There was big empty space on the desk where Max's PC always was. Always. He never moves it, never takes it to work, but I know how important it is to him. He doesn't trust the communal storage at work, so he routes all his data here, to his PC. Oh, God, we should have been so much more careful with our security here!
K9 was trotting around the desk, sniffing the air, his ears pricked up and turning on their gyros, trying to collate the information and figure out what went wrong. He cocked his head to one side and turned his glittering eyes on me. "Phone Max." was all he said.
He was right. I dreaded it, but I had to call Max. But, Christ, how to tell him? He'd flip out! I looked at my watch, he must be at the University by now. Still, I hoped I could catch him in our car, it would be a lot better if I could talk to him off the campus, where they'd be monitoring all calls."
But there was no answer when I called Max on his cell. Even if he was in his lab, he would answer his cell phone. He always takes my calls, even if only just to tell me he can't talk right now. Maybe the server was down. I would have try to call him through the University switchboard. My mind went blank, and I had to turn to K9, who was sitting motionless beside me now, "Max's University line?" I asked.
His eyes darkened for less than a second, then " 415 328 7999"
I rang the number and someone at the reception picked up, "SF University Science Lab, Emma speaking."
After several long minutes, during which I paced the room about a thousand times with K9 watching me curiously, the voice came back: “I'm sorry Mr Green is not in right now.”
Oh, my god, now I was really getting worried. "Please, Emma, will you have him call his wife as soon as does get in? Thank you." and I hung up and stared down at K9.
"Max isn't at the University" I reported, and K9 began to go through his collating mode again, his ears twirling and his eyes dark. Then he stopped and trotted around the Max's desk again, and looked up at me, his eyes glittering, "Probable incident. Data Compromised. Max Green in Danger. Roxie Green in Danger. Shift to level 5, evacuation protocol now".
He was right. This wasn't good. Max should have been at the University at least an hour ago. I wondered, just for a moment if I had forgotten something. If Max could have taken his computer himself and just gone off to meet someone? No, impossible. Not without telling me -and not without informing K9, who was programmed to detect changes in routine.
But "Level 5" was pretty extreme. Still, all the time,I knew what K9 meant. There might be real danger here. The project Max was working on was worth a lot of money. But was it really "compromised?" Was the danger real? I wondered if I should call the police... but, no, that wasn't part of the protocol, you never know exactly who they are working for, but in a case like this, you can be damn sure it's not you.
If only we had taken more precautions. If only... Oh we were stupid, so stupid...Why had I turned the bot off before going to bed? And Max...
Where, oh where was Max? I suddenly feel scared and alone. I sat down in Max's office chair and tried to think. I had to collect my thoughts. K9 looked at me with his head cocked to one side. "Level 5" he repeated, but he could see that I was shivering, and he changed his mode, and trotted over and sat down beside me, leaning his small metal body against my legs. He turned his heating element up a notch. For a few moments, I felt safe and warm. It would be a long time until I felt that way again.