It was a cold winter morning and, as usual, Tab Trop was late to work. The radio in his car was playing some music, to which he wasn’t listening as he was in a hurry. He could see that the vehicles ahead were slowing down. The Reinghman Road was accident-prone so it wouldn’t surprise him if a car or two had crashed and were causing the jam. He knew very well that he couldn’t afford to be any late than what he already was. He was now being ruffled by the music. “Oh boy! Someone had to choose to kill themselves now of all the times!” he thought. He was starting to regret choosing the Reinghman Road just to have a cup of coffee, instead of the usual shortcut he took. His phone started to ring and he reckoned it was Prat Char, his boss. A quick glance at his phone proved him right. He thought it was better to respond as he was going to be late anyway. So he switched off the radio and answered the call.
“So Tab, late are we?” asked Prat.
“The traffic is terrible. Honestly-” he was interrupted by her flat voice.
“Save yourself your honesty-” she said with a little trace of pity in her voice, “I just wanted to remind you for the millionth time that projects will be distributed today. I’ve been telling you the same thing for almost a week now so don’t come to me if you are assigned to a project you don’t like.”
He knew she was right.
“It looks like it’ll take me an hour but I’ll try to get there as quickly as I can.”
“You better get here quickly. It may begin any moment.”
“Alright,” he said and she hung up.
Being a Research Engineer at The Hiderbid Research Facility (THRF), he got to work with some of the most brilliant minds in the world. THRF’s main areas of focus were the STEM. Tab used to work in the Mathematics and Computer Science department. Even by Tab’s standards, THRF was very flexible. For instance, employees were allowed to go on leave indefinitely as long as they somehow kept up their work. It was due to such unorthodox practices that many of them could work on their own ideas. In fact, they were encouraged to do so.
After about forty minutes, he reached work.
Right across his cubicle, he saw William Kepp who also worked in his department. William, being the nice hearted fellow that he was, greeted him.
“Hey Tab! Nice to see you after such a long time. What was so interesting that kept you away for weeks?”
Tab, on the other hand, was extremely eccentric and seldom spoke. So the first thoughts through his mind were along the lines “Why do you even care?” However, he wanted to sound polite and said “Hi Will, I wasn’t working on anything interesting. I just didn’t feel like coming.”
Just then Prat called for him.
“Thank god,” he thought, “I can’t imagine what he’d ask me next.”
Prat’s office was quite small and had a desk and a chair in the middle and a white marker board on the wall behind the chair, which had some statistics written on it. She was going through some papers when Tab came in.
“Hello, Tab. Good morning.”
“Good morning Prat. Any left over projects that I can take up?”
“Well, there is only one project – a Mr. Jones worked on it for a while but it was dropped due to lack of funding.”
This was not uncommon as lots of projects were dropped every year due various reasons.
“Your job,” she continued, “is to pick it up from where it was dropped and complete it. I’ve sent the rest of the details to your computer. Also, nice to see you back at work.”
“Nice to see you too, Prat. So I’ll just go and work it then?”
“Yes, you shall.”
He returned to his cubicle and switched on his computer. He then spent rest of his day trying to figure out what the project was about. However, it wasn’t as easy as he expected it to be. Despite all his efforts for the next 6 hours, he was able to make little sense out of it. But this was the most interesting part of his job. He got to work on challenging stuff and learn many a thing.
Therefore, he was very excited and grateful that he was assigned this particular project.
They say time flies by when you do something you love. This is exactly what happened with Tab. What he felt an hour or two had turned out to be six hours. People were leaving now.
“Aren’t you going home?”
He looked up. It was William. He had packed his bag and was ready to leave.
“Wow! It’s evening already! I didn’t notice the time at all!”
“Yeah… What is your project about?”
“Eh- that what I’ve been trying to figure out for the past six hours. No luck so far.”
“Well, hope things go well. Goodbye!”
Tab then packed his things and left.
As soon as he reached home, he freshened up and rested for a while. He then opened his computer and decided to work on the project. He knew it was going to be challenging – in fact, it took him a good 4 hours to just understand what the layout and contents of the repository. It was getting late so he just went to sleep.
He spent the next couple of weeks working on the project. However, all his efforts were in vain. He barely understood anything. But he was able to make sense out of little parts here and there. He actually started enjoying this. Learning new things always fascinated him. Whatever he understood, he didn’t fail to appreciate. He starting to think that whoever had worked on this project previously had to be a genius.
Although Tab was enjoying working on this project, he barely made any progress. As a result, the higher-ups at the THRF decided that it was time to move on and assign him something else.
When he was informed about this change, he obviously revolted.
“But I’m learning so much! All the code – all the design – it is simply magnificent!”
“Well,” answered Prat in her usual flat voice, “although you seem to be enjoying your work, it in no way contributes towards to progress of the Facility. Therefore it has been decided that it is in the best interest of the Facility that you move on to something else. Also, it was pure chance that you were assigned this project in the first place.”
Her last sentence irritated him a little.
“So,” he answered with a question, “what will I be working on this time?”
“Erm, I haven’t looked into it myself. However, I’ve already sent the files to your computer. I think you will be able to take care of the rest yourself.”
“Thanks,” he said and left in a slightly agitated mood.
He definitely wasn’t in a good mood when he started working, which was a bad sign. He was getting frustrated even for the smallest of things and find the obvious onerous. He decided that he’d start working after he got home and hence left early.
Later that night, it struck him that it was high time he got started with work. What he wasn’t expecting, though, was the similarity between this and the previous project. This turned out be a pleasant surprise. The more similarities he looked for, the more similarities he found. Even in the most unexpected of places, he was able to draw comparisons between the both. Therefore, he decided to ask Prat for the files from the previous project for reference. However, he was in for a big disappointment.
According to Prat, there was a power fluctuation due to which a lot of data had been lost. Unfortunately, the files he required were lost too. But Tab was not one to give up so easily. He decided to work with whatever local backups he had made. Albeit it didn’t have all data, it had most of the parts which he was able to understand. He decided to do this on the following weekend. But Prat had something else in mind for him. Apparently, William had be struggling with his work and was finding it difficult to cope up with. So Prat asked Tab to help him out.
“There goes my weekend,” he thought.
After spending the following Friday and Saturday helping William out, he was finally able to take some time out to go through his backups. Just as he got started, he was assured that he was not wasting his time. Many a problem in his project already had a solution in his backups. This fascinated him all the more. However, things didn’t go all that smoothly. As he was going through his backups something strange started to happen. Right in front of his eyes, files started to delete themselves. All the backup files were vanishing one by one. Every line of code that he had worked so hard on to understand was disappearing into thin air right in front of his eyes. He was absolutely flabbergasted. He started to panic. He tried everything he knew to stop what was happening – but all in vain. In the next few minutes, everything was gone.
At this point, he was both furious and curious. Furious not only because he had lost everything he had put his efforts into, but also because something beautiful had been destroyed. Curious because how whatever had happened had happened. But Tab was very persistent and determined. He decided that he would recover all the data no matter what it took. He spent the next couple of weeks doing exactly that. He even stopped going to work and invested all his time into recovering the data.
After 10 weeks he was able to recover a good amount of data that was lost. He was extremely delighted at his results. He decided not to waste any time and started working immediately.
He was able to find implementations for everything in the data he had worked so hard to recover. After a couple of hours, he decided it was time to test everything he had put together.
Some annoying sound woke Tab up. It was then that he realized he had fallen asleep. After all, it had been very late into the night when he started testing his code. He then remembered that he had put his code to test. He rushed to his computer before anything to look at the result.
He was absolutely disappointed. It turned out that a lot of bugs had crept in and his code wouldn’t work. However, he did not let this stop him. He wants to make it work no matter what the cost. But first, he had to go to work. It had been many weeks since he went to work. He was totally cut off from the world and completely immersed in his project. He got ready as fast as he could and left for work.
Little did he know about the grim news awaiting him at the office.
“Hello Tab-” said William in a sad voice, “-as irregular as ever, aren’t you? I don’t expect you know what happened to Prat..”
He had no idea what he was talking about.
“She was hit by a car. What a terrible thing to happen to such a kind person-”
He didn’t hear what William said next. The grief hit him so hard that he didn’t even know what to think. The last thing he said to her was an artificial thanks. He deeply regretted over his choice of words. He wished he had said something better. He wished he got a chance to sincerely thank her for all the help and support she had been to him over the years. But alas! She was gone and so was his chance to thank her. He would give anything in the world to be able to talk to her one more time. But nothing would bring her back from the dead. She was gone now – forever. Needless to say, he was in a very sad mood for the rest of the day. His mind was far too busy recollecting all the times he had been rude to Prat and regretting it. By the time he got home he didn’t even know if he wanted to work. But he remembered something important. This project was the last thing he was given to work on by Prat. This increased his determination all the more to complete what he had started. He put his heart and soul into his work now. As a result, he was able to fix all the bugs in one night.
Now his mood elevated a little. He put his code to the test. But before he could verify the result, he fell asleep. He woke up very late the next day. But there he was extremely pleased to find out that all his efforts had paid off. His project was complete and working. He ran his program with a bunch of test values. It was working – but more importantly, it was working correctly! He was so delighted that he couldn’t even wait for a moment to share his results with Prat. He then came back to the cruel reality where she was dead. He wanted to go to work even though he would be late. There were many reasons for this, although the major one being sharing his results.
He got ready and left. He intended to take his usual shortcut but couldn’t as a new road was being laid. He was forced to use the Reinghman Road. He thought he might as well stop for a coffee on his way. When he went to the place where the coffeehouse used to be – he saw no coffeehouse.
“First that road, and now this. How did the world change overnight?” he asked himself.
He then decided to go straight to work and not stop anywhere.
Except – his workplace didn’t exist anymore.
//To be continued in the next edition