The Urn

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Chapter 2

Two weeks after the meeting with Frederick and Janice, Orville burst into her office smiling from ear to ear. She looked up from her correspondence in surprise as the normally reserved engineer was well out of character.

“Orville! Jesus, you startled me…”

“Sorry, Janice….and I apologize for not knocking first but…well….”

“It worked?”

“Thomas and Loraine have run the beta testing multiple times and we are preparing for a dry run of the fully integrated software this afternoon. If that works as well, then…”

“You mean…”

Orville just nodded his head with unmistakable eagerness.

“Thought maybe you and Frederick might want to be there for the final feasibility panel screening.”

Janice dropped her pen and put her hand to her mouth. She could not believe how close they were cutting it. Just this morning the chairman of the board of directors had sent an email to both her and Frederick that a final decision was to be voted on regarding the future of the Alternative Product Development group…and without saying it directly, both hers and Frederick’s positions as directors for the whole firm…in another week. They wanted both her and her partner present during the board vote which Janice assumed was to exert their supreme authority in full, as they disbanded the group and perhaps fired both Frederick and herself. It was one of many things Janice detested in having to deal with the board…their short-sighted vision on demanding quick financial returns from investments was one, but even more annoying was this need to punish and beat down organizational personnel live in front of an audience.

“When?” Janice asked as she felt her heart race.

“We were looking at 3PM this afternoon, but if that is not convenient for you and Frederick, we can always change the test schedule to accommodate you.”

“Three is fine, I would not miss this for the world and I am sure Frederick feels the same. We will see you then.”

************

In Janice’s office just after the panel screening had been completed, around 8PM, the normal empty sounds of an empty office had been replaced with laughter, congratulations and the sound of champagne glasses clinking together as Frederick and Janice toasted Orville and his fully dedicated and worn-out development team. The screening had been flawless and they all knew all that was left now was to turn over the finalized version to the marketing and sales guys. They could take the new product and pretty it up and get it out to the public, something Orville had neither the interest in nor ability to pursue. It was, he knew, just as Janice and Frederick had both announced in their toasts to the team:

“You have put RMD on the map at the forefront of the nanotechnology field for interfacing electrical engineering design with microbiology and toxicology!”

Frederick now had more than ample ammunition to take to the board meeting intended to dismantle the team purge both himself and Janice from their positions as directors of the company. As well, Janice had noted, this was just the beginning. With Orville’s miraculous last-minute breakthrough, this opened the door for RMD to piggyback multiple applications and variations on the basic technology which, in terms that the single-minded board could understand and appreciate, would mean an unending stream of revenue for RMD and its shareholders and investors. When the celebration had petered out and Orville was left alone in the office with just Janice and Frederick the three of them continued to talk it all over.

“Pretty cool day, huh?” Orville said as he threw back the last remnants of the champagne in his glass and sat.

“That it was…” Janice added smiling widely.

“I cannot say enough, Orville,” Frederick said, “but next time I hope we don’t go down to the wire. Not sure my nerves can take it.”

He laughed, but Orville paused when the laughter died off.

“Down to the wire?” he asked.

Janice set her glass on the desk as well and let Frederick take over.

“Had this Hail Mary not been successful, my friend,” Frederick went on as he peered over at Orville, “it is quite likely the three of us as well as your team would be in vastly reduced roles here at RMD… maybe even outright released.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“Afraid not. I might be seeing it in a slightly darker light than it would have been, but that was a distinct possibility.”

Orville looked to Janice who just nodded in agreement.

“But this will save us?”

“With these guys nothing is a foregone conclusion, but in my experience so far in dealing with them I would say they would have to have completely lost their collective minds to pull the plug now. Not with what this application will bring to RMD as well as the potential for what future variations will have in store.”

“When do we know for sure?”

“I will send out an announcement this evening to the whole board which is likely to trigger a public press release to begin the generation of interest in this application to give our sales guys a good jump. Janice and I are still scheduled to meet with them in several days, but my guess is the meeting will either be cancelled outright or the agenda will be radically altered from what had been intended.”

Orville just nodded, but his stomach pitched and he felt a sense of anxiety in his chest that he had never experienced before. Sure, he had known this had been an urgent situation, but he guessed he had just not taken it as seriously as had been foreshadowed earlier. He did not like knowing now that his efforts and work might have had the professional and financial balance of so many in peril. But it was over. There was nothing more he could do now. The system was running to perfection and it seemed as if Frederick and Janice were confident that they had dodged a bullet from the board. Now, he would just wait and see…

On Tuesday morning, Orville headed down the hall to Frederick’s office after he and Janice had summoned him upon his arrival at the lab that morning. They had not elaborated and the message could not be interpreted as good or bad from the tone on his voice mail. He knocked lightly and Frederick told him to come in.

’Have a seat, Orville,” Frederick said. “Can I get you anything? Coffee? Water?”

“I’m good…is this where I go and pack up my stuff while security watches and then marches me to the front door?”

“Oh, Jeez, Orville….” Frederick replied, “I’m sorry. Hell no….just the opposite. Sorry I gave you that impression. No, all is well. In fact, more than well. Janice and I met with the board chairman last night and I swear if that old fart could do a back flip I think he would have.”

Orville sighed with relief as al the anxiety and stress that had built up in his body on the walk here from the lab slowly bled away.

“We have an offer for you, Orville.” Janice said as Frederick returned to sit behind his desk.

“Oh?”

“We both know how much the last couple years that you and your team have been working on this project have demanded of you and how draining it has been. So in addition to your normal package here at RMD, we would like to offer you some well-deserved time off.”

“But I….”

Janice held up her hand to cut him off.

“Yes, we both know your long-held feelings on time off. But we want you fully recharged and rested for the future.”

“Future?”

“Yes…” Frederick interjected, “here at RMD, we are not exactly like a law firm with equity partners and such, but what we can do—and to our utter shock and amazement we already got the board’s approval for it—is to offer you equity ownership in RMD putting you third in the organizational hierarchy behind only Janice and myself.”

“You…I….huh?”

Janice chuckled.

“I told you he would be speechless, Frederick.”

“I mean….wow…that is very generous, guys.”

“Nothing you do not deserve, my friend,” Frederick said. “Once the board filled us in on the potential of what this last application has, we pushed for something a little more for you. It was after all you who made this all possible.”

“But it was your idea, Frederick….about the sub-base interface….and there is my team….”

“As for me…..,” he replied as he waved his hands in the air dismissively. “And your team will be receiving a big bump in recognition as well. But you were the key here, Orville. End of story.”

Orville just nodded, still reeling from the shock of what had just happened.

“So take some time off,” Janice added. “Put RMD in your rear-view mirror for a while and just have some fun.”

“Well…” Orville replied, “I have always wanted to see Central America.”

“Great!” Frederick said. “How long would you like off?”

“Oh….I don’t know maybe a week or so….”

“Nonsense….” Frederick replied. “There is a lot to see down there. And we want you juiced and raring to go when you get back. Take a month….or more if you like. Sound OK, Janice?”

She smiled and nodded enthusiastically.

“Well….if you are sure…” Orville replied, wondering how to approach this, not having ever taken off more than a few days at one time in his professional life.

They hugged him warmly before Orville headed back to the lab to fetch his team who Frederick and Janice wanted to meet with next to present with their thanks for the success of the project as well.

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