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Secret Agent Man

By R. Richard ©

Published by R. Richard at Smashwords

Copyright 2018 R. Richard

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Secret Agent Man

By R. Richard © 2018

I'm working as a software engineer for a large defense corporation. Due to the state of company contracts, I’m forced to work on-site at a remote military base. I'm a damn good engineer. Unfortunately, I’m also a damn poor politician.

There are some cutbacks in the government contracts that feed my employer. I'm politically out and my employer has just promoted two junior people over me. I would have quit, over being bypassed, but there are no jobs open in my home area and I have no real options. I'll begin looking when the job picture improves, but my employer knows this and things will get just enough better that I supposedly won't leave for another job. I may be out politically, but I'm too valuable for my employer to just let me go, so a menial job is found for me.

There's a second wave of contract cuts and some more people have to go. My new job is eliminated and I'm to be laid off. Well, my employer will just have one of the remaining projects lay someone else off and pick me up. Yeah, right! Neither of the two junior people want me in their newly minted fiefdoms. The egos crash and rebound and I'm left standing in front of my ex-employers building with my final pay check in my hand. Oh, my ex-employer will find a spot for me as soon as they can. However, I have no job and no real confidence that I will get another job, with my ex-employer, before I go broke. It's about 3PM on a Friday and I have just one slim hope.

I go over to the Executive Officer’s office and, one small ray of sunshine breaks through the clouds, the XO is in! I get five minutes of the XO’s time. I point out, “I'm the only guy on the base who has any experience with the XYZ Project equipment. True, most of the XYZ funding has been cut. However, there's enough funding left to feed a few mouths. One of the current mouths is a useless management position, with no workers under the manager. If you feed me, instead of Zero Manager, you have expertise in the XYZ Project equipment. Without expertise in the XYZ Project equipment, the XYZ project goes away, the next time your superiors want a report.”

The XO thinks over my proposition and makes a couple of phone calls. Apparently he gets the usual political double-talk from the people he calls. He finally ends his conversation with my ex-employer by saying, “Well, you now have one less slot. Decide who else goes.” He then hangs up the phone. He calls the remaining contractors to try and hook me on there, but all of the lifeboats are full. The XO hangs up the phone for the final time and says, “Well, Big Jim, looks like you now have your own company. I fired Dominator Inc. today, so we have one contract open. Get yourself a business license and you start Monday. By the way, don’t get too attached to your contract. As soon as I can find a real company to front you, you'll go back to being an employee.”

What the hell! At least it'll be a paycheck for me. Actually, with my severance pay, it'll be more than a double paycheck, for a short while. I’m now to get the whole government rate, not what's left after they take out the overhead. I'll just work hard and squirrel away the extra money; at least until the job market looks a bit brighter.

Monday the government wants a report on the XYZ project equipment. The report means more funding for the next fiscal year, so I get to work and I'm gonna get paid. In the middle (is there any other way?) of my report, the XO marches Maria in to my tiny little (government furnished) office. Maria is mad as hell (which isn't all that unusual.) Maria is a real looker, a Mexican spitfire type lady. Maria is the straw boss over a bunch of ladies who assemble certain electronic devices that the base can't easily obtain from outside vendors. Maria’s boss has sexually harassed Maria. Maria takes absolutely no crap. Maria attacks the stupid SOB and the other ladies have to pull her off dumb-dumb. Maria stares at me with her, 'I hate Anglos,' look.

The XO tells, “This is Maria, she now works for you and good luck!”

I manage to avoid asking the XO if I can't just defuse live bombs instead. I'll need good luck. I explain to Maria that I'm much larger and stronger than she is. We'll have a quiet, reasonable conversation and solve the problem; or else.

Maria sullenly says, “I need a new boss.”

I lecture, “Maria, you are the new boss. What you need is a new straw boss.”

Maria brightens considerably. She muses, “Well, I could promote Lupe ...”

I sigh and lecture the lady, “Not likely Maria, Lupe only speaks Spanish. As you know, the straw boss has to file reports in inglez.”

Maria glances at me crafty like, “Oh, that’s right, I forgot.”

Like hell Maria forgot. If Maria promotes Dolores, who's the logical candidate, she'll have a real problem with her buddy Lupe. However, if the mean Anglo manager makes Maria promote Dolores ..., well what can a poor lady do?

I tell Maria she gets more money, as Manager. I then tell her how much more money, from the paperwork the XO left. Maria brightens even more. I tell Maria that Dolores will get what Maria had formerly made. I also tell Maria that I have shorted Maria a little bit on her pay raise and that Maria will give Lupe a small raise, using the money that I shorted Maria.

Maria brightens still more. She bubbles, “Yes! A little raise for Lupe will work very well!”

I lean forward, “But you got the raise money only after you fought me tooth and nail, for the extra money for your lady!”

Maria says, “Bueno! Hey, you the guy who supposta not know how to handle people?”

I shoo Maria out of my office and get back to my report.

The next one in my office is Frank. (Frank is a good programmer. In the usual zero to ten (top) people handling scale, Frank is maybe a minus one.)

Frank tells me, “They want me off my project.”

I call they. “You don’t want Frank. Who are you gonna use to replace Frank?” “You’ll find someone. There are precisely two people on this base who have experience with the system that Frank is working with. Don’t bother trying to hire the other guy, I’m the other guy.”

(The mental defective who fired Frank then tells me, “No way does Frank come back to work for me.”)

I call the XO, “Some idiot wants to fire Frank. The idiot has no one with the experience to replace Frank. If you chose not to take action, the project that Frank is working on dies a messy death. I can get Frank to work for me.”

The XO tells me, “Yeah, I got a call from one of the hardware support people about the Frank firing. I tried to talk to the idiot who fired Frank. I wanted to talk to Frank first. However, you already talked to Frank. I’ll talk with the idiot, again.”

I say, “I can talk with the idiot, save you the trouble.”

The XO says, “Big Jim, your people handling skills resemble an ax murderer on speed. I’ll talk to the idiot.”

I tell Frank, “I’ll get a call back from the XO and then you go to work for me, same pay.”

I get a call back, from the XO. I get the numbers and I’m to walk Frank over to Personnel, to get him signed in with my company. The XO tells me, “I told the idiot that any trouble and you beat the crap out of him.”

I tell the XO, “I certainly have other methods for dealing with idiots, rather than beating the crap out of them.”

The XO snarls, “I don’t wanna hear about Kung Fu joint locks.” Then he hangs up on me.

I get Frank signed in and I then walk him back to his former, now current again project. I don’t say anything to the idiots. However, they don’t call me Big Jim, for nothing.

I then get back to work on report on the XYZ project equipment report.

One crisis at a time I manage to build a (very) small empire. I have a lot of people working for me who can and will run their own show. When they need what little outside help they need, I seem to be able to find a good solution. Thus, I get a little rich and a little powerful.

One day, I get called into the Commanding Officer’s office. In the couple of years I have been running my own show, I have seen the CO for maybe an hour, total. Almost all of that time has been involved with nuts and bolts discussion of new contracts for my people. I know the CO about as well as I know the President of the United States (I’m not even registered to vote.)

The CO says, buddy-buddy like, “Well Big Jim, you keep your operation running with no trouble that gets to me. I like that.”

I know the CO likes that. That’s why I see that I solve problems, rather than bucking them up the chain of command. The CO likes to push money through the imaginary slot in my door and get completed work back out the same imaginary slot, with little or no talk. I say, “That’s what you pay me for. What I get paid to do, I do.” I know there's something big on the CO’s mind. He doesn’t know me well enough to be calling me ‘Big Jim.’

The CO says, “Big Jim, I need you to do a special job for me. No one will know about the job but you, me and the customer.”

That doesn’t make the job special. I have a couple of highly classified jobs that I already do on more or less that basis.

The CO leans forward, “No one else in your company will know anything about the work. Nothing at all. Okay?”

I say, “My billing department has to know enough to submit a bill.”

The CO says, “All they are to know is your time and black box expenses. You charge only what you spend and I'll okay the expenses, with no question.”

This is something big. There are black projects, but those are only for the big guys with heavy political connections. What the hell. Move over big guys, Big Jim movin’ in to your world!

I tell the CO, “You have seen my past expenses. I charge fair, even when I have to bend a few rules. You know that I had bought some electronic parts to keep Maria’s project going and charged them to another project. Later I bought the other project an equal amount of supplies, from Maria’s project money. It got the job done and kept the layoffs and the Chicano rights people away from the CO’s door. It was illegal, but fair to everyone and hence, no complaints.”

The CO says, “Of course, I don’t know what happened. However, it kept my ass out of a sling. If I had to lay off Maria’s ladies just before Christmas, there would have been Hell to pay. You got it done and then didn’t brag about how clever you were later. I like that.”

(I don’t brag when I break the law. It's not really smart.)

The CO asks me, “You remember the big hullabaloo about the flying saucer thing in Roswell way back in 1947?”

I have seen a few PBS type things from time to time. I really know nothing else.”

The CO asks, “You don’t believe it?”

I don’t know enough to believe or not believe.”

The CO says, “You soon will. Tonight you meet with Clavor. Clavor will pick you up out at Gamma Site around midnight.”

Gamma Site is the most remote site on the base. It's tucked into a back corner of the base in an area of broken hills and desert. To the best of my knowledge, Gamma Site hasn’t been used for years. I tell the CO, “If the roads are still there, I can get there.”

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