I was a bit wary, but I told Vikram I was interested in working for him. he asked me for a resume to show the others in the company, which concerned me a bit. you don't offer someone a job and then ask for a resume in any reality that I had previously been a party to.
Chucky hadn't started working yet for them yet, although they had offered him a job. He had his own reservations about them.
I continued to work for Outerlink. My productivity fell and I became worried that somebody would notice, but then nobody else seemed to be producing much, either. Chop and the Butcher were both working on large projects that had blown out their timelines. We kept having the same arguments about the architecture for the new system.
Vikram, meanwhile, drip-fed me information about Sonar Security. The company was run by a group of PhDs from around Australia and in the States. This again set of alarm bells, but I reminded myself that Harj had been a PhD and he'd been great. Still, it seemed to me that Chucky and I were the only people who had commercial experience, and that we would be doing the bulk of the work (Vikram was going to chip in 'a bit' as well) while the rest of the guys published papers and took all the credit. Still... Outerlink was boring.
Vikram was also hedging about the office. There was one, he claimed, located far outside of the CBD, but he wouldn't give me the address and he could never quite manage to set up a meeting for me there. This did not stop him from ringing me up and saying "So, can you start on Monday?" I hadn't seen a contract and we hadn't even spoken about salary.
I wrote to Chucky in Florida, who had independently decided that Sonar were a bunch of lunatics. He sent them a note to say that he was out, and I did the same. Arune was stunned, shocked and puzzled by this. "That is so weird, both of you guys backing out at the same time."
The drudgery continued. Most of the upstairs crew used to eat lunch in the office between 12:00 and 12:30pm, but a growing group of us would head out to a local strip mall in search of food. Because there was almost nowhere in walking distance, this made lunch a bit of a mission, so we would take a full hour and work back until 5:30 to make up for the lost half an hour. Most of us did this anyway. These lunch missions soon drew the ire of management: apparently, Downstairs had seen us taking these long lunchbreaks and grown resentful. This despite the fact that we were making up our hours... and then some. We were on salary and they were paid hourly; nobody upstairs ever got paid overtime. We were instructed not to take any more hour lunches.
Of course we laughed at that, and the very next day (a Friday) we took an hour and a half. That afternoon we were each called into the manager's office and individually dressed-down. I just stood there and took it, even though I distinctly remembered being told that work hours were reasonably flexible when I had started, only a few months prior. After that everybody was scrupulous about taking half an hour for lunch... and about leaving at 5pm on the dot. Nobody was going to work unpaid overtime after that.
Petty as that was, I felt like I was going to die. I felt as if the hours of my life were being prized out of me with tweezers, one by one.
It was about then that I received an email from another old acquaintance from Florida: Jacob Derrick. He had been made the CTO of a Swedish rival of the place where we had previously worked together. Jacob said: "Hey Pike, you remember that neural network project we talked about last year? If you still want to do it, I'd love to have you come work for me."
When I told him I was interested, he asked me for a resume to show to the others in the company.