Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

Mister Grumsen looks about the little interview room. Nothing’s changed since he last inspected his paltry domain, but kings have to survey no matter how trivial, I presume.
He nods at me.
“One more before lunch, I think.”
I press the admission button. The door slides open and a nervous young man almost creeps in, cap literally in hand.
Grumsen looks him up and down, then refers to the display projected onto the frosted glass by his right shoulder.
“Michael Evander Durham?”
The cap carrier nods.
“Take a seat.”
He does so, perching on the edge of the chair.
“So, Michael. Just completed college?”
“Yes, sir.”
Grumsen nods approvingly and makes a note on his tablet: “Polite. Instinctive manners are so rare these days.”
Michael smiles: “My father always-”
Grumsen raises a hand: “That was not an inferred query, Mister Durham. Please respond only to direct questions.”
Michael nods.
“Good. Now, I see your GPA was only 3.4?”
“Yes, sir. In the top ten percent of my year.”
“With a primary focus on mathematics, secondary on the sciences?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Well, now. I think I see a bright future. Adam, who do we have for this budding salaryman?”
I look at my screen, where Michael’s details have already been circulated to every company that might be interested.
“Bayer-Boeing are the leading bidder.”
I forward the details to his display.
Grumsen looks them over, then looks back at Michael. I can see the edge of the wide smile on his face.
“Glad tidings, Mister Durham. Bayer-Boeing place your net dollar-diem at 5.28 an hour, for an annual return of 13,728. Which gives rise to their generous offer of a 205,920 donation to your family fund for your lifetime of service.”
He looks puzzled. I can see him doing mental calculations.
“Only fifteen years?”
Grumsen shakes his head: “Correct. The lifespan average for your residential area is 42 years. Current demographic data indicates the final twenty-five percent of working life for people from your background is marred by poor health, childcare crises, and similar distractions. Therefore, they flatline the remaining five years for offer purposes, but will pro-rata the dollar-diem rate quoted here on a weekly basis from the start of your sixteenth year.”
Michael shrugs: “Twenty years isn’t bad, I suppose. Better than my brother.”
I can see his brother got a five-year plus ten pro-rata offer for working as a blast miner on Mars. Died during his ninth year in a non-culpable industrial incident.
“We’ll need a decision before you leave, Mister Durham. Adam, what’s the offer on Michael’s next lowest donation?”
“186,810. Fifteen-year fixed term.”
Grumsen flashes me a sideways look of anger. He doesn’t like it when I give the candidates information beyond what he deems fit.
Michael shrugs.
“Guess I’m slaving for Bayer-Boeing, then. But, before I go: What was Adam’s offer?”
Grumsen bristles. I action acceptance processing on the Bayer-Boeing offer before replying.
“My dollar-diem offer was six-an-hour for thirty years, with optional ‘Until Death’ pro rata afterwards.”
Grumsen goes white. He spins to face me, completely ignoring Michael.
“I graduated from Harvard! How the devil did you get better than anything I’ve ever heard of?”
“I’m told to say it was my 4.0 GPA and a near-perfect family profile. As we’re in a screened room, I’m free to tell you my mother’s sister’s husband is the eldest son of the CEO of ATOX Careers.”
Grumsen mutters something under his breath, then turns back to Michael.
“Thank you, Mister Durham. We’re done.”
Michael bursts out laughing.
“I knew I was. Nice to know you were too.”