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When something was wrong, the thought, the concept that most people had was to fix it. Simply start by correcting the problem. That assumes you know what the problem actually is.

If you are in a circumstance where you do not know what the problem is, you have a preliminary step: that of discovering the problem. But discovering what the problem is requires you to actually be interested in the problem and what issues it is causing.

Enter Christoph. Yeah, he used to just be “Chris” and yes, he could have gone with Christopher, but he figured this way he’d sound more cultured, more downtown. Christoph usually liked to solve problems. He had a bunch of apps on his phone that were problem solving games, where you would maneuver pixelated versions of wood planks so that a particular wood plank would move safely across a screen. Or where you had to get a bunch of similarly colored objects in a row to make them disappear.

But Christoph wasn’t supposed to be playing any of those games right now. He had work to do. Serious work.

Still, there was nothing like the rush of getting a new high score, or better yet, posting it where others could see. Everyone had to like a new high score (meaning more media for the social media) and nobody liked it more than Christoph.

Of course, there was a job to do, first. Can’t sit around all day playing with the phone when there was an issue to resolve. What exactly was the problem? The sooner this started, the sooner he could get back to crushing candy or helping famous cartoon characters from a particular movie studio get across the road.

Okay, let’s focus. Here we are. It seems like there is a person, or entity of some kind, and they are setting off some kind of display or action. Is this being done from a home or a business? Impossible to know. What neighborhoods will it involve? Perhaps this one, since the call came for him to attend here.

It was a highly populated part of the country, with both a standard urban skyline and a lot of smaller residential units just beyond it. But why were the people who summoned him so urgent about the issue? There didn’t seem to be any imminent problems. There didn’t seem to be much of anything at all.

But first, he had to check that signal on his iPhone. WHAT?! Coco just topped his high score in 2048?! How was that possible? Coco, of all people, who nearly always stuck to higher math problems and programming issues somehow decided to play and beat his high score. How many tries did it take? How much did she beat his score by?

It didn’t matter, really. Okay, it totally did matter. And he would take care of that as soon as he took care of this.

So, looking at the information provided, and looking at the area affected, this should be easy. Simply search for the controlling program and shut that down, then go back and find the entity that was using the program and dispatch some authorities to pick them up. It would be easy.

So easy, in fact, that it meant there was time to go back and reassert the high score. Christoph glanced at his watch. 23:25 local time. He could do a quick spin, get the high score back and still have time to complete the task in a matter of moments.

But, for some reason, Christoph was having a problem. As soon as he was getting close to Coco’s high score, his phone would reset. What is this?

After doing a quick examination of the phone itself and then the connection to the app, it seemed that Coco planted a naughty little bug that caused his phone to shut down as it was approaching her high score! That little devil!

Now it would take an extra ten minutes to resolve her minor worm before getting the new high score posted. Won’t she be surprised to see how quickly her score will go away!

Oh, but first, this other issue. Yes. Priorities. What was going on with all of this? Some hacker messing around with something in this neighborhood. What was going to happen? What was the goal? Shut off the water for the area? Cause problems with the power? And who do we think is bothering to do any of that? Some high school kid with too much free time.

Time to run a diagnostic on the grid system while the removal of the phone hack was going on. Concurrent jobs meant success, twice as fast!

Christoph sat back and waited. Whichever finished first would get the attention, first! He had to admire Coco, though. A worm that shut down the phone as the high score was about to go. Why didn’t he think of that? Borderline genius, if he admitted it.

Aha. It was ready to examine. The game app was a minor issue, really, which is how it got resolved so quickly. And really, it’s all about the quick.

A few simple keystrokes, a new code program and done! And sure, he could just send Coco the worm back, but only a lower level gamer would do something like that. And really, Christoph could also insert a ridiculously enormous high score total, but that would not be authentic. And it would be too easy to check. If he did do something like that, it would be a reputation ruiner.

No, the old-fashioned way was the best way. Time to rack up an impressive score in a hurry and to see what else had to be done.

Okay. Now it was time to look at this… what. What’s going on here?

It looks like some sort of object. What sort of object would be moving towards this area? And why was it moving now?

It was a projectile traveling at a very fast rate, and the source was unidentified. Christoph set off to examine the information as it came in, and it appeared as if the object was a rocket or a missile of some sort. But that couldn’t be right. Why would this area be some sort of target? Or why wouldn’t the people that contacted him tell him this was a likely part of the scenario?

It looked like the impact might occur in ten to twelve minutes, depending on wind speed and trajectory.

That left enough time to contact the authorities. Should there be an evacuation? Or could the rocket be stopped. Or did it have to be stopped? After all, we don’t really know what this is. Maybe it was a drill or test case of some sort.

Oh this was bad. It was very bad. Coco had immediately beaten his new score in the interim! But, okay, what about this issue. He probably should ask around to find out who knows anything about a rocket or missile. Calling it a rocket sent less of an alarm out than referring to it as a missile, and there was no need for panic when there was no call for danger.

It did appear as if this was a missile. Maybe this incoming text would answer everything.

“HA. HA. HA.” wrote Coco.

Grr, that will have to wait a minute or two. Maybe this wasn’t some high school kid. Maybe this was more serious? But there still was no reason for this area to be the target of anyone. There were no valuable interests like gold or oil. There were no government entities or other organizations like the United Nations nearby. Who would want to cause any problems here?

It was clear now that it was a missile. But what could be done? Roughly five minutes. If it were a nuclear device, it could devastate a region of ten-thousand hectares in the initial blast. But there didn’t appear to be a nuclear signature coming from the missile.

Still, it might help to know where this was being sent from, to forward that info on to people who might need it. From the looks of it, this was launched remotely and using a somewhat familiar set of intel.

Now Christoph had to actually do some work, triangulating the signal that the missile was receiving and tracing that back to its source. Wherever this thing was going to land, it could create some pretty severe devastation, no matter what.

Christoph checked to see if there were any other messages from Coco. Nothing.

Could it be reprogrammed to go back where it came from, or to detonate before impact? Continuing to scan, it looked like there was not even any explosive on board the missile. That would keep the danger relatively small.

Christoph noted that there was only about two minutes until impact, but as it appeared to be a non-explosive device, now it didn’t matter quite as much. Time to work at that high score!

With just thirty seconds to go and with Christoph right in the middle of his game, his phone activity signal went off. Begrudgingly, he looked his Snapchat.

It was a GIF of Coco smiling, winking and holding a sign that read, “It's Midnight. Looks Like I Got You!”

Christoph disgustedly logged off of the service and tossed his phone back on the desk, just as the roof caved in.


This story was written for LJ Idol, using the prompt: Lethargy


( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 6th, 2017 07:21 pm (UTC)
You know, I fully expected you to go the non-fiction political route using "Backing The Wrong Horse," because that seemed like an obvious prompt for a take-down of "WTF were you people thinking?" and "This was the guy that was only ever going to screw you over!" with a side of "A chaos agent never brings progress!"

I did not expect a fictional millennial or post-millennial whose inability to keep from being distracted by the shiny and trivial will get us all killed. Or at least, himself.

Oh this was bad. It was very bad.
The juxtapositions of all of the correct reactions to danger with the INcorrect choice of focus was terrific throughout.
Jul. 6th, 2017 08:16 pm (UTC)
Even I'm getting sick of me making political statements! I wind up having other discussions with other people on other social media platforms, so it's a lot more than you see here on LJ!

I did get a sly political statement in here re: missile testing by countries that are starting to do that sort of thing but that was as far as I wanted to go in that direction! But thanks for reading and for a great compliment!
Jul. 6th, 2017 08:32 pm (UTC)
This was marvelous! I loved your description of the games and the vagueness of Christoph's job (and its importance), plus his distraction by the game and Coco, until Coco lands a missile in his lap! I loved the fun in this, plus the social commentary.
Jul. 8th, 2017 04:36 am (UTC)
Thanks a lot! The distractions feel all too real to me, and it seems like we're creeping toward disaster, but maybe that's just my own fear fantasies taking over? Thanks for reading!
Jul. 6th, 2017 09:00 pm (UTC)
You really put work into this and it shows! Just reading it was making me nervous enough to want to shake the #$%^ out of Christoph! Thanks for legitimizing all my fears regarding tiny screens and how they seem to suck the brains right out the eyeballs.
Jul. 8th, 2017 04:37 am (UTC)
It seems like people don't really understand the stakes and what actions they do might have consequences... that's sort of the seed idea for the piece. Thanks for reading and for a great compliment too!
Jul. 7th, 2017 05:32 am (UTC)
Damn Millennials and their short attention spans! I kid. Christoph is no worse than me running to the janitor closet on my break today to try and take down a Pokemon Go gym - ok - maybe a bit worse because my job doesn't involve security or missiles!

I was seriously stressing by the end but, interestingly, I was pleased when the roof caved in because I felt like "Yup. This fate was completely deserved."
Jul. 8th, 2017 04:39 am (UTC)
The truth is many of the issues we have can be resolved with just a modicum of effort and attention. We're just off on some other tangent a lot of the time, or we think something that has no value is of great importance! Thank you for reading, for relating and for your comment here!
Jul. 8th, 2017 03:44 pm (UTC)
Mindfulness is something so many people have given up in this modern age. In college I took an Eastern Spiritual Thought class and one of the tents that has always stuck with me is "Be here now."

I am very busy. Two kids and school and chorus and dance and karate class to get them to in a rush. Full time job, groceries to buy and dinner to cook and the next birthday party, orthodontist appointment, vacation to plan. I get really caught up in what's NEXT. I am high energy and have been like this since high school, when I cod plan my own schedule. I bought my first day planner in 10th grade, lol!

Anyway, I remind myself often to be here now, to stop my overactive brain from skipping out on THIS lovely moment because I am already working out the plans for what needs to happen tomorrow, next weekend, whatever.

In an effort to stop doing things that waste time, and don't make me feel particularly good, I haven't been on Facebook since late December. It was uncomfortable at first, and even now I have moments where I take a picture and want to post it for all the positive affirmation, but I don't.
Jul. 7th, 2017 10:12 am (UTC)
I liked the twist of the missile. Every time it seemed as if your narrator was going to focus on work or on, say, a goddamned missile, it was back to the game. Hilarious and a little scary at the same time.
Jul. 8th, 2017 04:42 am (UTC)
I fear that maybe some actual people are caught up in similar actions and there's nothing we can do about it. It would be like if the leader of the free world spent most of his time making comments on social media instead of doing their job... but a far-flung flight of fancy like that could only happen in the most unconvincing tales of fiction that any sensible editor would toss out. Thanks for your views and for a great compliment!
Jul. 7th, 2017 10:21 am (UTC)
I loved being privy to Christoph's thought process, his ability to dissect the problem vs. his inability to focus, or determine the greater issue. This was a fun, fast read, i.e. I couldn't stop once I got started.

Kudos! Great work!
Jul. 8th, 2017 04:55 am (UTC)
Thanks for reading and I'm very glad you found it worthwhile!
Jul. 8th, 2017 12:21 am (UTC)

Whew, I felt anything but lethargic, this guy's mind bounces! This is a perfect portrait of distraction.

Jul. 8th, 2017 04:59 am (UTC)
Thanks so much! Christoph definitely was trying to focus. It's just that there's too many other interesting things to focus on! I guess if we had to divide up the blame, part of it is with him, but certainly part is due to the design of the distractions that were placed in front of him. Can any of us fully escape? Thanks for a kind comment and an interesting thought!
Jul. 8th, 2017 06:27 pm (UTC)
You know, Christoph kind of deserved it. Put your phone down and do your job!
Jul. 9th, 2017 12:02 pm (UTC)
A funny piece, silly Christoph getting distracted so easily :)
Jul. 10th, 2017 12:15 am (UTC)
Oh the power of tiny screens to make us all spend just one more minute doing something other than what we should really be focusing on.

You did a nice job of ratcheting tension up throughout this piece, though in the end I don't feel all that bad for Christoph.
Jul. 10th, 2017 08:31 pm (UTC)
I feel like this is a good analogy for social media procrastination. Paying attention to your phone and your games instead of what you actually need to be doing. Of course, you know, it's not usually a missile vs your high score but still!

I really liked it. It was relatable but also insane and rage inducing at Christoph!
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )

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