"Ok James, I think it's time we released you into the wild," I say.
"What?!" James gasps, no doubt thinking window, brief scream, distant thud, car alarm.
"Into the wild," The PFY says. "We can teach you no more. From now on it's all practical experience."
"We've found you a job, faked some credentials and you have an interview across town in a little under thirty seven minutes."
"Job, fake CV, 36 minutes," I summarise.
"But I've got to get back to Uni next week!"
"No, no, that's all taken care of," the PFY says.
"What, you faked my degree?!"
"Didn't have to. Your supervisor accepted the paper you'd submitted to the Rutherford Advanced Computing Society as proof of work – and very good stuff it was too. The committee intend to publish it in next month's newsletter. I think there's an award ceremony too – and a thousand quid scholar's prize."
Poor old James is a bit out of his depth here. Even more so when the lights in Mission Control go out and a spotlight is shone into his face.
"Your name is James and your specialist subject is Bastard Computing. YOUR TIME STARTS NOW." I say. "Budgeting – you are asked for a figure for next year's budget. What do you do?"
"Go high and spend even more."
"Yes – can you expand a little bit?"
"Go high, spend higher – because of the crisis." "Which crisis?" "The one I will manufacture. Y2K7, Ransomware, Mars malware attack, etc"
"Correct. Name the two easy methods to get out of doing something you're told to do."
"Uh.. Say you need time to think about it and, uh, agree and keep repeating the job back to them incorrectly until they give up and do ti themselves."
"The network is down, what do you do?" "The network isn't down." "Correct. What do these three have in common: Richard Stallman's beer keg, The Boss' drawer and Bill Gates grave? I'll have to hurry you."
"Bucket list" James gasps "They're on my Dump bucket list."
"Correct. The Rutherford Advanced Computing Society has it's international headquarters in which city?"
"No, Prague. And finally, the annual membership fee for a fellow of the Rutherford Advanced Computing Society is what?"
"It is €1,500. James, you passed on one, missed one and answered several. Congratulations, you are admitted to the Rutherford Advanced Computing Society."
"So I have to pay you €1,500 then?" he asks drily.
"Don't be ridiculous – membership of technical organisations should be paid for by your employer. You'll want to stipulate that."
"What IS the Rutherfo.."
"It's an incorporated international society with members all over the world which investigates new technologies, makes high level recommendations to industry and also provides certification for products which meet their standards."
"For a fee, I presume?"
"Obviously. Look, in the world of smoke and mirrors IT, you need someone you can trust to make recommendations about future spend."
"Then how come I've never heard of them before?"
"You wouldn't have - the actual membership of the society is kept secret to guarantee vendor neutrality whilst maintaining the individual's ability to inform other members of potential technology flaws and weaknesses without fear of employer reprisals."
"You make it sound like a cross between Opus Dei, the Freemasons and Wikileaks."
The PFY and I share a knowing glance.
"And what if I choose to go back to University?" he asks.
"After the window, the quiet shriek, the distant thud and the car alarm?" I ask.
James looks to the door nervously.
"Locked," The PFY says. "With that code you never got round to seeing."
James looks at the window nervously. He's starting to know what it feels like to be in a maze of twisting passages all seemingly alike.
"The thing is," I say kindly, "you're looking at this the wrong way. You're thinking this is a blue pill/red pill scenario when in reality we stuffed the red pill into your mouth and held your nose weeks ago.
"This the real world – a world where IT Managers are often dumber than the cleaners, the cleaners far smarter than the users and processor speed being almost entirely irrelevant....
"It's a world where you get paid to make up new words for the same old crap simply by changing the access method of one of the layers, where literally anyone can be a visionary and the beauty and elegance of bespoke craftsperson code is undermined by a user who demands a flashing font so that other users will know that the box marked 'warning' is important."
James is conflicted. We can tell he's contemplating the options in front of him and whether a blue antidote pill might exist in some parallel universe. It's the deciding moment and the PFY cannot interfere, any more than I interfered when then PFY was faced with this same decision many years ago – or my mentor interfered when it was my decision several years before that.
The tense silence is broken only by the quietest of shrieks outside the window, a distant thud and the beginnings of a car alarm, which only goes to illustrate how dangerous fitting a spring mechanism to the full-height window in the meeting room above us can be.
There has been a tragic workplace accident involving our beloved Director.
James has made his decision with no external influence – the same way the PFY did when I asked him to help me load that unusually heavy roll of carpeting into a van all those years ago – the same way I did several years before that when the same van, piloted by my mentor mounted the pavement during an otherwise routine kebab run.
He now knows what we know.
He's taken the red pill...