Roman Vallancourt hates people, but loves his computers. It's 2002 and he wants to be the next Bill Gates. The only thing standing in his way is the eleventh grade. With a constant itch to prove his skills, Roman hatches a plan to hack into his school's computer system.

He recruits the only humans he tolerates, his friends Tadeh Tovmasian, an obsessive overachiever, and Alex Ter Alaverdian, a food-loving video game nerd, to help with some real-world steps that klutzy Roman would certainly trip over.

Despite their closeness, the fear of getting caught, pressure to excel, and girl crushes end up being the toughest final exam for their friendship.

Inspired by true events, The Beta Boys is told through the perspectives of the three friends.

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Excerpt from The Beta Boys © Copyright 2023 Arin Mikailian


The high school party of a lifetime raged on: first-ever vodka shots, sprawling beats, dancing, rumors of making out, girls cackling in a huddle until one of them broke away crying, meatheads bumping shoulders as they sized each other up, seeing who’d be worthy of fight-of-the-night.

But Roman Vallancourt didn’t care.

He heard whispers of hype about the event at school and pictured it from his cyber cave—aka his room. Sure, the party might have been a bit tantalizing, but to earn an invite, he’d have to talk to people, a lot of people, most of whom he didn’t know. Death. Even the cost of being a wallflower was relatively high. Instead, he sunk into the dependable padding of his desk chair, his feet muscles so calloused they no longer fell asleep amid marathons by a computer screen stretching past the rim of his afro. It was all he needed. He assumed a girl’s touch couldn’t be that much better. Like all of life’s hurdles, caressing feminine skin could be procrastinated.

In his mind, he sat at his desk in a huge corner office like a thriving adult, a tech innovator earning passive income while wearing a T-shirt and shorts. He was proud to be alone on a Friday night in a room without posters—his mom didn’t let him put any up. No need to dignify nudging elbows to make the most of his youth. After years of failed hobbies and participation trophies stacking up on his closet shelf, he found an extracurricular he didn’t just tolerate; it consumed his adolescence like the child prodigies he saw on ​60 Minutes.

White words rained up his screen like commands in the archaic MS-DOS. But it wasn’t boot-up jargon. Each line transmitted an expert opinion, friendly banter, or the occasional swear-fueled feud that got members kicked out, though most of the time it was temporary. Nearly seven hundred users were signed onto #mswarez at the moment. Warez was slang for pirated software. The year before, Roman pledged allegiance to the popular DAL Net Internet Relay Chat channel—a go-to for finding leaked builds of the latest versions of Microsoft Windows and other pricey software brands.

The final build of Whistler, later to be renamed Windows XP, leaked onto #mswarez around the same time Roman joined. He had no such luck finding it when he first tried a different channel, #winwarez. Its users didn’t even catch wind of it until hours after the leak. So Roman became a regular on #mswarez while #winwarez was cast as the loathed rival.

Screw those guys,​ Roman thought each time he heard the competition’s name.

Either way, this was all old news. It was almost the fall of 2002, and everyone had moved onto the mysterious codename Longhorn. A handful of screenshots of it have been released so far. Users hotly anticipated the drop of the first build, and the hundreds-strong #mswarez army was ready to turn a leak into a flood. Many would tinker with a build’s functionalities, find new features, and share screenshots of their discoveries. Being first meant a lot of bragging rights on the channel, but for Roman, he believed it would prepare him for a start at Microsoft as a lowly beta tester. Then, perhaps, he could ascend to a software engineer—a distant Plan B if he never discovered a billion-dollar idea like Bill Gates.

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