"Good morning Dave."

Dave blinked his eyes open to look at his bedside alarm clock.

"Good morning Dave, it is Saturday, 8:00 AM."

For a few seconds he wanted to go back to sleep, but then thought better of it. Too many things have piled up that he can't afford to sleep in on a Saturday.

"Alarm off," he mumbles as he groans out of bed. The alarm clock dutifully goes back to quiet mode as he stumbles out of his bedroom.

The lights turn on as the room's sensors detect his presence in the kitchen. The LCD panel on the refrigerator, the control panel on the stove and the kitchen TV light up in anticipation. The morning news starts blaring out of the television.

"Tensions rise in the Korean peninsula as both sides mobilize...."

"TV off." Dave is too tired to care about any troubles other than his own.

The past few weeks have been a nightmare at work. The higher-ups, in all their wisdom, have decided to move up their deadline a full month while sneaking in a few 'minor touches'. Dave and the rest of his team have been working 14 hour days for two weeks just to get these 'minor touches' in without completely breaking the system. Dave wonders if being promoted to management drained people of all common sense or if HR deliberately seeks out people who already lost their common sense for promotion.

Well, at least that's over for now. The system is in final tests and he has his weekend. Time to catch up with all the things he's put off these past two weeks.

He reaches into the refrigerator and pulls out the last two frankfurters from the freezer. He also takes two eggs and two slices of bread before closing the refrigerator door.

Ad id: c2t5bmV0 User: Dave B. ANALYSIS Ad revenue/yr $152.43 Analysis source: AICluster MTVC-6237

"That's a pretty good deal," he thought as he looks at the ad on the refrigerator's LCD panel. He taps on the panel to add Franz's Franks to his shopping list.

Dave leans back on his dining chair as the last of his drowsiness washes away from the smell of Franks and eggs frying on the stove. This is his first homemade breakfast in over two weeks and he's going to savor every bit of it. Then he will be tending his very neglected front yard, going out for groceries, finishing up the attic restoration project he's had to abandon months ago, and finally spending an entire day NOT staring at code for 14 hours. It's going to be GLORIOUS.

"Incoming call from Kevin F."

The insistent buzzing of the smartphone takes Dave out of his reverie. He picks it up and winces when he sees who's calling. Kevin is his team lead.

"Hello Dave, this is Kevin. Something's come up. Can you come in today?"

"Yeah, sure. I'll come in as soon as I can." Dave's shoulders slump as he ends the call. He goes to the stove and puts it on high heat. The Franks fizzle and sputter as Dave furiously turns them to keep them from burning.

"They may have taken my weekend, but by God, they won't take my breakfast!"

"Situation in Korea Worsens." Kevin shakes his head looking at his newsfeed. More trouble he can't do anything about. He looks up and sees Dave enter the office.

"'Morning Dave, thanks for coming in. Something broke on test 371b and the QA guys say it's critical. Can you have a look at it?" Kevin puts on his most cheerful voice as Dave sullenly nods and goes to his workstation.

Kevin has been team lead for 5 years at Synthetic Heuristics and it has never been as bad as it has been these past few months. He's had to ask his entire team to pull 70 hour weeks for the past month because those buzzword-chasing marketing-driven suit-wearing simpletons have changed the system requirements from under him.

Thrice he's been asked to make 'synergistic adaptations' that would have required a month-long rework of the system's foundation. Thrice he's had to sit in interminable meetings doing his damnedest to persuade the suits that these 'synergistic adaptations' would utterly cripple the project schedule. Thrice he's had to scramble to present seemingly countless alternate paths, and though each of these would mean more work for him and his team they would at least be the lesser evil and not completely sink the project.

Thrice he fought; twice he won. But the one time he failed, he failed hard.

Kevin put on his best face as he checks on his team. With morale low enough as it is, he could not afford to make it worse by showing how screwed up he thought the entire thing is. There will be a time for him to vent, but that will not be now, not where any of his team can see.

After doing his rounds and a quick trip to Quality Assurance, Kevin goes back to his desk, puts on his augmented reality eyepiece and readies himself for the long day ahead. Five screens and two tablets show him an overview of the project's status. The two screens on his left were devoted to quality assurance test results, an enormous grid of colored squares each one representing a single QA test. Passed tests show up as green, partial failures as yellow, and critical failures as blood red.

His eyepiece comes to life as he looks at the test grid, showing the detailed history of each test. Lists of fixes, changes and test results flicker in the eyepiece as he shifts his gaze from one test to the next. For the past two weeks, his team fought back the tide of red blocks, turning red to yellow to green. Each color flip took hours of analysis and coding, broken up by frantic impromptu conferences when a solution required a group effort.

Yesterday, they finally did it: not a single red block in the entire grid. He told his team to go home, enjoy their weekend and wait for the results of final testing from QA.

The victory didn't last long. QA's more intensive final tests have revealed several critical failures that were missed by the standard tests his team has been using. Now, five scarlet blobs mar an otherwise unbroken field of green.

Kevin turns to the two screens on his right. An intricate diagram showed the architecture of the system. Dozens of blocks, each a different size and color, connected to each other by a web of thin delicate lines that show how each interacts with the others. The diagram shifts, enlarges and contracts following his eye movements as he pores over the system's various pieces. Zooming in on a block shows that it contains blocks smaller still, with even finer lines detailing their connections. Down, down as if diving into a fractal set, yet each layer is different enough from the last that one always sees something new, a different pattern, yet similar enough that it still feels familiar.

Kevin can't help but feel a sense of pride when seeing the project this way. Each of those blocks represents a component of the system, and at the top level each component can contain thousands, if not tens of thousands of lines of code. Thousands of hours of work for each component and their interactions require hundreds more. He and his team built this over the past five years and he reckons that what he feels is like what Gustave Eiffel felt when he saw his tower complete for the first time.

Yet lately that pride is being overtaken by sadness. More and more he feels that time spent on the project is less an accomplishment, and more time stolen. Time stolen away from leisure, time stolen away from romance, time stolen away from living. Things have not been the same since their company was bought out, and most of that was due to the suits flown in by their parent firm.

His attention is drawn again to the screens on his left as his team sends in their 'time to fix' estimates. Failure #371b : 3 days, #214 : 1 week. With the other test failures, it adds up to a total of 2 weeks +/- 3 days. It's going to be a long two weeks.

He gives himself time to breathe before meeting his team to hash out their course of action. Tapping on one of the tablets, he brings up photos of Paris to remind himself of less stressful times. Once, he went on vacation in Paris with his girlfriend Susan, back when there was still time for vacations. That seems such a long time ago now.

Ad id: ZG9lc24ndA0K User: Kevin F. ANALYSIS: Current occupation: Team lead, Synthetic Heuristics Ltd. Current ad revenue/yr: $154.61 Alternate occupation: Senior design lead NodeVenture SARL Projected ad revenue/yr: $216.95 Analysis source: AICluster UNVC-7328

Kevin stares at the tablet. Paris does look nice in the summer. He sends a quick message to his girlfriend Susan before going back to work.

"And now for the hourly news. The Japanese Prime Minister has called for calm amid rising tensions in the Korean Peninsula…" Susan looks away from the drawing she's working on and switches her audio feed to a music channel. She doesn't work well with talk in the background.

"Incoming message."

Her smartwatch buzzes and sends out soft chimes as it receives a message. She looks up from her table's touch-enabled drawing surface to see who it's from. It was her boyfriend Kevin. She taps her stylus lightly on the table's smooth glass screen to have it pull the message from her smartwatch. Biting her bottom lip, she hopes it's not bad news.

The message pops up on her drawing table's screen: "I can't make it to dinner tonight, something's come up at work."

A year ago she would have been livid. Now, she can't even bring herself to be annoyed. She swipes her stylus on the drawing table's surface to put it on standby.

"I need a break." Susan stands up and starts pacing the room; partly to stretch her legs, partly to clear her thoughts.

Susan met Kevin two years ago when she worked with him on some graphic design for Synthetic Heuristics. She thought it was just another job: go in, talk to the client about what they want, politely explain why their innumerable suggestions about which shade of blue to use would not work, deliver then get out. Working as a freelancer can be hard, but at least she didn't have to have the same arguments with the same people day in, day out.

But that time it was different. Kevin gave her the most organized set of requirements she had ever seen, and their progress meetings were the smoothest she's ever been in. More than that, she felt that he trusted her to do her job well, something she rarely found in her clients. Which only made her want to do the best job she could.

Kevin seemed to be a person who can work in a corporate environment without losing himself, something she herself couldn't do. He cared for his team and was passionate about his work. His broad shoulders didn't hurt either. Halfway through the job, they both knew the relationship will be more than just professional, and when the job ended they started dating.

The first few months were heaven. She was giddy with happiness in a way she hasn't been since her teens. As the months flew by she was half afraid that they would burn out too quickly, that after the first bright flame there would be nothing left but disappointment.

Yet they were lucky. As the months passed they found more that they had in common, that they fit into each others' lives so well. A year on they went on vacation to Paris. It was the most wonderful two weeks of her life. Soon after, they started seriously talking about marriage.

Then came the S.H. acquisition. They spent less and less time with each other as Kevin's job made more demands on him. His passion for his work that she so admired was taking him away from her. She felt their luck running out.

They had their first big fight a month afterward. The next came two weeks later. Then more fights came. The nights when they made up almost made the fights worth it, but Kevin's job was inexorably taking a toll on their relationship.

These days they don't even have time to fight. They haven't really seen each other in weeks and she was hoping so much that dinner tonight would make them connect with each other the way they once did. Just yesterday Kevin told her that the worst was over, that he can finally take time off so they can spend time with each other. Now even that sliver of hope dissolves into nothing.

She sits down wearily at the drawing table and swipes the stylus to bring it out of suspend mode. With a few quick taps, she's brought up the app to cancel tonight's dinner plans.

Ad id: bmVlZA== User: Susan C. ANALYSIS: Current pairing: Kevin F. Current pair ad revenue/yr: $257.16 Alternate pairing: Thomas A. Projected pair ad revenue/yr: $321.61 Analysis source: AICluster GRVTV-0741

Susan hasn't thought about Thomas since graduating Columbia. She sends a friend request before closing the app and going back to her drawing.

"Friend request from Susan C."

Thomas pulls up his smartphone to check the notification. He smiles nostalgically when he sees who it's from.

Susan. They both thought they had something going on back in college, but alas they were both too young and too stubborn to have made it work. Thinking that it may be time to catch up with old friends, he accepts the friend request before putting his phone back in his pocket.

Thomas turns his mind back to work. He has a critical meeting in 5 minutes. For the past 3 years he's been the agency's expert on the politics of the Korean peninsula, and with the current situation, he's been asked to give a high-level brief to the government's top advisers. He scans his notes one last time before stepping into the conference room.

"…With the current lack of a clear successor compounded with dismal economic policies in the past decade and the loss of their traditional allies, the North Korean leadership is in complete disarray. Their position has become so untenable that they have been forced to reduce military spending to the lowest levels in 30 years." Thomas swipes the large conference screen to show a graphic comparing North and South Korean military strength. The traditionally huge North Korean army is now dwarfed by the South's forces.

"Six months ago the North's leadership made the unprecedented move of calling for peaceful reunification. Their proposal was a 30-year power-sharing transition, where the North's leadership would retain political control and privileges over the North as it was gradually integrated into the larger Korean economy. At the end of 30 years, the North would then be put under the same political system as the South." Thomas pauses as he brings up a slide showing the South's president Park Kiseo.

"Despite the huge costs and potential risks, the South's government were receptive to the deal. They spent the next 3 months setting up talks to iron out the details and all seemed to be going smoothly."

"So what happened between then and now?" The chief military adviser leans forward on his seat as he asks the question. "Why are they on the brink of war?"

"There has been an unexpected groundswell in popular opinion in the South that reunification can be achieved without conceding anything to the North's leadership. With the elections next year, this has put tremendous pressure on the Southern government to take direct military action to force the reunification. With the current disparity in military strength, they might be able to pull it off with relatively little damage."

"But war is still war," laments the chief intelligence adviser, her fingers gently tapping the table. "Is there anyone else stirring the pot to their advantage? Russia, China, Japan?"

"Doubtful, ma'am." Thomas slowly shakes his head in emphasis. "The Japanese have just made a statement that they oppose any military action, and our sources in their government confirm their sincerity. The Russians are too busy with the situation in the Baltics, and the Chinese already have enough on their plate with the Taiwan Straits and Vietnam. We have also confirmed no significant action from non-state actors that could have caused the change in public opinion."

"Is there any chance to change their course?" asks the chief foreign advisor, as he rubs his right temple. "Any possible diplomatic solution? A way to change public opinion?"

"Unlikely at this stage, sir. We have tried applying pressure over the last few months to no avail." Thomas brings up a slide detailing the agency's various attempts to de-escalate the situation. All have met with failure. "The amorphous nature of the change in public opinion and our inability to determine its cause made all our efforts ineffective."

The advisers nod grimly as they take in Thomas' response. "Looks like we could be in a war real soon." The chief adviser of state stands and shakes Thomas' hand. "Thanks for the briefing, Thomas. I'll let the President know and we'll see what he decides tomorrow."

Thomas watches as the chief advisers leave the room.

"You are dead."

"Cheating f***** c****!"

Yi Ji-hoon throws the controller as he loses his fifth game in a row. The 18-year-old college student stretches out in his Seoul dorm room as he pulls out his smartphone. He needs to get his mind off his losing streak.

"F****ng ads." Ji-hoon turns off his smartphone in disgust and goes back to his game.

fat4eyes 2018/7/21