This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's disturbed imagination, are used fictitiously, or are used with the permission of Victor Echo, and any resemblance to actual persons, living, dead, undead or mostly harmless, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Washington D.C. in the fall is unlike any other city. Instead of the sighing winds bringing the smell of fires, we have the vitriol of a quarterback controversy. Instead of the crisp crunch of leaves on the sidewalk, we have the sounds of laser printers as the federal government rushes to spend any money left over by the end of September. Fall in Washington is also one of extremes in temperature. On one day it could be a high in the mid to upper eighties and the next it is barely out of the sixties. We have forty degree temperature swings in a single day, making dressing a challenge, especially when it is forty degrees in the dark of the morning and eighty by five o'clock.
One thing Washington shares with its other urban counterparts is the commuter. However, most commuters in Washington tend to start their day at times most farmers would feel were indecent. Even The Who did not start until 5:15. So, I found myself on the first train into the city from my dormitory community. Normally I work or read. One thing about Information Technology is there is never enough time to read and always too much to read. This morning, however, I was content to sit back and listen to music and relax to the rolling gait of the train.
From the train station in Washington, at this hour of the morning I normally walk the two miles to my office, but this morning, I had places to be, so I made my way to the subway, following the crowd down into the earth like being swallowed by some massive animal. At this hour, you are sharing space with the security guards and the first shift of folks at the Pentagon and other early birds that generally are getting out shortly after lunch. I did not have such luck, my day being closer to ten hours than eight by the time everything is done. Today was going to be longer, but I was not bemoaning the hours today. In fact, I was looking forward to them.
I arrived at my stop and ascended to the street. I debated getting coffee and decided against it, instead crossing the park to her hotel. I crossed the lobby, not really paying attention, my mind a little distracted, rode up the elevator and walked down the hall to her door. I was about to put the key in the door when I saw the envelope with my name on it.
Darling, Good morning. If you think I am going to be doing anything before 8 AM you really have lost your mind. So stop standing there and get your ass into bed. Please.
I have learned that it is never wise to argue with a woman, especially one who is telling me to get into her bed. I let myself in as quietly as I could. I know that normally she is not only up at this hour but usually at her desk, so the luxury of sleeping in was something I was more than prepared to grant her. I secured the door and put my bags and clothes on the floor and walked over to the bed. Her hair was not long enough to be "sleep tousled" but it was more unruly than normal. I slipped under the blankets and in behind her, putting my arm across her hips. She must have been waiting because she settled back against me, goose bumps rising on her warm skin as it contacted my cooler skin, grabbed my arm and pulled it up between her breasts like a teddy bear and drifted back to sleep. I was more than happy to lie there with her, even though I did not feel the least bit sleepy.
I guess I was tired, or perhaps it was the environment. I had lost an hour of my morning, not that this was bad, and I was awakened by her motion as she climbed out of bed. I took the opportunity to roll onto my back and burrow under the covers, striving to retain as much of the heat as I could. A good thing because in the short space of her absence, her skin had cooled to the point that it was my body that had goose bumps when she climbed back in next to me, her head between chest and shoulder, one arm across my body. I gently ran my nails up and down her back as she settled in.
"Good morning," she whispered, tilting her head up to the point where I could kiss her. It was a little thing really, a brushing of the lips as if she did not have the energy yet to hold up her head. "I see you got my note."
"Yes, I got your note," I replied, kissing her hair. "Good thing you left it, I was able to head off the brass band before they started tuning up."
"You didn't have a brass band," she said, lazily running her fingers over my chest.
"And what makes you think that?" I asked as I rubbed her shoulders.
"Because," she said, this time with more force, turning onto her stomach and looking me straight in the eye, "if you had a brass band out there, hotel security would have thrown you out before you crossed the lobby. They have a very strict policy on brass bands. I checked before I gave you my key."
It was amazing she could keep a straight face through all of that. Two heartbeats later we both broke up laughing and I gathered her up into my arms, rolling us on to our sides and kissed her. Where she had not been fully awake before, there was no question she was now and kissed me back. What started as a tease for her doubting my sincerity rapidly expanded into a full scale questioning of my being and she was doing her best to explore every avenue. I have to admit, she was very thorough. Not liking to be left behind, I offered a counterpoise to ever thrust she made. Her skin was warm against mine by the time her inquisition was complete, our breathing irregular, but our hearts happy.
"So what is the plan for today?" she asked glancing across my shoulder at the clock. "And what time does the day start."
"I seem to remember a note saying that nothing was going to happen before 8 AM, and it looks like we still have more than plenty of time to worry about other things before that. Unless, of course, you would like to start sooner, which can be arranged."
She was emphatic with her negative response, kissing me and rolling me onto my back. Like I said, who was I to argue with her? And if the day started later than 8 AM, I was not going to loose any sleep over it.
"So what are we going to do today," she asked me as she started pulling clothes out of her bag a little later. Freshly showered, she seemed to be deciding between pants and a skirt.
"You want the khaki's," I indicated as she started to pick up her skirt. I had pulled on blue cotton pants and a golf shirt. We had to build a server and probably move it from its current location to our basement computer room several blocks away as I understood it. If we were really lucky we would have a cart to move it with. She looked at me with a questioning glance.
"Much in all as I would like to see you in your finery darling, we have real work to do today," I said as she put her skirt away. "We also have to move the beast before we build it, or move the parts and build it in the computer room, whichever is easiest."
"Wasn't the box moved yesterday?" she asked.
"It was supposed to be, but given the reliability of the help we have at the moment, I am not banking on anything. In fact, I am betting that no one even has the property pass to get it out of the building." We had been working up to this day for the better part of six months.
Summers in Washington are not a contrast. The sun shines straight down on the top of your head from the moment you get up until you got to bed at night. The temperature is somewhere between roast and broil and if you are really lucky, the humidity is less than the total saturation point of air and you feel like you need to be glazed in a lemon-butter-ginger sauce instead of a port wine glaze. That happens once or twice between June and August and August is the worst. August is the month when all the movers and shakers, move and shake their fannies to another part of the country, leaving the trolls and other members of the cave dwelling federal workforce to fend for themselves in understaffed offices and other power centers in the city. The low man on the totem pole is left in charge and nothing is really accomplished. It is the perfect time to get work done because there is no one around to disturb you.
I had been tasked with solving a software distribution problem. Redmond produces some wonderful toys but they seem to take an eternity to implement, especially when you are busy chasing down patches, hot fixes, hardware, and other miscellaneous parts to make the whole mess work reliably. And I neglected to mention that the whole project was unfunded. We had the software, part of the corporate license, but the rest was on a shoestring, and it was thinner than the network fiber connecting the server to the switch and no where near as strong. When life hands you lemons, find someone to throw them at.
It had taken me the better part of four months, working by myself, with my compatriots in the department and a couple of very expensive consultants to get the system to the point where I would dare call it operational. The goal was not just supporting the headquarters though. No that would be too simple. We had to support all the field sites too. Some ten thousand users scattered across all 50 states and a couple of dependencies. And they were not really in big clumps anywhere. Most were little more than ten or twenty people in a broom closet, or in an annex in somebody else's building. We did not even own the network beyond the headquarters where all this data would be flowing. That was not my concern, although I was going to get the grief if the system bottlenecked somewhere.
We were at the point were we had achieved success at headquarters. Now it was time to build the first server to support the field as well as to start training the staff to support it since I was really a special projects person. I created, I designed, and then I passed it over to someone else to run. Normally I did not get to choose the person I handed off to. However, for this project, I had put my foot down and made a choice. OK, so I had not put my foot down, I simply did what I was told for a change and subtly found an engineer I thought was up to the task after the first one assigned to the project flamed out as less than helpful and certainly not ready to learn the skills needed to feed the beast. The fact that the engineer was female, good looking and had a brain was just an extra benefit I was willing to live with.
Today, however, Washington was pulling out all her curves. What had started as a cool morning was rapidly becoming hot, and the sun, less direct than a month ago was still shining down from a sparkling blue sky, and it would still be hot if we had to move a file server six blocks through town on a cart.
We crossed the lobby and walked out into the warm fall air. I was tempted to take her hand and continue walking into Virginia wine country with its rolling hills, a picnic lunch and no cares or concerns. Instead, I took firm hold on my resolve and we crossed the park to the office and walked down the stairs to the dungeon that was my office space.
After a few introductions, I leaned that the server had indeed, not been moved to the computer room where it was supposed to be. My boss watched my blood pressure rise as he got on the phone to yell at some selected people for not doing what was asked of them. While he was doing that, I walked around to the network staff and got the necessary addressing information and such so that once I actually got the server in the rack I would be able to put it on the network. I also picked up a couple of cables just in case and walked back to my office.
"They have the box and the property pass waiting," the boss said as I walked back into my office. "All you have to do is pick it up." I expected the evil grin. He did not disappoint me. Of course, it was not like he was being vindictive; we have worked together long enough to know how to make the best of a bad situation and this was the best we could hope for.
"Want to go for a walk?" I asked her.
"Sure. I didn't get my coffee this morning anyway," she replied and I went to get the cart that would make moving the 100 pound server easier. It cost more than most cars, you would think it would come with wheels right?
Once again we left the building, stopping at the local outlet of the Seattle Coffee Company for a little fuel to keep us going through the morning. We were more than awake by the time we crossed the six odd city blocks to our other building. After a few minutes wrangling, we had the server on the cart, another junior technician and were on our way back to our office. We did not take the stairs this time. The elevator, down two levels was a much more intelligent idea.
"And that should do it," I announced as I connected the last cable. It had taken an hour to get it hoisted into the rack and wired. Someone was going to catch it when I got back upstairs. For now, we had miles to go and half the day was almost gone.
"Where do we start?" She asked. I almost laughed out loud. We had spent a week reviewing the installation documents that I had spent a considerable amount of time writing.
"Funny girl aren't you," I replied, passing her the system disk which she deftly inserted into the drive and booted the server.
"How long is this going to take?" Our observant trainee inquired.
"It takes what it takes," we replied almost in unison, each laughing at the other.
"Why? Got a hot date?" I asked.
"Actually, yes," he replied, blushing slightly.
"Go," I said. "This is the boring part and I expect you will get enough of this before everything is said and done."
I did not have to tell him twice. We were alone with several million dollars of steel and silicon. She had begun the configuration process, setting up the arrays and disks to our agreed on parameters and had begun installing the operating system, a process about as exciting as watching paint dry. She had just submitted the last command when I stepped up behind her, placing my hands around her waist. She leaned back into my chest, placing her hands on mine.
"I really hate this part," she said.
"Why is that?" I asked, bending down to kiss her ear, causing a little shiver to course through her body. The server room was noisy, but it was not cold.
"I feel like I am wasting time while it copies all these files, but it doesn't take long enough for me to do anything else," she complained.
"Hmmm, well maybe I can come up with something to distract you while the files copy," I said, kissing ear and neck slowly.
"How many people have access to this place?" she asked.
"Probably a dozen or so, but they are all keys which we should hear," I replied, kissing the other ear and side of her neck. She simply pulled my arms tighter around her and dropped her head forward, allowing me to kiss the back of her neck.
"You are not supposed to have this affect on me," she said in a half whisper, not letting go of my arms or asking me to stop.
"No? And the affect you are having on me?" I asked in response.