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June 04, 2006

The Microsoft Code: Chapter 5

Continued from Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3 and Chapter 4.

"This makes no sense," said VirgilI. "JacquesS goes to all the trouble to give us a disguised message to come see you, sends you a message with the last gasps of his email account, and it contains the phrase 'omit firm scion'? What the heck does that mean?"

The level 71 developer snorted. "Well, around here the 'firm scion' would be Bill Gates. And 'omit' is pretty obvious. Sounds like he's one of those bloggers who wants to get rid of Bill."

RobertLa said, "Oh right, I've heard of those guys. There's a site they all get together on to complain about management. I forget what it's called--miniature something-or-other."

VirgilI spoke, his voice steely. "You mean Mini-Microsoft." He smacked the back of one hand into the palm of the other. "We've been tracking that guy for a while...one time we picked up his signal at the Redmond library, we had that place surrounded in 5 minutes, but he got away. Must have snuck out through the sewer line." He chuckled. "Well, just keep flying around, my little mini-butterfly. Someday your gossamer wings are going to touch the nasty, sticky spider web we have spun for you, and then kapow! You're keister will be mulch in 10 seconds flat. We'll see who's the punk then!" He stopped, realizing that RobertLa and the level 71 developer were both staring at him with their mouths open. "Uh, never mind. Just an internal security issue. Thinking out loud, you know. Everything OK, guys?"

The level 71 developer blinked. "Sure, everything's fine. I've just never seen someone rip a wooden patent plaque in half with their bare hands before."

VirgilI looked down. "Sorry about that." He adjusted the collar of his shirt. "Ever since they changed the review plan from 'goals' to 'commitments', I've been a little more into my job."

"Well, moving right along," said RobertLa. "The phrase 'omit firm scion' seems like a pretty shaky link to Mini-Microsoft."

At that moment VirgilI's cell phone rang. He looked at the screen. "Excuse me, I need to take this." He stepped into the hall and closed the door. They could see him talking animatedly on his phone. At one point they faintly heard him say, "What? With a motherboard?" When the conversation was over, he stuck his head back in the office. "I've gotta run over to Building 2. Like the French say, Rémi et Aline sont dans le jardin avec Pipo."

The level 71 developer looked surprised. "What?"

"I don't know why," said VirgilI, "but whenever I get into one of these situations, I always feel like speaking a foreign language."

"But what does it mean?" asked RobertLa. "I haven't taken French since third grade."

VirgilI laughed. "Third grade. Hah! Well, let me tell you, this is…oh wait. Actually, that was from third grade. Wrong quote, never mind! Listen, keep thinking about that email from JacquesS." He disappeared down the hall.

RobertLa looked at the level 71 developer. "I don't trust that guy. He seemed pretty keen on finding Mini-Microsoft."

"I agree," said the level 71 developer. He lowered his voice conspiratorially, although they were the only two people in his office. "Personally, I kind of like Mini! Says what some of us are thinking, you know?"

RobertLa shrugged. "Well, I'm stumped as to what to do next."

The level 71 developer considered for a moment. "Describe to me exactly what JacquesS wrote on the Post-It Note."

"It just said 'excavate green herbs,' which pointed us to a machine running Exchange Server Beta, and then under that it said 'Email RobertLa.'"

"That's all? You're sure? Did he scribble anything in special black-light pen?"

RobertLa thought for a second. "Wait. It didn't just say 'Email RobertLa'. It said 'P.R. Email RobertLa.'"

The level 71 developer looked stunned. "It said P.R.? Not P.S?"

"Yes, I'm sure it was P.R." replied RobertLa.

"I see," said the level 71 developer, slowly.

"You don't think we should have contacted Waggener-Edstrom?" asked RobertLa nervously.

The level 17 developer laughed. "Waggener-Edstrom! Seriously, I think I know what P.R. means."

RobertLa raised his eyebrows.

"OK," the level 71 developer continued. "So I was sitting in a whirlpool at the PRO Club, and these two men in the next whirlpool over were talking about something called the Prieuré de Redmond."

"Oh no," said RobertLa. "Don't you start speaking French too."

"Relax," said the level 71 developer. "I means the Priory of Redmond."

RobertLa's eyes widened. "The Priory of Redmond? The secret society? I know they exist to guard something, but I never knew what it was."

"Right," agreed the level 71 developer. "Well, listen up then. These two guys were saying that the Priory's secret was the identity of a certain anonymous blogger…the blogger known as Mini-Microsoft."

"Oog," said RobertLa. Suddenly he snapped his fingers. "Omit firm scion—it's another hidden message. It's an anagram for Mini-Microsoft!"

The level 71 developer nodded. "That makes sense. JacquesS sent me the message so when you got here, you would recognize that it was a clue to the identity of Mini-Microsoft. He must have know he was about to get 86ed from Microsoft, and he had to pass the secret on to someone else. But according to what I heard about the Priory, there were supposed to be only four members who knew the secret. If he was telling you, it means the other three must have been downsized also! Unless you're in the Priory...are you? Is there a Priory email alias I can check if you're a member of?"

"No, I'm not a member of the Priory." RobertLa wondered why JacquesS had chosen him. "Well, it's a good thing VirgilI didn't realize what was up. Luckily he seems to be a few features short of spec complete, if you know what I mean." He looked back at the email on the screen. "Wait. Doesn't that email have an attachment on it?"

The level 71 developer swiveled his head. "Dang it, it does. Geez, it's because he sent the email in HTML format, the attachment icon is tiny. Didn't he know that Rich Text makes the attachment obvious? I can't stand people who put attachments in HTML emails. And hey, it's a Powerpoint slide deck. Great, nothing like Powerpoint to explode your storage requirements. Look, the thing is 100K and I bet it has one slide in it.

The level 71 developer was correct. The deck did only have one slide. In fact, the slide only had two words in it. But as RobertLa and the level 71 developer looked at what it contained, they knew that the situation had just gotten murkier, not clearer.

To be continued...

Posted by AdamBa at June 4, 2006 10:39 PM

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What a way to start a new week! And all I wanted was a cameo... whew, baby... I'm not sure if this is going to help with any inner paranoia, though... 8-)

Posted by: Mini-Microsoft at June 5, 2006 08:02 AM

Brilliant! Please keep the posts coming! =)

Posted by: at June 5, 2006 04:11 PM

Wow, I actually understood most of these and I'm new. Keep it coming; I can't wait to see the ending. :)

Posted by: NewEmployee at June 5, 2006 08:54 PM

There is "level 17 developer" in the text. Could it be that he is actually level 71 developer, trying to confuse us? ;)

Posted by: Ivan at June 6, 2006 12:51 AM