End Times: Lots of Hot Air

“I assure you, Mr. Martin, it is a standard non-disclosure that we have every sub-contractor sign.”

Brien looked up from the video tile, a portable version of a video panel, and at Director Shyinled who smiled at him. Brien responded, “If you don’t mind, Director, I would like to make sure of that myself.”

The Director smiled and nodded at him, “I understand. All too often people come in and just click that damned button and act all surprised when we grab them by the manhood after they break the rules.”

Brien touched the red button on the tile and handed it back to the Director, “Do you really think that a non-compete was necessary?”

The Director continued to smile and said, “As I said, it’s standard. Don’t go looking for loopholes, we’ve got rid of most of them over the years. Now, let’s get to business.”

Brien took a seat on the conference room table and eyed the wet bar. The Director walked over to it, “Can I call you Brien? Saying we are now in business together?”

Brien nodded and the Director continued, “Have you ever read The Art of War? I don’t mean watching it on one of those videos. I don’t mean any disrespect for your profession but some classics should be left alone.”

Brien shook his head as the Director took a pair of tumblers and put ice in them.

“You should. Especially, if you’re going to work for me… self-employed or not. That is where you failed, Brien. You went to war without truly knowing your enemy. I’m impressed with your success, don’t let that damn machine at the Social Security office tell you otherwise. Most entrepreneurs don’t accomplish in their first year what you did.”

The Director took a bottle from the cabinet and poured some golden amber liquid into both tumblers. He continued, “It’s what you didn’t know was what blindsided you. That scoring system that they used? Who the fark knows how that works? I don’t and I regularly work with politicians in Denver.”

Brien took the tumbler offered to him by the Director and sipped at it. It was rare to get alcohol in the enclaves; it was best to not go too fast. The Director took a sip of his drink, looked at it, and frowned.

“Better than nothing I guess, you ever tried the original recipe Jack? The recipe from before the Rage?”

“I can’t say that I have, Director.”

“That’s a shame. I have a couple bottles in my office in Denver. Tastes much better than the swill that they keep here for holy day parties. Where was I? Ah, yes…”

The Director sat his glass next to Brien and walked to the window.

“You are very talented and ambitious like Dr. Xiaoyin was when he found his studios. You’re talented and I am impressed by your works. Alas, you are no Dr. Xiaoyin; he learned the game before playing it… Proverbs 22:7… ‘The rich rule over the poor, for the poor serve their masters.’”

Brien pondered what the Director was trying to say. He knew of the history of Xiaoyin Studios but he did not understand how that applied to his situation.

“Debt is the enemy, Brien. When you ‘earn’ credits, you are just earning the privilege of going further into debt.”

“How do I stop going into debt?”

“Ah now, that is the big question. You work for cash. You pay off your apprenticeship fees, you pay off credits you spent. Then, you incorporate and become the master. There’s a reason why basic education does not teach us about cash.”

Brien sat there studying the depths of his drink, “Shit… none of my research told me that.”

“It wouldn’t. What I just told you borders on treason…”

Brien’s eyes narrowed as he looked at the Director, “I don’t mean to be disrespectful, Director. I don’t think that you came all this way to talk about my finances.”

The Director turned his head from the window and laughed, “Of course not, I haven’t told you anything yet. How long does it take for you to make one of your videos… a training video?”

“Two or three months…”

The Director interrupted him with a large grin on his face, “Right there, it tells me that you have never worked a government contract. Let me ask again… how long does it take to make a training video?”

“A year or so, and I need to be paid in cash.”


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