Ninety-Nine Percent Y | H. T. Brickner

[NNPY-01 to NNPY-07, Meeting Minutes Archive, The Foundry]

The Foundry suffered a nine percent yield loss in Y due to X appearing where Y should, an eight percent jump from the previous baseline. Considering Y was the powerhouse of the Foundry’s proceeds, and no one in the right frame of mind desired X, the situation presented above posed a threat to the Foundry’s bottom line, causing discernible pain in the collective neck of the Grand Masters.

A team was tasked to resolve the matter as quickly as possible. The task force members consisted of, in alphabetical order, Master Wizards Charm, Gusto, Trade, and Wisdom. They are referred to as Charm, Gusto, Trade, and Wisdom going forward for simplicity. Vidi, not a master and not quite a wizard, was the project lead, meeting host, and scribe.

Following are the summaries of meetings conducted by the task force. The phrases the task force, the team, them, and we are used interchangeably herein.


NNPY-01: 8 AM – 9 AM, June 4, Friday

Project kickoff.

The team utilized the first five minutes to introduce themselves. Since the masters were familiar with each other, and Vidi knew of the masters well but not vice versa, the introduction took the shape of Vidi answering the masters’ questions about herself.

Yes, Vidi was a gender-neutral name.

No, Vidi was not a shortened version of something fifty syllables long.

Yes, Vidi would rather be here, right now, in this meeting, tackling the problem, than drinking ale with a hint of citrus on a party boat.

No, Vidi did not own a pontoon, a jet ski, a fast car with its belly inches above the ground. The one mode of transportation she possessed was a rusty bike that rattled her bones beyond the pace of a brisk walk.

Defining the success criteria for the project consumed the next forty minutes of the meeting, which the majority of the team agreed, except Wisdom, to be Ninety-Nine Percent Y. Gusto complained that Wisdom was never in complete consensus with anyone or anything. The best anybody could ever get out of Wisdom was a non-disagreement.

The team reviewed the process flow of how the Foundry produced Y before the hour was up.


NNPY-02: 8 AM – 9 AM, June 7, Monday

Trade did not attend the meeting owing to a migraine episode. The rest of the masters were five to ten minutes late and, upon arrival, speculated reasons behind Trade’s headache. Too much fun over the weekend (wink wink) ranked at the top.

Again, the team reviewed the process of how to build Y, which depleted almost the entirety of the meeting. The masters professed that after putting aside the issue for the weekend, much of the technical details reviewed during the kickoff meeting became fuzzy.

Charm and Wisdom had to leave a few minutes early to answer the summon of Grand Master San at the next hour, for which they absolutely could not be late. Gusto inquired about the conference and appeared to bristle that Grand Master San did not request his presence.

Gusto asked why the Foundry could not profit by selling X, a question in the purview of Trade, who was not at the meeting.

As the project lead, Vidi owned the action to present some bullshit a project update to the board of Grand Masters later that day.


NNPY-03: 8 AM – 9 AM, June 9, Wednesday

The Grand Masters did not buy the bullshit challenged the team to work faster. And smarter. An additional eight percent yield loss was not precisely petty cash for the Foundry, according to the Chief Grand Master.

Vidi jotted on the blackboard a containment plan she had developed while the masters pointed the fingers brainstormed.

Gusto pounded the table at one point, being the most excitable of the masters. “Let’s blow the X to bits. That’ll solve our problem.”

Wisdom rolled his eyes. Gusto’s mouth and Wisdom’s eyeballs appeared to link via an unseen tandem; one could not move without shifting the other. Wisdom articulated in his soothing voice that the issue at hand was disappearing Y, not appearing X. When pressed about his solution to the problem, Wisdom sucked in air between his teeth, stroked his bushy beard, and cast his gaze at the ceiling.

Trade reminded everyone that Y generated substantial revenue for the Foundry because he, Trade, influenced and provided what end-users desired.

Gusto pounded the table once more. “Influence them! Give them the damn X. It’s the least you can do with the fat bonus you’ve got.” Rumor had it that, while the Foundry rewarded other masters with abundant gold chips last quarter, Gusto received a pile of shit next to nothing. The Grand Masters had asked Gusto to provide a list of his contributions and were unsatisfied with the results.

Trade flicked something from his expensive blue suit with gray stripes, a thread perhaps, which no one else saw. He re-iterated that Y generated substantial revenue because he, Trade, influenced and provided what consumers desired.

Charm asked if it was normal for someone to prefer X over Y. If the Foundry allowed, she would not mind taking some of X home and display them on her front lawn, next to her metal loons and paper dragons. She could even build a fence with them, if she had enough.

Toward the end of the meeting, Wisdom yelped and jumped from his seat like a shot from a sling. Gusto inquired whether he, Wisdom, was bitten in the ass by something nasty, a spider perhaps. Instead of a bug assault, Wisdom claimed that an idea struck him. “If you collapse the legs of X, you get a Y. Am I right? I bet we can find some cheap labor and have them collapse every X into Y,” said Wisdom, eyes gleaming.

Charm granted that there were always people somewhere willing to work for a meager stipend, and one did not have to search very hard to find them.

Vidi reminded the masters that Wisdom’s approach was how the Foundry produced Y in the first place.

Upon hearing this, Wisdom sucked in air between his teeth, stroked his bushy beard, and uttered a single word, asinine. He did not clarify the implication of his comment or its intended recipient.

Gusto interjected, without pounding any furniture this time, that apparently not everyone understood the inner workings of the Foundry and urged the team to review the process flow of Y again.

So we did.


NNPY-04: 8 AM – 9 AM, June 11, Friday

Vidi reported that the yield loss in Y from the past two days had reduced from nine percent to the previous baseline of one percent. After considering the condensation pattern on her ice tea glass, the crescent of the tides, the solar flares, and eliminating a false correlation to a sudden surge in the coyote population in town, Vidi had pinpointed the root cause. The problem appeared to stem from a batch of inferior glue procured from a new vendor, which won the bid because of its reduced price. The Foundry used the glue to secure the legs of X after collapsing them. The new vendor either knew little about quality management or hoped to get away without any control protocol in place. After switching to the previous glue vendor, now charging ten percent more than their last bid, the problem of Y altering into X went away. The profit generated with regaining the eight percent yield in Y was more than enough to absorb the slight price increase in glue.

Vidi charted diagrams on the whiteboard with three geometrical shapes, four neon colors, and one very bold, very dark arrow as thick as her arm to make her point more visual. At the same time, the masters deliberated among themselves and paid Vidi no heed.

Wisdom lit up by another concept. “X is much more stable than Y, is it not? Just look at them. We go through the process of collapsing legs of X into sticks of Y. Why can’t we tie a string around the stick to make sure it stays put? Better yet, why not two strings?”

Trade dabbed at something on his expensive black suit with no stripes, another thread perhaps, which, again, no one else noticed. “You’re turning Y into a foreign currency.”

“So?” Gusto said. He sided with Wisdom, an event as improbable as Vidi’s dilapidated bike metamorphosing into Pegasus.

“It’ll be a different market,” said Trade.

“So?” Gusto persisted.

Trade flicked another invisible thread from his black suit with no stripes and said nothing.

Vidi marked her next idea in spring green on the whiteboard, attempting in vain to get the notice of the masters. Gusto, Trade, and Wisdom paid less attention to Vidi, which was none to begin with, at the arrival of Charm. Charm was thirty-five minutes late and eager to learn what she had missed. The other masters included Charm in their deliberation, going happily in circles like a merry-go-round.


NNPY-05: 8 AM – 9 AM, June 14, Monday

Charm announced that she met another person named Vidi on Saturday, her gay cousin’s new boyfriend. And, all this time, Charm had assumed that Vidi was a female name. Vidi gently reminded Charm that she, Vidi, had answered questions regarding her name, Vidi, the first time the team convened. Vidi was a ubiquitous name for both males and females in a different part of the cosmos. Charm did not recall the discussion and had not had the chance to read any meeting minutes Vidi published.

Gusto and Trade met for a beer last Friday at Unutterable Ale House, a popular joint in the area named after a novelty brew with an indescribable fruity note. The result of that merry evening was that Trade agreed to put some thought into marketing X over the weekend to make Gusto happy. The team spent fifteen minutes assessing Trade’s new proposal, the central theme being that X was just as good as Y, if not better.

Vidi reported that the yield of Y remained at a ninety-nine percent level. If the trend held, and Vidi was confident it would, there would soon be no need for the task force. No one heard Vidi, however, or looked in her direction. Vidi painted a dozen balloons next to the figures. Twirling about the room on tiptoes, Vidi managed to catch the notice of her teammates on the third round.

Gusto narrowed his eyes at the colorful display on the board. “Have we solved the problem? How?! Pretty sure we haven’t done anything.”

Wisdom rolled his eyes and stroked his goatee. He had gone to the barbershop and had his bushy beard trimmed in time for the summer. “What exactly do you think we’re doing here, Pete? Having a tea party?”

Trade frowned at his expensive brown suit. As invisible as the threads were, it appeared that he had picked them all. “I wish someone could have told me earlier. Instead of wasting my weekend on a new campaign for X, I could have gone to my son’s Erhu recital.”

Charm welcomed the prospect of dismantling the task force because simultaneously conducting virtual one-on-ones with her apprentices and managing to be fully present at Vidi’s meetings was exhausting.

Wisdom volunteered to take Vidi’s place and trumpet the good news to the Grand Masters.


NNPY-06: 8 AM – 9 AM, June 16, Wednesday

Vidi reported that the yield remained at the ninety-nine percent level. In addition, the production team was implementing a proposal Vidi the team put together, producing Y directly from raw material instead of going through the intermediate phase of X.

According to Wisdom, the Grand Masters were tickled pink pleasantly surprised the team solved the yield crisis in such a short time and set aside a fund for everyone on the task force to receive a noticeable bump in their compensation. Wisdom caught Gusto’s anxious gaze and added, “Pretty sure they meant everyone.”


NNPY-07: 3 PM – ?, June 18, Friday

The masters celebrated the team’s success at Unutterable Ale House. Vidi could not join them because she was deep in a new project, something she preferred more than drinking a fermented barley soup with a fruity note on which she could not put her finger.

Over mugs of ale with an indescribable fruity note, the masters debated whether the name Vidi meant anything. Upon hearing it sometime later, Vidi sketched olive branches on the board, highlighting a message that had been there all along.

Veni, Vidi, Vici: I came, I saw, I conquered.

Originally from China, H. T. Brickner lives in Minnesota with her husband. When she is not working on her regular job in the tech industry, she reads and writes. Her short stories have appeared in The Antihumanist, The Other Side of Hope Magazine, and received an honorable mention from L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future contest.