Two-thirds of the way through the month – am I two-thirds of the way to 50,000 words? Well… At least I’m not that far behind. It could be much worse. All crisis management is relative.
Once again, “life” has interfered over the last couple of days. Dotting T’s and crossing I’s on that whole “killing the beast / 400 pound gorilla” thing (I promise, the big reveal is coming up this week, we’re almost there!), plus prepping for my CAF SoCal staff meeting tomorrow. (Remember, I’m the Wing Finance Officer.) Funny how they just won’t be that amused if I’m totally unprepared because I was writing another chapter of NaNoWriMo. Visigoths!
While I normally put in a lot of internal links to previous, related posts here, I won’t be doing that for what I hope will be this year’s thirty NaNoWriMo posts. If you have jumped into or stumbled onto this story in mid-adventure, there are plenty of other ways to navigate around the site to find previous installments. Actually doing so is left as an exercise to the student.
CHAPTER TEN (concluded)
The silence around the table was like a lead blanket falling over the room. Crystal looked from shocked face to shocked face, smiling her friendliest smile.
“Um, Ms. Reasoner…” Soichi began.
“Please, call me Crystal.”
“Crystal, you must understand that what you are seeing here is highly experimental and includes over a hundred million dollars in proprietary software development. I’m sure we can get you set up with a complementary version of our available commercial digital assistant software if you…”
“I’m very familiar with your commercial product. It’s very good, but it is still just a standard, top-of-the-line,” she at least got a smile for that, “digital assistant. It is one of many like it on the market. I understand the proprietary nature of the Sherman project and I will of course agree to all of the routine non-disclosure agreements. But if I am to give your product a proper evaluation for when it becomes available to the public, I would like to have as long of a baseline for using it as I can get. In addition, I would like to talk to you and your staff about getting an exclusive agreement to write the story of Sherman’s development from the inside, which of course would not be published until the product is released, and Homolacrum would have reasonable editorial control over the final stories. I want to work with you. I am not an enemy.”
“We do not consider you an adversary of any kind, I assure you, but we are not yet ready to allow Sherman to be utilized in the real world outside of the Homolacrum development environment.”
“Doctor Doi, all I am asking for is to be included now with your other alpha test users and then proceed through beta testing and so on. Wouldn’t it be useful for you to get feedback from someone who was not immersed in your development team, who did not have pre-conceived notions of what to expect?”
Again there was an uncomfortable silence. Pete finally spoke up.
“I think what Ms. Reasoner does not yet understand is that we have not yet begun our alpha test phase and allowed anyone outside of our development group.”
“Please, Pete, call me Crystal! Especially after, well… If you won’t, how will we ever get Doctor Doi to?”
Pete gave Crystal a slight not of his head and most convincing “yes, dear” smile, which did not quite make it to his eyes or his clenched jaw.
“Of course, Crystal,” Pete said. He turned to Doctor Doi.
“Soichi, despite Crystal’s misunderstanding of the current state of Sherman’s development, I have to agree with the point she has raised, as well as the opportunity provided for us to score a major public relations coup if we take her up on her offer for a collaborative documentary of some sort.”
“Pete, be serious,” Soichi said.
“Oh, I am quite serious. You know that for the past month there have been voices on the development team, including myself, that have argued for us to accelerate the implementation of an alpha testing protocol. We already have ninety-nine percent of the protocols defined as well as the training initialization routines. Even if we do not include a large number of people to begin with, Ms. Reasoner’s…”
“Crystal’s…” interrupted Crystal.
“Yes, Crystal. My apologies. Crystal’s qualifications as both an informed and educated user and as a journalist could be invaluable to our team. In addition, while I might not be involved with our financing and marketing, the one recurring theme we hear about from the C-suite is how we at Homolacrum are the little guys compared to the international megacorps and we need to be better, more daring, and more innovative in order to compete. This would be an excellent example of putting those policies and values into action. I recommend that we set this up and run with the opportunity.”
Again there was silence around the table, but this time a few expressions were thoughtful, and at least two heads were starting to nod in agreement.
“If everyone would excuse me for a moment,” Soichi said. He and two of the other department heads went out into the hallway for a few minutes and could be seen engaged in a spirited conversation. When they came back in they were all trying to keep their expressions neutral, but Soichi was neutral with a slight frown and the two department heads were neutral with a slight smile.
“Sherman,” said Soichi, “are the CEO, COO, and CFO all on campus today?”
“Yes, Doctor, they are all here.”
“Are they available to meet with us?”
“Yes, Doctor, at the moment there is nothing on their public calendars, although Mr. Daimler will be leaving soon for San Francisco and Ms. Wilson will be leaving later this afternoon for Washington.”
“Sherman, please contact them and see if they can meet with us in fifteen minutes. Indicate that it is an urgent matter.”
“Doctor,” said Sherman after a brief pause, “they all will meet with you in the C-suite conference room in fifteen minutes. They can give you ten minutes.”
“Fine, please send each of them a copy of the last half hour’s conversation here with Ms. Reasoner so they can review it.” Soichi was already holding up his hand to block Crystal from her standard interruption regarding her name.
“Pete, could you please give Crystal a tour of the server farm or something interesting for the next half hour or so? Please try not to do anything further to turn our schedules and preparations upside down and inside out.”
“Excuse me,” said Crystal, “Doctor Doi, if I’ve got time, would it be possible for me to meet with Doctor Meg Aoki? She’s working here and I’ve also been studying some of her previous work with non-human linguistics. If she’s available, I would be thrilled to pick her brain on another article that I’m working on.”
“Doctor Aoki is currently on vacation, I’m sorry. Perhaps Pete could assist you in leaving her a message and some questions for her to address on her return.”
Pete had to give Soichi credit, he had handled that curveball without a hitch. The message behind the look he got from Soichi was also clear.
Soichi looked around the room at his department heads. “Everyone else, grab coffee or whatever you need, we’re upstairs in ten minutes.”
Everyone hustled out of the room, each of them quietly talking to their individual Shermans, rearranging schedules and sending staff members off to cover for them on other tasks. Soichi left without looking at Pete or Crystal, clearly not thrilled with the way he was being blindsided and railroaded into something he wasn’t ready for. Pete took Crystal and headed toward his office.