Friday, January 4, 2013

FFF: Only A Drill

Every Friday Kurt posts another flash fiction story. This week's entry...

Only A Drill
Word Count: 599

Jerry walked the office corridors, looking for signs of life, and so far he’d found none. Which was good—the building was supposed to be empty. He made his way through the cubicles but was stopped short by the clicking and clacking of a keyboard and a mouse.

“Hello?” he said.

The noises stopped, then resumed, but there was no verbal response.

“Is anyone there?” asked Jerry, walking in the direction of the noises.

He found a mousy young man in a cubicle, typing frantically.

“Sir,” said Jerry, “you need to leave your workstation now.”

“It’s only a fire drill,” said the young man—Thomas, according to his nameplate.

“You don’t know that,” said Jerry.

“There are no secondary signs,” said Thomas, still typing furiously. “Smoke, etc.”

“You’re supposed to evacuate, even during a drill,” said Jerry.

“Well, I can’t,” said Thomas. “Now, if you don’t mind, I’m actually quite busy.”

“You have to leave,” said Jerry. “I can’t let you stay here.”

Thomas turned and faced Jerry. “Look,” he said, “I know you’re just doing your job, and I know these drills are important, but if I leave my workstation, this company is going to lose millions of dollars in the Dubai market.”

Jerry raised an eyebrow.

“The program that manages financial transactions is on the fritz,” said Thomas, turning back to his keyboard. “I’m keeping it alive right now, but if I walk away from this desk, the whole thing is going to collapse.”

“What is?” asked Jerry.

“The platform!” said Thomas.

Jerry looked around for a platform.

“No,” said Thomas, “the software platform. It’s pinging out every few seconds and hanging if it doesn’t get a response. If it hangs for too long, it will shut down. Then—poof—goodbye millions of dollars.”

“This doesn’t seem right to me,” said Jerry. “Don’t you have a disaster recovery system? If the software goes down, isn’t there another system as a backup?”

“This is the backup,” said Thomas. “The regular system already failed. That’s how we caught the bug.”

“I still can’t let you stay here,” said Jerry.

“You’re not listening to me,” said Thomas, typing madly, “the company would lose millions. If there were a real fire, I’m sure they’d be willing to part with all that money, but this is only a drill, so I’m not moving.”

“These things shouldn’t fail like this,” said Jerry. “Situations like this shouldn’t come up.”

“You’re right about that,” said Thomas, laughing. “There’s definitely something going wrong here. It can be a compliance issue after Dubai closes. For now, it’s a millions-of-dollars issue.”

Jerry looked at his watch. He needed to finish his sweep and check in with Security. “I guess I’ll leave you to it,” he said.

“Thank you for understanding,” said Thomas.

Jerry walked away. It felt like a weird thing to compromise on. And he would have to report it to his supervisor, which would not reflect well on him. He supposed he could just let it go, but Jerry was a long-time believer in the strength and power of rules. And the more he thought about that, the more he regretted what he’d just done.

His job was to make sure the building was clear, dammit.

The company would just have to eat the loss. He headed back to Thomas’ cube and started to apologize in advance, but he was greeted with gunfire and explosions. Thomas was busily killing aliens in a video game.

“Millions of dollars?” asked Jerry.

Thomas jumped out of his seat, screaming. Then he shrugged. “You got me,” he said.

Edited by Carolyn Abram.

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