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The Ambassador, Chapter 14

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  • The Ambassador, Chapter 14

    Don pulled up to the front door of the shop with the intent of dropping me off and leaving, but I requested that he park the vehicle and accompany me inside. We had some more interviewing to do.

    I brought him inside and introduced him all around. Then I announced to Ian that I was offering him a candidate for our Security division, and that since that division would be reporting to him, I thought that he ought to do some interviewing of the candidate, if he had time.

    Ian did have time, and they adjourned to the front conference room to talk. I filled Heather and Allan in on what had gone on at Heather's place, and suggested that Heather needed to call ServPro or someone of that nature and have them go straighten the place out for her. She announced that she could do the straightening out herself.

    I differed. “No you can't. You have other things to mess with right now, and we can't spare you for a couple of days while you do that. Apart from anything else, you don't have the respirators and stuff it's going to take to get in there to do it anyway. I don't know exactly what brand of pepper spray Don was using, but it next to did me in, and I was a good way away from where it was landing. It's easier all around if we just get it done professionally.”

    She then started in about needing to go get stuff. She still didn't say what she needed, and I still didn't ask, but I did note that she could just go buy whatever she had to have until things got cleaned up. I also observed that she was going to need to get a room for the next couple of days while the cleanup happened, and noted that she was to put the cleanup, her expenses for whatever she needed to get in the meantime, and her room on the Company tab.

    Once I got to the part about her putting the expenses on the Company tab, her mood lightened a fair amount. Having been either poor or the next thing to it for a lot of my own life, I was fully aware that when you start talking about issues with property, most people default to the same thing, which is trying to figure out how they are going to be able to afford to fix or replace their stuff. When you are living from paycheck to paycheck, that is often life's biggest issue. Making that part go away seemed to make things a lot easier for Heather to deal with.

    She said “Oh!” and halfway smiled. Then she looked at Allan. He nodded and noted “I was wondering how long it would take him to get the hang of how we're doing things. He has been very conservative about funding, and we've been working on getting him to lighten up.”

    That got a snort out of me. “Hey. You know what we're paying her. I wasn't cheap about that.”

    Allan replied “You came in at the bottom of the salary range we were contemplating for the job, you know.”

    “I've got to leave room so I can give out generous pay raises when the mood strikes me, now don't I?”

    Heather took that exchange in with a slight widening of the eyes and something of a blank look for about ten seconds while it all soaked in, and I changed the subject.

    “Okay. Having gotten that part out of the way, I'm getting a bit hungry here, and Allan and Ian have been monopolizing the menu selections, so it's now my turn at bat. Is there a decent Steak House here in town that we can get to build us up some take out orders?”

    Heather offered up two names, and I selected the American one over the Australian one.

    I had Mike send a message to Ian asking him to find a reason to take a two minute break and stick his nose out the door. I was still discussing who wanted what cut and at what level of doneness with Allan and Heather when Ian opened the conference room door. I explained that I had taken the liberty of selecting what we were going to eat, and wanted input from he and Don regarding their specific preferences.

    I got their selections and had it all written down when Heather went back into work mode and took the list away from me and called it in. Ian and Don finished up just before it arrived. Ian announced that Don was hired, and that he'd have done so even without my recommendation.

    Heather started worrying about getting the contract papers drawn up, and Allan noted that we could just as well wait for tomorrow for that part. He observed that even if our legal staff could get something together at 10 PM, they'd charge us triple for doing it that late.

    We ate at a conference table, and I spent most of the meal working at getting Heather or Don to talk. They were both a bit on the reserved side, which didn't surprise me since they were still worried about saying something incorrect to the bosses. I worked on getting them to loosen up, and Allan and Ian either caught onto what I was doing or had the same goal in mind themselves. We all three peppered them with questions, and finally started getting answers longer than five words.

    I'd had to put my foot down hard a couple of times regarding feeding the dog. I'd given her the can of dog food from my briefcase when we first got back, so she'd been fed, but being as we were eating steak, she was acting as if she was at the verge of starvation. Everyone seemed to be quite willing to share scraps with her, and I didn't want to deal with the digestive upsets that would be happening if she was indulged to the extent that she seemed to think she deserved. She has a classic Boxer digestive system, which means that any major departure from her usual and customary diet will produce both flatulence and loose bowels. We did save her at least a half pound of odds and ends and two bones for tomorrow.

    With that out of the way, it was about time to call it an evening. Heather had reserved herself a room, and needed to go get “things”. I drafted Don to haul Rover and I back to our room, and we locked the place down and went our separate ways.

    We were getting through the gate when Don inquired “Mr Allan and Mr. Ian are not Americans, are they? Let me qualify that. They may be citizens, but they are not native to the United States.”

    “I can confirm that they were not born or raised in the United States. I am unaware of whether they are here on a Green Card or if they have Citizenship, and that's as far as I'm going to go about it. I'll allow them to expand on that when they see fit, and I can assure you that they will do so within the next few days.”

    “You are a big help. I just can't place where they are from. I used to think probably Australia, but that didn't hold up, and I was working on India, but that isn't right either. They are clearly not South African or European.”

    “Whatever. The one thing I will make clear is that I am American, born and bred. If your speculations are based on concerns about them doing anything that is contrary to U.S. interests, I can assure you that if that was happening I wouldn't be involved with them.”

    “That has crossed my mind. They have more money than both Bill Gates and Saudi Arabia, and don't seem to be too hesitant about spending it. I still don't know exactly what they are doing, either.”

    “I'm still not sure that I have a firm grasp of the entire picture myself. Once more, for reasons that will become apparent to you in the next few days, I'm not saying any more about that one, either.”

    “What I already said. You are no help. I am still not sure I ought to take this job, since nobody will tell me exactly what it is that I'm supposed to do in the first place.”

    “Didn't Ian give you enough of the lay of the land?”

    “He basically told me that it was going to involve a lot of high level people, both nationally and internationally. He said that I would be having to interface with their security people, but that you, which I took to mean you, he, and Mr. Allan, did not trust them to provide for your security. I sometimes wonder if he's paranoid.”
    Alle Kunst ist umsunst Wenn ein Engel auf das Zundloch brunzet (All skill is in vain if an angel pisses down the touch-hole of your musket.) Old German Folk Wisdom.

  • #2
    Re: The Ambassador, Chapter 14

    “No. He's not paranoid, or perhaps he's not paranoid enough. We're probably going to be dragging all the nut cases out of the woodwork for a fair while when this all gets rolling. I hope you have some good people in mind to hire, and can get them hired and on board fairly quickly, because we will be needing them.”

    “That did it. I am now officially nervous. You are the guy who doesn't want security, and says he doesn't need it, and you are now telling me you are going to need all of it I can get for you. What are you up to, anyway?”

    “I'm not answering any more questions until I have consulted with my Attorneys. Anything I said might be used against me. Patience, Sir. It'll all be clear soon enough.”

    “That's not any help, I keep telling you.”

    That made me laugh, just a little. “No wonder you were referred to as a loose cannon. You talk to and about your Management like this? If it weren't for the fact that you are now a member of the Management team yourself, I'd be shocked. Since you are, though? It's exactly what I expect you to do. Ask questions, and insist on getting answers. We are currently at a point where this exception proves the rule, but you should still ask. I will go so far as to note that this whole operation is under far deeper cover than you can possibly imagine. When you find out why it is, you will fully understand why you didn't get it all explained to you any sooner than you did.”

    “Still not helping me here.”

    “Console yourself with the thought that as of sometime tomorrow, your pay rate just is going to be about what? Five times what it is now? Or did we get to six times? Figure out how much we are going to be paying you by the minute, and consider that we aren't going to pay someone that much and not expect them to do their job to the best of their ability. The information will come soon enough.”

    We pulled into the motel about that time, and he pulled up in front of my room without having to ask for my room number. It's a Security thing, I guess.

    I asked if he wanted a beer. He noted that he could face one, so I said “Come on in. I've got four Guinness in the refrigerator.”

    He did come in and I took two bottles out of the refrigerator. I had my multi-tool out and was unfolding the bottle opener when I noted he was doing the same thing with his. He noticed what I was doing at the same time I noticed him, and he grunted.

    “You worry me, you know. You are way too comfortable with taking care of yourself to be Management.”

    “That's why we're planning on things getting wild and crazy in a couple of weeks. We're competent, unlike most folks nowadays.”

    “The scary part is that I believe you. I don't know exactly it is that Allan and Ian are competent at, but it's clearly something. I can't figure out how you fit into that picture, though. You are a Mustang, and you are running with the Generals like you belong there. They actually listen to you, and follow your suggestions. There are times when if I didn't know better, I'd think you were the one running the whole show.”

    “I am on the Board of Directors, which came as a fair shock to me when they told me that they were putting me on it. I am not the Chairman of said Board, and never expect to be. Ian and Allan are also members of that same Board.”

    “Them I can see being that. You? You don't require deference, and you don't have the Executive habit of expecting people to do stuff for you. When the big dogs want a cup of coffee, they tell someone to go the them one. You get up and head for the pot all on your own. It'd make you angry if someone opened doors for you or carried your briefcase or suitcase. I won't even get off into the whole thing with your dog. She's not purebred, she's been very well trained, and she clearly doesn't like most people very much, which tells me who did the training.”

    “Yep. She's my best friend.”

    “Wait a minute. It just hit me. She's your security team.”

    “Actually, she was intended to be my home security system, yeah. When you collect firearms as a hobby and live in a fairly rural area, you really need to have something around to discourage folks from trying to run off with them when you are out of the house. Someone could get past her, but she at least triples the difficulties involved. Most crooks are lazy, and a dog with a reputation for wanting to eat anyone she doesn't know fairly well is more work than they want to go to.”

    Miss Rover had heard the word “dog” several times, and she knows who the dog is. She was lying on the spare bed on her side, and rolled upright, looked at me, and snuffled a couple of times.

    “Yes, you big moh-ron. I'm discussing you. I was relating your positives, but I could get off into the belching, drooling, farting, and shedding hair if you get complacent about your position in the world. You are the dog, all right!”

    She took that to mean that she wasn't being asked to do anything and flopped back onto her side.

    We finished our beer, and I offered another one. Don declined it, noting that he needed to go get some sleep. I noted that I did too, and he headed out. He paused at the door and asked what time I wanted to be picked up in the morning. I replied “Six.”, and he went on.

    I inquired of Miss Rover if she needed to go out. She didn't move, which was all the answer I needed. I flopped into the other bed and zonked out.

    I'd asked Mike to rattle my chain at about 5:15, but Rover beat him to it by about 20 minutes. She woke me up snorting and snuffling in my ear and licking the side of my face. All that extra steak was having an effect, and she wanted out, preferably right now.

    I fumbled my way into a pair of pants, attached the EAA to my belt, and flopped my t-shirt over it. I shoved a pair of shoes on, leashed Miss Rover, grabbed a pick-up bag and took her outside. While I was outside, I had Mike message Allan and Ian, with a request that they seriously consider letting Heather and Don in on the whole cover-up as soon as possible. We were still three days from heading back to the Ship, the way I had it figured, but Don in particular was going to drive himself crazy trying to figure out what was going on if we didn't clue him in, and he was correct that he couldn't properly plan how to do his job if he didn't have that information.

    We got back to the room and I got myself ready for the day, then sat and reviewed things through Mike until my ride showed up. We got to the shop at about twenty of Seven.

    Heather was already there, and handed me a mug of coffee as I came through the door. She then asked if she could take Miss Rover out to play ball. I suggested that she could accompany us, and that I wasn't planning on accomplishing much of anything else until the rest of the guys showed up.

    Heather had acquired a Chuck-It ball thrower and a whole fresh can of tennis balls. I pointed out to Rover that my employer was now putting her doggy toys on an expense account, and asked her if she thought she ought to be put on the payroll. She gave every indication that unless this payroll thing involved tennis balls being thrown for her, she could care less.

    I was asked what was on the agenda for today, and noted that one of the things I suspected would be fairly high on the list was finding a new Secretary. I offered that I figured that Heather would be the one doing the primary selecting for the job, and that if she knew anyone reliable enough to recommend, it would probably be helpful.

    She said that she knew a couple of people who would probably be a good fit for the job, and would call them. I added that she should hold that thought until we ran the whole thing past Allan and Ian, who might well have other ideas about how to proceed. Mike informed that message #21 in my current unread file was from Ian, asking if I had any thoughts on how to replace Heather. I had Mike respond to him and copy Allan with a synopsis of my plan.

    We got the dog exercised a bit, and went back inside at about straight up Seven. Don pulled in as we were going in the door, and came in grinning like the canary that swallowed the cat.

    I had to ask. “What's up? You seem awfully upbeat about another day at the Salt Mines this morning.”

    “They tried to fire me this morning.”

    “And they can't, because you quit first, right?”
    Alle Kunst ist umsunst Wenn ein Engel auf das Zundloch brunzet (All skill is in vain if an angel pisses down the touch-hole of your musket.) Old German Folk Wisdom.


    • #3
      Re: The Ambassador, Chapter 14

      “That was fun.”

      “Am I correct in speculating that it had to do with yesterday afternoon? I thought that I'd managed to obscure my identity enough that nobody would pick up on it.”

      “They have some really anal folks working for them here and there. Somebody went through the Police Report with a fine toothed comb, and concluded that they don't have anyone by that name working for them. They then looked closer, and concluded that you did, in fact, have that first name. Then they called me and asked if I knew anyone by that name. I conceded that I did, and the firing was getting under way when I quit.”

      “I can see the entertainment value in that. I wish I could have done something like that a couple of times in my earlier career.”

      “By the way, their Corporate Management is probably going to descend on you sometime today. I'm not sure if they are going to be apologizing, angry, or threatening lawsuits over non-compete clauses, and it may be all of the above, but I'm sure they'll be here.

      “That'll work. We need to get them realigned as to their proper place in the greater scheme of things. We still have uses for them, but not so many or such urgent ones that I won't take great pleasure in firing them if they give me an excuse. I can make a telephone call or two and have them replaced in less than 24 hours, I suspect.”

      Don wanted to know if he could watch. I suggested that I knew a trick worth two of that one, and that I fully expected that he would get to participate.

      About that time Ian and Allan came in. Don looked at me. I think he was expecting me to tell Ian about his situation and our prospective visitors, but I just looked at Ian and flipped my thumb at Don. “Your new Security Manager has some information for you.”

      I got something of an evil look, but Don managed to get a coherent explanation of the situation out. He reported it straight to Ian, and did not not give any indication to him that he had taken any pleasure in the situation. Ian noted that he'd been expecting this to come to a head, one way or another, and that we'd handle them when and if they arrived. He then asked “When should we expect them?”

      Don replied that he figured early afternoon was best case. They'd never managed to show up out here before that even when they had plenty of time to pre-plan the trip.

      I noted that if they were coming in commercial it'd be later this afternoon, because they had three choices, and I didn't see them making the first one, which got here at about 9:30 in the morning. The other two shuttles out of Salt Lake arrived in the afternoon.

      Don offered that they had a Beechcraft King Air that would make it here with one fuel stop if there wasn't any weather. It took around seven hours for the flight and they were gaining two time zones.

      I offered “Okay. Noon best case. The flip side of that would be that if they don't bother to call and make an appointment, we might not be able to get ourselves untangled enough to see them before Four or Five this afternoon.”

      Allan offered that we would just have to wait and see what happened, and then also said that he, Ian, and I needed to have a conversation for a few minutes, and pointed to one of the conference rooms. “If you two will excuse us for just a few moments.....”

      We got in there and Allan immediately got to the point. “You seem to be convinced that we need to break our cover with those two now?”

      “With Don, surely. He cannot possibly know what we are asking him to do if he doesn't know exactly what he is dealing with, and he won't think of the real answer in a year. He's figured out that you are not American by birth, but he's still trying to find another country to assign you to. He's not dumb, and he'll keep digging around the edges. I'm not sure what sort of wild theories he'll come up with on his own, but it's overall very unhelpful, for him or for us. Heather? No, she doesn't need to know right this minute, but there's no sense in going through all of this twice, and it eliminates a lot of interior security here in the offices. I don't know about you two, but I've almost said things I shouldn't where one or both of them could hear it ten times already in the last few hours.”

      Ian got on board. “Do you think that either one of them might take it badly?”

      “They both seem level headed enough. I'm sure you've had the AI's working on them. What do they say?”

      “They are of the same opinion that you seem to be expressing. There is always a chance, in that we have precisely one previous experience with how you people handle meeting an alien race, but they give odds of them taking it well somewhere in the 90% range.”

      “That's the best we can hope for. It's you guys' call, not mine, but you know where I'm at on it and why.”

      Ian looked at Allan, and Allan shrugged. Ian shook his head. “We had not planned on doing this until Friday morning before we headed back to the ship, but you are correct that it will simplify things here in the offices. You are even more correct that Mr. Hawkins will be much more able to plan his job if he knows what he is planning. So we must apparently do this thing now.” He smiled. “If you would bring them in here, please.”

      “Just a second. I want Don's signature on some sort of a contract before we do this. It won't be the final one, but I'm having my AI boiler-plate something together that will serve for the moment. Once he's signed off on nondisclosure and whatnot, he'll be quiet, I can assure you, regardless of his reactions.

      I went out into the main area, and waited. In about five minutes, the document came buzzing out of Heather's printer. Two pages. I made a copy, and handed the copy to Don.

      “Here. Read this. If you have any problems with it speak, otherwise we are going to sign you up right now. This one will be superseded by the full formal contract, which will be here sometime later this morning, but we have some stuff to go over with the two of you right now, and nobody who isn't under contract is going to get that information, so we have to do this so we can do that. Make sense?”

      Don re-read the document twice. He finally announced that he didn't see any booby traps in it anywhere, and that he'd sign it.

      He signed. I witnessed, and Heather notarized both pages.

      I smiled at them. “Now the fun starts. Come on in, if you would please.” I pointed to the door of the conference room. I ushered them in. Allan and Ian were at the back of the room at the head of the table, in about the same places they'd been when I first met them. I put Don and Heather on one side of the table, and deposited myself on the other side across from them. Rover parked herself by the door, for some doggy reason.

      Ian and Allan went through about the same process that they had with me. I suspected that it was pretty much choreographed. Since I knew what was coming, I was free to watch Heather and Don and see how they responded.

      It went well. Heather was shocked, but it was a happy shock. She was smiling from ear to ear. Don was deadly serious, but he was rearranging his plans. I knew that look, and it was not anything to worry about.

      They got the explanation of who the Karn were, an overview of what they were doing here, and an explanation of the plan to show up late next week and announce their presence to the world. Ian asked if they had any questions. Don immediately jumped in. “Trading Hub?” That's big, isn't it?”

      I'd been stone silent for the whole process, but this one I could answer for him in language he'd understand. “Yeah. Big is right. Imagine an Amazon distribution center for this end of the Galaxy and you have a fair picture of it.”

      Heather started questioning Allan and Ian about their system of Government, and got an explanation of their idea of a State Corporation. She kept digging, and finally got the Board of Directors explained to her. Don was following along, and turned to me at that point.
      Alle Kunst ist umsunst Wenn ein Engel auf das Zundloch brunzet (All skill is in vain if an angel pisses down the touch-hole of your musket.) Old German Folk Wisdom.


      • #4
        Re: The Ambassador, Chapter 14

        “Wait a minute. This Board of Directors thing. You told me that you were a member of the Board of Directors of the Corporation, as were Allan and Ian. Is this the Board of Directors that you were talking about?”


        Ian proceeded to explain my position on the Board as Director of External Affairs, which he noted was the equivalent of a local Foreign Minister or Secretary of State. Don was shaking his head a bit, and I offered that he was looking at the Secretary of the Treasury and Secretary of Defense also. I noted that, for that matter, he'd just signed a contract that made him probably the equivalent of the head of the Secret Service.

        About that time, Rover stood up, faced the door, and went “Wuff”. Then someone went to banging on the door. I went to the door, looked back to confirm that Allan and Ian had turned their holograms back on, and then opened it.

        I didn't know the guy banging on the door, but it developed that he was the replacement for the former Security head who I'd gotten crossways with. He could have been the King of Siam for all of me at that point, and I fairly profanely asked him exactly what he thought he was doing.

        “I'm sorry, Sir, but my superiors wanted us to do a status check on you people. They've been trying to call you for an hour, and nobody is answering the 'phone.”

        “Ye Gods and little fishes!. We're having a meeting here. Do your superiors think that we are at their beck and call?”

        “Er....Uh.....No, Sir. But they requested that I confirm that you were all OK.”

        “No. They requested that you come interrupt us so we would attend to them. It's not your fault, and I don't hold it against you personally, but I do hold it against them. You can tell them that when you get back in touch with them to tell them that you found all of us in perfectly good order. Is there anything further?”

        There wasn't, and he got out of Dodge just as fast as he could.

        I turned back into the room. “On that note, though, I do think that we probably ought to get back to our Rat Killing here. Allan, have you given any thought to replacing Heather at the front desk?”

        He had. “I think that if Ms. Heather can find someone she would recommend for the job, it would speed things up considerably.”

        I looked at Heather and said “There you go. Do it to it if you know anyone who might qualify.”

        I took a minute when everyone else left the room, and snagged Ian before he got out the door. “I'm poaching on your turf with Security. If that's a problem, tell me to tend to my own knitting and handle it as you see fit.”

        “I have no problems with what you have been doing, or I'd have said so.”

        “Good. The 'saying so' part, in particular. If I get over the lines, kick me back on the rails, but if it's up to me, we have Heather call those idiots back at about eleven, and offer them an appointment for about four this afternoon, with the proviso that we will work them in sooner if we get an opening and they have arrived by then. I obviously want to be involved in this, but I really want Don running point. Unless you are a lot more possessive of your prerogatives than you have been so far, I imagine they will be working for him if we do keep them on, and I'd like him to be the one to make those decisions if that is the case.”

        Ian spread his hands out. “You are reading me like a book. That's what I planned to do, unless you had other input.”

        “I've got input you wouldn't believe, but I'm not going to offer most of it, because some of our visitors might get damaged fairly severely if I put the dog on them. I am not happy with those folks right now, as you may have noticed.”

        He noted that I was not the only one who was unhappy with those folks. He also allowed that he had never been sure just exactly how to approach his discontent, not being very familiar at dealing with the human race. He liked the way I was doing it, though, and would surely comment if he felt that I was infringing on his territory in ways that were an issue.

        Things proceeded in relatively good order for the rest of the morning. Heather called someone she knew who was the Office Manager for a Dental practice in town, and inquired if she'd be interested in a new job. It developed that she would, and after some consultation with me, Heather scheduled her for an interview at seven this evening. At eleven, she called the Security folks back and condescended to do everything in her power to get them in to see her Management some time this afternoon. It developed that they would be on the ground here at about one PM.

        I eavesdropped on the conversation she had with them. They were bound and determined that they were going to talk to someone other than her right then, but I'd already instructed her that neither Ian, Allan, or I were available. She noted afterward that the begging and pleading was fairly intense at that point, and that there were also a couple of threats implied, but she held firm.

        I pursued the thing enough to discover that whoever she was talking to did actually tell her that he was going to get her fired if she didn't put him through to one of us. That did it for me, and I told her to call up a couple of the other big Security firms and get them on the ball, because we'd almost surely be looking for price quotes later this afternoon.

        Just before lunch, I cornered Don, and briefed him on what I knew about our impending visit from the Security folks. I basically told him that he could pretty much be as nasty as he wanted to be, and noted that someone among them had threatened Heather's job over the telephone. I noted that he could do as he saw fit, but that I wanted at least a quart of someone's blood over that one.
        Alle Kunst ist umsunst Wenn ein Engel auf das Zundloch brunzet (All skill is in vain if an angel pisses down the touch-hole of your musket.) Old German Folk Wisdom.


        • #5
          Re: The Ambassador, Chapter 14

          He looked puzzled for a moment, and I had to ask what was bothering him.

          He replied “I supposedly work for Ian, but he never tells me much of anything. You do all the talking, and you have said that it's not your territory. Why is that?”

          He was in the group now, so I just went ahead and told him. “You don't have an AI implanted. They don't talk a lot, because they have other ways of communicating. I have one, and I still drive them slightly crazy at times because I do the whole Face-to-Face communication thing in preference to the world's most sophisticated Email system. I can contact Allan, Ian, or anyone else on the ship right now, without leaving this chair. Granted, there's about an 11 minute time lag to the ship, but even still, it's fairly quick. All I have to do is think it fairly loudly. That being the case, they default to everyone else knowing everything they need to know without having to be told. They do know better, but it's hard to break habits that you have never had to question before.”

          He shook his head up and down, and then back and forth. “This is a lot to deal with, you know. Am I correct in presuming that we have some other technological advantages here and there?”

          “Yes, you are correct. And come to think of it, I have something for you, assuming that I can find the other part of the package. Give me a minute.”

          I walked over to Heather's desk and asked her if she had any B-1 Batteries in stock. She did, and handed me one. For some reason, I'd known that Ian and Allan were going to have a couple of dozen backups. For that matter, they probably had at least another two dozen each at their houses.

          I went and found my briefcase, and dug out the box the Chief Engineer had given me. I handed it and the battery to Don. “Here. Go get some duct tape, or strapping tape, or whatever, and tape those two together. Keep them on your body at all times.”

          “What is that?”

          “It's a bulletproof vest that covers your whole body. The battery is good for a couple of months at least if you don't actually use it to stop bullets, and will start vibrating when it runs down. I set it to vibrate rather than beep. This thing will stop at least four .50 BMG rounds, or probably at least 50 9mm rounds before it runs down. It does run down, so don't go thinking that you are bulletproof, but it is a really good security blanket.”

          “I can't take this. It's yours.”

          “How badly am I going to need it this week? You are going to do everything you can to get between me and anyone who is shooting at me. I'm fairly sure that Ian and Allan have one on them, so you get to keep me and Heather safe, although I'd be more concerned about Heather. I'm not sure she's got enough sense to hit the deck when she should. I, on the other hand, will be there before you will. Over and above that, I'm as worried about being hit by lightning as I am about being shot at this week. Next week is another story, but I'll have another one before then.”

          “You guys are serious about this, right? We are going out into space Friday?”

          “Been there, done that, and didn't even get a T-shirt out of the deal. But I did get that box, and an AI, along with some other stuff. It's a great experience.”

          “You are applying for UN membership. Do you know just exactly how many people we are going to need for all this?”

          “I figure that before it's all said and done, you will have at least 10,000 employees working for you. Chose them well, Grasshopper, because we are going to kick a whole lot of ant hills here and there along the way, and there will be incidents. I'd rather that the casualty list be on the other side. Beyond that, left to myself, I'd hire people like you who can take care of themselves. I doubt that we can find very many accountants or lawyers who can, so someone is going to have to watch over them. You took the job.”

          Don rolled his eyes. “This whole thing has gotten a lot bigger than I was expecting it to.”

          “You knew the job was dangerous when you took it, Fred.”

          That one went right by him. Kids nowadays have no appreciation for the classics.

          We rattled along until after lunch, which was Barbecue. It was Ian's day. They had some reasonably good brisket, so I didn't feel left out or anything but I'd have given $50 for a couple of good old smoked Pork Loin Sandwiches. I really needed to introduce Allan and Ian to smoked pork. They did bacon and Canadian Bacon and suchlike, so it wasn't as if they were doing Kosher or anything. They needed their horizons broadened, and I wanted some of my idea of comfort food.

          We all five ate. Heather and Don still had some qualms about the fact that when it was lunchtime they were just expected to dig in with the rest of us. Heather was taking it better than Don did. He had been in too many hierarchical situations, and was not yet comfortable with being allowed, let alone expected, to drink from the same bowl as the gods. I still had trouble with people looking at me that way also. I'm a particularly meager and flawed excuse for an Executive. But I didn't let that bother me.

          I figured Don would get over it. Heather didn't know any better, and was just herself, which was good, refreshing, and all that. She was just totally happy. The rest of us were all grinding down our faces on the grindstone, to one degree or another. Don remarked at lunch that he seriously thought that Rover was going to eat the Security guy when I opened the Conference room door for him. Heather said she was thinking the same thing. I explained it to them.

          “Keep in mind. That is my dog. She's spent her whole life with me. She knows me just as well as I know her. If she thinks I'm angry, she will react accordingly, and I was angry. If that poor man had made any movement that she interpreted as hostile to me, she'd have been all over him, had I let her do so. Note that I stayed between him and her the whole time, and I never gave her any indication that I felt threatened. Had I backed up or yelled out, though? Yeah. She'd have been on him.

          I don't think about that kind of thing with her. We've had her whole life to adjust, and I'm as conditioned as she is in a lot of ways. If I don't want her to threaten someone, I move in front of her, and she knows that I'm handling things. If I step away? I better mean it, because she won't hesitate.”

          Don wanted to know how she attacked. I noted that I'd only allowed her to jump on but two people in her whole life, and so couldn't speak from a good statistical background but in the first case she'd gone for the groin, and in the second, she went for the throat.

          He wondered if she could get that high, and I suggested that he come out and play ball with us after lunch. I noted that I've seen her take a ball out of the air at seven feet plus more times than a few. She can get elevation if she feels like doing so.
          Alle Kunst ist umsunst Wenn ein Engel auf das Zundloch brunzet (All skill is in vain if an angel pisses down the touch-hole of your musket.) Old German Folk Wisdom.


          • #6
            Re: The Ambassador, Chapter 14

            I decided that I was rattling, and set Don on Ian about the whole retarder field theory which they used to avoid debris approaching the ship, as well as the modification that he now was using as a bulletproof vest. They got off into that.

            Heather was still quizzing Allan about the ship's Government. She had the same thought I had gone through at first, and used the words “Corporate Fascism”. I stuck an oar in at that point and noted that it was purely the opposite of that, as far as I could tell. It was more like Democratic Corporatism, and Heaven help the Board if they did something stupid enough to annoy the shareholders really badly. A full two-thirds of the stock was divided among the working class, and they could and did vote their shares.

            We wound down, and at about a quarter to one, I got up and announced that someone needed to go for a little bit of a run. Someone knew exactly who I meant, and was bouncing up and down in anticipation. Don came along to see what I was talking about in terms of vertical leaps, and Heather had assumed that it was her job, and she was coming along regardless. She did bring the telephone with her, so she hadn't totally given up on her secretarial job just yet, but it was clear where here priorities now were.

            Heather had the Chuck-It and the ball, and I told her to short hop it a couple of times. Throw fast, hard and short, get a good early bounce, and watch the dog get air. The first throw was a little short, and Rover only went up about five feet. I got handed the ball, and tossed it myself, because I knew just about what angle I wanted. She got a solid seven feet on that one, and I grinned and looked at Don.

            “Case closed.”

            “Can she do that from a standing start, though?”

            “Watch this.”

            I recovered the ball from Heather, held it at arm's length above my head, and asked Miss Rover if she wanted her ball. She bounced up and down a couple of times, and I flipped the ball upward with my wrist. She had it before it got back down to where my extended arm was. Granted that I'm only 6' 1”, but with my arm over my head, I've got a lot more than a seven foot extension. I'd claim that the dog can do eight feet, but I'd hate to exaggerate. Seven feet, I'm sure of.

            About then, Heather's telephone sounded off. She answered it, spent about thirty seconds listening, said “OK” and turned it off. She announced “Our uninvited guests just landed. They will probably be here in about a half hour, unless they stop somewhere for lunch first.”

            Don noted that they might do that thing. I stated that if they did, they wouldn't get to see any of us until tomorrow about 10 AM at best. They seemed to have lost track of which side of the employer-employee relationship they were on, but I offered that we were going to adjust their perceptions.

            We moved back inside. I ushered Don into Ian's office, and suggested that they discuss how this whole meeting was going to go. I'd primed Don to get into some detail about his discontents and concerns with Ian, so that he was up to speed. I also wanted him to be running the show, as much as possible. I didn't figure on participating any more than I had to. I was envisioning my role as being there and keeping the ball in the field of play if things got to wandering.

            I gave Allan a five minute short form overview of the situation so he'd know what to expect from the rest of us, and then took Miss Rover and hid in the small Conference room. Heather knew how to let us know they were here, and that they were to be left cooling their heels until I came out.

            Mike was giving me message number seventeen out of my cue when they arrived. One or another of them got fairly loud and angry for a minute, but someone among them had some sense, and shut him down. I worked my way through ten more of my messages and then got up and went out the door.

            There were four of them. Two of them appeared to be the ownership and actual management. They had the general level of fitness, haircuts, and overall bearing that said Ex-GI to anyone paying much attention. The other two I couldn't make quite as easily. One of them was short and chubby, and the other one was about average, and was wearing a very high-dollar suit. My gut say he was a Lawyer.

            I introduced myself all the way around, and passed out my business card. It simply said “Universal Distributing” with my name. The next line said “Member, Board of Directors.”

            It gave an Email address and a telephone number. Mike monitored the email and the voice mail at the telephone number, which only connected to the voice mail account. I'd termed it my “Don't call us, we'll call you.” system.

            I had nailed the first three of them. The fourth one turned out to be their finance guy.
            Alle Kunst ist umsunst Wenn ein Engel auf das Zundloch brunzet (All skill is in vain if an angel pisses down the touch-hole of your musket.) Old German Folk Wisdom.


            • #7
              Re: The Ambassador, Chapter 14

              We made some small talk, and I quite transparently lied when I apologized for the delay in seeing them. I noted that we were in the process of ramping up a fairly large expansion in our business, and we had a deadline to meet on that part, which was keeping us all fairly swarmed with things to do.

              Everyone conceded that they had been through similar things. I killed about five minutes that way, and then turned to Heather. “Will you please see if Allan is able to break free for a bit? He said he would probably be able to make a few minutes for us.” While she was doing so, I noted to the group that Ian was having a meeting at the moment, and I wasn't sure when he was going to be finished, but I hoped it wouldn't be too long.

              It only proved to take about another five minutes, but when Ian emerged from his office with Don, things got a bit tense immediately. Ian introduced Don as our new Corporate Security Director. Apparently nobody had told them that we'd hired him. The Lawyer immediately wound up about Don working for them, plus he had a non-compete clause in his contract, and the whole thing was most irregular.

              I looked at Don, he flashed me a half a smile for about a second, and dove right in. “First of all, I'm not competing with you folks. The non-compete clause says I can't start my own Security operation, but it doesn't say I can't work for a different one. Second, you guys fired me, so don't even start on the thing about me working for you. End of that issue. Now can someone explain to me what we are doing here, besides wasting our time?”

              The lawyer took one more stab at it. “You are Directing a Security Service and you claim that's not competitive with us?

              Ian jumped in. “We had an open slot in our existing Corporate structure, and I hired him to fill it. He reports to me.”

              The lawyer started sputtering, and one of the two SF types jumped in to try to smooth things over. He said that they'd really come out here because they needed to review our whole Security plan with us. They had concerns about the way things were set up in light of our ongoing expansion. He had even more serious concerns about some other things, if the reports he had received about a certain incident on Monday were correct. There were structural and institutional problems that really needed to be addressed.

              Ian offered that we also felt that there were some issues with our Security. He pointed out that it was glaringly obvious in the first place, and so intrusive that we all kept tripping over it every time we tried to do anything other than sit in the office. He noted that we had intended to address these issues with them, but that there really hadn't been enough time available to arrange it yet.

              We were informed that they had a nice little Powerpoint presentation prepared and ready to show us, if we would be so kind as to look at it. Ian rolled his eyes, and Don just snorted derisively. I felt compelled to get my two cents worth in at that point, but I herded everyone into the big conference room first, and shut the door.

              I was winding up to unload on them when their finance guy plaintively asked what, exactly, it was that Universal Distributing did. I answered him first.

              “We are in the distribution business. We buy low. We sell high. We move stuff around and make money. We get the hams to Siam, and pick up the eggs in Malta. We might even take a flier in Egyptian Cotton if the chance comes up. I will also note that we are seeing some serious opportunities in assembly work right now, since the whole is often substantially greater in value that the sum of the cost of the parts involved.”

              I managed to restrain myself from adding “And everybody has a share” at the end of my comment. Being responsible is tough some days, but I was muddling through it as best I could.

              I then got back to where I was heading before I got interrupted. “Back to the matter at hand, though. We're very busy. We don't have half a day to spend watching Powerpoint presentations and having someone try to sell us more of something we already have too much of. As far as I'm concerned, we can either get this situation straightened out really quickly, or we can find someone else to handle our Security needs from here on out. I am leaning toward the second option, particularly in light of the fact that someone among you was threatening to get Ms. Heather out there fired for doing exactly what we had instructed her to do. I have no sense of humor left about any of this after that part. Any questions?”

              All four of them started talking at once, and Don broke it up. “Now. The way I see it, the things we need to discuss are as follows. First off, we have far too much glaringly obvious security. We need to reduce it to a reasonable level, we need to make it far less obvious, and we really need to talk about the price involved. You are overcharging us by at least 50%, completely beyond the whole overstaffing thing.”

              Don and the two SF types went back and forth for about twenty minutes, and it was beginning to seem to me that they might get something worked out, but then their Lawyer broke in during a pause.

              “Excuse me, folks, but I have one more thing I want to air out here. You people are spending money like you own a printing press, and you have no income stream that we've been able to find. I'd sure hate it if it came out that you were laundering drug money or something and the Feds landed all over you.”

              Ian exploded. “That's all. We're done.” He turned to the Lawyer, reached into one of his pockets, and handed him three business cards. “These are our legal representatives. If you have any need for further communication with us, send it to them. Our business relationship is hereby terminated, effective now. I will have you a letter to that effect drawn up in about five minutes. Beyond that, I have things that I need to be doing, so I am now going to go do them. Will one of you Gentlemen please show these people out?”

              Allan noted that he also had things to take care of that were urgent, and left. I looked at Don and observed “It just goes to show. It's always the guy with the least time in grade who gets all the crap details.”

              We stood in the outer office and pretty much glared at each other. Actually, the Security guys were mostly glaring at their Lawyer, with an occasional dirty look tossed our direction just to keep up appearances.

              Heather printed out a letter, on our letterhead, and took it over to Ian's office door and knocked. Ian opened the door, took the letter, signed it, and handed it back. He then handed Don a dozen or so sheets of paper and closed his door again.

              Don presented the signed letter to the Lawyer, and then handed him the stack of paper, and announced “I'm instructing you to have all your personnel and equipment off of our property within eight hours, which will be about 10PM local time.”

              The lawyer waved the stack of paper that Don had handed him and demanded to know what this all was. Don replied “Resignations.”

              He went on. “You guys do realize that when we went into the conference room, there was only one vote to fire you.” He pointed at me. “He's a hard case. Allan and Ian would have kept you on, and the only vote that really mattered was Ian's because Security falls in his area of responsibility The other two would have deferred to him on it if it had come to that. But once you set him off, it was all over. Good show, guys.”
              Alle Kunst ist umsunst Wenn ein Engel auf das Zundloch brunzet (All skill is in vain if an angel pisses down the touch-hole of your musket.) Old German Folk Wisdom.


              • #8
                Re: The Ambassador, Chapter 14

                They stomped out, the lawyer sputtering all the while about suing us. As the door was closing, I told him that if he wanted to sue, he had the addresses to send them to.

                As they pulled off the lot, Don asked if I was available to assist him. I said that I was, and what were we going to be doing?

                “We need some vehicles. I just handed them nine resignations, which is all of their crew here that I'd be willing to hire, but we don't have any transportation for them. We should do something about that part fairly immediately.”

                “No problem, assuming there is a car dealer in town.” I glanced over at Heather and raised an eyebrow. She stated that there was a Ford dealership.

                “Nothing to it but to do it, then. How many do we need?”

                Don thought for a second. “We can get by with three.”

                “Which means we need four. You left yours off when you cut back to three, didn't you? Apart from that, we need five, because I'm getting myself a Company vehicle while we are at it. I'm tired of mooching rides.”

                Don replied “Speaking of mooching rides, we're going to have to do that to get to town anyway. The only vehicles on the lot that don't belong to them” he gestured out the door in the direction the former Security folks had departed in “are Allan's and Heather's.”

                “Okay. So we need six vehicles, because Heather ought to get a Company car too. You and I are going to borrow hers, go in and get two of them, and come back. Then you and she go back, and take some of your new employees along and get the rest of them while she picks out what she wants.”

                Don wondered how I planned on paying for all of this. Wouldn't I need a letter of credit or something?”

                “Hey. It's the 21st Century now. I've got Corporate plastic.” I fished the Corporate Amex out of my billfold and displayed it. “We got to get you and Heather one of these, too.”

                With that settled, we mooched Heather's keys and departed. I think she thought I was kidding about getting her a Company car, but she got disabused of that at about 4 PM when Don and I got back with the first two vehicles. He loaded her up and off they went, with three other folks to serve as drivers for the rest of our new trucks.

                Don wound up with a big new F-350 Diesel. decked with 4 wheel drive, a winch, and all the other trimmings. He though I was getting that one for me and the F-150 club cab for him, but I fooled him right up until we were fixing to leave the lot, when I handed him the keys to the big one.

                He was getting me figured out, though. He just looked at me and said “Are you sure?”

                “Hey. I'd be driving a Ranger if they still made them. All I need is something to ride me and the dog up and down the road. Someone has to take the big one, because we bought them out of the smaller crew cab ones already.”

                Heather rolled back onto the company lot at about a quarter to six, still driving her old Toyota. When she came in, I asked where her new vehicle was.

                “It won't be there until tomorrow. They didn't have any more after you and Don got through with them, but they are bringing it down from another dealership.” She'd gotten herself an F-150 with 4WD, fully tricked out for off road use, including a light bar and brush guards.

                All that, and we had an interview with her replacement at Seven. I got drafted to assist in that. Allan and Ian both pleaded pressing business and announced that they were going to eat at the shop. Don had all sorts of things to do involved with monitoring the departure of the remainder of the old Security force and instructing the ones he'd hired away from them. So I was elected as the official management delegate for the interview.

                The bottom line of all that was that I got to take two good looking young ladies out to dinner. It was a rough job, but someone had to do it.
                Alle Kunst ist umsunst Wenn ein Engel auf das Zundloch brunzet (All skill is in vain if an angel pisses down the touch-hole of your musket.) Old German Folk Wisdom.