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Matthew Arnold Stern

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Offline
by Matthew Arnold Stern   

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Category: 

Mainstream

Publisher:  Matthew Arnold Stern ISBN-10:  1411621336 Type: 
Pages: 

216

Copyright:  Jan 28, 2005
Fiction

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Offline at MatthewArnoldStern.com

Lucy Merriweather is a single mother trapped in a merger gone wrong. She has a staff who does not trust her, a boss with a hidden agenda, a coworker she is falling in love with, and Bartleby – the reclusive and enigmatic employee whose silence conceals a dangerous secret. And you thought you had a bad day at work. Offline takes you inside the computer industry for a tale of cutthroat office politics, romance, bad corporate fashion, and a woman's faith that is put to the ultimate challenge.


"How many of you are employees of CommuniLink?"

About half of the 275 people crammed into the lunchroom raised their hands. The man who asked the question, chief executive officer Hank Pauley, scowled from the lectern.

"How many of you are employees of Synergency Systems?"

A few wavering hands peeked above the still rows of heads. Hank’s scowl deepened.

Behind Hank, a row of vice presidents shifted in their chairs. One of them, a tall and lanky man with a helmet of stiff yellow-blond hair, sat rigid with his face in a grimace. A vice president next to him sneered, "I guess everybody didn’t get the e-mail." The tall man’s expression tightened.

Hank tried one more time. "Now, how many of you are employees of our brand new company, eUniLink?"

Most of the employees sprung to their feet and erupted into cheers.

Hank smiled broadly, as did most of the vice presidents seated behind him. The vice president with the stiff hair kept grimacing.

In the middle of the fourth row, Lucy Merriweather stood up with the group. She opened her mouth to join the cheer, but stopped. She looked around at those who weren’t standing, the same ones who raised their hands declaring themselves as CommuniLink employees. She sat down before the rest of the group finished cheering.

Hank’s voice lifted with enthusiasm. "I want to share with you our vision of our unified company. This merger isn’t just a bringing together of two companies, Synergency Systems and CommuniLink. It represents a new genesis, leveraging our individual strengths to synergize into a new paradigm that will empower us to reach the top of our industry."

Lucy barely listened to Hank’s words. The energy of the room disturbed her. Those who had cheered the new name of the company listened to Hank attentively. Those who didn’t sat sullen and silent. She also found herself disturbed by the vice president with the stiff hair and tight expression.

A man next to Lucy slumped his head forward and went to sleep.

"I want to assure you," Hank continued, "That the former Synergency Systems and the former CommuniLink will be equal partners in our new organization."

A woman in front of Lucy whispered to her neighbor, "If we’re equal partners with Synergency, why does he say their name first?"

"And I also want to assure you that there will be no layoffs."

Most responded to Hank’s announcement with muffled cheers or relieved sighs. The former CommuniLink employees remained silent.

Hank finished his speech. "We want to make eUniLink a world-class place for everyone to work, where you are all respected, and where you have the opportunity to do your best. Working together, we can make our new company a tremendous success."

Again, the audience was divided in their response. Most exploded in enthusiastic applause. The hostile ones remained silent. But everyone left the lunchroom as quickly as the narrow rows of seats and the two sets of double doors would let them.

Lucy stayed, watching the mass of people fleeing around her. She picked out pieces of conversations. One woman talked about her lunch plans. A man talked about how he repainted a bathroom over the weekend. She caught a tiny bit of "What kind of idiots do they think we –" before the person dissolved into the crowd.

She leaned back as the Facilities crew coiled the speaker cable and started folding the chairs.

When I accepted this transfer to southern California, they didn’t tell me things were like this. What did I get myself into?


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