"The System is too slow," Aargle's manager told him. No hello, no small talk. Direct and to the point, like a shiv.

When he'd started at MediDyn, Mack, his team leader, assured him that Tye's management style just grew on you. Two months later, Aargle assumed he'd meant like a tumor.

"Mack and I noticed," Aargle answered, nodding over at the team leader-- a big, fuzzy guy with the build to match his name. He already had some of The System's vital stats on screen.

Mack added, "We think it may be in the sorting subsystem--"

"You're to implement my solution," Tye interrupted, talking directly at Aargle. She had this way of being overly direct. Which was the polite way of saying she ignored anyone who wasn't immediately useful to her. "The System is handling the data all out of order, and that's bad."

Aargle nodded, waiting to be sure Tye was finished talking before he started. "Sounds about right. The sorting system could handle threads much better."

"This isn't about threads, whatever they are," Tye shot back, crossing her arms, "You know how you can back up a PC, clear the hard drive, then restore and it works faster?"

Aargle blinked, confused. What did that have to do with The System? He glanced over at Mack for help, but just got a slow shrug in return. "I suppose it puts all the sectors of files together, which may increase performance. But I think the issue is in the software, and a multithread approach--"

"Quiet," Tye said, raising her voice to talk over him, "Quiet. Listen. Don't talk, just listen. I want a clean, simple solution, and you're trying to make it too complex. I want a solution here," she held her palm flat at stomach level, "and you're going waaaay up here," she held her hand above her head. "Will clearing the hard drive and restoring improve performance?"

Aargle took a second before answering. It wasn't a fair question, since it wasn't actually addressing the problem. "Yes, but the underlying issue with the software--"

"Shh," Tye interrupted, closing her eyes and shaking her head as if it was just too painful to be around such incompetence, "Just-- shh. I just want a simple yes or no answer. Do you think you're capable of that?" She didn't wait for an answer, but just plowed on, enunciating each and every word. "Will. Clearing. The. Drive. Improve. Performance?"

Aargle took a deep breath into lungs that felt too tight. "Yes." He bit down hard on the 'but...' that tried to come next.

"Good. And-- again, just a yes or no, that's all I want-- can you do what I'm telling you to do, or do I need to get someone else to do it for you?"

"Yes," he said, "I can do it."

"Good." Tye spun on her heels and marched out of the office, "Tell me as soon as it's done."


Aargle pulled up the manual for The System. It was a Unix based system with gobs of vital medical data on it. The System did some information gathering, but the majority of the cycles when into processing, analysis, and generating reports. Most of the data was time sensitive and nigh irreplaceable. Sure there were backups, and backups of the backups, but backups took time to restore. And if anything went wrong, or if any iota of data was permanently lost, they'd be at the mercy of their clients' ability to retain data-- or to repeat a clinical trial. Neither option was desirable, or cheap.

Needless to say, Aargle was going to take a very careful and risk adverse approach to this process. Especially since this was, effectively, elective surgery.

The System was horrifically complicated, but was thankfully well documented. He paged through the manual, looking for keywords gleaned from mentally translating Manager Speak into technical terms.

Almost right away he found the answer. Section I: Maintenance. Defragmentation.

The OS makes sure that sectors remain contiguous until disk usage reaches 90%. Defragging, or any other method of altering the contiguous layout of sectors, is neither required nor recommended.

He did a quick check of The System's disk usage, and found it was significantly below the 90% threshold. Alright, problem solved! He tucked the manual under his arm and went to Tye's office.

"Good news," he said, giving the door a light knock and stepping in. She barely looked up from her notepad. "Fragmentation doesn't slow down The System. That's one possible cause we can eliminate."

Tye tossed her pen aside and glared up at Aargle. "You didn't do what I told you to do?"

Aargle laid the manual down on her desk, and pointed at the section. "The System's already got it covered."

Tye looked down at the manual. Her eyes darted back and forth a few times-- and then her cheeks flushed. She grabbed the manual, and slammed it shut, nearly catching his finger in the tome. She shot to her feet, hands on the desk, leaning into her shout.


She stabbed a finger at him. "Get out of my office! Now! I'll get someone who can do what I tell them."


Aargle headed back to his department in a daze. His ears were tingling, though not from the screaming-- but from the blood rushing to his head. His face was full flush. He his chest was as tight as clenched jaw.

He took an extra couple laps around the office before going back to his department, but still had a good mouthful of steam to vent to Mack.

"... I should have said something," he finished, "Anything. Like 'a server is not a desktop PC'. Or maybe even 'This has nothing to do with authority, just reality'."

Mack just gave him a slow, apologetic shrug. "Maybe it would have just been easier to do the defrag and not have to argue."

"The full backup and restore wouldn't do anything except risk The System for no good reason. It isn't a matter of differing opinions. It's completely, factually and demonstrably wrong. How am I supposed to do my job properly when she's insisting on doing the wrong thing?"

Mack just gave him another shrug. "With someone like Tye, you just keep your head down and let it all blow over. You do your job as best you can. It's all anyone can expect from you."

"I expect more from myself."


The System was down for the rest of the morning as Tye backed it up and restored it-- or more accurately, stood over Mack and supervised backing up and restoring it. Even though they had The Manual open (flipped well past the Maintenance section, and straight into Backup & Restore), Tye guided him with explicit orders. Aargle managed to tune out the constant refrains of admonishment being thrown about.

"... Just do it like I told you to."

"... Give me the keyboard."

"... No. Stop. Just stop. Listen to what I am saying. Just type. Exactly. What. I. Tell. You."

Occasionally, they'd refer to The Manual, and Mack would quietly point out a passage, to which Tye would fume and shout "Of course that's what I meant. Type that."

Since they had a few hours of downtime, Aargle decided he'd at least try to be proactive and look at the algorithm that was causing the slow downs. Once the backup and restore was done and didn't improve the situation in any way, it'd be nice if he had an alternate prognosis already in the works.

He checked out the first code file, and immediately felt sorry for the pounding his Page Down key was about to endure. Why were there tens of thousands of lines of code across dozens of code files? It wasn't that complex of a sort program-- hardly even worthy of a college project. The whole thing must have been slapped together piecemeal over the course of a month, given the timestamps on the files.

He knew what the program did, but not how it did it. He'd need to pick the brain of the original developer-- though that might not be possible. The program was created in 1985. Given the employee churn he'd witnessed in his short time here, he doubted there was anyone here from nearly two decades ago. Still, it was worth a shot.

"Hey, Mack," he called. Mack looked up, eyebrows raised. "Long shot, but is there still a developer working here, name of C. Pirouline?"

Before Mack could even finish shaking his shaggy head, Tye was standing over Aargle, glaring.

"Pirouline's a consultant I personally brought in myself," she snapped. "An analytical expert specialist. He cost $80 an hour, and was worth every single damn penny. Why?"

"I was, ah--" Aargle spoke carefully, "Just noticed his name on some of the code in The System--"

"Not just some of the code," she scoffed, "He guru'd the Sort Program, the heart and soul of The System."

Aargle glanced over at SVN, and sure enough-- the only pieces of code with C.Pirouline's name on it were the sort. "Wait, he only did the sort?" Aargle blurted out before he caught himself. The consultant had been paid $80/hour in 1985 dollars-- a ludicrous rate-- for an entire month, and had only produced this?

"Yes," she hissed at him, "He was an expert specialist. It's his hard work that the entire System is dependent on."

"I can't believe it took a month," Aargle said, and winced. He had to stop talking!

"I know," Tye said, turning her back on him, gazing fondly at the server room beyond the glass partition. "He did all that in only a month. It's a shame we only had him for such a short time."

That wasn't what Aargle meant, and he muttered so under his breath. Unfortunately, words have ways of leaping over said breath, and into the wrong ears. Ears that were now flushed deep red.

"What did you say?"

To be continued...

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