The Causeway – Chapter 5
WHO’S THE BOSS?
“Time now for your Wall Street Minute. There was a flurry of trading activity just before the closing bell today, as record numbers of stocks exchanged hands. The largest numbers of shares involved major American auto manufacturers GM and Ford. Every oil company saw record numbers of shares sold, sparking accusations of insider trading. The cause of all this activity is still unknown, but watchdog groups are suspicious. Environmental activist Rainbow Kirkegaard claims that the oil companies have finally depleted all of the world’s oil reserves, and that the executives are bailing themselves out, saying ‘I’ll bet they all have private island paradises where they’ve stockpiled supplies for the coming apocalypse. I wouldn’t put it past them.’ That’s your Wall Street Minute, here on KRIP, your home for news, weather, and the greatest folk songs of the sixties.”
“To everything turn, turn, turn…”
Charlie was back in the limousine wearing his skeptical face. He enjoyed being skeptical. He enjoyed analyzing data and arguments based off that data and finding ways to poke holes in the logic. It was almost enough to make him forget that the last time he was in this limo there was a dead body in the trunk. Almost. Tex sat across from him, eager to show off what CTC Industries was made of.. He had explained on the way down that he didn’t get to do this very often, what with corporate secrets and all.
“So, Mr. Littlefield…”
“Please, just call me Tex.”
“Okay, Tex. You said you’ve only been here about a year. I take it you didn’t found the company and you don’t own it.”
“No, I’m just the personnel man. But I’m about as high up in the company as anyone ever sees. The ownership group is quite mysterious.”
Doesn’t sound like the greatest work environment, Charlie thought. Then again, he never did like talking to the higher ups when he was in academia. “So who owns all this, who founded it?”
Tex took a deep breath. He closed the little window to the driver. The little asian woman was driving, thankfully it wasn’t the mystery man. He spoke quietly, which clearly did not come naturally to him. “Well, that’s one of the things I was hoping you could find out. I was hired to meet and greet the new employees, but I’ve never seen the owners. Oh, the paychecks come on time, and they’re friendly with the bonuses, but my instructions all come through emails and memos, and, one time, a message written in a bathroom stall.”
Good, Charlie thought. This day was starting to round into something sane, and we couldn’t have that. “Wait a minute, how did they hire you?”
Tex’s voice went back up to full volume. He couldn’t sustain all that whispering. “Well, I used to be in the oil business, you see. One day I found out that my company was being bought out by this CTC Industries. Apparently they bought out all the oil companies. You’d best keep that last bit to yourself, what with anti-monopoly laws and all. I found myself out of a job when BAM! I find in my mailbox the next morning a ticket to Monterey, the deed to a mansion in Pebble Beach, instructions on where to report to work, and some dos and don’ts for how to respond to the letter, along with the consequences for doin’ said don’ts. I thought it was suspicious, to say the least, but I came anyway, and did not regret it for a single minute. Other than the strange way I communicate with my superiors, this has been the best job I’ve ever had. Hell, retirement would be more work than this.”
Hmm. Suspicious unknown bosses that treat their employees well? It could be worse. Although the consequences for doing the don’ts didn’t sound encouraging. “Has anyone in the company ever crossed the owners, or disobeyed orders, or just got on their bad sides?”
“Oh no. Not that I’ve ever heard of. Like I said, they’ve been extremely generous with the pay and the bonuses and the mansions and what not. Did you know that over 40 per cent of the residents of Pebble Beach are now employees of CTC Industries? We all have plenty of motivation to do our jobs, and to do ’em well… Of course, we are dealing with time travel here. It can be very dangerous. I don’t know if this is the way it works, but I’ve heard tale of people being erased from existence by time snipers who go back and kill their parents. Probably just a company legend, though.”
Charlie’s skeptical face was unfazed. It was only a matter of time before he heard a grandfather paradox story. You simply cannot have time travel around engineers and scientists without bringing up that old chestnut. Charlie’s mental plausibility meter was firmly stuck at a two out of one hundred. Whatever could happen with time travel, causal paradoxes had to be ruled out.
The limousine came to a halt. “Fantastic, looks like we’re here at the factory. Get a towel ready, Dr. Calloway, ‘cause you might have to clean your brains off the floor after you see this! YEEEE-HAWWWW!!”