquish my hope that she might come around. The product launch team cannot afford to lose her, and yet she is throwing her career away.
Maddy backed me into a corner and I had no choice. I revoked her security clearances, fired her, and had her work laptop confiscated. Maddy caused a scene in the lobby as she was literally forced from the building. In the chaos, I forgot to have her iPad confiscated as well.
It’s company property (technically.) I’m well within my rights to send Victor to Maddy’s home to retrieve the iPad. During the day, of course, when Maddy will be out and searching for a new job. Maddy lacked vision but I do not wish her harmed.
Dr. Madeline Trill looked exhausted, frayed at the edges. Even sitting in a private booth in the far corner of the bar, she refused to relax.
“They all think I’m crazy,” she confessed at last, breaking the tense silence. “And, well, I was stupid yesterday. I smashed a vase in Dr. McRoth’s office. But it was only to prove a point! She wasn’t listening … I thought I’d finally made real progress with her, but she was only distracting me while they kept moving forward on the product launch. It has to be stopped. If it goes through, the risks to public health could be catastrophic.”
“How catastrophic?” Nate asked.
“Widespread groundwater contamination. If it releases at the current risk levels, it could take years just to identify the contaminated areas, let alone begin to reverse the damage.” Dr. Madeline bit her lip, eyes wide. “You have to believe me, please, the police won’t do anything, Dr. McRoth had a report released that I’m a disgruntled former employee with a grudge. Nobody is going to take me seriously until it’s too late. People could die, and all Dr. McRoth cares about are her profits!”
Nate held up a hand. “We can help. Do you have any information about the product launch, these risks, any data?”
Dr. Madeline held up an iPad. “It’s all on here. I took it with me, technically it’s company property, but I managed to get it out.”
“Good, that’s good. Let me bring this to my team, and we’ll see what we can do.”
Dr. Madeline moved to hand over the iPad, but hesitated. “You know what they call her? Dr. McRoth?”
Nate shook his head.
“The Iceberg.” Dr. Madeline shivered. “She destroys everyone in her path. Everyone. You can’t underestimate her, or she’ll crush you.”
Nate nodded solemnly. “I will keep that in mind.”
“Dr. Rose McRoth is going on Santa’s naughty list this year. Clawed her way to the top by ousting former mentors, slashing the pension funds, and outsourcing to countries where they don’t have to bother with things like paying workers regularly or making sure they’re adults.” Hardison clicked through a series of images on the tv screens, showing pictures of a severe looking corporate woman, and articles condemning her actions as ruthless. Her moniker morphed from “ice queen” to “the iceberg” from year to year.
“Any mentors still around to push?” Nate asked.
“Sadly, no. Most are dead, a few are retired, but none of them are close enough to bring in for a dramatic confrontation.”
“Pity.” Nate gestured for Hardison to continue.
“Now, Dr. McRoth was recently put in charge of a product launch for the company. The board is getting tired of delays, and Dr. McRoth is pushing her employees harder and harder. She pushed Dr. Madeline Trill a bit too far.”
Hardison brought up a news clip of Dr. Madeline being dragged from a corporate office, wild-eyed and screaming.
Parker perked up significantly. “That’s our client? I like her.”
“Not a very flattering look,” Sophie sighed. “That’s going to be hard to erase.”
“We won’t have to. Dr. Madeline is going to sit this one out. She’s become too public to serve as a legitimate player in the con.” Nate folded his arms.
“So what, we just stash her here for the next few days?” Eliot asked.
“No. We’ll use her, but we’ll keep her out of the spotlight.” Nate paced back and forth. “At least until the grand finale.”
Sophie smiled at his choice of phrase.
“I’m thinking … wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Nate said at last.
Parker frowned. “That sounds difficult. Wolves aren’t very cooperative.”
“Not an actual wolf, Parker,” Sophie murmured.
“Eliot, how’s your ex-Marine?” Nate asked.
Eliot squared his shoulders. “Enough to fool a civilian.”
“Good. Hardison, I need you to bring down their servers intermittently. Annoy them, don’t trash the place, but stall their work at peak hours. Get Dr. McRoth’s attention. We create the problem …”
“… and become her solution.” Hardison grinned.
“And me?” Sophie tilted her head.
“You’re going to play the boss of our fake fixer company. Dr. McRoth will respond better to us if she thinks we’re headed up by another strong woman.”
Sophie raised her eyebrows, but nodded slowly.
Nate smiled. “Let’s go steal an iceberg.”
Excerpts from the personal planner of Dr. Rose McRoth
Victor, usually my most trusted security consultant, has failed to retrieve a simple iPad from a bitter ex-employee.
As I berated him, he actually dared to bring up my personal matters with Maddy. I informed him that such topics are not up for debate, and if he mentioned it again I would not only have him fired, but release the security footage of him and the CFO’s secretary having sex in the back of the CFO’s Mazda. Victor was suitably cowed, but I worry.
As if by providence, a former Marine arrived and offered his services as my personal bodyguard. Apparently the scene of Maddy trying to attack me on her way out through the lobby attracted attention from the security consultant world. I admire his initiative, and his discretion. At the very least, hiring him for a short term contract will put a bit of fear into Victor about his own job.
Unfortunately, our servers suffered an unexpected attack and I was forced to leave the impromptu job interview midway, leaving the background check to my capable assistant. She determined this Eliot Stone to be perfectly suitable for the position, and I arranged for a short-term contract.
Our mainframe suffered a data breech. We were forced to shut down the servers for THREE hours. This is unacceptable! Maddy is gone, our data security is failing far too quickly, and the product launch date is looming ever closer. I cannot fire the entire team, we are too close to the product launch.
I am struggling. I cannot afford to show weakness, the board would seize on anything to get rid of me. The slightest scent of blood in the water and they will frenzy like sharks. I cannot bleed. I cannot be a mere shark either. I must be an iceberg, relentless and immovable, and drive the sharks out of my path.
Eliot Stone was too good to be true. He was a mole from a private security firm that has been watching me. Apparently they seek out vulnerable companies in times of crisis and swoop in to fix all the problems … for a significant fee, of course.
They tell me that Maddy has hired a group of “black hat” hackers to attack the company tirelessly. Unfortunately her intimate knowledge of me has provided them already with several of my personal passwords, bypassing several firewalls. I didn’t want to believe it of Maddy, but they showed me photographs and even video footage of her with two notorious hackers, Cha0s and Alec Hardison. Apparently the men are bitter rivals, but can be drawn together for the right price. Maddy is pouring her life’s savings into destroying everything we tried to build. She’s paying dangerous criminals to humiliate me.
I did not want to believe it, but this firm that Eliot Stone belongs to, they convinced me. The evidence is damning. I have to salvage the product launch, my job, the company itself.
Whatever it takes. I have to fix this, before anyone finds out how quickly I let things spiral out of my control.
The firm demands money. With the product launch so close, and their fees so high, the money cannot come from my personal accounts. It has to be funneled from the company, through a third party, and to the firm. Discreet, untraceable, and easily replenished before anyone notices what’s happened. We can mask it with the frequent data breeches by Maddy’s hired hacker duo.
Honestly, were I embezzling, it would be a perfect cover. I could defraud the company for millions and blame it on the hackers. Perhaps this firm has done such things in the past to increase their profit margin, it seems the sensible route for people in their line of work.
Tomorrow, I shall transfer the money. Then I shall announce another data breech from the hackers attacking the company. Once the product is launched, the firm is paid in full, and Maddy has been dealt with, life can resume its normal pattern again.
They have everything. Even this record, hidden as I thought it was, has been copied and sent to the authorities. There is nothing I can do, nowhere to hide.
They lead me outside through the lobby, handcuffed, between uniformed officers. I looked like a criminal, and that’s exactly what all the cameras and reporters saw. That’s all that matters. Now my image is out in the world as a guilty criminal, and nothing can change that.
Maddy has been re-instated, with backpay. She has my office, I watched her give an interview sitting in my office, behind my old desk, as I sat in my empty home with an ankle tracker.
Apparently her first order of business was to fire Victor. A part of me is rather proud of her for that.
I don’t suppose I’ll ever fully understand what happened. To what extent was Maddy complicit in that private security firm’s machinations? Was she too a victim? If so, why did they spare her, and raise her up? Perhaps they are blackmailing her now, forcing her to siphon them money from her position. I watch the news footage over and over, squinting at Maddy’s face, trying to read the emotions I missed for months while I lost myself in the company. She looks happy. She looks content. She looks victorious. She doesn’t look like a blackmail victim.
Whoever they were, whatever their goals, that mysterious team vanished. They stuck around just long enough to gloat at my fall, and then they left.
I pity whoever they set their sights on next.