Factory 23

The low whine and hum of working machinery was pervasive. No matter where he went there was always a constant background noise. It was unavoidable. He'd been told that in the weeks to follow he'd grow used to it.

He hadn't.

"Mister Weatherbey," the utilities officer called. His accent was powerful, deep, stressing each syllable with that accent common to the Sharo dialect of this region. "The problem is this way," he continued, waving the young man over.

How long had it been since he'd been directed to this backwater place? This creaking, dying facility just barely remembered by the company records. And yet it'd been found just for him. A diabolical punishment. "Father," Charles mused. This was an act past forgiveness.

Just how much had he been forced to abandon? He couldn't even remember, it felt like so long ago. So many social engagements and opportunities. There'd been so much going in his favor, some grand plan, and then...

"Mister Weatherbey?" the man called again.

"Yes, Roland. I'm coming."

The foreman escorted him to a dilapidated portion of the factory. Sitting about the room was aged, rusting machinery that looked ready to collapse on itself. The place seemed dangerous to occupy, but still Roland moved forward confidently. A competent individual, but simple. Like all Sharo folk, Charles thought. "Here," Roland said, stopping suddenly. He pointed to a console where a single light flashed. As if on que, a loud klaxon sounded, jarring the young man. "The device recognizes abnormal temperature readings. If something is not done, the main production line will shut down in 10 minutes as a precautionary measure. Backup routines in the programming are designed to keep the temperature of the machinery at a certain point, to avoid stress and damage. In other words, the device will shut itself down to prevent self destruction."

"The problem lies in the fact that there IS no temperature abnormality. We've double checked the system and we can't find the problem. I'm not sure who else to consult on the matter, and if the problem isn't fixed soon, well, the entire facility will shut down. It'll take half a day to recheck the subroutines and reconfigure the main line, and several hours to get the production line running again. We're looking at quite a lot of money in missed productivity. I don't need to remind you of this facility's background, so..."

"So it's up to me," Charles said. He moved to the control panel and set to work, checking for these abnormalities. He talked as he worked. "You said we had 10 minutes to fix it, I thought that the emergency shutdown procedure took 20?"

"That is the truth, sir, you are correct. But I believed I could solve the problem myself and did not wish to bring undue trouble to your office."

Charles liked that. Roland knew when to show proper respect. "Very well. But this could be very problematic. If the situation arises again, contact me immediately." He clicked a last icon and brought up the temperature displays. The heat was incredible. Unless some mechanisms had gone off the track and were creating an incredible amount of friction, there was no way such a temperature was even possible in the Sharo cold. He nabbed a USB port and connected his data assistant to the console for a quick background scan. It was unlikely, but...

He continued his search manually. If a gear had slipped, that was serious trouble as well. It'd have to be isolated, removed, etcetera, etcetera. More lost productivity. And this facility was on it's last legs. Charles would have been happy to let it die an ignorable death just to be rid of the place, but he dreaded his fate should such a thing occur. Facility 37 in Netfrica was even worse off, and the ungodly heat that would be ever present was more than enough to discourage such ideas of self sabotage.

But there wasn't any signs of high friction. The facility vibrations were in acceptable norms. If a gear had slipped, it'd be creating some effect, if at the least some kind of awful sound. And since it'd have to be an integral device to create such catastrophic heat, the vibrations caused would be easily detectable. So then what was the cause?

His PDA picked it up. And Charles felt an almost forgotten glee pass through him. He watched with heightened joy as his PDA blipped a message highlighted in red. Virus detected.

"Roland. I've detected the problem. No need to worry. I'll have it done in five minutes. Return to your station, please."

"But sir," the gruff man said, "is the problem so easily solved?"

Charles laughed, loudly and haughtily, and yet it was all but drowned out in the constant noise of the surrounding machinery. "Oh yes. Yes, I think this is something I can handle myself." He accessed an almost abandoned region of his PDA and typed in several demands as he set up an upload program to deliver a deadly payload of strength and justice to the console. "Come to my office in 2 hours, we have much to discuss. But for now... CrushMan! Jack-in!"
Charles tapped furiously at his data assistant as he accessed the temperature regulation gauge. CrushMan destroying the viral presence was just half the job, Charles still had to fix whatever had been broken. The problem was odd. The temperature regulation system was rather simple, devices are installed in key areas that detect temperature in the area. These devices are linked to a simple program that digests the information and then regulates temperature to acceptable levels. When an irregularity occurred, like being unable to restore proper temperature levels, the system prepared itself to shut down the endangered facilities rather than risk self destruction.

That was the system. That meant that there were a possible two ways this problem could have occurred. One, the problem was with the device that recorded the temperature and highwayed it to the regulator. Second, the problem was with the regulation program itself, damaged so that it read the readings wrong. Charles' guess was that there was a problem with the device that recorded the information itself. Otherwise, there'd probably be other problems in the facility as the central regulator was damaged, virii are unlikely to pick and choose meals when there's a whole buffet in front of them.

And yet, there was this nagging worry in Charles' head. It was a small concern in the end. He brushed it away as he continued his diligent work. The device was uncomplicated, so a thorough check wouldn't take too long. Just a little longer and-

Viral Presence Detected!

"Damn!" Charles cursed. He'd hoped to get through the entirety of the examination before the enemy arrived. But this at least helped confirm his suspicions. If this wasn't the problem, there wouldn't be a viral presence. He took a break from his laptop as he checked his PDA. "So, I've got to bust and finish my examination simultaneously, huh?" It was going to be very problematic. Especially since he was using Crush to indirectly link to the program. Rather, if Crush strayed from the gauging program, he'd lose contact with the device.

He turned away from his laptop for a moment and fully devoted himself to the task at hand, taking care of the rapidly approaching virii. "CrushMan," he commanded as he tapped away at the device, "do not pass this point." With timing that Charles couldn't help but find delightful he finished entering his commands into his PDA. A translucent green field encircled his navi, although in reality this was simply a visual illusion. A boundary field, it was simply a visual key to keep his Navi on task. "Under no circumstance are you to pass the boundary field." Charles said this with absolute finality, confident in his Navi's ability to handle the situation. He reached into his pocket, preparing a few battle chips for the battle ahead, primed them for activation, then went back to work at the laptop. His PDA let out another whine as the virii entered combat range. "You have your orders, CrushMan. Now, engage!"