Let’s get the morbid stuff out of the way first. All things being equal I’d rather not drag you through that at all - it’s not really my way - but if I didn’t mention it you’d probably blow it up to be a whole thing that’s bigger than it is. Claim I’m living in denial. Escapism or whatever. In this case it really is nothing but a river in Egypt.
I don’t really forget things. I mean, ever. I can still remember my mother and I haven’t seen her since my parents split when I was 3. And I mean REMEMBER her. Down to the fine lines and slight wrinkles of the face. The slight signs of crows feet that by now would surely be fully formed from a few decades time now passed. If you gave me a lump of clay, given enough time I could come up with a pretty good facsimile - soldering and working with nanotech gives you pretty steady hands - because it’s burnt in there. Saved to disk.
So yeah, “Wah, poor little rich boy barely got to know his mother”, that’s where I’m going to start with this. I mean, it’s not the sum total of the morbid stuff that I’m talking about, but I guess it informs on a fair bit of what I do, I guess. Or something.
And don’t worry, this isn’t that kind of story where we pan back out and I’m lying on a psychiatrist’s lounge saying all of this. Even if it feels like that right now. I just believe in laying it all out there up front, so then we don’t need to dwell on it anymore. We can get on with life. Life which is fun, crazy, beautiful, exciting and full of surprises.
I’m not normally this depressing either, trust me…
Actually, you know what? Let’s roll with some life first, and then come back to this. I already feel weird, and like I’m laying all my problems on you too thick as it is.
K . O . R . D . E A S T D I V I S I O N - C O N F E R E N C E R O O M 1
Present Day | Boston, Massachusetts
Fluorescent lights flicker on. Feminine hands lay out two boxes of donuts on the conference room table. She leaves and returns with a caterers platter of sandwiches.Angela Revere. Secretary to the CEO. Receptionist. Employed by K.O.R.D for over a decade. Owner of two cats. Scourge of the unsolicited caller.
A man walks in wearing a tidy, conservative suit and a thin tie. He fingers a few of the donuts before making his selection and taking his seat at the table.Abner Jenkins. Chief Financial Officer. Former mechanical and aeronautical engineer. Worked for 30 years in the industry, including previous employers Boeing and Ferris Air. Owns no cats. Has a plastic surgeon on speed dial to repair his face in case he ever smiles.
A man and a woman wander in together, but not together. Not for the man’s lack of trying. The man wears a suit that costs more than Abner Jenkins car, and his well coiffed hair takes longer in daily maintenance than Angela Revere spends on the Weekly Notices emails to the whole company. The woman is wearing neat business attire, is listening politely, but is holding a folder against her chest displaying very “closed off” body language. Both help themselves to first pick of the sandwich platter.Randall Truman. Chief Marketing Officer. Employment History - Impressive, yet varied. Has never stayed at one workplace for more than 3 years. Wouldn’t be surprised if cats have mysteriously gone missing from his area. Has a plastic surgeon on speed dial for emotional support.Melody Case. President of K.O.R.D East Division. Only ever worked at K.O.R.D. M.I.T graduate, attended Yale business school post grad to prepare for transition into executive positions. Doesn’t mind cats, but doesn’t have the time for them right now. Just as she has no need for a plastic surgeon.
A man in his early-to-mid twenties wanders in like he owns the place - In his defence, his name’s on the building. He spends some time considering the sandwich platter, before selecting a meatball sub with cheese and grabbing a donut for when he’s done. He sits himself at the head of the table as is expected of him, even though he’d be perfectly happy sitting on the side like everyone else.Ted Kord. Chief Executive Officer. Only ever worked at K.O.R.D… except for a paper route his father made him take when he was a boy. Did not attend M.I.T. Between cats at the moment. Once got told he could “do with a tummy tuck”, but we don’t mention that.
Angela fiddles with the remote and the conference call equipment to make sure that both are working, and as the monitor warms up, two more executives are shown in split screen sitting at two tables elsewhere.Curt Calhoun. President of K.O.R.D Central Division. Previously worked at Wayne Enterprises, poached by K.O.R.D as Wayne Enterprises were in the midst of a hostile takeover. Don’t ask him about cats. In fact, don’t ask him anything about life outside of business.Conrad Carapax. President of K.O.R.D West Division. Previously held executive positions at 4 different Fortune 500 businesses. His wife owns a cat - it doesn’t care for him much, even though he’s often left feeding it and cleaning and replacing its litter tray. Highly regarded, but sometimes feels he’s slumming it at K.O.R.D even though his current title is the highest he’s held.
Finally, the last member of the board meeting comes scurrying in. An elderly man with his hands full of paper, as well as juggling a briefcase. Randall Truman makes an unkind joke, that gets neither laughs nor attention from its target. Ted takes the briefcase from him and helps him find his seat. Once he sits down in the empty seat next to Ted, he quickly sorts the paper and puts two thirds in his briefcase, and gets ready for the meeting. Finally getting back to his feet and grabbing whatever sandwich was closest as an afterthought.Jeremiah Duncan. Chief Operations Officer. Only ever worked at K.O.R.D. One of founder Thomas Kord’s oldest friends. Has a cat, which his wife mostly attends to, knowing he’s generally too busy working late hours. Most plastic surgeons would shrug and consider him too far gone - neither he nor his wife are bothered though.“So… we’re all here.”
Ted started the meeting off. “Does Angela have to read the previous meeting’s minutes out, or did everyone read the email?”
Nobody said anything, but eyes fell on Jeremiah Duncan. Uncomfortable silence, until he realized people expected a response from him, even though the question was addressed to the room.
“No, no, no. I’m fine. Besides, this is the flagship product meeting. I think we should get to the point at hand, since it’s so important.” The old man replied.“Fair point. Anyone want to lead us off?”
Abner Jenkins leaned forward and made his pitch, grabbing a second donut and using it as a confusing prop, waving it around with his hand gestures as sprinkles flew.
“Well, I think the common sense idea is the B.E.E.T.L.E suit. With Tony Stark introducing the world to the Iron Man armour and then promptly declaring it “Not For Sale” he’s created a unique opportunity with a vacuum of demand for a product that isn’t being sold…”“We would have to re-purpose the suit. I mean, it’s not exactly designed for that kind of use.”
Ted interrupted, considering Abner’s proposition.
“That’s true. But with a prototype that already exists, we’re well ahead of the curve on most…”“And the B.E.E.T.L.E also doesn’t use repulsor tech…”
“That’s not really the important thing is it, though? We have a solid product that with some minor adjustments or additions would be highly desirable in the Defense force industry after what Stark showed them, and entitle us to those highly lucrative--”“Whoa, whoa… Wait. Defense? You want to repurpose the B.E.E.T.L.E into a weapon? I’m surprised to hear you say that. I mean, that thing was your baby, Abner.”
“Well, Stark just showed us it pretty much is, Ted.”“I thought the ‘E’ stood for ‘Exploratory’, Abe. Well, one of them anyway, not the other two. 'Breathable Exploratory Extreme Terrain Livable Exoskeleton'. I mean, that’s going to be the thing we’re going to have people wearing when we get the first people on Mars!”
“Jeremiah, finances aside, best case scenario, how far off are we from actually getting to Mars?
The old man started shuffling through his papers. “Umm-- well, that could be hard to say… we don’t know exactly what kind of--”
“Jeremiah.” The CFO pressed firmly.
The old man looked defeated and shot Ted an apologetic look. “We could maybe get a 2025 launch date. Maybe.”
“2025 is the earliest launch date. And I take it that’s only considering the business logistics on our end and not considering the fact that Mars only comes around to being at its closest in relation to the Earth every two years. And THEN it takes about a year to get there once WE DO launch.” Sprinkles flew, he was in full swing now.
“This is the flagship product meeting, Ted. We have to MAKE IT past 2025 as a business or else that becomes a moot point. Now we have something that is easily fabricated,” Abner started counting off, finger to donut, “would only need minor adjustments,” he held two fingers to the almighty donut, “AND people would ACTUALLY WANT, and you’re getting hung up on a moral issue that could keep our company from ever getting there at all.”
Ted sat at the table, hand to the side of his face in contemplation.“We’ll table it for now and keep spitballing ideas. How about the solar panels?”
Using angular solar cells, a revolutionary new K.O.R.D patented silicon-doping system, and a far more efficient DC/AC inverter, Kord Omniversal had come up with solar panels that pushed the technology right to the edge of the Shockley-Queisser theoretical efficiency limit.
He'd come up with some pretty good solar panels, in other words.
Abner shuffled papers of his own and replied with the costs of production.
“They’re bleeding edge technology, Ted. But they’re still too expensive to mass-produce.”“Yeah, but, maybe if--”
Jeremiah cut him off. “No, he’s right Ted. If you’re going to come at the energy industry, you need to have either something game-changingly revolutionary like arc reactor tech or cold fusion, or you need to be able to competitively price. it’s a cutthroat world to get into. I mean Roxxon alone, would--”“Ok, ok. Solar panels are no good. Well, how about KORDEX? I mean we’re using it for this very meeting right now? You guys are hearing us fine, right Curt? Conrad?”
“Mr Kord. We’re hearing you fine!” “Thrilled to be here, Mr Kord.” The pair of telecommunicating executives replied.
“You’ve got to be kidding me…” Abner Jenkins muttered.
Ted looked at the grizzled old financial officer quizzically, before Randall Truman explained.
“He’s right to be derisive, Ted. The L-Pad is the dominant device across most of the world, and it’s L-isten, L-ook and L-ink software is the unparalleled frontrunner in online telecommunications. KORDEX is pretty much nothing but an in-house communications gimmick, with all due respect.” Truman explained, whilst giving no due respect whatsoever.“Yeah, but it’s fully encrypted. I mean it’s technically superior software.”
“The man on the street doesn’t care.”“What? How? How can they not care?”
“The man on the street would rather use Triple-L because everyone uses LLL. All of their friends use LLL. Everyone knows and understands the simple functionality of LLL. And it’s cool. They’re the market-leader by such a vast margin the runway is just incomparable. It’d be like trying to take on Coke with your grandmother’s cola recipe.”
Ted noticed there was no hesitation to suggest air quotes when calling LexCorp’s product ‘cool’, and immediately suspected his own CMO had a preference for product that was not even theirs.“So Lex Luthor could be listening to every conversation ever and people would still rather it because it’s cool… What a world.”
“I’m pretty sure that a man as brilliant and successful as Lex Luthor would have better things to do than listen into people’s private conversations.” Randall Truman said, shaking his head and chuckling at the absurdity of the CEO’s assertion.“Well, what else is there..?”
Ted mused to himself.
“There’s the B.E.E.T.L.E…” Abner repeated, grumbling.
“Ted…” Melody began. “There’s alway the anti-car theft device.”“Of course!”
Exclaimed the CEO, as he scrambled to the laptop that Angela was taking notes on, ushered her away and began searching for relevant files.“The Carjack Off Anti-theft and Immobilization device!”
“It needs a new name…” Randall uttered.“That’s not important.”
“It is if it’s ‘Carjack Off’...” Randall replied. “No way I could move something called that.”“The testing phase worked great! In fact some of these test videos would work for the advertisement themselves…”
Ted clicked on a video, and the monitor split screen to three panels with the two executives feeds moving to one side to play the test video unobscured.
In a concrete and steel parking garage an elderly woman is walking alone. A ‘carjacker’ armed with a rubber blade attempts to mug the old lady, who hits a button on her keys. The man is immediately blinded with an extremely bright flash of light from the key ring. The man clutches his face, and turns away from the light. Blinded, he starts to swing the rubber blade around in front of him, resorting to dumb luck in his hopes of striking the elderly lady. With a press of another two buttons a concussive sonar blast launches the man off his feet a good dozen or so feet, where he’s knocked out cold and lying on the cement. The elderly lady walked up to the fallen carjacker and whacked him with her purse, before walking back to her car. Dropping the keys before she got there, she had time to gingerly bend over and pick them back up, before opening the car door, adjusting her hair in the mirrors and slowly driving away.“I mean, even if we don’t have a product here, we could send that in and get $500 off of America’s Funniest Home Videos…”
Another test video played. This time the ‘carjacker’ had a gun. The elderly woman pressed a button on her keys and handed them over. The carjacker ran over to her car, got behind the seat, and as he went to turn the engine over a set of secondary airbags in the car deployed, first knocking him out and secondly trapping him in a position from which he couldn’t escape. The hazard lights on the car flashed, an alarm went off and periodically a voice spoke over the top of the alarm warning people to stay clear, that a robbery had taken place, that the authorities had been called and to remain calm and clear of the scene until police resolved the matter.“Jeremiah?”
Ted asked his old COO, almost pleading that he have another viable option besides pumping out armoured suits for the military.
“It’s a good product. Compatible enough that we could make it work with most new model cars…”
Randall interjected. “And I do have an existing relationship with quite a few automakers. If I pull some strings I might be able to deal directly with dealerships.”
All in assembly turned to look at Abner Jenkins. Sensing the moment he took the opportunity to grab another donut.
“It’s not sustainable.”
“It is sustainable, Abner.” The COO dissented. “And you know it.”
“Not as a business plan. Yes, the… anti-theft device is a sustainable product for this year, but that’s just it. This year. If we roll out the B.E.E.T.L.E that could secure us for years to come. In fact with new versions, updates and upgrades it could even potentially carry us until we achieve our CEO’s Mars goal if Stark stays out of the Armour war.”“We’re a Research and Development company, Abner. It says it right in the name. We’ll come up with another idea next year, or we shouldn't be calling ourselves that in the first place.”
“You’re crippling this company’s financial future for your own hyperactive morals, Ted. It’s a vacuum. It will be filled by someone. Might as well be us hauling that money away.”“Not just my morals, Abe. A man who’s a second generation weapons manufacturer looked down the barrel of the camera and told the world ‘No. You’re not getting this.’ and decided to pivot away from that line of business altogether in the process. The least I can do is consider that and say ‘Me neither.’ when I have other alternatives.”
Ted got to his feet and started to stack his things to leave.“Angela, can you make sure this food gets taken down to the engineers after the meeting?”
Ted took a beat for one more thought before he returned to close down the discussion with his CFO.“And I don’t generally like to throw it in people’s faces, Abe. But as for my hyperactive morals, there’s another word in the company’s name besides ‘Research’ and ‘Development’. And I'm not talking about 'Omniversal'. If I’ve got to stick my name to something, I’m damn sure going to make sure it’s something I can believe in.”
T H E R E S I D E N C E O F T H O M A S K O R D
2 hours later | Elsewhere within Boston, Massachusetts
Ted stood on his father’s doorstep, with a brown paper bag in hand, his tie and suit jacket were now gone and his top button was undone with his sleeves rolled up.
A man who was pushing 50 opened the door and stared blankly at his son.
“Hello? Who is it?”
Ted stood there uncomfortably long, and then furrowed his brow in concern. Just before the dam burst and the edges of his father’s mouth curled into a smile. He couldn’t keep it in anymore and cracked up laughing.“You know, that isn’t funny.”
Ted said, as he walked in the house, closing the door behind him.
Wiping a single tear from his eye, the older man replied, “Then why do I laugh every time I do it?”“Yeah, right up until the first time you don’t.”
“Yep. But by then I won’t know any better anyway.”“No, I’ll be the one tearing up, and it won’t be because of laughter. Thanks Pop…”
“Way to kill the laughter and bring down the mood, Buzzkill.”“Yep, that’s me alright.”
An uncomfortable silence passed between the two.
“So what’d you bring me?” Thomas pointed down to the paper bag.
Ted held up the paper bag “Two corned beef 6 inches and a peanut butter filled donut.”
“Oh, My boy! You remembered!”“Remembered nothing… the engineers won’t touch the corned beef. You’re eating scraps.”
“Let me guess? Quarterly financial meeting?”
Ted looked to see if he was joking this time. But picked up no sign, and his concern came creeping back.“No. Annual flagship product meeting.”
“Oh right, right…” Thomas said. “That time of year again.”
Another uncomfortable silence.“Are you serious?”
“Look, don’t look at me like that. I’m retired now. I don’t need to know what the date is every day, alright? I don’t have anywhere I need to be, I don’t have a calendar to keep track of every day. So drop it.”“Alright, alright…”
Ted said, but the concern wasn’t going anywhere.
“So how’d it go?”“We’re going with an anti-car theft system I started on a few years back, and palmed off on the engineering pool when I had to start the monkey suit route.”
“Really? Just a car alarm?”“It’s a bit more than just that.”
Ted walked over to his father’s fridge and pulled a can of Soder out. “Dad, Abner Jenkins was trying to get me to militarize his B.E.E.T.L.E armour into generic Iron Man spin-offs.”
“Wow. That’s sad. Poor guy must really be losing hope.”“Yeah, he went on this whole tirade about it being improbable we’d make it to 2025.”
“Well, where finances are concerned you should listen to him. It’s why I put him there for you. But I’m telling you right now, you’re going to need to watch him like a hawk.”“Why’s that?”
“Nothing’s more scary than a man who feels his legacy is being threatened. If he’s saying that, he’s having doubts he’s ever going to see anything become of his B.E.E.T.L.E suit, and I have to tell you… that thing is a design work of art.”“Well, I’m trying. Sometimes you’ve just got to live with finding a way to get on base until that fat, juicy one comes sliding across the inside of the plate for you to put into the bleachers.”
“So that’s all you had? Car alarm and Killer B.E.E.T.L.E?”
Ted took another deep swig before answering. “Had some other quality products, but nothing without marketing or manufacture difficulties to roll out as a flagship.”
“Let me ask you something… When Abner went on his tirade, how did Pasadena and Chicago respond? Calhoun and Carapax?”“They didn’t say anything. Why?”
“Ehhh… maybe nothing. But you said ‘tirade’. Abner’s normally pretty steady. I don’t know Calhoun too well personally, he came recommended and I picked him up late during the whole Wayne Enterprises/Sionis takeover. And Carapax. Conrad has some ambition to him.”“You left me a board filled with ambitious, power-hungry executives? Wow. Thanks Pops.”
Ted sarcastically fired back.
“Ted, if I could have left you a company filled with Jeremiah Duncans I would have… unfortunately, in all my travels I’ve only ever found one. Be glad you’ve got him. As for Calhoun and Carapax. I’m just saying, Calhoun I don’t know at all, but I KNOW Carapax. Power-hungry or not, he IS good at his job. I only left him in charge of his own little corner of the world, and he’s good at that. Just don’t let him in a position where he can bite you. Because he will, if you give him a chance. And he’s crafty enough to wait for it. So if Abner was really bothered, I’d expect the two to be having some kind of discussion, if they hadn’t already before that meeting.”“Ugh… I thought I left high school drama, backstabbing and politics behind me.”
“This is the business world, Ted. If you leave politics and backstabbing behind you--”
it.” They said together. “Yes. I know… I know.”
“I just wish I could have stuck around longer to help you out.”“I know. But you did the right thing pulling the pin early.”“If they’d have found out you have early onset alzheimer's they’d have forced you out before you could have made your own choice on who to pass it down to...”
So yeah, I guess that’s where it is really.
Poor little rich boy with a perfect memory, can remember his own parents splitting up.
Poor little rich boy with a perfect memory had to take over his father’s business early.
Poor little rich boy with a perfect memory is going to have to watch as his father’s mind turns to mush and live in and recall every single moment of it.
Oh. And Alzheimer’s is hereditary, and autosomally dominant.
So that’s pretty much where the morbid ends. You won’t read another word about it from me.
Because here’s where the fun starts...
So remember it.