Have I mentioned that I love the Main Cafeteria? The place is amazing! People keep trying to come up with a better name for the place that conveys just how amazing this place is, but so for, no one has succeeded. The best I’ve heard is ‘The World’s Greatest Dining Extravaganza.’ Unfortunately, it’s really awkward to ask your friends to join you for lunch at the world’s greatest dining extravaganza, so everyone still calls it the Main Cafeteria. They say if you were to fill all of the dining areas, mini restaurants, private dining areas, banquet rooms, play areas and halls at once, that they could seat more than two thousand people.
As impressive as all of that is, the best thing there is the menus. They are big touch screen pads which show you what your order is going to look like. From there you can add sides, change spicing, give cooking instructions, and generally fiddle with it to your hearts content (I once spent an hour and a half just fiddling with the menu.) It remembers all of your previous meals, so ordering a favorite meal takes, like two seconds. It keeps a running total and just deducts it from your employee account, but since I was the prize winner, I got free food! Add that they deliver to anyplace on the campus and you have the best eating experience this side of heaven. But, I digress.
I was sitting there fiddling with the menu until Sylvia mentioned that women do actually get hungry despite rumors to the contrary. I quickly finished my order and thought about asking for a tour of the kitchen area. As I considered this, another question formed in my mind, and I blurted it out without thinking it through.
After hearing it, Sylvia sighed and took out her phone called someone without responding to me at all. This is what I heard, “Hello Ma’am, this is Sylvia. Yes, he finally asked the question … No, Ma’am, the other one … Well we just ordered dinner … Yes, an hour should give us plenty of time … We’ll be there Ma’am,” and just left it at that!
After dinner, she called a cart and we took a corridor that I hadn’t seen before.
“Where are we going?”
“To meet the Director”
I expected for us to head for a bright office at the top with a good view. Instead, we were heading deep into the building and taking an elevator down. We stopped at door with a blank display panel. I was wondering if we were at the wrong place or this was an unannounced side stop, but as soon as Sylvia hit the ‘doorbell’ our cart left on its own.
I often laugh when people ask what my first impression of the Director was. To tell the truth, I almost didn’t notice him because I was so overwhelmed by my first impression of the Chief Counselor, Angelia. It’s really hard to describe the energy and intensity that she commands when she is focused on something, and right then it was focused completely on me. Seriously, if she hadn’t been smiling at the time I might have bolted for the door. As it was, I probably looked like a deer in headlights. I was released from this enchantment, by a simple, “Would you please sit down, Allen?” from the Director.
Then I noticed him. Physically, he is not very impressive, but he too has an intense energy that can mesmerize. Angelia’s eyes can seem to look into your soul and see your innermost secrets, but his eyes can seem to look into the depths of creation and see the secrets of the universe.
Sitting before this pair, I felt like a very small bug under a very big magnifying glass. The director smiled at me and I could see a clear challenge in his eye. “Well, Mr. Spencer, Sylvia tells me that you don’t think that everything is quite what it seems here. Aren’t you enjoying your vacation?”
I swallowed and tried to keep my voice from cracking, “Actually I have been enjoying the heck out of it, but there are certain things that are not adding up.” The Director smiled slightly and nodded for me to go on, “Well, first of all, the betas that you asked me to test and give my opinion on are not betas. Of the 30 or so that I have ‘tested’ for you, only a couple didn’t seem like well-polished programs. I don’t remember even one of them crashing over several days of trying them for you. Plus, the staff is way too attentive for just some schmuck off the street that is leaving in a week and they will never hear of again. Besides that, there have been no press conferences, no photo opportunities, and nothing PR related to justify the expense of a prize like this. Besides all that, it really creeps me out that everyone here treats me like, I don’t know, like some hero that just rescued fifty children from a burning orphanage or something.”
The Director leaned forward and said, “So what do you think is going on, Allen?”
When I get on a roll, even his intensity can’t faze me, “That’s the part that’s driving me crazy. I know that it’s some sort of test, but I can’t figure out what for? And, most of all, I can’t figure out why me? If there were hundreds of prize winners hanging around, it would make more sense, but, as far as I can tell, I’m the only one being tested. I really am enjoying my time here, but until I can figure out why all of this is going on, I keep having a creepy feeling that I am going to wake up in the middle of the night and find that the mad doctor is getting ready to remove my brain or something else equally silly.”
I looked up after my rant and half expecting to see the Director calling security to cart me off to the crazy camp. He turned to his partner and said gleefully, “Ha! I told you he would figure it out.”
She smiled indulgently at the Director and then spoke to me directly, “You managed to figure out a good amount of what is going on with very few clues. Quite impressive.”
The Director beamed, “You didn’t figure out everything, but you were starting out quite a bit in the hole. The important thing is you passed a test with flying colors that no one even told you that you were taking. Allen, all of this is real enough, but what we didn’t tell you was what the real prize is. The entire contest is in reality an elaborate job interview. All of this is to see if you are the kind of person that Prometheus needs, and as I said, you have shown that you are exactly what we need.”
“But, that still doesn’t explain why I’m the only one”
Angelia caught his eye, “Yours is a test case Allen. You just happened to be the first person recruited in this manner. As successful as this has been, I suspect that there will be many more as time goes on.”
The Director stole the floor back, “More importantly, Allen, do you want the job?”
“OK, now I’m confused again. What job?”
Sylvia perked up. She had been sitting quietly this whole time, seeming a bit intimidated, but now we had gotten to the part where she could be included once again. “Allen, we do things a bit differently here than any company you have ever been with. First you are interviewed to see if you are the right type of person for Prometheus Corporation. After being accepted as an employee, you usually take a battery of tests to see what positions you are best qualified for. In your case we did this kind of backwards. We then try to match your abilities to whatever openings are available and see which of the resulting matches you like best. In most companies, that would be the end of the matter, but here we continually encourage you to increase your skills so that if a new position opens up that is a better match for you, you can be offered that position in turn.”
Angelia smiled proudly at Sylvia’s speech and turned to Allen, ‘Yours is a special case as I have said, and I believe that the Director already has a position that he is prepared to offer you.”
“Allen, how would you like to be a part of our battlesuit test pilot program?”
“Where do I sign?”
And that’s how I found myself in a trap which there was no chance for me to escape. They took my wants, my desires, my very dreams themselves and turned them into a snare for me. The bastards had me exactly where they want me … God bless them, every one!
After Allen and Sylvia left, Angelia turned to the Director, “I would call that a success. I take it that the software recruitment program is to be fully implemented?”
“How many more ‘winners’ do we have lined up?”
“HR informs me that we have 23 ready for immediate notification and that there are hundreds more that are being evaluated.”
The Director heaved a disappointed sigh, “How many total candidates do we have being considered through all recruitment channels?”
“Somewhere around fifteen thousand,” noting that this did not seem to reassure him she continued, “How many do you think we will need?”
“If we had another 100,000 people like Mr. Spencer ready to sign then I wouldn’t be worried about our personnel levels. We need an army as well as enough personnel for a full support system.”
Her expression became both irritated and concerned, “You’re not telling me something.”
“I just got a report this afternoon. It’s been confirmed that an organized army of Centaurs is active in the Yukon. The worst part is that this is just one of many reports that are coming in from remote locations all over the globe.”
“You’re seeing a pattern, aren’t you?”
“Yes, and it looks bad for us. They managed to become operational without us detecting them. I have no idea how many of them there are or where they are all located. The situation is far worse than I thought it was yesterday. I thought I had enough time to recruit people and train them before the fighting began, but now, until I get more information, I just don’t know if we have enough time or not.”
“Just how are you planning on getting information?”
“Our first battalion of armor pilots is heading out in the morning. For us, the war starts tomorrow.”
All comments and corrections are greatly appreciated. Feel free to introduce yourself in the comments. I love finding out about and connecting with my readers.