Fragmented Friends

“You nearly finished with the update?” Russ asks with tattooed arms folded across his chest and a bored expression carved deep into his face.

“You do understand this can’t be rushed, right? We have to get this right. If we don’t…”

“Yeah, yeah, I know; the director will have our balls. I won’t give her the satisfaction.”  Russ says interjecting over the top of the woman with him. Her name is Lika and unlike Russ her skin is unmarked by ink. Rather, she has short red and green hair slicked back and beginning to grow down her neck. She’ll get it shaved soon. This is the longest her hair has been in nearly a decade. She doesn’t like it and only tried it because she could. Truth be told its hassle and Lika hates hassle. A shaved head is easy to take care of. You jump in the shower and wash your whole body with the same gel. Having hair means you have to use shampoo, conditioner or some such else. Quick and easy is how Lika prefers it, except when it comes to her work. She’s a coder for the construct but not at a high level. If she were high level a man like Russ wouldn’t be around. He’s a ‘coder.’ Or at least that is what he likes to call himself. He does no coding. He relies on Lika to keep the ship afloat. How he’s managed to survive the department she will never understand. It’s not like he knows anyone high up, relation or otherwise, and yet he continues to clock in, do nothing, chat crap and then clock out with fourteen hours to his name and a paycheck to match.

At one time that had grated severely with Lika but she’s since let it go. Only because grudges could count against her dream of getting to a high priority level and gaining access to more sophisticated systems in construct. She’ll never see the best stuff. That’s reserved for the director, but more would be enough. Well, she thinks more access and better projects will be enough. She has no way of knowing. For the moment however she is stuck patching drift data segments. They are sections of code that are no longer attached in any way to the rest of the system. Some might think reintegration would be best but they’d be wrong. Others might ask as to why it isn’t simply deleted, Russ is one of those types she thinks, but that could cause just as much harm as reintegration. Instead, the best process for the construct is simply to consolidate the fractured sections into a singular mass that is isolated from the core and then assess risk. If any of the code is decent and shows no signs of causing harm then reintegration might be performed. And it would only be a might because at the end of the day the decision will be the directors.

“That would only be an issue for you Russ.” Lika utters only to issue a smile the tatted man with shoulder length straggly brown hair can’t see.

Her reply comes as she finalises the install of the consolidating update. With the construct being as massive and old as it is the consolidation has to be done in sectors. Ultimately, and if there is no danger, all these consolidated sectors will be meshed into a single mass and then studied. The department could do it section by section but to be honest there isn’t the personnel for that. This is seen as a necessary evil but one that is offered little in terms of resources. Most of the coders are focused on the core. Like any network or computer systems it needs regular updates and permanent monitoring, especially after what happened that once.

“Then you clearly don’t know the directors rep well enough if that’s what you think.” Russ murmurs in reply.

His statement draws a look from Lika, who is back on her feet and has spun round to face her colleague, and that look questions as to what he means by that.

“You don’t know?”

“Don’t know what?” Are the words Lika blurts out of her mouth without first thinking about her reply.

Russ grunts derisively and then cocks his head to the right. Normally that would be what he does when studying someone he wants to get into bed, but on this occasion it is genuine intrigue. Lika wasn’t aware her colleague possessed such a thing but says no more than what she has thus far. After all, it is his turn to speak and so she waits. She isn’t left waiting too long. No surprise there.

“Directors the kind of woman that if you have no balls she’ll drag you into a private lobby, make your avatar a male and then chop them off just so you know how it feels.” Russ explains with a serious look on his face. There is no hint that he might be joking, which for him is unusual. It makes Lika wonder if he’s speaking from experience. It might explain something about him, she can’t say what though. He doesn’t really talk about himself. At least not in that sort of way, he doesn’t.

Finally curiosity gets the better of her and she feels compelled to ask, “Speaking from experience?” A wry smile slides across her slender facial features right after. Her large brown eyes bat as if butter wouldn’t melt. Though why she is bothering to waste such a thing on Russ she cannot say as he never falls for it. He only has two things on his mind. The first is money, the second is… Well, it’s not Lika but anyone else is fair game it seems from what she’s witnessed. It makes her skin crawl just thinking about it.

“Ha, you wish I was. I still got my balls,” Russ grabs his crotch as if that is somehow proof and then continues, “and I’ve never been a woman.” His tone is a tad too defensive as if he’s trying to deflect. It could be nothing. It could be everything. Its doubtful Lika will find out either way. Doesn’t mean she’s going to drop it however.

“So how do you know that is what…?” Lika begins but upon seeing the smile that stretches across Russ’ face she decides, “…you know I don’t want to know. I really don’t. Ew.” The image in her head is already too much but the more she tries to put it out of her mind the more it insists on lingering. She feels herself gag. Instinctively her hands shoot up to cover her mouth. Thankfully nothing threatens to expel itself from deep within her body. That is probably because she has yet to eat today. There are some advantages to obsessing over your work and for once that is what she’ll call her inability to organise her life. Generally she would chastise herself but not this time. This time she congratulates, though knows full well she wouldn’t have to if she worked with anyone else other than Russ. No chance of that changing. She attempted to get a transfer once and didn’t care if the transfer was of her or him. It failed, quietly. She was thankful that the failure was quiet. However, it was made clear to her that there would be no transfers and that her only way out would be if one of them gets canned, not likely, or she gets a promotion. Russ getting one is a definite no, which was something that was eluded to but not out rightly said. She found that most intriguing but her attempts at information gathering have thus far failed.

“We done here?” Russ insists on using we when really it is Lika who is done here because he hasn’t offered a single shred of help in either the coding or installation of what’s been written.

Pointless fight you can’t win, Lika tells herself. As a result her response is a simple nod. She can’t speak. If she does she’ll say something she could regret and so has elected to bite her tongue and deliver her reply non-verbally.

“Good, time for lunch!” Russ could not sound happier if he tried.

His statement does explain as to why he kept glancing away from the task at hand, which she thought was so he could stare at her ass. He still could have been. She certainly felt as if eyes were on her and though Russ might not want to bed her that does not mean he’d behave like a civilised human being. Lika doubts he could ever imitate such a thing if his life depended on it.

“Oh come on. Start the thing so we can get some food. Looks like you need some in your…” Russ reaches toward her concealed midriff only for Lika to smack his hand away and deliver a glare that implies if he tries to touch her she will break his hand.

Russ’ smile vanishes for less than a second. Once it’s back he chuckles heartily, turns and begins to stride off as if nothing has happened.

He manages three steps before hollering, “Come on hangry.”

Lika lets out a long deep sigh, gathers her gear which consists principally of a datapad and some cables, replaces the injection port cover of this otherwise matte grey curved wall of the maintenance tube with its too harsh white strip lights, turns on her heels and then follows in the footsteps of Russ. He is a good three metres ahead of her already. His head barely clearing the highest point of the continually curved space they are both within. The floor, a grating mounted to either side of the curves a few inches from the base of the tube proper.

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