As Always, the Purchasing Director is a Sadist

Sometime in the middle of Season 2

A tiny sound, like a fruit fly clearing its throat, broke the waiting silence of Miss Parker's office. She finally decided to have some mercy, and looked up from the desk to see what Broots had for her. She's only kept him waiting three minutes, this time. It had to be a... "Who the hell are you?" she asked, of the painfully skinny, freckled blond standing next to her desk. She could snap him in half with one hand.

"I'm Ted," Match-stick boy introduced himself in something very close to a plaintive whisper. "Jim Brown sent me."

This didn't clear one single thing up for Parker. She'd been in Corporate for a long time, long enough that she wouldn't know Jim Brown from Charlie Brown (although she suspected there might not be much difference). However, Ted was too tall, too thin, too pasty. His clothes came from garage sales and exchanges with friends, and were exactly the wrong color to suit him. Miss Parker was almost certain that if she shot him and searched his body, she'd find an over the counter inhaler, more pens and pencils than a human being could use in a lifetime, at least one pocket calculator, and a membership card for either the Star Trek or Lord of the Rings fan clubs.

In short, Ted was a geek. This meant that he was most likely to hang out and work with other geeks, which in turn suggested that his boss, the not-so-famous Jim Brown, was also a geek. That could only mean one thing - the Technical Support Department. Following from there, she narrowed down in her mind the people who Jim Brown couldn't be, and finally realized that he had to be Broots' rare and nomadic boss, the Director of Information Systems.

"Where the hell is Broots?" Parker growled. It had only taken her a moment to reach the conclusions she'd reached, after all, and the primary one she'd reached that she didn't like was that Jim Brown had re-appropriated her peon and was trying to stick her with a sub-standard peon instead.

"He's in the Tech Room, working on the upgrade." If Broots stammered, she wasn't sure what to call what this kid did - flailed, possibly. It wasn't a natural stutter, either, more that he was whispering half of words and choking the other half, possibly hoping that she'd stop asking him questions, or that he'd disappear.

"What upgrade?" she demanded. "And why is my technician working on an upgrade instead of special projects, which is what his job description says?"

Ted looked at her very much as if he wished she'd just get on with the business of shooting the messenger, without questioning him first. "Everybody's been pulled to work on the upgrade," he said. "I'm supposed to show you how to find your files and then go back..."

"Oh, for the love of... Where is your boss?"

"In the Tower," Ted whimpered. "They called him up to work on Mr. Raines' machine. You see, the upgrade... isn't going well."

Parker felt like a cigarette, so she lit one and then, with sudden sympathy for the kid who'd been sent to tell her the place had been sent to computer hell today, offered him one as well. He looked at her like she was crazy for a split second, then practically jumped on the offered smoke and lit it like his hope of heaven. Parker almost smiled with complete understanding when the kid took a long draw. "What's happening?" she asked, convinced that sympathy would get her more information than intimidation this time.

"So far?" Ted asked slowly. Parker nodded. The kid took a quick drag and then, in a breathless, panicked voice, began a long, frantic tirade. "We turned the software on, and it immediately tried to send confirmation copies of all orders to major news networks. We managed to head that off by unplugging the server from the mainframe, but then it started emailing the foreign nation confirmations to the nearest rival country. Mister Broots stopped that, as well as the carbon copies to the State Department, but no one could do anything about the list of the executive credit cards, complete with numbers, being transferred to some guy called Vinnie in the Bronx. Every time we think we've got all the bugs and holes plugged, and try to patch it back to the mainframe, it does something else, I've never seen..."

Parker absently patted Ted's hand. This sounded exactly like something... "Please tell me we didn't accidentally buy software from Jarod," she ordered quietly.

Ted finished his cigarette, then gave her a look like he was about to tell her her pet bunny had died. He'd better not. "It wasn't an accident," he said at last.

She stared at Ted. "Did you say..." she began in a deathly quiet whisper.

Slouching in on himself as if to protect his exposed belly, Ted repeated in a miserable grumble, "It wasn't an accident. The Purchasing Director said he put in the lowest bid."

Parker practically vaulted to her feet. "Get back to work," she ordered tersely, already half-way across the room before she'd even finished the sentence.

"Miss Parker, what're you..."

"I'm going upstairs," she said. "It seems someone needs to change the air in the Purchasing Director's head, again."