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Misstep

Anthony Blackwood sat at his terminal going over the reports. It had been a pretty rough few days. He'd had a major dustup with his girlfriend on Friday and his time off had only gone further downhill from there. Now he was trying to focus on the numbers that had come through since he'd left his station last week; they weren't adding up right. It figured of course Monday was going to be hell after this weekend... he just couldn't catch a break.

“Oh well,” he thought. The calculations were way off compared to what they should be. He ran them through multiple times, and still couldn't believe he was looking at the right reports. Crap. This was going to take up most of his morning. He knew he should have set up the parameters for testing on Friday before he left but he was in too much of a hurry to get to his date with Susan... Can't think about that now, though.

“Damn!” Anthony said out loud. He continued trying to make sense of the heaping steam pile in front of him. Maybe he input the variables incorrectly before leaving on Friday. He pulled up the test results from Friday and started going through the numbers there, trying to match them up with the prancing figures taunting him from his green and black screen. But they refused to play nice. There it was. Lovely. He'd put in the wrong results for test 43, which created a cascading effect that altered all the ensuing results. He was going to have to make the corrections now. First, he was supposed to double-check the physical results, not just the numbers from the spreadsheets, but with all the retesting that needed to go through the system, he didn't have time... not without setting off the rest of the schedule for the entire week. He updated the information and started re-running the tests for the weekend so the numbers would make sense. At least he'd caught it in time. Minor crisis averted. Only a couple hours of his own productivity lost; no big deal, really... he'd make it up by skipping lunch and breaks today.

He tried to focus, but he couldn't shake the fight with Susan, replaying itself in his head every time there was the slightest moment of downtime enough for his breath to become still; it engulfed the quiet like an impending thunderstorm. It had started at dinner; they were discussing, of all things, the weather. Like a couple of well-wishers engrossed in small talk, or something. There were several activities they had planned for the weekend: a BBQ with friends on Saturday, an outing at the lake with her Family on Sunday. All he did was mention there was a slight chance of rain on Saturday and Susan just blew up at him. From out of nowhere. His lizard hind-brain kept rerunning the events in a loop, like a hamster stuck spinning on a wheel:

“You never wanted to hang out with my friends! You're always complaining that we don't spend enough time together and then when we have something planned with my friends you get all grumpy and out of sorts!” She erupted at him in that gravely hiss she gets when she's trying to keep her voice low enough so as not to disturb the surrounding environment. He was taken completely aback, but made an exerted effort to maintain his cool.

“I was just saying that there was a slight chance of rain... I don't have any problems hanging out with your friends.” He tried to play it off casual.

“Oh please, so you weren't going to suggest that maybe we should stay in on Saturday and watch a movie or something on TV? It seems like that is all you want to do on the weekends.” Susan had been glaring at him while she was talking. He was floored. Where in the blue the heck was this coming from???

“Oh-kay... Let's just drop it. I'm sure tomorrow is going to be great.” He blinked, trying to force sincerity into his eyes. All of sudden he wasn't that hungry, and he could see that she had no interest in finishing the meal. He motioned for the check and a couple of to-go boxes. The ride home had been awkward, with only the radio to break up the silence.

The first of the tests had just finished, and Anthony checked the numbers before starting the other tests. Now the numbers were making more sense. He breathed a sigh of relief. At least something was going right. If all of these tests panned out, they may be able to push forward on the project ahead of schedule. He could be looking at a promotion if that were to happen. He nodded to himself at the thought, seeing his name on the wall, the corner office... Susan certainly wouldn't complain about the bigger check. He started the other tests.

“Anthony, what happened on Saturday?” His train of thought was abruptly derailed by a prairie dogging co-worker. “Why weren't you at Tom's?” John Z. peered over the cube wall into Anthony's office.

“Don't even get me started.” Anthony retorted curtly, stuck in mid-cycle, barely managing to avoid snapping at his good friend, and then, just before "The Zeke Man" slunk away with his tail between his legs, Anthony looked up again, this time warmer...

“Hey, I'm sorry, bud...” he managed a half smile. The Zekester grinned back that stupid, oafish massive flash of teeth that made the better part of his face practically disappear. “Can you double check these test results for me? Something got screwed up over the weekend and I have to rerun all of the weekends tests.”

“Sure thing, man! I'll fill you in on party scoop later... brother, it was a DOOOOZY!” John Zeceda headed back to his office. Anthony sighed. He was grateful for a hand. He could always count on Big John to help out.

When all of the runs came through, Anthony was pleasantly surprised, and more than a little pleased. The overall outcome was even better than he'd projected. He had all the runs reviewed by two other pair of eyes in QA, as per protocol, and submitted the final results to the production team. The project was green lighted in advance of the original go-live date, and in appreciation for the faster turnaround that resulted in a quicker influx of capital, the department head pushed him along, not just a step ahead, but three rungs up the corporate ladder. Looks like he was going to get to buy that ring Susan had been wanting a few months sooner than he'd even imagined, and they'd be in a house by the end of the year. Finally, things were starting to go right.




Anthony poked the campfire with a stick, oppressed by the quiet of the woods, listening with choked breath at every snapping twig, his half-frozen fingers clinging to his rifle. He counted shells... he hoped what he had left would be enough. Just let me get through this night, he shivered, absorbed in his thoughts. Don't let me fall asleep. Once again, he was pounded by the infinity loop of regret. How did everything go so wrong so fast? What had been overlooked? What did he miss???


It had been three weeks since he'd signed off on the vaccine. He was sure he'd checked everything. He was sure it was good to go. The canus flu was still contained only within the lower hemisphere at that point... the team had stopped the spread from reaching pandemic proportions, and CG68 should have minimized the damage to a routine common primary provider visit no more inconvenient than a polio shot of days gone past. Oh, if only it had been that simple. If he hadn't been in such a hurry... if he hadn't been so distracted... how many lives could have been saved? How could he have known that the CG68 vaccine would mutate the virus in this... this abomination... the remains of what once was humanity...? And, oh, Susan... he blinked rapidly... his own suffering over the loss of one lover surely must pale by comparison in the face of the sheer magnitude of the 4.7 Billion who'd fallen to the virus, and to its even more terrifying aftermath...

He wondered, as he huddled under his tarp, fighting back the weight of fatigue creeping in... was there any sympathy left on earth?


LJI WEEK 2:
THE MISSING STEP

Comments

( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
mari4212
Mar. 25th, 2014 05:43 am (UTC)
*shivers*
mari4212
Mar. 25th, 2014 05:45 am (UTC)
Although, did you perhaps mean 400 million instead of 400 billion?
mamas_minion
Mar. 25th, 2014 08:27 pm (UTC)
Your right I did mean 400 million
roina_arwen
Mar. 25th, 2014 03:19 pm (UTC)
An intriguing story! I hope that this never happens, though!
mamas_minion
Mar. 25th, 2014 08:28 pm (UTC)
Earily it could happen
karmasoup
Mar. 25th, 2014 09:37 pm (UTC)
Ahehehe - don't you mean eerily?

*wanders off with ear-y images in mind...
mamas_minion
Mar. 27th, 2014 05:16 pm (UTC)
Thank you I hope it doesn't either
lawchicky
Mar. 25th, 2014 11:21 pm (UTC)
Oh no! So creepy!!
mamas_minion
Mar. 27th, 2014 05:16 pm (UTC)
thanks
beautyofgrey
Mar. 26th, 2014 01:16 am (UTC)
I've always imagined this is the way the world would end. :P
mamas_minion
Mar. 27th, 2014 05:16 pm (UTC)
I have always thought the world would end due to somebody in a lab somewhere, it is why I felt compelled to write this particualr story.
baxaphobia
Mar. 26th, 2014 12:46 pm (UTC)
Oh creepy! It's frightening to imagine that one's fate could hinge on one mistake or distraction. Very nicely done!
mamas_minion
Mar. 27th, 2014 05:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you
eternal_ot
Mar. 26th, 2014 01:18 pm (UTC)
Ohh no! not the end i was expecting...*shivers* down my spine!
mamas_minion
Mar. 27th, 2014 05:13 pm (UTC)
Thanks
i_will_not_say
Mar. 27th, 2014 12:35 am (UTC)
Yikes! I could see something like this happening all too easily in the real world. :O
mamas_minion
Mar. 27th, 2014 05:12 pm (UTC)
Thank you for reading my entry, I was trying to for a little realism
mamas_minion
Mar. 28th, 2014 05:47 pm (UTC)
Thank you for commenting on my piece and yes it is a very scary idea. I gave myself nightmares.
basric
Mar. 27th, 2014 04:58 pm (UTC)
Well that was really creepy/ Great writing.
mamas_minion
Mar. 27th, 2014 05:13 pm (UTC)
Thank you
halfshellvenus
Mar. 27th, 2014 07:40 pm (UTC)
That was an unexpected ending! The characters and moments along they way were fleshed out well, so that we could feel regret right along with Anthony there at the end.
veronica_rich
Mar. 27th, 2014 09:06 pm (UTC)
Well, that escalated quickly, to quote the Anchorman. I liked it!
mamas_minion
Mar. 28th, 2014 05:38 pm (UTC)
Thanks
cheshire23
Mar. 27th, 2014 09:06 pm (UTC)
All these little moments add up to something so serious. Scary to think about.
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )