To someone who didn't know Mike, they would have thought he was distracted and wasn't interested in the meeting as people in turns shouted, threatened and wailed. The office looked empty when Mike arrived because everyone was crowded into the standing-room-only boardroom. He wasn't listening because he was lost in his head, wandering down the many paths and rules of Sapphire to understand how something that couldn't happen...was happening.
"Amal fucking Clooney!" yelled an important-looking man. "I have Amal Clooney invested in Sapphire! Do you have any idea how she could make or break us with her friends? How the fuck am I going to be able to tell her, oh, I'm sorry, Ma'am, on day one, our marvelous investment program has lost half your fucking money??!!!"
"We don't have to report anything until after the markets close and we can still hold on and give out unit values at the end of the week, or even later," calmly said a younger dapper man.
"Great!" replied the first, "That's gives us more time to lose everything! Right now the goddam thing has lost more money than the markets!"
It was true. The market was down sharply and instead of cushioning the blow, never mind making money, Sapphire had lost even more. Far more.
Someone asked, "Why wasn't this caught in testing?"
That's when Mike pulled himself out of his stupor. "There has to be a difference between the production and testing environments. This can't happen. We tested everything..."
Alan jumped to his feet. "The only way that could have happened is by an unauthorized change. And that could only happen from one ID."
The shouting continued for a while until an older, quiet gentleman rose. The room hushed. "We need a plan of how we will fix this," he said. "We need it now. In the meantime, we have only a few clients invested and if need be, we can tell them we'll cover their losses as we are only in...I don't know...'beta' or something. And let's make sure no unauthorized changes can be made going forward." By the end of the meeting, it was agreed that Mike would lose his super-user ID.
Shortly afterwards, Mike and Mel were sitting in Jacob's office. "And now," he said, "Things are even more serious. Because of that fool's idea, the company itself is now on the line. And worse, we can have the Security Exchange Commission looking into how we were gambling with other people's money. Someone will go to jail because of this." He shrugged. "I won't waste my breath asking you two to work hard on this. I know I have the smartest and best people working on it. For everyone's sake, find the fault and fix it." He looked at Mel. "What's your plan?"
She glanced to Mike then replied, "We'll take over the 'fish bowl' meeting room as a 'war-room' and move the team there. We'll do a comparison between testing and production versions of Sapphire to make sure they're the same. Cosmin's message layer writes all the market data to the 'data base thing', so we can actually replay today's market crash to the test copy of Sapphire to see if the same problem happens. We'll do a root-cause analysis on the actual problems that are identified. The risk to us is that the production team won't make changes fast enough to prevent further problems. They've changed Mike's super-user password, but as long as he doesn't logoff, he's still got the privileges to make emergency changes--if we can't get anyone's attention fast enough."
"I like the plan," twinkled Jacobs. "And I didn't hear that last part."
As they were setting up the meeting room, Mike mused out loud to Mel, "You were right. If the internal metrics were in place, I'd be better able to figure out the problem. It was a perfect storm. We cut corners to get in faster, and now we can't fully diagnose the illness. It was a risk."
The rest of the day was agony for all. By mid-day the markets remained sharply lower. Sapphire still stubbornly refused to do better than the markets. Mike stared at his screen, chasing himself through corridors of numbers while Mel pounded her keyboard like she was hammering nails. The end of the trading day had a slight recovery for the markets, but Sapphire was still no better. The Sapphire team was still no closer to the reason for the disaster. No testing they had ever done on the program had a result like this. It was dark when Mike decided he needed some air, and got up to go for a walk. Mel jumped up and sat at his computer. "Just to make sure nobody logs you off," she said.
Mike had phoned Jen a number of times. He needed to hear her voice, but all through the day she never picked up and never returned a text. As he stepped out into the dark, his phone rang.
"Sorry, Baby," said Jen. "We've been up-to-here all day preparing a big presentation. How is your big day?"
Mike couldn't think of an answer. "Things aren't good," he finally said. "If I can't fix it, there won't be a bonus...and because I took a gamble, it's my fault..."
"Oh. That's okay. You'll have another opportunity..."
"I could even lose my job, Jen. Then we won't be able to..." His voice trailed off.
There was a pause on the other end. "It's okay, Baby. We'll be fine." Clearly she had pulled away from the phone to call out, "OK. I'll be right there." In a normal voice she said, "Baby, if worse comes to worse, we can always share space with Scotty. We'd all be roommates."
Mike felt hollow. He had already felt like he was relegated to being Jen's roommate.
When he got back to the office, Mike walked into the 'Fish Bowl', got the attention of the Sapphire team (except Mel, who was squinting at Mike's screen) and thanked them for their efforts. It was late, he told them, go home. If he needed anything, he'd call. Then he walked towards his computer still unsure of what to do, feeling alone, without support from anywhere. Mel had her back to him as she stared at the screen. He reached forward with his hands. The intention was to give her a little massage...but really it was going to do more for him. He wanted the connection, needed some contact. But before his hands came down on her shoulders, Mel tapped the screen in front of her and turned her head to Mike.
"That's it right there," she said, tapping. Mike squinted over her shoulder at the screen without understanding.
"What am I looking at? What is it?"
"That file, called 'sum'. It's not in our test environment for Sapphire, but it's there in production. I'll bet you that program, or whatever it is, is affecting Sapphire and making it perform badly somehow. We can't see it without your super-user privileges. Alan's been hiding it."
She stood and turned fully to Mike, "Here, you drive. Get that rogue program and put it onto my sandbox." A sandbox is a machine where code developers can play around without affecting testing or production. "It's set up like production. We've stored all the day's market trades and we can play them back to the sandbox, and to the test environment to see the differences. If my hunch is right, the sandbox will bomb like production while testing will be what we expected. Give me a bit and I'll re-run today as-is on the sandbox to make sure it gets the same results as the test environment. They'll start out identical."
Mike was clearly surprised. "Your sandbox is as big as the Sapphire production server?" That would be a very unusual expense!
Mel had her back to him and was furiously typing. "It's just missing a few cores because it doesn't have to do the work in real-time. But, yeah."
"How the hell did you manage that?" Mike was beyond surprise.
Mel waved at him dismissively with one hand. "Men don't know how to get anything from other men without bluff, bluster or brawl. That's why evolution invented women."
"And you've used up storage to store the market data?" Mike asked.
"Yes, we're keeping the last 5 days and we also keep the day with the biggest rise and the day with the biggest fall. Seven days in total."
"That's why Alan couldn't get storage?"
"No. It's because he's a dick."
Hours later they had a baseline to work from. For testing, Mike had created a simulator to measure how Sapphire would perform without the trades going out to the market. The test version of Sapphire, using Monday's market disaster, would have made a profit! The sandbox made the same profit! Mel had also tested the worst day they had ever seen. Sapphire again, had a marginal profit.
Mel looked at Mike. "You really are one smart cookie."
"Takes one to know one."
Mike applied the rogue program to the sandbox and they waited as Mel replayed Monday's markets to that version of Sapphire. The wait was agony. When the crunching finished, it was the same disaster that they'd seen in production!
Just then Alan appeared.
"Find anything?" His voice was flat and unemotional.
"Well..." stammered Mike.
"Not yet," interrupted Mel with a sweet smile at Alan. "But we're trying."
Alan frowned. "Well, good luck." He turned and left. Mike and Mel leaned into the aisle to watch him check the door on his office, then leave.
Mel turned back to her desk and mused, "But what's the rogue doing?"
Mike had been monitoring the run. "The error log's really full," he said. After typing, "Something's trying to send messages to another server--looks like it might be a message for every trade Sapphire's trying to do. Obviously, the sandbox isn't connected to anything so it can't find that other server." Every machine on every computer network, including all across the Internet, has an address, just like every building on a street. It's called an IP address. They both looked at the address in the errors.
"I've never even seen that subnetwork," said Mel. It was like she hadn't recognized the name of the street, never mind the actual house, or computer. They looked at each other.
"Follow me," said Mel and she jumped up and walked away. Mike, puzzled, followed her to the door of Jacob's office. She paused, looked around, no one else was in the office, and she opened the door. Mike watched as she crossed the room to a clothes tree in the corner and frisked a jacket hanging there. There was a jingling sound as she walked back and closed the door behind her. Mike looked at her, perplexed.
"You can observe a lot when you sit outside someone's office," she explained. Mike followed her to another office. Alan's office. She fumbled with a number of keys, then there was a click and she opened the door. Mike pushed past and started looking around the room. Then he bent down under the desk.
"There's a Windows server here," he said.
"Shh! Some one's coming," whispered Mel and she closed the door, leaving Mike alone in Alan's office. He paused, listening for a while. He heard a muffled conversation. Trying to be absolutely quiet, Mike sat at the desk. He found he could log onto the mystery server with his normal ID, but couldn't do much. He typed, "ipconfig" and with a slight grunt watched the information on the screen. Then, on impulse, he typed "ping google.com" and silently watched rows of numbers scroll by. After pausing to make sure things hadn't changed on the other side of the door, he did some searching on the computer. And found something.
He pushed back from the desk and contemplated exactly what it all meant. He was stunned.
A few minutes later, he was standing right behind the door when Mel opened it, almost hitting him in the face.
"Sorry," she whispered. "It was just the normal building security doing the rounds. Find anything?"
As they took the keys back to Jacob's office then returned to their desks, Mike filled her in. "That server is the one the rogue program is looking for. And guess what? It has access through the firewall!" The server in Alan's office could talk to the outside world. For security purposes, both incoming and outgoing, that kind of access is tightly restricted.
Mel, hadn't had time to think about it. "Why?"
"Someone is monitoring Sapphire's trades. Maybe they're testing it or maybe they want to make money too. But there's more. That server has an old test copy of Sapphire. It was a lot smaller then." He gripped Mel's shoulders and turned her to face him. "I think they're trying to steal Sapphire and when you limited Alan's access to storage, you stopped them!"
She stood blinking for a while. "I wonder if he's still on the payroll of that Russian bank? What about the bad performance of Sapphire? What caused it and why would anyone want bad trades? Sapphire lost money today, who needs help to do that!?"
"That I'm not certain about. Either the performance issue was an error, or they're sabotaging Sapphire for us, while stealing the trades it would normally make. Wait a sec." Mike sat at his computer and typed. "What's the timestamp on the rogue program on the sandbox?" They checked. "It's changed. Alan has put a new copy of the rogue onto the production server. Let's see if that's changed things."
Mike copied over the program again and they reran the market data on the sandbox. The new version of the rogue was still affecting Sapphire, but not nearly as much.
"He wants us to think we fixed it!" exclaimed Mel. "But it will still be a problem. And when they've got the correct copy they can outperform us!"
"That might not be the plan," Mike replied. "Stealing trades from Sapphire will only work until the next network change. They can't rely on stealing our trades going forward. They'll just steal Sapphire itself and leave the mess behind." He took a deep breath. "Now what do we do?"
Mike checked the time. 5am. "At this hour?"
"Fine, I'll do it." She reached for her phone. "We need someone with authority. He'll just be sitting in bed catching up with the overnight news at this hour, anyway."
"Sitting outside someones office..."
An hour later, Jacobs looked up from Mike's desk and asked, "You're absolutely certain of this?"
"Absolutely," said Mike. Jacobs turned and looked at Mel closely. After a pause, she nodded. He smiled looking at her and asked, "What's the plan?" She slide a paper in front of him.
"We need sign-off to rip out the rogue," she explained. "The production people will have to make sure it stays there unless they have it in writing from an authorized signer. We also need access to Alan's office to unplug the mystery server."
"And you need me to call building security to detain Alan when he gets here, then to call the police to collect him," said Jacobs. "This is now a criminal matter." After signing he pulled himself out of the chair. "But if you're not right, on Wednesday morning I'll be on the golf course and you two will be interviewing for jobs where they ask, 'Do you want fries with that?' And I absolutely hate golf." He started walking away. "Mike, kill the rogue. Mel, get my keys and I'll meet you at Alan's office to unplug that server. I'll stay there to make my phone calls in case Alan does some how slip in. And stop pretending to look surprised, Mel. You know where the keys are."
The plan went into effect. By market opening, the entire Sapphire team was back and everyone was nervously watching in the Fish Bowl when the markets opened Tuesday morning. Overnight futures had predicted another down start and the markets did indeed open lower. Sapphire immediately reacted, and started to make money! By mid-day the markets had started to recover and Sapphire, over the two days, was flat! In other words, with the markets down, Sapphire had made money--in fact, enough to cover the first day's loss! As the day moved toward close, Sapphire continued to hold! You could even smell the mood change in the office. But Mike still looked worried. Mel gave him a quizzical look.
"Sapphire is busy loading up," he said. "She thinks the market is over-sold and when everyone stampedes back, buying things, she'll already be holding onto important things they want to buy. You ever heard of supply and demand?"
Mel, nodded. "Prices go up or down depending on the amount available, the supply, and how much people want to buy, the demand. When there is a small supply and big demand, prices go up. The opposite with lots of supply and low demand."
"Close enough. Well, she's going to turn it on its head. Tomorrow, for some things, she's going to control the supply and demand the price. She's either going to make tomorrow hell for some people, or she's going down in flames."
There was quiet for a moment. "If you stay at my place, you won't have as long a commute the rest of the week, in case something happens."
Mike smiled. "That's a great idea!"
"Mike, I'm only offering a couch." She leaned toward him and sniffed. "And a shower." He was still in the same clothes from Sunday. "And leftovers. That's all. Understand?"
"Uh...of course. Sounds like a plan. Hey, I can't buy take-out?"
Mike still had to go home for some clothes. He walked into the apartment wearing the white helmet. On the way to the bedroom, he spotted Jen and Scott side-by-side on the couch. Scott's one hand was around a beer and the other arm was around Jen's shoulders, while Jen held that hand in both of hers. Jen's head tracked Mike's entrance, while Scott's view never left the big screen. As Mike started stuffing a bag in the bedroom, Jen appeared, hugging herself.
Quietly she asked, "What's up?"
"I'm going to stay with a team member for the rest of the week. I want to be closer to the office. Things have been a real mess."
He walked into the bathroom for things and when he returned, Jen was holding out a box of condoms. "Just in case," she said in a small voice.
Mike snapped, "No, Jen. Not everyone fucks every one of their goddam co-workers!" She pulled back as if slapped and he immediately felt bad. "I'm sorry. It's been a really, really stressful time. I'm dog tired, I've had no sleep and it's just been..." His voice trailed off. "Look. I'll phone you later, okay?" She nodded with her moist eyes down and a tremble in her lip. He held her arm and kissed her cheek.
As he slid behind Mel on the big-ass scooter, Mike looked up to the apartment. Jen was watching. As the machine smoothly pulled away from the curb, he waved. Jen turned back into the room...without a wave.
By Friday, Sapphire had indeed burned a few traders and was now settling down into the pattern that Mike had originally envisioned--she was steadily making money. Mike and Mel were slightly later than normal getting into the office. They each found an envelope and a bottle gift-box on their desk. Mike tore the envelope open to find a check for 5 figures from the personal account of 'Austin T. Jacobs'. In the box was a bottle of Highland Park 18-year-old Scotch.
"Weee!" squealed Mel, "Ruinart Champagne!"
Jacobs appeared with eyes twinkling. "I just wanted to show my appreciation to the two of you for the efforts you've put in and the successes we've had. You'll get something a lot more substantial later in the year, but in the mean time you two get to split what I think Sapphire is going to make for me personally this month." He turned to go then stopped. "I remember a partner describing a time in his life like this. With a nice bonus on the horizon he quickly made a move to put 'ex' in front of a certain woman's title. After that," he smiled broadly and chuckled, "He learned about pre-nups." He turned once more to go, then stopped and looked at the two. "I'm thinking that we should open a new office in one of those warm places where rich old people go to die. They can make us, and their heirs, a lot of money. I'm open to suggestions for the location."
"Wait," said Mel and waved a paper at him. "We need sign-off for a party for the Sapphire team and for some gifts. It's in the budget, but I need the approval to spend."
"Already done. Oh. And I have a copy of something on my desk that I'll pretend doesn't exist until you two sort it out," he twinkled. With that he wandered away, whistling to himself.
Mike and Mel grinned at each other a moment, but Mike suddenly grew serious. He picked up a letter off his desk. "What about this?" he asked. It was Mel's resignation.
Mel shrugged and looked down. "Nothing's changed. I am who I am. Working relationships are hard at the best of times. If you can hold onto it for a bit, so I can get a bit more money together before I move, I'd really appreciate it. Or, maybe we can discuss severance before security hustles me out..."
"No, it doesn't have to be that way," said Mike.
"You're married, Mike. That hasn't changed. We work together. I'm not going to..."
"What if," he interrupted, "What if I suddenly recognized the state of my marriage? What if you just happened to come along right at that moment?" He held up the resignation. "Let's pretend this is my marriage..."
He reached under his desk and slid the paper into the top of the shredder. They both watched as the machine whirred and turned the letter into tiny diamonds.
[Roll credits, music]
"We be burnin' not concernin' what nobody want to say
"We be earnin' dollars turning cause we mind de pon we pay
"More than gold and oil and diamonds - girls, we need them everyday"
Fresh One Productions
A Steven SpielStart Production
In partnership with John C. Wavey
[voice over by Mike]: A man walked into a pet store and was looking around. He spotted a monkey and checked the price. $25,000! He called the owner over and asked why it was so much. The owner answered, "Why, that's a mathematician monkey! It can do equations and figure things out for you. That's why it's worth so much." The man was satisfied with the answer and continued looking around. He spotted another monkey and looked at its price. $50,000! He called the owner over, quite perplexed by the number. "Oh," said the owner, "That's a Project Management monkey. No one knows what it does, and no one has ever seen it actually do anything, but we can charge that for it."
Mike.........................Matthew Gray Gobbler
Austen T. Jacobs.....Maurice Joseph Micklewhite Jr.
Thanks for the encouragement to lilford1965, SamWarrens and RugbyRaizo1991 as well as the the fans of OHW making this a friendly environment (and also to anyone who recognizes themselves in the story or credits).
A special shoutout to my friends Jamie and Kelli-Ann.
BTW: Mel is a mash-up of two amazing women in my life...one named Melissa, imagine that!
I'd like to thank the Big Kahuna, Xleglover, for his wonderful fiction which inspired me, and for his encouraging attitude towards fan fiction.
[voice over by Mel]: An engineering project manager and a mathematician were recruited for a study. They were sitting in a room with a big yellow line painted across the floor. Suddenly, on the far side, the wall pulled back exposing a handsome, well-hung, naked man and a naked, petite, blond, small-breasted super model. A loud voice said, "Line up on the yellow line and after each minute, at the buzzer, you can cover half the remaining distance between yourself and a person on the other side." The engineer immediately ripped off her clothes and stood at the line. The mathematician didn't move and in a superior tone sniffed, "You're wasting your time. Covering half the distance each time means you'll never actually get to the other side. You keep covering half the distance for infinity." There was a buzzer and the engineer crossed half the room. She looked back, laughed and said, "How close to do think you have to be to get things done?" And after a pregnant pause, she then said, "Do you have an inferiority complex about your reach or something?"
"Baby it's the way you make me
"Kinda get me go crazy
"Never want to stop
"It's gotta be you (uh huh, uh huh)
"I can't control it anymore
"I've never felt like this before
"You really make me lose my head
"My hungry heart must be fed (uh huh, uh huh)
"I promise you I will be true, yeah
"It's only you"
Written and Directed by Cecil B. FreshStart
This story is dedicated to Sophie's Gorgeous Mom.
[hugs and kisses]
Like she's actually going to read this.
No Windows Server was harmed in the making of this story.
[scene: Mike sitting on a couch looking off camera, speaks]: So, that woman, the one who went out, had a baby from someone unknown, and THEN met and married a man who adopted the baby? Well...I was wondering...isn't it hot to think about those things happening in a different order...? You know, she marries someone, and THEN goes out...Wait...Mel...Mel?...no...please don't go....Mel? Mel!? It was a joke!! [sound of door slamming]
Last edited by FreshStart on Mon Jun 26, 2017 1:59 pm, edited 3 times in total.