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MoD pays a visit in computer bunker hunt

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The essential guide to IT transformation

Episode 35

"We've, ah, got a bit of a problem," the head of IT says, entering Mission Control.

"What's that then?" I ask, always willing to help management out - particularly if they've just come in.

"It's about that Top 500 IT-Savvy companies survey we did a few weeks back."

"What's that then?"

"The editor of the magazine would like to see the room."

"I'm sure he would."

"And so would dozens of readers of the IT Survey, apparently," the head adds.

"Of course, you told them that as a secure underground facility we couldn't possibly let just anyone have access?"

"They said they'd be happy with photos."

"Well why didn't you ask sooner!"

...quarter of an hour of the PFY's time later...

"So what do you think - too many Crays?" I ask, handing over an image to the head of IT.

"Perhaps...10 is a little over the top - and you can tell that one's just a mirror image of that one because the label's back to front."

"Good point - we'll drop the Crays down to...three and add a few more racks of 1U machines. And don't worry, I'll put you in the background somewhere checking the dipstick of a machine."

"Thank you."

"Don't thank me, thank the PFY and the good folk at Adobe!"

...Later that day in the head of IT's office...

"A problem with the photo we sent," the head murmurs with his hand over the handset.

"Yes?"

"They say that by their calculations the facility is about three times larger than our building."

"Of course it is," I say. "It's a bunker!"

"Under our building..."

"Yes."

I take a seat while this information is relayed with the relevant hint of indignation.

"And they say the local council records don't show any consents for the building of this facility?" the Head asks, getting a little worried.

"They wouldn't would they - it's...uhmmm...one the ex Ministry of Defence Cold War command shelters!" I ad lib. "No records were ever kept - uh...for security reasons."

...

"Now they want to know how we managed to get those large Cray computers down there."

"Down the missile shafts," I say, wondering if I'm going a BIT far...

...Later that week...

"Uh Simon...Could we have a word?" the head of IT asks, looking slightly pale.

"Mmm?" I ask, noticing a couple of suited figures behind him.

"This is...Mr...uhm...John and David from the Ministry of...Defence."

"And how can we help you?" the PFY asks, entering the conversation from the Tape Safe room.

"It's about your computer bunker" Mr...uhm...John says. "We were contacted by a magazine publisher interested in the details of our disused site..."

"Yes?"

"I think we all know that it doesn't exist."

"Have you not seen the photos?" the PFY asks. "That's some of my best work."

"And highly imaginative. But still not real."

"What's your point?" the PFY asks.

"The point is you can't go around fabricating ex-MOD sites."

"So fabrication can only be used for Weapons of Mass Destruction purposes?" the PFY asks.

"I..."

"What is the real problem?" I ask, before things can turn nasty.

"You said you had an ex-MOD site."

"Yes..."

"And you referred to a missile silo."

"A missile shaft."

"Which has caused some concerns about missiles sites in inner London."

"Just tell them it was a Cold War plan which was never put into effect," the PFY suggests.

"And there's the crux of the matter - why should we lie just to support your lie?"

"Two reasons," I say. "One, because there's always going to be some people who'll think there was a site here - even if you excavated the ground to prove there wasn't, and two, with a 'neither confirm nor deny policy' you could make a small fortune selling fictitious ex-MOD bunkers."

"I think you'll need to expand a bit why people would believe the bunker," John says.

"Actually, I'd rather hear about the small fortune stuff," David says.

...a day later...

"...so I've lined up a couple of companies, one who'd like to be number 200 or so, and the other who'd like to be in the 400s somewhere," I say. "...so what have you got?"

"Trafalgar and Russell Squares," David says.

"The place is riddled with underground stations!" the PFY comments.

"These are very deep installations - made to survive even the heaviest bombings," David says.

"And there might be a bit of a problem given that one of the sites is on the other side of the Thames."

"Linked to the site by a tunnel similar to the one which links MI5 and MI6," David adds.

"You've pretty much got it all sewn up then...apart from the finder's fee," I say.

"How about we waive that given that your company is getting your facility for nothing. After all, we'd hate to have a disastrous structural failure."

Bugger, Checkmate!

"How about 10 pints and a curry then?" the PFY suggests - always the peacemaker.

"That'll do nicely!"

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