He looked at the text message on his phone: 'I need to see you, ASAP!' As usual, a real flair for the dramatic, he thought, but it was his boss, so he got out of bed and quickly showered and dressed. Forty-five minutes later and he was entering the office.
"Stuart, it's another 'special'...and when I say special, I mean special!" Joe Morris exclaimed.
"So what's so 'special' about this one, Boss? I thought you said after that last god awful job I was, and I quote: '...Entitled to a couple of days with my feet up in front of the box, with a cold beer or three'..."
"Look, I'd love to tell you more, Stuart, but the truth is, I don't know myself! But let me ask you a question: have you ever seen those fancy signs on the front of buildings...By Royal Appointment...well, Stuart, perhaps we could have one of those! Do you know how good that would be for the business if we did."
"I see! Which one is it: The Big Boss?"
"I told you...I don't know. I was just told: send someone good, with Level One security clearance...and you're it! You know you're the best, Stuart, and that job you did in Whitehall last month gives you the credentials."
"Okay! So no cold beer and TV for me, yet. But did they say how long this time; I was three days on the Whitehall job?"
"No, they said probably a day...max! And when you've done this one, I promise you...nothing more for the rest of the week..."
"Well, considering it's Thursday today...you're all heart, Boss!"
Joe Morris had to smile. Stuart Simms really was the best! He was his 'go to guy' for all those jobs that the others started but couldn't handle, and the ones that maybe seemed impossible at first glance. Stuart would go in, and within an hour, he'd have it all worked out in his head. 'No problem!' he'd say...and it never was!
It wasn't common knowledge, but he was happy to pay Stuart twice what any of the other Analyst Technicians earned: because he was worth at least twice as much as any other employee to the company! And he knew for a fact that he had been offered at least that much again by other companies. But not only was he one of the best in his field, he wasn't overly-ambitious or greedy and he was straight-as-a-die honest and loyal.
"You're to report to New Scotland Yard, to Commissioner Bob Williams, he'll fill you in," Joe said, "Have fun, and I'll see you Monday!"
Stuart drove to New Scotland Yard, where he was shown to his office of his contact. The Commissioner shook his hand and asked him to sit.
"Would you like a cup of tea, Mr Simms?"
"No, thank you, Sir!"
"I'm sorry we had to make you go through all this, Mr Simms, but I'm sure you understand that protocol has to be followed."
"I understand, Sir...it's not a problem!"
"Good man! I have a son who's mad keen on computers, so I'm not unfamiliar with them myself, and to be perfectly honest, Mr Simms, I think it's probably a case of the proverbial 'using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut'! But you have the necessary clearance, so I'm afraid you've been called in to do what I suspect is a job for a trainee, and I apologise for having to do so. If you wouldn't mind driving to the Royal Apartments, at Kensington Palace, someone there will explain the task and anything else that you need to know." He stood up and offered his visitor his hand.
"Thanks again for coming at such short notice, Mr Simms, I'll have someone show you out."
Stuart walked back to his car and got in. Less than ten minutes later, he entered the grounds of the Royal Apartments; he parked his car and walked to the Superintendent's office.
"Stuart Simms: I believe I'm expected."
"Yes, Mr Simms. If you'd care to follow me. One of the private, personal computers has what we believe is a virus, which has corrupted the hard drive. We'd like you to see if you can retrieve the personal files, if that's possible, then get everything working normally again, if you would."
"Do you know if there's any back up?" Stuart asked. The superintendent looked at him in a way that spoke volumes.
"No, Sir, I'm afraid not!" The superintendent picked up a telephone and pushed a button.
"Excuse, me, Ma'am, there is a gentleman here who has come to attend to your computer. Very well, Ma'am, I'll bring him up. If you'd care to follow me, Mr Simms."
They walked up a flight of broad stairs, then along a series of corridors, until they came to the appropriate door. The superintendent rang the doorbell, then waited with Stuart. The door was opened by a young woman who Stuart recognised instantly.
"This is Mr Stuart Simms, Ma'am," the superintendent announced.
"Thank you, David! Please come in, Mr Simms! I'll bring Mr Simms down when he's ready to leave, David."
Stuart followed the young woman into the large, multi-roomed apartment. He tried hard not to look at the shapely bottom in the blue jeans walking a few feet in front of him. He had seen almost the same view within the last few months in one of the tabloid newspapers. He followed her into her study, where there was a large, highly-polished desk, with a top inlaid with red leather. Behind the desk was a matching chair, on castors.
"Please have a seat, Mr Simms!"
Stuart sat in the chair: also upholstered with soft leather. The young women put one hand on the chair back, then leaned in to turn on the computer. By sheer force of will, Stuart stopped himself from turning his face towards the slim body now only inches away from him, and instead looked towards the computer monitor. But he could still smell the sweet aroma that emanated from her. The computer took a few seconds to boot and at once Stuart could see the problem.
"It's definitely a virus, Ma'am. I've seen something similar a lot lately: it's a scam...the virus infects your hard drive, then a supposedly legitimate window appears, claiming that they can remove it...if you send them money, of course!"
"...And do many people pay?"
"I'm afraid a lot do: especially those people who know nothing about computers or the Internet, only how to turn their computer on and click on links."
"So can you undo the damage, Mr Simms?"
"I should think fairly simply, Ma'am. You should be back to normal quite quickly."
She gave him one of those smiles that he had often seen in the media, too. He had wondered whether it was sincere, or manufactured like some celebrities' smiles obviously were; but this close up he was certain that he now knew.
"Would you care for tea or coffee while you work, Mr Simms?"
"If it's no bother, Ma'am: coffee, please."
She went off to get the coffee, while Stuart set about accessing her computer's interior. Upon her return she put the coffee on the desk.
"Do you mind if I watch?"
"No, of course not!" She placed another chair near to his.
"Is it very technical? I'm afraid I tend to be one of those 'turn their computer on, and click on links' people you mentioned. Although I use word-processing quite a lot, too."
"No, not really, Ma'am: I'll remove your computer's hard drive, then link it to my laptop; then, using a special piece of software, I can check every file on your hard drive for the virus and when it's isolated it can be removed. I then check the whole thing again, and if it's clean I can replace the hard drive and the problem should be solved."
"And this special software: is it the same as you can buy in shops, that's supposed to detect virus'...I thought I had that already."
"It's a similar principle...but mine is better, Ma'am. Most of the ones you buy or can get free, are only effective against known virus', so they have to be constantly updated. However, the people who write the virus' are at least as clever as the people who detect them, so it's like a constant battle between them. It's like antibiotics in the body: after a while the things they are there to stop mutate, and the antibiotics are no longer effective, so new antibiotics have to be created. My software is different: because it looks for certain alien key markers in the code, which when it finds any, activates the virus detection program."
"...So why don't all anti-virus programs do that?" Stuart smiled.
"Well, in the first place, I didn't buy the software, I wrote it; and it's a secret. If it was widely available, it would only be a matter of time before the bad guys modified it and were able to use it: which would make virus detection a whole lot harder! I don't want that to happen, and I don't want to exploit anyone just so I can make a lot of money. If I may make another comparison, Ma'am: because you are a public figure, there are people who see you only as a way of making them money, or of becoming famous themselves; which is why you need legal and physical protection, and I certainly don't want that for myself!"
"That's very admirable, Mr Simms; I can wholeheartedly sympathise with that sentiment!" He thought that he detected a hint of wistfulness in her facial expression.
"So how long have you been doing this kind of work, Mr Simms? Did you go to university to learn it?"
"No, Ma'am, I'm largely self-taught, although I did take some computer programming courses. I started off like a lot of people, by tinkering and building my own computers in my teens; it's not so hard. And then people ask you to look at theirs, and you discover what all the common problems are, so you become good at fault diagnosis; and then the better you become, the more opportunities you get to work on different systems, and so on..."
"I would imagine that you're constantly in demand, Mr Simms: doesn't that affect your private life and your family?"
.... There is more of this story ...