Paranoia (072 of 170)

—of —
by Joseph Finder
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Macmillan: Paranoia

Paranoia by Joseph Finder. Copyright 2004 by Joseph Finder.
All Rights Reserved. Sharing not permitted.

Part Four: 35 (Cont'd)

"Good to hear," I said. "I do think we're really missing the boat on technology and products for transmitting digital music and video over the Internet. We really should focus on R&D there, maybe partnering. Huge potential for revenue generation."

"I think you're right."

"And, forgive me for saying it, but I think it's sort of pathetic that we don't have a serious kid-targeted product line. Look at Sony—their PlayStation game console can make the difference between red ink and black ink some years. The demand for computers and home electronics seems to slump every couple of years, right? We're fighting electronics makers in South Korea and Taiwan, we're waging price wars over LCD monitors and digital video decks and cell phones—this is a fact of life. So we should be selling to kids—'cause children don't care about recessions. Sony's got their PlayStations, Microsoft's got its Xbox, Nintendo has GameCube, but what do we have for television video games? Diddly squat. It's a major weakness in a consumer-oriented product line."

I'd noticed he was sitting upright again, looking at me with a cryptic smile on his crinkly face. "How would you feel about priming the retooling of the Maestro?"

"Nora owns that. I wouldn't feel comfortable about it, frankly."

"You'd report to her."

"I'm not sure she'd like that."

His grin got crooked. "She'd get over it. Nora knows what side her bread's buttered on."

"Obviously I won't fight you on it, sir, but I think it might be bad for morale."

"Well, then, how would you like to come work for me?"

"Don't I already?"

"I mean here, on the seventh floor. Special assistant to the chairman for new-product strategy. Dotted line responsibility to the Advanced Technology unit. I'd give you an office, just down the hall. But no bigger than mine, you understand. Interested?"

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I felt like bursting from excitement and nerves.

"Well, sure. Reporting directly to you?"

"That's right. So, do we have a deal?"

I gave a slow smile. In for a penny, I thought, and all that. "I think more responsibility calls for more money, sir, don't you?"

He laughed. "Oh, does it?"

"I'd like the additional fifty thousand I should have asked for when I started here. And I'd like forty thousand more in stock options."

He laughed again, a robust, almost Santa Claus–y ho-ho. "You've got balls, young man."

"Thank you."

"I'll tell you what. I'm not going to give you fifty thousand more. I don't believe in incrementalism. I'm going to double your salary. Plus your forty thousand options. That way you'll feel all sorts of pressure to bust your ass for me."

To keep from gasping, I bit the inside of my lip. Jesus.

"Where do you live?" he asked.

I told him.

He shook his head. "Not quite appropriate for someone of your level. Also, the hours you're going to be working, I don't want you driving forty-five minutes in the morning and another forty-five minutes at night. You're going to be working late nights, so I want you living close by. Why don't you get yourself one of those condos in the Harbor Suites? You can afford it now. We've got a lady who works with the Trion E-staff, specializes in corporate housing. She'll set you up with something nice."

I swallowed. "Sounds okay," I said, trying to suppress the little nervous chuckle.

"Now, I know you've said you're not a gearhead, but this Audi ... I'm sure it's perfectly nice, but why don't you get yourself something fun? I think a man should love his car. Give it a chance, why don't you? I mean, don't go overboard or anything, but something fun. Flo can make the arrangements."

Was he saying they were going to give me a car? Good God.

He stood up. "So, are you on board?" He stuck out his hand.

I shook. "I'm not an idiot," I said good-naturedly.

"No, that's obvious. Well, welcome to the team, Adam. I look forward to working with you."

I stumbled out of his office and toward the bank of elevators, my head in a cloud. I could barely walk right.

And then I caught myself, remembered why I was here, what my real job was—how I'd gotten here, into Goddard's office, even. I'd just been promoted way, way above my ability.

Not that I even knew what my ability was anymore.

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