Glenn flicks the light switch for the room, sends up a signal flare. We gather around his console, as many as can fit, and he runs the network benchmarks. 97, 93, 96. We gasp at a stray 99, but everything else is parked comfortably around 95. Just need to check the stress-load regression, and then we should be getting another square of daylight, he says, but on my way back to my cube, I notice that Berman has come in from the hallway door. He's wearing a tie, and he's flanked by Cline and Taylor, both of them their usual dressed-up selves. There is some kind of whispered discussion, briefly, then Berman shoos them from the room, turns to face us, and clears his throat loudly. It takes a moment for the recognition wave to spread, but he's got our attention. He frowns a moment, then begins, palms out and down, in oratory mode, This is one of those bad news, good news, bad news, good news situations . . .

We're out of cash. They can make the next paycheck but not the lease at the end of the month, and that's all folks. Even so, Cline's managed to find a buyer, so we've been sold lock, stock, and server, to Altreon. Who haven't said anything officially, but are extremely likely to cancel the project and scavenge for parts, probably the protocol-negotiaton code and the client framework and not much else. This is where Berman can't control himself, and starts smiling in spite of himself. Altreon's also made a blanket offer -- any of us who wants to stay on is welcome, in fact, Berman opines, they seemed to be of the opinion that this company consists of a bunch of damned brilliant coders working on a pointless piece of technology. Take this as you will. So we all still have jobs, except that these jobs are going to be in New York. Our call. There's a pause, broken by Matt's shout, Let's go get trashed! Berman shakes his head, then stands aside as we stampede through the door, but I hear him shout after us as we pass, first round's on me!

Things are fine, things are great, I work with a great group of people, and never more so than now. Glenn isn't going, he's on the table shouting this, he needs his tan to live. Debbie has drunk Matt under the table, she's wheeling and grinning, Moira and Tim are easing her her out of the booth and towards the door. Tom is discovering some kind of long-hidden Irish blood, he's leading toasts and throwing back pints, but still he sits betweentimes, straight-backed and proud. I am spinning, half-crazed but giddily calm, I raise my glass to Andy and we take long pulls. Guess maybe ya shoulda taken up hacking for profit I tell him, and he takes another pull, slams down his empty and says to me and things were just getting to be all right, why does all this have to end? For one sudden moment, beyond the foggy haze, I think I see and something snaps into place, I look again at Andy for a moment, and now is not the time to ponder implications, I drink again and deeply, such things are for tomorrows, while the here and now belong to the party imperative and the end of the world.