Paranoia (038 of 170)

—of —
by Joseph Finder
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Macmillan: Paranoia

Paranoia by Joseph Finder. Copyright 2004 by Joseph Finder.
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Part Two: 18 (Cont'd)

I noticed the unstated, And now look at me. He was careful not to criticize Nora; he knew to be wary of me, not to open up. "I'm a big boy," I said. "I can take it."

"I'm saying you won't have to, bud. She made her point—just stay on your toes—and now she'll move on. She wouldn't have done that if she didn't consider you a high-po." High-potential, he meant. "She likes you. She wouldn't have fought to get you on her team if she didn't."

"Okay." I couldn't tell if he was holding out on me or not.

"I mean, if you wanna ... like, this afternoon's meeting—Tom Lundgren's going to be there, reviewing the product specs, right? And we've been spinning our wheels for weeks already, stuck in some dumbass debate over whether to add GoldDust functionality." He rolled his eyes. "Like, give me a break. Don't even get Nora started on that crap. Anyway, it's probably a good idea if you have some opinion on GoldDust—you don't have to agree with Nora that it's complete and total bullshit and a huge waste of money. The important thing is to just have an opinion on it. She likes informed debate."

GoldDust, I knew, was the latest big thing in electronic consumer products. It was some engineering industry committee's fancy marketing name for low-power, short-range wireless transmission technology that's supposed to let you connect your Palm or BlackBerry or Lucid to a phone or a laptop or a printer, whatever. Anything within twenty feet or so. Your computer can talk to your printer, everything talks to everything else, and no unsightly cables to trip over. It was going to free us all from our chains, from wires and cables and tethers. Of course, what the industry geeks who invented GoldDust didn't figure on was the explosion in Wi-Fi, 802.11 wireless. Hey, even before Wyatt put me through the Bataan Death March, I had to know about Wi-Fi. GoldDust I learned about from Wyatt's engineers, who ridiculed it up and down.

"Yeah, there was always someone at Wyatt trying to push that on us, but we held the line."

He shook his head. "Engineers want to pack everything into everything, no matter what it costs. What do they care if it pushes our price point up over five hundred bucks? Anyway, that'll come up for sure—I'll bet you can really whale on it."

"All I know is what I read, you know?"

"I'll tee it up for you at the meeting, you can whomp it. Earn a couple of strategic brownie points with the boss, can't hurt, right?"

Chad was like tracing paper: he was translucent; you could see his motives. He was a snake and I knew I could never trust him, but he was obviously trying to establish an alliance with me, probably on the theory that it was better for him to be aligned with the hot new talent, be my buddy, than to appear to be threatened by me, which of course he was.

"All right, man, thanks," I said.

"Least I can do."

By the time I got back to my cube there was half an hour before the meeting, so I got on the Internet and did some quick-and-dirty research on GoldDust so at least I could sound like I knew what I was talking about. I was whipping through dozens of Web sites of varying quality, some industry-promo types, and some (like run by geeks obsessed with this shit, when I noticed someone standing over my shoulder, watching me. It was Phil Bohjalian.

"Eager beaver, huh?" he said. He introduced himself. "Only your second day, and look at you." He shook his head in wonderment. "Don't work too hard, you'll burn out. Plus you'll make us all look bad." He made a sort of chortle, like this was a line out of The Producers or something, and he exited stage left.

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