The company's co-founder, largest stockholder, and CEO was annoyed; this was certainly not his best day, golf aside. He'd spent too much time on the course and only had time for a little more of Knolls' report, and now he had to chew out that incredibly stupid chief engineer, who was knocking on his door and in danger of losing his job. This could have crippled the company. "Come in," the CEO said.
It seemed the company he and Charles had practically built from scratch was falling apart. God damn it, quality was deteriorating badly, and he was starting to think he needed a new head engineer.
"Talk to me, Gene."
God damn it, he thought. He opened a folder and handed a piece of paper to the engineer. "I'm talking about this schematic wiring diagram. How in the hell did this happen, and why was it spotted by someone who wasn't even an engineer?"
Richardson said "I honestly don't know, sir."
"Your teams are getting really sloppy, Richardson. This has been built into ten ships already and they're all going to have to be rewired because engineering screwed up on the blueprints. How in the hell could your team miss this? How the hell could you miss it? An intern discovered it! And he wasn't even an engineering student, he was just an electronics hobbyist."
Richardson hung his head. The CEO continued. "If these ships had been operational a lot of people would have died and it would have caused the company great financial hardship; we're self-insured. One more mistake like this and you're fired, Richardson, and I'll get someone competent.
"Now tell me, who programmed our robots to make coffee?"
"Robot," Mister Green said, "Make this man a cup of coffee. Richardson, I got a report from a ship's captain complaining about the coffee so I had one of the ship robots sent here to check. He's right, this is the worst coffee I've ever tasted."
"Well, sir, I don't like coffee myself, I had Larry Jones program it."
"Why in the hell didn't you test it? That's the kind of sloppiness I'm talking about."
"We did do chemical tests, sir..."
"But you never thought of having anyone who actually drinks coffee try it? Look, Richardson, I'll be blunt: you're on the verge of losing your job. We have paying customers booking passage on our boats and they don't expect to make their own coffee and they expect the coffee they're served to be good coffee. I want a program for a robot to make not just drinkable coffee, which this isn't, and not just good coffee, but great coffee. I want the program in a week and a demonstration in two weeks and updates sent to all the coffee robots as soon as it's tested, and by that I mean by a group of people who enjoy coffee. Put Jones on a project he's good at. This is unacceptable. Am I understood, Richardson?
"And I want you to weed out the incompetents in your shop. This sloppiness is inexcusable."
"Sir, the union..."
"Tell the union that if they give you any trouble there won't be a new contract, I'll replace every engineer and programmer in the shop as soon as the contract expires. The union is supposed to give us quality employees, and it doesn't look to me like we're getting them.
"Now, one more screw up and your career is over, Richardson. Now get out of here and get to work, I have a report to finish reading."
After Richardson left, he buzzed his secretary. "Get Human Resources on the fone. And schedule a meeting with all the department heads for nine tomorrow morning. And I don't want to take any calls unless it's the company President, my wife, kids, or an emergency after I talk to Human Resources." He drummed his fingers for a few seconds and the fone buzzed again. It was Osbourne.
"What's up, Charles?"
"Have you tasted our robots' coffee, Dewey? I was curious after reading Knolls' report. That's the nastiest coffee I ever drank. And I was in the Army."
"Yes, I did, and Richardson got a good ass chewing. I threatened to fire him, and I might still. And his might not be the only head to roll, Knolls' report was an eye opener. I want reports from all the Captains after each run from now on."
"So do I, I already ordered it. I'm leaving for Mars tomorrow on whatever of our first class passenger boats can get me there the fastest right after the meetings. I wish I could skip the board meeting.
"I'm especially worried about engineering, that's our most important function. I'm not too happy about financial, either. How did we let this slip past us, Dewey?"
"Hell if I know, Charles. Both of us are going to have to be more vigilant. Look, I have to finish reading this report. I may not finish it this afternoon so I want you to mostly take charge in the meeting since you've read the whole thing and have more information. I'll see you in the morning. Goodbye."
"See you, Dewey."
Sorry I haven't been here lately, but I've been working furiously on the book. There are five more chapters ready to post, followed by a few that haven't been written yet, then six more written chapters that go at the end of the book. The manuscript stands at 40,261 words as of this writing.