Chapter 9: First Performance Review

“I’m kinda nervous, Johnny,” Don told his friend after he returned from his nightly jog. “Tomorrow’s my first performance review. You know, I’ve never cared much how I do, but for some reason I want to stick this job out. I think I can do pretty well.”

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Johnny started to give advice but became distracted. He poured sugar into the taco casserole he was making. “You just never figured out what you’re really interested in,” Johnny finally said before staring off into space.

“You’ve been a little absent minded lately,” Don looked at Johnny and recognizing the dumb expression. “Have you met someone?”

Johnny blushed and confessed he was seeing one of his coworkers, and Don congratulated him. Things were definitely looking up for both of them. Don didn’t mind hearing Johnny talk about his love interest; it kept his mind off the impending review.

But Don needn’t have worried.

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“T-56742746, you’ve been doing a great job here,” the Assistant Director told him. “We are promoting you to ‘Apprentice Inventor.’ Take this,” she handed Don a small fob. “You will receive your instructions each day by looking at this,” she showed Don how the device worked. “Go back to the Greenhouse where T-4684 is waiting. T-4684 will train you.” The Assistant Director turned to her computer monitor, and Don knew his performance review had ended. 

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“Technician 4684?” Don approached a thin, dark-haired young woman. “I’m T-56742746 and am reporting for my new position.”

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“Glad to have you. Call me Cassandra, what’s your name? Unless you want me to call you T-56742746. And that’s fine. We are inclusive here at FSL.”

“No,” Don said smiling, “call me Don.”

“Nice to meet you, Don.” After the introduction, Cassandra began walking briskly. Don sensed she wasn’t interested in being so close to the cow plant. “Have you checked your TAD?”

Don had no idea what a “TAD” was — everything seemed to be an acronym at FSL –, so Cassandra explained. “The device the Assistant Director gave you. It’s a ‘Task Assignment Device.’ You need to keep it with you at all times. As you’ve figured out, you now have a higher security clearance.  Don had assumed so as he was able to enter doors that had previously been blocked.

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“This is amazing!” Don couldn’t help but feel extra happy and excited.

“Welcome to Lab 747,” Cassandra smiled. She was obviously proud of this place. “Why don’t you watch while I finish sequencing this serum, and then you can go get acquainted with SAL 7090.”

Don learned that Cassandra had perfected a line of serums. “This is a synthetic food serum. I just need to finish this one step.” Don watched, fascinated, and when Cassandra asked if he’d try the serum, he was shocked to hear himself agreeing.

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“Now, let’s introduce you to SAL,” she said, entering the results in her e-notebook. “Let me know when you feel hungry again.”

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SAL seemed to take immediately to Don, and the two spent the rest of the afternoon working together. “I am really liking this place,” Don thought. “Maybe I’m finally settling down, although I do need to find my own place. Nobody else around here sleeps on their best friend’s couch.”

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