Berman comes into the office just before noon, with a large roll of thick butcher paper. To catcalls of shock, he starts putting up sections of paper over the windows. He hasn't gotten more than halfway along our exterior wall before the torches-and-pitchforks crew has him surrounded. He flings an arm at the nearest segment. In large and hand-scrawled letters, roughly eye-height, it reads "96 hours uninterrupted server uptime." The next over reads "0 automation-breaking bugs" in a kindergarten script with jagged letters and occasional small-caps; the one beyond that looks like a ransom note, demanding a round-trip request time of under 100 milliseconds and no police involvement. You hit a goal, the paper comes down, he says, but until then, back to work, you hapless mooks! Glenn, half-tan and crunchy Glenn, looks like a stepped-upon flower, Tom contorts his hands and kind of shakes menacingly before stomping off, I do my best to outstare Berman. He stares right back at me and I can hear a bit of a Texan drawl creep into his Brooklynese, How long you been telling me you can fit the handshake into two round trips? Now's your chance to prove it, and we're all muttering bloody murder but the man's a motivational genius.

There isn't much lunchtime chatter, until Debbie renames the office the Batcave, and all the follow-on jokes, and somehow we all acquire the names of Batman villains as nicknames. I am the Penguin; I don't know why, but it sticks. There is talk of mutiny, of civil disobedience, but Berman had won the moment we resorted to laughter. Consoled in our defeat, we start trying to bring down our dungeon walls by honest toil. Late afternoon, Andy drifts by my cube. Hola, Egghead, I greet him. What're you doing to bring light to Darkest Africa? Andy giggles and bites his lip, looks around to make sure nobody is listening before leaning towards me, Well, there's some speedup in the crypto library, and mostly proactive reliability work, but what incentive does this give me, really, and he spins his head to take in the dimmed room with the thin wisps of afternoon light creeping in around the fringes of the windows, and of course Andy likes it, he likes it better this way. Security geek, I think, and then he turns back to me, So, yeah, I was thinking of getting some folks to go see a movie later, it being Friday and all. To which I say the only thing that comes to mind, It's Friday?

So it is, but I've got plans to see Irene, and we hadn't realized they were Friday plans, but apparently so they are, which, come to think of it, means that we were really lucky to have gotten those reservations, and I say all this, perhaps half as articulately, in one rambling monologue that ends with a shrug and a sorry, some other time. Andy shrugs, too, and sort of glides backwards until we aren't directly in poses that indicate conversation any more, then Andy's back in his cube and I still in mine. I finish up some quick rewrites and a round of tests, and then it's off home to feed Chester and pull on a shirt without holes and wash up and do a little shaving touch-up and race off to pick up Irene. She's also running behind on the same sort of rituals of presentation, and we notice the irony and assure each other that, short of outright stench, such things don't matter, so Irene tickles me and forces me to stop back at home to change back into the shirt with the holes, but I won't let her put on the other eye's worth of eyeliner or take off the one eye's worth she's already applied, so that by the time we reach the restaurant we can't make eye contact without bursting into laughter.

Over dessert, I am telling her about Berman, and the day, and she puts down her spoon and reminds me that the server last crashed Monday evening, she remembers this because I was on the phone with her at the time. I check my watch, we call for the check, we race for the door and tear off doing 60 through school zones. Keycard through the reader at the main door, up the stairs, and we're there with two minutes to spare. Andy looks up from his screen at our entrance and I scream at him like a madman, Ninety-six hours of uptime as of T minus two! I fire up a console and Irene counts the seconds down, and at the magic moment, Andy and I pull the butcher paper free with a whoop, and the anemic fluorescent lighting goes spilling out into the night. Andy makes a printout of the gloriously trouble-free log and we tape it to the window, take that Berman, and we all look at each other with shit-eating grins, and then we go see that movie after all.