« on: November 05, 2008, 05:18:51 am »
Aporia Inc. offices, Kensington, London, 11:03 PM
Alexander Fleck knew it was late, but that had long ceased to bother him. This project, though nearly 6 months old, was so time-consuming, so important and yet so fascinating, working overtime on it was more of a pressure on his wife and friends than it ever was for him. He almost disliked coming home from the office now, having to shift his thinking back from the concerns and deadlines and expected targets back to things like small talk, the latest television shows and intimate moments.
Though he certainly didn't mind the last of those things, he thought with a sly grin on his face. But no, work came first. Especially important work, and nowadays, all work was important. Standing up from his desk, he decided it was time to do the rounds. See who else was stupid enough to be here at this hour, and if they had anything useful to report, beyond the usual monitoring. He walked to the door, twisted, then threw his pen, managing to land it in his now empty coffee mug. Perfect, and from nearly 20 feet as well. He smiled again, as he left the office marked, not entirely incorrectly, but somewhat misleadingly as Head of Marketing.
Taking the elevator down to the next floor, he saw a few lights were still on, especially in the field operations and research and development sections of the building, part of his personal empire within the corporate giant that was Aporia Inc. He decided on R&D first. They had a better coffee machine in there, for starters. Walking in, he looked around. This office was always a minefield of the bizarre, the exotic and just plain odd. Which was to be expected, he thought to himself, given what their primary and overriding function was now.
He kicked a squash ball out of the way, and cleared what appeared to be some stage props from a magicians show, before making his way to the minor electronics lab at the end of this section of the building. If one were to watch him pass, they would see doors with names such as “Memetic Targeting Unit” and “Pataphysical Research Lab” as he walked down the corridor adjoining the R&D common room, where usually most of the useful research and theories were stumbled upon, much to the chagrin of the management.
Slipping into the electronics testing room, he watched as what appeared to be a flower, in a sealed plastic chamber, was made to emit a bright pink gas. A mouse, which he had not previously seen, then darted out from behind some blocks that had been left in the chamber, abruptly falling over. “And what is this, exactly?” he asked. The three technicians present spun around, obviously not expecting anyone else in the room. “Oh...sorry sir, we mustn't have heard you there” said the project leader, while another turned down the radio on the desk.
“No problems” he replied easily. “I know its late, and besides, I have a soft tread. But what is this that you're working on?” He indicated the plant again.
“Oh, this is an ersatz plant. Its going to be a delivery system, for various airborne or contact compounds.”
“Oh, of course, Plan B” he said vaguely, waving his hand. While this was only a part of the research Aporia was currently doing, there had been concerns that, despite the incredible resources already poured in, the current methods they had been using were not efficient or fast enough. Therefore, the management had overseen the creation of a backup plan, in case the rate of habituation was too slow. If they could not achieve what was necessary through legal, if questionable, methods, than outright illegal ones would be considered. Such as randomly dosing the population with hallucinogens, Fleck thought. Lets hope it doesn't come to that.
“Excellent stuff” he said out loud, more to deflect from his wandering thoughts than anything else. “Is there anything else the labs are working on right now?”
Another of the technicians spoke up “we're working with the Memetic Targeting Unit to look at unconventional deployment methods we may not have considered before. There's not much yet, but as soon as we have anything workable, I'm sure you and Operations will receive our plans and projected results, for further testing.”
Fleck considered that for a moment. “Alright then. Thank you for your time, gentlemen. I'll let myself out, and keep up the good work.” He smiled again, then left. Walking up to the coffee machine, he got himself a cappuccino, then sighed. It wasn't as good as the shop just down the road. Starbucks or Costa or whatever it was. One of those big, interchangeable chains. Either way, all of them, without fail, could make coffee better than this machine. Not that the machine was bad, just that it was late, and he needed something that would give him a jolt, really keep him going. Well, at least he could console himself with the fact it was Friday. He could take the weekend off, once he finished his rounds and actually got home. Not too long now, of course. Taking a second sip, he decided to check out Field Operations, or as the rest of the company had started to refer to it, “ops”. Sounded a little too military, and sinister for Fleck, though when he thought about it, Field Operations was not much better.
Back in the day, when he had started with Aporia, ops had been nothing more than a few dedicated screw-offs, who used unconventional marketing techniques, such as online games, viral videos, word of mouth internet whispers, pranks and other events to draw attention to their various clients. They had been quite good too, considering the oddballs that were involved. Anyway, it had been tiny. Less than 10 people, and usually closer to five. But now, now...
They had hit the 100 mark last week. And that was just the start. Once the current training cycle had finished and the newest members had a few successful operations under their belt, then they would start approving and opening regional offices. North America's was already being expanded massively in preparation, and offices in Russia, Beijing, Sydney, Tel Aviv and other locations were also going through a similar upheaval.
It was going to be a nightmare to keep track of, Fleck knew. Hell, it was nearly bad enough now. Fortunately, more personnel and funding were being slated for his department, which would help. Still, this would require him to either devote all his time to operations and promote others to oversee R&D and other departments, or else massively over-extend himself. He didn't really like either of those options, though he knew which one was more sensible. Shaking his head, he walked into operations.
At this time of night, there were less than 20 people here, in total. Most were manning phones or desks, either making calls and providing information, or else typing into screens, tracking and recording information which would hopefully be useful in the future. Others were doing more arcane things, such as plotting lines on maps, or else reading books and making notes. He grabbed the nearest person, who happened to be a map plotter.
“Excuse me” he said pleasantly, “but who's currently supervising this section?”
The man started to speak, but was interrupted by a woman furiously typing into a computer. “That would be me, sir”, she called. “If I can just have a minute to finish this entry...”
“Take all the time you need, I'll be waiting” he replied. She took a few more seconds, slammed a couple of keys, then relaxed, standing up.
“Sorry about that sir” she said, walking over and shaking his hand. “Alice Band, current supervisor to this motley crew.”
“Of course, Ms Band. I'm just passing through, looking for an update. Don't worry about anything too formal. How are things?” he asked.
“Not too bad” she replied. “Of course, its always a little more hectic at nights, because we have less people, and half of the sort of people who are willing to work the night shift are loonies of one sort or another-”
“Including you?” he asked with a sly grin?
“Especially me. I'm in it for the money” she laughed “and if willing to forego what little light we get nowadays for some extra pay isn't a sign of lunacy I don't know what is.”
She was right, of course. They advertised for night staff especially, instead of instituting shift work patterns on the department. Which was fair, it made for more motivated workers, but it also meant you had to put up with the sort of person willing to work all night and sleep all day, in contradiction to what 90% of the world did.
“But apart from that, all is good.”
“Mostly,” she said, nodding. “Our teams in South London, Edinburgh, Bristol and Liverpool have all clocked off for the night. Manchester is still ongoing, but they check in every half hour or so. They've got some very good material actually, I'm sure you'll be impressed with the video quality and exposure. Oh, there is one minor problem though...”
“And what might that be?”
“Ipswich hasn't reported in yet. That's not totally unexpected, they're working close to the base there, so they may just be not taking any risks. But they did miss their last deadline, which was nearly 15 minutes ago.”
“Well, I'm sure its nothing” he said. “Though no doubt you know the procedure to follow should the team not break radio silence in the next 6 hours.”
“Got it down clean, no worries.”
“Incidentally...is Martin around? I haven't seen him lately, it would be good to catch up on the old times.” Martin had been one of the original operations guys, a genius at guerrilla marketing and virtual legend within his own select sphere of expertise. However, with the company expansion of late, he hadn't had much of a chance to talk to him, or pick his brains about recent events.
“Sir...Martin is with the Ipswich team, the one currently operating in Rendlesham Forest.”