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Ogata swipes into the office - the shrill beep from the door control makes him wince every time - groggy and already extremely done with this shift before it's even started. It's mostly empty, as usual for this time of day, save the late-shift and 24/7 teams. He makes his way to the hot-desks in the middle of the office, huffing as he adjusts the chair and monitors. Ariko – a quiet guy who gets on with the work, but has a weird thing for one of the third line guys – has already settled down over at the first line desks, and looks to be mentoring one of the new-starts from this month. It's his last shift of the set, so Usami is here.

Ariko is mentoring a new-start and Usami is here.

"God... here we go again," Ogata mumbles to himself.



"I'm going for my break. Got my phone on me if you need me," Tsukishima says, precisely half way through the shift.

Ogata can see Usami's eyes light up over the top of his monitor. He avoids eye-contact. He will not be complicit in this shit again. 

As soon as he's left the room, Usami has connected to one of the T.Vs mounted on the office walls – whose real purpose is to give an overview of what's happening with everyone's workloads – and is now using it as a projector for an hour-long meme compilation video. Fuck's sake.

"Actually, I'm taking my break too," Ogata announces, grabbing his jacket, locking his laptop and speed-walking after Tsukishima, hoping he's not fully left the building yet.

Luckily, he catches Tsukishima just as he's walking down the stairs. Their office is in a business estate pretty far out from anything if you don't drive. Sleeping in on a night shift means that, unless you can find someone to rope into giving you a lift to the nearest conbini, you're resigned to a fate of a vending-machine lunch. Which would be fine if they were kept in stock, but more often than not all the decent food had been snagged already. He could go for his break at the same time as Usami and catch a lift off of him, but Ogata can actually tolerate Tsukishima. Respects his staying power in a role that he lasted two weeks in. Two weeks of his advice and training being completely ignored. He practically begged Tsurumi to demote him – herding cats would've been an easier job.

But Tsukishima – Tsukishima has managed four years of cat herding on steroids. Always calm, can get on with anyone – or almost anyone. Only once has Ogata has ever witnessed  the other end of the scale with him: on a work night out, Tsukishima headbutted one of their old networking guys, square in the chest, with his full force behind him. The details were hazy to Ogata - he was piss drunk - but he knew from the gossip floating around the office for weeks after that the networking guy ended up with a concussion, and that somehow, Tsurumi managed to fudge the HR complaint against Tsukishima. Because of this, Tsukishima is one of the few people that genuinely instils a touch of fear in Ogata. So he respects him.

"How're things your side of the desk?" Tsukishima asks, as they browse the lack-lustre remains in the chilled section. 

"Uh, fine. There's two of us so there's not really much to do."

"Yeah, I guess. I'm pretty busy. Is Usami behaving himself?"

"What do you think?"

"...Yeah, I should probably pay more attention. Every time I glance over, that new-start looks kinda flustered."

Tsukishima is just picking up some extra snacks as an excuse to leave the office (Ogata knows this because he scavenged about three quarters of the rice from the huge box of home-made food Tsukishima brought from home). But Ogata doesn't like having to think too much about his food. He grabs two melonpan and a Red Bull.

"Nutritious,-" Tsukishima comments, "-God. I just thought, I really hope Usami's not sending them horse dicks again."

"I can guarantee you he is, Tsukishima-san."

The shop assistant is pointedly avoiding eye contact. 

Ogata doesn't blame him.

When they arrive back in the office, Usami jumps up from his desk, beaming, and says, "oh! You're back! Lunch time for me!" then pelts it to the back exit.

"What the fuck, Usami, what have you done?!" Ogata calls after him, but the door has already slammed shut.

Ariko and his new-start look how he feels right now – like they're an inch away from quitting on the spot. He sits down to find Usami's Skype chat window is pinging orange at him. Tsukishima figures he should probably have a look at this with Ogata, so he rolls one of the spare chairs over and sits with him.

 Usami [01:17]:
 ommg i sent a link that redirected to a pic of a horse dong to the newstart and thjey  clcked on it loooooooolololololol they keep asking if theyr gona get fired!!!  lmaoooooooooodshskdjfhoahhahahhehehhehehoooooo
 ariko is sooo mad at me hahaasasasja

  Usami wants to send an attachment.
  Usami wants to send an attachment.
  Usami wants to send an attachment.

Ogata grins. Usami is a terror, but he is at least a funny terror... sometimes.  The first attachment is a screenshot of  Ariko telling Usami very politely that he really doesn't like it when he sends inappropriate images to the new-starts he's supposed to be mentoring, The second is Usami asking "whaat do u mean???? wat kidn of""""inappropriate images"""?" and Ariko replying "horse penis...". The third is just a crop of the second that only includes Ariko's portion of the conversation. He saves that one – it has a lot of potential. Maybe he'll send it to Kikuta next time he sees him. Plus, his screenshot of Tamai saying "yeah mother fucker!!" was getting a bit old. He scrolls through several pages of that stupid fucking ninja emoticon that Skype has, interspersed with the occasional man-on-bike one. The next set of messages, however, are not so amusing. 

 Usami [01:48]
 ohh i miss you !!!! ogata-kun please come backsoon!!!!!!!!!!
 hehehe i left a woooooonderful case for you in the queue >: )


Usami is considerably less funny when you are on the receiving end of his bullshit.

"Fuck, man. Usami always does this shit, Tsukishima! Always palming the difficult stuff off to me," Ogata complains.

"Yeah, yeah. I know. Maybe you should check what he's talking about though."

His little present comes in the form of a case which doesn't quite qualify for a critical outage but is still impacting the customer enough that they have emailed in four times, each message accumulating more bold and italics and exclamation marks.

For fuck's sake.

"I swear to God I'm gonna hand my notice in tonight. I can't do this anymore, Tsukishima-san." Ogata looks back to Tsukishima, "can't you do something about him?"

"Believe me, I've been trying. But he is good at the job, and for some reason Tsurumi loves the guy. Not much to be done, I'm afraid."

He's right. Unfortunately. Tsurumi and Usami have some sort of bizarre symbiotic relationship that he really doesn't understand, nor does he care to. Once, back when he and Usami were both on first line, Tsurumi had said oh, wouldn't it be funny! if Usami would draw little stick men on the moles on his face, and the next week he came in with them fucking tattooed on. Tsurumi loves a suck-up. Ogata knows this personally. God, he really needs to get out of this place.

He reads through the customer's complaints, sends off a "thank you for your patience, please be assured we are currently investigating this issue for you" (at the request of Tsukishima) and scrolls aimlessly through the system logs. He has no fucking clue what he's even looking for here. Not only will he have to raise this with the vendor, he'll have to phone too, and it's a fucking nightmare trying to communicate with someone in a call centre in English, when neither of the people speaking have it as their native tongue.

Welcome to-
Ogata presses the “2” button on his desk phone, not allowing the voice to finish its pre-recorded spiel.
Thanks! This call will be recorded for training purposes. For support services certi-
He presses 2 again.
All right! Please enter your 4-digit-
That S-A-N was – he lets this one play out – one! ZEEro! ZEEro! two! right? Press-
This time, he presses 1.
Thanks! Are you calling about an open-
2 again.
Please wait while I connect your call with the next available operator.

Ogata waits through fifteen minutes of what sounds like seventies porn music being played from the bottom of a tin can. When an operator finally answers, he spells out his name at least five times, and lies that the line is bad, and could they send an email with the details over instead. They still spell his name wrong. Obata. Fucking hell.

It's about two hours – and within these two hours, the customer calls no less than six time, he almost feels sorry for the new guy having to answer it every time – before he gets a response from someone who actually knows what they're talking about. An actual engineer. He has an English-sounding first name – Phillip – and a Russian-sounding surname that Ogata goes out of his way to not ever say out loud, mainly because he has no idea how it's actually pronounced, and suggests that they conduct a remote session so that he can get a better look at what's going wrong with the customer's system. 

 Usami [04:02]
 lol I looksd up ur russski comrade phillip on facebook he has a funny beard and a  mullet and twirlywirly earrings
 look look
   Usami wants to share an attachment.

 Usami [04:09]:
 why is he speakin japaniese if hes russian
 aaaand he doesnt look russian either! tahts so weird
 what a weeeeird man our phil-chan is
 ughh ghh need 2 reboot this vm its died
 can u approove my change for it pls
 its in the queueueue

 Usami [04:10]:
 plsssssssssssssss !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 Ogata [04:11]:
 What are you talking about?
 Why do you always look people up on Facebook! That's so weird

 Ogata [04:12]:
 Also I approved the change for you
 Usami [04:12]:
 thank u!!!!!!!!!!!!! :^3
 Usami [04:19]:
 lol he vapes as well 
   Usami wants to share an attachment.  

 Usami [04:20]:
 420 looooooooooooooooooooooool

 Usami [04:23]:
 oh hh hhhh
 ohmy god u think hes hot dont u
 u went :o when u opend the pic I sent hahahahha
 nd ur face is rly ☭☭☭☭☭☭red☭☭☭☭☭☭ now btw :)
 im texting tht vasuily guy from the hardware team
 “hwo do you say i wana suck ur dick in russian”
 Ogata [04:23]:
 Do not.
 He already hates my guts, I don't need you making it worse.

 Usami [04:23]:
 lol who doesnt :) :) :)
 jk im ur bestie hehe

 Ogata [04:24]:
 Please for the love of god. fuck off

 Usami [04:24]:

Between Usami's teasing and the customer's rude as fuck attitude, it's a god-damned miracle that Ogata doesn't lose the plot with either of them, but it's somewhat comforting to detect the same if-I-saw-this-person-in-real-life-I'd-kick-their-ass energy from the third party engineer.

After being assured that the simple, one line command that was run has fixed the issue, and no, there's no need to reboot it, in spite of their desperate claim that rebooting fixes 99% of IT problems! the customer eventually concedes that they are somewhat satisfied with the temporary fix, but before they drop off the call, they make sure to drive the point home that they'll be phoning in to speak to your managers – both of you!

“Well...” Ogata reflexively smooths back his hair, accidentally nudging back his headset in the process, and resists the urge to say 'what a fucking prick', instead saying “That was kind of awful.”

“It's fine,-” the engineer sounds older than he looks, from the pictures Usami forcibly sent him anyway, “-happens to the best of us! I'll send over a transcript of what we did and an action plan if the same thing should happen again in the near future. Need anything else, or are we good to leave it at that?”

“I think that should be it, tha-”


“Usami! Can you please stop harassing Ogata while he's in a call-,” Tsukishima interrupts before he can finish, “-in fact not just when he's in a call, just in general. And everyone else. Quit it before you get an HR report.”

“I, uh...” Ogata attempts to salvage the situation. Usami's screeching was definitely loud enough to be heard through the headset. He can hear a muffled snort on the other end of the line. 

“It's fine,” the engineer repeats, not bothering to hold back his laughter this time, “I'll email you shortly. Thanks for your time today, Ogata-san.”

“Yeah, thanks, uh. Sir. Bye.” he ends the call “-Oh my God. Usami? What the fuck?” Ogata hisses. 

Thanks uhhhh sir,” Usami says, perfectly emulating the voice of a teenage school-girl, somehow, “No you hang up! Ouch!”

Ogata throws a spare mouse, hitting Usami directly in his forehead, before leaving to nap in one of the meeting rooms for the remainder of his shift. He's not doing any more work after all that.



His next set of nights, Usami has been swapped to days to cover for holidays, so at least Ogata doesn't have to deal with Usami for twelve hours. Just twelve minutes at the shift hand-over. And yet, it still manages to feel like the longest twelve minutes of his life.

“Oh, Ogata! You'll never guess who was assigned to one of my cases today,-” Usami leans in close to his ear but doesn't reduce his volume at all “-I got his number for you.”

“What? Who are you- Oh my god. Are you fucking kidding me?” he shoves Usami away by the shoulders.

“Would I lie to you, Ogata-kun?” he yells after him as he skids half way across the room on his chair, elongating the honorific in a sing-song voice.

“I'm gonna fucking kill you, Usami!” Ogata shouts back.

“Man, do you just have to be insane to be let into second line? What is going on with you guys?” Kikuta, the third-liner on late shift today, spins his chair around and gives them both an incredulous look. “And if you needed his number, don't they just have them in their email signatures?”

Usami bursts into raucous laughter at this.

“Huh? What's so funny? I don't get it,” Kikuta says.

“It's- Forget it. Usami is just being... Usami,” Ogata replies.

“You can say that again,” Kikuta says – weary – and turns back to his laptop.

While Usami and Nikaidou (Youhei - one of two twins –  who Ogata is not unconvinced swaps clothes with his brother Kouhei and sends him to work when he can't be bothered) throw ping-pong balls at each other over the desks, Ogata opens his emails. One “Baby News!” from HR to the whole company. One “Goodbye folks” from some sales-guy he's never seen or talked to in his life from the Osaka branch. Two from Koito, the team leader on his opposite shift – one with a highly compressed, watermarked jpeg of a clip-art post-it note saying “IMPORTANT INFO!”, demanding that the team make sure they're leaving regular updates for customers because some people aren't doing it, and another sent to him personally. He's CC'd in all the other team leads and even Tsurumi. It starts with another shitty post-it clip art – this time saying “READ AND UNDERSTAND!” – asking in the most passive aggressive way possible if there was “a reason” he made a minor mistake in a case that he barely even remembers. He hits the reply-all button and starts typing.


 Good evening Koito-san,

 First of all, I want to offer my most heartfelt and sincere apologies for this transgression.  You can be rest assured that I will never, ever make this mistake again, sir. Thank you so much for pointing out the fact that I forgot to paste some log outputs into this case that I worked on like two months ago, on my last night-shift of the set, at six o'clock in the  fucking morning.

 Kindest regards,


He deliberates on whether to send it as is. The last time he pissed off Koito he was subjected to weeks upon weeks of literally every single thing he did being nit-picked, which culminated in being pulled off the desk for a meeting with a very, very concerned Tsurumi - “I've heard talk that your heart's not quite in the job any more, Ogata-san. Would you like to have a chat about it? Anything going on at home we should know about?” Tsurumi's hand on his knee under the conference table. 

I mean, that kind of backfired on Koito, he thinks.

But no. No. Absolutely not. Not worth it. He exits without saving the draft, opting instead to forward it to Tsukishima with the comment “what the fuck is this shit?”, then deletes the original email itself.

In amongst all of this, is an email from Usami, with the subject line “dont say im not good to you!”. Ugh. Ogata figures he should at least send a text to apologise for whatever the fuck stunt Usami pulled to get the number.


 Hi. My colleague gave me this number. If you are an actual person and not a number that  subscribes me to daily penis enhancement adverts, sorry if he was weird. If you are a  number that subscribes me to daily penis enhancement adverts please ignore this. I don't  want the adverts. Thanks.


Hopefully he doesn't get a response. He leaves his phone to the side and gets started on his workload for the night. If he doesn't pick something up soon, the fact that he's already slacked off for forty minutes will flag up on his time report.

The night goes smoothly, no duty manager in, but the first liners are Ariko and some girl who started recently but is passable at the job, so hasn't made a name for herself. Not that Ogata bothers to learn their names unless they stay any longer than six months.

His phone buzzes at three AM.

  penis enhancement!? thats oddly specific lol

ur colleague (usami I think?) said he would give me a 5 star rating for the case-handling if I gave him my number so its no probs



 It's specific because he's signed me up to them before. Anyway, you can delete these now. Just wanted to apologise if he was being weird. He's really weird.


he was a bit! but its ok :-) ur the guy I was helping with that rly pissy customer a few weeks back?




  howd it work out? the case got handed off to someone else and I never checked it


 They backed off because it was entirely their fault. Down to some change they made on another piece of kit we didn't support. 


  lol that happens all the time over here, rly annoying


Ogata leaves it at that. He doesn't really know why he's having such an insipid conversation with some random engineer. He's not that lonely. But he receives another message shortly after.


  btw what should I save u in my phone as? i forgot ur name sry

 Is this a joke?

  not at all! ur sense of humour is v dry, its fun :-)

What the fuck? What sense of humour?


 It's Ogata.

  ogata! i rmember now
  I prefer to go by kiroranke if u want to save mine

This guy is getting more and more confusing by the minute.




Ariko interrupts him, asking for help with an error message he's struggling with.

“Did you Google it?” Ogata asks, just to be sure. You never know with first-liners – even someone as competent as Ariko.

“Yes, Ogata-san, I did Google it. It just came up with like ten different things it could be,” Ariko says.

“Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I probably know about as much as you,”

“Well, I updated the case with it all...” Ariko trails off, “Mind if I sit with you while you take a look at it? I need to make up my time and there's nothing to do.”

“Can't you just put in like 4 hours for 'training videos' like the rest of us?”

“I finished all of the ones I was given. It'll look even more suspicious and you know how much Tsurumi loves to check the cameras.”

“...All right. But I'm literally gonna be doing the exact same thing you were so don't get your hopes up on learning anything.”

He searches around for any suggestions on what the root of the problem could be. Cycles through several threads of people saying they've seen the same issue, all ending with “I've fixed it!” and no elaboration. The official knowledge-base articles provide no help either, as they all contradict each other – it could be a software bug or a hardware fault or- Whatever.

“God, I knew this would happen. Just pass the case up and we'll hand it to third line... or actually wait, I have an idea.”

“Oh, sure.” Ariko sits back down.

Ogata unplugs his phone and starts typing up a message.


 Hi again. Quick question for you. Have you ever seen this error before? What does it mean?


Ogata sends over a photo of the alert string for context.


  Lol r u keeping my # so u can look smart? :-D


hahaha. ive seen it plenty. R there a bunch of write faults in the messages log? And stuff abt memory but thers no hardware fault listed?


 Yeah, actually


sounds like bug id 786755! I bet its reeeally old kit running on an old OS version


Damn. Do you have them all memorised or what? And yeah it is.

  I mean it is kind of my job.. 
  just kidding lol its just one ive seen quite often
  probs needs upgraded
  or better yet replace the tin!

“Replace the... what? What the fuck does tin mean?” Ogata mumbles to himself.


 OK. Thanks.



“Who's Kiroranke?”

“Fuck's sake Ariko!” Ogata jumps “I didn't know you were still here. Why are you reading over my shoulder?!”

“I-I didn't mean to!” Ariko holds his hands up in defence, “-Just- I just saw a glimpse of the screen and the name caught my eye. It's Ainu.”

“Oh, right. Does it mean anything?”

“What do you- Does it mean anything – of course it does! I think it's something like...” Ariko taps his chin, “strong... legs? Or lower body maybe. I can't remember. Definitely strong something. I can ask my dad if you want?”

“Uh, no. Really. It's fine.”

Ariko doesn't ask who he is again, thank God.

But now he's even more confused. Why on earth is he going by an Ainu name? Ogata resists the temptation to Google him like some kind of weird stalker – i.e. Usami – maybe he can just ask him later, or – ugh, why does he even care about this? There's a backlog of work that's piled up while he fucked around with Kiroranke and this stupid case.

Ogata decides he'll keep the guy's number for situations like this, where he needs help on a weird case, but that's it. Probably. Maybe.