Thursday, July 16, 2009

Daily Story 92: Known Issues

The behemoth lurks in the corner of his cell, dull scales blending into the shadows. Enormous red eyes are focused on me, pupils narrowed down to slits, and I can't help but be impressed. Scrolling through my notes on my datapad, I pull up the appropriate trigger - an image of red and green spirals. I hold up the datapad so the behemoth can see it, and in an instant its claws are unsheathed and tearing the ground apart as the distance between us closes. At the last second I hold up the stuffed animal - a floppy-eared white bunny my daughter had left in my office - and the behemoth skids to a halt. A strange creaking noise comes from it, and I realize it's actually whimpering with fear. The beast scrambles backwards, leaving a trail of urine. Damn.

I turn to look at the handler. "And Jessie from Psychology says there was no trauma?"
The handler, a surprisingly scrawny man named Julian, shakes his head. "None. Everything has been going fine, and there's been no abuse or other mental strain. A rabbit just happened to hop past when we had him in the east field, and he totally lost it."
"Okay," I say, "I'll check the tissue sample to see if it was a problem in Production, but it sounds like it's from my department. I'm sorry, Julian, the programmers must have screwed up somewhere."

Julian shrugs, unconcerned - after all, none of this really changes his job. I ask him to test each variable separately - different colors of rabbits, different sizes, see if it's afraid of women in fur coats or gophers or hairless cats or whatever - but it's not likely to make a difference. Either we'll find it or we're screwed, whatever the details. On a general-consumption engineered creature like the Snuggle Angels - winged cats marketed to little girls - we could maybe get away with it… but the behemoth is for military applications.

This shouldn't be happening. The Instincts department has been doing so well. We have some issues with complex behaviors, sure, but a massive fear reaction to rabbits? There's no way that should have slipped past us. I've still got a tiny shred of hope as I reach my office, and my fingers are crossed as I run the tissue sample. The reader compares it to the 'blueprint' file for the Behemoth's DNA and gives the result almost instantly: One hundred percent match. Hope destroyed, I send an email that just says "BEHEMOTH is deathly afraid of cute fluffy bunnies. Not a joke. Nobody goes home until this is fixed."

I want to plunge in, help out, but being management level has taken its toll and I'm too rusty to be much help. I'm stuck staring at the ceiling, tossing the stuffed bunny from one hand to the other. The phone rings but I ignore it, I know it's my boss and there's no point even talking to him until I have some news. I make a paperclip chain, throw the bunny across the room into an open filing cabinet drawer. My brain is spinning its wheels, going nowhere. Idly, I press my finger against the DNA reader, figuring I'll design some improved versions of myself. Illegal to make, of course, but just doing the blueprint helps to get my mind working.

Before I have a chance to pull it into the editor, a window pops up. It looks like I forgot to close the Behemoth blueprint, and the reader has compared my DNA to it: One hundred percent match. Either I'm a massively armored military killing machine, or something is very wrong. I dial Mike's extension and I see him stand and head for my office rather than answering - that's fine, this conversation would have needed to be in person anyway. He comes in and closes the door behind him.
"What's up, chief?"
"Mike... I need your help looking for errors without alerting anyone. I think we're dealing with a case of sabotage." He just raises an eyebrow, so I continue. "Someone rigged it so the reader would always say a sample matches, and the only reason I can think of for that is so they can sneak bad code past us."

Mike nods, lost in thought. "Is there any way to tell who did it?"
"Yeah, there are only a handful of us that would have had access and they would have had to do it directly, so they'll be caught on security camera." I point at the corner of my office where the camera is hidden, just a tiny pinhole in the wall. Mike looks too, squints for a second, and then sighs.
"Shit, I didn't see that there. Well... win some lose some, huh?"
I'm just staring at him, stunned. I guess it's not a total shock, it had to be someone in the department. He looks so calm - he must know I can call security and have the whole property locked down before he could get ten feet. Mike leans forward, smiling, and whispers to me.
"You're going to just love what the Snuggle Angels do!"

The bunny is staring at me from the filing cabinet drawer as if to ask me what my daughter is playing with right now.