Chapter 3

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Scott arrived early, at 2:45 p.m., as usual. He entered Simeon College's Technology Center through the maroon metal door marked Employees Only, as usual. He pleasantly greeted the regular IT staff, as usual. Then he took his lunch box into the staff lunch room, where he placed his pastrami and Swiss sandwich in the staff refrigerator. He didn't mark the sandwich bag this time. He had been a bit wary after some employee thefts but let his security concerns slide a bit after considering how ludicrous it all was. Really, who steals a premade salad or leftover pizza? Now, that's pathetic. If you get botulism, well, that's your fault, lunch room thief! He then took the empty lunch box with him into the cubicle, where he met the IT administrative assistant.

"Oh, hi, Scott," the bob-haired slightly plump blonde said. "Been a crazy day. We had a network outage that affected connections in most of the academic buildings. About a hundred really pissed-off profs calling in. And then there were the thesis students worried about losing their work. You know, you wouldn't be so worried if you backed up your work and quit flooding your hard drive with crap. But some kids just don't get it. Oh well. Hard lesson to learn, I guess."

"Oh, great. Well, I hope that's all been ironed out."

Robin Thorsen rose from the ergonomic black office chair and walked toward the staff lunch room, speaking as she went. "Yeah, we had to route most of the connections to the temporary servers over in the Blackwood building." A bold move. Those temporary servers had been sitting there for ages—which, in IT lingo, was a few months. The outgoing IT director had purchased them last minute, a move most upper administrators had viewed as wasteful. Well, they'd been proven wrong. Scott respected Bill Epstein, viewing him as one of the more brilliant directors Simeon's IT department had ever had. The new director, Al Kohler, was (and let me phrase this as kindly as I am able) a bit of a martinet and micromanager. Scott, always trying to please, did everything he could to keep Al's wrath at bay. This may have made him look like a bit of a brownnoser to the rest of the department, and they wouldn't have been far off the truth there. But Scott really needed this job. He didn't have the confidence or motivation to get another one. So again, it was go along to get along.

Speak of the devil, and he shall appear. Al Kohler was tall, dark, and vain. His dark-brown sport coat and tan chinos were immaculately pressed, his pencil-thin mustache exuding flair and panache. What an arrogant, pretentious dork, Scott thought.

"Oh, Scotty!" Al said. "Great to see you here!"

Scotty. Only Scott's mother, ex-wife, and a few close friends called him Scotty. Al was none of those. From his lips, the childish nickname was grating and degrading. And it's great to see me here? Where else would I be, you self-important ass clown?

"Uh, yeah, Al, I'm here," Scott responded as Al walked over and clasped his hand on Scott's shoulder. Of course, Scott didn't care for that. That's a violation of my personal space, and it makes me uncomfortable. And it hurts. Don't you realize that actually hurts, you knucklehead? But he would never actually say that out loud.

"How's my IT god? Hey, Robin let you know about the major clusterfuck we had today, didn't she? I'm sure that if you were here, you could have saved the day!"

Scott knew that Al wasn't being sincere, because Al was just not sincere. "Well, sir, I just do my job. Follow the instructions. That's what I do."

"Yes, but you do it so well! You know, it's almost time for performance evaluations. Maybe this year you'll get that merit increase you've been wanting."

Sure, Scott believed that. He also believed they were making snow cones in hell. "Yes, sir," he responded.

"Of course, that is completely dependent on whether you get me those coding documents I asked for last week as well as running the routine firewall checks. You are going to get me those documents, tonight, in PDF format, are you not?"

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