Another day in hell.
Matthew pushed open the glass door, staring bleary eyed at his phone.
“Sync complete,” said a pleasant female voice.
He stopped in the doorway and took a breath. Sweet, pleasant air lolled around him. The old security guard at reception nodded in greeting
“Matt, how you doing today.”
He waved Matthew through.
Matthew walked. The corridor rose gently underneath him, becoming a glass umbilical that parted the crisp, green lawns surrounding the building proper. His phone rumbled in his pocket, handling all the automated requests and scripted tasks he’d set up. He paused at the door, detecting the faint sounds of music, then swiped himself in.
Rows of racks laid before him, circling a central control station. The hum of a thousand servers lulled him as the gentle strings of Vivaldi excited him.
“Spring, uh in E major?”
“You’re getting sharper, Matt!” An older man emerged from the rows, his pockets stuffed with spare parts.
“Oh hey, morning Steve.”
The technician leaned on one of the earthing rods. A faded nametag hanging onto his turtleneck read CEO
“I was just putting a few optimizations in on Block C. You could give me a hand, or did you want to check status from the panopticon first?”
“You’re rewiring the HPC clusters?” Matthew pulled out his phone and scrolled through a list of success messages
“I figured why not? Your test worked so well, we can get the entire Block converted across today.”
Matthew rubbed his hands together “I can’t wait to start.”
Matthew lurched upright, the screen coming into focus in front of him. Where- oh right. Another day in hell.
“What?” he snapped.
Daniel appeared on the edge of vision “Thought you might want lunch.”
“Yes, No. I mean, I’m very busy.”
“I can see that,” Matthew was always impressed by Daniel’s ability to accept lies. It was probably why he did so well here “But I snagged leftovers from a meeting.”
Matthew jumped up “Let’s roll,” he spared a glance over the other desks but Steve and Kobe were gone.
Daniel led the way to the meeting room. He even held the door open for Matthew. There were indeed muffins on the table. However they were not alone. Amelia sat facing the window. A lowly intern, she’d yet to perfect the thousand yard stare. And at the head, Farah, one of the ambitious young project managers.
“After all I’ve done for you. Traitor!” Matthew fled.
Daniel stepped inside with a pained expression “I tried.”
Amelia watched as Matthew flew down the corridor, collided with an analyst and yelled an apology. She turned back to the meeting. Daniel, resigned to the madness, dug into the muffins. Their project manager Farah was preternaturally calm “That went pretty well. You were supposed to give him the requirements deck beforehand though.”
Daniel shrugged “He would have known something was up.”
Farah tapped on a conference phone “M… M… what’s his extension?”
“He’s ex-directory. You know IT. Amelia has his number.”
“That’s for emergencies,” Amelia said protectively.
“Amelia,” Farah leaned forward “Let’s do a little roleplay.”
“The building is on fire. Can I have the number?”
“Remember we’re roleplaying. You, Daniel and I are writhing in agony as fire consumes our flesh.”
“It burns.” said Daniel between muffins.
Reluctantly Amelia produced a dog-eared note.
Farah smiled “The first rule in business is knowing how to deal with people.”
She dialled the number and switched to speaker phone.
Back to the hell that spawned ye!”the voice sounded slightly out of breath.
“Matthew, was it? This is Farah from Projects. I was told you have just the skills we’re looking for.”
“No, I don’t know anything about that and I’m busy with a priority incident!”
“I already cleared the time with your manager. You’ll be released from all ongoing maintenance to work with us.”
“Satan is the father of lies.”
Farah nodded to Daniel. He cleared his mouth of crumbs.
“And as for you Judas! I will see you-“
“This is just a scoping exercise, you won’t be required to give concrete estimates.”
There was a long pause at the other end of the phone
“I want that in writing.”
Amelia realised she should probably be taking notes.
Daniel was busy designing the new customer engagement system when it happened. To be fair it was his own fault. He’d accepted the invite on the basis that while Steve droned on about optimizing paradigms Daniel could get the work done. And so he’d packed himself into a room with about seven managers and stole a scrap of tablespace. He knew none of them, which meant they were too senior to be important. Unfortunately he hadn’t gambled on it happening. He didn’t even notice until Steve said “Dan?”
Daniel glanced up from his rapid response complaints system at two rows of quizzical faces. “Sure, it’s doable.”
Steve smiled “And with the new 666 link, we should have the hard copy before lunchtime.”
The managers nodded to each other knowingly.
Daniel’s office honed instincts flared “Sorry Steven, could you restate that in laymen’s terms?”
Steve swelled with pride at the thought of being too technical for someone “We agreed we need the hard copy of the previous version’s project plan so we’re going to send you over to archives to retrieve it.”
Amelia was making coffee when she heard the scream. Round the corner she found security holding onto Daniel. A group of managers filed past, whispering to each other. Steve came last “Same time tomorrow, we’ll do a full review of today’s minutes!”
Daniel struggled to break free “Not again! Please not again!”
“Did something happen?” she asked, sipping coffee.
Steve noticed her “Don’t worry, it’s a perfectly normal reaction.”
“He’s going up to Archives tomorrow,” Steve winked “It’s on the northside.”
“My family is from Swords.”
Steve never let a bad joke slow him down “Fancy an all-expenses paid company trip?”
Amelia considered his sharklike grin. It had to be better than making coffee..
Daniel stared into his empty cup. A guru had once spoken to him of how the universe was no more than the composite of our rational minds struggling to comprehend each other. Daniel needed coffee. Why didn’t the universe understand this?
Daniel turned to subject the speaker to his caffeine deficient wrath. Steve was standing there with a college-age girl in tow. His mind went in two directions. The first part imagined a coffee tree growing from Steve’s body. The other twisted the mouth into a professional smile and said “Steve, how can I help you?”
Steve turned to the woman beside him “Amelia, this is Daniel our best employee. Dan, this is Amelia the new intern.”
A half-remembered e-mail popped into Daniel’s head. He leapt from his chair and grabbed Amelia’s outstretched hand “Nice to meet you, Amelia.”
She looked nervous and squeezed his knuckles so hard they ground together. Daniel drew back nursing a bruise. And then Steve was Steve “Actually Dan, I have to pop off to a meeting. Was hoping you could show Amelia around, give her the lay of the land.”
Daniel resolved to look up the difference between murder and manslaughter “Sure, Steve. Happy to help.”
“Cheers, don’t forget to induct her!” Steve winked on the way out.
That left Amelia.