The Franton Technical Estate can be approached from the west or the south. From the south it looks like any other industrial estate. But from the west – and that is how it is approached by bus – it is amazingly pompous; you pass an enormous ornamental lake before climbing a hill; this is covered with poplar trees and artificial snow all year round. On reaching the top, you are presented with an impressive, pentagon-shaped building that shimmers like a chimera.
It had been built by a clandestine operation twenty years before. The original blueprint included “nuclear protection” and “adamantine tiling.” The walls were three meters thick, and a high-speed elevator climbed thirty-seven floors from the deep underground garage to the executive “Wintergarten” in nine seconds flat. Aunt Amelia Properties and Holdings managed the office spaces, no questions asked.
Driving up in the bus, Jim took this all in. It was dawn and the building looked most impressive in the early light.
“My name is Jim Botcher,” he said to the receptionist. “I am starting work today.”
“Oh, really?” said the receptionist. “Lucky you. Come with me.”
He led him through a maze of corridors, brightly lit and stinking strangely of all kinds of cleaning chemicals, until they came to a massive leather-clad door.
“Go in there,” said the receptionist and disappeared through an emergency exit.
Jim opened the door and looked around. It was an enormous room broken into a myriad of cubicles, each one separated by a flimsy paper wall.
“How many people work here?” he thought. Three award plaques hung from the ceiling behind the main desk. Ten laptops were piled on top of each other on a table in front of him. In a corner were some semi-automatic machine guns. On a whiteboard was a list of to-do items. There was also a basketball net, seven beanbags, a massage chair, a drinks cabinet, an American Football helmet, yesterday´s Technology Heroes magazine, and a carton of condoms.
Jim slumped into one of the beanbags.
Five minutes later the door opened and a man came in.
“Hello!” he shouted.
“Morning,” said Jim.
The man walked to the other end of the room and disappeared into one of the cubicles.
Two minutes later the door opened again, and three men entered. They were in deep discussion and ignored Jim completely.
Then a siren went off, and suddenly a crowd of people came flying through the door. The last one to enter walked straight up to Jim. He was a stocky man of around forty. He wore a shiny white suit and a trilby hat. He was clean-shaven, and smelled of eau de cologne.
“Morning!” he shouted.
“Morning!” shouted Jim, who was beginning to suspect everyone in the company had a hearing deficiency.
“My name is Plunkett,” said the man, and “Hey, you!” he hollered at someone standing beside a cubicle.
The man sidled up to them.
“Why aren’t you at your desk?” asked Plunkett, “It is eight forty-five. You MUST be at your desk by eight forty-five. Can you explain yourself?”
“I worked fifteen minutes longer last week. I am enjoying my time balance.”
“Time balance?” roared Plunkett. “Where have you seen time balance in your contract? There is no fucking time balance in this company. We come here to work! Now get to your desk and start working on your tickets! It looks like we have a serious backlog.”
“Asshole,” said the man as he walked back to his cubicle.
“I will be adding this conversation to my quarterly employee assessment!” shouted Plunkett.
“Oh, shut up!” said the man.
“This place is going to the dogs,” said Plunkett and walked to the kitchen.
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