From the (unstaffed) Building C-West foyer, he took the left stairs up to the second floor. Another corridor, comprised of high-wall cubicle workstations, both sides, over its entire length. All of these were empty. Eighteen, twenty, twenty-two steps down, on his left-hand side he spotted his own first name and initial, and an integer. “James S-7.” He sat down in the chair. No laptop, no phone, just the muted grays and browns of the sparse cubicle furnishings.
After about a minute, a fellow came down the corridor and walked into James’ cube.
“James, Major Scofield—Jim? Hello. I am Adrian Severin.” He held out his hand, and Jim shook it. “I’ve been assigned as your manager. How do you do? And, I should say, Welcome Back!” He looked like he was about to try some lameass sort of salute, but at Scofield’s look he thought better of it.
“Fine, thanks, umm, Hi.” Scofield offered his hand. “Did Bob retire?”
“I couldn’t say. You know, protocol.”
“Oh, for fucks’ sake. Right, OK. Sorry. Well, who is around? Skip, Stephen, Jon?
“You’re kidding me.”
Severin shook his head.
“Who is in our workgroup then?”
Severin frowned again. “You are it, I’m afraid”
Severin stood looking at him a moment, then said, “I’ll be right back.”
This was all very cryptic, and unlike the corporate culture Scofield remembered. “What’s the deal?” he wondered. They must have laid everyone off. It was the only logical explanation. But why all the secrecy?
∞ ∞ ∞
A little while later, Severin returned with a hefty stack of what appeared to be printouts of telephone call logs.
“While we’re waiting to get your workstation set up, I wondered if you could tend to a short-term task for us? To pour over these, basically, and look for anomalies and patterns.”
“Such as?” This was the stupidest-sounding request-order he had heard in a long time. And, over in-country, he had heard some doozies.
“As you can see,” Severin continued, “these are color-coded to indicate Authorized calls, in green bars, and Unauthorized calls— orange bars.
“And if you could go through the ‘Unath’ lines and look for patterns, clusters, anything that leaps out at you, whatever might help us towards discover something actionable.”
“By hand?” Scofield scowled. “This would certainly go a lot faster with even the simplest bit of programming applied to the problem. What system houses the call records?”
“The phone system.”
There was a moment while Scofield suppressed the urge to explicitly mock this bullshit.
“Right. Look, Adrian, is there something you are not telling me?”
“Such as, maybe Kronsys has closed down my old department, and, because of the VRR/USERRA stuff, you don’t know what to do about me?
“I suppose that might be a reasonable inference for you to make. But we do have work that needs to be done.”
“I see. Well, OK. How about I dig into these until lunch, and then after a break and a bite to eat, maybe we could discuss this further? How can I reach you—since I don’t even have a desk phone yet?”
“Sounds good. Your workstation should be set up by the time you return; and, with any luck, your phone—internal calls only at this point.”
“All right then. See you at 1:00”
Scofield pulled the stack of printouts towards him, put the yellow pad and fine tip marker at his right hand, and dived into the work.
Two hours later, his eyes hurt and he hadn’t started to glimpse any pattern to be discerned in the small set of ‘Unauth’ call records. He really was starting to conclude that the whole setup was merely ‘make-work’ and that they were pulling a CYA to keep out of hot water with their funders at the Pentagon.