Table of Contents [Report This]
He stood outside the door, a small smile on his face as he listened to the buzz of conversation in the room he was about to enter. They were like a bunch of old women…or chickens.
Yes, he liked that analogy.
They were chickens, and he was the fox strolling in for an afternoon snack.
He took a deep breath and fixed on the smile that didn't touch his eyes as he pushed open the door and slipped silently inside. He fought down a laugh as one by one the other occupants of the room became aware of him. Every reaction was one of quickly hidden panic. In some, he saw it in their eyes. In others, it was the sudden stiffening of muscles, a complete cessation of motion.
Complete and absolute.
Without acknowledging anyone, he walked over to take his place at the head of the table. Someone rushed over to pull his chair out for him, but he didn't even bother to look to see who.
He opened the slim file folder on the table in front of him and started the meeting. As he spoke, he noticed several of those around the table glancing surreptitiously at their watches.
"Is there a problem?" he asked, brow raised in anticipation.
From all sides came a chorus.
He turned his attention back to the file.
He looked up and quickly located the speaker. He was sitting in on his first board meeting, new, young and nervous, but not quite nervous enough to keep his mouth shut.
"Actually, Sir, the meeting wasn't scheduled to start for another ten minutes."
The young man looked around, seeking escape from the probing stare of the CEO…seeking support from his fellow board members. No one would meet his eyes.
No one except the boss.
His throat suddenly felt very dry.
"It's just that…umm…some people…some of the board members…they…they aren't here yet…Sir."
The man at the head of the table continued to stare at him, the only sound the muted tick of someone's very expensive watch. Finally, someone coughed and his attention was drawn across the table to an older woman quickly reaching for a glass of water. She smiled a tremulous apology at him before lowering her head to her notes again.
The CEO's eyes swept the room, taking note of the empty seats before coming to rest on the younger man once more.
"They will be dealt with," he assured him with a cold smile. "If I may continue…?"
He waited just a moment after the young man's nod before returning to the agenda.
The meeting continued, the only interruptions occurring as the last of the board members slipped quietly into their seats. As usual, things went quickly, since most of those at the table had learned long ago the danger of displeasing the man sitting at the head.
Except for one young man…the same one who had spoken up earlier.
"What about the situation with Jarod?"
The CEO fixed him with a stare.
"I was just wondering what's being done about him."
"That situation is under control."
"Obviously not," the newcomer persisted. "If you're referring to Miss Parker, she's obviously not competent to handle this matter."
The CEO held up his hand to forestall Mr. Parker's defense of his daughter's abilities. "Why do you say that?"
"She hasn't brought him in yet, has she?" He looked around the table, once more vainly seeking the support of the others. "I mean, how hard can it be to track down a guy with virtually no real world experience."
"For your information, Mr…."
"Smith…Wesley Smith…" the eager young man supplied.
"Mr. Smith…" the Chief Executive acknowledged with a tight smile, "Miss Parker is doing exactly the job I have requested of her."
"But Jarod is still out there, causing trouble instead of being here supplying us with the information our clients pay us for," Smith argued.
"Jarod's…antics…are of little concern to me. While the financial losses may seem considerable, in the grand scheme of things, they are negligible."
"Negligible?" Smith rose to his feet, batting away the hand of the older man at his side who had tried to calm him down.
"We're talking about millions of dollars, not to mention the loss of face among our customers. This is completely unacceptable."
There was a deep sigh.
"Jarod's usefulness was declining rapidly. The isolation that had once made him invaluable was beginning to have the opposite effect. With virtually no 'real world knowledge', as you stated, there were fewer and fewer situations that he could relate to. His experiences on the outside now are actually increasing his value to us."
"And Miss Parker's pursuit?"
"Call it 'incentive'. The appearance of pursuit puts pressure on him, encourages him to be faster, more creative. Also, it has encouraged Miss Parker in the development of her own abilities in ways that simulations and training never could. She is also learning to think and reason in whole new ways, increasing her possible value to us at some future date. In fact, she could have brought him in several times had it not been for my personal intervention in the matter. He still has much to learn from the outside before he reaches his maximum potential. They both do."
"And this plan was agreed upon by the board?"
"MY plan was approved by the triumvirate."
Under his harsh stare, Smith slumped down in his chair as the rest of the board members filed quietly out of the room, knowing they probably would not see Smith at the next board meeting…or ever.
When the room was cleared, the CEO rose and returned to his private office.
"I'm not to be disturbed under any circumstance whatsoever," he informed his office assistant. "Is that understood?"
"Yes, Sir," the man assured him.
He locked the door and smiled, shaking his head.
The nerve of some people.
Quickly and efficiently, he removed the glasses, wig and mustache that made up his disguise. The Chief Executive Officer persona was shed with the expensive custom made suit. He chuckled to himself as he dressed in his other clothes…put on his other life.
What would the stuffy board members say if they knew?
Knew that it was one of their own products that terrorized them…
That an experiment gone wrong had fought back and taken over the Centre.
That their CEO spent more time in the air ducts than in his office.
That he was…
Surely you've wondered why the guy seems to have so much freedom in this allegedly top secret, top security facility? Just my idea…let me know what you think, please.