+ Not sure if I should make Simon a bit distinctive, by always using peoples titles and / or last names vs. first names


Cantano was scheduled for an extended lunch hour with the head of the Livermore Labs. This left Simon Carter to head out to a local Starbucks to work on his laptop and make some calls. His mocha piping hot and his laptop plugged into one of the only two receptacles, he opened the lid and stared at his email.

He of course hadn’t thought he’d be working as an assistant, at least not in the admin capacity in which Cantano used him. Having majored in Biochemistry and Physics but wanting to do research work had opened the doors for him to get his foot in the door at A.S.E.R.T. three years ago. That had been a dream come true because he got to travel to places around the world as if he were a U.N. Representative instead of an A.S.E.R.T. employee. Though these days there were little differences.

The U.N. used their political power to drive change. A.S.E.R.T. used their control of technology to drive change in the world. Either way, it seemed an honor at first when he was working onsite in Ireland and Cantano was not yet the Chairman of the Council visiting the research lab. Cantano had already been driving toward his ambitions and walked into the lab as if he owned the place, even through there were higher ranked personnel there.

“Why does it appear the facility is ignoring the latest testing protocols that came out last month?” Cantano had asked out loud. An awkward silence had descended on the room of lab workers and the inspection group in which Cantano was a part of.

“It’s because we don’t agree with them,” Simon had said out loud. He didn’t know who Cantano was at the time and Simon had always been one to speak his mind in a matter of fact fashion. Cantano had slowly turned to face Simon.

“Why not?” Cantano asked in a smooth way, that Simon knew now as a set up question before Cantano closed the trap.

“When someone, somewhere else in the world, who has no idea how things work in this country tries to make a blanket policy to apply to all without getting feedback from those the policy impacts, then you loose buy-in. Loss of buy-in means no incentive or desire to put the policy into practice. So whether it could work or not is never discovered because nobody uses it.” Simon said matter of fact.

“You don’t sound Irish?” Cantano said.

“No I hail from Florida originally. But I’ve been fortunate enough to make my rounds in several A.S.E.R.T. run labs in various countries.”

“So what would you change with the testing protocols?”

“For one, I’d take into account each country’s contractual standards. If you have a separate section in the protocols that deal with the nuances of each country, then you’re off to a better start and less likely to get employees in those countries ignoring the new standards because the standards don’t ask them to do something illegal.” Cantano nodded to himself. The head of the lab, Charles O’Connlley, wore a horror stricken look on his face.

“What is your name?” Canatno had asked.

“Simon Carter. Nice to meet you,” Simon held out his hand. They shook hands.

“We’ll be talking,” Cantano said as the group continued their inspection of the facility.

“Do you know who that is?” Tina Stans, another research assistant, asked in hushed tones. Simon shrugged.

“He’s the one who wrote the new protocols and you just threw them in his face.”

“Oh. Crap.” Simon had said. Well he had been honest and appreciated the rules, if they are thought out and take others into consideration. Little did he know that would be something he and Cantano held in common. Thus when the call to work for Cantano, travel and enjoy a hefty pay increase, it wasn’t hard math to know he should say yes.

“Wow. That was three years ago already. How time flies,” Simon said to himself as he started clicking through emails and sending off messages of his own. His hands paused over the keyboard as he thought about their discussion on the commute out to the Labs.

It was unfair how Cantano was willing to use the vast resources of A.S.E.R.T. to ruin Dr. Burr.  In the years Burr hadn’t ever outright broken any rules, so he had no idea why Cantano hated the man so. Did Burr steal Cantano’s girlfriend or something? Not that he liked men, but Simon could see how women would be attracted to Burr; rugged looks, liked adventure, highly intelligent, fit and healthy.

It had to be more than that. In three years Cantano had never show much interest in long term relationships. He had dated a woman here or there, but no one, even Simon, was sure that wasn’t just for show when attending a function or receiving an award. The man was married to his ambitions.

Simon nearly did laugh out loud when Cantano had asked Burr if he in fact wanted A.S.E.R.T. to help him explore the study of magic. Simon knew from similarly embarrassing cross examination from Cantano that many in academia would have faltered and abandoned their Council review right then and there. But Burr was nonplused when he answered immediately, “What is magic? But a way to accomplish something with a science that hasn’t been discovered yet or in this case re-discovered.” It had all gone downhill from there for Cantano as Burr charmed the pants off the rest of the Council.

Simon couldn’t shake the feeling of uneasiness. Cantano in the end hadn’t asked him to break any rules, but to spend time and resources to specifically stop one scientist from pursuing their project, wasn’t a mature decision from someone in a high level of leadership like Cantano.

Simon would continue to do his job as Cantano’s assistant. He’d also keep calling out the risks. But if things continue Simon needed to do the honorable things and at least warn Burr that Cantano is out to discredit him or worse, get him banned from pursing his work. But if Burr was in fact breaking rules, then the man deserved what he got.

Simon’s phone rang. Looking at the number, he recognized the caller as A.S.E.R.T. legal. This should let him know one way or the other which direction the wind blows or at least which way he should follow or go against the wind.

*    *    *

– Need to do something like previous scene where the info dump is done through dialog and action vs. info dump memories


Ramsden took a deep breath to calm himself. Fiddling with the stir stick in his coffee cup he waited anxiously for Aran Jainukul to arrive for their meeting. He was excited more than anything, but there was still anxiety whenever he had to meet their project’s sponsor. He attributed the anxiety to the fact that Aran was a bit of enigma to the team.

It was a low time for Ramsden to gain any recognition within the scientific community. His rogue ways set a lot off people off with the wrong impression. He was literally at a crossroads of trying to decide to branch out on his own and sell his house to fund the project for a short while, or comply and take a job at one of several schools offering him a professorship. It was at that time that Aran called and offered to hear Ramsden’s proposal.

The sell seemed too easy. Aran did ask a few questions, then without blinking offered to fund Ramsden and a team for one year. At the time Ramsden was in shock with disbelief. He said yes, before he had thought it through. Within a week he hand picked a team and they were being paid to prove Ramsden’s theories right.

That wasn’t the mysterious part. The mysterious part is how Aran knew all too well what Ramsden was trying to accomplish. Too many people not only discredited Ramsden’s ideas at face value, but people like Cantano were out to stop him from making what he knew in his gut as right a reality. Aran’s mystery grew with each clue he led them to; locations that supposedly nobody else in the world knew existed, like the Ecuador site.

Aran entered the mediterranean restaurant at one o’clock on the dot. The bulk of the lunch rush had already returned to their day jobs, so there were plenty of spots to sit. Ramsden had picked a table toward the back, away from the buffet tables that steamed with heat near the front of the establishment.

Aran was of Malaysian or Thai heritage, Ramsden figured from the man’s name. He was just over five feet tall. His dark skin contrasted with his exceptionally white smile that he offered to all without return payment. Aran had deep lines in his face. He wore thin wire glassed that did little to hide eyes that seemed to know depths of things Ramsden could only imagine. The amiable man made his way to Ramsden’s table. Today he was wearing tan khaki slacks and a matching hawaiian shirt with palm trees.

“Ramsden. Good to see you again,” Aran said as he moved right into Ramsden’s space and shook his hand. Ramsden was getting use to the little man being inches from you. He wasn’t sure if it was a culture thing or if Aran simply had no sense of Americans and how guarded they were with their personal space.

“Mr. Jainukul, good to see you again too.”

“Please, sit. sit. I don’t think you’ll ever call me by my first name of Aran, no matter how many times I tell you it’s okay to do so. Nice place you picked here. They passed their FDA check last month with flying colors. Always a good sign.”

“How do you know that?” Ramsden heard him asking before he realized what kind of answer he’d get in return. Aran winked and touched his finger to the side of his nose.

“Now to check out the restroom. I’ll tell you that is a real test of a restaurant in how clean they keep a toilet. But that can wait. What do you have for me? I trust your trip was successful?”

The tanned waitress who looked like she could be from any one of a hundred Mediterranean villages delivered water, took their order and left. She returned in moments with a plate of cheese, slices of bread that looked like a pita and a pile of herbs that looked like someone picked them fresh from a garden. She left again and they continued.

“You were right again, Mr. Jainukul.” Ramsden said as he slid a USB drive across to Aran. “The video is all there. Along with pictures of the room.”