Real Time Clock

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“Do you have any idea how much
you do not know about the future?”

One — Virtual Trust

The interviewer had an annoying habit of poking a finger into the side of his face in order to chew his inner cheek while he studied the resume. He made comments as he scanned Frenwin’s credit list. “Yes. Top of the class, excellent. Majored in finance with an emphasis in insurance law. That’s good. Yes.”

At last the interviewer (Frenwin had to glance at his own EA to get the name which he had, once again, quite forgotten: Ah. Lindgate, Woolen Lindgate) looked beyond his eye panel at the well-dressed young man seated in the room with him. “But you realize you start at the bottom, don’t you?”

One could stay home and Zone which meant subsidized housing, subsidized income, subsidized spending with no responsibilities. That also generally meant the cheapest, lowest quality pay per view.

Or one could seek employment. The young man nodded. He would take what was offered.

Lindgate continued: “We operate on the standard 23 hour work week here and we stick to it. However, you will be a salaryman. Therefore, you are expected to put in at least 28 hours and that means take the work load home with you. Spread out the day, as they say.” Wide, supercilious, condescending grin.

Frenwin was well aware of the statistics. New lawyers were literally the most common product stamped out by a university and, since they were so ordinary, entry level legal commanded the lowest pay. Only the medical profession boasted worse income over a lifetime and arguably more appalling working conditions. Frenwin often kicked himself for not having gone into sanitation or culinary as his father frequently suggested.

Lindgate continued: “You get the crap jobs, you know that, being the new guy. But look at the bright side: you also get to be on partnership trajectory. Here’s an account no one wants, a virtual trust that requires one hour a day every day of the year to maintain.”

The files suddenly showed up in Frenwin’s personal memory without Lindgate having asked permission, which Frenwin took to mean he had the job. Gloryanna Grandma!

“You start today. Share cubby 37 with, um, let me see, ah. Brandywine, a little cutie.” Insincere leer. “I’m sure you two will get along just fine. See admin about a gate code today. Before you leave for lunch is best.”

The firm had several hundred employees and occupied seven floors in a downtown high rise. It was not hard to locate the primary room where he was assigned, but the cubby proved difficult to enter. His code failed twice and he was reduced to kicking against the hollow metal frame which dented but rebounded. The pocket door finally slid aside and Frenwin faced his cubby mate for the first time. She did not rise as she looked up at him from her chair. She must be twenty pounds above normal, overweight in a skinny world, he thought grimly.

“Sorry ’bout that,” the woman said pleasantly enough. “Leaning against the panel. Forget sometimes. Help you?” When she smiled she revealed a gap-toothed grin in an otherwise perfect orthodontic world.

“I’m assigned this cube to share with you. Frenwin.”

Dismay crossed her features. “Yes, well, uh, in I guess.” She stood and drew her seat away from the entry. “Brandywine. Beth.” Her hand extended, but he was unable to shake what with his armload of gear.

Frenwin entered, looked around, could not decide which part of the desk was his. All of it appeared to be in use at the same time. The woman named Beth took in his gaze, realized his quandary and began to pick small plastic items, personal tidbits and work related utensils up off one area, deposited everything on the other side, presumably her side. She wore a fashionable (and probably expensive) eye panel, not the plain pane EA he favored.

The cramped work space had barely enough room for Frenwin to turn around. He was burdened with his own set of unique items which he carried in a disposable container. His music was in there as were several memory boards including the prized encyclopedia set he won in a high school essay contest. He had personalized the boards while in graduate school and intended to install them before settling in with his client base.

An all weather smock was draped over Frenwin’s forearm and in one hand a tempermeal containing lunch. He did not believe he could afford the luxury of entering even the least elegant downtown eatery.

He dumped everything unceremoniously on the now cleared surface.

“Share and share alike,” Beth said with genial candor. Frenwin flopped down into the only available chair and promptly rolled backwards half a meter. “Sorry. Didn’t warn. Got a slight glide so I don’t use. Want to replace?”

“I can get used to it.” Hands extended this time in perfunctory shake. “I was hired about an hour ago. So tell me, Beth. Do you always talk in incomplete sentences?”

She did not know if this was an ice breaking joke or a pointed barb aimed at her head. “Should I duck or is that supposed to be funny?”

“Joke. Just a joke.” The response was enough to set them at ease with one another. “Now maybe you can give me a few pointers about office life in this large legal firm.”

Beth explained they were on the clock and clients were billed not only by how many hours were spent on a case but also how many times a case was accessed. “Therefore, we try and open as many as possible every day. But your ‘open rate,’ as it’s called, will probably be slower since you’re new and I bet you got the NetNovels account.”

Frenwin’s eyes grew large and his mouth opened in surprise. “How could you possibly know that? It was just assigned.”

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