BOFH: One flew over the PFY's nest
Nurse, nurse – he's out of bed again
"He's what I refer to as a... megalotechno," the psychiatrist explains happily to me. "Completely devoted to IT - it's so rare to capture one alive. We've tried to study him of course but he's much too geeky for our standardised aptitude tests."
"Mmm," I murmur non-committally, following him through pale green corridors and pausing momentarily as he swipes himself into the secure wing.
He rattles off the rules: "Do not reach into his room, do not touch his door. Keep back from the window. Don't pass him anything or show him any IT equipment of any kind. Don't browse to any network addresses on your phone that he might give you, nor read any email messages you may get purporting to be from him at any time in the future - even if they state that he has come into a large fortune and needs help to get it out of the third world nation that it's stuck in."
He pauses, then adds: "And again, do not show him any IT equipment, and definitely do not hand him any IT equipment - no exceptions. Do you understand?
"Absolutely," I nod.
"I'm going to show you why we insist on these precautions. Two days ago as a special reward for good behaviour we gave him a kebab from a local takeaway outfit. He apparently choked and his restraints were removed to permit one of the orderlies to perform the Heimlich manoeuvre. As the abdominal thrust was being delivered he must have felt the smartphone in his carer's top pocket. He did this to it..."
The psychiatrist flips out a picture of a badly brutalised iPhone 5 with a cracked screen with what looks to be half a boot-print on the face.
"We couldn't save the iPhone but we did manage to recover our main fileshare after he used the VPN client to somehow insert a virus into our server. His pulse never got over 75, not even when he subscribed everyone on the staff contacts list to several porn and gambling mailing lists. AND he still managed to finish the kebab... "
"Mmm," I respond.
"I keep him in here."
The psychiatrist gestures through an observation window in a door looking down a half-lit green corridor.
"We'll want to keep to the right," he says, leading the way
"Stephen?" the Psychiatrist asks quietly.
"Good morning," the pyjama-clad PFY says with uncharacteristic formality.
"I've brought someone to talk to you. You remember Simon, don't you? You worked for him?"
"Work," the PFY says. "Present tense."
"Yes, well, I don't think we need to..."
"WITH, not for," the PFY says, gazing upwards at me and sniffing the air. "You use generic brand contact cleaner - and sometimes acetone for the difficult jobs - but not today."
"However could he know that?" the Psychiatrist asks.
"HE BLOODY WORKS WITH ME!" I snap, before turning back to the PFY. "Did you do all those drawings?" I ask, pointing to the diagrams at the back of the PFY's room.
"Yes, we're very big on art therapy here," the Psychiatrist responds. "Aren't we?"
"Yes," the PFY responds. "This picture is the floor plan of this building - the pastel colours denoting corridors and the foil bottle caps denoting secure doors."
"I don't think that tha..." the shrink starts.
"THIS picture is a schematic of the security system, cameras in red, different coloured wool for fire, access control, cameras and alarms."
"And this picture is a fragmentation image of the good doctor's desktop machine main drive, and that inset picture is the fragmentation on the secret drive that only appears when you press the switch that you can only get to when the DVD caddy is open..."
"How did you..."
"A telemarketer tried to sell me a 'power conditioner' once. I looked up his home address and ate a chicken Vindaloo with extra spice and kidney beans and a fine chianti then had a dump behind his couch when he went shopping," says the PFY, whose eyes have taken on a fevered gleam.
"You probably want to ignore most of what he's saying now," I suggest.
"Where did you get this information?!" the shrink demands, pointing to the pictures.
"Quid pro quo!" the PFY says.
"What?" says the doc.
"He wants a pound. To tell you," I say.
"No, quid pro quo literally means 'this for that'," the Psychiatrist responds condescendingly.
"You know on second thoughts it was probably 50 quid," I reply. "But you can probably trade knowledge for knowledge if you want."
"I'm not giving him any information on our security system!"
"I'm guessing he already has that," I say, pointing at the pictures. "In any case, how's his paranoia going?"
The Shrink responds: "He believes the Moon landings were faked, the CIA killed Kennedy, KFC has addictive chemicals, bottled water is a conspiracy and global warming is being deliberately covered up by large multinationals."
"Yes, but how's his paranoia coming?"
"Seriously? Anyway, I really can't explain how he knows so much about our security."
"Perhaps you should ask him?"
"How did you get our security information?" he asks the PFY.
"Quid pro quo."
"What's your earliest memory of computing?" asks the PFY.
"Computing. Your earliest memory?"
"My father had a Portable PC - a luggable they called them," says the Psychiatrist.
"Tell me about it... and don't lie - because I'll know."
"It was a work machine. One night it just... died."
"No, it just got noisier and noisier for days and then one night the screen just went off," the shrink says, sighing. "I used to play a character-based version of Moonlander on it. And then it was gone. I was 10 years old."
"What happened next?"
"I went with my father to his workplace when he returned the computer. I... ran away," whispers the Shrink.
"Why? Did someone show you a Windows Vista pamphlet?" prompts the PFY.
"No, they didn't have that back then."
"Of course they didn't. Continue. You didn't just run away did you?"
"No. I heard a strange noise. From the technician's room."
"What was it?"
"It was a screaming. I didn't want to look, but I had to."
"What did you see?" asks the PFY.
"Luggables - about 20 of them. The room was so hot. The fans - I know that now - they were running so loud."
"They were stress-testing them to destruction so that they could get them replaced by the company as faulty because they'd never approve upgrades?"
"And you ran away."
"Yes. But I took one with me. I got a sack barrow. It was so heavy. But I got it to the elevator. The lift lamp was out. It was so dark, so noisy. I thought if I could just save one..."
"And where did you go?"
"I... I pressed the button for the second floor by mistake. I thought I pressed Ground. It was dark."
"So you ended up in an office. With a computer on a sack barrow."
"Yes. They called my dad."
"And what became of your computer?"
"Put it in the hottest part of the room and ran endless VisiCalc calculations on it till the fans screamed their last?"
"You still wake up sometimes don't you? In the dark..."
"And hear the screaming of the fans?"
"You probably have a mental health issues," the PFY says, turning to me: "Right-o, let's go."
"You can't. You're under my care!"
"Nah, he's not," I say. "It was all based around a complaint which has since been shredded and all electronic information on it no longer exists... if I know the PFY."
"It has," the PFY says.
"In fact, I'd be very surprised if this door was still even locked." I say, pulling the door to the PFY's cell open. "Ta-da! Actually, given that you have no reason for him being here, technically you're a kidnapper."
"I'll take that 50 quid now!" the PFY says, seeing an opportunity. "Actually, make it 100!"
"B...but you were incarcerated for five days!" the shrink sniffs, handing his wallet over.
"Yeah - the flat was getting painted," the PFY says. "Needed somewhere to stay. And besides, about four weeks ago you pushed in front of us at a coffee shop, thinking we didn't notice."
"But we noticed," I add. "We noticed."
"Perfect storm," the PFY says, extracting some cash and dropping the wallet into the Shrink's trembling hands.