“YOU DID WHAT!??” Kate bellowed at Daniel. The lead scientist stood tall and accepted responsibility for his actions; a faint hint of pride glowed in the back of his mind.
“The public deserves to know,” he replied with a calm voice. Kate gave a borderline maniacal giggle and shook her head; she was having difficulty controlling her emotions. Daniel was the lead scientist, but Kate was the project manager. She set very specific rules about what they were allowed to reveal. She paced a line back and forth in front of Daniel while he tried to explain himself.
“Who the hell are you to decide what the public deserves to know?” she asked. She paused in front of him and the question came out through clenched teeth.
“I’m the public!” he said proudly. Susan let out a high-pitched, sarcastic laugh. Then, after a deep breath, she seemed to calm down.
“Let me get this straight,” she said. “We discovered a pizza box, with some slices still inside, on Mars. From a restaurant that has never, nor does not currently exist anywhere on Earth. I then lay down ground rules that it’s in the public’s best interest to not reveal this information, and you broke those rules. Is that how you see it?”
“Yes, but -,” Daniel’s interruption was cut off by Kate shaking her head.
“Well,” she said with a heavy shrug. “Nothing to be done I guess. Now, if you’ll excuse me for a moment?” Kate nodded at the door behind Daniel.
“That’s it?” he asked. He was genuinely surprised at the lack of consequences. He was ready to be fired on principle and was almost looking forward to it.
“That’s it,” Kate nodded. “You’re going to be punished enough without my help.” She gave him a soft smile and shooed him out the door. She closed the door behind him, which struck Daniel as odd; she prided herself on having a literal open-door policy. What she said also bothered him on top of that. He took four steps, then turned around and walked back into her office.
“What did you mea-,” he asked as he walked into the room. But, he stopped when he realized she wasn’t there. “Kate?” he crouched to check under the desk. It was the only possible place she could be hiding. Her office had no windows and no other doors. She wasn’t there. The only thing different than when he left moments ago was that a white box sat open on her desk. The interior was lined with soft red velvet and it seemed to be designed to hold a card of some sort.
“System Message:” Daniel heard a woman’s voice in his mind. At the same moment, the television that sat in the corner unplugged turned itself on to show the same words. Daniel felt his phone vibrate and he pulled it out while he wondered what was happening. It also showed the same text.[Due to mishandling of information, Sharp Development has decided to shut down this server permanently. Players, please traverse to a new server. Zeros, be sure to curse Mr. Daniel Johnson with your last breath for making this necessary. This Earth will be destroyed in five minutes.] Under the message, a timer appeared and began counting down.
Daniel’s phone vibrated as texts began pouring in.