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Printed from https://www.Writing.Com/view/2161914
Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2161914
Entry for the Writer's Cramp, ending 6/26
It wasn't a great job, but it was a job. At least, the paychecks usually cleared. It was a fly-by-night startup running on Chinese Takeout, Red Bull, and the occasional case of beer once the boss went home. We never did, though. We were hunched over keyboards late into the night listening to like Britney Spears and Taylor Swift over crackling speakers, because apparently the head architect never grew up. Of course, we'd ruin it by crashing and rolling back in at half-past ten or later the next day, only to do it again. We were going to put out the fastest RAM controller with unbreakable built-in encryption the government never asked for, and faster than Taiwan could spin an ASIC. At least, that was the plan. I was the new guy, fresh out of Senior year in a Community college with a C+ average (school bored me), and they were just as desperate as I was.

It was better than picking up and leaving the ass end of Iowa where my brothers could laugh at what I'd made of my fancy college education. And there was this girl, chestnut hair, wicked smile - but this isn't about her. After leading me own for a few months, she shacked up with an all-region linebacker. Suppose I can't blame her.

"Silicon Dream" had been foundering for years, but it was truly up a creek now. Which was a shame, because we were so close to getting our first serious chip out the door. I'd just uncovered a late bug in the controller - it wasn't compatible with the power saving modes the customers wanted, and it was going to take a good month of re-design to make it go. John was red in the face, yelling at me, yelling in his cheap headset at the client on the other end of the Skype call, and basically just losing it. Chris, the owner/architect, had his head in his hands because the client wanted the fix a week before yesterday, and wouldn't pony up the next stage of funding until we had it. Meanwhile, Chris's last round of paychecks had bounced, and Maya was shaking her head in frustration and disgust at the realization that the next round would too. Vijay just stared into the distance and picked his nose.

Suddenly, Chris shook his head and stood with a sigh, ragged black-and-silver pony-tail shining in the fluorescent light, in stark contrast to his red Grateful Dead shirt. "John, take a walk, and don't come back until you can leave that attitude behind. Don't worry, Dr. Sanders, we'll have that fix in a few weeks. Obviously, the delay is unfortunate, but we're still inside our worst-case estimate. You won't miss your market window. If there's nothing else, we'll speak again next week and we'll share our plan."

John leveled the architect a withering look and walked out the door. Maya shot her own disgust at him, and it came with a question: "We're not getting paid this month, are we?"

Chris lowered his eyes. "You'll get paid, in just a couple weeks, when they send the bonus. Look, we tape this chip out on time in a few months, and it's real money, almost a million dollars, with another contract on the line after. Most of that just goes against the debt, but after that our credit is clear again, and we're set. We just have to get over that hump. Please."

Vijay sniffed. "This project was supposed to be taped out already. Even for three months back, you were not paying what you promised. Why should I not just take a job at Qualcomm?"

I shrugged. After all, I was still staying with my parents until this whole thing got a little more stable. Not that my chestnut-haired darling was impressed with that. "I'm with you."

Chris smiled at the small victory and pulled a couple of twenties out of his wallet. "Look Joe, why don't you go pick up some grub at Yang's. Get the usual. I'll try to run down John. We'll fix this all when you get back."

We didn't, though. When I got back, Chris was standing alone, brown eyes watery. I'd never seen him so dejected. John hadn't come back - and everyone else was gone too. "It's over, Joe. There's nothing left."

"Nonsense," I said, after a long, deep, breath. "All the timing work is basically done, and I'm sure you can fix the power state machine. I'll just have to do the rest. No sweat."

The grateful smile he gave me was the most wonderful, beautiful, pathetic moment I've ever had with another man. "Yeah. Yeah, we can do that."

I'm a hard worker these days, but the next three months were the most difficult, most grueling, eye-reddening days and nights of my entire life. Everything hung on a knife's edge. The grant rep threatened to cancel the contract half a dozen times, and eventually halved the payout. But there was no sweeter moment` in the world than on the day we released that chip. Not even when I became of the CEO of "Silicon Dream", the richest and most prestigious custom nano-tech controller company in the world. Heh. They said it wouldn't last.
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