An Unexpected Meeting
After Michael woke up from his nap Friday, his memories had returned as Dr. Tigresa had predicted. He was a little sad that he had remembered that his real family had been dead for over 20,000 years but he was happy that he remembered where he was and how he got there. He wasn’t sure who was happier, him or the rest of the Panthera family. He didn’t realize until that moment how much they had taken him into their hearts, even Victoria, who had teased him mercilessly was happy he could remember everything.
On Monday morning, Michael got up, showered, dressed, and went downstairs to breakfast. When he walked into the dining room, Richard, Victoria, and Elizabeth all made comments, mostly humorous, about what he was wearing.
Michael walked up to Elizabeth, put his arms around her, and said, “I love you, too, Elizabeth.”
Elizabeth just said, “Eww! Save your hugs for Anne. At least she wants them.”
Michael smiled at this since it was a daily routine; plus, he believed that Elizabeth secretly enjoyed it. The rest of the children, except Anne, mostly ignored him. Dr. Leo and Dr. Tigresa said how professional he looked in his “business casual” outfit.
Anne made her usual demand. “Mah’l! Mah’l! Kiss! Kiss!”
“Good morning, my sweet angel Anne,” Michael said as he kissed her cheek. She beamed as if her Prince Charming had just awakened her from a hundred-year sleep.
Anne said to Dr. Tigresa, “Mommy! Mommy! Mah’l si’! Mah’l si’!” She was pointing to the chair he normally sat in at the table.
“Michael’s going to sit there, Anne. Just give him time.”
Michael sat down and started eating. He watched Dr. Tigresa feeding Anne and smiled. After several seconds, Dr. Tigresa said, “Michael, I bet you get tired of this routine every morning, don’t you?”
“Actually, Dr. Tigresa, as I was growing up, I used to love to watch nature shows on television. Most of the episodes were old reruns from earlier in the 21st Century. I especially loved the shows about the big cats; shows about lions and tigers were my favorites. In many ways, Anne reminds me of the cubs on those shows, except she can talk.”
Michael turned to Dr. Leo and asked, “By the way, Dr. Leo, how am I supposed to get to SoGa Industries?”
“Since Tigresa and I are off work today, I’ll drive you there. When you’re ready to come home, give me a telephone call and I’ll come and pick you up.”
Michael finished eating and went upstairs to brush his teeth. He finished, turned around, and found myself nose to muzzle with Victoria. “Damn it, Victoria! Wear a bell!”
She laughed and said, “Daddy says you’ll like working at SoGa Industries. He thinks you’ll be promoted very quickly there.”
“Victoria, that isn’t what you snuck up behind me to say so out with it.”
She laughed again and said, “You’re too smart sometimes, Michael. Okay. I’m nervous but I’m going to follow your suggestion today, about that guy at school. I hope it works.”
“Victoria, don’t do it to convince Richard to treat you like he used to do because that isn’t likely to ever happen again. Do it because you like the guy. Otherwise, he’ll see right through you in a short amount of time, and then he’ll hate you and never open himself to you again.”
“All right, Michael. I wish you could overcome your mental block about us Humanimals. I believe you would make some lucky girl a very happy woman.”
“Victoria, she would have to be a very special Humanimal that made a significant impression on me. She’d have to knock me off my feet or something like that.”
Dr. Leo walked up, looked at Victoria, rolled his eyes, and then looked at Michael. “Hurry up, Michael. It’s 0215 and, with traffic this time of day, it’ll take us up to 45 minutes to get to SoGa Industries.”
“Let me put my noose on.”
Dr. Leo and Victoria said, “Put your what on?”
“Noose. That’s what I call a tie.”
Dr. Leo laughed and said, “Just grab it. You can put it on as we drive.”
The telephone at the Fuchs house rang. Jacob answered it and heard Amanda saying, “Daddy, you and Mother asked me to give you a call every day before I left for work so, I’m leaving! I’ll call you later today when I get home.”
Jacob replied, “All right, sweetie. Be careful.”
“I will. Thank you.”
After he hung up the telephone, Jacob turned to Ophelia and said, “I do wish you’d accept that our Amanda is a grown woman. When she finds that right person, she’s going to make him a very happy person.”
“Humph! She shouldn’t be working. It looks bad for a woman to work. It looks like she can’t find a man or she’s not interested in a relationship or . . . or she prefers women over men, Jacob.”
“Ophelia, that’s old-fashioned thinking. Plenty of women work outside of the home, even married ones.”
“And who takes care of their kits?”
“I guess they hire someone to watch their kits, maybe even their mother.”
“Jacob, that isn’t right and you know it.”
“Right or not, Ophelia, it’s the way things are now. We, you, need to accept this. If Amanda finds herself a man, then she may decide she doesn’t want to work anymore or she might enjoy her job so much that she doesn’t want to quit.”
Amanda arrived at SoGa Industries after a thirty-minute drive. She parked her car, entered the building, and walked through the lobby. She greeted Mrs. Lagomorph and walked through the foyer, turned left, and walked to the elevators. She pressed the call button and, after the elevator doors opened, entered, input her personal 5 digit code, and pressed 12. After the elevator doors opened again, she walked to her desk and started working. She knew that around 0230 she needed to go to each department head and collect their paperwork for Mr. Blaidd’s perusal and correction.
As she typed, she got involved in what she was doing and didn’t notice the time. When she realized what time it was, it was 0240. She was 10 minutes late to collect the paperwork! “God! I’ve got to hurry!” She thought.
She jumped up from her desk and raced to the elevators. Fortunately, the elevator doors opened and Wanda and Bertha exited just before she got there. All she had time to say was, “Good morning. Gotta go.”
She got to the ground floor and started her rounds. She didn’t have time to so much as say, “Hello” to any of the department heads. Her last stop was the office of Dana Impisi, the personnel head. She gathered Mrs. Impisi’s paperwork, left and hurried down the corridor toward the elevators. Just as she reached the entrance to the foyer, disaster struck.
The traffic gods were with Dr. Leo and Michael and thirty minutes later, they pulled up to the front door of SoGa Industries. Dr. Leo gave Michael some quick instructions on making a good first impression on the interview as he straightened Michael’s tie.
Michael got out of the car. He walked into the lobby and up to the receptionist. “Hello,” Michael said, “I’m Michael Thomson and I’ve got an appointment with Mrs. Impisi.”
“Thomson? Is that like the gazelle?”
“Yes, Miss . . . Lagomorph?”
“Yes, is there a problem with my name and it is Mrs. Lagomorph? I’m married.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, ma’am. It’s just that you’re a rabbit and rabbits . . . are . . . lagomorphs.”
As Michael spoke, he had noticed that she had drawn herself up to her full height, all 5’1”. She said, “I am not a rabbit; I’m a hare. Thank you.”
“I’m sorry. Please don’t be offended. It’s just that I have a hard time telling
rabbits from hares.”
She gave Michael an overtly dirty look and said, “You’re human, aren’t you?” He nodded. “How would you like it if I told you that humans and chimpanzees looked alike to me? Didn’t you learn anything about Humanimal biology in school?”
“No, ma’am. I can honestly say it wasn’t offered when I was in school.”
“You’re kidding. Then, let me inform you that a hare’s ears are longer and more pointed than a rabbit’s ears.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Lagomorph. But, wouldn’t you have been offended had I known that and stared at your ears?”
She thought for a couple of seconds, smiled, gave a small snort of laughter, and said, “Probably. I’m sorry for my reaction. Even Humanimals will call me a rabbit at times. I guess the fact that you’re human causes a negative reaction in me. Needless to say, it gets a bit irritating. I overreacted. You are the first person to point out how offensive it would be for someone to look at my ears to determine my race.
“To get to Mrs. Impisi’s office; walk through the foyer to my right; turn right when you come to the corridor; at the end of the corridor, turn left. Her office is the third office on the right.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Lagomorph and, once again, please forgive my mistaking you for a rabbit.”
She smiled sweetly and said, “You’re most definitely forgiven.”
Michael felt her eyes on him as he walked away. He rolled his eyes and smiled as he heard her say, “Damn. Too bad I’m married. I wonder what it would be like to sleep with a human, especially one as good looking and young as he is.”
Michael continued smiling as he crossed the foyer Mrs. Lagomorph had indicated. Just as he made the right turn he was supposed to make, he got struck by a red and white tiger-striped missile; well, it felt like a missile anyway. He felt himself falling backward and he instinctively wrapped his arms around the body that had struck him. It felt as if they were falling in slow motion as he realized that the body he had his arms around was female. He landed flat on his back and struck his head on the, fortunately, thickly carpeted floor. He felt himself bounce twice.
When they stopped bouncing, Michael looked into as strange of a Humanimal as he believed he could imagine seeing. She had strawberry-blonde shoulder-length hair, golden yellow eyes with round pupils, and red fox colored fur with black tiger-like stripes. She had black triangular ears with an oval white spot on the back protruding through her strawberry-blonde hair. Her muzzle didn’t fit her fox face because it looked more like a cat’s, shorter and wider than a fox’s and it had a fox’s tear track. He couldn’t see her arms at first because they were pinned between their bodies. After she got off of him, he saw that she had a fox’s black gloves and, when she stood, he saw she was wearing a light blue sleeveless blouse and a knee-length dark blue skirt. The sleeveless blouse revealed black stripes on her upper arms. The skirt allowed him to see her black, fox stockings. She must have been carrying a double armful of papers because papers were fluttering everywhere.
Michael said, “Are you all right?”
She stared into his eyes for several seconds before she slowly got up as she said, “Yes. Thank you. I’m sorry; I’m sorry; I’m sorry.”
She started gathering her papers and would glance over her shoulder at Michael. He said, “Can I help you? After all, I’m partly to blame for this.”
“No, no. I—I’ll get it. Th—thank you, though.”
She continued to glance over her shoulder as she gathered her papers. Finally, she had all the papers gathered and she hurried down the corridor. At the end, she turned right and hurried on but not before glancing at Michael once more and smiling shyly.
Michael muttered, “If that don’t beat all.”
As Michael watched her leave, he heard a masculine voice saying, “Man, I’m jealous of you.”
He flinched, turned, and saw a caracal standing there offering Michael his hand. He accepted the offer of assistance and asked, “What do you mean?”
“I’ve worked with Amanda for three months and I can’t even get her to say ‘Good morning’ to me with a promise of a drink. You walk in the door; she knocks you down and speaks to you. Not only does she speak to you; she kept glancing over her shoulder at you. You must have impressed her completely.”
“Well, I don’t know what about me impressed her unless it was my chest when her face struck it. Perhaps you need to have her knock you down when she’s in a hurry.”
“Maybe. Oh, by the way, my name’s Albert, Albert Rooikat.”
“Uh, no, I’m not. Why?”
“You’re a caracal, aren’t you?”
“If I’m not, my parents have been lying to me for the last 24 years.”
“Rooikat is a Dutch-African name. It’s what the Dutch human settlers of southern Africa called the caracal.”
Albert laughed and said, “Oh, I see. I never delved into the history of my family’s name. By the way, you never told me your name.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. My name’s Michael, Michael Thomson.”
“As in the gazelle?”
“You’re human, right?”
“Uh, yes. What gave it away?”
Albert laughed at Michael’s little joke before he said, “Wow, I didn’t think there were any humans left.”
“I’ve been asleep for a while.”
“O-o-okay. So, who are you here to meet?”
“Oh! Ohmygod! What time is it? Please tell me it isn’t after 0300. I have to meet with Mrs. Impisi at 0300. Maybe I’ll see you around, Albert.” Michael rushed off toward Mrs. Impisi’s office before Albert could reply.
Amanda reached the elevators with her heart pumping quickly. Even though she’d been a wee bit scared when she ran into the human and they fell down, she didn’t believe that was the reason for her rapidly beating heart. The elevator opened; she stepped in, went to the 12th floor, and walked quickly to her desk. As she rode the elevator and walked to her desk, Amanda kept thinking about the human. “Boy!” She thought. “He was very good-looking and so kind to me. His first thought was of my well-being, not the fact that I’d run into him. Even though it was my fault, he offered to help me with the paperwork. I wonder why he’s here and will I ever see him again. God! I surely hope so.”
Amanda’s dreamy look caught the attention of Wanda, Bertha, and Michelle. The three of them exchanged a look before they got up and walked to her desk. Wanda said, “Amanda, what’s with that look on your face? Did you get some last night?”
“Huh?” Amanda was confused for a second before she realized what Wanda was asking. “WANDA! Are you asking me what I think you’re asking me?”
“Well, that’s the look I get on my face when I’ve been with a particularly good lover. Right, Bertha?”
Now, it was Bertha’s turn to be shocked. “Wanda!”
Wanda laughed and returned her attention to Amanda. “So? Did you?”
“Wanda, I’m still a virgin so, no, I didn’t. I just ran into someone downstairs.”
“Really? What’s his name?”
“Name? Oh, God! I never asked his name after we got up off the floor.”
Michelle said, “Wait. You literally ran into someone?”
“Yes, he was turning the corner out of the foyer. I had gotten a late start so I was rushing back with my daily paperwork and I didn’t see him until it was too late. I ran into him; he caught me and held me as we fell. Wanda, he’s so good-looking and seems to be kind, too. He didn’t berate me for running into him and he offered to help me pick up my paperwork, too.”
Wanda said, “What species is he? Will your mother approve of him?”
“No, my mother won’t approve of him. He’s human.”
A sour look crossed Wanda’s face as she said, “A human? I’m sure you could do better than a human, Amanda.”
“I’m not dating him, Wanda. I just ran into him and he was nice to me.”
“Still, I don’t like nor trust humans.”
About that time, Mr. Schimpanse stepped out of his office. When he saw the three of them gathered around Amanda’s desk, he stepped over. After listening for a few seconds, he cleared his throat. When everyone turned in shock toward him, he said, “I don’t care about your personal lives, ladies, but this is a place of business and we do need to get our work done, if it isn’t too much of an inconvenience, that is.” Fortunately, everyone knew that Mr. Schimpanse was a relatively easy-going officer and, when they saw him smiling, they smiled, apologized, and went back to their desks are returned to work. Mr. Schimpanse asked Wanda to come to his office because he had an errand for her to do for him.
Michael walked very quickly to Ms. Impisi’s office, composed himself, and knocked on the door. Just as he knocked on her door, he saw the clock was reading 0300. At her invitation to enter, he opened the door and walked in. Behind a medium-sized desk covered with paperwork and an in/outbox sat a hyena, the one animal in his previous life that he had most disliked. Many of the nature shows he had told Victoria about were also about hyenas. He knew that spotted hyenas, especially female spotted hyenas, have high testosterone content making them some of the most aggressive mammals on Earth. His instinctive reaction was to freeze and not move a muscle. He looked at the nameplate on her desk and saw “Dana Impisi” written on it. After a few seconds, Mrs. Impisi looked up from her paperwork.
“Come in. I won’t bite.” Smiling, she added, “Even though I am a female hyena, I’m a striped hyena.”
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Impisi. I shouldn’t judge you by your species.”
“That’s quite all right and we don’t refer to each other as different species; we are of different races. If what I’ve heard is true, we hyenas deserve our reputation. Please, have a seat Mr. . . .”
“Thomson. Michael Thomson.”
“Like the gazelle?”
Michael paused, thinking. “Am I going to have to answer that question every time I introduce myself? I guess it’s no different than Mrs. Lagomorph or Mr. Rooikat.” He looked at Mrs. Impisi and saw her looking at him expectantly. “Yes, ma’am. Same spelling.”
“You looked distracted. Did I offend you?”
“Oh. No, ma’am. It’s just that you’re the third person this morning to ask me that question. I guess I’m going to have to get used to it.” Michael answered laughing.
“With such a strange family name, you can count on it.”
She looked at some papers and said, “Dr. Leo Panthera sent you here. Also, you seem to be punctual to the extreme. You were told to be here at 0300 and my clock read 0300 when you knocked.” She paused for a second, then said, “Do I make you nervous?”
Caught completely unawares, Michael could only manage to stutter a, “No ma’am.”
“Oh, yes I do. I make everyone nervous their first day here, especially those people who are descended from prey species, especially Afurcan prey species. I know about my species history well enough to know that hyenas weren’t very popular in Afurca before the change. I also understand that there were a lot of arguments against including hyenas in the change. Besides, I saw the look in your eyes when you first saw me. Don’t worry. I’m fair and the negative aspects of my species were bred out when we became Humanimals, just like every other predator Humanimal you’ll meet. I can’t make that same guarantee about my four-legged cousins, though.” She laughed, not at all like the stereotypical hyena laugh but very softly human. “Now, Dr. Panthera says you have a Computer Information Technology degree and you’re looking for a job. Is that correct?”
“Okay, let me ask you a few questions.
“First of all, your name is Michael Thomson?”
“You currently reside with Dr. Leo Panthera and his family. Correct?”
“What’s their address?”
“14373 Gray Myotis Rd., Catlanna, Gargia, 12 dash 8 dash 35.”
“Okay. Your age?”
“Chronological or physical?”
“Do you want my actual age or the age I look like?”
“Chronological age is around 20,022 and physical age is 22.”
“Okay. I’m going to assume you graduated from college 20,000 years ago. Boy! This is going to send the personnel computer up the wall.” She laughed again.
“Do you have any living relatives?”
“I’m not sure; but, I doubt it.”
“So, we’ll just use Dr. Leo Panthera as your closest relative.”
“Well, he did adopt me, more or less.”
“What do you see yourself doing in five years?”
“I’m hoping to have earned a position as a supervisor of CIT. I would also like to be earning enough money to purchase my own house. As soon as I can afford it, I’m going to move into my own home because, even though the Panthera family treats me like family, I know I’ve got to be somewhat of a burden on them.”
“What about family, children?”
“Well, Mrs. Impisi, I’ve been told that the human species is going extinct. I’m pretty sure I can rule out ever having a wife or children.”
“Didn’t Dr. Panthera tell you about the genetic makeup of the Humanimals?”
“Yes, ma’am; but, when I was born, Humanimals didn’t exist. Naturally, the thought of marrying one is a bit foreign to me. I’m not saying that my attitude won’t change; but, for now, I can’t envision it happening.”
Mrs. Impisi continued questioning Michael for another 30 minutes. With each answer, she became more and more impressed with him. He seemed poised and confident yet not arrogant in the least. Finally, she said, “Okay. I believe that you have answered all of the necessary questions. Now, you say you are interested in a CIT position with SoGa Industries?”
“Since, as far as your mind is concerned, you’ve just graduated from college. You will need to pass a test I devised for anyone that applies for a CIT position.” She indicated a desktop computer on a table to her right. “This computer,” she said, “has six problems, some easy, some difficult. If you can find all six problems and correct them, you will qualify for the position. Are you ready?”
“Good. Come with me.”
She led Michael to the computer and had him sit in the chair. As he sat in the chair, he stared at the computer. “Is there a problem, Mr. Thomson?”
“No problem, Mrs. Impisi. It’s just that I’ve only seen this type of computer in a museum.”
“Museum!? That’s the newest computer available.”
Michael smiled and said, “Newest to you. It’s almost a hundred years old to me.”
“Right. Since it’s that old to you, you should have no problems diagnosing and correcting the six problems it has.”
“All right, the first problem to check is . . . is . . .”
Mrs. Impisi was leaning over with her head just to the right of Michael’s. He found it difficult to concentrate. After about 30 seconds, she looked at him and said, “Having trouble?”
“Well, Mrs. Impisi,” Michael swallowed and continued, “it’s a little difficult to concentrate with your head there. I realize it’s a bit of prejudice; but, I can’t help remembering when I would watch television documentaries about hyenas and, well, I’m a bit nervous with your head so close to mine.”
She smiled and said, “Aw, and I thought you were having difficulty because I’m so attractive.”
“Don’t get me wrong, Mrs. Impisi; you are attractive, more attractive than I could have imagined a hyena could possibly be; but, it’s your ancestry that bothers me. If I recall correctly, the hyena has one of the most powerful bites of all mammals.”
Mrs. Impisi laughed softly and said, “All right. I’ll go back to my desk. Let me know when, and if, you find and correct all the problems.”
Michael started with the obvious problem. He verified that the power cord was plugged into the wall socket. When that was verified, he checked the back of the computer and found that the power cord was unplugged from the computer. He plugged it in and turned on the power. As he worked, he mentally checked off a list of known potential problems and found three more, which he quickly corrected. After this, he started verifying lesser-known, but equally potential, common problems and found four (four?) more. That made eight problems counting the power cord. This got him thinking and he started checking even lesser-known potential problems.
Half an hour later, the computer was running like a champ and Michael informed Mrs. Impisi that he’d found, in actuality, seventeen problems with the computer. The look of sheer surprise on her face was comical to him. It looked so much like the look of surprise he’d seen on the TV documentaries that he had a hard time not laughing at her. She came over to the computer and he showed her how well it ran. She informed him that the computer had never run so well since she had gotten it new out of the box less than four months ago. After she asked him what he’d done, he told her and she was visibly impressed.
“Please have a seat, Mr. Thomson. I need to make a short phone call.”
Michael heard her half of the conversation. “Yes, Miss Fuchs, this is Dana Impisi. Could I speak with Mr. Blaidd please . . . Thank you.”
A few seconds later, she continued, “Mr. Blaidd, I tested the gentleman you told me about. He not only found the six problems I had created, but he also found another eleven and he did this in less than half an hour . . . Yes, sir. I sincerely believe he would be a great asset to the company.” She blinked in surprise. “Are you sure, sir . . . Well, yes, sir. We do need a manager of CIT . . . If you say so, sir . . . How much . . . Of course, sir. I’ll inform him and show him his office. Thank you, sir.”
Amanda had a hard time concentrating on what she was doing. Michael’s image kept intruding into her mind while she worked. Suddenly, she was revived from her reverie when her telephone rang.
“Mr. Blaidd’s office. Amanda speaking. How may I help you?”
“Yes, Miss Fuchs, this is Dana Impisi. Could I speak with Mr. Blaidd please?”
“Just a moment, Mrs. Impisi.”
After a moment, Mr. Blaidd answered his telephone. “Hello, Dana. How can I help you?”
“Mr. Blaidd, I tested the gentleman you told me about. He not only found the six problems I had created, but he also found another eleven and he did this in less than half an hour.”
“He found a total of 17 problems on a computer that you had set up only 6 on and he did it in less than half an hour? I’m guessing you think he’d be an asset to the company.”
“Yes, sir. I sincerely believe he would be a great asset to the company.”
“Then, offer him the CIT manager position.”
“Are you sure, sir”
“We do need a CIT manager, don’t we?”
“Well, yes, sir. We do need a manager of CIT.”
“Well, as I said, offer him the position.”
“If you say so, sir.”
“Tell him the position pays 130,000 Yenar a year.”
“130,000 Yenar a year. If he’s as good as you say he is, we don’t want another company snatching him up from underneath our noses.”
“Of course, sir. I’ll inform him and show him his office. Thank you, sir.”
“Thank you, Dana.”
Edward replaced his telephone back into its cradle. He said, “Well Leo, it looks like you were right about him. It’s going to be a great relationship if he can get along with Humanimals.”
Still slightly shocked, she leaned back in her chair and looked at Michael. “Mr. Thomson, Mr. Blaidd wants to offer you the position of manager of CIT for SoGa Industries. This position starts at an annual salary of 130,000 Yenar ($104,000) with a potential raise of 10% every six months for the first two years. After that, yearly raises based on merit will be offered.”
She couldn’t have shocked Michael more if she had said that he was being offered the position of Vice-President of the company. “Mrs. Impisi,” he said, “I’ve never even been a supervisor. Are you sure I can be the manager?”
“Well, you did find problems with that computer that I didn’t know about. Come with me and I’ll show you your office and introduce you to your subordinates.”
They walked out of her office and turned right, away from the direction Michael had used to reach her office. They got to the end of the corridor and turned left. They entered the first office on the right. Michael stopped immediately after entering. It was huge. It was easily 300 square feet. Two-thirds of the way back was a desk about five feet wide and two feet deep. Against the right wall was a bookshelf that reached from the floor to the ceiling and covered the entire wall, except for a small space that was about 4 feet wide. At the corridor end of the bookcase was a doorway to another office. Directly behind the desk, there was a window facing a small stream that had cottonwood and willow trees growing along the bank. On the left wall was a desk with a desktop computer on it. Michael noticed a slight covering of dust on everything.
Mrs. Impisi said, “This is your office, Mr. Thomson. As you can see, it hasn’t been used in a while. Our previous CIT manager was lured away several months ago by our biggest competitor. What do you think?”
Michael saw a pile of paperwork on the desk which immediately caused him a bit of irritation. “Did he leave all of this paperwork undone? I mean, didn’t he care enough to complete it before leaving?”
“Unfortunately, when he was hired by our competitor, he developed a bit of an attitude. Mr. Blaidd is very forgiving but he won’t tolerate insubordination. You know wolves; they expect everyone to pull their weight and work for the common good. When Mr. Shishuukhei started acting like he was too good for us and becoming a bit belligerent, Mr. Blaidd had security escort him out of the building carrying absolutely nothing, not even his personal belongings. After we inventoried everything, his personal belongings were boxed up and sent to him via courier.”
“And no one has completed this paperwork? It looks several months old.”
“No one here understands the paperwork. Hopefully, you will. If you find any paperwork that needs the immediate attention of one of the officers of the company, just give that officer a telephone call and go see him. I’m sure Mr. Blaidd is contacting all of them right now to inform them that we have a new CIT manager and to expect to hear from you by the end of the week. Now, let’s go introduce you to your subordinates.”
“Won’t they be a bit upset with the fact that I’m only . . . 22 years old and was hired to be their boss?”
“Our computer division includes you and six other people and none of them showed interested in being the manager. Besides the paperwork that you have to catch up on and keep up with, your duties will include keeping up with advances in the computer field and making certain that SoGa Industries’ computers are on the cutting edge of computer trends. You’ll also be required to go to computer shows throughout this part of the country. You’ll be expected to purchase any software and hardware to ensure that our computers are in line with the current state-of-the-art computer systems of all the other major corporations. When you go to these computer shows, you will be accompanied by Mr. Blaidd’s personal secretary.”
Michael put on a feigned look of shock and said, “Why? Doesn’t he trust his new 22-year-old computer tech manager?”
“Oh, she won’t be there to ensure you don’t make unnecessary purchases. She’ll be there to ensure that you purchase enough computer paraphernalia.”
They left Michael’s office and once again, they turned right when they left the office. They walked to the second door and entered a large room with six desks/work stations. When they entered, every head turned toward them. Mrs. Impisi led Michael to each person and made the introductions.
The first person she led Michael to was a Japanese wolf. The wolf looked to be around 35 years old. “This is Gregory Okami. You could say that he’s the supervisor of the CIT Department.”
Turning to Gregory, she said, “Gregory, this is the new manager of CIT for SoGa Industries, Michael Thomson.”
Gregory stuck his hand out and said “Thomson? Like the gazelle?”
Michael smiled, shook his head, and said, “Yes Mr. Okami, like the gazelle and no, I’m not a gazelle. I’m a human.
“Are you not the supervisor?”
“No, there really isn’t a supervisor. I just have 15 years’ experience in CIT. Why do you ask?”
“There’s no one here to go to if you have a problem?”
“No, we always just went to Mr. Shishuukhei when we had a problem. He insisted on running every aspect of the department.”
Michael turned to Mrs. Impisi and said, “We need an official supervisor here. A manager shouldn’t have to worry about every little problem, only the big ones. That would be micromanaging and it’s something that we can do without. Would Mr. Blaidd be willing to pay someone to be a supervisor?”
“He might. I can ask him.”
“Please ask.” Turning to Gregory, Michael asked, “Does everyone here respect you enough to accept you as the supervisor?”
“I guess, Mr. Thomson.”
“I’ll verify as I talk to everyone.”
Mrs. Impisi led Michael to another CIT, a mink. “This is Miss Emma Diao. Emma, this is the new CIT manager, Mr. Michael Thomson.”
“Good morning, Miss Diao,” Michael said. “How long have you been a CIT?”
“About three years, Mr. Thomson.”
“Please call me, Mike.” This elicited a sharp reaction.
“Mr. Thomson, we just met. You shouldn’t be so familiar with me. Besides, I’m—I’m engaged.”
Shocked at their reaction, Michael asked, “Did I say something wrong?”
Mrs. Impisi said, “In a manner of speaking, Michael. We don’t use familiar names unless we are married to that person or romantically involved with them, even family members rarely use what you know of as nicknames.”
“I’m sorry if I offended anyone. I’ve only recently learned traditions so, I’m likely to forget on occasion. I should have realized this when Dr. Panthera introduced me to his family. He only called his cubs by their full names rather than a nickname. Please forgive me.
“As I was going to say, Miss Diao, are you good at your job?”
“I’ve always received high marks on my performance reports.”
Someone muttered, “That’s only because you were sleeping with the manager.”
Michael turned immediately and said, “Who said that?” A coyote raised his hand. “What’s your name?”
“Jeremy, Mr. Thomson. Jeremy Kojoto.”
“Well, Mr. Kojoto, do you have proof of your accusation?”
“Uh, well, no. No, sir.”
Miss Diao said, “Sour grapes, Jeremy. You’re just mad that I wouldn’t go out with you. You just wanted to find out if the rumors about mink women are true.”
“All right, you two.” Michael interrupted. “Jeremy, since your name has been brought up, how long have you been a CIT?”
“A year, sir.”
“Do you know your job?”
“Yes, sir! I’ve received high marks on my performance reports, too.”
“I see.” Michael looked at him pointedly and asked, “And were you sleeping with the former manager, too?”
Jeremy looked utterly shocked. Everyone around Michael, including Miss Diao, was speechless. Finally, with a look of anger on his face, Jeremy said, “How dare you make that accusation against me?”
“Why not? You made the same accusation against Miss Diao with just as much evidence as I have.” Michael stared at him, not backing down.
Finally, after several seconds, Jeremy lowered his eyes and said, “You’re right, Mr. Thomson. What I said was uncalled for. I was being an ass and I’m sorry.”
“Don’t apologize to me, Jeremy;” Indicating Emma, he added, “apologize to her.”
“I’m sorry, Emma. You’re right. It was sour grapes. I should have thought about the possible consequences of what I said.”
“Now Jeremy, even if what you accused her of was true, without proof, you had no right to say it and you shouldn’t say it even if you do have proof because such a statement could lead to a hostile work environment and one of you would have had to leave. So, all of you, please listen. I won’t tolerate this situation. If you have a problem with a co-worker, you have two options as far as I’m concerned. You can come to me or Mr. Okami with it or you can seek employment elsewhere. Are we clear on this?”
Everyone said, “Yes, sir.”
Mrs. Impisi seemed genuinely impressed. She whispered in Michael’s ear, “You are a better manager than you thought you were and significantly better than Mr. Shishuukhei was. He wouldn’t have confronted that situation. You’re going to do just fine.”
Out loud she said, “Now, Michael, let me introduce you to the remaining three CITs.”
Mrs. Impisi led Michael to a chinchilla. “This is Mrs. Mysha, Susan Mysha.”
“Hello, Mrs. Mysha. How long have you been a CIT?”
“Almost six years, sir.”
“Please, everyone, don’t sir me. Like you, I work for a living. You can call me Michael, or Mr. Thomson, although I prefer Michael or Mike.
“Now, Mrs. Mysha, are you good at your job? Could you pass a simple test of your abilities, if I decide to test them?”
“I believe so, sir . . . I mean, Michael. I read the trade papers all the time.”
Next in line was Miss Kouneli, an brown and black Angora rabbit. Michael said, “Miss Kouneli, how long have you been a CIT?”
“I graduated from school the same year as Jeremy. So, about a year.”
“Good and you know your job?”
“Oh, yes, sir, Mr. Thomson.”
Mrs. Impisi led Michael to a familiar face. “And this is . . .”
She looked at Michael in shock. “You two know each other?”
“In a manner of speaking, Mrs. Impisi. I got run over by a tigress with red fox markings just before I got to your office. Albert here gave me a hand getting up.
“So, Albert, you’re a CIT. How long?”
“Five years, Michael.”
“Five years? You look kind of young to have that much experience.”
“I graduated from college at 18.”
“Really? 18? Wow, that’s the age most people start college.”
Miss Kouneli said “Mr. Thomson, I’ve known Albert most of my life. He skipped grades in school and was admitted to college when he was 15. He went to college year-round and was able to graduate the same year I graduated high school. He inspired me to study CIT. But, be careful about getting too chummy with him. Basically, he’s a nice guy; but, he’s a conniving scoundrel.”
“Thank you, Miss Kouneli.
“Any retorts, Albert.”
“What’s to say? She nailed me. Speaking of which . . .”
She glared at Albert and he laughed. “Not a chance, cat-man. My standards are higher than you can ever hope to attain.”
Michael rubbed his temples with his forefingers and asked Mrs. Impisi, “Is this S.O.P.?”
“S.O.P.?” Mrs. Impisi asked.
“Standard Operational Procedure?”
She laughed and said, “I don’t know about S.O.P.; but, it’s normal for these two. As Miss Kouneli said, they’re old friends and they give each other a hard time all the time.”
Albert said, “Not as hard . . .”
Miss Kouneli said, “Watch it.” Albert laughed heartily.
Michael couldn’t help himself. He had to smile at this exchange, although he hid it behind his hand as he wiped his face. “Okay. As long as there are no hard feelings, I guess it’s all right. However, Albert, you need to be careful. If the wrong person heard this little tete a tete, they could be offended and report you to Mrs. Impisi and she would be required to file a report and put it into your personnel file. That could prevent you from getting a decent raise.”
“Good-natured ribbing is normal in a workplace,” Michael spoke to everyone. “Hell, it helps to relieve a boring day; but, someone who isn’t even a part of the conversation could be upset by the conversation and you could get in trouble. Personally, I think that’s wrong; but, when I grew up, what you said to Miss Kouneli was the definition of sexual harassment.”
Mrs. Mysha said, “When you grew up? What are you talking about? You’re younger than I am.”
Michael smiled and said, “Well, Mrs. Mysha, I’m a lot older than I look. I look 22; but, I’m actually 20,022 years old.”
That revelation elicited looks of complete shock and surprise from everyone, except Mrs. Impisi. Mr. Okami said, “You’re that Michael Thomson? I’ve read about you. I didn’t put two and two together until you said that. What was life like back then?”
“Well, for one thing, Humanimals didn’t exist, except in comics and animated television shows. For another, despite a so-called Freedom of Speech, if someone was offended by something you said, you were informed that you couldn’t say it anymore. Joking around like Miss Kouneli and Mr. Rooikat did earlier could get him fired just because someone who wasn’t even involved in the conversation overheard and was offended by it.”
Mrs. Impisi said, “Sounds like the kind of world you’re happy to be away from.”
“Yes. But, I miss my family and friends; however, I hope to make new friends and,” Michael looked at Albert, “I may have started, if all of you can understand that friends away from work doesn’t translate to friends at work, especially between managers and staff.
“All right, everyone. Introductions are over and work needs to be accomplished. I’ll see all of you later. I fully intend to have one-on-one conversations with each of you to learn more about you that you may not wish to say in front of just anybody.”
Mrs. Impisi and Michael returned to his office and, once again, he surveyed it. He saw the daunting task of cleaning the office and putting the paperwork on the desk in proper order. The thin layer of dust, in his opinion, demanded his immediate attention. He figured that if the paperwork had lain on the desk for several months, it could wait another day or two.
As he stood there, Michael felt Mrs. Impisi’s eyes on me. He turned to her and said, “Yes, ma’am.”
“Would you like me to request housekeeping to come in here and clean and dust?”
Michael thought for several seconds before answering, “Yes, but just one person. I want to be able to control what’s done here to make certain nothing important is lost or destroyed. Please inform Mr. Blaidd that I’ll contact him later this week with a progress report as to what I find and request information as to whether or not the paperwork is important enough to keep.”
“Of course, Mr. Thomson.”
Before she returned to her office, Mrs. Impisi informed Michael that he would accompany her to a weekly meeting with Mr. Blaidd, one of his secretaries and the V. P. of Operations, Mr. Schimpanse. She said that, in these meetings, he would be expected to update them with any ideas that he had on improving computer operations, communications, and production. She said that these meetings would be held on Monday mornings at 0400 starting the next Monday.
After Mrs. Impisi left, Michael officially started his new job as Computer Information Technology Manager of SoGa Industries in Catlanna, Gargia. He walked around the first floor, the floor where his office was located. He wanted to meet everyone and learn of any actual and potential computer problems. While most of them didn’t have any problems at the time, every one of them did say that they had had problems recently that had caused significant downtime. By the time he had visited and spoken to everyone, it was time to go home.
Michael called Dr. Leo and waited in the lobby for him to arrive. On the drive home, Michael told Dr. Leo everything that had occurred that day and how happy he was with the job that was offered. Michael was also very shocked when he learned that 130,000 Yenar was very good pay, enough to prosper in his new life.