02 Aug Chapter 27: Couldn’t

“Found anything yet?”

I have Laik working on the cargo ship name, to see if it leads anywhere.

He spins his pen between his fingers. “Sorry, so far nothing on where it was going or why there was an Oliot on board… you’re sure about the Oliot, right? It wasn’t just a person who looked like one?”


“I’m sure. Keep working on it.” I’m still a bit freaked out by the whole thing, but there’s work to be done so I try to push it to the back of my mind.

Laik holds up a report. “Oh, by the way the board wants us to consider implementing forced-ranking for all employees.”

“What?” I grab it out of his hand and skim it. “Don’t they realize ranking each person by unit from best to worst and firing the bottom ten percent makes a mess of collaboration and teamwork? What incentive do I have for helping you if it might raise your ranking and lower mine? In fact, it creates a reason for employees to sabotage others so they’ll be ranked higher!

“And let’s say you form a team of the best people in the company for a really important project. ‘Rank-and-yank’ means you have to get rid of the bottom ten percent from that team, even if these are your best people! It’s idiotic. It kills morale and makes everyone an enemy. It’s the worst of compassion-free, faceless corporate bullshit.”

Laik has heard me rant like this before. “I agree, but you know the board. They read about some new trend in a business journal and they want to copy it… Makes them feel like they’re doing something.”

“Yeah. I’ll talk to them.” I take a deep breath and look at the clock on the wall. “Good, I’m not late for the design review.”

I leave Laik’s office still kind of pissed off. I weave my way through various corridors until I reach a pair of glass-walled conference rooms separated by a hallway—I enter the main one. Marcs and our internal design manager are chatting in the other smaller one. He and she are pulling packaging mockups out of boxes while they’re talking.

I slide the door closed for privacy and start reviewing the sketches on the table. They’re visual design options for our new line of ice cream bars. I look across the hall just as one of the design manager’s shoe heels breaks off—she stumbles backwards into a metal table which swivels and hits the glass wall next to her dead center. The floor-to-ceiling section of glass shatters apart in huge shards. One of them hits her on the head and slices a large gash in her arm as it falls to the floor.

She slumps limp onto a sea of glass. There’s a circle of red growing on the carpet under her arm. Marcs is standing by the table staring at her, his eyes wide.

I run over to the door of the conference room I’m in but it won’t slide open. One of the glass shards has slid across the hall and lodged itself in the door track in front of me. I scream at Marcs in the other room to go help her but he doesn’t move. I grab a chair and throw it against the glass wall that’s trapping me but it bounces off. I try again but the glass just won’t break. I remember now someone mentioning that the larger panes over here are made of safety glass.

A few nearby employees have come over to see what’s going on, but they’re older and they can’t make the decision to help the bleeding design manager any more than Marcs can. I beat on the glass prison walls with my fists and scream at the top of my lungs for Marcs to go help her; for him to at least try to stop the bleeding. I can see tears well up in his eyes and he’s shaking.

Finally a kid who’s our head of security rushes up with a first aid kit. He ties a tourniquet around her upper arm and then feels for a pulse. Five seconds pass, then ten. After what seems like forever he switches and tries the other wrist. Finally he gives us the thumbs up sign. I feel my legs get weak under me and I slide down the glass to the floor. The paramedics arrive and carefully move her onto a gurney. They’re rolling her down the hall when Laik arrives. He sees me and uses his shoe to dislodge the glass shard so he can open the door.

I get up to thank him and then go over to Marcs, who’s still standing in the same spot. His eyes are watery and full of pain. As soon as he looks at me he starts sobbing uncontrollably. I hug him and hold him tight as his whole body shakes.

“I couldn’t help her. I couldn’t help her.” He says it over and over again.

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