It’s a blur but it has become routine

Day after day it happens so quickly, generally when I have a tooth brush in my mouth, the Greystle hired guard picks me up. Usually it is someone I don’t recognize and they rarely give me their name.

We walk through campus and the students and refugees give us death stares. Outside the lab the gal from the roach coach hands me the stack of food that will be my meals for the day, and then I try to ignore all the construction folks walking down the stairs to the new floor (floors?) below the server farm. We’ve got the whole building to ourselves now with several floors being stocked with the new equipment and working space for the new staff.

Then the meetings start. First the Tangent meeting. The big topic that is being studied now is how best to get the Tangent Alpha up online so the branching can begin and once it does begin how will we track the branching. We have the systems and staff ready; we just need to make sure we get the start down right because in the end that is the thing, after that we step back and watch it go.

After that marathon of timetables and logistics comes a quick lunch as I walk down to my old office and meet with the heads of the Alpha project.

The first half hour is generally complaints and questions, neither of which I can address. Because I don’t know anything and outside of the actual project I can’t “do” anything. The rest of the meeting is the only moments of wonder left in my day. Each group shares with the team their newest discoveries, questions, and answers that they have come across in their past day’s dig into Alpha. Then the project heads makes their requests for equipment and staff that I deny. Tangent Alpha gets all of it now.

The team has become very agile though with loaning each other staff back and forth as needed. And each team has devoted a staff member to by fully dedicated to optimizing the snapshot data now that Adit’s software team has been pulled completely on to Tangent. Because of their work the team has been able to have the data necessary to be able to back track trends as their significance becomes apparent. A minor change in diet from a few days ago can be brought to light when the jaw structure change in the dominant primate leads to an increase in miscarriages in the species. That was an impressive piece of detective work. I’m so proud of them but it is apparent I’m not really necessary any more but luckily no one ever brings that up and I get to bask in the reflective glory of discovery for 90 minutes.

Next comes the Everest of my daily meetings. Status with Greystle. This isn’t a university project any more this is a Greystle project. Even my bank alert now says the daily paychecks are coming from Dulles Scientific Consulting and not the university. I asked around and it looks like DSC was formed a few weeks ago and has no official affiliation with the university even though we all live and work in the university and the company has the same name as the university. I’m now a part of Greystle I guess, and I didn’t even get a welcome package from HR. Adit wrote an agent for the team that takes everyone’s daily deposits and converts them to a variety of different denominations based on the day’s exchange rate. It has been a great hedge against the hyper inflation.

Then I use what remains of my energy keeping up with the actual business of managing this project. That consists of Grid forms and apps flying by while I eat my dinner. Before I get close to feeling I have a handle on what is going on a guard will come and take my back to my room.

I cross the campus and notice again, as I do every night, that glow in the dark frisbee and teens coming back from dates have been replaced by tent cities with bonfires to keep everyone warm. I actually saw a campus security guard today… he hurried away when he saw me and my “escort.”

And night after night I collapse onto my bed even before I brush my teeth or change. Except tonight – tonight I actually got to write an update. I want to see if I can do this more often.

It is all a blur and seeing it in words allows me to focus it and I don’t like what I see.

Strolling on the Grid

Erik (who is on the tangent team now by the way) let me scan the grid at his room tonight. His desperate gratitude at me having secured him a job is a little unnerving, but the truth is he’s a good addition to the tangent team and his research will definitely be helpful in taking POV to the next level. That is if we ever get a chance to work on it again.

I haven’t told Erik about POV yet. I’m worried about what Greystle will to us if they discover we’ve been hiding such a breakthrough. If it didn’t mean the end of Alpha, then at the very least means then end of my involvement, and that of Adit, Kaitlin, and Janice. It also means that we’ll be kicked out of campus and without jobs. With the way things are going that means tent city. Jackie points out that if Greystle gets a hold of POV they would use it in ways we’d find very unsavory. Of course Jackie says everything Greystle does is unsavory, but I don’t think that is uncorrected thinking.

I feel like I’m being a little paranoid using Erik’s ID on the grid but we can’t be having a person of authority on the project going to the news and opinion areas of the grid. I don’t want Greystle to think the project is lead by a destabilizer. I assume they’ll be less concerned if it is just a team member roaming about (I say now suddenly feeling guilty). I did make sure to avoid the more outspoken corners.

All the fake IDs Adit made for us months back seem to have abruptly stopped working. The government has announced a Grid crackdown to stop the destabilizing elements, and new security agents have scoured out a lot of fake IDs and took them off the Grid. Adit could probably make even more sophisticated fake IDs but he’s kind of swamped right now.

Janice was right about what is going on on the Grid. Traffic seems down. Interaction seems at a minimum. The news out there doesn’t sound good but it seems… edited.

God, it is probably a lot worse out there.

It feels like the old web. Nothing is live. A lot of text, little real/immediate imagery or video. It’s not that the Grid isn’t being used… it feels like it is being edited. I can’t imagine the resources required to do that, but it looks like it is being done.

Tear gas on the way home today

I tried to sleep to the sounds of gun shots and the occasional explosion coming from the town and perhaps even from within the green zone itself. It was a failure. It seems fear keeps me awake better than Orexinal.

Erik banged on the door about an hour ago with the news. The President has ordered the arrest of the Speaker of the house and more than a few Senators and Reps have disappeared.

I guess tired of the months long cat and mouse game, the speaker sent out the Sargent in arms to arrest the President’s chief of staff for contempt of congress, but this time not symbolicly as it has been with all the other contempt charges for Prescott’s staff members. This time they were armed and they caught up to Mrs. Prince on her way home. A firefight broke out between the capital police and her private guards and Mrs. Prince was killed.

And now I am supposed to be packing. A Greystle guard is outside my door having just told Erik and I that we are to move into the lab until things settle down.

I don’t know where they are going to fit all of us. God I hope Janice and Sally are all right.

Happy New Year

I guess I should be happy this year is over as I sit on a cot mattress in a huge barracks like room. They can fit twenty of us in this room and there are three rooms like this on this floor. And there seems to be more floors below us. I guess now I know what Greystle was building.

Were they planning ahead for when the country would start falling apart? I’m pretending the sounds I heard from outside when I was walking down the stairs were celebratory fireworks. Should I be out there too? Fighting? For what I know. The past. But not sure what the fighting does. It doesn’t seem organized. Not to use the presidents term but it just seems destabilizing.

So it is New Year’s. A lousy fake holiday to begin with, now seeming even more pointless. No one is celebrating.

Should I reflect on the past year? Where it looks like so much has gone wrong with the year. With me. But so much has gone right with what I want to do. With Alpha. Is it wrong to take joy in that. When I should be miserable. Like the rest of the world.

I’ll take what I can get. I’m luckier than I should be.

Hard to believe at this time last year Ned and I were overseeing the shut down of all the other projects at the Simulations Department and the formation of the Alpha team.

Alpha has gone from a University sponsored study staffed mostly with grad students to some kind of military industrial skunk works in what seems like a blink of an eye. Or a few billion Alphan years I guess.

We got a gold star today at school

Greystle is ecstatic about how tangent has worked out.

They’ve even given us some rewards. Though they don’t call them that.

They are now saying it is safer out. And maybe it is but you can still hear gun fire from the town. But supposedly the green zone is calm. Though we’ve been told that no one from our department is allowed to leave campus. But the point is we are allowed back into the campus – that is, we are finally allowed outside. Ahhh Vitamin D here I come.

It’s almost frightening how everyone is pretending things are back to normal. I even saw a frisbee game on the grounds today. Which of course is all the more exciting in the cold because the Frisbees crack when they hit a tree.

The roach coach lady is back which is a nice change from the basement food. Even if the quality of the food is a little sketchy. She’s not much for small talk these days though. Janice says she lost someone in the fighting.

There are some troops stationed near the main gate, and I hear there are a lot more in the woods on west side. But besides that, if you pretend, you can make yourself believe nothing has changed, except for the bunker like guard stations and the few burned out buildings on east campus.

On the lighter side it was like a gift to see Sally be able to run around in the snow. And being on a campus has its advantages if you want to start a snowball fight, there were plenty of people ready to join her.

Back inside we got permission from our “managers” at Greystle for someone from the mathematics department to check out the work being done by our southern lizard friends on Alpha. Not Ng, of course, but one of his grad students.

I’d never seen such a large pile of NDAs and other forms they gave the guy to sign.

At the end of the day it was hard to keep on target in the debrief we had with him. As much as we were proud of our lizards and we wanted to learn more of their achievements we mostly quizzed him about life on campus for the past few weeks.

Basically the lockdown wasn’t limited to us. There were still classes, but generally you took them from your dorm room. Troops occupied most of the grounds. Lab classes happened if the building was available via the maintenance tunnels. In the end his experience didn’t seem any better than ours, in fact it sounded a lot worse. He didn’t even get much more sunlight than us as most of the windows were boarded up.

Meanwhile the grid is full of celebrity news. Divorces seem to be on the up rise, but the uprisings don’t get much coverage.

Tangentens and Alphans

Okay it’s been decided.

Look, in a way Alpha and Tangent are our children, and I know parents are not supposed to have favorites, but let’s face it, Tangent is no one’s favorite, well no one from the original simulation team at least. The Greystle folks are just giddy about Tangent actually.

You know this is just another example of what has become a really awkward work environment. We’ve gotten to be like one huge clique. We exclude Greystle consultants from our lunch tables, our conversations change when one of them comes near (even when it doesn’t have to). Some of the old group has taken to calling them Greys (okay – almost all of us. Sally started it and it just worked so wonderfully). Unfortunately the new scientists and engineers that we’ve brought on are probably feeling a bit left out. But we don’t know who to trust, so we only trust ourselves.

So maybe Tangent just doesn’t feel like one of us. It does feel like a violent hopeless place. War is constant on the north continents with the inventions of war occurring at a quick pace. Luckily the spirit of warmongering hasn’t seemed to infect the lizards. That said though, they don’t seem to be the same as the guys on Alpha. They seem a little less interested in intellectual pursuits and are migrating farther south on the continent than they are on Alpha. It’s like they are scared of those apes up on the northern hemisphere (not to be too worried though, their ship building abilities seems to have been stuck at raft stage ever since the battles that occurred during the divergence).

We’ve taken to calling the primates on both Tangent and Alpha as Tangentens as a way to describe our disgust with them, and the lizards are now officially named Alphans. We are so very proud of them. We love our Alphans – The Tangentens make me think of the Greys. Not a nice way to think of our benefactors, but I’m beginning to think of them like I think of the Tangentens – that they are primitive, greedy and brutish. Even if their greed is symbolized only be their patent grabbing and their brutishness symbolized by the guards, whose presence I resent yet I must admit I am happy to feel safe in this day and age. Though the campus is safe I can tell from others in different departments that the actual feeling of safety is a rare commodity.

Back on Campus

I had lunch on campus today – not at the roach coach not in the basement of our lab – in the actual student center. Society has a type of reverse entropy in that no matter the level of chaos it strives for normalcy. Or at the very least routine.

So I’m back to staying in my room, Sally is back to going to school (now located on campus), and if the green zone was open I’d work up the courage to ask Janice out on a date. A date on campus doesn’t seem right. Dating… see? an attempt at normalcy.

Erik has moved back to his room as well. We all have. The Green Zone is quiet and I hear the riots in town now are just something that happen every evening. The fear is gone just a sad desperation or perhaps a resignation seems to fill the air.

The Big Boom

The explosion woke me up. It was loud. The glass shook and the smell felt like that it would burn my nose hair.

Next thing I knew I was outside in front of our building. When I was running across the campus I was joined by most of the simulations staff and students; we were pouring out of every piece of housing. I hadn’t thought of how many there were of us until that moment. And we were all sure it was from our building.

The troops didn’t run. They were already there. Blocking us from getting into the building.

It was if we were parents being blocked from entering the burning school knowing our children were still in there. The Alphans. Were they destroyed? The billions of simulated lives gone. Did some destabilizer commit the largest genocide ever, and not even know it?

Janice rushed the guards and was pushed back – hard, and in a strange moment of bravery or anger or – let me take a moment to sound lame – chivalry, I rushed the guard. I’m told I was met with a rifle butt.

I missed the real excitement. Adit dragged me away. Janice ran to me. Sally screamed and thankfully Kaitlin had the sense to take her back to the trees. Because the next think that happened was for all intents and purposes a riot.

A bunch of IT nerds and science geeks, made even more pale than normal from weeks of not being outside, rushed armed soldiers and Greystle guards. The only advantage we had was the few seconds of their inaction due to the fact that they were in a state of bemusement.

But they were old pros at dealing with rioters by then and we weren’t that adept at rioting. An hour later I was at the campus hospital along with a dozen others. I’m sure one of the soldier’s boots got scuffed.

Sally got me the slate and a bag of cheese curls when she and Janice visited. Janice gave me a kiss and a lecture.

Now half my face is a big swollen clammy weird feeling mess and I’m told that I’m a very lucky little project director because my eye is fine and my retina didn’t detach with the force of the blow.

But the truth is that the Alphans are dead, the project is probably shut down and every one of us is royally screwed.

People Helping People

You work with people day in day out for months. Some are friends. Some you have lunch with. Some you say hi to. And all of them are brave and good people.

I have never been more impressed by my team. I have never been so overwhelmed at what people can do.

One long standing item on my to-do list was simply making what we were doing with Alpha easier.

The set up for Alpha and Tangent required so much custom coding; even the maintenance required so many developers, engineers, and DBAs hands on all the time. Of course some of the work was caused by the ever present hovering biologists, anthropologists, ecteraologists wanting to see more details or wanting to test a theory.

But when you got down do it the code to implement much of the laws our simulation needed to obey were already written. I had always planned on making some of these items as simple to implement as clicking a button. A world creating GUI if you will.

Thank god for procrastination. We never even got to the point of spec’ing such functionality. The simulations we ran are as difficult and complex to create and manage as they were from day one.

If you want to do it again we are necessary. All of us.

Greystle has been very obvious that they want us to do it again. So much so that they got us all out of jail.

So we put that to the test.

Last week Greystle announced that the Simulations Department was moving to ‘a new location.’ The last pretense of this being a project from an institution of learning- being on campus- is being removed. We were also told that we would be in some way working for the Defense Department and that because of that we weren’t being told where we were going.

Then last Thursday Janice learned that Sally was not coming with us. She was devastated. I was devastated. Within a minute of Janice and I being told I the news I was getting calls from team members about what we should do about it (even without access to the grid news travels fast).

Our team almost filled up the old cafeteria in the student center and I suggested something that to me seemed ludicrously ballsy. We would strike. We would go to jail and not to work.

And it was agreed to quickly and unanimously. Janice cried, so did I, so many of us did. The team was a beaten group, and this was a moment where they would fight back.

Whatever Greystle is planning on with another Alpha project must be big, because Sally is coming with us (and so is my unicorn covered slate I guess). They folded immediately. Good to know we aren’t powerless.

Sally promises cookies for everyone as thanks. Assuming Greystle allows us access to cooking instruments (no knives?).

So Happy Together

Wow – if Greystle wanted to get across the message that they were angry with us I couldn’t think of a better way. We are all packed. We have moved out of our dorm rooms and apartments. Our lives are packed into towers of cardboard boxes out on the campus lawn. With two hours before we are supposed to go Stan Winston the Director of Simulations for Greystle arrives with three old school busses, a couple trucks and lots of guards.

One truck is filled with small plastic storage containers. One for each of us. That is all we get. No place or time to store the rest of our possessions.

The entire campus grounds became the most hurried yard sale in history. Undergrad students picking up clothes, gadgets, and knick knacks for basically nothing. More tears were shed then money collected.

Gee Stan, what a great way to start our working relationship.