“Life Bytes”

ATSF's technosoap for the digital millennium in twelve chapplets

Chapplet 11

Ah the tangled web ... etc

By the time Meg had finished clearing up and started walking upstairs there was animated conversation coming from Tom’s office. The two cats were at the open doorway watching the proceedings. She stood in the doorway surveying the scene for a few seconds. Peter and Tom were peering at the screen technically analysing the site to one another while Faith and Brid fidgeted behind them trying to make their creative suggestions. All their faces were eerily lit by the light of the screen.

“Ah ha!” she thought, “all captured in the web. Perhaps the light mesmerizes you.” She started one of her flights of fancy half listening to the conversation.

“ ... More animation ... ”whined Brid to Faith as the men took no notice.

“ ... Flashes of vibrant colours ... there ... ” Faith interjected.

“ ... Take too many bytes ... ” continued Tom to Peter oblivious of the girls.

“Bites ... ummmmm,” Meg pondered.

“ ... Eats up memory unnecessarily ...” agreed Peter.

“Preys on brains! ... nasty! ... what eats brains? ... a special virus maybe ...” elaborated Meg to herself in fascination.

“ ... the use of an adapted palette ... ,” murmured Tom

“Ohooo! with specialised jaws for eating them ... even nastier!” grimaced Meg.

“This bit’s breaking up ...”indicated The Terror.

“Ughh! decomposing ... ,” Meg decided inwardly.

“ ... Can’t read that properly ... too dark,” Brid insisted to the deaf ears of the men.

“ ... The style is bitty ... it needs a theme ... I know ... like ...” Faith’s voice got lost again in the hubbub.

“ ... Where’s the host, did you say? ...” checked Tom

“ ... Host? Do these mutant viruses hide in hosts? ... Do the hosts know?” Meg shuddered.

“ ... Oh, if only I could show you this style instead of trying to describe it,” moaned Faith.

“Where did you see it then?” asked Brid

“It’s in a design magazine in my house,” Faith replied.

“Well, that’s easily solved.” Meg interrupted from the door. “I’m going to take you back now Faith—no ‘buts’ about it..” she said, raising a finger in response to the two intakes of breath from the girls that preceded objections.

“ ... and if Peter would come, you can hand it to him and explain what you mean to him so he can act on it when he has time. You’ll give the magazine back once you’ve finished, won’t you? Right, leaving in one minute; back in ten,” she continued smoothly as she swung on her heels, shaking her car keys in a raised fist.

“Shall I come too?” Tom said hopefully.

“No, no need. Clear that monitor box out of my sight—please?” the reply drifted up the stairs.

The girls exchanged looks of thankfulness. Tom adopted a dejected air. Peter mechanically headed for the door.

The round trip actually took more like 15 minutes but Peter returned looking relaxed clutching the magazine in his hands.

“Tom, Peter needs to get the next train to Frindon to catch his connection onwards. That leaves in ten minutes. Could you take him as I have to finish some marking.,” Meg announced.

“Oh! Yeah. Fine.” Tom headed towards the hall to get his jacket.

“Please just let me have a quick look at the style Faith was describing” pleaded Brid and Peter flicked through some of the pages quietly showing her.

“No wonder it was hard to describe. It’s a bit abstract but atmospheric, well ... ethereal, I’d say.” commented Bridget.

The word 'ethereal' hit Meg and she remembered the phone message from the smooth-talking Terri from Etheral.

“Terri! Tom! Terri! Who IS she?” Meg taunted as Tom headed back towards the group of them in the middle of the hall.

“What are you going on about, Meg! Terri? I haven’t a clue,” retorted a startled Tom and both Peter and Brid looked on in amazement..

“Well she certainly knows you! She phoned here this morning saying she’d tried the office with no luck. Ethereal, she’s from Ethereal,” Meg continued in a mock-offended tone.

“Come on, Peter. We have to make tracks ... but Meg, I haven’t a clue. Connie mentioned a Terri too but how could she have my home number? Really, I don’t know Ethereal,” Tom parried.

“They’re a recruitment firm,” said Peter with a hint of a smile on his face, “with a reputation for head-hunting.”

Tom gaped. He opened his mouth but decided against saying anything. He grasped Peter’s elbow and pushed him gently towards the front door.

“Bye, Peter,” said Meg and Brid together smiling broadly at Tom’s consternation.

“Thanks for ...”

But the Terror’s gratitude was muffled by the door shutting.

The trip to the station was very different from the trip from the office. Both men had relaxed in their own way though Tom was a bemused by the description of Ethereal. However, Tom knew this was his last chance to get any nearer the truth of the situation with The Terror before reporting and suggesting a way forward.

He thought he ought to ease into the topic.

“Urr ... so how and what do you know about Ethereal, Peter?”

“Just that it’s one of the larger new media recruitment agencies that boasts that it has the best network of high profile management contacts,” he replied.

“Well, I’ve never heard of it! They seem a bit pushy especially coming through to my home,” Tom said guardedly.

“Lots of people find it difficult to talk about possible new jobs in an open plan office, so I suppose they try to find the best solution.” The Terror tried to sound offhand but failed.

“But I’m happy enough where I am. I actually like what I’m doing most of the time—if not all the people,” he tailed off thinking of Justin.

Peter glanced quickly at him but remained silent.

“I’m sorry I have to hark back to our previous conversation, Peter, but tomorrow I have to put forward my opinion on the situation and suggest anything that can help the project, the team and the team leader ... ”

“Yes, I appreciate your situation,” interrupted The Terror uncharacteristically, “and now I realise that you are the equivalent of the arbitrator, I should put my point of view or you won’t be able to weigh the perspectives.”

“Precisely!” uttered Tom in bewilderment.

“Meg made things very clear and explained my options under the circumstances ...” The Terror continued, “... how my sense of loyalty to the team and silence might be misconstrued into people thinking I’m holding up the project.”

“Yes, exactly!” Tom said amazed. “Meg! I might have known!” he thought.

“So here’s the situation from my point of view. If the members of the team only wanted and needed me to communicate at precise points and only about the state of the bits of the project I’m responsible for, then there’d be no difficulties about communication. I could convey that much at the scheduled meetings. But as soon as I’m in the building, I get asked lots of extra things to do with other people’s bits of the project and even other projects. I’m damned if I help and damned if I don’t.”

Peter to his credit just kept looking ahead but Tom glanced at him remembering the way he’d helped him out that afternoon.

“Yes, I see,” he mumbled encouragingly.

“So to catch-up with my own work, I have to be away from others ... and yes, I suppose my time-keeping has got pretty screwed up.”

“Is the project in danger?” Tom prompted gently.

The Terror took a deep breath.

“Yes and no. It can be pulled back.”

“Do you have a problem with Sue?” Tom felt a bit disloyal but had to understand as much as possible.

“No.” Peter sounded genuine enough.

“Why haven’t you talked this through with her?”

“I didn’t see that it was a big issue. I suppose she sort of tried a couple of times and I wasn’t clear what she was getting at ... but as I said, I would be damned by my colleagues if I tried to explain the work imbalance to management, and damned if I don’t by my management.”

“What would you do to pull the project back?” Tom asked thoughtfully.

“I’m sure I can achieve my bit if I can have a clear run at it. As to the others, you’ll have to ask them.” Peter’s tone changed and Tom got the impression that that was all the communication he’d get.

“Well, I’m glad you’ve explained your point of view. I can see where some of the difficulties have surfaced. I’ve no idea what to do about it yet but I’ll keep you informed on things,” Tom promised as they swung into the station.

“Thanks. Tell Brid I won’t forget the signed Crooze photo.” The Terror scrambled out of the car and with a half nod turned and headed towards the entrance.

“Phew!!!” Tom sighed “Now what! I didn’t really read the riot act on his time-keeping but I suppose I now have a few more bits of the jigsaw.”

Ah! The marking ... the morning ... the local paper ... and Tom’s double dilemma ! ... All this and more in the finality of the concluding episode of 'Life Bytes'. Tell your friends.

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Life Bytes is written by Santa Fe and Sanity Claus