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skot AT izzlepfaff DOT com

Thursday, 30 June
Directed By James Cameron

A chilly rain was falling as I approached the structure, and as I glanced at its dull metal walls I felt a slither of fear uncoil in my stomach. I killed it with a last bolt of bad coffee and threw the container away carelessly. Fuck it, I thought. Seven thirty. Time to go to work. I checked the ammo readout on my pulse rifle for the third time and went in.

Hugging the walls, I made it to the elevator without incident. Who says this thing is going to work anyway? I wondered. But then the doors opened with a cheerful ding! that grated on my frayed nerves, but hey. Beats twenty flights of stairs. I pushed the button for my floor and relaxed.

Stupid. Rookie mistake. The thing dropped down from the ceiling so fast I barely had time to react. "Hi! Whatcha reading?" it screeched hellishly, and the nauseating tang of dopamine-inhibiting White Shoulders fragrance invaded my nostrils. "I wish I read more? Say, Wednesday, huh? I sure hate the old hump days!" The xenomorph's teeth snapped at me menacingly through this barrage of mindless nonsense. I had only seconds before it would have me in its talons.

"YAAAAAHHH!" I screamed, ripping my reeling mind away from the sickly reek of the thing's olfactory assault. This also happened to help clear my head of the deadening babble the beast was producing in order to confuse me. The beast looked uncertain, and crouched in the corner, baring its teeth. "I have a son who wears a hat like yours; would you like to see a picture?" it hissed defensively.

I blew that fucking monster straight to hell, and thought, Old Navy's gonna need a fresh customer. Clamped down on the happy thought, though, quick. Bitch almost got me with the perfume and the brainless chatter. You almost talked to her, son, I reprimanded myself. Stupid. Lucky to still be walking.

The elevator got to my floor. I cleared the lobby with efficient, darting precision, and then slid my keycard through the security door, and elbowed it grunt-style to my office. I didn't want to get ambushed by the Administrones--nasty, soup-based life forms whose lethal stings were rumored to be able to incapacitate a man before the beasts poured themselves into his ear and cool his brain to the temperature of fatal ennui.

I passed Carl's office, my supervisor, and gave him a glance. He was peering owlishly at some anti-personnel grenades piled up on his desk and absently cleaning the barrel of a nasty-looking Crystal Pistol--in our compromised office, a pretty effective weapon, considering how many people are named Crystal. It'll put down a solid six at a go if you really need it, and boy did we need it back in '02 during the Temp Incursion.

"Hey Carl," I said softly, trying not to provoke a panicked response. He gazed up at me coldly. "You're technically personnel," he said. "You ask me anything about protocol development and I'll frag you before you know it."

I met his gaze levelly. "I'm not even coming in," I replied. "Just wondered what the status was." He eased up a bit and put down the CryPi on his desk next to a gorgeous vintage chain email set. My finger loosened on the pulse rifle slightly. Technically, we were on the same team.

"It's quiet so far," he said evenly. "But who knows what the fuck is in the walls. I've got unconfirmed rumors about some Reply To All viruses spreading, but I haven't seen shit yet. And Carrie said something weird about fatal errors in Outlook, but I don't know anything more."

That was ominous. "What do you mean you don't know? What else did Carrie say?"

He stared at me flatly. "Nothing, you fucking moron. She's dead. I told you it was a fatal error. Last I heard from her, she was screaming about her legs being eaten off by Nigerian scam artists. Next thing I know, those creepy-ass golems from IT are carting off her computer and shit like she wasn't ever even here." I could see him suppressing a shudder. I couldn't blame him. IT golems are, it seems, entirely unkillable drones who carry out their grim functions with not even a whisper of emotion. Once I saw one eat a rubber plant. They are completely mysterious, completely indestructible, and apparently ageless. You can shoot them in the head with a .357, and the most likely reaction you'll get is, "You need to reboot."

"Christ," I said, looking down. "What can you do, you know?" This was a common refrain in our office. Carl gave the standard reply. "You log in, you give your eight, you get your check, right? That's how it works. Get to it, soldier."

Bastard. I nodded curtly and turned to go, but then I heard his tone soften. "Look. Stay frosty. All right?" A conciliation of sorts. I turned my head back. "Stay frosty," I said. Response to the call. Like Benedictine monks. Yeah, sure. Benedictine monks caught in an insane world of mind-wrecking craziness and eternal paranoia and murderous danger! Anyway, I ate a bagel and reflected on things like . . . oh man. Geez, man. I mean . . . man. The thoughts echoed in my brains as I sat in my office. Man.

Of course we were unprepared for the assault. It came fast and it came hard. I heard Carl die wetly in his office when the Aggrievers flooded in and nailed him with a deadly hail of tiny lethal knives. I heard him when he screamed, "You don't have that much vacation time!" and then his agonized moan as his guts must have slid out like cold lasagna from a greased pan onto the grey-carpeted floor.

But by then I was already in trouble. The assault waves came in what we military folk call waves, and they waved over me in waves. Some of the beasts had figured out a way to encode themselves into MIME format, and even more horribly, erupted ghostlike from my monitor in mime form. They began performing elaborate routines that ate at my brain; one fellow pretended that he was trapped inside an invisible box, and another seemed to me--it is hard to recollect--that he was emulating an enthusiastic dancing banana. I mowed down this first wave with the pulse rifle, and they collapsed in jittering piles onto my carpet.

More was to come. The things continued to clamber out of my comp system; one terrible beast cried to me with a voice like bones being clattered together, "There is an error message!" Another bat-winged horror moaned incessantly about lost passwords, and shat itself with alarming regularity as it prowled the corners of the room stealthily. One more hideous creature confined itself to hopping hideously in place, shrieking out the phrase, over and over, "Roster identification! Roster identification!" I think the most frightening beast was . . . oh God. You don't know. All it would say, in a voice from the coldest grave: "Run-time error. Run-time error." Over and over.

I held them off for as long as I could. I really did. I can say that much. But I knew then that I was going to die.

You know, it's not that bad. The incubation period isn't too enjoyable, but once the child bursts out of your chest, I'm thinking it's all worth it. This way I have a kid. And, you know, maybe before the massive thoracic trauma kills me, I can hear the little guy's first words. I can already hear them.

"You need to reboot. You need to reboot."

Make me proud, kiddo.

| Skot | 30 Jun, 2005 |

Note: Comments are closed on old entries.


And I thought I was the most disgruntled office worker.

Comment number: 005881   Posted by: Mickey on June 30, 2005 08:43 AM from IP:

One word for you - Brilliant!

Comment number: 005882   Posted by: Geek's Girl on June 30, 2005 09:10 AM from IP:

Wouldn't cold lasagna come out of a pan in one big 'clunk'?

Comment number: 005883   Posted by: Daniel Talsky on June 30, 2005 10:00 AM from IP:

Too bad it wasn't directed my M. Knight Shamalamadingdong... it would have all been a dream.

Comment number: 005884   Posted by: Johnny on June 30, 2005 05:41 PM from IP:

I'd buy your book.

Comment number: 005885   Posted by: Mike on June 30, 2005 06:19 PM from IP:

"Stay frosty", indeed.

Like anyone can stay frosty when even your trusty pulse rifle starts spewing error messages about some damn DLL missing the the clip you just loaded. Or complaining that it can't fire because of a memory allocation error on a server that it's NOT EVEN SUPPOSED TO BE CONNECTED TO.

But hang tight, brother. I hear once the data paths go deep enough, it doesn't hurt at all. . .

Comment number: 005886   Posted by: David on June 30, 2005 08:20 PM from IP:

This is some of your finest work mon amie.

Don't forget to wake up Hicks.

Comment number: 005887   Posted by: Feisty Cadaver on July 1, 2005 08:18 AM from IP:

Uh, the lasagna was cold. Not frozen.

Comment number: 005888   Posted by: Jenny on July 3, 2005 01:27 PM from IP:

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