Working Stiffs (Opening of a near-future corporate noir tale)

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reiver33

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Working uniformed corporate security is 80% tedium, 20% embarrassment. Escorting some newly sh*t-canned suit from the building and watching them stand there on the sidewalk, clutching a box of personal effects, you could almost feel sorry for the blood-sucking scumbags. Almost.

HanaMed owned Inspiration Tower, on Oakhampton Plaza, and nightshift there was a breeze. I’d been teamed with Randal, a lanky social sciences major who needed a no-brainer job to see him though college without drowning in debt. We had this big curved desk set back in the foyer; swivel chairs, bank of CCTV monitors below counter level, panic button for the local Precinct. Throw in the complimentary coffee machine for suits waiting to see other suits and all-in-all it was a sweet deal, primo.

The surrounding business sector didn’t have any 24-hour trading floors anymore, so all we had to do was sit there, looking out through the three-quarter glass walls at sparse traffic and occasional street-cleaning wagons. Randal, he’d bring in his laptop and beaver away at some term paper while I, well, I just sat there. I’m one of those guys who doesn’t need a distraction during a shift – like TV, or YouTube, or even a book – I can simply look on. It’s one reason I used to pull endless sentry duty in the army, one reason why my nickname back then was ‘Rooty’. No worries.

Back in the day I’d occasionally take a turn around the building, but not now it was ‘smart’ – smarter than me, at any rate. You had to disarm the housekeeping systems to avoid tangling with cleaning robots or getting classified as a rodent infestation. There were sensors everywhere, including the service ducts and restrooms, so we had total surveillance, right here at our fingertips.

Chill city, man.

An alarm came on; top floor panel. Audio was muted, so Randal didn’t notice – too busy staring at his laptop. I tapped the screen, even though it was LED and not some bulb with a loose connection, but I’m old-school, with old habits.

Intruder alert, room 1313.

I punched it up on my monitor and the camera showed an executive office used by Adamson, Vice-president of Corporate Affairs. The blinds were open and in the soft background light of the city I could see there was no-one there. Even when I brought up the infrared overlay there were no hotspots, nothing.

Still…

I cleared my throat, but my partner was lost in his head, so reached over and jabbed him in the shoulder. “Randal, need you back in the here-and-now.”

“Huh?” He swung round, all different planet, then saw the alarm and frowned. “What’s that? It for real?”

“Could be, could be nothing. Either way we have to go check it out.” I stood up, settled my belt. “Got your nine?”

His hand reached for the holstered Glock on the shelf beside him, then paused. “Seriously, dude? I was paying attention during orientation and this place is a goddam fortress. We got banks back home with less security. Plus, that room sure looks empty – it’s gotta be a glitch.” He sniffed. “Send a remote.”

I shrugged. “Protocol. Human response required. I guess they figure if someone can mess with the cameras then a drone would be easy meat. Anyway, won’t take long.”

Randal stood up, wiped his mouth. “Then I say we call the cops. Wait till they get here and go in team-handed. Because if it’s for real, if it is some serious badass crew screwing with the system, then we’ll need backup.” He half-smiled. “And if it’s a glitch, hell, Metro won’t think any less of us. Face it, dude, to them we’re no better than mall cops with health care.”

OK, that irked me, I admit.

I lifted a flashlight from the alcove, checked it. “I’m senior, and I say we go take a look. Either stick that piece on your belt and follow me, or figure on re-joining the job market come tomorrow.”

He got to his feet, face like a clenched fist. “OK, OK, I’ll come watch you play hero. Just less of the John McCain, right?”

I turned and headed for the elevators, smiling to myself slightly at the comparison. Randal trailed behind, clipping the holster to his belt. The doors closed and we ascended in silence – the Muzak only ran nine-to-five – with him scowling at me in the mirrored panel while worrying on a hangnail.

We arrived on the thirteenth floor with a soft ‘ping’. The doors opened onto a plush corridor lit only by the exit sign above the stairwell. I’d left the environmental systems in ‘unoccupied’ mode, otherwise the uplighters would come on as they detected our presence – and I wanted whatever element of surprise was on offer. Housekeeping ran top-to-bottom and had long since cleared this, the executive sanctum, so we had the entire floor to ourselves. Hopefully.

We stepped out and stood for a moment, letting our eyes adjust. All the main corridors ended in full-length windows, so there was enough light to navigate without upending a water cooler. I led the way. The thick carpet deadened our footfalls, and neither of us was a heavy breather, so it felt more like a VR game with muted audio than real life.

Room 1313 took up the entire south-east corner, with commanding views over Downtown. I’d been there once when one of Adamson’s previous personal assistants overdosed on Prozac. Unfortunately, the décor meant we wouldn’t see any tell-tale light from under the door. I shifted the flashlight to my left hand and popped the safety tab on my holster. Randal drew his piece, holding it a two-handed stance probably copied from the TV, covering me as I reached for the door handle.

I nodded at Randal, he nodded at me.

Handle twist, barge in, step smartly to the left, flashlight on, right hand on the butt of my gun…

…and nothing.

An uncluttered desk in a chic office. I swept the beam over framed professional qualifications plus photographs of Adamson shaking hands with two former presidents and – bizarrely – the lead singer from Chrome Koran.

Randal let out a nervous laugh and lowered his gun. “Told you, man, nothing more than a glitch. Now, can we get back downstairs? I got another five-hundred words-”

My raised hand cut him off. I killed the flashlight and looked, really looked, at the city beyond the glass. The Godwin Building was topped by a translucent pyramid with blinking navigation lights at the four corners and apex. But I was certain, certain as the gun now in my hand, that the north face was under repair following a bird strike.

I stepped forward.

The world shimmered.

The man sitting behind the desk held a revolver aimed at my face. All I could make out was a thin face with receding hair swept straight back. The desk lamp turned his rimless glasses into two circles of green fire. When he smiled it was pure predator.

“Well, this is unfortunate. For you, I mean, officer Lehman. Also the man who assured me this projector was without flaw. It’s so difficult to find true craftmanship these days, don’t you think?”

I took that to be the glowing snowglobe on the blotter, sitting alongside a pad plugged into Adamson’s smartdesk. “Wrong picture, that’s all. You should have paid extra for real-time, not recorded.” I squared my shoulders. “I guess this is the bit where I tell you to come quietly?”

His smile widened. “And I counter with an obscene bribe to look the other way? Well, how about ten years salary in an off-shore account for both you and your cash-strapped partner? In return you open an external landline such that the security feed is subjected to some good, old-fashioned, hacking. Not my preferred option, as it always leaves a trace, but only if someone knows to goes looking. I walk away and all this…” He gestured around the room with his free hand, “…never happened.”

Now it was my turn to smile. “And, what, we take it on trust the money will be there?”

“Absolutely. This had to be a stealth op, zero trace, to justify the outlay. Anything else and my employers will be most displeased – and I certainly don’t intend to become a loose end they could well do without. I welch on the deal and you go running to corporate security, if only to secure a severance package. The data I’m here to gather is worthless should HanaMed learn it’s been compromised.”

For a long moment we stared at each other. “Well, I can’t speak for my partner-”

“Who can’t hear any of this – I did pay extra, but only for acoustic muffling.” He laid his gun on the blotter. “My name is Ghent, by the way.”

“And you’re Mister Screwed.” Randal spoke from right behind me. I felt his gun in my back. “Now it gets messy, dude. Now it gets messy.”
 

CTRandall

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Overall, I like it. Well written with a good hook to pull the reader in. Just a couple of quibbles:

First, the nickname "Rooty"--I don't get it
Second, Ghent is too chatty for someone on a stealth op. I can't see someone like that goving his name away so quickly.
 

reiver33

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Rooty - rooted to the spot

Ghent can be as expansive as he wants if there won’t be any witnesses...

My thanks for the feedback
 

Plucky Novice

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I found the first para pushed me away, rather than draw me in and once I'd read the whole excerpt I was none the wiser as to it's relevance - does it foreshadow something later perhaps?

Part of the problem there I think is that it takes a little while to get used to the voice which I grew to like during the passage. I'm withholding judgement on whether I could read a whole book written that way though. I think probably yes, as it'll come to feel more natural.

I'd like to see a bit more niggle between the security guards, I don't think they're supposed to be friendly but I'm not quite sure at the moment. That makes the hook at the end seem a little out of character. Also if you can raise the stakes a bit more that would make it all the better - perhaps the guard is on his last warning or hint at why HanaMed data is critical?

Overall I came to enjoy it. Nice job.
 

Star-child

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Little things:

I’d been teamed with Randal, a lanky social sciences major who needed a no-brainer job to see him though college without drowning in debt.
Why would a college student need 'no brainer' work? I would substitute "low rev" or something that sounds like the issue is the amount of work rather than the intellectual challenge.

“I’m senior, and I say we go take a look. Either stick that piece on your belt and follow me, or figure on re-joining the job market come tomorrow.”
Why would his co-worker have the ability to fire him? They both sound like zero-authority slackers, not supervisors. Is he implying their boss would fire him if they didn't check it out? If so, that isn't clear.

that the north face was under repair following a bird strike.
"Bird strike" is a term common to aircraft accidents, but strange talking about buildings. I don't think a bird can shatter commercial glass, and it might confuse readers. You could substitute some other reason the pyramid isn't lit.

For you, I mean, officer Lehman.
Isn't he a security guard?


“Well, I can’t speak for my partner-”

“Who can’t hear any of this – I did pay extra, but only for acoustic muffling.” He laid his gun on the blotter. “My name is Ghent, by the way.”

“And you’re Mister Screwed.” Randal spoke from right behind me
Is the acousting muffling not working?



Good writing, just some confusing details.
 

reiver33

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My thanks for the comments...

I went for ‘no brainer’ to indicate the lack of intellectual effort required, hence Randal has no demands on his concentration.

Yes, Lehman would put Randal ‘on report’ and their supervisor would can him - that could be made clear.

I’ve seen the effects of a flock impact on reinforced glass and it certainly warranted repair, but a more obvious cause wouldn’t detract from the narrative.

The uniformed security in a past job were referred to as ‘officers’ - I’m not sure what other title would be appropriate.

The acoustic muffler creates a barrier between local conversation and the outside. Randal has walked through both this and the ‘empty office’ projection to stick his gun in Lehman’s back.

Cheers!

Martin
 

Star-child

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My thanks for the comments...

I went for ‘no brainer’ to indicate the lack of intellectual effort required, hence Randal has no demands on his concentration.

Yes, Lehman would put Randal ‘on report’ and their supervisor would can him - that could be made clear.

I’ve seen the effects of a flock impact on reinforced glass and it certainly warranted repair, but a more obvious cause wouldn’t detract from the narrative.

The uniformed security in a past job were referred to as ‘officers’ - I’m not sure what other title would be appropriate.

The acoustic muffler creates a barrier between local conversation and the outside. Randal has walked through both this and the ‘empty office’ projection to stick his gun in Lehman’s back.

Cheers!

Martin
Those are all reasonable explanations, but if I was asking what's going on other readers might find that confusing, too. Why would Lehman, a sort of slacker, threaten to get his coworker fired? Is he actually a prig? Why does Randal jump into the conversation if he hasn't been able to hear? The logic of some of that could be clearer is what I was getting at.
 

reiver33

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Not sure why you’d class Lehman a slacker, in my head he can simply sit for long periods without fidgeting or needing a distraction.

Randal appears at the end as he’s the proverbial ‘inside man’...
 

Star-child

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Not sure why you’d class Lehman a slacker, in my head he can simply sit for long periods without fidgeting or needing a distraction.
Because he talks like a skateboarder rather than a cop or soldier, and enjoys stealing executive coffee.

Randal appears at the end as he’s the proverbial ‘inside man’...
That's the plot reason, but it isn't clear why Randal is able to reference the conversation inside the muffler as he steps through it. Ghent just told us he can't hear anything.
 

TomUK

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Working uniformed corporate security is 80% tedium, 20% embarrassment. Escorting some newly sh*t-canned suit from the building and watching them stand there on the sidewalk, clutching a box of personal effects, you could almost feel sorry for the blood-sucking scumbags. Almost.

HanaMed owned Inspiration Tower, on Oakhampton Plaza, and nightshift there was a breeze. I’d been teamed with Randal, a lanky social sciences major who needed a no-brainer job to see him though college without drowning in debt. We had this big curved desk set back in the foyer; swivel chairs, bank of CCTV monitors below counter level, panic button for the local Precinct. Throw in the complimentary coffee machine for suits waiting to see other suits and all-in-all it was a sweet deal, primo.

The surrounding business sector didn’t have any 24-hour trading floors anymore, so all we had to do was sit there, looking out through the three-quarter glass walls at sparse traffic and occasional street-cleaning wagons. Randal, he’d bring in his laptop and beaver away at some term paper while I, well, I just sat there. I’m one of those guys who doesn’t need a distraction during a shift – like TV, or YouTube, or even a book – I can simply look on. It’s one reason I used to pull endless sentry duty in the army, one reason why my nickname back then was ‘Rooty’. No worries.

Back in the day I’d occasionally take a turn around the building, but not now it was ‘smart’ – smarter than me, at any rate. You had to disarm the housekeeping systems to avoid tangling with cleaning robots or getting classified as a rodent infestation. There were sensors everywhere, including the service ducts and restrooms, so we had total surveillance, right here at our fingertips.

Chill city, man.

An alarm came on; top floor panel. Audio was muted, so Randal didn’t notice – too busy staring at his laptop. I tapped the screen, even though it was LED and not some bulb with a loose connection, but I’m old-school, with old habits.

Intruder alert, room 1313.

I punched it up on my monitor and the camera showed an executive office used by Adamson, Vice-president of Corporate Affairs. The blinds were open and in the soft background light of the city I could see there was no-one there. Even when I brought up the infrared overlay there were no hotspots, nothing.

Still…

I cleared my throat, but my partner was lost in his head, so reached over and jabbed him in the shoulder. “Randal, need you back in the here-and-now.”

“Huh?” He swung round, all different planet, then saw the alarm and frowned. “What’s that? It for real?”

“Could be, could be nothing. Either way we have to go check it out.” I stood up, settled my belt. “Got your nine?”

His hand reached for the holstered Glock on the shelf beside him, then paused. “Seriously, dude? I was paying attention during orientation and this place is a goddam fortress. We got banks back home with less security. Plus, that room sure looks empty – it’s gotta be a glitch.” He sniffed. “Send a remote.”

I shrugged. “Protocol. Human response required. I guess they figure if someone can mess with the cameras then a drone would be easy meat. Anyway, won’t take long.”

Randal stood up, wiped his mouth. “Then I say we call the cops. Wait till they get here and go in team-handed. Because if it’s for real, if it is some serious badass crew screwing with the system, then we’ll need backup.” He half-smiled. “And if it’s a glitch, hell, Metro won’t think any less of us. Face it, dude, to them we’re no better than mall cops with health care.”

OK, that irked me, I admit.

I lifted a flashlight from the alcove, checked it. “I’m senior, and I say we go take a look. Either stick that piece on your belt and follow me, or figure on re-joining the job market come tomorrow.”

He got to his feet, face like a clenched fist. “OK, OK, I’ll come watch you play hero. Just less of the John McCain, right?”

I turned and headed for the elevators, smiling to myself slightly at the comparison. Randal trailed behind, clipping the holster to his belt. The doors closed and we ascended in silence – the Muzak only ran nine-to-five – with him scowling at me in the mirrored panel while worrying on a hangnail.

We arrived on the thirteenth floor with a soft ‘ping’. The doors opened onto a plush corridor lit only by the exit sign above the stairwell. I’d left the environmental systems in ‘unoccupied’ mode, otherwise the uplighters would come on as they detected our presence – and I wanted whatever element of surprise was on offer. Housekeeping ran top-to-bottom and had long since cleared this, the executive sanctum, so we had the entire floor to ourselves. Hopefully.

We stepped out and stood for a moment, letting our eyes adjust. All the main corridors ended in full-length windows, so there was enough light to navigate without upending a water cooler. I led the way. The thick carpet deadened our footfalls, and neither of us was a heavy breather, so it felt more like a VR game with muted audio than real life.

Room 1313 took up the entire south-east corner, with commanding views over Downtown. I’d been there once when one of Adamson’s previous personal assistants overdosed on Prozac. Unfortunately, the décor meant we wouldn’t see any tell-tale light from under the door. I shifted the flashlight to my left hand and popped the safety tab on my holster. Randal drew his piece, holding it a two-handed stance probably copied from the TV, covering me as I reached for the door handle.

I nodded at Randal, he nodded at me.

Handle twist, barge in, step smartly to the left, flashlight on, right hand on the butt of my gun…

…and nothing.

An uncluttered desk in a chic office. I swept the beam over framed professional qualifications plus photographs of Adamson shaking hands with two former presidents and – bizarrely – the lead singer from Chrome Koran.

Randal let out a nervous laugh and lowered his gun. “Told you, man, nothing more than a glitch. Now, can we get back downstairs? I got another five-hundred words-”

My raised hand cut him off. I killed the flashlight and looked, really looked, at the city beyond the glass. The Godwin Building was topped by a translucent pyramid with blinking navigation lights at the four corners and apex. But I was certain, certain as the gun now in my hand, that the north face was under repair following a bird strike.

I stepped forward.

The world shimmered.

The man sitting behind the desk held a revolver aimed at my face. All I could make out was a thin face with receding hair swept straight back. The desk lamp turned his rimless glasses into two circles of green fire. When he smiled it was pure predator.

“Well, this is unfortunate. For you, I mean, officer Lehman. Also the man who assured me this projector was without flaw. It’s so difficult to find true craftmanship these days, don’t you think?”

I took that to be the glowing snowglobe on the blotter, sitting alongside a pad plugged into Adamson’s smartdesk. “Wrong picture, that’s all. You should have paid extra for real-time, not recorded.” I squared my shoulders. “I guess this is the bit where I tell you to come quietly?”

His smile widened. “And I counter with an obscene bribe to look the other way? Well, how about ten years salary in an off-shore account for both you and your cash-strapped partner? In return you open an external landline such that the security feed is subjected to some good, old-fashioned, hacking. Not my preferred option, as it always leaves a trace, but only if someone knows to goes looking. I walk away and all this…” He gestured around the room with his free hand, “…never happened.”

Now it was my turn to smile. “And, what, we take it on trust the money will be there?”

“Absolutely. This had to be a stealth op, zero trace, to justify the outlay. Anything else and my employers will be most displeased – and I certainly don’t intend to become a loose end they could well do without. I welch on the deal and you go running to corporate security, if only to secure a severance package. The data I’m here to gather is worthless should HanaMed learn it’s been compromised.”

For a long moment we stared at each other. “Well, I can’t speak for my partner-”

“Who can’t hear any of this – I did pay extra, but only for acoustic muffling.” He laid his gun on the blotter. “My name is Ghent, by the way.”

“And you’re Mister Screwed.” Randal spoke from right behind me. I felt his gun in my back. “Now it gets messy, dude. Now it gets messy.”

I liked it, very readable. A couple of minor points but not really worth mentioning as they may just be a question of style. How long is the planned work? It reads like something that would turn into a longish short story.
 

tinkerdan

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Its an alright piece.

I read this through several times because there were a large number of questions coming up in my mind and then the ending is rather ambiguous.

My take on it was that Randal was the insider; however at this point you've left the narrator with an unfinished sentence, which probably was going to be a rejection of the offer from Ghent although it appears Ghent thinks he's reeled him into a web of deceit; which then leads to the possibility that that's what Randal might have thought also--however I'm pretty sure he's the inside man--but that's not clear.

This is kind-of important because the other problems are part and parcel to Randal being the inside man.

You might ask why.

The answer to that is that the plot is driving the narrative and that can become a blind spot.

How so:

You seem dependent upon Randal being with the narrator through this because he has to be there for the last three lines. The whole above is the setup to the discovery that Randal is the bad guy.

Why do I call that a blind spot?

Think on this. The company or building management are important enough to need security--important enough to have a lot of automated stuff--important enough to have a command station with someone watching. So far everything checks okay for high security building. They even have more than just a person monitoring the building at the command center--they have two people. Then all of a sudden it falls apart.

The thing about a command center is that you have the command center and the ground troops. The people at the command center are there to guide the ground troops. The ground troops are there to with a connection to command center and command center guides them through the building.

The point is that if something looks suspicious and they need human eyes on--the command person stays and watches while the troops supply the eyes. If they want backup then there should be more than one person scheduled to be on the ground while someone remains in the command center.

Now it might be that one of the two can do remote to the command center; however the narrative here leaves it leaning more toward their having abandoned the command center. You might think--so what. However, what if I trigger an alarm on the thirtieth floor as a distraction to bring a horde into the first floor while your two security are occupied.

There doesn't seem to be any sort of proper protocol here and the only reason I can see for the lack is that the story requires Randal to follow the narrator or to be there for that final scene.

The thing about it is that nothing really much happens until they get to the scene of the crime. There really isn't any reason for Randal to come along.

More importantly, I don't think the plot requires that the reader should even think that he follows. It might even be more a surprise if the person left to handle the observation of security in the command center ends up behind the narrator who thinks that the man is still sitting in the chair in command.

Either way though it might help maintain some reality if one of them still has access to command information as they progress--so that the reader can see that they are making sure that the rest of the building is secure while their attention is otherwise diverted.

This whole chain of thought might not be important to some readers. However, I had a problem trying to justify why both men were going out and leaving the rest of the building open to intrusion. My final analysis is that the plot needed it to happen that way.

Something to think about.
I might have it all wrong.
 
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tinkerdan

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On another note:
I wanted to keep these separate Hence the second post.
I'm gathering--from the noir in the title--that you might be going for something akin to these old stories like Chandler or Hammett wrote so long ago.
From that I can understand the tone that the narrator takes, which works okay here.
However I'm not sure that the tone didn't get in the way of the character development.
You seem to have the cynical and judgmental character down well, however it seems to wash over the character development and I felt that you underutilized the potential.

Your the author so you do have to pick your own style and tone, which you have, however it might benefit you to develop the character a bit before you whip the tone into shape.

Especially for this piece.

Not much happens here and the tone predominates the scene, the only respite for the reader is how you develop the character.

What do I mean?

We really don't know that much about Randal other than some rather derogatory judgments from the narrator. Yet the narrator seems to think this is a man who can have his back, so to speak. There is really nothing here to indicate that this is a man you'd want to have your back--in fact--had he left him at the command center he would be wondering all that time if the kid was back to his studies and not watching things.

It could enrich the story to involve the reader in an understanding of why he lets Randal watch his back, even if it is a character flaw. It would--in fact--up the stakes if the reader felt the same trust of Randal and then make the betrayal that much more dramatic. Right now it's no surprise really even though I still think the whole setup at this point is ambiguous. There is no sense of loss or betrayal because there isn't a lot from the narrator that is invested in his relationship to his working partner.

I think the scene could be enriched by removing the excess of noir tone and replacing it with something that gives the piece some real sense of stakes involved here. Cynicism is one part of the equation that I think you build here--however it overlooks other parts that exist in those old stories. Those narrators had more than the cynicism, they had a sort of personal code that comes through, something that they really believe that colors around the cynicism and fills it all in to make it fuller and round out the character. I think that is missing here.

But, then again, maybe your character needs to be shallow. I wouldn't know.
 

reiver33

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Well, my thanks for the considered response!

My 'inner eye' view of the set-up is 2 uniformed guards behind a desk housing unobtrusive CCTV monitors, not entirely superfluous but reduced to 2nd rank importance by automated security systems (no walk-throughs are expected given the housekeeping drones). Lehman is one of those guys who can simply 'be there', and while he may well have been a surfer in his youth (I'm dead chuffed someone thinks I can write 'slacker'), these days he's more Kurt Russell in 'Soldier' than Jeff Bridges in 'The Big Lebowski'.

Lehman insists the junior guard accompany him on what is probably a wild goose chase because its 'protocol', rather than purposely take him along to have his back in the face of a perceived threat. He certainly believes the front desk can take care of itself in their absense, given the building is a 'goddam fortress' - and I could easily have him carry the modern equivalent of an alert pager as scene setting. Randals 'covering fire' stance fits with Lehman's 'by the book' approach to room entry, even if it appears a tad theatrical.

Lehman is older than is apparently coming across, with years of following the rules, even if just for their own sake. However, that doesn't make him dumb...

Ghent also has access to the building CCTV system, so knows Randal is present - hence his willingness to discard the gun.

Gosh, this is fun!
 

tinkerdan

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I'm not sure that I would be the only one asking extra questions or filling in my own information.
Just because it's protocol, either left over from old times or new for whatever reasons, at this point only the author knows that.
It might be that this is one place where it's important to give more information. I think this one reaches a point where leaving things to the readers imagination might get it into trouble.

Even if all it is have the kid say is....
"I'll watch from here. After all whose gonna watch the watchers while were playing around?"
And then have Lehman hand him a remote unit.
"You will be watching. Now get the lead out. We both get into trouble if we don't follow protocol."

Of course again this is your story--however without a bit more explanation I'm not sure I'd finish it, as at this point it reminds me a bit of those horror stories where for some inexplicable reason(plot device)people make bad choices and everyone dies.
 

Star-child

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Well, my thanks for the considered response!

My 'inner eye' view of the set-up is 2 uniformed guards behind a desk housing unobtrusive CCTV monitors, not entirely superfluous but reduced to 2nd rank importance by automated security systems (no walk-throughs are expected given the housekeeping drones). Lehman is one of those guys who can simply 'be there', and while he may well have been a surfer in his youth (I'm dead chuffed someone thinks I can write 'slacker'), these days he's more Kurt Russell in 'Soldier' than Jeff Bridges in 'The Big Lebowski'.

Lehman insists the junior guard accompany him on what is probably a wild goose chase because its 'protocol', rather than purposely take him along to have his back in the face of a perceived threat. He certainly believes the front desk can take care of itself in their absense, given the building is a 'goddam fortress' - and I could easily have him carry the modern equivalent of an alert pager as scene setting. Randals 'covering fire' stance fits with Lehman's 'by the book' approach to room entry, even if it appears a tad theatrical.

Lehman is older than is apparently coming across, with years of following the rules, even if just for their own sake. However, that doesn't make him dumb...

Ghent also has access to the building CCTV system, so knows Randal is present - hence his willingness to discard the gun.

Gosh, this is fun!
Those explanations don't really make sense with what happens in the text. Ghent really seems to believe that Randall can't hear and interacts with Lehman as if he doesn't expect Randall to interfere or have heard their conversation.

Lehman doesn't seem to be rule follower, because of the coffee thing and the way he talks about his job. We're asking about this stuff because what you say is going on is not what is on the page.
 

reiver33

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Sorry for the delay in responding - night shift with a variable workload that can take the edge off...

Ghent knows that Randal isn't aware of what's happening inside the projection, and its only when he sees the inside man 'enter' that he lays down his gun.

An armed confrontation isn't what Randal signed up for, hence his hesitation in following Lehman inside, but once committed, he knows it will end in violence.

My take on Lehman is a big man, ex-army, physically imposing, with close-cropped hair, starting to go grey. His (carefully crafted) persona is of the solid, dependable - if unimaginative - ordinary Joe. The 'coffee thing' is simply a workplace perk and hardly constitutes evidence of a rebellious nature, or even job dissatisfaction.
 

Star-child

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Ghent knows that Randal isn't aware of what's happening inside the projection,
Then how does Randal respond to Ghent's introduction with a quip that assumes what Lehman's status with Ghent is? That's what doesn't make sense. Randal neither here's their conversation nor is Ghent's boss with authority to declare Lehman 'screwed'. If anything, he might have screwed up Ghent making a deal with Lehman.

My take on Lehman is a big man, ex-army, physically imposing, with close-cropped hair, starting to go grey. His (carefully crafted) persona is of the solid, dependable - if unimaginative - ordinary Joe.
You should share some of those things in the text to prime the reader to understand where he's coming from, because the cues you do leave creates a very different perception.
 

sozme

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Not a bad hook but overly wordy. You should employ something like ProWritingAid to see if you can pare sentences down. Simple Example:

“Escorting some newly sh*t-canned suit”

could easily be:

“Escorting a sh*t-canned suit”

without changing the meaning at all.
 
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