The Bastard Operator From Hell
The Bastard Operator From Hell wreaks his terrible revenge ...

After a few days away I always attempt to come in slightly early to catch up. So when I roll up at 11 o'clock I find the place ominously quiet. This could mean two things; either my understudy didn't make it through my time off, or he's been brainwashed by the boss and they're both hidden away staring at the monitor of the closed-circuit BOFH-watching system that they somehow installed while I was away. A quick scan of all the suitable camera points shows that nothing quite so technical has happened (perhaps the boss remembered that it didn't work first time they tried either), so I wait for the knock at the door.

I'm not disappointed.

"Morning, operator," booms the boss as he strides in.

Odd, the boss and I are on first name terms, he usually calls me 'the bastard'.

Hang on, this is a different boss.

"You're probably wondering who I am."

He's on the ball, this one.

"You could say that," says I. "What happened to the previous generation?"

"Nasty business. Installing security cameras or something according to the paramedics. Something went 'bam' and there they both were, all kind of charred and surprised-looking. Still, I'm still around, so look on the bright side."

Nasty. Ah, so they did try the cameras. Lucky I remembered to wire up all the video cable to the three-phase supply.

"While you've been away, we've decided to make a few changes," says the boss.

"We?" (What I really hate is someone trying to change my system).

"We've noticed that the systems around here are slow," he continued, "and that we need some new kit to to keep up with everything. It seems that the new stuff they bought last month just can't cope with all the software we run on it."

For a minute I thought I smelled trouble; but it seems that my clock-chipping exercise paid off. Neat bit of lateral thinking that - buy the box the supplier recommends, clock it down from 133MHz to 13MHz, and wait for someone to reason that they need something ten times faster to do the work. Not only that, but the supplier gets sued for selling us unsuitable kit.

"Really?" I inquire cheerily. "What did you have in mind?"

"Well, we figured you would be in the best position to tell us what to buy, since you're the one who understands the technology."

He's damned right; not just anyone understands how I get the pictures from the stationery store to the TV in the coffee room at that quality, especially with Nicam Stereo sound and zoom facility. "Leave it with me," I reassure him. "I'll see if I can milk a bit more performance out of this lot first." With a bit of luck I can get a couple of thousand a week for a couple of months for 'upgrades' and wind the clock back up a bit every Friday night (that's what they mean by incremental upgrades isn't it?). By the end of it, I'll have enough for that new 52-inch 'console display', which has a wide-screen TV and a built-in satellite decoder. AND The boss will be happy that he's saved a couple of hundred grand.

I sometimes wonder how I get away with it.

Unfortunately that just leaves the more mundane jobs of the day. The e-mail filter is disappointing; perhaps the CEO and the girl from Accounts are starting to catch on and are using code.

I flick through the excuse book. Oh no, not lunar disturbances; who will believe that?

The phone rings. Damn, that was careless, I forgot to have it diverted.

"Computer room."

"Oh, I'm terribly, terribly sorry. Really, terribly, awfully sorry."

That's nice, but perhaps a little less than descriptive.

"Could you elaborate?"

"I just broke the mainframe."

Interesting. We don't have one of those any more. I downsized it to something with faster graphics when Doom II came out.

"How did you do that?"

"I just added an entry to our mailshot with a spelling mistake in it, and now the mainframe won't respond. It's only my second day here and I broke the computer."

"Where are you calling from?"


It all becomes clear. She's on the segment that's 'accidentally' shorted for the next half-hour. That reminds me, I must put in a random-fault-duration feature before someone notices that I fix every network fault in precisely twenty-nine minutes.

"OK, don't worry. How long ago did you send the entry?"

"About two minutes."

"No problem. Because it's your boss's database, the mainframe contacts an automatic system on his PC which has to confirm the transaction before the mainframe will accept it. As long as you get to his office in the next ... 23 seconds, and pull out the network plug, the transaction won't have had time to get there for confirmation."

"Oh thank you, thank you. How can I ever thank you enough?"

I can think of a few ways, but she's dropped the phone and run for it, and I find myself shouting "It's the yellow wire" to nobody.

I wait for the phone to ring. Given that it's a 20 second run, and a further 15 seconds for her boss to comprehend why a secretary should suddenly barge in and rip out all the wires from his computer I take the opportunity of a quick 'grep' of the FTP log. Ten GIFs and fourteen JPEGs, they'll take a while to download, so I'd better just allocate myself a bigger slice of the won't do them any harm to share 8Kbps for a while.

The phone rings, three seconds early.

"Computer room?"


"Can you explain why my secretary just charged in here and wrecked my PC, saying that you told her to?" he demands.

No, surely I couldn't get away with it. He's got to see through it...

"Lunar disturbances."

The sudden aura of sympathy at the other end of the phone tells me I've got away with it again. Not just a pretty face, more a Bastard Astronomer from Hell ...

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