Fragmented Friends

“You seen this?” Russ asks pointing toward a monitor that is positioned between both his main array of five displays and Lika’s array of four.

The woman with multicoloured hair makes no attempt to pull herself away from what she is busily working on and instead replies with a uh huh. Russ sighs, for once he’s serious, the display is showing a weird reading, unlike anything he’s ever seen before. He knows Lika thinks he has zero brains for this job but once he’d been a high flying whizz. What changed was when he gave in to his greed.

He did some things he shouldn’t have in the pursuit of bettering the construct. In reality all he did was make things worse for the scattered code. In essence he reactivated it. The director had wanted his head, demoted him down to rank and file to help fix the issue he created by consolidating all code and then issued a demand that Russ Kenny never be permitted to ascend or be removed from the department. He can’t even quit. He is stuck here, in this job, for life.

That was when he gave up and why the project didn’t move along a millimetre until Lika. She actually has prospects in mind and so it’s not surprising she tried where Russ did not. That is why the fragment consolidation is moving forward now. Whether the director cares or ever did Russ cannot say. She sure had a scolding look upon her face when he’d been hauled up in front of her. For a diminutive woman she sure had a temper and if she were not his boss, the woman who stranded him here with no future, and had been a couple decades younger he might have tried it on with her.

“No, I’m serious, look.” Russ for the second time attempts to get Lika to study the oddities present in the construct.

Gone are the days of Datastars. Looking after this mammoth machine now is an important but forgotten role occupied by anyone who wishes to fill a seat. No more glitz and glamour but at least the issue of overcharging has been greatly diminished. Sure, it’s possible to overcharge, but you’d have to frequent the simulation continually for eighty two years. Not likely no matter whom you might be. Still, protocols are in place just in case.

Lika ignores Russ completely on this second attempt because she is instead inclined to focus on her work. She expects all he’ll say if she gives him the time of day will be some inappropriate remark about her being gullible and having looked while he’s holding up a snap of a naked form. It is his oft played and massively overused trick when he gets bored, which is most of the time it seems.

“I’m fucking serious. The code is out of whack. Look.” This time Russ grabs the edge of the arm mounted monitor and swings it toward Lika. He hopes it’ll do the trick. He really doesn’t have a play past this one to get her attention.

The pair of them are housed in a small ‘office’ together. Russ can remember when it was used for storage. They have no window, their desks barely fit alongside one another and seldom do they turn the lights on to see the bland walls for fear of being blinded by the overhead strip lights that are far too much for this rooms size. Instead, they let their monitors do the illuminating. Sure, it’s bad for your eyes but then suffering constant migraines caused by strip lighting is worse.

With the screen shoved in her face Lika is inclined to look. She does so with a despondent expression on her face. At least it means, she thinks, it won’t be a trick to get her to look at another naked body Russ feels inclined to share. That in itself is a relief. Still, she is sure this is some other trick, a brand new one. The short haired woman recently back from lunch thinks this would mark the first new anything Russ has done in months. Maybe old dogs can learn new tricks, she thinks to herself as she begins to scan the monitor.

There is nothing out of the ordinary in the first five lines. By the sixth and seventh Lika is convinced this is a joke and that Russ will declare as much very soon. He doesn’t. Rather, he leaves her to her study, his eyes wide and expectant. At one time he would’ve known what the oddities in the code are but those days have long since past. Such things are lost to him. He’s forgotten them all. If he hadn’t he might recognise some of his own handiwork.

By the time Lika reaches the eleventh and twelfth lines of code her brow begins to morph due to intrigue. Still, it could be a trick, she tells herself, and yet continues to push on. By the eighteenth line her eyes are wide and it is clear this is no trick. Then there is another change. Lika blinks. Following that a series of repeats occur over and over like she saw in the earlier lines. She scrolls past them to a new section.

“Is it something?” Lika has never heard genuine interest in Russ’ voice before and thinks she likes it.

Still, she gives no answer and pushes on. She has to be sure of what it might or might not be before… Her jaw drops. She has scanned so far down the log that she has hit a repeating pattern. It appears to be a burst of, static? Confusion fills her. No such thing should be present in a digital network like the construct. More than that it isn’t just a burst repeating, but one set at a particular note. The note means not a thing to her though she can grasp that it has been set is not natural because the code denotes as such. For that to be possible it would mean that…

Lika spins away from the monitor and the expectantly waiting Russ. Her attention returns to her screen and Russ sinks. He gets the distinct feeling what he found is nothing and yet Lika’s hands blitz across her keyboard frantically. That inclines him to query, “Did I find something?”

His tone is wary as if he expects this is some game and he might soon be the loser, called out and ridiculed for his hopes. It’s the first time he’s shown any care about anything involving this job in… let’s just say a long time. Still, he wouldn’t be surprised if this is payback for all the times he’s messed with Lika.

“Yeah, you did but I can’t work out as to what, other than to say that it’s not part of the core.”

“That only leaves the fragments but it can’t be…” Russ trails off. He can’t accept that there is something in the fragments. That would mean a living thing is in there. There is no way there is living thing in the fragments. There never has been. It would be impossible for them to survive… His eyes go wide. He wonders if when he reactivated the fragments it started something. Is that what made the director so angry? It could be, but what could it be and does that mean she knww? Of course she knew she’s the director!

Lika is oblivious to the mutterings and murmurs of her colleague as he blathers on nonsensically because she’s focused solely on finding what is causing that loop.

Now that it’s started it seems incapable of stopping. Either it’s a glitch or… It doesn’t take long, in the grand scheme of things, to find out, which is why a few hours later Lika has determined that someone called Warren is in the fragments that have coalesced into a chunk.

Having gleaned that information she is running a data search on all records for Warren. There are millions of entries present. She eliminates all current employees from the search but is left with far too many still. As a result she turns back to the code, repeating over and over, and attempts to reverb the tone altered static back to its source. It isn’t a question, which she would prefer to send but cannot work out how to, yet it might be enough to illicit some new details if a response is at all forthcoming. There is no way of knowing whether it will be or not.  

Lika gets her answer fifteen minutes later. A smile cracks across her face because the reply includes the tag Thewlis. Lika hopes it’s a name that she can search in conjunction with Warren. Without delay she updates the search tags and waits for the results.

By this point Russ is hanging over her shoulder. He repeats the name over and over feeling it familiar but without the ability to place as to why. All he can say is that it’s been a long time since he’s heard the name.

Where have I heard that name? It could have been when I was a kid growing up. He isn’t sure however.

Alas he can reach no definitive conclusion and so he and Lika have to wait for the search to complete. When it does they are met with a single result. Lika clicks it only to be met with an authorisation denial and a line that informs; this file has been sealed by authority of the Director.

Cold chills run down both Lika and Russ’s backs. Lika doesn’t want trouble whereas Russ would rather never meet the director ever again. He’s been on her bad side once and that was enough to do a lifetimes worth of damage. He doubts he’d survive a second go round, as cocky as he might appear most of the time.

“We need to forget what we found.” Russ blurts. His brown eyes begin to shift suspiciously from side to side without ever stopping as they words pass his lips. The result of his restless eyes it is it appears as if he needs to keep them moving if he is to retain his sight.

“What? Why? This could be…” Lika never gets to finish for there is a knock on their office door. Both of them jump out of their skin in response to it.

“Don’t answer it.” Russ demands out of the blue and when Lika is less than a metre from the door.

She pauses, looks over her shoulder, shows her expression of confused shock and then returns to covering the remaining distance. Once at the door she releases the lock with her authentication bracelet and pulls it open.

Russ meanwhile is cowering where he stands convinced his life is about to get a whole lot worse.

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