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[personal profile] puffy_wuffy
Doctor Harold Smith’s lab at the Company was pristine.  This was, in part, because every day, after he had left, his little robot janitor was set to clean.  The robot janitor would whir and whir, puttering about the large floor, taking out the hazardous waste, sorting the recyclables, setting the bins just so and generally tidying up.  It helped that Doctor Smith was the only person working in the lab anymore, really the only person who visited the basement space these past five years.
When Dr Smith would return the next morning, his lab would be as clean as a whistle.  A white whistle, with lots of knobs and stainless steel and fashionable black countertops arraying a workspace with hundreds of machines all for only one man.  Dr Smith would find the little robot janitor tucked into its neat little closet within his office and shake one of its five arms (not the one which sorts the recyclables, mind you, but still, an arm) in thanks.  The little ritual done, Dr Smith would get back to work.
Today was not a regular day.  This morning, Dr Smith, had an important meeting with the CEO of the Company.  Dr Smith input a special program into his little robot friend.  Straightening his lab coat with ID placed within the breast pocket, he began his walk to the elevators from his office.  His cheery whistle lightened the white noise of the busy machinery of his underground lab, a private playground of science, his own kingdom of gadgetry.  Each white door led to rooms of expensive equipment and exotic materials: collectively, the harmonic frequency was a high hum.
As Dr Smith passed the MRI room he checked to make sure he had nothing metal on him.  His filling ached and his ID card as usual would have been deactivated, had it not already been deactivated by his trips past the room.  Before he passed the spectroscopy room, he hurriedly pulled on eye protection, more of a habit than a safety precaution.  Each door bore no placards or room numbers.
Dr Smith’s bizarre dance continued down the white halls past the white doors, a tarantella of environmental health and safety, white blurring on white with white noise and tuneless humming as accompaniment.  His movements as he passed in front of the Teleporter Room and the Clone Room were particularly amusing, requiring at least five pairs of gloves and the putting on and removal of a bunny suit which he had donned and divested on his way in to greet his robot friend.
Dr Smith finally reached the elevator, the one that would pull him out of the facility.  The elevator ride was approximately fifteen minutes long, culminating in an emergence from behind an Italian restaurant.  The limousine picked him up, as per the email, exactly at 9:15 am.  The driver furtively waved Dr Smith into the car.  Only an alley cat observed their coming and going.
Dr Smith held himself as still as possible.  He was riding a vehicle of his own design, which he had dreamed of so long ago, a car so quiet on the inside, so comfortable that it would be in demand even 20 years later, the same model as it had always been.  He glanced under the armrest at the serial number and a small smile crinkled his aged face.
Through the bulletproof, radiation resistant, tinted windows, he gazed at a subdivision which he rarely ventured through on foot.  Even now, he was slightly lost.  This was no Midwestern city with a tidy grid or a usable transportation system.  It was an unsightly urban sprawl, street signs less bright than store signs, each street just another street, each park another pigeon-filled homeless shelter.  Dr Smith pulled a notepad out at a stop sign and began to scribble.  
At 10:00 am, the limo pulled up to the main administrative building of the Company.  Wedged between two large buildings, it didn’t stand out.  No logo distinguished it from any other building on its block, each more anonymous than the last.  The number of the building was listed in a small bronze plaque on the north face, which also listed it as a historical site of some importance a hundred years ago.
Dr Smith disembarked without a word to the driver and took his place among the stream of people entering the building.  Somehow, the stream of people entering never intersected the stream of people leaving.  Their exact efficiency meant that when Dr Smith tried to swipe in through the lobby, traffic within the lobby was at a standstill for the five minutes.
A tall security officer eventually extracted Dr Smith from the crowd, pulling him along to the reception desk.  “Dr Harold Smith, I presume.”  
“Hello again.”  Dr Smith screwed his face up in concentration.  “Mike?”
“No.”  Pointing to his nametag, the officer smiled.  “Mark, but you’re getting closer every time.  You know the drill, Doc, sign in with the receptionist.  You’ve got to get an ID that works.”
“It always works when I leave.”  
Mark tipped his hat then walked back to his post next to the swipe turnstiles.
A young brunette politely handed Dr Smith a clipboard with a form and a pen.  
He presented her with his ID.  “Haven’t I filled out this form enough?”
“Rules are rules, Dr Smith.  If your identification card doesn’t work, you must fill out the form and be escorted personally to your destination.”  She tossed her dark, shoulder-length hair and set the clipboard in front of him.  “Once you’ve finished with the form, please sign at the bottom, and we’ll get you through to your conference room with an escort.”
Dr Smith diligently filled out the form.  The march of office grunts continued behind him as people entered the turnstiles, to get onto the elevators.  The symphony of morning arrivals clonked, schicked and dinged.  The receptionist received his form, stamped it and Mark came back to collect Dr Smith.  They walked to the black elevator behind the reception desk.
Dr Smith retrieved his notepad and continued to scribble as they stood in the elevator.  The lift continued upwards to the topmost floor.  Mark shifted nervously in his grey and black uniform, wishing he was still attending the morning arrivals, standing at his post as the workers walked in and out of the building, alert to any signs of disturbance.  By no means was he bad at his job, but that it included this duty was galling.  To walk employees with college educations to conference rooms . . . it was not the college educations which angered him, but rather that with all of that bought and paid for intelligence, a few employees managed to never have working identification cards.  
The walk back and forth to the black elevator also reinforced that Mark was the lowest on the totem pole.The other two officers would have been near their posts next to the elevators, fingering their non-concealed standard issue firearms strapped to their waists.  Mark did not have a firearm, although he had completed the course.  Unlike Mark’s name, their nametags were practical jokes.  Mark had seen for himself that none of them wore the same nametag twice.  While he abandoned his post, one of the officers would stand near the turnstiles, but on the inner side.  Neither of the two officers would extricate an employee with a defunct identification card or escort an employee, they’d let Mark do it when he got back.  Mark was the turnstile and escort guy and they were elevator guys and that’s just how it was.
When the elevator reached the highest floor, Mark stepped out of the elevator first and then motioned for Dr Smith to follow.  They padded down the hallway to a locked set of doors.  Mark unlocked the doors and waved to the receptionist as they walked from behind her desk and on towards the conference room.  
Mark stopped just shy of the conference room near an empty block of cubicles.  “Well, Doctor Smith,  here you are.”  Mark opened the door.
Dr Smith hesitated, peering in the dark room.  “Why aren’t the lights on?”
A feminine voice chirped.  “Oh, I don’t need the lights.  I see just fine without them, but if you insist.”  
Two audible claps were heard.  The lights above the conference table flickered on, revealing a slender blonde woman in a black suit.  “Good morning, Doctor Smith.  I’ve heard so much about you.”  She tilted her head, and her blue eyes seemed to flash.
Spooked, Mark turned back to Dr Smith.  “Well, I should be going now.”
“Yes, please, you may go . . . “  She read his nametag.  “Mark.  Have a nice day.”
Mark hurried away down the hall and Dr Smith watched him go.
“Please, come sit down.  Make yourself comfortable.”  She motioned to a chair opposite hers, directly in front of him.  “We have a lot to talk about you and I.”
“I suppose,”  Dr Smith nodded.  “Are you the CEO now?”
“Oh no,”  She appeared mortified at the implication.  “I’m a, well, you can say that I’m an employee.”  She shuffled a couple of papers into a pile in front of her.  “And I am meeting with you today.”
“Well, I’m here to see the CEO.”  Dr Smith lowered himself into a chair.
“And he would be delighted to see you.  If you were an investor.”  She tilted her head to the left and grinned.  
Dr Smith gulped.  “What is this meeting about?”
“Its about you Doctor Smith.”  She pulled a sheet of paper out of the top of the pile.  “We should begin immediately.  Now, where are my manners?  My name is Geraldine and your name is Harold.”
“Its nice to meet you, Geraldine.”  Dr Smith responded.  “I’d rather you didn’t call me Harold, though.  Call me Doctor Smith.”
“Fine.”  Geraldine gritted her teeth.  “Doctor Smith, can you tell me how many meetings you’ve been invited to, here, in the main administrative building in the past month?”
“A few.”  He tapped on the table with his fingers.  “I thought they were invitations, not instructions.”
“They were instructions.  To meet with me.”  She gently placed her hands together as if in prayer and leaned her lips against her index fingers.  “Do you know how many intercompany rules you are currently violating?”


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November 2010

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