I have been working for a near 3 years at a call center providing IT support so I am still quite fairly new but I learned quick. During the beginning we go over a lot of training over some of the software we use, majominor troubleshooting, resolves, call taking, how-to, etc etc... During a week of training for remote user support, I was with someone who taught me a golden rule. Never trust your client/caller ever.
This has always been on my mind to make sure I always understand the full story and asking correct questions before diving in. But sometimes... I give in and trust the caller to shave a few minutes off a call or sometimes simply because it makes sense to.
Normal day, normal calls. One call comes in, it was transferred from one of my colleagues who was training someone. Lady tells me the following even before being introduced after being transferred:
Lady: "I cannot type at all and its not working, My system is frozen and my monitor is not responding" Me to myself: here we go... what the hell is she even talking about. Me: "Hi ma'am, I'll be taking over this call moving forward. What exactly do you mean you cannot type?" Lady: "It's just not working, I type and its not working, the previous guy told me to unplug my monitor and reboot test it, didn't work, plug the monitor back in and its still just not working" Me to myself: what the hell kind of troubleshooting is that? What wasn't I told from the previous agent, oh my god this is going to be a long one. Me: "Can you click on the-" Lady: "NO I CANT EVEN CLICK"
First of all, she was using a laptop that was connected to their monitor. Normal stuff, they just couldn't do anything, we unplug the monitor and had them use the laptop as normal. I told them to just log into the system with the laptop keyboard and mouse. It worked. We got in, got them connected and I remoted on to see what the hell they were doing with this monitor shenanigans.
Immediately I get a key test running, they test out their external keyboard and no keys are registering. Device manager showed no external mouse or keyboard connected. Nothing in windows settings > devices either.
We plug the monitor back in to see what all of the monitor shenanigans was about because she was telling me how it had something to do with the monitor because of the last agent that was helping them...
I find out they had their keyboard and mouse connected to the actual monitor running as kind of like a docking station. Magically, the keyboard and mouse show up windows settings > devices as a COMBO. (one USB for both devices... shenanigans if you ask me)
Key test again, keyboard doesn't work. Mouse is working now(???). Had them unplug the USB from their monitor which took a while cause they couldn't find it... And had them plug in directly to their laptop. Mouse worked, but not keyboard.
What the hell? I decide well, maybe its something with the drivers... or the keyboard is dead?
Me: "Does the keyboard usually emit any light at all?" Lady: "No" Me: "By chance does your keyboard run off of batteries?" Lady: "Yea it has batteries but changing them didn't fix it" Me: "Is everything in correctly?" Lady: "Yes" Me: "Could we swap out the batteries again maybe? Maybe we got one with no juice in it left" Few minutes go by...
Lady: "Its still not working, only the mouse works."
OK I guess I can't get much more information from that. I have to kind of trust them on this one. I won't even bother asking them for the model because they really sound like they wouldn't know. I was really over the day and wanted to get this call over with, fix it, move on.
I start looking at drivers, uninstall, reboot, reinstall, same issue, took a further look to see if for whatever reason the keyboard had internal storage, maybe for whatever reason it was being blocked by our system policies... whatever.
We're pretty deep into this call given it takes a lot of time for them to reboot, test things, the occasional "brb" or "hold on real quick" and even the "no I don't know" that makes our lives a bit harder.
What could it even be? I was honestly just about to tell them that hey were SOL here, lets get you a new keyboard.
Lady was fiddling around for a while in the middle of looking at everything and me being completely stumped and about to send them documents for a keyboard replacement.
Lady: "Oh you know what, the nub of the battery is supposed to be on the spring right?" (the nub by the way, hahahahaha) Me: "No, definitely not, its supposed to be the other way around." facepalm
Keyboard now works like a charm.
Sometimes we overlook the simple things because we put too much trust into our client.
The golden rule: never trust your client ever.
TL;DR Caller had their monitor acting as a docking station for their laptop which did not work for their keyboard, their keyboard batteries were in wrong. (+ and - on wrong ends)
The computer system's cooling system turned on first. Pumps pressurized gas, turning it into slurry, which was then pumped through superconductor wrapped piping. The superconductor made sure all of the material was the same temperature as the superconductor that was wrapped around the piping.
Hardware began to power up, going through self-checks and self-diagnostics. Temperatures immediately began to rise as electricity flowed through circuitry that had been dormant for thousands of years. LED's, neon strips, and fluorescent tubes began to light up different colors, a combination decorate and early warning system.
Herod watched as the human woman stayed fixated on the dataslate that was connected to the system. She was watching the POST messages, checking the voltage readings, watching temperature. Herod noted that she'd already started using split-screen in order to keep track of the data-sheet on one side and the actual readings on the other.
She was humming to herself, rocking back and forth slightly on her heels, a slight smile on her face.
The system beeped and all of the components went live, bringing the system to full operation.
Herod still watched as Dee monitored the software and firmware messages as the system booted up.
"Looks like replacing that last crystal platter drive did it," she said, tapping the checksum pass. "The repair system is online now. It's already dedicating repair drones to the systems we prioritized."
She turned off the display and turned around. "Now where, Speedy?"
"Primary Soul Uninterrupted Disaster Storage System," Herod said, sighing. He put his fingertips to his temple, even though it didn't do any good in reality. "Sam?"
"Yes?" Sam's voice was still heavily synthesized.
"How do we get to the SUDS?" Herod asked.
"Take mag-lev, it's another Gen-Two Startram, so you won't be in transit for too long. A day or two. I'm having it loaded with food and drink now," Sam said.
Dee nodded slowly, looking up at the floating orb that Sam was using to speak. She looked down at Wally, then at the orb, then at Herod, her eyes flat and unreadable.
"I'll give you a guideline," Sam said. He made a groaning sound. "I will be with you momentarily, please, wait. I know it's been a long time but I just need a little more time."
The blue line showed up in Herod's vision and he adjusted the strap on his tool kit. "Ready?" he asked Dee. She just nodded, her face expressionless. Herod looked down at Wally. "Ready?" Wally beeped and held up his little clawed hand.
They walked silently through the massive forms of the equipment that Herod barely understood.
Several times Dee just walked through flickering apparitions that appeared, took a few steps, and vanished.
Usually on contact with Dee.
"Can't you see them?" Herod asked after a Treana'ad with chainsaws for arms, large spikes driven through his head, and a mouth full of sawblades ran down the corridor waving his arms.
"I can see them," Dee said. "They're impressions, and impressions have no more powerful than a hologram."
Herod didn't say anything.
The phasic residue was thick enough that he could feel a chill, sometimes taste a memory, remember a touch, when he grazed the images of the dead.
"Why?" Dee asked as she stepped onto the moving sidewalk.
"They're dangerous," Herod said.
"If you say so," Dee said. She looked at the landscape that was moving by faster and faster. "They're dead, and the dead no longer matter."
Herod shook his head, leaning on the rest bar next to Dee. "We stand upon the edifice built by the dead of years past, they matter in their deeds and how they have effected the world."
"Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! Nothing beside remains. Round the decay," She quoted. "Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare the lone and level sands stretch far away.”
"Ozymandias," Herod said softly.
"Yes. Although Kansas said it better," she said.
"How? And who is Kansas?" Herod asked.
"A musical group. Hippies. But they said it better: we're all just dust in the wind," she quoted. She pulled out a pack of cigarettes, looking at the remaining few in them. She sighed. "I'll be out soon."
"Give Wally one," Herod said. Wally opened the port in front of the strange matter creation engine Herod had installed in his frame.
"What? Why?" Dee asked.
"Trust me," Herod said.
"Yeah, that means 'fuck you' in Yiddish," Dee said, but she handed one over.
"What's Yiddish?" Herod asked.
She shook her head. "Nothing that matters now."
Herod tossed it in the creation engine's open port and waited. "Print us out a box of twenty," Herod said.
Wally shivered for a moment and the box popped out. He picked it up and held it up. Herod took it and handed it to Dee. "Here, try these. They'll all be identical to the one you gave him until one of us sits down and does some randomization in the template."
Dee took it, replacing her unlit cigarette in the old pack and opening up the new one. She took a cigarette out and put it in her mouth, lighting it. She closed her eyes, obviously tasting the smoke, and exhaled a cloud of it.
"Huh, can't tell the difference," she mused.
Herod broke the silence after a moment. "I owe you an apology," he said.
"What for, Speedy?" Dee asked.
Herod sighed. "You're from eight thousand years ago. Even though I'm surrounded by technology I barely understand, doing things I can barely comprehend, I wrongfully assumed you were stupid."
"Like I was a caveman you thawed out?" she asked.
Herod nodded. "Yes. I was hoping that, at the most, you could be like Wally there and help me out by handing me tools and materials."
Dee was quiet for a long moment. "I get it. You're used to a world full of humans so goddamn stupid you wonder how they breathe and walk at the same time."
"Well," Herod started.
"I get that feeling. Everyone around you is barely intelligent monkeys, unable to comprehend a single thing about the world around them beyond hot and cold, wet and dry, and you're supposed to act like they matter, that they're your equals," Dee's voice was cold, hard, tight. "You have to be polite to your inferiors who, many times, are in positions of power over you."
"I was wrong about you," Herod said. Beyond the crysteel tube the autowalk was moving through were fields of grain being tended to by robotic tractors.
"I noticed you changed your mind about the time you had me start working with the software," Dee said. "I'm familiar with the language and it showed."
"I've found myself having to adjust to reality quite a bit in the last year or so," Herod admitted. He opened his mouth to further apologize when Dee reached out and roughly shoved him.
"Good enough. Don't fuck this up and keep talking," she said.
They were silent as the autowalk kept moving, the agricultural fields streaking by.
The autowalk was slowing down and she straightened up, pointing. "The trains often look like that?"
The maglev train had broken windows, smears of paint on it, and was obviously suffering from oxidation.
"No, they don't," Herod mused.
"Huh," Dee said, turning to stare at the oncoming terminal. She lifted a hand to shade her eyes, squinting. "Platform's clear."
"Might have happened right after the Glassing. Probably Screaming Ones," Herod said. He'd explained the Glassing and the Screaming Ones and the Sleeping Ones to Dee while they had walked to the Phasic Energy Buffer System.
"How long has it been since the Glassing?" Dee asked, straightening up and stepping back from the railing, which would retract to allow Herod and her to step out onto the loading platform for the maglev.
"Eight thousand years and some change," Herod said.
"Hmm," Dee said, her eyes still narrowed and her attention on the train, which had just come to a stop at the station. The autowalk was slowing, less than a hundred meters to go.
"There's nothing living here," Herod said.
"If you say so," Dee said, cracking her neck. She shook out her left arm.
"Sam, is there anyone alive here?" Herod asked.
The channel was dead.
"Damage," Dee said. She pointed at several half collapsed towers, a building that had burnt out a long time ago, and slagged machinery. She squinted and pointed at several figures hidden by shadows. "Those look like giant robots."
She turned and looked at Herod. "This is a battlefield."
"It's from the Glassing," Herod said. He winced as he heard a scream off in the distance. "Nobody's here."
The autowalk came to a stop and Dee stepped off of it and onto the platform, looking around with quick, sharp motions.
"Head on a swivel, Speedy," she said, her voice tight. "Does this train go through vacuum?"
"I don't know," Herod said. "He said it's a Gen-Two StarTram, meaning it goes up above any atmosphere to reach supersonic speeds."
"Then, yes, it does," Dee said, she slowed down slightly, looking toward the engine of the tram then slowly toward the back. "Fifteen passenger cars, two engines on each end, two tenders, one on each end, probably with reaction mass or fuel," she said. "Based on the previous maglev we were on, there are one hundred seats per car, two rows per side of twenty five. Each passenger car is thirty meters long, four point two meters high, and three meters wide."
Herod managed not to show surprise that his optics did the measurements with him, showing that she was essentially right, just off on a few decimal points.
"Assume each person needs five square meters of living space, that's sixteen per car, that's two hundred forty living areas, add in one third again for doubling up, that's three hundred twenty, subtract half for violence, that's one sixty, pull one third for debris and material storage, round to the up to the nearest five, and we're looking at fifty-five possible combatant," she said, stopping right before the doors. She looked at Herod. "They'll come at us from one direction first, then from another."
"I'm telling you, the Great Glassing was eight thousand years ago, there's nobody on that train," Herod said.
"If you say so," Dee said. She touched the doors and they folded to the side, revealing the train interior.
Seats were torn up, the stuffing ripped out, the Neo-aluminum frames torn apart, piled in nests, with the tubular frame sections in piles. The lights inside flickered.
"Tell your friend we're in trouble," Dee said. She looked to the right and left. "Can't you feel them looking at us?"
Herod shook his head. "No."
Dee turned and looked at him and Herod managed not to step backwards.
Her eyes were glowing. A soft reddish amber glow that almost hid the gray of her eyes.
"Remember: there's no such thing as cheating," she said, her smile reappearing. She looked at Herod and frowned slightly. "You have my eyes."
"I'm sorry?" Herod said.
Dee just shook her head, exhaling smoke, and stepped into the car.
Herod followed, almost gagging at the smell.
Human urine, body odor, blood, rotting and roasted meat, Treana'ad death stench, other smells that Herod couldn't recognize. They all flooded his olfactory senses.
Dee lifted up a cloth, looking at it closely. She sniffed it, then touched her tongue to a long thin dark spot as Wally clattered on board the train.
"Urine. Fresh. A female took a piss and wiped her gash with this," Dee said, tossing it. She looked around. "No children, no weapons. They saw us coming."
Herod wanted to tell her she was wrong, there was no way anyone was on the train.
The train started moving with a hum, the slight jerk making Herod and Dee sway slightly.
The lights flickered and Dee moved to the middle of the walkway. "Get behind me, face the other door. Don't get in my way," she warned.
Herod had a sinking feeling as he turned away from her and faced the far door. They're all dying. All of them. We're losing interlock, signals are bleeding cross channel,
he heard a woman say in head. Christ, look at that overflow. Shut down Phasic Nine! Shut it...
her voice devolved into a scream that went on and on and on.
"Here they come," Dee whispered.
Herod expected shades, flickering translucent phasic remnants of the crew.
Instead the door opened to reveal a pair of Terran humans in ragged uniforms. There was dried blood on their arms and faces, their jumpsuits were covered in dark splotches that gleamed wetly. One carried a heavy looking hatchet, the other carried a cleaver.
Herod got the force pistol out barely in time to drop the first one at the halfway mark, the second one almost reached him before Herod shot him twice in the chest. The first one just staggered him, the second one put him down.
Then there was no time for thought. He kept pulling the trigger, ones he had hit getting back up, ignoring the blunt force trauma of the force packet pistol, requiring more trigger pulls.
They all screamed as they rushed.
Behind him he could hear Dee grunting and making short sharp sounds. The screams behind him kept changing slightly, from inhuman horror to sheer agony.
Dee started laughing gaily, as if she was on a fun ride at an amusement park.
The last one Herod had to deal with took the two force-packets to the chest, walking forward slowly. Stepping over the bodies of the dozen Herod had dropped already.
Herod pulled the trigger and the pistol gave a whine and started flashing a blue light. Out of ammo? Oh, no,
Herod thought at the big human stared for a moment, then bent down and picked up a spear. Herod noticed that the male had pushed sharp wires through his own cheeks, that his lips were torn away and oozing blood down his chin, exposing his shattered and broken teeth.
The figure hefted the spear, screamed, and charged.
"No, please, don't," Herod held out his hands.
The spear hit him just above the belly button, ripping through the hazardous environment suit, finding a chink in the armor of the hazardous environment emergency frame, and bursting out his back. Herod went down, on his back.
Herod screamed, joining his attacker, who put one foot on Herod's chest and yanking the spear free.
Herod grabbed his stomach as the figure lunged forward, stepping on Herod's arm. Herod saw the spear wobble and half of it flew back over the figure's head. A foot came up and hit the figure's chin, then a cleaver hit the Screaming One in the neck, almost severing his head.
The Screaming One stopped screaming and dropped on the floor next to Herod, his eyes wide and unblinking.
A few more grunts and the screaming stopped.
Dee moved over and sat down on the dead body of the large male that had speared Herod. She looked down at him and shook her head.
"Doesn't look good, Speedy," she said. She leaned forward and put her hand on the hole in his suit, pulling her finger back and staring at the fluid on it.
"Blood, some kind of clear fluid that looks like lubricant, and milky white?" she said. She touched her tongue to the streaks. "Lubricant, something strange, and human blood," she leaned forward. "You're a hybrid. A cyborg."
Herod weakly shook his head. "No. Digital Sentience," he gasped with pain and gagged. "Must be... must be this place."
Dee nodded. "All right."
She stood up and looked under a cloth, revealing Wally hiding and shivering.
"Come out, little guy," she said. She knelt down in front of him after looking around. "I need high tensile plastic sheeting, a thermal plastic cutter, and adhesive. Can you make that?"
Wally nodded and gave a few beeps.
"Good. We're going to go through vacuum and I don't want Speedy's vital fluids to boil away," she looked down at Herod. "You're losing fluids fast. I'm going to need to have a look inside you."
Herod shook his head and she moved around, finally straightening up with a crude hand made knife.
"This will have to do," she said.
When Wally put out the plastic, the first thing she did was wind it tight around him, covering the wound.
"That'll keep you from being sucked out of your suit through that hole," she said. She looked Herod in the face again. "You have my eyes," she said, her voice wondering. "Did you do that on purpose?"
Herod shook his head. "No."
"Try not to die," was all she said.
Herod laid there, fighting to breath. It felt like an iron band tightening around his chest. At one point Dee stopped, sitting on a dead body, and looked at him.
"Can I turn you off? Keep you alive that way?" she asked.
Herod shook his head. "Personality is a function of RAM. It's difficult to explain."
Dee nodded. "I get it. I turn you off and on, I get someone with your memories, but not you. You're still dead."
Herod nodded and coughed.
"Mostly white and that thick clear stuff. Looks like a bad gay porno movie," she said, shaking her head. She stood up. "Try not to die."
Herod nodded, holding onto his stomach.
*Sam* he tried.
He got back nothing.
Finally Dee dragged the bodies to the door and threw them out. She checked her wrist.
"Almost a vacuum," she said. She turned to Wally. "Eat the debris left and emit the following levels of gasses to 101.3 kPa: seventy-eight point one nitrogen, twenty point one oxygen, point one argon, point zero five carbon dioxide, one percent H2O vapor."
Wally made a happy tune and turned to start shoving debris from the seats into his matter grinder. He shuddered as he ground it up.
"Earth standard," Dee said, sitting on the floor next to Herod. She looked at him and smiled.
The smile made Herod afraid.
After a few minutes Wally beeped that he was done.
"I'm going to hurt you. Hurt you bad, Speedy," she said. Her smile got wider. "You may scream, there is no shame."
She held up the knife.
Herod screamed as she cut open his suit, then sliced open the wound further, putting her hands inside
of him. She felt around, and he could feel her pinching things, pulling on things, rubbing things. Several times she pulled her hands out and looked at them.
They were smeared with bright red blood, thick white fluid, and clear hydraulic lubricant.
Finally she took the stapler Wally held out to her, cringing slightly, and stapled shut the wound.
"You're a mess in there, Pinocchio," she said. She resealed his suit then climbed off of him, sitting back down on the floor.
Herod just nodded.
"This is where you would beg me to save you and I'd laugh at you," Dee said, staring at him. "This is where I'd just sit in this train and watch you die," she said. "You'd beg me to save you, and I'd laugh, tell you that you were nothing, nobody, and nobody would miss you when you're gone."
She raised her head and looked at the terrain speeding by.
"Except it wouldn't be true," she mused. "There's billions of them in there. Trapped between Heaven and Hell," her voice got intense. "If I kill you, they're there forever. I'm consigning billions of sentient people to a living Hell."
She lit a cigarette.
"Entire species would be gone from the universe forever if I killed you, Speedy," she said. She patted his chest. "So you have to live, whether you like it or not," her smile got cold, cruel. "I can take life with ease," she leaned forward, "And I can give it if I choose."
Herod shivered, unsure if it was the pain in his body or her words.
She was silent for hours, staring off into space. She kept Herod awake by smacking his wound every now and then when he started to drift off. At one point she had Wally make her glass jars, full of the fluids he was leaking, connected to rubber hoses. She jammed the needles into the tubes inside his legs, ignoring his screams.
"Stop being selfish and trying to die," she said at one point.
The StarTram came to stop and Dee bent down, picking up Herod in her arms. He was too out of it with pain to notice the ease with which she picked him up, moaning and weeping, overcome with the physical pain in his body and the horror in his mind.
He could hear them screaming.
The building was squat, ugly, and had robots standing guard at the door.
They moved away from Dee.
She dragged him into the building, down the hallways. Stopping to look at faded maps before moving on.
"Harry? Harry, what happened?" Sam's voice, heavily synthesized, came from Herod's suit helmet.
"Can it, HAL," Dee snapped. She shifted her grip so she was dragging Herod, his feet scraping on the ground.
"What did you do to him?" Sam asked.
"Quit with the Mister Roboto impression. You show emotion and make deductive reasoning, you're like him, only probably stuck in the system still," Dee snapped. "You must think I'm too stupid to figure it out that you're just like him."
"What did you do to him?" Sam asked.
Dee ignored him, pulling Herod into the mat-trans room. She set Herod against the door, sitting up, and looked him in the face.
"You'll need to say the magic words, Harry," she grinned.
"Wha... what magic words?" Herod gasped. She leaned forward and whispered them in his ear. He swallowed thickly.
"Say the magic words, Harry," Dee grinned, lighting a cigarette and standing up.
"Curse..." Herod coughed. "Curse your sudden and inevitable betrayal," he gasped.
Dee laughed as she moved to the main control console, typing quickly.
"Harry, I can't stop her. She's inside the system and I can't get inside. She's powering up the whole system, but I can't detect any other mat-trans system powering up," Sam said.
"Screaming Ones on the train," Herod gasped. Dee looked up, then looked back down, going back to typing rapidly. "There were screaming ones on the train."
Sam was silent for a moment. "The train was stasis locked before I sent it. Shit, they must have been onboard when the SkyTram pulled into the maintenance depot."
"Yeah," Herod gasped. "Shit."
"What?" Sam asked.
"She's coming back," Herod said.
Dee squatted down in front of Herod. "Are you a virgin?" she asked.
"I'm a Digital Sentience," Herod groaned.
"So, you've never had sex?" she asked.
Herod shook his head.
"Don't hurt him! Please, don't hurt him!" Sam begged from the speaker.
Grinning madly, Dee reached down, pulling Herod to his feet. "You're fucked now, Speedy," she laughed.
Herod struggled as she opened the door to the mat-trans. She looked him in the eye.
"YOU'RE GONNA BE A REAL BOY NOW, PINOCCHIO!" she yelled, throwing him inside. She stepped back, letting the door swing shut. "JUST CALL ME THE BLUE FAIRY!" she howled with laughter.
Herod laid on the armaglass hexagons as the mat-trans chamber began to hum. He could see mist rising up around him.
Then everything went black.