Saved by the contract.

“The technician should be here soon,” Kevin addressed his weary staff. It was late at night and the server had been down for more than 3 hours. Without it, the network at the hospital could not function.

“What’s the technician going to do for us?” Charles yawned. “That server’s more than 30 years old. You can’t find parts for it anymore.”

“You had your chance to order the upgrade for the network,” Robert added, “but instead you chose to renew the maintenance contract on a network we all know is on its last legs.”

“He’s here,” Kevin smiled as he opened the door. In walked the technician, wearing a plain blue uniform and a blue baseball cap while carrying a toolbox and a large, flat box. He nodded in greeting to the staff.

“You know what to do,” Kevin said, and the technician nodded again before venturing into the computer room. Turning back to the staff, he announced,”Now we wait.”

“What’s the technician going to do that we haven’t tried?” Robert asked. “I checked everything inside the server, the connections, the peripherals, everything. I think it’s finally croaked.”

“Add the fact that it’s impossible to find parts for it anymore,” Charles added. “Everything in that server is obsolete. It’s nothing but an oversized paperweight now.”

A few minutes later, the technician walked back into the office and announced, “Your server’s up now.”

“What?” Charles was incredulous. “What did it need?”

“A new motherboard.”

WHAT?” Charles exploded. “How the hell did you secure a motherboard for a server that’s more than 30 years old?”

“Simple,” the technician smiled, “we buy our hardware in bulk and then place it in storage for use in the future.”

WHAT??

“Come on, let’s reboot the interfaces and go home,” Kevin said.

“None of this is making any sense,” Charles muttered. “All right, let’s finish up and get the hell out of here. I’m tired.”

As the rest of the staff made sure the network was operational, Kevin snuck into his office for a quick phone call. “Is everything up and running on your end?” he asked.

“Yes, sir,” replied a voice on the other end of the line. “We’re back in business.”

“Good. I’m glad you guys had the right parts for the server.”

“Anything to keep your network the way it is,” replied the voice. “You do remember our agreement for you to not upgrade the hardware. Our operations depend on protocols used by your existing network since obsolete in the newer firmware.”

“I never did understand the nature of your operations,” Kevin signed.

“And you never will. Have a good night.”

Click.

The line went dead. Kevin sat at his desk, wondering about the secret organization with whom he had the maintenance contract. The only thing he knew was its location, underground, directly under the hospital and using the same network for its clandestine operations.

“Kevin?” Robert said. “Everything’s back up now. Let’s go home.”

“Agreed,” Charles joined in. “Maybe tomorrow you’ll be in a better frame of mind to order the upgrade.”

I can’t.

Kevin let out a heavy sigh as he stood up to leave the office.

I just can’t.

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