As if it wasn’t bad enough to know a time limit was counting down over the heads of everyone on those trams, her mind wandered to the scrolling schedules once again. Trains? Those hadn’t been used in centuries. Those were so far down in Steel City that she rarely even saw them in all her time working as the head engineer..
It was a little disconcerting. According to logs she’d pored over, the trains ran from Steel City to a room far below a temple in the jungle to the north. They made a stop somewhere in the middle, in an underground cavern that once housed a few lava monsters.
But, no, that was all irrelevant. What was relevant now was getting to the place Blaine was probably physically at during this very moment--“ATTENTION! ATTENTION! REPORT BACK TO FORT NINE NINE NINE NINE NINE NINE ATTENTION! VOLT ORDERS IMMEDIATELY! REPORT TO THE TRAIN STATION! ASSIST TEST SUBJECT TEST TEST TEST NINE NINE!”
Jules fought hard to keep from reeling over in pain and clutching at her ears. She absolutely had to get to the room in time, but that voice--Blaine’s voice-- was so boomingly loud, resonating throughout the whole building... Perhaps the whole city? It couldn’t just have been her building he was speaking to. Not if he was speaking like that.
It continued as she made her way there.“PLEASE RETRIEVE BELONGINGS FROM TOWER, I REPEAT, PLEASE RETRIEVE BELONGINGS FROM TOWER, I REPEAT, HELLO THERE L’IL LADIES, IT IS A FINE DAY TO TO TO TO--”
A horrible mechanical screech took over where Blaine cut off, and for a moment, Jules distantly wondered if a thousand accidents hadn’t happened at once. Her head was pounding, but she finally made it to the only room with any hope left in it. The biggest screen they had was here (along with a dozen others), and the machine to retrieve lost Porygon was to the side. During those rare instances when Blaine was not inside, himself, sometimes Porygon had trouble rematerializing in the non-digital world. Jules (or another trained assistant) would use the machine to force out Porygon in the network. She had never needed to use it on Blaine before. Not once.
Without stalling for a moment, she ran over and typed in her username and password. This was one of the few protected parts of the city. It wasn’t really needed normally, as Porygon could tell who was officially allowed to program them or not just by scanning appearances, but this was a special circumstance.
Jules was granted access and quickly tapped away at the keys. In her panicked fervor, she mistyped quite a few times, but eventually entered the right information. Within moments, Blaine would be ejected. The MATERIALIZING
bar grew from 0% to 19% almost instantly, and then soared to 99%. And then it froze.
It froze, and so did Jules.
It looped back to 0%. Jules felt her mouth go dry and went to lick her lips, not knowing what else to do. Tail quivering, paws twitching, she let out a wail that only half escaped her throat, as if something was caught in it and snatched the scream before it could fully escape. This wasn’t done yet. It couldn’t be. She tried to re-enter the combination, but the screen remained still. It simply did not respond to her efforts. Jules racked her brain, combing through memories of procedures to follow in case of emergency (but not very successfully, as there had never really been any emergencies as a precedent, so it was a chapter that she breezed through when she taught her students).
Time was ticking, seeming to speed up with her accelerated heartbeat which was dully resonating throughout her head. THUMPATHUMPATHUMPA
over and over, the death countdown, speeding up and threatening to extinguish many if she didn’t find the right way out of this anomaly.
But then it struck her.
Maybe a manual reset. Maybe that would do the trick. Maybe she could pull the plug on Blaine’s source of power and then things would revert. He’d be pretty pissed off for a while, she knew that, but it was the only chance. She made a break for the heavy duty cord that supplied power to the room, unscrewing the tiny bolts that were simply intended to hold it in place, not keep it in permanently. Bolts off, time to pull... and the plug came free.
It came free, but the screens remained lit. All of them. There had been no change, none at all. It didn’t make sense. It didn’t make any sense at all! It had to draw power from something! She threw the cord to the side and ran to check the biggest monitor once more, to check its status.
It looped, from 0%, all the way up to 99%, then back down again. Several times this repeated. Jules screamed and pounded on the big monitor, knowing it would do no good, trying regardless. There was simply nothing else to be done.
And then there was a crash, a very near crash, not from the speakers. Jules jumped. Two very big objects had just collided within half a mile of where she stood, judging from the terrible shake and the sound of the explosion and the screams and the--
She was too late. She had simply been too late.
The bar reset, went back down to 0% complete. It went through a loop to 99% a few more times, during which another couple accidents occurred across the city. They were lucky, really. If it had happened much later in the day, a giant chunk of the city could have been smashed up, along with a fair percentage of the population. Blaine had reappeared before then, and all of the city’s automated processes came to a halt. When he found Jules, she was sobbing deliriously.
He asked her what the matter was, why she had called him so, and offered to console her on top of it all.
She looked up at him, not seeing her favorite companion worker, but a horrible...machine, which had taken the lives of many.
And when Jules had meekly asked what ‘error 99’ meant before leaving to perform damage control (before seeing the destruction and casualties at all), he simply responded (with, what... contempt
in his voice? Scorn?) that such an error did not exist, and that she ought to refresh her memory of the manuals for further information on standard errors and their causes.
Blaine did not recall the previous nineteen minutes that had transpired (and he was very precise in stating such, searching for a gap in his memory), but regardless found it difficult to believe that he would make such a silly and juvenile mistake as she had described. Even with the evidence, even with the body count (and that there had been a body count, even! There were so seldom accidents in the city, it was unbelievable!), Blaine did not seem to really acknowledge that he had caused it all, accidentally or not.
Final part of "Spiritual Malaise" this part written by me