on Saturday, December, 17, 2011 5:06 PM
Edward Robert Dillinger II leaned back in his cushy boardroom chair and looked around as the other attendees of the press meeting arrived. It was his first big fancy meeting as the new head of Programming and he wanted to get an idea of his surroundings. As the youngest and newest member of the Executive Board-- it would still take him a while to get used to the idea-- he thought he needed every advantage he could get.
“Ah, Ted,” Mackey had said when Edward walked in. “Arriving early. Taking charge. That's what I like to see.”
“It's Edward, sir.”
“Oh, yes, Ed, of course. How silly of me. I'm sorry.” Edward. Edward Edward Edward. Dammit. Was there anyone in the company who didn't think Mackey was a dipshit? Anyone with half a brain and a distaste for ass-kissing, that is?
Unfortunately, Edward was aware that his new position would require a bit of ass-kissing. But he'd try to keep it to a minimum if he could manage. That sort of thing left a bad taste in his mouth, no pun intended.
Edward isn't like other children, his teachers would write on his report cards or tell his mother at conferences. He's not a troublemaker, per se. But he often keeps himself apart from the other children; he prefers to read or work on the computer. And there's just something... somewhat... insubordinate about him. He always has to argue for a different way. Still, he might go far if he just socializes a bit more and learns not to be so outspoken with his opinions so he doesn't alienate other people with an overdose of honesty.
Edward managed to keep from snorting. The sad thing was, Mackey was the one who'd pushed to get him to the top of the Programming department after the work Edward had put in on the new release of the OS, so he ought to know Edward's name. Mackey was big on young talent-- he'd been waiting for Brian MacLean to retire for years and wasn't above pushing the issue and dropping not-so-veiled hints about how nice it would be to move to Florida, maybe see about some grandkids-- so he could put someone younger in there. Edward knew Mackey was just chomping at the bit for the day he could get rid of Alan Bradley as well.
Unfortunately for Mackey, Bradley was a bit more tenacious than MacLean had been, had no desire to get up to the mountains or down to the Keys any time soon. No one else on the E Board was over 45, now that Edward was in. Edward knew it grated on Mackey to see gray hair. He thought old age meant outdated ideas. He liked to foster a level of faux camaraderie by promoting a casual atmosphere-- he encouraged male employees not to wear ties, for example, like they were all just a bunch of buddies hanging out, and just by chance they happened to be doing so at headquarters of a large corporation. (Come on, Mackey. This isn't Google. Nice try.) Unfortunately, “faux” was just the word-- Edward was well aware there wasn't actually much tolerance for extraneous creativity or free-thinking around here. He hoped maybe he could rock that boat a bit; if he could do so enough to shake things up some and get a few people out of their comfort zone without falling overboard himself, more the better.
“So, Ed, how are you liking the executive levels?” Please, let's not do small talk. Not only do I hate small talk, but I really have no desire to have any sort of talk with you.
“It's okay.” Really I'd rather be downstairs with my team, right in the thick of things, but your underling informed me rather severely that that is not the way things are done at Encom.
“ Excellent, excellent, Ed. I think you're going to fit in just fine.” Oh, you have no idea, have you?
Everyone else was starting to file in now. Thank heaven. Now he'll have to shut up. And sure enough, Mackey was now putting on the charm as he greeted everyone else (he sucked at charm, but even Edward wasn't sure he wanted to draw attention to that particular Emperor's nudity. He preferred to choose his battles, and he'd rather save his blacklist points for more important things). He sat quietly as the rest of the E Board entered, not bothering to stand or act excited to see these people. He nodded and smiled politely, then returned his attention to the front. It was a job, nothing more. He wasn't here to make friends, and certainly not among this bunch. His friends worked several floors below him now... he hoped it wouldn't put too much of a strain on the relationship.
“Welcome, everybody,” said Mackey's assistant. “Please sit down. I know it's late, so I'll skip the pleasantries and hand things over to our chairman, Richard Mackey.” The table erupted in applause. Edward kept his arms crossed; he'd never been effusive and he wasn't about to start now.
As soon as everybody was seated, a pair of assistants began passing out folders.
“Thank you, but no thanks,” Edward said quietly to the young man who tried to put one in front of him. Looking around the table, he saw few other people bothered to thank the assistants. You could always tell a person by the way they treated the assistants, Edward believed-- and most of the Board seemed to view them merely as self-mobile furniture. He noticed Alan Bradley had a quick smile for the assistant on his side of the table.
Bradley was decent. He held Edward at arm's length with what seemed to be a bit of apprehensive distrust, though. Probably had to do with Edward's father (not his dad, his father, and even that was a title Edward hated to bestow on that talentless idea-embezzling coward). It was too bad. If only you knew who was behind that open-source-advocacy blog I know you're always commenting on, even though you hide behind a nondescript username. Oughta try going through a proxy and hiding your IP address if you're really interested in anonymity... but then again, I suppose you may really believe the author's some expat hanging out in The Hague. Well, the more people who did believe it, the better for Edward. Wouldn't he be jobless on the street faster than you can say 'terabyte' if the truth came out?
“Why Encom?” his mother had asked him quietly when he applied for the job right out of college. “I've spent all these years trying to have nothing to do with that company. Do you want to drag our names through the mud again? Do you think they'll actually hire you, knowing who you are? Trust you? Do you think the employees don't have long memories? You're smart, hardworking; you could get a nice job at Google, Lockheed, somewhere up-and-coming or big and stable, somewhere that 'Dillinger' is just another name, and they'd love to have you.” He'd given her a gentle smile, noting that the lines around her eyes were deepening. He'd been a surprise baby; his parents had figured they were too old. Not so very old, as it had turned out. He was barely a toddler when his father had gone to jail. His mother had taken to single parenthood quietly and done what she needed to do without complaining. Divorce was becoming more common in those days, but still, it hadn't been easy for her, especially since she was determined to resist the insistences of family and friends that she remarry.
“Mom,” he'd said. “Don't worry.”
“Edward, I do worry. You'll be an outcast.” He had laughed gently.
“I always have been, and you know it. I want to do this. I want to make it right. I want to make things better, there. And I want to make Dillinger a good name again. I'm tired of the sins of the father being visited on the son. Soon people will look at me and see me, and what I am and what I do, and not him.” She had sighed, but smiled. She knew too well that there was no changing his mind once he had it set on a course of action.
“Thank you, thank you, Claire,” Mackey said as he stood. “Tonight I am pleased to announce that Encom's last fiscal year was our most profitable ever. Yes,” he acknowledged the appreciative murmurs around the table. “And at midnight tonight, the twelfth version of our flagship operating system will hit the shelves, around the world. I'm sure it comes as no surprise who we have to thank. The head of our software design team, a man whose father's own, uh, notable history with Encom helped make this company what it is today.... Edward Dillinger.” Everyone clapped. Edward kept his arms folded and merely inclined his head slightly, resisting the urge to roll his eyes. Good Lord. Let's make a big deal of it, why don't we. And while we're at it, why don't we canonize the very man who could've run this company into the ground if his less-than-legal and highly-unethical actions hadn't been discovered? Are we reading the same history books, Mackey?
“And this year, simultaneous to the release of Encom OS12, we will be making our debut on Tokyo's Nikkei index! Encom stock will now trade around the world 24-7.” Now there were outright cheers around the table.
“Excuse me.” Bradley spoke up.
“Yes... Alan.” Mackey's voice was absolutely patronizing.
“Given the prices the we charge to students and schools, what sort of improvements have been made in Flynn-- I mean, uh, Encom-- OS12?” Oh, nice one. Mackey gave him a condescending smile.
“This year we put a '12' on the box.” Edward bit the inside of his cheek hard to head another potential eye roll off at the pass. Good job, Mackey, you asshole. Way to be a douchebag.
“OS-12 is the most secure operating system ever released,” he told Bradley, trying to do some damage control. (Please hear my apology in my voice. He doesn't know jack or shit anyway. I know you think I'm just his peon in this project, but I made sure some good shit got built into this release.) “The idea of sharing our software, or giving it away for free, disappeared with Kevin Flynn.” Walk the company line, Dillinger. Take a little sip of the Kool-Aid. Damn, that was painful to say... but unfortunately, true. They don't need to know it was a jab. Which is perhaps why Mackey looks so smug right now.
“Okay, if there are no more questions, I would like you to meet our next blockbuster... Encom OS-12.” Mackey turned to the screen with a flourish and waved his remote control as if it were a wand and he was auditioning for the next Harry Potter movie. And... something happened, but it wasn't what anyone was expecting. A bug-eyed little dog appeared onscreen, barking madly.
“Whoa,” Mackey said. Edward had to sit up a bit in surprise. What is that, a Boston Terrier? He took a deep breath. Oh boy.
“Uh... a few... bugs,” Mackey continued, trying to smile at everyone in a reassuring manner, then addressing the people closest to him quietly. “What's that? What is that?”
The board room had instantly erupted in chaos. Everyone was freaking out, trying to get the video off the screen. Mackey tried to reassure the meeting attendees again, but Edward could read the rising panic in Mackey's eyes.
“We go live in thirty seconds!” Several people were punching ineffectually at the touch-screen in front of Mackey. Were all of these people-- supposedly at the top of their game in their respective departments-- really at a loss about what to do? Always cool under pressure, I see.
“Anybody know where the master file is?” Mackey's voice almost squeaked. Only Alan Bradley wasn't freaking out; he was tapping away madly on his tablet, and Edward was willing to bet he too had figured out what might be going on.
“I do.” Everyone looked at Bradley. He held up the tablet. “It's on the web.” An audible gasp. Yep, there it was, larger-than-life on SourceForge. Edward wondered if he could get away with posting a link on his blog. Might be a step too far if he did. Might seem strange if he didn't.
Pandemonium still reigned. Everyone was on their phones now, trying to figure out how this had happened. Mackey was nearly going insane.
“Shut it down! Shut it down!” This circus had gone on long enough, and it was no longer amusing to watch everyone running around like the proverbial chicken with its head cut off. Edward allowed himself a single eye roll and leaned forward in his seat, typing rapidly but calmly at his own workstation. An advanced kill command nobody else thought of (or perhaps that nobody else even knew; what were these talking heads good for?) and the errant video disappeared from the overhead screen. Aaaand... cooler heads prevail. Effective action, imagine that. Everyone else was still so busy panicking that they didn't even notice.
“Hey!” He had to speak up to be heard, holding up his hands. “Relax! Just relax. It's under control.” He couldn't quite keep the look of disdain off his face. Mackey turned wild eyes to him.
“Relax? Our most valuable-- and most secure--” --with a pointed look at Edward-- “operating system is out there for free! How am I supposed to explain that?” Edward shrugged.
“I don't know. Say it was all... part of a plan. A little gift from Encom.” I really don't give a rat's ass how you explain it. You're the one with egg on your face. I just work here, the loyal employee. I made the OS secure; talk to Information Assurance about the hacking. And I'm tired of this bullshit-- and I assume the meeting's over now. He stood, phone in hand, and walked out, having already hit a certain speed-dial number on his way out the door. A breathless voice on the other end picked up.
“Good show. Wasn't expecting the dog. Yours? What a fucking zoo in there.”
“Oh, yeah. Did you have to cause quite so much turmoil, though? Couldn't just do this quietly?”
“You know quiet's not my style.” Yeah, Edward knew.
“You get in okay?”
“Piece of cake. The instructions were spot-on, thanks.”
“This better be well worth it. I put a lot of work into that OS, it's out there for free now, and I may well take some heat.”
“I imagine InfoSec will get most of it, and you know it's well-deserved, 'cause I got in easily. And you also know it'll totally be worth it. Like you haven't been dying to put that source code out there yourself.”
“Did you have anything important? 'Cause I'm kinda busy here.”
“You should've been out ages ago. What are you doing, going jogging? You sound like you're about to have an asthma attack.”
“Ha, ha. Asshole. I'm headed for the roof, with Security hot on my tail.”
“The roof? What the hell's on the roof? How are you gonna get down from there?”
“Oh, just wait.” Edward heard the smile in Flynn's voice and groaned.
“Oh, god, I don't want to know. Call me later.”
“As soon as I get out of jail.”
“Jail?” But the phone had already gone dead.
What a night. Edward was going home. He'd had enough excitement for one day; the real work began tomorrow.
What do you want? I'm busy.
Chaos.... good news.