“Life Bytes”

ATSF's technosoap for the digital millennium in twelve chapplets

Chapplet 7

Bring Bring! Bring Bring!

“This is an exciting project. It needs strong promotion throughout the right levels of the company.” Giles concluded beaming at Amanda.

“Well that’s wonderful. We like to keep our clients happy,” Justin chipped in.

The presentation had gone brilliantly. Justin had thought it was his fault that he was late, in fact. He was impressed with Giles and had been uncharacteristically quiet taking his lead from whatever Giles commented on. Tom had noticed that Justin kept looking at The Terror with a slightly puzzled expression, then smiling and nodding at Tom conspiratorially. Tom wondered if Justin thought it was part of the strategy to reform Peter.

The video sections had worked perfectly, and the data was all correct. Tom had relaxed and expounded on just enough of the right features to win Giles over. The Terror had nodded and half-smiled when Tom said he’d move on to other features after the videos. He’d swapped places with Joel who knew the system better and Peter seemed to drift off to a world of his own.

“The videos make all the difference,” said Amanda on the way out of the door. “Was it difficult to fix them?”

“Yes ... and ... no,” Tom replied looking heavenward. “In fact, what you just saw was the first part of the fix. We’ll have to go back and re-compress the videos to get them to work on your spec machine. The ... urrr ... Peter identified the problem and did a temporary fix for the demo ... but really, they’ll operate just as you saw them now by the end of tomorrow. Identifying the problem was the major difficulty. He installed a newer version of the software that would play this type of compression as the stop-gap.”

“Oh! Right, I see. I appreciate your honesty. It certainly did the trick with Giles and he’ll now champion it at the right levels. I think this was a turning-point for all of us. I’ll ring you tomorrow, then. Thanks, Tom.”

“Yes. Thanks a lot Tom,” added Giles coming up behind them. “That’s shown me the true potential of the kiosk and we need to make sure we maximise it.”

Once Rhythm were out of the building, Tom did a victory leap into the air whooping “Yes! Yes! Yes!” silently before doing a high-hand slap with Jan and retracing his steps back down the corridor to the meeting room. The Terror had disappeared. Joel was on the machine tapping away while Ivana and Greg were straightening the chairs.

“Well done, everyone. Peter certainly pulled that out of the hat ... Where is he?”

“Gone,” said Joel a bit tersely. “I said we had another meeting with the potential new clients. He asked, well ... told me to de-install the software to get the kiosk back to spec and explained what we need to do to the video pieces so they’ll work on the previous version.”

“Great. Can you take it from there and address that tomorrow—as a priority. Amanda knows the full situation and she’ll need to be reassured they really ARE working on the right spec system. Oh, but wait to de-install the software until after this next demo.”

“Yeah. No prob,” agreed Joel lightening up a bit.

Tom recognised the tension Joel faced between admiration of The Terror’s ability and dissatisfaction with himself for not knowing how to solve the problem.

“You couldn’t have known about the video glitch, Joel, so don’t worry. Peter would have had to have met that specific problem before in another project to know the answer. Just as well for us. We need to cross-reference experience like this more often. It didn’t even occur to Lloyd, either. He couldn’t reproduce the problem so he assumed it wasn’t really a problem. He’ll kick himself, too. It’s just one of those things.” Tom tried to soothe Joel’s ruffled ego inwardly making a mental note that this was exactly the way resentment against The Terror might have built up with certain people.

“Right. Are we ready for the next show?” Tom glanced round at his team.” “I promise this will last 15 minutes. I’ve just got to demo 3 features that they have asked to see.”

He left the room to go and collect the Drewstones' lot. He passed The Terror’s room and popped in. Peter was at his desk, eyes closed, leaning back with his walkman plugged in. Tom tapped him on the shoulder and The Terror leapt up startled.

“Sorry, Peter. I just wanted to thank you for saving the day with Rhythm. We’d have really been stumped, especially with Giles turning up.”

Peter just shrugged and looked a bit embarrassed.

“I’ll be about 15 minutes with Drewstones and then I’ll collect you, is that okay?” Tom persevered

“Okay,” The Terror managed to mumble before looking at the floor.

Meg had no idea where the keys were. She wandered back into the lounge and stood at the spot where she knew she’d waved them at the cats. She repeated the action waving the imaginary keys in the air. She thought she’d probably clutched them in her hand and turned to go towards the dining room. She met Dipity’s quizzical gaze in the doorway

“No, this isn’t meant to be encouraging you to play. So just go and amuse yourself,” she stage-whispered with one eye on the kitchen where a babble of voices was just audible behind the closed door.

She hesitated in the hall looking up the stairs to the hollow-sounding bass rhythm that was still wafting down. The Crooze CD hadn’t run its course then, she mused, while patting her pockets in the vain hope the keys were really there although she’d checked several times before. Dipity ran towards her misinterpreting the thump on the pockets to “Come here!”

“Look, I’ve no time to play now, you wretch. You always choose the wrong time. Go back to Ada and her munchies,” she whispered down at the bemused cat.

Meg moved into the dining room. Her face fell as her gaze landed on the mound of marking still to be done. A cursory glance round all the surfaces didn’t produce anything.

“What did I do with them?” she moaned as she began lifting unmarked papers checking the table underneath.

Dipity assumed she was clearing a place for him and leapt onto the table purring loudly.

“DIPPY. What the hell are you up to? GET OFF!” Meg hissed gently, pushing Dipity towards the edge of the table.

He was having none of it and thought all the shuffling of papers was a great attraction. He started pouncing on the papers as she moved them.

“Look. I mean it, you nitwit. Move!” she growled and nudged him harder with her elbow towards the edge of the table.

He almost lost his balance, but he wouldn’t drop to the floor as she intended. He half-twisted and sprang onto the monitor box that was still sitting on the table next to her unmarked essays. Because the marked papers were on the top of the box, Dipity slid ungainfully on them sending papers in all directions. Frightened, he scrabbled to regain his balance but flopped off the box sideways sending her new mound of marked papers to the floor with him. He bounded for the door. It all happened in an instant and Meg could do nothing as her marked and unmarked papers re-arranged themselves. Most ended on the floor. All were mixed up.

“Arrrrr ... trebbbb ... le ... sh ... itttttt! she half-wailed through clenched teeth not wanting the kitchen contingent rushing in.

In the semi-silence that followed there was a peculiar slight scraping sound followed quickly by a little rustling, then a clink, then nothing. Meg had been bending half-way to the floor to pick up the nearest pages. She eyed the monitor box suspiciously.

“Oh God! Not a mouse! Not in there!” she narrowed her eyes and shook her head as she stood up. She moved towards the box on tip toe leaning forward to peer across the top. Some of the tape keeping the two halves together in the middle had separated from the cardboard and a gap of about a hand width was noticeable.

“Now what!” she thought torn between priorities for the keys and the papers.

“M ... umm! What are you doing? Where are the keys? Brid surprised her from the doorway and Meg started.

“Shhhsh! There’s a mouse, I think.”

“Where?” said Brid amazed, taking a couple of steps into the room.

“In the box,” mumbled Meg feeling foolish.

“How do you know it’s there?” Brid whispered bemused approaching the table.

“I heard it ... scraping, rustling, clunking!” Meg whispered back trying to convince even herself.

“You didn’t see it, then?”

“No” the whispered conversation continued

“Well, how do you know it’s a mouse?” Brid asked innocently extending her hand towards the box.

“Well, it didn’t sound as big as a rat! Go on! You like animals. You catch it,” hissed Meg

“A rat! How are you so sure? Rats have nasty bites. It could be a small rat!” Brid hissed back with less bravado withdrawing her hand.

“No, no. Not that big. Maybe it’s a beetle. Definitely not a spider.”

“Ummmm.” Brid sounded unconvinced.

“Look. Use the scissors to split the tape on the top and we’ll just open the lid. It’ll probably jump out and run for it then.”

“You do it!” Brid’s low tones couldn’t hide her reluctance

“You know you’re better with animals than I am!” argued Meg still whispering agitatedly.

“Ummmmmm,” mumbled Brid not wanting to agree or disagree since it was the truth.

She gingerly picked up the scissors, climbed on a chair and quietly but smoothly slid the blade along the middle length of the box and left her hand poised in the air at the end.

They both listened hard. Even The Crooze had thankfully shut up. Nothing.

Brid moved to one end and slit the tape holding the top down there.

They both listened again. Nothing.

Brid moved to the other end and slit the last tape holding the top down. The top sprang a little ajar as the tension was released.

They both looked at each other across the box straining in the silence.

Simultaneously, they reached out to lift the left and right sides of the top open, fingers at arms length.

“Well, well. What's going on here, then?” Ada waltzed in shattering the silence.

They both involuntarily accelerated their movement upward and the box flew open sending a few pieces of polystyrene packing tumbling onto the table.

“Oooooo!. Lovely, lovely stuff. Can I have it? It’s so good for packing things for the League,” Ada enthused advancing towards the box looking gleefully at the polystyrene packing chips. She levered herself up a few inches by standing on a chair strut and dived her hands in. She lifted out an armful and let it cascade back down on the top of the monitor.

“Oh NO! Ada! There’s something there,” Meg moved protectively towards her as Brid backed away with her finger tips to her lips not knowing whether to giggle or scream.

“Well, you can but ask, dear,” retorted Ada quickly a little affronted as she gathered a second armful. There was a scraping sound and she hesitated as she tossed the shapes up in the air. Meg took a step back, terror on her face.

“Well, I never. What are they doing here?” Ada reached down into the box on top of the monitor scrabbling further down in amongst the polystyrene shapes and restraining lengths.

“Here they are!” she emerged triumphant getting down off the chair. “Playing hide and seek with them eh?” she chirped as she swung her keys around her index finger.

“Good grief! There they are ... urr ... I knew they were somewhere around here!” Meg managed to say, cautiously peering into the box on tip toe.

Brid was giggling helplessly.

“You hid them, you little rascal, I bet you did. Fancy playing such a joke on your mother and me!” Ada said good naturedly in Brid's direction, moving towards the door.

“Must dash now, dear,” she said briskly. Meg gave Brid a gentle push as she passed her to try to shut her up.

“Ada, I just need to check about the packing with my husband. Some companies insist you return it in its original packing if something goes wrong. He’s very touchy about his machinery,” Meg whittered as she hurried after Ada to the front door.

“Thank you for all your help with the washing machine. I’ll be in touch shortly,” she said to a retreating back with a waving arm.

The demo for Drewstones went smoothly. Tom was beginning to relax so his presentation was witty and slick. Perhaps life wasn’t so bad after all. His team were affable now. There was a shared secret relief between them. The atmosphere was catching and Drewstones' team lightened up too. Tom had had the distinct impression at lunch that they were not a happy bunch. He had wondered if the fall-out with the other company had been mutual.

“Not my problem!” he smiled inwardly wondering if Steve knew he’d been earmarked for the next project and this could be it!

“Well, if there are no more questions, I’ve instructions to take you back to Justin before you leave,” guided Tom as he extended an arm towards the door with a flourish. Tom had established a few points about the prospective client during the meeting that he mused over as he lead them up the corridor to Justin's office.

The steam train buff, Don, had turned out to be the senior guy present from Drewstones. No wonder all the others took their cue from him. His background was more general management rather than interactive media and he’d been put in the position of heading up the media section of Drewstones after a merger. That was the way things went quite often. Tom reckoned that Don was trying to understand the new position and the new responsibilities. Worse, Tom suspected that Don was trying to come to terms with aspects of media when he really didn’t want to be bothered. If ImpCo landed the job, it wasn’t going to be easy to satisfy the moving target of Don’s likes and dislikes, Tom concluded. Tom felt a tinge of sympathy for Steve who was in line for the project. Tom felt that he'd probably be able to bail him out of one or two situations in return for the support he’d given today. “Yeah. Steve’ll need a friend around if Drewstones sign up,” Tom concluded as he shut the door on the group at Justin’s office.

He felt gleeful as he turned into his room.

“How’d it all go?” Steve enquired loyally.

“Pulled out of the fire by The Terror! Would you believe it!” said Tom his voice tinged with amazement.

“Yep. I sure do, but that seems to be part of the problem, don’t you think?” Steve replied.

“Know what you mean. Joel was out of sorts for a bit and I reckon Lloyd won’t be too happy once he knows, either.”

“The Terror just seems to have that knack of getting under people’s skin. How’s Meg taken the news about dinner?” Steve added innocently.

“Dinner. Meg. Oh. Nooooooo! She’ll go ballistic!” Tom reached for the phone as Steve laughed loudly.

Of food crisis, bribery and verbal diarrhoea! Are ‘Wet Wipes’ really needed? ... tune in to the next potentially messy instalment of 'Life Bytes'. Tell your friends.

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Life Bytes is written by Santa Fe and Sanity Claus