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archive:stories:progx

Programmer X by Greg Borek

Mr. Noodle, I'm glad you could meet me for lunch.

Well, Jenkins, I always have time for my managers. Besides, you made it sound very important. What's so urgent?

Now that I have had time to think about it the matter I wanted to discuss seems to lose some of its urgency. But the issue is still important enough to bring to your attention.

Why a lunch meeting? Why not just bring this up at the manager's weekly meeting?

I thought you should hear about this yourself first, away from the office. I wanted to discuss one of my programmers, Franklin.

Franklin? One of my star employees. Excellent programmer, good fellow, salt of the earth. Wins all kinds of productivity awards, doesn't he? What about him?

I know he writes clear, concise, I dare say perfect code. Always gets his work in on time, exactly to specification. Yes, he's a wonderful employee, but have you ever actually met him?

Well, no, but he works the night shift, doesn't he?

That's what I wanted to talk to you about. Franklin is in my department, and I felt that it was about time to meet him face to face. Whenever I would send him e-mail to set up a meeting, he always came up with a last minute excuse. I accepted his excuses initially, but they became too regular, then too contrived. When I asked his immediate supervisor, I was surprised to find out that he has never met Franklin either. As a matter of fact, no one has.

How can that be? Some one must have hired him.

Apparently everyone thought someone else had recruited, interviewed, and hired him. Curious, I wanted to investigate his personal life.

Why? That's a bit irregular, isn't it? Maybe he's just eccentric, a hermit or something. As long as his work is excellent, I don't think we should bother him. Hm. You don't suppose one of the other employees is acting like a programmer?

No, I thought of that. They are all too busy with their own work, and besides no one else has his genius for clarity. I thought I might see him on payday when he picks up his paycheck, but he has direct deposit. I decided I would drop in on him at home. I got his address from personnel and visited his apartment building. I asked the apartment manager about Franklin and he said that he has never met him in person, that all of their business is conducted over the telephone. Although he never met him personally, Franklin's an excellent tenant: quiet, always pays the rent on time, no complaints. The manager didn't think it was odd no one ever saw Franklin because of the hours he keeps. When I went to the apartment, you'll be amazed at what I found.

What?

Absolutely nothing. The apartment is just a front. I resolved to get to the bottom of this by surprising Franklin at the office. I decided I would come in at night unannounced and confront him. I came in one night and waited. He never showed. Of course, he may have been sick. The thing is the next day, his work was done and he had e-mailed several people during that time.

Could he be remotely accessing our computers?

Not possible, sir. The security we have set up doesn't allow access from outside the building. I decided to go back the next night and search the building for him. When I couldn't find him, I decided to get drastic. Since no one else was in the building, I went outside and turned on the alarms. If he was anywhere in the building he would set off the motion detectors.

Did he?

No. Sir, what I am going to tell you may sound fantastic but it can be the only explanation. Your star employee doesn't exist.

What? That is ridiculous. Someone has to be writing his code.

No sir, after careful study of network activity logs, computer CPU usage, security files, and Christmas party attendance sheets, I can only conclude that what we have here is a virtual employee.

A what?

Although Mr. Franklin is one of our best and most productive employees, he is actually nothing more than a computer program that is masquerading as a person. This is the only conclusion that can be drawn after studying all of the facts.

What do you propose we do?

Absolutely nothing. {RAH}


Greg Borek is a C programmer with a "Highway Helper" (OK, "Beltway Bandit" - but don't tell his boss we told you) in Falls Church, VA. He has previously been mistaken for a vampire. Netmail to: Greg Borek at 1:261/1129. Internet: greg.borek@rah.clark.net


Real Programmers never work 9 to 5. If any real programmers are around at 9 AM, it's because they were up all night.

Real Programmers don't write in BASIC. Actually, no programmers write in BASIC, at least after the age of 12.

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