The man nearest to Taylor leaned in, unnecessarily close. "Newspaper says they've been hacked." He shrugged. It wasn't uncommon for companies to be attacked by hackers, but those were usually smaller companies. Large corporations like StarPoint weren't typically hacked, at least nothing on a large scale like this. Often, it was caught and shut down before the hacker could get any further and it never really affected work.
More and more bodies were loading into the room, and as they continued to do so, Annabelle could see a few of the virtual bodies glitching as the lobby struggled to catch up with the amount of data present. It was a little unnerving to watch. As she contemplated this, an e-mail notification popped up in her peripheral. Back in her apartment, seemingly staring at nothing, Annabelle's hand reached up, swiping the e-mail into her range of view.
Subject: Server Problems
Hello, StarPoint Employees,
As many of you may have noticed, we are experiencing some server issues. There are some newspaper rumors of hacking, but rest assured that is not the case; it is merely an error in the code as we attempted an update that has caused the current loading issues. We are anticipating StarPoint servers to be back up in the next ten to twenty minutes. We appreciate your patience thus far and ask that you, please extend that patience just a little longer.
I know we are all eager to get back to work and we are hard at work to fix the issue. You'll all be happy to know, particularly those of you who work in Customer Care, that this does not seem to have affected anything outside of our internal server.
As always, this information is confidential. If a reporter approaches any of you, your answer should be the standard "No comment." Once we've remedied the issue, we will release a public statement with all of the information that will be needed; you can refer anyone with questions to that statement once it is available.
Again, thank you for your patience.
Valentine M. LaGrande
CEO of StarPoint I.L.L.C.
Annabelle blinked as she finished reading the mass message. Something about the whole e-mail was off. Valentine often sent company e-mails: messages about stock options, giving holidays off, company reminders, etc. This particular e-mail lacked her usual eloquence. Then again, maybe Annabelle was overthinking things; she did that often, her mother was fond of telling her.
There were quite a few murmurs within the lobby as several people read through the e-mail. There was quite a bit of grumbling, too, but it wouldn't be anything specific (not when StarPoint can hear everything being said).
It ended up taking fifteen minutes between when the e-mail went out and when the StarPoint servers were back up. The whole building went white, and in the blink of an eye, the 'building' was back up. They could see the walls; the lobby was extended back to its usual length, and the occasional flicker of avatars had gone away. Those who had opted to wait out the reboot in the lobby began disappearing as they loaded to their appropriate department. Soon enough, Annabelle was seated in her virtual cubicle. It was organized much like her desk at home, intentionally so, so when her supervisor made the rounds, he'd know if Annabelle was working, away from her desk, or wasting time.
She couldn't resist pulling up the e-mail from Valentine again, but before she could read through it again, Annabelle's phone rang, and the rest of the morning was spent resolving issues with a defective StarPoint node ("Have you charged it recently?" "... well, no, but" "I do see that your Cortical Node is a few models old. Why don't we set you up with a new one, and you can try charging your current one to get you through in the meantime."), a 'stolen' StarPoint microwave ("I'm sorry that your microwave has gone missing, ma'am, but our drone footage shows you receiving the item, so I
cannot have a new one sent to you, but let me put you through to my supervisor and see if they can't better assist you."), and an eighty-year-old's broken personal massager (resolved by sending her a new one, same day, at a discounted price after the woman shared how
By lunchtime, Annabelle had utterly forgotten about the events of that morning. Throughout the day, for those who pay attention to the news, there were more articles on the 'StarPoint Security Breach.' Some of them took a positive view, other articles took a look at how this might affect competitor companies, and additional reporters focused on what an event of this magnitude could mean.
Annabelle had just returned from her break and was returning an e-mail from her supervisor when everything around her went white. It was incredibly terrifying because, for a brief moment, she was utterly alone. A voice filled the area.
"Hello, StarPoint Employees. This is Valentine LaGrande; we are currently experiencing further issues with the server. We do not anticipate this fix to take long. However, StarPoint is now experiencing problems outside our company server, and it is affecting the consumers. Until further notice, please enjoy some complimentary credits. Your avatar will now load to the nearest StarPoint Corporate Entertainment Hub. Please stay Plugged In, and we will notify you when you can load back at work. Please do not attempt to load until you've been instructed you are clear to do so. Please do not access your e-mail or any work files during this time. Thank you."
A mechanical voice followed this up with: "This message has been sent to you via the StarPoint employee emergency messaging system. If you are receiving this message in error, please contact our office, and we will get you removed from the list."
The room loaded suddenly, and Annabelle found herself in a plain looking room. It was designed to be a rec room, with generic art on the virtual walls. There were virtual books, some multi-player games (classics like chess, checkers, monopoly, etc. and then some more obscure games), options to play card games, and other links to activities meant to keep employees occupied and entertained. Annabelle couldn't help but wonder why this part of StarPoint wasn't affected. There was a handful of other people in the room (five, not including Annabelle), and a few of them looked as confused as Annabelle felt. Only one of them, a rather short and plump looking man looked less confused and more... well, scared.
At Angel's game tournament, a similar thing happens. The room goes white, and a soothing, generic voice can be heard: "StarPoint apologizes for any inconvenience and we regret to inform you of the closure of all gaming services until further notice due to required maintenance. We have compensated your account with complimentary entertainment credits, and you will now be transferred to the nearest StarPoint corporate entertainment hub. Have a nice day." Angel's avatar loads into the same rec room as Annabelle.
"Anyone up for a game of Connect 10?" Annabelle says, to fill the awkward silence that follows the loading.