Adric and the Doctor stood back and stared at the thing, completely defeated.
“It’s no good, Doctor.” the Alzarian stated, “I think we’re going to have to call Gallifrey in on this one.”
The Doctor sighed and shook his head. “I hate to do it. They always make things so difficult.”
“I know. I know…” Adric turned grimly to the timelord. “But I don’t think we have much of a choice. They’re the only ones who can help us now.”
The Doctor nodded resignedly, then reached into his coat pocket and handed the boy a phone. “You make the call. I’d rather not talk to them, if I can at all help it.”
“Hey, why me? You’re the one who used to work for them!”
“Yes, but we wouldn’t be in this situation if you’d…”
“But I warned you it wouldn’t work, Doctor! You wouldn’t listen to me!”
The Doctor glared at his companion. “Make the call, Adric.” he said, in a tone that left little room for argument. “I’ll go and see if we have anything else to help us.” With that the Doctor turned and departed into the bowels of the TARDIS, leaving the young man alone in the console room to confront the problem.
Adric stared after him, and shook his head in exasperation. “I told him…” he muttered. “I told him it wouldn’t work. But does he ever listen to me? Noooo….” He looked at the phone, grimaced, then fished out a small slip of paper from his red chest pocket. On the paper was scrawled a long number, which he began to enter on the phone. “I mean, what’s the point of asking for help if he won’t listen when help is being given?” he murmured, continuing his self-diatribe. “I swear, one of these days he’s going to do something really stupid and get someone killed…”
He put the receiver to his head, and winced at the opening jingle.
“Welcome to Gallifrey Computing Corporation Customer Services.” it said, in a professional, deep, annoyingly-helpful-but-nevertheless-recorded voice. “If you are an end-user, please press One; if you are a reseller, please press Two.”
“Welcome to Gallifrey Computing Corporation’s End-User Support Center. If this is a pre-sales question, please press One; if you are calling for technical support, please press Two; if you are calling from the Megellanic Clouds….”
“Welcome to Gallifrey Computer Corporations’s Technical Support hotline. If you are calling about a stand-alone system, please press One; if you are calling about a portable system, please press Two; if you are calling for RS/6000, HAL or Matrix support, please press Three.”
“If your TARDIS is a type 38, 39, 39-Alpha or older, please press One; for type 40 series…”
“For an Eye of Harmony 95 or 98 environment, please press One; For Eye of Harmony NT or 2000, please press Two; for Macintosh, please press Three; for Solaris, Alpha, Linux, or Plan Nine, please press Four.”
The Alzarian grimaced. “Geez, these people are worse than IBM…” he grumbled, then pressed another button on the phone.
“Thank you. Your call will be routed to the first available Technical Support Representative.” Then the background hold muzak switched on, and someone’s idea of nice, pleasant, mood- relaxing music began to play.
And play some more.
Sometime later, Nyssa strolled into the console room. “Still on hold?” she asked curiously.
“Uh huh. I think I’ve heard most of Shepard Moons by now.”
Suddenly, at the other end, there was a click, a scuffle, then the distinct noise of what sounded like someone dropping their receiver. “Hold on,” he told her, “I think I’ve got someone now.”
From the receiver came a deep voice that sounded faintly of suppressed arrogance. “Hello, my name is Maxill. Can I have your name, the model you are calling about, and the serial number?”
“Um, my name is Adric, and I’m calling about a Type 40… no, I sincerely doubt if its under warranty… no, no I’m sorry, I don’t know it, but this is just a quick… What? Well, where would I find it, then? Uh huh. Uh huh. Ok, I’ll look.”
Adric got on his knees, and began to look under the console.
“What’s wrong?” Nyssa asked.
“They need the stupid serial number.” Adric responded, sliding on the floor and around one side of the console. After a few moments of searching, he found the small plaque on the underside, approximately underneath where the door switch was. He rattled off a long series of alpha-numeric symbols into the phone receiver.
“Alright, is that it?” There was a long pause. “WHAT? Well, of course I’m not, I’m just the, err, technician, trying to troubleshoot a problem. But… but… it’s not even under warranty, why should that matter? Uh huh. Uh huh. But that’s stupid! It doesn’t even have a warranty to invalidate, so why can’t you… Look, why don’t I get the end-user on the line, alright?”
The Alzarian turned to the girl standing next to him. “Um, Nyssa. Could you please go get the Doctor? They’re being rather difficult about this.”
The Trakenite nodded, then headed out the door. A few minutes later she came back, with the Doctor in tow. “What’s wrong now?” the timelord asked.
“They won’t help me because I’m neither the registered end-user nor an authorized technician.” Adric answered, exasperated. He handed the phone over to the timelord, who took it reluctantly. “Since you’re at least one of those, you need to talk with them.”
The Doctor grimaced, but put the phone to his head. “Um, yes, who am I speaking to? Well, Mr. Maxill, I’m the Doctor and… Um, no, no I wasn’t aware of that. Err, umm, I don’t think I ever exactly… Registration Card?!?!? Uh, no, I don’t think I ever had one, much less filled it out…” (At this point, the Doctor began to finger his shirt collar nervously.) “Receipt? Um, well, I didn’t exactly purchase… Look, um, may I talk to your supervisor, it’s rather important that… No, I can’t wait for a call-back, it’s all rather urgent. Well, can I talk to his supervisor? Look, do you want me to escalate this to President Borusa’s office? Yes, as a matter of fact, I do happen to know the CEO… Alright, I’ll hold.”
After a few seconds, the Doctor began to hum a horribly off-key rendition of ‘Carribean Blue’. Adric and Nyssa both gritted their teeth. Mercifully, the performance was cut short.
“Yes?” the Doctor asked, but with a degree of smugness. “Yes? I thought as much. No, no, please wait. I need to hand this to my assistant; he can tell you more about the problem. Alright, here he is.”
The Doctor handed the phone back to Adric. “All taken care of, you shouldn’t have any more problems.”
The Alzarian took the phone and spoke into it. “Alright, everything set? Ok, fine, here’s the situation. We recently did a software upgrade and ever since then the exterior configuration subsystem has… yes, the Chameleon Circuit… well, can’t you tell from the serial number? But that’s… never mind, just a moment.” Adric brought the receiver down. “Doctor, did you replace the Chameleon Circuit at any time in the past?”
The Doctor thought for a moment. “No, it should be original equipment.”
Adric turned back to the receiver. “He says it came with the TARDIS. Ok, well let me find it, hold on just a moment.” He turned toward the console, reached up and over, and picked up a static bag that had been sitting on top of the central column, placed there mostly because that was the only flat and safely level place in the control room. The young man extracted its contents and began to look them over.
“Right.” Adric muttered, finally. He glanced at the slab of micro-electronics in his hand, noting the inscription along one side and the modules themselves. “It’s a Rassilon Labs AGP-4D Chameleon Circuit, looks like a 1024X with 2TB VRAM on board and another 2TB module in the upgrade socket. Is that what you needed? Fine. Anyway, as I was saying, we had it working under Eye of Harmony 95, but then we switched OS and now it won’t… Err, Redhat… Anyway, all we’ve been trying to find out is whether or not you have a… yes, yes, that’s what I’m trying to find out. Well, I looked on your website, but the closest I could find was for the 2048X on a Type 45… Uh huh. Uh huh. What do you mean you don’t…? Uh huh. Well, who do you use now? Matrox? But what about Rassilon Labs…? Well, who bought them? Uh huh. Uh huh. So, you’re telling me they can’t help me either? But I thought you supported… Oh, the only one? Yeah, I suppose that makes some sense. Why bother if no one else uses the thing.” Adric let loose a long, exasperated sigh. “Fine. Then I guess you can’t help me. Can I at least get an incident number? I know, not that it’ll do any good. But still.” He scribbled something on the same scrap of paper with the phone number. “Thank you, you’ve been most helpful.” Adric brought down the phone, and hit the kill button. “Not.” he muttered, with a slight amount of vehemence.
“No luck?” the Doctor asked.
“None. As far as they can see you’re the only one who still uses the damn thing, so they feel no need to go out of their way to help.”
“But what about Rassilon Labs? Surely they should still have…”
“Gone. Went out of business and the remains were bought up by some Groaci firm.” The Alzarian shook his head, trying to come up with a better solution, but knowing there probably wasn’t one.
“It’s like I told you before, Doctor. We’re dealing with legacy equipment here; your Chameleon Circuit is so old no one supports it anymore, much less make Linux drivers for it…”