The whole bank of red LEDs is blinking like a constellation of angry stars. Screen after screen fills with arcane strings of hexadecimals before flickering out. The manual explicitly stated that this could never happen. The System has ideas of its own. Technicians scurry from terminal to terminal while the intercom squawks out staticy imprecations of doom.

A rumor's been going around for the last half hour that one of the supervisors has committed suicide in his office. The air's going thick with the faint but unmistakable tang of ozone. The Vice President has been on the phone with with the central office for the last half hour, and he wants to get off so he can start updating his resume.

One of the terminals is beginning to give off a cloud of black smoke through its air vents, and a ghost-pale junior technician is alternating between kicking it and sobbing like a baby. Nobody talks much, except to curse; there's not much else to say. Somebody with a little presence of mind sprays the smoking terminal with a chemical fire extinguisher, which stops the smoke but shorts out an entire row of displays.

An elderly man wearing a white labcoat and horn-rimmed glasses is at the circuit board, systematically flipping each switch off and then on again. Nobody knows who he is or what his responsibilities might be, but nobody moves to stop him. It couldn't make things worse. Every so often a row of blue sparks shoot from the shorted out displays like a Jacob's Ladder going off, and eventually the man flipping circuits finds the one the displays are on and turns it off. Half of the lights in the facility go out.

The low thudding of an executive helicopter taking off cuts through the cacophany of the operations room - the Vice President is abandoning ship. Somebody got one of the designers on the phone, but when they explained what was going on, he thought it was a crank call and hung up. Eventually the remaining lights in the facility begin to flicker, dim, and turn off, and the technicians, realizing there is nothing to be done, clean out their desks, and one by one, go home.

Heads are gonna roll for this one.

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