The fire alarm went off. It was sudden and yet John had expected it, not because he had anything to do with it. No, John had expected it because his office was so dull and boring he had long ago learned that it would only hold that monotonous order for so long before the second law of thermodynamics took offense. In this instance it had manifested as a fire. As the sirens blared everyone kept working, no one was dumb enough to make a move before the manager did.
As if summoned by the thought alone, the manager burst out of his office a moment later screaming, “Everyone keep working! When I find out who failed to alert me to the fire drill today they’re fired.” Then as smoke seemed to collect on the ceiling, the sprinklers engaged and liters of water began to pour down soaking everything.
“Keep working you lazy bastards!” he screamed as water ruined his obscenely expensive suit. Almost simultaneously every computer on the floor shorted out, taking the lights with them. Some people screamed and ran for the stairs while others stared blankly at the manager for guidance.
“Nobody move! I’ll take care of this!” the now red faced manger growled as he stormed towards the elevators. He pounded the buttons repeatedly and swore at the closed steel doors. Finally he threw his hands in the air and headed to the stairs where he marched towards the executive offices on the top floor. As soon as he was out of sight most of us grabbed our possessions and headed for the stairs to escape. We made our way to ground level, three floors below, then across the now smoke filled lobby and safely outside.
We watched as the building burned and fire and rescue teams arrived. They went to search the building but were unable to enter as someone had overridden the system and locked the building down. The rescue team was yelling, “Please sir we can’t help if you don’t let us in” a muffled reply came but was inaudible to all more than a few feet from the entrance. “Sir, I promise we’re not here to steal your company secrets” more muffled replies. “No sir we actually make good money, none of us are interested in those plans. We just want to help get you to safety.”
After the human resources manager finished her head count we realized only our manager hadn’t made it out. The building burned, as the doors remained locked, and the fire crews did their best to contain the flames to what had once been our office.
I left after it collapsed in on itself, but not before making a phone call to our competitor. I told him we had just lost everything and that I was currently looking for work as an analyst. I hadn’t planned to call the number despite the lucrative offer but now I figured there wasn’t much left to lose. The woman on the otherwise of the phone seemed to hesitate at my offer given the news. I then remembered I had recently done a remote backup of my files to a flash drive after the IT guy restored my computer. He was supposed to erase the drive after the restore but I couldn’t recall him coming back after starting the restore. I had meant to drop the drive off to him but kept forgetting.
I mentioned the drive to her, unsure why I even brought it up. She went quiet, when she spoke again her voice was cheery and encouraging as she offered me an interview. The sole condition was that I would surrender the Valor Enterprises flash drive to them I agreed to their job offer. I nonchalantly said I would meet with them and decide then, even as my heart calmed from the jobless panic it had been building to.