Dear Red Cross

Dear Red Cross,

My name is Dr. Malcolm Moore and I recently received a button for my 300th blood donation. I am now a frail old man at the age of seventy-six, but I began donating when I was only thirty years old. I was fresh out of graduate school and received my doctorate in neuroscience, specializing in hematology and how different chemicals are transported to and from the brain. My research was concerning the transportation of nanoparticles across the blood-brain barrier. After four years in graduate school, I was able to get past across that barrier. Then, during a postdoctoral research position, I began to develop different chemicals and nanoparticles that I could get into the brain. All of these studies were on mice, of course, but everything worked well beyond expectations.

I then developed a cocktail of molecules into a nanoparticle that would find its way to parts of the brain to help with memory and learning. It was a revolutionary idea. I thought I would change the world. After more time, I figured out how to make it self-replicating once it was in blood and ensure it would not be attacked by white blood cells. After a single injection into a mouse, it would learn puzzles remarkably quicker than mice without the enhancement.

After finishing my post-doc work, I tried to further develop this idea into something people could utilize. I pushed for clinical trials with the FDA but they were afraid. They said it was ridiculous and could never work. I had a few samples saved from my research and used them on my pets. My dog, Ehrlich, could have been a show dog with all the tricks he learned. I decided it was time to give myself the enhancement. I injected myself with it and within a day I noticed the differences. The most immediate change was that I could read a book with almost perfect retention. I could slide my eye down a page of words and understand everything.

I eventually began to study economics, mathematics, physics, chemistry, linguists, everything I found even remotely interesting. Difficult concepts came easily to me. I was able to make connections between things I read in the news and began making money in the stock trade. I studied different languages and used my money to travel to those countries in which they were spoken, where I would become fluent in mere months.

You might wonder why I am telling you all of this. I wanted other people to have this enhancement. I wanted to share my new abilities and improve the world like I originally dreamt of doing in college. Knowing I would not be able to convince the FDA to allow clinical trials, I began to look elsewhere and realized blood donations would be the best way to spread this. I spent months going over the morality of spreading something without the consent of patients, but knew it would be to improve the world. It didn’t take too long for me to figure out the screening process the Red Cross uses when they accept blood donations and alter conditions so that my blood would pass.

It was at the age of thirty that I gave my first donation. I remember how nervous I was sitting in that church waiting to be called up. I thought I would be turned away for how high my blood pressure must have been. I contemplated calling and confessing that night, but never did until now. I continued to donate every fifty-six days for forty years. Three-hundred donations. I have no idea how many people have my enhancement in them or how they are doing. They might think it was a miracle or side-effect of whatever caused them to need a blood transfusion in the first place, maybe even one or two think they became a superhero.

I planned on taking this to my death, leaving only my research notes for people to find, but I have reasons for confessing this now. Over the last few months I have begun having horrible headaches and my vision has begun to fade. I do not know if it is from my enhancements, but I feel the need to investigate. I urge you to try and compile a list of people that have been given my blood and reach out to them and interview them concerning their health. I hope that I can be involved in that to further develop my ideas, but I understand that that is unlikely. If anything, I ask that you do not immediately dismiss these ideas and consider the possibility that my donations have been for the good of those that have received them. I have documented all my research and thoughts regarding these enhancements incase further research and possible further implementation is sought.

I also feel the need to thank you for the service you provide to those that need blood to survive. The Red Cross has saved countless lives and surely will continue to save countless more.

Sincerely,

Dr. Malcolm Moore

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The Life Machine – 1

People don’t look too deeply into a death when it was obviously a heart attack. Hospitals won’t do blood-work and check a dead person’s potassium levels unless someone thinks they need to. Ian knew this, and used it to his advantage. Everything started in college, when Ian and a few buddies started talking about and working on what became the life machine. The idea of the machine was that people would have a small port someone on their body, usually on a rib, that they could use to connect to the machine. The machine then would take a small blood sample from them and check all their vitamin and blood levels, then slowly feed them everything they need to be at a healthy level. The entire process would take about four hours, and most people would do it while they slept.
Ian developed the original software for the machine, but had a very different business philosophy from his friends. He felt that they should aim for an altruistic business model, and work with charity groups to get this machine to the poor and people that truly needed this. Everyone else disagreed. They saw this as a way to get rich, and marketed it as a symbol of wealth. They kicked Ian out of the group as soon as his software was developed enough for them to take it over. Over the next few years, he followed the company’s news and saw them pass clinical trials. Five years later, the business was exactly what they had envisioned: Only the wealthy could afford this machine that allowed them wake up every morning feeling like they were reborn.
Ian saw his old friends boast about their successful company on the news, bragging that their life machine will let people live longer and stay healthier. They never mentioned how large their profit margins were and how they purposely kept prices too high for hospitals to justify buying them. They had strong patents to ensure no one else could make anything even remotely similar. Ian tried to ignore all this news, he was a successful software engineer for a major company now. He was happy, he had a wife and was expecting his first son in a couple months.
It was a rainy Tuesday morning, Ian had the news on while he ate his breakfast before work. Perfect Life, the company that made the life machine, was on the news. This wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, they were still new and exciting. This morning, however, it was a different tone coming from the news anchor’s mouth. She was angry and insulting Better Life, calling them careless and irresponsible. He started paying more attention and looking more into it on his computer. He found that the leader of a major drug and human trafficking cartel, El Aguila, owned a couple life machines. One of the problems with the life machine was how slow it was to produce them due to how careful and precise they were with development, making it appear Perfect Life was at fault for allowing El Aguila owning some.
This was the first time he was angry about his old business venture in a long time. He was certain they worked with El Aguila to make some easy money and reach a new breed of customer. He couldn’t stop thinking about it during work that day. When he got home, he began going through some of his code for the life machine, hoping to find some bug or problem that he could whistleblow about to bring down Perfect Life. He stumbled across a part of the code that he forgot about. All the life machines were part of a network and checked their own fluid levels to alert the company when a machine would need refills or repairs. He included it as a way for the company to always be ready to help a customer. He also included a backdoor for getting into the network to check for any problems. He thought they must have taken the backdoor out by now, or changed the network, but he tried anyways.
Ian found that they did not take out the backdoor, or do anything to stop him or anyone else from getting into the network if they knew how. He thought about reporting this as a security threat, since anyone would be able to break into their network. He began looking at what an intruder could actually do though, since the network was set up primarily to monitor the machines and make sure everything was running smooth. He found that they did make a major change since he worked on it – they allowed updates and changes to specific machines. This was probably a way for them to charge people with the life machine even more money for upgrades, but it was still a major security threat. He looked more into this, and found that customer information was not encrypted on the network. Everyone’s name was in plain English with their location and some other sensitive information. Surely enough, El Aguila was on the list. He must not have wanted to give them his real name.
Ian’s wife, Elizabeth, was a dietitian. He rarely talked to her about his past with Perfect Life, but he started talking to her about what would happen if people overdosed on different vitamins. She told him about potassium, and that an overdose could be fatal and would just look like a normal heart attack. They talked more that day about other vitamins, and about how careful people need to be when taking vitamin supplements that they don’t take too much of anything. He didn’t mention that he was able to get into Perfect Life’s network. He didn’t mention this because he planned to change El Aguila’s life machine programming. That night, he altered the software to give five time the lethal dose of potassium and pushed the update to El Aguila’s three life machines. On the Thursday morning news, they were reporting that El Aguila had a heart attack in his sleep and died. Ian didn’t feel great about what he had done, but he wanted people to look more into the life machine. When the news didn’t even mention the possibility of it being the life machine that caused his death, he was annoyed. He wanted Perfect Life to receive this blame.

Quicksilver Tubes

“Please Daniel, we have work to do. I just picked a basket of mushrooms for the market. I need help sorting and weighing them,” Hans said to Daniel, a sixteen year old boy playing with some quicksilver. They were outside of a small store in Amsterdam in the summer of 1702. Hans was holding a basket full of mushrooms varying in size and shape, still covered in dirt. He owned the shop, which sold everything from blankets made in Tilburg to cabbage he bought from local farmers. Today, however, he woke up early and went mushroom hunting in the forest and found several morsels that he knew people would be excited to buy. Daniel was his nephew, his parents died a year earlier from accidentally eating poisonous mushrooms, so Hans took him in to train him as a merchant.

He looked up from the cup of quicksilver he was playing with and said “Is there anything else I can help with, Onkle Hans? I’ll go dust off the blankets and prepare the store for opening.” He began to get up and walk to the store, when he noticed a thin clear tube in his uncle’s basket. “What’s that?” He asked him.

“I think a witch dropped it. I’ll let you have it if you help me with these mushrooms.” He was going to give it to him regardless of if Daniel helped clean and sort the mushrooms. He knew Daniel was still sad about his parents and felt bad. He picked up the tube, which was made of glass and as thin as an earthworm and handed it to Daniel. He started walking into the store without Daniel, knowing he would be preparing the mushrooms on his own. Before walking in, he saw Daniel pour his quicksilver into the tube.

“I’ll be in to help you in a moment, Onkle Hans.” He picked up a piece of clay from the ground and stuck it to the top of the tube, keeping the quicksilver in and walked into the store. He did end up helping his uncle Hans clean and sort the mushrooms. He squeezed each one to make sure it didn’t turn blue, thinking this meant it was poisonous and what killed his parents. After they set up the mushrooms and set up everything else in the store, he sat down on one of the chairs for sale and said, “Onkle Hans, do you think quicksilver could help clean mushrooms from their poison? I’ve heard it can be used to cure disease and pull toxins from peoples’ bodies. Maybe we can make sure no one will die from accidentally eating poisonous mushrooms again.” He was playing with the tube, watching the quicksilver flow inside of it.

“I’m not sure Daniel, I think a lot of that talk is just old wive’s tales. If you would like, maybe we can test it with a small piece of a poisonous mushroom. If you only eat a small piece then you will vomit, but still survive. Next time I go on a mushroom hunt, I will bring a bad one back so we can try it.”

“Oh, I’m not sure. I don’t think I want to risk either of us getting sick or worse.” He gripped the tube and noticed the quicksilver expanded. When he let go, it compress back to its original size. “Onkle Hans, look at this.” He demonstrated what he just discovered. His uncle was just as amazed as him.

“How interesting, maybe the quicksilver is afraid of the dark.” He chuckled to himself, knowing that was ridiculous and with no real guess as to what was actually causing it.

Daniel carefully squeezed part of the tube to make sure he wasn’t compressing the actual tube, and found that it was solid as a rock. “Maybe my hand is heating up the quicksilver and causing it to grow. Do you mind if I go to the river and see what happens when I put it in cold water, Onkly Hans?” He was getting excited and already beginning to get up to leave.

“I should be able to handle the store on my own, Daniel. Come back as soon as you discover what is causing this.”

Daniel walked to the nearby river and discovered exactly what he expected. The quicksilver shrank in the cold water. On his way back to the shop, he stopped at a blacksmith to discover that the quicksilver grew from heated coals. He burst into his uncle’s shop, scaring his uncle and a customer looking at the mushrooms. “Onkle Hans, it works! The quicksilver grows from heat and shrinks when it’s cold. We need more of these tubes, I need to make sure this tube isn’t magic from the witch that lost it.” His uncle finished helping the customer, then agreed to invest in Daniel’s curiosities. Within a couple months, Daniel and his uncle Hans began selling these. At first they were calling them Daniel Quicksilver Tubes. Eventually, they worked together on a better design, now with a glass reservoir at the bottom to hold the quicksilver. Eventually, they agreed that they worked together equally since Hans funded the research, so they decided to use their last name for the new name: Fahrenheit. Before long, everyone in Amsterdam owned a Fahrenheit Tube and used it for everything from tracking their body temperature to perfecting the art of baking bread.

Morning Routine

I think mornings really start with the night before. Go to bed late, wake up groggy. Go to bed early, wake up froggy. That’s what my grandma always said, anyways. I always try to take that advice and make it part of my morning routine to wake up well-rested and ready for the day. I’ve never really stayed in one place for too long, ever since I was young and my family moved around a lot for my dad’s work. I think he did something with the government or military, he never really talked about work. I still find myself moving around a lot, I guess you could say it’s for work too. I mostly travel the world trading and selling small, precious things like jewelry or carved jade figurines. I really enjoy the travel, I like to write about forests I explore and adventures on mountains or caves. I usually travel alone, but I’ve made many friends over the years that I talk to whenever I have the opportunity. No matter where I am, I always start my morning with a nice cup of tea.

I think my grandma got me into the habit of morning tea. I think she was a bit of a morning person now that I’m thinking about it. I don’t care too much what type of tea, but I usually prefer oolang, there’s just something relaxing about it. Tea is easy too, all you need is hot water. I’ve heated my water using everything from a campfire to a hole in a volcano to an electric kettle in a motel. I usually just sit wherever I can and stare out a window, or into across a foggy plain while I drink my tea. I don’t usually think about too much either, just drink it in peace and let the morning soak into my still-awakening brain. This is usually the calmest part of my day. It’s likely the only time of the day when I entirely turn my thoughts off and just be part of everything around me, letting everything take its course without me thinking about or questioning the reason.

The next part of my morning really depends on where I am, but the idea is always the same. I try to learn or absorb something about where I am on that particular morning. If I’m in a town or city, I’ll usually try to find a newspaper and read whatever exciting thing has happened to the people living around me. If I’m camping in some woods, I’ll walk around a bit and look for any signs of animals that may have walked around while I slept. Or if I’m on a beach, I usually just find myself staring across the ocean some more and think about where I am and where I want to go next. There’s something meditative about staring across an ocean. Maybe it’s the constant rolling waves that are easy to get lost in or the massive size and all the life inside of it. If I’m with any other people, I usually use this time to talk to them and learn about their life and what brought us together. Usually one of the most interesting part of travelling is the people you meet and the stories they have to share. It’s almost like getting an entire nother journey just by talking to someone and experiencing everything vicariously through their words.

The next part of my morning routine is what really keeps me young. Stretching and exercise. I do my stretches starting at my toes, then slowly move up my body doing any stretch I know for each muscle that is next in line. This usually take about twenty minutes, and my body is always happy and ready after. I try to do some type of cardio next like going for a jog or climbing a big hill until I’m tired. I think this usually takes about a half hour. I think this part of my morning is really what has kept my body at least twenty years younger than the rest of me. I sometimes try to do some strength exercise like push-ups or pull-ups or squats, but those are more rare than I’d like.

The last part of what I can probably call my morning routine is planning for my day and planning where I’m going next. The details of this are always different but the idea is always the same.Look at the forest instead of the trees. Most of the time, I have an idea of what I’ll be doing each day from how the days before were. I know if I have something I think will sell at a nearby town or if there’s some place I want to visit soon. The world is moving though, so my immediate plans are always changing too. The biggest thing that changes plans is the weather. Can’t go kayaking down a river if the wind is blowing too hard. This part of my morning usually involves maps with red marker lines all over. Lines with arrows showing where I came from, where I want to go, what to avoid, and any tips people have told me that I think are important. Twenty years ago, when I started travelling like I do now, this was the best part of the day. I loved planning and getting excited for the day. Now, I’d love to just live entirely spontaneously and go where the river flows or where the sidewalk leads. But I’m old and wise now, and know that rivers just end up in the ocean and sidewalks to town hall. This is also the time that I think about what stuff I have, and if there’s anything I need. Occasionally I’ll need a new notebook or pens and need to figure out where the closest Walmart is so I can buy some more. The closest Walmart usually isn’t actually that close, so planning far enough ahead is a skill I learned pretty quick.

I suppose I lied, there is always one more part of my routine that I always need to do. The last part of any morning, no matter where I am, is packing up and leaving to wherever my destination is that day. I check to make sure I have everything in my backpack that I need. I clean up wherever I slept the night before and make sure I didn’t leave anything behind. I make sure I have my bus pass, or flight ticket, or money to rent a bike. This is always an exciting part of the day, and I never can help but smile when I start walking away from where I slept the night before and to wherever I’ll sleep the next night and start my morning routine once again.

Hungry Crows

It started as just a cute idea for picking up litter. Train crows to pick up cigarette butts and put them in a container in exchange for food. Basic Pavlov training. It was working pretty good too, I never realized how smart crows are. Every day I would go for walks around the city and see crows walking around looking for butts on the ground, and you could see their excitement when they found one. They’d sometimes do a little wing flap or stop hopping to the cigarette. One day, they figured they could grab cigarettes right out of people’s hands or mouths and fly away. People would be having their morning smoke and get attacked by crows, but this was solved pretty quickly by making sure the machine that gave them food only accepted the smaller butts and not an entire cigarette. The crows were smart and realized they weren’t getting food for ones people were holding, so went back to picking them up from the ground.

Someone smarter than me realized how smart crows are and how to train them. He started a small business in my town, aimed at helping people that want to stop smoking by using these crows. I’m not sure about all the details, but he somehow trained a group of crows to know who they can steal cigarettes from. It was a cheap service, only fifteen dollars a month. I started it two weeks ago and I’m wishing I never started. I didn’t realize there wasn’t a way to back out of this, a way to stop the crows.

After signing up, it took about a week for him to train the crows to know me. The first couple days were actually funny. I noticed a group of crows always around me somewhere, whether it be sitting on a power line or in a tree or on a roof, but they were always somewhere close and watching. My very first cigarette was to test these crows, I took it out of a fresh pack and a crow grabbed it out of my hand before I could even get it to my mouth. These crows were ready and fast, but I was most surprised by their precision. Like a hawk grabbing a field mouse. I admit I was amazed and excited for this. I had been trying to stop smoking for years at this point, and this finally seemed like it would work. Every time I tried to smoke, a crow would come and grab it, only rarely even brushing my hand or any other part of my body.

The only part I hated during that first week was when I was inside my house, especially at night. I could always look out a window and see the crows sitting somewhere close, watching me. I never smoked inside before this, but I was curious what would happen if I tried. I took out a cigarette and about a dozen crows went wild. They start squaking and tapping on every window that they could see me from until I put the cigarette away. Just as effective as stealing them from my hand. During one of the nights, I got out of bed and accidentally looked out of my bedroom window. My window sill was covered in crows staring at me. I knew they weren’t going to get in, but just the idea of being watched all night gave me chills.

I think I’m starting to get over the hump now at least. I’m having less urges to smoke, but I’ve been miserable. It doesn’t feel like it’s my decision to stop anymore, I just want my freedom to smoke back. Imagine if you were trying to stop eating red meats, so you hired a person to smack a burger or steak out from in front of you anytime you were about to eat. That’s how I feel. I just want a cigarette. I tried calling the guy that trains them and told him I want to stop the program, but he explained that it’s out of his hands at this point. The crows want their food and don’t care about what I want, they just stare at me with their dark eyes waiting for me to bring out another ticket for their food. I’ve even tried driving far away, but I can see them following my car in my mirrors. I just wonder how long these crows will follow me without me trying to smoke until they give up. The trainer said he wasn’t sure how long it would be either, but all the other people in the program have been getting followed still even though they stopped smoking a month ago. I just hope they give up soon.

An original Jesus

“Is that it? That’s the chair that people are paying ten dollars to come and see?” Brad was looking through a thick bullet-proof glass in a museum at a simple wooden chair. The chair was about two-thousand years old and made of a light dogwood. Its legs were square and almost level, you could tell there would be a little wobble if you leaned while sitting on it. The seat was just a flat, square of wood a couple inches thick and that was it. No back.

“I wouldn’t even call that a chair. It’s a stool, really. I heard this place paid millions for it.” Brad was talking to his girlfriend, Joy, as they walked out of the museum past a long line of people laughing and talking about the Jesus chair. “How can they even be sure Jesus made that stool. I know the lady said they carbon dated it and they got it from some auction from a family that said it was passed down their family, but how can they be sure?”

Joy responded, “Well they can’t be a hundred percent sure about anything in museums I don’t think. Some people even think the Mona Lisa is a fake now. I think there’s a good chance of it being a Jesus original.” She raised her voice a bit and waved her fingers when she said Jesus original. That phrase, Jesus original, was being blasted on the radio and news for the last month, since the museum bought the chair. “And all the experts are saying it has the signs of being made right when Jesus was a teenager and probably just spending his day making chairs and other wood stuff. Sure, there’s no way we can be certain it’s definitely a Jesus original”, putting emphasis on that phrase again, “but I think it’d be pretty neat if it is.” She was smirking and laughing at her impression of the phrase.

“I guess it would be cool. I heard they spent five million dollars on it. Lucky day for that family, they must be filthy rich now”

“I heard it was an estate sale. Last living member of the family. I’m not sure who gets that money, probably Nazereth. Nazereth is still a city, right? I wonder if there’s any other stuff Jesus touched still laying around. We could go there and start selling rocks that Jesus probably touched for a hundred dollars each. Everyone will want a Jesus rock!”

Brad laughed with Joy. “Or better yet, lets find an old hammer and say it was his favorite hammer. We could be millionaires!”

Try to Look Busy

My plaque for my ten year anniversary working here looks a little crooked, I should fix that. It’s still crazy to think I’ve been working here for so long already. It felt like it was only a month ago when I started as a night stocker at one of the stores. I was only sixteen when I started, what other twenty-six year olds already have ten years with a company? I remember my first day of work when my manager, Marvin Frank, told me to just be careful not to break anything and I’ll be fine. He was quite a stocky man, he looked like George Costanza but with a bad combover and a smokers cough. He was nice, and I learned how to look busy and get all my work done early in my shift during that job. We were open 24 hours, but never really had many customers while I was working, usually just weirdos that were buying cough medicine at three in the morning. I usually started my shift at eleven, and already had everything inventoried and stocked by two. Then, I would just walk around the store looking at everything we have while holding a clipboard until I left at seven. I usually would play a game with myself where I would guess the ingredients of different products. I never minded the night shift, I had problems sleeping anyways and I only worked until three on school nights. I could even do homework on days that Marvin wasn’t there, which became more frequent further into the two years I worked that job.

I remember once Marvin said “You’re the best night shifter I’ve ever worked with, and I’ve been working here for a long time. I swear, this position just attracts lazy weirdos.” I remember thanking him and then talking more about past employees and what made him think they were bad. I realized that they weren’t actually bad employees and always got the work done, but they would usually just watch TV in the back or talk on the phone until the end of the shift, and this looked like they were wasting time. Maybe he didn’t realize how little work there actually was for the night stockers, and lord knows I wasn’t about to break the news to him, but the only difference that made me the “best night shifter” was that I tried to look busy when I wasn’t actually doing anything.

I did a lot of programming in high school in my free time, mostly just as a hobby. I wrote a few programs that helped to do my math homework and something to help me organize notes for other homework. I had accepted an invitation to attend some smaller university, nothing too renowned, but good enough. My night shift stocking didn’t get me any scholarships, and I wasn’t really sure what I even wanted to go to college for at that point. I thought about going for computer science because I did it as a hobby, but wasn’t too passionate about it. I ended up changing my mind about going at all that summer after high school, and I’m glad I made that decision. I had a lot of college graduates working in my first office that were only a couple years younger than me but won’t move up to a position like mine probably ever, and a lot of them thought they knew everything when they really don’t know anything outside of a textbook. Anyways, I remember talking to Marvin about my decision, and he got pretty excited about it surprisingly. He said he decided it was time for him to retire, even though I’m sure he had no retirement plan and didn’t look old enough to retire, and he wanted me to be the new night manager. I was less excited. I felt a little bad telling him I wanted to try something new, something more corporate.

Long story short, Marvin helped me talk to the right people and I started in our corporate office as a data analyst. I was mostly just scrubbing data and preparing it for the real analysts. It didn’t take too long for me to write a few scripts that pretty much did my entire job in about an hour each day, leaving me with usually six or seven hours free. I always checked over what my scripts did to make sure they were exactly what my bosses wanted, and it only took a few iterations to fix all the little bugs. I was only three months into this new job and I already found a way to look more busy than I actually was. I figured out a way to read books on one of my computer monitors so it looked like I was doing my actual work while my actual work was sitting in a folder until 2:30 when another script would upload it somewhere and send an email to the right people to say it was done. It didn’t take long for my new supervisor, Bruce Armstrong, to notice and tell me to keep up the hard work. He was quite different than Marvin, he was tall and looked like he never missed a day at the gym. His back was always straight and he almost always had a smile on his face and you could usually hear him laughing about something. I liked him a lot, he was one of the nicest supervisors I’ve had, and he wasn’t afraid to call people out for not carrying their weight at work.

I got a few awards and promotions over the years, slowly moving up the ranks. I eventually ended up as the lead analyst in our office and making more money than I ever imagined I would at 24. I was still writing scripts to do all my work, and doing whatever I could to look busy during the six hours I had free during my work hours. I would use some of that time to work on other projects or help the other analysts with anything. Everyone liked me and thought I was the hardest worker at the office. Then, we hired a new IT guy, Mike. About six months after Mike was hired, I was called into Bruce’s office. I saw he wasn’t smiling and felt my hands starting to sweat.

“Oscar, we need to talk. Have a seat.” He walked over and closed the door behind me. I’ve never been in any type of trouble at work, I had no idea what was about to happen but knew it was bad. I could feel my heart beating and my toes flexing.

I opened my mouth to talk, and noticed it felt like I had cotton balls in it. I cleared my throat and finally said, “Is everything alright, Bruce? Was something wrong with one of my reports?” I knew there wasn’t since I spent an hour checking over the work my programs did. He walked back to his desk and did something on his computer that I couldn’t see.

“Mike, the new IT guy, installed a new corporate software that monitors a few things on peoples’ computers. It doesn’t read their emails or anything, but it checks what is running and for how long. Mike found something interesting on your computer and we’ve been watching it for a couple months now. I think you know what this is about.” Now my heart was really slamming in my chest and I was expecting this meeting to end with me packing my things from my office in a box and being escorted out. I didn’t even know what to say, there wasn’t any hope in lying or making a story. I never planned for being caught, maybe I should have given some thought in all my free time for how to handle this inevitable situation.

I decided I didn’t want to drag this conversation at all. “So what do you want to do about this?” I tried to sound bold but I know it came out sounding like I just ran a marathon.

“I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this. I told Mike not to tell anyone else, and I haven’t told anyone else either. How long have you been doing this?” That was a relief to hear. I caught my breath but was still scared. I decided it was best to stay honest for this conversation.

“I wrote my first script about three months after starting.” I remember Bruce raising his eyebrows as if he were impressed and caught a little off guard by that.

“I’m honestly impressed.” His face was lighting up, maybe my honesty was helping the situation. “Your work has been some of the best and most consistent since working here. I guess that makes sense since it’s not you actually doing it.” I wanted to defend myself for that last statement but knew it wouldn’t be a good idea. He started doing something on his computer again, and I had the impression he had more to say. After a moment, he looked back to me and said, “We want to open a new experimental office in Tahoma. I want you there.” I was taken back and made a confused face which Bruce immediately responded to by saying, “You probably weren’t expecting another promotion. This would be a promotion by the way. You essentially will be writing these programs to do data analytics like you’re doing now, but you won’t need to hide it. You will be the only analyst there, the aim is to cut back on data analysts by utilizing skills such as yours to get better, quicker, more consistent results. Give it some thought and let me know within a week.” I was speechless, but thanked him for the offer and said I would give it plenty of thought.

I knew the moment I walked out of his office that I was going to accept it, but needed time to process everything that happened. I admitted to doing nothing for most of my day for years, and I was rewarded with a major promotion leading an experimental new office. I didn’t believe him until I was signing an NDA in my new office in Tahoma. I still get paranoid about trying look busy for most of the day, but most of that time is researching automation and even more efficient ways to do these programs so I can have even more of my day to try and look busy.