Let’s see who can guess the inspiration for this snippet And remember that you can read my Friday Flash archive on this page of my website.
Right On Time
(c) 2008 by Maura Anderson, all rights reserved
All my instincts told me I needed to figure out just what this code did – quickly.
I’ve never understood how my magic works, let alone been able to explain it to anyone else. Instead of cauldrons and grimoires, I worked with computers, software and programming manuals. I can’t create a love spell to save my life, but I can craft the perfect matchmaking application. A source of continual embarrassment to my very traditional mother, I was the family techno-sheep.
With the USB fob plugged into my specially crafted hub, I sat down at my secure system. As soon as the fob powered up, I could feel the intent of the code like a dark, malevolent fog washing through my nervous system.
Deep breaths helped trigger my long-ingrained training and I sank into a slight trance. Eyes closed, I visualized my shields like a bubble of reflective metal, then deliberately thinned them until they seemed like a layer of shiny mylar. The heavy shields normally protected me from the plethora of electronics in daily life but I couldn’t work with them up.
In and out. In and out. With each breath I traced my magic along the code paths, sinking gradually deeper as I explored it. I avoided the couple of traps I felt, easing around them so I didn’t set off whatever payload they would trigger. They weren’t the most sophisticated traps, signaling that the person who wrote this code wasn’t a highly skilled developer. It felt more like the cobbled together code of a script-kiddie but I’d never seen this nasty a code from them. It wasn’t their style.
Still without a clear idea of what the code did other than receive commands to spider the network and send details back out. It wasn’t complete and I couldn’t tell much more from this snippet than I had from the prior two I’d examined.
There had to be some connection between them.
Thickening my shields again, I kept my eyes shut. I didn’t know how long I’d been immersed in the code but I was so tired I could feel my own hands shake. Damn, I needed some food and some sleep soon or I wouldn’t be worth anything.
A commotion broke out in the break room down the hall and the loud, excited voices caught my attention. I’d call it parental instinct if I had any children – maybe zoo keeper instinct in my case. Something was going on that might need intervention.
Annoyingly shaky, I steadied myself with a hand on my desk for a moment before I dried my sweaty hands on my jeans, tugged my leather halter top down and went to see what the hell was going on now.
One of my newer developers, Jade, was hopping up and down in front of a machine I’d never seen before.
“What the hell are you doing, Jade?”
She shot a guilty look at me and seemed about to answer. But when the machine made a clicking sound, she immediately turned back to it, almost quivering with excitement. I’d apparently been forgotten.
“Jade, did someone give you lemonheads again? Last time you ate two pounds in only a couple of days and you couldn’t focus enough to stay human for more than ten minutes at a time. We had to peel you off the ceiling, then you slept for the next three days.”
My office manager leaned against the doorway next to me. “I took care of that.”
Another click and Jade got even more frantic. By now a crowd had gathered to watch her crazed movements, accompanied now by high pitched chittering.
“What did you do? Why is she going nuts?”
“It’s an automatic feeder. It dispenses one lemon drop every two hours. No more, no less.” She chuckled and pointed at Jade. “It’s about to give her a treat.”
Just as I thought my young developer would fly apart if she vibrated any faster, a bright light flashed and a cute sable ferret was hopping around on the floor below the dispenser, still tangled in Jade’s clothing. Wiggling free, the ferret war-danced as the dispenser clicked again, then a chime rang out and a large, wrapped candy popped out.
Jade the ferret managed to catch it in mid-air, then sank her teeth into the wrapper and drug it after her, heading backwards out of the break room and toward her office.
I tried not to laugh. Really.