Author : Emily Stupar
“Have you tried turning it off and back on again?”
A long sigh echoed through the phone, followed by a man’s carefully snipped words. “All. Manual. Commands. Have been. Disabled.”
“Yes,” the technician replied. “But maybe a reboot-”
“It’s locked us in a fucking supply closet!”
There was a fumbling and scraping, followed by a woman’s muffled voice. “Getting upset won’t help us, Glenn.” And then clearly through the speaker, “Hello? Are you still there IT?”
“I’m Claudia. Your name is Leslie?”
“That’s right. Listen, ma’am-”
“Leslie, I need you to let me talk to Paul. Last time our building’s computer intelligence started acting up, Paul helped us.”
“I’m sorry, but Paul isn’t available. But if you could describe to me-”
“Arynn, then? I think I talked to someone named Arynn once.”
“I’m sorry, ma’am, but it’s just me. I’m sure we can figure out why your computer’s security systems are malfunctioning if we just-”
“Security? No! Are you even listening? Your product [i]told[/i] us it would [i]prefer[/i] to analyze Holst rather than take commands. Listen.” There was a beat of silence and then the tinny notes of “Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age” from beyond the closet door. “We knew the computer had a few…quirks, but it’s never taken physical action against us before. Understand, Leslie? Now, we’re locked in, and we don’t know if it’s going to let us out. You need to help.”
Scratching, and then Glenn came back on. “IT! I think I know what the problem is!”
“Oh, not this again,” Claudia groaned in the background.
Glenn continued on, unabated. “You guys must have sold hundreds, thousands, of these units to companies across the world, right? Have you received any complaints regarding abnormal energy consumption?”
“Sir, I’m not sure I-”
“I’ve looked into it and, right before these little…discrepancies with the computer, there’s always a spike in energy consumption from our building. I wasn’t sure what the cause was, but I think it’s the computer intelligence. It’s like it’s [i]eating[/i] more energy than usual, understand?”
Silence from the phone.
“The computer likes it. It gets all cheery and performance jumps. And then this: a crash and it starts to lose sight of its operational parameters. It performs unnecessary duties and ignores directives. It’s just never been quite this bad before.”
“I’m not sure what you mean, sir. You think it gets some kind of boost and then drops to a low point?”
“Exactly! It gets high, or drunk, or whatever, and then after it… sobers up, there’s always this period of odd behavior.”
Claudia’s voice: “That’s ridiculous. Our computer is not an addict.”
The technician began to speak but Glenn cut in. “Hold on, I think it’s the power company calling back on the other line. Finally.”
Silence, and then his voice came back on a much quieter line. “They cut power to the building. The music’s stopped. The computer’s shut down, so I guess we don’t need your help anym-”
Claudia’s voice cut in, quick and tense. “Do you hear that?”
“Oh, God, it must be the back-up generator.”
The three people sat in silence, waiting.
Through light static, the technician heard the music return as the computer intelligence came slowly back online. The notes of “Mars, the Bringer of War” rumbled through the phone.