Settling in for some serious trouble shooting, he wondered if there was indeed a way around revealing his identity or was he just kidding himself. He was frustrated all- right, aside from a few minor scares at the onset of this virtual foray, everything had worked like a charm. Back to square one. It still all came down to the choice of running the debugging scan or not. It was the only way he knew to tell for sure if he had been infected. Again, but without result ,Jason searched thousands of submenus in the hopes of finding an answer. It was getting light out when he noticed a small line of code tucked away on a secondary drive that didn’t look right. Suspicious, he went in for a closer look at some file directories and that’s when he discovered how they got in. Son of a bitch ! They came in through the back door. The secondary drive was a backup system only and it didn’t contain a crucial link to the main OS that would have prevented entry. He fucked up. Boy wonder had fucked up. He was in deep shit now, much deeper than he’d been before There was no way out, his identity was being held in some hidden cache that would open a link once he executed the scan. If he didn’t, the operation would time out and open it automatically. But the only question really was, how long ? How much time did he have ? It was impossible to predict, and given that lady luck had been on his side so far, he wasn’t feeling all that bad. Should he venture out ? Staring at the screen anxiously wasn’t helping matters and he didn’t have any food in the house. He got himself cleaned up and headed into town. The real world seemed like a scary place to Jason sometimes. Customers, salespeople, his boss. What the hell was their problem anyway ? Always complaining about this , that, and the other. Fuck them ! He didn’t need to listen to their trivial tales of woe. All he needed was a dedicated high speed connection with a secure server and he was in play. But that was off limits to him tonight, so reality it was, like it or not. He noticed a new place driving in that looked pretty good and pulled into the lot. They served cocktails and had a full menu, just right. Thankfully, the dining room was somewhat full. You couldn’t say that the joint was jumpin’ but it wasn’t dead either. With the surrounding buzz providing just enough anonymity, he found a dark corner near the bar to sink into. He hated eating alone! Especially outside. It was his admission to the world that he couldn’t get a date, that he was a failure with women. But he was in need of a good hearty meal. All this recent stress was taking its toll on him and he could use some serious chow to revive himself. He hadn’t enjoyed much for a long time, not outside his sordid little world. He’d been burned, and badly. When he discovered his fiancée banging his best friend it was too much for him too take. That’s when he retreated into the cyber chasm of his making. Virtually cutting himself off from the world except for work, he avoided socializing like the plague. He could get away with it, lots of guys get reclusive after a snub like that. Nobody would think it was anything else. And why should they ? Surely there were bigger fish to fry. That was his thinking anyway, until this latest twist. The waitress was polite, but after his third beer, she reappeared suddenly with her pen and pad ready to take his dinner order. The management didn’t like guys hanging out and drinking without ordering food, this was more of a family place. Jason listened to his server rattle off the specials and decided to go with the pasta. The waitress scurried off to the kitchen and that’s when he caught sight of the same chick who’d given him the slip at the parking lot. This time, he thought, he’d play it cool, real cool. Avoiding direct eye contact but keeping her in his field of peripheral vision, he began to scan her more closely. She was a good forty to fifty feet away and it was dark. Was it the same girl ? If it was, and she was spying on him, why was she being so obvious about it ? Did she want to meet him? Or was she on a different mission, perhaps a clandestine meeting to resolve some unknown issue? He could only guess at what the answers might be. He didn’t want to create a scene in the restaurant that would only bring unwanted attention. As the waitress approached his table with a steaming plate of hot pasta, his focus drifted just long enough for her to make her move. Whoosh! Gone. As if she had never been there. The sight and smell of real homemade food brought much needed comfort and a brief smile to his face. There would be other opportunities to unmask the mystery lady, and right now he needed to be as cautious as ever. On the way home, Jason noticed some headlights that seemed to be tailing him. He was suspicious, but not scared. Actually, he liked a good caper, and this was quickly turning into one.