Stack Overflow

“What do you mean there’s ‘an error’?” Sarah’s eyebrows practically raised themselves.

“That’s what it says here. Error Type…uh…” Derek glanced down at his printout, “…42147-a.”

“There can’t be an error.”

“That’s everybody always says that when an error pops up.” Derek said, “You’ve become a cliché, Sarah.”

Sarah shot Derek a glare that could pierce steel.

“…Ms. Johns.” Derek corrected himself while clasping the printout just a bit tighter.

“Right.” Sarah leaned on her glass desk, “What kind of error is 421-whatever it is?” She started to run damage control scenarios in her head and actively avoided any eye-contact.

“I don’t know.” Derek said.

“What?” She finally raised her head, “What do you mean you don’t KNOW?”

“There’s never been an error before. And I’m not a programmer!” Derek sprung to his own defense, although his tinny voice always failed to intimidate, “I don’t even know where to look this stuff up! I don’t know where the guide is.”

Sarah dragged her hands down her face to smooth out whatever stress wrinkles were soon to come. Cut them off at the pass, so to speak. “There IS no guide. Because we don’t. have. errors.”

“Well, then I don’t know what to tell you.” Derek crossed his arms.

“All right, all right.” Sarah breathed deep to regain her composure. This needed to be handled and it needed to be handled right. And ‘right’ meant quietly, “First, things first. Who was the customer?”

Derek glanced back at his printout, now noticeably creased, “David Landis.”

“How was the situation addressed?”

Derek continued reading from the paper, his 8 ½ x 11 sitrep. “Landis was offered a full refund of the fee and an apology. He left without incident.”

“Anything else?”

“We gave him a free t-shirt. The report says he was quite taken with it.”

“Of course he was,” Sarah rolled her eyes. “You think a free shirt is going to keep his mouth shut about the situation? We can’t have rumors of an ‘error’ floating around. Our stock will tank!”

“We put some private security guys to tail him to see if he talks about it. Or blogs about it.”

“And what are they going to do if he does? Offer him another shirt?”

“I don’t know…‘silence him’?” As he read the words on the paper, Derek’s eyes widened to conform to the thick frames of his glasses, “My God, that sounds so sinister.”

“Okay, now,” Sarah straightened the lapels on her suit jacket, “This error. Are there any programmers in the building we can talk to? It’s after 5 on a Friday…”

“Oh, they’ll still be here,” Derek smiled. “No need to worry about that. We can probably find one downstairs.”

The elevator ride was the longest stretch of quiet Sarah had gotten all day. The glass pod descended with no noise. All she could hear was Derek’s breathing across from her. The glow of Et-Vive’s sterile white storefront rushed past them as the elevator fell to the basement. Fortunately, Et-Vive, incorporated just three years prior, espoused a holistic architectural philosophy, so the basement was just as heavenly bright as the store floor. This new biotech powerhouse was Web 3.0 and minimalist friendly. No dingy basement walls or leaky pipes to see here. All hidden behind a veneer of sleek white steel.

Sarah marched her way into the farm of cubes with Derek lagging behind. To their surprise, the whole programming team was there, packed into the space of one cubicle. She elbowed her way to the center. Derek got lost in the crowd which shook with the vibrations of a dozen simultaneous conversations.

Alan looked up from his screen, “Oh, hi Ms. Johns.”

“Cut the crap, Alan. Have you figured this shit out?”

“Yes.” Alan ran his fingers through his hair, purposely avoiding any eye-contact, “But, more accurately…uh…no.”

“Explain.” Sarah crossed her arms as the crowd behind her began to disperse, probably out of fear. Derek sidled his way up behind her, waving to Alan.

“We figured out what the error is and its source. But…um…not why it’s occurring.” Alan said as he turned back toward the gentle glow of his screen, “the LifeTekTM machine was used properly…no input or biometric interface errors. It’s just…the result…is wrong.”

“We can’t have a wrong result. We can’t AFFORD to be wrong. Our whole business model depends on it.”

“Well, we tracked down the 42147-a designation. It’s assigned to a specific memory failure in one of the predictive modules. Lifespan Extrapolation.” Alan said.

“What’s the failure, then?” Sarah asked.

“See for yourself.” Alan scrolled to code’s breakpoint. The error message was displayed in generic console letters.

Curious, Derek read over Sarah’s shoulder, “What does ‘Stack Overflow’ mean?”

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