Chapter One - Close
After two days of uninterrupted work, Dave sat back and stared at the screen. He was close - so close he could taste it.
The pieces of the puzzle were falling into place. By analysing various databases - some publicly available, others which required a little light hacking to facilitate his access - his beautiful software system was able to identify obscure correlations between apparently unrelated events and use these correlations to make predictions.
And its predictions seemed to be frighteningly accurate.
But, as ever, there was one more bug. After only five minutes running in the test harness, his beautiful system was crashing horribly. It only took a couple of minutes to confirm that it was a memory leak. Something, somewhere in the system was allocating memory and failing to return it when it had finished with it.
It took another three hours of patient, systematic and frustrating searching through the code to track it down and then, there it was, staring him in the face. As ever, once he had identified it, it was so obvious it was hard to believe he could ever possibly have missed it.
Fixing the problem was a matter of thirty seconds, before rebuilding the system and firing up his test harness again.
He rubbed his hands through his long, unkempt hair and thought about making himself another cup of coffee but then decided against it. He was tired - so tired that he was going to start making silly mistakes.
And he hated silly mistakes.
Instead, he brushed his teeth whilst he waited for his short test to complete. Yep, it was looking good - ten minutes run time with no horrible crash - bug fixed! So he ran a careful backup before kicking off his longer test suite. That would run happily while he slept.
His eye was caught by the teetering stack of bowls and mugs in one corner of the desk. He liked to keep his workspace neat and tidy but somehow that pile kept growing. He vaguely thought about carrying them through to the kitchen but suddenly the overwhelming exhaustion of the last couple of days washed over him like a wave and he simply collapsed into bed. His desk and computing system were in his bedroom so it wasn’t a terribly long way to collapse. The washing up fairy who, his mother informed him, only came if all the dirty crockery was carried into the kitchen, would have to come another night
Some indeterminate time later, he was torn awake by a crash in his living room. It must have been a serious crash to tear him from that desperately needed sleep. As he sprang to his feet, he vaguely thought about the fact that the carefully stacked boxes of computing equipment that he kept in the other room might just have acted as an anti-intruder device.
Dave picked up his cricket bat from the corner of the bedroom and went to investigate. He didn’t really know why he still had that cricket bat there - he hadn’t played for years. He occasionally went through the motions of practicing forward defensive strokes when his mind was wandering over technical challenges but, these days, that was about the limit of his cricketing activity.
By the light of the streetlights filtering in through the open curtains, he could see that his rickety shelving unit had toppled over strewing the potentially useful computing equipment it had contained across the floor. His bicycle had been knocked over too.
And, at the bottom of the tangled mess, there was a girl.