Artemis: The Collective Chapter 2

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

The NWPI team tries to figure out new information, as the heat is turned up on Citizen-voice...

Chapter 2 (v.1) - A matter of class

Submitted: February 09, 2017

Reads: 87

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Submitted: February 09, 2017

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Chapter 2: A matter of class

Jack flipped the lid off of the box reluctantly, and leaned over to look inside. The rest of his technical team followed his lead, and leaned forward in their seats. Everyone was still wondering what just happened with Ben, but one thing was undeniable; the box looked very old, and quite important. Jack reached inside, and pulled out a coffee mug with thick brown stains decorating the bottom. It looked as though this particular mug were shoved in the box immediately after the owner took the last drink.
It was a boring plain white mug with an aqua blue circle in the middle, and the initials N.O.A inside the circle painted in gold. There was also a small phrase printed underneath the aqua blue circle that read 'staff member 1946'. Shara Young head of NWPI communications curiously leaned in for a closer look. "What is N.O.A?" She asked.

Jack looked over at her in disbelief; how could anyone not know what N.O.A was he wondered? The space exploration firm was one of the foremost deep space research, and development organizations in the United States for over three-hundred years. Then he realized a couple of important details he had first failed to consider. One being that Shara is the youngest department head in NWPI history at just twenty-six years old, and the second being the top secret military nature of N.O.A's research. This alone made certain anything about the company wouldn't have been part of any college curriculum.

"N.O.A stands for the National organization of astrophysicists". Jack replied with a certain joy in his voice. I actually interned there as a grad student from Harvard." He explained as a smile shot across his face like a rainbow across the sky in spring. "It was a very progressive place to work." He continued. "The majority of our research was government funded... and extremely top secret."

"I even had to sign a non-disclosure agreement to intern there." Jack laughed. "My professors at Harvard whom usually required hard evidence that you were actually working; simply had to take my word for it... those were exciting times."
The smile quickly washed away as the rainbow would have with a swift moving cloud front, and he leaned back against the wall. "N.O.A lost its funding about twenty years ago, and was shut down permanently. That is when I came to work here at NWPI, and I met a brash executive named Ben Snell." Jack carefully set the mug on the table next to him, and reached back into the box for another item.

The first thing his fingers came upon was some rolled up paper about the size of a poster. He carefully rolled the rubber bands off, and unfurled the pages laying them flat on the boardroom table. He placed both hands down, and leaned in for a closer look. Before long the executive team was all staring in amazement at the crudely illustrated and extremely mathematical drawing.

Shara not wasting any time blurted out. "That looks like a rocket." Jack looked over at her, and his right lip curled upward slightly to make a half smile. "It kind of does..." he said. They all leaned in a bit closer, and squinted to focus in. "I think it may be some kind of hyper-drive system, see here where there would be a mixture ratio for a standard rocket... it's not there." Jack muttered as he rubbed his chin.

"Look Jack, here where on a basic rocket plan the thrust equation would be much shorter, look how long that one is." Sean Howell, director of charting and classifications pointed out. Jack inspected the long detailed formula, and shook his head in agreeance. "I have never seen something this complex before" Jack said scratching his head... "And what is this date down here in the right corner... 1947!" Jack couldn't believe what he was seeing, he didn't know exactly what it was yet, but this was well ahead of twentieth-century human intelligence.

The group stood silent together for about five minutes just studying the pages before Jack snapped his fingers, breaking the long silent pause. "Everyone back to your departments. Make sure all of your team members are in high gear on Ben's proposal for the one world collective. Tell them that we are in mandatory overtime, until the collective is operational. I will see you all in testing lab four on yellow level, let's say five-o'clock." He began frantically gathering up all of the documents, and items from the box, placed them inside, and headed out the door like a man possessed.

A brisk ten minute glide-rail trip away at his high rise condominium an exhausted Ben lay on his stomach snoring louder than a jalopy car, and dreaming a terrible dream about worldwide chaos, and anarchy. He was still wearing his suit from Collette's the night before; and more infamously this morning's meeting. Only now it was more untucked and disheveled than ever before.
Out of the blue the doorbell rang, and crashed the silence in Ben's Condo like a brick through a window. He jumped up from the bed and stood stiff as a board still half asleep, yet now rudely half awake. He collected his thoughts, and went to the dresser mirror. He started tucking and grooming, caught one look at himself in the mirror, and laughed as the doorbell rang a second time "I will be right there!" Ben shouted while straightening his tie.

The ringing of the chime had barely dissipated as he walked to the front door, and looked at the Omni-tablet security screen perched on its docking station. He could see a young woman wearing a long designer dress coat, and matching hat. She appeared to be looking at her watch so he couldn't see much of her face. Ben pushed the door unlock tab on his Omni-tablet screen, and opened it to greet the mysterious visitor.

As he looked slightly down to meet her eyes he was choked up by her beauty, and even the word hello was too great of a challenge to execute. He stood captivated by this gorgeous creature, in his head thinking of all the right things to say, but found himself incapable of speech. Thankfully she saved the moment for them both, and spoke first. "Hello you must be Benjamin Snell?" she said with a sweet, and sugary tone that made his ears tingle with delight.

"I am..." he barely mustered, still staring at her sparkling green eyes, completely forgetting the standard follow up question of who might you be. The young woman wasn't quite as struck by him although she felt he was quite handsome, and though a bit unkempt at the moment smelled rather nice. "My name is Amy Dorn, may I come in for a moment?"

After a brief pause Ben actually had the fortitude to complete a sentence. "Where are my manners, of course please come in." He stepped back and made the please enter hand gesture. Amy gracefully walked inside, looking around his place as she entered. "I apologize for coming unannounced, and you probably have some questions. I imagine the first being what do I want?"

That was probably the furthest thing from Ben's mind as he gestured for her to come into the dining room, and have a seat at the table. He couldn't care less why she was there, he just didn't want her to leave. "So... can I get you something to drink?" he asked graciously. "No thank you, Mr. Snell this is not a social visit. I understand that one of my men delivered a box to you last night."

Ben froze... he was very interested in what Amy would say next. "Yes..." he answered. "Do you have it here?" She politely inquired. "No I took it to my office, and left it with my chief engineer Jack Saint at NWPI." Amy looked Ben directly in the eyes, and with immense seriousness said. "The box, and all contents contained within must not be discussed outside of your office... by anyone!" Ben was now feeling concerned, amidst feeling completely smitten.

"Do you know what is inside the box?" she continued. "I have a general idea, but I am confident Jack will tell me when I see him this evening." Ben politely answered. "Do you know what is in the box?" he countered. Amy sighed before continuing. "I don't know exactly what it is, just what I have been told throughout the years. My great grandfather of ten generations past, gave that box to his mother, with the only key to the safe it was locked in, and a note rolled up tightly like a cigarette in a glass vile.
The two of them carefully hid the safe deep in the basement of a country home owned by some close family friends. He had stolen it from the United States government research facility where he worked in New Mexico. The next day he was taken away by the military, and committed to a sanitarium. No one in his family was ever allowed to see him again, and this secret has been kept for hundreds of years."

Ben was now sitting at the chair opposite of her, and listening with fascination to every word. "Please go on I could listen to you all day..." Amy blushed a little, as Ben quickly realized he had just said that out loud. "I am sorry, that was most inappropriate, please continue I didn't mean to be rude." Ben quickly back peddled. Amy looked at him and smiled, of course a woman is charmed by flattery, and Elite women are no different.

"You are not rude Mr. Snell. I thank you for the compliment. I must say this is a very important situation though... we have to be careful that no one finds out you have the box. The reason I am here is because the note, and key to the safe have been passed down for ten generations. I happen to be the tenth, and have been keeping this secret for thirteen years. When I turned eighteen, and was considered responsible enough to handle the burden, I was told the same thing as all the bearers before me. The time will come when humanity is at a crossroad, and the right cause will present itself."

Ben was completely intrigued by what Amy was telling him, and utterly infatuated with her. He truly could have listened to her all day. "How do you know what I am trying to do, and if it is the right cause?" he asked somewhat puzzled. "Well I would say humanity is at a crossroads wouldn't you?" she asked. "I would also say that an initiative to save the planet is a worthy cause." She continued. "Well yes, but how do you know what is in there will help us?" Ben asked. "Mr. Snell... the military wanted to use what was in that box for all the wrong reasons, so Dr. William Kleczka stole it for the greater good, subjecting himself to essentially banishment."

"Well what did they want it for?" Ben replied. Amy held up her left hand, and started counting off. "Power, control, greed, domination... you name a bad reason, and they intended it." "Wait a minute, are you are in hiding from the military over this box? Are you in danger, do they know that NWPI has it now?" Ben started asking frantically.

"No the military stopped looking for the box three generations ago. I am in danger because I am an Elite discussing with a commoner something that could change the tide for the campaign to save Earth." Ben looked glazed over with confusion. "You do understand that the Elite populations around the world are against expelling untold wealth to save a planet that they feel can't be saved... don't you?"

She asked genuinely, as he sat silent still looking confused. "They view it as a bad investment." She lamented. Ben slammed the table with his right palm causing her to lean away, and sit straight up. "Why would anyone consider saving their home planet an investment at all... much less a bad one? Why would money be a consideration when it is a matter of life, and death?" He shouted rhetorically.

Amy sat there silent, and looked at him with a stoic almost sympathetic look on her face, then replied. "Not for the Elite... They view it as an opportunity to start over if Earth dies." she broke eye contact with Ben, looked down at the table and said quietly. "And all commoners die with it." Ben stood up abruptly causing his chair to slide noisily across the floor. "What are you talking about!?"

Amy stood up, and backed away from the table. "I have said too much I have to go. Please do not let anyone know you have that box outside of NWPI. My life depends on it, and so does the fate of our planet." She turned, and started swiftly for the door. "Wait!" He shouted, and she turned, to look at him. She gave him an empathetic smile, and quickly left through the front door.

Ben raced after her, and thrust open the door, and she was almost down the first step. "Please tell me what all of this is about." He pleaded. "I can only tell you one thing for now. The note read (My dearest family: The contents of the box stored in my safe will change the world as you know it forever. I gave my life to keep it from the wrong people, which I am afraid is almost everyone.

The day will come when what is contained within will help the right people do the right thing for the betterment of the human race. I promise, this day will present itself) I can't say anymore here, I will try to contact you so we can continue this conversation another time." Amy turned quickly, and disappeared down the staircase. Ben could only stand at the door his hands at his side, and his head swimming with questions, and speculations.

One state away in Oklahoma City a man sat in a large expensive high back leather office chair on the ninety-ninth floor in the main office of Citizen-voice. He gazed out the window at the thick smog cloud hovering over the city. He tapped his fingers on the arm with his left hand, and sipped a glass of brandy with his right. In the distance he could hear Ronald Lomax arriving to work.
"Hello Christine, have there been any calls this morning?" Ronald asked. "No Mr. Lomax... but you do have a guest." Ronald peered through the office window, and could make out just the very top of a man's head. He leaned over Christine's desk, and whispered. "Who is that in my office?" "He wouldn't say." Christine answered back in a soft whisper, and playful tone... she found it fun to be secretive.

Ronald gave her a stern fatherly look, and straightened his tie before starting towards his office. As he entered through the Cherrywood French doors he bullishly announced his arrival. "May I help you sir? I am the head of Citizen-voice Ronald Lomax, and you are sitting in my chair." The man swung around in the chair abruptly, and slowly set his glass of brandy on the table.
He then put both hands firmly on Ronald's extravagant desk. One much nicer than a supposed humble lobbying firm would own. "My apologies Mr. Lomax, I was merely keeping it warm for you. My name is Gregory Swain FBI." He announced, as he stood up from the chair. "That sure is a tasty brandy you have there, what brand is that?" Ronald stood in frozen animation for a few seconds taken completely by surprise with the statement FBI.

"Uh... Uh... I believe its Courvoisier." He could barely expel. He cleared his throat, and motioned towards his seat. "FBI huh, well what can I do for you Mr. Swain?" Gregory walked slowly around the desk, feeling the fine finish with his hand, before taking a seat in the guest chair. He straightened is jacket, and crossed his right leg over his left.
Ronald sat down is briefcase, and resumed position in his standard spot as head of Citizen-voice. "Well Mr. Lomax I will get right to it. The reason for my visit today isn't of a social nature I'm afraid. We at the bureau have a formal investigation into the internal operations, and funding of Citizen-voice. You sir are the first interview."

The two men looked at each other square in the eyes, both thinking completely different thoughts. "Well you get right to the point... don't you Mr. Swain?" Ronald said crassly, while rummaging around his desk for his E-cigar. "I don't believe in wasting peoples time Mr. Lomax. Now you have no obligation to speak with me today, but I must warn you. If you do not voluntarily speak with me, and I am forced to subpoena you for testimony; the worse this all could get for you."

Ronald felt like a quick leap from the rooftop would be a welcome vacation from this living hell he found himself in recently. "I will cooperate of course. I will talk with you today, as I have nothing to hide. Citizen-voice is a legitimate, and well respected firm that has been lobbying for the people going on seventy-five years now. This is a perfect time for the interview." He said as he took a long forceful draw from his E-cigar, and leaned over to the com-screen.

"Christine, hold all my calls, and please close the door sweetheart." "Yes sir." Christine replied dutifully. The thick white cloud of vapors escaped Ronald's mouth from exhale, and began to fade as he leaned back in his chair. Gregory sat up straight, and began the interview. "Mr. Lomax I am going to be recording this so I do suggest you tell the truth. If you have anything incriminating to say think carefully before you answer. There is no going back once I push record."

Ronald's heart was beating like a jungle war rhythm, and his mind was racing with a million thoughts. Thoughts of all the wrong he has done, and all the cold hard facts that would probably lead to his eventual imprisonment. All of this swirled in his mind like a dark cloud, yet his face looked like he was on a Caribbean cruise sipping a delicious cold beverage.

A superhuman level of composure was just one of the things that have made Ronald such a great attorney, and a very successful lobbyist for more than three decades. "I understand the law Mr. Swain, thank you for the advanced disclosure. I can tell you are a professional, and I respect that." Gregory pressed record... "Mr. Lomax I am agent Gregory Swain of the Federal bureau of investigations.

I am here as a courtesy to yourself, and to Citizen-voice to conduct a preliminary interview pertaining to an investigation dating back to August 1st 2259. I will be asking you some questions to which the answers may be of an incriminating nature. If you feel that you may incriminate yourself or anyone you are associated with, you do have the right to plead the 5th amendment, and seek counsel before continuing the interview... but Mr. Lomax..." Gregory leaned forward, and looked directly into Ronald's eyes. "You cannot lie... do you understand?"

Ronald smugly grinned at him, and thought to himself how not only was he going to lie, but he was going to thoroughly outwit agent Gregory Swain of the FBI, as he had outsmarted better opponents by his estimation many times before. "I do, and you may commence with questions when ready agent Swain." He answered smugly. "Mr. Lomax have you ever taken a bribe for any of the bills you helped pass as director of Citizen-voice?" "No" "Mr. Lomax have you ever made a bribe to an elected official in the effort to help pass legislation while director of Citizen-voice?"

"I certainly have not." Ronald replied with an almost offended tone, although he had paid off more senators, and congressman than the heads of the Italian mob syndicates have paid off the police. "Mr. Lomax have you or anyone affiliated with Citizen-voice or your charitable organization 'campaign for change' ever committed a crime violent or otherwise in order to obtain a favorable verdict in court?"

Ronald chuckled, and took another long slow draw from his electronic cigar. He shook his head slowly back and forth still grinning. "I am sorry Mr. Lomax is there something funny about these questions?" Agent Swain asked slightly irritated by the coy nature of Ronald's manner. "No I apologize, it is just the questions themselves. They are standard issue academy training questions agent Swain.

I know that you are supposed to ask all of these standard questions to arouse a suspicion based on pattern of response. This will then allow you to get a federal judge to issue you a subpoena for my testimony in a federal interrogation room. Where you can ask me the real questions. I am sorry young man but I am much too busy to spend all day here playing a game... one in which I already know the outcome.

If you are not charging me with anything specific at this time, please send me the federal subpoena in about three weeks, give or take. I will promptly appeal on the grounds of insufficient counsel, and no time for discovery which will delay the real interview by about six additional months. I thank you for your time sir." Ronald stood up smugly, and extended his right hand for a shake.
Gregory let out a small chuckle under his breath, and pressed stop record on his tablet. He pushed himself away from the desk, and stood up with his leather case tucked neatly under his right arm. "I am sorry that you want to play a game Mr. Lomax. Instead of save yourself, and the firm from possible indictment. It is important to know the rules before playing a game sir, or to take a moment to consider the opponent."

"We will be in touch." Gregory said as he turned, and left Ronald's office leaving him holding out his arm to an ignored gesture. Ronald stood hands at his side, glaring at the intruding FBI agent as he walked out the front door of the Citizen-voice office. Once the door latched behind agent Swain Ronald sat down, and reached for the phone.

He took a deep breath and pressed extension nine. "Hello Ronald, what can I do for you today?" a deep voice on the other end inquired. "The FBI was just here, and questioned me." "We know... what did you tell them?" "What do you mean you know!?" Ronald demanded now seething with anger. "Were you planning on telling me the FBI was going to drop in for a chat today!!?" The man on the other end sat, and listened to Ronald's rant as silent as an empty cellar. "Are you finished Ronald?"
While he may have been finished yelling, Ronald felt like throwing or hitting something very badly at this moment. "Yes." "Good, we didn't tell you because we found just a few minutes ago. We couldn't very well call you during the interview to warn you, now did you tell them anything?" "No, but I did tell the agent to subpoena me for questioning, so I will need to have my story straight when the time comes."

"I agree, we should not talk on any of our regular lines. I will send a chopper for you, and we can continue this conversation with the group at my coastal compound... see you in two days." The man hung up the phone, and Ronald sat back in his chair still holding the receiver. He thought to himself about the impossible situation. In less than two weeks he was due back in front of the committee to argue against global initiative 701, and there was no doubt that Benjamin Snell would be prepared for an epic fight.

Now the FBI is formally investigating him, and the firm Citizen-voice on charges of bribery, corruption and who knows what else. He saw the half empty glass of Courvoisier that agent Swain had poured earlier without permission. He reached over grabbed it, and drank the remaining brandy with one gulp. He slammed the bucket glass down on the fine mahogany desk, and took another long draw from his electronic cigar.

Back in Houston Ben was sitting in the same white leather chair staring out of the same window he was the night before when his doorbell rang. He was completely consumed by the new information that was just delivered to him, by in his estimation the most stunning woman he had ever seen. He reached over to his side table and grabbed the receiver, dialed Jack's cell phone, and waited for his friends comforting voice to answer.

"Hello?" "Hey Jack its Ben, how did the meeting go after I left?" "Well after I explained that you had not been diagnosed with any personality disorders recently, I opened the box. The drawings inside are..." Ben felt the same way, he had stared at them for hours the night before not sleeping a wink because of it. He looked at all the equations and the scale of dimensions, and knew it was incredible, but thought how was this written over three-hundred years ago?

"Advanced." Jack continued. "Yeah they sure seem that way to me too." Said Ben "The reason for my call is I just had a visitor, and she is the one that had that box delivered to me last night. Oh and she is probably the most beautiful woman I have ever laid eyes on too." Jack heard only that there may be some additional information available about the plans he found in the mysterious box. "Did she say anything about what they are for?" he asked excitedly. "No she only knows that they are important, and from her great grandfather ten-times removed.

She did say she would reach out to me again though, she also told me something that I need to talk to you about right away." "Ok Ben, then tell me." Jack responded. "It's not that simple, we probably shouldn't discuss anything about the collective or the box over the phone anymore. What is your plan tonight?" Ben asked. "I have my entire team meeting me at five-O'clock in testing lab four on yellow level." Jack answered.

"Great I will be there too, I will bring the food... we are in for a long one." Ben promptly hung up the phone without so much as goodbye. Jack just smiled to himself and thought. "Yes we are Ben... yes... we... are..." Back at NWPI headquarters a ponderous Jack stood with his right hand cupping his chin, and thought so hard about what he was looking at he started to give himself a headache.

The door to testing lab four swung open with a clang. It was Jason Henderson of course. Jason was always the first one to arrive for meetings. This is why Jack is slowly courting him to take over the engineering team when he retires. "Although I appreciate your promptness to meetings Jason... could you please do it quieter in the future?" Jack snapped.

"I am sorry Jack I have some last minute items to discuss with you about G.W.E.N before we start this meeting, so I got here early... do you have a minute?" The on-board AI system that Jason had created for the new prototype ship NWPI has been working on for the past six months, he named G.W.E.N. It was his mother's name, and she died of cancer just three years ago. He even gave her a soft parental tone just like the one Gwen Henderson had when she was still alive.

The acronym stands for guidance, wellness, Electronics, navigation-system or G.W.E.N for short. Jack let out the breath he had been holding for the better part of a full minute with a deep exhale. "I have written all the formulas on this board, and categorized them in order of potential system function. I have been staring at them for the past two hours, we have something special here Jason."

"That's great Jack we are going to be discussing that for about the next four or five hours. I'm just guessing, knowing you, and Ben. Did you happen to hear my response about the early arrival?" Jason sounded a little annoyed. "I am sorry... I apologize." Jack said as he unglued his vision from the large white board full of numbers, and letters. He rubbed his eyes, and looked over to Jason sitting at the nearest desk. "Yes you said something about G.W.E.N, please continue we do have about twenty minutes before everyone starts showing up."

Jason opened his file folder for the AI project, and pulled out the manual. "We have been testing the individual systems of G.W.E.N on select groups of astronauts, and one bug keeps coming back. When she is asked to run a system scan she functions flawlessly, but once complete she gives a status report, and the manual flight controls become locked. Then she doesn't recognize the request for them to be unlocked. We have to reboot the entire system each time. My team, and I have run multiple code changes, and even tried to override her request protocol language so she would understand the command differently." He looked genuinely concerned as he explained this.

"What do you feel is the worst case?" Jack asked. Hesitantly Jason answered. "Complete code re-write, and resequencing of her request protocol language interface." Now Jack looked concerned too, as he knew that a complete re-write would take the team another four months, and that's just before the first test could even begin. "Don't tell Ben anything about this, we don't need him getting antsy about the AI system right now. Not with this new information we are trying to figure out, and the hearing for initiative 701 coming up.

Let me think about it for bit, and run a couple tests. If I can't come up with something that I think can help, then I will tell Ben we need to start over Ok?" Relieved as always by Jacks dutiful, and fatherly approach to his leadership of the technical team, Jason responded. "That sounds great Jack, thank you." Jason stood up from the desk, and walked over and stood to Jack's left. The two began to stare and ponder the formulas written on the board together in shared silence.

Ben grabbed his key card for the office, and for his home off the side table, and threw on his jacket. He was in danger of missing the 4:40 glide-rail to the office complex. This would make him late two times in one day. That is something he hadn't done at a job since he was a college student. He hurled open the door, and ran for the staircase. The very staircase the beautiful Amy Dorn had graced just a short twenty minutes earlier.

He swore he could still smell her perfume lingering in the air. In the distance as he came to the last step he could see the glide-rail approach the stop. He was roughly two-hundred yards from either making or missing this train, and the next one wouldn't arrive until five O'clock. He didn't slow up when he left the last step, and didn't touch the ground for at least one full stride. Now running at top speed, he could see the space between him, and the train shrinking. All the positive thoughts of making the train, and arriving to the complex on time started to fill his mind.

He arrived at the station just as the train announcer was giving the final boarding call. He walked confidently towards the ride-scanner reached assuredly into his pocket for his wallet... but it wasn't there. He frantically patted his pockets hoping he just misplaced it, and quickly his mood turned from sweet to sour. He became very angry from the accumulation of all the recent events. The thoughts about what Amy had told him about the Elites sinister plans. How Ronald Lomax was lurking in the shadows with bad intentions, and how initiative 701 was twisting on the vote of a prejudice committee.

How he had already been late once today! It was all quickly building to maximum pressure right there in the boarding zone. He let out an aggressive roar, and stomped the ground once with his right foot. He felt slightly better emotionally, however he now had a throbbing right foot to deal with. He turned, and reached in his pocket for his phone to call Jack and let him know that he would be about twenty minutes late.

"Hey Ben you almost here? Jason and I have found something interesting in the plans that we are excited to share with everyone." "No Jack I am sorry I missed the glide-rail, the next one arrives at five O'clock so I will be there about 5:20. I apologize for today, I know that the head of the company should be setting a better example; especially in a time like this. I will call, and order the Chinese food, I will make sure it is delivered shortly after I arrive."

Ben explained slightly winded from his sprint to the train station. "It's Ok we are good here. I have plenty to cover with my team, and we will just look forward to seeing you soon." Jack said... then he paused. "Thanks for apologizing when you didn't have too." The two of them shared a silent understanding, and ended the call. The rest of the team started to arrive, and right away Jack could tell everyone was a bit edgy from all the late nights. As well as the added pressure initiative 701 was putting on their leadership team.

"Welcome everyone come in have a seat, there are cold beverages in the kitchenette fridge. We are going to be here late tonight so call your families if you haven't already." The groans, and grumbles began immediately. Jack could see that his weary team was going to need a little incentive to make the deadlines. He looked up and saw Shara just arriving to the lab. "Good evening Shara, tell me something good about our communications." She looked surprised, and unprepared, but ever studious she said.

"Well my team has eliminated all white noise with a special filtering software. This software will remove static from incoming, and outgoing messages." Jack winked at her with his right eye, he turned his attention to Chad Jenner head of mission control. "Chad how about our heartbeat? Mission control; tell me something good." Chad was always very serious, he felt like mission control was the only department that lent to the success or failure of any mission.

"Mission control has been running bug screens, and test missions prior to each launch since I took over the department fifteen years ago. There are still no bugs, and we have run fifty successful missions, what else would you like to know Jack?" "Ok Chad, I know you and the MC team have done a great job, thank you. What about you Jason, tell us something good about G.W.E.N." Jason was hoping that Jack was going to skip his department in light of the discussion the two of them just had recently.

"Um, she is great. Her functionality is efficient, and her responses are so close to human it's hard to tell you are talking to a computer. We are coming along very well." "Terrific... well thank you all for coming here tonight I know that you have all been working very hard on the new project and there is a lot of additional stress with the hearing for initiative 701 looming. I feel that we are getting close to some major breakthroughs in all departments.

When Ben came into our meeting this morning with a mysterious box we were brought some exciting new information..." Chad interrupted Jack's meeting introduction. "Speaking of Ben, where is he?" Jack looked at his watch and it read 5:05 "He should be here any minute, there was an important errand that he had to run... he called and let me know he was running behind. Now where was I?" Shara had her hand up waving it back and forth like a fourth grader. "Yes?" Jack said with a sigh. "I still haven't eaten should we get food before kicking off this meeting?" "Ben is ordering Chinese food he said it should arrive just after he does, now can we continue?"

He looked around the room locking eyes with each of the technical team leaders waiting for additional questions. It seemed that everyone was satisfied at least for now so Jack continued. "Before you arrived I was showing Jason something, and he pointed out a simple fact I had overlooked. I was standing here staring at the equations you see written on the board, trying to figure out just what they are, and how they are applied. Can anyone tell me what they see when they look at the board behind me?"

The team all focused on the board and immediately started sharing their observations. "They are equations for a rocket!" Chad blurted out first. "Well in a way they are similar." Jack said jokingly. "They are much longer than standard rocket equations." Said Jason. "That's right, they are... can anyone other than Jason tell me what they see that is not typical of a standard rocket equation?" The group went silent, and Jack stood there like the cat that ate the canary, even though he had stared for quite some time at the numbers before Jason pointed this out to him.

"Anybody... trust me I looked at these problems a lot longer than you have, and missed it." Everyone squinted and leaned in for a closer look hoping that this would help them somehow magically find the answer, then Shara saw it too. "They are all in a continuous loop pattern." Jack lit up with pride that two of his junior technical managers had seen this rather quickly. "That's correct... and that is why we are having this meeting..."

The door to the lab flung open with another bang. It was like a Dvu of Jason Henderson's grand entrance all over again. The whole team ripped their gaze away from the board and directly on Ben who bolted through the door like a mad man. "Hey Ben we were just getting to the good stuff." Jack said greeting him with a smile. "Hi everyone I apologize for being late. I had a couple very important things come up, and I contacted Jack to let him know. Chang's is being delivered any minute, I am sure you are all hungry... I know I am."

Everyone groaned in agreement, and Ben took a seat next to Chad. "Well let's continue I am sure there are plenty of great things to discuss... go ahead Jack." "Thank you Ben there are some great things. We were just discussing a pattern that we discovered. The equations on the board behind me are so long because they are in continuous loop. Can anyone tell me what that means?" "This is not a rocket but rather an engine or drive of some kind." Said Jason.

"That's right, it is... this is much different than anything I have seen before. When I created the Jewel shuttle's drive system, I used basic rocket equations, and had internal relays that set off additional incremental thrusts. In space you all know each time you thrust, the vehicle you are piloting will increase in speed dramatically, and the Jewel team, and I ran the equations down to the millisecond to approach a top speed of approx. 150,000 miles per hour. This cut what was a three hundred day trip to Mar's to just over a month.

These equations in the box that Ben brought us this morning are far..." there was all of a sudden a loud knock at the door. Jack stopped talking, and hung his head in surrender, lifted his glasses off the bridge of his nose with his right palm, and proceeded to rub his eyes. "That's the grub!" Ben said as he leapt from his chair, and sprinted up the staircase. He opened the door and there was the delivery droid with a large hover cart full of food from Chang's. Ben always wanted to make sure there was enough to go around so he ordered double what he thought they would need. The droid held up his credit scanner, and Ben waved his World capital card over it. "Thank you, and have a great evening sir." Said the delivery droid. "You too." Ben replied smiling, and reversing the cart carefully into the lab. His mouth now watering a bit from the smell of the food. He carefully parked the hover cart by the cabinets in the corner of the lab, and headed back to his seat. The entire team was finding it very hard to concentrate with the smell of the dinner that awaited them permeating the air.

None of them had lunch today as they were so busy preparing their support staffs for a long, and grueling upcoming schedule. Ben was equally hungry but wanted to allow jack to finish his meeting introduction so they could all discuss it while filling their stomachs at the same time. "Please continue Jack, I am sorry for all the distractions." "Thank you Ben... I will wrap it up with this. These formulas are a sequence of thrust equations with periodic re-thrusts each increasing the speed dramatically, what appears to be the velocity and momentum calculations are also continuous which from what I can gather means this drive has the capability to propel a ship faster than we have ever thought possible. I will have to run the calculations, and enter all the data into my drive model this will tell us the top speed. I will do that tomorrow morning, sound good Ben?" "Yes that is great... this is very exciting... who else is excited?"

Everyone was thoroughly excited, and they were desperately hungry, they all expressed this excitement differently some with nods and others words... all of them waiting for the approval to go and eat. "Plate up, and meet me at the round table in the conference room across the hall." Ben said while heading towards the cart rubbing his hands together in delight. The crew all piled food high on their plates until it was all gone.

When they left the cart it looked like a picked apart carcass, the kind you would see on the discovery channel. In the conference room across the hall from the lab the team sat, and ate. Just as relieved to be eating as much as enjoying how it tasted. They all talked and ate for an hour straight with everyone sharing ideas, and wild thoughts about the new drive, and about the potential of the one world collective.


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