The pub was heaving with people TV’s were showing a particular football match Martin had no idea who was playing and never cared. He walked past the bar looking around for his colleagues. It didn’t take long to find them. Both of them were crowded at the back of the pub trying to avoid the general bustle of customers. Prof Wilson lifted her hand and beckoned Martin. She was joined not only by Prof Billids but also three other bookish types.
Martin made his way over to them and found an empty chair which he borrowed from a nearby table.
“Everyone, welcome our newest member, Dr Martin Shore. Martin? These are a few of the other people who work with us.” Wilson smiled.
Each of the professors introduced themselves, but not formally. One was called Energy. He was nicknamed “Energy” for the fact that he would buy up wholesale bulk of energy drinks and survive solely on them. He was a skinny guy, had only a few years on Martin but seemed to buzz with energy. The woman cosying up to him was called Melissa. She seemed a lot quieter and yet assertive. The last person was very much older than the rest she called herself Prof Rachel Hersy, an ex-employee that loved to keep tabs on the rest of the team.
“How was your performance review newbie” Rachel spoke up.
The review had been a few days before. His performance was consistent there were no concerns, Dr Lerev said the probation period would be over within a few weeks.
“Well, Dr Lerev said I would be on special projects by the end of the month.”
Silence. Each member of the table eyes each other, they knew something Martin didn’t. If there was one thing he was good at, it was getting that information.
“What are… special projects?” He felt a lump in his throat.
After some time, Wilson spoke.
“Can’t exactly say out in the open. But trust me, we have been making leaps and bounds in the sciences you can scarcely believe.”
“So, if you don’t mind me asking why aren’t you and Prof Billids taking part?”
“You can call me Steven, and let’s just say we are a liability.”
Martin felt that he was being tested by his colleagues, it made him feel uncomfortable. But if he were to get the information he needed, he would have to play their games. The conversation about work ended there, as the drinks started to arrive, the conversation moved to more casual topics. Martin joined in when he could, but listened intently as each one spoke. Prof Hersy had retired only a few weeks before but still kept her hand on the pulse of neuroscience. The company continued to pay her on a consultant basis. She lived on her own. Her ex-husband had left her for a younger woman and left her the house and the dogs. She was childless due to her love for work.
Energy and Melissa was a new relationship and showed far too much PDA than Martin would have liked. It had been a while since he had felt the embrace of a romantic partner and he knew how much the honeymoon period changed people.
Prof Billids was married, had two sons who he was trying to convince them to go to university, the younger one couldn’t wait to get through college to go to university and make his father proud. The older one had his ideas, something Martin could relate to at least.
They stayed at the pub for a few more hours up until closing time. As they left, Steven pulled him aside into a quiet alley he gestured to the rest of the group.
“I’m just saying goodbye to Martin, I won’t be long,” Steven said.
He waited for the rest of the group to disappear before he spoke again.
“There are things you should know, things you will find out. If you want to be safe and live to a ripe old age, don’t meddle in things above your pay grade and don’t think of snooping. We’ve got a good thing going on we don’t need you messing it up. Okay?”
Martin felt his face heat up, the words cut through him like a knife, was this a threat? or was it just a warning?
“I wasn’t planning to…but what things?” Martin tried to keep his voice at an even level amongst the shock.
“Good, welcome to the team. See you bright and early on Monday.”
They shook hands, then Steven joined up with the rest of the group, while Martin found himself a bus station and a very long journey home.