There are 322 types of keyboard fluff. This is the story of one of them.
If it hadn’t been for the piece of fluff, the whole business with the horseflies, the vicar and the postmistress might have turned out very differently. It was a particularly interesting piece of fluff, as it happens, which is why I stole it. Well, I’m not sure ‘steal’ is quite the right word, really. More a case of borrowing. I would have given it back if asked. But, as is so often the case with fluff, nobody asked.
The fluff in question was a Number 37 on the ISO Fluff scale: Flocculent and oleaginous with pileous undertones; in other words, ‘fuzzy, greasy and hairy’. As you probably know, there are 322 internationally recognized types of keyboard fluff and Number 37 is a common variety. However, when you’ve worked with fluff as long as I have you get a sort of a sixth sense and there was something about this particular bit of fluff that aroused my suspicion. It was wedged between the ‘O’ and the ‘L’ keys on a computer sitting on a desk in the corner of a room which I should not have entered due to the sign on the door which said ‘DO NOT ENTER’.
Some people say the eyes are the window to the soul. Don’t believe it. Eyes lie; fluff doesn’t. If you want to get the measure of a man, take a long, hard look at the grot nestling in the crevices of his keyboard – or, indeed, her keyboard, for the keyboard which had attracted my attention belonged to Fenella Marbury-Heighton (MBE), Director of the Pen Wiggessy Research Base and my current employer.
It was with the greatest of care and a small pair of tweezers that I tweaked out the choice lump of Number 37 and popped it into one of the plastic vials which I keep in my pocket at all times. That was when my heart nearly stopped. The action of tweezing the fluff brought the computer monitor out of sleep mode causing its hitherto darkened screen to flash into life. My eye was caught by something on the screen: a photograph – of me! Not a very flattering photograph, I have to say. In real life, my hair is by no means lank and greasy, my skin tone is not that of an embalmed corpse and I rather like to think I do not, on the whole, make a habit of staring with big round eyes like a bush-baby caught in the headlights.
But more troubling than the poor quality of the photograph was what was written beneath it. There were all the salient details of my life – my date and place of birth, my educational background, my professional publications (they had misspelt ‘Seborrhoeic’, I noticed), my years working on projects so secret that even I have forgotten them, right up until the moment when I founded my present company, Dirtection Inc. (“Your Filth is Our Pleasure”).
The amount of detail was impressive but not, on the whole, surprising – apart from one small detail, that is. Right down there at the bottom of the screen, just under ‘Distinguishing Features’ (how did they know about that mole?) was an item labelled ‘Security Clearance’ alongside which had been written: ‘Fail – Terminate (Lethal Force Authorised)’.
If I had been the sort of chap to jump onto a chair and scream at moments of panic, I should have done so then. Fortunately I am not and I didn’t. Instead, I contented myself with blenching visibly and gasping. Then I deleted the text alongside the Security Clearance item and entered: ‘Pass – A1’, adding, so as to dispel any possible doubts, ‘(Nice bloke, actually)’.
Now you are probably thinking to yourself that modifying the database was a foolish waste of time. ‘Hasn’t he heard of backups?’ you are perhaps chortling. Well, yes I have. But then again, you have to remember that this was a Government database system and, moreover a top-secret and highly classified one. All of which led me to believe that there was a pretty high level of probability that the normal everyday security measures which you or I might take for granted would be entirely absent.
At any rate, modify the database is what I did and then off I toddled with my Number 37 fluff safely ensconced in my pocket. I nearly had a heart attack for the second time that day when I grabbed my bike and headed for the gate. My exit was delayed by the arrival of an armoured personnel carrier in which I noticed two generals, a brigadier and a man in dark glasses holding a very big gun. One of the generals was talking to the armed guard at the gate. “Bad thing,” he was saying, “Security breach. But we’ll have it under control in no time. Lethal Force authorised, don’t you know. Should be rather jolly, what!”
Meet the vicar...Dirtection, Part 2 in our next edition, out November 2008.