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“Now, Mr. McMann, if you could,” said Lucas Mineur, leaning back slightly in his black leather chair, “what programming languages are you familiar with?”

“Well, I’m proficient in Java, JavaScript, and C++,” came the immediate response from the job applicant. 

“All three of them?” asked Lucas, arching his eyebrow as he cocked his head slightly to the side. “That’s quite impressive…definitely something we’re looking for here.” 

“Yes, in my previous job, I was mainly working with JavaScript to structure applications, if you will, that were able to function across multiple platforms.” It was clear that Max McMann had done his homework on this open position. Lucas had already asked a host of questions, and each time, the Manager of the Braden, Inc Software Engineer Division had been impressed with the applicant’s answers. Lucas was starting to feel like filling this vacant entry-level position was going to be harder than he thought. Already, two other applicants had impressed him considerably, and now Max McMann was increasingly etching his name onto the list as well. And there were still two applicants to go. 

“Excellent, excellent,” muttered Lucas, putting check marks beside his most recent question in his notes. He looked across at the interviewee, who was dressed to a “t” in a suit, with short, well-combed brown hair; he just looked fresh and ready to go. 

“And how about you explain to me, just as a final question,” said Lucas, “How you might go about locating bugs or other irregularities in your applications and software.” 

Max McMann seemed to almost be answering the question before Lucas finished, and the young applicant was nodding his head enthusiastically as he spoke. 

“Oh, sure, sure!” he began. “Well the way I do it is, every time I complete the coding process of a new program or application, I use GDB…you know…a GNU debugger…?”

“Oh I know what GDB means,” laughed Lucas, not quite able to keep a little haughtiness out of his voice. What did this young guy think — that he wouldn’t know what that meant? Privately, he made a note that perhaps Mr. McMann didn’t quite understand the lay of the land in this office. 

“Of course, of course,” said Max, recovering himself and nodding more vigorously. “I just…haha, I’m not used to being around such competent programmers is all.”

“Well, here at Braden you’d get used to it pretty fast,” chuckled Lucas, rocking a bit as he lounged in his stylish chair. “Continue with your answer.” He sure did enjoy these job interviews, especially the ones like this, when he could take a sharp little spark plug like this young man and knock him down a little to size. He made another mental note that it might be preferable to hire someone younger like this, who he could professionally mold to his particular brand of corporate culture. Lucas could tolerate innovation and exploration, as long as it went through him first — he was the one in charge...of this branch, at least. There were plenty of higher-ups, but he liked to keep as tight a hold on his own office fiefdom as he could. 

“So…yes, I use GBD to help me locate any bugs that might exist in the programs or applications,” continued Max, eager to retain his momentum, “and also to see if there are any vulnerabilities that might exist, which may, in the future, prove susceptible to other bugs that might not initially be present.”

“Ah yes, very good, very good, glad you mentioned that last part” said Lucas, underlining Max’s name a couple more times. This young man had a thing or two to learn about office culture, for sure, but Lucas had to give it to him — he definitely knew his stuff.

“And if you locate a bug?” Lucas asked, leaning forward in his chair and folding his hands together on his desk. 

“Well, once I find one, it’s fairly simple,” replied Max. “I carefully go through each line of code to pinpoint the problems, and then I just take it from there. And then, once I think I have everything fixed, I go ahead and run GBD again, just to make sure I haven’t inadvertently created new bugs while I was in the process of actually fixing the initial coding errors.” 

Lucas nodded his head silently a few times, not able to suppress a grin. 

“Well, Mr. McMann,” he said, reaching his hand out across his desk, “It’s clear that you’re more than qualified to take on this position.”

“Thank you sir!” said Max, enthusiastically shaking Lucas’s hand. 

“Now, of course, it’ll be a few more days to process all the applicants,” said Lucas, leaning back again in his chair and putting the points of his fingers together. He always loved this part: keeping the bright young people waiting. 

“And I have to say, we’ve had an unusual amount of highly-qualified applicants for this single position.”

“Oh yes, I understand,” said Max quickly, nodding and sitting up straight in his chair. His impeccable posture, together with his clear voice, was not lost on Lucas. Maybe this young man was…a little too much? Or maybe he was just young and eager, and would mellow out a little once he started the job and it became clear to him that he was going to function on one of the lower rungs for a while. 

“But I’d be remiss if I didn’t let you know that you’re high on the list of applicants,” said Lucas, dropping in the key compliment there at the end for good measure. He certainly didn’t want to scare an applicant like this into applying to too many other rival companies. Max’s beaming smile let Lucas know that he had done his job and led the young man on with exactly the right amount of finesse and dexterity. 

The next applicant was no less impressive, at least as far as her qualifications went, and far more impressive to Lucas in terms of her physical assets. The young woman was already fairly tall, but in her high heels, she was nearly as tall as the 6’1 Lucas, as he noticed with a slight degree of trepidation as he stood up to shake her hand. Still, though, her big, bouncy breasts (DD's, Lucas decided in an instant, feeling almost alarmed at how close to his face they were), which stretched the limits of her white blouse top, more than made up for any size issues Lucas had with her being almost as tall as he was. Besides, he could absolutely insist that she not wear heels to work — this was the 21st century, after all! He could use it as an opportunity to cast himself as a modern man, someone who was more concerned with his female employees’ comfort than anything else. 

“So…this is Valerie Darnoe!” he chuckled, spreading his hands wide at her figure, and making no secret of his attraction. 

“This is all me!” she responded, chuckling in kind as she sat down. Of course, she had been prepared for this kind of attention — and she knew exactly how to handle it, and use it to her advantage. 

“Well, I’ll be damned!” exclaimed Lucas, also taking a seat, “What on earth made someone like you decide to become a software engineer?”

“I like computers!” came Valerie’s chipper, matter-of-fact response. “And ever since I took that coding elective class in middle school, I’ve been totally hooked.” 

“Hmmm, ok…ok, yes,” said Lucas, feeling himself get a little hard in his pants as he glanced down at her resume. Her heart-shaped face was framed by blond hair, which was only accentuated by the shining blue sapphires of her striking eyes. Lucas glanced up again at her sitting across from him, and his eyes drifted back down to her breasts. They were so prominent that he could even see how the voluminous flesh underneath seemed to almost stretch her skin. He suddenly wondered whether she had gotten a boob-job, and briefly considered asking her about it point-blank. But he quickly decided against it, figuring that such questions were probably best left to after the actual hiring had taken place. 

“Ok…so you graduated Summa from Carnegie Mellon,” he said, looking back down at her resume. “Had your thesis project directed by Dr. Melvin…excellent pedigree there…he wrote high praise in his recommendation letter for you…”

Valerie nodded her head, smiling confidently, as she sat up straight in her chair and looked Lucas straight in the eye. He looked up briefly at her and gave another smile, his eyes traveling shamelessly across her body as his gaze lingered. Just like the other applicants, Valerie was professionally-dressed, with a sharp and spotless white blouse that showed off her upper assets, and an office-friendly, yet revealing black skirt that showed off her lower assets. Combined with her obvious qualifications, this applicant was already Lucas’s favorite to hire. But he knew he had to go through the protocol, just to make sure no higher-ups had any reason to jump on his back. 

“Worked for two years as an entry-level at Sylvan Systems…solid company…” he continued, going over her resume, and then looking back up at her again. “Well, Ms. Darnoe, your resume is certainly impressive. And judging by your appearance, you know exactly how we do things around here: smart, snappy, and…dare I say…sexy.” 

“Haha, well, the reputation precedes the company, for sure!” laughed Valerie. She was becoming positively flushed with confidence. 

“So why don’t you describe for me,” said Lucas, leaning back in his chair like he had done a number of times already that day, “the process that you, Valerie, use for writing a piece of code.”

“From requirements to delivery?” she asked.

“Absolutely,” he responded, already feeling heartened. This girl was gonna knock it out of the park.

“Well, I use the Specification model,” she said, not missing a beat. “It’s always come naturally to me, since I’m totally comfortable with using rigorous mathematical models to help me stay organized.”

“Right…yes…good,” said Lucas, smiling.

“And it’s been my experience,” continued Valerie, smiling right back, “That by far the most successful specifications are created and fleshed out for the primary purpose of understanding and adjusting the applications that already worked, that were already well-developed before.”

“Oh yes, no doubt,” said Lucas, underlining and circling Valerie’s name vigorously over and over. 

“But,” continued Valerie, in her same confident tone, “safety-critical programs, applications, and software systems in general, you know, are more often than not minutely specified before any application is developed. And so, of course, it goes without saying that specifications are most crucial for external interfaces that have to stay balanced and grounded…stable.”

Lucas couldn’t help but maintain his grin as he glanced down again at Valerie’s resume. The bodacious young bombshell certainly knew what she was talking about. He glanced up at her again, appreciating how her blue eyes shined in the late-afternoon sun that was spilling in from the tall windows of his corner office. Lucas studied her for a few long moments, this time not focusing so much on her obvious physical assets, and instead trying to get a feel for what her attitude might be like. For an accomplished young woman like her, freshly graduated from one of the “new Ivy League” schools, there was always the danger that she could become a problem in the office culture, whining about discrimination or harassment or this or that or whatever else these other young women were doing in other companies. Lucas knew that “times had changed,” to a certain extent, but he also knew that there wasn’t anything wrong with a little inter-office flirtation. 

‘Besides,’ he thought to himself, ‘Look at what she’s wearing! She knows what she’s doing. It’s her way of saying that she understands how things work, and that she’s willing to jump right in. Gotta admire that panache.’ 

He asked her a few more cursory questions, and then stood up to shake her hand. Once again, he was struck by how she was almost eye-level with him. He didn’t much care for it, but there was also something in the back of his brain that didn’t really mind it — the added boost from her tasteful black heels only seemed to underline her presence and her confidence. 

“It’s been a pleasure, Ms. Darnoe,” said Lucas warmly, holding her hand for a few extra moments as he squeezed and un-squeezed it a couple times. 

“Oh likewise, Mr. Mineur,” she said, getting the French-based pronunciation exactly correct. 

“It’ll be a few days to process all the great applicants we’ve had,” he said, finally releasing her hand, “But, not promising anything here, of course…but I wouldn’t be shocked if you were getting a special call here shortly.” 

“Well I’ll look forward to it!” she laughed pleasantly, with fresh energy. A couple moments later she was gone, and Lucas had to take a couple minutes to decompress from that enlivening, stimulating interaction. She was more or less just as qualified as the other applicants, that was for sure, and she had an extra something…and “x factor,” so to speak, that Lucas was impressed by. If he was being honest with himself, he knew exactly what this “x factor” was: her double-D breasts, her long, slender legs, and her sexy eyes…plus, a chipper, slightly submissive attitude, like she was up for anything. In his mind, Lucas worked it out to sound slightly more professional, reasoning that his office needed a little more diversity anyway, since there weren’t that many women working at Braden, Inc to begin with. 

Of course, there was Sophia, but she was basically his age, in her mid-30’s…and besides, well…that was past history. They had briefly dated, but she was a little too independent for him, a little too bossy and maybe hardheaded. But now that they weren’t involved anymore, there was a mutual level of respect between them: Sophia respected him as an engineer and a manager, and Lucas respected that Sophia wouldn’t take any shit from him. It had gotten to the point, even, when Lucas would actually ask Sophia for advice on certain things. Their relationship had become professionally and personally stable. 

But this new girl, Valerie…well, Lucas was chomping at the bit to hire her. He knew that Sophia would give him an earful about it, but could she argue with Valerie’s credentials? Besides, he could frame it to her like he was doing his part to ensure that more women got jobs in engineering and software companies. He chuckled to himself, anticipating the lightly-indignant, knowing look on Sophia’s face when he would try that argument on her. 

Lucas was so preoccupied that he nearly forgot that there was one more interviewee waiting outside. He sighed a bit exasperatedly. He already had more than enough top-tier people to choose from. He glanced down at the last resume. 

“Brooke Pupoljak”

‘Well at least it’s another girl,’ he thought. ‘Maybe she’ll be just as hot as Ms. Darnoe.’ 

He called for this last applicant to come in, and, upon seeing her emerge sheepishly from behind his office door, he quickly decided that, most definitely, this woman was nowhere close to Valerie. The first thing Lucas noticed was her posture. This girl…Brooke Pupoljak…was a good deal shorter than Valerie, and definitely not nearly as well-dressed. Come to think of it, compared to all the applicants in general, Lucas felt immediately turned-off by this woman’s presentation. She was dressed in an odd, cornflower-blue skirt that went down awkwardly a bit past her knees, hovering just high enough to reveal black-stockinged legs that, from the apparent looseness of the stockings, were spindly and underdeveloped. The woman pulled the door to, stumbling a little in her oversized white heels as she did so. 

Lucas found himself sighing again. Did he seriously have to do this interview? This woman had had all afternoon to get her appearance right, and she hadn’t even had the forethought or the decency to tuck her off-white blouse into her dress: a slight billow of her blouse flared outward from her left hip, looking badly out of place in Lucas’s crisp, clean, immaculate office. And when she turned around and faced him, Lucas couldn’t help but blink rapidly in irritation. Her entire appearance was way off — her chest was as flat as a board, with absolutely no curves to speak of. Her brunette hair just looked a little…oily…or something. Like maybe she hadn’t washed it in a couple days. She had clearly tried to do it up in a kind of makeshift bun, but whatever she had envisioned, it hadn’t turned out too well; stray strands of her dark hair stuck out in unseemly isolated strands. 

‘Unkempt,’ thought Lucas sullenly to himself as he regarded her unsmilingly from his chair. ‘That’s the word.’

His eyebrows were raised in a kind of indictment, as if to say, ‘Really? This is all you’ve got?’ He took his time looking down at her resume, making her stand there for a few extra seconds. 

“Brooke…Pupojak…Pupoljak? Is that how you pronounce it?” he asked drily. 

“Um…that’s, uhh…that’s close enough,” she said nervously, trying to smile at his butchering of her name. 

“Hmmm,” he intoned, not impressed at all with her attitude. “Well, go ahead and take a seat, Ms…..uh, Ms. Pupojak, Pupoljak…whatever it is. What is that name? Russian?”

“Um…it’s Croatian,” she said, stumbling up a little to sit in the chair. Now that she was closer, Lucas could get a better look at her face. It seemed to just go along with the rest of her appearance: plain, unremarkable, and even a bit doughy. Her nose was a little too big and her mouth was a little too small, and her large dark eyes…maybe the only redeeming quality in her face…seemed slightly too far apart. What’s more, she was sporting a couple sizable brown moles, one that commanded attention near her rounded chin, and another that blemished her right cheek. Lucas knew that he was being unfair to her, comparing her with someone like Valerie, but there was no getting around it in his mind: in such a comparison, Brooke Pupoljak was markedly unattractive. Another few years under her belt, and she would be downright ugly. 

“Ok, so,” said Lucas, ignoring Brooke’s answer, “You graduated from Grenfeld Polytech a year ago…computer science…no academic distinctions, I see.”

“Uh, yeah, haha,” said Brooke with timid laughter, “I had…some issues when I was at school.”

“Issues?” asked Lucas, looking at her and blinking pitilessly. 

“Um, y-yeah…you know, uhh…j-just some issues with, uh…motivation and all, you know?”

“Hmm,” he replied shortly, looking back down at her resume. “And when you graduated, it looks like you got an internship…eventually, after four months…not sure what you were doing in between…at Macking Coding. Was it a paid internship?”

“Uh, no…no it was unpaid,” said Brooke. “But I…I still, uh…I still learned a lot, I think!” 

“I see,” said Lucas, not even bothering to lean back in his chair this time. He only did that when he was savoring the moment, and right now, he wanted to get this young woman out of there as quickly as possible. The sun was starting to dip below the horizon…it was already past 6. 

“So, Brooke,” he said, doing little to disguise the stoniness in his voice, “tell me about the last project you worked on at Macking. I’m assuming, of course, that they actually had you working on projects there?”

“Well…well, uh…y-yes. Yes, they did…in a way,” she said. “Like, uh…I wasn’t…doing anything on my own or anything, but, just…uh…haha, yeah, they let me join in on some things.”

“Ok,” said Lucas, starting to get irritated. “Why don’t you just explain it to me. You don’t have to get all into the details. Just a basic run-through, if you don’t mind.”

“S-sure! Well, uh…so, my manager got together a, umm…a team of people to make an online training…uh…training program, I guess it was…for employees. The program was to make sure that, uh…you know. Employees had proper training and everything, right? So, thye, uh…thaty had me r-research other…other t-training programs f-first, and then…then we used Java to c-code a, uh…a program.” 

As she spoke, Brooke’s voice increasingly began to shake as she became more and more nervous. Lucas didn’t have time for this nonsense, but it was at least good to hear that this girl had some experience with coding. 

“Oh, so you can use Java?” he asked mildly. 

“Y-yeah,” said Brooke. “I m-mean, I’m still learning it, b-but I…I can use it.”

“What about JavaScript or C++?” he asked, knowing the answer before she spoke. He just wanted to see her squirm a little. What was she thinking, coming into his office, thinking he would hire someone like her? 

“Um, m-maybe a little JavaScript,” she said in a small voice, “But n-not much really. I don’t have any, uh…any experience with C++.”

“Mmhm,” said Lucas, making it sound like that was really the death-kneel for her chances. “Ok, well…generally — and by “generally” I mean “almost always” — we here at Braden require applicants to be at least partially versed in JavaScript and C++…not to mention, of course, having the necessary academic qualifications.”

“Oh…y-yeah…yeah I understand,” said Brooke, her shoulders slumping a little in embarrassment. For half a second, Lucas felt a little bad for her, and wondered if he was just being a dick for no reason. But an instant later, he brushed it all off. If she wanted to see what it was like in the fast-paced, cut-throat world of the top software engineering firms, well…now she was getting a little taste. 

“Alright well, in any case, thanks for coming in,” said Lucas, indicating to the door with an open palm. 

“O-ok…ok, thank you,” stammered Brooke, standing up out of her chair too quickly, like she didn’t want to be accused, on top of everything else, of overstaying her welcome. 

“Have a nice evening, Ms….uh, Ms…”

“Pupoljak,” she said, laughing nervously as she opened the door. 

Lucas waved his hand, nodding his head. “Whatever. Shut the door behind you, if you don’t mind.” 

Brooke did so, and Lucas couldn’t help but shake his head and chuckle to himself. 

“Was she actually serious?” he said to himself out loud, not even caring if she heard him. His mind quickly shifted to Valerie, and a number of the other applicants, as he closed up his office for the day.

Two nights later, he had submitted his recommendations to the higher-ups for the position. Generally, these recommendations were a mere formality, as Lucas’s bosses more or less went along with what he wanted. It was so informal that he was even able to pretend that he had more power in the process than he actually did. True, he was the manager of the branch, but there were still plenty of people much higher than him, who technically had the ability to overrule him on a whim if they really wanted to. His phone buzzed and he took it out of his pocket, looking down at his messages. One from Dave, one of the higher-ups. 

“Bad news, Lucas,” it read. “All your recommendations have already taken positions elsewhere.”

Lucas felt his stomach drop a little. Even Valerie?! He was so sure that he had played her perfectly! It turned out that she had just been playing him. He exhaled in annoyance as he typed back:

“Seriously? All of them?” 

“All of them,” Dave replied back. “Anyone else you could hire, just to fill the position?” 

Lucas sat there. He had gone through everyone else…only that girl…Brooke-what’s-her-face, remained. 

“There was one other applicant,” Lucas typed back, “But she was unqualified, and frankly, not too professional. Not a lot of experience either.” 

“Well, Bill told me to tell you that he needs the position filled by the end of the month,” replied Dave rapidly. “And that’s tomorrow, so looks like it’s gotta be her.” 

Lucas felt truly irritated now — not only was his true lack of power in the whole company structure painfully obvious at times like this, but also he was being forced to hire someone unattractive and nervous. He wasn’t looking forward to dealing with that every day. 

“Well ok,” he said, trying to diplomatically convey his displeasure, “But she really is a novice, Dave. Like, I don’t think she’s a good fit at all.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Dave replied back almost instantly. “Just take her on as a one-month trial employee. If she’s really that bad, fire her in a month. But we really do need that slot filled.” 

“Ok, I’m on it,” said Lucas, and that was that. A few minutes later, he was grumpily writing Brooke a quick email telling her that she had the job…for the moment.

Chapter End Notes:

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