It was a Saturday, so Rich expected to find the office in a quiet, abandoned yet serene state. Sacred halls echoing the memories of sobbing developers and whinging line managers, perhaps? Instead, there was a visceral musk of sweat, weighed down by cologne, composting the paper files, cabinets and electrical marvels that were the computers within each of the enclosed cubicles. Walking across the office was like walking through a shoddy brewery. The brewery was on fire, and he was sure he could smell an ethanol leak.
Yet though the metaphor of burning but still functioning brewery was unrealistic, if any place could make it work, it would be this right here. There was clippity-clacking of keyboard keys from every cubicle, they resonated together into a sonnet of constant tapping and clicking. The place was full to the brim with bodies as if it were Monday.
‘Bob’s in the Bellevue Conference room’ barfed some random lard-skinned slob of man out of the confines of his cubicle.
Rich instinctively looked up, towards the second storey platform raised around the main office, the spectator area for the managers.
‘And Rich!’ the lard man caught him mid-step, ‘he’s waiting for you.’
On the second floor, the air was a little easier to breathe. There were windows to the sides overlooking the parking lots and a few more buildings of the rest of the campus, copy-pasted versions of this exact building. Replicas of replicas. Along one wall there were several doors—to the conference rooms. Little havens of quiet, with solid brick walls as opposed to plaster and wood. Yet now from behind those doors came low bass screams, rumbling the nearby decorative office foliage. Rich hesitated, stood blocking the staircase, he was pushed from behind. It was Bob’s secretary, she held stacks of documents and a cup of coffee.
‘Out of the way Rich, damn it.’ she cursed under her breath, ‘you little shit.’
‘Good Morning.’ Rich responded, but she was already gone into the conference room.
He followed her delicate rose and jasmine pheromone scent, towards the Bellevue door. It was a metal thing with a rectangle long glass stripe in the middle. Through the glass, there was a swath of white shirts and brown ties and faces with muted, neutral expressions—except for their wide fish eyes. Rich stepped back. Once the screaming on the other side ended, the door into the room swung open.
‘Jesus Rich. Get in.’ barked Bob, the irises of his eyes were quadrupled in size within the round glass of his wide-rimmed spectacles.
Rich would have laughed at his fat, grey-alien appearance, but he was afraid.
Bob was just over 5 feet tall, roughly three aeroplane passenger seats wide, but that didn’t stop him from moving fast. ‘Have a seat,’ he waved at the tables and chairs, at the rest of the team. His voice was piercing deep, a voice of a drill instructor, with a tone of natural German. Always somewhat angry.
Rich did not say anything, slid into the nearest seat he could find.
Bob stood at the front, behind a wooden box, the speaker podium behind which was a whiteboard on a wall. The conference room was laid out more like a classroom. His secretary stood to his left, handing him the coffee and placing the documents on the podium.
‘Thank you, Bee.’ Bob said.
She nodded with a wide smile.
‘Now that we’re all here.’ he coughed, ‘Where was I?’ he looked up at the ceiling, in silence.
‘Introducing agile processes into our linear workflows?’ a weedy voice cracked through the dead quiet.
‘Yes! Thank you Stevie.’ and Bob continued, but Rich’s attention faded.
Some keywords stood out from the hazy buzz, something about backlogs, daily meetings, sprints and potentially shippable product increments. At some point he told everyone to move the conference table, to sit around in a circle, facing each other…
‘…Because I am a good manager, I am going to do for all of you what other managers never think of doing. I am going to set a game for all of you to enjoy. Those that play hard, work hard, after all!’ he stared Rich right into his eyes, until Rich snapped, looking away.
‘With that being said.’
Rich checked if Bob still stared at him. He did.
And Bob took out from under the speaker podium a silver 9mm Springfield XD handgun. Holding it up to the class:
‘You all have the rest of the day to complete a working prototype for a functioning keylogging backdoor into the latest version of our word processor, but…’
He put the gun down in the middle of the room, on the floor, ‘there can be only one!’
Bob and his secretary ran out of the room. Before closing the door, Bob whispered:
‘Non-participants will be fired.’