The eye on the wall has seen all, so it's time for desperate measures to cover up the half measures of sherry left in the boardroom decanters...

Year 1998 - Episode 40

Sooner or later, it was bound to happen. We know it, we prepare for it, but it still comes as a proverbial kick in the goolies.

Security wants its systems back. Well, actually not Security at all - we have a great working relationship - but its new manager - an ex-military type who takes the job far too seriously. He (outrageously) believes CCTV security systems should be Security's responsibility, and that Network and Systems Operations types shouldn't have unrestricted swipe card access to the building "to enable rapid support".

In other words, he's trying to make us join the great unwashed.

Our new boss is no bloody help. With the spine of a jellyfish, he backed down in record time.

I don't like it.

The PFY doesn't like it.

Something's got to give.

And give it does. The final straw comes when the new boss pops into the office and asks what we were doing in the boardroom last night at 6.35pm.

Obviously the answer‚ "Drinking ourselves senseless with a couple of members of the secretarial pool" - is out of the question.

So it looks like I'm going to have to ad-lib. And we're not talking sound cards here.

"Ahh...checking the connectivity of the individual ISDN desktop ports," I blurt quickly.

"Really? It doesn't look like that!" he cries, brandishing a frame-grabbed image from CCTV showing the PFY topping up a half-full sherry decanter with a reconstituted version of the original.

"That's disgusting!" I cry heatedly.

"Yes it is," the boss concurs, saddling up his high horse for the 11.30 hurdles. "As is this," he continues, flashing another image - of me this time - making up the PFY's shortfall (he's just young).

"And what do you have to say about that?" he challenges.

"Well, obviously I need to reduce my vitamin B intake," I cry.


"I'm only joking. It's obviously a fake."

"Well, if it's a fake," he responds smugly, holding up a strangely familiar vessel, "you won't mind taking a quick swig of this."

"Not at all," I respond, pouring myself a healthy dram, or 57, and downing it in record time. "As I said, it's a fake - a plan by security to discredit us with misinformation.

"Obviously a video edit. Look at the pixellation around the thing. It's been digitised and re-enhanced."

"I...uh..." the boss mumbles, inquisition in ashes.

After he's slouched out in despair (not having the bottle, or even a decanter) to face up to the head of Security, the PFY comes over.

"Can't believe you bloody drank that," he gasps disgustedly.

"Ah, don't be silly - I put the full one at the back and swapped the seal with that one. The board's stupid, but not stupid enough to mistake that for sherry. Not until they've had a couple of priming decanters anyway."

A swivel from the camera behind the computer room viewing window alerts me to a potential problem.

"Reckon he can read lips?" I ask the PFY from behind my coffee cup.

"It's possible," the PFY comments, apparently yawning.

"Right. Emergency action is called for!"

The PFY and I race up the staircase to the boardroom to dispose of the evidence. But we are too late. The head of Security is already in the room and has hurled glassware everywhere in his haste to find the decanter at the back.

With any luck...but no - the sole surviving decanter is much, much clearer than the one I drank from.

"We're stuffed," the PFY whispers.

"Not quite," I blurt, remembering the access card system's configuration parameters. I swipe my card through the reader, then punch in an incorrect PIN number. And again. And again.

The fourth attempt triggers an alarm, and the Security boss rushes over to the door to swipe the door release from his side...but too late. The ten-minute lockout has occurred.

Quick as a flash the PFY pulls the phone and network connections from the room, then manually locks the access corridor to the boardroom.

"Hang on, he'll break the emergency release glass," the PFY cries.

"He would. If I hadn't replaced it with the bulletproof stuff years ago."

We pull a couple of chairs up and wait for the inevitable, swiping the door invalidly every nine minutes or so to keep the lockout in force.

To his credit, the head of Security held out well - the military influence no doubt. It takes nearly ten hours for thirst to set in. And a full two more before he unstoppers the bottle.

"I'd have tipped it on the ground," the PFY says quietly, at the pub a day later. "That would have solved it."

"Yeah, there's no understanding the military mind," I sigh, as I contemplate the names he's going to be called by his troops, who were too busy making video dubs of the proceedings to come to his aid - even if they'd wanted to.

Different horses for different courses...