500 Word Short Story
Held For Ransom
Scott A. Gese

500 Word Short Story

An internal investigative report concerning a release of toxic gasses by the Calendine Corporation was accidentally posted on the internet last night.

It was quickly removed, but not quick enough. Michael Warfton captured the report and immediately posted it onto his Facebook page. It has since gone viral.

The accident, which took place in a small Brazilian town called Maraba. It was severe enough to require an investigation. Apparently a malfunctioning valve was first thought to be the cause and indeed it was. But, as it turns out, the malfunction was no accident. The valve had clearly been tampered with. Not physically, but electronically. From within the companies software which was designed to keep this very thing from happening.

Someone had hacked Calendine's files and rewrote several of the safeguard protocols. They bypassed all the automatic controls and safety backups designed to regulate the valves that distributed highly toxic gasses into their appropriate containment vessels. They then reprogrammed the software to release the gas from a single valve right in front of a return air vent sending it into the plant's ventilation system.

Sensors within the vent system were set off causing a full scale evacuation of over one hundred people. The gas was quickly purged and recaptured before it escaped to the outside environment.

By law, the company was required to report the incident within seventy two hours but company officials neglected to do so as they discussed how to handle any negative press coverage and how they planned to spin the incident. Realizing they couldn't keep it in house much longer, they reported it.

World Environmental Health regulators and top computer experts were called in to investigate the situation. The plant was immediately shut down until the investigation was complete.

The company spun the incident to the press stating the evacuation was a mandatory drill and the current shutdown was scheduled maintenance. There was nothing to worry about. The people of Maraba were perfectly safe and the Calendine Corporation was being proactive for the greater good of the community.

Company officials scrambled when two days later a video addressed to the company president was received. A young man in disguise stood in front of a screen displaying a scene of carnage. For five minutes he let his demands be known. What it all came down to was if the company didn't stop the production of these lethal gases. These “weapons of mass destruction” used to kill innocent people, he would continue to wreak havoc with the plants systems, eventually rendering the whole plant useless. The company and its owners would be bankrupt.

Brazilian Security forces were called in to track down the terrorist. The company hired the best computer programmers money could buy to plug the security holes. Each time they thought they had it, another breech would develop.

In the end. The Calendine Corporation couldn't fully secure their software. The plant was not allowed to reopen. It eventually ceased its operations and pulled out of the country.

© Copyright 2018 by Scott A. Gese All Rights Reserved.

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