Alex, web developer for Chronos Industries, thought she might be going crazy when the company's VPN server kept disappearing. Alex's VPN software would connect to the server without issue, but every half hour or so it would disconnect. It made FTP-ing any large files an exercise in frustration.
Her friend Karl, a research assistant from the upstairs Temporal Lab, was trying to tell her in layman's terms about one of his projects when it happened again. Until now she hadn't had any witnesses to confirm it when the IT department investigated.
"See, there it is!" she said.
"Whoa, that is weird," Karl said. "And you're the only one who notices it?"
"No one else uses it on a regular basis. I've mentioned it to IT, but they brush it off when they can't recreate the issue. They're 'too busy' to sit around long enough for it to happen."
"I'm just a research assistant," Karl said, "but couldn't we troubleshoot this ourselves?"
Alex glanced at her phone. "It'll happen in an hour. Let's give it a try."
She started a timer on her phone, then reconnected and opened a remote session to the VPN server. Alex wrote a script to check the VPN daemon's health every few minutes. While that was running, she dug through the server's CRON scripts for anything that might cause trouble. However, apart from a couple sketchy screen scrapers to get the weather for Chronos's intranet page, there was nothing odd.
"So much for that," Alex sighed in desperation.
"Wait, look at those timestamps," Karl said, pointing to Alex's bash commands.
Alex glanced at where he was pointing. To be sure it wasn't some weird quirk with her terminal, she ran the
date command several times in succession.
"What's wrong with that server's clock?" Alex said. "That can't be a software issue."
As she spoke, her VPN software lost the server and disconnected.
Alex grabbed a screenshot and forward it to IT.
One Broken Time Machine, Slightly Used
She received a cryptic email an hour later from Doug, the head of IT: The server's motherboard appears to have a failed clock. We'll order a new chassis. In the meantime, another server will be re-appropriated for the VPN.
A week later, Karl and Alex were chatting at her desk while her computer uploaded some large video files documenting Chronos's latest, inscrutable venture.
"You still didn't tell me about your new project upstairs," Alex asked.
"Oh, I totally forgot," Karl said, "it's something to do with--"
"--I'll be damned," Alex interrupted. She noticed something funny with the timestamps on her FTP console. "IT ... they just reused the VPN server for FTP!"
"Huh." Karl scratched his head. "Well, my project went way over budget this month. Maybe even IT has to cut corners."
"What's costing Chronos so much they can't even afford a new server that can keep time?"
"...You know, maybe it's best if you didn't know." Cryptically, Karl left Alex at her desk. She could only wonder just what really goes on upstairs in the Temporal Lab.