I’ve been woken by my phone in the wee hours with Nagios telling me that a server has gone down. For Mhau Tapang, the systems engineer at Bode-6 on Ceres, it’s no different. And if that wasn’t bad enough, she has a message waiting from her boss, the aposti stationed on Mars.
Zweeeep! Zweeeep! Zweeeep!
Mhau cringed, squinting open one eye and then the other. The piercing crit fail alarm jolted her out of bed. She fumbled for a moment, wrestling on her jumpsuit, then bounced over to her workstation. The artificial gecko, Boot, clung to a wall and swiveled its head toward her as she sat down. Ignoring the robot, she tapped the display and as the schematic for Bode-6 comm systems blinked into view, she saw that the interbode messaging circuit was down.
Damn. Not another.
She silenced the audible alarm, then dug deeper into the offending system, scrolling backwards in time over the past half hour. Increased latency was the first symptom, followed by seemingly missing data, followed by complete protocol breakdown.
But this is a redundant circuit!
She opened a second probe screen next to the first and stared in utter disbelief. Both redundant circuits were showing exactly the same errors at exactly the same times. Mhau knew this should be impossible. The backup circuit used the old-time surface fibre run, laid down a century ago. The primary circuit was a modern above-ground laser repeater.
If nothing else, they should have differing error times.
She swiped at the primary circuit, bringing up the remote console. Although the comm circuit showed DOWN, telemetry to the next node upstream was still sporadic. Maybe she could initiate a reboot that would propagate down the entire length of the circuit.
Mhau pressed the reboot badge. Even if it did work, she knew gratification wouldn’t be instantaneous. She watched as a cluster of nodes went OFFLINE. The node out by Digby chasm went yellow for a moment, then green. Two adjacent nodes, each separated by five kilometers also came back online shortly after the Digby.
As more circuits winked green, she felt confidence return. Mhau pinged the backup circuit and sent a remote reboot command racing down toward the nearest node. The primary circuit was nearly all green now, and she smiled as a pair of nodes returned on the backup circuit.
C’mon. Just a little more.
She glanced at the alarm queue. Three nastygrams had cleared themselves, though the parent alerts remained open. Mhau reached out and touched Boot on its head. The robot flicked its metarm tongue and scampered further up the wall. It was teasing her, wanting to play, not understanding she needed to concentrate on connecting Bode-6 back to the world.
“Critical alarm rescinded. Situation normal,” the bode’s artificial female voice said over the system comm. Mhau nodded, but didn’t smile. This was the third spurious failure in as many days and none of them made any sense. A week ago, she had begun to relax after Grace had arrested Lee Larchmont. But bliss hadn’t lasted long once she’d begun wrangling unruly circuits. Redundant unruly circuits, she corrected herself.
Boot’s whirring caught her attention as it moved down the wall and onto her workstation. It approached her left hand tentatively, then climbed aboard her forearm. She decided she liked it parking there, though it make her use of the workstation awkward at best.
As she closed the comm system display, she noticed a belt network message had arrived while she slept. Mhau sat up straight as she recognized the sender ID: 0x02 0x2e 0x07 0x01 0x08 0x02 0x08 0x01 0x08 0x02 0x08.
What does he want?