Monthly Archives: November 2015

Glass Ceiling, Pt. 6 (Chapter 2d)

He worked in finance, which Jasmine knew from his profile, but she didn’t expect him to be so… so… finance-y. He prattled on about his job, about the money he made, about the vacations he could afford but didn’t take (“Yeah, I could go to the Meadows every weekend. And I don’t mean, go and slum it. I mean, go and fucking live it up, you know? Fucking crush it,”) about all the expensive tech he’d had installed in his skull. And then he looked her in the eyes (well, one eye, anyway. He always kept one of the smart lenses on, a steady stream of God knows what being beamed directly into his brain) and he asked her, “So, what do you do?”

She jumped in her seat, surprised and a tiny bit grateful for the opportunity to talk about herself. She sat up straight, cleared her throat, folded her hands neatly in front of her on the table. “Well, I work for the Office. I–”

He sat up straight in his seat, his expression suddenly alive and excited. “Oh, you’re a Solver?”

She winced. Only for a moment, but it was there, her body recoiling like she’d been slapped. “No. A Fixer.”

He said nothing.

“A Level 2, though. And I’m next in line for promotion to Level 3.” That wasn’t true, of course (there was no line, anyway,) but he didn’t need to know that. “And after Level 3 and Level 4, the next step is becoming a–”

“I know how it works, thanks. I’m not an idiot.”

Jasmine blinked. The words were so much harsher this time, but they stung less. Fine. Let him be in a bad mood. She could deal with bad moods. She had to deal with Patrick every damn day she went into the Office; this asshole she’d only have to interact with for another thirty minutes, an hour tops, and then never again. Oh, I’m never going out with you again. Going to order up an expensive dinner, a couple drinks, and then stick you with the bill. Don’t worry, you can afford it. You work in finance.

They sat for a couple of seconds in silence. It might have been an eternity, but Jasmine held his gaze, her own face an emotionless mask. Come on. Blink. You’re going to blink first. You’re not going to beat me. You’re not better than me.

I’ve got this.

Finally, he did blink. He rolled his eyes up to the ceiling, exhaled, looked down at the table, the menus untouched, and finally looked back into her eyes. “Look. I’ve got some transactions I need to oversee real fast. Business stuff, you know? Real important. You understand, right?”

Jasmine smiled, nodded, grinned her biggest fakest grin. “Oh, yeah. Totally. Business stuff. Real important.”

He smiled back, his eyes humorless, his smile mechanical, plastic, like a cheap synth with latex skin and articulated lips. Not even a real person. She could have gone on a date with PAT and it would have been more stimulating than this. Hell, forget the date. She could have just sat at home and watched some vids on the opLED while PAT provided color commentary and it would have been a better option.

A waiter came around after a few minutes. That was how you knew ‘scent’ was the real deal. It still had human wait staff. “What can I get you tonight, miss?”

“Steak. Real steak. Rib eye. And whatever your finest red wine is, please.”

“And for you, sir?”

He didn’t respond. He just stared off into space, his smart lenses glowing blue, his robotic earpiece feeding him audio, his throat rising and falling ever so slightly with his sub-vocalizations. “Sir?”

“Oh, it’s okay. He does this sometimes. He’s in finance. He’ll have a salad.”

“Very good.”

The waiter disappeared. Jasmine stared at her “date.” He wasn’t looking at her. He wasn’t listening to her. And in the dim lighting of the restaurant, the blue glow of his smart lenses cast a strange pallor down onto his cheeks and all around his eyes.

He kind of looks like a corpse.


A Speech for No One and Everyone

The world is not an evil place.

I believe that. Sincerely. But the world is not a good place either. The world is simply the space within which we exist, and it is up to us to fill it with good or evil or nothing at all.

Today a group of individuals tried to fill it with fear and anger, with pain and suffering. They made a concerted, calculated effort to disrupt and destroy the the lives of a city, of a country, of the world.

And they succeeded. The eyes of the world turned towards Paris and watched with shock. We saw pain and suffering. We felt fear and anger.

What we have to feel next is patience. We must not be ruthless. We must not be pitiless. We must have understanding and compassion.

That’s so easy for me to say. I’m half a world away. I’ve never been to France. No one I know has been directly affected by the senseless violence and destruction. And the truth of the matter is that if this had happened to me, if someone I knew and loved had been hurt, I’d probably be screaming for blood. I would become twisted by anger and begin fantasizing about a revenge as equally violent and hateful and calculated.

But that’s exactly what they want. That is their goal. To bring out the worst in humanity, to elicit an ugly response and to capitalize on it. They want our anger and our hate, they want our vengeance. They want to be able to say, “Look, don’t you see? They hate us. They fear us. They want to harm us. We need to stop them, and we need your help. Join us, join us.”

The people that caused this violence did not do so because of their race, or their religion, or anything else. They did so because of their individual beliefs. They are not some unstoppable force, nor are they inhuman monsters. They are only men, hollow men, and they profit when we see them as anything other than sad and desperate and misguided.

We must not ask ourselves how to exterminate them, how to keep them from entering our homes, how to identify and exclude them. We must ask ourselves, “What made these people the way that they are? What unfortunate events, what lack of opportunities, what unkindness and cruelty?” And when we know the answers, we must not seek to solve the problems with violence, with exclusion, with paranoia and fear, blood for blood and an eye for an eye.

We must meet hate and fear with liberty, equality, and fraternity.


Glass Ceiling, Pt. 5 (Chapter 2c)

She arrived at ‘scent’ five minutes late to discover that her date wasn’t there either. After another five minutes had passed and there was still no sign of the guy or word from him on her Conncomm, a ball of anger and frustration began to form in the pit of her stomach. She thought of the advice her father had given her once, the advice that had inspired some of PAT’s own programming: if you need the other person to be there, you show up five minutes early. If they need you there, you show up five minutes late.

As her Conncomm marked fifteen minutes passing and Jasmine began to wonder if some terrible fate had befallen her would-be date, a man walked in with glowing blue eyes, a robotic earpiece, a throat microphone, and an expression on his face like someone had just shit their pants in front of him. Oh, God, she thought. He’s a gear head.

The man navigated around the tables and patrons of ‘scent’ with the practiced ease of someone used to spending their time divided between two worlds. His vision was locked firmly ahead, his attention fixed on whatever data was being relayed to his smart lenses, the whole thing giving him the demeanor of a machine being piloted remotely. He reached the center of the restaurant and a single eye stopped glowing. He turned in place like some kind of ancient radar dish, doubtless looking for Jasmine. She shrunk into her seat, her eyes nervously glancing around seeing the irritation and judgment on the faces of the people around her. Even in a world where everyone had computers in their brains, their attention focused on screens, robotic servants catering to their every whim, there was something downright rude about being a gear head. It was like, come on, just upload your mind to a cloud and drop out of the world already.

The man’s eyes locked onto her, his head snapping towards her with mechanical intensity. Maybe he was programmed to see her movement, some kind of technological predator, but that thought was silly and vaguely insensitive. The blue glow returned to his free eye (Rude!) and he made his way towards her table.

Alright, then. Sit up straight, look him in the eyes, smile. Confidence, confidence, confidence.

“You Jasmine?” he asked as he stood over her, his gaze directed at her but not seeing her.

“I am,” she replied brightly. She smiled. She held out her hand to shake his. She tried to recall the things she had read on his profile, his hobbies, his interests. “You must be Ti–”

“Alright,” he said, pulling out the chair and dropping into it like dead weight. “Let’s make this quick.”

And it only went downhill from there.


Glass Ceiling, Pt. 4 (Chapter 2b)

The screen shut off with an audible click, the wall going blank. An opLED screen like that was at once a luxury and a necessity in a 250 square foot micro apartment. Expensive, but completely flat and utterly versatile. It was so much more than computer screen. It was a window, an interactive art display, a floor-length mirror, whatever she needed it to be. And thanks to the camera she’d installed and the AI she’d designed, it was a pretty decent friend and fashion guru.

“How does this look?” Jasmine asked the wall. It shimmered for a moment. An androgynous body appeared, its skin smooth and light blue. It crossed its arms, rested its chin on its hand, bounced its finger on its lips.

“It looks good,” PAT said, it’s voice husky and sultry, “but what’s the effect you’re going for? Where are you going out to?”

The question was silly, of course. Everyone’s lives were all networked together. When Jasmine had made the plans on her Conncomm, they’d automatically been entered into her calendar on every single device she’d owned and social network she was a part of. But the question was interaction, and interactivity was key. “I’ve got a date tonight,” Jasmine replied. “At ‘scent.’”

“Ooh! ‘scent!’ Who’s the lucky man? Craig? David? Fulgence?”

“No, no. It’s a new guy. Met him online.”

“First date?”

“First date.”

“And how do you want to look, sweetie?”

A program could keep track of your life for you. But an artificial intelligence could help you plan, could ask the questions that led you to the right answers, could serve as a friend when you didn’t have any. “I want to look… fun. Confident. Confident like I’m saying, ‘You can look but you can’t touch.’”

PAT’s eyes flashed with mischievous glee. Jasmine was proud of that. She wasn’t an animator or a modeler, but she’d managed to hack together some pretty realistic animations and expressions from databases she’d found online. “A little flirty, a little tease-y?”

Jasmine considered this carefully, then shook her head. “No, no. I want to look like… Okay. I want my outfit to say, ‘You can look, but you can’t touch… Unless I say so.’”

PAT’s smile grew into a grin for a moment, and then settled into a look of serious consideration. Jasmine smiled, pleased with herself. PAT was good. Very good. It had been good enough to get her a job as a Fixer, and if only she had the time to truly perfect it, it might be good enough to get her a job as a Solver. “Okay, undo that top button. Hm… One more. Okay, good. Now, lose the earrings. You don’t need them. Go with one of your darker lipsticks, your oxblood. Sweetie, you’re not going to wear those flats, are you? Wear heels. Little ones. Do it for me.”

Jasmine changed her clothes, her eyes glancing nervously towards the screen of her Conncomm, watching the minutes tick past as she assembled her outfit. “Sweetie, don’t you worry about the time. Trust me, you’ll make it. And hey, if you’re five minutes late and you walk in like you planned to be five minutes late, then that just makes you look that much more confident.” PAT looked Jasmine up and down, motioned for her to turn, nodded appreciatively. “Okay, good. Good. Now, give me a smile. A confident smile. A sexy smile. Yes! Just like that! Okay, practice it in the mirror. Perfect.” PAT smiled and gave Jasmine a thumbs up. “Go knock ‘im dead, sweetie.”


Glass Ceiling, Pt. 3 (Chapter 2a)

Jasmine wandered around her kitchen, rushing to put up her hair, check her reflection in the mirror, pour herself a glass of water, and carry on a conversation all at once. “And then I was in the Office until twenty-two-hundred. And even now I still have no idea how they got past our system!”

The woman on the screen had features much like Jasmine’s own: bright eyes, thin lips, delicate eyebrows and lashes. She had the kind of face that looked like it had been breathtakingly beautiful when she was younger, and in the years since had aged with grace and dignity.

“But that was Monday, right? Five days later and you still don’t have an answer? But you’re so good at this kind of thing!”

“Yeah, well, the Level Ones were no help at all. At this point, it looks like the only way we’ll know what’s in the decision is if I read the fucking thing myself.”

Grace and dignity except for when her mouth twisted up and her nose wrinkled in distaste. “Young lady, language. I raised you better than that!”

Jasmine rolled her eyes and smiled. “Yes, Mom. Sorry, Mom.”

“Anyway, you shouldn’t be working so late. It’s not good for you.”

“I’m fine, Mom. I eat right, I work out, and I sleep in on the weekends.”

Her mother sat back in her seat, crossed her arms, arched an eyebrow. “Just because you’re taking care of your physical needs doesn’t mean you’re ‘fine.’”

The smile disappeared from Jasmine’s face. Oh, God. Not this again.

“You know, when I was your age your father and I were already married.”

“Yes, Mom. I know, Mom.”

“And I wasn’t that much older than you are now when I had you, you know.”

“Couldn’t forget if I wanted to, Mom.”

“You should be out meeting people. Not stuck in an office all day.”

“Mom, it’s not just an office. It’s the Office. I’m lucky to have this job, you know. The work we do is important. It changes the world. We’ve got Solvers that are working on curing diseases, reversing climate change, establishing extraterrestrial colonies.”

“And how is helping Omnicorp erase history important?”

Jasmine’s eyebrows furrowed in anger. She felt her pulse start to rise at her temples.
“They’re not ‘erasing history,’ Mom. They’re building new housing. They’re making the megacity a better place.”

“And lining their own pockets at the same time.”

“People have a right to make money, Mom.”

“A corporation is not a person, Jasmine.”

Oh, good. Now I have a headache. This was almost always how these conversations went. Never any acknowledgment of the work she was doing. Never any acknowledgment of all she had accomplished. Always fixations on what she should be doing, what her mother would be doing if she were in her place.

She loved her Mom, but God.

The two women stared at each other in silence, neither of them willing to concede the point. The only thing to be done was to change the topic of conversation and move on. As usual, it’d be up to Jasmine to do so.

“Well, I’ll have you know that I’ve got a date tonight, in fact.”

Her mother’s face brightened up at once. Jasmine smiled. She knew that would work. “Sweetie, that’s wonderful! Tell me all about him.”

“I can’t, Mom. I haven’t met him yet.”

“A blind date?”

“No, I’ve talked to him.”

“You met him online?”

“Through a coworker.”

“A friend?”

Jasmine shook her head. “More a coworker than a friend.” She opened her mouth, immediately shut it. She had almost said, “I don’t really have friends here,” but oh, God. If implying that the Office’s work was more important than a social life had sparked a mini-argument, saying she didn’t really have friends in the megacity was going to start a firestorm.

Best just to end the conversation on a positive note, in fact. “I’ve got to get ready, okay, Mom? I’ll talk to you later on and let you know how it went. Tell Dad I love him! Bye!”

Word Count: 3,105


Glass Ceiling, Pt. 2 (Chapter 1b)

Juan had his back to Jasmine as she approached, his attention firmly locked on the massive screen that made up the wall behind his desk. His posture suggested a million things about his personality all at once. He stood tall, confident, proud, even though he wasn’t quite as tall as Patrick. The angle of his hip and the hand resting upon it suggested a certain irritation and power. The way he rubbed his chin with his other hand in contemplation spoke of his capabilities as a great thinker.

But then, of course he was a great thinker. Juan Ortega wasn’t just a solver. He was one of the best Solvers in the entire Office, and Jasmine was lucky to be working under someone so gifted and driven. He asked a lot of his Fixers, it was true, but he inspired and led them to be the best that they possibly could. To be better than they thought they could.

He was the kind of person that she actually cared about whether or not she disappointed him with her work. She knew that he’d be frustrated that she hadn’t seen the message telling her to come in early, but that he wouldn’t blame her personally. She was already embarrassed at having to face him, but she wouldn’t try and avoid him.

He was the best boss she’d ever had.

Even so, it took her a moment to steel herself, clear her throat and draw his attention. She stood as tall as she could, cracked her knuckles in front of her in a way that she hoped spoke of eagerness and not of uncertainty about what to do with her hands. “Fixer Delaney reporting for duty. Where do you need me?”

Juan turned around, his face a cold and calculating mask that warmed up as soon as he saw Jasmine’s face. He smiled warmly, professionally, gestured around the Office with a wave of his hand. “Morning, Jazz. Things are crazy today.” A pause. “Did you not get the message?”

She swallowed before responding. “No. I’m sorry. I fell asleep before it came in, and I didn’t check my mail when I woke up.”

He sighed. The noise wounded her, but she didn’t let it show on her face. “Well, it happens.” He reached up, tapped the side of his head. “I’ve got my NeuroFace programmed to wake me up whenever urgent messages come in, you know. You should do the same.”

“I don’t have a NeuroFace, actually,” Jasmine replied, feeling embarrassed all over again.

Juan arched a single eyebrow at that. “Really? You should look into getting one. They’re pretty much a necessity for Solvers, you know.”

Jasmine forced a smile to her face. “Oh, I know. I know.” As if she could afford tech that new when she could barely make her went. Living in megacities wasn’t cheap, especially not on a Fixer’s salary. Even a Level Three like Patrick would probably have to think long and hard before dropping the cash on something like a NeuroFace.

Juan shook his head. “Anyway, don’t worry about. I’m glad you’re here. I’ve got a specific task in mind just for you, in fact.”

Jasmine’s smile became genuine at that. “Lay it on me, boss.”

Juan pointed at a corner of the room filled with a bunch of Level Ones that Jasmine had never bothered to learn the name of. They were new blood, interns, students, that sort of thing. They looked like they were literally drowning in paperwork, and as Stacie’s story about the length of the megacity council’s decision came to mind, Jasmine’s heart sank. “I’ve got a bunch of the Level Ones reading through the decision. You’re the strongest programmer we have, so I want you to work with them and figure out how in the Hell the council juked our algorithms and put together a document we couldn’t analyze.”

Well, that wasn’t so bad, at least. Still… “I was hoping for something more along the lines of field work,” she said, instantly kicking herself for her word choice. Saying “I” was a mistake. She was talking about herself, her feelings, her wants and desires, and those had no place in the Office. Better just to have asked, “There’s no field work?”

Juan gave her a sad little half-smile, the kind that said, “I feel for you, I really do, but it just can’t be helped. “Sorry, Jazz. I gave the last field assignment to Patrick just fifteen minutes ago. But trust me, this is important.” He squared himself to her then, relaxed his body language. “We need to know who those bastards hired that outgunned us, and you’re the only Fixer I know that I trust to take care of that.

“I’m counting on you, Jazz.”

Analyzing a five-thousand page document would mean long hours, working at home, little sleep, juggling unreasonable demands. It would be Hell. Absolute Hell.

And the Office was counting on her.

Jasmine gave a single quick nod. “I won’t let you down.”

Word Count: 2,425


Glass Ceiling, Pt. 1 (Chapter 1a)

It’s novel writin’ time again! Here is a novel I am writin’. Enjoy!

Edit: I’m silly and I accidentally used the wrong title. Silly, silly me.

 

1

Monday morning. Deep breaths. You’ve got this.

Jasmine Delaney stood outside the door of the Office, one hand on the knob, eyes firmly locked on that hand, ears listening for footsteps behind her. It’d be awkward and embarrassing if someone saw her little ritual, but she’d hear them coming well before they saw her standing motionless in the hallway. It was a deliberate design choice, she was convinced, to have the acoustics send footsteps echoing for all to her. That way Solvers could hear late Fixers without having to check security footage, without having to look at their login info, without having to do anything at all except for be attentive and aware at all times (which, as Solvers, they were supposed to be anyway.)

She was less worried about someone from inside opening the door and coming face to face with her. Once you walked into the Office, you didn’t walk out again until it was time to leave.

With one last inhale and exhale, she turned the knob and stepped inside, big confident smile on her face, shoulders squared, chest out (but not too far,) hands loose and easy at her side. “Good morning, everyone! What needs Fixing today?”

“You’re late,”said Patrick, the words like a slap across the face. She flinched. She jumped. She kicked herself for showing even a moment’s weakness, even though the son of a bitch had been lying in wait like a snake, even though he was wearing a smug little smirk on his face for having startled her.

Patrick Whitman. Bastard. He even looked like a snake, tall and thin, bony and sharp and prematurely balding, his entire body pale and hairless like a serpent’s belly. She had to look up to look him in the eyes, but she was used to that. Her whole life she’d been looking up to meet people’s eyes, but she’d always met them.

“It’s seven-hundred-thirty. I’m not late.” But just a quick glance past Patrick’s shoulders showed the Office buzzing with activity, Fixers of all Levels listening to Solvers and rushing to enact their orders.

Patrick’s smirk grew into a full-on grin. “Ah. So you didn’t check your mail.”

“I check it at zero-hundred every night,” she said, adding with emphasis, “even on Sundays.”

Patrick gave an exaggerated shrug, his shoulders rising up like he was putting on a performance for children’s theatre. “So you didn’t check it when you woke up, either. Well, Delaney, the boss sent a message at zero-hundred-thirty saying that one of our biggest clients had an emergency and that every Fixer in the department was expected to be in at oh-six-hundred.”

“You mean Omnicorp?” Jasmine’s mind raced, trying to imagine what kind of fires she might have to put out today. Omnicorp literally did everything, so their problem could literally be anything.

And then the full weight of Patrick’s words hit her. Despite herself, Jasmine’s eyes went wide. “I’m an hour and a half late?”

“Oh, good. You’re irresponsible, but you can still read context clues and do basic math. With those skills, you’ll be a Level 3 in no time.”

Jasmine almost muttered, “Fuck you,” under breath, but stopped herself. Patrick could rat her out for being late, but he didn’t set the punishment. If she cursed at him, though, he could accuse her of creating a hostile work environment and play up his emotional distress, and then she’d have to face a Departmental Relations hearing. Better to just keep her cool and stay silent.

Deep breaths. She had this.

Her eyes snapped back to Patrick. He was wearing a Office uniform, she saw, a smart business suit with the logo pin on the lapel: a hammer, a computer, and a gun. He was going out on field work. A small jab, then. Just like in her martial arts classes, a quick attack to test the enemy’s defenses. “So where are you off to? Juan tell you to go get him some coffee?”

Patrick’s eyes narrowed to slits, the grin staying on his face, his expression proud and predatory. Damnit. He had a real task then. If the Solvers had sent him off on something trivial, he would have bristled at her comment.

“I’m off to meet with Miss Omnicorp herself, in fact. Juan’s sending me to serve as a liaison between Omnicorp and the Office during this time of crisis.” He reached out and put his hand on her shoulder (a violation of Office policy) and pushed her aside (a deliberate insult.) “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to be going.” His grin grew wider and his eyes flashed with sadistic glee. “Wouldn’t want to be late, after all.”

Jasmine watched as he opened the door and disappeared into the hallway and the world beyond. It was a mistake, of course. Anyone watching would know that he’d gotten to her, and more than that, she was wasting time when she was already late. No matter how you looked at it, it was a mistake, and good Fixers didn’t make mistakes.

She spun on her heel, resumed her deliberate and confident walk. Deep breaths. She had this, Goddamnit. She had this.

“You’re late,” a woman’s voice said, high and squeaky. Jasmine’s head snapped towards the sound, nostrils flared, mouth twisted into something halfway between a smile and a snarl (but probably closer to the snarl.) A head full of golden curls bobbed next to her. Stacie Jackson.

“Yeah. I heard.”

Stacie had a stack of papers in her hand, was running from desk to desk all over the Office, delivering reports and getting signatures and giving updates. Menial stuff. The kind of work that Level Ones got stuck with. Jasmine’s heart sank a little as she thought about this. Hopefully there was more to do at this point that just Level One drudgery, but since she was an hour and a half late to start her day, there was a distinct possibility that the shit work was the only kind that was left.

She was better than office go-fer crap, damnit. She was a Level Two. Her and Stacie had started at about the same time, but she was already a Level Two while Stacie was still just a Level One. Jasmine was more intelligent, more diligent, and better at the games of office politics than Stacie could ever hope to be. She deserved better than Stacie, and in a meritocracy like the Office, she was going to get it.

Of course, Patrick had started just a month or two before Jasmine and he was already a Level Three, but she wasn’t going to think about that. Fixating on the people above you was a good way to mess up your own performance. Fixers focused on the task at hand, saw it through to completion, and moved on to the next problem as directed by the Solvers. That was how things worked.

The task at hand, then. Figure out what kind of crisis everyone was dealing. Get fresh, reliable, actionable intel. Collect data and act on it. “So what’s the big crisis, Stace?”

“The megacity council denied Omnicorp’s proposal to demolish Albany, and they’re fucking pissed.”

Jasmine arched an eyebrow at that. The megacity council could always be counted on to be a pain in the ass of most everyone who had to deal with them, but that was why the Office was involved. The Solvers knew just what politicians to bribe, which ones to blackmail, which ones could actually be worked with. They ran propaganda campaigns, won hearts and minds, displaced communities, broke apart families. They Solved problems. They Fixed things. They’d Solved Omnicorp’s construction issues and Fixed it so that the council would be sure to see Omnicorp’s way.

“Did they say why?” Jasmine asked.

“Yeah. Well, kind of. They issued a formal decision, but it’s like five-thousand pages long.”

“So it’s long. So what?”

“No, Jazz, it’s like literally five-thousand pages long.”

Jasmine stopped dead in her tracks. She couldn’t afford to waste any more time getting her first assignment, but there was no way she’d heard that right. “What?”

Stacie stopped too and gave a single quick nod, her curls bouncing like springs as she did so. She took off again, weaving around other Fixers rushing to other destinations, forcing Jasmine to keep up with her just to continue the conversation. “Yeah. It’s nuts. Omnicorp’s pissed, the Solvers are pissed, and everyone’s scrambling to try and figure out what to do. We’ve got people making calls, sending messages, out on the streets, everything. And we’ve got people reading the decision, but it’s taking forever.”

“What about the algorithms?”

Stacie shook her head. “First Solution they tried. The language in the decision is weird. The algorithms couldn’t parse it out into anything that made any sense. It’s like the thing was deliberately written just to screw with us.”

Jasmine frowned. The Office had competitors, of course. Other companies that specialized in solutions, or even anti-solutions, but the Office was the best. It hired the best, it did the best work, and it got the best results. For someone to actually get an advantage on them was… not unheard of, but rare. Very rare. And it usually resulted in a round of layoffs in the upper levels of management. Mistakes were unacceptable, but blindness was unforgivable.

Jasmine sighed as she split off from Stacie and made her way over to Juan’s desk to get her assignment. It was a very bad day to be late.

Word Count: 1,588


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