by Tiana Warner
Genre: SciFi, LGBT
When Jess uncovers evidence that her boss is stealing technology to build his company, her coveted internship at Aries turns from dream job to catastrophe. Worse, her boss cons another young woman into becoming his accomplice, and the duo’s chemically enhanced skills and weapons help them become the most infamous supercriminals to sweep the tech world. Before they pilfer every aerospace lab in North America, Jess must use her ingenuity to stop them—risking her career, her relationships, and maybe even her life.
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The number of exhibitors filling the ballroom injected hope into Halley. Maybe she didn’t have to be a “hello, would you like a flyer?” girl.
Phone ready, she took notes on what companies to apply for. She was determined to find a solid job prospect before the night was out.
A 3D printing booth brought her to a stop. One of the employees in front had a white prosthetic arm that looked like something out of a sci-fi movie, which he was using to solve a Rubik’s Cube. Intrigued though Halley was, the booth was surrounded by viewers trying to get a better look, and she continued on, letting the flow of the crowd guide her.
She stopped at another cluster of people who were wearing headsets, looking around and waving their arms. Augmented reality, no doubt. One guy was making an odd gesture akin to milking a cow.
Okay, humanity had either reached a peak, or it was officially doomed.
“Want to try?” said a twenty-something employee, catching her staring.
Halley summoned some extrovert powers and stepped closer. She took the device from the girl’s outstretched hand.
“Are you hiring software developers?”
“We are. Are you looking for full time?” said the girl, helping her tighten the headset.
A 3D dreidel appeared on the booth. Halley reached out and spun it by closing her fingers over the air where the augmented object appeared.
“Internship. I’m a Computer Science undergrad at UBC.”
“Great! I’d watch our job listings online to see if anything comes up.”
So … is that a soft rejection?
Halley let the girl show off a 3D tap dancer and a kettle she could pour—but the graphics were terrible. She had seen better dancing hot dogs and twerking rabbits in Snapchat.
“You should try augmenting information about the surroundings—maybe the pipe network beneath the floor—instead of a tap dancer.” She handed back the headset. “Show prospects the potential for real-world applications. Military. Architecture. Construction. You know.”
The girl stared at her blankly. Halley moved on.
The next booths had robotics, drones, and sensors for self-driving cars—engineering that was tragically beyond her skill set. She stopped at a company that made wearable GPS devices. The guy showed her a web interface where he’d tracked his cat’s day-to-day journeys using a GPS collar. Halley refrained from pointing out that tracking a cat wouldn’t stop it from getting run over.
“We’ve got two internships open,” he said, handing her a business card.
“Excellent. What’s the position?”
“Are you comfortable wearing a GPS collar?”
“Yes. Wait, what?”
The guy flashed her a charming smile. “Kidding. We’re hiring devs.”
Halley’s cheeks warmed. She gave a weak laugh and dropped her gaze to the business card. “Thanks.”
This, she was qualified for and interested in. She made a note in her phone to send them her resume.
One prospect in the bag. A couple of others would be nice, and then she could go home, roll herself into a blanket burrito, and call the night a success.
Past the GPS booth, two girls struck a Charlie’s Angels pose in what looked like an airport security scanner. They held still while it whirred around them, rendering their shape on a computer screen. A 3D scanner. Halley entertained the idea of becoming immortalized as a 3D model, posing like she’d died dramatically in someone’s arms. But that would mean finding a willing stranger. Besides, the queue of geeks waiting their turn stretched out of sight.
She continued on, contemplating how to start her cover letter to the GPS company.
I made an idiot of myself when I met you at the Vancouver Tech Show … Your useless cat demo was intriguing.
A spacey-looking car rotated in the middle of the room, which must have been self-driving. Beyond that was the aerospace section, marked by a massive rocket standing in the midst. Halley smirked. Funny how competitive men got about rockets. This particular eight-foot phallus stood erect in the middle of the booths, showing everyone how much bigger it was than all the other exhibitors’ products.
Then Halley saw the logo on the side, and her heart skipped a beat. Heat rushed to her face, making her lips tingle.
This was an Aries rocket.
In front of it stood a vertical banner explaining a launch vehicle concept. The booth had stacks of flyers and a bowl of miniature satellites.
And there, standing beside it, talking animatedly to a young man wearing a backpack, was Tony, her interviewer. He was more handsome than she remembered, dressed for the occasion with his thick hair gelled back. He wore a charcoal suit with the jacket open, revealing a white collared shirt underneath.
Before Halley could stop herself, she imagined what it would be like to unbutton that shirt.
Then he looked up. She flinched and turned away.
Dammit. Their gazes had definitely connected. Should she go over to him? What would she say? He probably didn’t remember her, and she’d look pathetic for thinking otherwise.
“Hey, there!” A guy with a Volunteer badge appeared out of nowhere, motioning in the opposite direction of Tony. “I’m Tim. Would you be interested in—?”
“Yes.” She bolted in that direction.
Tim jogged beside her. “Love the enthusiasm! This way.”
She brought a hand to her face, trying to calm the charbroiled tomato feeling in her cheeks.
They excused their way through the crowd, Tim checking to make sure she was following. Perplexed, Halley stayed close behind.
They arrived at a circle of computers and gaming chairs. Five of the six chairs were already occupied. A banner advertised a Guavasoft-sponsored hackathon.
Halley’s mouth dried up. Shit. What did she agree to?
Cheers erupted behind her, mostly from women.
“Go, girl! Represent!”
The other computers were occupied by dudes, who all appeared older than she was.
“Winner gets five hundred bucks and an interview with Guavasoft,” said Tim, the total asshole who tricked her into this.
Halley stood immobile, stage fright ready to come out in the form of projectile vomit.
Why? Why did she think going out tonight was a good idea?
The crowd cheered. The other participants were looking at her. Tim grinned, motioning to the vacant seat.
Five hundred bucks. Interview with Guavasoft.
Halley weighed which was the more embarrassing choice: running out of the building, or staying.
Tim picked up a megaphone. “Let’s hear it for our final participant!”
Never had a round of applause sounded so sinister. She glanced around as if searching for the place from which the hungry lions would emerge.
“Um—” said Halley.
“Hands off the keyboard until I say go,” said Tim, making eye contact with each of the six hackers. “On my word, open the doc on your computer to read your challenge. You have one hour.”
The empty chair waited. Halley had been looking for an opportunity, and the universe had shoved her straight into one. She could do this. She should do this.
Pretending she wasn’t at the center of a crowd full of geniuses, Halley sat.
A new PC lay before her, Visual Studio installed as the programming environment, a Word document titled Challenge.docx ready to open.
“Hackers ready!” said Tim.
Halley grabbed the mouse.
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