Thursday, August 03, 2006

story: in the documentation scriptorum

Core engineer Brother Novice Claude Giroux, Ordo Praedicatorum Ordinatralis, was not happy. He poked the chipped return key on his VT100's keyboard more roughly than was prudent, dislodging his four WASPs from their interface perch; they circled his terminal, stacks empty and confused, flashing their red (error) beacons repeatedly. Across the aisle of the scriptorum a few old monks looked up, faces bathed in lined flickers of light, then looked down again. The white noise of clattering keyboards obscured some of their whispered comments of disapproval, but not all; Brother Claude, chastened, returned to his typing as his cadre of WASPs settled back to their perch, green (ready) and quieted.

He was beginning the extra four hours of documentation duty he had received as penance for his error that morning at Magnamech. After eight hours of transcribing Monsignor Vitello's scrawled JCL patch notes and second-guessing what was and wasn't a comment ( his /* and //* looked painfully similar), Claude's legs and back were cramping, a fine sheen of stress sweat causing him to shiver involuntarily.

He knew that even after eight hours he was probably only half-done and the four hours of extra duty would turn into eight, or more. Having formed a mental model of the old priest's code and with another forty pages to go, he was loath to abandon the task before it was completely finished; penance for sins of omission were curiously always more dire than those for sins of commission. Such as the one he made that morning.

Deep in the basement of Magnamech, as he melted wax over the last of the access panel screws, he had protested, a risky, prideful gambit at any time. But in the presence of proof, he felt justified, perhaps even compelled, to speak.

"He gave a valid priority code, father," he explained. "Everything was in order. Are we not taught 'knock, and the door will be opened'?"

His senior monk, Father Wax-in-Two, was not impressed.

"We were under, hmm, an idle state, Novice Giroux," he clucked, fluttering his long thin fingers on the back of the accordioned greenbar trace log he held up to his failing eyes . "Did you consider your two brother novices deep within the main? Your, hmm, decision was, hmm, discomfiting. Requiring a recalibration, a restore, a restart, before our renewal of the filters. Hmm. Unknown exchanges most certainly occurred. Most discomfiting."

Brother Claude smiled with pride as he watched the old Nigerian walk away, still studying the trace log. He was right to obey a priority access command. He was still smiling when a few moments later his face was slammed from behind into the metal grill of the access panel. His fellow brother monks might have been deafened by the emergency access klaxon, but they were no longer stunned, it seemed.

Still nursing his face with an ice pack when he returned to the monastery, any hope of moral victory faded when he saw his name on the top of the flip-board duty roster with the two suffix panels "FOUR HOURS SUPPLEMENTAL" and "ERGO TE ABSOLVO" revealed. Wax-in-Two must have called it in from the train, damn him. There was no end to documentation. No end.

There were only a few monks left in the scriptorum after midnight when Brother Claude finished transcribing and unit-testing the last of the monsignor's JCL . The air was still and very dry, the humidity kept purposefully low to prevent the WASP's delicate carbon-lattice wings from fouling and shorting. With the background keyboard chatter absent, he could actually hear the gentle hum of one of his WASPs on its interface perch as it flashed orange (transferring) before flitting up and away (sending), vanishing down a brass pipe conduit at the center of the room. When the remaining WASPs on their perch flashed orange twice (transferring) then green (transmission complete), he pushed himself back from his station and stumbled toward the door.

Wide-Area Synchronization Protocol was one of those wonders of the Order he didn't even pretend to understand, but he knew why it mattered. It was one of the first rules they taught you in your novitiate year, right after you signed your NDA and took your vows. Silence, they taught, was the best form of security. The guaranteed physical transmission of large packets of public-key encrypted data was a close second.

Third, the brother novices joked darkly, was making sure the only people who could still maintain a Core were monks who worked in agile pair teams. Which explained why Brother Novice Claude Giroux was so unhappy; with his partner missing, he was trapped in documentation.

1 comment:

Ron said...

hmmm...your car accident has left you a tic more religious...please don't turn into Mel Gibson's dad...

Those little cartoon ??? thought ballons appeared over my head reading this post, but I was suitably impressed.