System Failure

Only the obvious things in life are what they really appear to be. If anything gives you doubt, look at it closer. You might find something interesting.

There was once a time where her life was a mess of one's and zero's - the coding that flickered across a screen in a dark room. There was once a time her life revolved around routine and stayed in the realm of the expected.
There was once a time he thought his days of searching would never end. There was once a time where his only hopes of romance remained from watching from afar.
There was once a time she thought love was stupid and unnecessary - unneeded.
There was a time when his life seemed to be predictable and easy.
But time is unstable and always changing. There may be many things that once were, but that's past tense.
Because that was then,
And this is now.

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1. ("1")

There is no reason anyone in the right state of mind will want a computer in their home - Ken Olson.

 

There she was.

Everyday she looked the same. He didn't mean to, but he could already tell the expanse of her closet by the clothes she wore everyday on the bus. She was always on time, always getting on at the same stop and leaving just the same. Her routine was permanently etched in Chanyeol's brain. He knew what she'd do before she even would do it.

It wasn't stalking, just keen observation.

He already plays out what she was going to do when he sees her at the bus stop: Pick up lab top bag, cautiously look at the first step before climbing on, swipe her bus ticket, nod to the driver, choose her same spot in the back and sit down, and lastly pull her computer out with a nervous glance, typing something as soon as it turns on.

She was wearing the yellow shirt and turquois sweatshirt again, the one that only had half sleeves. Her white socks peaked out of gray tennis shoes with blue laces when she sit down, but she doesn't notice him watching her today. Her attention was focused on her computer. She didn't know that he already noted that she wore one pair of shoes, no matter what day it was. It's raining - gray tennis shoes. It's snowing - gray tennis shoes. Maybe she didn't have any more, or maybe she thought the question that should be thought by every girl: Why do I need more than one pair? Why is fashion important?

Chanyeol smiles to himself and fights to hide it so people don't think he's a creeper like in high school. He had to admit that his laugh and boisterous attitude scared many people off in his past. His face would turn red if you asked about his girlfriends, because he hasn't had any. Baekhyun tells him that it's because he needs to find a girl who can handle him, and that only meant that he could get through the masses without getting his heart broken.

Chanyeol thinks that it means he will be single forever, and then Kai said they should celebrate with a bachelor party every night. Kyungsoo shushed him with a comment about the play 'Much Ado About Nothing', calling him Benedick and hissing about how there's a Beatrice for everyone. That comment went straight over his head.

The mystery girl seems content with whatever she did on her computer and closes it, resuming the other half of her usual agenda while Chanyeol watches. Sometimes he wished he knew what she did that looked so important on her computer. There had to be a reason she instantly put it away if someone sat down next to her. Maybe she was doing something secret, but he couldn't imagine what. She could be an FBI agent, for all he knew, but she didn't seem old enough. What were the age restrictions?

With a sigh, she focuses her gaze outside the bus window and watches the city fly by, memorizing the path. Chanyeol was always so intrigued on how she flickered her eyes that fast - catching on something, following, then catching on something else. It was like she analyzed that one object, then moved on.

He wanted to get up, he wanted to introduce himself, but he's witnessed it before. On those days when she wore the red tank top and the plaid flannel tied around her waist, sometimes other men would try to sit next to her and flirt, but she wouldn't have any of it. Romantic gestures were ignored, and intimate suggestions earned small scowls. He didn't have a chance if the other guys didn't.

Maybe it was because he's seen her with flowers before. He's always on the bus whenever she's going home from whatever she does. He's seen her with her day's excursions before. It's the same things, though, with the exception of the flowers. They always change type, and he guesses that they were from a boyfriend. A plastic bag of instant food, fruits, vegetables, and canned things were the regular items. He could even guess that her favorite food was sushi. She bought it so often.

Her favorite flower also seemed to be lilac. Whenever she had it with her she would stuff her nose into it until she got off on her stop.

His hopes were still up, though. they could be for another, herself, a dying relative, a grave, or just decoration. It didn't mean it was a present to her, specifically. Maybe he could ask, but he doubted she would speak to him.

Chanyeol watches as she takes her bag, slings it on her shoulder, and stands up as soon as the bus starts to slow down. She braces herself in the momentum, and doesn't give anyone a passing glance as she quickly steps off the bus and just leaves without a word. She was always so quiet and to herself. Chanyeol wonders if that's a trait, or if she's just shy. he would fix that, if he knew her more. He would teach her how to be open, unless she didn't want to be.

He was so tempted just to follow her. He wanted so badly to know where she went, but he would let her go. He didn't want to be marked off as a stalker, and he was trying not to be. One day, however, he will know her name. And on that day, she will never stop hearing his voice call out to her - he promised this.

 

Time was ticking like the clock that was too loud. Every slowed step was a missed minute in the outside world. The people in front of her that took their time were very annoying. She didn't want to spend any more time than necessary here. Out here people lived lives without knowing what could happen to them. Out here people used - depended on - a program that they thought was stable. Truth be told, anyone could bring that world down.

She's seen it almost happen before. She's come across other programs that could squash the outside world in a matter of nanoseconds.

Python was her first language. She replaced it after she stopped speaking so much out loud. Her words were on a screen, and her actions simple typing that could either benefit the world, or end it. It was funny how technology ruled everything, despite the average day thought of not having enough.

Technology made things easy, but there were two ways to take advantage of advanced computers. You'll have wider access to the world with more internet speeds and modern blah blah blah, but you'll also have crashes, mix ups, piracy, and more and more people becoming skilled in the wrong jobs.

The world didn't need anymore of the stupid hackers, dubbed 'crackers' by a good chunk of the actual computer programmers. Hackers built the system, crackers take it down.

It was Seung's job to stop them before that happened, and every second spent in the real world could mean it ending the next day.

The best part about knowing Python so well was that it was also the language of beginners, and the beginners always sprouted into the wrong categories unless taught a lesson.

Unfortunately, too many people were turning to computers, and there were only a handful of people to teach lessons. Seung tried to have a life, more like forced to have one, but she did her best. She had a family - broken, but real - and she had people to take care of. When her father wasn't asleep from intoxication, he was hungry. When Yoora wasn't dancing, she needed costume repairs, food, makeup, inspiration, and, sometimes, a replacement. It wasn't fair to suddenly become the main mother figure of the family, but it was her choice.

The best part about having such a family was that no one wondered where random sums of money came in from, like checks with business's names on them from secret locations, as long as they went to something good.

Thank you money was hard to come by, and hard to get when you knew that many of the places made the problem itself just to get in contact with her. It's happen before, almost like they didn't know that she would trace the virus back to a computer in the building. Some people were just so desperate for power that they did stupid things to be put in the headings.

It kept them going. That was all that mattered. What went on behind the locked door in the apartment was kept a secret.

Seung had two places to go. She always had her health first, which meant a trip to the gym where she beat frustrations out on a sandbag dummy attached to the ceiling. Then, the store would be her next stop. Yoora thought money grew on trees and would bring food with her to work at night, which irked Seung, but she was okay with it. Yoora was doing better now - she had friends. Why should she object?

Third stop involved her deranged sister. Because of her need for human contact, she went to a lot of stranger's house. Strangers had a lot of diseases. When Yoora got sick with something she caught, Seung had to fill in. A quick overview of the performance each night at the club was needed in case this happened. Most of the time the other girls, and guys on Gay Wednesdays, did whatever they wanted. Some days moves were choreographed, and the music was planned out. A few training classes and Seung knew the basics. Going to the gym everyday ensured that she would have the strength to pull the moves off, not that she enjoyed being a part-time stripper, though.

No matter how many times the manager tried to hire her fulltime, she refused. Having a full job was too much commitment. It took too much time.

Besides, fulltime workers were required to give lap dances to paying customers. It was weird enough that she requested to wear a mask for the sake of her dignity, but she didn't want to be getting down and dirty on someone when she barely allowed herself to learn how to look like she already did. A virgin stripper was a strange combination of words.

Fourth thing to do was take up her stuff and get back on the bus to go home. It was usually almost dinner by the time she got home, and that meant that daddy was already in the bottle and sister was getting her makeup on. A quick meal was needed before either of them did anything else. It was Seung that protected her sister from slurred comments from their dad. He used to give innuendos because he couldn't recognize them through the drunken haze he desired to be in everyday. The only thing he did see was a prostitute, and his wife taking care of him. Seung looked enough like their mother to be passed off as so, so when she pulled her father into his room and closed to door, she sometimes heard a soft Hyun Ae​ come from his unconscious body.

She would close the door without a pause and walk to her own special room, unlocking the door and sneaking away for most of the night.

For now, however, she breaks off from the sidewalk and enters a building, swapping her clothes out for shorts and a tank top, finding the corner of the gym that held the black bags. A few had duct tape wrapped around them due to deteriorating leather, but most were unused. Seung was sure that she was one out of three people who used these, and probably the only one that did daily. Any attacker should be worried, because she gained quite the punch.

She covers her hands in protective wrappings and takes a stand against the bag. It hung silently, innocently doing nothing, yet she was going to beat the snot out of it.

One punch, and it swings from the force. That's when it all breaks through, and Seung finds herself muttering curses under breath, repeating her frustrations out with each punch.

"Pedestrians."

Punch.

"Vodka."

Punch.

"Freaking strippers and their uncanny ability to stay upright in heels." Each stressed work was a hit.

She growls about crackers under her breath and a few people give her quick glances of concern, but most leave her alone. Even when she turns from punching to kneeing, they leave her alone. They were used to her coming in at the same time.

She eventually stops, sweating, and leans against the bag, tilting it to the side. The old leather smell from it makes her back off and unwrap her hands, briskly changing and heading for the store soon after getting her stuff back from the girl's locker room. She didn't waste time waiting around for transportation and walks the few blocks to the supermarket, easily getting essentials. This was routine. She knew where everything was.

Time was important to her. She didn't know that it would become something so expendable that she would soon come to treasure moments she never thought would ever come. The future was a mystery. She lived now.

 

Chanyeol thinks about his day as he waits for her. It was the end of the day, almost six. He came from the university. His classes were simple to get, since he was only working on a minor right now. His major was in the composition of music, but now he wanted to taste music therapy. He knew for a fact that certain music can change the state of someone's mind, and his project was going to be on how it could change someone's personality.

He just needed a subject.

His friends declined his permission to test on them, maybe because he used the word experiment and that always freaks people out, so he was looking for someone else.

Chanyeol perks up in his seat and takes off his headphones when he sees the familiar hesitant pattern she makes whenever she steps on the bus, as if she fears it was going to drive away right when she took the first step. She looked a bit tired, as usual, but seemed to be going over something in her mind. As she swipes her ticket, she makes a vague dance gesture with her hand, as if contemplating it's actual process. She starts to walk to her seat in the back, but it was taken. This annoys her, but she lets them have it.

Chanyeol has been dreaming for this. The spot next to him was open. She could take it, but her eyes rest on another and she moves to get it. His hopes sink when she passes him a second time, her bag brushing his knees slightly when she steps by. He can see the brand of jeans she wore, see a section of black cloth poking out of a zipper on her bag. She was close enough to speak to. He could offer the seat; it would be so simple.

The bus suddenly starts before she can reach the open seat and the girl goes of balance, not expecting it. She jerks backwards and Chanyeol instinctively reaches for her, her body magically falling across his lap. As if he was the smoothest person in the world, which he never was, his outstretched hand grabs the strap of her bag and keeps it from hitting the ground while the other one keeps her upright and stable, fully sitting on his lap.

Oh Gosh.

His eyes momentarily go wide and he fights for something to say, coming up with nothing. He should be witty, but he was incapable of anything clever to say when she was seated right above his groin, like an angel that descended from heaven. Her flailing arms even found themselves around his neck in an attempt to stay upright, both freezing as the bus keeps rumbling down the street, not knowing what to say or do.

She quickly slides into the open seat and stares at him, looking appalled at her actions. She quickly grabs her bag from him and stutters an apology out, turning red with embarrassment. Chanyeol couldn't hear her, though. The only thing ringing in his ears was the angel chorus celebrating their first physical contact.

"It's alright." He manages to get out without his voice cracking. It was a bit higher than usual, but she didn't know that.

"It was the bus, I didn't mean to-"

"I said it was okay. There isn't anything wrong." He assures, picking up his confidence and trying to look her in the eyes. Their first words.

"You're sure?" She whispers, shying away suddenly. She doesn't recall having a conversation this long with anyone for a long time, unless you count online forums, but she spoke backwards in those to mess with viewers.

Chanyeol nods and thinks quickly, putting a hand out. She looks at it and stares, tracing his long fingers, "I'm Chanyeol."

"Uh...could you get your hand off my thigh?" She asks, her voice getting quieter. Chanyeol thinks that if she keeps talking, soon she won't be heard at all.

Wait, what did she say?

"GAH! Sorry!" he exclaims, pulling his hand away as fast as he could, holding it to his chest. It was his turn to get red with embarrassment. He doesn't remember it getting there. She falls silent again and the bus rumbles on, bumping along the street. Ever so slowly, however, her hand comes up into the air and is held out.

"Seung." She breathes, glancing up one and then looking back at the floor. Chanyeol places his hand in hers and they shake, but silence resumes.

Her stop comes and she hastily leaves the bus, not sparing a glance back as she trudges down the street with determination. Chanyeol couldn't see the blush on her cheeks as she got further away, but he could hear her still-small voice echoing in his mind.

Seung.

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