Paranoia (058 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 Three: 29 (Cont'd)

The waiting area had just the right kind of HR look—a lot of dignified mahogany, to say we're serious and this is about your career, and colorful, welcoming, cushy-looking chairs. Which told you that whenever you came to HR you were going to sit there on your butt for an ungodly long time.

I looked around for closed-circuit TV cameras and didn't see any. Not that I was expecting any; this wasn't a bank—or the skunkworks—but I just wanted to make sure. Or as sure as I could be, anyway.

The lights were on low, which made the place look even more stately. Or spooky, I couldn't decide.

For a few seconds I stood there, thinking. There weren't any cleaning people around to let me in; they probably came late at night or early in the morning. That would have been the best way in. Instead, I'd have to try the same old my-badge-won't-work trick, which had gotten me this far. I went back downstairs and headed into the lobby through the back way, where a female lobby ambassador with big brassy red hair was watching a rerun of The Bachelor on one of the security monitors.

"And I thought I was the only one who had to work on Sunday," I said to her. She looked up, laughed politely, turned back to her show. I looked like I belonged, I had a badge clipped to my belt, and I was coming from the inside, so I was supposed to be there, right? She wasn't the talkative type, but that was a good thing—she just wanted to be left alone to watch The Bachelor. She'd do anything to get rid of me.

"Hey, listen," I said, "sorry to bother you, but do you have that machine to fix badges? It's not like I want to get into my office or anything, but I have to or I'm out of a job, and the damned badge-reader won't let me in. It's like it knows I should be home watching football, you know?"

She smiled. She probably wasn't used to Trion employees even noticing her. "I know what you mean," she said. "But sorry, the lady who does that won't be in till tomorrow."

"Oh, man. How am I supposed to get in? I can't wait till tomorrow. I'm totally screwed."

She nodded, picked up her phone. "Stan," she said, "can you help us out here?"

Stan, the security guard, showed up a couple minutes later. He was a small, wiry, swarthy guy in his fifties with an obvious toupee that was jet black while the fringe of real hair all around it was going gray. I could never understand why you would bother to wear a hairpiece if you weren't going to update it once in a while to make it look halfway convincing. We took the elevator up to the third floor. I gave him some complicated blather about how HR was on a hierarchically separate badging system, but he wasn't too interested. He wanted to talk sports, and that I could do, no problem. He was bummed out about the Denver Broncos, and I pretended I was too. When we got to HR, he took out his badge, which probably let him in anywhere he worked in this part of the building. He waved it at the card reader. "Don't work too hard," he said.

"Thanks, brother," I said.

He turned to look at me. "You better get that badge fixed," he said.

And I was in.

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