Author : Kathy Kachelries, Staff Writer

Eric Hayton was not happy. In fact, his unhappiness was palpable: it could be seen in the four empty coffee cups on his desk, in the disgust with which he regarded his wall of monitors, and mostly, in the overfilled ash tray positioned on the corner of his desk. Smoking was illegal in the colony, but if he didn’t get this weather bug sorted out, he would have bigger things to worry about than a misdemeanor fine.

Almost a century ago, the first wave of emigrants suffered through perfectly stable weather. Although the colonists were expected to enjoy a sempiternal spring, the lack of seasons only reminded them that their world was artificial. The Monarch system, written a decade later, swept the programming awards and was immediately put into use. It projected the weather for an entire imagined planet, then used the colony’s temperature and humidity controls to match the weather for a hypothetical longitude and latitude. Because it was self-reliant, the only people who studied it were eccentric techno-anachronists and third year programming students. Even Eric, the colony’s chief meteorologist, hadn’t read the output in years. It was stable. Reliable. There had never been problems before.

Judging by the two feet of snow outside of Eric’s window, there was a first time for everything.

“Linz, can you put on another pot?” he called as he gnawed on the end of his stylus. He’d run out of cigarettes a few hours ago and run out of sleep twenty hours before that, but for now, his coffee reserves were holding. It was his responsibility to track down the bug, but introducing new code to the Monarch system was dangerous. Sure, he could stop the snowfall with a few keystrokes, but since the simulation built upon itself, one clumsy move could cause floods and droughts for centuries to come.

“After this round,” Eric’s daughter called from the other room. Through her headphones, he could hear the muffled sounds of her video game. When Lindsay appeared with a fresh mug of coffee, he gestured to the largest monitor and a tap of his stylus froze the code in place.

“You see anything there?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “It’s self-correcting though, right? It should work out the kinks in a week or so,”

“We don’t have a week or so,” Eric said. He picked up the mug. “Everything’s shut down. The whole colony’s snowed in.”

Lindsay shrugged uneasily. “We only started learning Monarch this semester,” she reminded. “I barely know anything. Are you sure you didn’t leave yourself logged in at a public terminal?”

Eric shook his head. “Aside from the computers at City Hall, his is the only machine wired in to the sim.”

“I guess it’s just a natural bug, then.” Lindsay wrapped her arms around Eric, giving him a quick hug before turning back to the living room. “Good luck,” she added.

Lindsay closed the door behind her and pulled on her headset as she dropped onto the sofa.

“I’ve only got time for one more run,” a static-laced voice said. “We’ve got to finish tomorrow’s codework.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” Lindsay said,with a glance to the closed door. “School should be cancelled for at least another week.”

“I feel bad saying it,” another guildmate grunted, “but we’re damn lucky this bug happened when it did. Gives us some time to catch up with that guild on Reki 5.”

Lindsay’s avatar joined the rest of her guild at the digital battleground. “Let’s show them what we’re made of.”

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