Roger Roger Emerson was hoping for a stress-free day. He’d even settle for boring. Boring, now that sounds nice, he thought. What was likely on the menu, however, was one catastrophic shit storm after another. He awoke at 5am to begin his workout regime surrounded by the sparkling view of Acetyl city from his penthouse apartment, as he always did. This was of course just a distraction, some pain before the pain. Roger had always found physical punishment helped ease the stress of his extremely high profile and demanding position at Lysericorp. Being utterly physically drained by the time he greeted the board each morning helped remove some of the anxiety that came with being scrutinised by greedy, overpaid and out of touch relics. They would poke and prod, make counter suggestions for business directions just to be belligerent. Basically, they’d outline impossible strategies to address irrelevant issues that were almost always outside of anyone’s control. It was exhausting. Hence the masochistic early morning workout routine. Not only did this help cleanse his body of any recreational toxins that were an unfortunate by-product of the work-hard play-hard lifestyle, but it tended to mentally pacify him into such a Zen state that when he finally did burst through the exotic onyx double doors to the daily Lysericorp crisis meeting he often mused that the entire place could be ablaze and he wouldn’t care in the slightest. Of course, there were always fires to put out, even if they were figurative. He was paid handsomely for this, and was expected to perform and be on point all of the time. After two and a half hours of intensive cardio, weight training and some core work, Roger felt sufficiently expended to start the day. As he tried to catch his breath, he let the cityscape soak in. Roger looked up, admiring how the endless galactic expanse was framed by the jagged extremities of neighbouring high rises. It always invoked a feeling of concern about the uncertain fate of Myopia, and where his contribution fit in. Roger didn’t know, and he doubted that he wanted to know. Even at the leadership level that he was at, they kept him in the dark enough so that his left hand did not know what the right was doing. This was exactly the kind of protocol that quashed moral conundrums and kept everyone blissfully ignorant, unhindered in performing their roles. Roger did wonder though what would be unveiled if he had access to information on all the moving parts, would he be horrified or pleasantly surprised? The media, and of course, common sense, suggested the former and not the latter. It was not like he worked for a not for profit, do-gooder bastard type organisation that preached peace and preservation for humanity. Considering this though, they lived in a tumultuous time. A time when tough decisions needed to be made, and Roger knew that Lysericorp was the kind of company that would engage in questionable research for what they would convince themselves as the greater good, if the price was right. Roger didn’t have time to entertain a moral crisis, he needed to get his game face on. He wiped up the sweat off his brow with a crisp white towel as he stalked into the kitchen for some much-deserved hydration. On entry the optical security system scanned his retinas with an almost imperceptible blue laser. He could just make out the faint incandescent trail against the engulfing darkness of his unlit apartment when his cooling unit slid open and bathed him in fluorescent light. A rainbow of vials stored in varying temperature sensitive casings greeted him. Roger bypassed the numerous chemical and viral company projects, reached in and ripped the cap off a vial of ice-cold vitamin water. He put the vial to his lips, draining the contents. He relished the sensation, the simplicity of it. Like scratching an itch, there was nothing quite like the satisfaction of quenching your thirst with an ice-cold beverage when every fibre of your being was screaming for it. Purge and binge, exactly his style. Roger flicked the vial into his recycle unit and made for the shower. There was no time for the full rejuvenation treatment this morning, the workout had run overtime. Just the basics, morning shit and facial hair laser removal whilst showering. He dried off, applied a light moisturiser and was ready to piece together a suitably powerful looking outfit for the day. As Roger did this, he eyed his time hub, 8:05am spun in the air in a neon blue blur. Time to move, the board would not tolerate a late start to the daily meeting, he reminded himself. He slipped into his black silk shirt, pulled on his slacks and donned a tight fitting, high necked, charcoal jacket. One last glimpse of himself in the mirror, perfection, a blast of the latest scent from Givenchy and then Roger was pacing toward his private lift to the Gyro pad. He reached into his pocket, plucked a mouth cleaning pill from it and popped it into his mouth while the lift descended from the roof. The lift opened with an inviting three note modular tone and he walked in, pressing the only button in the elevator. How old fashioned, he considered. It was not that he couldn’t afford his own PVE lift in his apartment (he had petitioned the body corporate on many occasions outlining the necessity and benefits of such an enhancement), but rather some sort of structural issue with the way his apartment had been built. Apparently, the building simply couldn’t cope with the extensive engineering requirements of a PVE well and management would not risk structural integrity of the building to pander to one man’s laziness or ego to install a pneumatic lift for all of fifteen metres from Roger’s apartment to the roof. He would have his engineer look over the building blueprints again when he got a chance. The elevator doors slid open, revealing the roof and the company Gyro powering up in anticipation of the commute to Lysericorp towers. The Gyro jets mixed in with the turbulent air at altitude always presented a wild and calamitous scene that was not conducive to a gradual and relaxing approach to embark upon the day. No matter how many times he repeated the process, he could never quite prepare himself for the jarring contrast he experienced each morning. Roger went from a moment of quite reflection in the elevator ride to the roof, to having his senses bombarded with the hostile sound of engines droning, flashing lights, and violent winds whipping at his hair and face. Walking carefully, trying to avoid the visible vapour trails of jet wash emanating from the Gyro, Roger held his breath in an attempt to avoid the thick atmosphere. All of it would have been tolerable, but any second it would be coupled with his assistant yelling incomprehensible updates that would not sink in until he at least took a seat in the Gyro and the cabin door was securely driven home. Roger would not be spared that routine today. Harry Chapman, Executive Assistant, quickly covered ground between the Gyro and the elevator in a crouching, cautious stride that one employed when in fear of being blasted off the roof from an unexpected flare of jet wash. ‘Good morning sir!’ Harry shouted as he strained to be heard over the engines. ‘Lysericorp stock price plummeted 15% pre market after concerns-’ Harry began, but Roger finished his sentence, ‘Concerns that Lysericorp were unlikely to finalise the deliverables agreed to for the decillion dollar government contract known as Pacienter.’ They crouch walked together across the roof and both climbed into the cabin of the Gyro and strapped in. ‘This comes from leaked reports that several lab technicians working on the initiative have resigned due to overwhelming pressures and yes, I caught the article that that little shit wrote the minute it entered cyber space, Harry.’ Harry’s face dropped. Roger didn’t like tearing Harry down, he actually quite liked him. It was, however, becoming exceedingly irritating that Harry was still unable to surprise him with some decent, relevant intel that might give Roger an edge – as this was precisely why he hired him. Roger was red in the face now from screaming just to hear himself on the Gyro pad, and realising this he collected himself, took a deep breath and lowered his voice. ‘Tell me who needs to be reassured the most on the board, and which backstabbing bastard leaked this information to the press, Harry. Help me remember why I hired you,’ Roger said, sounding resigned. The contempt had left his voice, he was genuinely disenchanted with the whole situation. Harry’s eyes widened. ‘Well, if you had let me finish…you see I made some enquiries with my media contacts and it seems that the backstabbing bastard that leaked this to the press and the executive that has been lobbying to have Pacientier disbanded are one and the same.’ Impressive. Standing up for himself and he has some sensitive information that should ensure they aren’t starting this meeting behind the eight ball. Perhaps Harry really was evolving into a ruthless professional after all, Roger contemplated. Better not let this go to Harry’s head. ‘That, Harry, was obvious. Let’s hope your sources are accurate and that we aren’t just being fed bullshit,’ Roger said. Harry noticeably sank a bit in his chair. ‘So, tell me, Harry. Who is the saboteur that has been plaguing this project from day one? And if you suggest Arthur Cunningham, so help me-’ Arthur Cunningham was the crankiest old bastard on the board. He was a fossil, no one knew exactly how old he was and how many procedures he had undergone in order to prolong his longevity, but Roger put his age at around the 175-year mark. Arthur was an antagonist, shrewd, calculating and had an insatiable appetite for power and wealth. Arthur also hated Roger, and made no secret of it. He went out of his way to express his distaste for him at every turn, and it was clear that Arthur considered Roger’s accelerated rise through the ranks as a personal insult. One thing he would never do though is put profits at risk simply to destroy Roger’s career and reputation. ‘It’s not Arthur, Roger,’ Harry interrupted. This was starting to make him edgy. Roger glanced out the window of the Gyro, Acetyl’s cityscape lights glinted and sparkled all around him like myriad gems haphazardly strewn across black felt. They blurred together as Roger’s head swam, he was unable to focus. ‘The alleged source of the leaks, and I know you are not going to like hearing this,’ Harry paused. Then, ‘is Gordon Reynolds’ Gordon. A self-gratifying, self-destructive, miscreant with below average intelligence who swanned his way onto the board with a golden handshake. This was exclusively due to his affiliation with one of the most powerful dynasties in Myopia. The worst part about this revelation, was that he was Roger’s best friend. This didn’t seem like something Gordi was capable of, at least not by himself. ‘And how sure are we that this information is accurate?’ ‘Well, I have a recording of Gordi meeting with the writer that wrote the article this morning for starters,’ Harry sneered, he was relishing this. ‘Then there are holo calls, VDU captures, witnesses, people he’s bragged to-’ ‘Ok enough, enough, ENOUGH!’ Roger spat. This really did smack of Gordi’s slovenly approach to almost everything he touched. This hurt. This sensation he was feeling was unique and new and he couldn’t quite grasp it. Not the betrayal, that was disappointing, but he knew someone would have had to have put Gordi up to this and he was simply a pawn. This feeling he was having could be likened to a thread that you pulled at in the lining of your jacket that just kept coming, rather than the desired clean snap you were after. The more you pulled the more thread came free and the more damage you did. Roger was terrified. This foreign sensation must be what it feels like when you start to lose control, he considered. Even the endorphins couldn’t combat the surge of anxiety that was creeping in now. Roger’s usual repertoire of charm and smooth reassurance was unlikely to be well received at the crisis meeting in light of recent developments. Roger would have to actually deliver something at this meeting, and with what was now a skeleton team of research scientists working on the serum for project Pacientier, nothing short of a miracle was going to spare him the embarrassment he was about to experience. How the board would delight in his fall from grace. The Gyro banked hard as it swept in for landing at the Lysericorp tower. Harry was waiting for his response, he seemed agitated, as though he felt Roger may not be appreciating the gravity of the situation. The Gyro landed with a jarring thud, prompting Roger to finally address Harry. Harry was expecting the solution, a meticulous plan of attack, a ruthless and direct course of action worthy of the cunning professional that was Roger Emerson. Instead Roger sighed, ‘OK Harry, let’s go face the music.’ For Harry, there was nothing more unsettling than hearing his unstoppable idle utter those words. Two security escorts rushed them through the various checkpoints after touching down at Lysericorp tower with unusually fervent gusto. Unless it was Roger’s paranoia kicking in, he was pretty sure that even security had been given the heads up that something was amiss. Roger and Harry arrived at the ominous onyx double doors to the executive boardroom more swiftly than Roger would have liked. He was hoping the usual dilly dallying of the security staff would enable him a brief reprieve to dash into the labs and shake the shit out of some of his allegedly elite molecular electronic research technicians to try and get some answers. It was not to be the case. Harry took the honours and swung the large doors inward, revealing the executive panel, all slapped with a new level of disapproving look on their faces at the sight of Roger that until today he would not have deemed possible. Gordon was addressing them, pointing a laser at a three-dimensional diagram of Myopia like a child presenting a project to the class. No doubt Gordi’s idea of new direction for the corporation after his timely betrayal, fucking weasel. It occurred to Roger that the executive board’s collective disapproval might be directed at Gordon and not himself. That was wishful thinking. Roger at least got the satisfaction of Gordi’s presentation being interrupted as soon as Harry and himself entered. Gordi was instantly disregarded. ‘Mr EM-ER-SON’ Arthur Cunningham phonetically boomed across the oval shaped table in the centre of the room. God, he hated how Arthur enunciated his words. Generations of aristocracy had culminated in such pageantry when he spoke that it was not dissimilar to watching an Alsatian choke on a tennis ball. Gordon trailed off; it was understood that his presentation was irrelevant. Roger almost felt sorry for him. ‘Good Morning, Arthur!’ Roger bounced back with an incongruously enthusiastic tone that served to disarm Arthur. Roger had oversold it. He was frightfully aware that he might be coming off as manic. Uncertainty swept the room in the form of shuffling and murmurs among the executive panel. Why did Roger seem so chipper under these dire, and for him, almost certainly career ending circumstances? He certainly didn’t know. Whilst he had them off guard, he would continue in this vein until he figured out how he would drive the situation to his advantage. ‘Good Morning all. I see Gordon has kicked things off without me, Gordon, you have been busy this morning, haven’t you?’ Roger enquired. Gordon’s face was devoid of colour now and took on a sullen green hue. Probably still under the effects of any number of substances from the night before. Gordon went to speak but a garbled mess of incoherent gibberish flowed from his lips. ‘Ah um you were….and I was told…there hasn’t been any-’ Roger wasn’t going to let him find a flowing sentence. ‘Relax Gordi, I’m well aware you lack the imagination required for this level of treachery. You were of course instructed by other members of-’ ‘That is quite enough Roger,’ this time Philip Stone, another cantankerous old bastard chimed in. ‘I trust you are not detaching ownership for the failings of project Pacienter. This is highly irregular, and quite frankly, beneath you Roger.’ He was right, being blindsided by Gordon was a moot point. The project had been an absolute disaster, evaporated trillions of Lysericorp’s funds and Roger had lost that many key researchers that he sincerely had no transparency on the viability of the project. His last-ditch effort was to pin all of his hopes on a dwindling group of unorthodox and under qualified scientists, if you could call them that. A more apt description was that they were a juvenile motley crew of chemistry geeks with a penchant for creating their own designer recreational drugs – toying with molecular electronic programming was not their main driver. There was but a slim hope that they might be able to manufacture a highly complex chemical profile capable of utilising Quantum Entanglement in order to teleport particles to specific coordinates. The more expensive and prominent members of his crack team of molecular electronic experts had resigned almost immediately, claiming that what they were working towards was a waste of time. It hadn’t been a waste of time in Roger’s opinion though. The molecular self-assembly that was delivered up until this point was sound. They had been able to transport inanimate objects using a set coordinates from one location to another – Roger had seen it with his own eyes – albeit from one end of a factory warehouse to another, but theoretically that didn’t matter. If they could upload coordinates for the Nano technology swarms utilising a Quantum Teleport to shoot a potato fifty metres away, they could upload coordinates for the Nanos to teleport a potato fifty million metres away. The challenge, was that trying to QT a living creature had shown some rather distasteful results, and so the failed experiments on a range of harmless mammals had understandably lowered morale and put the entire crew in a state of unease. The lab was a horrific place to be around of late. A guinea pig was QT’d in five parts to random locations around the facility just the other day. One scientist had the unfortunate displeasure of having a rabbit’s head displaced in the side of his arm, tearing his flesh and producing a swollen mess of teeth, fur and half an eye peering out of his skin. Before that day, Roger would have never thought it possible for such shrill girlish screams to escape from a man, and he didn’t care for an encore. ‘Apologies, Philip, I was under the impression that the deadline was not until tomorrow so isn’t it a bit pre-emptive to be calling Pacienter-’ ‘Oh, give it a rest Roger!’ Arthur snapped. ‘You can’t tell me you have any solid evidence, working trials or even a glimmer of success on this project whatsoever can you!’ This was it. Where it all unravelled and he would be exposed, ridiculed and condemned. Roger Emerson, the closer, the insuperable force, the five-steps-ahead, get-the-job-done-no-matter-what-the-odds, always-outmanned-never-outgunned corporate shark. He couldn’t deliver a serum to displace Peter Rabbit, let alone a flesh and blood human soldier, which was what he promised when he acquired this contract. Silence. Roger couldn’t think of anything to say. The embarrassment he felt was now undeniable and was manifesting itself physically. He felt the red flush creep up his neck and onto his face, sweat was beading on his brow and even the slightest beginnings of tears were starting to well as he choked like a fish ripped out of its tranquil watery universe. ‘Gentleman,’ Roger croaked as hopelessness washed over him. ‘I-’ His VDU buzzed loudly. How rude. Here Roger was about to have the breakdown of the century and someone was interrupting him in the ever-sacred morning meeting. This was unheard of. It continued to buzz. ‘Excuse me one second gentleman,’ Roger announced. He grabbed his VDU out and flicked it open, a slight breach of boardroom etiquette was not going to make a difference at this point, and he welcomed the delay to what was sure to be the most humiliating experience of his career. It was the head of his incompetent research team, Daniel Carver. He looked distressed. ‘Roger! Man, I fucked up. I fucked up, I fucked up, I fucked up!’ Danny whined; he was clearly freaking out. ‘Danny, slow down. What is going on, and it better be important-’ ‘I’ve killed Stan. Man, I’ve fuckn’ killed Stan! We were messing about with the nano serums running some random algorithm and once we completed this massive upload sesh we started doing shots of this off world moonshine and I bet 500 credits that he wouldn’t do a shot of the nano serum instead… I didn’t know he would fuckn’ drink it! Oh man I’m fuckn’ going to hell! I fucked up! I fucked up!’ There was finally a break in Danny’s blithering. Roger cringed. If this wasn’t the nail in the coffin for this entire debacle of an operation, he didn’t know what was. ‘Bye Danny,’ he closed his VDU as Danny trailed off. ‘Oh man oh man oh man oh man!’ ‘Gentleman,’ Roger began, he was ready to face his meltdown like a man. Hell, he wasn’t going down without a few choice words to these pompous pricks, that was for sure. Before he could say another word though, Stanley Lucas suddenly appeared out of thin air, stark naked clutching a bottle of ghastly looking hard liquor, drunk off his arse with some sort of glow orb around his neck. He was struggling for balance, wobbling about, standing on top of the boardroom table barely shielding his manhood with one hand. Like the rest of the board, Roger was confused. Curiosity was niggling at him though, he felt like he knew what was happening here but it was just out of minds reach. Danny called, freaking out about lab antics that had gone awry, then…Waves of elation resonated through Roger as he deduced what had just transpired. He took a moment to collect himself, and then in a suave tone he addressed the board once more. ‘Gentleman, I present to you, field tested and ready for dispatch, evidence that we have finalised our deliverable – project Pacienter.’ The board was silent for a few more moments, then erupted in applause, quickly escalating into a standing ovation. Gordon Reynolds graduated from a shade of green to ghostly white, and briskly lunged for the exit as he repressed what appeared to be the strong urge to lose his breakfast. Suck on that, Gordi.