Not a lot more happened that weekend worth mentioning—at least in terms of events with world-ending stakes. On a personal level, Haley and I went out on Saturday and had a good time. Also, I spent Sunday studying and I enjoyed that too. On Monday though, I went to Dr. Strazinsky’s class. That wouldn’t be worth mentioning either except that when it was over he said, “Nick, could you stay after class? I’ve got a couple of questions about your internship.”
I continued putting my books into my backpack but said, “Sure.”
We walked out after he’d answered a couple questions from students and walked to his office.
“I’m going to assume it’s going well, but I can’t ask more until we’re inside.” He unlocked his office door.
I stepped in after him and let the door shut.
He gave me a short smile and sat down in the chair behind his desk. Then he took a breath. “This will be quick. I think you’ve been over there twice, maybe three times now. How are things going?”
Sliding my chair closer to the desk, I considered the question. “I think it’s going okay. They finally got me set up with all the computer access I need on Friday. There was a glitch in my security clearance process or they would have done it sooner.”
Nodding, Dr. Strazinsky said, “Great. There are always security clearance glitches. Be glad yours didn’t take weeks to sort out. What do you think of the place?”
“Higher Ground? I think it’s okay. It’s a little different than I expected. With the security clearance and everything, I thought it’d be stuffier or more military somehow? I don’t know. It feels like a Silicon Valley startup except with alien tech and in West Michigan.”
Giving a long, slow nod and a weak smile, Dr. Strazinsky said, “That’s true. As much as I admire what the firm represents and can become, I’ve got to admit that I prefer a more mature or more military organization for this sort of thing. I know people who are responsible for approving their access to certain pieces of alien technology and they feel like the business is sloppy. Don’t pass that on to them, but if you do see something that worries you about their handling of alien artifacts, please mention it in our sessions. You’ll have to meet with me or send me an email over what you’ve done. Don’t put information about what they’re doing wrong in our official emails.
“I can get people to look into it in ways that won’t be traced back to you. That will protect you and protect me. You’re dealing with technology that will affect the future of the human race. We can’t be too careful.”
More people asking me to spy for them? What was the appropriate response for that? “Okay. I can do that, but I’ve got to admit that I haven’t seen anything that worried me so far.”
Smiling in a way that made me think he was nervous, Dr. Strazinsky said, “That’s good. I’d like to believe they’re careful, but I’ve worked at a startup before—back when I was young and stupid. My experience is that they’re fast and loose with security when they can get away with it and they’re stressful places to work. I think everyone should do it once. It’s an amazing experience but you should go into it with your eyes open.”
I wondered, should I be reading more into this than he was saying? Not sure how to get him to be more direct if he needed to be, I said the first thing that came into my head. “I’d like to think I’m going into this with my eyes open. It’s an opportunity to learn. It may or may not turn into a job someday, but I can’t make any assumptions. Also, I’ll keep you aware of what I’m doing. I’m sure you’ll see things I don’t.”
Dr. Strazinsky frowned. “Let’s hope so. There’s another matter related to what I was just talking about. I do get a little information from Higher Ground. The woman who manages interns knows you from college?”
And that’s where this got one step weirder and more interesting. “Different colleges. We were both in the same scholarship program—the kind where you meet other recipients for extra help a couple times a month. She was two years ahead of me. I don’t know her that well, but I do know her.”
“Good. Good,” he stumbled verbally forward quickly enough that I wasn’t sure he’d heard me. “I don’t know her, but if you’ve got a friend there, it might help. It’s nice to have someone to watch your back.”
Here was another place that someone else might have been able to get him to say more. I could only manage, “Why do I need someone to watch my back?”
He shook his head. “Don’t worry about it, but my experience is that office politics are worse in a startup, especially one that’s just past the beginning where it’s changing from being a few people with a mission to a bunch of people who want to get rich.”
I thought about what I’d seen so far. I’d never heard anyone talk about money, but that might not be something you’d tell an intern about. I offered up, “They seem nice so far. I guess we’ll see what I think in a week.”
He nodded. “We’ll make a more formal session out of it next time. The first weeks of the semester are loose. Even with the internships that don’t require security clearances, no one’s doing anything much in the first week.”
He grinned. “You’ll be surprised at how well knowing that prepares you for your first week in most jobs you have after graduation.”
With that, we finished off the conversation and I left to meet Vaughn at the helipad, beginning the first week where I could be useful at work.