on Sunday, June, 19, 2011 4:28 PM
Ernie Ragasa was not having a good night.
He was finally getting used to working the night shift, even though he still considered it a pain in the ass. Part of him knew at the time that he probably should not have pointed out to his supervisor all of the security corners that ought not to be cut, but it was important to Ernie. And Ramon Dowell was just an asshole anyway. If only Dowell had let him talk to Jim Gibson, the Security Commander; Gibson would've understood. But Dowell was always on a power trip and wasn't about to listen to the slightly-overweight has-been telling him he wasn't doing his job correctly.
So here was Ernie, moved to the night shift, and now stuck working during this big-deal Executive Board meeting to release OS-12 to the world. Really, he shouldn't complain. He knew Gibson had made sure to put him on meeting detail—a somewhat high-trust position-- as a sort of apology for Dowell's bullshit, which Gibson couldn't override and still save face for Dowell.
Ernie did like his job, mostly. He'd sold insurance for years when he was younger, because it was what his parents thought he should do. A nice, stable job... women liked that, they said, and he could settle down, find a nice wife. His parents would hear nothing of it when Ernie was still talking law enforcement well past the young age when he should've grown out of the desire to be a cop. So he put the dream away and patrolled a desk instead.
In his late 20s, Ernie had decided that enough was enough. He was tired of a boring job he hated, with evenings spent listening to the police scanner and thinking “if only.” He told his boss where to shove his actuarial tables and enrolled in the police academy. Finally Ernie Ragasa was where he'd always wanted to be.
He wasn't an exceptional Academy cadet, but he was an enthusiastic one and willing to work hard. As graduation neared, word was going around that it would be Ernie that the class would vote as Most Likely To Succeed, even over his hotshot white classmates (not that minorities weren't common in L.A. in 1994, but even there, a mix of Filipino, Latino, and African-American was unusual) .
Then came one of the final physical fitness tests of his training. Out on a run, an unseen crack in the pavement sent Ernie Ragasa crashing to the ground with a blown-out knee... and the subsequent complications from a botched surgery meant he'd never be 100% again. It also meant he'd never be a cop.
Ernie was heartbroken. This was all he'd wanted to do, and he'd been so close to finally realizing the dream... and now it was over.
He thought of limping back to insurance, but even if he hadn't burned bridges there, he never wanted to talk to people about premiums and risk factors ever again.
Someone had suggested he go into the rent-a-cop business-- “Hey, they don't have very high standards,” it was pointed out to him as he winced at the implication in the words-- but Ernie resisted for a long time. He had enough of the money from his small medical malpractice suit to keep him going for a little while until he figured out what he wanted to do. And finally he decided he hadn't come this far just to quit, even if he had to make concessions... and he started calling security companies. It wasn't ideal, but Ernie would take what he could get if it meant he got to stay in the business (sort of).
He started out in Loss Prevention in stores, but quickly tired of calling the parents of teenage shoplifters while the offenders sobbed in his office about how they'd never stolen anything before and they never would again but please please don't call their mothers who would kill them and no longer let them participate on the football/cheerleading/wrestling team. Working security for companies suited him better, even though he'd still rather be out walking a beat than watching a bank of monitors. But Ernie couldn't forget what he'd initially been training for, and the companies he contracted to, or sometimes his own security company, found him a bit overzealous in his attention to detail and obsession with eliminating security loopholes. He'd hopped a few jobs, and then he'd found Encom. No contracting, just working for the company outright, for a Security Commander who “got” what security was really about. Gibson had given Ernie a chance even though he came with a reputation (but at least not much of a limp anymore). Ernie settled right in, and Encom had become “his” company now. It was his job to protect this place and its employees, and he took it seriously. Too bad he was assigned under Dowell, though, instead of the far-more-decent Tad Beall, and maybe he wouldn't be here tonight.
So, yes, it hadn't been a good night so far. He was fighting off a cold and would rather be home right now with a cup of hot tea—perhaps with the addition of a small shot of medicinal whiskey—and a re-run of Babylon 5. The previous shift had made coffee before they left, but it was weak and they'd turned the machine off so it had gotten cold. Ernie hated re-heated coffee. The hoity-toity Executive Board was here tonight so everything had to be perfect (at least the Board of Directors had only sent a delegate; thank heaven for small favors). Really, most of the E Board wasn't bad, but a few rubbed Ernie the wrong way—didn't think they needed to carry their access cards because everybody should know who they were, or treating Ernie like a piece of the furniture.
Mackey was an asshole, of course. Bradley was decent as always; young Dillinger, the Head of Programming who was at the meeting as a consultant, had chatted with Ernie for a few minutes as usual; and Chung, while distracted as was her wont, had at least been polite.
His Bates boots on the desk and a half-eaten doughnut in front of him (Bradley had slipped him one from the meeting's refreshments), Ernie groaned. What was the deal with camera 13 again? He'd better let Gibson know it was still being troublesome. Ernie leaned forward and tapped the monitor with his coffee cup, and the blank image turned to static, then resolved to show the stairwell again. Ernie would be glad when they'd finished their ongoing upgrade of all the security tech equipment. You'd think a technology company would be able to get on that a little faster.
Ernie returned to contemplating his second-rate coffee. This night couldn't end quickly enough. He supposed he'd have to do a round soon; ought to make Smith do it as the junior officer on duty, but that no-talent assclown wouldn't notice if Bill Gates himself stormed the building. Ernie would just have to go himself. In a minute, once the coffee was gone, and maybe he'd stop by and make a fresh pot, the right way, strong and steaming. He could walk past the boardroom and gawk at the big important meeting, see if they were leaving any doughnuts for the lowly security guys to score later. Talking heads, blah blah. Ernie wasn't impressed; just a bunch of stuffed shirts going on about nothing. They all liked their coffee weak too.
Shit, what was that? Alarm in zone 19. Ernie's head snapped around to look at the monitors. Who the hell was that in the server room? The server room! Terrible coffee spilled across the desk (it was no sad loss) as Ernie upset his mug in his haste to get up. Great, his night had just gotten exponentially worse.
He made it to the server room in record time. He had a sneaking suspicion about this; he'd heard of this guy who was always pulling pranks on the company, and it was just about that time again. Well, not on Ernest Ragasa's watch. He pulled his flashlight (tactical, thank you very much; no mere Maglite for him) and his Taser (ridiculous, for a guy who ought to be out on the street with a gun on his hip) and entered the server room warily, shining his flashlight around and checking all the corners before he entered, just the way he'd been taught to clear a room back at the Academy. He heard movement down one of the aisles of tall server racks and headed that way.
“I know you're in here,” he called out angrily. No answer except further rustling. Ernie's ears—nothing wrong with those-- localized the sound and now he could see one of the server towers was lit more than the others. So that's where the scumbag was. Ernie snuck to the server rack as quietly as possible, then quickly rounded the corner, flashlight held at eye-height to blind the guy.
“Now I've got you,” Ernie crowed, and....
Nothing. The guy was gone. Quickly craning his neck around the tower, Ernie saw him running for the door. Dammit. Some punk kid, as he'd suspected. And now Ernie was going to have to take his bum knee and give chase. Well, whatever it took. Sneaking in during his shift to sabotage his company? Oh, hell no.
Oh, damn. The dude was headed to the roof. What the hell did he think he was going to accomplish up there? There was only the one door, and Ernie planned to be blocking that soon. He keyed his radio, notifying Smith as he went. Haul your young fit ass up here, dammit.
Here was the roof now. Ernie looked around, trying to adjust his eyes to the darkness as he attempted to locate the little twerp perp. Ah, yes, there he was, scrambling onto the crane that overhung the Encom sign as he saw Ernie on his tail. Sorry, buddy—dead end there unless you can fly.
“Now I've got you,” Ernie wheezed, his voice triumphant as he dragged himself onto the crane as well. Ernie wasn't big on heights, but he was going to bring this kid in and not leave Jim Gibson regretting his decision to put Ernie on shift tonight. Maybe a feat like this would get him back to the day rotation.
“You don't want to do that,” the kid warned with an outstretched hand, as Ernie inched out further on the narrowing beam. Right, what're you going to do, punk? Ernie knew it was possible the kid was armed, but somehow he doubted it. Didn't seem the scumbag's style, from what he'd heard of past exploits. Ernie squinted and edged along some more, trying to get a good look at this guy. Young, on the tall side, spiky blond-ish hair. About how you'd expect a young troublemaker to appear, Ernie supposed.
“It's okay, your boss is cool with it,” the kid called. He had to be, what, all of 25? What did he know? A flashlight beam hit the pair from the roof behind Ernie. Oh, there was Smith. A day late and a dollar short, as always.
“Do you know who the majority shareholder of this company is?” the troublemaker asked in response to Ernie's skeptical look. Ernie shrugged.
“I don't know, some kid,” he countered. He knew nothing of the son of Encom's disappeared former CEO; the younger Flynn was reclusive and never visited nor inquired of the Board. The punk made no answer to this, simply spread his hands wide with a shrug and a raised eyebrow. Ernie was flabbergasted. This was the son of Kevin Flynn, much-loved ex-head of Encom? Confusion crossed Ernie's face as he looked at the kid more closely and a deferential note entered his tone. This was Kevin Flynn's son.
“You're Mr. Flynn??” The kid only nodded.
“But...why? This is your dad's company.” Young Flynn shook his head sadly.
“Not anymore.” He took a step backward and looked down. Wait, what the hell was he doing? He may have hated the company, but that wasn't exactly something to end your life over!
“Wait!” Ernie protested. “You don't have to do this!” This night was going downhill faster and faster. Think quickly, Ragasa. What did you learn at the Academy about negotiating with suicidal people? Ernie looked up again and took a step toward the kid, opening his mouth to speak...but it was too late. With a final look at Ernie and a step backward, the kid flung himself off this mortal plane. Ernie's jaw dropped. Oh God oh God oh God no... Heart pounding, Ernie quickly moved forward a few more steps and looked down...to see a parachute drifting toward the street. Base jumping. That asshole. He wasn't out of the woods yet, though... who the hell tried a stunt like that in a crowd of skyscrapers? Flashing lights down below told Ernie that the kid was going to be in deep shit when he landed, and that Ernie's job here was over. He turned and looked back down the steel beam he was standing on, to the safety of the roof. He'd come out a long way in his zeal without realizing it, and vertigo accosted him as he swayed on the beam. How the hell was he going to get down from here? Oh, it really wasn't a good night at all...
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