No Good Deed
Copyright© 2018 by Lumpy
It turned out we couldn’t have a company-wide meeting right away. We faced some hurdles when it came to setting it up so everyone in the new facility could participate in the company-wide meeting. Since TV stations did it every day for decades, it didn’t occur to me how difficult it would be, but Ted wisely pointed out that those were studios set up for it, and unless we wanted to install a broadcast studio and connections directly to the new facilities, we had to find another way to do it.
We tested out some of the stuff from Microsoft and a few others who had been working on software to broadcast over the internet, but bandwidths were just too slow for it to work well. At least, in all of our tests. Marcus said there were already areas with much faster connections that could handle that kind of bandwidth, but that places like Alice wouldn’t see it until sometime in the early two-thousands.
In the end, Ted found a company that could set up a remote satellite broadcast, basically setting up a news van on our end and a satellite relay plugged into a TV on the other end. It cost enough that Ted made noises about just doing the presentation twice, once here and once there, but I wanted everyone to hear the news at the same time.
Thankfully, the delay to get that set up gave Jonathan and me the time to sort out some of the additional details we hadn’t nailed down yet.
Monday afternoon, after school, I found myself standing on a sorting table in the warehouse of our Alice offices, which had been basically had everything shoved as far against the walls as possible so we could shove everyone into the one room. Emily, who had taken up a spot next to Jonathan, was beaming up at me.
One benefit of having her as my assistant was, when I had to tackle something new like this, I was guaranteed support.
“Alright everyone,” Ted, who was standing on the table next to me, said, his hands making settle down gestures. “I know a lot of rumors have been circling around since we opened the new facilities outside of Houston. I’m sorry we’ve left you guys in the dark for so long, but we wanted to make sure we knew what our full plan was before we made any announcements. Well, we now know what the plan is. So, without further ado, I’ll let Cas here jump in and tell you what’s what.”
“Thanks, Ted,” I said, steeling myself as all the eyes turned to me. “I’m not one for making big speeches, so I’m just going to get to it. By now, you all probably know we built the larger facilities down near Houston to accommodate our new projects, as well as the ones we’ve been doing since before I was working as a gopher for Mr. Farber. I know ... that was a long time ago.”
That got a small chuckle from the crowd since that had been just over a year ago, while most of the people here had worked for Ted for years.
“We’ve talked about it, and we all agreed that there was no reason to maintain the offices here as well as the new, larger, and frankly better offices and work areas at the new facilities. So we’ve decided to move all operations to the new facilities and close the offices here in Alice.”
That got a few gasps and started up a low mummer of chatter.
“I know,” I said, raising my voice but not shouting, something I’d had Jawarski show me how she did it during her police days, “This is a big change, and probably pretty scary. A couple of things. Everyone who currently works here is welcome to move with us to the new facility. That will, probably, require you to relocate, since I couldn’t imagine anyone would want a couple of hours drive every day for work. We will be offering relocation assistance to everyone who decides to relocate. If any of you have looked at a map, you’ve probably noticed that the two closest cities, Beaumont and Houston, aren’t all that much closer than just commuting from Alice. We’ve looked at the area surrounding the new facility, and it quickly became evident that there aren’t a lot of housing options in the area, which is mostly farmland at the moment, leaving you with only those two cities for a place to live, and the guarantee of a commute.”
“To that end, we’ve decided to build housing that we can offer our employees who decide they would like to relocate and still be close to the new facilities. We will be building houses, plans for which we are making available so you can see what’s on offer. We have looked at what houses here in Alice cost to both rent and to buy, and will be making these homes available to employees for a comparable rate. We will also work with you to ensure that, if you want to buy, we’ll find a way to get you a mortgage on the house, even if we have to underwrite it ourselves. We will ensure that it’s affordable for you and work with you on making sure you can get one if you want it. HR has information on this now, and will be glad to answer any of your questions, either on renting or purchasing one of the homes we are building.”
“I want you to know, there are downsides to this. Alice may not be a big city, but it’s a city none the less. You will, for all intents and purposes, be living in the country if you decided to live near the new facilities. I know that doesn’t appeal to everyone, and if you decide you don’t want either that or the commute from one of the nearby cities, we understand. HR will also have information on severance packages for any employees that choose not to relocate with us, as well as assistance with finding new employment.”
“Finally, I know a lot of you have families and are more concerned with schooling for your kids if you move into a rural area. As someone who is currently in the public school system, I can guarantee it’s something I’m concerned with. We’ve already reached out to the school system and will be making investments into those schools that the new homes will be zoned to, to help ensure your kids get the education you want for them.”
“I know this is a big change. Unfortunately, for everything we’ve been trying to do, we’ve just outgrown the facilities we have here, and it’s a change we need to make. As for the time frame of this, we’re hoping to be moved fully to the new facilities this summer. Over the next month or so, we’ll have a better time frame of when everything’s happening, and I promise as soon as we know anything, we’ll let you know. If you have any concerns, know you can talk to your managers, HR or come find Ted and me and we’ll try and answer any questions you might have. Thank you.”
There was a little bit of awkward applause as I hopped off the table and headed back into the offices, stopping to talk here or there to people who had questions. We’d spent the last week going over options and worked out a lot, but far from all the details on what we needed to do. I was sure that, once we got into the process of moving, we’d find a lot of new problems that we’d have to deal with.
Charles, for one, couldn’t seem to stop finding problems. He was not happy that we’d decided to help finance employees mortgages, pointing out that we were not set up for, prepared for, or licensed to give out mortgages. Unfortunately for him, he knew what we needed to do to change that, so I dropped it all in his lap with instructions to ‘make it work.’ He also wasn’t happy with the amount of money this was going to cost the company. He agreed that it wouldn’t be so much that it would break us and even agreed that after we got over the initial construction and investments, next year and the years after it wouldn’t be a huge burden on the company. Especially if Douglas’ new project came through, which it looked very close to happening. None of that kept him from grumbling, but I knew it would ease off once his plate wasn’t quite so full.
I was surprised that once I got back to my office from the warehouse, I found Jawarski and Carter sitting in chairs across my desk. The building had its own security, so Jawarski normally came back to meet up with me when it was time for me to head home, or wandered off to somewhere else in the office. And Carter normally met us at the house, rarely coming into the office.
“What happened?” I asked, stopping suddenly causing Emily to crash into me.
“Nothing,” Jawarski said.
“You two don’t normally come to see me together unless something’s gone wrong.”
“That’s not always true,” Carter pointed out.
“Ok, then what’s up?”
“I saw on your schedule you were set to meet with the CEO from MilTech this week,” Jawarski said.
“Yeah. Douglas said he’s ready to show us the battery prototype, and he was going to use his contacts to help us get in with NASA, and perhaps look at it for another joint venture with MilTech. Why?”
“We noticed you’ve started talking to them more and are starting to do more business with them. Considering their previous connections with the Syndicate, we are a little concerned about security.”
“Aaron wasn’t involved in that, it was one of the VPs that brought them in.”
“So he says,” Jawarski said.
“There’s no reason...”
She held up a hand, interrupting me, “I do not doubt him, just pointing out that we only have his word on it. You are trusting to the point of being naive Caspian.”
“I can be. But he also turned the VP into the cops, which goes a long way towards proving his innocence in the whole affair.”
“Sure,” Carter said, “but they’re still involved. And you can agree the Syndicate has shown they aren’t ones to give up easily.”
“Ok. I’m assuming you’re not here just to point out a problem.”
“No, we think you should take him. Put him through the change.”
“We’ve talked about this...”
“And you agreed that sometimes it would be necessary,” Jawarski said. “We aren’t talking about changing people willy-nilly without their consent, but there are those whose very proximity to you makes you vulnerable. This isn’t just someone with a tie to the criminal organization you’re working to bring down, although that would be bad enough. This man runs a successful defense contractor, which says he’s smart. He’s also tied to the very people you know would want to either eliminate you as a threat or exploit you as some kind of resource. He may have no bad intentions for you at all, and still be a considerable danger.”
“I’m still not crazy about changing people without their consent.”
“That’s what I meant about being naive.”
“Cas,” Carter said, ignoring Jawarski’s jab, “you’re in the real world, and not everything’s black and white. You just recently allowed that girl to be changed without really knowing what she was doing.”
“That was different.”
“Was it,” he continued. “You did it to help her, but also to help yourself.”
“I didn’t. I agreed because Megan asked and it was important to her.”
“Get real,” Jawarski said. “The money played a part of it. And even with that, you still decided that you’d have to hide from her the truth behind the change, for everyone’s safety. At this point, you’re digging in your heels just to be obstinate.”
“We talked to Angela, and she agrees,” Carter said.
I finally sat down and put my head in my hands. I knew this was a slippery slope from the beginning. Once we started changing people without their permission, it would get easier, and there’d be more justification the next time. It’s how Vicki convinced herself changing everyone around me was a good idea.
And yet, they had a point. I was about to bring Baxter in on another deal, and they were right about the Syndicate not giving up. Maybe I was naive.
“What do you think?” I asked, turning to Emily.
“I think they’re right. Maybe not about being naive, but you are very trusting sometimes. You have to think about what’s best for you and all the people counting on you. And it’s not like you’re hurting him. Sure, there’s the loyalty thing, but in return, you are also making sure he never gets sick again and magically gets to be in the best shape of his life.”
“I gotta say, that was a nice perk,” Carter said, patting his stomach, which had previously been on its way to being a mid-sized gut.
“I’m not happy about it ... but fine. I suppose you’ll do it when he visits later this week?”
“That was our plan.”
“Fine, I guess,” I said grumpily.
Neither one was much for small talk and on a decision being made they both excused themselves and headed out.
“It really bugs you, huh?” Emily said as she lowered herself into my lap.
“It does. Everyone seems to think I’m obstinate, silly or naive. But I lived for so long with no control over my future, passed from this home to that or thrown into a group home, having to watch the couple of things I could call my own, to keep them from getting stolen. I never got to make my own choices, everyone else was telling me what’s best for me. This isn’t quite the same, but still ... I don’t think you should change someone’s life without telling them.”
“Look how you took the news when we told you. And that was just over the small manipulations my biology does without my control. And I don’t blame you for that reaction since even that is taking some of your own self-determination away.”
“I over-reacted,” she said, looking sad.
“No, your reaction was perfectly normal, and totally understandable. It’s why I took so long to tell you because I was worried about it. Now imagine if I’d put you through the change without asking you.”
“I mean, wouldn’t I be ok with it, because of what the change does?”
“Sure, but if that wasn’t a factor, or you were aware of what you would have felt before you were changed, outside of how you’d feel because of the change. No one else seems to get that.”
“You know they do Cas. You know your Mom. Zoe. Vicki and Tami. None of them are bad people. None of them would want to take away someone’s free choice. Hell, look at what Tami went through, and how her parents tried to take her and Judy’s choices away, trying to marry Judy off to that ... monster. And yet, they all agree there are times you have to accept reality as it is. There are people out there who would hurt you. And even more, who’d want to put you in a cage, and study and exploit you if they knew what you could do.”
“Doesn’t make it better.”
“And does digging in your heels and complaining every time someone has to point out reality to you again make it any better? Does it make reality different?”
“They why do you make everyone have to fight this battle with you every time. They aren’t arguing that you go and contaminate hospital’s blood supplies, changing a huge number of people indiscriminately. They don’t want to take away people’s free choice any more than you do and only suggest you change someone when it’s important.”
“Vicki didn’t,” I said.
Until that moment, it hadn’t occurred to me I was still a little angry at her for that.
“She admitted what she did was wrong, and feels bad about it. And yet, had she brought it to you and asked about each person she wanted to change, would you have said no? Would it have been the wrong decision?”
“I don’t know,” I said obstinately.
“Yes, you do. Stop digging in your heels.”
“Ok, no, probably not.”
“So don’t hold it over her. She did wrong, but out of a good place.”
“Ok,” I said, sheepishly.
“And stop making everyone fight you. They shouldn’t have to get a lecture for doing what they’re supposed to do. Listen to them, and decide to say yes or no. If no, then you can argue with them. But don’t fight with them when you know they’re right, just to relieve your own guilt. That’s not fair to them.”
“Good. Now, you don’t really have anything that can’t wait until tomorrow, and we don’t have to head home yet.”
I smiled at her as she leaned in towards me, thankful that I had her, and everyone else, to point out when I was foolish, among other things.
The company had taken to scheduling their presentations and demos on Saturdays when I had the chance to devote an entire day to them. I knew that was one thing I wanted to shift around when we moved to the new house and started homeschooling. A flexible school schedule would allow the company to operate a bit more normally, instead of regularly having to bend to my schedule.
Thankfully, all of our people and Aaron Baxter, the CEO of MilTech, were used to the way we did things now, and no one had a problem with it. Aaron had flown in on Thursday, to go over some changes he’d requested with Ronald’s team about the desalinization system, but that had to be pushed back, extending his trip through early the following week, thanks to a sudden and unexpected case of food poisoning.
Or at least, that’s what he declared his sudden illness was.
“Feeling better?” I asked, trying to remember what Emily said and push the guilt I felt away.
“Yeah. That was so weird. I travel quite a bit, eat all kinds of weird things when I do, and it never fazes me. My wife even jokes about my cast iron stomach. I’m never going to hear the end of this when I get home.”