UnitedFutures Ch. 03byStarscream_UK©
New York City
The rain drummed against his umbrella to the point that it practically drowned out all other sound. As his fingers fumbled with the key to his three-floor Brownstone, David Fenwick was aware of a car pulling up along the sidewalk. He looked over his shoulder and saw a jet-black sedan sitting there with its engine running. The rear window rolled down smoothly.
"David," The woman's voice called out to him. "Do you have a minute?" Fenwick recognised the dark haired woman sitting in the back of the car instantly. Her name was Monica Braccia and he knew she was trouble. He turned back to his door and tried to get the key to fit in the lock. "David, please -- we need to talk." Giving up with his key Fenwick turned around and looked at the car.
"What have you done to my front door?" He said as he walked down the short flight of stairs to the sidewalk.
"Get in." Monica said, opening the door for him and moving across the back seat. "It's important."
"It had better be." Fenwick grumbled as he folded his umbrella and shook the water from it before getting into the sedan.
"Here's the new key to your front door." Monica said, handing him the key.
"I knew it -- I knew you'd screwed about with it." Fenwick cursed. "Where the hell do you get off fucking around with my stuff?"
"I'm sorry David, but I needed to be sure you'd speak to me."
"What could we possibly have to talk about?" He countered. Monica handed him a piece of paper. "What's this?" His eyes scanned the paperwork, his facial expression mirroring the feeling of shock running through his body. "Where did you get this?"
"You of all people should know that I have my sources," Monica said with undisguised glee in her voice. She then handed him a small USB stick. "That's the electronic version of the data -- feel free to verify it at your leisure."
"What's your interest in all this?" Fenwick asked as he pocketed the USB stick.
"I just thought you should be aware of it." Monica replied. "I have no professional interest in it -- but I figured it might be beneficial to someone in your position." Fenwick nodded.
"Drop me off here." He said as he gestured to the coffee shop at the corner of the road. The car came to a halt and he opened the door.
"When did you stop trusting me David?" Monica's question made Fenwick laugh as he got out of the car.
"The day I realised you'd bugged my office for the government when we were having sex in there." He popped open his umbrella. He heard Monica sigh even above the sound of the rain.
"This has been fun -- we should do it again some time." Monica said with a smile on her face.
"Fuck you." Fenwick said as he slammed the door shut. Without looking back, he began to walk back towards his home in the pouring rain, his mind clouded with disturbing thoughts.
"Good morning Veronica," Fenwick said as he entered the compact surroundings of the hub beneath UnitedFutures New York office. "How are you feeling today?"
"My progress is measured in molecular increments so everything is relative," Veronica growled back at him. "However, I find your chipper demeanour this morning slightly irritating."
"Sorry about that," He replied. "So, how much do you remember about your accident?"
"Fortunately very little." Veronica said. "A flash of light; searing pain down the left-hand side of my body and then darkness. My next memory was waking up in this pseudo-prison."
"What about who was present in the lab? Any recollections of who was around that day?" Veronica shook her head in response. "I read the official report into the accident," Fenwick said. "The investigating officer determined that there was a fault in your equipment that caused the explosion -- a faulty electrical supply cable -- that it was your negligence that directly led to the blast." He paused for a moment. "How do you feel about that?"
"Angry." Veronica's response was instant. "I always maintained flawless control conditions -- I refuse to believe that I would have been so careless in allowing something like that to occur. I checked and double checked everything in that laboratory before I began my test process."
"And yet, when people are under duress it's likely that they make mistakes."
"Other people make mistakes Mr Fenwick," Veronica countered. "I don't."
"The accident cost you a great deal, didn't it?" Fenwick added. "Both personally and professionally."
"You know it did." Neither of them spoke for a moment. "I was being...considered for the post of Senior Scientist within the division until it was snatched away from me." Fenwick could see the mixture of anguish and anger on her face, even within that metal sarcophagus. "Had it not been for Andrea's actions I'd be dead. As it is, it's doubtful that I'll ever have full control over my body again, that's without considering my options with my eye."
"Have you considered a prosthetic replacement?" Fenwick's question seemed to be genuine. "Maybe a cybernetic implant or a transplant from a suitable donor?"
"Do you know anyone with a spare left eye?" Veronica couldn't hold her venom back.
"Well, you'll be pleased to know that I'll soon have the report finished." Fenwick said.
"Have you made a decision yet?" Veronica could feel her stomach churning as she asked him the question.
"Not yet." Fenwick said before changing the subject. "I found something last night that I need to ask you about." Fenwick paused for a minute as he sat down and activated the terminal in the room. "What is Orexin?" Fenwick said as he flicked through various folders on the large screen.
"How have you found that?" She asked -- the tone clear despite the metallic quality of her voice.
"It's on your private server -- tucked away amidst a bunch of defunct files as one of the last projects you were working on before your accident."
"What are you doing routing through my private server?"
"I'm an auditor; I can do whatever I like." Fenwick said, turning around in his chair and getting up from it. He walked across to the hyperbaric chamber. "Now, we'll try this again. What is Orexin?"
"It's nothing; a simple chemical compound that I had been working on in my spare time as a potential replacement for our Modafil-X product line."
"The amphetamine replacement drug we sell to the Military to decrease fatigue and increase combat awareness?" Fenwick asked. "I didn't realise there was a project to replace that?"
"There wasn't." Veronica said. "I had been tinkering around with a new compound, something that provided more longevity than the Modafil-X managed. Orexin could have produced results far in excess of those achieved with Modafil-X if it had ever gotten beyond a theoretical stage." Fenwick walked back to the desk and picked up some papers. Returning to the chamber, he held them up so Veronica could see them.
"Well, it appears that I'm not the only one who has been going through your private server," He said as she began to read the documents that were pressed against the glass. "Because someone has decided to push Orexin to full field testing -- in a town called Villagran in Mexico." Fenwick shook his head. "Looks like I'll have to submit an expenses claim for some overseas travel."
"My name is Fenwick, I have an appointment to speak to Mr Reynolds." Eva was slightly surprised how Fenwick addressed her -- his tone was oddly quiet and respectful, not at all like how other members of the division spoke to her. Whilst many of them had their suspicions surrounding her duties, the deliberate lack of clarity around her role had prompted rumour and speculation to become rife.
"Please take a seat Mr Fenwick, Mr Reynolds will be with you shortly." She watched as Fenwick sat down is a small seat across from her desk. As Eva tapped away at the keyboard, she tilted the monitor slightly, allowing the camera located in the rear of it to make a cursory scan of the man dressed in a dark blue suit. There was a slight ping sound as the device completed its scan of the visitor -- Eva noted that there appeared to be nothing untoward in Fenwick's demeanour, in fact he seemed strangely relaxed as he waited.
"Your Mr Reynolds' personal assistant, right? Miss Eva Lake?" Fenwick said. "I understand you used to work for Edwards over at Mergers and Acquisitions before he was promoted."
"I did." Eva's response was reserved, unsure as to where Fenwick's question could be leading her.
"He was my first supervisor when I started here ten years ago; he picked me straight out of grad school and took me under his wing -- nice guy." He replied. Eva nodded in agreement. "Tell me," Fenwick's voice was suddenly quieter. "Did he still no clue when it came to his colour co-ordination between his tie and his shirt?" Eva barely managed to suppress a smile with the door to Reynolds' office being opened.
"Mr Fenwick," Reynolds said, extending his hand to his visitor as he got out of his chair. "It's so good to finally get to meet you."
"Well, it appears that both of our schedules have been somewhat hectic." Fenwick said, dismissing the comment. "However, now is as good at time as any to discuss my initial findings."
"Excellent, excellent," Reynolds answered. "Come in, have a seat." He looked across at Eva. "Hold my calls Miss Lake."
"So you can understand my position." Fenwick said as Reynolds examined the documents. "It's clear that someone has exploited theoretical research data held in the late Veronica Goddard's files without consulting with Internal Security or Corporate Governance."
"So I see," Reynolds replied, casually glancing through the documents. "How do you see this issue being...resolved?"
"Well, the issue of the products at hand is secondary to the breach of company protocols," Fenwick said. "There's also the fact that someone has pressed ahead with this field test without sign-off from the Executive Board -- as you're aware, all activities like this need to retain an element of plausible deniability -- we are potentially compromised in a situation like this. However, before I can accurately assess our liability in this issue I'll need to make a full inspection of the location and verify the field test results first hand."
"So, you're actually going to visit Villagran?" Reynolds asked. Fenwick nodded. "I understood it was something of a war-zone down there."
"I have to -- it's the only way to get a good look at what's been going on and hopefully find some answers." Fenwick replied. "Besides, just how bad can it really be there?"
Ciudad Victoria, Mexico
5 days later
Fenwick looked out across the vista of the urban environment that surrounded him. The high-rise towers of the city seemed to be doing everything possible to make their occupants forget about the squalor they precariously sat atop of. The stifling heat outside wasn't bothering him tonight -- courtesy of the artificial environmental control within his suite -- but his mind was rolling around a series of thoughts that were beginning to give him palpitations.
Villagran was at the forefront of the Mexican government's war on the drug cartels that held the Tamaulipas area of the country in a stranglehold. Fenwick had spent three days wandering around the small border town before returning to the large city of Ciudad Victoria to contemplate the findings. As he looked through his notes, Fenwick found himself reaching an inescapable conclusion.
His life was probably in imminent danger, yet he knew he still had a duty to the company to report his findings back to his superiors, regardless of the personal cost.
Switching the light off in his room and preparing himself for bed, he took the time to close the curtains that blotted out most of the light pollution that the city was famous for. Sitting back in his chair, Fenwick closed his eyes and waited.
His patience was rewarded when the sound of the heavy glass doors to the suite were carefully slid open. Fenwick realized that he was actually holding his breath as he saw the silhouette enter through the curtain and approach his bed. Even in the nearly non-existent light, he could see that the figure was reaching out with something. His curiosity satisfied, David Fenwick flicked a switch.
The lights in the room flared into life -- the undeniably feminine figure approaching the bed stopped in her tracks. Fenwick could see the slender arm that was reaching towards the bed held a silenced pistol in its grasp.
"I think that's far enough Miss Lake," Fenwick said. "After all, we wouldn't want to damage the pillows in the bed there and incur any penalty charges." The figure twisted her head towards him -- he could see those same eyes that had studied him in the office glaring at him from behind the ultra-thin goggles. "Why don't you put the gun down and we can have a reasonable and sensible conversation like adults."
Eva paused -- she knew she should just shoot this man as Reynolds had instructed her to do -- yet something made her stop just short. Something about his sincere and direct way of talking to her made her question herself. Against her better judgement she placed the pistol down on the bed and pulled the mask from her face, allowing her blonde hair to spill out over her shoulders.
"I'll give you two minutes," Eva said. "Then I'm picking up the gun and shooting you."
"I'll be done in one," Fenwick replied. "Then you can spend the other minute deciding what to do next." He paused for a moment as he stood up to remove his robe -- and she saw the wetsuit he wore underneath it. Eva suddenly realised how he had been able to avoid her thermal scan of the room.
"It's come to my attention through my involvement in auditing another project within the Research and Analysis Division that it someone is looking to sell an intellectual property right of UnitedFutures to one of our main competitors." Fenwick said, moving across to pick up a bottle of water from the table. He kept his movements slow and deliberate so Eva could see that he wasn't acting in a threatening manner towards her. "Now, I've traced the source of the potential leak to someone quite high up in the department -- and your presence here has just confirmed my suspicions."
"What do you mean?" Eva asked, crossing her legs. Fenwick returned to his chair.
"I'm assuming that Reynolds sent you down here with orders to remove me and to secure whatever information I had gathered from the field test he had running up in Villagran, correct?" Eva nodded.
"He said that he had evidence that you were passing information on UnitedFutures operations to a member of the Senate investigation committee." Eva said. Fenwick laughed. He picked up the small USB stick that he had been given a week ago in the pouring rain and threw it across to Eva.
"Close, but no cigar." He added as she snatched it out of the air. "Reverse that whole statement. I have received some information from someone on the senate investigation committee and they gave it to me as they thought it may be of use to me." Fenwick paused for a moment. "Now, I'll freely admit that there was once a personal connection to this individual, but that's all a matter of public record within the Corporate Governance division."
"How do you mean?" Eva asked, suddenly unsure of the situation she found herself in.
"Look at the data on there, and then you can tell me if you think I'm wrong." She looked at the data stick, then at Fenwick. Eva got up and grabbed his laptop. "I'll get us some room service shall I?" He said. She looked at him, and then shook her head.
"I'll have a club sandwich." She mumbled as he picked the phone up.
"Let me get this straight," Eva said as she finished eating her sandwich. "You think that Lee Reynolds -- the head of the Research and Analysis Division -- is looking to sell a prototype drug called Orexin to BioTech Industries? One of our main corporate rivals?"
"Precisely." Fenwick replied as he swigged his beer. "I also think that Reynolds is involved -- indirectly -- in the attempted murder of Veronica Goddard."
"What do you mean, attempted?" Eva asked. "Veronica Goddard died a year ago in a laboratory accident."
"That's what they want you to believe." Fenwick said. "However, I can assure you that Veronica is alive and...sort of well, although that situation may not remain the same for much longer."
"Look, I'm not stupid, but why is this Orexin drug worth all this?" Fenwick leaned back in his chair and smiled.
"Imagine what you could accomplish if you never had to sleep," He said. "Think about it -- we spend a third of our lives asleep. What could you do with that extra time?" Fenwick waited for the idea to sink in with Eva. "That's what Orexin does -- it eliminates the need within the human body for sleep."
"Oh wow..." Eva muttered. "But...but there would be consequences to that."
"Indeed," Fenwick said. "Resource consumption would sky rocket, the environmental impact would be horrendous and that's without considering the fact that after 11 days without sleep you're going to suffer a massive psychotic break..." His pause was pregnant.
"But..." Eva added.
"But you couldn't sell something like that to a major corporation without some sort of documentary evidence of it's worth. A proof of concept, if you will." He took another drink from the beer. "Which is where Villagran comes into the picture." Fenwick swiped a chip from Eva's plate. "If there was a living, breathing test subject who had been subjected to the Orexin drug for, oooh, I don't know, let's say a month without any side effects that would surely be enough to prove that the drug works."
"I don't understand, how can you prove any of this?" Fenwick handed her the piece of paper that Monica had given him on that rainy night. As she took in its contents she shook her head. "How could he do this?"
"Very easily." Fenwick said, taking the piece of paper back from her and carefully folding it up. "Let's assume that Reynolds was presented the product and saw its value -- however, he couldn't present it to UnitedFutures as a completely original piece of work because the baseline patents for it were already registered within the company database." He twirled a fork between his fingers. "So he would need to approach someone externally to offer them the product for a price."
"So, you said something about needing a test subject." Eva said, absorbing what he had just told her. "Do you think there is one?"
"I already know who the test subject is and where he's being held." Fenwick replied. "A six year old boy went missing from the town of Villagran three nights ago following, by all accounts, a very professional raid. There's a boat moored in the bay that's registered to BioTech -- I would guess that's where they have him." Eva nodded. "I'm guessing that his immune system has somehow rendered the more toxic aspects of the drug inert -- so it's just a matter of extracting the safe drug compound from his system to duplicate it." He looked out of the window for a moment. "I'm sure someone with your skills should be able to resolve that particular matter and make sure that we're able to secure the test subject. Then we'll return to New York and present the matter to the board."
"And just what are you hoping that will achieve?" Eva said. "I don't think that Reynolds is the type of man to resign."
"Oh you never know; people will do the strangest things under pressure." Fenwick replied. "Now, I have to arrange our flight out of here with the local field office and send my report on my other work to the Chief Financial Officer." He began to unzip the wetsuit that he was wearing. "Eva, remember that the child on board that boat has company property running through his veins -- we have to get it back."