Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Fragments: Corporate Gods: A Novel

Here's another fragment of the beginning of the first chapter of a novel I've been fooling around with. Let me know what you think.

“You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world
for you.”
–Walt Disney

Part One: When the Going Gets Weird, the Weird Turn Pro

Chapter One
Jeremy is spying on you again.

He’s only been Acting Director for three days, and you’ve already gotten off on the wrong foot with him somehow. Though the way you figure it, anyone not going out of their way to overtly kiss his ass is likely to get on his bad side.

You quickly minimize your browser window containing an email full of job prospects. Too late; you know he’s seen you using company time and bandwidth, though you also know he has no idea what you were looking at. He nods knowingly and heads to the john, which until he arrived had been your own private domain, being the only male in this department.

You sigh and decide to get back to work. Even though it’s been mercifully slow, you’ve let your boredom get the better of you, and you know that this is just another hidden black mark that will be used against you when another position opens up, a position for which you’re overqualified and would mean a pay cut even if you somehow impressed the right people.

Checking over your shoulder, you close out the email window and go to work, consigning yourself to the fate of waiting until lunch to get on with the rest of your life. There’s not much you can do with company bandwidth anyway, and the place may as well be inside a Faraday cage without the free, ubiquitous Wi-Fi that will be available to you once you step outside these doors, wafting through the air from the park across the street.

Then you see Pamela walk in.

She’s got a shit-eating grin on her face a mile wide, and a fresh Halo of approval
encircling her head like the lone electron crazily orbiting a bottle blond hydrogen atom. You check her Popularity Rating, and find that it is up in the stratosphere, as usual. Heading up her own Special Project apparently agrees with her. She looks at you, smiling as is the custom when someone in Management looks at one of their underlings and finds them in that same moment looking back, then heads straight to her office. Your coworkers lean out of their cubicles to watch her pass like inmates in a prison movie. They felt it too, that electric presence of the Newly Converted and Popular.

“Has she gone Post?” says a buzz in your ear, and you wink your right eye to get the glare of your Instant Messenger out of your vision. “Not all the way,” you reply, typing in the air on an invisible keyboard. No, for now she’s just well on her way to becoming a middle management Demigorgon. She wasn’t quite near full-fledged Deity status yet. That was reserved only for the President and CEO, who for now is the same entity, a tightfisted Cerberus as feared as he was mostly unseen.

It appears research for your article on extrasolar planets will have to wait, as all the bosses have come home to roost, and you realize you’d better get back to doing what they will gladly tell you they are paying you good money to do. You think it’s a small price to be paid for your very soul. You’re too afraid to ping your own P-Rating, especially in light of recent events. The only thing that keeps it hovering above the danger zone is what you do when you’re not at work, and you’re not about to let that get out in the office Workspace.

Your Instant Messenger chimes again. This time you pick it up on your desktop. It’s from Pamela.

“Please come see me,” is the message.

You hastily type ‘OK’ and get up, a tiny knot of uncertainty and trepidation forming in your already beleaguered stomach. “What did I do this time?” you think.

You enter her office.

“Shut the door, please,” she says without looking up from her workstation. Her Results Halo has faded somewhat, but it still clearly circumnavigating her too-blond skull.

“Have a seat, John.”

You do so, feeling as welcome as Anton LaVey at a church BBQ.

“Your work lately is much improved.” She looks at you and smiles.

You try not to visibly sigh, and manage to stutter out a “Thank you.” You relax, sitting back in your chair.

Her eyes flick back and forth, no doubt reviewing an invisible spread sheet. “Your number of calls has increased, your accuracy rate is back up where it should be..”

“Thank you,” you say. “I-I’m really trying.”

Oh, that came out sounding so lame, and you wish you could take it back. Too late.
What’s done is done. The die is cast.

“I was wondering if you would like to help me on a little project.”

That one you didn’t see coming. The browbeating, the shellacking, all of that is the usual when you get called into the boss’s office. You didn’t expect this, and it’s freaking you out.

“Uh, sure,” you say, not even bothering to ask what it is. When the Powers That Be deign to let a lower level peon play in their sandbox, you don’t ask questions. You can imagine how high your Likeability Points will be after this.

“I know you have some experience in this, and that you have been looking for more
responsibility around here.” She casts her cold blue eyes on you, as if expecting some nonverbal confirmation of this.

You nod your head like a good corporate automaton, even though the last thing you need or want is more work piled on top of all your usual mind-numbing duties.

“Good.” Pamela shuffles the few physical papers that litter her desk. “Congratulations, Josh. You’re getting a Clearance Upgrade.”

“What?” you say before you realize you should have kept that to yourself.

“That’s right. It’s part of my special project. And I could really use your help. Still in?”

The offhanded flattery catches you off guard as much as it works to massage your failing ego, and you say, “Of course. Whatever you need me to do.”

Ugh. Did you really just say that? You sound another corporate kiss-up. But whatever.
You knew you sold your soul to Satan when you signed up for this gig. In for a penny, in for a pound.

“That’s great, Josh. I’m really glad you’re being such a team player on this.”

You nod, knowing full well that in Corporate Speak, ‘team player’ means ‘mindless drone that does whatever he or she is told’.

“Great. I’ll get the paperwork started. In the meantime, come with me. I have something to show you that I think you’ll find quite interesting.”

You get up and follow her out of the room, knowing full well that in Corporate Speak,
‘very interesting’ means ‘something that middle management screwed up so badly that it could get half the company laid off in favor of six dollar an hour labor in India, moments after it incinerates your nuts.

You think this has to be some kind of trick to screw with you. Maybe you’re caught in
some weird power play. There’s no way that Pamela, that pompous jerk Jeffery, or anyone higher on the food chain here than Janitor would ever condescend to allow a mid-level tech support geek like you to help them with anything. For all you know, Pam could be setting you up as a patsy to take the blame for some incompetence she somehow can’t sweet-talk her way out of. But until you figure out what’s going on, you figure it’s better to play along. Maybe you can turn this to your advantage. Maybe. Besides, it beats trying to solve computer problems for people who are
hard pressed to turn one on.

That sends your mind going back to the disastrous chain of events that brought you to this place, at this time. While you were being handed your college diploma, the economy was falling like a Stuka divebomber with a kamikaze pilot at the yoke, and you found yourself pounding pavement and aspiring to mediocrity with not only twenty or so thousand of your fellow graduates, but people with years of experience and better qualifications who had been laid off from the same job you wanted.

And then you found the beloved Company.

After telling them everything you thought they wanted to hear in order to get the job so you could get paid and finally eat, they send you to your physical, which was as humiliating as the interview and much more violating. First it’s all that RFID shit they pump you full of: Telemetry tracking and biometrics so the gates and doors will open at your approach, and gods know what else insidious, barely ethical, but perfectly legal nanotech and semisentient software gleefully busted through your personal firewall like a cheap condom to prowl not only your PAN, but your
very bloodstream.

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home