maybe this was a stupid idea. i guess just because you missed the accident doesn’t mean something else didn’t get you.

i just miss you harper.

ok, I normally dont do this kind of thing but harper has been gone for weeks and this blog is the only line of communication in or out of the facility. thats too important a resource to be wasted. I gave myself administrative access to it so I can post through it. the original reason I came here isnt important because I just saw the last entry. I never realized harper wasnt at work the day of the accident.

harper, I hope you still got your pad and I hope you’re still trying to get on the network because I just re enabled your wireless access. telephony is still off limits but as long as we can both access the blog we can communicate.

I went to check on my tool stash today, since while they’re out of the way they’re also out in the open. I found Dr. Li returning a pipe wrench and a crowbar to it, which surprised me, though I didn’t mind because a) I sort of requisitioned them for myself in the first place and b) he was putting them back.

He seemed more startled to see me, and maybe he was feeling guilty suggested that I take a day off tomorrow and make it a long weekend. I’m not sure about leaving the experiment at such a crucial juncture, but he promised that Dr. Cranor would raise no objections and he doubted anyone outside the department would make a fuss, “given my reputation”.

It’s nice to know that I’ve managed to get a positive reputation, though maybe not surprising when my team’s leaders both think well of me.

I probably would have argued more, but I really could use some time off to address my file corruption problem. Like, if I can be sitting in my own quarters with nowhere I need to go when I make the call, that takes away a lot of the iffier variables.

So tomorrow morning instead of getting on the train, I’ll be making a call to the PIP offices and asking them for my SSN or something, with my finger on the file killswitch. I want to do it bright and early, both so I can catch them before they get busy doing anything, and so I can do it before the maintenance guy makes his rounds and comes to reset my apartment.

Without knowing when or how those orders are generated, I can’t say that his presence tomorrow will prove the problem isn’t solved, but if he doesn’t show up for the first time since I moved, that will be a pretty clear sign that it did work.

Expect a status report immediately after I finish the call, and another update when/if the maintenance guy shows up, or in the late afternoon if he hasn’t come.

Either way, you’ll be hearing from me soon.

So, this week has been a repetition of the light show we made last Thursday, with some refinements each time: more stable n-squares (as I think of them), less arc-y arcs, fewer sparks. Today, after Dr. Cranor finished directing adjustments to the array, the whole formation began to rotate around a central axis. It was pretty hypnotic, like a kaleidoscope that shifts in directions you didn’t know exists.

I still don’t know exactly what’s going on, though I’m picking up a greater understanding of the relationship between what we do and the effects produced, as well as some slight grasp of the theoretical background behind it. Knowing that Dr. Cranor thinks I’m pretty on the ball, I think maybe I can chance picking her brain a little without her thinking I’m a complete ignoramus. After all, I still have the excuse of being the newbie. I won’t be able to milk that forever.

I tried to strike up a conversation with her, which was awkward because I’m not great at starting conversations and I don’t think she’s fond of having them. I didn’t get very far, though, because she just told me to watch myself around Dr. Li.

“My gut says you’re too good to fall in with him,” she said. “You have too much promise to let him corrupt you.”

That was another one of those what-do-you-even-say-to-that things, so I just sort of nodded and left.

They take April Fools’ Day very seriously here. The living quarters are plastered with these joke PSA posters about supposed past pranks involving things like dimensional rifts, time warps, zombie outbreaks, demonic incursions, and stuff, and the emergency address system kept announcing that pranksters would be shot on sight. It was pretty rich. It’s easy to see how the Automation Services crew gets away with the shit they pull. This whole place has a warped sense of humor and I love it.

The idea of going back in there knowing I can hear every word said in Dr. Cranor’s office felt really weird, even if there’s usually nothing to hear. Also, as much as I’m glad that I got more info on where I stand, I’m not in a hurry to overhear anything more like that.

It’s like in Voyage of the Dawn Treader when Lucy does the spell to hear what her friends are saying about her, and then she can’t unhear it even when Aslan puts it in context for her. Okay, so the fact that I’m re-reading the Chronicles of Narnia (in original publication order, thank you very much) during my commutes may have influenced my decision a little, but the train ride is half an hour or more with nothing to do.

Anyway, I stowed my toolbox and ladder in another out-of-the-way corner and took my lightbulb/battery experiments back with me to stash near my quarters. I can’t keep them in there, or risk losing them to my daily quarter reset. I felt weird carrying them in the open, but no one said anything.

Eva put an app on my padphone that will send the kill command to the PIP mainframe, since she agrees with me that I’ll probably want to put the query into motion before my file gets purged. Since the deletion is one line of code that will be executed automatically, it shouldn’t be too hard to, say, call up the PIP office and ask them to look something up and then hit the button before the human on the other end can complete the process.

It still makes me nervous, though. I get the impression from the social media email fiasco that the PIP offices aren’t fully staffed (if they’re staffed at all) on the weekends or evenings, so I’m going to wait until I have some free time during work hours on a weekday to make the call.

Eva had some new information for me about my problem. It sounds like she’s pretty close to solving it. Though she still insists she’s just innocently figuring out how things work, and I’m not inclined to argue.

Anyway, she told me that she’s now 100% sure that the problem is a corrupted file in my PIP master file and 98% sure it can be fixed. She said that by messing around with her dummy accounts, she figured how to spoof a command from within the PIP system that will flush the files. Then, the next time there’s a query for that employee in the PIP system, the system will make a new file and pull all the relevant information from other databases.

The query is the most important step, she told me, because until the master employee file in the PIP mainframe is the portal all other systems use to find information about me. Until it’s recreated, all that information in all the various other databases and systems won’t go anywhere.

The security system, the transit system, the commissary system, and all the other computer systems I depend on to get around and get through my day won’t have any idea who I am.

I asked Eva if that wouldn’t make it easy to get the file reinstated, since anything I try to do would result in a query to the PIP mainframe, which would then go to look up my file and see it wasn’t there.

She said that if the system was integrated in a more robust fashion it would probably work that way, but her experiments with dummy files suggested it wasn’t.

The system hadn’t been designed with the idea that a person comes to a security checkpoint and has no employee file might be an employee, so the query doesn’t go any further than file not found. If any system outside the PIP mainframe fails to find a matching record, it will just assume I’m not supposed to be there.

For the same reason, she can’t figure out how to spoof the query that will bring my file back. Apparently they have tighter controls against information requests than some other external commands. I asked Eva why that might be and she said it was probably because they’d had problems with people ferreting information out of the system before, but people on the outside manipulating it was another story.

I was curious about how she managed to get dummy accounts into the system in the first place, but she told me that women who work in IT can always find a few dummy accounts.

Anyway, I have a rough plan now. The basic idea is to delete the corrupted file and then—as soon as possible afterwards—get someone at PIP to do a lookup on me. I’ll have to give some thought to that, because I don’t think I can count on the internal phone or email systems letting me through while I’m a ghost.

Remember when I said that Drs. Cranor and Li didn’t fight? Well, I heard them doing just that today.

I got in a little early and slipped into my old storage closet to check on my ad hoc lightbulb devices, and I heard voices coming through a register I’d always ignored as being too small to crawl through.

I’d always known the closet was close to Dr. Cranor’s office, but I’d never realized it was possible to eavesdrop on her through it because she was almost always alone in there, and not the sort of person to talk to herself.

Today, Dr. Li was in there with her, and it sounded like they were really getting into it with each other. This is about how the conversation went, as far as I remember:

Dr. Li: Now is not the time to get cold feet. We are farther along than any other team in the company.

Dr. Cranor: We’re further along than any surviving team. We can keep our lead without compromising safety.

Dr. Li: Is compromise such a dirty word? All life is compromise. For instance, you compromise the spirit of scientific inquiry with your meek surrender to the god of safety. I don’t propose we abandon all caution. I simply suggest we come to a more balanced understanding of profit and risk.

Dr. Cranor: Nothing is balanced about your understanding.

Dr. Li: More caution would suit you now, Josefina. Remember that your latest breakthrough is a direct result of my breakthrough on your little headcount problem.

Dr. Cranor: So now you’re taking credit for Foley’s work? I had no idea you were so petty.

I kind of jumped at the mention of my name.

Dr. Li: I would hope Harper would give me some credit, if asked, as it was my tutelage that led to it.

Dr. Cranor: Don’t think I haven’t noticed you grooming your little progeny. You’re madder than I thought if you think Foley won’t see right through you.

Dr. Li: My dear, I count on it. What’s the point of taking on an apprentice with a mind as dull as the rest of the sheep you’ve gathered in your flock? Harper was my hire, my acolyte. When the time comes for us to part ways, I expect Harper to stand at my righthand side.

Dr. Cranor: What’s stopping you?

Dr. Li: You know as well as I do that finding the budget for a new project is not the same as finding it for an outside hire. I can perform miracles, but there are limits. For now, being seconded to you is the only way I can perform the work I need to. Harper Foley was the price of my admission into your circle. When I leave, I intend to have my admission refunded.

This isn’t all the exact words, obviously, but I think it’s pretty close. Knowing how Dr. Li talks makes it easier to reconstruct what he said.

I felt awkward standing there listening to the whole thing, but once they started talking about me I couldn’t tear myself away. Arguably the fact that they were discussing my career gave me more right to listen in, but it made it feel like more of an intrusion.

At least now I have more of a clear idea of why Dr. Li thinks I owe him my career here, though not why he’s so interested in me in the first place.

Amazingly, it seems like Dr. Cranor is almost as invested in having me around, even if she’s less creepy about it. In her case, I imagine it has to do with the budget problems that make hiring new personnel so hard. They still haven’t replaced Buddy, for instance, which means that whatever deal Li made to bring me in, they actually broke even on.

At least in terms of headcount. I have to think I’m at least one step up from an even trade with that jerk.