Maggie’s super power was her ability to hack into just about any computer system or online account. Sitting behind her steel desk in the Megabucks Corp Human Resources office, she relished her anonymity, her ability to flit in and out of people’s lives, pushing, prodding and ruthlessly squashing with nary a trace left behind.
It was justice. No one ever could imagine that she, a dumpy, harsh-faced, forty-something, single woman could do anything creative and exciting. And here, enveloped in her secret identity, she had her revenge on the system that had rejected her.
At one time she had deeply and fiercely resented her invisibility. As bright young things with no knowledge of anything except a few computer systems were hired for job after job, she -- who could look at a computer with x-ray vision and understand its programming in all its bits and bytes -- was invariably dismissed from consideration. On the rare occasions she made it to an interview, she would clutch her certificates, stammer out her answers, and watch the blank looks shutter the interviewers’ faces before they thanked her for her time, and sent her away.
It became an obsession for her to prove them wrong, to master every program, every sequence of code like a geneticist unraveling DNA. She toyed with the idea of rigging the system so that she was hired anyway. But she knew enough now about HR people to accept that they would ferret out her inability to be one of the team. Her tech acumen would not save her. Her super flaw was that with no social graces, she couldn’t even make the computer geeks like her.
With her stack of unpaid bills and facing the prospect of having to beg her brother for help, she gave up and joined the enemy. The one thing she did know now was interviewing. Dipping into the secure files at Megabucks, she approved her application and walked into an HR job. Before long, they told her she was perfect here – and gave her the exclusive task of evaluating and firing. Maggie became the beast behind the desk, the one who decided whether others would realize their dreams.
And four years later, here she sat.
“I’m sorry,” she said without a trace of emotion to the young man slumped in front of her. “Your supervisor has sent you repeated warnings about your work performance. The company has no alternative but to terminate your employment.”
Garrett’s eyes welled up and he blinked repeatedly, trying to hold back his tears. He took a deep shuddering breath. “Please…” he said, “… Tasha, my baby’s been sick a lot…” He tried to smile. “…ear infections…and my wife has only one semester left…I’ll do better…won’t take off any more sick days…just one more chance…”
Maggie closed his folder. “The security guard will show you out after you collect your things.”
Once he had left, his shoulders rigidly erect, Maggie glanced at the next folder sitting in the pile. Knowing it would take the woman at least twenty minutes to gather herself to appear for her employment execution, Maggie reopened Garrett’s file.
With a thoughtful flicker of fingers, Maggie dove into Garrett’s life. His passwords were a breeze and his life peeled open under her scrutiny.
Social media showed the usual – sports fan shots, teasing sisters, “best husband ever” from his wife, complaints about daily stresses and a few funny memes.
Underneath, in the next layer, lay unpaid bills and collections actions from doctors. Maggie’s lip curled. She tapped through security systems and dropped a little lower. Interesting. Garrett had anticipated their little interview and had already sent out a series of job applications. He was actually very qualified for some of them.
But with this termination on record, he didn’t have a hope, not in this or any other job market. Maggie’s eyes narrowed. If he hadn’t been fired, Garrett and his family could have had it all – not like her.
Now, his wife would have to drop out of school. Get a no-future job. Maybe Garrett could get a gig at the mall. Maggie imagined him smiling and smiling and smiling at bored customers. And the baby…Tasha…there would be no dance lessons or maybe even college for her. Trickle down economics at its best. Poor Garrett worked hard and was smart, but he couldn’t make it in this system. One little interview today, and the dreams of three people were squashed.
She glanced at the clock. At least another ten minutes before her next pathetic termination showed up.
Her fingers hovered over the keyboard. Now, about Garrett. A quick look at the search parameters for the best-paying job with awesome benefits…a subtle rewrite of his application to catch the notice of the screening program. A little boost to put it at number one in the list.
“And oh my,” she murmured. “Just how did that negative report about you get lost?” Suddenly, his file showed above-average performance.
She glanced at the clock again. Time was up. The woman was now waiting, hovering at her door.
“Sit down, please. I have to finish up here.”
A dip into Garrett’s credit report, doctor’s bills marked paid. And for good measure, she signed him up for a drawing for a year of free diapers, and for heavens sake, looks like he won…
Then with a few strokes, Maggie disappeared without a trace from the programs she’d hacked.
She turned to the woman sitting before her. With an icily blank look, Maggie picked up the file, “Now, Ms. Jones, I understand you’ve been experiencing some problems…”
Maggie smiled, a thin twist of her lips. No one would ever guess her super power.