He refused the offer.
Sixty thousand was nice, but every piece of logic Kyle could come up with said it wasn’t nice enough. He was convinced the spell was worth considerably more, sixty was only their opening offer, and he just didn’t want to let it out of his control. So he sent the most polite note he could up with to the email address in the letter and let them know he wasn’t interested in selling out for that amount. That was how he phrased it, not a flat “no”, he was willing to sell if they were willing to come up with enough cash. He wasn’t certain what “enough cash” was at that point, but if they had more high quality paper, and more lemon scent, he was willing to read more offers.
* * *
The next day, he got called into his boss’s office.
Kyle felt briefly nervous that he was in for some sort of bad news, but he suppressed it, it wasn’t all that odd to need to talk to the boss for some reason or other, after all. He assumed it had something to do with the whole Phil affair. Rumor had it they were still looking for a couple of people who had worked with him, and they were definitely questioning everyone to learn if anyone knew something useful.
That aside, Kyle had never been quite comfortable in Adam’s office. The reason for that was silly, so he kept it to himself not even telling Ketan, but upon reaching his door he was reminded of it again. Adam kept his office too nice. Kyle’s cube contained only his company supplied equipment, two photos: one of his parents, one of his sister, and a silly coffee mug. Adam had fought for a fully enclosed office, and been enough of a pain to get it. When he did he’d moved in like he considered it his own personal property. He had a refrigerator, a microwave, and a little couch. He’d put wooden slats up along the wall at regular intervals and hung various photos, framed certificates, and other junk on them. There were bookshelves against one wall, and a set of floor lamps. Kyle thought it was probably the lamp that annoyed him most. He understood wanting a little less light from overhead while you worked, but to hold conversations with people in a dark and cave-like environment seemed excessive somehow.
Obviously, he didn’t voice any of this. At least Adam had the overhead light on today, “Good afternoon.”
“Afternoon, close the door.”
Kyle closed it and, after a little hesitation, sat down on the couch. He immediately sank in so far he grabbed the arm in an attempt to keep his position moderately dignified.
“I expect you know why you’re here.”
“Well, the whole Phil thing, right? I’m afraid I don’t know all that much.”
He snorted, “Really? Because that’s not what everyone else is telling me. It seems like you should know quite a lot considering how much you’ve been talking with him lately.”
“Don’t play dumb, I’ve got at least a dozen people willing to go on record that around 6 months ago, when we first noticed unlicensed use of the suit of spells used by the carbon nanofiber manufacture project, you started to talk to Phil more than was required by your assignments. No one knows exactly what you talked about, because you kept your interaction’s private, but you talked.”
The accusation was so unexpected that Kyle had a hard time processing it. He sat there for a long moment just trying to work out what Adam was even saying. He was even more confused by the idea that other people were apparently corroborating it. He was silent long enough that Adam began to grow impatient and Kyle realized some sort of response was required when Adam began to drum his fingers on his desk. “I don’t know why anyone would say that. I don’t think I talked to him at all. Maybe I said hello in the break room, but…” He trailed off.
“At this time, we’re not claiming it was anything more than a casual interaction. Perhaps he was intentionally tricking you into giving up information you didn’t realize you weren’t suppose to share, so we haven’t submitted your name to the ongoing IP investigation, but that you spent a lot of time talking to him is not in doubt.”
Kyle shook his head. He would have stood, but the couch would have made that a struggle and he didn’t want to look undignified just then. Instead he tried to keep his voice cool and controlled. “I want to know who’s saying this. They’re making it up, and I want to know who’s doing it so I can tell you why.”
“All reports to me are strictly confidential. Besides it’s hardly as though this is your first discipline problem.”
“You have four current reprimands on your record. According to company policy you’ve been on probation for months now.”
Kyle felt a cold shock run down his body, it was like someone had stroked an ice-cube down his neck. He opened his mouth but wasn’t able to formulate a coherent thought. At length he managed, “You’ve got to have me confused with someone else.” Adam’s team wasn’t big enough that such a thing was actually possible, of course, but Kyle knew his record with the company was perfectly clean and he hadn’t been talking to Phil.
Adam was apparently prepared for that. He pulled a file off of his desk. “See for yourself.” Numbly Kyle picked it up and thumbed through it. It proved what he was saying. There were dozens of reprimands going back to his first week of employment. He’d been late, frequently, there were warnings for “disruptive” behavior, once he’d even been caught stealing office supplies. The documents were signed by his various bosses from over the years, in all cases his signature appeared next to them.
Kyle had been looking at the paper and missed something Adam said. Missed it firmly enough that he repeated himself then stopped to wait for his attention to come back. After a long moment Kyle looked back up. “This isn’t right.”
Adam leaned forward a bit, tilted his head a bit toward Kyle, and held his gaze for a moment. “This comes right from the top, from way above our heads, it’s been decided to terminate your employment. It wasn’t my call.”
What’s going on, Kyle thought, then he said much the same, “I don’t understand. Is this some sort of joke?”
“I’m afraid not,” Adam looked directly at Kyle, “this comes right from the top. We’ve cut you a check for your last two weeks, your accrued leave, your employee stock options, and the standard severance. This will be filed as a no fault termination”
“I have to,” Adam stressed ‘have to.’ “Mr Allen will escort you out.” He raised his voice, “Mr. Allen.”
The office door was opened by the security guard that sometimes worked the front desk after office hours. Allen was a big man, but he’d never looked intimidating before. Now his usual friendly smile was gone.
Together they walked to Kyle’s office where a couple of boxes were already waiting with his desk packed up. Whoever had done that had packed in a bunch of company owned office supplies, but he certainly wasn’t going to fight to leave them now.
Almost no one met his eyes on the way out the door. Ketan gave him a quick sympathetic glance, but the others ducked and dodged as though catching sight of him would change their career somehow, and then he was out on the sidewalk, unemployed.