Andy: Extract

It sounds like the punchline of a bitter joke, but it's not. Security guy, is what you think when you see the cube, and when it turns out to be the ironclad truth, you chuckle a bit uneasily and feel the sudden urgency of the work that waits for you in your own. Pulled blinds, the desk like a gatehouse rampart protecting the chair wedged with its back to the wall, black desktop background and blood-red six-point font. This how the crypto hounds and protocol crackers are supposed to work, under cover of darkness and with a paranoid's second sight, if they had a security geek cage at the zoo, it'd look like this, and here comes the security geek himself, and the children peek out between their fingers and and get back to their coding.

Past midnight on Wednesday, Andy waves me over, points at the minute lines of a stack trace and a dissected log file. I can't read the words, the print is too tiny and my eyes too tired to make out the letters glowing like lava, but he points and scrolls and pokes his way through a couple screenfuls. Integer underflow, he says, jumps to the source code, highlights what is apparently the offending line or its close accomplice, m-prot-buffer is size-zero, but m-prot-buffer-size is still negative. He leans back and grabs his can of cola, no-look. I can sort of see it, but I need to think more about it and I need some sleep, I say okay and I'll look at it, but in the pause he's started staring down at his keyboard and my words startle him. He nods and shakes a bit, then looks down again. When I look back from the hallway corner, he's hunched into his terminal again, his face on fire from the reddish glow.

It's my bug, and easily fixed, but the same issue pops up four other places in the codebase, and Doug never cleared the lock on the traffic monitor code before he left. I leave at four. Andy's still in his cave, doesn't look up when I wave. Dick Dale plays me home through the empty suburban streets, and when I get back there are two messages from my sister, both consisting entirely of her singing songs from Phantom with some sort of accentuated Pet Shop Boys London drawl. They're the funniest things I've ever heard, and Chester, who has stirred himself upon my return, hides behind the sofa when I start wheezing with laughter. I step on one of his squeak toys on my stumble towards the bed, and its sad little squonk sets me off again. I fall asleep with my lungs still aching, sleep in and eat breakfast to celebrate fixing my bug, to celebrate having a nervous cat and a goofy sister, to celebrate that rare and special feeling of actually wanting to eat something before noon. Andy isn't there when I get back to work, but he's sent me mail, timestamped at half past seven, pointing out a stack overflow in my fix. "Visigoths at the kitchen window" is the subject line, and I think to myself, security guy, even before I see his name attached to the message.