Chapter Twenty Four
The company's co-founder, largest stockholder, and CEO put the report down, greatly annoyed. This was certainly not his best day, good golf game aside. He'd spent way too much time on the golf course and only had time for a little more of Knolls' report, and now he had to chew out that incredibly stupid Chief Technical Officer, who was knocking on his door and in danger of losing his job. This could have crippled the company. “Come in,” the CEO said.
It seemed the company he and Charles had practically built from scratch was falling apart. God damn it, quality was deteriorating badly, and he was starting to think he needed a new head engineer.
“Talk to me, Gene,” he said as the CTO entered.
God damn it, he thought. He opened a folder and handed an old fashioned piece of printed paper to the engineer. “I'm talking about this schematic wiring diagram. How in the hell did this happen, and why was it spotted by someone who wasn't even an engineer, let alone not an electrical engineer?”
Richardson said “I honestly don't know, sir.”
“Your teams are getting really sloppy, Richardson. This has been built into ten ships already and they're all going to have to be rewired because engineering screwed up on the schematics. How in the hell could your team miss this? How the hell could you miss it? You have a master's degree in electrical engineering, man! An intern discovered it! And he wasn’t even an engineering student, he was just an electronics hobbyist.”
Richardson stared at his shoes. The CEO continued. “If these ships had been operational a lot of people would have died and it would have caused the company great financial hardship; we're self-insured. One more mistake like this and you're fired, Richardson, and I’ll get someone competent.
“Now tell me, who programmed our robots to make coffee?”
“Robot,” Mister Green said, “Make this man a cup of coffee. Richardson, I got a report from a ship's captain complaining about the coffee, so I had a brand new one of our ship's coffee robots sent here to check, straight from the factory. He's right, this is the worst coffee I've ever tasted.”
“Well, sir, I don't like coffee myself, I had Larry Jones program it.”
“Why in the hell didn't you test it? That’s the kind of sloppiness I'm talking about.”
“We did do chemical tests, sir...”
“But you never thought of having anyone who actually drinks coffee try it? Look, Richardson, I'll be blunt: again, you're on the verge of losing your job. We have paying customers booking passage on our ships and they don't expect to make their own coffee and they expect the coffee they're served to be good coffee. I want a program for the coffeebots to make not just drinkable coffee, which this isn't, and not just good coffee, but great coffee. I want the program in a week and a demonstration in two weeks and updates sent to all the coffee robots as soon as it's tested, and by that I mean by a group of people who enjoy coffee, not a bunch of chemists. Put Jones on a project he's good at. This is unacceptable. Find someone who likes coffee to do it. Am I understood, Richardson?”
“And I want you to weed out the incompetents in your shop. This sloppiness is inexcusable.”
“Sir, the union...”
“Tell the union that if they give you any trouble there won't be a new contract, I'll replace every engineer and programmer in the shop as soon as the contract expires. The union is supposed to give us quality employees, and it doesn't look to me like we're getting them or that schematic wouldn't have been erroneous.
“This is your last chance. One more screw up and your career is over, Richardson. Now get out of here and get back to work, I have a report to finish reading.”
After Richardson left, he buzzed his secretary. “Get Human Resources on the fone. And I don't want to take any calls unless it's the company president, my wife, kids, or an emergency after I talk to Human Resources.” He drummed his fingers for a few seconds and the fone buzzed again. It was the company president.
“What's up, Charles?”
“Have you tasted our robots' coffee, Dewey? I was curious after reading Knolls' report. That's the nastiest coffee I ever drank, and I was in the Army.”
“Yes, I did, and Richardson got a good ass chewing for it and for the mess your intern discovered. I threatened to fire him, and I might still after that botched wiring diagram. And his might not be the only head to roll, Knolls' report was an eye opener. You were right, it's invaluable. I want reports from all the captains after each run from now on.”
“So do I, I've already ordered it. I'm leaving for Mars tomorrow on whatever of our first class passenger boats can get me there the fastest right after the meetings. I wish I could skip the board meeting.
“I'm especially worried about engineering, that's our most important function. I'm not too happy about financial, either. How did we let this slip past us, Dewey?”
“Hell if I know, Charles. Both of us are going to have to be more vigilant. We have an awful lot of work ahead of us. Look, I have to finish reading this report. I may not finish it this afternoon so I want you to mostly take charge in the meeting, since you've read the whole thing and have more information. I'll see you in the morning. Goodbye.”
“See you, Dewey.”
He hung up and Human Resources buzzed. “We're probably going to need a new engineer, Larry,” he said. “I want the best and he'd damned well better not be a criminal. I'm not sure what specialty, but get the ball rolling. I'll call when I know what kind of engineer we need.”
He started reading again.