I’m in for it now, he thought as he headed for the only enclosed office on the floor. The last time he’d been disciplined, Leader Stark had warned him that he was on the verge of being reassigned. Gavon could only hope that he could convince him that this was a harmless mistake.
After the usual security check and approval to enter, he reluctantly stepped inside as the office door quietly slid closed behind him. Leader Farley Stark was intent on the current task displayed over his terminal and made no move to acknowledge his presence in the room.
“What the hell are you doing you dumb bastard?” he roared. “Don’t you know this black mark will show on your record for the day? How the hell do you expect me to explain this to the Council? It’s the second time this week you’ve slipped up, damn it! So what’s your excuse this time?”
“Sorry sir,” Gavon stammered. “I just wasn’t thinking about my work this morning. I’ve had some personal problems I’ve been trying to deal with. I promise it won’t happen again.”
“Promises don’t cut it! This job demands discipline! You know the Council Directives. I can’t afford to have them continually pointing out our mistakes. And by the way, if you’re having personal problems, you know you’re expected to see the Council Help Desk. Have you done that?”
“No sir, I haven’t. But I’ll certainly take care of it as soon as I leave work today.”
“Well, you damn well better,” Stark said as he finally turned to face Gavon. “But I’m afraid I’m going to have to take action. I haven’t decided yet what it will be. But you can rest assured; it will be for the good of the group. Now return to your tasks. I’ll contact you later. That’s all!”
The full impact of what had happened that day didn’t hit Gavon until he returned to his commune quarters that night.
As he had promised his boss, he made an effort to see the Council Help Desk, but as usual, they were too busy to see him at this time. They had promised to schedule a meeting in the near future and he was told that they would post it on the Council Network in a few days.
His worst fear was a reassignment to an alien outpost on the moon or Mars where he’d be branded an outcast for the remainder of his service tenure. He had heard some very scary tales of horrendous conditions at these places that he’d never taken seriously, but now seemed to be real possibilities.
Although it was widely reported in the Council electronic media that there had never been any major incidents at these bases, it was well known by the worker class that there had been some serious accidents including major fatalities due to lack of enforcement of safety regulations.
Oh, well, it could be worse, he thought as he selected the icon for a stiff bourbon and water on his appliance wall unit. They could have made an instant example of his indiscretion and put him in the Council Renewal Program, which he knew meant a complete “brain washing” to “realign his thinking”.
After downing several drinks, he finally concluded that getting inebriated was doing no good, as he was becoming increasingly depressed and convinced he was doomed to some unspeakable inevitable disaster.
His usual sense of self-confidence was so badly shaken that for once in his life, he had to admit that he needed help. He instinctively muttered the code letter “S” on his communicator and was relieved to see the smiling face of Sylvy Saxe, his most trusted female companion, on the screen.
“Can we meet tonight?” he asked calmly. “I’d like to discuss a new assignment I’m getting at PGC. I need your advice on how to help me upgrade my efficiency to be a better producer,” he said as he shuddered at such a ridiculous lie.
He knew that Sylvy would understand the underlying message, as she was well aware that they would be in deep trouble if they disclosed any emotion or personal criticism of their work on the Council network. And his unique position at the PGC Propaganda Department had long ago taught him that all conversations were constantly monitored for “unapproved” phrases.
“Why certainly, number 101,” she answered. “I’ll do what I can to help you adjust. I know you’re dedicated to your work and only want to do a better job.”
Thank God, he thought as he nodded to shut down the communicator. She had responded with the correct approved code words that meant she wouldn’t be deterred by Council Security and would be at his door within minutes.
He quickly set the ambient controller to the “romance” mode. The harsh, white room lighting dimmed to a soothing rose color and the constant boring drone of the evening news being shown on the entertainment center switched off. The soothing background sounds of his favorite ballads provided welcome relief from the inevitable daily flood of Council propaganda.
As he waited in anticipation of Sylvy’s arrival, he began to reminisce about the first time he’d taken notice of her. It was during a group morale meeting at PGC headquarters. His initial attention was directed to her slim, well-proportioned body, but when he finally caught her attention, he was instantly mesmerized by her beautiful face and deep, penetrating hazel eyes that seemed to communicate an invitation into the inner parts of her soul.
Encounter at Mining Outpost
page 107, "As expected, the startled androids quickly abandoned their tasks at the entry doors and followed the men as they ran outside the facility confinement. There, they were met by concentrated fire from the sand rovers and were swiftly dispatched into a melted heap of rubble.”
Détente or Death
page 195, "It is not your place to question my statements! Council tribunals are obviously always fair and objective! You are treading on dangerous ground to doubt the sincerity of the Council! If you insist on challenging our well established rules of proper procedures and worker behavior, then I will have no choice but to employ our more severe Martian form of justice!”
Assignment: San Francisco
The train screeched to a stop at Montgomery Station. Fred wedged his way through the humanity gathered at the exit doors and, as usual, just made it through as they closed hard behind him. He hurried up the escalator and jogged to his high-rise office building in time to jam his way into the elevator with the other “cattle” headed for work.
He knew he was running late, but he made his usual stop at the coffee vending machines before he headed for his desk. As he watched the cup overfill he grabbed it and burned his hand before he could retrieve it from the filling station.
“Damn! Did it again,” he muttered as he made his way to his cubicle. Hope they won’t notice I’m late again, he thought as he dropped in his chair and began digging through the stack of paper that littered his desk. Contrary to what the yokels in the business tabloids like to think, there is no paperless society in this world, at least not yet, he thought.
“You ready for the meeting?” Jeff Sanders asked from his next-door cubicle.
“What meeting?” Fred shot back.
“The one they just called to get an update on our progress.”
“Don’t the bastards know we’re busting our ass to get this damn report out of our here and get on with some real engineering?”
“Doesn’t matter,” snorted Jeff, “got to show the bosses we care about this thing, old man.”
The “report” was another Environment Impact Report concerning a project that everyone knew would probably not be built in its present form but could not be funded until all the environmental approvals were obtained. Most of the data presented in the report was “estimated” usually without a great deal of study to back it up. In fact, Fred himself had ginned up many of the numbers based on brief telephone talks or emails from company “experts” who had neither the time nor interest in the whole damn thing.
“Lets go Jeff,” Fred groaned as meeting time approached.
“OK buddy, you got your shit together?” Jeff asked as they met in the aisle.
“No, but I’ll come up with something.”
Fred knew the meeting would be a waste of time that would set back his progress at least half a day, but what the hell could he do. If he missed it, he would be asked to come up with an explanation, which would lead to more lost time. So, like the rest of the herd, he went to the damn meeting.
He knew that these sessions were important to the boss because it was one of the few times he felt he was contributing to the effort. And, as he expected, the boss, Al Connetti, was his usual congenial self, congratulating everyone on the great job they were doing. Most of this praise was not taken seriously as it was common knowledge that Al was quick to take full credit for the group’s accomplishments in his reports to management.
The usual people who enjoyed hearing themselves sound important made the usual boring reports and all was going according to schedule as the adjournment (lunch) hour neared.
Just as he was about to head for the door, Fred heard the dreaded words from Al, “Funtley, we haven’t heard from you yet. We all would be most interested in your current progress.”
Oh, oh, he thought as he perked up and tried to look serious. “Well sir, I’m ahead on the work you’ve assigned to me. I hope to finish the chapter on construction manpower this week. Hopefully, I can start on the expected emissions in the next few days.”
“Good, because I want you to tackle something else, if you would. We need a summary of our progress for the guys upstairs. By next Monday at the latest. I know you can do a good job. Meeting adjourned”
Fred’s jaw dropped as he left the room.
How the hell could he get this new assignment completed in time without working through the weekend? Impossible! To make matters worse, he knew that it was another administrative task that had nothing to do with engineering and should have been given to a non-tech person. Certainly not him!
What burned him the most was he wasn’t given the opportunity to state his case. This job is going to kill all my incentive to work for this company, he thought. That is, if it doesn’t kill me first.
Back at his desk, he checked his email, and as he waded through the usual company announcements, writing assignments, schedule updates, and management b.s., something interesting caught his eye.
It was a curious message from Brad Blazer, a fellow engineer he had worked with on previous nuclear processing projects. He had heard that Brad was now assigned as the company’s Project Manager for a range of projects at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, the local Department of Energy lab. The message asked if they could meet the coming Friday for lunch in the city. He knew the lab was involved in state-of-the-art government work including laser research, nuclear fission and fusion projects, nonproliferation studies, and nuclear weapons development and “stewardship” programs.
He immediately sent off a reply saying he would definitely be there, as he knew this was an opportunity to get assigned to a project that was actually challenging.
To say that Fred Funtley’s life was typical of a normal, eight-to-five suburban commuter would be an understatement. In fact, it was so routine that he sometimes felt as if it was originally scripted by some nerd in heaven who was seeking revenge for his own non-eventful stay on earth.
His daily schedule was set in stone; rise at 5 am, shower, shave and attend to his bodily needs in half an hour, drive to the local Bart train station, squeeze into the half-awake mass of humanity on the train, arrive at work in time for a quick cup of coffee before the boss arrived, startup his computer and begin the tedious task of completing the latest part of the project environmental report.
The Straight POOP
page 94, "Michio described their primary goal is to restructure the world order by giving power back to the people by any means possible, including force. He left no doubt in my mind that they would use the threat of nuclear weapons to accomplish their goals."
page 180, "And by the way, I was instrumental in planning our operations here at the Yellow Sky Project and am told that the information we've gathered so far has greatly accelerated our weapons program. And since we now have the Taepodong-II missile, we'll be able to strike the major cities of Japan and the United States at any time."