"And what will you bring to your role as manager of the Aquitar Project R&D Team?"
"Same as I brought to my unit in the Space Fleet Ground Forces," ex-Platoon Leader Par Rossiter said crisply. "Efficiency, compliance with regulations, improved effectiveness."
And he'd got the job.
Seemed this shower of anarchic bloody types needed pulling into line, given what old Kambel, the retiring R&D manager, had said to him. "Treat them with kid gloves, especially the really brilliant ones like Kerr Avon."
Kid gloves? Not bloody likely. "Start as you mean to go on," Rossiter said to himself as he looked around at the group in the staff meeting room. Sprawled and slouched in their chairs, feet up in some cases; no pride in themselves whatsoever. "Right!" Rossiter clapped his hands which at least made a few of them straighten slightly. "I'm Par Rossiter, your new manager. New broom and all that. Things are going to smarten up around here, and that's what I'm here for: to make this department efficient."
There were some outraged looks. Time to nip that in the bud. "And it needs to be, from what I hear. Results have been few and far between. I've been employed by Human Resources to make damned sure there are some." There was a distinct negative reaction to the words human resources. "Right, that's all I have to say. I'll be coming round to see each and every one of you to find out what you do."
Ha. That made them look a bit sick. They milled around aimlessly muttering among themselves, then began to filter towards the door. Rossiter stopped the first one out. "Which one's Avon?"
She looked surprised. "Avon? He doesn't come to meetings."
Avon sat immersed in thought. He had been originally hired as a computer tech but the frustrations of the project had come to intrigue him. Attempts to teleport objects had failed utterly, yet they had had limited success just last week with a potted plant, ending up with a few pieces of plant in the target receptacle, minus pot and much of the soil. And that was… rather interesting.
The door opened and Avon said without looking up, "Busy."
"Really? Doing what?"
A large square man came over to stand right in front of him and put his beefy hands on Avon's desk. "And that's different from day dreaming, how?"
Avon gave the idiot his best withering glare, but the idiot failed to wilt.
"I'm Par Rossiter, the new R&D manager. You weren't at the meeting."
Avon turned back to his notes.
"Well? Answer me!"
"I failed to detect a question; merely a statement of fact."
"You will come to all department meetings in future."
"It is my observation that nothing of any importance happens at them. My time is better spent working."
"Thinking," Rossiter said sarcastically.
"I have also noted that you work irregular hours." Rossiter paused. "Well?"
"Once again, a statement of obvious fact. I should point out that those hours are often at night."
"When no one else is here to check on you, yes. From now on I expect you to be present between the hours of 8:30am and 5pm. Is that clear?"
Rossiter pointed at Avon. "I have my eye on you."
And, Avon discovered when he decided to get a cup of so-called coffee from the dispenser in the corridor, so he did. Rossiter had moved his desk to where he could see anyone leaving the department. As Avon walked past, Rossiter looked deliberately at his watch.
"He's an utter bastard," Sposito said, sipping her watery brew. "Every time one of us goes out, to the loo or wherever, he times us. Well, I tell you what, if that's the game he's going to play, it's no more working late for me. I'm out of here dead on five from now on."
Avon nodded. "Only fools attempt to herd cats or researchers." He took his coffee back to his office (time also noted by Rossiter as he passed) to consider what had made the plant so different from the fruit which had failed to teleport one micron. That it was living might be the difference. But why?
There was nothing more he could do that day so he went home, even though it was well before five.
That night, after procuring several trapped rats from the caretaker of his apartment complex (who possessed a pet snake), Avon put the animals through all of the different experimental setups in the R&D lab. All but one failed to teleport a single rodent, but the rig Avon had been working on did produce a dead rat. That was still the best result the whole project had had to date. Did the teleport require a mind to work? One would need to perform a series of experiments, making adjustments to the quantum computer.
Ah. Perhaps it needed to detect and use the quantum computers that brains are. An intriguing problem. He would start working on it tomorrow.
When Avon got in next morning, Rossiter called him into his office and tapped his watch. "What time is this?"
"Oh, has your watch stopped?" Avon said smoothly. "It is 11:15 if you wish to reset it."
"I told you to be here within office hours. You agreed."
"I did not. I simply acknowledged that your statement was clear."
"It is almost noon!"
"Ah, so you do know the time."
Rossiter gritted his teeth. "Why are you coming in now?"
"Despite working most of last night, I do have further experiments to make." Possibly on a human subject, if one could be found. There was at least one excellent candidate.
"You were supposed to be here at 8:30."
"Did you hear a word of what I said? Correction: did you understand it?"
"I am in charge here!"
"I looked you up. You used to be in Space Fleet, ground counter-insurgency forces to be exact. I did rather wonder why someone of such limited adaptability was hired by our so-called human resources department, but it occurred to me that, to a military mind, people are all the same: just another material to be used. A mere so-called human resource. Cannon fodder."
Rossiter smirked. "You nailed it."
"Indeed. I shall just collect a few things before I leave."
Rossiter's eyes almost popped out in outrage. "It's not five yet!"
Avon smiled a most unsettling smile. "Ah, but I don't work here anymore."
"You did what?" Adna Patel, Aquitar Project Leader shouted. "You let Avon leave?"
Rossiter shrugged. "If he hadn't, I'd have fired him. Disruptive and unruly influence. The man couldn't even keep regular office hours."
"Office hours? Office hours? What is wrong with you? He was the best we had. He was brilliant! Right, you need to get him back."
"I'm not having someone like that on my team!"
"That's easily solved." Patel slammed her fist down. "You're fired!"
Avon had refused all attempts to hire him back, having gone to work at a bank, of all places. Possibly as some sort of protest, as Patel couldn’t see what would otherwise attract a mind like his. Having spoken to the remaining members of the R&D department, she wasn't leaving it to HR this time. She had sorted through the applications, interviewed the top five, and made her choice. The man had come across as warm, friendly, approachable, and certainly much more flexible than Rossiter and therefore probably capable of getting on with the researchers.
She'd see how Roj Blake worked out.