Connections Matter

an excerpt

Chapter One


With the clock closing in on six p.m., Julian Tucker couldn't wait to shut down and get out of the office. His boyfriend and lover of two years, Emmett Bishop, waited at their home. They'd made dinner reservations at a favorite restaurant for seven and afterward would spend the rest of the night at their favorite club, Backdoor. After an extremely long week, Julian couldn't wait to begin their Friday night and weekend. He made sure he wasn't on-call for any emergencies and he damn well wouldn't answer any call. He wasn't the only senior programmer in the analytical and algorithm division.

He went through the motions of saving his latest work and shutting down the various programs. He opened the chat program to send a last message to Emmett.

JTucker: Shutting down. Almost outta here.

EBishop: About time. Thought they were making u stay the night.

JTucker: Don't say it. Don't say it. Don't stay.

EBishop: LOL See u soon, honey-bee.

JTucker: Nope. I'm not a damn bee. Not gonna work. Keep trying.

Julian grinned at the thought of Emmett still trying to make a silly nickname for him. He'd been trying since they celebrated their second anniversary this past New Year's Eve.

"Tucker, hold up a minute."

"Shit. Shit. Shit," Julian muttered when he heard his supervisor calling his name. He leaned back to see Brian Craw moving through the aisles in his direction. "How can I help you, sir?" While he stood, he grabbed his messenger bag and packed up his things.

"Don't pack up. You're staying late tonight."

"What? Why me?"

"It's a Level Four alert. The file is in on the server in your drive. Download it and see what is happening."

"Sir, I apologize, but I can't stay tonight. I have plans. There are nine other programmers who can handle this project," Julian said.

"Plans are canceled. This is one of your original clients. You know the coding."

"What is the problem?"

"No specifics other than it is broken."

"There has to be more--"

"Tucker. Stop. Return to the computer and start figuring out the issue. The boss wants the program fixed and running by Monday morning. Get to work."

"Sir, this is unacceptable. I've stayed late the last four nights and the previous weekend. I'm not on call starting tonight. Another programmer--"

"Enough, Tucker. Get to work," Craw said. He left to deliver the same type of instructions to someone else.

"Are you fucking kidding me?" Julian muttered and dropped into the chair. He threw his bag on the desk and banged a fist down. He grabbed the edge to yank his chair closer.

JTucker: Plans fucked to hell. Got an emergency L4 to handle. Here all weekend to fix.

EBishop: Tell me you're kidding.

JTucker: No. I'm so damn sorry.

EBishop: I shouldn't be surprised. They treat you like an unpaid intern.

JTucker: Em...

EBishop: You should seriously reconsider your job, babe. They don't give a shit about you.

JTucker: I know. Em...

"Tucker, get to work. Now," Craw ordered.

Julian lowered his hands and clenched his fists.

EBishop: Julian? U there?

JTucker: Crabby hollered. Gotta get to this damn project

EBishop: What does he have against u? He always make u stay.

JTucker: I don't know.

EBishop: Report it. Don't him get away with it.

JTucker: There's nothing I can do. Hon, go out with friends. Have fun.

EBishop: It's ok. Doing research on a new couple.

JTucker: Where are they?

EBishop: Somewhere in VA. Not sure exact spot.

JTucker: Do you plan to meet them in person?

EBishop: If they agree. Yes. I know I'll go alone. You can't get away. Unless the company sends you.

JTucker: Yeah. Probably. Em?

EBishop: Get to work. Love ya.

JTucker: Love you.

Julian hated disappointing Emmett. His ex had dumped him via a phone call on New Year's Eve because he spent all his time at work. As if stranded in an airport during a blizzard hadn't been enough of a problem, he'd had that phone call to handle. The only thing that had made that stay bearable was bumping into Emmett. Emmett, with his lust for life and comic books, made every day full of joy. Julian ended up getting a new tattoo specifically for Emmett and his comic book addiction. It was a combination of Emmett's favorite superhero logos with their initials. While some thought it crazy to put something permanent on his body after a two-year relationship, Julian had no regrets. Emmett meant everything to him.

Julian knew he wanted Emmett forever in his life. He planned on purchasing tickets for Comic-Con with a few extras to give Emmett a treat. Of course it wouldn't be Emmett's first trip to the crazy con, but it would be for Julian.

Only now his damn job was fucking up his plans with Emmett. Since the crazy multi-city and continent hop during Christmas, Julian's time at the company seemed to get worse, not better.

Pushing down the anger, Julian opened a couple of diagnostic programs, and then opened the new file. He narrowed his gaze and stared at the code. Within an hour, he could tell there were multiple snags. He knew they weren't part of the original coding.

"What's going on with this one? It's been working fine," he muttered while he tapped a few things on the keyboard to run the code through, but it broke. "Yeah, that's not supposed to be there."

Julian shifted to a different monitor, opened a program and the original code file. He also accessed a face-to-face meeting program on another monitor. He tapped in his username and password and started a meeting. He then sent the invite to the main IT guy at the company.

"Please be there. Please."

Luckily, he saw the message that another user was entering the meeting. Julian snagged his headset and pulled it in place. He adjusted the small microphone.

Soon another man, a little younger than Julian, appeared on the screen. He had a similar exhausted and stressed appearance to his face, with darkened lower eyelids. "Hi, Julian, sorry to send you a problem so late. I can't figure it out from here."

"Hey, Teddy. I'm used to it. As for the code, there are extraneous bad lines embedded within the original. Did you alter anything?"

"No, sir. I try not to go back there unless I'm onscreen with you. I can wire a network in minutes. Figuring out code. Nope," Teddy said. He gave Julian a sideways grin.

"Okay. Hold up a moment." Julian turned back to one of the screens, opened a different program and ran it on the code. He stopped it to highlight one ID that appeared multiple times. "Who is prhunt? They made the changes."

Teddy swore multiple times. "That pain-in-the-ass fucking bastard."

Julian raised an eyebrow.

"Peter R. Hunt. An IT admin we hired to help with the programming. He used his skills to steal money from multiple accounts. Ended up firing him and called in the police to investigate."

"He did more than steal. It looks like he altered the coding to prevent you from running the program to detect those thefts or update the tracking and monitoring of the accounts."

"That bastard."

"Where is he now?"

"In jail with charges of theft and more. The irony is, he can't make bond," Teddy said. He chuckled.

"Karma." Julian added a few chuckles. "Just the place for him."

"Anyway. How do we fix it?"

"Let's go back to the last version before Peter touched the code. Can you let me in the system?"

"Sure. Send me the link."

Julian opened up a program and sent the request. Soon as Teddy accepted it, Julian entered the system with his higher access. He checked the dates for when Peter started on the system and the version. He reversed the program to the timeframe and set it to compile.

"I have no clue what all this is," Teddy said. He added a chuckle.

"That's why you have me. The compilation should take a couple of hours."

"That's it?"

"That's the easy part. I'm adding a file to only allow root users to access the program."


"You and the other two managers. Along with myself. No one else will be able to access this side of the system and submit any changes. It'll automatically reject anyone without the root username and password combinations. You and I will receive those emails if it ever happens." While he talked, Julian loaded in an extra file to run with the compilation.

"Sounds good. What's next?"

"I want you to run the updates as normal to return to the latest one which is..." Julian opened a different screen. "Version twenty-sixteen-sixteen-zero-nine-zero-four. That's what everyone should be running on. Kick everyone out before you leave the office and set the updates."

"Will that fix everything?"

"Unless something else is happening, yup," Julian said. "By Monday, it should have reconnected everything and printed out the reports the multiple departments require."

"Soooooo," Teddy said, pulling out the simple word, "we don't have to stay here all weekend?"

"Nope," Julian said, popping the ‘p' in response to Teddy's drawled word. "There shouldn't be any problems, but do a remote log-in every six hours-ish to check on it."

"Sweet. My girlfriend will want to kiss you."

Julian chuckled. "My boyfriend wouldn't like that. Even if he sees lipstick."

"Hear that."

"I'll get out of your system. Just keep an eye on the compilation and you're free. I'll hang out for a few minutes with you though."

"Sounds good."

Julian moved the mouse and ended the log-in. Soon his screen returned to his normal desktop. Julian continued to close down the programs. He opened the chat program and clicked on Emmett's name.

JTucker: Lucky break. Easy fix to problem.

EBishop: Which means?

JTucker: I'm coming home. Are you out?

EBishop: Nope. Home. Researching this awesome couple.

JTucker: I can pick-up Thai.

EBishop: Yum. Perfect.

JTucker: Whatcha want?

EBishop: Pad Thai. Tom Yam Goong.

JTucker: Curry?

EBishop: Green Curry. Chicken.

JTucker: Awesome choices. As always. I'll grab some egg rolls and mango sticky rice.

EBishop: I'll make some Thai iced tea.

JTucker: I'll let you know when I'm on my way.

EBishop: good

JTucker: I know we need to talk.

EBishop: Yeah. See you soon, hon.

"How's it going, Teddy?" Julian asked when he closed down the chat window with Emmett. He added notes to a sticky note on his phone for when he stopped off at Lemongrass Thai Loft.

"Running smooth so far...and it's finished."

"Set it to update and run all algorithms. Type in whatever date you want it to start and finish. It'll collect and record all the data and build the records and reports," Julian said.

Teddy tapped away on his side. "Okay. It's beginning the run."

"Good. Put your computer in sleep mode, so the app stays open and running."

"Will do. Check in with you on Monday?"

"Unless you see something over the weekend. Text me on my phone and I'll remote in with you. Otherwise, Monday morning."

"Thanks, Julian."

"No problem. See ya," Julian said and closed down the meeting with Teddy. He logged off, snagged his bag and phone and finally left the office. He waved to the other IT guy, Pierce, still fussing and cursing his screen.

"What the hell, Tucker?" Pierce called out.

"Easy fix. Delete the bad program. Install a fresh version. I have the tech running the algorithm for a specific span of time for the weekend to collect all of the data." Julian stopped at the cubicle wall.

"Can't do that in this case. Don't know what they did to twist it around."

Julian hated asking, but it would be rude of him to ignore Pierce's frustration. "Do you want help?"

"No. I can figure this out. No one is waiting up for me. Only a cat, but he has everything he needs. Go, say hi to Emmett," Pierce said and added a smile. "Going out to dinner?"

"Nope. Gonna pick up Thai on the way home. He's researching a new couple."

"Enjoy then."

"Call or text if you need advice, Pierce. Really."

"Will do. Thanks." Pierce nodded.

"Tucker, what are you doing?" Craw shouted when he left his office.

"Main problem should be fixed with a reinstall. Teddy will run the program all weekend and we'll reconnect on Monday," Julian said.

"You're supposed to fix the code."

"It was sabotaged by an IT tech who stole from the company. I removed the bad program. Then went to an earlier clean version and recompiled the code. It'll clear out anything bad," Julian said, reiterating his decision. It was the correct one.

"Did you add the notes to the file?"

"I did. Teddy will periodically check it throughout the weekend and text me if there's a problem. Everything is done."

"I'll speak with the boss about your unauthorized decision and leaving," Craw said and left them.

"What stick did he shove up his ass? I swear he has a hard-on to screw you." Pierce asked.

"I have no damn clue what I did to him, but I'm tired of taking his shit," Julian said.

"Screw him. Get your Thai food. Go home to Emmett. Enjoy your weekend."

"Appreciate it. See you on Monday," Julian said. He walked away, grateful to leave this place for the next couple of days.