After Reese's appearance in my office as the Omniscient Software's representative, I was shaken. Well, maybe not shaken enough to refuse sex with Lore and Justine, but certainly upset. However she infiltrated or compromised IT upper management, the results would be catastrophic. Every major system and most of the minor ones would be impacted if we went ahead and implemented Omniscient's products. And it was pretty clear that no one from the user community had reviewed what it would do to existing functionality. In the best case, there would be complete disruption. In the worst case, the company would implode from a system's perspective.
When I got to the office Tuesday morning, I tightened my belt a notch and went to Tashun's office. His secretary, an older woman, told me he was not to be disturbed. I went in anyway despite her shouts and a feeble attempt to hold me back by my suit coat sleeve after lunging across her desk.
I pulled free and opened the door. Tashun was doing a crossword puzzle. He looked up with a mean stare. "I wasn't to be disturbed."
"This Omniscient Software fiasco doesn't disturb you?" I remained standing.
He leaned back. The chair tilted but remained stable. "What was I supposed to do? I told you, Hunter himself signed off on the contract. I didn't get a copy in advance, or I would have passed it to legal. Standard protocol."
Too bad the dummy didn't think past his nose about the impact. At least Tashun knew what standard protocol was. "So what are we supposed to do? Just let Hunter disrupt the whole operation?"
He aimed his pencil at me. "Do you have a better idea?"
I thought for a moment. "What do you think he gets out of this? Some kind of kickback?"
"Hunter?" Tashun shook his head. "He's too smart for that. And too close to retirement."
"But there has to be something in it for him, to take the risk." I plopped down in Tashun's visitor chair, even though I hadn't been invited to stay. I hadn't been thrown out either.
"Maybe he sees no risk. Thinks of himself as a short-timer." Tashun scribbled something on the paper, scowled and erased it.
This was the first time Tashun and I had a serious chat that didn't involve shouting or accusations of each other. Maybe Hunter was our only safe topic. "Okay, then what's the upside? What kind of perk or advantage does he get out of this?"
Tashun scratched his head with the pencil. "Maybe a well-paid do-nothing position at Omniscient after he retires? That's what I'd shoot for." He stared at the crossword, a different puzzle from the one I was trying to solve. "He's only about a year or so from retirement, if he goes at the earliest opportunity."
"By then, the whole place will be a shambles."
Tashun didn't seem to be worried. "Hunter is ultimate corporate politician. He'll give a great speech, wave and smile at his send-off, and move on with a nice pension and a comfy executive suite at Omniscient."
Tashun was still missing the point. "And at the same time, the user departments will be calling for our heads. You and me, Dick. The shit will hit the fan and we'll take the bulk of it. No, we have to stop this now, before it starts."
Tashun seemed weary, beaten down, and completely disinterested in anything but his crossword puzzle. "Well, we can't unsign the contract, and the penalty clause is full payment. So we should just bite the bullet and install the software as long as we're paying for it. You'll figure it out. Hunter trusts you."
I noticed that he said 'Hunter' and not 'I.' Tashun's spite was leaking out, poisoning his decisions. Shit, I would have given him back his bonus if he'd only gotten his mind right. Our conversation was about to become normal, with me screaming. I took a deep breath. "But the cost doesn't end there. Interfaces will need to be built at Omniscient's boundaries. There will be new training required, and new operational procedures-"
For the first time, my comments furrowed Tashun's brow. "Weren't those part of the contract?" He pulled open drawer after drawer, looking for his copy of the document.
"I know you didn't sign the contract, but didn't you read it? It says Omniscient will consult for free on interfaces and documentation, but that the client, that's us, bears the cost of design, development, testing, training, and operations. That basically triples the cost, or worse. And how will your budget take an impact like that?"
Tashun pushed the last open drawer shut. "We'll just charge those costs to the user departments-"
"Who didn't ask for this, didn't approve it, and didn't have any say in the matter whatsoever?" I couldn't help but raise my voice. "That will never fly, and you know it. If we let this go, we're cooked. I don't know about you, but I just got back to a Director position and I'm not going to let Hunter or anyone else fuck it up." I hadn't intended on using the word 'fuck' - it sort of slipped out.
"Fuck, huh?" Tashun scratched his head, this time with his index finger. "Reese probably seduced him. It was a miracle of self-control that kept you off of her yesterday. Didn't know you had it in you."
I didn't tell him I was almost caught with my cock firmly planted inside her. "Yeah, self control." Maybe Tashun had been joking, but I believed he was close to the truth. "Whatever Hunter did, we need him to admit it and then share his confession with the Board. They'll toss his ass out and cancel the contract. There is a propriety clause we can probably make stick. Evidently, Omniscient was founded by some evangelical organizations, kind of a money laundering, but legal. They'll void the contract rather than take the bad publicity."
Tashun put down the crossword and folded his arms. "And how are you going to get him to confess? Escort him up to the executive suite and beat him until he fesses up?"
I thought about what Hunter's secretary said, the one with the pointy tits. "He's vulnerable, just like the general in A Few Good Men. He wants to tell somebody he screwed the company." And Reese. "I just need to give him the opportunity."
"And then what? You'll have Ms. Ryder take it all down in shorthand?"
I didn't think she even knew shorthand, except maybe giving old Hunter a hand job occasionally. I thought about Zenellis and Reese, both attempting blackmail with recordings. "No, I'm going to record him." I'd brought some of Lore's surveillance equipment to work to use on Reese. "I'll take the risk of getting caught, but if I get a confession, I need to know you'll back me up. Do I have your word?" I stuck out my hand. Tashun squirmed in his heavily padded chair. I didn't think he was on board when suddenly, his eyes went wide as he jumped from the chair and shook my hand with both of his. "Let's get the old son of a bitch. Maybe they'll promote me as a result."
No surprise, Tashun was in this for his own advancement. That didn't matter, as long as I could trust him for support. After the handshake, I counted my fingers.
I fetched a microphone, a recorder and a small roll of duct tape from my briefcase and entered a bathroom stall. In private, I taped the wires to my bare skin. The microphone was connected behind my necktie, and the recorder clipped to the back of my suit pants, covered by my suit jacket. I dabbed perspiration from my forehead and took the elevator upstairs.
I hadn't been upstairs very often, but I remembered the route on my most recent visit when Lorraine Ryder, Hunter's secretary, took me up to his office. We'd stopped for a bit of kiss and grope in the supplies room. I hoped I wouldn't get an erection from seeing her again, but those horizontal peaks were a real turn-on.
Looking for Lorraine, I overshot Hunter's office. I backed up and saw his nameplate on the wall. A small thin girl who appeared to be under aged occupied Lorraine's chair. Where was Lorraine? On a break? In the bathroom, or had she grabbed some unsuspecting soul and taken him into the supply room for a quickie?
I guessed the age of the girl in Lorraine's chair at maybe fourteen. "Hi, when will Ms. Ryder be back?"
"Oh, she's not here anymore. I'm her replacement, Twiz." She stuck out a tiny hand.
I looked up and down the wide paneled corridor but didn't see her in front of any office. Had Lorraine been snatched by some higher-level executive, perhaps one with a breast fetish? Or a mountain climber? No matter. I was there for serious, not monkey, business.
"I can give you her personal email address, if you need to get in touch with her." Twiz wrote it on the back of one of Hunter's business cards.
Lorraine was gone? I was about to ask the circumstances when a voice boomed from within the office. "Marcus, is that you?"
I snatched the card from Twiz's desk. "Thanks." Was Twiz Hunter's new 'special employee' as Lorraine had described? Maybe his 'special niece.'
Twiz smiled. Braces. "I guess that means he'll see you."
Colorful travel brochures were open and scattered on Hunter's huge mahogany desk. He was sitting, bent over, studying the photos of smiling, swimsuit-wearing models that purportedly visited the resorts and destinations being marketed.
I waited patiently until he saw fit to tear his eyes away from a particularly scantily clad and buxom young women. "What brings you up here?"
I forced myself to abandon looking at the same photo. "Uh, me?" Could I actually pull this off?
"Tashun not treating you right? 'Cause from his departmental reports, you've got things moving smoothly again. In a week, I'll be computing compensation - management bonuses, that is - and I haven't forgotten that you'll be getting Tashun's. I'm a man of my word, don't you forget that."
.... There is more of this story ...