Victor can't miss the nameplate. The big gold letters on the door scream the importance of the office's occupant.
DR. THADDEUS STRINGFELLOW
This is Victor's first support call on the Vice-Chancellor. Stringfellow was Ted 's customer - until Ted suffered his recent nervous breakdown. Could the two be connected?
He raps on the door, hoping no one is at home. The sound of a chair scraping across the floor puts paid to that. The door opens to reveal a pair of bifocals perched precariously on a nose filched from Pinocchio.
'You are?' says a thin mouth, lurking in the shadow of the nose.
Victor holds out his ID card. 'I am.'
Victor follows the nose into the room. Every surface is covered in books. Closed, open, tumbling off shelves, strewn across the floor. The only place where there is none is a large, leather-covered desk in the middle of the room. The top is occupied by an overflowing in-tray, a 22" monitor, a wireless keyboard and a mouse.
Stringfellow eases himself on to the edge of the desk, peers at Victor over his spectacles. 'You took your time, young man.'
'Got stuck in traffic.'
'That's what Ted used to say. Are you his apprentice?'
'Only it might be a complicated problem, you see. Beyond your experience?'
Victor feels his mouth tighten. 'What's the problem? The ticket says "difficulty with The Cloud".'
'That would be my diagnosis.'
Smiling inwardly, Victor gives Stringfellow his sympathetic look. 'Very tricky. It's been giving us a lot of problems recently.'
'Yeah. Incredible. worse than any virus. Completely takes out the internet.'
Stringfellow's jaw drops. 'No!'
'Fortunately I've had all the training. Otherwise . . .' Victor draws his fingernail across his neck, 'that would be that.' He gets down on his hands and knees, crawls under the desk, says to Stringfellow, 'This Cloud problem often happens after the cleaners have been in.'
'That's remarkable! They were in here first thing this morning!'
Victor rolls his eyes, plugs the router power cord back into the socket.
NEXT MONTH: Victor gets a call from the farm