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“Hello, you have reached the Prophet support line. This is Bob, how may I help you?” said a cheery voice with a distinctively Indian accent, and Ben snorted.

For some reason, the database company thought it would sound better to give their overseas customer-service reps American names. Ben didn’t call the general number anymore, bouncing himself up the ladder of help-desk services a few tiers by using the personal number of a competent IT rep (IT stands for “information technology”—techspeak for people who know which end of a computer is up), so he could converse with someone who could actually do something. “Bob” was pretty sharp.

“Hey, Rajeev,” Ben said. “It’s me over here in Washington State. I need to talk to you about this f . . .” He drew in a deep breath and counted to ten. “Ducky. This ducky new package your company sold ours.”

“Ben?” Rajeev asked a little uncertainly. “Is this Ben?”

Rajeev and he had known each other, by phone, for a long time.

“It’s me,” Ben confirmed.


Thanks to Ben, Rajeev knew more English swearwords than all of his buddies in India combined—which explained his tentative greeting.

“I have a bet,” Ben told him. “No swearing for a week. There’s a bottle of eighteen-year-old scotch in the balance.” Werewolves might not get drunk, but that didn’t affect the flavor, or even the initial hit of a good, old, smoky scotch. It wasn’t that he couldn’t buy his own bottle of scotch, but the bet was with his Alpha—it was the principle of the thing.

“Ah.” In the following silence, Ben heard Rajeev calculating Ben’s chances for a moment before he recalled that someone might be monitoring the call for efficiency. “Good luck with that. You called with a problem?”

Reminded of his troubles, Ben growled. “Yes. This program is a piece of . . . of junk. My boss says his boss thought it would be a s . . . spiffy idea to replace my program that does a . . . perfectly adequate job already with this . . . program. I expect the . . . nice gentleman in question is getting a f . . . fiddling kickback.”

Rajeev laughed. “I think, my friend, that you might consider avoiding adjectives altogether.” There was the sound of keyboard keys clicking, then Rajeev sighed. “I see it. They have purchased the new release of Quotalk for your department. Your entire department.” There were things that he couldn’t say, or he’d lose his job. In the silence, Ben heard Rajeev’s unspoken dismay. What were they thinking selling this half-written spaghetti code to a customer who has never offended us? But Rajeev would never say such a thing over the phone because he, like Ben, needed his job.

Rajeev cleared his throat, and said carefully, “We have been getting calls all week with this iteration of the program.” There was nothing wrong with Rajeev’s English except a thick accent—two thick accents, really, India by way of Great Britain. Ben didn’t have any trouble with it because he already had the British half himself.

“Which is giving you trouble?” Rajeev continued, his voice carefully professional. “Is it the way the auto-installer doesn’t load or the way the program keeps overwriting your servlet container?” That was as close to sarcasm as Rajeev permitted himself. “I have a patch for the first, but the last is one we are still struggling with.”

The Prophet database (of course, the whole IT—computer geek—world called it the For-Profit database) was well written, but all the programs the mother company tried to sell with it were garbage. Because the Prophet was the gold standard of databases, the company who owned it got to sit on that reputation for everything else. Ben was pretty sure that if the people doing the buying had also been the people who had to use the programs, his life would be a lot easier.

As it was, once his company’s overlords bought the stupid add-ons, they made them mandatory. Happily for Ben, the security guys would call him a day before they conducted the mandatory just-to-make-sure-you-are-doing-as-you-are-told inspections of his hard drive so he’d have time to hide the unapproved programs he actually used somewhere else. Happy for the company, too, because if Ben actually had to use the crap—he arbitrarily decided that crap wasn’t a swearword—if he used the crap they mandated, nothing on any of the computers in the company would work.

“I wrote a patch to defend my servlet container settings,” he told Rajeev. “I’ll send it to you. And why are your programmers still using servlets, anyway?”

“To a man with a hammer,” said Rajeev wisely, “all problems look like nails. Thank you for your offer of help.”