“You look awful,” Manny observed. I’d seen the bags under my eyes in the mirror before I left. Since my aesthetic didn’t include the application of makeup, there was no covering up. Still, I was well aware of how my lack of sleep affected my appearance.
“Thank you, Manny. But I’m not here for your compliments.” I reached into my backpack and took out what I wanted him to give attention to.
“Oh?” He took the tower from my hands and walked to up to his workstation. “What’s wrong with it?” He glanced at me in between making adjustments.
“I don’t know,” I answered. “The webcam came on last night.”
“Did you have…” Manny was the smartest guy I knew when it came to technology. He was also a little paranoid. He’s the one that told me to tape everything with a camera. My phone, my webcam, my laptop, everything had a piece of scotch tape applied to distort any images taken without my consent.
“Yes, it was covered, but is there any way to increase the security on it. I can’t have random hackers just playing around with my hard drive.”
“I put some pretty good stuff on this last time. If someone turned on your webcam, they weren’t some random hacker.” His attention left me and turned to the monitors in front of him. “What the…?”
“Well whoever it was that got in, left something behind. This code is pretty complex.”
“Well can you figure out what it is?”
“Sure. They planted a worm in your hard drive. According to this it’s supposed to report hourly to…” He scribbled down some numbers and started typing again. “This can’t be right.”
“This worm is supposed to report to the EPA or at least someone with an office in the building.”
“Can you remove it?”
“Sure, but why would the EPA hack your computer?” I shook my head. “Give me a couple of hours to do everything.”
I left Manny to go to the library. I didn’t want to go back to my apartment just yet. Finding my favorite desk, I plopped down and decided to open the mysterious envelope.
Opting for the more colorful pages it contained, I tried to make sense of a correspondence between two scientists with doctorate degrees. Only in my third year as an undergrad, I knew what I was looking at, but its significance eluded me. Maps of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, genetic lab results, and a letter were the contents of the envelope.
The letter was short and even cryptic.
If they succeed, the world as we know it changes. I’m afraid we might be too late.
Who was they? What could change the world and scare an oceanographer? Why would she correspond with an ecologist?
I turned my attention to researching the Environmental Protection Agency. Going directly to their website, I found the following:
“Born in the wake of elevated concern about environmental pollution, EPA was established on December 2, 1970 to consolidate in one agency a variety of federal research, monitoring, standard-setting and enforcement activities to ensure environmental protection. Since its inception, EPA has been working for a cleaner, healthier environment for the American people.”
Curious about how it was run, I looked up more.
“Laws written by Congress provide the authority for EPA to write regulations.”
“Regulations explain the technical, operational, and legal details necessary to implement laws.”
From what I understood, the EPA received authority from Congress to determine how laws concerning the environment should be carried out. Not all the information on the internet praised the agency. Some showed how certain industries didn’t agree with the EPA’s actions.
Of course, oil companies wouldn’t want restrictions on carbon emissions. Some argued that micro-managing of water sources when implementing the Clean Water Act could lead to useless lawsuits for diverting streams purposed for farming. Overall, the agency performed its job and the normal conflict of interests between capitalists and environmentalists were obvious biases for the websites attempting to expose the controversies within the agency.
This was not the CIA or any other lettered organization I would suspect of invading my privacy, but I was still left with the question – “Why would anyone in the EPA would want to infect my computer with a worm?”
I turned back to the maps of the oceans and determined I knew nothing about what it was revealing. Were the maps evidence of what “they” were trying to do or what “they” had already done?
I did understand the genetic analyses. The scientific names listed were easily identified and determined to be types of algae common to the oceans. Several species listed had plenty of research papers characterizing their role in the ocean, their evolutionary relationships, and a few papers came up with Dr. Argent as a contributing author.
I photocopied the two available in the hard copy journal subscriptions. The others could be accessed online later. I needed to go to the deli and pick up Manny’s “payment” for his services.
by Angelique Grey