The End?

Year 1999 - Episode 27


It's with a heavy heart that I secure myself in the control room to write these lines. The reader will have to forgive my writing style as this is my first attempt at writing.

I have, for some time, been aware of my supervisor's habit of recounting our adventures to the readers of Network Week, and feel that it would be remiss of me, as his faithful assistant, not to recount this sorry tale.

It was a typical Friday morning. I was engaged in some user education in accordance with the Recommended Daily User Allowance of electricity. My 'tutorial' was interrupted by the cessation of mains supply to the desktop. Freed from the grip of electricity, the user escaped past the Bastard, who had his finger on the now-open circuit breaker.

"Much work on?" he asked, somewhat distracted.

"Nothing," I respond, indicating the recently departed user.

"Then it makes it all the easier for me to propose you sneak away for a couple of days."

"This isn't that camping holiday joke again, is it?"

"Afraid not. Ever heard the name Arty Murray?"

"No...Hang on - isn't he the guy who calls himself a 'network artist'?"

"Piss artist more like. He slimes in on a boss or two at a trade show then, with their permission, does remote probes of WANs and LANs (as an 'independent security consultant') then combines this information with stuff sneaked to him by the management contact concerned."

"And...?"

"And, inevitably, he fabricates some security vulnerability and recommends outsourcing ALL IT operations to some crap start-up company that he's associated with that couldn't ping localhost and get a response. THEN, when that company goes belly-up, snakes the job for himself. Thing is, you might never know your job was at risk! If I could beat that man, if I could free computing society of him, I'd be prepared to turn to some more placid line in life - user support, helpdesk manning, morris dancing at televised events."

"Surely not!"

"Nah, just taking the piss. But he's a menace, and he's been HERE. I've tracked him over the past few days. We've had our run-ins, and now he's coming for me and mine. It's personal!"

"What are you going to do?" I asked.

"Do? Elementary, my dear PFY! We're going to leave the place unattended for a couple of days until he reveals himself. He won't be able to resist the chance of playing with the kit."

And so we did. Booking two tickets to the Third World (Luton), we made to absent ourselves from the office. Instead we snuck back and fired up the Emergency Operations Centre on the 6th floor, passing the time aiming our disused sat dishes at our rival's receivers and sending high-gain bursts at them.

"Jeez!" the Bastard cried on the second day, halfway through our Indian takeaway. "LOOK!" he cried, pointing to a flashing red icon on the building monitor. "It's him, in the ROB faller!"

"ROB faller? What's a faller?"

"It's the opposite of a riser," the Bastard snaps. "Where the waste water and sewage go. To stop people going in there I break one of the sewer seals every year. That, combined with the lack of floor grilles, provides a treacherous drop, which is usually enough to stop even the most curious in their tracks."

"Why?"

"'Cos that's where I keep my stash of liberated kit and non-petty cash. You know I don't trust banks with ill-gotten gains."

"ROB faller?"

"There's four fallers in the building, Left-In-Front, Right-In-Front, Left-Out-Back, Right-Out-Back."

"So what's in the Right Out Back Faller?"

"Dosh. All my dosh. Years of it. Stuffed into what, to all intents and purposes, looks like a large sewer line."

"Arty Murray's found it?" I gasped.

"It would appear so. I'd best investigate!"

"I'll come with you."

"No, you stay here. I don't want anyone thinking that both of us have left the office." With that the Bastard, armed with his torch-shaped cattle prod and a set of jump leads, strode out.

I waited for some time. I fired up the CCTV monitors to follow his progress - to no avail. The CCTV circuits were dead.

Sprinting to the corner of the building with only a battery-powered stapler for protection, I found a half-open door, marked "Reichenbach - Buildings Maintenance", obviously some form of pun.

Opening the door fully, I saw evidence of a struggle, a splintered rail here, a drop of blood there.

There was worse to come. A floor and a half below, caught on a pipe fitting, I saw a strip of cloth that could only have come from the Bastard's T-shirt.

I gazed into the black abyss and shouted his name. My voice echoed back at me, but no-one answered.