K Hodges
6 min readJul 11, 2019

--

Segmentation Faults

Draft Part 1

Chapter 1

Her cell read 2:34 when the call finally came in. Recruiters always seem to call late. Maybe just to see if the candidate would bitch at them for not being on time. She picked up her phone, letting it vibrate in her hand for a second more.

“Afternoon"

“Hi, this is Peter with Morphware. Is this …” he paused for just a half second, clearly checking the file.

“Kassandra Church” she replied

“Good to hear from you! Is now still a good time?” He said, parroting every recruiter ever

“Of course.”

“Awesome. So, quick recap, I’m calling about the Dream Developer I position. I’ve got your resume here, but why don’t you tell me a bit about yourself, current position, and your interest in Morphware"

“Sure.” She said, remembering her practiced introduction

“I’ve been dreaming since I was 13, back before the age limit. It was actually Cloud Castle that got me first learning to code. My current role, of 3 years, is with Interplay, um, they’re a game s-- like, retro viddy game, studio.”

“Baldurs Gate!” Recruiter Peter said enthusiastically. He was gaining points with Kass.

“Dude! Yes! I wrote net code for the remake.” She said, forgetting she wasnt talking to a friend for a moment.

“Anyways, yeah. Mostly experienced in classic VG development. I dont have my Dream Dev license, but have read a few books on it. I was reading that was--" her lie was interrupted

“Totally fine.” He said reassuringly.

The truth was, Kassandra had been writing dreams without a license for years. This was a felony and unlicensed developers almost always released their stuff for free, making the already insane cost to get a license even more impossible.

“Kassandra. Your resume is impressive to say the least. Send me a reference from Interplay and we’ll fly you out here. What’s your week look like?”

She replayed it in her head over and over as the buildings outside the plane grew smaller and smaller. There was probably more to the conversation, but it all happened so quickly. As the clouds outside turned orange and gold from the setting sun, she inhaled deeply. Morphware was flying her to interview for her dream job. She was going to be a Dream Dev. A real. Card fucking carrying. Dream dev.

--

A sleepless hotel night, some room service breakfast and an Uber ride to 1 Dream Way and Kassandra was sitting in a naturally lit conference room at Morphware HQ in West LA. Across from her was Peter, who was a late 40s hipster wearing a pre-faded retro D&D tshirt, and Pamala, the slightly more composed Manager of Dream Engineering. Behind them was a wall-screen that read “Welcome to Morph, Kassandra!” And more impressively, standing behind that text was a rendering of her Cloud Castle: Kingdoms avatar, the dark pixie mage Ettercap.

“Ok. So this one isn’t for real points, just nerd cred, but we like to start by asking candidates if they know much about the history of Dreams and Morph.”

She smiled. She was about to get some serious nerd cred.

“Twenty Thirty.. three, I think, was the first Pinealink. Dr. Joe Rosenstock at UC Berke--- Purdue, sorry. Purdue. It couldn’t write data yet, but they could map patterns in an analog dream.”

Eyebrows were raised. She couldn’t tell if they were impressed, or if they weren’t happy that she didn’t claim that Morphware invented it, like many commonly misattributed.

“Of course, that was called the Rosenstock Interface. The Pinealink was Martin van Heusen’s invention. His team at UC Berkeley made the first steps in replicating the patterns read by the Rosenstock Interface. Using this, they could write simple patterns into a users dreams. Shapes, then polygons, simple objects, and so on.”

“My Dad was actually in one of the test groups. He got a five gallon bucket of oranges.” She added sheepishly. The early tests were hit or miss, and bringing them up might be a little controversial. She omitted the detail about how her Dad still became violently ill at the smell of citrus.

Pamela was taking notes, her eyebrows still raised. Kass continued.

“Martin launched Morpheus Technology LLC after a couple years of research. Their first consumer Pinealink sold out in less than a week. The real innovation came 6 months later with the first MorphSDK. A few developers were writing simple scenes, and of course the MorphLearn series, the first college classes you could take in your sleep.”

“By 2036, there were millions of Pinealinks and all kinds of software. That’s when Rosenstock released NightmareN — I mean DreamNet.” She winced. NightmareNet was a word she was hoping to avoid slipping during her time here.

DreamNet was a massive success in the late 30s. Dreamers could visit each other as simple as texting. There was some hacking incidents, a bunch of adware, some brain-fries and even a few fatalities before the government (with the major Dream Studios help) put heavy regulations on the device and who could program it. The old tech of DreamNet was kept up by hackers and hobbyists who wrote illegal Dreams (which the media started calling Nightmares) and was lovingly (or pejoratively) called NightmareNet.

“And then the UN put out the Dream Safety Regulation to protect Dreamers against malicious ware.” she said, against her ethics.

“Morpheus Technology grew, became Morphware, and here we are today. Y’all have, what, 400 Million users?”

“Something like that.” Peter replied, clearly impressed.

Kassandra was trying to think of something to say about Morph’s massively popular Cloud platform, a general entertainment hub for Dreamers, when the door creaked open.

Rashid “DoubleR" Ravani stumbled into the room. If they made posters of Dream Devs, Kassandra would have DoubleR’s poster on her wall. The man was a fucking force of nature, in both large projects like the Cloud Castle series, as well as his roots on the indie scene with solo projects like Ascendants Climb and a whole slew of popular utilities. He was also classically handsome. Not for a Dev, like, for a dude in general.

“Miss Church. I’m Rashid Ravani, Principal Dream Engineer. I apologize for my tardiness" he said almost overly cordially, extending a hand.

“A-tah, Malkuth, Ve-Geburah, Ve-Gedulah, Le-Olahm! Amen, Double Fuckin R!” She said, reciting the little-known incantation required to ‘Ascend' in Rashid’s first indie hit Dream.

He lit up and, laughing in glee, turned the handshake into a five. And then a more professional handshake. The adults in the room looked confused.

“So, let’s pull this bandaid off. The whiteboard test. We want to test your development chops. Of course, we care more about your general process, so there’s really no wrong answers" he recited, gesturing in the air to pull up a MorphSDK code editor on the wall screen.

Kass had only been thinking about this moment since the plane tickets arrived in her inbox. She had been writing illegal dreams on NightmareNet since before she was old enough to even use a Pinealink, and her dreams had a few thousand followers. Celebrity status on the darknet. These dev tests were obscenely easy, usually questions were designed for kids that had never actually used MorphSDK. The license to legally write dreams cost several million dollars, and you were liable for the effects of your work, so most entry level devs had never even used the SDK. This meant that if she pulled out all the stops, they would probably call her out as an illegal Nightmare Dev in a second. This would be tricky.

“Your first test: We’ve rendered a city.” He said, opening a file. Buildings appeared on the ‘dream view’ window.

“Make the dreamer fly, considering of course, collision detection, falls and so on.”

Flight dreams were usually the ‘Hello World’ of dreams, the first thing a student would make. The failure detection was an interesting twist, and not something many illegal dream devs did well. It was against regulation to have dreamers feel significant pain, trauma, or experience death. This was supposedly generally bad for the dreamers mental health, and, the government claimed, could lead to permanent trauma. Kassandra regularly saw herself get viscerally mutilated in illegal multiplayer nightmares like NightmareQuake, and never had an issue.

She tapped her watch to pair it to the screen and began to type, her fingers drumming on the table.

--

--

K Hodges

“Defense Researcher” according to Reuters, Chelsea Manning Fan Fiction Author, Delightful Degenerate