Title: A Few Bugs In The System
Characters: Jack, Tosh, Ianto, Gwen, Owen, Mainframe, OCBs
Summary: Torchwood’s computer systems crash unexpectedly.
Word Count: 1522
Content Notes: Creepy crawlies!
Written For: Challenge 7: Bug at beattheblackdog.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
A/N: Apologies if the computer stuff doesn’t make sense, I’m not Tosh and I know very little about computers.
When Torchwood’s computer systems suddenly crashed, no one was expecting it. There was no warning whatsoever; everything was working fine, and then nothing was. Some screens went blank, others flashed urgent ERROR warnings, while the rest just seemed to freeze. Jack came striding from his office.
“Talk to me, Tosh; what just happened? I was halfway through writing a report when my screen went dead!”
“Sorry, Jack!” Tosh was tapping frantically at her computer keys. “There’s a bug in the system, I’ve got no idea how it got in!”
“Well, can’t you just…” Jack waved his arms around vaguely, “I don’t know, reboot everything or something?”
“Um, no, it’s not a computer virus type of bug, it’s an actual bug!”
Curious, Ianto, who had been busy making coffee, abandoned his beans and approached Tosh’s workstation, leaning over her shoulder and peering at one of her screens. There it was in glorious colour, a six-legged, squat-bodied, pink and purple bug with long antennae, ambling across the screen. Ianto tried to brush it off, but it wasn’t on the outside. “Huh, weird. How is that even possible?” he asked as he watched it move from one open window on Tosh’s screen, disappearing from sight briefly to appear in another window, coming from a completely different direction.
“I don’t know! It’s inside, which is ridiculous because technically, there isn’t really an inside for it to be inside of!” Tosh sounded slightly hysterical. “It’s crawling about in the data stream and it can move from one data packet to another!”
“So… what? It’s in the code?” Jack leant over Tosh’s other shoulder, studying the bug. “Cute little guy, isn’t it?”
Ianto spared a glance for his partner, frowning. “You think it’s cute?”
“Sure! Look at its little round feet, and those long, feathery feelers! Even its body looks fuzzy. And the colours are nice too.”
“It’s crashed the entire computer system, Jack!” Ianto said in an aggrieved voice.
“Well, it probably doesn’t realise that, it’s just a bug,” Jack said reasonably. “I’m sure whatever it’s done wasn’t intentional.”
“You don’t know that! For all we know, some outside agency is responsible, it could have been sent in to sabotage our computers, corrupt our files, or even to steal information!”
“But it’s just a pretty little bug!” Jack protested. He turned back to the screen, wiggling his finger close to the bug. “You wouldn’t do anything nasty to us, would you, little bug?”
On the screen, the bug left the window it was currently investigating and stepped out onto the background, waving its antennae and seeming to investigate Jack’s finger. Jack beamed at it. “Awww! Hello there, buggy!”
Ianto facepalmed so hard it hurt. “He’s gone mental!” he muttered to himself.
“Um, guys?” Gwen piped up from her workstation. “One of my screens just came back on and there’s a bug in it.”
“What does it look like?” asked Tosh, still tapping on her keyboard, trying to get their systems back online.
“Like a bug! Its body is about a centimetre across, it has six legs with little round feet, two feelers at the front end, and it’s green, blue and yellow.”
“Green, blue and yellow? That’s not just the same bug visible on another screen.” Ianto went over to look at Gwen’s bug. “Yep, different colours, definitely a different bug.”
“Got a blue, purple and silver bug on one of my screens now,” Owen called out.
“Oh God! They’re multiplying and I don’t know how to stop them!” Tosh’s fingers were fairly flying over the keys now, but to no avail. The only things moving on the screens that were still on were the bugs.
“Here!” Owen called out suddenly. “This bug’s doin’ something!”
There was a mass exodus from around Tosh’s workstation as everyone converged on Owen, leaning over him to stare at his screen.
“What’s it doing?” asked Gwen.
“I don’t know!” Owen groused. “I can’t see a bloody thing now!”
“Looks like it’s… eating the computer code?” Ianto looked baffled.
“No,” Tosh corrected, “only parts of the code.” She tilted her head, watching the bug. “Check the other screens, see what the other bugs are doing.”
Everyone scattered to the other workstations and Jack headed up to his office. Owen breathed a sigh of relief; he’d been starting to feel a bit claustrophobic with the whole team crowded around him so he could barely move.
“The pink and purple bug is just wandering around from window to window. New windows keep popping up though as old ones close,” Gwen reported.
“I’ve got a cute little black and red pinstriped bug on my screen!” Jack called down from his office.
“What’s it doing?” Tosh called back.
“Wandering around the windows like the others. No, wait, there’s a bunch of code just popped up in a window and the bug’s eating bits of it.”
“Same over here,” called Ianto. “There’s a red and blue bug here eating code. This one’s really hungry, it’s eating away whole patches…” his voice trailed off, then suddenly he started to laugh. “I think I know what they’re doing! Tosh, try to see which bits of code the bugs are eating. I think it’s easier to see here because there’s more of it in one place, but it looks to me like a virus, a rather nasty one at that, if I’m reading it right.”
Tosh left her computers and joined Ianto, studying the code that was now being steadily devoured by four bugs in the same window. Even as they watched, three more trundled into view from off-screen and joined in, munching away. “You’re right, that does look like code for a virus. Ianto, what are you thinking?”
Ianto grinned down at her. “Well, Mainframe is self-aware.” He shoved his hands in his trouser pockets, still watching the screen. “She’s organic technology, right?”
“Yes.” Tosh nodded agreement.
“And when something goes wrong, you can usually fix it.”
Tosh shrugged. “She likes me. Besides, not a lot goes wrong with her, my programmes usually catch and eradicate viruses before they can do any harm.”
“What were you working on just before the systems crashed?”
“I was upgrading the anti-virus programming.”
“Was it offline at all?”
“Only for a few nanoseconds. What are you getting at?”
“That’s probably all it would take for something to get in, if it’s been lurking out on the internet. So a virus gets in, your programs are momentarily offline; what would Mainframe do?”
“She’d shut down the system to protect it.”
“And then? I mean she must have some sort of anti-virus defences of her own, don’t you think?”
Tosh grinned, suddenly getting it. “Of course! Bugs to fight bugs! What else would organic technology use? They’re not the problem; they’re the solution! That must be how they manage to be inside the data, they’re part of Mainframe! We’ve just never seen them before because she hasn’t needed to use them until now!”
“So all we have to do now is wait while the bugs eat all the virus code strands, and then Mainframe will probably reboot, right?”
“It looks that way,” Tosh admitted.
“So we don’t have a problem?” Gwen asked.
“There’s a problem, but mainframe’s bugs are fixing it. While we’re waiting, I believe I was about to make coffee.” Ianto ambled away to the kitchen, whistling jauntily.
“Do you think the bugs will stay?” Jack asked Tosh. “I like them, perhaps Mainframe should have them out patrolling the system all the time, just to keep an eye on things.”
“I’ll have a word with her later, when she’s not so busy,” Tosh promised. Now that she knew they weren’t damaging her computers, she rather liked them herself; Jack was right, they were cute, and quite pretty.
Ianto brought around coffee and cookies, and they sat around their computers, enjoying their mid-morning snack while watching Mainframe’s bugs at work. It was surprisingly relaxing.
One by one, windows shut down until all that was left running were the Torchwood screensavers. The bugs wandered off the edges of the screens and disappeared, their job done. Tosh tapped out ‘Thank you’ on her keyboard and after a moment, a smiley face appeared on her screen, followed by the words ‘rebooting in 5… 4… 3… 2… 1…’
Every screen in the Hub went dark. They could hear Mainframe humming and whirring as the system rebooted and a few minutes later, the screens came on. Everyone laughed in surprised delight. In the corner of each screen was a small, colourful bug, waving its feelers.
“Looks like you’ve got your wish, Jack,” Ianto chuckled. “Permanent bugs to monitor for bugs. Just don’t spend all your time talking to them!”
“I’m making no promises,” Jack replied, waggling his finger at the pinstriped bug on his screen. “It’s like having a mini-Ianto inside my computer to keep it in order!”
“I was right; completely mental.” Ianto rolled his eyes, but he was smiling.
Tosh set to work again on upgrading her programs, but it didn’t seem so important anymore. She was sure that Torchwood’s computer systems had never been more secure.