CHAPTER 1 - OBJECTS AND INTRODUCTIONS
“I can’t believe that I’m going to be late for this interview!” Josh was supposed to be looking at the early-morning New York skyline flash by him as he sped across the Queensboro Bridge in a taxi. Instead, he was stuck in traffic just inside the city as he listened to car horns blare out a panicked anthem, much like steers in a herd on their way to a cattle train. There were so many yellow taxis that it seemed impossible to count them all. He looked all around him. There was nothing but a sea of cars and people hustling to an unknown direction. They paid absolutely no attention to anything else around them. In front of him was a car that tried to merge from the left, in a vain attempt to get to the next lane to turn right on Second Avenue. That is where he needed to go as well and was not sure why this guy needed to get there quicker. Cars switched lanes behind him in the hopes that might provide a few more inches to get them to their destinations one second faster. His taxi driver contributed his part to the song of horns as he pushed his way forward. Josh leaned back in the rear seat of the cab, resigned that he was, in fact, late. This is not going to be a favorable impression, he thought. This company is going to fire me before I even begin! He became nervous over the thought. He felt lucky to even be considered for employment with the world economy in unrest.
Jonah International was one of two companies that seemed genuinely interested to speak with him at the campus recruiting event at Carnegie Mellon. He talked with a number of different companies throughout the day but Jonah, and one other, seemed to pick him out of a crowd and warmly invite him back to their tables. Both recruiters discussed his academic achievements, extracurricular activities, his long-term plans for his future—standard topics that most spewed forth in their quest for new blood. Both were very forthcoming in their companies’ mission statements and corporate agendas to “make the world a better place.” The differences with these two were that they approached him. It was almost like they both expected him to be at this event. The Jonah representative made him feel like it was going to his grandmother’s home for a holiday and being greeted by all the relatives whom he had not seen in a long time. He listened to each company talk about their prospectus. Then he heard a question that he did not expect.
“What do you think about the fate of the world?” asked the representative from Jonah.
A quizzical looked crossed Josh’s face. “Excuse me?”
“Given the climate of the economy, the global unemployment rate, poverty, and famine across the world, how do you think the future of our world will survive?”
Josh was stunned for a moment. He did not understand the question and its relevance to his abilities to offer his business and financial management knowledge in the corporate world. After a few moments, the recruiter smiled. “Do you believe you can help us make it a better place for all humankind?”
Josh looked into the recruiter’s eyes for a few seconds. “I would certainly like the opportunity to try.”
“Joshua, that’s all we can ask of you.” The recruiter gave Josh a corporate packet along with a business card. “We believe that you have something special to offer our Firm. We also believe that we have something exceptional to share with you.”
Josh was so immersed in his recollection of that day’s events that he all but forgot where he was, and the objective of the meeting.
“Hey, pal!” said the cabbie.
“Huh, what?” said Josh as he was jolted back to the present.
“We’re here, Upper East Side, York, and Seventy-second. That’ll be $34.75.”
Josh quickly fumbled for the cash and handed it to the driver. He collected his satchel and coat and got out of the cab. He stood there in front of the corporate headquarters of Jonah International and soaked in the sight. The building was a modern structure of steel and glass. Above the revolving doors was the corporation’s name with an image of a dove between the two. People walked into the building, some talked on mobile phones, others chatted and greeted fellow workers, all of them, though, seemed happy. He wondered if that was because they had a job, or if they were truly pleased to work at Jonah. He smiled at the thought of being part of a company with employees who really seemed to like their work. He had heard horrible stories of how miserable corporate work could be. He did not see any evidence of that here.
His smile faded when he realized that everyone that walked into the building was dressed a bit better than him. He had one suit that he bought over two years ago for the funeral of his best friend Harry’s uncle. It was cheap because he did not have extra money after tuition and books. It looked okay for a funeral, but he felt out of place here in a corporate setting. Josh closed his eyes for a moment, said a silent prayer, and then walked through the revolving doors.
* * *
The long walk down the corridor was not a pleasant one. Kelan was on edge. The dossier on the Object was updated by the intelligence division at 10:09 pm yesterday. The DRONE traced the Object to its localized residence where the Object remained for the rest of the night. At 8:05 pm, a take-out was placed: one order of spring rolls, one wonton soup, and one order of kung pao chicken. That order was delivered at 8:34 pm by a short, rotund gentleman in his midthirties. The Object paid $25 and told the delivery guy to keep the change. All systems tracked as tasked until this morning. Then everything went black at 7:03 am.
“Good morning, Mr. Tindal,” said the admin.
“What frame of mind is he in?”
She looked tensely toward the double doors and quietly said, “You should be prepared for the worse. He received some Intel this morning as he came in the building and has been on a rampage since.”
“Do you happen to know what the information contained?”
“He referred to losing something or other,” she said.
Kelan rolled his eyes slightly. “Great . . . just great.” He already knows. “Do you have a copy of his itinerary for today?”
She handed him a prepared handout of all his scheduled calls and meetings. He quickly searched and looked for anything that might indicate contact with a recovery team. The last thing we want to do is overreact and pull the Object without more intelligence on the whereabouts. Sometimes, the boss did not seem to think strategically. He had this primal rage when operations did not go according to plan. His agenda seemed standard. No evidence of contact with the RCT.
“Tell him I’m here.”
She pressed a button on the telephone. “Mr. Blalock, Mr. Tindal is here to see you.”
A strongly stated “Send him in!” blared back out. She looked sharply at Kelan. He turned and approached the door.
The boss was not happy, and this would not be a good conversation.
* * *
Joshua Arden was in awe by what he saw in the main lobby. Marble floor inlaid with brass grout, polished to the point of where he could see himself clearly as he looked down. It seemed to shimmer across the wide expanse of the whole area. There was very impressive artwork on the two massive sides of the enormous foyer. It was not too gaudy, which is what someone might expect from a corporation as big as Jonah, but modest in design. It was as if the intention was to impress without trying. The lobby looked like it was mostly brass and marble. Nondescript surroundings throughout, yet very modern and not out of style. The whole atmosphere seemed inviting.
It was strange, but he felt anxious when he got out of the taxi. Pensive, worried about the unknown of what to expect during this interview, and freaked out because he was late. He knew it was not his fault, but he also knew the interviewer would not care at all why, just that he was late. All that changed when he entered the building. Calmness swept over him. As if he was given a sedative as he passed through the revolving doors. He felt absolutely at ease, relaxed, without a care in the world. He questioned this change for about a millisecond and wondered what could have come over him when he saw her.
She was across the immense foyer just in front of the security desk, her eyes fixed upon him. On the other hand, maybe it was something, or someone, behind him. He was not sure. He held her gaze for about five seconds; and then with a natural reflex that most boys, and some men, had where they did not pick up hints that they could be the object of desire or attention, he turned around with a slight spin to see the true target of her glare. There was not anyone else behind him that gave any indication or returned her signals. The only object that was in the direct path of her piercing stare was the continual spin of the revolving doors. People casually moved through it without a look in her direction.
She’s looking at me! thought Josh. Yep. Me. Why is she looking at me? Oh man . . . It’s because of my suit! That’s got to be it. I’m the only person in here that doesn’t look like a million dollars. Josh began to look and pull at his suit in a manner that appeared to be a cross between someone who looked for his wallet and someone who swatted away a flying bug. He drew more attention from the passing people. She walked toward him.
The woman was in her mid to late twenties with chestnut brown hair, all one length, down to the middle of her back. She was dressed in a navy blue suit with a skirt, moderate three-inch heels to match, and white blouse with a visible silver crucifix. Simple, stylish, and professional. She had waited ten minutes. Her instructions were very simple. There was someone scheduled for interviews with the top brass in Finance today. She was to personally escort him to all the scheduled discussions. He was to be fast-tracked through all security measures. The candidate arrived five minutes behind schedule. He looked nervous, but seemed fine after he entered the building. Nice to know the effect is helping him calm down, she thought. That effect did not last long.
As she walked toward him, it similarly occurred to him that his composure and calmness did not last as well. He was not sure why he freaked out again. It’s just a girl. A very pretty girl. A very pretty girl who walked toward him with a purpose.
“Joshua?” she asked as she reached him.
He stopped with his suit as he realized that it made no difference. She already saw the before picture. “Yes, hello.”
She extended her hand. “Hi, Joshua. My name is Melina Vargas.”
He returned the handshake. “I’m Joshua Arden.” Stupid! She already knows that. She said your name.
She smiled at his discomfort. “I’m here to escort you to your interview sessions today.”
Outstanding! he thought. “I’m sorry that I’m running late. Not used to the changing New York traffic yet.”
“Completely understandable. Traffic can be a bit tricky here in the city.” She turned toward the security desk near the elevators and gestured. “Are you ready to go up?”
He tugged at his suit one last time. “Ready as I’ll ever be.”
She started toward the gates. “Great! Please come with me.”
The security desk was more like a podium. There were four in total. There was one guard behind each that constantly viewed what appeared to be a monitor built into the stand. They watched the people that passed through each gate. The gate was a bit of an understatement. It was the standard type of one found in an airport, but looked more high-tech. Instead of the large drab-beige-colored devices that had a multicolored display with lights that indicated you were worthy to pass or carried a concealed weapon, it seemed to be thinner, about two to three inches in depth and width. It was a perfect square from all dimensions. It was not freestanding like those airport machines. All four gates were built into the entrance hallway of all the elevator banks. When a person reached the podium, they placed their hand on a lighted pad. There was one on either side of each gate. It glowed green, and then the person stepped through the gate. The gate responded with a glow of blue, then the person made their way to the elevators.
Melina saw that Josh watched this sequence with great curiosity. “The security at Jonah International is state-of-the-art. I know that a lot of companies boast of the same, but Jonah’s is the best. The bio-pads are biometric scanners that read specific genetic markers in each of Jonah’s employees. These markers are encoded to each employee’s security level and clearance. It tracks all movements in and out of the main building. The bio-gates”—she gestured toward the blue security gates—“ensure that each person has access to their respective levels only.”