Joe Blow from Accounting (Season 1)

By @Sombience

Joe Blow from Accounting (Season 1)

By @Sombience

Chapter 17

Chapter 17

Joe logged onto his father’s computer under the rarely-used “Administrator” account. He didn’t need to activate his father’s desk lamp; the light from his halo was ample enough for his purposes. “Way to look on the bright side of things,” Joe muttered to himself.

Jolt laid on the floor next to him. The OS booting up sounded its familiar tune. Joe saw everything he had helped his father install years ago, with a few more things added.

Joe scanned his father’s home screen twice. Three times. Then he saw it.

A folder marked with simply four dollar signs, “$$$$”.

Four dollar signs. 4. This was Watch at work.

Joe clicked the folder.

Buzz. Joe had forgotten all about his phone.

“You got it +4; copy it all 444 [Ok] [Go to Stats app]”

Joe felt a shiver run down his spine. More information given covertly. What was Watch doing?

Joe placed his phone on the desk and looked at the contents of Watch’s folder. He was thankful he had brought his charger and data cable with him, kept in his other pocket.

All Joe saw was what looked to be encrypted files. Nothing had file extensions, no .exe or .doc. Joe always defaulted to opening files like that in a standard notepad program. But he felt hesitant doing that in this folder.

He pulled out his phone’s data cable and established the connection between the phone and his father’s computer. It took a moment; the machine had been made obsolete long ago. He copied the entire folder to his phone’s memory card.

Joe unplugged the data cable from both devices, rolled it up and placed it back into his pocket. He half-expected to receive an alert from Watch, like a child waiting for a reward after a chore. No such thing happened.

He went to his father’s refrigerator and poured himself some water.

Buzz. Joe had not waited long enough.

“Go outside +4; look up 444 [Ok] [Go to Stats app]”

“Again?” Joe thought. What else was there to see other than drones?

Joe exited his father’s house and looked up. He ignored the light shining from the bottom of his drone.

A large bright star against the black night caught his eye. It was slightly brighter than the brightest star in the sky, and definitely larger. It was a light shade of pink.

Buzz.

“Hello +4; I am up there 444 [Ok] [Go to Stats app]”

Joe spent the night in his old room.

The next morning, Joe enjoyed a breakfast cooked by his father and spent more time with him and Jolt. Joe was thankful that the light from their drones was undetectable due to his father’s lighting and the sun beaming through the windows.

Around midday he returned home (driven +1). He had looked into the sky several times searching for the abnormally bright star, in vain. Watch had been quiet all that morning, in contrast to his multiple alerts the day before. Joe felt awkward about possibly having made Watch sit through his time with his father.

Joe unlocked his phone, hoping to see an alert but finding nothing. He recalled Watch’s folder he had transfered over and went to the file location in which he placed it.

It was gone. No “$$$$” folder existed there.

Thinking that Watch may have placed it elsewhere, he performed a search for the folder over his entire phone and waited a few moments while it processed. No results.

Joe wondered if Watch was seeing him trying to find the folder. Joe felt very confused. He was contemplating asking Watch where it was (and what it was) when he received a text from Claire.

“sorry for taking so long to respond, had to work all night.. they’ve been more strict abput phone usage at work, but it was actually kind of a relief being without the notifs! like your mute setting”

Buzz again. “about*”

Joe wished he could give her the same hug he gave his father. Buzz.

“has watch said or done anything else? it’s insane how you guys are communicating!!”

Buzz.

“Don’t tell her +4; about the folder 444 [Ok] [Go to Stats app]”

So Watch had indeed been observing. Despite him being an ally, Joe very much missed his now-shattered illusions of personal privacy.

Joe spent the rest of his final day off periodically texting Claire about her own latest experiences with the app, which hadn’t been too severe. He tried to savor every moment he had before facing work the next day.

9:44pm. Buzz.

“Upgrade +4; no pain 444 [Ok] [Go to Stats app]”

Joe held his breath. “No pain… what’s being upgraded?” he wondered.

His phone suddenly entered a power cycle without him telling it to. He watched the screen go dark then brighten up again as it rebooted. His service provider’s logo appeared as it usually did, and he noticed something placed in the upper left corner that was never there before, a number “4” in a small, bright green system-used font.

After that, his phone booted up normally. No alerts, no sign that anything had been changed other than the 4 appearing during start-up.

Buzz.

“Custom firmware +4; more later 444 [Ok] [Go to Stats app]

Custom firmware. Watch had replaced the entire operating system of his phone with different software of Watch’s own. But when Joe browsed his phone, it worked as it usually did, no issues connecting to his provider’s network, etc.

Joe fell asleep that night wondering how Watch had transformed his personal device.

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