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Not Quite Alone At Christmas

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11 pages9 minutes

Summary

I'm a software engineer and a damn good one. I have been working very hard to get a job done. The job is for a military client and is very important to at least the Commanding Officer at a nearby military base.
The Commanding Officer told my management, “If Jason can get the current program delivered and it meets spec, Jason will handle my computer programming, as long as I'm here.”
My management told that me the job I was working on was really important and that I should give it my best effort.
(I always give my work my best effort, and my management knows that. However, they didn't see fit to tell me of the importance of the work. The Vice President's Secretary told me of the CO's dictum, in private.)
The job that I'm working on is basically impossible. A bankrupt company has delivered (more like abandoned) a computer and a suite of equipment. The computer is supposedly a very high powered unit and will solve a lot of problems, if it can be programmed. However, there's no documentation for the machine and the government has decreed, “Generate a useful demo and we will manufacture the machine ourselves. Else we throw it away.”
I have managed to extract documentation from a very unlikely source and I'm well into the process of generating a spectacular demo. I have all of the peripheral devices talking, back and forth and I have taken a smallish flight simulation program and converted it for use in the new computer. A simulated combat aircraft flies across a display screen at very low altitude, pops up and delivers ordnance, then descends back to low altitude and escapes. The simulation is one that is used in a much larger, much more expensive computer and my demo looks even better than the same kind of thing in the larger computer. I'm gonna shine! The CO's gonna shine. The government is gonna get something out of what looked like a financial disaster.
On Christmas Eve, the CO gathers a number of high ranking military types in a computer lab and I run my demo program.
The response is very upbeat. The observers can't believe that a small, relatively inexpensive tactical computer could run such a simulation at such a speed.
After the demo, my management grudgingly promotes me to Project Manager, at a nice increase in salary! I also get my own team to manage.
Floating on air, because of my success, I wrap up the demo, go home, shave, shower up and put on fresh clothes. I have a date with Clarinda, down at the Flame.
The Flame is a local steak house and they have a Christmas Eve special. A lot of people will be there and I have a reservation for my date and me.
I try to call Clarinda, but all I get is her answering machine. The message says that she's out for the evening. I'm left with a feeling of unease. She should be waiting for me to pick her up.
I grab Clarinda's Christmas present and off I go. I drive by Clarinda's place, but it's dark.
I then drive down to the Flame.
I walk into a jam packed room, full of people waiting for a table to open up. I talk to the hostess and she tells me that it'll be at least an hour's wait.
I then see Clarinda coming from the direction of the ladies room I hold out my hand, but she walks by me as if I'm some sort of mendicant, begging for alms. I watch her go over to Handsome Henry and then turn and smirk back at me. I'm alone at Christmas.
I'm boiling inside and I'm about to leave, when Roy waves at me from a large table.

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