SUMMER - 1 - Debugging

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I've been staring at the code in front of me for so long that letters have lost all meaning. There's a missing semi-colon somewhere, I can feel it. Feel it, but not find it despite the full pot of coffee I finished off, and the hours I've been looking. I'm not sure what time it is, and I've been trying not to look at my monitor's clock in case it's something obscene like 5 am. 

Leaning back with a groan, I squeeze my eyes shut and rub at them to try to get rid of that god awful gritty feeling from staring too long. For a moment, I focus on the music I'm listening to, the guitar chords normally soothe the tightness in my chest and shoulders, but today it's not working like it normally does. Taking a deep breath, I count to three and slowly let it out. Or I try to, but the hands slapping onto my shoulders nuke any progress I might have been making.

Sometimes my body acts before I can tell it to. Like right now, when someone grabs my shoulders and spins me and my chair around. My eyes fly open and I grab the wrists of the hands holding me and I'm about to twist out of my chair when a plate with a cake is shoved at my face. It's white and has pink flowers on it, and the letters 'CAREY' written on it in cursive.

"Happy birthday Karley!" 

I suck down a deep breath, suppressing the urge to kick the plate, the cake and it's candles away from me, into the face of Otto, my boss. Behind him are the rest of the team, the hardware guys and I force a smile onto my face. Shit. It's my birthday? What day is it?

"Surprise!" The person holding onto my shoulders pulls the earbuds from my ears, and I can't help but twitch as my soothing music is yanked away. Jagadish, now letting go of me, leans around and grins, his bright white smile almost offensive after staring at a screen for so long.

"Oh wow. Uh, thanks guys!" And the team is all 'guys'. There used to be another woman on the team, but she disappeared a month ago. Rumours are that she had a breakdown and needed time off, but Otto refuses to explain why she left, just that she won't be coming back. Which, you know, is cool, except now I have her workload to do on top of my own. 

"We thought you deserved a surprise after all your hard work," Otto is saying, setting the plate with the cake onto the table next to my keyboard. "And since you're still working on that bug, we thought we'd bring the party to you!"

I hear servos whirring and the sound of little rubberized feet on the linoleum floor. 

"ALEXIS! You came too?"

The hardware guys step aside, letting the robot through. My forced smile turns into a real one as I see the spider-like robot has a party hat taped to her chassis and her googly eyes still stuck on. In a fit of sleep-deprived madness, I added the eyes a few days ago while we were downloading the latest patch to her. I think they're cute when she walks around and since then, she insists on wearing them much to Otto's frustration.

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