Miranda Yoh sat nervously in front of the director’s desk, counting the minutes until he got off the phone. Her meeting with the deputies was scheduled to begin within the hour and she was already way behind in her preparation for it.


“Sorry to keep you waiting, Mira,” the director said finally, ending the call. Despite his rank in the company, Karl Tithonius had a reputation for polite familiarity with everyone he met, which was both disarming and a bit creepy, especially to the women. “I want you to know that I really appreciate your stepping up since David died.”


She nodded her head in acknowledgement. “Someone had to do it.”


“Have you heard from Derek at all?” he asked, poorly hiding his deep interest in the answer.


She blushed and frowned, hoping he read it as anger. “No, sir,” she answered darkly to support the impression. “As far as I know he’s still sick, but I could sure use his help.” That much was true: everyone knew she was overwhelmed managing all of the coordination between basic research and product development by herself.


Tithonius leaned back in his chair, his eyes boring into hers through the ancient glasses that framed his rugged face. “How would you like a promotion to go with the responsibility?”


She grew rigid, shocked despite her awareness of the possibility. “You mean…”


“David’s job,” he said with a hint of a smile at her reaction. “I know it’s only been a short time, but you’re doing great work under the circumstances.”


“What about Derek?” she asked, knowing the question was expected. Derek had much more seniority than she did, and his close friendship with their deceased boss meant he probably had a better idea of the big picture.


Tithonius sat up. “I think you know the answer to that.” She cringed internally as he continued, “As far as I’m concerned, he’s AWOL. He’ll be lucky to keep his current job when he returns.”


She tried to look thankful. “When?”


“Functionally, now,” he said. “Formally, the paperwork can be done by the end of the week.”


“Thank you. I would be honored.”


Tithonius stood up to dismiss her and smiled. “You deserve it,” he said.


She smiled back and turned to go, then stopped, realizing that this was the moment to get what she came for. “Sir?”




“If you don’t mind my asking, what’s the rush?”


“You’ll find out at the meeting. And, besides, I want you in charge of replacing your team.”



More than an hour later, Miranda sat stunned in the large conference room that occupied the basement underneath ServoBiome’s research labs.


At thirty-three, she was at least a decade younger than everyone else in the room. Research Deputy Roger Glieck’s high energy and wiry frame, however, made him seem like a teenager in a high-stakes basketball game. “We just can’t do it!” he exclaimed for the fifteenth time since the director had left the room. “Here are the numbers,” he said, standing at the front of the table, gesturing at a graph on the screen behind him. “See? The Top Three alone need all the money they left us with!” His three managers, who sat nearby, had just finished calculating the current budgets for all of the projects being done in basic research. The lines representing the three highest priority projects nearly scratched the thick level line that marked the ceiling of expenditures allowed after the director’s bombshell message.


Miranda knew his counterpart in product development much better, having worked directly with him for the past three years. Frank Jones was normally subdued, but now he was as animated as Glieck, pacing back and forth on the side of the table near the door, staring at his smartphone. “I can’t spare any more, Roger. We can’t take more than a twenty-percent hit without cutting into capital that’s already spoken for.”


The third deputy, Tammy Jones, sat staring at her laptop, as her new operations budget scrolled across the screen and her assistant finished updating her on what it meant. “At least you have something,” she shouted to the others, “services is toast!”


Glieck turned to Miranda. “Looks like your new job’s going to be a lot easier,” he observed. “There’s not a lot left to coordinate.” He paused. “You were the last one to see Karl before the meeting. Did he give you any more details about this new ‘tag team’?”


“No,” she said. “I know what you know.”



“Did they buy it?” Bob Jenkins asked Tithonius as they stood waiting for the rest of the Community to gather in person or by teleconference in the executive building’s most secluded conference room. The chief operations officer studied his fellow Community member closely. “What did they say?”


“They weren’t happy, as you would expect. They’re totally focused on their slashed budgets and their integrity being challenged by an unknown, outside group. So yes, I think they bought it.”


“What about Yoh? She doesn’t have anything at stake.”


“Except a new job that pays a lot more than her old one, and which will keep her too busy to think about anything else. She won’t be a problem.”



© Copyright 2015 Bradley W. Jarvis. All rights reserved.