Friday, February 5, 2016

Tech Men


EVERYDAYS WORK

"The Cathedral" Engineer Solomon Sanchez looked at the magnanimous Gothic structure in front of him, it never stopped awing him but at the same time it produced a sense of disgust inside of him, it represented not only a pinnacle in human engineering but also in ignorance. Remembering his classes at the Monitor School, one of the few remaining educational institutions in charge of educating a few select individuals in the secrets of information and technology, the structure was constructed by the fervent religious people of England back in the lost ages, known as such due to the continuously deteriorating veracity of the information found throughout the world, information being transferred back into palpable objects, books or parchments, of terrible quality and questionable importance to the greater structure of history. Everything was slowly deteriorating into the void, said his old master, with humanity going into nothingness with it, forgetting who one was and where he came from was the eventual and final decline of civilization and an organized society, the end of all things and probably the beginning of chaos unless it could be stopped. This cathedral, as the men inside called it, was a place to preach to a God foreign and unknown to the Tech Men, one which they knew from the texts but never fully understood or debated, a metaphysical object in their cosmogony. Officially and bureaucratically to the them, the Tech Men, this was just another place, another building, another congregation, nothing special about it except for the fact that it contained a small amount of ancient machines they worked with from time to time.

Approaching the Cathedral drew the attention of Law Men, he wasn't sure if they were police or army since the standardization of one uniform for all Law and Military Forces, they called them Law Men anyway since they in the end had the final say and word on a judical situation, courts removed and only assembled in case of a major emergency, the constitution and civil rights almost all abolished in the frantic and explosive end of what was once known as the first world. They, the men in uniform, wouldn't stop him though, he was wearing the only emblem that distinguished him from the local population and any other surrounding entity. This was his emblem, a simple black jacket made of an unknown material but built to last an atomic blast if neccesary, covered in what they themselves called the Tech Man regalia, an ensemble of emblems and symbols long forgotten but still in use to identify each other through and through. This immediately opened doors, differentiated him from the plebs and the remaining government figures, placed him in a strange pedestal from where he was untouchable, in the end it was a blessing and a curse as he had no way to escape his destiny as hard as he tried.

"Greetings, do you come to the congregation?" Called a man dressed with a simple brown robe, a monk had recalled Solomon, who didn't recognize him at first until he squinted his eyes to examine him appropertly and finally with a gasp he raised both hands. "Ahh, my apologies! Welcome, welcome great holder of knowledge, this way please"

It was strange, they always bowed and kneeled as if he was some kind of noble or politician, or sanctity, truth be told he was a simple man, with no more power than the Monk, that simply held knowledge, in fact just like the Monk, knowledge once thought lost and forgotten, yet again just like the man he was now following, that was part of a a 'Legacy Society and Workframe' as it was called at some point by Science Men.

The steps of the boots worn by the Engineer echoed in contrast with the sandals the Monk was wearing which made a 'flap' every time he gave a step. He was taken straight into the mouth of the main library where a congregation of monks were studying a bunch of old books on separated tables, each of them held at least three terminals that connected to a series of small sized local servers.

"Engineer Sanchez" Called a man sitting behind a desk on the bottom left side. The whole congregation turned to him and then to the Engineer to which they bowed. "Welcome"

"Bishop McCay" Sanchez simply gave him a nod, a formality as he called it, which McCay understood quite well as the Engineer was a quiet man who kept his thoughts and emotions only to himself. The Bishop and the Engineer had worked for quite a while now, approximately seven years, but only twice he had been taken to this specific library to fix terminals. This time it came to something a little more severe to which the Engineer was unsure if he could fix. "Where is the ailing machine?"

"Brother Nellus, take the Engineer to the location" The Monk that had led him to the hallways once more became his guide. He took him to a group of four conventional machines, standard sized computers, that were left on a wooden table, which the Engineer assumed immediately were the local servers.

During the twenty something years of his career as an Engineer, from which seven of those were dedicated solely to the study of Legacy Hardware which had proven to be a horrendously difficult task. He as an Engineer had seen a lot of things in his time, he had found computers in sewer systems, he had taken systems back to life after being put under harsh conditions, he even had the opportunity to build two ancient systems himself from scratch gaining great respect from his master and the council, and then he had seen awkward things done to these marvels of technology, like decorating them with gold and silver, dressing them up or even glorify them as Gods.

These particular ones were decorated with several candles and incense burning on top of them which immediately infuriated the Engineer. There were ashes everywhere on top of casings and one of them had been burnt by a candle, the reason why he had been summoned here. He passed his right hand over the casings and removed all the dust and ashes leaving his black leather glove dirty and with a combined smell of old, decay and wild flowers, the Monks gasped as they saw the dust fly and the candles removed.

"Clean them every week at least, daily under this conditions, do not put warm objects on top or anything that burns. No liquids either or anything that can melt, like candles" With these words he moved the chair to the left edge of the table and looked for the service tag. Once found he took out an old book from his gas mask bag, painted with the most holy of the symbols the Cross of Technology, and looked for the serial code.

"Great one, what is this great book about?" Asked Brother Nellus who approached a lantern to the Engineer.

"It contains information regarding these machines, this one in particular is the one that I am looking for" The pages of this book were not ancient, they were archaic to the point Engineer Sanchez was fearful they would just rip and disintegrate in mid air, once he found the service tag, and giving a sigh from not having to torture the poor relic anymore, he now became worried with the information provided. "Pre-Y2K. Custom made... oh... curses"

He sighed at the thought of having to work with a mess of cables and things that were built before there was a firm standard in computing. They called this the Pre-Y2k, machines built before what was to be a great cataclysm that wouldn't happen until thirty two years later, this great event was was known as U32, the Unix 2032 Cataclysm that literally drove the world down in flames due to the negligence of the great Gurus. If only such was his luck...

"Is it bad news Master?"

"Maybe" From his bag he took out a small LCD screen created by the blessed Mechanical Engineers of the 4th Office, those were the ones that he had to thank for all the times they helped him solve one of this peculiar problems. The LCD serial port was connected to the back of the machine and a display showed only red and purple lines all over the place. "Not Good..."

Pressing the restart button did remove the lines but afterward nothing would happen. The machine would remain in a semi-dead status with a whirling sound coming from the back and an annoying TAK TAK coming from the heart of it that went silent after a few seconds.

He came up with the idea of reconnecting the LCD cable just in case it was not fitting in correctly. Doing the most holy of techniques, the power cycle which consisted only of turning the machine on and off, did not work either which had put a dent on the his 'Let this be fast and painless' plan.

"Time to disassemble" After putting the LCD back into his bag he removed the cables from the machine as if he was taking it out of life support.

"G-Great one, sorry to interrupt!" The monk called a little worried at what the Engineer was doing. "But would you not be killing the great machine?"

Ignorance was not a bliss. Solomon had to deal with this kind of things every time he was working with a machine or computer. People seemed to think computers and machines were actually alive, with a spirit and mind of their own, at first he always tried to tell them the contrary but with the current culture of the local population he decided to go with the flow and avoid any problems... like that time in Norwich when they almost lynched him.

"No Brother Nellus do not worry. The machine ails but it goes to sleep before I remove his power source thus it will not die" Brother Nellus seemed relieved by that.

"Ahh if only we could be like that" If he could only explain the process of medicine...

"I need an empty table" As soon as he asked for a clear table the Monks removed everything from one of the work stations closest to him and gave him enough space to maneuver with the metal beast. A set of conventional screwdrivers released group of rusted old screws barely holding onto the body and revealed what he had expected, a jungle of cables and devices he feared working with. What scared him actually was the fact that the candle had managed to burn through the casing, the cables and the motherboard. And the dust... dear gracious god the dust accumulated inside the machine... Engineer Sanchez was sure he could sew himself a new robe with the quantity of dust inside this thing. A simple task it was not. "An unfortunate event has led to the death of this machine"

In the book he wrote down a technical note about what had happened. He began to make notes on pieces that would probably work on other bodies and then with a red marker painted a D over the case of the machine.

"I will take this back to our shop for a proper disposal"

"And our information? What will happen to it?" Asked Bishop McCay who approached the Engineer.

"It can be recovered. But as a matter of fact we need to do this at a time when nobody is working on this library to avoid anymore interruptions thus I would gladly take it with me and do the proper repairs in our shop"

"As you well know I cannot allow you to take anything unless the information contained is preserved here. In an hour we will have a congregation in the Cathedral that will last the rest of the day. I can allow you in here but you will be under heavy watch"

"Fair enough. I shall return shortly in that case"

"Do you need to report back to the Master Engineer?"

"Yes and I also need additional tools to perform the repairs on the machine"

"Very well, give my regard to the Master Engineer in that case"

"Will do Bishop McCay" With a nod Engineer Sanchez left the room and headed back through the ugly grim crowded streets of the city known as Lincoln.


PREPARING FOR RESURRECTION


Lucky enough the 7th English Office of Adepts of Technology was not far from the city itself. It held ground close enough in Lincolnshire to quickly respond to any calls from the city and nearby south counties.

The Office itself was nothing of grandeur, on the contrary it was a simple two stories house, quite modest one would say for men of such knowledge and 'power'. Two reasons had lead to this, the first was economy and the second security, scoundrels and extortionists had tried to rip the Order once before and by mere luck they managed to get out of the situation but not without learning a valuable lesson.

"So Bishop McCay sends his regards" Master Engineer Gabriel Johansen began to examine the book carefully.

"Yes and he was reluctant on me taking the machine"

"That man has always been like that since I've known him" He read through the report.
"Hmm... do we know the exact year?"

"Label indicated compatible with Windows 95 and NT 4.0, I am assuming this machine has to be from... '96, maybe '97"

"Borland save us! That machine but be a monster!"

"Indeed Master a monster it is. A jungle of cables that sends shivers down my spine, transistors and chips the size of my pinky, and the dust..."

"Cursed dust demons, your worst enemy to date is it not Solomon?"

"Yes indeed Master... yes indeed"

"So an ancient one" The Master Engineer finished examining the notes Engineer Sanchez had prepared on his report. "Gold and silver decorations... Candles... ohh those monks and their beliefs"

"I wouldn't complain as much in my report if they followed the instructions we give them Master. Even a monkey could perform such tasks everyday and it is not as if we could come up with the required replacement pieces with such ease"

"Unfortunate to think that no matter how hard you try to teach them they will never understand that"

"One tries to do his best" Engineer Sanchez remembered his little chat with Brother Nellus. "One tries indeed..." And a sigh.

"Speaking of best. I have news for you my good pupil"

"Oh?" The Master Engineer took out a wrapped brown package from a plastic bin sitting on a table with all kind of tools and papers and gave it to the Engineer. "What is this?"

"It comes from the State Council of Technology, that is as much as I can tell you" Engineer Sanchez opened the package revealing a new purple robe with golden sewn edges and a note with a plastic card. "A Master Engineer robe?"

The Master Engineer took the plastic card and the note which he read it out loud.

"Third Level Engineer Solomon Sanchez of the 7th English Office. The State Council has reviewed your file and has approved your raise from Third Level Engineer to First Level Master Engineer with Master Knowledge in Legacy Archaeology and Computer Repairs"

"Oh my... and... I..." The new Master Engineer was speechless. He received a fond hug from his former master and a couple of pats in the back. "I never..."

"It is a well deserved raise Solomon, you've earned it, and I couldn't be anymore proud of you" Solomon changed his robe for the new one. He passed his hands over the material, silk, pure silk that must have cost a fortune but with a beautiful dark padding that would keep him warm when necessary. Master Engineer Johansen on the other hand continued to read from the the note.

"As an additional note due to your knowledge on the fields we are assigning you a pupil, First Class Technician Daniel Baldwin, for training under your wing until his third year"

"A pupil so soon... well that doesn't sound too bad, when is he arriving?"

"Excuse me sir" Both Master Engineers turned around to see a panting young man in a fadded purple robe. "I am looking for..."

The man looked for something in his bag but he seemed not to be able to find whatever he was going for. He sighed as he looked back at both men.

"Master Engineer Sanchez" Solomon walked toward him making the young man bow three times in a row.

"Yes! I am looking for him" Solomon walked toward him.

"You must be Technician Daniel Baldwin" Baldwin immediately bowed at him again.

"At your service Master Engineer. Who is..."

"That is me, I am your new master"

"Ahh... I apologize sir but I seem to have misplaced my instructions"

"Do not worry it happens to us all. You will find out that misplacing is a common word here in this shop, in fact it is our favorite word"

"I believe fellow brother, that you should teach your pupil around"

"Quite true. I will take my leave now Master... Engineer" He hesitated for a second there because he forgot he wasn't his pupil anymore. Odd how things can change in one minute.


THE CREW OF THE 7TH OFFICE


"Come on damn you! Work!" Second Level Engineer Luis Tavera fought with a computer that kept giving him a blue screen mentioning some indecipherable blocks of information. "Oh why do you curse me so Blue Screen of Death, why?"

"Engineer" Tavera turned around to see a figure dressed in Master Engineer clothing. At first he thought it was Johansen but then saw Solomon face.

"Master Engineer... what a surprise indeed" He went towards him and gave him a pat on the back. "About time"

"Aghh you know the drill"

"Politics. Misplacing. My Ass" Both man said then laughed jovially.

"What?" The young pupil seemed to be not confused but rather scared a bit by what they had said.

"It is our motto in this shop young pupil. Politics are always holding work and the few bits of knowledge on our possession down, misplacing is our best friend here and my ass because everyone can kiss it in the end"

"Ahh..." A bit of confusion and disgust was the new expression of the pupils face.

"A pupil" Engineer Tavera nod at the pupil. "Well the council loves you all of sudden"

"Pupil, this is Second Class Engineer Luis Tavera, or resident software and programmer" The Engineer slightly bowed at the mention of his name.

"An honor sir, I am Technician First Class Daniel Baldwin" The pupil bowed but his was a little irregular, probably because he wasn't that familiar yet with ethics and traditions or maybe because he was tired from his trip.

"What are field are you specializing in Technician?"

"Programming sir"
"Ahh, anything in particular?"

"Nothing yet sir, but ASM does look particularly interesting"

"Oh by Torvald don't be daft son. ASM was obsolete even in the times were technology reigned, ignore it and learn something that was a little more wide-spread... like C or Visual Basic"

"Let me remind you sir that ASM, no matter how obsolete and no matter how many languages came afterward, is still the center of everything"

"Touche, but I am not a machine myself nor could I ever remember all the sacred mnemonics for every machine. That would be impossible"

"One tries"

"Right" Solomon made a funny face while rolling his eyes. "Now that I remember, do you know where Clark is?"

"Oh the wanker went to fix a machine down in the industrial sector"

"Curses of the Infinite Loop, I needed to verify our current inventory"

"Tell me what you need and I'll check it up"

"Verify the serial code of this pieces" Solomon placed the book on the table where the vile computer was resisting to be put back in working condition and pointed at the information. "We are estimating this was built in 96 or 97"

"Oww... I'm not even sure if we have anything left from that specific time"

"Well then I will have to perform a..." He thought about it for a second but then he just shook his head. "Oh forget it"
"Master?" The pupil seemed to be curious on what his Master wanted to do.

"I planned to do a cable select on the old hard drive and then just transfer it to another of the three servers but that means taking them offline and see if I can mark it on the BIOS so the original hard drive is the one that boots and not the other one, then I have to subtract the information from the old hard drive and rearrange it inside the other hard drive... and if that sounds scary, complicated or simply FUBAR'd then just wait until I find out what program they use to read the information from the servers and verify if it reads the old hard drive dump"

"I can do that for you Master"

"What? Fix the computer?"

"The information dump. I can do that for you"

"How?"

"I would have to see it myself Master but I know I can handle it"

"What makes you so sure?"

"I was trained by Master Engineer Hector Bilbao-Marquez"

"You what? How old are you?"

"Twenty two Master"

"If you were trained by him then why were you sent with me?"

"I have the knowledge of how to work inside on a computer, how it runs and processes, but I don't know how to repair it or anything about the parts. My Master thought it would be good that I learned from someone with ample knowledge on the field and selected you"
"It IS an honor that a Master Engineer from Spain has selected me from all the Master Engineers of this continent but you might rust in those fields if you stay with me too long"

"Or you could die" Engineer Tavera was never subtle with the subject.

"Die? Why, because of the Norwich incident? People are ignorant, that's all"

"No good God no, you don't tell people that, the whole reason why I got into that problem was because of that"

"You told them they were ignorant?"

"No, I told them the truth and that almost got me killed had it not been for a group of Law Men patrolling the area"

"But that was one incident"

"One of many. It is the only documented incident of that kind but it is not unique and certainly it won't be the last at any rate"

"You might not know it kid, or it might be different in Spain, but here in good ol' England they don't like us"

"That is enough Engineer Tavera. Continue to look for what I asked"

"Yes Master Engineer"

"Does that mean we could be walking on a street and next thing we know is we are dead?"

"It is a probability pupil, yes, and that is why we only perform our work and proceed with our lives quietly" Solomon turned to Engineer Tavera who was still checking on a small sized computer for his request. "Engineer Tavera will take some time, thus let us proceed to meet the final member of our office"

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